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Title: The Yellow Face
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202151.txt
Language: English
Date first posted:  June 2012
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Title: The Yellow Face
Author: Fred M White

*

Published by:
F.V. White & Co, London, 1906
Street & Smith, New York, Vol. No. 576 in the "New Eagle" series, 1908
This version taken from The Post-Standard, Syracuse, New York, 27 Jan 1909 ff


*


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I--Nostalgo
II--The Chopin Nocturne
III--The Mystery Of The Strings
IV--The Speaking Likeness
V--A Vanished Clue
VI--Vanished!
VII--No. 4 Montrose Place
VIII--The Chopin Fantasie
IX--The Man With The Fair Moustache
X--What Did She Know?
XI--The Shadow On The Wall
XII--Locked In
XIII--The Parable
XIV--Nostalgo Again
XV--Lady Barmouth
XVI--The Bosom Of Her Family
XVII--Which Man Was It?
XVIII--The Empty Room
XIX--A Broken Melody
XX--The Mouse In The Trap
XXI--A Leader Of Society
XXII--The Portrait
XXIII--Face To Face
XXIV--In The Square
XXV--On The Track
XXVI--Serena Again
XXVII--In the Smoking Room
XXVIII--The Lamp Goes Out
XXIX--The Silver Lamp
XXX--Bedroom 14
XXXI--A Chance Encounter
XXXII--Lady Barmouth's Jewels
XXXIII--Gems Or Paste?
XXXIV--In the Vault
XXXV--The Cellini Plate
XXXVI--A Stroke Of Policy
XXXVII--A Pregnant Message
XXXVIII--The Cry in the Night
XXXIX--Preparing The Way
XL--The Magician Speaks
XLI--The Worm Turns
XLII--A Piece Of Music
XLIII--The Trap Is Baited
XLIV--The Substitute
XLV--Caught
XLVI--The Music Stops
XLVII--"A Woman Scorned"
XLVIII--The Proof Of The Camera
XLIX--Proof Positive
L--On The Brink LI--Against The World
LII--The End Of It All


*

PRODUCTION NOTE


This e-book was reproduced from scanned copies of The Post-Standard,
Syracuse, New York, available at the Old Fulton Post Cards website. The
quality of the source material was patchy. In some cases pages were not
centered on the scanner bed, with the result that part of the left- or
right-hand column is missing. In other cases the text is partially
obscured by tears or stains. In the following text an attempt has been
made to restore those passages which were thus affected. Where
contextual evidence was strong enough the missing words have simply been
inserted. Tentatively restored words are marked by enclosure in square
brackets. In those cases where restoration was not possible the lacunae
are indicated with an ellipsis enclosed in square brackets, thus
[...]. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected without
comment.

*


I.--NOSTALGO

The flickering firelight fell upon the girl's pretty, thoughtful face;
her violet eyes looked like deep lakes in it. She stood with one small
foot tapping the polished brass rail of the fender. Claire Helmsley was
accounted fortunate by her friends, for she was pretty and rich, and as
popular as she was good looking.

The young man by her side, who stood looking moodily into the heart of
the ship-log fire, was also popular and good looking, but Jack Masefield
was anything but rich. He had all the brain and all the daring ambition
that makes for success, but he was poor and struggling yet, and the
briefs that he dreamed of at the bar had not come.

But he was not thinking of the bar now as he stood by Claire Helmsley's
side. They were both in evening dress, and obviously waiting for dinner.
Jack's arm was around Claire's slender waist, and her head rested on his
shoulder, so that by looking up she could just see the shadow on his
clean-cut face. Though the pressure of his arm was strong and tender, he
seemed as if he had forgotten all about the presence of the girl.

"Why so silent?" the girl said. "What are you thinking about, Jack?"

"Well, I was thinking about you, dearest," Jack replied. "About you and
myself. Also of your guardian, Anstruther. I was wondering why he asks
me so often and leaves us so much together when he has not the slightest
intention of letting me marry you."

The girl colored slightly. The expression in her violet eyes was one of
pain.

"You have never asked my guardian," she said. "We have been engaged now
for over six months, Jack, and at your request I have kept the thing a
dead secret. Why should we keep the matter a secret? You are certain to
get on in your profession, and you would do no worse if the world knew
that you had a rich wife. My guardian is kindness itself. He has never
thwarted me in a single wish. He would not be likely to try and cross my
life's happiness."

Jack Masefield made no reply for a moment it was, perhaps, a singular
prejudice on his part, but he did not like the brilliant and volatile
Dr. Spencer Anstruther. who was Claire's guardian. He would have found
it impossible to account for this feeling, but there it was.

"My guardian has plenty of money of his own." Claire said, as if reading
his thoughts.

"There you are mistaken." Jack replied. "This is a fine old house.
filled with beautiful old things. Anstruther goes everywhere; he is a
favorite in the best society. Men of letters say he is one of the finest
talkers in the world. But I happen to know that he has very little
money, for a lawyer told me so. That being so, the £1,000 a year you pay
him till you marry or come of age is decidedly a thing to take care of.
On the whole, dearest, we had better go on as we are."

Claire had a smile for her lover's prejudices. Personally she saw
nothing amiss with her guardian. She crossed over to the window, the
blinds of which had not yet been drawn, and looked out. She looked
across the old-fashioned garden in front of the house to the street
beyond, where a few passengers straggled along. On the far side of the
road stood an electric standard holding a flaring lamp aloft. The house
opposite was being refaced, to that it was masked in a high scaffold.

As was the custom in London, the scaffolding had been let out to some
enterprising bill-posting company. It was a mass of gaudy sheets and
placards puffing a variety of different kinds of wares. In the center,
boarded by a deep band of black, was one solitary yellow face with dark
hair and staring eyes. At the base was the single word "Nostalgo."

An extraordinary vivid and striking piece of work for a poster. The face
was strong and yet evil, the eyes were full of a devilish malignity, yet
there was a kind of laugh in them too. Artists spoke freely of the
Nostalgo poster as a work of positive genius, yet nobody could name the
author of it. Nobody knew what it meant, what it foreshadowed. For two
months now the thing had been one of the sensations of London. The cheap
press had built up legends round that diabolically clever poster; the
head had been dragged into a story. The firm who posted Nostalgo
professed to know nothing as to its inner meaning. It had become a
catchword; actors on the variety stage made jokes about it. But still
that devilish yellow face stared down at London with the malignant smile
in the starting eyes.

"Jack, they have put up a fresh Nostalgo poster on the hoarding
opposite," Claire said. "I wish they hadn't. That face frightens me. It
reminds me of somebody."

"So it does me." Jack replied, with sudden boldness. "It reminds me of
your guardian."

Claire smiled at the suggestion. The guardian was a large, florid man,
well groomed and exquisitely clean. And yet as Jack spoke the yellow
face opposite seemed to change, and in some way the illusion was
complete. It was only for an instant, and then the starting eyes and the
queer smile that London knew so well were back again.

"You make me shudder," Claire said in a half-frightened way. "I should
never have thought of that, but as you spoke the face seemed to change.
I could see my guardian dimly behind it. Jack, am I suddenly growing
nervous or fanciful? The thing is absurd."

"Not a bit of it," Jack said stoutly. "The likeness is there. It may be
a weird caricature, but I can see it quite plainly. Don't you recall how
Anstruther breaks out into yellow patches when he is excited or angry? I
tell you I hate that man. I may be prejudicial, but--"

Jack paced up and down the room as if lost in thought. The light was
shining on the face on the hoarding? It seemed to look at him with
Spencer Anstruther's eyes.

"There is something wrong in this house," he said. "I felt it laugh at
me, you may say that I am talking nonsense, but there it is. The strange
people who come here?"

"Sent by the police mainly. Don't forget that my guardian is one of the
[foremost] criminologists of our time. There isn't a man in London who
can trace the [perpetrator] of a crime quicker than Mr. Anstruther There
was that marvelous case of the missing children, for instance--"

"Oh, I know." Jack said, with a suggestion of impatience in his voice,
"And yet, if you don't mind, we will say nothing of our engagement at
present."

Claire contested the point no longer. After all she was very happy as
things stood. She had plenty of chances for seeing her lover, and Mr.
Anstruther seemed to be altogether too wrapped up in his scientific
studies to notice what went on under his very eyes. He came into the
room at the same moment humming a fragment of some popular opera.

There was nothing whatever about the man to justify Jack Masefield's
[antipathy.] Spencer Anstruther was calculated to attract attention
anywhere. The man was commanding face softened by a [tolerant] and
benign expression. People looked [after] him as he walked down the
[street and] wondered which popular statesman he was. In society
Anstruther was [always] welcome, among men of learning [he was a]
familiar figure. His scientific knowledge was great, certain
publications of [his were] regarded in the light of text books.
Altogether he was a man to cultivate.

"I am afraid that I am late, you [young peop]le," he said in a smooth,
polished [manner]. "I hope you have been able to [amuse] yourselves
together in my absence. You look moody. Jack. Don't those [briefs] come
in as freely as you would like? Or have you been quarreling?"

"No, sir," Jack replied. "We never quarrel; we are too good friends for
that. We have not the excuse in that way that lovers are supposed to
possess."

"We have been studying that awful poster," Claire said. "I wish somebody
would take it away. Jack is always seeing some likeness in it. He says
that you--"

The girl paused in some confusion. Anstruther smiled as he put up his
glasses.

"It is a complex face," he said. "Whose features does it remind you of
just now, Jack?"

"Yours." Jack said boldly. He flashed the word out suddenly. Half to
himself he wondered why he always felt a wild desire to quarrel with
this man. "I hope you won't be offended, sir, but I can see a grotesque
likeness to you in the famous repellent Nostalgo."

Claire looked up in some alarm. She was wondering how her guardian would
take it. The log fire in the grate shot up suddenly and illuminated
Anstruther's face. Perhaps it was the quick flare that played a trick on
Claire's fancy, for it seemed to her that suddenly Anstruther's face was
convulsed with rage. The benign pink expression had gone, the features
were dark with passion, the fine speaking eyes grew black with malignant
hatred. Claire could see the hands of the man clenched so hard that the
knuckles stood out white as chalk. And there with it all was the
likeness to Nostalgo that Jack had so boldly alluded to. The fire
dropped and spurted again, and when it rose for the second time the face
of Spencer Anstruther was smooth and smiling.

Claire passed her handkerchief across her eyes to concentrate the
picture of fiendish passion that she had seen. Was it possible that
imagination had played some trick on her? And yet the picture was as
vivid as a landscape picked out and fixed upon the retina by a flash of
lightning on a dark night. The girl turned away and h|d her white face.

"I should like to meet the artist who drew that face." Anstruther said,
with a smile. "One thing I am quite certain of. It is not the work of an
Englishman. Well, it has found London something to talk about, and the
advertisement is a very clever one. I dare say before long we shall
discover that it is exploited in the interest of somebody's soap."

"I am inclined to favor the view that Nostalgo is something novel in the
way of a thought-reader or a spiritualist," Jack said. "It seems to
me--"

The dining-room door was thrown open by a woman-servant, who announced
that dinner was served. They passed across the hall into a large
dark-walled room, the solitary light of which was afforded by a pair of
handsome candelabra on the table. There were not many flowers, but they
were all blood red, with a background of shiny, metallic green. The
woman who waited passed from one plate to another without making the
slightest sign. As she came into the rays of the shaded candles from
time to time Jack glanced at her curiously. She was dressed in somber,
lusterless black, with no white showing at all. There was no cap on her
head, nothing but a tangle of raven-black hair. Her brows were black and
hairy, her skin as dark, so that her faded eyes were in striking
contrast to her swarthy appearance. Her hands were very strong and
capable, the mouth firm to the verge of cruelty. And yet there was
something subdued, something beaten about the woman, as if she had been
taken in a wild state and tamed. Anstruther seldom addressed an order to
her in words--a motion of the hand, the raising of and eye-lid seemed to
be sufficient for those pale, tired eyes, which somehow never for one
instant relaxed their vigilance.

The woman was a mystery of the house: she seemed to be entirely
dominated by her master's will. And yet there were strength and passion
there. Jack felt certain. The fanatic only slumbered. A pansy fell from
one of the flower vases, and Jack started out his hand to replace it.

"Did you ever see the evil face in the heart of a pansy blossom?" he
asked, for there was a pause in the conversation.

"It is a demon face, and familiar too. Miss Helmsley, whose face does
this saffron heart of the pansy remind you of?"

Claire took the pansy from Jack's hand and studied it with a frown on
her pretty face.

"Why, of course," she cried. "I see what you mean. It is Nostalgo, the
man with the yellow face."



II.--THE CHOPIN NOCTURNE

Claire gave the desired assurance, and rose from the table. She would
have Jack's coffee saved for him in the drawing-room, she said.
Anstruther lit a cigarette, and began to talk of crime. Crime and
criminals had a fine fascination for him. Scotland Yard offered valuable
inspiration for his new book on the criminal instinct, and in return he
had been in a position to give the officials yonder one or two useful
hints. The case he had on hand just now was a most fascinating one, but,
of course, his lips were sealed for the present. Jack forgot his dislike
in the fascination of the present.

"Stay here and finish your cigar," Anstruther said as he rose and
pitched his cigarette into the fire. "I'll go into my study and work this
thing out with the aid of my violin. I may be on hour or so, or I may be
longer. If I have finished before 11 o'clock I'll come up with my
fiddle, and we'll get Claire to play. If you require any more claret you
can ring the bell."

Jack sat there for a time smoking and thinking matters over. Presently,
from the study beyond came the sound of music. Really, Anstruther was a
wonderful man, he seemed able to do anything. He was not perhaps a great
performer on the violin--his playing was a little too mechanical and
seemed to lack soul, but the execution was brilliant enough.

Jack opened his cigarette case only to find that it was empty. There was
a fresh supply in the pocket of his overcoat, which was hanging in the
hall. He would be just in time for one more, and then he would join
Claire in the drawing-room. The hall light had been turned low, so that,
as Jack stood in the vestibule fumbling in his coat pocket he was not
visible, though he could see what was going on in the hall behind him.

There was a spot of light at the head of staircase. Somebody was
standing looking down into the hall--somebody in a rough jacket buttoned
at the throat and wearing a pair of rubber-soled shoes, for the intruder
made not the slightest noise. Jack wondered in some impudent burglar was
raiding the house at this hour. If so, he would get [a warm] reception
presently. Jack stood [still as] the figure came down the stairs and
turned along the corridor to the [...] drawing-room. But there was no
challenge and no fight, for the simple reason that in the hall light, as
the [figure] passed Jack recognised the face of Spencer Anstruther.
There was no doubt about it; there was no possibility of a mistake here.

Inside the study the music [...] began. Very gently Jack tried to turn
the knob of the door, but it was locked. Under ordinary circumstances
this would have excited no suspicion; perhaps there was another way into
the room by way of the corridor. But, if so that did not explain why
Anstruther was creeping about his own house in the semblance of a
burglar, and wearing rubber-soled shoes.

There was something creepy about the whole business. Jack returned to
the vestibule again, and from there he passed into the garden. The study
was at the side of the house, and a belt of shrubs outside afforded a
pretty good cover. There was the study window with the blinds down and a
strong light inside. Jack noted that it was a French window, a window
frequently used, because the stone step outside had been worn by the
pressing of many feet.

The smooth melody of Chopin was playing on inside. Jack stooped down to
where he could see the lace flowers on the blind, and looked into the
room. There was a little slit in the blind where the sun had worn it,
and by this slit the whole of the room could be seen. The music had
softened down to a piano passage taken very slowly. But Jack was not
thinking of the music now at all, though the strains were soothing and
flowing enough.

He rubbed his eyes to make sure that they did not deceive him. No, the
room was plain enough, so was the sound of the music. And with it all
the room was absolutely empty!



III.--THE MYSTERY OF THE STRINGS

It was the most extraordinary thing in the world. Beyond question the
room was absolutely empty. Jack could see to the far side: he noted the
pictures and the flowers and the vases on the mantlepiece. His view was
naturally narrowed by a small spy-hole, but there was no portion of the
room hidden from him, though he could not quite see the whole of it at
one time.

The music was proceeding quite smoothly, though with pauses now and
again. It was followed now and then by what sounded like subdued
applause.

Jack stepped back from the window. He wanted to make certain that he had
not mistaken the room. No, the sound of music came from the study right
enough. At the risk of being discovered he crept back into the house
again and tried the study door. It was locked, and what was more, the
key was in the lock, as the application of an eye testified.

And the music was proceeding quite swiftly again. The mystery was
absolutely maddening. Jack wondered if there was some cabinet in the
study hidden from view where the player had taken up his stand. A t any
rate somebody was playing Chopin's music--playing it very well. There
was no magic about the thing.

The hall of the house was very quiet, nobody seemed to be about.
Occasionally there came the sound of mirth from the servants' hall, but
nothing more. Fully determined to get at the bottom of this mystery,
Jack returned to the garden again. Once more his eye was glued to the
slit in the blind. He could make nobody out in the room. There was
little fear of his being detected, because a belt of shrubs hid the
window from the road.

Without the slightest warning a figure, appeared in the room. It was
impossible to see where she came from, but of necessity she must have
entered by the door. Jack was a little uncertain on that head, for his
glance was not directed towards the door for the moment.

He saw the figure of a woman, young and exceedingly well dressed. She
was wearing an evening gown of white satin that showed up the creamy
pallour of her skin, for her neck and shoulders were bare. The neck was
rather thin, Jack noted, and the shoulders more inclined to muscle than
beauty. For a young girl it struck Jack that the upper part of her body
looked old. But the face was dark and wholesome, and against the deep
eyes and swarthy complexion the girl's hair was dazzling. It was
beautiful, rippling hair, changing color as the light flashed upon it.

"Well, this is a bit of an adventure," the watcher told himself. "But
where's the person in the room who let the young lady in? Somebody must
have let her in, because the door was locked and the key on the inside.
I saw it there, so I can swear to that fact. But who is she?"

There were many answers to the problem, for Spencer Anstruther was a man
who had countless strange visitors. His vast knowledge of crime and the
ramifications of human depravity brought him in contact with large
numbers of people. Men and women in distress often came to him, and they
came in increasing numbers since Anstruther had got the better of a gang
of scoundrels in a recent famous blackmailing case. Sometimes these
people came on their own initiative, sometimes they were sent by the
police. But Anstruther never said anything about them. He looked upon
himself as a confidential agent. Claire could have told of many curious
visitors at all hours, though Anstruther never so much as alluded to
them afterwards.

But this girl did not look in the least like anybody in trouble. Her
dark features were almost expressionless; there was no display of
violent emotions there. Her gaze slowly wandered around the room as if
looking for something; She had much the aspect of a pupil whose
attention is called to a blackboard by a master. Jack watched; it seemed
to him that he had seen this girl before. He could not recollect anybody
in the least like her; that contrast of dark skin and fair hair was
striking enough to impress itself upon the most careless mind, and yet
Jack could not give the face a name. He could not permit himself
mistake. He knew perfectly well that the expressionless features were
quite familiar to him.

The girl stood for some little time, as if waiting for her lesson.
Jack's eyes were glued so closely upon her that he did not notice the
coming of another person, a man this time. He was a [...] man, with
sleek, well-brushed hair [...] and dark, well-groomed moustached
[turned] up after the fashion affected by the German Emperor. The man
was [...], well-appointed, his evening dress and white waistcoat were
faultless. [His face] was strong, but it did not convey anything
intellectual. There were [many] such men to be seen any day in the
London season, all groomed [the same and] apparently finished in the
same [way].

The man bowed and smiled at the girl, and she bowed and smiled to [him.
It] was rather a graceful bow; it [seemed to] Jack that she looked at
her [companion] to see if it were quite correct, [and the] two proceeded
to talk in [turn], partly by signs and partly by [expressions].

The mystery was getting deeper. [Perhaps one of] these two was a deaf
mute, perhaps both of them. Was this one of Anstruther's cases, or did
it possess a far different significance?

The solution was beyond Jack Masefield. He might have been on [the
track] of a mystery, and on the other hand he might merely be doing a
little [bit of] eavesdropping. If it was the [latter and] Anstruther
found him out, he [could no longer] hope to visit Claire at home [any
more]. Anstruther was most particular in these things, as Jack knew;
b[ut he clamped] his teeth together and decided to take the risk. He
felt pretty sure that [there was] something here that touched t[he
house]hold deeply.

He turned just for the moment [with the] idea that somebody was behind
[him. But] the strip of lawn was quite cl[ear, and he] could see through
the belt of trees to the street again beyond, with its light, flaring on
the yellow face of mysterious Nostalgo and his half-laughing eyes. That
w[eird image] seemed to form a fitting background to the room mystery.

But Jack had his eyes to the slit in the blind again. Inside the
pantomime show was still going on. The girl to be getting a lesson of
some kind, and her tutor appeared to be pleased, for he smiled and
clapped his hands from time to time. Then he took out his watch and
consulted it with a frown. [As he] glanced up the girl crossed the [room
to] the mantlepiece and opened the [door of] the clock. With a quick
movement she put it back half-an-hour.

The man in the faultless evening dress nodded approval. There was [a
brief] pause before he approached the [...] and stood so that his shadow
was [...] out clean against the strong light of the room. Then he
rapidly signaled [...] arm. One arm went up, there was a noise of rings
and a flutter of [cloth], and then a heavy curtain was [pulled] over the
window, and Jack could see no more. Try as he would, no ra[y of light]
could he make out. It was as if the lights had been switched off,
leaving the room in utter darkness.

What on earth did it all mean? Without a doubt the young man in evening
dress had signalled to somebody outside as he stood close against the
window and raised his arm. Jack congratulated himself on the fact that
the slit in the blind was low down, so that he had [been able to] stand
against the light. He [eyed] the belt of shrubs and watched for
movement, but no further sign came.

What were those people inside [planning to] do? The solution flashed
upon Jack instantly. They had not come [there] perfectly dressed for the
m[...] of seeing Spencer Anstruther. [They] had not been spending the
evening anywhere, dining and th[at sort] of thing beforehand, for they
were too spruce and fresh for that. The woman's toilette in particular
had evidently been just donned, as if fresh from the hands of her maid.
And she had put the clock back half-an-hour.

"They are going somewhere in [half-an-]hour." Jack decided. "Hang if [I
won't] follow them. By the right time, half past ten, Anstruther said he
[would not] come up if he failed to get his [work] finished before
eleven, at which time he will expect me to go. I'll go to the
drawing-room and talk to Claire for a little time just to avert
suspicion."

He crept back into the house without being seen, he finished his claret
and dropped the stump of his cigarette onto his dessert plate. As he
made his way up the stairs the music began again. The music was not the
least maddening part of the mystery.

"What a time you have been," Claire said as she tossed her book aside.
All by yourself down there! Really! Why you modern young men are [so
cold-]blooded that--"

"I'm not as far as you are concerned, dearest," Jack said a she kissed
her. "I had something to do; I was [working] out a case that puzzled
me."

"A case in some way connected with the law, I suppose?" Claire asked.

"Well, yes," Jack replied. He [really] believed that the case was
connected with the law. "I begin to see my [possible] solution. I
suppose there is not [the slight]est chance of your guardian [coming up]
tonight?"

Claire replied that it did not look like it. Evidently the solution of
the [strange] problem was not an easy one. [And the] violin was going
again as if it had just begun.

"It makes me feel creepy," Claire exclaimed. "Fancy the idea of tracking
a criminal by means of divine melodies like that. Jack, don't you notice
something strange about it?"

"I should say that I do," Jack replied. "Why, the whole thing, really. I
beg your pardon, darling. I-I was thinking about something else. It was
the case I referred to just now."

"My dear boy, you are very strange in your manner to-night." Claire
said. She looked pal and distracted. Trust the [eyes] of love to see
anything like that. "You haven't bad news for me, Jack?"

Masefield forced a smile to his lips. It was hard work to maintain his
ordinary manner in the face of the strange scene that he had witnessed
that night.

"I have certainly heard no news since dinner time." he said. "What did
you expect me to say?"

"I thought that perhaps you had mentioned me to my guardian; that you
had changed your mind, and told him that you and I were going to be
married some time."

"No, your name was never mentioned, dearest. Anstruther was full of his
case and gave me no opportunity. He went off directly he had finished
his tobacco. As a matter of fact, Claire. I am more resolved than ever
to say nothing about our engagement to Mr. Anstruther."

"It is very strange that you mistrust him like that, Jack."

"Perhaps it is, little woman. Call it instinct, if you like. I know that
women are supposed to hold the monopoly of that illogical faculty. They
dislike a man or a woman without being able to say why, and in the
course of time that man or woman turns out to be a villain. There is no
denying the fact that I feel the [same sort of thing about your]
guardian. I am [certain that if] he knows the truth you will be in
danger. I said before that he is a poor man, and the enjoyment of your
£1,000 during the time--"

"My dear Jack, you are perfectly horrid." Claire murmured. "If I were a
nervous girl you would frighten me. As it is, I feel certain that you
are utterly wrong. My guardian is one of the most delightful of men. If
he were not, plenty of clever people would have found it out. And,
besides, why do so many unfortunate people come to him to advise them.
Which he does with great trouble to himself and no hope of reward!"

Jack admitted that perhaps he was wrong. And he had no desire either to
frighten Claire. He had not the slightest intention of telling her what
he had discovered that night.

"Let us be less personal," he said. "What was the strange thing that you
noticed about your guardian's playing?"

"That it is so much better than usual," Claire said. "There seemed more
passion and feeling in the music. My guardian is a brilliant violin
player, but I have not hitherto noticed much feeling in his style. Now,
listen to the thing that he is playing at present."

"Chopin's Fantasie in F." Jack muttered. "I know it very well indeed. It
is a favorite of mine."

There was certainly plenty of expression and feeling in the music. Jack
was bound to admit that. The fantasie came to an end with a crash of two
chords, and Claire clapped her hands.

"Beautiful!" she cried. "I must really compliment my guardian on the
improvement in his style. You are not going already, Jack? It's not
quite eleven yet."

"I'm very sorry, dear, but I have that case to look into to-night." Jack
said, with perfect truth. He saw that the hands of the big clock on the
mantlepiece were creeping on to the hour. "Anstruther won't come up
to-night; he said he should be here by eleven if he were. And he gave me
a hint not to stay later. I shall see you at the Warings' to-morrow
night Good night, darling."

Claire put up her red lips to be kissed. She would have seen Jack to the
door, but he pointed out that the night was chilly and Claire's dress
thin. Neither would he have the butler summoned. His coat and hat were
in the ball, and he would get them himself. A moment or two later and he
was standing in the garden behind the strip of shrubs. He was quite free
to act now; he had nobody in the way. As he stood there a distant church
clock boomed the hour of eleven.

"Now we shall see what we shall see," Jack muttered. "I'm going to find
whether there is a mystery of the house or whether these people are
merely Anstruther's clients. Oh!"

As he spoke the dark curtain over the study window was pulled back, and
the figure of the young man in the evening dress was clean-cut against
the light. Then a black arm pulled for the catch of the window, and the
young man, pushing the blind aside, came out. He was wearing an overcoat
now, and a tall hat. He seemed to be waiting for somebody.

Then the figure of the dark-faced, fair-haired girl came out. She was
cloaked from head to foot in a blue wrap trimmed with feathers; her fair
hair was not covered. No word was spoken, but Jack could see that they
were conversing still by signs.

The watcher wondered if he had time to get inside the room. But that
little Idea was dismissed at the outset, for the young man pushed the
window to carefully and the latch clicked. It was quite evident that the
long sash closed with a spring lock, which was a most unusual thing for
French windows to do. As the strange pair went down the side path Jack
stepped into the open. He wanted to assure himself as to the window
being fastened. He pulled at it hard, but it did not yield. At the same
moment from the window of the room came a strange, brilliant crash of
music. Yet that room was absolutely empty, as Jack would have been
prepared to swear in any court of England.

"I'll wake up either from a dream or in a lunatic asylum presently," he
muttered. "And now for those other people. Good thing they had no idea
of being followed." Jack was in the road now, and made his way through
the quiet nest of streets between Bloomsbury and Regent's Park. He could
see his quarry a hundred yards or so before him: there was nobody else
and there was not the slightest chance of those in front being lost. A
horse clicked on the wood pavement as a well-appointed hansom passed the
[quarry]. Then he saw the hansom pull up to the curb and the deaf mutes
in front get in as if the whole thing had been arrange and drive off.

The thing was so sudden an unexpected that Jack was nonplussed for a
moment. There was no chance of [follow]ing these people, for there was
probably not another hansom within half-a-mile of the spot. Jack stood
hesitating in the silence of the road; he could hear the steady
click-clack of the horse's hoofs as the rubber-tired hansom hurried [on
its way]. Then suddenly the horse's hoofs [were silent]. They had not
died out in the distance; they had merely stopped.

Jack hurried forward: he had not given up all hope yet. He might
overtake the hansom and by good luck meet another one going toward the
Strand. As he turned a corner he saw to his surprise the figure of the
young man in evening dress come silently toward him on the other side of
the road. Then the [young man] crossed the road and turned down the far
side of the square as if he [he were intend]ing to complete the circuit
and return to the cab again. As the man vanished, Jack heard a thudding
sound, followed by a sound like the tearing of stiff calico and the
rattle of peas on a drum. There was a stifled cry, and then silence. On
the impulse of the moment. Jack turned and followed.

At the angle stood a row of houses, some of them being repaired. Jack
heard somebody speak to somebody else some way down the road. He looked
[across to] the opposite houses to see that that they were in
scaffolding and that they were plastered with bills. A little way al[ong
the] ground in front of the center house being repaired was one of the
repulsive Nostalgo posters with the yellow face looking out.

But there was something else. For there at full length on the pavement
[lay the] body of a man with his face up[turned to the] stars. With a
little cry Jack crossed the road. Almost instantly a policeman
[appeared] by his side.

"Drunk," he said. "A gentleman who has just gone down the road told me a
man was lying drunk on the pavement. May word, sir, but he's got the
c[ollywobbles] pretty bad."

"He has." Jack said, with a [...] in his voice. "The man isn't drunk.
He's dead. He's been murdered. Shot through the head and breast. Show
your [light] here, officer."

The officer flashed the strong, [...] rays on the face of the dead man.
As he did so he gave a cry, and pointed at the hoarding behind him with
a finger that shook a little.

"Dead, sir, and murdered without a doubt," he said. "But that's not
strangest part of it. Look at h[im] and the expression of his eyes;
[look at] the yellow face and--"

"Good heaven!" Jack cried. "The yellow face, the face of the diabolical
[poster] behind you. As I am a living [soul we] have found Nostalgo in
the flesh!"

The dead man grinned up, the face grinned down. And the face of the man
and the face in the print were [both] the same!



IV.--THE SPEAKING LIKENESS

Masefield looked at the figure on the pavement in a dazed kind of way.
Beyond all question there lay the embodiment of the famous Nostalgo
poster. London had been discussing the mystery of the poster for weeks
already. The amazing hideous cleverness of it had struck the popular,
imagination, the artistic side of it had appealed to those of culture.
Nobody had the least idea what it was intended to convey. Every dally
paper promising a correct solution on a certain day would have added
tremendously to its circulation.

Then there had been those who had declared that the poster was a
portrait; they had held that no artist could imagine a face quite like
that. And here was dread confirmation of the theory. Absolutely the
poster and the dead man were identical. The same long, thin nose, the
same startling eyes, the same suggestion of diabolical cunning in the
smile.

In the poster Nostalgo wore a turn-down collar and a loosely-knotted red
tie. It was the same with the dead man on the pavement. As to the rest,
his dress was conventional enough, a frock coat and gray trousers, a tall
silk hat which had rolled into the road.

"Don't you think that you had better search his pockets?" Jack
suggested. The constable replied that it was not a bad idea. But a close
examination produced no definite result. There were no papers on the
body, nothing beyond a handful of money, gold and silver and, coppers all
mixed-up together in the trousers pocket. There was not even a watch.

"This game's beyond me," the officer, muttered, as he blew his whistle.
"We must get this poor chap conveyed to the police station. Foreigner,
ain't he?"

But Jack could not say. The sweeping, coarse black hair pushed back from
the bulging forehead, and the yellow, guinea-colored face suggested the
Orient. But the lips were thin like the nose, and these might have
belonged to some Spanish hidalgo. It was impossible to decide.

"You were close by," the policeman said. "Didn't you see anything, sir?"

"Nothing whatever." said Jack. "I was just passing along on the side of
the square at right angles with this spot. I certainly saw a young man
come along, but I didn't notice him much. I expect he was the young man
who told you that a 'drunk' awaited you here."

"I expect he was, sir; young man with his moustache turned up like the
German Emperor's."

Jack started, but said nothing. It was not for him to say anything of
the strange sight that he had seen in Spencer Anstruther's study. The
young man in question had left his hansom; probably he had come back for
something forgotten: therefore, on the whole. Jack felt that he could
not in any way connect him with this mystery.

And yet Spencer Anstruther's young friend must have been close by at the
very moment the murder was committed. It seemed impossible to believe
that he had not heard that choking cry. and that strange noise like the
tearing of calico or the scatter of peas on a tray. But, on the other
hand, the murdered man had been shot, and shooting implies noise.
Certainly Jack, had heard nothing that in any way would be connected
with the firing of a revolver.

And yet there was that tearing sound, and the strange fact that the
Nostalgo of the poster had tears in him in exactly the same place as the
real man who had been wounded. There was a plot calculated to puzzle
Spencer Anstruther himself, and Jack said so aloud.

"I don't think as even he'd guess this," the policeman said. "Friend of
yours by any chance, sir?"

"I had not left the house five minutes before I found that body." Jack
raid. "If you like. I will go back and bring Mr. Spencer Anstruther
here."

Here was a chance to get at the other business, the mystery of the
strange music. It was a legitimate errand enough, but the policeman
shook his head. He did not want to take anything so important upon his
own shoulders, his inspector being "down on that kind of thing."

Two constables with the ambulance came at length. They asked no
questions, but hoisted the body up and turned immediately in the
direction of Shannon Street police station.

"I think you had better come along, sir," the first policeman suggested
to Jack. "It's just possible that the inspector may want to ask you a
few questions."

Masefield followed. He smiled just a little as he noted the speaker's
tone. If not exactly in custody, he was at least expected to give a good
account of himself. To his great relief he found the inspector not in
the least disposed to assume the official manner; on the contrary, he
seemed rather a timid man, though his eyes were steady enough.

"I have told you everything, sir," Jack said at length. "I only wish it
might have been more. If there is any further way in which I can be of
assistance to you?"

"You are very good, sir," the inspector said. "What we have to do now is
to push the matter forward before the scent gets cold. It is very
imperative that we discover who this man is. The first person to apply
to is the firm of advertising contractors who posted those bills. Did
anybody happen to notice the firm whose hoarding the deceased man was
found against?"

"As a matter of fact I did," Jack said, as the officer shook his head.
"Not that it is a sure find for you, Mr. Inspector. seeing that those
bills appeared on the hoardings of all the bill-posting firms in London.
Still they may have emanated in the first place from one firm, and
perhaps that firm was Freshcombe & Co."

"That being the name on the top of the hoarding we are speaking of?" the
inspector asked. "You have a keen eye for detail, sir; it was very smart
of you to notice that."

"Not at all; it was almost an accident. The mere fact of finding the
prototype of the famous Nostalgo poster was sufficiently startling to
brace all one's faculties. In glancing at the hoarding I saw the name of
Freshcombe & Co. on the top. The name was impressed upon my memory by
the fact that quite recently I appeared for Freshcombe & Co. in an
action they brought against a rival firm for damages. That is why I have
the name so exact."

The inspector smiled with the air of a man who is well pleased with
himself. In that case Mr. Masefield practically knew the head of the
firm of Freshcombe & Co;, and where he lived. In that event the
inspector proposed to go direct to the gentleman in question and ask for
a few particulars.

"There I can help you again." Jack said "I had several interviews with
Mr. Freshcombe through his solicitor, an one of them took place in Mr.
Freshcombe's own house in Regent's Park Crescent."

The inspector waited to hear no more. One of his men would call a cab,
and perhaps Mr. Masefield would be good enough to go as far as Regent's
Park Crescent and smooth the way. It was getting late now, but Jack had
no objection. He was keenly interested in this mystery, and he must get
to the bottom of it if he could. He had a few questions to ask as the
cab rolled away, but none of them struck the inspector as being to the
point. But Jack knew better.

Fortunately Mr. Freshcombe had not gone to bed, though the house was in
darkness. The stout little prosperous-looking man of business started as
he caught sight of the inspector's uniform. Something in connection with
burglary rose uppermost in his mind as he asked his visitors' business.

"I hope there's nothing wrong," he stammered. "Ah, how do you do, Mr.
Masefield? Will you gentlemen be so good as to step inside. There is a
fire in the dining-room. Anything in the way of a cigar, or?"

But the inspector came to business at once. It was plain that his story
interested the listener, for he followed it with eyes of rounded
astonishment. He punctuate the story with surprised grunts.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Whoever would have thought it? I never
expected that there was anything about that famous poster. I had two
thousand of them through my hands in the way of business, and they
struck me clever, very clever indeed. Personally, I regarded them as
theatrical bills."

"Then you can't tell us anything about them?" the inspector asked with an
air of chagrin.

"Nothing whatever," Freshcombe replied "Nothing whatever." Freshcombe
piled promptly. "As I said before, posters came to us in the ordinary
way of business. There was an air of secrecy about the whole thing."

"Which did not attract your attention? Did not speak to your suspicions,
I mean?"

"Not a bit of it. The advertiser wanted to create an air of mystery and
sensation. How well that has been managed I leave you to guess. Being,
moreover, exceedingly shrewd, the advertiser not mean his name to leak
out. I received a note one day asking my terms for displaying a thousand
of those posters on all the hoardings in London, and my people sent in a
quotation."

"That letter came from another business house. I presume, sir?" the
inspector asked.

"No. It didn't. It was from a certain Mr. John Smith, and was written
from the Hotel Royale, and on the official paper of the hotel. Three
days later the posters arrived per a firm of carriers, and the same
afternoon a check drawn by John Smith on the City and Provincial Bank.
We cashed the check and posted the bills. I may say that, in the usual
course of business, I should not have known this; but I was a little
struck by the posters and their mystery, so I made inquiries. I assure
you that I have no time to go into those minor details a rule."

"I am rather disappointed," the inspector said. "I hardly expected this.
The mystery of the posters--"

"Was part of the cleverness of the scheme," Freshcombe interrupted. "As
rule, these things leak out and spoil the game. Why, half a dozen
newspapermen have been asking questions in my office."

"Then you don't even know who printed the posters?" Jack asked. "Have
you any more left?"

"I fancy the posters were French," Freshcombe said. "They had evidently
been repacked before they came to us. No, we have none left; they were
posted last [week. I haven't even one as a specimen."

Mr. Freshcombe would have pushed his hospitality, but the others
declined. The inspector was not going to give up a chase like this.
Could Mr. Freshcombe find a London Directory, or in any way help him to
ascertain the name and address of the manager of the city branch of the
City and Provincial Bank? Mr. Freshcombe could supply both details. The
bank manager in question was a large shareholder in the firm and enjoyed
an important position. As to his residence, it was in Piccadilly, over
the bank's branch there. Mr. Carrington was a man of fashion, so that,
if he were at home it was unlikely that he had gone to bed. A moment
later and the cab was proceeding toward Piccadilly.

Mr. Carrington was not only at home but he was entertaining friends.
There were lights in all the windows of a handsome suite of rooms over
the bank, and a chatter of voices assailed the ears of the callers as
soon as the mahogany door was opened. Mr. Carrington was giving an
evening party, the footman explained, and he did not like to be
disturbed. But the sight of the inspector's uniform was not without its
effect, and the intruders were ushered into a large room at the top of
the stairs. The door was not quite closed, so that the strangers could
see down a handsome corridor into a fine drawing room beyond. Jack could
recognise some of the guests, whereby he knew that Mr. Carrington kept
very good company.

"I feel like an intruder," Jack said, as he stood looking out of the
room. In his evening dress he might have passed for a guest himself. "If
Mr. Carrington is in a position--"

Jack paused suddenly. He was face to face with the third great surprise
that night. For there in the corridor, and coming towards him now, was
the fair-haired, dark-skinned girl whom he had seen with the young-man
in Spencer Anstruther's study. There was no mistake here, no illusion.
The girl walked along with her head down, making a sign from time to
time to the man by her side. He was a perfect stranger to Jack, who
dismissed him from the situation altogether as a mere vacuous man about
town. If the woman was here, the young man with the Imperial moustache
was not far off, Jack thought.

"I think that you were going to say something, sir," the inspector
ventured. But Jack had quite recovered himself by this time. He made
some commonplace remark, and then Mr. Carrington came into the room. He
was polite, but not at all anxious for his visitors to remain. Would
they be so good as to come to the point.

The inspector told his story with considerable brevity. Mr. Carrington
was pleased to be interested. It was a strange and startling romance as
it stood, but the bank manager did not see his way to afford any
solution of this mystery.

"I haven't quite finished, sir," the inspector said quietly. "That
bill-posting was paid by a check drawn on your City branch, of which you
are manager, by one John Smith. Now, this John Smith--"

"Which John Smith?" Mr. Carrington asked, with a smile. "My good sir, do
you know that we have some two thousand five hundred accounts at our
City branch? Probably the name of John Smith is the commonest in the
world. Without making any definite statement, I should say that we have
over two hundred accounts in the name of Smith and probably a third of
them John Smith. I can quite understand your anxiety to get on the track
of the right man without delay, but that could not possibly be done
to-night. I could not even get at the ledgers without two of the
cashiers being present But I will make it a point to be at the bank at
ten o'clock to-morrow morning and meet you there. It is impossible to do
any more to-night."

The inspector nodded his head somewhat sadly. He quite saw the force of
what Mr. Carrington was saying. He could do no more than make an
appointment for the following day. He wished Carrington good night and
turned to go, followed by Masefield. In the corridor somebody called
Jack by name. He turned to see a colleague of the Junior Bar standing
before him.

"Hullo!" the latter said, "where did you turn up from? I had an idea
that you were a friend of Carrington's. Get your coat off and join us in
a game of bridge."

The situation was just a little embarrassing, but Mr. Carrington came to
the rescue. Masefield was dressed for the part, so to speak, and would
he not remain? There would be dancing presently and--

But Jack decided promptly. He whispered the inspector to precede him and
wait for him in the cab. Carrington passed on as Jack stood just a
moment chatting with his old friend and school-fellow.

"I came here to-night on rather important business," he said. "There is
no occasion to go into that now. But I want you to do something for me,
my dear fellow. In hunting up one mystery I feel pretty sure that I have
come on the track of another. There is a deaf and dumb girl here--there
she is, with that Johnny chap in the resplendent white waistcoat. I want
you to find out who she is and where she comes from."

[Jack's friend re]sponded. "Nice looking girl, fair hair and dark eyes.
Sort of a theatrical get-up, don't you think?"

"Well, now you mention it, [perhaps she] is rather in that way. But
[that's all]. Dick, unless I am greatly mistaken that girl came here
with a fair chap whose moustache is turned up after the [style] of the
German Emperor. Find out about him, too, and I'll look you up at your
chambers the first thing in the morning. I must not keep my [companion]
waiting. Good-night."

Jack passed along the corridor in the direction of the staircase. [Among
the] palms and ferns there [were recesses in] which people could sit
[unseen by anyone] except by their partners. [...] with his foot on the
thick [...] [car]pet, for just in front of [him the girl] with the
Southern face a[nd fair-haired] head was still bent low, [...] working.
What her co[mpanion was saying] Jack could not quite [hear, because the
latter's] back was turned. The [girl looked at] him with a flash of
anger [...] lips moved, and sound [came] from them. Jack could [make out
the] words:

"Don't drive me too [far" ...] "Take care and not drive [too far]
because--"

The girl suddenly la[ughed] [...] again and her fingers be[gan to] [...]
[Then the] couple passed behind a [group of palms] and ferns, and Jack
co[uld not see them any] more.

"Well, this has been a [...] he said. "Where is it [...] wonder if my
friend the [...] disposed to accept my s[...]."

The inspector gave Jack [...] most careful attention [...] thought of it
before.

"We'll go back to the [scene of the mur]der," Jack said. "There [was an
elec]tric light in front of the [...] Nostalgo poster is only [...] the
ground. Moreover [the poster has only] recently been put up, and [...]
and fair. Depend upon [it] the trade mark upon the bill, [...] a cipher.
Of course, you [had a ch]ance of finding out who [it is]."

"Of course, sir. How do we [...] get at the facts?"

"By examining the bill [with the help of a] strong magnifying glass. [I
do not] doubt that, being a detective, you have such a thing in your
pocket at the present moment? Good. The [next thing we have] to do is to
order the cab [...] corner of Panton street [...]."

The cab arrived at length [and the occu]pants dismounted. They [did not
take the] cab quite a s far as the [scene of the] murder for obvious
reasons [...] there alone. It was quite [...] and nobody was about save
the policeman, who had orders [to watch if] anybody was coming. It was
[...] the curiosity of p[eople] [...] not be aroused.

"Now for it." Jack [spoke a] little faster in his excitement. "[But] we
had better have the [arc] lantern as well. I thought [that it] was
there.[...] that is the very spot, just [...]ture of the pretty girl.
Good heavens, man, the [...] It has been covered up [...] before by that
mustard [...] the hour after midnight [...] been done. But the
righ[t...] underneath. See! The p[oster] [...]."

Jack advanced to tear the [...] but the inspector pulled [him] aside.

"Don't touch it!" he [exclaimed]. "Whatever you do, don't touch it!"



V.--A VANISHED CLUE

Jack Masefield paused [and waited for Inspector] Bates to say more.
Possibly, [the inspector] was possessed of some bi[...] after the first
glance at [...] [it was] easy to see that he was [concerned about] Jack
himself. It was only professional caution that spoke. [...] illumination
at the back [of the] man's brain.

"I had hoped that perhaps [...] concerned something," Masefield said.
"Not quite that, sir," [Inspector Bates replied]. "So far I am as much
in [...][as you are] yourself, but my ex[pectation is that no]thing is
to be gained by [...] [What] I mean is that a though[less action] often
destroys a clue [of great] value. I should like to s[top for a] moment
and consider my [options]."

Jack drily remarked that [there could be] no objection to the cou[rse
proposed by] Inspector Bates. It was [...] there was nothing to be [...]
train of thought of the [...] likely to be interrupted. [He gazed at
the] great boarded hoarding [with its] wealth of gaudy pictorial
[adorn]ments, but his face did n[ot change and the] moody frown was
still [on his brow].

"Blessed if I can make [anything of it]," he said in vexed tones. "[A
man is] found dead under the mos[t unusual] circumstances. There seems
to be no motive for the crime; nothing has been removed from the body
[so far as we] know; the man evidently [died where he] fell. That he was
killed [by gunshots] the medical examination will [reveal]."

"So far the crime is co[mmonplace and] vulgar enough," Jack suggested.
"Scores of these [are committed] in London every year. Some [of them are
found] out, but some remain mysteries until the end of time; but this
pa[rticular crime] seems to be peculiarly [...] all. London for some
time [has been] doubly attentive to the [Nostalgo] posters. No greater
advertisement has ever appealed to the[m]. Nostalgo is a personality
about whom some of our leading [...] [...]body has really regarded [...]
living force, and I find him [dead on the] pavement here right in front
of his own posters. Is that [not a strange coincidence, and] an amazing
happening?"

"Both, I should say," [the inspector replied]. "An amazing hap[pening in
any] case. But to find the man [lying under] one of his posters [is
probably no] more than a coincidence, [for there] are so many Nostalgo
posters [in the streets of London]".

[Portion of text missing]

[...] identification of the deceased. But the pockets were doubtless
empty; there was not watch or chain, or purse, no markings on the linen.

"Not even a laundry mark?" Jack suggested. "If my reasoning is correct,
a laundry mark has often proved of the greatest assistance."

"No mark whatever," said Bates. "The shirt, for instance, is of ordinary
make, the class of thing that one buys ready made at a shop, and which
has usually its maker's mark on. There has been a mark of some kind on
the neckband, but it looks as if it had been blocked out with chemicals.
See how much whiter and thinner the neckband is. We are simply wasting
our time here."

Jack said nothing: he could only shake his head sadly. The more the
mystery came to be probed the more maddening did it become. A close
investigation of the clothing presented as little result; there was
nothing even about the boots to prove where they had been made. If the
man was a criminal, and his general air suggested that, he had taken the
most amazing precaution to prevent identification in case of accidents.
Jack looked at the clear, dark features. This was no man to take anybody
into his confidence. Success or failure, or crime, must all be
undertaken alike alone and unaided. This face would never have led
anybody to rejoice with him in good fortune, or sympathize with him in
failure.

"Well, I think I had better be getting back to my rooms," Masefield
said. "I have given you my name and address. I'll come round to-morrow
and see if you have made anything out of the poster in the daylight. One
thing is pretty certain, there should be no difficulty, if a determine d
effort is made, to discover the people who printed the picture of the
yellow face. There are not many firms in this country capable of such
work."

"There is the Continent," Bates suggested. "I'm afraid that it will be
very much like looking for a needle in a hayrick. Still--"

What deep philosophical remark Bates was going to make Masefield was not
detained to hear, for at the same moment there was the sound of a sudden
disturbance in the office beyond. The hoarse voice of a sergeant was
heard demanding to know what this little game meant, there was a groan,
and the collapse of a heavy body on the floor. Bates strode into the
office.

"What is all this row about?" he demanded.

"It's Gregory, sir," the sergeant replied . "Went off half-an-hour ago
on some special work for you, or so he said, and here's he back as drunk
as a lord; regularly collapsed on the floor, he did. It's not the first
time, either."

A sudden suspicion burst upon Masefield. He knelt by the side of the
plain-clothes man and felt his heart There was a peculiar red mark round
the man's neck as if something had been pulled very tightly round it.

"The man is no more drunk than I am," Jack said. "He has been attacked
and his breath is wholly free from any suspicion of drink. Look at that
mark round his neck."

Very slowly the prostrate man struggled to a sitting position. When the
fact had once been ascertained that there was no suggestion of
intoxication, brandy was administered to him. He had a strange story to
tell. He was carrying out instructions when suddenly somebody came
behind him and placed a rope round his neck. Before he could recover
himself he was partially strangled; he lost consciousness and lay on the
pavement. When he came to himself again he was quite alone. He had
managed to struggle back to the station, and once there had collapsed on
the floor. Robbery was not the motive, for he had lost nothing.

"It's all part of the same mystery," Jack decided. "Something was going
on behind that hoarding, and the criminals did not want the policeman to
see. I shall walk back to my rooms that way. No, you had better not come
along. Inspector, in case you are spotted. I shall just walk very coolly
by and keep my eye on that hoarding. Good-night."

There was nothing more to be done, so Masefield was allowed to depart.
He had ample food for thought as he walked along the deserted streets.
He came at length to the great hoarding where the poster had stood. He
stopped just for a moment, almost too amazed to move; then he forced
himself to go forward again.

For the striking Nostalgo poster was gone. It had been sawn neatly out
of the boards of the hoarding, leaving a blank square eye in its place!



VI.--VANISHED!

It was not to be supposed that this had happened without attracting the
Argus eye of the press. The night birds of journalism had been hovering
about, seeking their prey of sensational copy. They haunted the police
station with a hope that something might turn up, the hope that every
reporter has that sooner or later he may happen on a good thing that has
in it the making of some columns of red-hot descriptive matter.

One of them, hungry and lynx-eyed, had seen the body of Nostalgo carried
to Shannon Street station. There might have been a paragraph then; there
might have been a column. At any rate, the chance was too good to be
lost. The reporter was on the best of terms with the police for a square
mile or so; indeed, his living more or less depended on the good
fellowship of the local authorities. The sergeant had first of all set
the ball rolling; the reporter had seen the body; he had no difficult in
recognising the striking likeness between the dead man and the poster.
Younger men wold have rushed off at once and made a long paragraph of
this, manifolded it, and sent it broadcast along Fleet Street.

But not the old and cunning hand at the game; his instinct told him that
there was more to come. There was more to come, probably in the shape of
the shaken Gregory, who presently told the reporter his part of the
story. This was a case when a cab was justified. Half-an-hour later the
reporter was closeted with the chief sub-editor of The Daily Planet, a
half-penny morning paper dealing [mainly] in sensations. The
sub-editor's eyes gleamed as he listened to the reporter's story. This
was something after his own heart.

"Write two columns of it," he said, "You can use Daly's room. Se[t it
out] as hot as you can with plenty [of big] heads. We'll give it the
first [part of] page five. You had better have a typographer, as time is
pressing."

Therefore it came about that [half a] million or so readers of The
Planet [got] the shock at breakfast the following morning. With its
tally of many dazzling illustrations. The Planet had never b[een more]
successful than in this. The t[hing was] admirably done. The mystery was
amazing to a degree. Before 10 o'clock on the following morning London
was talking about little else. It was discussed in t[he street], on the
top of the omnibus, in [...]. The name of Nostalgo was on e[veryone's
lips].

The editor-in-chief and the chief shareholder in The Planet Company came
into the office very early in the morning--an action quite unusual with
him, for his keen instinct scented a good [thing] for The Planet here.
The thing was exclusively and he intended to [milk it] to the last
ounce. The little man with the bald head and the gold-rimmed spectacles
had created a pretty scheme by the time he had reached his office.

"This is the best thing we have ever had," Mr. Van Jens said in his [own
typical] way . "I'm just going to show the [British] public what an
American journal would do with the thing. It's pretty clear [to me] that
the police have blundered, as they always do, and that they have got off
the track of the truth. We're going to solve the mystery, Rigby, and you
are the man I have picked out to do it. In the first place, you are a
clever actor, and you have pluck. Go about it in your own way, and take
your own time. Don't mind the expense; spend £1,000 if necessary. Only
get to the bottom of this thing. If it's merely to prove, to the police
that they can't do without the press. By the way, isn't Masefield a
friend of yours?"

Rigby admitted that such was the case. He did not pretend to follow the
working of his chief's brain; few men were competent to do that. Van
Jens was leaning over The Planet in order to read the report of the
Nostalgo affair.

"I saw Masefield last night," he said. He did not tell Van Jens that he
had met him at Carrington's, that was a matter concerning Masefield
[alone]. "Do you think he is likely to be of any assistance to me?"

"It is just possible. You see, it was Masefield who actually found the
body of the man who we call Nostalgo. It is possible also that Masefield
knows more than our reporter got to find out. You had better hint to
Masefield that there is a chance of getting a commission from us to
write a serial for one of our weekly journals--he is in the way of
[lik]ing that kind of thing. Anyway, get him to regard it in a favorable
light. If you handle the man properly, I feel sure that he will offer
you valuable information."

Rigby nodded. He did not tell Van Jens that Jack Masefield was a good
friend of his, for that point had nothing to do with Van Jens, who
regarded Rigby as the typical smart unit of the newspaper, and none too
scrupulous so far as other men were concerned. As a matter of fact Rigby
had his code of honor, and possibly his chief would not have
con[curred.] Come what might, Rigby was not likely to take any advantage
of Masefield.

"All right." he said; "you may depend upon me to do all that I can. By
the way, if I am to take this case in hand I must not be tied as to
time. I [insist] that somebody else must be drafted to do my regular
work and, and think nothing if I don't show up here regularly. I think
that only fair."

"Only fair, it is," Van Jens replied. "I'll see to all that. And I'll
leave instructions with the counting house that they are to draw on me
to the extent of £1,000 if necessary. And now you had better go off to
Masefield without delay."

It was not yet 11 o'clock, and Rigby felt pretty certain of finding
Masefield at home. He was perfectly correct in his conclusions, for Jack
was busy just putting the finishing touches to a short magazine story.
The morning papers lay in a pile on the table, but as yet he had not had
time to open them. Rigby helped himself to a cigarette.

"Hope I don't intrude." he said. "If I am in the way, kick me out at
once."

"You are never in the way here, Dick," Masefield smiled. "As a matter of
fact I have just passed the last page of this story for The Grasshopper.
It's always a pleasure to sit down and write a story when you have a
fair commission for it."

"You will soon have plenty of them, my boy." Rigby said cheerfully,
"especially now that you've got your name in the papers. Seen The Planet
to-day? You haven't! Well, you are pretty prominent on page five, let me
tell you. One of our men got hold of that sensational Nostalgo business,
and then made a picture of it. Just run your eye along the report and
tell me what you think of it. Pretty hot, isn't it? Now can you tell me
anything?".

"Anything fresh in regard to the affair you mean?"

"You've got it first time. As a matter of fact. Van Jens has placed the
thing in my hands, and I'm to get to the bottom of it if it costs the
paper £1,000. Van Jens suggested {hat I should come and see you and pump
you. The bait to you is a commission for a big serial in one of our
weeklies. But apart from all that, Jack, I'm quite sure that you will be
ready to help me for old sake's sake."

"Of course I will." Masefield said heartily. "Really, there is very
little to tell; your man seems to have got it down very fine. But I can
tell you all about the shot marks and the missing poster, only you must
not publish that."

"My dear fellow, you don't quite understand my position. I'm not sent as
a mere scare writer in this business; I'm more of an amateur detective,
with a pocket full of money. My task is to beat the police at their own
game, and prove the superior intellectual force of the press. Than I
shall write the whole story, and The Planet circulation will go up to a
million."

"Then I'll tell you all that there is to know," Jack replied. "When I
have finished my story I shall have a few questions to ask you. Get your
note-book out."

Rigby had no cause for complaint on the score of Masefield's narrative.
In the description of the shot marks and the subsequently missing poster
he felt that he had conquered a fine point of the situation. He took
another cigarette, and Jack did the same.

"Now I'm going to ask you a few questions," the latter said, "and I
should not be surprised that in replying to my queries we throw some
fresh light on the object of your search. You will recollect meeting me
at Carrington's last night--"

"Of course I do. I look you for a fellow who's above that kind of
thing--playing the amateur detective."

"Notably, as I was in evening dress. As a matter of fact I had been
dining with Anstruther, and it was after leaving his house that I found
the body of the man we had better call Nostalgo. Of course, I recognised
him by the likeness to the poster. Subsequently Inspector Bates and
myself discovered the name of the firm who posted the creation. We went
off to see the head of the firm, and he could tell us very little,
except that the placards came from some John Smith who had an account
with the City and Provincial Bank. The latter fact accounts for my being
at Carrington's last night

"Exactly. And you asked me to keep my eye on a pretty girl, who was deaf
and who had for attendant cavalier a chap with a moustache like that of
the German Emperor."

"I am coining to that," Masefield went on. "I told you that I had been
dining with Anstruther. Now, these two people left Anstruther's house,
for I followed them. I will tell you a more striking thing about them
later on; but I want to have my side of the affair cleared up first.
Tell me what happened after I left Carrington's with Inspector Bates."

"Well, I kept my eye on these people as you asked me. I tried to get
some information about the fair one from Carrington himself, but he
didn't seem to like the subject. He seemed depressed and a little bit
uneasy, I thought; said it was a sad case, sort of relation of his, and
that the man with the moustache was a foreign count or something of that
sort. I wouldn't press the matter, as it would have been in bad taste,
you see. But all the same, I did keep, an eye on these people, as you
asked, me, and the end of it was that I followed them when they left the
house... I don't know what made me do it."

"At any rate I'm glad you acted in that manner." Jack said. "Did they go
back in the direction of Anstruther's house? Did they take a cab?"

"Not in the ordinary acceptance of the word," Rigby explained. "They
walked as far as the top of Regent Circus, where a private growler was
waiting. The cab was all black, the driver had a black livery. I could
not see his face, as it was tied up with a silk handkerchief as if the
fellow had tooth-ache or something of that kind. The four-wheeler was
evidently waiting for them, for they got in at once."

"Anybody else inside the cab?" Jack asked.

"By Jove, I was nearly forgetting that!" Rigby exclaimed. "I was just
flush with the cab as it passed a lamp. There was another figure in the
cab--a man, and as the light shone on his face I was about staggered
with his resemblance to the poster of Nostalgo. I only saw the face just
for an instant, but it is impressed upon my mind as if the man were
standing before me at this very minute. Singular, was it not?"

Jack nodded dumbly. This was another new departure in the strange
mystery. For the man seen by Rigby in the black four-wheeler could not
possibly have been the same Nostalgo that Jack had found, seeing that
the latter had been lying in Shannon Street some hour or two before the
time that Rigby was speaking about.

"You did not follow them further, suppose?" Masefield asked.

"No, I didn't go as far as that. And at the moment I didn't think
anything as to that Nostalgo business No. 1, so speak. If I had, you may
bet your bottom dollar that I should not have lost the opportunity. The
cab drifted away without any direction being given: so I went along,
without giving it more consideration, to my club. Eh, what?"

Inspector Bates had hurried into the room without ceremony. His face was
pale and agitated.

"Something strange come out at the inquest?" Jack asked.

"No sir," Bates gasped, "for the simple reason that there has been no
inquest. You can't hold an inquest without body. What do I mean? Why,
that that body vanished from the room, leaving not a hint of a clue
behind!"



VII.--No. 4 MONTROSE PLACE

The inspector stood there with his hand on his heart, as if he had run
far and fast. So far as Jack could see, Bates was suffering from some
strong emotions. He flopped down in a chair indicated for him, and took
Jack's proffered cigarette with a shaking hand. Although his feelings
were not exactly under the control one would have expected from one of
the leading lights of Scotland Yard, there was at the same time a
certain suggestion of grim humor playing about the corners of his mouth.
Jack looked across at Rigby and smiled significantly.

"Evidently a new development of the case," Jack said, glancing once more
at, his friend. "As a matter of fact, inspector I have just been telling
Mr. Rigby all about last night's ghastly business By the way, you will
recollect of course that Mr. Rigby is my friend whom we met at Mr.
Carrington's last night. Not to make too long a story of it, there are
sidelights of this business of which you are not at present aware-but
all that is beside the point. What I want you to tell me is about this
disappearance of the body of Nostalgo. Seriously, do you want my friend
and me to believe that a dead man has disappeared from Shannon Street
police station right under the eyes of the authorities?"

"Well, that is about the [gist] of it," Bates admitted ruefully.
"Naturally enough, we took forward to important developments at the
official inquiry. I had a chat late last night with the doctor, who
seemed to be of the opinion that the dead man had been shot with
something quite new in the way of a weapon."

"What, do you mean, a new projectile, or a new sort of small arm?"
Masefield asked.

"Well, not exactly that," the inspector replied; "but something quite
new in the way of a missile. There were marks on the breast of our
unfortunate friend which indicated the presence of a shot of some kind
that did mortal damage without leaving traces of anything material
behind."

"Oh, that is all very well, so far as it goes: but what I want to get at
chiefly is the cause of the disappearance of the body." Rigby put in
impatiently. "What is the good of trying to establish all sorts of new
theories when you have not so much as a dead body of the deceased man
before you? It seems incredible to me that this outrage could have been
committed in a police station. Was no one about? Was the whole place
deserted whereby some stranger could have coolly stepped in and walked
off with the body of a powerful man?"

"Well, that is not so difficult as it might seem," Bates said eagerly.
"As a matter of fact, our mortuary is merely an outside room which at
one time had been used as a kitchen. Mr. Masefield will recollect last
night noticing that the light of the room consisted entirely of a kind
of skylight. The ceiling is exceedingly low, so that it would be quite
possible for a tall man to lift the body through and carry it away
without the least trouble, provided, of courge, that he had sufficient
strength. At any rate, there it is, and we have to make the best of it."

"I hope that you have managed to keep this matter from the public so
far," Masefield said. "I don't think anything will be gained by allowing
this new sensation to get into the papers. The best thing we can do is
to come around to Shannon Street with you and see if we can lay our
hands upon anything in the way of a clue. My friend Mr. Rigby has had a
lot of experience in amateur detective work; I dare say you recollect
his success in the matter of the Mortlake coiners, on behalf of The
Planet."

Bates expressed his willingness to fall in with this arrangement. Not
that he had any particular confidence in amateur detectives generally;
but he was so bewildered and disheartened at present that anything was
preferable to his own painful thoughts. The police station was reached
at length, and a thorough search of the shabby little apartment at the
back of the office made. But no amount of investigation served to throw
any light on this new phase of the mystery. It was even as Bates had
said: with the darkness of the night, and expecting no developments of
this kind, a bold and unscrupulous character might easily have entered
the room and taken away anything, however bulky, without much chance of
detection.

Nothing daunted by the want of success attending his efforts, Rigby
climbed onto the roof and looked around him. He was particularly struck
by the deserted area at the back of the police station. It was some
distance from his coign of vantage to the nearest house. No doubt at one
time the open space had consisted of fertile gardens, but the same space
was now given over to arid grass and a few stunted trees, a scene of
desolation indeed. On the opposite side, some 30 yards away, the backs
of a terrace of large houses looked blankly on the scene. Rigby, with a
new idea entirely in his mind, inquired the name of the terrace. Bates
smiled with the superior air of the professional, and replied that it
was Montrose Place.

"And what class of people live there?" Rigby asked.

"Well, rather mixed, I should say," Bates replied. "There was a time,
not so many years ago, when Montrose Place was quite fashionable. Mind
you, they're exceedingly good houses, quite good enough for any moneyed
class: but I understand that the landlord is by no means a liberal man,
and, as the houses have fallen out of repair, they have become void."

Any further information on this head was cut short by the sudden calling
away of the inspector. It seemed to Masefield that Rigby was by no means
disposed to mourn for the official's company. He stood with his brows
bent frowning at the sombre row of houses in front of him, but from the
quick working of his hands. Masefield could see that his versatile
friend's brain was busy.

"I see you have made a discovery," Masefield said quickly. "Would you
mind telling me what it is?"

Rigby pointed to the fourth house from the end of the terrace. Did
Masefield notice anything about it peculiar? he asked. But Masefield did
not see anything about the house at all ominous or suggestive, except
that the windows were grimy and dirty, and that the erstwhile
fashionable silk blinds were hanging in tatters like banners behind the
murky glass.

"But surely you see something?" asked Rigby impatiently, "for instance,
take the third window on the left over the ledge, which probably is that
of the bathroom. Don't appear to be looking, and, at the same time, keep
your eye casually on the window."

With a quickening of his pulses, Masefield glanced up in a vague kind of
way in the direction of the window. He felt instinctively that in some
way the deserted house was involved in the disappearance of Nostalgo.
There was not much time for speculation on this point. Very slowly and
cautiously the blind was raised, and a haggard face peeped out. It was
like a picture from some old print, this strange weird yellow face
behind the grimy glass. So thick was the murky dust upon the casement
that t was impossible at so short a distance to decide whether the
features were those of a man or a woman. Anyway, the face. If it were
that of a man, was clean-shaven, the pale head half hidden behind a
tangle of thick black hair. It was only for a moment that this weird
face presented itself to the eager eyes of the spectator below; an
instant later and the whole phantom had vanished.

"Now, what do you think of that?" Rigby asked eagerly. "Don't you agree
with me that this strange apparition has something to do with the story?
Now, supposing you or I had some powerful inducement for getting hold of
the missing body, could we find a better place to work from than that
deserted house?"

"Provided always that it is deserted." Masefield said guardedly. "Don't
let's go quite so fast. Surely your own experience must have taught you
what strange creatures one often sees as caretakers in good houses?"

"So much the better for me," Rigby replied. "If you are correct in your
suggestion, it will make my task all the more easy; for, come what may,
I am going to see the whole inside of that place before I sleep
to-night."

Rigby walked back into the police station with the air of a man who has
said his last word on the matter. It was no advantage to him, working as
he was on behalf of his own newspaper, to mention his discovery to
Bates. Possibly Masefield's common-sense view of the problem might have
been the correct one after all, in which case Bates would have had the
laugh of his unprofessional ally. But Bates had evidently been called
out on other business, so that there was no occasion to say anything to
him at all. Declining to return to Masefield's rooms and there discuss
the matter further over tea, Rigby went thoughtfully back to the office
of The Planet. He dined alone at his club, lingering until about 10
o'clock over the evening papers, and then proceeded on his way to
Montrose Place by the somewhat circuitous route of Covent Garden.

But there was more method in Rigby's madness than met the eye. The sleek
well-groomed barrister and journalist who entered the shop of Jonas the
costumer shortly. after 11 o'clock emerged a little before 11 carefully
and effectually disguised as a seller of newspapers. Then, with the
fag-end of a cigarette of doubtful quality in his mouth, he slouched
along towards his destination.

Montrose Place from a front view was considerably more prepossessing
than the similar outlook that presented itself from the back. At least
half the houses were tenanted by people of means, judging from the
neatness of the blinds and the amount of light displayed in the various
windows. Yet, at the same time, it was quite evident that Bates'
estimate was fairly correct.

The first three houses in the terrace bore plates of highly-polished
brass testifying to the fact that doctors were not lacking in this
locality. No. 4, however, stood out in marked contrast to its neighbors.
There was no chance of Rigby's presence there exciting undue suspicion,
for there was not a soul to be seen in the terrace.

Emboldened by this fact, Rigby had no hesitation in lighting a vesta and
making a comprehensive examination of the door-steps. They were dirty
enough in all conscience; no housemaid had knelt there for many months
or even years past; but Rigby's sharp eyes did not fall to note the fact
that some one more than once recently had left footprints on the grimy
flags. They were not clearly indented footprints; indeed, there was a
misty hesitation about them which at first puzzled the amateur detective
exceedingly.

He struck another match after looking cautiously up and down the
terrace. Nobody was in sight: the precaution was quite unnecessary. The
blue flame picked out the misty footprints grimed into the filthy steps,
and then Rigby understood. Whoever made those marks had been wearing
rubber-soled shoes.

"And new shoes at that," Rigby muttered to himself. "I can see the
pattern in the center of the sole clearly indented now. And the prints
go and come up and down the steps quite regularly. Now, the fact that
somebody comes here and wears new rubber shoes makes it clear that the
wearer has been here very recently. It is also evident that the wearer
wears rubber-soled tennis shoes so as to make no noise. I feel pretty
certain that I am going to learn something now."

But Rigby was a little too sanguine. In the first place, he had to gain
admission to the house, the front door of which was locked. It was
perhaps a significant fact that, though the lock of the door was green
with rust, the edge of the rim of the hole where the latch-key indented
was bright and clear at the edges.

"Evidently used regularly." Rigby went on. "Now, the ordinary caretaker
does not usually sport a latch-key; he or she generally uses the area
door. I should not wonder if the area window was open; I'll try it."

The area window was not open, but the loose catch had been carelessly
pushed to. The blade of a stout penknife sufficed to prize the catch,
and a moment later Rigby was in the housekeeper's room, safe from all
outside observation.

There was no sign of life here; no vestige, of it on the stairs leading
to the big rooms overhead. Rigby could not but notice what a fine house
it was; the last tenant had evidently been lavish in the way of
decorations. With a match in his hand, carefully shaded from the window,
Rigby crept up the stairs. He could see in the dust lying there the
constantly repeated footprint of the rubber shoe, indicating that the
owner of that shoe was in the habit of spending a great deal of time
there.

But now, so far as he could judge, the house was absolutely deserted. He
tried door after door softly, and each yielded to his touch, revealing
gloom and desolation and dirt by the faint light of the vesta. As each
stump burned low Rigby carefully dropped the end of it in his pocket. He
was conscious of a feeling of disappointment. Almost before he was fully
cognisant of that feeling he paused in an attitude of rigid attention.
Something like the sound of a smothered cough struck on his ear; it
seemed to him that he could hear somebody approaching. The stair
creaked, and Rigby drew back into a doorway.

He was not mistaken. Somebody was coming up the stairs.



VIII.--THE CHOPIN FANTASIE

It was nearly two hours later before Rigby crept cautiously down the
steps and emerged by the way in which he had entered the house. The
street, as before, was absolutely deserted; so far as Rigby could see,
he might have been in a city of the dead. Despite his disguise and the
artistic make-up of his grimy face, an acute spectator would not have
failed to notice the agitation of his features. He crept with trembling
footsteps to the roadway, and clung to the railings with a swaying air
of one who has seen things the tongue refuses to describe. Then his
natural courage, fanned by the cool air of the evening and the sense of
being no longer isolated, returned with virile force to him.
Mechanically he fumbled in his rags and produced from a breast pocket a
silver cigarette case, that might have got him into serious trouble if a
lynx-eyed policeman had been near at hand.

"Well, I have seen some queer things in my time, but, as the poet says,
'never aught like this'," Rigby said, with teeth that chattered a
little. "I really must have one of my own cigarettes."

Despite his excitement, Rigby was conscious that he ought to be just a
little ashamed of himself. He had always prided himself upon the fact
that his nerves were perfectly under control and that nothing ever put
him out, otherwise he would not have occupied the position he did at The
Planet office. He began to feel the effect of the cool night air, which
braced him like a tonic. As he stood there waiting for something, though
he would have found it difficult to say what, a policeman came slowly
down the street. Rigby stooped and pretended to be busy with his stock
of papers.

Some spirit of mischief moved him to chaff this representative of the
law, and at the same time test to the utmost the disguise that he was
wearing.

"Paper, sir?" he asked. "All the winners, the horrible murder in
Grosvenor Square. Ain't you going to buy one?"

Apparently the officer was one of the good-tempered sort, for he only
smiled, and in a more or less gruff voice ordered the news-vendor to
move on.

"Just waiting for my pal, sir," Rigby explained. "I have never come down
this street before, an' I'll take good care never to come down here
again. Why. half these houses seem to be empty. Look at that show
opposite. 'Ow long since anybody has lived there?"

"Before I came on the beat, anyway," the policeman explained. "Do you
want to take one?"

With a laugh at his own pleasantry the policeman walked off down the
street, leaving Rigby easier in his mind and quite satisfied that his
disguise would stand any ordinary test.

He leaned against the area railings absolutely undecided as to what to
do next With a certain new caution almost amounting to cowardice, a
feeling of which he would be ashamed at any other time, Rigby turned his
back upon the man who was advancing down the street. At the same time,
so full was he of the horrors that he had lately witnessed, the amateur
detective quite forget the fragrant cigarette so out of keeping with his
character. The stranger pulled up and, crossing the pavement, tapped
RIgby familiarly on the shoulder.

"You are not so clever as you think you are," the stranger remarked
coolly. "You may be a very smart chap, Dick, and I may be a very dull
one, but I have certainly sufficient brains to know that the average
newspaper tout does not smoke Turkish cigarettes. Besides, after our
conversation this morning, I felt pretty certain that you would make an
attempt to get inside that house."

Rigby laughed in a way that suggested that his nerves were in a
considerably frayed condition.

"So that's you. Jack," he said, with a sight of relief. "Yes, you are
quite right; in fact, I told you I should not rest to-night until I had
seen the inside of that house."

"And did the expedition come up to expectations?" Masefield asked
eagerly.

"My dear fellow, I have had some weird experiences in my time, but I
would not go through the last hour again for the wealth of the Indies.
In fact, if I tell you what I've seen, you would set me down for a
doddering lunatic."

The look of self-satisfaction on Jack's face faded away. He shivered
with a strange presentiment of something dire about to happen. Again,
why should he doubt the fact that something terribly out of the common
had happened to Rigby after his own amazing experiences?

With his hand on the arm of his friend, he walked abstractedly the whole
of the terrace. Here a great arc light threw a stream of pallid blue
upon the motley coloring displayed upon a big hoarding. In the center of
the hoarding, well displayed, was the terrible placard disclosing the
grinning features of Nostalgo.

"By heaven!" Jack exclaimed, "there is no getting away from the features
of that grinning devil I know as well as if I had seen it down in black
and white that the awful experiences which have so changed you lately
have to do with that yellow face."

"I am not going to deny it," Rigby replied; "and, what is more, I am not
going to tell you what I have seen in the last two hours, at least not at
present. And now tell me, to change the subject, what is your private
opinion of Spencer Anstruther?"

To say that Jack was taken aback by the suddenness of the question would
be a mistake. It will be remembered that on the occasion Masefield last
dined with Anstruther he had pointed out to Claire the amazing likeness
between Nostalgo and her guardian. Not that it was [possi]ble for
anybody to notice this e[ven] when Anstruther was moved to emotion; but
the fact remained. And to find that Rigby's mind was strangely moved in
the same train of thought was, to say the least of it disturbing.

"What do you mean by asking that question?" Jack said guardedly.

"For goodness' sake do not let us [show] any of this unnecessary caution
between friends like ourselves," Rigby said with great feeling. "Believe
me, my friend, I am not asking this question out of idle curiosity. As
man to man, is he a magnificent genius or the greatest criminal the
world has ever seen?"

Thus put to it, Jack had no hesitation; indeed, he could have no
hesitation in replying to such a direct question as this.

"I am going to speak quite candidly to you." he said. "As you are pretty
well aware, knowing the man quite well as I do, he is, like most
geniuses an exceedingly poor man. At the same time, unlike most
geniuses, he is as unscrupulous as he is clever. I have more than an
idea that he could tell us [a lot] about this affair, but I prefer to
pose as a person who has come into it by accident, and who is only
languidly interested. I have had some hesitation about mentioning my
estimate of Anstruther's character to his ward, but I feel [a bit]
uneasy as far as Claire is concerned. I know for a fact that Anstruther
is [fear]fully hard up: really, there are times when his financial
straits are absolutely desperate. This being so, it has occurred to me
more than once that Claire's money must be a strong inducement to
prevent her marrying, for instance, myself."

"That is by no means a remote contingency." Rigby suggested dryly.

"My dear fellow, to be perfectly frank with you, Miss Helmsley and
myself have been engaged for the past six months. Mind you, this is a
dead secret. I have a presentiment, call it foolish if you like, that
the announcement of this fact to Anstruther will be the first moment of
real danger for Claire. But why do you so suddenly spring this question
upon me?"

By way of reply Rigby drew his companion into the comparative shadow of
a doorway. He had hardly done so before another figure came jauntily
down the street, a tall, slim figure who seemed strangely familiar to
Masefield.

"The whole place seems to reek of Anstruther to-night." Jack said, "or
perhaps it is my disordered imagination. But if that is not Anstruther
himself, my eyesight strangely deceives me."

"If you knew as much as I do, or you had learned what I have learned the
last hour, you would not be surprised," Rigby said . "However, we will
soon settle that. I'll just step across the road and try and sell him a
paper."

Before Jack could lay a detaining hand on the arm of his friend, Rigby
was half way across the street. In the appropriate raucous voice of the
tribe, the amateur news vendor tendered Anstruther an Echo. He waved the
offer aside, and made his way down the street with the air of one who
has a definite object in view. With a whine artistically uttered, Rigby
fell back upon the doorway in which Masefield was concealed.

"Anstruther beyond all shadow of doubt," Rigby said triumphantly. "Now,
I am not a betting man, but I will give you any odds in reason that our
interesting friend enters No. 4. Ah, what did I tell you?"

Surely enough, Anstruther paused in his stride before the dilapidated
door of No. 4. With one swift glance up and down the street to make
certain that he was not observed, he drew a latch-key from his pocket
and disappeared within the dingy portals. On the still night air the
click of the latch-key and the muffled banging of the door could be
heard all down the road. Rigby drew a sigh of relief.

"Well, I think that'll do for to-night," he said. "I reckon I have had
just about as much as my nerves will stand. No, I am not going to tell
you anything, and I have no stomach for further adventures this evening.
I am going straight to bed, to sleep if I can. Come around and see me
tomorrow afternoon.

But curious as he was, and anxious also as he was. Jack was forced to
decline the proffered invitation. Besides, he had promised to take
Claire to a matinée concert at the Albert Hall to hear a new violinist
who so far had only performed twice before in England. Signor Padini had
come to the metropolis with a marvelous reputation, but so far he had
hardly fulfilled expectations. Still, it was not the habit of music
lovers like Claire and Masefield to accept a verdict of this kind at
second-hand. Therefore they had determined to hear the new virtuoso for
themselves.

Not that any thoughts of a harmonious and musical kind were running in
Jack's mind as he walked home to-night Try as he would, he could not
dismiss the idea that some grave peril was impending, and that Claire
was likely to be the central figure of the tragedy. But it is the
blessed privilege of youth to throw off the haunting cares and doubts
that assail their elders, and Jack suffered little on the ground of
sleeplessness that night. All the same, the haunting fears were with him
again on waking in the morning.

But perhaps Claire noticed something of this, for she put the direct
question to her lover when he called on her the next afternoon. Yet Jack
had no intention of saying anything for the present. He began to speak
somewhat hurriedly of the new violinist, Signor Padini, and so the
conversation lasted till the Albert Hall was reached.

There was nothing particularly attractive in the concert generally, and
both waited somewhat impatiently for the foreigner to appear. He came at
length, tall, slim and clean-shaven, and Claire noticed with an amused
smile that for once she was in the presence of a master who eschewed
long hair. She turned and whispered something to this effect to Jack,
who did not appear to be listening.

"Now, where have I seen that fellow before?" he muttered. "Call me
foolish, if you like, say this man is an absolute stranger to England if
you please; but I am absolutely prepared to swear that his face is quite
familiar to me."

But perhaps it was merely a chance likeness, Claire suggested. She was
far too interested in the musician to take much heed of what Jack said.
Evidently this man knew his business to his finger tips; the way in
which he handled his bow would have proved that to any critic. Claire
glanced down the programme; and no sooner did the wild sweeping music
come streaming from the strings than the whole audience thrilled
responsive to the master's touch. He was not. after all, playing the
piece standing against his name on the programme, but the peculiar weird
and mournful rhapsodie of Chopin's that Jack had heard Anstruther
interpreting two nights before. He leaned back; his eyes were half
closed with a strange sensation that he was listening to Anstruther now.
He turned to suggest something of this to Claire, and to his surprise he
noticed that her face was paler than his own.

"Does anything strike you?" he whispered. "Have you a feeling, like
myself, of having gone through all this before?"

"Dreadful!" Claire shuddered. "I know exactly what you mean. It is the
same, precisely the same, as if my guardian had crept inside the body of
Padini, There! Did you notice that particular slur, that strange half
hesitation? I declare. I feel certain that this Padini was in my
guardian's study the other night. Jack, you must get at the bottom of
this; there is some mystery here which we must solve, and that without
delay."

Jack rose from his seat and buttoned his coat firmly about him.

"Ay," he said, "a deeper mystery than you are aware of. Stay here while
I go behind the stage. I am going to see Signor Padini, and get to the
bottom of this business at any cost."



IX.--THE MAN WITH THE FAIR MOUSTACHE

Claire sat there, her mind half on her music and half on the
extraordinary conduct of her lover. Not that she did not trust him
implicitly; but still, it seemed strange that he should have gone off
without explaining he cause of his agitation. Some one next to her
touched her on the elbow and asked a question as to an item the
programme. The question was repeated twice before Claire realised that
she would have to pull herself together. She replied quite at random;
then she looked about her, and became cognizant of the fact that Padini
was still on the stage, bowing his acknowledgements of the thunderous
applause which had greeted his magnificent efforts.

Yet a closer glance did not serve to show Claire anything sinister in
the artist's personality. He was pale and clean-shaven, palpably very
nervous, and yet pleased with the warmth of his reception. Surely there
could have been no mystery connected with a manlike this.

On the other hand, the marvelous likeness between his playing and the
execution in the same piece displayed by Anstruther two nights ago could
not possibly be overlooked by anyone professing to any musical knowledge
at all. Claire hoped that the inevitable encore would produce a
repetition of the same piece.

Surely enough. Padini came forward and struck the opening bars of the
same rhapsodie. With eyes closed and mind eagerly concentrated on the
music, Claire followed every passage with rapt attention. There was no
longer any possibility of mistake. The Padini interpretation of the
piece was exactly that of Anstruther. Was Anstruther, therefore, a
consummate master of his art or a showy humbug or charlatan? Could it
have been possible that this new artist had been concealed in the Panton
Square library two nights before? But on the face of it, this was
absolutely impossible. Padini had only been in England a little over
eight and forty hours, and his first appearance in London had been at a
musical "at home" on the same night that Anstruther had played the
Nocturne in Panton Square. Claire was still debating this problem in her
mind when Jack returned to his seat. He looked a little pale and shaky.
but the grim smile on his face was determined enough.

"My dearest girl. I am going to ask you a little favor." Jack whispered.
"I hope you won't think it the least rude of me, but I want you to
excuse me going back with you. Can't you guess that there is something
more than meets the eye here?"

"I should be very blind indeed If I did not." Claire replied. "Jack,
what is the meaning of this strange mystery? Either Signor Padini was at
our house the other night, or m y guardian learned to play that
rhapsodie after having had lessons from the man on the platform before
us."

"I may be wrong, of course," Jack said, "but I feel pretty sure that I
have guessed the problem. That is why I want you to go off by yourself
and lead me to play the detective so far as Padini is concerned. It is
not altogether a pleasant job, but I am going to follow that fellow when
he leaves the Hall."

So saying, Jack rose from his seat, and Claire obediently followed his
example. Once outside, Jack called a cab, and gave the driver his
instructions.

"I think that will be all right," he said. "You may expect me to come
round after dinner, my darling girl. I hope you are not the lest annoyed
with me, but there is danger ahead for you and me, and it is my duty to
prevent it as all hazards. I declare if I had not almost forgotten one
of the most important things. I had to say to you. On no account are you
to breathe a word of this afternoon's visit to your guardian. He is not
to know that you have been with me or anybody else to the Albert Hall
to-day."

Claire glanced at the pale, anxious face of her lover and gave the
desired assurance. She felt perfectly safe in his hands; he would tell
her all there was to be told in due course; and now for the first time
she congratulated herself on the fact that her engagement had been kept
a secret from Anstruther.

Meanwhile Jack had returned to the back of the Hall. So far as he could
recollect, Padini was down on the programme for no further item that
afternoon, therefore it was only a matter of waiting till the violinist
emerged, and following him to his destination. But Jack had succeeded in
consuming three cigarettes without any sign of the artist rewarding his
patience. Taking half a crown from his pocket, he crossed the road and
proceeded to interview the stage door keeper.

"Oh, that foreign-looking chap, is it?" the stage door guardian said.
"Signor Somebody or other who plays the fiddle. Why, he's been gone the
last ten minutes."

"Gone!" Jack exclaimed, with palpable dismay. "Why, I have been watching
most carefully for him the last half hour. Was he wrapped up or shawled
in any way?"

Whilst Jack still stood arguing there a slim young man, with fair
moustache turned upwards à la German Emperor, passed and repassed him
hurriedly. The stranger passed into a smartly appointed hansom and
vanished.

"Well, there's your man," the doorkeeper exclaimed. "He must have
forgotten something and returned for it."

Jack muttered his thanks, parted with his half crown and went into the
roadway thoroughly puzzled. He could not for a moment doubt the word of
the doorkeeper, who was naturally an expert in the recognition of faces.
As a matter of fact, the man with the turned-up moustache was the same
individual who had been so mysteriously concealed in Panton Square, and
who had afterwards accompanied the deaf-mute girl to Mr. Carrington's.
On the stage Padini had appeared as a slight, slim man, whose face was
absolutely devoid of hair.

Jack stood thoughtfully in the middle of the road, wondering what to do
next. His first idea was to go at once and look up Rigby. He must have
been standing there a great deal longer than he had imagined, for
presently he saw the smart hansom return and take its place on the rank.

Here was a slice of luck indeed. Jack crossed over and hailed the
hansom.

"Here. I want you to drive me to the office of The Planet," he said. "I
suppose you know where that is. Do you want to earn an extra half
sovereign?"

"That's the way I was educated," said the cabman, with a grin. "Oh, my
last fare, is it? Well, I can easily answer that question. Gent with the
cocked-up moustache. I have just driven him to Panton Square."

Jack stepped into the hansom, feeling that luck was entirely on his
side. He knew now that he was on the track of something more than mere
coincidence. For 5 Panton Square was no less a place than the residence
of Spencer Anstruther, Claire's guardian. Here was proof positive that
Padini. the violinist, a perfect stranger to London, was at any rate on
terms Of friendship with Anstruther. There was nothing for it now but to
seek out Rigby and tell him all that had happened without delay. Rigby
was found in his room at The Planet office, mournfully drawing skeletons
on a sheet of blotting paper. He nodded thoughtfully as Jack came in;
then, catching sight of the latter's eager face, asked what was in the
wind.

"I have been making discoveries galore," Jack responded, "You would
hardly expect me to do that through the medium of an afternoon concert;
but there it is. You have heard of this new violinist Signor Padini, I
suppose?"

"Oh, yes." Rigby said indifferently. "Well, a typical class of foreign
boomster. I suppose."

"That is not the point" Jack proceeded to explain. "You will recollect
what I told you about the empty study in Anstruther's house from which
the music proceeded in that strange, unaccountable manner. Naturally, I
thought the player was Anstruther himself, Anstruther wonderfully
improved or inspired beyond all recognition; but now I know that such
was not the case. Dick, there is something devilish in this strange
business, the empty room, the unearthly music, the strange appearance of
that young man with his deaf-mute companion, followed so closely by the
death of Nostalgo. What does it all mean?"

"I will give a thousand pounds to know." Rigby responded.

"Well, I think I can tell you," Jack went on. "You will recollect the
night before last, during our chance meeting at Carrington's, that I
asked you to keep an eye on a young man with moustache turned up à la
German Emperor. Would you be surprised to hear that this young man was
no less a person than Signor Padini?"

"Impossible!" Rigby exclaimed. "How could you prove such a statement?"

"Well. I am going to prove it, anyway. Together with Miss Helmsley I
went to hear Padini this afternoon. By some strange freak of fate he had
chosen Chopin's Rhapsodie in F as his item on the programme. Directly he
began to play my mind went back to that strange, weird music in
Anstruther's study. It was not I alone who noticed this subtle
resemblance; in fact, Claire recognised it as soon as I did. Mind you,
every musician of note has his little tricks and fancies which are
absolutely peculiar to himself. When I shut my eyes, I could literally
house.

"I sent Claire home in a cab, and proceeded to wait till Padini left the
Albert Hall. I missed him, of course, for Padini was a clean-shaven man
on the stage. As a matter of fact, he must be a very conceited creature,
seeing that in private life he wears a fair moustache. I got that from
the doorkeeper; but what is more to the point, the cabman who drove me
here is the same man who half-an-hour ago dropped Padini at Anstruther's
house. Now, I would like to know what you make of that."

Rigby listened thoughtfully to all that Jack had had to say. The
significance of the revelations was not lost upon him.

"And yet, I dare say, Anstruther would deny any knowledge of Padini if
you asked him," he said. "Still, we know a great deal, and, clever as
Anstruther is, he cannot possibly conceive the fact that we are so
closely acquainted with his movements. Let's go and call upon the
beggar, shall we? Pretend that we want to consult him on some matter of
business. Anything will do. Did you keep your cab?"

"Well, yes; it occurred to me that we might want him again, and
,besides, the driver can prove that he left Padini at 5 Panton Square."

Panton Square was reached at length; the cabman had been discreetly
dropped at the corner of the street. Jack rang the bell, which was
answered by Serena. In the full light of the afternoon sunshine her
strange, inscrutable face looked more haggard an strange than usual.
There was the same furtive droop of her eyelids, the same pitiable shake
of her hands, that suggested the beaten hound that Jack had so often
noticed before. He would have given much, as a writer of stories
himself, to have known the secret history of this woman. Docile and tame
as she appeared to be, she was still capable of possible emotion, or the
dilatation of her black pupils spoke falsely. Though she was meek and
friendly enough, there was ever a suggestion that she was on her guard.

"Your master in?" Rigby asked breezily. "But we know that he is. Don't
you trouble about us; we will go to the study ourselves."

Serena stood there as if something gripped her throat and choked her
utterance.

"But my master is not at home," she protested. "He has not been at home
all day: neither do I know what time to expect him to-night I fancy he
is out of town altogether."

"That's rather awkward," Rigby said. "We came here on business,
expecting to meet a friend of ours. I suppose you have seen nothing of
him, a tall, slim young man, with rather a fierce type of moustache?"

"There has been no visitor calling here to-day," Serena replied, with
the air of one who repeats a well-learned lesson. "I am the only servant
in the house at present, and should have known if anybody had called."

Jack did not dare to glance at his companion, feeling that those dark,
interrogating eyes were fixed upon his face. A sudden Impulse moved
Jack; he decided upon trying the effect of a swift surprise. He tapped
the woman familiarly on the shoulder.

"Come, come," he said, with a jocular ring in his voice. "Do you mean to
tell me that you have not had a visit to-day from Signor Padini?"

A stifled cry broke from the woman; she clenched her hands in an
attitude of pain.



X.--WHAT DID SHE KNOW?

Nothing was said for a full minute. Serena stood there, gazing from one
to the other as a child might do who finds herself in the presence of
two harsh taskmasters. There was something pitiable about her
hopelessness; the fighting glint had left her eyes; she stood there
downcast and shaking as a slave might do.

"I am afraid I do not understand what you mean," the woman said.

In a way Jack was feeling very sorry for Serena. Ever since he had known
Anstruther and been a friend of the household the woman had held a
certain subtle fascination for him. Though Jack had not made as yet much
progress in the paths of literature, he had all the quick dramatic
feeling which is essential to the making of a successful novelist.

It had often occurred to him that so mysterious a figure as Serena would
have made a splendid character for a strong novel. He watched the woman
carefully now; he saw how her breast was heaving, and what a great fight
she was making to keep her emotions under control.

"I am afraid I must press you for an answer," Jack said. "Signor Padini
can be nothing to you, and yet you start and cry out when his name is
mentioned as if I had struck you a blow. Now, tell me, was the man I
speak of a visitor to this house last night? What time did he come?"

"My master's business is my master's business," Serena said sullenly.
"He tells me nothing, he tells nobody anything. And who am I, a humble
servant like me, to ask questions of my master?"

Rigby shrugged his shoulders hopelessly. He began to see that there was
nothing to gain here. He nodded to Jack, and half turned away. But Jack
was not to be so easily suppressed.

"But, surely," he urged, ""you would be doing no harm in telling us if a
foreign gentleman called here last night?"

"I will tell you nothing," Serena cried. "Why do you come and bully a
poor woman like this?"

And yet, at the same time, though Jack knew bow faithful she was to her
master, he could not but feel that she was not antagonistic to Claire
and himself. With a sudden impulse he pushed his way into the hall,
followed by Rigby.

"We all make mistakes sometimes," he said. "Now, are you quite sure you
have made no mistake about your master? Mr. Anstruther is a law unto
himself; he comes and goes as he likes, and it is just possible that he
might have returned without you being aware of the fact. There is
nothing to be frightened about; we are not here to murder him for the
sake of his Apostle spoons."

As Jack ceased to speak he made a swift sign to Rigby behind the woman's
back, and the tatter understood. He would go off to the library, and see
for himself if Anstruther had returned. As the hall door closed behind
him. Serena rushed impulsively forward and threw herself headlong at
Jack's feet. Her attitude had entirely changed; she was no longer the
half-dumb slave of circumstance, no, longer a mere machine answering to
the call of her master, but a living, palpitatng woman. The change was
so quick, so dramatic and unexpected, that Jack had no voice of protest
left to him.

"For heaven's sake, do not do it," Serena whispered hoarsely; and it not
that, for your own sake I implore you to stay your hand. Oh, I am not so
blind end foolish as you think, I am not the dull, stupid creature that
my master takes me to be. You can deceive him where love and honor are
concerned, but you cannot blind my eyes, because I have loved, alas! too
well myself. Do not think that I pry and watch, for such is not my
nature. And yet I know as well as if you had told me in so many words
that Miss Claire and yourself are something more than friends, I cannot
speak more plainly because I dare not; but if you would save the girl
you love from the terrible danger that hangs over her, you will be blind
to all that goes on in this dreadful house."

The words which had begun so hoarsely and quickly came at the finish
with the torrentlal force of a mountain stream. Surprised as he had been
Jack's self-possession had not quite deserted him. Hitherto he had
regarded the silent Serena, as an old woman, but now that her face was
transformed and glowing with emotions he could see that she was still
comparatively young. He could see also, and the fact gave him a vague
sense of satisfaction, that the woman's sympathies were entirely with
Claire and himself.

"Will you get up, please," he said, and his own voice was just a little
shaky. "It is not right for a woman to kneel to a man like that Serena,
you are not what you seem. You are not a servant in the ordinary
acceptation of the word; you spoke just now like a refined and educated
woman. You may say that is no business of mine, and, indeed, I do not
wish to pry into your past, but you must see that this matter cannot
possibly stop here. You denied just now that Signor Padini had been here
at all. You denied the presence of your master, and yet I can hear his
voice on the other aide of the study door at this moment. You will
perhaps also deny that you heard of No. 4 Montrose Place."

It was merely a bow drawn at a venture, but the shaft seemed to strike
home to the feather. Serena had risen painfully and slowly to her knees;
she staggered back against the table and contemplated Jack with dilated
eyes.

"Oh, you have gone further than I dreamed." she moaned. "You are a
strong, masterful man, and I see now that nothing I can say will turn
you from your purpose."

"Since you have made up your mind to that," Jack said grimly, "perhaps
you had better be candid with me and tell me all you know. For some time
past I have felt a strong conviction that Anstruther is no better than a
consummate scoundrel. Discreet as he is, I have come to the conclusion
that this is no house for Miss Helmsley. I am quite certain that you
would find both of us more sincere friends than the man you call your
master. Why not, therefore, leave him and throw in your lot with us?"

The woman wrung her hands piteously; Jack could see the tears rolling
down her face.

"Oh, if I only could--if I only dared," she whispered: "and yet I
cannot, even if it were only for your sakes. If you only knew what was
hanging over you, but I must say no more. When that man comes to me, when
I stand before him with his eyes looking into mine, I am compelled to
give him up the secrets of my very soul. I wish from the bottom of my
heart that--"

Serena clutched at her throat with a quivering hand, as if something
choked her, and rushed impulsively from the room. She had said nothing,
and yet she had said so much. Her very reticence, her hesitation to
speak definitely against her master, had proved conclusively to Jack
what a consummate scoundrel Anstruther was. He was still debating the
matter in his mind when Rigby came back to him. The latter did not
speak; instead of that he took Jack by the arm and piloted him quietly
and firmly to the front door. They were in the street before Jack could
ask the meaning of this cautious conduct.

"One can't be too cautious in a case like this," Rigby explained. "It
was just as I had expected. Anstruther was at home; he, indeed, had not
been out all day, which fact was proved by his still being in
dressing-gown and slippers. Our usually self-contained friend had either
been dissipating last night or he has had disturbing news; at any rate,
he was very pale and shaky, and did not seem in the least pleased to see
me. Not that I think that he was in the least suspicious of my visit."

"Did you happen to see anything of Padini?" Jack asked eagerly.

"Well, I did and I did not," Rigby explained. "At any rate, the Italian
was not in the study, though he had been there. from the simple fact
that a music case and a rather jaunty-looking Homburg hat rested on a
side table. Did you happen to notice if Padini was wearing a Homburg hat
this afternoon?"

Jack was able to reassure his friend on that point, whereupon Rigby
proceeded to ask if anything had happened during the time he was left
alone with Serena. Rigby listened with interest to all that Jack had to
say.

"That's a woman we ought to get hold of," he said thoughtfully. "Unless
I am greatly mistaken, she can tell us all we want to know. As a matter
of fact, she has told us a great deal, though perhaps without knowing it
At any rate, from what you say. she is quite aware of the fact that
something uncanny is going on at 4 Montrose Place. I feel perfectly
certain that the body of Nostalgo was smuggled away via that empty
house; we know perfectly well that Anstruther is in the habit of going
there, and we are equally sure that the very mention of the house filled
Serena with terror. As we have plenty of time on our side, and there
seems to be no immediate hurry, you and I are going to keep our eye on
that place. You were very anxious last night to know what I had seen
there. Well, you have plenty of pluck and courage of your own: you shall
come with me presently and verify the thing for yourself."

"Do you mean to say we are going to keep a vigil there to-night?" Jack
asked.

"That's about the size of it," Rigby answered coolly. "You had better
come round to my rooms not a moment later than half-past ten. Mind you,
we are not going there as ourselves, but you can leave a disguise quite
safely to me. Don't bring a revolver or anything noisy of that kind:
something in the way of a thick stick would be much safer. By the way,
didn't you tell me that you were going to see Miss Helmsley to-night?
Take my advice, call there and dine as if nothing had happened, and
directly Anstruther makes an excuse to return to his study slip away
from the house without the formality of leave-taking and come to my
place at once."

* * * * *

It was not easy work for a straight-forward fellow like Jack to sit with
Anstruther on the other side of the table discussing trivial topics as
if there was nothing grim and terrible behind this picture of refined
home life. Jack was conscious of carrying himself off fairly well, what
time Anstruther rose from the table with an excuse that he had work to
do.

"Please don't think I am avoiding your company," Anstruther said
pleasantly, "and don't be annoyed if you hear the sound of my violin
presently. As a matter of fact, my thoughts are always clearest when
inspired by the sounds of music."

Jack muttered something suitable to the occasion and exchanged glances
with Claire directly Anstruther left the room. Just as that genius had
prophesied, the sweet strains of the violin stole from the study
presently. Claire listened with an interest that was vivid and thrilling
beyond words.

"Now listen to that," she cried. "Did you ever hear anything like it?
Did you ever hear Mr. Anstruther play in that style and manner before.
Note the little slurs, the half hesitation, which is at once so dramatic
and artistic. If you close your eyes, you might swear that you are
listening to Padini himself!"

"It really is amazing," Jack murmured, "Padini to the life; the Italian
to a semi-tone. And yet we know perfectly well that it cannot be Padini,
because at this very moment he is waiting to take his turn at The
Queen's Hall concert. Claire, you must try to get to the bottom of this.
I cannot possibly believe that this infernal juggling is conceived
merely to satisfy the vanity of Anstruther, for, in the first place, we
form so small an audience. There is something behind this much more
serious than the soothing of a clever man's vanity. And now I must be
off."

Claire pleaded with her lover to stay a little longer, but, mindful of
Rigby's strict injunctions, he was fain to refuse. In the light of
recent knowledge he had no occasion to feel sure that Anstruther was
still on the premises, despite the fact of those exquisite strains
emanating from the library. He had not forgotten the strange experience
in that direction two nights before. Still, the sweet, melancholy melody
could be distinctly heard by Jack as he crossed the road.

Rigby was impatiently awaiting his friend, and he had all the disguises
set up to his bedroom. He listened eagerly to all Jack had to say whilst
artistically making himself up as a news-vendor. A glance at him in the
glass reassured Jack; he felt pretty sure in his mind that no one could
possibly recognise him attired as he was now.

"What's the programme?" he asked, completing the illusion with a short
clay pipe. "Are we going straight away t o Montrose Place?"

Rigby replied that that was the intention. It was getting near to 11
o'clock before the friends reached Montrose Place; so far as they could
see they had the terrace entirely to themselves. A policeman strode
majestically down the road, flashing his lantern here and there, and
finally disappeared from sight.

"Now's our time," Rigby said eagerly; "no chance of being interrupted
for the next ten minutes. You stand at the top of the steps whilst I
sneak down and open the window. We shall have to fumble our way
upstairs, because it is by no means safe to use matches. Still, I have
the photography of the house quite clear in my mind. Come along."

They were in the grim, dusty house at last. Jack was conscious only of
the intense darkness and musty smell of the place. Carefully piloted by
Rigby, he reached the second floor landing at length, and there Rigby
grasped his arm significantly. There was no sound at first save the
scratching of mice behind a panel or the flutter of some ragged blind
swaying in the piercing draught. Then suddenly it seemed to Jack that a
solemn footfall sounded in a room close by. A door opened with a pop
like pistol crack, and a long slit of light, dazzling in its brilliancy
fell like a lance upon the dusty floor. Somebody laughed somewhere, a
laugh that sounded so near and yet so far away: then the door opened
wider, and a partial view of the interior of the room could be seen.

Utterly taken by surprise, moved and horrified to the depths of his
soul. Jack could have cried out, but for the hand clasped upon his mouth
like a steel trap.

"Not a sound," Rigby whispered sternly. "For heaven's sake, restrain
yourself. and look, look!"



XI.--THE SHADOW ON THE WALL

Jack needed no second bidding; he was only too anxious and eager to
follow the direction of Rigby's outstretched finger, He was by no means
lacking in the nerve and pluck which generally go to a young man of fine
physique and clean habit. But there was something about the whole of
this affair, a creeping suggestion of diabolical crime, such as one only
encounters in the wildest realms of fiction. And yet it seemed to Jack
that his reading of the daily press recalled things just as vile in
every-day life. With teeth clenched firmly, with a stern resolution to
do nothing very likely to precipitate what might have been a terrible
catastrophe, Jack looked into the room before him. As the door was half
open and the two friends were hidden in the blackish shadow. It was
possible to watch without the slightest chance of being seen.

For an empty house, dusty and gloomy and deserted as it was, the room in
front of our two adventurers presented a striking contrast to the rest
of the place. There was no window, or at least, where the window ought
to have been, something in the way of an iron shutter stood, and over
this a great wealth of silken hangings was artistically arranged. As to
the rest of the apartment, the furniture was directly in keeping with
the abode of a millionaire. Jack did not fail to notice the rich Persian
carpet, the luxurious chairs and settees of the First Empire period, the
fine pictures on the walls. The walls, too, had been recently decorated,
so that there was not a single jarring note to mar the harmonious whole.
There were flowers, too, grouped in the corners of the room and piled
cunningly around the electrolier standing on the center table.

"Now, that is a strange thing," Jack whispered. "So far as I could see,
so far as I can see now, there is no sign whatever of the electric
lighting in any other part of the house. Do you suppose that these
people have taken this house in the ordinary way, or is it possible
that--"

"Not a bit of it," Rigby replied. "They're not the sort of people to do
anything as foolish as that. Nor would there be any occasion to go to
the expense. Depend upon it, they know all about the character of the
owner of this property, and that it is not in the least likely to let
unless put thoroughly in order."

"Then, what about the electric light?" Jack suggested. "That would have
to be put in by somebody. These people could not tap the main, or
anything of that kind."

"There's a much simpler way than that, my dear fellow. Dr. Adamson lives
next door, and I know perfectly well that he has electric light. It does
not require much technical knowledge to wire a house, and anybody with a
small amount of common sense could easily drill a small hole through a
partition and attach a wire to one of the main lines next door. I think
that explains the problem."

Jack had no further question to ask for the moment. His full attention
now was concentrated on the occupants of the room. There were three of
them altogether, two being dressed like superior mechanics, and were
evidently there for some purpose connected with machines. The third man,
superior in every way to his companions, had his back turned the door,
so that it was impossible to get a glimpse of his features. He had in
front of him an ingenious-looking arrangement, not unlike a magic
lantern, a contrivance for throwing cinematograph pictures on a screen.
At a signal from him, one of the workmen drew back the silken draperies
covering what ought 33 to have been the window, and a white sheet stood
confessed.

"Give me the third slide by your left hand," the operator commanded.
"That will do. Now switch out the light."

There was a click and a jerk, and immediately the whole room was plunged
in darkness, save for the fierce disc of blinding light that flashed
upon the screen. Almost immediately a dazzling disc was transformed to
the face of a man. Jack clutched at the arm of his companion.

"By heaven! do you see that?" he whispered. "It is nothing more nor less
than the face of Nostalgo. Do you think this is merely the development
of some novel form of advertising, or is it possible these fellows have
hit upon some novel way of putting in posters?"

But Rigby had nothing to say. He was too deeply interested in the
spectacle before him. It had occurred to him for the moment that there
might have been something in what Jack suggested. It was just possible
also that what he took to be a large sheet was no more than a wide
stretch of paper.

At any rate there was no hurry. There would be plenty of time to
ascertain whether the supposed sheet on the wall was paper or not. Rigby
had made no reply to Jack's cogent question, but he seemed to be quite
as interested as his friend.

"Hang me if I know what to think of it," he said at length. "It seems to
me as if these fellows were trying to work out something quite new in
the way of lantern slides. Mind you. It is just possible that we are
mistaken altogether in our assumption that Anstruther is carrying out
some cunning rascality. These men may, after all, be no more than honest
workmen."

"I can't quite see that point," Jack replied. "Honest workmen do not, as
a rule, come in this furtive way to an empty house. Besides, look at
them."

"That is all very well," Rigby argued. "But suppose that you were
engaged upon some secret process which you did not want anybody to know
anything about. And, besides, Anstruther is quite a genius in his way,
and there is no reason why he should not be engaged upon inventing some
new process of lithography."

"In that case," Jack said, "is it not a strange coincidence that they
should be manufacturing these Nostalgo posters? I grant you that
Anstruther is absolutely a genius, but his talents always take on a
sinister bent. In fact, I don't think that fellow could be honest if he
tried. Still, we have plenty of time to find out."

"Do you really think that is paper?" Rigby asked. "It looks to me like
it."

"It looks to me like it, too." Jack said; "but we shall have to possess
our souls in patience."

"Hang me if I don't go and see." he said. "No, I don't see that there is
any great danger unless they should happen to turn up the light again,
and I do not suppose they will do that until the experiment is
finished."

"For goodness sake, do nothing rash," Jack implored. "From what we have
already seen, we have to do with a gang who would not hesitate to cut
our throats if it served their purpose."

The thing, after all, was not so hazardous as Jack had imagined. Just
for an instant, as if by accident, one of the shaded electrics on the
wall flashed out in a pin-point of diamond light.

"You clumsy fool!" growled the man behind the lantern. "What did you do
that for? You might have spoilt all my work by your blundering folly."

The erring workman grunted out something in the way, of an apology and a
promise that he would be more careful in the future. Here, then, was
Rigby's opportunity. He knew now that there was no likelihood of the
light being turned on again for some time to come. All he had to do,
therefore, was to creep cautiously, wriggling like a snake across the
floor, until he could touch the huge screen and ascertain whether it
were paper or cloth.

He took a penknife from his pocket and opened a small blade. So dense
was the darkness of the room by contrast with the vivid lane of light
thrown upon the screen that the journey was practically devoid of peril,
so long no one touched the switch of the electrics. Therefore Rigby
crept along, his nerves braced to the highest tension and an
exhilarating sense of danger strong upon him. He could see now that the
white sheet extended from floor to ceiling, the edges of seeming black
and firm like an iron in contrast with the brilliant white center.

He was close to it now, so close indeed that, with a cautious movement
of his arm, he could touch the sheet. A single prick with a sharp point
of his knife gave him all the information that he needed. It was a sheet
of paper surely enough. A moment later Rigby was standing by Jack's side
once more.

"Paper," he whispered. "Really, this adventure is likely to prove
prosaic after all. Don't you think we are rather making a mountain out
of a molehill? We know that Anstruther is a great rascal, but at the
same time he is an exceedingly clever man, and, as you know, inclined to
be secretive. Now, isn't it just possible that our friend has hit upon
some new process of photo-lithography, and that we are witnessing an
experiment to demonstrate the value of the new idea."

"I don't think so." Jack replied. "Indeed, since you have been away, I
have made something in the way of a discovery also. Mark well the
picture thrown upon the screen yonder. You know what it represents, of
course?"

"Well, naturally. I have seen the diabolical face of Nostalgo on too
many posters not to be absolutely familiar with his ugly mug. Depend
upon it, those fellows are printing the famous poster in some way known
to themselves. Maybe we shall see that self-same sheet on some hoarding
to-morrow."

"But that is not what I meant at all," Jack proceeded to explain. "If
you are as familiar with the poster as you say you are, you will notice
a considerable difference in this one. In the first place, the face is a
little more in profile, and surely you must notice the difference in the
hands."

"Right you are," Rigby replied. "In the present instance the hands are
half-extended, as if in the act of clutching something. Strange that I
had not noticed that before. What do you make it out to be?"

"Hush!" Jack whispered. "I think our ingenious friend behind the lantern
will explain that for himself."

The leading operator in the room gave a short curt sign and the
brilliant lights flashed up once more. The slide was also drawn from the
lantern, but the sinister features of the dark, repulsive face upon the
screen did not vanish as might have been expected. On the contrary, the
grim face frowned down as if it had been brushwork from the pencil of
some imaginative artist. One of the workmen approached the sheet and
dragged it to the floor. Then the three men in the room bent over the
poster and examined it critically.

"It seems to me that the hand is a little out of drawing." the leader of
the trio remarked critically. "Give me the paints, the white paint, I
mean."

The speaker took a brush heavily charged with some white pigment and
proceeded to touch up the hand. He cut that portion from the sheet and
placed it in the slide of the lantern. Then another large sheet of paper
was erected in front of the window, and the lights turned out again.
Almost immediately there appeared upon the disc the shadow of a huge,
bony hand uplifting a dagger in a menacing attitude. A grunt of approval
came from the man behind the lantern, and once more the lights were
turned up.

"There, what did I tell you?" Jack asked eagerly. "I am sure the
different attitudes of that man's hand are meant for signs."

"Indeed, it would seem so," Rigby was forced to admit. "We'd better stay
here and await developments."

For the next hour or so the mysterious process of printing the posters
continued. It was exactly as Jack's ingenious [mind] had forecast. In
every instance, although the dark and sinister features remained the
same, the attitude of the hand was different. It was a strange and
[very] important discovery that the two of them had made; but, instead
of making the task easier, the problem had become even more intricate.
Was all this part of some cunning device for attracting public
attention, something absolutely new in the way of advertisement, or did
it signify a deeper and more sinister purpose?

Jack recollected now how frequently Anstruther had alluded in his
hearing to the ramifications of secret societies. With his intimate
knowledge of criminality, and having every assistance of the police
always at his disposal, Anstruther's acquaintance with the seamy side of
life was extensive and peculiar. But was he now helping the police as
usual, or was he engaged himself in some ingenious conspiracy for the
aggrandizement of himself and his satellites?

It was difficult to say. It was still [more] difficult to prove
anything, seeing that the work of printing was still progressing in
silence. If these men would only speak. If they would only utter some
word which might give a clue to what they were doing , the spies would
have been more satisfied. Their only hope was to watch and wait on the
off-chance of a careless word.

They were listening so eagerly indeed that they almost failed to notice
the sound of a footstep which now echoed on the stairs. They were so
close to the door that anyone reaching their landing from below could
hardly fail to make out the outline of their figures. Rigby had barely
time to drag his companion back into the velvety darkness beyond before
the newcomer was past them and had entered the room.

"How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags?" the newcomer cried.
"How are you getting on? Nobody interrupting 3 you, seen nothing of the
police or anything of that kind?"

"No doubt as to who that is." Rigby whispered. "I should recognize
Anstruther's voice anywhere. I told you he was at the bottom of this
business."

Anstruther stood before them, tall and distinguished in his evening
dress, and there was not sign about him that he was doing anything more
than pursuing a quite normal occupation.

"Not a bad evening's work," he said. "Are we all here, or is Carrington
late again? Confound that fellow! I begin to wish we hadn't taken him
into the business at all. But I do not think he is likely to play me
false: it will be a bad day's work for him if he does."

"Carrington, too," Jack muttered significantly. "That is your rich
banker friend, Dick. The plot thickens apace. It seems impossible for
any body to come in contact with Anstruther and retail his
respectability."



XII.--LOCKED IN!

Quite unconscious that his most dangerous enemies were so near,
Anstruther carefully selected a cigarette and lighted it. He proceeded
then to make a careful examination of the pile of posters at his feet,
and smiled his approval.

"Very good, very good indeed; those hands stand out beautifully. Within
a week's time from now the message will have been carried from London to
St. Petersburg and from Paris to Constantinople. The men I am after
cannot get away from me. Whatever great capital they are in, that poster
confronts their eyes like an avenging conscience. Then they realize
their helplessness and bow to the inevitable. You may doubt me if you
like; but I tell you that this scheme is absolutely sure and safe."

"Provided that we have the money to carry it out," the man behind the
lantern grunted. "Don't forget that, clever a s you are, you can't make
money by merely holding up your little finger. You promised us a
thousand pounds when we had finished our part of the bargain, and that
was completed a month ago. Of course, you have got the cash in your
pocket?"

A frown of annoyance crossed Anstruther's face. There was a clenching of
his hands not unlike that depicted by the poster of the mysterious
Nostalgo; he made a half step forward; then he seemed to get himself in
hand again, and smiled carelessly.

"As a matter of fact. I have not the money in my pocket. Things are not
going quite as welt lately as I could have wished, but it is only a
matter of a day or two anyway; nay, it is only a matter of hours. Is the
woman here?"

The man behind the lantern sulkily declared that he knew nothing about
the woman, and cared less. He asked pointedly whether they were to
expect Mr. Carrington that evening, and, if so, whether his visit was
likely to be attended with substantial results.

"I tell you I don't know," Anstruther said angrily. "I told him to be
here at eleven o'clock, but I suppose he has funked it. But the woman is
a very different matter. Jacob, go into the back room and bring her in
here."

"Not I." the man addressed as Jacob replied. "I don't forget the last
time we met. She may be milk and honey to you. but she is prussic acid
as far as I am concerned."

Anstruther stepped to the doorway and whistled softly. It might have
been a call given to a well-broken dog, so careless and contemptuous was
it. Indeed, Anstruther did not wait to see the result of his summons,
but returned to the room with the easy assurance of a man who knows that
his lightest call will be obeyed.

Almost immediately the two watchers standing on the landing were
conscious of a shadowy form passing close to them. They had no time to
shrink back, they had not even time for surprise, when a light hand was
laid on the arm of each and an eager voice began to whisper in their
ears.

"Rash to the verge of madness." the melancholy voice said sadly. "I
warned you not to come, I implored you not to take a hand in this
business. I could have settled it all for you had you left all to me;
but youth ever will be served. Won't you go away even now and leave it
all to me?"

There was something so pitifully imploring in the speech that the
listeners thrilled in sympathy. From the first word they had no
difficulty in guessing the identity of the speaker. It was none other
than Serena who was addressing them in those despairing accents.

"I am afraid you are too late, Serena." Jack said. "Besides, we have
some one else to consider in the business. It is possible that your
efforts may be successful as far as we are concerned; but we have
discovered to-night that Anstruther is plotting against the happiness of
many people who are as innocent as ourselves. I tell you, we must see
this thing through now. But why stay here, why linger, when your
tardiness is likely to increase our trouble?"

At this point Anstruther advanced toward the-door and whistled again,
this time more sharply. With a sigh of deep regret Serena walked forward
and entered the room. In the bright light of the apartment her face
looked paler and more dejected than usual. Though Jack had seen for
himself the volcano of passion and emotion of which Serena was capable
when not under the influence of her employer, he could not fail to
notice how tame and frightened she appeared to be now. It was as if
Anstruther possessed something like a power over her. Her dark eyes
seemed mechanically to follow his every movement; he had only to raise
his hand and her look followed it.

"So you have come at last." Anstruther said. "How long have you been in
the house?"

"I came as soon as you told me, master." Serena murmured, like one who
talks in her sleep. All will power seemed to have gone out of her for
the moment.

"What would you have of me to-night?"

Anstruther replied harshly that Serena must know perfectly well what was
required of her. Nevertheless he proceeded to detail his instructions,
which were still unfinished when another footstep was heard upon the
stairs and a newcomer entered. The two watchers outside were not in the
least surprised at the pale, somewhat conceited features of the
violinist Padini; indeed, they were past all surprises now. Padini had
bowed with an air of exaggerated politeness to Serena.

"Ha, ha, my coy fascinator," he cried, "so I am not to be deprived of
the pleasure of your company. I am not likely to soon forget the
enchanting evening we spent together chez Carrington. I am sorry to be
late, Anstruther, but the fact is your English audiences are not to cold
as I had first imagined. Positively they would not let me off with less
than four encores. Ma foi, you must have had the full value of your
money in your chamber music to-night. A rare treat for Miss Helmsley;
doubtless she has noticed the marvelous improvement made by her guardian
in his playing of late."

The violinist chuckled as if in the enjoyment of an exquisite joke.
Serena flashed him a glance of bitter hatred and contempt.

"I should like to know the meaning of this," Rigby whispered. "I suppose
it refers in some way to the mysterious music which you told me about
last night Do you think it possible that Serena could enlighten us on
this point, as she appears to know all about it? If not why does she
look at Padini in that scornful way?"

Any further signs of enjoyment on the part of Padini were cut short by
an impatient oath from Anstruther.

"That is mere child's play," he exclaimed. "Very clever and all that
kind of thing, but an intelligent schoolboy might have done as well."

Jack intimated in a whisper to Rigby that he himself stood in the
position of the said intelligent schoolboy. He had a pretty shrewd Idea
how the thing had been managed, and to what purpose; but there would be
time enough to explain all that presently. What they had to do now was
to stay as long as possible and gather all they could from a careful
study of the proceedings taking place in the room. It was Anstruther who
first broke the silence.

"Are we going to stand fooling here all night?" he exclaimed angrily.
"Padini, get that exaggerated fur coat of yours off, and make yourself
up to look like an English gentleman as far as possible. You will find
everything necessary in the room at the back of the house. The same
remark applies to you, Serena, my word! To think that a woman so pale
and so haggard, as you are now can made up to look like eighteen and
possess the beauty of Diana! What a pity it was you ever left the
stage!"

The woman's face flushed angrily. There was a nervous tension about her
to-night that Anstruther had never noticed before. Was she going to be
defiant? he asked. Did she understand what she was doing when she
proposed to measure her strength against his? But the flame still raged
on Serena's hot cheeks, and her lips were still hard and mutinous.

"Take care you do not drive me too far," she whispered hoarsely. "A cat
is a harmless creature enough, but I read once of a cat that turned upon
a man and killed him. You dare to taunt me with my past When I think of
what that past might have been but for you, I declare that I could find
it in my heart to kill you. I am so weak and timid, you are so strong
and brave; and yet even you must sleep at times, and a man asleep is as
harmless as a babe. A speck of gray powder, a drop of liquid no larger
than a pin's point placed between your teeth, and the career of Spencer
Anstruther is finished."

The words were uttered with such dramatic force and intensity that even
Anstruther refrained from smiling. It seemed to the listeners outside
that here was a great genius lost to the stage.

"I should not care to encounter this woman's hostility," Rigby murmured
"Look at the intense expression of her face. But, really, I hope she is
not going to defy him to-night if she does we are likely to have trouble
for our pains."

But Serena's outbreak of passionate anger was over as swiftly as an
April shower. She looked up on the face of her master as a dog might do
that had been convicted of theft. Anstruther smiled with the air of a
man who merely tolerates a passing anger of a fellow-creature. It was as
if he had caged this woman so that he could watch her passions and
emotions as a naturalist studies the habits and ways of loathsome
insects.

"I suppose you must give vent to you feelings sometimes," he said. "And
now that you have had a little fling we had better get on with our
business. You 33333 will go with Padini to-night to?"

"No, no!" Serena cried. "I Implore you to spare me that humiliation
again. What have I done that I should have to endure all this, what can
be possibly gained by it?"

For the first time Anstruther displayed real signs of anger.

"Now, listen to me," he said. "Once for all. I tell you not to speak to
me like that again. Do you think I have studied you all these years for
nothing? Do you suppose I do not know how disloyal you are in your heart
towards me? There is one class of woman who has to be ruled by fear
alone, and you are one of them. You will do to-night what I ask you, not
merely to-night, but by months and years, in and out. It will be for me
to order and for you to obey. And, whilst we are on the subject, you are
to say nothing further than you have already said to Mr. Masefield. You
understand what I mean. It was quite evident that Serena understood the
full significance of Anstruther's speech. Pale as her face had been
before it turned now to a still more deathly pallour. She essayed to
speak, but her lips refused the office.

"I don't quite follow you," she managed to stammer out at length. "If
you accuse me of disloyalty--"

Anstruther intimated that that was exactly what he did mean. It was
rather an uncomfortable moment for Jack, listening there. He was
beginning to fully realize the marvelous cunning of the man with whom he
had to deal. He wondered how it was possible for Anstruther to discover
the gist of his conversation with Serena that afternoon. He was saying
something of this in a whisper to Rigby when Padini returned to the
room. The violinist was dressed now exactly as he had been attired two
nights before when Jack had seen him at Carrington's chambers. His
jaunty air for the moment had vanished; he looked suspicious and uneasy.
Anstruther's keen eye noticed this as it noticed everything.

"Now, what's the matter?" he asked. "Have you seen a ghost or something
equally terrible?"

"No. I haven't." Padini replied sulkily. "But I am pretty sure there is
somebody in the house. I am ready to swear that I saw the shadow of a
man moving on the landing outside."

With a contemptuous smile Anstruther walked toward the door. There was
perhaps no immediate danger for the listeners, seeing that Anstruther
evidently attached no importance to Padini's statement: but it was just
as well to be on the safe side. Rigby slipped quietly into a doorway
leading to a bedroom and dragged Jack in after him. The he closed the
door very gently and waited for further developments. He had not long to
wait, for almost immediately there was a click of the latch, and
Anstruther's receding footsteps melted into silence.

"Well, that sets your mind at ease," Anstruther was heard to my. "If
there are any birds here, I have them safely caged."

With a feeling of apprehension, Rigby laid his hand on the door-knob.
His worst fears were absolutely realised. He and Jack had been locked in
the room.



XIII.--THE PARABLE

There was no help for it; they could only wait to see what circumstances
had in store for them. It would have been just as well, however, to have
known what was in Anstruther's mind when he locked the door. So far as
the prisoners could judge, Anstruther had spoken with a kind of jocular
contempt, and had apparently acted more to soothe Padini's nervous fears
than as if he had moved on the spur of his own suspicions. Rigby had not
failed to notice this, and Jack was inclined to agree with him as they
discussed the matter in whispers. At any rate, a quarter of an hour
passed without any signs without.

"Well, my friend," Rigby muttered, "you always were fond of adventures,
even as a boy, and now you seem likely to get your fill of them."

"I don't call this an adventure at all," Jack replied; "not much chance
of action here. The prospect of being locked up all night in this cell
of a place is not at all alluring. Just try that door again."

But th e attempt proved abortive. It was pitch dark there, a darkness
like that of Egypt, which could be felt. The mere fact of the sense of
sight being suspended seemed to increase the hearing of the prisoners,
for they did not fail to note every word that was passing in that room
across the corridor. It was plainly evident that the business
arrangements which had brought those people here to-night were
practically finished, for presently Anstruther could be heard walking
down the stairs, shouting his final instructions as he went. A moment
later the fine slit of light which gleamed like a thread under the door
of the vacant house died away swiftly, therefore proving to Jack and
Rigby that the house had been plunged into darkness. It was a proof also
that the conspirators had left the premises.

"I think this is where ire come in," Jack muttered; "we'll give them
another five minutes or so, and then we will run the risk of striking a
match. I suppose you have got some matches in you pocket."

Rigby had purchased an extra-sized box of vestas as he came along, so
that there was no trouble on that score. The liberal fire minutes had
expired before the scratch of a match, and a spurt of blue flame
illuminated the room. It was by no means an inviting apartment, being
absolutely devoid of furniture save for a tattered carpet on the floor.
The carpet, had obviously been a good one in its day, in spite of the
dust which lay so thickly upon it; the decorations of the walls had
evidently been an expensive business. At the same time it was quite
patent that the room had been used for the storage of valuables, seeing
that the door fitted close and was lined on the inside with steel. The
window, too, was barred heavily although it was far enough from the
ground.

"Well, we are in a nice mess," Jack muttered. "So far as I can see, we
shall have to wait here till morning and then summon assistance by means
of the window. In the meantime we can devote our energies to making up
some ingenious story with a view to deceiving the police. So long as it
is daylight, I don't think we have much to fear from Anstruther and Co.
Do you think the light shows through the window?"

There appeared to be no fear of that, seeing that the curtain was a
comparatively thick one. Over the mantlepiece were the pipe and bracket
of a solitary gas jet. In a fit of idle curiosity Rigby turned on the
tap and applied a match to the burner. Much to his surprise, a blue
fishtail flame spurted out bright and clear.

"Well, these people don't seem to have half done it," he exclaimed;
"they've evidently tapped the gas much in the same way that they tap the
electric light, but why they want both beats me."

"Doubtless for something like business purposes." Jack suggested. "It is
pretty evident that these people have a lot of mechanical contrivances
here, therefore something in the way of heaters would be necessary. My
word, how close this room is!"

Rigby was emphatically of the same opinion. He turned off the roaring
flame of gas and pulled back the curtain from the window. He
successfully fumbled for the catch, and at length managed to raise the
sash. The cool, sweet night-breeze was grateful to a degree after the
stifling atmosphere of the room.

There were no lights to be seen, for the simple reason that they were at
the back of the house, and looking down into a dreary sort of fore-court
formed by the houses on either side and a big building beyond. As their
eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, it was possible to note the fact that
the fore-court had at one time been carefully cultivated, for a broken
fountain could be made out, and what appeared to have been at one time a
well-tended rose garden.

"There's somebody down there," Rigby whispered. "Unless I am greatly
mistaken the said somebody is smoking a most excellent cigar. Can't you
smell it?"

"Of course I can," Jack responded

"These seem to be rather an aristocrat type of rascal. If you look
across to the far corner, beyond that fountain place you will see the
tip of a cigar glowing like a star."

It was exactly as Jack had said. They could see the cigar glowing and
fading as he smoker inhaled or exhaled the fragrant tobacco, and a
moment later they saw something more. Out of the gloom there approached
the figure of a woman, tall, slender and bareheaded, her dress hidden by
a long black cloak that reached to the ground. She spoke quickly and
hurriedly, so quickly indeed that the two men at the window found it
impossible to follow what she said. They could see pretty plainly,
however, and did not fail to notice the fact that the strange woman
appeared to be pleading for some favor. She stretched out her long, bare
arms to her companion in an attitude of supplication; her long cloak
fell away from her shoulders, disclosing an evening dress of some pale,
transparent material. There were diamonds, too, in her fair hair.

"What is the use of wasting my time like this?" the man with the cigar
demanded. "You ought to have been at your destination long ago."

"But I couldn't go, I really couldn't, until I had seen you again.
Besides, there is no place like this, and no better spot for an
interview that one wants to keep a profound secret. For instance, it is
hardly possible that any prying eyes are overlooking us. I can't imagine
anybody being hidden in this old house. When Anstruther locked that
bedroom door just now, do you really suppose he imagined there was
anybody on the premises?"

The smoker responded with a contemptuous grunt. It was evident that he
entertained no suspicions on that score.

"Perhaps I am unduly nervous and excited to-night," the woman went on.
"But I could have almost imagined that there were spies following
Anstruther to-night. If I were alone and had no more pressing thing to
do, I would go back into the house and unlock that door. Imagine my
feelings if I really did find two spies there."

"What confounded nonsense you are always talking!" the smoker burst out.
"I suppose this comes of writing poetry. Who on earth do you suppose is
in the house?"

"How could I possibly tell? The police, perhaps, or perhaps somebody who
is interested in Anstruther's beautiful ward, Claire Helmsley. I am fond
of Claire and would suffer much so that she would escape injury. Really,
I could make a story out of this, Richard. I would find Mr. Jack
Masefield in that room, together with his friend Dick Rigby. I would
whisper to them that it would be safer for them to stay where they were
at present, and that later I would come back and release them. Oh, what
nonsense I am talking, to be sure!"

The smoker affirmed this in a manner non too complimentary.

"You are without exception the wildest sentimentalist I ever came
across. You are trying my patience a bit too much. Why don't you go
about your business and leave me to mine?"

The woman laughed softly to herself as if she was half amused by her own
secret thoughts. She did not seem to notice, or perhaps she wanted to
ignore the brutal outspokenness of her companion. For some reason or
other it occurred to the listeners that she was trying to gain time. At
any rate, there was no longer room for doubt that she was doing her best
to warn the listeners.

"Can you make nothing of her features?" Jack asked eagerly. "My eyes are
pretty keen, as a rule, but I can discern no more than the shimmering
outline of her dress. If fortune is on our side, presently, we must
follow her and ascertain where she lives."

"That wouldn't be at all a bad move," Rigby said. "She may be a
sentimentalist, a poet into the bargain, but that does not prevent her
from being an exceedingly clever woman. She is deceiving that bullying
fellow in a way that is worthy of the best diplomatist."

"She is going to speak again," Jack whispered. "What did she say? I
quite failed to get the last sentence."

Rigby replied that he had failed to catch it, too, for the words were
spoken in low tones which did not carry to the window above. The man
laughed in the same brutal fashion, and begged the woman begone, as she
was only a hindrance there.

"I am going," she said. "Take care of yourself, Richard, and don't
imagine that Anstruther is likely to be of much use to you when the time
of danger comes. He has ever been the blighting curse that hangs over
us, and something tells me that he will be your curse a well as ours."

The man laughed scornfully. He didn't seem to be afraid.

"Evidently that woman is a very great deal cleverer than my friend gives
her credit for," said Rigby. "Don't you see that she was talking to us?
Her speech was merely kind of parable. I don't know who she is or whence
she derives an inspiration, but one thing I am absolutely certain
about, she knows perfectly that the pair of us are locked in this room,
and she is equally aware of the fact of our identity. All we have do to
do now is to smoke a cigarette each and quietly wait till our fair
friend comes and effects our release."

"Haven't you any idea who she is?" Jack asked. "At any rate, there is
nothing common about her. She speaks like a lady, and is most assuredly
dressed like one."

"I should think" you were more likely to know that than I," said Rigby.
"Whoever that woman is, or whatever gang of scoundrels she is mixed up
with, it is quite evident that she knows Miss Helmsley well, and that
she is a great friend of hers, You must know surely pretty well the full
extent of Claire Helmsley's acquaintances. Can't you recognize the
voice? Does not the outline of her figure give you something to go on?"

"I am afraid you have me there," Jack said. "You see, Anstruther is an
exceedingly popular man, he goes a great deal into society, and
naturally Claire generally accompanies him. She could not have less than
a hundred acquaintances she has made in this way."

"Then you can't help me out in this way?" Rigby asked.

Jack was emphatically of the opinion that he could not. He ran his mind
over a score or two of Claire's most cherished acquaintances. But not
one of them tallied in the least degree with the lady down below.
Besides, the darkness rendered an actual recognition almost impossible.

All the friends had to do now was to possess their souls in patience and
await the time when their mysterious friend could come to their
assistance. That she would come they felt absolutely certain. She might
have been the wild, sentimental creature which the man with the cigar
had called her, but, at the same time, she had both coolness and
courage, or she would not have hit upon the ingenious method of speaking
indirectly to them as she had done.

"Unless I am greatly mistaken," Rigby said thoughtfully, "we are going
to make a real useful friend here. What is that I see down below? Surely
there is something like a carriage driven into the yard."

Surely enough, it was a vehicle of some kind, painted black, and with
not too much glittering varnish about it. So far as could be seen in the
gloom, the conveyance in question was a brougham of some kind. It came
into the yard with a strange suggestion of ghostliness about it, for the
tires were thickly coated with rubber; the horse itself appeared to be
similarly shod.

"I fancy we have seen something like that before," Jack suggested dryly.

"Right you are." Rigby responded. "Of course, one can't be quite
absolutely sure, but that looks very like the vehicle used by those
people the other night. You know what I mean, the brougham I saw used by
the deaf mute and her companions the night we ran against one another at
Carrington's."

"Right beyond the shadow of a doubt," Jack said. "Who is this mystic
conveyance for. I wonder--the man or the woman?"

Evidently it was for the woman, for she stood with her long wrap
fastened closely about her whilst the man with the cigar opened the
door. The horse was turned round, and vanished as it had come, without
the slightest noise. Indeed, whole thing might have been a figment of
the imagination.

"I hope that does not mean that our last chance has gone," Rigby
suggested. "But we must have faith in our fair friend. One thing is
pretty certain. If she means to come to our assistance she is not going
very far away."



XIV.--NOSTALGO AGAIN

There was silence for some time between the friends. They had speculated
as far as possible on the chances of the future, and now there was no
more to be said. At the same time, the situation was not devoid of
elements of interest, seeing that the man with the cigar had not as yet
departed. Evidently he was waiting for somebody, for he lighted a fresh
cigar from the stump of his old one, and sat down on the edge of the
fountain with the air of a man who knows how to possess his soul in
patience. He sat thus for some time; then he stood up at length with an
air of strained attention and gave a grunt of relief. Out of the shadows
there emerged another man, muffled to the eyes and wearing a big slouch
hat upon his head.

"So you have come at last," the man with the cigar muttered. "I thought
you were going to keep me here all night."

"It is all very well for you," the newcomer said. "You can walk about
the world with your head held up; you have no occasion to hide yourself
from the light of day. If only this business was done and over, you
would never find me in one of Anstruther's schemes again."

There was something exceedingly striking in the voice of the speaker; it
was by no means an unmusical voice; the enunciation was clear and
defined. But there was a peculiar rasping ring in it, a jarring,
metallic discord as if some one had struck two plates of steel together.
It was a commanding voice, too, and the man with the cigar seemed to
feel it.

"I suppose you know your own business best," he muttered in a tone which
was plainly intended to be that of an apology. "Funny thing, isn't it,
that you and I should be conspiring here, within a pistol shot of
Shannon Street Police Station? Those chaps yonder are still scratching
heir heads over the disappearance of the man they call Nostalgo."

The other man laughed; his voice rang as an echo rings in a cave. He
laughed again a little more gently.

"Yes," he said, "we could throw a very blinding light on that mystery.
Have they offered any reward for the discovery of the body?"

"Oh, dear, yes," the other man chuckled. "Two hundred pounds and a free
pardon to any accomplice not actually connected with the outrage.
Wouldn't it be a fine thing to earn that reward?"

"I'll think it over and see if we can't manage it," said the newcomer.
"Fancy hoodwinking the police in that way! All the same, I don't quite
like this reward business; it's just the thing to appeal to that
scoundrel Redgrave. Anstruther never made a greater mistake when he took
Redgrave into his confidence. That fellow would do anything for a few
hundred pounds."

"Well, you will have an opportunity of sounding him presently. He is
coming to see you about those West African bonds. As for myself, I have
business of greatest importance in the East End. I only stayed here till
you came because Anstruther said it was absolutely imperative for you to
have these papers to-night."

So saying, the speaker took a small packet from his pocket and handed it
over to his companion. He turned away, and a moment later had vanished
into the night. The sole remaining man appeared to be restless and ill
at ease. As he paced up and down the ragged and deserted fore-court the
two friends, cautiously peeping through the up-stairs window, could see
that he was lame and that one shoulder was higher than the other. He was
muttering to himself, too, in some foreign language that conveyed
nothing to the listeners.

He came to a pause presently, and, fumbling in his long coat, produced a
cigarette case and a box of matches.

"I wonder if I really dare," he muttered, this time speaking in English
slightly flavored with a foreign accent. "Surely no one can see me;
surely I shall be safe in this well of a place. If only I could manage
without matches."

Bat there has been no way yet invented of lighting tobacco without
matches. As the match flared out the stranger's face was picked out
clean and clear against the velvet background of the night. As if in
full enjoyment of his tobacco, the man threw his head back and filled
his lungs with the fragrant smoke. He had not yet dropped the match, so
that its rays caught full the upturned face. So clearly did the face
stand out that the whole action might have been conceived with the idea
of giving the watchers a perfect view of it.

"What do you make of that?" Jack whispered excitedly. "Don't ask me to
say, because I know the man as well I I know my own father. The point
is, do you know him?"

"I should say that everybody in London does," Rigby responded, "seeing
that the face has been glaring down on London for the past two months.
Yonder man is Nostalgo and none other."

"No mistake about that," Jack said. "In that strange, weird light, what
an awful face it is. And yet there is something about it, too, same
half-pathetic suggestion that almost removes one's feelings of
repulsion."

"I have noticed that too," Rigby said. "But why did you not tell me that
our mysterious friend was practically a hunchback?"

"But he wasn't," Jack protested. "I am absolutely certain that the man I
found apparently dead close to Panton Square three nights ago was as
straight and well set up as you or I. Why, I helped to put him in the
ambulance; I saw his body laid out in the mortuary at Shannon Street
police station. I am prepared to swear that the man was without a
physical blemish, and I am quite sure that Inspector Bates will bear me
out in this. And yet that man down there smoking his cigarette is as
misshapen as Richard III."

As to this point there was no question. The man below was pacing quietly
up and down the fore-court in the full enjoyment of his cigarette, and
little heeding the curious watchers overhead. It was easy to see that,
so far as physical development was concerned, he had been but
ill-favored by fortune. One leg was considerably longer than the other,
causing the fellow to shuffle along with a sideways motion not unlike
that of a crab.

"Unless that fellow is a bold contortionist, we have evidently two
Nostalgos to deal with," Rigby said thoughtfully "And yet it seems
impossible there can be two faces like that in the world. One thing is
pretty certain, the supposed dead body you conveyed to Shannon Street
police station the other night must have been very much alive. If we
could only get away from here to follow him."

"Not much occasion to trouble about that, I am thinking," Jack said.
"This man is evidently a tool or accomplice 3 of Anstruther's. I am
certain we shall see him in Panton Square sooner or later. As to the man
Redgrave they were speaking about just now, I happen to know all about
him. He used to be in Anstruther's employ as a kind of secretary, a
clever, well-educated fellow whose weakness was drink. Ha, here comes
another one."

Surely enough, another figure crept into the fore-court. Nostalgo, if he
it was, paid no heed to the stranger for a moment or two. In a
half-timid fashion the man who had just entered the fore-court bowed to
his misshapen companion and intimated that he awaited his pleasure.
Nostalgo turned upon him with a snarl.

"So they have sent you, after all," he said. His clear, ringing voice
vibrated with contempt. "Is this the best thing Anstruther can do at a
critical moment. like this? I want a man, not a miserable coward like
you. Besides, I do not trust you. I never shall trust you again." And,
unless I am greatly mistaken, you have been drinking."

"We are in luck again," Jack whispered. "That is the very man I spoke
about--Redgrave in the flesh. Are we going to learn anything, I
wonder?"

The newcomer protested whiningly that not one drop of ardent liquor had
passed his lips that day.

"You miserable, prevaricating hound!" Nostalgo cried. "Go back to
Anstruther and say that I will have none of you. Tell your master that
my time is short and that an hour from now will make all the difference.
He knows that I dare not stay: he knows what hideous disaster even the
slightest delay may produce; and yet he sends you of all men to help me
in this crisis."

"But Anstruther cannot possibly do anything else." Redgrave whined. "It
is absolutely imperative that he should be at Carrington's by midnight.
Carrington is not to be trusted: he wants watching as carefully as a cat
watches a mouse. You will have to put up with me, sir."

Nostalgo paced up and down the dreary fore-court with the air of a man
who is deep in thought. His limp and straggling gait was by no means
lost upon the watchers overhead. He came to a halt at length and sat
down on the edge of the broken fountain, his head upon his hands, He
might have been a graven statue, so rigid and still was his figure.

The effect of this upon the cowering, watching Redgrave was peculiar.
There was something of the cat in his own movements as he came inch by
inch nearer Nostalgo. It was as if a child was timidly to a dog of
uncertain temper. Nearer and nearer Redgrave came, till he was standing
directly over the bent figure of hid companion. He might have been miles
away for all the heed that Nostalgo gave him.

Then quick as thought, and with a snarling, savage cry that echoed
strangely between the four walls of the fore-court, Redgrave fell
furiously and with headlong impetuosity upon the doubled-up figure of
his prey.

"I have got you now, you misshapen devil!" he screamed. "You are going
to be worth at least £200 to me to-night."

Utterly taken by surprise, Nostalgo collapsed under the sudden and
furious assault. Something gleamed and flashed in the uncertain light,
and the horrified onlookers from the window above saw that Redgrave had
a knife in his hand.

"You poisonous scoundrel!" Rigby yelled . "Drop it, I say, drop it, or it
will be worse for you."

But Rigby might have be have been speaking to the wind. He yelled again
and again, but the two men below, locked in a deadly embrace, did not
appear to heed; indeed, it was more than probable that they could hear
nothing at all.

More by great good fortune than anything else. Nostalgo had managed to
grip the hand that held the knife and was holding it in a tenacious
clutch. Over and over the pair rolled, like two hungry dogs fighting for
a bone, their clothes torn and mud-stained, their features grimed almost
beyond recognition. It was a grim and gruesome sight to the two eager
watchers. A sense of helplessness, a wild desire to do something was
upon them; but they might just a well have been fettered prisoners for
all the use they were.

"If only we could open this door," Rigby sighed passionately. "If only
that mysterious lady could come to our assistance."

It was like a prayer that was answered. There was a click, a sudden wide
swinging open of the door, and the lady in evening dress came headlong
into the room.

"Quickly, quickly!" she panted. "Oh, it does not matter who I am or
where I came from! If you would not have the destruction of a man's soul
on your conscience, come with me at once."



XV.--LADY BARMOUTH

Quick as the whole thing had been, the action on the part of the fair
stranger had not taken Rigby by surprise. He had half expected some
development of this kind; he was ready for the dramatic moment, and took
full advantage of it. Almost before the lady was in the room he had
applied a match to the gas burner and turned it full on. There was a
sudden flashing vision of some one magnificently attired, for the white
diaphanous dress and the gleaming diamonds showed where her wrap had
parted at the neck. Perhaps she dimly comprehended the significance of
Rigby's maneuver, for she turned somewhat scornfully from the hissing
gad jet.

"Oh, there is no time for that!" she cried. "It can matter little or
nothing who I am. at any rate for the present. Did you follow me just
now? I hope you understood that I was speaking to you."

"We gathered that, madam," Rigby said politely; "but really we are
wasting time in in idle compliments."

The stranger's face fairly beamed in gratitude. She turned and pointed
in the direction of the door. There was no need whatever for further
words; the friends knew exactly what she wanted.

The gesture was eloquent enough. The lady who had so strangely and
unexpectedly come to the assistance of the pair intimated to them as
plainly as words could speak that there was no time to be lost, and that
the sooner they were off the premises the better. Jack did not wish to
delay: he had no desire to caught like a rat in a trap, nor for a moment
did he forget the fact that the woman who spoke in parables had risked
much to come to their assistance. On the other hand Rig by, being calmer
and more collected than his friend and, like a journalist, more prone to
go into details, was disposed to linger for explanations. His hesitation
was by no means lost on the fair stranger. Once more she pointed to the
door, this time with an imperious gesture.

"Oh, why do you hesitate?" she murmured. "Why do you stand like a
schoolboy staring into a shop window? I know you are here for some
desperate purpose; I can more than guess the reason for your visit. You
are men of intellect and understanding, therefore you must clearly see
the danger of even an instant's delay."

The lady turned away as if she had finished. Jack might have found it in
his heart to be a little ashamed of Rigby, but, after all, the
temptation to give way to curiosity was absolutely overwhelming. Jack
pulled himself together at length, and dragged angrily at Rigby's arm.
He felt just a little inclined to flush under the contemptuous gaze of
their beautiful rescuer.

"Oh, do come along," he said. "My dear Dick, you are positively guilty
of bad taste in this matter."

"Really, I beg your pardon." Rigby said humbly. "But you can quite
understand my feelings. Good-night, madam."

Despite the wild hurry-scurry and the excitement of the moment, Jack had
not failed to notice the exquisite beauty of the strange woman's face.
She was quite young, about 25 or thereabouts, and yet her fair face,
without a hint of a wrinkle in it, had a suggestion of the Madonna, as
of one who had suffered much. She flew down the stairs, heedless of the
darkness, and into the fore-court beyond.

"Pray to heaven we are not too late," she said. "It seemed to me just
now that I was barely in time, but surely--"

The woman stopped, and passed a hand across her face just as one does
who wakes from an evil dream. And forsooth she had cause enough for her
astonishment. Where two bodies had been locked in a death struggle a
minute before, only one remained now. The other had vanished utterly.
And it needed only a cursory glance to see that the form lying there was
not the misshapen outline of Nostalgo.

"This is amazing," the fair stranger said, as she bent over the body of
the unconscious man. She did not appear to be the least afraid now; all
her coolness had come back to her: she suggested a trained nurse on the
battlefield.

"Surely my eyes did not deceive me? Surely I saw two men in a death
struggle there as I came into the courtyard?"

"There is not the slightest doubt about that," Jack murmured. "Why, we
were actually watching the fight at the very moment you opened the door.
Do you know who this fellow is?"

The lady shook her head, but Jack noticed that she did not repudiate all
knowledge of the stricken man.

"I can tell you if you want to know," she said, "but we can discuss that
point later on. What we want to know now is how far this man has
suffered from his injuries."

Heedless of the dust and dirt, heedless of her resplendent attire, the
lady had thrown herself on her knees beside the prostrate body. She laid
her hand upon his heart and bent her head down, listening intently.

"At all events he is not dead," she said, "neither can I see any sign of
a wound. He has evidently been stunned by some tremendous blow. Ah! see,
he stirs."

The injured man opened his eyes in a feeble, spasmodic kind of way and
gazed languidly about him. Rigby, fully alert to the possibilities of
the situation, grasped Jack by the arm.

"My dear fellow," he exclaimed, "You say you know that man, and
naturally he knows you. Do you think it wise to remain in sight, and
thus give him chance to recognize you?"

Redgrave lay as if lost to all consciousness once more. Despite her
dreamy. Madonna-like face, the strange lady was not blind to the danger
of the situation.

"I think you are quite right." she whispered hurriedly. "It would never
do for this man to recognize you. I feel sure that heaven has sent you
both to be my friends in the hour of my deepest despair. Who and what I
am can be explained presently. Rut that man is coming to very fast, and
it were far better if he did not see you."

Rigby nodded his emphatic approval. Together with Jack he withdrew
behind the shelter of a clump of bushes where it was possible to hear
everything without being seen. Meanwhile Redgrave had raised himself to
a sitting position, and, with his back to the fountain, was stupidly
contemplating the fair figure before him.

"I suppose you can understand what I have said to you?" the lady asked.
"For instance, you can tell me what brings you here to-night?"

"I dare say I could if I liked," Redgrave groaned, "but I am not going
to do anything of the kind. This comes of having women mixed up in a
business like ours."

"Woman or not, that has nothing to do with your murderous assault on a
harmless stranger just now. It is absurd for you to deny any knowledge
of it. You have heard of Lady Barmouth before."

Behind the shelter of the bushes Jack gripped Rigby's arm significantly.
He had learned something now.

"Did you hear that?" he whispered. "Of course you have heard of Lady
Barmouth often enough. I have never met her myself, but I have often
heard Claire speak about her. A beautiful South American girl, I
believe, married to a sulky brute who never goes outside his house from
one year's end to another. I don't know whether he drinks or what it is.
hut I fear that Lady Barmouth has a very bad time of it."

Jack would have probably volunteered more information on this point,
only the cross-examination of Redgrave had begun again, and he did not
wish to miss a word that he said.

"It is idle to prevaricate with me," Lady Barmouth was saying. "I will
ask you nothing as to your late encounter because it is evident that you
had greatly the worst of it, and that your would-be victim has escaped.
But what is more to the point, I want to know what has become of my
brother?"

"Your brother," Redgrave stammered as if utterly taken aback by the
suddenness of the question. "I, I don't know in the least what you mean."

"Oh, what is the use of wasting your time and mine like this?" Lady
Barmouth cried. "My brother came here by special appointment to meet Mr.
Spencer Anstruther, and I came on my own self-initiative to see what my
brother was doing."

Here was fresh information for Jack and his companion. It mattered
little for the present who Lady Barmouth's brother was, but evidently
she had greatly mistrusted him; hence her appearance in the courtyard
to-night. It was, therefore, by no means difficult for the friends to
guess that the aforesaid brother had been the man who had so lately
accused Lady Barmouth of being a sentimental fool. The night's work was
being by no means wasted.

"I know nothing whatever about your brother," Redgrave said sulkily,
"and I know nothing about Anstruther either. The man who was here just
now, the man who made that murderous attack on me, I mean, was a perfect
stranger. But this is no place for a lady like you; you had better go
home, and keep out of this sort of a scrape for the future."

So saying, Redgrave scrambled painfully to his feet and lurched off in
the direction of the doorway leading to the lane beyond. It was only
when they were satisfied that he had absolutely departed, that RIgby and
Masefield emerged from their hiding place and joined Lady Barmouth.
There was a sad, wistful expression on her face.

"You heard all that." she said! "Mind you, I am assuming that you are no
parties to the vile conspiracy of which Anstruther is the head. I should
like to have your assurance on that point before I proceed any further."

"If there's one man in the world whom we desire to expose and render
harmless for the future, it is Spencer Anstruther. Jack said vehemently.
"But how did you know we were here at all?"

"Because I happened to be in the house when you came." Lady Barmouth
explained. "I caught sight of your face as you moved in front of the
light proceeding from that room upstairs, and I divined by a sort of
instinct that you did not belong to Anstruther's gang. Then it came to
me that I had seen one of you gentlemen before in the company of Miss
Helmsley. I think, sir, I may be pardoned if I assume that Miss Helmsley
is something more than a friend of yours."

"To be perfectly candid with you, we are engaged to be married, only it
is a profound secret at present," Jack explained. "After telling you so
much, I think you might be equally candid with us."

"Indeed I will," Lady Barmouth exclaimed. "Any one to whom Claire
Helmsley has given her heart must be a good and true man. As I told you
just now I saw you on the stairs; I also heard what that strange man
said about there being spies in the house. I saw you creep into the
room, and I saw Anstruther lock the door upon you. The rest your know
for yourselves--"

"But that does not explain why you are here," Rigby ventured to suggest.

"Why I am here to-night, I cannot even tell you," Lady Barmouth said in
low, nervous tones. "The secret is not mine; it concerns one I love more
than anybody else in the world. One thing I can tell you: Claire
Helmsley is in great danger so long as she remains where she is living
now. You must get her away, Mr. Masefield; you must get her away at any
cost!"

Jack nodded gravely; he had not been blind to this danger for some time.
What he wanted to know now was if Lady Barmouth had any idea of the
identity of the man who had successfully got the better of Redgrave. But
on that head Lady Barmouth could say nothing; she had returned for the
express purpose of relieving Masefield and Rigby from their awkward
situation, and in so doing she had come quite unexpectedly upon the
combatants. Even in the dim light she had seen that a murderous struggle
was taking place, and this being so, had hastened headlong upstairs with
a view of securing assistance. More than this she could not possibly
say.

"What we want to do," Rigby suggested, "is to go away quietly somewhere
and discuss this matter thoroughly. I need not point out to your
ladyship the manifest danger of staying here. Anstruther or any of his
tribe may be back at any time, and then we shall be caught like rats in
a trap."

"That matter is easily settled," Lady Barmouth replied. "Could you come
home with me? It is by no means late yet, and you would not be long in
getting rid of those disguises of yours. They are excellent disguises,
but they did not prevent me recognizing you, Mr. Masefield."

"There is no deceiving a clever woman," Jack smiled. "I should like
nothing better than a chance to discuss this matter at length--but Lord
Barmouth? Would he not think it somewhat singular that two strangers
like ourselves--"

"Nothing of the sort," Lady Barmouth cried eagerly. "My husband never
goes outside the house; he is suffering from a trouble so terrible that
I try not to think of it if I can. I may, however tell you that his
trouble is intimately connected with the black business that brings us
here to-night. It may seem to you that I am a mere frivolous society
butterfly. Ah! If you only knew--"

The trio had worked their way into the street by this time. A private
hansom stood a little way down the road. Lady Barmouth smiled a little
as she contemplated her two companions.

"I am afraid we should be a suspicious-looking party in the eyes of a
passing policeman," she said. "No, I think it would be just as well if I
walked to my hansom alone. Then you can go back to your rooms and attire
yourselves as English gentlemen should be attired at this time of the
evening. Then you can come to my house. I will tell the servants I am
expecting two friends to supper. You know the address?"

Jack intimated that he knew the address perfectly well. The suggestion
was by no means a bad one; there could be no possible suspicion aroused
by the fact that Lady Barmouth was having two friends to share her late
meal. The clocks were striking twelve as Jack and his companion walked
up the steps of the big house in Belgrave Square.



XVI.--THE BOSOM OF HER FAMILY

A resplendent footman took the names of the callers, and preceded them
to the drawing room. It was no uncommon thing for Lady Barmouth to
invite a score or so of friends to supper after a reception or theater.
The footman intimated that his mistress was alone now, and that she was
at present in the hands of her maid; therefore the callers had ample
time to study the surroundings of so mysterious a person as Lord
Barmouth.

That remarkable man, as everybody knew, had only been married a little
over two years. Two years ago he himself had been a more or less popular
figure in society. In the first place he was exceedingly rich, by no
means ill-looking; in fact he was a remarkably fine, type of an
all-round athlete. He was a triple blue at Oxford, a wonderfully keen
shot, and a dashing polo player. At his house in the Shires his hunters
were noted, as likewise were his coverts. Two years, ago any man would
have esteemed it a privilege to call himself Lord Barmouth's friend, and
be free of his guns and his horses. But now all this was changed.
Barmouth had gone away to South America with a view of something new in
the way of sport. Naturally his movements were followed carefully by the
society papers. They chronicled all his doings faithfully, and presently
Belgravia was officially formed of the fact that Barmouth was in Mexico,
where he had become engaged to be married to the daughter of a settler
there, an Englishman of good family who had taken unto himself a Mexican
wife. Three months later the announcement of Barmouth's marriage was in
The Times. It was understood that he was not coming home quite yet;
indeed, something like two years elapsed before the big house in
Belgrave Square was set in order for the owner and his bride.

The strange whisperings and muttered scandal began at once. But on one
point society was in perfect accord--whatever trouble hung over the
household, it could not possibly be a fault of Lady Barmouth's. The
woman was a lady to her finger-tips; she took her part naturally and
easily in society; she fell into her place like one to the manner born.
As everybody expected, there was nothing lacking in the lavish
hospitality which had always been a tradition of the Barmouths. Men went
down to their country houses in the winter to shoot and hunt, men and
women came to Belgrave Square to lunch and dance and dinner, there was no
more popular figure in society than Lady Barmouth.

And there it seemed to end. From the day of his arrival in England until
the present moment not a soul had looked upon Lord Barmouth with the
exception of his wife and his faithful valet. What was the source of the
trouble nobody knew, and nobody guessed. It was in vain to try to bribe
any of the servants, for they were just as much in the dark as anybody
else. It was perhaps a mistake to say that nobody had ever seen Lord
Barmouth, for occasionally he entered the dining or drawing-rooms when
some very old friends were there, but previous to his entry the lights
were always turned out. Whether this was due to some strange form of
disease, or perhaps some phase of madness, was a point never explained.
Lady Barmouth, beyond a cold statement that her husband was suffering
from a peculiar malady, said nothing, and, indeed, it would have been in
very bad taste to have asked. It had only been a nine days' wonder after
all, and it mattered little to society in general so long as the
hospitality of the house of Barmouth did not suffer.

It was under the roof of a man like this that Rigby and Jack found
themselves as a fitting end to a night of amazing adventure. There was
nothing to denote a discordant spirit in the house. Here was a
magnificent suite of drawing-rooms brilliantly lighted and luxurious to
a degree, on the walls of which were pictures of price. There was about
the house the decorous, smooth, velvety silence which seems to be a
tradition in all well-ordered establishments. It seemed almost
impossible to believe that the sinister wing of tragedy should hang over
a home like this. A few moments later Lady Barmouth came into the room.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting," she said, "but I have been having
a little chat with my husband. As I have already intimated to you, his
misfortunes are not altogether unconnected with this Anstruther
business. My dear husband has suffered cruelly at the hands of certain
people; indeed, so cruelly has be suffered that he seems to have lost
all life and hope altogether. Ah, if you had only seen him as I saw him
for the first time two years ago! There is one thing, however, I will
ask you to do--pray do not say a word to him as to the circumstances in
which we met to-night."

"Then we are to have the pleasure of seeing Lord Barmouth," Jack
exclaimed. "I quite understood that he--"

"This is an exceptional case altogether. In the strict sense of the word
you will not see my husband, but he desires the privilege of a few words
with you. Now, let us go into the dining-room and talk this matter over.
There will be no servants present, it is the one meal of the day which I
prefer to partake of without the presence of one's domestics."

The dining-room was not the usual apartment devoted to state feasts, but
a small room on the first floor, cosily and comfortably furnished, and
more with an eye to confidences than anything else. The servants were
absent, as Lady Barmouth had intimated, so that it was possible to
discuss the events of the evening without the chance of being overheard.

"Now tell me candidly," Lady Barmouth said at length, "have you any
ideas to offer as to that mysterious disappearance from Shannon Street
police station? I am asking you this, Mr. Masefield, because it was you
who actually found the body of the man who most people speak of as
Nostalgo. Really now, was that unfortunate man so very like the
wonderful poster of which London has had so much to say of late?"

"The likeness was amazing," Jack explained. "It quite frightened me.
Talking about the poster in question, there is another likeness that I
have not failed to note. Of course, if you put the man I mean and the
poster side by side, nobody could possibly see the resemblance. But in
moments of anger, there is a strong likeness between the poster, and
Spencer Anstruther. Don't laugh at me, Lady Barmouth; I assure you it is
absolutely true."

But Lady Barmouth was by no means in the way of laughing at Masefield.
Her pale face took on a still more creamy pallour, the pupils of her
dark eyes were strangely dilated.

"That is a most strange and wonderful thing," she said, as if speaking
to herself. "Mr. Masefield, it is most fortunate that we met to-night.
You have just told me something which will prove of the utmost value
later on. We will not discuss that now, there is no time. But there is
one thing that I am going to ask you to do for me; I want you to
influence Claire Helmsley in my favor. I have taken a great fancy to
her; indeed, I like her far more than any girl in London. This is all
the stranger because I believe I am in a position to do her a great
service. I know that I am in a position to do her one. But one
stipulation I make, and that is, she must be told everything."

Jack hesitated. It would be indeed a dangerous thing to acquaint Claire
with all that had happened so long as she was under the same roof as
Spencer Anstruther. She was not accustomed to restrain her feelings and
emotions, and with his swift, subtle instincts, Anstruther would find
out that there was something wrong immediately. Jack pointed this out to
Lady Barmouth at some length.

"I don't think so," she said thoughtfully. "Claire is a clever girl, she
is in splendid health, and not the least likely to fear Anstruther or
anybody else. It is, of course, not nice to have to play a part, but
think of the information that Claire could glean for us so long as
Anstruther regards her as little more than a child and behaves to her
accordingly."

"Believe me, I am only too anxious to get at the bottom of this dreadful
business," Jack said earnestly, "and there is nobody more anxious than I
am to get Claire outside the sphere of Anstruther's influence
altogether. Still, I am quite willing to try. I will see Claire
to-morrow, and tell her everything."

Lady Barmouth's face beamed with a delight that was almost childish. She
looked and acted like one who had had a great weight taken off her mind.
That Jack had come to a wise decision she felt certain. She was saying
so, speaking very briskly and freely, when the lights of the room were
extinguished by some invisible agency and the apartment left in utter
darkness save for the wood-fire which smouldered on the hearth.

"I do hope you have all finished," Lady Barmouth cried . "It is quite
evident that my husband thinks so, or the lights would not have been
extinguished by turning off the switch outside the door."

Both Jack and Rigby muttered something to the effect that they had
finished. Lady Barmouth produced a tiny silver spirit lamp from the
sideboard, the blue flame of which was little larger than a pin's point,
sufficient to light a cigarette, but insufficient to illuminate a scrap
of paper a foot away. In silence the cigarettes were handed around, and
the well-trained voice of a servant was heard announcing Lord Barmouth.
A closely muffled figure crept into the room, and proceeded to bury
itself in a big arm-chair by the side of the wood-fire.

"These are my friends, Mr. Rigby and Mr. Masefield," Lady Barmouth said
cheerfully . "I have told them that you would like to have a few words
with them, George. You will find these gentlemen willing to speak quite
freely.

"That is indeed good of you." The deep, clear ringing voice came from
the fire-place. "I have been praying for something like this for the
last twelve months. Still, it is more with Mr. Masefield than Mr. Rigby
that I wish to speak. You have made a great discovery to-night, I
understand. You have found out the source of those Nostalgo posters."

"I think I have done more than that," Jack explained. "I have not only
discovered their source, but I know where they are printed, and the
process of their manufacture. If you like to put yourself in my hands
and accompany me to-morrow night, you shall see the whole scheme for
yourself."

Lord Barmouth was of the opinion that it was not wise in the
circumstances to take any such step. He cross-examined Jack at
considerable length, his questions being pointed with marked
intelligence.

At the same time he said little or nothing about himself. Lady Barmouth
sat there smiling behind the cover of the darkness, infinitely glad to
see her husband taking an interest in the affairs of life once more.

"Don't you think it is rather late to-night?" she suggested; "besides,
we are going too fast. With your intimate knowledge of the situation,
and with the help of these gentlemen, surely we can devise some scheme
for getting the better of that fiend Anstruther."

"Ay, you are right." Barmouth said, his deep voice ringing through the
room. "I see a way now, a way as clear as daylight."

In his passionate emotion he dashed his foot forward so that the point
of his the logs in the grate. A blue flame spurted up and died as
suddenly as it had come. Jack and Rigby rose to leave. No sooner were
they outside than Jack clutched his companion's arm eagerly.

"Did you see nothing?" Jack whispered. "By heaven, Lord Barmouth and the
Nostalgo we saw in the fore-court to-night are one and the same person!"



XVII.--WHICH MAN WAS IT?

Rigby's astonishment was frank and undisguised. It was quite evident
that he had noticed nothing suspicious about the look or attitude of
Lord Barmouth; indeed, he had been on the far side of the table when the
master of the house had entered the room. But he was not altogether
prepared to accept Jack's statement unless he could verify it with
something more than a mere expression of opinion.

"Are you quite sure of that?" he asked. "Mind you, this is an
exceedingly important matter, and if what you say is true, we have
opened up a quite fresh development of the mystery."

"I am absolutely certain of it," Jack declared. "I had not the least
idea of anything of the kind till we were both on our feet ready to go.
It was at this point, you will remember, that Lord Barmouth displayed
some feeling and accidentally touched the logs of wood on the fire with
his foot. In the spurt of flame which followed I had a perfect view of
his face."

"Would you mind describing what you saw?" Rigby asked.

"You have only to look at the nearest poster displaying the features of
Nostalgo, and your question is answered. It was only a flash, but the
face was impressed upon my mind in the most vivid fashion. There was the
same sinister expression of face, the same repulsive twist of the mouth,
the same inexpressible gleam of the eyes as we see it on half the
hoardings in London. Of course, it is the face of a leering
Mephistopheles. And yet I don't know; it occurred to me that there was
something very pathetic and at the same time kind about Barmouth's
aspect. You know what I mean: imagine a kind-hearted, good-natured actor
made up as repulsively as possible, and with the suggestion of his
natural disposition behind him."

"Yes, I fancy I understand what you mean," Rigby replied thoughtfully.
"But you don't suggest that the man really was made up, do you?"

Jack replied that he did and he did not. There was something unreal
about Barmouth's mouth, and yet it was impossible to believe that that
sinister face was anything except just as nature made it. The friends
walked along side by side in silence before another idea occurred to
Rigby.

"It seems to me," he said, "that we must believe in the existence of two
Nostalgos. The one you found in Panton Square was dead; indeed, the
police sergeant testified to the fact. However, by what mysterious means
that man's body was so mysteriously spirited away we are not very likely
to find out. At any rate, it is quite fair to assume that his friends
had some desperate reason for spiriting his body away. Therefore, we may
logically infer that Lord Barmouth cannot possibly be the same man you
saw in Panton Square."

"That is a very fair assumption," Jack admitted. "But to carry your
argument a bit further, we are bound to assume that there are no less
than three Nostalgos. The suggestion is almost farcical, but there it
is."

"What do you mean by three," Rigby asked.

"Well don't forget the man we saw in the fore-court of the house in
Montrose Place. No mistake about his being a Nostalgo."

"Quite so," Rigby admitted. "I am with you there. But how do we know for
certain that Nostalgo No. 2, so to speak, and Lord Barmouth are not the
same man? Did you notice anything strange about the appearance of
Barmouth as he came into the room to-night--that he was humpbacked or
misshapen in any way?"

Jack was bound to admit that he had not noticed anything of the kind.

"I don't think we shall ever do much good unless we go direct to the
fountainhead," Jack said thoughtfully.

"Mexico." Rigby cried. "I see exactly what you mean."

"Mexico it is. We know perfectly well that when Barmouth went off to
Mexico two years ago on a sporting expedition he was a normal man like
you and me. If be had been so terribly disfigured by birth or accident
as he appeared to-night, we should have known it. A man in his position
with an infirmity like that cannot hide it from the light of day. If we
carry the thing to a logical conclusion, if Barmouth had been like that
when he went away, why should he be so dreadfully troubled about it
now?"

Rigby applauded this sound reasoning. He could see that Jack had
something on his mind, and urged him to proceed.

"I don't quite know what to make of it." Jack said. "As I observed just
now, we seem to he face to face with the fact that there are two or
three Nostalgos, and for all we know to the contrary, there may be a
score more knocking about London. It has occurred to me more than once
that these men must belong to some secret society."

Rigby was inclined to laugh at the idea. On being asked by Jack to
explain what he saw that was fatal to the theory, he replied logically
enough that such a thing was out of the question.

"My dear fellow, just think what you are saying." he exclaimed. "So far
as my reading teaches me, the great object of a secret society is to be
secret. Besides, you don't suggest for a moment that these men belong to
any particular tribe, especially as we know perfectly well that Lord
Barmouth, who is an Englishman, belongs to them. Nor would you want me
to believe that these men are in the habit of having their faces
operated upon by some ingenious doctor, so that they are in the position
to recognize one another when they meet."

Jack was bound to admit that Rigby had the facts entirely upon his side.
It seemed absolutely childish to believe that sane men would do this
kind of thing, especially when it was very evident that these various
Nostalgos were only too anxious to hide themselves from the light of
day. Rigby did not pursue his advantage; he was quite content to judge
that his argument had prevailed from the expression of Jack's face.

"But we need not carry that argument any further," he said. "I judge
from your expression that you have another theory."

"I was just coming to that." Jack said. We will assume for the sake of
argument that when Barmouth went to Mexico he was without blemish of
mind or body. That being so, he must have met with some terrible
adventure which has resulted in this terrible disfigurement. Mind you,
it is a disfigurement; it certainly is not natural; for instance, no
three men could possibly have faces like that as the result of a freak
of nature. What I am trying to think is this: Barmouth got mixed up in
some in some hideous secret society, and that he either carries on his
face the badge of the tribe, or he has been purposely disfigured out of
revenge for some dereliction of duty. However, this is only speculation
after all, and we can do nothing till we have some fresh facts before
us."

"I am inclined to think very highly of your theory all the same," Rigby
said. "There is no questioning the fact that we have to look toward
Mexico for an elucidation of the mystery. By Jove, I have nearly
forgotten something. Wouldn't it be a good thing to find out if
Anstruther had ever been to Mexico?"

"Of course it would," Jack exclaimed. "I'll see to that. I will go to
Anstruther's to-morrow night and learn there. It will be hard indeed if
I am unable to answer your question next time we meet."

It was fairly late the following afternoon before Jack found himself in
Panton Square again. He had practically promised Lady Barmouth to tell
Claire everything, but a natural reflection had shown him that this was
not quite prudent. Not that he objected to take Claire into his
confidence, but what he greatly feared was the girl's inability to
control her feelings in the presence of Anstruther after she had learned
everything. But, as Jack looked into the face of his betrothed, his
doubts gradually vanished. It was a courageous as well as a beautiful
face, and it occurred to Jack that Lady Barmouth had not done badly when
she had selected Claire to be her confidante in this painful matter.
Claire's dark eyes were turned interrogatively upon her lover. Perhaps
he was looking a little more seriously than usual--at any rate his grave
face told her that he had come with news of importance.

"My dear boy, what is the matter?" Claire asked. She twined her hands
about his arm and laid her head caressingly on his shoulder. It was
impossible to resist that pleading upward glance "I am sure you have
something important to say to me."

"Against my better judgment," Jack laughed. "Yes, I am going to tell you
something about your guardian."

Claire listened with the deepest attention as Jack proceeded to speak
freely of the adventures of the last two days, He watched the change of
her face, the flush and the pallour, and the dawning resolution which
gave her mouth strength and firmness.

"I do not think you need be afraid for me." Claire said. "I will be
brave and resolute: I will do my best to hide my my feelings from Mr.
Anstruther. This is a dreadful business altogether, but dreadful as it
is, we cannot draw back now. You have told me some strange things, but
some of your facts are not facts at all.

"In what way have I been mistaken?" Jack asked.

"Well, as to Mr. Anstruther, for instance. You say that you saw him at
Montrose Place last night for the best part of an hour."

"Well, so I did," Jack declared. "If you want anybody to prove that, ask
Rigby. Anstruther was there somewhere about half-past ten, and when he
left he had not the slightest intention of going home."

"Most extraordinary," Claire murmured. "Listen to what I have to say,
what I should have to swear to if this thing ever went into a court of
justice. Shortly after dinner last night Spencer Anstruther went
directly to his study; he had not been there very long before he was
playing his violin, and this he continued to do till one o'clock this
morning. Now what do you make of that?"

"It seems almost incredible," Jack said. "Was there a break at all in
the performance?"

Claire replied that there was a break of perhaps twenty-five minutes to
half an hour, so far as she could judge, somewhere about eleven o'clock.
Jack smlled with the air of a man who makes a discovery. This was the
period when Padini had turned up in Montrose Place. There was no time to
go into theories now, but Jack felt that h e would have a surprise for
his friends later on.

"Tell me, tell me," he said, "do you think you can recollect the names
of all the pieces that Anstruther played last night? I want you to try
and repeat them to me exactly in the order that they occurred. This is
more important than you would Imagine."

It was a somewhat difficult task, but Claire managed it successfully at
length. For a long time the girl bent thoughtfully over her writing
table, and presently produced a neat list on which were inscribed the
names of some ten or fifteen classical compositions.

"I think you will find that practically correct." she said. "I may not
have recollected the exact order, but I think that it is good enough for
your purpose."

Masefield was quite sure of the fact. He folded the list, and carefully
placed it in his pocket.

"Now there is one more thing I should like," he said. "Now, as you are
perfectly well aware. Padini was giving a recital last night at the
small Queen's Hall. You will remember this, more especially as your
music agent sent you a programme, a thing he always does when there is
anything of importance going on. Now, do you think you could find that
programme for me? Not that it very much matters, because I can step
'round to Smithson's and get one for myself; still, if you happen to
have it in the house--"

But Claire was quite certain that she had the programme somewhere. She
produced it presently from a mass of papers on the piano.

"Now we shall get at it," Jack said. "I see by this programme that
Padini is down for no less than six items. He had a most enthusiastic
audience, as I happen to know, which really means that he played about
twelve pieces altogether. Now I will read to you the first four of these
compositions. They are respectively Étude 25, Chopin; Wiegenlied,
Brahms; Moszkowski's Five Waltzes; Liszt's Die Lorelei. Now, unless I am
greatly mistaken, you will find that those pieces were played in the
same order by Anstruther in his study last night. Is not that so?"

"Amazing!" Claire cried. "Absolutely; it is exactly as you say. What
does it mean?"

"We will take the list right through till the end if you like." Jack
replied. "The same thing will apply to both lists. Now, is it not an
extraordinary thing that those two men should have gone through exactly
the same programme, item by item, without the slightest variation? And
all the time they were some two miles apart?"

"It seems absolutely incapable of explanation," Claire cried .

"Oh! the explanation will be simple enough when the time comes." Jack
laughed; "but you will see for yourself that the thing is not quite
finished. It is obvious enough that Padini's recital finished at about
eleven, whereas you say that Anstruther went on till about one o'clock
in the morning. The next business is to find out where Padini was
playing so late, possibly at a smoking concert or something of that kind.
At any rate I am going to find out, and then I shall discover that the
supplementary programme will be exactly the same as your list."

"Is it some new science?" Claire asked, "some wonderful new discovery
that Mr. Anstruther is perfecting before he submits it to the world?"

"Not a bit of it," Jack said practically. "There is nothing occult here.
And now I must go. I will see you at dinner."



XVIII.--THE EMPTY ROOM

Jack went off, bent upon putting his discovery to the test There was not
the slightest trouble in ascertaining where Padini had passed the hours
between 11 and 1 of the previous evening. As Masefield had anticipated,
the artist had been persuaded to lend his services to the Bohemia Clef
Club, where he had been the lion of the evening. The fact Jack
ascertained at the club itself, a musical member affording him all the
information he desired. The previous night's talent had been of a very
middle class nature, so that Padini had found himself in great request
He had been exceedingly obliging, so Jack's informant said, and had
practically played straight away for a couple of hours. Jack jotted down
the names of the various items executed by Padini, and on comparing them
with the list given him by Claire, found that they tallied exactly,

"The plot thickens," he murmured as he walked rapidly away in the
direction of The Planet office, there to lay his most recent discoveries
before Rigby. "What an ingenious rascal we have to deal with, to be
sure!"

Rigby was emphatically of the same opinion. He did not see how it was
possible to better Jack's suggestion that he should dine at Anstruther's
that night and ascertain all he could as to Anstruther's past, and
especially as to whether the latter had ever been in Mexico.

"There is one little thing we have quite overlooked," Jack suggested as
he rose to depart "We have got to get inside that study. Anstruther's
game is to lock himself in and pretend that his violin soothes his mind
and induces a proper train of thought. That's his story, of course. I
have ascertained that Padini is doing nothing to-night, but that will
not prevent the music going on all the same. Now if you could hit upon
some scheme whereby?"

"I know exactly what you mean," Rigby said; "you want to see the inside
of the study just at the critical moment. I think our game is to make a
diversion outside. I'll just turn over the matter in my mind, and if I
can see a really artistic way of doing it I will send you a telegram
just before you go to dinner. The diversion, of course, will come from
the outside of the house."

Jack felt sure that the matter was quite safe in the capable hands of
Dick Rigby. He was surer still when a little before 5 o'clock his
landlady handed him a telegram containing just three words from Rigby.
Before he slept that night Jack felt pretty sure that the secret of
Anstruther's violin practice would be a secret from him no longer.

It was hard work to keep his feelings under control, to sit in the
drawing room before dinner was announced and exchange commonplaces with
his brilliant host. Anstruther had rarely been in better form; he had
the air and mien of a man with whom the world goes very well. Indeed,
success seemed to stand out in big letters upon him. Usually Anstruther
was a man of moods: to-night he was merely a society creature with
apparently no heed of the morrow.

If Jack had any misgivings on the subject of Claire's behavior towards
her guardian, his uneasiness was speedily set at rest. The moat critical
observer could not have detected the slightest jarring note. It was all
the same through dinner, Anstruther monopolized most of the conversation,
and Claire followed every word with flattering attention. Dessert was on
the table at length before Jack carefully led up the conversation to
foreign travel. He had seen much of the world himself, so that there
were several places of mutual interest to be discussed with Anstruther.

"There is one part of the world, however." Jack said, as he carelessly
peeled a peach, "that I have always been curious to see. I allude to the
land of the Aztecs, those wonderful ruined cities of Mexico, of which we
know so little and profess to know so much. Now, don't you think that
those people must have been of an exceedingly high state of
civilization?"

The question was so innocently asked, and Jack's artistic deference was
so subtly conveyed, that Anstruther fell headlong into the trap.

"I should say there is not the slightest doubt about it," the host
responded. "I have been there; indeed. I spent a goodish part of my time
in and about Montezuma."

"And about when would that be?" Jack asked.

Anstruther explained, without giving definite dates, that it was about
two years before. Jack proceeded to discuss the matter in a casual kind
of way. He was anxious to know whether any of the old customs of the
Aztecs still prevailed, that he had heard to a great extent the religion
of these people had been built up on free-masonry. Did, for instance,
Anstruther believe in the legends of terrible revenges which these
people used to inflict on their enemies? But Anstruther declined to put
his head further into the lion's mouth; he seemed to become suddenly a
little uneasy and suspicious and changed the conversation to safer
grounds. Still, Jack had learned quite as much as he had expected to
learn, and Anstruther's very reticence confirmed Jack in the feeling
that his host knew everything there was to know about the terrible
misfortunes of the man or men called Nostalgo.

It was getting fairly late now, and Jack was beginning to wonder whether
the hour had not yet arrived for Rigby's promised diversion. If it came
now it would be merely wasted, seeing that nothing could be gained by
Rigby's ingenious device until Anstruther was safe in his study. He
showed no signs, however of any disposition to move; his face had grown
placid again, and he was talking with all his old charm of manner on
various topics of interest.

Jack did not fail to notice the figure of Serena as she flitted
noiselessly about the room. It had not escaped his notice either, that
the woman had appeared more than usually anxious and eager when Mexico
had been mentioned. Serena disappeared from the room a moment in her
soft, flitting manner, coming back a moment later with a telegram, which
she laid silently by her master's side, Anstruther opened the envelope
carelessly, and glanced at the contents.

Just for an instant his face grew dark as a thunder cloud, and something
like an oath escaped his lips. It was all like a lightning flash, but
the swift change had not been lost on Jack. Anstruther twisted up the
telegram carefully, and thrust it in one of the shaded candles before
him, as if he needed a light for his cigar. Jack felt that he would have
given much for a sight of that telegram; already it was a little pile of
gray ashes upon Anstruther's dessert plate.

"A great nuisance," the latter said airily; "that is the worst of being
a man of science. But I am not going out to-night for anybody. I have
got some music I want to try over presently."

Jack murmured something appropriate to the occasion. Claire had already
left the table, with the suggestion that perhaps the men would like
coffee in the drawing room.

"You stay here and smoke." said Anstruther; "you won't mind my leaving
you, of course, especially as I am so anxious to get back to my music."

So saying, Anstruther pitched, his cigar end on the ash tray, and moved
off in the direction of his study. He had a gay, debonair manner now; he
hummed a fragment of an operatic air as he walked along. There was the
jangle of a telephone bell presently; almost immediately afterwards the
study door was heard to shut and lock, and the music began.

"It seems almost impossible to believe that that can be Anstruther."
Jack said to himself. "No man could improve like that in so short a
time. I wonder what Rigby is doing. I hope he won't spoil the pretty
scheme by over-haste. Probably in the course of half an hour he will
deem it time to begin."

Evidently Rigby had been of the same opinion, for a full half hour
elapsed before a sound came from outside the house, Anstruther was well
into his second theme before there was a sudden knocking and hammering
on the front door and a stentorian voice burst into cries of "Fire!
fire!"

So spontaneous and natural was the whole thing, that Jack was taken
absolutely aback for a moment. It occurred to him, of course, that a
fire had broken out inside the house, and that soma passer-by had
discovered it. Again came the hammering on the door and the strident
shouts of those outside. Jack made a leap for the hall, and raced
upstairs to the drawing room three steps at a time. Claire had thrown
her book aside, and stood, pale and startled, demanding to know what was
the matter.

"Somebody outside is calling 'flre'." Jack explained hurriedly; "not
that I fancy there is much the matter, the kitchen chimney or something
of that kind. There they go again!"

Once more the hammering and yelling were upraised; a frightened servant
crept across the hall to the front door and opened it. And yet, despite
all this turmoil, the beautiful soft strains of music below were
continuing. Not for a second did they cease; the player was evidently
too wrapped in his music to be conscious of outside disturbances. Not
that the clamor lacked force and volume, for now that the front door was
open the din was absolutely deafening. Through the break in the
disturbance the sweet liquid strains of music went on. Fond of his
instrument as Anstruther might have been, he could be wide awake and
alert enough on ordinary occasions, as Jack knew only too well. Why,
then, was he so callous on this occasion?

"Had not you better go down and arouse my guardian?" Claire suggested;
"surely he is the the proper man to look to a thing like this."

Jack tumbled eagerly down the stairs and thundered with both fists on
the study door. As he had more than half expected, no response came to
his summons. The music had become still more melodious and dreamy; the
player might have been far away. As Jack turned, he saw that some
half-dozen men were standing in the hall, one of whom gave him a
palpable wink. It was Rigby's wink, and Jack detected it instantly.

"There don't seem to be very much the matter, sir," Rigby said. "No more
than the kitchen fire. Only we thought we'd drop in and let you know.
You chaps go to the kitchen and see what you can do."

"How on earth did you manage that?" Jack asked.

"Only a matter of burning a little magnesium light by the back door,"
Rigby explained, with a grin; "but it seems to me only part of your duty
to acquaint the master of the house with the fact that something is
wrong. Is that him playing now. Jack?"

"Nobody else," Jack replied. Isn't it wonderful. Anybody would think he
was a great artist absolutely lost to all sense of his surroundings.
Still, as you say, it is our duty to let him know what is going on, even
if we have to break in the door."

Rigby grinned responsively. Secure in his disguise, he was not afraid of
being taken for anything else but a street loafer eager to earn a more
or less honest shilling. He tried the door and found it locked; he ran
back a pace or two and hurled himself with full force against the oak
door. Crack went the door on its hinges, the woodwork gave inwardly, and
the room was disclosed to view.

The music had not stopped or faltered for an instant, the whole
apartment was flooded with a delicate melody. Jack stood there puzzled
and bewildered, and with a feeling that would wake presently and find
that it was all a dream.

"Absolutely stupendous:" he cried: "music fit food for the gods, and not
a sign of the player!"

For the room was absolutely empty!



XIX.--A BROKEN MELODY

There they stood in the empty room, neither speaking, and gazing about
them as if they expected some solution of the strange mystery to fall
upon them. The wildest part of the whole thing was that though the music
continued in the same sweet, harmonious way, there was not the slightest
suggestion or indication of where it came from. It could not possibly
have been a phonograph or a gramophone or anything of that kind, as the
instrument in that case would have been in sight. And yet the whole room
was flooded with that beautiful melody as if an invisible choir had been
there making the music of the gods.

"I declare it makes me feel quite queer," Rigby said; "but of course
there must be some practical explanation of it. Can you suggest any
common-sense solution?"

"No, but I am quite sure that Anstruther could," Jack replied. "This has
nothing to do with the other world. What's that?"

There [...]ugh, he was feeling just a little nervous himself. From the
hall beyond came a quick, buzzing noise, like a muffled circular saw,
which resolved itself presently into the wild whirling of the handle of
the telephone, as if some one were trying to get a call in a desperate
hurry. Rigby jumped at once to the explanation, and Jack proceeded
immediately to make a close examination of the room.

He was still in the act of doing so when a startled cry from Rigby
brought him up all standing. An instant later and Anstruther was there,
demanding to know the meaning of this unwarrantable intrusion. Rigby
congratulated himself upon his disguise; he had no fancy at that moment
to be recognised by Anstruther.

"Who is that loafer yonder?" Anstruther demanded passionately. "What is
the blackguard doing in my study? And, if it comes to that, what are you
doing here too?"

Jack proceeded to explain exactly what had happened. In spite of the
confusion of the moment, he had not failed to notice the fact that the
music had ceased directly Anstruther had entered the room. It was quite
evident that Anstruther had not the slightest idea of Rigby's identity.
He was clearly taken in by the story of the fire, and pitched Rigby a
half-crown, which the latter acknowledged hoarsely, after the manner of
the class he was made up to represent.

"Well, I suppose it is all right now," Anstruther muttered. Usually cool
and collected enough, he looked white and very much agitated. Something
had evidently gone terribly wrong with that man of blood and iron. "Get
these fellows out of the house, please, Masefield. I have had a great
deal to worry me to-night, and I want to be quiet."

There being nothing further to wait for, and Rigby. having practically
gained his point, departed with an intimation to Jack that he would wait
outside for him.

Masefield could see that Anstruther was regarding him with an eye of
deep suspicion. But it was no cue of Jack's to notice this; he wanted to
make matters as smooth as possible.

"I suppose you were not very far away?" he said. "I heard your violin a
few minutes before the fire broke out. I wonder you did not see it for
yourself."

Anstruther's face cleared slightly. though Jack noticed that his hand
trembled, and that his pallid lips were twitching. With a commonplace
expression or two, Jack turned and left the house as if nothing out of
the usual run had happened. He found Rigby patiently waiting for him at
the corner.

"Well, what do you think of that?" Rigby asked. "I am exceedingly glad
that Anstruther did not recognise me. A most unlucky thing that he
should have come back like that. Given half an hour alone in that room,
it would have been an odd thing if we had not solved the mystery of the
invisible musician. But it is hardly safe to stop and discuss the
question here. Walk on to The Planet office, and wait for me there."

* * * * *

"Is there any more to be done to-night?" Jack asked, when he and his
friend were alone once more, seated in the latter's office. "Shall we
stop here, or do you want to proceed further before you go to bed?"

"Well, you can do as you please." Rigby said. "I don't know that I
particularly desire your services at present My notion is to go back to
Panton Square and hang about on the off-chance of seeing something."

"And spend half the night in dodging the police." Jack laughed. "That's
a very primitive idea of yours; I flatter myself I have a much better
idea than that. Anstruther will never betray himself; we haven't the
slightest chance of trapping him. Now, unless I am altogether out of it,
Padini is the man we want to get hold of. He is exceedingly vain: like
most artists, there is nothing secretive about him, and I am told that
he is particularly fond of a glass of champagne. Depend upon it, that
fellow will talk fast enough when the time comes. If he doesn't, we can
make him."

"But we must have something to go upon." Rigby observed thoughtfully. "I
think we are justified in assuming that the fellow is a wrong 'un;
anyway, our hands will be greatly strengthened if we can find something
to his discredit."

"That's exactly what I mean to do." Jack said. "Now Bates is quite as
much interested in this matter as we are, and though you have backed
yourself against the police in this case, there is no reason why you
shouldn't make use of them. Besides, we are not bound to tell Bates too
much. If there is anything to be found out to the discredit of Padini,
Bates is the very man for our purpose."

But, as it transpired subsequently, Bates was not available. He had just
gone off, so the sergeant said, having been called in to investigate a
burglary quite recently discovered in Belgrave Gardens. It was something
exceedingly neat in the way of a burglary, the sergeant explained, with
the air of a connoisseur in such matters; in fact, the place had been
routed during the progress of a big reception. No ladders had been used,
no wedges or commonplace implements of that kind: indeed, it was more
than suspected that the burglary was the work of two of the guests. An
unfortunate footman, being where he ought not to have been, had had his
suspicions aroused by the movements of two distinguished-looking men in
evening dress. He had come quite unexpectedly upon them in one of the
corridors, and had so far forgotten himself as to want to know what they
were doing there. Immediately one of them had felled him with some
blunt, heavy instrument, and he had only just time to yell a note of
warning before he fainted. The cry was taken up at once, and immediately
the corridor was filled with men guests. In the confusion, and owing to
the fact that the thieves themselves were in evening dress, it was
impossible to lay hands on the culprits. All this the sergeant told the
visitors with an air of great enjoyment.

"If you give us the number we will walk round there," Rigby said. "Thank
you very much."

The big house in Belgrave Gardens had lost most of its air of simmering
excitement by the time the two friends reached there. They mere informed
that Bates had nearly finished his investigations, and, indeed, the
inspector came into the hall at that moment, accompanied by Lord
Longworth. He held in his hand a beautiful embroidered silk muffler, one
of those choice affairs which are large enough cover a dinner table, and
yet small enough to go into a waistcoat pocket.

"Very strange indeed, your lordship Bates was saying; "I can't
understand it at all. Here is your injured footman prepared to swear
that one of his assailants was wearing that muffler when he came into
the house; that is, on his arrival. And here we have Mrs. Montague ready
to swear that the muffler belongs to her. Whether she likes it or not, I
really must insist on my right to take this wrap away with me. If it
proves to belong to Mrs. Montague, why, of course--"

And the detective shrugged his shoulders. A moment later, and he was in
the street with Masefield and Rigby. He listened carefully enough to the
dramatic version of the story they had to tell him and professed himself
ready to do anything required of him.

"Of course, I know nothing whatever about this violin mystery," he said.
"I have quite enough to do to look after the native element in the way
of rascality. But there are ways and means of getting the better of the
gentle foreigner."

"But I always understood that Scotland Yard employed detectives of all
nationalities," Rigby observed. "Haven't you got anybody on your staff
with a knowledge of international crime?"

Bates responded that such was the case. If the friends liked, he would
go with them at once to the residence of Superintendent Zimburg, and
there see what could be done. "As far as I am personally concerned, my
own hands are very full to-night."

"Your sergeant told us that this was a very interesting case." Jack
suggested "Is it possible that this burglary was the work of some guests
invited to this house?"

"Honestly, I believe it to be the case." Bates proceeded to explain.
"After all is said and done, modern society is a pretty queer mixture.
Given a good presence and a good address, plus the appearance of the
possession of money, it is quits possible for a man to get anywhere.
Take a big reception like the one that Lord Longworth gave to-night Now
it would be quite fair to assume that his lordship and his wife were not
personally acquainted with at least a third of the guests present.
Somebody takes a friend, and that friend takes somebody else, and there
you are. Of course, you are aware of the fact that at all big weddings
nowadays it is absolutely necessary to employ detectives. To-night's
business was exceedingly neat and novel, and might have been wonderfully
successful but for the footman. All the same I am quite certain that the
thing was executed by somebody who is actually a guest of his lordship."

"And not so much as a clue left behind," Jack laughed.

"Well, there is, and there isn't," Bates admitted. "I had a good look
round when everybody was gone, and the only thing I could lay my hands
on was this wonderful silk muffler. Nobody owned it; the injured footman
declares that he saw a gentleman arriving earlier in the evening who had
this muffler about his neck. Here was a fine clue, I thought to myself.
And then Mrs. Montague comes back in her brougham and claims this thing
as her own. Distinctly annoying, don't you think?"

"Annoying enough." Rigby agreed; "but is the muffler in question so very
much out of the common?"

Bates was emphatically of the opinion that such was the case. He
produced the thing from his pocket and the three men proceeded to
examine it in the light of a street lamp. Jack appeared as if about to
say something, then suddenly changed his mind, and began to whistle
instead. They came at length once more to Shannon Street police station,
where Bates telephoned to Superintendent Zimburg, asking the latter if
he would come around immediately. He arrived a few momenta later, a slim,
dark little man, with a vivacious manner and a beard with an
interrogative cock to it. He smiled in a greasy sort of way at the
suggestion that there might be some prominent foreign scoundrel in
London with whom he was not acquainted.

"I know the whole gang," he said. "That is exactly my business. Have I
seen anything, or do I know anything of this Padini? Probably I do, but
not under that name. Oh yes, it is quite a usual thing for some of the
pick of cosmopolitan rascals to be talented. For instance, I know at
least three who might have made great names as artists, only they prefer
the seamy aide of life. There is another who might have been a poet.
Therefore I see no reason why this Padini, or whatever his proper name
may be, should not be a really great violinist. If you have such a thing
as a portrait--"

But Bates has nothing of the kind, and the whole thing looked like
coming to a deadlock, when Rigby suddenly recollected that a portrait of
Padini was to be obtained in The Planet office. The violinist's portrait
had been reproduced in The Planet two days before, and the original was
still lying about the office.

I'll take a cab and be back in ten minutes," Rigby said.

He was back in the prescribed time, and produced a cabinet portrait of
Padini, which he handed over to the superintendent.

"Now, what do you make of that?" he asked.



XX.--THE MOUSE IN THE TRAP

Zimburg pulled the lamp across the table, and through his glasses
carefully scrutinized the features of the violinist.

"Very strange he muttered; "it is not often that I am puzzled. Offhand I
should have said that I had never seen this face before, but the more I
look at it, the more certain I am that the features are quite familiar
to me. At the same time there is some subtle change which baffles me--it
may be the eyes, or the nose and the mouth, that it is impossible to say.
Anyway, I should be prepared to arrest the man on suspicion, and take
the risk of finding out all about him afterwards."

"I suppose any slight alteration makes a difference in the photograph?"
Jack asked. "After all said and done, photography is a very weak reed to
lie upon. Can't you tell us exactly what is puzzling your?"

Zimburg threw up his hands with a suggestion of despair. A sudden light
flashed across Jack's mind. He recollected that Padini, so far as the
stage was concerned, appeared with a clean face, but in private life it
had been his whim to adopt a moustache strictly on the lines of that
worn by the German Emperor. It was apparently an insane thing to do, and
savored more of conceit than anything else, but no doubt the thing had
its advantages.

"Do you happen to have such a thing as a paint box and a brush on the
premises?" Jack asked, "if so, I think I shall be in a position to jog
Mr. Zimburg's memory."

As it happened, the necessary implements were there to hand. There were
occasions, Bates explained, when such things were necessary. Now and
then some sprig of the nobility who had dined not wisely but too well
found himself in the cells in a more of less dilapidated condition, and
here it was that the paint-box came in. Black eyes and discolored faces
and that kind of thing, Bates explained. "I assure you that a dash or
two of paint makes all the difference in the world."

Jack smiled as he bent over the photograph, and with a few subtle
touches decorated the face with a fierce blond moustache. He handed the
card over without comment to Zimburg. The little man's face fairly
beamed with delight.

"Ah! but you are a clever gentleman," he cried. "Now, I know our friend.
Yes, yes, but he is a very clever man. And older than he looks, mind
you; that fellow has eluded the Continental police for years. It would
be absurd to try and give his real name, for probably he has forgotten
it himself. Yes, I have heard of his playing before; not that I regarded
him as quite good enough for a public platform. Wherever that man goes,
roguery follows as a matter of course. Depend upon it, his appearance
here means mischief. I will have him carefully watched, and before long
I will have the pleasure of laying him by the heels."

"Don't do that, at least until you are absolutely obliged to," Jack said
eagerly. "We are interested, deeply interested, in the movements of
Signor Padini. It is more or less of a private matter, but if you could
provide us with some means of getting a hold on that fellow we should be
exceedingly obliged to you."

Zimburg promised to do his best, and departed. For some little time
Rigby and Bates stood discussing the moat recent developments of the
case, whilst Jack sat in a thoughtful attitude, evidently puzzling
something out.

"Do you call Zimburg a realty clever detective?" he asked at length. "It
seems to me that he has a poor memory for faces. For instance, he had
not the slightest idea who the man Padini was till that moustache was
added to the face of the photograph."

Bates, eager in the defense of his colleagues remarked that a little
thing like that often made a vast difference.

"That is one of the great advantages of the Bertillon system." he
explained. "I don't care how clever a man may be--and when I speak of a
clever man I mean a policeman in this instance, he is often utterly
deceived by some slight physical change. Take the case of the late
Charles Peace if you like. I understand that he could alter the
expression or even the shape of his face entirely. Make your mind quite
easy, for Zimburg will work it all out like some ingenious puzzle. I
suppose you are aware of the fact that the London and Paris police have
thousands of careful records made of the measurements of well-Known
criminals."

"But Zimburg can't very well measure Padini," Rigby argued. "He can't
make him drunk, or anything of that kind."

"No, but he can have him arrested on some faked-up charge." Bates
laughed. "That little game has been played more than once when we wanted
the measurements of some clever criminal who had never passed through
our hands.

"That is very ingenious," Rigby said, "and I shan't forget it. If facts
like those were more widely known, I fancy you would get more assistance
from the Press."

Bates emphatically repudiated the suggestion.

"I have often heard you say, in fact it is a rather fruitful source of
complaint to the police, that the newspapers do them more harm that
good." Jack said reflectively; "but I think I can see a way whereby the
Press could give you a good leg-up in the case of this Belgrave Gardens
mystery. Dick; is it too late to get a paragraph inserted in to-morrow's
Planet?"

"Oh. dear, no," Rigby explained. "Probably no paper in London goes to
bed later than we do. We make it a point of keeping open until the last
possible minute, and we have a good hour before us yet. But what are you
driving at?"

"Well, it is this way. It is pretty clear that one of the thieves was
wearing that embroidered scarf which was also claimed by Mrs. Montague.
Probably there were two such mufflers, but that does not affect my
argument. Of course, a description of this affair will appear in
to-morrow's Planet, but I should like to embroider on it a bit. Suppose
we add to the report a paragraph to the effect that the thief left a
marvelous wrap behind him. We could say that it was absolutely unique,
and all that sort of thing, just the sort of silly gossip that your
readers are so fond of. We could hint that the scarf still remains at
Belgrave Gardens for identification. Now it is a thousand to one this
paragraph reaches the eye of the thief, or is brought to his notice.
This being so. he will lose no opportunity of getting the wrap back
again. All you have to do is to keep the houser carefully under
observation, and your man falls into your hands like, a ripe blackberry.
What does the inspector think of our little scheme?"

Bates pondered the matter a moment or two, and then cautiously remarked
that at any rate there could be no harm in it. Whereupon the two friends
went away together, and half an hour later a spicy paragraph had been
constructed for the delectation of The Planet's readers to-morrow. Rigby
threw the paragraph aside, and whistled upstairs to the composing room.

"You look as if you had something at the back of your mind," he said,
passing the cigarettes across to his companion. "Jack, you have found
something out?"

"Upon my word. I believe I have," Jack replied. "It is rather soothing
to one's vanity to get on the inside track so far as a detective is
concerned. But it would not have been at all fair on my part to have
said anything to Bates, seeing that you are investigating this Nostalgo
business on your own account. Not that I am absolutely certain of my
facts now. but I shall be after I have seen Miss Helmsley in the
morning. Now, is there anything else we can do to-night? I suppose even
an indefatigable journalist like yourself goes to bed sometimes."

* * * * *

Anstruther, was fortunately out when Jack called at Panton Square the
next morning. He smiled to himself as he noticed a copy of The Planet on
the hall table. It had evidently been carefully read; and on page 5,
where the account of the Belgrave Gardens burglary appeared, somebody
had ticked the paragraph with a pencil. Miss Helmsley was in the
drawing-room, the housemaid said, and would see Mr. Masefield if he
would go upstairs! Claire was looking a little pale and distracted, Jack
thought; her eyes bore evidence of the fact that she had passed a
restless night. But her face lighted up, and the old charm of feature
reasserted itself as Jack entered.

"Come, come, this won't do," he said half tenderly, half playfully.
"Positively I shall have to kiss the color back to those pallid lips of
yours. What is worrying you so much, dearest?"

"Nothing worries me to long as I am with you," the girl said, as she
stood with Jack's arm about her. "And yet I almost wish that you had
never told me what you did yesterday."

"You cannot wish it more than I do, sweetheart," Jack murmured; "but
don't you see that it was almost necessary. There is some desperate
rascality going on here, and your happiness could not have been an
assured thing till we get to the bottom of it."

"But that is just what frightens me," Claire protested. "I cannot get
out of my mind the recollection of what happened last night. I shall
never listen to that music again without the feeling that some unknown
danger is hovering over me. I am frightened. Jack, frightened to my very
sou!. And yet the whole thing can be explained; I am sure you can
explain it yourself if you like."

Jack replied that he hoped to do so in a few days. He assured Claire
that there was nothing supernatural about the music. For both their
sakes he exhorted her to be brave. The red mouth grew [...] and firm;
there was a look of resolve in the girl's blue eyes.

"It shall be even as you say," she said. "But tell me, has anything
fresh happened since last night?"

"Nothing that is worth speaking of," Jack said, feeling a little ashamed
of his evasion. "Did Anstruther go out again last night? By the way. he
seldom wears an overcoat; at least, so I understand him to. When he came
in last evening, after the fire broke out, I noticed that he was wearing
an overcoat then. Where does he get these wonderful embroidered scarfs
from?"

"He has only one, so far as I know," Claire explained. "Originally there
three, but two were either lost or given away. Wonderful work. Is it
not?"

"Wonderful work, indeed," Jack attested, "but he did not tell me where
they came from."

"So far as I can understand they came from Mexico. The silk is really
Chinese of a quality which is made only for the Imperial palace of
Pekin. To steal such a material is an offense punishable by death, but
it is sometimes smuggled out of that town, and clever natives of
Southern Mexico do the embroidery. But why you so curious about, this
scarf?"

"Oh, I merely thought I should like to get one like it," Jack said
carelessly. He had no intention of frightening Claire any more than was
absolutely necessary.

"Couldn't you let me see it for a moment or two? I suppose you know
where it is kept?"

Claire knew perfectly well where to [lay] her hands upon the scarf.
Anstruther was a methodical man, and hated to leave his things lying
about. He only used the scarf at such times as he was in evening dress.
Claire went off, and Jack was by no means surprised that he had to wait
a quarter of an hour. When Claire returned, her hands were empty: there
was a puzzled frown between her usually smooth white brow.

"A most extraordinary thing," she said. "I cannot find the scarf
anywhere. I am quite certain, that Mr. Anstruther is not wearing it; I
thought perhaps he had thrown it carelessly down last night in the
excitement of the moment, and therefore I asked Serena if she had seen
anything of it. But she declared that she knew nothing, and yet at the
same time she seemed to be extraordinarily troubled and agitated by my
simple question. She is not an emotional woman, as you know, therefore
her conduct is all the more amazing. But the fact remains that the scarf
cannot be found, and so I cannot oblige you. I will ask Mr. Anstruther,
if you like--"

But Jack emphatically wanted nothing of the kind. He was in a hurry now,
he said, and would call again later in the day. He made his way directly
to The Planet office, where he found that Rigby had just arrived.

"No, there are no fresh developments," he explained. "Did you take my
advice last night and have the house in Belgrave Gardens watched by a
private detective in addition to the policeman engaged by Bates?"

"Of course I did." Rigby replied. "As a matter of fact I have two men at
watch there; one to relieve the other, and report progress from time to
time. In fact, one of them has only just come in. He has very little to
say, but that little was an eye-opener. I have ascertained that
Anstruther is not even acquainted with Lord Longworth, and yet one of
the first me to call in Belgrave Gardens this morning was Spencer
Anstruther! Now, do you think he had anything to do with last night's
business; otherwise, what do you suppose he called for?"

"That is exactly what I am here to tell you," Jack said. "The scarf
which formed so important a clue belonged to Anstruther. It is missing
from his house. In fact, I called there this morning on purpose to
examine the thing. We have hit the right nail on the head this time, the
lost property in the hands of Inspector Bates is beyond a doubt the
cherished possession of Spencer Anstruther."



XXI.--A LEADER OF SOCIETY

[Part of text missing from scanned page]

[...] gentlemanly swindler we are talking about. Of course, he is
perfectly dressed; he has the most exquisite manners. He lounges up to
his hostess, and, after the usual greetings, makes some confidential
remark about some friend of the family, which immediately stamps him as
one of a certain set. All he has got to do now is to saunter along as if
the whole place belonged to him, and help himself to such costly trifles
as his mind inclines to."

"Did you ever know of a case in point?" Jack asked.

"My dear chap, I not only knew of a case, but I was more or less party
to it. It was done for a bet, and I was one of the losers. It was so
easily managed that I should not in the least mind trying it myself."

"Well, it seems very odd to me," Jack murmured. "still, if you know it
has been done, there is an end of it."

"Well, it has been shown pretty conclusively," said Rigby, "that
Anstruther must have been there last night."

"Quite so," Jack went on. "At any rate the scarf was left behind. I
recognised it as soon as ever I saw it in Bates' hand; therefore I was
absolutely sure that Anstruther had been at the reception. That is why I
suggested that paragraph in The Planet. It is just the sort of silly
gossip that papers publish after a sensational crime, and is calculated
to hamper the police more than help them. I felt quite sure that
somebody or other would bring that paragraph to Anstruther's notice, and
that he would loss no time in trying to recover the scarf. I dare say
there are other scarfs like it in existence, but they are not so common
that Anstruther could afford to take any risk. That he realized the
gravity of the situation is proved by the fact that he has lost no time
in calling at Lord Longworth's to recover the missing property. I think
I have made my case very clear."

"Nothing could be clearer," Rigby replied. "Anstruther is at the bottom
of this business. I should say he is the cleverest rascal in London at
the present moment. And mark the cunning of the beast. Don't you see how
easy he can prove an alibi? If he were met face to face now, and taxed
with the fact that he was at Lord Longworth's last night be would
politely deny, it and, if pressed, have not the slightest difficulty in
demonstrating that he was elsewhere."

"But I don't quite see," Jack interrupted, "exactly how that--"

"Clear as mud," Rigby said. "Why, he has only got to call his servants
and Miss Helmsley to prove that he was in the study all the evening
playing his violin."

"How stupid of me," Jack muttered. "The full beauty of that little
scheme had been lost on me. There is a good deal we have to learn yet.
But I can't stay talking to you any longer this morning, as I promised
Claire that I would go and see Lady Barmouth. I have told Claire nearly
everything there is to learn, and she is quite willing to be a friend of
Lady Barmouth's and share her troubles. I will see you later in the
day."

Jack went off in the direction of Lord Barmouth's house. He had some
little hesitation in calling so early in the day, but then the matter
was imperative, and he knew that Lady Barmouth would be glad to hear
Claire's decision. The lady in question was sitting in her boudoir,
accompanied by two secretaries, who appeared to be tremendously busy
with a long visiting-list and some exquisitely-designed cards of
invitation to a masked ball. But Lady Barmouth, heedless of Jack's
apologies, declared that she had always time to spare for him.

"It is not I who am so busy." she said; "in fact, this is merely
mechanical work, I am giving my great party of the season, and now that
I have made out the list of intended guests, the rest is merely
mechanical." So saying, Lady Barmouth led the way into an inner
drawing-room, the door of which she carefully closed.

"You have some news for me," she cried eagerly. "I am quite sure you
have come straight to me from Miss Helmsley."

"That is the fact," Jack said gravely. "Rather against my better
judgment, I have told Claire everything. She knows now the class of man
her guardian is; she knows that she will have to be terribly careful
lest he should suspect. But Claire has a courage and determination which
came quite as a surprise to me. I think the secret will be safe in her
hands."

"Yes! yes!" Lady Barmouth cried; "but what about me?"

"I was coming to that. It seems to be a case of mutual sympathy between
you. As a matter of fact it seems to me that Claire likes you as well as
you like her. Anyway, she is willing to see you this afternoon, when you
can talk matters over without reserve. But tell me, does Lord Barmouth
take any kind of interest in these festivities of yours?"

"He is goodness and kindness itself," Lady Barmouth said warmly. "He has
always insisted that his misfortune should not interfere with my
personal enjoyment. At a dinner, or a reception, or an ordinary dance,
my husband never shows himself. Despite his terrible misfortunes he
thoroughly enjoys his amusements; he likes to mingle with people, seeing
everything;, and not being seen himself. That is why I give so many of
these masked balls. This is going to be an extra-smart affair, and I am
asking my lady friends to wear as many jewels as possible."

"Claire told me something about it," Jack said. "I gathered that she is
to be one of the invited guests."

"I am asking both Miss Helmsley and Mr. Anstruther." Lady Barmouth
explained. "There is some danger in asking the latter, but one has to
take these risks."

Jack murmured something that sounded sympathetic. Had Lady Barmouth only
known it, the risk was far greater than she imagined. If Jack's
suspicion were correct that Anstruther was mixed up with a gang of
expert thieves, here then was a golden opportunity. The mere fact of it
being a masked ball simply added to its opportunities. So deeply did
Jack ponder over this, that it was some little time before he grasped
the fact that Lady Barmouth was still giving him details of the
forthcoming function.

"I am asking a lot of most prominent actresses," she said, "together
with a number of leading musicians, and they are setting up a kind of
morris dance. Of course, the music will be supplied by a small band of
famous artists, and I am getting the new man Padini to be present."

Here was more news with a vengeance. But there was nothing to be gained
by telling Lady Barmouth what had been elicited with regard to Padini.

"I presume I shall be honored with an invitation," Jack suggested. "I
see from the expression of your face that I am to be a guest. Might I
beg the favor of a card for a friend of mine?"

"More mysteries!" Lady Barmouth laughed. "Oh, you need not tell me
unless it is absolutely necessary. You shall take the card away it you
like, and deliver it to your friend personally."

Jack was seeing his way pretty clearly by this time. He was anticipating
more than one important discovery during the progress of the masked
dance. The card he had begged was, of course, for Rigby, and it would go
hard if between them they did not discover something of importance.

"Now, I am going to speak to you on a more or less painful topic," Jack
said gravely. "And I am going to ask you to be exceedingly candid with
me. I want you to tell me what is the exact connection between Lord
Barmouth and the Nostalgo posters which are so prominent in London at
present."

The jeweled pen with which Lady Barmouth had been scribbling on the two
invitation cards fell from her fingers on to the blotting-pad. There
were trouble and unhappiness in her eyes, her face turned deadly pale;
it was some little time before she spoke.

"Must I really tell you that?" she almost pleaded. "You are striking
directly at the root of the unhappiness which poisons this house. It is
not as if you really knew anything?"

"But indeed I know more than you give me credit for," Jack urged. "It
was of no seeking of mine; it was not the remit of any vulgar curiosity;
but last night when your husband was here I caught one glimpse of his
face in the light of the log fire. And there I saw at once that I was
face to face with Nostalgo. Believe me, it is with the greatest possible
regret that I have to speak like this, but I am near to the heart of the
mystery, and if you are plain and frank with me I am sanguine enough to
believe that I can remove your unhappiness altogether."

"But the secret is not my own," Lady Barmouth faltered.

"Then let us assume that I have wrested it from you," Jack murmured. "It
is no fault of yours that I know so much. It is no fault of yours that
you are in some way under an obligation to somebody--an obligation which
compelled you to be in Montrose Place last night. Luckily for us you
kept your appointment. But there was somebody else also keeping an
appointment in the courtyard. Whether he came there dragged by the force
of circumstances, or whether he came to watch, matters little. But as be
paused to light a cigarette and the pallid blue of the flame shone on
his face I recognised--Lord Barmouth."

The listener said nothing; she merely bowed her head over the
blotting-pad before her.

"Ah! I feel the circumstances are too strong for me," she said. "It is
as if you were pushing me over the edge of a precipice. I cannot decide
this matter on my own initiative."

"That is, exactly the line I hoped you would take," Jack cried eagerly.
"After his interview with us last night, Lord Barmouth must be perfectly
sure of the fact that Rigby and myself are actuated by the kindest
motives towards him. Go and see him now, tell him all that I have said
to you, and ask him if he would be good enough to grant me a ten
minutes' private conversation. I am sure he will do this; indeed. If he
refuses, there are others interested in the matter who may cause him to
say in public what he declines to admit in private."

"I will do as you suggest." Lady Barmouth replied, "though I fear you
will be met with a refusal as firm as it is courteous. If you will
excuse me for a moment--"

Lady Barmouth said no more, but turned hurriedly and left the room. That
the was very deeply moved Jack could see for himself. She came back
presently, with a wan, white ghost of a smile on her lips, with a remark
to the effect that Lord Barmouth was not prepared to accede to Jack's
request off-hand, but that he would give it his earnest consideration,
and tend his decision in the course of a quarter of an hour.

"It is exceedingly awkward for me," Jack said; "you can see how delicate
the ground is I stand upon. But, believe me, I am only being cruel to be
kind. I am sure that when I have finished my interview with Lord
Barmouth he will be exceedingly glad that he has consented to see me."

"Oh, I quite understand your feelings," Lady Barmouth exclaimed, "It
must be dreadful for a gentleman to appear obtruding like this. But are
you quite that that the figure you saw in the courtyard at Montrose
Place last night was my husband? You seem to have forgotten the other
Nostalgo who was supposed to have have been found dead by yourself in
Panton Square the other night."

Jack admitted readily enough that there were many sides to the mystery
as yet unsolved. He was still discussing the point, when the footman
entered, and gravely announced that Lord Barmouth was waiting to see Mr.
Masefield. Lady Barmouth rose to her feet at once, and escorted Jack to
a small room at the end or the corridor. The apartment was in complete
darkness; it was just possible to discern the outlines or a figure in an
armchair.

"I am pleased to see you, Mr. Masefield. I think you will find an
armchair on the other side of the fireplace. My dear, I shall be pleased
if you will leave Mr. Masefield and myself alone together."



XXII.--THE PORTRAIT

Jack sat there silently enough, waiting for Lord Barmouth to speak. The
difficulty and delicacy of the situation were by no means lost upon him.
He shuffled about uneasily n his chair, trying to make something
definite out of the still figure opposite him.

"I quite appreciate your feelings." Lord Barmouth said, in the deep,
thrilling tones that Jack remembered so well. "It is no nice thing for a
gentleman to thrust himself into the private sorrows of an unfortunate
man like myself. But my wife has told me all that you have been recently
saying to her. You appear to be under the impression that you saw me in
Montrose Place last night; in fact, that you recognised my face, which I
imprudently disclosed whilst I was lighting a cigarette. Mr. Masefield,
I am not disposed to deny the accusation."

"I hope you will be perfectly candid with me," Jack said, speaking with
some hesitation; "believe me, I am actuated by the highest motives;
believe me, I would do anything to rid you of the shadow that darkens
your life. Of course, I have my theory on the subject of the strange
business; a business which has been literally thrust upon me by stress
of circumstances. Up to a short time ago, like moat people, I looked
upon the Nostalgo poster as a high ingenuity in the way of advertising
art. It was a wonderful effort, and most cleverly executed. But I should
not have been in the least surprised to find that Nostalgo was an
acrobat or a juggler, or even some new and clever way of introducing a
fresh kind of soap to the credulous British public."

"Yes," Barmouth said thoughtfully. "I suppose one would have been
satisfied in that way."

"But I speak with the discovery that I was mistaken," Jack went on. "The
first thing that aroused my suspicions was more a girlish fancy than
anything else. Of course you know Mr. Spencer Anstruther very well by
name?"

"Ay, I know him by something more than name." Barmouth said, in deep,
thrilling tones "If that scoundrel had never been born I should--but I
am interrupting you. Pray proceed."

"Well, to revert to what I was saying," Jack went on, "that Nostalgo
poster was hardly fully impressed upon my mind's eye, before I began to
notice some grotesque resemblance between it and Spencer Anstruther.
Without hurting your feelings, the poster is devilishly hideous;
Anstruther, on the other hand, is a singularly handsome man. But despite
all this, despite my common sense, I could not rid myself of the idea
that the likeness was somewhere.

"A chance remark of mine served to confirm my impressions. It threw
Anstruther into a sudden fit of passion. His face was literally
convulsed with fury, but only for an instant. But that instant sufficed.
There was Nostalgo in the flesh before me, the same drawn-up lips, the
same hideous squint of the oblique eyes , the same dreadful, hawkish
look about the nose. A second later the likeness was gone. I cannot
forget, I never shall forget my feelings at that moment. If I fall to
interest you--"

"You are interesting me more than words can tell," Barmouth said
hoarsely. "Pray proceed."

"There is not much more to tell," Jack said. "Perhaps you have heard of
the Nostalgo devil whom I found dead the other night in Panton Square?
It was the man whose body so mysteriously vanished from the Shannon
Street station?"

"Yes, I heard of that," Barmouth admitted; "but you will not be in the
least astonished to learn that this whole affair was no surprise to me.
All the same, I think you will find later on that the supposed victim is
not dead at all. And now I am going to speak, and you are going to
listen."

Jack intimated that he desired nothing better. He could make out the
outline of the figure opposite him, wriggling and twisting in his chair.

"As you are quite aware, a little more than two years ago I went to
Mexico. There was no thought of evil in my mind. I went out merely with
an eye to sport. I have been fond of adventure all my life, and Mexico
seemed to afford a fine field for such amusements as I was looking for.
But the shooting was a great disappointment, and I had to turn elsewhere
for recreation. A little later on I found myself in Southern Mexico,
living with a half-savage tribe who showed signs that at some
long-forgotten period the same tribe had enjoyed a high state of
civilization. As a matter of fact, there were two of these tribes living
only a few leagues apart, and both exceedingly antagonistic to each
other.

"Of course I had to throw my lot in with one section, and take care that
I didn't fall into the hands of the other.

The reason of this bitterness, I discovered arose from the fact that
both claimed possession of a belt of land which was supposed to contain
gold. Now, I am an exceedingly rich man, as you know. But I got the gold
fever as badly as if I had been the neediest adventurer who ever wielded
pick and shovel.

"I had been told by my friends that the leader of the other section was
an Englishman like myself. He was supposed to have married one of the
women of the tribe, and adopted their manners and customs. Of course, I
needed no one to tell me that only such a powerful incentive as gold
could have persuaded an educated Englishman to remain permanently with a
tribe. This other section was far the more powerful of the two, and they
gave us fair warning that any of us that were caught in the gold belt
would be likely to suffer for it. This was quite good enough for me.
Picking up a score of the most daring adventurers, we made up our minds
to put in some exploring without delay. I may mention the fact that some
of these adventurers were Europeans also. Anyway, we set out one
evening, and morning found us lighting our campfire in the heart of the
gold belt.

"On the other hand I had been left behind to look after the cooking
whilst the others pushed on to a likely spot where indications of the
precious metal might be found. My companions had hardly disappeared from
sight before a man came riding up to me and demanded my business. It was
quite easy to see that he was an Englishman, despite the fact that he
was arrayed in the full war paint of the tribe. He was a fine powerful
man, and his face denoted great intellectual gifts. Come Mr. Masefield,
you are a clever man yourself, and therefore will have no difficulty in
guessing who the stranger was."

"Anstruther for a hundred!" Masefield cried.

"You have guessed it exactly, as I thought you would," Lord Barmouth
went on gravely. "It was Anstruther, and no other. He wasted no time in
demanding to know what I was doing there. He warned me of the dreadful
pains and penalties likely to occur if I remained where I was, but I
laughed him to scorn. By way of reply he gave a shrill whistle, and
there emerged from the scrubby brush a small misshapen man with the most
hideous face that it has ever been my lot to look upon. Need I describe
that face, Mr. Masefield?"

"No," said Jack in an awed voice. "It was another Nostalgo."

"Once more you have guessed it, Barmouth went on in the same way.
"Anstruther pointed to the shrinking figure by his side, and told me
that I must either go back at once, or that I must suffer the same fate
as the man by his side. My blood was hot then: I care for no man. I do
not exactly know how it commenced, but presently we were exchanging
revolver shots, each determined to do for the other. I suppose somebody
crept up behind me, for I was just conscious of a terrible blow on the
back of the head, and then I remembered no more.

"When I came to myself I was lying in a deserted hut, absolutely alone,
and with a feeling upon me that I had just recovered from a long and
painful illness. There was food beside me, a little native spirit in a
bottle; my clothes were neatly laid at the foot of my bed. When I
reached the open I recognised the fact that I wad in a spot some fifty
miles on the far side of the gold belt. From the length of my beard I
calculated that I must have been lying there for some three weeks. My
horse I found outside, and, feeling strong enough to proceed on my
journey, I rode off in the direction of the tribe to which I was
attached. I was feeling fairly well, and conscious only of a strange
tightening sensation in the muscles of the face."

It was some time before Lord Barmouth spoke again. It was not for Jack
to interrupt the tenor of his painful thoughts. But the silence was so
long that he felt bound to speak at length.

"But how does this give Anstruther such a hold on you?" he asked.

"That is another matter entirely," Barmouth explained, "though, of
course, it touches on the main issue. You see, that though Anstruther
knows me as the James Smith I used to be called in Mexico, he has not
the remotest idea that I am Lord Barmouth. In fact that man blackmails
me."

"I don't quite follow," Jack said.

"I admit it sounds a little complicated," Barmouth went on. "As my real
self Anstruther does not know me. Why should he interest himself in an
apparently broken-down hypochondriac? The man he cares about is 'James
Smith,' the Nostalgo whom he regards as a relative of my wife, and who
lives here in some secluded part of the house. Heaven only knows if he
is really aware of the truth, for he is so clever a scoundrel that he is
quite capable of deceiving me on that point till the time is ripe to
expose me and degrade me despite the sums of money I have paid him. I do
not know. I dare not ask. Call me a coward if you like, but if you had
gone through what I have?"

Barmouth paused, and wiped the moisture from his forehead.

"If I were not Lord Barmouth," he continued, "I would care little or
nothing for what he says; but for the sake of my wife I have to submit
to his persecutions. Therefore it is that at certain seasons of the year
I meet Anstruther in Montrose Place and hand him over a thousand pounds.
But there is one drawback to Anstruther's mastery of the situation.
There are other men who were as vilely treated as myself, and some day
Anstruther will fall by the hand of one of them.

"If you ask me why those hideous posters have been lately dotted dotted
about London, I can't tell you; I feel quite sure that they are some
ingenious design of Anstruther's. I feel quite sure that that Nostalgo
you picked up the other night was here after Anstruther's blood, and
that he died at Anstruther's instigation. My only consolation is the
fact that my wife absolutely refused to break off her engagement on the
strength of my terrible disfigurement. It was a long time before I
yielded, but yield I did at length. And now that you know so much,
perhaps you will be so good as to draw up the blinds, and let us talk
face to face; that is, if you do not object to?"

Jack hastily disclaimed any objection. He drew the blinds aside, and a
flood of light poured into the room. It was a little difficult to
repress a shudder at first, but he found himself presently talking to
Barmouth as if his face had been like those of other men.

"You will find some cigarettes; this is my own room." Barmouth
explained. I furnished it more with an eye to comfort than anything
else."

But Jack was not listening. He took up a cigarette mechanically, and was
gazing intently at a photograph in a large silver frame standing on the
mantlepiece. It was the face of a woman: a dark melancholy face with
mournful eyes.

"Would you mind telling me who that is?" Jack asked

"A sister of my wife's," Barmouth explained. "It is rather a sad story."

Jack said nothing. But the face looking into his own was the face of
Anstruther's servant, Serena.



XXIII.--FACE TO FACE

It was perhaps fortunate for Jack that Lord Barmouth appeared to be
engrossed in his own painful thoughts. At any rate he did not seem to
notice that his youthful visitor's gaze was fixed so intently upon the
photograph. So far as Jack could see, the picture had been taken some
years before, and had not that wild, defiant, yet half-sad expression
which marked Serena to-day. There was not much time to think, but Jack
rapidly made up his mind. He would say nothing to Barmouth of his
discovery, but would open up the matter, as delicately as possible with
Lady Barmouth. It was not a nice thing for a comparative btranger to
intrude upon sacred grief, like this, but the discovery was so likely to
lead to important results that it would have been folly to hesitate. It
was some considerable time later before Jack left Lord Barmouth, who
shook him warmly by the hand and implored him to come again.

"You can imagine what a lonely life mine is," Barmouth murmured. "My
wife is devotion itself, but one longs for the company of a man
sometimes."

Jack promised sincerely enough that he would come again and often. He
had taken a great liking to the lonely man who bore his cruel
misfortunes to well. He had not intended at present to worry Lady
Barmouth with the recent discovery, but she happened to be crossing the
hall, and looked upon Jack eagerly and curiously.

Jack was about to say something to Lady Barmouth when someone called
her, and she turned away. Evidently she had no intention to allow
Masefield to leave the house without satisfying herself as to the result
of his interview with Lord Barmouth. With this feeling upon him, Jack
lingered in the hall. He suddenly recollected that he had left his
gloves behind him, and returned for them. He found Barmouth standing
before the fireplace, apparently lost in thought. Jack had to speak
twice before his host realized the fact that he was no longer alone.

"I came back for my gloves." Jack explained. "I left them on the little
table behind there. I am sorry to intrude upon you again, but since you
have been to kind to me--"

"On the contrary, it is you who have been so kind to me." Barmouth said.
"I am not sorry you came back, because I have been thinking over the
interview which we have just concluded. I might have told you a great
deal more than I did. Indeed, I was perhaps unwise to be so reticent. If
you will come and see me again--"

"I will come and see you as often as I can get an opportunity." Jack
said warmly. "Apart from the gratification of my vulgar curiosity. I
have been wonderfully entertained by your experiences. I saw Lady
Barmouth in the hall just now, and I know that she is anxious to learn
how we got on together."

Jack went out again, with a feeling that he was more and more drawn
toward his unfortunate host. He lingered in the hall for a moment,
gazing at the fine pictures and the artistic arranging of the flowers,
hoping that Lady Barmouth would return. He had not long to wait, for
presently she came floating down the stairs again. There was a pleased
smile on her face.

"Oh, I am so glad you stayed so long," she said. My poor George must
have enjoyed your society or he would not have detained you."

"We got on very well together, indeed," Jack explained. "I now have a
pretty shrewd idea of this Nostalgo business. During my interview with
your husband I made an still more stupendous discovery."

"Something that affects my husband's case?" Lady Barmouth asked eagerly.

"I think it touches very deeply, indeed," Jack said gravely. "May I
intrude on you for another five minutes? Mind you, I have said nothing
about this to Lord Barmouth, because it seems to me to concern you
alone."

Lady Barmouth led the way back to the small drawing-room again. Her eyes
were fairly dancing with curiosity.

"It is about your sister," Jack said, "the sister whose photograph
stands on the mantlepiece in your husband's room."

"Oh, must we really go into that?" Lady Barmouth asked, with a shade cf
coldness in her voice. "There are matters so sacred that even the most
sincere friend--"

"Believe me, I am speaking under the strongest sense of duty." Jack
urged. "Nothing else would induce me to speak. Lord Barmouth told me it
was a very painful subject, but we must go into it."

"It is a painful subject." Lady Barmouth murmured. "She was my youngest
sister, and very dear to us all. I do not say she had no faults: indeed,
she had far too many. But she was very lovable in spite of her
headstrong ways and her quick fits of passion. She never got on
particularly well with my father, who all the same cared for her very
much indeed. She was sent at the age of seventeen from Southern Mexico,
where we lived at that time, to finish her education in London. I don't
know why, but it seemed to be assumed that she was the daughter of very
rich parents, and that in the course of time she would inherit a great
deal of money. Be that as it may, she contrived to fall head over heels
in love with her music-master, and they ran away together and got
married. We never quite knew the name of the man; however, it was
something quite foreign, and, judging from what happened afterwards,
probably was no more than an alias. My sister's letter to her father
announcing her marriage was returned to her unread, and she was given to
understand that she could no longer consider herself one of the family.
That sorry scoundrel who brought so much unhappiness on the poor girl's
head basely deserted her, and from that day to this I have seen nothing
of the poor child."

"She did not write to you, she did not communicate with you in any way?"
Jack asked.

"I have just told you that I have never heard of or seen the poor girl
since. She was a proud as she was high-spirited, and after what had
happened, would have died rather than appealed to any of us for
assistance. But why do you ask?"

"Because I recognized in the portrait in question the features of one
who I see practically every day of my life. There can be no question
about the matter at all, Lady Barmouth--your sister has been for a long
time Spencer Anstruther's housekeeper."

"You astonish me; you move me more than words can tell. My sister in the
house of that man? Do you mean to suggest for a moment--"

"I am not suggesting anything whatever that is wrong," Jack said
earnestly. "For some time I have been trying to make a study of the poor
woman who calls herself Serena--"

"That is my sister's second name," Lady Barmouth interposed.

"Yes! But I have not made much progress. It is quite evident to me that
your sister has had a terribly stormy past. Not that her spirits are
broken, for there comes ever and again in her face the look of one who
is prepared to fight to the bitter end. All the same, she is absolutely
under the domination of Spencer Anstruther; she watches his every
movement: indeed, it is almost as if he had hypnotized her. But that
there is anything wrong, oh, no. Anstruther simply regards your sister as
one of his creatures."

"I am quite unnerved by all you have to tell me," Lady Barmouth cried.
"It has always been my prayer that may poor sister and myself should
meet again, because I, for one, have never blamed her for that which,
after all, is more her misfortune than her fault. She was very young at
the time that she gave her heart into the keeping of that scoundrel,
very young and very romantic. And goodness knows, she paid enough for
her folly. I must see her at once.I will go with you--"

"Not to Anstruther's house," Jack protested. "Think of the danger of
it."

"But Mr. Anstruther merely knows me as Lady Barmouth. He knows nothing
of Lord Barmouth as Lord Barmouth. We can easily assume that I came to
ask the character of a servant. Oh, do not let us wait! If you only knew
how anxious I am to see Serena again!"

Jack shrugged his shoulders and allowed the point to pass. At any rate
he suggested that Lady Barmouth should possess her soul in patience a
little longer. Usually the hours between five and seven were spent by
Anstruther at his club, where he often indulged in a rubber of whist;
indeed, he was very regular in this respect. Jack expounded all this to
Lady Barmouth, who listened to him with more or less patience.

"Let it be as you please." she said. "I am afraid you do not quite
understand my feelings; still, you have been to good and kind and
patient all through this miserable business that I am loth to do
anything to mar your chances of success. Come and have a cup of tea with
me, and then it will be time to start."

It was a little after six before Jack and Lady Barmouth set out in the
direction of Panton Square. They came to the house at length, and Jack
rang the bell. Some little time elapsed before there was any response,
and Jack rang again. He was getting slightly uneasy by this time: so
many things had happened lately that therefore it was possible that
something equally strange might have recently been enacted in Panton
Square. He pulled the bell again, this time furiously.

"It looks as if everybody was out." Lady Barmouth suggested.

"And yet I fancy I can hear somebody," Jack said, with his eye on the
keyhole. "I am sure that I saw somebody flit across the hall. Let us try
again."

Another furious peal at the bell brought a halting footstep, as if
dragged unwillingly in the direction of the door, and then a voice
inside faintly demanded to know who was there.

"Who are you?" Jack asked, his fears had rendered him a little impatient,
"and what have you to be afraid of? Please open the door, I tell you
that?"

"Is that really you, Jack?" the voice inside said in tones of deep
relief. It was easy to detect that Claire was the speaker now. "I will
open the door for you at once."

There was a fumbling at the bolts and latch, and then the heavy portal
swung back. Claire's face was very pale, her hands were trembling, and
there was something like terror in her eyes.

"I hope nothing wrong has happened?" Jack said anxiously.

"Well, no," Claire explained, "nothing what you might call really
wrong." All the same, she was holding her hand to heart like one who has
run fast and far.

"It was not on my account that I feared; it was for Serena's sake."

"Are you and Serena alone in the house?" Jack asked.

"Absolutely. The other two maids have gone out for the day, and, as my
uncle is dining at his club, I did not bother about a set dinner, and
was going to have a small dish sent up for myself. A few minutes ago
Serena came to me in a state of terrible agitation, saying that somebody
had called to see my guardian. Though he was assured that Mr. Anstruther
was out, and was not likely to return before it was time to dress for
dinner, the man persisted in refusing to believe the statement. He
pushed his way into the hall, and locked the door behind him, saying
that it was his intention to search the house. He was so rude and
overhearing that Serena was naturally frightened, and came to me. I hope
you won't blame me unduly, but I was as frightened as Serena herself. I
summoned up courage at length to face this man, but when I reached the
hall I found that he had unlocked the door again, and had vanished. But
not before he had been all over the house."

"Was he rude, or did he use anything like violence?" Jack asked
heatedly. "Oh, this sort of thing is abominable. Ask Serena to come
here, and give me a description of the fellow. Then I will go off at
once, and place the matter in the hands of the police."

So agitated and upset was Claire that she had entirely overlooked the
presence of Lady Barmouth, who stood in the dim shadow of the hall
listening to this amazing story. She went off now in the direction of
the kitchen, where she seemed to be engaged in persuading the terrified
Serena to come forward. The latter came presently, with a trembling,
halting footstep, and Lady Barmouth shrank closer against the wall. The
electric light had not been switched on yet, so that it was almost too
dark to recognise the features of Anstruther's housekeeper. Jack rather
wondered to see Serena so terribly upset. Broken as she was by
misfortune, and dominated as she was by Anstruther's strong personality,
she did not lack pluck and spirit, as Jack had seen on more than one
occasion.

"You seem to have been subjected to a rather unpleasant experience." he
said. "What class of man was the fellow who insisted on pushing his way
into the house like this? A half-intoxicated workman, or some loafing
rascal--"

"Oh, nothing of the kind," Serena replied. She was getting her voice
well under control now. "The man was dressed as well as yourself. Mr.
Masefield. It was not his appearance that frightened me in the least, at
least not his outward appearance. Nor was he in the least abusive or
violent."

"But tell us what he looked like," Jack said impatiently. "I want a
description for the benefit of the police."

Serena seemed to hesitate for a moment and a curious expression passed
like a shadow over her worn, sad face.

"Oh, you will not laugh at me, you will not make fun of what I am going
to say? It was not quite dark; in fact, there was plenty of light when I
opened the door for the man. His hat was turned down, and his coat
collar was turned up. As the door was thrown open, he lifted his hat to
me with a natural courtesy that belongs to very well-bred man. And then
I saw his face. It was exactly the same face as that."

Serena broke off suddenly, as if her emotions were too strong for her.
The front door had not yet been closed; the strong flare of a great arc
light lit up the hoarding on the far side of the street. With a
trembling hand Serena, pointed to the central poster on the hoarding.
Jack started as he followed the direction of her shaking finger.

"What!" he cried; "Nostalgo! Another Nostalgo! Do you mean to say that
he has been here to-night?"

"Yes," Serena said simply, "it is just as I have told you."



XXIV.--IN THE SQUARE

Jack said no more for the present. He closed the front door quietly, not
forgetting, however, to glance at the great clock, and stopping to
calculate that a good half-hour must elapse before Anstruther returned.
It would have been a great misfortune indeed if the latter had come home
at that moment. In a mechanical kind of way Serena turned into the
dining-room, where she proceeded to pull down the blinds and switch on
the lights . At a sign from Jack, Lady Barmouth remained where she was
for the moment, and Masefield, together with Claire, entered the
dining-room.

"I am bound to ask you a few questions," he said, turning to Serena.
"For instance, I have yet to learn why the walking image of that poster
should have frightened you so terribly."

"It was Adolpho returned from the grave," Serena murmured. Apparently
she was talking to herself. "Beyond all question poor Adolpho--" She
paused in some confusion, and looked guiltily from Claire to Jack. The
latter was not slow to take up the point "So you have actually seen the
man before?" he demanded. "Well, we will not discuss that at present. A
little later on perhaps I shall ask you to speak more freely. Meanwhile,
I may as well tell you that I came here to-night with a lady desirous of
seeing you."

Serena was alert and eager in a moment. Jack could see that the fighting
look had returned to her face; her eyes dilated strangely. She seemed to
guess by some subtle instinct exactly what was going to happen. "My
sister," she whispered. Her voice was very strained and low. "Something
tells me that my sister is here. I pray you, go away and get rid of her
at once. Tell her any lie, invent any falsehood. If you have the
slightest feeling for the most miserable woman in the world you will do
this for me." "But it is too late," Jack protested. "Lady Barmouth is
with me; she is waiting in the hall at the present moment, and she has
already seen your face." "But I do not understand, " Serena cried,
stretching out her hands hopelessly. "I have but one sister whom I
believe to be living, and her name is Grace. Lady Barmouth cannot
possibly be anything to me." "Lady Barmouth is your sister all the
same," Jack explained. "She married Lord Barmouth after you left home;
she told me your sad story, and you must believe that she has been
looking for you everywhere. Surely you would not punish yourself for
that which was after all merely an act of girlish folly?" Serena covered
her face with her hands and burst into tears. Her head fell forward on
the table. Presently an arm stole about her neck. When she looked up
again it was to meet the tender and softened gaze of Lady Barmouth. "And
so we meet again like this after all these years, " Lady Barmouth said
gently. "Oh, my dear Serena, how could you go off like that; how could
you leave us all without a word or sign? Our father was a harsh man; his
pride was his besetting sin, but he would have forgiven you and taken
you to his heart again, if only you had returned to the old home. Didn't
you suppose that I cared? And after all said and done, what is your
crime? You trusted a man who was not worthy of your affection, and he
deserted you because you lacked the money for which he married you. If
that is a crime, then there are many thousands of poor women in the
world in the same sad plight."

Meanwhile Jack and Claire had crept quietly from the room. It would have
have been indelicate to remain there in he circumstances. Jack, looking
at Claire, noted that the tears were also in her eyes.

"What a strangely pathetic thing," Claire murmured. "How did it come
about. Jack?" Jack explained the story of the photograph, but Claire was
hardly listening. It seemed such a strange, sad story to her, this
pathetic meeting between the two sisters.

"But you don't suppose that Mr. Anstruther knows?" Claire asked. "You do
not imagine for a moment that he is aware of the fact that Serena is
Lady Barmouth's sister?" "I hope to goodness no," Jack exclaimed. "But I
don't see how the thing could be possible. To begin with, the sisters
are not in the least alike, and in addition to this Serena had not the
least idea that Lady Barmouth had married. What I am most afraid of now
is that Anstruther should come back and discover those two women
together." Claire nodded gravely, with one eye on the clock. It was only
a matter of minutes now when Anstruther would return. He was dining at
his club to-night, Claire explained, with Mr. Carrington at 8 o'clock,
and as it was now quarter past seven there was not much time for him to
dress and get back to to James Street again.

"In that case I must intrude myself upon those two ladies," Jack said
firmly. "I will put Lady Barmouth in a cab and send her home. It will be
quite easy for the sisters to arrange a meeting at Lady Barmouth's
house. Keep Anstruther out of the dining-room if he comes in. "

Jack strode resolutely across the hall, and placed the matter tersely
and vigorously before the sisters. "It would never do," he explained,
"for Anstruther to find you here at this moment."

Serena's eyes were swollen with weeping. There were the deep marks of
tears upon her cheeks. Lady Barmouth's worldly training had stood her in
better stead , but she also carried traces of emotion which could not be
wiped out in a moment.

"I am going to put you in a cab at once, Jack said. "Anstruther may be
here any minute, and you can imagine how necessary it is to keep him in
the dark. Besides, you can easily arrange a meeting n a safer atmosphere
than this." With a brief remark to the effect that she would communicate
with Serena again Lady Barmouth left the room, permitted Jack to escort
her to a cab. The latter breathed more freely as the clatter of the
horses' hoofs died away. He ran back quickly to the house again; to give
a few last words of instruction to Claire.

"You look all right now." he said, "but Serena's case is entirely
different. Take my advice, and send her up to her room. If you are not
going to dine in the proper sense of the word, there is no reason why
Serena should appear again till Anstruther had gone to his club. And I
will go too; I don't want our worthy host to know that I have been here
this evening." Jack went off thoughtfully in the direction of the
square. It was a particularly good-class neighborhood, and generally
very quiet at this time of the evening. The half-hour past 7 had just
struck from a neighboring clock. In most of the dining-rooms on the
north side of the square brilliant lights demonstrated the fact that
folk were at dinner. With the exception of a solitary policeman nobody
was in sight. As is usual with the majority of London squares, the place
was none too well lighted, and there were just sufficient lamps to throw
the shadows of the garden in deeper relief. It had often occurred to
Jack how easy crime and violence would be in circumstances like these.

Jack's imagination was working freely now; indeed, it would have been
odd if his brain had not been screwed to a high pitch by the events of
the day. Coming toward him now, swinging along at a good pace, was a
tall, slim figure, which seemed familiar to Masefield. As the figure
paused under a lamp to look at his watch. Jack could see the figure was
that of Anstruther. He congratulated himself upon the fact that he had
got away from Panton Square before Anstruther returned. He crossed the
road in a casual sort of way, and passed along under the shadow of the
houses so that Anstruther had no idea how he was being watched.

The latter paused again just by the entrance to the square gardens, the
gates of which had not yet been locked, though it was considerably past
the hour when the gardens were closed to the public. Anstruther stood
there as if debating something in his mind, then suddenly another figure
came like a lightning flash from inside the garden gates, and fell upon
Anstruther with terrible swiftness. So sudden and unexpected was it that
Jack could hardly believe the evidence of his own eyes. Anstruther gave
one gurgling cry, his hands went up as if implore assistance, then he
settled down to a fray which could only end in one fashion. It was
impossible where Jack stood for him to make out anything more than the
mere outline of the man the grimness of his intention: there was
sinister design in every movement of his body. This was no common square
thief, intent upon a paltry meed of plunder, but a man who had
deliberately picked out his prey with the intention of mauling it to the
death.

All this passed as it were in the twinkling of an eye. Jack knew now
that he would have to pull himself together and advance to the rescue.
As he flew across the road be heard in a mechanical sort of fashion the
heavy footstep of a policeman clanging on the quiet pavement some little
way off. Here, at any rate, was aid fairly close at hand. But Jack was
not the kind of man to wait in an emergency like this. Before he could
cross the road he saw that Anstruther was prostrate on the pavement,
with his assailant kneeling cat-like upon his chest. The man was
evidently fumbling or something, probably a weapon of the noiseless
kind, for Jack could see his right hand working in a hip pocket. With a
headlong leap Jack fell upon the would-be assassin, and clutched him by
he throat. At the same time a police whistle shrilled.

Rut the man kneeling on Anstruther's chest was not taken aback for an
instant. With a quick upward motion of his body he pitched Jack clean
over his head, and, rolling off Anstruther's chest, darted like a snake
into the gardens. By this time three policemen were upon the scene.

"No, I don't think he is hurt much," Jack explained, as Anstruther
scrambled to his feet and gazed wildly around him. "No damage done, eh?"

Anstruther explained that he was none the worse for his adventure. He
seemed to be under the impression that he had been the victim of some
loafer's cupidity. He could give no description of his assailant:
indeed, he said that he had no idea now but to get away and keep an
important appointment. He tossed his card over to the police, and went
coolly down the road.

"We can get that fellow all the same," Jack said. "He is in the gardens
somewhere. Suppose you three men stand round the square while I go
inside and drive him out. One of you lend me a lantern."

The quest was by no means a long one. At the fourth cast of the lantern
Jack descried his man crouching down under a belt of laurels. He reached
forward and dragged the fellow up by the neck.

"I am a bigger man than you are," Jack said. "Do you come quietly, or
are you going to take it fighting?"

By way of reply the man raised his hat; his face was exposed.

"I am not going to take it at all," he said. "You will be good enough to
put the police off my scent and have a cab handy so that I can get away
unseen. We have met before, sir."

It was a fitting crown to a day of surprises. For the man who stood
before Jack was the same Nostalgo he had conveyed in the guise of a dead
body to Shannon Street police station.



XXV.--ON THE TRACK

The man standing there showed not the slightest trace of alarm. There
was just the suggestion of a smile on his face, as if he felt confident
of his position. Jack could even see that he was fingering a cigarette
case, as if he were thinking more about tobacco than anything else. He
advanced a little nearer to his pursuer, and the suggestion of a smile
broadened to a look of absolute amusement.

"It seems to me that we have met before," he said, with an accent that
left no doubt as to his nationality. "But I have just reminded you of
the fact. The question is, what are you going to do?"

"Well, you are a very cool hand," Jack replied. "My obvious duty is to
hand you over to the police for the attempted murder of Mr. Spencer
Anstruther."

"Instead of which you are going to do nothing of the kind," the stranger
replied. "Besides, you are quite wrong. I am prepared to admit the
assault on Mr. Anstruther, but as to murdering him? nothing of the kind.
Besides, you know perfectly well you are consumed with curiosity to know
all about my mysterious self."

Jack smiled to himself despite the gravity of the situation. The
stranger had hit off his thoughts exactly.

"You are naturally anxious to know," he said, "what happened to me after
you were good enough to escort my unconscious body to Shannon Street
police station. I see you are a little dubious as to whether I am the
right man or not; but if you looked at me carefully, you would see there
is no mistake whatever."

Jack advanced a few paces nearer the speaker, and surveyed him closely
in the blinding light of the lantern. There was no doubt whatever that
this was one and the same Nostalgo. There was a certain mark in the
shape of a crescent scar on his chin, the same scantiness of eyebrow,
and the same peculiar droop of the lids.

"I am quite satisfied that you are the same man," Jack said.

"That's all right," the stranger cried, eagerly. "Of course. I know
quite well that you are deeply interested in this Nostalgo mystery, and
good fortune has placed you in the position to find out all about it.
Get rid of those fellows, and call me a hansom. As a guarantee of good
faith, here is my card. The address leaves a great deal to be desired,
but I assure you my quarters are a great deal more comfortable than the
locality would convey. If you have not yet dined, perhaps you would not
mind partaking of my bread and salt."

Jack did not hesitate a moment longer. It was, perhaps, playing it
rather low down on the police, but it seemed almost a criminal folly to
waste so golden an opportunity as this. If the man had been given in
custody for the murderous assault upon Spencer Anstruther, there would
be long and tedious investigations, which would not only delay the
solution of the trouble, but perhaps scare away others who were more or
less party to the mystery. After all said and done. Anstruther was not a
penny the worse for his adventure, and no harm could be done in
defeating the so-called ends of justice.

"You stay where you are," Jack said, "and I will see what I can do for
you. The police are on three aides of the square, leaving this side open
to me. It is only a matter of a little, patience, and the thing is
accomplished."

Jack emerged cautiously into the road and looked about him. So far as he
could see the street was deserted, though he could hear the constables
making signs to one another on the other three sides of the square.
Whilst he was still debating in his mind what to do, an empty hansom
crawled toward him. Jack ran back and signed to the driver not to stop.
"You can earn a sovereign if you like," he said. "Don't ask any
questions, but do exactly what I tell you. Turn back, go just to the
corner of the square, and then return slowly; when you are opposite the
gates, pull up as if there was something the matter with your horse.
Then a man will come out and jump into your cab. You are to drive him to
the address which I am going to give you without any questions. Here is
your sovereign, and now listen carefully to the address. That is all."

Jack returned hurriedly to the gardens, at the same time whistling
loudly as if he had need of assistance. It was not long before the three
constables, guided to the right spot by the flash of Jack's lantern.

"Now's your time." he whispered hurriedly. "There is hansom waiting for
you by the gate, and the driver knows exactly what to do and where to
take you. He is already paid his fare."

The man Nostalgo smiled and vanished. It was an easy matter to satisfy
the police that their quarry had eluded Masefield. and that he was still
hiding somewhere in the gardens. Jack left them to their search
presently under the plea that he had no further time to waste. He walked
as far as Albany street, and there took a cab to Mare Street, Hackney.

It was not a particularly desirable neighborhood, as the man Nostalgo
had pointed out. The destination was a side street of great dingy
houses, which a generation or two back had been inhabited by wealthy
tradesmen and the like. Now the large houses had been cut up into small
flats and tenements, and for the most part were occupied by artisans and
the like. The gutter swarmed with children, disheveled-looking women
stood gossiping on the doorsteps; round a flaming gin palace a group of
loafers had gathered. It seemed to Jack high time to dismiss his hansom,
for evidently vehicles of that kind were not frequent visitors to the
street. More than one of the loafers lounging heavily against the greasy
walls looked pointedly at Jack, but he was not the class of man to be
tackled single-handed, and therefore he was allowed to proceed
unmolested to No. 11, where he asked for Mr. James Smith.

A surly-looking porter, evidently considerably the worse for drink,
replied that Smith lived on the fifth floor.

"Not that I have ever seen him," he growled, propitiated by Jack's
half-crown; "sort of secretive chap, only goes out after dark and all
that sort of thing. Shouldn't wonder if the police came and walked off
with him any day; but that's no business of mine, so long as he pays his
rent regularly and don't give no trouble. Keeps a couple of servants, he
does; but they ain't English, and we don't have no truck with them."

Unenlightened by this fragment of a biography. Jack made his way up the
greasy staircase. There must have been scores of families living in the
self-same house, for Jack could hear the cries of children, and an
occasional oath from some angry man. He came at length to the fifth
floor, the outer door of which was closed, and on this he knocked. He
knocked a third time before the door was cautiously opened, and the
sallow, almond eyed face of a Chinaman peered out. Apparently the
Celestial was satisfied as to his visitor, for he merely bowed and stood
aside so that Jack might enter. Then the door was closed again and
locked. There was another door at the end of a dingy passage, the walls
of which had not been papered for years; but a passage through this
revealed a different state of affairs entirely.

It was idle to inquire by what magic this thing had been brought about,
but here, in this house of wretchedness and desolation, was a luxurious
and comfortable home. In what appeared to be the hall was a remarkably
fine specimen of Persian carpet. There were Moorish hangings, luxurious
lounges and divans? the whole illuminated by a shaded lamp which
depended from the ceiling. Jack could see other rooms beyond, quite as
luxuriously furnished. In one of them a table had been laid out with a
fair white cloth, and on the snowy damask appeared to be what was a
perfectly appointed meal.

Jack could see the shaded lights falling on the flowers and silver, upon
gold-necked bottles, and ruby wines in cut-glass decanters. A negro
dressed like an English butler came silently from the room, carrying a
sliver coffee service in his hand. It was a fairy kind of dream, coming
as it did upon the edge of stern reality. Jack would have been surprised
had he not been long past that emotion. As it was, he allowed the
Chinese servant to relieve him of his hat and coat, after which he was
escorted to a small room at the back, where his queer host was smoking
something quite exceptional in the way of a cigar.

"I thought you would come," he said. It was only when he stood up under
the full light of the lamps that Jack could see what a fine figure of a
man he was.

"Sit down and try one of these cigars--dinner will not be ready for
quite a quarter of an hour. You are rather surprised to find anything of
this kind here, eh?"

"Well, rather," Jack said drily; "you hardly expect Eastern palaces in
the slums. I won't be vulgarly curious and ask why a man of your
apparent means prefers to take up his quarters here, but what I want to
know is this, how on earth did you manage to get all this luxury and
refinement here without arousing the suspicions of your neighbors? There
are men--ay and women, too--under the same roof who would murder you
cheerfully, if only to get hold of your silver coffee service."

"Oh, that's explained easily enough," Nostalgo cried. "My two servants
are very faithful to me; they practically know no English, and when they
go out they are dressed very, very differently to what you see them now.
As to the rest, we smuggled the things here a few at a time, and we did
the papering and upholstering between us. As to why I choose to live
here, ah, that is quite other matter."

The stranger finished with a stern abruptness that told Jack pretty
plainly he was not expected to ask any further questions on that head.

"You must know more about me presently," he said. "Meanwhile, I dare say
you are curious to know what brought me lying apparently dead near
Panton Square, and how my body disappeared from the police station. Of
course, you suspect Anstruther of being at the bottom of the whole
business; in fact I presume Lord Barmouth told you all about it."

Here was another surprise, but Jack did not express it in words. He
merely nodded, as if he took the whole thing for granted.

"We will let that pass," h e said. "But why did Anstruther desire to
have you put out of the way like that?"

"Well, it was either Anstruther or myself," the stranger said coolly. To
give you some idea of the feelings I entertain toward Anstruther. I will
ask you to kindly look at that monotint over the mantlepiece. You may
not believe it, but that picture represents me before I came under the
baneful influence of the man we are discussing. Will you please look at
it carefully?"

It was barely possible to recognize in those handsome features the
almost repulsive ugliness of Nostalgo. Perhaps he read something of this
passing through Jack's mind, for he smiled with exceed bitterness.

"Yes, I don't think I need much justification. You know all about that
business in Mexico, but Lord Barmouth was not the only victim. I also
was left penniless and mutilated, and I swore that, if ever fortune
favored me, I would be even with Anstruther before I died. Fortune has
favored me, and I am here with one set purpose before me."

"To kill Spencer Anstruther?" Jack cried.

"Oh dear, no," Nostalgo said; "do you suppose that I can think of no
more terrible revenge than that? When you saw me holding that scoundrel
to-night I had quite another purpose in my mind. If everything had gone
well with me, London would have been startled to-morrow to hear of the
strange disappearance of Spencer Anstruther. But you were good enough to
prevent me, and I cannot blame you for that. But I am talking about
myself, though you would like to hear more of other matters. I promised
to tell you how I got away from Shannon Street police station. I expect
my case puzzled the doctor, did it not?"

"You puzzled him exceedingly," Jack said. "How did you manage it?"

"I was shot in a peculiar manner, and with a peculiar weapon." Nostalgo
explained. "The whole device was an invention of Anstruther's, in fact.
I saw it in operation in Mexico. It is a kind of air-gun arrangement
that propels a sort of poisoned bullet encased in celluloid. The bullet
penetrates a part not necessarily vital, and dissolves there. There is
practically no wound, the virulent poison in the bullet spreads all over
the system and speedily does its work. But in my instance the shots
fired were not fatal, for the simple reason that I am wearing a thin
coat of highly-tempered chain mail."

"But the doctor did not notice that," Jack exclaimed.

Nostalgo made no reply for a moment; he seemed to be thinking about
something else. His varying moods had not been lost upon Jack. He was
stern and silent, then again happy and cheerful, and once more grim and
sardonic. If he did not care to speak now, Jack had no desire to press
him. He felt quite sure that the stranger had taken a liking to him, or
he would not be enjoying his present novel situation. Nostalgo broke the
silence at length as if he had suddenly realized that he was not alone.

"You have not traveled much, I presume?" h e asked.

"No," Jack replied. "Only the usual continental trips and all that kind
of thing. Mine has been a very prosaic life up to now, and I have never
found myself in the heart of a great adventure before. Now it seems to
me as if I were going to have enough mystery to last me forever."

"Ah, as Shakespeare says, 'There are more things in heaven and earth
than are dreamed of in your philosophy.' Had you lived my life, and knew
the world as I know it, you would not be astonished at anything.
Probably, if you had read what I have told you in a novel of the
sensational kind, you would have pitched the book aside with a laugh of
contempt. And now, confess it, have you ever heard before of a decadent
modern man walking about in a mail shirt and being plugged by mysterious
bullets, and all this in the streets of London?"

"Well, I confess that it does seem a little strange and outlandish,"
Jack admitted. "But when I come to think of it, and when I look at you,
I can no longer hesitate. Some men are born for picturesqueness and
adventure, and you are one of them. But all the same the doctor was
utterly deceived."



XXVI.--SERENA AGAIN

Nostalgo smiled and shook his head. The doctor had not made an
examination of him at all: and he explained he had simply given him a
cursory glance and pronounced that the whole thing had been fatal. No
doubt a thorough examination would have taken place later on, only that
the victim had returned to his senses,and, having his own reasons for
secrecy, had escaped by means of the overhead light in the mortuary.

"There you have the whole thing in a nutshell," he concluded. "It was
fortunate for me that I knew exactly how to get away, for the simple
reason that I had been keeping a close eye upon Anstruther's movements,
and knew all about that hiding place in Montrose Place. To a certain
extent, I made my escape through Montrose Place. There is only one thing
I find that is difficult of explanation. Now I know for a fact that
Anstruther was otherwise engaged on the night of that murderous attack
upon me. Who, then, was it who fired the bullet?"

"I think it is just possible I can enlighten you there," Jack said. "Did
you ever chance to hear of a man called Padini?"

The name conveyed nothing apparently to Nostalgo, who rose at the same
moment and suggested that dinner was possibly ready. It was a
well-served meal, cold for the most part, Nostalgo explaining that
anything in the way of elaborate cookery had for obvious reasons to be
done off the premises. It was possible to talk freely before the
servants, who seemed to be entirely in their master's confidence.

"Tell me about this Padini whose name you mentioned just now," the host
said. "So far as I know, I have never heard the name before."

"That is exceedingly likely, considering that Padini is only one of the
many aliases. The man I mentioned is an exceedingly fine
violinist, clean-shaven and artistic-looking, and perhaps just a little
effeminate. On the stage he looks rather boyish, but i private life it
is his whim to assume a moustache closely resembling that of the German
Emperor. I know this as a fact, because I have met him wearing his
moustache at the house of a man called Carrington, a rich bachelor banker
who has a very elaborate establishment in Piccadilly."

A heavy scowl crossed the face of Nostalgo.

"So you know that sorry blackguard, do your?" he asked. "Upon my word,
Mr. Masefield, you seem to have mixed up with a rare lot of scoundrels."

Jack was politely incredulous; he had never heard anything to the
detriment of Mr. Carrington; who was partner in a well-known city bank.
Still, he remembered now that he had heard Carrington's name mentioned
by Anstruther that time he was hiding in Montrose Place with Rigby.

"Oh, I am perfectly certain of my facts," Nostalgo cried. "It may be
news to you, but Carrington's bank is on the verge of collapse. I know
that, because they have £30,000 of mine in their hands. I was acquainted
with Carrington before I went to Mexico, and as good fortune favored me,
I sent a great deal of my earnings to Carrington for investment. When I
came home I called upon him one night and explained my altered
appearance. He appeared to be fairly satisfied till I asked for my
securities. Then the rascal showed himself in his true colors. He
pretended to believe that I was an impudent imposter; he laughed my
strange story to scorn, and refused to part with anything until I could
prove my identity beyond question. He knew perfectly well that at the
time I could do nothing of the sort, and there the matter stands for the
present. I suppose that Carrington is a friend of Anstruther's?"

Jack explained that Anstruther and Carrington were dining together at
the former's club at that self-same moment. Nostalgo nodded, as if the
information was not displeasing to him.

"Very good," he cried. "Everything is going our way now. I will get you
to accompany me on a little expedition presently. And as to this man you
call Padini, I think I have a pretty good notion of his real identity.
And now take some more of that wine, and let us discuss matters
generally, apart from this wretched business. Let me try and make you
forget what a physical wreck I am."

A more entertaining companion Jack could not have wished for. His host
seemed to have been everywhere and seen everything; he was a thorough
citizen of the world, and a charming companion to boot. Jack was
astonished to look up presently and see that it was already past eleven
o'clock. Nostalgo followed his glance and smiled. He rang the bell and
ordered coffee to be served at once.

"Just one more cigar and a liquor," he suggested, "and then we must be
off. Meanwhile, there are one or two things I must do in regard to my
personal appearance. Like the modern plain young woman, I am compelled
occasionally to resort to the beauty doctor. It is a case of where
Nature fails Art steps in."

So saying, Nostalgo passed the cigar box across the table and sauntered
from the room. It was some half-hour before he returned, and when he did
so he was changed almost beyond recognition. At the same time, the
almost hideous ugliness had only given way to another form of repulsive
feature. Nostalgo smiled sadly as he seemed to follow Jack's thoughts.

"It is only a change after all," be said; "for change is something
necessary. If you have quite finished, we are going to walk down as far
as St. James's Street, where I will get you to go into Anstruther's
club, the Salisbury, and ascertain if he and Carrington are still there.
You can easily make an excuse to do that."

"As it happens, there is no occasion to do anything of the kind," Jack
said. "I am a member of the Salisbury Club. I will go into the
dining-room and see if those men are still there; and if they have
already gone, I will try and ascertain where. Come along."

The Salisbury Club was reached at length, and Jack entered, followed by
his companion. There was no reason why the latter should not come into
the club, Jack urged. With his hat pulled down over his eyes nobody
would recognize him or note anything peculiar in his appearance.

The club was fairly crowded by this time, for the theaters had begun to
empty, and members were trooping in the direction of the smoking and
card rooms. The dining-room was still comparatively full, for though
dinner was practically a thing of the past, a great many suppers had
already been served. As Jack glanced carelessly about the room, he
noticed Anstruther and Carrington seated at a table at the top. There
was a third man with them, who had apparently just come in, for his
opera cape was still about his shoulders. Jack touched his companion on
the arm.

"There our men are," he whispered, "and judging from the amount of wine
upon the table, I should think there they are likely to stay. We are
fortunate, too, in another direction. Please take note of that man in
the opera cape, that is the man Padini. Perhaps, you can tell me if you
have ever seen him before."

Nostalgo gave a queer and dry chuckle, and Jack could see that his eyes
were burning under the edge of his hat.

"You are quite right about our being in luck," he said hoarsely. "So you
want to know if I am acquainted with the little man in the opera cape. I
know the scoundrel perfectly. It seems to me that all the scores I have
to pay are going to be wiped off in London. Now I think we will get on
our way."

Nostalgo strode away as if he had quite made up his mind what to do.
Once outside he turned off in the direction of Piccadilly, walking so
rapidly that Jack had some considerable difficulty in keeping up with
him. The man had evidently something on his mind, for he was muttering
to himself as if he had entirety forgotten his companion. He came out of
his brown study presently, and laughed a laugh of grim amusement.

"I am a little mad at times," he said in explanation of his queer
conduct; "but you must not mind that. You have behaved exceedingly well
to me, and I am taking you entirely into my confidence. You asked me
just now if I knew Padini. I explained to you that I knew him very well
indeed, but not under that name. He used to be with Anstruther all the
time that the latter was in Mexico. Not that he is the class of man to
care much for the rough life we led out there, because he is physically
a great coward, though his cunning and craft are equal to those of his
master. We knew him cut there for a very skilled performer on the
violin, but I never expected that he would blossom out into a leading
platform artist. I should have thought that the fellow was too lazy and
too casual to tie himself down to a settled programme. But I dare say it
is all part of some scheme of Anstruther's."

"That I am absolutely certain about," Jack said. "Seeing that you have
been so candid with me, I will be equally candid with you, and tell you
something very strange. It has to do with Padini and his violin."

Jack proceeded to explain at length the apparently strange coincidence
of the items on Padini's concert programme and their simultaneous
playing in Anstruther's study. It was a somewhat complicated story, and
Nostalgo did not quite take it in at first. When he thoroughly grasped
the situation, he was grimly pleased to pay a high compliment to
Anstruther's ingenuity.

"I think I can grasp the meaning of it," he said. "If Anstruther ever
found himself in a tight corner, and he is very likely to before long, he
has a magnificent alibi. But here we are: just wait till I get my key
out."

To Jack's great surprise Nostalgo paused before the front door of
Carrington's chambers, and proceeded to fit the key in the latch as if
he were the master of the premises. Very coolly he pushed the door back
and bade Jack enter.

"But this is something like burglary." the latter protested.

"Burglary or not, we are going in all. the same," Nostalgo growled. "You
will see presently something that will surprise you. But stop, surely
there is some one coming down the hall."

The hall light was a very dim one, so that it was impossible for the
moment to determine the identity of the woman who came down the stairway
toward them. She carried in her hand a candle, which had the effect of
keeping her face half in shadow. It was evident that the woman had heard
the key in the door, and had come down to see if her master required
anything.

Satisfied that she was mistaken, she set the candle down on the table.
Her features were quite plain now, the sad yet defiant face of Serena. A
grasp like a vice was laid on Jack's arm, and his companion's voice
whispered-hoarse in his ear.

"Great heaven!" Nostalgo said. "And she is here. Oh, the villainy of it,
the villainy of it!"



XXVII.--IN THE SMOKING ROOM

The woman looked about her as if half expecting to see somebody there
who had come with evil intent, Jack could not fail to notice the extreme
nervousness and agitation of her face. She was no longer quiet and
subdued, as be had been accustomed to see her in Panton Square; she
seemed as if some force had drafted her there against her will. She
advanced towards the table, and, taking up a hat and coat lying there,
proceeded to put them on as if she had finished her task, whatever it
was. If anything had frightened her it wag not, at any rate, the
suggestion of burglars, for there was nothing of physical fear to be
detected about her.

So far as Jack could discern, his companion appeared to be equally
disconcerted. But there would be plenty of time presently to learn what
Nostalgo knew about Serena. Events were moving rapidly now, and Jack
felt that he would have plenty to tell Rigby later on. They stood aside
till Serena had left the house, making sure that the latch was down, and
that no one could enter the premises without a key. Jack turned to
Nostalgo with an interrogative glance.

"The more we go into this thing," he said, "the more do we find one
mystery piled upon another. Do you know that unfortunate lady?"

"If you do not mind. I would much rather you did not press that
question," Nostalgo said, coldly. "I am going to help you all I can; I
am going to do everything in my power both for your sake and mine; but
there are some things which will not bear discussion, and this is one of
them."

Jack turned away, feeling just a little hurt and disappointed. He would
have found it difficult to say why, but he had taken a strange liking to
the man by his side, perhaps because the man was suffering more from
terrible misfortune than from his own imprudence.

"We will let it stand over for the present," he said, "but to be more
candid with you. I am greatly interested in that poor woman. I have
known her for a long time now, and, as a novelist, I am bound to say
that she greatly fascinates me. She always strikes me as a woman who has
been tamed, she is to like a performing lion or tiger. If you will permit
the simile."

"I think I know what you mean." Nostalgo said. "The class of animal you
speak of paces restlessly about its cage, a picture of moody discontent
and more or less physical fear. And then the time comes when all the old
savage instincts burst forth, and years of cruel treatment are avenged
in the course of a moment."

"And so it would be with Serena," Jack said. "I have seen her cower and
tremble before her master; I have seen her hand him a knife in the
humblest possible fashion. And I have seen her clench on the handle, and
a gleam come into her eyes, on more than one occasion I have half
expected to see her lean over so as cut her master's throat from ear to
ear. After this, perhaps, you may be disposed to say more on the
subject" "We have never met, we have never been introduced," Nostalgo
explained; "but I know who she is and all about her just the same. Do
not press me more at present; tHe secret is not entirely my own. I can
only tell you this: it was a great shock to me to meet that unfortunate
lady to-night. But perhaps you know who she is?"

"I know perfectly well who she is," Jack said, "though the knowledge has
come to me quite recently. Up to a day or two ago I regarded her in the
prosaic light of Anstruther's housekeeper. She has always interested me,
because she has always seemed to be a kind of wild animal who had been
cleverly tamed. I have seen her like a tiger ready to spring; I have
seen the lurking demon of passion in her eyes, as if she could destroy
Anstruther and rejoice in the deed. And then a word from him or a
glance, and she has cowered as timidly as the wife of the veriest bully
in the world."

"But that isn't telling me who she is," Nostalgo said, impatiently.

"Well, she is Lady Barmouth's sister, to begin with," Jack said. "Now,
perhaps, you may be inclined to be more communicative."

Nostalgo shook his head in a sorrowful manner, and proceeded to lead the
way upstairs. It was not lost upon Jack that his companion seemed to
know his way about the house just as one who had lived there for some
time. He even seemed to know where to lay his hand upon each electric
switch; in fact, his familiarity with the surroundings was apparent to
the meanest understanding.

"One more word before we leave the subject," Jack said. "I showed you
to-night the man who calls himself Padini. You recognised him as a man
whom you had known in Mexico, and you left me to understand that he was
as great a scoundrel as Anstruther, only that he lacked the necessary
courage to carry his schemes into effect. Would it surprise you to know
that Padini is the husband of the poor woman who bas just gone out?"

Nostalgo shook his head with the air of a man who is not hearing
anything for the first time. As he had intimated before, the secret was
not his own, and he showed no inclination to go into the matter now. He
led the way to the first landing, from which the living-rooms branched
off. Here was the fine, spacious hall where Jack had found himself on
the night he had met Rigby there; the big ferns and palms were still
scattered about; the evidences of luxury were plain. Only a rich man
could have occupied so fine a suite of apartments. Nostalgo smiled as
all these objects of art and luxury met his eye.

"All is not gold that glitters." he said; "In fact, nothing that
glitters is gold. All this kind of thing would be calculated to impress
any client who came along, but the British public is getting to
understand the value of outside show. Let me see? this used to be the
drawing-room in the old days, when--"

Nostalgo flicked up the lights, and there, bathed brilliantly by the
flashing rays, was a room that would not have disgraced a palace.
Carrington was a man of taste and feeling; his pictures were good, and
his china would have fetched much money at Christie's. The lights were
down again, and Nostalgo walked away in the direction of the
dining-room. He might have been some contemptuous servant displaying his
master's treasures to the admiring eye of a colleague. Everywhere the
foot sank deeply into velvety carpets. Many fine sets of armor graced
the corridor. There were one or two pictures of price here, also; a
Corot, a dainty little Meissonier, a sketch or two from the brush of
some other modern painters. Deeply interested as he was in the
adventure, Jack did not fail to note and do justice to Carrington's
taste.

"A whited sepulchre," Nostalgo murmured. "It is a poor jewel, after all,
that lives in this perfect setting. Now, here is the dining-room. What
do you think of it--old oak and old blue china with Flemish pictures of
the best schools? Elegant, is it not? You need not wonder why the women
run after Carrington. But we will give them something to talk about
presently."

With the assured step of one who knows every inch of the way, Nostalgo
moved on to a small apartment behind the dining-room. This was fitted in
the form of a smoking room, with deep and cosy armchairs, and
comfortable divans against the Moorish walls. The whole thing was
Moorish, from the decorations on the walls and the wonderful brass lamps
depending from the painted ceiling. At the far end of the room were two
double stained-glass doors leading into a conservatory. The warmth here
was grateful, and seemed to touch the senses drowsily. As to the rest,
the conservatory was filled with masses of graceful feathery palms and
ferns, beyond which was tier upon tier of red geraniums. The whole
effect was wonderfully pleasing and artistic, and Jack did not hesitate
to say so.

Nostalgo was not so enthusiastic.

"I wasn't thinking so much about that," he said drily. "I was regarding
this little garden more in the light of a hiding place. You and I are
going to play the eavesdropper, my friend. It is not a congenial
occupation I know but there is precious little of anything congenial
about this business. Carrington will be here presently, and probably
Anstruther will accompany him."

"You are a bit of a detective in your way," Jack smiled.

"The conclusion is only what any one would call obvious." Nostalgo
replied. "In the first place, all the servants have gone to bed, or that
poor woman whom we saw downstairs would not have been so careful to see
that the door could not be opened without a latch-key. On the table
behind you is a big silver salver with two glasses, a couple of syphons
of soda water and a spirit stand. What conclusion do you come to than
that Carrington is returning presently, and is bringing a friend with
him?"

"I quite follow you." Jack said, "but there is one thing I don't
understand. How is it that you can find your way about this house in so
familiar a manner?"

"Ah, that is not so obvious." Nostalgo replied. "And yet the explanation
is perfectly simple. Before I went to Mexico I was a friend of
Carrington's. In those days his father was still alive, and he had not
succeeded to so large a share of the business. As a matter of fact,
Carrington and myself lived here together. He frequently discussed with
me the improvements he would make here when once he was in a position to
do so. The place where we are standing now used to be my dressing-room."

It seemed to Jack that Carrington must have been a cool hand indeed, and
he suggested something of this to Nostalgo."

"Cool with the courage of despair," the other said. "The night I came
home and called on Carrington here I thought he would have had a fit of
apoplexy. Disfigured as I am, I am certain that he recognized me, but he
was not slow to take advantage of my misfortunes. Directly he had
recovered himself he became painfully polite, though he refused to
acknowledge me as his quondam friend. You can quite see the point of
that--so long as I could not prove my identity, he was able to keep me
out of my property. But we have already discussed that point. And now
you know why I am so familiar with the house, and how it comes about
that I have a latch-key to fit the front door."

Nostalgo was apparently prepared to say more, only his quick hearing
detected a suspicious sound below. He strode swiftly across the room and
switched out the light that had illuminated the room and the
conservatory. It was an easy matter to find the hiding place amidst that
tangle of ferns and flowers, and the two had hardly done so before the
smoking-room door opened and Carrington came in, closely followed by
Anstruther and Padini. The latter seemed to be terribly put out about
something, for he flung his hat and coat upon the floor and dropped into
a chair with an attitude of defiance.

"It is all very well for you," he exclaimed heatedly. "We do all the
work and take all the risks, and you walk off with the profit I tell you
it is absolutely dangerous to work a scheme like ours from the Great
Metropolitan Hotel."

There was a sneer on Anstruther's face as he helped himself to a
cigarette and poured out a carefully moderated dose of whiskey and soda.

"You little rascal," he said. He had the air of a man who, having tamed
lions, was now contemptuously engaged in subduing less noble animals.
"If you talk to me like this I will let you down altogether. You cannot
injure me, but I can ruin you, body and soul. Go to your kennel, you
hound."

Padini cowered before the flashing anger in Anstruther's eyes, and he
muttered something to himself that might have been an apology; but the
listeners were a little too far away to hear.

"It is all very well for you," Padini whimpered. "You can call me a
coward if you like, I am. It is not like you to run any risks at all. So
long as I am at the Great Metropolitan Hotel, so sure is there danger."

"Send him off about his business," Carrington growled. "Why did you
allow him to follow us here at all? He ought to have been in his own
room by this time carrying on his share of the programme."

"Well, give me a programme," Padini said, with some show of spirit "How
am I to know what Anstruther wants unless he tells me beforehand? Is it
to be nothing but Chopin to-night?"

In the same way that one humors a spoiled child, Anstruther took a
notebook from his pocket and jotted a few names upon it.

"I think that will about do," he said. "Start with the 'Grand
Polonaise,' and take the 'Fantasie in F' afterwards; then stick steadily
to the programme I have marked on that sheet of paper."

Padini rose obediently enough now and donned his hat and coat He would
have helped himself to a small modicum of refreshment, only Anstruther
put him sternly aside.

"None of that " he said, "and not one spot of anything till you have
finished your night's work. Now go at once."



XXVIII.--THE LAMP GOES OUT

Meanwhile Carrington had been pacing up and down the room, obviously
troubled and ill at ease. Anstruther watched him with a gleam of
malicious amusement in his dark eyes. This strong man liked to feel that
he had everybody in his power; it was good to him to know that he could
move others as the man behind the curtain moves the puppets in a
marionette show. It was not particularly that Anstruther cared for crime
for its own sake, but he loved to be subtle and mysterious; it was a joy
to him to get the better of his fellow creatures. Had Carrington but
known it, the major part of the trouble which was racking his mind now
had been brought about by the very man to whom he turned most readily in
the hour of his misfortunes. He poured himself out a liberal dose of
whiskey and gulped it down without the formality of adding anything to
it. He flung himself angrily into a chair.

"Now that that little ape is gone we can discuss my affairs," he said.
"My dear Anstruther, I am the most desperate man in England to-night."

"I think I have heard that remark somewhere before," Anstruther said
cynically. "Most people talk like that when they owe twopenny-ha'penny
they can't manage to pay. But tell me, are your affairs in such a state
as that?"

"They could not possibly be worse," Carrington said, moodily. "Since my
father died practically all the financial side of the business has been
left to me. Like the fool that I am, I was not content with the handsome
profit that the concern was bringing in. I started speculating for
myself, and I was unlucky from the start. I lost my head and plunged
desperately, but that is not the worst of it. Not only is all the
property at the bank mortgaged to its full value, but I have taken and
disposed of securities belonging to clients. Every morning I go down to
the bank I do so with my heart in my mouth. It only needs the smallest
spark to fire the whole mine. I should not be surprised to find myself
in jail to-morrow night. Now, you are a clever man, quite the cleverest
man I have ever met, can you show me any way out of the difficulty?"

"My dear fellow," Anstruther said presently, "clever men can do most
things, but there is one thing in which they generally fail. They can't
command money just when they want it. As you are perfectly well aware, I
am as desperately hard up as you are yourself. If you could give me two
or three days?"

"But something must be done within the next eight and forty hours!"
Carrington exclaimed. "For instance, there is that confounded affair at
Lady Barmouth's."

"But how does that concern you?" Anstruther asked.

"I was just coming to that. You see, we have a great many
clients, ladies? who keep their jewels with us. Take the case of the
Duchess of Plymouth, for instance, and Admiral Scott's widow. But those
are only a few1 of many. Now I know perfectly well that all these ladies
will be round the day after, to-morrow to obtain their jewels, for the
purpose of wearing them at Lady Barmouth's masked ball. Not to put too
fine a point upon it, they won't get their jewel because they are not
there."

"Mortgaged or sold?" Anstruther asked, curtly.

"Mortgaged to the utmost penny. You can imagine my feelings every time
the door of my private office is opened and I am told that a client
wishes to see me. I cannot for the life of me see any way out of it.
Nothing less than a quarter of a million of money would set me on my
feet again."

Anstruther smoked thoughtfully, his brows knitted into a frown. It was
some time before he spoke, Carrington watching him with sickening
anxiety. There was something pathetic in his belief in Anstruther's
ability to get him out of this terrible position.

"There are more ways of doing it than one," Anstruther said presently.
"In this instance we can take a hint from the daily papers. Supposing
that the bank was mysteriously robbed, the safes forced open and all that
kind of thing?"

"Yes, and the whole thing exposed in twenty minutes." Carrington said
bitterly. "The robbing and gagging of cashiers has been slightly
overdone lately. I can't call a single case to mind in which the scheme
has not fallen to the ground. Take the case of those stolen bank-notes,
for instance. And even supposing that nothing could be proved against
one, there is always a large section of the public ready to regard the
trouble as nothing more than a mere swindle. An affair like that would
be the finishing touch; It would ruin the bank's business utterly."

"And incidentally save your skin," said Anstruther, significantly. "Oh,
no; this is going to be a much more artistic affair than that. If you
could get me a plan of the bank premises, including the safes and the
cellars and all that kind of thing, I believe I could hit upon a scheme
ingenious enough to deceive the police and gain you the sympathy of the
British public."

Carrington shook his head wearily. He had expected something much more
brilliant and original from Anstruther than this.

"The plan you want would take days to prepare." he said, "to say nothing
of the fact--"

Carrington Jumped to his feet joyfully. His moody face cleared, and
something like a smile shone on his features. "What a fool I am!" he
cried. "Why, I have the very thing on the premises; in fact, I have two
copies. It was only a few months ago that the bank premises were
thoroughly restored and a fresh set of strong-rooms added. I feel
positively certain that in my safe, here I have two sets of tracings of
the architect's plans. I'll get them for you. Only I hope you won't make
the same blunder over this business as you did at the affair of the man
whom we will call Nostalgo Seymour."

Anstruther laughed unpleasantly. Jack's companion, listening intently
from his hiding place amongst the ferns, gripped his companion by the
arm.

"That's me," he whispered, with almost a suppressed chuckle. "I am th
man they speak, of as Nostalgo Seymour."

Jack pressed the arm of his fellow conspirator by way of acknowledgment.
He was far too interested in what was going on inside the
brilliantly-lighted room to care to talk; indeed, he had forgotten the
presence of his comrade altogether. He could see that Anstruther had
risen to his feet and was pacing the room, evidently nettled by
Carrington's remark.

"If you want to be friends, don't mention that matter to me again." he
said. "It is the one failure of my life. To get Seymour out of the way
is imperative. I trusted the matter to Padini, and be failed me."

"I would have trusted nothing to Padini." Carrington said.

"Oh, yes, you would," Anstruther growled. "Especially if he had done so
many artistic jobs in the same line for you. But I did not know,
unfortunately, till too late, that the little rascal has been drinking
more lately than was good for him. The fact is, he has lost his nerve.
And yet he might have felt himself justified in believing that his
mission had been attended with complete success, but go and get your
plans. I will have a good look at them now, and I will call to see you
to-morrow at the bank as if I came on business, and you shall show me
all over the premises. It will be surprising, indeed, if I cannot show
you some safe way out of the present difficulty."

As Carrington went off jingling a bunch of keys in his hand, Jack could
feel the man whom we will now call Seymour fairly trembling with
excitement. It seemed more then once as if he was bent on darting from
his hiding place and confronting the two scoundrels in the inner room.
But evidently he was placing great restraint upon himself, for he turned
to Jack and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. At the same instant
Carrington returned with a large roll of tracing paper in his hand.
There was an agitation about him scarcely warranted by the circumstances
of the case. It was as if he had seen something dreadful daring his
brief absence. Anstruther looked at him with some scorn.

"What a face!" he growled. "If you go down to the bank looking like that
you will have a run on the concern in half an hour. No ghosts about
here, I suppose?"

"It isn't that," Carrington said hoarsely: "but it is something I have
found in the corridor. It was lying on the floor close by the dining
room door. Tell me, have you ever seen it before?"

With a shaking hand Carrington laid a small silver-mounted moleskin
tobacco pouch on the table. At the same moment Jack noticed that his
companion had given a great start. There was no need for Jack to be told
that the tobacco pouch in question was Seymour's property, and had bean
dropped by him accidentally a little time before.

"Why, you don't mean to say that belongs to Seymour?" Anstruther cried,
and there was a real anxiety in his voice. "Yes, you are quite correct;
I distinctly remember Seymour buying this peculiar pattern of filigree
silver. Now you see why I wanted to get that fellow out of the way. I
have tried to believe that he was dead and gone, but not only is it
quite evident that he is very much alive, but also it is equally plain
that he has been here to-night."

Carrington fairly shook as he hoarsely muttered his opinion that
Anstruther was right. He glanced timidly about him, as if expecting to
meet the face of Seymour; he stepped toward the conservatory, as if
suspicious that the crimson flowers were hiding his enemy there. Then he
gave a shaky half-laugh at his own fears.

"My nerves are all rags to-night" he said. "Positively I imagined that I
could fee that dreadful scarred face of Seymour glaring at me from
behind the bank of geraniums. Call me a coward if you like, but I must
really ask you to turn up the light in the conservatory. I dare not do
it myself."

Something like a curse broke from the rigid figure by Jack's side. From
overhead there dangled an electric light swinging on a long, pliable
flex. An instant later, and there would come a brilliant blaze of light
if Anstruther could have reached the switch toward which he was
contemptuously strolling. An instant later, and the eavesdroppers would
have been discovered; but Seymour rose grandly to the situation. With
one bound he was across the floor of the conservatory, and literally
tore the switch from its place. Instantly the fuses connected with the
two rooms short-circuited and the brilliant light of the inner room was
swallowed up in the throat of a great velvety darkness. The thing was so
swift, so clever and so unexpected that Jack could only gasp. He was
conscious of the fact that Seymour had left his side, but only for a
moment.

"Confound the light!" Carrington cried. "Give me a match, and I'll light
the lamps. This is the second time lately the same thing has happened."

The feeble spurt of a vesta made a tiny blue flame, but it was
sufficient to show Carrington the position of two silver lamps. He
lighted one of these and then the other, and placed them on the table.
As he did so his face grew white again, his tongue began to stammer.

"The plans," he gasped. "Surely I put two on the table? Where is the
other?"

"The other," Jack's companion whispered, with a hoarse chuckle of
triumph, "is quite safe in my breast pocket."



XXIX.--THE SILVER LAMP

The wonderful coolness and audacity of his companion filled Jack with
admiration. He had forgotten for the moment that there was any danger at
all. It seemed to him to be a good thing to have so adroit and cunning a
colleague to work with. The whole thing had been so wonderfully swift;
hardly moment seemed to elapsed between the extinguishing of the light
and the return of Seymour with the duplicate of the plan safely in his
pocket.

What he proposed to do next, Jack could not guess for the moment,
neither did he much care. At the same time, he felt quite convinced of
the fact that Seymour had some deep scheme in his mind. Jack's spirits
rose in quite an unaccountable way. He warmly congratulated himself on
the fact that he had found Seymour and brought him into the campaign
against Anstruther. The danger was by no means over yet, as Seymour must
have recognised: but that did not seem to trouble him too much, for he
was shaking now with suppressed mirth, and was evidently enjoying the
situation as one does a screaming farce from a comfortable place in the
stalls.

Jack was about to whisper something of this to his companion, when the
latter checked him with a touch on the arm. Inside the room, in the
comparatively moderated light of the lamps, Jack could see Carrington
fussing about uneasily.

"I tell you that there were two plans," he muttered. "I am absolutely
certain there was a duplicate. If you have played any kind of trick upon
me I hope you will confess it at once."

"Trick be hanged," Anstruther cried contemptuously. "Do you suppose that
I indulge in practical joking? I say you have made a mistake; the
duplicate plan is somewhere else."

"And I am equally certain that it was with those papers," Carrington
blustered. "They were lying side by side a minute ago. And now one of
them is gone, and you want me to believe that it has been spirited away
by unseen hands--"

"I don't want you to believe anything of the sort," Anstruther replied.
"Not a minute had elapsed between the time that the light went out and
the moment that I lighted the match. What a nervous, frightened fool you
are. You will be saying next that Seymour is concealed somewhere in the
room, and snatched this brilliant opportunity for purloining these
papers. Really, we are getting on. Hadn't you better look round the
house. You will have to go to bed presently, and I should advise you to
lock your door."

All this brutal sarcasm was utterly lost upon Carrington. He was as
frightened and nervous as a lonely woman in a lonely house who has
discovered some strange man there. He darted from the room followed by
Anstruther's contemptuous laughter, and returned presently, saying that
he had made a thorough search of the flat.

"Most assuredly nobody is on the premises," he said. He was by no means
convinced yet that Anstruther was not playing some cunning trick upon
him.

"It is most extraordinary. You may say what you like, and prove what you
like; but I am ready to swear that I brought both those plans into the
room with me five minutes ago."

"Oh, look up the chimney," Anstruther growled. "Take all of those plans
out of your conservatory, and see if the thief hasn't vanished up the
water pipe. I am sick of all these nervous fears and hysterical
suspicions. It has always been the curse of my existence that I can
never lay hands on an accomplice who is anything but a knave or a fool."

Without heeding the savage outburst Carrington took one of the little
silver lamps from the table, and, holding it up by its crystal receiver,
advanced cautiously in the direction of the conservatory. Jack held his
breath, and prepared for the worst. He felt pretty sure now that he and
Seymour would be discovered. Not that he much minded, except that he was
extremely anxious not to be recognised by Anstruther; but that risk had
to be run. It was a pity, too, seeing what a marvelous amount of
information had been gleaned during the last half-hour; but that was all
part of the game.

"Is it possible he has vanished through the skylight?" Anstruther
sneered.

Carrington muttered that there was a drop of some thirty feet outside
the conservatory. He still advanced with the lamp in his hand, and
peered about him with an anxious face. The moment was a critical one
indeed, and Jack wondered if Seymour's wonderful fertility of resource
would be equal to the occasion. In the dim light of the lamp he saw
Seymour's right arm steal out and his sinewy fingers close upon a piece
of hose pipe attached to a tap in the wall. Evidently this had been used
for watering the flowers. The gardener responsible for the well-doing of
the rooms doubtless understood his work, and watered each pot
separately, instead of spraying the whole place indiscriminately; for
attached to the hose-pipe was the small nozzle meant to convey a fine
jet for some distance.

Jack began dimly to understand what Seymour meant to do. It was going to
be a dangerous experiment but danger was quite absolutely necessary if
the eavesdroppers were to were to escape unrecognized. If Seymour's plan
was absolutely successful [then there was a good chance of escape].

Jack saw the lean, brown hand stretch forth and turn on the tap in the
wall. Then the tap at the end of the hose slid round, and a tiny spray
of water, fine as a needle and strong as the arrow from a bow, struck
the chimney of the lamp, now nearly red hot, and a tremendous smash of
cracking glass followed.

Carrington staggered back, and a kind of hysterical scream broke from
his lips. With his nerves strung at high tension, the shock of the
bursting explosion rendered him nearly mad with terror. Seymour turned
off the tap again, feeling sure his business was well done.

"By Jove, that was wonderfully smart, and quickly done," Jack whispered
to his companion. "I rather pride myself upon the ingenuity of my
stories, especially as regards the plots of them, but I never could have
thought of anything quite like that."

"Not bad." said the other one quite coolly. "It was all a matter of
accuracy of aim and steadiness of hand. But to a man like myself, who
has had vast experience of big game shooting, a little affair like that
is a mere nothing."

"But you might have missed," Jack said. "The deviation of that spurt of
water by even so much as a hair's breadth would have carried it full
into Carrington's face. and then our presence must have inevitably been
discovered. That is where the dramatic side of it appeals to me."

"It appealed to me also," Seymour whispered coolly. "But I had only to
imagine that the lamp was the face of a famous old man-eating tiger who
nearly did for me four years ago in Upper Burma. If we had been
discovered, we should have had to have fought our way out; but I think
you will agree with me that I have managed the affair in a much more
artistic way than that."

Jack agreed cordially. He was watching now with breathless eagerness to
see what was the full measure of Seymour's success. Carrington had
staggered back with a startled cry, though even as yet he did not know
the danger that was to follow.

"By heaven, you have done it well!" Jack muttered.

"I think I have," Seymour whispered complacently. "It occurs to me that
I have not left much to be desired."

It was done even better than be had anticipated, for a few drops of the
cold water had trickled down the receiver of the lamp and mingled with
the oil there. From, all parts of the brass-work around the flame a
blue, fiery vapor rushed out. With a cry of dismay Carrington almost
threw the lamp upon the table; it tottered and fell sideways, and an
instant later a stream of burning oil was flowing over the table-cloth,
and dripping in long tongue's of flame upon the carpet.

"For heaven's take, be careful, you clumsy coward!" Anstruther cried.
"You'll have the whole place on fire; those lamps are very pretty to
look at, but dangerous to use."

But Carrington was not listening at all. He seemed to have lost his head
entirely. But, frightened as he was. he did not fail to notice that the
liquid flame was licking the other set of plans which were lying on the
table. Just for an instant his mind was clear enough to see the
necessity of saving the papers. He leaned forward and made a clutch at
them. Something hot and stinging seemed to be gripping him by the
fingers; he snatched his hand back again and dragged the table-cloth,
more than half of which was in flames, to the floor. Crash fell the
second lamp. Its crystal receiver smashed by the fall, and in the
twinkling of an eye the whole room was in flames.

So sudden, so swift and unexpected was the whole thing, that Jack could
only gasp. He was so lost in admiration of Seymour's quickness and
coolness, that he quite failed to realize the danger in which he and his
companion stood. Less than a minute had elapsed since Seymour put his
scheme into execution, and yet already the smoking-room was one mass of
lambent flame.

"Well, you have done it this time." Anstruther yelled. "Clear out at
once or there will be no occasion for me to trouble about either of us
any further. Give an alarm; go out in the street, and yell for the fire
engine."

Carrington needed no second bidding. Together with Anstruther he raced
down the stone staircase and into the street. Jack could hear his
companion chuckling with triumph and delight.

"Rather a close thing that," he said coolly. "And how we had best look
to ourselves. No chance of making a dash through those flames without
being badly burned; besides, I have no doubt there is some other way out
of it. Push those windows to, Mr. Masefield; there is no reason why we
should be suffocated here."

By closing the windows leading to the smoking-room, which was now a
roaring mass of flame, it was possible to cut off the heat and smoke for
a moment, and perhaps gain sufficient time to discover another means of
retreat.

But this was easier said than done. With the aid of a match or two,
Seymour found the window at the back of the conservatory, which opened
outwards. So far as he could see there was a drop of something like
thirty feet into a kind of alley at the back of the flats.

"We shall have, to wait our chance," Seymour said. "There are several
more flats in the building, and no doubt there will be plenty to do for
the firemen later on. In all probability, Anstruther and Carrington are
mixed up in the crowd which you may be quite sure has collected by this
time. Shall we wait on events, or shall we open the window and yell for
assistance? We can pretend that we were cut off by the fire."

On the whole, Jack thought it would be better to wait. They were quite
safe for the next quarter of an hour, at any rate, and in that time much
might happen.

"It is worth risking." he said. "What a great thing it would be if we
could get away from here without those men knowing that anybody had been
on the premises. Suppose we try our hands as amateur firemen. There is
plenty of water here."

But Seymour did not think it would be worth while. A hose and pipe as
small as that which they had at their disposal would not be likely to be
of much use in dealing with the roaring tornado of flame behind the
closed glass, doors. The conservatory, too, was getting intolerably hot,
but that discomfort was avoided by opening the window. There was just
the outline of a leaded balcony to be seen above the arch of the
conservatory; then, greatly to Jack's delight, he saw the movements of
some figures below, and then a ladder was slowly raised until it rested
against the leads of the balcony.

"That is for the benefit of the people upstairs," Seymour suggested.
"Possibly they cannot make the inhabitants of the upper flats hear
what's going on. So the ladder is quite clear by this time. I expect
those firemen have got in through a window somewhere. Push this window
back, and see if you can reach the ladder."

It was a comparatively easy matter to reach the ladder, as Jack found to
his great delight They slid rapidly down and found themselves at length
in the alley without anybody being a penny the wiser.

"Well, of all the lucky chances," Jack exclaimed. "We are well out of
that. Let us go round to the front and see what is going on there."

A great crowd had assembled in front of the burning flat The red
outlines of a couple of engines could be seen; beyond the crowd there
was a sound and regular rush of pumping water; and presently the crowd
seemed to understand that the danger was over. Jack touched his
companion's arm, and called his attention to the fact that Carrington
and Anstruther were standing within earshot of them.

"And what are you going to do now," asked the latter.

"Oh, I shall go off and stay at the Great Metropolitan. No, you need not
come along, I have had about enough of your company for to-night."

Carrington called a hansom, and was whirled away. Seymour smiled in a
significant manner.

"Wouldn't it be as well," he suggest "that you also found it convenient
pass the night at the Great Metropolitan. Padini is there, too, and it
is possible that you may--"

"Right you are," Jack said eagerly. "Then I can call upon you in the
morning and report progress. Good-night"



XXX.--BEDROOM 14

Jack had not waited to ask any more questions; he had felt quite sure
from Seymour's manner that the latter had some great scheme in hand. It
was was pleasant and exhilarating to feel that a man of Seymour's
wonderful fertility and courage should be enlisted on his side.
Masefield was not without hope that the discoveries of the night were
not yet complete. He strolled away in the direction of the Great
Metropolitan, turning these things over in his mind.

It seemed to him that the clerk in the office of the mammoth hotel
regarded him somewhat suspiciously, seeing that he had arrived without
luggage of any kind, but a deposit of a sovereign soon set the matter
right. It occurred to Jack as good idea to secure a bedroom as near s
possible next to that of Carrington. The hotel was not particularly
busy, he discovered, for nobody had come in inquiring for bedroom
accommodation during the last hour. This was a discovery in itself, for
it testified the fact that Carrington had not yet arrived.

It was nearly an hour before he came, and then he appeared in a
desperate hurry. Discreetly Jack remained in the background, but he was
close enough to hear Carrington arguing and protesting that he must have
a certain room. The matter seemed to be settled amicably at length, and
Carrington took the key and departed. Jack strolled across to the office
again. He had decided on a bold policy. "I am going to ask you to give
me another room." he said. "I want to be as near as possible to the
gentleman who has just gone up-stairs. I think if you do as I ask you it
may save the hotel trouble. What was the number of the room?"

The clerk was friendly enough, and inclined to talk. Was it a police
matter? he asked. Jack responded gravely that he was not in a position
to say too much, but his mysterious manner had the desired effect, and
the exchange was made.

"I haven't put you exactly next to the gentleman," the clerk explained.
"You see our bedrooms are on a sort of cubical system--corridors down
both sides and the bedrooms back to back, if I may so express it--with a
ventilating grating between them for the sake of air. The gentleman's
bedroom is 28, therefore your room, exactly behind it, is No. 14. I hope
I have made myself plain."

Jack replied that the thing was perfectly clear. Indeed, the system was
in considerable vogue on the Continent.

He lingered a little longer in the big lounge hall, where he smoked a
cigarette or two, so as to give Carrington time to get to bed. It
occurred to Jack, in an idle kind of way that perhaps Carrington was
deceiving Anstruther or why had he not come straight to the hotel.
Instead of that, he had evidently gone off somewhere in a desperate
hurry, and had returned at length to the hotel looking very exhausted
and agitated. Jack pondered this matter in his mind as he went up to his
own room.

It was a comfortable enough bedroom, for the Great Metropolitan was
noted for the luxury of its appointments; indeed, the room was fit for
anybody. The lighting was exceedingly efficient; even over the bed was a
pendant, evidently intended for those who cared to read after they
retired to rest. Jack smiled as he noted the elaborate dressing-table
and wash- hand-stand, to say nothing of a huge winged wardrobe, which
was almost as big as a bedroom itself. Behind this wardrobe, fairly
close to the ceiling, was the open grating which formed a ventilating
shaft between one room and the other one behind it.

Jack carefully closed the door, and with the aid of a chair managed to
climb to the top of the wardrobe. He found that the grating was
constructed on the swivel principle, very like a big cheval glass, to
that by tilting it slightly it was just possible to see into the next
room.

In the room aforesaid the lights had not yet been turned down, so that
evidently Carrington had not gone to bed. The watcher could hear him
impatiently pacing the room and muttering to himself from time to time.
The muttering was exceedingly incoherent, but from the gist of it Jack
seemed to make out that Carrington was expecting somebody. On the far
side of the room was a wardrobe very much like the one upon which Jack
was perched, except that it had large plate-glass doors which reflected
practically everything that was taking place inside the room.

Jack could see Carrington now, lounging in a comfortable armchair and
impatiently turning over a great mass of papers which lay on a table
before him. On the table also was a box of cigars, flanked by two
glasses and the necessary ingredients for the manufacture of whiskey and
soda. There could be no longer any doubt about it, Carrington was
expecting a friend. So far as the watcher could see, there was no hurry.
He was quite prepared to sit up all night if necessary, and had no
feelings of delicacy in listening to what the two scoundrels were going
to say, provided always that the expected visitor was a scoundrel, of
which Jack had very little doubt.

As he stood there, his whole mind strained to attention. It seemed to
him hat he could hear the sound of music somewhere. To his trained ear
there was something familiar in the method of the player. Jack wondered
where he had heard that finished execution before. Then it suddenly
flashed upon him.

"How stupid," he muttered to himself. "I had quite forgotten that Padini
was here. That is Padini, without a shadow of a doubt, carrying out the
programme that Anstruther made out for him."

The music was not far off; it seemed to Jack that he could almost hear
the scraping of the bow. It was not lost upon him. however, that the
whole of the pieces were Chopin's compositions. The music ceased
presently with a sudden twang, much as if the E-string had violently
parted. A moment later, by the aid of the friendly mirror, Jack saw
Carrington's door open, and the figure of Padini come in. Carrington
glared at the intruder.

"What do you mean by keeping me waiting all this time?" he growled.
"Didn't you get my telephone message?"

"And hadn't I got my work to do?" Padini retorted. "I dare say you
consider yourself to be an exceedingly clever fellow, but once you elect
to match your wits with Anstruther, you will find yourself a lost man.
It is no use you being in a hurry; as a matter of fact, I should have
kept you a full hour longer, only I have broken my E-string, and I don't
happen to have another one on the premises."

With an angry gesture Padini threw his violin on the table. In a
mechanical sort of way Carrington looked at the severed string. He was
always a suspicious man, for it was an axiom of his never to trust
anybody, and he was wondering now if this were not part of some dodge
being worked out by his visitor. His face grew a little anxious as he
held one end of the broken string between his thumb and finger.

"I suppose you call this a simple fracture," he said. "String worn out,
and all that kind of thing. If you will look at it carefully you will
see that it has been half cut: you can actually see how far the knife
has gone."

Padini examined the string carefully. His face also had grown a little
gray and anxious.

"It is exactly as you say, my friend," he exclaimed. "But I wonder how
that was done, and why. It is not as if I left my violin about, one is
not so careless with a genuine Amati like mine. I brought the fiddle
back with me from my afternoon recital, and I am prepared to swear that
there was nothing the matter with it then. I locked it up in my box, and
there it stayed till a couple of hours ago. Now what does this mean?
Does anybody suspect us? Has Anstruther's clever scheme come to the
knowledge of anybody? The police, perhaps, might have discovered--"

"The police have nothing whatever to do with that," Carrington said
angrily. "What have any of us done to bring ourselves within the reach
of the law--at present? The man that we have most to fear is Seymour.
How you came to let him slip through your fingers the other night is an
absolute mystery to me."

Padini shrugged his shoulders, and something like an oath escaped him.
By aid of the friendly mirror Jack obtained a perfect view of his face.
It was white and sinister; the dark eyes gleamed like living coals.

"But Seymour must be dead," the violinist said hoarsely. "We know he is
dead; did we not read it in the papers? It may be that some friends
stole his body for purposes of their own, but dead he is. If I thought
he was still alive, I should have to leave London; I dare not stay here
with a horror like that hanging over me."

"You are absolutely wrong," Carrington cried. "Seymour is still alive;
he is still in London, thirsting for vengeance. He is rich, he has the
courage of a lion, and the mind of a Machiavelli. You smile, my friend,
but it is the smile of a thoroughly frightened man. Seymour is after
you; he is after me. Look at this. Don't say you fail to recognize it--"

"It is his tobacco pouch," Padini faltered.

"Yes; I thought you would recognise it. And where do you suppose I found
that to-night? In my own room, lying on the floor. Do you want any
greater proof than that, that Seymour was working in my own rooms
to-night?"

Padini nodded moodily. Jack noticed how his hand trembled as he helped
himself to the whiskey and soda.

"I am sick of this," he muttered. "I mean to get out of it, I am as
anxious as you are to get outside Anstruther's influence. That is why I
am here to-night. I am going to tell you my plan--call it murderous and
treacherous if you like, which is the only way of settling Anstruther's
claims upon us. If you have any pluck at all, if there is anything of the
man about you--"

"No. no," Carrington faltered. "I tell you I dare not."

As the speaker broke off. Jack was conscious of something like an
altercation outside his door. The night porter was protesting that
something or other was not his fault; the other man's voice was equally
sure that it was. It did not require much intelligence to discover that
the newcomer wanted that particular room. With a thrill Jack recognized
the voice of Anstruther. In and instant he had made up his mind what to
do. Like a flash he came down from the top of the wardrobe, switched on
the light over the bed, and proceeded softly to unlock the door. There
was a knock on the panel at the same moment. Jack glanced hastily round,
and bundled one or two of his belongings into the wing of the wardrobe.
He had barely time to conceal himself there, before the handle of the
door turned and Anstruther entered.

"You can see it is exactly as I said," the latter remarked. "I engaged
this room an hour ago. It is quite evident that no other guest has taken
this apartment. If he were here, surely there would be a portmanteau, or
a dressing-case, or something of that kind. Take this half-sovereign,
and say no more about it. If there is any fuss I will take the blame."

The man departed; the door was locked behind him, and a moment later
Jack could feel the heavy form of Anstruther climbing to the top of the
wardrobe.



XXXI.--A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

It was impossible, boxed up as he was in the stuffy atmosphere of the
wardrobe, for Jack to hear anything of what was going on in the next
room. But it was pretty easy to guess what was the meaning of
Anstruther's strange intrusion. There was only one thing for it. and
that was to possess his soul in patience and hope that Anstruther had no
intention of spending the night there. It was perfectly obvious that he
had come only with the intention of bearing what was taking place in the
next room. It was impossible for anybody possessed of ordinary intellect
not to admire Anstruther, whose brilliant qualities could not be
ignored. Even now, excited as he was, Masefield could not repress his
admiration for the man he both feared and disliked.

It really was a marvelous thing that Anstruther should be so soon upon
the track of the man with whom he had parted on friendly terms not an
hour ago. Was this the result of some perfect system of spying, or was
it that Anstruther's wonderful instinct led him to believe that
Carrington was ready to plot against him whilst professing to act upon
his advice? Masefield had plenty of time to ponder this question, for
the figure on the wardrobe above gave no signs as yet of having had
enough of it. Nor was Jack's situation rendered more pleasant by the
knowledge that he might have to pass the night in a perpendicular
position and half stifled by the stuffy atmosphere of the wardrobe.

But there was always comfort in the knowledge that Anstruther's main
object was to hear the conversation in the next room. It might possibly
last not much longer; at any rate, Carrington would have to go to bed
some time, and the sooner the better.

An hour passed. An hour which seemed the whole of a long night came to
an end at length, and then there was some sound, as if of a body
cautiously moving overhead. Jack drew a long breath of relief, or at
least as long a breath as was possible, considering his stifling
surroundings. The critical moment had arrived. Had the conference next
door finished, or was it merely an interlude? Jack wondered. He had been
bound to push the door of the wardrobe open a little, and now he saw a
long slit of light. which told him that Anstruther had turned up the
lamps again. He could hear the latter pacing the room in a restless kind
of fashion, and muttering to himself as if he were not entirely
satisfied with what he had heard.

Jack, greatly daring, ventured to push the wardrobe door open slightly
further. He caught the side view of his enemy as the latter sat moodily
on the bed, with apparently no intention of removing his clothing. It
was quite within the bounds of possibility now that Anstruther, having
satisfied himself, would leave the hotel altogether. A moment later and
Jack saw his conclusion was the right one. Anstruther turned toward the
door.

"No reason to stay here any longer," he muttered. "I'm as tired as a
dog. I suppose my nerves are not what they used to be, or perhaps I am
growing old; at any rate, this sort of thing tells upon me more than it
used to. Certainly that half-sovereign of mine was well laid out. Oh,
you contemptible pair of rascals, so you think you are going to get the
best of Spencer Anstruther. We shall see. And as to Padini--"

The speaker shook his fist in the direction of the next room, and walked
quietly in the direction of the door. Jack could hear the key turn in
the lock. He felt a suggestion of draught as if the room were now open
to the corridor. The next instant the lights vanished, and Anstruther
had left the room. Jack crept out into the comparatively pure
atmosphere, and wiped the moisture from his forehead. He preferred to
remain in the darkness till he made up his mind what to do. Looking up
in the direction of the ventilator, he could see that the lights were
now extinguished in Carrington's bedroom. This was plain evidence of the
fact that the conference was concluded, and that there was no occasion
to stay any longer.

"I'll get out of it too." Jack muttered to himself. "It is only a matter
of forfeiting my sovereign, but what I have learned is cheap at the
price; but I shall have to be cautious."

It was perhaps fortunate for Jack that a somewhat large rush of late
guests came into the hotel at the same moment. Most of them were racing
men returning from a big meeting up north. Anyway, the servants appeared
to be particularly busy, so that Jack felt that he could slip away
without any suspicions as to his movements. He waited just a moment till
the corridor was practically empty, then sauntered towards the head of
the stairs with the air of a man who has just come in.

He had practically reached the big square landing, when a bedroom door
opened cautiously, and a man's face peeped out. It occurred to Jack that
possibly this man was looking for something, or that he was going to
deposit his boots outside, or something of that kind. But the stranger,
who was about half-dressed, did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he
raised his finger in a mysterious manner, and then beckoned deliberately
to Jack. He did not appear in the least agitated; on the contrary, his
expression was one of caution and mistrust. Jack, thinking that it might
have been a little play of fancy on his part, would have moved on, only
the stranger stepped briskly outside and touched him on the arm.

"Is there anything I can do for you? Jack asked politely. "I suppose
your bell's gone wrong, or something of that sort; I am quite at your
service."

"Will you be good enough to step inside my room?" the stranger said.
"The request will probably strike you as being somewhat out of the
common, but I really have something important to say to you."

As was quite natural in the circumstances. Jack hesitated for a moment.
Like most people, he had heard and read a great deal about strange hotel
outrages, and it occurred to him now that he might have been chosen for
the victim of one of these. Possibly the stranger was mad, or possibly
he was suffering from alcoholic excesses. But Jack felt more assured as
he carefully examined the features of the stranger. Ha was a tall, slim
chap, who palpably was recovering from some dangerous illness. It was
either that, or he was far gone in consumption. Jack could see that the
mere act of standing there was a weariness of the flesh; he noted also
the attenuated arms, which at one time or another must have been
exceedingly powerful, for the sinews and muscles seemed to hang upon the
bones just like rags.

But it was the face of the man that attracted Jack's attention most. It
was long and lean and pallid: there were thin strips of plaster
skilfully bandaged about the eyes and mouth, and down the sides of the
long hawk-like nose. Still, behind it all, there was even the suggestion
that this man was a sportsman and an athlete. Jack seemed to know by
instinct that his new acquaintance was a man who had passed much time in
warm climates. He began to wonder if the stranger had laid violent hands
upon himself. It was very strange to see all that mass of plaster, as if
the face had been carved in some grotesque fashion with a knife.

"Do please come inside for a moment," the stranger pleaded. "I assure
you I mean no harm, and our conversation may result in a wonderful deal
of good. You evidently regard me as a kind of lunatic. Well, in some
respects, perhaps, you are right; but there is a good deal of method in
my madness."

Jack still hesitated. The stranger sighed bitterly.

"I see I must be candid with you," he said. "I am taking a great risk,
but I am trusting you because I never make a mistake about a face. You
have been closeted for some time in the same room with Spencer
Anstruther, but that you are an accomplice of his I feel sure is
impossible. Now will you come inside my room?"

Jack hesitated no longer. He strode into the room and his new
acquaintance closed the door behind him. The apartment was furnished
half as a sitting-half as a bed-room. A fire burned in the grate, an
invalid armchair was pulled up to one side of it. There was plenty of
proof, also, of the fact that the occupant of the room was an invalid.
Herr were bottles with chemists' labels; here were some cotton wool and
a case of surgical instruments. In one corner of the room was a small
iron bedstead, which was obviously placed there for the use of a male
nurse.

"You are quite right," the stranger said, as if reading Jack's thoughts.
"As a matter of fact, there is no reason why you should have accepted my
invitation at all , one hears of so many strange things happening in
these big modern hotels. As you imagine, I am just recovering from a
dangerous illness, the result of a very delicate operation. But we need
not go into that. What you are dying to find. out is how I know all
about Spencer Anstruther."

"I confess I am a little curious on the point," Jack said dryly. "You
are taking a great risk when you mention his name and assume that I am
no friend of his."

"You couldn't be with a face like yours," the stranger replied. "A dupe,
perhaps, or a man he was making use of, but never one of his infamous
gang. And yet you were in that room with him a long time to-night."

Jack hesitated a moment before he spoke again.

"Look here," he said. "You have been fairly candid with me, and in
return I will be as candid with you. Anstruther is a great scoundrel,
and it is to my interest and to the interests of those I love that the
man should be exposed and rendered harmless for the future. Now, how did
you know that we were in the same bedroom together?"

"That is easily explained," said the other. "My male nurse was suddenly
called away this evening on important business. I have been feeling so
much better the last day or two that I decided to do without a
substitute. Mind you, I knew perfectly well that Anstruther was
frequently in the habit of spending an occasional night here. And I had
my own reasons for keeping out of his way. But something happened to my
bell to-night, and I had to go to the top of the corridor and use the
bell there. It was quite by accident that I saw you enter bedroom No.
14, and it was quite by accident, also, that I heard Anstruther demand
to know why he could not have the same room. I listened with curiosity,
because the thing struck me as very strange. It struck me as stranger
still when I heard Anstruther say that the room was empty, and saw him
close the door behind him.

"A kind of vanishing trick," Jack smiled.

"Well, yes. if you like to put it that way," the other said. "It was
either one of two things, you were there as an accomplice, which I refuse
for one moment to believe, or you had hidden yourself in the room for
the purpose of watching Anstruther. In fact, seeing that circumstances
were going for you. you laid a neat little trap for Anstruther. Have I
not guessed it correctly?"

"Your deductions are perfectly sound." Jack said. "I deliberately chose
that bedroom with the full intention of overhearing what was going on in
the room behind. When I heard Anstruther come in, I hid myself in the
wardrobe and stayed there till he left the room. Now I have told you all
that has happened so far as I am concerned. It is your turn to be
communicative."

"I am exceedingly sorry to appear discourteous," the stranger said; "but
I am afraid I cannot tell you very much. The mere mention of
Anstruther's name always throws me into a kind of terror. I may be able
to help you later on, but for the present I am bound to silence. But
tell me now, do you see any likeness between Anstruther and myself?"

The question was asked with an eagerness that struck Jack as being far
beyond the necessity of so simple a query. The speaker seemed to fairly
tremble for Jack's reply.

"There does not begin to be any resemblance," he said. "The question
strikes me as being a strange one. And now let me ask you a question.
From what you say, you appear to know Anstruther exceedingly well. Now,
did you ever notice his likeness to anybody? You have seen him when he
has been greatly moved to passion, I suppose?"

The stranger shuddered, and turned away his head.

"That is sufficient answer for me," Jack said. "I dare say you have
noticed those strange Nostalgo posters. Did it ever occur to you that
Anstruther is not unlike those pictures?"

The effect of the question was extraordinary. The stranger looked at
Jack with eyes filled with terror.

"Strange, very strange," he muttered hoarsely. "You have hit it exactly.
May I ask, have you ever been in Mexico?"

"No," Jack replied; "but I know a man who has. Did you ever meet an
individual out there called Seymour?"



XXXII.--LADY BARMOUTH'S JEWELS

Jack had merely drawn a bow at a venture, but the shaft went home to the
feather. By instinct he seemed to divine the fact that the stranger who
knew so much of Anstruther's inner life might also know as much as the
man called Nostalgo, otherwise Seymour. This instinct did not play Jack
false, for he saw his companion stagger back as if he had been shot. He
fell into a chair, and plucked feebly at the arms of it with his
fingers.

"You are on dangerous ground indeed," he said hoarsely. "Have you a wife
depending on you, or one you love? If so turn your back upon me at once,
and never see my face again."

It was a warning deep, thrilling and impressive. But Jack merely shook
hit head and smiled. H e had no intention of turning back now.

"I know too much or too little," he said. "Mr. Seymour is by way of
being a friend of mine, in fact, I was the means of doing him a great
service the other night. But I see from the expression of your face that
you know all about that "

"Have you seen Seymour in the daylight, just as he is?" the stranger
asked eagerly. "You know what I mean."

"I know what you mean perfectly well." Jack replied. "I have seen
Seymour just as he is. To make another shot, I have also seen Lord
Barmouth just as he is."

The stranger sat bolt upright in his chair, and regarded Jack with grim
satisfaction; "This is good news indeed," he said. "I am pleased to find
out that I am betraying no secrets in my conversation with you. What I
want you to do is this, I want you to arrange a meeting between Seymour
and myself. It will be dangerous for me to leave the hotel at present,
so that you must arrange it in a way that Seymour can come here."

"If you will be good enough "to tell me your name," Jack suggested. "It
is just possible--"

The stranger shook his head, and hoped that Jack would not deem him
guilty of being discourteous if he withheld his name for the present He
took from a desk a small, curiously-designed ring, and passed it across
to Jack.

"I think you will find that all that is necessary," he explained. "If
you will take that ring and say that if came from the owner, I am quite
sure that Seymour will be willing to fall in with my wishes. And now, I
will bid you good-night, sir. It is good to know that we have a man of
your courage and intelligence on our side."

So saying, the stranger rose to his feet and extended his long, slim
hand to Jack. He intimated that Jack might come and see him from time to
time, but that caution would be absolutely necessary.

"Ask for Jabez Smith," he said. "That is the name under which I am known
here. If you only knew how fortunate a thing it is that we have met
to-night! But Lord Barmouth and Seymour will be able to prove that to
you presently. Once more, good-night."

The door closed behind Jack; be heard the click of the lock, and found
himself alone in the corridor. He could see that there were still many
people smoking and chatting in the big lounge below. The great hall door
was not yet closed, so that it was possible for Jack to slip into the
street absolutely unnoticed. He felt restless and excited, and
absolutely devoid of any desire to rest. Sleep in the circumstances
would be out of the question. It was no use going home, there to toss
and fret all night. It was just possible, too, that Rigby had not yet
left The Planet office, as it was barely 1 o'clock. Anyway, a walk in
the cool night air was bound to prove invigorating. It did not much
matter, however, whether Masefield saw Rigby or not. He could tell him
all this exciting history in the morning.

But Rigby was still in his office, waiting for a proof, after which he
declared he meant to go to the Press Club for supper. It was an
entertaining supper, for Jack's narrative was piquant enough, as he had
so much to tell.

"Well, you have had a night of it." Rigby said enviously. "Who are you
that you should have all the luck like this? Here have I been all the
evening, doing nothing to earn the approval of my proprietor, whilst you
have been getting a t the heart of the mystery. I shall have to divide
my fee with you, Jack."

For a long time they discussed the matter in all its bearings. What
seemed to interest Rigby more than anything else was the scheme proposed
by Anstruther to get Carrington out of his serious position. He saw
great possibilities now that the plan of the bank premises had come into
the possession of the man Seymour, especially as the conspirators were
unaware of this.

"We ought to be able to make a good thing out of this." he said
thoughtfully. "Of course, it will all have to be worked out very
carefully; but I should like to catch those fellows in the trap they
have laid for others. After all, it makes no difference to you how
Anstruther is got out of the way, so long as he receives a good dose of
penal servitude. That once being done, we shall be able to work quite
openly, and it is evident that your new friend Seymour can expound the
whole of the Nostalgo business. I shall get my special article for The
Planet, after all; but it will be more thanks to you than to my own
efforts."

"Well, you needn't tell Van Jens that," Jack laughed. "Give me the
outline of your scheme."

"I want to force Carrington's hand. I want him to understand how
desperate his situation is, so that he and Anstruther must take action
at once. Now, for instance, you tell me you heard "Carrington say
to-night that his bank has a great amount of jewelry in its keeping. Is
that so?"

"They had it in their keeping." Jack said drily.

"Well that is exactly what I mean," Rigby responded. "And Carrington is
in mortal terror lest some great lady should come along at any moment
and demand her gems. You will remember telling me that Carrington was
especially apprehensive over the great masked ball which is coming off
at Lady Barmouth's in two days' time. Do you happen to know any of the
titled women who are asked? If you could get one of them to go round to
Carrington's to-morrow and ask for her gems, why--"

"I see exactly what you mean," Jack cried eagerly. "We should force the
hands of those two scoundrels, and compel them to do something without
delay. By so doing, also, we should upset the delicate schemes of
Anstruther?"

"You have get it exactly." Rigby murmured. "Can you bring this about? It
should be easily done."

"I don't see very well how I can do it myself," Jack responded. "But
Claire knows a great many of these people, and I should think she would
not have the slightest difficulty in doing what we need. Anyway. I'll so
round and see her to-morrow morning, and tell her exactly what has taken
place. Is it all that time? Really. I must go to bed and try and get
some sleep. Good-night."

After all, youth will be served, even in the way of sleep: and Jack was
surprised to find on waking next morning, that it was nearly ten
o'clock. It was nearly twelve before he knocked at the door of the house
in Panton Square and asked to see Claire. It was Serena who answered the
summons, Serena, gray and silent and subdued in the morning light. All
the same, she gave Jack one swift, furtive glance before her eyes sought
the floor again.

"I will go up to the drawing-room myself." Jack said. "So you are none
the worse for your last night's adventure. Serena? Come, you need not
look at me like that, and pretend not to understand. What were you doing
in Mr. Carrington's late last night?"

A sound like a sob broke from Serena, but she answered nothing.

"If you only knew how profoundly sorry I am for you," Jack said softly.
"When the time comes, you will have to speak; and when the time comes we
shall deal with you as kindly as possible. Although you refuse to speak
now, you must not believe otherwise than that. We know everything. We
know, for instance, where you were last night, and we have nothing to
learn as to the deaf mute and he young man who has a fancy to wear his
moustache in the same form as the style affected by the German Emperor."

Serena listened, with her eyes fixed mutely on Jack's face. It seemed to
him that she was bursting with anxiety to speak, but that some strange
force held her tongue and checked her utterance.

"Do not go too far," she said presently. in a strained, hard whisper.
"Not that I mean to threaten you. Believe me, I am all on your side; but
I dare not speak. You may call me coward if you like: you may say that I
have no nerve or courage; but if you had gone through the hell that my
life has been the last few years, you would wonder, that I had the
strength of mind to look even the feeblest fellow creature in the face."

Just at the moment when it seemed to Jack that 8erena was likely to take
him into her confidence, she turned abruptly away, and disappeared in
the direction of he kitchen. Jack went slowly and thoughtfully up-stairs
to the drawing-room, where he found Claire with her hat on ready to go
out. It was clear that she had not expected him, but her welcome was
none the less warm for that.

"I am afraid I shall have to detain you a little time, dearest," Jack
said. "A great deal has happened since I saw you yesterday, and I think
you ought to know most of it. Sit down a moment, please."

Claire sat by her lover's side, and listened intently to the strange
story that he had to tell. It was clear from the expression of her blue
eyes that she was a little fearful for her lover. She clutched his arm
impulsively, and he responded to the touch. It was not difficult for him
to realise what was passing in her mind.

"You need not have any anxiety as far as I am concerned." he said. "Very
fortunately for us, those scoundrels have not the least idea that we
know so much of their movements. But what I came here especially for
this morning was to ask you if you knew anybody going to Lady Barmouth's
dance whose jewels are in the keeping of Carrington's bank? I think I
explained Rigby's point to you. Do you know anybody who could help us?"

"I know one who could help you who is not very far off, dear old boy."
Claire smiled. "You seem to have forgotten that I am rather an important
person in my small way. Did I never tell you of the jewels that my
grandmother left me?"

"I declare I had quite forgotten them," Jack said. "I never care to
associate you with money, especially as I have so little of my own.
Diamonds, weren't they?"

"Diamonds and sapphires," Claire explained. "They are really almost
unique in their way. I generally keep them, on the advice of my
guardian, with Mr. Carrington. Let us go round there now and ask for the
gems."

It is not exactly what Jack had meant, because it occurred to him that
Carrington might easily vamp some excuse so far as Claire was concerned,
and then get Anstruther to invent some reason why the jewels were not
forthcoming. Still it might do, and there was no reason why they should
not try it.

"I was going really to see Lady Barmouth," Claire explained. "But I can
can call in there as we return from the city. Let us have a hansom at
once."

Provincial Bank were reached at length. There was nothing inside or
outside the place to denote that the concern was trembling to the verge
of bankruptcy. Mr. Carrington was not busy, a polite cashier informed
them, and he would be pleased to see Miss Helmsley at once. Jack
followed in behind Claire, and he could not but be impressed by the ease
and assurance of Carrington's manner. The latter did not show the
slightest signs of agitation when Claire explained her presence there.

"Certainly," he said. "You have come, of course, provided with your
guardian's signature. No? I am afraid we cannot dispense with that
formality. Send it on by messenger, and one of our own clerks shall
bring the jewels round. What a delightful morning it is! Good-by."

Jack accepted his checkmate cheerfully enough. It was exceedingly adroit
and clever on Carrington's part and some other method of forcing his
hand would have to be adopted. Jack was bowing himself out, when some
one else came sailing into the room; and, to his great delight, Jack
recognized Lady Barmouth. He divined at once what she had come for and
what her errand was .

"Good-morning, all of you." she cried, gaily. "Mr. Carrington, you will
not thank me for disturbing you this time of the day, but as I happen to
be passing this way I thought I would save trouble. Will you be so good
as to hand me over my jewels?"

Carrington made no answer. His face was pale as ashes.



XXXIII.--GEMS OR PASTE?

It was a dramatic moment, especially for Claire and Jack, who fully
appreciated the peril in which Carrington stood. The fact was not hidden
to them that Carrington's excuse to Claire was but an ingenious way out
of a terrible difficulty. On more than one occasion Claire had herself
fetched her jewels from the bank, but no objections had been raised.
Still, Carrington was clearly within his legal right, and Jack could not
but admire the swiftness with which he had got himself out of the
tangle. His own face was a model of absolute indifference; he just
glanced at Claire to see if she expressed any suspicion. But Claire
smiled in a way so natural and artless that Jack had no fears of her for
the future.

With Lady Barmouth, however, it was quite a different matter. As yet,
she knew nothing of the terrible straits in which Carrington found
himself involved. She had come down for her jewels in the ordinary way,
as she had done many times before, and expected to take them away with
her. Carrington affected to be talking to somebody down the speaking
tube, but in reality he was fighting to gain time and work out some
ingenious excuse. Jack enjoyed his dismay with a feeling of grim
satisfaction.

But Carrington was not quite done with yet; evidently he had not sat at
the feet of Anstruther for nothing. He looked up presently, and smiled
with the air of a man who is only too willing to do anything for his
client.

"Will you take a seat for a moment Lady Barmouth?" he said politely. "I
see that you know Miss Helmsley and Mr. Masefield. I must go and speak
to our cashier for a moment--"

"You cannot get the jewels yourself?" Lady Barmouth asked.

"No," Carrington explained. "Of course, we are bound to take
precautions. I have no more power to open one of the safes by myself
than one of my junior clerks."

"That would be awkward if you wanted anything out of bank hours." Jack
suggested. "How do you manage then?"

"Well, we simply don't manage," Carrington said. He was quite himself
again by this time. "I can no more get into the strong room than you
could. I should have to get the manager and chief cashier before a safe
could be opened."

All this sounded plausible enough, as Jack was bound to admit.
Carrington went off with a jaunty step, as if he had all the millions of
the Bank of England behind him. Jack wondered bow he would get out of
the mess. But the solution of the puzzle was quite easy. Carrington came
back with a look of annoyance on his face.

"I am exceedingly sorry, Lady Barmouth," he apologised. "The fact is,
Mr. Perkins has been called away on important business to our West End
branch. He cannot possibly get back in less than an hour. Do you want
your jewels in such a hurry?"

Lady Barmouth was fain to confess that she didn't. She would not require
them till the following evening; only some time must necessarily be
spent in the cleaning of them.

"Plenty of time for that," Carrington smiled. "I will send a special
messenger in a cab to bring the cases to your house by lunch time. I
hope that will be convenient to you."

Lady Barmouth, innocent of the part which she was playing in the comedy,
replied that that arrangement would suit her exceedingly well; indeed,
she was sorry to give so much trouble. She swept out of the bank parlor,
followed by Jack and Claire. A well-appointed brougham stood outside,
and she smilingly offered her companions a lift.

"I am going to take Claire back to lunch with me." she said. "Can I set
you down anywhere, Mr. Masefield?"

"You can set me down, if you please, on your own doorstep," Jack smiled.
"As a matter of fact, I was just going to see Lord Barmouth, and now I
have something serious to say to you. Were you satisfied just now? About
the jewels. I mean?"

Lady Barmouth looked puzzled as Jack followed her into the brougham. She
saw nothing, so she said, to arouse any suspicions, except that she
thought a needless fuss had been made over her gems. She was still
discussing the matter, when the brougham reached Belgrave Square and the
three alighted. Once they were in the drawing-room, Lady Barmouth turned
to Jack and asked him what he meant. He shook his head doubtfully.

"I am afraid I am going to upset you very much." he said. "But unless I
am greatly mistaken, you are never likely to see your diamonds again."

Lady Barmouth stared open-mouthed at the speaker. She explained that her
diamonds were of great value; indeed, some of the stones were historic.
Those diamonds had often been mentioned in personal paragraphs, which
are such a feature in the modern newspaper, and Jack recollected a
description of them perfectly well. He proceeded to explain. at
considerable length, the history of his last night's adventure. Lady
Barmouth's face grew still more grave when at length the recital was
finished.

"This is a very serious matter." she said. "Do you know this is likely
to cost Lord Barmouth something like fifty thousand pounds? The City and
Provincial Bank does a good deal of business with people well-known in
society, and I am afraid many of us will be involved. What do you
suppose has become of those diamonds, Mr. Masefield?"

"They have been pawned, of course," Jack said. "Carrington has taken
that dreadful risk in the desperate hope of retrieving his position. But
the whole scandal is bound to become public property before eight and
forty hours have passed."

There was nothing for it now but to wait and see what time would bring
forth. Lord Barmouth was not yet down; indeed, his man said that he
would not appear till after luncheon. But there was no lack of animated
conversation in the drawing-room, and the discussion was continued till
the gong rang for lunch.

"I tell you what I think the best thing to do," Lady Barmouth said as
Jack held the drawing-room door open for her. "You are a barrister, and
accustomed to deal with legal matters. If those stones fail to arrive by
half-past two, I will give you my written authority, and you shall take
it to the bank and insist upon something definite; being done."

Luncheon was a thing of the past, and it was getting on towards 1
o'clock, when a cab drove up to the door, and a footman announced the
fact that a gentleman from the City and Provincial Bank desired to see
Lady Barmouth. She returned presently, beaming with smiles, and
announced that Jack had been mistaken; for the gems had not only been
delivered, but had also been handed over to the speaker's maid.

Slightly taken aback, Jack expressed a natural curious desire to see the
stones in question. Lady Barmouth rang the bell, and presently a smart
French maid appeared, bearing four shabby-looking cases in her hand.
They were laid on the table, and Jack suggested that Lady Barmouth open
one of them.

"I see you are still suspicious." she smiled. "Evidently things were not
so desperate with Mr. Carrington as you appear to imagine. What do you
think of those?"

With pardonable pride. Lady Barmouth lifted the cover of one of the
cases and displayed the flashing contents to Claire's admiring eyes. A
livid stream of name dazzled and blinked in the sunshine. Claire's cry
of delight was echoed by an exclamation of astonishment from Lady
Barmouth.

"There is some extraordinary mistake here," she said. "I admit that
these stones are exceedingly beautiful, but, unfortunately, they are not
mine at all. They look to me much more like the property of the Duchess
of Birmingham. I have no pearls or emeralds, my jewels are all diamonds
and sapphires. The cases must have been changed; a mistake easily
accounted for, as they are both green wraps."

But Jack was not in the least convinced. This was some desperate
expedient to lull Lady Barmouth's suspicions to sleep for the time. And
doubtless Carrington had gone off hot-foot to Anstruther, and implored
him to find some way out of the terrible difficulty. Another idea
occurred to Jack, but this he did not dare to mention for the
present--it was too suggestive of a situation from some melodrama.

"I think I can explain the whole thing," he said. "But, first of all, I
should like to take Lord Barmouth's opinion on the matter. Probable he
has finished his own lunch by this time. Will you see if he is ready to
receive me?"

Lord Barmouth was glad enough to see Jack, and welcomed him quite
cordially. Then Jack laid the jewel cases upon the table, and proceeded
to relate once more the story of last night's happenings. He concluded
with a description of his visit to Carrington, and epitomised the
incident of the changed jewels.

"Certainly a most extraordinary thing," Barmouth said. "I rather gather
from the expression of your face that you have some solution to offer."

"Indeed I have," Jack said eagerly. "This is merely a trick to gain
time, and an exceedingly clever trick, too. Carrington had naturally
assumed that we know nothing of his desperate position. If we were in
the dark on that point the mistake would look exceedingly natural. But,
knowing what we do, the situation is entirely changed. I don't believe
those are the Duchess of Birmingham's diamonds, I don't believe they are
diamonds at all--"

"By Jove! You have hit it exactly." Barmouth cried. "What a really
magnificent idea! Carrington has no diamonds; therefore he lays out,
say, a couple of hundred pounds of some showy-looking paste, and sends
them round here as my wife's gems. She, absolutely innocent of any
deception, sends them back and asks to have the mistake rectified. Back
from the bank comes a polite note of regret apologising for the mistake,
and promising the proper stones for to-morrow, the cashier having left
for the day."

"Exactly my idea." Jack cried. "But we can soon settle that, Lord
Barmouth. You have only to telephone to your family jeweler, and ask him
to step round here for a moment"

Barmouth fell in with the suggestion at once, and a telephone message
was dispatched to the famous firm of Flint & Co., in Bond street. Mr.
Flint himself arrived a few minutes later, and the dubious gems were
laid before him. He had not the slightest hesitation in giving his
verdict.

"Paste, my lord." he said briefly, "and pretty poor stuff at that. I can
see that, even in this dim light. See how dull those stones are: Real
gems, even in semi-gloom, shimmer and sparkle, but these don't show up
at all. The whole lot did not cost more than two hundred pounds; in
fact, these things are little better than stage jewels."

"Can you tell us where they come from?" Jack asked.

"Certainly I can, sir," Mr. Flint replied, promptly. "There are
occasions when clients of ours are compelled to exchange the real for
the false. In cases like that we go to Osmond & Co., of Clerkenwell,
where these came from. I hope there is nothing wrong."

Barmouth said politely that the matter could be discussed on a future
occasion. He would not detain Mr. Flint any more for the present, and
the latter bowed himself out of the room.

"What do you propose to do now?" Barmouth asked.

"Well, with your permission, I propose to strike while the iron is hot,"
Jack said. "It is quite evident that this rubbish has been purchased
very recently from Osmond's. If you will allow me to do so, I will go at
once with the cases to Clerkenwell and ascertain the purchaser. If we
can bring Carrington to book promptly, we may recover Lady Barmouth's
jewels yet."

Barmouth had nothing to say except in praise of this suggestion.
Accordingly. Jack set off in a cab for Clerkenwell, where he had no
difficulty in finding the fine business premises of Osmond & Co. He lost
no time in diplomacy, but proceeded to lay the whole matter before the
head of the firm.

"You will see there is something very wrong here." he said. "This
manufacture of yours has been deliberately substituted for some valuable
gems belonging to a lady whose name I am not at liberty to divulge for
the present. Mr. Flint of Bond street says that the paste has been
purchased from you. We have absolute proof of the fact that the stuff
was bought during the past two hours. I shall be glad if you will tell
me the name of the purchaser. I don't suppose the stuff was booked."

Mr. Osmond explained that theirs was practically a cash business, A few
inquiries elicited the fact that the paste had been bought about two
hours before by a tall, slim gentleman, who had driven up in a hansom
cab. There was another gentleman in the cab, but he had not entered the
shop.

"Were the jewels paid for in cash?" Jack asked.

They had not been paid for in hard cash, the cashier explained. The bill
had come to two hundred pounds altogether, and had been made out to a
Mr. Morrison. He had paid for them with twenty ten-pound notes in a most
business-like way, and gone away again, the whole thing not having taken
more than five minutes. Jack suggested that be would like to see the
notes. They were fresh and clean, but across the face of all of them was
a circular blue mark bearing the words "City and Provincial Bank!"



XXXIV.--IN THE VAULT

Here was proof positive enough to convict Carrington of the crime which
had been alleged against him. Nor did Jack doubt for a moment that
Anstruther was at the bottom of this daring and original scheme. The
mere fact that there was another man in the cab with Carrington was
sufficient to prove this point, for nobody else was likely to accompany
the bank manager on so delicate and private an errand. Where the fatal
mistake came in was in Carrington taking the Bank of England notes from
his own safe and ignoring,the fact that the official blue stamp was upon
them.

As Jack stepped into the street he had pretty well made up his mind what
to do. Not for a moment did he believe that Carrington had an accomplice
amongst his own staff. Jack reached the premises of the City and
Provincial at length and asked to see Mr. Carrington. He was told that
that gentleman had suddenly been called out on important business, and
was not expected back to-day. But Masefield was not in the least
disappointed to hear his. There was nothing for it now but to return to
Belgrave Square and tell the Barmouths what had happened. He found Lord
Barmouth in the drawing-room, where the blinds had been pulled down.
Lady Barmouth had gone to an important function which she could not very
well ignore, and had taken Claire along with her. Lord Barmouth listened
gravely to all that Jack had to say.

"I am very much afraid that my wife will have to put up with the loss of
her gems," he said. "No doubt they and many others are pledged with some
great firm of pawnbrokers. The only consolation one has is the
possibility of getting the stuff back by paying half its price over
again. But matters cannot be allowed to rest here. Carrington knows that
he is at the end of his tether; consequently, that clever bogus burglary
you heard discussed last night must take place this evening. What do you
propose to do? In my present unfortunate condition I can't interfere.
The only thing I can do is to leave it entirely in your hands."

Jack went off presently to seek Rigby, whom he found at his rooms. The
latter looked up eagerly, for he could see from his friend's face that
Jack had a great deal to tell.

"There is one little thing that seems to stand in the way of our
ultimate success," Jack said, thoughtfully, "and that is as to Lady
Barmouth's brother. I am afraid that he is in some way mixed up with
this business, to his detriment, I mean. I should not care to do anything
likely to cause additional pain to that estimable lady after all her
great kindness."

Rigby looked up in some bewilderment Apparently he did not quite
understand the drift of Jack's argument.

"I may be very dense." he said, "but I don't follow you. What can Lady
Barmouth's brother have to do with it?"

"Well, you must cast your memory back to the night of the great
adventure, when Lady Barmouth played so courageous a part, and got us
out of a serious difficulty. Do you follow?"

"I think I do now," Rigby said slowly. "Oh. yes; it is all coming back
to me. Lady Barmouth asked Redgrave where her brother was, and Redgrave
replied that he knew nothing about the individual in question. But, my
dear fellow, you have not proved to me yet that Lady Barmouth has a
brother."

"Now you are puzzling me," Jack murmured.

"Not at all. On the night I speak of Lady Barmouth had to act on the
spur of the moment. It was necessary to gag a bit to play for an
opening. You are taking too much for granted. If Lady Barmouth has a
brother, you will probably find that he has nothing to do with this
matter. In any case, why worry about him to-night? We seem to have a big
adventure before us so far as I can gather from what you have just told
me. And if you are still in doubt, it will be quite an easy matter to
see Lady Barmouth in the morning, and ascertain from her whether or not
our proposed line of action is likely to do any harm. I don't suppose
that Lady Barmouth knows or cares anything for Redgrave, who appears to
be a kind of sottish tool of Anstruther's."

"Quite right" Jack agreed. "And now, come along and let us set the ball
rolling again. I think that I have told you everything. And now we will
go off without delay, and see Seymour, the man I told you about who was
with me last night."

Rigby assented to the suggestion eagerly enough, and together they set
out in the direction of Seymour's rooms. There was not much chance of
the latter being out, seeing that he had his own cogent reasons for not
facing the daylight, and surely enough it turned out as Masefield had
expected.

Seymour was dawdling over his tea with a cigarette and a French novel, a
bored expression on his face. That face, however, became eager and
animated as Jack came in and introduced Rigby to his host.

"Things are beginning to move rapidly then," Seymour exclaimed. "Your
face speaks of action, Mr. Masefield. Is it about Carrington? You have
discovered something fresh."

"I think I have discovered pretty well everything," Jack replied. "I
have managed to force that fellow's hand. Just as Rigby suggested I
should. He has consulted Anstruther, as we knew he would; and a pretty
scheme for gaining time they evolved between them. But perhaps I had
better tell you everything."

Seymour pitched his French novel aside, and his intelligent face beamed
with animation. The story was told at length, and Seymour warmly
congratulated the speaker upon his astuteness and intelligence. "If
Carrington's good name is to be saved at all, that bogus burglary must
take place to-night."

"By the way:" Jack exclaimed. "There is one thing I quite forgot to tell
you? that is the little adventure I had last night at the Great
Metropolitan Hotel. I found an invalid gentleman there--or, at least, he
found me--who seems to know all about Anstruther and his movements. He
knows you, too; indeed, he seemed to be overjoyed that you are in
England. He had some hesitation in mentioning his own name, but he said
that if I gave you a certain ring which is now in my possession, you
would understand everything."

Jack laid the ring upon the table, and Seymour pounced upon it like a
hawk would pounce upon a mouse. A grim smile played about the corners of
his mouth; but, self-controlled as he was, he could not altogether hide
his feelings.

"Tell me all that happened with my friend last night," he asked. "It has
an important bearing on this case."

Jack proceeded to explain, Seymour listening in an attitude of rigid
attention.

"This is the best news I have heard for some time," he said. "You can
make your mind quite easy on one thing--Anstruther has nearly shot his
bolt. After to-morrow I will get you to arrange a meeting between myself
and my old friend at the Great Metropolitan Hotel. Meanwhile, there is
much to be done. It is quite certain that great things are going to
happen at the City and Provincial Bank to-night. I think we shall have a
pleasant little surprise for Anstruther & Co."

Seymour rose, and took a roll of tissue paper from a small safe in the
corner of the room.

"These are the plans of the City and Provincial Bank." he
explained--"the plans that came so luckily into our hands last night. I
have studied them very carefully. As a matter of fact, I did not come
straight home last night, but passed the hours till nearly daylight
prowling about the bank. Without the plans, my scheme would be quite
futile; but I think now that, I have the whole thing very prettily
mapped out. Just come and look at them with me. It is really very
simple."

As Seymour had said, the plan was simplicity itself. It not only gave a
very intelligent idea of the situation of the vaults and strong rooms,
but also the back premises and the lanes behind were clearly marked.

"Now I want you to follow this very carefully," Seymour.went on. "We can
ignore the front of the building altogether, because that faces on
Gresham Street. Here the police pass the same premises every three
minutes, so that nobody could force an entrance that way, not even the
would-be burglars with their keys. But if you look at the rear of the
place, you will see that there is a small alley leading out of
Farringdon Lane, and this alley ends by a kind of back entry into the
bank which is used by the caretaker. I have ascertained that there are
two night watchmen, so that there is not much danger of trouble. By the
side of this door is a small window, the latch of which I have
ascertained to be defective.

"I suppose no one has ever troubled to see to this, for the simple
reason that, admission to the bank premises by no means implies getting
to that part of the building which is devoted to business purposes. Not
that we particularly want to penetrate very far, because it is our
scheme to watch what is going on, so that we may be able to confront the
scoundrels when the proper time comes. A careful examination of these
plans shows me that shall be able to get as far as the bank proper,
which means the counting house,and from thence down the steps to the
vaults where the strong rooms are situated."

"Have you got keys of all these?" Jack asked.

"There will be no necessity for us to provide keys," Seymour chuckled.
"You see, Anstruther & Co. will be bound to enter the bank from the back
premises. By learning this plan off by heart, we come to know exactly
which way they will get to the vaults. Of course, they will come
provided with keys, Carrington will see to that. All we have to do is to
hide under a counter or something of that sort, and wait till our
friends come along. Naturally, they will not dream that anyone is on the
premises besides themselves. As to the rest, you must leave that to me
and fortune. You had better stay here and dine, and we can set out for
the city about eleven o'clock."

It seemed to both Rigby and Masefield that it would be impossible to
improve upon this plan. They dined comfortably and discreetly, and it
was somewhere about half-past eleven when they turned their faces in the
direction of the city. No one appeared to notice them, for they walked
rapidly along, with the air of men who had business before them, and the
police appeared to be few and far between. They came at length to the
little alley at the rear of the bank and here it behoved them to be
cautious. They waited till the beat of the policeman's feet died away
down the lane, and then they darted down the dark entry. Seymour
produced a tiny electric torch from his pocket

"There is the window," he whispered. "I am going to get on your
shoulders, Mr. Rigby. Once I am through, I can pull you others up. There
is no sort of danger."

"Oh, but there is," Jack protested. "You have utterly forgotten one
thing--did you not tell me there were two night watchmen on the
premises?"

Seymour chuckled, and was understood to say that they would find
Anstruther had removed that difficulty for them. Seymour seemed so sure
of his ground that Jack waived his protest. A minute later Seymour was
through the window, and the others followed swiftly. Rather recklessly,
or so it seemed to Jack. Seymour waved his electric torch to as to form
a line of light in front. He smiled grimly as he pointed to two
unconscious figures reclining back as if hopelessly drunk in a pair of
deep armchairs. They came so suddenly upon the unfortunate victims that
Jack fairly started. But so far as Seymour was concerned, he had
appeared to have expected something of the kind. He again chuckled
hoarsely.

"What did I tell you?" he asked. "Did I not say that Anstruther and Co.
would very kindly get the caretakers out of the way for us. You see, the
caretakers would have been just as much of a nuisance to them as they
are to us. They have been carefully hocussed, and not until an alarm is
given in the morning will they be in a position to say anything."

The last danger being apparently removed, the trio proceeded to make
their way to the bank premises proper, and there made themselves as
comfortable as possible under one of the counters in the counting house.
It was very quiet there, so quiet that they could hear the tramping
footsteps of the police outside and the singing of some belated reveler.
They lay there till they heard the great clock of St. Pauls strike the
hour of one. There was a sound then of heavy footsteps tramping along
the corridor, and presently a great blaze of light filled the counting
house. It was perfectly safe, for the heavy iron shutters excluded every
ray from the outside. Seymour rose, cautiously, then ducked his head
again.

"Just look," he whispered. "Make sure who it is."

Rigby raised his head cautiously, too. The light fell full upon the face
of the intruder, the white, stern face of Anstruther.

"Now tor it," Seymour whispered. The play is about to begin."



XXXV.--THE CELLINI PLATE

So far as Anstruther was concerned, he might have been going about his
usual business. He evidently had no fear on the score of interruption,
and, indeed, there was little cause, seeing that the bank was so
substantially built, and that from top to bottom the windows were
protected with iron shatters.

"There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of," he said. "Good gracious,
man, have you no pluck at all? I declare, when I look at you that I
could kick you as one does a cowardly cur."

But Carrington was impervious to insult. His face was ghastly, and the
strong glare of the electric lights showed the beads of moisture upon
his forehead.

"It is all very well for you," he growled. "The greater the danger the
better you seem to like it."

"There isn't any danger," Anstruther protested. "Didn't you tell me that
the police had no special orders as far as the bank was concerned? And
everybody knows you have two night watchmen. Besides, oh. I have no
patience with you!"

Anstruther turned away from the other, and began to fumble with the lock
of a small black bag which he carried in his hand. He signified to
Carrington that the latter should I lead the way to the vaults below.
Carrington produced a bunch of keys from his pocket. Anstruther sneered,
openly.

"Oh, that's it," he said. "Going to make it all smooth for us, are you?
Of all the fools I ever came across. Why not go outside and tell
everybody what we are going to do? Those are all patent shove locks,
which the most expert thief could never pick, and you are going to tell
the police later on that they have been opened with an ordinary key?
Don't forget that you have got to face the police later on, and endure a
cross- examination that will test your nerve to the uttermost. We are
going to blow those locks up, and these are dynamite cartridges to do
it."

Carrington's face was almost comic in its dismay. His ghastly,
sweat-bedabbled face fairly quivered. But he made no further protest; he
bent before the sway of Anstruther's master mind.

"I don't wish to interfere with you," he stammered. "But the infernal
noise which is likely to--"

Anstruther kicked his companion aside.

"We either do it or we don't do it," he said. "It doesn't matter a rap
one way or the other to me. Now which is it to be?"

Carrington hesitated no longer. He simply submitted himself entirely to
the hands of his companion. In a dazed, fascinated kind of way he
watched Anstruther insinuate a dynamite cartridge of minute proportions
into the lock of the door. Then Anstruther drew Carrington back as far
as possible, and the tiny fuse began to work. There was just a tiny
spurt of blue flame, followed by a muffled shock, and the door fell
slowly back.

"There!" Anstruther cried triumphantly. "What do you think of that? Do
you suppose that noise was heard outside? Now come on; let us serve them
all alike."

The sound of their footsteps came to the ears of those watching in the
counting house, and at frequent intervals the sullen explosions could be
heard. Seymour rose to his feet, and whispered to his companions to
follow. They crept cautiously along the flagged stairway until they
reached the vault in which the two strong rooms were situated. A couple
of electric lights gave sufficient illumination for the purpose of the
amateur burglars, who were now busily engaged on the locks of the strong
room.

This was altogether a different business to blowing in the lock of an
ordinary door, for the entrance to the strong room was secured with six
bolts, all of which would have to be destroyed.

It was possible to find a secure hiding-place in the thick darkness
outside the radius of the two electric lights. It was an interesting
moment, and even Seymour was conscious of a sensation of excitement.

"Stand back," Anstruther said. "Everything is ready. You had better lie
down on your face, as I am using six charges now instead of one. If they
all go off together the thing will be accomplished to our mutual
satisfaction."

The hint was not lost upon the listener. There was a moment of intense
excitement and then came a dull, heavy roar, that seemed to shake the
building almost to its foundations. Almost before the reverberations had
died away, the huge door of the room swayed with a zig-zag motion, and
came smashing on the floor. "There!" Anstruther cried triumphantly.
"What do you think of that, my friend? I flatter myself that that is a
real workmanlike job. All you have to do now is to keep a stiff upper
lip, and give the police all the information they require. Anything of
value inside?"

"Not very much, I am afraid," Carrington responded. "A fair amount of
old family plate, and perhaps twenty or thirty thousand pounds' worth of
securities. I suppose we had better leave all that there; look better,
don't you think?"

"Leave your head there," Anstruther sneered. "Now I put it to you, as a
man supposed to be possessed of sense, would any thief leave a single
item of value behind?"

Anstruther asked the question with a contemptuous curl of his lip. He
was wiping his hands now on a piece of greasy cotton waste in which the
dynamite cartridges had been wrapped to prevent contact.

"This is going to be a unique sort of burglary." he continued. "Trot out
what you've got in the way of plate, and I'll take my pick of it as a
kind of fee in reward for my night's service. If there is one soft place
in my heart it is for antique silver. Take your time, we are not in the
least likely to be interrupted."

With his coat off and his shirt sleeves turned up. Carrington set to
work in earnest. Once he had plunged headlong into the business, he
seemed to have lost all his nervousness and hesitation. One after the
other the great wooden cases were turned out and examined by Anstruther
as eagerly as a schoolboy pores over something new in the way of a
bird's nest. Presently he held aloft a magnificent specimen of a silver
dish. It was perfectly plain; fine old hammered silver, bearing a quaint
design around. the edge.

"Benvenuto Cellini for a million," he cried. "Dish and ewer, together
with a set of the finest posset cups I've ever seen. How much over ten
thousand pounds would this fetch at Christie's? Well, I'm very sorry for
the late owner, hut exceedingly pleased so far as I am concerned. I'll
take this for my fee, Carrington."

The two dived into the strong room again, where they appeared to be
overhauling other boxes of treasure. The gleams of the electric light
fell upon the service of plate which Anstruther had so greatly admired.
By its side, in strange contrast, laid a piece of cotton waste with
which Anstruther had wiped his hands a minute or two before. Without a
word of warning to his companions. Seymour darted across the floor of
the vault; and, seizing the cotton waste, proceeded to rub it vigorously
over the surface of the service of plate which Anstruther had marked
down for his own.

His conduct was so unexpected and so peculiar, that jack and Rigby could
only look at one another in astonishment. They did not know in the least
what to make of this extraordinary maneuver on the part of their
colleague. But there was evidently method in his madness; he was not in
the least likely to run the risk of detection to gratify an apparently
meaningless whim. He was back again an instant later, and Jack could
hear him chuckling to himself as if he had accomplished something quite
out of the common. He seemed to feel that some explanation was
necessary.

"I dare say you thought that peculiar," he said; "but you will
understand all in good time. I didn't go out of my way to spoil
everything for the mere sake of playing amateur housemaid."

Apparently the task which Anstruther and Carrington had set themselves
was finished by this time, for they came out of the strong room
empty-handed. All the same, their figures appeared to be pretty bulky,
and doubtless their pockets were well filled with illicit gain.

"But you don't mean to carry that stuff home," Carrington protested.
"Well-Known as you are, it would be an act of criminal folly to carry
that plate through the streets at this time of the morning. As to
myself--"

"But have you no private safe of your own?" Anstruther asked. The same
remark you made to me just now applies to you. Is there anything more to
wait for?"

Carrington disappeared within the strong room again for a last look
around, followed by Anstruther. They had no sooner disappeared than
Seymour was on his feet again, making hurriedly for the stairway leading
to the counting house. He had not been gone many seconds before there
came stumbling noisily down the stairs the form of one of the night
watchmen, rubbing his eyes drowsily, and asking what was going on. It
was quite evident to Rigby and Jack that Seymour had deliberately
aroused the sleeping man for some subtle purpose of his own. The man
cried out again to know what all this meant, and Carrington and
Anstruther came darting from the strong room.

"By heaven! He has come to his senses," Anstruther muttered. "I thought
that dose was quite strong enough. I am very sorry, but seeing that he
has learned so much?"

There was murder in Anstruther's eyes, and Carrington saw it. Still
dazed and stupid from the result of the drug, the watchman was gazing
about him like a man just emerging from a heavy bout of intoxication. It
was evident that he did not recognise his employer, though senses and
reason were fast coming back to him. As he staggered towards the strong
room door a murderous look crept into Anstruther's eyes again, and
something bright gleamed in his hand. Carrington hastened forward.

"No, no," he cried hoarsely. "I will have none of that I have gone too
far already. I could bear with imprisonment, but the mere thought of a
noose round my neck--"

He almost staggered up to the dazed watchman, and shook, him violently.
The latter seemed to comprehend at length.

"Wake up. Gregory," Carrington stammered. "There has been a burglary
here. I had occasion to come down to the bank for something, and found
that the premises had been broken into. Go for the police."

Anstruther studied the watchman's features with broody, malignant eyes.
His quick brain was working rapidly. It was quite evident that the
watchman had not yet fully grasped the situation. It would be some time
before he could find a policeman and give him a fairly coherent account
of what had happened.

"Not a moment to be lost," he cried. "Let us go upstairs at once to your
room and lock all this stuff up in your private safe. No one will think
of looking for it there. Now don't say you haven't got the key with
you."

Carrington nodded breathlessly, and immediately Anstruther began to pack
up the Cellini service of plate which had so greatly fascinated him.

"Come on at once," he said. "Let us get this stuff in hiding, and then
we can face the police."

They had only to don their coats again and make their way as soon as
possible to Carrington's private room. As they passed up the stairs
Seymour signed to his companions to follow.

They were only just in time, for as they emerged into the alley the
watchman was returning with the constable. They squeezed close against
the wall, securing the friendly cover of the darkness, and a moment
later they were in Gresham Street.

"What is to be done next?" Rigby said.

"I think that is pretty obvious," Seymour chuckled. "So far as I can see
this is a nice little job for inspector Bates."



XXXVI.--A STROKE OF POLICY

Jack nodded significantly to his companion. as much as to signify that
Seymour must be allowed to have his own way. The latter had taken the
thing into his own hands from the first. It was quite evident that he
was working out some deep and subtle scheme, and the others were
disposed to give him a free hand.

"Would you like to see Bates now?" Jack asked.

"Most emphatically not," Seymour laughed. "It is no cue of mine to come
in contact with the police until I have seen my way quite clear.
Besides, you are by no means certain yet that Bates will be put on to
this case, and be given the opportunity of investigating the startling
burglary at the City and Provincial Bank. Again, it may be too much or
Bates' nerves if I burst upon him suddenly, and he recognizes me as the
dead Nostalgo who was so mysteriously spirited from Shannon street
police station. No; on the whole, I should prefer that you should go and
see Bates alone. Tell him exactly what happened and what you saw
to-night, leaving me out of the question. Then come and see me some time
to-morrow afternoon, and I will tell you what to do next."

"One moment," Rigby exclaimed, as Seymour was turning away. "What was
that idea of yours about the cotton waste?"

Seymour winked significantly, and remarked that it was time be was in
bed. With a cheery nod to his companions, he turned his face in an
easterly direction and strolled off down the street.

"Now there's a clever man for you." Rigby cried. "Quite as clever a man
as Anstruther, and I should say a great deal more subtle. But let us go
as far as Shannon Street police station, and tell Bates our story."

Bates had been detained rather late. He had only just come in, and was
preparing to go home when the two friends entered. He had no need to ask
if they had anything of importance to communicate to him, he could glean
that from the expression of the friends' faces. He led the way to his
private room, and passed the cigarettes across the table.

"It's about Carrington," Rigby explained. "But perhaps I had better go
back a bit, and tell you one or two little things you don't know."

It was a fairly long story, and it thoroughly aroused Bates to a sense
of action. His questions were clear and intelligent: he followed the
narrative, punctuating it here and there with shrewd suggestions.

"Mind you," he said. "I have been expecting something like this for a
long time. All the same, I can see that you gentlemen have only told me
half the story. 8till, I can't complain, especially as I see my way to
make a good thing out of this. When I tell the people at Scotland Yard
all I know they are pretty sure to put me on the case--indeed, I will
make a special favor of it. You say you saw Anstruther blowing up all
those locks, and you are pretty sure that the great bulk of the plunder
is in Carrington's private safe. You don't suggest that Anstruther
carried that service of plate home with him?"

"Anstruther wouldn't be such a fool," Rigby said curtly. "He is much too
cool a hand for that. He will feel quite sure that the stuff is
perfectly safe where it is, and fetch it away from the city a bit at a
time. Of course, he won't do all this till the affair has blown over and
he is quite safe in so doing."

Bates was inclined to share the speaker's opinion. There was no more to
be said for the present, and he intimated his intention to go up to
Scotland Yard and ask the authorities to put him on the case. Jack and
Rigby went their respective ways, a clock somewhere striking two when
they parted at length.

Precisely as Bates had prophesied, the mysterious burglary at the City
and Provincial Bank caused the greatest sensation the following morning.
The later editions of the evening papers were full of it. Carrington had
been interviewed by more than one bright reporter; indeed, he had been
dragged out of bed for the purpose, and he had been understood to say
that the bank's loss could not fall far short of a million dollars
unless the thieves could be promptly arrested. The story was vividly
told, Carrington's distress and agitation being expressly accentuated.

But this was not the worst part of the distracted bank manager's story.
There had been in the possession of the bank a tremendous lot of
valuable personal property belonging to various esteemed clients. All
this had disappeared, and more than one great lady in London was
mourning the loss of her family jewels. The greatest sympathy was felt
with the bank: it was only one or two carping critics who were asking
questions.

They were pertinent questions, too; a desire, for instance, to know what
Carrington could possibly be doing on the bank premises at so late an
hour. But these were merely pin pricks, and the great bulk of the
population felt nothing but sympathy for Carrington. The only people who
had a fairly good grip of the real state of the case besides Rigby and
his companions were the Barmouths and Claire Helmsley. Jack saw Claire
in Lady Barmouth's drawing-room late the following morning, and
explained to her and Lady Barmouth what had happened the night previous.

"It is most mysterious." Claire said, "and almost impossible to believe
that my guardian had anything to do with the matter. I dined very
quietly at home last night, and sat up till long past one finishing a
novel in which I was deeply interested. I can assure you of this? that
from half-past nine till the time I went to bed Mr. Anstruther's violin
practically did not cease. If I were brought into the case as a witness,
I should be bound to swear that my guardian was in his study during the
whole time that the burglary was taking place."

"That is another phase of the mystery that we have to solve." Jack said.
"It is all very clever and very ingenious and very useful, but seeing is
believing. After all, Anstruther was there last night, as three of us
are prepared to testify."

"Then in that case I shall never see my jewels again," Lady Barmouth
said. "But what are the police going to do about it. Mr. Masefield? The
thing cannot be possibly allowed to remain here. If they were to arrest
Mr. Carrington at once and search his safe--"

"But the police don't work quite in that way." Jack interrupted.
"Besides, Carrington is not the only one. The chief villain in the play
is Spencer Anstruther; and at the present moment he is in a position to
prove a perfect alibi. It is not the slightest use laying Carrington by
the heels till we are in a position to prove Anstruther's alibi to be
nothing but an ingenious mechanical fraud. Don't you recollect the case
of the Phoenix Park murders? In that case the police could have laid
their hands upon half the culprits within a few days. They preferred to
wait months, until every one of the gang were swept up in the meshes of
the law. I will go and see Bates presently, and ascertain if he has
anything fresh to tell us."

It was quite late in the afternoon before Jack managed to get a few
words with the inspector. He seemed to be very cheerful and sanguine,
and dropped a hint to the effect that this morning had not been
altogether wasted.

"Oh, we are going on, right enough," he exclaimed in answer to Jack's
question. "In the circumstances, they can do nothing else. Most of my
morning has been spent in calling on the various unfortunate people
whose valuables were deposited at Carrington's bank, and getting a full
description of the same. After that I made the rounds of the principal
pawnbrokers and such people a s advance money on real property."

"Did you find anything of the missing stuff?" Jack asked eagerly. "I
mean, did you see any of it?"

Bates explained that up to now he had been successful in three
instances. He knew where to lay his hands upon the tiara of diamonds
that had only been deposited with Carrington four days ago.

"It belongs to one of our fashionable society leaders," he explained,
"and really is a most magnificent piece of work. Mind you, Carrington
must have been a great fool, or he must have been desperately pressed
for money, to pledge these things in London. He could have sent them to
Amsterdam or Paris, where they could have been broken up and disposed of
in such a manner that it would have been impossible to trace them. This
might have entailed a financial sacrifice, but see how safe it would
have been. I feel pretty sure that within the next two days I shall
trace every atom of the lost property."

"But is it usual to pledge such valuable jewels in this casual way?"
Jack asked.

"Certainly it is. The thing has been done over and over again. In a
great many instances the lady does not go through the ordeal herself,
but sends a maid or some confidential servant with a note addressed to
the pawnbroker, and asks for £10,000, or whatever it may be. That is how
this business has been worked."

"But the pawnbrokers?" Jack protested. "When they come to see a list of
the missing jewels a full story must be told."

Bates admitted the ingenuity of the suggestion. It was just possible
that there was danger in that direction. Still, as be pointed out, no
one could blame the pawnbrokers for not recognizing from a bald printed
description certain gems pledged at their establishments.

"But I think you can leave that safely to me," he said. "There is
nothing to prevent me from applying for a warrant for the arrest of
Carrington, and producing all that damning evidence from his private
safe: but by doing this we are practically allowing a greater ruffian to
escape."

Jack cordially agreed with this view of the case. He proceeded to speak
at some length as to what he had seen and heard the night before last in
Carrington's smoking room.

"You must not forget," he said, "that the man who was with me on that
occasion is in possession of the duplicate plans of the bank cellars."

"Oh, no," Bates cried, "I have not overlooked those plans: in fact, I
particularly wish to have a glance at them. And, by the way. sir, you
appear to be very reticent over the name of the companion who was with
you on that important occasion."

"We will merely call him Seymour," Jack said, cautiously.

Bates smiled in a queer, significant kind of way.

"I will be more candid with you than you are with me," he said, "though
you have told me more than you intended. Now, tell me if my suspicions
are correct, is not this 'Seymour' and our missing Nostalgo one and the
same person? It is a mere deduction on my part, but--"

"I suppose I had better admit it at once," Jack said. "Besides, you are
bound to know sooner or later. Why not come with me and see Mr. Seymour
now?"

Bates replied that he would be only too delighted. They set off together
without delay, and presently found themselves at Seymour's residence.
The latter was doing something mysterious with a file and pair of
handcuffs, both of which he threw aside as his visitors entered. He
extended his hand cordially to Bates.

"I am not in the least surprised to see you, inspector." he said. "In
fact. I rather wanted to do so. Now. frankly speaking, are you not a
little puzzled to know how to lay Anstruther by the heels?"

"We will come to that presently, sir," Bates said quietly. "I shall be
glad in the first place to know what hold Anstruther has on you
gentlemen who have so suffered at his hands. Anstruther is a
blackmailer, I know . But you are a man of pluck and courage, why can't
you fight him in the open? I can quite understand that there are others
broken in health and spirit who dare not have their story told and
dragged before the diabolical curiosity of the cheap press. But in your
case, why, it seems, to me--"

"Yes, yes." Seymour interrupted. "But suppose you have a dear friend in
whom you are interested? And that friend had done somebody a great
wrong? And supposing that Anstruther knew all this? My friend is poor,
but I am not. Let us go farther and grant my friend a daughter? a
beautiful girl who is just coming to the front in the world of art. She
is passionately attached to her father; any disgrace to him would break
her heart. And it is in my power to save this dear child by letting
Anstruther believe that both myself and others who have suffered are
afraid of him. Surely you have heard of many such cases, Mr. Bates?"

Bates nodded. The field was clearing wonderfully.

"You will pardon me," he said. "It was stupid of me not to think of that
before. The blackmailer generally strikes through the innocent. But
another question. Why did Anstruther publish those Nostalgo posters at
all?"

"There, to a certain extent, you have me," Seymour confessed. "You see,
it is only recently that we Nostalgos have drifted together in London.
We must give Anstruther credit for having discovered them. Mind you,
there may be many others who have,suffered, and are now hiding in
silence. They would be nerveless wrecks for the most part. Anstruther
probably wanted to let them know that the terror was not dead. You see,
it is like the sign of some secret society, reminding members of the
long arm. But who can say what was uppermost in the mind of Anstruther?
Suppose that the whole dramatic thing had failed in its purpose? What
then? Why, Anstruther would have probably turned the posters to some
business purpose, a new soap, a novel kind of pill, why, many business
houses would gladly buy the reversion of the Nostalgo posters, and make
a good thing out of them. I may be wrong, but that is my view. Besides,
how are we to know how many other Nostalgos have not dropped into
Anstruther's net through those diabolical posters?"

"It is possible you are right," Bates admitted. "Nothing seems to be
impossible in the way of crime. But as to Anstruther?"

"I have a heavy debt to pay him," Seymour said, with a ring in his
voice. "And I am in a position to show you how you can lay him by the
heels. I presume my friend Masefield has told you everything. That being
so, all you have to do is to open Carrington's private safe, and
carefully remove a service of Cellini plate which you will find there.
When I say carefully, I mean carefully? the thing is not to be fingered.
Take it away to the police station, and place it in your glass case.
Then, if you follow my advice, within eight and forty hours I pledge you
that you shall have evidence against Anstruther as clear and convincing
as if it had come from Heaven itself."

A silence followed, so impressive was Seymour's speech. Then Bates, who
appeared to be utterly puzzled, promised that the thing should be done.
At the same moment there was a sound of an altercation on the outer
landing, and a hoarse voice was heard asking some imperative question.
The voice struck familiarly on Jack's ears. He glanced significantly at
Bates.

"The very man himself!" he cried.

"Yes, Anstruther," Seymour said, in his deep, ringing voice. "Friend
Anstruther. Shall we ask him in?"



XXXVII.--A PREGNANT MESSAGE

There was no mistaking the fact that it was Anstruther who was standing
outside and speaking in tones which denoted that he was not altogether
pleased with himself. It might have been a coincidence, or, at the same
time, it might have been intentional; though the latter suggestion did
not appear probable.

"Surely he can't have found us out yet," Jack cried. "If he had done so
it would hardly be policy to make so much noise about It. What do you
think. Mr. Bates?"

Bates responded cautiously that he did not know what to think. The real
solution came from Seymour.

"There is no coincidence about it at all." he said. "We know perfectly
well that Anstruther is a clever criminal, but even clever criminals
cannot bring off important campaigns without the aid of subordinates. I
have not taken up my quarters here entirely by accident, though, of
course, it was necessary for me to be as far off the beaten track as
possible. I have seen Anstruther here on more than one occasion, and I
think that you will find he has come to consult one of his satellites."

"There must be a good few shady people here." Bates observed, "though I
don't know much about the locality."

Seymour explained that there were plenty of doubtful characters living
in the tenement. He suspected at least three burglars who had rooms on
the same floor. Probably Anstruther was looking for one of these, and
for some reason or other the fellow had denied himself. The loud tones
had ceased now, and it was evident that Anstruther had either left the
house or found the man of whom he was in search. The discovery, however,
was too important to be allowed to rest like that, and Bates had a
proposition to make. He suggested the advisability of putting one of his
own spies on to watch Anstruther and keep an eye upon him for the rest
of the day. There would not be the slightest uncertainty about this,
seeing that Anstruther was so well known to the police generally.

Bates crept carefully away, and returned presently with the information
that Anstruther was still on the premises.

"I met one of my men in the street," he explained. "He was just back
from a job this way, and spotted Anstruther coming in here. Our friend
is not likely to shake off the fellow that I have put upon his track.
Meanwhile, we are wasting time here."

Seymour was decidedly of the same opinion. A minute or two later the
trio made their way into the street, leaving Seymour alone. He had been
informed by Bates that he would be kept posted of Anstruther's movements
by means of special messenger, and that his services would be called
upon if necessary. Thus assured, Seymour went back to his mysterious
business with the handcuffs and file, quite content to wait till his
time came.

It was quite dark before the first message arrived. Anstruther had
stayed where he was till seven o'clock, after which he had gone out and
called at a neighboring shop, which was kept by a man engaged in the
occupation of making brass plates. This, so the message said, was merely
a blind for the manufacture of the finest specimens of burglars' tools.
Anstruther had entered the shop with nothing in his hand, but had
emerged presently carrying a small square parcel which might have been a
picture frame. Thus encumbered, he had returned to the tenement, and was
now closeted in the set of rooms below Seymour's with a man called
Gillmore, otherwise "Simple Charlie," a cracksman who stood quite at the
head of his profession.

Seymour's eyes gleamed as he glanced over the letter. He felt that he
must be up and doing something. It occurred to him as a good idea to
make an attempt to be present at the interview between Anstruther and
his confederate. It was absolutely dark now, so that Seymour had no
hesitation in raising his sitting-room window, which faced the back of
the house, and seeking to find some means of entering the set of rooms
below. So far as he could see at first, the thing appeared to be
impossible. His quick eye noted the fact that a powerful light burned in
the room below, for the shadow cf it was thrown strongly upon the blank
wall opposite. To the left of Seymour's window was a large drain pipe
used for conveying the rain water from the roof to the sewer below. It
was an easy matter for Seymour to lash a rope firmly to the floor with
the aid of a handspike, and to gently lower himself to the floor below
by means of the pipe. The business was no easy one when it came to like
Seymour could have possibly done it. He dangled thus perilously in
mid-air, working his way down inch by inch, till at length his feet
rested on the sill of the window below.

As he had half expected, the window was without a catch, which was quite
in accordance with most of the fittings in the tenement. Leaving his
rope to dangle harmlessly within reach until it would be required again,
Seymour passed coolly into the room. He rubbed a match cautiously, and
by the aid of it saw that he was in a small bedroom evidently devoted to
the uses bachelor, for the bed had been made in a most perfunctory way,
and the floor was liberally strewn with tobacco ash. Lying on the table
was a plan of some large mansion, with footnotes here and there plainly
denoting the fact that the house had been marked down for some ingenious
burglary. Seymour smiled to himself.

He had evidently found his way into the quarters of which he was in
search. Listening intently, with his ear closely glued against the wall,
he could detect the sound of voices on the other side. He was not
personally acquainted with the voice of "Simple Charlie," but the round,
full tones of Anstruther were quite familiar to him.

Seymour was, however, not content merely to listen to what was going on.
Very softly he made his way from the bedroom into the passage beyond.
The door of the next room was not closed; Indeed, there was no reason
for the precaution, seeing that the door at the end of the passage was
locked. There was a pungent smell of tobacco, mingled with the odor of a
good cigar, and presently the loud pop of a cork and the fizzing gurgle
of what Seymour rightly guessed to be champagne. By creeping, close and
twisting a little sideways, Seymour got a fairly good view of the room.

He could See Anstruther lounging in a comfortable arm-chair, a cigar in
his mouth, apparently quite at home in his humble surroundings. The
other man was sucking moodily at a short pipe, and glanced uneasily at
his companion. He was not much like the commonly-accepted type of
burglar, being slight and dark, and somewhat timid-looking in
appearance. But every now and again the glance he turned upon Anstruther
was positively murderous in its hateful intensity.

"Now, what on earth are you driving at, guv'nor?" he growled. "No
getting at the bottom of you. I never feel like a fool except when I am
working for you."

"That, my good Charles," Anstruther said smoothly, "is where education
comes in. If you had had my advantages you might have stood very high
indeed. As it is, you are an exceedingly good workman, and I, though I
say it that should not, am a very good master. I suppose you know
perfectly well that I am in a position to give you away at any moment. I
could hand you over to the police, who would take very good care of you
for the next fourteen years, and you could not give me a simple scratch
in return. For instance, we will suppose it is my whim to identify you
with that bank burglary last night. Of course, you were not there, but I
could prove that you were, all the same. And no cleverness of yours
could save you from a conviction."

Gillmore wriggled uneasily on his chair. His eyes followed Anstruther's
every movement like those of a dog severely punished; there was a
suggestion of the hound that would have bitten his master if he dared.

"I know ail about that," he grunted. "And you know I've got to do
everything you ask me. It only seems the other day that poor Brown
defied you to do your worst and lost his life over it. That was a lesson
to me. Not but what I wouldn't be ready and willing to knife you if I
thought it was safe. I am pretty bad, and so are some of the others; but
outside of hell itself there is no black-hearted scoundrel as bad as
you."

The man's voice fairly vibrated with passion; but Anstruther lounged
back in his chair with the air of a man who has just received a high
compliment. He was a man who loved power. He liked to feel that he could
pull the strings and move the actions of other men even when they fought
desperately against his iron determination.

"All this is so much waste of time," he said. "I came here to-night to
get you to do something for me, and you will have to do it, whether you
want to or not. You know what disobedience means, three hours' freedom,
and fourteen years in jail. No more of your confounded nonsense; listen
to what I have to say."

"Oh, I'll do it right enough." Gillmore growled. "Mind you, it's a
pretty big risk. The police have got an idea that I was engaged in that
Maidenhead business. I know they've been watching me so close that I
can't get rid of a bit of stuff, and I have come down to my last
half-sov."

"I'll see to that," Anstruther replied. "What you have to do now is to
make your way into the Great Metropolitan Hotel. You shall come with me
presently, and I will show you the room I want you to enter. To a man of
your ability the thing is ridiculously simple, quiet side entrance. Iron
fire-escape ladder and all the rest of it. All you want is a few tools."

"But I haven't got any," Gillmore protested. "I was, glad enough to get
away from that Maidenhead business with a whole skin."

Anstruther pointed significantly to the flat brown paper parcel which he
had brought in with him.

"You will find everything you want there," he said. "All you have to
remember is this. You are to go up the ladder and make your way to the
door at the head of the second corridor. A row of bedrooms runs along
the corridor, and the room you have to enter is No. 16. That is a
sitting-room attached to one of the bedrooms. I don't want you to do
anything neat in the way of a burglary; you have simply to take a letter
which I will give you and leave it on the table in the sitting-room. I
want the whole thing to be absolutely mysterious, and here is a
five-pound note for your trouble. And now I am going out. and you are to
follow me. I will lead you directly to the quiet spot at the rear of the
hotel, and the rest you must do for yourself. I don't think there is
anything more for me to say."

Gillmore nodded in a surly sort of fashion. He was terribly afraid of
Anstruther, who used all his creatures like puppets, and never afforded
them the lightest information. His power was all the greater for this;
he knew that he was hated as much as he was feared. He put on his hat
and coat now, and Gillmore rose also. Seymour darted away back through
the bedroom and on to the window-ledge again. It struck him as just
possible that Gillmore might want to use his bedroom, in which case his
chances of being discovered were great. But Seymour made his way back
again to his own sitting-room. Once there he lighted cigarette and sat
down to think over the situation.

It was not long before he had made up his mind what to do.

Evidently there was no great hurry over the little scheme which
Anstruther had planned in connection with the Great Metropolitan Hotel,
and doubtless an hour or two would elapse before Gillmore found his way
into the corridor. It would not be prudent to carry out the plan until
the hotel was getting fairly quiet, so that Seymour had plenty of scope
for a counter stroke.

He spent the next hour or so in his bedroom intent upon some sort of
disguise. Something in the way of a mask, accompanied with side whiskers
and a pair of spectacles, changed him beyond recognition. A little while
later, and he found himself engaging a room at the Great Metropolitan.
He appeared to be rather particular about his choice, and finally
decided that No. 18 would suit his requirements. As he had expected, No.
18 was exactly opposite the room chosen by Anstruther for Gillmore's
little plot. Once this was settled, it seemed to Seymour that there was
no occasion for hurry. It was 11 o'clock before he made his way up to
his bedroom. He did not close the door, nor did he turn the light on. He
sat down grimly and patiently in the darkness to await developments.

The corridor was perfectly silent now, and either the occupants of the
hotel had retired to rest, or had not yet returned from the theater.
This was the time, Seymour felt pretty certain, that Gillmore would set
to work. With his room door ajar, Seymour had a perfect view of the room
on the other side of the corridor. It seemed to him that he could hear
somebody now coming stealthily down the passage. Then another sound
grated on his ear, it was an unmistakable cry of pain and fear from the
room opposite.

Seymour crossed the corridor and coolly entered the room opposite.



XXXVIII.--THE CRY IN THE NIGHT

There was a man in the room surely enough. He was but half dressed; he
had fallen forward over a table, apparently in a state of collapse. He
seemed to be seeking something; and then Seymour saw that he was
clutching at a bottle of brandy, of which he appeared to be in evident
need. There was no suggestion of intoxication about him, so that Seymour
had no hesitation in forcing a few drops of the potent fluid between the
man's pallid lips.

Strange as the situation was, Seymour did not fail to notice the
extraordinary way in which his companion's face was cut and scarred and
bound with sticking plaster. Then he suddenly realized to whose,
assistance he had come. This was surely the man Jack Masefield had told
him about, the man who had sent him the ring, and who knew the whole
history of the Nostalgo business. The invalid opened his eyes presently,
and gazed in a dull kind of way at Seymour.

"I have been ill," he said. "Since my operation I have been accustomed
to these kind of fainting fits. It was very good of you to come to my
assistance."

"Not at all," Seymour said. "I was in my room on the other side of the
corridor, and I heard you cry out. Is there anything more I can do for
you?"

"Yes," the stranger said. There was a strange thrill in his voice. "Take
off that mask of yours, and let me see my old friend Seymour once more.
I should have recognized your tones anywhere."

"I am glad that my old chum Ferris should recognize me," Seymour said,
in a voice that trembled a little. "But I dare say that you will wonder
why I am here. I can assure you it is no coincidence. But what have you
been doing to your face? The last time I saw you you were what I am
now."

With a bitter laugh Seymour swept his disguise away, and the hideous
likeness to Nostalgo stood confessed.

"There is a picture for you," Seymour laughed; "and upon my word you are
not much better. Are you attempting to get rid of those damning marks
that you and I are meant to carry to the grave, those marks of a
scoundrel's vengeance?"

"But I shall not carry them to the grave." Ferris said. "My dear friend,
if I had the pluck and courage you yourself possess, I should not have
cared so much. But that scoundrel Anstruther haunts me like my own
shadow. I managed to elude his search: I hid myself in London. He knew I
was here somewhere, and he hit upon that devilish scheme for preying on
my imagination; I am alluding to those Nostalgo posters. Most people
regard them as no better than an ingenious advertisement but the
scalding truth is known to me. They meet my eye whenever I take my
secret walks abroad; they deface the hoardings to remind me that I am
still Anstruther's slave."

The speaker wiped his heated face. He made a more or less successful
attempt to hide his deep feelings.

"I had almost lost hope," he continued. "I had made up my mind to be
blackmailed to my last farthing by Anstruther, when fortune brought me
in contact with a clever French doctor who had heard something of the
vengeance of the Nostalgos. He assured me that he had treated one of us
with absolute success. I found out that my young friend was a
brilliantly clever surgeon, and after a little natural hesitation I
decided to place myself in his hands. He operated upon the muscles of my
face with a view to removing the hideous mask which disfigures what was
once a passably good-looking face. The shock to my system was great, and
I am but slowly recovering. But when I do recover, I feel quite certain
that I shall be as I was before I fell into the hands of Anstruther's
creatures in Mexico. I am a pretty sight now, I admit; but if you look
at me you will see that the repulsive hideousness has gone."

Seymour gazed long and thoughtfully into the white face of his
companion. There was a sudden uplifting of his heart, and the tears
rushed to his eyes. It was no ordinary weakness that moved him like
this.

"I see, I see," he murmured. "Once you are yourself again, you can defy
Anstruther; indeed, he would not know you at all. I have had to fight
him at a terrible disadvantage. If only I could remove this terrible
scourge from my face, then I could stand up to him, and his reign would
not be for long. But events are pressing so fast that I could not
possibly spare the time at present to follow out the treatment to which
you have been subjected. But afterwards I shall be only too glad to
place myself in the same hands that you have been through. The mere
thought that some day or other I shall be able to walk the streets like
any other man that God has made fills me with such a joy that I could
sit down and cry like a child.

"But why be so fearfully afraid of Anstruther?" Seymour asked.

"Because I am in his power," Ferris whispered. "I have done a great
wrong in my time, and Anstruther knows it. That fiend seems to discover
everything. Fortune has enabled me to redress the wrong, but Anstruther
holds the proofs of my guilt. I really ought to have gone to my
relatives and confessed everything, and defied him. But with a face like
mine--"

"I understand," Seymour said grimly. "But, unless I am greatly
mistaken?"

Seymour broke off suddenly, and snapped out the electric light. He took
the astonished Ferris by the arm, and fairly bundled him into his
bedroom. There was no time to explain. A fresh idea had suddenly come to
Seymour, and he decided to put it through. His quick ear had told him
that somebody was fumbling at the door of the sitting-room, and that
somebody could be none other than Gillmore. The burglar had evidently
not yet arrived, or Seymour would have beard something of the mysterious
note. His idea now was to gain possession of the note and Gillmore at
the same time.

"What on earth is the matter?" Ferris whispered.

Seymour clicked his lips for silence. He could hear Gillmore in the
sitting-room by now. He slipped from the bedroom into the corridor, and
approached his foe by the other door. But apparently Gillmore's ears
were as quick as those of his antagonist. He pitched the letter on the
table, and, seeing that escape by way of the door had been cut off,
coolly flung up the window and fell headlong out. Seymour repress a
shuddering cry. Gillmore evidently cruelly miscalculated the distance to
the ground, for as Seymour looked out of the window, he could hear a
series of heavy groans below. It was obviously his duty to give the
alarm and send for a doctor without delay, but this he hesitated to do.

He called Ferris in, and explained rapidly to him what had happened. The
distance from the window to the ground was some twenty feet.

"I am going to fetch him up," Seymour explained. "I suppose you have got
one of our old lassos amongst your baggage? You have? Good! Let me have
it at once, and I will drag our friend up in here, and then we can send
for that doctor of yours. This unfortunate rascal is a mere tool of
Anstruther's, and I want to make use of him."

The lasso was procured at length, and one end twisted round the leg of
Ferris' bed. It was not an easy job that Seymour had set for himself,
but he managed it at length, and, quite overcome with his exertions,
laid the body of Gillmore on the couch. The latter was quite conscious,
and apparently not nearly so much damaged as might have been expected.
Seymour went over him with the practiced hand of one who has dealt with
many accidents by flood and field. He smiled more cheerfully.

"Not so bad as I expected," he said. "A broken collar bone and a
dislocated ankle. You have had a very narrow escape, Mr. Gillmore. It
will be just as well, perhaps, if you moisten your lips with a drop of
this excellent brandy."

Gillmore started at the mention of his name, but he did not refuse the
proffered stimulant. He saw that he had been caught like a rat in a
trap, and, like most of his tribe, was prepared to make the best terms
he could for himself, regardless of his confederates.

"You might just a s well make a clean breast of it, Seymour said. "You
came here at the instigation of Mr. Anstruther. Your task was an easy
one for a man of your abilities, but you see I happened to know that you
were coming, and that made all the difference. Is that the letter on the
table?"

Gillmore growled out something to the effect that it was. Ferris took up
the letter, and read it carefully.

"Just as I expected," he murmured to Seymour. "A mysterious
communication from Anstruther, only Anstruther's name does not appear
upon it. I am threatened with all kinds of pains and penalties if I do
not immediately part with the sum of five thousand pounds. And you might
tell me what you propose to do with this man."

"Leave him here for the present," Seymour explained. "We can take your
doctor into our confidence, and nobody will be any the wiser. It is a
very odd thing to me if we don't get some valuable information out of
this Gillmore. You may he certain of one thing, he could tell us a great
deal about Anstruther if he chose to speak. If you will give the address
of your doctor, I will go off and fetch him at once. Of course, I shall
bring him here as if he came to see you. I think you are quite safe with
the fellow."

Seymour went off presently, having donned his disguise again, feeling
that he had done a good night's work. His first act was to telephone to
Bates at Shannon Street police station, and ask if the latter was still
keeping an eye on Anstruther. Bates replied in person to the effect that
everything possible had been done in that direction. Anstruther returned
home about ten o'clock, and at present was amusing himself with his
violin in his own study. Bates, moreover, had ascertained that
Anstruther had no intention of leaving the house again that night: in
fact, he had told one of his servants that he had caught a chill, from
all of which it might be gathered that Bates' spy had been very
successful in his shadowing of Anstruther.

So far, everything was quite satisfactory. It only remained now to call
at Masefield's rooms, and acquaint him with what had happened. But Jack
was not in, his landlady informed Seymour; as a matter of fact, she had
no idea when he was coming back; indeed, he had gone off somewhere to a
fancy dress ball. It was then that Seymour recollected that this was the
night of Lady Barmouth's great dance, A little at a loss to know what to
do next, Seymour went slowly off in the direction of Panton Square. He
hung about Anstruther's house for some little time, still feeling
[dubious as to that he should do], and in the brilliantly lighted hall
be could see a graceful figure in fancy dress being carefully wrapped up
by Anstruther himself, who came, down the steps, and saw Claire into the
carriage. He appeared to be carefully muffled, and spoke with a strained
voice of one who suffers from a bad cold.

"I hope you will enjoy yourself, my dear," be said. "Pray convey to Lady
Barmouth my sincere regrets and apologies. In the circumstances I am
sure she will excuse me."

The carriage drove off, but still Seymour lingered there, feeling quite
sure that this was part of some scheme of Anstruther's. He decided to
wait, at any rate, for the present, and for the best part of an hour be
paced up and down, till at length his search was rewarded. The light in
the study suddenly went out, though Seymour could hear the music still
going on, and then another figure emerged from a porch. It was the
figure of a man assuredly decked out in some fancy dress; but Seymour
was not in the least deceived, and knew perfectly well that he was
following Anstruther.

The latter walked right away until he came at length to Belgrave Square,
where he stood for an instant before a house in front of which a scarlet
cloth crossed the pavement. Into this hall of dazzling light the form of
Anstruther vanished. Just as Seymour had expected, his quarry was going
to the masked dance after all. He made up his mind instantly what to do.
He accosted one of the footmen standing inside the hall, and pressing a
coin in his hand, said he must see Mr. Masefield at once. Would the
footman go up-stairs and announce that Mr. Masefield was wanted, in a
loud voice. The coin had the desired effect, and a moment later Jack was
in the ball. He strolled up to Seymour in a casual way, and demanded
haughtily the reason for this intrusion.

"You did that very well," Seymour whispered. "I came to tell you that
Anstruther is here after all: in fact, he has just come in. Now I have a
little scheme of my own. Go and tell Lord Barmouth that I am here, but
that I should like to appear as a guest. I don't think that he would
mind at any rate--"

"Not he," Jack whispered, excitedly. "Really, there is no reason for me
to do anything of the sort, I can easily tell Barmouth afterwards, and
if you have any scheme of getting the best of Anstruther, you will be a
welcome guest in this house."

"Good," Seymour replied. "I will go off to a costumer's at once, get
fitted with a dress and be back here in half an hour. Then I shall
pretend that I have my card behind, and ask for Mr. Rigby. just as well
not to ask for you again."

Jack nodded his emphatic approval. Seymour moved towards the door with a
deferential air of one who apologises for an unwarrantable intrusion.
Once in the road he hailed a passing cab, and gave him the costumer's
address.

"Wellington Street." he said curtly; "and drive as quick as you can."



XXXIX.--PREPARING THE WAY

Seymour was not away longer than he anticipated. Only thirty-five
minutes had elapsed before a cab drove up to the house in Belgrave
Square, from which descended a tall man disguised as a magician. It was
not a particularly original dress, but it thoroughly served the purpose
which Seymour had in hand. He wore a long red cloak, coming down to his
heels, the hem of which was embroidered with queer signs and symbols. On
his head was a black velvet skull cap, and a long white beard and
moustache completed the illusion.

Seymour stood still for a moment, and fumbled about as if to find his
card. Then Rigby, effectively disguised as an executioner, came forward
and proffered his services.

"It's all right," he whispered. "I have been talking it over with
Masefield, and he did not think it would be prudent to meet you here a
second time. Besides, we have to be very careful: we are not aware how
much Anstruther knows. He might have got to the back of our plot for all
we know to the contrary."

"I did not quite catch how he was dressed." Seymour said. "Would you
mind telling me what he is wearing?"

Rigby proceeded to explain that Anstruther was rigged out in a costume
of some Indian tribe. He could be especially noticed by the exceedingly
high plume of eagle's feathers which he was wearing in his headdress.
Seymour chuckled aloud.

"I thought it all out as I came along," he said. "When I saw Masefield a
little time ago I only wanted to come here more or less out of idle
curiosity; but a little idea occurred to me as I called my cab. I am
going to thoroughly enjoy myself this evening; in fact, this is the
first time I have had an opportunity of mingling with my fellow
creatures for three years. But that is not the point if you keep fairly
close to me you will have the chance of seeing how I shall get on
Anstruther's nerves presently."

"Do you mean to say you are going to begin at once?" Rigby asked, "or
would you not like to see Barmouth first?"

Seymour intimated that there was no hurry, and that the little drama he
had in his mind would be best played out at supper time. That meal was
intended to be a rather fast and furious affair, where all the guests
were supposed to always act up to the characters which they personified.

"Therefore I should very much like to see Barmouth," Seymour said. "If
you can arrange a meeting for us in some quiet spot I shall be
exceedingly obliged to you."

Rigby went off with an intimation that he would not be long. He came
back presently, and signified that Seymour should follow him. The two
proceeded as far as the head of the staircase, and there, in a small
room at the end of the corridor, Barmouth stood awaiting Seymour's
entrance. No sooner was the latter inside, than his host closed end
locked the door. He turned upon the light and snatched his mask from his
face. On the impulse of the moment Seymour did the same.

Save for the difference of their coloring, the two men were almost
identically alike. Perhaps in the whole world it would have been
impossible to find two refined and educated men so hideously and
atrociously ugly. One man's eyes were blue, the other one's dark brown;
but this made no difference. All amiability of expression, all frankness
and sincerity, seemed to have been literally cut out of their features.
Most men would have turned from them with loathing and disgust. They
stood there looking at one another, the very image of the Nostalgo
posters that London was still discussing so eagerly. As Seymour dropped
Barmouth's proffered hand, the later burst into a bitter laugh.

"No reason to try and flatter ourselves," he said. "When I look at you
or you look at me, we both know that we are forever outside the pale of
civilized society. We can make the most of an occasion like this, but
these happy hours are few and far between."

"Well, do you know, I am not so sure of that," Seymour said. "Let me
have a cigarette, and we will discuss the matter together. Do you happen
to remember Ferris?"

Barmouth indicated that he remembered Ferris perfectly well.

"In fact, we were all victims of the same ceremony," he said. "What a
ghastly business it was! And that fiend of an Anstruther looking on
without a drop of pity in his heart for his fellow countrymen, whose
sole crime was that they were in the hunt for gold like himself. But I
want to try and forget all that. Do you mean to say you have met
Ferris?"

"Ferris is at the Great Metropolitan Hotel at the present moment,"
Seymour explained. "More or less accidentally he ran against Masefield.
Jack Masefield happened to mention that he knew me, and there you are.
However, I dare say you can get Masefield to tell you the story another
time. The point is, that Ferris has discovered a brilliant French
surgeon who has operated upon him, he says, quite successfully. He is a
mass of plaster and knife marks now, but he says that in the course of a
few weeks he will have resumed his normal expression."

A great cry broke from Barmouth. His agitation was something dreadful to
witness.

"Cured," he whispered. "Absolute cured and like other men again. Oh, it
seems like a dream; like something too good to be true. To think that
you and I, old friend, are going to stand out once more in the broad
light of day with no mask needed to conceal our hideousness! You will
undergo the operation?"

"Ay, as soon as ever I have done with the Anstruther business," Seymour
said in his deep voice. "Once let me see that rascal beyond the power of
further mischief, and I place myself in that man's hands at once, if it
cost me half my fortune. There is a girl waiting for me, Barmouth , a
girl who mourns me as dead. You can see how impossible it was for me to
let her know the truth."

"And yet my wife knows the truth," Barmouth said thoughtfully. "Hideous
as I am he refused to give me back my freedom."

"She is a woman of a million," Seymour said, not without emotion; "but
then Lady Barmouth discovered the truth. I don't think you ever would
have told her on your own initiative.

This was so true that Barmouth had nothing to say in reply. He appeared
to be deeply immersed in thought. The settled melancholy of his face had
given way to an eager, restless expression. He was like a man in the
desert who, past all hope, had found aid at the last moment. He paused
la his stride and sat down. "I dare not dwell upon the possibilities
that you have opened up before me," he said, "I had long abandoned all
kinds of hope. Still, there are plenty of useful years before me. This
is the first moment that I have felt what happiness means since we fell
into the hands of that gang of Anstruther's. You will recollect, of
course, the wild stories that our tribesmen used to bring in to us about
what happened to anybody who dared to cross the gold belt--"

"The legend was very common out there," Seymour said. "If you will
recollect, it was popularly supposed that some heathen god presided over
the gold mines, and that it was a sacrilege for any stranger to make an
attempt on the treasure. The natives there firmly believed that the
outraged god imposed upon the adventurers a disease that rendered them
so hideous that no man could bear to look upon their faces again."

"They were not far wrong there," Barmouth said grimly, "Or where did
those medicine men derive their knowledge of surgery? I recollect very
little of what happened after I found myself gagged and bound in that
wonderful old temple, but I do know that one of those priests operated
upon me with a lancet. When I came to myself, I was as you see me now.
But you, too, went through it in your turn."

Seymour shuddered with the horror of the recollection of it.

"I don't think we need to go into that," he said. "The extreme
punishment would never have been inflicted upon us had it not been for
Anstruther. With his wonderful ascendancy over the tribe--and goodness
know how he got it--he seemed to be able to persuade them to do
anything. The terror of it all, the hideous mystery, only served to keep
others away."

"And yet Anstruther most have lost his ascendancy," Barmouth said, "or
he would never have returned home without bringing a huge fortune with
him. We have absolute proof of the fact that he is a poor man. But the
truth of that will ever be known."

"I am not so sure about that," Seymour said. "I hope before long to be
able to hold the whip over his shoulder and force him to speak. I have
my little scheme arranged, and I fancy you will derive some little
amusement if you will watch the working of it. Of course, you know how
Anstruther is dressed?"

Barmouth was perfectly cognizant of Anstruther's disguise.

"The dress of the old tribe," he said; "with the painted feathers, and
all the rest of it. When he was pointed out to me just now by Masefield
I could hardly restrain my feelings. Mind you, he is not here with a
mere view to social enjoyment. He declined my wife's invitation. He told
Miss Helmsley that he did not feel well enough to turn up, and yet he is
here like any other invited guest. Now, what is he up to?"

"It would be hard to say what Anstruther is up to," Seymour replied.
"Doubtless he has some deep scheme afoot; but he is not the only one,
and we shall see who gets the best of it in the long run."

Barmouth was quite content to await developments. Knowing Seymour so
well, be felt quite sure that the latter was not without a scheme likely
to defeat Anstruther's intentions. He did not care to come out as yet
and mingle with the other guests, he said; at the same time he had no
desire to stand in the way of Seymour's amusement.

"Oh, I am going to amuse myself all right," Seymour said. "Don't forget
that it is nearly three years since I last sat by the side of a woman,
and listened to the sound of her voice. For three years I have lacked
the [soothing] influence of [women's society], and I always preferred
the other sex to my own. I can move about here and pick my partner as I
choose. I care nothing for the face for the simple reason that I cannot
see it; which is very fortunate for me indeed. I am going to pick out
all those with lovely voices. I dare say you laugh at me."

"Not a bit of it," Barmouth exclaimed, "My dear fellow, I know the
feeling exactly. But when is this little comedy of yours coming off? I
must be present at that."

"Just after supper," Seymour explained. "When your excellent champagne
will set all the tongues wagging. And now, if you don't mind, I'll just
have a walk round and see that my confederates are carrying out their
instructions."

It was a brilliant scene indeed that Seymour viewed through his mask on
reaching the great ballroom. A dance was in progress. There were very
few people sitting out, and the dazzling waves of color waved in and out
like the spray of the sea against a huge rock in the sunshine. A
limelight had been arranged high up in the gallery, and from time to
time threw quick flashes of different colored views upon the dancers.
The effect was most brilliant, just a little dazzling to the eyes. But
it was full of a sheer delight for 8eymour, who had so long been denied
the pleasures of life.

"Very effective, is it not?" said Jack. as be came up. "Quite a novel
idea in a private ballroom. Come and have a glass of champagne with
Rigby and myself. He is waiting for us in the buffet. I hope you had an
enjoyable chat with Barmouth."

"I was exceedingly glad to see him again," Seymour said. "All the same,
I am glad that there was no one else present. An Englishman does not
care to display his feelings to an outsider."

Rigby was waiting as Jack had explained, and for some little time the
three sipped their champagne whilst they talked over the situation.

"I want you two to be as near as possible to me at supper time," Seymour
went on to explain. "And I want you to take your cue from me when I give
it you. Mind, you must not look for any sensational developments, this is
merely a comedy for our private amusement I am going to give Anstruther
a bit of a fright, and at the same time force his hand, so that when he
is prepared to move; he will play right up to us. As to he rest, keep
your eye on the magician!"

"I wish you would be a little more explicit," Jack said.

"My dear fellow, there is nothing to be explicit about. Perhaps
Anstruther will smell a rat and decline to be drawn into the thing at
all. Still, I'm not much afraid of that."

A clock somewhere struck the hour of midnight and a moment later the
strains of the band died away. The old family butler threw open the
double doors leading to the dining hall, and announced supper in a loud
voice.

"Come along." Seymour said. "The play has commenced."



XL.--THE MAGICIAN SPEAKS

The dining-room presented an appearance quite as striking and imposing
as the ballroom. It was magnificently paneled with Elizabethan oak; the
grand old buffets and furniture dated from the same period, The supper
was laid out on a series of small tables forming a horseshoe, so that it
was possible to move from one to the other without interruption. Each
table had its separate electric light stand, round which were trailed
sprays of red roses. With its shaded lights, its dim, carved walls, with
its glitter of crystal and glass, the room presented a picture that was
not easily forgotten. But there were other things quite as important to
think of as the artistic side of the scene. A few moments later, and
Anstruther came in with a tall woman, whom Rigby instantly recognized as
a great society leader, on his arm. It was evident enough that, while
Anstruther knew his partner perfectly well, she was utterly puzzled as
to his identity.

"So much the better for us," Seymour said, as Jack pointed this out to
him. "But I must get back to my partner. I want you to try and keep me a
place at the same table that Anstruther sits at. I hope that you will
manage to secure Lady Barmouth for me. You will recollect that was to
have been part of the programme."

The matter was arranged easily enough, and presently Seymour and Lady
Barmouth were seated opposite Anstruther and his companion. They had all
at once plunged gaily into an animated conversation. By this time the
guests had found their level, and had thoroughly settled themselves down
to enjoyment. It was just possible that a great many people recognized
numbers of their friends there, but for the most part the recognition
was ignored and the illusion maintained.

"Really, this is a most charming picture," Seymour said, addressing
Anstruther in the friendliest fashion, although he had taken great care
to modulate his voice. "With all my skill in the art of magic I could
not have evolved a fairer scene than this. And my experience goes back a
thousand years."

"Quite the most respectable type of family magician," Anstruther
laughed, as he helped himself liberally to champagne. "We are all so
dreadfully modern nowadays. I suppose you have nothing to do with
up-to-date methods. No palmistry, I presume?"

Seymour was delighted to find Anstruther ready to take up the spirit of
the game."Nothing comes amiss to me," he said. "To conjure up a scene
like this would perhaps tax my efforts pretty severely, but I should get
there all the same.""Delightful!" Anstruther's partner cried.

"I was just wondering how I was going to settle my racing debts, and now
you come forward in the kindest way, and relieve me of all further
anxiety. It is really more than kind of you."

"As for me," Anstruther said, "I am concerned more with the future than
the past. I have a little scheme on hand that is troubling me a good
deal. Without going into details, shall I be successful? Now, can you
tell me that?"

Seymour gravely consulted a crystal ball, which he had taken from the
pocket of his flowing robe. Others were listening by this time, for the
conversation at Seymour's table was both amazing and interesting. He
looked up from the ball in the same grave fashion.

"You are giving me a hard task," he said. "I do not know you, I have not
seen your face. And yet your soul is reflected in my faithful crystal,
and your heart's desire lays bare before me."

"But you have not told me if I shall be successful," Anstruther said.
"That is the point, after all."

"You will not be successful," Seymour said in a loud voice, which had
the desired effect of drawing much attention to the speaker. There is
something dark that stands between you and the thing [that you desire].
The crystal is not as clear as usual, but I can see in it a face. It is
a strange face--dark and repulsive, and yet absolutely familiar. Yes,
it is the face of the poster, the features of which have puzzled London
for the last three months. It is this face which comes between you and
your heart's desire. Do I interest you?"

Quite a score of guests were listening by now. They were thrilled and
puzzled, and not a little interested. Seymour was playing his part
splendidly: even Jack and Rigby, who were in the plot, had to admit
that. Nothing could be seen as to the way in which Anstruther took this
shot, for his features were hidden behind his mask; but Rigby noticed
that his hands were clutched upon the edge of the table-cloth, as if
they were about the throat of some hateful foe, Anstruther sat quite
quietly, almost rigidly, for a few moments, then burst into a hoarse,
strident laugh.

"This is ridiculous." he said. "Surely you must be aware of the fact
that those Nostalgo posters are nothing more or less than a clever
advertisement."

"Nevertheless, they have more to do with you than you imagine." Seymour
went on in the same grave way. "They stand between you like a sheet and
the execution of your plans. Let me look into my crystal again. Ah, the
scene grows clearer. I see a ruined temple; I see some weird religious
ceremony, and the unconscious form of a man laid out for a sacrifice. He
rises at length; he is no longer good to look upon, his face has become
the face of Nostalgo. Call it foolish if you like--" With a cry of
something like anger. Anstruther rose to his feet. He seemed to suppress
himself almost immediately, then sat down again.

"Capital!" he exclaimed. "I dare say it is exceedingly clever, but, at
the same time, so much Greek to me. What I want is information about the
future." "I should say you are a traveled man," Seymour said calmly.
"You have spent a great deal of your time in adventure abroad. Now, let
me hazard a guess. You have been in Mexico?"

Anstruther curtly admitted that such was the fact. In spite of the
gravity of the whole thing, and Seymour's admirable acting, he was
getting nervous and excited. He would have given much to have removed
the mask of his tormentor and studied the face behind.

"It is the little trifles of life that interest you, then." Seymour
said. "I am afraid you are very material, sir. Well, we will be prosaic
if you like. For instance, my crystal tells me that you are fond of
works of art; in fact, you are a collector of such things. What would
you say if I were to prophesy that you are going to add largely to your
treasures in the course of the next few days? To be precise, one of your
hobbles is old sliver. Like most collectors, you will do pretty well
everything to gain your end."

"I am afraid that is about true." Anstruther admitted.

"8poken like a man of the world," Seymour went on. "For a long time you
have coveted a fine specimen of Cellini silver work. A whole set of it
will pass into your possession, if it has not already done so, and the
unique service will not cost you a farthing."

Seymour delivered this shot calmly enough, pretending to be gazing at
the crystal all the time. But the way in which Anstruther writhed about
in his chair was not lost upon Jack and Rigby, who were watching the
drama with breathless interest. Anstruther had half risen from his seat
again, and then had forced himself down once more, as if struggling with
his hidden emotions.

"I should like to see that precious crystal of yours," he sneered. "It
seems nothing but a piece of glass to me."

By way of reply, Seymour gravely polished the crystal on his serviette,
and passed it across to Anstruther with instructions to hold it firmly
in his palms long enough for the imprint of his fingers to fix
themselves. Anstruther laughed as he complied with these instructions.
Then the crystal was laid upon the table very carefully, and was rolled
into a small cardboard box, and there swathed in cotton wool. With the
same grave demeanor, Seymour called for wax and something unique in the
way of a seal. A servant came presently with a piece of violet sealing
wax and one of the guests proffered his intaglio ring as a seal.

"I am going to ask a favor," Seymour said. "I should like the gentleman
to seal the box. and hand it over to another guest, who will take care
of the whole thing for the next three days. You will see what I mean--I
want to prevent the possibility of the box being tampered with. Will the
gentleman kindly seal the packet, and will another gentleman kindly
offer to take care of the box?"

The box was scaled at length with the intaglio ring, then another guest
came forward and volunteered to keep it in his charge.

"This is exceedingly good of you," Seymour went on; "only you will quite
see that we cannot carry this through properly unless the gentleman who
has taken charge of the box volunteers his name."

"No trouble about that," the second guest cried. I am Sir Frederick
Ormond, Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs. I hope that my name will be
sufficient guarantee."

Seymour nodded, and the statesman dropped the packet into the pocket of
his cloak. Anstruther laughed unpleasantly.

"And what is the upshot of all this to be?" he asked.

"It is on the knees of the Gods," Seymour said gravely. "Your
individuality will become impressed upon the crystal through the grips
of your hands, and at the end of the period suggested you will be able
to see your whole future there. I dare say Sir Frederick will produce
the crystal when the proper time comes."

Anstruther turned away with a little laugh of contempt, and, as if
nothing of the common had happened, Seymour turned and began to discuss
ordinary topics with his hostess. Supper was practically over by this
time, and most of the guests were streaming back once more in the
(direction of the ballroom. Amongst the few who still remained were Jack
and Claire, the later, of course, being Jack's supper partner.

"That was very cleverly done," Claire said. "I suppose there is some
hidden meaning behind it?"

"Of course," Jack said. "Only I have not the remotest idea what it was.
Don't let us go back to the ballroom yet. I have discovered one of the
jolliest little places leading off the hall, where we can sit and have a
cozy chat without the least fear of interruption."

It was precisely as Jack had said--a little alcove, dimly lighted and
filled with ferns, from which they could see much that was going on
without being seen in their turn. It was very quiet down there, and Jack
made the most of his opportunities. A silence fell upon the pair
presently, one of those long, delicious silences, only possibly where
there is a perfect understanding. Jack came out of his reverie
presently, conscious that Claire was gripping him tightly by the arm.
With the point of her fan she indicated the figure of Anstruther, who
had come down evidently in search of the telephone.

The instrument was almost immediately opposite the alcove, and
Anstruther, little dreaming that he was being watched, plied the handle
vigorously. He gave a number presently which was his own in Panton
Square.

"Are you there?" he whispered; "are you there? Confound the girl! Why
doesn't she speak? Oh, so you are there at last. What? Oh, yes, yes. I
am speaking to you. You know who I am. Yes, there is danger--danger that
is urgent and immediate. I have no time to explain now; you are to come
here masked at once. Do not come to the front door, but to the lane
behind. You will find a small green gate there, with Number Five upon it
in white letters. I will see that the gate is unlocked. Then make your
way straight up the garden, and into the summer-house which is at the
top of the marble steps by the fountain. You are not to be more than
half an hour."

Anstruther rang off, and replaced the receiver on the hook. He strolled
away without the slightest idea that every word he said was audible to
the pair of lovers in the alcove. Jack turned to Claire with eager eyes.

"This must be seen to immediately." he said. "Go back to the ballroom as
if nothing had happened and wait for me there. As for myself, I am going
to smoke a cigar in the garden, and wait to see who the mysterious
individual is who has been so peremptorily summoned here. You see how
important it is."

Claire saw that there was much in what Jack said. Obediently enough she
went off to the ballroom, and waited eagerly for the return of her
lover. He seemed a long time coming, and nearly an hour had passed
before he came back and strolled up to Claire in as casual a way as
possible. But she could see that his eyes were gleaming behind his mask.
He was breathing fast, too.

"Have you discovered who it was?" Claire asked eagerly.

"Yes," Jack replied. "They are both together. As I more than half
expected, the fresh arrival is Serena."



XLI--THE WORM TURNS

Meanwhile, it is necessary to go back for a few moments to the garden
and summer-house where Jack had been waiting to see who was going to
keep the assignation with Anstruther. On the whole, it was not
unpleasant work, seeing that the night was very fine and warm, and at
the same time dark and velvety. There were not many gardens in London as
finely proportioned as those behind Barmouth's residence. It was
wonderful in the midst of that atmosphere, that flowers and shrubs could
flourish so [grandly]. There were not many paths, most of the ground
being given over to turf, so that Jack's feet made no noise as he
strolled along in the direction of the green gate which gave upon the
lane beyond. The gate turned out to be a door in the [wall] hidden from
view inside by a deep [clump] of shrubs. It was here that Jack [hid]
himself and stood smoking his cigar with a determination to stay there
all [night] if necessary. The best part of an hour had elapsed before
there was a [noise] outside, and a hand turned the [knob]. Jack dropped
his cigar and ground it into the soft earth with the heel of his
slipper. By this time his eyes had got accustomed to the darkness, so
that it not a difficult matter to make out the outlines of the
approaching figure. The figure was that of a woman, evidently dressed
for the evening, and wearing a mask.

Jack was not to be deceived; he knew the form perfectly well, even if he
had not recognised the dress, which the wearer had used the night of his
visit to Carrington's.

"Serena," he whispered to himself. "Well, I might have expected that.
Now [I'll] see what will happen next."

Jack made his way hurriedly across the lawn, and took up a position
behind a [thicket] of pampas grass, where he could not only see into the
summer house, but hear what was going on there. He was only just in
time, for almost immediately the towering headdress of Anstruther
appeared, and its owner made his way directly to the summer house. Jack
could see Serena as she hurried [after]. On the still night air every
word could be distinctly heard. There came to Jack's ears a whispered
apology from Serena that she was sorry for the delay.

"You might have ruined everything." Anstruther said savagely. "I told
you to be here within half an hour at the most."

Serena replied humbly that she could not get there before. She had to
dress and she had to get the other servants out of the way. Anstruther
muttered impatiently.

"I suppose it is impossible for a woman to keep to time," he said. "And
now listen to me. There is something going on here which even I cannot
fathom. I feel as if I were being laughed at, as if an unseen net was
about my shoulders, and that a hidden hand was ready to close it at any
time." Jack listened eagerly to what followed. It was quite evident from
what Anstruther said that Seymour's performance had made a deep
impression upon him. For once in a way Anstruther was puzzled and
frightened. He told Serena at considerable length all that had taken
place during supper.

"There is more than meets the eye here," he said, "and that fellow said
either too little or too much. One thing is quite certain, he is pretty
intimately acquainted with my inner life in Mexico. Now who is he, and
how does he know all this?"

"If you don't know, I can't tell you." Serena replied.

"No; but you are going to find out," Anstruther responded. "You are
going to mingle with the other guests as if you were a friend of Lady
Barmouth's, and I will sign to you presently what I want you to do. You
have plenty of nerve and resource, and you must find some way of
removing the mask from the face of my friend the magician. But that is
not all. I have a very shrewd suspicion that this mysterious Lord
Barmouth is no other than the man James Smith, who has been so useful to
me from a pecuniary point of view."

"You think Lord Barmouth and James Smith are the same person?" Serena
cried. "Oh, that is quite impossible."

"That remains to be seen," said Anstruther. "You know all about Lord
Barmouth's reputation as a recluse as well as I do. Therefore, it will
be part of your duty to get a sight of Lord Barmouth also. Mind you, I
may be mistaken, but I have a strong Impression that when you come to
look at Barmouth you will see the features of James Smith. What the
certainty of this means to me you can pretty well guess. Hitherto I have
treated Smith as a comparatively poor man, never guessing for a moment
that he was the enormously wealthy Barmouth, but in future--"

Anstruther paused significantly. The listener thrilled as he realized
the danger in which Barmouth stood. But his whole attention now was
concentrated upon Serena. He could see that she had drawn herself up to
her full height; from the motion of her hands, she was evidently moved
by some strong feeling. It flashed upon Jack all at once that Anstruther
was asking Serena to plot against the happiness of her own sister--Lady
Barmouth. That that was the chord that Anstruther had touched, Serena's
first words proved.

"You are asking too much." she said. "I will not do it. There are times
when I feel that this life of mine can endure no longer. I have worked
hard for you: I have been the slave of all your schemes; I have
forgotten that I possess a conscience,"

"Yes, and you forget what you owe to me," Anstruther responded. "But for
me you would long since have stood in a felon's dock. If you will think
of the time when you and your boy--"

"No, no!" Serena cried. "I will not have it. What do I care if I alarm
the people inside. For the sake of that black past I have consented to
be your tool and slave. And yet I feel sometimes that you are playing
with me: that the whole thing is nothing more or less than a cruel and
deliberate lie on your part, and that my boy still lives. If I thought
so; if I only thought so--"

Serena plunged forward, and Jack could see that something glittered in
her hand. There was the confused suggestion of a struggle, the sound of
an oath from Anstruther's lips, and the tinkle of metal upon the floor
of the summer-house.

"So you have got one of your mad moods on to-night." Anstruther panted.
"Do not push me to extremes, because you know what that means. Will you
obey me or not?"

Jack could see Serena pass her hands across her eyes; he could hear the
quick sobbing of her breath.

"I was wrong." she said presently. It was marvelous how quickly she had
recovered herself. "I will do your bidding. Let us go inside, and you
can show me the man whose face you desire to see."

The two moved off together, and entered the house, where they were
quickly lost in the throng of guests. It was at this point that Jack
joined Claire again, and told her rapidly what had happened.

"I will go to her at once." Claire said. "It is quite evident, from what
you say, that this poor woman acts entirely under the sinister influence
of Anstruther. It would be a good thing, I fancy, to appeal to her
better nature."

Possibly it had been better for him to go off and warn Seymour, but the
strong curiosity of the moment prevailed. He was just a little anxious
about Claire, too. And Seymour was so full of cleverness and resource if
anything untoward happened.

The scheme commended itself to Jack. He would leave everything to Claire
for the present. Then, when she was ready, she could come to him again.
Apparently Anstruther had given Serena all her instructions, for Claire
found her seated by herself in a corner of the ballroom watching the
dazzling scene. Claire crept quietly to her side, and touched her on the
shoulder.

"Serena," she said gently. "Serena, I want you."

There was a violent agitation that shook the listener's frame; but she
rose very gently, and passed along the corridor by Claire's side without
the slightest protest. They came to a little alcove at length, and
Claire bade her companion sit down. ?

"I know why you are here to-night, she explained. "I even know what your
appointed task is. But, what is still more Important, I am acquainted
with the hold that Anstruther has upon you. Believe me, you have no
firmer friend in the world than myself. Tell me your sad story, and let
me see if I can help you."

The gently spoken words were not without their effect. Heedless of
consequences, Serena removed her mask, and proceeded to wipe the
streaming tears, from her eyes.

"I will tell you everything." she murmured. "You know already that Lady
Barmouth is my sister, and you are acquainted with the fact that Padini
is my husand; but nobody knows besides Anstruther that I was once the
mother of a little boy. I was always willful and headstrong. I was
always ready to throw away my happiness for the whim of the moment. That
is why I married Padini, who basely deserted me when he found that I had
no money. A month after our marriage I was alone in the world, almost
starving. I was too proud to send to my friends; I had meant to wait
till my money was exhausted, and then throw myself into the river. But I
dared not do that, because of the fresh young life which I knew was
coming to me. I managed to make a little money, and when my child was
born I was comparatively happy. When the hoy was about 18 months old
Anstruther found me out, and professed a desire to become my friend. It
was about that time that Padini turned up again and began to blackmail
me. I cannot tell you exactly what happened; they say I tried to kill
him because he would have taken my child from me. At any rate, I have
always always been informed that I might have suffered a long term of
imprisonment if Anstruther had not stood my friend."

"But this does not give him so great a power over you," Claire wild. "A
mere act of charity like that--"

"But I have not told you everything," Serena whispered. "For a short
time I was a mad woman. And when I came to myself again, they told me
that I had killed my boy. Oh. I have no wish to dwell upon that dreadful
time--I hardly dare to think of it without a wild desire to lay hands
upon myself. And yet there are times when I believe the whole thing to
have been a wicked lie, a pure invention on the part of Anstruther. At
those times I believe that my boy is still safe and sound, and that some
day we shall meet again. This is the whole secret of the reason why I
have clung to Anstruther, and why I have been the slave of his base
designs. But this story must be told to no one, not even to Lady
Barmouth."

8erena might have said more, only the sound of approaching footsteps
warned Claire of the necessity for caution. She whispered to Serena to
replace her mask--a precaution that was none too soon, for Anstruther
was impatiently coming down the corridor side by side with another man,
whom Claire recognized as Lord Barmouth.

"I have been looking for you everywhere," Anstruther said. "What do you
mean by hiding yourself here?"

It was quite clear that Anstruther had lost his head for the moment.
Lord Barmouth paused, and looked at the other sternly and coldly. Yet
hesitated, as ? if half afraid to speak. He had the advantage over
Anstruther in knowing who the latter was while still preserving the
secret of his own identity.

"I presume this lady is your wife," he said. "You would hardly speak
even to your sister in that tone of voice."

"You are candid, sir," Anstruther said bitterly. "If you knew who I am,
I have not the slightest doubt--"

"I know perfectly well who you are," Barmouth said quietly. He had quite
made up his mind what to do now. "Will you be good enough to step this
way for a moment?"

Anstruther followed, until Barmouth reached his own private room. Then
he locked the door, and put up the light. "Now that we are face to face
and free from interruption," he said, "I and going to speak still more
candidly to you. But first let me ask you a question. Why did you
decline the invitation of Lady Barmouth on the plea of a severe chill,
and then come here afterwards, as if you wanted your presence in the
house kept secret?" "Really," Anstruther stammered ? "really, I cannot
recognize your right to cross-examine me like this. In the very unlikely
event of your being my host--"

"We will discuss that presently," Barmouth replied. "Permit me to remind
you that you have not answered my question, Mr, Anstruther. You will not
deny your identity?" Anstruther laughed awkwardly, and, seeing that the
game was up, removed his mask and pitched it on the table.

"What I have done is not exactly a crime," he said. "I changed my mind,
and came, at the last moment."

"At the last moment," Barmouth echoed significantly. "You have been here
for the past two hours."

Anstruther moved towards the door. He declared, with some heat, that he
would have no more of this, unless the other could prove his right to
ask these questions. Barmouth turned away for a moment, and when he
faced round again his face was bare of the mask.

"Now you recognize my right," he said. "You black-hearted scoundrel, I
am Lord Barmouth."



XLII--A PIECE OF MUSIC

In other circumstances, Anstruther would have been pleased with the turn
of events. He knew now that Smith, whom for so long he had been
persecuting, was the rich Lord Barmouth. This, too, saved a deal of
trouble; for instance, Serena need not have been brought here at all.
Now Anstruther would be able to blackmail Barmouth for thousands,
whereas he had been content with hundreds from the more humble Smith.
Barmouth smiled, as he followed Anstruther's train of thought. He was
reading the other's mind like an open book.

"I know exactly what you are thinking about," he said. "You are not
sighing for lost opportunities; you are going to make it all up in the
future. Still, I have puzzled you and, perhaps, frightened you a little.
You are perfectly well aware why I have concealed my identity for so
long. And you would give a great deal to know why I have so suddenly
come out and met you in the open. On that point I have no intention of
gratifying your curiosity. You may put your mask on again, and I will
resume mine; but of one thing you may be certain. Either as Lord
Barmouth or as James Smith, not one farthing more will you ever receive
from me."

Barmouth turned contemptuously away, and unlocked the door.

"Now you can go your way, and I will go mine," he said. "I shall say
nothing of this to Lady Barmouth; at least, not for the present. Make
the best of your evening's pleasure. It will be the last time you will
ever be under my roof."

With an irritated feeling of defeat Anstruther stalked from the room,
followed by Lord Barmouth, who lost no chance of hunting up Jack and
Rigby. He told his interested listeners what had happened.

"I think you have acted wisely, Lord Barmouth," Rigby said. "We are so
hot upon the track of Anstruther now that a day or two makes little
difference. At the same time, I cannot quite see why Anstruther should
have come here in this mysterious way, when he might have accompanied
Claire quite openly."

Jack was inspired with a sudden idea. "It's all a question of alibi," he
said. "We know perfectly well what an ingenious scheme Anstruther has
put up so that he may be what an Irishman would call in two places at
the same time. Here's a magnificent opportunity of getting to the bottom
of that mysterious music business."

?"Right you are," Rigby cried. "It would be like flying in the face of
Providence to throw away such a chance. Anstruther is here, and likely
to remain, and so is Serena. You may depend upon it that the other maid
has gone to bed, so that we should have the house in Panton Square all
to ourselves. You know the ropes better than I do, Jack. Can you tell us
a good way of getting into the house without playing the burglar?"

Jack thought a moment, then an inspiration came to him again; the thing
was quite simple.

"We can walk into the place as if it belonged to us," he said. "When
Claire came away, Anstruther told her that he should retire early.
Claire, did not wish to keep the servants up unduly, so she took a
latch-key with her." "Absolutely made for us," Rigby exclaimed. "You go
off to Miss Helmsley and borrow her latch-key, and we will get to the
bottom of the whole mystery whilst Anstruther is enjoying himself here."

Jack came back presently with the latch-key in his possession. It was an
easy matter to get out of the house without being observed; then a cab
was called and the two proceeded to Jack's chambers, where they stripped
off their fancy dresses hastily and assumed more civilized attire.

"I vote we take Bates into this business," Rigby suggested. "I've got a
little idea of my own, which I will tell you about after we have been to
Panton Square."

Unfortunately the services of Inspector Bates were not available, for he
had been called out on some business of importance, and was not expected
back till the following morning.

"We shall have to go through it ourselves," Jack said. "You will have a
fine lot of copy for The Planet a bit later on. I declare I am getting
quite fascinated by my present occupation. Shall we take a cab, or would
it not be more safe for us to walk?"

Panton Square was reached at length, and No.5 appeared to be in total
darkness. As the friends had anticipated, Serena's fellow servant had
gone to bed, for neither at the front or back of the house was there so
much as a glimmer of light to be seen

An application of the latch-key to the door proved quite successful, and
a minute later the two friends were inside. They had not the slightest
hesitation in putting up the lights, so that the passing police might
infer that the occupants of the place had returned. Not that he wanted
to trouble much about anything but the study, seeing that it was there
that the mysterious music always emanated.

It was an ord1nary-looking room enough, the walls being entirely lined
with books. There were books everywhere, not an inch of space being
available for more. The ceiling was quite plain, and the closest search
failed to disclose anything in the way of an apparatus by which the
sounds of music could be conveyed from a distance into the study. Jack
looked round with a puzzled frown.

"All the same. It must come that way," he said. "I know perfectly well
that one of Padini's recitals came into this room as if it had been
carried by some electrical means."

"A sort of telephone, I suppose," Rigby said. "Of course, we have all
heard of the theatrephone*, but we know it could not not work out in
this case. With the dodge in question you have to plug both ears with a
kind of receiver, and even then the music is only audible to those using
the little receivers. In the present instance I understand that the
whole room is flooded with melody, just as if the player were actually
here."


* A telephonic distribution system that allowed subscribers to listen to
opera and theatre performances over the telephone lines. First
demonstrated in 1881, in Paris. Subsequently, in 1890, the invention was
commercialized by Compagnie du Théâtrophone, which continued to operate
till 1932. Wikpedia







"You've got it exactly." Jack explained. "I have heard it myself, and so
has Claire: and both at us spotted the music as being precisely the
style of Padini. Hang me if I can see the slightest sign of how the
thing is worked."

Rigby said nothing; indeed, he was hardly listening. He was pacing round
the room pulling armfuls of books out here and there, as if expecting,
to find some cunning device hidden behind the volumes. He stooped to
pick up Anstruther's violin case, which lay upon the floor. The case had
been recently dropped, or some weight had fallen upon it, for the lid
was cracked all across, and the hinges were broken. Rigby gave a little
cry us he threw back the lid.

"Here's, a discovery for you," he exclaimed. "Anstruther's violin with
the neck broken off. If you will look at it closely, you will see that
it is covered with dust, and evidently has not been used for days. Of
course, it is just possible that Anstruther possesses two violins--"

"I know as a matter of fact that he doesn't." Jack said. "This is his
Cremona right enough. I have had it in my hands a hundred times."

"We are getting on," Rigby laughed. "This room has been flooded with
melody night after night, and yet we know for a fact that Anstruther's
violin has been absolutely useless."

"That does not help us to a solution of the problem," Jack said. "But I
have an idea. We shall never get to the truth about Anstruther, but
Padini may help us. Now it id very Improbable that Anstruther will be
back under an hour. I'll stay here whilst you go off to the Great
Metropolitan Hotel and see Padini. If you flatter him a bit, he will
probably play to you. He will certainly do this in his own room, because
professionals of mark never practice in public. What I am driving at is
this: I feel quite certain that whatever Padini plays to you, I shall
hear in this room."

"Excellent," Rigby cried: "I will go at once."

Late as it was, Padini had not gone to bed. Indeed, one of the corridor
servants informed Rigby that the violinist had been practicing on his
violin for the past hour. Without the slightest hesitation. Rigby made
his way into Padini's room. The latter looked up with a puzzled air of
surprise evidently he had been taking a little more champagne than was
good for him.

"I seem to know your face," he said.

"Of course you do," Rigby said smoothly. "Don't you remember me
interviewing you for The Planet? I happened to be in the hotel, and I
thought I would look you up. I suppose it would be too much to ask you
to play something for me? I am passionately fond of music, to say
nothing of being a great admirer of yours. Besides, I have a particular
desire to hear you to-night."

Padini looked up with just a shade of suspicion in his eyes. Rigby felt
that perhaps he was going a bit too far. He proceeded to flatter the
artist to such an extent that Padini's suspicions were quickly lulled to
rest. There was a half-empty bottle of champagne on the table, but Rigby
refused the proffered hospitality. ?

"No, thank you," he said. "I came to hear you play. I know that it was a
great liberty on my part and, if you like, you can turn me out at
once--but I wish you would play something."

Padini rose rather unsteadily, and reached for his violin. Once his
fingers grasped the neck of his instrument he seemed to be himself
again. Rascal as the fellow was there was no doubt of his great artistic
qualities. He handled his bow with the air and grip of a master. He
started some slow movement from one of Beethoven's sonatas, and Rigby
lay back in his chair, giving himself up entirely to the delight of the
moment.

It seemed, if Padini once started, he would not know when to stop, for
he played one piece after another, entirely forgetting that he had an
audience. Across Rigby's brain there came floating the germ of a great
idea. Padini finished a brilliant passage, and the bow fell from his
hands.

"There, my friend," he said breathlessly. "Never have I played better
than I have done to-night."

"You are indeed a master," Rigby said, and he meant every word that he
uttered. "An artist so great as yourself should be a composer also. Have
you published anything at all?"

The flattered artist replied that he had not published anything so far,
but there were one or two little things which he had written in his
spare time, and these he intended offering to some publisher who was
prepared to pay a price for them.

"Would you mind playing me one?" Rigby asked. "I should prefer a piece
that nobody has ever heard."

Padini swept his bow across the strings, and proceeded to play a perfect
little gem in a minor key. To a certain extent it reminded Rigby of
Gounod's "Ave Maria," though its originality and breadth deprived it of
any suggestion of plagiarism.

"Perfect in its way," Rigby said. "Would you mind giving me the score?
If you will, I will get a good price for it from The Planet people. We
are going to publish music at reasonable rates; and there is no reason
why you should not have fifty guineas for yours."

Padini declared that he quite shared Rigby's opinion. He took a sheet of
of manuscript music from a drawer and threw it carelessly across to his
companion.

"There you are," he said. "make the best bargain you can for me. Why,
you are not going already?"

Rigby said something to the effect that he had not yet finished his work
at the office, and that he must tear himself away, much as he would have
liked to have stayed to hear more of that beautiful music. A few minutes
later Rigby left the room. As he glanced back he saw that Padini had
fallen into his armchair again, and was already half asleep. Rigby
smiled to himself, wondering what Padini would say if he knew the
purpose to which the sheet of manuscript music would he devoted. He
called a cab and hastened away in the direction of Panton Square, where
he expected that Jack would be still awaiting him. The lights were up at
No.5, just as they were when Rigby had started for the Great
Metropolitan Hotel; but all the same, he took the precaution of
whistling softly, in case anything had gone wrong. The front door opened
cautiously, and Jack's head peeped out. A moment later and Rigby was
inside.

"Well?" he demanded impatiently, "Anything happened?"

"A great deal," Jack replied. "For half an hour everything was quiet,
then that wonderful music started again. Mind you, I haven't the
remotest idea where it came from; I am just as much in the fog as ever.
But it filled the,room as if some great artist was invisible to me. I
could recognise Padini's touch. Of course, I am assuming that you found
him at home, and persuaded him to play to you. Can I take that for
granted?"

"It is exactly as you say," Rigby explained. "Please go on."

"Then I will tell you what Padini played. He started with the first part
of 'The Moonlight Sonata.'"

Rigby nodded and smiled. His, smile broadened as Jack proceeded to tick
off the pieces of music just as they were played.

"There was one. however, that I could not follow." he said. "It was that
lovely, little thing at the end. I am absolutely certain that it was an
original piece of music."

Rigby laughed as he produced the scrap of manuscript from his pocket.
There was an expression of triumph on his face.

"Original, and in my possession," he cried. "This scrap of paper
contains the key of the whole situation."



XLIII--THE TRAP IS BAITED

Jack looked inquiringly at his friend. He had not yet fully grasped the
significance of Rigby's remark. He asked for an explanation. Rigby went
on to speak rapidly.

"It's like this, you see," he remarked, "When I saw that fellow just now
and got him to play to me, a rather good idea came into my mind. So long
as Anstruther can manage to delude us into believing that he spends most
of his evenings in playing classical music, we can't get much further.
Classical music is open to everybody: and if we allege that on a certain
evening Anstruther performed one of Beethoven's sonatas--or, rather,
that Padini performed it--we should have great difficulty in proving our
point."

"I think I can catch your idea," Jack said.

"I thought you would. My idea was to get something original; something,
if possible, that Anstruther has never even heard. He couldn't very well
play a piece he had never heard, now would he? I asked Padini if he had
anything of the kind in hand, and he played the piece which you so much
liked. As I said just now, I have the thing in my pocket; and by means
of that simple sheet of paper we are going to trap Anstruther."

"I don't quite see it," Jack said.

"What I mean is that we are going to manage it between us. Unless I am
greatly mistaken, events will move very rapidly to-morrow night.
Anstruther must of necessity be out most of the time after dinner, but
the music in the study will go on all the same. You must manage to dine
in Panton Square to-morrow night, and I will work the thing from the
Great Metropolitan Hotel with Padini. In the course of the evening
Padini will play the melody which we are now talking about, and you will
hear it. Now, I know Miss Helmsley is a very capable pianist, and I want
her to follow the air carefully, so that she will be able to play it by
ear. Then we shall be in a position to ask Anstruther the name of the
piece that attracted her so much. Miss Helmsley can pick it out on the
piano for him, and ask him to play it again. You can imagine his
difficulty, but you can hardly imagine a way out of it. This is only a
side issue, I know; but it will all tell when we bring Anstruther to
book and expose the whole conspiracy."

Jack appreciated the point and promised to do his best to bring the
comedy to a successful issue. There was nothing for it now but to
reassume their fancy dresses and return to Belgrave Square. By this time
a considerable number of the guests were moving on elsewhere, though the
majority of those present meant to see the thing through. As the cab
bearing Jack and Rigby drove up they saw the tall figure of Anstruther
coming down the steps. He stood there as if hesitating, for a moment,
then called a passing cab and gave some directions to Piccadilly.

"Any money I know where he is going," Rigby said. "My dear fellow, you
go inside and see Miss Helmsley, whilst I take this cab back to our
rooms and change again into civilized attire."

"What are you going to do now?" Jack asked. "I am going to follow
Anstruther," Rigby explained. "I feel so restless to-night that I can't
settle down anything. So I am just going to follow that fellow, who is
most assuredly going to see Carrington."

It was half an hour later before Rigby found himself, minus his fancy,
dress in Piccadilly opposite the rooms occupied by Carrington. It was
very late now, and Piccadilly was absolutely deserted, save for a
passing policeman and a stray night cab whose driver appeared to be
asleep upon his box. Rigby hesitated for a moment, a little uncertain as
to what to do. There was no difficulty in ascertaining as to whether
Carrington had or had not gone to bed; for the lights were up in his
sitting room, and presently a shadow appeared upon the blind. Doubtless,
this was Carrington, and all speculation was set at rest an instant
later by a second shadow on one of the blinds. The gigantic headdress of
Anstruther loomed large against the light.

There was nothing for it now but to wait patiently upon the course of
events. Rigby pulled at the leg of the slumbering cabman and brought him
to a sense of his responsibilities.

"I don't want to take your cab anywhere," he explained. "All I want is
to hire it for an hour or so and sit inside. You can go to sleep again
if you like, and I'll wake you when I am ready to go. It will be an easy
way of earning half a sovereign."

The cabman grinned and nodded as Rigby disappeared into the recesses of
the cab. It was, perhaps, an hour later before the door leading to
Carrington's flat opened and Anstruther came out. Evidently he had left
his fancy dress behind him, for he was attired in a rough coat and
deerstalker hat. Carrington appeared to be dissuading his friend from
something, and Rigby could, hear the latter laugh in reply.

"I tell you it must be done," Anstruther said, "and it will have to be
done to-morrow night. I shall see friend Charlie without delay. If he is
not in, I shall leave a settled note for him."

Anstruther strode off down the street and presently hailed another cab
which was crawling down the road. Rigby sat up and aroused his own
driver.

"Here's another five shillings for you," he said. "Keep that cab in
front of you in sight, and follow it till it stops. Then you shall have
fifteen shillings. Unless I am greatly mistaken, you will not have very
far to go."

As a matter of fact, Rigby had summed up the situation quite correctly.
The mention of the name of Charlie had given him the clue he required,
this same Charlie being none other than the professional cracksman who
had been engaged by Anstruther to deliver the letter at the Great
Metropolitan Hotel to Ferris. This deduction proved to be absolutely
correct, for a little time later the first cab pulled up in front of the
tenement house where Seymour had taken up his temporary quarters.

Rigby dismissed the cab, and followed cautiously. He was in time to see
Anstruther take a key from his pocket and let himself quietly into the
rooms occupied by the individual who was known to his friends and
admirers as "Simple Charlie." Then Rigby turned and knocked for
admission at the outer door of Seymour's apartments. The latter did not
appear in the least surprised to see Rigby.

"I came here quite by chance," the latter explained. "I quite expected
to be told that you had not returned home yet. Lady Barmouth's dance
might have kept on till daylight."

"I had to come away," Seymour explained. "In fact, I lost sight of
Anstruther, and it rather put me out. Can you tell me anything about
him? But of course you can, or you would not be here."

Rigby explained at length what had taken place during the last hour.
Seymour chuckled as he listened.

"Rather a good joke," he said. "Here is Anstruther looking for his
friend 'Simple Charlie,' whilst all the time we have that desirable
individual tight by the leg at the Great Metropolitan Hotel. I suppose
you can pretty well guess what's going to happen? Anstruther was
desperately frightened to-night by my allusion to that set of Cellini
plate. He will know no peace of mind until that stuff is removed from
Carrington's private safe. There will be another burglary, of a sort,
and 'Simple Charlie' has been selected to open the safe. You see, as the
safe is not in the vaults, but in Carrington's private office, it would
never do to use dynamite there."

"That is all very well." Rigby objected. "But bow is Anstruther going to
make use of 'Simple Charlie' so long as the latter is in our hands? That
seems to be rather an objection."

"Oh, I have thought all that out," Seymour laughed. "From what you told
me just now, it is evident that Anstruther means to leave a note for his
pal if the latter is away. In the event of 'Simple Charlie' being
professionally engaged elsewhere to-morrow night, he will be asked to
find a substitute. As we are perfectly well aware of the fact that there
is no chance of Anstruther finding his friend at home, it is only
logical to assume that he will leave the note behind. In a few moments
that note will be in our possession and we shall be in a position to
read it at leisure. Then I shall take it first thing in the morning
round to the Great Metropolitan Hotel, and force 'Simple Charlie' to
write a suitable reply. Do you follow me?"

"Oh, quite." Rigby said. "You are going to choose your own substitute.
Have you fixed upon him yet?"

Seymour chuckled in reply, but declined to afford any information for
the present. He suggested that Rigby should go outside and see if
Anstruther had gone yet. Rigby came back presently with information to
the effect that the burglar's outer door was locked, thus fairly
assuming that Anstruther had executed his task and had gone. Seymour
produced the simple apparatus by means of which be had entered the
burglar's rooms on the last occasion.

"I am going to get that letter," be explained simply. "You need not have
any fear about me. Open the window, please."

In less than five minutes Seymour was back again with the letter in his
hands. He laid it on the table, and then proceeded to steam the envelope
open with the aid of a kettle of hot water which he procured from the
kitchen.

There was very little in the letter but that little was to the point.
The writer curtly commanded the recipient to meet him to-morrow night at
a quarter [to/past] twelve outside the Mansion House Station of the
Underground Railway. The recipient was enjoined to come prepared for
business, and the last three words had been underlined. In the event of
that being impossible "Simple Charlie" was asked to procure a substitute
and let the writer of the letter know this no later than 10 o'clock the
next morning in the old way and at the old address. It was all perfectly
plain.

"You see exactly what this means," Seymour said. "I take it that 'the
old address' means Panton Square. But 'Simple Charlie' will have to tell
me all about that in the morning. He shall write to Anstruther and put
everything in order first. I have, prepared a very pretty little
surprise for Anstruther."

Seymour chuckled again, but refused to gratify Rigby's curiosity. He was
taking no risks, he said; he even went so far as to seal down the letter
again and return it to the burglar's rooms.

"We cannot afford to make a single mistake." he said. "Any little slip
might ruin the whole delicate business."

There was nothing further to do, at least, so far as the night was
concerned. It was getting very late now, and Rigby declined Seymour's
offer of a whisky-and-soda and cigar. He turned as though to go, and
held out his hand to Seymour. Then he paused as a sudden thought struck
him.

"There is one thing we have forgotten," he said. "Don't you think it
would be as well to take Bates into our confidence. We had arranged to
do so really, but when we called an hour or two ago at Shannon Street
police station he was not in. I don't know whether you agree with me or
not, but I think he would be extremely useful to us just now."

Seymour nodded and chuckled. He seemed to be in the enjoyment of some
good joke which he desired to keep to himself.

"Oh, we must have Bates in this, by all means. Perhaps you would not
mind leaving a message as you go along, and ask him to be good enough to
call here not later than nine to-morrow morning. I think I can promise
Inspector Bates that his time with me will not be wasted. And now, if
you must go--"

Rigby took the hint and departed. He left the message for Bates, who, he
was informed, might not be at the office the whole of the next day. This
being so, Rigby rose early, and made his way to Shannon Street police
station directly after breakfast. He was fortunate enough to catch
Bates, who appeared to be in a tremendous hurry. He had five minutes to
spare, he exclaimed, but a quarter of an hour had elapsed before Bates
rose and rang his bell.

"The other business must wait." he said. "Important as it is, I will go
and call on Seymour at once."



XLIV--THE SUBSTITUTE

It was nearly 11 o'clock before Bates reached Seymour's rooms. He
listened patiently to all that the latter had to say, and he chuckled
grimly when Seymour's plot was laid before him.

"Upon my word, sir, you ought to have been in the force yourself," he
exclaimed. "I never heard a neater scheme. I have been puzzling my
brains the last day or two for some way of getting hold of Anstruther. I
can nobble Carrington at any moment; in fact, I have a warrant for his
arrest in my pocket now. You see, I can easily prove that he has been
disposing of his clients' securities, but that hardly affects
Anstruther. I suppose you want me to go round to the Great Metropolitan
Hotel, and compel 'Simple Charlie' to act as Bonnot* for us. I have not
the slightest doubt that he will be able to find a good substitute if he
likes. But there is one little difficulty in the way which you have not
thought of."

* Presumably a reference to the French criminal anarchist Jules Bonnot
(1876-1912). See Wikpipedia.

"Oh, yes, I have." Seymour replied. "I know perfectly well what you
mean. You mean that even a burglar has some code of honor, and that he
would hesitate to betray a pal into such a trap as this. But if the
substitute that I have in my mind is acceptable to you, there is no
reason or further anxiety."

Seymour scribbled a name on a sheet of paper, and handed it across to
Bates. The latter laughed as he read it. "Oh, most assuredly you ought
to have been in the force," he said. "The thing is so clever, and yet so
delightfully simple."

Meanwhile, Masefield was carrying out his side of the programme.

He saw Rigby once or twice during the day, and the latter informed him
that everything was going splendidly.

"I was at the Great Metropolitan Hotel this morning," he explained: "in
fact, I was present at the interview between Bates and a man known as
'Simple Charlie.' We had not the slightest difficulty in getting that
rascal to do everything that we wish. He seemed ready to do anything to
save his own skin. As I told you just now, the old address mentioned in
Anstruther's letter was Panton Square. By 10 o'clock this morning
Anstruther had received a letter, in 'Simple Charlie's' handwriting,
saying that it was quite impossible for him to come himself, but that he
would send an efficient substitute, who would meet Anstruther at the
Mansion House Station at the appointed time. All you have to do now is
to invite yourself to dinner at Panton Square, and in the course of the
evening you will be pretty sure to hear the music going on in the study
as usual. Of course, Anstruther will not be there but that will make no
difference to the harmonic programme. And mind you, listen carefully for
the original piece of music you heard last night."

"How are you going to manage that?" Jack asked. "Well, you see, we have
divided ourselves up into three companies," Rigby explained. "You are
going to look after Panton Square, Bates and Seymour will engineer the
campaign as far as the City and Provincial Bank is concerned, and I am
going to have supper with Padini. He elected that the supper should take
place in his own room at the hotel. You can guess why."

Jack began to see matters more clearly now. The task allotted to himself
was plain and simple He would have preferred something more in the way
of adventure; but, after all, somebody must do the ordinary work. He
managed to see Anstruther in the afternoon, and intimated to him that he
was dining in Panton Square that night. Anstruther replied that he was
glad to hear it; possibly, Jack thought, because there would be an
ear-witness to prove the music in the study.

It was nearly eight o'clock when Jack strolled into the drawing room of
Panton Square, and found Claire alone there. He deemed it prudent not to
tell her too much of what had taken place the last few hours; indeed, he
was more concerned to hear the latest information about Serena.

"I have not seen much of her to-day," Claire said. "I do not know what
to make of her at all. Last night, late, she came into my bedroom, and
we had a long talk about her boy. It is a very strange thing, Jack, that
only this morning a man arrived to see my guardian--a man who seemed to
be annoyed at Mr. Anstruther's refusal to pay him a sum of money. I
happened to overhear a few words as they parted. The stranger declared
that if he did not have something definite by Saturday, 'he would send
the kid back.' I should have thought nothing of this unless I had heard
Serena story last night, but, taken in conjunction with what she said, I
shouldn't wonder if the man in question had not the custody of the poor
woman's child."

"This is interesting," Jack said. "Did you take any particular note of
the man's appearance?"

Claire replied that she had not failed to do so. But she had not
followed him, though her suspicions were aroused.

Jack debated the thing in his mind for a moment before he spoke again.

"We know perfectly well," he said, "that Anstruther is terribly pressed
for ready money. He is certain not to send that cheque, and it is
equally certain that the man will call again for the money on Saturday
morning. It will be an easy matter to get Bates to lend me a plain
clothes man and follow the fellow wherever he goes. But you must
understand--"

What more Jack would have said was prevented by the entrance of
Anstruther, closely followed by the announcement of dinner. It was not a
gay meal, for the host was moody and depressed. He talked brilliantly at
times, then lapsed into a reverie, and appeared not to hear when spoken
to. Claire rose presently with a sigh of relief, glad to get away from
the gloom of the dining room and its depressing atmosphere. Anstruther
smoked half a cigarette, and then threw the end down impatiently.

"I must really get you to excuse me," he said. "But my head is so bad
that I can hardly hold it up. I am afraid that even my music will fall
to soothe me to-night."

Jack murmured something in the way of polite sympathy. He was glad of
the opportunity to be able to escape to the drawing room, where he sat
for a long time discussing the situation with Claire. It was pleasant
and soothing to sit there with his arm about her and her head lovingly
upon his shoulder; but, happy as they were, they could not altogether
shake off the feeling of impending evil. All this time the music of the
violin floated mournfully from the study.

Eleven o'clock struck, and still the melody went on. Claire roused
herself a little presently, and a look of pleased interest crossed her
pretty face.

"What a delightful little composition," she said. "I have never heard
that before. I am quite sure that is original."

"Listen very carefully," Jack said, "I want you to impress that piece of
music on your mind."

The piece was finished at length, and then repeated once more. As the
last strains died away, Claire rose from her comfortable seat and
crossed over to the piano. Very quietly, yet quite correctly, she went
through the whole composition.

"I am glad it has so impressed you," Jack said. "You will, perhaps, be
surprised to hear that Anstruther has never heard that piece Of music in
his life, and that it was composed by Padini, who has never played it to
anybody till last night, when he performed it for Rigby's benefit. Not
only this, but he gave Dick Rigby the original manuscript to get
published for him. I know this is only a small matter, but these small
matters will make a mountain of evidence against Anstruther when the
time comes."

"It is very extraordinary," Claire murmured, "to think that that music
should sound so charming and natural, and we know that all the time the
player is a mile or two away. You are sure that my guardian is not in
his study, Jack?"

Jack was sure enough on that point. It was a few moments later that
Serena came quietly into the room with a request that Mr. Masefield
would go to the telephone, as some one desired to speak to him on
pressing business. Jack rose with alacrity.

"I shall soon be able to prove to you that Anstruther is a long way off,
or I am very much mistaken," he said. "Very well, Serena, I will come
down at once."

The voice at the other end of the telephone inquired cautiously if that
were Mr. Masefield. Jack replied that it was, but even then the
questioner did not appear to be satisfied.

"I think I recognize your voice," he said, "but one has to be very
careful in sending messages to Panton Square. How goes the music?
Anything original to-night?"

"One piece," Jack smiled. "I know what you mean, and I don't mind making
you a small bet that you are Inspector Bates."

The voice at the other end of the telephone chuckled.

"You have got it quite right, Mr. Masefield," he said. "I am Bates sure
enough. And you needn't worry about going downstairs to see whether or
not Anstruther is playing at Paganini, because he isn't on the premises
at all."

"Where are you speaking from?" Jack asked. Bates replied that he was
speaking from a public call office in the neighborhood of Mansion House
Station. All he wanted to do was to make sure that Jack was still in
Panton Square, and now that his mind was easy on this score he could
devote himself to the serious business of the evening. Anstruther had
just been shadowed outside the Mansion House Station, where he was
apparently waiting for the substitute so kindly provided for him by
"Simple Charlie."

The message ceased here, and the connection was cut off. Jack would have
been just a little surprised if he had seen the transmogrified Bates who
had been speaking to him over the line. The inspector crossed the road
and disappeared into the shadow. Anstruther stood there, glancing
impatiently up and down the road as if waiting for somebody that was
late.

A figure slouched up to him and a hoarse voice whispered in his ear:
"Party of the name of Maggs," he said in his gin-and-fog voice. "Pal of
'Simple Charlie.' Old Charlie couldn't get away to-night, so he sent me
instead. Don't you be disappointed, guv'nor; you will find me just as
clever with them bits of steel as Charles himself. Bit of burglary,
ain't it?"

Anstruther nodded curtly. "We had better walk along." he said. "I
suppose your friend explained to you that this little job will put
twenty pounds in your pocket? It is a mere matter of opening a safe. The
getting into the premises is perfectly simple, because I have come
provided with the keys. You know the City and Provincial Bank?"

The other man grinned, and remarked that banks generally were a bit
above his form. Anstruther smiled as he reflected that he had the keys
of the bank premises proper in his pocket, so that there would be no
great difficulty in getting into the counting house, and from there to
Carrington's private office. As to the night watchmen--that was another
matter altogether. In the face of recent happenings, they would be more
alert than they had been in the past; but, at the same time, their
attention would be bestowed more upon the cellars than the office.

The road was entirely deserted now, as Anstruther crossed the street and
gently turned the key in the outer door. A moment later and the pair
were in Carrington's private office. They could afford to turn the
lights up, for the iron shutters outside made a perfect screen. In one
corner of the room stood the safe upon which the man who called himself
Maggs was intended to operate. Anstruther pointed at it impatiently.

"Get to work at once," he said. "There is something inside that I must
take away to-night."

"A fine set of Cellini plate, I presume?" Maggs said, in an entirely
different voice. "No, you don't, Mr. Anstruther. If you put your hand in
your hip pocket. I'll blow your brains out. I have the advantage of you
here, and I am going to keep it."

"Who the deuce are you?" Anstruther stammered. His hands had fallen to
his side, and his face was pale and ghastly. "Who are you?"

The so-called burglar snatched away his wig and ragged beard, and with a
handkerchief changed the aspect of his face. "I am Inspector Bates." he
said. "Very much at your service."



XLV--CAUGHT!

Bates had laid his plans very carefully and very well Indeed. In many
respects Rigby had got the best of the detective, but this was as much
due to circumstances as anything else. Still, when it came to the
technical side of the case, Rigby was no match for the Inspector. It was
nearly 9 o'clock before Bates called at Carrington's rooms and asked to
see the latter. There was no occasion yet for Bates to assume the very
effective disguise with which he was to trick Anstruther. There would be
plenty of time for that. Carrington was just finishing his dinner--so
his man said; he was not very well, and did not care to see anybody. But
Bates put the man aside in his own. easy way, and walked into the
dining-room without the trouble of announcing himself.

That Carrington was suffering from some mental and physical excitement
was perfectly plain. His face was ghastly pale, his eyes were bloodshot,
and there was a twitching of his lips which told a plain tale to an
experienced officer like Bates. Carrington scowled, and demanded the
meaning of this unwarrantable intrusion.

"I don't think you will find it unwarrantable when you have heard me to
the finish." Bates said. "Nor will it pay you to take this tone with me.
I am an inspector from Scotland Yard, and unless you answer my questions
freely, I shall have to put them in a more disagreeable form."

Carrington changed his note altogether. His face become still more
pallid. He motioned Bates to a chair. He would have found it hard to
have spoken just then. Bates waited a moment to give the other time to
recover. Carrington at length found words to ask Bates what his business
was with him.

"It is with regard to your affair at the bank," the Inspector explained.
"You may not be aware of the fact, but the case has been placed in my
hands by my superiors."

"Oh, you are alluding to the burglary," Carrington said.

"We will call it a burglary for the present," Bates replied, with a
significance that there was no mistaking. "I have gone into the matter
carefully, and I have come to the conclusion that there Was no burglary
at all."

Carrington jumped to his feet with a well-simulated air of indignation.
He advanced toward Bates threateningly.

"You insolent scoundrel!" he cried. "What do you mean? Do you know you
are dealing with a gentleman and man of honor?"

"Softly, softly." Bates replied. "I think we had better understand one
another. I have in my possession at the present moment a warrant for
your arrest for fraud and embezzlement relating to certain jewels and
other valuables deposited in your keeping by various clients. It is in
my power to execute that warrant at once. The case is much too serious a
one for ball, and it is for you to say whether you will remain for the
present in your comfortable quarters, or pass, at any rate, the next two
months in jail."

Carrington made no further show of fight. He collapsed into his chair
and wiped his wet forehead distractedly.

"You don't mean that," he groaned. "There must be some terrible mistake
here. Why, all the evidence pointed to an ingenious and daring burglary.
The night watchmen were drugged, as you know, and the thieves employed
dynamite to blow up the safes. No one regrets the loss of all those
valuables more than I do, but even banks are not secure against the
modern burglar. Those safes were crammed full of valuables, as I could
easily prove."

"They were." Bates corrected. "But I am in a position to prove a few
things, too. You wouldn't give a great deal, I suppose, to know where
those valuables are?"

Carrington replied to the effect that he would give half his fortune for
the desired information. Bates smiled.

"You need not worry about it." he said. "I have a list in my pocket of
the big pawnbrokers in London where most of the goods were pledged. In
three cases the pawnbrokers in question are in a position to swear to
the identity of the man who handled the jewels. You would not, of
course, mind meeting these people?"

But Carrington had no reply. He looked so helplessly at Bates that the
latter could not but feel sorry for him.

"I am afraid the game is up, sir," he said. "My investigations of this
case prove most conclusively that you are at the bottom of the whole
thing. We know perfectly well that recent speculations of yours have
brought about a financial crisis in your hank. In your desperate need,
you realised the securities which certain clients had left in your
hands. It was only when Lady Barmouth called for her gems that the
situation became acute. But that will form the basis of another charge."

"But that was all a mistake," Carrington gurgled eagerly. "I sent Lady
Barmouth her gems, but they proved to be those belonging to somebody
else. I assure you that was quite an error."

Bates shrugged his shoulders impatiently. He was getting annoyed with
this man, who refused to follow his lead.

"We know all about that ingenious fraud," he said. "We are quite aware
of that clever business of the paste gems, for which you gave £200 at
Clarkenwell. You paid for that rubbish with Bank of England notes marked
with the stamp of your establishment. It was a very happy idea of yours
and Anstruther's."

Carrington groaned feebly; he began to fear the very worst.

"You seem to know everything," he said. "Perhaps you can tell me the
story of the burglary?"

"I am coming to that presently," Bates said coolly. "Now you were at
your wits' ends to know what to do. You knew perfectly well that many of
your clients would require their jewels for Lady Barmouth's dance. They
were not forthcoming, for the simple reason that they had been pledged
elsewhere. You had not the necessary cunning to devise some scheme to
shift the blame from your shoulders, so you called in your friend
Anstruther. It was he who hit upon the idea of the burglary. It was you
who placed temptation in the way of the night watchmen through the
medium of a couple of bottles of drugged port wine. After that the rest
was easy. You had only to enter the bank with your own keys--"

"Stop a moment," Carrington cried eagerly. "You seem to forget that even
I cannot enter the vaults of the bank without duplicate keys in the
possession of various cashiers."

"Now, listen to me," Bates said impressively. "This discussion is
absolutely irregular. It is my plain duty to arrest you at once and
convey you to Bow street. But if you help me, I may be in the position
later on to do you a service. We know precisely how Anstruther used the
dynamite; we know precisely what happened in the vaults, and how most of
the few valuables that remained were conveyed to your own private safe.
More than that, we are perfectly well aware what fee Anstruther demanded
for his trouble. Need I go into the matter of that service of Cellini
plate?"

Carrington threw up his hands with a gesture of despair. He was crushed
and beaten to the ground by the tremendous weight of evidence with which
Bates was overwhelming him.

"It is no use fighting any longer." he said. "I confess to everything. I
shall plead guilty, and afford you every information in my power. Do you
want me to come along with you now?"

On the whole, Bates rather thought not. He had effected his purpose, and
sooner or later Carrington would have to become his prisoner. He knew
that the latter would speak freely enough, like the craven coward that
he was; but there was Anstruther to be thought of. Bates rose to leave.

"You can remain where you are for the present," he said. "But if you
will take my advice, you will make no attempt to escape--you are too
carefully watched for that. And now, good-night."

Bates went off in the direction of the city feeling that the last hour
had not been pasted. On the strength of recent information, he would
have felt justified in arresting Anstruther also. But he had a wholesome
admiration for that individual, and the more evidence secured against
him the better. Therefore it was that Bates was about to carry out the
latter part of the programme, in which he was to play the part of
substitute for "Simple Charlie." The programme has been easily arranged.
There had been no difficulty in persuading the burglar to write the
desired letter to Anstruther, and Bates had made up his mind from the
first that the mythical Maggs should be none other than himself. From
first to last the thing worked admirably. Anstruther was utterly
deceived by the detective's admirable disguise, which he had assumed
after leaving Carrington, and had fallen headlong into the trap.

Therefore it was that the two men stood facing one another in
Carrington's office. Anstruther white and furious, Bates coolly
contemptuous, with a revolver in his hand.

"What have you to say for yourself?" Bates asked. "Have you any reason
to show why I should not take you straight to Bow street on the charge
of burglary?"

Anstruther was fighting hard to regain possession of himself. Bates
could not but admire the marvelous courage of the man. Anstruther's
laugh had something quite genuine about it.

"We are making a great fuss over a little thing," he said. "I came here
because Mr. Carrington was not well enough to accompany me. There are
certain things of mine in my friend's private safe here, and
unfortunately he has lost the key. It was imperative that I should have
my property to-night, and that will, perhaps, explain my presence here.
Does that satisfy you?"

"I should be easily satisfied if it did," Bates said coolly. "I should
like to know, for instance, why you require the assistance of a
professional burglar. I know perfectly well that you called in the
assistance of 'Simple Charlie,' but I was in a position to force that
individual's hand--hence my appearance in his place."

"Really, Mr. Bates," Anstruther smiled. "I had expected better things
from you. You are perfectly well aware of the fact that I am acquainted
with half the thieves in London. It was no use asking any safe-maker in
London to try to pick that lock, because it happens to be a French make.
In such awkward circumstances as this it is no new thing to call in a
cracksman when things are wanted in a hurry."

"I am afraid that won't do," Bates said. "You had plenty of time to call
in legitimate assistance, whereas so recently as last night you visited
'Simple Charlie' and left a note for him."

Anstruther smiled politely. He was perfectly cool and collected now--a
match for any detective in the force.

"We can settle the matter in two minutes," he said. "All you have to do
is to call in one of your men from outside and send a note to
Carrington, who will reply to the effect that I am here with his full
knowledge and consent."

"Can't do it." Bates said curtly. "I have no man to send. As a matter of
fact, I am alone in this business."

Anstruther bent down his head to conceal a smile. There was something
devilish in the cunning ferocity of his eyes. He had discovered an
important fact, and Bates did not seem to understand for the moment what
he had given away. He felt quite sure that he had matters in his own
hands now. He strolled slowly round the table, and proceeded to examine
carefully the lock of the safe.

"Do you really think you I could open this?" he asked. "If you could I
should have no difficulty in proving to you--" Anstruther broke off
suddenly; his left foot shot out dexterously, and Bates came half
stumbling on his knees. Like lightning Anstruther grabbed for the
revolver. He had Bates' wrist in a grip of steel, forcing his hand back
till the fingers were bound to relax their grip on the weapon. A moment
later the revolver was kicked away, and the two men were struggling
desperately on the floor.

There was no mistaking the look on Anstruther's face. He was going to
murder Bates if he could. It would never do for any living soul to know
that he was here to-night. Once Bates' mouth was silenced forever, he
could hurry back to Panton Square, and there prove such an alibi as
would hold good in any legal court in the world. All these things passed
through that wily brain as his hands clutched closer at Bates' throat.

It was touch and go with the latter. The only thing he could do was to
fight for his breath, and husband his strength for a final effort later
on. He looked straight into the gleaming eyeballs of his assailant now,
but he could not see the faintest suggestion of pity there. The world
began to dance before his eyes; a thousand stars seemed to be bursting
from the dark sky, then came along the corridor the echo of
fast-approaching footsteps.

"Curse it." Anstruther muttered. "Another moment, and I should have been
safe. Take that, you hound."

With one final blow he jumped to his feet, and, sprinting across the
office floor, darted into the shadow of the night.



XLVI.--THE MUSIC STOPS

Bates was sitting up in bed nursing an aching head, and plotting out
schemes whereby he could best retrieve the disaster of the previous
night. It was fortunate for the inspector that one of Carrington's night
watchmen should have heard something of the disturbance on the previous
night, and come hotfoot to his assistance. There was no great damage
done beyond a bruised face and a general shock to the system. Bates felt
all the better for a good night's rest, and was quite ready now to carry
on the campaign against his powerful foe.

It was some time in the afternoon before Jack Masefield put in an
appearance at Bate's lodgings, having been summoned there by a special
messenger. Jack smiled as he noticed Bate's somewhat dilapidated
condition.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "You do not seem to have been as
successful as you might--I mean over last night's business. Was the
thing a failure, or were you satisfied?"

Bates explained that up to now the battle was a drawn one. He had a
feeling that Jack would be able to help him, and that was why he asked
him to call this afternoon.

"I am not in the least dissatisfied with my last night's work," he
explained. "In the first place, we have Carrington absolutely at our
mercy. I let him know what we have discovered, and he will do anything
for us that we desire. After that. I played the part of the mythical
Maggs, and in due course disclosed myself to Mr. Anstruther. Perhaps I
was a little too confident; anyway, I gave him a chance to murder me,
and he responded to the opportunity with absolute enthusiasm. But for
the opportune arrival of the night watchman, Scotland Yard would have
lost one of Its most distinguished ornaments. It was a very near thing,
I assure you."

"But what could he possibly gain by that?" Jack asked.

"Well, you see. I had let him know that I was quite alone in the
business," said Bates. "At the same time, he was not aware that my
information was so complete. If he could murder me and get safe home
without being detected, he was in a position to prove an absolute alibi.
Of course, I did not dream that I was running any risk of my life--but
that is not the point. You will remember my suggesting to you yesterday
the advisability of you dining in Panton Square last night. I suppose
that was all right?"

Jack replied that he had followed Bates' instructions out implicitly. He
had done all he could in that way.

"Very well, then. You see what I am driving at. I take it for granted
that Anstruther's mysterious musical friend was much in evidence last
night. I have no doubt that Miss Helmsley and yourself listened with
rapt attention to the music in the study."

"We had every opportunity of doing so," Jack said.

"That is precisely what I expected. Anstruther must have left the house
a little after ten o'clock, and I don't see how it was possible for him
to return much before half-past twelve. I suppose you didn't happen to
see him when he came in?"

"Indeed I did," Jack said. "It was quite half-past twelve when I was
leaving the house. The music was still in progress, but when I slipped
out of the front door, Anstruther was rapidly approaching the house
running across the lawn. He seemed very much annoyed and put out when he
saw me, and muttered something to the effect that he had heard somebody
trying the front door. I understood him to say that he had not been out
all the evening, but that was all nonsense. I could see by his boots
that he had been walking some considerable distance. Of course, you see
what the dodge is; he does not leave the house by the door, but by the
French window leading from the study to the garden. This window he
leaves unfastened, so that he can get back at any time without a soul
being any the wiser. Of course, there was always a chance of somebody
finding the window unlatched, but that is a small matter."

"Is the window always left open?" Bates asked thoughtfully.

Jack replied that he thought so. Bates smiled with the air of a man who
is perfectly well satisfied.

"I am going to got up presently," he said. "After I have had a bath and
some tea, I shall be quite fit for duty again. I want you to find some
pretext for calling at Anstruther's just after dinner, because I may
need your assistance."

"What are you going to do?" Jack asked eagerly.

"Well, in the first place I am going to arrest Mr. Anstruther." Bates
replied. "In the second instance, I have another little scheme, which we
need not discuss now. I want you to go as far as Mr. Rigby's chambers
and get him to keep an eye on Padini, and see that last night's
programme is repeated, if possible. This is rather an important thing. I
think I can trust Mr. Rigby to manage it."

Jack went off obediently enough, and subsequently ran Rigby to earth at
the offices of The Planet. The latter seemed delighted at the turn which
affairs were taking. He began to see now that he would be able to carry
out for his paper the series of sensational articles required by the
proprietor.

"We shall have a splendid scoop," he said. "Indeed, one might almost
make a three-volume novel out of it. I am only too sorry that I can't be
at Anstruther's to-night and witness the arrest. I shall leave you to
supply all the graphic details. I can easily manage the Padini business
this evening by writing to the fellow that I have a check to pay over
and shall call at his rooms late tonight. I am sure to find him there.
He is very hard up, and the money is certain to fetch him."

"There are other things connected with this business." Jack said, "which
puzzle me. For instance, there is that affair of the mysterious Mr.
Ferris, whose acquaintance I made at the Great Metropolitan Hotel. I am
quite sure also that Seymour has some deep design on hand. You may be
absolutely certain that that business of the crystal ball played off on
Anstruther at Lady Barmouth's dance the other night was not mere
flummery."

Rigby was of the same opinion. He was anxious to know if anything had
been yet done in the matter of Carrington's private safe and the service
of Cellini plate which Anstruther had coolly appropriated for himself.
But on this point Jack had no information to offer. He did not doubt
that the whole thing would be explained in a few hours now. He killed
the day as best he could, and after dinner turned his steps in the
direction of Panton Square. Mr. Anstruther and Miss Helmsley had
practically finished. Serena explained, but they had not yet left the
dining room.

Anstruther raised his brows significantly as Jack entered the dining
room, but his manner was polite and cordial enough as he invited the
visitor to a seat and a glass of claret. He did not look in the least
perturbed or put out; on the contrary, Jack had seldom seen him so easy
and self-possessed. His neuralgia was quite gone. He had charmed it away
as usual, he said, with the soothing aid of music.

"How is it you never bring your violin into the drawing room?" Claire
asked. "We hardly ever have any duets together."

"After next week," Anstruther promised. "Really, I am a great deal more
busy, than I appear to be, and I feel it quite easy to play and think at
the same time."

Jack glanced across the table significantly at Claire, and she seemed to
divine what he was thinking about.

"I thought I knew most of your music," she said, "but there was one
little item last night that took my fancy immensely. I feel quite sure
that you composed it yourself."

Anstruther disclaimed any such gift. Fond as he was of his violin. It
had never occurred to him to try his hand at original composition.

"All the same, I really must get it," Claire persisted. "I am sorry that
you do not recall the piece at all. If you will come into the
drawing-room with me, and can spare a few minutes, I will strum the
piece over to you. It so fascinated me that I committed it to memory. Do
come along for a moment."

Anstruther laughed, as Jack thought, rather uneasily. He tried skilfully
enough to divert the conversation into another channel, but Claire's
enthusiasm refused to be baffled. Anstruther's face darkened for a
moment, and there was a look in his eyes that boded ill to somebody. He
arose and walked across towards the door, and up the stairs in the
direction of the drawing-room.

"Very well, if you must," he said. "I can give you ten minutes. I dare
say it is some silly trifle that I have heard somewhere without
recognizing its source."

Claire seated herself at the piano, and played the little piece off with
both brilliancy and feeling. As a matter of fact, she had been
practicing it several times during the afternoon until she had it
absolutely correct. The slow, mournful chords died away at length, and
then Claire turned to her guardian with a smile.

"That is it." she said. "That is the little piece that so fascinated me
last night. Surely you can tell me the name of it and where it came
from?"

The question was apparently simple enough, but Anstruther appeared to be
absolutely incapable of answering it.

"Do you mean to say you forget a thing like that?" Claire protested. "It
seems to me impossible."

"Perhaps it made less impression on me than it did you." Anstruther
muttered. "I haven't the slightest recollection of playing it myself. In
fact--"

Anstruther broke off in absolute confusion. The incident, trivial as it
seemed, had upset him altogether. He was about to betray himself by
saying that he had never heard the piece before, and that it had no
place amongst his music; but he pulled himself up just in time. He
bitterly blamed Padini's carelessness. It was no part of the programme
for his double to give him anything but pieces of music with which he
was absolutely familiar. What he might have said and done was frustrated
by the appearance of Serena, who announced that a gentleman down-stairs
desired to see Mr. Anstruther.

Jack felt his pulses beating a little faster, for he had had no reason
to inquire who the stranger was. Serena's eyes were demure and downcast
as usual as she replied to Anstruther's question that the gentleman
downstairs was none other than Inspector Bates of Scotland Yard. Only
just for an instant did Anstruther falter and turn pale, then he was
absolutely himself again. He almost wished now that he had not waited so
long. He had his ingenious alibi, it was true, but even that might fall.
There were so many meshes in the nets of Scotland Yard. In a calm, even
voice he ordered Serena to show the stranger upstairs. Bates came at
length, a little pallid and bruised, but otherwise little worse for his
last night's adventure.

"And what might be your business with me, Inspector?" Anstruther asked.
"It is some time since I had the pleasure of meeting you. Will you take
a seat?"

"I do not see the necessity," Bates responded. "As my business is
private, perhaps you will be good enough to follow me to your study. I
will speak it you like, but--"

"You may say anything you please," Anstruther said defiantly.

"Then I arrest you on a warrant, charging you with attempted burglary
last night," Bates said pithily. "You were on the premises belonging to
the City and Provincial Bank with a felonious intent of breaking into a
safe between the hours of eleven and half-past twelve. Need I say any
more?"

"Amazing." Anstruther laughed. "Fortunately I have my witnesses at hand
to prove that I was not off these premises during the hours you
mentioned. As a matter of fact. I was in my study playing my violin all
the time."

"Sounds ingenious," Bates muttered, "but in these days of clever
mechanical contrivances--by the way, is not some one playing the violin
downstairs now?"

Despite his command of himself a furious curse broke from Anstruther's
lips. For even as Bates spoke, there came sounds of liquid melody from
the study. Not only was this so, but furthermore, the piece in question
was precisely the same as the one that Claire had just been playing over
to her guardian. The girl rose to her feet and looked across at Jack
significantly. Bates smiled in the manner of one who has solved a great
problem.

"Really, a most remarkable coincidence," he said. "I am afraid this
rather spoils the simple beauty of your alibi, Mr. Anstruther; unless,
perhaps, you have some friend who entertains your household at such
times as business calls you elsewhere. But let us go downstairs and see
for ourselves."

"No, no," Anstruther cried furiously. "You shall not do it. You shall
not interfere. I'll kill you first!"

"Come along," Bates responded. "Come with me and witness the solving of
the mysterious problem.



XLXII--"A WOMAN SCORNED"

It was plainly evident that Bates believed in his ability to solve the
problem. Anstruther had quite thrown the mask off by this time, and
stood glaring vindictively at the inspector. It was absolutely maddening
to a man of his ability to be caught in a sorry trap like this. One of
the strongest points in Anstruther's schemes was the fact that hitherto
he had always been on the side of the police He had been regarded as one
of them, so to speak, so that many of his ingenious plots had been
guided solely by the action of the authorities. It had never occurred to
him that he might have been an object of suspicion at Scotland Yard.

"You might just as well take it quietly." Bates said. "We know the whole
thing from start to finish. It will go a great deal easier with you if
you give us all the information that lies in your power and save us
trouble."

"That is the usual course, I believe," Anstruther sneered. "But you have
a different man to deal with in me. I am quite at a loss to understand
what you are doing here at all."

Bates shrugged his shoulders and walked in the direction of the door. He
had no difficulty in seeing that Anstruther had made up his mind to see.
this thing through to the bitter end. Therefore, it was quite useless to
try and get him to see matters in a reasonable light. Anstruther stood
there, white, silent and furious, while all the time the amazing music
was going on in the study.

Mysterious as the whole thing appeared to be, there was almost an
element of farce in it. Here was the very man who relied upon his
devotion to his violin to save him in the hour of danger, actually
listening, so to speak, to his own performance. He had little doubt what
Bates meant to do, for the latter was already half-way down the stairs
on his way to the study. With a sudden impulse Anstruther followed. He
passed Bates with a rapid stride, and, standing with his back to the
study door, defied the Inspector to enter.

"You do not seem to understand," Bates said. "The warrant I have for
your arrest gives me the right of searching the whole house. If you
persist in this absurd conduct I shall have to call my men in and remove
you by force."

The two men faced one another, both angry and excited, and ready to fly
at one another's throats. And yet the whole time their ears were
filled,with the beautiful melody of the music, as it floated from the
room behind.

"What are we going to do?" Claire asked. She was standing with Jack at
the top of the staircase. "Is it not time that we declared ourselves?"

Jack whispered to Claire to remain where she was a moment, and slipped
out of the house into the garden unperceived. It had suddenly occurred
to him that perhaps the window leading from the study to the garden was
unfastened. He recollected that this was the means by which Anstruther
left and returned to the house. It would have been imprudent on the
latter's part to use the front door, and there was not much risk in
leaving the study window unlatched.

It was just as Jack had expected. The long French window gave to his
touch, and a moment later he was in the room. As it happened on the
previous occasion, he could see not the faintest trace of any mechanism
by means of which the melody was conveyed from the Great Metropolitan
Hotel to Panton Square. And yet the whole room was flooded with it;
rising and falling in triumphant strains, as if mocking the intellect of
a man who had brought this wonderful result about. But there was no
time, to speculate on that, no time for close Investigation. On the
other side of the door the voices of Anstruther and Bates were rising to
a still more angry pitch, and Claire's tones of expostulation came to
Jack's ears. As he crossed the room he could see that the key was in the
door. He flung it open, and Anstruther came staggering backward into the
room, closely followed by the detective.

"You can see that the game is up," the latter said coolly. "Why not make
a clean breast of it? I shall find out how this is done if I have to
pull down the house to do it."

Anstruther smiled in a scornful kind of way, and flung himself doggedly
into a seat. He bade Bates do his worst, and prophesied that the police
would suffer for this Indignity. But Bates was not listening. He was
pacing rapidly round the room with his ear to the wall, as if scenting
out some clue to the mystery. A moment later and there came into the
room the form of Serena.

One glance at her sufficed to show that she was not the Serena whom Jack
had known so long. The demure, downcast eyes were no longer seeking the
floor as of old: there was no shrinking and timidity on the part of the
woman now. She was changed almost beyond recognition. She walked with a
firm, elastic tread, her shoulders were thrown back and her head
uplifted fearlessly. From under his heavy brows Anstruther glanced at
her suspiciously.

"Go away," he commanded hoarsely. "How dare you force yourself in here
like this. Go, woman!"

But the tones of command had evidently lost their power. There was no
shrinking on Serena's part. She advanced into the middle of the room as
if the place be longed to her.

"No, no," she cried in tones as clear and ringing as Anstruther's own.
"Your power has gone forever. For three long, patient years I have
waited for this moment. God only knows what my life has been, and what a
hell your cruelty has created for me. But the cord is broken now. Only
to-night I have learned the truth. I have been your good and faithful
servant; have stooped to do your hateful work; have been the ally of
criminals--of your creature Redgrave, amongst others; and all because I
thought you held my life in the hollow of your hand."

"Tell them the story of your boy," Anstruther sneered.

"I will tell them the truth," Serena cried. "You said you could hang me
if you liked. You pretended that in my delirium I had taken the life of
my darling child. You were shielding a murderess, as I thought. But it
was a black and cruel lie. Give me back my wasted years, you coward;
give me back my sleepless nights and dreary days. But, thank God, that
time has passed. My boy is alive--alive! He is safe in the house at
present!"

Anstruther started as if some loathsome insect had stung him, then
dropped sullenly back in his scat again. Bates turned to Serena and
called her attention to the music.

"You seem to be in a communicative mood to-night," he said. "You need
not fear any one for the future--Redgrave or anybody else. I understand
this last scoundrel is safe in the hands of the New York police, who
were wanting him badly. Perhaps you can tell us the meaning of this
extraordinary concert we are listening to, if you will be so good--"

Serena mode no reply in words, but crossed to the side of the room
opposite the door, and tugged at a volume which was the center of a set
of some classical dictionary. The volume came away quite easily in her
hand, bringing other dummy books with it; and then the interested
spectators saw that the books in question were no more than painted
gauze. In the orifice disclosed by the stripping away of the sham, there
appeared to be something that resembled a mouth of a great silver
trumpet. This was partly plugged with a set of sensitive metal plates,
which were evidently intended to act as a diaphragm for the record of
musical expression.

"There you have the whole thing in a nutshell," Serena said, speaking
quite naturally and quietly. "It is very ingenious, and yet, at the same
time, it is not entirely original. It is an adaptation of the
theaterphone, in connection with a somewhat modified form of telephone.
The recording instrument is situated in my husband's rooms in the Great
Metropolitan Hotel, and he has only to start his performance there, and
the music sounds here quite as distinctly as if he were actually playing
in this apartment. It seems exceedingly simple, now that you know how it
is done."

It did seem simple. Indeed, after listening to Serena's explanation.
Bates turned to Anstruther and asked him if he had anything to say; but
the latter shook his head doggedly. He felt quite sure that the game was
up, though he had no intention whatever of giving himself away. And yet,
despite his danger, he was still the connoisseur enjoying the beautiful
music made by Padini's violin. But to Claire, who had crept into the
room unobserved, the whole thing was horrible and unnatural. Such lovely
music as Padini was playing now was but a sorry accompaniment to all
this vulgar crime and intrigue. The girl shuddered, and placed her hands
over her ears as if to shut out the liquid melody.

"Oh, I wish it would stop," she said. "I do wish it would stop."

As if in answer to this prayer, the long, wailing notes died away, and
the music fainted into nothingness. At the same time, Bates approached
the mouth of the trumpet and blew shrilly on his police whistle. There
was a pause just for an instant, and then, to Jack's surprise, came the
voice of Rigby clear and distinct.

"Is that you, Inspector Bates?" he asked. "We have just finished at this
end. I am afraid there will be no more music to-night, as two of your
detectives have most inhospitably insisted upon breaking up our concert
and escorting Signor Padini to Shannon Street police station. Shall I
come round there, or will you come round here? Do you get my voice quite
clearly?"

Bates replied grimly that he did. There was no occasion whatever to
trouble Rigby any further to-night. Then the Inspector turned to
Anstruther and tapped him on the shoulder.

"I think there is no reason to carry this farce any farther," he said.
"You will be good enough to consider yourself my prisoner. Would you
like to walk to Bow Street or shall I call a cab?"

Anstruther intimated that it was all the same to him. He knew perfectly
well now that the whole thing was exploded. There was something bitter
in the reflection that he had been found out at last and laid by the
heels over so paltry a business as the bogus burglary at the City and
Provincial Bank,

"I think I'll walk." he said. "No, you need not call any of your men,
and you need have no fear of personal violence."

"All right," Bates said. "Though I am still suffering from that shaking
up you gave me last night. Come along."

"I must apologize for all this trouble," Anstruther said, turning to
Claire, and speaking in quite his natural manner. "I must leave you to
manage as best you can for the present. I dare say you will be able to
manage with Serena."

He turned curtly on his heel and walked to the door. Of Jack he took no
notice whatever. A moment later the front door closed suddenly, and
Anstruther was gone.

"The house smells all the sweeter for his absence," Jack said. "My
dearest girl, you can see now what a narrow escape you have had. I only
hope, for your sake, that the fellow has not been tampering with your
fortune. You must not stay, here after to-morrow. The place will be
simply besieged by newspaper reporters and interviewers. I must find
some house for, you--"

"You need not trouble about that, Mr. Masefield," Serena said. "There is
one house where both of us will be welcomed with open arms. Need I say
that I am alluding to Lady Barmouth?"

Jack gave a sigh of relief; for the moment he had quite forgotten Lady
Barmouth. At any rate, for to-night Claire and Serena could stay where
they were, and they could go to Lady Barmouth's in the morning. Then
Jack remembered all that Serena had gone through, and warmly
congratulated her upon the recovery of her boy

"It means all the world to me," Serena cried. "It fell out exactly as
Miss Helmsley said it would. When that man called to see Mr. Anstruther
again, I told him who I was, and he took me to my child at once. The
stranger had been very kind to the lad. He knew nothing of the rascality
and villainy behind it all, and he was only too glad to see mother and
son united.

"And Padini?" Jack suggested. "You must not forget--"

"I want to forget everything about him," Serena cried. "I shall be glad,
really glad, to know that that man is outside the power of doing
mischief for the next three years. Do not ask me anything else--do not
ask me, for instance why why I was playing the deaf-mute that night at
Carrington's rooms. I don't know. I was a mere slave and tool in
Anstruther's hands, and had to do exactly as he told me. It was only by
the merest accident that I discovered how the trick of the music was
done, and that I should have had to have kept to myself if my dear boy
had not been so marvelously restored to me. Perhaps at some future time
I may be disposed to tell you more. For the present, all I want to do is
to sleep. I am longing for that one night's sweet repose which has, been
so cruelly denied me the last few years."

Jack said no more. He left the house presently with the intention of
seeing Rigby at once, and then of calling on Lady Barmouth the first
thing in morning, and making such arrangement as would conduce to the
comfort Claire and Serena.



XLVIII--THE PROOF OF THE CAMERA

Society generally had plenty to talk about in the way of scandal next
morning, when it became known that Spencer Anstruther and been arrested
in connection with the burglary of the City and Provincial Bank. The
only paper giving anything like the account of the arrest, naturally,
was The Planet, which paper vaguely hinted at further disclosures in the
early future. Jack read the account over the breakfast table, and smiled
as he recognized the hand of Rigby in all this. He would see Rigby
presently, and ascertain exactly what had taken place last night at the
Great Metropolitan Hotel. First of all, he had to see Lady Barmouth, who
had already heard something of the news. She listened with vivid
interest to all that Jack had to say, then announced her intention of
going to Panton Square once.

"I shall bring my sister and Claire here," she said. "They shall stay as
long as they please. As to my sister and her boy, I shall be delighted
to have them. I presume there will be some sort of proceedings against
Anstruther this morning."

To the great disappointment of the public, when Anstruther came to be
charged at Bow Street the evidence was purely formal. The prisoner had
elected not to be represented by a lawyer, and, with a view of
expediting the proceedings, had formally pleaded guilty to the charge,
and asked to be committed to the Central Criminal Court, which took
place a week from now.

"Clever chap that," Bates said, as he and Rigby, together with Jack,
turned into Covent Garden. "Pretty cool, too. He wants to save time, of
course, and get the thing over before we can complete our chain of
evidence! But I fancy that by the end of n week we shall be able to
produce all the witnesses we want."

"I expect so," Rigby said. "By the way, don't forget about that service
of plate. Seymour says it ought to be conveyed to Scotland Yard and the
photographs taken at once. I have a letter from Seymour in my pocket in
which he asks me to go round and see Sir Frederick Ormond, induce that
gentleman to take the sealed crystal ball to your headquarters, and to
see that the seal is not broken except in the presence of one of your
leading officials. Then you can get both sets of photographs done at
once."

Bates had his hands full for the next few hours. Then, towards four
o'clock. he made his way to Carrington's flat.

Under plea of indisposition, the latter had not been out for a day or
so; but, as a matter of fact, Bates had given him a pretty broad hint to
keep clear of the bank premises, and to consider himself more or less as
a prisoner on parole. Carrington's knees knocked together, and his face
turned deadly pale as Bates came into the room.

"So you have come again," he stammered. "I hope, perhaps, that--don't
say I'm your prisoner."

"I am afraid that's what it comes to," Bates said. "We can't let you off
altogether, you know. But you help us, and give us all the information
in your power, and I'll do my best to get you off as lightly as
possible. It makes all the difference between two years' imprisonment
and seven years' penal servitude."

"Am I to come with you now?" Carrington managed to stammer out. "Is
there no such thing as bail?"

Bates shook his head. Carrington would have to spend the night, and
doubtless a good many succeeding nights, on the police cells; but, first
of all, they were going as far as the bank. Bates explained that there
was no reason, for the present, why Carrington should stand confessed as
a prisoner. The bank officials need know nothing whatever about it. What
Carrington had to do now was to hand over the service of Cellini plate
at present locked up in his private safe. The detective gave his promise
that the plate in question should be restored to its proper owner in due
course, though he refused to gratify Carrington's curiosity as to why he
had specially selected this particular art treasure.

An hour later the Cellini plate was safe in Bow Street, together with
the crystal globe; and before the week was out both articles had
undergone some mysterious process of photography, not altogether
unconnected with sheets of glass. Meanwhile, Anstruther was preparing
his defense as best he could, and Carrington had been twice remanded on
a charge of fraudulently dealing with the property of his clients. The
two cases excited the greatest interest, and on the following Monday
morning the Central Criminal Court was packed with society people eager
to hear the charges against Spencer Anstruther.

Anstruther stood there, quite calm and collected, with just the touch of
a cynical smile on his lips. He looked round the court as if in search
of acquaintances, but no one responded. Many people whom he knew quite
well affected to look over his head. But cool and deliberate as he was,
Anstruther had all his work cut out to keep his feelings in control when
the barrister who represented the Crown proceeded to call witnesses. The
name of Seymour resounded down the corridor, and a tall man with his
face muffled up and a slouch hat on his head stepped into the box. He
bowed gravely to the judge, and apologised for wearing his hat. A moment
later his hat and coat slipped away, and he turned his face half
defiantly to the light. There was an instant's breathless pause, then a
veritable shout of astonishment, as the Nostalgo of the posters stood
face to face with those whose curiosity had been so deeply touched
during the past four months.

"My name is Seymour," he said quietly, as if quite unconscious of the
tremendous sensation his appearance had excited. "I have known the
prisoner for some years. Before I unfortunately made his acquaintance, I
was not the human wreck you see now, but a man like my fellows. But I
need not go into that. What I propose to do now is to tell the story of
the burglary at the City and Provincial Bank.

"Previous to my visit to Mexico, I occupied with Mr. Carrington the
rooms which are now his; I have in my pocket a latch-key which opens the
front door. It matters little now why I wanted to make a search of Mr.
Carrington's rooms, but I did make that search, and I was hidden in the
conservatory behind the smoking-room with Mr. John Masefield on the
night that the prisoner and Carrington planned the sham burglary at the
bank. The whole scheme was revealed to us, and I shall be prepared to
tell the jury presently what steps I took to see the so-called burglary
carried out. It is sufficient for the present to say that it was carried
out, and that I witnessed the whole proceedings in the company of Mr.
Masefield and a journalist on the staff of The Planet, Mr. Rigby by
name.

"I should like, at this point, to call the attention of the jury to what
we saw when the bank strong room was forced. So far as valuables are
concerned, the safe was practically empty, save for a service of Cellini
silver plate. Other witnesses beside myself will tell you that the
prisoner claimed that plate as a reward for the ingenious way in which
he had plotted to preserve Carrington's reputation. When I heard this, a
sudden inspiration came to me. With a piece of greasy rag I hastily
smeared the surface of the set of plate. I will come to my reason for
doing that presently. When the whole affair had been finished, the
prisoner was half minded to take the service of plate back with him at
once to his house in Panton Square. But Carrington dissuaded him from
this on the grounds of prudence. Therefore the prisoner carried the
plate upstairs and deposited it in Carrington's private safe. There it
remained for a day or two, pending some way of conveying it to Panton
Square.

"But in the meanwhile something happened which aroused the prisoner's
suspicion. He made up his mind that he would himself remove the plate
from Carrington's safe by means of another burglary. Carrington refused
to have anything to do with this, but the prisoner got his own way by
the simple expedient of stealing Carrington's keys. The prisoner is more
or less intimately acquainted with some of the cleverest thieves and
housebreakers in London. There was no time to call in an honest expert
to open Carrington's safe, but the prisoner was equal to the occasion.
He called upon a well-known housebreaker who passes by the name of
'Simple Charlie.' I know this, because for some time I have been
watching the man in the dock. I have my own reasons for keeping quiet
and living in an out-of-the-way place, and I have a set of rooms fitted
up in what is, more or less a common lodging house.

"By good fortune the man known as 'Simple Charlie' had rooms in the same
block of buildings. When the prisoner called upon him the housebreaker
was out, so that a note was left for him. This note I managed to get
hold of and read. Together with a friend of mine named Ferris, we laid a
little plot for 'Simple Charlie.' We compelled him to find a substitute
who would operate upon the safe, and that substitute was no other than
Inspector Bates, as doubtless he will tell you later on."

It must be clearly understood that Seymour did not stand in the box and
reel off his evidence in the glib way of one who is making a speech for
the prosecution. On the contrary, the fascinating evidence he gave was
in reply to questions asked by representatives of the Crown,
occasionally supplemented by a question of two from the judge.

All this time Anstruther stood in the dock, his face knitted in an ugly
frown. Despite his easy air, his confidence was fast deserting him. Any
other man would have been crushed and broken by the deadly weight of a
testimony like that of Seymour's. In his heart of hearts Anstruther was
sick and frightened. Never for a moment had he dreamed of anything like
this. Seymour stood before him without a trace of expression on his
scarred, repulsive face. And yet every word he uttered was as another
month on the long sentence he was already anticipating.

Anstruther came out of a dream presently, and realised with a start that
Seymour's deadly revelations were still going on. A moment later, and
the Crown Counsel suggested that Seymour should stand down for a moment,
and that Bates should take hid place. The detective came into the box
alert and smiling. He told how he had impersonated the mythical Maggs,
and how he had accompanied Anstruther to the City and Provincial Bank.

"At this point I should like to ask you a few questions," said counsel
for the Crown. "I understand that you have become become possessed of
the service of silver plate to which the last witness has already
alluded. He spoke just now of some device of his whereby the service of
plate was smeared with grease as it lay on the floor of the vault, and
before it was conveyed to Carrington's safe. Now, has this any important
bearing on the case?"

"I think you will find that it has an exceedingly important bearing on
the case," Bates said. "You will remember, sir, that Mr. Seymour made a
special request that the plate should be carefully photographed. You
will remember, also, that the prisoner himself carried the plate to the
safe and deposited it inside. We have had the plate carefully
photographed, with a view to identification by means of finger marks.
That is what we call a part of the Bertillon system. But, perhaps, I had
better explain."

Bates's explanation was carefully followed by an almost breathless
audience. Batea held up a sheet of glass in his hand.

"I have here," he said, "a photograph taken from a silver cigar case. It
is the considerably enlarged impression of finger prints left on the
cigar case by a burglar who was scared away before he could secure his
booty. By comparison of this impression from the cigar case side by side
with one of the other permanent prints at Scotland Yard we were enabled
to identify and convict the thief."

"Quite so," the barrister said. "The Jury follows you. Is it your
intention to prove that on the Cellini plate marks have been found
corresponding with the lines on the prisoner's hand?"

"This is preposterous," Anstruther cried. "It is nothing less than a
vile conspiracy. I defy the police to be able to prove that the marks of
my fingers are on the plate. And even if there was mere resemblance
discovered it would be out of the question for the police to compare
them with any impression of my own."

"You are doing no good to your case," the judge interposed "You will
have plenty of opportunity to ask questions later on."

"With the permission of the Jury I shall prove that," Bates said.
"Before I proceed any further, may I ask your lordship if you will have
Sir Frederick Ormond called? Sir Frederick will recollect the night of
Lady Barmouth's dance, when one of the guests, disguised as a magician,
gave him a sealed packet to take care of. When the packet came to
unsealed and photographed by our experts, we had no difficulty in
discovering--"

A deep groan broke from Anstruther's lips. "My Heaven!" he cried. "I had
forgotten the crystal!"



XLIX.--PROOF POSITIVE

Anstruther's denunciation of himself rang out loud and clear, so that it
was heard to the uttermost parts of the court. Nothing could have
condemned him more than that speaking cry; there was wanted no witness
more damning than his white face and staring eyes. In sooth, he had
quite forgotten the crystal globe. It all came back to him now, and he
saw vividly and clearly the semi-comedy which had been enacted at Lady
Barmouth's dance by himself and the so-called magician. To a man of
Anstruther's capabilities, the idea that he had walked headlong into a
trap laid for him was maddening. He had devised so many cunning schemes
for the luring of others into confessions of crime, that it was all the
more galling to find himself hoisted with his own petard.

It was in vain that he strove to recover the ground he had lost. He
could see a grim smile on the face of the judge, and even the suggestion
of amusement in the Jury box. He seemed as if about to burst into
passionate protest, then placed his hands upon his lips, and maintained
instead a stolid silence.

"Perhaps I had better make a little explanation here," counsel for the
prosecution said. "A great deal turns on the matter of this crystal
ball. The witness Seymour has already explained to the Court the story
of the Cellini plate up to a certain point. That story we shall
substantiate presently by calling the witnesses Masefield and Rigby.
Your lordship will understand that Lady Barmouth's now historic dance
took place subsequent to the robbery at the City and Provincial Bank.
The witness Seymour has already told you that he overheard the whole
conspiracy between the prisoner and Carrington, by means of which the
public would have been deluded into believing that a great robbery had
taken place. The witness Seymour has also informed you that he had meant
to be present when this bogus burglary took place--an event that
subsequently happened. It was only when the Cellini plate lay outside
the bank strong room that the most ingenious idea occurred to Seymour.

"He has told us how, by means of a greasy rag, he smeared over the
service of plate, which was subsequently placed by Anstruther's own hand
in Carrington's safe. Beyond all question, the imprints of Anstruther's
fingers must have remained on the plate; indeed, we shall prove this
beyond question before long. By way of making the thing absolutely
certain, it was necessary to get a proper impression of Anstruther's
hands. Hence the comedy of the magician--a little comedy which shall be
explained later--which character was quite easily carried out at a fancy
dance like Lady Barmouth's. I am aware, my lord, that my proceeding is a
little irregular, but I want to clear the thing up as I go along. If the
prisoner has any objection, I will, of course, conduct my case--"

"The prisoner has no objection whatever," Anstruther growled. "I say the
whole thing is a conspiracy, and a rascally one at that."

"The proceedings are somewhat irregular," the judge interposed, "but
seeing that the prisoner declines to be legally represented--"

Anstruther shrugged his shoulders, and the prosecuting counsel went on.
He had little more to say on the present head. He now proposed to call
Sir Frederick Ormond.

The popular young statesman stepped into the witness box with a jaunty
air and a smile which suggested amusement; in fact, he seemed to regard
the whole thing in the light of a very good joke.

"I want you, Sir Frederick," the Crown lawyer went on, "to tell us
exactly what happened in regard to this magician business at Lady
Barmouth's house the other night."

"Really, there is very, little to tell you," Ormond smiled. "I regarded
it as all part of the fun. I was sitting close to the table occupied by
the prisoner and the mysterious magician; in fact, I regarded the whole
thing as a pure piece of comedy got up between these gentlemen to amuse
the guests."

"You had no notion of the magician's name, then?" the lawyer asked. "You
were not taken into the secret?"

"Oh dear, no. It seemed to me to be a very clever piece of acting. I
must confess I was just a little impressed when the crystal was placed
in the box, after being firmly held by the prisoner for a few moments.
The magician asked for the box to be sealed, which was done, and the
thing subsequently passed into my possession."

"8top one moment," Anstruther cried. "That box was sealed up and taken
away by you. Nobody else touched it?"

The witness explained that nobody handled the box besides himself until
Inspector Bates fetched it away under an authority from Scotland Yard.
Sir Frederick went on to explain that he had been present when the seal
of the box was broken.

"Nobody could tamper with it during the time you had it, I suppose?"
Anstruther asked. "You kept it under lock and key?"

"The whole time," the witness cried. "You must understand that I am
quite used to keeping valuable documents and that kind of thing. I took
that box straight home, and locked it securely away in a drawer in my
safe, where it remained until the police fetched it."

Asked if he had any further questions to put, Anstruther sullenly
declined. He still harped upon the string that this was a criminal
conspiracy got up against him by the police, and insinuated that, the
mysterious magician was nothing else than a detective smuggled into Lady
Barmouth's house for the purpose of trapping him.

"I think it would be as well, my lord, to sweep away this impression at
once," the Crown Counsel exclaimed. "I propose to put the magician in
the box without delay."

Anstruther stared open-mouthed as Seymour once more came forward. The
prisoner's quick intellect saw the whole scheme quite clearly now.
Pressed as he was, and in danger as he was, he had just a touch of a
grim smile of approval; it was a trap entirely after his own heart. Yet
his eyes held a menace when they met those of Seymour. The latter
returned the gaze. There was a merciless gleam in his own eyes as he
faced the Jury box.

"Here we have the mysterious magician," the Crown Counsel explained.
"Perhaps you will tell us how you came to think of this thing. A mere
outline will do."

"It came to me when I was watching those men in the vaults of the bank,"
Seymour explained in his deep, ringing voice. "I am very much interested
in crime and criminals, and more than interested in that prisoner at the
bar. I cannot forgot--I shall never forget--the fact that, but for him,
I should be as other men. To be revenged on him, and to expose one of
the greatest scoundrels the world has over seen, I came back to England.
I found the prisoner a popular figure in society I discovered that my
task would be no easy one. I had, moreover, to be careful--my face is
one that is not easy to disguise. From the very first good fortune was
on my side. I made one discovery after another--all tending to the
discredit of the prisoner at the bar. I have already explained to the
court how I became in a position to overhear the conspiracy that led to
the robbery of the bank. Other witnesses will tell you in greater detail
what happened that night at the bank. It was only when I heard the
prisoner coolly arranging to appropriate that magnificent service of
plate that my idea occurred to me. I was going to prove that the plate
had been through Anstruther's hands. Of course, I am quite familiar with
the Bertillon system, and here was a chance of putting it into practice.
I hastily smeared the silver with grease, in order that the marks should
be all the more distinct."

"What does all this acting lead to?" Anstruther cried.

"I am just coming to that," Seymour said quietly. "I knew that when the
plates came to be photographed by the police, the finger prints would
show quite clearly on the glass slide. It is necessary to have a
corresponding set of prints, hence my idea of the magician and the
crystal ball. As a matter of fact, Lord. Barmouth is a great friend of
mine; indeed, we have suffered a lot at the hands of the prisoner. It
was, therefore, not difficult for me to secure an invitation to Lady
Barmouth's dance, which I attended in the dress of a magician. I was the
magician. I arranged the plan myself, and I obtained the impression of
those finger tips, which will show presently, when they are compared
with those taken from the set of Cellini plate. I have nothing more to
say for the present."

Anstruther intimated that he had no questions to ask the witness, he had
come into court prepared to take advantage of anything in his favor,
trusting to his intelligence and audacity to pull him through. But not
for a moment had he guessed how strong a case the police had piled up
against him. Not that he gave the police any credit for the business at
all. He could see quite clearly that they would have done nothing
without the aid of Seymour. Had the latter not taken in hand the matter,
the police would never have discovered his connection with the bogus
burglary; and, however much Carrington might subsequently have suffered,
the main rogue in the play would have gone off scot free.

It was a dramatic story that Seymour had told the court, and every word
that he had said was followed with the most rapt attention. The
sensation of seeing Nostalgo in the flesh would have been enough for
most people, but when one of the most mysterious personages that had
ever excited the attention of London stood up like this, the central
figure of a great crime, the excitement was- multiplied a hundredfold.

There was a pause here, and the lawyer of the Crown looked significantly
at Bates. The latter arose, and produced a cardboard box and something
that looked like an exaggerated camera. There was a breathless pause,
for everybody was on the tip-toe of expectation. Even the judge leaned
forward eagerly, wondering what was going to happen next.

"We are going to prove the identification of the finger marks," the
lawyer explained. "For this purpose we shall have to darken the court,
to throw the photographs on a large sheet which has been pinned to the
wall at the back of the building. I trust your Lordship will have no
objection to this course."

The judge was understood to say that he objected to nothing calculated
to further the ends of justice. The fashionable audience thrilled.
Society settled down to the knowledge that it was going to have a new
sensation. Ladies ceased the rustling of their fans, and the whispering
and giggling stopped, for here was a drama far more realistic and
terrible than anything ever seen upon the stage. A man's future
literally hung upon the fair white cloth suspended from the wall at the
end of the court.

The lights went out one by one until there was nothing left but the
pallid flame of the lantern lamp, which faintly picked out the eager
eyes and parted lips of the excited spectators. Then the lamp vanished,
and almost immediately a brilliant disc of light was thrown on the white
sheet. In the long lane of flame the little motes of dust and fluff
flickered. Here and there, as a hand or an arm went up from those at the
back of the lantern, ghostly accusing shadows seemed to flit. Out of the
darkness the voice of the Crown Counsel came with a startling
suddenness.

"In the first instance," he said, "we propose to throw on the screen the
magnified photograph of certain finger impressions taken from the
Cellini plate. These photographs were made at Scotland Yard and
developed by the expert who is now assisting us in this matter. Here, my
Lord and gentlemen of the jury, is the first of the magnified
photographs."

The great white shining disc disappeared as if by magic for a moment,
and then upon it there stood out a wonderful reproduction of the right
and left palms and finger tips of a human hand. Magnified so largely,
every line and scar and little filament could be seen. It was as if some
painstaking engraver had worked up the whole thing under a powerful
microscope.

"There we have the impression of the prisoner's hands as taken from the
Cellini plate," the lawyer went on. "If we are wrong it is for the
prisoner to prove it. But to make matters absolutely certain, the next
plate will show the same finger prints as taken from the crystal ball.
We know from the highest authority that the crystal ball was last in the
hands of the prisoner."

The photograph vanished, the great white disc shone out again, and once
more it was obscured by an almost precisely similar photograph. It would
have been on expert, indeed, who could have found out any dissimilarity
between the two pictures.

"And now, to make matters doubly sure," the lawyer said, "we propose to
reproduce the two photographs superimposed one on the top of the other."

Another exciting moment followed, a pause of almost painful interest;
and then he two slides were placed in the lantern at once. They stood
out on the sheet, just a shade misty and indistinct, like a badly
printed picture, but the veriest novice there could see at once for
himself that, they were the same hands. As suddenly as it had vanished
the lights flashed up again, and every eye was turned upon Anstruther's
white and rigid face.

"My Lord," he said in a hoarse, strained voice, "with your permission, I
should like it adjourned until to-morrow.



L--ON THE BRINK

It was quite evident that the strong man was breaking down under the
strain of these damning proofs. He would, apparently, have said more if
he could, but his lips were dry, and the back of his throat appeared to
have turned to ashes. With a shaking hand he lifted the glass of water
which had been placed on a little ledge before him, and drank it down
eagerly.

"What object do you expect to gain by this course?" the judge asked. "If
you have any witnesses to call--"

Anstruther intimated that he had. The eager audience appeared to be
disappointed. It was as if they had just witnessed the first act of a
powerful drama which had ended abruptly owing to some unforeseen
circumstance. Still, the prisoner was likely to have his own way over
this, seeing that he was undefended by counsel; indeed, it was only fair
that no obstacle should he put in his way.

"Very well, then," the judge said briefly. "The case is adjourned till
10 o'clock to-morrow morning."

Five minutes later the court was deserted, and another judge was
listening to some prosaic case of no importance whatever. 8eymour had
made his way rapidly out of court, followed by a curious crowd. He was
quite calm and collected, though he had taken the precaution to hide his
features as much as possible. Jack and Rigby caught him just at the
moment that he was entering his cab.

"Where are you going to?" the latter said. "I have got a thousand
questions to ask you. Don't run away like this."

"I wasn't going anywhere in particular," Seymour explained. "I have
nothing to do but to kill time. It seems to me that I have very little
more to do in the way of ridding the world of Spencer Anstruther. Call
it unchristian if you like, but there is a feeling deep in my heart that
I shall be able to rest in future without the wild desire of always
being at that fellow's throat. I don't think they will want me to-morrow
morning."

"What do you suppose Anstruther is up to?" Jack asked.

"Suicide," said Seymour curtly. "I know that man far better than either
of you. And if this verdict goes against him to-morrow--as assuredly it
will--he will find some way of putting an end to his life."

Jack looked significantly at Rigby, who nodded.

"Come round to my rooms," he suggested, "and let us talk this matter
over. And now that you have once appeared in public, and now that you
have once told part of your story in the witness box, you might, at
least, disclose the rest of it to two sympathetic friends like
ourselves."

Just for a moment Seymour seemed to hesitate.

"Very well," he said. "If you don't get it from me you will from Lord
Barmouth. If it had not been for Ferris and your discovery of him at the
Great Metropolitan Hotel, nothing would have induced me to say a word.
But I have more than a hope now that before long I shall stand before
the world a changed man and be able to take my place amongst my fellow
creatures without being the subject of vulgar and idle curiosity. I will
tell you everything when we get as far as your rooms."

It was over a whisky and soda and a cigar that Seymour proceeded to tell
his story. Both Jack and Rigby had heard the best part of it before.
They knew all about the Mexican tribe and the dangers of the gold belt,
but the cream of the mystery to them was the way in which a man of
ordinary appearance could be transformed into so repulsive an object.

"The whole thing," said Seymour as he approached the most fascinating
part of his narrative," was the way in which those people revenged
themselves upon outsiders who had the temerity to invade the region of
the gold belt. Mind you, they were a powerful tribe, and in some remote
age or other had evidently been highly civilised. At the time Ferris and
Barmouth and myself had the misfortune to find ourselves prisoners in
their hands, they were absolutely eaten up with priest-craft. As I think
I told you before, the most powerful man in the tribe was not a native
at all, but an Englishman. You will not be surprised to hear that the
Englishman's name was Anstruther. I did not know then as I know now what
that man had gone through to learn the secret of where the great masses
of gold were hidden. Interrupting my narrative for a moment--have either
of you ever noticed a faint resemblance between Anstruther and any other
Nostalgo like myself?"

"I have," Jack cried. "Especially in moments of passion."

"That I can quite easily understand," Seymour went on. "When Anstruther
first fell into the hands of of those people he was served in exactly
the same way as I was served myself; in other words, one of those
diabolically clever surgeons in the tribe turned him into a Nostalgo.
Don't ask me how it is done; don't ask me to explain how the muscles are
cut and knotted and twisted so as to give one the hideous deformity of
face which is my curse at present. But Anstruther carried the same
intolerable burden in his day. Why he was retained amongst the tribe:
why he was not sent out into the world as an example to others, is not
for me to say. Perhaps he made himself useful, for he is a clever man.
Perhaps they had need of his services. At any rate, the devilish surgeon
who could make a man look like a hideous demon fully understood the art
of restoring a face to its normal aspect."

"But Ferris has discovered a surgeon who can do that," Jack explained.
"He has already told us so."

"It is on Ferris' little Frenchman that I mainly rely," Seymour said.
"Otherwise, I should fade out of this business, and you would see me no
more."

"There is one thing I cannot understand," Rigby put in. "Why did
Anstruther cause all those posters to be placed on the principal
hoardings in London?"

"Because Ferris had escaped him," Seymour explained. "You see, he wanted
Ferris, very badly. He could blackmail him, and he hoped to go on doing
so with impunity. But Ferris gave his tormentor the slip, and placed
himself in the hands of that clever French surgeon. Once the cure was
complete, Ferris could have passed Anstruther in the street without the
least fear of being recognized. He had only to change his name, and the
thing was done."

"But I don't quite understand yet," Jack said.

"Well, you see, Ferris is a very sensitive man, and cursed with a lively
imagination. That was where Anstruther's wonderful intellect came in. He
had lost his man, and was determined to find him once more. Hence those
accusing posters that were destined to meet Ferris' eye at every turn,
and so play upon his nerves that he would be glad to give himself up.
and make the best terms he could. It was just the sort of scheme to
appeal to Anstruther, and I am quite sure that if Ferris had not met his
friend the surgeon, the plan would have been brilliantly successful. And
now, if you don't mind, I should like to go as far as the Great
Metropolitan Hotel and talk this matter over with Ferris. I am not in
the least likely to be called to-morrow; indeed, it seems to me that I
have finished my task so far as Anstruther is concerned. This being so,
the sooner I place myself in the hands of the French surgeon the better.
My word! If you men could only understand the life I have led the past
three years!"

Seymour turned away and hid his face for a moment. The other two could
respect and understand his feelings, for a long pause followed. When
Seymour paused again, he was more calm and collected. He pitched his
cigar into the fireplace, and suggested calling a cab and going off to
the Great Metropolitan Hotel at once.

Ferris appeared only too glad to see them; indeed, he was much better
and more cheerful than he had been a night or two ago, when Fate had so
strangely brought Jack and himself together. Most of the plaster had
been removed from his face by this time, and, so far as his visitors
could see, there were only the faintest traces that the knife had been
used to remove the terrible brand of the Nostalgo scourge.

"I expect to be out in two or three days" Ferris explained. "I shall
walk the streets with all the more pleasure now that I know there is no
chance of meeting Anstruther. I have just been reading an account of the
trial in one of the evening papers."

Seymour grasped his old comrade's hand and drew him eagerly to the
light. It was brilliant sunshine outside, so that the face of Ferris was
picked out clearly. Despite his assumed calmness, there was trembling
anxiety in Seymour's eyes. Long and earnestly did he gaze at the pale
features of his friend.

"Yes," he muttered. "Yes, I can hope at last. What a wonderful operator
your surgeon must be. So far as I can see, you have no marks whatever,
except here and there some star-shaped scars, which will vanish in the
course of a few days."

"They will be gone altogether at the end of a week," Ferris said. "At
least, so my doctor says."

"Amazing!" Seymour cried. "Why, I myself have tried specialists in
nearly every capital in Europe. Every one of them was utterly ignorant
of how the thing had been brought about, and not a single operator of
the lot could give me the faintest hope of my ever being any better; and
yet here you find a comparatively unknown man who places his finger on
the right spot at once! How did he manage it?"

"That is quite easily explained," Ferris said. You will not be surprised
to hear that this Dr. Benin has led a life of adventure. He was
traveling in Mexico four years ago and accidentally came in contact with
the same tribe that has cost us both so dear."

"Ah," exclaimed Seymour. "Now I begin to understand. Like the rest of us
Dr. Benin was after the gold. I presume he came under the ban of the
tribe, who made a Nostalgo out of him. and turned him out as hideous as
the rest of us."

"You have guessed it exactly," Ferris said gravely. "For over a year
Benin was experimenting on the muscles of the face. He discovered, at
length, that certain of these muscles had been drawn up by some
ingenious process, and partially paralyzed. This it was that gave the
face of every Nostalgo his peculiar hideous appearance. Benin
discovered, at length, a means by which the temporary paralysis of the
muscles could be removed, and a man's normal expression restored to him.
You know what I was at one time--look at me now! I tell you that in a
month front now you can be absolutely restored to the world, without
people shuddering and turning away as they pass in the street. The same
remark applies to Lord Barmouth. Once Anstruther is out of the way, we
shall come back to our own again, and know the meaning, of happiness
once more."

"I think that Barmouth ought to know this," Jack said. "I have already
told him about Mr. Ferris, and he is anxious for a meeting to be
arranged. But I must go off now, and inform him how successful the
operation has been."

Jack found Barmouth pacing up and down the study in no enviable frame of
mind. On inquiry, it turned out that Anstruther had sent Barmouth a
summons to appear at the trial the following morning and give evidence
on his behalf.

"Of course, this la a mere act of simple spite," he said. "He merely
wants to expose me to the gaze of the world, and thus spoil the rest of
my miserable life for me; but I shall go. I have quite made up my mind
to that. At the same time, Anstruther will not realise his purpose. I
shall take the precaution to practically hide my face with strips of
sticking plaster, and let it be understood that I am suffering from the
result of an accident."

Jack proceeded to turn the conversation in the direction of Dr. Benin.
He could not complain that he lacked an interested listener. Barmouth
would see Benin without delay; indeed, he would call upon him after he
had given evidence at the trial to-morrow. There would be no difficulty
about this. Jack said, for Benin was pretty sure to attend the hearing
in person.

Jack's prophecy was borne out next morning by the appearance of Benin in
the well of the court. The first witness called was Barmouth, who, true
to his promise, had disguised himself almost beyond recognition. As he
stepped into the witness box. Anstruther turned upon him savagely from
the dock, and then the face of the latter, with the light upon it. was
plainly visible to the little French doctor. Heedless of his
surroundings, heedless of the solemnity of the occasion, the Frenchman
jumped to his feet, and pointed a shaking finger in Anstruther's
direction.

"Murder! Murder!" he cried. "Dog, is it you?"

Anstruther paused, and threw up his hands like a man who is shot. He
fell back, a collapsed heap, on the floor of the dock. A warder rushed
forward and raised the prostrate figure.

"I think he is dead, my lord, he said simply."



LI.--AGAINST THE WORLD

Anstruther lay there to all appearances quite dead. So swift and
dramatic had the whole thing been, that nobody moved for a moment;
indeed, a greater portion of the excited audience did not seem to grasp
what had happened. Rigby turned and looked at Benin, who was frowning in
the direction of the dock, and breathing hard as if he had run fast and
far. Then one of the warders in the court moved to the assistance of his
colleague, and between them they raised the prisoner so that his haggard
face appeared over the edge of the rail. With an assumption of
indifference the Frenchman dropped back into his seat again.

"Surely he is not afraid of you," Jack whispered. "And yet I feel quite
certain that your appearance frightened him terribly."

"He has good need to be afraid of me," Benin growled. "I could hang that
man--I could prove him guilty of murder. For, look, the man and myself
have met in Paris. You have little notion of the extent of his crime.
But he is not dead--men of that type do not die so easily. See, he is
opening his eyes again."

Anstruther had struggled into an upright position, and was feebly
gasping for water. He gave one half-frightened glance in the direction
of the Frenchman, who shrugged his shoulders, as if to say the whole
affair was no business of his.

"I shall not betray him," he whispered to Rigby. "It is a painful case
which will be no better for being dragged into the light of day.
Besides, the man will be punished enough; a long term of imprisonment
will be worse to him than hanging. He understands, now, that I am not
going to betray him."

Anstruther was himself again at last. He stood rigid and erect; there
was the faint suggestion of a smile upon his face.

"Merely a passing weakness," he murmured. "I have to apologize to the
court for the trouble I am giving. May I be allowed to make a
statement?"

"It would have been far better if the statement had come through your
counsel," the judge said. "I warned you from the first that you were
imperiling your position by refusing to accept legal aid. If the Jury
find you guilty--"

"The Jury may find me guilty or not," Anstruther said. "I am
sufficiently strong a man to know when I am beaten. Therefore I do not
propose to waste the time of the court by carrying my defense any
further. I have assisted the police on many occasions; indeed, I have
been a great help in bringing a number of notorious criminals to
justice. But I pay the prosecution this compliment--never once in the
whole course of my career have I worked out anything neater than the
scheme which has placed me in my present position. I desire to plead
guilty to the whole thing. I did conspire with Mr. Carrington over that
bank business, and with my own hands I removed the Cellini plate to the
custody of Carrington's private safe. I am not in the least penitent. I
am not in the least sorry for myself. In the circumstances, I would act
precisely the same again. You may do what you like with me, and pass any
sentence you think fit. I don't think there is any need for me to say
more."

The speaker bowed gravely to the judge and resumed his seat, which he
had asked for as a favor. Failing any reply on the part of the Crown
Attorney, the judge began to sum up the case. He made no comment, but
curtly and drily sentenced the prisoner to fourteen years' penal
servitude. The latter rose, to his feet and intimated that he was ready.
With a firm step and the faint shadow of a cynical smile on his lips he
walked down the steps and thus disappeared forever from the society of
his fellow men. The whole thing was over now, and the dramatic trial was
finished. It was, perhaps, a fitting ending to a sensational case, which
had been full of surprises from beginning to end. In spite of it all,
Jack looked grave and somewhat anxious. Now that the affair was over, he
could find it in his heart to have a little pity for Anstruther.

"Why so grave and silent?" Rigby asked.

"I think you understand," Jack said quietly. "It always seems to me a
sad thing to see a man of such brilliant talents in so degraded a
situation. Anstruther might have done anything. With an intellect like
his he might have climbed to the highest places. And yet he prefers
deliberately to remain a criminal."

"The criminal instinct must have been always there," Benin said. "There
are some men who cannot go straight, and your brilliant Anstruther is
one of them."

The audience was pouring out of the court now, talking eagerly and
excitedly of the events of the morning. Only a few people remained now,
and, glancing indifferently over them, Jack noted the pale, anxious
features of Carrington. The man lingered behind, as if afraid to face
the open air. He shrank back shaking and despairing as Bates walked over
in his direction.

"Very sorry, Mr. Carrington," said the latter, "but my duty is quite
clear before me. We had our own reasons for not placing you in the dock
along with your friend, because we might have had to call you as a
witness. As I promised you, I will do all I can to let you down as
easily as possible, but I hold a warrant for your arrest on the grounds
of theft and conspiracy, and I am bound to execute it. You will be good
enough to. come this way, please."

The wretched man whined and whimpered. But there was nothing for it now
but to follow the detective, and, so far as Carrington was concerned,
the story is finished. By this time Jack and his companions were in the
street. They lingered there chatting together, uncertain as to what to
do next, when Benin proceeded to solve the problem. He suggested the
advisability of his having an interview with Lord Barmouth without
delay.

"You tell me his lordship has already heard of me," he said. "After my
own experiences, I can Imagine what his feelings have been the last few
years. I want to see him at once, and convince him that within a month
he will be free to stand before his fellow men, as Ferris will be within
the next few days."

Barmouth had lost no time in leaving the court directly he discovered
that there would be no occasion for him to enter the witness-box.

When Jack and the others reached Belgrave Square, Barmouth had already
removed the strips of plaster from his face, and was walking up and down
his study with the restless air of one whose mind is ill at ease. All
the same, he seemed to divine the cause of Benin's presence, for he held
out his hand and smiled gratefully.

"I know you come to me in the guise of a friend, Dr. Benin," he said.
"Is it too much to hope that you can cure me as you cured my friend
Ferris?"

"There is no doubt about it whatever," the Frenchman said. "It is all a
matter of an operation on the muscles of the face. You will be yourself
again; even that horrible yellow tinge will disappear from your skin. I
should like, if possible, to operate upon Seymour and yourself at the
same time. I dare say you have some quiet country place that we could go
to."

There was more than one such retreat, as Barmouth proceeded to explain.
They talked over the matter eagerly and earnestly for some time, until a
message arrived that Mr. Anstruther earnestly desired an interview with
Lord Barmouth.

The latter started and shook his head. He had no disposition whatever to
see Anstruther again. But as he thought the matter over, kindlier
thoughts prevailed. After all, the man was past all power of mischief,
and despite the way in which he had carried himself off, must have felt
his position most keenly. On the whole, Barmouth decided to go.

He found Anstruther pacing up and down his roomy cell. The man looked
haggard and drawn. Well as he had himself in hand, Anstruther's
twitching lips betrayed his emotion.

"I dare say you wonder why I sent for you," he said. "You need not be
afraid of me; they have rendered me quite harmless. They have even taken
away my watch and chain and money. Why they left me this little
pearl-headed scarf pin I don't know--probably they overlooked it. It is
these little careless things which prevent the Force from being quite as
efficient as it might be."

Anstruther smiled in a peculiar way as he spoke. But Barmouth did not
appear to notice. Anstruther walked up and down the cell, talking freely
as he went.

"It was exceedingly good of you to come," he said, "especially as I have
done you so grievous a wrong. You will be perhaps pleased to hear that
all the sufferings I underwent in Mexico were wasted. I never so much as
laid my hand upon an ounce of the gold for which I risked my life;
indeed, at the end I just contrived to save my mere existence. When I
sent for you to-day it sincerely to ask you to pardon me for all the
harm that I have done to you and others. I was going to tell you in any
case the means by which you could be restored to your normal appearance.
If the case went against me to-day I had determined to write to you and
give you the address of Dr. Benin. But when I saw him in court to-day I
knew perfectly well that you and he had already met, and, therefore,
there was no reason for me to say anything. You and I have always been
antagonistic; I do not bear you any ill will for that."

"An I can assure you that there is no ill-will on my side," Barmouth
replied. "Mind you, I cannot forget all the sufferings that I have
undergone at at your hands. It is strange what men will do when the
greed for gold is upon them, and how little good does it tend to when
the gold comes. Only a few hours ago I was longing to meet you face to
face under such conditions as would render your death a secret. I would
have killed you like a dog. I always meant to kill you. While I was
paying blackmail to you under a name other than my own, I was ever
plotting the opportunity which would have betrayed you into my hands.I
should have deemed it no crime to have rid the world of a scoundrel like
yourself. And yet, as God is my witness, when I see you here like this,
an outcast and a felon, when I think of the terrible way in which your
great talents have been wasted, I have nothing but pity for your
lamentable condition."

Anstruther took a step forward, the veins on his forehead knotted, his
hands clenched in a paroxysm of passion.

"Don't talk like that," he said hoarsely. "Don't begin to pity me, or I
shall fly out and strangle you. If there was no chance of you ever being
anything but what you are--I mean so far as your personal appearance la
concerned? I would willingly change places with you at this moment. And
I was a Nostalgo myself, and know what the punishment means. But I did
not bring you here to talk entirely about myself. I have felt for a long
time that Jack Masefield has viewed me with suspicion, perhaps, he
thinks I am unaware of his engagement to Claire. Why, I knew every
movement of his. He will be surprised to hear that I knew he was in the
cupboard near Padini's room the time I was spying about there. What was
I after? Well, Padini had certain papers of mine, and it was not policy
to accuse him of the theft then. Just as if open-minded people like
those could deceive me. I can quite forgive Masefield for his caution,
but you can tell him that Claire's fortune has suffered nothing at my
hands. Not that I wish to take any credit for that; it is merely that
the other trustee, being a shrewd lawyer, was too clever for me.
However, Claire has her two thousand a year intact, and she is free to
marry Masefield when she likes.

"There is another matter of which I wish to speak to you--that is, as
regards Serena. I understand that she is Lady Barmouth's sister. Well, I
am glad of that, because the poor woman and her boy will have a happy
home in future. I behaved abominably to Serena; I lied to her, I tricked
and tormented her, so that I might get her in my power, and make use of
her wonderful talents as an actress. She believed that I held her life
in the hollow of my hand, and therefore she was the veriest slave to my
will. But nothing wrong, Barmouth: Serena is as good and pure as your
own wife. I understand that Padini has been arrested owing to his having
taken a hand in that musical Jugglery of mine.

"For Serena's sake he must be got rid of. All you have to do is to drop
a line to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Paris, and say that
Monsieur Lemarque in masquerading in London as Padini, the violinist.
After that I don't think Serena will be troubled with her precious
husband any more. And now I will not detain you any longer. If you will
accept this pin as a souvenir I shall be glad. You see it is a small
pearl on a gold wire. There is one peculiarity about it. The pearl is
hollow, and it often occurred to me how useful it would be to conceal a
drop or two of some virulent poison inside in case one fell into the
hands of the authorities."

Filled with a sudden suspicion, Barmouth darted forward. The faint
mocking smile of Anstruther's face told him as plainly as words could
tell exactly what was going to happen. He reached forward and clutched
Anstruther. It was too late.

"For Heaven's sake, Anstruther," Barmouth cried. "Think: pause before
you do anything so rash, so blasphemous."

"It is very good of you," Anstruther said quite coolly. "I know you mean
well, but this is the way I prefer myself."

He placed the pearl within his lips, and crushed it with his teeth.



LII.--THE END OF IT ALL

Barmouth could see a little speck of foam like a white feather on the
lips of his companion. He saw Anstruther throw up his head and the apple
of his throat moved as if in the act of swallowing. The whole thing had
been so swift and unexpected, that Barmouth could not blame himself for
what had happened. There was no occasion to tell him that the pearl had
contained some deadly poison, for already the effect of it was apparent
on Anstruther's features. He gasped painfully as if some terrible pain
had gripped him by the heart, his features twitched horribly, yet he
smiled with the air of a man who is by no means displeased with himself.

"Yes," he said naturally, "I think it will be just as well if you call
in the warder who is watching us through that grating in the door, and
tell him everything that has happened."

"Barmouth lost no time in doing so. There was a greet tramping and
commotion in the corridor outside, and presently Bates and the prison
doctor rushed in. By this time Anstruther was seated on the only chair
in the cell; there was a heavy bead of moisture on his face. He smiled
faintly at Bates.

"It is exactly as Lord Barmouth has said," he explained. "When your
people deprived me of everything that I possessed they forgot to remove
a tiny pearl-headed pin from my scarf. It was only a very small
pearl--You could have bought the thing in any West-End shop, for a
sovereign; but the gem was not so innocent as it appeared to be. Inside
I had caused to be placed one spot of deadly poison no larger than a
pin's head. I have had it there for years in case of emergency. I have
always had a presentiment that sooner or later the end would be thus;
and I am much too active-minded a man to dare to pass years in jail. I
should have gone mad under treatment like that. Therefore, you see I was
quite ready for you. I had only to take that pin from my tie, and make
the tiniest puncture in the tip of my tongue, then all I had to do was
to crush the pearl within my teeth, and the thing was done. There need
be no inquest; the poison in question was one spot from the fang of a
cobra. See, the end is very near."

Anstruther staggered to his feet, threw his hands above his head. and
collapsed in a heap on the floor. There was one fearful shuddering
contortion of the muscles, and after that a rigid stillness. The prison
doctor bent down, and examined the silent form carefully. He shook his
head gravely.

"My services here are absolutely useless," he said. "The man is dead. I
only wonder that he lived so long. It was a sad ending to what might
have been a brilliant career."

"It was a brilliant career." Bates. muttered. "We never had a detective
in the force as clever as Mr. Anstruther. Shall I call a cab for you, my
lord? There is nothing for you to gain by waiting any longer."

Barmouth nodded in an abstracted kind of way; he hardly appeared to hear
what Bates was saying. In the same dreamy fashion he was driven
homewards. On reaching Belgrave Square he found that Benin had gone off
on some business, leaving Jack and Rigby behind him. In a few words he
told the others what had happened. There was nothing more to be said on
the matter, and no great feeling was expressed, seeing that Anstruther
had never been anything else but an enemy to all of them.

"He seemed desirous of making amends at the last," Barmouth said. "For
instance, he has shown us a way whereby my wife's unfortunate sister can
be forever free of Padini. Also he informed me that Miss Claire
Helmsley's fortune is absolutely intact. He was cynical to the last, and
suggested that Jack here should marry the lady of his choice without
delay."

"That is very good of him," Jack said dryly. "But as far as I am
concerned, I shall not be in the least sorry to hear that Claire has
nothing. I do not want the suggestion made that I am in any way a
fortune hunter. It is not a pleasant idea."

"What is the good of talking that nonsense," Rigby exclaimed. "My dear
fellow, you are getting, on splendidly with your literary work, and in a
year or so from now your income will be quite equal to Miss Helmsley's.
Besides, nobody who knew you would think of accusing you of
fortune-hunting. And so long as Miss Helmsley shares the opinions of
your friends, I don't see that it in the least matters to anybody else."

Lady Barmouth came into the room at the same moment with an intimation
that Claire was up in the drawing room, and would like to see Jack as
soon as he was at liberty. Jack went off with alacrity. There was a
soothing feeling now that no obstacle any longer stood in his path. He
had no fear of the future, so far as Claire was concerned, Anstruther
being once out of the way. It was only at this moment, with the
knowledge of a placid future before him, that Jack realized how great
the mental strain had been.

He found Claire waiting for him in the drawing room. She advanced with a
smile upon her face, and he took her in his arms and kissed her, feeling
at last that she was his own and that there was no shadow of further
crime between them. He was just a little grave and silent, and love's
quick eyes were there to detect the somber shade on his face.

Very quietly Jack told Claire all that had happened. It was some little
time before either spoke.

"I am glad to find that your fortune is intact, my dearest girl," Jack
said. "I shall have to work hard now, so that when the good time comes I
shall be able to marry you, feeling that my position is equal to your
own. It must not be said--"

"It is not going to be said," Claire replied, looking up into her
lover's face with a winning smile. "Jack, dear, I know exactly what is
running in that silly head of yours. I can see I shall have to be very
severe with you. Now answer me a question, sir."

"A dozen if you like," Jack replied. "What is it?"

"Well, about the time we first met, and you were so foolish as to fall
in love With me. Confess it now; did not you regard me as a poor
dependent of Mr. Anstruther's, without so much as a penny of my own? I
knew that you loved me long before you told me so--I felt it here at my
heart. And yet when you asked me to be your wife, not so many weeks ago,
and suggested we should keep the matter a secret as we were too poor to
marry, you did not know then that I was an heiress in a small way."

"I am prepared to admit it," Jack said. "But you see, my darling, it is
pretty certain that some people--"

With a pretty little imperious gesture Claire laid her hand on her
lover's lips. Her eyes looked sweetly into his.

"I am not going to hear another word," she cried. "Oh, what does it
matter to anybody as long as we are satisfied. My dearest boy, do you
want me go go down on my knees and implore you to marry me? I will do it
if you like."

Jack's reply was evidently suitable and to the point, for the fond look
came over Claire's face again, and for some time they were silent. It
was Claire who broke the silence at length.

"You need me." she whispered. "We shall be none the less happy because
that dark cloud of poverty is not likely to dim our future. I have
pictured to myself a dear little house in the country where we could
have roses and trim lawns and old-world gardens, and where you could
work in a beautiful study lined with old oak and filled with blue china.
I don't mind telling you, Jack, that I have picked out the house, and my
other guardian is now settling the purchase of it for me. Think how nice
it would be to be able to sit down every morning with a contented mind,
and not care whether you did one page or twenty, so long as you feel
sure that you were doing nothing but your best work. I always think
every author ought to have a fortune of his own, and thus be without the
necessity of turning out his work by the yard, so to speak."

Claire might have said more, only she noted the dancing imp of mischief
in Jack's eyes. He kissed her tenderly again.

"I had no Idea I was going to have so practical a wife," Jack said. "But
do not let us be altogether selfish; let us give a thought or two to
other people. There is not the slightest reason why the full
significance of this Nostalgo business should ever be made public. And
no more posters will appear; the public will marvel for a time and ask
questions, then the thing will be forgotten when the next great
sensation comes along. I will tell Rigby that he is to mention no names
when he tells his wonderful story in The Planet--at least he is not to
mention the names of any of our friends. Now let us go down to the
dining room and see what they have arranged. I am very anxious to know."

Meanwhile all the arrangements had been completed by those most
concerned. As Lord Barmouth explained, he had a very quiet country place
in the neighborhood of Hindhead, and there the operation upon himself
and Seymour was to take place.

"I want Claire to come with me." Lady Barmouth said. "Of course, Serena
and her boy will be with us, and I understand that arrangements are
being made to rid us finally of the attentions of Signor Padini. The
place is near enough to London for Mr. Masefield to run down as often as
he finds it possible. My dear Claire, you are looking so radiantly happy
that I need not ask you if you have settled matters with Jack."

"It was not an easy task," Claire laughed and blushed; "I almost had to
go down on my knees to him. He said he would be accused of
fortune-hunting or something equally absurd."

"I am exceedingly glad to hear of it," Lady Barmouth said heartily. "I
have set my heart upon a little programme, and I hope you will allow me
to carry it out. I want the marriage to take place from our house at
Hindhead. Lord Barmouth will give you away, and we'll make quite a
society affair of it."

"But not till Lord Barmouth is quite right," Claire said. "Dear Lady
Barmouth, you are too kind to me. Let me confess that I had hoped for
something like this, but I did not intend to marry Jack till I could
have all my good friends there. In perhaps three months' time it may be
possible that all this--"

"Two months," Lord Barmouth laughed. "Both my good friend Seymour here
and myself will be perfectly well by that time. I have thought it all
out, and there need not be any gossip at all. It will be merely
announced in the society papers that I have recovered from the painful
malady which has so long afflicted me, and there will be an end of the
matter. We are all going down to Hindhead to-morrow, and the operation
takes place on Saturday. According to what Dr. Benin said. It is a mere
matter of a fortnight in bed, and at the end of a month we shall be
quite like other people. Now let us have dinner in the study without the
servants. It will be quite pleasant to wait upon ourselves."

* * * * *

Very quietly and unostentatiously the little party set out for Hindhead
the following day. Not even the servants knew what was in the wind; they
merely gathered that Lord Barmouth was never really well, and that he
was taking an invalid friend with him. Dr. Benin's arrival caused no
sensation, the household staff being informed that a clever surgeon had
come from Paris, who hoped to restore their master to a normal state of
health.

It was a fortnight later that Barmouth and Seymour came downstairs
looking a little drawn and white, but otherwise exactly like two
ordinary men who had just recovered from some commonplace illness.
Serena was there with her boy, but not the Serena of old. Years seemed
to have fallen from her shoulders, there was a color in her face, and a
sparkle in her eyes which fairly astonished Jack when he saw her. He
pressed her hand silently, saying no word, and 8erena understood him
more thoroughly than if he had been gifted with the finest eloquence in
the world.

It was all ended and done with at last; the organ had pealed out its
triumphal march, the cherry-cheeked children had cast their last handful
of flowers at the feet of the happy bride, the wedding was over, and now
the carriage stood at the door. Claire recollected it all clearly
afterward, but at the moment she felt like one who dreams pleasant
things. It was only when the prosaic banging of the railway carriage
door struck upon her ears that she came entirely to herself again. The
train was speeding through the peaceful landscape. Claire leaned her
head tenderly on Jack's shoulder, and a sigh of happiness escaped her.

"What is that sigh for?" Jack asked tenderly.

"Peace and happiness," Claire cried. There was just a suggestion of
tears in her eyes. "It seems so strange to be with you like this, and
yet only the other day--but I will not think of that. We will say no
more about the dark days, but dwell entirely with the happy hours to
come."

Jack bent and kissed the quivering red lips. Then a great content came
into their hearts, and they were silent.



THE END


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