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Title: Blackmail!
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Blackmail!
Author: Fred M White


*


Author of "The Robe of Lucifer," "The Crimson Blind," "Tregarthen's
Wife," etc.


*


Published in:

--The World's News, Sydney, N.S.W. in serial form commencing Saturday
7 February, 1903.(this text).
--The Star, London in serial form commencing 8 December, 1902.
--In book form by Ward Lock & Co, London, 1918(?).


*


Chapter I.--A Man of Letters.

A pool of light cast by the shaded lamps on the dinner table picked out
the points of old silver and the ruby lakes in the cut-glass decanters.
A pile of filberts stood up russet warm against gleaming mahogany. The
cloth had been drawn, as was the post-prandial custom at Broadwater.
Narcissus might have lingered lovingly over that polished, flawless
board. Lancelot Massey put his claret down somewhat hastily, and Sir
George sighed. The thought of a scratch on that mahogany poisoned his
after-dinner cigarette.

"My dear boy," Sir George said, plaintively, "it cannot, must not be.
Excuse me; your glass seemed to grate somewhat. I hope you haven't----"

Lance hastened to assure his uncle and his host that no damage had been
done. The thin, handsome, white face opposite relaxed into a smile. Sir
George looked upon himself more as the curator of a priceless gallery
of art than the master of Broadwater. The big oak-panelled dining-room
might have been looted for the Wallace collection, with advantage to
the latter. Five generations of Masseys had been collectors. There were
pictures beyond price, china with a history, intaglios of spotless
pedigree. The prints and engravings at Broadwater had a national
reputation. And Sir George was a man of letters. He published slim
volumes of essays, poetry faintly clear on large margins. At present
he was engaged on a play that would revolutionise the stage. That his
mind was slightly going only Lancelot and the family physician knew.
At 65 most of the Masseys became insane, in a highly-bred, gentlemanly
way, the result of too much inter-marrying. Lance's mother had been a
robust North Country girl, and Lance was very little of a Massey, as
Sir George frequently reminded him. Still, he had all the refinement
and artistic sense of the race; his novels were slowly lifting him to
the front rank, and a recent comedy had brought him a reputation. And
now he was down at Broadwater, re-writing a drama that had been going
the rounds in England and in America for years.

It would not go begging now, though it required considerable
alteration. Lance could see that in the light of recent experience. But
the great novel idea was there. Some day that play was going to become
classic.

"I tell you it cannot be," Sir George repeated.

Lance started guiltily. His blue eyes had gone far beyond the room.
With his keen, delicate, and yet strong, clean-shaven face, he was not
unlike an actor of high class.

"What is it that will not do, sir?" he asked.

"Why, this suggested marriage between you and our young relative, Lyn
Verity. Now I am very fond of Lyn. She is beautiful and accomplished.
She suggests Greuze to me, and Carnova, and, to a certain extent,
Gainsborough. Physically speaking, there would be no more perfect
chatelaine for Broadwater after I have gone. But the Veritys have
allied themselves to the Masseys far too long. Lyn's father murdered
her mother in America. I took my old friend's child into the house, and
here she has been ever since. I am going to provide handsomely for Lyn.
All the same, I have made up my mind that you are not to marry her."

Sir George spoke nervously, but with all the mulish obstinacy of the
weak man. Lance's thin, clear-cut lips were pressed a little closer
together.

"And if I make up my mind to please myself in this matter?" he
suggested.

A quick ruby flush, like the bloom of a peach, came into Sir George's
cheeks. His usually clear voice sounded a little cracked now, like the
enamel on his Limoges plates. The words carried far. Few of the oak
floors at Broadwater were carpeted.

"Then I should have to please myself," he said. "I cannot deprive you
of the title; nobody can. But I may remind you that the property is
not entailed. I can leave Broadwater and all its priceless possessions
to whom I please. You are artistic, refined, a gentleman, and, like
myself, a distinguished man of letters."

Lance smiled behind his hand.

"Very well. Here is an ideal place to do good work in. Look whatever
way you will, and the eye is pleased, and the senses elevated. From
early days you have regarded yourself as heir to all this. And it is in
your power to become Sir Lancelot Massey of Broadwater. But if you defy
me in this matter I will turn you out without a single shilling."

Again the travelling voice rose high and clear, again the faint red
was lined on the speaker's cheeks. The madness was coming nearer and
nearer. And Lance was discreetly silent. What was the use of arguing
against a fixed principle like this? The time of monomania had arrived.
And that had been a terrible business in America.

"I will think over what you say, sir," Lance murmured.

Sir George smiled. His face was transformed altogether. There was a
certain wistful tenderness in his glance. He patted Lance's hand with
his slim jewelled fingers.

"I'm glad," he said. "I am very fond of you, my dear boy. There is the
painful suggestion of a scratch made by your glass. But it's nothing at
all."

It was a great concession; there was something quite pathetic in the
touch of comedy.

"And now I'll go and do an hour on my play," Sir George said. "I feel
in the mood for it."

The play might have been a play at one time, but now it was little more
than meaningless nonsense, as Lance knew. It was beautifully written,
page by page, on sheets of Sir George's best vellum notepaper, one page
corrected and passed approved every day, and carefully dated. There was
even a one-time actor-manager on the premises, who acted as standing
counsel for the great work. There was no harm in all this, but it would
have given Lancelot exquisite pleasure to have kicked Malcolm Stott off
the premises with great damage to that histrionic light.

Malcolm Stott was smoking cigarettes in the library. A short, fat
man, with a round face and blue eyes of a slightly dissipated child.
He looked so round and chubby and innocent that most people were apt
to treat him quite as a boy. But there were deep lines under the blue
eyes, the hair was white, and the plump fingers shook in the queer
staccato way that tells its own tale to a man of the world. At one time
Stott had climbed high in the profession; he had been the victim of
a deep-seated conspiracy in two hemispheres, he said. As a matter of
fact, he had washed his genius and his nerves out with whisky, and the
innocent-looking boy was one of the most cold-blooded and unscrupulous
rascals who ever smiled into the face of an honest man.

"I thought you'd come," he said. "I have a suggestion to make--a
suggestion to improve the play. You recollect where George Martin is on
the point of leaving home?"

Sir George assented eagerly. Stott pressed his hand to his side and
groaned.

"The old weakness," he said faintly. "But do not mind me. It will pass."

Sir George suggested that there was brandy on the dining-room buffet.
He would fetch a glass. Stott could not tolerate the idea of giving
his worthy host so much trouble. He must fight down this weakness--the
doctors had told him as much. In the dining-room he poured out half a
tumbler of brandy, and tossed it down. Then he returned to the library
with the decanter, and helped himself to a thimbleful with the air of a
shuddering martyr.

"A good medicine, Sir George," he said, "especially to abstemious men
like ourselves."

His eyes roamed round the room; he talked of the play and dramatic art
in a trickly stream of words. An observing man would have said that
the fellow was miserably ill-at-ease. But Sir George was too full of
the new suggestion to think of anything else. He failed to note that
Stott's eyes were ever on the door. Once the butler entered, and the
little man shook as if he saw a warrant in the old servitor's glance.

"Black should be here with the letters from Swanley," he said. "I am
expecting----"

"Yes, yes," Sir George interrupted. "I told Long to bring them in
directly they came. Now as to that note left by George Martin when he
is going to destroy himself. I rather fancy that was your brilliant
idea, Stott?"

Stott modestly disclaimed the credit--which was soothing to the
baronet's vanity. He sat under the glare of a reading lamp, with a
litter of those thick sheets of paper about him. A footman came in with
a pile of letters on a salver, and Sir George glanced at them in an
absent way. Stott was looking at them, too, in a frightened, gasping
fashion. A blue envelope with four flaring American stamps lay on the
top of the pack. Stott upset them all clumsily, and gathered them again
with a meek apology. All the same, a minute later the American letter
was in his pocket, and he was helping himself to brandy with a liberal
hand. A man escaping from the gallows with safety in his grasp could
have looked no more ghastly.

"It's--it's the pain again," he stammered. "A little nausea as well.
I'll lie down in my own room, and smoke a cigarette. I shall return
presently if I am up to it. You will work late, Sir George?"

"I am interested," Massey replied. "The inspiration--the divine
afflatus is upon me. Possibly I may be here till 2 o'clock--perhaps
later. You may go, Stott."

It was a dismissal--bland, dignified, but firm. Stott went off with a
grin on his face. But his lips were still ghastly blue, and he shuffled
upstairs like one in the first stage of paralysis. He could not smoke
just yet; he felt too sick for that. He took the letter from his
pocket, opened it, and read it hastily. Then he burnt it, and ground
the ashes into powder.

"A near thing, a very near thing," he murmured. "That man would
strangle me if he only knew. And I cannot keep the knowledge from him
much longer. A cable message, an inquiry through a lawyer, and I am
ruined. Well, I must take the goods the gods provide--the little legacy
and all the rest of it. Nobody will know how Sir George--What a fool I
was not to bring that brandy decanter up here! I shall want most of it
before morning."




Chapter II.--Was it Suicide?

From the point of the guide-book and the tourist, the drawing-room at
Broadwater is not a show place. It has no great historic pictures, no
priceless statues, or cases of china, or coins or cameos. But it has
the most artistic furniture, the pictures are Greuzes and the like,
and the tapestry is a dream. So also is the ceiling--a marvellous
piece of coloring and design. There are deep stone windows, filled for
the most part with stained glass, and at either end is a conservatory
which opens into the room, so that it seems to be framed in flowers. A
score of rare lamps, with all kinds of heavy shades, make the apartment
wonderfully pleasing and restful to the eye. And here Lyn Verity made
her court, and lived out most of her pleasing life.

She looked very like a dainty picture in black velvet as Lance came
into the room. She turned from a pile of engravings to greet him, and
when he took the dainty figure into his arms and kissed her she seemed
to regard it as quite the natural thing to do.

"So you've been catching it, sir," Lyn said, with a charming smile.
"Sir George's voice is a singularly penetrating one. Still, he might
recollect that the servants have ears. When Long brought in my coffee I
thought he was going to commiserate with me."

"I am afraid we shall have to take the law into our own hands, Lyn,"
said Lance.

Lyn smiled demurely. At the same time she looked a little anxious. She
was very much in love with this man; all Broadwater was as nothing
to her without him. And yet she hesitated for his sake to lose it
all. They stood for some little time gazing into the wood fire, both
troubled and anxious.

"He says I am to give you up, dearest," Lance said.

"I heard him," the girl replied, with the same dazzling smile. "I
should imagine that most of the household must have heard him for that
matter. But I don't quite see how you are going to give me up without
the most unpleasant consequences, Lance. I believe that the law is
particularly severe upon a----"

Lance laid his hand over the speaker's mouth. She was about to say
something indiscreet--and walls have ears. His face was grave as hers
was smiling.

"Darling," he said, "it is hateful to me to refer to that topic. But
you know perfectly well what the dear old boy's objection is. It is
ten years since that business happened, and we all took the story for
granted. It was more or less investigated for Sir George at the time by
Malcolm Stott, who then had a theatre of his own in New York. Isn't it
just possible that the whole thing----"

"Should have been no more than a dreadful accident, Lance. You know
what those awful American papers are like. Anything for a sensation.
And I mistrust Stott. If Sir George were in his--I mean if he were as
clear-headed as he used to be, he wouldn't tolerate that drinking,
slimy little wretch in the house at all. Stott plays upon his vanity,
of course. He pretends to believe in that impossible play."

"I wish that we could get rid of him; I shall never feel safe so long
as he is in the house. And if he discovers our secret----"

"Ah!" Lance exclaimed, "I had never thought of that."

"It would be a dreadful weapon for him. And he has great influence over
Sir George. And Sir George can leave his property where he chooses.
Lance, there is a tragedy hanging over this house, and the tragedy is
going to fall. How it will come I don't know, but I can feel it in the
air. If you could clear my father's name----"

Lyn paused for a moment. Lance was regarding her with loving eye. He
drew her to his side, and kissed the red lips that trembled ever so
slightly.

"You have an idea," he whispered. "Tell me what it is."

"You are going to America before long," Lyn said, thoughtfully. "And
you will have to be in New York some time, after your play is produced
there. I want you to make inquiries; to sift the matter to the bottom.
It never has been properly done; we have always taken too much for
granted. We have only Malcolm Stott's word and the copy of an old
newspaper. And Stott is your enemy and mine. It is to his interest
to foster trouble between Sir George and yourself over me. Lance, I
hate that man. I am afraid of him. And he is afraid in his turn; he is
afraid of the American mails."

"What can he possibly have to be afraid of, Lyn?"

"I don't know. Being always here, I have the chance of watching him. Of
late I have noticed that he is always hanging about when the morning
and evening letters come. One day, a fortnight ago, I was down before
him. There was an American letter for Sir George. A moment later, and
Stott passed through the hall, and I missed that letter. And Sir George
said the next day that he had had no American correspondence for a long
time. He commented on the fact at breakfast, and Stott looked like a
guilty wretch, caught red-handed. We must get to the bottom of it,
Lance."

Lance was listening with grave attention. Personally he disliked Stott
quite as much as Lyn appeared to do. He knew that the fellow had
had large sums of money from Sir George; he felt him to be utterly
unscrupulous. And he was playing on the baronet's weakness now. Nor
was it the slightest use arguing with Sir George. His mind was going;
he had all the obstinacy of the man of feeble intellect. Under these
circumstances Stott might do a deal of mischief. But why should he
steal those American letters? What had the fellow to fear from that
quarter?

"Our policy is to be quiet," Lance said. "We must pretend to notice
nothing, and keep our eyes open at the same time. Madison may produce
my play at any time, and, if so, I shall be compelled to visit the
States. Then I will do my best. And if I could only find that we have
been mistaken, Lyn----"

He did not care to say more. Lyn was regarding him with slightly
troubled eyes. His arm was about her waist still; she was absently
playing with the silken collar of his dinner jacket. The door opened
softly, and Malcolm Stott slid in. If he had noticed anything he did
not show it in his face. He spoke with the easy air of one who feels
pretty certain of his welcome.

"No, I won't stay," he said. "I came for a book for Sir George. If
there is going to be any music I might perhaps be tempted----"

"There will be no music," Lyn said shortly. "I am going to bed."

She gave a little wave of her hand, and disappeared. Stott held the
door for her politely. He did not look in the least crushed. But just
for a moment there was a snarl on his lips, his teeth gleamed like
those of a cur that would bite if it dared. It was gone in an instant
as he turned to Lance with a smile.

"Sir George does not seem very well," he said. "I have been trying to
persuade him to go to bed. But he does not appear disposed to follow my
suggestion."

Lance went up to his own room presently. The whole house was in
darkness now, save for the light in the hall and the gleaming slit
of flame from the half-closed library. Stott and Sir George were
discussing something in low tones. There was a rustle of papers, and
the sound of a key turned crisply in a lock.

Lance lay for a long time thinking over what Lyn had told him. But he
could hardly believe that Stott was really a dangerous character--a
criminal character, that was. He had not nerve enough for that sort
of thing. Even now he was creeping up to bed timidly, as if afraid of
disturbing some of the sleeping household. Lance could catch the faint
suggestion of cigarette smoke as Stott passed his door.

When he woke again it was broad daylight. He came uneasily out of a
dream wherein some monster was holding him down by the shoulders, and
presently this monster resolved itself into Long, the sedate family
butler, who was shaking him violently. That Long should be guilty
of such an outrage was almost amusing. Long excited was a unique
circumstance.

"Has the house caught fire?" Lance asked. "Or are those intaglios----"

Then he paused. It was something worse than that. Long's face was white
and quivering; he could not speak for the horror and agitation that
lay upon him. Lance jumped out of bed with a sudden sickening sense of
tragedy.

"What is it, Long?" he asked. "What has happened? Pull yourself
together, man."

"Sir George!" Long gasped. "Lying dead in the library. Murdered!"

A fit of trembling shook the old retainer from head to foot. He pressed
his hands to his eyes as if to shut out the horror that stood stark
before them. It was some little time before he had the power to speak
again.

"I came down first, sir," he said. "I mostly do, because Sir George
scatters his papers about so, and he always likes me to tidy up before
he is dressed. And--and there he was."

Long broke down like a child. Lance was huddling on his clothes with
hands that trembled as if they were cold.

In the hall the sun was shining, making a broad band of light from the
library door. Just for a moment Lancelot hesitated. His artistic nature
recoiled from anything ghastly or horrible.

[picture] 
SIR GEORGE LAY AS IF ASLEEP, RESTING HIS HEAD ON HIS ARM, ON
THE TABLE.

But the horrible had to be faced. Like most dreadful things, it was
not quite so bad as a vivid imagination had painted it. Sir George lay
as if asleep, resting his head on his arm, on the table. There was
no spot or stain on the mass of papers there, but the left side was
one horrible sticky mess, and there was a great dark circle on the
Persian carpet. The white refined face, pallid as a statue now, looked
wonderfully peaceful.

"Give me a hand here," said Lance, hoarsely. "He must be moved."

They laid the body back in the chair, and as they did so a razor
dropped with a soft thud on the carpet. The dull noise startled Lance
as if a pistol had been fired in his ear. He recognised the razor as
one of an ivory-handled pair constantly used by Sir George. There was
a wide red gash in the neck, whence the crimson stream had run down in
the form of a grotesque, ill-drawn map.

"We can do no more now," Lance whispered. "Come away and lock the door.
Get up one of the grooms, and send him into Swanley for Dr. Burlinson
and Inspector Lawrence."

But the household was already aroused. By a kind of instinct everybody
seemed to know what had happened without being told. A white-faced
group stood whispering in the hall; a kitchen maid began to weep
hysterically. Lyn, looking fresh and bright as the morning itself,
stood with an air of wonder on her face. A horse's hoof could be heard
spurning the gravel as he flew down the drive. Lance drew Lyn into the
dining-room.

"What is it?" she asked. "Where is Sir George? Something dreadful has
happened."

In a few words Lance told her; indeed, there was little to tell. Sir
George Massey had been murdered in his library by some unknown person.
Somebody must have got into the house. None of the servants could
possibly have had anything to do with it. Lance had seen them all; had
read the horror of their faces. And there was not one of them who had
not been born and bred on the estate. They would have to look further
afield for the criminal.

They stood in there, waiting and trembling. Stott crept into the room
half-fearfully, as if half-expecting that the assassin was lurking
there with a knife ready for him. His baby face was all quivering, his
blue watery eyes were rounded with horror. As he came in, the room
seemed to fill with a faint suggestion of brandy.

"I can't grasp it," he said. "I can't believe it. My old friend and
patron murdered like this. And only last night he was so cheerful. And
now he's dead."

Stott sat down and burst into maudlin tears. A dirty handkerchief
trembled in his fingers. Nothing but the oppressive solemnity of the
moment kept Lance from kicking him. He eyed the quivering little figure
with disgust.

"Did you hear or see anything?" he asked.

"No," Stott said, from behind the quivering handkerchief, "I didn't.
I left Sir George in the library at midnight, busy on his play. I had
one of my neuralgic attacks. I hate the remedy, but I have no other
resource--brandy. After that I slept soundly till just now."

Stott wept again, smiled feebly, and wiped his eyes. In that delicate
way he conveyed the fact that he had gone to bed and passed the night
in the heavy sleep of intoxication. Evidently the man knew nothing, and
Lance dismissed certain suspicions with a feeling of shame. After all,
the death of Sir George would be a serious loss to the fellow.

It seemed strange to see the work of the house-hold progressing as
usual, to see Long bring in the Queen Anne breakfast service, and to
catch the fragrance of coffee and ham. Breakfast lay on the table, but
nobody thought of touching it save Dr. Burlinson, who came presently.
And doctors must breakfast, whatever horrors may be.

"We won't go into the room till Lawrence comes," he said. "We might
disturb some clue."

Presently the chief of the Swanley police arrived. He listened gravely
to all Lance had to say, and then he asked for the key of the library.
For some time he examined the room in silence.

"I should like to ask Long a few questions," he said.

Long came fearsome, as honest men often do when required by the
officers of the law. He had been down first, certainly, and he had
opened the house. He was quite certain that no door had been left
open, that no window was unlatched. The house contained many things of
almost priceless value, and every window on the ground floor had steel
shutters. It was his duty to see that these were fastened, and he had
not failed to go over the house twice each night for many years. Nobody
could have got into the house.

"Nothing missing?" Lawrence asked.

"Nothing, sir--as far as I can judge," Long replied. "And Sir George
kept no money in the house."

"Absolutely everything was paid by cheque," Lance explained.

The inspector looked puzzled. He would like to see the servants whilst
Dr. Burlinson was making an examination of the body. But, as Lawrence
expected, he could make nothing out of the servants who slept in the
house. Truth and honesty were writ large on every face there. The
mystery looked like becoming a national sensation.

"The carotid artery has been most neatly severed," Burlinson said. "Sir
George must have been attacked from behind as he sat at the table."

"Any sign of a struggle?" Lawrence asked.

"Not the slightest. But Sir George was very feeble, and a comparatively
firm grip of his shoulders for about half a minute or even less would
have rendered him too weak to move. A daring woman might have done a
thing like that."

With some hesitation Lance hazarded the suggestion that the wound
might have been self-inflicted. Burlinson made no reply for a moment.
Lawrence was softly walking round the room, examining everything even
to the mass of papers on the table. They appeared to be of no great
importance. The police inspector paused with a sheet of notepaper in
his hand to catch the doctor's reply.

"I should be strongly inclined to scout the idea," the latter said;
"especially as Sir George was one of the last men in the world to do
such a thing. But, at the same time, the thing is possible. Suicides
have frequently taken their lives in that manner. If your suggestion
can be proved, I shall have nothing more to say."

"I have the proof here," Lawrence said quietly. "A letter written by
Sir George on his own paper, apparently addressed to Mr.----, his
nephew. Let me read it:--


"My dear Nephew,--

"I am going away where none can follow. 

The secret that lies between us is gradually sapping my reason. But the time will come when you will discover that you cannot defy me when I am in my grave. I have no more to say; all I have to do is to act. 

One touch and the thread is cut, the problem solved. 

This is the last word that I shall ever write.

"Yours sorrowfully,

"George M----."


Lance took up the paper. Beyond doubt it was in his uncle's
handwriting, on his own paper, and it was addressed to him. Here was a
full confession of the suicide. The body of the letter was absolutely
meaningless to him; but here it was in black and white that he had
deliberately destroyed his own life.

"This seems to settle the whole matter," he said.

Lawrence evidently thought so. He looked just a little disappointed.
Perhaps he felt that he had been done out of a sensational case.
Burlinson looked still more disappointed. The suicide theory had been
proved correct, and yet at the same time it seemed to him to be utterly
beyond the bounds of reason.

"I have no more to say," he murmured. "The thing is settled. Everything
is for the best. But I am not satisfied at all."

Lance said nothing. He felt in some strange way that he had been all
through this before at some time. The letter was real, and yet it
suggested a previous tragedy. Everybody knows the feeling. It was the
first stage of a dream, with the consciousness that there was more to
come.




Chapter III.--Burlinson has his Doubts.

The more the Massey tragedy came to be examined, the more mysterious
it seemed. Yet there was the letter written in Sir George's own
handwriting upon his own notepaper. The feeble brain in the feeble body
had given way at last, and he had died by his own hand.

But though the Masseys were not regarded as an intellectual race,
they had never been violent people. Nor had they ever displayed any
morbid tendencies. Sir George's nearest approach to a passion meant
no more than a slight raising of the high-pitched voice, and the mere
suggestion of carmine on his cheeks.

What then did it mean? The deceased baronet's financial position had
been a splendid one. He was justly proud of his house and his art
treasures. He had been working on a play which some day was going to
take the world by storm. Then, without the slightest warning, he had
destroyed his own life, and had left a letter to say so.

Inspector Lawrence was inclined to think no more of the matter. He had
all the evidence he required; there would be a more or less formal
inquest, and the verdict of the jury would be temporary insanity.
Sir George would rest with his fathers, and Sir Lancelot would reign
in his stead. Burlinson shook his head. With Lancelot the doctor was
discussing the matter in Lawrence's private room at Swanley.

"No chance of that letter being a forgery?" he suggested.

The letter lay open on the table. Lawrence smiled.

"You don't seem to be satisfied, doctor," he said.

"In strictest confidence, I don't mind saying that I am anything but
satisfied," Burlinson replied. "As you know, I am practically out of
business; in fact, I only attend a few of my very old patients, like
Sir George. But I read a great deal, and I have lectured a great deal
on brain diseases. I'll go bail for it that Sir George Massey was
mentally sound--at any rate, I never knew a man less susceptible to the
homicidal mania."

"And yet there is the letter before you."

Burlinson shook his head doubtfully. There was no getting over that
letter. Lance was examining it through a strong magnifying glass.

"This is absolutely genuine," he said. "Forgery is out of the question.
Would you mind telling me what you are driving at, Burlinson?"

But the doctor refused to be drawn.

"I'd like to spend an hour or so in Sir George's study," he said. "Can
you manage that for me without rousing suspicion?"

"Why not come over with me this afternoon?" Lance said. "I have a
long interview with Wallace and Wallace, my uncle's solicitors, after
which I drive back to Broadwater. I shall be very pleased to have your
company."

Burlinson assented eagerly--indeed Lance had never seen him quite so
excited over anything before. He was not given to unnecessary speech as
a rule, yet he evidently scented some mystery here, where all things
appeared quite plain to others.

Wallace and Wallace were exceedingly pleased to see Sir Lancelot,
indeed they had expected him before. The sole surviving partner of the
old-established firm bowed him into the inner office. Gerald Wallace
looked more like a sporting landed proprietor than anything else. But
then he had been upon the friendliest terms with the county people all
his life, and no better shot was to be found anywhere. His keen, shrewd
face was very grave.

"I suppose you know something of the position of affairs, Sir
Lancelot?" he asked.

"Oh, drop that, Wallace," Lance exclaimed, hastily. "At least till
the dear old chap is in his grave. I would not have had this happen
for anything. You did all Sir George's business. Did you ever detect
anything of--of that kind about him?"

"Never!" Wallace said, emphatically. "Once get him interested in
business, and he was as clear as crystal. His will shows that."

"I suppose you people made it, Wallace?"

"No, we didn't. But I've got it in my safe. An eminent barrister
drew that will up under Sir George's instructions, through Mabey and
Leesom, our London agents. It was signed in London by Sir George in the
presence of two doctors, and subsequently handed over to us for safe
custody. On certain conditions everything comes to you."

It was only human nature that Lance should breathe a little more freely
on hearing this. He was no stranger to his late uncle's views on the
matter of Lyn Verity, and his own feelings towards her, and he had
half-feared some complications.

"What conditions are there?" he asked.

Wallace scraped his chin thoughtfully.

"Well, I am afraid that you will find them a bit irksome," he said.
"Without being in the least offensive, I may venture to suggest that
you are contemplating matrimony."

"People are so good as to say so," Lance smiled. "Miss Verity and
myself."

"Exactly. Poor Verity was a client of mine, and the whole sad story is
no secret from me. Well, Sir George left you everything on condition
that you contracted no alliance with any family where the slightest
trace of insanity had manifested itself. The will mentions no names, it
merely contains that one stringent clause, and the executors are bound
by it. It therefore follows that if you marry Miss Verity you lose
every penny of this money."

It was some little time before Lance spoke again. The blow had fallen,
and it had been more severe than he had anticipated. Only he knew how
severe it was. He was filled by the burning injustice of the thing.

"You don't mean to say that a document like that would stand?" he cried.

"Indeed, I do, Massey. It has been drawn with the greatest care. Two of
the greatest physicians in England witnessed the signature, and will be
prepared to swear that the testator was in his right mind at the moment
of execution. And the executors are both of them aware of the tragedy
in Miss Verity's family."

"Who are the executors, Wallace?" Lance asked.

"Well, I'm one. My co-executor is not precisely the gentleman I should
have picked out as a colleague, and had it been almost anybody else I
should have declined to act. I'm sorry to say that the other man is
Malcolm Stott."

Lance groaned. The idea of that crawling, drunken little wretch being
so closely associated with him was repugnant to a degree. It was a
bitter pill to swallow. How a refined man like Sir George could ever
associate with such a man was a mystery.

"It is intolerable," he cried. "Anyway, I have you. Stott will never be
sober enough to do any business. And I can kick him out of Broadwater
at any time."

"You can get him out of the house," said Wallace, thoughtfully. "But
until you are married into some sound, healthy family he can give you a
lot of trouble. You see, till you are married he has a salary of 500
and expenses to investigate family ancestors and the like, so that you
shall not bring any taint to Broadwater."

"Oh, I'm dreaming," Lance cried. "Let me get out into the fresh air.
I'm in no state to do any business to-day, Wallace. It's Gilbert gone
mad. I'll come back in a day or two and try to discuss the situation
calmly. Good-bye."

He flung out of the office, and was a mile towards home before it
dawned upon him that he had a trap at Swanley, and that he had promised
to drive Burlinson to Broadwater.




Chapter IV.--A Knot in the Cord.

It was a quiet drive to Broadwater, for Burlinson was a silent man
given to intricate problems, and he seemed to have much on his mind at
present. Lance also carried a load of care on his shoulders that would
have astonished the doctor had he known. There was something blacker
and uglier far than the mere loss of the family property.

"I've come to get a certain book from the library," Burlinson said
meaningly, as the trap pulled up at length. "You understand what I
mean?"

Lance nodded. Burlinson strolled away towards the library with the
air of a man who is very much at home. Away across the park Stott, a
Dutch doll figure, could be seen, fading away in the direction of the
village. Lyn came out of the darkened morning room with a mass of cut
flowers and trailing ferns in her hands. She looked a little pale and
anxious; her deep dark dress threw up her face with a certain marble
pallor.

"Lance," she whispered, "you look as if you had some bad news."

"Come into the billiard-room," Lance said. "There is something I want
to tell you. You must try and be brave, darling. It is hard to know
what is for the best."

Lyn listened to all Lance had to say. There was a look of pain in her
clear eyes, and the little hands were trembling As Lance saw it, he
drew her tenderly to his side.

"I must confess I never anticipated anything like this," he said.

"Oh, who could?" Lyn cried. "And I have ruined you, Lance. If I had not
been so weak and selfish all might have been well. But who would have
thought that Sir George----. Still, it is no use going back to that. I
have ruined you, Lance. You have nothing."

"Nothing except a good income from my pen and you, dearest."

"And shall I always be held worthy of the sacrifice?"

"What sacrifice, Lyn? I always meant to marry you. Had Sir George lived
I should not have waited much longer. He would have known in the course
of time----"

"He would have forgiven us. Perhaps I counted too much on that."

"Never mind, sweetheart. It will all come right in the end. Meanwhile
we must say nothing--not for a few days at least. As yet I have no
official notice of my uncle's will."

"Failing you, whom does the property go to?"

"I declare I never troubled to inquire. I was so dreadfully upset over
the first discovery that the future was driven out of my head. We can
do no harm in keeping the secret for a few days longer. Now I should
like to see you cheerfully going through your duties as if nothing out
of the common had happened."

Lyn smiled unsteadily, and there was just the suspicion of a tear in
her eye. But the pressure of her lips was warm and thrilling, and Lance
was strangely comforted. If the worst came he had her. And he had his
pen to fall back upon.

Burlinson appeared to be busy in the library. Nothing was disturbed
there, the litter of papers still lay on the big table on which Sir
George had fallen as if asleep. One or two of the topmost papers had
been moved nearer to the window, a blind of which was slightly raised.
There was a faint brown stain on one of the documents, a stain deeper
towards the centre.

"Have you got to the bottom of the mystery?" Lance asked.

"I've made it still more puzzling," Burlinson replied. "Long tells me
that every one of those papers was placed on the table by Sir George
after dinner on the night he was mur----he died. Our poor friend
committed suicide by cutting his carotid artery with a razor. At any
rate he left a written confession of the fact that he had committed
suicide. Now, just look at this paper. What do you see on it?"

"A stain that is rather like a big brown blur in the centre, doctor."

"Precisely. And you don't know what that stain was caused by?"

"I haven't the least idea. What is it?"

"Chloroform," Burlinson said, tapping the paper excitedly. "I have made
all the tests, and find that a deal of that drug was dropped over the
table. See! The stain is here--and here--and here--as if a bottle had
been toppled over. There is a regular pattern of stains. After what
Long tells me, I am forced to the belief that the chloroform was upset
after those papers were placed on the table--in other words, late in
the evening of the mur----tragedy. Now it is not to be imagined for a
moment that Sir George drugged himself first and cut his throat after,
is it? Nor is it credible that he took chloroform to ease the pain. If
that had been so, we should have found the bottle. I have quite another
theory on the subject."

In spite of himself and his troubles, Lance was interested. He was
deeply puzzled, and indeed was Burlinson. The puzzle knotted at every
fresh pull.

"Are you sure it is chloroform?" Lance asked.

"Sure as I am of my own name. I have made all the tests. Do you know
what has happened? Sir George was murdered. He was chloroformed, and,
whilst insensible, his throat was cut by the assassin, who upset the
bottle of drug in his agitation. Nothing could possibly be plainer to
my mind than that."

"But you forget all about the letter," Lance said.

"Hang the letter!" Burlinson cried. "That is part of some infernal
conspiracy. Sir George has been foully murdered, and I don't rest till
I've proved it."




Chapter V.--A Startling Suggestion.

No alteration had taken place whatever at Broadwater pending the
funeral of Sir George, beyond the addition of Mrs. Sinclair, the
late baronet's widowed sister--a mighty traveller, who had published
books about all kinds of dangerous and unpleasant places. Usually
Lucy Sinclair lived alone; but she was fond of Lyn, and, under the
circumstances, Lyn was only too glad to have this friend and chaperon
in the house.

"Why does that loathsome little beast stay here?" she asked, apropos of
Stott.

Lyn smiled at the ingenuous language. Mrs. Sinclair was small and
slight, with grey hair, and the sweetest and most amiable of faces. But
her tongue was quick and ingenuous, and she boasted that she could use
a revolver as well as most men.

"I'm afraid we can't get rid of him," Lyn remarked.

"Nonsense. Kick him our of the house. Pelt him with his own empty
brandy bottles."

Lyn proceeded to explain--to Mrs. Sinclair's boundless indignation. But
her anger did not blind her shrewd common-sense, and she was fain to
own that she saw no way out of the difficulty. And she was by no means
insensible to the state of affairs between Lyn and Lancelot.

"Well, there's plenty of time," she said, thoughtfully. "What we have
to do now is to investigate the tragedy that darkened your father's
life. There is something behind that to come out. But Stott is a
grievous burden to bear, and I let him see it."

If Stott saw it he made no sign. But there were moments when those
weak-looking blue eyes flashed, and the round doll face flushed with
anger. Otherwise Stott seemed to take his new honors meekly enough.
He had good quarters, and money to spend. But the man was the rankest
coward at heart, and doubtless feared that any show of authority might
perhaps end in his violent and painful expulsion from Broadwater.

"It is no fault of mine that I am placed in this invidious position,"
he bleated to Lance. "I have had it thrust upon me. A most
extraordinary and unexpected thing! Old and broken-down as I am, the
money is necessary to me. But I shall not be in the way, not the least
in the way. A private room, and the mere suggestion of brandy when the
pains come on----"

He looked meekly at Lance's lowering face. At any rate, there was no
provision that the fellow should stay at Broadwater. Lance would make
that pretty clear directly the funeral was over. Till then no steps
could be taken. The adjourned inquest was to-morrow, and the funeral
fixed for the same afternoon. After that it would be made pretty clear
that Stott's room would be preferable to his company.

This further inquest was troubling Lance. It seemed to him that the
thing might have been settled at the first hearing, only Burlinson
stood in the way. And that certainly was a startling discovery of his
over the chloroform. Also it struck Lance as curious that the doctor
had said nothing on that head at the inquest. What did it mean?

But for the written confession of suicide it might have meant a good
deal. But in the face of that letter it seemed to be robbed of all
its significance. Nobody could possibly doubt the genuineness of that
letter on Sir George's private notepaper. True, he had no reason
whatever to take his life, but then men had done the same surprising
thing before, even when they had not a trouble in the world.

The chloroform affair must have been a mere coincidence. Perhaps Sir
George had made up his mind to take his life that way and had discarded
it at the last moment. Or perhaps he had knocked the bottle over by
accident and had had no more in the house. There was no reason why
he should hide the bottle, but going on the theory that all would-be
suicides are lunatics, the secrecy on that head was easily explained.
No doubt Burlinson was building up some ingenious theory, but that
letter must of necessity bring the whole flimsy fabric to the ground.

The adjourned inquest looked like being merely a formal affair. A few
curious people had gathered in the billiard-room where the inquiry was
to be held, the villagers and neighbors staying away out of compliment
to the late owner of Broadwater. A few reporters had come, more as a
matter of duty than anything else. So far as they could see, the whole
affair was explained--in so formal a matter there would be very little
of public interest to be gained.

The Coroner and witnesses went over the old lines again. Long proved
beyond doubt that on the night of his master's death the windows and
shutters were all fastened. He could further testify that he had opened
every window and door himself the next morning. And he was quite
positive that none of the art treasures of the house were missing.

Lawrence followed on much the same lines. He felt that his time was
being wasted, and he was curt accordingly. He had examined every
servant in the house, all of whom had been born and bred on the estate.
He found one and all strongly attached to their late employer, and
he was emphatically of opinion that not one of them was capable of
anything in the way of serious crime. No, he had made no inquiries
outside, he had not seen any object in doing so. All the experts agreed
that the now notorious letter was in Sir George's handwriting, and
there was an end of the matter.

The Coroner looked at his watch significantly, and glanced at the jury.
He suggested that he had already taken up too much of their valuable
time. If there were no more witnesses forthcoming he would proceed with
his address, and the jury could then give their verdict, a verdict
which they must already have made up their minds upon.

"My witnesses are exhausted, sir," Lawrence said.

Burlinson stood up. He had a few words to say. Oh, yes; he was quite
ready to be sworn. He had been making certain investigations, and he
had discovered one or two apparently trifling matters which might or
might not have an important bearing later on. In the interests of
justice he hoped the Coroner would not ask him to be more explicit. The
reporters, scenting a mystery, began to grow busy.

"Can we assist you in any way, Dr. Burlinson?" the Coroner asked.

"You can assist me materially, sir," Burlinson replied. "I have come to
the conclusion that there is a good deal more here than meets the eye.
Of course, that letter is strong evidence to the contrary. But I should
like the funeral adjourned till to-morrow because I have the strongest
reasons for asking permission to make a post-mortem of the body."

Here was a sudden and unexpected development. The reporters were
writing hard at the table; the sleepy jury were wide awake now. A long
discussion followed.

"Well," the Coroner said, finally, "it is a case for the relatives of
the deceased to decide."

"If they decline I shall lay certain facts before the Home Secretary,"
Burlinson remarked.

"I confess I am startled," Lawrence said. "And I may also remark
that the whole thing is repugnant to me. At the same time I have
every confidence that Dr. Burlinson has the strongest grounds for his
request. I make no objection whatever."

"That is settled," the Coroner replied. "I take it this means
postponing the funeral till to-morrow. To give Dr. Burlinson every
opportunity of testing whatever theory he may have formed, this inquiry
is adjourned to the same time and place this day month."




Chapter VI.--Stott Opens the Game.

Stott was puzzled--in a frank, childish kind of way. What was Dr.
Burlinson after? What clever idea had he got in that wonderful brain
of his? Burlinson drove him out of the room and locked the door of the
chamber where the examination took place. But Stott haunted the place
all that day and part of the night as well. He hung over the coffin
next day, he watched it laid to rest in the family vault as if it had
some curious fascination for him. Then the blinds were drawn up at
Broadwater, and the blessed sunshine filled the house once more. But
there was no news of Burlinson, who had caught the 4.15 express at
Swanley Junction to town directly after the funeral. Stott babbled of
the doctor to everybody about him.

"And I do hope we shall be a little more cheerful now," he said.

Lance faced round upon him suddenly. The bleating voice, the watery
eyes, and the plump features filled Lance with a sudden fury of
exasperation.

"I don't think that need concern you," he said. "Under the terms of
my uncle's will certain duties are assigned to you. You are appointed
as a certain kind of matrimonial guardian to me--as a committee of
inspection, in fact. But one does not necessarily have one's lawyer or
one's guardian in the house. My uncle leaves you a certain sum under
his will, and an income that lasts perhaps for a long time. When are
you ready to go?"

"I have no money, Sir Lancelot," Stott bleated. "I thought perhaps I
might stay here."

"Nothing of the kind," Lance said, sternly. "If you are in want of
500, I will advance that sum at once with the greatest possible
pleasure. You cannot stay here."

"Oh, you want me to go at once? Yes, yes. We shall see, Sir
Lancelot--we shall see."

"Confound the man! What are you driving at?"

Stott crept across the room and closed the door. His face was still
youthful, his eyes mildly innocent, but his mouth had grown harder.
He was trembling from head to foot with a fear that he strove in vain
to throw off, but he held a strong card, and he was going to play it.
Lance could have kicked the fellow with the greatest possible pleasure.

"Let us have a little friendly chat," he said; "a chat with no feelings
on either side. I am sorry that you mean to insist upon the termination
of my long association with the house. And I could have been of the
greatest possible assistance to you."

"Pardon me if I fail to see it," Lance said, curtly.

"Not at all, Sir Lancelot." Stott rubbed his hands together. "Let me
explain. For some little time before your late uncle's death there was
a serious difference of opinion between you. 'Cherches la femme.' It
is ever thus in matters of this kind. Rightly or wrongly, your uncle
formed definite ideas as to your future matrimonial engagements. You
also had ideas as strong in another direction. You had made up your
mind to marry Miss Verity, and you went so far as to tell your uncle
so. You follow me?"

"To the extent that this has nothing to do with you."

"Oh, yes it has. I am the umpire--you forget that. If your uncle
had lived and you had persisted in your intentions, he would have
disinherited you."

"That was on the cards when the tragedy took place."

Stott smiled. A legion of cunning devils seemed to be dancing in his
eyes.

"Which brings me to my point," he went on. "Under the circumstances,
the sudden death of your uncle would have been the best thing that
could have happened to you. It would leave you the property, and
freedom to marry whom you pleased. But how to manage it without
arousing suspicion? What is the use of being a dramatist unless you can
surmount a little difficulty like that? Happy thought! Get Sir George
to write a letter conveying the idea that he had committed suicide."

"What on earth do you mean?" Lance burst out.

"Softly, softly," Stott whispered. He was smiling evilly. "You wrote
a play once--the play you are revising now for early production. But
you had no name then, and copies of that play lay neglected in more
than one theatre both here and in America. I know where two of those
copies are. And in that play a man is cajoled to write a letter which,
if he died suddenly, would point to his own suicide. Suppose you got
Sir George to make a copy of that letter for you, and kept it by you.
Suppose you--er--removed him, and left that letter by his side."

"Stop!" Lance thundered. "This is madness. The letter----"

"Appears to be written by Sir George and actually is, Sir Lancelot. I
have an excellent memory. You have your revised play in the house now.
Go and read Act II., which contains that letter, and what will you
find? The letter is word for word absolutely identical with the letter
found by Sir George's side after his death!"

Lance opened his mouth to speak, but paused astonished. He had a good
memory, too, and it came upon him at once with a blinding flash that
what Stott said was absolutely true. How on earth the thing had been
worked, how it had all been brought about, he could not see for the
moment; indeed he was too confused to think at all.

"You--you couldn't identify me with the maddening mystery," he gasped.

"Could I not?" Stott said mildly, though with just the suggestion of
a sneer. "I could recall that play to the minds of managers; I could
write a letter which, if he died suddenly, would say that you put your
cunning idea into force, and that you were so very cunning that you
actually forgot to change the wording of the letter. That, of course,
is what people call unconscious cerebration. You were using your own
scheme, and unwittingly you used your own letter. Why you should do
this thing is palpable. Once your uncle was out of the way, you could
marry."

"Stop!" Lance cried. "Stop, or I'll strangle you. As there is a Heaven
above us, I swear that I am innocent of this dreadful thing."

"Suppose I agree with you," Stott whispered. "Suppose I say that I
am sure you are the victim of some subtle conspiracy. But that won't
prevent the world from speaking up, once the truth leaks out. And no
man likes being treated like a dog. And this dog has found his kennel a
luxurious one."

"I'll not compromise with you," Lance said firmly. "But you--you
needn't go to-day. I must have time to get this into my confused brain.
Be off."

Stott stalked out, not without dignity. Then he fell headlong upstairs,
with his hand upon his bursting heart, and coaxed a full wineglass of
brandy between his clinking teeth.




Chapter VII.--Connected with the Press.

The blinds were again up at Broadwater, but there were shadows
everywhere. An uneasy sense of impending calamity hung over everyone, a
feeling that something was going to happen. Yet Sir George was buried
in the family vault now, and Burlinson made no sign. If he had anything
startling to disclose at the forthcoming inquest, he kept the facts
strictly to himself. But Lancelot was not thinking of that. He was
amazed and stunned by the disclosures made by Malcolm Stott.

If that little mild-eyed scoundrel made the discovery public it would
bear hard on Lance. And Stott was in a position to prove everything he
said. More than one copy of the old disused play was still extant, and
in each the letter of the suicide was identical with the letter left
by Sir George. What infernal roguery was at the bottom of the whole
business? And how had the thing been managed? Lance thought it all over
till his brain fairly reeled. And the more he thought of it the worse
it looked for him.

Sir George had not committed suicide--or so Burlinson said. Somebody
had murdered him, after first ingeniously arranging matters to look
like suicide. But who would believe this? Men don't write letters
saying they have taken their own lives at the instigation of other
people. But Burlinson insisted that here was an exception.

And whose interest was more particularly served by Sir George's death?
Lance's, of course. It could easily be proved that he knew nothing of
the peculiar nature of his uncle's will. It could be proved that Sir
George warned him of the consequences to himself if he persisted in
marrying Lyn Verity. With Sir George no more, Lance had the ground
clear before him. And now to a great extent he was in Stott's power.

He ought to have kicked the little blackguard out of the house,
but--he didn't. He would wait for a little time; perhaps some clue
would present itself. And Stott smiled, and was so painfully polite to
everybody that Lance was hard put to it to keep his hands off the man
who was practically master of Broadwater.

The broadest hints were lost upon Stott. He held the situation, and
he knew it. Lance appealed to his pride. The little man sat in the
library puffing away at his eternal cigarettes and sipping brandy
and water--strictly as a medicine, of course. Lyn heard part of the
conversation as she stood in the hall arranging the flowers.

"Why kick?" Stott asked sweetly. "Why let your angry passions rise? As
that French Johnny so aptly says, 'Je suis, Je reste?'"

"Not for an indefinite period, I hope," Lance suggested. "Don't you
push me too far."

Stott's tremulous lips parted in something like a snarl, it was only
for a moment, and the smile was on his round, soddened, baby face again.

"And don't you shove up against me," he said. "I've got all the cards
in my hand, remember. Still, kick if you like. Marry Miss Verity, if
you haven't done so already----"

He paused as Lance made a step towards him. He wriggled low down in
his chair, and his blue watery eyes were pitiful. And yet there was a
suggestion of venom about him.

"Now don't," he said. "I hate violence. It's so vulgar. Suppose you
married Miss Verity, I could kick you out of the house the same day.
And what would become of Broadwater and the money then? Why, it would
revert to me--to me, mind you--to do as I pleased with till your eldest
son became of age, subject to a small sum for maintenance. Ask Wallace
and Wallace. And you can't upset the will, with its swell London
doctors for witnesses."

"Did you suggest that?" Lance asked.

Stott flicked the ash off his cigarette in the coolest fashion.

"'Alone I did it,'" he quoted. "'A poor thing, but mine own.' The jest
of the circumstance, the sport of fate, must look to himself. The
fine flame of geniality in this breast has been turned to gall. For
once in my life I thought of myself. And the worm turns. Not that the
worm wants much--a little kindness and sympathy, and a little brandy.
Strictly as a medicine, of course. I have no wish to be vindictive, but
honor, my dear sir, honor compels me to respect the wishes of my late
esteemed patron. It would cut me to the heart, but if you defy me--why,
the noble order of the sack must be yours. If----"

Lance turned on his heel and walked away, ashamed and uneasy in his
mind. How much did that little mild-eyed man know? And had he actually
guessed a secret that Lance deemed to be strictly between Lyn and
himself? And Lyn had passed into the morning-room, where she stood with
a ghastly white face, and the flowers in her hand shaking like blossoms
bent to the March gale. She heard Lance's step go by--she would fain
have spoken to him and learnt the worst, but still she stood there with
a growing terror in her eyes and a feeling of sickening horror at her
heart.

Stott lay back in his chair with the air of a man who is well pleased.
The cards were falling exactly as he intended; up to now every
trick had been his. He looked across the park with a genial air of
possession. He approved of the deer standing knee-deep in the bracken.
"A little patience and cunning, and all this is mine," he murmured.
"But these little scenes affect my heart, horribly. I'll go and walk
over the demesne--stroll in my park. It is too fine a day to be in the
house."

He passed through the open window down the drive, on the best of terms
with himself. Away down the dim avenue a man was swaggering along--a
seedy, man in a shiny frock coat and a raffish white hat set at a
knowing angle. At the sight of Stott he feigned to be overcome with
emotion. His great, coarse, red face exuded an oily mixture.

"And what the d----do you want, Martin Blake?" Stott asked with
forcible feebleness.

Still, the fresh cigarette and unlighted match in his hand shook
horribly. The red-faced man coolly appropriated the cigarette and
match, and lighted the tobacco calmly. He blew a long, thin cloud from
his lungs with a sigh of deep content.

"I've come down here," Blake said, with his head thrown back, "to share
the plunder. You're a dirty little blackguard, Stott; and I've done
some dirty tricks for you at about 13 for a shilling, and now I'm going
to get a bit of my own back. Fleet-street, sir, is not what it was. Our
Journal, 'The Mirror,' is no longer a terror to the evil-doer."

"In other words, the penny blackmailing financial weekly has had its
day," Stott sneered.

"Put it as you please," Blake said calmly. "I have been cruelly
disappointed. There was a man in the city whose nefarious career I
proposed to shield from the garish light of day for a paltry hundred
pounds. The miscreant kicked me downstairs and broke my collarbone.
I sued the murderous ruffian for damages. A suborned jury and a
prejudiced judge refused my plea and trampled on my wounded feelings.
Then the proprietor of 'The Mirror' suggested a holiday. I collected
20 of outstanding advertisement money, and here I am, broke in the
world--I, a journalist with a reputation in two hemispheres."

"Yes," said Stott, uneasily. "Here you are, certainly. What next?"

"Don't you be an ass," Blake said, cheerfully. "I've found all about
your little game here; I know how it has been worked. There's money in
this Broadwater tragedy--a dozen London papers will pay handsomely for
light on the suicide's letter. I guessed you were in it from the first;
indeed, I came here yesterday cocksure of finding you. And I've been
asking questions--never was there such a beggar for asking questions as
I am. It's a pretty scheme, Stott, but you're not going to have it all
to yourself."

"I think so," Stott suggested mildly. "Oh, I think so."

The veins on the forehead of the big man thickened. Just for a moment
there was something in the glint of Stott's eyes that suggested the
futility of bullying.

"You're a nice sort of pal," Blake growled.

"I'm not a pal at all," Stott said in the same tone, "you may go to
the devil in your own way for all I care. But you're not going to get
a brass farthing out of me, and don't you forget it. You seem to know
something about the tragedy and my young friend, Sir Lancelot Massey.
Try him. Perhaps he may be disposed to come down handsomely to keep his
name out of that immaculate 'Mirror' of yours."

Stott spoke quietly, but there was just the suspicion of a tremor in
his voice. He shot a swift glance at Blake from under his brows. Blake
had the air of one who has been painfully disappointed in a friend. He
shook his head mournfully.

"You always were a hard little devil," he said, "despite that baby face
of yours. But touching the baronet. Mild, quiet, sensitive, literary
chap, isn't he?"

Stott nodded. He could read the other's mind like an open book. He
could detect the timidity of the coward behind the manner of the bully.

"That's the man," he said. "If you know your business, he ought to be
good for a hundred at least."

Blake tapped his breast pocket significantly. There he had two
interviews with Lance already written--one on the side of the angels,
the other of quite a different hue. If he still cherished any
bitterness against Stott, he failed to show it on his face.

"I'll go and see him now," he said. "If you're about presently, I'll
let you know the result. It takes a man with an American training to do
a real live interview."

"I shall wait for the result with the greatest interest," Stott said
drily.

He watched Blake swaggering away with a queer malignant gleam in
his eye. He would have given a great deal to have known how much
Blake really was aware of. These two had been in more than one shady
transaction together; indeed, Blake was capable of anything for a few
pounds. And Stott had never taken the fellow into his confidence.
Still----

But he could not have known anything really damaging, or he would not
have taken his rebuff so calmly. With a reassured grin, Stott watched
him pass beyond the portico, and then for the next half-hour lay on his
back tranquilly smoking cigarettes.

Long sniffed suspiciously at Blake, but asked him into the library. As
Lancelot rose from the table, where he was writing letters, the heart
of the intruder failed him. No quiet, sensitive, literary chap had any
right to a keen eye and a square face like that.

"Your business, sir?" Lance asked curtly.

Blake plunged into it at once, fearful that delay might sap his
oozing courage. The sound of his own rich oily voice restored his
self-possession. He asked a host of questions which he proceeded to
answer himself; he read the favorable interview unctuously.

"No harm in our publishing that?" he suggested.

"None at all," Lance said, politely.

"Quite so, Sir Lancelot. But there is another section of the public
that--um--er--Permit me to read you the other side of the question."

He read rapidly. Lance listened quietly, with his head bent forward.

He might have been following an oration in Greek for all the emotion he
displayed.

"And there I have finished," Blake said with a flourish. "As a
statement of the case for the--er--prosecution, you must admit that
there is a deal in my arguments. Frankly speaking, it does not matter
a row of pins to us which article we publish. But I may venture to say
that it may make a considerable difference to you, Sir Lancelot. A
hundred pounds----"

Blake paused significantly. Lance looked up for the first time.

"I am to pay 100 to have the white story published," he said. "If not,
you will publish the black one. That is what it comes to?"

"A luminous-minded man is a pleasure to meet," Blake said with
enthusiasm.

"I appreciate the compliment," Lance said quietly. "Will you come
outside with me?"

Blake had no objection whatever; he had no suspicions when Lance
carelessly took a thin ash plant from the vestibule, and he chatted
on till the drive was reached. Then Blake looked up and stepped back
hurriedly.

"There is your reply," Lance said hoarsely. "And if I ever catch you
here again----"

Blake stumbled headlong down the drive, writhing with the pain of half
a score of blows about his shoulders. So maddened was he with the pain
and fright that it was some little time before he became conscious of
the fact that he was alone. Wide lines seemed to be burning across his
back and shoulders. And then out of the mist of blackness and blind
terror the quivering features of Stott gradually shaped themselves.

"You dirty little scoundrel," Blake screamed. "You miserable
blackmailing rat. So you thought it would be a good joke to send me to
see your baronet. I've got a score of scars across my back, and you
shall pay for every one of them. Oh, I'll tear the bottom out of your
snug little nest for you. I'll--I'll----"

"You can't do anything," Stott said mildly.

"Can't I? Because I didn't pretend to know. I'm not quite such a fool
as I look. And I'll pull the skin off your baronet's back in the next
issue of the 'Mirror.' And I'll ruin you, too. Let me once get to
New York, and you're done for."

The queer smile died from Stott's face as Blake turned on his heel and
shuffled into the road. He pressed his hand to his heart, as if to
stifle the pain there. He called out to Blake, but his shaking blue
lips made no sound. As he turned he saw the quiet tranquil eyes of Mrs.
Lucy Sinclair regarding him.

"Our friend yonder seemed to be rather annoyed," she said.

"Our friend!" Stott stammered. "An acquaintance of mine, madam. But I
don't suppose that you have ever seen Martin Blake."

"You are quite wrong," Mrs. Sinclair said, calmly. "I knew him quite
well--in America."




Chapter VIII.--Missing.

The progress of affairs generally was not displeasing to Malcolm
Stott. For the time being everything seemed to play into his hands.
And now that he had got rid of his friend Martin Blake, and dealt Sir
Lancelot a back-handed blow at the same time, he had only to wait, and
everything would be his.

But there were drawbacks even here. What most men accomplish by courage
Stott brought about by cunning. And his nerve had gone years before.
Brandy may be a fine brace and stimulant, but it is certain to fail
in the long run. There were times when Stott woke with a start in the
night; times when he felt inclined to abandon the whole ingenious
scheme and fly. And there were hours when the pain at his fluttering
heart stifled him and doubled him up with agony. Later on Stott meant
to give it up. But not yet; he could not do without it yet.

And there were other times, too, when the wily brain turned all
confused and misty, and the elaborate scheme got tangled up like a
child's dream. At those times the inevitable brandy did more harm than
good.

Still, everything was going beautifully. Stott chuckled over his
cigarette as he saw Lancelot come striding from the stables to the
house, carrying a lemon-colored paper under his arm. Stott had no
difficulty in recognising the "Mirror." And from the expression of
Sir Lancelot's face, Blake had been as good as his word.

"Another trick to me," Stott chuckled. "Really, I am greatly obliged to
Blake."

Lance came hurriedly into the morning-room, and Stott crept into the
hall, where he could listen. He always listened to conversations; he
picked up a bit of useful information that way. Lucy Sinclair looked up
from her letter-writing.

"I hope it is nothing very serious," she suggested.

"It ought not to be," Lance said, "but still----Look here, aunt, that
fellow Blake has been as good as his word. That fellow I thrashed, you
know. Here is the whole story, with a suggestion that I am rather worse
than the murderer of poor Sir George. And when I was coming out of
Wallace's office just now, I met Lady Masefield and her girls, and they
cut me dead."

"Very foolish of them," Mrs. Sinclair said, calmly.

"Of course. Still, that blackmailing 'Mirror' has made a fine case
against me. And they have dragged Lyn into it. Otherwise, I shouldn't
care so much. I'd give ten years of my life to get to the bottom of
this wretched mystery."

"They might have left Lyn alone," said Lucy.

"Trust those blackguards for hitting on the tenderest spot. And the
poor child looks worried and white enough already. Where is she?"

Lyn had gone out, Lucy Sinclair explained. She had come down with a
dreadful headache, and the elder lady had suggested a stroll. The
listener smiled as he heard. Lyn's white face and the dark rings under
her eyes had not been lost upon him. There were other secrets in the
house which he had to probe to the bottom. And a vague suspicion was
growing into a certainty with Stott--if he could only prove it, if he
could only make sure of that, the rest would be easy.

He smiled and chuckled, and stopped with a gasp. His lips were drawn
back to his teeth with the agony he suffered. There was a blue tinge
on his round face. He crawled away to his own rooms, where he helped
himself liberally to brandy. He lay for a few minutes after the pain
had ceased, trembling in every limb.

When he came down again, luncheon was ready. Lyn was there, pale and
nervous, and Lucy Sinclair cool and collected at the foot of the table.
As Stott entered, the murmur of conversation suddenly ceased. He smiled
benignantly.

"Pray don't mind me," he remarked. "Mrs. Sinclair was saying----"

Mrs. Sinclair glanced at the speaker over her glasses.

"I was saying that I am going to London to-morrow," she responded.
"And from thence it is highly probable that I shall have to go to New
York--in connection with the publication of my new books of travel, and
er--other things."

"I suppose you know New York very well," Stott murmured.

"As well as I know Broadwater. Wherever I go I always make friends with
the journalists--even the humblest of them. From the 'World' and the
'Sun' down to the 'Record,' I know them all. Did you ever hear of
the 'Record,' for instance?"

A sudden spasm of pain gripped Stott. The blue tinge was on his face,
but the wild look in his eyes was not all a look of pain.

"I--I--yes," he stammered. "I used to advertise in the
'Record'--indeed, all the papers. But why should you pick upon that
particular production?"

Stott was stammering still, and the glass that he carried to his
lips clinked against his teeth. Lucy Sinclair was regarding him much
as a naturalist would have regarded something new in the way of an
ornithological specimen.

"A little idea that just occurred to me," Mrs. Sinclair said, calmly.
"I recollect now that your friend Martin Blake was once sub-editor of
the 'Record.'"

"He--he is no friend of mine," Stott stammered.

"Not now, perhaps," Mrs. Sinclair said, in the same analytical voice.
"Which fact I gathered when I saw you together on Monday. But he used
to be, in the days when you were a popular stage figure in New York. It
seems a strange thing to say, but I recollect Martin Blake when he was,
to all outward seeming, a gentleman."

"A very strange thing to say," Lance murmured grimly.

"Drink," Stott said, sadly. "The downfall of so many men of genius."

Mrs. Sinclair remarked pointedly that she had not far to look for
examples, and Stott smiled. He was terribly afraid of this woman and
her questions. And either by accident or design she had touched the
mainspring of the whole complicated machinery. A gentle perspiration
broke out on Stott as he realised how near she was to the root of
things.

But Mrs. Sinclair's glance betrayed nothing. In a grave, pre-occupied
way, Lyn was playing with her bread. At the least noise she started;
she had the look of a hunted animal in her eyes. Lance addressed her
twice before she replied.

Mrs. Sinclair alone seemed to be at her ease. She parried Stott's
questions with the greatest dexterity, and utterly declined to say more
on the subject of New York journalism. She watched the anxious, uneasy
little man opposite her; she noticed his scared eyes. Presently Stott
rose, and excused himself on the plea of tobacco.

"How much longer are you going to tolerate him, Lance?" Lyn asked.

Lance shrugged his shoulders. There were many things he did not care to
tell Lyn.

"A month," Mrs. Sinclair said, suddenly. "Bear with him, Lyn, treat
him as politely as you can. Before a month is past we shall have the
pleasure of kicking the odious little wretch out of the house and
handing him over to the police. My dears, you never did a better day's
work in your life than when you asked me to take up my headquarters at
Broadwater. Lucy Sinclair is going to be the fairy godmother. I shall
see Stott and Blake in gaol and dance at your wedding yet."

A vivid flush of carmine poured like a wave over Lyn's lovely face, and
the tears rose to her eyes. She laughed hysterically, and dashed the
tears away.

"I am all right," she said. "Please don't take any notice of me. I
fancied that I was born without nerves, and I find that I am mistaken.
But whatever I do--please, please try and re-member that I did it for
the best."

Lance looked up in astonishment. But the pleading voice had changed
to a laugh, and for the rest of the day Lyn was in feverishly high
spirits. It was a different Lyn who came down to dinner as Long was
lighting the hall lamps.

Long stood gravely aside for his young mistress to pass. Nobody
else was down yet; the afternoon's letters lay upon the hall table.
Uppermost was a blue envelope with American stamps and postmark,
addressed to Sir George Massey. It was the same class of envelope
and the same writing as the letter Lyn had suggested that Stott had
possessed himself of.

It was slightly gruesome to stand there, holding a missive addressed
to a dead man. And yet there was the fascination of a mystery behind
it. An irresistible desire to open the envelope came over Lyn. Hot pink
fingers crooked under the flap, and the letter was open. Long saw and
disapproved, but remained discreetly silent.

The letter was fairly long, but in a bold, flowing hand. As Lyn read
on her face turned white, then crimson, and once more deadly white
again. She seemed to have gone out of the present into another world
altogether. The sound of a footstep on the polished oak floor brought
her to herself again. Then she flashed up the stairs like a stream
of light, palpitating and trembling with a new hope, and a wild,
half-insane determination. When the dinner-gong sounded for the second
time she came into the dining-room with eyes so lustrous and shining
that Lance bent and kissed her as she passed him.

"My darling," he whispered. "You're yourself again to-night."

"I feel gay," Lyn laughed. "But you must not kiss me when Mr. Stott is
about. Perhaps Aunt Lucy has inspired me with hope, perhaps I have made
a little discovery of my own. But I am not going to think about that;
to-night I am going to be entirely happy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lance came down the next morning with no feeling of coming evil upon
him. On the contrary, he felt more hopeful and buoyant than he had done
for some time. And it is only in books that the psychological forecast
works out according to the mood of the character. Mrs. Lucy Sinclair
seemed to share Lance's excellent spirits. Stott winked and shivered,
and murmured that he had passed a bad night. His eyes were bleared, and
there was a faint odor of brandy about him, early as it was.

"I hope nobody was ill in the night," he said. "I heard footsteps pass
my door."

Mrs. Sinclair had not heard of any indisposition; she herself had slept
soundly, and frankly owned that she wanted her breakfast. And why was
Lyn keeping the kidneys waiting? She rang the bell, and instructed Long
to ask Miss Lyn's maid if----

The maid came excitedly into the room. Her face was pale and agitated,
her eyes were full of tears. For once even Long was startled out of his
episcopal gravity.

"Well, what is it?" Mrs. Sinclair asked, sharply.

The maid found her voice at last. The words came tumbling over one
another in a torrent.

"I can't find Miss Verity anywhere," she cried. "She--she told me I
was not to call her this morning till half-past eight, as she was very
tired. I ventured to go in just now, and she was not in her room."

"Gone for an early walk, perhaps," Lance suggested.

"Begging your pardon, Sir Lancelot, but Miss Lyn never slept in her bed
at all. And she's taken away her dressing-bag and jewel-case."

It was true enough. Search high and low as they would, no sign of Lyn
could be found. She had fled in the night, leaving no clue behind her.
And nobody seemed able to throw the slightest light on the mystery.
Lance turned in desperation to Long.

"Can you tell me anything about it?" he asked.

Long had an idea, if Sir Lance would pardon his presumption. Perhaps
the letter addressed to Sir George had something to do with it. In his
own calm, deliberate way Long told the story. Stott stood close by,
gazing with bleared eyes, in a face as white as ashes.

"What sort of a letter?" he croaked. "And where from?"

"An American letter, Sir Lancelot," said Long, ignoring Stott
altogether. "I'll swear to the stamps and the handwriting. A letter
just like it came for Sir George not long ago. And Miss Lyn, she opened
it, and she seemed struck all of a heap. But of course at the time I
didn't think so much about it."

A peculiar gasping cry came from Stott, but nobody noticed it in the
excitement of the moment. He stepped across to the sideboard and
literally slopped some brandy into a glass. With both hands he held it
to his lips. He glanced furtively round, and breathed the easier when
he saw that nobody was heeding him.

"It is certainly strange," said Lance; "but, after all, this letter
might not have had anything to do with the matter. If Miss Lyn had any
fancy----"

"It's the madness!" said Stott, hoarsely; "the madness in the family."

The shot went home; it left Lance white to the lips. He could have
strangled the speaker as he spoke, but that would not have removed
the cruelly true suggestion. Why should not the family insanity have
suddenly broken out in Lyn? It had done so with the same dire swiftness
in the case of her father.

"If this is true," Lance murmured, "If it is true, why----"

He paused as Lyn's maid came into the room with an envelope in her hand.

"For you, madam," she said to Lucy Sinclair. "I found it beside
mistress' bed."

Mrs. Sinclair read rapidly, and then dropped the letter carefully into
the heart of the fire. There was a queer light in her eyes.

"How blind we have all been!" she cried. "Order a carriage round at
once, Lance. No, I am going alone. You are the very last person who is
to be allowed to accompany me."




Chapter IX.--Stott Sees a Ghost.

Long meekly suggested that dinner had been getting cold for some time,
but Lance warned him aside impatiently. Nevertheless the most troubled
of mortals must eat, though whether Lance was consuming bisque or
chicken broth he could not have said.

He looked wearily down the perfectly appointed table, at the graceful
ferns and flowers, and Stott's white face all the more pallid behind
a screen of scarlet geraniums. And Stott seemed to be equally averse
to his food. Long filled his champagne glass four times with a distant
air. In Stott's eyes there was a fluctuating terror that Lance failed
to see.

"How--how devilish quiet the place is," Stott said irritably.

Lance did not hear. Lyn filled up his thoughts to the exclusion of
everything else. And for the last three days not one word or sign had
come from her. And, what was equally remarkable, no line had come from
Aunt Lucy. And she had driven off post-haste, without escort of any
kind, and now she, too, seemed to have vanished.

It was quiet there, as Stott said. For the last two days he had
wandered about the house, peeping into the dim shadows as if fearful
of finding some nameless horror there. And Long had ventured to
remonstrate over the amount of brandy daily ordered by that most
undesirable guest.

Stott sat opposite his host with twitching lips, and hands that played
queer muscular tricks upon him. And plate after plate he had pushed
from him untasted. He had not dared to shave himself for the last day
or two, and the ostentatious diamond stud in his shirt front proclaimed
aloud the fact that he had not changed his linen for some days. Truly a
strange object in a perfectly appointed house like Broadwater!

Long and his subordinates had retired, leaving the decanter and the
silver cigarette boxes on the table. Lance was smoking in moody
silence. He was wondering in a vague kind of way how much more wine
Stott could possibly consume without being carried to bed. And if his
face was an index to his mind, what a horror spun in that muddled brain
of his!

"You're killing yourself," Lance said curtly.

"So much the better for you," Stott retorted. Irritation on his part
was so rare that Lance looked up in some surprise. "You'll be rid of me
then, and free to marry whom you please. Next of kin and no provision
made for the property after my death. Lord! If I'd been in your place I
should have been murdered long ago."

There came a strange insane gleam into his eyes; he grasped a dessert
knife with just a touch of his old histrionic genius. He was so
perfectly the personification of murder that Lance started back in
something like alarm.

The intensity of the little scene fascinated him. Stott was stealing
towards him stealthily. He had never done anything finer than this in
his whole stage career. Lance knew now what his uncle meant by saying
that Stott was the finest actor of his day. Perhaps he was going
through some scene in some forgotten play. Anyway there was murder in
his face. And Lance suddenly realised how dangerous this man might be
on occasion.

"Put down that knife," he said. "You make my flesh creep."

Stott came on steadily. He was like a man in the dark, feeling for
something. Closer and closer he came, whilst Lance watched him in
fascinated amazement. It came to him suddenly that the brandy had done
its work, and the man was mad. Still he had no fear of a personal
encounter, and a dessert knife is no formidable weapon.

Clearly Stott was beside himself for a moment. All his muscles had
grown tense and rigid, his lips were muttering strange things.

"It's got to be done!" came the harsh whisper. "Yes, got to be done!
Where's the brandy?"

He paused, the knife fell from his hand. The dull eyes cleared like
those of a tired sleeper awakened. The trembling hands fumbled along
the table.

"Brandy!" he yelled. "For God's sake give me brandy!"

The horror was no longer simulated. Stott stood, rocking backwards and
forwards, screaming of strange things and imploring brandy. The whole
house would be aroused at this rate. Somewhat against his conscience,
Lance procured the poisonous fluid. Stott slopped half of it on the
floor, the other half he managed to tilt between his chattering teeth.

"I'd better send for Burlinson," Lance suggested.

"No doctor," Stott said, hoarsely. "I'm--I'm better now. It was that
face. You saw it?"

"I didn't. And if it was any more horrible than yours, I'd rather not."

"A white face all over blood--a face that came from America with a
five-cent stamp upon it. There were three of them altogether, but Miss
Verity got the last one."

Stott was off, wandering again, but the hideous horror was gone from
his eyes. He swayed to and fro in his chair like a man drunk with
sleep. And as he talked, the references to something from America
became more frequent. Something from America had arrived, and that
something had got into the hands of Miss Verity. And it was vital that
Stott should recover that package. Lance listened, with a growing
conviction that Stott was betraying useful secrets. It was all mixed up
with missing letters and Martin Blake, and a certain cunning newspaper
scheme that nobody was to know anything about.

"What was the name of the paper?" Lance asked.

Stott made no reply. His head dropped lower on to the bosom of his
dingy shirt, and a faint strangled snore came from his lips. He had
fallen into a drunken slumber.

"Better leave him where he is," Lance muttered. "What a soddened little
wretch, it is."

Lance passed into the smoking-room, where he sat for a long time over
his cigar. It was long past midnight, and the household were all
asleep, before Lance had thought it all out. He felt now that Stott's
allusion to the American letters was something more than the vaporings
of a diseased brain. Lyn had warned him of the manner in which Stott
had taken American letters before. Therefore, there must have been
something that he was more than anxious to keep from Sir George's ears.

Again, Lyn had so strangely disappeared after reading one of these
same letters. The sight of Stott's face when he heard that Lyn had
read that letter came back to Lance with luminous force. And for the
last few days Stott had displayed a miserable anxiety, quite out of
proportion to his interest in the future of the house. Beyond doubt,
Lyn's disappearance had been a rare fright to him--he had been drinking
more heavily in consequence. Why? And how did that rascal Martin Blake
become mixed up in the business? If only Stott would give some kind of
key to the mystery!

Lance thought it all out in the silence of the midnight hour. He sat
there somewhat oppressed by the solitude of it until the silence was
slit by a yell that echoed through the house and brought Lance with a
start to his feet.

Again and again that horrible scream rang from the direction of the
dining-room. There was a sound of trampling feet and the crash of
broken glass as Lance rushed into the room. Stott stood there with eyes
blazing like coals, his lips parted, his whole gaze strained upon some
horror he had evolved out of his brandy-soaked brain. He had gathered
up an armful of glasses of various kinds, and one after the other was
hurling them at the opposite wall. What with the screams and the steady
twinkling smash of glass, the thing was full of a nameless horror.

"Stop!" Lance cried. "Are you mad?"

"Take him away," Stott screamed. "His face is all over blood. Make him
shut those scarlet eyes of his, and I'll say no more. There! I got him.
Down he went that time. No, he's up again. And his face is covered all
over with fur like a cat's. Ah!"

Again came the cry--the cry of the man who suffers horribly, and Long
burst into the room, followed by a dazed footman or two.

"Thank heaven you are all right, sir," said Long. "So it's that brute."

"Mr. Stott isn't well," said Lance with a suggestion of reproof on his
face.

Long made some proposition as to fetching a bucket of water, which
Lance discreetly ignored. The fusilade of glass had ceased now, but the
horrible screams continued. Out of the gloom behind the dining-room
door a frightened maid-servant or two peeped at the strange scene.

"Everybody is to go to bed except Long," Lance commanded. "I am sorry
to have disturbed you. The whole thing is most fearful and humiliating
to me."

They got the wretched man up to his room at length, and then for the
next hour were busily engaged in preventing him from doing violence to
himself. Strong, healthy men, as Lance and Long were, they were both
heartily glad when Burlinson arrived. He took in the situation at a
glance.

"Delirium tremens," he said curtly. "Fancy dragging a hard-working
doctor out of his first sleep for the sake of a soddened wretch like
that. Oh, I'll do my best, of course. I had no difficulty in gleaning
what was the matter from Jackson."

"I'm afraid it is a bad case," said Lance.

"About as bad a one as possible, Massey. If he doesn't get sleep I
wouldn't give twopence for his life by this time to-morrow. How the
fellow manages it with a heart so hopelessly diseased as his beats me.
Take his clothes off whilst I get my syringe ready."

It was no light matter to undress the raving moaning figure pursued by
the furies of his own creation, but it was accomplished at last--at
least so far as his outer garments were concerned. And they had to hold
him down to do as much.

"Not my clothes," he screamed. "The air is full of winged ants--great
hairy things with stings. They will cluster all over my body. Keep them
off."

"Humor him as much as possible," Burlinson muttered from the depth of
his bag. "I can manage now if you can roll up one of his sleeves. My
word, your friend has no reckless profligacy as far as clean linen is
concerned. Did he dine in that shirt?"

"He has done so for the past fortnight," Lance said grimly. "The
fine dingy hue of the shirt front throws up the diamond stud so
artistically."

"Hold him down," said Burlinson. "I shan't be a minute."

Yelling and fighting, Stott was held down whilst Burlinson applied his
syringe to the wasted arm. After the lapse of a few minutes the cries
grew fainter, and then ceased altogether. Stott lay back on the bed,
sleeping the sleep of one who is utterly exhausted.

"It's a fearful mental and physical strain," said Burlinson, and he
laid his ear to the sleeping man's heart. "What a wonderful natural
constitution the fellow must have."

"Hadn't Jackson better stay here?" Lance asked.

"No occasion," said Burlinson. "I made the dose pretty strong. He won't
wake for many hours. I'll just undo his collar, and then he'll be all
right."

The doctor unloosened the neck band, and turned the shirt sleeve down.
Then he paused in his quick muttered speech to examine a stain on the
cuff. The dirty irregular patch seemed to fascinate him. In the coolest
possible manner he took a pair of scissors from his pocket, nicked the
edge of the cuff, and tore it clear away from the sleeve. Under Lance's
astonished eyes he folded up the linen and dropped it into his bag.

"Do you collect that class of curios?" Lance asked, drily.

"When they are of sufficient interest," Burlinson responded as drily.
"If I am not greatly mistaken, I have made a rather important discovery
to-night, and one that may make a great difference to your future
prospects. And now, if you have any glasses left, I should like a
suggestion of whisky in a big soda and a cigar."

Lance led the way to the smoking-room. He was filled with a curiosity
that Burlinson utterly refused to gratify.

"I'm not going to tell you anything at all," said the doctor. "I have
made a discovery or two which will come out at the inquest. I'm going
to give Swanley something to talk about, beyond the silly suggestion
that you got your poor uncle out of the way so that you could marry Lyn
Verity when you pleased."

Lance winced slightly and the color crept into his cheek.

"They have been reading that wretched 'Mirror,' I suppose?" he asked.

"My dear fellow, the whole article has been printed verbatim in the
'Swanley Gazette.' And without prejudice, it is a very clever
article indeed. How that letter came to be written by poor Sir
George is a mystery that I would give a deal to solve. I know that
you had nothing to do with it, and I also know that it was quite
superfluous--because Sir George never committed suicide at all."

"But the letter in his own handwriting proves it."

"Bosh! It doesn't prove anything at all. It's an important link in a
very plausible theory, but no more. Sir George didn't commit suicide."

"My dear Burlinson, your dogmatic suggestion is not evidence. And
public opinion is dead against you. Personally, I don't know what to
think about it. The more I think, the more confused I get altogether."

Burlinson rose, emptied his glass, and tossed his cigar into the fire.
He smiled with the supreme air of the man who knows things.

"I am going to demonstrate that Sir George was murdered," he said;
"indeed, I don't mind going a step farther, and saying that before very
long we shall be able to lay our hands upon the actual criminal."




Chapter X.--Burlinson Follows it Up.

Lance came down to breakfast with the knowledge that he had a trying
day before him. Long in a lofty voice informed him that Stott was
better, but that under the circumstances he had no inclination to rise
at present.

"And he's very anxious to know if he said anything foolish, Sir
Lancelot," Long concluded.

Lance smiled grimly. He could quite understand Stott's feelings in that
respect. But there were other feelings to think of besides the bibulous
comedian, seeing that this was the day fixed for the adjourned inquest
into the death of Sir George. As Lance toyed with his breakfast he
could see the public had already begun to gather in the park.

There would be a big muster, he thought, bitterly. After that
sensational "Mirror" article, popular excitement over the case had
been worked up in a most remarkable manner. Already a large section had
made up their minds that Lance was guilty of the murder of his uncle,
and were ready to blame the police for their supineness in the matter.
And more than one erstwhile friendly face had been turned from Lance of
late.

There were letters on the table, only one of which interested Lance
at all. It was just a few lines from Lucy Sinclair, written from
the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, telling Lance that he need not worry
about Lyn, and that he would hear no more for a week or so. All this
pointed to the fact that Mrs. Sinclair was going to America. But why
this further mystery? With a feeling of irritation and disgust, Lance
pitched the letter into the fire.

The leaden minutes kept lagging on, and the crowd in the park
thickened. Not a tenth part of these people would ever get into the
house. A little knot of journalists were prowling about the garden, and
one enterprising lady in spectacles and close-cropped hair was busy
taking snapshots. Lance was not displeased to see a few figures in
uniform.

Midday boomed out slowly from the big stable clock; the doors were
thrown back, and the public crowded into the ballroom. The place was
packed with a mass of perspiring humanity; they flowed right away
to the Coroner's table. For once in his life Long was helpless. An
indignity like this had been beyond his most uneasy dreams.

Lance pushed his way up to the table with a feeling that every eye was
upon him. He could see that the Coroner was looking unusually grave and
that he had a yellow-hued paper in his hand, beyond doubt a current
copy of the "Mirror."

"Before we formally open the proceedings, I have a few remarks
to make," he said. "I have a copy of a weekly paper called the
'Mirror.' In this paper is a gross libel on Sir Lancelot Massey. But
Sir Lancelot will probably look after his own interests. The libel is
a flagrant contempt of Court; a direction to the jury, and a practical
settlement of the matter before the inquiry is concluded. Legal steps
will be taken to punish the guilty parties; meanwhile, I hope that any
of the jury who have read that article will put it out of their minds."

One of the twelve shook his head doggedly.

The sight of a thing in print is wonderfully convincing to the mind of
the ignorant. And the shock-headed juryman had a standing grievance
against the family of Massey.

"Supposin' as how it's true?" he said, truculently.

"Perhaps Sir Lancelot would like to make a statement?" the Coroner
suggested.

For Massey had arisen to his feet indignantly. He flashed a defiant
glance round the room, but he could discern few friendly faces there.

"I am greatly obliged to you, sir," he said. "The representative of
that rag yonder came to me with two interviews already written. The
one was couched in the most complimentary language, the other was the
tissue of lies most of you have seen. Unless I paid 100 down, the
libel would be published in due course. I thrashed the scoundrel who
made the suggestion, and he has not dared to take steps to bring me to
justice."

"Have you got any proofs of that, sir?" asked the shock-headed man.

"I am afraid you must take my word for it," Lance said bitterly. "I am
on my oath."

But the recalcitrant juryman refused to be convinced. He had ever been
ready to abide by everything he saw in print, and the principles of
a lifetime were not to be uprooted like this. Lance glanced at the
Coroner, and the latter smiled.

"I am prepared to answer any questions that Mr. Potter may put to me,"
Lance said.

The Coroner was understood to say that the whole thing was irregular,
but he made no further protest. Potter turned upon his quarry eagerly.
He had had greatness thrust upon him. Under happier circumstances he
would have made an excellent lawyer.

"You be engaged to Miss Verity?" he asked, tentatively.

Lance admitted the fact freely. He also confessed that his partiality
for the lady in question had been the cause of friction between himself
and Sir George, his uncle. All these facts were set out with brutal
frankness in the "Mirror." The Coroner writhed uneasily in his chair
as Mr. Potter proceeded to score points in rapid succession.

"Very well," the latter said. "If your uncle had lived and you had
married Miss Verity you would have been a pauper. Therefore, it was
lucky for you that your uncle died."

"Up to the present I fail to see it," Lance said, bitterly.

"But he did die, and you were like to benefit by it. You knew nothing
about the will?"

"The will came as a great surprise to me."

"Just what that there 'Mirror' says," Potter exclaimed,
triumphantly. "Also that you wanted Sir George out of the way. And then
Sir George leaves a letter saying as how he's taken his own life. And
that letter was copied from a play of yours. If you deny that----"

"I don't deny it," Lance interrupted. "The fact only makes the mystery
all the more inexplicable. I have here in my pocket a copy of the play,
containing a facsimile, or what is practically a facsimile, of that
letter. But I had nothing to do with it."

"Um!" Potter grunted. "Somebody killed Sir George."

"Nobody killed Sir George," Lance cried. "He committed suicide. Beyond
all possible doubt that letter was in his own handwriting. Every test
absolutely proves the fact. Nothing you can say or do can alter that
truth."

Potter shook his head and muttered something. He had blundered up
against a stone wall, and this one solid fact had brought up his line
of argument all standing. His was not the kind of intellect that can
double back. He sat down in his chair and declared that he had no more
questions to ask. But his dogged air seemed to say he was not in the
least deceived by the cunning of Sir Lancelot.

"Perhaps it would be as well to thrash this matter out whilst we are
about it," the Coroner suggested. "You were not on friendly terms with
the deceased, Sir Lancelot?"

"Well, I should hardly go so far as that," Lance said.

"You mean that there was no actual quarrel?"

"My uncle never quarrelled with anybody. But I was very anxious to
marry Miss Verity, and he was just as anxious to prevent me."

"Did he give any reason for his objection?"

"Yes. He recognised the fact that most of the Masseys were weak-minded,
and he was very anxious for more robust blood in the family. And you
see it is on record that insanity existed among the Veritys. Many here
will know that."

"Miss Verity's father was the central figure of a distressing tragedy?"

"Quite so. That to a matter of record. Hence Sir George's horror of
my approaching marriage. He told me--and he meant every word that he
said--that if I persisted, everything that he could leave elsewhere
would be alienated from me."

"Sir George had told you this more than once?"

"Frequently. It was a favorite topic with him latterly."

"Was the matter mentioned on the night of his death?"

"Yes, directly after dinner. The discussion took the form of an
ultimatum. I did not see my poor uncle again till I found him in his
chair, dead."

The Coroner looked grave, and Potter wagged his head sagely. On the
face of it these were damning admissions. An uneasy stir ran through
the packed audience. The mystery was apparently complete or insoluble,
but here was the man confessing that he stood to benefit by the death
of his uncle, and whose own composition had been recorded as evidence
of suicide. If the audience had been polled at that moment, by an
immense majority Lancelot Massey would have been voted as a dangerous
and preternaturally cunning criminal.

Lance sat down at length, and Wallace stood up to give evidence.
Asked if he had seen any reasons why his late client should have
committed suicide, he declared that he had not. Sir George was not a
strong-minded man, but he had a fine lucidity of mind.

"Then you saw nothing strange in his will?" the Coroner asked.

"Well, I won't go quite so far as that," Wallace said thoughtfully.
"You see, my late client had a perfect mania on the subject of
heredity. That he should have chosen such an executor as Mr. Malcolm
Stott makes no difference to the case. The will itself shows great
lucidity. It was drawn up by a great London firm and witnessed by two
of the leading physicians of the day--Sir Spencer Wilkins and Sir
Lionel Graves. Both of these gentlemen had examined my late client, and
they will no doubt tell you what conclusions they formed, if necessary."

Again the audience stirred, for the names Wallace had mentioned were
very exalted names indeed. The suicide during a temporary aberration of
intellect theory was getting very thin. And the more thin the theory
became the worse it looked for Lancelot Massey.

"Under ordinary circumstances everything would have gone to the present
holder of the title?" the Coroner asked.

"I presume so," Wallace said guardedly. "Sir George was exceedingly
fond of his nephew, and very proud of him into the bargain. But he was
not the man to discuss family matters freely."

"You did not find him morbid-minded?"

"Not in the least. He had a horror of violence or extremes of any kind.
Unless I had seen that letter I should have utterly declined to believe
that he had committed suicide."

"You have no doubt as to the genuineness of the handwriting?"

"None whatever. Beyond question Sir George wrote that letter. No, I
have no theory. I was never so utterly puzzled over a thing in my life."

There was a pause in the proceedings as Wallace resumed his seat, and
then Dr. Burlinson nodded to the Coroner. He was perfectly cool and
collected, save for the glittering gleam behind his glasses. He desired
to be sworn in a dry, self-contained tone.

"If you can throw some light on the matter," the Coroner suggested,
"why----"

He paused significantly. Nobody appeared to be particularly interested
besides Massey. He felt his heart beating a little quicker than usual.

"It was at my instigation that the inquiry was adjourned," said the
doctor. "Since the last hearing I have made a post-mortem examination
of the deceased. At the time I decided that there was some strange
mystery here, and events have justified my forecast. It is generally
believed that Sir George died of wounds self-inflicted or otherwise by
a razor."

The packed audience swayed forward eagerly. Even the Coroner was
startled out of his official calm.

"Do you mean to combat that suggestion?" the latter asked.

"Certainly I do," Burlinson said fiercely. "On the face of it, my
statement seems absurd. There was the wound, the blood, and the razor;
but Sir George Massey didn't die that way all the same. When that razor
was used he was dead already!"

A cry rose like one voice from the listeners, a cry of amazement and
incredulity. It was some little time before silence could be restored.

"It sounds beyond the bounds of reason," the Coroner exclaimed. "Do you
mean to say that after Sir George had made his written confession and
destroyed himself, in some way yet to be disclosed, somebody made a
murderous attack upon his dead body?"

Ears were strained to catch the reply. Burlinson stood quite calmly,
not a bit affected by the excitement seething around him.

"That is exactly what I do mean to say," he replied; "and what is more,
I am in a position to prove it. And in so grave a statement as this
I am not going to stand by my own sole opinion. I have consulted Sir
Spencer Wilkins and Sir Lionel Graves, both of whom were acquainted
with Sir George's physical attributes, and they are of the same opinion
as myself--that when my late patient was attacked with that razor he
was already dead. Oh, I am not talking nonsense, I assure you."

Again the cry burst out, and once more excitement reigned supreme.

"You can tell us about it?" the Coroner suggested.

"I could in time, and I will," Burlinson said coolly; "but not now.
You may adjourn the inquest to a further day if you will. But for the
present, and in the interests of justice, I utterly decline to say
another word."

The Coroner looked down at Inspector Lawrence, who nodded approval.

"Quite right, sir," the latter said. "I ask for an adjournment till
this day fortnight."




Chapter XI.--The "Mirror" is Dimmed.

Silverburn House sounds like a sufficiently important address off
the Strand, and the palatial pile in question presents an imposing
appearance. But Silverburn House is not entirely given over to colossal
suites of offices; for instance, there are several suites of rooms
up amongst the chimneys within the reach of the modest and retiring.
Still, the address is the same, and appeals to the imagination, like
the "rooms" of Dick Swiveller.

In one of these gables, like the modest violet, the "Mirror"
flourished. The "offices" consisted of one room divided by means of a
canvas screen. Not that it much mattered, for the "Mirror" people
were shy of publicity--for themselves--and great literary deeds have
oft been done in the most commonplace environment.

In this modest retreat many brilliant and atrocious libels were written
by Ekstein, proprietor of the "Mirror," and his chief of the staff,
Blake. These, with scurrilous cuttings from kindred periodicals, formed
the weekly issue of the paper. It was deliciously simple, and it
paid--for there were many timid victims who preferred the blackmail to
publicity.

With a shade over his right eye and a bandage on his right wrist, Blake
sat muttering and cursing over some peculiarly atrocious gossip, he was
working up. The small Jew boy who made up the balance of the office
staff was busily engaged killing flies with the aid of a piece of
elastic. Ekstein himself was out on business. He had gone to draw 200
from the latest and most foolish of his victims, and Blake was wishing
him back again. For "business" had been very slack of late, and Blake's
breakfast had been of the sketchiest description. Moreover, he was
without tobacco or the means of procuring it. All this added to Blake's
natural anxiety. And this was the third time Ekstein had tried to draw
that little cheque. The victim was a fool, but he seemed to be very
fond of his money.

"Boaz," said Blake, "go as far as Gretton's office, and see if you can
find the boss."

The small boy with the large nose put his elastic in his pocket and
slid down the stairs. At the expiration of a long half-hour he came
back breathless. His beautiful eyes gleamed with excitement, and
he staggered round the office like a revolving Bailey on a certain
historic occasion. Blake brought him up standing with a cuff that he
did not in the least resent.

"Idiot!" Blake cried. "Have you seen the governor?"

"'Ave I seen the governor?" Boaz asked, ironically. "Rather! My hat!
Going to Bow-street in a keb with a couple of 'tecs--and the prosecutor
behind in a 'ansom keb. Prosecutor Mr. James Gretton. Charge,
attempting to extract money by threats. 'Tec hidden in the room and
'eard it all--so a boy in Gretton's office told me."

Blake's big red face paled slightly. He was conscious of a queer lump
in the back of his throat. So it had come at last. Well, they had had
a good innings, but the result was inevitable. Sooner or later, they
were bound to drop upon a shrewd man who looked quite otherwise, and
Gretton, unfortunately, had proved to belong to the latter fraternity.

Then suddenly Blake grabbed his hat. He tore off his ink-stained office
coat, and donned the frock which so sadly needed rejuvenation. In
his own phraseology, he was in this thing "up to the neck." As soon
as Ekstein was safely housed they would be after him. Already there
was a heavy step on the stairs and a knock at the door. Visitors were
not usually encouraged at the "Mirror" office. More than once much
painful violence had followed their advent.

Blake dived under the table behind the screen.

"I'm out, Boaz," he whispered, hoarsely. "Gone into the country on
business."

Boaz nodded, quite equal to the occasion. The visitor particularly
desired to see Mr. Blake. With the bland and innocent gaze of a child,
Boaz gave the desired information. A few minutes later, and Blake was
creeping down the stairs with his heart in his mouth. Boaz calmly
helped himself to some thirty shillings' worth of loose stamps, and
turned his back on literature for all time.

Blake stood looking dizzily up the Strand. He had been in evil case
before, but never in one quite so hard as this. He was in danger of
imminent arrest; once the ball was started there would be no lack
of evidence against him. And his Majesty's judges were prejudiced
against blackmailing. Moreover, Blake had no credit, and his money was
absolutely exhausted.

He was ready to do anything, murder if necessary, to put him in funds.
He ought to be on his way to America by this time--or, say, Jersey.
That was the way he had escaped once before--by way of Jersey and St.
Malo in a fishing smack. But here he was, tied by the leg for the sake
of a few paltry pounds. The whole thing had burst with such amazing
suddenness that Blake was trembling and dazed still.

Then he became aware of the fact that somebody was addressing him.
Gradually that somebody evolved itself into a white-haired lady with
glasses--a lady with a penetrating glance and an exceedingly resolute
chin. Blake removed his worn hat with a flourish. It was just possible
that there might be a way out here.

"I am Mrs. Sinclair," the lady said. "I have come to London on purpose
to see you. Perhaps you have not forgotten me."

Blake averred that he was ashamed to admit that such was the case. And
yet he felt that he had seen those clear-cut features somewhere.

"What can I do for you?" he said politely. "It seems a strange request
to make, but, if you happen to have such a thing as a sovereign about
you for a few hours----"

"I haven't," Lucy Sinclair said gravely. "Still, when we get to
America----"

"America?" Blake gasped. Certainly it was a morning of adventures. He
had lost his occupation, he stood in imminent danger of arrest, and
now he had come across a middle-aged lunatic of ladylike and pleasing
appearance.

"America," Lucy Sinclair said firmly. "I have travelled in more
congenial company, but that is a mere detail. Still, as you will
travel steerage----. But I can see you want to know who I am. My name
I have already told you. As to the rest, it was I who helped Colonel
Borrowdaile over those silver mine frauds."

Blake gasped, and his big knees knocked together. There was a certain
ghastly blue pallor on his face; a great bead of perspiration trickled
down his forehead.

"You are not going to rake up that?" he asked.

"Neither that nor anything else," Mrs. Sinclair said gravely. "I am
going to America for a certain purpose, and it is necessary that you
should accompany me. I fancy I have stumbled upon a plot far more
cunning than anything your brain ever devised--and that little scheme
was worked out during the time you were connected with the New York
'Record.'"

"Not in my time," Blake stammered. "I was--was----"

"Comparatively honest then. That was before you found a fitting field
for your greet talents. Here is my card. You are to call at that
address at 3 o'clock."

Blake promised with alacrity. Fortune had played into his hand again.
The very opportunity he was longing for had presented itself. His
occupation was gone, he was utterly penniless and in hourly danger of
arrest. America sounded like paradise to him--like a cool spring in a
parched desert. And once across the water he could easily give this
woman the slip.

"I shall only be too pleased to be of service to you," he said, in
his most flamboyant manner. "And a trip to America is essential
to my well-being just now. But literature, my dear lady, has its
drawbacks. How often were some of its brightest lights--er--hard up.
Goldsmith--Chatterton----"

"And Blake," Mrs. Sinclair said drily. "Here are five shillings--quite
enough to last till 3 o'clock, provided that you don't squander it
paying your debts, or other eccentricities of that kind. I propose to
pay you liberally later on, but for the present I am not going to put
temptation in your way. Sobriety may be painful, but it is absolutely
necessary."

Lucy Sinclair turned on her heel, leaving Blake to the contemplation of
the two half-crowns in his grimy hand. He made his way cautiously along
the Embankment and so across Westminster Bridge. He would be safe there
for the present. He invested twopence in having his beard removed,
and a further eightpence in the purchase of a pair of cheap, tinted
spectacles. At an old clothes emporium, he bartered his frock coat and
top hat for a Norfolk jacket and a soft Homburg hat, thereby augmenting
his exchequer to the extent of three shillings over the deal. When he
had lunched and drunk and lighted a home-made cigarette he found the
outlook of a far more roseate description. It was better than a cell at
Bow-street, anyway. And his lunch had made a different man of him. He
swaggered up the Strand presently, past Silverburn House, where a man
in plain clothes was doing nothing with an obvious air. Blake chuckled.

He was punctual in calling at the private hotel where Mrs. Sinclair was
staying. She treated him in a caustic manner that jarred on his nerves.

"Now I am going straight to the point," she said. "The other day you
came down to Broadwater to see my nephew on business. He refused to
be blackmailed over the matter, and he expressed his feelings with
considerable freedom. Who put you up to that idea?"

"It came indirectly from Stott," Blake admitted. "Stott and I used to
be friends."

"Yes, in the States. That is precisely the reason why you and I are
going to America. Did it ever occur to you that Malcolm Stott is a far
more acute man than yourself?"

"What? Just now?" Blake asked. "No, I can't say it has."

"I don't mean now. I mean before Stott dissolved his brains in alcohol.
Yes, when the time comes I shall be in a position to prove that
Stott used you on several occasions without you having the slightest
knowledge of the fact. Even in his present condition he has used you
again."

"Pardon me if I fail to see it, Madame."

"Well, it is in this way. Stott apparently had no further use for you.
Then why did he let you know what snug quarters he had at Broadwater?
Under ordinary circumstances he would have known that you would be
always pestering him for money. To obtain that money you would not
have hesitated to threaten Stott with an exposure of his past. And
in the face of it, he lets you know where he is and what a good time
he is having. Moreover, he contrives to inform you as to the strange
coincidence of that letter of Sir George Massey's and the letter in my
nephew's play. He also posts you as to Sir George's prejudice against
Miss Verity and of my nephew's affection for her. Why?"

"I expect I'm extra dense to-day," Blake said sullenly.

"Then perhaps a mere woman may be permitted to enlighten you. Stott
knew exactly how you were getting your living and how you would jump
at the chance of so splendid an opportunity of levying blackmail. He
also knew the temper of my nephew. He knew that you would get soundly
thrashed--which you were, to my own great satisfaction. And Stott knew
just what you would do out of revenge. His little scheme blackened my
nephew's name, which was just what he wanted. He must have chuckled
hugely when he saw you limping out of the park the other day."

Mrs. Sinclair's little shaft hit the mark. If she was bent on inflaming
Blake against his quondam ally, she was succeeding beyond her utmost
expectations. And Blake's respect for the clear-eyed woman before him
was increasing rapidly. Hitherto he had only been angry with Stott
because his scheme had failed; but now he could see matters in another
light. Nor was the logic of the position lost upon him. Mrs. Sinclair
had put it pithily and clearly, and there was reason in every word that
she said. Blake ground his teeth as he saw how he had been fooled.

"Stott is a great scoundrel," he said.

"He is," Mrs. Sinclair replied. "Behind his baby face and watery eyes
lies a brain that for cunning cannot be beaten. For years now that
rascal has been working out a plan to get my late brother Sir George
and the family estates into his grip. Ten years that scheme has been
slowly ripening; for 10 years those cunning tentacles were wrapping
round Sir George. He had no secrets from Stott, and Stott played his
knowledge boldly. If something is not done soon all the property will
pass to Stott. And there is but one way of defeating him, and that is
to get to the root of the colossal lie on which the whole fabric is
built. To trace that lie I have to go to the States and you have to
accompany me. It is just as well to disguise yourself, because you will
have to go amongst people whom it will be judicious to appear not to
know. Do you understand?"

"Partly," Blake said. "If this is a game to knock Stott out you can
count on me using every endeavor to assist you. Pay me well and I'll
not trouble you over scruples. But I don't see why you want me."

"I was just coming to that. It is your knowledge of New York
papers that I need--the papers of 10 years ago. I spoke just now
of Borrowdaile and the mine frauds. You know how ingeniously the
newspapers were worked for that, and you know that Stott was at the
bottom of it all. Well, he had built up the wall of fraud and deceit
round Broadwater in precisely the same way. Directly I saw you two
together the other day it came upon me like an inspiration. And here
was the very man I wanted to my hand--a man whom I had in my power.
And this is why you are here to-day, and this is why you are going to
America."

Blake nodded. His luck was in again. He would play his new-found ally
fairly if it suited his book to do so, if not he would play her false.
All the same he would have liked to have had a little more information
to go upon.

"Do you allude to any particular New York paper?" he asked.

Mrs. Sinclair saw the drift of the question and smiled.

"I must not tell you too much," she replied. "But the paper I
particularly refer to is the New York 'Record.' Amongst the dirty
piles of the back numbers of that Journal lies the secret that is to
save the Massey family from absolute ruin."




Chapter XII.--An Unexpected Meeting.

Martin Blake's dream was destined to an early awakening so far as money
was concerned. He was going to have no royal time at Lucy Sinclair's
expense. He was to be on board the "Campanella" at Liverpool on the
following Thursday, and a steerage ticket had been procured for that
purpose. As to the rest, Mrs. Sinclair had given him just three pounds
to last five days, including his journey to Liverpool. His wardrobe
could be replenished in New York.

"What have I done to deserve this generosity?" Blake asked bitterly.
Mrs. Sinclair laughed aloud. One of the strong points of that
remarkable lady's character was that she never lost her temper.

"Work first and pay after," she said. "As for your deserts, you are
getting more than you are entitled to. Do you suppose I can't see that
you are most anxious to get out of the country? If you could only have
seen your face that morning I met you outside the 'Mirror' office!
Then you shave off your beard and wear tinted glasses! I propose to pay
you and to make use of you, but I don't trust you a single inch. Now
go."

And Blake went meekly enough. Well, perhaps he could use this woman
later on, though he had his doubts about it. At any rate she might have
given him a hint as to what she was really after. What was it that lay
buried amidst the musty flies of the "Record"? Blake was utterly
at sea over the business. Still, he was bound to find out sooner or
later, and then he would know how to make terms for himself. Meanwhile
it was not unpleasant to sit in the modest room and puff a cigarette
as he read that Ekstein had been committed for trial, and that the
magistrate refused bail. Anything was better than a gaol, as Blake knew
by experience.

Scarcely had Blake disappeared than Mrs. Sinclair got her modest
belongings together and departed from London. She went down to Brighton
by the 5.40 Pullman express, and drove at once to 5 Grove Park Villas,
where she asked to see Miss Verity. Miss Verity was just having her
dinner in her private room--if the lady would send in her name. Mrs.
Sinclair gently insinuated her way into the house in her own quick
style, and a moment later she was looking reproachfully at Lyn.

"No emotions yet," she said. "Finish your dinner first, or ring the
bell and give me some. And whatever you do, don't weep into the soup."

Lyn laughed unsteadily, and choked back her tears. And she was grateful
to Lucy Sinclair for the easy flippancy of her address. Also she was
terribly lonely. A great thankfulness filled her heart as she looked
into the other's strong, kindly face.

"How did you find me?" she asked presently.

"Intuition," Miss Sinclair said calmly. "My dear, of all the mental
gifts, intuition is the foremost and most useful. You chose to run
away, leaving a few vague words for me. Whether or not you did a wise
thing makes no difference for the present. You ran away because you
were frightened that a certain thing would be discovered. As far as
I know, you have no relations in England. I have heard you say that
as a child you were very happy in this house, and that the woman who
keeps it used to be like a mother to you. And a few days ago you were
longing for Brighton. I hate the place myself, but that is a detail.
And everybody who has done anything foolish or is going to do anything
foolish repairs to Brighton. I recollected the name of your friend
here, and I just came absolutely certain of finding you."

Lyn kissed the smooth, straight brow of her friend affectionately.

"You are a darling!" she said; "and the most tactful woman in England.
Most of my friends would have scolded me furiously; but I see you are
going to do nothing of the kind. And though we have been over an hour
sitting at the dinner table, you haven't asked me a single question."

Lucy Sinclair smiled benignly. She knew perfectly well that the girl
would open her heart presently. She saw the color creeping back into
the lovely face, she saw Lyn expanding out of the shell of her misery
like a flower. And presently, when they had passed under the electric
circles of the Palace Pier, and sat looking over at the Worthing
Lights, Lyn began to talk.

"Do you know why I left Broadwater?" she asked.

"Fancy one woman asking another that question!"

"Aunt Lucy, I believe you would joke with a Lord Chancellor or an
Archbishop. I left Broadwater because I was afraid to stay. Not that
I minded for my own sake. It was for Lance that I was disturbed. And
Stott appeared to be on the verge of making a discovery that would
have ruined Lance. That little wretch was getting on my nerves, and
therefore I came away."

"In which you acted very foolishly--" there was a note of reproach in
Mrs. Sinclair's voice for the first time--"very foolishly indeed.
Surely you might have gone away in a more rational and natural manner.
And when you had gone, what did Stott say?"

"Something exceedingly unpleasant, no doubt."

"He said it was the family insanity breaking out in you."

Lyn's delicate face flamed scarlet. She shuddered as if something
loathsome had touched her. It was some little time before she spoke
again.

"He is very clever," she said. "If he only kept away from the brandy
bottle he would beat us all. And fancy him thinking of a point like
that! But I am not mad, Auntie--only reckless and troubled for the sake
of the man I have ruined."

"Then why did you marry him, my child?" Mrs. Sinclair asked, calmly.

Lyn gave a little gasping cry. The color fled from her face, and left
it with a tinge like old ivory.

"Did Lance tell you?" she whispered. "Did Stott find out, after all?"

"Not that I am aware of. Stott may suspect, though he has been careful
not to betray himself to me. My dear, I guessed it. I felt quite
certain that you were thinking more about Lance than yourself, which
is the way of good women all the world over. You argued that if Stott
found out he would crush Lance at a blow. And the creepy, crawly little
wretch was getting on your nerves. And you have been married for some
time."

"Wonderful woman! How did you find that out?"

"By a careful study of your character. It must have been some time
ago, because you would never have consented to marry Lance after you
had known of Sir George's will. Nor would Lance have compromised your
future. It was a foolish thing to do, but there was nothing criminal or
self-seeking about it. Am I not right?"

"Perfectly right, you amazing seer. I have been married nearly a year."

"And your marriage cannot be concealed much longer?"

"No. How wonderfully you seem to understand everything! The knowledge
that the truth must be told soon is at once a terror and a delight to
me. It need not be yet; it need not be for a month or more. Meanwhile I
leave Lance with a free hand. And many things may happen in a month. I
should like to go far, far away, for--for--you understand?"

"I understand perfectly, Lyn. And you shall go far away. I shall let
Lance know that you are safe and well, and then you and I are going
to New York. You need not look surprised; I am not going to cross the
Atlantic at much physical inconvenience for amusement; I am going there
to learn the truth of the tragedy that darkens your life, Lyn. And if I
can prove that we have all been deluded, what then?"

"It will be like the ending of a fairy story," Lyn cried. "But I must
not build up hope on that. Did we not have the pitiful story in black
and white?"

Mrs. Sinclair opened her lips to say something, and then changed her
mind.

"I am not so sure of it," she said. "At any rate, I am going to sift
the thing to the bottom. Fortune has given me the very tool I required,
and that tool is the avowed enemy of Malcolm Stott. And now, what was
in that letter there was such a fuss about?"

"The letter!" Lyn stammered. "Did--did they know?"

"Long saw you. He was quite right to tell that you had opened an
American letter addressed to Sir George, and that the contents seemed
to greatly disturb you. And you should have seen Stott's face. A man
about to be hanged would have looked like a comedian alongside of him!"

"Yes, because he knew that the letter referred to him!" Lyn cried,
eagerly. "There were others from the same source that had been stolen.
I helped myself to this one. Here it is."

She took the envelope from her pocket. Inside was a sheet of thin
type-written paper with a few lines.



"Are you going to take no heed of my warning?" it ran. 

"You are being made the sport of a scoundrel, who is deliberately 
wrecking two innocent lives for his own ends. 

You are under a strange delusion. 

Go to Martin Blake, c/o 'Mirror' office, Silverburn House. W.C., and
pay him well for the story of the 'Record' office and July 17, 1888.

This is written by no friend of yours, but by one who would go far if
he dared to injure Malcolm Stott. 

Don't leave it till too late."



That was all--no heading or superscription or anything. To Lyn it
conveyed nothing, but to Mrs. Sinclair every word was pregnant with the
deepest meaning.

"This is really a great find," she said. "And that date is most
important."

"Who is this Martin Blake?" Lyn asked.

Mrs. Sinclair laughed. Everything was working out for her wonderfully.

"My ally in the forthcoming campaign," she declared. "As a matter of
fact I have known Martin Blake for years. He is almost as great a
scoundrel as Malcolm Stott, and he will throw men over without the
least compunction if he can better himself by so doing. But I have a
stone in the sling for him if he attempts to play me false. And now I
am not going to answer any more questions, and I am not going to say
any more than this--before a month is past Stott will be powerless
for further harm, and our king will come into his own again. How
wonderfully effective those rings of electric light are!"

So it came about that Lyn walked home along the King's-road feeling
happier than she had done for some considerable time. But Mrs. Sinclair
would not hear of her writing to Lance so long as there was a chance of
the letter falling into Stott's hands.

"Lance shall know you are with me," she said. "We can manage the
American business far better than he, with my knowledge, and Lance is
best at Broadwater keeping an eye on Stott. To-morrow you will have to
look to your wardrobe."

The next two days passed quietly enough, and Thursday evening saw the
two at Liverpool. Mrs. Sinclair satisfied herself that Blake was on
board, and then with the utmost fortitude and resignation made up her
mind to be seriously indisposed for the next three days. Long past
Queenstown the sea was beautifully smooth, but Mrs. Sinclair refused to
be comforted.

"I can't help it," she said. "Rough or smooth, it's all the same to me.
It is one of the faults of my construction. Leave me to my dry biscuits
and soda-water, and enjoy yourselves. On the third day I shall be as
the best of you."

The voyage was a long delight to Lyn. The motion, the variety, the
freshness brought back the color to her cheeks and the strength to
her limbs. There was always something novel to look at, some bit of
comedy to be studied. And on the fourth day there was a talk of private
theatricals and a great demand for a little man who came creeping up on
deck with pallid face and mild blue eyes. He was desolated, he said,
but he was really not up to it. They must pray excuse him, as his
acting days were over. At the first sound of the little man's voice Lyn
fled below and summoned her aunt. That lady was prepared to come on
deck looking none the worse for her indisposition.

"Auntie," Lyn said breathlessly, "I've a tremendous surprise in store
for you."

Mrs. Sinclair declared that she was past the age of surprises, but
she certainly gasped as she saw a little figure in a long deck chair,
smoking a cigarette. He was quite by himself now, as the mob of amateur
players had found a younger American actor who was by no means averse
to be lionised.

The little figure in the deck chair looked round him, and his face grew
pale as he saw Mrs. Sinclair. His hands were trembling, too, but that
was a normal matter. He rolled out of the chair with an assumption of
ease and bonhommie he was far from feeling. Lucy Sinclair could see the
terror in his eyes; she saw how the shaking left hand was clutched over
his heart.

"This," he gasped painfully, as if he had run far, "this is a totally
unexpected pleasure. And Miss Verity also! This is a paradise made
complete."

"You are easily satisfied with your paradise, Mr. Stott," Lucy said
coldly.

"Then I should be difficult to please. So you are going to New York--I
mean to the States. I also am going to the States. I was exceedingly
ill after you left Broadwater, and my doctor insisted on a thorough
change. I suggested Torquay--but he was adamant. 'A sea voyage or you
are a dead man,' he said. For myself, as a dead man, I had no possible
use, and voila tout. If you will excuse me for a moment----"

He turned away and staggered below. Mrs. Sinclair looked after him
grimly.

"It was a nasty shock for him," she said. "Did you ever see a man in
such a state of pitiable terror! It will take a very large dose of
brandy to settle his nerves again. And yet I would not have this happen
for a great deal."

"Why not, Auntie? He can do us no harm."

"Can he not? He is going to New York to try and destroy the very thing
I am after. And he knows I am after it. I hope to goodness he hasn't
seen Martin Blake on----"

A steward came up and placed a note in the speaker's hand. She hastily
tore it open, and saw it was in Blake's handwriting.

"Danger," it ran. "Stott is aboard the Campanella. I have seen him, but
he hasn't recognised me. Whatever you do don't let him know I am here."

Mrs. Sinclair tore the letter in tiny fragments.

"Does the man take me for a fool?" she said tartly. "Lyn, the play has
commenced."




Chapter XIII.--Diplomacy.

The packed perspiring mass stored signs of deepest dejection and
disappointment. It was like the sudden downfall of the curtain ere the
crux of the play in consequence of the sudden indisposition of the
heroine. Burlinson was a great man in that part of the world, but never
had his neighbors regarded him with the same awe as at present.

"Wouldn't they like to know!" he murmured to Lance. "Wouldn't they like
to dissect me and see what I have got hidden in my brain."

"Have you got anything hidden in your brain?" Lance asked.

Burlinson watched the audience filing out with a queer grim smile.

"They've only got to wait till the next performance," he said. "And, as
they paid nothing to come in, they can't logically grumble. And I have
something concealed in my brain beyond the bee that you so broadly hint
at. I said just now that poor Sir George was dead before that razor was
laid to his throat, and I have the highest professional opinion behind
me. And before long I am going to lay my hands on the criminal."

"Two criminals according to your own showing. What a maddening mystery
it is!"

"Oh, I see what you are driving at. And you are logical, anyway. Now
that we have the house to ourselves again, I'll go and see my patient."

By dint of threats and the assistance of the police, Broadwater had
been restored to its usual placidity again. Lance gave a little sigh of
satisfaction, and he lighted a cigarette and gazed thoughtfully across
the peaceful park. The frightened deer were standing knee-deep in the
bracken again; a couple of gorgeous pheasants strutted across the lawn.

Where was it all going to end, Lance wondered. And who were the two
men who had been moved by such a deadly hatred of Sir George? Was it
possible that the latter had belonged to some secret society? The idea
of his being killed and then attacked, as he lay dead, was horrible.
Perhaps he had had a sudden warning, and the fright had killed him.
Perhaps that suicide's letter had been deliberately intended to hide
the truth. Again, it was possible that Sir George had been forced to
write it, and thus save possible exposure. And how had the assassin
or assassins managed to enter and leave the house? It must have been
suicide. When Burlinson's theory came to be tested it would collapse
like a child's balloon.

Burlinson himself broke in upon his meditations. His patient was
better, he said, and he had ordered him out into the fresh air.

"An interesting case," he said, drily, "and one that I desire to study.
With that object I am going to invite myself here to dinner to-morrow
night. And my patient must dine with us, too. Don't lacerate his
feelings with any suggestion as to his room being preferable to his
company."

"I don't think you need worry about that," Lance said, bitterly. "The
art of insinuation is lost upon Stott. He can sit through the coldest
evening of slights and contumely with a smile. Nothing short of
dynamite will remove him when he not wanted."

"So much the better," Burlinson growled. "He's better, but his
nerves are terribly shaken. I have been arousing his curiosity over
my evidence to-day. And if you see and hear queer things from Stott
to-morrow night it would be better to ignore them."

"I have been ignoring Stott's queer antics for years," Lance said
bitterly. Burlinson smiled as if well pleased, and took his leave.
Stott kept out of the way for the rest of the day, for which Lance
was grateful. The former was evidently better, according to Long, who
remarked that it looked like a case of reformation, seeing that the
interesting patient had saved a little brandy out of a bottle in the
course of four and twenty hours.

"Which I hope such moderation will last, Sir Lancelot," Long said
gravely.

Lance rebuked this outburst of humor mildly, but the sarcasm appealed
to him. From fleeting glances at Stott the latter seemed to be in sorry
case. There was a wild, uneasy look in his eyes, a furtive, fearsome
glance over his shoulder. The man shook like one in the last stage of
palsy, it was a pitiable, unwholesome sight, and Lance shrank from it.

By dinner time the next night Stott appeared to have pulled himself
together slightly. At any rate he looked a little more like a man as he
came down to the drawing-room. He had had his hair cut, and his linen
was clean for once. That he might have been in the habit of sleeping in
his dress clothes was a detail.

Lancelot listened with distant politeness to Stott's prattle. There was
a suggestion of self-depreciation about Stott that his host had never
noticed before. And then the latter seemed to become suddenly aware of
it himself, and grew self-assertive accordingly.

Burlinson came at length, to Lance's great relief, big, loud, and
assertive. He dined with the air of one who fully appreciates the
pleasures of the table, though he was a moderate man as a rule. He
encouraged Stott to take wine with him. And in this respect Stott was
amiability itself. It was not until the cloth had been drawn and Long
had ushered his subordinates out of the room that Burlinson began to
speak of the fortunes of the house.

He sat with his face in shadow, a long cigar between his teeth. There
was just a glimpse of light on Stott's pallid, twitching features, and
the trembling of his hand as he played with his cigarette. Across the
flowers and the crystal decanters Burlinson watched him.

"Why didn't they finish the inquest to-day?" Stott asked.

There was an uneasy strain in his voice. Lancelot sat silent. Burlinson
had some deep motive behind his speech. Lance wanted to see what it was.

"Because I wouldn't let 'em," Burlinson laughed. His jovial familiarity
expanded Stott, unaccustomed as he was to that kind of thing at
Broadwater. "Because, if I had kept quiet, the jury would have brought
in a verdict of suicide."

Stott gave a queer little laugh; Burlinson flashed him a glance.

"Of course they would," said Stott. "And they would have been perfectly
right."

"My dear sir, they would have been absolutely wrong. The art of
argument is to admit the correct postulate of your opponent--to admit
proven facts. It was a fact that by Sir George's side was found a
letter in his own handwriting saying that he had committed suicide. I
am not going to dispute that for a moment. He wrote the letter, and he
intended to commit suicide----"

"He--he did so by cutting his throat with a razor," Stott cried,
eagerly.

"Nothing of the kind, sir," Burlinson exclaimed. "Sir George couldn't
have cut his throat with a razor, for the simple reason that when the
razor was raised against my old friend he was dead already."

A strange, strangled kind of cry broke from Stott. The lighted match
between his fingers burnt to the flesh, and yet he seemed to have no
cognisance of the fact. There was horror in those blue, watery eyes; a
sickening pallor on his face. Lance began to grow interested.

"You--you couldn't prove that," said Stott, in a faint piping voice.

"Indeed, I could, sir. I could prove it beyond a demonstration. And
I have two great authorities behind me. When the assassin laid that
razor to Sir George's neck he was already dead. Probably the miscreant
imagined that he lay there asleep--with his head on his arms. I am
prepared to admit that all these horrors increase the ghastliness of
the business, but there they are."

"Then Sir George died a natural death after all," Stott cried.

Burlinson shot a significant glance in Lance's direction. It was a
suggestion that the latter should take a hand in the game. He addressed
himself personally to Stott, a thing he had not done for many months.
And Stott appeared to be extravagantly grateful.

"You regard that as a logical suggestion?" he asked.

"Undoubtedly, undoubtedly," Stott piped. "The assassin came too late.
Had he only delayed his coming for another day, Nature would have saved
his soul from crime. In effect, that man was a murderer. And yet he did
no murder."

"That is all very well," said Lance, forcing himself to be friendly
with an effort. "But it does not get rid of the confession of suicide.
If we accept Dr. Burlinson's statement as correct----"

"You will have to do so later on," the doctor interrupted, sotto
voce.

"Very well. My uncle was not murdered----"

"I did not say that," Burlinson burst in again. "I said he was not
murdered with that razor."

He paused and shot another swift glance at Stott. The latter was
laughing in a strange, vacant way, with his eyes wide open and staring
as if he saw something horrible a long way off.

"I don't quite follow you," Lance said.

"Then, let me make my meaning plain," Burlinson went on. "Your uncle
died before the razor came on the scene. He was killed by being
chloroformed. Somebody stood behind him and pressed a cloth saturated
in that medicine over his face. I don't say the assassin meant to kill
him that way, probably not--but Sir George had a weak heart, and he
died."

Stott's rounded eyes came back from vacancy. He looked Burlinson up and
down in a dazed kind of way. The cunning kinks in his soddened brain
slowly came out of tangle.

"Then the thing is simple," he said. "We will put the would-be secret
assassin on one side for the moment. Sir George meant to commit
suicide, and wrote that letter deliberately. And then he took his own
life with an overdose of chloroform."

"Overdose of fiddlesticks," Burlinson cried with well simulated
petulance. "Man, I'm not talking about chloral but chloroform!
Chloroform! Who ever heard of a man taking an overdose of that? And
suppose he proceeded as you suggested. Directly he felt himself going
Sir George would have dropped that soaked cloth and come to himself
again. He couldn't have helped it. With oblivion upon him, would he
have any sense to keep up the pressure? Not a bit of it. The pressure
was applied by somebody who stood behind him. Like this."

Burlinson rose to his feet and came round to Stott's side. Rolling up
his serviette into a rope he dexterously flung it over Stott's face and
drew the bandage tight. The little man screamed and struggled as if
fighting for his life. A chalky pallor came over his cheeks, big drops
of moisture stood on his forehead.

"I--I can't stand it," he said hoarsely. "I've got imagination--and my
nerves are not what they were. And I've not got over the shock of my
poor friend's death yet."

"Anyway, that was how the thing was done," Burlinson said callously.
"There was a bit of a struggle, and the bottle of chloroform upset on
that table amongst Sir George's papers. It was a two-ounce bottle with
an indiarubber cork."

Stott jumped to his feet with a scream. Burlinson watched him narrowly,
psychologically. The study seemed to give zest to his cigar.

"Those nerves of yours again?" he suggested.

Stott seemed to be fighting off something with his hands. He beat upon
the air, he tugged at his throat as if to tear off unseen hands. Then
he collapsed like a wet rag into his chair with a pitiful quivering
groan.

"It's gone," he said. "A face--you never saw such a face! With an
indiarubber cork. What new nonsense am I talking now!"

"An indiarubber cork," Burlinson went on, gravely. "Did I not say a
two-ounce bottle?"

"You are blowing the suicide theory to the winds," said Lance, with a
side glance at Stott.

"If you could only explain that letter----"

"I'll try to. Come, Mr. Stott, a distinguished actor like yourself
should know something about ingenious plots and surprises. Can't you
suggest a raison d'etre for that letter?"

Stott stammered out something, and reached for the brandy decanter. The
glass clinked, and the strong spirit was slopped on the polished lake
of mahogany in a manner that would have brought anguish to the soul of
the late master of Broadwater.

"I can't!" he cried. "I can't think of anything to-night. I feel as if
somebody had taken hold of my brains and squeezed them dry. The mystery
maddens me. And an indiarubber cork!"

He repeated the last few words over and over again vaguely. Burlinson
was studying him critically. Lance more curiously and with a heart that
beat a little faster than usual.

"It might have been obtained by threats," Burlinson said with an eye
upon the ceiling. "Sir George had a great horror of violence, and
perhaps he wrote that letter to save strife or to gain time. Again, it
might have been obtained by pure cunning. Again, it might have formed
part of a series of papers. One thing regarding that letter seems to
have escaped the attention of everybody but myself. There was a number
in the right hand bottom corner."

"Number!" Lance cried. "I never noticed that."

"Sir George was in the habit of numbering his correspondence," said
Stott. "He kept a record of all the letters he wrote and their numbers
in a little book. Sir Lancelot knows that?"

Lance nodded. But Burlinson did not seem to be nonplussed.

"And the late baronet's correspondence was large?" he asked.

Lance and Stott replied that it was, generally reaching fifteen to
twenty letters a day. Burlinson smiled with the air of one not to be
beaten.

"Let us call it ten a day--or three hundred a month," he said. "By this
time in the year that would be a total number of nearly 1800. And yet
the number at the bottom of the letter was only 152. If that letter had
been part of a series of MS. pages----"

Stott rose heavily from the table. He pressed his hand to his head. His
eyes had a bright and yet a vacant look in them.

"I can't stand it," he cried. "I really can't stand it to-night. It
sets me trembling. It is sleep that I want; God send me sleep to-night."

He staggered from the room, and up the stairs. Lance rose and crossed
to the door, and shut it. Then he turned significantly to Burlinson.

"Let him go," said the doctor. "On the whole, it has been an excellent
night's work."




Chapter XIV.--The Key of the Safe.

Lance sat up long and late, pondering over all that Burlinson had done
and said. From the mystic point of view the more he thought over it the
more puzzled he was. And yet Burlinson had most emphatically declared
that Sir George had not committed suicide.

"That man was dead before the razor touched him," Burlinson had said,
as he stood with one foot in the stirrup at parting. "I am confirmed
in that statement by two of the greatest authorities in the world. And
as to a man committing suicide by administering chloroform to himself,
why, the thing is too absurd. At the first touch of unconsciousness the
will power naturally becomes dormant. A man would fall forward and just
lie there till he came round again. Sir George was taken by surprise
from behind, his heart was not equal to the strain and he died. We are
on the track, and we are going to get to the root of the mystery yet."

"But what about that letter?" Lance asked.

"Oh, hang the letter!" Burlinson said irritably. "Good night."

With which he shook up his horse and cantered away down the drive. And
after that Lance sat up and smoked half a dozen cigarettes without
getting any nearer to the solution of the mystery than before. He knew
now that Lyn was safe somewhere, and that he had no occasion to worry
about her for the present. And yet the sense of unrest and miserable
anxiety bore heavily upon him. It was hard to say where it would all
end.

And Stott appeared to be equally troubled in his mind. He came down to
breakfast the following morning--a most unusual thing for him to do. He
looked a little more restless and nervous than usual, his shaky hands
played with a little dry toast, he drank his tea with an air of thirsty
greediness. And above all he was polite--so slavishly, fawning polite
that Lance could have kicked him on the spot.

"A lovely morning," he purred. "The sort of day that gets into the
blood and makes one feel glad to be alive."

Lance wondered what joy life could hold for the trembling broken wreck
opposite him, but he held his peace. He noticed the birdlike curiosity
in the eyes of his companion, and partly anticipated what was coming.

"Dr. Burlinson was very entertaining last night," he said.

"Indeed," Lance responded. "I should hardly have called him so."

"Well, interesting, then. All nonsense all the same. A sort of seance
that thrills one at the time and makes one ashamed the next morning."

"It certainly thrilled you last night," Lance said, gravely.

"I admit it--admit it freely," Stott said, with an air of great candor.
"Our inestimable friend got on my nerves terribly, which, as perhaps
you have observed, are not quite what they ought to be. Eh, what?"

Lance observed gravely that the phenomenon in question had not been
lost upon him, but Stott chose to ignore the sarcasm. He discussed
Burlinson's theory volubly and with great earnestness. He desired to
know what Lance thought about it. And beyond all these swiftly flowing
words there was an uneasy restlessness that told its own tale.

"I confess that I am a convert to Dr. Burlinson's views," Lance said,
watching Stott keenly the while from under his eyebrows. "If you had
stayed up a little longer--but I had better not mention that."

Stott swallowed the execration that rose to his lips. He had dragged
himself out of bed and down to breakfast on purpose to hear what had
happened after his retirement last night. He cursed himself for his own
cowardice, a cowardice that he was powerless to shake off.

"You decline to speak of that?" he asked, almost humbly.

"Emphatically," Lance replied. He was enjoying the imaginative terror
of his vis-a-vis. "Later on, perhaps we may ask your opinion on
certain things."

"But the motive--the motive?" Stott said, imploringly. "Before going
any further you must find a motive. Without an adequate motive a theory
is like emptying a reservoir with a sieve. Sir George was unusually
respected; he had not a single enemy in the world. Under those
circumstances why should anybody deprive him of life?"

"Seems hard, doesn't it?" said Lance. "But suppose a certain individual
called A has a great influence over Sir George. He believes implicitly
in A. Once show Sir George that A was not worthy of his confidence,
and he would have put A outside the house without the smallest
hesitation. Now there is somebody in America who knows a great deal to
A's discredit. This somebody begins to write letters. Sooner or later
the truth must come out. A is driven to desperation--the rest I leave
to your vivid imagination. An actor like yourself must have played the
part many times."

"You have more to say," Stott muttered, hoarsely.

"For the present nothing," Lance replied. "We know that more than
one of the American letters came, and that more than one of them
disappeared. We know that Miss Verity opened one, and thereupon she
disappeared. And I fancy that if we could find Miss Verity now, she
could throw a deal of light on the matter."

"And--and you don't know where she is?"

"For the present I am as much in the dark as you are. But I feel that
fateful letter goes far to the root of the mystery. And I should not
feel in the least surprised to find that Miss Verity has gone to
America to find out for herself."

The cup slipped from Stott's hand and smashed upon the floor. He stood
up gasping and choking as if he had swallowed something that had gone
the wrong way. Lance watched him with cynical amusement. In some way or
other he felt that the pitiful rascal was at the bottom of the whole
business. That Stott had laid violent hands upon Sir George he could
not bring himself to believe. The fellow was far too abject a coward
for that. But he was at the bottom of it all the same. Had he not
purloined those American letters, the contents of which he appeared to
fear so terribly? And had not Lyn disappeared after she had been moved
to open one of those foreign envelopes? And if Lance had not trusted
Lyn so implicitly, he would have been hurt by her want of confidence in
him.

"But the other letter?" Stott gasped, "the letter left by Sir George to
say that----"

"I admit the stumbling-block there. But I am fast coming to regard that
as a marvellous form of conjuring trick. That was a wonderfully good
point that Burlinson made as to the number on the letter. People about
to commit suicide are never quite so methodical as that."

"And where do you suppose the key is to be found?" Stott asked.

"The key is in the lock of Sir George's safe where his papers are
kept," Lance replied.

Directly he uttered the words he repented of them. He saw anger,
recollection, fear, chasing one another across Stott's white, soddened
face. He saw that he had hit the blot and brought back to the listener
certain vital things that he had forgotten. Lance was confirmed in one
of the most important of his theories now, but at the same time he had
been foolish enough to tell Stott exactly what to guard against.

The latter was struggling to fight down his emotion; already he was
looking round for some avenue of escape. Never had he cursed himself
over his cardinal sin as he did now. His recent illness and the horrors
that the brandy bottle had brought upon him had caused him to forget
vital details. A rocky course like his called for the clearest possible
head; the overlooking of the minutest detail might at any moment bring
the whole delicate cunning fabric to the ground. It was almost as if a
man had committed some elaborate murder and left his card case behind.

"You will find very little in Sir George's safe," he said.

"Perhaps not," Lance replied, "but there can be no harm in looking
there."

Stott had got himself in hand once more. He was fighting now for his
future. He waved his hands loftily; he had a touch of the professional
in his manner.

"Festina lente," he said. "The safe shall be examined all in good
time. For the present you will pardon me if I remind you that the
matter concerns me rather than yourself. So long as you are single
Broadwater and its fortune is yours. But Sir George's personal effects
are mine, my dear sir--mine. As his executor----"

"You refuse to examine the safe?" Lance burst out.

Stott deprecated the violence. It was not exactly what one gentleman
had a right to expect from another. Lance rose from his chair and
strode into the hall.

"We'll see about that," he said between his teeth. "We'll overhaul the
safe, and you may exercise your legal authority afterwards. It's simply
amazing that nobody ever thought of it before."

Stott staggered out bleating and protesting. He was as angry as he
dared to be; there was fear as well as indignation in his watery blue
eyes. He protested in the name of the law; he was quite certain that
Lance was about to do something desperate in the way of contempt of
Court. Heedless of these protestations, Lance made his way to the
library.

The big iron safe was let into the corner of the wall. Lance and his
companion reached it simultaneously. The former laid his hand upon the
big brass knob and pulled vigorously. But the sheet-iron door held
fast; there was no sign of a key to be seen.

"Somebody has stolen it," Stott began; "I say that somebody----"

The look of fear and disappointment faded from his face, and he burst
into a forced laugh.

"You might have taken my friendly hint," he said. "Of course there is
nothing--absolutely nothing--in that safe that anybody might not see.
But when you attempt to override me I must--I really must--stand upon
my legal rights. Therefore I felt it my duty to remove the key. When
that safe is opened again it will be in the presence of my lawyers--if
only as a safeguard. Then, my dear sir, you may examine the contents
with the greatest possible pleasure."

It was so admirably done that Lance choked back a desire to
contemptuous speech. Nothing could have been more magnificent than the
ready lie that Stott had sprung upon him. For the man had not the least
notion where the key was. Lance could see that, could recollect Stott's
indignant and ashamed cry before he had recovered himself. And having
made one bad slip, Lance was not going to make another. He allowed the
thing to pass.

"Perhaps you are right," he said, coldly. "You are too clever for me."

Despite this indifference. Lance watched Stott pretty closely for the
rest of the day. The latter wandered about the house in a disconsolate
kind of way; his eyes seemed constantly in search of something,
something that he could not find. Nor had Lance to ask himself many
questions to elucidate the object of his search. The key of the safe
was missing, and Stott was searching for it anywhere and everywhere.

Lance smiled grimly. He knew now that the safe contained a clue of some
kind, or otherwise Stott would not have been so anxious and miserable.
Moreover, the key must be somewhere; nobody in the house was capable
of theft. Finally Stott gave up the search and departed for a walk.
He came back shortly before dinner time, in a condition that filled
Long with deep disgust. With his nerve-strings toned and tightened
by his potations, Stott seemed disposed to be entertaining after the
evening meal. He chatted gaily over the post-prandial cigarettes, Lance
listening and weighing every word that fell from his lips.

"I've been chatting with Burlinson," Stott said, thickly. He helped
himself to claret, and knocked his glass over to his great amusement.

"Clever fellow, Burlinson, though he does ride hobbies."

Lance muttered something coldly. As a matter of fact, Burlinson was in
London, and he knew it.

"Burlinson understands me," Stott went on, his head swaying. "He
appreciates the delicacy of the artistic nature. He knows what nerves
are. What I want, he said, is a voyage. I ought to have a good sea
voyage. I suggested America. Burlinson wouldn't hear of it. The
Mediterranean was the place for me. So I went into Swanley, and booked
my passage by telegram--and there you are. For the next few weeks you
will have to do without Malcolm Stott. See here."

He pushed a telegram across the table, and immediately collapsed under
it himself. Lance glanced at the flimsy. It was addressed to Stott
at the Star Hotel, Swanley, and informed him that a cabin had been
reserved for him aboard the "Campanella" next Thursday. Lance smiled
grimly as he pocketed the telegram. The drunken little man had tried to
deceive him over the Mediterranean; he was going to America instead. He
rang the bell for Long.

"Get Jackson to help you to take that intoxicated creature to bed," he
said. "See that he is made comfortable, and then come to me, Long."

Long complied, not without protest. Half an hour later he returned, a
little more dignified than usual, with the information that Stott was
sound asleep. If Sir Lancelot wanted anything----

"Perhaps you can help me in a little matter," Lance said. "I have been
searching everywhere for the key of Sir George's safe, but I can't find
it anywhere. I saw the key in the safe drawer on the afternoon of my
uncle's death. If you have any idea what can have become of it----"

"That's all right, Sir Lancelot," Long said, calmly. "I used to put Sir
George's papers away every night--except those he was engaged upon. And
I locked them up myself the night as poor master died, and because that
there--I mean Mr. Stott--was prying round and round the safe, why, I
just took the liberty of turning the key in the safe and putting it in
my own pocket."

"You mean to say you have got it now?" Lance asked, eagerly.

"In my pocket-book at this moment," Long replied. "If it was a liberty
I apologise, Sir Lancelot. And I clean forgot all about it."

Under the circumstances Lance was disposed not merely to pardon the
liberty, but to applaud it. But his face betrayed nothing of the
satisfaction within him. He dropped the key carelessly into the pocket
of his dinner jacket, and sat there smoking tranquilly for a time.

Once the servants were gone to bed, he crossed over to the library, and
closed the door behind him. He was either going to find nothing, or he
was going to find a great deal. The key rattled in the lock a little,
for Lance was possessed of a strange unusual nervousness. Then he
turned the steel firmly and the big door came silently open.




Chapter XV.--The Vesta Trio.

Lucy Sinclair, lying back in a long deck chair, announced casually to
Lyn that she was going to give no more heed to Malcolm Stott until New
York was reached.

"I feel that I am alive again," she said. "When you and Lance are
comfortably settled down I shall travel once more. The motion, the
constant change, the queer people to study, all exhilarate me. I am
quite grateful to Stott for giving me this opportunity to live once
more."

For the last day or two Stott had not been greatly in evidence. For one
thing the number of people connected with the theatrical profession on
board the Campanella was unusually large. A good proportion of them
remembered Stott in his palmy days. Moreover, they were getting up a
burlesque to be played the following night, and Stott was cast for one
of the "old women"--that one only sees on the boards of a theatre.

"He means mischief," Lyn said from her own chair. "I heard two of the
Crystal Rose Company discussing miracles after dinner last night, and
one of them declared that the ages of miracles was still extant, seeing
that Stott had been sober ever since he came aboard."

"That's for our benefit," Mrs. Sinclair yawned. "My dear child, Stott
does mean mischief. That man is capable of any atrocity so long as he
can thwart us. Do you suppose that he is on his way to America for
the benefit of his health? Do you believe that he is keeping off the
brandy, that is food and drink to him, from virtuous motives? Not a bit
of it. There will be trouble presently and possibly danger. Meanwhile,
'Carpe diem.' Behold the wife of the 'Lumber King!' See how her
diamond star gleams in the sunlight."

A flashily-dressed, good-humored-looking woman passed along the deck
on her way to a chair. Her big, loud voice sounded pleasant, her
profligacy with the aspirates called aloud for observation. Everybody
on board knew the history of Mrs. Hank Lancey, wife of the "Lumber
King;" indeed, everybody had it direct from that good lady's lips.
At one time she had been a domestic servant, and her husband a dock
laborer. And now the erstwhile domestic wore the famous Aphrodite
diamond star and made friends by her frank, good-natured kindness
everywhere.

"She knows it is in bad taste," Lyn smiled. "But, as she says herself,
'What's good taste to do with me? I like diamonds, and those who don't
like my way can lump it.' Still, she and her stones make the purser's
life a misery to him. Never a liner crossed the Atlantic without one
smart thief aboard of her, and when temptation stares a man out of
countenance like that----"

But Mrs. Sinclair was not listening; she had dropped into a placid
slumber. Lyn rose and crossed the deck to the side. A dainty, little,
fair woman accosted her almost timidly. Stott was rolling more or less
gracefully along the white floor, smoking a cigarette. Lyn could ignore
him altogether by affecting to be interested in her companion. As Stott
passed he saluted flamboyantly. There was just the faintest bend of
Lyn's dainty head.

"Why does Malcolm Stott hate you so?" the little fair woman asked.
She spoke almost wistfully--as if inviting confidence and expecting
to find the invitation repelled. For Sara Vesta, of the famous opera
Vesta trio, had taken a huge fancy to Lyn, who was gracious and sweet
to everybody. To the free, frank, and somewhat giddy little Bohemian, a
character like Lyn's was a new study entirely. It was as if a child had
encountered a fairy, or as if a princess had stooped to a barmaid. How
the men could run after her when they had Lyn to talk to was a matter
of contemptuous amusement to Sara.

"Do you think he hates me?" Lyn asked. "Won't you come and sit down?"

"Won't I!" Sara cried, a look of pleasure in her big blue eyes. "It's
awfully good of you to make so much of me. Those men seem to imagine
that I must needs always be frivolous. I wonder what they would say if
they could see me at home with Tom and the boys!"

Lyn had heard of the two boys. That the fresh, youthful little creature
by her side was the mother of two big boys was a constant source of
wonderment to Lyn. Also that Sara Vesta hated the stage was another
mild surprise. But the boys were at Rugby, and they would have fared
ill but for the forty odd pounds per week earned in the service of the
"Crystal Rose" syndicate.

"Do you know anything of Malcolm Stott?" Lyn asked.

"Do I not!" the other replied. "One of the most talented actors and
greatest scoundrels of his time. Clever? Rather! Nothing, from a broad
farce to high tragedy, came amiss to him. Why, if he had only left the
brandy alone he might have been the greatest actor alive to-day, with
a fortune as big as a Rockefeller's. I was more or less born in the
National Theatre, New York, where Stott was actor-manager for years. I
played there till I was twenty. Ah, Stott was a wonder in these days.
He seemed to be able to do anything with anybody before he lost his
magnetic touch. Then he get to drinking and speculating, and he was
mixed up in some pretty shady transactions. When he lost his nerve
it looked as if he had gone under. But he managed to worm round some
weak-minded baronet who frequented the National a good deal, since when
I am told he has been living in clover. Sir George somebody----"

"Do you mean Sir George Massey?" Lyn asked.

"Ah, that's the name. I remember him--a dainty-looking man, with a
refined face. He used to come to the theatre with another gentleman
called Verity."

"That was probably my father," Lyn said, quietly. "I was born in
New York, and I can recollect that my father was always fond of
theatre-going."

"Well, that's strange," Sara Vesta said, thoughtfully. "It all comes
back to me now. I recollect that Sir George and Mr. Verity were good
friends. After a time Sir George returned to England, and I never saw
him again. But Mr. Verity used to come frequently; and I heard that he
and Stott were mixed up in business together. There was a good deal of
scandal over some mines, I remember; and it was said that the man who
shot Mr. Verity----"

"I beg your pardon," Lyn interrupted. "My father committed suicide."

"Then he couldn't have been the Verity I knew," Sara went on. "They
all said that the man I mean pulled all the chestnuts out of the fire
for Stott, and that when the crash came he had all the blame for the
disastrous outcome. If it had come off all right, Stott would have been
rich; as it was, the thing was a fraud. Some ruined shareholder shot
Verity on his own doorstep, and his wife saw the murder committed. The
shock was too much for her, and she died two days afterwards."

Lyn listened in a kind of dream. Of course it was just possible that
there were two Veritys connected with Sir George and Stott; but it did
not seem probable. Yet on the other hand she had read it in the columns
of a highly respectable paper that her father had killed her mother
and deliberately taken his own life afterwards. The more Lyn thought
over the matter the more puzzled she was. And the man who could have
solved the whole mystery was strutting up and down the deck, smoking a
cigarette and making himself unusually agreeable.

"Do you remember what this Mr. Verity was like?" Lyn asked.

"Tall--with dark hair and moustache and blue eyes. I recollect that
because the combination is rather uncommon. He had a very pleasant
smile, and showed a row of white teeth, and one of the bottom teeth was
stopped with gold. Why, what is the matter?"

Just for a moment the crisp Atlantic seemed to submerge the sky, and
the Campanella to go down, plunging to bottomless perdition. Lyn came
out of a kind of waking dream to find the breeze fresh and cool on her
forehead. Sara Vesta was regarding her with affectionate alarm.

"I have had a shock," she gasped. "Please, you are not to tell anybody,
but you are speaking of my father. And--and I have always been told
that he died in quite another way; indeed, I have seen the account of
his death and the death of my mother in a respectable newspaper."

"Then I guess there are two Veritys," Sara Vesta exclaimed. "I'm
plumb certain that the man I meant died as I say. Why, one of the
National Stock Company was with the poor gentleman at the time. Take my
advice--when you get to New York, make inquiries."

Lyn rose to her feet. She was still feeling a little sick and giddy.
The sudden weight of the new discovery seemed to weigh her down. Sara
Vesta had described her own father exactly; there could no longer be
any doubt of his identity. And the little actress had been most clear
and positive in her narrative. And yet Lyn had read that her father had
died by his own hand! If what Sara said could be proved--why, she was
free to acknowledge her marriage with Lance at any time.

"Perhaps you will excuse me for a little time," Lyn said. "I have been
rather upset. You won't mind my asking you to say nothing as to this
communication to anybody."

Mrs. Sinclair was a little inclined to be cross after her nap. The
sight of Lyn's eyes gleaming in a face white as ashes roused all her
faculties.

"Have you seen a ghost?" she asked. "Or are you not yourself?"

Lyn dropped into a chair by her aunt's side gratefully. Another moment
and she felt that she must have fallen. It was some little time before
Mrs. Sinclair emerged from the incoherent torrent of words that seemed
to overwhelm her. Then her own marvellous intuition showed her the
whole picture luminously.

"What do you make of it?" Lyn gasped. "And could that man have been my
father?"

"I should say that there is not the slightest doubt of it," Mrs.
Sinclair said, coolly.

"Then my talk with the pretty little woman yonder was providential. The
coincidence----"

"There is no coincidence," Mrs. Sinclair interrupted. "What you have
gleaned from Miss Vesta you could have discovered from the first
intelligent New Yorker you came in contact with. Before we have landed
a week we shall hear that story over and over again."

A light began to break in upon Lyn.

"Then you knew all the time?" she cried. "We are here to prove that my
father----"

"We are here to try. I did not know anything about it. It was not till
I got to Broadwater that I began to suspect. Stott was ruined; Stott
knew Sir George and his peculiarities well, and he could always see a
long way ahead. By way of an insurance for declining years he planned
this thing out. He gave his proofs, and they were accepted blindly."

"But such proofs, aunt! Who could possibly have questioned them?"

"Anybody who had the pleasure of dipping into the private life of
Malcolm Stott," Mrs. Sinclair said, drily. "And in the course of my
extensive travels I have heard a great deal of that gentleman. What I
heard determined me on taking this journey to New York. I didn't tell
you too much, for fear of subsequent disappointment, but I must own
that I am pretty sanguine. When I found Stott aboard I began to feel
certain. If we have trouble from the man----"

"What possible trouble can he cause us?"

"Well, say danger," Mrs. Sinclair said, coolly. "If we have danger,
then we shall know. Still I may be wrong, and I shouldn't advise you to
build too highly on what you have heard."

Lyn was not inclined to do so. Most of us are disposed to believe
implicitly everything that appears in print, and the story in cold type
in a sober journal like the "Record" took a lot of explaining away.
From a little distance Stott stood, furtively regarding the twain. And
close by him was Sara Vesta, calmly studying his features. Just for a
moment the mask had been dropped, and the real malignant nature of the
man sat upon his face.

"What are you studying so intently, Miss Vesta?" a quiet voice asked.

Sara looked up with a smile. A big, loose-jointed man, smoking a long
cigar, stood over her. Most people whose business took them across the
great waters knew Carl May, president of the Standard Electrical Trust.
And he seemed to know everybody in turn.

"I am making a study of malignant emotions," Sara replied. "It's a
good thing for Europe and America generally that it takes five days to
cross, because during that period, at present, two continents are rid
of the presence of a thorough-paced scoundrel."

"Rather rough upon Stott, that," May drawled.

"I thought you would guess to whom I was alluding. And what was he
talking to you about just now?"

"Oh, various things. Mrs. Hank Lancey's diamonds, for instance; and the
folly of sporting them aboard ship. He's a clever chap, too; and seemed
to be interested in electric lighting. He was wondering what might
happen if the lights failed some night."

"Is that possible?" Sara asked, carelessly.

"Well, yes. But only for a little time, you understand. Suppose anybody
accidentally smashed a lamp; it might fuse the wires and cause a short
circuit, and thus plunge the saloon in darkness till the damage could
be repaired. Or suppose you removed one of those little earthenware
caps and snipped the little thin wire inside, you would cut off the
connection."

Sara Vesta looked up with a shade of more interest in her big blue
eyes. She began to see her way a little further ahead than did the big
man by her side.

"How did that trouble Stott?" she asked.

"It did not trouble him at all," said May. "He was only asking
questions in an intelligent kind of way. And it's really a very
interesting subject. Stott is always full of plots and schemes for
plays, and he thought he could see a situation here. There might be a
short story hanging to it, but I don't see how it could work into a
play."

"That's because you don't know anything about the stage," Sara said
drily. "I can see a very good idea here. But I am not going to trouble
you with that. Are you coming to see our burlesque to-morrow night? It
will be highly original."

May responded that he hoped to have that pleasure. The burlesque
promised to be the amusement par excellence of the voyage--and
indeed it should be, seeing the number of stars engaged. That there
had been practically no rehearsal only lent charm to the thing. So
brilliant a company might have given a pleasing show without rehearsal
at all.

May strolled away, leaving his companion to her own reflections. Stott
had disappeared, and the deck was fast clearing for tea. Miss Vesta
preferred a cigarette instead. She looked up at the rolling clouds
overhead reflectively.

"What does he mean?" she murmured. "What is Stott up to now? It's some
infernal mischief and harm to that pretty little girl that is at the
bottom of it. 'Where was Moses when the light went out?' We shall
see what we shall see."




Chapter XVI.--"The Aphrodite Star."

The "Campanella" theatrical company had seen the curtains go down
over a brilliant success. But the audience were not so spellbound as to
have no thoughts of supper, and a steady stream of passengers flowed
into the dining-room. Here and there an actor in some grotesque costume
stood out conspicuously in the little black and white crowd.

"If we stay to change, it is manifest that we shall get no supper,"
Sara Vesta laughed as she passed Lyn. "So much for the gratitude of
those we have amused."

The tables were full at length, with here and there an actress in full
war-paint as a centre of attraction. Stott, for once in a way, was
modest, and contented himself with a seat near the door. Still nearer
the door Sara Vesta took her place. Her eyes were shining with an
uneasy brilliancy, suggestive of something more than the excitement of
the evening.

Carl May surveyed the scene from a side-table. He had contrived to find
a seat near Lyn and Mrs. Sinclair. There was a harsh clatter of knives
and forks and the chatter of conversation and a constant popping of
corks. The full stream of the electric light played over the brilliant
scene, flashing over diamonds and pearls and touching the great
Aphrodite star with points of flame. Mrs. Hank Lancey was very much in
evidence.

"I shouldn't like to sport a star like that," May said, indicating the
ample breast of the Lumber King's better half, and its dazzling array
of stones. "The less show you make on these liners the better. I've
been across the pond scores of times, but never yet without at least
two star swindlers amongst the saloon passengers."

"Do you mean to say there are any here to-night?" Lyn asked.

"I can see three," May said, coolly. "They are having a good time of
it, and you would never guess who they are. But you see they have been
solemnly warned by the captain that their identity is discovered, and
consequently they are on their best behaviour. Otherwise I wouldn't
give much for Mrs. Hank Lancey's hold on the Aphrodite."

"Delightful!" Mrs. Sinclair exclaimed. "I love rascals. But it is one
thing to steal that brooch and another to get it off the ship."

"Bet you I'd get it in an hour and carry it away right under the noses
of the police," May drawled, as he surveyed the glittering scene around
him. "And so would those fellows--only they have been spotted. And Mrs.
Hank is very careless."

At the same moment the Aphrodite star had been withdrawn from its proud
owner's head, and was being handed round for inspection and admiration.
From Mrs. Lancey's point of view the possession of diamonds was as
nothing without admiration and envy. Yet there was no ostentation
about her. She was as frankly pleased as a child whose toys are better
than those of another child. Above the crash and the chatter her
good-natured voice rose like a foghorn.

"It was after Hank had knocked the bottom out of the Kearly Combine
that he bought it," she said. "The Combine crawled out 400,000 dollars
to the bad, and Hank cornered that little pile. And Hank bought the
Aphrodite as a memento of the occasion. Once belonged to Lucrezia
Borgia, Mr. Stott says. Come and show us the cypher on the setting,
Stott."

But Stott refused to move. As a rule publicity was as the sun to the
flower of his artistic nature. But he seemed quite ill at ease now, and
desirous of escaping attention. And he was hampered by his clothing,
he said. It was so long since he had acted in burlesque that his Widow
Twankey-like costume was a weariness and burden to the flesh. He sat
toying with his supper with the aid of a small bottle of champagne,
most of which still remained. He seemed restless and anxious, too,
behind the mask of grease, paint, and powder that he wore.

"Is that one of your picturesque swindlers with the white waistcoat?"
Mrs. Sinclair asked. "The man talking to one of the Vesta troupe. It
was very foolish of me not to bring my glasses--I am afraid that I am
missing most of the fun."

Lyn volunteered to fetch the missing spectacles. There was no chance
of anybody leaving the saloon for the present, for there were speeches
to come, and the efforts of one or two seriocomics in that direction
proved to be not the least entertaining part of the programme. Lyn
threaded her way between the tables and the waiters in the wake of
Stott, who had slipped out unnoticed. The big Aphrodite star was still
going round the table.

Lyn came back presently with the gold-rimmed pince-nez. In front of
her in the corridor stood the bulky burlesque feminine figure of Stott,
in earnest conversation with what appeared to be one of the steerage
passengers. The latter was playing with something that looked like a
pair of pincers or pliers. Perhaps he was one of the ship's engineers.
Close handy was one of those square arrangements of earthenware cups
one sees in connection with electric lighting on a large scale. A
waiter passed and took no heed.

"Audacity!" Lyn heard Stott say. "You see how it pays, my friend.
Certainly the light to-night is not all we could desire, and I am told
the remedy is so simple. Two sneezes, mind."

Lyn slipped by unobserved. The incident was so natural as to pass
unnoticed. But all the same, Lyn was a little at a loss to understand
what two sneezes could have to do with the electric lighting of the
saloon. Nor could she see that the illumination was not as usual.

She came back into the noisy saloon, followed by Stott. As she glanced
round she saw that the Aphrodite star was blazing over the good-humored
face of the owner. Stott poured out the rest of the champagne, and
finished it in a gulp.

Presently somebody called for a song. A famous light comedian obliged;
then there was another song and yet another. Something half-humorsome
half-pathetic from one of the Vesta troupe followed. There was just a
little silence at the finish, above which a double sneeze rose crisply.
A torrent of applause followed, a snap, the electric light failed, and
the saloon was plunged into pitchy darkness.

The thing was so sudden and unexpected that there was a profound
silence for a moment. One or two of the women commenced to laugh
hysterically, and there was a rustle of skirts.

"Please, please keep your seats," the captain said. "The damage will be
repaired in a moment. Some very little thing has gone wrong--one of the
wires has fused, perhaps. In less than five minutes I give you my word
the lights will be on again."

Already a couple of engineers were busy upon the safety switchboard
outside the saloon. One of the comedians rose and commenced to sing a
light frothy song, that sounded none the less quaint and pleasing in
the darkness. Before the last verse was reached the filaments in the
chandeliers commenced to glow, and like a glad new tropical morning,
the flood of white light poured back again.

It came as suddenly as it had gone--so suddenly that people rubbed
their eyes until they were used to the great gleam again. Once more the
chatter and laughter arose, and every face looked pleased and smiling,
save that of the captain of the Campanella. For he was not pleased to
be informed that there had been no fusing of the safety wire, but that
two of them had been deliberately cut by some unknown person.

"This must be looked into, Clarke," the captain muttered to the purser.
"You say you saw a man tampering with the service; then why didn't
you----"

"But I thought he had been sent from the engine-room, sir," the purser
pleaded. "No, I shouldn't know the man again. He did it all so coolly
and naturally. Still, as nothing has happened----"

"Nothing," the captain cried, with a deep groan. "Nothing! Where are
your eyes man? Look at Mrs. Hank Lancey, and tell me if you can see her
Aphrodite star."

The words were uttered in a whisper, but they appeared to fall on eager
ears. As if by magic almost everybody in the saloon appeared to miss
the Aphrodite star simultaneously. The magnetic current communicated
itself to Mrs. Lancey herself.

"Well, bless my stars," she exclaimed, placidly, "it's gone!"

The whole saloon was thrilling with excitement now; indeed, the only
cool and collected individual there seemed to be the late owner of the
jewel. And everybody knew now why the light had failed. With a pale
face, Captain Benn crossed to the victim's side.

"Can you tell me anything about it?" he asked.

"Well, I can't," was the placid reply. "I never noticed anything. And I
declare I haven't felt so vexed since Martha Soy's cat ate my canary."

A girl close by laughed, and Mrs. Lancey beamed upon her.

"But, there," she said, with amazing good humor, "it don't in the least
matter. My old man said I was sure to lose it sooner or later, so he
won't mind. We're disturbing the 'armony of the evening, Captain.
Please say how sorry I am to give you all this trouble."

But Captain Benn's duty lay clearly before him. Moreover, his employers
looked coldly on these kind of sensations, since they got into the
papers and did the company harm. It was very amazing to see how Mrs.
Lancey took her loss, but it would have been still more amazing had
Captain Benn fallen in with her views.

"I am sorry that the matter cannot rest here," he said. "It is quite
evident that a conspiracy has been formed aboard the boat to deprive
Mrs. Lancey of her jewel. The purser informs me that just before the
accident he saw what he now knows to be a stranger tampering with the
electric lighting apparatus outside the saloon. I can hardly blame the
purser for not interfering, seeing that he very naturally took the man
for an employee in the engine-room. The idea, of course, was to put out
the light and steal the diamond in the confusion. It seems a very hard
thing to say, but the thief is probably in the saloon at the present
moment."

Something like a sensation followed. People began to glance
suspiciously at one another. Mrs. Lancey loudly lamented that the
harmony of the evening had been spoilt, and that, if she didn't mind,
the rest of the company could make themselves quite easy over the
matter. Lyn listened, shaking with excitement from head to foot. The
little scene between Stott and the man with the pliers came back to
her now with lurid force. She no longer needed anybody to tell her the
meaning of the phrase "two sneezes" now. She had heard them directly
Sara Vesta had finished her song. As she glanced round the table, her
eyes fell upon Sara Vesta. The latter was holding her handkerchief to
her lips, and Lyn could see that the cambric was all stained with blood.

"You don't suggest that the diamond is here?" Stott asked.

"No, I don't," Benn replied, curtly. "It was probably snatched in the
confusion and spirited away to some hiding-place. As we are all more or
less implicated, including myself, I am going to suggest that whilst we
all stay here the stewards and stewardesses make an exhaustive search
of the cabins. It is not a pretty suggestion, and it will probably lead
to nothing, but it is all I can think of at present. Still, if anybody
objects----"

Benn paused significantly, and looked round the room. He saw plenty of
white scared faces and angry red ones around him, but no protest came.

"Good idea," Stott cried. "Quite a diplomatic suggestion. Let us try
and be cheerful. A good conscience, my friends, a good conscience, is
everything."

Lyn gasped at the effrontery of the man. He looked smilingly around
with the air of a man who knows nothing of the word "nerves."

"Why," Lyn cried, "not half an hour ago I saw----"

She paused and looked down in confusion. She had caught Sara Vesta's
eye for an instant, and read a warning there. Sara was pale and
trembling, and her lips seemed to be bleeding freely, but there was an
air of stern hard triumph on her face. Fortunately, a score of voices,
volunteering as many suggestions, prevented Lyn's indiscreet words from
being heard. Sara Vesta came over to Lyn.

"Don't say a word," she whispered. "You have found something out, but
never mind him. I know. And I have found something out also."

"What is the matter with your lip?" Lyn asked.

"Let us say I cut it when the light failed, on the edge of a broken
glass," Sara Vesta replied. "Perhaps you will suggest that it looks
more like the mark of a blow--but let that pass. Do you know that
the lights were all out all over the ship for quite three minutes? I
slipped into the corridor----"

"Surely that is an unwise confession to make just now," Lyn whispered.

Sara Vesta smiled as she glanced round the saloon. Mrs. Lancey was
leaning back in her chair with an air of resignation on her face. It
seemed strange to her that there should be such a fuss made over such a
trifle. Presently the clamor ceased, and something like harmony reigned
again. There were songs and recitations, it was true, but every time a
steward came into the saloon, all heads were turned in his direction,
as if they expected him to produce the missing gem, and denounce the
vile culprit on the spot. A little before one o'clock, Captain Benn
looked at his watch. He could not keep the passengers there all night,
and the strain was getting too great for nerves to bear. He was on the
point of suggesting an adjournment, when Clarke came in. The latter's
face was stern, but his eyes fairly danced with delight.

"Permit me to have the pleasure of restoring your property, madam," he
said. "We have found the star. For the rest of the voyage, if I may be
permitted to lock it up in my safe----"

"Oh, dear, yes," Mrs. Lancey said, plaintively. "By all means. I never
was so ashamed of myself spoiling the evening and all. Where did you
find it now?"

Lyn could feel Sara Vesta trembling with excitement by her side. Her
eyes were turned upon Stott, who was playing with his empty glass.

"In the soap box of one of our gentleman passenger's dressing case,"
Clarke said. "Just for the moment it is not discreet to mention names."

"Look at Stott!" Sara Vesta whispered fiercely. "Do look at Stott."

The individual in question had half-risen to his feet. Behind his
grotesquely made-up features his face was livid with amazement and
terror. He seemed to be dazed--stunned with the suddenness of some
overwhelming catastrophe.

"Sold!" the Vesta whispered. "The engineer hoist with his own petard."




Chapter XVII.--Check to Malcolm Stott.

Stott's face was a perfect study in emotions. Disappointment, anger, a
suggestion of fear, all were there, and all faded presently to a look
of blank surprise. If the Aphrodite star had taken wings and flown from
Captain Benn's hand he could not have been more amazed.

"Did you say a gentleman passenger?" he asked.

"A male one at any rate," Benn said, grimly. "If Mrs. Lancey likes to
prosecute----"

But Mrs. Lancey declined to do anything of the kind--at any rate
for the present. She had recovered her property, and doubtless the
poor fellow had taken it under great temptation. Clarke, astutest of
pursers, applauded this resolution. It was just as well that there
should be no further scandal, at least not till the end of the voyage,
when the "Campanella" people might have something to say on their own
account.

"Did you ever see such brazen effrontery?" Benn asked Clarke in the
seclusion of his cabin.

"It was pretty artistic," Clarke responded, thoughtfully. "We must get
our people in New York to take up the matter. You see the robbery was
pretty smart, but the recovery was smarter, and it will all go to the
credit of the boat. What looked like being a bad business for us may be
turned into a very attractive advertisement."

"You're right," Benn said, emphatically. "It shall be done."

There was a good deal of speculation aboard the "Campanella" next day
as to the hero of the diamond robbery, and many were the ingenious
theories unfolded thereon. But the problem afforded more food for
thought to Stott than anybody else. The more he thought over the matter
the more puzzled he became. And his whole pretty scheme had fallen
to the ground. Not only was he puzzled, but alarmed as well. Lyn's
contention that he was at the bottom of the Aphrodite robbery was
perfectly correct, but she little guessed why that historic stone had
been stolen.

But Stott was more at sea altogether. He had hidden the stone in a
certain place, and it had been found in another. Clarke and Captain
Benn were not concealing anything. But how had the diamond changed
places? Stott sat on the deck, smoking many cigarettes over this
problem. Most of the saloon passengers passed in review before him as
he sat there. Presently Sara Vesta sauntered along to her chair, and as
Stott's eye noticed her swollen lip, inspiration came to him.

"There's the key of the puzzle!" he exclaimed. "What a fool I was not
to think of it before. That's the woman for a million. I should enjoy
a little chat with the lady who knows so much about the old National
Theatre."

Stott came sauntering across as soon as he saw a vacant chair by Sara's
side, and dropped into it with a smile that was almost caressing. In
her turn the Vesta was quite as sweet. They might have been two old
friends chatting together. Stott's compliments on the share of Sara
Vesta to the previous evening's entertainment were graceful, if a
little florid; and, not to be outdone, Sara was equally sincere as to
his efforts at the Widow Twankey.

"Altogether a most varied and exciting evening," Sara said.

Stott took up the proffered cue instantly.

"With a most dramatic and unexpected finish," he said. "I hope you did
not get that nasty blow on your face in the general confusion."

Stott's blue eyes twinkled as he spoke. But he could make nothing of
his companion's face.

"Not precisely," she said, slowly. "I was sitting very near the door
of the saloon when the lights suddenly went out. It was not a very
original scheme, for it was part of 'The Rouge Domino' plot, you
remember. It occurred to me at once that some robbery was afoot, so I
slipped out into the corridor. It was dark there, as elsewhere--so I
stood still, waiting. Sure enough, somebody passed me presently, and I
made a grab for the individual. The mystic personage aimed a blow at me
and struck me on the mouth."

"Um! Rather a nasty blow, too. A man, of course?"

"You would think so from the force of the assault," Sara said quietly.
"But it must have been a woman because of her clothes. She had long
open sleeves."

"How did you know that?" Stott asked sharply.

"Because I grabbed hold of one and tore a portion away. I have it here
in my purse. The stuff is strong and tawdry, and intensely theatrical.
And, another curious thing about it--the stuff is identical with the
gown you wore last night."

Sara Vesta spoke in the same low even tones, but there was a quiet ring
of meaning by no means lost on the listener. It was not pleasant to
find that he was dealing with one who was quite as brilliantly clever
as himself.

"A man dressed up as a woman, and so baffling the police," Sara said,
slowly. "Also the lights in a ballroom suddenly extinguished--exactly
the same as 'The Rouge Domino' plot. By the way, that was one of
your favorite plays."

Stott said nothing for the moment. The game was going all against him.
Still, it was just as well to find out who his antagonists were. And
this woman was reading him off his whole scheme in the friendliest
possible fashion. Most of his cunning plots were adapted from old
comedies and melodramas, and Sara knew it. If she had accused him
openly of the theft of the Aphrodite she could not have spoken any more
plainly.

"So you think it was a man dressed up as a woman?" Stott asked.

"I am absolutely certain of it," Sara smiled amiably. "And the same man
asked Carl May a great many questions as to the working of the electric
light."

Stott lighted a cigarette. He knew all about it now, or thought he did.
He cared nothing for the fact that this woman had found him out, seeing
that no physical inconvenience was likely to follow.

"It would be a risky thing to give the thief a name," he suggested
tentatively.

"I'm not going to," Sara replied. "It is no business of mine,
especially as the whole scheme miscarried. And when the diamond was
found in your cabin----"

"Mine! You don't mean to say that it was in my cabin that----"

"Indeed I do. I actually heard the purser say so. Even the cleverest
men do foolish things at times. Of course, you may suggest that some
busybody changed the hiding-place of the gem, but would it be worth
your while to try and prove it?"

Sara smiled sweetly into Stott's face as she spoke. She had beaten him
all along the line, and he knew it. In some subtle way she had not only
grasped the whole scheme, but she also saw clearly what the scheme was
intended to lead up to. A sudden rage shook the little man and brought
the blood into his face.

"Shall we go and fight it out before the captain?" she laughed. "No?
Oh, yes, I will excuse you, as you are not feeling very well. And don't
take too much soda with your brandy."

Stott strode across the deck in blind fury. To be outwitted by a mere
woman was humiliating. He had found out all about the mystery; he had
made some startling discoveries since he had located Sara Vesta as
the woman whom he had smitten from his path the night before; but the
solution had brought him anything but satisfaction.

For the present, at any rate, the satisfaction was all on the side of
Sara. She had let that little wretch see that she knew the whole of the
story, which story she proceeded to relate to Lyn on the very first
occasion. It was after tea that the opportunity came. Naturally the
topic of the Aphrodite came up almost directly.

"It's very unpleasant," said Lyn. "For my part, I shall be glad when
the voyage is over. I give Mrs. Lancey credit for her good nature,
but the feeling that each man you look at may be the thief is very
chilling. Why, it might be you or I!"

"It was exceedingly near being you," Sara said, coolly.

Lyn's lovely eyes opened with astonishment.

"My dear Miss Vesta!" she cried. "What do you mean? Why, I never left
the saloon."

"And yet the diamond was in your and your aunt's cabin. Under different
circumstances it would inevitably have been found there."

Lyn looked helplessly into the face of the speaker.

"But who could have been guilty of so vile a piece of treachery?" she
asked.

"Isn't there one person on board who hates you?" said Sara. "Ah, you
had forgotten Malcolm Stott. From what you have told me already I
am pretty sure that he is here to thwart your inquiries and perhaps
checkmate you altogether. Now suppose that he had three weeks or so in
New York whilst you were detained--say, here on board. Would not that
be fatal to your plans?"

"Probably," Lyn said, thoughtfully. "He thought that everything was
safe, as far as America was concerned, and my aunt's visit here made
him uneasy. Hence he came along."

"Given a few days' start, he could obliterate all traces?"

"I should say so, but I don't see what you are trying to prove."

"Nothing. I am leaving the proofs to you. It is imperative that Stott
should handicap you for a time. He proceeds to do so by hatching the
plot of the Aphrodite star. I have proved that he was at the bottom
of it, and my evidence would convict him in a court of law. But we
need not go into that just now. Stott planned the robbery and stole
the star, not for the sake of gain, but so as to get Mrs. Sinclair and
yourself into trouble. Directly the lights were extinguished last night
I slipped out. Almost at once the man came. In my excitement I reached
for him and received this blow on the mouth. Dark as it was, Stott went
directly to your cabin and deposited the star there. He had evidently
studied every inch of the ground, but so had I. You must not think I
am too clever, because this is only a rechauffe of the plot of 'The
Rouge Domino.' With the aid of a match I found the star in your
cabin, and by way of a bit of revenge I removed it to Stott's cabin,
where it was found."

"So he was the thief, and is known as such?" Lyn cried.

"Precisely," Sara said, drily. "Stott is hoist with his own petard."

"But why--why did he do this thing?"

"To create a scandal, of course--to have you arrested at New York
for theft, and perhaps sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.
Whether you had a long sentence or not would have been a matter of
the sublimest indifference to Stott. He had calculated that it would
be weeks before you could get bail, and whilst you were locked up,
he could pursue his covering of the trail unmolested. You see what a
dangerous man you have to deal with."

"But surely he can be punished?" Lyn exclaimed.

"My dear, you have the game in your own hands," Sara Vesta replied.
"Let me see Mrs. Lancey for you, and give her an outline of the
story. She is very good-natured and kind-hearted, and she would never
prosecute the thief as a thief. But she will be angry enough when I
tell her of the plot against you two innocent women. By way of giving a
lesson, she might lay an information against him on Clarke's evidence.
I don't know if I shouldn't get into trouble if my share came out,"
Sara concluded, thoughtfully, "but there is no danger of that. And,
after all, Stott was the actual thief. And see what you gain. You are
free to pursue your investigations in New York what time Stott is laid
by the heels with never a friend to go bail for him. All's fair in love
and war, and it would be flying in the face of Providence to lose a
chance like this."

This more or less sound if dubious philosophy was shared by Mrs.
Sinclair when the case was laid before her a little later. The
"Campanella" would be off Sandy Hook a little before daylight, and
there was no time to lose if anything was to be done. Nor had Sara
Vesta misjudged the character of Mrs. Lancey. That good lady fell
into a violent temper, for Lyn was a great favorite of hers, and she
straightway repaired to Captain Benn with the information that she had
changed her mind as to the diamond, and trusted that the thief would be
arrested on the termination of the voyage.

Captain Benn smiled grim approval of this change of view.

"I am exceedingly glad to hear it, madam," he said. "Your precedent
would have been an exceedingly bad one, and there are far too many
frauds on ocean-going steamers as it is. At any rate it will free the
'Campanella' for some time to come."

Mrs. Lancey returned, fearful that she might say too much, and by
daylight a police tender was alongside the big liner. The conference
between an inspector and Mrs. Lancey and Clarke, the purser, was curt
and to the point.

Meanwhile Stott had got everything together after the manner of an
experienced traveller, and stood on deck calmly watching the bustle and
confusion. A little dark man, accompanied by Benn, stepped up to him.

"Mr. Malcolm Stott, I believe," he said, politely.

"That is my name," Stott responded, blandly. "Is there anything I can
do for you----"

"You can accompany me ashore, sir. I have a warrant for your arrest on
an information sworn by Mrs. Lancey and purser Clarke charging you with
stealing a diamond known as the Aphrodite star, and which stone was
found in your cabin by Clarke and other witnesses. If you like to ride
I have a car ready."

A snarling oath broke from Stott's blue lips; in his wild rage he could
have fallen on the detective and destroyed him. But a sudden spasm at
his heart recalled him to himself. He had been outplayed and outwitted,
and the fate that he had intended for his antagonists had fallen on
himself. Nor could he disguise from himself that he had stolen the
diamond. In the face of that it was useless to whine about a conspiracy
against himself.

"I'll come quietly," he said. "I have a perfect answer to the charge."

The detective grinned at the conventional reply.

"All right," he said. "Never heard of a charge that couldn't be
disproved. Still if you have any powerful friends in New York you may
be able to get bail."




Chapter XVIII.--The Clue in the Safe.

Lance paused a moment before he investigated further. A feeling of
nervousness possessed him--a feeling that he had never suffered from
before. He caught himself wondering if Stott had any similar symptoms.

It was wonderfully still in the house to-night, so still that the
scratching of a mouse behind a panel somewhere in the hall sounded
painfully loud. And Lance stood before the safe as a burglar might
have done. It was strange that he should not have thought about the
safe before, and stranger still that the same idea had not occurred to
Stott. But then Stott was in no condition to think of anything; the
drink soddened brain could not grasp all the threads.

With a determined air and a smile for his weakness, Lance flung back
the heavy door. Then he lighted one of the candles in the silver
sconces and placed it in the metal throat of the safe. As a matter of
fact, there was no reason for the presence of the safe at all, except
that it was the proper thing to have in big country houses. The butler
had his own strong room for the plate, and Sir George had been too
good a man of business to keep deeds and securities on the premises.
Consequently, the big vault was practically empty.

There were three shelves, the top one being bare, and on the bottom
ledge a mass of papers and one envelope addressed to Stott. There
appeared to be keys inside this. Lance gathered all the papers
together, and laid them on the table. So far as he could see, the
papers were duplicates of some manuscript or story told in dialogue.

Just for a little while Lance wondered what they were. But there was
no great cause for bewilderment, as he speedily discovered. This,
then, was the "play" Sir George had been engaged upon at the time of
his death, and a fair copy of the same nearly finished. Every page was
drafted and copied on Sir George's own thick vellum notepaper, every
page with the Broadwater stamp on the top.

"Poor uncle!" Lance muttered. "So he had finished the great work, and
had nearly done copying it out. I fear its intrinsic value would be
nothing like the paper it is written upon. Um! I shall hardly find any
clue here."

There was absolutely nothing else in the safe, except a packet of old
letters, and, as Lance remarked, it was hardly likely that a clue was
hidden here. The sense of disappointment was giving way to a curious
desire to see what Sir George had made of his play. It was not late
yet, and the house was very quiet. Lance lighted a cigarette and sorted
the sheets out. At length he had the draft play and the fair copy
arranged in two neat piles. Then he began to read, a look of pity on
his face as he proceeded. It was impossible to read the thing honestly.
Presently Lance was skipping over the pages languidly. Yes, there was
the making of a strong play here, but it had been utterly spoilt by
faults of construction. Farce and tragedy and comedy were mixed up in
the most amazing fashion. At one point the story was quite lucid, at
another absolutely vague and shadowy. There was a great deal about
suicide that seemed to be utterly superfluous. On the other hand, the
climax of the third act was strong enough for anything. Lance found
himself wondering vaguely if Stott had had a hand in it. Really he was
deeply interested in the climax of the third act. Would the hero commit
suicide or not? It was the only logical sequence save one, and that
one rose to Lance's mind at once. The hero was about to write a letter
in which he tells the world he has died by his own hand; a whole page
of the small letter paper in the wide handwriting was devoted to the
"business" leading up to the dramatic development. Lance turned over
hurriedly, only to find the broad heading of "Act IV."

What did it mean? Had Sir George gone rambling again just at the most
telling part? The figures at the foot of the page caught Lance's eye.
One of them was missing from the fair copy that he had been reading.
No. 153 was missing, and----

Lance jumped to his feet swiftly as if a flash of lightning had
suddenly played before his eyes. The whole truth had come to him in an
instant. He wondered that he had not seen it before.

"The letter!" he cried aloud. "The identical letter written by Sir
George."

He paused as the sound of his own voice rang in his ears, jarring on
the stillness. In the dead silence of the night there is something very
awesome in the sound of one's own voice. It seemed to send a cold chill
down Lance's spine.

He dropped into a chair and continued his meditations in silence. But
the whole thing lay before him as clear as daylight now. Strange, more
than strange, that the missing page of the MS. and the letter left by
Sir George should both be numbered 153!

Lance would have given a great deal to have had that letter in his own
hand now. He tried to recall it word for word--the letter which had
been copied from the one in his own derelict play. Well, he could go
into his own room and procure a copy, but----

"Stupid!" Lance muttered. "Doubtless the letter is in the draft play.
I'll see."

He fluttered the leaves over, and came to what he was after in due
course. Yes, there it was exactly as he had hoped to find it--the
suicide's letter followed by death, and the business that brought down
the curtain on Act III. Burlinson was right--Sir George had certainly
not taken his own life.

Lance saw his way to act at last. Very carefully, and smiling as he aid
so, he put the fair copy of the play back into the safe. The draft copy
he locked away securely in his own room. Stott should find nothing when
he came to examine the safe that would scare him in any way. Stott must
have plenty of rope so that the scoundrel might hang himself.

It would be to Stott's interest to destroy the revised copy of the
play, and he would not fail to do so, never knowing that a rough but
complete copy remained in Lance's hands. And Stott should have the key
of the safe in such a manner that his suspicions would not be aroused.
There were keys in the envelope addressed to Stott, and there was no
reason why the key of the safe should not be added to them, if that
envelope could only be opened.

Well that would be a comparatively easy matter. It only meant procuring
a little hot water from the bathroom and soaking the flap open. This
was done at length, the key of the safe interred inside, and the flap
fastened down with a touch of gum and dried over a lamp. A careless
suggestion that the envelope had been found in a drawer, and the thing
was rounded off artistically.

"And now I'll go to bed," Lance told himself. "On the whole, it has
been a good night's work."

It was some time after breakfast before Stott came down. He was looking
white and cold and dreadfully bleared about the eyes. Also he was
more irritable and snappish than usual. Those watery eyes were turned
searchingly in all directions.

"I want a change," he said. "This place is getting on my nerves."

"Your change, and a permanent one is not likely to be long delayed,"
Lance said, significantly. "Go on the same as last night, and----"

"And go to the deuce in my own way," Stott growled. "My good sir, you
need not count upon getting me out of the way so speedily. I like to
enjoy myself."

"Enjoy yourself!" Lance exclaimed. "Good heavens!"

"Well. I repeat the expression. There is a lot of life in the old dog
yet. Like Joey Bagstock, I am 'tough, sir--tough, and devilish sly.'
Thought you said there were no letters for me!"

He indicated the envelope containing the keys with a trembling finger.

"That is not a letter," Lance explained, carelessly. "It's an envelope
turned out of one of the drawers here, and addressed to you by Sir
George. By the sound, I should say that there are keys inside. Perhaps
the key of the safe is amongst them."

"In that case I am exceedingly obliged to you," Stott said, drily.

Lance smiled. He saw the insinuation, with a strong desire to kick the
speaker upon him.

"I am not in the habit of opening other people's letters," he said.
"And as to the safe--well, its contents cannot possibly interest me. In
my cooler moments I have not the least desire to come between you and
your legal rights."

But Stott was opening the envelope eagerly. He knew the key of the safe
by sight, and his eyes gleamed as he saw it. It was impossible for him
to conceal his relief and delight. He little thought how keenly Lance
was watching him. His whole frame shook as he dropped the key into his
watch pocket. He strove in vain to speak calmly.

"I must confess that this does look something like the key of the
safe," he said. "However, that is a matter of indifference for the
present. I don't propose to touch business again for some little time.
Before everything I must consider my health. Therefore I am going for a
voyage to the Mediterranean."

Lance smiled to himself, remembering the telegram he had seen the
previous evening.

"You are going soon?" he asked.

"I may leave Broadwater to-day," Stott replied. "I am going to deprive
you of my company."

"Don't mention it," Lance said, with grim politeness. "I should be
grieved to think that any consideration for me interfered with your
health and pleasure. Of course I shall find the house quiet, and I
shall naturally miss your little flights of histrionic imagination, but
I'll try and bear it. Broadwater will not be the same place without
you."

Stott smiled, but there was something feline about the lines of
his mouth. He hung about the house in a listless kind of way until
after Lance had had his lunch and gone out, then he flew eagerly to
the library. He had the door of the safe open directly. His nervous
twitching fingers grasped the bulky MS. within.

"The play!" he whispered hoarsely, "and intact! This is far better luck
than I deserved or expected. What a fool I was to forget all about
the safe, and what a fool he was not to open that envelope! Still, I
have got out of the mess, and nobody is a penny the wiser. And now to
destroy this very damning evidence."

Stott locked the safe up, and retired to his room with the precious
sheets. These he burnt one by one till they were all destroyed. After
that, he hurriedly packed a couple of portmanteaus, and smoked a
cigarette over a strong glass of brandy and soda.

"I'll have to go slow a bit," he muttered. "I'll have to keep my head
clear for the next fortnight, and then I can snap my fingers at all of
them. Lucky for me I have had nothing to spend my money on lately."

He changed his clothes, and swaggered down into the hall, where Long
stood stiffly for him to pass.

"Just go and have a dog-cart ready to take me into Swanley to catch the
4.18," he said. "I am going for a week or two. Don't forget it."

Long replied pointedly that he certainly would not forget.

"And may you break your little neck or drink yourself to death
meanwhile," Long added, under his breath, as he made his way to the
kitchen with the good news. A week or two was not much, certainly--but
it was something gained. And it would be no fault of Long's if Stott
missed his train to Swanley.

"Be in good time, William," he said, almost pleadingly. "Don't be
unpunctual. I can't breathe freely in the same 'ouse as that poisonous
little creature."

"I'll be in time," William said, shortly. "I've got my feelings same as
other people."

So it came about that at nearly the same time that Stott was swaggering
into Swanley Station, Lance was reaching Burlinson's house with a bulky
packet under his arm. The doctor was smoking in his library, with a big
book of reference before him.

"You look as if you had made a discovery," he said. "Haven't seen you
so pleased for a long time."

"Stott is going away," Lance responded. "He told me you had ordered him
a sea voyage----"

"I never did anything of the kind," Burlinson replied.

"I know that perfectly well, doctor. The little rascal only wants to
cover up his tracks. He said he was going to the Mediterranean, but as
a matter of fact his passage is booked to New York. But if he knew what
I have discovered he would not be so anxious to depart. Doctor, I have
solved the problem of that famous letter."

"What--the letter that your uncle left behind him? Really!"

"Yes, really. I found the clue in the safe. I cannot understand why it
never occurred to me to look there before. And all the time we have
been puzzling our brains when the solution lay so openly and clearly
before us."

"It doesn't lie clearly and openly before me," Burlinson growled.

"But it will in a few minutes. It's like one of the amazing conjuring
tricks--almost childish when you discover how it is done. My uncle was
writing a play--now don't growl, because this is of the most vital
importance. Let me give you a resume of the first three acts. There!
Now take the packet of MS. and open it at page 150. By reading the next
two pages, after what I have told you, you will have a grip of the
situation without unnecessary trouble. Now will you read those pages?"

Burlinson complied without hesitation. He read slowly, and with a
puzzled face. But as he proceeded his face lightened. Then he gave a
cry of astonishment.

"Why, this is the very letter!" he exclaimed.

"Not quite," said Lance. "That letter is with the police. This is
the first copy. Now where did my uncle get it from--or, rather, who
inspired it? Not I. I'm prepared to swear. And what is the number of
the page that holds the text of the letter?"

"Number 153," Burlinson muttered.

"And what was the number on the letter held by the police?"

"Why, 153," Burlinson yelled. "Bless me, what a singular coincidence.
The confession of suicide was no confession at all, but an extract from
a play! Amazing! My dear young friend, does Stott know that you possess
this evidence?"

"No," Lance said, quickly. "Stott is the last person in the world to
know--at present."




Chapter XIX.--On the Track.

Much as Lyn had always admired her aunt, she had never quite realised
the force of that lady's character till now. As Lyn expressed it
afterwards, she was as good as three men. And she seemed to know New
York as well as Lyn knew Broadwater. Wherever Mrs. Sinclair went, she
always appeared to be at home.

Despite her natural courage and coolness, Lyn felt slightly dazed. The
big hotels, the hurrying crowds, the lifts, the colored waiters, all
gave her a dreamy impression of things. And everything seemed to be
done at such break-neck speed; the jangling of telephone bells was ever
in her ears. To Mrs. Sinclair it all seemed natural enough.

"Now we are going to begin the campaign," Mrs. Sinclair said, briskly.
"You'll soon get used to these big hotels, and we are so much safer
here. However, thanks to your clever little actress friend, Stott
can do us no harm for a few days, and we must make the most of our
opportunity."

"What are we going to do first?" Lyn asked.

"Well, in the first place, as soon as we have dined, I'm going to call
upon an old friend of mine--Colonel Borrowdaile by name. He was one
of Stott's victims years ago; and I fancy that he can help us. But
everything depends upon getting ahead of Stott."

"But you said he was safe for some time."

"Safe for the present. But it is just possible that he may be able
to get bail. There are one or two pretty wealthy rogues in New York,
who might not care to deny Stott bail if he called upon them for
assistance. And Mrs. Lancey will never press the charge. In all
probability she will go away after the first hearing, and not turn up
again. In that case Stott will be free altogether."

Lyn deemed this to be highly probable. She was only just beginning
to realise what a dangerous opponent Stott really was. His amazing
audacity frightened her. And yet Stott must have had some very powerful
motive to run the risk he did over the Aphrodite star. If he had wanted
to steal the gem it would have been a different affair. But Stott
had run all that mighty risk so that he could land his opponents in
gaol, and get the start of them. Lyn shuddered to think what might
have happened but for the foresight and shrewdness of Sara Vesta. But
for her she and her aunt would have been in gaol at this moment to a
certainty. As it was, Stott had been hoist with his own petard, and
luck had given them the best of him. Still, there was hope behind it
all. Would Stott have behaved like this unless he had something of
vital importance to conceal? He was not the man to take such risks out
of mere malice.

Mrs. Sinclair descended to the huge vestibule of the Grand Junction
Hotel, and stood in the crowd there, looking about her for a moment.
The place was packed with gesticulating business men, there was a babel
of many tongues, a constant dodging in and out of telegraph boys, and
the incessant shrill tinkle of telephone bells. The place was more like
a stock market than the vestibule of a high-class hotel. Anybody seemed
to use the place who liked.

Presently the object of Mrs. Sinclair's search came--a man dressed in a
neat grey suit and a Homburg hat. His face was broad and red, and his
eyes gleamed behind tinted spectacles.

"Well, Mr. Blake," Mrs. Sinclair asked, crisply, "have you found
anything?"

"Check at the start," Blake replied. "I went down Morton's-avenue off
Seventeenth-street, to have a look at the 'Record' office, and see
if I could find out anything. There was no sign of the 'Record'
anywhere; the whole block of buildings seems to be occupied by a big
printing and publishing firm."

Mrs. Sinclair expressed her annoyance. She had certainly not expected
this. In England a newspaper is a newspaper--and generally a permanent
institution. And if the "Record" was dead, as seemed highly
probable, then the search was going to be difficult indeed.

"Did you make inquiries?" Mrs. Sinclair asked.

"Oh, yes. I was a perfect note of interrogation. But the present firm
seems to be a smart new one--run by a lot of sprightly hustlers who
would look upon the events of ten years ago as ancient history. They
seemed to regard me as a Rip Van Winkle."

Mrs. Sinclair nodded gravely. She quite appreciated the difficulty.
Ten years in New York is like a century in the Old World. In that time
great houses have toppled over and been forgotten; in that time many a
paper has climbed to affluence. The "Record" appeared to have been
washed away in the rolling business flood, and all traces of it lost.

"Still, there must be a file of the paper somewhere," Mrs. Sinclair
said. "The public institutions----"

"Wouldn't file anything like that. The paper was much too
insignificant. We shall just have to burrow round till we hit on the
trail. There's sure to be a file somewhere."

Lucy Sinclair was certain of it, but she didn't say so. If no such
thing existed Stott would never have left his snug quarters at
Broadwater. A happy idea came to her.

"It is a matter for reward," she said. "I'm prepared to give 1000 for
a file of the 'Record' for the year 1888. Now the thing does exist,
and Stott knows where it is to be found."

"Stott is likely to remain in durance vile for some time."

"I don't fancy so. If he gets free you must contrive to see him. Assume
that bygones are bygones and offer to assist him. You can always
communicate with me by telephone so as to avoid suspicion. And 1000 is
a deal of money."

Blake's dull eyes gleamed with covetous desire. It was indeed a large
sum of money, more than ever he had earned before in the whole course
of his shady career. This was better than blackmail, and there was no
risk whatever.

"I'll do it," he said. "Stott never spotted me aboard the
'Campanella,' and he cannot possibly know that I have any connection
with you. I'll go and see him; I'll say I landed to-day from the
'Empire City.' And if I want to see you later on----"

"I'm going to call upon Colonel Borrowdaile; you recollect him. I don't
know his address here, but you can look it up in the directory. If
anything happens telephone me."

Blake took off his hat, and departed the richer for a twenty dollar
bill. For the first time he was really zealous for his employer. As
he pushed his way through the noisy, eager crowd, he fully made up
his mind to get that money. Hitherto he had been prepared to throw
over Mrs. Sinclair if it suited his purpose to do so. But he had
not forgotten that he owed Stott a grudge; the recollection of Sir
Lancelot's ashplant still rankled deeply.

But Mrs. Sinclair's frame of mind was not nearly so pleasant. The
discovery that the "Record" had been swept away, and that no trace
of it remained, was a bitter blow to her. She had hoped to rush through
this business and expose a vile conspiracy before Stott was free. She
had preferred to have him arrested, and the whole thing threshed out in
the Law Courts.

There was but one comfort--the file existed or Stott would not be here.

"And now to start the campaign," she said, in her most cheerful
manner, to Lyn. "Give me the Directory. Um! 17 Grand Mansions,
Steerforth-avenue. My friend is more prosperous than I anticipated. I
only hope that he may be at home by this time."

They arrived presently at a luxuriously appointed flat, where they were
informed by a colored servant that Colonel Borrowdaile was expected in
presently, and would the ladies wait.

Mrs. Sinclair elected to do so, and whiled away the time admiring the
fine pictures and engravings with which the walls of the drawing-room
were covered. The whole room breathed an atmosphere of taste and
refinement, from the silk blinds to the roses in the big dragon jars.
A tall man, with stooping shoulders and a bald grey head, came in.
His eyes were alert and keen, yet they looked as if a little tired
and weary of the struggle. A successful man, perhaps, but evidently a
disappointed one.

"Mrs. Sinclair!" he exclaimed, with genuine pleasure. "This is a
surprise. Let me ring the bell for tea. Your niece. Not the daughter of
my old friend, Verity?"

"Did you know my father?" Lyn cried. "What a wonderful coincidence!"

"Not at all," Mrs. Sinclair laughed. "We are here looking for
coincidences. It would be a singular coincidence if we didn't find
them. Irish, but you know what I mean."

"I knew your poor father very well indeed," Borrowdaile said.

"Then you know how be died?" Lyn asked, eagerly.

"Well, I'm not quite sure," Borrowdaile replied. "Yes, no doubt you
think that is an amazing kind of reply, but the fact remains. I know
that your father and mother died within a day or two of one another,
but my own affairs at the time were so fearfully involved that I was
almost beside myself over them. Some said that your father committed
suicide after----"

"Taking the life of my mother," Lyn said quietly. "Please go on."

"Yes, yes. Perhaps Mrs. Sinclair will do me the honor of pouring out
tea. I was not in New York at the time, but I read the story in one of
the papers."

"Do you recollect the name of the paper?" Mrs. Sinclair asked.

"Oh, yes, I have every reason to do so. It was a little paper called
the 'Record'--a sheet with a small circulation, but of pretty good
repute in Wall-street. When I got my head clear again and I found time
to come to New York the thing was forgotten, and Miss Verity here had
been taken away. Subsequently I heard that the 'Record' story was
all nonsense, and that Verity had been shot by some crazed speculator.
I meant to have written to Verity's relatives in England, but I fear
that my good resolutions came to nothing. After all, the family would
see that that report was contradicted."

"They didn't," Mrs. Sinclair snapped. "They accepted the 'Record'
story without question just because it happened to be in print. And I
accepted it too--till I took up my quarters at Broadwater some time ago
and found the mischief that report had worked. And who do you suppose
sent that story over and has been living at Broadwater ever since on
the strength of it? Why, Malcolm Stott."

Borrowdaile was moved at last.

"Tell me why you are here," he asked sternly. "Perhaps I can assist
you."

Mrs. Sinclair told her story in a few words, Borrowdaile listening
intently. The mere mention of Stott's name seemed to make a different
man of him.

"I am going to give you all the assistance in my power," he said,
presently. "I said just now that I have every reason to remember that
issue of the 'Record.' At that time I was on the verge of being a
rich man. In a manner of speaking Stott was my partner. As a matter of
fact he was acting against me all the way through. We had a big deal in
a certain promising mine. Stott got a paragraph in the 'Record' to
the effect that the manager of the mine had absconded, and persuaded
me to go and see for myself. The whole thing was a lie, but it served
Stott's purpose. The shares went down to nothing, I was a ruined man,
and barely escaped a prosecution. It is only quite lately that I have
been able to look the world in the face again."

Mrs. Sinclair smiled. It did not seem a nice thing to do, but she had
the air of one who holds the key to the situation.

"I am going to astonish everybody over this 'Record' business
presently," she said. "Meanwhile, do you believe that Mr. Verity
committed suicide?"

"No, I don't," Borrowdaile said. "He was murdered by a half-crazed
speculator who was never brought to justice."

"Then why did the 'Record' account pass without contradiction?"

"That is easily explained. The whole thing happened at a time when
America was in the throes of a great, a national, financial crisis.
Great firms went down like houses of cards. The very next day James
Fisher, the Railway Colossus, was stabbed to death in Wall-street, four
leading men absconded, and two committed suicide in their offices. For
days afterwards the big papers were crammed with details. Is it to be
wondered that the Verity affair should have been overlooked in the face
of what I am telling you? And he had no friends to look after him."

"And we got all the details from Stott, who sent Lyn home," Mrs.
Sinclair reflected. "How Fate ever plays into the hands of those who
have audacity enough to flout her! Still, I am going to surprise you
all very much before long. For years Stott has preyed upon Sir George
by a fraud--a fraud at the same time amazingly clever and amazingly
simple. But we've got him now--it is all a matter of time."

"What do you want me to do?" Borrowdaile asked.

"Hunt me up some people who used to be with the 'Record.' Find me
those who can say where a file is to be discovered. Surely somebody
or other took a pride in the paper at one time. Only give me the file
of the 'Record' for 1888, and Stott never sets foot in Broadwater
again."

"If you think the file exists----"

"My dear friend, I know it. Otherwise Stott would not be here."

Borrowdaile admitted that there was logic behind this reasoning. He
proceeded to expand his views on the subject, when the telephone behind
him tinkled shrilly. A minute later he took the receiver from his ear,
and handed it to Mrs. Sinclair.

"They have tracked you here," he smiled. "Somebody wants you at once."

Mrs. Sinclair listened intently for a few seconds; then she hung up the
receiver and rung off. There was just a shade of anxiety on her face.

"I feared this," she said. "Stott has succeeded in getting bail. Who is
Scott Loder, who has come forward to our friend's assistance?"

"Scott Loder?" Borrowdaile exclaimed. "Strange! Loder is a
philanthropist--a shining light at meetings and all that kind of
thing--the very last man you would expect to find in touch with Stott.
Oh, he is a big power in New York."

"That sounds bad for us," Mrs. Sinclair laughed. "Anyway, the war has
begun in earnest now. The question is--What is our next move to be?"




Chapter XX.--A Friend in Need.

With a wild desire to do somebody an injury, Stott was led away. The
blow had fallen upon him with crushing and unexpected force, and for
the present he could see no way out of it.

And just now he was far too angry for any consecutive mental effort. He
had been tricked and foiled in some way, but even his astuteness failed
to show him how.

On the whole, the outlook was not pleasing. He had worked out his
cunning scheme over the Aphrodite star, he had placed the gem so that
it must ultimately be found in the cabin of one whom he desired to lay
by the heels for a time, and the shock of Purser Clarke's statement had
stunned him for the moment. He knew that his scheme had been detected
and thwarted, but he had not the least idea how or by whom. And then
to find out at the very last moment--when he had no time to prepare a
counter-stroke--that he had been caught in his own trap was maddening.

And he dared not speak, he could not attempt to explain. Also he knew
now that he had opponents as strong and as clever as himself to deal
with. They had so contrived it that it would be he who lay by the heels
instead of them, and that unless something was immediately done, his
journey would be in vain. Stott crushed down the headlong hysterical
passion that makes weak people dangerous at times, and desired that he
might be set at liberty.

"I guess that you can be bailed till to-morrow," a lank inspector
said. "And so on from day to day until this charge is settled. In a
substantial amount."

"What do you call a substantial amount?" Stott asked, eagerly. "I'm
pretty well off."

The inspector suggested ten thousand dollars, from which lofty
standpoint he refused to move an inch. If Stott could not find the
money, then Stott must remain in durance vile. If he knew of any
responsible citizen who would come forward----

Stott retired to a cell with a packet of cigarettes and New York's
official directory. It was just possible that amongst his old shady
acquaintances there might be one who had turned his back on the old
evil life and prospered beyond his deserts. But a three hours' study
of that depressing volume brought no light to Stott's despairing soul.
He fluttered over the leaves angrily with a careless gaze at the long
columns of names until at length one caught his eye.

J. Scott Loder! Stott drew a breath of relief. The name was familiar,
and the address was the same, too. The long list of numbers, in big
leaded type, all suggested prosperity. A few questions elicited the
fact that J. Scott Loder was of more than parochial importance. With
an air of expansion Stott called for paper and envelope. The note he
scribbled was curt and to the point. Then with philosophic calm Stott
turned to his cigarettes and began to smoke. He would have liked a
little brandy, too. But all in good time.

It was an hour or so later that a warder entered with the information
that a gentleman desired to see Mr. Stott. Stott noticed as a good omen
that the warder's manner was quite civil. A short, stout man, with bald
head and grey whiskers, came in pompously. The grey frock suit, glossy
hat, and well-flitting gaiters all spoke of prosperity. He held out
two languid fingers, which Stott embraced, fervently. He was going to
change all that presently.

The new-comer dropped into a seat and the door clicked behind the
warder, and all his assurance vanished. He looked at Stott with
troubled eyes, his heavy cheeks shook, there were beads of perspiration
on his forehead.

"For heaven's sake, Stott," he stammered, "what--what did you mean by
sending for me?"

Stott lighted a fresh cigarette with great deliberation. He was
beginning to enjoy the situation; the dramatic possibilities of it
were exceedingly promising. And here was a wealthy man. Stott knew the
species too well to be deceived by a well-cut suit and a swaggering
manner. Scott Loder reeked of prosperity. Despite all this, Stott had
no intention of being bounced.

"I've got into a bit of a mess," he said, sketchily. "Perhaps you have
heard of it?"

Loder nodded gloomily, and looked at his watch--a heavy gold
chronometer.

"Well, that was part of a scheme," Stott continued. "But the beggars
tumbled to the trick and put it back on me. If they can hold me up for
a day or two I am done. If I can get away I will see the prosecutor in
this matter, and if I don't persuade her to drop the charge I'll eat my
hat. And I've sent for you to bail me out. Ten thousand dollars. A mere
flea-bite."

Scott Loder shook his head gravely. Much as he would like to meet his
old friend, he was afraid that it couldn't be done. He had his position
to think of. It had pleased Providence to bless his efforts. He was in
constant association with all that was best and purest in the city.
Amongst those who walked the narrow path no name was more respected
than that of Scott Loder. And, not to put too fine a point upon it,
Malcolm Stott's reputation was--er--dubious. It was no question of
money.

"Then lend me the cash, and I'll bail myself out!" cried Stott.

But the great and good man opposite could not see that either. Not that
he valued money; he regarded his wealth merely as a sacred trust. He
was sorry for Stott, sorry that he still walked the broad path of the
degenerate, but he feared he could do nothing.

"In other words, you won't!" Stott said between his teeth.

"That is a harsh way of putting it," Loder sighed as he looked into his
hat. "On moral grounds--strictly on moral grounds, I must decline."

Stott rose to his feet, filled with hysterical fury. At moments like
this he was capable of anything. His frame of mind was eminently
catlike. And, though a cat is a timid creature, she can be exceedingly
dangerous in a corner.

"You canting hypocritical rascal!" Stott hissed. "You are rich and
highly respectable, but it is all on the surface. You could always cant
and whine and grovel when it suited your purpose, but you never had
a generous or manly instinct about you. The leopard can't change his
spots, my friend. At heart you are as big a rascal and cur as ever."

"My dear Stott," Loder stammered, "your words are actionable."

"And so my deeds are going to be, if you carry on like this. If you
leave me here you do so at your own peril. And before night I shall
write out a curt and pithy history of the past life of Scott Loder,
philanthropist, and man of distinguished piety. I shall tell and
prove--all about that Union Trust fire. I shall tell them--but you
haven't forgotten the past. I can think of a score of papers here only
too ready to print those spicy details. Put that exceedingly glossy hat
of yours down, and let us go into details. Ah, that's better."

Loder dropped limply into a seat. All the unction and smug
self-importance seemed to have left the man. It was as if somebody had
pricked a balloon.

"You would lay yourself open to a criminal libel," he said feebly.

"Rot! What do I care for criminal libels? It would ruin you. Do what
I desire, and I shall never trouble you again. But you have decided
already; I can see it in your eye. And I won't over-embarrass you with
my thanks--which, by the way, you don't deserve."

Loder muttered something about moral grounds, but all the fight had
gone out of him. Half-an-hour later Stott was driving to his hotel,
where he dined and went early to bed. He partook of wine sparingly; he
fought off the desire for brandy, though the effort left him all broken
up and trembling. Still, there would be time for all that presently.
Once let him get this business through, and afterwards he could drink
as much as he liked.

Fortune seemed to be favoring him. The next day, at the first hearing
of the charges relating to the Aphrodite Star, Stott learnt with
satisfaction that Mrs. Lancey had gone to Nebraska, and would not
return for a week. Therefore Stott had all that time to himself. He was
busy writing letters for the rest of his day, and the following saw him
at work in earnest.

In a car he rode from one business house to another, making inquiries.
A great deal of time was subsequently passed in the neighborhood of the
old-time "Record" office. It was quite late before Stott could see
his way to lunch, and, this meal being dispatched, he went off on foot
in the direction of the Bowery.

The Bowery of New York was no place for a man of average respectability
any time of the day--but Stott seemed to have no fear. He came at
length to a saloon, which he entered and called for a glass of brandy
and soda-water. The room was dark but fairly clean, and the walls
were plastered with the records of many classic prize fighters. A
heavy-browed barman came forward with the information that there was no
brandy or soda on the premises.

"All right," Stott responded, with a cheerful grin. "Give me some
picric acid and oil of vitriol and petroleum. I'll have a long dose of
petroleum in a fire-bucket."

The face of the waiter changed to what passed current with him for a
smile.

"Didn't know you were one of us," he whispered. "Sorry the boss is
away. But if you can give me a name to anybody in particular, I guess
he can be sent for right away."

Stott reeled off half-a-dozen names of somewhat bizarre type without
success. Most of the individuals in question seemed suffering under
the burden of untoward circumstances. Two had had the misfortune to be
hanged, a third had made New York extremely undesirable as a permanent
residence, whilst the other three were at present located up the river
at Sing Sing Prison.

"Well, what about Dandy and the Giraffe?" Stott asked, desperately.

"They're all right," the barman explained. "There was a big raid four
months ago and the gentlemen in question managed to prove an alibi. But
they'll have to lie low for a long time. Business been very bad lately.
Don't suppose they'd mind taking a hand in a bit of sport again."

Stott remarked that he was very glad to hear it. Would the barman send
for the twain? The barman had no objection, provided that he had some
kind of a sign and symbol to show that business only was meant. There
were so many "narks" and informers about that really----

"Oh, shut it down," Stott growled. "Say it's M.S.--all the way from
England to see old friends. That will fetch them. But I'll trouble you
for that brandy and soda first."

After a somewhat long pause a lank individual with a heavy evil face
looked into the saloon. At the sight of Stott the evil face carried an
evil smile, and a fearsome torrent of oaths testified to the pleasure
of the long man at seeing Stott again.

"It's M.S. right enough," the new-comer growled huskily. "You can slide
in, Dandy."

Thus addressed, another man in a seedy frock coat and villainously
dirty hat came forward. He had a profusion of cheap rings on his grimy
fingers and a huge gilt watch-chain that proclaimed aloud what a
gigantic fraud it was.

"Drinks and drinks and more drinks," Stott cried. "Hard times, eh!
Well, there's a five-dollar bill for each of you, and more where the
other came from."

"Big job, boss?" Dandy asked, with a greedy, watery eye on the
barkeeper.

"Well, no," Stott responded. "It isn't. It's small--but there is little
risk about it, and nobody is likely to suspect us, or indeed anybody
else. Nobody looks for firebugs in the cellars of millionaires. But
little fish are sweet, boys."

"Any fish are sweet when your stomach's empty," Giraffe growled.
"What's the figure?"

Stott tapped thoughtfully on the table before him.

"It'll run to a hundred dollars each," he said. "It's only a small
affair in an empty cellar. Just a few barrels of the stuff and leave
the rest to Providence. I've arranged to have possession of the cellar,
and I will see that all the provisions are got in. Then you'll go to
work some early night next week and start the fireworks. After that
you'll go away and the next day collect the dust. It's just as easy as
falling off a log."

The Giraffe and Dandy nodded approval. There was little here to appeal
to their artistic abilities, nothing to write boldly in the red history
of crime. But then business had been exceedingly bad lately, and in
the present state of affairs a hundred dollars seemed a deal of money.
Moreover, it was good to be seated in that favorite hostel again with
poisonous whisky galore before them. Moreover, the boss was a hard man,
and credit was a thing from which his soul revolted.

Stott proceeded to lay down his scheme minutely. He was not going to
leave anything to chance. And two of the greatest rascals in New York
followed him carefully. At the end of half an hour they had got the
whole thing by heart.

"So far so good," said Stott, as he rose to leave. "I'll come here
again to-morrow night, when I hope that everything will be ready. By
the day after to-morrow the thing should be finished, and the dollars
jingling in your pockets. So long."

Refreshed by his brandy, and secure in his future, Stott walked
jauntily along in the direction of a fairer and sweeter section of
the town. He was still in the purlieus when a tall heavy figure, in a
Norfolk suit, accosted him with extravagant delight.

"Stott, by all that's holy!" he cried. "How long have you been here?"

"Blake!" Stott muttered. "Well, it's the unexpected that always
happens. How did you get here?"

Blake proceeded to explain that he had landed the day before from the
"Empire City." He had made a little error of judgment, and had
deemed that a change of air would be beneficial. Stott turned away, so
that Blake might not see the expression on his face. The little man was
filled with the same hysterical passion that had convulsed him before.
Murder was lurking in his eyes. Coward as he literally was, given him
the opportunity he would have killed Blake at that moment.

When he turned round again he was smiling. In point of cunning and
audacity, Blake was not now, nor ever had been, a match for Stott.

"And what are you doing?" he asked.

"Nothing," Blake admitted. "I've got a few dollars left, but they're
going fast. Can you put me on to a job? I'm not in the least
particular."

"A funny thing if you were," Stott said, cheerfully. "Still, I dare say
I can find something for you to do. I'm pretty busy now, but if you
meet me here to-morrow night at 9 I'll do my best to give you a show.
And after that," he added sotto voce, "you can take all you can get
to Mrs. Lucy Sinclair and welcome."




Chapter XXI.--The Letter Speaks.

Dr. Burlinson waited for Lance to explain. From a cabinet he took a box
of choice cigars, and passed it across to his visitor.

"I can see that this business is going to be more or less
analytical--and analysis of motive is one of the most fascinating
studies I know. The man who reduces that kind of thing to a science,
and has the pluck to back his deductions, has a great career before
him. So you fancy that you have solved the problem?"

"I am absolutely certain of it," Lance said quietly.

Burlinson nodded as he lay back smoking luxuriously.

"That's right," he said. "I like to hear a man speak like that. I shall
listen with every confidence in you. And it is such an exceedingly
pretty problem."

"Worthy of Wilkie Collins, Burlinson. Or Poe, or any of them. Most
people argue that this or that is utterly impossible--except when
they see it in the newspaper. I don't go so far as to say it is the
unexpected that always happens."

"Get to the point," Burlinson muttered.

"Oh, I am coming to the point fast enough. My uncle was found dead,
having by his side a letter to the effect that he had committed
suicide. Not for a moment do we attempt to deny that the letter was in
his own handwriting, because we know that it was. But you say, and you
are prepared to prove, that my uncle didn't commit suicide----"

"That he didn't die from self-inflicted wounds," Dr. Burlinson
corrected.

"Well, that will come to the same thing in the long run, as you will
see. That letter to a great extent appears to have to do with me. It
subsequently comes out that that letter is identically a copy of a
letter introduced into a play of mine. From this certain enemies deduce
the fact that I got my uncle to write that letter, and that when I saw
a way to shield myself from possible consequences I killed him. On the
face of it I had everything to gain by so doing. Once my uncle was
dead, I came into the property and the title, and I was free to marry
a certain young lady who was absolutely debarred to me before. The
mere fact that I did not know my uncle had made a will to thwart this
contingency is only so much further evidence against me. I make up my
mind to get my uncle out of the way. But I don't do so in an ordinary
way because I am a playwright. Then I hit upon a scheme inspired by a
more or less successful drama of mine. I so manage that my uncle copies
a letter from my play written by a would-be suicide, and behold I have
in my hands tangible evidence that he, my uncle, is going to die by his
own hand. Do you see?"

Burlinson nodded from behind the violet fragrant cloud of his own
creation.

"Very logical," he said. "I am deeply interested. Pray proceed."

"Under ordinary circumstances the thing passes. Sir George is buried,
nobody suspects, and I come into my own--at least, I should have done
so but for the will that leaves my whole fortune in Stott's hands. He
tells me that I should be wiser to wait; and then he goes on to prove a
fact that I had forgotten--i.e., that my uncle's confession of suicide
is identical with the confession of suicide of the hero of my play.
Stott points out that if the fact becomes public it may be awkward for
me. Imagine my frame of mind. Directly I begin to investigate. I find
that Stott had stated no more than the truth. And then Stott proceeds
by the most artful means to proclaim his discovery."

"It's a pretty strong case against you," Burlinson said.

"I admit it freely. In the hands of a clever K.C. it might be made
fatal. But the more I think over matters the more I see the flaws. How
does Stott come to know of the similarity of these two letters? You
may say that as my play was hawked about for years, both here and in
America, he might have read the MS. As a matter of fact, I am quite
certain he has--because both in the play and in the tragedy we have
just gone through the 'motif' is to murder a man and make it appear
that he died by his own hand. But after the lapse of years it was quite
impossible for Stott to recollect the text of that letter."

"With a drink-soddened brain like his, certainly not," said Burlinson.

"Quite so; but he could recollect the plot. And he could see behind
it all an ingenious way of bringing me into trouble--obliquely, that
is. Therefore it began to grow clear to me that Stott was in some way
mixed up in the business. When you come to think of it, Stott was just
as deeply interested in getting Sir George out of the way as myself.
He knew what would happen afterwards; he knew that the estate would be
thrown into his hands. And there was always the danger of something
coming out greatly to his discredit from America. You recollect what I
told you as to those American letters?"

Burlinson nodded brightly. He was beginning to see the drift of the
argument.

"Very well. Sir George must go. But how? By my own play scheme. Sir
George was writing a play also. Stott inspired Sir George with my plot.
Sir George wrote all his MS. on his own notepaper. In the course of
time he wrote that letter, not as a confession of his own suicide, but
as part of his own play!"

Burlinson snorted--his only sign of excitement. He beamed approval on
the speaker. It was all a subtle bit of analysis after his own heart.

"Good!" he exclaimed. "You are going to prove this?"

"I have proved it," Lance cried, striking the pile of paper on the
table. "It is all here. The supposed confession of personal suicide
fits into the play, it is numbered 153; the same number is on the fair
copy which is in the hands of the police. Page 152 is the 'business'
leading up to the letter. Page 154 is the 'business' of the attempt
at death and the curtain on the act. No wonder, with so diabolically
ingenious an idea, we did not come at the truth before."

"And the idea was your own all the time?" Burlinson suggested. "Of
course Stott remembered your play. And it would be a fine thing to copy
the fatal letter from your MS. Still, when he had completed his scheme,
after the lapse of years he would have to refresh his memory as to the
exact nature of that letter. Could he do so?"

"He could do so in two ways. More than one copy of that play was in
existence. For all I know, Stott may have a copy in his own possession.
If not he might have easily got at my new and revised edition at which
I am at work now, seeing that I keep it in a writing-table drawer in
the library, said drawer not being locked. Stott has most cunningly
let the public know his case against me, and for the first time I have
stated my case against Stott. That I am the victim of a vile conspiracy
is certain. That Stott has his own reason for desiring the removal of
my uncle is equally certain. We may go further and assume that Sir
George was murdered. But by whom?"

"By Malcolm Stott, of course," Burlinson said, calmly.

"I don't fancy so. He was good enough to lay the train to work out his
slimy scheme to the minutest detail, but he lacked the courage to do
such a deed personally. And now what do you think of my argument?"

"Don't see any flaw in it at all," Burlinson muttered. "It's perfectly
logical, and what's more, we've got any amount of documentary evidence
to prove it. But you are wrong in your reading of Malcolm Stott's
character. The man is a coward. He has been a coward all his lifetime.
He is cruel and unfeeling. At the present time he is a nerveless wreck,
incapable of the slightest act of courage. But medical jurisprudence
proves triumphantly that the same class of criminal is capable of the
most atrocious crimes. As a rule they are hysterical. Once they let
themselves go, they are ready for anything. They are like cats--timid,
but once touch the feline passions, and then look to yourself. I could
quote scores of instances from Taylor to prove that you are wrong."

"Then you think that Stott----"

"My dear Massey, I am certain of it. But only at times under certain
moods. I can give you an authentic case of a young girl, a girl timid
to the verge of insanity, who murdered a younger sister because she
was afraid of the latter telling her mother that the elder had stolen
a penny. So fearful of punishment was the girl that she committed
murder. No, you couldn't say that she was insane. And yet her nervous
dread of punishment forced her to a terrible crime. There are many
such instances of morbid murderers, and Stott suffers from the same
thing. The cunning brain is going; it is being sapped by drink, and the
fellow knows it. What do you suppose a fellow like that most dreads? A
miserable and half-starved end. If Sir George had discovered his real
character Stott would have been kicked into the street. And what would
have become of him? It was here that the morbid-mindedness came in,
plus the brandy and the overstrung mind."

"Then you think he was really capable of the crime?"

"I do, indeed. I have never seen a more likely subject. I don't mind
telling you that I have suspected Stott from the first. He tried to
prove too much; he was too subtle. He might have seen that his efforts
to bring you in would certainly lead to trouble, which was the case.
Put Stott in the witness-box and cross-examine him on the basis of that
draft play, and he would be certain to commit himself before an hour is
over his head. He would be in a state of mental funk; he would not know
what his tormentor had behind him. His imagination would play him all
kinds of tricks. We shall lay Malcolm Stott by the heels, never fear."

Lance lay back smoking his cigar thoughtfully. He had proved his case,
but he smiled now as he began to see flaws in Burlinson's line of
reasoning.

"There is a good deal to be cleared up yet," he said. "For instance,
you have stated most positively that my poor uncle did not die from
wounds caused by the razor."

Burlinson smiled at Lance's thoughts.

"I daresay that you imagine that you have got me there," he said. "I
made that statement and I stick to it. Sir George was dead before that
razor touched him. He died from failure of the heart's action, brought
about by an overdose of chloroform. Stott meant to kill his victim, but
his courage failed him at the last moment. Or say that he was afraid
that there might be a deal of blood spilt; and that some of it should
fall upon him. It doesn't in the least matter which way you put it.
Stott procured the chloroform, and more or less stifled his victim. Sir
George lay there still and insensible. Stott could not know that he
was dead. If he had been aware of the fact we should never have seen
that razor at all. You can imagine him standing over that inanimate
body and wondering what would happen if it came to life again. It would
mean ruin, and worse, to Stott. And here the savagery of the hysterical
temperament comes in. The razor was used freely--it was one of Sir
George's, and could be left behind--indeed, it was necessary to leave
it behind--and there was the suicide's letter on the table, purloined
from the play for the purpose. My dear fellow, the thing is as clear as
daylight."

Lance was not disposed to question it. There was a deal of force and
logic behind what Burlinson said. And, after all, the crime must have
been committed by somebody in the house.

"If we could only find the real motive," he said.

"Motive! Why, the whole thing is fragrant of motive," Burlinson said.
"Stott was getting in a tight place. This is a pretty powerful motive.
Sir George out of the way, and he is practically master of Broadwater.
What do you say to that as a motive? Then there were those American
letters----"

"Ah, if we could only get hold of one of them!"

"Miss Verity did so. That is why Miss Verity and Mrs. Sinclair are at
present in New York. And Stott is there also. I quite forgot to tell
you that I had a long letter from Mrs. Sinclair to-day. No doubt you
will get a letter in the course of the day. Mrs. Sinclair thinks there
something diabolical going on relating to the story of Miss Verity's
father, and she is in New York to get to the bottom of it. Also she is
quite certain Stott is there to prevent her?"

Lance jumped to his feet excitedly.

"Tell me their address," he cried. "So long as Stott is about, those
dear creatures are in danger. I'll leave England by the next boat."

"You'll do nothing more foolish than smoke another cigar," Burlinson
said, coolly. "Mrs. Sinclair is quite capable of managing the business
single-handed, and she has powerful friends. You are going to stay
here, and help me to solve the mystery of the chloroform bottle with
the indiarubber cork. Do you remember the point I made over that?"

"And Stott's face," Lance said, with a grim smile. "I can see the
terror of it now, and realise what it meant in the light of recent
discoveries. But tell me how you found out that that bottle had an
indiarubber cork."

"Easy as anything," Burlinson laughed. "After I discovered that
chloroform had been slopped about all over the table I made a search.
And under one of the windows I found the cork, which at present is
in my possession. Perhaps it bounced off the table, and could not
be recovered; perhaps it was never missed, and the bottle buried in
obvious forgetfulness of its existence. But the fact remains that I
have the cork."

"Is it likely to prove a valuable clue?" Lance asked.

"It will stretch and stretch until it becomes a noose round Stott's
neck," said Burlinson, with a rare poetic flight. "It's going to become
the hilt of our most powerful weapon. And if you want to see the first
thread or two run off the reel, and you have nothing better to do,
perhaps you will come with me to Swanley."

Lance rose, and pitched his cigar into the fire.

"I should like nothing better," he cried. "I am ready any time."




Chapter XXII.--Bad News for Stott.

Burlinson smoked his cigar down to the last fragrant puff before
rising. He belonged to the class of men who never do anything in a
hurry. And though Lance was naturally impatient, the calm assurance of
the other's manner was soothing.

"Festina lente," Burlinson said, quoting his favorite motto.
"No good thing was ever done in a hurry. We are going into Swanley
presently on a little delicate business. When we come back I expect we
shall have a pretty shrewd notion as to where the chloroform came from."

But the matter was not arranged quite so easily as Burlinson
anticipated. There were no less than five chemists in Swanley, all
doing prosperous trades, all supplying doctors in the town or close at
hand, and all in a position to prove recent sales of chloroform. It was
quite late in the afternoon before Burlinson seemed to hit the trail at
last.

It was quite an old-fashioned shop in a side-street--a shop with
the antiquated bulbous globes of amber and blue in the window and a
great profusion of little weirdly-labelled drawers inside. A tall
grey-haired man, who might from his manner have easily been taken for a
distinguished consulting physician, saluted Burlinson gravely.

"And what can I do for you, sir?" he asked.

"Well, I fancy you can give me some information, Mr. Noakes," Burlinson
replied. "If not, I shall be compelled to try outside Swanley."

Noakes bowed, with the air of a man who felt every confidence in the
intellectual force of Swanley, and frowned at a prescription in his
fat, white hand.

"Anything in my power, I am sure," he murmured.

"Well, it's about chloroform," said Burlinson. "We are doing a
little bit of detective business, and all you say will be in strict
confidence. I'm looking for a man who purchases chloroform in ounce
bottles with an indiarubber cork. Now, do you ever sell it that way?"

"I don't sell much of it in any case," Noakes responded. "The sale is
steadily declining in favor of ether, and cocaine, and the like. Only
old-fashioned doctors buy it now."

"Or people with a limited medical knowledge?"

"We should not let them have it, sir."

"Quite so. That was the point I rather wanted to get at. You would not
sell chloroform to the man in the street. But do you supply it to any
regular customer, who likes to have indiarubber corks in the bottle?"

"Yes, sir, I do," Noakes responded. "Dr. Ruby, of Barkstone, always has
it that way; indeed, I get it specially for him."

Burlinson's eyes gleamed with satisfaction. Here was something definite
and tangible at length. Nor did he need anything in the way of special
detective abilities to get all the information he desired. Noakes had
nothing to conceal, and he was quite sure that his esteemed customer,
Dr. Ruby, had nothing to hide, either. And Burlinson was widely known
and respected.

It appeared from an examination of the chemist's books that no
chloroform had been supplied to Dr. Ruby lately--not since the fifth of
the month. Burlinson looked at Lance and nodded significantly. It was
two days before the death of Sir George Massey.

"Did you get an order for that?" Burlinson asked.

Noakes paused a moment to consider, and finally replied that he thought
not. So far as his recollection served him. Dr. Ruby called personally,
and, after giving the order, went out, saying the stuff was to be sent
to his trap at the Mitre yard a little before 7.

"Did you see Dr. Ruby?" Burlinson asked.

"No, sir, I didn't. I had gone out to see a neighbor and friend who
had cut his hand badly. It was my assistant who casually mentioned the
order on my return."

"Did your assistant know Dr. Ruby well?" Burlinson asked.

"Fairly. He has been with me for some months, and Dr. Ruby has been
in several times. My assistant is a little short-sighted, but he can
recognise everything in the shop."

"Um! That sounds right enough. So you sent the stuff?"

"I sent the stuff in due course by my errand boy. Naturally I asked him
if he had delivered the bottle. He said that he had done so, into the
doctor's hands."

"No possibility his making a mistake there?"

"Certainly not. The lad, who is a good, steady boy, was born in
Dr. Ruby's parish."

Burlinson knitted his brows thoughtfully. He had evidently come upon a
knot in the skein. His lips moved as if arguing with himself. Then his
face cleared.

"Would it be dark by that time?" he asked.

"Yes. I recollect it was getting dark when I came in; and the boy
hadn't started then. It must have been quite dark before he reached the
Mitre yard."

The eager look died out of Burlinson's eyes, and he became commonplace.
He intimated to Noakes that he had no more questions to ask. But on the
whole he seemed to be satisfied as he marched down the street.

"I daresay all that was very clever," Lance said, drily, "but it
conveyed nothing to me. What have you found, Sherlock Holmes?"

"I've found a great deal," Burlinson said, as drily. "And I'm going to
find more. Now we're going to get a trap at the Mitre and drive over to
call on Dr. Ruby."

"What do you expect to find there?"

"What I want to find out, and what I hope to find out, is that Ruby
had nothing from Noakes on the fifth of this month," Burlinson said,
enigmatically. "Yes, I know what you are going to remark. But you can't
always believe everything that you see."

Burlinson declined to say any more on the topic until the residence
of Dr. Ruby was reached. A low white house, with a steep thatch and a
visionary outline of mullioned windows framed in roses aroused Lance's
immediate and enthusiastic admiration. An elderly man, with long grey
hair, was mowing a lawn already as smooth and trim as velvet. Not a
single leaf was out of place.

"Now, you up-to-date young man," Burlinson cried. "What do you want
with a mowing machine. To be quite consistent, you should have a
scythe. But I don't despair of seeing your house lighted by electricity
and connected with Swanley by telephone yet."

Dr. Ruby donned a coat of antiquated cut and led the way to a
summer-house. He produced some excellent cigars, and insisted upon
regaling his guests with some cider of his own bottling. The two
doctors were at daggers drawn as regarded their medical views, and many
and fierce were the arguments they had together. The elder man was
bracing himself for an effort now.

"You want to fight?" Burlinson laughed. "I can see it in your eye, old
friend. But not to-day. Such a lovely afternoon! I want you to answer
a few questions for me, Ruby. Can you give me the recent dates of any
chloroform you have purchased?"

"Eh, what?" Ruby asked. "Why, bless my soul. Have you come back to
believe that----"

"No, no. To be consistent, you should not touch anaesthetics at all.
I merely want to know the recent dates upon which you have purchased
chloroform."

"There are no recent dates, my dear fellow. I haven't had occasion to
use chloroform for over three months. I usually get it fresh, as I want
it, in ounce bottles."

"With an indiarubber cork in it?"

"Invariably. And it always comes from Noakes at Swanley. But I assure
you that I have not purchased a pennyworth since March."

"Not on the fifth of this month?"

"Certainly not. I wasn't at home. Don't you remember chaffing me a
little while ago upon my speech at the Medical Congress at Sheffield?
If you look at your 'Times' you will see that that speech was
delivered on the fifth of the month."

"A very fine alibi," Burlinson said, gravely.

Ruby looked interested--but not so absorbingly interested as Lance
in the light of his superior knowledge. Two people had been ready to
testify on oath that Ruby was in Swanley on the fifth, and here he was
ready to prove the contrary beyond further demonstration.

"I should very much like to know what you are driving at?" Ruby asked.

Burlinson proceeded to explain in detail. He omitted nothing whatever.
He made it quite plain that some malignant person or another had
done Sir George Massey to death by means of chloroform, and that the
drug had been obtained for the purpose by some artful individual who
impersonated Dr. Ruby. Burlinson made one reservation--he made no
mention of Stott.

Ruby listened with astonishment that quickly gave place to anger.

"This must be looked into at once," he said. "I should like to go into
Swanley and see Noakes' assistant without delay. I must convince him of
his mistake."

But the matter was not so easy as the doctor anticipated. The
assistant, a slight nervous youth in spectacles, seemed to be possessed
of all the obstinacy of the timid. He recollected the dress and the
hair, the slow, high speech, and the slight quivering of the fingers.
Moreover, the errand boy was prepared to swear stoutly that he had met
Dr. Ruby at the entrance to the Mitre yard and placed the bottle in his
own hands.

"I don't see as 'ow I could ha' been mistook, sir," he said, doggedly.
"It was your own voice, and Mr. Stead, the saddler, said 'good-night'
and asked if the new 'sturtion' seeds were doing all right, and you
said as they was."

"Amazing!" Ruby murmured. "I shall wake up presently and find that I
have been dreaming. Did you notice any peculiarities about me, young
man?"

"No, sir," the assistant said politely, but firmly. "I--I don't know
what to say. It's extraordinary. I can see your hands as they were that
day, only--only you had a brown stain on your fingers as if you had
been playing with acids. Perhaps you don't recollect me asking you if
you had burnt yourself, sir?"

"No," Ruby said, sharply. "I certainly don't."

"Was the stain on both hands?" Burlinson asked, eagerly.

"No," the assistant said, after a long pause, "only on the left."

Ruby broke out somewhat angrily. He was all for having this mystery
cleared up at once. He would go to the police without delay. Meanwhile,
he bound Noakes and his assistant over to secrecy. He would bring this
masquerading ruffian to justice.

"And ruin all my plans," Burlinson said, quietly. "My dear old friend,
like Brer Rabbit, you must 'lie low' for a time. Otherwise, you will
be doing all you can to play into the hands of the man who murdered Sir
George Massey."

Ruby gasped. All his anger had departed from him.

"Do you mean to say," he cried, "that that was the man who----"

"Personated you. There is no doubt of it."

"But why all this elaborate masquerade?"

"To get the chloroform, of course. The fellow could not have procured
it as a stranger anywhere. Therefore, he decided to make up as you. And
but for the fact of the indiarubber cork being lost out of the bottle,
it's ten to one against anybody being any the wiser. By the merest
accident in the world we have stumbled on a clue, and that clue is
going to hang Sir George's murderer."

"But the likeness?" Ruby muttered; "the amazing likeness. Have you any
idea----"

"I have a very strong one," Burlinson said, drily, "but you will pardon
me if I keep it to myself for the present. In a day or two I shall
probably want to see you again on the matter. Then I'll come along and
pulverise you over that exploded germ theory of yours."

"You can't do it," Ruby cried, eagerly. "The mere presence of the
bacilli----"

They left him arguing and gesticulating, unaware that he was addressing
mere space. Burlinson and Lance were some distance on their way to
Broadwater before the latter spoke.

"You have proved a great deal," he said, "and yet it only amounts to
a little. Somebody impersonated Dr. Ruby, and obtained a bottle of
chloroform in his name. But the assistant and the errand boy are both
prepared to swear that they really saw your excitable old friend. How
do you propose to dispose of their evidence?"

"I propose to show them that they are wrong, Massey. There is one
important point that you forget. The assistant particularly noticed a
bit of dark stain on Ruby's left hand. That he is prepared to swear to.
But Ruby's hands are quite clean; and he does not deal with acids and
tests--in fact, he is far too old-fashioned for anything of that kind.
Still, the dark brown stain was on the fingers--the fingers that shook
so strangely."

"The fellow might have been nervous."

"He was, of course. Now do you know anybody whose left hand is all
stained, right up to the first joint of the fingers, stains caused by
incessant cigarette smoking?"

A sudden cry came from Lance's lips.

"Fool that I was not to think of it before," he exclaimed. "Stott!"

"Stott, of course. The twitching hands, the stained fingers. Stott, the
actor--the most marvellous comedian of his day. Ten minutes' study of
Ruby would be enough for him. With his talent the rest would be easy.
We've got him this time. And as to his wardrobe, that would be an easy
matter. If we could find the wardrobe----"

"Or even get to know where it came from."

"Yes, yes. That might be managed. All those people go to Clarkson. The
net is gradually closing round Stott--a little patience and we have
him. Fancy all this blossoming, so to speak, from a little tiny bit of
indiarubber."




Chapter XXIII.--A Den of Thieves.

Mrs. Sinclair came from the glittering saloon in full panoply of
evening dress, looking as if she had no trouble in the world. She
smiled quite pleasantly at Blake, who was waiting in the vestibule to
see her. There was a restless anxiety about the man that boded no good
for Stott. Mrs. Sinclair was a good judge of her fellow-creatures,
and for the first time she felt quite sure that Blake was not going
to play her false. The keen hungry look in his eyes was eloquent of a
determination to gain the promised reward.

"I see you have news for me," Mrs. Sinclair said.

"Plenty," Blake murmured. "In the first place, I have seen Stott and
patched up my quarrel with him. He imagines that I came over in the
Empire City in consequence of trouble in England. I am posing as a man
down on his luck who wants something to do."

"You have offered to help Stott, in fact?"

"That's it. There's a fine rascally scheme afoot, but I can't see how
it affects you."

"Tell me what the idea is, and perhaps I shall be able to help you."

"Well, it's this way," Blake proceeded to explain. "Stott is using one
of the worst gangs in New York for his own purpose. Have you ever heard
of the 'fire bugs?'"

Mrs. Sinclair nodded, her eyes gleaming. Without knowing it, Mr. Blake
had given her the key to the situation. Not that she said so, for the
less Blake knew the better. She had not the slightest intention of
confiding in the man.

"They are people who wilfully destroy property for the sake of the
insurance?" she asked.

"The greatest rascals alive," Blake said, with a pretty indignation.
"Up till quite recently those people were the terror of New York. For
some years past the number of fires in New York has been out of all
proportion to that elsewhere. The 'fire bugs' had reduced the system
to a science. Every rascally trader who wished to defraud the insurance
companies went to them. They had every appliance ready, so ingeniously
arranged that there was no trace of their handiwork after. Lives were
very frequently lost, but it made no difference to the 'fire bugs.'
The thing only looked more realistic. Most of these men are serving
long terms of imprisonment now, but two of the most dangerous are still
at large. These men are now working for Stott."

"You mean that he has incendiary designs on some building?" Mrs.
Sinclair asked.

"I am absolutely certain of it," Blake replied, emphatically. "If you
think this has nothing to do with us, I should prefer to shirk that
part of the business."

Mrs. Sinclair remarked with apparent carelessness that Stott might have
many irons in the fire. But her voice was not quite steady when she
spoke again.

"Do you happen to know where the proposed fire is to take place?" she
asked.

Blake had come posted with that information. Mrs. Sinclair started
slightly as he gave it. She saw quite clearly before her now. The
building proposed to be destroyed was the very one where once the
office of the "Record" had been.

"I think you had better see the thing through," she said. "One never
knows when one may stumble upon valuable information. After all, this
may be part of Stott's cunning design against me. To take you to a
certain extent into my confidence, I may say that, inter alia, I am
anxious to obtain a file of the 'Record' for the year 1888. Do you
understand that?"

Blake pricked up his ears.

"Why, the paper was published at that very block of buildings!" he
exclaimed.

"I am quite aware of that. And it seems to me that your opportunity of
procuring me the thing I require is absolutely unique. If you can't get
a file, you can get me half-a-dozen copies of 'The Record' for the
17th of July, 1888. Directly those papers are in my hands I am prepared
to hand over my cheque for 500."

Blake's eyes gleamed. The thing looked ridiculously easy, and he was
eager for the money.

And yet Mrs. Sinclair had driven a hard bargain and only provided him
with enough to procure the ordinary necessities of life. At the present
moment 500 appeared to be an inexhaustible sum. His heart warmed as he
thought of the enjoyment of it.

"There won't be much trouble about that," he said. "I shall see Stott
to-night----"

"Very well," Mrs. Sinclair replied, with an air of dismissal. "I leave
it entirely to your discretion. Only let me have those papers as soon
as possible."

Blake departed, sanguine himself, but leaving Mrs. Sinclair by no means
to certain. She knew perfectly well why Stott had embarked on this
dangerous step. He had no property in New York; he could not possibly
expect to benefit by a fire, however disastrous. He was simply taking
the means of removing something that it was imperative to destroy. And
what was it that Stott was going to destroy? Mrs. Sinclair did not need
to ask the question. The incineration of a mass of old "Records" was
the motive. To gain that end Stott would have burnt New York.

Perhaps it would be as well to inform the police. But that might
destroy all chance of getting the papers. Once they were procured, no
time should be lost in informing the authorities of what was going on.
Doubtless nothing would be done for a day or two. Blake had not hinted
that the danger was imminent, as he would have done had it been so
close. At any cost those papers must be procured. Mrs. Sinclair would
have given a deal to know what floor they were upon. Had she known she
would have probably have taken the matter into her own hands.

"And as it is we must wait!" she murmured.

Meanwhile Blake was striding through the Bowery with his hat cocked
at a rakish angle, and feeling on the best of terms with himself. He
was poor now, but he was going to be rich before long. Already he felt
that Mrs. Sinclair's cheque was as good as in his pocket. He was going
perfectly straight over this matter, because he could see that it was
his interest to do so. He could never get anything like as much out of
Stott, and that little rascal would play him false at the very first
opportunity.

Therefore his greeting of Stott in the modest retirement of the
choice saloon was extra cordial. The small man opened his teeth in an
answering smile. Just for an instant his eyes flashed murder, but Blake
failed to notice it. Ostensibly he was acting as Stott's agent in the
matter, for the latter took no risks where he could procure a tool for
the purpose.

"You have got everything ready?" Stott asked.

Blake took a written text from his pocket, and perused it thoughtfully.

"Everything," he said at length. "The petroleum from one place, the
tubs from another, the hay from a third. The stuff is all delivered,
and paid for; in fact, I saw the last parcel in this afternoon. And now
I'll trouble you for those twenty dollars you promised me."

Stott handed over the coins grudgingly one by one. It was always a pain
for him to part with hard cash. He smiled with an effort, and called
for a bottle of champagne.

"I suppose you've finished with me now?" Blake asked.

Stott rather thought not. His face was hidden from Blake as he stooped
to roll a cigarette, so that the latter could not see his eyes. When he
spoke it was quite tranquilly.

"I fancy you had better see the thing through," he said. "My friend the
Giraffe, and my equally dear friend Dandy, are murderous ruffians, and
if they deemed it to their interest to get rid of me they would not
hesitate to do so. Therefore I have no particular desire to be alone in
that cellar with them."

Blake shrugged his shoulders indifferently. It was all the same to him,
he said. It was not his cue to show Stott that he particularly desired
to accompany the expedition, and that the latter was playing into his
hands. Stott watched him all the time with his dull, blue eye.

"Spoken like a true pal," he said, boisterously. He had imbibed
the major part of the champagne, and it was getting into his head.
"No, I'll not have any more wine. I've been so steady lately that a
little seems to do for me. Help me over this matter, and I'll pay you
handsomely. You don't know how generous I can be when I'm fully wound
up to it."

Blake cynically responded that he had never witnessed the rare
mechanical process, at which pleasantry Stott laughed immoderately, and
in the midst of his hilarity the Giraffe and Dandy slid into the room.
They came furtively, as if every shadow held a policeman. They demanded
drinks hoarsely, and refused to move until they were satisfied--a long
and expensive process. It was nearly midnight before they evinced any
desire to come to business.

"Well, I guess we had better be moving," the Giraffe growled, as he
drew his vast length from a chair. "I'd like to get this thing through,
and finger the stamps."

Dandy rose also, to Stott's great relief.

"We'll go first," he said. "We'll go and open the cellar. I'll leave
the flap ready for you. In half an hour's time you can be back here
with money jingling in your pockets, and if anything unpleasant
happens, Mr. George Washington, barkeeper yonder, will be ready to
swear that you were here all the evening."

Stott swaggered out easily, followed by Blake. The little man was very
restless all the same, and from time to time pressed his hand upon his
heart as if in great pain. His face grew so white and ghastly that
Blake's attention was called to it.

"Better see a doctor," he suggested.

"No use," Stott said, hoarsely. "Perhaps when this business is over I
shall have time--but not till then. It's an old-standing trouble, and
will be the end of me eventually. By Jove, if I were to die now, what a
good thing it would be for some people."

Stott chuckled as he went along. They came at length to their
destination, where Stott paused and looked cautiously around. The whole
street seemed to be deserted. He drew the cellar flap and descended,
followed by Blake. Then he lighted a feeble lamp.

The cellar was practically bare save for a wooden keg or two and some
empty tubs and some ropes of hay lying on the floor. Blake shivered
slightly.

"A risky game," he muttered.

"Not a bit," Stott replied. "There will be no trace of the origin of
the fire. And everybody knows that the people who own this block of
buildings are beyond suspicion. Even if the thing should come to light,
who can suspect me? I have no insurance and nothing to gain by a fire.
Therefore why should I set the place ablaze? It is all going to be a
pure accident."

Blake said no more for the present. He was looking keenly about him.
Overhead, in reach of a tall man like himself, was a trap door working
on hinges. Blake pushed it up.

"What have we here?" he asked.

"It was once the store-room of the 'Record' people," Stott said,
carelessly. "All the types and machinery, all the books and files and
papers were put in there, when the 'Record' got into the Bankruptcy
Court and a receiver was appointed. And there it's likely to remain
until the estate is closed."

Blake curbed down the cry that came to his lips. Here was the thing
ready to his hand. He had been almost afraid that he would be compelled
to arouse Stott's suspicions by asking questions. Instead of that,
fortune had played directly into his hands. He managed to look around
him in the same disinterested kind of way.

"A fine addition to the bonfire," he said.

"Cause and effect," Stott chuckled. "You don't understand that remark,
eh? Well, I am sorry, because I shall have to keep the fun to myself.
But, as you say, the materials are all here to give my fire a fine
start."

"Anything of value up there?" Blake asked.

Stott made no reply for the moment; he was chuckling to himself.

"Better go and see," he said in a small choked voice; "better go and
see."

Blake needed no further bidding. He drew himself up the ladder into the
room above, and lighted a wax match. His quick eye took in everything.
There was the file of the paper for 1888 and 1889--the last two years
of its existence; there were piles and piles of unsold sheets tied up
and labelled with the year and month outside. Before Blake had consumed
his fourth match he had a score of the issue of the "Record" for the
17th of July, 1888, lying on the floor. It was some little time before
he felt equal to joining Stott again.

By this time the others had arrived. Their method of work was peculiar
and ingenious. They proceeded to fill two tubs with paraffin to the
brim, and from one tub to the other across the floor long haybands of
hay, also soaked in the oil, were placed. The haybands were twisted all
along the walls and from hence through the trap door to the room above,
where another brimming tub of oil was set. Then, all the tubs were
strewn with old and dry champagne corks. Finally a candle was forced
into the middle of the haybands and lighted. The candle would perhaps
last half an hour; and as it burnt down would ignite the saturated hay,
which would spread to the tub of paraffin, which would slop all aflame
over the place, as the tub burnt down, so that in the course of time
the whole place would be blazing with incredible fury. Many a time has
this ingenious scheme been played, as New York knows to its cost.

The thing was finished at length on the upper floor, and Blake turned
to go. His plan was simple. He would leave with the rest, and make an
excuse to return, when he would gather up the papers, and, if there was
time, extinguish the candle.

"So simple and yet so deadly," he muttered. "Are you coming, Stott?"

Stott was bending over the pile of "Records" with a smile.

"It seems to me," he said very sweetly, "that you have forgotten
something. Aren't you going to take these papers with you?"

Blake gasped. For the first time he caught sight of Stott's eyes. He
looked towards the trap door, but the Giraffe and Dandy barred the way.

"Why should I want those papers?" he ventured to say. "I don't----"

"Why, for your friend, Mrs. Sinclair, of course. I know all about it,
you scoundrel. Giraffe, if he tries to move hit him over the head."

But Blake stood there as if paralysed.




Chapter XXIV.--Fire!

Blake stood with his foot almost on the trap door that led to safety
with a feeling that he could not move to save his life. A more resolute
and courageous man would have made a dash for it. But Blake had no grit
of that kind. He knew perfectly well that the three men opposite him
were arrant cowards, and that none of them would have dared to tackle
him single-handed. United they were dangerous. He could see the snarl
on Dandy's face, and the murderous gleam in the eyes of the Giraffe.

"I don't seem to understand," he stammered.

"I do, which is more to the purpose," Stott sneered. "You've shot your
bolt."

"Is it a nark?" Dandy asked, huskily.

"That's what it comes to," Stott explained. "Here he is, as a spy on my
movements, to get me into trouble if he can, and to spoil the plans I
have been laying for years. And if he hurts me, he hurts you. See?"

The others saw right enough. If this spy were allowed to escape, they
were in danger. Under such circumstances they had little scruple as to
the taking of human life. They had very little feeling on the matter.
Blake was a spy, and as such a danger in the path. They did not know
that Stott had deliberately lured the unhappy Blake on to this, or that
he was using them as a means of destroying Blake altogether. So long as
the man lived he was a constant menace to Stott. Therefore he must die.
And Blake knew it, too, and his heart turned to water within him.

"You have no right," he began, "to assume----"

"I'm assuming nothing," Stott snarled. "You haven't forgiven me for the
way I made use of you in England a while ago; and so you joined forces
with the very clever lady who is in New York just now. You didn't come
here by the Empire City, you came on the Campanella, with Mrs.
Sinclair. You thought you had utterly deceived me, but I smiled in your
face and you never understood. I know perfectly well what you came here
to-night for. But you are not going to get it--you are not going to get
anything more. No cause for fear, boys--he's quite alone here."

"Body of a strange individual found in the ruins," Dandy grinned.

"Not recognisable. Supposed to be the cause of the fire," the Giraffe
supplemented.

Stott smiled as he lighted a cigarette. Blake could have called aloud
for mercy--he could have grovelled for it had he not known how useless
the plea would be. He looked helplessly around the room for some avenue
of escape. Evidently the room had been used at one time for damping
paper for printing purposes, for in one corner was a permanent flat
zinc bath or sink with a tap over it. The floor was packed with cases
of type and frames and the like, a "Platen" machine peeped out from a
mass of books and papers.

There was no avenue for escape anywhere. It was pretty evident what
the friends meant to do. They would imprison Blake there, close the
trap-door, and leave him to roast alive. Nobody could possibly hear his
cries, and when his charred remains were found they would be regarded
as the remains of an incendiary.

Blake stood there almost suffocated by his bursting, drumming heart,
and wet from head to foot with the perspiration that poured off him. He
knew that he was doomed, he knew that nothing less than a miracle could
save him. The place was silent as the grave. He knew that no cry of his
could possibly penetrate those walls.

He was none the less alarmed because his enemies showed no trace of
passion. They did not appear to be in the least angry with him. He had
to be removed, and he would be removed without heat or prejudice. Stott
stood opposite him, grinning amiably.

"How long will the candle burn?" he asked. The "fire bugs" answered
that it would be a matter of ten minutes before there was any danger.
From a dark corner Stott produced a large bottle of champagne.

"My work is practically finished," he said. "I feel that I can let
myself go now. The day after to-morrow, my dear Blake, I shall be on
my way back to England again. My satisfaction will be mitigated by the
thought that I shall never set eyes on you again. Therefore I am going
to ask you to divide this bottle of champagne with me."

He cut the wire, and presently the amber liquid bubbled and flowed into
two glasses. Blake shook his head. He was not going to drink. He would
die first.

"Never neglect a chance of pulling yourself together," Stott sneered.
"The wine will give you courage. And where there is no despair there is
always hope."

"I never thought of that," said Blake. "Give me the glass."

He tilted the champagne down his parched throat and his heart rose a
little.

"The trap-door is strong and the lock new," Stott smiled. "Still you
may have a bit of luck. I am acting as a sportsman in giving you a
chance. I might have tied you up----"

"No, you don't," Dandy said hoarsely. "That game's too dangerous in
case things go wrong. And it strikes me that we'd better be moving."

"Nothing will go wrong," Stott cried. "You are too fine an artist for
that. At the same time we had better be moving. Good-bye, Blake."

They were gone, the trap was lowered and the key turned before Blake
realised that he was alone. He let off a yell that rang back muffled in
his own ears. Under ordinary circumstances he would have grovelled on
the floor and given up the struggle. But the champagne so ironically
offered by Stott had not been entirely without effect.

Blake set his teeth tightly together. He would make one effort
for freedom and revenge. He turned up the lamp that Stott had so
thoughtfully provided. Once beyond that zone of dreaded fire and
Stott's career would be at an end. Blake could see it all clearly
before his eyes now. He thought of his employer and then of his
presence here to-night. Almost mechanically he gathered up those fatal
copies of the "Record" and folded them tightly together. He laid
them in the zinc bath and proceeded to lay other papers over them. Then
he turned the tap and flooded the sink with water. He would try and
preserve those records because he knew that in some way they affected
the plans that Stott had laid for his purpose.

The water gushed from the tap freely. A brilliant idea came to Blake.
Why not let the sink run over and flood the room below? He cursed
himself for a fool, inasmuch as he had not thought of it before. It
might be too late. Round went the tap, and presently the floor was
moist with water. But it looked like being a long and tedious business,
and meanwhile that fateful piece of candle must be perilously near to
the saturated hay.

If there was any way of forcing the trap-door, if it was possible
to procure a weapon! But the hinges of the trap were screwed down
firmly in the floor. A screwdriver would have done the business in two
minutes; but there was no screwdriver handy. Blake's eyes roved wildly
round him, till they fell upon the empty champagne bottle.

An instant later and the bottle was broken in half a dozen pieces. One
at least of the big pieces had a sharp cutting edge. Blake twisted his
handkerchief round the upper part and immediately fell to work to cut
away the boards round the hinges. The champagne had given him courage;
the bottle seemed like a tool to cut a way to freedom.

Meanwhile the water was finding its way through the boards to the room
below. It could not have been more than two minutes since Stott and
company had gone, and Blake calculated that another five minutes must
elapse before the conflagration commenced. Once this started, he knew
that there was little hope for him. His journalistic experiences in
America had taught him something of the methods of the "fire bugs,"
and how wonderfully effective they were. Once the blaze started it
would go like wildfire.

Blake worked away till his arm ached and the sweat blinded him. The
sharp glass scored the floor boards and divided under the sides of the
hinges. Using the corner of an iron "forme" for a lever, one set of
hinges was wrenched away, and with a hoarse cry of triumph, Blake could
see into the room below. The candle still burnt steadily, but it seemed
to be near, perilously near, to the hayband now. With a sudden spasm of
fear upon him Blake jumped upon the trap-door like a madman. It gave a
little on one side, now, seeing that a hinge was released, but it held
firmly all the same. A little stream of water trickled down into the
room below. If it would only put the candle out!

With a yell, inspiration came to Blake. He darted to the sink, where
the saturated papers were, and raised them streaming and flopping in
his arm. He pressed the trap down as far to one side as possible, and
let the whole mass drop into the room below. There was a slight hiss, a
dull soaking flop, and the cellar became as dark as Erebus.

Blake rose to his feet, and danced about like a madman. He was
saved--his own fertility of resource had saved him. With bitter irony
Stott had given him the champagne, and that champagne had saved the
situation. All the elaborate arrangement of petroleum and tubs and
soaked haybands was no more dangerous now than a barrel of gunpowder at
the bottom of the Atlantic.

For a little time Blake was beside himself with joy. He shouted and
laughed and wept, full of the delight of life and and the pleasing
knowledge that he was going to take a great revenge. Then it gradually
came back to him that danger was not entirely averted. Stott and his
friends would not go away comfortably to bed till they actually knew
that their work was accomplished. And if there was no alarm of fire and
no engines came screaming wildly down the street they would feel that
in some way or other their efforts had miscarried.

Then they would come creeping cautiously back to know the reason why.
The mere thought of this set Blake headlong to work again. He felt like
a man endowed with new strength. With his improvised tool he slaved at
his remaining hinge until he could get his lever to work again. There
was a ripping of wood and a rending of steel, and the trap gave at
length.

Taking the lamp cautiously in his hand, Blake dropped into the room
below. He lifted the mass of papers from the candle, and shuddered
to see that it had burned down till it was not much thicker than a
shilling. Another minute and it would have been too late; once those
bands had caught fire nothing in the world could have saved him. There
would have been a dense volume of suffocating smoke and then a sheet of
flame.

"But I'd better not think of that," Blake muttered. "I'll just pick out
those half-score papers in the centre that seem to be dry, and then for
the street."

There were quite a score of "Records" in the pile that were no more
than damp at the edges. Blake folded them up tightly, and tried the
door. It was locked on the outside. But after what he had gone through
the knowledge did not discourage him. Stott and Company would be back
presently. What he wanted was a weapon. He found it upstairs--a heavy,
slanting wedge of iron used to tighten and lock up the type when in the
"chase," and with this in his hand he sat down doggedly by the door and
waited.

His patience was not unduly tried. A little while later and there were
whispers outside, excited eager whispers, and a deep oath or two. A
chuckle of satisfaction followed as the miscreants discovered that the
door of the cellar was intact.

"The bird has not flown," said Stott. "Depend upon it, he's quite safe.
Perhaps a draught put the candle out."

"Perhaps," the Giraffe said, hoarsely. "We'll make sure this time.
Where's the key?"

Blake pulled himself together. In one hand he held the precious papers,
the other gripped the weapon with nervous force. The door fell back,
and the three conspirators tumbled in. Blake was striding out as a
match flared blue and unsteady. With a cry, Dandy rushed for him.

Down came the iron wedge with crushing force on Dandy's head, and he
fell like a stone. The Giraffe hung back for a moment, but Blake gave
him no time. Once more the weapon descended, hitting the Giraffe on the
arm, and breaking it just above the wrist. With a hysterical cry, Stott
darted forward, something gleamed in his hand, and a moment later Blake
felt the warm blood gushing from his side.

It was no time to ascertain the damage. Thrusting Stott on one side,
Blake made for the street, calling aloud for the police as he did so.
Stott followed for a little way until somebody in uniform hove in
sight. And Stott was not lacking in audacity now.

"Arrest that man," he cried. "He has tried to murder me!"

"Arrest us both," Blake gasped. "See here, the little ruffian stabbed
me, and I'm all over blood. Look here, officer. Take care of these
papers; freeze to them and there's a hundred dollars for you to start
with--and more to follow. Whatever you do don't lose sight of me, and
don't lose sight of those papers. Now arrest us both."

Stott sheered off. His face was white and set, and there was murder in
his eye. He quickened his pace as the policeman's whistle rang shrill
and clear, and another man in uniform came up.

"Here," the first officer growled. "I've got a handful. Man been
stabbed. You follow that little devil who's hurrying down the street,
and arrest him on a charge of attempted murder. Never mind me, I shall
manage to get the chap along. Step it, boss."

Blake staggered along feebly. He was feeling spent and done.

"Whatever happens, freeze to the papers," he groaned.

"All right, sonny, I'll take care of the calico. You lean on me, and we
will get there in time. But I ain't over sanguine as to that century
spot you promised me."

Blake contrived to draw a card from his pocket.

"Send for the lady at this address to-morrow," he said. "And she will
tell you. Take care----"

"Ullo!" the officer cried. "Case for the ambulance here. The poor
chap's fainted!"




Chapter XXV.--The Long Arm.

Dr. Burlinson was slightly at fault in his suggestion that Stott had
called in the aid of Clarkson over his perfect impersonation of Dr.
Ruby. Lance, on the other hand, felt pretty sure that such was not the
case.

"I don't fancy you are right there," he said, thoughtfully, as he and
Burlinson discussed the matter over a post-prandial cigar. "Stott's
amazing cunning would keep him from Clarkson's. You see, everybody
knows of that famous establishment, and if anything leaked out by
accident it would be the first place the police would go to. And a
high-class firm like Clarkson's would give the police every assistance.
We must look further afield."

"On the contrary, the enormous business transacted by the firm in
question would be Stott's safeguard," Burlinson said. "At least, that's
how I should argue it."

"Quite in the approved analytical way," Lance laughed. "Well, with my
knowledge of the stage and the profession generally to help us, I shall
be able to solve that point. I'll go to town to-morrow, and make the
necessary inquiries."

Lance proved right in his contention. The big theatrical house could
find no record of any transaction with Stott directly or indirectly.
Of course, they recollected the name as that of a good customer at one
time.

"You do a great deal outside the profession?" Lance suggested.

"Oh, yes," was the reply. "Of course, we have to be careful. And
anything in the nature of a suspicious case is politely but firmly
declined."

"And you have sent nothing down my way, I suppose?"

"Nothing at all. The only sort of set out anything like yours lately
has been supplied to well-known actors. The disguise you are looking
for never came from us."

Lance was satisfied that such was the case. Moreover, he was surprised
and by no means pleased to hear that Clarkson had scores of rivals in
the field--small firms for the most part, but small or large they all
tended to the difficulty of the search.

At any of these Stott might have procured the disguise. In all
probability it would take weeks to go round them. And whatever Stott
might have procured from them, it was pretty certain that he had
transacted no business in his own name. The usual method, as Lance
ascertained, was to pay a deposit and to clear the balance when the
costumes were returned to the firm. It looked like a long job.

"Long or short, it's got to be done," Burlinson said. "If once we can
prove this, we shall hang Stott to a dead certainty."

"I've no particular desire to hang the fellow," Lance responded. "My
great object is to clear my good name. And if Ruby's double was not
Stott after all----"

"Nonsense. There is not the slightest doubt about it. What we want to
find out now is where Stott had his letters sent. There are always
places in every town where letters are taken in at a charge of a penny
each, and I don't suppose Swanley is different to other towns. Now do
you happen to know what favorite haunts Stott had in Swanley?"

"I don't," Lance said, thoughtfully, "but perhaps Lapthorne does.
Lapthorne is one of the grooms, you know. He was generally picked out
by Stott as his usual driver when he went anywhere. I never could quite
understand why, because Lapthorne is a particularly dull lad. Perhaps,
after all, Stott selected him because he was dull."

"That's it," Burlinson exclaimed. "Let's have Lapthorne in here."

The young groom came at length, nervous and hesitating, and wondering
what crime he had committed. The mere fact that he had to give
information to his superiors added to his confusion. So far as he
recollected he had never been with Stott anywhere; he was not prepared
to affirm that such an individual as Stott existed. It was all just as
Sir Lancelot wished.

"What a witness for a smart counsel to handle," Burlinson muttered.
"The man could be made to say anything. I am afraid he hardly
understands our vernacular, Massey. Look here, Lapthorne."

"Please sir, I am looking there, sir," said the wretched groom.

"Good. Now listen to me. How many public-houses are there in Swanley?"

Lapthorne brightened visibly. He was getting on familiar ground now.
There were twenty-seven "publics" in Swanley, not counting the two
hotels.

"And how many of them have you been in with Mr. Stott?" the doctor
asked.

"All of them, sir," Lapthorne replied, promptly, and proud of his
information; "more than once."

Lance lay back in his chair and laughed aloud at Burlinson's
discomfited face. But Burlinson was not going to be baffled now that
he had got on the trail. There was one favorite hotel that Stott
frequented much, a house called "The Black Cat," where he did
certain betting business.

"With a local man?" Burlinson asked eagerly.

"No," Lapthorne replied, "with somebody at a distance. You see, the
landlord of the 'Cat' used to be in a stable at Newmarket, and he knew
a deal about racing. Mr. Stott's letters and telegrams went to the
'Cat.'"

The doctor smiled sweetly at his companion. "All in his own name?"
he asked. "Oh, no, sir. Mr.--Mr.--what did he call himself?--I have
fetched lots of letters for him. I remember--it was Mr. Masters that he
called himself."

Burlinson intimated that he had no further need of Lapthorne's
services, and the latter retired gratefully and perspiringly. The
doctor was more than satisfied.

"So far so good," he said. "Wonderful what a lot of information you can
get if you only go the right way about it. Our man got his disguise in
the name of Masters, and the things were sent to him from somewhere
to the 'Black Cat,' Swanley. We'll go into Swanley the first thing in
the morning, and visit the public-house. It is hardly possible that
the landlord of the place can be ignorant of Stott's real identity.
An eccentric individual like Stott in a small place like Swanley
could never conceal his real identity for long. It's long odds that
everybody yonder knows what Stott is, and where he lives. So we'll go
to this place and calmly ask for any letters, etc., belonging to Mr.
Stott, alias Masters, as he is away from home, and desires them to be
forwarded."

Everything fell out exactly as Burlinson had predicted. The landlord
of the "Black Cat" recognised Lance, and greeted him respectfully.
He was quite candid over the fact that he had several communications
for Mr. Masters, who had not been near him lately, nor did he make the
slightest objection to parting with the letters. If any more letters
came he would send them to Broadwater.

Lance put the packages in his pocket, and drove with them to
Burlinson's house. Most of the letters appeared to have no connection
with the case, but there was one of them in a long blue envelope,
with an embossed red stamp on the back. Lance thrilled as he read the
legend. "Morse et Cie, Theatrical Costumier, 118 Wellington-street,
Covent Garden, London, W.C."

"Got it!" Burlinson cried, excitedly. "We've run the fox to earth,
for any money. That letter will tell us all about the costume. No,
don't open it; don't run any unnecessary risks. The case is ripe now
to be handed over to Lawrence, and he shall take the responsibility
of reading that letter. Let me go over and inform him of our recent
discoveries."

Inspector Lawrence listened to the interesting story with flattering
attention. So far as he could judge there were no flaws in Burlinson's
deductions. The whole thing seemed to fit in beautifully, from the
finding of the cork down to the tell-tale tobacco stains on Stott's
fingers.

"You are teaching me my own business," he said.

"Not at all," Burlinson replied. "My discovery of the spilt chloroform
and the cork gave me a clue that the blindest could not avoid
following. And now you know all about Dr. Ruby and the rest of it.
You have heard our theory, and if you will be so good as to open that
letter we are pretty sure that you will find it confirmed."

Lawrence opened the letter, and read aloud:--



Dear Sir,--We are greatly obliged by your cheque, valued 6 14s 9d.
being the amount of account duly enclosed and receipted, and we are
glad to hear that the costume was so greatly admired by your audience
and friends. 

At the same time we beg to call your attention to the fact
that we are not yet in receipt of our goods, in accordance with the
terms that they are to be returned within three days if not otherwise
specified. 

We shall be glad to receive same, and beg to remain,

Yours respectfully,

MORSE ET CIE.



The inspector's eyes gleamed. Here was indeed a find. It was pretty
evident that Stott had forgotten to return the goods, and that the
damning evidence was lying about somewhere.

"He couldn't have sent them from Broadwater," Lawrence mused. "That
would have been too dangerous. The parcel was sent to the 'Black
Cat,' and doubtless should have been returned in due course. I
shouldn't mind hazarding an opinion that the parcel is there still."

"I'll go and see," Lance volunteered. "We shall soon know."

He came back presently with a large brown paper parcel under his arm.
Once this was opened, what appeared to be a complete suit of Dr. Ruby's
clothes stood confessed, even down to the old-fashioned latched shoes
and frilled shirt. Every garment bore the name of Morse et Cie.

"I think you had better leave the rest to me," Lawrence said,
excitedly. "It will take me all my time to get everything in trim for
the adjourned inquest next Thursday. Look at the new witnesses I have
to see and examine. But when Thursday does come there will be plenty of
sensation for the public."

"I'm quite content to hand over the business to you," said Lance.

Thursday brought fresh hurt to the burdened soul of Long, for there was
a greater scramble to hear the proceedings than ever. In a small place
like Swanley it was impossible to keep matters secret, especially as so
many people there had been exalted into high places. The landlord of
the "Black Cat" had told his customers all he knew, and perhaps a
little more, the chemist's assistant and errand boy were eagerly sought
for, and even Lapthorne was confused with questions until he had not
the faintest idea what had happened. A little dapper man with a waxed
moustache had arrived in Swanley the night before, and was confidently
believed to be the representative of the firm of Morse et Cie, down
to give evidence at the inquest.

The big room was packed as Burlinson rose to give his evidence. He
proved beyond question that Sir George Massey was dead before the razor
touched his throat, and then he went on to speak of the discovery of
the spilt chloroform and the finding of the cork. By production of the
MS. play, and the fitting into it of the supposed suicide's letter, the
theory of self-destruction was swept to the winds. As Lance turned away
after giving his evidence he could plainly see that he had restored
himself in the eyes of his neighbors.

Noakes, the chemist, followed, and after him Dr. Ruby, to refute the
evidence of the chemist's assistant as to his alleged purchase of the
chloroform. The audience were a little bewildered at this point, but
the clear-headed ones began to see their way.

"What do you propose to prove, inspector?" asked the coroner.

The packed audience strained their ears to listen.

"We have already proved death by chloroform, sir," Lawrence replied.
"We have proved that that bottle of chloroform came from Mr. Noake's
shop, and it has been proved, on the evidence of Dr. Ruby, that
somebody personated him to obtain that drug. That individual, who was
known as Mr. Masters, procured his disguise from Messrs. Morse et
Cie, of Covent Garden, and a representative of the firm will testify
that they made up the disguise from a photograph of Dr. Ruby, supplied
by Masters, and accompanied by a letter. The landlord of the 'Black
Cat' will tell you what he knows of this Masters, who used his
house, and what his real name is. It will be proved that 'Masters' had
a separate banking account here for racing purposes, and that he drew a
cheque on that account for the purpose of paying Morse et Cie."

The perspiring audience gasped. They were evidently going to have quite
as much sensation as rumor had promised them. They followed every
witness with rapt attention, none the less rapt because the key of
the mystery had not yet presented itself to them. But long before the
landlord of the "Black Cat" had given his evidence it was a foregone
conclusion that this "Masters" was the man who had murdered Sir George
Massey. Every word of the evidence was rapidly scored down by the
reporters with an eye for "lineage," seeing that every daily paper in
the kingdom would take all they could get of the Broadwater Mystery.
The evidence was pretty well complete at last. The landlord of the now
famous "Black Cat" deposed to all he knew about Masters. Yes, he
knew that that was not his real name.

"Will you tell me what his real name was?" the coroner asked.

"Yes, sir," came the clear reply. "His real name was Malcolm Stott."

A loud cry followed this confession, which, however, was more than
half-expected by some of the audience. And Stott was perfectly well
known to most of them. A dapper clerk from the local bank produced the
cheque drawn in favor of Morse et Cie., and deposed to the fact that
he knew perfectly well that "Masters" and Malcolm Stott were one and
the same.

There was no more to to be said or done, beyond the coroner's address
to the jury, which was short and to the point. They had heard all the
remarkable evidence just produced, and they could give their verdict
according to that evidence. Without the slightest hesitation they found
that Sir George Massey had been murdered by Malcolm Stott, by the use
of an overdose of chloroform acting on a weak heart.

"That ends the matter for the present," said the Coroner. "I have to
thank you, gentlemen, for your care and attention. Mr. Inspector, have
you any application to make?"

"Yes, sir," he said. "On the finding of the jury I will ask you to
issue your warrant for the arrest of Malcolm Stott for the murder of
Sir George Massey."




Chapter XXVI.--A Great Discovery.

Stott struck into the heart of the night with a terror of the darkness.
For the moment at any rate there was no fight left in him--so
hopelessly beaten was he that he could not feel the faintest pulse of
passion. He would have abandoned the whole of his fair fortunes for one
glass of brandy. But not so close--it was too dangerous.

His knowledge of New York was perfect. He recollected that near by
was a night saloon, where the proprietor stood on good terms with
the police. The place was practically deserted, but that was all the
better. Stott wanted to think.

He tossed one glass of brandy down his throat and proceeded to ruminate
upon another. All the salt seemed to have gone out of life; even
tobacco had lost its flavor. For the more Stott thought over matters
the blacker and darker they looked.

His intention had been to kill Blake. He had deliberately lured him
into that little scheme with the "fire bugs" with the intention of
getting a dangerous enemy out of the way. Instead of that, Blake had
escaped with evidence of most vital importance to Mrs. Sinclair. And as
soon as ever Blake was in a position to speak, he would make matters
warm for his quondam ally.

But Blake had looked very like death as the policemen held him up.
Perhaps, after all, those two stabs would be fatal. Stott hoped so.

But he could not see any way of keeping the newspapers out of Mrs.
Sinclair's possession. Once she had them, the whole fabric would
collapse about Stott's ears.

He went to bed a little later, and tossed about restlessly all night.
Early the next morning he was outside Mrs. Sinclair's hotel. But
the spot seemed to be too dangerous. Two of New York's most famous
detectives were hanging about there. Stott's heart beat a little
faster, and a touch of the old pain racked him.

Evidently it was not good enough to stay here. It might be possible
to glean some kind of information down in the Bowery saloon. But
the proprietor drove him out with curses and an intimation that if
he valued his hide he had better keep clear of the place in future.
Detectives had been present looking for Messrs. Giraffe and Dandy, who
had apparently vanished into thin air.

"And don't you come here trying to get us into trouble," the man
muttered. "If you do, I'll just sling you out quicker'n you can say
rats. I don't know anything about it. Get a move on you, sonny."

Stott got a move on himself accordingly. All this looked very ugly,
and not in the least as if Blake was beyond giving information. Still,
it was just possible that the police had found the cellar with all the
materials there ready for the fire. In that case they would know at
once that the "fire bugs" had been at work, hence their solicitude
on behalf of Dandy and Giraffe. There was comfort to be derived from
this theory.

Stott breakfasted in a slightly easier frame of mind. He was almost
cheerful as he lighted one of his eternal cigarettes. The "Herald"
and the "Sun" lay on the table before him. He took them up eagerly.
Why had he not thought of this before. The late editions of those
enterprising journals were pretty certain to have something of the
fracas.

He found it at length, but there was nothing reassuring. There was a
pithy half-column headed flambuoyantly as to the "fire bugs" and
giving a description of the police discovery of the cellar, with all
its elaborately laid conflagration scheme. But this was not the worst.
A man had been stabbed by the miscreants, and that man was in a bad
way. Subsequently he had rallied a little, and made a statement to the
police, concerning which statement the police were silent. Ere long
they expected to have all the principals in custody, if Martin Blake's
information was correct.

Martin Blake! The mere mention of the name sent a thrill down Stott's
spine. Beyond question his old ally had made a statement, or how else
had the police got his name correctly? He devoutly hoped that Mrs.
Sinclair had not seen the paragraph.

But she had. It was the first thing that caught her eye after
breakfast. She passed over the sheet for Lyn to read.

"But how does it concern us?" Lyn asked.

"Deeply, my child. Stott had made arrangements to burn down the
'Record' buildings so as to destroy all the evidence we are looking
for. He drew Blake into the scheme. This was to be Blake's opportunity
for getting that evidence. Perhaps Stott discovered that Blake was on
our side--at any rate they half-killed the man between them. The fire
broke down, and it is therefore fair to assume that the evidence exists
still."

"But how can you make sure, auntie?"

"By going to see Blake. It says in the 'Herald' that he made a
statement last night. If he can talk to the police, he can talk to me.
I'm going to find him."

Mrs. Sinclair did so at length, but she failed to see Blake, for the
simple reason that he was not in a fit state to see anyone. He was
unconscious, and stood in considerable danger from the wound received
the night before.

"Really in danger?" Mrs. Sinclair asked anxiously.

"Really," the police inspector replied. "Those big, heavy men always
go down so easily. And the patient, to put it mildly, has not been
particularly careful of himself. Still, if there is anything that I can
possibly do for you----"

Mrs. Sinclair thought not--only she hoped that every care would
be taken of the man. The inspector grimly assured her that in the
interests of justice no precautions would be neglected. For the present
it looked as if Mrs. Sinclair would have to be satisfied.

"Do you connect this affair with that attempt at arson?" she said.

"Certainly we do," the inspector said, significantly. "Besides, our
patient made a statement. I am not at liberty to say anything about
that statement. Oh, yes; the premises are being carefully watched. It
is our duty to see to that."

Mrs. Sinclair departed easier in her mind. If the premises were
carefully watched, Stott was no better off than he was before. Once
back in her hotel, Mrs. Sinclair began to ask questions. Could Lyn
recollect anything as to the 'Record' containing the account of her
father's death?

"I have a copy of it at Broadwater," Lyn said. "I fancy I know the
paper almost by heart. The account was at the top of the sixth column
of page 5. It was nearly a column altogether. And the date of the
paper was the 17th of July, 1888. On the first column was a report of
a criminal trial against some great financial light. Also there was an
article on night gambling saloons, and the result of a ward election.
Oh, yes, I can see it all----"

Mrs. Sinclair sighed. Yesterday she had been so near to the solution
of the mystery, and to-day it looked as far off as ever. So deeply was
she immersed in speculation that a colored waiter, who entered the
sitting-room, had to address her twice before he could attract her
attention.

"Well, what is the matter?" she asked, sharply.

"Gentleman to see you downstairs," the waiter grinned. "Business of
importance. Say he must see you at once--hab something to give you."

"Send him up," Mrs. Sinclair murmured. "Anybody in New York who has
anything to give away deserves encouragement. Don't go, Lyn."

The stranger came up--a stiff-built, cunning-eyed man, with a marked
Irish accent. Mrs. Sinclair sized him up at once. He had policeman
written large all over him.

"And what can I do for you?" she asked.

"Me name's Grady," the intruder commenced. "At any rate if it isn't,
Grady'll do as well as any other name. A party named Blake sent me
here."

Mrs. Sinclair nodded.

"You are in the police, and have something to dispose of," she said.
"Don't be afraid. So far as I am concerned you need never be anything
but Grady."

The Irishman smiled more freely, and touched a parcel under his arm.

"Party name of Blake got himself disliked last night," he said. "When
he came up to me some inimy of his had poked two holes in him wid a
knife. Blake was carrying what seemed to be a bundle of old newspapers
under his arm, and he gives them to me with a kyard. 'I'm done,' says
he. 'You take them papers to the address on that kyard, and the lady'll
give you a hundred dollars.' Faix, it's meself that's a confiding bhoy,
and so I come--risking me position, what's a promising one. And if so
be as I shall get them dollars----"

"Probably," Mrs. Sinclair said, as calmly as possible. "What are the
papers?"

"Nothing more than so many copies of a paper called the 'Record,'
all dated July 17, 1888. Now don't go to say as that I'm the victim of
a crool fraud."

Mrs. Sinclair assured the speaker that he was nothing of the kind.
Before his dazed eyes she counted out the money to the extent of a
hundred dollars, and bade him depart. She then dropped down by the
table, trembling in every limb.

"My dear," she said. "I'm getting old and shaky. I'm absolutely
nervous. Would you be so good as to go over that pile of papers, and
verify them?"

She sat down, white and trembling, whilst Lyn went over the papers.
They were all perfectly correct, as Lyn could see at a glance. She was
likely to remember that issue of the "Record" long after she had
forgotten the most entrancing of literature. She could see headlines
and advertisement blocks that were as familiar to her as her own name.

"And so they are all 'en regie?" Mrs. Sinclair asked.

"Certainly they are, auntie. But I don't see how this helps us."

"Oh, you will see presently unless I am greatly mistaken. Now open the
papers, and lay them out on the floor side by side, folded back so as
to display page 5."

Lyn did so quickly. Mrs. Sinclair was still sitting back in her chair,
looking strangely white and agitated. She was coming to the end of her
search; she would know in a moment whether she had triumphed or not.

"I've finished, auntie," Lyn said.

"Thank you, dear. Now will you please, if it does not distress you too
much, read the column that tells of the manner of your father's death."

Lyn stooped down to comply; then she rubbed her eyes in astonishment.
She dropped on her knees and gazed at one paper after another in dazed
astonishment.

"Auntie, Auntie," she cried. "The report isn't here!"

Mrs. Sinclair rose with a queer unsteady smile on her face. It was a
minute before she could trust herself to speak.

"You mean to say that you can't see the report?" she asked.

"Indeed, I can't," Lyn exclaimed. "It gave me quite a shock when I
found that the report was not there. Where it ought to be is an account
of some company meeting."

"Will you kindly look at the other papers, my dear?"

Lyn did so, one after the other, shaking her head all the time. She
went over the list from end to end, but no sign of the sensational item
could she find anywhere.

"There is no sign to be seen of it anywhere in any of the papers," she
said.

Mrs. Sinclair put up her spectacles and came over and kissed Lyn
tenderly. There was no sign of agitation about her now; a gleam of
triumph shone in her eyes. She looked like one who had just finished a
great and good and lasting labor.

"What does it all mean?" Lyn asked, wonderingly.

"It means that the fraud is exposed, my dear," Mrs. Sinclair said. "It
means that your father was shot, as Colonel Borrowdaile told us, by a
half-maddened speculator, and that your mother died of the shock. If we
come to examine any of the New York papers under date July 17, 1888, we
shall see the truth set out there. It means that we are in a position
to prove beyond a demonstration that there was no madness in your
family on either side, and that so far as you are concerned Lance can
snap his fingers in Stott's face."

"But it seems so strange," Lyn cried. "I have at home a copy of the
'Record' of the same date as those lying on the floor, and my paper
gives the whole tragedy chapter and verse. And here we can find no
trace of it."

"Where did your copy of the 'Record' come from, Lyn?"

"It was sent from New York by Stott, of course."

"Of course. In those days Blake was on the 'Record,' and in those
days he was more or less a creature of Stott's. The paper was a small
one, printed upon an old-fashioned Wharfdale machine more adapted for
book printing than anything else. The staff was small, and usually
the whole edition of the paper was out by 10 o'clock in the morning.
The type would lie on the machines, and the gas engines could be set
going or stopped at leisure by anybody. Now suppose somebody got into
the office and set up a column of type describing some item of news or
another. And suppose he removed a column of something else. And suppose
that----"

"Mr. Malcolm Stott to see you, Madam."

Mrs. Sinclair turned round sharply on the waiter, who stood with a card
on a salver. There was a queer grim smile on her face. Lyn looked a
little frightened.

"Why does he intrude upon us?" she asked.

Mrs. Sinclair waved the waiter from the room.

"Ask the gentleman up," she said grimly. "He could not have come at a
more opportune moment."




Chapter XXVII.--Broken-down.

It was a bad day for Stott, the worst day he could remember. For a long
time past his nerves had been playing him strange tricks, and now they
seemed to have deserted him altogether.

Never before had he been frightened of anything, beyond the horrors
conjured up out of his own imagination, but he was afraid now. He no
longer trusted his own judgment; he wanted somebody else to rely upon.
Hitherto he had regarded everybody he came in contact with as puppets
to be used in the scheme of life; now he shrank from the meanest.

Stott's brain was going now as well as his body, and he knew it. He had
played his last card, and utterly failed. He would not have failed like
this two years ago. He would not have been so foolish as to draw Blake
into the matter. He would have laughed at the fellow, and led him a
pretty chase in the wrong direction.

He would have given a great deal to know whether Mrs. Sinclair had
benefited by Blake's marvellous escape. He would have given much to
discover what the police had found out. He wanted a few words with his
late allies.

But down in the Bowery he could hear nothing of them. There was the
usual crowd of evil faces, men and women, and once Stott witnessed
an arrest in the street. He saw the light of battle die out of the
man's eyes, and the throng that he called upon turned from him. As he
lingered to watch he saw another sight that brought the queer pain to
his heart.

Two policemen were standing talking at a corner. Three men hurried past
them presently, nodded, and disappeared down a side-street. Presently
from the street came the patter of footsteps, and a man burst pantingly
into sight. One of the policemen turned as if casually and extended the
toe of his right foot.

The runner came down with a crash, and like a flash the officers were
upon him. A knife flashed in the light, a truncheon came smashing on
the fingers holding the knife, there was a howl like that of a mad dog,
and the fugitive was secured.

Stott crept a little closer, with a feeling of apprehension upon him.
As the captured man rose to his feet Stott saw that he was the Giraffe.
And he knew that Dandy was not far off. Dandy came round the corner in
the hands of three men in plain clothes, a swaggering smile on his pale
face. He caught Stott's eye and made a sign.

Stott turned away with a savage oath. What a fool he had been to come
here. Had he stayed away all might have been well. Whichever way he
went luck seemed to be dead against him. For the sign meant that he had
been "spotted" and would be followed; that if he abandoned his allies
at this juncture it would be the worse for him.

He would have to stand by these men now or they would "give him away."
He either had to do that or get from New York as soon as possible. But
he could not leave New York yet. He would have to put his hand in his
pocket and help these men.

Stott knew exactly where to go. He would have to seek out some
low-lying attorney, and place in his hands the money for the defence of
his late confederates. There were plenty of such legal lights in the
vicinity, and a great many of them were known to Stott by name. Sooner
or later his curiosity was going to cost him five hundred dollars.
Anyway Dandy and Giraffe must know at once that he was doing the best
for them, otherwise they might "give him away," and repent of their
hastiness afterwards.

He found the man he wanted at length--a thin, hatchet-faced individual
with a humorous mouth and an exceedingly dirty face. He smelt
villainously of stale beer, and he expectorated so freely over his
office floor that Stott's sensitive soul was filled with disgust.

"I guess we've met before," he drawled. "Your name is----?"

"Walker," Stott replied, with an admixture of irritation and humor.
"Excellent name, Walker. Yours at present, I understand, is Saxon. It
used to be----"

"Wall, I guess we'll allow that it used to be Walker--like yours," said
Saxon, not in the least annoyed by Stott's insinuation. "What's the
trouble?"

"So far as I am concerned, none. But there are two men who once did
me a slight service. It was many years ago, before they fell into bad
ways. Therefore I am desirous of doing them a good turn in return for
their kindness."

Saxon took a fresh chew of tobacco, and expectorated with alarming
exuberance.

"Gratitude is a holy thing, sir," he said. "It's rare, sir, like
money--and also, like that blessed quality, 'it droppeth as the gentle
dew from heaven.' The quotation will be appreciated by you, Mr.----"

"Walker--let us keep to Walker. I want to help these men."

"Certainly. It does you credit--which is a pretty thing so long as you
don't ask me for it. A poor man like myself cannot afford the higher
emotions. Their names?"

"Locally, the Giraffe and Dandy."

Saxon took his feet off the table and whistled.

"Old game," he whispered. "Saw it in the papers this morning. So they
were in that bit of a fire last night? I guessed as much. Well, we
won't ask any further questions. But it will be a tough job, and the
alibi will run into money."

"I'm not to appear in it at all," Stott said, curtly.

"Of course not. What do you take me for? It's a risky business, and
may cost more than one thinks, but I'll see it clear through for two
hundred and fifty."

"Knock off the two hundred, and it's a bargain," said Stott.

Mr. Saxon was indignant--he was hurt. Did he not represent a learned
profession? What would his colleagues say if they knew he was accepting
such fees as that? But for his admiration for the genius of his
friend--er--Walker, he should order the latter out of his office, and
decline any further intercourse.

"Say a hundred and have done with it," said Stott, calmly.

"My dear sir, it's a bargain," Saxon cried. "I'll go and see my clients
at once, and contrive to let them know who their friend is. Afterwards,
if there is anything I can do for you----"

"There is something you can do for me," Stott muttered. "Go and
see those fellows, and let me know exactly what has come to light.
Meanwhile I will remain here. If any of your numerous clients, drop in,
I'll detain them till you return."

Stott counted out ten ten-dollar bills with an air of profound regret,
and Saxon stuffed them in his pocket. He clapped a seedy top hat on the
side of his head, and swaggered out, leaving Stott to his own miserable
reflections.

It was not good to be alone, but it was still worse to be perambulating
the streets. Look which way he would Stott could not see one single
bright speck on the horizon. When Saxon returned he welcomed him most
effusively.

"Is it so very bad?" he asked eagerly.

"The case has assumed an unpleasant aspect," Saxon said with
professional gravity. "I fear, I greatly fear, that my esteemed clients
are in a bad way. An ill-conditioned ruffian has given them away. And
all because one of my clients broke three of his ribs some time ago."

"Did they tell you all about it?"

"Well, under the seal of secrecy, yes. And the police seem to have got
a clue as to the identity of the man who hired the cellar. Dandy bids
me tell you that the police have been at that individual's hotel twice
to-day. What's the matter?"

Stott's face grew pale, and he pressed his hand to his side. Much as
his lips trembled, there was a half-humorous smile upon them.

"I am infinitely obliged to Dandy," he said. "Mr. Saxon, I am going
to ask you to so far forget the duty you owe to the dignity of your
profession as to fetch me a large bottle of champagne and a pint of
brandy. I've been so abstemious lately that at the present time I am
literally suffering for a drink."

Saxon replied that he would do anything in the interests of suffering
humanity. Also he incidentally asked where the money was. Stott
produced a five-dollar bill that fluttered like a dry leaf in the wind,
and Saxon closed upon it. He came back presently with the bottles, and
produced two long soda-water glasses from a desk.

"If I do take a drink it's generally about this time," he said,
genially, as he proceeded to divide the contents of the bottle. "A
little too much brandy for the amount of champagne, but still----"

The lawyer himself drank slowly and with enjoyment. Stott raised his
own brimming glass, charged with its half-pint of brandy, and poured
it down his throat without an effort. Saxon looking on with honest
admiration. He appreciated the artistic effort.

Slowly the blood began to creep back to Stott's face and lips, his hand
grew steady, and his eyes cleared. He seemed to have left all the old
nervousness behind him.

"Now, listen to me," he said. "A man was injured in that little affair
last night, stabbed. He lies in the Police Hospital, Sixteenth-street.
You are to try and see him for me at once if he is in a position to see
anybody, and ascertain what he knows. His name is Martin Blake."

"Used to be a journalist here?"

"The same man. He can do me a great deal of mischief; in fact, he might
have succeeded in so doing already. If he hasn't, then he's amenable to
reason. It will be a case of money. Say that if he will consent to be
silent for the present and hold on to those papers I'll give him 1000.
Pounds, mind--not dollars. And there will be more to come. If Blake
has recovered consciousness, you'll be able to check your way into the
hospital if any man can."

Saxon nodded and winked. Whatever others might think, he had every
confidence in his own ability.

"You are going to be handsomely paid for all this," Stott went on.
"Meanwhile I fancy that I shall find the air of the Bowery beneficial
for a day or two. If you could arrange for me to stay here and have my
meals with you----"

"Consider it done," Saxon cried. "I've an inner room behind this, where
I sleep, and you can have a shakedown on the floor. I'll arrange all
about the meals and the rest. Thirty dollars a week, all in, will be
pretty reasonable, I guess."

Between his teeth Stott said he thought Saxon was erring on the side of
hospitality. The rascal was taking advantage, as Stott would have taken
advantage of the other had the positions been reversed.

"And now you go and do my errand," he said.

Saxon strolled away jauntily, well pleased with his day's work. Stott
sat there moodily smoking one cigarette after another, wondering where
it was all going to end. What a time Saxon was! Perhaps something had
happened to him. Or perhaps Blake was dead.

Saxon came at length with a big cigar in his mouth, and evidence upon
him that he had been liberally slaking his thirst on the way.

"Well?" Stott asked impatiently. "Well?"

"It depends upon how you interpret the word," Saxon said. "On the
whole, I was not quite so successful as I had anticipated."

"Do you mean that you did not see Blake?"

"Oh, I saw him right enough. He had rallied wonderfully, but was
still in a weak state. I was passed in by the doctor as his brother,
come post-haste from the sick bed of a distracted wife. Blake knew me
directly, and he guessed that I had come from you. The doctor said I
was not to excite him, but he did all that part of the business for
himself."

"And you told him of my offer?"

"Yes; I said you would give him 1000 down and more to follow if he
kept his mouth shut and also kept certain papers to himself. But the
man wouldn't listen to reason."

"He declined an offer like that?" Stott groaned.

"He said it would be all the same if you offered a million," Saxon
explained. "He affirmed that he would not trust you so far as he could
see you; and that I was to say that Mrs. Sinclair was a lady who could
be trusted, and that she had already made the same offer."

"Go back and say that 2000 in cash will be deposited to-morrow."

"Go slow, Walker. What's the good? I was particularly to tell you
that the papers you are so keen about were placed in Mrs. Sinclair's
possession this morning. I've got to go across the street to see a man
who's in trouble. Like to see the evening paper?"

Saxon tossed an early edition of the "Sun" across the table, and
strolled out. Stott took up the sheet mechanically, too stunned to
realise his position yet. His brain was clear enough, but he felt
so sleepy. He turned languidly to the late news. There was a double
headline and black type:--


WHERE IS MALCOLM STOTT?


What did it mean? Surely those words were genuine, and no trick of the
imagination. Stott had not been drinking enough for that yet. He must
read the headlines. Here they were:



"A theatrical plot. 
A play in a play. 
The suicide who did not commit suicide. 
Startling story told by the cable from England. 
Malcolm Stott's diabolical scheme. 
Dr. Burlinson and the chloroform. 
The indiarubber cork and the other doctor named Ruby. 
The jury bring in a verdict of wilful murder against Malcolm Stott--who 
cannot be found.
Was seen in New York yesterday. 
Where is Malcolm Stott?"



The paper slipped to the floor, and Stott proceeded to light a
cigarette with a steady hand. He cursed the American cable heartily.
But for that he might have been safe. Now he was likely to be picked up
at any moment.

What was he to do? Where could he go? Was the game really up, or was
there a chance yet? His brain was moving very quickly now. He rose and
put on his hat, and strode from the house. At any time or place he
might be arrested.

There was just one more card to play.

"I'll do it," he muttered. "I'll go and see Mrs. Lucy Sinclair."




Chapter XXVIII.--The Last Trick.

Stott strode out into the street feeling more like himself than he
had done for some time. He knew perfectly well that he had come to
the end of his tether at last. He knew his journey had been in vain.
He would have found it difficult to give any reason for his present
determination. He expected to get exactly nothing out of Mrs. Sinclair.
He only wished now that he had sufficiently respected her great natural
abilities before.

By this time she knew his scheme by heart. By this time, perhaps, she
had seen the sensational paragraph in the "Sun," in which case Stott
was quite aware that he would not get his interview. He might not get
it in any case, seeing that he was likely to be arrested at any moment.
There were plenty of police officials in New York who remembered him in
the days of his glory.

He walked along jauntily, smoking his cigarette with the air of a man
who has no trouble in the world. He heard his own name on every hand;
boys were yelling it in the streets; it stared him in the face from
a score of contents bills. Stott was about to become a celebrity for
the second time in his life, and in quite a new direction. It is a
distinction given to few men.

He came at length to Mrs. Sinclair's hotel, and sent in his card. He
did not know whether to be pleased or otherwise when the colored waiter
appeared to escort him upstairs. Evidently Mrs. Sinclair knew nothing
as yet of the "Sun" special.

Stott passed into the room with his best bow. He had not the least idea
what he was going to say; he approached a chair.

"Stand up," Mrs. Sinclair said crisply. "You are not to sit down."

She was seated herself, Lyn also, with her face in the shadow.

"I presume I am not worthy," Stott murmured.

"You have guessed it. You are not fit to sit down with ladies, or with
any other honest people for that matter. I would prefer to see our
waiter seated opposite us. Why do you bring your vile presence here?
Why do you come?"

Mrs. Sinclair spoke almost sweetly. Nevertheless her words had a sting
in them.

"I wanted to know what you knew," Stott replied.

He smiled, he bowed, the look on his face was fawning. Yet in a way
he was acting a part, the part of an honorable gentleman wrongfully
accused. He sidled toward a chair again, and Mrs. Sinclair laid her
hand on the bell.

"If you do," she said, "I shall have you put out."

Stott murmured that the speaker wronged him. Mrs. Sinclair replied, in
the same sweet manner, that in regarding Stott as the vilest criminal
that crawled, she came very near to paying him a high compliment. Stott
winced at last. Passion, anger, vituperation, all this he had expected,
and had been prepared to combat--but the calm contempt, the elaborate
assurance of victory maddened him. The sudden rage within him set up
the agony of the heart again. He bent double over the table.

"The pain!" he gasped; "it will kill me sooner or later."

"Let it be sooner," Mrs. Sinclair replied. "It would be more
considerate, and far more respectable, than the end to which you are
inevitably designed. Your business, sir?"

"I came," Stott said with difficulty, "to make terms."

Mrs. Sinclair smiled and tapped the paper before her significantly.
Lyn said nothing. Her face was studiously turned from Stott. Terribly
as the man had caused her to suffer, she felt that she could forgive
him now. He had hung round her neck a burden that at times she had
hardly strength to bear. She had been ashamed of the tragedy, shy of
the disgrace, fearful lest any trace of it belonged to her. And now the
whole thing was wiped away, and she could rejoice in her husband and
grow joyful over the coming child.

"Well," Mrs. Sinclair repeated, "your business?"

"In the strict sense of the word, I have none," Stott said. "You
have made certain discoveries lately, upon the result of which I
congratulate you. But there are other things to learn. On certain
conditions I shall be happy to explain those certain things. If I may
be permitted to take a chair and light a cigarette--a very mild one----"

"Certainly not. Stand or go. Indeed, there is no occasion for you to
remain. Had I not been interested in your genus, you would have gone
long ago. You can tell me nothing."

"On the contrary, I can tell you a great deal."

"Mostly fiction. I came over here to prove the falseness of certain
statements of yours regarding Miss Verity's parentage and the cause
of her parent's death. For your own ends you chose to make Sir George
Massey believe that Miss Verity's father died by his own hand--a
madman as well as a suicide. In pursuit of your own ends, and caring
for nothing else, you cast a blight on a young life more cruel
than the grave. Heaven only knows what mental anguish and torture
this poor girl must have endured all these years. Bad as it was at
first, it became worse when my niece gave her heart to Sir George's
successor. And yet you watched all this day by day and month by month
without the slightest feeling of remorse. Nay, you traded upon it and
you encouraged it. For years you worked for one end. And when Sir
George died it seemed at least as if everything had fallen into your
hands--until I came on the scene."

Stott bowed to hide an unsteady smile.

"I take off my hat to your superior acumen," he said. "Pray, proceed.
Let me see if you correctly read all the cards in my hand."

If he had thought to anger Mrs. Sinclair by his sneer he was mistaken.
She listened perfectly unmoved, and with no measure in the quiet
contempt of her voice shattered.

"I read your whole hand from the day of my arrival at Broadwater," she
said. "But then I had some knowledge of the way in which you forced
your cards before. I had not been to Broadwater for years--seeing that
Sir George and I did not get on well together. After his death I was
bound to come. Directly I heard of my eccentric relation's will I began
to see my way. Before you left America, most distinctly for the good of
this great Republic, you had sent certain proofs of Mr. Verity's death
to Sir George. On the face of them those proofs were infallible. But
then I had lived in New York for a long time, and I knew a great deal
about you and your methods. Also I happened to know Colonel Borrowdaile
and the way in which you had effected his ruin. Since I have been
in New York this time I have discussed the whole matter with that
gentleman. Need I proceed?"

"If you would be so good," Stott murmured. "You are interesting me
deeply. The reading of the mind of another is always fascinating; to
have one's own mind read correctly is enchanting. And I am likely to
have so few pleasures in the future."

Mrs. Sinclair checked a desire to laugh. She was not blind to the humor
of the situation, and the man was really a most magnificent rascal.

"Then we must hark back a little," she proceeded. "You wanted to
discredit my nephew so as to get him helplessly into your hands, and
here your cunning and rascality stood you in good stead, as usual. Of
course, you had to have a tool for the purpose, and you chose your
old one, Martin Blake. You cunningly contrived to let him know all
about the suicide's letter which you had managed to get lifted from my
nephew's play, feeling quite sure that Blake would see a magnificent
opening for blackmail here. He did so, and he came to Broadwater with
the familiar black and white interviews in his pocket, one or the other
to appear in the 'Mirror' according to the firmness or squeezability
of the victim. But you knew how your man would take it, and you judged
him correctly. The black interview appeared, your end was gained, and
you got rid of Blake effectually."

Mrs. Sinclair paused for a moment and glanced at Stott. His head
was thrown back, there was a rapt smile on his face, he murmured
delightfully.

"Clever," he said, "undeniably clever, but slightly historical."

"I appreciate your praise," Mrs. Sinclair replied. "A touch of the
historic was necessary. It was very unfortunate for your scheme that I
knew Martin Blake. I sought him out, and I had no difficulty in opening
his eyes to the way you had treated him. After that I had little
difficulty in persuading Blake to come to America."

"On the 'Campanella,'" Stott murmured. "I discovered that on the
first day out."

"Of course you did, or you would never have stolen the 'Aphrodite
star' and concealed it in my cabin. But we were too many for you
there, and you fell into your own trap. You wanted to detain us here
in custody, but we detained you instead. It will be pleasant for you
to learn that that delay gave me the desired start and enabled me to
defeat you and expose your rascally methods."

"Call them diplomatic, madam; it sounds so much better."

"Call them what you please. From the time I started I guessed that you
had forged those proofs against Mr. Verity, as you forged them against
Colonel Borrowdaile--by means of a paragraph inserted in one copy of
a paper only. Therefore I had to find back numbers of the 'Record'
of a certain date. You knew perfectly well what I was after, and that
is why you came to America. When you heard that Miss Verity had gone
away with that American letter, I had a good opportunity of studying
your face. For once you looked the truth. Then it became a race as to
whether you or I should find those old 'Records' first. As a matter
of fact you did. I was not quite certain of it until I found that you
meant to burn the place down. Then I put Blake on to you--not being
aware that you knew that he was in my pay. You tried to murder him, but
you failed. And therefore those precious copies of the 'Record' of
the 17th of July, 1888, came into my hands. They are lying on the table
there at the present moment. And in not one of them is there one single
word touching the death of Mr. Verity or his wife."

"Quite a fascinating little mystery," Stott murmured.

"Yes, but disappointing from your point of view. On the face of it
those proofs were beyond question. But we know now, what I suspected
from the first--that you deceived everybody by having one copy of the
'Record' specially printed for Sir George to see. The artful cunning
of the idea was perfect. And yet so easily managed."

"Not so easily managed," Stott said.

"Oh, yes, it was. You write a certain report, and you get it set up
in type by a jobbing printer in a small way of business. Then this is
stereotyped to the width of the 'Record' columns--I need not go
into technical details. You get enough knowledge of machinery to start
and stop one of the old-fashioned Wharfedale machines upon which the
'Record' used to be printed. You go down to the office very late,
when everybody has gone, and find Blake there by appointment. You
get rid of Blake for a time, you start the gas engine, after having
unlocked the formes and placed your stereo in the place of half a
column of removed type. A few turns of the roller and there is your
specially cooked copy of the 'Record.' Perhaps I am wrong--perhaps
you bribed the machinist or foreman printer; anyway, I have solved
your scheme. Who it was who sent the anonymous letter to Sir George we
neither know nor care. We have played the game out, and you have lost."

Just for a moment Stott did not seem to be listening, a kind of mist
had come before his eyes; the pain at his heart racked him. When he
came to himself again Mrs. Sinclair was regarding him with calm,
contemptuous eyes. If she had shown a little triumph Stott had felt
less small. But it was the gaze of one who has been assured of victory
from the first.

"There is nothing more I can tell you," she said, "there is nothing
more I have to say. We are going home without delay, and you drop out
of our lives here to-day. We shall never see you more; you will never
pollute the home life of Broadwater again. And there will be no more
money for you. All this must be made public, for the sake of those who
are near and dear to me. The consequences of that publicity to yourself
are likely to be serious. And as I stand here now reading your vile
little soul I can see not a trace in your face that you are sorry for
what you have done."

Stott flamed out angrily. He would have given much not to have done
it, but the woman had touched him at last. Heedless of the pain at his
heart he turned angrily upon her.

"I am not sorry," he cried. "I am not ashamed. You talk about honest
men and women! Bah! There are no honest men and women when they have
the chance of fortune without risk of detection. I have known the
world for 50 years intimately. I have known what you call honest
men--dullards who could not see their opportunity. And they have all
died poor or gone under. I have no sorrow for what I have done; I would
do it all again. And had I known what you suspected--why, you would not
be standing taunting me as you are now."

He paused, unable to speak for the pain that racked him. In the same
calm, unemotional way Mrs. Sinclair rose and rang the ball. Lyn stood
looking out of the window. The waiter came at length, and stood waiting
for orders.

"Show that gentleman out," Mrs. Sinclair said. "And clearly understand
that he is not to be admitted here again. If he comes, tell the manager
he is a well-known rascal and swindler, and a dangerous character to be
about a respectable hotel. Now, sir."

Stott gasped for words that failed him. In the same blind impotent rage
he staggered to the lift, and from thence into the street. He did not
come fully to himself until he had gone half-way down Fifth-avenue.
There a hand touched him on the shoulder. He turned, and faced a
grave-looking man in funeral black.

"Name of Malcolm Stott?" he said, tentatively.

"Such is fame!" Stott said, with dry lips and fleeting smile. "The
widespread recognition is very gratifying to the feelings. What do you
want?"

"Murder!" said the other. "Instruction by cable. Irregular, perhaps,
but these are my instructions. For the murder of Sir George Massey.
Want a car? Why, certainly."




Chapter XXIX.--Escaped.

There was merciful oblivion from the tinkling telephone and raucous
newsboys as Mrs. Sinclair crossed the vestibule of her hotel. She had
been early astir--early enough to realise the fact that New York does
sleep sometimes, and that there are some hours not devoted to the
pursuit of the almighty dollar. But the smartness, the alertness, the
appalling greediness were coming back now, for it was close upon what
the Yankee play fully calls breakfast time.

Lyn was already down when Mrs. Sinclair reached her room. She looked a
little white and disturbed as she glanced up from her paper.

"I began to be frightened," she said. "We have 'dwelt in the midst of
alarms' here to such an extent that when I found your room empty
I was uneasy. Auntie, is it really necessary for me to stay here any
longer?"

Mrs. Sinclair kissed the pretty pleading face.

"You want to get back to Broadwater?" she asked.

"To Broadwater and to Lance," Lyn confessed, rosily. "If you only knew
how I have been hungering after Lance--especially now that the clouds
have cleared away. I daresay it sounds very ungrateful and selfish,
but--but----"

"I was young myself once, and know all about it. At any rate, you
cannot say that the time has been badly spent. We have cleared your
good name, and paved the way for a long and happy life at Broadwater.
And we have so arranged it that Stott cannot interfere. And my letters
this morning bring me further good news. Pinkerton's people have
unearthed the doctor who attended your father after he was shot. He is
going to let me have a sworn declaration in due course--not that the
thing is necessary, but as you are going to become a grand chatelaine
we must consider the feelings of the county. We'll say good-bye to
Colonel Borrowdaile this afternoon, and catch the 'Campanella' back
on Friday. And yet you don't look happy."

"I've had a great shock," Lyn murmured. "About poor Sir George. It's
all in the 'Sun.'"

"You don't mean to say that they have arrested the criminal?"

"Yes I do. Here in New York. Can't you guess, auntie?"

Mrs. Sinclair removed her glasses, polished them, and replaced them
carefully.

"Then it was Stott after all," she said without surprise.

"Yes, yes. But how did you guess that? Of course nobody who really knew
him could have suspected Lance for a moment. But Stott! And you don't
seem to be in the least surprised. I have not got over the horror of it
yet."

"I was prejudiced against the man from the first," Mrs. Sinclair
admitted. "But suspicion was nothing--even when I began to see my way
to expose Stott's methods as to your parents. To most people there
was something bewildering and baffling about the so-called suicide's
letter. But when I learnt all about Lance's renovated play, the thing
began to grow plain. As a matter of fact Stott was too cunning; he
could see the scheme clearly before him, but his brain could not grasp
the remoter contingencies. Indeed the mystery to me was that he had a
brain at all. Did Dr. Burlinson find him out?"

"Auntie, I believe you are a wizard!" Lyn cried. "It is all here,
columns of it. It reads like a chapter from some sensational romance.
And Dr. Burlinson does seem to have been the hero of the play."

"Burlinson suspected Stott from the first. No, he did not tell me so--I
knew it from intuition. Let me have a look at the 'Sun' for myself,
then we will have breakfast and go out. After that we will go and see
Colonel Borrowdaile and pack our boxes. I have lots of business in New
York, but that must keep till I have seen you and Lance comfortably
settled at Broadwater."

"Then you are not going to stay----"

"Not going to stay anywhere, my dear. Broadwater is a very charming
place, and I am very fond of you too, but I couldn't settle down
anywhere for long."

The day is not long enough for the average New Yorker, who has to be
content with the same day that the slower Easterner is vouchsafed, but
it was all too long for Lyn. She was counting the hours now until she
should find herself on the "Campanella" again. And this time she
felt she should enjoy the voyage. This time all doubts and troubles
would be at rest. She was going back to her own again, with the
knowledge that the sky was clear, and that there was no longer a cloud
on her fair name.

Meanwhile Mrs. Sinclair was busy enough. A long and costly cablegram
had been dispatched to Lance, telling him of the brilliant success of
the expedition. Then she was free at length to turn her attention to
Blake.

The latter was recovering rapidly from his wounds. In a day or two he
would be free once more. He had the promised reward paid over to him
by Mrs. Sinclair, and announced himself ready to go through a score of
similar adventures at the same price.

"You had better stay where you are," Mrs. Sinclair suggested.
"Fortunately for all parties concerned, London is no place for you at
present."

"I am going to turn respectable," Blake said.

"Never!" Mrs. Sinclair replied, emphatically. "You couldn't do it. You
would succumb to the strain in a month. And one thing pray bear in
mind--when once that money is gone don't write to me for more. I have
paid you handsomely, and I have done with you. So far as you and I are
concerned this is the end. Our diplomatic relations are broken off."

With a cool little nod Mrs. Sinclair left the hospital and Blake for
all time. She flattered herself that she knew an ingrained blackguard
when she saw him, and she entertained no sanguine hopes of Blake's
reformation. The next day she and Lyn joined the "Campanella."

Like an experienced traveller she shook down into her place at once.
She had settled in her cabin long before the majority of the passengers
had all their traps aboard. From a comfortable deck chair she was
studying the bustle of humanity about her.

"We are going to enjoy ourselves this voyage," she said. "We have
nothing on our minds, we have brought our business to a satisfactory
conclusion, we have earned the reward of our labor. My dear, you are at
liberty to talk about Lance, and Broadwater, as much as you like; but I
decline to hear a word as to Blake and Stott et hoc, therefore----"

She paused and put up her glasses. A jauntily dressed little man, with
an uneasy smirk, was crossing the gangway with a great grim-faced man
on either side of him. A crowd of passengers stood back and regarded
the little man open-mouthed.

"Stott!" Lyn gasped faintly. "What is he doing here?"

But Mrs. Sinclair had bustled away to see. Presently she returned with
a frown on her usually placid features. She dropped angrily into a
chair.

"Most annoying!" she exclaimed. "We shall be more or less mobbed all
the way across when the passengers discover our identity. Those two men
are Inspectors Miles and Crompton, of the Metropolitan Police. They
came over here to bring the Columbia Bank forgers. I have had a little
chat with Miles. It appears that Stott pleaded guilty to the charge
yesterday, and asked to be sent to England. As Miles and Crompton were
returning home, the prisoner was given into their charge."

"We shall have to make the best of it," Lyn groaned.

"Of course we shall. I have asked Inspector Miles as a favor to keep
Stott as close as possible, and he has promised to do so. Did you see
the little scoundrel bow to me? He might have been a courtier and I
some grand lady."

And so it fell out pretty well as Mrs. Sinclair had prophesied. They
were fairly mobbed by the other passengers for a day or two, until some
new sensation came along. Of Stott they saw nothing--or heard nothing,
beyond the fact that he was in indifferent health. The ship's doctor
went so far as to say that he would never see his trial.

It was on the fourth day out that that functionary approached Mrs.
Sinclair. She was reclining in a deep deck chair intent upon a novel.

"I am sorry to trouble you, Mrs. Sinclair," he said, "but I come from
Stott. He says that he is anxious to see you."

"The anxiety is all on one side, Dr. Powell," Mrs. Sinclair said,
freezingly.

"So I intimated to Stott," Powell replied. "But the wishes of a dying
man. . . . And perhaps he has a confession to make. And he seemed very
anxious to see you."

"Are you quite sure that he is a dying man?"

"Quite. The man's heart has evidently been hopelessly affected for
years. It is a marvel to me that a man who has drunk so heavily has
lasted so long. Stott has had two queer heart seizures to-day, and when
the next comes it will finish him. It may come at any moment."

"And does your patient know this?"

"Oh, yes. It has caused him a great deal of cynical amusement. He is a
fearful physical coward, and yet he is not afraid to die. He is amused
at the fuss and attention that is made over him when he is going to die
before we reach Queenstown."

"Dr. Powell," said Mrs. Sinclair, sharply, "I'll come and see your
patient now."

Cool and collected as she was, Lucy Sinclair was somewhat shocked to
see the change that a few days had wrought in Malcolm Stott. His red
face had turned to a peculiar ghastly ground-rice hue, his lips were
like faded leaves, he appeared to breathe with difficulty, and his
voice was low. The twitching of the muscles indicated the presence of
constant pain. But he was smoking the eternal cigarette, and had forced
a smile to his lips.

"You will not regret coming to me," he said. He made an attempt at
gallantry, but the smile had faded from his dry lips. "Doctor, you
will please remain. My very attentive friends may leave me. I am going
to escape them; I am going to a country where there is no extradition
treaty."

"I wouldn't waste words," the doctor said, significantly.

"I am obliged for the hint. I brought you here, madam, to listen to a
confession. The man who makes this confession is the murderer of Sir
George Massey."

"I am quite aware of that," Mrs. Sinclair murmured.

"Yes, I know. You suspected me from the first. I have seen it in your
face more than once. I killed Sir George Massey because I was afraid
of being found out. I am a queer kind of coward. I am not in the least
afraid of dying, but I was morbidly afraid of poverty. And an enemy of
mine was writing anonymous letters to Sir George, calling his attention
to my scheme over Miss Verity and her father."

Stott paused and moistened his lips.

"Sooner or later my vigilance would have escaped, and Sir George would
have discovered the truth. He was very near it more than once. If he
had done so I should have been kicked out of Broadwater to starve. You
know what my plan was--you and I had it over together a day or two ago.
Everything was in perfect train, and once Sir George was out of the way
the Broadwater estates seemed as good as in my pocket.

"Therefore I decided that Sir George must go. But how? I thought that
out carefully, and I managed to get that suicide letter written as part
of Sir George's play! What a play! But no matter, seeing that it suited
my purpose so well. Here was I with evidence in my possession that Sir
George had committed suicide, and I only had to kill him. Nobody would
suspect.

"How should I kill him? I was too great a coward for that. Still it
had to be done. I thought and thought over that until the idea of
chloroform came into my mind. The chloroform had to be obtained first.
I elaborated a scheme for that. I personated Dr. Ruby, whom I had seen
once or twice, and whose habits I had studied, and so I got the drug.

"My idea was to drug my man and cut his throat after. I brought myself
to it at last. I stood behind him with the bottle and the handkerchief
in my hand, and at the same moment he turned. In my agitation I slopped
half the bottle over and lost the cork--the cork which was so fatal to
me. But Sir George was not suspecting anything. He bent over the table
again, and I gagged him. He gave a kind at a choking sigh, and his head
fell forward. I was amazed at the swiftness of the chloroform. I did
not know that I had killed Sir George. ... I am rather hazy in my mind
as to what happened afterwards. I suppose I used that razor. I laid my
suicide letter on the table, and crept out of the room with the remains
of the chloroform in my hand. As to the cork, I had forgotten all about
it. And now you know everything...... I am very tired."

He lay back for a moment with his hand to his side. The blue tinge
deepened on his cheeks. Just for a second it looked as if he had gone.
Then the watery eyes opened again.

"You have expressed no regret," Mrs. Sinclair suggested.

"Neither do I feel any," Stott replied. "I am dying now. My death has
been accelerated by the exciting events of the last few days, acting on
a very weak heart. But I have no regret. If I had succeeded and lived I
should have been rich. If I had failed and lived I should have been a
half-starved wanderer on the face of the earth--I, Malcolm Stott, who
had been feted and flattered like a prince in my time! If I had only
left that accursed brandy alone! That and that only is the only regret
that haunts me now. I should have been rich and honored and respected.
As it is I am dying. . . 'Tis not so deep as a well or as wide as a
church door, but 'tis enough.' . . . What was I saying? The play is
finished--the audience have gone home. The stage waits--the stage waits
for Malcolm Stott. Ladies and gentlemen, the piece is withdrawn in
consequence of the unavoidable absence of the chief performer."

The words died, as a broken harp string fades into nothingness.

Powell drew back from the bed, after looking into the white face.

"He is dead," he said, "Mrs. Sinclair, he has escaped them after all."

"Not escaped," Lucy Sinclair whispered. "There is a greater tribunal
before him yet."




Chapter XXX--"Married and A'."

It was but natural that Lance should be anxious to know how recent
disclosures affected his future prospects. Beyond the shadow of a doubt
Malcolm Stott would suffer the extreme penalty of the law. To all
practical purposes he was a dead man. Could he make such testamentary
dispositions as would keep the fetters still bound?

It was a time of great anxiety for Lance. He knew nothing of the
startling events on the other side of the Atlantic. It had never
occurred to him that it was possible to purge the fair name of Lyn's
parents, and thus defy Stott to do his worst. And if Stott perished,
what then? It was not to be supposed that Stott had thought of making
a will. He would care nothing for those who came after him. So long as
his scheme resulted in his own advantage he would not trouble. He had
no relatives to care or cater for.

There was a deal of horror and excitement amongst the servants at
Broadwater. But at the back of all this was the grim satisfaction of
knowing that Stott was done with.

"To think that I should have soiled my hands by carrying that scoundrel
to bed!" Long said. "That I should have had to wait upon him like a
gentleman, and call him 'sir,' and all the rest of it. And him not fit
company for the wild beasts."

"Do you suppose they'll let us see him hung?" the coachman asked,
hopefully.

So there was rejoicing in a grim sort of way in the servants'-hall,
whilst care hung over the drawing-room. The first moment Lance had to
spare he ordered round the dogcart, and drove into Swanley. It was
market day, and the little town was crowded. The corn exchange square
was full of farmers and the like. As the dogcart slackened, a big burly
yeoman came out of the crowd and extended his hand.

"Good luck to you, Sir Lancelot," he cried. "There isn't one of us who
hasn't been on your side from the first. And it's real glad that every
farmer in the country is to see a Massey of Broadwater holding up his
head again."

"I have never held it down," Lance said.

"No, and never will. Give Sir Lancelot a cheer."

They did heartily, as Lance passed along. He came to the "Mitre" at
length. The drawing-room there, usually given over on market days to
county magnates, was full. There was just the suggestion of a pause
as Lance entered. Not a few of those people there had been pretty
short-sighted lately.

There was a motion of the crowd, and Lord Riversbrook came forward,
followed by his wife and daughters. Most people wondered what the Lord
Lieutenant was going to say.

"We were going to call upon you this afternoon!" he exclaimed. "I am
afraid we have not behaved quite as we might lately. But, believe me,
my dear Massey, we never entertained the slightest doubt that your good
name was--was----Hang it, man, let me shake hands with you. And Lady
Riversbrook and the girls will tell you how sorry they are."

"I shall throw myself on Sir Lancelot's mercy," Lady Riversbrook
laughed.

"And purchase a stronger pair of eye-glasses," Lance retorted.

"When is Lyn Verity coming back?" one of the girls asked.

Lance recognised the opportunity, and embraced it. Half of the county
were in earshot, and listening eagerly. A bold statement now would save
a deal of worrying explanation later on.

"Lyn Verity is not coming back at all," he said; "for the simple reason
that there is no Lyn Verity. In future she will be known to you as
Lady Massey. Foolishly, perhaps, Miss Verity and myself were secretly
married some time ago. You all of you know now that Sir George objected
to my engagement to Miss Verity, and why. My wife went away to allay
suspicions, and so as to give me a free hand with a certain scoundrel
who shall be nameless. Perhaps before long we shall be in a position to
prove that the story of my wife's father's death is a pure fiction--in
which case nothing can stand between us and the home we love so well.
But whether that is so or not, nothing can alter the fact that Lyn
Verity is now Lady Massey."

A little ripple of surprise followed this statement. Some of the
elderly ladies there beamed upon Lance. They were positively grateful
for the fine field of gossip he was giving them. In this respect
Broadwater had behaved nobly of late.

"I am very glad to hear it," Lady Riversbrook declared. "And I
sincerely hope that matters will end happily for you. I shall call as
soon as your wife comes home."

That settled it. Lady Riversbrook had gone further than a mere
declaration; she had issued a proclamation to the county, commanding
them to call on the new Lady Massey at the first opportunity. Lance was
cynically amused and at the same time perfectly satisfied. As Lance
Massey, the author, nothing much mattered; as Sir Lancelot Massey, it
was necessary to stand well with his neighbors.

He made his way through a mass of bowing congratulations to the offices
of Wallace and Wallace. There he laid his doubts before Gerald Wallace.

"The point has not escaped us," said the latter. "I have been going
over your uncle's will carefully. When Stott is out of the way, and
that seems after all only a matter of time, you are free to marry whom
you like."

"Provided that Stott has not made a will?"

"Precisely. But it's odds he's done nothing of the kind. He only
lives for the moment. Once he is dead, who is going to carry over the
detective business?"

"Then I can defy the law on that point?"

"Certainly you can. Who is to say you nay? When you marry----"

"My dear Wallace, I am married already. Lyn has been my wife for
months."

Wallace shrugged his shoulders, and passed his congratulations. As a
lawyer with half the county secrets in his possession, he was surprised
at nothing. But his words were words of comfort to Lance. It looked to
him as if he could regard Broadwater as his own now.

Still, the days were fairly anxious ones as they passed. There was news
of a sort from America on the subject of Stott. He had been arrested in
New York, he had pleaded guilty, and had requested to be brought back
to England to be tried. Lance read that Stott was on his way home on
the Campanella. He did not know who else was aboard this vessel.

Surely the Campanella was due by this time. Lance took up his
"Standard" from the breakfast table languidly to see. He saw
something instead that set his heart beating faster. He saw that the
murderer of Sir George was dead.

There was not much of it, nothing beyond a mere statement to the effect
that the Campanella had put into Queenstown, and that the notorious
criminal, Malcolm Stott, accused of the murder of Sir George Massey,
under such dramatic circumstances, had died on the voyage. Briefly
interviewed, the doctor of the Campanella had confirmed the report.
There was a further rumor to the effect that Stott had made full
confession of the crime, and this was also confirmed by Dr. Powell, who
had been present when the confession was made.

Perhaps Lance was not to be blamed that he drew a deep breath of relief
as he read the pregnant paragraph. Stott had committed the one grateful
and unselfish act of his life. In his grave all the scandal and trouble
would be buried. And if he had died without making a will--but Lance
felt pretty sure on this point. He read the paragraph aloud to Long.

"Well, Sir Lancelot," Long responded, "some people have all the
virtues, and some have all the luck. Still, it was the best thing the
fellow could have done. And if I could only see my dear mistress back
again I should be happy."

Lance proceeded to explain that Lyn was now mistress in more than name.
Long evinced no surprise.

"Lord believe you, sir!" he said. "I've known that all along."

"You have! And you never told anybody?"

"Not a soul, Sir Lance. It was no business of mine. And I found out
quite by accident. But I shall be glad to tell them now if you've no
objection."

"None at all," Lance said, gravely. "It must have been a great strain
upon you, Long."

A little later in the day came a brief but pregnant telegram from Mrs.
Sinclair to the effect that Lyn and herself had reached England, and
that they would be home by tea-time. Long remarked excitedly that this
was the happiest moment of his life.

Lance wandered restlessly about the house and grounds. It was a
bitter-sweet kind of day for him. It was just possible that Lyn might
bring some good news with her. And it would be hard to lose Broadwater
now. Lance could see the trim lawns and the flowers and the path beyond
where the deer moved.

Then gradually he put his restlessness from him. He was looking forward
eagerly to meeting Lyn. He would take her in his arms and hold her
there before the eyes of all the world. They had been happy before,
but to some natures stolen fruit is not so sweet. And Lyn had been one
of these. It was only her deep love for him that had led her towards a
secret marriage.

Well, that was all over and done with now. By this time there was not a
man, woman, or child within twenty miles of Broadwater who didn't know
that Lyn Verity and Lady Massey were one and the same. It would be good
to see Lyn again, to see that lively face, and gaze into those tender
eyes.

It was a little before 6 o'clock that they came. Mrs. Sinclair had
the placid air of a general fresh from a conquering campaign. Lyn's
exquisite face was red, and her eyes shining. Long ran down and opened
the door of the carriage with proud humility.

"Welcome home, my lady," he said. "This is a proud day for Broadwater."

Lyn laughed and blushed deeper. Lance came down the steps and caught
her in his arms. Then their lips met, and there was a great peace in
the minds of each.

"My darling!" Lance whispered. "My darling, I have missed you."

Lyn answered with her eyes only. There was a brightness and sweetness
and radiancy about her that Lance had never seen before. She ran up the
steps into the hall.

"How long have they known?" she asked.

"Oh, quite lately," Lance replied. "All except Long, who declares that
he guessed from the first. The strain of keeping the secret loyally
must have been immense. And all the county knows. I had a kind of
informal reception at Swanley, and told everybody. Lady Riversbrook
said she was delighted, and expressed her intention of calling soon.
She also looked at the other ladies, as if to say she would know the
reason if they failed to call also. And here's Mrs. Masters, to say
that the best bed-chamber has been swept and garnished for the bride.
If we do stay here----"

"Darling, we are going to stay," Lyn whispered. "The mystery is all
cleared up. We have had adventures in America wilder and more wonderful
than anything you ever put in a book. But you shall hear it all when
I've changed my dress. I guess I'm dying for a cup of tea."

She ran up the stairs laughing, with all the sweet new joy of life upon
her. Lance regarded her happy face lovingly. An exquisite figure in an
exquisite setting.

"So we are going to stay here and be happy?" he said.

"The evil genius has been scotched and killed," Mrs. Sinclair smiled.

"And Auntie killed him," said Lyn. "My dearest old boy, we have come
home with the most positive proofs that all Stott said about my father
was a tissue of lies. That copy of the 'Record' was forged; it had
been altered to suit the occasion. We have a proper copy--with nothing
of the tragedy in it. My dear father was shot on his own doorstep by a
mad speculator, and my mother died of the shock. And we have all this
on the evidence of the doctor who attended them both."

"Then all that Stott said----"

"Was false. But he is a dead man, and the evil that he did is dead with
him. Even if he were alive at this minute you could snap your fingers
at him and order him out of the house. But, mind you, we did not find
out all this without a deal of difficulty and danger. Auntie shall tell
you all the rest in her own way. Lance, Auntie is the cleverest and
bravest and most wonderful woman in the world."

"I have long suspected it," Mrs. Sinclair said, gravely.

"Don't be conceited," Lance cried. "Aunt Lucy, tell me your story at
once."

Mrs. Sinclair proceeded to do so in her own inimitable way. It was a
plain statement of fact, but it interested Lance exceedingly. He had
only one regret--that he had not been permitted to join the expedition.

"We wanted somebody here," Mrs. Sinclair said. "And the change was good
for Lyn. Has she told you the real reason why she ran away?"

Lyn blushed to the eyes as her glance rested tenderly on Lance. Her
lips were trembling, but there was a proud and yet hopeful look on her
face. And then Lance understood.

"You don't mean to say!" he exclaimed. "My dear little girl! My dear
little wife."

Mrs. Sinclair rose discreetly, avowing that there was something that
she must say to Mrs. Masters without delay. As she closed the door
behind her Lance crossed the room. He drew his wife to his side, and
her head rested on his shoulder for a time. They were too happy for
words. Presently Lyn rose and crossed over to the open French windows.
Lance followed.

"It is a lovely place," Lyn said. "I never quite appreciated how lovely
it is until to-day. And we know now it is yours and mine; and will be
for the--the one that is coming. Lance, I wonder if you are as glad as
I am?"

"Darling, I am the proudest and happiest man in England. And you have
gone through all this for me."

"For you and--and the other one. I always felt that the truth would
come out some day. And Aunt Lucy is a wonderful woman. But for her----"

"Don't think about it, dearest. Let us be happy to-day."

Lyn rose and kissed Lance on the lips.

"To-day and to-morrow and every day," she whispered. "It is only those
who have drained the cup of sorrow who can appreciate the sweetness and
beauty of the happier day."



THE END.


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