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Title: The Poisoned Goblet
Author: Arthur Gask
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Poisoned Goblet
Author: Arthur Gask

* * *

Published in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.) commencing Friday 5 April 1935

* * *

Published in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.) commencing Friday 5 April
1935.

Also published in:

----The Advertiser, Adelaide, S.A. commencing 14 December, 1934,

----The Advicate, Burnie, Tas. commencing 17 February, 1939, and

----In book form by Herbert Jenkins, London in 1935.

* * *

DETECTIVE FICTION

To readers of detective stories, the publication of a new Gilbert Larose
story is always something of an event. When Arthur Gask created Larose
he created a character who was destined to become of the most popular in
detective fiction.

Larose has figured in a number of successful stories but in none so
successful as The Poisoned Goblet, which tells of the efforts of a gang
of men to kidnap the child of Lady Ardane. Larose takes a hand and
immediately finds himself faced with one of the most puzzling and
certainly one of the most hazardous cases of his career.

* * *




CHAPTER I.--THE WARNING


"We may say what we will, Mr. Larose," remarked the thin scholarly
looking man in a rather regretful tone, "but evil in a jeweled setting
is less repugnant to the human mind, than when met with in sordid
surroundings, and crime among the well-to-do is more intriguing than
breaches of the law among the lower classes."

"That is quite true, Mr. Jones," replied the smiling young man opposite
to him. "Wrong doing amongst educated and refined people seems always to
have more element of adventure behind it"--he smiled--"and certainly the
smells of Mayfair are much to be preferred to those of Bethnal Green."

The two were closeted one morning in the private room of Gilbert Larose,
in Scotland Yard, and as usual the great investigator, Naughton Jones,
was laying down the law with his accustomed gusto.

"But I am sorry to note from the reports in the Press, Mr. Larose," he
went on frowningly, "that your energies of late seem to have been almost
entirely confined to the East End; to Shoreditch, Wapping, Limehouse and
other unpleasant places."

"Well, I have to go where I am sent," laughed Larose, "and I can't pick
and choose like you can, now can I?"

"No, no, of course you can't," agreed Jones at once. A thought seemed to
strike him suddenly, and he regarded the detective with cold and
reproving eyes. "By-the-bye, although I saw you got the Limehouse
murderer in the end, still I think you were hardly up to your usual form
in that case."

"No!" exclaimed Larose, rather surprised, "but I had him in the cells
within four days!"

Jones raised one long forefinger solemnly. "But it would have saved you
a lot of trouble if, when you had been brought to the scene of the
crime, you had at once realised the significance of two things. The
first--that according to the medical evidence, the knife with which he
had stabbed the woman and cut her throat must have been of small size
and as keen as a razor, and the second--that the two disreputable old
boots he left behind him were odd ones and of differing sizes." He
shrugged his shoulders. "These two facts, taken together, immediately
suggested to me, as you discovered later, that the murderer was a boot
repairer by trade, for there was the sharp knife of a man whose
occupation included the trimming of leather, and there were the odd
boots that had been left behind with him upon his informing their owners
that the fellows to them were beyond repair." He regarded Larose with
the frown of a schoolmaster reproving a pupil. "Where now, pray, would
you be likely to find nearly worn-out odd boots of differing
sizes--except among the discards in a boot repairer's shop? It is so
very simple."

The detective flushed slightly, "It certainly does seem so now," he
remarked slowly, "after you have pointed it out. Still--"

"Not that I have not always a great admiration for talents," broke in
Jones quickly, "or indeed I should not be here." He smiled coldly. "I
suppose that with my well-known aversion to any association with the
regular police, except for the purely mechanical part of effecting the
arrest when I have myself run the criminal to earth, you are wondering
why I have come here at all."

"Yes," replied Larose, "for I know you are always busy and never given
to wasting any time."

"Exactly," said Jones with a sigh, "and it is on that account that I am
here now." He passed his hand over his forehead, "I have been overdoing
it and my medical adviser, Sir Bumble Brown, insists that I go into a
nursing home for rest and treatment. I am a nervous wreck."

"Oh! I am so sorry," exclaimed Larose with great sympathy, "for you will
be missed by such a lot of people."

"Yes," nodded Jones significantly, "and it is in the interest of one of
them that I have come to you now." He drew his chair up close to the
detective and lowered his voice significantly. "I am in the middle of an
important case and have to drop it, because, as I have told you, of my
health, and as you are going to be sent in my place, I am wanting to put
you wise to a few things so that you may commence your investigations
under the most advantageous conditions possible."

"I--going to be sent in your place!" exclaimed Larose, looking very
surprised.

"Yes," replied Jones. "I have arranged it."

The detective laughed quietly. "Then you must have great influence, Mr.
Jones, to be able to dictate to the Chief Commissioner what he is to do.
I often find him hard to manage."

"It is not I who really have the influence," frowned Jones, "but a
pretty society woman. It is she who has pulled the strings; but now
listen, and I'll explain everything."

He took a map and some papers from his pocket and laid them before him
upon the desk.

"Now, of course, you have heard of Lady Helen Ardane," he began, and
when Larose shook his head, he snapped, "Well, you ought to have heard,
for she is one of our best-known society hostesses." He went on. "She is
the widow of the late baronet, Sir Charles Ardane, the big whisky
distiller, and lives at Carmel Abbey, in the north-west corner of
Norfolk. She has one child, whom she idolises, a boy of four, the
present baronet. She is an American by birth, and at the age of nineteen
was married by her parents to the late Sir Charles, a man well over
fifty. She is a very wealthy woman."

"How old is she now?" asked Larose.

"About twenty-seven," replied Jones, "and, like your Commissioner,
difficult to manage, for she has been spoilt and pampered all her life,
and has red hair." He paused a minute here as if to collect his thoughts
and then went on quickly. "Well, three weeks ago she received an
anonymous letter, warning her that the child was going to be kidnapped,
and bidding her look out."

"Oh!" exclaimed Larose, smiling, "she herself an American and her child
going to be kidnapped. Really, it would make her feel quite at home with
us!"

"She took no notice of the letter," continued Jones, ignoring the
interruption, "for in the security of this country, she believed it to
be only one of those cranky communications that people of means are
always receiving, but a week after its receipt she got a terrible shock,
for, but for an almost miraculous happening, her child would have
undoubtedly been seized and taken away."

"An attempt was actually made then?" asked Larose.

"No," said Jones, "an attempt was not actually made, but it was within
an ace of being made and carried to a successful issue, too. Not only
that, but from what did happen, the very disquieting fact emerged that
the would-be kidnappers were undoubtedly in possession of inside
information as to what exactly were going to be the child's movements
upon that particular day, and that therefore there was a confederate
helping them, some where among the inmates of the Abbey."

He went on. "Now what took place is this, and please listen carefully.
On the Tuesday night Lady Ardane arranged with her head nurse, a woman,
by-the-bye, of unimpeachable character that if the weather continued
fine and mild the child should so on the morrow to play on the
Brancaster sands, about three miles away. Her ladyship would be
prevented from accompanying them on account of her social duties, but a
little party was to be made up, consisting of the housekeeper, the two
nurses and an elderly chauffeur, and they were to leave after an early
lunch, in one of the Abbey cars. Well, the Wednesday turning out to be a
beautiful day, everything was carried out as arranged, and by a quarter
to two they had arrived by the sea shore and the car was parked upon the
sands. Then the women and the child went in for a paddle, while the
chauffeur, taking himself off about 250 yards, lay down among the short
grass upon one of the sandhills and proceeded to amuse himself with a
small telescope that he had brought with him. I must mention here that
Brancaster Bay is a very lonely spot. There are no habitations anywhere
near, and except when rifle practice is going on at the butts at the far
end, there is hardly ever anyone to be seen there."

"I've got a good idea where it is," said Larose. "I motored round that
coast last year, and it's about five miles from Hunstanton."

Jones nodded. "Yes, just over five miles. Well, the chauffeur says he
was almost dropping off to sleep, when a car, driven at a good pace,
appeared upon the narrow road, and pulled up behind one of the
sandhills, about a quarter of a mile from where he was lying. He saw
four men then get out and was at once interested in them, because their
actions were so peculiar. With bent backs and every appearance of not
wishing to be seen, they crept up the sandhill nearest to them, and then
lay down among the sand-grass just as he was doing. One of them then
produced a pair of binoculars and it was evident at once that they were
particularly interested in the little party from the Abbey, who were
paddling on the sands. The chauffeur began to wonder what the deuce was
up."

Naughton Jones broke off here and asked the detective if there were any
objection to his smoking. He smiled dryly as he took the cigarette that
the detective at once offered him. "I know the red-tape in these
places," he remarked, "and I don't want to run counter to any of their
absurd regulations."

He went on. "Now let me see. Ah! I had got to the point when the
chauffeur was watching those four men. Well, nothing happened for about
a quarter of an hour. The men just watched the paddlers and he watched
them. Then suddenly it became apparent to him that the man with the
binoculars had all at once become very excited and was pointing out to
the others something at sea. So he put up his little telescope and
scanned the horizon too, and was at once rewarded by the sight of a
small motor yacht cleaving swiftly through the waters and leaving behind
it a broad wake of foam. Its progress shorewards was very rapid, and
barely five minutes could have elapsed since it was first seen, so the
chauffeur estimates, when it slowed down, turned sharply at right angles
and dropped anchor, less than a hundred yards from the sands.

"The four men then immediately jumped up from where they had been lying
and spreading themselves out as they ran, proceeded to race down the
sandhills in the direction of the all unconscious little party from the
Abbey.

"The chauffeur says that instantly then a feeling of dire consternation
took possession of him, for as one who has lived the greater part of his
life in America and is conversant with the customs of that great
country, it came to him in a flash what was about to happen.

"The little baronet was going to be kidnapped." Naughton Jones paused
here and smiled at the expression of absorbed attention upon the
detective's face.

"Looked pretty hopeless unless a miracle happened, didn't it?" he
remarked. "At least six men, and probably all of them armed, against a
defenseless elderly chauffeur!"

"Great Scott! it did look hopeless," exclaimed Larose. "Hopeless to the
world!"

Jones nodded. "But the miracle did happen." he went on, "for just as the
chauffeur was running down on to the sands to put up what resistance he
could, the roar of motor engines was again heard among the sandhills,
and two motor charabancs came tearing up, with their passengers, about
fifty or sixty strapping young fellows, all carrying rifles. It appears
it was the afternoon of the yearly match between the rifle clubs of Holt
and Hunstanton, and they were going to shoot it off as usual at the
butts on Brancaster Sands.

"The charabancs stopped and the riflemen sprang down. Then the chauffeur
ran up to them, and waving his hand in the direction of the nurses and
the four men shouted 'Load up, boys, and go to the rescue of those girls
down there. Quick!'

"The young fellows thought it was a joke, but entering into the spirit
of the fun, they snapped at their magazines and ran down on to the
sands. The four men stopped and looked round in amazement, and the
chauffeur swears he saw two of them produce pistols, but perceiving the
crowd of armed youths swooping down upon them, after quick signs to one
another, they turned upon their heels and sauntered back to their car.
The two rowers in the boat, also taking in what was happening, pulled
round and rowed back to the yacht."

The great investigator leant back in his chair. "It was all over in
three minutes, and in six the men had disappeared in their car and the
motor yacht was heading back to sea." He rubbed his hands together.
"Quite a little epic in its way."

"Very dramatic, Mr. Jones," said the detective, "and you told it very
nicely, too. Really, you are a born teller of stories!" He frowned. "But
it doesn't end there! Surely, they made some attempt to arrest the men?"

"What for?" asked Jones blandly. "There was no evidence about anything
against them, for the nurses hadn't even set eyes upon them until all
the danger was passed. They had been too occupied in watching the motor
yacht and thinking how pretty it looked with its wake of foam." He
frowned now in his turn. "No, that's the trouble. There was not a shred
of evidence against anyone, and the only suspicion"--he nodded
solemnly--"what the chauffeur saw."

"Well, what happened next?" asked Larose.

"The chauffeur very rightly insisted upon returning at once to the
Abbey, and as a precaution went back in a roundabout way and took two of
the armed riflemen along with him."

"And that's all," asked Larose, because Jones had stopped speaking,
"that finishes everything!"

"That begins everything," replied Jones testily, "for that same night I
was called down." He tapped impatiently upon the desk. "Yes, sir, her
ladyship is no sluggard, and awakening from her dreams of fancied
security, and realising that trans-Atlantic methods were being brought
over here, with no hesitation she proceeded to form her own bodyguard
and to obtain the best services that she could." His voice hardened.
"And she is neglecting no precautions, I can assure you, for she knows
the ghastly toll of little lives that has been taken in her own country.
She remembers the dead body of the Lindberg baby and has no intention
that her child shall be put under the ground in the same way." He nodded
solemnly again. "So, today, Carmel Abbey is an armed camp."

"But why does she not leave the Abbey for a few months?" asked Larose
sharply, "for so near to that lonely stretch of coast, she must see
there is always the possibility of being raided from the sea."

Naughton Jones smiled disdainfully. "You don't know Lady Helen Ardane
yet, but when you have had speech with her you will not repeat the
question. She is a woman of spirit with that red head of hers, and not
only is she refusing to leave Carmel Abbey but she is carrying on her
social duties as if nothing had happened, and she has even made no
alterations for the house party that will begin assembling tomorrow for
the opening of the pheasant shooting on the first, although she has been
warned by a second letter that among her guests," his voice hardened
sternly, "will be another traitor in league with the kidnappers."

"Then with a confederate inside the Abbey, as you say," commented
Larose, "the kidnappers must be quite aware that she is being warned and
therefore I cannot understand how--"

"They are not quite aware," interrupted Jones sharply, "and that is the
only pull we have over them. They have heard nothing of either letter,
for Lady Ardane's widowhood has developed considerable powers of
self-reliance in her, and she has not taken every one into her
confidence."

"She has told no one!" exclaimed Larose, very surprised.

"Only her father, Senator Harvey, who is upon a visit to her," replied
Jones, "and not even her aunt who lives with her. The first letter she
immediately threw into the fire, not considering it worth mentioning to
anybody. Then when the affair upon the sands took place, she grasped
instantly the supreme importance of not letting it be known that she had
a friend in the enemy's camp and she held her tongue." He nodded
emphatically. "Yes, we are fortunate there."

"Then the kidnappers, not being aware that she had any warning," said
Larose, "cannot be positive that it is definitely realised what was
intended to happen that afternoon upon the sands."

"Well, they must be very dull witted," scoffed Jones, "if they did not
at once become positive of that fact when they saw the precautions that
were taken at the Abbey immediately afterwards." He thumped upon the
desk. "Not positive! Why man, they knew I had been called in, and I was
shot at upon the third day, following upon my arrival, the very first
time that I set foot outside the Abbey walls, and then the day before
yesterday a second attempt was made upon my life by a wretch endeavoring
to run me down in a big car. I was upon my bicycle and just outside the
castle grounds. Also the two Alsatian hounds that upon my suggestion
were procured to keep guard outside the Abbey, were promptly poisoned
before they had been on the place for even four and twenty hours." He
laughed sardonically. "You take it, it is not a picnic that I am sending
you down to, and they may be playing the 'Dead March' over you in much
less than a week." He spoke carelessly. "Her ladyship is most generous
and is certain to pay for a choral service."

"Excellent!" exclaimed Larose at once looking very pleased, "then I see
I shall relish the whole business, for I am sick of going after people
who commit only one crime, and then hide away like rabbits until I dig
them out." He nodded. "I admire this red-haired woman of yours for
sticking to her guns."

"It is the only thing she can do." said Jones with a shrug, "unless she
prefers to go on being haunted every day of her life." He looked very
stern. "She must carry on the fight to a finish now, and not only must
she break up the kidnapping gang, but she must unmask, too, the traitors
in her own household and among her own friends." He put his finger to
his lips. "Ah! that's the trouble, for as I tell you, she can make no
move in any direction to protect the child, without its becoming known
at once to the people who are after him. We have definite proof that
they leave instantly, and I cannot, for the life of me, find out how it
is done." He appeared very disturbed. "Just as they got to know that the
child was going on the morrow to the Brancaster sands, so they got to
know that I was in the Abbey, and so"--he threw out his hands--"I have
no doubt they will know who you are the very moment you arrive."

"You have been staying there a fortnight, then, Mr. Jones?" said the
detective thoughtfully.

"A fortnight to-day," growled the great man, "and I have never spent two
more unprofitable weeks in my life." He spoke sharply. "You know my
reputation and my methods, Mr. Larose, and if I tell you I have
discovered nothing, then you will realise that the secret is well
hidden."

He spread out the map upon the table. "But now for chapter and verse,
for I am going into a nursing home tonight, and have a lot of things to
arrange. See, this is Burnham Norton and there is the Abbey, and as you
have remarked, their comparatively isolated position leaves them open to
attack. Well, the affair upon the sands took place on the afternoon of
Wednesday, and at 11.30 that night Lady Ardane rang me up. She impressed
upon me the extreme urgency of the matter, but I was not able to go at
once, for I had an appointment with a Cabinet Minister at midnight.
Still, at 8.30 the next morning I was breakfasting in the Abbey."

He sighed heavily. "And I at once found I had a most difficult task
before me. For the moment I was not concerned so much with the
kidnappers outside, realising that the vital thing was to discover at
once who was the confederate inside the Abbey. That was what was
terrifying Lady Ardane, and I agreed with her that there must be a
confederate." He nodded emphatically. "You, too, can be perfectly
assured on that point, and you can be assured also that whoever he or
she may be, or perhaps there are two or three of them there, they are
not only able to learn all that is going on inside the Abbey, but, as I
tell you, they are in a position to pass on that information in the most
expeditious manner possible to those who are waiting to operate
outside."

"But why are you so certain there?" asked Larose.

"Firstly," replied Jones, "because the fact that the child was going to
the Brancaster Sands on the Wednesday was not mentioned or even thought
of until the Tuesday evening about half-past six when he was bidding
goodnight to his mother, and yet by two o'clock on the following
afternoon the kidnappers had been able to perfect most elaborate
arrangements for abducting him there. Not only were some of them
gathered in readiness among the sandhills to prevent all chances of the
Abbey party getting back to their car, but others were approaching from
far out to sea in a motor yacht which must have been waiting a long way
away, because neither before nor after can we light upon any traces of
it anywhere along the coast. Everything, then, pointed to preparations
that could not possibly have been carried out on the spur of the
moment."

"Go on," said Larose, because Jones had stopped speaking.

"Secondly," said Jones, "because the third night after I arrived, I
happened to mention at dinner that I had thoughts of cycling into Wells
to obtain a favorite tobacco, and Lady Ardane suggested that if I wanted
to extend my excursion for exercise, I should proceed there by way of
Overy Marshes and return through Holkhum Park. I did so." He spoke very
slowly. "Well, with no resource to the telephone, plans were made
instantly by someone to waylay me, for I was fired upon, both going and
returning, which proves conclusively that within a few minutes of my
decision, the miscreants had been informed in which particular
directions I should be proceeding upon both parts of my journey."

"But perhaps you were followed from the moment you left the Abbey,"
suggested Larose.

"Impossible!" exclaimed Jones sharply, "for it was bright moonlight and
I was keeping far too good a look out. No, I was ambushed both times,
and from the crack of the rifles--I am an old rifleman myself--I was
fired at with two different rifles. On the marshes an old Mauser was
used, but in the park I don't know what was fired."

"Anything else?" asked Larose.

"Yes, a third happening," replied Jones, "and it is in every way as
significant as the other two. To hark back to the morning following the
attempt at Brancaster Sands, Lady Ardane had requisitioned five young
fellows of the Hunstanton Rifle Club to come and stay at the Abbey as a
temporary bodyguard, and it was arranged they should be picked up at The
Drake Hotel in Hunstanton at 3 o'clock. She sent a car from the Abbey to
fetch them, and until they were all ready it was run into the hotel
yard. Then, when a quarter of an hour later it was proceeding at a good
pace along the Burnham Norton road, one of the front wheels came off and
a terrible accident was narrowly averted. It was then found that the hub
caps of all the wheels had been unscrewed and the safety pins pulled
out." He shook his head gloomily. "There could not be more conclusive
evidence that there is a confederate inside the Abbey, for someone had
at once passed on the information that these men were coming out."

He handed a sheaf of papers to the detective. "Now, here are some notes
that I have made and they should save you a lot of trouble. They include
the life histories of the twenty-six employees at the Abbey, and
impressions I have formed of the temperaments and characters, also my
opinion of the friends of Lady Ardane who were staying with her when I
arrived and are still there now."

He shook his head disgustedly. "Really, I have never fished in more
empty waters, for none of these men or women appear likely to be taking
any part against Lady Ardane. She is most popular with everyone and the
child, too. It is true that few of the servants have a record of long
service behind them, but they are a foolish lot, and I can pick out no
one among them who seems in any way competent enough to be assisting in
a conspiracy such as this. And the same with these friends of hers now
at the Abbey, including some very uninteresting and shallow society
women." He shrugged his shoulders. "At any rate, I gave the women the
'once-over' and then dismissed them at once from my calculations." He
smiled sarcastically. "But perhaps you may be more successful there than
I have been. I am no ladies man."

"Well, what exactly am I being sent down for?" asked Larose.

"Mainly to determine who are the confederates inside the Abbey and
through them get a line as to where the gang are, outside, and
incidentally, help keep an eye upon the child and make sure nothing
happens to him."

"And those letters that Lady Ardane received?" asked Larose. "What about
them?"

"Both in the same disguised hand-writing and very short. The first, as
far as her ladyship remembers, 'Look out or your child will be taken
from you, but on no account let it be known that you have been warned or
I shall suffer,' and the second, received only yesterday, 'Be on your
guard more than ever now, for among your shooting party will be another
who is your enemy and the luck may not be with you this time.' Both
posted in Norwich."

"And she has asked for no police protection?" frowned Larose.

Naughton Jones shook his head. "What would have been the good of it? She
could not have the police hanging about indefinitely, and besides, Mr.
Larose"--he looked very stern and uncompromising--"her ladyship is, as I
have told you, an American, and she has a profound distrust of all
police officials, indeed, it was with some difficulty that I persuaded
her to ask for your services. She was very much against it at first."

A short silence followed and then Larose said slowly. "And you really
must throw up the case, Mr. Jones?"

"Yes," replied Jones curtly. "I must"

"But you and I together," began the detective, "we----"

Jones turned away his eyes. "I must throw it up," he repeated. "There is
no help for it."

"But I should have thought," persisted Larose, "that at such a critical
stage----"

Jones turned on him angrily. "I don't want to leave it," he said
quickly. "Don't you understand that, and don't you understand also, what
two weeks of complete failure mean to a man of my temperament? Do you
think I am not sorry, too, for that poor woman eating out her heart, and
night and day expecting some dreadful blow to fall?" His voice dropped
suddenly to gentler tones. "I am doing the best I can for her and in
advising her to ask for your services I am thereby going against all the
prejudices of my life." He frowned scornfully. "Must I again refer to my
estimation of the official police, and must I ask you to realise how
humiliating it is for me to come here this morning? Please, please Mr.
Larose, stress no more upon my enforced departure. It is unavoidable."

"All right, Mr. Jones," said Larose quickly. "I will not refer to it
again." He glanced down at the papers on the desk. "So I am to appear
there as a guest, am I?"

Naughton Jones smiled a disdainful smile. "You may appear to some people
there as a guest, but if I have any grasp of the situation at Abbey, to
those with whom we are most concerned your true identity will become
known at once."

He pointed to the papers before them on the desk. "You will find all
your instructions there. Yes, you are to go down as a friend of her
cousin Paris Lestrange, the K.C., and you are to call upon this
gentleman straight away at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, so that
you will not be entirely unknown to each other when you meet at the
Abbey. I have just come from him and made an appointment for you at
12.30." He looked rather annoyed. "We had to take him into our
confidence because it would have seemed strange for Lady Ardane to have
invited a man of your age--as her friend."

"What sort of a man is he?" asked Larose.

Naughton Jones pursed up his lips. "Oh! quite reliable and all that, but
personally, one I do not particularly care for." He frowned as if at
some unpleasant memory. "I crossed swords with him last year at the
Leeds Assizes when he was defending the forger, Stringer Blake, and
although he was most rude and discourteous to me when in the witness
box, it is generally conceded he did not come too well out of the
encounter. At any rate my evidence turned the scale and friend Stringer
was sent down for seven years."

"Ah! I remember now!" exclaimed Larose. "I've seen this Lestrange in the
Courts. Between thirty-five and forty, dark and rather good-looking. He
goes in for racing and owns a few horses himself."

Jones nodded. "Yes, that's the fellow, and if the report speaks true
he's anxious to hang up his hat at the Abbey. Admiral Charters, one of
the visitors up there, told me last week that he'd proposed many times
to Lady Ardane and everyone knew it." The great investigator smiled
acidly. "A very presumptuous and conceited man!"

"And I am to go and see him now," asked Larose, "directly I have
received that order that you told me I am about to have from the Chief."

"Yes," nodded Jones, "I have just come from Lincoln Inn Fields, and have
arranged the appointment for you." He looked amused. "I might mention he
did not seem over-pleased."

Larose looked amused. "What displeased him?" he asked. "Association with
a policeman?" He laughed. "I suppose he thinks I'll be disgracing him by
putting my knife into my mouth! Really----"

But the telephone tinkled and he cut short what he was going to say. He
lifted the receiver and then making the reply, "Very good, sir, I'll
come at once," replaced it and rose quickly to his feet.

"It's the Chief, Mr. Jones," he explained. "Just wait a minute or two,
will you. He says very little, and I don't suppose he'll keep me long,"
and then, receiving a nod of acquiescence, he left the room.

With the closing of the door, the gloomy look dropped at once from the
face of the great investigator, and taking a highly-colored pink
newspaper out of his pocket, he began to scan down its columns with all
appearance of great interest.

"Hum! hum!" he remarked, "a very tricky programme with the winners well
concealed, and if anyone's not careful, he'll be brought home a cot case
this afternoon. Ho! ho!" he went on, "but 'Track-Watcher' is all at sea
in these selections and that nap for the 3.30 is indicative of very poor
judgement, to my mind." He shook his head emphatically. "'Wet Kisses'
will never act in the heavy going, and 'The Bishop' will come right away
from her as he turns for home." He snorted contemptuously. "Then, of
course, 'Maid of Orleans' will be too strong for 'The Parson's Nose,'
and 'Sweet Seventeen' will beat the 'The Unwanted Babe' every time."

His contempt became accentuated as he read on. "Numbskull! Fool!
Imbecile!" he ejaculated. "So, his best bets of the day are 'Slippery
Dick' and 'Dirty Dog!' Why, 'Slippery Dick' will never get round those
turns and 'Dirty Dog' just hates the mud!" He almost gasped. "Great
Scot! the man must have been intoxicated when he picked those out
and----" But he heard someone outside, and in a lightning movement the
pink paper was back in his pocket.

The door opened, and Larose returned to the room. "Yes, it's all right,"
he announced cheerfully. "I'm to go and I'll be starting in less than
half an hour." He reseated himself at the desk and went on in sharp and
business-like tones. "And now, please Mr. Jones, just tell me who at the
Abbey, besides Lady Ardane, know that I am coming down?"

"No one, not a soul," replied Jones emphatically, "and there, at any
rate for the time being, we are quite safe. We only decided upon
everything this morning, and our conversation took place outdoors, in
whispers, and in a part of the garden where we could not possibly be
overheard."

"Good," exclaimed Larose, "then I'll get you to give me an introduction
to her ladyship at once."

"There's a letter among the papers there, and you'll present it to her
when you arrive."

"But that's not the sort of introduction I mean," said Larose. "I want
you to introduce me over the phone, so that she'll be able to recognise
my voice, and I want to say something particular to her, as well. What's
her number?"

Jones gave it with a frown and then sat with a very bored expression on
his face until the call was put through.

"Just say that you want to introduce a friend to her," whispered Larose
quickly, when Jones was holding the receiver to his ear. "Don't on any
account mention my name."

Jones flashed him a look of withering scorn, and began to speak into the
mouthpiece. "Yes--yes--a most pleasant journey, thank you... Certainly,
everything is all right... No thanks at all. I knew I could manage it...
Now, I have a friend here and----"

But Larose had deftly plucked the receiver from his hand, and with a
smile of apology to the amazed Jones, he at once took up the
conversation.

"It is the friend speaking... Good afternoon... I'm sure it's very kind
of you to ask me down for the shooting, although kangaroos are more in
my line than pheasants... Still, I have shot more than kangaroos in my
time, and as I'm quite handy with my gun, I may be a welcome acquisition
to your house-party. I'm starting almost at once, but I want to speak to
you to-night, right away from where you are now... You understand?...
Yes, I want to have a chat with you before I arrive... Let me see. Now
it's exactly 12 o'clock... Certainly, it is absolutely necessary, and
not a soul must know, until the last moment, that you are motoring
anywhere... Well, say the Royal Hotel, then... In the lounge at ten
minutes to six... Yes, I must see you. All right then, you'll be there
at ten minutes to six and please don't be late... Oh! I shall recognise
you, and I'll come up and speak to you... Oh! one thing more. Please
bring a plan of your place, if you have one. No, that's all. Good
morning."

He hung up the receiver and turned to Naughton Jones. "Well, that's all
right," he smiled, "and now, I shall start off with a clean sheet."

"But you're giving her a journey of thirty-five miles each way," frowned
Jones reprovingly, "and you won't always find her so complaisant. She
has a strong will, and ideas of her own."

"Then it will be a pleasure to work with her," commented Larose.

They talked on for a few minutes, and then Jones got up to take his
leave. "Now, you go very carefully through those notes," he said, "and I
hope you'll do credit to my recommendation."

"I hope so, too, Mr. Jones," smiled Larose. "At any rate, I'll do my
very best."

"You've improved a lot in appearance lately, I notice." went on Jones
with great condescension. "Your face has filled out and shows a lot more
character." He nodded. "Some women might almost call you handsome."

"Thank you, Mr. Jones," said Larose, with an appearance of great
humility, "I'm sure it's very good of you to say so."

"Well, you be most careful," nodded Jones, "for you may be all that
stands now between that poor woman and a dreadful tragedy." He shook his
head gloomily. "This morning before I came here, I was scanning through
my book of newspaper cuttings dealing with scores and scores of
kidnapping cases in America, and although I have been quite aware of the
fact for a long time, still I realised more than ever, that the
mentality of the kidnapper is as debased as that of any type of criminal
in the world, and that he is crueller and more merciless than any jungle
beast of prey."

"I'll be careful," replied Larose reassuringly, "and I promise you I'll
not be fighting in kid-gloves, either."

"And you remember for your own sake," were final words of Naughton
Jones, "that you will not be the only one with a secret at the Abbey, or
the only one who will be masked night and day." His voice vibrated in
its earnestness. "Among those smiling men and women will be another
guest who will be masked, too, and he will be close near you every hour.
He will be at your elbow as you sit at meals, he will stalk behind you
as you pass from room to room, and he will stand by your pillow, as you
toss and stir in your troubled dreams. Yes, and he will be waiting for
you to make just one mistake. Just one little mistake, Mr. Larose, and
then his mask will drop off, and you will see in your last waning
consciousness, that all along your shadow has been death. You
understand! Good-bye."

"Whew!" whistled the detective when he was again alone, "and after that
I think I'll have a cigarette." He helped himself to one out of a well
filled box upon his desk and then added with a grin. "Really it's a pity
perhaps, that I bought so many, for I may not want them all."

A quarter of an hour later he was being ushered into a beautifully
furnished room which formed part of the chambers of the rising King's
Counsel, Paris Lestrange.

The barrister was seated before a large table upon which was heaped in
orderly disarray a number of papers, tied together with countless pieces
of the usual red tape.

He was dark and handsome, with a long intellectual face and deep-set,
penetrating eyes. His hair was as beautifully brushed as if he had just
come out of the barber's chair. He was immaculately dressed and his
expression was proud and rather disdainful.

He rose and inclined his head ever so slightly when the visitor was
announced, and then, making no effort to shake hands, sank back into his
chair and assumed a very bored expression.

"This is an unfortunate business," he began in a deep voice, "but of
course you have been coached in the part you are to play?"

Larose nodded. "Mr. Naughton Jones has just been with me," he replied.
"I am to go down as a supposed friend of yours."

"Yes," said the K.C., dwelling slightly upon the adjective, "as a
supposed friend." He eyed the detective critically and asked in a
haughty tone:--

"Then have you had any experience of the usages of Society, Mr. Larose?"

"Oh! yes, all except the divorce parts," replied Larose, annoyed at his
unfriendly manner and willfully misunderstanding the question. "Over
here and in Australia I've been in the Criminal Investigation Department
for more than ten years."

The K.C. stared hard as if uncertain how quite to take the reply. "But
that is not what I mean," he said quickly. He frowned as if rather
worried. "Do you think, Mr. Larose, that you will be able to pass as one
accustomed to associate with the class of people you will meet at Carmel
Abbey?"

The rudeness of the question was patent, but the detective repressed the
anger that he felt, and continued in his previous vein. "Yes, that will
be quite all right," he said meekly, "for only a few months back I
served as a footman in the household of the Duke of Blair when it was
thought an attempt was about to be made upon the family jewels, and no
one but his Grace ever became aware who I was. I picked up quite a lot
of wrinkles then." He smiled cheerfully. "I play a good hand of bridge,
I am something of a judge of wine, and from overhearing many
conversations, I know exactly what kind of stories are considered good
form to tell to the ladies." There was just the faintest trace of
amusement in his voice. "You need not be afraid that I shall let you
down."

Lestrange continued to frown, but now went off upon another track.

"Of course" he said, "at Lady Ardane's request I have agreed, as Mr.
Jones puts it, to sponsor you as my friend, but at the same time, I am
by no means convinced that there is any need at all for your services.
The evidence as to any intended kidnapping is in my opinion, most
lamentably weak. The imagination of an excitable chauffeur, the
forgetfulness of some motor mechanic when replacing those car
wheels,"--he drummed upon the table with his fingers--"and the entirely
unsupported conjectures of Mr. Naughton Jones!"

"But Mr. Jones says he was actually fired upon," said Larose.

"Yes, yes, of course," commented the barrister. "Still, Mr. Jones is
always positive that he is the centre of every happening that occurs. I
have had some experience with him in court." He looked sharply at the
detective. "But, never mind that. The question is, if you are supposed
to be my friend, where did I meet you?" He screwed up his face as if he
were partaking of a dose of particularly unpleasant medicine. "What have
we in common?"

The detective pointed smilingly to a gold cigarette case upon the table.
"Smoking," he exclaimed with the delight of one making a great
discovery, "and you can say you met me somewhere in a tobacconist's
shop."

The K.C.'s eyes hardened and his face flushed. "Humor, Mr. Larose," he
began sternly, "is out of place now and I am----"

"Well, say you met me in racing circles," interrupted Larose quickly,
and speaking now in sharp and decisive tones and very different to those
he had hitherto used. "I am, of course, aware that you are interested in
racing, and I am interested, too. I've stayed twice with Lord Garnet at
his place in Newmarket, so we can say we became acquainted there." He
rose up to terminate the interview. "Now how are you going down
to-morrow?"

"By car of course," replied Lestrange sharply, and in spite of his
self-assurance, decidedly nonplussed by the rapid change in the demeanor
of the detective.

"Will you pick me up then, in Norwich to-morrow," asked Larose, "or
would you prefer that I went to the Abbey on my own?"

The K.C. considered. "I had better pick you up," he said. He smiled
sourly. "That will obviate any effusive greetings when we meet."

"And what time will you be in Norwich?" asked Larose.

Lestrange considered again. "Between two and five," he replied
carelessly, and then added as if only his own convenience were to be
considered, "You will have to wait for me."

"All right," said Larose, "then I'll be ready in the lounge of the Royal
Hotel from two o'clock onwards," and with a nod quite as off-hand as
that of the barrister's, he let himself out of the room.




CHAPTER II.--LAROSE DRAWS FIRST BLOOD


Lady Ardane was certainly a very pretty woman and as she sat in the
lounge of the Royal Hotel that evening, warming her feet before one of
the big fires, all the men who passed through, and not a few of the
women, too, thought how attractive she looked.

With good chiselled features and a beautiful pink and white complexion,
she had large, clear blue eyes and the glorious, burnished copper hair
of a Raphael-painted angel. She was of medium height and her figure was
graceful and well-proportioned.

Ordinarily of a rather imperious expression, just now she looked annoyed
as well, and she tapped impatiently with her foot every time she glanced
at the watch upon her wrist.

"Seven minutes late, already," she murmured, "and he told me to be sure
and be there on time."

Suddenly then, she saw a smartly dressed youngish looking man enter the
lounge at the far end and turn his head interestedly around. His glance
fell upon her, and immediately he began to thread his way through the
chairs in her direction.

"But that can't be he," she thought instantly. "That man is much too
young and not a bit like a detective. He looks educated."

But the young man approached unhesitatingly, and then with a bow and a
pleasant smile, pulled a chair up close and sat down beside her.

"I'm sorry I'm late," he said, speaking in low and modulated tones, "but
there was a little bother in getting a place for my car. Still, I'm only
eight minutes behind. It hasn't struck six yet."

Her heart beat unpleasantly, and with a little catch in her breath, she
regarded him without speaking. He was alert and intelligent-looking,
with keen blue eyes and a good chin. He smiled as if he were amused.

"Oh! it's quite all right," he said. "I'm Mr. Larose."

She spoke at last, and holding herself in, asked coldly, "And how am I
to know that!"

He laughed lightly. "Well, you left the Abbey at five minutes to five;
you motored here alone; your carburettor needs adjusting, and that"--he
pointed to a roll of brown paper in her lap--"is the plan of the Abbey
that I asked you to bring with you. Also"--and he took a letter from his
pocket--"this is the introduction from Mr. Naughton Jones."

She frowned. "And in that case," she said quickly, "I must tell you that
I am rather troubled, for I believe I have been followed here. There was
a car behind me all the way, and it made its pace to mine. When I slowed
down, it slowed down, too, and when I accelerated----"

"That's quite all right," he interrupted. "You needn't worry there. It
was I who was behind you. I wanted to make sure you were not going to be
followed, and so drove over to the Abbey this afternoon and waited among
that clump of trees, just as you turn into the road, to see you come
out." He shook his head. "But it was unwise of you to come alone, for
they are just as likely to try to get hold of you."

Lady Ardane flushed. She was annoyed at having expressed any anxiety,
and yet at the same time comforted at this proof of the thoroughness of
the man who had been sent to help her.

"I am sorry that I made you uneasy," smiled Larose, "and I kept a long
way behind, hoping that you would not notice me." He saw her
embarrassment and went on, "But that carburettor of yours certainly
wants adjusting, for as you slowed down, coming out of the Abbey ground,
you were back-firing badly."

"Yes," she nodded, with an effort to appear unconcerned. "I saw my
engine was running hot."

He looked up at the clock. "Well, what about going in to dinner? I'm
hungry and we can talk better there. I have booked two seats in a
corner, where we shall not be overheard."

She shook her head coldly. "No, thank you," she replied. "I want to get
back as soon as possible. I'm not interested in meals in these times and
I'm not at all hungry."

"Nonsense," said Larose. "I saw you getting a piece of chocolate out of
the automatic machine just now, and besides, I can't think properly if
I'm not fed." He laughed. "We can both pay expenses for ourselves, or
else I'll pay and put it down in the expenses. So, you'll be under no
obligation to me, either way."

She hesitated a moment, and then rising reluctantly from her chair,
preceded him into the dining room.

"What would you like to drink?" he asked, when they were seated at the
far end of the long room. "It's my birthday to-day, and I'm 29, so I
feel inclined to celebrate it."

"Anything will do for me," she replied, all at once becoming most
annoyed that she was going to dine tete-a-tete with a detective from
Scotland Yard. She ought to have persisted in her refusal, she told
herself, and would let him see most plainly that she was in no way
interested in any of his conversation, except that strictly appertaining
to the matter that had brought them together.

But she had been really hungry, and the dinner being a good one, under
the mellowing influences of the food and wine, she soon found herself
unable to keep up the haughty attitude she had decided upon.

The detective had at once assumed the role of host, and critical as she
was, she had to admit that he filled it very well.

He was quite easy and natural, and in his manner there was nothing
lacking in what she was accustomed to in her own circle. Apart from
that, indeed, he was far more interesting and entertaining than most
people she was usually brought in contact with. He was entirely
unassuming, too, and with all his obviously would-be friendliness, there
was not the slightest familiarity about him, and if she saw, as she did,
that from time to time he was appearing to be taking her in admiringly,
there was yet evidently no intention on his part that he wanted her to
be aware of it.

He talked of books and plays, of race meetings and the places he had
visited in England; he told her about Australia, and the differing
conditions of life and climate there, and altogether she soon realised
she was far from finding his company disagreeable.

He seemed just a light-hearted and easy-going young fellow, with no
cares or troubles at all.

But the instant the waiter had served the coffee and left them, his
whole manner changed. His face hardened his chin seemed to become firmer
an his eyes lost their smiling look.

"Now, Lady Ardane," he said sharply, "we'll talk business, and please
only answer my questions, for you must be starting for home in half an
hour. I shall return with you, and come back by the late train from
Burnham Market. No, I insist upon that, and you must, please, bow to my
judgment. It was foolish of you to come here quite alone, for with all
your courage you are a woman, and also, incidentally would be quite as
valuable a hostage as your child."

"But I could not have brought an army," she retorted, "and against a
gang, surely one companion would have been of no use at all."

"I don't know so much about that," he replied, "for they might hesitate
about murder, with you as an eye witness. Well," he went on quickly,
"about these kidnappers, I take it the only motive for them wanting to
get your child can be that of ransom? You have no enemies, and it is not
a question of revenge? Oh! none that you know of, and no one would
benefit either by the death of your son. Yes, Mr. Jones told me the
baronetcy would die out then. Now, how did Sir Charles leave his money?"

She looked annoyed at this line of questioning, and hesitated, but after
a moment replied coldly.

"Equally between me and my son, his portion being, of course, held in
trust until he comes of age."

"And the estate was a large one?"

She nodded. "I am quite well to do."

"I only asked that," said Larose, "to assure myself that the ransom they
are after may be large enough to induce them to persevere, for you see a
number of men with cars and a motor yacht require some financing." He
shook his head. "The man behind all this must have ample means at his
command." He looked sharply at her. "Now, another question, please, it
is three years since you lost your husband is it not!" He spoke in cold,
level tones. "Well, in your circumstances I expect you have had suitors
since?"

Lady Ardane's eyes flashed. "Because of my money, you mean?" she asked
sharply.

"Not necessarily," replied the detective, repressing a smile, "but you
have had them, of course."

"Plenty," she replied laconically, then she added, "but I have no
intention of remarrying, and all my friends know it."

"Then is it not possible," suggested Larose, "that in rejecting the
advance of some one of these suitors, you may have incurred his enmity?"

Her eyes flashed again. "Not for a moment," she replied. She tilted her
chin disdainfully. "My friends are gentlemen, Mr. Larose."

The detective ignored the rebuff as if he were quite unaware one had
been intended. "Now to another side of the matter," he said, "and
although I am quite sure Mr. Jones will have gone over the ground here,
still I must satisfy myself upon one or two points." He regarded her
intently, making a mental note how pretty she looked when she was angry,
and spoke very slowly. "Now, after you had told the head nurse when the
child was with you that night, that she should take him upon the sands
on the morrow, I understand she is certain she made no mention of the
matter to any one until she was in the act of getting into bed, and then
she told the other nurse. That is so?"

Lady Ardane nodded, and the detective went on. "And both nurses are sure
it was not referred to again until the maid was clearing away the
nursery breakfast, which would be about half past eight."

Lady Ardane nodded again. "And the girl who cleared the breakfast away,"
she added, "is positive she did not speak about it to anyone until she
went down into the servants' hall for morning lunch, which would make it
about half past ten. She was busy with her rooms, upstairs, and would
have had no opportunity of speaking to anyone until then."

"And where were you that evening when the child was bidding you good
night?" asked the detective.

"Where I generally am, for a few minutes, every evening about that
time," she replied, "in my writing room, a little boudoir that leads out
of my bedroom. I attend to any private letters then that have come in
the late afternoon post-bag, and need answering by the mail that night."

"Could your instructions to the nurse by any possibility have been
over-heard?"

"Most improbable, for the door would almost certainly have been shut,
and the window is eighteen to twenty feet above the ground."

"And about the bringing of those riflemen from Hunstanton," asked
Larose, "when did you decide upon that?"

"About half past ten the next morning."

"Did you discuss the matter with anyone?"

"Yes, I was in the library, with my father, Senator Harvey, Sir Parry
Bardell, a great friend of mine who lives near the Abbey and is the
co-trustee with me of the Ardane Estate, and Admiral Charters, another
old friend. Then I sent for my head chauffeur, the one who was with the
car that afternoon upon the sands, and he was back before noon, with
everything arranged."

"And where were you when he told you what he had done?"

"In my boudoir again, with my secretary, Miss Wingrove."

A short silence followed and then Larose went on. "And I understand from
Mr. Jones that since this trouble began every telephone call has been
checked at the exchange, and every one satisfactorily accounted for.
There is no possible chance then that whoever is acting as the spy
inside the Abbey can have passed on his information through that
channel."

"No, we can be quite certain of that," replied Lady Ardane.

"And I see from these notes Mr. Jones has given me, that as a Mr. Ernest
Maxwell, the friend of your cousin, I have come from Australia, and am
supposed to have made a fortune in sheep out there." He smiled. "Very
nice, if it were only true."

He folded up the notes, and placing them in his pocket, became very
stern again.

"Now, Lady Ardane," he said solemnly, "it is evident that we are up
against very determined men. But as we have seen, they will resort to
any means to obtain their ends. The sanctity of life is apparently
nothing to them, and they will take any act of violence in their stride,
as a matter of course. Unhappily, too, up to now they have been in a
position to forestall every move that you have made to protect
yourself." He nodded emphatically. "Well, we are going to stop all that,
and now I am going to be an unknown force working against them, in
exactly the same way as they have been an unknown force working against
you."

He broke off suddenly and said, "I am taking it for granted, as Mr.
Jones told me, that no one in the Abbey knows that I am coming down."

"No one," she replied quickly. "Not even my father, Senator Harvey, who
is upon a visit to me, and who is very prejudiced against calling in the
official police, nor my aunt, who lives with me. No reference has been
made to your coming at any time except when Mr. Jones and I were
discussing the matter in the garden."

The detective nodded. "Good!" he said, "then from the moment when I set
foot in the Abbey you will forget that I am a detective, and regard me
only as one of your guests. We must never be seen holding a private
conversation together."

"Now," he went on, "you give me three minutes, and I'll leave the hotel
first. Then you call for your car, and pick me up by the cathedral. I
shall be just outside the main entrance."

They parted in the lounge, but a few minutes later were seated, side by
side, and speeding swiftly along the road towards Burnham Norton. It was
a fine night and there was a good moon.

"We need not worry about anything until we have passed Fakenham," said
the detective, "and after that, if you don't mind, I'll take the wheel."

They drove on in silence, each busy with their own thoughts. Larose
inhaled the delicate perfume that emanated from her hair and sighed
softly. It was so incongruous, he thought, this dainty and beautiful
woman and the evil forces he was there to combat.

A short distance from Fakenham, he said, "Now, please."

Lady Ardane slowed down and the exchange of seats was effected. "But I
don't consider it necessary," she said coldly, "nor either, as I have
told you, that you need have put yourself out to come with me."

The detective did not argue the point. "Well, you look out of the window
at the back," he said most politely, "and take particular notice as we
pass the by-roads to see if any car is parked up there."

Lady Ardane made no comment, contenting herself with a disdainful smile,
but if it had been in her nature to ever feel sulky, she would have felt
so then. However, she twisted her head round and did as she had been
requested.

Nothing then happened for a few miles, and she was upon the point of
remarking to the detective how unreasonably apprehensive he had been,
when, just as they had passed a field bordered by a thick hedge, she saw
a light waved three or four times and with no delay, but with some
reluctance, she informed the detective.

"But it's gone now," she added quickly, "and perhaps it was only a farm
light."

"And perhaps it was not," snapped Larose. "At any rate, I'm taking no
chances to-night," and so approaching a bend in the road before them, he
immediately slowed down to a little above walking pace. Then suddenly he
began to tug fiercely at the steering wheel.

"Hold steady," he called out sharply, "I'm going to turn. There's a car
half blocking the road in front, and it looks as if two men are
stretching a rope across."

Then things happened very quickly, for he had hardly turned the car
round and straightened up, when a man carrying a hurricane lantern came
bursting through the hedge about fifty yards in front of them, and
springing over the ditch, jumped on to the road. Instantly then the
detective accelerated, and drove straight at him. For a couple of
seconds or so, it seemed that the car would hit him, but he tumbled back
into the ditch just in time, and they could hear him swearing and
shouting furiously as they passed.

"But you didn't intend to purposely run him down?" gasped Lady Ardane.

"Certainly I did," replied the detective. "Didn't you see what he had
got in his other hand? Ah! here it comes," and they heard three sharp
reports, and a bullet pinged somewhere on the back of the car.

"We'll go back to Fakenham," called out Larose, "and I'll----"

"No, no," interrupted Lady Ardane quickly, "there's a lane just past
these trees, and we can turn into that and escape. We are not three
miles from the Abbey now."

They turned where she indicated and speeded along the high-hedged lane
as quickly as the car would go, but very soon Lady Ardane, looking back
through the window, called out with a quiver in her voice, "They're
coming after us, they're not far behind."

"Well, they won't catch us at the rate we're going now," called back
Larose. "We must be very nearly at the Abbey."

But all at once the engine began to run unevenly and the car to jump and
lose pace.

"Damn!" swore Larose. "She's misfiring. We've got a dirty plug." His
voice rose sharply. "Quick! tell me how far they are away."

"Three hundred yards at the most," replied Lady Ardane, steadying her
voice with an effort, "and they're getting much nearer."

The detective was quite cool and collected. "I'm going to slow down," he
said, "and you must take the wheel. Don't get flurried, and we'll give
them a surprise."

He almost stopped to allow her to slip into the driving seat, and then,
a moment afterwards, came the crash of breaking glass.

"Sorry," he called out, "but that was me. I had to break the window to
use my gun. Now go for all you're worth up that hill."

A few seconds passed and then, just as they were topping the rise of a
small hill, for the second time that night a bullet impinged upon the
back of the car.

"It's quite all right," said Larose calmly. "No harm's done and our
turn's coming now. Slow down, please, for I must catch them as they come
over the hill. I don't want to be too far away. Now, steady. Here they
are."

Crack--crack--crack, and three bullets sped through the little window.

"Ah!" shouted Larose exultingly, "I got one of their tyres and they've
turned into the ditch. Gad! but they almost went over. Yes, they're
finished with, and you'll get home this time. Now, quick, go as fast as
you can."

He dropped back into the seat beside her and went on cheerfully, "Quite
a nice little scrap, and it'll make them more careful in future." He
looked intently at her. "But I hope you weren't very frightened."

"I was--dreadfully," she faltered, "but not as much as I should have
been if I'd had anyone but you with me. Mr. Naughton Jones told me you
would shoot your best friend if you thought it necessary."

"Exactly," laughed Larose, "but only if I thought it necessary." He
became serious again. "But now just go about half a mile and then pull
up and drop me. I'll hop back and if I'm quick I may get a look at them
and see what make their car is, and get the number. I don't suppose the
car'll be much damaged, for that ditch wasn't more than a couple of feet
down and the hedge would act as a buffer, but still it will take a few
minutes to get it out and change the tyre and I'll----"

Lady Ardane was aghast. "But you're not going back," she cried. "Why,
they'll kill you."

Larose laughed. "I'll take care of that," he said. "They won't see me."
He went on quickly. "Now the instant you get home ring up the Fakenham
police and tell them part of what's happened. Just say an attempt was
made to waylay you and that you were fired upon. Don't mention anything
about me and don't say I fired back. Tell them exactly where the car
went into the ditch." He shook his head. "I don't think there's the
ghost of a chance of them getting here in time, but still we must try
it. Ah! here we are at your corner and now you'll be quite safe. Pull
up, please."

They had come out of the lane and through two fences on either side of a
narrow road were turning into a wide expanse of meadow-land, with the
beautiful outlines of Carmel Abbey about half a mile away, silhouetted
against the moonlit sky.

Lady Ardane brought the car to a standstill. "But I don't like your
going back," she said breathlessly. "I think it very foolish."

"Oh! I shall be quite all right," said Larose. "Now how far do you think
it is to where we left them? About a mile or a little more? Well,
goodnight, until to-morrow. I must run."

He had gone a few steps when she called out quickly. "Wait, Mr. Larose,
I want to speak to you," and when he turned with a frown, she pointed to
a shed under some trees, about a hundred yards away. "If you must go,"
she went on, "there's a bicycle in that shed, belonging to one of the
gardeners, and you can borrow it. The door will be locked, but the key
is generally left under one of the big stones that you'll see outside."

"Splendid!" exclaimed the detective. "Thank you very much. Now you get
home and ring up, quickly. Goodnight."

She drove off and he ran over to the shed she had indicated. He found
the key under one of the stones and was quickly inside. He was just
wheeling the bicycle out, when, noticing a couple of jackets and some
very dirty overalls hanging upon the wall, an idea struck him.

"Good!" he ejaculated, "better and better, and I shall be able to play
the exact part. If they're still there, I'll go up and have a little
talk."

He took off his jacket and slipped on one of the overalls, then, with a
grimace, he put on one of the ragged coats and also changed his neat
brown shoes for a pair of very clumsy boots.

"Awkward to bicycle in," he remarked, "but still it's not for a great
distance." He took off his wrist watch and put it in his pocket. "Not
nine o'clock yet, and I shall have plenty of time to get back and catch
the 10.45 at Burnham Market,"--he smiled to himself--"that is if I come
back at all, and if I don't,"--he sighed--"well, nothing will matter, as
far as I am concerned."

Mounting his bicycle, he shot like an arrow into the road, but he had
not gone a couple of hundred yards before he almost ran over a small dog
that was chasing a rabbit. The dog caught the rabbit and then
immediately a lad of fifteen or sixteen, who was carrying more rabbits
over his shoulder, dashed through the hedge. The boy almost dropped in
dismay when be caught sight of the detective, and for the moment seemed
as if he were going to bolt.

But Larose jumped off his bicycle and stood before him. "Hulloa!" he
said. "What's this! Poaching, eh?"

The boy looked very scared, and receiving no reply, the detective went
on, "Never mind. I won't squeal. How many have you got?"

"Foive," replied the boy in great relief at the friendly tones.

"Well, give me a couple and here's a tanner for you." With no demur the
boy at once complied and the sixpence was passed over in exchange.

"Now cut away quick," said Larose, and with the scampering off of the
young poacher, he stuffed one rabbit in each of the capacious pockets of
his ragged coat, and mounting the bicycle, pedalled swiftly on again.

"Very nice," he chuckled, "and now I shall be quite above suspicion."

In a few minutes his heart began to beat a little quickly, when turning
a bend in the lane, the car that he was looking for came suddenly into
view. It was about 300 yards away and, no longer in the ditch, it stood
now in the middle of the lane with all its lights extinguished. Two men
were kneeling by one of the front wheels and he could hear a sound of
hammering. One of the men was holding an electric torch.

"Changing the tyre!" he whispered. "Then I must hurry or they'll be
getting off."

Jumping from the machine, he quickly soiled over his hands and face from
the ditch-side and then riding on for another 150 yards, dismounted
again at the foot of a small hill and began pushing his bicycle slowly
before him.

The hammering still continued, and approaching nearer to the car, he was
so taken up with trying to see all that was going on that he did not
hear a man push through the hedge behind and pad softly after him.

Suddenly then he found himself gripped tightly by the back of the neck
and a stern voice demanded. "Now then, what are you doing here?" and at
the same time he felt something very like the muzzle of a pistol, poked
into the small of his back.

He swore under his breath at his carelessness, and shivered in real
earnest. But he did not lose his wits and made no attempt to struggle.

"All right, sir," he called out in frightened tones, "I'll go quietly.
Who are you? Mr. Thomson?"

The grip upon his neck was let go, and turning shakily he found himself
gazing into the cold eyes of a very determined-looking man of big build
and with a very square jaw. The man was holding one hand behind his
back.

"Who are you?" snarled the man, "and who's Mr. Thomson?"

"I'm Mat Capper, sir," whined Larose, "and I thought you were the
constable, Mr. Thomson."

"Well, what are you doing here," went on the man, "and what are you
sneaking along like that for?"

"I wasn't sneaking along, sir," replied Larose, "and I was just walking
up the hill because I'm short of breath. I've been very ill lately."

The man eyed him doubtfully. "Well, you must stand where you are," he
said gruffly. "Not a movement and don't you turn your head. Perfectly
still, you understand," and he made a long, low whistle in a peculiar
manner.

The detective felt a most unpleasant tightness in his chest. "He's got a
gun in his hand, right enough," he thought ruefully, "and my conscience,
if they search me and find mine!"

For a few moments, then, the two stood facing one another and a cloud
starting to cross the moon, the man stretched out and grasped the
detective by the arm, with the evident intention of making sure that he
should not bolt away in the darkness.

The sound of hammering still came from the direction of the car.

Then the detective heard quick footsteps behind him and a second man
came running up and flashed the rays of an electric torch full upon his
face completely blinding him with the glare.

"What is it?" asked the newcomer in a low fierce whisper. "Who is he?"

"Don't know," replied the square jawed man quietly, "but we'd better
make darned sure and find out."

"Who are you?" came the whispering voice, and the detective thought it
sounded like the hiss of a snake.

"Mat Capper, sir," replied the detective once again. "I'm a farm hand
and I work for Mr. Andrews, at Willow Bend."

"Where's that?" asked the whisperer, and certainly with no friendliness
in his tones.

"At North Barsham, sir. About three miles from here."

"And what are you doing at this time of night?"

The detective hesitated and made his breathing appear quick and jerky,
then he blurted out, "Only after a rabbit or two, sir," and in proof of
his statement he pulled out the rabbits he had thrust in his pockets,
and held them up for inspection.

Both men immediately touched them. "Yes, they're warm," said the one
holding the torch, very slowly, and as if weighing up everything in his
mind. Then, after a moment's silence, he went on sharply, but still in a
very low tone. "A farm laborer are you? Show me your hands." Then his
arm darted out and he seized the detective in a grip of iron.
"Damnation! you scoundrel!" he swore, "those are not the hands of a farm
laborer. You're lying to us. You're----"

But the detective broke in with a sharp cry. "No, no, sir," he gasped.
"I'm only speaking the truth. I tell you I've just come out of hospital.
I've had my lungs bad for three months and have done no work. That's why
my hands are so smooth." He almost wept. "I'm an honest chap, sir,
except for these rabbits."

At this display of such obvious fright, the rage of the man with the
torch appeared all suddenly to die down, but he did not relax his grip
and the detective realised quite well that he was still in great danger.
A pistol was pointed, not ten inches from his heart and he had even
heard the slipping back of the safety catch. He knew they were desperate
men that he was interfering with, and from their actions that night,
violence of every form was undoubtedly no stranger to them.

A sweat burst out upon his forehead.

His interrogator, who appeared to be the leader, was evidently of two
minds. "A farm hand, you say you are," he said at length, very softly
and then with all his quietness, he rapped out a question like a bullet
from a gun. "How long then does a sow carry her young?"

"Sixteen weeks, sir," replied Larose, making his legs even more shaky
than they were.

"And a sheep?"

"Five months, sir. Five months and three days."

For a long minute the man stood motionless as if still unconvinced and
then suddenly he let go the detective's arm and pushed him roughly away.
"Get," he said, "and go back the way you've come. No, leave your bicycle
here. We'll take care of that. I dare say it's been stolen, like the
rabbits. Now, get quick, and don't you dare to look round, or else----"
He turned to his companion. "Follow him and put a bullet in him if he
does."

With a great thankfulness in his heart and yet furious that he had not
been able to approach near enough to discern either the make or the
number of the car, Larose made every appearance of going off with as
much haste as possible. The moon was now clear again and with all his
courage he dared not look round, not knowing if there were anyone just
behind him.

Then all at once he heard the car being started up, and from the sounds
that followed he knew that it was being backed and turned. Risking
everything, he looked back over his shoulder. No one was following him,
he was alone in the lane, and in the distance the car was just moving
off in the direction of the main road.

"And I don't even know what make it is," he exclaimed, "nor which way it
is going, or how many men are in it. So any ringing up Fakenham will
have been quite useless, for we can't identify the car."

He retraced his footsteps in the hope that after all they might not have
gone off with his bicycle, and found, as he had half-expected, that it
had been left behind. It had, however, been thrown into the ditch and
not only that, but all the wind had been let out of the tyres.

"The beasts!" he ejaculated, "and there's no pump on it!" Pushing it
before him, he walked disgustedly back to the Abbey grounds, and
regaining the shed without encountering anybody, changed into his own
clothes. Then, with plenty of time to spare, he made for Burnham Market,
and catching the 10.45 train, was in Norwich again before midnight.

The following morning, as he was not due to arrive at the Abbey until
the late afternoon, he spent some time in the public library, reading up
from a local Guide Book all he could about Carmel Abbey.

Amongst other things he learnt that Sir Charles Ardane had bought it
about ten years previously and apparently much regret had been expressed
at the time that he had turned it into a private residence.

However, apparently, as little interference as possible had been made
with the outside appearance of the Abbey, the general scheme of the
rebuilding having been to erect a modern residence within the old walls.
A very large sum was supposed to have been expended upon the
restoration, and the building now contained an enormous number of rooms.

About eleven o'clock he paid a friendly visit to the Superintendent of
the Norwich police, with whom he had a slight acquaintanceship, and
informed him that he was on holiday and motoring round the eastern
counties.

They talked of matters in general for a few minutes and then the
detective asked casually, "And how's business? Anything doing?"

"Not too brisk," replied the Superintendent with a smile. "Just jogging
along with an occasional murder or burglary every now and then to liven
us up"--he sighed--"but mostly drunks and petty larcenies." He shook his
head frowningly. "Ah! but we had a rather disquieting call last night."
He looked very impressive. "One of our county notabilities, a pretty
society woman, phoned up that an attempt had been made to waylay her
when she was returning home in her car and that she had actually been
fired upon, on the high road."

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Larose, "was it a fact?"

"Yes," said, the Superintendent gravely, "the Fakenham men report there
are certainly two marks upon the chassis of her car that look like
bullet ones"--he screwed up his eyes--"and there are other disturbing
features as well about the case."

"Tell me about it," said Larose. "The wickedness of this world is always
more interesting than the good."

"Well, what happened was this," said the Superintendent, "Lady Ardane,
of Carmel Abbey"--he broke off--"have you ever heard of her?"

"Oh! yes," replied Larose, "very beautiful and very rich; the widow of
Sir Charles Ardane. I've seen her at Ascot."

"That's she," nodded the Superintendent, "a lovely woman, with red hair.
Well, last night at half-past eight or thereabouts, when about a mile
and a half from the Abbey, a man in another car shouted to her to stop,
and when she took no notice of him, he set off after her and fired two
shots with the evident intention of puncturing her tyres. Then something
happened to his car and it ran into a ditch and she got away.
Immediately then, when she reached home, she attempted to ring up and
report to us what had happened, but found to her consternation that she
could not get the exchange. She kept on ringing, she says, for quite
five minutes and then realised that something must be wrong, sent round
to the garage and one of the chauffeurs dashed into Burnham Market, the
nearest town. The police there at once got in touch with Fakenham, and
two men immediately went out to where she said the car was ditched." He
shrugged his shoulders. "But what was the good of it? It was nearly ten
o'clock by then and of course, the car had gone."

"Was it only one man who was after her?" asked Larose innocently, and
desirious of getting the Superintendent to talk as much as possible.

The Superintendent looked very disgusted. "She doesn't know," he
replied. "She knows nothing, neither the appearance nor the number of
her pursuers, what they wanted, nor what the car was like, and all we
know is that her car was undoubtedly hit twice and that the wires of the
Abbey telephone were deliberately cut"--he shrugged his shoulders
again,--"Heaven alone knows why."

"The wires cut!" exclaimed Larose in startled surprise. "The telephone
wires cut at the Abbey!"

"Yes," replied the Superintendent, "and just outside the main door,
too." He shook his head. "Really, it's very strange, and if we could be
certain there was any connection between the two happenings I should not
be too easy in my mind." He frowned uneasily. "In any case, I tell you I
don't like the idea of gun-men in my district."

They chatted on for a few minutes and then the detective left the police
station, like the Superintendent, very disturbed and uneasy in his mind.

"Whew!" he whistled when he was out in the street, "but I'm certainly up
against something very hot here, and there's no doubt about a
confederate being inside the Abbey." He looked very grave. "Someone must
be watching her every minute. She was marked down directly she left
home; arrangements were then made to get hold of her as she returned,
and the wires were cut, so that in the event of the kidnapping being
successful, as long a time as possible should elapse before her absence
could be notified to the police." He whistled again. "Yes, I shall have
to be darned careful what I am about."

Larose had still an hour to spare before lunch, and annoyed in some way
by the memory of the immaculate appearance of Paris Lestrange, he
visited a couple of hosiery shops, and among other items purchased some
quite unnecessary and very expensive silk ties.

"He looked at me like some strange animal," he thought angrily, "and so
I'll let him see I can dress quite as well as he, with all his
aristocratic and wealthy surroundings."

Passing a jeweller's shop, he stopped idly to look at the many
attractive things displayed in the window, and his eyes happened to fall
upon a large gold cigarette case, reposing upon a cushion of white silk.
The case was beautifully chased and jewelled in one corner.

"Better than that one of Lestrange's," he murmured, "and would cost a
lot of money."

For a few moments he could not take his eyes off it, and then suddenly
an idea striking him, he grinned, and proceeded to walk briskly into the
shop to ascertain the price.

"Seventy-five pounds," said the Jeweller, scenting a good customer, and
all smiles. "It's a lovely piece of work," and he at once went to the
window and took it out.

The detective handled it admiringly. "But 75," he remarked, "is a lot
of money!" Then he said hesitatingly. "Now, if I take it and bring it
back any time within a month, will you return me the money, less, say,
10 per cent?"

The jeweller hesitated. "You want to hire it?" he asked.

"No, not necessarily," replied Larose. "I like it very much now, but I
may get tired of it, and then it would be a lot of money to have thrown
away."

The jeweller hesitated in his turn. "Yes, sir," he said at last, "you
can take it on those terms, but, of course, it must be returned to me in
the same condition in which it is now."

"All right," said Larose. "I understand that. But," he went on, "I'm a
stranger to Norwich, and am only passing through, so, of course, I'm not
carrying that amount of money on me"--the jeweller's amiable expression
at once vanished and was replaced by a stern frown, "but if I write you
a cheque, and bring a responsible person in to guarantee it, I suppose
that will be all right?"

"A responsible person," replied the jeweller with a pronounced emphasis
upon the adjective.

"Good," said the detective, "then I'll be back in ten minutes."

Returning quickly to the police station, he sought out the
Superintendent and told him what he wanted.

"Certainly," replied the Superintendent at once, "I'll give him my
cheque and take yours in exchange." He smiled slyly. "You're going to
buy an engagement ring, of course"--he sighed--"and I only wish I were
young myself, and going through it all again."

He accompanied Larose to the jeweller's, and the latter upon seeing him
was at once all smiles and amiability again. Cheques were exchanged and
the cigarette case made over, but the Superintendent professed great
disappointment that the purchase was not an engagement ring.

"Gosh!" he exclaimed, when they were out of the shop, "but nobody would
take you for a detective with that cigarette case."

"No," laughed Larose, shaking hands in parting, "and that's just what I
want. Good-bye."

By two o'clock he had finished his luncheon and was sitting in the
lounge of the hotel awaiting the coming of the barrister. Tired of
watching the people continually passing through, he presently picked up
one of the London morning papers, and began idly to scan down its pages.

Suddenly then his attention was arrested upon a name in the social
column, and with astonished eyes he read:--

"We regret to learn that the well known private Investigator, Mr.
Naughton Jones, has been suddenly taken ill and removed to a nursing
home."

"Great Scott!" he ejaculated, "and won't old Jones be furious if he sees
this. It looks as if those wretches had got to learn of it, and out of
bravado given the paper the tip to make inquiries."

He returned to the hotel to await the coming of the barrister, but the
latter did not put in an appearance until nearly four o'clock, and then
made no apology for the tardiness of his arrival.




CHAPTER III.--THE SHADOW OVER THE ABBEY


That night during dinner, his first meal at Carmel Abbey, in the brief
intervals of chatting with his charming and vivacious neighbor, a Miss
Patricia Howard, Larose philosophically considered whether the
possession of ample means was to be desired above most things, and he
came to the conclusion most definitely that it was.

"It is all nonsense," he reflected, "for people of no means to keep on
repeating like parrots that money isn't everything, as if it were no
good at all, because we get nearly all our happiness from what money
brings, and without it we are poor things and have a rotten time."

He looked round the room and sighed with great contentment. "Now,
tonight is typical of what money can give! Here am I in the most
comfortable surroundings possible, with every opportunity to snatch a
most perfect hour from the sadness of this vale of tears. I am
banqueting in the company of distinguished-looking men and beautiful
looking women, and everything about me is conducive to comfort and
happiness. The food is delicious enough to satisfy the most exacting
taste, the wines are a very nectar of the gods, the room is as beautiful
as that of any medieval church and I am being waited upon as if I had
been crowned a king." He nodded emphatically. "Yes, it is good to be
alive to-night."

He went on. "And this delightfully pretty young woman who was consigned
to me to escort into the meal and the gleam of whose white shoulders is
so disturbing to me every time I turn my head--well, she is very
gracious to me and smiles and shows her dimples whenever I speak. She is
wishing, of course, that I should form a good opinion of her and she
continually droops those pretty lashes for me and flashes at me with
those violet eyes. But undoubtedly she does all this because she assumes
that I am of her own class in wealth and position." He shook his head
sadly. "Now if she knew who I really was, and the exact figures of my
very modest banking account, then--good gracious!--there would he no
more dimples for me, no more pretty smiles and those white, gleaming
shoulders would surely stiffen up and lose all their friendly pose." He
drew in a deep breath. "Yes, money is a wonderful thing to have."

He looked round the large and sumptuously furnished room again. "And how
perfect the service is here, and how beautifully the harmony of
everything has been fitted in! Those maids in their dainty uniforms are
as pretty as butterflies themselves, and there is not one of them who is
not good to look upon. Why, endowed with high sounding names and a bit
of money, as far as appearances go, they could any moment with equal
distinction take their places among the guests! And the footmen! Quite
refined and certainly the best type of their class! They glide rather
than walk and their bearing is courtly, as if they had acquired grace by
attending to the wants of emperors and kings."

He smiled. "And the butler! Ah! I must not forget him. He certainly does
not seem to do much, except stand behind his mistress's chair, but I
note his head is continually turning round and round, with his eyes
everywhere upon the menials whom he controls. He is like a great
general, directing a field of battle, and the men-servants advance and
retreat, and go this way and that, upon the slightest movement of his
eye." He nodded. "Yes, no doubt he is among the great masters of his
calling."

He looked towards the head of the table. "And Lady Ardane herself! The
mistress of it all. She is certainly lovely to-night and her beauty
outshines that of all the other women here. The soft candle lights are
poor rivals to that red head of hers and their timid rays show up the
ivory of her skin to the perfection of a lover's dream." He sighed once
more. "Yes, she is very lovely, but what good is all that loveliness if
she will give it to no one to delight in? Is all the romance of her life
closed and will she never in abandon again----"

But his reflections were suddenly broken into by the silvery voice of
his partner.

"Mr. Maxwell!" exclaimed that young lady with a great assumption of
indignation, "I have spoken to you and you did not answer! I do believe
you were looking at the maids."

"No, no," replied Larose instantly. "I was just thinking how beautiful
our hostess is to-night."

"She is always beautiful," commented the girl sharply. She tilted up her
chin mockingly. "And I don't believe there's a man here, married or
unmarried, who would not run off with her to-morrow, if he could only
get the chance."

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Larose, "but is she as devastating as all
that?"

"Quite," replied the girl laughing. "Why, look at the reverence with
which the great Sir Arnold is regarding her, and by nature he is as cold
as a fish."

"Which is Sir Arnold!" asked Larose at once.

"Oh! I forgot," exclaimed the girl. "Of course, you don't know us all
yet." She nodded. "Sir Arnold Medway is that very handsome man talking
to her now. He is one of the great surgeons of the world, and Royalty
are among his patients." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "He is
supposed to have received seventy thousand guineas last year for going
over to India to operate upon that Rajah's wife. But isn't he
distinguished looking?"

Larose regarded the fine, strong face of the man she indicated and
agreed that he was, for not only, the detective thought, was the great
surgeon handsome, but his whole demeanor suggested that in whatever walk
of life he was, he would excel.

The girl went on. "Come now, I'll be nice to you and tell you everything
about everybody you want to know."

"Well, that dark man," asked Larose at once, "right opposite to us, with
the girl in pink? Mr. Daller is, I think, his name. Who is he?"

"The Bernard Daller, the air-man," was the reply, "and a dare-devil if
ever there was one. He's crashed more times than anyone knows, and he
still carries on as if he liked it." She smiled archly. "Another devoted
slave at the foot of Helen Ardane."

"And that man with the big glasses, who is always smiling," asked
Larose, "the one with the bald head?"

"Sir Parry Bardell, and Helen's greatest friend," Replied the girl. "He
lives close near here, just across the meadows. Founded the Bardell line
of steamers and used to own them all. Retired now, and a most eligible
bachelor in spite of the absence of raven locks." She pretended to look
very sad. "I set my cap at him every time we meet, but it's quite
hopeless for he'd marry no one but"--she sighed--"Helen again." She
turned smilingly to the detective. "But he seems rather interested in
you, for I've noticed him look this way several times."

"At you, of course," smiled back Larose, "and I can quite understand it,
for except for being able to talk to you, I'd rather sit opposite to you
every time."

"Quite nice of you, I am sure," laughed the girl. "Now, is there anyone
else you are curious about?"

"Yes, that tall, big man, a friend of Senator Harvey, I believe."

The girl shook her head. "I know very little about him," She replied,
"except that he's an American and his name is Rankin, Theodore Rankin.
He only arrived yesterday. He's a wheat fiend, I think, for he comes
from Chicago, and was arguing about crops and prices all the morning
with the Senator."

"Another person," said Larose, "that bronzed man over there upon the
left? I haven't noticed him until dinner to-night."

"Clive Huntington, a naval engineer. He's a friend of Sir Parry, who, of
course, has only come in for the evening. Still you'll be seeing a lot
of Sir Parry for he is always in and out of the Abbey, looking after the
affairs of the estate."

"Is there a lot then to look after?" asked Larose.

"Good gracious, yes!" exclaimed the girl, opening her eyes very wide.
"Why, Helen rules over more than ten thousand acres, and all the
villages round here belong to her."

Miss Howard was a very intelligent and observant young woman, and by the
time the meal was over the detective was in the possession of many facts
that would otherwise have taken a long time to collect. She gave him
thumb-nail sketches of almost everybody there, and her comments, he
thought, were shrewd and very much to the point.

The evening was passed with music and bridge, and, in view of the shoot
upon the morrow, the company dispersed early and by midnight everybody
had retired to their rooms.

But it was not bed-time for Larose yet, for at twenty minutes after
midnight he was to have a talk with Lady Ardane in her boudoir, which
was next to his own room. She was going to tap upon the wall when she
judged it would be safe for him to come in.

He was not too pleased somehow with Lady Ardane, for her manner towards
him when they had been enabled to have two words together had been stiff
and formal, and as icily cold as if he were a complete stranger and it
were necessary for him to be kept at a distance.

He had been formally introduced to her in the lounge, in front of them
all, by the very casual and off-hand Lestrange, and she had received him
graciously and hoped he would enjoy his stay at the Abbey, but then,
when a few moments later, he had spoken to her when no one was close
near, she had informed him in the manner of a mistress speaking to her
servant, and a female one at that, that she had arranged for his room to
be next to her suite, in case she should require his services. Then when
he had said that he wanted to have a talk with her and would need to
know in which particular room everyone was sleeping, she had told him as
if she were speaking to a block of wood to come to her's after midnight.

Yes, he was annoyed with her, for her manner was so off-hand, and as if
she were quite oblivious to the services he had already rendered her.

He sat before the radiator and considering everything, notwithstanding
his usual buoyancy of disposition, was in no very cheerful frame of
mind.

"Yes, I am being handicapped in many ways here," he told himself, "for
apparently I am to ask no questions of anyone. As a guest myself, I
cannot, of course, talk to the servants, and my fellow guests are
undoubtedly intending to ignore the fact that there is any shadow over
the Abbey, and hold it bad taste to want to discuss it. That charming
Miss Howard shut me up at once when I referred to it, and the old
Admiral almost pretended to know nothing about it when I started to ask
him about what had taken place that afternoon upon the Brancaster
sands."

He shook his head frowningly. "Now there is something most sinister
about this whole business, for it must be that the arch-traitor lies
near home and when I uncover him I shall probably find he is no stranger
to this poor woman whom he is terrifying. Indeed, he must be on intimate
terms with her, for if there be any truth in the second warning she has
received, his influence is such that he has actually been able to
arrange for an ally to be received here as another guest." He thought
for a moment. "Then he must be the master-mind directing the whole
conspiracy, for it is not likely that anyone in the position of an
intimate friend of the family here would be the paid tool of a
professional gang outside."

He rose to his feet and paced softly up and down the room. "But if the
conspiracy originated here and its master-mind has been here all along,
then surely the solution of the problem should be very easy, for only
five of the men whom I saw to-night at dinner were here at the time of
that attempt to kidnap the child, Admiral Charters, Sir Arnold Medway,
Lord Wonnock, Sir Parry Bardell and Senator Harvey." He whistled softly.
"Ah! Senator Harvey, the most inconceivable of them all and yet----"

He was silent for a long while. "And this second conspirator among the
newcomers, who then is he? Is he the airman, Daller; Rankin, the
American, the friend of the Senator, or Clive Huntington, the friend of
Sir Parry?"

He went on. "And where did this gang spring from, this gang which we
know for certain must consist of, at least, six men? Was it called
specially into existence to kidnap the Ardane child, or did it exist
before, and were its energies simply diverted from other nefarious
projects to this?"

He nodded emphatically. "Yes, yes, it certainly existed before, and I
must therefore consider who here would have been most likely to have
been able to get in touch with it."

But suddenly he heard a muffled tap upon the wall, and at once switching
off his radiator, he tiptoed to the door and passed out into the
corridor. It was only a few steps to Lady Ardane's boudoir, and he could
see a faint light under the door. He drummed softly with his
finger-nails and the door yielded noiselessly to his touch and he
stepped into the room, closing the door again as noiselessly behind him.

The boudoir was half in shadow, for the only light was that of a cowled
reading-lamp upon the desk. The door leading to the bedroom was pulled
to, but not shut. Lady Ardane put her finger to her lips. "Speak
quietly," she ordered, "for my son is very restless to-night." She was
standing by the desk, and beckoning the detective to approach, did not,
however, invite him to sit down.

"Well, did you see those men?" she went on sharply.

"Yes, I saw them and spoke to two of them," replied Larose, "but that
was all. They stopped me and I did not get near their car."

"Then you did no good," she said almost as if she were annoyed.

"No," said the detective, "except that I should recognise one of them
again. They threatened me with a pistol and I could do nothing with that
pointed against my chest. I tell you these are desperate men, who came
after you last night." He was nettled by her manner and went on,
speaking as sharply as she had spoken. "Now, I want to know about that
telephone wire, please. I heard in Norwich this morning that it had been
cut."

"Yes, it was cut," she said, "and there have been two detectives here
nearly all day, questioning the servants about it." She bit upon her
lip. "The publicity is dreadful."

"It was cut by the main door, I understand," said Larose.

She nodded. "Someone fetched a ladder from the garage, when dinner was
being served, and cut the wires, ten feet up. He put the ladder back
after he had used it, but the detectives saw the gravel marks upon it.
They say he must know all the arrangements of the house, and are certain
it must be one of the servants"--she shook her head--"but whatever they
think, that is impossible, for the movements of all the men can be
accounted for at the time it must have been cut." She bit upon her lip
again. "It is a terrible thought to know that I have such an enemy
here."

"But it mayn't have been a man," suggested Larose. "It may perhaps have
been a woman."

Lady Ardane shook her head. "No, it is a heavy ladder, twelve feet in
length, and it must have been a man."

"And how do you know it was done during dinner?" asked the detective.

"Because Senator Harvey rang up the chemist just before dinner, at a
quarter to eight, and at a quarter to nine, when I went to ring up the
exchange, it was dead."

A short silence followed and then Larose said quietly, "Well, now I
shall have to ask you some questions that you may not like, but the
situation in my opinion is so grave that I cannot allow any feelings of
sentiment to hamper me in my work."

"Feelings of sentiment!" exclaimed Lady Ardane quickly, as if she had
not heard aright. "What on earth do you mean?" She spoke angrily, and it
was evident to Larose that her nerves were all on edge. "What, pray, has
any sentiment to do with what you are here for?"

"Oh! you'll understand what I mean in a minute," replied the detective.
"Now, please tell me at exactly what time they went into dinner last
night."

"At a quarter to eight," was the frowning reply. "They had waited a
quarter of an hour for me and then, as I had told my aunt, Mrs.
Chalmers, I might be delayed, she gave orders for dinner to be served."

"And who were actually present at the meal?" asked Larose.

Lady Ardane considered. "My aunt, Mrs. Chalmers, Mrs. Challans, Miss
Howard, Miss Montgomery, Lord and Lady Wonnock and Sir Arnold Medway. It
was a small party because Senator Harvey was indisposed and Admiral
Charters had gone to bed with a bad cold."

"A bad cold!" exclaimed Larose. "He was lively enough to-night."

"But he thought he was sickening for one and he's always nervous about
his health. As a matter of fact, he sent for Sir Arnold in the middle of
dinner to go up and see him."

A moment's silence followed, and then Larose said grimly, "Now for the
sentiment, your ladyship." He paused for a moment, and regarding her
intently, asked quickly, "Are you on good terms with your step-father?"

Lady Ardane returned his intent gaze. "Certainly," she replied
haughtily.

"And you always have been?"

"Always."

"Well," said Larose, "and please don't get angry now, is there any
insanity in Senator Harvey's family?"

Lady Ardane drew in a deep breath and looked furious. "What do you
mean?" she gasped. "Are you out of your mind yourself?"

The detective looked very uncomfortable. "Lady Ardane," he said firmly,
"it will be a dreadful thought for you but it must be one of only five
people who has all along been your enemy in this house, for if we leave
out the servants, there have only been five persons here in a position
to betray you as you have been betrayed--Senator Harvey, Lord Wonnock,
Sir Arnold Medway, Admiral Charters and Sir Parry Bardell. They alone
were present here before the beginning of this trouble, and if we rule
out the motives of ransom and revenge, then it can be only insanity that
has urged one of them on to attempt this dreadful wrong." He raised one
hand in his earnestness. "Think--if Mr. Jones is right, and from the
notes that he has given me I am inclined to believe that he is, and none
of the servants are involved, then who else but one of the five I have
mentioned can have been the one who is helping these wretches outside."

"But it is impossible!" gasped Lady Ardane. "All these gentlemen you
mention are proved friends of mine. They are dear friends of long
standing and every one of them would give his life for me." She gasped
again. "My step-father, above all people, for he has been the same as if
he were my own parent, from my childhood's days! Good heavens! what
suspicion have you against him?"

"You tell me he was not at dinner last night," replied Larose grimly
"you say the ladder was used by a man, you are sure all the men servants
are accounted for"--he shrugged his shoulders--"well, however
improbable, I must consider everyone, one by one."

Lady Ardane made no comment. She had sunk down into an armchair and was
lying back as if all the spirit had been taken out of her.

The detective went on, but speaking now with great sympathy, "Come, your
ladyship, just answer my question without any comment, and then we'll
soon be finished with the unpleasant part. Now, no insanity in the
Senator's family? None at all? Well, tell me about Admiral
Charters--none there either? And how long have you known the Admiral?"

"Since my marriage." was the low reply, "but my husband had known him
since his boyhood."

"And he is a man of substance, in no need of money?"

Then Larose dragged out of her all she could tell him of her guests, and
among other things that the Admiral was wealthy and one of the directors
of Lloyds Bank, that Lord Wonnock was a rich north country iron magnate
and a pillar of finance in the city and that Sir Arnold Medway's income
must run into many thousands of pounds.

"And now for the last of them," said the detective, "this Sir Parry
Bardell who has had his eyes upon me the whole of the evening."

"The life-long friend of my husband," replied Lady Ardane weakly, "and
my greatest friend, too. He has the affection for me of a father." A
little of her spirit began to come back and she laughed scornfully. "You
may as well suspect me myself."

The detective frowned in disappointment. Everywhere he seemed to be up
against a dead wall. He proceeded to try in another direction now.

"And this second enemy," he asked, "this newcomer who, according to your
last warning, was to join up among the shooting party to help enemy
number one. Tell me, please, about the later arrivals, and particularly
about Mr. Daller and Mr. Huntington, for either of these gentlemen might
perhaps fill the bill."

"Thank you, Mr. Larose," said Lady Ardane with icy politeness, "for Mr.
Daller is a particular friend of mine and has stayed here several times
and upon more occasions than I remember has flown me to Paris and the
South of France. As for Mr. Huntington, he certainly is a stranger to us
all here, but as he has been in Sir Parry's service on his vessels ever
since he was a boy and is a personal friend of Sir Parry, too, that
speaks for itself."

Then for half an hour and longer, Larose questioned her, and before he
had finished, every one of her guests had been passed under review.

A short silence followed and the detective said thoughtfully, "Then as
far as I can see, it all amounts to this. Your guests are all of
impeccable character, your servants are all above suspicion"--he smiled
dryly--"and yet there is someone here, as callous and pitiless a
malefactor as you would find anywhere in the world of crime." He
regarded her curiously. "But surely, Lady Ardane, you must be suspicious
of someone yourself. You know the traitor must be among those we have
been talking about, and in your own mind you must have had doubts about
someone."

Instantly Lady Ardane's face fell and the spirit seemed to go out of her
again. The lines of her body lost all pose of self-reliance and she
looked the very picture of distress.

"I have no suspicions, Mr. Larose," she whispered piteously, "for I can
by no possibility conceive of anyone willing to do me this wrong. I know
with you that someone here is my enemy and that he is only biding his
chance to strike another blow, but thinking it over night and day--and I
am always thinking of it--I have no suspicions of anyone, no distrust at
all."

"Never mind," said the detective gently, touched by her distress, "we'll
find him sooner or later, and at any rate they shan't get your child
whilst I am here." He shook his head slowly. "But you know, with all
these people to watch, I think that in many ways it would have been
better if I had come down here in my official capacity, for then I could
have gone openly everywhere, and asked questions where I wanted to. As
it is, although my anonymity certainly has its advantages, it hampers my
search in too many ways."

"But that will remedy itself," said Lady Ardane with the ghost of a
smile, "for if Mr. Jones is right, they will soon find out who you are,
and then you will be able to have a free hand."

"With a bullet inside me, perhaps," commented Larose grimly, "for that
seems to be how their discoveries of identities becomes known."

"But when they found that Mr. Jones was here," asked Lady Ardane
plaintively, "why did they try to injure him? And why did they try to
cause a fearful accident to the car that was bringing out those men from
Hunstanton? Why did they want to let me know they were up to every move
I was making to protect my son?"

"Probably only frightfulness," replied the detective promptly, "just to
make you realise that they don't mind to what extremes they go, so that
if they get either you or the child in their clutches, you will be so
terrified that you will come to terms with them at once." His face
frightened. "Still, they've not got either of you yet and we're not
beaten by a long chalk. Now, please, give me the numbers of the bedrooms
where everyone sleeps and I'll get to work at once."

Back in his own room the detective went carefully through the list she
had given him, and his face lost a little of its worried expression.

"Now, if there's any reliance to be placed on human nature," he
whispered, "the boss of this conspiracy will want to have a talk
to-night with his new hand, when he thinks everybody is asleep, so I'll
just mark all their doors and in the morning see who have left their
rooms during the night."

He crept out into the corridor and, one by one, low down upon the jambs
of every door of the men guests affixed a minute piece of plasticine.
Then he returned to his own room and setting his mind to awake before
dawn, threw himself upon his bed to try and snatch a few hours' sleep.

But he need not have worried about waking up in time, for his sleep was
very troubled, and half a dozen times, at least, he stirred himself to
look at his watch.

Then a few minutes before five he got off the bed and made his way into
the corridor again to examine the traps that he had set, and he frowned
in great perplexity when he saw what had happened.

One, two, three, four doors had been opened during the night, those of
the Senator, the American, Rankin, Daller, the airman, and that of the
handsome and debonair naval engineer, Clive Huntington.

"Great James!" he exclaimed, when he was back again in his own room,
"but can half the gang be here? Now, what the devil were all these
people after, moving about in the night?"

At breakfast time it was pouring with rain, and it looked highly
improbable that there would be any going out that day, so following upon
the meal, the party proceeded to amuse themselves in their own
particular ways. The detective joined Senator Harvey, Mr. Rankin and Sir
Parry Bardell in the library, and for an hour and more they discussed
everything in general.

Finally, the detective came away very disappointed, for none of the
three, he had reluctantly to confess to himself, exhibited the slightest
signs that they would for one moment be mixed up in any criminal
conspiracy.

Sir Parry was just a quiet gentleman, with courtly, early Victorian
manners. He was charming to talk to, and was so unassuming that, with
all the undoubted strength and character in his face, the detective
found it difficult to associate him with the authority he must have
wielded to have gained the outstanding success in commercial life that
he had.

Theodore Rankin was apparently nothing other than a shrewd, level-headed
business man, most patently anxious to enjoy himself among the historic
surroundings of the Abbey, but all the time chafing under his enforced
absence from his beloved Chicago.

Senator Harvey, the detective did not like very much, for the stepfather
of Lady Ardane was inclined to be haughty, and distant in his manner and
several times Larose had caught him frowning in his direction, as if he
were not too pleased that he, Larose, was there.

"A stuck-up man," was the detective's comment, "and as I have no title
or ancestors that he knows of, then I suppose I am not good enough for
him." He shook his head. "Still, he doesn't look a man who'd be mixed up
with a gang."

Leaving them still talking in the library, and with a certain project in
his mind, the detective obtained a small pair of binoculars from his
room and made his way along the long corridors towards the old belfry.
He knew how to reach it without going outside the Abbey from the plan
Lady Ardane had given him, and he was minded to get some idea of the
surrounding country from its tower.

"For it is just possible," he told himself, "if they do not use the
telephone and yet are able to communicate so quickly with one another,
that they are resorting to some kind of signaling, and if they do, then
the high tower of the belfry would be the very place."

He soon arrived at the door shutting off the modern part of the Abbey
from that which had been left almost untouched, and started to mount the
steps of the tower. He reached the big room where the bells had once
been and was negotiating the ladder that led to the little room of the
tower above, when he suddenly became aware that there was someone
already up there, for he heard the sounds of feet shuffling upon the
wooden floor and then a loud cough.

"Hullo! hullo!" he ejaculated, "now who on earth can have come up here,
and what does he want?"

A few steps higher and with his head now level with the floor of the
room, his eyes fell upon a man, with his feet planted wide, leaning out
across the broad sill of one of the windows looking seawards, and
peering intently through a pair of large glasses. The man was holding an
unfolded handkerchief in his hand.

For a few seconds, not being able to see his face, the detective did not
determine who the man was, but then from his broad shoulders and the
general outline of his figure, he knew him to be Admiral Charters.

The Admiral had not heard him, and Larose waited longer than a minute to
see what he was going to do with the handkerchief, but then, nothing
happened, and not wishing to run the risk of being caught watching so
intently, he coughed in his turn, and climbed up into the room.

But the Admiral was still so engrossed with his observations that it was
not until the detective was almost up to him and he had probably then
been disturbed by the shaking of the very ancient floor-boards, that he
turned with a start and, open-mouthed in his surprise, surveyed Larose
with all the consternation of a child who had been caught in a guilty
action.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, very red in the face, "but you gave me a shock.
I've never known anybody else come up here before."

"You haven't?" remarked Larose carelessly. "Well, I just came up to have
a look at the view, although it's certainly a bad day for it."

"You're right there," agreed the Admiral, and now furtively stuffing the
handkerchief back into his pocket, "but I came up to have a peep at
those destroyers. They're making heavy weather and it reminds me of my
own bad days upon the sea."

Larose advanced to the window and putting his own glasses up, swept them
quickly round in the hope of noticing something of more interest than
the destroyers the Admiral had pointed out. He was realising with a
little quickening of his heart how admirably the situation, not only of
the belfry tower, but of the whole Abbey itself, would lend itself to
the exchange of signals with anyone outside, for the historic building
was on slightly rising ground, and the view of a dozen and more
habitations across the meadows and over the marshlands was clear and
uninterrupted in the direction of the sea.

He scanned quickly over every house in sight, but except for a woman
leading a saddled horse into a stable of one of them, about a mile away,
there were no signs of life to be seen anywhere. He turned sharply and
caught the Admiral looking at him in a peculiar manner. The old man at
once began to talk very quickly.

"Most interesting country this," he said boisterously, "because of its
association with Anglo-Saxon times. All along the coast every place has
got its little bit of history. Now you see that hut there across the
marshes, Overy Marshes they're called, well, it's on the site of an old
Danish camp that is more than a thousand years old."

"No one lives there, of course," said the detective.

"Oh, yes, but someone does," replied the Admiral. "Old Henrik, the
fisherman, has been there years and years, and that's his boat upon the
foreshore. Funnily enough, he's a Dane himself and he's got quite a
romantic history. He was master of his own ship once and it was wrecked
here more than thirty years ago, when he was quite a young man. He was
the only survivor. He lost everything and his wife was drowned. He went
half out of his mind, they say, and they couldn't get him away from the
spot so they subscribed and bought him an old boat and he's been there
ever since. A darned good fisherman, but he wears his hair long and is
supposed never to have a wash. He brings his fish up to the Abbey
sometimes."

"And those other houses on the shore," asked the detective, "they look
very dilapidated, are they inhabited?"

"Some of them are," replied the Admiral, "but most are empty." He
pointed with his arm again. "But I notice two men have lately come to
that stone one nearest the camp. They are the usual sporting chaps, I
suppose, and have come after the wild duck." He laughed. "They're deuced
early if that's their game, for the duck won't be here in any number for
some weeks yet."

"Oh!" exclaimed the detective, interested at once, "then how long have
those men been there?"

The Admiral considered. "About a month, I should say. I've been staying
here now for seven weeks and I didn't notice them at first." He smiled
and pointed to a quantity of cigarette butts upon the floor. "I'm often
up here for an old sea-dog can't keep his eye very long away from the
sea. Hullo!" he went on, looking out of the window again, "here comes
Sir Parry out in the rain." He laughed. "There are two things that
occupy Sir Parry's mind. His big telescope and our gracious Lady Ardane,
and I almost think that the telescope comes first."

"That's his house then with the long windows at the top," commented
Larose, pointing to a high pagoda-like structure about half a mile away.
"What a queer-looking place for a wealthy man, as he is said to be!"

"Yes, but he's a bachelor and lives there all by himself," said the
Admiral.

"What! no servants," exclaimed Larose,

"Oh! yes, two," was the reply, "but they live in another building, a
hundred yards and more away behind those trees. He won't have them
sleeping in the house. One's almost stone deaf and the other is a
deaf-mute." The Admiral chuckled. "Sir Parry's quite a woman-hater
except for Lady Ardane."

For half an hour and more Larose remained up in the tower, and when
ultimately the two descended together he had almost as good an idea of
the surrounding country as if he had tramped it on foot. The Admiral had
been coming to the Abbey for several years and there was not a village
that he did not know something about, or a creek with which he was not
familiar. He chatted so openly, too, about everything, that although the
detective was certain he had not come up there solely to look at those
destroyers, and also that the matter of the handkerchief was suspicious,
still he could hardly bring himself to believe that the old man was one
of the plotters.

Returning into the Abbey and parting with the Admiral, Larose came upon
Lestrange, alone in the library. The barrister was reading, and after a
quick look at the detective, lowered his eyes again upon his book, but
Larose went up to him and said quietly:--

"Anyone been curious about me?"

Lestrange favored him with a cold stare. "What do you mean?" he asked.
His lips curved to a contemptuous smile. "People in our class, Mr.
Larose, do not display their curiosity about fellow guests, whatever may
be their private thoughts."

"Oh!" exclaimed the detective in no way abashed, "then no one has asked
you anything particular about me?"

"No," was the reply with a cold smile, "and no one has even mentioned
your cigarette case."

Proceeding into the lounge, the detective, under the pretence of warming
himself before the fire, drew up a chair close to the airman and Clive
Huntington, who were talking earnestly together, and he noted they
abruptly broke off their conversation as he did so. Also, the airman
frowned slightly, as if he were annoyed at their being disturbed.

However, Clive Huntington at once began to ask Larose about Australia,
informing him that he had twice been there himself. The young naval
engineer had very nice manners, and as the detective regarded his open
and handsome face, he thought with a pang that it would be very hard to
associate so pleasing a personality with any form of heartless crime.

But of Bernard Daller he did not form quite so good an opinion. He was
good-looking certainly, and no one could deny the atmosphere of courage
and capacity that surrounded him, but still, the detective thought him
to be just the type of man who would be disposed to take risks other
than those in the air, and risks, too, that might be of a very
questionable nature. Certainly he was a cold gambler, for the previous
night at bridge he had been wanting to play for higher stakes than were
agreeable to any of the others.

They chatted for a few minutes and then the Senator and his friend,
Rankin, came and joined them, and the detective realised suddenly with a
start that all the four men who had left their rooms during the night
were now gathered round him, and for some reason they were all
undoubtedly interested and curious about him.

Daller continued to eye him frowningly, Huntington never wanted to leave
him long out of the conversation, the Senator was taking good note of
everything he said and putting in a searching question every now and
then, and the large, placid eyes of the American were always turned upon
him.

Presently he took out his cigarette case and passed it round, and
Rankin, being the last one to handle it, after he had taken out a
cigarette, continued for a few moments to interestedly examine the case.

"My!" he exclaimed, "that's pretty." He held it up for the brilliants to
catch the light, and then added as he passed it back--"But when you've
had it a little while, you'll find it'll show the scratches badly. That
high carat gold always does."

Larose flushed with annoyance. He had played a bad card, for this
shrewd-looking man had dismissed with a word all pretension that a
seventy-five guinea cigarette case formed part of his, Larose's, daily
life.

And then, all at once, as if to compensate for his discomfiture, he
became positive that he was now the centre of a little comedy in which
two sets of players, both upon their own, were trying to find out all
about him; the Senator and Rankin on the one hand and the airman and
Clive Huntington upon the other, with the curiosity in both cases being
shared by the respective partners.

That they were all trying to turn him inside out he was certain, for
whenever the Senator asked him a question about his life in Australia,
Rankin immediately supplemented it with a further one, and whenever
Daller, who had now thrown off his frown and was all amiability, wanted
to be informed about something, Huntington invariably chipped in for a
more detailed form of reply.

It was exactly, he thought, as it they were all doubtful if he were what
he was making himself out to be and were putting him well through the
'once over,' and he wondered with a grin, which, however, he instantly
suppressed, if he did not come too well out of the ordeal, from which of
the two parties he would be receiving a bullet in due course of time.

And he certainly would have been highly gratified with himself if he had
heard the remark that the airman made to Clive Huntington as later on
they were all trooping into lunch.

"I don't quite understand that fellow," said that dashing gentleman
quietly. "He's altogether too plausible and innocent for a man with
those eyes and that facial angle."

After lunch the weather began to clear up a little and someone suggested
that they should go for a blow by the sea.

"Oh! yes, do let us go," exclaimed Patricia Howard with animation.
"Let's go over to Holkham Bay and see if old Henrik has caught any
fish."

"Yes," supplemented Sir Arnold Medway, "and I ought to have a look and
see how the old chap's hand is getting on."

So, soon after three, five car-loads of the guests, along with Lady
Ardane and the little baronet, proceeded in the direction suggested, the
detective being in the car driven by the great surgeon and containing
Miss Howard, Mrs. Charters and the very affable Rankin.

The girl was full of energy and talk, and for the benefit of Larose and
the American gave them full details of the romantic history of the
lonely fisherman at the hut upon the Danish Camp.

"And he's never been really right since," she added, "for he's like a
child in many ways and even after these thirty years has only picked up
a few words of English. He understands what you say but cannot answer
back."

Their short journey was soon over and their cars were parked upon the
sands of Holkham Bay. There was no sign of old Henrik or his boat,
however, and proceeding to his hut, as they expected, they found it
empty.

"But look what a place to live in," said Lady Ardane, "for over thirty
years. No comforts and not even the bare necessities of life, and yet he
appears quite happy."

And certainly there could not be much comfort about the hut, for it
contained no furniture of any description. Empty boxes formed the table
and chair of the old man, and where he kept his few battered and
dilapidated cooking utensils. In one corner there were a quantity of old
sacks, and scattered about everywhere were his lobster pots and nets. A
number of empty bottles were heaped in a corner.

"And those are the great consolation of his life, ladies and gentlemen,"
said Sir Arnold with a smile. "Rum, just rum, for I am sorry to say our
friend often gets very drunk. He half severed one of his fingers a
couple of weeks or so ago, when he was in that condition, and it was
quite accidentally that I noticed his injury and gave him some treatment
the other day."

Returning on to the sands, they passed within a hundred yards of the
stone house Admiral Charters had pointed out to Larose that morning as
being now the dwelling-place of two newcomers to the marsh, and the
detective had a good look at it as they went by. Smoke was rising from
one of the chimneys and he was half-minded to go up for a closer
inspection and even to make some excuse and obtain word with anyone
there, but he thought better of it, determining to make a secret
investigation later on.

Arriving upon the seashore, the little party became aware of a boat just
coming round a spit of sand that jutted out into the sea, and it was
immediately seen to be that of Henrik.

They waited for him to pull in, and as soon as the boat grounded the old
man sprang out, and seeing Lady Ardane among the little group awaiting
him, shouted eagerly. "Bacco, bacco, me have good fish."

He was certainly a most disreputable looking old fellow, tall and gaunt
and with cadaverous features, hollow cheeks and toothless gums. His hair
was long and matted and drooped over his face and almost down to his
shoulders. Around the fingers of one hand was tied a filthy rag.

"And he was said to be very handsome once," said Miss Howard with a
grimace of disgust, "and see him now."

"Let's have a look at your hand, Henrik," said the great surgeon firmly,
"and not a cigarette until I've attended to it. Come up to the car. I've
got a fresh bandage there."

The hand was re-bandaged, and from the fish in the boat Lady Ardane
pointed out which she wished to take.

"But put them in a bag, please, Henrik," she said, "and be quick about
it because it's going to pour with rain in a minute," and with the
sweeping up of a threatening cloud from over the sea, they all hurried
back towards the cars.

The old man, shouldering his basket of fish, disappeared into his hut,
to emerge again, however, very quickly with the selected fish in a small
sugar bag.

The ladies of the party had already seated themselves in the cars, but
some of the men were still standing about to finish their cigarettes.
Henrik tied the bag of fish on to the luggage grid of Sir Arnold's car,
and with the rain beginning to fall in real earnest now, everyone
proceeded to take their places.

It happened that Larose and the airman were the last two to make for
their respective cars and the detective, a few paces behind the latter,
suddenly became aware that someone was pulling at his sleeve.

He turned and saw it was the old fisherman. At first he thought Henrik
was begging for a tip, and he was putting his hand into his pocket to
find a sixpence, when Henrik all at once screwed up his face in a
peculiar manner and with his damaged hand pointing furtively to the
airman, whispered hoarsely, "Smuggler--watch." Then as Miss Howard
called out shrilly, "Come on, please, Mr. Maxwell, the rain is blowing
in the door," the amazed detective would have sworn that the sunken lips
of the old fisherman framed the word "Dope."

For the moment the detective was too astounded to take in what had
happened, but then, quickly recovering his wits, he put out a hand to
lay hold of Henrik and ask him what he meant. The old man, however,
avoided his grasp and with an amused chuckle as a good-bye, proceeded to
shuffle quickly off to his hut.

Then, Miss Howard calling out again for him to come, and the rain now
beginning to fall in sheets, the detective, as puzzled as he had ever
been in his life, jumped into the car and seated himself beside her.




CHAPTER IV.--IN THE HOURS OF THE NIGHT


It was a very puzzled and uneasy detective who was driven back to the
Abbey that afternoon, for he was finding it impossible to determine the
significance of what had just happened.

It seemed incredible, but he had to believe the evidence of his own
ears. The old fisherman had called the airman a smuggler and had almost
certainly, too, used the word "dope."

But it was not that that was so particularly disturbing, although the
incident there was extraordinary in itself. It was that the fisherman
had chosen him, Larose, to whom to impart the information, and had added
the word "watch!"

It was exactly as if the fisherman were aware who he, Larose, was and
was warning him.

And yet he was quite certain he had never set eyes upon Henrik before,
for when Sir Arnold had been bandaging the dreadful wound upon the man's
hand, he had taken good stock of him, and had been particularly
impressed by the unusual-looking appearance of the fisherman.

Then if it were really true that Daller was in the illicit drug traffic,
how had that become known to this lonely old man, who was supposed to be
half-witted, and who was living a life almost entirely out of touch with
human kind?

But Larose was thrilled, too, with his thoughts, for if Daller were
indeed a member of a dope gang, then he, Larose, had under his hand one
undoubted criminal among the aristocratic party now up at the Abbey, and
from one known criminal he would be a poor sort of detective, he told
himself, if he did not succeed in tracking down the others.

He smiled with some satisfaction. He had not been at the Abbey
twenty-four hours and he had already two clues to follow! The dashing
airman and the two newcomers to the home upon the marsh.

Arriving back at the Abbey, and as they were passing through the lounge,
he moved up close to Lady Ardane and under cover of expressing his
enjoyment of the little excursion they had just had, whispered that he
wanted to see her as soon us possible. She frowned slightly as if not
too pleased at the request, but whispered back, "In my boudoir, just
before six."

At five minutes before six then he was alone with her in her room and
explaining to her what he wanted. He must be able to go outside the
Abbey at night, he said, and he was afraid, although he did not like the
idea, that the night watchman upon the ground floor must be taken partly
into the confidence.

For some reason, Lady Ardane seemed rather disturbed at his request, and
asked immediately why he wanted to be able to go outside.

"Oh! I want to be quite free at any time in all my movements," he
replied non-committally, "and be able to go just where I like." He
smiled. "You see, your ladyship, we detectives do a lot of our work in
the dark."

She did not, however, smile in return, and after hesitating a few
moments, opened a drawer in her desk and brought out a key. "You can
have this, then," she said rather reluctantly, "but take great care of
it, because it is the only one left. It opens the small door at the far
end of the Abbey, in the corridor beyond the library. There are only two
keys to this door and Sir Parry has the other one."

"Oh!" exclaimed Larose. "Sir Parry has one, has he? Then he can come in
and out here whenever he wants to?"

"Certainly," replied Lady Ardane. "He attends to all my business affairs
for me, and can go into the office at all times without disturbing
anybody. He uses the library too, very often."

"Well, just one thing," said Larose preparing to leave the room, "how
long have you known Mr. Daller and where did you first meet him?"

Lady Ardane's manner was icily cold. "About three years," she replied,
"and I met him at Hurlington. I have already told you he is a great
friend of mine." She inclined her head. "So you need not look for the
culprit there, for Mr. Daller would do anything for me."

"No doubt," thought Larose with an unreasoning pang of jealousy as he
left the room, "even to the extent of making you Mrs. Bernard Daller, if
he could."

With an hour and more to spare before he need get ready for dinner, the
detective made an inspection of the little door for which he had just
been given the key. It was, as Lady Ardane had said, at the very end of
the building, and in that part that had once led out from the old
cloisters. The walls were very thick and old, and the door was narrow,
and only just wide enough to admit one person at a time. He inserted the
key in the lock with the idea of dropping in a little oil if necessary
so that the door might open quite noiselessly when he came to use it,
but he at once found no lubricant would be required, for not only the
lock but the hinges of the door also had been oiled recently. He could
smell the oil distinctly.

He bent down, and for a long minute examined the hinges, then returning
slowly along the corridor and desiring to be alone with his own thoughts
for a little while, he opened the door of the library, feeling sure that
at that time of the evening the large room would be empty.

But he at once found he was mistaken, for Sir Parry Bardell was seated
at one of the tables and with a large tome before him, was making notes
upon a sheet of paper.

The knight looked up with a frown at the opening of the door, as if
annoyed at being disturbed, but then perceiving who it was, the frown
changed instantly into an engaging smile, and he beckoned the detective
into the room.

"Come in, come in, Mr. Maxwell," he called out to the hesitating
detective. "You won't disturb me. Indeed I shall be glad of your
company, for I always find this huge room very lonely, by myself."

He rose to his feet and, pulling out the chair next to him, invited the
detective to sit down.

Larose was nothing loath, indeed nothing pleased him better, for it was
the first time he had had an opportunity of studying Sir Parry at close
quarters.

Larose took the chair that Sir Parry offered him and the latter pointed
to the book that he had been reading. "Look at those quaint old
characters, Mr. Maxwell," he said. "This book is five hundred years old
and I'm digging out some information from it about this very Abbey. I am
writing a history of the Abbey, you know, and I've been on it now for
over three years. Lady Ardane asked me to do it"--he made a wry
face--"but I really wish I hadn't taken it on now, for it absorbs such a
lot of my time. I seem to be always in here, and it keeps me from my
great hobby, the study of the stars." He laid his hand lightly upon the
detective's arm. "Ah! but you must come and see my place one day and
I'll show you my big telescope. It's wonderful and I'm very proud of
it."

He chatted on in the most friendly manner possible, passing from one
subject to another with an almost boyish enthusiasm, and as the
conversation progressed, he was most interesting to watch. When he was
animated, there was all openness and simplicity in his expression, but
with his features falling into repose, the detective noted they could
set in very stern and uncompromising lines, with nothing of weakness or
indecision about them. Sometimes, too, Larose thought then that he
looked very sad.

Presently, when happening to refer to Lady Ardane and the great
responsibility that had fallen on her in her widowhood, he lowered his
voice suddenly and, regarding the detective with great intentness, asked
with an ominous shake of the head. "But you have heard something of this
trouble she is in?"

"Ah! now I may learn something," thought Larose gleefully. "Someone's
going to talk about it at last."

"Yes," he nodded at once, "Mr. Lestrange told me an attempt had been
made to kidnap the little baronet."

"But not only that," said Sir Parry, gritting his teeth savagely
together, "for someone, the night before last, tried to waylay her when
she was alone in her car."

"Oh! do tell me about it," exclaimed Larose, looking as horrified as be
could. "I have heard nothing about that."

And then Sir Parry, with some emotion, related what had happened upon
the Norwich road when Lady Ardane had been fired upon, and from the
narrative he gave, the detective realised how cleverly the mistress of
Carmel Abbey had managed to suppress all mention that she had had a
companion with her at the time.

When Sir Parry had finished, he heaved a big sigh. "But perhaps I ought
not to have told you anything about it," he said, looking very troubled,
"and yet it is such a relief to me to discuss it with anyone." His voice
dropped almost to a whisper. "Among ourselves here we talk about it as
little as possible, and I believe we all want to think that Lady Ardane
dreamt it." His eyes blazed and he slapped his hand upon the table. "But
I ask you, Mr. Maxwell, as a man of the world, what do you think of it
and whom can you imagine the wretches can be?"

But Larose could, apparently, make nothing of it, for in his country,
Australia, such happenings as this had never occurred, and all he could
suggest were the ideas he had picked up from reading about kidnapping
gangs in America.

They talked on for a long while until indeed Larose had to leave to get
ready for dinner. Sir Parry shook him warmly by the hand as they bade
each other good night and the last glimpse the detective had of the very
troubled, retired shipowner, was of him sinking back despondently into a
big armchair with no thought any more, at any rate for the time, of the
history of the Abbey he was writing.

"A very kind-hearted man," was Larose's comment as he mounted the stairs
to his room, "but the hard, relentless work of his business life has
taken its toll, both physically and mentally, and he looks very much
older to me than fifty-seven." He smiled whimsically to himself. "Yes,
whatever people may say, if you want to really enjoy riches, you must
inherit them and not acquire them yourself. The process of acquisition
seems much too exhausting, and takes too much out of you."

Just before midnight, and having plasticened a number of bedroom doors,
as he had done the previous night, Larose let himself out the little
cloister door, and skirting round the back of the Abbey, made his way to
among the trees that everywhere lay close up to the low fence that
circled all round the Abbey grounds.

He was reckoning that by keeping among the trees he could watch, unseen,
every side of the Abbey that he wanted to, but, all the same, he knew it
was to the sea aspect that he must give most attention. He was of
opinion that there was just a chance someone might signal from one of
the windows of the Abbey, and in return receive an answer from some
distant house.

He was not too hopeful about it, but at any rate, he told himself, it
was the first thing to be considered, and must not be neglected at any
cost. Later, about 2 o'clock, he intended to make his way over the
marshes and have a talk with old Henrik. Waking him up in the middle of
the night would mean nothing to the old fisherman, for he was, of
course, accustomed to rise at all hours to attend to his nets.

The moon was shining, but there were clouds all about, and it looked as
if more rain would fall during the night.

The detective gained the shelter the trees and scanned over the many
windows of the Abbey, but everyone was apparently in bed and no lights
were showing anywhere.

Keeping always to the shelter of the trees, he promenaded twice, in a
wide circle, all round the Abbey. The moon was fitful and continually
disappearing behind the clouds, and he thought with a pang of uneasiness
that it was an ideal night for anyone, waiting upon his opportunity, to
leave the place unseen.

Nothing happened for more than an hour, although once for a few moments
he had half thought he saw a figure among the trees about two hundred
yards distant from him, but warily approaching the suspected spot, he
had found no one there, and had returned to what he considered his best
point of observation, right opposite to the main entrance to the Abbey,
facing towards the sea.

All at once, when the moon was showing faintly after a short period of
disappearance behind a cloud, he thought he saw something moving along
by the fence, a good distance away from where he was standing.

He put up his glasses with the full expectation that he was going to
disappointed as before and then--his heart began to beat quickly--for he
distinctly saw a shadow move up to the fence and then stand motionless
as if it were peering through the rails.

The figure was slight and small and looked that of a boy.

Instantly, then, he began to move towards it with the utmost speed that
he could, but his progress was slow, for he was hampered by the many
bushes he had to push through. He had, too to proceed in a crouching
attitude all the way, and he took so long in covering the distance that
he was fearful at any moment the boy would run off and he would not have
seen which way he had gone.

Presently, however, when he judged he could not be far from where he had
first seen the boy, he rose to his feet behind the trunk of a tree, and
to his great relief caught sight of him, not fifty yards away.

The lad was now a few feet away from the fence and, muffled well in
scarf and long macintosh with a high collar, was standing quite
motionless except that every now and then he turned his head to one side
as if he were listening, and then glanced up at the sky.

"The little devil!" muttered the detective. "He's only waiting for the
moon to cloud over again and then he's going to bolt away."

But all at once, to the great joy of the detective, the boy began to
walk slowly to where he was hiding.

A minute passed, and pausing every few steps to turn his head round and
round in every direction, the boy came on.

Then the detective pounced, and in a lightning movement grabbed at him
and lifted him into his arms. A half-stifled scream came from the
muffled figure and it struggled furiously, then getting one arm free, it
struck at the detective's face and the latter felt a stinging scratch
upon his check.

"You little devil!" he exclaimed angrily. "Stop that and don't make a
sound or I'll choke the life out of you. Now, keep still," and almost as
quickly as they had begun, the struggles ceased.

Then Larose gasped in amazement. It was a woman he was holding and from
the scent of her--it was Lady Ardane.

He smiled grimly as she lay limp and helpless in his arms, but with his
recognition now perfectly sure, he yet still continued to hold her. She
was soft and sweet-smelling, and it was at all events, he told himself,
some recompense for the trouble she had given him.

He let her on to her feet at last, but then for a few moments continued
to support her, as, apparently quite exhausted by her struggles, she
leaned heavily against him.

"So it's you, is it?" he said grimly. "Now what are you up to, out here
at this time of night?"

"You were rough," she said shakily, chafing over her arms, and with her
words coming in jerks. "You are a brute."

"If it comes to that," replied Larose calmly, "who would not be when he
is trying to hold a scratching woman?" He passed his hand over one side
of his face. "Your nails are sharp, my lady, and you've scratched me
right enough. It stings horribly."

"I didn't know who you were," she panted, "and I thought you were one of
those men."

"Well, never mind about that," he said. "I want to know what you are up
to here, at this time of night."

"Mind your own business," she replied sharply. "I refuse to tell you.
You were not engaged to spy upon me, anyhow."

"Oh! I wasn't, was I?" said Larose. "Then let me tell you straight, I'm
here to spy upon everyone."

"I wish you had never come," she went on passionately. "I've grown to
hate the very sight of you."

"Quite a lot of people have felt like that," he remarked calmly, "and
those of them who are not dead are mostly in prison." He repeated his
question again. "Now what are you up to out here?"

She began to cry, but in a quiet and very restrained manner, and at once
all his annoyance left him and he felt very sorry for her. "Of course,"
he said lamely, "if you were only going to meet a sweetheart, I know it
is no business of mine, and I don't want to interfere. I quite----"

"You fool!" she burst out, with the tears instantly drying up; "a woman
in my position meeting a sweetheart here!"

"Well," remarked Larose judicially, "I could understand it, and indeed
might almost consider him a lucky man. After all, you are only like
other women and I suppose----"

But he stopped suddenly, and gripping her by the arm, pulled her quickly
down behind a tree. "Hush! hush!" he exclaimed, "there's a man over by
those bushes. Crouch as low as you can and don't move. He's looking this
way."

All her anger forgotten in her terror, she obeyed him instantly, and
crouching down close beside him, he could feel the quick beating of her
heart as her body touched his. She felt for his hand for protection and
then, realising what she had done, instantly snatched it away again.

Holding their breaths together, they stared out between the trees.

Quite close to them and less than a hundred yards away they could see
the head and shoulders of a man silhouetted against the sky. The man was
partly hidden by a bush, and that he had not caught sight of them was
evident, for with a pair of glasses to his eyes, he was sweeping
everywhere around. Then after a few moments they saw that his glasses
were fixed upon the Abbey.

"Now, you remain here," whispered Larose, straightening himself up, "and
I'll try and stalk him. The cover's bad but I may be able to get behind
him and make a grab."

But she seized him tightly by the arm. "No, you're not to leave me," she
panted, "and I won't be left here alone. There may be others with him
and I'm afraid."

"But----" began Larose.

"No, you shall not go," she went on. "I won't have it." And the
detective, seeing it was useless to argue, sank back into his crouching
position, with the reflection as she still continued to hold on to his
arm, that the work of a detective was not without its privileges.

For quite five minutes the man with the binoculars remained motionless
and then with a long sweep round again in every direction, he began to
walk warily but quickly towards the Abbey.

"But where's he going?" asked Lady Ardane tremulously. "He can't get in,
for every door is locked and every window has an alarm now."

"Wait," said the detective, "we shall soon see."

And very quickly they saw, for the man, with no hesitation at all, made
straight for the little cloister door, and pausing for just two seconds
to look intently behind him, thrust in a key, and, the door opening, he
disappeared into the Abbey. He closed the door after him.

"Good gracious!" wailed Lady Ardane, "but what will happen now!"

The detective put down the glasses through which he had followed every
footstep of the man. "Nothing, tonight," he said a little chokingly.
"He'll just go upstairs and put himself to bed. That's all." A grim note
came into his tones. "I know who he is. I saw his face that last moment
when he turned round."

"You recognised him!" exclaimed Lady Ardane incredulously. "Then who is
he!"

"One of your guests," replied Larose sternly, "but I'm not going to tell
you which one. If I did, your manner when you meet him to-morrow would
let him know instantly that something was wrong."

"But I ought to know," she said warmly. "One of my guests! But it is
incredible."

"But it's what we've always expected," said Larose gruffly, "and it's no
surprise to me. What I am wondering"--and his eyes glinted suspiciously
in the darkness--"is how he got hold of a key to that door if, as you
say, there are only two in existence. The lock's one of the best and a
new key for it was not made in a hurry."

"But there are only two," insisted Lady Ardane. "I am sure of it. Sir
Parry has one and you have the other." A catch came into her voice.
"I'll ask Sir Parry to-morrow if he's lost his."

"No, no, you won't, please," said Larose sternly. "You'll just let me
handle this, and you'll not breathe a word about to-night to anyone." He
held her eyes with his in the moon light. "Now you promise, don't you?"

"But I ought to know who that man was," she said warmly, "for after all
this matter most concerns me."

"But I am dealing with it," was the sharp reply, "and I know more about
criminals than you do. So you'll have to leave it with me, please, and
you promise, don't you?"

She hesitated. "All right," she said wearily, "have it your own way. You
keep your secret and I'll keep mine"--her voice quivered--"but I shall
get no sleep to-night."

He ignored her plaintive tone and asked in a most business-like way,
"Now how did you get out of the Abbey!"

"By the hall door," she replied, "and young Hollins will open it again
for me when I tap."

"You can trust him as a watchman!" asked Larose.

"Oh! yes. He's quite young, and he's an assistant scoutmaster at
Hunstanton. He's just twenty-one."

"Good," said the detective, "and we'll wait until that cloud covers the
moon and then you can run home. It looks as if the rain's coming on
again."

They stood in silence under the trees, and such is the mystery of life
that, with all the excitement of the manhunt surging through him, the
thoughts of the detective were now more upon the woman beside him than
upon the man whom he had seen enter through the cloister door. This
red-haired woman had scratched his face and called him a brute and a
fool, and yet in the darkness there, there were tender lines about his
mouth and he was smiling to himself that he had held her in his arms.

Suddenly the moon went under and it became pitch dark and began to rain.
"Now you can go," said the detective, "and you needn't unduly hurry, for
it look's as if we shall get no more moon to-night."

"But you're coming with me," she said quickly.

"Of course," he replied, although until that moment he had had no
thought of accompanying her.

She held to his arm, as a matter of course, and without a word they
crossed the three hundred yards or so to the Abbey door. Then she drew
herself quickly away.

"Good-night," he said in very matter-of-fact tones, "and don't you
forget your promise."

"No, I'll not," she replied. She stretched out and touched his arm again
in the darkness. "I'm sorry I scratched you, Mr. Larose," she went on,
"but I was just terrified when you caught hold of me."

"Quite all right," he laughed. "I've had worse things happen to me than
scratches. Good-night."

Larose made sure she had entered the Abbey in safety, and then, as the
rain had now begun to fall heavily, he flattened himself close against
the wall to obtain what shelter he could.

"Gee!" he exclaimed, now turning his thoughts resolutely to the matter
that had brought him out that night, "but that was the American right
enough. I saw his face distinctly. Rankin, the friend of the Senator!
Now what the devil does that mean? The trusted friend of her step-father
prowling about at night! And how did he get a key to that door, too,
when Sir Parry Bardell has the only other one!"

His thoughts ran on. "And this red-haired party that I have just been
holding in my arms. What was she out for to-night, and what was she
doing by the fence? It must have taken something very urgent to make her
come out in the middle of the night, for with all her red head she has a
gentle streak in her and can get frightened like any other woman." He
shook his head. "Yes, I'm up against some things that are very puzzling
and they'll want a lot of straightening out."

He remained where he was for quite a quarter of an hour and then, the
rain falling faster and faster, gave up all thoughts of any further
excursions that night. He let himself in very cautiously by the cloister
door, pausing for a long time to examine the hinges again by the
shrouded light of the electric torch. Then he tiptoed up to the first
floor and made a round of inspection of all doors against which he had
placed his plasticene. One only had been opened, and as he expected it
was that of Theodore Rankin.

"Yes, it was he, right enough," he murmured, "and I'll keep a good eye
on my gentleman now."

Back in his own room, he switched on the light and ruefully regarded a
long scratch upon his cheek. It extended right down from the corner of
his eye on to his chin.

"And there'll be no hiding it tomorrow," he said with a shake of his
head. "Everybody will see that I've been in the wars and wonder what
I've been up to."

He took some tincture of iodine out of his suitcase and generously
swabbed it into the scratch.

"Never a rose without its thorns," he sighed. "She has a pretty little
hand, with beautiful white fingers, and I suppose I ought to feel
honored to have had it upon my face. Yet, if I don't well disinfect the
mark it left, I may get as nasty a septic wound as if some dustman had
been at work there." He made a wry face as the iodine smarted. "Funny
world this, and we men are strange creatures! Now there was I, simply
thrilled with that red head upon my shoulder and imagining it quite a
little bit of Heaven while it lasted, and yet"--he sighed again--"if I
had it there half a dozen times, the thrills would be nearly all gone
and it would need a black or a brown head to bring them back." He sighed
for the third time. "One so soon gets accustomed to the most delightful
experiences, for we are so made that novelty and change are the very
spice of life."

In the morning, leaving his room to go down to breakfast, he almost ran
into Theodore Rankin in the corridor. They bade each other good morning
and the American eyed him very solemnly.

"Dear me!" thought Larose as they descended the stairs together, "but he
seems every bit as interested in me as I am in him, for that look he
gave me was anything but a cursory one."

In anticipation of the forthcoming shoot, nearly everyone had come down
early, and they chatted animatedly together. Lady Ardane showed no
traces of her adventure, looking as fresh as a rose and as if she had
slept all night.

Suddenly, during a lull in the conversation. Patricia Howard exclaimed
interestedly, "Oh! Mr. Maxwell, what a nasty scratch upon your cheek!
Have you been playing with the cat?" And everyone at once turned to
regard the detective.

Larose muttered a bad word under his breath, but replied with a ready
smile, "Yes, I have, and you see she didn't like me over much."

"Well, it'll be a lesson to you," smiled back the girl, "to leave
strange cats alone."

"But cats are like the ladies, I've always found," remarked Admiral
Charters with an assumption of great knowledge of the other sex. "They
scratch you one moment, and the next they are purring up to you as close
as they can get," and Lady Ardane looked down and bit hard upon her lip
in a vain endeavor to prevent her face from becoming very red.

The meal was certainly not without its interest to the detective, for he
was exerting his psychological powers to the utmost in a study of
everyone at the table, and he eventually came to the conclusion that
there was a most unusual feeling in the attitudes of three of the people
there towards him.

He was not including Lady Ardane, for as he had rather expected, she was
very subdued in her manner and never once, as far as he noticed, gave a
single glance in his direction.

But it was very different with Senator Harvey, Rankin and Clive
Huntington, for he caught all three of them looking covertly at him many
times. The Senator, frowning as if he were very puzzled; Rankin, quite
amiable, and as if he were a friendly adversary taking stock of a rival
with whom he might have to come to grips at any time; and Huntington as
if he were very amused about something.

Larose was sure he was not imagining it all, for in his life of the
tracking down of crime he prided himself upon having developed most
sensitive powers of determining when he was an object of special
interest to anyone.

He began to feel rather uneasy, for he was so certain that since he had
arrived at the Abbey he had given no cause to anyone to think that he
was anything otherwise than what he was making himself out to be.

The weather had improved during the night and the sun was now shining;
nevertheless there were still indications that it was going to be a
showery day. However, it was arranged that the shooting party should
make a start at ten, and in the meantime, with breakfast over, nearly
everyone went outside and stood sunning themselves before the big door.

Presently a tall, slouching figure was seen striding down the drive and
it was recognised at once as that of Henrik. He was evidently coming up
with the lobsters he had procured.

"Most opportune," thought Larose, "then I'll go beyond the fence and
talk to him when he comes into the road."

So about a quarter of an hour later the detective, hidden now from all
sight of the Abbey by the trees, stepped out in front of the fisherman
as the latter was ambling along with his empty basket.

"Good morning," he said with a smile. "You remember me? I held your hand
steady whilst it was being bandaged yesterday."

"Yah, yah," said Henrik smiling back. He stretched out his hand. "Bacco,
bacco," he went on.

Larose took out his case and gave him a few cigarettes. "Now," he said,
when Henrik with no delay had set light to one of them, "what do you
know about Mr. Daller being a smuggler!"

But the old man did not take any notice of the question. "Goot," he said
with, a deep puff at the cigarette. "Henrik like 'bacco."

"Well, what do you know about Mr. Daller?" asked the detective,
repeating his question sharply.

Henrik smiled blandly. "No mooch Inglish," he replied, "no speak mooch."

"Nonsense!" said the detective. "You spoke it right enough last night.
Now what do you mean?"

The fisherman shook his head. "No understand," he said.

Larose scowled, "Now look here, my friend," he said sternly, "I'm going
to stand no nonsense from you. You pointed distinctly to Mr. Daller and
said he was a smuggler and told me to watch."

"No," said Henrik stubbornly. "No speak Inglis."

The detective became furious. "You old liar," he cried, "you can speak
it quite well when you want to." He gripped him tightly by the arm.
"Now, tell me at once what you meant."

But the old man was so patently taken aback by the rough usage that he
was receiving, that Larose all at once began to waver in his absolute
conviction. Either Henrik was speaking the truth, or else he was one of
the best actors the detective had ever seen.

"And do you mean to tell me," he said, still holding to the fisherman's
arm, "that you never used the word smuggler, or watch, or dope?"

"No Inglis," replied Henrik shaking his head vigorously and looking
really frightened. "Verra few words."

Larose let go his arm. "Look here," he said in his most persuasive tone,
"you tell me what I want to know and I'll give you all the cigarettes I
have here and a whole new box as well," and he took out his case again
and let Henrik see there were still plenty in it.

The fisherman at once lost all his frightened appearance and flashed him
a cunning look. "Goot! Goot!" he exclaimed eagerly and stretched out his
hand.

"No," said Larose firmly, "you must tell me first," and he drew back the
cigarette case.

The fisherman looked as disappointed as a child.

"No Inglis," he repeated plaintively. "Verra few words."

Larose gave it up. "Get off," he said angrily. "Either you are a knave
or I am a fool," and he turned on his heel and started to walk back to
the Abbey.

Henrik watched him for a few moments and then, with a grin at the
half-dozen cigarettes he was holding in his hand, turned also and
started to walk away.

Larose was in a great state of doubt. One moment he was sure that the
fisherman had been lying and the next he was anathematising himself as
an imaginative fool.

And yet he could swear, he kept on telling himself, that Henrik had said
"smuggler," and "watch," and also with his sunken lips over his
toothless gums, had mouthed the word "dope."

But for the time being, at all events, Larose was to have no further
opportunity for speculation, for, arriving back at the Abbey, all was
bustle and animation in preparation for the shoot. The men were to start
away first, then, if it continued fine, the ladies would be joining them
at the picnic lunch.

Always an enthusiastic lover of the gun, the detective was now delighted
at the thought of his first meeting with the lordly and aristocratic
pheasant.

So, notwithstanding his many perplexities and the very disappointing
interview with the fisherman, he was in quite an elated state of mind,
as, together with Sir Parry Bardell and Rankin, he found himself being
driven swiftly along in the car of the great surgeon. Four cars in all
were then leaving the Abbey.

But it was well for him that he was not aware of what exactly were going
to be the happenings of the next few hours.

The death of many a beautifully-plumaged bird was knelling on that
bright October morning, but had Larose only known it, his own death was
almost being knelled too, and it was only by the merest chance that he
was to return in the evening alive.

He had been marked down by one to whom another's life was of no account
if it could be taken secretly, and in the pocket of one of the very men
now leaving the Abbey were two cartridges whose missions of destruction
were not intended for any bird.

However, everything went well until late in the afternoon, and although
the detective had had no experience at all of the conditions
appertaining to shooting in England, and had been feeling quite
apprehensive that he might occasion satisfaction to the sneering and
supercilious barrister if he failed, he had really acquitted himself
handsomely, indeed earning the warm approval of the grim-visaged head
gamekeeper, who had not seemed too pleased when he had been first
informed that there was a novice among the party.

"But you'll do, sir," he said, when he saw Larose, with a clean right
and left, bring down two rocketing birds that came over flying very
high, "both beautifully-timed shots, sir."

The detective was delighted with himself. The birds had come bursting
into sight above the trees, like projectiles from a gun, and in a
lightning flash he had made a most accurate calculation as to how far
they must travel to exactly run into his messengers of death.

After that, he had lost all his nervousness, and continued to do good
execution among the birds. When all the party forgathered to partake of
the sumptuous picnic lunch that had been provided, not a few of them
congratulated him upon his prowess.

Larose was quite sorry Lady Ardane was not present to hear them, but a
drizzling rain having set in about noon, none of the ladies had put in
an appearance.

"And are you as good with the rifle as you are with the gun, Mr.
Maxwell?" asked young Huntington presently with a most friendly smile.

"Oh! I've had a lot of luck this morning," laughed Larose, "and the
birds would come my way." He nodded. "But I've done a good bit of
kangaroo-shooting with the rifle."

"And the pistol?" asked Huntington very interestedly.

"Pretty fair," replied Larose, and he would have sworn that his
interrogator suppressed a smile.

His good luck continued during the afternoon, and with the head
gamekeeper, with an eye to a big tally at the end of the day, now
invariably placing him in a favorable position, he brought down plenty
of birds, and he smiled to himself many times, with the reflection that
he was certainly combining pleasure with business.

A little before dusk the last covert was about to be beaten, and he was
stationed at the extreme end of a rather dense wood.

He was about a hundred yards distant from the wood, among a number of
scattered bushes, about waist high. Just in front of him ran a deep
ditch and behind him, not ten paces away, was a tall, thick hedge,
separating the field he was in from a tarred public road.

It had been close and muggy all day, but on account of the rain he had
had to wear his macintosh nearly all the time. Now, however, the rain
had stopped, and feeling uncomfortably warm, he took it off and threw it
carelessly over a bush just beside him.

The wood was a long one and the guns were in consequence spread out. On
his right, about 150 yards away, was Sir Arnold Medway, and on his left,
although he could not see him, because of the bending round of the wood,
he knew the American, Theodore Rankin, was stationed.

A few minutes passed in inaction, and the light beginning now to fade
rapidly and hearing no sound of gunfire anywhere, he began to think that
the shoot was over and that the beaters had been called off.

So, feeling a little tired with the unaccustomed exertions of the day,
he sat down upon the ditchside and, with his gun across his knees, took
out a cigarette.

Then suddenly--like a veritable crack of doom--came a deafening report
right behind him, and the seething hiss of shot just above his head, and
he saw his macintosh jerked off the bush as if someone had heaved it up
with a vicious kick. Then not three seconds later the sounds were
repeated, the bang and the vicious hiss, and his unfortunate macintosh,
in whirls which he could not follow with his eyes, made another upward
movement and then disappeared into the ditch.

His brain worked automatically, and realising something of what was
happening he literally hurled himself, face forwards, into the ditch.

"Gosh!" he gasped, wringing the mud and water from his eyes, "but those
were intended for me."

He waited only a few seconds and then, with his heart pumping like a
steam engine, started to run at his utmost speed along the bottom of the
ditch.

Less than a hundred yards brought him to the end, and he was now close
to the tarred road, with a wide gap through the thick hedge, behind
which he knew his would-be murderer must have been standing when he
fired.

With his automatic pistol ready in his hand, he raised himself up
stealthily and then, seeing no one near, wasted no time and sprang up on
to the road.

But the road was quite deserted, and neither to the right nor to the
left could he see any movement anywhere.

"Gone!" he muttered disgustedly, "and he probably thinks I'm dead." He
nodded grimly. "But how right old Jones was! They soon found me out." He
gritted his teeth. "And I'll soon find out how. It's a fight in the open
now."

Larose turned suddenly, to find Sir Arnold only a few paces from him,
walking slowly up. The great surgeon was carrying his gun upon his
shoulder and was smoking a cigar. With eyes for everything, the
detective noted that the cigar had only just been lit.

"Some birds came over then, Mr. Maxwell?" said Sir Arnold. "But they'll
probably be the last, for Lord Wonnock has just signaled me that the
beaters have been called off." He regarded the white face and muddied
figure of the detective and his face puckered up into a frown. "But
what's happened to you?" he asked. "You've been in the wars!"

"Nothing much," replied Larose, forcing a smile. "I slipped into the
ditch. That was all."

But the surgeon's frown deepened, he took the cigar out of his mouth,
hesitated a moment and then asked abruptly, "Are you a detective, Mr.
Maxwell?"

Larose almost choked in his astonishment. He felt stifled and could
hardly get his breath.

"Pardon my asking you," went on Sir Arnold quickly, "for I know of
course that it's no business of mine, but the idea just came to me, very
suddenly." He spoke with great kindliness. "Now, I see you are in
distress. Can I help you in any way?"

Quick-witted as he was by nature, for once Larose could not for the
second call up a sufficiently evasive reply, but instead asked hoarsely,
"What makes you think I am a detective?"

Sir Arnold smiled. "Your face is ghastly white, sir," he replied, "and
its pallor shows where you are made up." He shrugged his shoulders. "We
are all aware of the trouble that is over Lady Ardane, and although, as
far as I know, we have none of us discussed it, I think we are all of
opinion that a detective has been introduced into the Abbey." He nodded
gravely "So seeing you in this condition, it came to me that----" He
broke off and asked sharply, "But tell me, what has just happened?"

"My macintosh got the contents of two barrels," replied Larose dryly,
"but fortunately I was not in it at the time, as it was hanging upon a
bush." He drew in a deep breath. "Someone fired twice, from behind that
hedge, with the deliberate intention of killing me." His color began to
come back, and he spoke now in a sharp, decisive tone. "Yes, I am a
detective, Sir Arnold, and now please excuse me for taking a liberty,"
and stretching out his hand, he laid his fingers lightly upon one of the
surgeon's wrists and felt for his pulse.

The great man looked very amused. "Taking no chances, I see,"--his face
assumed a very grave expression--"and you are quite justified. No, my
pulse is steady, and it was not I who fired upon you."

"I never thought it was," replied Larose quickly, dropping the wrist at
once, "and I only touched you as a matter of form. Now," he went on, "if
you will, you can do me a great service, but wait just a moment until I
go and get my gun. I left it in the ditch."

"No, I'll come with you," said the surgeon instantly, "and if the
assassin is still about, he may hesitate to fire again with me with
you."

The detective retrieved his gun and the sadly-mutilated macintosh, and
then together the two made their way on to the tarred road. Then almost
immediately they saw Theodore Rankin step out from another gap in the
hedge, some little distance away.

"Make some excuse, please, Sir Arnold," said Larose quickly, "and feel
that man's pulse with as little delay as possible. Say I have been
arguing with you that Americans are a very excitable race." His face
darkened. "But not a word to anyone, please, that I have told you I am a
detective."

The American looked in their direction, and then stood waiting for them
to come up, and approaching him Sir Arnold lost no time in doing as the
detective had asked.

"This Australian friend of ours, Mr. Rankin," he said with a twinkle in
his eye, "has some very original ideas, and among others, he will have
it that you Americans are excitable constitutionally, and so wear
yourselves out much quicker than we cold-blooded Britishers do."

"Well, what I mean," explained Larose quickly, "is that in everything
you undertake you get more excitement out of it than we do. Take the
slaughter of these poor birds to-day, for instance. Now----"

"Give me your hand at once, Mr. Rankin," broke in Sir Arnold with mock
solemnity, "and we'll settle this matter forthwith. The pulse-rate is a
sure indication of the degree of excitement."

The American, looking rather puzzled, held out his hand and Sir Arnold
proceeded very gravely to feel his pulse.

"Hum! hum!" he remarked after holding it for only a very few seconds,
"quite quiet and regular." He turned to the detective. "So your
theories, Mr. Maxwell, will not hold water in the case of this gentleman
at any rate. As for you, sir," he went on to the American, "your pulse
is much too slow. You smoke far too many cigarettes."

But the American made no comment. He was apparently too occupied in
taking in the muddied condition of Larose.

"Don't be anxious, Mr. Rankin," laughed Sir Arnold. "Our friend has not
been in a fight. He's only fallen into a ditch, and after covering
himself with glory, he has now covered himself with mud."

The American smiled a slow, inscrutable smile. "But what did you get
with those last two shots, Mr. Maxwell?" he asked.

"Nothing," replied the detective, shaking his head.

"Both were misses!" exclaimed the American, raising his eyebrows.

"Yes," replied Larose with a sigh, "misses with both barrels."

They proceeded to walk back to where all the cars had been left, and
realised they must have been the last of the shoot to leave their
stations, as they met the other three cars upon their way back to the
Abbey. Larose was greatly disgusted, for he had been hoping to discern
disappointment upon the face of some one among the party when he
appeared unhurt.

A few minutes later they got into their car and Sir Arnold drove off at
a good pace. They had not, however, proceeded a couple of hundred yards
before a dreadful accident almost occurred. A boy upon a bicycle came
careering out of a side lane and it was only by a matter of inches that
he escaped being run down.

But Sir Arnold had kept his presence of mind, and well judging the
distance, had swept by just the very fraction of a second before the
bicycle came into the track of the car.

The great surgeon seemed quite unperturbed and made no remark, but Sir
Parry, who was sitting next to him, uttered a long-drawn "O-oh," and
then looked round with a ghastly smile to the detective and Rankin
behind.

For the second the detective had felt his own heart stand still, but
then, quickly alive to his opportunity, he turned to the American and
laid his fingers lightly upon one of the latter's wrists.

Rankin only smiled. "Still steady and quiet," he remarked blandly, "and
not a beat above the 65." He nodded. "I'm in the wheat gamble, you know,
and you want nerves of steel to succeed there." He nodded again,
"Nothing really upsets me, and I believe I could commit a murder without
turning a hair."

And the detective, sinking back in his seat, was inclined to think so,
too.




CHAPTER V.--LAROSE UNMASKED


Arriving back at the Abbey, the detective, avoiding the crowd assembled
in the lounge, proceeded to make his way quickly up towards his room, in
order to change his clothes as speedily as possible. At the top of the
staircase, however, he came upon Lady Ardane with the little baronet and
one of the nurses.

Stopping to reply to Lady Ardane's enquiry as to how the shoot had gone
off, he made a quick movement of his head in the direction of her room
to let her understand that he wanted to speak to her.

She took in at once what he wanted, and directing the nurse to take the
child downstairs into the lounge turned back and motioned to the
detective to follow her.

In her boudoir, with the door closed the detective told her quickly and
in a very few words what had happened, holding up his macintosh for her
inspection.

She went white to the lips. "Oh! how awful it is that they are so
pitiless!" she exclaimed. "They will kill us both if they can't get us
alive."

"But don't imagine things are even coming to that," said Larose
reassuringly. "They blundered badly in not finishing me off to-day, and
they'll never get such another chance." He looked quite cheerful. "I
shall be fighting in the open now, and that will strengthen my hand a
lot. So don't get downhearted, for I am certain we shall beat them in
the end."

Lady Ardane made a great effort to pull herself together, "And you have
no idea who it was?" she asked tremulously.

"Not the slightest," replied the detective, "and all that is clear is
that they must have found out who I am, as Mr. Jones said they would."
He went on briskly. "No, I won't come in to dinner to-night and you can
tell them all about me. Then I'll appear just before the meal is over
for I want to get a few words with the men before they have a chance of
going up to their rooms."

"But wait a moment, please, Mr. Larose," said Lady Ardane quickly, "and
let me think. No, no," she went on, "it mustn't be done like that. You
must come in to dinner just the same, but I'll speak to the Senator at
once and we will decide exactly what to do." She drew in a deep breath.
"My step-father will be dreadfully angry that I have called in anyone to
do with the police." A little assurance came back into her voice and she
spoke much more firmly. "But, whatever he says, I am glad you are
here"--she smiled wanly--"for I can see nothing frightens you, and
you'll be quite as merciless as they are."

"Thank you," smiled Larose, "I'm sure I'm very much obliged for your
opinion of me." He made a grimace. "But you're quite mistaken, for I do
get very frightened sometimes, and I confess I'm a bit frightened now."
He shivered. "I've been in these wet clothes for nearly an hour and if I
don't change them soon I may have a peaceful death in my bed, instead of
meeting with the honorable and violent one that I expect."

She was all sympathy at once. "Then go and have a boiling bath and I'll
give you some special bath-salts of mine to put in. They're splendid if
you're feeling chilled," and she darted into her bedroom, to return
almost immediately with a daintily-ribboned jar.

Larose thanked her very much, and she gave him a smile, the pleasantest
one, he was sure, that she had yet given him.

"Yes!" he remarked to himself when he was stripping off his sodden
clothes, "that young woman can be very appealing when she wants to."

An hour later, feeling warm and comfortable and quite himself again, he
was chatting to some of the ladies in the lounge, when he saw Senator
Harvey enter, and before sitting down, glance intently in his direction.
He could see instantly that the Senator had been told everything, and so
excusing himself to the girl he was talking to, he walked over to him
and sat down in a chair alongside.

"Good!" said the Senator dryly. "I wanted to have a word with you, young
man." There was no one near them, and in the noisy buzz of conversation
they could speak as privately as if they were alone.

"Well," went on the Senator with a sigh, "I've been told who you are and
what has been happening, and I am very shocked about both pieces of
information." His face expressed his keen displeasure. "Calling in the
police was the last thing I wanted"--he shrugged his shoulders--"but of
course it can't be helped now."

"In my opinion," said Larose sternly, "it ought to have been done at the
very beginning, for there is all evidence that we are dealing with a
very desperate gang of men."

The Senator smiled a cold, grim smile. "I am not quite a simpleton, Mr.
Larose," he said, "and as the step-father of Lady Ardane I have been
most fully alive to her danger, and keeping my eyes open very wide." He
looked amused. "For one thing, I have had you under close observation
from the moment you arrived, and am quite aware that you have been
prowling about, out of your bedroom, upon both nights that you have been
here."

"Oh, oh!" exclaimed the detective rather taken aback.

"Yes," went on the Senator, "a piece of hair was blobbed on to your door
with white of egg each night directly you went in."

Larose felt very disgusted, but he passed the matter over as if it were
of no importance.

"Now, none of the guests have been told," he asked, "of the two warnings
Lady Ardane has received?" He spoke sharply. "I want to be quite sure
about that."

"No," replied the Senator slowly, "none of the guests have been told."

"And not Sir Parry?" asked Larose.

"No, not even he," was the reply. "Lady Ardane and I promised that
Naughton Jones we would not mention the matter to anyone, and although
we were both most annoyed that the fellow took himself off as he did, we
have adhered to our promise." He regarded the detective with a frown.
"Now, what is it you want us to do?"

"I suggest a slight alteration to the plan I proposed to Lady Ardane,"
said Larose, "and would prefer now to come in to dinner as usual, and
then towards the end of the meal bring out in the course of conversation
who I am." He nodded confidently. "I'll manage it without any fuss."

The Senator considered. "All right," he said wearily, "have it your own
way," and then as if glad to be relieved of all responsibility, he rose
up without another word and moved over to join the ladies.

Larose remained where he was, and a few moments later, catching the eye
of Sir Arnold, who had just come into the lounge, made a motion with his
head that the surgeon should take the vacant chair nearby.

Sir Arnold strolled leisurely over and sat down. "Well," he said
quietly, "you feel all right now?"

"Quite all right, thank you," replied the detective. He spoke very
quickly. "I'm a detective, as I told you, and I come from Scotland Yard.
My name is Larose, Gilbert Larose."

"Ah!" exclaimed the surgeon, and his calm, impassive face broke into a
pleasant smile, "I've heard about you."

"Yes," went on the detective, "and I'm going to take you into my
confidence, because you can render a great service to Lady Ardane by
helping me." He bent towards Sir Arnold and spoke very quietly. "Now
during dinner I'm going to let everybody know who I am"--his voice
hardened--"and what I am here for. Then I am going to ask all the men to
come with me into the blue morning room for a short talk." He nodded.
"You must understand I want to get them all in there before any of them
can have the chance of going up to their rooms. Then directly the door
is closed upon us, I shall demand that each of them hand over his keys,
so that I can go through any suitcase or trunk that he is keeping
locked."

"But what on earth for?" asked the surgeon, looking very puzzled. "What
do you expect to find in them?"

"A pistol, and probably narcotics and perhaps a hypodermic syringe,"
replied Larose instantly. "The criminal of to-day is scientific and it
is quite on the cards that with any opportunity to get at Lady Ardane or
the child, they may be drugged first." He nodded again. "Anyhow, I shall
be very disappointed if I do not find something suspicious in the
belongings of one of them."

"And how can I help you then?" asked Sir Arnold.

"By at once consenting to let me make a search when I ask, for that will
make it difficult for anyone else to refuse."

"All right," said Sir Arnold, drily, "so I see I am to act as decoy."

That night at dinner Larose was at his brightest, and not a few
wondering glances were from time to time cast his direction. He seemed
to have become all at once quite a different man and was no longer the
quiet and rather diffident young colonial they had hithereto regarded
him.

Instead, he spoke now as an experienced man of the world, who had been
brought in contact with many celebrities in his time, and had acquired a
keen insight into human nature, generally. He told them, too, a lot
about Australia; of its wide open spaces, its vast distances and the
many adventures he had had there.

But, as none of them yet knew, he was doing it all for a purpose, and
only waiting for the chance of disclosing in as careless and casual
manner as possible, exactly what his profession was.

And presently the opportunity came. He had been telling them about the
black trackers and how once, without a single mistake or false step, one
of them had followed unerringly the trackless bush for ten days upon the
trail of a desperado who was wanted for a murder in New South Wales. He
told it very well, and everyone stayed their conversation to listen.
Then when he had finished, Clive Huntington smiled and showed his
beautiful white teeth.

"Really, Mr. Maxwell," he said with a glance of sly amusement round the
table, "but you describe everything so graphically, that you might
almost have been there yourself."

"And I was," replied Larose, smiling back. "I was the police officer in
charge. I was a detective-inspector in Sydney then, and mine was the
responsibility to obtain the man's arrest."

An amazed silence followed, and even, it seemed, the well-trained staff
had been thrown out of their stride.

Lips were parted and every eye in the room was fastened upon Larose. It
was as if no one there could believe their ears.

"Yes," went on Larose carelessly, "but I've been over here for more than
a year and am attached now to Scotland Yard." He laughed. "Of course,
Maxwell is not my real name. It's Larose, Gilbert Larose," and he swept
his eyes round the table and in a lightning glance took in the
expressions of them all.

Lady Ardane was flushed, but in a proud and queenly way quite at her
ease. Senator Harvey was frowning heavily; the American seemed most
interested; Sir Parry Bardell was looking very mystified and as if he
could not understand it at all; the airman was scowling; Lord Wonnock
looked very shocked; Lestrange was only bored; Admiral Charters looked
as if he were going to burst; Clive Huntington was looking down his nose
and smiling very thoughtfully and Patricia Howard was simply thrilled.

The girl was the first to break the silence. "And you are really the
great Larose?" she asked breathlessly. "The man who's always shooting at
people and killing them, and who never fails!"

"Oh! Come, Miss Howard," said the detective with a laugh, "please don't
give me such an awful character, for I assure you I am a very peaceful
man. I only shoot when I have to and then"--his face lost its smiling
lines--"I naturally shoot as straight as I can."

Lord Wonnock cleared his throat "And are you down here in an official
capacity, sir, if I may ask?"

"Certainly," replied Larose readily, "and I want to have a little talk
with all you gentlemen in a few minutes. I am here----"

"Excuse me, please, Mr. Larose," broke in Lady Ardane quickly, "but I
think I would prefer to explain." She looked round and her glance took
in all at the table. "It is useless to make out to any of you that I
have not been in great anxiety lately"--her voice trembled--"for I have
been as distressed as any mother could be. As you all know, Mr. Naughton
Jones came down to help me, but he was taken ill and had to go away.
Then, upon his advice, I applied for Mr. Larose and we thought it best
that no one here should know who he was. I acted all upon my own, and
until this evening not even the Senator was aware what I had done.
Now"--and her voice had become quite firm--"we think it is best you
should all be taken into the secret and that is why"--she smiled--"Mr.
Larose has been making himself known to you just now."

She paused for a moment to draw in a deep breath, and then went on with
some emotion. "I may tell you now that Larose has already been of great
service to me, for he was with me the other night when that attempt was
made to waylay me in my car. He fired upon them when they were after us,
and burst one of their tyres and that is only how we managed to get
away."

Then suddenly all eyes were turned from her to the butler behind, for
the man, ghostly pale, was seen to stagger and almost fall. One of the
footmen rushed up to him, and steadying him upon his feet, half
supported and half carried him from the room.

The incident occasioned no little concern among the ladies and Lady
Ardane herself looked very upset.

"He's served the family for over 30 years," she explained, "and he's
very devoted to me. He's very highly strung and has been anything but
himself these last two weeks."

But Bernard Daller immediately proceeded to bring back the conversation
to Larose.

"And now that we know who this gentleman is," he said pleasantly, "I
expect we are all curious to know in what way it concerns us."

"Well, I want first to speak to you all, please," said Larose very
quietly. "You gentlemen, only, I mean, and so when we have finished
here, I'll get you all to come with me into the blue morning-room. Lady
Ardane has arranged for it."

"Of course we'll come," said Sir Arnold promptly. "You want to enlist
our help, I suppose."

Larose flashed him a grateful look. The surgeon had spoken in exactly
the right tone and as if it would be only the natural thing for them to
want to come.

A few minutes later, and the ladies having left the room, Larose moved
to the door and held it open.

"Now, please, if you'll oblige me," he said briskly.

Sir Arnold went first, and with Larose following last of all, to make
sure that no one slipped away, they were being shepherded into the
morning-room.

Then, apparently greatly to their surprise, they perceived that one of
the men servants was seated there, in a chair near the door, but he rose
instantly to his feet upon their entrance and stood to attention with a
very grim-set expression upon his intelligent face. He was Peter
Hollins, the one time Assistant Scoutmaster in Hunstanton, and now the
nightwatchman of the Abbey.

The detective shut the door, locked it and then calmly proceeded to put
the key in his pocket.

"Hullo! hullo!" instantly exclaimed Bernard Daller, with a scowl. "What
does this mean? We are prisoners! Eh!"

"Not at all," replied the detective diplomatically, "but I want to make
sure we shall not be interrupted." He moved over to the window and took
up a position so that he was facing then all, but separated by the width
of the table.

"Now," he said sternly, "I'll waste no time on preliminaries, and you
shall all know why I have brought you here." He paused a moment and let
his eyes rove round upon each one.

Then he rapped out like the crack of a whip. "One of you gentlemen here
this afternoon, tried to murder me. Now which of you was it?"

A dead silence followed, and in the hush it was as if the room was
untenanted and it was the dead of night. His audience stared
incredulously and as if they thought he had gone out of his mind.

"One-two-three-four," up to nine, counted the detective. "You are all of
you here, the same number as round that wood when one of you left his
station and fired point blank at what you thought was me, from behind
that hedge." He bent down and from the seat of a chair pushed under the
table, whipped out his macintosh and held it up. "Look, this was hanging
over a bush and in the fading light the assassin made sure it was me and
emptied two barrels into it."

Still the same silence, but some of the faces were white and strained
now, the looks of incredulity having changed to those of horror.

It was Clive Huntington who at last broke the silence by striking a
match. He had taken out a cigarette.

"A mistake, of course," he said quietly. "Most certainly a mistake." He
looked coolly at the detective. "You say the light was failing"--he
shrugged his shoulders--"and in a half-light anything may happen."

"A mistake!" snarled Larose. "A mistake! And he was not ten paces behind
me when he fired! The birds would have been high up in the air and the
macintosh was not three feet above the ground!"

"But come, Mr. Larose," said Sir Parry huskily, and although it was
evident that he was very much unset, there was nevertheless a stern and
almost angry note in his tones, "you are not justified in saying it was
one of us. It is only conjecture on your part."

"No conjecture at all," replied Larose sharply. "There was a gamekeeper
at each end of that stretch of road, and I have questioned them both.
They are certain no stranger passed during that last quarter of an hour,
and that it was accessible to only you nine." He inclined his head and
added very solemnly, "And my life was attempted, gentlemen, because it
had become known to one of you that I was a detective, and here to
protect Lady Ardane and her son." He looked challengingly round. "Now,
what have any of you to say?"

But no one spoke in return. They just stared at the macintosh, then at
the detective, and then back at the macintosh again.

"Well, we'll get to business at once," went on Larose, "and just put
your innocence to the test." His eyes again passed rapidly from one to
the other of them and then he nodded in the direction of young Hollins.
"Now, I am going to send this lad up to all your rooms, and from each
room he will bring down any suitcase, bag, grip or anything that he
finds locked. Then you will please hand over your keys and I will go
through your belongings in front of you all here."

"But what for, Mr. Larose?" asked Senator Harvey with some irritation.
"What has anything that we have in our rooms to do with your being shot
at this afternoon?"

"You will learn that in a few minutes," said the detective sternly "Now,
please give me your keys," and he held out his hand to Sir Arnold, who
was standing nearest to him.

With a grim smile the surgeon at once complied, but then a quiet voice
came from behind them all.

"I object," said Theodore Rankin, "on principle. It is an insult, and I
won't put up with it."

"And I object too," said Clive Huntington, who was smiling blandly,
"also--on principle."

"And I object as well," burst out the airman. "Not on principle, but
because it's the worst piece of cheek I've ever heard." He glared at
Larose. "You say we are not prisoners, although you've locked the door,
and who the devil are you then, to treat us as if we were pickpockets
and thieves?" His anger rose. "You've no authority for this."

"Oh! Haven't I," snapped Larose. "You make a great mistake there. I am
an emissary of the law, an attempt has been made by one of you upon my
life, and I am justified in taking any means to find out who is the
would-be assassin." His voice was stern and uncompromising. "Now, I tell
you I am going to see the insides of your trunks."

"Produce your search warrants first, then," sneered the airman. He
scoffed. "We are not quite country bumpkins, sir, nor entirely ignorant
of the law. You can do nothing without an authority, and I'm not going
to knuckle under to----"

He paused, as if unable to think of an epithet sufficiently insulting,
and then Lestrange spoke up in a very bored sort of way. "As to the
legal aspect, Mr. Larose," he said, "this gentleman is quite right, for
you have no authority, for the moment, to go through anybody's
belongings here." He looked as if he were trying to suppress a yawn.
"After all, too, you have produced no corroborated testimony that some
unknown individual fired at your macintosh, for there is no evidence
before us that you did not actually fire at it yourself."

Larose almost choked with fury at the studied insolence of the
barrister, but before he could frame any suitable reply, Senator Harvey
broke in quickly.

"As a near relative of Lady Ardane," he said, "I give my support to
these gentlemen in their objections. To insist upon searching their
belongings is not only an insult to them as her guests, but to my mind
it is most ridiculous as well."

Larose had got himself well in hand, and he realised that the opposition
had now become too strong to combat with out further help.

"Very well, Senator Harvey," he said. "But kindly wait a minute, will
you." He took the key out of his pocket and unlocked the door; then
beckoning to young Hollins, he said, loud enough for them all to hear,
"Go and ask Lady Ardane to spare me a minute, if she can."

Hollins at once left the room and then Bernard Daller remarked with
another sneer, "Not very chivalrous, Mr. Detective, is it--to send for a
woman to fight your battle for you?"

Larose made no reply, and they all stood in silence, waiting for Lady
Ardane to appear. But they were not kept waiting long, for hardly a
minute, it seemed, had elapsed before the door opened and she swept into
the room.

She looked paler than usual, but she carried herself with her head held
high and there was no lack of spirit in her expression.

The detective spoke up at once. "I am sorry to have troubled you," he
said, "but I have asked all these gentlemen for permission to examine
the contents of the suitcases in their rooms and some of them are
refusing to grant it. Now, will you please try and persuade them?"

But Lady Ardane had not quite taken in what he meant. "You want to
examine their suitcases?" she asked, looking rather puzzled, and when
the detective nodded, her face cleared and she went on, "Well, why has
anyone any objection?" She turned to her guests and said very quietly,
"To oblige me and shorten all this unpleasantness, kindly consent."

"But, Lady Ardane----" began Daller with a scowl.

"Excuse me, Daller," interrupted Senator Harvey quickly, "but I'd like
to speak to Lady Ardane first." He walked over to the door, and opening
it, held it for her to pass out. "Just a moment, please, Helen," he
said, and then with a backward glance over his shoulder to the others,
he added, "We shan't be two minutes."

But it was much nearer five minutes before they returned, and then
Larose perceived instantly from her heightened color that Lady Ardane
was upset in some way.

"Mr. Larose," she said quickly, and the detective knew instinctively
that she was speaking against her inclinations, "Senator Harvey is right
and you are not justified in asking these gentlemen for permission to go
through their belongings." She shook her head. "I cannot support your
request with mine."

The detective masked all signs of his bitter disappointment, and
accepted his defeat with a pleasant smile. "All right," he said quietly,
"I'm only sorry I bothered you," and he held open the door for her to
pass out.

He closed the door after her, and returned to his position before the
table. "Well, gentlemen," he said dryly, "if you won't let me examine
your suitcases, then perhaps, very graciously, you will allow me to ask
you a few questions"--he looked round upon them all--"and I'll take Mr.
Rankin first."

He, regarded the American very intently and then rapped out--"And what,
please, were you doing, sir, at one o'clock this morning, out in the
grounds with a pair of binoculars?"

The American looked very wooden.
"Out--in--the--grounds--at--one--o'clock?" he repeated. He shook his
head. "No, you are quite mistaken. I was in bed and asleep then."

"No, no, you weren't," said Larose sternly. "I was watching you for more
than a quarter of an hour, before I saw you re-enter the Abbey through
the cloister door."

Rankin did not repeat his denial. "Well, if you watched me, as you say,"
he drawled coolly, "for longer than a quarter of an hour, then you can
inform yourself what I was doing and obtain all the information you
want, at its very source."

Larose turned instantly to Sir Parry Bardell. "You have a key to the
cloister door?" he asked. "Then show it to me, please," and when the
knight held out one on a bunch, the detective proceeded to examine it
very carefully. "Now has this been out of your possession at all?" he
went on.

Sir Parry shook his head and replied instantly, "No."

Larose made no comment, but turning now to the airman and Clive
Huntington, embraced them both with the same glance.

"Now, Mr. Daller," he said briskly, "perhaps you'll be good enough to
tell us where you met Mr. Huntington before, for you are old
acquaintances, I see."

The airman flushed and for a long moment made no reply. Clive Huntington
was looking very scornful, and started to champ his jaws as if he were
chewing a piece of gum.

"I have known Mr. Huntington," said Daller very slowly and weighing
every word, "for exactly forty-eight hours. Previous to then I did not
know even that he existed."

"And you, Mr. Huntington," Larose asked sarcastically, "of course, you
subscribe to that?"

"Two days ago," replied Clive Huntington, adopting the slow and precise
tones of the airman. "I did not know of his existence either."

"What!" thundered the detective, with the quickness of a flash of
lightning, "you a sailor and crossing the Atlantic a score of times each
year in the Bardell steamers, never to have heard of Bernard Daller, the
airman, who has three times made the record trans-Atlantic flight!"

It was the first time anyone had seen Clive Huntington lose his pleasant
smile. "Oh! I have heard of him in that respect, of course," he said
irritably, "but I meant, as a private individual."

The detective smiled. One of his shafts had at last gone home. He turned
at once and addressed Admiral Charters.

"Now, sir," he snapped, "it is your turn." He emphasised each word with
his finger. "To whom do you signal when you go up in the tower?"

All eyes were now turned upon the Admiral, who got as red as a turkey
cock. "Darn your impudence," he spluttered furiously, "I don't signal to
anyone. You came sneaking up after me yesterday and I thought at the
time you were spying." He could hardly get out his words. "I go up there
to look at the sea."

"And the unfolded handkerchief, sir, that you were holding in your
hand?" asked Larose scornfully.

"To blow my nose with," barked the Admiral. "Darn your impudence, again
I say."

The detective waved his hand in the direction of the door and then sank
back into an armchair.

"The interview is over, gentlemen," he said, "and you are now all free
to return to your pursuits of innocence." His eyes glinted. "I have
asked questions of many suspected persons in my time and can generally
tell pretty well when they are lying or speaking the truth."

With disdainful glances from some, but with no comments from any, they
all trooped out of the room, and Larose and the Assistant Scoutmaster
were left alone.

"Well, Hollins," said the detective slowly, "I've only known you a few
hours, but I'm going to trust you quite a lot. As a scout, you have
always, no doubt, hankered after adventure and you're going to get
plenty of it now." He smiled as if it were a good joke. "You've heard
what has just passed, and you can guess that one or two of those nice
gentlemen, who have just gone out, would stick a knife into me with much
pleasure, so with you acting as my assistant, you are quite likely to
get a jab too."

The young fellow smiled back. "It's all right, sir, I'm quite willing to
take my chance."

Larose eyed him solemnly. "But it's no game, my lad, and so I'll be
giving you a few hints. Here's for one. You've got a pocket-knife with a
sharp blade? Good! Well, when you go on duty into the hall to-night,
have it open in one of the side pockets of your jacket. It will come in
very handy then if anybody necks you from behind. I've saved my life
twice that way." He nodded. "You can go now, but I shall be wanting you
to-night and mind"--he held up a warning finger--"not a whisper to
anyone about me."

Then with the departure of young Hollins, the detective proceeded to
weigh up the situation.

"Well, it's no good to imagine that I am not very disappointed," ran his
thoughts, "for I am. But I don't blame that red-headed young woman at
all, for there was undoubtedly something behind her refusal to support
me, and I shall be learning what it was in due time." He smiled
cheerfully. "Now I rattled some of those gentlemen quite a good bit, and
I certainly put a lot of my cards upon the table. But I meant to do it,
for these guests here can't be all guilty, and now I've made them
suspicious of one another, and they'll be watching amongst themselves."

He nodded. "But I've just been told a good few lies, and of that I'm
quite sure. The airman and Huntington were lying, and that Yankee chap
too, also"--his face puckered to a frown--"I'm just a little bit
suspicious about Sir Parry. His 'no' was so very ready when I asked
about the key, and exactly as if he had been expecting the question."

He shook his head. "Well, never mind about their lies for the present,
for I've something much more urgent to tackle right away." He looked
very puzzled. "Now how did they get to know so quickly that I was an
enemy and had been planted here to watch? I'm sure I've done nothing to
give myself away, for I've never been seen talking to Lady Ardane for
more than a few seconds, and then we've spoken very quietly and with no
one by us, so that we could not possibly have been overheard. I've been
with her twice in her boudoir, but the door and window were shut both
times." He stopped suddenly and then went on very slowly. "Ah! but I'm
inclined, somehow, to be rather suspicious about that little room!"

He was silent for a long while, and then with a sharp snap of his
fingers, he exclaimed, "Yes, there have been matters that have been
talked about only in that boudoir of hers, that have very speedily
become known to the gang! To my certain knowledge two, and"--he
hesitated--"perhaps three; the proposed excursion on the morrow to those
Brancaster Sands, the arrangements that the head chauffeur had made for
bringing out the riflemen from Hunstanton and--surely my talk with her
last night when she kept on saying, 'Mr. Larose.'"

His heart began to thump quickly. "Great Scott!" he went on, "and the
explanation of it all could be so very simple if conversations in there
could be overheard, not through the keyhole or the window, but through
the large ventilator, above her writing desk and facing the bedroom
door."

He snapped his fingers again and whistled softly. "Yes, I must learn
where that ventilator opens out."

Midnight had just sounded, and the detective and young Hollins were
padding softly along one of the passages upon the third, and top floor,
of the Abbey. They were carrying a 12-foot ladder between them.

Arriving at the end of the passage the detective flashed a torch upon
the ceiling and nodded to his companion.

"All right," he whispered; "that's the one, and mind the ladder doesn't
slip when we get it up. You must wait, and not make a sound. I may be
gone ten minutes or it may be an hour for the roof's large and I'll have
to climb over those rafters like a cat. Now, up with it quickly."

The ladder was lifted into position with its topmost rung less than a
foot below a small trap-door in the ceiling. The detective mounted
quickly and pushed up the door.

"Now don't get anxious," he whispered down, as a final injunction as he
climbed through the opening, "and if you hear any noises, you'll know
that they'll only be mine."

As Larose had expected, the roof loomed very wide and long, and as he
swept his torch round, it seemed as spacious as a cathedral. Its ends
and sides were lost in the shadows, and in all directions there
stretched a vast sea of rafters, with hundreds and hundreds of small
iron pipes everywhere.

"And I hope they well and truly insulate the electric wires," he
muttered, regarding the pipes a little doubtfully, "for I shall be
touching them nearly the whole of the time."

He took a long look round to get his bearings. "Now, I go east," he went
on, "towards the rising sun, for all the bedrooms of the guests face
that way and I shall probably find a well for the electric light pipes
going down in each corner."

Quickly, but with great care, he proceeded to cross over the rafters. He
counted a hundred of them and then stopped for a short rest. "Gosh!" he
exclaimed, "but I shall have to be careful or I'll get bushed, and not
be able to find my way back."

He walked over more than another hundred and then, just as he was
beginning to think he must surely have been travelling in a circle, he
saw the roof taking a downward slope, and in the corner yawned a large
square opening.

"Exactly," he whispered, "the well where the pipes go, but now, how the
deuce do the electricians get down?"

He was soon, however, relieved of all anxiety upon that score, for his
eyes fell upon an iron ladder bolted to one of the sides of the well.
The ladder was very narrow and barely a foot in width.

He bent over and pulled strongly at it to make sure it would bear his
weight. But it was securely bolted and as immovable as a rock.

With no delay, then, he entrusted himself to it, and started to go down,
stopping, however, every now and then to ascertain how far he had
descended.

Presently, when he judged he must have come down 20 feet, and could not
now be far above the floor level of the first story of the building, he
perceived a sort of side shaft, leading off at right angles to the main
shaft he had been descending.

He stepped off the ladder and found himself in a long passage between
two walls, lined as the well had been, with the innumerable iron pipes,
conducting the electric wires, but now added to these were much larger
pipes of lead.

"The water service," he exclaimed, "and very easy to get at if anything
goes wrong!"

The passage was very narrow and he edged along sideways to get as little
dust as possible upon his clothes, then flashing his torch up, he saw a
long line of ventilators just above the level of his head and extending
along the passage farther than the rays of his torch would reach.

"And those are the ventilators opening into the bedrooms," he whispered,
"and my room should not be far off here."

But suddenly he trailed his torch down upon his feet, and then for a few
seconds switched it off altogether, for in the distance he had seen a
glow of light coming out from one of the ventilators.

"Ah! a night-bird," he exclaimed, "and so someone's not gone to bed
yet"--he made a grimace of disappointment--"but the ventilator will be
just too high for me to see through."

But then approaching nearer and flashing on his torch again, to his
amazement he saw that under this very ventilator that was showing the
light was a small wooden box, about 2 feet in height.

"Gee!" was his startled comment, "and it's been placed there on purpose
for someone to see through."

Instantly, then, he switched off his torch and mounted the box. His eyes
were then just level with the ventilator, and peering through, he gave a
gasp in which consternation and triumph were both blended.

He was looking straight down into Lady Ardane's boudoir. The door
leading into the bedroom was wide open, and he saw Lady Ardane in the
very act of getting into bed.

His heart beat furiously. Then this was the secret of it all. Into the
passage had come the spy, upon the box it had been his wont to take his
stand, and a few feet only below his eyes, he had both seen and heard
everything that had been taking place in the room below!

And then the detective began to blush furiously, and he ground his teeth
in his rage. So this wretch, perhaps night after night, had been spying
upon Lady Ardane and she, poor creature, if she only knew it, would die
of shame!

Fascinated, he watched her settle herself comfortably down into the bed.
She sank her red head into the pillow, she pulled the bed-clothes warmly
up around her neck, one beautifully moulded arm came into view for two
seconds and then--the light was gone.

"And a good thing, too," growled Larose, angry that for a few seconds he
had been playing the spy himself, "a darned good thing, for otherwise
that young chap might have been waiting for me all night."

And then the great significance of his discovery thrilled through him
and his face glowed with delight.

"And now," he exclaimed, "it should be easy to discover at least one of
the conspirators, for he will come here again, and I shall have only to
watch to catch him." His face clouded over. "But how the devil does he
get up here? He certainly doesn't come the way I came."

He stepped softly off the box, and flashing his torch again, continued
to make his way quickly along the narrow passage. He passed eleven
ventilators and then another opening yawned before his feet, but, as
before, there was an iron ladder running down the side and with no
hesitation this time he climbed on to it.

But his descent took much longer now before he finally landed into a
sort of little square chamber that formed the bottom of the well. Three
sides of the chamber were of concrete, but the wall of the fourth
consisted of planks of rough wood.

There was no door to be seen anywhere, and for a few seconds the
detective thought there was no means of getting out, but passing his
hands over the planks, he felt two of them were loose, and a very brief
examination showed him that the ends of both of them were unnailed and
retained in their positions only by short cross pieces of wood. He
lifted them up from the bottom, and pushing them apart, stepped out
between them.

He found himself in a small untidy lumber-room, littered everywhere with
miscellaneous articles appertaining to the building and decorating
trade. Pots of paint, tins of calsomine, whitewash, sacks of lime and
brushes of all descriptions.

Making no sound, he crossed over to the door and softly turning the
handle, found it was unlocked.

He stepped into a long passage outside, and flashed his torch up and
down, but he was now in a part of the building in which he had never
been before, and it was not until he had proceeded for quite 50 yards,
in a direction that he knew must eventually lead to the main door, that
he could get his bearings.

Then in the distance he saw the door of the library, and switching off
his torch, he stood considering what his next move must be.

"No," he told himself at last. "I'll go back the way I came. It'll be a
dirty climb, but I won't startle that lad by appearing from another
direction." So he passed back through the lumber-room, and pushed to the
boards behind him.

"Now, in the ordinary way," he whispered, "there should be plenty of
finger-prints about, but I take it that if anyone is accustomed to come
here pretty often, it is almost certain, that knowing how dusty it is,
he will be wearing gloves to keep his hands clean."

And that he was quite right in this conjecture was apparent when he
reached the top of the first ladder again, for, upon the landing just
above the well, he could see plainly where someone had placed his hand
to climb up into the passage. But the impression in the dust was broad
and blurred, and certainly, he knew, could not have been made by a naked
hand.

He regained the roof without any more discoveries, and was welcomed with
great relief by young Hollins.

"I was afraid something had happened to you, sir," whispered the boy,
"and was wondering what I should have to do. Have you seen anything
interesting?"

"Yes, something very interesting," replied the detective, smiling to
himself, "but now we'll put back this ladder and then I'm off to bed."




CHAPTER VI.--THE HOUSE ON THE MARSH


It was an hour and longer, after Larose had tucked himself into bed,
before sleep at last came to him.

He had thrown off his clothes on the full determination that it should
be only a matter of minutes before he would be in the land of
forgetfulness, and dead to all his troubles.

He relaxed his limbs peacefully, drew in slow, deep breaths, and tried
to imagine he was falling from a great height. He turned his
tightly-closed eyes upwards and inwards, and he fell, fell, fell into
unfathomable depths.

But it was all to no purpose, for his mind was much too active, and
would keep on reverting to the perplexities he was in.

Why had Lady Ardane gone into the grounds during the night? Why had she
agreed that the belongings of no one should be searched? Why had the
Senator been against it too? Was it really possible that it was not the
American whom he had seen go through the cloister door? Why had Admiral
Charters lied about the handkerchief? What had Daller and Huntington to
hide, and why had they lied too?

He shook his head angrily. Of course these last two were old
acquaintances! He had been struck with their easy and intimate attitudes
towards each other, the very first night when they had arrived, and he
had noted that always when they were together their voices were lowered
as if all they were saying was of a private and confidential nature.

And who, then, was the man who had been standing on the box and--but at
last the detective succeeded in falling over his favorite precipice and
sleep overtook him.

But the worry and tossing about had played havoc with his subconscious
willpower, and instead of waking up, as he had intended, at half-past
six, it was nearly an hour later before he opened his eyes.

He was intensely annoyed, for, arranging with Lady Ardane that
henceforth he should have all his meals in the housekeeper's room, the
latter lady had informed him that 7.30 was the breakfast time with her.

He had mapped out, too, such a busy programme for the day, for,
notwithstanding he had a most profound faith in the acumen of Naughton
Jones, he was going yet again over all the latter's ground, and
intending to pass under review every employee in the Abbey.

He made his toilet hurriedly and proceeded with all speed to the
housekeeper's room, to find, however, as he had expected, that the
housekeeper and Polkinghorne, the butler, had already started the meal.
They both rose at once upon his entrance, and Polkinghorne looked very
nervous. It was evident that the latter did not relish sitting now at
table with one whose wants he had been so recently attending to, among
Lady Ardane's distinguished guests.

Polkinghorne was a portly man, about 50 years of age, heavy of feature,
and with big, grey ox-like eves, and the traditional side-whiskers of
followers of his calling. Beside him, upon another chair, sat a
beautiful Persian cat, looking very smart in a bright red collar to
which was attached a large silver bell.

"I'm sorry I'm late," said Larose, with a most apologetic smile, "but I
overslept myself, a thing I very seldom do, for, when upon any case"--he
spoke as if it were a good joke--"we detectives are really not supposed
to take any sleep at all."

He had purposely at once brought in his profession, for he had always
found that in the easy and informal conversation of a meal, most people
would reply more naturally to any questions that were asked, and also,
would be much less upon their guard if they had anything to hide.

The housekeeper, Miss Baines, was a tall, refined-looking woman of good
appearance, and she at once took up the conversation.

"We are very glad to know that it is you who are here, Mr. Larose," she
said quickly and as if she were a little nervous too. "We've all heard
of you, of course, and it is a great relief to us that her ladyship is
in such good hands."

"But I shall want all the help everyone can give me," said Larose
looking intently at the butler, "and the staff ought to be able to help
me quite a lot."

"I'm sure we'll do our best, sir," said Polkinghorne, uneasy at the hard
scrutiny of the detective, "for we know we are all under a cloud." He
looked very troubled. "The gentleman from Norwich, sir, will have it
that it is one of us who cut those wires, and Inspector Dollard gave us
a terrible gruelling."

"But it must have been someone who's well acquainted with the Abbey,"
said Larose sharply, "for he knew where to find that ladder he wanted."

"That's true, sir," admitted the butler gloomily, "and he chose his time
well, too. The telephone is used very little in the evening, and that
night, except for Senator Harvey's trunk call, no one went to it from
before six, until her ladyship tried to get the exchange when she came
in."

The detective's memory was a good one. "The Senator was ringing up the
chemist, wasn't he?" he asked with studied carelessness.

"Oh! no, sir, it was a trunk call to Norwich. I happened to overhear him
as he put it in." The butler smiled. "We have a good chemist in Burnham
Market and don't need to ring up Norwich for anything. We are not so out
of the world as all that."

"Ho! ho!" thought the detective. "Then I must make an enquiry there. I
understood the Senator said it was the chemist he had been ringing up."
He looked intently at the Butler again. "And you feel quite all right
this morning, Mr. Polkinghorne.

"Yes, thank you," replied the butler. He shook his head disgustedly. "It
was very foolish of me to have become faint last night, but until her
ladyship spoke, I hadn't realised in what danger she had really been. It
was a great shock to me." His heavy features lightened. "You see, sir, I
was in America with Sir Charles when he went courting her. I was his
valet at the time. I watched it all, and then I even accompanied them
upon their honeymoon. Then I came here, and the child was born." His
voice quavered. "So you'll understand, sir, how I feel. I've watched her
grow up and she has such trust in me. I have a big staff here to look
after for her."

The detective enjoyed his meal, and in rising from the table, remarked
upon the beauty of the cat. The butler's face at once glowed with
pleasure. "He's an aristocrat, sir," he said enthusiastically, "and he's
been three times champion of Norfolk. He's won seven cups for me, and I
have his pedigree right back for eleven generations, to the world
champion, Assyrian King. He has two wives, sir, Marie Antoinette and
Queen of Sheba." He pursed up his lips, and looked very important. "I
paid a lot of money for them."

The detective appeared duly impressed. "But good gracious!" he
exclaimed, "why on earth has he got that bell upon his collar. He'll
never get near any mouse."

The butler looked shocked. "Mouse-meat, sir," he said very gravely, "is
bad for his coat, and I put that bell there on purpose, so that he shall
never catch any." He drew himself up proudly. "Breeding Persians is my
hobby, sir, and I have made a great study of it."

The detective had a very busy morning, and with the notes of Naughton
Jones before him, one by one, went through all the domestic staff. Some
of the maids, as he had noted upon that first night at dinner, were very
pretty, and he congratulated himself upon his judgment when he found
that not a few of them were of quite gentle birth. Lady Ardane was
always most particular, the housekeeper told him, and as she paid very
high wages, she could pick and choose wherever she wanted to.

And it was the same, he found, with the men. There was not one of them
of a coarse type, and he could light on nothing of a suspicious nature
in any of their histories or demeanors.

"Now," he asked himself, when the last of them had left the room, "who
among these young men and women, for the butler and the housekeeper seem
to be the only middle-aged employees here, would be likely to spy upon
their mistress and report upon their spying to do her harm?" He thought
for a long time, and then shook his head. "Not one of them that I can
see, for there are none of them of the type."

He went on. "Still, I've got a splendid card to play, for I'll watch in
that lumber-room to-night, and very likely catch the spy red-handed. But
first I must go there this afternoon and prepare a snug little hiding
place among those sacks and tins."

As with breakfast, he took his early midday dinner in the company of the
housekeeper and the butler, and several times during the course of the
meal it struck him most forcibly that the latter was now very nervous
and uneasy.

The man only pecked at his food, and seemed very preoccupied, and the
detective would have sworn that he had some trouble on his mind. He
spoke very little, too, and then only when he was directly addressed.

"And I suppose," thought the detective, "that I upset him this morning
by those personal questions that I asked. Still, I had to examine him
like everyone else, and he's only just one of the servants to me."

The meal over and with the butler departing to superintend the serving
of the luncheon in the dining-room, Larose had quite a long chat with
the housekeeper, but the sum-total of all he learnt there seemed to be,
as Miss Patricia Howard had stressed to him, that all the eligible men
were wanting to marry Lady Ardane.

"All except Sir Parry Bardell," said the housekeeper, "and he knows he's
too elderly." She laughed. "But he acts the part of a watch-dog and
keeps the others away. He's like a father to her ladyship and I don't
know what she'd do without him."

Towards the middle of the afternoon, and with everybody out of the way,
the detective set out for the lumber-room to prepare his hiding place
for the night.

Encountering no one upon his journey, he passed the library and entered
the long passage. Then just as he arrived at the door of the
lumber-room, and was about to turn the handle, he started as if a wasp
had stung him, for he had distinctly heard someone moving about inside.

He listened for two seconds to make sure, and then darted on up the
passage, and flattened himself against the wall. There was no window
anywhere near there, and he was confident that he would not be noticed
in the gloom.

A few minutes passed, and he heard the handle of the door turn and then
saw a man step into the passage. The man was slow and stealthy in his
movements, and shutting the door very softly, he took a key out of his
pocket and locked it. Then, with head bent and shoulders bowed, he
remained standing perfectly still and in the unmistakable attitude of
one who was listening. His back was turned towards the detective, and he
never once glanced in the direction where the latter was hiding.

Then all at once he straightened himself up and tip-toeing swiftly off,
disappeared round the corner by the library door.

The detective was dumbfounded, for the man--was Polkinghorne, the
butler.

"Great Scot!" he ejaculated, moistening his dry lips with his tongue,
"but who would have thought it? The last man I should have picked out as
a conspirator!" He shook his head vexatiously. "I can hardly believe
it."

Waiting a good two minutes to make certain that the butler was not going
to return, Larose hastened up to examine the door.

"Yes, it's locked right enough," he frowned, "and with a darned good
lock too. One of those new patent ones with triple springs, and I doubt
if I can pick it, without damage which will show." He made a grimace and
then sighed. "Well, this is another surprise, and I'll have to
concentrate now upon shadowing this precious butler every moment he's
off duty." He looked at his watch. "Half-past three, and next, I'll have
a little talk with Lady Ardane."

He enquired of one of the footmen where Lady Ardane was, and learning
that she was outside in the garden, made his way there to find her. She
saw him coming and detached herself at once from her aunt and Mrs.
Charters, with whom she had been talking, and advanced to meet him.

"Good afternoon," she said pleasantly, "I hear you've been very busy."

He nodded. "Yes, I have been." he replied. "I've had a talk with
everyone of the staff"--he hesitated--"but I can't say I got much out of
it. They all seem all right."

She looked worried at once. "That's what I've always thought," she
replied. "My enemy cannot be among them." She was silent for a moment
and then asked quickly, "But what is it you want now, Mr. Larose?"

"A lot of things," he replied vaguely, and then looked sharply at her,
"but I don't quite know what to make of you."

She sensed instantly to what he was referring, and her color heightened.
"I am very sorry that I had to side with my step-father, Mr. Larose,"
she said, "but there are some things I am not able to explain to you.
They are not my secrets, and I can't tell them to you." She spoke very
firmly. "But you can be quite certain you are not being hindered in any
way."

"Well, I don't like it," said Larose sharply, "for at a time like this
there should be no half-confidences. I'm not too popular with some of
these gentry here, and they're taking unpleasant means to let me know
it. So anything that would help to put me further on my guard should be
told to me."

She seemed quite distressed. "But I assure you, Mr. Larose, these things
I am not able to tell you are not harmful to you in any way. If they
were"--and her bosom rose and fell in her emotion--"I wouldn't be a
party to them for a second and you should be told instantly."

The detective was impressed by her earnestness. "Very well, then," he
said. "I'll rely upon your common-sense." He nodded quickly. "But now
you'll have to do something I want you to, and do it without
questioning, please."

"I'll do it if I can," she replied submissively, "What is it?"

"It's about that boudoir of yours," he said. "I don't like that room,
and it's been unlucky for us both. Things you talked about there have
been given away at once, and I'm thinking they got to know who I was
from our conversation there, too." He spoke very solemnly. "So if you
please, in future, you'll say nothing there that everyone may not know
about and also"--he hesitated a moment--"I suggest you close the boudoir
door whenever you go into your bedroom. You understand?"'

"There doesn't seem much sense in it," she replied, "but still I'll do
as you tell me." She laughed. "I suppose it's one of your secrets, to
pay me back for one of mine."

For the remainder of that afternoon and during all that evening, taking
good care, however, that the man should by no possibility learn that he
was being watched, Larose kept his eye upon the butler.

But he got absolutely no reward for his pains, for when off duty,
Polkinghorne never once left the sitting-room which he shared with the
housekeeper, being absorbed the whole time in the perusal of a small
volume entitled 'Cats and Their Management in Health and Diseases.' At
supper he still looked nervous and worried, partaking most sparingly of
the excellent fare provided.

One little incident, however, had struck the detective, and that was,
when passing through the lounge just before the house party had been
summoned into dinner, he had seen Polkinghorne and the Senator talking
very earnestly together. Their heads had been almost touching, and
Polkinghorne had been speaking rapidly as if he had been pouring some
very important piece of information in the Senator's ear. Then upon one
of the ladies coming near to them, they had broken away instantly with
the Senator's lips framing what looked very much like the word "hush."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Larose, more puzzled than ever, "but that's funny. It
looks as if the Senator were in this too!"

Just before ten he secreted himself at the end of the passage and
prepared to await with all patience the appearance again of the butler
at the lumber-room door.

And it was well he had patience for the passage was cold and the time
passed very slowly. Half-past ten came, eleven and then half-past again.
Finally, he heard midnight chime without anything happening, and then
waiting yet another twenty minutes, he gave up the vigil in disgust and
prepared to mount to his room.

He tried the door in passing, but it was still locked.

"But I cannot be mistaken," he reflected, as he was talking off his
clothes, "for if ever I saw stealth and secrecy in a man's actions, I
saw then this afternoon in Polkinghorne's when he was at that
lumber-room door."

The following morning he rose early and descending into the sitting-room
a few minutes before half-past seven found only the housekeeper there.

"Then Mr. Polkinghorne's not down yet!" he remarked. "I was afraid I
should be last again."

"Oh! yes. Mr. Polkinghorne's down," replied the housekeeper. "He was
here quite a quarter or an hour ago, but he bustled off somewhere in a
great hurry," she smiled, "which is rather unusual, for he is a great
one for the morning newspaper."

The detective rose instantly to his feet and, making the excuse that he
had forgotten his handkerchief, hurried away in the direction of the
lumber-room.

"And there's a good chance he's on the spy," he panted, "for the nurse
will most probably be going to Lady Ardane's bedroom every morning about
this time, to get the little boy and receive her orders for the day." He
thrilled with excitement. "Great Scott! if I only catch him coming out."

And catch him coming out, he did, for he had just reached the door of
the lumber-room when it opened and he was face to face with the very
startled Thomas Polkinghorne.

The butler was pale, with staring eyes, and he was breathing quickly,
but then before the detective had uttered a single word, and to his
great astonishment, the man made a gesture of authority as if he were in
command of the situation.

"Hush! Don't talk loudly," he exclaimed. "How is it you have come here?"
and he interposed his body to prevent the advance of the detective.

Larose gritted his teeth and was upon the very point of gripping the
butler by the collar when in an instant the expression upon the latter's
face under went a startled change, and in place of alarm and
apprehension, there was now all triumph and delight.

"She's got five!" he ejaculated. "Three tabbies and two toms, and she's
drunk the milk and eaten all the meat I gave her, and the Senator is
going up to five guineas for one of them."

"What do you mean?" thundered Larose.

"Hush! hush!" exclaimed Polkinghorne angrily and with all his appearance
of alarm coming back, "don't speak so loudly or you'll frighten her."
Then something in the detective's face seemed to pull him up and with an
effort he became the quiet and respectful butler once again. "It's Marie
Antoinette, sir," he exclaimed breathlessly, "and she's got five
kittens. She's most highly bred, sir, and very temperamental, and a
strange voice may upset her. She's been a great worry to me, for at her
last kittening she wouldn't take any notice of her children, but just
left them, and they all died." He took out a handkerchief and wiped the
sweat upon his forehead. "She had too many visitors, sir, and that was
the trouble, but this time I didn't let anyone know when she was due,
and I brought her here, and not a soul knows where she is."

Then it seemed that, realising he had spoken with some heat in his
excitement, he was now anxious to make some atonement for it, and so,
stepping back into the lumber-room, he motioned to the detective to
enter.

"Just one peep, sir," he whispered. "I think I can allow that."

And all this time a medley of tumultuous and disturbing thoughts had
been rioting through the detective's brain.

Triumph and exaltation, perplexity, profound disappointment, intense
disgust with himself, and finally a feeling of real sorrow that he had
so misjudged a harmless and very simple-minded man.

So he followed humbly after the butler, and as if greatly appreciative
of the honor conferred upon him, gazed with becoming reverence upon a
beautiful-looking grey tabby, snugly ensconced in a small packing case.

But he was not allowed to gaze long before the obsession of a breeder of
prize Persian cats, again mastered the traditional servility of the
butler, and Polkinghorne plucking him by the sleeve, would have pulled
him almost forcibly away.

"But what a funny little room!" exclaimed the detective, beginning now
to recover his equanimity, and looking round most interestedly. "And why
is that side boarded up?"

"It isn't boarded up, sir," replied the butler quickly, and anxious at
all costs to get the detective away from the vicinity of his highly-bred
and temperamental cat. "Some of those planks are loose, and you can get
through them into the electric service well, which leads on to the
roof."

"Good gracious!" remarked Larose. "Have you ever been up there?"

"No, sir," replied Polkinghorne. "A least, only part of the way." He
smiled. "I've seen the passage and it's too narrow for a man of my
bulk." He was most respectful. "But if you don't mind, sir, we'll come
away now and let this little mother be quite quiet." They proceeded into
the passage and the door was very softly locked behind them.

"Do you always keep that room locked up?" asked the detective
carelessly, as they moved away. "Except for that very lovely cat of
yours, there doesn't seem to be anything valuable there."

"No, sir, it's never locked in the ordinary way," replied the butler,
"and indeed, I had a great job to rout out the key. But I shall keep it
locked now until to-morrow, and then I must move Marie Antoinette, for
the place is much more draughty than I thought."

He was quite a different man at breakfast, and all his nervousness
seemed to have passed away.

"And to think that I wasted all those hours upon him," sighed the
detective under his breath, "and cut short a good night's rest by at
least two hours."

Directly breakfast was over Larose set off to see what luck he would
have with the strange tenants of the house upon the marsh. He had
commissioned young Hollins to make some enquiries about them in the
village, and had learnt, somewhat to his satisfaction, that although
they were known to have been residing in the stone house for more than
six weeks, they had never visited the village, and no one had even any
idea what they were like in appearance.

"They're shy birds right enough, sir," had been the comment of young
Hollins, "and no one knows, even, exactly how many of them there are
there. They've got two bicycles, but when they go out on them they wear
big scarves and their caps are pulled so low down upon their heads that
no one can tell if they are seeing the same ones upon different days.
One of them has colored glasses."

"Excellent!" had exclaimed the detective. "They seem the very kind of
gentlemen I want, and I'll go and get as near to them as I can."

But no one could be more wary and circumspect than was Larose when it
was necessary, and he fully realised that if these men had anything to
do with those he was after, then they would be on guard all the time and
on the look out for anyone watching their movements.

Added to that, too, if the men did belong to the gang, they would by now
be quite aware that he, Larose, was in the neighborhood, and doubly on
the lookout, in that case for anyone answering to his description.

But of course, he told himself, they might be quite harmless,
inoffensive men, and here, as with the butler, he might be wasting all
his time. Still, he must try and find out something about them, and the
difficulty was, he could not approach them openly, and without being
seen, would not be able to get nearer to the house than four or five
hundred yards.

He made a wide detour round the marsh and approached his objective by
way of the line of high sandhills that stretched along the shore. Then
he lay down among the tall sand-grass and glued his eyes to his
binoculars. Upon his left, also in good view, was the hut of Henrik the
fisherman.

There were no signs of life about the stone house, and it looked quite
untenanted. The door was shut and no smoke was rising from the chimneys.

For more than two hours he lay motionless. The sky was overcast and a
cold east wind was blowing and he was glad of the shelter that the tall
grass gave him.

At last, when he had put down his glasses to rest for a moment, and was
upon the point of sitting up, to chafe his stiffened limbs, a movement
in the distance caught his eye, and he saw a car leaving the bitumen
road, about a mile away, and turn off across the marshes.

Up went his glasses again. "Well, here's a little diversion anyhow," he
told himself, "if the car even passes right by."

But he soon saw that the car was not going to pass right by, instead, to
his great joy, he saw it make straight for the stone house. It was a
touring car, with one man in it, and approaching rapidly and driven with
great confidence along the muddy and tortuous road, it was evident that
its driver was well acquainted with every dip and corner.

Reaching the house, it swept round sharply, stopped, and was then backed
smartly into an open shed, that was obviously more accustomed to cows
than cars.

Then a man sprang out and walked up quickly towards the house door. He
had got his back to the detective and was wearing a long overcoat and a
cap with carflaps to it, tied under the chin, so that all idea Larose
could form of him was that he was tall and of a rather slight build. He
was carrying a parcel under his arm.

His approach to the house had evidently been noted by someone inside,
for before he reached it the door was opened wide. He walked in and the
door was now left open.

"And a good thing that I didn't go straight up," remarked Larose.
"Fancy! I've been here a solid two hours and not seen a sign of life,
and yet all the time, perhaps, someone has been watching behind those
windows, on the lookout for this chap to arrive."

Ten minutes passed, the door was banged to, and then suddenly the
detective saw three men moving away from the back of the house and
proceeding along the marsh road in the direction of the bitumen. Two of
them were pushing bicycles before them, and apparently they were all
conversing animatedly together.

Larose with his eyes glued to his glasses, followed every step they made
until they gained the bitumen road. It was evident, he surmised, that
the two with the bicycles were finding the road too muddy to negotiate
except on foot. Reaching the bitumen road, suddenly the man without a
bicycle disappeared, and the other two, mounting their machines, had
gone quite three hundred yards away before the detective could see what
had happened to him.

The man had squatted low down at the bottom of a thick hedge, and from
his attitude it was evident he did not want to be seen by any passers-by
upon the road. The detective's glasses were very good ones, and he saw
the man take a newspaper out of his pocket and commence to read.

"Good!" he said, "then he's going stop there some time, and it looks
exactly as if he's on the watch."

Feeling certain that there was no one left in the house, because the
door had been banged to in a manner as if to make sure it would shut
securely, the detective rose quickly to his feet and made off in its
direction.

Then, to his amazement, he almost stumbled upon the recumbent figure of
Henrik, in a thick clump of grass, not twenty yards from where he had
been lying.

He swore under his breath, for he realised instantly that the man must
have been there all the time and might have been a spectator of all his
watching through the binoculars.

But the man was lying in the attitude of one in a profound slumber. He
was on his side, his head was buried in the crook of one arm and upon
the hand of the other arm, stretched to its full length, was the filthy
bandage covering his wound.

Taking no risks, the detective bent over him, but Henrik was breathing
evenly and he stank of rum.

"Drunk!" muttered Larose. "The filthy beast!"

Wasting no further time, the detective ran over to the house, with the
full intention of effecting an entrance somewhere.

But he soon found that the idea was not too feasible. Both doors had
good stout locks that could not be picked all at once, and the windows
were all well bolted, indeed, so immovable were the frames there that he
was almost of opinion there were screws somewhere inside.

Very disgusted, he was about to make a determined attack upon the back
door with a piece of stout wire and a pair of pincers that he had
brought with him, when pausing for a moment to take a good look all
round he thought better of it.

The country was so open and over-looked behind him, and either the
Admiral with his binoculars, or Sir Parry with his telescope, if they
only happened to be on the lookout, could pick him up as easily as a fly
upon the wall. Added to that, he noted there was a slight rise in the
marsh road, not two hundred yards away, and if the man whom he had seen
squatting under the hedge should return unexpectedly, then he, Larose,
if he were fiddling with the door, would be caught red-handed and
without any warning.

So giving up all thoughts of breaking into the house, he went round to
the shed where the motor had been garaged.

Now it was always the pride of Larose that he tried to be most thorough
in everything, and that morning after his inspection of that car in the
shed he was certain that he had overlooked nothing.

He went over it, discouraged the whole time by the enervating thought
that he might perhaps be wasting all his energy upon a perfectly upright
and law-abiding man, for, as he told himself many times, he had nothing
really tangible against the inmates of the house.

Added to that, he was hampered in his investigations by his train of
thought being continually broken, when with the passing of every minute,
almost, he had to bob out of the shed and look round to make sure that
none of the men were returning. He had no mind to be caught there in a
trap.

But he reckoned that in the end he had made a good job of it. He took
its number, of course, and he was puzzled that he could not get the
engine number as well, but the latter he could not find anywhere. He
examined all the tyres, noting the condition and approximate age of each
one. He crawled underneath and scraped at the different kinds of mud
upon the chassis. He tried to estimate about how much petrol had been
used from the tank and he poked about in the honeycomb of the radiator.

Then the inside of the car came under his inspection, and after he had
passed under review the mats and upholstering, one by one, he examined
the contents of the pockets in all the doors. He found the remains of
some sandwiches, wrapped in a plain white paper, and he even took the
trouble to open the sandwiches and find out of what they were made. Then
he examined the contents of a pocket flask and poured some of it into
the palm of his hand. Then he looked at some newspapers he found,
scrutinising their folds very carefully. Then he picked up a pair of
almost new fur-lined gloves, and held the palms and fingers up to the
light, putting them to his nose and sniffing at them many times.

Finally, after a long moment of hesitation, he went quickly through the
contents of the tool box. "Everything is neat and tidy about this car,
and its owner has a methodical mind," was his final comment. He shook
his head in disapproval. "And now I'm going to do him a very dirty
trick, if he's an honest man."

He bent down and unscrewed the cover of the valve top of one of the back
tyres, and putting it in his pocket, proceeded next to let out a little
of the air.

"Now not too much," he chided himself, "for he mustn't notice it until
he's well away from here."

Then, with another sigh, he took the valve top off the spare wheel, and
pocketed that too. "And now I'll be going," he said, "and I expect it'll
be another long wait before they come back."

He returned to his former place upon the sandhill and was in part
relieved, and in part uneasy, to see that the fisherman had gone. Then,
settling himself down comfortably into the grass, he prepared to
continue his watch, noting with some satisfaction that the man under the
hedge by the bitumen road was still in the same position.

Suddenly he saw Henrik come out of his hut, and with unsteady steps,
start to make his way in the direction of the stone house. He was
holding a small sack in one hand, a bottle in the other, and half-way
upon his journey, stopped to refresh himself with a drink.

At length, reaching the house, he staggered up to the front door and
gave it a resounding kick with the evident intention of attracting the
attention of anyone inside.

He waited a few moments and then kicked again, repeating the operation
at intervals, several times. But the door remained closed, and at last
it appeared to dawn upon his fuddled brain that no one could be at home,
and so, with the same staggering gait, he started to return to his hut.

Passing the open shed, however, the car inside must have caught his eye,
and after a long hesitation and some further refreshment from the
bottle, he lounged up to it and passed inside. A good five minutes
passed, and he was still there.

Then Larose saw the three men returning along the marsh road and began
wondering what would happen when they found Henrik in their shed.

But just before they came to the back of their house, Henrik emerged
again, and now more staggering than ever, plumped himself down upon the
ground outside.

One of the men did not come round to the front of the house, but the
other two did, and they almost fell over the fisherman as they came
round the corner.

The detective saw their faces plainly, but they were both quite unknown
to him, and much to his disappointment, neither of them was the
square-jawed man, nor, he was sure, the man he had just seen waiting
under the hedge. They were evidently the two who had been riding the
bicycles.

Henrik at once jumped excitedly to his feet, and thrusting his arm into
the sack, produced a large fish. He gesticulated wildly and was
evidently offering it for sale.

A few words passed between the two men, and then one of them handed
something over to Henrik, receiving in exchange the fish that was then
thrust back into the sack. The fisherman was given a cigarette, and then
pushed off unceremoniously towards his hut, with a half-kick to
accelerate his progress.

The two men then went into the shed, but almost immediately the
detective heard the car being started, and in a few seconds it shot into
view and took its way along the marsh road.

Only one man, he saw, had been in it, and the other, now emerging from
the shed, disappeared round the back of the house.

Larose watched the car through his glasses, and noted that, upon gaining
the bitumen road, it turned off in a direction exactly opposite to that
which had been taken by the bicycles.

His watch over, and waiting a couple of minutes or so until he had seen
Henrik disappear into his hut, he made his way down the sandhills, and
then stood for a few moments taking in his bearings.

"I'll come here to-night," he told himself, "and just see what that
third chap is like to look at. There are no curtains to their windows,
and if they show a glimpse of light, I shall be able to see everything
inside." His forehead wrinkled thoughtfully. "Of course, he was a long
way away, but still I'm half inclined to think that that man under the
hedge was not unlike the square-jawed blackguard who grabbed me that
night when I fired upon their car."

Then in the same roundabout way that he had come he started upon his
journey back to the Abbey.

When about half a mile from the Abbey grounds he perceived someone
walking across the fields in a direction that would eventually bring
them together. He did not recognise who it was, until they were much
closer to each other, and then he saw it was Sir Parry.

Sir Parry had evidently recognised him, too, and waited by a stile for
him to come up. "Good morning, Mr. Larose," he called out cheerfully. "A
most unexpected pleasure, and I hope you keep a good lookout to make
sure that no one takes a shot at you from behind. I'm glad I've met
you," he went on, "for I've been waiting to have a little talk with you.
Now, are you in a great hurry?"

"No," replied the detective, by no means averse to the meeting, "and I'd
like to ask you a few questions, too."

Sir Parry looked at his watch. "Nearly half-past twelve," he said, "and
you'll be late for your dinner at the Abbey," he smiled in a most
friendly way--"so what about coming into my place and having a refresher
and a biscuit?"

"Very nice," replied the detective, "I'm sure I shall be very pleased
to."

"All right, then," said Sir Parry, "and I'll give you the finest of all
morning drinks, a goblet of Royal Shandy."

"What's that?" asked Larose as they started to walk towards Sir Parry's
house. "I've not heard of it in Australia."

"A small bottle of champagne with a hint of the immortal Guinness,"
replied Sir Parry with great reverence. "A beverage that was a favorite
with King Edward." He walked briskly forward. "Come along, young man,
it's a great treat to me to indulge in it, because of my lumbago, and
the very thought of it now makes my mouth water."




CHAPTER VII.--THE WHITE POWDER


As the crow flies, Larose saw that it would not be much more than half a
mile from where he had encountered Sir Parry to the latter's residence,
and mindful of the keen anticipation expressed by the knight for the
forthcoming draught of Royal Shandy, the detective was a little
surprised that he was not now taking the direct way along a path leading
across the open meadows.

Instead, however, after walking only a very short distance, Sir Parry
turned off at right angles to the path and made for the opening in a
long and curving plantation of small larches, that extended almost up to
his house.

"I think we'll go this way," he remarked cheerily, "for although it's a
little longer, it's such a pretty walk and I always like, too, to make
sure that there are no trespassers about. This is all Lady Ardane's
property and the people round here are inveterate poachers." He smiled.
"You see, I act as a sort of honorary bailiff for her, and I don't let
anyone take any advantage because she's a woman."

And he certainly appeared to be most zealous in his self-imposed task,
for he kept on looking back, almost as if he had thought some trespasser
would be appearing behind, the very moment that he had passed.

Reaching the end of the wood and now barely a hundred yards from the
house, he made yet another slight detour.

"We'll go in the back way, if you don't mind," he said, "because it's
not as muddy as the path by the front door," and the detective was
speedily of opinion that the mud must be very bad indeed in front of the
house, if it were worse than that through which he was then walking.

Sir Parry let himself in through a door that he unlocked, and then
invited the detective to follow.

"We shall be able to talk quite freely," he remarked, pausing for a
moment before he closed the door, "for the house at this hour is always
empty." He smiled. "I'm a crusty old bachelor, Mr. Larose, and have
developed peculiar ways of my own. For instance, I have two servants to
look after me, but they are only on the premises during certain hours.
They live quite apart by themselves, in a bungalow I had built for them,
a good two hundred yards away among those trees. They arrive to perform
their duties at 7.30 punctually every morning. They get my breakfast and
attend to the house and then by eleven are away again and I don't see
anything more of them until half-past four, when they return to prepare
my evening meal."

"Very lonely for you, isn't it!" asked Larose.

"But I like it," nodded Sir Parry. "It just suits me. I partake of
nothing, except perhaps a biscuit or two at midday, and so I am quiet
and undisturbed all day, am able to pursue my studies without
interruption." He seemed very pleased with himself. "I have so trained
my servants that they perform all their duties automatically and I
hardly ever speak to them." He laughed. "And I should certainly have
some difficulty in holding much conversation with them at any time, for
one is practically stone-deaf and the other is a deaf-mute."

As the recipient of so much information touching upon Sir Parry's
domestic arrangements, the detective was beginning to feel rather bored,
and, very thirsty after his long walk, was wishing his host would
proceed quickly to hospitality and produce the long draught of Royal
Shandy that he had promised. So he was relieved when Sir Parry at last
led the way along the passage, and ushered him into a cosily furnished
dining-room.

But there a surprise awaited them both, and with Sir Parry, from the
expression upon his face, no little annoyance was mingled with the
surprise.

A tall, thin woman, well in middle-age, was standing upon a short
step-ladder and putting up some clean curtains to one of the windows,
and she turned a pair of very startled deep black eyes upon them as they
entered the room.

Sir Parry looked most annoyed, and motioned sharply to her to leave the
room, but then apparently perceiving she had nearly finished the work,
and that if she were now sent peremptorily away, the room would be left
uncurtained, with another sharp jerk of his head he motioned her to
continue.

"My housekeeper; and she knows she has no business to be here at this
time," he explained to the detective, "but she is a woman of low
intelligence, and I suppose, seeing me go out, she thought regulations
were made to be broken."

The detective was regarding the woman interestedly, and was certainly
not agreeing with Sir Parry that she was of low intelligence. On the
contrary, he told himself, she had quite a thoughtful, if a very sad,
face. She seemed desperately afraid of her master and was trembling, he
noted, as she went on with her work.

Sir Parry, however, had quickly recovered his good humor. "We can talk
quite unreservedly before her," he said, "for I don't think she'd hear a
gun fired, if it went off right by her very ears, and it's her deafness
that so adds to her stupidity."

"Has she always been deaf?" asked the detective.

"No, it came on six or seven years ago," replied Sir Parry. "I had the
local doctor to her, but he said nothing could be done. However, she
wasn't satisfied and wanted to go to some quack in Norwich and spend
thirty or forty pounds." He looked very scornful. "But I put down my
foot on that right away and absolutely forbade it."

He moved over to the sideboard, and his whole tone of voice altered.
"But now I'll show you something," he said with great pride, bringing
out two beautiful, old-fashioned silver goblets. "Look at these, the
Cherubim and the Seraphim, and, as you are the guest, you shall drink
out of the Seraphim, who, in Jewish lore, as I expect you are aware, was
of the highest angelic order. These goblets are very old and have been
in the possession of my family for many generations. In fact, you
know"--and he dropped his voice into a whisper--"I shouldn't wonder if
they were not once used as chalices, and stolen from some monastery at
the time of Henry VIII. A few years back a dealer offered me four
hundred guineas for them." He laughed as if very amused. "And fancy! a
detective from Scotland Yard going to drink champagne out of one of
them! Here, look at it closely."

The detective took the goblet he held out. It was beautifully chased,
and below the figure of an angel was engraved in quaint old English
characters, "Ye guardian of ye threshold."

Sir Parry seemed as happy as a child. "Now you go and rest in that
armchair," he said, "for you must be tired after your walk, and you can
amuse yourself with this morning's paper. I don't suppose you have seen
it. And I'll go and get the ingredients for this royal beverage."

He bustled quickly from the room and the woman, having finished putting
up the curtains, came down off the steps. In so doing, however, she
knocked over a little box of curtain rings and miscellaneous odds and
ends and scattered them all upon the floor. The detective immediately
rose from his chair and, moving over to her side, helped her to gather
them together again. She flushed uncomfortably, and then, with
everything replaced, gave him a shy and grateful look as she hurried
from the room.

Sir Parry returned very soon with the stout and champagne. "No, don't
you get up yet," he said with an assumption of stern authority. "The
mixing of this shandy is almost a ritual, and must be done in most exact
proportions to bring out the exquisite favor. So you just read on for a
minute or two, and I'll tell you when I'm ready."

But then just as he was about to pull the cork of the bottle of stout
the telephone began to tinkle loudly in some distant part of the house,
and he made a gesture of intense annoyance.

"I must go," he said ruefully, "for I expect it is my doctor in Norwich,
and if I don't answer it he may not trouble to ring again." He shook his
head. "He's a big man and very offhand!"

And then, as if flurried at being interrupted in the middle of preparing
the kingly beverage, he popped both the goblets quickly back into the
sideboard and shut the door upon them again.

"I shan't be two minutes," he called out as he hurried from the room,
"and you go on reading your paper."

The detective heard him running up the passage, and then his voice,
quite a long way away, speaking into the phone. But he had hardly
uttered two words before his housekeeper glided into the room and made
straight for the sideboard.

Opening the door, she quickly abstracted the two goblets.

"The master is very absent-minded," she explained with a smile back at
Larose. "These goblets want dusting inside."

The detective had glanced up upon her entrance, and his eyes continued
to remain fixed upon her, until she had left the room. Seemingly, he was
interested in her.

And certainly he would have been more interested still, if he had been a
spectator of what she was doing half a minute later for, with all
appearance of frenzied hurry, she was putting a heaped-up teaspoonful of
white powder, which she had just taken from a small box in a drawer,
into the goblet of the Seraphim from which he was so shortly to imbibe
the draught of Royal Shandy.

She was back in the dining-room, and replacing the goblets and
re-closing the sideboard door, had glided away again before Sir Parry
had finished his conversation upon the phone.

"I am so sorry to have kept you," apologised the latter when at last he
returned, "but I had to take in all the instructions he gave me. It was
my doctor, and I was getting advice about my lumbago."

He bustled back to the sideboard. "Now, where was I? Let me think! Ah! I
remember, I was just going to open the stout."

With a frown, most probably at his absent-mindedness for having replaced
the goblets in the sideboard, he took them out again, and with great
care poured in the stout and champagne, in equal proportions.

"Now, Mr. Larose," he said, "a biscuit and we're set."

He handed over to the detective the brimming goblet of the Seraphim, and
went on fussily, "A big draught, if you please, sir, for that's the only
way to drink champagne." He raised one finger solemnly. "No sipping ever
at a sparkling wine."

They raised the goblets to each other. "Well, here's luck," said Larose,
"and to the memory of a great king," and, after a deep breath of
pleasurable anticipation, he took a long and steady draught from the
goblet of the guardian of the threshold.

They put down their goblets together exactly at the same moment. "Like
it?" said Sir Parry, beaming over with good nature.

"'Too right,' as we say in Australia," replied Larose, "too right I do."
He moved his tongue about and swallowed several times. "But it has a
slight saline taste, I think."

Sir Parry moved his tongue about too, and then nodded, "Yes, I think it
has--but very slight. It's probably the stout."

The goblets were filled again and the shandy drunk to its last drop.

"Now there's only one thing about this drink," said Sir Parry
meditatively, "and that is it makes you very sleepy. I always begin to
feel drowsy after it, in a very few minutes, and then want to lie down
and have forty winks."

"Well, it hasn't made me feel drowsy," smiled Larose, "at any rate yet."

"Talking about doctors," went on Sir Parry meditatively, "as a
profession, I think they are very wonderful," he screwed up his
eyes--"but there are a lot of duds among them, and they make great
mistakes sometimes. Now, take my own case, for instance. For years and
years I suffered from obscure internal pains, and doctor after doctor
averred that stones were forming in various parts of my poor body, and
held over me the threat of most unpleasant operations later on to cut
them out." His face assumed a reverential look. "Then, just by chance, I
lighted upon a great master in the calling, and in 2 minutes he had
swept aside all ideas of operations and X-rays and just said that from
time to time crystals were formed in my body, oxalate crystals, he
called them, and it was these that gave me all the pains." He smiled.
"As for treatment--it was nothing. Only a little simple matter of diet.
I gave up all milk, tea, cocoa, spinach and a few other things and--I
was cured in a few days. Wonderful, wasn't it?"

He ambled on and on, quite content to do all the talking and showing no
sign of coming to the point and explaining why he had wanted to have a
talk with Larose, but the latter noted that many times he half-paused in
his remarks to give him a very intent look.

At last the detective, who realised all his time was being wasted, broke
in upon one of Sir Parry's discursions into philosophy.

"Excuse me," he said most politely, "but I must be going soon and I want
to ask you a few questions." He went straight to the point. "Now can you
vouch for the character of young Huntington?"

Sir Parry spoke most decisively. "Most certainly I can," he replied.
"I've known him since he was 14 and he's one of the best and most
trusted officers who have ever been employed upon my boats."

"But he was not speaking the truth," said Larose sternly, "when he made
out his acquaintance with Mr. Daller dated only from the night they both
arrived at the Abbey."

"On the contrary," said Sir Parry warmly, "I believe implicitly that he
had not met Mr. Daller before." He looked very stern. "Apart from his
saying so"--and he now picked his words very carefully--"I am sure Mr.
Daller is not of the type of man he would be having any friendship
with." He spoke most emphatically. "I do not like Bernard Daller, Mr.
Larose."

"Hullo! hullo!" thought the detective, "now perhaps I'm going to learn
something at last."

"But why don't you like him?" he asked at once. "He seems to be very
devoted to Lady Ardane."

"And perhaps that's one reason," smiled Sir Parry, "for I am quite aware
that he would propose to Lady Ardane at once, if she gave him the
slightest encouragement. Happily, however, her ladyship has more sense."

"But what have you got against him!" persisted the detective.

"Nothing really particular," was the reply. "Just instinct. I don't like
him, that's all."

"But have you any suspicions about him in relation to this kidnapping?"
asked Larose.

"It's no good pressing me," remonstrated Sir Parry, "for I have nothing
to tell you. If I knew anything you would have heard it long ago." He
nodded testily. "Yes, I have suspicions about him, but then I have
suspicions about others too." He spoke very solemnly. "I have
suspicions, sir, that are so monstrous and unbelievable that in
entertaining them I sometimes think I must be going out of my mind."
Tears welled up in his eyes. "But unsupported suspicions help no one. We
can do nothing, and that poor woman there is suffering all the time."

He refused to discuss the matter any further, and to all the enquiries
of the detective just answered curtly, "No."

The conversation languished and died down, and then Sir Parry put up his
hand to suppress a yawn.

"Don't you feel sleepy too?" he asked in a very tired tone of voice.

Larose shook his head, and taking the yawn as a hint, rose up to go, but
Sir Parry was at once all protests.

"No, no," he said "surely you're not going yet? Why, I haven't shown you
my telescopes! We'll go up to my observatory at once."

The detective was not particularly keen, and half inclined to refuse,
but a couple of minutes or so later, up in the big observatory, he was
very glad that he had not, for, taking advantage of the moment when Sir
Parry was adjusting a blind at the far end of the room, he glued his eye
to a telescope that he saw on a tripod, and sweeping it round, got
something of a shock.

Every yard of the way he had traversed that morning could be followed
foot by foot, and not only that, but the very patch of grass in which he
had been lying as he watched the stone house, stood out as clearly as if
it were in the garden just below.

"Gee!" he muttered, and he took his eyes from the telescope to find Sir
Parry close behind him, and for some reason not looking too pleased.

The detective suppressed all signs of the uneasiness that he was
feeling, and remarked enthusiastically, "By Jove! but this is a
beautiful telescope. How plainly old Henrik's hut comes up!"

"Yes," replied Sir Parry, still with a half frown, "and I don't know
what's come over him lately. He always seems to be rolling about dead
drunk, as if he had discovered treasure somewhere, and were spending it
on rum."

"Do you look through this little telescope often!" asked Larose, with a
backward glance at the very big one in the middle of the room, and then
he would have sworn that Sir Parry was about to answer "No."

"Y--es," however, admitted the knight hesitatingly, and then his face
brightened suddenly and he gave a sly smile. "I quite understand why you
ask me, for naturally you are wondering if I saw you this morning." He
nodded. "Well I did. You were watching that stone house there and saw
the motor car drive away." He lowered his voice mysteriously. "Now may I
ask if you have any suspicions about anybody there?"

The detective realised instantly that any prevarication would be quite
useless, for Sir Parry was certainly not simple enough to believe that
he, Larose, had been watching there with no purpose in view.

"Well, I don't know whether there are suspicions," he replied slowly,
"but I certainly want to know something about these men, if only because
they were newcomers to the neighborhood just before all this trouble
started."

"And what did you find out?" asked Sir Parry, very interested.

"Nothing," replied the detective stoutly, "except that they've got a
very nice car."

Sir Parry stared intently at Larose and then yawned again, but, as
before the yawn did not seem to be infectious, for the detective was
looking uncommonly bright and alert. Then, apparently after a few
moments of very hard thinking, Sir Parry frowned.

"I think," he said reproachfully "that it would have paid you better to
have taken me a little more into your confidence." He pointed across the
marshes. "Now I could have told you a lot about those men, for I pick
them up often in the telescope." He paused to marshal his facts. "There
are three of them, and they go out very little and then only to fish.
They have no visitors and I have never seen them speak to anyone except
Henrik. They get their provisions once a week, they go to bed early, and
they get up late." He smiled. "A little mysterious, for Heaven only
knows how they can put in their time."

"They go to bed early," commented Larose.

"Yes, their light goes out about nine o'clock. Ah!" and Sir Parry made a
low whistle. "Now if you want to get a close-up view of them, without
their knowing anything about it, then night's the time, for they don't
appear to possess any blinds. You could creep close up to the house and
look through that one window at the side. That's the room where they
always are."

He mentioned to Larose to pick up the telescope again. "Now, I'll tell
you the best way to go. Keep on the bitumen until you are two hedges
beyond where the marsh road turns off. Then make your way direct across
the field, hugging the hedge close upon your right. When you get almost
up to the end of the hedge you'll see a stile, but don't get over that.
Instead, creep through a hole in the hedge that you'll see close by and
you'll come out within 20 yards of the house."

He repeated his instructions and Larose took them in carefully. Then
putting the whole matter of the kidnapping out of his mind, for nearly
an hour Sir Parry explained the wonderful mechanism of his big
telescope.

Time after time the detective said he really could not stay any longer,
but always Sir Parry found something to delay his departure.

At last Larose started to walk down the stairs upon his own accord, and
his host was then obliged to follow.

"I'm very sorry you must go, Mr. Larose," he said, "for you're most
agreeable company. I always heard that you were a remarkable man and now
I quite agree."

He let the detective out of the door, and then stood thoughtfully
watching him as he made his way down the path.

"Yes, you're certainly a remarkable man," he repeated with a very
puzzled frown as he at length closed the door and turned back into the
house, "indeed, so remarkable that I don't understand you at all."

And Larose, as well, was full of puzzled thoughts. "What's bitten you,
Gilbert?" he asked, looking very annoyed. "You're nervy. Do you think
somebody's been walking over your grave?" He shook his head. "I ought
never to have been given the shandy out of that Seraphim. That's it, for
I've had a ghost looking over my shoulder every since."

The detective had told Sir Parry that he should be walking back to the
Abbey through the wood, but directly he was out of sight of the house he
doubled back and made off in exactly the opposite direction. He wanted
to have a look at the bungalow where Sir Parry's servants lived.

Coming out of the wood he saw the bungalow right before him. Its
situation was certainly very lonely and secluded, for the wood was upon
three sides of it, and even upon the fourth side it had only about a
hundred yards of open space before another wood closed it in.

In front of it was a small garden, trim and beautifully kept, and as the
detective approached, he saw the housekeeper busy by the little fence,
pruning a rose tree. The woman, however, did not catch sight of him
until he was almost up to the gate, and then she looked the very picture
of consternation and surprise.

But Larose, with a reassuring smile, doffed his cap and then made signs
asking for permission to open the gate. The woman ran to do it for him
and then he pointed to the door of the house, making her understand that
he wanted to go in. Here the permission did not seem to be so readily
accorded, but the detective mouthing the words 'want to speak to you,'
after a moment's hesitation, the woman led the way into the bungalow and
then into a small room which was obviously the sitting-room.

She pointed to a chair, and Larose pointing to another, they both sat
down, with the width of a small table between them. Then the detective
took a note-book and a pencil out of his pocket, and tearing out a leaf
from the book, wrote on it, "I just want to ask you one or two simple
questions."

He passed the paper across to her, and after glancing down upon it, she
looked up and nodded. She seemed, however, rather frightened as she
passed it back.

Then Larose wrote, "Now, please do exactly as I tell you," and after
reading it, she looked more frightened still.

Then Larose again penciled a few words--this time: "Look me straight in
the face, please, and keep your eyes fixed on mine."

The woman now seemed terrified, but she did as he commanded, and he
rewarded her with a pleasant smile.

He waited perhaps five seconds, and then putting the pencil and paper
back in his pocket, said in his ordinary tone of voice, "You are not
deaf at all. You can hear quite well what I am saying."

The woman became pale as death, her jaw dropped, and her eyes opened
widely. She clutched at the table with both hands and began to breathe
quickly.

"Now don't distress yourself," said Larose kindly, "for it's your secret
and I have no intention of giving you away. I'm a detective, it's true,
but I'm not after you, and if you choose to serve a very eccentric
master as a deaf woman," he shrugged his shoulders, "well, it's nothing
to do with me, and I'm certainly not going to interfere."

The woman made no attempt at any denial. "Then what do you come here
for?" she asked hoarsely and in a very deep voice.

Larose smiled a most reassuring smile. "I was just interested, that's
all," he replied. "I wanted to make sure that my conjecture was right. I
saw you flush when Sir Parry said you were of low intelligence, and when
you were putting those goblets back in the sideboard you knocked them
together and then you hesitated a couple of seconds or so, as if to
learn if the tinkling had reached your master." He laughed lightly. "It
looked to me as if you knew you were doing something which would
displease him."

The woman had in a great measure recovered her composure, and now the
expression upon her face was one of resentment rather than fear.

"The master loses his temper very quickly," she said, "and he had no
business to call me 'low.' My father was a minister and my mother taught
in a school, and if I am a servant I'm not 'low.'" She began to cry.
"I've had a lot of trouble in my life and a lot of misfortune, and now
if the master gets to know that I have been deceiving him about my
deafness, he'll send me away and I've nowhere to go. I have no friends
at all." Tears trickled down her cheeks. "He can be very hard
sometimes."

Larose, touched by her distress, leant across the table and patted one
of her hands.

"Never mind, never mind," he said gently, "I'll not tell anyone." He
spoke as sympathetically as he could. "Really, I am very sorry that,
just to gratify my vanity, I've made you tell me your secret." He rose
up from his chair. "Now, I'll go off and you can forget that I've been
here."

"No, no," she cried quickly, and she begun at once to dry her tears.
"You, mustn't go like that. You are being very kind to me and I'm not
accustomed to any kindness." She choked, back a sob. "I live a very
lonely life and I always seem to have been unhappy." Her face brightened
and she began to smooth down her hair. "But now you'll stop and have a
cup of tea. The kettle's just boiling. You'll stop, won't you?"

"Certainly," said Larose. "I'd like a cup very much."

And then over tea and bread and butter he heard the story of a truly
unhappy life.

She was a widow, Kate Dilling by name, fifty years of age, and had lost
her husband after only one year of married life. She had had one child,
a little boy, and he had been burnt to death by the upsetting of a lamp,
before her very eyes. For fifteen years she had been Sir Parry's
housekeeper, and at first he had been very kind to her, but the last few
years he had been becoming more and more eccentric, and lately,
especially, he had altered a lot. He was very morbid now. Eight years
ago she had begun to grow very deaf, and she knew Sir Parry had been
glad about it, for he had developed the habit of muttering a lot to
himself, and he did it out loud, and was quite aware of his failing.

The local doctor had said he could do nothing for her deafness, but
unknown to Sir Parry and very much against his wish, she had been
treated by a Norwich herbalist, and now was quite cured. She dared not
tell Sir Parry, however, for she was sure he would send her away at once
if he knew. She had to keep up the pretence to everyone that she was
stone deaf and had no friends in consequence, and never went out
anywhere. Her only companion was a deaf-mute girl of seventeen, and no
one ever came near them, not even Sir Parry. He had not visited the
bungalow for years and years.

"What a lonely life!" exclaimed Larose when at last she had finished. "I
only wonder how you can put up with it."

"But I have my flowers and my canaries," she said--she smiled--"and I
play patience every evening." A peculiar look came all at once into her
face and she regarded the detective with suddenly troubled eyes. "I know
a lot about cards," she went on quickly, "and I'll tell your fortune for
you if you like," and without waiting for any acquiescence she rose up
to get a pack.

The detective smiled indulgently. He wanted to go away, but he felt
really sorry for the woman and realised what a relief it was to her to
talk to someone.

"Now, don't interrupt, please, whatever you do," she said as she resumed
her seat, "or you will break the train of my thoughts and spoil
everything. Keep quite silent and just watch."

She shuffled the cards well and spread them before her upon the table.
Then, in accordance with a ritual of followers of her craft, in dead
silence and with frowning brows, she began picking them out, and
continually changing their positions. Her face became the more and more
troubled as each minute passed.

At last she spoke. "You are under a dark cloud," she said slowly and
with her eyes still intent upon the cards, "and a great danger
threatens. You have recently been in great danger, too--so never again
go where you have been to-day, for I see evil there. You are too sure of
yourself, and you do not understand the forces that are up against you.
I see blood"--she spoke with an effort--"and someone is going to die.
The ace of spades is continually falling into the line." She shook her
head. "You are being deceived somewhere. So trust no one, for the
seemingly most harmless man may be your greatest enemy. In particular,
beware of a young man with a sunny smile."

She spoke now in a hoarse whisper. "But never, never go where you have
been to-day, for you have been standing over an open grave"--her voice
trailed away to nothing--"and the grave was yours."

With a quick movement, she gathered up the cards and flung them back
into a drawer. Her face was very pale and she was trembling.

The detective was looking amused, but all the same he felt a little bit
uncomfortable. He prided himself that he was not in the least bit
superstitious, but she had been twanging upon the self-same chords that
not an hour ago had been vibrating so violently in him.

"Then I'm not to go anywhere where I've been to-day," he said
banteringly. "Well, that's certainly rather rough upon your master, for
I've been a solid three hours with him"--he thought agreeably of the
royal shandy--"and he opened a bottle of champagne for me."

"But he's not very pleased with you, Mr. Larose," she said quickly, "for
he doesn't like her ladyship being so friendly with you!"

"Friendly!" ejaculated Larose. "Why, I'm only there as a detective from
Scotland Yard."

The woman smiled. "But her ladyship told him you were the bravest man
she had ever known, and that it was a fortunate day for her when she met
you."

Larose felt the blood surging riotously through his veins, and for one
moment the memory of that red head upon his shoulder was blotting out
consideration of all else. But then, very quickly, that moment passed,
and, with his face set hard, he was the cold and calculating detective
again.

"Look here," he said sternly, "you know too much about me, I'm thinking,
and there was something behind all that jargon over the cards just now."
He moved up close to her and spoke very slowly. "Now for one thing, Mrs.
Dilling, how did you come to know that my name was Larose? Your master
never mentioned it when you were in the room this morning."

She looked rather frightened, but nevertheless answered readily enough.

"I've told you the master is continually talking to himself," she
replied, "and he's mentioned your name several times, as the detective
from Scotland Yard, at the Abbey. Then yesterday I had to have tea ready
for Senator Harvey, who was coming over in the afternoon, and be there
to wait upon them, and they spoke a lot about you."

"What did they say about me?" asked Larose.

"I didn't catch it all," was the reply, "because I was in and out of the
room, but they both agreed you might have done something that had
happened--to excite sympathy."

The detective gulped down his rage. "Did you hear someone had tried to
shoot me?" he demanded.

She looked shocked. "No-o, I never heard that."

"Well, someone did," went on Larose, "and it is a near thing I'm not in
that grave you talked about just now." He eyed her intently. "Now, does
the Senator often come up to see Sir Parry?"

"Not when I'm about," she replied. "I've never seen him there before."
She seemed suddenly to remember something and laid her hand upon his
arm. "But Senator Harvey was out in these woods last night and met
someone just at the corner here."

"Here!" ejaculated Larose. "Tell me about it."

"I don't know anything," said the woman, "except that I woke up at
half-past twelve and saw him in the moonlight, coming out of the wood.
He stood still for about a minute, just in front of this bungalow and I
saw his face plainly. Then another man came out of the wood from the
other direction and they talked together for a very little while, and
then they both went off again."

"Together?" snapped Larose.

"No, not together. They both went back into the wood where they had come
out."

A short silence followed and then the detective asked, "You know why I
am here!"

She nodded. "Yes, to see no one gets the child. Some men have tried to
take him to get a ransom."

"Who told you?" came the question as quick as lightning. "Who told you,
if you never speak to anyone?"

"Two of the girls from the Abbey," was the instant reply, "Miriam and
Gladys. They are housemaids there. They were out for a walk one
afternoon about three weeks ago and stopped to admire my roses and I
invited them in for a cup of tea. Everyone knows I am supposed to be
deaf and so they wrote it down on a piece of paper for me, and I learnt
a lot besides, from their talking in between, when they were deciding
what to write down." She added, after a moment, for the detective had
made no comment, "and the master talked a lot about it, too." She shook
her head slowly. "It's very sad about the master, and it all comes from
living so much alone. When he's upset about anything, he talks on and on
to himself, as if he were arguing with someone who is in the room."

"But what does it matter to him," asked the detective gruffly, "whether
her ladyship speaks well of me, or not?"

The woman smiled a slow, meaning smile. "The older the man, Mr. Larose,"
she said, "the bigger the fool, and the master's always hoping to marry
Lady Ardane himself. I know that that's on his mind."

"Has he ever asked her?" scoffed Larose.

She made a gesture of ignorance. "I shouldn't think so," she replied,
"for he's very cautious and makes sure of everything before he acts."
Her face suddenly assumed a very anxious expression. "But they won't get
the child, will they, now you are here, and they won't be able to injure
you now you are on your guard."

"I don't know so much about that," replied Larose gruffly, "and I'm not
sure that I'm too easy in my mind, now that you've read all about me in
the cards." He eyed her again very sternly and raised his voice
suddenly. "Now, no nonsense, you know something. Yes, you do, and you've
been trying to warn me in a roundabout way." He stretched out and
gripped her by the arm. "Come on. Tell me at once, I intend to know."

She burst instantly again into tears. "I don't know anything," she said,
"and you are being very unkind. You are making a great mistake, and I
only imagine things. That's all. This lonely life is unnatural to me,
too, and I'm all nerves."

Then seeing from the expression on his face that he did not believe her,
she suddenly checked her sobs and all at once becoming calm, faced him
in a resolute and defiant manner. "Well, you shall know my secret," she
cried, "if you will drag it from me." She hesitated a moment. "I am
unbalanced and not an ordinary woman, for ten years I was in an asylum
for the insane."

"I don't believe you," said the detective instantly. "You are telling me
a lie."

"I am not," she replied passionately. "It is quite true."

"What asylum were you in then?" he asked quickly. "Now don't stop to
think."

"In the one at Norwich," she replied.

"And the name of the superintendent? Now, no hesitation. You must
remember."

"Dr. Alfred Turner," she said instantly.

The detective let go her arm. "And what made you go out of your mind?"
he asked.

"The death of my child. I was a melancholic case and fed through a tube
they used to put into my nose."

The detective cross-examined her sharply, but it was soon evident to him
that she had been an inmate of an asylum, for she described most
graphically the varying kinds of treatments that had been given to the
other patients in a manner that left no doubt in his mind that she was
speaking the truth there. He asked her a lot of questions, but he could
not trip her up in any way. He left her at last upon quite friendly
terms, but he could not shake off the conviction that she had been upon
the verge of telling him something, and had only refrained from doing so
because she was afraid of the consequences, if she had done so.

He walked back through the wood in a very thoughtful frame of mind, and
then, instead of going direct to the Abbey, proceeded into Burnham
Market and in the little post office there put through a trunk call to
Norwich.

The superintendent of the Norwich police was soon at the other end of
the phone and seemed very amused when he learned who was speaking.

"You're a sly dog, aren't you," he chuckled. "On a holiday, you said you
were, and now it's all over the country that you're at Carmel Abbey upon
the very job that you pretended so innocently you had heard nothing
about. Never mind. What can I do for you?"

Larose told him. He wanted an enquiry made at once at the Norwich
Asylum, regarding a woman, Kate Dilling. She was supposed to have been a
patient there for ten years, when a Dr. Alfred Turner was the medical
officer, and he wanted to know all about her.

"And I'll ring up again," he said, "in about an hour. You ought to have
managed it by then."

He returned to the Abbey straight away, and, interviewing the two maids,
Miriam and Gladys, learnt that everything had happened as Sir Parry's
housekeeper had said.

They had had tea with her, and they had written down everything exactly
as she had said, and that was all the information they could furnish
about her.

Then Larose rang up the Norwich superintendent again and learnt that the
latter had obtained all the information required.

A Kate Dilling had been in the asylum for ten years and two months,
leaving just fifteen years ago. But she had not been a patient there.
She had been one of the attendant nurses, and had left with a record of
very efficient service behind her to go and live with a relation of
hers. Dr. Alfred Turner was now dead, but the secretary of the
institution, who remembered her quite well, stated that she had always
been esteemed as a conscientious and trustworthy woman.

"But she can tell lies when she wants to, for all that," muttered the
detective as he hung up the receiver, "and I think to-morrow I'll go and
have another little talk with her. She was certainly friendly towards
me, but she's hiding something. Yes, she's hiding something, for sure."




CHAPTER VIII.--IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH


Larose was very troubled, as, late that afternoon, he sat alone in his
room and gave himself up to his thoughts.

He was intending to make his way to the house upon the marsh as soon as
darkness fell, and determine once and for all if the man who had been
crouching under the hedge that morning were indeed the same one who had
come up behind him that night when he had fired upon the pursuing car.

And now in the interval of waiting, he was trying to sum up exactly what
his position was, and if he had really made any progress at all, and
discovered anything since he had arrived at the Abbey three days ago.

His eyebrows puckered in perplexity. He had so many tangled skeins to
unravel, and in whichsoever direction his thoughts travelled, they were
soon, so very soon, brought up against a dead wall.

He had been all along so sure, as he had put it almost brutally to Lady
Ardane, that her arch enemy must be among those five people who had been
her close intimates at the time of the attempt to kidnap her little boy.

Yes, he had been so sure of that, even before he had come to the Abbey,
and nothing he had found out since had shaken him in that idea.

One by one, he now went over the possible five men again, and he frowned
and shook his head many times.

He had nothing really definite against any of them.

There were certainly some things that he did not like about Sir Parry
Bardell, but it was inconceivable that a man who was as devoted to Lady
Ardane, as undoubtedly the knight was, whatever might be his motive,
would hire desperadoes to go shooting at her car and expose her to all
the risks of a terrible accident.

Still, he was suspicious about Sir Parry, for, in the light of what the
woman Dilling had told him, he could not help thinking that there was
some motive behind the invitation to partake of the royal shandy that
morning. Of course, Sir Parry had seen him through the telescope as he,
Larose, was coming over the marshes, and he had gone purposely to
intercept him at that stile.

Then he had brought him up to his house in a very secretive sort of way
and had kept on looking back as if he were desirous of ascertaining if
anyone were seeing them together. They had come in by the back door,
too, because the path by the front door was muddy. And yet the mud by
the back door was as bad as any he had been in that morning, with all
his long walk. Yes, Sir Parry's conduct had been very peculiar.

Then the matter of the 'stone-deaf' housekeeper came in, and there was
undoubtedly something very funny there. She did not seem a bad lot, and
he rather thought she was of the kind to be trusted. She was certainly
friendly disposed towards him, and had been giving him a warning right
enough. Then when he had pressed her for an explanation, she had become
frightened, and made up that clever lie about the asylum to save
herself. Well, he would go and see her again to-morrow. She had asked
him to come and see her again, and that looked as if she were wavering
and half-inclined to unburden herself of some secret that she held.

Then next there was Senator Harvey--and somehow he did not like the man.
But it was inconceivable again there, that the Senator would conspire
against Lady Ardane. Still, some mania might have seized him and he
could not be overlooked, for there was the matter of his having been out
in the wood at night to be explained, and his meeting with the other
man. There was no doubt the housekeeper had been speaking the truth
there.

Then what about Admiral Charters? Certainly he was not of the type of
man to be a conspirator, and yet--under that hearty and buff exterior
might lurk a man of very evil mind. In the annals of dark crime there
were records beyond number of deceiving appearances such as that.

It was all very puzzling.

Ah! but he was forgetting Sir Arnold Medway and Lord Wonnock, and
leaving them out of his calculations altogether! Now, could he be making
a mistake about them? Was it conceivable that Sir Arnold could be
associated with a gang of desperadoes? He, a man of seemingly
unimpeachable character, and a most distinguished member of a great
profession.

Impossible! Impossible!--but yet, again, history had recorded many such
instances.

Then there was Lord Wonnock! Lord Wonnock, stodgy, unimaginative, a
worshipper of tradition, and whose whole obsession, it seemed, was to so
live his life so that it would add dignity and prestige to the ruling
classes!

No, Lord Wonnock was certainly impossible.

But dusk had passed and the darkness of the night was falling upon the
countryside.

The detective let himself out of the cloister door, pausing, however, as
he always did, to take a frowning glance at those well-oiled hinges.

It was a dark night, fine and clear, and the moon had not yet risen.

Larose had made some little alteration in his appearance, and, an adept
in disguise, he flattered himself it would take more than a cursory look
from any of those he had been brought in contact with since his arrival
at the Abbey, for them to determine who he was, from a chance encounter
under artificial light.

But if he could help it, he did not intend to be seen by anybody,
although he was not coming back, he told himself, without having passed
the 'once over' upon the inmates of the stone house. If he could not get
sight of them through any of the windows, then he was going to knock
boldly at the door and make out that he had lost his way.

He was sure it would be quite safe, for if they were indeed members of
the gang, and being warned about him, had been given a description of
his appearance, they would never recognise in the moustached and
heavily-eyebrowed visitor, the clean-shaven and well-trimmed detective
of Scotland Yard.

He crossed diagonally to the low fence and climbed over it, then making
sure he was not being followed, he took the bitumen for about a mile
until he was well beyond the marsh road. Then he turned off across the
meadows, and keeping all the time close to the hedge side, after a
rather muddy walk saw the outlines of the stone house close at hand,
silhouetted against the sky.

Making a detour, the back of the house came into view, and he saw lights
shining out of both the windows, and, rather to his astonishment, a
large beam of light also from the door, which was half-open.

He crept up to within twenty yards, with only a tall hedge now
separating him from the little garden, and then, the door opening wider,
he saw two men standing just within the threshold. They were talking
earnestly together.

Then one of them came out, and the light falling upon his face, the
detective gave a gasp of amazement as he saw the man was Sir Arnold
Medway.

There was not the slightest doubt about it. Sir Arnold had got his
overcoat well buttoned up and his cap was pulled down well upon his
eyes, but there was no mistaking that fine profile, the Grecian nose and
the good, firm chin.

But if he had had any doubts they would have at once been dispelled,
for, in the act of his turning away, the cultured voice of the great
surgeon came up clearly and distinctly.

"Well, don't you forget. I tell you he wants looking after."

The man in the doorway called back. "All right. We'll keep on the
lookout," and then, continuing to hold the door wide open until Sir
Arnold had passed through the little gate and gained the marsh road, he
closed it and the garden was in darkness again.

It was difficult for Larose to determine what were his exact feelings at
the moment.

Amazement, disappointment, doubt and fierce rage surged in quick
succession through him.

"If they are only honest men here," he panted, "then the explanation of
his visit will no doubt turn out to be a very simple one, but if I find
out they belong to the gang, then, good God!"--he almost choked in his
rage--"I have allowed myself to be hoodwinked like the silliest little
servant girl." His face puckered up in his distress. "But fancy! Sir
Arnold, about the last man in the world one would have suspected to be
associated with criminals! Fancy! Such a gentleman and----" But he
pulled himself up sharply. "Gilbert, Gilbert, you're a fool. Get to
business and find out the facts and then abuse anybody you like
afterwards."

For a moment he was inclined to follow after Sir Arnold and demand an
explanation straightaway, but he speedily thought better of it.

"No," he told himself, "I've got to learn about these men, and now's the
chance, when it's any odds they'll be discussing what Sir Arnold has
just been telling them, and won't be on the lookout for another visitor
so soon."

He bent down to push through where the hedge was very thin, and then,
without the slightest warning, received a stunning blow upon the head
from someone who had been in waiting upon the other side.

With a deep groan he crashed to the ground, and then, before he lost
consciousness altogether, was dimly aware that he received a second
blow, also upon his head.

He remembered nothing more for a long time, and it might have been hours
and hours before his senses began finally to come back. Then his return
to sight and hearing was hastened by the pain of someone plucking
roughly at his eyebrows.

"And his moustache, too," he heard a voice say, "and then we'll wash his
face."

More pain followed, and then he felt water being splashed over him and,
finally, he was rubbed hard with a cloth.

"Exactly!" he heard someone say, "and he's not only that darned Larose,
but he's the farm laborer as well who came up to us on the road the
other night. The devil!" and he felt his face stung with a contemptuous
flick of the wet cloth.

He opened his eyes dully, and far quicker than the two men who were
watching him imagined, acquired a grasp of the situation.

He was in a low room, lighted by a single paraffin lamp upon a table,
and lying upon a sofa on the other side of the room, opposite to a small
window. There was no blind to the window, but a newspaper was pinned
across it. His ankles were tied tightly and his arms were pinioned to
his sides by a rope that cut cruelly into his wrists. He felt very sick,
and, moistening his dry lips, he tasted the salt of his own blood. He
had a terrible pain in his head and felt very thirsty. He saw two faces
bending over him.

He shut his eyes and groaned.

"Wake up, wake up," came a soft and bantering, but not unkind, voice.
"Don't you want to talk to us, Mr. Gilbert Larose, farm-laborer employed
by Mr. Andrews at Willow Bend?"

He opened his eyes again with an effort, and they fell at once upon the
square-jawed man of his dreams, but he sensed instinctively that it was
not he who had just been speaking.

"Come, come, you're not dead--yet," came from the soft voice again, and
the detective was in such pain and distress that a marked interval
between the uttering of the last two words occasioned him no
apprehension at all.

"Something to drink, please," he said weakly, looking up at the man who
had spoken, "I'm very thirsty."

"Give him a tot of brandy, Luke," said the man with the soft voice,
turning at once to his companion.

"Waste of spirit!" was the surly comment of the latter, who made no move
to comply with the request.

"Never mind that," said the first speaker peremptorily. "It'll be his
last drink, poor devil, and you hit him darned hard. Here, pass over the
bottle and I'll give it him myself," and in a few moments the detective
was receiving a generous draught of the fiery spirit.

"Feel better, eh?" asked the donor. "Well now, you can talk or not, just
as you want to. We're not anxious. We know all about you and there's
nothing more we want to find out."

And then, seeing that either he could not, or would not, enter into any
conversation, they moved away and left him alone. Seating themselves at
the table, they then proceed to talk earnestly in low voices, every
word, however, of what they said, being perfectly audible to the
detective.

He learnt very soon, as he had fully expected, that he was going to be
put to death. His captors made no secret of it, discussing in a most
business like way their arrangements for accomplishing it.

Henrik was out in his boat, laying his nets about a mile off-shore, but
the tide was such that he would be back very soon, for to escape the
labor of much hauling, they knew he always returned upon a flowing tide.
Then directly his keel had touched the sand, according to his invariable
custom, he would proceed with all haste to his hut to get very drunk,
and they would then, unknown to him, borrow his boat.

They would then attach part of a derelict plough, that was close handy,
to their prisoner, and pushing out to sea, drop him overboard, about a
quarter of a mile away.

It was all going to be very simple.

"And you are lucky, Mr. Larose," smiled the soft-voiced young man,
noting that the detective was taking in what they were discussing, "that
our friend Roy isn't here. He would have cut your throat as a
preliminary, but we are more tender-hearted and are just going to let
you drown." He laughed as if it were a good joke. "Besides, we want no
messes here."

He was quite a pleasant-looking man, this young fellow with the soft
voice, for he had curly hair, a good profile and a humorous mouth.
Indeed, it was only his eyes that were not nice, and they were hard and
steely.

The detective uttered another groan, but this time it was mental as well
as physical, for he had now recognised in this soft-voiced man, his
whispering cross-examiner upon the night when he had driven from Norwich
with Lady Ardane.

Their arrangements completed, the conversation of the two men died down.
The square-jawed man smoked stolidly, but his companion, evidently of a
more restless nature, kept on going outside every other minute or so, to
ascertain if there were any sign yet of the fisherman.

"Put out the lamp," he said sharply after one of these excursions.
"There's light enough from the fire, and then I can pull off that
paper," and the lamp being extinguished, he stripped the window bare.

"Not a glimpse of his lantern yet," he said looking through, "and it may
be half an hour before he comes." He cast his eyes back upon the
recumbent form on the sofa. "But we're quite safe however long he is,
for it's notorious that this chap always works alone."

He walked over and looked down upon the detective. "Vanity, my friend,"
he said with his pleasant smile, "has always been your besetting sin,
and now you're paying for it. In all your work you've always wanted all
the credit, and you never would take in a pal." He shrugged his
shoulders. "So now, to-night, the wages of your sin--is death."

He was silent for a few moments, with his eyes still fixed intently upon
Larose. "Not going to speak, eh?" he went on. "Still stubborn!" He
nodded. "But you're a brave man, and know it's no good crying out." He
sighed and turned away. "I'm sorry for you."

And surely the hardest heart would have experienced some feeling of
compassion for the detective then.

He was not a pleasant sight. Muddied and bloodied, glistening with
sweat, and limp as if every bone in his body were broken, he looked in
the very last stages of exhaustion. His face, ghastly white except where
the blood was clotted on his brow, had already assumed the leaden hues
of death, and his breathing was faint and very shallow.

But his physical distress, so apparent to the eye, was as nothing to the
mental distress that his captors could not see, indeed, so overwhelming
was the depression of his thoughts that he was almost unmindful of his
exhaustion and his pain.

He was in the lowest depths of humiliation, and no remorse could have
been more deep than was his.

He had failed, and failed just as he had been upon the very point of
success, and it was his pride that had been his undoing. He had known
that he was in the midst of enemies, yet he had taken no precautions,
and just allowed himself to be trapped, like the veriest booby, without
striking a blow.

And others would suffer by his folly. That was the bitter thought.

But it was all over now and in a few short minutes he would be dead.
Never again would he thrill to the trail of the man-hunt, no more would
he triumph over his enemies. Never again would he see Helen Ardane,
never--

His eyes, wandering to the table, fell upon his little automatic pistol,
which, among other things, had been taken from his pockets.

Ah! if only a miracle would happen and for five seconds he could hold
that in his hand! For only five seconds and then--

But his train of thought was interrupted by a sharp exclamation from the
man who had given him the brandy.

"Hell!" cried the latter, looking out through the window. "What's that?
Someone's lit a fire close near."

The square-jawed man jumped to his feet as quickly as if a wasp had
stung him, and, ranging himself beside his companion, stared out into
the night.

There was no doubt about it. The reflection of a fire was coming up from
behind a sandhill about three hundred yards away.

"What the devil is it?" came from the younger man. "It's not a camp
fire. It's much too big for that. Damnation! Whatever it is, it will
bring everyone down here if it goes on for long!"

"We must go and see," snapped the man the other had called Luke. "One of
us'll have to." He jerked his head in the direction of the sofa. "We
don't want unexpected visitors with that here. You go. I'll stop."

"No, we'll both go," insisted the younger man. "That drunken fool may
have landed by the breakwater and set fire to those baskets and rubbish
underneath, and it'll take two of us to put it out quickly. Come on.
It'll be quite safe. I'll throw this rug over him and no one will see
what's on the sofa, even if they look in. He won't move. I believe he's
gone off again, now."

A rug was snatched up hastily and thrown over the detective and then the
door was opened and they ran out.

But the detective was not unconscious, indeed he was very wide awake,
and galvanised into action by the thought that he was unguarded, with no
clear intention, however, of what he could by any possibility do to
effect his escape, he started to try and wriggle on to the floor.

But the first movement of his head gave him such exquisite pain that he
did almost sink into unconsciousness again. However, he pulled himself
together with a great effort, and was upon the point of making another
attempt, when he heard the sound as of the door being opened very
quietly and--his heart stood still.

Perhaps ten seconds of agonising silence followed and then things began
to happen very quickly.

Through the fibres of the thick rug that was lying over him, he saw a
point of light spring up from somewhere and flit like a firefly round
the room. Then it came waveringly to rest in his direction, and he heard
the pad of footfalls coming close. Then he felt the rug being lifted,
almost reverently, as if the one who lifted it were afraid of what he
might see underneath. Then he felt the wind of the rug being flung
quickly away, and his eyes were blinded by a fierce light not three
inches from them.

He blinked painfully and a hoarse, rum-laden whisper came from behind
the light.

"Goot! goot!" said the voice, and the detective knew in a flash that it
was Henrik! Then such a thrill of thanksgiving, beyond all expression in
words or prayers surged through him, for the fisherman in quick deft
strokes was striking at his bonds.

He was lifted to his feet, he tried to stand and then he was caught,
just in the nick of time, as he was falling.

"Broken, broken?" asked the fisherman in a most anxious tone, and he ran
his hands quickly down the detective's legs.

"No," groaned the detective, "I was only hit on the head. I'll be all
right soon." A terrible thought assailed him and his voice gathered
strength. "But help me away quick. They'll be coming back."

"Right, right," said Henrik, and with a heave of his gaunt body, he
swung the detective onto his shoulder and started to run from the room.

"Stop! stop!" cried the detective as they were passing the table, "get
my pistol there."

The fisherman steadied himself under the burden, and then disengaging
one arm, grabbed at the pistol and a small heap of other things from the
table and thrust them into the detective's pocket. A moment later and
they had passed into the night.

The moon had just risen, but it was obscured by misty clouds.

For a hundred yards and more the fisherman ran quickly, but then, his
breath coming in big gasps, he slowed down to a walk. For another
hundred yards he went on, proceeding all the time in a direction
parallel to the sea. Then he stopped, and, depositing Larose underneath
a high bank of drifted sand, bent down and peered closely into his face.

"'Orl right?" he said after a very brief inspection, and pointing to an
opening between two sandhills added, "Path."

For a moment, then, he stood listening with his face turned in the
direction of the stone house, but, apparently finding nothing to
occasion any disquietude, without another word, or even a glance at the
detective faded away into the shadows.

Larose lay back and drew in deep breaths of the cold night air. His head
was hurting terribly, and he was distressed beyond measure that the
slightest movement made him giddy, for, now that he had got back his
pistol, the strong urge was possessing him that he should return
instantly and tackle the two men before they could get away.

That they would bolt now there was no doubt. They knew who he was and
they would be thinking that he would be returning with help.

But he soon realised that not only was he physically incapable of any
further effort, but mentally, also, at any rate for the moment, he was
not in a condition to pit his wits against anyone. He could not
concentrate or think coherently.

And then in a confused and dull sort of way the dreadful thought came to
him that when his late assailants did make their flight, then the marsh
road would be the very last way to escape they would take, and in that
case it was quite possible they might chance upon the very path he was
now on.

In a perfect fever of apprehension then, he fumbled for his pistol and
tried to slip the safety catch. But his fingers were quite nerveless and
he could not find it, let alone slip it back.

He pushed the pistol back into his pocket and half walking and half
crawling, proceeded along the path the fisherman had indicated.

The first few yards were agony, and he thought with every step that he
was going to drop, but in a few minutes he found a position in which he
could hold his head with the minimum amount of pain, and his progress at
once became more speedy, and at length developed into a slow and
dragging walk.

Gradually then his confidence began to come back, and notwithstanding
that his head was throbbing like a piston, he was soon half-minded to
retrace his steps and mete out punishment, for the injury that had been
inflicted upon him.

But he at once discarded the idea when, upon bringing himself to a halt
to consider it, he found that his legs were so wobbly that he would not
be able to use his pistol arm unless he were lying prone, and so he
resumed his journey.

Three-quarters of an hour passed, and having emerged from the sandhills
and now crossing over a meadow, he was just reckoning that he could not
be very far off the bitumen road, when, upon one of his frequent
turnings round to make sure no one was coming up behind him, he suddenly
caught sight of two moving objects less than a hundred and fifty yards
away.

A gasp of incredulity, a mighty leaping of his heart, and he dropped
like a plummet into the long grass at the side of the path! The moving
objects were men upon bicycles!

They were coming from the direction of the sandhills and crossing along
that side of the meadow where there was no path. As if anxious to escape
observation, too, they were keeping as close to the hedge as a wide
ditch would allow them, and from the course they were taking, the
detective saw they would pass within thirty feet of where he lay.

He felt for his pistol, and this time, although his hands were shaking,
found the safety catch and slipped it back, but a sudden feeling of
faintness reminded him that he must take no liberties, and he steadied
his pistol hand in the crook of his left arm.

Then he strained and strained with his eyes to make out who the riders
were, for if they proved to be the men from the stone house, he was
intending to shoot without warning and, at least, disable them so that
they should not get away. He would aim at their legs.

They were riding quickly, and it was only a few seconds after he had
thrown himself upon the ground, before they arrived opposite to him, and
he recognised them instantly.

"The devils!" he hissed, and with the first word his automatic cracked.

The square-jawed man who was the nearer to him, and riding just in
advance of his companion, made a sudden swerve with his front wheel and
then crashed on to the ground, bringing down the machine and the rider
behind him.

There was a loud curse from one of them and then the man who had only
fallen, and was not hurt, sprang up to disengage his bicycle from the
other over which it had toppled.

For the moment the detective waited and did not press again upon the
trigger of his pistol.

He had got them in the open, he told himself, and they could not get
away. He held all the cards.

"Hands up!" he shouted, "or I fire again."

But three seconds later he realised the tragic mistake of withholding
his fire. He had not taken into account the ditch along which they had
been riding, and now the unwounded man, after making a pretence of
throwing up his hands, slipped down into it, as if he had melted into
the ground, and not only that, but before the half-dazed detective could
take in what was happening, he reached up and dragged his wounded
companion and the two bicycles after him.

For the second time that night, Larose had no word of condemnation deep
enough for himself. He had failed again, and this time, with all the
cards in his hand, had let the game slip from him.

And now he was alive once more to the dreadful throbbing in his head,
and physical distress was super-imposed upon mental. He felt sick and
wanted to close his eyes and forget everything.

But with a mighty effort of will he pulled himself together and forced
his numbed brain to think.

No, things were not so hopeless after all, for he had brought down one
man, and he certainly would not be able to get away. Then, even if the
other man escaped, they would be able to learn something from this
prisoner as to whom were the other members of the gang. A sick man was
much easier to deal with than one who was strong and well, and this man
would not be injured enough to prevent his speaking. He was sure he had
not inflicted any vital injury or hit the man in the body, for he had
aimed very low, and the man had not crumpled up as he fell, but had
tried to save himself by thrusting out his arm.

He thought hard.

But, surely, the other man could not escape either, for the thick hedge
stretched behind him, and emerging from the ditch at either end, he
would be at once exposing himself to his, Larose's, fire.

A wan smile crept into the pale and bloodied face of the detective as he
considered what the thoughts of the two men must now be.

They would be in a terrible state of perplexity, and quite unable to
weigh up the situation and determine what forces were against them. They
would be sure they had fallen into an ambush, and yet they would be
wondering by what possibility anyone could have known they would be
coming by this particular way. There were a score and more of paths that
would have led them from the sandhills, and yet their flight by this
particular one had seemingly been expected and prepared for.

He looked round to make sure of his own position. He was upon slightly
rising ground and hidden among the long grass; there was no danger of
his being out-flanked. It was bright moonlight now and every foot of the
meadow was visible to him from where he lay.

Two or three minutes passed and then it came to him unpleasantly that
although he was in no condition for any physical exertion, he must yet
do something. He could not just lie there and wait, as if he were
expecting them to pop up over the ditch like rabbits and give him
another shot.

But suddenly he heard the sharp crack of a pistol, coming from the
direction of where the two men had disappeared into the ditch, and
although no bullet had whined over him, he flattened himself instantly,
thinking they must have caught sight of him somehow.

Nothing, however, followed. He heard no pistol crack again and all was
still and silent as the grave.

Then it flashed into his mind that the firing was a ruse upon their
part, for, becoming impatient, they had done it to see if anything would
happen.

He waited, perhaps, another two minutes, and then, realising that his
must be the next move, drew in a deep breath and prepared for action.

Following the lay of the land with his eye, he saw that he could cross
the meadow under cover of the tall grass the whole way, and strike the
ditch about fifty yards beyond where the men were lying. He would then
be able to look over it and see along its entire length. He must chance
it that the unwounded man would not double back at the exact moment when
he was at the other end.

He would be quite safe, he thought, for whatever happened, his enemies
could make no move to get behind him without his seeing them, and even
if the unwounded man had anticipated his action and were coming to meet
him, then at all events he would have him in front.

Resolutely endeavoring to forget his pains and giddiness, he started to
crawl through the grass, never for one moment, however, taking his eyes
off the ditch. It was a painful journey, and many times he had to stop
and rest, lest he should collapse altogether.

Then the very thing that he had been fearing happened, for suddenly he
saw a man rise up out of the other side of the ditch about a hundred and
fifty yards away, and using his bicycle as a battering ram, begin
thrusting it backwards and forwards into the hedge, with the evident
intention of forcing a way through.

The detective ground his teeth in rage, for he realised that he could
not prevent it. Where he lay, it was much too far away to shoot, and to
approach close enough to make any effective use of his pistol, he would
have to run the whole way in the open and be exposing himself a good
part of the time to the possible fire of the second man, who, although
wounded, might yet be not incapacitated enough to be of no danger.

So he just lay where he was and watched the man thrusting his machine
into the hedge. It was all over in two minutes and then man and bicycle
disappeared.

The detective wondered what was going to happen next, and then,
determining that the second man should not escape too, began crawling
again through the grass, but this time proceeding in a direction
parallel to the ditch.

Arriving at a spot not very far from where the two men had been
travelling when he had shot the first one down, and chafing under the
thought that everything seemed to be slipping away from him, he took a
risk, and crawling to the ditch-side, leant boldly over.

A wave of thankfulness surged through him. The second man and his
bicycle were still there, at the bottom of the ditch.

They were not twenty yards away and the man was lying upon his side
among the dead leaves, with his head upon his right arm, which was
outstretched. His pose was as if he were unconscious, or asleep.

The detective, however, was taking no risks, and covered him with his
pistol, "If you move," he called out, "I'll put another bullet into
you."

But the man did not move and he did not speak. The detective frowned.
The man's pistol hand was covered over lightly with the leaves, and
while he might be unconscious, yet still--he might be only just waiting
his chance.

About a minute passed, and then the detective taking aim, put three
bullets in quick succession all round the recumbent figure, scattering
the leaves in all directions.

But nothing happened, and then with a sharp ejaculation, he slipped down
into the ditch, and springing to the side of the man, bent over him.

The man was quite dead. There was a bullet wound at the back of his
head, and he had been shot at such close range that the hair was all
singed round where the bullet had gone in.




CHAPTER IX.--THE RAID UPON THE ABBEY


It was an hour or more after Larose had bent down over the dead man in
the ditch before he was again in the full possession of his senses. The
injuries he had received and the varying emotions of the night had been
too much for him, and he had just collapsed and fallen where he was.

He had lain in a sort of stupor among the dead leaves, close beside the
body, and when at length he opened his eyes, it was to find them within
a few inches of a tired, white face, fouled over in blood and mud. He
had flung one of his arms, too, as if protectingly, over the head of the
dead man and his fingers were sticky, in an unpleasant way.

For a few seconds he stared incredulously at his companion among the
leaves, and then with a choke of horror, he snatched his arm away and
recoiled in disgust.

Then in a flash everything came back to him. The stone house upon the
marsh--the room where he had lain, awaiting death--the coming of
Henrik--his path of agony among the sandhills--his firing upon his
enemies--and finally his discovery of the bullet hole in the head of the
man who was now lying so near to him.

He sat up and began chafing his legs for they were stiff and cold. His
head was still hurting, but the pain there was now bearable, and he
thought that with an effort he would be able to make his way home to the
Abbey. Then he would decide what must he his next move, for there were
so many things to consider, and he could not determine anything,
off-hand.

He looked mechanically at his wrist to ascertain the time, but instantly
remembered that his watch had not been upon him when Henrik was carrying
him away. Then, turning again to regard the dead man, he perceived that
the latter was now wearing it.

He smiled a grim smile, as he unstrapped it. The way of the world every
time. How quickly the wheel of fortune swung over. So soon was the
despoiler--despoiled!

But if he did find the watch upon the body--that was the only thing he
found, for all the man's pockets had been emptied and turned inside out.

"And to think what a nerve his murderer had!" he thought wearily. "To
stay here and empty his pockets, when at any moment, for all he knew, a
dozen enemies might be leaping down upon him over the ditch side!"

He saw where his own bullet had struck the man, through the bone just
below the knee.

"Well, I am in no condition now to go over him more thoroughly," he
sighed, "but to-morrow we'll come and see what we can learn!"

Then an idea struck him, and with the intention of riding away, at the
price of much renewed throbbing of his head, he hauled the bicycle up on
to the meadow.

But he realised instantly that he would never be able to mount it, for
he was too shaky in all his limbs and indeed twice, fell over it in his
attempts to raise it up. So he left it where it was and started away on
foot.

And he soon found that there was a dreadful pilgrimage before him. His
giddiness came back at once, his head throbbed like an engine, and it
was agonising even to proceed very slowly, taking only a few stops at a
time.

But he plodded on and on, with each hundred yards becoming an eternity
of time.

At last it dawned upon him that he would never succeed in reaching the
Abbey, and he was half-minded to give up all further struggling, and
pass the rest of the night under a hedge. But the air was so cold and
chilling that he was afraid with any lying down he might pass into a
stupor. He looked at his watch and saw that it was getting on for
half-past one.

Then he remembered that it would be much nearer to go to the bungalow
where Sir Parry's housekeeper lived, and he smiled in comical relief at
the thought that there, as well as shelter, he would be able to receive
treatment for his hurts.

A nurse attendant at a lunatic asylum would certainly know something
about blows and bruises, and be able to relieve his pains!

So he turned his steps in the direction of the wood behind Sir Parry's
house and at length was standing before the bungalow where the
housekeeper lived.

The place was all in darkness, but one of the windows was open and he
called out over the garden fence.

"Mrs. Dilling, Mrs. Dilling, I'm Mr. Larose and I want you." He could
not have shouted loudly if he had wanted to, and his voice was very
faint, but the woman heard him, and almost as soon as he had finished
speaking had put her head out of the window.

"What is it?" she asked quickly. "What do you want?"

"I've been hurt," replied Larose, "and I feel as if I were almost going
to faint," and he started to totter up the garden path.

A sharp exclamation came from her, and before he had had time to reach
the door, it opened and she stood before him, in a dressing-gown.

"I'm sorry----" he began, and then she caught him in her arms.

Then with all the competence of one who had been trained in a good
school, she took everything in hand.

She lifted him up bodily and carried him on to her bed. She lit the lamp
with fingers that were perfectly steady. She felt his pulse and gave him
two tablespoonfuls of brandy. She partially undressed him and covered
him over with blankets. She lit the oil heater and gave him two
hot-water bags, one at his feet and one over his heart. She bathed and
bandaged his head, and finally brought in a basin of soup and fed him
with it herself.

And it was all done without any fuss or bother, and with the
thoroughness of one who was delighting in her work. And not only did she
do it with thoroughness, but with sympathy as well, for Larose saw her
eyes fill with tears as she was bending over his wound.

"Now, you're not hurt much," she said cheerfully, "and there's no bone
broken. A good long sleep and you'll almost be your own self again."

The detective felt his heart too full for words. Hopeless and in the
last stages of exhaustion but a little while ago, he had passed suddenly
into peace, comfort and tender care. This gaunt-faced woman was as a
mother in her loving-kindness and the gentleness of sweet heart was in
the touch of her hands.

A feeling of delicious drowsiness began to creep over him and he seemed
to be sinking deeper and deeper into a delightful feather bed. Then all
his pains and troubles passed from him and he was unconscious to all the
world.

"He'll do," nodded the woman as she bent over him. "He'll sleep now for
twelve hours."

But several times during the night and long after dawn had broken, she
crept in to listen to his breathing and feel his pulse. He was, however,
quite oblivious to her presence.

Just before half-past seven she locked the doors of the bungalow, and,
accompanied by the deaf and dumb girl who lived with her, proceeded to
Sir Parry's house.

But the detective slept on and on and on.

Sir Parry was in a bad humor that morning and directly he set eyes upon
his housekeeper he handed her a piece of paper on which was written in
precise and neat handwriting, "I shall not be in to dinner to-night, and
don't you forget you are never to come here except during your
prescribed hours. I am annoyed with you."

The woman nodded, pointing with an apologetic gesture, however, to the
curtains, but her master only frowned.

"She has no intelligence," he said out loud, "just the duster and the
kettle mind."

* * *

Larose awoke at last and felt very sorry for himself straightaway. His
head ached and was very sore. His body ached, too, and he was not
certain he had not got a chill. He was very thirsty.

He looked at his watch, but it had stopped, and he could form no idea of
the time from the light outside, because the blinds were drawn.

There were a water-bottle and a tumbler upon the table near his bedside,
and he reached out and gave himself a long drink.

The housekeeper must have been listening for any movement, for before
even he had put the tumbler down, the door opened and she came into the
room.

"You are feeling better?" she asked, and then seeing the hesitating look
upon the detective's face, she added quickly, "But, of course, you won't
be feeling too good yet, for the wound will be stiff and sore and your
head may ache for days."

"Never mind my poor head," said the detective ruefully, as she was
proceeding to raise the blinds a little, "tell me, what is the time?"

"Just half-past four," was the reply, "and you've had a nice long sleep.
You needed----"

But Larose had started up in the bed, and was now regarding her with
angry eyes. "Half-past four!" he ejaculated. His voice was very stern.
"Then you drugged me, Mrs. Dilling."

"Yes," she nodded calmly. "I put some luminal in your soup."

He dropped back weakly upon the pillows. "Good God!" he exclaimed, "but
you don't know what you have done."

"Oh! yes I do," she replied, "and I've saved you from an absolute
breakdown. You were sick unto death when you came here last night."

She moved over to the bedside and sat down. "I've a lot to tell you, Mr.
Larose," she went on, "and I'm going to keep nothing back." She hardly
breathed the next words. "My master intended to poison you yesterday,
but I changed the poison for bicarbonate of soda, and that is why you
are alive now. Listen to me."

Two hours later, and when it was quite dark, a very pale-faced and
rather tottery Larose was making his way through the little door in the
fence that separated Sir Parry's property from the Abbey grounds.

He was feeling weak and ill, but the expression upon his face was a
bright one, and, indeed, he seemed in quite a cheerful frame of mind.

But the moment he had closed the door behind him the cheerfulness all
passed and his face puckered into a frown as he looked round.

"What the devil is happening?" he asked himself breathlessly. "Has
everyone gone mad?"

And he might well ask, for not only was the Abbey itself a blaze of
light, with every window lit up, but in all directions in the grounds,
he could see lanterns and torches flashing among the trees.

In dreadful foreboding he raced over to the light that was nearest to
him. "What's happening?" he asked of a man who was beating through some
bushes, and he saw he was addressing one of the under-footmen. "I'm the
detective from Scotland Yard."

The man appeared to be in a state of great excitement, and he jerked
out, "The little master's missing, sir. He can't be found anywhere and
we are beating all round the park."

The heart of the detective almost stopped still. "When did it happen?
Tell me quick," he commanded.

"About twenty minutes ago, sir," replied the footman. "Not more than
that."

"But tell me all about it," snapped Larose, "and don't waste a second.
Where was he last seen?"

"He was with Sir Arnold Medway, sir. He had cut his finger and wouldn't
let anyone attend to it. Then Sir Arnold coaxed him into the library and
was going to put some plaster upon it, when he found he'd left his
glasses in the lounge and went to fetch them. Then when he came back the
little boy had disappeared!" The man spoke very quickly. "And we are
being sent to search the grounds now, but I don't see how he could have
got out of the Abbey, for the only door that was open at the time was
the front door, and one of the gardeners was in the drive just at that
time, looking for a trowel that he had dropped, and he is sure no one
passed him."

Larose thought like lightning. The last place where the child was seen
was the library! The library was close to the lumber-room! The enemy in
the Abbey knew of the existence of the lumber-room and the boarded-up
well-chamber behind it! Then if the child had been taken, what was more
probable than that he was hidden there! He might have been gagged or
silenced somehow, with his kidnapper just waiting until the hue and cry
had gone down outside, to return and get him away. Ah! but had the
butler finished with the lumber-room and left the door unlocked?

With a nod of thanks to the footman, Larose ran to the cloister door,
rejoicing that its key had been among the things that Henrik had
returned to his pocket along with the little automatic.

He passed into the Abbey and ran up the long passage to the lumber-room
door. It was shut but not locked, and he was inside in two seconds.

He had no torch with him, but quickly striking a match, saw at once that
the child was not there. Then, starting to thread his way among the tins
and rubbish towards the boarded-up end of the room, as the match
flickered and died in his fingers, he suddenly became aware of a smell,
other than paint or varnish. It was faint, but distinctly ether-like in
its character; it reminded him of a hospital.

"It's not chloroform or ether," he panted. "It's more like ethyl
chloride," and knowing the explosive nature of all ether-like vapors, he
refrained from striking another match.

He groped his way warily across the room, with the strange smell
certainly becoming no weaker, and then, reaching the boards shutting off
the well-chamber, he pushed them quickly apart and dropped on to his
hands and knees to pass through. The smell had now become quite strong.

Holding his breath in his excitement, he started to crawl round the
sides of the little chamber, and almost immediately was electrified by
one of his hands coming in contact with a warm face.

He passed his hands down to the body and with no surprise found that it
was a little child. He bent his head down and heard slow and regular
breathing. Then in one lightning flash of thought he made up his mind
what he would do.

For the moment no one should be told that the child had been found, and
he would himself hide him away again. Then, a watch being set upon the
well chamber, they would catch at least one of the kidnappers
red-handed, as, all unknowing that his secret had been discovered, he
would be coming later to take the child.

Yes, that was the right thing to do, for it was imperative, above all
things, that everyone involved in the kidnapping should be unmasked. If
the child were now at once restored to his mother, then the position
would be exactly as it had been before, with the unknown enemy lurking
close at hand, and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

He lifted the child tenderly into his arms and groped his way back into
the lumber-room. Then, replacing the boards carefully, in a few seconds
he was outside and running swiftly down the long passage to the little
cloister door.

He let himself out and pushed to the door, without, however, closing it.
Then, proceeding for about twenty yards and keeping all the time close
to the walls of the Abbey, he laid the little boy down in the middle of
a bed of chrysanthemums. Then be raced over to where he saw the
searchers were still busy with their lanterns and addressed the first
one he came to. He recognised him as one of the gardeners.

"Quick!" he said. "I want you. Put out your lantern and come with me,"
and the man, recognising the detective, obeyed at once.

He led him with all speed through the cloister door, and then, at the
beginning of the long passage, stopped abruptly and spoke very sternly.

"Now you know I'm a detective from Scotland Yard," he said. "Well, I'm
going to give you a special job to do and you'll have to keep all your
wits about you to do it properly."

"All right, sir," said the man, "I'll do my best."

The detective went on. "You know the lumber-room up on the left there?"

"Yes, sir, where they keep the paint?"

"Good! then I'm going to leave you to watch that door, for I expect
someone may be coming to it any minute, and I want to know who he will
be."

The man spoke in a hoarse whisper. "But I mayn't be able to see him
come, sir, in the dark like this."

"Oh! you'll have light enough," snapped the detective. "There's the
reflection from that light round the corner, over the library door." An
idea came to him suddenly and he added quickly, "and if that light goes
out, tip-toe instantly up to the lumber-room and grapple with anyone who
comes near. It'll be the man I want, and you're to shout and shout until
help comes, and you learn then whom you have been holding. You
understand? You are not to let him go until there are witnesses present.
Myself, I shan't be gone long, perhaps only a quarter of an hour, but on
no account are you to go away until I return."

The detective left the man on guard, and a few minutes later, along with
Sir Parry's housekeeper, was bending over the little baronet, who was
lying upon her bed.

"They've given him morphia," she said in an awe-struck tone, as she
lifted up one of his eyelids, "and, look, there is where they put the
needle into his arm." Her face lost a little of its anxiety. "But the
pulse and breathing are good and he's not injured in any way."

Larose looked her straight in the eyes. "And I can trust you?" he asked
sternly. "There'll be no going back now?"

"You can trust me," she replied firmly, "and no one shall see him if
he's here a week, for, as I've told you, no one ever comes here." She
laid her hand upon the detective's arm and her anxiety seemed to come
back. "But you be careful, Mr. Larose," she warned. "You ought to be in
bed yourself and not rushing about like this."

"All in the day's work," smiled the detective wanly, "and I'm really
much stronger than you think. I shall be quite all right, so don't
worry."

But he was not feeling quite so sure about himself as he hurried back to
the Abbey, for the dreadful giddiness was returning, and, altogether, he
felt very weak and ill.

He gained the cloister door without meeting anyone, and then, to his
consternation, found that he had lost the key. It must have dropped out
of his pocket, he thought, as he had been running with the little boy.
Anyhow, it was a most unfortunate happening, for now he would have to go
right round to the other side of the building to enter by the back door,
and the possibility was that he might not now get in unseen by those he
was particularly wishing to avoid. He was, however, relieved to find
that the big front door was now closed, for no broad beam of light was
streaming from it on to the gravelled drive.

But his good fortune was dead out, for just as he was passing the door,
it swung open, and Sir Arnold Medway, standing just inside the hall,
called out loudly, "Oh! here is Mr. Larose. He's here. Lady Ardane."

The detective would have muttered many bad words if he had not been
feeling altogether too exhausted to expend any unnecessary breath.

There was now no help for it, and he had to cross into the lounge and
become at once the centre of all interest and the cynosure of all eyes.

Everyone in the Abbey seemed to be there, but among the little sea of
faces that confronted him, that of Lady Ardane stood out most clearly.

She was standing by her step-father, and deadly pale. It was evident
that it was only by a tremendous effort she was restraining herself from
tears. The expression upon her face was one of absolute terror, and her
eyes were drawn and strained, as if she were already seeing the dead
body of her child before her.

But the detective was given no time to indulge in any feelings of pity,
for the moment Senator Harvey caught sight of him, he shouted angrily.

"Where have you been, sir? Do you know my grandson cannot be found?"

The detective nodded. "Yes, one of the men has just told me," he replied
very quietly.

"And what were you brought down here for," went on the Senator
furiously, "except to see that they didn't get him?"

"I can't be everywhere, Senator Harvey," said Larose in the same level
tones, "and I had to go away upon some inquiries."

"Inquiries, you dud policeman!" thundered the Senator, "and when you
were making them the child was taken. You told my daughter he would be
quite safe as long as you were here, and she believed you, but I never
did think much of you from the first moment you arrived"--he sneered
scoffingly--"with your gold cigarette case and your wonderful ties!" He
snapped his fingers together. "Anyhow, we've rung up Norwich and told
them you're no good. They've got the matter in hand now."

"We rang up Norwich, Mr. Larose," explained Lady Ardane with studied
calmness, "because we didn't know where you were and"--she bit upon her
lip to express her emotion--"we had no one here to give us any advice."

"But you ought not to have left the Abbey for so long, Mr. Larose,"
broke in Sir Parry sharply. "It was very ill advised and quite
inexcusable, and you haven't told the Senator yet where you've been."

The detective's great anxiety was to get away as speedily as possible,
and he ignored Sir Parry altogether. Instead, he turned to Lady Ardane.

"It's not hopeless yet," he said quickly, "and we mustn't lose heart.
The Superintendent at Norwich is a most capable man, and he'll have had
every road blocked within ten minutes of your call. The wretches can't
get very far away." He put his hand up to his head with a grimace of
pain. "I've met with a little injury here, but directly I've changed my
clothes I'll want to speak to you again."

He left the lounge in a direction as if he were going up to his room,
but, perceiving that no one was following him, turned off in the
corridor and made his way as quickly as he could to the passage where he
left the gardener on watch. The man was still there and the detective
asked breathlessly, "Anyone been?"

"Yes, sir, quite a lot of people," replied the man. "They came just
after you had gone."

"Then who were they? Tell me, quick," went on Larose with a dreadful
sinking at his heart, for the man had spoken so cheerfully.

"Mr. Polkinghorne, Sir Parry, Senator Harvey, Sir Arnold, one of the new
gentlemen whose name I don't know, and Mr. Lestrange," rattled off the
man as if very pleased with himself for remembering everyone so pat.

"Who came first," snapped Larose, "and what did he do?"

"They all came together," was the reply, "with a lantern and torches,
and they went inside and I heard them moving the tins about." He seemed
half afraid that he had done something wrong and added hesitatingly, "I
didn't interfere."

"Of course you didn't," laughed Larose, with a hollow laugh. "You kept
away."

"Yes, sir, and they didn't see me. They only stayed a couple of
minutes."

The detective sighed. "Well, light your lantern now," he said "and we'll
go and see if they've made the room untidy."

But the room seemed just as he had left it except that the loose boards
at the end were now gaping open and the ether-like smell had gone.

He thanked the gardener for his services, and then a great feeling of
faintness coming over him, he asked the man to help him up to his room.
"And we'll go up the back stairs, please, so that we'll be less likely
to meet anyone."

The gardener looked very concerned and well he might, for it seemed the
detective could hardly stand. The many emotions of the last hour,
following upon his sufferings of the previous night, had proved too
much, even for the iron constitution that he possessed.

The man saw him to his room and was then despatched with an urgent
message to Peter Hollins to come at once.

Larose lay back upon the bed, too exhausted even to undress. It was not
only that his head was throbbing and he felt sick and giddy, but every
bone in his body seemed to ache, and he knew he was running a
temperature. And his mental state made his physical one much worse, for
if ever, he told himself, a cool head were required it was required
then--and he knew he was almost down and out.

In the light of what he had learned from Sir Perry's housekeeper,
coupled with what he had found out for himself, the position of Lady
Ardane stood out as a terribly dangerous one, and she must be warned,
with no delay, of what was threatening.

He had not dared to warn her openly in the lounge, for her possible
enemies were there with her then, and a premature disclosure would have
ruined everything.

It was dreadful that he should be struck down at the critical moment
and----

But his thoughts were interrupted by a tap upon the door and the young
nightwatchman entered the room.

"A pencil and a piece of paper from the desk," whispered Larose, "and an
envelope. I'm not very well."

Hollins at once brought what he required, regarding the detective,
however, with very troubled eyes.

Larose proceeded to inscribe in shaky characters: "Don't worry, I have
got your child back. He is safe with friends, but on no account breathe
this to a soul, or he may be taken again. Trust me and burn this at
once. P.S.--I am not very well. I got hurt last night. That is why I was
away."

"Now take this to Lady Ardane," he said, "and give it to her, but only
into her own hands. Tell her I'll be better soon and will then come and
speak to her. You understand?"

The young follow nodded, thinking at the same time that if he had never
seen a sick man before, he was seeing one then.

Just as he was leaving the room, however, Larose asked with a great
effort, "Oh! one thing, before you go. Did anything happen here to-day,
before the child was taken, that would interest me?"

"Nothing that I know of," replied Hollins after consideration, "except
that one of the footmen told me old Henrik came up early this morning
with a letter for Sir Arnold, and when Sir Arnold had read it, he got
his car out of the garage and drove away at once. He took Henrik with
him. Also we've just heard that the body of a man who's been murdered
has been found in a field about two miles away from here."

The detective made no comment, and Hollins, thinking he had dropped off
to sleep, tip-toed from his room.

Now the assistant-scoutmaster was accustomed to shoulder responsibility,
and having walked very thoughtfully down the stairs upon his mission to
find Lady Ardane, he first inquired of the butler, whom he encountered
in the lounge, where Sir Arnold Medway was likely to be found.

He was sent to the drawing-room and, going up to Sir Arnold there,
explained respectfully that he had just come from the detective, and was
of opinion that the latter was looking very ill and ought to be seen by
a doctor. The detective was so weak, he added, that he could hardly
speak, and, indeed, seemed upon the point of collapse.

The great surgeon rose up at once. "Thank you, young man," he said. "You
did quite right in coming to me. I thought just now that Mr. Larose was
looking ill."

And so if happened that a few minutes later Larose, feeling someone's
fingers upon his pulse, opened his eyes wearily, to find Sir Arnold
Medway bending over him.

The detective's mind had by this time become very confused, and, drawing
his hand away, he tried to shout "Traitor," but the shout never rose
above a whisper, and then he was only very dimly conscious of what
happened afterwards.

He thought he was being undressed again, the second time he had
undergone that indignity within twenty-four hours. Then something was
done to his head, and he received a hypodermic injection in his arm.
After that he speedily became unconscious of everything.

The next day, when he awoke, he found there was a nurse in uniform in
attendance upon him. He started to speak, but, she told him that he was
not to talk and he dropped off to sleep again.

Then he thought Lady Ardane came to speak to him, and he called her
"Helen," but a man, something like Sir Arnold to look at, ordered her
away and the room became very dark. Then an eternity of time seemed to
pass before he awoke one day to find that at last he could think quite
clearly, and, seeing the nurse by the window, he called her to him.

"I'm much better," he said cheerfully. "I'm nearly all right now. How
long have I been here?"

"Never mind that," she replied with all the importance that some people
always feel when they are withholding even the simplest form of
information. "When one is sick days don't count at all."

"But that's all nonsense when one is being taken away from one's work,"
argued Larose. "Well, what day of the week is it? Ah! you needn't tell
me. It's Sunday, for I hear the church bells." He passed his hand over
his chin. "And it isn't weeks that I've been here--only days, and
therefore today is the fifth one, as I was taken ill on Tuesday."

With no comment the nurse left the room, and a few minutes later,
returned with Sir Arnold, who, drawing a chair up to the bedside, nodded
smilingly.

"And how are you feeling, Mr. Larose?" he asked.

"Much better, thank you," replied the detective. "Except for being
rather weak, I feel almost well."

The surgeon shook his head. "I know you've the heart of a lion," he
said, "but a little time will have to pass yet before you're anything
like well. You've been a sick man, you know."

"But I want to get up," said Larose. "I must get up to-day."

Sir Arnold shook his head. "No," he said emphatically, "you'll do
nothing of the sort." He leant over and laid his hand upon the
detective's arm. "Look here, my friend. You're a master in your
kingdom"--he shrugged his shoulders--"and I'm supposed to be not without
some authority in mine." He looked very stern. "Well, you are in my
territory now and you'll have to obey me, so you'll get up when I allow
you and not a minute before then. No, no, I know how urgent everything
is"--his voice was very gentle--"and for the sake of Helen Ardane I'll
let you out of bed the first minute that I dare."

"Well, may I speak to her," asked Larose, "only just a few words?"

Sir Arnold held up his hand protestingly. "To-morrow we'll talk about
it, but to-day"--he patted him kindly upon the hand--"you'll just take
your medicine and be a good boy."

"But what made me feel so ill?" asked Larose. "You can at least tell me
that."

Sir Arnold screwed up his eyebrows. "What I might almost call," he said
slowly, "a form of delayed shock coming upon the top of a chill. You had
a very nasty head wound, and from the crumpled state of your clothes,
you had also been lying out upon the wet ground for some time; indeed I
almost thought that first night that you were in for pneumonia." He rose
from his chair. "But there, that's enough for to-day. To-morrow,
perhaps, we'll have a little talk together and tell each other lots of
things." He laughed. "Really, it seems that you detectives are always
getting into the wars."

Larose meditated for a long time after he had gone. "And for a man whose
actions want a lot of explaining," he sighed, "I am prejudiced a lot in
his favor. I don't understand it at all, unless it be that a thoroughly
bad man in private life can yet be a saint in his profession."

He asked the nurse for a newspaper, and upon her emphatic refusal,
sighed again and tried to compose himself for sleep.

The following morning he felt very much better, and in the absence of
the nurse for a few minutes, slipped on to the floor and walked round
the room. But he was very glad to reach the bed again, and made a wry
face as he tucked himself into the clothes.

"No, no, Gilbert, not to-day," he said. "To-morrow, perhaps, or maybe
about Wednesday, you'll be beginning to make things unpleasant for
someone." He sighed. "The devil of it is, you have so many people to put
before the sights of your gun."

All that morning he waited for the coming of Sir Arnold, but to his
great disappointment there was no sign of him. The afternoon began to
wane and still he did not come. Then just before dusk and when the
detective had almost given up hope of seeing him, the surgeon strode
into the room, and briskly pulling up a chair to the bedside, with a
curt nod laid his fingers upon Larose's pulse. The latter was too angry
to speak.

"Good!" said the surgeon after a few moments, "and now you are in a fit
state for us to have our little talk." He smiled. "No, don't look so
angry, I purposely stayed away to ensure of your having another day in
bed. When I have gone you can get up for a couple of hours, and
to-morrow--well, to-morrow you shall get up and come down stairs."

He turned round. "You can leave us for a few minutes, Sister," he said
to the nurse. "We have some private matters to discuss. I'll ring when
I'm going," and when she had left the room, he turned to the detective
and eyed him very grimly.

"Now, Mr. Larose," he said, "I have a lot to tell you, but before I
begin I want to know how we stand and what exactly are our relations to
each other." He spoke very deliberately. "Since I have had the privilege
of giving you my professional services, you have called me a traitor, a
betrayer, a scoundrel and quite a lot of other unpleasant things, and
that you were not mistaking me for someone else is evident, because you
kept on coupling these epithets with references to my profession and the
disgrace that I was bringing upon it." He spoke very sternly. "Now,
please, what did you mean and what have you against me!"

Larose was quite calm and collected. All his professional instincts had
been aroused and he was in no way over-awed by the stern tone of the
great surgeon.

"I'll mince no words," he said sharply. "I'm not sure of you."

"Oh!" exclaimed Sir Arnold sarcastically. "That's unfortunate."

"You were the last person to be with the child before he disappeared,"
said Larose.

"Quite so!" agreed the surgeon. "I was the last."

"Then I know you," went on Larose, "to have been consorting with two
members of the very gang who took part in that attack upon Lady Ardane
when I was with her in her car." He punctuated every word. "I saw you
come out of that house upon the marsh where they were hiding. I was not
ten yards away, between the hedge, and with my own ears, I heard you
warn them to be on the lookout for someone--presumably me." He tapped
his still bandaged head. "And I got that, because of your warning."

Then, to his astonishment, Sir Arnold looked very amused. "So, you were
there," he said with a smile, "when I was bidding good night to those
two gentlemen, one of whom, later in the evening"--the smile dropped
from his face now--"you pistolled in the back of the head at very close
range, after you had already drilled a hole in his tibia."

The detective flushed hotly. "The head injury was not mine," he said,
"but I admit the leg one was."

"I am glad to learn it," commented the surgeon, "for, upon the face of
it, it does not seem a very sportsmanlike action to shoot anyone from
behind, when he's already down and out from another injury." He went on,
but now speaking very quietly. "The explanation of my calling at that
house is very simple, and when you have heard it, if you are the
reasonable man that I believe you to be, it will exonerate me in your
eyes"--he smiled--"from all consorting, as you call it, with criminals."

"I shall need some convincing," said the detective stubbornly, "for I
cannot put out of my mind that you have been close at hand upon the
occasion of two other misfortunes besides that of the disappearance of
the child. You were stationed next to me when that attempt at murder was
made upon the afternoon of the shoot, and the third time, you were close
by when I nearly suffered death in the house upon the marsh." He shook
his head. "The three things taken together look suspicious."

But Sir Arnold smiled again. "Hear me, my friend, and then be my judge.
The explanation of my calling at that house is very simple. I had not
been too pleased with the condition of that fisherman's hand and walked
over to have a look at it that evening. But he was away, setting his
lines, and I did not see him. Then, starting to return, I saw a light in
that stone house, and the idea struck me that I could leave a message
there for Henrik to come up and see me the next day. The occupants were
most polite and I went in and had a little chat with them. Then, upon
leaving, you must have overheard the one who opened the door for me
promise to keep a look-out for Henrik's return and give him my message."

He shrugged his shoulders. "No, Mr. Larose, I had never seen those men
before I called that night and one of them I have not seen since. The
other I have, however, seen--in the mortuary shed at Burnham Market. His
body was discovered not many hours after he had been shot, and from
certain information which I received I was of opinion that his death was
your handiwork." He nodded. "That opinion, however, I may add, I have
kept strictly to myself."

With each word that Sir Arnold had uttered the suspicions of the
detective had been growing weaker, and he began to realise most
uncomfortably that not only had his judgment been at fault, once more,
but also that instead of making discoveries about Sir Arnold, the latter
had been making discoveries about him!

"Well, Mr. Larose," said Sir Arnold with a smile, "now what's the
verdict? Do you believe me--with no reservation in your belief?"

The detective regarded the calm, proud face before him; the serene
truthful eyes; the broad, open brow; the mouth, with its strong, yet
tender lines; the firm, resolute chin, and the whole mien as that of a
man who had no fear that anything might be found out against him. He
regarded him intently for a few moments and then was quite convinced.

"Yes, Sir Arnold, I do," he said quickly, "and I realise now that I was
foolish to ever doubt you. The only excuse is that there were some
things that did need explaining." He nodded. "There were, were there
not?"

"Certainly," nodded back Sir Arnold. "If you saw me talking to those
men, and found it imperative to shoot one of them afterwards, I don't
wonder your suspicions were aroused." His face assumed a most serious
expression. "But now, sir, I have some bad news for you." He looked him
straight in the eyes. "They got Lady Ardane three days ago. She was
seized and carried off before our very eyes about half-past four on
Thursday afternoon."

Larose was too stunned to speak. His heart seemed to stand still and he
stared at Sir Arnold with the face of a ghost. The latter went on----

"It was no one's fault, for no vigilance could have foreseen what was
going to happen. She was with Sir Parry, about midway between the Abbey
and the fence, when the red delivery van of Burnham Market Store came up
the drive. Suddenly then the van turned round and stopped. Four men
sprang out and seized Lady Ardane and Sir Parry. They both struggled,
but it was quite hopeless, and they were dragged into the van and off it
went. The whole thing was over in two minutes."

"But some one went after them in the Abbey cars!" exclaimed Larose
hoarsely and in a perfect agony at the recital.

"Every car was out of action," said Sir Arnold solemnly, "for the
commutator in each one had been taken away. Also, the two motor bicycles
had been tampered with, and as before, but this time a quarter of a mile
away, the telephone wires had been cut."

Then the horror-struck detective learnt all that had happened that
Tuesday afternoon, but there was not really very much to tell in detail,
for the kidnappers had just come and gone and left no trails behind
them.

It appeared, however, that the customary Thursday afternoon route of the
grocery van must have been well known to them, for their work there, as
in the Abbey grounds, had been accomplished without a second's waste of
time.

The driver of the van had been hailed in an unfrequented lane by a man
who was lying upon the ground, as if he had been seriously hurt, and the
driver had at once stopped to find out what was the matter. Then
suddenly, as he had told afterwards, a number of men had sprung out of
the hedge, and stunned and bound him and thrown him into the ditch.

Then, apparently the van had been driven straight to the Abbey and the
abduction carried out.

The police had been communicated with, with all possible speed, but
although the country had been scoured in all directions, as before with
the disappearance of the little baronet, they had not caught the
kidnappers, and indeed could light upon no traces of them in any
direction, after they had got away.

The grocery van had, however, been recovered the next day. It had been
run into a thick wood, not three miles distant from the Abbey, upon the
Falenham road. And that was all Sir Arnold could tell about what had
happened.

By the time he had finished speaking, Larose had apparently recovered
his composure, with all signs of his distress having passed. It was not,
however, that he was not in terrible anxiety, but he was determined that
by not giving way to emotion would he delay by one minute the hour when
he would be allowed to take up his work.

But another shock was yet in store for him, although this time it was by
no means of so unpleasant a nature as the last one.

Sir Arnold spoke again. "In one thing, however, Mr. Larose," he said
very solemnly, "we can both rejoice, for Lady Ardane did not go away a
stricken woman, in terror of what had happened to her little boy. She
did not know what had happened to him, but she had your note, and with
implicit faith in your word, she knew her enemies had not obtained
possession of her child."

"What do you know about my note?" asked Larose sharply. "Did she tell
you what it contained?"

"No," replied Sir Arnold at once, "and it was not until she had been
gone a day that I guessed what you had written to her, and could then
understand the calm assurance with which she had taken the loss of
little Charles."

The detective frowned, with the dreadful thought now coursing through
him that he might have given away many secrets during the time he had
been ill.

Sir Arnold patted him in a most kindly fashion upon his hand. "But I
haven't told anyone," he went on, "least of all, your brother police,
that I go twice a day to see how the little boy is getting on." He
smiled good-humoredly. "Oh! it's quite simple how I came to find out.
The day after Sir Parry had been seized along with Lady Ardane, I
thought it only decent to go and let his servants know what had
happened. But they were not at Sir Parry's house, so I went round to
find the bungalow that I had heard of, among the trees, and imagine my
amazement when Charles came running out directly he heard my voice
calling over the fence. The housekeeper at first refused to tell me
anything, but upon learning that I intended to take the child away, she
broke down and confessed everything."

"No blame can attach to her in any case," said Larose instantly. "She
took her orders from me, and I am responsible for anything she has
done."

"And in my opinion," continued Sir Arnold, "you neither of you could
have acted better than you have done. I won her confidence by assuring
her that I was your friend and was looking after you professionally, and
I got the whole story from her as to how the child had been found." He
laughed. "Really it was most audacious of you to hide him again, and it
was pure bad luck that so many of us went with Polkinghorne to search
that room."

"Who first suggested going there," asked Larose, "for that will at all
events clear some one?"

"Polkinghorne," was the reply, "for he was afraid he might have left the
door open after he had removed some kittens that had been there and he
thought the child might have fallen over and got stunned among those
tins."

"And I suppose," said Larose drily, "that the house party has all broken
down now. Bernard Daller has gone, Clive Huntington has gone and
probably that Theodore Rankin." He scoffed. "The hounds have been called
off, now the deer has been taken."

"You are quite right about the first two," replied Sir Arnold, "but
Rankin is still here. He and the Senator are very busy and out all day,
but I have no idea what they are doing."

"One thing more," asked Larose. "I am curious to learn how you came to
associate me with that man who was shot."

The surgeon shook his head. "And that is the one little thing I may not
tell you," he replied, "for it is a secret, not all my own." He changed
the subject abruptly. "Well, you may get up now for a couple of hours,
to-morrow you may be up all day, and on Wednesday"--he smiled--"I
suppose you will be your own willful self again. I will wash my hands of
you then."




CHAPTER X.--THE HOUNDS UPON THE TRAIL


The morning of the day but one following upon the confidential talk
between Larose and Sir Arnold Medway, a little after nine o'clock the
two set out in the latter's car to visit the house upon the marsh, where
but a few nights previously the detective had lain, awaiting death.

At least, the detective was going to visit the house, and Sir Arnold,
with the excuse that he was wanting to see how the fisherman's hand was
getting on, was driving him there.

Larose was still weak, and the pallor of his countenance was evidence of
the sickness he had passed through, but mentally he was very much on the
alert, and considered himself now quite well enough to start upon the
trail of the abductors of Lady Ardane.

According to his usual custom, he was going to try to pick it up where
the kidnappers had last lived, for it was one of his most profound
convictions that no one could reside anywhere, if only for a few weeks,
without imposing something of his individuality upon his habitation, and
by the evidence of his habits and mode of life that he had left behind
him, suggest to a reasoning observer something of where he might have
gone, if he had been forced to suddenly fly away.

At his request, Sir Arnold dropped him at the dip in the road about a
hundred and fifty yards distant from the back of the house, and
reminding him that he would be waiting for him upon the sands, whenever
he was ready to return, drove off in the direction of Henrik's hut.

With an unpleasant beating of his heart, Larose walked over to the exact
spot by the hedge where he had been struck down that night.

"Yes," he reflected ruefully, "it almost seems as if that charming Sir
Parry had informed them where, if I followed his directions, I should be
pushing through, and I walked into a regular booby trap in consequence."
He shook his head sadly. "Really, Gilbert, you are a great ass
sometimes."

He had brought some tools with him to force the lock of the door, but to
his surprise upon approaching it, found that the door was not only
unlocked, but was actually standing ajar.

He pushed it wide open and at once stepped into the room that held such
dreadful memories for him.

Then, to his annoyance, he saw that it was not unoccupied, for a man was
seated there in an armchair. The man was quite motionless, and except
that his attitude was one of profound meditation, it might almost have
been thought he was asleep. Coming out of the bright sunlight, for the
moment, the detective could not form any idea of his face.

Hearing the footsteps of the detective, the man looked up sharply and
uttered a phlegmatic "Ah!" Then a deep voice came from the depths of the
armchair. "So, you've come, have you, a week late?"--and Larose almost
jumped out of his skin, for the voice was that of the great
investigator, Naughton Jones.

"Yes," went on Jones coldly, "like myself"--his voice took a mournful
tone--"you are a week too late."

Larose repressed the astonishment that he felt, and seating himself down
in another chair, replied quietly and as if it were quite the natural
thing that they should meet. "Yes, unhappily, if you have only just
come, Mr. Jones, we are both a week late, but I have been ill, too, and
this is the first day I have been allowed out." Then, perceiving that
Jones himself looked pale and thin, he added quickly--"But ought you to
have come here, Mr. Jones! Ought you to have left the nursing home so
soon?"

The great, investigator looked scornful. "Mr. Larose," he replied in icy
tones, "such men as I do not go into nursing homes, except as a prelude
to their immediate decease, and I have paid no visit to any such place
in all my life."

"But you said you were going into one," exclaimed Larose looking very
mystified, "and----"

"Never mind what I said," broke in Jones sharply, "I have never been
near one." His voice became almost angry. "When I told you twelve days
ago that I was intending to seek the seclusion of a nursing institute,
as a man of intelligence, you should have regarded it as a polite way of
my informing you that I did not desire to be cross-examined about my
future movements." He looked very stern. "I wished it to appear to
everyone that I had retired from the case, so that with me out of the
way, the rascals we were after would be less upon their guard than if
they knew I was upon the spot." He spoke hurriedly, as if he were quite
aware that he was skating upon thin ice. "But I may tell you now, sir,
that I have never left the case, and the whole time have never been
three miles distant from the Abbey."

A wave of furious resentment that he had been so deceived surged through
Larose, and he was upon the point of giving speech to his anger when
something in the wan and drawn face of Jones made him pause. The man had
been ill, he was sure, and deserved pity as much as blame. Besides, he
told himself, there was nothing to be gained by quarrelling, for Jones
was a most efficient colleague, and with all his pompous manners, was
always worth listening to.

So he just choked down his indignation and said very quietly. "Then you
know everything that has happened?"

"Everything," replied Jones majestically. "There were two persons in the
secret at the Abbey who kept me well informed. Lady Ardane and
Polkinghorne."

"Lady Ardane!" exclaimed Larose, "then it was you she went to meet that
night, when I caught her by the fence?"

"Exactly!" replied Jones carelessly. He frowned. "And I was a spectator
of the scene when you laid hands upon her. I caught sight of you just
before you seized her, and it was fortunate for you that I recognised
you." He spoke very sternly. "I may tell you, young man, that with all
your escapes, you have never been nearer death than you were at that
moment. I had covered you with my revolver and was steadying my finger
upon the trigger, when you moved and the moon shone upon your face,
between the trees. It was a near thing and--ah!" He seemed suddenly to
remember something and went on dryly. "Yes, and in my opinion you
retained her in your arms much longer than was necessary. You must have
seen who she was directly you looked under her cap, and, besides, that
scent she uses is always unmistakable."

Larose turned the subject at once. "But where have you been, Mr. Jones,"
he asked quickly, "and what has made you look so ill?"

"What has made me look so ill?" snorted Jones angrily. "Why association
with a drunken sot who leaves broken bottles about, all round his hut,
and who, when I fell over some oars that he had left in the doorway and
stunned myself and almost bled to death from a gash that involved the
radial artery, was too intoxicated to be able to go for help for more
than twelve hours!" His voice vibrated angrily. "That, sir, is why,
to-day, I am weak and ill, notwithstanding the skill and care of a
gentleman who in his time has incised the cuticles of kings and
princes." But then suddenly his whole expression changed, and stretching
out his hands he gave a hoarse chuckle and croaked, "Bacco, bacco, me
not mooch Inglish."

Larose gasped incredulously. "Mr. Jones!" he exclaimed, "then you have
been Henrik! and all along----"

"Not at all, not at all," replied Jones testily. "Thank heaven, I am not
that beast. There have been two Henriks, I may inform you, and I have
passed as the real Henrik only when it was necessary. My suspicions were
aroused about these men here and I started to watch them. Fortunately, I
happen to speak Danish, and continual and copious supplies of rum
succeeded in buying Henrik, body and soul." He shrugged his shoulders
resignedly. "So, for an unpleasant period of time, I shared with him,
his hut, his vermin, and in order that our effluvias might not differ
too greatly, a certain portion of his rum."

"Then it was you who saved my life here!" said Larose breathlessly.

"Of course, of course," snapped Jones, looking intensely disagreeable,
"and I may tell you, sir, that I was not too pleased to have to do it,
for it upset all my plans."

His icy tones and haughty air completely cut short the expressions of
gratitude that were rising to the detective's lips, and for the moment
he felt like a child who had been slapped in the face.

"Yes," went on Jones carelessly, and as if the matter were of small
account, "when I saw that they had got you and gathered, from my
position under the window, something of what their intentions were, I
went and kindled some straw under the breakwater yonder, feeling sure
that the light would bring them out." He lit a cigarette. "It might
interest you--they must have thought you had somehow managed to effect
your own deliverance, for they searched over a wide area of ground
around the house, before they became really apprehensive and finally
bolted with great haste away."

"But why didn't you shoot them, Mr. Jones?" asked Larose sharply. "You
have just mentioned that you possess a revolver."

Naughton Jones smiled sarcastically. "Because, Mr. Larose," he replied,
"I have a greater regard for the sanctity of human life than you have
and do not shoot indiscriminately. Also," he added as an afterthought,
"that drunken brute had been playing with my revolver and emptied the
cartridges out of it, where I could not find them in the dark." He shook
his head. "It was a near shave for me, too, and I had to hide under the
heaps of sacks that constitute Henrik's bed for longer than an hour." He
sighed. "In consequence I am still inconvenienced by the insect bites
that I received during my sojourn there."

Larose looked very puzzled. "But it was Henrik who sold the fish to Lady
Ardane that afternoon," he said, "and whose hand Sir Arnold bound up!"

"Certainly!" replied Jones.

"Henrik sold the fish and went into his hut to get the bag to put them
in, but it was I who brought them out."

"And you warned me against the airman," frowned Larose. "How do you know
he had been smuggling dope?"

"Because Henrik recognised him," replied Jones. "Daller was flying over
here one night a couple of months or so ago, and had trouble with his
engines and had to come down upon these sands. Then before he attempted
to find out what was wrong with them, he rushed into the sandhills and
buried a number of packets beneath the sands. Then, having very quickly
rectified whatever was wrong with his engine, he retrieved the packets
in great haste and dumped them back into his plane and flew away." The
great investigator put up his hand to suppress a yawn. "It was therefore
obvious to me that, being forced down and unaware if he would be able to
get up again, his first thought had been to dispose of whatever he was
carrying, so that in the event of any prolonged stay, and the
authorities appearing to make enquiries about his landing in an
unauthorised place, nothing of an incriminating nature would have been
found upon him."

"And Henrik watched all this?" asked Larose.

"Yes, it happened to be one of the rare occasions upon which he was
sober," replied Jones, "and he was quite close among the sand-grass all
the time. He avers he saw Daller's face distinctly, and it even struck
him as peculiar that the airman should devote quite half an hour to
burying his parcels, before attempting to remedy the trouble in his
plane, which, later, occupied only a very few minutes." Jones nodded
emphatically. "This Henrik is quite an intelligent man when sober and
not half the fool people imagine him to be."

"But why, Mr. Jones," asked Larose sharply, "have you kept me in the
dark about your movements all this time? You could have been of great
service, if I had only been aware that you were here."

Naughton Jones flicked the ashes from his cigarette. "We are rivals, Mr.
Larose," he said coldly, "and it is always my preference, as you are
well aware, to work alone. Besides"--and his eyes glinted sternly--"you
do many things of which I do not approve. Why, for instance, did you
kill that man they called Luke? You had disabled him already and we
might have got some information out of him if you had inflicted no
further punishment."

For the second time that morning Larose was inclined to tell Jones what
was in his mind, but for the second time he thought better of it. After
all, he told himself, Jones was still a sick man, with all the
irritability of a peevish sufferer. So he patiently related all that had
happened that night after Jones had carried him away from the stone
house.

Then he asked, "But how is it, if you have been laid up all this time,
that you knew I had shot the man?"

Jones elevated his eyebrows. "I had been seeing Sir Arnold," he replied,
"at least once every day, and he, mentioning to me where the body had
been found, I was at once certain it was your handiwork, for it was in
that direction that I had started you upon your return home." He frowned
angrily. "But you know, Mr. Larose, I am not pleased with you. You have
muddled up everything."

"Well, Mr. Jones," said Larose slowly, "I have been unfortunate and----"

"You have been more than unfortunate," broke in Jones quickly. "You have
shown poor judgment as well. Firstly, you seriously inconvenienced me,
when that afternoon you were out here in the sandhills when that car
arrived. I had been waiting for it for a week, and you took so long over
it in the shed, that a bare five minutes was left for me, and I had no
time to see all I wanted." He nodded. "Of course, it was you who took
off those valve-cap covers! I thought so. Well, it was most unwise, for,
from the absence of mud upon the valve-caps, if he had happened to look,
the man would have seen that the covers had only just been taken off and
then naturally"--he scowled--"he would at once have suspected me."

"But I did not know you were here, Mr. Jones," began Larose, "and you
did wrong in not telling me. If I had known----"

"Then the second occasion," broke in Jones rudely, "when your actions
were those of a raw country policeman was when you allowed yourself to
get caught here that night. I was an eye witness of the whole happening,
and you just pushed through the hedge, taking no thought as to who might
be waiting for you on the other side." He scoffed. "'I'm Gilbert
Larose,' I suppose you told yourself, 'and I'm quite safe, because no
one can plot or plan to do anything, except me.'"

The insolence of the great investigator was so studied that Larose could
hardly suppress his rage, but he had always been so furious with himself
about his carelessness that night that he did not now trouble to argue
in defence.

Jones went on. "And what was the result?" He shook one long forefinger
angrily. "You stampeded these men just at the very moment when I wanted
them most, for I had learned they were keeping up a close personal
contact with someone inside the Abbey, and upon the next occasion when
either of them went out at night, I was intending to follow him and
learn who the traitor was."

"But how do you know they were in touch with someone in the Abbey?"
asked Larose, his curiosity now quite over-mastering his anger.

Jones punctuated every word with his finger. "On the day that you
arrived, Sir Arnold advised Admiral Charters to use Ferrier's snuff to
clear up a cold in the head. Two days later the man, Luke, was employing
the identical remedy here. On the Saturday the Abbey party had its first
pheasant shoot of the season, and the same night they were plucking
pheasants in the kitchen of this house." He snapped his fingers
contemptuously. "As Henrik I have often been in here with my fish, for,
sufficiently filthy in my person and attire, and with my artificial
teeth in my pocket, I am not unlike him in appearance."

"Then can it be the Admiral they have been meeting," asked Larose
incredulously, "and it was he who gave them the snuff?" He nodded. "I
caught him once, about to signal to someone with his handkerchief, from
the belfry tower."

"Tut! tut!" scoffed Jones irritably. "It's a woman he's after, a
farmer's wife not half a mile from here. He's continually calling at her
farm for glasses of milk, and he takes her expensive boxes of
chocolates. The old fool! It's the joke of the village, and the woman
only tolerates him because of his chocolates."

Larose bit his lip in disgust. This Jones was like a child in his
vanity, and yet he had so often, in a few quiet words, made him, Larose,
feel as if he were a baby in arms.

Jones sat up straight in his chair and regarded the detective intently.
"Well, although I prefer, as I have told you, to work alone, up to a
certain point you are welcome to the benefit of any discoveries I have
made. I am quite aware that your stay at the Abbey has not been of much
profit"--he laughed disagreeably--"except that you have learnt something
of the troubles of a breeder of Persian cats."

Larose made no comment and Jones went on sharply. "Now I have learnt
something about these two men who were here and you can make of it what
you will." He spoke with the assurance of a man who never made mistakes.
"Luke was a seaman, evidently, by trade. No, no, he didn't drink rum or
walk bandy-legged, and he wasn't tattooed and he didn't smoke plug
tobacco. No, nothing like that, but I noticed that whenever he stepped
out of the door, his first thought was to look up at the sky. Seafaring
men invariably do that, even if they have been half a lifetime off the
sea. It's a habit with them, and they look up automatically to see which
way the wind is blowing. I have always noticed it. Apart from that, too,
he was always interested in ships, and a sailing barque would keep him
looking through his glasses as long as she was in sight. The other man,
he was called Prince, was of quite a different class. He was a
gentleman."

"Every inch of him," commented Larose sarcastically, "and you would need
no convincing of that if you had heard him discussing the best way of
putting you to death without making a mess."

"He had served in the war, too," continued Jones, ignoring the
interruption, "for I saw three scars, once when he was coming out after
a dip in the sea. Bullet wounds in his arm and shoulder and a bayonet
one through his thigh."

"More likely he was a gangster," said Larose, determined now to disagree
with Jones as much as possible, "and acquired those injuries in a
get-away after a hold-up."

Jones shook his head. "I don't think so," he said. "He was particular
about his person, he carried himself well and he shaved every day.
Besides, that was a bayonet wound in his thigh, for it had gone right
through and the scar was evidence of a wide cut." His voice took on a
sneering tone. "And I know of no policeman in any country of the world
who employs bayonets in hindering get-aways after a hold-up." He screwed
up his face. "This man, Prince, too, at one time of his life had
probably had something to do with farming, for some sheep one day
straying upon the marshes, I heard him tell his companion that they were
of the Lincoln breed, big animals with long wool."

For the second time then within a few minutes, Larose paid a silent
tribute of admiration to the acumen of the great investigator, for,
remembering the questions that had been asked him that night in the
lane, he realised how sound the latter's deductions now were.

"Well, Mr. Larose." said Jones, and he smiled now for the first time, "I
will admit that from the moment they were informed that Lady Ardane had
been taken, the county police have shown themselves to be most energetic
and capable, for I have had concrete evidence from the enquiries that I
made from a sick bed, that within ten minutes of the call getting
through to Norwich, they had blocked not only every road in Norfolk, but
also in the adjoining counties as well."

"Yes," nodded Larose, his good humor now coming back, "the Norwich
Superintendent came to see me yesterday, and even now, although a week
has passed, no car can proceed very far upon any main road without being
bailed up and searched."

"And they are of opinion," suggested Jones, "that she is still held
prisoner somewhere in this neighborhood?" He screwed up his face and
asked sharply, "Is that your opinion, too, Mr. Larose?"

The detective hesitated. "I am not certain," he replied. "On the one
hand, a swift car may have met that delivery van just outside the Abbey
fence and, it is possible, have got forty or fifty miles away with the
prisoners before the cordon was set--yet on the other hand, the
under-chauffeur, who bicycled into Burnham Market, said he was speaking
on the phone there within nine minutes of the delivery van having got
away, and in Norwich, the Superintendent swears the news was being put
over the air four minutes after he received it. So thousands and
thousands of people must have been on the look out, yet no one, in any
direction, has come forward to say that he or she saw a car passing at
undue speed at that time of the day."

"Yes," nodded Jones, after a minute. "I'll admit there is something in
that. You mean, of course, that to have escaped being caught in the
meshes of the cordon when it was set, the car must have travelled at
such excessive speed that it would have been remarked upon in many
quarters."

He drew in a deep breath. "Well, we'll drop that side of the problem for
the moment, and discuss these gentlemen who were up at the Abbey, and
the puzzle to me at once is, that having obtained possession of the
child, they made no demand upon Lady Ardane, but, instead, waited to get
her, too." He smiled dryly. "Now I think we can both honorably exchange
confidences, and if you have indeed made any discoveries at all during
your five days' sojourn at the Abbey, then you can tell me and I will
comment upon them." He nodded in great condescension. "But you must
certainly have found out something, to have come to this house and got
knocked out as you did. You had some reason for being curious about
these men."

Yet a third time was Larose upon the verge of a downright quarrel with
the half-sneering and wholly sarcastic Jones and he thought deliciously
with what interest he could pay back the latter's rudeness, by throwing
into his vanity the bomb that the little baronet was not now a prisoner
on the kidnappers' hands.

But he reflected that Jones had been much longer upon the scene than he
had, and by reticence and tact he might pick up some useful information.
So he told him most of what he had discovered at the Abbey, keeping
back, however, all reference to his visit to Sir Parry's house, the
latter's housekeeper, and the recovery of the child.

Jones puckered up his brows when he told him of the straight-out talk
with the Abbey guests in the morning-room, and frowned heavily when he
learnt of the listening box behind the radiator.

"Tut! tut!" he exclaimed when the detective had finished, "then I admit
I have to a great extent misjudged you. That discovery of how the
scoundrel had been learning of Lady Ardane's intentions was a very
valuable one and really"--he smiled quite genially now--"I ought to have
thought of it myself." He nodded. "Yes it was bad luck that you got
nothing by it." He thought for a moment. "Now tell me candidly, whom do
you suspect?"

The detective's reply was prompt and instant. "Sir Parry, the Senator,
Clive Huntington, and the American Rankin," he said. "I suspect them all
and cannot separate them."

"Ah!" exclaimed Jones gleefully "so you are rehabilitating yourself in
my estimation." His eyes glowed. "I suspect them all, too, and, as with
you, I cannot separate them. Sir Parry and the Senator, I believe, are
the master minds, and Huntington and Rankin are their jackals." He held
up one warning finger. "But wait. I would add Daller to the list."

Larose spoke very quietly. "Daller doesn't enter into it now," he said,
"for last night he was found murdered in his rooms in Wickham Chambers,
Albury street. Stabbed to the heart and no trace of his murderer to be
found. The Superintendent phoned me from Norwich this morning."

Jones almost jumped from his chair, and then, sinking back, gave a long
whistle. "Wheels within wheels," he muttered, "and now we have another
line of investigation to follow up. Dear me! dear me!" he went on, "and
from the moment you told me you were of opinion Huntington and Daller
were no strangers to each other, it came to me in a lightning flash that
we might get at the whole gang through the airman. I have been making
enquiries of a friend of mine in the Customs and have learnt they have
been curious about Daller for some time. Dear me!" he repeated again,
"what a piece of bad luck."

"Yes," said Larose, "the Superintendent told me this morning that for a
long time they had been suspecting a great deal more about Daller than
any one thought."

"And your work being nearly all homicidal cases," commented Jones sadly,
"you, of course, knew nothing about it. What a pity! What a pity!" He
sighed. "But now to return to that lot who were at the Abbey." He shook
his head vexatiously. "I never did like Sir Parry, for, with all his
outward charm of manner, he looked to me like a man who was always
drugging his mind with unnatural thoughts, and he has been by no means,
too, the upright business man of cold and severe probity that people
think." He thumped upon the side of the chair. "He was a rum-runner for
one thing, and certain vessels of the Bardell line had a most evil
reputation on the American coast. I've no doubt young Huntington picked
up his villainy there, and was hand in glove with him in the trade."

The great investigator regarded Larose very shrewdly. "Now, did you
never notice anything in Sir Parry's attitude toward Lady Ardane?" he
asked.

"He was most devoted to her, if that's what you mean," replied Larose.

"Yes," snapped Jones, "with would-be lover-like devotion, certainly not
a paternal one." He laughed scornfully. "The old reprobate! Why, he's
most likely to have been the very one to make a nightly pilgrimage and
stand upon that box to watch"--he scowled--"but there, there--" He
looked interrogatively at Larose. "Now, you must have noticed how he
used to follow her about with his eyes."

Larose was annoyed at the trend the conversation was taking. "Of course
I saw it," he replied quickly, "and it is inconceivable that with this
devotion to her, he could have been deliberately torturing her during
all these weeks with the thought that at any moment she might lose her
child."

"That's nothing," argued Jones "for nearly everything about this case is
inconceivable, and my opinion is that both Sir Parry and the Senator are
bad eggs--but bad in a different way. Now about the Senator. I have had
enquiries made about him by my agents in America and this is what I have
found out. He is a gambler and a reckless one at that. Last year he lost
huge sums over the failure of the Argentine wheat crop, and it was
confidently predicted he was bankrupt. But he came hurriedly over here
to see his step-daughter and huge credits were cabled at once, and he
was saved. Then his affairs at the present time are not too good, and he
has again been worrying her for money, but this time I think he has been
refused, because some weeks back he sulked for a whole day."

"But how on earth do you know all this?" asked Larose. "I'm sure Lady
Ardane never told you."

Jones laughed. "Ah! then I have had an advantage over you," he replied,
"for Polkinghorne has been informing me of quite a lot of things I
should not otherwise of learnt. No, no," he went on, noting the
disgusted expression upon Larose's face, "don't run away with the idea
that Polkinghorne is a traitor, for he is not. He would do anything in
the world for his mistress, and on that account he thought it his duty
to tell me. I may add that I have known Polkinghorne for some years. He
is an old client of mine, and came to me once in great trouble when one
of his cats had been stolen. I was the means of restoring the animal to
him, for I found the thief among the domestic staff. But to return to
the Senator. A month back he tried to borrow from Sir Parry, but met
with a rebuff, there, too, for Polkinghorne heard Sir Parry saying he
was sorry, but all his money was tied up. Then he took to chaffing Sir
Parry about his age, before Lady Ardane, and their relations were
strained until a couple of weeks ago, when all at once they became quite
friendly again, and the Senator has been almost deferential to Sir Parry
ever since." He drew in a deep breath. "Now, what do you think of it
all?"

The detective was silent for a moment. "But where does this man Rankin
come in," he asked, "for if the Senator is in it, Rankin is in it too,
for they are thick as thieves together, and it was the Senator who
prevented my searching his room."

"Bah!" scoffed Jones, "he is a crook for sure, and Rankin is not his
name." He frowned and carved the air again with his long forefinger. "I
can't place that man, and yet I am sure I have seen his face in an
American newspaper somewhere, in connection with a prosecution of
certain members of a gang." He rose from his chair and began pacing up
and down the room. "But the chief thing that puzzles me is, why they
wanted Lady Ardane as well as the child? Either would have answered
their purpose equally well for demanding ransom!"

"When did you last see Lady Ardane?" asked Larose evading the question.

"The night after the day they tried to shoot you," replied Jones, "Ah!"
he nodded quickly, "and that precious Rankin did that. Polkinghorne says
he ran up to the Senator and whispered something directly he came in,
and old Harvey looked as glum as if he were going to be shot himself.
Polkinghorne, too, heard him distinctly mention the word 'macintosh.'"

He sank down into his chair again. "Well, to sum the whole matter up,
Sir Parry and the Senator are under strong suspicion, and they are
probably working in collaboration with the idea, perhaps, that Harvey is
to receive a huge sum of money if her ladyship can be induced by threats
or otherwise to marry Sir Parry. That's all I can make out of it, at any
rate." A thought struck him and he asked sharply. "What's Senator Harvey
doing now?"

"Making a house-to-house search of every likely habitation within a
radius of twenty miles," replied Larose grimly. "Rankin is helping him,
and two plain-clothes men from Norwich have been detailed to accompany
them."

"Really! Really!" scoffed Jones, "and it will be a nice little picnic
for them all together." He nodded solemnly. "I have myself two very
capable helpers coming down to meet me here today. Both old hands. One's
just out, after seven years, and the other is referred to in police
circles as an habitual offender. He is a shining light in the
underworld, this chap, but was a prize-fighter in old days, and well
known as The Limehouse Bruiser. His name is Bloggs. I saw him once give
Stammering Jack, the Yorkshire champion, a glorious knock-out in the
tenth round." He rubbed his hands together. "A very useful man, I assure
you, to have in a tight corner."

"Ah! one thing more," he exclaimed as Larose was getting up to go round
the house, "I don't understand this." He spoke very slowly. "If Sir
Parry is in it up to the neck, as we both believe, why did they go
through the farce of kidnapping him as well? The riding away of two
persons, instead of one, would certainly not make it easier for them!"

"It looks to me as if Sir Parry acted as a decoy," replied Larose, "and
drew Lady Ardane far enough away from the house so that they could get
hold of her before help could arrive."

"I thought of that," said Jones instantly, "but that doesn't explain why
they took him. I understand, too, that he received rough usage from them
and was actually knocked down."

"He didn't actually fall," said Larose, "for another man caught him just
as he was going down." He shook his head. "It's quite possible it may
have been all play-acting, but still with you I understand why he was
taken." He turned to the door. "Well, now I think we've talked over
everything, and so I'll just be casting an eye round and see what I can
pick up."

"You won't learn much," remarked Jones with a cold smile, "for I've been
everywhere and drawn almost blank. Second-hand furniture, every bit;
mattresses and pillow, new, but tags of place of origin all torn off.
Cooking utensils new, likewise the few knives and forks. Lived a lot on
tinned stuff, but all of quite good quality. Plenty of newspapers about,
but every one a London one. A few books that are moderately suggestive
and an expensive fountain pen, practically new. They left in a great
hurry and burnt three or four newspapers in the fire, but can pick out
no bits, the burning having been carefully done. Apparently had
everything ready for quick flight at any time, and, to my thinking, they
were anticipating going off very closely about when they did."

"What do you mean?" asked Larose. "They couldn't have foreseen what was
going to happen here, that I should be coming that night."

"Perhaps not," said Jones, "but you remember I told you they were
plucking the pheasant upon the same night of the shoot, when it had only
been killed a few hours! Well, would a man like this Prince, who is most
particular about his food, have been intending to cook the bird
straightaway if he knew he could have hung it for a few days? Certainly
not. Therefore, he was expecting to clear off any time, and intended to
enjoy the pheasant as best he could." He waved his arm round the room.
"But get on with your investigations, please, for I want to be left
alone to think."

The detective suppressed a smile, and, leaving Jones to his meditations,
proceeded to go minutely over the house, soon, however, coming to the
conclusion that Jones' terse epitome of its contents was quite correct.
The soiled and scanty furniture was impressed with many personalities
and nothing was to be learned there. As Jones had said, too, the men
certainly lived well, for the emptied tins in the rubbish tip had all
contained food of good quality, the best salmon and most expensive
sardines. Also he had noticed some empty bottles of vintage burgundy,
all half ones, however, with the labels, 'Chambertin, 1904.'

"And only one wineglass among those tumblers on the chimney-piece," he
murmured. "Yes, the two men were of quite different class and entirely
different in their tastes, too. One apparently drank beer and smoked the
filthy pipe that he left on the floor by his bed, and the other smoked
Abdullah cigarettes and enjoyed a vintage wine."

Returning to the living room he thoughtfully regarded the books and
magazines upon the table, that he had already once gone through, noting
out of the tail of his eye that Jones was now regarding him intently. A
number of cheap paper novels of the detective and adventurous kind, some
current monthly magazines, a copy of the British Medical Journal, dated
September 4th, and two historical and scientific works. H. G. Wells's
'The Outline of History' and Haldane's 'The Inequality of Man,' both
evidently quite recent purchases, and each showing upon their covers
where the bookseller's label had been torn off.

He picked up the British Medical Journal. There was a big oily-looking
smear upon the cover and he gave it a hard sniff. Then, re-seating
himself, he began turning over the pages, to try and make out what
possible interest it could have been to the two men who had been living
there. The titles of the papers and articles, he thought, did not
certainly seem too interesting. 'Duodenal Ulcer,' he read, 'The
Deficiency Anaemias of Childhood,' 'Measles,' 'Anuerism of the Aorta,'
and then he came to a well-thumbed page with a heading upon it, 'Basal
Narcotics.'

"Ah! that's it," he thought instantly. "I told Sir Arnold that the
criminal of to-day was scientific."

He read quickly through the article, and came upon the names of many
drugs that he had never heard of, Avertin, Nembutal, Sodium Amytal,
etc., and finally Sodium Evipan, faintly underlined in pencil. He turned
over the other pages and paused for a few seconds when upon one of them
he came to an erasure in ink. Under the title of a short article, 'An
Unusual Case of Hay-fever,' was the name of E B. Smith, M.R.C.S.,
L.R.C.P., and the letter B, in the initials had been run through and
over it had been put the letter D.

He was turning to the following page when suddenly the hum of a car was
heard outside, and Jones jumped quickly to his feet and peered out of
the window.

"Hullo! hullo!" he exclaimed "someone's pulling up here, and by Jupiter,
I do believe it's that Huntington. Yes, it is. Quick, back to our seats
and he'll be inside before he knows that we are here. But what the deuce
can he want?"

Satisfying himself with one quick look that it was indeed Sir Parry's
friend, Larose dropped back into his chair, and the two waited in
silence for Huntington to come in.

But he did not come in at once.

They heard his footsteps right up to the door, and they stopped abruptly
and quite half a minute passed, as if, finding the door ajar, he was
uncertain what to do. Then, apparently realising that if anyone were in
the house, he must have heard him outside, he tapped sharply with his
knuckles upon the door.

"Come in," called out Jones, making a quick sign to the detective not to
speak, "Come in."

The door was at once pushed wide open, and Clive Huntington, with his
hat in his hand and a most pleasant smile upon his lips, stepped into
the room. For the moment he did not see Naughton Jones, but his eyes
falling at once upon Larose, who was sitting directly in the light, his
face dropped sharply. But it was only for an instant, and then he was
all smiles again.

"Now, I do hope you have got over your illness, Mr. Larose," he said
with the utmost politeness. "We were all very concerned when we heard
you were laid up."

"Yes, thank you," replied the detective, smiling back and determined to
keep up the farce. "I'm quite all right again, but I got a nice crack
over the head here, about a week ago, and now I'm well enough, I've come
back to see if the gentleman who gave it me has left his name and
address."

He thought suddenly of a way of getting a rise out of Naughton Jones,
and made a motion of his hand in the latter's direction. "But let me
introduce you to my friend, Dr. Wisefellow, of Saint Bartholomew's,
London. Doctor, this is Mr. Clive Huntington, who was staying with us in
the Abbey, up to a few days ago."

Jones bowed gravely, and the imp of mischief stirring in Larose, he went
on, "But it's no good, I am afraid, Mr. Huntington, asking my friend for
a prescription, because, although he's in mufti, he's a doctor of
divinity and not one of medicine."

"Just so, just so," commented Jones solemnly, and at the same time
looking rather annoyed. "A minister of the soul and not of the body, and
as my parish includes the Newgate Prison, I have plenty of work to do."
He nodded in the direction of Larose. "But it is pleasing sometimes to
be off duty and able to advise my young friend here in his work." He
shook his head sadly. "He makes bad mistakes sometimes."

Young Huntington looked highly delighted. "Yes, he does, sir," he
exclaimed, "for only a few days ago he was accusing me, among some
others, happily, of having made an attempt upon his life."

"Pooh, pooh!" commented Jones. "That's nothing. He's always thinking
people must be coming after him now he's such a famous man."

Larose smiled a sickly smile, at the same time making a mental note that
he would not again attempt to make fun of Jones in public, for the
fellow had a nasty way of hitting back.

Jones was now looking in a most friendly fashion at their visitor. "Sit
down, sir," he said pointing to a chair near the chimney-piece, "don't
stand on ceremony," and Huntington, after a moment's hesitation,
complied.

Then Larose, some of his pleasantness having passed, looked intently at
Huntington and demanded rather sharply, "And what are you wanting here,
if I may ask?"

The young man looked unhappy, and shrugged his shoulders. "What we are
all wanting, Mr. Larose," he replied gravely, "some news of my
benefactor and Lady Ardane." He raised his voice dramatically. "The
Abbey draws me like a magnet and I cannot keep away. I am not rejoining
my ship for a little time, and so I came down here again. Then, passing
along the high road, I thought I would get a glimpse of the sea, and
imagine my surprise then, when I saw Sir Arnold's car upon the sands.
Then, seeing the door open, I half thought he might be in here, so came
to have a little chat with him." He smiled his pleasant smile again. "So
very simple and yet such a marvelous coincidence that I should meet you
again!"

Then suddenly Naughton Jones plucked a little spirit flask from his
pocket and put his hand over his heart.

"I feel faint," he said weakly. He pointed to a glass upon the chimney
piece, just above where Huntington was sitting. "Be so kind, will you,
sir," he went on shakily, "and hand me that glass there. Ah, thank you
so much. I'm getting old and liable to these attacks."

He tipped a generous tablespoonful of the spirit into the tumbler that
had been handed him and sipped at it with evident benefit, for at once
his voice grew stronger. "Yes, Sir Arnold is down here, and I expect
you'll find him in Henrik's hut. I know he was coming to see the fellow
this morning." He put his hand upon his heart again. "But, if you don't
mind, I think you had better leave me, for I'm always better when left
alone."

Huntington rose up with alacrity, as if he were pleased to escape any
further questioning. "Well, I hope you'll soon be better, sir," he said.
"I am sorry to leave you, but I'm rather in a hurry too," and then,
waving his hand to Larose as if they were on the best of terms, he
passed out of the room, and they heard his steps upon the garden path
and then the starting up of his car.

Jones, with all signs of his sudden indisposition having disappeared,
sprang to the window, still, however, retaining the tumbler in his hand.

"Yes, he's gone," he exclaimed gleefully, "and I've got his fingerprints
here." His breath came in quick gasps. "Do you know, Mr. Larose, a
sudden inspiration has come into my head. I won't tell you all now, but
one part of it is that that young fellow who has just gone out is a
blood relation of the man Prince, who has those pleasant manners, too.
They have both that pretty curling hair, their foreheads are of the same
shape, and when they smile, they arch their eyebrows in exactly the same
way. Also, their voices are not dissimilar." His eyes twinkled in
amusement. "I feel much, much better now, and whilst he's having that
little chat with Sir Arnold, we'll go over and have a good look at his
car."

But they got no chance of looking at his car, for, passing out of the
house, they saw, to their disgust, that, making no attempt to find Sir
Arnold, Huntington had turned his car round and now, at a lightning
pace, was shooting back along the road he had come.

"No good! no good!" exclaimed Jones ruefully. "We frightened him and he
made sure to give us no chance. Still one thing, we are certain now that
he is in with them." He smiled sourly at the detective. "I enjoyed your
little pleasantry, but, in other circumstances, it might have been
unwise." He drew himself up proudly. "Still, upon this occasion, it
doesn't matter, for directly he gives them my description, they'll all
know at once to whom he has been talking."

Larose felt altogether too disgusted to make any comment, for he saw,
now that Jones had mentioned it, the resemblance between Huntington and
the man Prince. He was furious with himself, too, in the remembrance
that several times whilst at the Abbey, he had been thinking that there
was something familiar in Huntington's voice, and yet, putting it all
down to imagination, he had never troubled to harass his mind as to
where he had heard the tones before. Yet another thing--it was
unpardonable that he had not himself obtained Huntington's finger-prints
when the latter had been at the Abbey. He had thought about it once, but
he had not considered it necessary, for there was nothing of the
jail-bird about young Huntington, and his youth and bearing were all
against his having served any time in a prison. Yes, he ought to have
obtained them, although even now he was certain there would be no record
of them with the authorities.

They returned disconsolately to the house, and then Jones said quickly,
"Now, he came here to fetch something; that's certain. Something they
left behind, probably of no value, but something that, after all these
days, they suddenly came to think might put us on the trail if we found
it." He looked round the room. "Now what can it be? You have been
through everything and so have I." He shook his head frowningly. "Never
mind, I shall think of it presently. I am an old dog for the trail, and
for me the scent is never cold. Come on, we'll go through everything
again."




CHAPTER XI.--THE ART OF LAROSE


An hour later, having bidden goodbye to Naughton Jones, who, however,
did not take the slightest notice and remained sitting back in the
armchair with his eyes closed as if he had fallen asleep, Larose was
again seated in Sir Arnold's car and being driven back to the Abbey.

"I did not intrude upon you," said the surgeon, "for Henrik told me Mr.
Jones was in there, too." He smiled. "Our learned friend I know is very
temperamental, and if I had disturbed him, without being sent for, it is
quite probable I might have only received a snub for my pains. A very
remarkable man, Mr. Jones, but he's most touchy sometimes."

"Yes, and he's not in too good a mood this morning," said Larose, "but
he's quite a genius in his way, and his kind often want a lot of
handling."

"So we found," commented Sir Arnold dryly. "He was nearly dead that
morning when I got him into the Cottage Hospital in Burnham Market, but
within a few hours he was laying down the law as if I were the patient
and he the medical man. In a couple of days, too, his room had become
almost like a post office, with the number of telegrams that he was
sending and receiving."

"One of the big arteries was severed, wasn't it?" asked Larose.

Sir Arnold smiled again. "Well, hardly," he replied, "but I had to
exaggerate his injury in order to keep him quiet. He was furious that I
wouldn't allow him to get up the next day, and demanded stout and
oysters to pick up his strength."

They had almost reached the bitumen when suddenly a dilapidated-looking
car turned into the marsh road and pulled up, almost blocking the narrow
way. A burly-looking man sprang out and held up his hand for them to
stop.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the surgeon quietly, "but this gentleman doesn't look
too prepossessing, and in these days of violence and abduction, we'd
better be a little careful."

"Oh! it's all right," replied Larose quickly. "I guess who he is. I
recognise that car. It's a four-cylinder Goat and belongs to Naughton
Jones."

The man advanced to speak to them, and, as Sir Arnold had said, his
appearance was certainly not of a reassuring nature. He was big and
thick set, with a big square head and small, blinking,
pugnacious-looking eyes. His ears were thick and large and stood out,
almost at right angles.

"Beg pardon, gentlemen," he said touching his cap, "but is this the road
for Holkham Bay?"

Larose repressed a smile. "Yes," he replied, "but what do you want
there? There's not much to see."

The man jerked his thumb back in the direction of the car. "But me and
my mate are going to do a bit of shrimping."

"Well, you won't get any," said Larose, "for it's high tide."

"We'll have a go, anyhow," said the man gruffly. '"We got the nets," and
he turned to go back to his car.

"One moment," called out Larose, putting his head out of the window.
"Are you by any chance the gentleman who is looking for Mr. Naughton
Jones!"

The man's eyes twinkled suspiciously. "Jones! Jones!" he exclaimed,
"never heard of him."

But the face of Larose suddenly assumed a startled look. "Good
gracious!" he called out, "but aren't you 'The Limehouse Bruiser' who
once knocked out Stammering Jack in the tenth round? Great James! I'm
sure you are. I remember you distinctly."

The man's face became at once a study, with pride and suspicion
struggling for the mastery. He blinked his eyes violently, he smiled and
he swallowed hard several times. Then he beamed all over. "Yes, guv'nor.
You've placed me. I got him square on the jaw."

Larose laughed merrily. "It's all right, my friend, quite all right, and
you'll find Mr. Jones up there, waiting for you both. I've just come
from him and he told me he was expecting you. I know all about you."

The man touched his cap once more and grinned. "Beg pardon, sir, again,"
he said, "but you see we has to be careful, and it was no good us
throwing our names about, was it?"

"Certainly not," replied Larose, "you were most discreet. Now, you go up
along this road and it's the only house you come to, on the right.
You'll find the door open and Mr. Jones inside." He laughed again. "You
tell him Mr. Larose directed you. Remember the name, Mr. Gilbert
Larose."

The man's jaw dropped. "Larose!" he ejaculated, "not the 'tec!"

"Yes," smiled Larose, "but don't worry. I'm not after you, and I wish
both you and your pal good luck. Good-bye and hurry up, for you know Mr.
Jones never likes to be kept waiting."

"Quite an amusing little comedy," remarked Sir Arnold as they speeded
along, "and it was funny to watch the man's face." He smiled. "All you
great men seem to like to make yourselves known to one another."

"Yes," smiled back Larose, "but it wasn't exactly vanity on my part,
this time. Jones says he and I are rivals, and I wanted to pull his leg
and let him know I should recognise his assistants now, when I see
them." He changed the conversation. "But tell me, doctor, what is Sodium
Evipan used for?"

"It's a wonderful new anaesthetic," replied Sir Arnold, "and we expect
great things from it. You don't inhale it like you do chloroform or
ether, but it is injected into you with a hypodermic syringe, and you go
off almost at once into profound unconsciousness. It is very rapid in
its action and the unconsciousness lasts for from ten minutes to a
quarter of an hour."

"Then you go off quicker than when you are given ether or chloroform?"
asked Larose.

"Good gracious, yes," replied Sir Arnold. "You don't know what's
happening after about a minute." He looked curiously at the detective.
"But what are your plans now, Mr. Larose? Remember you are not too
strong yet and must go easy for a few days."

"I'm hiring a car from Hunstanton," replied Larose, "and with two good
private-clothes men who are coming from Norwich to help me, am starting
off about one o'clock. I have no idea yet in which direction I am going,
but with any luck"--he gritted his teeth together--"I'll be hot on the
trail of those devils within twenty-four hours."

"Then you found something just now in that house that may help you?"
asked Sir Arnold eagerly.

"Yes, several things, I think," nodded Larose, "but I shan't know what
they are worth for a few hours."

The surgeon looked very astonished. "And do you really mean to tell me,"
he asked, "that you have any hope of finding where Lady Ardane is being
held prisoner, say, within a week from now?"

"Most certainly, yes," replied Larose, "and perhaps within half that
time. That's my trade, Sir Arnold"--he frowned--"and if I know anything
of Naughton Jones, it'll be a close thing between us, who finds where
she is first."

"Then I'll wait on at the Abbey," said Sir Arnold. "I was intending to
return to London to-night, but as you seem so confident, I'll remain on
for a few days." He shook his head. "But you'll have to be a quick
mover, my friend, for those wretches have had a long start."

And certainly Larose was a quick mover, for before half-past one he came
out of the Hunstanton Public Library and proceeded at once to give some
very definite instructions to two men who were standing by a motor
bicycle and side-car outfit.

"It's at Cambridge you'll have to ring me," he said sharply, "at the
Bull Hotel, there. Ring up at nine, and if you don't get me then, ring
up at every succeeding half-hour until you catch me. Now you know what
you've got to do. It's very simple. You are to keep to the main road and
enquire at every garage, beginning at those in this town, if, since
Monday week last, they have sold to any driver of a six cylinder
grey-colored Jehu, two valve cap covers. The tyres he had lost them from
were the off-side back one, and the one on the spare wheel, but you
needn't make any account of that. You want to know anyone with a Jehu
who has purchased two valve-cap covers. If any garage can inform you,
you are not to approach the man who has bought them, but tactfully find
out all you can about him. You understand?"

"Yes, sir," replied one of the men, "if we locate him, we are to do
nothing until we have spoken to you."

"And if the garages can't tell you," went on Larose, "get a list from
them of all their clients who possess grey Jehu cars." He made a
grimace. "Unhappily grey Jehus are pretty plentiful, and there are a lot
about, but the driver you want to know about is a fairly tall man who
stoops a bit, over six feet I should say, has a long face with a biggish
nose, and he sometimes wears a cap with car flaps tied under his chin.
The two back tyres on his car are nearly new ones, and so were probably
both bought at the same time, so you are to ask everywhere if they have
any record of two such tyres being sold recently. Now is everything
quite clear!"

"Yes," replied the man who had spoken before, "and the number plates of
his car are V.F. 2113."

"But you can't count on that, Hale," said Larose sharply, "for, as I
have told you, that number does not belong to him, and he may have
others that he makes use of as well. I can't tell you anything more,
except that the first part of his journey from where he had set out to
come to Holkham Bay was a muddy one, for scraping at the mud under the
car that day, there was first the little mud from the marsh crossing,
then a hard layer that had evidently become dried from coming a good few
miles over the bitumen, and then underneath that, much moister mud
again. Ah! one thing more, I noticed three dried dragon-flies stuck in
the combs of his radiator, so he probably comes from where there is
swampy ground." He waved his hand. "Now off you go and good luck to us
all."

The detective was in quite a cheerful frame of mind as he drove along
towards King's Lynn. "A glorious day," he told himself, "and I've a
lovely drive before me. I shall pass through these beautiful little
English villages and through these quaint, old-fashioned market towns. I
shall touch the lonely Fen country, once all marsh and swamp and where
the great Hereward the Wake fought so valiantly that the soil of England
should not pass under the Norman yoke. Then I shall come to the
wonderful cathedral city of Ely, and finally I shall reach Cambridge,
with its old world colleges and churches, hundreds and hundreds of years
old."

He sighed. "But I'm not going all this way to see the beautiful
countryside or the wonder of man's craft down the ages. I'm on a much
more prosaic mission." His face hardened and took a solemn look. "I am
wanting to get upon the track of these wretches whose trade is murder
and violence, and probably law-breaking of other kinds. It's a gang
we're after, too, I'm sure, and although I am taking this long journey
to Cambridge, I don't for a moment believe they have their hiding place
within many miles of there. When I went over that Jehu car, the petrol
that had been used, assuming even that the tank had been full when the
journey started, couldn't have taken it a yard over fifty miles, and
Jones agreed with me, too."

He shook his head. "No, they don't live anywhere near Cambridge, but all
the same, with any luck, I'm going to pick up the trail there, and by
to-morrow I shall probably be back, close here again. There were quite a
number of things that struck me in that house, but that one in the
Medical Journal was, I am sure, the most important."

He looked at his watch and at once proceeded to reduce his speed. "No,
I've plenty of time, for the gentleman I am going to interview in
Cambridge is not likely to be home much before his dinner hour, and I've
only seventy-five miles to go." He drew a deep breath. "Now, let me
reason it all over again and see if there's anything glaringly wrong
with my argument. A Dr. R.D. Smith, of King's Parade, Cambridge, writes
what is probably an intelligent and illuminative article on 'Hay Fever,'
and it duly appears in the official organ of his profession. Naturally
then, he expects to derive some credit from it, not only from his
professional brethren, but also from certain of his patients as well. So
imagine his disgust, when, with his name a very common one, the journal
gives him a wrong initial and prints 'R.B.' instead of 'R.D.' Hay fever
is not a rare complaint by any means, and several of his patients having
probably suffered from it, it is quite natural he would like them to
read his article. But he couldn't lend it to them with the initials all
wrong, so before doing so, he rectifies the mistake and with his pen
puts a D. instead of the B."

He paused for quite a long time to go back over his deductions and weigh
up whether they seemed feasible or far fetched. At length he went on.
"Then assuming that it is Dr. Smith himself who has rectified the
mistake in his own copy of the journal--and by no stretch of the
imagination can I conceive of anyone else taking the trouble to do
it--all I have to find out is to whom he lent the journal, and in that
way I ought to soon get at this man Prince." He shook his head. "But if
it were not for the altering of that initial my whole theory would fall
to the ground, for undoubtedly this issue of the journal was in the
possession of these men, not because of that article on 'Hay Fever'--but
because of that one on 'Narcotics.' The page there was well thumbed and
'Sodium Evipan' had been underlined." He shook his head again. "Yes,
they might have bought a copy of the journal for themselves."

His face brightened. "But no, I am not altogether coming to Cambridge
because of this medical journal, for I was intending to go there in any
case. Those sandwiches that I found in the car were made of
pate-de-foie-gras, and that was a good brown sherry in the pocket flask,
and I thought of some big cities at once when I saw them. Those sorts of
things are not to be bought in little country towns, and so Norwich and
Cambridge leapt instantly into my mind, for they are the nearest places
where they could be obtained. It was the same, too, this morning,
directly I saw that expensive burgundy had been drunk. Shopping in a big
city somewhere, where all kinds of expensive luxuries are on sale."

He pressed down upon the accelerator. "Yes, upon second thoughts, I'd
better hurry up a bit, so that if the doctor isn't at home, I can go the
round of the wine merchants at once."

He arrived at Cambridge a little after four, and learning that the
doctor was out and that his evening surgery hours were from seven to
nine, gave his card to the maid who had answered the door, and asked her
to inform her master that he would be much obliged if he could spare him
a few minutes just before seven. He was not coming as a patient, he
said, and would return at ten minutes before the hour. The girl regarded
the card with very curious eyes and replied that she thought the
arrangement would be quite all right.

Then he inquired of a postman whom he met which was the best firm of
wine merchants in the city, and was directed to one in Sydney street.
Asking to see the chief one in authority there, he was shown into the
manager's office, and producing his card, was at once treated with the
utmost respect.

"What I want to know, sir," he said, "is whether you have made a sale,
lately, of any pint bottles of Chambertin 1904, accompanied perhaps at
the same time by some bottles of brown sherry, and if you have done so,
to whom you sold the wine."

The manager smiled. "Happily, sir," he replied, "we have a good
connection and are very often disposing of the wines you mention. Now,
can you give me any approximate date?"

"Unfortunately I can't," replied Larose, "but I am very interested in an
unknown party, a tall man, with a rather long face and big nose, who has
been purchasing these wines, and I want to find out who he is."

The manager pursed up his lips and looked very doubtful. "I may be able
to give you the names of a score of persons who have bought them," he
said, "and yet"--he looked more hopeful--"if this party you want bought
the two wines at the same time, I may perhaps be able to help you, and
particularly so, as you say the burgundy was in pint bottles. The still
vintage wines are nearly always preferred in quarts." He rose up from
his chair. "I'll go and look through our sales books."

He left the room and was absent for quite a quarter of an hour. Then he
returned with a big ledger under his arm. "You are lucky," he smiled, "I
can give you the exact date." He pointed to a page in the book. "See, on
September 9 we sold a case of Chambertin pints and six bottles of brown
sherry and a bottle of 1906 brandy, all to the same person."

"Who was he?" asked the detective eagerly, thrilled to the core that he
had hit the bull's-eye with the first shot. His hopes, however, were
immediately dashed to zero when the manager replied, "Ah! there I'm
afraid my services end, for the sale was a cash one, and in consequence
there is no name of the purchaser recorded in our book."

"And there is no possibility of finding out?" asked Larose with a choke
in his voice.

"None whatever," replied the manager. "Ah! wait a moment. Our cellar man
may know something about him, for he will have delivered the wine." He
touched a bell upon his desk and a clerk immediately appeared. "Send
William to me," he said.

A minute or two later a stout, heavy man in a big leather apron
appeared, and the manager put the question to him as to whether he
remembered the sale.

The man thought for a moment and then nodded his head. "Yes, sir, I do,"
he said. "I carried everything out to a car, and packed it in for the
gentleman."

"Who was he?" asked the manager. "Do you know?"

"No, sir, he was quite a stranger to me." The man smiled. "But he gave
me a shilling and was very particular how the Chambertin was put in the
car and asked me how long he ought to let it rest after he'd got it
home. He said it was going to have a good shaking, for he'd be
travelling nearly forty miles."

"What was the car like?" asked Larose.

"Couldn't tell you, sir," was the reply, "except that there was a lot of
mud about, because I remember having to clean up my apron afterwards."

That was all the information the detective could extract, and then,
proceeding to the Bull Hotel, he put in a good hour studying a big
ordnance map that he had purchased in Hunstanton.

At a quarter to seven he presented himself at the doctor's house, and
was at once shown into the surgery, where the doctor himself was seated
at his desk. The doctor was a round-faced, plump little man, beaming
good humor and good nature, and with a merry twinkle in his eye. He
looked about fifty-five years of age.

"Well, what have you found out about me, sir?" he asked at once, wagging
his finger playfully at the detective. "Oh! yes, I've heard about you,
Mr. Larose, and know your favorite hobby is murder work." He pretended
to look very frightened. "But in my case I can inform you straightaway
that you'll need a perfect host of exhumation orders to secure any
conviction, for everyone for whose death I am responsible is well buried
under the ground."

Larose smiled back. "It's not quite as bad as that yet, doctor," he
replied, "and so far we've not had too many complaints about you up at
the Yard. I've come about that article of yours on 'Hay Fever' that was
published in the issue of the 'British Medical Journal' of September 4."

"But that's not a crime!" exclaimed the doctor instantly. "An
indiscretion, if you like, but certainly no indictable offence!" His
face sobered down. "But what do you mean, sir?"

"Now have you got a copy of the journal, with your article in it?" asked
Larose.

"Certainly," was the reply, and the doctor at once reached forward and
picked one off the desk. "Here you are and there is the offending
article." The hopes of Larose dropped again, but he was in part
reassured, when he saw the initial had been corrected as before. "But is
this the original copy that was sent you," he asked, "for, of course, I
presume you are a member of the British Medical Association and receive
one every week."

The doctor nodded. "Yes, I am," he said, and then he added, looking very
surprised, "no, this is not the copy that was sent me. Someone stole
that from my waiting-room and I had to buy another."

Larose put his hand in the breast pocket of his coat, and plucking out
the journal he had brought with him, handed it dramatically across to
the doctor.

"Then is this your original copy?" he asked, and he saw the doctor's jaw
drop, and his brows contract, as his eyes fell upon the correction under
the title of his article.

"My oath, it is!" he gasped, "but how the very devil did it come into
your hands, and bring you all this way to question me?"

"The position, Doctor, is like this," replied Larose. "We are after some
very bad men, and we should have got them about a week back up
Hunstanton way if they had not suddenly become aware that we had located
them--and bolted away. Well, in the house they had been living in, we
came across this journal, and thinking it must be yours, I have come
over eighty miles to-day to speak to you."

"How extraordinary!" exclaimed the doctor, "but there is no doubt this
is the journal that was stolen from me." He leant back in his chair and
reflected. "Now let me see. The journal is published on the Saturday and
I always get it on the Monday." He spoke very slowly. "Then it was
probably on the Wednesday that I put it on the waiting room table, and
on the Friday when I went to look for it, it had gone. One of the
patients must have taken it."

"Well, can you remember among your patients a tall man, with a long face
and rather big nose," asked Larose, "who was probably suffering from
some form of chest trouble about that time?"

The doctor shook his head slowly and then smiled. "I see from sixty to
seventy people a day sometimes, and I can't remember them all. No, I
have no recollection of any such man."

"But you are quite correct as to the date, doctor," said Larose. "The
journal was taken on the Thursday, for on that day, September 9, we have
found out that this man, one of those we are wanting, was in Cambridge.
Now, can you show me a list of the patients, with their addresses, who
consulted you that day, most probably in your afternoon surgery, because
I have reason to believe the man is not a local man, but lives a good
way away."

"Yes," nodded the doctor, "my wife shall make it out for you. She keeps
all my accounts for me, besides occasionally acting as my nurse." He
hesitated. "But it will take quite a little time, for she will have to
go through a lot of cards." He pulled out a drawer and lifted it upon
the desk. "You see, when the patients come, I don't enter their names
into a book, but a card is allotted to each one, and the date, name,
address, ailment and roughly what I have prescribed, is written upon it.
Then the card is placed alphabetically in this index and when the
patient comes again it doesn't take two seconds for me to pick up all
about him." He put the drawer under his arm. "Now come with me into the
dining-room. I'll introduce you to my wife and she'll pick out the list
from these cards." He paused just before opening the door, and
whispered, "But tell me, what are these men wanted for, anything
serious?"

Larose nodded. "Murder and other crimes besides that."

The doctor whistled. "Whew! but my wife will be thrilled. She's very
romantic and loves to hear about murderers." His eyes twinkled. "That's
why she married a doctor!"

"Oh! one thing more," said Larose, and he stepped back to the desk and
picked up the original journal. "See this oil mark on the cover? Well,
it has a faint smell of camphor to me, and that may help us in picking
out the thief, for he probably took the paper home with him in the same
pocket as some camphorated oil that you prescribed."

The doctor sniffed hard at the paper and then shook his head. "You have
a very lively imagination, young man," he said with a smile, "for I
can't smell anything." He shrugged his shoulders. "Still you may be
right, for I smoke a good deal. Are you a smoker?"

"As a rule," replied Larose, "but I've not had a cigarette for over a
week now, and my scent is pretty keen. I've been laid up from a crack
over the head that one of the gentlemen I'm after gave me."

"That's bad," said the doctor. He laughed. "But I expect it makes your
wish to get him as keen as your smell. But come on now, we'll see the
wife. She knows who are the patients, and can tell you all about them."

The detective found Mrs. Smith a pleasant-looking, placid woman, many
years younger than the doctor, and certainly the very last person, he
thought, to be thrilled with murders. Her husband introduced him and
explained what was wanted; then he pointed to the grease splash upon the
journal and asked her to smell it. "A bit of detective work, Mary," he
said, "and Mr. Larose will be getting you a job at Scotland Yard if you
can tell him what it is."

Mrs. Smith smelt it delicately. "Camphorated oil," she said at once. "I
can recognise it plainly."

The doctor threw up his hands. "And that's what Mr. Larose declared," he
said disgustedly, "and I told him it was all imagination." He bustled to
the door. "Well, I'll have to leave you two detectives together and go
off and do some work. I hear a lot of coughing and scraping of feet
going on in the waiting-room, and that means the poor wretches are
getting desperate."

Alone with the detective, Mrs. Smith proceeded to go through a great
number of cards, but she worked quickly and soon had a little heap of
them put to one side upon the table.

"Thirty-seven," she said at last, "and those are all the patients my
husband saw in the surgery that day." She sorted out the cards. "The
pink ones are the panel patients and the white ones the private ones.
Now do you want to go through the panel patients?"

Larose smiled. "I don't think so," he replied. "They'd hardly be buying
cases of expensive burgundy like the man I'm after."

"Well, that simplifies our work a lot," said Mrs. Smith, "and leaves
only nine to deal with, and I'm sure I know nearly all of them. Five are
women." She proceeded in a brisk and most professional manner to go
through the cards. "Mrs. Colliver, aged 22, and expecting a baby. No,
she's the grocer's wife and most respectable. Mrs. Astley, age 41, and
being treated for eczema. Nice woman and keeps a milliner's shop. Mrs.
Davis, 46, indigestion and sore tongue, the solicitor's wife. Mrs.
Rumbull, 33, nerves and nothing the matter with her. Husband keeps a
boot shop. Miss Dander, 24, school teacher, indigestion from
over-smoking and drinking too much tea."

"That's all the women, now for the men. B. Hawker, 34, stomach pains.
Ah! he's since gone into hospital and had his appendix out. Employed in
the Post Office. R. Wellington, 35, aching limbs, earache. Temperature
100.2. Probably influenza. Occupation not given. Address Crown Hotel. 5
gr. Dover powder and 5 grains aspirin prescribed. Hum! No, I don't know
him, but he evidently took up some time, for I see the doctor charged
him 7/6. Next, R. P. Walker, 51, tonsillitis, temperature 102. He's a
butcher, and we have dealt with him for twenty years. Quite all right."

She started to replace the cards. "Well, that's all, Mr. Larose, and
except this R. Wellington, every patient I have mentioned lives in
Cambridge and is well known to us." She held up her hand. "But wait a
minute, I've thought of something. You shall ring up the Crown Hotel
straightaway, and find out what they know about this Mr. Wellington.
Yes, you ring up and then I'll get the doctor out of his surgery and
we'll show him this card."

The detective, with a great admiration for her shrewdness, did as she
suggested, but upon getting in touch with the hotel, was not at all
surprised to learn that they knew nothing about a Mr. Wellington. The
proprietor himself answered the phone and was positive that no person of
that name had stayed there, at any rate, during the past year.

Then Mrs. Smith knocked at the surgery door and the doctor came out. He
was told everything had been sifted down, and that in all probability
the Mr. R. Wellington must have been the purloiner of the journal, for
he was the only stranger whose respectability the doctor would know
nothing about. Also the prescription that had been given him suggested
that a verbal injunction might have been made at the same time, that he
should rub his chest with camphorated oil. Added to that, he had told
the doctor an untruth when he had said he was stopping at the Crown
Hotel.

"But why should he have wanted to mislead me about his address?" asked
the doctor doubtfully.

"Well," replied Larose, "if he had stolen something from your waiting
room, he would naturally not want you to know too much about him, now
would he?"

"But can you remember him, Roger," asked Mrs. Smith quickly, perceiving
that her husband was anxious to get back to his surgery. "You ought to,
for you put the P.A.A. at the bottom of the card."

The doctor's eyes twinkled. "That means 'probably an alcoholic,'" he
whispered to the detective. "I have to make little notes like that to
jog my memory." He stared hard at the card.

"No, I'm sorry, but I haven't the very slightest recollection of him,
but still--I'll try and think about him later on. Now where are you
staying the night? The Bull Hotel! Good! Then I'll ring you up later if
I think of anything. Apart from that your only chance is to try the
chemist. I tell all strangers to go to Griffin's." He shook his hand.
"Good-bye and good luck. I'm pleased to have met you."

The detective found Griffin's, but they told him they had no record on
their books of any prescription having been made up for an R.
Wellington, likewise the next chemist down the street, but at a third
shop he was heartened at once when the man behind the counter, after
only a minute's search, furnished the information that they had made up
a prescription for a gentleman of that name on September 9.

"Can you remember him, a tall man with a long face and a big nose?"
asked Larose anxiously.

"No, sir," replied the man, "but one moment," he added. "I'll ask my
son, for I see from the prescription book that he made up the powders."
He shook his head. "But I'm afraid there's very little hope."

But at once a very bright-faced young man emerged from a back room, and
stated that he not only remembered Mr. R. Wellington quite clearly, but
knew to the minute when he had made up the prescription for him on the
afternoon of Thursday, September 9.

It happened, he explained, there was a race meeting at Newmarket that
afternoon, and a horse called 'The Duke of Wellington' was running in
the 3.30. He had been thinking all day about having a few shillings on
it, and the coincidence of a gentleman named Wellington coming in very
shortly before the time of the starting of the race, had seemed to him
so marvelous that he did back it and won quite a nice little sum, for
the horse had started to 33 to 1.

He remembered it was nearly a quarter-past three when the prescription
had come in, and he had been so expeditious in serving the gentleman in
order to get in touch with his bookmaker in time, that he spilt some
camphorated oil that was also being purchased, all down his coat, and he
had never been quite able to get the smell away since.

"And you are sure you remember what your benefactor was like?" asked the
delighted Larose.

"Yes, sir. He was tall and slight and had a long narrow face with a long
nose. He had a very deep voice and, from his fingers, he's always
smoking cigarettes."

"Then do you know where he came from?" asked Larose, trembling at the
very thought of the answer he might get.

"No, sir, but it was some long way. Somewhere towards the coast, for he
was taking a pint bottle of methylated spirits away with him too, and
would not allow me to make one parcel of it with the camphorated oil,
because the road just beyond Littleport, he said, was under repair, and,
as he would be getting a good jolting, he didn't want any broken bottles
in his pocket." The young fellow smiled. "In case it may help you in any
way, I think the gentleman had been drinking. He smelt very strongly of
spirits and kept on blinking his eyes a lot."

Larose was quite pleased with his day's work, and when later the
plain-clothes man, Hale, rang up at the Bull Hotel, and reported no
success for the day, he was by no means downhearted.

"Now, at any rate, I've found out something," he said. "I know he lives
about forty miles from Cambridge and, as I expected, back in the
direction of Hunstanton. Also, I know he kept to the main road and did
not begin the muddy part of the journey to his house until he'd gone at
least thirty miles, therefore, he turned off, right or left, somewhere a
few miles before he reached Downham Market, with the muddy fen country
on either side."

His eyes sparkled. "Now, I have thought all along that these wretches
who were after Lady Ardane were members of an organized gang that
existed and was at work as a gang, long before there was any idea of
this kidnapping, and if they were engaged in the illicit drug traffic,
then that would explain their number and the resources at their command.
There must be quite eight of them in the gang, and they must be well
financed to possess a motor yacht, and at least two cars. Those false
number plates upon the Jehu, too, were not new, and the clear indication
therefore is, that they have been employing them upon unlawful
expeditions for some time, and that their coming into existence had
nothing whatever to do with the recent happenings at Carmel Abbey."

He took out his ordnance map and spread it upon the table. "And what
better place could a gang want for their headquarters than among the
Fens? In places, for their areas, the Fens are still among the most
desolate and lonely parts of England, and the roads that lead on to them
lead nowhere but to the few isolated farms that the lands of the
reclaimed swamps shelter. The cultivated parts that have been wrung from
the mud and the quagmire and the slime are still like islands, with the
narrow bridges over the drains and cuttings, the only means of
communication with the bad, heavy roads that lead away outside on to the
bitumen and then on to the towns." He traced an imaginary circle with
his finger upon a part of the map. "Why, there are miles and miles of
country here about these Methwold and Feltwell Fens that do not appear
to be crossed by a road in any direction."

He undressed quickly and got into bed. "Well, it'll be bad luck if we
don't forge ahead quickly to-morrow."

The next morning he was early upon the road, for he had instructed the
plain-clothes men to meet him sharp at nine o'clock in the town of
Downham Market.

Passing through Ely a few minutes after half-past eight, his eyes
suddenly became riveted upon a very shabby-looking car standing outside
an iron monger's shop, and he gave a startled exclamation and half
stopped, but then moved slowly on. "Gosh!" he whispered, "but I'd swear
that's Jones' car!"

He pulled his car into the kerb close near to a small public-house and,
stopping his engine, was upon the point of alighting when he suddenly
sank back into his seat and ducked his head sharply. The two assistants
of the great Naughton Jones were just issuing from the bar, and the
ex-Limehouse Bruiser was rubbing the back of his hand appreciatively
over his mouth, as if he had just partaken of some agreeable
refreshment!

"Hah! hah!" hissed Larose, melodramatically, "then they've struck a
trail, if it's only a beer one." The grin left his face and he peered
furtively through the curtains of his car. "Yes, and, the hounds are
running up to meet their master, for here's Jones himself coming out of
the ironmonger's."

He saw them all get into the car, and then off it went with a great
noise and in a cloud of smoke.

"Now what's brought Jones here?" He whistled. "And he's taken the
Cambridge road too!"

He thought a moment and then ran quickly into the ironmonger's shop, as
if he were in a great hurry. "Did my friend, that gentleman who's just
gone," he asked breathlessly of the man behind the counter, "remember to
leave you the pattern of the wick he wanted."

"No, sir," replied the man at once, "he didn't show me any pattern, but
he just asked for a Ventnor wick, and I've never heard of it. He said
someone he knew had bought one here, but I'm sure he's mistaken."

"Dear me! How very annoying!" said Larose. "My friend is so forgetful.
Who was it, he said, had got the wick here?"

"A Mr. Henderson, sir, but I don't remember him, although he gave me his
description."

"Tall and slim, with a long nose?" exclaimed Larose.

"Yes, sir, and he said this gentleman always bought his cartridges
here."

The detective left the shop as if most annoyed with his forgetful
friend, but directly he was outside the annoyance passed. "Really!", he
exclaimed smilingly, "but great minds do generally think alike. A wick
was the first thing I thought of and--Jones thought of one, too.
Something that would enable us to put in a few questions, and yet we
wouldn't be able to purchase." He looked very thoughtful. "Now I wonder
what's taking Jones to Cambridge? He didn't want that medical journal,
and yet he's got upon the trail, just as I have, but almost certainly in
some other way. What a pity it is that he's so difficult to manage, for
with he and I together"--he grinned--"no one would be safe."

Arriving at Downham Market, he found the plain-clothes men waiting for
him. They had covered a wide area of ground the previous day, but
although they had collected the names of a large number of persons who
possessed Jehu cars, there was nothing of an encouraging nature in their
reports.

"Well, now," said Larose, "I'll get you to alter the line of your
enquiries to-day. This man we're after seems a bit of a boozer and you
must try the hotel right now. Also, his fingers are stained a lot from
smoking cigarettes. Comb this town first and then try the villages up
the main road as far as Littleport. We'll make the King's Arms our
headquarters here, and I expect to be back by six at the latest. I'm
going to work round Swaffham and Brandon for I'm a bit suspicious of
those Fens upon the Suffolk border."

Within an hour then, Larose, after making enquiries at every village
upon his way, found himself in the pleasant little town of Swaffham, and
was electrified to learn at the very first garage he called at, that a
man had purchased two valve cap covers a couple of days previously.

"But he hasn't got a Jehu," supplemented the proprietor of the garage,
"for he drives an Ariel. Still that doesn't matter for his covers are
the same size." He nodded grimly. "But if you think you'll find out
anything hanky-panky about Dick Hart, you'll come a cropper
straightaway, for Dick's one of the straightest men about here and I've
known him for some years and he's highly respected. Someone pinched
these covers of his last week when he'd left his car upon the road for a
few minutes to go down his meadows after some sheep. He lives near
Oxborough and about six miles from here. Enquire at the inn there, and
they'll direct you to his place."


Larose thanked him for his information and then was thrilled again, when
the man gave him the names and places where they lived, of two men who
owned Jehu cars, for one of them, Roy Fensum, lived in the heart of the
Methwold Fens.

"But Fensum isn't a customer of mine," nodded the man, "and I don't see
him once in a blue moon. Still his car occasionally goes through here,
although often he's not driving it himself. Yes, it's a grey one and
when he's not driving it, it goes pretty fast. No, he's not tall by any
means. He's medium sized, and you can't mistake him, for he's very dark.
What is he?" The man laughed. "Why a farmer, of course, and he goes in
for Romney Marsh sheep! No, I don't know the other chaps who drive it,
for they've always got the curtains up and don't appear ever to stop in
the town. Quite welcome, sir. Good morning."

The detective went off in high glee. Things were now shaping splendidly,
and he was sure he was getting close.

He found Dick Hart with no difficulty, but met with no very favorable
reception, after crossing over a very muddy field to get speech with
him. The man was ploughing with four horses, one of which became very
restive, as the plough was stopped when Larose came up. Hart was a fine,
well-built fellow about forty-five, with a big face and very
fearless-looking eyes. He scowled irritably when Larose started to ask
him about his recent purchases in Swaffham.

"And what's the hell's that to do with you?" he asked. He looked very
fierce. "You'll play no tricks with me, young fellow, for I was a
policeman once. What! a detective, are you? Well, show me your badge."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Larose. "It couldn't have been better," and he at
once produced his badge and told him who he was.

"Gee!" exclaimed the man, his whole expression altering. "Then you're
this Gilbert Larose are you? I'm proud to meet you, sir. I've heard all
about you, of course, Detective Inspector," he went on, giving Larose
his proper title and now saluting most respectfully. "I was in the
Metropolitan Police Force." He drew himself up proudly. "Sergeant
Richard Hart and fifteen years with never a bad mark against me. I still
keep in touch with things a bit, for I've a brother in the City Police
and he sends the Gazette every now and then." He expended a few curses
upon the restive horse and then turned back to Larose. "Now, what do you
want to know, sir?'"

The detective realised at once that he was in the presence of a man of
sterling character, and told him quickly what he wanted. Then in a few
terse sentences, and without the use of one unnecessary word, the
ex-policeman related all that had happened.

He had left his car unattended upon the road the previous Monday week
about two o'clock in the afternoon, and gone about a quarter of a mile
down the meadow, to look at some sheep. He had not actually seen any car
pass, because for part of the time he had been in a dip in the field,
but he had heard one go by, and then returning to the road a few minutes
later, had noticed at once that his valve-cap covers had gone. He was
positive beyond any possibility of mistake that they had been there a
few minutes before, because not half an hour previously he had put some
air in each of the tyres and had then screwed up all the covers tightly.

Then, assured from his whole bearing and demeanor that the man could be
thoroughly trusted, Larose went straight to the point and asked him
about Roy Fensum, as one who was under suspicion of the authorities.

"I just know Fensum very slightly, and that's all," replied Hurt. "He's
not a type of man that I like and I'm hardly ever brought in contact
with him. I see him at Brandon Market sometimes, but he never appears to
mix much with anyone. He keeps himself very much to himself, and I don't
know any farmer round here who's friendly with him. He's a widower and
employs several hands. No women, I believe, about the place at all. Yes,
I've been there once lately. I bought a horse off him about six months
ago. Oh! you want to go and see him, do you?" He nodded vigorously.
"Well, you be very careful and don't stop your car until you're right up
to the house, for he's got two big, ugly-looking Alsatians that come up
at once and go for strangers. Oh! you want to go up there without being
seen! Well, that's rather difficult, for he's right in the heart of the
Methwold Fens." He looked hard at the detective. "What do you want to go
and look at him for? What's he supposed to have done?"

"Murder, perhaps," replied Larose sharply, "and other things as well. At
any rate, that's what he's mixed up in, and I think there's a gang of
bad men up there."

The ex-policeman's face paled a little under its tan. "Whew!" he
whistled, "so it's as bad as that!" He considered for a moment and then
looked at his watch. "Here, sir, you just wait until I've finished this
round, and then come in and have a bit of dinner with me." He nodded. "I
may be able to help you a lot, for I was born among these Fens and have
fished every cut and dyke. Yes, you come, sir, and we'll have a talk."
He laughed and looked very pleased with himself. "It will remind me of
the old times when I was P.C. Richard Hart, and handling the drunks up
Hoxton way."




CHAPTER XII.--THE DARK FENS


A quarter of an hour later the detective was being ushered into a large,
homely kitchen, and the ex-policeman was putting a cold leg of pork upon
the table.

"We've got the whole place to ourselves to-day," he explained, "for the
children are at school and the missis is out gadding about. I let her
out of the cells for the day, and she's in Downham Market buying things
we don't need and don't want. Bless her heart! She's like all
women--directly she's got a few bob in her pocket she must let them go.
Beer? Ah! that's right. I thought you might be one of those tea-drinking
fiends." He went on. "I remember there was a doctor once on my beat, a
very clever chap, but always on the booze, and many a time I've popped
him into his own doorway, instead of running him into the station as I
ought to have done. Well, he told me once that the early morning cup of
tea some people take was more responsible for indigestion than anything
else. He was a fine fellow and married a barmaid afterwards, and then
she wouldn't let him touch a drop of drink. Cut it right out and made a
splendid chap of him. When I left the Force he had got four kiddies and
was a bit of a nob on Harley street. Consulting physician and becoming a
big bug on nerves."

They proceeded to do justice to the meal, and then suddenly, looking out
of the window, Hart remarked, "My days! but your luck's in, Mr. Larose.
There's a fog coming up from over the Fens and I'm thinking that's the
only hope in the world of you getting near Fensum's place without being
seen."

"Oh!" exclaimed Larose, "do you get bad fogs here?"

Hart laughed. "Bad!" he exclaimed, "why, good old London's nothing to
them! Mind you, they're not black or yellow, but just a thick, heavy
white. They come up all at once, and they may last a fortnight, and when
they're really bad you can't see your own feet. Then it's almost like
having a blanket over your head." He nodded. "I'll lend you my little
compass, and you can send it back any time. I shan't be here to-morrow,
though, for the missis is giving me a holiday, and I'm going to London
for the day."

"Well, about this man Fensum," asked Larose, "what is the name of his
place?"

"Black Gallows," replied Hart, with a grin, "and it seems like proving a
darned appropriate name." He looked intently at the detective. "But the
more I think about it, sir, the more I'm inclined to believe that if
there's anything in the nature of a gang up there, as seems to be your
idea--then you're taking a great risk, going alone."

"But I'm not going to make any arrests to-day," replied Larose, "I only
just want to get a peep at all the men who are living there. I've some
good glasses with me and if I get within half a mile of them, it will
do."

"And that's about as near as you will get," nodded the ex-policeman,
"for it's all level ground at once when you get on Fensum's lands. He's
got about 1,600 acres of it and every yard was swamp and quagmire once."
He looked very serious. "It's a regular trap for anyone, directly they
get on it, who doesn't know the place, for it's cut off from everywhere
by great wide drains, deep dykes, and the dangerous little River Wissey.
Apart from that, it's criss-crossed in lots of places with dykes that,
although they are certainly not so wide, you would never get over."

"Why not?" asked Larose. "I could swim at a pinch."

"Swim!" ejaculated Hart scornfully. "Yes, you could swim if there was
any depth of water in them, but you couldn't swim in the Fen mud.
There's nothing like it anywhere else. It's ten and twelve feet deep in
parts, as thick almost, as tar, and as heavy as lead when it clings to
you." His eyes dilated. "Why, I saw a bullock once disappear in less
than three minutes after it had slipped down into the Big Cut Drain that
borders upon one side of Fensum's property." He shook his head. "No, Mr.
Larose, as well face a bullet at point-blank range as try to cross over
those drains."

"Well, tell me how I'll get there," said Larose, in no way dismayed,
"and I'll take a chance. It's like this, Mr. Hart," he added, "I may be
entirely at fault in my suspicions and this Fensum may be a perfectly
innocent man, and there may be no one upon his premises who has done
anything wrong. So, I don't want to come down with a search warrant and
a large party of officers, and besides making a fool of myself, rouse
all the countryside, and give the real culprit a chance of breaking away
when they learn I'm after them. I want to be sure, first. I want to
catch sight of either one of two men, and then I shall be certain once
and for all how I stand."

"You've no certain knowledge then," asked Hart, "that any of the men who
are wanted are there?"

"No," replied Larose at once, "no certain knowledge at all, but"--he
spoke very slowly--"I have come a long trail, and it leads most
definitely to somewhere about here. To a man who has some reason for
covering up all his tracks wherever he goes, who lives in the Fen
country, who drives a Jehu car and uses false number-plates, and who,
finally, has been in need of two valve-cap covers such as yours, within
the past few days." He broke off suddenly and asked, "Now, do you ever
get any aeroplanes coming over here, on moonlight nights?"

Hart nodded. "Yes, we do, occasionally," he replied. "Not very often,
but when we do get one, we always get two"--he frowned--"or, now that
you are making me suspicious about everything, we hear the same one
going and returning."

"Exactly!" commented Larose, looking very pleased, "and it's a dope gang
I'm after. Someone drops the stuff, I'm thinking, from these aeroplanes
you hear." He smiled. "Another link in the chain, my friend."

"All right," said the ex-policeman briskly, "and I'll not try and
dissuade you any more." He fetched a piece of paper and a pencil. "I'll
draw you a map. Oh! that's all right," he went on as Larose took his
ordinance map out of his pocket, "then I'll only need to draw you one of
Fensum's place."

They bent their heads over the map and he pointed out the way to the
detective. "There's Black Gallows, and it's seven miles from here. Now,
you'll go along the Methwold Road until you see an inn on the left, just
at the beginning of Methwold village." He shook his head warningly. "But
whatever you do, don't go near that inn, for the proprietor, Jowles, is
about the one pal Fensum has. He's got a face like a ferret and if you
ask anything about Black Gallows there it's a hundred to one he'll tell
Fensum about it. So leave the main road about two hundred yards before
you get to this inn and take the side road to the right. This road won't
look very inviting, because it's always muddy. Then go straight along
for about three miles until you come to a small plantation." He paused
for a moment and considered. "There, I think, you'd better leave the
car, for beyond that it'd be a black spot on the landscape that could be
picked up easily. Yes, run your car round the back of the plantation.
There's a dip in the ground there and it'll be quite safe. Then about a
quarter of a mile farther on you'll come to a big, deep drain, about
three times as wide as this room and you'll see a gate, opening on to a
black wooden bridge crossing the drain."

"An iron gate?" asked Larose sharply, "that's not been painted lately?"

"Yes," nodded Hart looking very surprised, "how do you know that?"

"Only that the inside of the fingers and the palm of some motor gloves
that belong to one of the men I'm looking for," replied Larose, with
difficulty suppressing the exultation that he felt, "smelt strongly of
rust, when I was handling them the other day. Go on."

"Open this gate--you'll have to lift it up, for one of the posts has
sunk--and cross over the bridge. It's only made of planks and there are
wide spaces between them." He picked up his pencil and piece of paper.
"Now comes the dangerous part of the journey, and I'll draw you a map.
Look, you'll be now about two miles from Fensum's houses. There are two
of them. One is where they live, and the other is a long, two-storied
building that is not occupied, and has long since fallen into ruins."

"That's interesting!" exclaimed Larose. "What was it built for?"

"It was the cracked idea of the man who had Black Gallows about thirty
years ago," replied Hart. "He was a Jew, called Bernstein, and he
thought he would train horses upon Black Gallows and no one would be
able to spy upon him, and learn how good his animals were. So he built a
racing stable, with the ground floor all stalls and loose boxes for the
horses, and the storey above them for his trainer and the stable hands.
He spent a lot of money on it, and some of the rooms above were quite
comfortably fitted up. But this Bernstein died, and, as I say, all the
place has gone to ruin since."

"What sort of a farmer is Fensum?" asked Larose.

Hart shook his head. "A poor one, and with plenty of good land, he makes
little of it. He crops a few acres and he's got a good few Romney Marsh
sheep. But he never troubles much and folks often wonder how he makes it
pay." He looked down at the map he was drawing, and went on. "Well, now
you're inside Fensum's property and your real difficulties begin. Don't
take the road leading up to the house, but hug the side of the big drain
for about four hundred paces, then if there's any fog, which it looks
likely there will be, set your compass, turn off at right angles and,
keeping straight north for two miles or just a little more, you will
come bang up against these stables."

The detective studied the map carefully. "It seems quite easy, Mr.
Hart," he said, "and I ought to have no difficulty."

The ex-policeman looked very serious. "But for the Lord's sake," he said
warmly, "keep your eyes on this compass and go straight north the whole
time, for if you don't, you'll get among a maze of dykes and you'll
never find your way back again, until the fog lifts."

"And about those dogs," said Larose thoughtfully, "do you know if they
run loose after dark?"

"I should hardly think so," replied Hart, "for no farmer leaves his dogs
unchained at night. They don't learn what discipline is if they're not
on the chain sometimes." A thought came to him. "Now have you got a good
knife on you, Mr. Larose!"

"A pocket one," replied the detective, "but not a dagger."

"Then I'll lend you a bayonet," replied Hart, "a good one that I took
off a German on the glorious Vimy Ridge. Poor devil. I'd just given him
the haymaker's lift with mine." He bent over towards Larose. "Now look
here, sir, I'll give you a good tip for dealing with a dog when it comes
rushing at you. Meet it crouching down, or even, if you've got a good
knife, some say, lying down. Then he loses all the benefit of his rush
and the impetus of his big body doesn't knock you over. I'll give you a
nice square of wire netting, too. That foggles them and you can strike
through the meshes." He shook his head. "I'm afraid for you if you meet
with those Alsatians in the fog and don't want to pistol them and let
everyone know you are about the place. Generally, they don't bark when
they come to you. You only hear a blood-curdling snarl!"

The detective parted with much gratitude to the ex-policeman for his
kindness. "Really, my luck's in," he told himself, as he drove away,
"and I couldn't have met with a better man."

Larose was rather disappointed when, for the first two miles or so, the
weather appeared to be clearing, but when he judged he was halfway upon
his journey, he ran all at once into a thick bank of fog and began to
almost wish it had been so.

He could not see a dozen yards beyond the bonnet of his car, and he had
to take out his ordnance map and with the help of an electric torch,
tick off the turnings to the right and left as he went by.

He came at last to the turning on to the muddy road, and there was no
doubt about the mud there, for his tyres squelched into it most
unpleasantly and it was flung up in big spots all over the windscreen.
In the fog he was desperately afraid of missing the plantation, but,
taking Hart's estimate of three miles as being quite accurate, he
stopped when he had gone that distance and walked on on foot. But the
estimate had been a very good one, and within a hundred yards he came
upon the trees looming like ghosts out of the fog.

He parked the car where he had been advised and, greatly heartened that
now he would find the going much easier, taking a few things from the
tool-box, he set off blithely for Black Gallows.

He found the iron gate without much difficulty, and tip-toed up to it,
with his heart beating strongly. "Yes, Gilbert, my boy," he whispered,
as he noted the rust upon his hands as he climbed over, "you've not lost
quite all your punch yet, although you do make big bloomers every now
and then."

The fog was now lifting a little and he regarded with no pleasant
feeling the deep, wide drain under the wooden bridge. It was evidently
one of the main ones that had been dug to drain the Methwold Fens, and
its waters, he judged, were at least fifteen feet below the top of the
drain sides.

"A nice place to be thrown into," he thought with something of a pang at
the dangers that were now facing him, "but it would make funeral
expenses very cheap." He grinned. "What price, Gilbert, commencing your
last long sleep down there, with the eels gnawing the 'Dead March in
Saul.'"

Still keeping most minutely to the directions of Dick Hart, be turned
sharp to the left and hugged the side of the drain for four hundred
carefully counted paces. Then he turned again at right angles but to the
right this time, and was quickly swallowed up in the silence of a dead
world.

Very, very soon it came to him, that he had lost a friend, for he
realised now that the sullen gurgling of the water in the drain had been
a comfort to him and a reassuring thought that he could turn back at any
time if he so wished, and reach his car and safety again. But now he was
cut off from everything, and in all directions, less than fifty yards
away, stretched a wall of ghostly and impenetrable fog.

His life's work among dangers had however, hardened him, and with no
quickening of his pulses, and with the little compass held close up to
his eyes all the time, he proceeded to walk briskly forward, to cover
the two miles that the ex-policeman had told him would now be separating
him from the racing stables of the dead Jew, Bernstein.

"And once I'm there," he thought confidently, "I shall be only 300 yards
due east from the farm where they all live."

He did not seem too happy, all the same. "But I may have to wait until
dark," his thoughts ran on, "and that will make it about half-past five.
It's quite on the cards, too, that those dogs may spoil everything, and
it isn't too good to think they may turn up when I'm too close to the
buildings to dare to use my gun. Still, I should imagine that with this
dense fog, they have been chained up long ago, for the sake of the
sheep."

He kept on looking round, however, and held his square yard of
wire-netting unfolded, and the German bayonet ready in his hand. "But
what a come down," he grinned, assuring himself for the hundredth time
of the sharpness of the blade. "Once making history in the great
world-war, and now being hawked about upon a lonely fen, to thrust into
the throat of a snarling dog if he comes near."

The fog was lifting slightly, and his area of observation had now become
a little wider. Then when, according to his calculations, he could not
be more than a quarter of a mile from his objective, he took a zig-zag
course for a hundred yards or so, to assure himself that his compass was
functioning correctly. He found it was quite all right and was just
setting his course due north again, when suddenly he heard a slight
noise behind him.

He paused for a moment, thinking he might have been mistaken, but then
he heard the sound again--the labored panting of some animal!

His blood froze in horror as he stood peering in the direction from
which the sound was coming, but all was fog--fog everywhere, with earth
and sky in the grip of their dark master.

Then suddenly a huge form, magnified by the vapor, loomed into view. "A
calf! only a calf!" he ejaculated in great relief, "and I have been
giving myself a fright for nothing."

But in two seconds the horror all returned, for, with his head bent
close to the ground, the creature was now nosing along each foot of the
zig-zag course that the detective had just taken. To the left, to the
right, and then to the left again, on came the animal.

"One of the Alsatians!" gasped Larose. "He's picked up my trail!" and
then he smiled, as a brave man often does in the presence of danger. His
hand was steady, his pulse had quietened down, and he sank gently on to
the ground in such a position that he would be lying upon his left side,
and facing it, when the Alsatian had finished with the zig-zags and came
to nose along the straight trail.

A few breathless seconds followed, with the hound quickening his pace
and now beginning to whimper eagerly. Then he stopped suddenly and with
his fine head upraised and one fore paw lifted off the ground, stood
staring straight in front of him.

He had caught sight of Larose.

The detective was lying quite still. The square of wire netting was
tucked under one side of him, covering his head and the greater part of
his body. In his right hand he held the bayonet, and in his left,
clutching to the wire netting, was his automatic.

Perhaps ten seconds then passed, and becoming aware, perhaps by some
instinct or perhaps by some unconscious movement that Larose had made,
that his prey before him was living and not dead, the great beast drew
back his lips with a savage snarl, and then without an instant's
warning, dashed straight for the detective's throat.

But with his head down, there was no force behind the impact, and with
his muzzle coming in contact with the wire netting, he fixed his teeth
in it and tore at it to pull it away.

But the deadly bayonet plunged instantly between the meshes of the wire
and drew blood from somewhere in the dog's head. The blow, however was
not an effective one, and the enraged beast, snarling furiously in his
pain, returned savagely to the attack, this time planting his great
forefeet upon the detective's shoulder and rolling him over upon his
back.

But, like lightning, the bayonet plunged again, and now, penetrating
deeply into the flesh, it tore a ghastly wound across the animal's
throat. The effect was instantaneous, and the Alsatian sank down
groaning upon his side.

Larose sprang to his feet, and not discarding the wire netting, plunged
the bayonet again and again, into the dog's heart.

The whole happening had not lasted two minutes, from the moment when the
detective had first seen the Alsatian to when he was kneeling down
beside it and wiping his hands upon the damp grass.

But there was no exultation in his face. On the contrary, it was more
gloomy and downcast. "But this is most unfortunate," he thought, "for
there's no possible chance of hiding the body, and with the beast
missing they'll find it at once when the fog lifts and know that
someone's been here." He shook his head. "It's no triumph, it's a real
disaster."

A few moments later, however, he was regarding it as a disaster of quite
a minor kind, for, to his horror, he discovered he had now lost his
compass.

In a fever of haste, he began to search all over the ground, where he
had been standing when he had first heard the pantings behind him, where
he had lain, awaiting the coming of the Alsatian and where, finally, he
had sprung to plunge the bayonet into its heart.

At last he found it close to the dead dog's side, trodden into the
ground, its glass smashed to atoms and its needle broken off!

For a long moment he stood surveying it as he held it in the palm of his
hand. Then he looked round at the fog, now beginning to close down
thicker and thicker than ever, and a choking feeling came up into his
throat. In all his life he thought he had never been in a more
unpleasant position.

"Gilbert! Gilbert!" he exclaimed sorrowfully, "you're losing grip of the
game"--he looked down at the Alsatian--"and if this poor beast only knew
it, he has triumphed even in death."

But he was never down-hearted for very long, and, always of a sanguine
disposition, he was very soon endeavoring to discern some way out of his
predicament.

He tried, first, to place the exact position in which he had lain down,
and from that determine in which direction the Alsatian had approached,
for the path of the dog, he told himself, following in a bee-line up his
own track, would point directly due north, and towards where the stables
lay.

He worked it all out as well as he could, and then, to make sure he
should not wander in a circle, walked forward in distances of only ten
paces at a time, and after the first ten paces, with two directing
ground-marks always behind him.

The procedure was very simple. He dropped his cap, covered the ten
paces, stuck his bayonet into the ground, and then went on for another,
ten, but walking backwards this time in order to keep the cap and
bayonet always exactly in the same straight line. Then he dropped his
piece of wire netting, went back and retrieved the cap, and using the
bayonet and wire netting now for the straight line, walked backwards as
before for another ten paces and dropped his cap once more.

It was very slow work, and he was by no means too hopeful about it, but
it was the only thing he could think of, and all along he kept buoying
himself up with the hope that with the fog lifting any moment he might
catch sight of the disused stables, not far away, and perhaps be able to
hide himself until night fell and the other Alsatian was chained up.
Then circumstances must determine what he must do.

Larose walked on and on, but nothing happened and no building came into
sight, just fog, impenetrable fog everywhere, and the ghostly silence of
the lonely fen. Then at last, when he knew he must have proceeded much
farther than the allotted quarter of mile--he realised that he was lost.

He heaved a big sigh, and sitting down, proceeded to light a cigarette.
"No good worrying," he told himself, "and no good tiring myself out"--he
grinned--"I'll just wait until the tea bell rings and then walk in with
the farm hands. They can't refuse me a good meal, even if they do shoot
me afterwards."

An hour passed, two, a weak and bastard dusk crept down and seemed to
argue with the fog as to which was the better blanket, and then night
fell, so chilling to the very marrow of his bones and so dark that it
could almost be felt.

"But this won't do," he told himself, "or I'll be getting another
fever," and he began to walk backwards and forwards, jerking his arms
about all the time.

Then suddenly he was electrified by a muffled sound that came out of the
darkness just upon his right, and his heart stood still in his
excitement, for it had sounded like the banging of a door.

It was not repeated, but because there was not a breath of air stirring
anywhere to make noises of its own accord, it came to him instantly that
he was in the close vicinity of some animate beings, and most probably,
for surely it was hardly likely to be otherwise, of human ones.

So he plucked up heart at once, and before he had lost the direction of
the sound, plunged boldly into the darkness before him. Then came one of
the minor shocks of the day, for he had not proceeded fifty paces when
he banged right into a hard wall. For a moment the impact made him feel
sick, but in a few seconds he had pulled his torch out and was
inspecting what had brought him up so dead.

Yes, it was a stone wall, and higher than he could flash the rays of his
torch; he knew it must be the racing stables that all along he had been
making his objective. But how cruel Fortune had been, for these two
hours and more he had been pacing up and down, less than forty yards
away from the very spot he had come so far and through such danger to
visit!

But he must be careful, very careful, he told himself, for a banged door
meant the presence of someone, and evidently then the stables were not
uninhabited, as the ex-policeman had said.

Flashing his torch every few yards, he began circling cautiously round
the building. He had struck the end of it, he found, for a very few
yards' progress brought him to a corner. Then he crept along the side,
and, a very little way down, a light from an upper window attracted his
attention. He could just see the window sill, and the window was square,
and from the interruptions in the rays, he thought it must be a barred
one. He stood for a long time listening, but he heard no sound, and
passed on. Next he came to a door. It was approached by three steps, and
it was a big, heavy-looking one, fitting closely. There was a big handle
to it, with the brass green and discolored, as if it had never been
polished. He was half inclined to turn the handle, but it did not look a
door that could be opened noiselessly, and so he passed on.

Next he came to two more lighted windows, close together, and still on
the upper storey, and he thrilled as he heard the sounds of deep voices
and some laughter, but both windows were shut and he could not catch a
word that was being spoken.

He moved on, quite a long way, it seemed, and then came to the end of
the wall and another sharp corner. He counted 20 paces as the length of
the end of the building. No lights anywhere and no windows that he could
see! Then he turned the corner, and proceeded slowly down the other
side. Big doors, a few of them shut and locked; some chambers, doorless
and gaping open. Derelict loose-boxes and stalls that had gone to wrack
and ruin! Two barn-like sheds where cows were evidently sheltered at
times, and finally another shed with only half its door standing, that
from a pulley and tackle and pools of dried blood upon the ground, was
evidently used as a place where sheep were slaughtered. In this last
shed was a hay loft, and upon the floor in the corner, just under the
loft, were stacked a number of trusses of straw.

He made the round of the building again. There was no light shining now
from the first window, but from the other two it was still there, and
the talking and laughter was still going on. He was considering what he
must next do, when suddenly all the talking ceased, and a few seconds
later the haunting strains of 'Ave Maria' came floating through the air.

In spite of his anxiety and a full recognition of the danger he was in
he stood still to listen.

"Life! Life!" he murmured when it was all over. "The beautiful and the
foul things so intermingling. This den of murderers and the music of the
angels! The black evil in men's hearts and yet their appreciation of the
outpouring of Gounod's soul! My clothes fouled with the blood of that
Alsatian hound, and so soon my ears entranced with a melody that surely
falls from Heaven!" He shook his fist up at the window. "Those men may
laugh in happiness to-night, but to-morrow the shape of the scaffold
shall loom up into their dreams."

Then all at once a sound came through the fog, very different to that he
had just been listening to. The mournful baying of a hound not very far
away!

As so often in his life, Larose had to think quickly, and two minutes
later he was racing round to the other side of the building and climbing
into the hay loft in the shed.

"Blood to blood!" he murmured breathlessly. "The blood upon me will make
the scent strong, but if the beast comes here, the sheep's blood below
will turn off his attentions.

"There's no help for it," he went on, "I must remain here until daylight
and then chance it what I must do. Everything depends upon the fog and
if it is still thick, I may get off and away before they discover what
has happened to the other dog." His heart began to beat a little
quicker. "I hardly dare to think it, but it is just possible Helen
Ardane may have been behind that light that was extinguished so early.
Here would be an ideal place to be keeping her, and I am sure--I am as
sure as I have ever been about anything in all my life--that Prince, the
long-faced driver of the Jehu, and I will be all sleeping under the same
roof to-night."

He was consoling himself that he was lucky to be having a warm bed among
the hay and could quite well do without any further meal that night,
when he experienced an agreeable surprise. He found three eggs close
beside him in the loft, and breaking them carefully under the light of
his torch, was of opinion they were all quite fresh. So he experienced
for the first time in his life how very satisfying raw eggs can be,
assuring himself, after he had eaten them, that even a most succulent
grilled steak would then have lost most of its attraction for him.

He had just finished his frugal meal, when suddenly he made all his
muscles tense and rigid, and holding himself like a thing of death, he
drew in breaths so shallow that he felt almost suffocated.

He had heard the padding of soft footfalls below!

A long minute passed, two, three, four and then he drew in a long breath
again. The beast, evidently the other Alsatian, had sniffed and sniffed
and poked among the trusses of straw. Then the click of his big nails
had sounded as he pawed up on the boards under the loft, and finally he
had padded away.

"My conscience!" ejaculated the detective, "but if only anyone had been
with him it would have been all up with me."

He nestled himself down among the hay, and, aware that all his energies
would be required upon the morrow, tried to compose himself to sleep. He
had been sure that sleep would be a long while coming, but he was so
exhausted by the varying emotions of the day, that he dropped off almost
at once.

Then he had a strange dream, and he always remembered it afterwards. He
thought he was going to die, and Naughton Jones came into the room
humming the Funeral March, and advised him to back Angel's Wings, for it
was bound to win on Saturday. Then Lady Ardane came in and kissed him
and told him he was going to get well, but Naughton Jones seemed most
annoyed, and said it was very inconsiderate, for he had just bought a
black tie and had an appointment with the Archbishop of Canterbury at
half-past ten. Then Polkinghorne, the butler, appeared in a great hurry,
and said the coffin had been ordered for someone else, but he got up and
fought him, and was made Sir Gilbert Larose for knocking him out in the
tenth round. Then Lady Ardane put her arms round his neck and told him
that with all his courage he was afraid to ask her to marry him, but
acting upon the Limehouse Bruiser's advice, who said he believed in
Woman's Rights and often bashed his wife one or two, exactly as he did
his men pals when he'd had a drop of liquor, she was going to propose to
him herself. So she put her red head upon his shoulder and someone
pulled down the blinds.

It was a very pleasant dream.

Larose slept long and heavily, and to his disgust the sun was shining
through the open door when he awoke. The fog had all gone and it was a
beautiful late autumn day.

He hopped quickly down from the loft to see if anyone were about, but
then hopped back even more quickly still, for a man was standing by a
fence not two hundred yards away, and another big Alsatian was prowling
about and nosing along the ground much nearer than that.

"Now what am I to do?" he asked himself ruefully. "It's only half-past
seven and I may have to stay here all day long."

Then he heard faint sounds of movement, just overhead, and he thrilled
at the thought that they might be those of Helen Ardane. He took out his
glasses, and leaning over the rickety loft, swept them round. He could
see the Ely road plainly, and a motor car going along, also Fensum's
house was not far away, and a man there was saddling a horse. The man
had got his back turned to him, but directly he mounted, his face was
towards the glasses.

"Oh! oh!" murmured the detective brokenly, "it's the driver of the Jehu,
the long-faced man!" He wrung his hands in his distress. "I've all the
good cards in the pack and yet I dare not throw one down."

Then he swung his glasses round in the other direction, and at once
picked out the body of the Alsatian he had killed. "And it won't be five
minutes," he nodded grimly, "before it's seen by someone, and what will
happen then?"

But he had no time for grieving over his unfortunate position, for at
that moment he heard the sounds of someone whistling merrily and the
rumbling of a wheelbarrow over the bricken path outside. The whistler
was whistling 'Love's Old Sweet Song.'

In a few seconds the whistler hove in sight, and Larose groaned when he
saw it was the debonair and pleasant-mannered Prince!

"Another of them!" he ejaculated with a terrible feeling of oppression
over his heart. "The whole gang here and I am as helpless as a dead
man!"

Prince was trundling a sheep, with its legs tied, upon the barrow, and
he made straight for the shed door. He was evidently going to slaughter
it inside. He was in riding breeches and an open shirt, and bare-headed,
with his hair nicely brushed, and altogether fresh and clean; he looked
a fine specimen of young manhood. He could not, the detective thought,
be much over twenty-six or twenty-seven.

"And yet he is a murderer," muttered Larose, "and to save his own skin,
pistolled one of his friends with the same callousness, no doubt, as
he's now going to butcher this sheep."

He flattened himself against the side of the loft, and well back among
the hay, gripped fiercely at one of the boards, so that by no movement
should he betray his presence there. He was not ten feet from the pulley
and tackle.

Prince pushed the wheelbarrow into the shed and gently lifted the
tethered sheep off on to the floor.

"It's all right, old girl," he said, smiling and showing his white even
teeth, "you don't know what's going to happen so you oughtn't to be
afraid." He took down a knife and steel that were hanging upon the wall
and began sharpening the knife briskly. "It's quite nice not knowing
you're going to die, and I only hope my end will come like this. No
long, tiring pains for you, no bed of sickness, no melancholy
good-byes--just two seconds of agony and you'll feel nothing after."

He tested the sharpness of the knife and decided that it was not yet
quite to his liking. He went on, but with a sad note in his voice now.
"But there'll be no more sunrises for you, old girl--no more browsings
in the meadow, no more wee lambies to come snuggling up at night. Those
times are all gone for you, for you've grown too old." He came over to
the sheep. "It's a shame, isn't it, old dear, but it's the way of the
world, you know. I'm stronger than you and you've got to suffer for it.
No pity for the weak down here, whatever you've been told. They go under
every time."

He was just about to kill the sheep, when the long-faced man rode up to
the shed door.

"You devil!" he exclaimed seeing what Prince was doing, "I believe you
love that job. You and young Clive ought to have been butchers. No, wait
till I've gone. I don't particularly like the smell of blood, and I want
to speak to you."

"Speak on, my son," replied Prince. He pointed to the tethered sheep and
added solemnly, "But let your words be meek and reverent, for you are in
the presence of one about to die. What's the trouble, Clem?"

"There's no trouble," said the other, and then he asked a question
himself. "Seen Helen yet, this morning?"

"Yes," nodded Prince carelessly, "and she was just as sulky as ever and
gave me a black look, as usual. I took in her breakfast, eggs and bacon,
coffee and toast, and she barely said 'Thank you' for them, and then
refused to speak another word. What about her?"

"Well, the old fool says he won't wait any longer," was the reply. "He's
sure her spirit must be broken by now and she'll agree to anything he
asks."

"Good!" exclaimed Prince, "and I, for one, will be glad to get rid of
both of them. Business is business, I know, or I'd have never had
anything to do with it, but when we're all going to be set up for life
with plenty of cash, any risk is worth taking." He shook his head.
"Still, it's brought Larose into the picture, and I tell you straight
that I'm afraid of him, and if it wasn't for my dogs, I would be having
some very bad nights."

"Pooh!" scoffed the other. "We're all right." He nodded in his turn.
"Then we'll fix up about Helen."

"Yes, tell Jakes to do it at once," was the sharp reply. "They're both
upstairs now. He's to hustle the old fool in roughly, and say that
tomorrow we'll be willing to treat for the ransom of them both. Remember
it's to be 100,000 and not a penny under. Whoever pays, they can well
afford it."

In the meantime, Larose was almost choking in the bitterness of his
grief and rage. He did not trouble to consider who the 'old fool' was,
but he grasped most clearly from the conversation that Helen Ardane was
being subjected to horrible indignities, for men evidently had access to
her room and were actually waiting upon her as if she were one of their
own sex! He was half-minded to pistol the two below without any warning,
but he did not know what other forces might be against him, and for the
sake of Helen he was not going to risk his own life unnecessarily.

The one-time driver of the Jehu car rode away and Prince proceeded to go
on with his interrupted task.

He knelt down, with one knee upon the sheep's body. "Come on, dearie.
I'll be very quick and make it as easy for you as I can."

Larose watched the swift and dexterous manner in which he despatched the
animal. No fuss, no hesitation--just one quick, deep cut, the neck
broken, the spinal cord exposed and severed, and in five seconds the
animal's sufferings were over.

Then her slayer broke the shanks of her back legs, inserted the gamble
between the tendons and had just hauled up the carcase with the pulley
and tackle, and was about to start the skinning when the noise of hoofs
was heard outside and the driver of the Jehu came quickly galloping up.

"Prince! Prince!" he called out sharply as he sprang on to the ground,
"someone was on Black Gallows yesterday afternoon and has killed
Ishmail!" He pointed with outstretched arm. "His body's over there and
he's got five wounds. He was killed with a knife."

"Damnation!" swore Prince, "where is he?" and the two at once raced out
of the shed.

"Exactly!" nodded Larose, "and now I've stirred up a hornet's nest." He
clenched his jaws together tightly. "One thing, if I come to my end
here, I'll take that fellow Prince with me."

In a few minutes Prince returned alone and proceeded with great haste to
skin and dress the sheep, but he was a very different man now to the one
of a few minutes ago. He was glum and thoughtful, and frowning heavily
all the time. He had nearly finished his work when the man he had called
Clem came racing back, now carrying a rifle upon his shoulder.

"It's as I said," he began shouting long before he had reached the shed
door, "and I don't believe the devil can have got away. Ishmail must
have come upon him just after half-past three, for Roy is sure the dog
was by the house up to then. The man must have been wandering about,
lost in the fog, but how he got away I can't think. He may have fallen
into the big drain and is finished with." He nodded his head
emphatically. "He hasn't left Black Gallows since the fog lifted, that's
certain. Peter was at work by the bridge at sunrise and the fog hadn't
lifted then. He's been by the bridge ever since."

"You've served out a rifle to every one?" asked Prince sharply.

"Yes, and drain or no, we'll make a thorough search everywhere. I've
told the men to hail any stranger up and shoot instantly if he doesn't
stop. There's not one here that can't put in a bull at 500 yards. I've
brought a rifle for you, too," and he bent down from his horse and leant
one up against the door.

"All right," commented Prince, "and not only will we search here, but
I'll go over to Methwold and find out at the inn if any nosey people
were about yesterday."

"But we may be only disturbing ourselves about nothing," went on the
other, "and probably it was just a casual tourist who strayed on to
Black Gallows and fell in somewhere. Just an ordinary man."

"An ordinary man," said Prince sharply, "would not have had to inflict
five wounds upon a dog like Ishmail to kill him, without at least having
one wound on himself, and remember there was no blood on Ishmail's
muzzle or upon his fangs." He spoke in a tone of authority. "Now you go
off at once and search the north banks, and in three minutes I'll be
starting for the big drain."

Alone again, he proceeded to work feverishly upon the sheep, and had
just finished the dressing and was methodically proceeding to cleanse
his knife, when suddenly he stopped, and like a graven image, stood
staring up at the hay loft.

The foot of the detective had slipped and fallen with a thud upon the
wall!

Seconds of intense silence followed, and then the worst happened, for
pressing against the board at the end of the loft flooring, in order to
retain a condition of perfect immobility, Larose exerted too much force,
and the board, breaking from its fastening, fell with a resounding crash
below.

The detective and the gangster were now staring at each other, face to
face!

Larose recovered from the surprise first, and his hand slipped like
lightning to his hip pocket and plucked out his automatic, but Prince
was only the fraction of a second behind him and leaped to reach the
rifle by the door.

He had almost got his hands upon it, when the pistol cracked, and then
with a convulsive clutch at his right side, he toppled over on to the
ground.

Larose was after him, like a terrier after a rat, and long before the
smoke of the pistol had risen to the height of the loft, had dragged him
back into the shed, and seeing now that he was quite helpless, was
tearing at his shirt to expose and staunch the wound.

"Oh! leave me alone," he groaned, "and let me die in peace. You've hit
me in the liver, and I know I shall be bleeding internally as well.
Leave me alone, please."

"No!" exclaimed the detective sternly, "I may want you to give evidence
against the others."

"Then--I'll--give--it--in--kingdom--come," sighed Prince. A fleeting
smile came into his face and he whispered very faintly, "How
many--pigs--does--a--sow--have--in--a--litter Mr. Larose?" then closing
his eyes, his jaw dropped, and he was dead.

Larose had all his wits about him, and darting to the door, crouched
down and peering in all directions, fully expecting that the noise of
his automatic would be bringing someone at once to the spot. But
apparently no one had heard it, for everything was quite. Two men with
rifles upon their shoulders were talking earnestly together by the
farmhouse door, while another one, also armed, was right in front of the
stables, about a quarter of a mile away, and walking slowly along, what
looked, to the detective, like the slightly raised bank of another big
drain. The other Alsatian was not far from this last man, and moving
backwards and forwards, nosing, as before, close to the ground.

Larose considered quickly. It was obvious that for the time being he
could not move from where he was, but he knew Prince would be missed
soon, and someone would come to look for him. Then his dead body would
be ghastly evidence that all was not well on Black Gallows and that
there was an enemy in the camp.

So he made no bones about the matter, and quickly carrying the body over
to the trusses of straw in the corner, making sure, however, that no
blood dripped as he did so, laid it upon the top of them and then thrust
it well down at the back, pushing the disturbed trusses again into their
places. Then he heaved up the long board that had fallen from the loft,
and with some difficulty, got it back into the position it had
originally been in. Then he hid himself again among the hay.

Half an hour passed before anything happened. Then another man, a
stranger to him, appeared, closely followed, to his horror, by the
Alsatian.

"Prince," called out the man, "where are you?" and then, seeing the shed
empty, he kicked viciously at the dog who had suddenly become very
excited and wanted to rush on in front of him. "Get out, you beast," he
cried. "Come away from that carcase," and reluctantly the dog obeyed,
going, however, no further away from the door than a few yards and then
sitting down upon his haunches and whimpering softly.

The man cursed that Prince had left before finishing everything, and
snatching a long white bag from a shelf, lifted it up round the carcase
of the sheep and tied it at the top. Then calling the dog to heel, he
walked off in the direction of the house.

"Whew!" whistled Larose, "and there may be trouble again from that
quarter. The dog may come back."

And come back again the dog did, in a few minutes. He slipped in the
shed like a shadow, and taking no notice of the now shrouded carcase,
nosed backwards and forwards over the floor.

"It's his master he smells, as I expected," breathed Larose. "Good
heavens!" and he groped stealthily for the bayonet that was lying by his
side.

The detective had already rehearsed the scene that was about to follow,
and when the great beast jumped up upon the heap of straw and thrust his
head down towards where the body of his master was hidden, he bent down
over the loft side and, selecting the exact spot, drove the bayonet into
the animal up to its very hilt, just below the left shoulder.

There was no need for any second blow, indeed he could not have given
it, for the Alsatian, with just one long-drawn sigh, rolled over on to
the floor, his heart transfixed by the deadly length of steel that had
been plunged into it.

Once again Larose lost not a moment of time, and five minutes later was
back again in the loft with all traces of his last encounter removed, as
far as possible.

The dog slept with his master, and as their caresses had mingled in
life, so now their bloods were mingling in death.

The detective's eyes were beaming now, and for the first time since he
had arrived upon Black Gallows, his face was lit with triumph.

"And now things will be so much easier," ran his exultant thoughts, "and
if those devils had not got their rifles, I'd chance it straightaway.
Anyhow, if I have to wait here all day, directly its dark, I'll get away
from this cursed fen, and before dawn we'll have the place surrounded."

So all day long he waited patiently for the coming of darkness, with
nothing happening except that, late in the afternoon, a man, again a
stranger to him, came and fetched the sheep carcase, remarking, as he
gave a curious glance round, "Bah! how this place stinks of blood."

Then towards half-past five Larose did a foolish thing, for, in the half
light of evening, thinking that dusk had at last fallen sufficiently, he
crept out round to the corner of the building and stood for a few
minutes, crouching by the wall to get his bearings.

But the move proved almost disastrous to him, for suddenly three bullets
in quick succession zipped upon the wall near him; he heard the
crackings of a rifle, and turning in a startled jump to see from which
direction the bullets were coming, he saw a man barely a hundred yards
away, down upon one knee and taking deliberate aim to fire again.

Then things happened very quickly. The detective raced to the other
corner to gain the shelter of the side of the building and two more
bullets zipped as he ran, the wind from one of them actually driving
across his face, but he reached the corner in safety and with no set
purpose in his mind, turned and began to run down the side.

There, however, another ghastly surprise awaited him, for he had not
gone a dozen yards before he heard a car being started up near by, and
then a search-light broke the dusk, swept quickly round, and picked him
up as clearly as if it had been broad day.

But if, on the one hand the search-light presaged sudden death, on the
other it pointed to a possible way of escape, for he suddenly became
aware that the open doorway of the building was close beside him, and
without a moment's hesitation he plunged into it and banged to the heavy
door.

There could only have been the merest fraction of a second between him
and disaster, for, as the door clanged, a perfect fusillade of bullets
broke through it.

He shot the two big bolts into their sockets and then started to run up
the stairs. Breathlessly gaining a small landing, he came upon two
doors. One of them was open, but the other, shut, with the key in the
lock. The open door led into three rooms, but there was no one in them.
The first was a living-room, with the table laid already for a meal.
Beyond that a small kitchen, and then came a bedroom, with three beds in
it. At the far end of this last room was another door and opening it, he
saw a narrow flight of stairs leading to somewhere down below. There was
no key to this door, but he immediately pulled up a bed against it, so
that it could not be opened without noise.

Then he ran back on to the landing and tried the handle of the closed
door. It was locked, but with a great thrill at his heart, he turned the
key, and thrusting the door wide open, stepped into the room beyond, to
find himself, as he had expected, in the presence of the amazed and
startled Lady Ardane and Sir Parry Bardell.

"Good evening!" he exclaimed cheerfully. "I'm a bit late, but I've come
at last, as you see."




CHAPTER XIII.--THE CRACK OF THE RIFLE


It had been a terrible shock for Lady Ardane when, upon that sunny
afternoon in the Abbey grounds, quick strong hands had been laid upon
her, and, struggling furiously, she had been carried into the delivery
van.

It was not that she was seized and held with great violence. On the
contrary, for a calm voice enjoined those who were carrying her to be as
gentle as possible, and on no account to bruise her.

Naturally, she was terror-stricken, but added to that was the awful
indignity of being handled like she was. She, Helen Ardane, who all her
life had been treated with the greatest of respect, and had never known
what rough treatment was!

In her childhood, in those far-off days in Virginia, all tender and
loving care had been lavished upon her. In her years of budding
maidenhood she had held her court as a princess, and her smile or the
touch of her hand had been gifts then, to be received, by her admirers,
almost as a sacrament.

Then when she had come to Carmel Abbey as the young wife of the wealthy
Sir Charles Ardane, her life had been almost that of a queen, for the
highest in the land had paid tribute to her youth and beauty, and in the
countryside around the great historic Abbey, she had been the one above
all others to be revered and respected as the sovereign lady who held
the livelihood and well-being of so many employees and dependants in her
hands.

So, the events of that afternoon, apart from their awful terror, were a
dreadful blow to her pride. It had all happened so suddenly, too. One
minute she had been free and the proud mistress of her domain, and the
next--she was a prisoner and cut off from all that world where it was
hers to order and issue commands.

Once inside the van, the doors were banged to, a cloth was pressed
against her face, a rug was wound quickly round her, and stretched out
at full length upon the flooring, she was held down by many hands, so
that she should make no movement. Then one of her arms was drawn out and
she heard a calm voice say, "Steady now, you must keep her absolutely
still."

A moment later something was swabbed upon her arm, and she felt the
sharp prick of a needle. "Now, don't distress yourself," she heard the
voice say. "You are not going to be hurt in any way, but just going to
be sent to sleep."

Then a great peace began to fall upon her. The faces above became
indistinct and faded away, she sank down and down, and finally was
conscious of nothing more for a long time.

Then she began to awake, and her head was lifted up gently and she was
given something to drink. Its taste was unpleasant, but she drank it
quickly, for she was very thirsty.

After that everything was a confused dream. She was being jolted slowly
along, and the smell of hay was strong in her nostrils. She thought she
heard a man talking, and he must have been speaking to a horse, for he
said, "Gee up, now," many times, and often she heard the cracking of a
whip.

The jolting ceased after a long while, and then she was lifted up and
carried into the cold night air. Then she was laid carefully upon
something soft, rugs were tucked all round her, and once again her head
was lifted up and she was given something to drink that tasted now like
hot milk.

"You're quite all right," came the same voice that she had heard before.
"No one's going to do you any harm, you're just going to sleep, that's
all."

She opened her eyes drowsily and saw the stars shining through the
trees. She thought she was dreaming and lying in a dark wood. She closed
her eyes again and dropped off to sleep.

Next, she partly woke up, and saw that the sun was shining, and at once
someone bent over, and gave her more hot milk. Presently she was lifted
up very gently, once again came the smell of hay, and the jolting
recommenced.

Now she was conscious of the rumbling of wheels, and it seemed to go on
for ever and ever. Her legs began to feel stiff, and moving them, she
found that they were tied loosely at the ankles. She stretched one hand
down to unloosen them, and at once a man with a pleasant face came from
somewhere behind her and did it for her.

"We'll soon be there now," he said kindly, "and then you'll be made more
comfortable."

Then she seemed suddenly to come to her senses altogether, and found
that she was lying in a hay cart with hay piled all around her. She
could only see the sky, and her eyes filled with tears when she saw it
was so beautiful and blue, but she felt weak and heavy headed, and too
listless to make any attempt to move.

Then the man who had loosened her bonds called out something, and the
cart was stopped, and a few minutes later she was sitting up and given a
basin of soup, but there must have been some drug in the soup she was
sure, for she began to feel drowsy again at once, and very soon was
asleep once more.

Her next awakening was in a soft bed, and opening her eyes she found she
was in quite a fair-sized room, with a door at either end. It was
scantily and shabbily furnished, with just a table, a wardrobe, a chest
of drawers and a couple of chairs. There was no carpet upon the floor,
and the one window was barred across with thick iron bars. She was
partially undressed, with her frock hanging over the back of a chair
near the bed.

For quite a long time she could not collect her thoughts or remember
anything of what had happened. Then a flood of memories surged into her
mind and she burst into tears. Everything had come back to her.

She was in the hands of her enemies at last.

She remembered being seized and carried into the van, the injection
being put into her arm, the cups of hot milk, the night in the wood, the
long journey among the hay, and finally, dimly, very dimly, being
carried up some stairs in someone's arms.

She slipped shakily out of bed, and turning the handle of the door
nearest to her, found that it was locked. It was a thick and heavy door
of solid oak. The door at the other end of the room was, however, ajar,
and pushing it open, she found herself in a small bathroom. The bath was
old and rusted, but apparently quite serviceable, and there was an oil
heater attached. Upon a chair nearby were two clean folded towels, a
sponge, and new cake of soap.

Returning to the bedroom, she looked out of the window, but could not
see for any great distance, because of a white fog. There were no other
habitations anywhere in sight, and it appeared to her that the house she
was in was situated in a big meadow.

Suddenly she heard a sharp knock upon the locked door and a moment
later, hearing the key being turned, she jumped hastily into bed.

A man entered the room, quite young and of nice appearance. He smiled
when he saw her pulling the bed clothes up to her head.

"Good morning," he said, in a very pleasant voice. "How do you feel? A
little bit heavy, I expect, from the sleeping draughts we had to give
you."

"Where am I?" she asked hoarsely. "What have you brought me here for?"

The man seated himself upon a chair and regarded her in quite a friendly
way.

"There need be no mystery about anything," he said quietly, "and I'll
give you an explanation at once, so that you'll know exactly how
everything stands." He took out a cigarette and lighted it. "You have
been abducted, kidnapped, or whatever you like to call it in order that
eventually we may obtain a certain sum of money for your release. You
are not going to be hurt or ill-treated in any way"--he laughed--"and as
it's purely a matter of . s. d., and you have plenty of it, you really
need have no anxieties at all."

"Then how much do you want?" she asked quickly.

"Ah! that is not settled yet," he replied. "You see, we have your
friend, Sir Parry Bardell, here as well, and we have not decided how
much we can get out of you both." He nodded. "But it will have to be a
good sum for it means us all clearing away from the farm where we now
live, and taking up new occupations in another part of the world." He
laughed. "It's just like selling you our land here, with you paying a
good price for it."

"I'm willing to pay anything reasonable," she said with a choke in her
voice, "and so, I am sure, is Sir Parry, too."

He shook his head. "But it's not quite so easily settled as that, for we
have to consider how the money is going to be paid over. That's the
trouble, for with the whole country roused and every police officer on
the look-out for us, no cheque you might write would be of the slightest
value. We should never dare to present it."

"But where am I?" she asked again.

"And there again," he replied at once, "there is no reason that you
should not know. As I have told you, the property is going to be all
yours very shortly, and so naturally you would like to learn something
of what you are purchasing. You are upon the Methwold Fens, my lady, and
the farm is known as Black Gallows. It is 1600 odd acres and will carry
a large number of sheep, but my uncle and we boys have been busy in
other ways of late, and in consequence the farm has been very much
neglected." He pointed to the window. "It is nicely situated, and on a
clear day you can see the spire of Ely Cathedral. Your nearest town is
Downham Market and as the crow flies you are not much more than a mile
from the main London road." He looked at his watch and rose to his feet.
"But it's nearly five o'clock and you must have something to eat."

"I don't want, anything," she replied brokenly. "I couldn't touch a
thing."

"Nonsense!" he replied. "I'll bring you some cold chicken and ham and a
small bottle of wine, but I'll get you a nice hot bath first. It will do
your head a lot of good. Oh! one thing more," and he paused to give her
a whimsical smile, "I'm called Prince and I'm afraid you'll have to
accept me as your maid as long as you are staying with us, for,
unfortunately, you are the only woman upon the premises." He shook his
head. "But your ladyship need never give a thought to me, even if I come
in when you are washing or dressing, for I have no personal interest in
you at all. I never allow pleasure to interfere with business, and you
are just business to me. Nothing more, you understand. I shall be coming
into this room at all times."

Lady Ardane blushed furiously, and her bosom rose and fell in her
emotion.

"I hear you," she replied, her voice shaking, "but it is a great
indignity. I shall be obliged if you will always knock, and wait until I
have answered you before you enter."

"But it will be quite unnecessary," he said carelessly, "for you can
regard me as your doctor, quite uninterested--your clergyman, quite
harmless--or as just the man who has come to mend the sash-cord of the
window. I repeat I have absolutely no interest in you. I have carried
you in my arms several times, and yet honestly, I do not remember
whether you have a good figure or whether your bones protrude or not."
He bowed. "You are just a business proposition to me and to keep you in
a good state of preservation is all my concern."

He disappeared into the bathroom and she heard him whistling cheerfully
as he prepared the bath.

"All ready, your ladyship." he said with a bow, when presently he
returned, "and you won't be able to say you haven't been well looked
after." He approached the bed. "Oh! by-the-bye let me look at your arm.
I want to see the place where I gave you the injection. You won't show
it! Well, no matter, for it's sure to be all right. I used a
disinfectant before I inserted the needle. I was a medical student once,
and the knowledge I gained has come in very useful." He bowed. "Well,
I'll come back in half an hour and you shall have your dinner then. I'll
bring a lamp with me, too."

She had the bath, and, greatly refreshed, partook of the meal he had
soon provided. She had now in part resigned herself to her misfortunes,
and was determined to make the best of things. She had not forgotten
Larose and Naughton Jones, and although she was aware from Sir Arnold
that they were both laid up from the injuries they had received, yet he
had told her they would both soon be about again, and she had every
confidence in them both--she blushed ever so little--especially in
Larose.

But then followed long, dreary days of unvarying monotony. She saw
Prince only when he brought in her meals and half an hour later when he
returned for the tray. At first he had started asking her every morning
how she was feeling, and passing remarks, too, about the weather, but
she had either made no reply at all or just responded in curt
monosyllables, until, in the end, he had ceased speaking to her at all,
and some days, "Thank you" were the only words uttered in the room.

For some reason Prince would not explain, she was allowed no books or
papers, and in consequence, in addition to looking out of the window,
her own thoughts were her only occupation. She could see the carts and
cars passing along the Ely road, and she used to brood over how
care-free and happy their occupants would probably be. At any rate, she
was sure they could have no such troubles as were hers, and how willing
they would be to help her, she thought, too, if they only knew of the
sad and lonely woman behind these prison bars!

Several nights, at dusk, when the wind was in the right direction, she
heard the sound of church bells, the bells of eventide, and tears would
well up into her eyes as she thought of how often she had sat with her
little boy in the dim and shrouded light of the old Abbey chapel.

She thought a lot, too, about Larose in those days, for, since that
night among the trees, her feelings towards him had undergone a great
change. She had cordially disliked him up to then, for he had been so
masterful and had treated her, not as if she were Lady Ardane and the
proud chatelaine of Carmel Abbey, with its broad acres, but just as if
she were a Mrs. Anybody on whose behalf his services had been called in
in just the ordinary way.

But that night he had held her in his arms and she had been affected as
she had never been affected before.

As a young girl she had been given for wife to a man whom she had
learned to love and respect and in due time she had borne him a son. But
she had had no thrill of passion for him, and he had never delved deeply
into her woman's nature. He had never roused in her what lifts man and
woman, if only for a few short hours, into a heaven upon earth, and he
had never touched upon those strings in her being, that in their
vibrations make all else in life a common thing.

But now had come this stranger and, far above him in station,
possessions and all that counts for honor in the social life, she was
stepping down from the pedestal and looking up to him as if he were the
sovereign ruler of her kingdom. She was often hot and angry with
herself, and yet in her inmost thoughts there was a strange and
wonderful sweetness in her homage and submission.

The days passed on, and then one afternoon a dense fog fell upon the
Fens, and looking out from her window she was glad of it, because it hid
the great world beyond. It was as an opiate for her longings for freedom
and soothed and calmed her as if it were the end of everything, and she
would soon sleep in peace and be mindful of her sufferings no more.

But the next morning the bright sunlight was streaming through her
window again, and it brought back all her yearnings and sad thoughts
again.

She had just finished breakfast, and then the monotony of everything was
broken, and never again, had she only known it, was she to be without
either hopes or fears to occupy her mind.

Suddenly she heard a strange voice shouting angry words outside upon the
landing, the door was opened sharply and then, to her amazement, Sir
Parry, the true and trusted friend of her widowhood, was thrust
violently into the room, to be followed immediately by a man whom she
had never seen before.

"Here he is," shouted the strange man loudly, "and you two are to remain
together until to-morrow and arrange how our money is to be paid over.
It's 100,000 we want, and you'll have to think over how we're going to
get it. Tomorrow I shall come back to hear what you've got to say," and
with a black look that embraced them both, he went out and slammed and
locked the door.

Lady Ardane almost choked in her great joy, and then running up to Sir
Parry, who was standing trembling upon the threshold of the room, she
threw her arms round his neck and burst into tears.

"Oh! uncle dear," she sobbed, with her head buried into his shoulder,
"how glad I am to see you. I have been so miserable."

The tears were streaming, too, down Sir Parry's face as he patted her
fondly upon the cheek. "My darling Helen," he exclaimed brokenly, "how
you must have suffered, too!"

For a few minutes they stood clinging to each other, and then gently
disengaging herself from his arms, she began wiping the happy tears
away.

"Never mind, dear," whispered Sir Parry in great emotion. "It will soon
be over now, and then we shall all be happy again."

They sat down upon the bed, side by side, and they told each other all
that had happened since they had last been speaking to each other that
afternoon in the Abbey grounds.

It appeared that Sir Parry's sufferings had been much the same as her
own. He had been drugged like she had been, and the same dreadful
journey had been his through those long weary hours.

They calmed down presently, and then Sir Parry, holding her hand all the
time, began discussing everything in a practical and business-like way.
They were going to let him go away on the morrow, he said, and he would
raise every penny he could find and bring back the ransom. But they had
warned him, with many horrible threats, that if he gave the slightest
inkling to anyone why he wanted the money, or where he'd been, or what
had happened, then he would never see her again, for they were going to
poison her and escape away.

Lady Ardane trembled and shuddered as she listened, and then, clinging
to him tightly, averred that every penny of the money would be returned
to him, for, directly she was free, she would raise it from the Ardane
estates.

Then suddenly, in the midst of their talking, a sharp, vicious crack
came up from just below them, and Lady Ardane, her nerves all on edge,
sprang to her feet.

"What was that?" she asked with widely-opened eyes. "It sounded like a
pistol being fired."

Sir Parry looked startled, too, and seemed very frightened, but the
sound was not repeated, and after a moment, he exclaimed reassuringly,
"No, no, it was not a pistol. It was only the cracking of a whip.
Someone was going by on a horse."

So their conversation was resumed, and hour after hour they considered
how the huge sum of 100,000 could be raised.

Then gradually, very gradually, a subtle feeling of embarrassment began
to mar Lady Ardane's supreme happiness in being re-united to her friend,
for Sir Parry's affection for her became so effusive, and he kept on
kissing her, and would not let go her hand. He kissed her once on the
lips, too, and asked her to kiss him back. Finally, she rose and moved
away from him and sat down upon a chair, but he followed after her, and
moving up another chair close beside her, again wanted to hold her hand.

Then when, just after noon, the same man who had thrust Sir Parry so
unceremoniously into the room appeared with the dinner tray and plumped
it down upon the table and retired again without a word, Sir Parry
wanted to drink out of the same glass she was drinking from, and she did
not like it at all. He never took his eyes off her either, and in the
end she became really frightened. At last a remark he made almost
terrified her.

"Of course, dear," he said nervously, and evading her eyes, "my being
alone with you here until to-morrow will compromise you, if anyone hears
of it, but we must try and keep it from everyone and get married the
first moment we can. I'll bring back a special license with me and it'll
be as my wife that you will return to Carmel Abbey."

Her heart almost stood still, but she had perfect control of herself.

"No, uncle," she replied firmly, "I shall never marry again. I'm
determined upon that."

He looked very upset, and shook his head solemnly. "But you must think
it over," he said, "for a woman's reputation is the most precious
possession that she has"--his eyes filled with tears--"and I could not
have a breath of scandal against you, for anything in the world."

Then she began to doubt him, and was sure that he was deceiving her in
some way, for he said suddenly, "And I'll be a good father to little
Charles." His face brightened as if he were imparting good news. "He's
included in the ransom money, of course, and they will give him up
directly it is paid."

"Where is he?" she asked suspiciously.

"Somewhere in London," he replied. He hesitated. "They won't tell me
exactly where, but I think he's in Kensington."

"Who got him for them?" She asked, and her voice was now as hard and
stern as a cross-examiner in a court.

He hesitated again. "I'm not quite certain," he replied. "They never
told me, but it was one of the servants, I think. Charles was hurried on
board that yacht they have, and they said he was in London the next
day."

Then an instinct told her that he was lying, and had no knowledge of the
whereabouts of the child, for his eyes had been everywhere but upon her
when he had spoken, and he picked his words slowly, as if he were making
it all up as he went along.

From that moment a great change took place in her, and she was no longer
the weeping, clinging creature broken all to pieces by her misfortunes.
Instead, she had become all at once, in the space of a few seconds, so
it seemed, a strong and resolute woman, nerving herself to face new
dangers and deal with them as they came.

But she was tactful with it, too, and to check the amorous advances of
Sir Parry, without any appearance of noticing them, at once gave him
some work to do. "Now you clean out that bath-heater," she said sharply,
"there's something wrong with the carrier of the wick, and you'll have
to take it all to pieces. I can't raise it up far enough to get any heat
in the water," and she herself began remaking her bed and shaking up the
mattress violently.

But the tasks could not last forever, and Sir Parry was soon back in the
bedroom again. She would not now, however, allow him to come near her.
"I'm hot and tired," she said crossly, "and want to think. So, leave me
alone, please, and don't talk any more."

He received the rebuff with a disagreeable frown, and then with his eyes
still fixed intently upon her, began muttering angrily to himself. Some
of his words she did not catch, but others she could not help hearing,
and they almost froze her blood in fear. He seemed like a man who was
going out of his mind, for he muttered on and on and on.

The afternoon waned and dusk began to fall. She lit the lamp, wondering,
with a lump in her throat, how long the light would last if it were
turned very low.

Then suddenly the silence outside was abruptly broken, and three loud
reports in quick succession came from somewhere close near to the house,
and rushing to the window, she flung up the bottom sash and pushed out
her head as far out as the bars would allow.

The light was fading quickly but objects close near could be picked out
distinctly.

She heard hoarse shouts coming from round the side of the building, that
were answered immediately by someone in a slow-moving car in front of
the building, that was then instantly brought to a standstill, with a
jerk. Then its searchlight was switched on and in two seconds focused
straight upon the house, a man at the same time springing out and
dropping upon one knee to level a rifle.

The rifle cracked, once, twice, three times, and then the whole building
seemed to shake as the house door was banged violently to. Then she
heard both bolts shot into their sockets and for a few seconds silence
reigned.

Hurried steps sounded upon the stairs, about two minutes of silence
followed, then the key in the lock of her door was turned, the door was
pushed open and--Larose stepped into the room.

"Good evening," he said quietly, but with his breath coming quickly,
"I'm a bit late, but I've come at last, as you see."

Then before either she or Sir Parry could utter a word, the whole
demeanor of the detective altered.

"Take that lamp away," he cried sharply to Lady Ardane. He pointed to
the open door of the bathroom. "Go in there and put it on the floor.
Shut the door behind you, and wait until I tell you to come out."

Then, when she had at once complied, as if it were the most natural
thing to do, he advanced menacingly to Sir Parry, who, with his mouth
open and his face a ghastly pallor, was trembling violently.

"You devil," he hissed, "I know all about you. Up with your hands! Have
you got any weapon on you?" He passed his hands rapidly over his body.
"Any poison?" he asked, and he plucked the wallet out of the trembling
man's breast pocket. Then he pushed him violently into a corner. "And
there you stay," he went on, "and the slightest movement and I'll blow
your brains out."

"But don't tell her," wailed Sir Parry in a hoarse whisper and with
tears welling up into his eyes. "I only did it because I loved her so."
He held up his hands imploringly. "She must never know, and I'll destroy
myself presently."

"And it's the best thing you can do," replied Larose sharply. The tone
of his voice changed in an instant, and he called out cheerfully, "You
can come in, Lady Ardane, but, don't bring the lamp with you, and keep
out of the line of the window, whatever you do. They'll be firing in, in
a few moments."

Then he sprang to the window and, bending down, with his head just above
the sill, made a trumpet of his hands. "I'm Larose," he shouted in loud
and clarion tones. "Gilbert Larose, and here's my visiting card," and at
the same moment he fired twice with his pistol at the stationary motor
car, before he bobbed down.

"Had to do it!" he explained quickly to Lady Ardane. "I wanted to let
them know that I was armed, so that they'll hesitate about coming too
close. I don't want them to start upon breaking in that door below. I
gave them my name, too, to set them thinking. They may bolt away now,
not knowing who else is in the neighborhood."

"Oh! I'm so thankful!" exclaimed Lady Ardane brokenly. "I can't tell you
how I feel."

"That's all right," replied Larose cheerfully, "but down upon the floor
at once," and that his advice was good was evident almost immediately,
for bullet after bullet came crashing through the window. The panes were
smashed to atoms and the bullets scattered the plaster upon the wall in
all directions. The fusillade lasted about half a minute and then all
was still.

"And that's about all they dare to do," went on Larose in matter-of-fact
tones, "for if they bang any more, they'll be afraid of attracting
attention in the surrounding villages and bringing people here to know
what's happened."

Ignoring Sir Parry altogether, he asked Lady Ardane what was in the
other room, and where the window was there. She told him and that there
was no window, only a skylight.

"Well, you stand by the door," he enjoined, "and I'll just have a wash.
Call me instantly if you hear the slightest sound."

In the meantime an anxious conference was being held by five men,
huddled together behind the stationary car outside.

Their faces were white and grim and they looked at one another with
uneasy and furtive eyes.

"I don't like the look of things," said a man with a big scar across his
forehead. His voice shook. "Where's Prince and where's Juno? I believe
they've had a knife into them, too. It's all up, I say, and there may be
a mob of police round here in no time now. We'd better cut whilst we
can."

"No, no," exclaimed the tall man, Clem, sharply, "don't you be a
blithering coward, Peter. Prince will turn up soon, I'm certain. He's a
match for a dozen like that Larose, and not one to be knifed quietly
behind his back." He sneered scornfully. "We're not going to lose our
heads and be beaten by one single man." He pointed to the racing
stables, still held under the ghostly rays of the searchlight. "That
fool there made the mistake of his life when he bawled out he was
Larose, for everyone's heard of the devil and knows he always works
alone. Prince says it's notorious he always spies out everything by
himself to get all the credit, and never asks for any help until the
very end." He was most emphatic. "No, we can be quite sure that no one
knows he's here." He put his head round the side of the car and shook
his fist in the direction of the shattered window. "We've got the devil
in a trap right enough, and it's only a question of keeping him there
and then we'll be quite safe and nothing will happen."

Roy Fensum, a dark man, but with a face now of a horrible sickly color,
swore an obscene oath. "And I can see all that's happened," he exclaimed
savagely. "It's as plain as day to me. He came on to Black Gallows
yesterday and got lost in that fog. Then Ishmail nosed him out somehow,
but he managed to kill the brute and find his way to the stables here.
Then he hid in that shed with the hay loft that I caught him sneaking
out of just now. He's been there all last night and all today." His
voice rose excitedly. "Yes, he's been on Black Gallows for more than
twenty-four hours and that means for certain that he's all alone and no
one knows where he is, or the police would have been here long ago. If
we wait----"

"But how can we get at him?" broke in another man with a scowl. "He's
got a gun on him and I've heard tell he's the best pistol shot in
Australia."

"Starve him out," snapped Fensum, "and the old fool and woman, too. The
only thing, we must watch the stable on both sides and never give him a
chance of breaking away. The moon'll be out in half an hour and then
we'll shift this car back a couple of hundred yards." He laughed
mockingly. "I'll bet he's feeling pretty glum."

But had he been only there to see him, Larose was not feeling at all
glum. On the contrary, refreshed by a good wash, he was squatted on the
floor just opposite to Lady Ardane, and she was pouring out a glass of
wine for him as he was eating sparingly of some of the ham and chicken
left over from her dinner with Sir Parry Bardell.

Lady Ardane was looking quite a different woman now, for her face was no
longer strained and the shadows had all gone from her beautiful eyes.

"And it can't be long," Larose told her cheerfully, "before we are
rescued. Any moment, in fact, but most probably to-morrow. I've got two
good men helping me. They know in which direction I was making my
enquiries, and they'll soon ferret along the trail. Then there's another
man, only seven miles from here, and he'll be looking for me, too. He's
an ex-policeman and knows exactly where I was coming. He's been away
from home to-day, but he'll be back to-night, and if I am any judge of
character, hearing nothing about me, he'll be going to look where he
told me to leave my car and finding it still there--then I don't know
exactly what he will do. He'll probably, however, ring up the police at
Downham Market and then"--he laughed merrily--"the fat will be in the
fire for those gentlemen outside."

She watched him as he spoke, and she thrilled with a feeling of great
happiness, which she took no thought to analyse.

Her dress was soiled and crumpled by the rough usage it had undergone,
for a week and more she had been denied all the little toilet luxuries
that make a woman pleasing! She was squatting in semi-darkness upon the
bare boards of a room that had at all times been shabby and comfortless!
The night air was rushing in through a window that had now no panes!
There were bullet marks upon the wall just above her head! She was in an
atmosphere of strife and violence and sudden death! There were men near
her whom she knew would have no compunction in committing any horror to
hide their evil deeds and yet--she was quite happy!

The man who had been so often in her thoughts had come into her life
again, and all faith that she could render, she had in him. She was no
longer the proud mistress of Carmel Abbey, and he was not a policeman
from Scotland Yard. They were just man and woman together, and in
unspoken words the old, old story was being told once again.

Only one thing marred the absolute harmony of everything, for Larose
would not tell her where her son was. He assured her that the boy was
all right, and inclining his head ever so slightly in the direction of
Sir Parry, added that although for the moment it was a secret, she would
nevertheless soon know.

And all this time Sir Parry had remained seated in the corner where
Larose had pushed him, with his hands clasped together and his eyes
staring on to the floor. He seemed like a man in a trance and oblivious
to all that was going on around him.

Presently the moon rose in its cold and silvered majesty and the search
light on the car was switched off. "But it'll be death to anyone to
look," warned Larose speaking rather loudly, "for they'll be watching
during every second of the night."

Then came the question of how they would all sleep, and Larose issued
his orders in no uncertain manner.

"I'll push your bed up to the end of the room," he said to Lady Ardane.
"Sir Parry will sleep where he is, I see his overcoat is here, and I'll
lie down by the door."

"But you'll both be so cold," protested Lady Ardane. "I have two
blankets and you are quite welcome to one." But the detective would not
hear of it, and speaking both for himself and Sir Parry who, however,
made no comment, assured her they would be quite warm enough if they
kept out of the current of the draught.

Then gradually silence fell upon the room, with surely as strange an
assortment of room-mates there as could be found anywhere. Lady Ardane
had climbed into the bed and slipped off her dress under the clothes,
Sir Parry was leaning back heavily in the corner from which he had still
never moved, and Larose was lying before the door with his head upon his
arm.

An hour passed and they were all awake, two hours and then Sir Parry's
head sagged upon his chest and he began to snore lightly. A cloud passed
over the moon, and then, with the room in total darkness, Larose heard
soft foot-falls come from the direction of the bed. Then he felt a hand
groping for him, but he did not move because he knew whose it was. His
heart beat terribly and he trembled as if he were in an ague.

"Mr. Larose, I must speak to you," breathed a voice so faintly that he
could hardly hear it, and Lady Ardane bent down to whisper in his ear.
He turned his head so that he could take in what she was going to say,
and then his lips brushed against hers. Instinctively then, and acting
upon an impulse that he made no attempt to control, he raised himself up
nearer and kissed them, and for one brief second they were not
withdrawn. Her burning face was close against his and he could feel her
heart beating as violently as was his own. Then with a quick movement
she drew herself away.

"You oughtn't to have done that," she reproved, but so gently that there
was no sting in the reproof. "Still, I'm so happy in your coming that I
could forgive you almost anything for the moment."

"But it was not nice of me to do it," whispered back Larose sharply, and
now in a fury of remorse. "It was taking advantage of your overwrought
feelings and I humbly beg your pardon."

"It is all right," came the soft reply, and the darkness hid her smile.
She touched his arm lightly. "Now I have a lot of things to ask you,"
and then he could feel that she was rising to her feet, "but wait a
moment until I fetch a blanket. I'm cold and shivering here."

But it was not the cold that made her shiver. It was the kiss that he
had given her and the thought that she had had no wish to draw her lips
away.

She was back in a few seconds. "Here's the other one for you," she
whispered. "No, don't be foolish." She laughed softly. "You are not the
only one who can give orders here." Something of her old imperious
manner came back. "Now tell me at once about my boy."

Then with the blankets wrapped round them and sitting so close together
that each could feel the warmth of the other's body, Larose told her
most of what had happened, refraining, however, from all mention of Sir
Parry in any way.

A long silence followed when he had finished, and then she asked
hesitatingly, as if fearful of the answer he would give, "But who then,
has been the instigator of it all?" He could feel her trembling against
him. "Who--has--been--my--enemy--all--along!"

He answered her very solemnly. "You know quite well, Lady Ardane," he
said, "that the strongest urge in life is what we call love, and while
the passion of a man for a woman can be the most glorious thing on
earth, yet at the same time it can be the most terrible one. It can so
warp his mind that while sane in everything else, he is stark, staring
mad in that one particular." He picked his words carefully. "Well, a
certain man conceived a passion for you that he knew was hopeless and
with no fulfillment--he went mad. That is all. I cannot tell you more
now, but unhappily you will have to learn all one day, and then it will
be a great sorrow for you." He spoke sharply. "Now, not another
question, please."

Her voice shook. "I understand a little," she said slowly, "and I don't
want to know any more."

"Well, you go back to your bed now," he went on. "We must both try and
get some sleep."

"I'll go back in a few minutes," she sighed, "but I was very cold there
and I'm quite warm now. We won't talk."

Then a deep silence fell upon them, and gradually, very gradually, he
felt that she was leaning heavily and more heavily against him. Then her
breathing became slow and regular and he knew she was asleep. The red
head was now upon his shoulder.

"Poor little woman," he murmured, "and she'll be so sorry for it later."
He smiled sadly. "Part of my dream has at all events come true"--he
grinned--"but there is no blind to pull down." His face became sad again
"and alas, there is no need of it."

The night waxed and waned, it was cloudy and then fine, and the moon and
the searchlight playing hide-and-seek together. Always, one of them was
shining on the building, and, perhaps, the moon was curious as to what
was going on inside that chamber with the shattered window panes.

Then finally the night was over and Larose, who had been dozing on and
off a score of times, saw that the dawn was coming and that objects were
now distinguishable in the room. He pushed against Lady Ardane very
gently and she awoke suddenly and looked at him with startled eyes. Then
face, neck, and the opening to her bosom crimsoned furiously.

Larose pointed to the still slumbering Sir Parry. "Go back to your bed,"
he whispered and she obeyed instantly. Then, once more ensconced among
her pillows, she gave him a roguish smile and closed her eyes as if she
were going to sleep again.

An hour and more passed and then with the sun high in the heavens, she
whispered to him that she was going into the bathroom.

"And don't you come out until I call you," he replied sternly. "I am
going to see if they are still on the watch and they will probably fire
again. So don't be afraid. I want to make them fire, to draw attention
in the villages that something unusual is going on."

Then the moment she had gone into the bathroom and shut the door, he
sprang up and shook Sir Parry roughly.

"Wake up," he whispered sharply. "The time has come."

"What time?" whispered back Sir Parry hoarsely, and from the expression
upon his face it was plain that a realisation of all his terrors had
come back to him.

"The time for you to decide what you are going to do," replied Larose,
"and you have only a few minutes to do it, for Lady Ardane will be back
very quickly. Now listen to me." He regarded the wretched man with a
face as hard and pitiless as a stone. "Consider your position. The
police may be here any moment, and they will arrest you directly they
come. You tried to poison me, but I shall say nothing about that, for it
was one of the risks of my profession. Your wits were pitted against
mine, and you showed yourself the better man."

"I was mad," gasped Sir Parry, "I was----"

"Of course, you were mad," snapped Larose, "you have been mad all along.
Well, I'll lay no charge against you there, but you'll be arrested for
conspiracy, and you'll have to stand your trial."

"Oh! but I loved her so," wailed Sir Parry, "and as I knew she would
never marry me for love, because I am too old, I thought perhaps she
would marry me out of gratitude if her child was stolen and I got him
back for her. So I took young Clive into my confidence and he said he
knew some smugglers who would arrange it all for me. Then it got out of
my hands, for they are evil men who will do anything. I could not
restrain them and it got worse and worse, and I became a would-be
murderer myself."

"But I am quite aware of all that," said Larose quickly, "and it's a
waste of time your telling me," His voice was cold and hard. "I want to
know what you are going to do."

"But what can I do," gasped Sir Parry. "I can't undo what I have done
now."

Larose pointed to the broken window. "You can go and stand there," he
said sternly, "and your friends, your co-conspirators who have brought
such misery upon this poor woman, will put a bullet through your head
and you will escape everything, and it will all be over. Button up your
jacket and put my cap on, and then they'll think that they are firing at
me."

Sir Parry recoiled in horror. "You mean me to be killed?" he gasped. He
shook his head. "I daren't do it."

"Think of the shame that is coming to you!" hissed Larose. "You will
stand in the dock, and the story will be told, how, night after night,
you used to creep up into that corridor and, standing upon that box,
watch Lady Ardane disrobe. The Crown Prosecutor will describe your
gloating eyes, how the bestiality of an old man's mind----"

"Stop, stop," choked Sir Parry, "I can't bear it."

"Lady Ardane will be there," went on Larose pitilessly. "She will hear
how her best friend and a man old enough to be her father, spied upon
her in her most private movements and ravished her nightly with his
eyes; how----"

"That's enough," exclaimed Sir Parry springing up. "I'll do it; but push
me there, so that I don't try to draw back."

For the first time, the detective felt a little pity for the wretched
man whom he was sending to his doom. "Your death will be quite
painless," he said kindly, "for you will not feel anything, and not even
hear the bullet that will kill you."

"Shake hands, Mr. Larose," sobbed Sir Parry. "I'd like to feel that I
die with someone who has pity for me, by my side."

But the detective drew back sharply. "No, Sir Parry," he replied with
the utmost coldness, "I cannot, for I draw the line at you. I have
shaken hands with murderers who were about to die, but you--you are
worse than any of them."

The scorn in his voice braced the doomed man like a deep draught of
wine, and he drew himself up proudly. "Very well," he said calmly, "then
I would prefer to die alone," and with not the slightest hesitation and
with steady steps he walked over to the window and stood full before it.

Half a minute of breathless silence followed, and then Sir Parry
remarked calmly. "Here it comes. He's resting his rifle upon the bonnet,
of the car. I think it's the man they call Clem, Clem Lamb. He boasts he
is a very good shot."

Then two bullets came crashing into the room in quick succession. They
missed and buried themselves into the wall behind. Sir Parry stood quite
still. He had not flinched a hair's breadth.

"You're a brave man!" exclaimed Larose hoarsely, "and I will shake hands
with you now."

Then, as Sir Parry, with a cold smile, stretched back his right hand for
Larose to grasp, a bullet struck him square in the middle of his
forehead and he fell back dead, into the detective's arms.

The crack of the rifle died away and Larose called out shrilly. "Don't
come in yet, Lady Ardane. Sir Parry's killed. They got him with a bullet
in the head," and a gasp of horror came from behind the bathroom door.




CHAPTER XIV.--HELEN ARDANE


At about nine o'clock upon the night of the evening when Larose had
burst so unceremoniously into the chamber of Lady Ardane above the
racing stables upon Black Gallows, Naughton Jones, accompanied by his
two very criminal-looking associates, stalked into the coffee-room of
the King's Arms, in Downham Market as if he were the now proprietor
taking over, and demanded a hot supper for three, at once.

There were two men already in the coffee-room, partaking of a cold
supper of bread and cheese and onions, when he entered, and they
regarded the little party curiously, but Mr. Jones' friends,
notwithstanding the intent scrutiny to which they were subjected, and
which made them kick each other slily under the table many times,
partook of a highly satisfactory meal of ham and eggs, washed down with
copious draughts of good, strong beer.

Proceeding into the yard early the next morning, Jones observed the same
two men again, now attending to a motor bicycle outfit in one of the
stable stalls, and after hesitating a moment, he turned back into the
hotel and made a few enquiries about them from the landlord, the young
person behind the bar, the waiter, and the boots.

Then returning into the yard, he found that they had gone away, but that
the motor bicycle was still there. However, a few minutes later he
overtook them as they were walking along very slowly, just before they
arrived at where was situated the police station of the town, and he
stopped to address them.

"I beg your pardons," he said sharply, and as if he were speaking to
inferiors, "but are you by any chance waiting for a Mr. Gilbert Larose?"

The men seemed as surprised as if they had received a very sudden and
unexpected slap in the face, and then the older of the two asked
gruffly, "What the devil do you mean?"

Jones made a careless motion with his hand. "You have a motor bicycle
outfit of the make used generally by the authorities, you walk like
policemen upon a beat, and it is is my opinion that you are
plain-clothes men from the Yard. Also, I have learnt that the morning
before last you were closeted for more than an hour with a gentleman
whose description exactly tallies to that of my friend, Mr. Larose." He
spoke as if the matter were quite settled. "Therefore, I take it for
granted that you are now waiting for him."

The men appeared staggered. "Who are you," asked the one who had spoken
before, "and what business is it of yours?"

"My name is Naughton Jones," was the haughty reply, "and if my surmises
are correct, kindly follow me into the station here. I may be able to be
of service to you, and you may not be without service to me."

Without a word then, they followed him into the police station, and soon
all three were in the presence of the inspector there.

"I am Naughton Jones," announced Jones grandly, "and I am close upon the
heels of the gang who recently abducted Lady Helen Ardane, of Carmel
Abbey, also, if I am not mistaken, upon the heels of the
Antwerp-Rotterdam coterie of illicit drug traffickers, too." He bowed
gravely. "I require your assistance in effecting the arrests."

The inspector thrilled at his words. Downham Market was a well-behaved
little town, the chief offenders against the law there being, in the
main, drunks, and small boys who were caught riding bicycles at night
without lights. So prospects of distinction and promotion for him were,
in consequence, never at any time bright, but the world famous case of
the abduction of the beautiful Lady Ardane and the rounding-up of a
dope-traffic gang--ah! those were very different offences altogether,
and might alter the whole course of his life.

He knew Naughton Jones, well by reputation, and association with that
great investigator would be another feather in his cap. So, he listened
with profound attention.

"The matter is quite straightforward," went on Jones. "I----" He
hesitated. "Mr. Larose and I were going through a house upon the sands
of Holkham Bay, where certain members of the gang who were concerned in
the abduction had been hiding, and I came upon two recently-purchased
books of an unusual and abstruse character. Then from certain facts that
I deduced, I traced the purchase of these books to a shop in Cambridge,
and learnt that they had been despatched to a Mr. C. Lamb, at the
Southery Post Office, seven miles from here. Yesterday, however, upon
making enquiries, I was informed by the young woman in charge there that
she had no knowledge at all of this Mr. Lamb. As far as she knew, she
had never seen him, and certainly did not know where he resided, but she
remembered the coming of the books most distinctly and that they had
been called for by a Thomas Jowles, whom she knows quite well, and who
keeps the inn at the little village of Methwold."

"I know him, too," broke in the Inspector grimly. "He's a fellow of not
too good a character and we've had trouble with him several times.
Trading after hours, etc., and suspected of being a poacher."

"Well, the matter is very simple," said Jones. "We have only to learn
from him where this C. Lamb is living and raid the premises, and without
doubt we shall find both Lady Ardane and Sir Parry Bardell there." He
looked sharply at the inspector. "You are the Clerk of Petty Sessions
here and can issue a search warrant."

'The inspector nodded. "Yes, I can issue a warrant all right"--he
hesitated--"but how, Mr. Jones, do you connect this Mr. Lamb so
positively with the abductors of Lady Ardane?"

Naughton Jones spoke very sharply. "I have seen him, sir," he replied,
"in company with certain members of the gang, before, however, we were
aware that they were the gang. He is a tall, spare man, with a long face
and big nose, and----"

"Ah!" broke in Hale, the elder of the two men who had been accompanying
Larose, "that's the man we're after, tall, long face, and big nose." He
turned excitedly to the inspector. "It's quite all right. We can go
straight ahead."

"Of course it's all right," snapped Jones, "or I shouldn't be here." He
looked impressively at the inspector. "I know this Lamb personally, sir,
and when disguised, have actually spoken to him. One of the men who was
with them is called Prince, and he is wanted for the murder of that
unknown man who was found shot upon that ditchside on the Fakenham road
last week." He turned round to Hale. "And where is Mr. Larose?"

"We don't know, sir," replied Hale, looking very troubled, "and are
getting quite anxious about him. We last saw him the day before
yesterday and were to have met him the same evening at six o'clock, but
he didn't turn up. We know, however, in which direction he was going and
have traced him up to within two miles of Swaffham. He was enquiring at
all the garages for a party who had recently purchased two valve-caps
for a grey Jehu car, but he doesn't appear to have reached Swaffham, for
none of the garages report any enquiries having been made there. Our
only hope is that he went to one particular garage, the proprietor of
which is at present away, and learnt what he wanted to know there, but
we shan't be able to get in touch with this man until tomorrow." He took
out his handkerchief and wiped over his forehead. "It looks an ugly
business to me."

The inspector was a man of action, and rose at once to his feet. "How
many men do you think we shall want, Mr. Jones!"

"I have two," replied Jones. "There are these gentlemen here," he
nodded. "Come yourself, and bring three others. Can you raise them, or
should we ring up King's Lynn!"

"No, no, I've got them," exclaimed the inspector, quickly, and anxious
that at all costs the matter should not pass out of his hands. "That
will make nine of us altogether. Meet me in ten minutes at the west end
of the town."

"And come armed," said Jones significantly, as he prepared to leave the
room. "Truncheons will not be sufficient here."

Less than three-quarters of an hour later then, two cars and the motor
bicycle outfit pulled up, by pre-arrangement, about a hundred yards
short of the Methwold Inn, kept by one Thomas Jowles, licensed to sell
beer, wines, spirits and tobacco.

"I'll go in with one of my assistants," said Jones, "and then if the
fellow has anything to hide, he won't, perhaps, be quite so much upon
his guard as if we all appear together," and so, accompanied by Bloggs,
the one time Limehouse Bruiser, he made at once for the inn.

The tap-room was unoccupied except for a big, heavy-looking man who was
reading a newspaper behind the bar. He was unshaven and rather
dirty-looking. His face was large and full, and he had small eyes, set
very close together. He rose leisurely to his feet when the two
appeared.

"Mr. Jowles, I presume," said Jones very politely.

"Yes," nodded the man, "I'm Thomas Jowles," and he gave a hard intent
stare at his visitors.

"Well, we're not exactly customers," explained Jones, "but we may be
after you have answered a question or two." He spoke very casually. "You
know Mr. Lamb, I believe?"

The man's face puckered instantly into a frown and he looked quickly
from Jones to his companion, who, according to instructions, was
standing in the background.

"Lamb!" he exclaimed slowly, and as if he were putting a great tax upon
his memory. He shook his head. "No, I don't know any gent of that name."

"He's tall and slight, with a long face and rather big nose," went on
Jones, still speaking quite casually.

"No, I've never heard of him," said the innkeeper convincingly. "Of
course, I may have seen him, but I'm a bad one at all times for faces
and I get a lot of strangers in here."

"Think again, Mr. Jowles," said Jones sternly, and with all the
pleasantry now gone out of his tones. "You remember him all right."

"No, I don't," said the man doggedly. "I've never heard of him."

"Then why," asked Jones very slowly, and raising a warning finger to
emphasise his words, "did you, three weeks ago, last Tuesday, pick up a
parcel of books from the Southery Post Office, addressed to a Mr. C.
Lamb?"

The man's face became as black as thunder. "I never picked up any parcel
for anyone," he blustered, "and he's a ruddy liar who says I did."

"But the young woman in the Post Office remembers the incident most
clearly," snapped Jones, "and it's no good your attempting to deny it."

A crafty look came into the man's face. "Then does this Mr. Lamb accuse
me of stealing it?" he asked. "If so, bring him here and I'll deal with
him myself." He sneered. "You're not this Mr. Lamb, apparently." and
ducking under the counter of the bar, he advanced threateningly towards
Naughton Jones, remarking coarsely at the same time, "Get out."

Whereupon the ex-bruiser thought it time to take part in the
conversation, and in a round of extreme brevity stretched the innkeeper
upon the floor. Then when the great investigator was examining the
extent of the man's injuries, Bloggs ducked under the counter in his
turn, and with a skill and dexterity born of long practice, absorbed
'two pints' in the twinkling of an eye. He was back again behind his
master before the latter had pronounced that the landlord was all right,
and safe, now, to be allowed to recuperate by himself.

Leaving the inn, Jones crossed over to a little general shop upon the
other side of the road and made some enquiries that heartened him
considerably, and in no small measure compensated for the disappointing
interview at the inn. The woman there knew nothing of the names of any
cars, but she had many times seen a tall man, with a long face, drive up
to the inn in a grey-colored one and stop there for quite a long time.
She had no idea who he was, but pointed out the direction from which he
always came.

Returning to the waiting cars, Jones reported all that had happened.
"But we are hot upon the trail," he added confidently, "and the gang are
close here. Now follow me, for I have another good card to play."

At the first turning, then, off the tarred road, he stopped his car and
the others followed suit. "Where does this road lead to?" he asked the
inspector. "It looks pretty muddy and as if it isn't often used."

"It's a by-road to Feltwell village," replied the inspector, "but very
few people take it, because the surface is always bad. There's only one
place you pass on the way and that's a farm called Black Gallows,
belonging to a man named Fensum."

"Who is he," asked Jones, "do you know anything about him!"

"Not much," was the reply, "but I've been there once about two Alsatian
dogs he's got. There were complaints that they had been straying and
killing sheep, but I couldn't bring it home to them."

"Well, you all get out," ordered Jones quickly, "and we'll go down this
road and look for the imprint of a nearly new tyre that has got one
square in the middle of its tread almost cut away. I shaved it down low
myself, and it ought to show up clearly in this mud. It's a Nathan cover
with the lines of boldly cushioned squares. It's the offside wheel and
upon the car of the man we want."

They all jumped out on to the road and walking in line, with their eyes
glued upon the surface, proceeded slowly along.

"A car's been here quite recently," said Jones, after a moment, "but it
isn't the one we want. Its tyres are much too small."

Nothing happened for about a hundred yards, and then one of the
plainclothes men called out gleefully, "Hullo! here's something that
looks like it. There's a square missing here."

They all bent over the imprint he indicated and then the face of Jones
flushed deeply, but he remarked quite calmly, "Yes, that's it, and
there's another and another, still." He looked round with an exultant
smile. "I have my methods and they seldom fail. On to this Black
Gallows, my friends."

They jumped back in great excitement into their cars and proceeded
quickly along the road, but they had not gone very far before they came
upon a man standing by a car that was stationary close near a plantation
of small trees. They all slowed down as they approached and then the man
by the car called out, "Hullo! Inspector Bain. Stop, please. I want
you." His face was very anxious. "Are you by any chance looking for the
detective, Gilbert Larose?"

Explanations quickly followed, and then the man jumped back into his own
car, with the inspector now taking a seat beside him.

"But it's lucky we met you, Hart," said the latter, as the car drove
swiftly on. "This business looks very bad to me, with Mr. Larose now
missing for nearly forty-eight hours."

They reached the gate leading on to Black Gallows and the ex-policeman
of Hoxton gave his orders quickly as if he were now leader of the party.

"We must rush them," he said, "and go straight round to the far side of
the farmhouse. That's the only direction in which they can break away,
for it's quite possible they may have boards ready to throw across the
narrow dykes. So all of us in the cars will go round to the front, but
you"--he pointed to the plain-clothes men in the sidecar outfit--"stop
directly you get near the outbuildings and cut off an escape from that
way. I think there'll be six or seven to account for."

The cars went like the wind, and Naughton Jones' dilapidated-looking
Goat, goaded on to fury by the pressure upon its accelerator, avalanched
over the ground for all the world as if it were upon exhibition before
an intending purchaser.

Fortune favored the raiders, for it so happened that Lamb and the man
with the big scar across his forehead were at that very moment adjusting
the carburetter of the Jehu, and with their heads close together under
the bonnet, were roaring up the engine to get the adjustment correct. So
they heard nothing of the rush of the oncoming cars until they were just
upon them, and then, too astonished to make any attempt at escape, they
were pounced upon by the Downham Market men.

"Handcuff them," roared Jones in a voice of thunder, "that's Lamb and
the other one is at all events consorting with criminals."

Then with the two manacled at once and with no parley, Jones, the
Inspector and Hart rushed round to the front door. They met Roy Fensum,
coming out with another man close behind him. The two had evidently been
partaking of morning lunch, for the latter was holding a slice of bread
and butter in his hand.

Jones flourished a big revolver. "Hands up!" he shouted, "and no
tricks," and then pointing to Fensum whose face had turned a ghastly
yellow under its tan, he gasped excitedly, "But, who's that?"

"He's the owner of the farm," replied the Inspector, "Roy Fensum."

"No, no, he's not," shouted Jones exultingly, "and clap the darbies on
him at once, for he's wanted, at all events, for breaking his
ticket-of-leave." He laughed scornfully. "It's no good your trying to
screw up your face, Joe, for it won't deceive me." He turned to the
Inspector. "He's an old lag, sir, Joseph Minting Shaver, and in 1919 got
fifteen years for burglary when carrying a revolver, but he was released
some six years ago and has never reported since." He rubbed his hands
together delightedly. "Yes, it was I who traced him to a house in
Shoreditch and put the police on him. Didn't I, Joe?"

The man's face was in a muck sweat, and neither he nor his companion
made any resistance.

"Now where have all you beauties got Lady Ardane and Sir Parry Bardell
tucked away?" asked Jones sternly. He shook his fist in Fensum's face.
"By heaven, if any harm's come to them you'll----"

But suddenly there came the sound of a swiftly approaching car, and
looking round, they saw one drive up, almost stop, and then after a very
white face had peered out through the window, turn almost in its own
length and start to race off at a great pace back along the way it had
just come.

"After him!" shrieked Naughton Jones. "He's Clive Huntington and one of
the worst of the gang. He's wanted for the murder of Bernard Daller, the
airman."

The plain-clothes men from the Yard jumped into their outfit and started
off in pursuit.

"No chance!" wailed Jones despairingly. "It's going eighty, and they'll
never catch it," and then his eye fell upon a rifle standing in the
porch. He made a snatch for it, and his face became transfigured. "It's
loaded," he gasped. He dropped upon one knee and his breath came in
quick jerks. "I was a crack shot once."

Then with a supreme effort he calmed himself down. His muscles became
taut, and then unstrained and under perfect control. In five seconds he
was as steady as a rock. He looked down the sights and smiled a cold
grim smile.

An intense moment followed. Then--bang went the rifle, bang and bang
again. "Got him," he said calmly, "in one of the back tyres!"

Then a report almost as loud as the rifle reached them, and the swiftly
racing car was seen to describe a dreadful curve. The wheels of one side
rose up and for a few seconds hovered in the air. Then the car turned
completely over and slid its own length along the ground in a dense
cloud of smoke.

The side-car men raced up and were just in time to grab hold of Clive
Huntington, who was climbing, badly shaken but unhurt, through one of
the windows.

Naughton Jones wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "But I was
runner-up for the King's Prize at Bisley once," he remarked carelessly
to the astounded spectators, "and after this, if I could spare the time,
I almost think I would be inclined to compete again." He nodded. "Yes,
when Daller was murdered four days ago, his murderer was careless and
left plenty of fingerprints behind him, but the authorities did not know
whose they were, until I sent up a print of Huntington's, and then a
warrant was issued for this gentleman at once."

In the meantime Larose and Lady Ardane, with quickly-beating hearts, had
been aware that something very unusual was happening, but the detective,
suspecting a ruse, had not ventured to look out of the window. Earlier
in the morning he had cautiously lifted the little mirror off the
dressing table and had held it just above the window sill in order to
see if anyone were still on guard outside, and within ten seconds it had
been smashed to atoms and the glass all scattered over the room. That
experience had made him chary of taking further risks, and so they had
just sat waiting patiently through all the roar of the cars that they
had heard.

But when they heard the rifle shots at some distance from where they
were, and the resounding bang of the bursting tyre, Larose became
convinced that they must do something.

"I've got an idea," he said, with the cheerfulness that he had kept up
all along. "We'll hang one of the sheets off your bed out of the window
and they can bang away at that as much as they want to," and so in a few
seconds the sheet had been swung over the window sill and was flapping
as a signal of distress in the wind.

So almost immediately it came about that Hale, returning with Clive
Huntington handcuffed in the side-car, caught sight of the sheet and,
depositing his prisoner with the Downham Market officers, instantly rode
over to see what it meant.

To his amazement, then, the machine almost ran over a man who was lying
prone in the long grass before the stables. The man had got a rifle by
his side, but he was so cowed by all that he had seen happening around
him, that, although he refused to give any reason for his being there,
he allowed himself to be marched off a prisoner to the farmhouse. Then
Hale returned at once to where the sheet was hanging out.

"Hullo! hullo!" he shouted, "who's up there? Is that you, Mr. Larose?"
and to his unbounded delight Larose put his head out of the window, and,
too overcome to speak, waved his hand. Then the end of everything came
very quickly, and in a few minutes Lady Ardane and Larose were seated at
the table in the farmhouse, and surrounded by friendly and sympathetic
faces, partaking of hot coffee and bread and butter.

But the food almost choked Lady Ardane. She wanted to be away by herself
and weep oceans and oceans of tears, but she saw that Larose was
suffering, too, and for his sake kept herself under control. Her mind
was bruised and lacerated, and she thought that surely it would never be
at peace again, but her heart was whispering a great secret to her, and
if she wept, she knew it would not all be for grief.

Naughton Jones was in great form, and time after time congratulated the
Downham Market inspector upon the captures that had been made. "A small
thing, my services," he observed magnificently, "and all the credit may
be yours. My reputation is well-known and I would wish that no undue
stress be laid upon the information that I was able to give you." He
raised his hand warningly. "But search every nook and cranny of this
place and I shall be very much surprised if you do not obtain most clear
and certain evidence of the illicit-drug traffic that I am positive has
been carried on from here." A thought seemed suddenly to strike him.
"But there is yet one man unaccounted for, and I would have dearly liked
you to have got him." He turned sharply to Larose. "By-the-bye, have you
seen anything of that fellow Prince? Prince is, of course, only his
nickname. They call him that because of his dandified appearance." He
spoke carelessly. "He is Clive Huntington's brother, Rupert."

Larose looked very astonished.

"Yes," he replied, lowering his voice and hoping that Lady Ardane should
not hear, "I had a little argument with him yesterday in one of the
sheds of the stable, where the hay loft is."

Naughton Jones glanced round at the company generally and smiled a slow,
grim smile. "And if I know anything of Mr. Larose's little talks," he
remarked loudly, "I think some of you had better take a stretcher or in
preference a hurdle round to where the conversation took place."

To spare the feelings of Lady Ardane no one made any comment, and then,
perhaps, the greatest surprise of the morning occurred.

A limousine and a big police motor van came roaring to a standstill
outside. Senator Harvey and Theodore Rankin sprang from the limousine, a
dozen burly men from the police van, and then, the party dividing, some
spread themselves round the house and others came rushing up to the
front door.

"Great Scot!" exclaimed the Downham Market inspector. "It's
Superintendent Roberts, of Norwich, and a posse of his men."

The new-comers crowded into the kitchen, and the amazement upon the
faces of the Senator and Theodore Rankin was laughable to behold.

With a cry of joy, Helen ran to her step-father, and big tears welled
from the latter's eyes. "So, we're too late," he exclaimed, "and the
caged birds are free." He looked round and asked quickly, "But where is
Sir Parry?"

Larose laid his finger upon his lips and nodded in the direction of Lady
Ardane. "There's a great deal to tell you, sir, but it can't be told all
at once."

"But the gang, Inspector Bain?" exclaimed Superintendent Roberts, "Have
you got them all?"

"Six of them, sir, in the back room," replied the inspector, looking
across at Larose, "and the seventh, I think, is dead."

Naughton Jones at once stepped forward. "We regret to have forestalled
you, Superintendent Roberts," he said calmly, "but you are just one hour
too late. Inspector Bain, ahem!"--he coughed over so slightly--"acting
upon information received, has rounded up the whole lot,"--his voice
rose in grandiloquent tones--"not only the abductors of Lady Ardane and
Sir Parry Bardell, but also, I am nearly certain, the heads of the
Antwerp-Rotterdam illicit drug traffic gang." He frowned. "Only one
thing is as yet achieved. We are not in possession of the child, and two
of the wretches here who have been prevailed upon to speak, deny all
knowledge of his whereabouts. They admit that he was taken, but aver he
was removed from their custody almost at once, in a manner they have
never been able to understand."

Lady Ardane instantly looked up, smiling through her tears. With all her
gratitude to Naughton Jones, she did not like it that he had not
mentioned Larose. "My child is all right," she said happily, and
glancing round upon everyone. "They only held him for about ten minutes,
and then Mr. Larose rescued him and placed him in a place of safety
where he has been ever since. Charles has never been a mile away from
the Abbey." Her voice choked a little. "Sir Parry's housekeeper has been
looking after him."

Naughton Jones, although obviously discomfited, received the blow with
great fortitude and good humor. "You young dog!" he exclaimed, playfully
wagging his finger at Larose. "You are always trying to go one better
than me"--he made a wry face--"and with all my experience, you sometimes
manage to succeed."

"But how did you come here, father," asked Lady Ardane. "How did you
know where I had been taken?"

"That matter, my dear, as our good friend, Mr. Jones, would say, is very
simple. A letter addressed to Mr. Larose and marked very urgent, but
which, however, under very dreadful circumstances, had been delayed,
arrived last evening at the Abbey and"--he bowed apologetically to the
detective--"I ventured to open it. It was from Bernard Daller." He spoke
very solemnly. "He has since passed away, but this letter was written
just before his death, and found afterwards among his effects. Very
briefly, he wrote that on the morrow he was setting out upon a solo
flight to South America, and he had a premonition that he would never
return."

The Senator steadied his voice here, and then went on. "He wrote that,
unhappily, about a year ago he had become mixed up with a criminal gang
who were engaged in smuggling forbidden drugs into this country. In that
association he had met Clive Huntington, and lately it had come to his
almost certain knowledge that Huntington had had something to do with
your disappearance." The Senator had to steady his voice again here.
"So, with the great regard that he had for you, he was writing to Mr.
Larose, informing him where the headquarters of the gang was situated,
believing that here upon Methwold Fens you would be found." He patted
his step-daughter's head affectionately. "You shall see the letter later
on, my dear."

A solemn silence followed, the dreadful tension of which was, however,
almost immediately relieved by a humorous happening, when Theodore
Rankin was seen to advance with outstretched hand to Naughton Jones.

"I am delighted to meet you, Mr. Jones," he said heartily. "It is a
pleasure that has been long deferred."

But Jones, refusing the proffered hand, regarded him with a rude stare.
"The pleasure, sir, is all yours," he remarked in icy tones, "for I do
not know who you are." He eyed him most suspiciously. "For one thing, I
am of opinion that Rankin does not happen to be your real name."

"Certainly not," replied the smiling and in no way abashed American.
"I'm Mark Rattle, of Gunning's Detective Agency, New York City, and I
was specially summoned over by the Senator to assist in this case. Only
he and Sir Parry knew who I was until Mr. Larose here," he smiled at the
detective, "wanted to search my belongings, and then we had to take her
ladyship into our confidence, because I was in possession of some
handcuffs and a few other things that it would not have been wise to
allow everyone to see."

Jones' face was that of a man prostrated by a most stupendous surprise.

"Mark Rattle!" he ejaculated hoarsely, "the only man that in your great
country I acknowledge to be my master! Why, of course, it was your face
that I remembered seeing in the newspapers, when you broke up the Bud
Reily gang! You killed Bud yourself by gunning him from the hip!" He
reached out and gripped the American's hand as if he would never let it
go. "My dear sir, this is one of the proudest moments of my life."

A few minutes later two cars had left Black Gallows and were making for
Carmel Abbey. Lady Ardane, the Senator and Larose were in the first one,
and in the second were Naughton Jones, the American detective and Jones'
two faithful henchmen.

Hardly a word was spoken in the first car during the whole of the fifty
odd mile journey, except when, at Swaffham, Larose alighted at the Post
Office to send off a wire to Sir Arnold Medway.

Reaching the Abbey, there was a joyful reunion between Lady Ardane and
her son, and then Sir Arnold bent gravely over her hand and kissed it,
without, however, saying a word. Early afternoon tea was served in the
lounge, and Polkinghorne was so overcome with emotion that he had to
retire and was seen no more.

Then they all went up to their rooms to rest, Larose being now relegated
to one in another wing, and as far away as possible, he thought, from
that of Lady Ardane.

They met again at dinner, an early one, because Sir Arnold was returning
to London that night and taking Larose with him. Lady Ardane had made no
comment when the detective had announced that he was leaving so soon.

Everyone at the meal was quiet and subdued, but it was carried through
with its usual ceremony, with Polkinghorne, as commanding and important
as ever, and the noiseless, soft-footed footmen and the pretty waiting
maids. Lady Ardane was seated once more at the head of the table and was
again the queenly chatelaine of the Abbey, a little sad, perhaps, but
with a gracious smile for all her guests.

Many times, with a pang, Larose thought how beautiful she looked, and
many times, too, with a horrible feeling of trepidation, how he had
dared once to kiss her upon the lips. But she spoke very nicely whenever
she addressed him and evidently intended all there to see that she
regarded him as one of the most honored of her guests.

After dinner, as they were smoking a farewell cigarette in the lounge,
Senator Harvey beckoned Larose into the library, and with the door
closed behind them, shook him warmly by the hand.

"We cannot be too grateful to you, my boy," he said, "for, although
Naughton Jones actually brought the rescue party, still you, by your
arriving the previous night, saved my step daughter from"--he threw out
his hands--"well, I really don't know what. She tells me that madman was
actually threatening her just before you came and every moment she was
afraid that she was going to swoon away and be unable to defend
herself." He laughed bitterly. "But just fancy us being so sucked in
about Sir Parry! Why I actually took him into my confidence and told him
who Rattle was so that we could borrow the key of the cloister door that
night and get Rattle into the grounds." He shook his head angrily. "He
was a real devil, that man!" He took a cheque-book from his pocket and
his face broke into an exultant smile. "But now for something much more
pleasant to talk about." He dropped his voice into a stage-whisper. "I
don't mind telling you that during the last week I've made a pot of
money over wheat, and so, on behalf of Lady Ardane, I am now going to
present you with a substantial cheque."

"Did Lady Ardane suggest it?" asked Larose with a horrible sinking at
his heart.

"Certainly not!" came the quick reply. "She has far too much regard for
you to dare mention it." He nodded smilingly. "But you and I are men of
the world and so, what about a couple of thousand pounds?"

But Larose refused absolutely, and after much argument, and with great
reluctance, the Senator put back the cheque-book into his pocket.

The parting with Lady Ardane was very brief. "Thank you so much, Mr.
Larose," she said quietly. "You know I can never be grateful enough."
Then with a slightly heightened color, she whispered quickly, "I shall
be writing to you in a day or two."

During the drive London-wards Larose proceeded to tell Sir Arnold much
more about Sir Parry than he had hitherto told anyone. "But Lady Ardane
must never know," he concluded, "for it would be a terrible memory to
her if she ever learnt everything."

Sir Arnold smiled. "But if you ask me," he remarked dryly, "I think
there is nothing she does not know, for that Kate Dilling spent an hour
with her this afternoon, and from what the Senator has just informed me,
I think the woman told her everything. For certain, Mrs. Dilling told
her how she had learnt about the proposed kidnapping from Sir Parry's
habit of talking to himself, and in consequence had sent those two
warning letters. Then she told her of the attempt to poison you with a
dessert spoonful of Barbitone, and how she had substituted bicarbonate
of soda instead. Finally, she said how, night after night, the wretched
man had gone into the Abbey through that cloister door and spied through
the ventilators." He swore softly. "His ending was much too merciful a
one."

A long silence followed and then he asked curiously, "But how did he
come to stand before that window and court certain death?"

"I suggested it," replied Larose. "In fact, I goaded him on to do it."

"Exactly!" nodded the great surgeon. "The moment I heard about it, I
thought it seemed like your work." He turned and regarded Larose very
solemnly. "If both your positions were equal, young man, and I were Lady
Ardane's father, I would do all in my power to make you her husband for
that." He nodded again. "You probably saved her honor, my friend."

Just a week later Larose received the promised letter from Lady Ardane.

"Dear Mr. Larose," he read, "you can render me yet another service, if
you will. Now, can you get away for a week and perhaps longer, and meet
me the day after to-morrow in Norwich, at ten minutes to six in the
lounge of the Royal Hotel, just as we met before? If any objection be
raised to your coming, please telephone me directly you get this. I have
some influence in the Home Office, and think that in any case I can
arrange for it. With my kindest regards to you, Sincerely yours, Helen
Ardane. P.S.--Don't book a room at the hotel, for you will be staying at
the Abbey."

"Of course I'll go," sighed Larose, "although I'm a fool to do so." He
intoned mockingly. "I publish the banns of marriage between a
policeman--and Helen Ardane." He sighed again. "No, not this side of
Jordan."

The following evening then, at ten minutes to six, he walked into the
lounge of the Royal Hotel and saw Lady Ardane seated where she had been
seated once before. She rose as he approached and shook hands with a
charming smile. She looked very well and showed no signs now of the
dreadful times she had been through.

"I'm your hostess to-night," she said as the dinner gong sounded, "and
as it is nearly my birthday and I shall be twenty-eight, we'll have a
bottle of champagne as we had before. I've booked the same table and we
shall be able to talk in peace."

Larose felt very mystified. She looked as amused as a child who had some
great surprise in store.

She was very bright and chatty during the meal and told him of all the
little happenings at the Abbey. How Polkinghorne's kittens were getting
on all right, how she had taken young Hollins permanently into her
service, and how the Senator and all the other visitors had gone away.
"So, I am now quite alone with my aunt," she said, "and the peace and
quiet are very soothing"--a shadow flitted across her face--"after all
the adventures we went through."

But she made no mention at all of why she had asked him to meet her, and
so Larose, at length dismissing the whole matter from his mind, set
himself to enjoy her company, and association with one of the most
lovely women, he thought, he had ever seen.

He never wanted to take his eyes off her, and drank in her beauty
thirstily. The finely-cut aristocratic profile, the most perfect
complexion, the lovely deep blue eyes, the mouth like a cupid's bow--he
blushed violently here--and the crowning glory of her angel-colored
hair! She seemed so happy, too, and as if she had not a single care in
all the world.

The coffee upon the table, however, and the waiter moving away, her
whole demeanor altered in the passing of a second, as his had once done,
when, those few short weeks ago, he had started to question her. But she
was not stern and uncompromising as he had been, on the contrary she had
become all at once nervous, and was now blushing furiously.

Larose saw her embarrassment and tried to help her out. "Well, now we
are alone," he said gently, "in what way can I help you?"

She hesitated for a moment as if to choose her words very carefully, and
then, having apparently recovered from her nervousness, said quickly, "I
have I proposition to put before you, Mr. Larose, and as we are neither
of us children, and unless I am very mistaken, have both had the matter
in our minds for a little time, we can decide without any delay." She
dropped her business-like tone all at once, and giving him an arch look,
asked smilingly, "You like me, don't you?"

"Of course I do," he replied, with his heart beginning to beat very
quickly. "Everybody does."

"You kissed me upon the lips once," she went on musingly. "Didn't you?"

Larose felt horribly uncomfortable. "But it was a very wrong thing to
do," he said sharply, "and I have regretted it ever since."

"I haven't," she replied calmly, "for it comforted me quite a lot at the
time, and you might have given me fifty or a hundred then and I
shouldn't have minded." She shuddered. "Oh! I should have gone mad that
dreadful night if you hadn't been there to protect me." She laughed a
little tremulously. "Do you remember how I sat near you in the darkness,
with only a blanket between us? And then, how I went to sleep leaning up
against you"--she nodded--"but I wasn't asleep all the time, although
you may have thought so." She heaved a big sigh, and regarding him
intently, went on very quietly, "So, as you say you like me, if you were
rich as I am and our social lives were just the same, tell me, do you
think you would be asking me to marry you?"

Her meaning was so unmistakable that Larose felt his knees knocking
together under the table. "A million, times, yes!" he exclaimed
hoarsely. "I wouldn't wait a second!"

She laughed as if it were a good joke. "Then forget you've not got all
the riches in the world and ask me and see what I'll say." She puckered
up her brows prettily. "Didn't Mr. Jones tell me that you were a very
brave man?"

"But I'm a policeman!" gasped Larose.

"And a gentleman," she bowed, "and one to whom any woman might entrust
the keeping of her happiness. You are kind, a man of honor, and I have a
great respect for you." She went on quite calmly. "Our differing social
positions need have no bearing upon the future of our lives, for, every
time, it is the man and the woman who count and never their possessions
or the forbears from whom they have sprung." She raised one beautiful
white hand before her. "Listen to what I am going to tell you. I have
just found out that I am a very lonely woman and missing quite a lot of
the happiness of life. I am growing old, Mr. Larose. The years are
slipping by me, and soon, very soon, I shall be without many of the
attractions that now are mine. Women of my type lose their beauty long
before they are forty. They grow stout, they become wrinkled and their
skin coarsens. My mother is like that."

"But you will be always beautiful with those eyes of yours," protested
Larose.

She shook her head and went on. "Well, I have just realised that I want
something that I am sure every woman, in her heart of hearts, must
always want. I want to love as well as be loved, and I long for those
moments that I know most other women have, before I am too old for
anyone to want to give them to me." She spoke very sadly. "I'll be quite
frank with you. I was married before I was nineteen to a man of
fifty-two and I honored and respected him, and in course of time bore
him a child. But I never wanted him to kiss me, and when he held me in
his arms, although I was always submissive--I was always cold. I thought
I was a woman who could never give back love in return." She blushed
furiously. "Then when you held me in your arms that night, and later,
when you kissed me, a different world opened all at once for me, and I
began to think that I had all along been imagining myself to be"--she
bit her lip to repress her emotion--"so----"

And all this time Larose, had been realising with a sickening feeling at
his heart what this confession must be costing her.

The shame of this so frank appeal to him to take her, and the dreadful
humbling of her pride that she might make a golden bridge for him to
pass over! The disclosing of her secret thoughts and the lifting of that
veil that most women during all their lives lift never, even for those
whom they love most! And the glorious and sublime courage of it all.

"Then will you marry me, Helen!" he interrupted quickly, and determined
at all costs to spare her any further explanations. His voice shook in
its emotion. "I've loved you, I think, from the first moment that I saw
you."

She dropped her eyes. "Yes, Gilbert," she replied, with a great shyness
now. "I will if you really want me to."

"When?" he asked, and he could not have added another word, even if his
very life had depended upon it.

She flashed him a quick look and then her voice steadied all at once.
"Tomorrow, here in the Cathedral, by special license. I know the bishop,
and he'll marry us." Her bosom was rising and falling quickly. "I want
to get it all settled, before any of my friends know anything about it,
and then"--a tear trickled down her check--"we'll make a little world of
happiness, all of our own." She shook her head. "I'm sick to death of
the hollow, empty life that I see now I have been leading, and if every
social tie is broken, it will be nothing to me." She averted his eyes.
"We'll spend our honeymoon, if you like, at the Abbey, at my home"--her
eyes were like wet violets--"and yours."

Larose felt like a man in a trance, the ecstasy and the happiness of it
all for the moment depriving him of all power of speech. His head was in
a whirl and he gave no thought to anything except that this peerless
woman before him was going to become his wife.

But Lady Ardane was quite herself again, queenly, stately, and very
practical. "Come, Gilbert," she said, rising from her chair, "we'll go
home now and tell my aunt." She looked supremely happy. "To-night,
you'll be my guest, and to-morrow, my husband," she made a pretty little
grimace--"and if I know anything about you, my master, too."

They passed into the lounge, and she then turned and asked. "Should we
stay for a cigarette?"

"Certainly!" replied Larose. "No," he added quickly, and he smiled to
himself, "we'll go off straightaway."

They went round to the garage and were soon seated in her beautiful
limousine, Larose, as a matter of course, taking the wheel. Then without
a word, for their hearts were much too full for speech, they drove away
in silence.

Presently, when they had gone for about two miles and were well clear of
the city, Larose suddenly swerved the car into the narrow opening of a
little unlighted lane.

"But we keep straight on," called out Lady Ardane.

"No, we don't," replied Larose, with a laugh. "For once, my lady, we're
going to take the wrong turning."

He ran the car for only about a hundred yards, and then drove it on to
the side of the road and brought it to a standstill. He switched off the
headlights, leaving only the parking and rear ones on.

Then he turned to his now trembling companion. "I'm just going to make
your mind quite easy, you pretty creature," he said with a thrill of
delicious expectation in his tones, "that I'm not marrying a thing of
ice," and with one hand he drew her to him, and with the other he pulled
down the blind.

Part of his dream was at all events coming true!

* * *

It was a glorious evening in the days of early June, the following year,
and Larose met his wife, just inside the Abbey grounds, as he was
returning from a walk into the village.

They greeted each other affectionately, and then he said with a frown,
"But ought you to have come so far, sweetheart! Remember, you are not to
over-fatigue yourself."

"But I'm not at all tired," she replied, "and I had to bring you some
news." Her eyes sparkled. "Sir John Tullock has just rung up to say that
you have been made a Justice of the Peace."

"Splendid!" he laughed, "and I'll be able to let all the offenders off,
or pay their fines for them. Our good friend, Jones, always says that
I'm half a criminal, myself."

She put an arm through his and smiled happily. "You're going to get on,
dear, now," she said, "and one day I'm sure you'll be Sir Gilbert
Larose." She went on, "But come among these trees for a minute. I want
to see if I can revive a memory." Then when close to the fence and
hidden from all sight of the Abbey, she pointed to a big oak tree with
gnarled and far-reaching branches. "It was here, Gilbert," she said with
a pretty blush, "that you first held me in your arms. Do you remember?"

Larose nodded solemnly, and kissing her tenderly, lifted her up and
looked fondly into her eyes.

"So history repeats itself," she laughed.

"And I hope it will go on doing so," he laughed back, as he lowered her
gently to the ground, "for I want, at least, a boy and a girl."



THE END



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