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Title: The Moon Rock
Author: Arthur J. Rees
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202311.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2012
Date most recently updated: June 2012

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

Title: The Moon Rock
Author: Arthur J. Rees

*

"There is no help for all these things are so,
And all the world is bitter as a tear,
And how these things are, though ye strove to show,
_She would not know._"

--Swinburne


*



CHAPTER I


The voice of the clergyman intoned the last sad hope of humanity, the
final prayer was said, and the mourners turned away, leaving Mrs. Turold
to take her rest in a bleak Cornish churchyard among strangers, far from
the place of her birth and kindred.

The fact would not have troubled her if she had known. In life she had
been a nonentity; in death she was not less. At least she could now mix
with her betters without reproach, free (in the all-enveloping silence)
from the fear of betraying her humble origin. Debrett's Peerage was
unimportant in the grave; breaches of social etiquette passed unnoticed
there; the wagging of malicious tongues was stopped by dust.

Her husband lingered at the grave-side after the others had departed. As
he stood staring into the open grave, regardless of a lurking grave-digger
waiting to fill it, he looked like a man whose part in the drama of life
was Care. There was no hint of happiness in his long narrow face, dull
sunken eyes, and bloodless compressed lips. His expression was not that of
one unable to tear himself away from the last glimpse of a loved wife
fallen from his arms into the clutch of Death. It was the gaze of one
immersed in anxious thought.

The mourners, who had just left the churchyard, awaited him by a rude
stone cross near the entrance to the church. There were six--four men, a
woman, and a girl. In the road close by stood the motor-car which had
brought them to the churchyard in the wake of the hearse, glistening
incongruously in the grey Cornish setting of moorland and sea.

The girl stood a little apart from the others. She was the daughter of the
dead woman, but her head was turned away from the churchyard, and her
sorrowful glance dwelt on the distant sea. The contour of her small face
was perfect as a flower or gem, and colourless except for vivid scarlet
lips and dark eyes gleaming beneath delicate dark brows. She was very
young--not more than twenty--but in the soft lines of her beauty there was
a suggestion of character beyond her years. Her face was dreamy and
wayward, and almost gipsy in type. There was something rather
disconcerting in the contrast between her air of inexperienced youth and
the sombre intensity of her dark eyes, which seemed mature and
disillusioned, like those of an older person. The slim lines of her figure
had the lissome development of a girl who spent her days out of doors.

She stood there motionless, apparently lost in meditation, indifferent to
the bitter wind which was driving across the moors with insistent force.

"Put this on, Sisily."

Sisily turned with a start. Her aunt, a large stout woman muffled in heavy
furs, was standing behind her, holding a wrap in her hand.

"You'll catch your death of cold, child, standing here in this thin
dress," the elder lady continued. "Why didn't you wear your coat? You'd be
warmer sitting in the car. It's really very selfish of Robert, keeping us
all waiting in this dreadful wind!" She shivered, and drew her furs
closer. "Why doesn't he come away? As if it could do any good!"

As she spoke the tall form of Robert Turold was seen approaching through
the rank grass and mouldering tombstones with a quick stride. He emerged
from the churchyard gate with a stern and moody face.

"Let us get home," he said, and his words were more of a command than
request.

He walked across the road to the car with his sister and daughter. The men
by the cross followed. They were his brother, his brother's son, his
sister's husband, and the local doctor, whose name was Ravenshaw. With a
clang and a hoot the car started on the return journey. The winding
cobbled street of the churchtown was soon left behind for a road which
struck across the lonely moors to the sea. Through the moors and stony
hills the car sped until it drew near a solitary house perched on the edge
of the dark cliffs high above the tumbling waters of the yeasty sea which
foamed at their base.

The car stopped by the gate where the moor road ended. The mourners
alighted and entered the gate. Their approach was observed from within,
for as they neared the house the front door was opened by an elderly
man-servant with a brown and hawk-beaked face.

Walking rapidly ahead Robert Turold led the way into a front sitting-room
lighted by a window overlooking the sea. There was an air of purpose in
his movements, but an appearance of strain in his careworn face and
twitching lips. He glanced at the others in a preoccupied way, but started
perceptibly as his eye fell upon his daughter.

"There is no need for you to remain, Sisily," he said in a harsh dry
voice.

Sisily turned away without speaking. Her cousin Charles jumped up to open
the door, and the two exchanged a glance as she went out. The young man
then returned to his seat near the window. Robert Turold was speaking
emphatically to Dr. Ravenshaw, answering some objection which the doctor
had raised.

"... No, no, Ravenshaw--I want you to be present. You will oblige me by
remaining. I will go upstairs and get the documents. I shall not keep you
long. Thalassa, serve refreshments."

He left the room quickly, as though to avoid further argument. The elderly
serving-man busied himself by setting out decanters and glasses, then went
out like one who considered his duty done, leaving the company to wait on
themselves.




CHAPTER II


The group in the room sat in silence with an air of stiff expectation. The
members of the family knew they were not assembled to pay respect to the
memory of the woman who had just been buried. Her husband had regarded her
as a drag upon him, and did not consider her removal an occasion for the
display of hypocritical grief. Rather was it to be regarded as an act of
timely intervention on the part of Death, who for once had not acted as
marplot in human affairs.

They were there to listen to the story of the triumph of the head of the
family, Robert Turold. Most families have some common source of interest
and pride. It may be a famous son, a renowned ancestor, a faded heirloom,
even a musical daughter. The pride of the Turold family rested on the
belief that they were of noble blood--the lineal inheritors of a great
English title which had fallen into abeyance hundreds of years before.

Robert Turold had not been content to boast of his nobility and die a
commoner like his father and grandfather before him. His intense pride
demanded more than that. As a boy he had pored over the crabbed parchments
in the family deed-box which indicated but did not record the family
descent, and he had vowed to devote his life to prove the descent and
restore the ancient title of Turrald of Missenden to the Turolds of which
he was the head.

There was not much to go upon when he commenced the labour of thirty
years--merely a few old documents, a family tradition, and the similarity
of name. And the Turolds were poor. Money, and a great deal of it, was
needed for the search, in the first instance, of the unbroken line of
descent, and for the maintenance of the title afterwards if the claim was
completely established. But Robert Turold was not to be deterred by
obstacles, however great. He was a man with a single idea, and such men
are hard to baulk in the long run.

He left England in early manhood and remained away for some years. His
family understood that he had gone to seek a fortune in the wilds of the
earth. He reappeared--a saturnine silent man--as suddenly as he had gone
away. In his wanderings he had gained a fortune but partly lost the use of
one eye. The partial loss of an eye did not matter much in a country like
England, where most people have two eyes and very little money, and
therefore pay more respect to wealth than vision.

Robert Turold invested his money, and then set to work upon his great
ambition with the fierce restlessness which characterized all his
proceedings in life. He married shortly after his return. He soon came to
the conclusion that his marriage was a great mistake--the greatest mistake
of his life. His wife had borne him two girls. The first died in infancy,
and some years later Sisily was born. His regrets increased with the birth
of a second daughter. He wanted a son to succeed him in the title--when he
gained it. Time passed, and he became enraged. His anger crushed the timid
woman who shared his strange lot. His dominating temperament and moody
pride were too much for her gentle soul. She became desperately afraid of
him and his stern ways, of that monomania which kept them wandering
through the country searching for links in a [pedigree] which had to be
traced back for hundreds of years before Robert Turold could grasp his
heart's desire.

When She died in the house on the cliffs where they had come six months
before, Robert Turold had accomplished the task to which his life had been
devoted. Some weeks before he had summoned his brother from London to
disclose his future plans. The brothers had not met for many years, but
Austin was quick to obey when he learnt that a fortune and a title were at
stake. The sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton, had reached
Cornwall two days before the funeral. They were to take Sisily back to
London with them. It was Robert Turold's intention to part with his
daughter and place her in his sister's charge. For a reason he had not yet
divulged, Sisily was to have no place in his brilliant future. He disliked
his daughter. Her sex was a fatal bar to his regard. He had heaped so many
reproaches on her mother for bringing another girl into the world that the
poor woman had descended to the grave with a confused idea that she was to
blame.

Sisily had a strange nature, reticent, yet tender. She had loved her
mother passionately, and feared and hated her father because he had
treated his wife so harshly. She had been the witness of it all--from her
earliest childhood to the moment when the unhappy woman had died with her
eyes fixed on her husband's implacable face, but holding fast to her
daughter's hand, as though she wanted to carry the pressure of those
loving fingers into the grave.

A clock on the mantel-piece ticked loudly. But it was the only sound which
disturbed the quietness of the room. The representatives of the family
eyed one another with guarded indifference. Circumstances had kept them
apart for many years, and they now met almost as strangers.

Mrs. Pendleton sat on a sofa with her husband. She was a notable outline
of a woman, large and massive, with a shrewd capable face and a
middle-class mind. She lived, when at home, in the rarefied atmosphere of
Golders Green, in a red house with a red-tiled roof, one of a streetful
similarly afflicted, where she kept two maids and had a weekly reception
day. She was childless, but she disdained to carry a pet dog as
compensation for barrenness. Her husband was a meagre shrimp of a
stockbroker under his wife's control, who golfed on Sundays and played
auction bridge at his club twice a week with cyclic regularity. He and his
wife had little in common except the habit of living together, which had
made them acquainted with each other's ways.

Mrs. Pendleton had not seen either of her brothers for a long time. Robert
had been too engrossed in digging into the past for the skeletons of his
ancestors to do more than write intermittent letters to the living members
of his family, acquainting them with the progress of his search. Austin
Turold, Robert's younger brother, had spent a portion of his life in India
and had but recently returned. He had gone there more than twenty years
before to fill a Government post, taking with him his young wife, but
leaving his son at school in England for some years. His wife had
languished and died beneath an Indian sun, but her husband had become
acclimatized, and remained until his time was up and he was free to return
to England with a pension. His sister and he met on the previous day for
the first time since he had left England for India, and Mrs. Pendleton had
some difficulty in identifying the elderly and testy Anglo-Indian with the
handsome young brother who had bade her farewell so many years before.
And, she had even more difficulty in recognizing the fair-haired little
boy of that time in the good-looking but rather moody-faced young man who
at the present moment was seated near the window, staring out of it.

The fifth member of the party was Dr. Ravenshaw, who practised in the
churchtown where Mrs. Turold had been buried, and had attended her in her
illness.

But he had not been asked to share in the family council on that account.
His presence was due to his intimacy with Robert Turold, which had
commenced soon after the latter's arrival in Cornwall. The claimant for a
title had found in the churchtown doctor an antiquarian after his own
heart, whose wide knowledge of Cornish antiquities had assisted in the
discovery of the last piece of evidence necessary to establish his claim.

Dr. Ravenshaw sat a little apart from the other, a thickset grey figure of
a man, with eyes reddened as though by excessive reading, and usually
protected by glasses, which just then he had removed in order to polish
them with his handkerchief. In age he was sixty or more. His thick grey
beard was mingled with white, and the heavy moustache which drooped over
his mouth was quite white. He presented a common-place figure in his rough
worn tweeds and heavy boots, but he was a man of intelligence in spite of
his unassuming exterior. He lived alone, cared for by a single servant,
and he covered on foot a scattered practice among the fishing population
of that part of the coast. His knowledge of Cornish antiquities and
heraldic lore had won him the confidence of Robert Turold, and his
kindness to Mrs. Turold in her illness had gained him the gratitude of her
daughter Sisily.

It was Austin Turold who caused a diversion in this group of lay figures
by walking to the table and helping himself to a whisky-and-soda. Austin
bore very little resemblance to his grim and dominant elder brother. He
had a slight frail figure, very carefully dressed, and one of those
thin-lipped faces which seem, to wear a perpetual sneer of superiority
over commoner humanity. The movements of his white hands, the inflection
of his voice, the double eyeglass which dangled from his vest by a ribbon
of black silk, revealed the type of human being which considers itself
something rarer and finer than its fellows. The thin face, narrow white
forehead, and high-bridged nose might have belonged to an Oxford don or
fashionable preacher, but, apart from these features, Austin Turold had
nothing in common with such earnest souls. By temperament he was a
dilettante and cynic, who affected not to take life seriously. His axiom
of faith was that a good liver was the one thing in life worth having, and
a far more potent factor in human affairs than conscience. He had at one
time regarded his brother Robert as a fool and visionary, but had seen fit
to change that opinion latterly.

He paused in the act of raising his glass to his lips, and looked over the
silent company as though seeking a convivial companion. His son was still
staring out of the window. The little stockbroker, seated on the sofa
beside his large wife, made a deprecating movement of his eyebrows, as
though entreating not to be asked. Austin's cold glance roved to Dr.
Ravenshaw.

"Doctor," he said, "let me give you a whisky-and-soda."

Doctor Ravenshaw shook his head. "I have a patient to visit before dark,"
he said, "a lady. I do not care to carry the smell of spirits into a
sick-room."

"But this is a special occasion, Ravenshaw," persisted the other. "We do
not restore a title every day."

"Austin!" The voice of Mrs. Pendleton sounded from the sofa in shocked
protest.

"What's the matter?" said Austin, pausing in the act of pouring some
whisky into a glass.

"It would be exceedingly improper to drink a toast at such a moment."

"What's the matter with the moment?"

"The day, then. Just when we have buried poor Alice." Mrs. Pendleton had
not seen her brother's wife for ten years before her death, but she had no
difficulty in bringing tears to her eyes at the recollection of her. She
dried her eyes with her handkerchief, and added in a different tone: "I
fancy Robert is coming."

A heavy step was heard descending the stairs. Austin drained his glass,
and Dr. Ravenshaw adjusted his spectacles as Robert Turold entered the
room.




CHAPTER III


With parchments and papers deep on the table before him, Robert Turold
plunged into the history of his life's task. The long hand of the
mantelpiece clock slipped with a stealthy movement past the twelve as he
commenced, as though determined not to be taken by surprise, but to keep
abreast of him.

An hour passed, but Robert Turold kept steadily on. His hearers displayed
symptoms of boredom like people detained in church beyond the usual time.
Humanity is interested in achievement, but not in the manner of its
accomplishment. And Robert's brother and sister knew much of his story by
heart. It had formed the sole theme of his letters to them for many years
past. Mrs. Pendleton's thoughts wandered to afternoon tea. Her husband
nodded with closed eyes, and recovered himself with convulsive starts.
Austin Turold fixed his glance on the ceiling, where a solitary fly was
cleaning its wings with its legs. From the window Charles Turold presented
an immobile profile. Only Dr. Ravenshaw seemed to listen with an interest
which never flagged.

Yet it was a story well worth hearing, that record of indomitable
pertinacity which had refused to be baulked by years or rebuffs. Men have
acquired titles more easily. That was apparent as Robert Turold related
the history of his long and patient investigation; of scents which had led
nowhere; of threads which had broken in his hand; of fruitless burrowings
into the graves of past generations. These disappointments had lengthened
the search, but they had never, baffled the searcher nor broken his faith.

The story began in the fourteenth century, when the second Edward had
summoned his trusty retainer Robert Turrald from his quiet home in leafy
Buckinghamshire to sit in Parliament as a baron, and by that act of kingly
grace ennobled him and his heirs forever. Successive holders of the title
were summoned to Parliament in their turn until the reign of the seventh
Henry, when one succeeded whose wife brought him three daughters, but no
sons. At his death the title went into abeyance among this plurality of
girls. In peerage law they were his coheirs, and the inheritance could not
descend because not one of them had an exclusive right to it. The
daughters entered a convent and followed their parents to the grave within
a few years, the Crown resumed the estate, and the title had remained in
abeyance ever since.

But the last Lord Turrald had a brother Simon, a roystering blade and
lawless adventurer, who disappeared some years before his elder brother's
death. Little was known of him except that he was supposed to have closed
a brawling career on the field of Bosworth, when Richard the Crookback was
killed and the short-lived dynasty of York ended.

The Turolds' family deed-box told a different story. There was a
manuscript in monkish hand, setting forth, "in the name of God, Amen," the
secret history of Simon, as divulged by him on his deathbed for the
information of his two sons. In this confession he claimed kinship with
the last Lord Turrald of Great Missenden. But he had not dared to claim
the title and rich estates on his brother's death, because he was a
proscribed man. He had been a Yorkist, and had fought for Richard. That
might have been forgiven him if he had not unhorsed his future king at
Bosworth and almost succeeded in slaughtering him with his own reckless
hands. So he had fled, and had remained in obscurity and a safe
hiding-place after his brother's death, preferring his head without a
title to a title without a head.

On this document, unsigned and undated, with nothing to indicate the place
of its origin, the Turold family based its claim of descent from the
baronial Turralds of Great Missenden. But the Turold history was a
chequered one. Their branch was nomadic, without territorial ties or
wealth, without continuance of chronology. They could not trace their own
genealogy back for two hundred years. There was a great gap of missing
generations which had never been filled in. It was not even known how the
document had come into their possession. Simon's two sons and their
descendants had vanished into unknown graves, leaving no trace. But the
family clung fast to their belief that they were the lineal descendants of
the Turralds of Buckinghamshire.

It had remained for Robert Turold to prove it. His father and grandfather
had bragged of it, had fabricated family trees over their cups, and glowed
with pride over their noble blood, but had let it go at that. Robert was a
man of different mould. In his hands, the slender supposition had been
turned into certainty. By immense labour and research he built a bridge
from the first Turold of whom any record existed, backwards across the
dark gap of the past. He traced the wanderings of his ancestors through
different generations and different counties to Robert Turold, who
established himself in Suffolk forty years after the last Lord Turrald was
laid to rest in his family vault in the village church of Great Missenden.

The construction of this portion of his family tree occupied Robert Turold
for ten years. There were scattered records to be collected, forgotten
wills to be sought in county offices, parochial registers to be searched
for births and deaths. A nomadic family has no traditions; Robert Turold
had to trace his back to the darkness of the Middle Ages. It was a notable
feat to trace the wanderings of an obscure family back so far as he did,
but even then he seemed as far away from the attainment of his desire as
ever. There remained a gap of forty years. To establish his claim to the
title he had to prove that the Turolds sprang from the younger brother of
the last Lord Turrald, who had allowed the title to lapse for fear of
losing his head if he came forward to claim it.

It did not seem a great gap to bridge after following a wandering scent
through four centuries, but the paltry forty years almost beat Robert
Turold, and cost him five years additional search. It was a lucky chance,
no more, which finally led him to Cornwall, but it was the hand of
Providence (he said so) which directed his footsteps to the churchtown in
which Dr. Ravenshaw lived. It was there he discovered the connecting link
in the signature of a single witness on a noble charter which granted to
the monks of St. Nicholas "all wreck of sea which might happen in the
Scilly Isles except whales." To the eye of Robert Turold's faith the
illegible scrawl on this faded scroll formed the magic name of Simon
Turrald.

For once, faith was justified by its works. The signature was indeed Simon
Turrald's; not the younger brother of the last Lord Turrald, but Simon's
son.

Bit by bit, Robert Turold succeeded in fitting together the last pieces of
the puzzle which had eluded him for so long. Simon Turrald, the brother,
had fled to Cornwall, where he had married a Cornishwoman who had brought
him two sons. The elder, Simon, had taken religious vows, and established
a priory at St. Fair, a branch of the great priory of St. Germain. The
holy fathers of the order had long since vanished from this earth to reap
the reward of their goodness (it is to be hoped) in another world, but the
remains of the priory still stood on a barren headland near Cape Cornwall.
And there was a tomb in St. Fair church, behind the altar, marked by a
blue slab, with an indent formerly filled by a recumbent figure. On the
blue slab was a partly obliterated inscription in monkish Latin, which
yielded its secret to him, and divulged that the remains beneath were
those of Father Simon of St. Fair.

With this important discovery to help him, Robert Turold had very little
difficulty in completing the particulars of the family genealogy. Further
search of the churchtown records brought to light that Simon's other son,
Robert, left Cornwall as a young man, and after some years of wandering
had settled in Suffolk. Father Simon, of course, died without family, but
Robert married, the family name came to be spelt "Turold," and thus was
founded that branch of the family of which the last Robert Turold was now
the head. The family tree was complete.

Such was the substance of Robert Turold's life quest, and the story had
occupied two hours in telling.

"I have petitioned the King's most excellent majesty to terminate the
abeyance in my favour and declare that I am entitled to the peerage," he
concluded. "I have no doubt that my claim will be admitted. I have set out
the facts with great care, and in considerable detail. I have traced a
clear line of descent back to Simon Turrald, younger brother of the last
baron, and there are no coheirs in existence. Ours is the last surviving
branch, or it would, perhaps, be better if I said that Austin and myself,
and Austin's son, are the only male members of the family. It is a
difficult matter to give effectual proof of a long pedigree, but my lawyer
has not the least doubt that the House of Lords will admit the validity of
my claim, and will terminate the abeyance in my favour. The Attorney
General has inspected my proofs, and I am to appear before the Committee
for Privileges next week. In a few weeks at the outside, allowing for the
worst of law's delays, I shall be Lord Turrald."

Robert Turold's whole bearing was transfigured as he made this
announcement. His sound eye gleamed, his shrunken form seemed to expand
and fill, and his harsh sallow features took on an expression which was
almost ecstatic. It was his great moment, the moment for which he had
lived for twenty years, and it compensated him for all his worry, delayed
expectation, fruitless labour, and the bitter taste of the waters of
despair.

"I shall be Turrald of Great Missenden," he said, and again the expression
of his face showed what the words meant to him.

"Bob! So you've actually succeeded after all!" Mrs. Pendleton stepped
quickly across to her brother as he sat regarding his audience from behind
his pile of documents. It was like a sister, at that moment, to slip back
to the juvenile name and kiss his elderly face with tears in her eyes.
Robert Turold received the caress unmoved, and she went back to the sofa.

"Lord Turrald! It sounds well," murmured her husband, whose ideas were
sufficiently democratic to give him a sneaking admiration for a title. He
gazed at his brother-in-law with a new respect, discerning unsuspected
indications of noble blood in his grim visage.

"How do you account for the two forms of spelling your family name?"
observed Dr. Ravenshaw. "The House of Lords will require proof on that
point, will they not?"

"I shall be able to satisfy them," returned Robert Turold. "The first
Robert Turold reverted to the Norman spelling when he settled in Suffolk.
Turrald is the corrupted form, doubtless due to early Saxon difficulties
with Norman names. The Saxons were never very glib at Norman-French, and
there was no standardized spelling of family names at that period."

"It would be interesting to know how the name of Simon came to be bestowed
upon the Simon Turrald who fled to Cornwall after Bosworth. The name is
Biblical--not Norman. The Normans were pagan, worshipping Woden and Thor,
though supposed to be Christianized after Charles the Simple ceded
Neustria to Rollo."

"Simon was a good mediaeval name in France and was fairly common in
England from the twelfth century until after the Reformation. It was
Norman, as being that of an apostle, and was never popular among the
Puritans."

"It seems a pity that you cannot claim the Turrald estates," put in
Austin. "They must have been immensely wealthy."

"It is quite out of the question," replied Robert decisively. "They have
been alienated for centuries. But it has been part of my life's work to
provide for the upkeep of the title when I gained it. I shall be able to
ensure my heirs an income of nearly eight thousand pounds a year."

It was Mrs. Pendleton's first intimation of the amount of the fortune her
brother had gained abroad. "Eight thousand a year!" she exclaimed. "Oh,
Robert, it is wealth."

"One could live very comfortably on eight thousand a year," remarked her
husband, "very comfortably indeed."

"It's not much to support a title, after the tax-gatherers have taken
their pound of flesh in income tax and super-tax," said Austin. "Robert,
with his iron frame, will probably outlive a weakling like myself, but if
he doesn't I'm sure I shall find it difficult to keep up the title on the
money."

"One word!" said Dr. Ravenshaw, with a quick glance at Robert Turold.
"This is a barony by writ that you are claiming. Does not your daughter
succeed you if you gain it, and not your brother?"

"No," replied Robert Turold. "The next holder of the title, after me, will
be my brother, and his son will succeed him."

Little Mr. Pendleton looked questioningly at his brother-in-law.

"A similar question was on my lips," he said hesitatingly. "I know very
little of such matters, but in view of our family's probable entry into
the ranks of the old nobility I have deemed it my duty to make myself
acquainted, to some extent, with the history of the Turrald title and
peerage law. It seems a very complicated business--peerage law, I mean--in
the case of baronies by writ, but I certainly gathered the impression that
a sole daughter can succeed, although several daughters are regarded as
coheirs."

"My daughter cannot succeed to the Turrald title," rejoined Robert Turold.
The words seemed to be wrung out of him reluctantly.

"It is not for me to question your knowledge--your great knowledge--of
English peerage law, Robert," pursued Mr. Pendleton with a kind of timid
persistence. "But I brought a book down with me in the train in which I
remember reading that the right of a single daughter to succeed to a
barony by writ had been well established by the Clifton case and several
others. I am not precisely aware what the Clifton case is, but I've no
doubt that you are well versed in the particulars of it. As you have no
son your daughter has priority of claim over your brother and his son.
From what you say I can see that I must be quite wrong, but I'd be glad if
you would explain to me."

"You have stated the law accurately enough," said Robert Turold, "but my
daughter does not succeed to the title."

"Why not?"

Embarrassment, perceptible as a cloud, deepened on Robert Turold's face.
He regained his self-control with an effort.

"There was an informality in my marriage," said he at last. "My daughter's
birth was irregular."

"Do you mean that she is illegitimate?" asked Dr. Ravenshaw.

Robert Turold inclined his head. "Yes," he said.

At this admission his sister bounced from the sofa with a startled cry.
"So that was why there was no name plate on the coffin," she exclaimed.
"Oh, Robert, what a terrible thing--what a disgrace!"

"Spare me your protests until you have heard the explanation," Robert
coldly rejoined. "She"--he pointed a hand in the direction of the
churchyard--"was married before she met me. She kept the fact from me. It
was apparently a secret passage in her life. During our long association
together she gave no hint of it. She confessed the truth on her deathbed.
In justice to her memory let me say that she believed her husband dead."

Robert Turold told this with unmoved face in barest outline--etched in
dry-point, as it were--leaving his hearers to fill in the picture of the
unhappy woman who had gone through life tormented by the twin demons of
conscience and fear, which had overtaken her and brought her down before
she could reach the safe shelter of the grave.

Mrs. Pendleton, whose robust mind had scant patience with the policy of
cowardice which dictates death-bed confessions, regretted that Alice,
having remained silent so long, had not kept silence altogether.

"You do not intend to make this scandal public, Robert?" she said
anxiously.

"I am compelled to do so," was the gloomy response.

"Is it necessary?" she pleaded. "Cannot the story be kept quiet--if not
for Alice's sake, at least for Sisily's? You must consider her above all
things. She is your daughter, your only child."

"I agree with Aunt," said Charles Turold. He rose from the window-seat and
approached the table. "Sisily must be your first consideration," he said,
looking at Robert Turold.

"This has nothing to do with you, Charles," interposed Austin hastily.

"I think it has," said his son. "You told me nothing about this, you
know."

"I was not aware of it myself," replied his father.

"Now that I know, I shall have nothing further to do with this," continued
the young man. "I'm not going to help you wrong Sisily."

"I hardly expected such lofty moral sentiments from you," said Austin,
with a dark glance.

His son flushed as though there was a hidden sting behind the jibe. He
appeared to be about to say something more, but checked himself, and went
back to his seat by the window.

"Is there no way of keeping this matter quiet, Robert?" said his sister
imploringly.

"I see none," was the rejoinder. "It is a very painful disclosure, but I
think it is inevitable. Do you not agree with me, Austin?"

"Do not ask my opinion," his brother coldly replied. "It is for you to
decide."

Robert Turold paused irresolutely. "What do you say, Ravenshaw?" he said,
glancing round at the silent figure of the doctor. "I asked you to be
present this afternoon to have the benefit of your advice. I owe much to
you, so I beg you to speak freely."

"Since you have asked my advice," said Dr. Ravenshaw gravely, "I say that
I entirely agree with Mrs. Pendleton. Your first duty is to Sisily. She
should out-weigh all other considerations. If you make her illegitimacy
public you may live to be sorry for having done so."

Mrs. Pendleton cast a moist, grateful glance at the speaker, but Austin
Turold turned on him a look of cold hostility.

Robert Turold sat brooding for a few moments in silence. He had asked
advice, but his own mind was made up. The humane views of his sister and
Dr. Ravenshaw were powerless to affect his decision. The monstrous growth
of his single purpose had long since strangled such transient plants as
human affection and feeling in his heart and mind.

"The facts must be made public," he said inexorably. "The honour of a
noble family is in my hands, and I must do my duty. It would be an insult
to my Sovereign and my peers, and a grievous wrong to our family, if I
concealed any portion of the truth. I shall make adequate provision for
Sisily. You will not refuse to take charge of her, Constance, because of
this disclosure?"

"You ought to know me better than that, Robert. She'll need somebody to
take care of her, poor child! But who is to tell her the truth? For I
suppose she must be told?"

"I want you to tell her," said Robert Turold. "Choose your time. There is
no immediate hurry, but she must be in no false hopes about the future.
She had better be told before the Investigations Committee meets."

"Bother the Investigations Committee!" exclaimed Mrs. Pendleton. "Really,
Robert--"

Mrs. Pendleton broke off abruptly, in something like dismay. She had a
fleeting impression of a pair of eyes encountering her own through a crack
in the doorway, and as swiftly withdrawn. She walked quickly to the door
and flung it open. There was nobody outside, and the passage was empty.

"We have been talking family secrets with the door open," she said,
returning to her seat. "I thought I saw one of the servants
eavesdropping."

"My servants would not listen at doors," said Robert Turold coldly. "You
must have imagined it."

Mrs. Pendleton made no rejoinder. She had a strong belief that someone had
been watching and listening, but she could not be sure.

"We must really be going," she announced, with a glance at the clock.
"Joseph"--such was her husband's name--"you had better go and see if the
car is ready, and I will go for Sisily. Is she upstairs in her room,
Robert?"

"I believe so," said Robert Turold, bending abstractedly over his papers.
"But you had better ask Thalassa. He'll tell you. Thalassa will know."

Mrs. Pendleton looked angrily at him, but was wise enough to forbear from
further speech. She instinctively realized that her brother was beyond
argument or reproof.

She went upstairs to look for her niece, but she was not in her room. She
came downstairs again and proceeded to the kitchen. Through the half-open
door she saw the elderly male servant, and she entered briskly.

"Can you tell me where Miss Sisily is, Thalassa?" she asked.

"Miss Sisily is out on the cliffs." Thalassa, busy chopping suet with a
knife, made answer without looking up. There was something absurdly
incongruous between the mild domestic occupation and the grim warrior face
bent over it.

"When did she go out?" asked Mrs. Pendleton, struck by a sudden thought.

Thalassa threw a swift sidelong glance at her. "It might be an hour ago,"
he said.

"Do you know where I am likely to find her?"

Thalassa pointed vaguely through an open window.

"Somewhere along there," he said. "Miss Sisily is fond of the cliffs. If
you're going to look for her you'd best not go round by the back of the
house, or you'll fall over, like as not. It's a savage spot, only fit for
savages--or madmen." He turned his back and bent over his chopping board
again.

Mrs. Pendleton turned away in perplexity, and walked up the passage to the
front door. There her eye fell on the figure of Charles Turold, lounging
moodily over the gate, smoking a cigarette.

She walked down the flinty path and touched his arm. "Would you mind going
and looking for Sisily?" she said. "She is out on the cliffs, Thalassa
says." She pointed a hand in the direction she supposed the girl to be.

The young man's moodiness vanished in eager alacrity. "Certainly," he
replied. "I'll go with pleasure." He tossed away his cigarette and
disappeared around the side of the house.




CHAPTER IV


Sisily first opened her eyes on a grey day by a grim coast, and life had
always been grim and grey to her. Her memory was a blurred record of
wanderings from place to place in pursuit of something which was never to
be found. Her earliest recollection was of a bleak eastern coast, where
Robert Turold had spent long years in a losing game of patience with the
sea. He had gone there in the belief that some of his ancestors were
buried in a forgotten churchyard on the cliffs, and he spent his time
attempting to decipher inscriptions which had been obliterated almost as
effectually as the dead whose remains they extolled.

The old churchyard had been called "The Garden of Rest" by some
sentimental versifier, but there was no rest for the dead who tried to
sleep within its broken walls. The sea kept undermining the crumbling
cliffs upon which it stood, carrying away earth, and tombstones, and
bones. Nor was it a garden. Nothing grew in the dank air but crawling
things which were horrible to the eye. There were great rank growths of
toadstools, yellow, blue, livid white, or spotted like adders, which
squirmed and squelched underfoot to send up a sickly odour of decay. The
only green thing was some ivy, a parasitic vampire which drew its
lifeblood from the mouldering corpse of an old church.

It was in this desolate place that the girl conceived her first impression
of her father as a stern and silent man who burrowed among old graves like
a mole. Robert Turold had fought a stout battle for the secret contained
in those forgotten graves on a bleak headland, but the sea had beaten him
in the long run, carrying off the stones piecemeal until only one
remained, a sturdy pillar of granite which marked the bones of one who,
some hundred and fifty years before had been "An English Gentleman and a
Christian"--so much of the epitaph remained. Robert Turold hoped that it
was an ancestor, but he was not destined to know. One night the stone was
carried off with a great splash which was heard far, and left a ragged gap
in the cliffside, like a tooth plucked from a giant's mouth.

When Sisily first saw the cliffs of Cornwall she was reminded of those
early days, with the difference that the Cornish granite rocks stood firm,
as though saying to the sea, "Here rises England."

The house Robert Turold had taken looked down on the sea from the summit.
It was a strange place to build a house, on the brink of a broken Cornish
cliffline, above the grey surges of the Atlantic, among a wilderness of
dark rocks, facing black moors, which rolled away from the cliffs as
lonely and desolate as eternity. The place had been built by a London
artist, long since dead, who had lived there and painted seascapes from an
upstairs studio which overlooked the sea.

The house had remained empty for years until Robert Turold had taken it
six months before. It was too isolated and lonely to gain a permanent
tenant, and it stood in the teeth of Atlantic gales. The few scattered
houses and farms of the moors cringed from the wind in sheltered
depressions, but Flint House faced its everlasting fury on the top of the
cliffs, a rugged edifice of grey stone, a landmark visible for many miles.

The house suited Robert Turold well enough, because it was near the
churchtown in which he was conducting his final investigations. It never
occurred to him to consider whether it suited his wife and daughter. It
was a house, and it was furnished; what more was necessary? It was nothing
to him if his wife and daughter were unhappy. It was nothing to him if the
sea roared and the house shook as he sat poring at nights over his
parchments in the dead artist's studio. He had other things to occupy his
mind than Nature's brutality or the feelings of womanhood.

Sisily had climbed down to the foot of the rocks. She was sitting in her
favourite spot, a spur of rock overhanging a green nook in the broken
ugliness of the cliffs, sheltered from the sea by an encircling arm of
rock, and reached by a steep path down the cliff. Around her towered an
amphitheatre of vast cliffs in which the sea sang loud music to the spirit
of solitude. In the moaning waters in front of the cove a jagged rock rose
from the incomparable green, tilted backward and fantastically shaped,
like a great grave face watching the house on the summit of the cliff.

The rock had fascinated the girl from the first moment she had seen it. In
the summer months, tourists came from afar to gaze on its fancied
resemblance to one of the illustrious dead. But to Sisily there was a
secret brooding consciousness in the dark mask. It seemed to her to be
watching and waiting for something. For what? Its glance seemed to follow
her like the eyes of a picture. And it conveyed a menace by its mere
proximity, even when she could not see it. When she looked out of her
window at night, and saw only the shadow of the rock with the face veiled
in darkness, she seemed to hear the whisper of its words: "I am here. Do
not think to escape. I will have you yet."

Among the fisher-folk of that part of the coast it was known as the Moon
Rock. The old Cornish women had a tradition that when a fishing-boat
failed to return to that bay of storms, the spirit of the drowned man
would rise to the surface and answer his wife if she hailed him from the
shore. It was a rite and solemn ceremony, now fallen into decay. There was
a story of one young wife who, getting no answer, left her desolate
cottage at midnight and swam out to the Moon Rock at high tide. She had
scrambled up its slippery sides and called her husband from the summit.
She had called and called his name until he came. In the morning they were
found--the wife, and the husband who had been called from the depth of the
sea, floating together in one of the sea caverns at the base of the Moon
Rock, their white faces tangled in the red seaweed which streaked the
green surging water like blood.

Sisily knew this story, and believed it to be true. Sometimes, when the
moon lingered on the black glistening surface of the Moon Rock, she
fancied she could see a misty fluttering figure on the rock, and hear it
calling ... calling. She would sit motionless at her window, straining her
ears for the reply. After a time the response would come faintly from the
sea, at first far out, then sounding louder and clearer as the spirit of
the husband guided his drowned body back to his wife's arms. When it
sounded close to the rock the evanescent figure on the summit would vanish
to join the spirit of her husband in the churning waters at the base. Then
the face of the Moon Rock seemed to smile, and the smile was so cruel that
Sisily would turn from the window with a shudder, covering her face with
her hands.

Her strange upbringing may have contributed to such morbid fancies. In his
monstrous preoccupation with a single idea Robert Turold had neglected his
duty to his daughter. She counted for nothing in his scheme of life, and
there were periods when he seemed to be unconscious of her existence. She
had been allowed to grow up with very little education or training. She
had passed her childhood and girlhood in remote parts of England, without
companions, and nobody to talk to except her mother and Thalassa, who
accompanied the family everywhere. She loved her mother, but her love was
embittered by her helplessness to mitigate her mother's unhappy lot.
Thalassa was a savage old pagan whose habitual watchful secretiveness
relaxed into roaring melody in his occasional cups; in neither aspect
could he be considered a suitable companion for the budding mind of a
girl, but he loomed in her thoughts as a figure of greater import than her
father or mother. Her father was a gloomy recluse, her mother was crushed
and broken in spirit. Thalassa had been the practical head of the house
ever since Sisily could remember anything, an autocrat who managed the
domestic economy of their strange household in his own way, and brooked no
interference. "Ask Thalassa--Thalassa will know," was Robert Turold's
unvarying formula when anybody attempted to fix upon him his
responsibility as head of the house. Sometimes Sisily was under the
impression that her father for some reason or other, feared Thalassa. She
could recall a chance collision, witnessed unseen, through a half-open
door. There had been loud voices, and she had seen a fiery threatening
eye--Thalassa's--and her; father's moody averted face.

From a child she had developed in her own way, as wild and wayward as the
gulls which swooped around the rocks where she was sitting. Nature
revealed her heart to her in long solitary walks by sea and fen. But of
the world of men and women Sisily knew nothing whatever. The secrets of
the huddle of civilization are not to be gathered from books or solitude.
Sisily was completely unsophisticated in the ways of the world, and her
deep passionate temperament was full of latent capacity for good or evil,
for her soul's salvation or shipwreck. Because of her upbringing and
temperament she was not the girl to count the cost in anything she did.
She was a being of impulse who had never learnt restraint, who would act
first and think afterwards.

Her dislike of her father was instinctive, almost impersonal, being based,
indeed, on his treatment of her mother rather than on any resentment of
his neglect of herself. But Robert Turold had never been able to
intimidate his daughter or tame her fearless spirit. She had inherited too
much of his own nature for that.

At that moment she was sitting motionless, immersed in thought, her chin
on her hand, looking across the water to the horizon, where the Scilly
Islands shimmered and disappeared in a grey, melting mist. She did not
hear the sound of Charles Turold's footsteps, descending the cliff path in
search of her.

The young man stood still for a moment admiring her exquisite features in
their soft contour and delicate colouring. He pictured her to himself as a
white wildflower in a grey wilderness. He could not see himself as an
exotic growth in that rugged setting--a rather dandified young man in a
well-cut suit, with an expression at once restless and bored on his
good-looking face.

He scrambled down the last few slippery yards of the path and had almost
reached her side before she saw him.

"I have been sent for you," he explained. "I knew I should find you here."

She got up immediately from the rock where she had been sitting, and they
stood for a moment in silence. She thought by his look that he had
something to say to her, but as he did not speak she commenced the ascent
of the stiff cliff path. He started after her, but the climb took all his
attention, and she was soon far ahead. When he reached the top she was
standing near the edge looking around her.

"This is my last look," she said as he reached her side. Her hand
indicated the line of savage cliffs, the tossing sea, the screaming birds,
the moors beyond the rocks.

"Perhaps you will come back here again some day," he replied.

She made no answer. He drew closer, so close that she shrank back and
turned away.

"I must go now," she hurriedly said.

"Stay, Sisily," he said. "I want to speak to you. It may be the final
opportunity--the last time we shall be alone together here."

She hesitated, walking with slower steps and then stopping. As he did not
speak she broke the silence in a low tone--

"What do you wish to say to me?"

"Are you sorry you are leaving Cornwall?" he hesitatingly began.

She made a slight indifferent gesture. "Yes, but it does not matter.
Mother is dead, and my father does not care for me." She flushed a deep
red and hastily added, "No one will miss me. I am so alone."

"You are not alone!" he impetuously exclaimed--"I love you, Sisily--that
is what I wished to say. I came here to tell you."

He caught a swift fleeting glance from her dark eyes, immediately veiled.

"Do you really mean what you say?" she replied, a little unsteadily.

"Yes, Sisily. I have loved you ever since I first met you," he replied.
"And, since then, I have loved you more and more."

"Oh, why have you told me this now?" she exclaimed. "You think I am
lonely, and you are sorry for me. I cannot stay longer. Aunt will be
waiting for me."

He sprang before her in the narrow path.

"You must hear what I have to say before you go," he said curtly. "We are
not likely to meet again for some time if we part now. I intend to leave
England."

She looked at him at those words, but he was at a loss to divine the
meaning of the look.

"You are leaving England?" A quick ear would have caught a strange note in
her soft voice. "Oh, but you cannot--you have responsibilities."

"Are you thinking of the title, and your father's money?" he observed,
glancing at her curiously. "What do you know about it, Sisily?"

"I have heard of nothing but the title ever since I can remember," she
replied.

"I learnt for the first time this afternoon that I was brought down here
to rob you," he said gloomily.

"I am glad for your sake if you are to have it--the money," she simply
replied.

He answered with a bitter, almost vengeful aspect.

"I would not take the money or the title, if they ever came to me. They
should be yours. I will show them. I will let them know that they cannot
do what they like with me." He brought out this obscure threat in a savage
voice. "If I had only known--if I had guessed that your father--" He
ceased abruptly, with a covert glance, like one fearing he had said too
much.

She kept her eyes fixed on the lengthening shadows around the rocks.

"Do not take it so much to heart," she timidly counselled. "It is nothing
to me--the title or the money. They made my mother's life a misery. My
father was always cruel to her because of them, I do not know why. It is
in his nature to be cruel, I think. He has a heart of granite, like these
rocks. I hate him!" She brought out the last words in a sudden burst of
passion which startled him.

"What nonsense it all is!" he exclaimed, suddenly changing his tone. "All
this talk about a title which may never be revived. Let them have it
between them, and the money too. Sisily, I love you, dear, love you better
than all the titles and money in the world. I am not worthy of you, but I
will try to be. Let us go Sway and start life ... just our two selves."

"I cannot." She stood in front of him with downcast gaze, and then raised
her eyes to his.

Had he been as experienced in the ways of her sex as he believed himself
to be, he would have read more in her elusive glance than her words.

"You may be sorry if you do not," he said, with a sudden access of male
brutality. "There are reasons--reasons I cannot explain to you--"

"Even if there are I cannot do what you ask," she replied. Her face was
still averted, but her voice was steady.

"Then do you want to go with Aunt to London?" he persisted, trying to
catch a glimpse of her hidden face.

She shook her head.

"Or to stay with your father?"

"No!" There was a strange intense note in the brief word.

"Then come with me, Sisily. I love you more than all the world. We have
nobody to please except our two selves."

"You have your duty to your father to consider."

"Let us leave him out of the question," said the young man hurriedly. "He
is as selfish and heartless as--his brother. I tell you again, I'll have
nothing to do with this title or your father's money. I will make my own
way with you by my side. I have a friend in London who would be only too
glad to receive you until we could be married. You are leaving your home
to-night, and you are as free as air to choose. Will you come?"

"Of course," he began again, in a different tone, as she still kept
silent, "it may be that I have misunderstood. I thought that you had
learnt to care for me. But if you dislike me--"

"Do not say that," she replied, turning a deeply wounded face towards him.
"It is not that--do not think so. You have been kind and good to me, and
I--I shall never forget you. But I--I have a contempt for myself."

"I have a contempt for myself also after this afternoon," he retorted.
"Come, Sisily--"

"No, it is impossible. Hark, what was that?" The girl spoke with a sudden
uplifting of her head. Above them, from the direction of the house, the
sound of a voice was heard.

"It is Aunt calling me," she said, "I must go. Good-bye."

"Is it good-bye, then?"

"It must be. But I shall often think of you."

He had the unforgettable sensation of two soft burning lips touching the
hand which hung at his side, and turned swiftly--but too late. She was
speeding along the rocky pathway which led to the house.

"Wait, Sisily!" he cried.

A seabird's mournful cry was the only answer. He glanced irresolutely
towards the path, and then retraced his steps towards the edge of the
cliffs.

A cold sun dipped suddenly, as though pulled down by a stealthy invisible
hand. The twilight deepened, and in the lengthening shadows the rocks
assumed crouching menacing shapes which seemed to watch the solitary
figure standing near the edge, lost in thought.




CHAPTER V


Through the flowers on the hotel dining-table Mrs. Pendleton was able to
watch her niece unnoticed, because the flowers occupied such an
unreasonably large space on the little round table set for three. Besides,
Sisily had been engrossed in her own thoughts throughout the meal. Mrs.
Pendleton was disturbed by her quietness. There was something unnatural
about it--something not girlish. She had not spoken once during the drive
from Flint House to Penzance, and she sat through dinner with a still
white face, silent, and hardly eating anything.

Mrs. Pendleton supposed Sisily was fretting over her mother, but she did
not understand a girl whose grief took the form of silence and stillness.
She would have preferred a niece who would have sobbed out her grief on
her shoulder, been reasonably comforted, and eaten a good dinner
afterwards. But Sisily was not that kind of girl. She was strange and
unapproachable. There was something almost repellent in her reserve,
something in her dark preoccupied gaze which made Mrs. Pendleton feel
quite nervous, and unfeignedly relieved when Sisily had asked to be
allowed to go to her room immediately the meal was concluded.

As she sat at the table, reviewing the events of the afternoon, after the
girl had taken her departure, Mrs. Pendleton regretted that she had
consented to take charge of Sisily. She flattered herself that she was
sufficiently modern not to care a row of pins for the stigma on the girl's
birth, but there were awkward circumstances, and not the least of them was
her own rash promise to break the news to Sisily that she was
illegitimate. That disclosure was not likely to help their future
relations together. Mrs. Pendleton reflected that she knew very little
about her niece, whom she had not seen since she was a small girl, but the
recollection of her set face and tragic eyes at the dinner table impelled
prompt recognition of the fact that she was going to be difficult to
manage.

But there was more than that. With a feeling of dismay Mrs. Pendleton's
mind awoke to a belated realization of the scandal which would fasten on
Sisily and her birth if Robert succeeded in establishing his claim to the
title. A peer of the realm with an illegitimate, disinherited daughter!
The story would be pounced upon by a sensational press, avid for precisely
such topics. In imagination Mrs. Pendleton saw the flaming headlines, the
photographs, and the highly spiced reports in which every detail of her
brother's private life was laid bare for a million curious eyes.

Such an exposure was too terrible to be faced. Mrs. Pendleton saw her own
comfortable life affected by it; saw her position in her small social
circle shaken and overwhelmed by the clamour of notoriety. She saw herself
the focus of the malicious tea-table gossip of all her friends. Decidedly,
it would not do.

She did her brother the justice to realize that he had overlooked the
public effect of the disclosure of his painful domestic secret as
completely as she had. He had forgotten that his accession to the peerage
would make him, as it were, a public figure, and the glamour which the
newspapers would throw over his lifelong quest would invest every act of
his life with a publicity from which he could not hope to escape. If he
had foreseen this, he would have made some other arrangement for his
daughter's future, not for the girl's sake, but for the honour of the
famous old name of which he was so fanatically proud.

The question remained, what was to be done? Robert would have to be told,
of course. Mrs. Pendleton's first impulse was to retract her promise to
take charge of Sisily, and wash her hands of the whole affair. Then she
thought of the money, and wavered. Robert had made her a generous offer,
and the money would have helped so much! She had already planned the
spending of the cheque he had given her that afternoon. She had thought of
a new suite of drawing-room furniture, and bedroom carpets. She had a
vision of a small motor-car, later on.

As she pondered over the situation she thought she saw a way out--a way so
simple and practical that she was astonished that it had not occurred to
her before.

Mrs. Pendleton was a woman of decision and prompt of action when she made
up her mind. Her mind was made up now. She glanced across the table at her
husband. "Joseph!" she said.

Mr. Pendleton, hidden behind the sheets of a newspaper just arrived from
London, had the temerity not to hear. He was in a grumpy mood, arising, in
the first instance, from having been dragged away from his business and
his club to Cornwall. It was nothing to him that he was in the Land of
Lyonesse. His brief impression of the Duchy was that it was all rocks, and
that Penzance was a dull town without a proper seafront, swarming with
rascally shopkeepers who tried to sell serpentine match-boxes at the price
of gold ones, and provided with hotels where dull tourists submitted to a
daily diet of Cornish pasties and pollock under the delusion that they
were taking in local colour in the process. Mr. Pendleton's stomach
resented his own rash deglutition of these dainties, and in consequence he
was suffering too much with acute indigestion to think of the compensation
he would gain at next year's Academy by standing with a bragging knowing
air before pictures of the Cornish coast, expatiating to his bored
acquaintances (who had never been to Cornwall) on their lack of merit
compared with the real thing. Like most husbands, Mr. Pendleton had been
able to reach the conclusion that the real cause of his bodily and mental
discomfort was his wife, so he maintained a sulky silence behind the pages
of his newspaper.

With that lack of ceremony which the familiarity of marriage engenders in
the female breast, his wife leant across the table and plucked the paper
from his hand.

"Listen to me, Joseph," she said, "I want to talk to you."

Lacking the newspaper screen, Mr. Pendleton's rebellious tendencies
instantly evaporated beneath his wife's searching eye.

"Yes, my dear," he replied meekly. "What about?"

"About Sisily. Did you notice that she did not speak a word during
dinner?"

"Perhaps she was overcome with grief, my dear."

"Nonsense! Grief does not make a woman speechless. She's one of the dumb
sort of girls. I always mistrust a girl who hasn't plenty to say for
herself."

"Well, you know, my dear, she has had a strange sort of life. She hasn't
had the educational advantages of other young women"--Mr. Pendleton was
going to add "in her station of life," but a timely recollection of the
afternoon's disclosures caused him to substitute: "with wealthy fathers."

"Robert has neglected his duty to her shamefully. I've been thinking it
all over, and I'm half sorry now that I consented to take charge of her."

"Then why do it?" said her husband placidly.

"It's the scandal I fear," rejoined his wife, pursuing her own thought.
"There's bound to be a lot of talk and newspaper publicity when Robert
comes into the title. It would be much better to keep this quiet, after
all these years. There is really no occasion for it, if Robert will only
listen to reason. Robert wishes to avoid future trouble and complications
about the succession. That could be arranged by getting Sisily to sign
some agreement renouncing all claim on the title."

"I doubt if such a document would be legal, my dear," said her husband
dubiously.

"That wouldn't matter in the least," replied Mrs. Pendleton, with a
woman's contempt for the law. "It would be purely a family arrangement.
Sisily could be assured by somebody in whom she has reliance--not her
father, of course--that there was some legal reason why she could not
succeed. I do not think there would be any trouble with her. She does not
look the kind of girl to delight in a title and a lot of money. Robert
would have to settle a handsome allowance on the poor child--indeed, it is
the very least he can do! If Robert agreed to this course there would be
no need to blurt out the brutal truth, and I would take Sisily under my
charge."

Mr. Pendleton saw several objections to his wife's plan, but he had long
learnt the futility of domestic argument--on the husband's side at least.
"How much do you consider your brother ought to allow Sisily?" he asked.

"Two thousand a year. Robert can well afford it."

"Do you think your brother Austin would agree?"

"Of course he wouldn't. Austin is horribly selfish. He wouldn't give
Sisily a penny if he had his way, now that he knows the truth. But I don't
intend to consult Austin in the matter. I thought of asking Dr. Ravenshaw
to go with me and try and influence Robert. Robert trusts him implicitly,
and he seems to have a great deal of influence with him. I feel sure he
would do his utmost to bring Robert to listen to reason. Do you not think
my plan a good one?"

In the secret depth of his heart Mr. Pendleton did not, but with the moral
cowardice of a husband he forebore from saying so. "It might be tried," he
feebly muttered.

"Very well, we will try it, then," said his wife, rising from her seat as
she spoke. "Go and order that motor-car we had this afternoon while I get
ready."

Mr. Pendleton was accustomed to his wife's energetic way of doing things
on the spur of the moment, but he had never become used to it. "Do you
intend to go and see your brother to-night?" he said, with an air of
surprise.

"Why not?"

Mr. Pendleton sought for a reason, but could find none. "It's rather late,
isn't it?" he suggested.

"Nonsense!" Mrs. Pendleton glanced at her wrist watch. "It's not much past
eight."

"Why not leave it until the morning?" said her husband, with a lingering
glance at the cheery glow of the log-fire in the lounge. "It's a beast of
a night to be out. Hark to the wind!"

"If it is to be settled, it must be settled to-night," said Mrs. Pendleton
decisively. "There'll be no time in the morning for anything, if we are to
catch the ten o'clock train for London. Beside, Austin would see us if we
went there in daylight, and I do not want him to know anything about
it--he would only try and put obstacles in our way."

"What about Sisily?"

"She will be quite all right in her room. She looked tired out, and needs
a good night's rest. You had better see about the car at once."

Mr. Pendleton said no more, and his wife bustled away to put on her
outdoor things. When she descended from her room her husband was awaiting
her in the lounge, and the head-light of the hired motor-car gleamed in
the darkness outside.

They set out through the narrow uneven streets, which smelt strongly of
mackerel and pitch. In a few minutes the car was clear of the town, and
running at an increased pace through the gusty darkness of the moors.




CHAPTER VI


With a face grimly immobile as the carved head of a heathen god, Thalassa
stood at the front door watching the departure of Sisily and her aunt
until the car was lost to sight in a dip of the moors. Then with a glance
at the leaping water at the foot of the cliffs, grey and mysterious in the
gloaming, he turned and went inside the house.

It was his evening duty to prepare the lamps which lighted up the old
house on the cliffs. Sisily generally helped him in that tedious duty, but
she was gone, and for the future he must do it alone.

The lamps were kept in a little lowbrowed room off the stone kitchen.
There Thalassa betook himself. Robert Turold disliked the dark, and a
great array of lamps awaited him: large ones for the rooms, small ones for
the passages and staircase. Thalassa set to work with a will, filling them
with oil, trimming the wicks, and polishing the glasses with a piece of
chamois leather.

As he filled and trimmed and polished he sang to himself an old sea song:

    "The devil and me, we went away to sea,
       In the old brig 'Lizbeth-Jane'--"

His voice was gruff and harsh, and the melody, such as it was, did nothing
to relax his expression, which remained grim and secret as ever.

Each lamp he lit as he finished it, and their gathered strength gushed in
a flood of yellow light on his crafty brown face and deep-set eyes. He
placed several of the lamps on a tray, carefully lowered the wicks, and
carried them to their allotted places, returning for others until only
half a dozen small lamps remained. These he gathered on the tray and took
upstairs.

Night had fallen; the wind was rising without, and seemed to rustle and
whistle in the draughty passages of the old house. Thalassa placed one
lamp at the head of the stairs, and others in the niches of the passage,
where they flickered feebly and diffused a feeble light. Halfway down the
passage he paused before a closed door. It was the room in which Sisily's
mother had died. With an expressionless face he went in and left the last
lamp burning dimly on the mantelpiece, like a votary candle on an altar of
the dead. Issuing forth again he cast a look around him and walked to
Robert Turold's study at the end of the passage. The door was closed, but
he opened it and entered.

Robert Turold was busily engaged writing at a large table by the light of
a swinging lamp. He looked up from his papers as Thalassa entered, and
thoughtfully watched him as he trimmed the lamp and tended the fire. With
these duties completed Thalassa still lingered, as though he expected his
master to speak.

"What's the glass like to-night, Thalassa?" remarked Robert Turold
absently.

The allusion was to a weather glass which hung in the hall downstairs. As
a topic of conversation it was as useful to master and servant as the
weather is to most English people. That is to say, it helped them when
they were wordbound.

"Going down fast," replied Thalassa.

"Then I suppose we are in for another rough night."

"The glass is always going down in Cornwall, and we are always in for
another rough night," responded the servitor curtly. "Are you going to
stay much longer in the forsaken hole?"

"Not much longer," replied his master in a mild tone.

"It is, perhaps, a dreary spot to you, but not to me--no, never to me. The
last link in my long search has been found here--hidden away in this
little out-of-the-way Cornish place. Think of that, Thalassa! I shall be
Lord Turrald."

"I don't see what good it will do you," retorted the man austerely.
"You've spent a mint of money over it. I suppose that's your own affair,
though. But what's to come next? That's what I want to know."

"When I leave Cornwall--"

"You mean we, don't you?" Thalassa interrupted.

"Of course I mean you as well as myself," Robert Turold replied almost
humbly. "I should be sorry to part with you, Thalassa, you must be well
aware of that. It is my intention to purchase a portion of the family
estate at Great Missenden, which is at present in the market, and spend
the remainder of my life in the place which once belonged to my ancestors.
That has been the dream of my life, and I shall soon be able to carry it
out."

A silence fell between them upon this statement, and Robert Turold's eyes
turned towards his papers again. But Thalassa stood watching him, as
though he had something on his mind still. He brought it out abruptly--

"And what about your daughter?"

"My daughter is going to London with my sister for a prolonged visit,"
said Robert Turold hurriedly. "She needs womanly training and other
advantages which I, in my preoccupations, have been unable to bestow upon
her. It is greatly to her advantage to go."

Robert Turold gave this explanation with averted face, in a tone which
sounded almost apologetic. The relative positions between them seemed
curiously reversed. It was as though Thalassa were the master, and the
other the man.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" Thalassa turned a cautious yet penetrating eye
upon his master. "Well, she's your own daughter, so I suppose you know
what's the best for her." He spoke indifferently, but there was an odd
note in his voice. He picked up his tray, and carelessly added: "For my
part I shall be glad to get out of Cornwall. It's a savage place, only fit
for savages and seagulls. There's the wind rising again."

A violent gust shook the house, and rattled the window-panes of the room.
It was the eyrie in which the deceased artist had painted his pictures,
with two large windows which looked over the cliff. Again the gale sprang
at the house, and smote the windows with spectral blows. Downstairs, a
door slammed sharply.

"Damn the wind!" exclaimed Thalassa peevishly. "There's no keeping it out.
I'm going downstairs to lock up now. You'll have your supper up here, I
suppose?"

"Yes. I have a lot of work to do before I go to bed."

Thalassa left the room without further speech, and Robert Turold began
rummaging among his papers with a hand which trembled slightly. The table
was littered with parchments, old books, and some sheets of newly written
foolscap. He picked up his pen and plunged it into a brass inkstand, then
paused in thought. His face was perturbed and uneasy. It may be that he
was reviewing the events of the day, wondering, perhaps, whether he had
paid too high a price for the attainment of his ambition. For it he had
sacrificed his daughter and the woman who now slept in the churchyard near
by, indifferent to it all. Nothing could restore to him the secret he had
divulged that afternoon.

A shade of apprehension deepened on his downcast face. Then he frowned
impatiently, and plunged into his writing again.




CHAPTER VII


On leaving his master's room Thalassa went swiftly downstairs and
disappeared into some remote back region of the lonely old house. He had
other duties to perform before his day's work was finished. There was wood
to be chopped, coal to be brought in, water to be drawn. Nearly an hour
elapsed before he reappeared, candle in hand, and entered the kitchen.

A little woman with a furtive face, sharp nose, and blinking eyes was
seated at one end of the kitchen table with playing-cards spread out in
front of her. She looked up at the sound of the opening door, and fear
crept into her eyes. She was Thalassa's wife, but the relationship was so
completely ignored by Thalassa that other people were apt to forget its
existence. The couple did the work of Flint House between them, but apart
from that common interest Thalassa gave his wife very little of his
attention, leading a solitary morose life, eating and sleeping alone, and
holding no converse with her apart from what was necessary for the
management of the house.

How he had ever come to bend his neck to the matrimonial yoke was one of
those mysteries which must be accounted a triumph for the pursuing sex--a
tribute to the fearlessness of woman in the ardour of the chase. On no
other hypothesis was it possible to understand how such a feeble specimen
of womanhood had been able to bring down such an untoward specimen of the
masculine brute. Outwardly, Thalassa had more kinship with a pirate than a
husband. There was that in his swart eagle visage and moody eyes which
suggested lawless cruises, untrammelled adventure, and the fierce wooing
of brown women by tropic seas rather than the dull routine of married
life. As a husband he was an anomaly like a caged macaw in a spinster's
drawing-room.

Mrs. Thalassa's victory had ended with bringing him down, and she soon had
cause to regret her temerity in marrying him. Thalassa repaid the
indignity of capture by a course of treatment which had long since subdued
his wife to a state of perpetual fear of him--a fear which deepened into
speechless shaking horror when he stormed out at her in one of his black
rages. Some women would have taken to drink, others to religion. Mrs.
Thalassa sought consolation in two packs of diminutive and dog-eared
cards. Her shattered spirit found something inexpressibly soothing in the
intricacies of patience: in the patchwork of colour, the array of
sequences, the sudden discovery of an overlooked move, the dear triumph of
a hard-won game.

It was thus she was occupied now, shuffling, cutting, and laying out her
rows with quick nervous movements of her worn little hands. She glanced
once more at her husband as he entered, and then bent over her cards
again.

The night had descended blackly, and the wind moaned eerily round the old
house. Thalassa sat in a straight-backed wooden chair listening to the
wind and rain raging outside, and occasionally glancing at his wife, who
remained absorbed in her patience. Half an hour passed in silence, broken
only by the rattling of rain on the window, and the loud ticking of the
clock on the mantelpiece. Suddenly the bell of Robert Turold's room rang
loudly in its place behind the kitchen door.

It was one of the old wired bells, and it sprang backwards and forwards so
violently under the impulse of the unseen pull that the other bells ranged
alongside responded to the vibration by oscillating in sympathy.

Thalassa watched them moodily until the sound ceased. He then left the
kitchen with deliberate tread, and stalked upstairs.

The door of his master's study was closed. He opened it without troubling
to knock, but started back in astonishment at the sight which met his
eyes. Robert Turold was crouching by the table like a beaten dog,
whimpering and shaking with fear. He sprang to his feet as Thalassa
entered, and advanced towards him.

"Thank God you've come, Thalassa," he cried.

"What's the matter with you?" said Thalassa sternly.

"He's come back, Thalassa--he's come back."

"He? Who?"

"You know whom I mean well enough. It was--" His voice sank suddenly, and
he whispered a name in the man's ear.

Thalassa's brown cheek paled slightly, but he answered quickly and
roughly--

"What nonsense are you talking now? How can he have come back? How often
must I tell you that he is dead?"

"You mean that you thought he was dead, Thalassa. But he is alive."

"How do you know?"

"I heard him."

"Heard him! What do you mean?"

"I heard his footsteps pattering around the house, as clear and distinct
as that night on that hellish island. Shall I ever forget the sound of his
footsteps then, as he raced over the rocks, looking back at us with his
wild eyes, and the blood streaming down his face--running and running
until he stumbled and fell? The sound of his running footsteps as he
clattered over the rocks have haunted me day and night ever since. I heard
them again to-night."

"I tell you again that he is dead. What! Do you think that you could hear
footsteps on a night like this?" The man stepped quickly across to the
nearest window and flung it open. The room was filled with rushing wind,
and the window curtains flapped noisily. "And where would he be running
to? Do you suppose he could climb up here from outside?"

"It might have been his spirit," murmured the other.

"Spirits don't cross the ocean, and their footsteps don't clatter,"
responded Thalassa coldly. "The house is all locked up, and there is no
other house near by. Come, what are you afraid of? You are worrying and
upsetting yourself over nothing. I'll bring you up your supper, and some
whisky with it. And the sooner you leave this cursed hole of a place, the
better it will be."

He crossed over to the fireplace and poked the coal into a red glow, and
then turned to leave the room. It was plain that his words had some effect
on Robert Turold, and he made an effort to restore his dignity before the
witness of his humiliation left him.

"No doubt you are right, Thalassa," he said in his usual tone. "My nerves
are a little overstrung, I fancy. You said the house was locked up for the
night, I think?"

"Everything bolted and barred," said Thalassa, and left the room.

He returned downstairs to the kitchen, where he wandered restlessly about,
occasionally pausing to look out of the window into the darkness of the
night. The rain had ceased, but the wind blew fiercely, and the sea
thundered at the foot of the cliffs. The gloom outside was thinning, and
as Thalassa glanced out his eye lighted on a strange shape among the
rocks. To his imagination it appeared to have something of the semblance
of a man's form standing motionless, watching the house.

Thalassa remained near the window staring out at the object. While he
stood thus, a faint sound reached him in the stillness. It was the muffled
yet insistent tap of somebody apparently anxious to attract attention
without making too much noise, and coming, as it seemed, from the front
door. Thalassa glanced at his wife, but she appeared to have heard
nothing, and her grey head was bent over her cards. He walked noiselessly
out of the kitchen, closing the door gently behind him.

His wife remained at the table, unconscious of everything but the lay of
her cards; shuffling, dealing, setting them out afresh in perpendicular
rows, muttering at the obstinacy of the kings and queens as though their
painted faces were alive and sensitive to her reproof. The old house
creaked and groaned in the wind, then became suddenly silent, like a man
overtaken by sleep in the midst of stretching and yawning. Time sped on.
Thalassa did not return, but she did not notice his absence. More rain
fell, beating against the window importunately, as if begging admission,
then ceased all at once, as at a hidden command, and again there was a
profound silence.

A piece of coal jumped from the fire with a hissing noise, and fell at
Mrs. Thalassa's feet. She got up to replace it, and observed that she was
alone.

She thought she heard her husband's footsteps in the passage, and opened
the door. But there was nobody there. The lower part of the house was
gloomy and dark, but she could see the lamp glimmering on the hall stand.
She was about to return to her seat when the hall lamp suddenly mooned up,
cast monstrous shadows, and went black out.

This fantastic trick of the lamp frightened her. What had made it flare up
like that and go out? And whose footsteps had she heard? With a chill
feeling of fear she shut the door and turned again to her game. But for
once the charm of the cards failed her. Where was Jasper, and why did he
not return? Silence held oppressive empire; her fears plucked at her like
ghostly hands. The lamp and the footstep--what did they mean? Had she
really heard a footstep?

She thought she saw something white in the uncurtained space of the
window. She buried her face in her hands, lacking the courage to cross the
room and pull down the blind.

Mysterious noises overhead, like somebody creeping on all-fours, drew her
eyes back to the door opening into the passage. With dismay she saw it was
not properly shut. She wondered if she dared go and lock it. Suppose it
was her husband, after all? And the noises? Were they real, or had she
imagined them?

There came to her ear an unmistakable sound like the slamming of a door
above her. A sudden accession in the quality of her fear sent her flying
to the passage door to lock it. Before she could get there the door flew
open violently, as though hit by a giant's hand, and then the wind blew
coldly on her face. The lamp on the kitchen table sent up a straight
tongue of flame in the draught, and also went out. As she stood there with
straining eyes a cry rang out overhead, followed in a space immeasurable
to the listener in the gulf of blackness, by a shattering sound which
seemed to shake the house to its foundations. Then the external blackness
entered her own soul, shrouding her consciousness like the sudden swift
fall of a curtain.




CHAPTER VIII


It seemed a long wild journey in the dark, but actually only half an hour
passed before the car emerged from the wind and rain of the moors into the
dimly-lighted stone street of the churchtown. A few minutes later the car
stopped, and the driver informed Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton in a Cornish drawl
that they had reached Dr. Ravenshaw's.

Husband and wife emerged from the car and discerned a square stone house
lying back from the road behind a white fence. They walked up the path
from the gate and rang the bell.

A rugged and freckled servant lass answered the ring, and stared hard at
the visitors from a pair of Cornish brown eyes. On learning their names
she conducted them into a small room off the hall and departed to inform
the doctor of their arrival.

Dr. Ravenshaw came in immediately. The quick glance he bestowed upon his
visitors expressed surprise, but he merely invited them to be seated and
waited for them to explain the object of their late visit. The room into
which they had been shown was his consulting room, furnished in the
simplest fashion--almost shabbily. There were chairs and table and a
couch, a small stand for a pile of magazines, a bookcase containing some
medical works, and a sprawling hare's-foot fern in a large flowerpot by
the window. Mr. Pendleton seated himself near the fern, examining it as
though it was a botanical rarity, and left his wife to undertake the
conversation. Mrs. Pendleton was accustomed to take the lead, and
immediately commenced--

"I have taken the liberty of coming to ask your advice about my niece,
doctor. You heard what my brother said this afternoon?"

Dr. Ravenshaw inclined his head without speaking, and waited for her to
continue.

"As you are a friend of my brother's--"

"Hardly a friend," he interrupted, with a gesture of dissent. "Our
acquaintance is really too short to warrant that term."

There was a professional formality about his tone which pulled her up
short. Like all impulsive people she was chilled by a lack of
responsiveness. Her impulse in visiting him had hoped for an interest
equalling her own. She reflected now that she should have remembered that
nobody liked being bothered with other people's affairs. She recovered her
feminine assurance and went on, with a winning smile.

"But you are in my brother's confidence, doctor--you were present at our
family gathering this afternoon. It is because of that I have come to see
you again, at this late hour. My husband and I are returning to London in
the morning, and there would be no other opportunity. I have been thinking
over all my brother said this afternoon, and I am very much distressed
about my niece."

He gave a short comprehending nod which encouraged her to proceed.

"I am extremely desirous of preventing this scandal of my brother's
marriage coming to light after all these years," she earnestly pursued.
"It seems to me that Robert has decided to let the truth be known without
first considering all the circumstances. He has forgotten that if he
succeeds in restoring the title he will come prominently into the public
eye. As the holder of a famous name his affairs will have a public
interest, and details will be published in the newspapers and eagerly
read. That is why this story about Sisily's mother would be so terrible
for all of us, and especially for Sisily."

"I should think your brother had foreseen all this." said Dr. Ravenshaw,
after a short pause.

"I do not think Robert has realized it," Mrs. Pendleton eagerly rejoined.
"He is a most unworldly man, and lives in a world of his own. His whole
life has been devoted to the idea of restoring the title. He has thought
of nothing else since he was a boy. He is quite incapable of understanding
what a sensation this story of an earlier marriage will cause if it is
made public. Indeed, I did not realize it myself until afterwards. Then I
decided to come and see you, and ask your help."

"I quite agree with you that it would be better if the story could remain
unknown, after all these years. But how can I help you?"

She had anticipated that question, and proceeded to unfold her plan.

"It might be kept quiet, I think," she said meditatively. "It is Robert's
duty to keep it secret for Sisily's sake. I am chiefly concerned about
her. Girls are difficult, so different from boys! It wouldn't be so bad if
she were a boy. A boy could change his name and emigrate, go on a ranch
and forget all about it. But it is different for a girl. Leaving the shock
out of the question, this thing would spoil Sisily's life and ruin her
chances of a good marriage if it was allowed to come out. People will
talk. It is inevitable that they should, in the circumstances. I fancy the
matter could be arranged in a way to satisfy Robert--so as not to
interfere with his plans about the title."

"What do you suggest?"

"Sisily could be told that there is some obstacle which prevents her
succeeding to the title. Robert has not brought her up as an heiress with
expectations. He has never treated her fairly, poor girl. It was his dream
to have a son to succeed him. Not that it would have made any difference
if Sisily had been a son, after what's come to light! Sisily would never
question anything that was told her about this wretched title, for I'm
quite sure that the idea of inheriting it has never entered her head. It
certainly never entered mine. I thought titles descended in the male line.
I don't know, really, but that has always been my idea."

"It depends on the terms of the original creation. The Turrald barony
originally went into abeyance among several daughters. One daughter could
have succeeded. There is nothing in the wording of the original writ to
prevent it--no limitation to male heirs. It is now well established by
precedent that a daughter can inherit a barony by writ. But for the
unhappy obstacle revealed by your brother's story, his daughter would
undoubtedly have succeeded to the restored title on his death."

"I'm sure it's very good of you to explain it to me," murmured Mrs.
Pendleton, in some confusion of mind. "It sounds quite reasonable, too. A
woman can inherit the throne of England, so why not a title? But it never
occurred to me before. Sisily, of course, cannot succeed to my brother's
title because of her birth. But is there any need for this to be known?
Could she not sign a paper renouncing her rights in return for a share of
my brother's fortune?"

"I doubt if the law would approve of the arrangement if it became known."

"The law should realize that it was done from the best of motives to keep
from an innocent girl a secret which would darken her life," responded
Mrs. Pendleton with decision.

"I wasn't looking at it altogether in that light," replied Dr. Ravenshaw
with a slow shake of the head. "But it might have been tried--oh yes, it
might have been tried." He rose from his chair, and paced thoughtfully up
and down the room.

"Is it too late to try it now?" she asked.

He looked at her thoughtfully.

"In what way?"

"By trying to persuade my brother to change his mind."

"He is not likely to change his mind."

"That," responded Mrs. Pendleton, "remains to be put to the test. I intend
to see him to-night, before it is too late. I beg you for Sisily's sake to
come with me and try and persuade him."

"Such a request as you propose to make should come only from a member of
the family," replied Dr. Ravenshaw. "It is a matter in which I would
rather not be involved. If you wish support, I would remind you that there
are two other members of your own family--your other brother and his
son--staying temporarily in this churchtown, not far from here. Why not go
to them?"

With a charmingly feminine gesture Mrs. Pendleton washed her hands of the
other members of the family. "I would not dream of going to Austin," she
said in decided tones. "He would not approve of my plan, nor, indeed,
would Robert listen to him if he did. But he would listen to you, I feel
sure. That is my reason for coming to you." She rose from her seat, and
sought to shepherd him into compliance by approaching him with a
propitiatory smile. "Do come, doctor. I have trespassed too much on your
kindness already, but oblige me further in this."

"It's rather late for a visit," he replied.

"It's only half-past nine," she said, with a glance at her wrist watch.
"My brother sits up till all hours over his papers and books. I will take
all responsibility upon myself for the visit. I will tell Robert that I
literally had to drag you with me, and he will understand that we simply
had to see him to-night, as he knows we are going home to London first
thing in the morning. Do come, Dr. Ravenshaw. The car is waiting."

He consulted his own watch.

"Very well, Mrs. Pendleton," he assented. "I will accompany you. Please
excuse me while I get my coat."

He rejoined them in a moment or two, and they proceeded outside to the
waiting car.




CHAPTER IX


A few minutes later the car stopped in the gloom outside the old house on
the cliffs. The storm had passed, but the sea still raged white beneath an
inky sky. A faint gleam from a shuttered front window pointed a finger of
light to the gravel path which led to the front door.

Mrs. Pendleton knocked, and an answer came quickly. The door was partly
opened, and Thalassa's voice from within parleyed: "Who's there?"

"Mrs. Pendleton--your master's sister," was the reply. "Let us in,
Thalassa."

The door was at once opened wide, and Thalassa stood back for them to
enter. By the light of the lamp he carried they saw that he was dressed
and coated for a journey, with his hat on.

"I'm glad you've come," he said to Dr. Ravenshaw. "It's you I was just
going out to fetch."

There was something strange in his manner, and the doctor looked at him
quickly. "What's the matter with you, man? Is there anything wrong?"

"That's what I don't know. But I'm afeered, yes, by God, I'm afeered."

His voice broke hoarsely, and he stood before them with his eyes averted
from the three wondering faces regarding him. Mrs. Pendleton stepped
quickly forward, and grasped his arm.

"What is it, Thalassa? Has anything happened to my brother?"

"There's been a great noise in his room, like as if something heavy had
crashed down, then silence like the grave. I went up and called--an' tried
to open the door, but I couldn't."

"Why didn't you try to break in the door?" said Dr. Ravenshaw.

"Tweren't my place," was the dogged retort. "I know my place. I was just
going to St. Fair for you and his brother."

"How long is it since this happened--since you heard the crash, I mean."

"Not many minutes agone. Just before you came to the door."

"Light us upstairs at once, Thalassa," said Mrs. Pendleton sharply.

"Mrs. Pendleton, will you wait downstairs while we investigate?" suggested
Dr. Ravenshaw.

"No," she resolutely answered. "I will come with you, doctor. Robert may
need me. Do not let us waste any more time."

She slipped past him to Thalassa, who was mounting the stairs. Dr.
Ravenshaw hurried after her. Mr. Pendleton, with an obvious call on his
courage, followed last. The lamp in Thalassa's hand burnt unsteadily,
first flaming angrily, then flickering to a glimmer which brought them to
a pause, one above the other on the stairs, listening intently, and
looking into the darkness above.

"His bedroom is open and empty," said Thalassa when they had reached the
end of the passage above. "See!" He pointed to the gaping door, and then
turned to the closed one opposite. "He's in here." His voice sank to a
whisper. "It was from here the noise came."

He placed the lamp on the floor, and knocked hesitatingly on the dark
panel of the closed door, then again more loudly, but there was no reply.
Far beneath them they could hear the solemn roar of the sea dashing
against the cliffs, but there was no sound in the closed chamber. Its
stillness and hush seemed intensified by the clamour of the sea, as though
calamity were brooding in the darkness within.

"Robert, Robert!" The high pitch of Mrs. Pendleton's voice shattered the
quietude like the startling clang of an unexpected bell. "Knock again,
Thalassa, more loudly, very loudly," she cried, in the shrill accents of
tightened nerves.

Thalassa approached the door again, but recoiled swiftly. "God A'mighty!"
he hoarsely exclaimed, pointing, "what's that?"

They followed the direction of his finger to the floor, and saw a sluggish
thin dark trickle making its way underneath the door. Mr. Pendleton
stooped and examined it, but rose immediately.

"There's been trouble in there," he said, with a pale face.

"How could anybody get in?" said Thalassa sullenly. "The door is locked
from the inside, and it's two hundred feet from the windows to the bottom
of the cliffs."

"Oh, for pity's sake stop talking and do something," cried Mrs. Pendleton
hysterically. "My poor brother may be dying." She rattled the door-handle.
"Robert, Robert, what is the matter? Let me in. It is I--Constance."

"We must break in the door," said Dr. Ravenshaw. "Stand away, Mrs.
Pendleton, please. Now, Thalassa, both together."

The doctor and the servant put their shoulders to the door. Mr. Pendleton
watched them with a white face, but did not go to their assistance. At the
fourth effort there was a sound of splintering wood, the lock gave, and
the door swung back.

They peered in. At first they could see nothing. The light of the
swinging-lamp had been lowered, and the interior of the room was veiled in
shadow. Then their eyes detected a dark outline on the floor between the
table and the window--the figure of a man, lying athwart the carpet with
arms outstretched, face downwards, the spread finger-tips clutching at
some heavy dark object between the head and the arms.

Thalassa stepped across the threshold, and with shaking hand turned up the
lowered wick of the swinging lamp. The light revealed the stark form of
Robert Turold. At this sight Mrs. Pendleton broke into a loud cry and
essayed to cross the room to her brother's side.

"Keep back, Mrs. Pendleton!" cried Dr. Ravenshaw, interposing himself in
front of her. "I begged of you not to come upstairs. Mr. Pendleton, take
your wife away at once."

But Mr. Pendleton's timorous and inferior mind was incapable of
translating the command into action. He could only stare dumbly before
him.

"No, no! Let me stay, I will be calm," Mrs. Pendleton pleaded. "Is--is he
dead, doctor?"

Dr. Ravenshaw crossed to the centre of the room and bent over the body,
feeling the heart. Husband and wife watched him, huddled together, their
white faces framed in the shadow of the doorway. In a moment he was on his
feet again, advancing towards them. "We can do no good here, Mrs.
Pendleton," he said gently. "Your brother is dead."

"Dead? Robert dead!" Her startled eye sought his averted face, and her
feminine intuition gathered that which he was seeking to withhold. "Do you
mean that he has been killed?" she whimpered.

"I fear that there has been--an accident," he replied evasively. He stood
in front of them in a way which obscured their view of the prone figure,
and a small shining thing lying alongside, which he alone had seen.
"Come," he said, in a professional manner, taking her by the arm. "Let me
take you downstairs." He got her away from the threshold, and pulled the
broken door to, shutting out the spectacle within.

"Are you going to leave him there--like that?" whispered Mrs. Pendleton.

"It is necessary, till the police have seen him," he assured her. "We had
better send Thalassa in the car to the churchtown. Go for Sergeant
Pengowan, Thalassa, and tell him to come at once. And afterwards you had
better call at Mr. Austin Turold's lodgings and tell him and his son.
Hurry away with you, my man. Don't lose a moment!"

Thalassa hastened along the passage as though glad to get away. His heavy
boots clattered down the staircase and along the empty hall. Then the
front door banged with a crash.

The others followed more slowly, stepping gently in the presence of Death,
past the little lamps, hardly bigger than fireflies, which flickered
feebly in their alcoves. They went into the front room, where a table lamp
gave forth a subdued light. Mrs. Pendleton turned up the wick and sank
into a chair, covering her face with her hands.

It was the room where only that afternoon Robert Turold had unfolded the
history of his life's quest: a large gloomy room with heavy old furniture,
faded prints of the Cornish coast, and a whitefaced clock on the
mantel-piece with a loud clucking tick. Dr. Ravenshaw knew the room well,
but Robert Turold's sister had seen it for the first time that day, and
the recollection of what had taken place there was so fresh in her memory
that it brought a flood of tears.

"Poor Bob!" she sobbed. "He denied himself all his life for the sake of
the title, and what's the good of it all--now?"

That was the only light in which she was able to see the tragedy in the
first moment of the shock. Other thoughts and revelations about her
brother's strange death were to come later, when her mind recovered its
bearings. For the moment she was incapable of thinking coherently. She was
conscious only of the fact that her brother had been cut off in the very
moment of success--before it, indeed; ere he had actually tasted the
sweets of the ambition he had given all his years to gain.

Silence fell between them, broken only by the clucking of the whitefaced
clock and the dreary sound of the wind outside, crying round the old house
like a frightened woman in the dark. Nearly an hour passed before they
heard the sound of a guarded knock at the front door. Dr. Ravenshaw went
and opened it. Austin Turold was standing on the threshold.

"This is bad news, doctor," he said, stepping quickly inside. "I came
ahead of the others--walked over. Thalassa is waiting at the churchtown
for the sergeant, who is away on some official business, but expected back
shortly. They may be here at any minute."

He spoke a little breathlessly, as though with running, and seemed anxious
to talk. He went on--.

"How did it happen? Tell me everything. I could get nothing out of
Thalassa. He was detained at the police station for a considerable time,
waiting for Pengowan, before he came to me with the news. He gave a great
knock at the door of my lodgings like the thunder of doom, and when I got
downstairs he blurted out that my brother was killed--shot--but not
another word of explanation could I get out of him. What does it all
mean?"

"I cannot say. Your sister and I reached the house just as Thalassa was
about to leave it to seek my assistance. Your sister is in the
sitting-room."

Austin Turold brushed past the doctor and opened the door of the lighted
room. At his entrance Mrs. Pendleton sprang from her seat to greet him.
Grief and horror were in her look, but surprise contended with other
emotions in Austin's face. She kissed him with clinging hands on his
shoulders.

"Oh, Austin," she cried, "Robert is dead--killed!"

"The news has shocked me to the last degree," responded her brother. "What
has happened? Did somebody send for you? Is that what brought you here?"

Mrs. Pendleton shook her head, embarrassed in her grief. She remembered
that she wished to keep the object of her visit secret from her younger
brother, and she could not very well disclose the truth then.

"Not exactly," she replied, a trifle incoherently. "I wanted to see Robert
again before I returned to London in the morning. So we motored over after
dinner, and found him--dead." Fresh tears broke from her.

Austin Turold wandered around the room quickly and nervously, then drew
Dr. Ravenshaw to the door with a glance. "I should like to go upstairs
before the police come," he whispered.

Dr. Ravenshaw nodded, and they went upstairs together. The shattered door
creaked open to their touch, revealing the lighted interior and the dead
man prone on the floor. Austin approached his brother's corpse, eyed it
shudderingly, and turned away. Then he stooped to look at the small
revolver lying alongside, but did not touch it. Again he bent over the
corpse, this time with more composure in his glance.

The object on which the outstretched arms rested was an old Dutch hood
clock, which had fallen or been dragged from a niche in the wall, and lay
face uppermost, the glass case open and smashed, the hands: stopped at the
hour of half-past nine. It was a clock of the seventeenth century, of a
design still to be found occasionally in old English houses. A landscape
scene was painted in the arch above the dial, showing the moon above a
wood, in a sky crowded with stars. The moon was depicted as a human face,
with eyes which moved in response to the swing of the pendulum. But the
pendulum was motionless, and the goggle eyes of the mechanism stared up
almost reproachfully, as though calling upon the two men to rescue it from
such an undignified position. At the bottom of the dial appeared the name
of Jan Fromantel, the famous Dutch clockmaker, and underneath was an
inscription in German lettering--

    "Every tick that I do give
     Cuts short the time you have to live.
     Praise thy Maker, mend thy ways,
     Till Death, the thief, shall steal thy days."

"Look at the blood!" said Austin Turold, pointing to a streak of blood on
the large white dial. "How did it happen?"

"I know very little more than yourself. Your sister called at my house
about an hour ago and asked me to accompany her here. She wished to see
your brother on some private business, and she was very anxious that I
should accompany her. Thalassa let us in, and said he was afraid that
there was something wrong with his master. We came upstairs immediately,
burst in the door, and found--this."

"Did Thalassa hear the shot?"

"He says not, only the crash."

"That would be the clock, of course. Was my brother quite dead when you
found him?"

"Just dead. The body was quite warm."

"The door was locked from inside, I think you said."

"We found it locked."

"Then it must have been locked from inside," returned the other, who
appeared to be pursuing some hidden train of thought. "But where's the
key? I do not see it in the door. Oh, here it is!" He stooped swiftly and
picked up a key from the floor. "Robert must have taken it out after
locking the door."

"Perhaps it fell out when we were breaking in the door," observed the
doctor.

"Of course. I forgot that. I notice that the clock is stopped at half-past
nine." He bent down to examine it. "My brother kept private papers in the
clock-case," he added. "Yes--it is as I thought. Here are some private
documents, including his will. I had better take charge of them."

"Yes; I should if I were you," counselled his companion.

Austin rose to his feet and placed the papers in his pocket.

"It is plain to me--now--how it happened," he said. "Poor Robert must have
shot himself, then tried to get his will from the clock-case when he fell,
bringing down the clock with him."

"Is that what you think?" said Dr. Ravenshaw.

"I see no other way of looking at it," returned Austin rapidly. "The door
was locked on the inside, and the room couldn't be reached from the
window. This house stands almost on the edge of the cliff, which is nearly
two hundred feet high. My feeling is that after my poor brother shot
himself he remembered in his dying moments that his will was hidden in the
clock-case and might not be found. He made a desperate effort to reach it
and dragged it down as he fell."

The doctor listened attentively to this imaginary picture of Robert
Turold's last moments.

"But why should he destroy himself?" he queried.

"Grief and remorse. Do you remember the disclosure he made to us this
afternoon? It is a matter which might well have preyed upon his mind."

"I see," said the other thoughtfully. "Yes, perhaps you may be right."

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a loud knocking
downstairs.

"That must be the police," observed Dr. Ravenshaw. "Let us go down."




CHAPTER X


"Why should Robert commit suicide?"

That was the burden of Mrs. Pendleton's cry, then and afterwards. There
was an angry scene in the old cliff house between brother and sister
before the events of that night were concluded. She utterly refused to
accept Austin's theory that their brother, with his own hand, had
discharged the revolver bullet which had put an end to his life and
ambitions. Sitting bolt upright in indignant amazement, she rejected the
idea in the sharpest scorn. It was nothing to her that the police sergeant
from the churchtown shared her brother's view, and that Dr. Ravenshaw was
passively acquiescent. She brushed aside the plausible web of
circumstances with the impatient hand of an angry woman. They might talk
till Doomsday, but they wouldn't convince her that Robert, of all men, had
done anything so disgraceful as take his own life. Arguments and events,
the locked door and the inaccessible windows--pathetically masculine
insistence on mere details--were wasted on her. The marshalled array of
facts made not the slightest impression on her firm belief that Robert had
not shot himself.

Shaking a large finger of angry import at Austin, and addressing herself
to him alone, she had said--

"Robert has been murdered, Austin, I feel sure. I don't care what you say,
but if there's law in England I'll have his murderer discovered."

And with that conclusion she had indignantly left the house with her
husband, leaving her brother to walk back to his lodgings at the
churchtown in moody solitude across the rainy darkness of the moors.

For herself, she returned to her hotel to pass a sleepless night, tossing
by the side of her placidly unconscious husband as she passed the tragic
events of the night in review and vainly sought for some clue to the
mystery. The dreadful logic of the circumstances which pointed to suicide,
hammered at her consciousness with deadening persistence, but she
resolutely refused to give it entry. Why should Robert commit suicide? Why
indeed? It was the question which had sprung to her lips when she first
heard Austin's belief, and it was to that she now clung in the midst of
her agonizing doubts, as though the mere wordless insistence in her mind
made it an argument of negation which gathered force and cogency by
frequent repetition.

But in the mass of teeming thoughts which crowded her brain in the silence
of the small hours, she long and vainly sought for any other theory which
would account for her brother's death. If he had been murdered, as in the
first flush of her indignation she had declared, who had killed him? Who
had gone to the lonely old house in the darkness of the night, and struck
him down?

It was not until the first faint glimmering of dawn was pushing its grey
way through the closed shutters that there came to her the recollection of
an incident of the previous day which had left a deep mark upon her mind
at the time, but had since been covered over by the throng of later
tremendous events. It was the memory of that momentary glance of a pair of
eyes through the slit of the door while her brother was telling of his
daughter's illegitimacy and her mother's shame. In the light of Robert's
subsequent death that incident appeared in a new sinister shape as a clue
to the commission of the deed itself. With the recollection of that glance
there sprang almost simultaneously before her mental vision the grim and
forbidding features of her brother's servant, Thalassa.

If she had been asked, Mrs. Pendleton could not have given a satisfactory
reason for linking Thalassa with the incident of the eyes, but she was a
woman, and not concerned about reasons. The two impressions had scurried
swiftfooted, into her mind together, and there they remained. She was now
convinced that she had all along believed it was Thalassa she had seen
watching through the door, watching and listening for some fell purpose of
his own. She knew nothing about Thalassa, but she had taken an instant
dislike to him when she first saw him. That vague dislike now assumed the
form of active suspicion against him. She determined, with the
impulsiveness which was part of her temperament, to bring her suspicion
before the police at the earliest possible moment.

She was essentially a woman of action, and in spite of her sleepless night
she was up and dressed before her husband was awake. He came down to
breakfast to find his wife had already finished hers, and was dressed
ready to go out.

"Where is Sisily?" he asked, with, a glance at the girl's vacant place.

"I've ordered her breakfast to be taken to her room, and sent word to her
to rest in bed until I go to her," his wife replied. "I have a painful
ordeal before me in breaking the news of Robert's death to her. It's all
over the hotel already, unfortunately. Sisily is out of the way of gossip
in her room. After I've seen her I shall leave her in your charge, Joseph.
I shall have plenty on my hands to-day."

Mr. Pendleton received this mandate with a blank face, and momentarily
regretted that the arrangements for their departure by the morning's train
had been cancelled. Then his better nature asserted itself, and he meekly
replied that he would do what he could. "What do you suggest?" he asked.

"Take her for a walk," responded his wife. "Try and keep her interested
and her mind occupied."

With these words she left the breakfast table and proceeded upstairs to
Sisily's room before going out. On the way there she again regretted
having undertaken the responsibility of her niece's future. She had not
disturbed Sisily on the previous night. She had tried her door on her way
to her own room, but it was locked, so she had let the girl sleep on, and
deferred breaking the tragic news until the morning.

She now paused outside the door reluctantly. But she was not the woman to
shrink from a duty because it was unpleasant, and womanly sympathy for her
unhappy niece banished her diffidence. She knocked lightly and entered.

Sisily was seated by the window reading. A breakfast tray, still
untouched, stood on a small table beside her. She put down her book as her
aunt entered, and rose to greet her.

Mrs. Pendleton bent over the girl and kissed her, and took her hand. As
she did so she observed that Sisily looked worn and fatigued, with black
rings under her eyes, as though she, too, had passed a sleepless night.
But she was wonderfully pretty, the elder woman thought, and nothing could
rob her of the fresh charm of youth and beauty.

"Sit down, Sisily," she said, leading her back to her chair, and taking
another one beside her. "I have sad news for you, dear, and you must be a
brave girl. Something has happened to your father."

"What has happened?" asked Sisily quickly. Then, as if taking in the
import of her aunt's tone, rather than her words, she added: "Do you mean
that he is ... dead?"

Mrs. Pendleton inclined her head with tears in her eyes. "It is worse even
than that," she went on, her voice drooping to a whisper. "He ... he has
been killed. We found him last night. Listen, dear, I will tell you all."

She gave the cold fingers a comforting pressure as she spoke, but the hand
was immediately withdrawn, and Sisily sprang away from her, then turned
and regarded her with blazing eyes and a white face.

"Tell me about it!" she said.

Mrs. Pendleton imparted as much of the facts as she felt called upon to
relate. There was something about the girl's reception of the news which
puzzled her, and her own look fell before the sombre intensity of her
gaze. Sisily heard the story in silence, and when it was finished, merely
said--

"I think I would like to be left alone for a little while, if you don't
mind."

"Oh, you mustn't sit here moping, my dear," said Mrs. Pendleton, with an
attempt at cheerfulness which she felt to be clumsy and ill-timed, but
Sisily's manner had momentarily disconcerted her. "You had better put on
your hat and coat and go out with your uncle. He is waiting downstairs for
you. It is very sad, very terrible, but you must let us help you bear it.
You must not stay here alone."

"You are very kind"--the girl's lips quivered slightly, though her face
remained calm--"but I would rather not go out. I should prefer to be left
alone."

There was in her expression a despairing yet calm detachment and resolve
which forced Mrs. Pendleton in spite of herself to yield to her wish with
a meekness which was almost timidity.

"Very well, dear," she said. "If you feel like a walk later on, you will
find your uncle downstairs."

As she left the room she heard the door shut behind her.

But Mrs. Pendleton had other things to think about that morning than the
strangeness of her niece's disposition and the manner in which she had
received the news of her father's death. The horror of that event filled
her own thoughts to the exclusion of everything else, and she was
determined to remain in Cornwall until the mystery was explained.

She glanced at her watch as she reached the bottom of the stairs. She had
breakfasted early, and it still wanted a few minutes to ten o'clock. The
lobby of the hotel was deserted, and through the glass doors leading to
the breakfast-room she could see a few guests still at their morning meal.
A porter was sweeping the front entrance, and of him she enquired the way
to the police station, and set out for it.

'It was chill and grey after the storm, with a sky obscured by scudding
clouds, but a gleam of truant sunshine was sporting wantonly on the hoary
castled summit of St. Michael's Mount, and promised to visit the town
later on. Mrs. Pendleton walked briskly, and soon arrived at the police
station.

A young constable in the office came forward as she entered and enquired
her business. She disclosed her name, and her relationship with the inmate
of Flint House, deeming that would be sufficient to gain her an interview
with somebody in authority. In that expectation she was not disappointed.
The constable favoured her with a good hard stare, went into another room,
and reappeared to say that Inspector Dawfield would see her at once.

She followed him into the inner room, where a slight man of middle age was
seated at a leather-covered table opening his morning correspondence. He
looked up and bowed as he saw his visitor, but waited until the constable
had retired before he spoke.

"Good morning," he said. "What can I do for you?"

His eye regarded her with a thoughtful glance. His professional interest
had been aroused by the strange death of the occupant of Flint House,
whose object in visiting Cornwall had been common gossip in the district
for some time past.

"It is about my brother's death that I wished to see you." Mrs. Pendleton
spoke earnestly, drawing her chair closer with the feeling that the man
before her had sufficient intelligence to give her a sympathetic hearing.

"So I gathered from your card. It seems a very sad case. Sergeant
Pengowan's report has just reached me. Anything I can do for you--"
Inspector Dawfield pretended to occupy himself in cutting open an official
envelope with scrupulous care.

"Sergeant Pengowan regards it as a case of suicide, does he not?" asked
Mrs. Pendleton rigidly.

"Well, yes, I believe he does," replied Inspector Dawfield. "There is no
doubt on that point, is there? Your brother's revolver was lying near him,
and the door was locked on the inside."

"There is the greatest doubt in my mind," returned Mrs. Pendleton
vehemently. "I do not--I cannot believe that my brother has taken his own
life. In fact, I am sure he did not."

On hearing these words Inspector Dawfield looked at his visitor again,
with something more than surprise in his eyes, then he pulled a document
from a pigeonhole and hastily scanned it.

"Pengowan's report states quite definitely that it is suicide," he said as
he replaced it. "In the face of that, do you think--"

"I think my brother has been murdered," she said in a decided voice.

"This is a very grave statement to make, Mrs. Pendleton. Have you anything
to support it? Anything which has not been brought to light, I mean?"

Mrs. Pendleton proceeded to give her reasons. She had thought over what
she was going to say as she came along, and she spoke with growing
conviction, intensified by the sight of the earnest attentive face before
her. The incident of the person she had detected looking through the door
took on a new significance as she related it. By her constant association
of the eyes with the disliked face of her brother's servant, she had
unconsciously reached the conclusion that she had all along recognized the
eavesdropper as Thalassa.

"You say your brother was talking about some family matters at the time?"
asked Inspector Dawfield, as she related that part of her story.

"Yes," responded Mrs. Pendleton. She had repressed all mention of her
brother's announcement of his daughter's illegitimacy, but afterwards she
tried to persuade herself that it slipped her memory at the time.

"It's common enough for servants to listen at doors," remarked Inspector
Dawfield. "In this case it may seem to have a sinister interpretation
because of what happened afterwards. How long has this man been in your
brother's employ?"

"A number of years, I believe," replied Mrs. Pendleton. "But he has a
wicked face," she added hastily, as though that fact cancelled a record of
lengthy service. "I took a dislike to him as soon as I saw him."

Inspector Dawfield veiled a slight smile with a sheet of foolscap. "Have
you any other reason for suspecting him?"

"Oh, I wouldn't like to say that I suspect Thalassa, or anybody else."
Mrs. Pendleton was prompt with this assurance. "But there are certain
things which seem to me to need further investigation. There's the
question of the door being locked on the inside. It seems to me that the
door might have been locked on the outside, and the key dropped in there
afterwards. The door had to be smashed before we could get in, and the key
wasn't in the door then, you know."

Dawfield nodded thoughtfully. "Who has charge of the keys in your
brother's house? This servant with the strange name--Thalassa, is it?"

"Yes, and he was upstairs in my brother's room last night, after we came
down. And when we got there he was ready to go out, with his hat and coat
on. It all seems very strange."

Again the courteous inspector hid a slight smile. His lady visitor might
disclaim suspecting anybody, but her inferences carried her to the same
point.

"What do you wish me to do?" he asked.

"I feel there should be further inquiries. Sergeant Pengowan does not
strike me as the kind of man capable of bringing to light any mystery
which may be hidden behind my brother's supposed suicide. He does not look
at all intelligent. I thought of sending a telegram to Scotland Yard, but
I decided to see you first."

The hint was not lost on Inspector Dawfield, but it was unnecessary. It
was his duty to look into her complaint and make further inquiries into
the case.

"Your statement shall certainly be investigated," he said emphatically. "I
am rather short of men just now, but I'll see if I can get Bodmin to send
over a man. I will inquire immediately, if you will excuse me."

He retired into a curtained recess in a corner of the room, where Mrs.
Pendleton could see him holding a colloquy over the telephone. After
rather a lengthy conversation he returned to announce that a detective was
coming over by the next train to investigate the case.

"The Bodmin office is sending over Detective Barrant, of Scotland Yard,"
he explained. "He happens to be in Cornwall on another case, and was just
on the point of returning to London. I was able to speak to him personally
and relate the facts of your brother's death. He decided to telephone to
Scotland Yard, and come over here at once. He will arrive soon after
lunch. I will take him to Flint House myself. He may wish to see you later
on. Will you be at your hotel?"

"If not, I will leave word where I can be found," replied Mrs. Pendleton,
rising as she spoke. "Good morning, and thank you."

She left the police station feeling that she had accomplished an excellent
morning's work, and hurried back to the hotel with visions of letters to
be written and telegrams to be sent before lunch. But she was destined to
do neither. As she entered the lounge, her eye fell upon its solitary
occupant, a male figure in a grey lounge suit sitting in her favourite
corner by the window. It was her brother Austin.




CHAPTER XI


He rose from his seat as he saw her, but waited for her to approach. Her
eyes, dwelling on his face, noted that it was not so angry as she had last
seen it, but smoothed into the semblance of sorrow and regret, with,
however, something of the characteristic glance of irony which habitually
distinguished him, though that may have been partly due to the pince-nez
which glittered over his keen eyes. There was something of an art in
Austin Turold's manner of wearing glasses; they tilted, superiorly, at the
world in general at an acute angle on the high bridge of a supercilious
nose, the eyes glancing through them downwards, as though from a great
height, at a remote procession of humanity crawling far beneath.

At that moment, however, there was nothing superior in his bearing. It was
so unwontedly subdued, so insistently meek, that it was to be understood
that his mission was both conciliatory and propitiatory. That, at least,
was the impression Mrs. Pendleton gathered as her brother informed her
that he had been waiting nearly an hour to see her.

She reflected that he must have arrived shortly after she left the hotel
to go to the police station, and she wondered what had induced her brother
to rise at an hour so uncommonly early for him, in order to pay her a
morning visit.

"I was up betimes," said Austin, as though reading her thought. "Sleep, of
course, was impossible. Poor Robert!"

Mrs. Pendleton waited impatiently for him to disclose the real reason of
an appearance which had more behind it, she felt sure, than to express
condolences about their common bereavement. Of Robert she had always stood
a little in awe, but she understood her younger brother better. As a boy
she had seen through him and his pretensions, and he did not seem to her
much changed since those days.

"I have been upset by our difference last night, Constance," he pursued.
"It seems deplorable for us to have quarrelled--yes, actually
quarrelled--over our poor brother's death."

His sister's face hardened instantly. "That wasn't my fault," she said
distantly.

"You'll excuse me for saying that I think it was. You took an altogether
wrong view of his--his death; a view which I hope you've seen fit to
change after a night's reflection."

"You mean about Robert committing suicide?"

Austin inclined his head.

"I haven't changed my opinion in the slightest degree," she retorted. "I
am still quite convinced that Robert did not commit suicide."

Austin darted an angry glance at her, but controlled himself with a
visible effort. "Have you reflected what that implies?" he asked in a low
tone.

"What does it imply?"

"Murder." He breathed the word with a hurried glance around him, as though
apprehensive of being overheard, but the lounge was empty, and they were
quite alone.

"I am aware of that."

"Then is it still your intention to go to the police with this terrible
suspicion?" he asked, in a voice that trembled with agitation.

It was on the tip of Mrs. Pendleton's tongue to reply that she had already
been to the police, but she decided to withhold that piece of information
until she had heard all that her brother had to say.

"Certainly," she replied.

"Then you must be mad," was his indignant rejoinder. "Have you considered
the scandal this will entail upon us all?"

"Not half such a scandal as that Robert should be murdered and his family
permit the crime to go unpunished."

"I do not think that you have given this matter sufficient consideration.
It is for that reason I have come to see you this morning--before you take
action which you may have reason to regret later on. I want you to think
it over carefully, apart from a mere feminine prejudice against the
possibility of a member of the family destroying himself. If you will
listen to me I think that I shall be able to convince you that Robert,
deplorable though it may seem, did actually commit suicide."

"What's the use of going through all this again?" said Mrs. Pendleton
wearily. "Robert would not commit suicide."

"Suicide is always difficult to explain. Nobody can say what impels a man
to it."

"Robert had no reason to put an end to his life. He had everything to live
for--everything in front of him."

"You cannot say that a man bordering on sixty has everything in front of
him. I know it's considered middle-aged in this misguided country, where
people will never face the facts of life, but in simple truth Robert had
finished with life to all intents and purposes."

"You won't say that when you come to sixty yourself, Austin. Robert was a
great strong man, with years of activity before him. Besides, people don't
kill themselves because they are growing old."

"I never suggested it. I was merely pointing out that Robert hadn't
everything in front of him, to use your own phrase."

"In any case he would not have killed himself," replied Mrs. Pendleton
sharply. "Such a disgrace! He was the proudest of men, he would never have
done it."

"You always hark back to that." There was faint irritation in Austin's
tone.

"I really cannot get away from it, Austin. Can you conceive of any
reason?"

"There was a reason in Robert's case. I did not mention it to you last
night in the presence of the police sergeant, but I told Dr. Ravenshaw,
and he is inclined to agree with me. Since then I have thought it over
carefully, and I am convinced that I am right."

"What is the reason?"

"You recall the disclosure Robert made to us yesterday afternoon?"

"About his marriage and Sisily?"

"Yes. It must have been very painful to Robert, more painful than we
imagine. It would come home to him later with stunning force--all that it
implied, I mean. At the time Robert did not foresee all the consequences
likely to ensue from it. It was likely to affect his claim for the title,
because he was bound to make it known. When he came to think it over he
must have realized that it would greatly prejudice his claim. A body like
the House of Lords would do their utmost to avoid bestowing an ancient
name on a man, who, by his own showing, lived with a married woman for
twenty-five years, and had an illegitimate daughter by her. These are
painful things to speak of, but they were bound to come out. My own
feeling is that Robert had a bitter awakening to these facts when it was
too late--when he had made the disclosure. And he may have felt remorse--"

"Remorse for what?"

"Remorse for giving the secret away and branding his daughter as
illegitimate on the day that her mother was buried. It has an ugly look,
Constance, there's no getting away from that."

He lapsed into silence, and awaited the effect of his words. Mrs.
Pendleton pondered over them for some moments in manifest perturbation.
There was sufficient resemblance between Austin's conclusions and the
thoughts which had impelled her nocturnal visit to Flint House, to sway
her mind like a pendulum towards Austin's view. But that only lasted for a
moment. Then she thrust the thought desperately from her.

"No, no; I cannot--I will not believe it!" she cried in an agitated voice.
"All this must have been in Robert's mind beforehand. His letters to me
about Sisily indicated that there were reasons why he wished me to take
charge of her. Robert had weighed the consequences of this disclosure,
Austin--I feel sure of that. He was a man who knew his own mind. How
carefully he outlined his plans to us yesterday! He was to appear before
the Investigations Committee next week to give evidence in support of his
claim to the title. And he told me that he was purchasing a portion of the
family estate at Great Missenden, and intended to live there. Is it
logical to suppose that he would terminate all these plans and ambitions
by destroying himself? I, for one, will never believe it. I have my own
thoughts and suspicions--"

He turned a sudden searching glance on her. "Suspicions of whom?"

"I took a dislike to that terrible man-servant of Robert's from the moment
I saw him," said Mrs. Pendleton, setting her chin firmly.

This feminine flight was too swift for Austin Turold to follow.

"What has that to do with what we are talking about?" he demanded.

"When we reached the door last night it was Thalassa who let us in, with
his hat and coat on, ready to go out. There was something strange and
furtive about his manner, too, for I never took my eyes off him, and I'm
sure he had something on his mind. I'm quite convinced it was he who was
listening at the door yesterday afternoon. And he's got a wicked and
crafty face."

"Good God!" ejaculated Austin Turold, as the full force of his sister's
impressions reached his mind. "Do you mean to say that because you took a
dislike to this unfortunate man's face, you think he has murdered Robert?
And yet there are some feminists who want to draw our judges from your
sex! My dear Constance, you cannot make haphazard accusations of murder in
this reckless fashion."

"I am not accusing Thalassa of murder," said Mrs. Pendleton, with a fine
air of generosity. "And there's more than my dislike of his face in it,
too. He was looking through the door in the afternoon--"

"You only think that," interrupted her brother.

"I feel sure it was he. It was also strange to see him with his hat and
coat on when he answered our knock. He told Dr. Ravenshaw that he was
going to the churchtown for him."

"That reminds me that I haven't yet heard what took you up to Flint House
last night, Constance," said her brother, looking at her fixedly. "What
were you doing there at that late hour, and why was Ravenshaw with you?"

Mrs. Pendleton told him, and he listened coldly. "I think you might have
consulted me first before Dr. Ravenshaw," he observed.

"I didn't because I thought you would have put obstacles in my way," she
replied with frankness.

"I most certainly should. Of course the whole position may be altered now,
with Robert's death. Have you told Sisily?"

"Yes. She took it almost passively. She is the strangest girl, but after
last night I look upon her as a sacred charge--Robert's last wish."

"It will be best for you to take charge of her, I think," said Austin
absently. "I expect she is provided for in Robert's will. I found that in
the old clock case last night, and I've handed it to the local lawyer who
drew it up. But this is beside the point, Constance. I have come over here
this morning to beg of you to let this terrible business rest where it is.
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that our unhappy brother has
ended his own life--all the facts point to it only too clearly--and I
particularly desire, for all our sakes, that you do nothing to put your
ill-informed suspicions into action. Let the thing drop."

"It is too late," said Mrs. Pendleton decidedly. "I have already been to
the police. There is a detective from Scotland Yard on his way over from
Bodmin."

"You might have told me this before and saved my time," said Austin,
rising with cold anger. "In my opinion you have acted most ill-advisedly.
However, it's too late to talk of that. No, there is no need to rise. I
can find my way out."

Austin Turold left the hotel, and made his way up the crooked street to
the centre of the town. His way lay towards Market Jew Street, where he
intended to hire one of the waiting cabs to drive him back to St. Fair. As
he neared the top of the street which led to the square, his eye was
caught by the flutter of a woman's dress in one of the narrow old passages
which spindled crookedly off it. The wearer of the dress was his niece
Sisily. She was walking swiftly. A turn of the passage took her in the
direction of the Morrab Gardens, and he saw her no more.

Her appearance in that secluded spot was unexpected, but at the moment
Austin Turold did not give it more than a passing thought. He hurried
across Market Jew Street and engaged a cabman to drive him home.

The ancient vehicle jolted over the moor road in crawling ascent, and in
due time reached the spot where the straggling churchtown squatted among
boulders in the desolation of the moors, wanting but cave men to start up
from behind the great stones to complete the likeness to a village of the
stone age. The cab drifted along between the granite houses of a wide
street, like a ship which had lost its bearings, but cast anchor before
one where a few stunted garden growths bloomed in an ineffectual effort to
lessen the general aspect of appalling stoniness. Austin Turold paid the
cabman and walked into this house. He opened the door with his latchkey,
and ascended rapidly to the first floor.

Lunch was set for two in the room which he entered, and Charles Turold was
seated at the table, turning over the pages of a book. He glanced up
expectantly, and his lips formed one word--

"Well?"

"It is not well," was the testy response. "My charming sister has called
in the assistance of Scotland Yard. You'll have to stay. We've got to face
this thing out."

His son received this piece of news with a pale face. "You should have
foreseen this last night," he said.

"I saw Sisily in Penzance--near the gardens."

"Where was she going?" asked Charles, flushing slightly.

"I really cannot say. You should be better acquainted with her movements
than I," was the ironical response. "You do not suppose I have been
altogether blind to your infatuation, do you? If you choose to go walking
and flirting with a girl on Cornish moors you must expect to be observed.
As a matter of fact I thought it rather a good move on your part, until I
learnt the secret of Sisily's birth."

"I tell you I won't stand this," exclaimed Charles, springing up from the
table.

"Won't?" said his father. "You carry things with a high hand--Jonathan."
His look dwelt coldly on his son. "Do not be a fool. Sit down and let us
have lunch, and we'll discuss afterwards what's best to be done."




CHAPTER XII


With a slightly incredulous air Inspector Dawfield placed his London
colleague in possession of his own knowledge of the facts of the case,
based on the statements made to him by Mrs. Pendleton that morning and the
facts as set forth in Sergeant Pengowan's report.

Detective Barrant listened attentively, with the air of a man smiling to
himself. He was not actually doing so, but that was the impression
conveyed by his keen bright eyes. He was a Londoner, with an assured
manner, and the conviction that his intelligence was equal to any call
which might be made upon it. By temperament he was restless, but his work
had given him a philosophical outlook which in some measure counterpoised
that defect by causing him to realize that life was a tricky and deceptive
business in which intelligence counted for more than action in the long
run. He had a wider outlook and more shrewdness than the average
detective, and he already felt a keen interest in the case he had been
called in to investigate.

When the inspector had finished his story he picked up the blue foolscap
on which was inscribed the sprawling report of the churchtown sergeant.
With a severe effort he mastered the matter contained under the flowing
curves and flourishes.

"The local man seems certain that it is suicide," he said, "but the
sister's statement certainly calls for further investigation. How far away
is this place?"

"Flint House? About five miles across the moors. I've hired a motor-car to
drive you up. Nothing has been disturbed so far. As soon as I learnt you
were coming I telephoned to Pengowan to leave things as they were until
you arrived."

Barrant nodded approval. "Let us go," he said.

The car was waiting outside. The way lay through the town and then across
the moors in undulating ascent until at the highest point a rough track
crossed the road at a spot where four parishes met. On one side of these
cross-roads was a Druidical stone circle, and on the other was a wayside
cross to the memory of an Irish female saint who had crossed to Cornwall
as a missionary in the tenth century, after first recording a holy vow
that she would not change her shift until she had redeemed the whole of
the Cornish natives from idolatry.

From the cross-roads the way again inclined downward to the sea in
increasing savageness of desolation. Stones littered the purple surface of
the moors, or rose in insecure heaps on the steep slopes, as though piled
there by the hands of the giants supposed to have once roved these gloomy
wilds. Solitude held sway, but there was more than solitude in that lonely
aspect: something prehistoric and unknown, unearthly, incomprehensible.
Cairn Brea and the Hill of Fires brooded in the distance; the remains of a
Druid's altar showed darkly on the summit of a nearer hill. No sound broke
the stillness except the faint and distant sobbing of the sea.

St. Fair lay almost hidden in a bend or fold of the moors about a mile
before them, and beyond it Dawfield pointed out to his companion Flint
House, standing in gaunt outline on a tongue of coast thrust defiantly
into the restless waters of the Atlantic.

"A lonely weird place," said Barrant, eyeing his surroundings attentively.
"An ideal setting for a mysterious crime."

They drove on in silence until they reached the churchtown. Inspector
Dawfield steered the car to the modest dwelling of Sergeant Pengowan, whom
they found at his gate awaiting their arrival--a shaggy figure of a rural
policeman of the Cornish Celtic variety, with no trace of Spanish or
Italian ancestry in his florid face, inquisitively Irish blue-grey eyes,
reddish whiskers, and burly frame.

Inspector Dawfield bade him good-day, and added the information that his
companion was Detective Barrant, of Scotland Yard. Pengowan greeted
Barrant with the respect due to the name of Scotland Yard, and took a
humble seat at the back of the car.

They went on again, and in a few minutes the car stopped at the end of the
rough moor track, close to where the black cliffs dropped to the grey sea.

Flint House rose solitary before them, perched with an air of bravado upon
the granite ledge, as though defying the west wind which blustered around
it. The unfastened gate which led to the little path banged noisily in the
breeze, but the house seemed steeped in desolation. A face peeped
furtively at them from a front window as they approached. They heard a
shuffling footstep and the drawing of a bolt, and the door was opened by a
withered little woman who looked at them with silent inquiry.

"Where's your husband?" asked Sergeant Pengowan.

She glanced timidly up the stairs behind her, and they saw Thalassa
descending as though in answer to the question. He scanned the police
officers with a cautious eye. Barrant returned the look with a keen
observation which took in the externals of the man who was the object of
Mrs. Pendleton's suspicions.

"You are the late Mr. Turold's servant?" he said.

"Put it that way if you like," was the response. "Who might you be?"

Barrant did not deign to reply to this inquiry. "Take us upstairs," he
said.

"Pengowan wants us to look at the outside first," said Dawfield, but
Barrant was already mounting the stairs.

"You do so," he called back, over his shoulder. "I'll go up."

At the top of the staircase he waited until Thalassa reached him. "Where
are Mr. Turold's rooms?" he asked.

Thalassa pointed with a long arm into the dim vagueness of the passage.
"Down there," he said, "at the end. The study on the right, the bedroom
opposite."

"Very well. You need not come any further."

The old man's eyes travelled slowly upward to' the detective's face, but
he kept his ground.

"Did you hear me?" Barrant asked sharply. "You can go downstairs again."

Again the other's eyes sought his face with a brooding contemplative look.
Then he turned sullenly away with moving lips, as though muttering
inarticulate words, leaving Barrant standing on the landing, watching his
slow descent.

When he was quite sure that he was gone, Barrant turned down the
passage-way. He had his reasons for wishing to be alone. The value of a
vivid first impression, the effect of concentration necessary to reproduce
the scene to the eyes of imagination, the mental arrangement of the facts
in their proper order and conformity--these were things which were liable
to be broken into by the disturbing presence of others, by the vexatious
interruption of loudly proffered explanations.

He knew all the facts that Inspector Dawfield and Sergeant Pengowan could
impart. He knew of Robert Turold's long quest for the lost title, the
object of his visit to Cornwall, his near attainment to success, his
summons to his family to receive the news. In short, he was aware of the
whole sequence of events preceding Robert Turold's violent and mysterious
death, with the exception of the revelation of his life's secret, which
Mrs. Pendleton had withheld from Inspector Dawfield. Barrant had heard all
he wanted to know at second hand at that stage of his investigations, and
he now preferred to be guided by his own impressions and observations.

His professional interest in the case had been greatly quickened by his
first sight of Flint House. Never had he seen anything so weird and wild.
The isolation of the place, perched insecurely on the edge of the rude
cliffs, among the desolation of the rocks and moors, breathed of mystery
and hinted at hidden things. But who would find the way to such a lonely
spot to commit murder, if murder had been committed?

Reaching the end of the long passage, he first turned towards the study on
the right. The smashed door swung creakingly back to his push, revealing
the interior of the room where Robert Turold had met his death. Barrant
entered, and closed the broken door behind him. It was here, if anywhere,
that he might chance to find some clue which would throw light on the
cause.

The profusion of papers which met his eye, piled on the table and filling
the presses and shelves which lined the musty room, seemed, at the outset,
to give ground for the hope that such an expectation might be realized.
But they merely formed, in their mass, a revelation of Robert Turold's
industry in gathering material for his claim. There were genealogical
tables without number, a philology of the two names Turold and Turrald,
extracts of parish registers and corporation records, copies from
inscriptions from tombstones and mural monuments, copied pedigrees from
the British Museum and the great English collections, a host of old deeds
and wills, and other mildewed records of perished hands. But they all
seemed to have some bearing on the quest to which Robert Turold had
sacrificed the years of his manhood.

He had died as he lived, engrossed in the labour of his life. A copy of
Burke's "Vicissitudes of Families" was lying open on the table, and beside
it were two sheets of foolscap, covered with notes in thin irregular
handwriting. The first of these depicted the arms of the Turrald family,
as originally selected at the first institution of heraldry, and the
quarterings of the heiresses who had married into the family at a later
date.

The second sheet was headed "Devonian and Cornwall branch of the Turolds,"
and contained notes of Robert Turold's ancestral discoveries in that spot.
The notes were not finished, but ended abruptly in the middle of a
sentence: "It is necessary to make it clea--"

Those were the last words the dead man had written. He had dropped the
pen, which lay beside the paper, without finishing the word "clear."

The sight of this unfinished sheet kindled Barrant's imagination, and he
stood thoughtful, considering the meaning of it. Was it the attitude of a
man who had committed suicide? Was it conceivable that Robert Turold would
break off in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a word, and shoot
himself? It seemed a strange thing to do, but Barrant's experience told
him that there were no safe deductions where suicides were concerned. They
acted with the utmost precipitation or the utmost deliberation. Some wound
up their worldly affairs with businesslike precision before embarking on
their timeless voyage, others jumped into the black gulf without,
apparently, any premeditated intention, as if at the beckoning summons of
some grisly invisible hand which they dared not disobey. Barrant recalled
the strange case of a wealthy merchant who had cut his throat on a Bank
holiday and confessed before death that he had felt the same impulse on
that day for years past. He had whispered that the day marked to him such
a pause in life's dull round that it seemed to him a pity to start again.
He had resisted the impulse for years, but it had waxed stronger with each
recurring anniversary, and had overcome him at last.

Every suicide was a law unto himself. Barrant willingly conceded that, but
he could not so easily concede that a man like Robert Turold would put an
end to his life just when he was about to attain the summit of that life's
ambition. It was a Schopenhauerian doctrine that all men had suicidal
tendencies in them, in the sense that every man wished at times for the
cessation of the purposeless energy called life, and it was only the
violence of the actual act which prevented its more frequent commission.
But Barrant reflected that in his experience suicides were generally
people who had been broken by life or were bored with it. Men of action or
intellect rarely committed suicide, not because they valued life highly,
but because they had so much to do in their brief span that they hadn't
time to think about putting an end to it. Death usually overtook them in
the midst of their schemes.

Robert Turold was not a man of intellect or action, but he belonged to a
type which, as a rule, cling to life: the type from which zealots and
bigots spring--men with a single idea. Such men shrink from the idea of
destroying the vital engine by which their idea is driven forward. Their
ego is too pronounced for that.

It was true that Robert Turold believed he had realized the aim for which
he had lived, and therefore, in a sense, had nothing more to live for. But
that point of view was too coldly logical for human nature. Its
presumption was only applicable to a higher order of beings. No man had
ever committed suicide upon achieving the summit of an ambition. There
were always fresh vistas opening before the human mind.

Barrant left the study for the opposite room where the body of Robert
Turold had been taken. It was his bedroom, and he had been laid upon the
bed.

Death had not come to him easily. His harsh features were set in a stern
upward frown, and the lower lip was slightly caught between the teeth, as
though bitten in the final rending of the spirit. But Barrant had seen too
much of violent death to be repelled by any death mask, however repellent.

He eyed the corpse closely, and then proceeded to examine the death wound.
In doing so he had to move the body, and a portion of the sleeve fell
back, exposing the left arm to the elbow. Barrant was about to replace it
when his eye lighted upon a livid mark on the arm. He rolled back the
garment until the arm lay bare to the shoulder. The disclosure revealed
four faint livid marks running parallel across the arm, just above the
elbow.

The arms had been straightened to the body to the elbows, and then crossed
decorously on the breast. Barrant walked round to the other side of the
bed, knelt down by the edge of it, and examined the underneath part of the
arm. A single livid mark was imprinted upon it.

The inference was unmistakable. The four upper marks were fingerprints,
and the lower one a thumb mark. Somebody had caught the dead man's arm in
such a strenuous grip that the livid impression had remained after death.

The discovery was significant enough, but Barrant was not at that moment
prepared to say how much it portended. It seemed certain that the marks
had not been made by Robert Turold himself. Their position suggested a
left-hand clutch, though only a finger-print expert could definitely
determine that point. Even if they were not, it was too far-fetched a
supposition to imagine a man gripping his own arm hard enough to bruise
it.

The relative weight of this discovery was, in Barrant's mind, weakened by
the fact that the marks might have been caused by the persons who had
carried the body from the next room. Nevertheless, the marks must be
regarded as infirmative testimony, however slight, of the fallibility of
the circumstantial deductions which had been made from the discovery of
the body in a locked room, with windows which could not be reached from
the outside.

The presumption of suicide rested on the theory that the circumstances
excluded any other hypothesis. But Barrant reflected that he did not know
enough about the case to accept that assumption as warranted by the facts.
The one certainty was that the study could not have been reached from the
outside. Barrant had noted the back windows before entering the house; his
subsequent interior examination had strengthened his conviction that they
were inaccessible. Underneath the study windows there was only the
narrowest ledge of rock between that side of the house and the edge of the
cliffs. A descent from the windows with a rope was hazardously possible,
but ascent and entrance by that means was out of the question.

On the other hand, the theory of interior inaccessibility had a flaw in
it, due to the presence of five different people in the room before the
police arrived. Their actions and motives would have to be most carefully
weighed and sifted before the implication of the discovery of the
finger-marks could be determined.

The rather breathless entrance of Inspector Dawfield put an end to
Barrant's reflections. He explained that Sergeant Pengowan, in his anxiety
to maintain the correctness of his official report, had taken him to
various breakneck positions at the back of the house and along the cliffs
in order to demonstrate the impossibility of anybody entering Robert
Turold's rooms from outside. The sergeant was at that moment engaged in a
room downstairs drawing up his reasons for that belief. "A kind of
confirmatory report," Dawfield explained. "He fears that his reputation is
at stake."

"He can save himself the trouble," said Barrant. "The solution of Robert
Turold's death lies in these two rooms, if anywhere."

Something in his companion's tone caused Inspector Dawfield to direct an
interrogative glance at him. "Have you discovered something?" he asked.

"Finger-marks on the left arm, a left-hand impression, I should say."

He drew back the loose sleeve of the dead man, and Dawfield examined the
marks attentively. "This is strange," he said. "It looks suspicious."

"Strange enough, and certainly suspicious. The point is, is it suspicious
enough to upset the theory of suicide? The marks are too faint to enable
us to determine whether they are of recent origin. But I think that we
must assume that they are. It has occurred to me that they may have been
caused when the body was picked up from the floor of the other room and
carried in here."

"In that case the marks would have been underneath the arm. In lifting a
heavy weight like a corpse it would be natural to place the hands under
the shoulders, for greater lifting power."

"There's something in that, but it's by no means certain. It would depend
on the position of the body. According to Pengowan's report, Robert Turold
was found lying face downward. The body would have to be turned over
before it was lifted, and the grip might have been made in pulling it
over. We must find that out."

"It's a point which can be settled at once by questioning Thalassa. He
helped Pengowan carry the body into this room."

"That is the very thing I do not wish to do," rejoined Barrant quickly.
"We have to remember that Thalassa is, for the time being, suspect. Mrs.
Pendleton's suspicions of him may be based on the slightest foundation,
but we are bound to keep them in mind."

"Do you not intend to question him at all?"

"Not at present. His attitude when he brought me upstairs was that of a
man on his guard, expecting to be questioned. I saw that at once, and
decided to say nothing to him. I will take him by surprise later on, when
he is off his guard, and if he is keeping anything back I may be able to
get it out of him. But we must not be too quick in drawing the conclusion
that those marks were made by him."

"What makes you say so?" asked Inspector Dawfield.

"Thalassa has a long bony hand, with fingers thickened by rough work. I
noticed it when he was pointing to these rooms from the passage. This grip
looks as if it might have been made by a smaller hand, with slim fingers.
Look how close together the marks are! Unfortunately, that's about all
we're likely to deduce from them, and I doubt if a finger-print expert
will be able to help us. Observe, there are no finger-prints--merely faint
marks of the middle of the fingers, and a kind of blur for the thumb. But
the thing is suspicious, undoubtedly suspicious."

"Still, the door was locked from inside," said Dawfield. "We mustn't lose
sight of that fact."

"And the key was found in the room. We must also remember that there were
several people in the room after the door was burst open, including the
dead man's brother. It seems that it was he who first propounded the
suicide theory to Dr. Ravenshaw, and subsequently to Pengowan. Do you know
anything about the brother?"

"I know nothing personally. Pengowan tells me that Robert Turold secured
lodgings for his brother and his son in an artist's house at the
churchtown about six weeks ago. They arrived next day, and are still
there. I understand that the brothers have been in pretty close intimacy,
meeting each other practically every day, either at the churchtown or in
this house."

"Do you know what took place at the family gathering which was held in
this house yesterday afternoon, after the funeral?"

"All I know is that Robert Turold informed his family that he was likely
to succeed in his claim for the title. Mrs. Pendleton was rather vague
about the details, but she did say that her brother had placed his
daughter in her charge, and had made a long statement to them about his
future plans."

"She did not indicate what those plans were?"

"Only in the vaguest way. I remember her saying that her brother was a
wealthy man: the one wealthy member of the family, was the way she put it.
Her principal preoccupation was her suspicion of the man-servant, based on
seeing him listening at the door. She was very voluble and excited--so
much so that I did not attach much importance to what she said, and did
not ask her many questions."

"It is of the utmost importance that we should find out all we can about
this family council yesterday. It is possible that it may throw some light
on Robert Turold's death. I am not prepared at present to say whether it
is suicide or not, but apart from any suspicious circumstances, I feel
that there is some justification for Mrs. Pendleton's belief that a
wealthy and successful man like her brother was not likely to take his own
life, unless there was some hidden reason for him to do so. If we knew
more of what happened downstairs yesterday we might be in a better
position to judge of that. The case strikes me as a very peculiar
one--indeed, it has some remarkable features. My first task will be to
interview all the persons who were present at yesterday's gathering. Can
you tell me if the brothers were on good terms?"

"I believe so."

"Is Austin Turold a poor man?"

"I know nothing about him. But what has that got to do with it?"

"It may have much to do with it. He may have stood to inherit a fortune
from Robert."

"You surely do not suspect the brother?"

"I suspect no one, at present," returned Barrant. "I am merely glancing at
the scanty facts within our knowledge and seeing what can be gathered from
them. Robert Turold is found dead in his study, with his hands on an old
clock, where he kept important papers, including his will. We are indebted
to Austin Turold for that knowledge. But how did Austin Turold come to
know that his brother kept his will in the clock-case? Did Robert tell
him, or did he find it out? Was Austin aware of the contents of the will?
Why did Robert go to the clock? Was his idea to destroy the will? And was
that after or before he was shot, or shot himself?

"These are questions we cannot answer without further knowledge, but they
seem to point to the existence of some family secret of which we know
nothing. We must find out what it is. I shall first interview Austin
Turold, and then call on Dr. Ravenshaw, if time permits. You'd better drop
me at the churchtown on your way back to Penzance. There's really nothing
to detain you any longer."

They returned to the churchtown in the motor-car, and Pengowan from the
back seat directed the way to Austin Turold's lodgings.




CHAPTER XIII


"Oh yes, I'm modern enough," said Austin Turold, balancing his cigarette
in his white fingers, and glancing at Barrant with a reflective air--"that
is to say, I believe in America and the League of Nations, but not in God.
It's not the fashion to believe in God or have a conscience nowadays. They
both went out with the war. After all, what's a conscience to a liver? But
here I am, chattering on to distract my sad thoughts, although I can see
in your eye that you have it in you to ask me some questions. Well, go
ahead and ask them, and I will answer them--if I can."

"I do wish to ask you some questions," said Barrant--"questions connected
with your brother's death."

"I know very little about it. It was a most terrible shock to me, I assure
you, and is likely to detain me in this barbarous place longer than I
intended--greatly against my will."

"I understand you came to Cornwall at your brother's request?"

"Yes. My brother sent for me and my son more than a month ago, so we came
at once. I'll forestall the further inquiry I see on your lips, and tell
you why I came so promptly. My brother Robert was the wealthy member of
the family, and I was the poor one--a poor devil of an Anglo-Indian with
nothing on this side of the grave but a niggardly Civil Service pension!

"When we arrived I found that Robert had already taken these lodgings for
us, which was as near as he could get accommodation to his own house. I
did not object to that arrangement, because I do not like hotels
nowadays--not since the newly-rich started to patronize them. So here I've
been rusticating ever since, conferring daily with my poor brother, and
eating the four meals a day which are provided with the lodgings by the
estimable people of this house. My landlord is an artist. That is to say,
he's forever daubing pictures which nobody buys. I've come to the
conclusion that most people dislike Cornwall because of the number of bad
pictures which are painted here. You see some samples of my host's brush
on these walls. They are actually too bad to be admitted to the Academy.
My poor host and hostess, being unable to make ends meet, were obliged to
take in lodgers. The fact, however, is not unduly obtruded. We discuss Art
at night, and not the scandalously high price of food. I get on very well,
but then I can adapt myself to any society. I pride myself on being a
philosopher. But my son is not so facile. My worthy entertainers regard
him as a Philistine, and bestow very little of their attention upon him.
He spends his time in taking long walks through the wilds. He is out
walking at present. I am sorry he is not here."

The conversation was suspended by the entrance of an elderly maid servant
with a long and melancholy white face, thickly braided hair, strongly
marked black eyebrows, wearing a black dress with white apron, and a white
bow in her hair, who came to ask if Mr. Turold required any more tea. On
learning that he did not she withdrew as noiselessly as she had entered.

"I see you are looking at our parlour-maid," said Austin Turold, following
the direction of his visitor's glance.

"She's a strange sort of parlour-maid," admitted the detective. "She
reminds me of--of--"

"A study in black and white," suggested his host. "Her face is her
fortune. She's sitting to Brierly--that's my host--for his latest effort.
He's painting her as the Madonna or Britannia--I really forget which. A
new type, you know. The servants in this house are engaged for their
faces. They had a villainous scoundrel of a man-servant--a returned
soldier--engaged as Judas Iscariot, who bolted last week with the silver
spoons. But all this is beside the point, Mr. Barrant, and I must not
waste your time. You have come here for a specific purpose--to turn me
inside out. What can I tell you?"

"I want to know all that you can tell me about your brother's death," said
the other, with emphasis.

"But what can I tell you that you do not already know?" exclaimed Austin,
raising his eyebrows with a helpless look. "Ask me what questions you
like, and I'll endeavour to answer them. When the famous Detective
Barrant--for I understand from the newspapers that you are famous--takes
an interview in hand I expect him to handle the situation in a masterly
fashion, as befits his reputation. So ask your questions, my dear fellow,
and I'll do my utmost to respond." Austin Turold took off his glasses, and
posed himself in an attitude of expectation, with his eyes fixed upon the
detective's face.

Barrant eyed the elder man with a puzzled curiosity which was tolerably
masked by official impassivity. Barrant had his own methods of
investigation and inquiry. He brought an alert intelligence, a seeing eye,
and a false geniality to bear in his work. Unversed in elaborate
deduction, he flattered himself that he knew enough about human nature to
strike the balance of probabilities in almost any case. His cardinal
article of faith was that there was nothing like getting on good terms
with those he was interviewing in order to find out things. Most people
were on their guard against detectives, who too often took advantage of
their position to assume offensive airs of intimidation, whereas the great
thing was to disarm suspicion by a friendly manner. Barrant had cultivated
pleasantness with considerable success. Some who were not good judges of
physiognomy were apt to overlook the watchful eyes in his smiling affable
presence, and talk freely--sometimes too freely, as they later on
discovered to their cost. A chance word, a significant phrase, was
sufficient to set him burrowing underground with the activity of a mole,
to burst into the open later on with all his clues complete, to the
confusion of the trusting person with an unguarded tongue.

He had put these tactics into execution with Austin Turold. Austin, taking
tea when he called, in a bright blue room hung with pictures, had received
his visitor with a charming cordiality, insisted on his taking tea with
him, and then let loose a flood of small-talk, as though he were delighted
with his visitor. His welcome was so perfect, his manners so gracefully
unforced, that Barrant had an uneasy suspicion that he was being beaten at
his own game, and was slightly out of countenance in consequence. Up to
that moment he could not, for the life of him, decide whether Austin
Turold's polished self-assurance was a mask or not. It seemed too natural
to be assumed.

"Your own opinion is that your brother committed suicide?" he asked again.

"No other conclusion is possible, in my mind."

"But did he have any reason, that you know of, to commit suicide?"

Austin shrugged his shoulders. "Suicide is not usually associated with
reason," he observed. "But in Robert's case there is a reason, or so it
seems to me. I have not seen him for many years, but during my recent
close association with him I was struck by two things: the solitary
aloofness of his mind, and his overwhelming pride--pride in the family
name. These two traits in his character coloured all his actions. In the
first place, he disliked opening his mind to anybody, but the stronger
influence, his family pride, overcame his habitual secretiveness when he
thought it necessary and desirable to do so in furtherance of his darling
ambition--the restoration of this title. Men who lead a solitary,
self-contained life, like my brother, become introspective and
ultra-sensitive, and face any intimate personal revelation with the utmost
reluctance. They will nerve themselves to it when the occasion absolutely
requires, but the after effects--the mental self-probings, the agonized
self torture that a self-conscious proud man can inflict on himself when
he comes to analyze the effects of his disclosure on other minds, are
sometimes unendurable."

Austin put forward this analysis of his brother's state of mind with a
gravity which was in complete contrast with the light airiness of his
tea-table gossip, and Barrant felt that he was speaking with sincerity.

"Yes, I can understand that," he said with a thoughtful nod.

"I think that is what happened in my brother's case, when he felt called
upon to reveal, as he did yesterday, a shameful family secret which hurt
him in his strongest point--his family pride."

"Stop a minute," interrupted Barrant, in a surprised voice. "I really do
not follow you here. What is this shameful secret to which you refer?"

Austin Turold looked surprised in his turn. "It had to do with his
marriage and his daughter's legitimacy," he slowly replied. "Surely my
sister imparted this to the Penzance police inspector, when she besought
his assistance?"

"I know nothing about it," replied Barrant quickly and emphatically. "I
shall be glad if you will tell me."

"Certainly."

Austin Turold related the story of his brother's disclosure closure. Again
he spoke in careful grave words, and with a manner completely divested of
any trace of his habitual flippancy.

"It appears to me that this revelation must have had a very painful effect
on Robert's mind," he added. "You must remember that he was an abnormal
type. An ordinary man would not have made such a disclosure on the day of
the funeral of the woman who was supposed to be his wife. But all Robert's
acts hinged on his one great obsession. He allowed nothing to come between
him and his one ambition--not even his wife (let us call her so) and
child. But it would come home to him afterwards--I mean the normal point
of view--the way the world would regard such a disclosure--and I have no
doubt that his belated mental anguish and morbid thoughts impelled him to
take his life. Understand me, Mr. Barrant, I do not mean that he did this
through remorse, but through the blow to his pride. He couldn't face the
racket--the gossip, the notoriety and all the rest of it."

"But according to your story, your brother had nothing to blame himself
for," said Barrant. "You say that he was ignorant of this earlier marriage
until recently?"

"Public sentiment will not look at it that way. People will say he
sacrificed a dead woman and his daughter to his own selfish ends--threw
them over when he had attained his ambition. That's what came home to him,
in my opinion."

"I see." Barrant was silent for a while, turning this over in all its
bearings. "Yes. There may be something in that point of view. But did not
your brother confide this story to you before yesterday?"

"When we were alone together during the last few days he frequently seemed
on the point of telling me something. I could see that by his manner. But
he never got beyond a certain portentousness, as it were. It's my belief
now that he wanted to tell me, but couldn't quite bring himself to it. I
am very sorry that he didn't."

"Do you know how long your brother has been aware of this earlier
marriage?"

"Quite recently, I believe. He gave us to understand yesterday that it was
a death-bed confession."

"Are there any proofs of the earlier marriage?"

"I am afraid I cannot enlighten you on that point either."

"This is very strange," said Barrant. "The proofs are very important. This
disclosure vitally affected your brother's ambitions, and was therefore
likely to influence his views regarding the disposition of his property."

He shot a keen glance at his companion. Austin laid aside his glasses and
bent earnestly across the table.

"I will be frank with you," he said, "quite frank. My brother told me a
little more than a week ago that he had made a new will, and that I was
his heir."

"Where is this will?"

"I found it in the clock-case at Flint House last night, and I have since
handed it to the lawyer who drafted it."

"Your brother gave you no indication of this before?"

"No. He told me when I came that he had summoned me to Cornwall because of
the great change in the family fortunes. As I was his only brother he
desired my presence in the investigation of the final proofs and the
preparation of his claim for the House of Lords. Nothing was said about
the succession then. Robert was very excited, and talked only of his own
future. I feel sure that he was not then thinking of who was to succeed to
the title after his death. He looked forward to enjoying it himself. I
certainly did not give it a thought, either. Who could have foreseen this
tragic event?"

"Do you know anything about this peerage?"

"Not till latterly. I never took it seriously, like Robert. I looked upon
it as a family fiction. I understand that the Turrald barony was a barony
by writ--whatever that may be. The point is that if my brother had lived
to restore it, the title, on his death, would have descended to his only
daughter, if she had been born in wedlock. As she is illegitimate, the
title would have descended to me, and after me to my son."

"You were here last night when they brought you the news of your brother's
death, I understand?" remarked Barrant, in a casual sort of way.

"Yes; I did not go out again after I returned from the funeral."

"Was your son home with you?"

"Most of the time. He came in later than I, and then went out for a walk
when the storm cleared away. I did not see him again until this morning.
Thalassa came for me with the news of my brother's death, and I did not
get back from Flint House until very late."

"I suppose you are aware your sister does not share your view that your
brother committed suicide?"

"I understand she has some absurd suspicion about Thalassa, my brother's
servant."

"Why do you call her suspicion absurd?" asked Barrant cautiously.

"It is more than absurd," replied Austin warmly. "I am ashamed to think
that my sister should have given utterance to such a dreadful thought
against a faithful old servant who has been with Robert for half a
lifetime, and was devoted to him."

"Mrs. Pendleton saw him looking through the door."

"She only thought so. She went to the door immediately to find out who it
was, but there was nobody there."

"Do you think she imagined it?"

"No; I think somebody was there, but it is by no means certain that it was
Thalassa. It might have been Thalassa's wife. It might even have been
Robert's daughter."

"Was not Miss Turold present at the family gathering?"

"No; my brother naturally did not wish her to be present, and she went
upstairs. She went out while we were in the room. The door was slightly
open, and she may have glanced in as she passed."

"But this person was listening."

Austin Turold shrugged his shoulders.

"Was your brother talking about his marriage at the time?"

"Yes."

"Could Miss Turold have heard what he was saying?"

"Anybody could. The door was partly open."

"There is some mystery here."

Barrant spoke with the thoughtful air of one viewing a new vista opening
in the distance. These surmises about the listener at the door, by their
manifest though perhaps unintended implication, pointed to a deeper and
more terrible mystery than he had imagined.

Austin Turold did not speak. Darkness had long since fallen, and a lamp,
which had been brought in by the maid who was also the model, stood on the
table between the two men, and threw its shaded beams on their faces. A
clock on the mantel-piece chimed eight, and aroused Barrant to the flight
of time.

"I must get back," he said. "I intended to see Dr. Ravenshaw, but I shall
leave that until later. Can I get a conveyance back to Penzance?"

"There is a public wagonette. I am not sure when, it goes, but it starts
from 'The Three Jolly Wreckers' at the other end of the churchtown."

"'The Three Jolly Wreckers!' That's rather a cynical name for a Cornish
inn, isn't it?"

"Oh, the Cornish people are not ashamed of the old wrecking days, I assure
you."

He accompanied Barrant to the door with the lamp, which he held above his
head to light him down the garden path. Barrant, glancing back, saw him
looking after him, his face outlined in the darkness by the yellow rays of
the lamp.




CHAPTER XIV


Barrant found the inn at the dark end of a stone alley, with the sound of
tipsy singing and shuffling feet coming through the half-open door. He
made his way up three granite steps into a side-entrance, catching a
glimpse through a glass partition of shaggy red faces and pint pots
floating in a fog of tobacco smoke. A stout landlord leaned behind the bar
watching his customers with the tolerant smile of a man who was making a
living out of their merriment. He straightened himself as he caught sight
of Barrant, and opened the sliding window. The detective inquired about
the wagonette, and learnt that it had not yet arrived.

"The roouds is rough, and old Garge Crows takes his time," said the
landlord, eyeing Barrant with a heavy stare. "'Tain't as thow 'e had a
passel of passergers to be teeren rownd after."

"Can you give me some supper while I'm waiting?"

"Sooper?" The innkeeper scratched his chin doubtfully. "'Tis late in the
ebenin' to be getting sooper. There's nawthing greut in the howse. You
could 'ave some tay--p'raps an egg."

"That will do."

The innkeeper roared forth a summons, which was answered by a rugged
Cornish lass from the kitchen. She cast a doubtful glance on the young man
when she learnt what was required, and took him into a small sitting-room,
where she left him to gaze at his leisure upon a framed portrait of Cecil
Rhodes, a stuffed gannet in a large glass case, and a stuffed badger in a
companion case on the other side of the wall. In about twenty minutes she
returned with a tray, and placed before the detective a couple of eggs,
some bread and butter, saffron cake, and a pot of tea. The eggs were of
peculiar mottled exterior, and when tasted had such a strong fish-like
flavour as to suggest that they might have been laid by the gannet in its
lifetime, and stowed away by a careful Cornish housewife until some
stranger chanced to visit that remote spot. Barrant was hungry enough to
gulp them down, though with a wry face. He had just finished a second cup
of very strong tea when he heard the clatter of a vehicle outside, and the
girl thrust a tousled dark head through the door to announce the arrival
of Mr. Crows and his wagonette.

Barrant paid for his food and went out. An ancient hooded vehicle filled
the narrow way, drawn by a large shaggy horse which turned a gleaming eye
on the detective as he emerged, and snorted loudly, as though resenting
the prospect of having to drag his additional weight back to the town. The
driver sat motionless on the box, watching the caperings of the tipsy
tin-miners through the half-open door: a melancholy death'shead of a man,
with a preternaturally long white face, and a figure shrouded in a dark
cloak, looking as though he might be Death itself, waiting for the
carousers to drop dead of apoplexy before carrying them off in his
funereal equipage. In reply to Barrant's question he informed him that the
vehicle was destined for Penzance, and immediately the detective entered
the dark interior he drove off with disconcerting suddenness, as though he
had been waiting for him only, and was determined to make sure of him
before he had time to escape.

The shaggy horse lumbered forward at an unwilling trot, like an animal
disillusioned with life. Soon they cleared the churchtown and entered the
darkness of the moors. A long and tiring day disposed Barrant to slumber.
He had begun to nod sleepily when the wagonette stopped with a jerk which
shook him into wakefulness. He was able to make out that they had reached
the highest elevation of the moors--the cross-roads from where Inspector
Dawfield had shown him Flint House in the distance that afternoon. He
could just discern the outlines of the wayside cross and the old Druidical
monolith, both pointing to the silent heavens in unwonted religious amity.

"Good ebenen', Garge." A lusty voice hailed out of the darkness, and then
Barrant was aware of somebody entering the wagonette, a large male body
which plumped heavily on his knees as it started again.

"Bed pardin, I'm sure. Aw dedn't knaw Crows had another passenger
to-night." A husky voice spoke unseen. "'Taint often it 'appens." There
was the splutter of a match, and as it flared up Barrant saw a pair of
twinkling grey eyes regarding him from a brown and rugged face. "Old Garge
never reckons on haavin' passengers back by th' laast wagonette, so 'e
never lights up inside. I'll make a light now, then we'll be more
comfortable." He struck another match and lit the candle in the wagonette
lamp, and was revealed to Barrant's eyes as a stout and pleasant-faced man
of fifty or so, with something seamanlike, or at least boatmanlike, in his
appearance. He gave the detective a smile and a nod, and added, "Old Crows
is fullish mean about candles."

"It's a wonder he drives the wagonette at all, if there is no demand for
it," remarked Barrant.

"Aw, there's a'plenty demand for it--always lots of passergers except by
this one," rejoined the man in the blue suit. "You'd be surprised how
people gets about in these paarts." He was studying the detective's face
with interest. "You be a Londoner," he said quickly. "What braught you
down here?"

"How do you know that I'm a Londoner?" said Barrant, parrying the latter
part of the question.

"I can tell a Londoner at once," returned the other.

"'Twould be straange if I couldn't. I'm Peter Portgartha. P'raps you
haven't heard of me, but I'm well known hereabouts, and if you want to see
any of the sights, you'd best coome to me, and I'll show you round."

"A guide, eh?"

"There be guides and guides. I'll say nathin' about th' others, but
there's nobody knaws this part of Cornwall like me. I was born and bred
and knaw every inch of it. Before the waar I've had London ladies say to
me: ''Ave you ever seen the Bay of Naples, or the Canaries? Oh, you should
see them, Mr. Portgartha, they're ever so much more grand than Cornwall.'
Well, while the war was on I did see the Canaries and Bay of Naples at
Government's expense on a minesweeper, and they're not a patch on the
Cornwall coast. There's nathin' to beat it in the world."

"It's good, is it?" said Barrant, with his accustomed affability to
strangers. "If I want to see any of it I'll get you to show me round."

"Just came along to th' Mousehole and ask for Peter Portgartha. There's a
great cave at the Mouse's Hole--that's what we call it hereabouts, that
ain't to be beaten in the whole world. If your good lady's here, bring her
with you to see it. There ain't nobody else can show it to her like I can.
The London ladies don't like goin' down the Mousehole cave as a rule,
because it's a stiffish bit of a climb, and in the holiday season there's
always a lot of raffish young fellows hangin' round to see the ladies go
down--to see what they can see, you knaw. But I never 'ave no accidents
like that. No bold-eyed young chap ever saw the leg of any lady in my
charge--not so much as the top of a boot, because I knaw how to taake them
down. I'm well known to some of the 'ighest ladies in the land because I
'ev been aable to take care of their legs when they were goin' down. I've
had letters from them thaankin' me. You've no idea how grateful they be."

This startling instance of the stern morality of aristocratic womanhood
was unfortunately wasted on Barrant, whose thoughts had reverted to the
principal preoccupation of his mind. Mr. Portgartha rambled on.

"Aw, but it's strange to be meetin' you like this, in old Garge's
wagonette. For twelve months I've been goin' acrass the moors to see a
sister of mine, who's lonely, poor saul, havin' lost her man in the
war--drawned in a drifter 'e was--and catchin' this wagonette back every
night, with never a saul to speak to, until last night. Last night there
was a passerger, and to-night there's you. Tes strange, come to think of
it." He looked hard at Barrant as if for some confirmatory expression of
surprise at this remarkable accession to the wagonette's fares. He waited
so long that Barrant felt called upon to say something.

"Who was your fellow passenger last night?"

"Now you're asking me a question which takes a bit of answerin'," replied
Mr. Portgartha. "'Twas like this. I was waitin' at the crass-roads for old
Garge to come along, when a young womon came up out of th' darkness and
stood not far from me--just by the ol' crass. I tried to maake out who she
was, but it was too daark. So I just says to her, 'Good ebenin', miss, are
you waitin' for the wagonette too?' She never answered a word, and before
I could think of anything else to say old Garge came along, and we both
got in She sat in a corner, silent as a ghooste. Well, then, I went to
light th' lamp, same as I have to-night, but as luck would 'ave it, I
hadn't a match. I knaw it was no use askin' old Garge, 'cos he'd pretend
not to hear, so I turned to the young womon sittin' opposite, and asked
her if she had a match in her pocket. And do you knaw, I declare to
gudeness she never said nawthen, not so much as a word!"

"Perhaps she was dumb?" Barrant suggested.

"Aw, iss, doomb enough then," retorted Mr. Portgartha. "I tried her two or
three times more, but couldn't get a word out of her. Well, at last I
began to get narvous, thinkin' she might be a sperit. So I leant across to
her an' says, 'Caan't you say a word, miss? It's only Peter Portgartha
speaking, he's well known for his respect for your sect. No young womon
need be frightened of speakin' to Peter Portgartha.' And with that she
spaaks at last, with a quick little gasp like a sob--I'm thinking I can
hear it at this minute--'Aw,' she says, 'why caan't you leave me alone?'
'Never be afraaid,' I says, for I have my pride like other folk, 'I'll say
no more. Peter Portgartha has no need to foorce his conversation where it
ain't welcome.'"

"A strange girl!" said Barrant, beginning to feel an interest in the
story. "Have you no idea who she was?"

"Wait a bit," continued Mr. Portgartha, evidently objecting to any
intrusion on his right, as narrator, to a delayed climax. "Well, there we
sat, like two ghoostes, till we got to Penzance, but all the time I was
thinkin' to mysel' that I'd find out who she was. I sed to myself I'd ride
on to the station, instid of gettin' out a piece this side of it so as to
make a short cut across to the Mouse's Hole, as I usually do. But that
stupid old fule Garge pulled up as usual and bawls through the window,
'Are you going to keep me here all night, Peter?' Before I could say a
word the young womon says: 'I'll get out here.' With that she puts the
fare into his hand through the open window, and slips out afore I knew
what she was going to do. If it hadn't been for my rhoomatics, which I got
in the war, I'd 'a followed her. As it was, I couldn't."

"So you didn't see her face, after all?" asked Barrant quickly.

"I didn't, in a manner of speakin'. But I did get a glimpse of her as she
passed near the lamp-post--just a half-sight of two big dark eyes in a
white face as she went past. I wouldn't 'a thought no more of it," added
Mr. Portgartha, laying an impressive hand on his companion's knee, "but
for what happened at Flint House last night."

"What's that got to do with it?" In his quickened interest Barrant vainly
strove to make his voice appear calm.

"Because the young womon must have coome from Flint House."

Barrant scrutinized his companion sharply in the dim light. "Why do you
think so?" he asked.

"For'n thing, the wayside crass where she picked up the wagonette is not
far from Flint House by acrass the moors--closer'n goin' from the house on
the cliffs t' the churchtown, which is a good slant to the north of it.
From Flint House to the crass-roads it's straight as a dart, if you know
yer way, with only one house twixt it till you come arver to it--old
Farmer Bardsley, who ain't got no wemmenfolk, so it's sartin she didn't
come from theer. She wasn't a maa'iden from any of the farms of the moors,
for I know them all. But it weren't till this marning that I got a kind of
notion who she was. I dropped into the _Tolpen Arms_ to have a drop
of something for a cawld I've got, and some of the fishermen were talkin'
about th' old gentleman of Flint House blowing his head off last night
with a gun. It made me feel queery-like when I heerd aboot it. 'Why,' I
says, 'that'll be about the time I saw the strange young womon in ol'
Crows' wagonette. She must 'ave come from Flint House, now I coome to
think of it.' 'What young woman was that?' asked 'Enery Waitts. So I told
them what had happened to me, just like I've told it to you. Mrs. Keegan,
the land-lady, who was list'ning, says, 'I shouldn't be surprised if it
was Mr. Turold's daughter that you saw. I heard yesterday that his sister
was staying at Penzance, so p'raps she was going to her, after it
happened. So if it was her it's not surprisin' she didn't want to speak to
you in her grief.'"

"Did you ever see Miss Turold?"

"I've never see any one of the Flint House folk, though I've heerd of
them, often enough."

"Did you notice in which direction this girl went?"

"No. She passed the lamp-post as if she were maakin' up Market Jew Street,
but I suppose she ced 'ave turned off anywhere to the right or left."

"What time was it when the wagonette reached the cross-roads on the moor,
where she got in?"

"About the same time as to-night, getting on for ten, mebbe."

"She was quite alone?"

"As lonely as any she ghooste, standin' theer by the old crass. 'Twaas
because I thought she'd feel feersome that I spoke to her."

Barrant relapsed into a thoughtful silence which lasted until the
wagonette pulled up and his fellow-traveller prepared to alight. Then he
turned to him and said--

"Good-night. I may see you again."

He fumbled at the interior window as he spoke, opened it, and touched the
driver on the shoulder. "Drive me to the Central Hotel," he said. "Go as
fast as you can, and I'll give you ten shillings!"

Mr. Crows nodded a cold acquiescence, and they rattled off down the silent
street, leaving on Barrant's mind a receding impression of a startled red
face staring after them from the footpath. The wagonette jolted round a
corner, and ten minutes later stopped at the entrance of the hotel where
Mrs. Pendleton was staying.




CHAPTER XV


When Barrant learnt from the trembling lips of Mrs. Pendleton that she had
not seen her niece since that morning, his first step was to get Sisily's
full description, and call up Dawfield on the hotel telephone with
instructions to have all the railway stations between Penzance and London
warned to look out for her. That was a necessary precaution, but it did
not need Dawfield's hesitating information about time tables to convince
him that it was almost futile. The later of the two trains by which Sisily
might have fled from Cornwall had reached London and discharged its
passengers somewhere about the time that Mr. Peter Portgartha, in the
depth of the rumbling wagonette, was paying his tribute to shrinking
female modesty as exhibited on Mousehole rocks.

After doing this Barrant returned to the empty lounge, where Mrs.
Pendleton sat in partial darkness with tearful face. All the other guests
had retired, and a lurking porter yawned longingly in the passage, waiting
for an opportunity to put out the last of the lights and get to bed.

In the first shock of Barrant's violent apparition and angry questions,
Mrs. Pendleton had tried, in a bewildered way, to insist that her niece
had not left her room on the previous night. But now, in her troubled
consideration of the new strange turn of events surrounding her brother's
death, she saw that she might have been deceived on this point. Barrant,
for his part, had not the slightest doubt of it when he heard that her
belief rested on no stronger foundation than Sisily's early withdrawal
from the dining-room on the plea of fatigue, and the fact that her bedroom
door was locked when Mrs. Pendleton returned from her own visit to Flint
House. Sisily's subsequent flight eliminated any uncertainty about that,
and established beyond reasonable doubt her identity with the silent girl
who had entered the returning wagonette at the cross-roads. The
coincidence of those two facts had a terrible significance. Barrant had no
doubt that Sisily had gone to her own room early in order to find an
opportunity to pay a secret visit to her home, for a purpose which now
seemed to stand sinisterly revealed by her disappearance. He also thought
he saw the motive--that vital factor in murder--looming behind her
nocturnal expedition. But that was a question he was not inclined to
analyze too closely at that moment. He wanted to know how she had been
able to disappear that day without the knowledge of her aunt.

Mrs. Pendleton had a ready explanation of that. She said that after
returning from her visit to the police station that morning she had been
engaged with her brother Austin until nearly lunch-time, and when she went
up to Sisily's room she found it empty. She concluded that her niece had
gone out somewhere to be alone with her grief--she was the type of girl
that liked to be alone. After lunch Mrs. Pendleton had letters to write,
and then she had gone to her bedroom and fallen sound asleep till
dinner-time, worn out by the shock of her brother's death, and the
sleepless night which had followed it. When Sisily did not appear at
dinner she began to grow uneasy, but sought to convince herself that
Sisily might have gone on a _char-à-banc_ trip to Falmouth which had
been advertised for that day. The incongruity of a sad solitary girl like
Sisily nursing her grief in a public vehicle packed with curious
chattering trippers did not seem to have occurred to her. But as time
passed she grew seriously alarmed, and sent her husband out to make
enquiries.

She had sat in the lounge listening with strained ears for the girl's
footsteps until Barrant arrived.

"Has your niece any friends in Cornwall or London, or anywhere, for that
matter, who would receive her?" Barrant abruptly demanded.

"I really do not know," said Mrs. Pendleton.

She wiped the tears from her eyes with a large white handkerchief. She was
overwhelmed by the shock of her niece's disappearance, and the terrible
interpretation Barrant evidently placed upon it. But Barrant was in no
mood to allow for her confused state of mind.

"You had better try and remember," he said irritably. "It seems to me that
I've been kept in the dark. You went to the police to demand an
investigation into your brother's death, but you did not say anything of
the disclosure he made to you yesterday of his daughter's illegitimacy.
Instead of doing so, you only directed suspicion to his man-servant.
Meanwhile your niece, who was placed in your care, disappears to heaven
knows where, and you took no steps to inform the police. You have acted
very indiscreetly, Mrs. Pendleton, to say the least."

"I did not know--I did not think," gasped Mrs. Pendleton. She endeavoured
to commence a flurried explanation of the mixed motives and impulses which
had swayed her since her brother's death, but Barrant cut it short with an
impatient wave of the hand.

"Never mind that now," he said. "I have lost too much time already. Have
you no idea where your niece is likely to have sought refuge?"

Mrs. Pendleton shook her head. "Robert had no friends," she said, "and
Sisily led a very lonely life. Robert told me that yesterday. That was the
reason he wanted me to take charge of her--so as to give her the
opportunity of making some girl friends of her own age."

She paused, embarrassed by the recollection that her brother's real
intention in placing Sisily in her charge was altogether different.
Barrant noted her hesitation, and interpreted it aright.

"No," he said. "The real reason of your brother parting with his daughter
provides the motive for her return to his house last night. What happened
between them is a matter for conjecture, at present. Apparently she was
the last person who saw him alive before he was shot, and now she is not
to be found."

There was something so portentously solemn in his manner of speaking these
last words that his listener quaked in terror, and gazed at him with
widened eyes. Barrant turned abruptly to another phase.

"Are you quite sure that it was the man-servant you saw looking through
the door yesterday afternoon?"

It was proof of the fallibility of human testimony that Mrs. Pendleton had
sincerely convinced herself that she was quite sure. "Yes," she said.

Barrant looked doubtful. By reason of his calling he was well aware of the
human tendency to unintentional mistake in identity. With women
especially, the jump from an impression to a conclusion was sometimes as
rapid as the thought itself.

"Did you see his face?" he asked.

"Only the eyes. But I am sure that they were Thalassa's eyes."

Barrant did not press the point. He did not doubt the honesty of her
belief, but the words in which it was conveyed suggested hasty impression
rather than conviction. Such proofs! of identity were not to be relied
upon.

"Had your brother's servant any reason, so far as you know, to be
listening at the door?" he asked.

"All servants are curious," murmured Mrs. Pendleton. She shook her head
wisely, as one intimating a wide knowledge of their class.

"All curious servants are not murderers," returned Barrant. "This man has
been in your brother's service for a long time, has he not?"

"For a great number of years. Almost ever since Robert returned to
England, I think."

"So Mr. Austin Turold informed me. Had he any grudge against his master?"

"Thalassa? I really couldn't tell you, because I do not know. But he has a
most truculent and overbearing manner--not at all the kind of manner you
expect in a servant, and he seemed to do just what he liked. I disliked
him as soon as I saw him. I'm sure he looks more like some dreadful old
sea pirate than a gentleman's servant. I would not have him in my
household." Mrs. Pendleton set her lips firmly. "No, not for a single
moment. But I suppose poor Robert was attached to him from long
association."

Barrant nodded in an understanding way. "Then this man Thalassa must have
known your niece from childhood," he said in a casual tone. "Was he
attached to her, do you think?"

"I know nothing of that."

"That's rather a pity," he said with a gentle shake of the head. He looked
at her knowingly.

"I do not understand you," she faltered.

"You had grounds for your suspicions of Thalassa--reasonable grounds. He
must have admitted your niece into the house last night, you know. I must
get it out of him."

She gave a start, for she saw now where his drift of questions was taking
them. With a sickening sense of horror she realized that her slight
suspicions were being used by him to help fashion a case against her own
flesh and blood.

"What are you suggesting?" she breathed, with a nervous look.

"Nothing at present," he said, with a quick realization of the fact that
he was in danger of talking too much. "Can you tell me if your niece is
provided with money?"

"My brother gave her twenty-five pounds in bank notes yesterday--he told
me."

"That is enough to keep her for some weeks. You are quite sure you cannot
form any idea where she has gone?"

"No," said Mrs. Pendleton coldly, with a belated inward resolve not to be
so ready in volunteering information to the police in future.

"I should like to see the room your niece occupied last night," he said.

That was a search which brought nothing to lights Barrant left the hotel
just as little Mr. Pendleton returned to it with an alarmed face and a
feeling of personal guilt at his failure to find Sisily.

Barrant passed him with a side glance, his mind full of the problem of the
girl's disappearance. He left the hotel in a state of thoughtfulness,
fully realizing the difficulties of the task which lay before him in
tracing Sisily's movements on the previous night, and discovering where
she had flown. The deeper questions of motive and the inconsequence of
some of her actions he preferred to leave till later. Action, and not
mental analysis, was the need of the moment. Barrant prided himself on
being a man of action, and he was also a detective. The thrill of pursuit
stirred in his blood.

His later activities that night and the following day brought to light
many things, but not all that he wanted to know. He convinced himself, in
the first place, that it was possible for the girl to have left her room
and! returned to it on the night of her father's death without any of the
inmates of the hotel being aware of her absence. That lessened the
complexity of the case by absolving Mrs. Pendleton from the suspicion of
pretended ignorance. Barrant was also convinced the aunt believed her
niece to be in bed and asleep during the time of her own visit to her
brother's house. Sisily had to pass the office of the hotel in going out
and returning, but she could easily have done so unobserved. There were
few guests at that season of the year, and the proprietor's daughter, who
looked after the office, was in the dining-room having her dinner at
half-past seven. She went to bed shortly after ten, leaving the front
entrance in charge of the porter, who had duties to perform in various
parts of the house. And it was possible to descend the stairs and leave
the hotel without being seen from the lounge or smoking-room.

There was a wagonette to St. Fair from the railway station at
half-past-seven. The hotel dinner was at a quarter to seven for the
convenience of some permanent guests, and Sisily, who left the table
before the meal was concluded--about a quarter-past seven, according to
Mrs. Pendleton--had time to catch the wagonette. On the assumption that
even a Cornish wagonette would cover the journey of five miles across the
moors in less than an hour, Sisily had probably reached her father's house
at half-past eight or a little earlier. The stopped clock in the study
indicated that he met his death at half-past nine. If so, Sisily must have
left Flint House shortly before her aunt's arrival to catch the returning
wagonette at the cross-roads where the young woman was seen waiting by
Peter Portgartha.

But that plausibly conceived itinerary of events needed the support of
proof, and there Barrant found himself in difficulty.

The morning's enquiries made it manifest that Sisily had left Penzance by
the mid-day train on the previous day. After leaving Mrs. Pendleton,
Barrant had gone to the station. The sour and elderly ticket-clerk on duty
could give him no information, but let it be understood that there was
another clerk selling tickets for the mid-day train, which was unusually
crowded by farmers going to Redruth. The other clerk, seen in the morning,
had no difficulty in recalling the young lady of Barrant's description.
She was pretty and slight and dark, with a pale clear complexion, and she
carried a small handbag. She asked for a ticket to London. The clerk
understood her to ask for a return ticket, but as she picked it up with
the change for the five pound note with which she paid for it, she said
that she thought she had asked for a single ticket. He assured her that
she had not, but offered to change it. At that moment the departure of the
train was signalled, and she ran through the barrier without waiting to
change the ticket. The incident caused him to observe her, and his
description tallied so completely with Mrs. Pendleton's description that
Barrant had not the least doubt that it was Sisily.

On the strength of this information Barrant applied to a local magistrate
for a warrant for the girl's arrest. He was well aware that he had not yet
gathered sufficient evidence to satisfy the law that she had murdered her
father, but his action was justified by her flight and the presumption of
her secret visit to her father's house when she was supposed to be in bed
and asleep at the hotel.

These things fulfilled, Barrant then applied his mind to the question of
Thalassa's complicity. If Sisily's actions on the night of her father's
death, and her subsequent flight, simplified matters to the extent of
deepening the assumption of murder into a practical certainty, they added
to the complexity of the case by giving it the appearance of a carefully
planned crime in which Thalassa seemed to be deeply involved.

The insistent necessity of motive which should explain the events of that
night with apt presumptions, threw Barrant back on the suggestion, made by
Austin Turold, that it was really Sisily whom Mrs. Pendleton had detected
looking through the door of the downstairs room when the other members of
the family were assembled within listening to Robert Turold. Barrant told
himself that Mrs. Pendleton's suspicion of Thalassa rested on nothing more
substantial than feminine prejudice, an unreasoning impulse of dislike
which would leave few men alive if it always carried capital punishment in
its train.

The substitution of Sisily for Thalassa provided a convincing motive for
murder. The overheard revelation of her mother's shame and her own
precarious condition in the world when she might reasonably have been
counting on becoming an heiress of note, were sufficient to account for
the nocturnal return and an effort to entreat justice or compel
silence--the alternatives depended on the type of girl. From what Mrs.
Pendleton had told him of Sisily and her love for her mother--poor Mrs.
Pendleton had insisted, all unwittingly, very strongly on that--Barrant
had pictured her as a brooding yet passionate type of girl who might have
committed the murder in a sudden frenzy of determination to prevent her
father making public the unhappy secret of her mother's life. That was an
act by no means inconsistent with the temperament of a strongwilled and
lonely girl, whose stormy passions had been wrought to the breaking-point
by disclosures made on the very day that her loved mother had been buried
in a nameless grave. There was, additionally, the motive of self-interest,
awakened to the lamentable fact that she had no claim on her father beyond
what generosity might dictate. In short, Barrant believed the motive for
the murder to be a mixed one, as human motives generally are. At that
stage of his reasoning he did not ask himself whether worldly greed was
likely to enter into the composition of a girl like Sisily.

This reconstruction of the crime pointed to an accomplice, and that
accomplice must have been the man-servant. Nobody but Thalassa could have
let the girl into the house; and he could have dropped the key in the room
after the door was broken open. That theory not only presupposed strong
devotion on Thalassa's part for a girl he had known from childhood, which
was a theory reasonable of belief, but it also suggested that he bore a
deep grudge against his master on his own account, sufficient to cause him
to refrain from doing anything to prevent the accomplishment of the
murder, and to risk his own skin afterwards to shield the girl from the
consequences. This aspect of the case struck Barrant as very strange and
deep, because it failed to account for Sisily's subsequent flight. If
Thalassa had jeopardized himself by keeping silence about her visit, and
had returned the key to her father's room in order to create the idea of
suicide, why had she dispelled the illusion by running away, bringing both
her accomplice and herself into danger? Had she been, seized with terror,
perhaps due to Mrs. Pendleton's insistence on her belief of murder, or had
Thalassa conveyed some warning to her that inquiries were likely to be put
afoot?

These were questions to which Barrant felt he could find no answer until
he had seen Thalassa and attempted to wrest the truth from him.

He postponed his visit to Hint House until the evening. He wanted to make
the journey as Sisily had made it on the previous night, in order to find
out, as nearly as possible, the exact moment she had arrived at her
father's house. He was not even in a position to prove that she had gone
by the wagonette until he had questioned the driver.

He took his way to the station that evening with the feeling that it would
be difficult to get anything out of Thalassa, whatever the reasons for his
silence. He instinctively recognized that the authority of the law, which
strikes such terror into craven hearts, would not help him with this old
man whose glance had the lawless fearlessness of an eagle. But he had
confidence in his ability to extract the truth, and Thalassa, moreover,
was at the disadvantage of having something to hide. It would be strange
if he did not succeed in getting the facts out of him.

The St. Fair wagonette was pulled up outside the station. Mr. Crows,
master of his destiny and time-tables, reclined in front, regarding with a
glazed eye his drooping horse. Inside, some stout women with bundles
waited patiently until it suited the autocrat on the box seat to start on
his homeward way. Mr. Crows showed no indication of being in a hurry. His
head nodded drowsily, and a little saliva trickled down his nether lip. He
straightened himself with a sudden jerk as Barrant climbed up beside him.

"What be yewer doin' yare?" he demanded.

"I'm going to St. Fair," said Barrant.

"I doan't allow no passergers to sit alongside o' me."

"You'll have to put up with it for once," returned Barrant curtly, in no
way softened by the odour of Mr. Crows' breath.

As this was a reply which no resident of St. Fair would have dared to
make, Mr. Crows bent a muddled glance on his fare, and by a concentrated
effort recalled the face of the man who had given him ten shillings on the
previous night. He decided to pocket the present indignity in the hope of
another tip.

"Aw right," he said, with unwonted amiability, "yewer can stay where yew
are--for wance."

He applied himself to driving the wagonette. Sobriety was not an essential
of the feat. The horse knew the way, drew clear of the town without
accident, and jogged into the long winding road which stretched across the
moors. The shadows deepened into night, and Mr. Crows lighted a solitary
lamp in the front of his vehicle.

"Aren't you going to light up inside?" asked Barrant, when the lamp was
flickering faintly.

"No," replied Mr. Crows shortly. "It don't pay. Let 'em set in the dark."

"Not enough passengers, eh?"

"Moren enough fat old wommen on the out journey," declared Mr. Crows
passionately. "That's because it's all up-hill. But they walk in downhill
to save a shellen. _I_ know them." He brooded darkly. "It's all part
of the plan," he went on. Then, as though feeling that this latter
statement, in itself, erred on the side of vagueness, he added--"to worrit
a man."

"How many passengers did you have on your last journey in, last night?"

"Two on 'em." Mr. Crows, with forefinger and thumb, snuffed his nose as he
had previously snuffed the candle in the lamp. "There was Peter Portgartha
and a young woman. I happen to know it was a young 'un because she went
away at such a rate when she got out. When wommen begins to get up in
years they go in the legs, same as harses."

"Would you know her again if you saw her?" asked Barrant eagerly.

"Not if you was to sware me on the Howly Trinity."

"Did this young woman travel up with you by this wagonette last night?"

Mr. Crows couldn't say for that. There were six insides, that was all
_he_ knew. He disremembered anything about them.

"Surely you notice the passengers you carry?"

Mr. Crows, with the air of one propounding an insoluble riddle, asked his
fare why should he take notice of his passengers? He weren't paid for
that--no, not he. What's more, the night was a dark one. He knew there was
six insides because six fares was put through the winder, but whether they
was put through by men or ma'adens or widder wommen was moren he cud say.

He again called on the Trinity to attest his ignorance.

"Their shellens is nuthin' to me"--the reference was to the passengers.
"They wouldn't pay for the harse's feed. I work for the Duchy, I do, which
is almost the same as being in Guvverment, ain't it? I remember yew,
thow--because yew gave me ten shellens for driving yew to the Central
hotel last night." Mr. Crows cast a quick glance at his fare to see how he
took this artful reminder of his munificence. "But as for their bobs--" He
spat into the night in order to express his contempt for the
insignificance of such small sums.

There was a tap at the window behind him. He unfastened the pane, and a
spectral hand came through with a coin. Mr. Crows took it, the hand
disappeared, to be replaced by another, more dirty than spectral, with a
coin in the outstretched palm, like its predecessor.

"You see," said Mr. Crows, when he had collected six shillings in this
manner. "What's the need for to look at them? I've learnt them to hand in
their fares this way. Saves time and talk for nothing. Why should I look
at a lot of fat old wommen? I ain't paid for that. It's quite enough to
let them set in my cab, wearing out my cushions with their great fat
bodies, without looking at them." He eyed Barrant with some sternness.

"But this was not a fat old woman," said Barrant. "She was a pretty young
girl."

"Ma'ad or widder, it's all the same to me," returned the misogynist. "Some
holds with the sex and finds them soothing, but I was never took up with
them myself. I prefers beer. Every man to his taste."

"Did any of the passengers alight at the crossroads?"

They were nearing the cross-roads as he spoke, and the rude outline of the
wayside cross loomed out of the shadows directly ahead.

"I couldn't tell you that, neither. I always stop at the cross-roads, in
and out. It's one of my regular stopping-places. Come to think of it,
though, somebody did get out at the cross-roads last night."

"A man or woman?" asked Barrant with eagerness.

"A woman. She went off acrass the moors that way." Mr. Crows pointed an
indifferent whip into the blackness which rested like a pall between the
white road and the distant roaring sea. "She was a wunner to go, too--out
of sight in a moment, she was."

"Thank you. I'll get down here, too."

As the wagonette stopped at the cross-roads Barrant jumped down from his
seat and disappeared in the indicated direction before Mr. Crows could
summon his slow wits to determine the value of the coin which the
detective had pressed into his passively expectant palm.




CHAPTER XVI


The twilight had deepened into darkness when Barrant reached Flint House.
A faint ray of light flickered from the kitchen window on the giant
cliffs, like a taper from a doll's house. He approached the window by a
line of rocks which guarded it like sentinels, and looked in.

Within, Mrs. Thalassa sat alone by the table in a drooping attitude of
dejection or stupor. Her head was bent over her crossed hands, which
rested on the table, and her grey hair, escaping from the back comb which
fastened it, fell on both sides of her face. An oil lamp smoked on the
table beside her, sending forth a cloud of black vapour like an unbottled
genie, but she did not heed it. There was something uncanny in her
complete detachment from the restless activity of life. The dead man lying
upstairs was not more still.

Had Barrant known her better he would have had matter for surprise and
conjecture in the fact that her patience cards stood untouched in their
shabby leather case, but knowing nothing of that he fell to wondering what
her husband had seen in such a queer little creature to marry her. The
consideration of that question led him to the conclusion that perhaps
Thalassa had been impelled to his choice by the realization that she was
as good-looking a wife as he could afford. Barrant reflected that women
resembled horses in value. The mettlesome showy ones were bred to display
their paces for rich men only. Serviceable hacks, warranted to work a
lifetime, could not be expected to be ornamental as well as useful. So
long as they pulled their burdens without jibbing overmuch, one had to be
content.

He began to wonder where Thalassa was, and moved closer to the shadow of
one of the rocks in case he happened to be prowling around the house. In
the silence of the night he listened for the sound of footsteps on the
rocks, but could hear nothing except the moan of the sea and the whimper
of a rising wind. His eye, glancing upwards, fell upon a chink of
shuttered light in the back of the house which looked down on the sea. The
light came from the dead man's study, and had not been there a few moments
before.

Barrant walked to the kitchen door and tapped lightly. There was no
answer, but somewhere within the house a dog howled dismally. The door
handle yielded to his touch when he tried it, and he walked in.

The little old woman at the table made a sudden movement at his
appearance, but he gave her a reassuring smile and nod. She sat quite
still, with a look of fear in her eyes. Above his head he heard someone
moving in the study.

"Your husband is upstairs?" he asked in a voice which was little more than
a whisper. "I want to see him--I am going up to him."

He did not wait for her to reply, and she watched him out of the room with
staring eyes. Stealthily he directed his steps to the staircase, and with
infinite precautions for silence commenced to ascend. But midway he
stumbled in the dark, and the stair creaked loudly. Above his head a door
opened sharply, and when he reached the landing he saw the figure of
Thalassa framed in the lighted doorway at the far end of the long passage,
listening.

"Who's there?" he cried; then his eye fell on Barrant, advancing swiftly
from the darkness towards the light. "What do you want?" he said. "How did
you get in?"

Barrant looked past him into the room. There was a litter of papers on the
table and shelves, as he had last seen it, but it did not seem to him that
anything had been disturbed. The door of the death chamber opposite was
closed.

"What are you doing up here?" he said sternly.

Thalassa did not deign to parley. "What do you want?" he repeated, looking
steadily at the detective.

"Did you hear what I said to you?" angrily demanded Barrant. "Were you not
told not to interfere with these rooms in any way? You have no right up
here."

"More right than you have to come into a house like a thief," retorted
Thalassa coldly. "I have my work to do. The place must be looked after,
whether I'm spied on or not."

"I advise you not to take that tone with me," replied the detective. "As
you are here, you had better come into this room again, and shut the door
behind you. I have some questions I want to put to you."

Thalassa followed Barrant into the room and stood by the table, the rays
of the swinging-lamp throwing his brown face into sharp outline. "What do
you want to know?" he asked.

"I want you to tell me everything that happened in this house on the night
your master was found dead."

"There's not much to tell," began Thalassa slowly. "When it happened I was
down in the cellar, breaking some coal. I heered my wife call out to me
from the kitchen. I went up from the cellar, and she was standing at the
kitchen door, shaking like a leaf with fright. She said there'd been a
terrible crash right over her head in Mr. Turold's study. I took a lamp
and went upstairs, and knocked at the door, but I got no reply. I knocked
three times as loud as I could, but there wasn't a sound. At that I gets
afeered myself, so I put on my hat and coat to go across to the churchtown
to fetch Dr. Ravenshaw. Then a knock come to the front door, and when I
opened the door there was the doctor and Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton."

"How long was that after the crash upstairs?"

"No longer than it took me to go upstairs, knock at the door, and getting
no answer, go downstairs to put on my coat and hat. I was just winding a
comforter round my throat when I heered the knock."

"It did not occur to you to break in the door of your master's room when
you got no answer and found it locked?"

"No it never, and you wouldn't have done it in my place."

"You heard no sound of a shot?"

"Not down in the cellar. I fancy I heered the sound of the clock falling.
It came to me all muffled like, though it frightened her rarely." He
pointed downward to the kitchen. "And it frightened the dog, too, started
it barking."

"Is that the dog I heard whining downstairs?"

"Maybe it is. I've got it shut up in the cellar."

"Whose dog is it?"

"His." Thalassa's eyes travelled towards Robert Turold's bedroom.

"Is it howling through grief?"

"More like from fright. Dogs are like people, frightened of their own
shadows, sometimes. I shut it up because it kept trying to get upstairs to
his room. It's a queer surly sort of brute, but fond enough of him. He
used to take it out for long walks.'?

"What kind of dog is it?"

"A retriever."

"So that's all that happened that night, is it?" said Barrant, in a
meditative voice. "You have told me all?"

Thalassa nodded. His brown face remained expressionless, but his little
dark eyes glittered warily, like a snake's.

"Think again, Thalassa," urged Barrant, in a voice of the softest
insistence. "It may be that you have forgotten something--overlooked an
incident which may be important."

"I've overlooked nothing," was the sullen response.

"There's just an odd chance that you have," said Barrant, searching the
other's face from raised contemplative eyebrows. "The best of memories
plays tricks at times. It's always better not to be too sure. Think again,
Thalassa, if you haven't something more to tell me."

"I've told you everything," Thalassa commenced, then straightened his long
bony frame in a sudden access of anger, and brought his hand sharply down
on the table. "What are you trying to badger me for, like this? You'll get
nothing more out of me if you question me till Doomsday."

"But why should you keep anything back?" asked Barrant softly.

Thalassa looked at him with a startled air, then recovered himself
quickly. "I'm not keeping anything back," he said. "Why should you say
that?"

"I did not say it. You said I'd get no more out of you."

"Because there is nothing more to be got. Is that plain enough?"

"Quite. Well then, let us go over the events of this night once more.
Perhaps that will help you to recall something which you have forgotten."

"That's not likely."

"Nevertheless, we will try. You were busy in the coal cellar at the time,
I think you said?"

"At what time?" said Thalassa with a quick glance.

"At the time the crash happened upstairs."

"Yes."

"What time was that?"

"How should I know? Do you suppose there's a clock in the coal cellar? It
must have been about half-past nine."

"According to the clock upstairs. Did you think I had overlooked that?
Then you heard your wife call, and went to the kitchen. Next, you went
upstairs, tried your master's door, found it locked, and decided to go for
assistance. But before you could do so Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton and Dr.
Ravenshaw arrived. Have I got it right?"

"That be right."

"All except one thing, Thalassa."

Thalassa met Barrant's look steadily, with no sense of guilt in his face.
"Well?" he said.

"I see that you do not intend to be frank. Let me help your memory a
little. Did you have no other visitors--before Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton and
Dr. Ravenshaw arrived?"

"Visitors?" There was scorn now in his straight glance, but nothing more.
"Is this a place where there's likely to be visitors?"

"Not in the ordinary course of events"--Barrant was still smilingly
affable--"but the night your master met his death was not an ordinary
night. Somebody may have come to the house."

He paused, again searching for some sign of guilty consciousness in the
face revealed in such clear outline near him, but saw none. Again,
Thalassa met him with answering look, but remained mute.

"Thalassa"--Barrant's voice remained persuasive, but to an ear attuned to
shades, there was a note of menace underlying its softness--"you know
there was somebody else here that night."

"Somebody? Who?"

"Your master's daughter--Miss Sisily Turold." Barrant brought it out
sharply and angrily.

Thalassa turned a cold glance on him. "If you know that why do you ask
me?" he said.

"Because you let her in!"

Thalassa surveyed him with the shadow of a smile on his motionless face.
"Do you take me for a fool?" he said. "I let nobody in."

"Thalassa," said the detective earnestly, "let me advise you, for your own
sake, to tell the truth now. You may be keeping silence through some
mistaken idea of loyalty to your master's daughter, but that will do her
no good, nor you either. I know more than you think. If you persist in
keeping silent you will put yourself in an awkward position, and it may be
the worse for you. You were seen listening at the door of the room
downstairs on the day of your master's death."

"So that's it, is it? You think you'll fit a rope round my neck? I'm to
say what you want to save it? To hell with you and your policeman's
tricks! I don't care that for them." He snapped his long brown fingers in
Barrant's face.

"You've a bold tongue, you scoundrel," said Barrant, flushing angrily.
"Take care where it leads you. Once more, will you tell me the truth?"

"I've told you all I know."

"Do you mean to tell me that you did not see your master's daughter, or
let her into the house?"

"I did not."

"Could anybody have got into the house without your knowledge?"

"Maybe."

"Did you hear anybody?"

"How could I hear anybody when I was down in the coal cellar?"

The open sneer on Thalassa's face suggested that he was not to be caught
by verbal traps. Barrant perceived, with a smouldering anger, that the man
was too clever to be tricked, and too stout of heart to be frightened. By
accident or design he had a ready story which was difficult to demolish
without further knowledge of the events of that night. Barrant decided
that it would be useless, at that moment, to apply himself to the effort
of worming anything out of Thalassa. He had shown his own hand too freely,
and placed him on his guard. There was also the bare possibility that he
had told the truth, so far as he knew it. One last shot he essayed.

"You are acting very foolishly, but I shall not arrest you--yet," he said
impressively. "I shall tell the local police to keep an eye on you."

"Is it the Cornish savage from the churchtown--him with the straw helmit?"
said Thalassa, with a harsh laugh.

The last shot had missed fire badly. The lawless spirit of the man was not
to be intimidated by a threat of arrest--a threat which the detective had
reason for not putting into effect just then. Barrant moved towards the
door with the best dignity he could command.

"Light me downstairs to the kitchen," he said. "I want to see your wife."

Thalassa seemed about to say something at that, then thought the better of
it, and walked out of the room. Outside in the passage he picked up a
small lamp glimmering in a niche of the wall, and led the way downstairs.
They reached the kitchen in silence, and went in.

The little grey woman at the table was seated in the same posture as
Barrant had last seen her, her hands crossed in front of her, her head
bent. She glanced up listlessly as they entered. Barrant crossed the room,
and touched her arm. She shook in a pitiful little flurry of fear, then
became motionless again.

"Mrs. Thalassa, I want to speak to you," said Barrant, raising his voice,
as though to a deaf person. "Is this where you were sitting the night
before last, when you heard the crash in your master's room upstairs?"

"Put the knave on the rubbish heap," she muttered without looking up.

"Listen to me, Mrs. Thalassa"--he spoke still louder. "Did you hear the
shot before the crash?"

The loud tone seemed to reach the remote consciousness of her being, and
she started up in another flurry. ... "Coming, coming, sir. Jasper,
where's the tray?..." she stood thus for a moment, then dropped back into
her chair, her eyes fixed on the opposite wall.

"What's the matter with her?" said Barrant, turning to her husband.

"She's been like it ever since it happened," said Thalassa, in a low tone.
"That's how I found her when I came from the cellar."

"Did she hear the shot--or see anything?"

"That's more than I can tell you. When I came from the cellar she seemed
mazed with fright, and kept pointing to the ceiling. All I could make out
from her was that there'd been a great crash upstairs. When I came down
again after trying the door she was lying on the floor in a faint, and I
carried her in to her bed. It's floored her wits."

"She's had a very bad shock," said Barrant gravely. He regarded her
attentively, her vacant eyes, mouthing lips, trembling hands, her uncanny
fixed glance which seemed to behold something unseen. Strange suspicions
flowed through his brain as he watched her. What terrible experience had
befallen her? What did she know of the mysterious events that had happened
in that silent house? He endeavoured to follow the direction of her gaze,
but it seemed to be fixed on the row of bells behind the kitchen door.
Then, like a half-awakened sleeper released from the horror of a
nightmare, she sank back in her previous listless attitude, and fell to
muttering again.

As Barrant watched her, Thalassa watched them both with an anxiety which
would have aroused Barrant's suspicions if he had seen it. But Thalassa's
face was again closely guarded when he did look up.

"You'll get neither rhyme nor reason out of her," said Thalassa, as their
glances met.

"I'll try once more," murmured Barrant, almost to himself. He turned to
her again, but this time he did not lay his hand on her arm. "Mrs.
Thalassa"--he spoke more gently--"will you try and understand me?"

"Red on black ... black on red." Her hands moved restlessly.

In a sudden recognition of the futility of trying to gather anything from
that clouded brain, Barrant turned abruptly away without another word. And
the black gaze of Thalassa followed him through the door and out into the
darkness of the night.




CHAPTER XVII


The bell in the darkened chambers rang with the insistent clamour of
mechanism responding with blind obedience to a human hand, but Mr. Anthony
Brimsdown suffered it to pass unnoticed. As an elderly bachelor, living
alone, he was sufficiently master of his own affairs to disregard the
arrival of the last post, leaving the letters as they were tumbled through
the slit in the door downstairs until he felt inclined to go and get them.

He was standing in the centre of the room examining an unusual trinket--a
gold hoop like a bracelet, with numbers and the zodiac signs engraved on
the inner surface. Mr. Brimsdown had discovered it in a Kingsway curiosity
shop a week before. It was a portable sun-dial of the sixteenth century. A
slide, pushed back a certain distance in accordance with the zodiac signs,
permitted the sun to fall through a slit on the figures of the hours
within--a dainty timekeeper for mediaeval lovers. Mr. Brimsdown was no
gallant, nor had he sufficient imagination to prompt him to wonder what
dead girl's dainty fingers had once held up the bright fragile circle to
the sun to see if Love's tryst was to be kept. His joy in the sun-dial was
the pride of the collector in the possession of a rare thing.

But that night it failed to interest him. He put it down with a sigh, and
resumed his restless pacing of the room.

It was his office, but he preferred it to his chambers at the end of the
passage. He said the air was better, but it is doubtful whether that was
the reason. Perhaps Mr. Brimsdown felt less lonely among his legal
documents, meditating over battles he had won for dead legatees. As a
solicitor he was "strong on the Chancery side" and had gained some famous
judgments for notorious litigants--men who had loved the law so well that
their souls might well have been found--knowing no higher heaven--in the
office where the records of their forgotten lawsuits were buried. And in
death, as in life, they would have been glad to confide their affairs to
the man whose lot it had been to add "Deceased" to so many of the names on
the black steel deed-boxes which lined the shelves.

Mr. Brimsdown lived for the law. As a family lawyer he was the soul of
discretion, an excellent fighter, wary and reticent, deep as the grave,
but far safer. The grave sometimes opens and divulges a ghastly secret
from its narrow depths. There was no chance of getting anything out of Mr.
Brimsdown, dead or alive. He had no wife to extract bedroom confidences
from him, no relations to visit in expansive moments, he trusted nothing
to paper or diary, and he did not play golf. He was a solitary man, of an
habitual secretiveness deepened by years of living alone.

His lips moved now, and he spoke aloud. His voice sounded sharply in the
heavy silence.

"A calamity--nothing less. How did it happen? Was it grief for his wife?"

His face showed unusual agitation--distress even. It was well his clients
could not see him at that moment. To them he was a remote enigmatic figure
of conveyances and legal deeds; one deeply versed in human follies and
foibles, but impervious to human feeling, independent of human
companionship. The reserved glance of his cold grey eye betokened that he
guarded his own secrets as closely as he guarded the secrets entrusted to
him professionally. But there was human nature in him--deep down. It was
not much--a lock of hair in a sealed packet in his pocket-book. The giver
was dead and gone to dust, sleeping in an old churchyard near the Strand,
forgotten by all who had ever known her--except one. Sometimes in the
twilight a tall figure would stand musing beside that forgotten grave for
awhile, then turn away and walk swiftly up the narrow river street, across
the Strand, and through the archway to Grey's Inn.

"Thirty years!" he murmured. Then his mind seemed to hark back to his
previous thought, after the fashion of a man who thinks aloud--"No, no;
not his wife. He did not care enough for her for that. Thirty
years--wasted. My heart bleeds when I think of it. Ought I to go down? Did
he wish for me? I wonder--"

His distress as he paced the room was more apparent than ever. Again, his
clients would have been astonished if they had witnessed it. In their
opinion he was hard as nails and a stranger to the softer feelings of the
heart. They would as soon thought of attributing sentiment to one of the
japanned deed-boxes. But they would have accepted the surprising
revelation with well-bred English tolerance for eccentricity, not allowing
it to affect their judgment that Mr. Brimsdown was one of the soundest and
safest lawyers in England.

His agitation arose from the death of Robert Turold--his client. He had
gathered that piece of news from an evening newspaper in the restaurant
where he had dined. Mr. Brimsdown had reached an age when the most
poignant events of human life seem little more than trifles. It was in the
nature of things for men to die. As a lawyer he had prepared many last
wills and testaments--had helped men into their graves, as it
were--unmoved. But that unexpected announcement of Robert Turold's death
had come to him as an over-whelming shock. He had left his meal
unfinished, and returned to his chambers to seek consolation, not in
prayer, but in his collection of old clocks and watches. In the dusk he
had set out his greatest treasures--the gold sun-dial, a lamp clock, an
early French watch in blue enamel, and a bed repeating clock in a velvet
case. But the solace had failed him for once. Even the magic name of Dan
Quare on the jewelled face of the repeater failed to stir his collector's
heart.

His regard for Robert Turold was deep and sincere. His dead client had
been his ideal of a strong man. Strong and unyielding--like a rock. That
was the impression Robert Turold had conveyed at their first interview
many years before, and his patience and tenacity in pursuit of his purpose
had deepened the feeling since. The object of his search had the lawyer's
sympathy. Mr. Brimsdown had a reverence for titles--inherited titles, not
mere knighthoods, or Orders of the British Empire. For those he felt
nothing but contempt. He drew the sharpest distinction between, such
titled vulgarians and those who were born into the world with the blood
running blue in their veins. He regarded Robert Turold as belonging to
this latter class. It was nothing to him that he was a commoner in the
eyes of the world, with no more claim to distinction than a golf-playing
city merchant. He had believed in his story from the first, and had helped
him in that belief. Turrald of Missenden! It was a great old name. Mr.
Brimsdown rolled it round his tongue as though it were a vintage
port--pronounced it lingeringly, rolling the "rr's" sonorously, and
hissing the "ss's" with a caressing sibilant sound.

Turrald of Missenden! Robert Turold was the lineal descendant of the name,
and worthy of the title. Mr. Brimsdown had always felt that, from the very
first. There was something noble and dominating in his presence. Blood
told; there could be no doubt of that.

What stronger proof of it could be found than the dogged strength with
which the dead man had persisted for thirty years in his effort to claim
as his rightful due a baronial title which had been in abeyance for four
hundred years?

And he would have succeeded--was on the verge of success--but for this
unlucky stroke of Death's.

With a sigh for the frailty of human hopes, Mr. Brimsdown put an end to
his reflections and went downstairs for the post.

By the dim light of the lowered hall gas he saw an envelope lying on the
floor--a thick grey envelope addressed to himself in a thin irregular
hand. The sight of that superscription startled him like a glimpse of the
unseen. For it was the handwriting of the subject of his thoughts--Robert
Turold.

With the stiff movement of an ageing man he picked up the letter and went
upstairs again. In some subtle way the room seemed changed. He had a
sudden inexplicable sensation of nervousness and depression. Shaking it
off with an effort, he opened the envelope in his hand with an odd
reluctance--the feeling that he was prying into something which was no
concern of his. He drew out the single grey sheet and unfolded it. The
letter was dated from Flint House on the previous day. There was but a few
lines, but the lawyer was pulled up at the beginning by the unusual
familiarity of the address. "My dear Brimsdown" was unusual in one so
formal as Robert Turold. But the handwriting was his--undoubtedly. Mr.
Brimsdown had seen it too often to be mistaken. With the growing idea that
the whole thing was confounding to sober sense and reason, he read on--

    "Can you postpone all your other engagements and come to
     Cornwall on receipt of this? If you will telegraph the train you
     travel by I will have a conveyance to meet you at Penzance and
     bring you to Flint House. This is a matter of importance."

A postscript followed in the strangest contrast to the formal note--a
postscript hasty and blotted, which had evidently been added in extreme
agitation of mind--

    "For God's sake lose no time. Come at once."

The tremulous urgent words stared out from the surface of the grey paper
in all the piteous futility of an appeal made too late. Glancing up, Mr.
Brimsdown's eye rested on the shelf where the deed box of Robert Turold
reposed, and he mechanically reflected that it would be necessary to have
the word "Deceased" added to the white-lettered inscription on the black
surface. Mr. Brimsdown sighed. Then, shaking off the quiescence of mind
which his brooding had engendered, he applied his faculties to the
consideration of a situation which at first sight seemed fantastic as a
nightmare.

The letter was not more remarkable than its despatch after the writer's
death, but the summons to Cornwall was not in itself surprising. He
recalled a similar visit to Norfolk some years before, and the recent
correspondence between them made it clear that the claim had reached a
stage which required careful legal handling. Robert Turold had forwarded
copies of the final proofs of the family descent discovered in Cornwall,
and Mr. Brimsdown had prepared the claim for the termination of abeyance
which was to be heard by the House of Lords. Mr. Brimsdown was also aware
of the summoning of the other members of the family to Cornwall to impart
the news to them. A very natural and proper proceeding on Robert Turold's
part, he had deemed it.

He believed he knew every intimate detail of the ambition on which Robert
Turold had immutably set his heart. Had they not been discussed between
them, again and again, in that room--his bitterness that he had no son,
his fear that the regained title might be extinguished again in female
descent, his grievance that the succession could not be altered. It was
his dream to found a new line of Turralds, and be remembered as the head
of it. "If you could only get the descent taken outside the limits of the
original creation, Brimsdown--" The harsh voice, uttering these words,
seemed to reach Mr. Brimsdown in the muffled silence at that moment. He
had told him, again and again, that the thing was impossible. If the
Turrald barony was called out of abeyance it was an act of Royal grace and
favour. They had no rights--he insisted on that--and any attempt to
influence the Crown about the line of succession might endanger the claim.

And now Robert Turold was dead in the midst of his plans--dead when he had
almost gained the peak of his dreams.

It seemed incredible, almost impossible. Death at such a moment assumed an
unexpected reality as an actual and tangible mocker of human ambitions.
And this letter with its postscript--what was the meaning of it? The
lawyer knew nothing of Robert Turold's announcement to his family on the
previous day. If he had, it would have intensified his feeling that the
letter hinted at some terrible secret hidden behind the thick curtain of
his client's strange and sudden death. The hasty postscript suggested a
quickened sense of a growing danger which Robert Turold had seen too late
to avert.

What danger? Mr. Brimsdown could form no idea. He reflected that he really
knew very little of Robert Turold's private life in spite of the long
association between them. He must have had other interests at one time or
other beside the eternal question of the title. Mr. Brimsdown had vaguely
understood that the money he had invested for Robert Turold had been
gained abroad--in the wilds of the earth--in his client's early life, but
his client had never confided to him the manner of the gathering. That was
a page in the dead man's life of which his trusted legal adviser knew
nothing whatever. It was unsafe to assume that the page, if revealed,
would throw any light on his tragic death, but there was a possibility
that it might.

The evening newspaper he had brought home lay on the carpet at his feet
exposing the headline--"A Cornish Mystery"--which had caught his eye at
the restaurant. Mr. Brimsdown picked up the sheet and read the report
again. There was nothing in it to help him. It was only a brief
notification of the facts--of a death which, in the words of the
newspaper's local correspondent, "pointed to suicide."

Suicide! The letter on which the ink was still bluish and fresh, seemed to
convey Robert Turold's denial of the suggestion that he had taken his
life. It was the cry of a man who had looked into the dark place of fear
and seen Death lurking within. Only mortal terror could have called forth
that passionate frantic appeal. And that appeal accomplished its purpose,
although it came too late. Robert Turold was dead, but the call for
elucidation rang loudly from his coffin. The dead man's hand beckoned him,
and he dared not disobey. He determined to go to Cornwall.

Outside in the darkness a clock chimed, and one of his own treasures
repeated the hour with a soft mellifluous note. Eleven! He had an idea
that there was--or used to be--a midnight train to Cornwall. He crossed to
his bureau and consulted a time-table. Yes--to Penzance from Paddington.
He decided to catch it.

His preparations for departure were quickly made. The writing of a note to
his clerk and the packing of a bag were matters soon accomplished. In a
quarter of an hour he had picked up a taxicab at the Holborn stand near
his chambers and was on his way to the station.

There was plenty of light and stir at Paddington, which appeared like a
great and glowing cavern in the cold darkness of the night. There were
engines shunting, cabs arriving, porters and passengers rushing about with
luggage, throngs of people. It happened that the midnight train from
Cornwall was overdue, and fluttered women waiting for friends were
importuning bored officials about the delay. Sleepy children stared with
wondering eyes at pictorial efforts to beguile the tedium of waiting for
trains. There were geographical posters comparing Cornwall favourably to
Italy; posters of girls in bathing costume beckoning to "the Cornish
Riviera;" posters of frolicsome puppies in baskets ticketed "Lucky Dogs,
They're Off to Penzance."

The passengers waiting for the midnight train to that resort did not do
equal justice to this flattering assumption of its delights. They seemed,
on the whole, rather to regard themselves as unlucky dogs (if the term
could be applied to parties of women), and were huddled together on the
station seats in attitudes suggestive of despair. Men flirting with
barmaids in the bars may have considered themselves lucky dogs, but whisky
played an important part in their exhilaration.

The belated train came rushing in with an effusion of steam, like a late
arrival puffing out apologies, bringing a large number of passengers back
to London from Penzance. They scrambled on to the platform with the
dishevelled appearance of people who had been cooped up for hours.
First-class passengers eased their pent-up energy by shouting for luggage
porters and bundling their women into taxicabs. The third-class
passengers, whose minor importance in the scheme of things did not warrant
such displays of self-importance, made meekly and wearily for the exits.

They were dammed back at the barriers by two ticket collectors, whose
adroit manipulation of the gates prevented more than one person trickling
through at a time, and turned the choked stream of humanity within into a
whirlpool of floating faces and struggling forms. As Mr. Brimsdown stood
regarding this distracting spectacle from the outside, he saw one of the
ticket collectors grasp the arm of a girl who was just emerging, at the
same time shutting the gate on a stout woman following, thus effectually
blocking the egress of those behind.

The girl turned quickly at the touch of the detaining hand, and there was
fear in her face.

"What do you want?" she said, framing the words with an obvious effort.

The ticket collector was a man whose natural choleric temperament was
accentuated by the harassing nature of his employment. He tore in two
portions the ticket which the girl had just given him, and thrust half
into her hand.

"Here's your return half. Why don't you look what yer doin' when givin' up
yer ticket? You women are the limit. Now, mother, for God's sake don't be
all night getting through that there barrier. There's others want to get
'ome, if you don't."

Having by this adroit remonstrance spiked the wrath, as it were, of the
stout and angry woman he had jammed in the gate, he permitted the
resumption of the trickle of impatient passengers.

Mr. Brimsdown followed with his eye the pretty girl who had been forgetful
enough to give up a return ticket instead of a half one. She had stopped
outside the barrier, gazing round with a troubled face at the immensity of
the station and the throngs of hurrying people.

The lawyer looked at her hard, from a little distance. "Where have I seen
that face before?" he murmured to himself.

Her beauty was of a sufficiently rare type to attract attention anywhere,
except, perhaps, at a London railway station at midnight. She was unused
to her surroundings and she was not a city product. So much was obvious,
though her clear pale face and slim young figure did not suggest
rusticity. Her dark eyes glanced quickly and nervously around her, and
then she started to walk slowly towards one of the main entrances.

A luggage porter hurried towards her, intent on tips. The broad back of a
policeman was outlined in the entrance. The girl looked wistfully from the
policeman to the porter, then appeared to make up her mind. She extracted
a silver coin from her purse, and proffered it timidly to the porter. The
porter showed no timidity in accepting it.

"Luggage, miss, in the van?" he asked. "Just you wait 'ere."

"I have no luggage," Mr. Brimsdown heard her say. Her eyes wandered
downward to the little handbag she carried. "I wanted to ask you--I am a
stranger to London. Can you tell me a place where I could stay; for the
night--somewhere quiet and respectable?"

Mr. Brimsdown found himself listening anxiously for the porter's reply. By
all the laws of Romance he should have had an old mother in a clean and
humble home who would have been delighted to give the girl shelter for the
sight of her pretty face. But pretty girls are plentiful in London, and
kind-hearted old women are rare. The porter seemed surprised at the
inquiry. He pushed his blue cap back from a shock of red hair, and
pondered the question deeply. Then he made a valiant feint of earning his
shilling by throwing out suggestions of temperance hotels in Russell
Square and the Euston Road. He warmed to the subject and depicted the
attractions of these places. Quiet and cheap, and nothing respectabler in
the 'ole city of London. They was open at all hours. His own sister stayed
in one when she come to town.

"Would you give me the address?" the girl wistfully asked.

The porter shook his head cautiously. He had evidently no intention of
pawning his sister's reputation for a shilling given him by a strange girl
who might have designs on the spoons of temperance hotels.

"How do I get to Euston Road?" asked the girl with a quick realization of
the fact that she had obtained London value for her shilling.

"By the Metropolitan." He pointed to a blazing subterranean archway which
at that late hour was still vomiting forth a mass of people. "Book at the
first winder."

Mr. Brimsdown watched the girl until she disappeared out of sight down the
steps. He then turned away to seek his own train, the insistent feeling
still haunting him that he had seen her pretty wistful face before. He
taxed his memory to recall where, but memory made no response. It seemed a
long time ago--like a glimpse from the face of the dead. Mr. Brimsdown
strove to put the idea from him as a trick of the imagination.

He beckoned to a porter, who took his bag to a first-class carriage in the
Penzance train. Mr. Brimsdown settled himself comfortably in a corner
seat. A few minutes later the train moved out on the long night journey to
Penzance.




CHAPTER XVIII


The clock in Dr. Ravenshaw's study ticked loudly in the perfect stillness
and then struck ten with a note of metallic derision as though rejoicing
in the theft of an hour from a man who prided himself on knowing the value
of time. Startled to find that it was so late, Barrant sprang to his feet
and rang the bell. A sleepy Cornish maid appeared in answer, and Barrant
informed her that he could not wait any longer.

"The doctor may be in at any time now, sir," the girl eagerly assured him,
as though she were in league with the clock to steal more of his time.

"I will call again," said Barrant curtly.

"Any message, sir? Oh, here's the doctor now. A gentleman to see you,
sir."

Dr. Ravenshaw advanced into the room. He looked tired and weary, as if he
had spent a long vigil by a patient. He dismissed the girl with a nod, and
turned inquiringly to his visitor.

"I am Detective Barrant, doctor; I have waited to see you on my way back
from Flint House. I am investigating the case."

"Yes?" said the doctor inquiringly. "Please be seated."

"It is a strange case, you know," began the detective. "And one of the
strange things about it is that the dead man's relatives differ whether it
is murder or suicide. That's what brings me to you. You are a medical man,
and you knew Robert Turold intimately. Would you consider him a man of
suicidal tendencies?"

"Many men have tendencies towards suicide at odd moments," replied the
doctor, "particularly men of Robert Turold's temperament."

"Was there anything in Robert Turold's demeanour which suggested to you
recently that he valued his life lightly, or was likely to take it?"

"I would rather not give a definite opinion on that point. I have to give
evidence at the inquest, you know."

Barrant nodded. He realized the force of the doctor's objection to the
expression of a view which might be proved erroneous later. So he turned
to another phase of the case.

"You saw Robert Turold's body soon after you arrived at Flint House?"

"Within a few minutes."

"How long had he been dead?"

"About ten minutes, I should say."

"What was the cause of death?"

"He was shot through the main blood vessel of the left lung. It was
possible to arrive at that conclusion from the very severe haemorrhage.
The blood was still flowing freely when we broke into the room. That would
cause death from heart failure, following the haemorrhage, within two or
three minutes, in all probability."

"He was quite dead when you entered the study?"

"Quite."

"How long after was the body carried into the bedroom?"

"An hour or more. It was some time before Pengowan arrived, and Thalassa
and he removed the body a little later."

Barrant looked disappointed at his reply. "Would it be possible to make
marks on a corpse after that length of time?" he asked.

"What sort of marks?" asked the doctor.

"There was a mark of five fingers on the left arm, made by a left hand."

"Then you have finger-prints to help you?"

"Unfortunately no. It's a grip--a clutch--which, will not reveal print
marks in the impressions. I thought they might have been caused during the
removal of the body."

"It is not possible to make such marks on a corpse. Reaction sets in at
the moment of death. Sometimes blue spots appear on a dead body, and such
appearances have been occasionally mistaken for bruises."

"Did you observe any marks when you examined the body?" asked Barrant as
he rose to his feet.

"No, but my examination was confined to ascertaining if life was extinct."

Barrant thanked him and said good night. The doctor rose also, and
escorted him to the door.

Outside, a wild west wind sprang at him. Barrant pulled his hat over his
eyes and hurried away.

The following morning he sought out Inspector Dawfield at his office in
Penzance and disclosed to him his conclusions about the case.

"I intend to go to London by this morning's train, Dawfield," he
announced. "We must find Robert Turold's daughter."

"You think she has gone to London?"

"I feel sure of it, and I do not think it will be difficult to trace her.
I shall try first at Paddington. I will get the warrant for her arrest
backed at Bow Street, and put a couple of good men on the search before
returning here. You had better have the inquest adjourned until I come
back. This is no suicide, Dawfield, but a deep and skilfully planned
murder."

"I should think the flight of the girl makes that pretty clear," said
Dawfield, as he made a note on his office pad.

Barrant shook his head. "It's too strange a case for us to have any
feeling of certainty about it yet," he said. "There is some very deep
mystery behind the facts. Every step of my investigation convinces me of
that. The disappearance of Miss Turold does not explain everything."

"She was up at Flint House on that night, and now she is not to be found.
Surely that is enough?"

"This is not a straightforward case. It's going to prove a very
complicated one. But I have come to the conclusion that the quickest way
to get at the truth is to find Sisily Turold. Her flight suggests that she
is implicated in the crime in some way, and it may even mean that she is
guilty."

"Do not the circumstances point to her guilt?"

"Circumstances can lie with the facility of humanity, at times. Moreover,
we do not know all the circumstances yet. But let us examine the facts we
have discovered. We believe that the girl visited her father's house on
the night of his death, and has since disappeared. We must assume that it
was she who was seen listening at the door during the afternoon by Mrs.
Pendleton, because that assumption provides strong motive for the murder
by giving the key of interpretation to Miss Turold's subsequent actions.
We must picture the effect of that overheard conversation on the girl's
mind. She had been kept in ignorance about the secret of her birth, and
she suddenly discovers that instead of being a prospective peeress and
heiress, she is only an illegitimate daughter, a nameless thing, a
reproach in a world governed by moral conventions. Her prospects, her
future, and her life are shattered by her father's act. The effect might
well be overwhelming. She broods over the wrong done to her, and decides
to go to Flint House that night and see her father, though not, I think,
with the premeditated idea of murder. Her idea was to plead and
remonstrate with him."

"Why do you think that?" asked Dawfield.

"She could not have foreseen that her absence from the hotel would pass
unnoticed. That was pure luck, due to Mrs. Pendleton's chance visit to
Flint House. It was just chance that the girl did not encounter her aunt
there. She must have got away from Flint House shortly before Mrs.
Pendleton arrived. But the strongest proof that there was no premeditation
is to be found in the fact that Miss Turold made the journey openly, in a
public conveyance."

"And returned the same way," put in Dawfield.

"I confess that her action in taking that risk after the murder strikes me
as remarkable," observed Barrant thoughtfully. "But she would be anxious
to return as speedily as possible, and perhaps she was aware that the last
wagonette from St. Fair to Penzance is generally empty. But we can only
speculate about that. She must have reached Flint House not later than
half-past eight or perhaps a few minutes earlier, if she walked quickly
across the moors. I ascertained that by taking the same wagonette last
night, and walking across the moors from the cross-roads, as she did. The
murder was not committed until half-past nine, according to the stopped
clock, which is another point suggesting lack of premeditation. Let us
assume that up to the time she arrived at Flint House she had no intention
of murdering her father. She knocked, and was perhaps admitted by
Thalassa, and went up to her father's room. What happened during that
interview? We do not know, but we are told that Robert Turold was a man of
harsh, unyielding disposition, the slave of his single idea, which was the
acquisition of a lost title. Such a man was not likely to be moved by
pleading or threats. We must imagine a long and angry scene, culminating
in the daughter snatching up her father's revolver and shooting him."

"Thalassa told Pengowan that Robert Turold kept the revolver in the drawer
of his writing table," Dawfield remarked.

"I have read Pengowan's report," returned Barrant impatiently, "and I am
assuming that Robert Turold's daughter knew where it was kept. This is a
purely constructive theory of her guilt, and we have to assume many
things. We must further assume that when she left the room she locked the
door behind her and brought away the key in order to suggest suicide. When
she got downstairs she told Thalassa the truth, and begged him to shield
her. He promised to do so, and when the door of the study was broken open
he took an opportunity to drop the key on the floor, in order to suggest
the idea that Robert Turold had locked himself in his room before shooting
himself, and that the key was jolted out of the lock when the door was
burst in. It was an infernally clever thing to do. That's the case against
the girl, Dawfield. What do you think of it?"

"It sounds convincing enough."

"It would sound more convincing to me if it was entirely consistent with
the other facts of the case. Have you those sheets of unfinished writing
which were found in Robert Turold's study?"

Dawfield produced two sheets of foolscap from his desk. Barrant laid them
on the table, and examined them with a magnifying glass.

"It is certain that Robert Turold did not put down his pen voluntarily,"
he said. "He stopped involuntarily, in the midst of a word. That suggests
great surprise or sudden shock. The letter 'e' in the word 'clear'
terminates in a sprawling dash and a jab from the nib which has almost
pierced the paper. Could the unexpected appearance of his daughter have
startled him in that fashion? It rather suggests that somebody sprang on
him unawares, surprising him so much that he almost stuck the pen through
the paper."

"Might not that have been his daughter?"

"Women scratch like cats when they use violence, but they do not spring
like tigers. I have been examining those marks on Robert Turold's arm
again, and I have come to the conclusion that they were made by somebody
in a violent passion."

"I have the photographs here," said Dawfield, rummaging in a drawer. "They
do not help us at all. There are no finger-prints--nothing but blurs."

Barrant glanced at the photographs and pushed them aside.

"I have been thinking a lot about those marks," he said. "They strike me
as a very important clue. I have been examining them very closely, and
discovered the faint impression of finger-nails in the marks left by the
first and second fingers. That suggests that the owner of the hand was in
a state of ferocity and tightened nerves."

"I do not see that."

"Allow me to experiment on your arm. When I grip you firmly, as I do now,
you can feel my fingers pressing their whole length on your flesh, can you
not?"

"I can indeed," said Dawfield, wincing. "You've a pretty powerful grip. I
shall be black and blue."

"The grip on Robert Turold's arm is quite a different thing," pursued
Barrant earnestly. "Do not be afraid, I am not going to demonstrate again.
It was more in the nature of a pounce--a sort of tiger-spring hold, made
by somebody in a state of great mental excitement, with tightened muscles
which caused a tense clutch with the finger-tips, the nails digging into
the skin, the fingers bent and wide apart. My opinion is that it is a
man's grip."

"Thalassa?"

"That I cannot say. He's a cunning and wary devil, and I could get nothing
Out of him last night. He says he was in the coal cellar when his master
met his death. That's where he showed his cleverness in protecting himself
as well as shielding the girl, because if he was actually down in the coal
cellar she might have gained entrance to the house and left it again
without Thalassa knowing anything about it. He says that he admitted
nobody, and heard nobody."

"Perhaps he helped in the murder, and sprang on his master."

"That is possible. But why should Thalassa spring on his master in
maniacal excitement? To secure the revolver to shoot him? I can see no
other reason. What happened afterwards? Robert Turold wasn't shot
immediately. Some seconds, perhaps minutes, elapsed. What took place in
that brief yet vital space of time? Did Thalassa hold his master in a grim
clutch while the girl took the revolver out of the drawer and shot him?
What took Robert Turold to the clock in his dying moments? These are
questions we cannot answer at present. But it is certain that whoever
committed the murder left the room immediately after firing the shot, and
the door was locked on the outside and the key removed. If the daughter
committed the murder it was probably Thalassa who replaced the key in the
room afterwards."

"Have you any doubt on that point?"

"The probabilities point to Thalassa, but it was Austin Turold who
actually picked up the key. It is as well not to lose sight of that fact."

Inspector Dawfield looked up quickly, but his colleague's face revealed
nothing of his thoughts.

"Hadn't you some idea that the marks on the arm might have been caused by
the removal of the body into the next room?" he hazarded.

"Not now," Barrant replied. "That theory was only tenable on the
supposition that life was not completely extinct when the body was
removed. But I interviewed Dr. Ravenshaw on that point last night, and
what he told me disposes of that theory."

"I heard something from one of my men this morning which may have some
bearing on the case," remarked Dawfield. "There has been a lot of local
gossip about it. Robert Turold was generally regarded as very eccentric.
When he crossed the moors from the churchtown to Flint House it was his
custom to go almost at a run, glancing over his shoulder as he went, as if
afraid."

"I have heard nothing of this," commented Barrant. "Is the story to be
believed, do you think?"

"A fisherman of the churchtown told my man in a graphic sort of way. He
says that Robert Turold had a dog which he used to take with him on these
walks, and he says that the master used to cover the ground with such
great strides that the dog had to run after him panting, with lolling
tongue."

"That sounds stretched," said Barrant. "Most fishermen exaggerate.
However, I'll look up this man when I return, and question him. It never
does to throw away a chance." He glanced at his watch and rose to his
feet. "I'll be off now to catch the train. If anything important occurs
during my absence you'd better send me a wire to Scotland Yard."




CHAPTER XIX


It was from Mrs. Pendleton that Mr. Brimsdown gained his first real
knowledge of the drama of strange events surrounding Robert Turold's
death. In response to his call at the hotel she came down from her room
fingering his card nervously, her eyes reddened with weeping, and an air
of tremulous bewilderment about her which sat ill on her massive
personality.

The lawyer greeted her with formal courtesy. He was newly shaved and
bathed, his linen was spotless, and his elderly grey eyes looked out with
alert watchfulness on a world of trickery.

"As your late brother's legal adviser for many years, I felt it incumbent
upon me to come down," he said, fixing a grave glance on the distracted
lady before him. "It seemed to me that I might be of some use, perhaps,
assistance. That is the object of my call."

The fact that she had not seen Mr. Brimsdown before did not lessen the
hysterical gratitude with which Mrs. Pendleton received this piece of
information. The events of the last forty-eight hours had shaken her
badly. Her brother's tragic death, and the terrible suspicion which
enveloped Sisily, had stripped her of her strength, and left her with a
feminine longing to cast her burden on a man's shoulders. She had
discovered to her dismay that a husband who has been snubbed and kept
under for twenty years is apt to prove a thing of straw when a woman likes
to feel that the male sex was devised by Providence to take the wheel from
female hands if the barque of life drifts on the breakers. But Mr.
Pendleton had revealed no latent capacity to play the part of the strong
man at the helm in the crisis. He had shown himself a craven and kept out
of the way, leaving his wife to her own resources. The appearance of Mr.
Brimsdown was as timely to her as the arrival of a heaven-sent pilot in a
storm.

"Thank you," she murmured incoherently. "Such a dreadful end. Poor dear
Robert." She sobbed into her handkerchief.

"A deplorable loss to his family--and England," assented the lawyer. "I am
glad to see you. They ascertained your address for me at the hotel where I
am staying. I have been resting after travelling all night, and I shall go
and see the police in the morning. So far I have only read the reports in
the London evening papers, and there may be intimate particulars which
were not disclosed to the press. If such exist, perhaps you will impart
them to me. You need not hesitate to disclose to me all you know. Your
late brother honoured me with his confidence for nearly thirty years." Mr.
Brimsdown coughed discreetly.

His tone invited confidences which Mrs. Pendleton, in her perplexity of
spirit, was only too anxious to impart to a sympathetic ear. Mr.
Brimsdown, sitting stiffly upright, his eyes fixed on a portrait of
Royalty glimmering inanely down at them through a dirty glass frame on the
opposite wall, listened with unmoved front. Yet the story had its
surprises, even for him. Not the least of them was the fact that Mrs.
Pendleton's description of her niece tallied with the appearance of the
girl whose identity he had tried to recall at Paddington. He was chagrined
to think he had failed to recognize his late client's daughter, but he
recalled that it was ten years since he had seen Sisily, who was then a
dark-eyed little girl. At Norfolk. Oh, yes! he remembered her readily
enough now, playing innocently about some forgotten tombstones in a
deserted graveyard on a wild grey coast, while her father wrested savagely
with the dead for his heritage. Strange that he should have met her again
at the moment of her flight, when he was setting out for Cornwall in
response to her dead father's letter! Life had such ironical mischances.

He said nothing of this chance encounter, or of Robert Turold's letter, to
the dead man's sister who was now pouring out her fears and suspicions to
him. He was a receptacle into which confidences might be emptied, but he
gave nothing in return. Mrs. Pendleton did not need that. Her state of
mind compelled her to speak, and her impulsiveness hurried her along on
the high tide of a flood of words. The story she had to tell oppressed her
listener with the sense of some great unknown horror. It was like trying
to see a dark place by lightning. The flashes of her revelations revealed
a distorted surface, but not the hidden depths. Mrs. Pendleton's agitated
mind, doubling in and out a maze of conjectures like a distracted hare,
turned again and again to the question of Sisily's complicity in her
father's death.

"I can hardly believe it even now," she said with a shudder. "Such a sweet
pretty girl! And yet--there was something strange in her manner. I
remarked it to Joseph--my husband--before this happened." She pressed her
handkerchief to her eyes.

The lawyer, with a sideways glance at the Royal portrait opposite, which
seemed in the act of smiling blandly at his companion's grief, reflected,
soberly enough, that sweet and pretty girls were as human as the rest of
creation, if it came to that.

"Charlie Turold--my nephew, you know--will have it that she is innocent."

"In spite of her disappearance?"

"Yes. He came this morning, before I was up, to see if I knew where Sisily
had gone. After tea he came again in a terrible state, raving against the
detective for taking out a warrant for her arrest. He said it was madness
on his part to imagine that a girl like Sisily would kill her father. I
told him that as Sisily had disappeared he could hardly blame the police
for looking for her. He turned on me when I said that, and used such
violent language that I was quite frightened of him. But I make
allowances, of course."

"Why?" the lawyer asked, looking at her.

"I think Charlie is very fond of Sisily," murmured Mrs. Pendleton with
womanly intuition.

"Do you mean that they love each other?" said the lawyer, regarding her
attentively.

"I cannot say about Sisily. And I never guessed it of Charlie until this
morning. I'm sure poor Robert had no idea of it. He would never have
agreed--after what he told us on the day of the funeral, I mean."

Mr. Brimsdown gave a tacit unspoken assent to that. Some men might have
welcomed such a solution of an ugly family scandal, but not Robert Turold,
with his fierce pride for the honour of the title which he had sought to
gain.

"Is your nephew's belief in Miss Turold's innocence based on anything
stronger than assertion? Does he suspect any one else?"

"He did not say so. He was very excited, and talked on and on, without
listening to me in the least. He seems very impulsive and headstrong. I
noticed that on the day of the funeral. When Robert told us about his
marriage, Charles said to him that his first duty was to his daughter.
Robert looked so angry."

"I can well believe it," murmured the lawyer. "The young man must have
courage."

"Oh yes, he served with distinction in the war," Mrs. Pendleton innocently
rejoined. "In temperament he takes after me, I think, more than after his
father. Austin and I never did think alike. We even disagreed over poor
Robert's terrible death. Austin thought he had ... destroyed himself." Her
voice dropped to a shocked whisper.

"On what grounds did he base that belief?" Mr. Brimsdown cautiously asked.

"He thought the circumstances pointed to it," she rejoined. "But I knew
better--I knew Robert would never do anything so dreadful. Besides, had I
not seen that horrible old man-servant glaring through the door? That is
why I went to the police."

As Mrs. Pendleton showed a tendency to repeat herself, Mr. Brimsdown rose
to terminate the interview. Mrs. Pendleton rose, too, but she had not yet
reached the end of her surprises for him.

"And then there's Robert's will--so strange! Really--"

"The will! What will?" interrupted the lawyer testily. "Did your brother
make his will down here?"

"Yes. A will drawn up by a local lawyer--a man with the extraordinary name
of Bunkom--a most terrible little creature. Bunkom, indeed!" continued
Mrs. Pendleton, shaking her head with a feeble assumption of
sprightliness. "Everything is left to my brother Austin. I do not mind in
the least about myself. After all, Robert and I met almost as strangers
after many years, and I want nothing from him. But his treatment of this
unfortunate girl, his daughter, is really too dreadful. I do not wish to
speak ill of the dead, but I must say that much, whether Sisily had
anything to do with Robert's death or not, for, of course, Robert couldn't
have known about that at the time--when he made his will, I mean,"
concluded Mrs. Pendleton, in some confusion of mind.

"It is strange that your brother did not consult me before drawing up this
will," said Mr. Brimsdown.

"Perhaps he imagined you might persuade him against it," sighed Mrs.
Pendleton. "It is all very strange. I do not understand it a bit."

Mr. Brimsdown thought it strange, then and afterwards. Next day, after
going to the police station and handing Robert Turold's letter to
Inspector Dawfield, he sought out the Penzance lawyer who had drawn up the
will. Mr. Bunkom was a spidery little man who spun his legal webs in a
small dark office at the top of Market Jew Street, a solicitor with a
servile manner but an eye like a fox, which dwelt on his eminent confrère
from London, as he perused the will, with an expression which it was just
as well that Mr. Brimsdown didn't see, so sly and savage was it. The
Penzance spider knew his business. The will was watertight and properly
attested. The bulk of the property was bequeathed to Austin Turold
unconditionally. There were only two other bequests. Robert Turold had
placed Thalassa and Sisily ("my illegitimate daughter") on an equality by
bequeathing to them annuities of £50 a year each. Austin Turold and Mr.
Brimsdown were named as joint executors, and that was all.

Mr. Brimsdown would not have occupied such a distinguished place in the
legal profession if he had not been a firm believer in the sacred English
tradition that a man has the right to dispose of his own property as he
thinks fit. Moreover, his legal mind realized the folly of speculating
over the reasons which had prompted this hurried will when the man who had
made it was beyond the reach of argument, reproof, or cross-examination.

But the lack of all mention of the title was a different matter, calling
for investigation. It was remarkable that a man like Robert Turold should
have gone to the grave without binding his heir to prosecute the claim for
the Turrald title. To that end Robert Turold had devoted his life, and to
the upkeep of the title he had proposed to devote his fortune. The absence
of this precaution puzzled Mr. Brimsdown considerably at first, but as he
pondered over the matter he began to see the reason. Robert Turold was so
close to the summit of his ambition that he had not thought it necessary
to take precautions. He was a strong man, and strong men rarely think of
death. Once the title was his, it descended as a matter of course to his
brother, and then to his brother's son--provided, of course, that the
proofs of his daughter's illegitimacy were in existence.

That conclusion carried another in its wake. If Robert Turold had not
safeguarded his dearest ambition because he hoped to carry it out himself,
it followed as a matter of course that he did not take his own life. Mr.
Brimsdown had never accepted that theory, but it was strange to have it so
conclusively proved, as it were, by the inference of an omission. That
brought the lawyer back to the position that some foreboding or warning of
his murder had caused Robert Turold to summon him to Cornwall by letter.
The next step of his investigations led Mr. Brimsdown to the dead man's
study, where that frantic appeal had been penned.

He engaged a vehicle at the hotel and drove over to Flint House in the
afternoon. The impression of that visit remained. Flint House, rising from
the basalt summit of the headland like a granite vault, its windows coldly
glistening down on the frothy green gloom of the Atlantic far beneath, the
country trap and lean black horse at the flapping gate, the undertaker's
man (dissolute parasite of austere Death) slinking out of the house, and
Thalassa waiting at the open door for him to approach--all these things
were engraved on Mr. Brimsdown's mind, never to be forgotten. Who was it
that had staged such a crime in such a proscenium, in that vast
amphitheatre of black rocks which stretched dizzily down beneath those
gleaming windows?

Then came other impressions: the dead man upstairs, the disordered dusty
study, the stopped clock, the litter of papers. It was in the room where
Robert Turold had been murdered that Mr. Brimsdown questioned Thalassa
about the letter, and heard with a feeling of dismay his declaration that
he had not posted it. Where was the nearest pillar box? Nearly a mile
away, at the cross-roads. Could his late master have gone there to post it
that night? If he had, Thalassa hadn't heard him go out. Could anybody
else have posted it? No; there was nobody else to post it.

It was like questioning a head on an old Roman coin, so expressionless was
Thalassa's face as he delivered himself of these replies. But the lawyer
had the feeling that Thalassa was deriving a certain grim satisfaction
from his questioner's perplexity, and he dismissed him somewhat angrily.
Then, when he had gone, he turned to an examination of some of the papers
and documents which littered the room, but that was a search which told
him nothing.

When the shades of evening warned him to relinquish that task, he told
himself that he really ought to go and see Austin Turold before returning
to Penzance. But he shrank, with unaccountable reluctance, from the
performance of that obvious duty. He felt very old and tired, and his
temples were throbbing with a bad nervous headache. He therefore decided
to postpone his visit to Austin Turold until later.




CHAPTER XX


When the interview with Austin Turold did take place, Mr. Brimsdown learnt
with a feeling which was little less than astonishment that Robert Turold
had died without confiding to his brother the proofs, on which so much
depended, of the statement he had made on the day of his death.

"I cannot understand it," he murmured, putting down his tea-cup as he
spoke.

Austin had received him in the blue sitting-room, hung with the specimens
of Mr. Brierly's ineffectual art, and had given him tea, as he had given
Barrant tea some days before. But there was a subtle difference in the
manner of Mr. Brimsdown's reception; the tone was pitched higher, with
fine shades and inflections attuned for a more gentlemanly ear.

"It disposes of the suicide theory finally and utterly," added the lawyer
thoughtfully.

"The suicide theory disappeared with Robert's daughter," said Austin,
glancing at his son, who had taken no part in the conversation.

"You think her disappearance suggests guilt?" asked Mr. Brimsdown.

"It hardly suggests innocence, does it?"

"I would not like to hazard an opinion," responded Mr. Brimsdown, with a
thoughtful shake of the head. "My experience of women is that they are
capable of the strangest acts without weighing the consequences."

"That was before the war, when women were delightfully irrational
creatures, but now they're no longer so. They've become practical and
coarse, like men. They smoke, drink, and tell improper stories with demure
expression and heads a little on one side like overwise sparrows."

"Was Robert Turold's daughter a girl of this sort?" asked the lawyer in
surprise.

"She was not."

It was Charles Turold who made answer, with an angry glance at his father.
Austin, looking at him, gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head.
Slight as the warning was, it was intercepted by Mr. Brimsdown's watchful
eye, and he wondered what it meant.

"I do not think any useful purpose can be gained by discussing my
brother's death," Austin interposed, turning to him. "It is a very painful
subject, and does no good. The police are endeavouring to unravel the
mystery--let us leave it to them."

"I was merely going to say that your brother would have given you the
proofs of this statement about his marriage if he had meditated
self-destruction," Mr. Brimsdown observed. "The proofs must be in
existence, of course, but I do not think that they are at Flint House. Did
your brother confide the information to you beforehand--before his public
announcement, I mean?"

"Shortly before his death he hinted to me of some very important
disclosure which he intended to make at the proper time--some family
matter--but he did not say what it was, nor did I ask him."

His son looked at him quickly, and the lawyer doubtfully, as he made this
statement, but his own glance sustained both looks serenely and equably.

"My brother did inform me, a week ago, that I would succeed to his
fortune," he added.

"That proves that your brother was aware of the illegality of his marriage
at that time," said Mr. Brimsdown, with an air of conviction.

"Why so?"

"Because you could not succeed to the Turrald title if your brother's
daughter was legitimate."

"That would not prevent my brother disposing of his property as he thought
fit," remarked Austin coldly.

"I am aware of that," replied Mr. Brimsdown guardedly. He refrained from
stating what was obvious to him, that Robert Turold had intended his
fortune for the upkeep of the title when gained, and for no other purpose.
"After all, it does not matter very much how long your brother was aware
of the fact. The great point is--where are the proofs? I cannot understand
why your brother did not send them on to me. I intend to make another and
longer search among his papers at Flint House. They must be found. The
House of Lords will require the most convincing proof on this head before
terminating the abeyance in your favour."

"If I proceed with the claim, you mean," said Austin.

The lawyer turned on him a startled glance which had something of
consternation in it. His own interest in the title, was, by force of long
association with Robert Turold, so deep and intimate that it had never
occurred to him to suppose that the younger brother might not share in the
obsession of the elder.

"Titles are at a discount nowadays--like virtuous women," proceeded
Austin. "The most extraordinary people have them. Are you aware that there
were nearly four thousand names in the last Royal bestowal of Orders of
the British Empire? There's kingly munificence for you! It's the same with
the Masonic order. The gentleman you address as 'Right Worshipful Sir'
overnight delivers poultry and rabbits at your back door next morning.
Democracy has come into its own, Brimsdown. Sooner or later we shall have
a king wearing a cloth cap."

"Your remarks do not apply to the old nobility," returned Mr. Brimsdown
austerely. "They will never become common. It would be a pity not to
prosecute your brother's claim to the Turrald title. He gave thirty years
of his life to establishing the line of descent."

"My brother had the temperament of a visionary," replied Austin. "I am
more practical. But I shall respect his wishes, if possible, though from
what you say it would seem to be quite useless to go on with the claim if
the missing proofs about his wife's previous marriage are not recovered."

"That is quite true," Mr. Brimsdown admitted. "But I feel sure that they
are in existence, somewhere. Your brother Robert was not the man to make a
statement of that kind without the proofs. He knew the value of
documentary evidence too well for that."

"But so far the proof of his daughter's illegitimacy rests on his
unsupported statement, which would be quite valueless in a court of law?"

"That is so."

"If these proofs are found, do you think that my chance of regaining the
title is as good as Robert's?" Austin asked. "Are the circumstances of his
death likely to tell against my succeeding? I ask you because I know
nothing about peerage law."

"The House of Lords has inherent rights of its own in regard to the
granting of any claim," replied the lawyer carefully, "rights as the
guardian of its own privileges. I do not think, however, that your claim
would be rejected. The line of descent is clear, if the proofs of your
brother's statement are found. The Turrald barony is a parliamentary
peerage which descends to a sole daughter. You can only succeed your
brother in the line of descent if she is illegitimate."

"In any case the present claim could not be gone on with, could it?"

"No. That must be withdrawn. I will write to the Home Secretary
acquainting him with your brother's death. Later on, if we find the
proofs, another claim can be prepared on your behalf."

"If I decide to go on with it."

"I trust that you will," said the lawyer. "It was your brother's dream to
restore the title with a male line of descent."

"His dream will be fruitless so far as I am concerned," said Charles
Turold, who had been listening intently to this conversation. "I shall
have nothing to do with this title." He got up, and strode abruptly from
the room without another word.

Mr. Brimsdown was a little surprised at the lack of manners evinced by
this precipitate departure, but arose without speaking to take his own
leave. Austin did not offer to escort him downstairs. He rang the bell,
which was answered by the gaunt maid who had been engaged to sit as
Britannia or the Madonna, and to her he consigned his departing visitor
after a soft pressure of his white hand.

The maid preceded the lawyer down the staircase with a martial step which
outstripped his, and waited at the foot for him to complete the descent.
As Mr. Brimsdown reached the last stair, a door immediately opposite
opened, and a lady came out. Mr. Brimsdown glanced at her casually in
passing, and encountered her glance in return. In that brief look he
observed the dawn of swift surprise in her eyes. Her careworn face
flushed, and she made an eager step forward, as though about to speak.
Somewhat surprised at this action on her part, Mr. Brimsdown hesitated,
then, reflecting that he had probably misinterpreted a chance movement on
the part of a perfect stranger, went towards the door, which the maid was
holding open for him. As he passed through he glanced back, and to his
astonishment saw the woman in the passage still standing in the same spot,
staring fixedly after him, apparently in a state of consternation or
amazement, he could not say which.

He went out of the door with a vision of her questioning gaze following
him as far as she could see him. He did not think any more of it just
then. A lowering sky suggested rain, and he set off at a round pace for
the inn where he had left the vehicle which had brought him to the
churchtown.

But quickly as he walked, a footstep behind him was quicker still, and he
turned involuntarily to see who was following. Another surprise was in
store for him. The tall figure hurrying after him, with the evident
intention of overtaking him, was Charles Turold. The lawyer stood still
and waited for him.

"I have come after you to tell you something," Charles said abruptly,
"something that you ought to know. You were questioning my father about
the facts of this case--about my uncle's death. You did not learn anything
from him, but I can tell you my cousin Sisily is innocent."

He brought out these words with a breathlessness which may have been the
result of his haste. The calmness of the lawyer's reply was in marked
contrast.

"Is this merely an assertion, Mr. Turold?"

"It is more than an assertion. I can prove it to you."

Mr. Brimsdown was startled. "What do you mean by that?" he asked.

"If you will come to Flint House I will show you."

Mr. Brimsdown stroked the cautious chin of an old man plunged into a
situation which he could not fathom. "Would it not be better to consult
the police first?" he temporized.

"The police are now searching the country for Sisily, and there is no time
to be lost."

There was something so profoundly unhappy in his appearance that pity
stirred in the lawyer's heart. "Very well," he said, with another look at
the lowering sky, "let us go."

That afternoon remained with the lawyer as another unforgettable memory.
It was all of a piece, sombre, yet of a sharp-edged vividness: the
desolation of the moors, the sting of the rain, the clamour of the sea,
the seabirds soaring slowly with harsh cries. Then they stood, the pair of
them, in Robert Turold's bedroom, looking down on the dead man, swathed in
his graveclothes, with a wreath of flowers from Mrs. Pendleton on his
breast. Removing this symbol of human pretense against the reality of
things, Charles Turold bared the arm of the corpse, and pointing to it
exclaimed--

"Could those marks have been made by Sisily?"

In his examination of the marks thus revealed to him, Mr. Brimsdown had
the strange feeling that their existence was, in some way, the
justification of the dead man's summons to him.

"Do you know how these marks were made?" he said, turning to Charles.

"I do not. But I do know that they prove that Sisily is innocent."

Charles Turold spoke defiantly, but there was a slight note of
interrogation in his voice which the lawyer chose to ignore.

"They were made by a man's hand," the young man persisted, looking
earnestly at him.

"Do the police know of them?"

"That I cannot tell you."

Another question was in Mr. Brimsdown's mind, but the young man's haggard
face, the mingled misery and expectation of his glance, checked the
utterance of it. He had the idea that Charles's manner suggested something
more--some revelation yet to come. But the young man did not speak.

"Is this all you wanted to show me?" Mr. Brimsdown hinted.

"Is it not enough?"

"I do not see that it throws any light on Miss Turold's disappearance. Can
you explain that?"

"How can I explain what I do not know?" Charles was silent for a moment,
then added bitterly. "It may be because of her father's inhuman conduct."

"Robert Turold is dead--do not use that tone in speaking of him," the
lawyer counselled.

Charles turned on him a peculiar look. "Do you think the world is the
loser by his death?" he said.

Mr. Brimsdown was moved out of himself to declare that the death of Robert
Turold was a distinct loss to the world. "He was a wonderful man--a
notable personality," he said emphatically.

Charles gave him a moody glance, and there fell upon them a silence so
complete that the dead man in the bed seemed to share in it. The lawyer
had an acute perception of the fact that he had handled the situation
badly. He intuitively realized that he had put himself into the opposite
camp to Charles's sympathies by the uncompromising partisanship of his
last remarks. He was convinced that until that moment, Charles had been
meditating the question of some further disclosure. Mr. Brimsdown
regretted afterwards that he made no effort to gain his confidence. He
felt that if he had done so events might have taken a different course.
But it is difficult to bring youth and age together. Youth sometimes
yields to impulse, but not age. The lurking devil of self-consciousness
whispers caution as the safer quality. Mr. Brimsdown hearkened to the
whisper, and stood there in silence, while the minutes slipped by which
might have bridged the gap.

There was a quick step in the passage outside, and the door opened to
admit Detective Barrant. He looked inquiringly from one to the other, and
addressed himself to the lawyer.

"Are you Mr. Brimsdown?" he asked.

"That is my name," the lawyer replied.

"I am Detective Barrant of Scotland Yard. I wish to speak to you
privately."

His emphasis on the last word was not lost on Charles Turold. With a
slight indifferent nod to Mr. Brimsdown he went out of the room, closing
the door quietly behind him.

"I have come to see you about this letter which you left with Inspector
Dawfield." Barrant produced the letter and took the single sheet from the
grey envelope.

"That is the reason of my presence in Cornwall," said Mr. Brimsdown.

"So I imagined. What can you tell me about it?"

"Very little, except that I received it by the last post at my chambers in
Lincoln's Inn Fields the night after Robert Turold's death."

"But why did he send for you?"

"That I cannot even guess."

"You surely must have some idea."

"If I had I should be only too happy to assist the course of justice by
imparting it to you."

There was a dryness in the tone of this reply which warned Barrant that he
had made a blunder in allowing his irritation to get the better of him.
But his private opinion was that the letter was the outcome of some secret
of the dead man's which he had imparted to his lawyer. He changed his mood
with supple swiftness, in order to extract the information.

"This letter suggests certain things," he said, "some secret, perhaps, in
Robert Turold's life, of which you may have some inkling. If you will give
me some hint as to what it was, it might be very helpful."

"Unfortunately, I am as much in the dark as yourself," returned Mr.
Brimsdown, rubbing his brow thoughtfully. "I cannot make the faintest guess
at the reason which called forth this letter. I know next to nothing of my
late client's private life. He was a man of the utmost reticence in
personal matters. My relations with him were not of that nature."

This reply was delivered with a sincerity which it was impossible to
doubt. In palpable disappointment Barrant turned to a renewed scrutiny of
the letter, which he held open in his hand.

"It is very strange," he muttered.

"Not the least strange part of it is that I cannot ascertain who posted
it," said Mr. Brimsdown, glancing earnestly at the letter. "I asked
Thalassa, but he says he knows nothing about it."

"Thalassa is probably lying to you as he has lied to me. One lie more or
less would not weigh on his conscience."

"Why should he tell a lie over such a small thing as the posting of a
letter?"

Barrant did not reply. He was apparently absorbed in examining the
postmarks on the envelope. "Indistinguishable, of course," he muttered,
returning the letter to the envelope. "Had Robert Turold any enemies?" he
asked.

"I never heard him speak of any."

"How did he come by his money?" asked Barrant, struck by a sudden thought.
"His sister tells me that he made his money abroad."

"That I cannot tell you."

"But you invested his fortune for him, did you not?"

"I did," the lawyer agreed.

"In what circumstances?"

"It is rather a strange story," replied Mr. Brimsdown slowly.

"I should like to hear it then. It may throw some light on this letter."

"Let us go into the other room."

Mr. Brimsdown made this suggestion with a quick glance at his departed
client on the bed, as though he feared some sardonic reproof from those
grey immobile lips.




CHAPTER XXI


Barrant had returned with a feeling of irritation against the mischances
of events which had brought an important piece of evidence to light after
his departure for London. He had chosen to commence inquiries into
Sisily's disappearance as soon as he had reached London instead of going
to Scotland Yard, where a guarded telegram from Inspector Dawfield awaited
him, and although he had hastened to obey the summons back to Cornwall as
soon as he received it, two valuable days had been lost. It was true that
in that time he had found traces of the girl which he believed would lead
to her early arrest, but the letter, with its implication that the dead
man was aware of his impending doom, was a highly significant clue, and
strengthened Barrant's original belief that the real mystery of Robert
Turold's death lay much deeper than the plausible surface of events
indicated.

He sat now, with a kind of sombre thoughtfulness, listening to Mr.
Brimsdown's account of his first meeting with his dead client. That story
carried with it a suggestion of adventure and mystery, but it was
difficult to say whether those elements had anything to do with Robert
Turold's death, thirty years later. It brought up the image of a man,
rugged and dominant even in youth, winning his way into the heart of a
middle-aged lawyer by the story of his determination to possess an old
English title. Most men have the spirit of Romance hidden in them
somewhere, and chance or good luck had sent Robert Turold, on his return
to England, to the one solicitor in London to whom his story was likely to
make the strongest kind of appeal. The spirit of Romance in Mr.
Brimsdown's bosom was no shimmering thing of thistledown and fancy, but
took the concrete shape of the peerage law of England, out of which he had
fashioned an image of worship to the old nobility and the days of
chivalry.

Barrant gathered so much from the lawyer's description of that first
meeting. And if Robert Turold had found in the solicitor the man he most
needed in his search for the missing title, it was equally clear that his
own great quality of rugged strength had exercised the most extraordinary
sway on the lawyer--a species of personal magnetism which had never lost
its original effect. It was not until the second or third meeting--Mr.
Brimsdown was not quite sure which--that the question of money was
introduced. The lawyer had pointed out to his client that the search for
the title was likely to be prolonged and expensive, and Robert Turold had
indifferently assured him that he had money at his command for that
purpose lying on deposit at a London bank. The amount, when he did mention
it, was much greater than Mr. Brimsdown imagined--nearly £50,000 in fact.
It was at Robert Turold's suggestion that Mr. Brimsdown undertook to
invest the sum at better rates of interest, and thus, before a year had
passed, the whole of Robert Turold's business affairs were in the hands of
the solicitor.

On one point Mr. Brimsdown was clear. He had never heard from Robert
Turold how he first came into possession of this large sum of money, and
his client had never encouraged inquiry on the subject. Mr. Brimsdown had
once ventured to ask him how he had made his fortune, and Robert Turold,
with a freezing look, had replied that he had made it abroad. Mr.
Brimsdown had never again referred to the subject, deeming it no business
of his.

Barrant, listening to this with the air of a man who was not to be
deceived, could not see that the narration threw any illumination on the
letter or the other circumstances of Robert Turold's death. It seemed too
far-fetched to suppose there was any connection between the fortune which
Robert Turold had brought from abroad thirty years before and the letter
he had sent to his solicitor on the night of his death. The idea did
indeed cross his mind that some iniquity in that money-getting may have
been responsible for a belated revenge, but he dismissed that thought as
too wide for the scope of his inquiry. Abroad! That was a vague word, and
thirty years was a long while back.

As he contemplated the manifold perplexities of the case, Barrant tried to
shut out the more sinister inference of the letter by asking himself, if
after all, the postscript was not capable of some entirely innocent
interpretation. But his conscientious mind refused to permit him to evade
responsibility in that way. The letter could not be dismissed with a wave
of one's wishing wand. It remained stubbornly in Barrant's perspective, an
unexplained factor which could be neither overlooked nor ignored.

These thoughts ran through his mind as Mr. Brimsdown talked of his dead
client. At the same time, the detective's attitude towards the lawyer
underwent a considerable change. His professional caution, amounting
almost to suspicion, became modified by the more perceptive point of view
that as the dead man had turned to Mr. Brimsdown for assistance, it would
be better for him to trust the lawyer also--to look upon him as an ally,
and make common cause with him in the search for Robert Turold's murderer.

This changed attitude, carrying with it a seeming friendliness, the
establishment, as it were, of an understanding between them, was not lost
upon Mr. Brimsdown. But it had its awkward side for him, by giving added
weight to the responsibility of deciding whether he should reveal or
withhold his chance encounter with Sisily at Paddington. Till then, Mr.
Brimsdown had been unable to make up his mind about that. There were some
nice points involved in the decision. In an effort to reach a solution he
broached the subject.

"Is it still your opinion that Miss Turold is guilty--after this letter?"
he asked.

"Her disappearance lays upon her the obligation of explaining her secret
visit to her father on the night of the murder," was the guarded reply.

"Then you intend to arrest her?"

"Yes."

"Do you know where she is?"

A quick consideration of this question led Barrant to the conclusion that
it would do no harm to let the lawyer know the scanty truth.

"She is in London. I have traced her to Paddington."

Mr. Brimsdown decided that, as the detective knew that much, it absolved
him from any obligation to betray the daughter of his dead client. His
feeling of relief unsealed his lips, and led him into an indiscretion.

"It seems incredible that she can be guilty." As he spoke the memory of
Sisily's tender and wistful face, as he had seen it that night, came back
to him.

"She had some justification, you know, if she was listening at the door
that afternoon," replied Barrant thoughtfully.

"It is hardly possible that she could have inflicted those marks on the
arm," Mr. Brimsdown said.

"How did you learn of them?" asked the detective quickly, in a changed
tone.

Too late Mr. Brimsdown realized that in contrast to his silence with
Charles Turold, he had now gone to the other extreme and said too much. He
hesitated, but his hesitation was useless before the swiftness of
Barrant's deduction.

"Was Charles Turold showing you the marks when I found you in the other
room?" he asked with a keen glance.

Mr. Brimsdown's admission of that fact was coupled with an assurance that
the young man had shown him the marks because he was convinced of Sisily's
innocence.

Barrant dismissed young Turold's opinions about the case with an impatient
shake of the head. "Who told him about the marks?" he said.

It was the thought which had occurred to Mr. Brimsdown at the time, but he
did not say so then. "How did you discover them?" he asked.

"When I was examining the body. But Charles Turold had no reason to
examine the body. Perhaps Dr. Ravenshaw told him. I must ask him."

"It is a terrible and ghastly crime," said Mr. Brimsdown, in an effort to
turn the mind of his companion in another direction. "There is something
about it that I do not understand--some deep mystery which has not yet
been fathomed. Was it really his daughter? If so, how did she escape from
the room and leave the door locked inside? Escape from these windows is
plainly impossible."

He crossed to the window, and stood for a moment looking down at a grey
sea tossing in futile restlessness. After an interval he said--

"Do you suspect Thalassa as well?"

The detective looked at him with a cautious air: "Why do you ask that?" he
said, with some restraint in his tone.

"It might account ... for certain things."

Barrant shook his head in a way which was more noncommittal than negative.
He wanted to ascertain what the lawyer thought, but he was not prepared to
reveal all his own thoughts in return.

"Do you think that Robert Turold invented this story about his marriage?"
he asked suddenly.

"For what purpose?"

"He did not want his daughter to succeed him in the title. His
announcement about the previous marriage strikes me as just a little too
opportune. Where are the proofs?"

"You would not talk like that if you had known Robert Turold," said the
lawyer, turning away from the window. "He was too anxious to gain the
title to jeopardize the succession by concocting a story of a false
marriage. He had proofs--I have not the slightest doubt of that. I believe
he had them in the house when he made his statement to the family."

"Then where are they now?"

"They may have been stolen."

"For what reason?"

"By some one interested."

"The person most interested is Robert Turold's daughter," said Barrant
thoughtfully. "That supposition fits in with the theory of her guilt.
Robert Turold is supposed to have kept valuable papers in that old clock
on the wall, which was found on the floor that night. Apparently he
staggered to it during his dying moments and pulled it down on top of him.
For what purpose? His daughter may have guessed that the proofs of her
illegitimacy were kept there, and tried to get them. Her father sought to
stop her, and she shot him."

"That theory does not account for the marks on the arm," said the lawyer.

"It does, because it is based on the belief that there was somebody else
in the room at the time, or immediately afterwards."

"Thalassa?"

"Yes--Thalassa. He knows more about the events of this night than he will
admit, but I shall have him yet."

"But the theory does not explain the letter," persisted the lawyer with an
earnest look. "Robert Turold could not possibly have had any premonition
that his daughter intended to murder him, and even if he had, it would not
have led him to write that letter with its strange postscript, which
suggests that he had a sudden realization of some deep and terrible danger
in the very act of writing it. And if Thalassa was implicated, was he
likely to go to such trouble to establish a theory of suicide, and then
post a letter to me which destroyed that theory?"

"We do not know that Thalassa posted the letter--it may have been Robert
Turold himself. As for premonitions--" Barrant checked himself as if
struck by a sudden thought, stood up, and walked across the room to where
the broken hood clock had been replaced on its bracket. He stood there
regarding it, and the round eyes in the moon's face seemed to return his
glance with a heavy stare.

"If that fat face in the clock could only speak as well as goggle its
eyes!" he said, with a mirthless smile. "We should learn something then.
What's the idea of it all--the rolling eyes, the moon, the stars, and a
verse as lugubrious as a Presbyterian sermon on infant damnation. The
whole thing is uncanny."

"It's a common enough device in old clocks," said the lawyer, joining him.
"It is commoner, however, in long-cased clocks--the so-called grandfather
clock. I have seen all sorts of moving figures and mechanisms in
long-cased clocks in old English country houses. A heaving ship was a very
familiar device, the movement being caused, as in this clock, by a wire
from the pendulum. I have never seen a specimen with the rotating
moon-dial before, though they were common enough in some parts of England
at one time. This is a Dutch clock, and the earlier Dutch makers were
always fond of representing their moons as human faces. It was made by a
great master of his craft, as famous in his native land as old Dan Quare
is in England, and its mechanism has outlived its creator by more than
three hundred years."

"Would it be an accurate timekeeper, do you think?" asked Barrant, looking
mistrustfully at the motionless face of the moon, as though he suspected
it of covertly sneering at him.

"I should think so. These old clockmakers made their clocks to keep
perfect time, and outlast Time himself! And this clock is a perfect
specimen of the hood clock, which marked a period in clock-making between
the old weight clocks and the long cases. Hood clocks were popular in
their day in Holland, but they have always been rare in this country. It
would be interesting to trace how this one came into this house. No doubt
it was taken from a wreck, like so much of the furniture in old Cornish
houses."

"You seem to know a lot about old clocks."

Mr. Brimsdown, astride his favourite hobby, rode it irresistibly. He
discoursed of clocks and their makers, and Barrant listened in silence.
The subject was not without its fascination for him, because it suggested
a strange train of thought about the hood clock which was the text, as it
were, of the lawyer's discourse. He looked up. Mr. Brimsdown, in front of
the clock, was discoursing about dials and pendulums. Barrant broke in
abruptly with the question on his mind--

"Can you, with your knowledge of old clocks, suggest any reason which
would cause Robert Turold to go to it? Are the works intricate? Would such
a clock require much adjustment?"

"Robert Turold was not likely to think of adjusting a clock in his dying
moments," returned Mr. Brimsdown, with a glance which betokened that he
perfectly understood his companion had some other reason for his question.

"There's a smear of blood on the dial," said Barrant, staring at it.

"Was that made by the right or left hand?"

"The right hand was resting on the clock-face. Why do you ask?"

Mr. Brimsdown hesitated, then said: "The thought has occurred to me that
Robert Turold may have gone to the clock for a different purpose--not for
papers. Perhaps his last thought was to indicate the name of the murderer
on the white face of the clock."

"In his blood? Rather a melodramatic idea, that! He had writing materials
before him if he wanted to do that, if he thought of it. He was shot down
in the act of writing, remember."

A silence fell between them on this declaration--a silence terminated by
Barrant remarking that it was really late, and he must be getting back to
Penzance. Mr. Brimsdown made no suggestion to accompany him. Instead he
rustled papers in Robert Turold's cabinet as though to convey the
impression that the sorting and searching of them would take him some
time. Barrant, from whose eyes speculation and suspicion looked out from a
depth, like the remote glance of a spider which had scurried to a hole,
gave a slight sign of farewell, and wheeled out of the apartment without
another word.

Downstairs he went, plunged in the deepest thought. Looking downward, he
saw Thalassa escorting Dr. Ravenshaw to the front door. The doctor's voice
reached him.

"... She must not be left alone on any account--understand that. You ought
to get somebody to look after her."

"I can't afford nobody," Thalassa made reply.

Dr. Ravenshaw was about to say something more, but the figure of the
descending detective caught his eye. Barrant made a detaining gesture, and
the doctor waited in the passage for him. Barrant, with a slight glance at
the motionless figure of Thalassa, led the way into the front room. He
closed the door before he spoke.

"Doctor," he said, "have you told anybody about those marks on Robert
Turold's arm?"

"I have not," said the doctor promptly, looking up. "Why do you ask?"

His glance carried conviction, and interrogation also. But it was
Barrant's province to ask questions, not to answer them. He ignored Dr.
Ravenshaw's.

"There's another matter, doctor," he continued. "One of the coast
fishermen has a story that when Robert Turold was out on the moors he used
to hasten home with great strides, like a man who feared pursuit. Did you
ever observe this peculiarity in him?"

"I have observed that he used to walk at a quick pace."

"This was more than a quick pace--it was almost a run, according to the
fisherman--looking backward over his shoulder as he went."

"I did not notice that, but I should not be surprised if it were true,
with a man of Robert Turold's temperament."

"He feared pursuit--some unknown danger, then?"

"I cannot say. He may have suffered from agoraphobia."

"What is that?" asked Barrant.

"The dread of open spaces."

"I have heard of claustrophobia--the dread of closed spaces--but not of
this."

"It is common enough--an absurd but insurmountable aversion to open
spaces. The victims are oppressed by a terrible anxiety when crossing a
field. I have known a man who would be terrified at the idea of crossing
Trafalgar Square."

"What is the cause of agoraphobia?" asked Barrant.

"It is a nervous disorder--one of the symptoms of advanced neurasthenia."

"Did Robert Turold suffer from neurasthenia?"

"His nervous system was in a state of irritable weakness through the
monomania of a fixed idea," was the reply--"too much seclusion and
concentration on one object, to the exclusion of all other human
interests."

"How's your patient?" said Barrant, giving the conversation an abrupt
turn.

"What patient do you mean--Mrs. Thalassa?" asked Dr. Ravenshaw in some
surprise.

"Yes. I gathered from what I overheard you say to Thalassa that you have
been attending her."

"I have been attending her since Mr. Turold's death."

"She is in a strange condition," observed Barrant reflectively. "I was
questioning her the other night, but I could get nothing out of her. She
seems almost imbecile."

"She is not a woman of strong mind, and she is now suffering from a severe
shock. She should be looked after or taken away from here altogether, but
her husband seems quite indifferent."

"Do you think she will recover?"

"It is impossible to say."

"How do you think the shock was caused?"

"I should not like to hazard an opinion on that point, either," replied
Dr. Ravenshaw gravely. He glanced at his watch as he spoke. "I must be
going," he said.

They left the house together, but branched off at the gate--Dr. Ravenshaw
to visit a fisherman's dying wife, and Barrant to seek the _Three Jolly
Wreckers_ for supper before returning to Penzance.

From the kitchen window Thalassa watched them go: the doctor walking
across the cliffs with resolute stride, the detective making for the path
over the moors with bent head and slower step, as though his feet were
clogged by the weight of his thoughts. Thalassa watched their dwindling
forms until they disappeared, and then stood still, in a listening
attitude. The sound of the lawyer stirring in the study overhead seemed to
rouse him from his immobility. He closed the door, and stood looking up
the staircase with the shadow of indecision on his face.




CHAPTER XXII


Upstairs Mr. Brimsdown made unavailing search among Robert Turold's papers
for proofs of his statement about his marriage. The lawyer believed that
they existed, and his failure to find them brought with it a belated
realization of the fact that he, too, had been cherishing hopes of
Sisily's innocence. It was the memory of her face which had inspired that
secret hope. That was not sentiment (so Mr. Brimsdown thought), but the
worldly wisdom of a man whose profession had trained him to read the human
face. Sisily's face, as he recalled it now, had looked sad and a little
fearful that night at Paddington, but there was nothing furtive or tainted
in her clear glance. He felt that a judge would look with marked attention
at such a face in the dock. Judges, like lawyers, and all whose business
it is to trip their kind into the gins of the law, scan faces as closely
as evidence in the effort to read the stories written there.

But the disappearance of certain papers which had probably been abstracted
from that room weighed more in the scale of suspicion against Sisily than
her look of innocence. She stood to gain most by the suppression or
destruction of the proofs of her mother's earlier marriage. But Mr.
Brimsdown could not see that this rather negative inference against the
girl brought the actual solution of the mystery any nearer. It did nothing
to explain, for instance, the marks on the dead man's arm and his
posthumous letter. The letter! What was the explanation of the letter? Was
it not an argument of equal weight for Sisily's innocence, suggesting the
existence of some hidden avenging figure glimpsed by Robert Turold in time
to give him warning of his death, but not in time to enable him to avert
it?

There were other things too. What was the meaning of that sly and stealthy
shake of the head which Austin Turold had given his son that afternoon. A
warning obviously--but a warning for what purpose? Mr. Brimsdown could not
guess, but his contemplation of the incident brought before him the image
of the restless and unhappy young man, as he stood by the bedside in the
next room, pointing to the marks on the dead man's arm. Even in his
vehement assertions of Sisily's innocence Mr. Brimsdown had conceived the
impression that he was keeping something back. What did Charles Turold
know? Did his father share his secret knowledge? Mr. Brimsdown could not
answer these questions, and he was greatly perturbed at the way in which
they brought a host of other thoughts and doubts in their train. He
reflected that the Turolds, father and son, were after all the greatest
gainers by their relative's death. The father came into immediate
possession of a large and unexpected fortune which he would bequeath to
his son. And Austin Turold was not anxious apparently to proceed with his
brother's claim for the title.

These were facts which could not be gainsaid, but where did they lead? The
trouble was that no conceivable theory covered the facts of the case, so
far as they were known. So far as they were known! That was the
difficulty. Any line of thought stopped short of the real solution,
because the facts themselves were inconclusive. There was much that was
still concealed--Mr. Brimsdown felt sure of that.

As he applied his mind to the problem, the definite impression came back
to him, and this time with renewed force, that the mystery surrounding
Robert Turold's death was something which might not bear the light of day.
He set his lips firmly as he considered that possibility. If that proved
to be the case it would be his duty to cover it up again. He was an adept
at such work, as many of his clients, alive and dead, could have
approvingly testified. He had spent much time in safeguarding family
secrets. Several old families had found him their rock of refuge in
distress. If he had been a man of the people, baby lips might have been
taught to call down Heaven's blessings on his discreet efforts. Those
members of the secluded domain of high respectability for whom he strived
showed their gratitude in a less emotional but more substantial
way--generally in the mellow atmosphere of after-dinner conferences ...
"You had better see my man, Brimsdown. I'll give you a note to him. He'll
square this business for you. Safe? None safer."

Mr. Brimsdown did not accept the axiom of a great English jurist that
every man is justified in evading the law if he can, because it is the
duty of lawmakers not to leave any loophole for evasion. That point of
view of justice as a battle of wits, with victory to the sharpest, was a
little too cynical for his acceptance. But he believed it to be his duty
to safeguard the interests of his client. Robert Turold was dead, and no
longer able to protect his own name. It might be that the facts of his
death involved some scandalous secret of the dead man's which was better
undivulged, and if so it would remain undivulged, could Mr. Brimsdown
contrive it. For the time being he would pursue his investigations and
keep his own counsel.

The sound of an opening door and a shadow athwart the threshold disturbed
his meditations. He looked up, and was confronted by the spectacle of
Thalassa advancing into the room with his eyes fixed upon him.

"Well, Thalassa," he said, "what do you want?"

"To ask you something," was the response. "It's this. It's every man for
himself--now that he's gone."

He jerked his thumb in the direction of the next room. "He took this house
for twelve months, and so it'll have to be paid for. Can I stop here for a
bit? I suppose it's in your hands to say yes or no."

His face was hard and expressionless as ever, but there was a new note in
his voice which struck the lawyer's keen ear--an accent of supplication.
He looked at Thalassa thoughtfully.

"You wish to stay on here until you have made other arrangements for your
future--is that so?" he asked.

"That's it," was the brief reply.

Mr. Brimsdown felt there was more than that--some deeper, secret reason.
Before granting the request it occurred to him to try and get what he
could in exchange. Self-interest is the strongest of human motives, and
men wanting favours are in a mood to yield something in return.

"Well, Thalassa," he said, amiably enough, but watching him with the eye
of a hawk, "I do not think your request is altogether unreasonable--in the
circumstances. I dare say it could be arranged. I'll try to do so, but I
should like you to answer me one or two questions first."

"What do you want to know?"

"Was your master's daughter here--in the house, I mean--on the night of
his death?"

Thalassa's face hardened. "You, too?" he said simply. "I say again, as I
said before, that she was not."

"You said so," rejoined Mr. Brimsdown softly. "The question is--are you
telling the truth? If you know anything of the events of that night you
may be injuring Miss Turold by your silence."

For a moment Mr. Brimsdown thought his appeal was going to succeed. He
could have sworn that a flicker of hesitation--of irresolution--crossed
the old man's stern countenance. But the mood passed immediately, and it
was in an indifferent voice that Thalassa, turning to go, replied--

"If that's what you're reckoning on, I'd better go and pack my traps."

"Oh, I don't make that a condition," replied the lawyer, acknowledging his
defeat in a sporting spirit. "You can remain here and look after the house
until you decide what to do. As Robert Turold's old servant you are
entitled to consideration. I will help you afterwards, if you will let me
know your plans. I am sure that would have been your late master's wish."

"I want nothing from _him_," Thalassa rejoined, "a damned black
scoundrel."

Mr. Brimsdown was shocked at this savage outburst, but there was something
so implacable in the old man's air that the rebuke he wished to utter died
unspoken. Thalassa regarded him for a moment in silence, and then went
on--

"Thank'ee for letting me stop on here a bit. Now I'll tell you
something--about him." Again his thumb indicated the next room. "It was
the night after."

"Do you mean the night after he met his death?"

"Yes. Some one was upstairs in his room--in this room."

Mr. Brimsdown gave a startled glance around him, as though seeking a
lurking form in the shadows. "Here?" he breathed.

"Here, sure enough. I woke up in my bed downstairs, staring wide awake, as
though somebody had touched me on the shoulder. I was just turning over to
go to sleep again, when I heered a noise up here."

"What sort of a noise?"

"Like the rustling of paper. I listened for a bit, then it stopped. I
heard a board creak in the next room, where we'd carried him. Then the
rustling started in the other room again, right over my head. The dog
downstairs started to bark. I got up, and went upstairs as quickly as I
could, but there was nobody--except _him_. The dog frightened whoever
it was, I suppose. Next morning I found the front room window wide open."

"Were there any footprints outside the window?"

"A man doesn't leave footprints on rocks."

"What time was it?"

"It would be about midnight, I reckon."

"Did your wife hear the noise?"

"No. She was in bed and asleep."

"Are you sure you didn't dream this?" Mr. Brimsdown asked, with a shrewd
penetrating glance.

"The open window wasn't a dream," was the dogged reply.

"You might have left it open yourself."

"No, I didn't. I close the windows every night before dark."

"And lock them?"

"Not always."

The incident did not sound convincing to Mr. Brimsdown, but his face did
not reveal his scepticism as he thanked Thalassa for the information.
Thalassa lingered, as if he had something still on his mind. He brought it
out abruptly--

"Has anything been seen of Miss Sisily?"

"Nothing whatever, Thalassa."

On that he turned away, and went out of the room, leaving the lawyer
pondering over his story of a midnight intruder. Mr. Brimsdown came to the
conclusion that it was probably imagination, and so dismissed it from his
mind.

He resumed his work of working over the papers, but after a few minutes
discontinued his search, and walked restlessly about the room. The air
seemed to have the taint of death in it, and he crossed over to one of the
windows and flung it up.

The window looked out on the sea, though far above it, but the slope of
the house embraced in the view a portion of the cliffs at the side. As Mr.
Brimsdown stood so, breathing the sea air and looking around him, he
espied a woman, closely veiled, walking rapidly across the cliffs in the
direction of the house.

She vanished from the range of his vision almost immediately, but a few
minutes later he heard footsteps and an opening door. He was again
confronted by the presence of Thalassa on the threshold. But this time
Thalassa did not linger. "Somebody to see you," he announced with gruff
brevity, and turned away.

The open door now revealed the figure of the woman he had seen outside.
She advanced into the room.

"Mr. Brimsdown?" she said.

"That is my name," said the lawyer, eyeing her in some surprise. He
recognized her as the woman who had stared after him when he left Austin
Turold's lodgings, but he could not conjecture the object of her visit.

"I see you do not remember me," she sadly remarked.

"You are Mrs. Brierly, I think."

"Yes. But I was Mary Pleasington before I was married. I remember you very
well, but I suppose that I have changed."

Mr. Brimsdown recalled the name with a start of surprise. He found it
difficult to recognize, in the faded woman before him, the pretty daughter
of his old client, Sir Roger Pleasington, whose debts and lawsuits had
been compounded by death ten years before. He remembered his daughter as a
budding beauty, with the airs and graces of a pretty girl who imagines her
existence to be of some importance in the world. He recollected that her
marriage to an impecunious young artist had caused some sensation in
Society at the time. Marriage had dealt hardly with her, and no trace of
her beauty or vivacity remained.

"You are the late Mr. Turold's legal adviser?" she continued, after a
pause.

Mr. Brimsdown, always chary of unnecessary words, replied with a slight
bow.

"I suppose you have come to Cornwall to investigate the cause of his
death?"

Mr. Brimsdown remained silent, waiting to hear more.

"I--I wish to speak to you about that." Her lips quivered with some inward
agitation.

"Will you not be seated?" he said, placing a chair for her.

"Will you regard what I have to say to you in strict confidence?" she
queried, sinking her voice to a whisper.

"Is it about Mr. Turold's murder?"

"It--it may be."

With the recollection of previous eavesdropping in that house, the lawyer
rose and closed the door. "I cannot make a promise of that kind," he said
firmly, as he returned to his seat.

"No, no--of course not," she hurriedly acquiesced. "I was wrong to ask it.
I have come here to tell you. When I saw you this afternoon I realized
that Providence had answered my prayers, and sent somebody in whom I could
safely confide. I will tell you everything. I have come here for that
purpose."

She seemed to have a difficulty in commencing. Her pale grey eyes wandered
irresolutely from his, and then returned. It was with a perceptible effort
that she spoke at last.

"What I am about to tell you I have known for some days, but I could not
bring myself to the extreme step of going to the police. Sometimes I am
inclined to think that it may be only a trifling thing, easily explained,
and of no importance. But sometimes--at night--it assumes a terrible
significance. I need counsel--wise counsel--about it."

She paused and looked at him wistfully. As though interpreting his nod as
encouragement, she went on--.

"Mr. Austin Turold and his son have been inmates of my household for the
last six weeks. Mr. Robert Turold arranged it with me beforehand. I had
never done anything of the kind before, but our means--my husband's and
mine--are insufficient for the stress of these times. After all, people
must live."

Mr. Brimsdown's slight shake of the head seemed to imply that this last
statement was by no means an incontrovertible proposition, but Mrs.
Brierly was not looking at him.

"Therefore, to oblige Mr. Turold we decided to afford hospitality to his
brother and son. The terms were favourable, and they were gentlefolk.
These things counted, and the money helped. But if I had only known--if I
could have foreseen ..."

"Mr. Turold's death?" said Mr. Brimsdown, filling in the pause.

"I mean--everything," she retorted a little wildly. "My name is well
known. I was in Society once. There is my husband's reputation as an
artist to be considered. I would not be talked about for worlds. I acted
against my husband's advice in this matter--in taking Mr. Turold and his
son. My husband said it was a degradation to take in lodgers. I pointed
out that they were gentlefolk. There is a difference. I wish now that I
had listened to my husband's advice."

Mr. Brimsdown listened with patient immobility. His long experience of
female witnesses withheld him from any effort to hasten the flow of his
companion's story.

"They were very nice and quiet--particularly Mr. Austin Turold," she went
on. "The son was more silent and reserved, but we saw very little of
him--he was out so much. But Mr. Turold did my husband good--his breeding
and conversation were just what he needed to lift him out of himself. A
man goes to seed in the country, Mr. Brimsdown, no matter how intellectual
he may be. Nature is delightful, but a man needs to be near Piccadilly to
keep smart. Cornwall is so very far away--so remote--and Cornish rocks are
dreadfully severe on good clothes. I am not complaining, you understand.
We had to come to Cornwall. It was inevitable--for us. No English artist
is considered anything until he has painted a picture of the Land's End or
Newquay. The Channel Islands--or Devon--is not quite the same thing. Not
such a distinctive hallmark. So we came to Cornwall, and my husband went
to seed. That was why I welcomed Mr. Turold's conversation for him. It did
him good. My husband said so himself. He derived inspiration--artistic
inspiration--from Mr. Turold's talk. He conceived a picture--'Land of Hope
and Glory' it was to be called--of a massive figure of Britannia, standing
on Land's End, defying the twin demons of Bolshevism and Labour Unrest
with a trident. He was working at it with extraordinary rapidity--when
this happened.

"On the day of his brother's death we did not see much of Mr. Austin
Turold. There was Mrs. Turold's funeral in the afternoon, and when he came
home I thought he would prefer to be left to himself.

"He went to his sitting-room, and stayed there. My husband and I retired
early that night, but later we were awakened by a very loud knock at the
front door. We heard Mr. Austin Turold, who was still up, go down and open
it. Then we heard a very loud voice, outside--Mr. Robert Turold's
man-servant, it appears. We heard him tell Mr. Austin that his brother had
been found shot. Mr. Turold returned upstairs, and some time afterwards we
heard him go down again and out.

"I was so upset that I arose and dressed myself to await Mr. Turold's
return. I thought he might like a cup of coffee when he returned, so I
decided to go downstairs myself and prepare it. As I passed the passage
which led to Mr. Charles Turold's room, I noticed a light underneath his
door. I rather wondered, as he was still up, why he had not gone with his
father, but I was passing on without thinking any more about it when I
happened to notice that the light beneath the door was fluctuating in the
strangest way. First it was very bright, then it became quite dim, but the
next moment it would be bright again.

"That alarmed me so much that I walked along the passage to see what it
meant. I thought perhaps the young man had fallen asleep with the window
open and left the gas flaring in the wind. I stood for a moment outside
the door wondering what I ought to do. Then I heard a crackling sound, and
smelt something burning. That alarmed me still more, because I knew no
fire had been lit in the room that day. I wondered if the bedroom was on
fire, and I knelt down and tried to see through the keyhole.

"At first I could see nothing except a bright light and the shadow of a
form on the wall. Then I made out the form of Charles Turold, standing in
his dressing-gown in front of the fireplace, in which a fire of kindling
wood was leaping and blazing. I could not make out at first what he was
doing. He seemed to be stooping over the fire, moving something about.
Then I saw. He was drying his clothes--the suit he had worn that day. They
must have been very wet, for the steam was rising from them.

"I must have made a noise which startled him, for I saw him turn quickly
and stare at the closed door, then walk towards it. I went away as quickly
and noiselessly as I could, and as I turned the corner of the passage, out
of sight, his door opened, and then closed again. He had looked out and,
seeing nobody, gone back into his room.

"I went downstairs to make the coffee and wait for Mr. Turold. I had to
wait some time. When I did hear the sound of his key in the door, I went
up the hall with a cup of coffee in my hand. Mr. Turold seemed surprised
to see me. He looked at me in a questioning sort of way as he took the
coffee, and stood there sipping it. As he handed me back the cup he told
me in a low voice that his brother was dead. I said that was why I had
waited up--because I had heard the knock and the dreadful news. Mr.
Turold, in the same low voice, then said he was very much afraid his
brother had taken his own life.

"He then went upstairs. I again retired shortly afterwards, but I could
not sleep. I was too upset--too nervous. I could not get Mr. Robert
Turold's suicide out of my head. It seemed such a dreadful thing for a
wealthy man to do--so common and vulgar! Suicide sticks to a family so--it
is never really forgotten. It is much easier to live down an embezzlement
or misappropriation of trust funds. The thought of it put the other
thing--the fire and young Mr. Turold and his wet clothes--out of my head
completely, for the time.

"As I was lying there tossing and thinking I heard a light footstep pass
my door. I slipped out of bed, and opening the door a little, looked out.
I saw Mr. Turold, fully dressed, a light in his hand, turning down the
passage which led to his son's room. Then I heard the sound of a creaking
door, the murmur of a low conversation, cut short by the shutting of the
door. I stood there for a few minutes, and then went back to my bed and
fell asleep.

"The next day it all came back to me. I had gone into Charles Turold's
room for some reason when he was out, and there, on the hearth, I could
see the remains of the fire he had lit overnight to dry his clothes. He
had made some clumsy man-like attempt to clean up the grate, but he left
some ends of the charred kindling wood lying about."

This final revelation brought a silence between Mrs. Brierly and the
lawyer; a silence broken only by the distant deep call of the sea beneath
the open window. The silence lengthened into minutes before Mr. Brimsdown
found his voice.

"You have said nothing to anybody else about this?" He spoke almost
abstractedly, but she chose to regard this question in the light of a
reproach. She hurriedly rejoined--

"I did not see the necessity--then. If young Mr. Turold got caught in the
storm, and chose to dry his clothes in his room, instead of putting them
out for the maid, why should I tell anybody? I did not connect it with his
uncle's death. I was under the impression that Mr. Robert Turold had taken
his own life. It was not until the detective called to see Mr. Austin
Turold that I learnt there was a suspicion of--murder. My maid overheard
the detective say something while she was in and out of the room serving
tea, and she told me what she had heard. I saw things in a new light then,
and I was terribly upset. But I could not see my way clear until you came
to the house to-day. Then I decided to tell you."

"Can you tell me what time Charles Turold came in that night?"

"I have no idea. He and his father have separate keys of the front door."

It was evident that she had told all she knew. She rose to her feet in
agitation.

"I must go. My husband will be wondering where I am. But tell me, Mr.
Brimsdown, do you imagine ... Is it possible ..." Her voice dropped to the
ghost of a frightened whisper.

He evaded this issue with legal caution.

"You have done quite right in coming to me," he replied, as he opened the
door for her departure. He held out his hand.

She touched it with trembling fingers, and went away.

Mr. Brimsdown closed the door behind her, and wearily sat down. He had
been prepared to do much to shield the name of Turold, but he had not
bargained for this. He did not doubt the truth of the story he had just
heard, and it gave him a feeling of nausea. What a revelation of the
infamy of human nature! The stupendous depth of such villainy overwhelmed
him with dismay. The extent of the criminal understanding between father
and son he did not attempt to fathom. His mind was filled with the
monstrous audacity by which Charles Turold, apparently at the dictate of
remorse, had sought to convince him of Sisily's innocence by directing
attention to the marks on the dead man's arm which he had probably made
himself. Could human cynicism go farther than that? A great wave of pity
swept over the lawyer as he thought of the unhappy Sisily, and all that
she had been compelled to endure. But why had she fled?

Long he sat there without stirring, until the shadows deepened and the
grey surface of the sea dissolved in blackness.

"The police must be told of this," he said at last, in an almost voiceless
whisper.




CHAPTER XXIII


"And suppose the police call during your absence?" said Austin Turold,
glancing sharply at his son.

"Then you had better tell the truth. I am tired of it all."

"I might ask, with Pilate, What is truth?--in your case."

"You know it already, father, whether you believe me or not."

Austin Turold looked strangely at him--a look in which anger was mingled
with something deeper and more searching, as though he sought to reach
some secret in the depth of his soul. Impatiently he crossed the room to
the fireplace, and stood with his back to the fire, facing his son.

"I do not see that there's any more risk than there was before," said
Charles gloomily.

"I say there is," returned his father sharply. "What! Do you suppose you
can go off to London like this, leaving me here alone, at such a moment?
Do you not see that your unexplained absence, in itself, is likely to
bring suspicion upon you, indeed, upon both of us?"

"I cannot help that," returned the young man desperately. "I must go and
find Sisily."

"You are not likely to find her. You do not even know that she has gone to
London."

"Yes. I have found out that much. She took a ticket by the midday train on
the day after--it happened."

"And why do you wish to find her?"

"Because she is deeply wronged--she is innocent."

"You should be able to speak with authority on that point," said Austin,
with a cold glance, which the other did not meet. "You are acting very
foolishly, rushing off to London on this quixotic mission. You won't find
her. Besides, no woman is worth what you are risking in this wild-goose
chase. You are jeopardizing your future by an act of the maddest folly."

"There is nothing in life for me but the shadow of things--now," returned
the young man in low tones. "I want nothing except to find Sisily and
prove her innocence. I'm going to look for her, whatever you say."

Austin Turold made an impatient gesture.

"Very well," he said. "If Providence has made you a fool you must fulfil
Providence's decree. Only, I warn you, I think you are going the right way
to bring trouble on yourself. That lawyer who was here to-day--what's his
name, Brimstone, Brimsdown?--has his suspicions, unless I'm very much
mistaken."

Charles turned pale. "What makes you think that?" he asked.

"By the way he watched both of us."

"That accounts for his attitude when I saw him afterwards," said Charles
in a startled voice.

"Afterwards--where?"

"I went after him to tell him that Sisily was innocent."

"And what else did you tell him?"

"Nothing but that--nothing that counted, at least."

"Really, Charles, your lack of intelligence is a distinct reflection on me
as a parent. Fancy a son of mine trying to make a lawyer's bowels yearn
with compassion! I'm positively ashamed of you. Why are you so elementary?
The situation must have contained some elements of humour, though. I
should like to have witnessed it. Did you call down Heaven's vengeance on
the murderer in approved fashion? How did the man of parchments take it?"

"You have no heart," said his son, flushing darkly under this sarcasm. He
walked towards the door as he spoke. "I am going," he said. "There is an
excursion train through to Paddington to-night, and I shall catch it."

"You are determined on it, then?"

"I should be in an unendurable position if I didn't," replied the young
man, and without another word he left the room.

Austin looked after him a little wistfully, as though remembering that the
other was, after all, his son. He remained motionless for a moment, then
crossed over to the window and looked out. As he stood so his eye was
caught by two figures beneath. One was his son, walking down the garden
path. The other was Mrs. Brierly, returning to the house. She walked past
Charles with downcast eyes, but Austin from the window saw her turn and
cast a frightened fluttering glance at the young man's retreating figure.
She had seen him, then, but did not want to recognize him. As she hurried
up the garden path Austin caught a glimpse of her face, and observed that
it was white and drawn.

"What's the matter with my estimable landlady?" he murmured as he withdrew
from the window.

His quick intelligence, playing round this incident and seeking to pierce
its meaning, grew alarmed. There seemed to be a menace in it. Did she know
or guess something of the hidden events of that night, or had she played
the spy since? He turned pale as he considered these possibilities. Women
had an unerring instinct for a secret once their curiosity was aroused.
But he had been careful, very careful. What did she suspect?

He thought over this problem until night fell, and retired to bed with it
still unanswered.

But the solution flashed into his mind at breakfast next morning,
suddenly, like light in a dark place. He was amazed that he had not seen
it before. "If it is that ..." he whispered. But he knew it was that; knew
also, that it meant the worst. He got up from the table, then forced
himself to sit down again and eat. An untouched breakfast tray might
quicken the suspicions in the mind of that most treacherous woman
downstairs, might hasten her hand. But why had she delayed so long?

He passed the morning between his chair and the window, watching, and
listening for footsteps. He saw Mrs. Brierly leave the house early, and
wondered if she would return with the police. Another reflection came to
his mind. Charles had some inkling, and had fled in time. Perhaps that was
just as well, if he got out of England. For himself there was no such
retreat, nor did he wish it. He would have to face things out, if they had
to be faced, and he did not yet despair of saving the situation, so far as
it affected himself. What did that diabolical female know, really? He had
a momentary vision of her stealing about the house, prying, watching,
listening. He sank into a motionless brooding reverie.

The day passed its meridian, but he still sat there in solitude with his
anxious thoughts. As the afternoon declined his hopes rose. Could it be
that he was mistaken, that his fears were imaginary? Perhaps, after all--

At that sharp ring of the doorbell downstairs he walked noiselessly to the
window, and shrank back with the startled look of a man who has had his
first glimpse of the bared teeth of the law. He stood still, listening
intently. He heard the door opened, a sharp question, then the sound of
ascending footsteps. When the knock came at his own door he was in
complete command of himself as he went to open it. He was well aware of
the ordeal before him, but he did not show it. There was nothing but
ironical self-possession in the glance which took in the figures of
Detective Barrant and Inspector Dawfield, revealed on the threshold of the
opening door.

Barrant lost no time in coming to the point. "I want to see your son," he
said, entering and glancing quickly round the apartment.

"I am afraid that is impossible."

"Why?"

"He is not here."

"Where is he?"

"I think he has gone to London."

Barrant was plainly taken aback at this unexpected piece of news. "When
did he go?" he demanded.

"Yesterday evening."

Barrant cast a look at Dawfield, which said plainly: "He's had word of
this and bolted." His glance returned to Austin. "Can you tell me where he
is staying in London?"

"I have not the least idea," returned Austin negligently.

"Does he not live with you?"

"As a rule--yes."

"What is your London address?"

Austin took a card from his case and laid it on the table. Barrant picked
it up, glanced at it, and said: "Is your son likely to be there?"

"He may be, but he said nothing to me about going there. He has his own
liberty of action, like every other young man of his age. May I ask the
reason of these questions, Detective Barrant?"

Barrant did not choose to reply. He drew Inspector Dawfield to the doorway
and conferred with him in an undertone. Austin saw Barrant slip the card
into his colleague's hand, and Dawfield then hastened away. The inference
was plain. Dawfield had been sent off to intercept the flight or start the
pursuit. Austin found himself profoundly hoping that his son was by that
time out of England.

He had not much leisure to think of that, for Barrant turned towards him
again with an annoyance that he did not attempt to dissemble. "Why has
your son gone to London--perhaps you can tell me that much?" he exclaimed.

"I gathered from him that it is his intention to look for his cousin
Sisily."

"For what purpose?"

"Because he strongly believes in her innocence."

"It is strange that he should have rushed off like this."

"Without waiting for your visit, do you mean? Really, Detective Barrant,
may I constrain you to give me some explanation of all this? I want to
help you all I can, but your actions savour too much of a peremptory
jack-in-the-box, even in these bureaucratic days. What is the object of
this visit? Why did you want to see my son?"

"I wished to interview him."

"About what, may I ask?"

Barrant did not immediately reply, but Austin, scanning him furtively,
sought to reach his thoughts by the varying shades of expression on his
face. It was the state of mind of a man who was at once chagrined, amazed,
suspicious, and wondering. The older man could picture Barrant thinking to
himself: "This man before me--how far is he involved in this?" And,
watching him mutely, Austin steeled himself for a sudden outburst: "You
picked up the key. You declared it was suicide. What does that mean--now?"

But he under-estimated Barrant's intelligence. Barrant had no intention of
doing anything so crude. The situation was sufficiently awkward as it
stood without putting the father on his guard. Austin might guess that he
was under suspicion as well as his son, but that did not matter so much.
Barrant instinctively realized that flight was impossible for Austin
Turold, though he might seek to warn his son not to go near their London
home because the police were after him. But that was a warning which would
be useless, for the police were ahead of him there. Barrant reflected that
he gained nothing by not divulging the object of his visit when the
inference of it was so transparently palpable. The disclosure might even
serve a useful purpose by lessening Austin's apprehensions in his own
case. With this consideration in view he brought it out frankly--

"I wished to question your son about his movements on the night of the
murder."

"Is my son suspected--now?"

Barrant winced under the delicate inflection of irony which conveyed in
that brief reply the inference of another blunder in his own changing
suspicions. That sneer roused the official in him, and it was in a curt
tone of command that he said--

"What time did your son get home on the day of the murder?"

"I am unable to say."

"He did not return with you after the funeral?"

"No, he did not."

"Where did he go?"

"These are strange questions, Detective Barrant. I really cannot tell you
that either, because I do not know."

He put up his glasses to look at Barrant with an assumption of resentment,
but the detective's return glance was hard and searching. "Was your son in
to dinner that night?" he asked.

"We have midday dinner, in this house."

"Well, supper. Was he in to supper?"

Austin reflected rapidly. He dared not refuse to answer the question, and
any attempt to mislead the questioner would only make things worse when
the two women in the house knew the truth.

"Yes. He was in to supper."

"And went out afterwards?"

This was put more as a simple statement of fact than a question. Again,
Austin's subtle intelligence could see no better course than truth.

"He did. My son frequently goes out walking of an evening after supper."

"What time did he return--on this evening?"

"I do not know."

"Do you mean that?" Barrant's tone was incredulous.

"I do." The impulse which had dictated his previous answer sprang from the
thought that the foolish females downstairs could not contradict it, and
he adhered calmly to the course now he was committed to it.

"What time did Thalassa come for you from Flint House with the news that
your brother was dead?"

"I do not know the exact time. He called at the police station first."

"Had not your son returned by then?"

"I am unable to inform you. He frequently goes straight to his room when
he returns from an evening walk."

"Then you do not know whether he was in or out when you left the house?"

"I assumed he was in, as it was after his usual time for returning."

"You did not go to his room, to see?"

"No. I did not wish to disturb him."

Barrant looked as though there was only one possible construction to be
placed on these replies, but he still did not utter the question which
Austin feared and dreaded most. In a harsh peremptory voice he said--"Show
me your son's room."

In those words he stood revealed as one with all the resources of the law
at his back, able to issue commands which other people must obey. The
rights of liberty and freedom were in his hands. It needed not that to
show Austin Turold how near he stood to the edge of the precipice. The
strain of the interview had told on him. This was the first actual buffet
of the beast's paw. He led the way to his son's room and watched Barrant
go through his intimate belongings with the feeling that intelligence was
a flimsy shield against the brutal force of authority. The law in search
of prey cared nothing for such civilized refinements as intellect or
self-respect. As well try to stop a tiger with a sonnet.

The search revealed nothing, and Barrant went away without another word. A
moment later Austin heard him questioning the frightened women on the
floor beneath. Listening intently, he made out a fragment of the
conversation, sufficient to remove all doubts of the origin of the
detective's present visit. Austin's mind flew to the episode he had seen
from his window on the previous afternoon. Why in the name of heaven had
this Brierly woman been such a fool? Why had she not come to him with her
story, and asked for money to shut her mouth? Why was she sobbing and
snivelling downstairs now, when it was too late?




CHAPTER XXIV


Austin Turold was wrong in supposing that his son had left Cornwall to fly
from England. Charles had stated his intention truly enough when he said
he was going to London to look for Sisily, but he did not disclose to his
father the real reason that led him there.

His visit to London was the pursuit of a definite plan. He was animated by
the hope that he knew where Sisily was likely to have sought shelter. Ever
since her disappearance this idea had lurked in his imagination and
occupied his secret thoughts.

It was the fruit of one of their last talks together--a memory they shared
in common. How well he remembered the occasion! They had been on the
cliffs looking down at the Gurnard's Head wallowing like a monster with a
broken back in the foam of a raging sea. It was the day after the death of
Sisily's mother, and Sisily had clung to him as if he were the only friend
she had in the world. She had spoken to him from the depth of an
overburdened soul impelled to confide in another, telling him of her
mother's sad life, unintentionally revealing something of the unhappiness
of her own. And she told him a strange thing about her mother's last
hours.

On her death-bed the unhappy woman must have had her fears concerning the
future of her daughter--belated uneasy premonitions arising after her
dying confession to the man supposed to be her husband, perhaps causing
her to doubt the wisdom of that revelation. That seemed plain enough to
Charles afterwards, though not apparent at the time Sisily had confided in
him, for she had died without giving the girl the slightest indication of
her life's secret, as if in some inscrutable hope that the tangle might be
made straight.

What she did do was to make a feeble effort to save her daughter from the
consequences of her own unhappy act, or at least to help her if those
results arose. She had whispered a name, the name of an old friend of her
girlhood who would befriend her child if ever she needed help. At her
urgent request Sisily had propped her up in bed while she wrote down the
address. Having performed this feat with infinite labour, she dropped back
on her pillow, clinging fast to the hand of the child she loved and whose
future she had blasted at the command of conscience.

Charles recalled how Sisily had taken that pathetic little scrap of paper
from her blouse, kissed it with quivering lips, and handed it to him in
silence. He had deciphered the pencilled scrawl with difficulty. The name
was Catherine Pursill, Charleswood, Surrey. It remained in his mind for a
special reason. Sisily was afraid she might lose the paper (perhaps, like
her mother, she had some prescience of the future) and he had endeavoured
to divert her thoughts by making "memory pictures" of the name and address
after the method of a thought reader. He had told her to picture a cat
sitting on a window ledge, and that would fix the name in her mind.
"Purr"--"Sill"--there it was! As for the place, it was only necessary to
imagine him wandering in a wood (he slyly suggested it)--Charleswood, and
there they were again!

Sisily had smiled wanly at these "memory pictures" and said she would
always be able to remember the address of her mother's old friend by their
means.

They were effectual enough in his own case. The grotesque association of
ideas brought the address to his mind when he first thought of seeking
Sisily in London. He decided to go to Charleswood as soon as he reached
there. The dying woman seemed quite certain her old friend was still in
Charleswood, although it was twenty years since she had heard from her.
She had told Sisily that Mrs. Pursill's house was her own, and it had
belonged to her parents before her. She had assumed that she was not
likely to move. The possibility that Death might have moved her without
consulting her convenience did not seem to have occurred to her.

It did to Charles Turold though, on his journey up from Cornwall. But he
thrust the chilling thought resolutely from him, clinging to his slight
clue because he had nothing else to sustain him, building such hopes upon
it that by the time he reached London scarcely a doubt remained. He spent
the last hour of his journey picturing his meeting with the runaway girl,
holding her, kissing her, sheltering her in his arms from the world. And
afterwards? He refused to contemplate what was to happen afterwards, and
how he was to shield her from the unsentimental clutch of the law which
was also seeking her. He declined also to allow his thoughts to dwell upon
his own position, which was invidious and threatening enough in all
conscience for a man setting out to be the buckler and shield of a girl in
Sisily's plight. He put these obtrusive contingencies out of his mind.
Time enough for those bitter reflections afterwards. The great thing was
to find Sisily first, before shaping further action. So he reasoned, with
the single purpose of a man mastered by love, and the desperate instinct
of a reckless temperament which gambled with life, never looking beyond
the next throw.

He retained sufficient caution to refrain from going to his father's house
in Richmond when he reached London. His father's parting words lingered
unpleasantly in his mind to serve as a warning against the folly of that
course. The same unusual prudence compelled him to leap out of a taxi-cab
as soon as he had leapt into it. For himself he did not care, but he had
to be careful for Sisily's sake. So he clambered on top of a 'bus with his
suit case. The same sobering feeling of responsibility directed his choice
of an hotel when he descended from the vehicle into the seething streets.
He chose a quiet small place off Charing Cross, and booked a room. After a
bath and some lunch he went out to a neighbouring bookstall and bought a
railway time-table. The next train to Charleswood left Charing Cross in
less than half an hour. He walked across to the station, purchased a
ticket, and took his seat. In a few minutes the train started.

Now that he was actually on the way of putting his idea to the test his
former doubts assailed him again with renewed force, but he refused to
listen to them. He told himself that a dying woman's idea was not likely
to be wrong, and that he would find Sisily at Charleswood. She was sure to
be there, because she had nowhere else to go. So he reasoned, or sought to
reason, until the train slowed down at the station which held the solution
of his hopes and fears.

It was a small wayside station at which he alighted--a mere hamlet set in
the slumberous calm of English rural scenery, passed by express trains
with a roar of derision by day and contemptuously winking tail-lights at
night. On the dark green background of the distant heights an eruption of
new red bungalows threatened to spread and destroy the beauty of
Charleswood at no remote date. But at present the sylvan charm of the spot
was unspoiled. Its meadows and fields seemed to lie happily unconscious of
the contagion flaming on the billowy hills.

The porter who emerged from a kind of wooden kennel and clattered up to
Charles to collect his ticket, stared hard when the young man asked if
Mrs. Pursill lived at Charleswood. He appeared to give the matter deep
thought before nodding affirmatively, and accompanied him to the station
entrance to point out an old house lying behind a strip of white fence and
a clump of dark-green trees half-way up a distant hill (not where the
bungalows were cropping up, but in the opposite direction), with the
intimation that it was the residence of the lady he was looking for. He
then watched Charles down the rambling village street until he was out of
sight.

It was a long walk--more than a mile--before Charles reached the white
fence and the group of trees which shielded the house behind dark-green
foliage. He caught a glimpse of partly shuttered windows peeping through
this leafy screen, but it was not until he had passed through the trees
that he had a clear view of the house.

The place was dreary and dilapidated, with a partly shuttered front. The
green-stained walls and a mask of ivy gave the place a resemblance to a
large ivy-grown tomb. Charles's spirits were depressed as he looked at it.
There was something so wan and melancholy in its appearance that his high
anticipations rapidly faded. In the face of that reality he could no
longer picture a silver-haired gracious old lady welcoming Sisily with
tears in her eyes for the sake of her dead mother. The human qualities of
warmth and tenderness did not accord with that chilling neglected
exterior.

He approached the door, his sensations painful enough in the mingled
tumult of suspense, hope, and fear. There was no bell, only an
old-fashioned brass knocker, which, with a kind of surly stiffness,
resisted his attempt to use it. He managed to wrench one knock out of it,
and left it suspended in the air.

There was a considerable pause before the knock was answered. Then the
door was opened by a pretty slim servant girl. There was nothing funereal
in her appearance except her black dress, and that was set off by a
coquettish white apron. She looked at the young man with questioning
bright eyes, as though surprised at his appearance there.

"Does Mrs. Pursill live here?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," she replied with a trace of hesitation.

The barometer of hope went up several degrees in Charles's breast. "Could
I see her?" he eagerly said.

"I'll ask, sir. What name, please?"

"No name. Mrs. Pursill would not know it. But my business is very
important."

The maid looked at him doubtfully, and left him standing there while she
disappeared within. From the depth of the house an agitated feminine
murmur reached him through the half-open door. "What's he like, Ruby?"
"Quite the gentleman, miss--young and very good-looking." A pause, and the
first voice rejoined: "Show him into the drawing-room, and ask him to sit
down."

The maid came back with this message, and took Charles into a large sombre
room. She gave him a fluttered glance of coquetry as she offered him a
chair, as though she would have liked to linger with such an unusual
visitor, then went out softly, closing the door behind her.

The room into which he had been ushered was furnished after some faded
standard of departed elegance with tapestried chairs, and couches, painted
screens, landscapes worked in black lutestring on white silk, and
collections of stuffed humming-birds which gazed wanly at the intruder
from glassy eyes. A massive dead Christ in Gobelin tapestry covered the
whole side of one wall, and from the opposite one the threaded features of
Joseph and his brethren stared gloomily down. These subjects accorded ill
with several pieces of marble statuary scattered about the room--a reeling
Bacchus, a nude Psyche, and an unchaste presentment of Leda drooping her
head over an amorous swan. A broken statue of a pastoral shepherd had been
laid on a table in the corner and partly covered with a cloth, where it
looked very much like a corpse awaiting its turn in a dissecting-room.

Charles had a dreary wait in these surroundings. At first he sat still,
but as the time passed he endeavoured to distract his anxious thoughts by
walking round the room looking at the extraordinary collections of objects
it contained. He was earnestly scrutinizing a lutestring picture depicting
"The Origin of the Dimple"--a cupid poking his forefinger into the double
chin of a fat languishing female--when the door opened and a woman
entered.

She was tall and thin, and had reached that period of life when it costs a
woman an effort to look in a mirror because of the menace of approaching
age which stares back from the depth of frightened eyes. Her dress,
however, suggested that she could not bring herself to believe she was yet
out of the hunt, but was still trying to follow it breathlessly on the
back of that broken-kneed and sorry steed, late middle-age. There was
something ridiculous in the girlish attire intended to convince her fellow
creatures that her day was not over; something terrible in the low blouse,
short skirt, silk stockings, gauze, lace and fluttering ribbons with which
she sought to delude the sneering figure of waiting Time.

Charles's first startled thought was that he had unwittingly entered one
of those neglected shuttered houses of romance, where an eccentric female
recluse sits with a waiting wedding breakfast in readiness for a
bridegroom who has disappeared thirty years before. But the face of the
woman advancing towards him suggested that she was not particular about
the identity of the form emerging from the mists of time to rescue her
from virginity. She looked as if she would have gladly surrendered that
jewel to any freebooter in return for a passage in the ship of matrimony,
and gone off flying the proud signal, "All's well."

She approached with a smile, and heaven knows what agitation in her breast
at the sight of a handsome well-dressed young man in her lonely nest. "You
wished to see me?" she asked.

"Mrs. Pursill?" he said interrogatively.

She made a negative sign. "I am Miss Pursill. My mother is an invalid."

"I am most anxious to see her."

"My mother keeps to her bedroom."

"I have come down from London purposely to see her," he said anxiously.
"My business is very important."

"Could you not tell me?" she murmured.

"I am afraid not."

She fidgeted and came a little closer, as though she liked the nearness of
his handsome presence.

"Very well, you shall see her, but you won't be able to talk to her. Come
with me."

They went from the room and upstairs. Miss Pursill opened a door on the
first floor and beckoned Charles to enter. It was a bedroom, furnished on
the same scale of antique magnificence as the drawing-room downstairs. In
a deep armchair in front of a fire sat an old woman, tucked up in an
eiderdown of blue and white satin. She did not look round as they entered,
but remained quite still--an immobile figure with a nodding head.

"That is Mrs. Pursill," said her daughter.

Charles glanced at the old woman in the chair and turned away. She was
past anything except waiting for death, and it was impossible to speak to
her or question her. She was in the last stage of senile decay. He masked
his disappointment with an effort, conscious that the eyes of the younger
woman were fixed on his face.

"If there is anything I can tell you--" she simpered, as she met his
glance.

His face betrayed his anxiety.

"I had some reason to think that a young lady of my acquaintance, the
daughter of an old friend of your mother's, might be staying with her."

"There is no young lady here," said Miss Pursill with a hard look. "I know
nothing about it. What is her name?"

"I have made a mistake, I am afraid." Charles was instantly on his guard.
"I am really very sorry--"

She was not altogether proof against the winning smile with which he
tendered an apology, but she looked at him strangely as she accompanied
him downstairs to the front door.

Charles went back to London with a dark and angry face. His anger was
directed against Fate, which had arranged such a fantastic anticlimax for
his cherished hopes. The blow was almost too much for him. He had deceived
himself into thinking that he would find Sisily at Charleswood, and he
felt that he had really lost her. He was now reduced to searching for her
in the great wilderness of London, which seemed a hopeless task.

By the time the train reached Charing Cross he rallied from his fit of
despondency. He refused to despair. Sisily was somewhere in London, at
that moment walking alone among its countless hordes, perhaps thinking of
him. He would find her--he must! Where to commence? She had reached
Paddington only a few nights ago, so that was obviously the logical
starting-point of any inquiries. To Paddington he went, this time in a
taxi-cab.

He had an extraordinary initial piece of luck. Fortune, either regretting
her previous treatment or tantalizing him in feminine fashion with the
expectation of greater favours to come, threw him at the very outset of
his inquiries against the red-headed luggage porter who had spoken with
Sisily on her arrival from Penzance. The porter, leaning against the white
enamelled walls of a Tube passage, pictured the scene with much loquacity,
and a faithful recollection of his own share in the interview. Charles
anxiously asked him if the young lady he had encountered was very
pretty--pale and dark. The porter, with a judicial air, responded that
looks in women was, after all, a matter of taste--what was one man's meat
was another man's poison, as you might say--but this young lady had dark
hair and eyes, and her face hadn't too much colour in it, so far as he
remembered. He apologized for this vagueness of description on the plea
that one girl was very like another to a man who saw them in droves every
day, as he did. But one or two minute particulars of her dress which he
was able to supply convinced Charles that he had seen Sisily. The man
added that as far as he knew the young lady went on to Euston Square,
though he couldn't say he'd actually seen her catch the train for there.

It was not until he had pocketed the half-crown Charles gave him that he
added a piece of information of some importance.

"You're not the first who's been inquiring about this particular young
lady," he said. "There was somebody before you--let me see--Thursday it
was. He came strolling along, affable as you please, and seemed to know
all about it before he started. 'That young lady who arrived by the
Cornwall train on Tuesday night, porter, and asked you the way to Euston
Square--what was she like?' That took me back a bit, but I told him, just
as I've told you. He asked me another question or two, and then went into
the station-master's office."

"What was he like?"

"Not much older than yourself, in a brown suit, tall and thin, with
sharpish features and quick smiling eyes."

Barrant! Charles recognized the description with a sinking heart. He
turned away with a sickening sense of the impotence of his own efforts.
Scotland Yard was searching for Sisily, and no doubt had warned all the
London police to look out for her. She might be arrested any minute.
Outside the station he bought an evening paper from a yelling newsboy, and
hastily scanned the headlines under the flare of a street lamp. There was
nothing about the Cornwall murder. So far they were safe. His own
departure from Cornwall had apparently caused no suspicion, and Sisily was
still free--somewhere in London.

Where? To find her--that was his task. He rallied sharply from his
despondency. He would pit himself against the police. A desperate man,
guided by love, could do much--might even outwit the tremendous forces of
Scotland Yard. He would not be worthy of Sisily if he lost heart because
the odds were against him. Fortune's wheel might have a lucky turn in
store for him.

He beckoned a passing taxi-cab. "Euston Square," he said as he entered.
That was obviously the next point of his search.

But Fortune vouchsafed him no more favours that day. His dive into the
crowded depths of Euston Square brought forth no result--no clue which
would help in his search. He interviewed many keepers of the "temperance
hotels" and boarding-houses which abounded in that quarter, all sorts of
women, but all alike in their quick suspicious resentment of his guarded
inquiries and in their pretended ignorance of past visitors to their dingy
portals. He had little experience of the embittered sordid outlook of a
class which earned its own bread by supplying indifferent food and shelter
to London's floating population, but after his fiftieth repulse he had no
difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the police were again ahead of
him with their inquiries.

Nevertheless he persevered fruitlessly until a late hour before returning
to his hotel to pass a sleepless night in a fever of baffled excitement.
Not till then did he realize how much he had been upheld by the hope of
finding Sisily at Charleswood. He was lost in a maze of conjectures,
fears, and impossible plans, though his intelligence told him that no plan
of search he could form was likely to be of the slightest use. Only luck
could help him there, and it was part of the hopelessness of the situation
that he dared not invoke the aid of any of those agencies or organizations
which make it their business to find persons who have disappeared in
London. His search must be a solitary one.

The morning saw him enter upon it with a feverish energy borrowed from the
future and the desperate optimism of a temperament willing to gamble with
Fortune against such incalculable odds. At first he attempted to divine
the motives likely to actuate a girl ignorant of London in seeking a
hiding-place there, and shaped his search accordingly; but he gave that up
after a while, and decided to search the streets of the inner suburbs, in
the hope of encountering her sooner or later. His method was to purchase a
map of each district, and explore it thoroughly from one end to the other.
He got his meals anywhere, and slept in the nearest hotel where he
happened to find himself late at night. But his meals were often missed
and his broken sleep haunted with nightmare visions of the pitfalls and
snares spread for inexperienced girls in London.

So Charles passed nearly a week of interminable tramping of London
streets, scanning the endless medley of faces in the hope of a chance
glimpse of Sisily's wistful eyes and pale features. But it is one thing to
gamble with Fortune, and another to win from her. Sometimes she flattered
Charles with a chance resemblance which sent him flying across the traffic
at the risk of his life, and once he sprang off a 'bus after a girl he saw
vanishing into an Underground lift, but it was not Sisily. The end of the
week saw him returning from uncharted areas of outer London to the more
familiar thoroughfares of the city's life, for in that time his dauntless
spirit had realized the colossal folly of any attempt to search London by
system. He had no intention of abandoning his quest, but he now felt that
it did not matter where his footsteps led him, because it was only by a
piece of wonderful luck that he could ever hope to meet Sisily. He did not
even know if she was in London. But he believed she was, and some
indomitable inward whisper kept assuring him that he would find her sooner
or later. So he kept on--and on, seeking the vision of his desires with
the insatiable eagerness of a man pursuing the unreachable horizon of a
hashish dream.

It was towards the end of this time that it occurred to Charles to wonder
if Sisily had made her way to Charleswood since his first visit there. He
was resting in a Lambeth public-house after an exhausting day's wanderings
over South London when this thought came to him. He sat up, slapping his
thigh with excitement, asking himself why he had not thought of that
before. It was a chance--certainly a chance. He decided to run down to
Charleswood again on the following afternoon.

He did, and found himself disappointed once more. The elegant Miss Pursill
had gone to Brighton for change of air, but the pretty maid, who had been
left behind to look after the house and the decayed old lady, assured him
that there had been nobody to see Mrs. Pursill since his last visit. Miss
Pursill went away the very next day after he was down, and there had been
no callers or visitors.

She imparted this information at first with a sparkle of coquetry in her
eye, then with a glance of compassion as she noticed how much the debonair
visitor had changed for the worse since she saw him last. She looked at
him solicitously, as though she would have liked to remove with womanly
hands the marks of neglect from his apparel. From the door she watched him
making his way back to the station. She stood there in the shade of the
evening, following him with her eyes until the bend of the road hid him
from view.




CHAPTER XXV


The train was moving out after the briefest stop at a place so
unimportant, and he swung himself into one of the carriages gliding past
him. At first he thought the compartment was empty, but as the train
emerged from a tunnel immediately beyond the station gates he observed a
man with glasses reading a newspaper in the opposite corner seat. That
reminded him to buy an evening paper at the next stopping place, a town of
some importance, where a number of intending passengers were waiting on
the platform. Several pushed past him into the compartment. He did not
heed them. He sat in a deep reverie, his paper unfolded in his hand, past
scenes flowing through his brain as the train sped on towards London. The
carriage and its occupants receded from his vision, and he was back again
on the Cornwall cliffs with Sisily. Her face appeared before his eyes just
as he had seen it in their last parting.

He came back with an effort to the world of events, and unfolded his
newspaper. That was a daily ordeal from which he shrank, yet dared not
evade. During the past week he had faced it in all sorts of places: street
corners, public squares, obscure restaurants, the burrowed windings of
Underground stations, and once in the dark interior of a cinema where he
had followed a girl with a vague resemblance to Sisily. As the days went
on and he read nothing to alarm him, his tension grew less. It really
looked as if Scotland Yard and the newspapers had forgotten all about the
Cornwall murder, or had relegated it to the list of undiscoverable
mysteries.

He now glanced at the headlines listlessly enough. The editor could offer
nothing better on his front page that night than Ireland and the
industrial situation. Charles opened the sheet and looked inside. His
listlessness vanished as his eye fell upon his own name. In the guise of
fat black capitals it headed a half-column article about his uncle's
death. Charles read it through, slowly and deliberately, to the end. He
learnt that there had been what the writer called fresh developments in
the case. The police were now looking for another suspect--himself. The
detective engaged upon the case had suspicions of the murdered man's
nephew for some time past, but had his reasons for reticence--reasons
which had now so completely disappeared that Scotland Yard had made public
a full description of the young man and the additional information that he
was supposed to be in London. Charles found himself reading the
description of himself with the detached, slightly wondering air with
which a man might be supposed to read his own death notice. He weighed the
personal details quite critically. Young and tall. Yes. Good-looking. Was
he? Dark blue eyes. Were they? He had never thought about them. Of
gentlemanly appearance. That read like the advertisement of a Cheapside
tailor--what was a gentlemanly appearance, if he had it? He had always
associated it with a cheap lounge suit and a bowler hat. Very well
dressed--then followed the description of his clothes. But he couldn't be
well dressed and of gentlemanly appearance at the same time!

These preoccupations floated lightly, almost playfully, on the surface of
his mind, but the great fact had sunk to the depths like lead. His
father's fears had been right, and his departure from Cornwall had drawn
attention to his actions on that night. He was--what was the
phrase?--wanted by the police. So was Sisily. He was searching for Sisily,
and the police were searching for both of them.

What had the police discovered about him? His lips framed the reply.
Everything. That was to say, all there was to find out. Obviously they had
discovered his visit to Flint House on that night, or at least, that he
was out in the storm during the time the murder was committed. His
commonsense told him the reason for Barrant's reticence. He had kept quiet
in the hope that he would go to his father's house at Richmond, which no
doubt had been closely watched. Now that Barrant had come to the
conclusion that the man he was after was too clever to walk into that
trap, he had confided his suspicions to the newspapers in order to guard
all avenues of escape by putting the public on the watch for him.

A feeling of helplessness crept over Charles as he contemplated the
incredible ingenuity of the mesh of events in which he and Sisily were
entangled. Any moment might terminate his liberty and see him placed under
lock and key. Would it help Sisily if he gave himself up and told all he
knew? That was a question he had asked himself before, and dismissed it
because he realized that his own story might involve her more deeply
still. And the loss of time since then, coupled with his own
disappearance, intensified the risk which such a course would entail.
There was no hope for her in that direction. Where, then, were they to
look for hope?

He was recalled to his surroundings by a hand laid on his arm. He started
and looked round. The man next to him, with a glance at the paper in his
hand, asked him if he could tell him the winner of the second race at
Lingfield. "It ought to be in the stop-press," he murmured. Charles turned
the sheet to the indicated column, and the inquirer glanced at it with a
satisfied smile, and the remark that it was only what he had expected, in
spite of the weight. "A good horse," he remarked approvingly. "But perhaps
you don't go in for racing yourself?"

Charles resisted an insane impulse to shout with laughter. Didn't go in
for racing! He was going in for racing with a vengeance--a race against
time and the police. What was he to do now?

He glanced round him restlessly. The swaying noisy train and the
compartment packed with stolid faces jarred on his overburdened nerves.
Why were those women in the next compartment laughing like hyenas? What
was there in life to laugh over at any time? It was a thing to impose
silence on all by its desolation, its unescapable doom. His eye was caught
by an advertisement above the rack opposite him--an advertisement which
depicted a smiling grotesque face, and advised him to buy the comic
journal it represented in order to dissipate melancholy and gloom.

Fools--fools all!

While he was thus looking around him his eyes encountered a curious glance
from the man in the opposite corner seat, who had been in the compartment
when he entered the train at Charleswood. The man dropped his gaze at
once, but there was something in the quality of the look which put Charles
on his guard. Charles did not turn his head again, but, leaning back in
his seat, kept the other under view from seemingly closed eyes. He was
soon convinced that the man in the corner seat was watching him--shooting
furtive glances across the carriage from behind the screen of his
newspaper.

Was he a detective? Not if Barrant was a usual representative of the
tribe. Yet there was something infernally quizzical in the scrutiny which
reached him through those gold-rimmed glasses. Stay, though! Did
detectives wear glasses? Wasn't there an eyesight test or something like
that for officers of the law? He had never seen a policeman wearing
glasses. If he was not a detective, why was he watching him? There was no
reward offered for his arrest. Perhaps he belonged to the wretched type of
beings who pride themselves on their public spirit--men who wrote letters
to the newspapers and interfered in other people's business. The beast
might have guessed his identity and wanted to show his public spirit by
handing him over to the police. The newspaper in his hand! Of course. He
had read his description there, and identified him.

Charles found himself conjecturing how the man would set about carrying
out his task of public watchdog, if that was in his mind. He pictured the
possibility of him appealing to the others in the compartment. He might
get up and say: "There is a murderer in this compartment. I recognize him
from the description in this paper, and I call upon you all as
public-spirited citizens to see that he does not escape justice." The
torpid passengers would start up, staring and looking foolish after the
fashion of English people when asked to do something unusual. Would they
help? There was a stout man opposite with the symptoms of a public spirit
lurking in the creases of his fat self-satisfied face. Charles promised
himself that he would give them a fight for it. He counted his chances. He
was aware from his previous journey to Charleswood that the train he was
in now ran through to Charing Cross without another stop. Perhaps the man
in the corner seat would wait until they arrived there, and then give him
in charge. That was a disconcerting possibility, but he could see no way
of guarding against it unless he chose to drop from the train, now
travelling at nearly forty miles an hour, taking the risk of being maimed
or killed. He considered the advisability of that. It was a chance he
might have taken casually enough on his own account, but he had also to
think of Sisily. She would be quite friendless if he were killed. Besides,
there was also the chance that he might be mistaken in interpreting the
man's intentions by his own fears. At all events he seemed to have no
thought of springing up and denouncing him. Charles decided to wait and
trust to luck to escape in the crowd at Charing Cross if the man made any
move there.

In ten minutes the train was running into Charing Cross station at slowing
speed. Charles's mouth closed tightly, and his face flushed.

The man in the corner seat flattened his newspaper into a pocket, opened
the carriage door, and sprang out on to the platform. Charles followed him
quickly, and stood still watching him make his way towards the barrier. He
saw him press through, give up his ticket, and disappear without so much
as a backward glance.

There was something so ridiculous in this anticlimax to his poignant fears
that the young man was for the moment actually exasperated. But his face
and linen were wet with perspiration. Then a great feeling of relief swept
over him like a cooling wave. He followed in the wake of the other
passengers and emerged from the station into the street.

It was early enough for the shops to be still open, but the streets were
thronged with pleasure-seekers going to restaurants and places of
amusement. As he stood there a painted girl touched him on the arm with an
enticing smile for such wares as she had to sell, and her solicitation
awakened him sharply to the folly of standing in the lighted Strand at
that hour in full view of every passing policeman. He walked slowly away,
debating where to turn his steps. An outfitter's shop displaying overcoats
gave him a bright idea. He walked inside and selected a long dark coat
which reached to his heels, putting it on over the light and fashionable
coat he was wearing. The shopman seemed surprised at his choice, but made
no comment as he took his money and handed him his change. Charles caught
a glimpse of himself as he went out, and was satisfied with his changed
appearance. In that shapeless garment he was no longer likely to catch the
eye of any unduly curious observer as a "well-dressed" man.

He now walked swiftly. Turning out of Chandos Street from the Strand, he
avoided the brightly lit proximity of Leicester Square, and plunged into
the crooked dark streets on the other side of Charing Cross Road. He
reached New Oxford Street, crossed it, and continued along obscure
streets, his head bent forward, in the unconscious habit of a man thinking
deeply as he went.

In the first feeling of dismay at the discovery that the police were
looking for him he had been overwhelmed by a sense of catastrophe. With
the passing of that phase he was able to consider the situation with a
cooler brain, and it now seemed to him that his position was not so
precarious as he deemed it in the light of that shock. He knew London, and
might be able to evade arrest indefinitely if he took precautions and
avoided risks. But Sisily was in different case. He recalled her telling
him that she had only been in London once, as a child with her father. Her
inexperience of London was her greatest danger, because it was likely to
attract attention. The only one to whom she could look for help was
himself.

His determination to find her was doggedly renewed as he thought of that.
He accepted the lengthened odds against him with the desperate dark
courage of a spirit which had always regarded life as a gamble against
unseen forces holding marked cards. The police were searching for him?
Very well. He would pit his wits against theirs, and continue his own
search for Sisily with a caution he had hitherto disdained to use.

Courage and caution! Those were the two qualities he must use in adroit
combination. The plight of both Sisily and himself was desperate enough
now without giving the enemy a chance by recklessness. He was like a man
rowing a small boat in the immensity of a dark sea which threatened every
moment to engulf him. Sisily was somewhere in that darkness, and she must
be rescued. If his own cockleshell went down there could be no succour for
her. That was a thought to make him keep afloat--to keep on rowing.

And suppose that he did find her, as he believed he would, sooner or
later--given time. What was to happen then?

That thought pursued him in his walk that night, and was his constant
companion in the lonely days and nights of his wanderings which followed.
He had banished it before, but that course was no longer possible. The
impalpable yet terribly real menace of authority overshadowing them both
now made it imperative that all the facts should be faced. All the
facts--but what were they? It was the question he asked himself again and
again as he strove to twist out of the black fantasy of that horrible
night some tangible shred of truth which might help them both. His own
incredible share in it was forever being re-enacted in his mind, and
haunted his dreams. In the night, at early dawn, at odd moments of his
eternal quest, the curtain of his mind would rise on that unforgettable
scene--the cliffs, the rocks, the darkling outline of Flint House, with a
feeble beam of light slanting down from the upstairs window at the back
which looked out on the sea. Then the gush of light from the open door,
and her shape stealing forth into the darkness, followed by
another--Thalassa's. And then, the final phase--the desolate house, the
wind rushing noisily along dark passages, the dead form of Robert Turold
in the room upstairs. What did these things mean, and what was to be the
end?

His hope was that Sisily could reveal something which would furnish the
key to the enigma of that night's events. From her lips he might learn
enough to guide him to the hidden truth, and save them both. Sustained by
the feeling that she existed somewhere near him, he continued his search
day after day until in the abstracted intensity of his fancy London
assumed the appearance of a wilderness of unending streets filled with
pallid faces which flitted past his vision like ghosts. But the face he
was seeking was never among them.

He searched with the wariness of one whose own liberty depended upon his
watchfulness. A second glance, an indignant look, a turn of the head, a
policeman's casual eye--any of these things would place him immediately on
his guard and turn his footsteps in a different direction. He chose his
sleeping places with care at the last minute, and left them at early
morning when only a yawning night porter or a sleepy maid servant was
astir. He never returned to the same place, nor did he go to the same
restaurant twice. Most carefully did he read the newspapers, but nothing
appeared in their columns to alarm him; merely an occasional perfunctory
paragraph about the Cornwall murder. The favourite adjective in the
journalistic etymological garden was culled for the heading, and it was
described as an amazing case. Charles felt that the definition was correct
enough. Early developments were faithfully promised--by the newspaper.
Charles understood very well what was meant by that. It was hoped he would
provide the development by falling into the hands of the police. He smiled
a little at that, but the unintended warning increased his vigilance.

On the whole he felt tolerably safe in the crowded London streets. It was
not as though there was any real hue and cry after him. The lonely
Cornwall tragedy had not come into sufficient public notice for that, and
now it seemed almost forgotten.

He had his hazards and chances, though in a different way. One was an
encounter with a young man of good family whose acquaintance, commenced in
France during the war, had continued in London afterwards. The two young
men had seen a great deal of each other--dining and going to music-halls
together. It was in Leicester Square that Charles saw him getting out of a
taxi-cab to enter a hall where a professional billiard match was in
progress. He paused midway at the sight of Charles, exclaiming: "Why,
Tur--" The second syllable of the name was nipped off in mid-air, and the
outstretched arm was dropped, as the patron of billiards took in the cut
of his former friend's coat. He gazed at the ill-fitting garment with a
kind of astonished animosity, and then his puzzled look shot upwards to
the face surmounting it, no doubt with the feeling that he may have been
deceived by a chance resemblance. Charles went past him without a sign of
recognition, but he felt that the other was still staring after him.

Another day a street musician regarded him curiously from behind a barrel
organ which he was turning with the lifeless celerity of one without
interest in the sounds created by the process. His card of appeal--"Wanted
in 1914; not wanted now"--helped Charles to recall him as a soldier of his
old regiment. They exchanged glances across the card. The man gave no sign
that he knew his former officer, but Charles had no doubt that he did. He
placed a coin on top of the organ and went swiftly on.

A week of increasing strain slipped by, and another commenced. Then
Fortune, with a contemptuous good-humoured spin of her wheel, did for
Charles Turold what he could hardly have hoped to achieve in a year's
effort without her aid.

It was late at night, and he was in a despondent mood after one of his
recurring disappointments--this time a graceful slender shape which he had
earlier in the evening pursued in a flock of home-going shop-girls until
she turned and revealed a pert Cockney face which bore no resemblance to
Sisily's. Several hours later he paid another of his visits to Euston
Square, which he believed to be the starting-point of Sisily's own
wanderings. He felt closer to her in that locality because of that. From
Euston Square he walked on aimlessly, engrossed in impossible plans for
finding Sisily by hook or crook, until the illuminated dial of a street
clock, pointing to half-past ten, reminded him of the passage of time.

He paused and looked round. He was in an area of darkened suburban streets
converging on a distant broader avenue, where occasional taxi-cabs slid
past into the blackness of the night with the heartless velocity of years
disappearing into the gulf of Time.

He turned his steps in the direction of this thoroughfare in order to find
out the locality, but stopped half-way at the sight of a coffee-stall on
the opposite side of the street. He was hungry and thirsty, and he had
learnt to like the safety of these places in his wanderings. The food
might be coarse, but there were no lengthy waits between courses; no
curious glances from the other patrons. A couple of half-drunken young men
were feeding at this stall, and a girl of the streets was standing near
them. In the light of a swinging lamp the scene shone clearly in the
surrounding darkness--the brass urn, the thick crockery, the head of the
stall-keeper bent intently over a newspaper, the munching jaws of the
customers, the girl in the background with splashes of crimson paint like
blood on her white drawn face.

Charles was about to cross the street, but at that moment a policeman's
helmet emerged slowly from the surrounding darkness as if irresistibly
attracted by the concentric glow of the light. At the sight of him Charles
shrank back into the friendly shadow of his own side of the road. The
policeman emerged into the fulness of the light, serene in his official
immobility. His slow yet seeing vision dwelt on the painted girl with a
gaze as penetrating as that of Omnipotence in its profound knowledge of
evil. He strolled towards her with a kind of indifferent benignity with
which Providence has also been credited. He raised a hand, omnipotent with
the authority of the law. "Better get away from here," Charles heard him
warn her, and she disappeared from view in obedience to this command.

So did Charles, but in quite another direction. There was something about
these chance manifestations of authority, so lightly exercised, so
unhesitatingly obeyed, which never failed to thrill and impress him, as
they would have thrilled and impressed any other man in his present
position. They seemed to intensify the hopelessness of his own situation.
He had a slight feeling of creepiness about the spine as he thought of the
narrowness of that escape--though, of course, the policeman might not have
identified him. But some day or other it was bound to come--that
accidental confrontation which might mean his arrest.

He walked swiftly until he reached the avenue. It was a part of London
that he did not know, and appeared quite deserted. He wondered which way
he should turn to get back to that area of London where he usually sought
a bed.

As he stood there glancing about him irresolutely, his eye caught a
glimpse of somebody walking swiftly along--a slight girlish figure dimly
visible in the dark vista of the empty street. There was something
familiar in the girl's outline--something which caused his heart to give a
great maddening jump. As he looked she turned into one of the converging
streets.

He raced up the broad road, indifferent at that moment whether the eyes of
all the policemen in London were upon him. When he reached the street
which had swallowed her he could see nothing of the form which had excited
him. Then, far ahead, he again saw it passing under a distant lamp-post
and merge once more into the darkness. He ran quickly in pursuit.

The girl heard him coming and looked back anxiously. This time he saw her
face. In a bound he was at her side.

"Sisily, Sisily!" he cried. "Oh, Sisily, I have found you!"




CHAPTER XXVI


He saw her white face sharply uplifted in the darkness, and caught the
startled gleam of her dark eyes. Then she recognized him.

"You!" she breathed. "Oh, Charles, how did you find me?"

"It was chance, Sisily--but no, it was something deeper and stranger than
chance." He spoke in a tone of passionate conviction. "I have been walking
London day and night, seeking for you. I felt sure I should find you
sooner or later. I had given up hope for tonight, though. It was so
late--so late--" The tumult of his feelings checked his utterance.

"I dare not go out earlier," she whispered.

That was a reminder which brought him back sharply to the reality of
things. He looked anxiously around him in the dark and empty street. In
the vulgar expression they were both "wanted"--wanted by the police. The
danger was doubled now that they were together. That was a freezing
thought which had not occurred to him during his search for her. It
occurred to him now.

"I wonder where we could go and talk in safety?" he murmured--"and decide
what is best to do."

"We might go to where I am staying," she unexpectedly suggested. "It is at
the end of this street."

"Would that be quite safe?" he hazarded doubtfully.

"I think so. Mrs. Johns told me that she would be very late to-night. She
goes to spiritualistic meetings, and does not return home until early
morning sometimes. We should be alone, and free to talk. There is nobody
else in the house."


He was too eager to raise any doubts of the safety of the suggested
harbourage. Their conversation, which had been carried on in suppressed
and whispered tones, ceased as they advanced along the quiet street. Near
the end Sisily turned into the small garden of an unlighted house. She
unlocked the hall door, and they entered. He saw her bending over the
hallstand, and guessing her intention, struck a match. She took it from
him in silence, lit the hall gas, and shut the front door carefully. Then
she struck another match from a box on the hallstand, and preceding him
into a room on the right, lit the gas there.

It was a small sitting-room, simply and almost shabbily furnished,
remarkable for some strange articles which were heaped at random on
various small tables. There was a planchette, a tambourine, and other more
mysterious appliances which suggested that the inmate spent much time with
the trappings and rappings of spiritualism. Papers and journals devoted to
spiritualism were scattered about the room, and framed "spirit
photographs" hung on the walls.

Charles was not thinking of the interior of the room. His one thought was
of Sisily. He had not seen her clearly in the dark street. She appeared to
him now unchanged, her dear face as he had last seen it, her features
luminous with tender feeling, her dark eyes dwelling gravely on him, just
as she used to look. As she stood there, the realization of his haunting
dreams, he had to fight down an impulse to take her in his arms. But it
was not the moment for that. Because of the graveness of their situation,
love had to stand aside.

"Sisily, why did you go away?" he asked at length.

She did not immediately reply, but lowered her glance as though collecting
her thoughts. His look fastened with anxious scrutiny on her downcast
face. She did not raise her eyes as she answered.

"I had to go, Charles," was all she said.

"Why did you not tell me, Sisily?" he said in a tone of reproach. "Why did
you not let me know, that last day on the cliffs?"

He failed to understand the glance she cast at him as he asked these
questions, but it seemed to contain an element of surprise, almost
astonishment. Absorbed in his own gloomy thoughts, he went on.

"Do you remember what you told me about your mother's old nurse, and our
memory pictures of her name? I thought you had gone there. So I went to
Charleswood to look for you."

"I did think of going there. I intended to when I left Cornwall," she
hurriedly rejoined. "Then, afterwards, I thought it best not to. I stayed
at a private hotel in Euston Road on my first night in London, but did not
like it, and next day I went to a boarding-house near Russell Square. I
meant to write to Mrs. Pursill from there, telling her my mother was dead.
But that night after dinner I heard some of the boarders talking of--the
murder, and I knew I couldn't go to Charleswood--then. I left that place
early next morning, and came here. I had been walking about all the
morning, not knowing what to do, when I saw the card in this window saying
that there was a room to let. Mrs. Johns told me she wanted to let the
room more for company than anything else, because she lived alone. I was
glad to find it, and grateful to her."

"You have known all along that the police are looking for you?" he said
gravely.

"After I heard them talking at the boarding-house," rejoined simply. "One
of the women had an evening paper, and read it aloud to the others. I knew
then, of course. The woman kept looking at me as she read as though she
suspected that I was the missing girl. I was very nervous, but tried to
pretend that I didn't notice, and left the room as soon as I dared." "What
about this Mrs. Johns--does she suspect anything?" he asked anxiously.

"Oh, no. She is a very unworldly kind of woman, and thinks of nothing but
spiritualism. She never reads newspapers."

"Do not talk about it," he said suddenly, as though this picture of her
wanderings was too much to be borne. "Why did you go away from Cornwall
without a word? You said you had reasons. What were they, Sisily?"

"I will tell you--now." The soft difference in the tone of the last word
was too femininely subtle for him to understand. "That afternoon, when my
father was talking to you all in the front room downstairs--do you
remember?"

"Yes, yes," he said impatiently.

"I heard something--I was at the door."

"It was you, then, and not Thalassa, who looked through the door!" he
said, glancing at her curiously.

"I did not mean to listen," she replied, flushing slightly. "I was going
out to the cliffs--to the Moon Rock. I was very unhappy, and wanted to be
alone with my thoughts. On my way past the door something my father was
saying reached me. It concerned me. I did not take it in at first, or
understand what it really meant. As I stood there, wondering, my eyes met
my aunt's through the opening in the door, and I saw her spring to her
feet. I hurried away because I did not want to see her. I wanted to think
over what I had just heard, to try and understand what it meant.

"I went down to the Moon Rock, and sat there, thinking and thinking. They
were so strange and terrible, those words I had overheard, but they were
so few that I did not really guess then all that they meant. All I knew
was that there was some dreadful secret behind them, some secret of my
mother's which had something to do with me. I wished that I had heard
more. As I sat there, wondering what I ought to do, you came--"

"To tell you that I loved you, that I shall love you as long as I live,"
he interrupted eagerly.

Again a faint flush rose to her cheeks, but she hurried on: "I could not
tell you that I loved you while those dreadful words of my father were
ringing in my ears. I wanted to see him first, to question him, to know if
I had partly guessed the truth, or if there was any loophole of escape for
me. Oh, do not think any worse of me now if I tell you that I loved you
then and shall always love you. I wanted to tell you so that day by the
Moon Rock, but I knew that I must not."

"Why not?" His louder voice broke in on her subdued tones impetuously.
"You should not have sent me away, Sisily. That was wrong. It has brought
much misery upon us both."

"It was not wrong!" she replied, with unexpected firmness and a momentary
hardness of glance, which reminded him of her father's look. "It was
because I was nobody--less than that, if what I thought was true. There
was your position to think of. You were to come into the title--my father
told me that before."

"Damn the title!" the young man burst out furiously. "I told you that day
I would have nothing to do with it. Why did you think about that?"

"Because I've heard of nothing else all my life, I suppose," she rejoined
with the ghost of a smile. "I couldn't tell you then that I loved you,
because of it, and other things. Now, it is different. It does not matter
what I say--now." She spoke these words with an underlying note of deep
sadness, and went on: "When you told me that you loved me I saw my duty
plainly. I knew I must go away and hide myself from you, from everybody,
go somewhere where nobody knew me, where I would never be known. But I
wanted to see my father first, to make sure."

"I understand," he muttered in a dull voice.

"I thought it all out on the way to the hotel with my aunt. I determined
to go back and see my father that night. I felt that I could not sleep
until I knew the whole truth. I left the dinner table as soon as I could,
and hurried down to the station to catch the half-past seven wagonette to
St. Fair.

"I got out of the wagonette at the cross-roads, and walked over the moors.
When I reached Flint House I knocked at the door, and Thalassa let me in.
I told him I wanted to see my father, and he said he would wait downstairs
and take me back across the moors when I came down.

"I ran upstairs and knocked at the door of my father's study. He did not
reply, so I opened the door and went in. He was sitting at his table
writing, and when he looked up and saw me he was very angry. 'You,
Sisily!' he said--'what has brought you here at this hour?' I told him I
had come to hear the truth from his own lips. I asked him to tell me
everything. He gave me one of his black looks, but it did not frighten
me--nothing would have frightened me then. He seemed to consider for a
moment, and then said that perhaps, after all, it would be better if he
told me himself.

"So he told me--told me in half-a-dozen sentences which seemed to burn
into my brain. I sat still for a while, almost stunned, I think; then, as
the full force of what he had told me came home to my mind, I did
something I had never done before. I pleaded with my father--not for my
own sake, but for my mother's. I told him I would go anywhere, do
anything, if he would only keep her secret safe. I might as well have
pleaded with the rocks. He sat there with a stern face until I went down
on my knees to him and begged him to think about it--to keep it secret for
a little while at least. He grew angry, very angry, at that. I remember--I
shall never be able to forget--his reply. 'A little while?' he said, 'and
the claim for the title is to be heard next week. I'm to postpone my claim
for the sake of your mother, a ----'"

Sisily broke off suddenly, her white face flaming scarlet, her eyes widely
distended, as though that last terrible scene was again produced before
her vision. Charles Turold watched her mutely, with the understanding that
nothing he could say would bring comfort to her stricken soul.

She continued after a pause--

"I left him then. I knew that I should never be able to speak to him
again. Downstairs, Thalassa was waiting for me. He had a letter in his
hand. He looked at me, but did not speak, just opened the door, and we
went out across the moors. We went silently. Thalassa was always kind to
me, and I think that somehow he understood. It was not until we were
nearing the cross-roads that I turned to him and said quickly, 'Thalassa,
you must not tell anybody that I saw my father tonight.' I wanted to keep
it secret, I wanted nobody to know--never. I knew my father would not
talk, it was not of sufficient consequence to him. He thought of nothing
but the title. Thalassa promised that he wouldn't. 'Nobody will ever find
out from me, Miss Sisily,' he said.

"Thalassa went back, across the moors, and I waited by the cross-roads
till the wagonette came. When I got back to the hotel I went up to my room
and to bed. I do not know what time it was next morning when my aunt came
into my room, and told me that my father was dead. She did not tell me
much. There had been a terrible accident, she said, and he had been found
dead in his room. I did not feel shocked, only ... indifferent. I did not
even wonder what had happened--not then. Afterwards I overheard one of the
maids in the corridor telling another that it was suicide.

"That made no difference to me, except that I wanted more than ever to get
away. I formed my plans quickly, to go to London that day, but not by the
express. I knew my aunt would not go back that morning after what had
happened, but I thought her husband might have to go on business. And the
express is always crowded. I did not wish to be seen and brought back. So
I decided the slow midday train would be safest for me. I waited for a
time, and then I was able to slip away from the hotel without being
noticed, while my aunt was out. I got to London that night, feeling lonely
and miserable. I knew I had done right, but I could not help thinking ...
of you."

She ceased. Charles Turold got up from his seat and took a turn round the
room, then came back and stood looking down at her as she sat with her
hand resting on the dark polished surface of the table. His first words
seemed to convey some inward doubt of the adequacy of the motive for
disappearance which her story revealed.

"You should not have gone away like that, Sisily," he said soberly. "There
was no reason, no real reason, I mean. Where was the necessity, after what
I told you? Why should your father's death have made you more anxious to
go? It seems to me that you had no reason then."

She looked at him sadly in her first experience of masculine
incomprehension of woman's exaltation of sacrifice in love, but she did
not speak. He continued. "But we must think of what's to be done." He
walked up and down the room again, considering this question with
compressed brows. He stopped, struck by a thought, and looked at her. "The
police have been trying to find out from Thalassa whether you went back to
Flint House that night, but he will not tell them anything. So they
suspect him also."

She roused at that. "Oh, they must not!" she cried in distress. "Poor
Thalassa! He must tell them the truth."

"The question is--what is the truth?" It flashed through his mind as he
spoke that his interrogation was the echo of one put to him by his father
before he left Cornwall.

"The truth is, that Thalassa and I left the house together that night
before it happened. Oh, cannot they believe that? Cannot it be proved?"

"I could tell them when you left," he said in a low tone.

"You!" she cried, looking at him with a kind of fear. "How do you know?"

"Because I saw you. I was standing outside, close to the house."

"Why were you there?" she put in quickly.

He was slower in answering. "I had gone to see your father--about you. I
was standing there, thinking ... waiting, when the front door opened, and
you and Thalassa came out. I was surprised to see you, but it seemed to me
an opportunity--a final chance--to speak to you again. I started after
you, Sisily, once more to ask you to consider my love for you, but you and
Thalassa were swallowed up in the darkness of the moors before I could
reach you. I followed with the intention of overtaking you, but I got lost
on the moors instead, and was wandering about in the blackness for nearly
half an hour before I found my way back to Flint House again."

"Could you not tell them--the police--that?" she asked, a little
wistfully.

"It would be useless," he solemnly replied.

"What do you mean?" she said breathlessly.

His rejoinder was a long time in coming. When his set lips moved the words
were barely audible. "Because I would not be believed. Because I went
straight up the path to the house, determined to see your father before it
grew later. The front door was open, and the house seemed in complete
darkness. I entered, and went upstairs. There was a light in your father's
study. I found your father--dead." He fixed care-worn eyes upon her. "That
story sounds incredible, even to you, doesn't it? But--"

"Oh!" That startled cry seemed wrung from her involuntarily. Then,
swiftly, as if her mind had detached itself to look on her own actions
that night through his eyes: "You thought, you believed that I--" She
checked herself, but her look completed the thought.

"I did not know what to think, but I did not think--that," he gloomily
rejoined. "Afterwards, the next night, I found out something which made me
think--" He paused.

"Yes, yes, tell me what you thought," she said nervously.

"I thought it was Thalassa."

She shook her head.

"Who was it then? The latest theory of the police is that I had something
to do with it. They're looking for both of us. They must have found out
that I was at Flint House that night. It's too late to tell them the truth
now, not that they were likely to have believed me at any time. Why, my
own father believes that I did this thing." He laughed discordantly. "I
tried to convince your father's lawyer of your innocence, and I might have
told him the truth if he had been sympathetic. I don't know, though," he
added anxiously. "I had to consider your position all along. If my story
was disbelieved it only made it worse for you. If it was not Thalassa, who
could it have been? Have you any idea--the faintest suspicion?"

Again she shook her head. She made an effort to look at him, but there
were tears in her eyes for the first time. His hand was resting on the
table, and she touched it gently with her fingers.

"We must find out." He spoke loudly, as if with the idea that a firm
utterance lessened the tremendous difficulty of that performance.

"What can we do?" Her tone was hopeless enough.

"Let me think." He fiddled with the planchette on the table as though he
had some notion of invoking the shade of Robert Turold to answer the
question. "Had your father any enemy? Did he fear anybody?"

She raised thoughtful eyes to his in reply.

"My father feared nobody," she said, "at least, I do not think so. Nobody
had any real influence over him except Thalassa."

"What sort of an influence?"

"It is difficult to describe," she hesitatingly answered. "Thalassa could
take liberties which nobody else would have dared. He used to go into his
room at any time. Sometimes I have awakened late at night and heard the
murmur of their voices coming from my father's study."

"Anything else?" he said, looking at her keenly.

"There was never any question of Thalassa leaving us," she went on.
"Wherever we went, and we were always going to some fresh part of England
about the title, Thalassa went also. Perhaps it was because he had known
him for so long that my father allowed Thalassa to do things which nobody
else could do. Thalassa used to sneer about the title, and say no good
would come of it. They had a quarrel once, long, long ago. I was a very
little girl at the time, and I can just remember it," she added dreamily.

She was apparently unconscious of the significance of these revelations,
but they made a deep impression upon Charles. There was something
expectant and cruel in his face as he listened--the aroused instinct of
the hunter. He addressed her--

"This bears out what I have believed all along. Thalassa knows about the
murder. He is mixed up in it in some way."

"Oh, why do you think that?" she exclaimed, clasping her hand in distress.

"Why?" he echoed. "Because your father was not the man to stand insolence
from Thalassa or anybody else unless he had to. Thalassa must have had him
under his thumb in some way. Why did I not know of this before? It's clear
enough now. Thalassa, even if he did not commit the murder--"

"He did not," she said quickly. "He left the house with me, so he could
not have done it."

"Then he knows who did. He and your father shared some secret
together--some dreadful secret which brought about your father's death.
That is one reason why Thalassa will not speak--because he is implicated
in this mystery, whatever it is."

"No, no. He is keeping silence because of me--I feel sure. I made him
promise not to tell."

Charles Turold shook his head decidedly. "He may have more than one reason
for keeping silent," he said with a swift flash of intuition. "If it is as
you say, he is shielding himself as well as you. If your father was killed
while Thalassa was out of the house that night, Thalassa knows who did
it."

Her eyes met his in an agony of perplexity and distress. "Oh, no, I cannot
think you are right," she said. "If I could only see Thalassa--for five
minutes--"

"What good would that do?" he abruptly demanded.

"He would tell me the truth--if he knew."

He shook his head incredulously. "You do not know all," he murmured. He
shrank from telling her of the marks on her father's arm. "I know
Thalassa," she eagerly replied. "He would tell me if he thought it would
help me."

"If you think that I will go down and see him--and get it all out of him."

"No, no! You must not go," she cried in affright. "It would not be safe
for you."

"Would it be any more dangerous than hiding in London like a skulking
rat?" he bitterly replied. "This cannot go on. We are both in a dangerous
position, and might be arrested at any moment. What would happen then? Who
would believe my story--or yours? They sound improbable even to ourselves.
Here, at least, is a chance of discovering the truth, for I most solemnly
believe that Thalassa knows it, or guesses it. What other chance have we
of finding out the hideous mystery of that night? I must go, Sisily. I
will be careful, for your sake."

She knew by his voice that he was not to be deterred from the hazardous
enterprise, so she did not attempt to dissuade him further. But she clung
to him trembling, as though she would have shielded him from the menace of
capture. He was thinking rapidly.

"It may be that I shall fail," he said. "I do not think so, because I
shall take every precaution, but the police will be watching for me in
Cornwall as well as here. If I fail--if I do not come back ... you will
understand?"

Her look answered him.

"You had better watch the papers. And be careful on your own account." He
eyed her anxiously. "Do you think you will be safe here till I get back?"

"Yes--I think so," she murmured sadly.

"Very well. I will go down by to-night's train--I've just time to catch
it." He glanced at his watch with an assumption of cheerfulness. "When you
wake up in the morning I shall be in Cornwall."


"I shall not sleep," she said, in a miserable broken voice. "I shall lie
awake, thinking of you."

He caught her swiftly in his arms, and kissed her on the lips. "If I find
out the truth, nothing shall come between us then, Sisily?"

"No, nothing," she said.

He turned with a sudden swift movement as though to go, but she still held
him.

"Tell Thalassa ... that I ask him to tell you the truth, if he knows
it...."

She released him then, and stood looking after him as he walked from the
room and out of the house.




CHAPTER XXVII


Flint House looked a picture of desolation in the chill grey day, wrapped
in such silence that Charles's cautious knock seemed to reverberate
through the stillness around. But the knocking, repeated more loudly,
aroused no human response. After waiting awhile the young man pulled the
bell. From within the house a cracked and jangling tinkle echoed faintly,
and then quivered into silence. He rang again, but there was no sound of
foot or voice; no noise but the cries of the gulls overhead and the hoarse
beat of the sea at the foot of the cliffs.

A cormorant, sitting on a rock near by, twisted its thin neck to stare
fearlessly at the visitor. But Charles Turold was not thinking of
cormorants. Where was Thalassa? Where was his wife? He believed they were
still in Cornwall, but they might have left the house. He had been in
London a long while. Not so long, though--only twelve days. Twelve days!
Twelve eternities of unendurable hopelessness and loneliness, such as the
damned might know. Was he to fail, now, after finding Sisily? He had a
responsibility, a solemn duty. He had reached Cornwall safely from
London--run the gauntlet of all the watching eyes of the police--and he
would not go back without seeing Thalassa. His mind was thoroughly made
up. He would find him, if he had to walk every inch of Cornwall in search
of him. And when he found him he would wrest the truth out of him--yes, by
God, he would! When he found him, but where was he to be found? The crafty
old scoundrel might be in the house at that moment, lurking there like a
wolf, perhaps grinning down at him from behind some closed window.... A
sudden rage surged over him at that thought, and he fell savagely on the
shut door, beating it with insensate fury with his fists. Damn him, he
would force his way in!

The cormorant ruffled its greenish feathers and watched him curiously. The
faint cries of the gulls overhead seemed borne downward with a note of
mocking derision. Charles Turold stepped back from the door with an uneasy
look at the cormorant, as though fearing to detect in its unreflecting
beadiness of glance some humanly cynical enjoyment at his loss of
self-control. The wave of feeling had spent itself. Not thus was victory
to be won. He paused to consider, then tried the knocker again. The
knocker smote the wood with a hollow sound, like a stroke on the iron door
of a vault, loud enough to rouse the dead. Charles Turold had a
disagreeable impression of Robert Turold starting up in his grave-clothes
at the summons, listening.... But no! The dead man was safe in his grave
by this time. He had forgotten that.

A sudden silence fell on the house: a deep and profound stillness, as
though seas and wind had hushed their wailing speech to listen for the
answer to the knock. The birds, too, were silent. The house remained
immutably quiet. Charles Turold bent down, and peered through the keyhole,
but could see nothing within but darkness. Then, as he looked, a sound
reached his ears, a sound like a thin cackle of laughter from the interior
of the house. In the gathering gloom within he had a momentary impression
of a stealing greyish shape--a shape which vanished from his vision as he
looked.

He rose to his feet, his mind groping blindly for some tangible
explanation of this spectral thing, but finding none. A ghost? He shook
off that feeling roughly. God knows, that house might well be haunted, but
not by a ghost that could laugh, though there was no merriment in that
ghastly cackle. The reality of the thing, whatever it was, could not be
worse than the sound. Had he really seen anything, after all? Was there
some trap about it, some danger to himself? He would have to risk that.

The distant sight of a human figure far away on the wide space of the
moors, clambering over the granite slabs of a stile, turned his thoughts
to a more perceptible danger. If he could see that man more than half a
mile away, his own figure must be apparent over a long distance in that
clear brown expanse. Perhaps at that very moment the policeman from the
churchtown was prowling about the moors in search of him. His actions at
that lonely house were suspicious enough to attract anybody's attention.
That was an act of imprudence which he had no right to commit. He had not
evaded the keen eyes of the London police to be trapped like a rat by a
rural constable. It was too dangerous for him to remain there. He
determined to spend the rest of the day among the cliffs, and return to
Flint House when night fell.

He walked away, briskly at first, but with a more laggard step as he
plunged into the shelter of the great rocks, for he had had nothing to eat
since the night before, and was beginning to be conscious of his weakness.
But he strode on, doggedly enough, for more than an hour, until he found
himself at a part of the coast he had not seen before--a theatre of black
rocks, with dark towering walls, and a hissing sea whitening at the base.

At the foot of these cliffs three jagged conical rocks rose bare and
glistening, the spray from the broken sea dashing far up their sides. As
Charles stood there, looking down, he saw a man appear from the edge of
the furthest one and walk rapidly across the sloping shelf of rock which
spanned the narrow bay near the surface of the sea. His heart leapt within
him as he took in the figure of the man. It was Thalassa.

As Charles climbed down from the higher cliffs to intercept him, there
came to his mind an imperfectly comprehended fragment of conversation
which he had overheard, between waking and dozing, in the train that
morning. The voices drifted to his dulled hearing from the next
compartment, where some men seemed to be discussing somebody of whom they
stood in dread, somebody who was forever striding along the cliffs with
his eyes fixed on some distant horizon, as though seeking some one. The
object of the mysterious being's quest, if it was a quest, nobody who met
him cared to ask. So much he had gathered. He had heard one of the
speakers say: "I've met un, ever so laate, stalkin' aloong like th' devil.
Tes aw token o' a bad conscience. Tes dreadful to think about. I got owt
o' his way.... I'd as soon speak to th' devil. Iss, aw'd." Charles had
thought nothing of this chatter at the time, but he wondered now if they
were talking of Thalassa. Did the local fisherfolk believe that he had
something to do with the murder, and shunned him like Ishmael in
consequence?

He looked like Ishmael at that moment, crossing that wild place, earnestly
scanning every nook of those seamed and riven walls, sometimes glancing
stealthily behind him. His preoccupation in this search--if it was a
search--was so great that he never once glanced ahead, and he did not see
Charles until the young man leaped down the last few paces of his slippery
descent and stood plainly forth before him. Thalassa's brown face did not
move a muscle as he looked at him.

"Thalassa," said Charles sternly, "I have been looking for you."

Thalassa went on, still scanning the secret places of the towering cliffs
as he walked forward with Charles beside him. When the rugged passage was
crossed, and the narrow wild bay left behind, he spoke.

"For what?"

"To have the truth out of you, you infernal scoundrel!" cried the young
man fiercely, his self-control suddenly vanishing at that indifferent
tone. "You know all about the murder of your master; you're going to tell
me, or I'll throw you off these cliffs into the sea."

He gripped the other's arm as he spoke, but Thalassa tore off his fingers,
and leapt backward against a rock, a knife in his hand, snarling like a
wild beast.

"Keep off!" he cried. "Keep off, or by Christ, I'll--" He hooked the air
with his knife.

Charles eyed him across the space, affected almost to nausea by his evil
glance. What a fool he had been to lose his temper! Not in that way was
the truth to be reached. The man before him was not to be terrorized or
intimidated. Sisily's way would have been the best. He wondered whether it
was too late to attempt it.

"I was hasty, Thalassa," he said. "Come, do not let us quarrel after I
have risked everything to get down here to see you. I have a message for
you--from Sisily."

The face of the man crouching by the rock changed instantly. He made a
step forward, as if to speak, then cast a gleaming eye of unbelief at his
companion.

"It's a lie!" he said. "You haven't seen her."

"I'm speaking the truth," Charles earnestly replied. "Do you think I'd
have come back to Cornwall otherwise, knowing the police are searching for
me?"

"Ay, you know that, do you?" muttered the other. "They've been watching
Flint House for you. You were a fool to come back here."

"I'd risk more than that to learn the truth, Thalassa. It's for Sisily's
sake. I've seen her. She's in London, and I've come from her. She gave me
this message to bring to you. She said: 'Tell Thalassa that I ask him to
tell the truth--if he knows it.' The police are looking for her as well as
me."

"I've heered so." With these words, uttered quickly, Thalassa fell into
the silence of a man on his guard and pondering. Charles approached
nearer.

"Thalassa," he pleaded, "if you are keeping anything back you must tell me
for Sisily's sake."

"How do I know you've seen her?" retorted Thalassa, darting a dark crafty
look at him.

Charles was overwhelmed by a sense of catastrophe. Here was a possibility
which had been overlooked. How was he to instil belief that he spoke the
truth? A moment passed. Thalassa cast another black look at him, and
turned as if to walk away. "I'll keep my word," he muttered to himself.

The young man's quick ear caught the whispered sentence, and saw the way.
"I'll prove it to you," he said. "You promised Sisily that you'd tell
nobody she was at Flint House to see her father on the night he was
killed. How could I know that unless I'd seen her?"

"What else?" said Thalassa, facing him with a strange and doubtful glance.

"You let her in," Charles rapidly continued, "and you waited downstairs
for her. Afterwards you took her back across the moors to catch the
wagonette. It was on the way, near the cross-roads, that Sisily made you
promise not to tell anybody that she'd been there that night."

"Suppose it's true--what then?" Thalassa's voice was edged with the
craftiest caution. "She's sent you to me to ask for the truth, say you.
'Twould have been safer not. What else is there to say, when she's told
you everything?" He cast a look of savage jealousy at the young man.

"Much." Charles spoke rapidly, but his glance was despairing. "What
happened while you were away from the house? What sent your wife mad? What
did you find when you returned? You know these things, Thalassa."

"Happen I did, what good'd come of telling them?"

"To save Sisily."

"They'd not help to save her."

"Do you think she shot her father?"

Thalassa gave him another dark look, but remained silent.

"You know she didn't, you hound!" cried Charles, anger flaring up in him
again. "It was you--it must have been you. Listen to me! I know almost
enough to hang you. I was in the house while you were away, and found your
master lying dead in his study, and the key of the door in the passage
outside. Who could have dropped it there except you?"

"'Tweren't me. 'Twas done afore I got back to the house," answered
Thalassa.

"What time was it when you left the house with Sisily?"

"Agone half-past eight: perhaps ten minutes after. She came running
downstairs, her eyes staring and blazing. 'Thalassa, dear Thalassa, for
pity's sake let me out,' she said half-sobbing. 'Oh, what did I come for?
He's wicked--wicked.' Twasn't for me to say anything between father and
daughter, so I just opened the door without a word, and went out with
her."

"What time did Sisily catch the wagonette?"

"That's what I don't know. She made me go back when we got to the
cross-roads. She knew as well as I did that the old fool who drives it
wasn't particular as to time, and she worried about my old woman getting
scairt if she found herself alone, and me out. 'Go back to her, Thalassa,'
she said, 'I shall be all right now.' That was just after she'd made me
promise to tell nobody that she'd been to see her father that night. And,
by God, I kept my word. Nobody got anything out of me, though they tried
hard enough. Well, when she sent me back I went, leaving her standing, for
I had my own reason for going. When I looked back after a bit I saw her
standing there by the light of the dirty little lamp above the
cross-roads."

"Did you see the wagonette on the road?"

"Not a sign of it. Just her--alone."

A faint hope died in Charles's breast. Even the drunken irregularity of a
Cornish cabman told against Sisily. But that point was not so immediately
important as Thalassa's story that the murder had been committed during
his absence from Flint House. Although his own experience supported that
supposition, Charles was reluctant to accept a theory which plunged the
events of that night into deeper mystery than ever.

"Well, go on," he said. "What did you find when you got back?"

"The house was dark and the door open. The wind was coming in from the sea
sharp enough to take your head off your shoulders, and I thought perhaps
I'd jammed the door without closing it, and it had blowed open with the
wind. But when I got inside I heered something like moaning. I thought
that might be the wind too, for it's for ever screeching up and down the
passages like a devil, specially o' nights. I--" He stopped suddenly,
with a cautious sidelong look at his listener.

"Yes, yes!" cried Charles. "And what then?"

Thalassa went on, but a little moodily.

"I went along to the kitchen and found the old woman lying on the floor,
in a kind of fit or faint, making the queer noise I'd just heered. When I
picked her up she opened her eyes, laughing and crying and making mouths
as she pointed to the ceiling. I could get nothing out of her for a while.
Then she mutters something about a crash upstairs, and goes off into
another fit. I carried her into her bedroom and went upstairs as fast as
my legs would take me. There was a light under his door, but he didn't
answer when I knocked. I tried to open it, but it was locked inside. In a
bit there was a knock downstairs. You know what happened after that." He
lapsed into silence again, with another look at the young man.

"That was when my aunt and her husband and Dr. Ravenshaw came to the
door?" said Charles, filling in the pause. "But how was it that you told
them that you feared something had happened to your master? Was that pure
guesswork on your part? You hadn't been in the room, you say."

"I had to tell them something, hadn't I?" retorted the other sullenly. "If
I hadn't told them that, it would a' all come out about me going out with
Miss Sisily, and not into the coal cellar, as I said."

"It is astonishing that your story should have been so near the truth when
you knew nothing of what had taken place."

"I did know something. The door was open, the house dark, and she in a fit
on the floor, saying there'd been a crash upstairs. Then his door was
locked, and I couldn't get an answer. Wasn't that enough?"

"Hardly enough to warrant your saying that you feared your master had been
murdered--unless you expected him to be murdered."

"I didn't say that," replied Thalassa with unusual quickness. "All I said
was that I was afeered something had happened to him. There was reason for
thinking that. I had to make up my story quick--that part about just going
for Dr. Ravenshaw. That was because I'd still got my hat and topcoat on,
just as I'd come in from the moors, and I wasn't going to break my promise
to Miss Sisily."

"Did you see the blood under the door when you went up and tried to get
in?"

"I've told you all there is to tell," was the dogged response.

"What frightened your wife so much? Do you think she saw the murderer?"

"That's what I would like to know," responded Thalassa, with a swift
cunning glance.

He turned his face away and looked across the sea, the brown outline of
his hooked profile more than ever like an effigy carved by savage hands.
Charles scanned him despairingly. The feeling was strong within him that
he was still keeping something back.

"Thalassa," he said, "you should have told this story before. You have
done wrong in keeping it back."

"'Twould a' been breaking of my word to Miss Sisily."

"It was of more importance to clear her. You could have done that if you
had come forward and told the police, as you've just told me, that she
left the house with you before nine o'clock on that night."

"'Twouldn't a' helped if I had. I found out next day that the wagonette
didn't get to the cross-roads that night till nearly ten o'clock. 'Twas
after half-past nine when it left the inn."

"What made you find out that?"

"Do you think I didn't put my wits to work when the damned detective was
trying to put me into it as well as her? I thought it all out then--about
telling the truth. But I saw 'twould a' been no good for her, but only
made matters worse. Who'd a' believed me? There be times when a man can
say too much, so I kept my mouth shut."

There was so much sense in this that Charles had nothing to say in reply.
In silence they tramped along till they reached the dip of the sea in
which the Moon Rock lay. Here they paused, as if with the mutual feeling
that the time had come for the interview to end. Behind them towered the
cliffs, with Flint House hanging crazily on the summit far above where
they stood. The eye of Charles ranged along the shore to the spot where he
had said good-bye to Sisily not so very long ago, then returned to rest
doubtingly on Thalassa. The old man stood with his hand resting on a giant
rock, his dark eyes fixed on the rim of the waste of grey water where a
weak declining sun hung irresolutely, as though fearing the inevitable
plunge.

"I'd a' given my right arm to have saved her from this," Charles heard him
mutter.

Charles found himself looking down at Thalassa's brown muscular arm,
corded with veins, stretched out on the rock by which he stood. It was as
though it had been bared for his inspection, which was not, indeed, the
case. If that arm could save Sisily, it was at her service. But what was
the good of that? What was the good of his own efforts to help her?
Charles had a suffocating feeling of the futility of human effort when
opposed by the malignity of Fate. He asked himself with aching heart what
was to be the outcome of it all? He had failed. What then? It was not
until that moment that he realized how strongly he had been buoyed up by
the false optimism of hope. His consciousness, as though directed by the
power of a devil, was forced to look for the first time upon the hideous
inevitability of the appointed end.

"No, no! Not that--not that," he shudderingly whispered to himself.

Neither moved. The minutes passed leaden-footed. It was silent and still
in that wild spot, as if theirs were the only two human hearts beating in
a dead world. It seemed as though neither could bring it upon himself to
terminate the interview. Charles was the first to break the silence. He
spoke like a man coming out of a dream.

"Did that clock upstairs keep good time?" he asked in a low voice.

Thalassa turned on him as if not understanding the purport of the
question.

"It was going shipshape and Bristol fashion in the afternoon. What's that
got to do with it? What does it signify if it was five minutes fast or
slow?"

The logic of the answer was apparent to Charles, who knew he was only
attempting to pluck something by chance out of the dark maze. But another
and shrewder idea started up in his mind.

"What was your reason for hurrying back across the moors that night?"

"Miss Sisily told me to go."

"But you had another reason--a reason of your own," said Charles, turning
quickly to regard him. "You said so yourself."

"If I had I've forgotten what it was," said Thalassa with a black look.

"You cannot have forgotten!" cried Charles. "What was it?" Hope sprang up
in his heart again like a warm flame as he detected something confused and
irresolute in the other's attitude. "Thalassa, you are keeping something
back. You know, or you guess, who the murderer is!"

"I'm keeping nothing back."

"You are. I can see it in your face. What is it that you will not tell?
What do you fear?"

"The gallows--for one thing."

"You'd sooner see Sisily lose her life on them?"

This bitter taunt, wrung from the depth of the young man's anguished
heart, had an instantaneous and unexpected effect on his companion.

"No, no!" he hoarsely cried, "I couldn't a' bear that. But it's nothing to
tell, nothing to help. It was earlier that night, before she came. I was
looking out of the kitchen window, when I thought I saw a rock move. Then
I looked again, and it seemed like a man--though I couldn't see his face."

"Is that all?" Bitter disappointment rang in Charles's voice. "That might
have been me. I was out on the rocks that night, close to Flint House."

"'Tweren't you." Thalassa's reply was so low as to be almost inaudible. "I
don't know who it was, but I'll take my Bible oath it weren't you."

"Who was it then?" Charles asked breathlessly.

"A dead man, or his spirit. I know that now, though I laughed when
_he_ said it. I know better now."

He stopped suddenly, like one who has said too much, and looked moodily
out to sea.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Never mind what I mean. It's nothing to do with you. A man's a fool when
he gets talking. The tongue trips you up."

"Thalassa," said Charles solemnly, "if you know anything which might throw
the remotest light on this mystery it is your duty to reveal it."

"It's easy to talk. But I swore--I swore I would never tell."

"This is the moment to forget your oath."

"It's fine to talk--for you. But he'd come back to haunt me, if he knew."
He jerked his thumb in the direction of the distant churchyard where
Robert Turold lay.

Charles looked at his grim and secret face in despair. "I hope you realize
what you are doing by keeping silence," he said.

"I'm keeping a still tongue in my head, for one thing."

"For one thing--yes. For another, you're injuring Sisily--you're doing
more than injure her. You're letting her remain under suspicion of her
father's death, in hiding in London, hunted by the police. Yet she
believed in you. It was she who sent me to you, it was she who said: 'Tell
Thalassa from me to tell the truth, if he knows it.' Is she mistaken in
you, Thalassa? Do you think more of your own skin than her safety?"




CHAPTER XXVIII


It was a strange story which Charles Turold heard by that grey Cornish
sea--a story touched with the glitter of adventurous fortune in the sombre
setting of a trachytic island, where wine-dark breakers beat monotonously
on a black beach of volcanic sand strewn with driftwood, kelp, dead
shells, and the squirming forms of blindworms tossed up from the bowels of
a dead sea. It was there in the spell of solitude thirty years before that
Robert Turold's soul had yielded to temptation at the beck of his
monstrous ambition.

That, however, was the end--or what Robert Turold imagined to be the
end--of the story. The listener was first invited to contemplate a scene
in human progress when men gathered from the four corners of the earth and
underwent incredible hardships of hunger, thirst, disease, lived like
beasts and died like vermin for the sake of precious stones in the earth.
Thalassa brought up before the young man's eyes a vivid picture of an
African diamond rush of that period--a corrugated iron settlement of one
straggling street, knee-deep in sand, swarming with vermin and scorpions,
almost waterless, crowded with a mongrel, ever-increasing lot of needy
adventurers brought from all parts of the world by reports of diamonds
which could be picked out with a penknife from the dunes and sandy shingle
which formed the background of the villainous "town." In the great waves
and ridges of sand which stretched everywhere as far as the eye could
reach, runaway scoundrels of every shade of colour wormed on their bellies
with the terrible pertinacity of ants, sweating and groping in that
choking dust for the glittering crystals so rarely found.

Thalassa had been infected by the diamond fever like so many more. Like
other young men he wanted plenty of money for women and grog--what else,
he asked, could a man get for money that was worth having? In those days
he was a sailor before the mast, lacking the capital for such delights. So
he deserted his timber tramp when she touched at Port Elizabeth, and set
out for the diamond fields with another runaway--the ship's cook, who had
an ambition to have his meals cooked for him for the rest of his life,
instead of cooking meals for other people.

The fields were far to the north. Thalassa reached them after a terrible
journey through the stony veldt and sandy desert, broken by barren hills.
His companion died of the hardships, and was buried in the desert which
stretched to the wandering course of the Orange River. Thalassa secured
his license and went "prospecting."

"Dost a' know anything about diamonds--digging for them?" he broke off to
ask.

Charles Turold shook his head.

Thalassa lapsed into silence for some moments, his eyes fixed on the sea
hissing among the black wet rocks at his feet, then said--

"A man's a fool most of his days, but sometimes he can be such a fool that
the memory 'll come up to mock him when he lays dying. Here was I,
deserting my ship and throwing away a year's wages and a'most my life to
get to these damned fields, thinking to pick up diamonds cut and
glittering like I'd seen them in London shops, when as soon as I'd clapped
eyes on the first diamond I saw dug up I knew that I'd left behind me at
the other end of the world as many rough diamonds as there was in the
whole of that dustbin of a place--diamonds that didn't have to be dug for,
either, only I didn't know them when I saw them."

His narrowed eye gleamed craftily, a mere pin's point of expression in the
direction of Charles, as though expecting a question. But Charles kept
silence, so he went on with his story. He let it be understood that his
luck on the fields was of the worst possible description--never a solitary
stone came his way. But he had no heart for digging. He was always
thinking of the diamonds in that remote spot which he had ignorantly let
slip from his grasp, like the dog in the fable dropping the substance for
the shadow. He would have gone back to look for them, but he'd spent most
of his little capital in that wild-goose chase, and the miserable remnant
oozed away like water in a place where the barest necessaries of life cost
fabulous prices. Soon he became stranded, practically penniless.

It was this precarious moment of his fortunes which his star (his evil
star, he insisted on that) selected to bring him into juxtaposition with
the man whose life was to be inexorably mingled with his own from that
time henceforward. The actual meeting place was a tin-roofed grog shanty
kept by a giant Kaffir woman and a sore-eyed degenerate white man, whose
subjection to his black paramour had earned for him among the blacks on
the field the terrible sobriquet of "White Harry." Here, one night,
Thalassa sat drinking bad beer and planning impossible schemes for
returning to his diamonds at the other end of the world. The place was
empty of other customers. The Kaffir woman slumbered behind the flimsy
planking of the bar, and "White Harry" sat on the counter scraping tunes
out of a little fiddle. Thalassa remembered the tune he was
playing--"Annie Laurie." Upon this scene there entered two young men,
Englishmen. Thalassa discerned that at once by the cut of their jib.
Besides, they ordered Bass beer. Who else but Englishmen would order Bass
beer at five shillings a bottle in a God-forsaken place like that?

"_He_ was one of them." Thalassa moved his hand vaguely in the
direction of St. Fair churchyard. "Smart and lively he was then--not like
what he was afore he died. I took a fancy to him as soon as I set my eyes
on him. He was a man in those days, and I knowed a man when I saw 'un. I
didn't care so much for the looks of the other 'un--Remington was his
name, as I heered afterwards. Well enough for some tastes, but too much of
the God Almighty Englishman about him to suit me. A handsome chap he was,
this Remington, I'm bound to say--young and slim, wi' a pink face like a
girl's, not a hair on it, and lookin' as though he might a' turned out of
a bandbox. Him--Turold--had a moustache, and his face was a dark 'un, but
I liked him for all his black looks--though not so black in those days,
either. More eager like."

Charles Turold found himself trying to picture Robert Turold in the part
of a smart lively young fellow, and failing utterly. But Time took the
smartness out of a man in less than thirty years. It had also taken the
liveliness out of Robert Turold for good and all.

Thalassa went on with his story. The young men were served with their beer
at five shillings a bottle, and sat down in a corner to drink it. They
talked as they sipped, and Thalassa listened. His original idea that they
were young men of wealth (because of the Bass) was soon dispersed by the
trend of their conversation. They had gone out from England to make their
fortunes on the fields, but had come a cropper like himself, and were
discussing what they'd do next. The fair-haired one, Remington, was all
for getting back to England while they had any money left, but Turold was
dead against it. There were plenty of diamonds to be found, and he was
going to have some of them. He'd been talking to a man who was just back
from the interior with a story of a river beach full of diamonds, and he
was fitting up an expedition to go back and get them. Turold wanted to
join in, but Remington said he'd heard too many stories of diamonds to be
picked up for the asking. Had he forgotten about the cursed Jew who got a
hundred pounds out of them? Turold said this was different--the man had
brought back a little bottleful of diamonds. Remington replied with a
sneer about "salting." They argued. "Suppose we dropped the last of our
money?" Remington asked. "No worse than crawling back to England like
whipped curs, poorer than we set out," said the other. Remington said he
didn't want to go back to England like that, but he'd sooner face it than
run the risk of being stranded in that hell of a place. Turold answered he
was not going back till he'd made a fortune. He said (Thalassa remembered
his exact words): "I don't care how I do it, Remington, but I will do
it--mark my words." "Show me a more sensible plan than this, and I'm with
you," Remington had replied.

It was at this stage that Thalassa was seized with an inclination to
thrust himself into the dialogue. Striving to explain his reasons at that
distance of time, he said it was Robert Turold's last remark which really
decided him--did the trick, as he phrased it. Actually it must have been a
prompt recognition of the kinship between two lawless souls.

He left his seat and went across to where the two young Englishmen were
earnestly talking, unaware that they had been overheard. He approached
them as one shipwrecked sailor might approach two other castaways marooned
on the same rock. They all wanted money, and they all wanted to get away
from that God-forsaken hole. Diamonds they were after? Well, he could take
them to a place at the other end of the world where there were enough
diamonds in the rough to make them all rich for life.

After the first surprise at his interruption they heard him in silence,
and then plied him with questions. Where were these diamonds? In a
volcanic island in the South Pacific. Where about? They couldn't expect
him to tell them that. It was Robert Turold (Thalassa seemed to have
addressed himself principally to him) who asked him how he knew that the
diamonds were still there. Thalassa's reply was that they were buried in a
big box, and the island was out of the run of ships. What sort of a big
box? Turold had asked. Thalassa replied (perhaps reluctantly) that the box
was "a kind of a coffin," and that there was a dead man inside of it as
well as the diamonds, but he, at all events, was not likely to run off
with them.

Remington and Turold were startled by this answer, and conferred hastily
apart. They returned to ask more questions. They wanted to know how the
body and the diamonds had got there in the first instance, but that was a
story which Thalassa refused to reveal. That had nothing to do with it, he
said. The ship which had buried the man there had gone down afterwards
with all hands, so nobody knew about the diamonds except him.

After that Remington became the chief questioner, Robert Turold merely
looking on, his dark eyes frequently meeting Thalassa's. It seemed as
though he must have realized that these last replies concealed a story
better left unprobed. But Remington wanted to know why Thalassa had come
searching for diamonds in that part of the world when he knew of plenty in
another, and Thalassa had replied, in all simplicity, that it was because
the Almighty had endowed him with more muscles than brains, and he hadn't
recognized the worth of the stones at the time. In fact, he didn't know
that they were diamonds. His experience on the fields had improved his
knowledge in that respect, and he now knew that he had left behind him on
the lonely island enough diamonds in the rough to make them all rich--two
bottlesful, and some in a leather bag, where the dead man also kept one of
those digging licenses which the damned German officials sold you--what
did they call it? Prospector's license--a _schurfschein_? said
Remington. Yes, that was it. He knew it again as soon as he got one on the
fields.

Turold and Remington again talked together in whispers, and then Turold
asked Thalassa how he proposed to get the diamonds. Thalassa had his plan
ready. They must get down to the Cape and get a boat to Sydney from
Capetown. That was the jumping-off place. From Sydney they were to take a
boat to--another place. The island was a bare two days' sail from the
"other place," and Thalassa proposed to hire a cutter on the mainland and
sail over to it. He was no navigator, but he could find his way back to
that island again at any time.

Turold seemed inclined to agree, but Remington put in another of his sharp
questions. Why did he want to bring two strangers into the business? What
was to prevent him getting the diamonds on his own account, without
sharing with anybody? Thalassa replied that he had no money to finance the
expedition, and even if he got the diamonds they'd be no use to him. How
could a rough seaman like himself, who could hardly write his own name,
turn the stones into the large sum of money they represented? That was an
enterprise which called for civilized qualities of education and address
which he did not possess. From his standpoint it was an even deal between
them. They were to supply the money and intelligence in return for his
knowledge, and they would share and share alike.

It was Robert Turold who ultimately settled the decision--winning over the
reluctant Remington with words which Thalassa had never forgotten. He also
recognized the risk, but he thought it was well worth taking. It seemed
that the two had a little more than £200 left between them--just about
enough to carry the thing through. What was the use of returning to
England with that paltry sum, he had asked. He spoke of a girl--some girl
who was waiting in England for Remington while he made his fortune abroad.
Was he going to go back to her penniless? "Even if this doesn't turn out
right," he went on, "we'll have reached another part of the world, with a
fresh chance of making money, instead of being poor in England, that
breeding-ground for tame rabbits, where poverty is the unforgiveable sin."
"I liked him for those words," said Thalassa, "for they came from a man
whose thoughts were after the style of my own. 'Twas they decided the
other chap, and next morning we set out for Capetown. From there we got
passages in a cargo boat for Sydney."

Charles found it easier to visualize this picture than the former. The
departure of the three upon such a wild romantic venture had in its
elements all the audacity, greed, and splendour of youth, and he also was
young.

Thalassa went on with his story.

During the voyage to Sydney, Robert Turold used to talk to him on deck at
nights after Remington had gone to his bunk. It was in these solitary deck
tramps under glittering stars that Thalassa first heard from the other's
lips of the Turrald title: the title for which the fortune he was seeking
was merely a stepping stone--the means to obtain it. "Night after night he
talked of nothing else," said Thalassa, "and I knew he would do what he
wanted to do." It was easy to gather from his story that his original
admiration for Robert Turold soon grew into a deeper and stronger feeling.
There was something in the dead man's masterful ambitious character which
exercised a reluctantly conceded but undoubted fascination upon his
companion's fierce spirit.

Such were their relations when they reached Sydney and set out on a
further voyage to the other place which Thalassa was so reluctant to name.
On arriving at the "other place" they made their way to its east coast,
which was the starting point of their journey to the island. From a brown
man living on the coast Thalassa hired a smart little ketch which the
three of them could easily handle, and in this they embarked for the
island from a beach which curved like a white tusk around a blue bay.

They did not reach the island for six days--through baffling winds, and
not because they did not steer a right course. As Thalassa had said, there
was no difficulty in finding it, for they had only been one day at sea
when the smouldering smoke of the distant volcanic cone came into vision,
making an unholy mark against the clear sky which they never lost again.
Gradually they beat nearer until they made it--a circular ragged high
ridge jutting abruptly from a deep sullen sea, with a red glow showing
fitfully in the smoke of the summit.

There was an outer reef, but Thalassa knew the passage, and steered the
ketch through a tortuous channel above sunken needle-pointed rocks to a
little sheltered harbour inshore. Here they made the ketch fast, and
landed on a beach of volcanic violet, where they sometimes sank knee deep
into sulphuric water, and felt squirming sea things squelch beneath their
tread. Above this margin of violet-black sand, deposits of volcanic rock
and lava rose almost perpendicularly, enclosing the central cone in a kind
of amphitheatre.

The stones they had travelled so far to obtain were there waiting for
them. Thalassa hurried over that part of the story, narrating it in barest
outline with suspicious glances directed at his listener's intent face.
Apparently he led his companions to the spot as soon as they landed--up a
path through a gap in the crater wall, across a furrowed slope all
a-quake, where jets of steam issued from gurgling fissures in snaky
spirals. On the other side of this dreary waste Thalassa led the way
across a ledge to firmer ground and a grave. Charles gathered that the
occupant of the grave had been coffined in a seaman's chest in his
clothes: "There he was, with his bottles of diamonds in his coat pockets,
and more in his leather bag in his breast pocket, just as I left him
twelve months afore to go to the other end of the world looking for what
I'd buried." A grim smile curved Thalassa's face as he uttered these
words; the idea seemed to contain elements of humour for him.

"They were diamonds, then?" said Charles curiously.

"Ay; they were diamonds right enough. Him--Turold--said they were diamonds
as soon as he uncorked one of the bottles and poured a few into the palm
of his hand. There was some rare big ones in one of the bottles--enough to
have brought all those fools tumbling out of Africa if they'd know of
them. From some papers they found on the chap Turold said he'd must a-been
prospecting in nigh every part of the world."

"How did he come to be buried there with his diamonds, in that lonely
spot?" asked Charles wonderingly.

"He was a passenger, and died as we was passing the island. 'Twas the
skipper's fancy to give him a land burial. But that doesn't matter a
dump--it's outside the story." He turned his eyes away from Charles.

Dusk had fallen before they finished their search, and Thalassa would not
undertake the risk of threading the boat out from the tortuous reef
passage in the darkness. They decided to camp on the island for the night,
preferring the sulphur-impregnated air ("A lighted match would blaze and
fizzle in it like a torch," Thalassa declared) to the cramped discomfort
of their little craft. They brought some food ashore, and made a flimsy
sort of camp above high water, at the foot of the encircling walls of the
crater. There they had their supper, and there, as they lounged smoking,
Remington in an evil moment for himself suggested that they should sort
the diamonds into three heaps--share and share alike. Robert Turold
agreed, and they emptied the stones out of the bottles and leather bag
into a single heap. Remington took one bottle and Robert Turold another;
to Thalassa fell the empty bag. As the stones were sorted one was to be
placed in each receptacle until the tally ran out.

It must have been a strange spectacle--so strange that it made a lasting
impression on the least imaginative mind of the three, for he tried in his
rude way to reproduce it on that Cornish beach after the lapse of thirty
long years. He threw bits of rock on the sand to indicate the positions in
which they had sat. From his description Charles pictured the scene
adequately enough: the violet-black beach, exhaling sulphuric vapours, the
yellow-grey volcanic rocks, the gurgling ebullitions of a geyser throwing
off volumes of smoke high above them, and the faces of the three men
(ruddy in the fire-glow, white in the moonlight) intent on the division of
the heap of dull stones scattered on a flat rock between them. Thalassa
remembered all these things; he remembered also how startled they were,
the three of them, at the unexpected sound of a kind of throaty chuckle
near by, and turned in affright to see a large bird regarding them from
the shadow of the rocks--a sea bird with rounded wings, light-coloured
plumage, and curiously staring eyes above a yellow beak. When it saw it
was observed it vanished swiftly seaward in noiseless flight.

The division, commenced good-humouredly enough, soon developed the
elements of a gamble between Robert Turold and Remington. They forgot
Thalassa's existence as they argued and disputed over the allotment of
certain stones. The foot or so of flat rock became the circumference of
their thoughts, ambitions, and passions--their world for the time being.
In that sordid drama of greed Thalassa seemed to have comported himself
with greater dignity than his two superiors by birth and education. He
even took it upon himself to reason with them on their folly. Perhaps he
knew from his own seamy experience of life what such things developed
into. At all events, he urged his companions to defer the division until
they returned to civilization and could get the spoils appraised by eyes
expert in the knowledge of precious stones. But they would not listen, so,
not liking the look of things, he withdrew a little distance off and
watched them, leaning against a rock. That was his tacit admission (so
Charles interpreted this action) that he was on Robert Turold's side, and
felt that his own interests were identical with those of the master mind.
The two, left to themselves, wrangled more fiercely than ever. There were
unpleasant taunts and mutual revilings. The listener by the rock learnt
definitely what he had previously suspected--that there was bitter blood
and bad feeling between the two men, buried for a time, but now revived
with a savageness which revealed the hollowness of their supposed
reconciliation. It was about a girl, some girl in England with whom they
had both been in love. Thalassa gathered that Remington had left England
as the favoured suitor. He had (in Thalassa's words) "cut Turold out."

Charles Turold could not forbear a faint exclamation of astonishment. His
brain reeled in trying to imagine the austere figure of Robert Turold
squabbling over a girl and some diamonds on a lonely island in the South
Pacific. He was too amazed at the moment to see the implications of this
part of the story.

"They went on snarling and showing their teeth, but not biting," continued
Thalassa, "sorting out the little stones all right, but quarrelling over
the bigger. There was two--the biggest in the bunch by far--which they
kept putting aside because they couldn't agree about the sharing of them.
At last it came about that there was only these two big 'uns left, lying
like two beans on the bit o' rock, side by side. Before I could guess what
was likely to happen Turold grabbed them up quick, and put them in his
bottle. 'These two are mine, Thalassa's and mine,' he said. 'You've had
your share, Remington.' Remington sprang from the rock quick as a snake.
'One's mine,' he said. But Turold was up as quick. 'It's not for you,' he
says, with his dark smile. 'We'll put it against the girl you filched from
me, and call it an even deal. What does a happy lover want with diamonds?'
'Damn you!' cries the other, and hit him in the face. They both went down,
scuffling and panting in the sand. I stood where I was, for I weren't
going to come between them till I saw how it was going to be. Presently I
could see that Remington was stronger, and that Turold was getting the
worst of it. After a bit Turold called out, 'Thalassa!'

"I ran down at that fast enough, and got out my knife as I went. They'd
slipped down the sloping beach half-way to the sea, writhing like a couple
of the blind-worms that I kept stepping on, going over and over so quick
that I couldn't do anything at first. But one of them was sobbing in his
breath as though he was pretty well finished, and I guessed it was Turold.
Then I saw Remington's face on top, and before they could swing round
again I got a good stroke in his neck where it gleamed white in the
moonlight. The blood jumped out warm on my hand, and he rolled over so
quick that I thought I had killed him. But as I stooped over him he was up
like a flash, staggering up the steep beach, his feet plopping and sucking
in the water underneath. Turold was on his feet by that time, breathing
hard, getting back his breath. 'After him--quick!' he says to me, his face
black with rage--'he's got the diamonds.'

"I ran after him up the beach, but he heard me coming and had the start of
me. He had firm ground under him by then, and was tearing along the rocks
towards the path I'd taken them that afternoon, turning round now and
again to look back, the blood glistening in the moonlight on his white
face. There we was--him going higher and higher, me after him, and Turold
standing below on the beach, staring up at the two of us.

"Run my best, I couldn't get near him. I suppose he thought he was done
for if I caught him, and by that time my blood was pretty well up. I had
one pull over him--I knew the island, and he didn't. The path he was
taking led to the top of the island, where the crater was, with a kind of
wall of rocks round it. But before you came to that there was a great hole
which fell down God Almighty knows how deep, and was supposed to have been
another volcano at some time or other. This hole was divided into two by a
narrow ridge running right across it, and the path Remington was on took
him straight to the edge. So he'd either got to go across this ridge when
he come to it or turn back and be caught.

"He was a long way ahead when he come to it, but he never stopped. He just
gave one glance down at me, and went on to the ridge. I watched him
balancing along it like a man on a tight rope, mounting higher and higher,
for the ridge went up steep on the far side. Thinks I to myself, 'You're a
plucky one,' then all of a sudden I heard a shout from below, and looked
down. There stood Turold, waving me out of the way. He'd been to the boat
for a gun we'd brought with us, and was taking aim at Remington. The next
thing I saw was Remington turning round on the ledge to come back to my
side, having found out, I suppose, that the ridge would take him into the
crater. Just as he turned I heard the shot. It must have winged Remington
pretty bad, because he went tumbling off the ridge head first, like a man
taking a dive into the water. I turned and climbed down to where I'd left
Turold. His face was all aglow with rage. 'The infernal scoundrel!' he
said, then--'Did you get the diamonds?' 'How was I to get them when I
never caught him?' I said. 'Then we'll get them off his body in the
morning,' he said in a low tone. 'You'll never do that,' says I. He asks
me why not, turning on me a face as savage as a dog's. 'Because whichever
side he's dropped he's safe from us,' I said. 'There's a hole that no
man's ever seen the bottom of on one side of the ridge, and on the other a
stinking lake of green boiling sulphur. When you shot him you sent him
into one or the other, so you can say good-bye to him and the diamonds.'
'Oh!' he cries, when he heard that--just like that; then after a bit he
points up the path, and asks me to go back and have a look for him. I went
back as far as the ridge. The moon was clear as day, shining on that
infernal green lake on the one side, and into the deep hole on the other.
The lake was bubbling and stewing in the moonlight like a witchpot, and
the other side of the ridge was just black emptiness, and there was no
sign of Remington--I knowed there couldn't be. Back I went again, and as I
was climbing down the path to where Turold was standing I saw something
glinting in the black sand at his feet, and when I got there I picked up
the bottle of diamonds where Remington must have dropped them when
struggling with Turold. I gave them to Turold. 'And now,' says I, 'let's
get out of here. The moon's bright enough to let me find my way through
the reefs, and this island ain't a healthy place to stay too long on. I
know it, and you don't.' He was glad enough to follow me to the boat, and
we got through on a good flowing tide."

Thalassa stopped abruptly, as though to leave on his listener's mind an
impression of that furtive departure on a dark whispering sea beneath a
blood-red moon.

"You got back to the mainland?" queried Charles, as he remained silent.

"Ay--and to England. Afore we got there Turold had persuaded himself that
Remington slipped off the ridge accidental, and that he missed him when he
fired."

"Perhaps his conscience pricked him. Go on."

"There's nowt much more to tell. Turold got me my share of the money, and
then we parted. He offered to invest it for me, but I wasn't going to
trust no banks--not I. It took me two years to waste it on gambling and
women. Then I took to sea again. That lasted another year. Then I found
myself in 'Frisco, where I shipped in a four-masted barque and come home
round the Horn. I was pretty sick of the sea after two bad goes of
rheumatic fever, so I made up my mind to hunt up Turold. I found him after
a while. He didn't seem best pleased to see me at first, but he said I
could stay till he had time to think out what he could do for me. That was
the beginning of it. We never parted again, him and me, until he was
carried out of yon house feet first. We got used to each other's ways, and
I was worth all he paid me because I saved him worry and expense. He was
all for saving, in those days. Married he was too, to a little timid thing
of a girl who was in fear and trembling of him. 'Twas a black day for her
when she married that headstrong stubborn devil. 'Mr.' Thalassa she always
called me, poor woman. I married a maid-servant they had. That was
Turold's idea--he thought by that way he could get his household looked
after very cheaply by the pair of us. I wasn't keen on marrying, but it
didn't make much odds one way or the other, for no living woman, wife or
no wife, would have kept me in England if I'd wanted to get out. As it
happened, I never did. I stayed on, going from place to place where they
went--where Turold took us."

"Whom did my uncle marry?" asked Charles.

"You might a' guessed that. 'Twas the girl t'other had cut him out of. I
thought the masterful devil'd get her when Remington was out of the way,
but I asked him once straight out, and he said yes, it was the same girl.
She was a pretty timid little thing in those days, but I don't know why
they was both so mad after her. However, there it was."

"And do you think that after all these years, Remington is really alive?"
said Charles, looking at him earnestly. "Do you think it was he who
murdered my uncle?"

"Happen maybe, happen not. The night he was killed I found him in a rare
funk in his room. He rang his bell like a fury, and when I went up he
swore he heard the footsteps of Remington just afore, running round the
rocks outside of Flint House just as he heard him pattering along the
rocks on the island that night. I didn't believe 'un then, but I'm not so
sure since. If he's come back to get Turold it's for sure he's still
somewhere about, waiting his chance to get me as well. I'm keeping my eye
open for 'un--walked the coast for miles, I have, looking for him. He
won't take me unawares, same as Turold." His eyes searched the cliffs
behind them.

"You may not recognize him if you meet him. It is thirty years since you
saw him. A man changes a lot in thirty years."

"That's true, 'tis a thought which never crossed my mind." Thalassa's look
was troubled.

"As you've told me this story you'd better leave it in my hands, and not
go looking for anybody with that knife of yours."

"What be you going to do?"

"I must go to Scotland Yard and tell them your story. It's the only
chance."

"And get me into trouble?"

"There's not much fear of that. In any case, you must stand that, for
Sisily's sake."

Thalassa nodded his acquiescence. "Better be careful yersel' getting back
to London. The police here is watching for you. They've been a' Flint
House more than once, looking for both of you."

"It's a risk I must take, nevertheless," said the young man, rising from
his seat as he spoke. "It's for Sisily's sake. Good-bye, Thalassa, and
thank you for what you've told me."

Thalassa did not reply or offer to accompany him. From his seat on the
rocks he followed Charles's ascent up the narrow path with contemplative
eyes.




CHAPTER XXIX


Barrant returned to London in the mental disposition of a man who sees an
elaborate theory thrown into the melting-pot by an unexpected turn of
events. The humbling thought was that he had allowed a second fish to
glide through his hands without even suspecting that it was on his line.
He had never remotely connected Charles Turold with the murder until Mr.
Brimsdown had imparted Mrs. Brierly's disclosure to him. He had acted
promptly enough on that piece of information, but once again he was too
late.

Austin Turold might have felt reassured if he had known how little his
share in the events of that night occupied Barrant's mind during their
last interview. The complexion Austin's conduct bore to the detective's
reflection was that of a father who had intentionally misled the power of
authority in order to shield his son. The law took a serious view of that
offense, but it was a matter which could be dealt with at leisure in
Austin's case. By his brother's death Austin Turold had become a man of
property and standing. It was the drawback of his wealth that he could not
disappear like his son. He was to be found when wanted. The main thing
just then was to catch the son, or the girl--or both. Barrant went back to
London for that purpose.

As the days slipped away without that end being achieved he became worried
and perplexed. His own position was an unenviable one, and his thoughts
were far from pleasant. He felt that he had failed badly, and that his
standing with his superiors in Scotland Yard was under a cloud in
consequence. But he could not see where he had actually been at fault. It
was such a damned amazing case. In most crimes the trouble was to find
sufficient clues, but in this case there were too many. And the inferences
pointed different ways. That was the trouble. He was not even sure that in
this latest discovery, so annoyingly belated, he had reached the ultimate
solution of the facts. It was not that the theory of these two young
people committing murder for love was too cynical for belief. He had
encountered more incredible things than that in his professional career.
Life was a cynical business, and youth could be brutal in pursuit of its
aims, especially when the aim was passion, as it usually was. In his
experience youth and age were the dangerous periods--youth, because it
knew nothing of life, and age because it knew too much. There were fewer
surprises in middle-age. That was the period of responsibility--when
humanity clung to the ordered way with the painful rectitude of a
procession of laden ants toiling up a hill. Youth was not like that--nor
age.

No, it was not that. His difficulty was to fit all the circumstances into
any compact theory of the case. Try as he would, there were always some
loose ends left over, some elements of uncertainty which left him
perplexed. He fashioned a new view of the murder, with Charles Turold as
the principal figure in it--the actual murderer. He assumed that Charles
and Sisily had gone to Flint House that night to prevent the truth about
Sisily's birth becoming known. The assertion of her illegitimacy rested
upon her father's bare statement, but his lawyer was convinced he would
not have made the statement without having the proofs in his possession.
These proofs had not been found. Very well. What inference was to be drawn
from that? Sisily knew that they were kept in the clock-case, and pointed
out the hiding place to her lover. In a struggle for their possession
Robert Turold was shot down, or he might have been shot first and
staggered to the clock afterwards to see if they had been stolen. Either
supposition accounted for the fallen clock, and fitted in with nearly all
the known facts of the murder.

Nearly all, but not all! In face of Mrs. Brierly's disclosure it seemed a
condition precedent to the elucidation of the mystery to substitute
Charles Turold for Thalassa as the person whose undisciplined love for
Sisily had led him to shoot her father to shield her name. Nor was it
incredible to suppose that he had remained in Cornwall to cover her flight
in the hope of diverting suspicion from her. But the loose end in the
theory was Thalassa's share in that night's events, and his dogged silence
since under strong suspicion.

Thalassa knew more than he had yet revealed, but what did he know? What
was his share in the business? It was difficult to say. Barrant was unable
to accept the assumption that three people were concerned in the murder.
That idea, if not impossible, was at least contrary to reason. But if it
was excluded, how was the silence of Thalassa to be explained? Was he
afraid? It was as difficult to associate that quality with him as with an
eagle or beast of prey.

And the theory failed to explain the reason for Robert Turold's frantic
letter to his lawyer on the night of the murder. That was another loose
end.

What a case! It was an abnormal and sinister mystery in any light, with no
absolute or demonstrative certainty of proof by any of its circumstances,
however regarded. The effect of its perplexing clues distorted the
imagination, outraged the sense of possibility and experience. To reach
conclusiveness in it seemed as impossible as an attempt to scale an
unending staircase in a nightmare. The facts were there, but they were
inexplicable, or at least they stared at him with the aspect of many
faces.

As he weighed these doubts he found his thoughts reverting with increasing
frequency to the hood clock in Robert Turold's study and the question of
its connection with the crime. He pondered over the point with the nervous
anxiety of a puzzled brain, and it seemed to him now that he had not
devoted as much investigation to this peculiar clue as it deserved. He
recalled Mr. Brimsdown's conversation on the matter. He remembered that he
had been struck at the time by the penetration of his remarks about the
clock, and while not accepting his fantastic theory, had determined to
give more careful thought to the point. But Mrs. Brierly's disclosure put
the idea out of his head.

It recurred to him with renewed force when he found himself in Exeter
nearly a fortnight later on another case. It was a good opportunity to go
on to Cornwall, and he took it. His business completed, he caught the
early train, and in due time arrived at Penzance. With an obscure instinct
for solitude he hastened through the town and struck out across the moors.

The afternoon was waning when he reached Flint House and pulled the
old-fashioned bell-handle of the weatherbeaten door. There was no reply,
and a second ring passed disregarded. That was disconcerting and
unexpected. He wondered whether Thalassa and his wife had left the place.
Then he noticed that the door was merely closed and not shut. He lifted
the heavy iron knocker, and knocked loudly. The repeated knocking sent the
door flying open, and Barrant found himself looking into an empty hall.
Half-way down a pair of curtains stirred slightly and parted suddenly,
revealing a narrower passage which led to the door of the kitchen. The
curtains streamed horizontally, twisting and coiling like snakes. Barrant
stepped quickly inside and closed the door. The curtains fell together
again.

There was something so startling in this action of the wind that Barrant
stood motionless, looking round him. The cold current of air he had
admitted died away in the draughty passages with queer gasping noises,
like a wind strangled. Then there was the most absolute silence. The
curtains hung perpendicular, as thickly motionless as blankets. Barrant
noticed that the hallstand and a chair beside it were thick with dust.
Evidently the house was empty.

Turning first to make quite sure that the front door was securely shut, he
took his way upstairs to Robert Turold's study.

A point of light, falling through the shattered panel of the closed door,
pierced the vague gloom of the passage and hovered on the door of the
bedroom opposite--the room into which the dead man had been carried.

Barrant entered the study and looked around him. It was intolerably dirty
and neglected; everything was covered with a thick grey dust. Barrant
walked over to the clock and regarded it attentively.

What a rascally fat face that moon had! It must have seen some queer
sights in old houses during its two hundred years of life. Strange that
those old clockmakers could make clocks to last so long, but couldn't keep
their own life-springs running half the time! The moral verse was curious
enough. Why should a man who spent half his lifetime putting together a
clock presume to tell his fellow creatures to make the most of the passing
hour?

His reflections took a more practical turn. The clock was the sole witness
to the time of the murder. There were two other clocks in Flint House, but
nobody had thought of looking at them when the crime was discovered.
Barrant regarded that as a regrettable oversight. It was always important
to know the exact time when a murder was committed. Thalassa said that the
hood clock was going and kept excellent time, but the value of that
secondary testimony was impaired by the fact that Thalassa might not be
telling the truth. On the other hand, there was certain presumptive
evidence which suggested that he was. It was a proved fact that Mr. and
Mrs. Pendleton and Dr. Ravenshaw left the doctor's house in a motor-car
for Flint House not later than half-past nine on the night of the murder.
Assuming that they covered the journey across the moors in five or six
minutes and occupied another five minutes in getting upstairs and breaking
in the door, the testimony of the hood clock seemed correct, because Dr.
Ravenshaw said death had just taken place, and he and the doctor who made
the post-mortem examination were both agreed that Robert Turold could not
have lived many minutes after he was shot. Therefore the presumptive
evidence seemed to determine the time of death accurately enough.

But that was only a minor phase of the mystery. The real problem was the
hidden connection between the clock and the murder. What had brought the
clock down, and why had Robert Turold fallen almost on top of it, his
outstretched hands resting on the dial? The complete elucidation of the
mystery lay behind the obscurity in which these two points were shrouded.
To find the answer to them was the surest and quickest way of reconciling
all the contradictory facts of the case. But Barrant racked his brains for
the reason in vain.

He examined the room. There was a leather-topped writing-table with
drawers, several cabinets filled with manuscripts and papers, some walnut
chairs with carved legs, and a tall deep bookcase filled with
dreary-looking books. His eyes wandered over the titles of the volumes.
They also belonged to a bygone period--a melancholy accumulation of works
as dead as their writers. Two whole shelves were occupied with the numbers
of a forgotten periodical which claimed to give "ample details of the
unhappy difference between Queen Caroline of Great Britain and her consort
George the Fourth." Barrant wondered idly why human nature was always so
interested in the washing of dirty linen. Above these was ranged a row of
published sermons. Barrant's eye roamed higher and fell on a fat sturdy
volume wedged in between some slimmer books. The title of this book was
"Clocks of All Periods." Clocks!

He reached for the volume and placed it on the table. A cursory glance
through the pages conveyed the suggestion that it contained more
information about clocks than was worth acquiring or writing down. There
was a chapter on water clocks, to begin with: "Known to the Egyptians and
the Holy Land." Barrant turned the leaves. "The Ancient Chinese used a
smouldering wick as timekeeper." Barrant shook his head impatiently. "King
Alfred's supposed device of measuring Time by Candles--a Myth." Would to
heaven his invention of juries was a myth, too. Scotland Yard would get on
much better without them. "A Lamp-clock was another Simple and Ingenious
Design." How intolerably long-winded the writer was. What had he to say
about hood clocks? "Very few of the Early Clocks had Dials. The Device was
generally a Mechanical Figure which struck the Hour on a Bell." Evidently
the forerunner of the devilish alarum clock. "Early clockmakers--Old
English monks as Clockmakers." The pages flowed rapidly through Barrant's
fingers. "Introduction of Minute Hand Marks--Period of Clocks Showing
Tides--Longfaced Clocks." Ah, here it was at last--"Hood Clocks."

He began to read the chapter with interest, but as he was about to turn
the first page the silence of the room was broken by a faint cackling
laugh--an elfin sound which died away instantly. He looked up, startled.
His surprise was not lessened at the sight of Mrs. Thalassa watching him
from the open doorway. She entered on tiptoe, with a strange air of
caution, examining him with restless eyes.

"I heard you," she mumbled. "I saw you go upstairs. Mr. Thalassa was out,
and I was afraid to go to the door. I've been playing patience, and it
won't come out."

She showed her apron full of small cards. She placed them on the table,
and arranged them in rows.

A new idea came into Barrant's mind as he looked at her. If the poor
creature had recovered sufficient wits to take to her cards again she
might be coaxed to recall what she had seen on the night of the murder. He
drew near her. "Can I help you?" he said.

She nodded sideways at him like a child--a child with withered face and
grey hair.

Together they bent over the cards. A gull flashed past the window with a
scream, as though it had seen them and was repelled at the strange sight.

"Only kings can go into vacant spaces," murmured Barrant's companion,
intent on the game.

The result of the game was inconclusive. A king remained surrounded by
small cards, like a real monarch overwhelmed by the rabble on May Day.
Mrs. Thalassa's eyes strayed mournfully over the rows, then she gathered
up the cards and shuffled them again.

"Do you know any other games of patience?" Barrant asked.

She shook her head.

"Then this is the game you were playing on that night?"

"What night?" she whispered.

"The night Mr. Turold was killed."

"I don't want to think of that--it frightens me."

She remembered, then! Her face went grey, but her eyes were alert,
watching his.

"Listen to me"--he spoke very gently--"I want to help you get rid of your
fear and terror, but to do so I must talk to you about that night. Do you
understand?"

The kindness in his voice seemed to reach her feeble consciousness, and
she looked at him earnestly.

"Will you try and recollect?"

She seemed to search his eyes for courage, and gave a trembling nod.

"What time was it when you heard the crash upstairs? Think well."

She seemed to make an effort to remember. "I don't know," she said at
last.

"Think again. You were playing patience--the game you have just shown me?"

Her eyes turned to the cards on the table. "Yes," she said.

"What time did you commence--can you think?"

She shook her head. "I seem to remember it was half-past eight by the
kitchen clock when I started my last game. I was alone in the kitchen
then. The game was just coming out when I heard a crash--"

She broke off suddenly with a painful sigh and a frightened glance at the
hood clock on the wall.

"One game!" Barrant glanced at his watch with, an air of mistrust. "You
mean two, don't you?"

Her eyes returned to his. She shook her head with a rapid tremulous
motion. "No!" she exclaimed excitedly. "One, only one!"

Barrant cast another glance at his watch, which he Still held in his hand.
"You are quite sure you did not play two?" he persisted, with a puzzled
glance.

"No, no--one!" She sprang to her feet excitedly.

"Very well--one," acquiesced Barrant soothingly. "One. Go on."

But his effort to calm her came too late. She cast a wild and fearful
glance at the wall behind her, as if there was something there which
frightened her.

"How it rings--how it rings!" Her indistinct utterance grew louder. "Yes,
Jasper, I hear. Yes, sir, I'm coming. Where's the supper tray?"

"Don't be afraid, Mrs. Thalassa," said Barrant, approaching her, but she
backed hurriedly away towards the door.

"Coming with the supper tray--coming with the supper tray.... What's that?
Ah-h-h-h-h!"

Her disjointed mutterings ended in a shrill scream which went ringing
through the stillness and seemed to linger in the room after she had
disappeared. Barrant heard her muttering and laughing as she descended the
stairs.

The sounds died away into a silence so absolute as to suggest the
impression of a universe suddenly stricken dumb. Barrant crossed the room
to the window, where he stood looking out, deep in thought.

What was the meaning of it all--of this latest scene in particular? The
game of patience so tempestuously concluded had occupied half-an-hour. He
had noted the time. Yet Mrs. Thalassa insisted she had played only one
game after half-past eight on the night of the murder. If he dared accept
such a computation of time an unimagined possibility in the case stood
revealed. But--a demented woman. "A parable in the mouth of a fool."
Perhaps it was because she was a fool that he had stumbled on this
revelation. She lacked the wit to lie about it.

If so--

His eyes, straying incuriously over the outstretched panorama of sea and
cliffs beneath the window, fell upon a man's outline scaling the cliff
path near the Moon Rock. Disturbed in his meditations, Barrant watched the
climber. He reached the top and appeared in full view on the bare summit
of the cliffs. Barrant stared down upon him, amazed beyond measure. The
advancing figure was Charles Turold.




CHAPTER XXX


Barrant hastened from the room downstairs to the front door. From the open
doorway he saw Charles Turold advancing across the rocks in the direction
of the house, and he ran swiftly down the gravel path to intercept him.

Charles looked up and came on as if there was nothing to turn back for.
His clear glance dwelt on the figure by the gate without fear--with
seeming gratification. Barrant was amazed. He had been prepared for an
attempt at flight, but not this welcoming look. Never before had he known
a man show joy at the prospect of arrest. The experience was so disturbing
that he went across the intervening space to meet Charles, and laid a hand
upon his arm.

"I suppose you know you are wanted by the police?" he said.

"I am aware of it," was the quiet reply. "I was going to give myself up."

"Did you come back to Cornwall for that purpose?" asked the detective,
shooting another puzzled glance at him.

"I came back to try and discover the truth."

"About what?"

"About my uncle's death."

"And have you discovered it?"

"I have."

Barrant did not understand the young man's attitude, or the tone of
heartfelt relief in which he uttered these words, but he felt that the
conversation in its present form had gone far enough.

"Do you propose to tell me the truth?" he asked, with a slight cynical
emphasis on the last word.

"I do."

Barrant's surprise kept him silent for a moment, but when he spoke he was
very incisive--

"In that case it is my duty to warn you--"

"There is no need to warn me," Charles quickly interrupted. "I know. Any
statement I make will be taken down and used against me. That's the
formula, isn't it, or something to that effect? Let us go into the
house--my story will take some time in the telling."

He made this request as a right rather than a favour, and Barrant found
himself turning in at the gate with him. In silence they walked to the
house, and it was Charles Turold who led the way to the sitting-room.

"It was here it began," he murmured, glancing round the deserted
apartment, "and it seems fitting that the truth should be brought to light
in the same place."

"Provided that it is the truth," commented his companion.

Charles did not reply. They had been standing face to face, but he now
drew a chair to the table and sat down. Barrant walked to the door and
locked it before seating himself beside him.

"You can begin as soon as you like," he said.

"I think I had better tell you about my own actions, first of all, on that
night," said Charles, after a brief silence. "It will clear the way for
what follows. I was up here that night--the night of the murder."

"I know that much," was Barrant's cold comment.

"You suspected it--you did not know it," Charles quickly rejoined.

He remained profoundly silent for a moment, as if meditating his words,
and then plunged into his tale.

The account of his own visit to Flint House on the night of the murder he
related with details withheld from Sisily. The visit was the outcome of a
quarrel between father and son over Robert Turold's announcement about his
wife's previous marriage. Charles was shocked by his uncle's decision to
make the story public, and had wandered about the cliffs until dark trying
to decide what to do. Ultimately he returned home and asked his father to
use his influence with his brother to keep the secret in the family. His
father called him a fool for suggesting such a thing, declined to offend
his brother or blast his own prospects by such damned quixotic nonsense.
On this Charles had announced his intention of seeing his uncle and
telling him he would leave England immediately and forever unless the
scandal was kept quiet. That made his father angry, and they quarrelled
violently. Charles cut the quarrel short by flinging out of the house in
the rain, to carry out his intention of interviewing his uncle. He walked
across the moors to Flint House. The front door was open, the downstairs
portion of the house in darkness, and his uncle lying upstairs in his
study--dead.

He hurried over all this as of small importance in the deeper significance
of Thalassa's story. That was to him the great thing--the wonderful
discovery which was to clear Sisily and put everything right. He believed
that the plan which had brought him to Cornwall was working splendidly.
The chance encounter with the detective was really providential--a
speeding up, a saving of valuable time.

The possibility of disbelief did not dawn upon him. He overlooked that his
listener was also his custodian and judge--the suspicious arbiter of a
belated story told by one whose own actions were in the highest degree
suspicious. His overburdened mind forgot these things in the excitement of
hope. He talked with the candour and freedom of one young man confiding in
another. When he had finished he looked at his companion expectantly, but
Barrant's eyes were coldly official.

"A strange story!" he said.

"A true one," Charles eagerly rejoined. "Thalassa has been walking along
the coast ever since in the expectation of finding this man. He will kill
him if he meets him."

It was Barrant's lot to listen to many strange stories which were always
true, according to the narrators, but generally they caused him to feel
ashamed of the poverty of human invention. He was not immediately
concerned to discover whether Thalassa's story was true or false, or
whether it had been concocted between him and Charles with the object of
deceiving the authorities. The consideration of that infamous brownfaced
scoundrel's confession could be postponed--if it had ever been made. The
present business was with Charles Turold. There was something infernally
mysterious in his unexpected reappearance in that spot. He had gone to
London when he disappeared--he admitted that. What had brought him back?
To see Thalassa, as he said, in order to try and get at the truth?
Nonsense! He--Barrant--was not simple enough to believe that. What then?

Barrant was not prepared to supply a ready answer to that question. But
his trained ear had detected many gaps in the young man's own narrative
which, filled in, might give it. Turold knew more than he had said--he was
keeping things back. Again--what things? Behind him stood the shadowy
figure of the girl and her unexplained flight. Barrant's instinct told him
that Charles was shielding her. He turned to the task of endeavouring to
reach the truth.

"Let's go back a bit," he said casually. "You've left one or two points in
your own story unexplained. What about the key?"

"The key?" Charles started slightly. You mean--"

"I mean the key of the room upstairs. You said you found the key in the
passage outside. You must have locked the door after you and taken it away
with you."

"I did," replied the young man, in some hesitation.

"For what reason?"

Charles realized that he was on very thin ice. In his intense
preoccupation with Thalassa's story he had forgotten that his own
impulsive actions on that night must be construed as proof of his own
guilt or bear too literal interpretation of having been done to shield
Sisily. He saw that he was in a position of extraordinary difficulty.

"I was hardly conscious of what I was doing, at the time," he said.

"You took the key away with you?"

Charles nodded with the feeling that the ice was cracking beneath him.

"And how did it get back into the room afterwards?"

Charles paused to consider his reply, but the detective supplied it.

"The inference is fairly obvious," he said. "The key was found inside the
study after the locked door was burst open. It was your father who found
it, on the floor. At least, he pretended to find it there. It was your
father who started the suicide theory." He paused, then added in a smooth
reflective voice, "Really, the whole thing was very ingenious. It reflects
much credit on both of you."

Charles spoke with an air of sudden decision.

"My father did these things to shield me," he said. "I did not want to
reveal that, but I see that concealment will only direct unmerited
suspicion to him. When I returned from Flint House that night I let myself
in with my latchkey and went straight to my bedroom. My clothes were wet
through, and I lit a fire in my room to dry them. As I was spreading them
out in front of the blaze the key of the study dropped out of the
waistcoat pocket on to the floor. I had forgotten all about it till then.
I picked it up and placed it on the mantel-piece.

"Some time after I was aroused by my father entering the room. He had come
to tell me of my uncle's death--the news had just arrived from Flint
House. His face was very white. 'Your uncle has been found dead--shot in
his study,' he said. I had jumped up when he came in and was standing in
the centre of the room. As he spoke his eyes travelled past me to my wet
clothes in front of the fire, and then returned to my face with a strange
expression. 'Did you go to Flint House?' he asked sharply. I could only
nod. 'And did you see him--your uncle?' was his next question. On that, I
told him the truth--told him what I had found. I told him about locking
the door, and showed him the key on the mantel-piece. He slipped it in his
pocket, then turned and gave me a terrible look. 'I am going over to Flint
House,' he said, 'but you had better stay here.' And he left the room."

"What time did you reach Flint House that night?" asked Barrant.

Charles Turold realized that the critical moment had come. He had foreseen
it when he saw the detective standing at the gate of Flint House. The
relation of Thalassa's story to Barrant had carried with it the inevitable
admission that Sisily was at Flint House on the night of her father's
death. The point Charles had to decide was whether he should divulge the
additional information that he had seen her leave Flint House with
Thalassa on that night. As he covered the space which intervened between
him and Barrant waiting at the gate, he decided that the moment had come
to tell all he knew.

"I know now that it couldn't have been much after half-past eight," he
said in reply to Barrant's question.

"Did you see Miss Turold there?"

"I was coming to that. I was standing outside, considering what I would
say to my uncle, when the door opened and she and Thalassa came out."

"Did you not speak to them?"

"I went to do so, but they disappeared in the darkness of the moors before
I could reach them. I hastened after them, but I got off the road track
and wandered about the moors for nearly half an hour before I could find
my way back to Flint House."

"And found the door open and your uncle lying dead upstairs?"

"Yes."

"Why have you not come forward with this story before?"

"How could I expect any one to believe a story which sounds improbable in
my own ears? Even my father refused to believe it--then, or afterwards."

"Still, you might have cleared Miss Turold on the question of time. There
was the stopped clock, you know. You reached Flint House shortly after
half-past eight, and went upstairs thirty minutes later."

Charles Turold was subtle enough to see that this remark covered more than
a trap. It suggested that Barrant discredited the whole of his story. The
hood clock in the dead man's study had pointed to half-past nine on the
night he was killed. Thalassa's story, as it stood, proved that Sisily
must have left the house long before then. But Charles's story threw
suspicion back on to Sisily by suggesting that the police had been misled
about the time of the murder, which must have been committed at least half
an hour earlier than they assumed. Charles did not attempt to point out
this supposed flaw in the detective's reasoning. He confined himself to a
reply which was a strict statement of fact, so far as it went.

"Until I heard Thalassa's story to-day I had no idea of the time of my own
arrival at Flint House on that night," he said.

"The clock found lying on the floor upstairs was stopped at half-past
nine," remarked Barrant with a reflective air, as though turning over all
the facts in his mind. "According to the story told you by Thalassa, he
and Miss Turold left the house shortly after half-past eight. Thalassa
could not have returned until after half-past nine. He found the house in
darkness, his wife lying unconscious in the kitchen, and his master dead
upstairs. Thalassa, retracting his previous statement that he was not out
of Flint House that night, for the first time tells of some mysterious
avenger who, he thinks, killed Robert Turold while he was out of the house
with Miss Turold. Thalassa now suggests (if I understand you rightly) that
this man Remington, wronged by Robert Turold many years before, was
lurking outside in the darkness, and seized the opportunity of Thalassa's
absence to enter the house and murder the man who had wronged him. Have I
got it right?"

"Yes," said Charles, "you have it right."

"The story rests on Thalassa's bare statement, and Thalassa is a facile
liar." Barrant's tone was scornful.

"He is not lying now," returned Charles, "and there is more than his bare
statement to support his story. Thalassa found his master cowering
upstairs with fear in his study shortly before he met his death. He then
told Thalassa he had heard Remington's footsteps outside. Thalassa laughed
at him, but undoubtedly Remington was out there, waiting for his
opportunity, which he took as soon as he saw Thalassa leave the house. If
I had not followed Thalassa and Miss Turold I might have seen him."

"It's rather a pity you didn't." Barrant's tone was not free from irony.
"For then you might have secured the proof which at present the story
lacks."

"There are other proofs," Charles earnestly continued. "There were the
marks on my uncle's arm, and the letter he wrote to his lawyer under the
influence of the terror in which Thalassa found him--the fear caused by
overhearing Remington's footsteps. Thalassa posted that letter."

"Did he tell you so?" asked Barrant quickly. Then, as Charles remained
silent, he went on--

"How did you find out about the marks on your uncle's arm?"

Charles hesitated before replying in a low voice--

"I paid a visit to Flint House on the night after the murder."

"For what purpose?"

"To see if I could find out anything which might throw light on the
mystery. I got in through a window and went upstairs. I saw the marks ...
then."

"Did you discover anything else?"

"No; the dog started to bark, and I left as quickly as I could."

"I see."

Barrant's voice was non-committal, followed after a pause by a quick
change of tone.

"I shall investigate this story later," he said coldly. "Meantime--"

"Why not investigate it immediately?" asked Charles in a disappointed
voice. "Thalassa will be back directly, or I can take you down to the
cliffs were I left him."

Barrant was reminded of the flight of time. It would be as well to remove
Charles before Thalassa returned. Time enough for Thalassa's story later!
At that moment it seemed to Barrant that the final solution of the mystery
was almost in his hands. Mrs. Thalassa had been wiser than he. The single
game of patience suggested the solution of the problem of the time. It did
more than that. It seemed to provide the key of the greater problem of
Charles Turold's actions on that night. He had endeavoured to shield
Sisily by altering the hands of the clock. The rest, for the present, must
remain mere conjecture. One more question he essayed--

"Can you tell me where Miss Turold is to be found?"

"I know, but I am not going to tell you."

Barrant's eye rested on Charles.

"You must come with me," he said.

Charles nodded. Despairingly he reflected that the interview had not
turned out as he expected. There were other means, and he must be patient.

And Sisily? There was anguish in that thought.




CHAPTER XXXI


With a beating heart Sisily gained the shelter of her room and locked the
door, her eyes glancing quickly around her. She did not expect to see
anything there, but she had reached the stage of instinctive terror when
one fears lurking shadows, unexpected noises, or an imagined alteration in
the contour of familiar things. There was nothing in the room to alarm
her, and her thoughts flew back to the face of the man she had seen in the
street outside. The owner of the face had leered at first, and then his
glance hardened into suspicion as he looked. When she hurried past him he
had shifted his position to stare at her by the light of the street lamp.
Had he followed her? That was the question she could not answer. She had
heard footsteps behind her in the dark street, horrible stealthy footsteps
which had caused terror to rush over her like a flood, and sent her flying
along the street to her one haven. As she ran she had felt a touching
faith in the security of her room, if she could reach it. Out there, in
the open street, it had seemed impregnable, like a fortress.

Now as she sat there she had a revulsion of feeling. The room was not
safe, the house was not safe. Not now. She had been very imprudent. She
had run straight home to her hiding-place, her only refuge. Why had she
not waited to make sure that she was followed? Then she could have slipped
away in a different direction until she had evaded pursuit, and returned
to her room afterwards. She had been very foolish.

She approached her window and gazed down, but could discern nothing in the
darkness. She tried to shake off her fear, telling herself that it was
imagination. But her mind remained full of misgivings, and her inner
consciousness peopled the obscurity of the street below with lurking
figures.

Weariness overcame her. She retired from the window and laid down on her
bed, not to sleep, but to think. Her fright had turned her mind
temporarily from the contemplation of a greater disaster. That was the
arrest of Charles Turold. She had learnt the news from an evening paper
which she had bought at the corner of the street. The announcement was
very brief, merely stating that he had been arrested in Cornwall. The
guarded significance of the information was not lost upon her. Charles had
been captured on his way back to her, and her agonized heart whispered
that she was responsible for his fate.

Bitterly she now blamed herself for having let him go on the quest. She
hardly asked herself whether it had succeeded or failed, perhaps because
she had subconsciously accepted the view that Thalassa, after all, had
nothing to tell. Nor did she think of the calamity which had again
overtaken her love. The effect of her original renunciation was still
strong within her, and Charles's discovery of her and her promise to him
had not really altered her attitude. His finding her, and their subsequent
conversation in the room below, bore an air of the strangest unreality to
her, as if she had been merely an actor in a stirring scene which did not
actually affect her. Some subtle inward voice told her that these things
did not matter to her.

It was part of a feeling which she had always within her--the sense of
living under the shadow of some dark destiny which would not be mitigated
or withheld. It was a strange point of view for one so young, but it had
been hers ever since she remembered anything. The tragedy and the shame
which had come into her life recently had found her, as it were, waiting.
She regarded them merely as the partial fulfilment of the unescapable
thing which had been prepared for her before she was born, and had dogged
her lonely footsteps since childhood. In the isolated circumstances of her
life and upbringings it was not strange, perhaps, that she had such
imaginings.

She had loved Charles Turold with all the strength of a passionate
solitary nature, and it was this feeling or instinct of fatality which had
given her the strength to renounce him. Indeed, it seemed to her that that
inseparable companion of her inmost thoughts had prompted her to linger
outside the door at Flint House on this afternoon so that she should
overhear her father's words--catch that sinister fragment of a sentence
which compelled her to refuse the love of Charles until she had learnt the
truth. She could not listen to him with that secret half-guessed. And, the
full truth known, no other course was open to her save renunciation.

She had not wavered. Sometimes, in the vain way of the young heart seeking
for happiness, she found herself wishing that she had not listened at the
door to those few words which sent her back to Flint House that awful
night to learn the truth from her father, or, at least, had not acted upon
them. The words she overheard had not told her much, and she might have
tried to forget them. But she thrust that thought from her like an evil
thing. She would have hated herself if she had followed that course and
found out the truth of her birth afterwards, deeming herself unworthy of
the love of one who had been ready to sacrifice everything for her sake.
No! It was better, far better, that she should know.

She had not thought of suspicion falling on herself. Her youth and
inexperience, borne upward on the lofty wings of sacrifice, had not
foreseen the damning significance which might gather round her secret
visit to Flint House and her subsequent disappearance. Not even when she
heard of her father's death had the folly of her contemplated action
dawned on her. Her dreamy unpractical temperament, keyed up to the great
act of abnegation, had not paused to consider what the consequences might
be to herself.

Lying there in the darkness of her room, she recalled how that revelation
had been made to her. It was the first night after her arrival in London,
in the drawing-room of a private hotel near Russell Square, where she had
intended staying for a few days while she sought for some kind of
employment. There was a group of women seated round the fireplace,
talking. She was seated by herself some distance away, turning over the
leaves of a magazine, when a loud remark by one of the speakers startled
her into an attitude of listening fear. "Have you read about this Cornwall
murder?" The words, cold and distinct, had broken into her sad reflections
like a stone dropped from a great height. They had gone on talking without
looking at her, and she had listened intently, masking her conscious
features with the open magazine. It was well that she did. They discussed
the murder in animated tones. The strangest case! ... A great title ...
the Turrald title ... to be heard before the House of Lords next week ...
and now the claimant was murdered ... he was very wealthy, too. Thus they
talked; then the first voice, which seemed to dominate all the others,
broke in: "It was thought to be suicide at first, but I see by tonight's
paper that his daughter is suspected. She has disappeared, and is supposed
to have fled to London. What are girls coming to--always shooting somebody
or somebody shooting them! It's the war, I suppose...."

The shock of that double disclosure had been almost too much to bear. Till
then she had not known that her father had been murdered, much less that
she was suspected of killing him. Dizziness had swept over her. Things
seemed to spin round her, yet she saw them rotating with a kind of
dreadful distinctness--the false smiling faces of the women, the
furniture, a cat blinking on the hearthrug, an empty coffee cup on a small
table. One stout lady, enthroned on a pile of red and blue cushions,
sailed round and round on a sofa with the preposterous repetition and
tragic reality of a fat woman on a roundabout. Then the circling faces and
furniture vanished. She swayed with the sensation of growing darkness, and
had the oddest fancy that the break of the waves on Cornish cliffs was
sounding in her ears. She was dreamily inhaling the sea air....

She had pulled herself sharply together. She had something of her father's
tenacity and courage in her composition, and that had nerved her to face
the ordeal and saved her from giving herself away. The darkness lightened,
the electric lights danced dizzily back into view, and the room became
stationary once more. With an effort at calmness she rose from her seat
and sought her room, and next morning she left the house. Henceforth her
lot was one of furtive movement and concealment.

As she lay there, staring open-eyed into the darkness, her thoughts
slipped back to the night of her visit to Flint House in a vain effort to
recollect some overlooked incident which might throw light on her father's
mysterious death. There was one thing over which she had frequently
puzzled without arriving at any interpretation of it. She thought of it
now. She saw herself stealing from her father's room with the sound of his
last awful words ringing through her being. Beneath, near the foot of the
staircase, she could see Thalassa waiting, the glow of the tiny hall light
falling on his stern listening face. She was walking along the passage to
go to him when some impulse impelled her to glance through a window which
looked out on the moors and the rocks near the house.

Her eyes had fallen on a shape, shrouded in the obscurity of the rocks not
far from the window, which seemed to have some semblance to the motionless
figure of a man. She had stood there for a moment, glancing down intently,
but it had not stirred. If it had human semblance, it seemed to be carved
in stone. She came to the conclusion that she was mistaken. Experience had
taught her what strange shapes the rocks took after nightfall. With
another fleeting glance she had hurried downstairs, and from the house.

She thought about it now without arriving at any conclusion as to what it
was that she had seen so indistinctly--whether man or rock. Charles had
been up there that night, but it was not Charles. This figure or rock was
on the other side of the house.

Stupor descended gradually on her tired brain like the coming of darkness,
and she fell into sleep--the first rest that had visited her since she
learnt of Charles's arrest. But her slumber was disturbed by dreams. She
dreamt that she was back in Cornwall, sitting on her old perch at the foot
of the cliffs, looking at the Moon Rock. The face in the Rock was watching
her, as it had always watched her, but this time with a dreadful sneer
which she had never seen before. It frightened her so that she moaned and
tossed uneasily, and awoke with a cry, shaking with terror.

As she reached out her hand for the matches by the bedside to light the
gas, the sound of the front door-bell pealed through the house. Sisily
sprang up, her eyes seeking to pierce the darkness, her ears listening
intently. Who could it be? She was alone in the house. Mrs. Johns had gone
to one of her spiritualistic meetings, and was not likely to be home until
late. Besides, she had her own key, with which she always let herself in.
She crept cautiously to the window and strained her eyes downward. She was
just able to catch a glimpse of two vague figures underneath in the
darkness. The light of the street lamp glinted on something one of them
was wearing on his head. It was a policeman's helmet.

The terror of the hunted took possession of her. She sought to remain
calm; her trembling lips essayed a sentence of a prayer. But it was no
use. She was too young for philosophy or Christian resignation. Terror
shook her with massive jaws. She did not want to be caught, to be put in
prison, to be killed. She wandered aimlessly about the room like a trapped
creature. She must escape--she would escape!

With a great effort she calmed herself to reflect--to calculate if there
was any chance of getting away. She esteemed it fortunate that she had not
lit the gas in her room. The whole house was in darkness. The policeman
might think there was nobody in, and go away. But she dared not reckon on
that.

There came another and louder ring of the bell downstairs.

Again she crept to the window and looked down. The policeman and the other
man were conferring in a murmur which reached her ears. The policeman
stepped back into the garden path and scanned the darkened windows of the
house. She shrank back from the window.

The ring was followed by the sound of knocking at the front door--knocking
heavy and prolonged, which reverberated solemnly through the silent house.
Then once more there was silence.

In her ignorance of the methods of the law she wondered wildly whether the
next step would be to break in the door and search the house. Terror shook
her again at this thought, scorched her with burning breath. She would
escape--she must. But how? Her fingernails pierced the palms of her hands
as she vainly tried to think out a way. Should she hide somewhere? She
rejected that plan as impracticable. The back way? But there was no
outlet--only a small garden abutting on other back gardens. There was a
dark side street only a few houses away. If she could only reach it....

She stood quite motionless, expecting the knocking to start again. But it
did not. She thought she heard the shuffle of feet and husky whispers in
the garden path underneath, but she could not be sure of that. What were
they doing? Why were they so silent? "Suppose they got in through the
window?" she whispered to herself. Her soul died within her at that
thought. She tried to assure herself that the windows were locked, but her
staring eyes peopled the invisible staircase with creeping figures. The
darkness grew intense and terrifying, like a rushing black torrent flowing
over her head. She was alone, in an empty world ... The torrent ceased,
and the darkness took the form of a great sable wing, moving, flapping,
seeking to enfold her. She put up her hands to ward it off.

At that instant a sharp and decisive sound reached her. It was the click
of a shut gate. As she recognized the sound a new thought came to her--a
hope, when hope seemed gone. She stepped noiselessly to the window and
looked down. She was just in time to catch a glimpse of two retreating
figures revealed in dark contour beneath the rays of the street lamp. The
next moment they passed out of sight.

They had gone! But they would return--she felt sure of that. She must get
away at once before they did--run out of the door and make for the side
street.

She listened for a moment longer. There was no sound anywhere now. The
house was lapped in absolute quietness. She felt for her hat, and calming
her nerves with a desperate effort, stole quickly from the room and
downstairs. As she stood in the silent hall, facing the closed door, she
again thought she heard whisperings. She recoiled in fear, wondering if
they were outside, waiting. It was her worst ordeal yet. Then desperation
conquered her terror. Her trembling fingers pulled back the bolt, and she
issued forth.

There was no one there to check her flight. The streets seemed empty.
Without turning her head she ran past the houses which intervened between
her and the side street. She gained it, and turned into its friendly
darkness. She was as free as a bird again, for the moment.

A kind of exultation seized her at this unexpected deliverance from her
adventure, but that mood passed as she reflected upon her present
position. She had left the house without her few belongings, and what was
far worse, without her money, which she kept in a hand-bag locked up in
her small case in the bedroom she had just left.

She had not a penny in the world, and she dared not go back.

That was not the moment to reflect upon the grimness of her situation. The
sound of approaching footsteps shaped her fears of capture into renewed
action. She walked rapidly away.

The time was near midnight, and the streets were almost empty. She kept
her way along dark obscure streets, shunning the lighted thoroughfares.
She had no settled plan in her mind, except to keep on. Hers was the
instinct of the hunted creature for darkness and obscurity. Her fevered
spirit hurried her along, spurring her with the menace of an imprisonment
which was worse than the cramped horror of the grave. In the grave there
was no consciousness of the weight of the earth above, but in prison, held
like an animal, watched by horrible men, beating despairing hands against
locked doors--ah, no, no! Her free young body and soul revolted with
nausea at the thought. Death would be better than that. She walked still
more rapidly.

With that possibility impending she shrank from any chance contact with
passers-by, turning into side streets to avoid any one she saw coming.
Once, a policeman, appearing unexpectedly out of the shadows, set her
heart beating wildly, but he passed by without looking at her.

It grew later, and the streets became quite deserted. She had been walking
for more than an hour when she noticed that the houses were scattered,
with open spaces now and then, and a bracing freshness in the air which
suggested that she was getting away from where the herds of London slept,
into open spaces. For some obscure reason this made her nervous, and she
turned back. After a while London closed in on her again, but this time in
a more squalid quarter, a wilderness of dirty narrow streets, where even
in the darkness the debasing marks and odours of squalid poverty were
perceptible in the endless rows of houses which seemed to crowd in upon
her. She came to a bridge and crossed it into an area of gaunt and
darkened factories. Here, strange nocturnal noises and sights frightened
her. She saw shadowy forms, and heard rough voices on a wharf in the
blackness of the river beneath her, followed by a woman's scream. She ran
when she heard that--ran along the riverside till she came to another
bridge, which she recrossed. She found herself in a quieter and better
part of London, where the streets were wide and well-kept, and she
slackened her pace into a walk again.

The night wore on like eternity, with immeasurable slowness yet incredible
swiftness. She had been walking for hours, and yet she had no feeling of
fatigue. She seemed to move through the streets without any effort of her
own. Towards the morning she was carried along with a complete absence of
bodily sensation, as if she had been in very truth one of those
disembodied spirits of Mrs. Johns' spirit world, driven through the
solitude of the ages by the implacable decree of some incalculable
malignant force called immortality. She felt as though centuries of time
had rolled over her head when the murk of the lowering sky lightened, and
the London dawn was born, naked and grey.

The dawn brought London to life with a speed which was in the nature of a
miracle. From the appearance of the first workers to the flocking of the
streets, was, as it were, but a moment. The 'buses and trams commenced
running, and shops opened. Sisily found herself walking along Holborn,
where the thickening crowds jostled her as she walked. But she did not
care for that now, nor did she seek the comparative seclusion of the side
streets. Her fear of capture had passed away, and her only feeling was
impenetrable isolation and loneliness. The people who were passing had no
more existence to her than if they had been a troop of ghosts. She had the
sensation of belonging to another world and could not have communicated
with them if she had wished. But the spirit which had sustained her during
the night disappeared with the clamorous advance of the day. She became in
an instant conscious of the grievous pangs of a body which seemed to have
been flung back to her in a damaged state. It ached all over. Her head
throbbed with a dull buzzing sound, and she was so tired that she could
hardly stand. She felt as if she must lie down--in the street, anywhere.
And she was tormented by thirst. But she still kept on.

She found herself, after a while, by one of those little backwaters which
are the salvation of strangers to London: a green railed square, with
trees and fountains, and a quiet pavement where a street artist was
drawing bright pictures with crayons. An old four-wheeler was moored in
the gutter by the entrance, the horse munching in the depths of a
nose-bag, the elderly driver reclining against the side of the cab,
smoking and watching the pavement artist.

Sisily entered the empty square to rest herself. As she sat there on one
of the wooden seats the full misery of her situation came home to her, and
she asked herself anxiously what she was to do. She had nowhere to go, and
no money to buy food or shelter--nothing in the world that she could call
her own except the clothes she was wearing. They were the coat and skirt
she had put on to come to London, and she noticed with feminine concern
that the dark cloth showed disreputable stains and splashes of her night's
exposure. Hastily she took her handkerchief from her pocket to remove the
tell-tale marks. As she did so a bit of buff cardboard fluttered on to the
gravel at her feet. She stooped and picked it up. It was the return half
of her ticket to Cornwall.

The remembrance of her arrival at Paddington revived in her as she looked
at it--the fright she had had when the ticket collector caught her by the
arm to return half of the whole ticket she had given up. She had put the
ticket in the pocket of her jacket and never thought of it again. Had Fate
decreed her original mistake of taking a return ticket when she needed
only a single one? She was at that moment inclined to think so.

The question of its use was decided as soon as she saw it. The ticket
would take her back to Cornwall and Thalassa. Thalassa would help and
shield her.

The gilt hands of a church clock opposite the square pointed to half-past
eight. She knew that the morning express for Cornwall started shortly
after ten, but she did not know what part of London she was in or the
direction of Paddington. Animated by a new hope, she left her seat and
asked the cabman for directions.

The cabman looked at her with a ruminating eye. That eye, with
unfathomable perspicacity, seemed to pry into her empty pockets and pierce
her penniless state. He did not ask her if she wanted to be driven there,
but intimated with a shake of his grey head that Paddington was a goodish
walk. Then he gave her directions for finding it--implicit and repeated
directions, as though his all-seeing eye had also divined that she was a
stranger to the ways of London.

Sisily thanked him and turned away, repeating his directions so that she
should not have to ask anybody else. First to the right, second to the
left, along Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Street, up Oxford Street to
Edgeware Road, down Edgeware Road to Praed Street--so it ran. She followed
them carefully, and found herself on Paddington station a quarter of an
hour before the departure of the express.

She entered a third-class carriage, but sat in a corner seat, longing for
the train to move out. The minutes dragged slowly, and passengers kept
thronging in. All sorts of people seemed to have business in Cornwall at
that late season of the year. They came hurrying along in groups looking
for vacant compartments. Sisily kept an eager eye upon the late arrivals,
hoping that they would pass by her compartment. By some miraculous chance
she was left undisturbed until almost starting time, then a group of fat
women dashed along the platform with the celerity of fear, and crowded
ponderously in. The next moment the train began to slip away from the
station, and was soon rushing into the open country at high speed.

Of the details of that journey she knew nothing at all. She sat staring
out of the window, her thoughts racing faster than the train. The events
of the last few days receded from her mental vision like the flying houses
and fields outside the carriage window, fading into some remote distance
of her mind. Relief swelled in her heart as the train rushed west and
London was left farther and farther behind. Something within her seemed to
sing piercingly for joy, as though she had been a strange wild bird
escaping from captivity to wing her way westward to the open spaces by the
sea. London had frightened her. Its crowded vastness had suffocated her,
its indifference had appalled her. She had felt so hopelessly alone there;
far lonelier than she had ever been in Cornwall or Norfolk. Nature could
be brutal, but never indifferent. She could be friendly--sometimes. The
sea and the sky had whispered loving greetings to her, but not London.
There was nothing but a hideous and blank indifference there. She was glad
to get away--away from the endless rows of shops and houses, from the
unceasing throngs of indifferent people, back to the lonely moors of
Cornwall, to look down from the rocks at the sea, and breathe the keen
gusty air.

As the journey advanced and the train swept farther west she became dull,
languid, almost inert. Lack of food and the previous night's exposure
induced in her a feeling of giddiness which at times had in it something
of the nature of delirium. In this state her mind turned persistently to
Thalassa, and the object of her return to him. She was struggling towards
him, up great heights, under a nightmare burden. She seemed to see him
standing there with his hands outstretched, ready to lift the burden off
her shoulders if she could only reach him. Then she was back in the
kitchen at Flint House, watching him bending over his lamps, listening to
the wicked old song he used to sing--

    "The devil and me we went away to sea,
       In the old brig 'Lizbeth-Jane...."

The train caught up the refrain and thundered it into her tired head ...
"Went away to sea, went away to sea, In the old brig 'Lizbeth-Jane." And,
listening to it, she fell into a dazed slumber.

She awoke with a start to find that it was getting dusk and the train was
running smoothly through South Cornwall. As she looked out of the window a
grey corpse of a hill seemed to rise out of the sea. It was Mount St.
Michael. Then she caught a glimpse of Carn Brea and the purple moors. The
people in the carriage began to collect light luggage and put on coats and
wraps. The next moment the train came to a standstill at Penzance station.

She clung to the safety of the throng in passing through the barrier,
fearing most the St. Fair wagonette which might be drawn up outside. She
was not known in Penzance, but the driver of the wagonette might recognize
her. But Mr. Crows, indifferent to shillings, had not yet arrived. Sisily
hurried past a group scanning the distant heights for the gaunt outline of
the descending cab, like shipwrecked mariners on the look-out for a sail.

She reached the moor road by a short cut through, the back part of the
town, and set out for Flint House in the velvety shadows of the early
gloaming.

It had been raining, but the rain had ceased. The sun, hidden through a
long grey day, shone with dying brilliance in a patch of horizon blue,
gilding the wet road, and making the wayside puddles glitter like mirrors.
A soddened little bird twittered joyfully in the hedge, casting a round
black eye at her as she passed. The moors, carpeted with purple, stretched
all around her, glistening, wet, beautiful.

In the train she had felt hungry and tired, with burning head and cold
limbs. As she walked these feelings wore off, and were replaced by a
feeling of upliftment which was magical in its change. Her misery and her
burden dropped from her. The softness of the moors was beneath her feet,
and a sweet wind touched her lips and cheeks with a breath which was a
caress. The plaintive distant cry of a gull reached her like a greeting.
The solitude of Cornwall surrounded her.

When she reached the cross-roads she struck out across the moors. Before
her, at no great distance, she could see the swelling mountainous reaches
of green water breaking on the rocks in a long white line of foam, and the
dark outline of Flint House clinging to the dizzy summit of the black
broken cliffs.

Her false strength failed her suddenly as she neared her journey's end.
The house loomed dimly before her tired vision in the fast gathering
darkness. She stumbled with faltering steps round the side of the house
to the kitchen door, and turned the handle. It was locked. She knocked
loudly.

As in a vision she saw the white furtive face of Mrs. Thalassa peering out
at her from the window, and her fluttering hands pressed against the
glass, as though to thrust her back. Sisily rushed to the window.

"Let me in!" she cried. "It is I--Sisily."

The window opened suddenly, and Mrs. Thalassa stood there looking out at
her like a small grey ghost--a ghost with watchful glittering eyes.

"Go away--go away," she whispered with a cunning glance. "Quick! They're
looking for you--they'll catch you."

Sisily's heart went cold within her. "Where is Thalassa?" she faltered.
"Send him to me--tell him I have come back." Her eyes travelled vainly
around the gloom of the empty kitchen in search of him.

"He's gone--gone away!"

"Gone? Oh, no, no! Don't say that. Where has he gone?"

"I don't know. He went away. He's not coming back." She shook her head
angrily, with a wild gleam in her eye. "You go away, too, or they'll catch
you--the police. They come every night to look for you."

She cast another cunning look at the girl, and shut down the window.
Sisily could see her reaching up and fumbling with the lock. Thalassa
gone! Despair clutched her with iron hands, and held her fast. She glanced
up at the window of her father's study, and thought she saw the dead man
there, his stern face looking coldly down upon her. She turned away
shuddering. Where could she go? She had nowhere to go, and she knew her
strength would not carry her much farther.

She plunged blindly into the shelter of the great rocks near the house.
She found herself wandering among them like a being in a dream. Then
complete unconsciousness overtook her, and she sank down.

When she came to herself again night had descended and a storm was
brewing. She sat up wonderingly and looked around her, indifferent to the
rain which had commenced to fall on her uncovered head. Gradually
remembrance came back to her. She saw that she was lying on the great slab
of basalt which overhung the Moon Rock. She could hear the beat of the sea
far beneath her, but she felt no fear. She was not conscious of her body
or limbs--of nothing but a burning brain, and wide-open eyes which gazed
out into the darkness and stillness around her.

As she looked it seemed to her startled imagination that the masses of
rocks which littered the edge of the cliff moved closer to each other,
starting out of the shadows into monstrous grotesque life, then circling
round her in a strange and dizzy whirl. It was as though the old Cornish
giants had come back to life for a corybantic dance with the demirips of
their race--dancing to the music of the sea sucking and gurgling into the
caves at the base of the cliffs. With swimming eyes Sisily watched them
careering and pirouetting around her. Faster and faster they went,
advancing, retreating, bending clumsily, then wavering, toppling, reeling,
like giants well drunk. A great stone fell into the sea with a splash, as
if dislodged by a giant foot. As though that signalled the cockcrow of
their glee, the dancers stopped in listening attitudes, and sank back into
rocks once more.

Sisily turned her eyes weakly from the slumbering rocks to the hills. The
light of a coming moon behind them showed the outline of the granite
pillars and stone altars of the Druids, where they had once sought to
appease their savage gods, like the Israelites of old. Sisily had often
meditated by these places of sacrifice, trying to picture the scene. Now,
as she looked, it was enacted before her eyes. A red light brooded on one
of the hills, growing brighter and brighter. Brutish shaggy figures came
out of the darkness, dragging a youth to the altar. Sisily saw him
distinctly. He was naked, with a beautiful face, haggard and white, and
was bound with cords. Suddenly he freed himself, and dashed down the slope
into the darkness. He was pursued and brought back, and the cries of his
pursuers mingled with an appalling scream for help which seemed to float
down the mountain side to where she lay, filling the silent air with
echoes.

This scene, too, faded away, and the beams of the rising moon, now
beginning to show over the hill-tops, formed in her mind the mirage of a
beautiful day--one of those exquisite days which Nature produces at long
intervals. Sisily saw a blue sky, sunlight like burnished silver, green
fields and clear pools in which everything was reflected ... a slumbrous
perfect day, with drowsy cattle knee-deep in grass, bees, and floating
butterflies, and the shrill notes of happy birds.

Once more the tangled loom of her fevered brain wove a new picture. She
was back in her bedroom at Flint House, looking down at the graven face of
the Moon Rock. As she looked, a great hand seemed to come out of the sea
and beckon to her. The summons was one she dare not disobey. She left her
bed, crept downstairs in the darkness, out to the edge of the cliff, and
looked down. The face of the Moon Rock was watching her intently. She
thought it called her name.

Ah, what was that cry? She came to her senses, startled, and looked
fearfully round her. She was alone on the cliffs, above the Moon Rock, and
she could hear the sea hissing at its base. But what else had she heard?
Had somebody called her name? It was still very dark. To the south the
light of the Lizard stabbed the black sky with a white flaming finger as
if seeking to pierce the darkness of eternity. Nearer, the red light of
the Wolf rock gleamed--a warning to passing souls flying southward from
England to eternal bliss to fly high above the rock where the spirit dog
lay howling in wait. Had the cry come from there?

"Sisily! Sisily!"

No. It was not the howl of the Wolf dog that she had heard. That was her
own name. She crept closer to the edge of the cliff and looked down into
the sea--down at the Moon Rock. The old Cornish legend of the drowned love
came back to her. Was Charles dead? and calling her to him? She would go
to him gladly. She had loved him in life, and if he wanted her in death
she would go to him.

She clutched a broken spur of rock on the brink and looked down to where
the sea bored round the black sides of the Moon Rock. She could see her
own pool too, lying peaceful and calm in the encircling arm of the rock.
In her delirium she struggled to her feet and started to climb down the
face of the cliff.




CHAPTER XXXII


The wind tapped angrily at the windows of Flint House, the rain fell
stealthily, the sea made a droning uneasy sound. The fire which burnt on
the kitchen hearth was a poor one, a sullen thing of green boughs and coal
which refused to harmonize, but spluttered and fizzed angrily. The coal
smouldered blackly, but sometimes cracked with a startling report. When
this happened, a crooked bough sticking up in the middle of the fire, like
a curved fang, would jump out on to the hearthstone as though frightened
by the noise.

Thalassa sat on one side of the fire, his wife on the other. Her eyes were
rapt and vacant; he sat with frowning brows, deep in thought. Robert
Turold's dog crouched in the circle of the glow with amber eyes fixed on
the old man's face as if he were a god, and Thalassa lived up to one of
the attributes of divinity by not deigning to give his worshipper a sign.
Occasionally the dog lifted a wistful supplicating paw, dropping it again
in dejection when it passed unregarded.

Presently Thalassa got up and went to a cupboard in the corner. From some
hidden receptacle he extracted a coil of ship's tobacco and a wooden pipe
shaped into a negro's head, with little beads for eyes, such as may be
bought for a few pence in shops near the London docks. He returned to his
seat, filled the pipe, lit it with a burning bough, and fell to smoking
with lingering whiffs, gazing into the fire with dark gleaming eyes as
motionless as the glinting beads in the negro's carved head.

The clock on the mantel-piece ticked steadily away in the silence. The
dog, with a brute recognition of the unsatisfactory nature of spiritual
aspiration, descended to the care of his own affairs, and scratched for
fleas which knew no other world than his hind-quarters.

"Go away, go away! You mustn't come in here!"

The shrill voice of Mrs. Thalassa broke the silence like a cracked bell,
shattering her husband's meditations, and causing the dog to spring to his
feet. Thalassa looked at her angrily. She was making mysterious motions
with her hands, as if expostulating with some phantom of her thoughts,
muttering and shaking her head rapidly. Her husband stared across in
silence for a moment.

"By God! she doesn't improve with age," he growled; then, louder: "What's
the matter with you? What are you making that noise for?"

The question went unheeded. To his astonishment she sprang to her feet
with a kind of grotesque vivacity, and, darting over to the window, began
gesticulating again with an angry persistency, as if to some one outside.

Thalassa left his seat and went to the window also. His wife had ceased
her gestures, and stood still listening and watching. Thalassa pulled back
the blind, and looked out. The moor and rocks were draped in black, and
the only sounds which reached him were the disconsolate wail of the wind
and the savage break of the sea on the rocks below. He looked at his wife.
She had started tossing her hands again at some spectral invisible thing
in the shadowy night. She was quite mad--there could be no doubt of that.
He endeavoured to lead her back to her seat by the fireside, but she broke
away from him with surprising strength, and again her voice rang out--

"Go away ... go away! You can't come in. I won't let you in. You're a
wicked girl, Miss Sisily, and I won't let you in. You killed your father,
and you'd like to kill me, but I'll keep you locked out. Go away!" Her
voice rose to a screech.

The blood rushed to Thalassa's head as he listened to these words. He
understood quite suddenly--this was not a demented raving. Sisily had been
there--she had come back to him in her fear--and she had been driven away.
He turned to his wife and caught her up in his great arms, shaking her
violently, as one shakes a child. The sight was terrible and absurd, but
there was no one to witness it but the dog, who circled round and round in
yelping excitement, as though the scene was enacted for his benefit alone.

"Has Miss Sisily been here?"

The question thundered out in the empty silence. Mrs. Thalassa crouched
like a preposterous hunched-up doll on the seat where her husband had
flung her, looking up at him with stupid eyes, but not speaking. He
approached her again.

"Speak, woman, speak, or I'll strangle you."

She backed away, whimpering with fear. "No, no, Jasper, leave me alone."

"Has Miss Sisily been here?"

The sight of those long outstretched hands, by their menace to her life,
seemed to restore her reason. "Yes," she mumbled.

"When?"

"This evening--before dark--when you were out."

"And you wouldn't let her in?"

"No."

"How did you know it was her?"

"She knocked at the door, and I looked out of the window."

"Did you see which way she went?"

"Over by the cliffs, where she used to go."

Thalassa repeated these last words mechanically. Anger possessed him, but
apprehension stirred in his heart. Sisily had trusted him, she had come
back to him, and he had failed her. That had been at six o'clock, and it
was now nine. Three hours, and there had been a storm. Where was she? Had
she been out in the storm?

He searched in the cupboard for a lantern, lit it, and made for the door,
followed by the dog. As he flung open the door the wind rushed in with
such force that it beat him back, and the candle in the lantern flickered
and lengthened like a naked flame. He fought his way out furiously,
slamming the door behind him.

Outside, the rocks crouched in the darkness in nameless shapes. Thalassa
prowled among them, struggling desperately with the wind, telling himself
that she was safe--yes, by God, she was safe. Of course she wouldn't stay
on the rocks in that storm. She would seek shelter. "Where?" asked
something within him mockingly, "Where would she dare go, except to you?"
He stood still to reflect. "She might go to Dr. Ravenshaw's," he said
aloud, as though answering an unseen but real questioner. "Fool!" came the
reply, "you know she would not go to Dr. Ravenshaw's. She would not dare."
And fear gripped his heart coldly.

He stumbled on again, bruising and cutting his limbs among the rocks. As
he went he kept calling her name--"Miss Sisily" at first, and then, as his
fear grew stronger, "Sisily, Sisily!" The wind wailed back to him, but
that was all.

He stopped again to reflect. It was useless looking for her in the
darkness. He could do nothing until the moon was up. The sky was already
beginning to brighten with the coming light. So he stood where he was,
waiting.

In a quarter of an hour the moon showed above the horizon, slurred through
the rain, like a great drowned face. Higher and higher it rose until the
black curtain lifted off the moors, and the light shimmered on little
pools left after the rain, made fretwork in the shadows of the rocks, and
fell upon the surface of the sea. And as the moon rose the hideous uproar
of wind and sea began to die away.

Thalassa threw down the lantern, and resumed his search. Carefully he
explored in and out among the rude masses of rock, beating farther and
farther away from the house, cautiously skirting the perpendicular edge of
the cliffs, looking over, and backing away again. His wider cast brought
him at length to where the Moon Rock rose from the turmoil of the sea. He
crept on hands and knees to the bald face of the cliff, and looked down.

By the light of the moon something caught his eye far below--something
white and small, showing distinctly against the black glistening base of
the Moon Rock. He could not discern what it was, but a nameless terror
seized him, and his jaw dropped as he crouched there, gazing. Then he
scrambled to his feet with a wild cry, and made for the path down the
cliffs to the pool. It was some distance from where he was, but there was
no shorter way. He rushed recklessly along the cliff edge till he reached
it, and climbed down.

It was there he found her.

She was lying limp and motionless on the edge of the pool, and the
receding tide was still lapping over the shelf of the rock where the sea
had flung her.

Thalassa dropped on his knees beside her. "Sisily, Sisily!" he cried
hoarsely--"It's me--Thalassa!"

He stooped over her, calling her repeatedly, but she did not reply. Her
face showed still and white in the moonlight. He unfastened the front of
her dress, and put his hard hand on her soft flesh, but he could not feel
her heart beating. He lifted her tenderly in his arms, and she lay against
his body inert and cold, her wet head resting on his shoulder. Thus he
started the ascent of the cliff.

A giant's strength still lurked in his ageing frame. It was well for him
that it did. He had only his feet to depend upon in that long slippery
ascent, and the wind tugged at him angrily, as if anxious to jerk him off
the path into the sea. But he fought his way up with his burden, though
his body was swaying and his head was dizzy when he reached the top.

He did not stop for a moment. Still holding her fast he set out, not for
Flint House, but to the churchtown. Dizzy, panting, and staggering, he
struggled on across the moors, and as he walked he listened anxiously for
any sound from the inanimate form in his arms.

But she lay still and motionless against his breast.

On he went until he reached the churchtown, and made his way up the empty
street to Dr. Ravenshaw's house. He turned in the garden gate, and beat
with his heavy boot against the closed door.




CHAPTER XXXIII


Some one stirred within, and a ray of light in the fanlight grew bright as
footsteps in the passage drew near. The door opened, and showed the figure
of Dr. Ravenshaw holding in his hand a lighted lamp which shone upon
Thalassa and the dripping figure in his arms. The doctor looked down from
the doorstep in silent surprise, then stepped quickly back from the
threshold and opened the surgery door, holding the lamp high to guide
Thalassa in.

"There--on the couch," he said, placing the lamp on the table. "What has
happened?"

"Miss Sisily fell over the cliffs by the Moon Rock. I found her and
carried her up, and brought her straight here."

The doctor's quick glance was a professional tribute to the strength of a
frame capable of performing such a feat. He turned his attention to
Sisily, bending over her and feeling her pulse. With a sharp exclamation
he dropped her wrist and tore open the front of her dress, placing his
hand on her heart. With his other hand he took up his stethoscope from the
table.

"Bring that lamp closer--quick!" he cried.

Thalassa lifted the lamp from the table and stood beside him. The yellow
glow of the lamp enveloped the livid bluish features of Sisily and the
stooping form with the stethoscope. The instrument of silver and rubber
held miraculous possibilities of life and death to Thalassa. He watched it
anxiously--directed the light upon it. The shape on the couch remained
motionless.

Thalassa's gaze wandered from the stethoscope to

Dr. Ravenshaw. The doctor's bent neck showed white between the top of his
shirt and the grey hair above it. He was wearing no collar, so he must
have been going to bed--when the knock came. Thalassa's eyes dwelt on the
exposed flesh with a steady yet wondering contemplation. The lamp in his
hand wavered slightly.

Dr. Ravenshaw rose to his feet, oblivious of the man who was staring at
his neck from behind. His downward glance rested on Sisily's face, and his
eyes were grave. He turned away and walked out of the room, but returned
almost immediately with a small mirror.

"Hold the lamp higher," he said to Thalassa. "I want the light to fall
right on her face. Higher still--so."

He fell on his knees by the couch and held the mirrored side of the glass
to Sisily's lips. The lamp, held aloft, illumined his face as well as
hers. His features were set and rigid.

Thalassa stood still, his eyes brooding on the sharp outline of the bent
mask. A vague idea, startling and terrible, was magnifying itself in his
mind. Once his glance wandered to Ravenshaw's neck, then returned with
growing fixity to his face, seen at closer range than he had ever beheld
it. In the vivid light the elemental lines beneath the changes of time
took on a strange resemblance to a face he had known in the distant past.
A spectral being seemed to rise from the dead and resume life in the
kneeling body of Dr. Ravenshaw.

Involuntarily he stepped back, and the likeness vanished in the added
distance. The veil of the past was dropped again. He could see nothing now
but the commonplace whiskered face of an elderly Cornish doctor bending
over the inanimate form on the couch. Again the lamp shook slightly.

"What are you doing with that light?" said Ravenshaw peevishly. "Cannot
you hold it steady? Bring it closer, man--closer than that. Now, hold it
there."

In the nearer vision the elemental lines of a forgotten face again
confronted Thalassa beneath the flabby contours of age. It was like
looking at a familiar outline covered by a mask--a transparent mask. He
stood stock still with uplifted lamp, like a man in a trance, but his eyes
never left Dr. Ravenshaw's face.

Some minutes passed silently before Dr. Ravenshaw withdrew the mirror from
Sisily's lips. He turned it over and looked closely at the surface of the
glass. The man behind him stared over his shoulder. Their eyes met in the
mirror, and held for a moment fascinated. In that brief space of time the
revelation and recognition were completed. Dr. Ravenshaw's glance was the
first to break away. The hard brown eyes watching him followed the
direction of his view to a pair of spectacles resting on the table.
Thalassa understood the intention, and harshly forestalled it.

"No use to put on your glasses now," he said. "I recognize ye, and I've
seen that damned scar on your neck."

He put the lamp back on the table, and his hand went towards his belt.
Ravenshaw understood the motion and checked it with a gesture.

"No need for that, either, Thalassa. There are other things to think
about."

Thalassa's hand dropped to his side. "You're right," he muttered. "Get on
with your doctoring."

"No--not now," answered Ravenshaw sadly. "It's no use. She is dead."

"Dead!" Thalassa stood overwhelmed. Silently he surveyed the slight
recumbent form on the couch, his moving lips seemed to be counting the
drops which dripped from her clinging garments on to the carpet. "Dead,
did ye say? Why, I carried her here--brought her across the moors to you."
His voice trembled. "Can't ye do nothing?"

"No--not now. It is too late."

Thalassa's eyes rested attentively on the other's face. Ravenshaw's
complete acquiescence in death as an unalterable fact stung his untutored
feelings by its calmness. "Dead!" he repeated fiercely. "Then you've got
that to pay for now--Remington."

"Pay? Oh, yes, I'll pay--make payment in full," was the reply, delivered
with a bitter look. "But not to you."

"To think I shouldn't a' known ye!" Thalassa spoke like a man in a dream.

"After all these years? After what I suffered alone on that
island--through you and Turold? You'd hardly have known me if you'd met me
six months afterwards instead of thirty years. Robert Turold didn't know
me. Nobody knew me."

Thalassa's eyes still dwelt upon him with the unwilling look of a man
compelled to gaze upon an evocation of the dead.

"Where did you get to--that night?" he quavered. "I could a' sworn--could
a' taken Bible oath--"

"That you and that other scoundrel had killed me? I've no doubt. But it so
happened that I was saved--miraculously and unfortunately. I fell on to a
projecting spur of stone or rock not far down, which caught and held me.
By the light of the moon I saw you come along the ridge to look for me.
You were almost close enough for me to push you into that infernal sulphur
lake where you hoped I had gone. You turned back in time--fortunately for
yourself."

Thalassa kept his gaze upon him with the meditating intentness of one
trying to learn anew a face so greatly altered by the awful changes of the
years. His great brown hands, hanging loosely at his sides, clenched and
opened rapidly with a quickness of action which had something vaguely
menacing in it.

"I know your eyes now," he mumbled. "With the glasses on, you're
different. That's why ye wore them, I suppose. Turold heered ye that night
you killed 'un. He knew your footstep--or thought he did. I laughed at
him. A' would to God A'mighty I'd hearkened to him, and then I might a'
catched you. How did ye get away from the island?"

Ravenshaw raised his head to reply, then stood mute, in a listening
attitude. Outside the window the sound of footsteps crunched the gravel
walk, and approached the house. Thalassa heard and listened too. The
crunching ceased, and there was a knock at the door. Thalassa looked
questioningly at Ravenshaw, who nodded in the direction of the door.

"Open it," he said. Thalassa hesitated. His eyes sought the couch. "Yes,
in here," said Ravenshaw understandingly. "We shall want witnesses."

Thalassa went to the door and opened it.

A man's voice in the darkness asked for Dr. Ravenshaw, and the owner of
the voice stepped quickly inside at Thalassa's invitation. The visitor
peered at the tall figure in the unlighted passage. "Is it you, Thalassa?"
he said hesitatingly, and Thalassa recognized the voice of Austin Turold.
The voice went on: "Tell me--"

"In there." Thalassa jerked his head towards the gleam falling through the
partly open surgery door. "He wants you." He walked ahead and pushed the
door open. Austin Turold followed, but started back as he looked within.
Then he entered, his eyes dwelling on the shadowy outline on the couch in
the corner.

"What has happened at Flint House, Ravenshaw? Now--to-night, I mean." He
spoke shakily. "There's a story abroad of Thalassa having been seen
carrying a figure through the churchtown and entering your house. Has
somebody fallen off the cliffs--been drowned? Is that it?" He stepped
quickly across to the couch, and, looking down, as swiftly recoiled. "What
does this mean?" he hoarsely cried.

Ravenshaw did not speak.

"Miss Sisily fell over the cliffs by the Moon Rock," said Thalassa. "I
went down for her, but it was too late. She was drowned."

Austin's look sought Ravenshaw's, who nodded in confirmation.

"More horror--more misery," whispered Austin. A shudder ran through him.
"I do not understand," he said simply. "Thalassa?"

"It's not for me to explain," said Thalassa quickly.

"You then, Ravenshaw."

Ravenshaw spoke slowly.

"They have been looking for the man who killed Robert Turold--your
brother. Well, I am he."

"You!" gasped Austin, in a choking voice. "What do you mean? I do not
understand you. My son has been arrested."

"He has been arrested wrongly, then. It is I--I alone am responsible."

Austin groped for his glasses like a man suddenly enveloped in darkness.
His fingers closed on them and adjusted them on the bridge of his nose.
Through them he surveyed the man before him with close attention.

"Ravenshaw," he said gravely, "either you are mad or I am. Did not my
sister call here to see you on the night my brother was killed, and did
you not go with her to Flint House and break into my brother's room? How,
then, could you have killed Robert? Besides, I saw my son at Penzance
to-day. He tells me he is innocent, and that the murderer is a man whom
Robert and Thalassa robbed and wounded on a lonely island thirty years
ago, and left there for dead, as they thought. What does it all mean?"

"These things can all be explained," replied Ravenshaw. "It is a long
story. Sit down, and I will tell it to you."

"Not here--not here!" replied Austin unsteadily. His glance went to the
corner of the room and the tranquil figure on the couch. He hid his face
for a moment in his hands, then said: "Let us go to another room."

Ravenshaw made a sad gesture of acquiescence. "Come," he said quietly,
lifting the lamp from the table. The other two followed him, and Thalassa
closed the surgery door gently behind them. The doctor led them into a
sitting-room opposite, where they seated themselves. After a moment's
silence Ravenshaw began to speak in low controlled tones which gave no
indication of the state of his feelings.

"You know all about this island part of the story," he said, inquiringly,
"how your brother and Remington, seeking their fortune together, came to
be there?"

Austin Turold nodded.

"I am Remington," pursued the other. "I will take up the story from that
point--it will save time."

Again Austin Turold assented with a nod. There was neither anger nor
resentment in his glance. The look which rested on the speaker was one of
unmixed amazement.




CHAPTER XXXIV


"I will pass over as briefly as possible what happened after I was left
behind in that horrible place. By the light of the moon I saw them
go--from the ridge I saw them put out to sea. I watched them until the
boat was a mere speck on the luminous waters, and finally vanished from
sight. I was left alone, a desperately wounded man, on an arid sulphurous
island, without food or water.

"When I was sure the boat had gone I returned to our camping place, and
bound my wounds with strips torn off my shirt. Then I fell asleep. I must
have developed fever in my slumber, for I have no clear recollections of
the next few days. I vaguely recall roaming like a demented being among
those solitudes in search of water, and finding a boiling spring. The
water, when cooled, was drinkable. I suppose that saved my life. For food,
there was shell-fish and mutton-bird eggs, with no lack of boiling water
to cook them.

"I lived there so long that I forgot the flight of time. I became a wild
man--a mere shaggy animal, living, eating, and sleeping like a beast.

"I was rescued by a passing steamer at last, rescued without any effort of
my own, for I had gone past caring. From the ship they saw me leaping
about the naked sides of the volcanic hills like a goat, and they put off
a boat. Some lady passengers were badly scared when I was brought
aboard--and no wonder. They were very kind to me on that ship. She was
homeward bound, and brought me to England. I told the captain my story,
but I could see that he didn't believe me, so I told nobody else. Not that
anybody wanted to know--really. One's misfortunes are never interesting to
other people.

"I had a little money left when I landed in England--not much, but
sufficient to take me to my wife and support me until I found Robert
Turold. I had left my wife living with her parents in a London suburb.
Robert Turold and I had both been in love with her before we left England.
She loved me, but he had some strange kind of influence over her--the
dominance of a strong nature over a weak, I think. Or perhaps it was a
more primitive feminine instinct. He was always the strong man--even
then--ruthless, determined. It was strange that he should have loved such
a gentle timid creature, though that, perhaps, was not so strange as a man
like Robert Turold loving any woman. But love her he did.

"She had a great capacity for affection--she was one of those women who
have to love, and be loved. Her guileless face, her appealing eyes, seemed
to beseech the protection of a masculine shield in a world which has no
mercy for the weak. She was born to be guided, to be led. It was my fear
of her simple trustful disposition which led me to urge her to marry me
secretly before I left England with Turold. Her parents did not favour me,
and they wished their daughter to marry well--there was an aunt from whom
she had expectations, and the aunt had a prospective husband in view for
her. I feared their joint influence. She consented willingly enough; she
was easy to persuade--on the eve of our parting. She clung to me
weeping--her husband.

"I was to make enough money to return to England to claim her in a year or
so--that was the plan. But I had been absent nearly three when I was left
on the island. And another twelve months passed before I reached England
again. Four years! A long time. Almost any combination of circumstances
can be brought about in such a period. People die, marry, or can be
forgotten as though they had never existed. It was my lot to be forgotten.

"I hastened to London, to my wife's old home, and learnt that the family
no longer lived there. Where had they gone to? The maid who opened the
door could not tell me--she did not know. At my request she went for her
mistress. The lady of the house came down to me, a tall slender woman,
indifferent, but well-bred enough to be polite. She had taken the house
from the Bruntons, she said. It was too large for them after their
daughter's marriage. It was dusk, and she could not see my face, but she
heard my startled exclamation--'Married? To whom?' To a Mr. Turold--a very
suitable match. They had been married for some months, and she was
expecting a child.

"How she gathered that last piece of information I do not know. Perhaps
she and Mrs. Brunton exchanged letters--women write to one another on the
slightest pretexts. That thought made me cautious. Fortunately, I had not
given my name. I thanked her, and rose to go. She offered to write down
the Bruntons' address for me (they had gone to live in the country), but I
said I could remember it. And I got away from the house in the gathering
darkness without her actually seeing my face--not that it would have
mattered much, if she had.

"I thought it all over that night. I visualized readily enough what had
happened. Robert Turold, returning to England with some concocted story of
my death, had swept her off her feet, caught her on the rebound. He had
returned a prosperous man, and doubtless his love-making was reinforced by
Alice's worldly parents and the match-making old aunt. The combination was
a strong one, and I was supposed to be dead. So she married him, without
breathing a word to anybody of her previous secret marriage to me. I
realized that at once. She would be too afraid--left to herself. She would
tell herself that it wasn't worth while--that nobody need ever know now. I
could imagine her twisting her little hands together in apprehension as
she faced the problem--our secret--then gradually becoming calmer as
something whispered in her ear that it was her secret now, and need not be
told. You see, I knew her nature so well. There are many such
natures--gentle souls who shrink from responsibility in a world which,
sooner or later, generally sees to it that we are compelled to shoulder
the burden of our own acts.

"I was not long in making up my mind. I determined to do nothing. I take
no special credit to myself for that decision. The marriage with Robert
Turold was an accomplished fact, and my belated reappearance upon the
scene would have plunged her in unhappiness. She was about to become a
mother, too. That weighed with me. I loved her far too well to injure her
or her child. It meant letting Robert Turold go free if I remained dead,
but there are other things in life besides money and revenge. Fortunately
the position from the practical point of view was simplified by the death
of my only relative, my uncle, during my absence from England, who had
bequeathed his small property to me--not much, but sufficient for my own
simple needs.

"I took my uncle's name, the better to conceal my identity, and resumed
the medical studies which had been interrupted by my departure from
England four years before. When I received my degree I searched for a
remote spot where I was not likely to encounter any one who had known me
in my past life, and chose this lonely part of the Cornish coast. And here
I have remained for thirty years.

"They have not been unhappy years. It was not my disposition to waste my
life by hugging the illusions of the past. My days were occupied walking
long distances to see my patients scattered at distant intervals on this
desolate coast, and my nights I spent in antiquarian and archaeological
studies, which were always a favourite pursuit of mine. It was a hobby
which earned me some local repute in the course of the years, and was
ultimately the means of bringing me face to face with Robert Turold again.
That was the last thing in the world I desired to happen. In the early
years I used to think of him wedded to my wife, and wonder whether he had
succeeded in his great ambition. After a while the memory faded, as most
memories do with the passing of the years.

"Then the meeting came--six months ago. I heard Flint House was let,
though not to whom. The news did not interest me. But next evening, when I
returned from my rounds, my servant met me at the door with the
information that the new tenant of Flint House was in the consulting-room
waiting to see me.

"I went in. The tall elderly figure sitting there rose at my entrance and
said: 'Not a patient, doctor--quite another matter.' I started slightly at
the familiar ring to that harsh authoritative voice, but I did not know
who he was until he handed me his card. He had already commenced talking
about that accursed title as he did so, and he did not notice my
agitation. He had come to Cornwall in pursuit of the last pieces of
evidence for his family tree, and some local busybody had told him that I
was versed in Cornish antiquities and heraldry. That piece of information
had brought him to me. He begged for my assistance--my valuable
assistance--in elucidating the last scraps of his genealogy from the
graves of the past.

"I could have cut him short by laughing aloud--though not in mirth. I had
regained my self-command, for I saw that he had not the slightest
suspicion to whom he was talking. That in itself was not surprising. I had
not recognized him. And how much greater was the change in my own case!
Time alters us all in a much less period than thirty years, and there was
more than the passage of time. Those months of horrible solitude on that
island had changed me into an old man in appearance, with grey hair, and
bleared and weak eyes from the sulphur fumes. And Time had made the
disguise impenetrable in the thirty added years. I was an old man. My hair
and beard were white, and I wore thick glasses. I felt I need be under no
apprehension of Robert Turold recognizing me--then, or at any time, unless
I was careless.

"His request for my help had a strange fascination for me. There was an
uncanny thrill in sitting there within an arm's length of him, meeting his
unsuspicious glance, and listening to him with the knowledge that I could
have put his plans and ambitions to flight with a single word, and had him
begging for mercy. I was in the position of Providence, and withheld my
hand, as Providence generally does. My desire to punish Robert Turold had
long since died. At sixty, revenge is a small thing. What is human
retribution to the ferocity of Time's revenge on us all? Retribution and
Justice--these are human catchwords, signifying nothing. What is Justice?
Who is to judge when the scales are even? It was easier to comply with his
request than arouse suspicion by refusal, but that wasn't what weighed
with me. I wanted to see more of him, to win his confidence, if possible.
I was curious to know what kind of life he had given the woman for whose
sake I had let him go free for thirty years.

"He took a liking to me. My knowledge of ancient Cornish lore proved
useful in the final stages of his search--his thirty years' search for a
family tree. It was not long before I discovered that he had found no
happiness in life. At times his face wore a hunted look--the look of a man
who walked his days in fear. His imperfect vision peered out on a darkened
world with apprehension, though not of me. In my strange position with him
I felt like a ghost permitted to watch, unseen and unsuspected, the
travail of a gloomy solitary mind. It was apparent enough, but only to me.
My quickened eyes pierced the outward husk and saw within. I thought I had
outlived my desire for revenge, but it grew again at the sight of a
punishment which was so much more subtle than anything I could have
planned. Death would have put his restless soul to sleep, granted him
eternal respite. The sufferings of the spirit were a living torment. His
was a strange case. His lifelong pursuit of a single idea, his restricted
consciousness of one image, had made him morbid, lonely, introspective.
And so the past had revisited him, darkening and disquieting his mind. He
feared shadows, he was haunted by footsteps.

"Footsteps! I learnt that when he consulted me for sleeplessness. He told
me he used to lie awake at night, imagining he heard footsteps pattering
on the rocks outside. I knew well enough whose footsteps he was haunted
by. I imagined him lying there in that lonely house, sweating with horror,
listening ... listening. He asked me once, did I believe in ghosts? I told
him no, but I said I'd known a case of man returning to life long after he
was supposed to be dead. I related the story--one which had come under my
observation as a medical man. He listened with gnawing lip and pale face,
and from my window afterwards I saw him striding home across the moors,
glancing backwards in the dusk.

"It was his own fault that he ever heard those footsteps in the way he
feared. He did not play the game, according to our poor conception of what
the game is. If he had done so he would have been quite safe from me. But
there are some things too shocking to be contemplated, even in the worst
of our kind. A man does not give away a woman--that is one of the rules.
Robert Turold put a woman to shame in her coffin.

"I had kept out of her way, never going to Flint House because I feared
her feminine eyes might be too sharp for me. But she fell ill, and Robert
Turold asked me to attend her. Refusal was impossible, as there was no
other doctor nearer than Penzance.

"She did not recognize me--at first, but the shock I received when I saw
her left me almost stunned. I had carried her memory through the
years--the image of a pretty slim girl, with brown hair and eyes, and kind
of soft vivacity which was her greatest charm. In her place I found, lying
there, a withered grey woman with dim eyes and broken spirit. God knows
what she had gone through at his hands, but it had destroyed her.

"It was her death-bed. She was worn out in body and spirit, and had no
strength to rally. She was weeks dying, but her life was steadily ebbing
all that time. It was a kind of slow fever. She was delirious when I first
saw her, and delirious or unconscious, with few lucid intervals, until she
died. And the jargon of her wandering mind was in reality the outpouring
of a tortured soul. It was the title and the family name--always that, and
nothing else. She wasn't well-born enough or sufficiently educated to bear
the title as his wife--it seemed that that fact had been impressed on her
again and again in the long lean years of the search for the family tree.
Let her go away ... go away somewhere quietly with Sisily, and she would
never bother him any more. That was the unceasing burden of her cry, a cry
to which I was compelled to listen with a torn heart.

"The reserve, the frame of mind, which I wore like armour in Robert
Turold's company I dropped altogether at her bedside. Her lucid intervals
were few, but I was not afraid of her recognizing the old Cornish doctor
with his muffler, his glasses, his shaggy white hair and beard. The daily
sight of her shrunken ageing features reminded me that I had nothing to
fear--that Time had effectually disguised us from each other's
recognition. We were old, we two. Life had receded from us--what had we to
do with its fever, its regrets, its passions and futile joys? The clock
had ticked the time away, the fire was dying out, the hearth desolate and
cold. I was resigned before, I was resigned then. I did what I could for
her, which was little enough. Human progress, such as it is, has been
acquired through the spirit. The body defies us--we have no control over
it. So she died--mercifully unconscious most of the time--and died, as I
had hoped, without the least suspicion of the truth.

"You cannot faintly imagine the shock of Turold's announcement on the day
of her burial, to me, who had been so arrogantly certain that the secret
was safe. If you remember what took place at Flint House on that occasion
you will recall that it was a question from me which brought the truth to
light. Your brother's answer awakened my suspicions, and made me
determined to find out what he actually knew. He brought out the truth
then, as I've no doubt now he intended to do in any case.

"The puzzle to me was the exact extent of his knowledge. He knew two
things for certain. One was that I had married Alice before leaving
England, and the other was that I was still alive. But he obviously did
not know that I was Remington. How had he found out the two facts? I
guessed that the woman he believed to be his wife had revealed the secret
of her earlier marriage on her death-bed, but the other was a problem
which I could not solve. Nor did I try to. When I reached home I went mad.
The calmness, the self-repression of thirty years, vanished in an instant
in the monstrous infamy of that disclosure. There was something too
horribly sinister in the character of a man who could be driven by
ambition to make such a disclosure without regret, almost without
hesitation. He sacrificed and put to shame two gentle creatures at the
beck of his implacable mania. For the title he had forfeited tenderness,
pity, decency--all the human attributes--with a brazen and unashamed face.
That man walked the earth alone. By that act he set himself apart, defying
all laws, all feeling--everything.

"As I grew calmer I reflected that he could not defy me. I could bring him
tumbling from his lofty perch with a few words. He might brazen out his
attitude to the whole world, but not to me. What was more, I could dictate
to him--could keep his mouth shut with a threat of reviving the past, of
putting him on his trial for robbery and attempted murder thirty years
before.

"I determined to do it--to see him and reveal myself, and let him know
that my own course of action would be decided by his. If he chose to keep
silent, he would have nothing to fear from me.

"I set out across the moors in the darkness. It was raining, and I walked
fast until Flint House loomed out of the blackness before me. Then I
paused to consider my course of action. I was about to thwart a madman
with a fixed idea, in a lonely house where he had in his service another
man who could be depended on to make common cause against me when he knew
the truth. I was not afraid of Robert Turold, but I was of Thalassa. I
knew he was strong enough to hurl me through the window into the sea.
These elements in the situation called for caution. I crept across the
rocks towards the kitchen window. As I did so I thought I saw a figure
move among the rocks, and I ran quickly to the narrow lip of cliff which
overhangs the sea at the back of the house. There I stood for awhile, but
could hear nothing but the sea raging far down beneath me. I came to the
conclusion that I had been mistaken. Who was likely to be prowling round
Flint House in a storm--except myself? I crept round the side of the house
and looked through the kitchen window.

"Thalassa's wife was in the kitchen, alone, with some playing cards spread
out on the table in front of her. But before long the door leading into
the passage opened, and Thalassa came in. He sat down, but after the lapse
of a few minutes he rose from his chair and approached the window. I
shrank back into the shadow of a rock, watching him. He stood looking out
into the darkness for perhaps five minutes, then I saw him start, turn his
head, and go out of the room. I heard the front door open, followed by the
sound of footsteps ascending the stairs. A moment later I heard the murmur
of voices in Robert Turold's room upstairs.

"I went nearer to try and find out what had happened, but it was no use. I
could see a gleam of light in the study window, and could hear Robert
Turold's voice mingled with feminine tones, then--silence, followed once
more by the sound of an opening door. From my place of concealment I saw
two people going down the garden path--Thalassa and a female figure. They
passed through the gate and vanished into the darkness of the moors.

"My opportunity had come. I went to the house and tried the front window.
It was unlocked, and yielded. I got through, and went quickly upstairs. A
light was shining underneath the study door. I opened it, and saw Robert
Turold sitting at his table writing with his back towards me.

"At the sight of that atrocious scoundrel sitting there immersed in his
shameful project against a woman I had loved, my self-control gave way
utterly, completely. I had intended to be calm, to reason with him, to
exact my terms with a cold logical brain. I did none of these things.
Without a word of warning, before he even knew I was in the room, I sprang
on him, clutching him, shaking him in a blind insensate fury till my
strength suddenly failed me and left me sick and giddy.

"'I am Remington,' I said--'Jim Remington.' I leaned against the table,
panting and exhausted, looking at him. His self-control was something to
marvel at. He just sat still, returning my look with cold motionless eyes,
no doubt trying to discern the features of the man he had wronged through
the film of age. But in spite of his self-control I could see the grey
pallor of fear creeping into his face, and he could not keep his lips from
trembling. Twice he essayed to speak, but his mouth refused to utter the
words. What he did say was strange to me, when he got it out at last. 'I
was right'--I heard him whisper, almost to himself--'I knew, I knew.' He
repeated those words several times. It was then I saw that his
self-control arose from the fact that although he was terrified he did not
appear to be so greatly surprised. Surprised he was, but not in the way I
had expected. His prime difficulty seemed to be to get out of his head the
identity by which he had known me. 'You are Ravenshaw--Dr. Ravenshaw,' he
said. 'How can you be Remington?' He brought out this with an effort, like
a man trying to shake off an unreasoning horror.

"I had expected him to face it out, to challenge me, perhaps deny all
knowledge of my existence. Instead, he merely sat there staring at me with
an air of terrified realization, like a person gazing upon the dreadful
materialization of an expected phantom. I told him the truth in the fewest
possible words, and he listened silently, never removing his eyes from me,
the phantom of his past. When I had finished he lay back in his chair, but
his eyes stared up at me with a kind of dead look, like half-closed eyes
in a coffin. 'I knew that you were rescued from the island,' he said. 'But
I thought you were long since dead.'

"That statement surprised me. I asked him how he had learned of it. He
told me it was through the medium of an overheard conversation in a London
hotel nearly thirty years before. He had gone up to town to see his
lawyer, and one of the people at the hotel where he put up happened to be
one of the passengers of the _Erechtheus_, the steamer which had
rescued me. The man sat at the next table, and Turold heard him tell the
story to a friend one night at dinner. It had happened just like
that--quite simply, but it was a possibility I had overlooked. Not that it
mattered, as it happened, but it would have--if Alice had been with him.
Turold, of course, kept his knowledge to himself. He was too cautious to
approach the passenger, but he instructed his lawyer to make guarded
inquiries at the shipping office of the vessel in order to verify the
story. Then he returned home, consumed by anxiety, no doubt, to wait for
my reappearance. As the months slipped past and I did not appear, hope
revived within him. It appears that he had heard the passenger say that I
was a wreck--a physical wreck. That must have been a cheering item in a
bad piece of news. I can imagine its growing importance in Turold's mind
as the time went on and I made no sign. Finally (and thankfully) he
reached the conclusion that I was indeed dead, and that he had nothing
more to fear. There was an element of uncertainty about it, though, a lack
of definite knowledge. I fancy that was one of the reasons which led him
to take Thalassa into his service when he turned up some time later. It
was a deep and subtle thing to do. Thalassa was bound to help him against
me, if ever I came back.

"The years went on, and he grew quite certain, as any man in his position
would, in the circumstances. He forgot all about me. That frame of mind
lasted until he came to Cornwall, and then, it seemed, I came back into
his life in the strangest way. I haunted him in the spirit, and he never
once guessed that I might be there in the flesh. Who can explain this?

"As he spoke of it he looked as though he had a grievance against me, as,
perhaps, he had--from his point of view. 'You faded from my mind for
twenty years,' he said. 'But here--in Cornwall--your memory began to haunt
me. It was your footsteps, principally. I used to fancy you were following
me across the moors. Tonight for the first time I actually heard
them--heard them above the noise of the storm. They came to my ears clear
and sharp, around the house, on the rocks, under the window.' He cast on
me an appalled, a hopeless glance. 'Why have you left it so long?' he
cried. 'What do you want--now?'

"He positively had no glimmering of my feelings. His fixed idea, like a
cancerous growth, had sucked all the healthy life out of him. Hot anger
stirred within me again, but I retained control of myself this time. I
asked him how he had found out about the earlier marriage, and he told me
Alice had babbled something in her delirium--enough to arouse his
suspicions. It seemed that he had waited for one of her lucid intervals,
and wormed the truth out of her. 'The proofs--of course you've obtained
them?' I asked casually. Yes, he had the proofs. He had sent to London for
them immediately. I asked him where they were. 'What do you want to know
for?' he asked in an agitated voice. I told him quite simply, that he must
give me his proofs and tell the members of his family that he had been
mistaken--that Alice's first husband had really died before she married
him. If he agreed to do that he had nothing farther to fear from me--I
would remain dead forever. 'You can destroy proofs, but not facts,' he
muttered in reply to this. I told him the facts were never likely to come
to light if he entered into a compact of silence.

"He sat for a few moments as if contemplating the alternatives I had
placed before him--sat with one hand in his table-drawer, seeking for
papers, I thought. He desisted from doing this, and said quite suddenly,
'The proofs are in the clock-case.'

"I had no suspicion. He had once shown me a curious receptacle in the
bottom of the clock-case, where he kept papers. I went towards the clock,
and was stooping over the drawer in the bottom of the case when I heard a
swift footstep behind me. I turned. He was approaching with a revolver.
The secret of his disclosure and the open drawer were explained. I suppose
I owed my life to his dim sight, which compelled him to come so near.

"I sprang at him, and we struggled. That struggle brought down the clock
with a shattering crash. Robert Turold and I were locked in one another's
arms, wrestling desperately for the revolver, when I saw the great moon
face of the clock flit past my vision like the face of a man taking a
header off a pier. The crash startled Robert Turold. His hand loosened,
and I got the revolver from him. As I tore it from his fingers it went
off, and shot him.

"He backed away from me with a kind of frozen smile, then crumpled up and
slid to the floor. I bent over him. He made a slight movement, but I could
see that he was dying--that he had only a very few moments to live.

"Coolly and rapidly I reflected. The fall of the clock would be heard
downstairs. Flight! There was a chance, if Thalassa had not returned. My
other instinct was to secure the proofs first, though they were really
useless then. I rummaged in the clock-case, and found a large envelope
which I stuffed in my pocket. The face stared up at me; the clock had
stopped at a minute to nine. I had an idea--an inspiration. I pulled the
long hand down to the hour-half--to half-past nine. If I escaped from the
house undiscovered, with only that half-stupid little woman downstairs, I
would rush across the moors home--call my servant on some pretext as soon
as I got in, and ask her the time. Then I should be quite safe--could defy
everybody. Make it ten o'clock, then! No--too long to be safe. It might be
discovered.

"It is strange how quickly the brain works when the instinct of
self-preservation is aroused. These thoughts flashed through my mind in a
kind of mental lightning. In the briefest possible space of time I was on
my feet and out of the room. I locked the door on the outside, intending
to take the key to defer discovery, but it slipped from my fingers in my
haste, and fell in the dark passage. I dared not stop to search, for just
then I heard a sound--or thought I did. Panic seized me. I feared I was
trapped--my escape cut off. I flung precaution aside and went leaping
downstairs to the door. I fumbled for the door-catch in the darkness,
flung open the door, and ran out into the night--across the moors and
home.

"I had hardly got inside before your sister came with her husband to see
me--to beg me to go with her to Flint House and reason with your brother.
To reason with him! He was beyond the futility of argument, the folly of
retort. I did not want to go--at first. Then it dawned upon me that a
kindly fate offered me a providential chance of securing my safety. No
suspicion could fall on me if I went back--and found the body.

"And so it turned out. We reached Flint House just at the right moment,
for me. I broke into the room and found him--dead. He was not where I had
left him. In a last paroxysm he had struggled to his feet and fallen
across the clock-case, with the intention, as I shall always believe, of
putting back the hand of the clock. I think his dying vision saw me alter
it, and his last thought--his last effort--was to thwart my intention to
mislead those upon whom would devolve the duty of investigating his death.
But death was too quick to allow him to carry out his intention."

The cessation of the speaker's voice was followed by silence. Thalassa had
nothing to say--no need for words. Austin Turold could not trust himself
to speak. It was not that his cynical philosophy of life failed him at
that moment. The eternal staging of the drama was the eternal tragedy of
the performers. But he was thinking of his son. He had vision enough to
realize that in Sisily's death Charles had lost all. His own hardness of
outlook melted at that thought. It crumbled his worldliness to ashes,
flooded his heart with vain regret, found utterance at last in the
whispered words--

"How am I to tell my son?"

His eyes, dwelling on the door of the inner room, revealed the direction
of his thought.



THE END



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