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Title: The Green Bungalow
Author: Fred M. White
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Green Bungalow
Author: Fred M. White

*



THE GREEN BUNGALOW.

By

FRED M WHITE.


Author of "The Crimson Blind," "The Cardinal Moth," "The House on the
River," &c., &c.


Published in The Queensland Times, Qld. in serial form commencing
Saturday, 27 October, 1923.
Also published in The Northern Herald, Cairns, Qld. commencing
16 January, 1924.


*


CHAPTER I.--THE LADY IN LAVENDER.

It was luncheon time at the Metropolitan Hotel, Brighton, and the great
dining-room was comfortably filled with guests and casual visitors as
Hilton Blythe strolled casually into the room with the intention of
seeking one of his favourite window seats. He glanced casually round as
if in search of some passing acquaintance before his keen eye picked
out the little lady in lavender seated in an angle facing the King's
Road with a companion. The most accomplished and daring card-sharper
and swindler in Europe paused for a moment as if he had been struck
by a bullet, but only for the fraction of a second, and then he was
himself again.

A waiter crept up ingratiatingly, for they all knew Blythe there. His
character mattered nothing to them, they appreciated his generous
nature and the splendour of his largesse in the matter of tips. And
your waiter knows a gentleman instinctively, and Hilton Blythe was
most emphatically that so far as birth and breeding were concerned.
Blythe was an assumed name, of course, but from what noble house the
man really came was known only to a few, and they for the sake of their
class never told. There were some of them who acknowledged him still,
and occasionally helped him when times were bad, but, for the most
part, Blythe went his own way and lived at the best hotels at home
and abroad, for he was one of the type of men that everybody likes,
despite his record, and he never by any chance brought scandal upon any
caravanserai in which he might happen for the moment to be housed. It
was high game he aimed at, and his reputation for audacity and courage
was a by-word in the dark places of the world. For the rest, he looked
exceedingly youthful for his forty-five years without a grey hair on
his head, or in his carefully trained moustache, and there was no
better dressed man in London.

He prided himself upon the fact that nothing shook him, but he had been
shaken to his very marrow as his eye fell upon the lady in lavender
seated in the angle of the window with her companion whom Blythe knew
to be Roy Harley, a young man of family who had quite lately come into
an unexpected fortune. It was Blythe's business to know these things,
but any predatory ideas, so far as Harley was concerned, had no place
in Blythe's mind.

Behind his eyeglass and that bland superiority of his, he was
studying the lady in lavender intently. He saw a slight, fair girl,
with grey-green eyes, and a suggestion of birth and breeding on that
perfectly cut face of hers, he saw a little mouth, red and kissable
enough, but well-moulded and determined, and he could see, in those
expressive eyes, the fact that the girl's companion was more than a
passing pleasure to her.

"My God," he murmured to himself. "So that's what the child has grown
into. Fancy three years making all that difference. And yet she is
exactly what I pictured she would become. If----"

Blythe turned, suddenly conscious of the fact that the waiter was
standing by his side. He was the easy and assured man of the world
again, with a definite object before him.

"Ah, Walters," he said, in his genial way. "Give me a corner seat, will
you. Over there, in the window."

"Very sorry, sir," the waiter said. "That table is engaged. But I dare
say----"

Blythe slipped his hand significantly into his waistcoat pocket, and
the waiter smiled. There was not a waiter in the Metropolitan who was
not ready to do anything that Blythe asked, and a moment or two later
he was seated at the little table in the window close by the lady in
lavender and her companion, and in a position to hear every word that
passed.

"Well, weren't you astonished to see me?" Harley asked. "And now, what
have you been doing all this long time? And what do you mean by running
away from Scotland in all that hurry?"

The girl laughed happily.

"I thought it was you who ran away," she said.

"Well, perhaps I did, my dear Nettie," Harley said. "But there, it is
wonderful what a change three months will bring about. When we were
staying together at Markham's place, you and I and Prest, because the
others didn't count, I was a poor man with nothing but my pay in the
Guards to live upon. But it's all different now, as I explained to
you. Oh I wasn't blind, Nettie, I know that Walter Prest was just as
much in love with you as I was, and I know how unhappy you were with
that old aunt of yours. Oh, Lady Rachel is a fair terror. And, because
I knew that you liked Prest, and that he was a rich man, I thought it
best. Oh, well, my dear, you know what I mean. But things have changed
now. I never expected that crabbed old godfather of mine to leave me
a bob, whereas he left me everything. And here am I down here with my
own yacht at Shorehaven, and, by the grace of God I run up against you
on the front this morning. Could the fates be any kinder to a man? But
never mind about me, what have you been doing, and why are you hiding
yourself down here? I went over to Littlehampton and actually bearded
the formidable Aunt Rachel in her den."

"And she told you she had washed her hands of me," Nettie laughed.
"Roy, I couldn't stand it any longer. That aristocratic poverty fretted
me horribly. And then again, I was always having my dead father's past
thrown in my teeth. I have almost forgotten him, but whatever he was, I
wish he were alive now, because I have the fondest memories of him."

The man at the next table stirred uneasily, and he looked out of the
window, seeing nothing.

"But we need not go into that," Nettie went on. "I made up my mind
to get my own living, so, for two months, I worked like a slave at
typewriting and shorthand, and my teacher got me an secretarial job
with a distinguished traveller and sportsman who was living down here.
Did you ever hear of Mark Shute?"

The listener at the next table nearly jumped out of his chair. But the
lovers noticed nothing.

"Now, that's a strange thing," Harley cried. "But I am more or less
down here with Shute. We are going yachting together. Hasn't he got a
bungalow at Shorehaven?"

"That's the man," Nettie said. "The Green Bungalow at Shorehaven
belongs to him, and I go there most mornings whilst he dictates his
book of travel to me. It's an easy job, because the rest of the day is
my own, and I have most comfortable rooms in College Road, Kemp Town
way, and I believe I am really happy for the first time in my life. I
like my work, and it is nice to feel that I am earning my own living."

"Well, you won't be for long, anyway," Harley said boldly. "Come out on
to the front, and let's have a long, delicious afternoon together. My
word, won't Prest be surprised when I tell him that I have met you like
this? I am not afraid of him now, Nettie."

"There never was any reason why you should be," Nettie whispered. "What
a small world it is, Roy. Fancy you being a friend of Mr. Shute's."

"Yes, he's quite a good chap. And that reminds me, I am going over to
his bungalow after dinner this evening with Prest, and a man called
Andrew Macglendy for a game of poker. Prest asked me to get a pack or
two of cards. He's off somewhere to-day and he tells me that there are
no cards in the bungalow. I suppose there is some shop not far off
where I could get a few packs."

"Oh, yes," Nettie said. "There is Weston's, in Castle Square, where I
get all my paper from. We can call in there on the way back from our
walk."

But still they lingered, and still Blythe sat there, apparently busy
with his lunch, listening to every word that was said, and studying
the girl in lavender from every angle. It seemed to him that he had
got the whole story now, and that he knew exactly how things stood.
And the girl a few yards away turned ever and again in his direction,
regarding approvingly the well-set-up handsome middle-aged man, and
wondered who he was. Roy Harley could have told her, though he merely
knew Blythe by name, as more or less a soldier of fortune who obtained
his living by dubious means, though he had never been actually found
out, and still moved in quite respectable society. Harley had only met
him once or twice, and what he saw of the man he rather liked. He had
been more or less warned against him, but then Harley had been poor for
a man holding a commission in the Guards, and he had learnt his worldly
wisdom in the hard school of poverty.

He was hardly conscious, however, just now that Blythe was near him. He
had eyes only for the girl by his side, and, so far as the rest of the
room was concerned, it might have been empty. And still they lingered
there, as if loth to leave their intimate little table, and seek the
sunshine of that warm October day outside on the famous front. But they
rose presently, and made their way along the front in the direction
of Kemp Town, and from thence through Sussex Square on to the East
Brighton Golf Links. It would be quiet enough there, the day was warm
and dry, and they had all the vast solitude of the Downs before them,
except for a few enthusiastic golfers who saw them not at all. They sat
down presently on the hillside looking toward Ovingdean, and there the
rest of the world seemed to matter nothing.

"This has been a wonderful day," Harley said. "I never dreamt when I
got up this morning that we should be lunching together. I have been
trying to find you for over a month. I wonder what our frigid old aunt
would say if she knew that you were living within twenty miles of her."

"Oh, what does it matter?" Nettie laughed happily. "She would be very
angry, of course, and she would be horrified to think that Frond was
getting her own living."

"But not for long, as I told you just now," Harley said meaningly.
"Look here, Nettie. You will have to chuck that job of yours, we'll go
quietly off and get married, and tell all our friends afterwards."

"You have never asked me yet," Nettie laughed unsteadily.

Without more ado, Harley gathered her into his arms and kissed her
squarely on the lips.

"Oh, what does it matter?" he asked. "What does anything matter, so
long as there is a perfect understanding between us?"

And with that Nettie gave a smile of infinite content. Nothing in the
world would stand between her and her happiness now.




CHAPTER II.--THE GREEN BUNGALOW.

It was shortly after nine o'clock when Harley walked down the steps of
the Metropolitan Hotel and made his way in the direction of Brunswick
Square. There he stopped at No. 201, and rang the bell. In response,
there appeared a manservant, correctly attired enough, but somewhat
dark of skin, and speaking a soft accent that suggested vaguely South
America. In answer to Harley's question he replied that Mr. Macglendy
was at that moment in the drawing-room with the mistress of the house,
and two other gentlemen, whom Harley placed in his mind as Prest, his
friend and rival, and Mark Shute. Macglendy he did know, but found
him to be a tall, rather handsome spare man, with a prominent nose
of the Jewish type, and a splendid beard that flowed over his chest.
He was a pleasant mannered man enough, shrewd and worldly, with a
pronounced Scotch accent that seemed also grotesque with a man who
carried a Semitic suggestion in every line and gesture of him. Mrs.
Macglendy appeared to be absolutely pale and colourless, like a sort
of frightened atomaton that moved and spoke in a dream, and, quite
evidently under the hypnotic influence of her husband. Her face was an
absolute mask, and her manner exceedingly refined and polished, with a
suggestion, every now and then, of one who, in her earlier days, had
been au fait with the very best society. But after the first convulsive
greeting she dropped back to her seat like a toy that has run down and
spoke not another word until the others rose to go.

"Well, we had better be getting along, I think," Shute suggested. "By
the way, Harley, I suppose you didn't forget to bring those cards along
that I asked you for? I am afraid if you did, we shall be more or less
in the cart."

"Oh, that's all right," Harley said. "I bought a couple of packs this
afternoon, and they are in my pocket at the present moment. I am ready,
if the rest of you are."

"And the car is at the door," Macglendy said.

They drove along the front presently, past Shoreham until they came at
length to the road that leads down to the group of bungalows on the
Shorehaven beach. Here the car was dismissed, with instructions to the
chauffeur to return shortly after midnight, and the little party made
their way over the shingle in the direction of a sort of bluff on the
left side of the beach, where they could see the outline of a bungalow
that stood a hundred yards or so apart from the other buildings. So
far as Harley could see, there was behind the bungalow a sort of
floating landing stage, locked in on either side by concrete bastions.
The bungalow itself had been fashioned at some remote period out of a
wreck, and indeed, in the uncertain moonlight, it looked very like a
ship itself.

"Rum old place, isn't it?" Shute said, as he opened the door and
switched on the lights. "I have taken it furnished for a year from an
eccentric old mariner who made his money out of salving operations.
This old wreck is one of the speculations, and he turned it into a
living house. It's the ideal spot for man who has literary work to do,
and that's why I took it. Every convenience you see, even to electric
light and cooking. When I am rusticating, I can look after myself and
dispense with a servant. I have even got a landing stage here, with a
floating raft--the very thing for your yacht, Harley. I have half a
mind to go into the smuggling trade. I believe I could work it quite
easily. What do you say, Harley, to joining up with that yacht of
yours?"

Harley made some laughing reply, but he was too interested in the
common sitting-room to the bungalow to take much heed of what his
companions were saying. It was a quaint, odd-shaped room, with large
portholes on either side, in fact, it was the exact reproduction of
a large and comfortable ship's cabin, and, in a good many ways, it
reminded Harley of his own quarters on the yacht that he had invested
in directly he had come into his money.

"And a verra nice comfortable hermitage it is," Macglendy said, in that
broad Scotch accent of his. "Mon, ye could write here all the year
round and never a sound. That book of yours ought to make interesting
reading."

"Well, I think it should," Shute murmured. "I have been knocking about
the world for the last twenty years, and I flatter myself I have had
more adventures than most men."

"Yes," Macglendy said. "A striking example of the rolling stone that
does gather moss."

"Oh, I haven't done so badly," Shute said modestly. "Now then, gather
round the table whilst I get the drinks out. By the way, Harley where
are those cards?"

"I put them on the mantlepiece," Harley said. "There they are, just
behind you. I suppose they are all right. They were the best I could
get at Weston's, and I thought two packs would be enough. If you want
any more----"

"Oh, that's all right," Shute said. "That will be all right for
to-night. You'd better take them down and tear all the wrappings off."

As Shute spoke, he dived into a little cupboard by the side of the
fireplace and produced a large tantalus with a syphon or two of soda,
and some glasses. Harley rose, and taking the two packs of cards from
the spot where he had placed them, broke the twine around them, and
tore off the covers. Then he poured the two packs out on the table from
their cases, and Macglendy picked them up and allowed them to sift
through his fingers in a professional sort of way which would not have
been lost on older men of the world than Harley, and his old friend
and school chum Prest, who sat watching Harley with a smile on that
handsome, somewhat stupid face of his. For Prest was a soldier first
and last and all the time. A man of considerable means who had taken up
the Army seriously, and, to him, the honour of his regiment was almost
a fetish.

"What are we going to play?" he asked.

"I don't care what it is," Harley said.

In his happy mood it was all the same to him. He was prepared for a
long evening to play a game for which he cared practically nothing, and
whatever game the others elected for he was quite willing to fall in
with. One or two games were suggested and then they fell back by common
consent upon poker.

"What about the stakes," Shute asked. "We are quite safe here from any
interference on the part of the police, so I vote that for once in a
way we have a real big gamble."

"Oh, don't make it verra high," Macglendy said. "I'm not so fond of
your big stakes. Ah, no, I ken the value of money too well, and how
hard it is to earn. But I'm thinking these young fellows with silvers
spoons in their mouths will be wanting what they call a flutter, so,
just for once in a way, I don't mind going as far as fifty pounds
rises."

The others began to laugh, and Shute began to rally the Scotsman upon
his caution, all of which was accepted in good part. Then they sat down
to play in earnest, and for the best part of an hour hardly a word
was spoken. Even Harley, careless and happy as he was, began to find
himself under the fascination of the game.

And, from the very first, he won steadily. It seemed to him that he
could do no wrong. The more he won, the more exuberant and reckless he
became, whilst the others looked on with humorous comments, and the
usual allusion to a beginner's luck. It was Prest who suffered more
severely, for the Scotsman, in his cautious way, threw in his hand over
and over again rather than take any unnecessary risks, and Prest was
just about holding his own.

"Well, that's a most amazing thing," Prest exclaimed, as Harley called
his hand for the fourth time, and laid two pairs on the table. "Talk
about luck. Ah, there's one thing, my boy--don't forget that lucky in
cards, unlucky in love."

It sounded almost a challenge, so that Harley looked up with a mocking
smile in his eyes. He was laughing to himself to think that Prest would
know all about that before long, so he gathered up his winnings, secure
in his position, and the knowledge that he had honourably got the best
of his old friend and rival.

"Yes, it is extraordinary how everything is going my way," he said.
"I had a feeling when I sat down to-night that I was going to win. It
seemed to me that everything was going my way, and I suppose that that
is what made me reckless. I think it's what you Scottish people call
fey, Mr. Macglendy."

"Och, aye," Macglendy said. "When the tide's with ye, nothing goes
wrong. Ye could call the other man with nothing in your hand, and win
even if you were holding four pieces of blotting paper. And if the
luck's all out, then a straight flush is no more good to you than a
sick headache. I've been through it myself."

Still the game went on, with occasional lapses for a cigarette or a
visit to the tantalus, and still Harley won. It seemed impossible that
he could do wrong. Then Macglendy dropped out for a hand or two, and
stood watching the others. Suddenly a change came over his face, and,
leaning over the table, he picked up a hand which had just been dealt
by Harley to the other two.

"You'll excuse me," he said, in a harsh, husky voice. "It is verra
unpleasant, but my duty is plain. These cards are marked."

Harley jumped to his feet as if something had shot him.

"Marked," he cried. "Marked. Two fresh packs of cards that I bought
myself and opened in your presence. Mr. Macglendy, I am afraid I don't
quite understand what you are saving."

"Aye, but I do," Macglendy said stolidly. "I am too old a hand at the
game to be deceived. Look at this."

He took up a handful of the cards, and held them aslant so that the
light caught the glaze on the backs. And on every card there was a sort
of pattern in dull, tiny spots as if the glaze had been removed by a
touch of acid. There was not a single card in either pack that did
not show one of these patterns. Very slowly the Scotsman dropped them
one by one on the table, and then turned a cold, passionless eye upon
Harley.

"You see what I mean," he said. "They are all marked. And what's more,
one of the cards is missing. I think ye'll find that it is the ace of
spades, and, moreover, I think Mr. Harley will find the ace of spades
in his jacket pocket."

Boiling with rage and indignation, Harley plunged his hands into his
jacket pockets. Then, to his own dazed amazement, he produced a square
of pasteboard that fluttered from his nerveless fingers on to the table
under the eyes of his companions.

"The ace of spades," he whispered hoarsely. "Gentlemen, I swear by my
Maker that I never placed that card there."




CHAPTER III.--THE FRIENDLY EAVESDROPPER.

Hilton Blythe, soldier of fortune, card sharper, and man of the world,
beautifully turned out and looking every inch the gentleman by birth
and breeding that he undoubtedly was, turned into the dining-room
of the Brighton Metropolitan the following afternoon to lunch as
usual. He had come down there in search of a certain prey that had
so far successfully eluded him, but now all thoughts of personal
aggrandisement were thrown to the winds. With all that amazing courage
and audacity of his, he was a kind-hearted man, loyal enough to his
peers and ready to share his spoil with a friend. But there were bigger
things to occupy his mind, ghosts from the past were rising and it
behoved him to be up and doing lest one that he loved more than life
itself was to find lasting unhappiness. In other words he had stumbled
on the track of a very pretty conspiracy and he would not be content
until he saw the righting of a wrong.

He passed along to the window seat that had been reserved for him as
usual, hoping to see more of the young couple that had so intrigued him
the day before. They would be lunching there again of course, for he
had heard the arrangement made, but though he sat at his meal over long
there was no sign of the lovers.

"I wonder," he muttered to himself, "I wonder if the game had begun
already. But I hardly imagine that a criminal artist like Shute would
do anything so crude."

A little anxiously he passed presently into one of the small rooms
behind the famous palm lounge of the hotel with the intention of
writing a note. The folding windows were open and he could see into the
lounge. It was comparatively empty now for it was a fine afternoon and
most of the hotel guests were out in the sunshine. But there almost
under Blythe's eyes sat Harley and the girl who had so powerful an
effect on the man who was spying on them at that moment. They could
not see him in the shadow of the little room, but he could make out
everything and hear every word that passed. Nor did it need much
discrimination on his part to see that the two were in some bitter
trouble.

"I couldn't get here before, I couldn't," Harley was saying. "I hope
you didn't wait for me, dearest."

"In the lounge," Nettie explained. "When I realized that something had
detained you, I went out and had a sandwich and a glass of milk. But
what is it, Roy? You look dreadful."

"I came to tell you," Harley murmured. "I came as soon as I possibly
could. My dearest girl, I hardly know how to begin. If anyone had
told me yesterday that this trouble would fall upon me, I should have
laughed. It would have seemed impossible, and yet, as I sit here before
you, I am a convicted card-sharper, disgraced, and dishonoured in the
eyes of my friends, and threatened with worse than that. I shall have
to resign the membership of all my clubs, and, worse than that, give
up my commission in the Guards. Oh, I don't say that this will be
public property, because, if I do as I am told, or rather, commanded,
the matter is going to be hushed up. But Prest was quite firm in his
suggestion that I should throw up my commission and drop all my clubs."

"My dear boy, what on earth are you talking about?" Nettie demanded.
"The thing is absurd--ridiculous. Why, if you told me yourself that you
had done all these things, I wouldn't believe you."

"Yes, that is exactly as I hoped to hear you speak," Harley said,
his face white and drawn. "So long as you believe in me, then there
is something still left to wait for--I mean hope for. But I am so
distracted that I don't know what I am talking about."

Blythe, half-hidden in the gloom of the writing-room, was following
all this with the closest attention. There was a peculiar smile upon
his face, and a certain grim look in his eyes that would perhaps
have rendered Shute uncomfortable if he could have seen it. Quite
unconsciously the two young people in the hour of their trouble were
entertaining an angel unawares. It was Nettie, with that calm courage
of hers, who first rose to the situation.

"Try and be calm," she said. "We are all alone here, and I want to
hear everything. Nothing is quite as bad as it sounds at first, so, to
please me, light a cigarette, and then tell me all about it. What is
the trouble?"

"Well, it's like this," Harley said more calmly. "You know, I went off
last night with the man you work for, to his bungalow at Shorehaven.
Besides us two, there was Prest, who came at my invitation, and a man
called Andrew Macglendy."

"I know him," Nettie said. "He is a traveller and a scientist who has
taken a furnished house for the winter in Brunswick Square; a fair man,
with a long, yellow beard."

"That's the chap," Harley said. "A very dignified man, who speaks with
a strong Scottish accent. We went from his house in his car, and for
an hour or two we played poker. From the very first I won steadily, I
couldn't do any wrong. I suppose my luck was in, at any rate, I felt it
was, and, after I knew that you cared for me, I had a sort of feeling
that everything was going my way, and it did. Goodness knows how much I
won, and the more I won, the more Walter Prest lost. I think the other
two came out somewhere about equal. And then, all at once, I noticed
that Macglendy had grown very quiet, and presently he stood out and
watched us. Then, suddenly, he leant over the table, after I had dealt,
and, in the coolest possible voice, said that the cards were marked."

"Marked!" Nettie exclaimed. "What does that mean?"

"Well, that they were gambler's cards, marked on the back with little
signs of which a clever dealer could know exactly what cards his
opponents held. Oh, it's quite an old trick, and has been worked over
and over again. Of course, I jumped to my feet, and asked Macglendy
to explain himself. Oh, he explained himself right enough--he proved
his accusation up to the hilt, and, what was more, he accused me of
having a missing ace in the pocket of my dining-jacket. And when I put
my hand in to feel, sure enough the ace was there. Mind, I made no
attempt to conceal it; I laid it on the table, and then you can imagine
what happened. You see, unfortunately, they were my own cards--the
cards that I bought from Weston's in Castle Square yesterday. I had
taken them with me to the bungalow, and I broke the twine on them,
and tore off the covers myself. The suggestion was that I had very
cunningly opened both packs beforehand and doctored them, after which I
had replaced the covers so carefully that they appeared to be intact.
Heaven only knows how the whole thing was managed, but there it was.
I had been caught cheating at cards, with two marked packs I provided
myself, and I had won a lot of money from one of my very best friends.
What could I say, Nettie; what could I do? I proclaimed my innocence.
I swore that there must be some mistake here, but I hardly dared to
suggest that I was the victim of a plot. You see, I was dealing with
men of high repute, one of them being my oldest friend. You wouldn't
suggest for a moment that Prest had anything to do with it."

"Oh, no," Nettie said. "Such an idea is unthinkable. Mr. Prest is a
gentleman."

"And my rival," Harley said with a queer smile. "But I ought not to
have said that. As a matter of fact, Walter Prest was the hardest
of the lot. So far as Macglendy and Shute were concerned, they were
quite satisfied to accept an apology from me, and an admission that
I had done wrong. I was grateful for the way in which they behaved,
but Prest was as hard as iron. You know what a keen soldier he is,
you know how fanatical almost he is with regard to the honour of his
regiment. Of course, he was most fearfully cut up, and in a great state
of agitation, but, though he was quite willing that the matter should
go no further, he was firm on the fact that I must send in my papers
and resign the membership of all my clubs. As an officer in the Guards,
he declared that he could do no less. He wanted to shake hands with me
afterwards, and advised me to go abroad in the yacht for two or three
years, until the thing was more or less forgotten, And, upon my word,
Nettie, I was so broken up that I almost agreed. As I sat there with
my miserable thoughts, it seemed to me that, at any rate, you might
believe me----"

"Oh, I do, I do," Nettie cried. "I know that you are incapable of
anything of the kind, and, even if it were true, then I would stand
by your side and look the whole world in the face. We should be quite
happy somewhere abroad, say South America, and we could see the world
in that new yacht of yours. But then, you are innocent, Roy. I am
convinced that you had nothing to do with this vile thing, and I am
sure you will agree with me, when I say that this dreadful thing must
be faced, and the truth brought to light."

Nettie spoke with a white, set face, and the suggestion of a tear in
her eye, but the lines of the little red mouth were firm enough, and
Blythe gently applauded her decision as he sat quietly at the writing
table watching every change of expression.

"Now, that is just exactly what I expected you to say," Roy replied.
"It makes me almost happy to hear you speak in that way. And you will
be glad to hear that I refused the terms offered me. I declined to
spend the rest of my life under a cloud, as I decline to accept your
offer. I am not going to marry you and take you abroad, and leave
scandalmongers to think that there is some guilty secret. I refused to
entertain the suggestion and said that I should fight for my honour
to the bitter finish. God knows how it is to be done, but there is no
other way. And Prest was quite decent about it--he said he would give
me a month to think it over; meanwhile, nothing would be done, and
nothing would be said. I had half agreed to take Shute and Macglendy
yachting with me, and perhaps I shall now, but this trouble has to be
faced."

"Of course, it has," Nettie said warmly. "Do you think that there is
anything wrong with these men? I don't mean Mr. Prest, but the other
two. Isn't it possible that they have some design upon you--some reason
for getting you into their hands? I feel in a mood now to suspect
everybody. Oh, let's go outside and talk it over, I can't breathe
properly here."

Blythe sat at the writing table after they had gone, turning what he
had heard over in his mind. He had found something which he had more or
less expected to find, and he was trying to see some way out of this
tragedy into the light.

"I think I have heard something like it before," he muttered to
himself. "Now, where have I heard of, or read about, a plot like this?
It seems so familiar. Now, I wonder--ah! that's it. It's exactly the
same thing over again. Now, what on earth is the name of that book, and
where did I read it. I shall have to find out, of course, and it's any
money that Shute has a copy. If he has, then so much the worse for him."




CHAPTER IV.--BLYTHE TAKES A HAND.

Andrew Macglendy had dined comfortably and well in his luxuriously
appointed house 201, Brunswick Square, and sat at the dinner table
smoking a choice cigar and drinking his coffee. Opposite him was his
wife, a handsome woman, though somewhat faded, with grey hair, and a
dead white face, and possessing about as much vitality as an automatic
figure. There was something almost grotesque in the way she moved, when
Macglendy spoke to her, and the look of almost abject horror on her
face when he addressed her. For the rest, she was tall and slim, most
exquisitely dressed, having the air and manner of one who, at some time
or another, has known what it is to move in good society. But all that
was warm and human had been ground out of that unfortunate woman years
ago by one who, in every sense of the word, was her lord and master.
Those who knew declared that Mrs. Macglendy was well-born, and that
she was closely connected with more than one aristocratic family. She
was supposed to have come to her husband years ago with a comfortable
fortune of her own, but that had long been squandered by an extravagant
husband, who now, to put it bluntly, more or less lived upon his wits.

Time was, when this woman had been young and full of life, and very
much in love with the man considerably below her, and with whom she had
run away, to the great scandal of her friends, who, from that moment,
refused to recognise her existence. It had been somewhat of a romance
in its way, but the romance was long since dead and forgotten, and
it is no exaggeration to say that the poor, unhappy creature, went
in daily fear of her life. She knew, only too well, through bitter
experience, what kind of a life Andrew Macglendy was leading, for, in
that brutal, foul-natured way of his, he made no secret of the fact.
She had known times when she had gone literally hungry, and times when
she was living in a sort of dazzling splendour, as she was just then,
at Brunswick Square. This was one of the brighter intervals, but if
Mrs. Macglendy had been consulted, she would have preferred those dark
weeks of poverty.

Meanwhile, she sat there, beautifully dressed, in that grotesque
semblance of a wax doll, with her eyes turned towards her husband, as
if to anticipate his slightest wish.

"Well," he said presently. "Well. What do you think of it? Isn't this a
pleasant change from the last lodgings we had in Paris? And there you
sit, without saying a single word, like a death's head at the feast,
when you might be enjoying this spell of good fortune of ours. There,
for Heaven's sake, don't start crying."

Macglendy spoke with no trace of a Scottish accent now. He displayed a
tendency to clip certain of his words, and appeared to have some slight
difficulty with his vowels. As he sat there, with a scowl upon his
face and that queer English on his lips, he looked like what he was--a
half-bred Russian Jew, who, in the early days, had learnt to speak
English in a mean Glasgow-street, where he had been employed as junior
assistant to a pawnbroker. But this was only when he was alone with his
wife, and felt that he could unbend.

"If you'd been any use to me," he went on, "I should have been a
millionaire by this time. Extraordinary thing, I can never kill that
infernal honesty of yours. If you had listened to me, and played up
to me as you could in the old days, when you were a dashed beautiful
woman, then I could have done anything. With that bit of money you
brought me, I could have gone to the top of the tree. There was nothing
to stop me."

"What is it you want now?" the wife asked timidly.

"Only that you should behave yourself. Now, listen to me. I and Shute
have got a dashed big thing on. There's any amount of money in it, and
it's as safe as houses. I am not going to tell you what it is, because,
if I do, you'll probably make a fool of yourself. We've got this place
now, thanks to a bit of luck, and we are safe for the present, at any
rate. There's a young friend of mine called Harley, who has just come
into a hatful of money. He will probably come here a good deal during
the next few days, and I want you to be nice to him. There is nobody
who can do that sort of thing better than you if you try."

"I know the name," Mrs. Macglendy said mechanically. "If it is Roy
Harley, I used to be a great friend of his mother's. Andrew, you are
never going to ask me----"

"Drop it," Macglendy said brutally. "Drop it, I say. You are going to
do just as you are told. Not another word, or you'll be sorry for it.
Now, off you go, because I can hear Shute at the door. Not very fond of
him, are you?"

With that, the unhappy woman discreetly vanished, as Shute came into
the dining-room. He carefully closed the door behind him, and helped
himself to a drink and a cigar.

"Upon my word, you are deuced comfortable here," he said. "Quite the
baronial touch, with these panelled walls and old pictures. Nothing
like a good setting when you've got a drama like ours to play. Now,
look here, Andrew, I am sleeping in the bungalow to-night, because I
shouldn't wonder if a load of that stuff turns up before morning, and,
if so, I must be there to receive it."

"Ah, the saccharine," Macglendy laughed. "Quite a big lot this time,
isn't it? Lord, what a game it is! Smuggled on to a little yacht and
then brought by motor boat to the landing stage under the bungalow.
There's no fortune in it, Mark, but it keeps things going whilst we
are perfecting our plans for the big operation. And now that we've got
Harley into our hands----"

"Um, are you quite sure that we have?" Shute asked. "He is an obstinate
devil, and I shouldn't wonder if he decided it the last moment to fight
the whole thing out."

"Oh, will he?" Macglendy sneered. "My dear fellow, he hasn't got a leg
to stand on. We caught him cheating with his own cards, and the thing
was done in the presence of his own particular pal, who lost a good
many hundreds, don't forget. Oh no, he can't fight it. Nobody would
believe him. He may kick and struggle, but before the month is up, he
will bow to the inevitable, and, in the meanwhile, we shall be able
to use his yacht whenever we want it. It was a very pretty idea of
yours, and one of the best you have ever hit upon. I suppose it's quite
original?"

"Well, I don't mind telling you that it isn't," Shute admitted. "I
got it out of a book by an American, the name of which I forget for a
moment. At any rate, I read it in New York, when I was laid up for a
week or two some long time ago, and it struck me that the plot could be
made use of in a practical way. These writing fellows often hit upon
ingenious criminal schemes, which are useful to men like ourselves, and
when chance threw Harley and his yacht in our way, I began to see how
I could make use of that little romance I was telling you about. Of
course, the saccharine smuggling is merely a blind. If we get caught,
we can pretend that we did it more by way of a joke than anything else
to settle a wager if you like. We shall probably get fined a couple of
thousand pounds, but, so long as we are not found out, we are not only
clearing expenses, but making quite a handsome thing out of it. But,
as you know, I didn't rent the bungalow with its almost secret landing
place merely to do the revenue authorities out of a certain amount of
duty. I was waiting for the mug to come along, and when I happened upon
Harley and his yacht, I knew that I had found him. You leave Harley
alone, let him stew in his own juice for a week or two, and then you'll
find he will be ready for anything. I shouldn't wonder if he felt
desperate enough to join us. But even if he doesn't, we know exactly
what to do. It's all worked out in the novel I told you about. You
can have a look at the book, and see for yourself if you like. If all
goes well, before long we shall be able to loot every big house within
fifty miles of Brighton that happens to be fairly near the coast. I
have marked down at least a dozen of these, and, what's more, I've got
the plans. You see, most of these people only come down for week ends,
for the shooting and that sort of thing, and I have managed to get a
lot of information from servants, and people of that sort. I have got
a whole lot of schemes worked out, and locked up in the safe in the
bungalow, but it's necessary that we should have the run of some decent
yacht which belongs to somebody absolutely beyond suspicion. And, so
far as the world in general is concerned Harley is the very man for our
purpose. We can use him as a sort of blind, and, whilst he doesn't know
it, that yacht of his will be playing its part in the great game. My
dear chap, it's one of the easiest things that ever happened. I want
you to keep an eye upon Harley, and play up to him sympathetically.
Tell him to do nothing for the month that Prest gave him, and suggest
that there is some infernal mistake here that you might he able to put
right. Have him to luncheon and dinner. Get your wife to make a fuss
of him, she can play the game splendidly if she only likes. And now I
must be off. I have got a taxi outside waiting to take me as far as the
bungalow, and there I shall stay till the morning."

With that Shute went his way, full of the great scheme that he was
playing, and wrapped in his own thoughts, came presently to Shorehaven,
where he dismissed his taxi, and made his way quietly across the
shingle in the direction of the bungalow. It was getting late now, and
the beach was entirely deserted. Indeed, at that time of the year most
of the bungalows were empty, and from only one or two did an odd light
or so penetrate.

Very gently, Shute picked his way, until he came to the door of his own
little retreat, and opened it with his latch-key. He threw the door of
the dining-room back, and gave a gasp of surprise as he saw that the
lights had been turned on.

On a big arm-chair near the glowing fireplace was seated a man in
evening dress, who appeared to be deep in some yellow-covered volume
which he was reading with interest. Then he looked up with a smile on
his face at the astounded intruder.

"Good heavens," Shute cried. "It's Hilton Blythe. What in the name of
fortune are you doing here? And how----"

"Ah, that's rather a long story," Blythe said, in his sweetest manner.
"I got in through a window. I thought you would be back before long,
and I waited, because I have a good deal to say to you, and, if you
value your future, you will listen."

"What book have you got there?" Shute said suddenly.

"This," Blythe said, "is a detective story, called 'The Lonely House,'
by one Preston Chandler. It's a most interesting story, and, as the
poet says, thereby hangs a tale. It is so interesting that I propose to
bore you with it. Now, sit down, and don't make any fuss. You know me
well enough to be sure that I am going to have my own way, and if you
wish to defy me--well----"




CHAPTER V.--DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND.

Shute burst into a torrent of curses, so loud and deep as to bring
a look of something like pain to Blythe's features. Not that he
was feeling any sort of resentment, because this display of temper
was precisely what he wanted. Shute, cool and calculating, was a
proposition to be tackled, but Shute in this passionate mood would
be something like clay in the hands of the potter, where a cool
diplomatist like Blythe was concerned.

"What the devil do you want here?" Shute said, catching his breath.
"Why do you come butting into my affairs? I should have thought a man
at the top of his profession, as you are, would have scorned to help
himself to the property of a----"

"Brother thief. Precisely," Blythe said coolly. "Don't you think it
would pay you a good deal better to sit down and talk the matter over
quietly? You know what I am; you know that if once I made up my mind to
a thing, it is not the slightest use to try and turn me. I came down
here with a definite object in my mind, but fortunately for the man I
had in my eye, I hit upon the trail of what I considered to be better
game. No doubt it is annoying that the bird in question legitimately
belongs to your barrel, but there you are. Now, I have got a pretty
shrewd idea of what you are up to, and with your consent I am going to
stand in."

"And if I refuse?" Shute snarled.

"Oh, you won't refuse, my dear fellow. People in our exclusive society
are not usually in the habit of refusing anything that Hilton Blythe
suggests. There have been cases, of course, but the other party to
the contract, so to speak, has always been exceedingly sorry for it
afterwards. And because I don't want to have any unpleasant mess with
you, I came over here this evening to discuss the matter in an amicable
spirit."

Shute raged up and down the sitting room whilst Blythe sat in his chair
smoking a cigarette, and nursing the yellow-covered volume he had
been reading on his knee. He was like some lion-tamer waiting for the
rebellious animal to get over his passion, and realise that he was in
the presence of his master.

"Ah, that's better," Blythe smiled, as Shute threw himself into a
chair. "I thought you would come to see matters in a reasonable light.
I suppose you have read this book?"

"Well, suppose I have. What about it?"

"Yes, I see you have read it, and a very ingenious story it is. With a
mind like yours, of course, the possibilities of the story in the way
of a practical conspiracy would appeal almost irresistible. Here is the
credulous fool with money, the proud possessor of a yacht, and all you
have to do is to get him in your power. Once that is done, you can use
the yacht for smuggling purposes to cover still more deep designs. Now,
it happens that I read that book some time ago, and when I came down
here and saw what you were doing with young Roy Harley, I remembered
all about that American story called 'The Lonely House.'"

"Ah," Shute muttered under his breath. "But go on."

"My dear fellow, is there any occasion to go on? I wanted to refresh my
memory with another look at that story, and, feeling pretty sure that
you had a copy in your bungalow, I burgled the premises and found it.
And now I know pretty well what you and that rascal Macglendy are up
to. And I am coming in. Oh, you can fling yourself about and curse as
much as you like, but the fact remains. How you managed to get a clean
honourable youngster like Harley under your thumb I don't know, because
there is nothing of that in the book, and probably you worked out a
little trap of your own. It doesn't matter two straws to me how you
managed to throw the net over Harley, but I know that you have done so.
And I know that your present game is smuggling saccharine."

"Are you quite sure of that?" Shute sneered.

"Well, that is what the characters in the story were doing, and you
seem to have stuck to the text pretty faithfully. If you are up to some
ulterior game on a bigger scale, then I shall be glad to hear of it at
your convenience. Meanwhile, let me compliment you on these quarters
of yours. Upon my word, this bungalow a little apart from the rest,
with its almost secret landing place between those concrete walls, is
an ideal as if it had been erected for the purpose of a cinematograph
company."

"As a matter of fact, it was built by the Government during the war,"
Shute said sulkily. "Yes, it's all right from our point of view, but I
don't quite see yet why we should take you in."

"Of course you don't," Blythe smiled amiably. "It's deuced hard lines
to have to give away a third of the plunder, after you and Macglendy
have done all the work, but then you see, I am more or less a master of
the situation. Oh, I am not going to give you away. Dog does not eat
dog, you know, but I can step in and spoil your little game by giving
Harley a hint or two as to the company he is keeping. He, poor boy, has
not the least idea that Macglendy is really a Jew with a picturesque
name, and a swindler known to the police all over Europe. Harley
regards you as a man of position and a mighty traveller, who is just at
present writing a book of reminiscences. What you really are, we need
not go into. Now come, what is the use of playing with me like this?"

Shute rose to his feet again, and paced up and down the room with a
scowl on his face. He would like to have fought this man, he would like
to have defied him, even if it came to personal violence. He and Blythe
were alone in the bungalow in the dead of night, and in a table drawer,
not far off, was a revolver which, swiftly handled, might have got
Blythe out of the way for all time. And the thing would have been safe
enough. One shot, and Blythe would cease to trouble him, then, with a
weight at his feet, he might be dropped into the sea at the end of the
concrete landing place, and his picturesque career would be over for
good and all. Nor would any inquiries have been made, for Shute knew
well enough that there was not a soul in England who would have mourned
the death of the man who sat opposite to him with a mocking smile upon
his face. These thoughts were so plainly expressed in Shute's eyes that
Blythe laughed.

"I wouldn't try that on if I were you," he said.

"Try on what?" the startled Shute demanded.

"Oh, violence. I am a thought reader, you see, and I can see you
looking at that little drawer in the card table yonder. Probably you
have got a revolver there, but we don't want any melodrama. You are
thinking that I shouldn't be missed, but there you are mistaken. I
never do anything without taking precautions."

As if he had been a mechanical figure, suddenly run down, Shute dropped
breathlessly into his chair.

"Curse you," he muttered. "Go on."

"My dear fellow, there is nothing to go on about. I thought it was
understood that we were going into partnership over this business and
that I was to have my share of the plunder. If that is settled, then I
don't mind telling you that I have a little scheme of my own, by which
you and Macglendy would benefit."

"Why didn't you say that before?" Shute growled. "Now, help yourself
to a drink, and try one of those cigars. You have got to the bottom
of the whole business. Any man must be a fool who tries to deceive
Hilton Blythe. It's not a bad scheme we've got here but the profits are
nothing like as large as you imagine. We smuggle saccharine on board a
sort of a yacht we have hired, and we land it here from a motor boat.
Then Macglendy, who frequently runs up to London on business, conceals
the stuff in his car, and disposes of it at a tailor's shop in the
Minories, where he is supposed to be in partnership with the people.
Of course, if we had a really good yacht, like Harley's, and we could
pose as friends of his, cruising about in the Channel, so a to avoid
all sorts of suspicion, then we could carry on the trade in a wholesale
way."

"I see," Blythe said thoughtfully. "Yes, it sounds good enough, but
you've got to get Harley under your thumb first."

"That we have already done," Shute said with an ugly grin. "He doesn't
realise the fact quite yet, but it's true, all the same."

"I don't want to go into that," Blythe said carelessly. "It is a
thing that is much more in your line than mine. I may be a bit
sentimental, but I never took advantage of an honest youngster yet,
beyond relieving him of his spare cash. Still, when you've got a really
big thing on, it's as well not to be too squeamish. And that reminds
me, I told you just now that I have got a little scheme of my own
on, which might bring in a thousand or two in the next two or three
days, only unfortunately, I came down here without one or two of the
necessary properties, as they say on the stage, and I am afraid my man
has slipped through my fingers. I have got an appointment with him
to-morrow afternoon, and it occurred to me that you might be able to
lend me a pack or two of cards."

"Snide ones, I suppose?" Shute laughed.

"Well, that's what it comes to. I didn't arrange my Brighton trip
with a view to that sort of thing, so I come away without any of my
professional apparatus. I could get what I want from town by return of
post, but that might be too late."

"As it happens I can let you have exactly what you require. You will
find what you want in the drawer of that card-table yonder."

Blythe rose casually and strolled in the direction of the table. He saw
exactly what he wanted to know at a glance--two packs of apparently
unbroken cards which his professional eye recognised as the right
thing, and, lying by the side of them, two further packs which were,
to all appearance, the honest and genuine thing. He made no comment
as to this, but, taking the packs he wanted, dropped them casually
into his pocket, and came back to his seat. There was nothing in the
expression on his face to show that he had made a startling discovery
which, sooner or later, was destined to have a powerful effect upon the
fortunes of Roy Harley.

"Yes, I think that will about do," he said. "We understand one another
perfectly now, and we must have a meeting to discuss certain details
that occur to me. I see that Macglendy is more or less in clover in
Brunswick Square, and perhaps you could arrange a little dinner there.
Now, I think I will be getting along. It's a fair walk to Brighton, but
I shall enjoy it on a nice evening like this. So long, and don't take
any further steps till you have heard from me again."

With that, Blythe put on his hat, and, helping himself to a fresh
cigar, turned out into the night. Then he walked back to Brighton on
the best of terms with himself.




CHAPTER VI.--IN WESTON'S SHOP.

With the air of a man who is without a single trouble, and in a
position to look the whole world is the face, Blythe strolled down the
Palace Pier the following afternoon. It was bright and sunny, with a
warm wind blowing from the sea, but, as yet, the band was not playing,
and there was only a sprinkling of people promenading up and down. It
was some time before Blythe found what he wanted, but presently seated
in a corner of the glass shelter, he made out the forms of Harley and
Nettie, who appeared to be talking earnestly together and ignoring
the rest of the visitors. They were talking so earnestly that it was
possible for Blythe to take his seat on the far side of the shelter,
in such a position that he could hear fairly well what was going on on
the other side of the partition. Those wonderfully keen ears of his
followed the conversation more or less coherently, and his quick wit
fitted in the rest. He was frankly eavesdropping, but, from his point
of view, it was in a good cause, and, indeed, there were cogent reasons
why he could not come forward boldly and proclaim himself on behalf of
the lovers.

There was a long silence just after Blythe had taken his seat, and it
was Nettie who spoke first.

"Have you seen Mr. Prest?" she asked.

"Yes, I saw him this morning," Harley explained. "It was not very nice
for me, but I felt bound to do it. Nettie, that man and I have been
friends ever since I was a little chap in knickerbockers. We were
brought up together. We were at Rugby and Sandhurst together, and we
got our commissions on the same day. A better, cleaner, fellow never
breathed. Of course, he and I were rivals when we met you in Scotland,
but that didn't prevent us from being the best of friends, and because
he had money and I had practically nothing beyond my pay, I tried to
play the game as it should be played."

"Yes, I knew that," Nettie sighed. "And when you went away, and Walter
asked me to marry him, I refused. I think he knew why, and I think he
appreciated how well you were behaving. But, you see, I did not care
for him, at least, not in that way, and now----"

"And now everything has changed," Harley said dismally. "Only a few
hours ago, and I was the happiest man in England. But what is the good
of talking about that? I went to see Prest this morning in his rooms,
to try and make him believe that I am the victim of an extraordinary
cruel piece of fortune."

"And he wouldn't listen to you, Roy?"

"My dear girl, he listened most patiently. He is so honestly cut up
about the whole business as I am. He mentioned your name, and suggested
that if I came and told you all about it, I should find you ready to
take my part. He said, now that I am a rich man, it might be possible
for you and me to go abroad."

"And so we shall, if things come to the worst," Nettie said resolutely.
"But not until we have fought this thing out to the bitter end. I don't
want to leave the country, Roy. If we must, we must, and we'll make
the best of it, but if there is any possibility of getting rid of this
slur, then we must stay. Couldn't you move Walter at all? Was he quite
firm?"

"Well, you know how obstinate he can be. And he's absolutely obsessed
about the honour of the regiment. He was more sorry for me than he
could say, but he firmly believes that I deliberately cheated him, and,
though he was ready to shake hands, and overlook the past, he would not
hear a word about my staying in the Army. Not for his own sake, for the
sake of our brother officers."

"Yes, I quite see the point," Nettie sighed. "It would not be a
dishonourable thing for him to be friendly with you, but, on the other
hand, it would be impossible for him to see you mixing with the rest of
the officers on equal terms. I suppose that means that at the end of
the month you will have to resign your commission."

"Yes, Prest made that quite clear. And the worst of it is that he is
right. If I took the same view that he does, I should do exactly the
same thing."

"Then we must do something," Nettie said. "We must try and find out how
this dreadful thing happened. I cannot believe that you are a victim of
a piece of ill-luck. It's absurd to suggest that you bought two packs
of cards at a respectable tradesman's, only to discover that they were
the sort of cards that are used by professional swindlers. That would
be too ridiculous even for fiction."

"Yes, I suppose," Harley said miserably.

"Then let us go a little further, let us regard this much as we might a
story in a magazine. There is a conspiracy against you, for some reason
that we need not go into, and you have been lured to my employer's
bungalow with the very object of getting this accusation fastened on to
you."

"Sounds rather absurd, doesn't it?" Roy said.

"My dear boy, of course it does. You couldn't possibly suspect Walter
Prest of doing a thing like that. Even if you are his rival he would
never stoop to such a thing. And then again, Mr. Shute is a man of
the highest reputation, and is known all over the world as a famous
traveller. I can't see him associating with people capable of anything
underhand, and, the same remark, of course applies to Mr. Macglendy.
Oh, what a terrible tangle it is."

"And yet you can quite understand why all those people think I am
guilty," Harley said, "I am beginning to wonder, Nettie, how it is that
you believe in me."

"I believe in you because I have got to, because I must, and because my
instinct tells me that you are the victim of some horrible mistake. And
yet, the more I think of it, the more bewildered I get. My head is all
in a whirl. Still, we have got the best part of a month before us, and
surely something must happen before then."

The man on the other side of the glass screen smiled. He knew only too
well what the next month would bring forth. He would have been glad
enough to have gone to the other side of the windscreen there and then
and told the lovers that they had nothing to fear, but that he could
not do. And he smiled to himself again as he pictured Hilton Blythe,
the polished swindler and man of the world, wasting valuable time over
a mere affair of the heart. He rose presently and went off thoughtfully
in the direction of the front. It was a long time, however, before he
passed through the turnstiles and strolled along the King's Road until
he came to the Metropolitan. There he took the lift and went up to his
room.

He sat for an hour or so smoking a cigar, and looking out over the
sea, then he jumped to his feet, and, opening a suit case, took out
two packs of cards. One of them he had obtained from Shute, for
professional purposes, and the other was one of the still unopened
packs which he had also taken from the drawer of the card table in the
bungalow.

"Yes, I think I shall be able to do something with these," he said to
himself. "And now I give Weston's a call."

He found himself presently in the big shop at the corner of Castle
Square, where he strolled up to the counter and requested the polite
assistant to show him some playing cards.

"I want something like these if you have got them!" he said. "I dare
say you have."

With that, he took the professional pack from an envelope, and spread
them on the counter. The assistant took them up and examined them with
a critical eye.

"I am afraid we can't do that, sir," he said. "To tell you the truth,
there is very little demand for cards like these. You see, they are the
finest Japanese make."

"Japanese?" Blythe echoed. "Do you mean to say that these cards come
from Japan?"

"Certainly they do, sir. I remember that we got four packs for a
gentleman some little time ago, and they cost us nearly ten shillings
wholesale. You see, they are a very fine design, with a monogram on the
back, and the rest being plain glaze."

"Yes, I noticed that, of course," Blythe said. "I should say that they
would sell very easily."

"Of course, they would, sir. But then, you see, these sort of cards
are rarely, if ever, used in the ordinary way. I believe they are only
supplied to conjurers, because they can be so easily marked. There was
a card scandal at the Metropolitan Hotel some two years ago, in which I
happened to be called as a witness, and the cards which fell into the
hands of the police were very like these. They were marked in all sorts
of ingenious ways, generally with little dots in the corners where the
glaze was removed by a slight touch of acid. Very clever they were
indeed."

"You surprise me," Blythe said, with wonderful gravity. "Dear me, what
extraordinary ways of getting a living some people seem to have. I
shouldn't be at all surprised to find that these cards are marked. When
I get back to my hotel I will see. But I should like very much to have
some like them for ordinary use."

"Very sorry, sir," the assistant said. "But, as I told you before, they
are rarely, if ever called for, because they are so easily soiled. I am
quite sure you would not get anything like them in Brighton."

Blythe appeared to be somewhat disappointed. He put the cards back in
their envelope, and replaced them in his pocket. When he had done that,
he produced one of the other packs of unopened cards, which he had
taken from the bungalow without saying anything to Shute about them.
These he passed casually across the counter.

"Oh, well, it really doesn't matter. After all, one set of cards
is quite as good as another. But what about these. They seem to be
excellent cards. I have just got this one odd pack, and if you can
match them for me I shall be obliged. You see, one odd pack of cards is
not very much use."

The assistant took up the neat little package, and, as his eye lighted
upon it, he smiled.

"These came from us," he said. "They must have been bought here. Our
private mark is on them. You see that little cross on the side? I made
that myself when we were taking stock. But I am sorry to disappoint
you again sir. The last two packs of those cards I sold the day before
yesterday to a gentleman who came in here. We shall have some more
in a few days, but, meanwhile, I am, afraid I shall have to keep you
waiting."

"Oh, no hurry," Blythe said cheerfully, "I will come back in a few
days."

He was on the right track now, and he knew it. By the time he reached
his hotel, he knew exactly what to do.




CHAPTER VII.--SHEER PHILANTHROPY.

Blythe was almost inclined to smile at himself when he dwelt upon the
part he had elected to play in a love comedy that apparently did not
concern him in the least. He was getting on in life now despite his
rather youthful appearance and his air of luxurious prosperity, and his
methods of obtaining the gilded living that was almost second nature to
him was not so easy as it seemed and moreover entailed a real amount
of hard work and a deal of scheming. And yet here he was deliberately
turning his back upon a golden opportunity of making a lot of money and
actually watching the plump pigeon of his fluttering into the hands of
a brother adventurer.

He was telling himself, half cynically, that there must be a certain
vein of sentiment to his nature, and that this sort of thing must be
suppressed, if he did not want to end his days in the workhouse. But,
after all, Blythe had his good points, and impulses which, from sheer
necessity, had to be forced into the background, and in his heart of
hearts welcomed the chance of doing Roy Harley a good turn. There were
times, years ago, when he had mixed freely enough in that sort of
company, and occasionally, in his darker moments, he mourned his own
lapse from the straight path more or less sincerely. And there were
other reasons that impelled him to put aside altogether his predatory
business and devote himself entirely to straightening out the tangle in
which Harley had been deliberately involved by Shute and Macglendy.

He might have stopped the whole thing and exposed those two rascals in
half a dozen crisp sentences. But then, that involved a certain amount
of risk, and might have left behind it something whereby scandal could
get a grip. On the whole, he decided, he must wait till the time came
when he could show his hand remorselessly, and convince Walter Prest
beyond the shadow of a doubt that his friend had been most cruelly
used. It was dimly, as yet, that Blythe saw his way to a dramatic
situation, where virtue would be triumphant and vice confounded, after
the manner of a stage melodrama. And Blythe was not the man to hurry
things when he knew perfectly well, that with a little patience, he
would have all the cards in his hand. And there was really no reason
why he should not benefit materially at the same time. If he could
bring about the programme that was dimly simmering in the back of his
mind, then he would make for the happiness of a girl in whom he took
the deepest interest, and come out of the adventure with bursting
pockets.

He waited a day or two before going back to the shop in Castle Square,
with the intention of carrying the inquiry into the card business a
little further. The assistant he had seen on the last occasion came
forward smilingly, with the information that he was now prepared to
supply Blythe with as many packs as he wanted of the particular sort of
card which Harley had purchased in Castle Square on the afternoon of
his fatal visit to the bungalow.

"Here you are, sir," he said. "You can take your pick of the new stock.
They only came in this morning."

Blythe turned over the stock thoughtfully. These were exactly the same
sort of cards that Harley had bought, and Blythe knew this, because a
pack of them had been in his pocket on the last time he had entered the
establishment in Castle Square.

"They look very nice," he said.

"There is nothing better in the trade, sir," the assistant replied.
"They are rather expensive, of course, but we can do them at eight
shillings. You will see, sir, that there are two different sorts,
though exactly the same size. Landscapes on the back, in miniature,
the rest plain white glaze. You will notice that on one pack appears
a view of Buckingham Palace, and on the other a charming miniature of
Sandringham. We call them the Royal packs."

"And very nice too," Blythe said. "I suppose these are just the same
as the cards you sold the other day to a customer who took all you had
left before I called."

"That's right, sir," the shopman said. "The gentleman you speak of left
us with one odd pack."

Blythe made his purchase, ordering the same to be delivered to him
at the Metropolitan, and he went on his way quite content with his
morning's work. The next thing now was to scrape acquaintance with Roy
Harley, and this was not difficult, in view of the fact that the latter
himself was staying at the Metropolitan. The thing came about quite
naturally enough in the lounge of the hotel, between tea and dinner
time, and, at the end of half an hour, Harley was chatting freely
with the most fascinating man he had ever met. At any moment there
was the chance of an acquaintance strolling up to Harley and telling
him that he had better be careful what he was doing, but these sorts
of contretemps were no novelty to Blythe, and, in any case, he was
prepared to run the risk.

"Try one of my cigarettes," Blythe said. "I think you will like them.
They are made especially for me. I am rather particular about my
tobacco. You see, I am a man who drinks practically nothing at all, and
these cigarettes are my one great luxury."

The tobacco was excellent, and Harley was loud in praise of it.
Almost before he knew what he was doing, he was telling this casual
acquaintance a good deal about himself, and it never occurred to him
that he was getting nothing in return.

"Yes," he said, "I came down here for a little change. I am in the
Army, you know--the Guards to be particular--though I am seriously
thinking of chucking the Service."

"That's rather a pity, isn't it," Blythe said in his most bland and
fatherly way. "I always think it is a mistake for a young man not to
have some sort of profession. It keeps him out of mischief. If I had
stuck to my Army career, I should have been a happier man than I am
to-day. Believe me, Mr. Harley, money isn't everything, though you may
think it is."

"I haven't had money long enough to be a judge," Harley laughed. "I
came quite unexpectedly into a fortune some time ago, and the first
thing I did was to buy myself a yacht. She is off Shorehaven, and in my
spare time I am cruising about the Channel. When this weather breaks,
of course, I shall have to lay the boat up for the winter, but I don't
want to as long as it keeps fine."

"Now, that's very interesting," Blythe said. "In happier days when
I could afford that sort of thing I used to go out yachting myself.
I wonder if you would think it a liberty if asked you to give me an
afternoon on your boat?"

"With pleasure," Harley said eagerly. "Any time you like. I can't
very well manage this week, because I have a good deal of troublesome
business to attend to, and if I am going to leave the Army it will
entail a journey or so to town."

It was quiet enough in the lounge, just in the corner where the two
were seated, so that it was possible for Blythe to speak freely,
without anybody hearing. He leant forward and laid his hand in friendly
fashion upon Harley's knee.

"I hope you will pardon me being personal," he said. "But I am an older
man than you, and I have seen a great deal of the world. I don't want
to force your confidence on so short an acquaintance, but it is quite
evident to me that you are in some sort of trouble. You are young,
and evidently in the best of health, you have money, and friends, and
yet you are in some great trouble. It is only when you get old and
battered as I am that you can successfully hide that sort of thing from
strangers."

Harley looked up a little haughtily.

"Indeed," he said in a distant manner. "You must be an exceedingly
observant man, Mr. Blythe."

"I am," Blythe said with a directness that robbed the words of any
suggestion of boasting. "My--er--profession compels me to be so. I
thought perhaps I might be able to help you, but still if you resent
my interference, I can only apologise and express regret at being so
forward. Try another cigarette."

All this Blythe said naturally enough, so naturally, indeed, that
Harley was quite disarmed. And, after all, there was no man living who
was in more dire need of the help and assistance of a man of the world
than was Roy Harley at that moment.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I do not mean to be rude. As a matter of
fact, I am rather worried over an unfortunate affair which is no fault
of my own. Naturally, I don't want to talk about it, but if, in the
course of a few days, things do not alter for the better, I may be able
to avail myself of your offer. Believe me, I am not ungrateful, but
these are reasons for the moment----"

"Oh, quite so, quite so," Blythe said with a wave of his cigarette.
"But one thing I will say--whatever you do, don't you leave the Army
unless you are absolutely compelled to."

"I don't quite understand," Harley said. "You speak as if you knew some
powerful reason----"

"I know nothing definite," Blythe said. "I may have my suspicions, and
all the more so because I am not altogether disinterested in a certain
young lady. Well, I might just as well mention her name--I am speaking
of Miss Frond."

"You know her?" Harley cried.

"I didn't say so," Blythe replied guardedly. "I simply said I was
interested in her. You see I knew her father."

"Ah, the man who died rather mysteriously."

"So I understand. We were great friends at one time, and I knew Frond
as well as I know myself. But if you don't mind, I would much rather
you didn't mention this conversation to Miss Frond. Now take the advice
of a man of the world, and do nothing till you are obliged to. And if
matters reach a crisis, come to me. I should be only too glad to do
anything to help the son of the man whom I used to know as Everard
Harley."

"Oh, you knew my father, too?" Harley exclaimed. "Strange that I never
heard him mention your name."

"Not in the least strange, my boy, if you knew all the circumstances.
Now, let me be quite frank with you. I forced myself on you for the
very purpose of having this conversation. I want you to realise that
in me you have a friend whom you can rely upon, and I want you, when
we meet casually, to treat me rather distantly, and as a mere nodding
acquaintance. There are people watching who must be led to believe that
there is no real bond between us. So keep your pecker up, and all will
go well yet."

So saying, Blythe rose from his seat, and walked away, leaving Harley
in a state of utter bewilderment. It seemed to him as if all the world
was crumbling about his feet, and yet, in some vague way, he felt
uplifted and comforted.




CHAPTER VIII.--THAT NIGHT AT SHOREHAVEN.

Blythe had more or less thrust himself into the confidence of
Mark Shute, but not for a moment was he trusting to that rascally
individual, or his equally shady acquaintance, Macglendy. He knew
perfectly well that both of these would throw him over and defy him at
the first opportunity, and it was up to him, therefore, to see that the
opportunity did not arise. He had his underground methods of obtaining
information, and when he left the Metropolitan Hotel about about
half-past nine the same night, he had a quite definite object in view.
He came down from his bedroom in the lift, and stole quietly out of
the hall, with his coat collar turned up, so as to escape observation.
To outward appearance he was in evening dress, but under his light
overcoat was a workmanlike reefer suit of serge, and, in the pockets of
his coat, he carried a pair of stout shoes, shod with india-rubber. He
turned his steps westward and stopped, first of all, at the corner of
Brunswick Square.

Turning into the square, he knocked at the door of 201, and inquired
from the foreign-looking servant as to whether Mr. Shute happened to be
with Mr. Macglendy. In reply, he was told that Shute had been dining
there that evening, but that some quarter of an hour before, the master
of the house and his guest had gone off somewhere in the motor.

"Very annoying," Blythe said. "I have come down from London to see Mr.
Shute on most important business. I must see him this evening at all
hazards. I suppose you don't happen to know where they have gone. If
you can tell me, I shall be glad."

As Blythe spoke, he produced a scrap of paper from his ticket-pocket
and displayed what appeared to be a Treasury note. The servant grinned,
and his expression became friendly.

"I am not quite sure, sir," he said. "But I rather fancy they have gone
to Mr. Shute's bungalow. But----"

"That will do," Blythe said. "That's all I want to know. I suppose I
can get a taxi somewhere, can't I? I know all about the bungalow. I've
been there before."

With that, the piece of paper changed hands, and Blythe turned on to
the front, where he was fortunate enough to pick up a taxi, which
whirled him as far as Shorehaven, where he got out, and bade the driver
to wait.

"I may be an hour, I may be more," he said. "But there is a pound note
to go on with. If you can't wait for me, then run back to Brighton, and
send another cab here."

"Oh, I can wait for you all night, sir," the driver said. "It's always
a pleasure to to anything for a gentleman like you."

Blythe crossed the shingle, and skirting round the lonely green
bungalow, made his way over the high shoulder of sand and stone until
he came at length to the cutting, where he could make out a small
floating landing-stage resting on the water. It was possible to put a
boat in there, even at low tide, with perfect safety, and without the
slightest chance of observation. No doubt Shute had been right when
he told Blythe that this secret landing-place had been constructed
during the course of the war, at the time when the bungalow was in
the occupation of the military, and, doubtless, that tiny jetty had
witnessed more than one strange sight.

It was only a matter of a few yards from the jetty to the back of the
bungalow, along a hollow channel with the shingle piled high on either
side, so that Blythe, with all his professional instincts aroused,
realised with a frank admiration what an ideal spot this was for the
purpose that Shute had in view. He was still studying the ground
carefully, under the shadow of the gloom, when suddenly out of the
darkness and intense silence that reigned all round, came a single
mournful cry that Blythe recognised as the call of the curlew.

Instantly, he picked up his ears. He did not need to be told that
there was not a single curlew within ten miles of Shorehaven beach,
so he stepped back behind a huge boulder, prepared to watch patiently
for further developments. It was a long time before anything happened
again, and Blythe's patience was nearly exhausted, when he made out a
tiny point of flame, so small as to be almost invisible, that came, no
doubt, through a hole in the shutter at the back of the bungalow. No
sooner had this appeared, than the cry of the curlew was heard once
more, and the pinpoint of light vanished.

"Now we shall see what we shall see," Blythe muttered.

He had not long to wait, for almost immediately, those quick ears of
his made out a sound of footsteps coming from the bungalow in the
direction of the beach, and then against the dim background of hazy
light reflected on the sky from the street lamps of Brighton, appeared
two figures that Blythe rightly guessed to be Macglendy and Shute. He
could hear them muttering to themselves as they passed him, and made
their way to the head of the jetty where they stopped as if waiting for
something to happen.

It was no part of Blythe's game to betray his presence there so he sat
crouched close behind the boulder, waiting for the next scene in the
drama. It came presently in the form of a motor boat which pulled up
in absolute silence alongside the landing-stage, and, after a short
interval, Macglendy and his companion re-appeared carrying something
that looked like small sacks in their hands.

It was quite clear what was happening. The motor boat, equipped with
the very last thing in the way of a silencer had evidently put off
from a yacht somewhere here in the offing, with one or two bags of the
precious saccharine, and the cry of the curlew had been the signal to
those two, waiting in the bungalow, that the stuff was close at hand.
It was all so quiet that even Blythe, listening intently, could not
hear the boat put off again, but it seemed to him that he could just
make out the faint white line of her bows as she tacked before turning
out to sea. He waited until Shute and Macglendy had disappeared, then
he turned and followed.

He was just in time to reach the other two up before they closed the
door behind them. He heard Macglendy cry out, and the next moment he
was fighting for his life.

They were both upon him instantly, one of them clinging about his
knees, whilst the other had him by the throat. This was not the first
time by any means, that Blythe had found himself in a tight place, and
he had not come down to that lonely spot to confront two absolutely
reckless antagonists without being prepared. He managed presently to
twist his right arm free, and work it into his coat pocket. Then he
raised his arm and an instant later, Shute became painfully conscious
of the fact that a small cold circle was being pressed tightly under
his right ear.

"I think you had better drop it," Blythe said as coolly on he could.
"If you don't I shall press the trigger, and subsequent proceedings
will interest you no more."

This came under Blythe's breath, but there was no mistaking the
grimness of the threat, and instantly Shute relaxed his hold. Blythe
managed to kick himself free of Macglendy, then he turned and faced the
pair of them calmly enough.

"Don't you think we had better go inside?" he suggested. "It's long
odds that there is no one within a mile of us, but then you never can
tell. Open the door."

Shute complied meekly enough, and led the way into the sitting-room
which was furnished like the cabin of a yacht, and turned on the
lights. He tossed the sack he was carrying on to the table, and
savagely turning on Blythe, demanded to know what he meant by this
strange line of action of his.

"We'll come to that presently," Blythe said. "My dear man, do you
suppose that you and your pals here can do anything without my finding
it out! Why, you couldn't cross the street without my knowing all about
it. Besides, the arrangement was that I was to come into this thing and
have third share. You promised me a day or two ago that I was to come
down here when the next lot of stuff was landed, And, here you are,
sneaking off in the dead of night behind my back, trying to rob a poor,
hard working man of his reward. I am ashamed of you, Shute."

"Here, what is that?" Macglendy cried. "Good Lord, it's Hilton Blythe.
Hilton Blythe. Hilton Blythe."

Macglendy repeated the name as if it had been a sort of talisman or
thing of ill-omen of which he stood in mortal fear. He dropped every
trace of his Scotch accent.

"That's right, my cunning little Jew boy," Blythe laughed. "And so your
own confederate hasn't told you the story, has he? How on earth do you
chaps expect to succeed when you don't even trust one another? I am
sorry to disturb you, Moses, but there is no getting rid of the sad
fact that I have tumbled to the whole game, and that I am going to have
my share of the plunder. Of course, if Shute likes to keep you in the
dark for his own purposes, that is nothing to do with me. I expected
something of the sort, when I turned up to-night. Shute, you had better
tell your friend all about it. I'll smoke a cigarette and listen."

Shute made some sort of a shamefaced confession to his confederate, who
listened moodily enough, glancing malevolently at the smiling Blythe
meanwhile.

"And now you understand," Blythe said. "I dare say Shute thought he
could shake me off altogether. But he might have known by this time
that I am not that sort of man. Also, I want you to understand that
if this sort of thing happens again you will be exceedingly sorry for
it. And now, if you don't mind, I should like to have a look at those
samples you have just landed. I have never seen saccharine in my life,
and I am rather curious to know what it is like. You might open one of
those bags."

"What's the use of doing that?" Shute said uneasily. "You don't want to
see the stuff. It's only concentrated sugar. Besides, it's all properly
packed up, ready to go to Brunswick Square in the car, and from thence
to London to-morrow. There is over a thousand pounds worth there, and
so long as you get your proper share, I don't see what you have got to
worry about. Here, let's have a drink."

"Rather heavy, isn't it?" Blythe said as he picked up one of the bags.
"What's that noise inside?"

With that he whipped a knife out of his pocket and, cutting the mouth
of the sack, poured its contents on the table. Mixed up with a certain
quantity of bran was a glittering service of silver plate that gleamed
invitingly in the lamplight.

"Oh-h," Blythe cried. "Oh-h, I don't seem to know everything yet.
Perhaps one of you gentlemen will kindly explain. Really, this is a
bigger thing than, in my innocence, I expected."




CHAPTER IX.--THIEVES IN COUNCIL.

That marvellous instinct which had ever caused Blythe to do and say
exactly the right thing at the right moment warned him that he had made
a false move in insisting on having the sack opened at that particular
moment. True, Shute had more or less grudgingly accepted him as a
partner in the firm of Shute and Macglendy, but he knew that neither
would trust him an inch further than necessary. Indeed, it was plain to
him that they did not even trust one another, or else Shute had told
his colleague what had happened so far as he, Blythe, was concerned.
And here, at any rate, was another side to the business that Shute had
not even hinted at.

In the ordinary course of things Blythe would have scorned to stoop to
anything so mean as smuggling with its possible excursions into the
realm of burglary, for he felt quite sure that the contents of the
sack lying there before him, glittering temptingly in the electric
light, presented the proceeds of downright, unadulterated crime. But,
just at the moment, it was not for him to say anything about it. He
was not thinking of anything just then but the means whereby he could
solve the problem in which Harley and Nettie Frond were the central
characters without betraying his interest in them to these undesirable
confederates of his. Therefore, he bent over the table, and, with the
eye of a connoisseur, began to examine the various pieces of plate.

"All this looks very nice," he said. "And, if I mistake not, the stuff
is exceedingly valuable. Family plate, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Where did you get it from?"

"Well, I don't quite know," Shute said carelessly, after exchanging a
glance with Macglendy. "You see I don't ask any questions. The stuff
came to us from across the water, in the way of business, and it is for
us, I suppose, to dispose of it and share the spoil with our friends
on the other side. By that, of course, I mean the man who sent us the
saccharine."

"That's very interesting," Blythe said. "I suppose by smuggling the
stuff over here your friends escape paying duty, in the same way as
they save duty on the saccharine. But you don't mean to tell me that
you are going to dispose of valuable plate like this for the price of
old silver?"

Shute shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh, well," he said. "One must do what one can. You know what it is
when you are dealing with at receiver of stolen goods. He runs bigger
risks than we do, and that, I suppose, is why he expects to get the
lion's share."

"Ah, well, all that sort of thing is quite out of my line," Blythe
said, with bland insolence. "This is the first time I have ever stooped
to anything of the kind, and I think it will be the last."

"Then why stoop at all?" Macglendy said hoarsely.

Blythe turned upon him with a certain cat-like playfulness, but with a
steely gleam in his eyes.

"Ah, my little Jew boy," he said. "I suppose you think that is a very
pertinent question. But please don't speak to me like that again. I
have my very good reasons for coming into this business, but those are
entirely personal. Let me remind you that our unfortunate acquaintance,
Mr. Roy Harley, was marked out by me before he came down to Brighton;
in fact, I followed him here. And I could have stopped your game at
once, had I liked."

All this, of course, was not strictly true, though, to a certain
extent, it had a basis in fact, for Blythe had not followed Harley to
Brighton, nor had he been particularly interested in that individual
until he had tumbled more or less by accident, upon the budding romance
which he had seen blossoming before his eyes in the dining-room of the
Metropolitan Hotel. For Blythe, with all his predatory instincts, and
constant need of money for that extravagant mode of life of his, had
always prided himself on the fact that he never prayed upon his own
class. The new rich, the accidental objects of capricious fortune, the
prosperous business rogue, and all that fraternity were his quarry, but
never had he taken advantage of the follies of youth amongst the clan
from which he, himself, had fallen, like Lucifer, never to rise again.

Still, he was smiling quietly to himself as he tenderly handled the
pieces of silver with a feeling that he had seen them before. Naturally
enough, he knew a great deal about the crests and coats of arms of
various aristocratic families and it seemed to him that with a little
puzzling out, he would know where this service of plate came from.
That it had been smuggled across the Channel in the ordinary way
of business he did not believe for a moment. He knew little enough
about saccharine, either, but what little he knew told him that that
particular material was not smuggled in sacks, but in small packets
that take a very space. And then it seemed to him that he had solved
the problem. He was going to verify his facts, but it occurred to him
that he knew now who was the owner of that fine service of old family
plate.

"Well, it's all very interesting," he said. "But if you take my advice,
you won't part with that stuff to any ordinary dealer in stolen
goods. It's really magnificent stuff, and it looks to me very much
like Cellini's own work. If it is so, it's worth anything up to three
hundred shillings an ounce. So, on the whole, you had better keep it
until we can find some extravagant fool of a foreign millionaire who
will pay a fancy price for it, and won't care twopence how it came into
our possession, so long as we can assume him it is genuine. Surely you
can hide it somewhere here."

"That's certain," Shute said. "Upon my word, Macglendy, that's a very
good suggestion. And, mind you, Blythe, there is plenty more where that
came from."

"Oh! you are going in for burgling are you?" Blythe asked.

"Nothing of the kind," Shute said indignantly. "This is just a sort of
side show, and I didn't tell you anything about it, because I thought
it was no business of yours. If that aristocratic stomach of yours is
too dainty to come down to the midnight business you need not touch it.
But if you want to have a share in the saccharine profits, you will
help us over Harley. The fact of the matter is we must have his yacht.
We can't get on without it. We have been managing for some little time
with a clumsy old barge that belongs to a Frenchman. But lately he's
got the wind up, and he refuses to go any further. It was only by means
of threats that we have kept him with us as long as we have."

"Ah, I begin to understand," Blythe said. "You need not be afraid of
any interference on my part, but what I object to is being kept in the
dark by my own partners. Now, why not sit quietly down and tell me the
whole story. Give me names and places."

"Well, it's rather a long story," Shute said. "And I have got a great
many things to do before daylight. Mind you, I have got to keep up my
reputation as a well-known traveller, and a hunter of big game, and,
besides, I am very much behind in the book I am writing. I shall have
to sit up most of the night getting ready for my secretary who comes
here every day to take down the work from dictation, and I must get
certain chapters off to-morrow night. Why not go back in Macglendy's
car and discuss the whole thing with him in Brunswick Square, over a
cigar and a drink?"

It suited Blythe well enough to fall in with this arrangement. He knew
perfectly well that Macglendy was the weaker and more pitiable rogue of
the two, and that from him he would get far more information than ever
he could squeeze out of Shute.

"Very well," he said. "That sounds quite satisfactory. But you don't
mean to tell me that you have managed to interest Mr. Harley in this
business."

"Lord, what do you take us for?" Shute asked angrily. "Harley is just a
mug, a simple mug who fancies he knows something about card playing. He
was down here a night or two ago----"

"What, playing cards with you two?" Blythe asked. "Poor chap! And how
much did the bag run to?"

"It didn't come to anything ma tere," Macglendy grinned cunningly.
"That was not the game at all. He came here to teach us a trick or
two and win our money. At the end of the evening, he had won nothing
from either of us, but a whole lot from a friend he called Prest. Then
something went wrong with a card, and the ace of spades was missing
from one of the packs."

"Ah, the old game," Blythe smiled. "Blackmail, and all that sort of
thing. Hush the thing up, lend us a few thousands for a little scheme
of ours----"

"Not quite right," Macglendy laughed. "We didn't want to borrow
anything, only the yacht. You can take it for granted that we have got
Harley in the hollow of our hands, and can do anything we like with
him. Once the yacht is in our possession, we can do as we please with
it, and he'll never know what we are up to. At the present moment he
looks upon us as the only two friends he has in the world. That ought
to satisfy you."

For the moment, at any rate, it did. Here was confirmation of Blythe's
suspicions, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and once the ground was
cleared in that direction he dexterously switched off the conversation
to more general topics. He was quite prepared to go back with
Macglendy, and discuss the business with him at length, but that would
not be to-night, for it was very late, and, moreover, he would be busy
all day to-morrow.

"I can't get away until after dinner," he said. "Your particular trout
is not the only one in the stream. But suppose I came round to 201.
Brunswick Square to-morrow evening about 10 o'clock."

"That will suit me well enough," Macglendy said genially. "Can I give
you a lift back to Brighton?"

"It is hardly worth while," Blythe said. "Because you see, I have got
a taxi waiting for me. So, if you don't mind I will get along at once.
Till to-morrow night, au revoir."

With that, Blythe took his leave and went his way back to his taxi,
exceedingly pleased with the evening's adventure. Shute and Macglendy
regarded each other with a certain uneasiness when once they found
themselves alone again.

"That man is a perfect devil," Macglendy said. "How on earth did he
ever manage to push himself into this business?"

"Well, we needn't worry about that now," was the gloomy response. "We
shall have to dance to his tune, and if we play him false, we shall
never cease to regret it. The best thing you can do to-morrow night
is to tell him everything and let him have it his own way. I wish to
heaven I had strangled the brute to-night, and thrown his body in the
sea. Nobody would ever have inquired about him, and I should feel a
good deal safer than I do now."




CHAPTER X.--A LADY IN DISTRESS.

Apparently Blythe was not so busy as he had pretended, for he was not
up particularly early on the following morning, and after a leisurely
breakfast he made his way round to the reference department of the
Public Library and there asked the assistant to let him have a look
at a copy of "The History of Heraldry." He had kept quite faithfully
in his mind a definite impression of the crest and coat of arms he
had seen the night before, and with a little searching of his memory,
he found, at length, a coloured plate, over which was the name of the
Earl of Fishbourne, followed by a brief biography of that distinguished
family.

"Yes, that's it," Blythe said to himself. "Let me see, hasn't
Fishbourne got a place not far from Arundel? Ah, here it is, Fishbourne
Towers. About four miles from Littlehampton and within view of the
coast. I've got some hazy recollection of having stayed there once when
I was a boy. Yes, now I come to think of it, I remember it perfectly.
And I remember hearing all about the Cellini plate picked up by the
head of the family during the Napoleonic wars. By Jove! those were the
days to live in. If I had been born then, I might have had quite a
distinguished career. Yes, there is the griffin, supported by a pair of
foxes, and the mailed fist above it. Now I begin to see my way. Those
scoundrelly associates of mine have got hold of Fishbourne's matchless
collection of plate, and, if I hadn't turned up there last night, it
would have been sold for a song and melted down. Now, I think it will
be safe at the bungalow until I can put the owner on the right track.
But how on earth is it that he hasn't missed it?"

Blythe put up the book presently, and went along to the Post Office,
where he bought a letter card, on which he wrote a few lines in a
distinguished handwriting, and addressed to the Earl of Fishbourne,
at Fishbourne Towers. Then he passed the rest of the day without
seeing anything of the young couple, in whose welfare he was so deeply
interested, and, after dining carefully and well, wended his way, just
after 10 o'clock, to Brunswick Square.

He was ushered into the drawing-room with due respect by the
foreign-looking man servant and in the big, perfectly appointed
room on the first floor, found himself face to face with Macglendy,
resplendent in evening dress, and looking the part of the gentleman in
easy circumstances to the very life. For Macglendy was a plausible and
adoptive scoundrel, with rather a fine presence, and a good manner,
which accounted, in a large measure, for his success in the dubious
occupation which he had elected to follow.

"Ah, my dear fellow," he said, quite after the fashion of one to the
manner born. "I am delighted to see you. I don't think you have met my
wife?"

Mrs. Macglendy rose, white and ghostly, as usual, in that strangely
automatic manner of hers, from the piano at which she was seated,
and held out her hand almost mechanically. Then her manner changed
suddenly, she became like someone frozen, except with regard to her
eyes, and she stood before Blythe as if her limbs refused to follow
their office, and for a fraction of a second she was on the verge of
collapse. With that long training of hers in the hands of a man who had
gradually ground out all life and feeling, her vitality seemed to come
back to her, and she murmured a few more or less appropriate words that
might have come from the tomb.

Blythe had not been altogether unmoved, but only by the flicker of an
eyelid did he betray the fact. His manner was perfect, as usual, he
said just the right thing, in the right way, but stood watching all the
time behind his mask, till it seemed to him that the unhappy woman in
front of him began to breathe again.

"That will do," Macglendy said. "You had better cut along to your own
room, because Mr. Blythe and myself have business to discuss. Now then
come along."

"Really, I can't permit this," Blythe said smilingly. "We can't turn
a lady out of her own drawing-room. Suppose you get those plans out
in your own particular sanctum, and, when you are ready, I will come
downstairs and join you. I couldn't leave Mrs. Macglendy quite like
this, you know."

Macglendy looked a little annoyed with himself. He had forgotten, for
the moment that Blythe was a gentleman by birth, and that there was
nothing artificial about his politeness.

"Oh, very well," he said. "Perhaps that would he better. I shall be
ready for you in about ten minutes. My wife will show you the way. Now,
don't keep Mr. Blythe chattering here."

As the door closed upon Macglendy, the pale, almost motionless woman,
standing there in front of Blythe, came to life.

"I must speak to you, Hilton," she said, "I must speak to somebody, or
I shall go mad. If you only knew what a life I am leading here, if you
only realised what the agony of all these years mean, you would indeed
be sorry for me."

"My dear Lena," Blythe said, "I have been sorry for you always. I could
never for the life or me understand how you came to marry that man.
With your birth and training you must have known that he was not a
gentleman. How did you come to meet him?"

"Ah, I have almost forgotten. It was abroad, in Paris, I think. But my
memory is so dreadful I can't remember anything. You know what a lonely
strict life Nettie and myself led. You can hardly imagine what a joy it
was to us to have a spell of freedom. And during that time, I met him."

The woman was speaking in quick, breathless gasps, and Blythe did not
fail to notice, the bitter emphasis on the last word.

"We knew nothing of the world," she went. "We were just like two
children. Nettie was luckier than I."

"She was indeed," Blythe almost groaned. "She was saved by death after
marrying a scoundrel, and yet I suppose she was fairly happy after she
married, until she lost her life over the birth of her child. But don't
let us rake up that past--there is no time. Tell me about yourself, and
how you fell in that man's hands."

"I am telling you," Mrs. Macglendy went on. "We were staying at the
same hotel. He was so kind to us in our loneliness that I was attracted
to him from the first. And then, you know how handsome he is, and what
beautiful manners he can assume if he wants to. How easily poor women
can be deceived. I did not know then that he was a common Jew, born in
Glasgow, and brought up in a pawnbroker's shop. That knowledge was to
come afterwards, when my family cast me off, and he had spent the small
fortune that was coming to me. And when that was gone, he came out
almost shamelessly in his true colours. Ah, Hilton I had my good looks
then."

"You have them still," Blythe said. "You are very much like poor Nettie
used to be in the old days. And, if you could get rid of that man, and
well beyond the reach of his influence, then it would all come back to
you again."

"That's just what I want," the unfortunate woman whispered. "I want
to be free, I want to leave him. But I am perfectly helpless. I have
no money, nothing except a lot of beautiful clothes that he lavishes
upon me for his own evil purposes, and besides, if I left him, I should
starve. I am quite sure that there are none of my old friends or
relations who would give me shelter now."

"Ah, there you are absolutely wrong," Blythe said. "You see, I still
retain the friendship of one or two of the old set. Of course, I don't
go to their houses, and they pass me when we meet in the street. But
if ever I were really in distress, and wanted enough to keep me in
comfort, there are at least six men I could go to with a certainty
that they would hold out a friendly hand. I need not mention them by
name, because you know them just as well as I do. They probably think
you have disappeared, because your scandal is an old one, indeed, some
of them regard you as dead. But if you place yourself entirely in my
hands, I think I can bring about a reconciliation. Are you ready to do
that?"

"Oh, I am ready to do anything," the woman cried, flinging up her
hands. "If I don't get away from here, I shall die, or put an end
to myself. I am not alive, I am a mere frozen thing that moves by
machinery. Of course, I eat and drink and sleep, but I know that my
mind is gradually going. Hilton, for the sake of old times, and for the
love you had for my sister, who cared for you to the end, kelp me, help
me."

"My dear Lena, I have already told you that I will," Blythe said. "You
must leave it entirely to me. It will take some time, and I have my
hands fairly full for the present."

"With my husband's affairs. Surely you have not come so low as to be a
partner of his? Because I know what he is doing. I never know what he
and Shute are after, and he is the worse of the two. Ah, it is all very
well for him to pose as a great sportsman and traveller, but even in my
state, I hear things that are said, and sooner or later, the crash must
come. I think my husband and Shute are the two greatest scoundrels in
England."

"Well, my reputation is none too sweet, is it?" Blythe smiled, in that
candid fashion of his. "I have forced myself upon those two, and it
is no exaggeration to say that they hate me like poison. But they are
afraid of me, and have to do exactly as they are told. Oh, I shall know
how to deal with them when the time comes, but that will be in my own
hour, and in my own way. Now, possess your soul in patience, and I will
prepare the ground for you. When I send word for you to come, then you
must come without a word. Just walk out of the house and meet me on
the front, and I will have a car waiting for you. It may be next week,
or it may be next month. Rest assured that there are still relations
who remember you, and who will be glad to give you a home in future.
But now, don't you think it would be just as well if I went downstairs
and had my little chat with your husband. We don't want to arouse his
suspicions."

Mrs. Macglendy took Blythe's hand and carried it to her lips in
something like a passion of gratitude. It was the first sign of real
life he had seen in her, and it seemed to him to give some sort of
promise for the future. For, after all, this unhappy woman was barely
in the prime of life.

"Please don't do that," he said. "I am not quite so hard as I thought I
was. Now, come with me and show me the way to your husband's workroom,
and say good night."

"How good you are, Hilton," the woman said. "But then, in spite of
everything, you always were good and kind. And if you really can save
me, then I shall owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. I
can feel my courage beginning to come back already."




CHAPTER XI.--THE EVENING PAPER!

Nettie Frond sat in her comfortable rooms in College Road after
breakfast wondering what she was going to do with her unexpected
holiday. She had come down to her morning meal quite prepared as usual
to catch the motor 'bus presently and make her daily way as far as
Shorehaven and spend the rest of the morning in the Green Bungalow,
taking down Shute's book from his own lips. And here was a postcard
from her employer to the effect that he and Macglendy had been quite
unexpectedly called away on business and telling her that she was free
until she heard from him again.

This was all to the good, of course, because the weather was still
beautifully fine, and with any luck she would be able to give her whole
time to Harley and the proper consideration of his affairs. So far
nothing had happened, and the lovers were no nearer the solution of the
mysterious happenings that threatened to ruin their future happiness.
Some days had elapsed now since the ghastly tragedy in the bungalow,
and unless something like a miracle transpired the end of the month
would see the termination of Roy Harley's social career. Walter Prest
had gone away, not caring to remain in Brighton any longer in the
circumstances, and the last thing he had done had been to write a few
lines to Harley telling him that it was just as well they should not
meet again, and mentioning a certain date by which Harley should send
in his papers.

So far as Nettie could see, there was no other way out of this horrible
business. It was impossible to take anybody into their confidence,
and, so far as Shute and Macglendy were concerned, the matter appeared
to be at an end. For Nettie did not know anything about that fateful
conversation between Harley and Blythe, because the latter had insisted
that it should not be mentioned to a soul. However, Nettie would go out
presently, and telephone to Harley at the Metropolitan Hotel, telling
him that she was free for the next day or two and asking him to meet
her somewhere in town.

She had come to this decision before she proceeded to open the rest of
her correspondence. There were one or two items of no importance, and,
finally, a note in an unknown handwriting, bearing the Hove postmark,
which she opened with some curiosity.

It was just a few lines, signed Lena Macglendy, and asking Miss Frond
if she could make it convenient to call at 201, Brunswick Square, just
after six o'clock that evening. The matter was urgent, and Miss Frond
was warned not to mention it to anybody else.

She knew, of course, something about Macglendy, but he had never been
more than ordinarily polite to her, and she had only heard in a vague
sort of way that he was married. She had more than once left letters
and papers at Brunswick Square, but, so far, she had never been inside
the house. She was wondering now, in a vague sort of way, whether this
strange communication had anything to do with the trouble that was
hanging over Roy's head. It seemed absurd to think so, but then, one
never quite knew, and Nettie made up her mind there and then to keep
the appointment.

She went out presently, to the nearest call office, and rang up Harley
on the telephone. A voice at the other end, after some considerable
delay, informed her that Captain Harley was not in the hotel. He had
gone out after dinner the previous evening, and, so far, had not
returned. It was rather annoying, but nothing to worry about, in the
circumstances, in all probability, Harley had been spending the night
on board his yacht.

There was nothing for it now but for Nettie to spend the day as best
she could, and, just after six o'clock, she turned into Brunswick
Square and rang the bell at Number 201. The foreign-looking servant let
her in at once, and she found herself presently in the drawing-room
shaking hands with the mistress of the house. She saw a tall,
faded-looking woman, who still possessed the remains of considerable
beauty, and who, in some strange manner, caused the girl to feel
that they had met before. It was one of those vague, intangible
sort of sensations that we are all subject to at times, and Nettie
dismissed it as absurd. And yet, she could not throw the feeling off
altogether--indeed, something impelled her to mention it.

"You are Mrs. Macglendy, of course," she said. "I had your letter this
morning, and--well, here I am, But you know, Mrs. Macglendy, it is a
most extraordinary thing, but I cannot help feeling that I have met you
somewhere before."

"I should think that is impossible," Mrs. Macglendy smiled faintly.
"You see, I rarely go out, and for some years past now I have spent
most of my time in Paris. Do you know Paris?"

"I have never been out of England," Nettie said. "But, all the same, I
am quite sure that we have met before."

Mrs. Macglendy glanced at herself in a glass, and a strange look crept
into her eyes. But she made no comment, nothing beyond a suggestion
that Nettie had made a mistake, and that she had been deceived by
a chance resemblance to somebody else. Therefore, Nettie did not
press the matter any further, but contented herself with waiting for
her companion to proceed. She was quite impressed with the refined
surroundings in which she found herself, and still more impressed with
the whiteness and palpable sorrow of the woman who had so mysteriously
invited her there.

"I think you wanted to see me," Nettie said, for the silence was
beginning to grow oppressive. "Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs.
Macglendy?"

"No, there is nothing that you can do for me, but there is a good
deal you can do for yourself. Of course, if my husband found out, it
would be a most disastrous thing for me. I ought not to interfere,
because I dare say you will wonder why I am taking so much interest
in the affairs of an absolute stranger, but I am not quite so much of
a stranger, as you imagine. Many years ago, I knew your mother. She
was something more than a friend of mine, and I was with her not long
before she died."

"Indeed?" Nettie said. "Then perhaps you knew my father as well. I
wonder if you could tell me something about him. My relatives never
would. All I could find out from them was that he died not long after I
was born."

"Ah, I couldn't do that," Mrs. Macglendy went on. "But I knew the man
that your mother was engaged to previously. It was quite a remarkable
story in it's way, but I don't think we need go into that. Now, I want
you to be guided by me, if you will."

It seemed to Nettie that Mrs. Macglendy's manner had suddenly changed.
She was no longer white and listless, her eye had a sparkle in them as
she leant forward and laid her hand upon Nettie's knee.

"I am quite sure you mean well," Nettie said. "But I shall be glad if
you will be a little more candid. You see, I am more or less alone in
the world, with my living to get."

"But you are not bound to do that," Mrs. Macglendy said.

"Well, no," Nettie admitted. "That is true enough. I could go back to
the aunt who brought me up if I liked, but life in that austere house
was almost unbearable. I shall never voluntarily return to my aunt's
roof. Perhaps you knew Lady----"

"I knew her very well indeed," Mrs. Macglendy said. "And perhaps you
are right. But I don't want you to stay any longer where you are. And
please don't think I am impertinent. I know what I am talking about,
though I am afraid I cannot do more than hint it things. Miss Frond, do
I look like a happy woman?"

It was a direct question that obviously came from the speaker's heart,
and all Nettie's sympathy went out to her.

"No, you don't," she said fearlessly. "You look to me like a woman with
a history. Oh, please don't mistake me. I mean one who is dreadfully
unhappy through no fault of her own."

"My dear child, you could not have put it better if you had known me
all your life. Of all the women in England I am the most miserable. And
none the less so, because I brought it all upon myself. I shall have
to go on suffering to the end, but that is no reason why I should sit
quietly down and see a young life like yours wrecked for the want of a
warning. I have told you that your mother was a friend of mine, and I
could have told you a great deal more, if I only dared. But you must
leave Mr. Shute, you must indeed. Don't ask me to say any more than
that. I could not have even told you this, if my husband had not been
away on business, and I----"

At that moment the manservant looked into the room and announced Mr.
Blythe. The latter followed, and raised his eyes interrogatively as he
saw Nettie seated there. He obviously paused for an introduction, which
came in due course.

"I asked Miss Frond to come and see me," Mrs. Macglendy said with an
appealing air, and the attitude of a child who feels that she might be
doing something wrong.

"And why not?" Blythe said genially. "I am sorry to intrude, but I
wanted to see your husband. Your man told me that he was away for a day
or two, so perhaps you will give him this note. Miss Frond, I think, I
have seen you before. Haven't you lunched once or twice lately at the
Metropolitan with my acquaintance, Captain Harley? Or am I mistaken?"

"Oh, no," Nettie smiled. "You see, I am engaged to Captain Harley,
though it is not common property at present."

Blythe murmured something appropriate to the occasion, and a moment or
two later Nettie rose and took her leave. She had had her warning, and
there was no occasion to linger there any longer. Blythe turned to Mrs.
Macglendy.

"What's the meaning of all this?" he asked.

"I couldn't help it," Mrs. Macglendy said. "After what you told me, I
could not allow that girl to stay where she was. I hope I haven't done
any harm."

"I don't think so," Blythe said. "She must know all about it before
long. But if you value the child's happiness, you will not interfere
again without consulting me. Now, give this note to your husband when
he comes back, and say no more about it. If you want me at any time a
line to the Metropolitan will be sufficient."

Blythe turned out presently into the mellow sunshine of the soft
October evening, and walked along the front. There were half a dozen
newsboys running along the pavement with the six o'clock edition of a
local evening paper. Blythe stopped and bought one, impelled by what
the boy was crying, and opened the sheet. There in big letters inside
was an announcement that instantly attracted his attention. It was just
one big black headline, containing the words:

DARING BURGLARY AT FISHBOURNE TOWERS.

"Oho!" Blythe murmured to himself. "So things are beginning to move,
are they? I wonder what the police would say if they knew how much I
could tell them about this little business?"




CHAPTER XII.--VANISHED.

It the seclusion of the lounge at the Metropolitan, Blythe read the
details as far as they went. There was a good deal of it, and "our
special correspondent" had evidently made the most of the information
which he had been able to pick up.


"It appears," the paragraph ran, "that during the absence of Lord
Fishbourne in London, a daring burglary took place a night or two ago
at Fishbourne Towers. Late at night the thieves entered the butler's
pantry by way of a window that opens on to a large open space at the
back of the house, and looks across a field to the main road beyond.
Everything was all right when the butler retired to bed about 11
o'clock in a room immediately behind his own pantry, where he slept
soundly till morning. In the light of recent events it is suggested
that he slept only too soundly, owing to the fact that, in some
unaccountable manner, the daring thieves managed to drug him. According
to our information the butler had supper alone shortly before 10
o'clock, and, with that he drank a couple of glasses of port wine out
of his own decanter. Seen by our representative, the man declared that
he had felt more than usually sleepy, and that he slept beyond his
usual hour. This did not occur to him to be anything out of the common,
and, as the big safe in the pantry containing the whole family plate
had apparently not been tampered with, he thought no more about it. The
family was away, and there was no occasion to go to the safe.

"On Lord Fishbourne's arrival at the Towers on the following evening,
his lordship went at once to the butler's pantry and asked to see
the contents of the safe. When it was opened, the famous Cellini
dinner-service had vanished. It was usually put up in cases, which were
wrapped in green baize sacks. Apparently, the thieves knew exactly what
they were after for they had taken the almost unique service of plate,
leaving everything else behind. It seems to have been an exceedingly
neat piece of workmanship because the lock on the safe was uninjured,
and immediately responded to the application of the butler's key. So
far as we can ascertain, the safe in question was an old-fashioned one,
which would present few difficulties to an up-to-date burglar.

"Seen by our representative Lord Fishbourne had a strange story to
tell. He had been warned in London that something was wrong and had
been advised anonymously to return to Fishbourne Towers and make
inquiries at once, which he did. As to the rest his lordship was
exceedingly reticent, though we hope to give further particulars in our
next issue. All this was the more unfortunate, because Lord Fishbourne
is entertaining a considerable number of guests at Fishbourne Towers
this week-end."

Later: "We are informed at the moment of going to press that the
thieves missed a rare chance, seeing that all Lady Fishbourne's jewels
were in a drawer at the back of the safe. Lady Fishbourne, as everybody
knows, is a daughter of Cyrus J. Corner, the great American millionaire
and collector of precious stones. Indeed Lady Fishbourne's jewels are
almost unique."


Blythe sat pondering over this information till it was time to dress
for dinner, then he put the matter out of his mind altogether and went
off to the theatre with a party of friends. It was after breakfast the
following morning, just as he was leaving his hotel for a stroll on
the front, that he found himself face to face with Nettie Frond. She
seemed rather upset and disturbed as he paused before her in his bland
fatherly way, and asked her if he could be of any sort of assistance.

"Well, really, I don't know," Nettie said resolutely. "You are a friend
of Mrs. Macglendy's, and she, for some reason, takes an interest in me,
so perhaps you can help. I wonder if you have seen Captain Harley this
morning?"

"No, I haven't," Blythe said. "Hasn't he gone to London?"

"I don't think he would have done that without telling me," Nettie
said. "He did not come back to the hotel the night before last, I know.
Would you mind inquiring for me?"

Blythe intimated that it would be a pleasure to do so, and he emerged
a minute or two later, just a little uneasy, though there was no
suggestion of that on his smiling face. For the second night, Harley's
rooms had not been occupied, and when Blythe suggested at the office
that the missing man might be on his yacht, he was informed that the
steward of the "Mayfly" had come on shore half an hour previously
inquiring for news on his employer. That there might be something
serious behind this, Blythe did not disguise from himself. But, for the
present, at any rate, he had no intention of mentioning his suspicions
to Nettie.

"I can't hear anything of the Captain," he said. "But he might be on
the sea. However, I will make inquiries, and if, in the meantime, I can
help you in any way, I shall be exceedingly pleased. Now, Miss Frond,
I want you to regard me as a friend indeed. I am somewhat more than
that if you only knew it. I may say that, to a certain extent, I am in
Captain Harley's confidence. It will be an honour if you trust me."

He spoke in all sincerity, this soldier of fortune who respected no man
and who regarded the world as his bank. And yet, at that moment, it
would have been impossible even for the most cynical to have doubted
that he meant exactly what he said. Most certainly Nettie did not do
so, and, on the impulse of the moment, she told Blythe exactly what was
troubling her.

"I don't know what to do," she said. "Only yesterday, I had a note from
Mrs. Macglendy, asking me to call upon her. At first I thought she was
just a little mad, then I realised that she was a woman in some great
trouble."

"That is perfectly true," Blythe said gravely. "But please go on, Miss
Frond. I am interrupting you."

"I was greatly impressed by what she said, though it was not very much
after all. But she implored me, without delay, to give up my situation
with Mr. Shute and seek something elsewhere. I think she would have
told me a great deal more, only you happened to come into the room at
the time. Still, I was so impressed that I had practically made up my
mind to do what Mrs. Macglendy asked, and indeed I intended to go to on
of the typewriting agencies this morning and seek a fresh situation.
But, just as I was coming out of my lodgings I had a telegram from Mr.
Shute telling me that I was to meet him this afternoon at Fishbourne
Towers."

"What?" Blythe exclaimed. "What?"

"Meet him at Fishbourne Towers. He is staying there for a few days. He
wants me to take my work and typewriter over there and tells me that I
am to live in the house."

"Oh, did he really? Well, as far as I can see, you will have to go. In
fact, I want you to go."

Nettie's information had fairly staggered Blythe, but, not for a moment
did he show it. As he stood there, smiling into the girl's face, a
score of ideas were rushing rapidly through his mind. Because what
Nettie had just told him was throwing a flood of light on places which
had hitherto been dark and mysterious.

"Do you really mean that?" Nettie asked in dismay.

"Yes, indeed I do, my dear young lady. You can hardly throw Mr. Shute
over in this casual way, merely because the acquaintance of an hour has
suggested it. Besides, if there is anything wrong, the mere fact of
your leaving him so abruptly would only serve to arouse his suspicions.
And there is another thing--I presume you have the interests of Captain
Harley at heart?"

The colour flamed into Nettie's cheeks.

"Why, of course," she protested. "There is nothing I would not do for
him. And, besides, he--he----"

"Is in great trouble," Blythe said gravely. "Never mind how I know that,
but it is a big trouble, and one likely to affect his whole future,
and, if I can help him, I will. I know a great deal more than you are
aware of, and might tell you, in passing, that Captain Harley's father
was a great friend of mine once. Now, if you will leave this thing
entirely in my hands, I shall be greatly surprised and disappointed
if I fail to find a way out. And because I am so interested in this
matter, I want you to go to Fishbourne Towers just as if nothing had
happened."

"But there is the trouble," Nettie protested. "You see, I know Lord
and Lady Fishbourne quite well. I have stayed at the Towers two or
three times. I am more or less in disgrace with my family, because I
would insist upon going out into the world and seeking my own living.
They have all lost sight of me, and I did not intend that they should
find me again. And now you want me to go to Fishbourne Towers just
as if nothing had happened. What an extraordinary complication it
all is. Here is Mrs. Macglendy, who I never heard of till yesterday,
interesting herself in my welfare, and now you come along, as if you
had known me all my life. And yet I feel quite sure that both of you
are my friends."

"That you may be sure of," Blythe said. "It is a terrible complication,
and I very much fear it will be worse before it is better. It is mainly
because of this that I want you particularly to go to Fishbourne
Towers this afternoon. You will be there some days, and you must note
everything that happens. Never mind what your friends over there say
when they see you. That they will forget all about it in a few hours.
Keep your eyes open, and watch Mr. Shute as a cat watches a mouse. And
if Macglendy is staying over there too, which I strongly suspect, let
me know. Write to me every day at the Metropolitan."

"Oh, I will, I will," Nettie said. "Do you know, Mr. Blythe, I feel
like the heroine of a melodrama."

"Well, so you are, to every practical purpose," Blythe smiled. "You
are the heroine who is striving to free the hero of the toils of the
villains. Oh, yes, and the villains are there all right, and if you
like I am the typical converted scoundrel who has repented at the last
moment, and is doing his best for sheer sentimental reasons to restore
the happiness of two young people. And with that I don't propose to say
any more."

Blythe lifted his hat gradually and went on his way. There was a big
problem in the back of his mind. What had become of Harley, and why
were those two rascals keeping him out of the way? And until this point
was settled, Blythe could not see clearly before him. But all the same,
he was going to know, he was going to know if possible before he slept
that night.




CHAPTER XIII.--AT FISHBOURNE TOWERS.

The great house known as Fishbourne Towers stood back some four miles
from the sea on a wooded slope commanding the country for miles around.
The present head of the house was a man of vigorous middle age and a
sportsman to his finger tips. In his earlier days he had been a mighty
hunter of big game, and on one of those far-flung excursions of his he
had come in contact with Shute, then a man of some means, and not yet
sunk into the ranks of pure adventurers. Hence a sort of friendship had
sprung up between them that had never quite lapsed.

It was to this fine, hospitable old homestead that Nettie had been
summoned sorely against her will. When she had set out deliberately to
get her own living, and had turned her back on the frigid, aristocratic
household of the titled relative to whom she owed her education, she
had made up her mind to cut that sort of thing out altogether. And now
she was being dragged into it again, into a set where she was well
known, and, moreover, had been a welcome guest.

Still, she would have to go, she could not leave Shute at a moment's
notice despite all that Mrs. Macglendy had said. And at the very
moment in the train when she was wondering what Lady Fishbourne would
say when they met, Fishbourne himself was seated on the long stone
terrace before the house in the sunshine talking to his wife and
explaining recent happenings to her. Lady Fishbourne, in that calm and
placid way of hers, was taking the loss of the famous family plate
philosophically. Not that she lacked curiosity.

"I'm dashed if I know what to make of it," Fishbourne was saying. "You
were in Paris, remember, and I was on the point of running over to
fetch you when I had an anonymous letter."

"What, the letter you were telling me about?"

"The same. By the way, I don't think I have shown it you yet, have I? I
have got it in the house somewhere."

"Of course, you haven't shown it me," Lady Fishbourne said. "You seem
to forget that I have just come back. But go on. You had an anonymous
letter which, as usual, you ignored."

"I did," Fishbourne admitted sorrowfully. "It was a card letter, with
the Brighton postmark, asking me to come down here at once, and go over
my plate chest. And, surely enough, when I did get here yesterday, the
Cellini service was missing. Of course, I don't suspect any of the
servants, and the police seem to be utterly at fault, but there in no
getting away from the fact that the stuff has gone. It's a bit of real
good luck that the thieves did not get hold of your jewellery as well."

"Yes, I read all about that in the paper as I was coming down in the
train this morning. But, tell me, how on earth did the reporters find
out that my gems were here?"

On Fishbourne's face was a complacent smile.

"Oh, I let the chaps know that myself," he said. "Rather a clever
dodge, I consider. You see, after what has happened, those chaps will
never dare to come here again, and I thought it just as well to leave
your jewels where they were. It's one of those stunts that clever
people adopt to throw others off the scent. I rather flatter myself
that I have done them this time."

"But you really don't propose to leave them where they are?"

"Indeed I do, my dear, and I am quite sure that any detective would
say that I am doing the right thing. Let's ask Shute. He is a cunning
beggar, and I am sure he will back me up."

Shute was coming along the terrace, followed by Macglendy, and, behind
them a footman carrying a tea tray, for it was a wonderfully mild
afternoon, and it had been decided to have tea out of doors. Shute
lounged up in his easy way, and Macglendy, who seemed to be equally at
home, dropped into a seat by the side of his hostess.

"Now, look here, you chaps," Fishbourne said. "I have just been talking
to my wife about that mysterious robbery that took place here a day or
two ago, when I was in London."

"Ah, very interesting," Shute drawled, "I suppose you haven't heard of
the stuff, by any chance?"

"I haven't," Fishbourne replied. "But the strange thing is that the
thieves left behind them something much more valuable intrinsically
than the plate they got off with. Of course, the service was one of our
most precious possessions, and I am exceedingly sorry to lose it."

"Did it ever occur to you to offer a reward?" Macglendy said with a
side glance at his confederate. "It might not be melted up even yet. I
am told that some of those receivers of stolen goods are exceedingly
good judges of gold and silver, and though the thieves themselves were
probably utterly ignorant of the value of their plunder, the same
remark need not apply to the man who purchased the stuff. Very likely
the set is still intact."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," Shute said. "You see, there are lots
of people, especially in America, who would be quite willing to buy the
Cellini plate, even if they knew it had been stolen. Merely for the
sake of possessing such a treasure. I know of two cases in point. So,
if I were you Fishbourne, I would offer a reward, say of ten thousand
pounds, on the off chance of getting it back. It might come off. You
never know."

"I would pay that cheerfully," Fishbourne said.

Once more the confederates exchanged swift glances. They knew perfectly
well where the stolen silver was hidden, at Blythe's suggestion, and if
this thing could be worked, then they would make at least twice as much
money as they had anticipated.

"I think I will do it," Fishbourne went on. "It can be done through
one of those offices in the city, without having the police down upon
us for offering to compound a felony. But I have not told you the
biggest joke of the lot. I suppose you saw in the papers that my wife's
jewellery was actually in the safe at the same time as the other stuff
was stolen?"

"Oh, I saw it right enough," Shute said carelessly. "But all the same,
I didn't believe it."

"Well, it was a fact, all the same," Fishbourne chuckled. "The whole of
the collection was there, in a set of drawers at the back of the safe,
and I don't mind telling you, as friends, that it is there still. It's
my little dodge."

Shute looked out to sea, and Macglendy pretended to be interested in a
herd of deer crossing the park. Neither of them dared to look at the
other, but the same thought was rampant in the minds of both. It was
more than annoying that, in their haste, they had overlooked a haul
like this, but there was consolation in the fact that within a few
yards of them, in an old safe that presented no trouble to an expert
hand, was a collection of jewels in many ways the most remarkable and
valuable in Europe. And here they were, guests in the house, trusted
implicitly, and it would be hard indeed if they did not manage to get
away with what they had left behind them.

"Yes, that was rather smart of you," Shute said. "Of course, the
average burglar would come to the conclusion that the jewels were taken
to a place of safety at once. And, in any case, a second burglary would
be too dangerous a game. Yes, I should say that the jewels are all
right where they are."

"That is just what I am gambling upon," Fishbourne said, very pleased
with himself. "But, hello, what have we here? Who is the lady in the
car? By Jove, Mary, unless my eyes deceive me, it must be Nettie Frond."

"Nonsense," Lady Fishbourne exclaimed. "Impossible. Nettie has
disappeared, getting her living in a city office, or something of that
sort, though I should be very pleased to see her again. Who is it, Mr.
Shute? You seem to know."

"Oh, that's my secretary," Shute explained. "I had to ask Fishbourne's
permission for her to come down here, because I am behindhand in my
work, and I must put in a certain time each morning. As a matter of
fact, her name is Frond, but, of course, I had no idea that she was a
friend of yours."

"She is more than that," Fishbourne said. "She is a relation. She's
stayed here lots of times, hasn't she, Mary?"

But, by this time, Lady Fishbourne had disappeared down the flight of
steps leading to the great portico, where she welcomed Nettie with open
arms.

"My dear child," she exclaimed. "Where have you been all this time,
and what is the meaning of this? If you have come to pay us a surprise
visit, you are more than welcome, but that old aunt of yours told me
that you had run away to get your own living, and that probably by
this time you had married a city clerk, or something of that sort, and
living in Brixton, or some such horrible place. Well, I am glad to see
you again."

"That's very good of you," Nettie said, almost tearfully. "Do you know,
I was almost afraid to come. What my aunt told you was quite right. I
am getting my own living as secretary to Mr. Shute. You see, I learned
typewriting and shorthand, and I was lucky enough to get an appointment
almost at once. You can imagine my feelings when Mr. Shute wrote to
me from here, and told me I must come at once. I was on the point of
running away, when it occurred to me that I was bound to run against
some of my old friends sooner or later, and, well, here I am."

"Quite a romance in its way," Lady Fishbourne smiled. "But you always
were a lucky girl, Nettie, and, between ourselves, I don't wonder at
you running away from that gloomy place in the north where you have
been more or less a prisoner all these years. But come along and have
some tea--we are having it out on the terrace."

It came somewhat as a surprise to Shute to discover that this usually
quiet, efficient secretary of his, was connected with half the
aristocracy, but he was not disposed to complain, because the fact made
things all the easier for him.

"I am glad that you will be quite at home here, Miss Frond," he said.
"And I am delighted to find that my lady assistant comes from so
distinguished a stock."

"Ah, I shall have to behave myself, I see," Macglendy said. "Not that I
shall be in the way, because I may be called from here at any moment.
That is the unfortunate part of being a business man, Lord Fishbourne.
I can never call my time my own, not even when I am taking what is
called a holiday. Shute will tell you that."

"That's true enough," Shute said. "Not that I have any sympathy
with him. You see, Fishbourne, these rich men make a slave of their
business, instead of ruling it. And that is where men like ourselves
have the advantage of them."

Macglendy sighed almost regretfully.

"Another year or two, perhaps," he said, "and I shall join the ranks of
the unemployed. But I shall be no happier."




CHAPTER XIV.--THE SEARCH FOR HARLEY.

They sat there talking for some time, discussing, amongst other things,
the manner in which Fishbourne had retained his wife's gems in the
Castle, until at length, the shadows began to fall, and it was getting
time to dress for dinner. A little later on Macglendy, who had changed,
walked along one of the corridors until he came to Shute's room, where
he knocked and entered. Shute was already dressed and lay on the
Chesterfield in the bay window of the big oak-panelled room smoking a
meditative cigarette.

"Come in," he said. "I rather wanted to see you. Well, here we are,
my friend, right in the very heart of things, with a dozen big houses
within a radius of half as many miles. I suppose you managed all about
the yacht before you came away?"

"I did that," Macglendy grinned. "The whole thing is working out
beautifully. I managed to get hold of Harley and you may take it for
granted that he is safe for some days to come. It was rather a good
notion of mine to tell Fishbourne that I might be called away at any
moment, because that gives me a free hand, and I can return when I
like, merely saying that I have managed to settle my little affairs
quicker than I had intended."

"That's good hearing," Shute said. "And now, as to the yacht. Where is
she lying at the present moment?"

"Not six miles away from here. It's a precious good thing for us
that amongst your many accomplishments is the fact that you hold a
master-mariner's certificate."

"Well, if it were otherwise, we shouldn't be here at all," Shute said.
"I have got the whole programme mapped out, and from this room of mine
I can escape through the window, by means of a rope ladder, at any
time of the night, and get back again before morning. I shall be able
to rob a dozen houses in the neighbourhood, and hand the stuff over
to you, for you to smuggle on board the yacht, and convey it to the
Green Bungalow. A couple of hours will be quite sufficient, and I shall
be back in bed long before daylight, with no one any the wiser. But
before we go any further and take any sort of risks, don't forget that
the biggest plum of the whole lot is within a few yards of us at the
present moment."

"Ah, Lady Fishbourne's jewels," Macglendy laughed. "In a rotten old
safe that you and I could pick in half an hour. The thing is so easy
that we shouldn't even need to use the yacht. We ought to manage from
within the house. I don't suppose you have any intention of leaving
these comfortable quarters for the next day or two. This is rather a
new experience to me, and I don't mind confessing that I am enjoying
it. I always had a weakness for playing the swell game since I was a
youngster taking my first holiday. I had saved up ten pounds and was
passing myself off at Scarborough as the Honourable Andrew Macglendy.
But this, my boy, is the real thing, and I don't want to cut it short
if I can help it."

"Oh, that's all right," Shute laughed. "There is no hurry for a couple
of days, and in that time you can swank about to your hearts delight.
We have got to think out a plan for getting hold of those stones and
that will take some time."

Meanwhile, Nettie and her hostess were seated by the fireside on one of
the smaller reception rooms talking over old times, and waiting for the
gong to ring.

"Now, you've got to tell me everything," Lady Fishbourne said. "I want
to know why you left your aunt in that mysterious manner, and what
induced you to give up a life of luxury for real hard work and a bare
living."

"I couldn't stand it any longer," Nettie said. "To begin with, there
was always the suggestion that I was more or less in disgrace. It
wasn't my fault that my mother ran away with a man her parents didn't
approve of. And why should I be blamed for it? Oh, I know my mother
died when I was quite a baby, and that my father followed her soon
afterwards, but why vent the family displeasure upon me? And there
is an air of mystery about the whole thing. Whenever I asked my aunt
to tell me about my father, she became quite frigid, and declined to
discuss the subject. And do you know, quite lately, I met a woman who
reminded me strangely of my mother's earlier photographs. She is quite
middle-aged, but the likeness is there, all the same. It puzzled me
tremendously, and I only realised it when I was coming down here in the
train. Tell me, Mary, have you known Mr. Macglendy very long?"

"I have never met him before," Lady Fishbourne explained. "Mr. Shute
I know quite well, of course, indeed, he used to come to my father's
house in America before I was married. He was a great sportsman, and
that is where the sympathy comes in between Fishbourne and himself. I
believe he asked if he could bring Mr. Macglendy down here to discuss
some important business. Why?"

"Oh, really, I can't tell you," Nettie said vaguely. "But there is
something about him that I distrust. He repels me, and I am sure he is
both hard and cruel to his wife."

"Is that the woman you are talking about?" Lady Fishbourne asked. "The
woman who is so like your mother?"

"Yes," Nettie said. "She sent for me and almost implored me on her
knees to give up my post with Mr. Shute. I feel there is something
wrong between those two men, and, all the more so, because if Roy
Harley had not met them----"

"What's that?" Lady Fishbourne cried, "Roy Harley? Do you mean to say
that you have seen him lately? Oh, I know you were staying in the same
house with him in Scotland not very long ago, just before he came into
his money, and a little bird whispered to me that if you had been more
kind----"

"That's not quite true," Nettie whispered with a heightened colour.
"I have always been fond of Roy, and he left the house where we were
staying because, because----"

"Yes, because Walter Prest was there, and Roy thought it would be more
honourable not to stand in the way. I know all about it, my dear,
because I met Roy just afterwards at the Seatons, and he took me into
his confidence. That was only a few days before his godfather died and
left him all that money. Am I to understand that you met him again
after you had left your aunt's?"

"I met him quite by accident in Brighton," Nettie confessed. "Mary, I
never cared for anybody else, and when he told me everything from the
time he left the north till he came into his money, I believe I was the
happiest girl in England. We had arranged to be married almost at once,
when a dreadful thing happened. I really must tell you--I must confide
in somebody, and, seeing that you know so much, I know that Roy won't
mind."

It was close and intimate in there, with the shaded lights, and the
flicker from the fire, and there was an expression of sympathy on Lady
Fishbourne's face that invited Nettie's confidence. Without further
hesitation, she told the whole story of the card drama in the Green
Bungalow, without suppressing anything.

"But it's monstrous," Lady Fishbourne cried, when at length the recital
was finished. "I have only known Roy Harley since I was married, but
I would trust him implicitly. He couldn't possibly have done such a
thing. We must have it investigated. Don't you see, my dear child, that
there is nothing to gain by all this secrecy? The thing must be fought
out publicly, and Roy's character cleared. If he were guilty, as Walter
Prest seems to think, then, of course, he must leave the Army. But I
decline to believe it. There is either some extraordinary mistake here,
or Roy has been the victim of some vile conspiracy. I should not like
to suggest that Walter Prest knows anything about it."

"I am sure he doesn't," Nettie said. "He would never stoop to anything
like that. But he seems to be certain than Roy worked the deception in
a moment of temptation."

"But, my dear Nettie, where is the temptation? He did not need the
money. He had seen you, and you had come to a perfect understanding
before this dreadful thing happened. Why, at the present moment, we
are hoping to get Roy down here. I know my husband has written him one
or two letters to Brighton without any response, but perhaps that is
because he is too miserable to reply. If you don't mind telling Jim
some of the story, I will get him to go over to Brighton to-morrow in
the car, and bring back Roy by force if necessary. You won't mind my
doing that?"

"Oh, I don't know," Nettie said helplessly. "I hardly know what to do
for the best, and for the last day or two Roy has been keeping out of
my way. Oh, I do hope, Mary, that he is not doing anything desperate.
But wouldn't it be rather strange if he came over here and stayed in
the same house with two men who regard him as a detected card cheat?"

"Yes, that might be awkward," Lady Fishbourne said. "Still, something
must be done, and I shan't be happy till I see Roy again. I'll mention
it to Jim when we go to bed to-night."

In due course Fishbourne listened to his wife's story in silent
astonishment. Then he burst out vehemently.

"What infernal rot," the cried. "Good Lord, fancy talking of Roy Harley
as a card sharper! Tell you what it is, old girl, I'll make some excuse
to get away to-morrow morning, and run the car into Brighton. If I
don't bring Harley back with me, it will be my own fault. It wouldn't
be a bad idea if we could have him over here and confront him with
these two chaps and thrash the whole matter out. I am not going to let
it stay where it is."

It was at about 11 o'clock the following morning when Shute and Nettie
were at work in the small library and Macglendy was disposed of that
Fishbourne set out for Brighton in search of Harley.

The afternoon passed, and it was drawing near towards dinner time when
the car pulled up in front of the house. There was a certain frown on
Fishbourne's face, and a moody look in his eyes as he strode into the
hall where Lady Fishbourne awaited him.

"Is there anything wrong, Jim?" she asked.

Before making any reply, Fishbourne looked round the hall, and
satisfied himself that he and his wife were alone.

"Very much wrong, I am afraid," he said. "Roy has disappeared. He
hasn't been seen for days, and the matter will be placed in the hands
of the police. Even the yacht has vanished. I don't know what to
think about it, but I am very much afraid that Roy has done himself a
mischief. Still, if I were you, I wouldn't say anything about it to
Nettie until we can be quite sure."

"How dreadful," Lady Fishbourne whispered. "But surely it is too early
to give up all hope yet?"




CHAPTER XV.--A HELPING HAND.

The kind-hearted owner of Fishbourne Towers had set out for Brighton
more concerned over Roy Harley than he had cared to confess to Lady
Fishbourne. To begin with he had in his pocket a letter from the
manager of the Metropolitan Hotel calling attention to the fact that
Mr. Harley had not been seen in the hotel for a day or two and that
he had sent no instructions as to his belongings. He apologised for
troubling his lordship, but, as a friend of Mr. Harley's, would he
interest himself in the matter? Otherwise, the manager felt it his duty
to consult the police, a thing he hesitated to do.

Lord Fishbourne drove straight to the hotel and interviewed the manager
in his office. The latter had not much to say, but that little was very
much to the point.

"I thought your lordship ought to know," he said. "Mr. Harley had gone
leaving everything behind him, and no message of any kind. His yacht
has gone too. It is very strange."

"I didn't know that he had a yacht," Fishbourne said. "You see,
Allison, Mr. Harley has only quite recently come into money. Of course,
you knew that he was a friend of mine and therefore you were quite
justified in writing to me. Do you happen to know what sort of yacht it
was?"

"Oh, quite a small affair," the manager said. "And hired at that. Mr.
Harley told me in his friendly way that he had come into a fortune and
that he was going in for yachting and that, meanwhile, he had chartered
a small schooner. Three hands could manage it quite well. Also I
understood from the gentleman that he had a master's certificate, as
years ago he sailed his godfather's cutter."

"Perfectly true," Fishbourne said. "He has probably gone off for a day
or two and has not troubled to let you know."

"I don't think so, my lord. He hasn't even taken a suit of pyjamas
with him, even his purse was left in his bedroom. And that is not
everything. The night of the first day that he came here he walked into
this office and sat down for a chat. He seemed to be very pleased about
something and hinted to me that an event had happened to make him very
happy. Something to do with a lady, from one or two little things that
he said. The next day he was just as correspondingly depressed. Indeed
I never saw so remarkable a change in anybody. And then he vanished. I
don't like it, my lord, I don't like it in the least, and that is why
I ventured to write to you, knowing that your lordship was a friend of
his."

"And you want me to act, Allison, I suppose?"

"I think so," the manager said. "I have said nothing, and I don't
think there is any need at present for publicity, but perhaps it would
be just as well to let the police know, so that they can make a few
inquiries, and keep the matter out of the papers. Of course, the staff
is beginning to talk. With a large body of servants like ours you can't
expect anything else."

Fishbourne listened gravely, for the more he thought the matter over,
the less he liked it. He would go to the police station presently, but,
meanwhile, he would prefer to think out the situation whilst he was
having his lunch.

There was the usual crowd in the coffee-room, but Fishbourne managed
to get a seat near the window, where he could see what was going on on
the front. He had nearly finished his meal and was about to turn to his
coffee, when someone crossed the room and accosted him in a friendly
fashion.

"It's a long time since we met," the newcomer said.

Fishbourne looked up in astonished displeasure.

"Er--Hilton Blythe, I think," he said. "You are quite right, it is a
good many years since we met, and I am rather surprised that you should
address me in so public a place."

"I have every excuse for it," Blythe said, without in the least
changing colour. "But I think when you have heard what I have got to
say you'll be quite ready to excuse me. Oh, I don't want to sit down
and talk here. There is a little writing-room at the back of the big
smoking-room, looking on to the lounge, and if you will give me a few
minutes there, I promise that I won't waste your time. Moreover, I have
no favours to ask."

Fishbourne looked up at the slim, perfectly-dressed figure before him,
and realised that this was no predatory errand on the part of the man
with whom he had been friendly enough in the old days.

"Very well," he said coldly. "I will follow you."

A minute or two later the two men were seated in the privacy of the
little room. Quite at his ease, Blythe had crossed his legs and
produced a gold cigarette case from his pocket. He did not make the
mistake of offering it to his companion.

"Now, look here, Fishbourne," he said easily. "You will forgive me for
calling you by the old name, won't you, because one never can quite
forget the past. In the ordinary course of affairs I should have passed
you without recognition, and yet I know, in spite of everything, that
if I was in desperate need of a friend, you would come to me if I only
asked you."

"That's true enough," Fishbourne said. "I wrote you to that effect
when you disappeared from our midst and elected to take up your
present--er--profession. I was one of the few who always recognised
that you were not entirely to blame--but we need not go into that. What
is it you want to talk about?"

"Well, in the first place, Roy Harley."

"Oh, really? Why are you interested in him?"

"I don't think we need go into that, Jim, I--I beg your pardon, but
really, the sight of seeing you sitting opposite me---. But I am
interested in Harley. Never mind why. He is one of the cleanest boys I
ever met, and, as I found out quite by accident, he is interested in a
girl that I know something of."

"Now, that's a very strange thing," Fishbourne said. "Allison here
seems to think that that is the cause of all the trouble. He is under
the impression that Harley was engaged to some lady and that they had a
quarrel."

"Ah, there he is wrong," Blythe replied. "Now, I dare say, you will
be rather surprised to hear that the lady in question is at present
staying under your roof."

Fishbourne smiled non-committally. He knew a good deal of this, of
course, from what his wife had told him, but what really astonished him
was the discovery that a man like Blythe should have so much intimate
information. Perhaps Blythe saw what was passing in his mind, for he
bent forward and laid a hand on Fishbourne's knee.

"Now, I want you, for the sake of old times, to be quite candid with
me," he said. "By a sort of amazing accident, Nettie Frond is at
present under your roof. I believe she is there in her capacity as
secretary to a guest of yours called Mark Shute."

"Well, I can admit that much," Fishbourne said.

"My dear fellow, I want you to admit a great deal more. I felt sure
that both you and Lady Fishbourne were delighted to see Miss Frond
again, and I am equally certain that she took you both, or your wife,
at any rate, into her confidence. Now, did she tell you that she was
engaged to Roy Harley, and also that he had got into some serious
trouble over a game of cards?"

Fishbourne hesitated for some little time before he replied. He was
feeling somewhat out of his depth in this web of intrigue, and very
inclined to doubt the wisdom of confiding in Blythe. But then he knew
the other to be not wholly bad, and he could see that his companion was
in deadly earnest. And in that quick, incisive way of Blythe's, the
latter had a shrewd idea of what was going on in the other man's mind.

"I think you had better tell me," Blythe said. "There are things going
on in this world that an honourable nature such as yours cannot grasp.
There is a deep conspiracy here in which even you are more or less
involved. In my peculiar walk of life, I am up against some of the
keenest wits in the world. I mean, men who live by their wits, and who
have no bowels of compassion whatever where money is concerned. I hope
I shall never be quite as bad as that, though I have sunk very low.
These men are my companions, frequently my confederates, if you like,
and they look up to me with a certain amount of respect as the head of
my profession. Now, I don't want to betray them to the police unless I
am compelled to do so, and if you will leave this matter to me, I think
you will be wise, because I am going to clear Roy Harley's name, and
make it impossible for the breath of scandal to touch him. But I must
do it in my own way, I must do it in a fashion that will compel Walter
Prest to admit that he was mistaken. If I am right in that young man's
character, he will be only too pleased to have the chance to do so. But
I must do it in my own way, and in my own time."

"But if anything has happened to Harley----"

"Oh, I know what you mean. Of course, I can't say for an absolute
certainty, but I am sure that he is all right. He has been made use of,
and he'll be used still further if I don't interfere. You came here
to-day because the manager sent for you."

"How did you know that?" Fishbourne asked.

"Well, I find that waiters, amongst other people, are very useful to
me, and I always make it a point to be nice to them. And servants will
talk sometimes, you know."

"Then you really know what I am here for?"

"Of course I do. That's why I intruded myself upon you just now. I
could tell you the whole story if I liked, but because we scoundrels
are more or less loyal to one another, I can't do anything of the kind.
But this you may rely upon--I am deeply interested in the welfare of
Miss Frond and Roy Harley, and I am not going to rest until I have made
them happy. This, however, is a profound secret between us, and I want
you to respect it."

"Assuredly," Fishbourne said. "But where is Harley? And why has he
vanished in this mysterious fashion?"

"Well, frankly, I can't tell you, though I have my suspicions. Whatever
you do, don't get near the police station. Go back home and tell your
wife that you can find no trace of Harley, but that the matter is in
safe hands. Be as mysterious as you like, but don't mention my name,
please. If you can trust me so far, then I can promise you that all
will be well, and, moreover, unless I am exceedingly unlucky, you will
get your Cellini plate back again."

"Very well," Fishbourne said. "You have aroused my curiosity, but, for
the sake of old times, I will trust you, and ask no further questions.
But don't be longer than you can help."

With that, he rose and held out his hand, which Blythe took after a
moment's hesitation.

"Thank you, my old friend," he said almost humbly. "You make me
wish--but it is no use going into that."




CHAPTER XVI.--TWELVE O'CLOCK.

Fishbourne went back home fully resolved to carry out all that Blythe
had said, and contented himself with announcing that Harley had merely
gone off for a day or two on his yacht. This he could not give chapter
and verse for, but he professed himself quite to believe the story,
though for perhaps the first time in his life he was deliberately
misleading his wife. Nettie, however, was not disposed to share this
sanguine view. There was no reason whatever why Roy should not have
written to her, and she listened to what was being said in the privacy
of one of the small drawing rooms with a certain amount of misgiving.
Had she known of the interview between Fishbourne and Blythe, she might
have been happier.

She came down to dinner presently, however, with a smile on her lips,
and prepared to take her part in the conversation as if nothing had
happened. She was dressed in something simple in the way of black, with
no ornaments, except a few flowers which she had culled herself in one
of the conservatories.

"You are just a little late," Lady Fishbourne smiled. "I hope Mr. Shute
has not been working you too hard to-day."

"Indeed he hasn't," Nettie laughed. "We practically did nothing this
morning. But I have had an accident with my watch."

"What, that pretty oval set in diamonds?" Lady Fishbourne asked. "The
one that belonged to your mother?"

"Yes, indeed," Nettie explained. "I don't know how it happened. You
know, I only wear it in the evenings, as a rule. I left it on my
dressing table this morning----"

"I hope there have been no more burglaries," Shute said with a laugh.
"In the present disturbed state of society, wasn't it rather foolish of
you to leave it about?"

"I never thought of that," Nettie said, "At any rate, I left it on my
dressing table, and when I went to my bedroom just now to change, I
found it lying on the floor with the glass broken. I suppose some of it
got into the works, for it had stopped."

"I am sorry to hear that," Shute said. "Usually you are the spirit of
punctuality. And, talking about our work this morning, I am afraid I
shall have to get you to make up for it to-night. You must give me an
hour after eleven o'clock."

"What a thing it is to be a literary man," Lady Fishbourne said. "If
I sit up after eleven o'clock at night, I am good for nothing all the
next day."

Shute remarked that he thought the late evening was the best working
time in the twenty-four hours. He had had a little room leading off the
picture gallery allotted to him for his literary work, and there he and
Nettie worked at all sorts of odd times. And it was all the same to
her. He might keep her perhaps an hour or two after everybody had gone
to bed, but, in that case, she would probably have the next day free.
So that she lingered in the drawing room after Lady Fishbourne had
said good-night, for she and her husband kept early hours, as befitted
people who live the healthy outdoor life. Shute stood in front of the
fireplace talking in his easy way as he smoked a final cigarette.

"I am sorry that Macglendy was called away on business this afternoon,"
he said. "That's the worst of being a man of affairs. Your time is
never quite your own. If I were rich like Macglendy, I should cut the
whole thing and go and live somewhere is South America. Or California
might be good enough."

"But he is coming back to-morrow, isn't he?" Nettie asked.

"So he said. But you never can tell where he is concerned. Now, you sit
quietly down and finish your cigarette while I go upstairs and get all
the papers out. I will give you a call when I am ready, then I can come
down and put the lights out, as I promised Fishbourne I would."

Shute sauntered out of the drawing room up the big staircase, and into
the little room where he switched on the light. He got out his books
and papers, and arranged the typewriter on a little table with its back
to the fireplace. Then, carefully consulting his watch, he compared
it with the clock on the mantelpiece, which latter he very slowly and
cautiously put forward for an hour. It was just after eleven as he did
so, and, this being done, he walked downstairs again and called to
Nettie. She rose as he switched off the lights and followed him back
to the little room again. Speaking in his usual light and airy way, he
almost bustled her into her chair, and placed a pile of typing paper by
her left hand. Then without another word he began to dictate.

He stopped every now and again to make certain corrections, which were
interrupted from time to time by some personal anecdote of adventure,
which Nettie usually found entertaining enough. But to-night he was
more than usually discursive. At the end of an hour she had got through
a certain amount of work, but not quite so much as usual, which Shute
laughingly attributed to his constant interruptions. Still, a great
many sheets lay presently to Nettie's right hand, and she was beginning
to tire when suddenly Shute announced the fact that they had done
enough for the evening, and that she might put away all her various
impedimenta.

"My word," he said. "It's close on one o'clock. I had no idea it was
so late. Quite meant to have finished that chapter this evening, and I
have no doubt that I should have done so if I had not talked quite so
much. Are you very tired?"

"Oh, I can go on, if you want me to," Nettie said.

Shute seemed to hesitate just for a moment.

"No, you won't," he said suddenly. "It is entirely my fault that we
have not finished the chapter and I am not going to keep you up any
longer. We will finish after breakfast, and, if it is a fine day, you
can have the remainder to yourself."

Nettie rose thankfully enough from the table, for she had been in the
open air all the day, and was feeling unusually tired. Not that she
was in the least sleepy, because she was far too disturbed in her mind
for that. Almost mechanically she said good-night to her employer and
turned thankfully into her bedroom. Shute shut the door, and, removing
the pendulum from the clock, compared the dial with his watch, and put
it back to the correct time. Once he had done that, he shut off the
lights and went into his own room. There he turned on the electrics,
and lighted a cigarette. Seated in an arm-chair by the side of the bed
was Macglendy.

"Well, you have taken your time over it," the latter grumbled. "It's
past twelve o'clock, and you promised to be here by then. What on earth
have you been up to?"

"Oh, I have not been wasting my time," Shute grinned. "As a matter of
fact, I have been working an alibi. I have clearly established in Miss
Frond's mind that it is past one. That's why I sneaked into her bedroom
and temporarily put her watch out of action. Then I put the clock in my
working room on for an hour, and, if anything does go wrong with our
plans, then I can call her as a witness to prove the fact that we were
still grinding away at our work when the clock struck one."

"Oh, nothing is going wrong," Macglendy said. "I was supposed to have
gone off to London this morning in my car, which I have managed to get
rid of in Brighton, and here I am, back in the house again, thanks to
that rope ladder of yours. And the sooner we start to work, the better.
I don't think the old butler is likely to trouble us, because I have
seen to that. He would never expect to be doped twice, within the same
week, and I am prepared to guarantee that he will not wake before
morning. Now, if you are quite ready, we will make a start."

"Oh, there is no hurry," Shute said. "It's only a few minutes past
twelve, so you might just as well let the household have a chance to
properly settle down before we start operations in earnest. After that,
it is only a matter of opening the butler's pantry from the outside,
and clearing out the safe. In an hour's time I shall be back here
again, and you will be in the motor boat on your way to the yacht. With
any luck you will be back here again to-morrow in our car as if nothing
had happened; indeed, it may be days before the robbery is discovered.
What have you been doing since you left here this morning? Did you go
to Brighton?"

"Of course I went to Brighton," Macglendy growled. "Somebody had to
look after the trouble at that end, and as there was nobody else but
me I had to do all the work. But I didn't go anywhere near Brunswick
Square as you can imagine."

"No, I suppose not. Did you see anything of Blythe?"

"No, I didn't," Macglendy said. "It will be time enough to deal with
him when we have finished this job. I suppose you don't intend that he
should share in our present game?"

"Not if I can help it," Shute said. "But he is an awkward customer
to deal with, and, if he finds out, there is certain to be trouble.
However, if you are prepared to risk it, I am."

"Come on then. Let's get busy. I took the rope ladder that I got into
this room with, and placed it on the chair yonder. Aren't you going to
change your boots?"

Whilst this was going on, Nettie was still sitting in her room, wide
enough awake, and not in the least inclined for bed. She was still
worrying over Harley, and the strange way in which he appeared to
be treating her, so that sleep was out of the question. She rose
presently, and, putting out the light, threw up her window and drew
the curtains aside. It was dark enough outside, with a thin moon, just
slipping over the horizon into the hazy sky, but in the silence of
the night she could make out certain dim objects as her eyes became
accustomed to the gloom.

Then it seemed to her that she could hear strange scratchings not far
off, and something like heavy breathing. Leaning out of the window,
almost perilously, she could see round a corner of the house on to the
terrace, and presently it seemed to her that a figure dropped from
one of the bedroom windows followed by another. And as these figures
strode across the terrace, with a thrill she recognised that one of
them was Shute. She watched them almost dazedly till they disappeared
from sight. Then she threw on her dressing gown and hastened along the
corridor in the direction of Lady Fishbourne's bedroom. Thereon she
knocked loudly.




CHAPTER XVII.--THE TROUBLE AT VICKERY'S.

Nettie almost repented what she had done before she had knocked on Lady
Fishbourne's door. It seemed to her to be somewhat cowardly to make
all this fuss and after all probably about nothing. Possibly she had
been altogether mistaken and had not seen Shute after all. She had been
quite sure of it at the moment but now in cold blood at that chilly
hour in the early morning she was by no means certain. Besides, there
had been a a burglary here lately and perhaps the police were secretly
watching the house.

Once again she knocked, but this time more timidly, but no kind of
response came. Then suddenly changing her mind, and ashamed of her
want of courage, she retraced her footsteps by the light of the single
electric bulb she had switched on to show her the dim way along the
corridor crowded as it was by the quaint old furniture and other
ancient art treasures. She did not see Fishbourne's door open and
her host in his silk pyjamas watching her discreetly as she turned
back towards her own bedroom. Perhaps she was looking for something,
he imagined, and had probably found it, so he refrained from saying
anything and went back to his bed, turning out the lights he had blazed
on when the knocking had disturbed him and thinking no more about the
matter. There was nothing to worry about.

But it was a long time before Nettie crept into her bed. She was
thoroughly awake now and sleep seemed very far off. But strain her ears
as she would, she heard nothing further, and gradually she lapsed into
slumber and the sun was shining brightly as she woke to the knowledge
of another perfect day.

The rest of them were down in the morning-room and breakfast was nearly
over, when she joined them.

"I must put the blame on my watch again," she smiled. "And, besides, I
was very late last night."

"And moreover the fault was entirely mine," Shute said. "It must have
been past one a long way before I realised how late it was and allowed
my secretary to escape."

Fishbourne appeared as if about to say something then changed his mind.
He was thinking about the little episode in the corridor the night
before, and was, himself, inclined to believe that it had been much
earlier when he had seen Nettie standing outside his wife's bedroom
door. He seemed to recollect that the clock in his own bedroom had
pointed to something after twelve when he shut down the lights and
pulled the blankets over him. But it was not worth discussing the
matter, and he had allowed it to pass.

They came to the end of their breakfast at length, and began to
discuss the plans for the day, seeing that Nettie's services were not
required till the evening, and the fact that Macglendy had telephoned,
apparently from London, to say that he hoped, with any luck, to reach
Fishbourne Towers by luncheon time. They were still discussing this
problem when the staid old family butler came into the room in a state
of mild excitement, and announced that Sir Jasper Vickery would like
to see his lordship at once. Hard on the heels of the butler, there
followed a little, red-faced man, in a state of considerable agitation,
who, without waiting to say good morning, burst at once into his
grievances.

"Look here, Fishbourne, by Jove," he said, "a dashed unpleasant thing
happened at my place last night. The burglars got in, probably the same
gang that robbed you."

"Is that so?" Fishbourne exclaimed. "I hope you caught the brutes. Or
did they get away with the stuff?"

"Oh, they got away with it all right," the little baronet groaned. "It
was between twelve and quarter to one. They managed to climb up the
balcony, and forced the catch of my wife's dressing-room. We had been
to a big show at the Brighton Hippodrome, in aid of some charity or
other, and my wife was wearing most of her best jewellery. She left
it on her dressing table when she went to bed, very foolishly, and, I
suppose, by some means or other, the thieves got to know all about it.
Anyway, they had all the stuff in their pockets when, in getting away,
one of them managed to break a window pane. I heard that, and I roused
the whole household. I actually saw them both. They went along the
Lewes road, and we were following them in five minutes, but no good. I
got back to the house and telephoned the police at Lewes and Brighton,
and though they were on the spot almost at once, they could not find
a single trace of those chaps anywhere. Of course, all the roads are
being watched, and they tell me they will have the chaps to a dead
certainty before night, and I wish I could believe it."

Fishbourne and his wife were loud enough in their condolences, whilst
Nettie sat there, looking down at her plate, and not daring to glance
in Shute's direction.

"That's rather strange," she said presently. "I thought I heard
somebody about this house last night; in fact, I looked out of my
window and saw them. They were on the corner of the terrace. I went to
Lady Fishbourne's bedroom to tell her all about it, but she was fast
asleep, and I did not like to disturb her."

"Well, we seem to be in the midst of strange things," Fishbourne
laughed. "Now, what time would that be?"

"I don't know," Nettie said. "I was very tired last night, and I took
no heed of the time."

"Still, you ought to have done so," Shute said in a tone of mild
reproach. "Let me see, what time was it last night when we left off
work? Pretty late, wasn't it? Ah, I remember now. When I looked at
the clock in my working-room I saw that it was past one. I think I
mentioned the matter, Miss Frond."

"You certainly did," Nettie agreed. "And, moreover, you apologised for
keeping me up so late."

"Then there must be two of these gangs about," Vickery exclaimed. "It's
not possible that the men who came to my house had the infernal cheek
to come on here afterwards. They had plenty of time, as far as that
goes."

"Well, if they did, I suppose my light scared them away," Fishbourne
said. "I had got into bed when I heard Miss Frond knock on my wife's
door and I hopped out to see what was going on. They would see the
light, of course."

How true this was, Fishbourne hardly realised. For it was nothing but
the sudden burst of light in his room that had scared Shute and his
confederate in their attempt upon the safe, which they had intended
to supplement with a visit to Vickery afterwards. And at that last
moment, they had decided to leave their host's property alone for
the time being, and content themselves with the other job, which
they had planned for some time past. And Shute smiled to himself as
he realised how perfectly that little scheme of his had worked out,
and how, in case anything went wrong, he had established the neatest
and most complete alibi. As he sat there listening to the disjointed
conversation going on about him, he chuckled inwardly at the manner in
which he and Macglendy had thrown their pursuers off the scent, and
were safe in the knowledge that, whilst the roads inland were being
diligently searched, Macglendy, in a motor-boat, was making his way out
to sea.

"Well, something has got to be done about it," Vickery said fussily.
"The police seem to be utterly useless. This is the third daring
burglary we have had in the course of a week, and not so much as at
sign of the thieves. I am going to get a man down from Scotland Yard.
These locals are all very well, but they have no imagination. It's the
work of one gang, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And, the sooner they
are laid by the heels, the better."

But it was useless to stand there discussing the problem, and, shortly
afterwards, the little baronet went his way, leaving the others to talk
over what had happened, and make their arrangements for passing the
day. Nettie crept up to her room presently, with her head in a whirl,
and sat down to try and make something coherent out of what she had
just heard. She was quite convinced now that she had seen Shute with
someone else the night before on the terrace, and, if he had not been
up to something wrong, why should he not have confessed that, for some
reason or another, he had found it necessary to leave the house in the
dead of the night.

It did not occur to Nettie, for the moment, to associate the burglary
at Vickery's with Shute's escapade. But, at any rate, without getting
herself into trouble, or making vague accusations which she could not
substantiate, at any rate, she might write to Blythe and tell him
everything that had happened. Beyond doubt, he knew a great deal more
than she did, and, besides, she had come to Fishbourne Towers at his
urgent request.

Thereupon, she sat down and wrote to Blythe at great length, omitting
nothing, and telling him all the details that she had gathered as to
the burglary at Vickery's. It was a long letter, and, by the time
she had finished, and posted it herself in the village it was close
upon luncheon-time, and when she entered the dining-room she saw that
Macglendy had returned.

"Yes, I managed to get away," the latter was saying to Fishbourne. "I
caught the last train down to Brighton, and motored over here as soon
as I had dealt with my correspondence. But I am afraid that I can't
stop here overnight, because I am going north to-morrow. Still, I must
make the best of it."

It was not an unpleasant luncheon party, on the whole, though Nettie
was somewhat quiet, watching Shute and Macglendy, who, however,
appeared to be completely at their ease. The two drifted off presently
on to the terrace, where they paced up and down smoking their cigars,
and apparently enjoying the sunshine.

"Well," Shute murmured, "and how did it go?"

"Couldn't have been better. I flatter myself that it was a very neat
job. Was there any trouble at this end?"

"No," Shute replied, "but there easily might have been, if I hadn't
foreseen matters. The girl saw us last night. It was she who aroused
Fishbourne, hence the light in the latter's window, and our change of
plans. Vickery was here this morning, foaming at the mouth, but he let
out that the robbery took place shortly after 12 o'clock and that is
where my little scheme for altering the time came in. So, I am able to
prove now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I was in the house at
the time the burglary was committed, all of which goes to show that
you can't be too careful. But I will tell you all the rest of it when
we go to bed. Meanwhile, we had better go back to the house, and make
ourselves agreeable. Fishbourne hasn't the slightest suspicion of
anything wrong."




CHAPTER XVIII--THE DEADLY DRUG.

Blythe sat at his breakfast the following morning, turning over his
correspondence, most of which was trivial enough, until he came to the
letter from Nettie Frond. This he read with the deepest interest two or
three times before he tore it into fragments and dropped it into his
empty coffee cup. He smiled to himself to think that Nettie had told
him a great deal more than she knew herself, because most of the things
she had to say in her letter tallied exactly with a theory that he had
built up in his mind.

But, all the same, he was a little anxious and uneasy. Another day had
passed without a sign of Harley, and Blythe was beginning to feel that
something was seriously wrong. He went out presently on to the front,
and walked to the Hove lawns almost as far as Shorehaven. He stopped
from time to time to scan such small craft out at sea that the glasses
he had brought with him disclosed, and, presently, a more satisfied
expression crossed his face.

Out there, some mile or two off the shore, was a vessel which he
recognised at once as Harley's hired yacht. This was entirely to the
good, and Blythe sat down on a seat to think it over. If Harley was
on board, then there was no reason whatever why a visit should not be
paid to him. If, on the other hand, he was not there, then it might be
possible to discover some information about him. Therefore, a little
time later, Blythe stepped on board a motor boat which conveyed him
to the yacht, and he boarded her without the slightest hesitation. He
knew perfectly well, at any rate, that Shute and Macglendy were out of
the way, and that there was nothing to be feared so far as they were
concerned. But once he had climbed the deck, he found himself doomed
to disappointment. So far as he could see there was no one on board
at all. It was only a small yacht, with a couple of tiny cabins, and
a nutshell of a saloon, the sort of yacht that a good sailor man and
three hands might handle easily. But there was no one on deck, or in
either of the saloons, until presently Blythe unearthed a grimy youth
in the cuddy.

"Where is everybody?" he asked.

"All gone ashore, sir," the boy explained. "Mr. Harley he told us last
night as there would be nothin' doin' to-day, an' so they're ashore
enjoyin' theirselves."

"Oh, indeed," Blythe said blandly. "So you are the crew, are you? The
bosun tight, and the midshipmite, and the crew of the 'Nancy Bell.' How
long have you been at sea?"

"Oh, I don't belong to 'em proper, sir," the boy replied. "Only they
wants me now an' then, when they're goin' to sea these nice nights. We
cruise along towards the east, maybe as far as Littlehampton, an' gets
back in the daylight."

"That must he very enjoyable," Blythe said. "Were you off somewhere
last night then?"

"That's right, sir. We goes off just after dark, and gets back here
in time for breakfast. Not as I worries much about it, becos I ain't
wanted after dinner time, and I goes to sleep."

"Then you don't know what happens? But where is Mr. Harley? Was he here
last night?"

"Yes sir, he come aboard about half-past six, and precious bad he were.
Been out in the sun, as they says. They had to 'elp 'im over the side,
an' down 'e goes in 'is cabin----"

"Here, what's that?" Blythe demanded. "Do you mean to say that Mr.
Harley was drunk when he come on board?"

"Not 'arf 'e wasn't. Why, Mr. Macglendy fairly, 'ad to carry 'im down
to is bunk. An' 'e wasn't much better when 'e come ashore this mornin',
an' that white as never was."

Blythe had a profound satisfaction in the knowledge that he wasn't
wasting his time. Indeed, on the contrary, he was picking up a vast
amount of invaluable information. He had learnt, at any rate, that
Macglendy, who was supposed to be in London on business, had actually
been on board the yacht by six o'clock the night before, and had sailed
with her, probably as far as Littlehampton, which was within easy
distance of the house where the burglary of the night before had been
committed. But it seemed a strange thing indeed that Harley should
be taking a hand deliberately in that midnight adventure. And yet it
was not possible to disbelieve the boy who was telling his story in
the most natural way in the world to a man who would have been able
to detect a lie in a moment. Therefore, what did he mean by saying
that Harley had come on board in a state of hopeless intoxication,
and that, when he had left for the shore that morning, he had been in
little better case? It seemed hard to believe that Harley, an athlete
to his finger tips, with the keen eye of perfect health, could have
so suddenly lapsed into such a state of moral weakness. No, there was
something behind all this, something exceedingly sinister, and Blythe
was going to get to the bottom of it. But where had Harley got to, and
where had he been hiding himself all this time? It was quite clear,
from what the boy said, that his employer was in the habit of remaining
on shore all day and cruising about in the darkness. But to find
Harley's retreat during the daytime was apt to be a difficult matter.

Blythe put his hand in his pocket and displayed a pound note to the
delighted eyes of his small companion.

"Now listen to me, my lad," he said. "And pay careful attention to what
I am saying. I am a great friend of Mr. Harley's, the best friend he
has in the world, and I have come here to find him. Do you know where
he is?"

"I don't, sir, and that's a fact," the boy said. "'E comes, an' 'e goes
ashore in a motor boat, and I sees no more of him all day. If I knew,
I'd tell you, right enough."

"I am quite sure of that," Blythe said, as he put the note into the
boy's hand. "I must find him myself, I suppose. Now, I don't want
anybody to know that I have been here to-day, and you are not to
mention my visit to a soul. If you do, I am bound to find it out, and
there will be an end, as far as you and I are concerned. But if you
keep silent, and keep your eyes open at the same time, there will be
two or three more of those notes for you before you are many days
older. Look about you and, if you see anything strange happening, make
a note of it."

The boy grinned as he tucked the note away in his pocket.

"Mum's the word sir," he said. "You leave it to me."

They parted on that, and Blythe made his way back to his hotel. He had
learnt a great deal, but there was still much to find out, especially
with regard to this apparently inexplicable conduct on the part of
Harley. There was no reason to doubt that the boy had been correct when
he said that his master was in the habit of coming on board in a state
of helpless intoxication, and leaving the yacht the next morning more
or less in the same condition. But why this extraordinary change of
habit, and where was Harley passing the day? Probably in some remote
place, where he was sleeping off the effects of his wild indulgences.
And it did not seem possible to doubt that this hiding-place had been
selected, for some cunning purpose, by Shute and his accomplice,
Macglendy. And on this point Blythe was comparatively clear. If the
yacht was being used for the purpose of conveying the result of those
daring burglaries to Brighton, its seemed now to be pretty clear then
it would be no bad thing for the thieves to have Harley's company on
board the yacht. And when Harley was dragged ashore in the daytime,
still under the influence of alcohol, it would be necessary to convey
him to some exceedingly quiet spot, otherwise, the proceedings would be
observed, and people who saw them would begin to talk.

Now where was this secret hiding place? It would of necessity be
somewhere on the shore and remote enough from a beach which was more
or less crowded all the year round. And then suddenly it flashed upon
Blythe, and he cursed himself roundly for not realising where this was
before. He went out, without delay, and despatched a telegram to Nettie
asking her if both Macglendy and Shute were still at Fishbourne Towers
and requiring to know if they were likely to be there at any rate till
the following morning.

In the course of time a reply came to the effect that Shute had been
there all the time, and that Macglendy had been on business in London
all the previous day, though he had turned up at Fishbourne Towers
shortly before luncheon, with the intention of remaining there till the
next morning.

"That's all right," Blythe said to himself. "I shall have a free hand
for some hours to come at any rate. So our friend Macglendy who was
called away suddenly from Fishbourne Towers yesterday afternoon on
business came here instead and went on board the yacht just after dark.
They are walking very nicely into my trap. And now, to pay a visit to
the Green Bungalow."

Still, it was nine o'clock before Blythe cautiously crossed the beach
and made his way round to the back of the bungalow, which he entered as
previously, by pushing back a window catch. He switched on the light
and walked into the little sitting-room. It was very hot and stuffy in
there, and evidently the windows had not been opened for some time.
The room had slightly changed in appearance, for there were one or two
pictures here and there, which Blythe had not observed on previous
visits, and, indeed it struck him that some more or less successful
attempt had been made to turn the sitting room into the semblance of
a saloon on board a yacht. Then it dawned upon Blythe that the place
itself was an exact copy of the little cabin which the boy on board the
yacht had pointed out to him as the one usually occupied by Harley.

It was so strange a discovery, and so sinister in its significance that
Blythe was almost startled for a moment. He was still more startled
when he turned and made out the outline of a figure covered by a rug,
that lay in an almost deathly silence on a couch under the window.
Then the figure moved, and a lack-lustre eye was turned in Blythe's
direction. Here was Harley, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and, on the
floor by his side a tiny pill-box containing a few grains of white
powder.

"Cocaine," Blythe whispered, as he touched a tiny fragment with his
lips "By heavens, that's the game, is it? Here, for the love of God,
wake up, Harley."




CHAPTER XIX.--THE FRIEND IN NEED.

A wave of disgust and pity swept over Blythe. He had scanty tolerance
for the minor weaknesses of poor human nature, and such frailties
as drink and self-indulgence generally touched him not at all. At
the first glance he was inclined to the opinion that Harley had been
knocked over by the first breath of trouble and had flown to the drug
as the cheapest way out of the tangle. If this was so, then it seemed
to Blythe that he was wasting his time on an object utterly unworthy of
Nettie Frond's affections. He was almost inclined to laugh at himself
for a sentimental fool for ever putting his hand to this thing at all.
Why should he worry about a weak fool who lacked the moral courage to
fight for his own honour?

But this thing was not done with yet because there was someone else to
think of besides Roy Harley. He must probe this thing to the bottom
for Nettie's sake. If this man were not really worthy of her then it
must be proved up to the hilt and she must be told. But, on the other
hand Blythe reflected, he was dealing with too of the most abandoned
scoundrels in Europe and this might be merely another phase in the dark
conspiracy. At any rate he would have to satisfy himself beyond the
shadow of a doubt.

"Pull yourself together," he said sternly. "Wake up. How did you manage
to get into this state?"

Harley gazed at him with lack-lustre eyes. He was not conscious as
yet that he had been spoken to at all. He did not realise that he was
no longer alone in the room. Blythe bent down and shook him much as a
terrier shakes a rat. The man lying there must be made to understand
that this would not do at all.

"Get up," Blythe repeated. "I say, get up."

But Harley merely rolled his eyes round, and groaned. He put a
trembling hand to his head.

"Do you know where you are?" he asked.

"I think so," Harley groaned. "I am on board my yacht."

Blythe made no reply for a moment, because suddenly he was seeing a
good deal of light. He was beginning to comprehend the full audacity
of the scheme which those two master rascals were carrying out. It was
not quite clear to him yet, but gradually, as he stood there, looking
down into Harley's white face, he was getting the threads of the web
into his grasp. And, indeed, when he came to look round him, he saw a
good deal of evidence calculated to produce a certain impression upon
Harley's muddled intellect. To begin with the little sitting-room in
the bungalow bore a striking likeness, now that certain changes had
been made, to Harley's cabin on board the yacht and, moreover, the boy
had informed Blythe that his master was conveyed backwards and forwards
in a state which he had described in his own picturesque language.
Blythe knew now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Harley's craft was
used by Shute and Macglendy in connection with their burglary exploits,
and it might be necessary, later on, for them to prove that they were
merely cruising about the Channel for pleasure, at the invitation of
their host. And Harley might testify to the fact that he had been with
them all the time, quite ignorant that, under the influence of a deadly
drug, he had spent half his time in the Green Bungalow.

The more Blythe thought this over the more sure he was that he was on
the right track. The first thing to do was to bring Harley more or less
to his senses. He searched through the bungalow until he found what he
wanted in the tiny kitchen. He boiled a kettle and proceeded to brew
a strong cup of coffee, which he coaxed Harley to drink, and once he
had him on his feet again, walked him up and down the room, and from
thence into the fresh air outside. It was a long and weary task, but at
the end of an hour, Harley was sitting up on the sofa more or less in
possession of his faculties.

"Do you realise what has happened?" Blythe asked.

"I don't realise anything," Harley groaned. "I thought I was on board
the yacht. I was on board the yacht, because I could hear them on deck
overhead, and, now and again, a touch of spray came in through the open
window. But I suppose I have been dreaming all that, or have I been
very ill?"

"Well, not exactly that," Blythe said. "You have not only been drugged
with cocaine, but you have been kept under influence of it constantly
for the last few days. That is, of course, unless you have been
indulging on your own account."

"Never in my life," Harley protested. "I have not even seen any of the
stuff, to my knowledge. And, what's more, I have never taken anything
to excess."

"Ah, that was what I hoped to hear," Blythe said. "Now, listen to me.
You will remember our conversation in the Metropolitan Hotel, when you
told me that you were in a deal of trouble. But you didn't tell me
everything, though I know it, all the same. Now, for reasons which I
need not go into, I am deeply interested in your future. I have already
told you, if I remember rightly, that I was once a great friend of your
father's. What I am now does not matter in the least, but I want to
help you, and I still more want to help that dear girl who is engaged
to you. You came down here with Shute and Macglendy, and an intimate
pal of yours called Prest for a game of cards, and certain things
happened."

"How on earth do you know that?" Harley demanded.

"Never mind. The fact remains that I do know it. And if I had been
present on that occasion, I should not have been a bit wiser than I am
now. You played poker, didn't you? You won for some considerable time,
and your principal victim was your own friend. You can correct me if
I am wrong. Later in the evening, Macglendy stood out and watched the
rest of you playing. You dealt a hand, and Macglendy reached over and
declared that the cards were marked."

"So they were," Harley groaned. "So they were."

"Oh, I am not going to contradict you. To all appearances, those cards
were the same pack that you had bought at Weston's in Castle Square.
You opened them yourself, and were absolutely paralysed to find that
Macglendy's statement as correct. I suppose it never occurred to you
as a strange thing that Shute, who lives here and is a regular card
player, should ask you to call at Castle Square and get him two packs
of cards."

"Well, no, it didn't," Harley said. "But now you come to mention it, it
does seem strange. But how do you know all this? Are you a card player,
by any chance?"

"My dear fellow, I more or less get my living at it. I am one of the
most noted card players in Europe, and no man who knows my reputation
would venture to sit down with me. I am telling you all this, because
you are bound to find it out sooner or later."

"Oh, indeed," Harley stammered. "Then you are--are----"

"Precisely. That, in polite circles, is called a chevalier de
l'industrie. You are a very young man who has not mixed with the
world very much, or, before now, somebody would surely have pointed me
out to you as a person to be avoided."

"And yet you say you were a friend of my father's?"

"That's true enough, but it was a great many years ago, when I never
dreamt what fate had in store for me. But, because I was your father's
friend I am doing my best to get you out of this trouble. I am little
or no better than the men that you have got entangled with, which, on
the whole, is none the worse for you, because you see, I am up to all
their little tricks and dodges, and if you will do exactly what I tell
you, I think I can promise in a few days to get you out of this mess
and restore your good name to you. I could do the whole thing in an
hour easily, but because I am a prominent person in the underworld, I
don't want to do those two scoundrels any more harm than is necessary.
To be quite cynical, my dear boy, it would not pay me to do so. I shall
have to go on in the present way till I die, and it does not pay to
make enemies when you come to my time of life, and, strange as it may
seem, I have rather a high reputation amongst the set I belong to, as
a man who is always ready to hold out a helping hand to a less clever
scoundrel than myself."

"Why do you call yourself that?" Harley asked.

Blythe dropped his mask just for a moment, and the ghost of a bitter
smile flickered on his lips.

"Because I am so," he said. "I made a great mistake once, years ago,
and I have never been allowed to forget it. It spoilt my life, and made
me the soured and embittered man that I am. There were one or two who
held out a contemptuous hand, and offered to help me, but I would have
none of it. But I would rather not go into all this. I want you to put
yourself entirely in my hands, and I will save you. Never mind why.
Some day I may tell you, and, on the other hand I may not. But there is
one thing you may rest assured about. At the present moment, I am the
only man in the world who can help you, and I am going to do so. But I
shall have to ask you to trust me implicitly."

"Indeed, I will," Harley replied. "Tell me what you want me to do, and
I will obey you to the letter."

"Very well, then, that's a bargain. Now, for the next day or two I
want you to go on just as if nothing had happened. It is quite clear
to me that those men found it necessary to keep you more or less in a
condition of insensibility. They contrived, somehow, to administer a
big dose of cocaine, which was supplemented from time to time, so that
you had the haziest idea of where you were, or what you were doing.
Sometimes you are on the yacht and sometimes you are here. When those
chaps come back you must pretend that you are just as I found you. You
won't have much difficulty in that, because you still look an absolute
wreck. And if they attempt to give you any further doses of cocaine,
as they probably will, then you must contrive not to take it. Throw it
away, anything so that you retain your faculties. It won't be very easy
for you to pretend that you have taken the stuff, and in any case I
shan't keep you very long. And perhaps, by the end of the week, we may
have a little gathering here, where I shall be able to prove to your
friend, Prest, that you are not what he takes you to be. However, it is
entirely in your own hands. And now, I must be going."

"I don't know why you should take all this trouble for me," Harley said
gratefully. "But I will do exactly as you tell me, and if you can get
me out of this mess you will not find me ungrateful."

"That's right," Blythe said. "Good night to you."




CHAPTER XX.--CLEARING THE WAY.

For the present, at any rate, Macglendy and Shute had finished their
campaign, and the latter was back at Brighton again, working at his
book in the morning, leaving Nettie free most afternoons to do as
she pleased. So far, she had not seen Harley, who was no longer at
the bungalow or on his yacht, for the simple reason that at Blythe's
suggestion, he had gone off to London for a day or two, and had
promised to remain there without communicating with anybody, until such
time as Blythe sent for him. He had intimated to Nettie by letter that
Harley was perfectly safe, but that, for the moment, it was essential
that he should keep away from Brighton. He had asked Nettie to meet
him, and, accordingly, they came together in the afternoon, somewhere
on the front, and wandered up Kemp Town way until they found a quiet
seat.

"Now, I dare say you have been wondering what has been going on all
this time," Blythe said. "I can assure you that I have not been wasting
my time. I suppose you haven't heard from Harley?"

"Not a word," Nettie said, almost tearfully.

"Oh, well, that's my fault more than his. I suppose you begin to
realise now, that he get into very bad hands. I think Mrs. Macglendy
implored you to leave Shute and find occupation elsewhere."

"Yes, I told you that before. And you told me that I was not to think
about it until we had concluded our visit to Fishbourne Towers. I
am more bewildered than ever. I went last night to call upon Mrs.
Macglendy, but I was told in Brunswick Square that she was away, and
would not be back for quite a long time."

"She is never coming back at all," Blythe said. "She has left her
husband, and gone back to her own people. You see, Mrs. Macglendy is
quite well connected. In fact, she is a relation of your own--your
mother's sister, to be particular."

"Ah, that accounts for the likeness I saw," Nettie cried. "So she is
my aunt. They would never speak about her at home, though I always
understood that she married unfortunately."

"Indeed she did. She married one of the biggest scoundrels in Europe. I
had no idea what had become of her till I found her, to my amazement,
in Brunswick Square, and she asked me to help her. If she had stayed
there much longer, she would, undoubtedly, have lost her reason. So I
pulled a few strings, and now she has gone back to her own people. In
fact, I helped her to get away, which is why you haven't seen me for a
day or two. And now, as to your own affairs. Do you know where Walter
Prest is to be found?"

"I know his address in London, if that's what you mean?"

"That's good," Blythe said. "I want you to write to him, and ask him to
come down here and see you. You need not say why, but when he does come
I want to be present. Say the day after to-morrow in the Metropolitan
at lunch time."

"Yes, I will do that if you like," Nettie said.

"Then that's settled. I want you to tell me exactly what happened at
Fishbourne Towers, without leaving out any details."

With that, Nettie told her story. She related all the circumstances
connected with her brief visit, not forgetting the strange incident
that she had witnessed on the last night but one of her stay, when she
had seen Shute and another man on the terrace at Fishbourne Towers in
the early hours of the morning.

"What time was it exactly?" Blythe asked.

"Ah, that I cannot quite tell you. You see, I had had all accident with
my watch, and, as there was no clock in my room----"

"Just a moment," Blythe interrupted. "I think you said you were working
late that night, didn't you?"

"Very late. In fact, we didn't go into the room that Lord Fishbourne
had put at our disposal long before the family went to bed. When we had
finished, it was past one. I know that, because Mr. Shute jumped up
suddenly and remarked how late it was."

"Now, that is a strange thing," Blythe said thoughtfully. "Because
I remember reading in the 'Sussex Daily News' that the burglary at
Vickery's Place happened just after twelve. And if this really was
so, then I don't quite see how Shute and Macglendy could have been
responsible for the trouble."

"What are you saying?" Nettie cried. "Besides, Mr. Macglendy was not in
the house at all. He was called away on important business, and did not
return till the next morning. Are you telling me that Mr. Shute is a
common thief?"

"Well, that is the delicate impression I am trying to convey," Blythe
said drily. "I have every reason to believe that all those burglaries
were the work of those two. Of course, Shute has the entree of some
historic houses, and, no doubt, he used his visit to Fishbourne to
great effect. But you said just now that you had an accident with your
watch. Tell me about it."

"But it sounds too trivial," Nettie said. "It is the watch I am wearing
at the present moment, which I got repaired to-day. It used to belong
to my mother. Don't you think it's a very nice one?'"

"Yes, I have seen it many a time," Blythe said carelessly. "I--I mean
that--well, never mind what I mean. But tell me, just how did that
accident happen?"

Nettie described the incident in a few words, and Blythe listened with
rather a grim smile on his face.

"Ah, now I see the whole thing," he said. "Before you went into that
writing-room Shute preceded you and put on the clock for an hour or so.
Didn't he enter the room first?"

"He did," Nettie said. "He was there some minutes before I was. In fact
he put all the writing materials out."

"Of course, he did, and altered the clock at the same time. He probably
found out that there wasn't a clock in your bedroom, and no doubt, it
was he himself who was responsible for the accident to your watch. Very
neat, very neat indeed. If anything happened, he was in a position
to prove that he was working with you at one o'clock in the morning,
whereas a little after twelve he and Macglendy who, previously, was not
very far off, were on their way to Vickery's. They were responsible
for all these burglaries in houses which are all very near to the sea.
They had only to carry the stuff in a motor-boat and place it on board
Harley's yacht. And now, if you will listen carefully to me, I will
tell you exactly how those men have been making use of your young man,
and why it was necessary to play that trick upon him with regard to the
cards."

Nettie sat listening for some time, almost spellbound with a web of
intrigue which Blythe proceeded to unravel for her. At the end of half
an hour, she understood the situation thoroughly. Then Blythe rose to
go.

"I think I had better leave you here," he said. "It is just as well
that we should not be seen together more than is necessary. You will
write to Prest to-night and ask him to meet you and a friend at the
Metropolitan the day after to-morrow, and lunch. You had better come
together, and I will see that we have a private room. Don't worry
yourself more than is necessary because everything is going to come
right in the next few days."

Blythe drifted away, leaving Nettie to her own more or less distracted
thoughts. She was horrified and shocked at the revelation she had just
listened to, and the thought of going to the bungalow to-morrow, just
as if nothing had happened, fairly terrified her. But then, she could
see that the good name of her lover was more or less in her own hands,
and, with that high courage of hers, she made up her mind to see this
thing through to the end.

Meanwhile, Blythe went his way, perfectly satisfied with the progress
of events. He had seen Harley before the latter left for London, and
had gathered that for the present, at any rate, the two confederates
had no further use for him. Perhaps the scene was getting a little
hot, perhaps Shute and his confederate had made up their minds to give
matters a rest. At any rate there was no further attempt to administer
cocaine, and Harley was informed that he had been seriously unwell for
a day or two, and that he had been nursed in a rough-and-ready way in
the bungalow.

He had appeared to accept this statement without question, after which
he had gone to the Metropolitan, and explained to the anxious manager
there that he had been ill for a few days, during the time he was away,
and that it had not occurred to anybody to notify the fact to the
hotel. After that, he went off to London still retaining his room in
the Metropolitan, and saying that he would be back at the end of the
week.

Two days later Nettie received the letter she had expected to the
effect that Prest was coming down by a morning train, and that he
would gladly meet her in the lounge of the Metropolitan just before
one o'clock. He came, bright-eyed, and eager, and ready to do anything
that the girl asked. Still, the meeting was a trifle embarrassing,
and it was some little time before they were on easy terms. Something
like a frown crossed Prest's face as Blythe appeared and walked along
the lounge in the direction of the little room where he had ordered
luncheon to be set out.

"Who is the friend we are lunching with?" Prest asked.

"We had better go and see, I think," Nettie said. "I don't think you
know him, but he is very anxious to meet you."

She passed into the private room, followed by Prest, and found Blythe
awaiting them. He shook hands with Nettie, and then turned calmly and
smilingly to her companion.

"I don't think we have met before," he said, "though possibly my name
may be familiar to you."

"Yes, I am sorry to say it is," Prest said coldly. "My dear Nettie, you
surely cannot be aware----"

"Sit down," Blythe commanded sternly. "This is no time for melodrama.
I see you know who I am but that is no reason why you should make a
scene. You are a gentleman, and a man of honour, Mr. Prest, and, as
such, the honour of your dearest friend is as precious as your own. We
are here to-day to save Roy Harley from a terrible charge, and I am
going to show you that you have been wrong in your conclusions."

"If you can do that," Prest declared, "then I will sit down at the same
table and be your guest with pleasure."




CHAPTER XXI.--FINDING THE WAY.

There was no mistaking the sincerity of Prest's declaration and a warm
smile of gratitude flashed across Nettie's face. She had not altogether
approved of his attitude with regard to Harley and his army career,
though she could not in all honesty declare that Prest was anything
but right. Still, it seemed to her that some vague way might have been
found out of the tragedy without the drastic course of Roy's leaving
the army altogether. But that was the mere woman's way of looking at it
with sentiment overriding logic.

"I like to hear you speak like that," Blythe said. "If I had expected
anything else I should not have induced Miss Frond to have lured you
here to-day. If you will consent to put yourself entirely in my hands,
Captain Prest, I will pledge my word, for what it is worth, that I can
prove that your unfortunate friend has been the victim of a cruel fraud
and conspiracy."

Prest looked rather uneasily at Nettie. He was still feeling just a
little sore at what he considered to be a plot on the part of the girl
and Blythe to get him down to Brighton. Moreover, he was still, more or
less, in love with Nettie, though he recognised the hopelessness of his
affection. He knew now that whatever happened she would stick to Harley
in the face of public opinion, and in his heart of hearts he admired
her all the more for it.

"It seems almost impossible," he said. "You were not present on that
unfortunate occasion and I was. Are you asking me to believe that
someone of the social standing of Mr. Shute and Mr. Macglendy would
deliberately stoop to fraud Mr. Blythe?"

"What do you know of their social standing?" Blythe enquired. "You
merely met them down here quite casually and Harley introduced you to
them. They were not friends of his either. Then an evening at cards was
suggested and you fell in with it. Shute is supposed to be a man of
means and a great novelist and is writing a book on his experiences as
a noted sportsman and traveller."

"Shute knows some very good people," Prest murmured.

"Oh, I am quite prepared to admit that this man is a gentleman by
birth, and that some very good houses are open to him. But what has
he been doing all the years he has been abroad? Nobody knows anything
about that, except myself, and one or two others; and, as to Macglendy,
he is merely a Jew, who started life in the humblest circumstances in
Glasgow. That was where he picked up his Scottish accent. As a matter
of fact, he has no money at all, and the same remark applies to Shute.
I dare say you are wondering why I am taking such an interest in this
business."

"Well, I must confess that I am," Prest said. "A man like yourself--I
mean an individual----"

"Oh, I know exactly what you mean," Blythe smiled. "You had better
speak freely. You are wondering why anyone with a shady reputation
like mine should be so keenly interested in saving the good name of an
absolute stranger?"

There was a pleasing smile on Blythe's face as he spoke. He stood
there, calm and self-possessed, beautifully turned out, and looking
anything but the class of man he was freely admitting himself to be. It
seemed to Nettie to be almost impossible that here was one who had the
shadiest of reputations all over the Continent.

"It is no use us pretending," Blythe went on. "I am what I am, and
nothing short of a miracle will make me anything else. I am interested
in this business, because Roy Harley's father was an intimate friend
of mine, and I knew Miss Frond's mother equally well. Call it pure
sentiment on my part if you like, but if you will be guided by me I
will not only prove Harley's innocence, but I will show you exactly how
the thing was done. More than that, I will give you a demonstration in
the presence of Shute and Macglendy, and you shall see for yourself how
they take it. I think, in common fairness to Harley, you ought to give
me this opportunity."

"Oh, I will," Prest said warmly.

"I thought so. Now, let's sit down to luncheon and forget all about it,
and after Miss Frond has gone I will explain to you exactly what I want
you to do."

Prest sat down with none too good a grace. He was eager enough to
help Harley if he could, though he was still anything but keen to sit
down, especially with Nettie, at the same table with a man who had
been pointed out to him as an individual who was distinctly to be
avoided. Still, he took his place there, and, long before the meal
was concluded, found himself more or less fascinated by the charming
personality of his host. There was still a good deal to hear, a good
deal of which did not concern Nettie, so that she allowed Blythe to bow
her out presently, and went on her way with more hope than she had felt
for days.

She was passing through the hall of the hotel, which was more or less
in shadow at this time of the afternoon, and was about to leave when a
figure rose from a corner seat and come towards her. With a thrill at
her heart, she recognised Harley.

"I have been waiting for you for quite a long time," he said. "I knew
you were lunching here to-day, because that strange creature, Blythe,
wrote and told me to wait for you here about three o'clock. Shall we
sit down?"

It was a secluded corner that Harley intimated, and somewhere apart
from the nearest group of visitors so that they sat down there and
Harley began to talk. He told Nettie the whole history of his recent
adventures, and expressed the hope that the time was not far distant
when he would have nothing more to fear.

"I don't know how Blythe is going to do it," he said. "But I have a
most childlike faith in that man."

"He certainly is an extraordinary individual," Nettie said. "I suppose
you know that Walter Prest has been lunching with us?"

"That is about all I do know," Harley said. "I am told to hold myself
in readiness for any instructions I get. But you will have to leave the
employ of that man Shute after all that has happened. You know him now
for what he is, and if I had been aware of his antecedents, I should
never have seen the inside of the Green Bungalow. You must not go near
that hateful place."

"Oh, I am not in the least afraid, Roy," Nettie said. "It will only
be for a day or two longer, and, besides, if I suddenly stop my work,
won't Mr. Shute be suspicious? Don't you think that I might be doing
you a great deal of harm?"

"Well, perhaps so," Harley admitted, reluctantly. "Still, I hate the
idea of your being alone in that rather desolate spot with a man like
that."

But Nettie made light of his fears. How could Shute possibly know that
she was so far behind the scenes? He was not even aware of the fact
that she and Harley were friendly, or that Blythe had even heard of her
existence. It would be only for a day or two longer, and then she would
be able to go her own way, and leave Shute to his own resources.

"Don't let's think about it," she said. "Let us talk of the future. I
don't know how it is going to be done, but I feel absolutely certain
that Mr. Blythe will be able to put everything right when the proper
time comes. Whatever his principles may be he is an exceedingly clever
man, and, for some reason or other, he takes the greatest possible
interest in us. He must have been in a very different position at one
time, because it is easy to see that he is a man of good birth and
breeding, and possibly because he liked my mother, he wants to help me.
And he will do it too, Roy. You will see before long that your troubles
are over."

"Well, let us hope so, at any rate," Harley smiled. "It has been a
terrible time for both of us, and if you had not been so loyal, I don't
know what I should have done. Now, let us go outside, and sit in the
sunshine."

Meanwhile, Blythe and Prest were still seated in the private room
discussing the strange affair which had brought them together. There
was a good deal to be settled, and it was nearly four o'clock before
Prest rose and took his leave.

"You can count upon me," he said. "I am going back to town this
afternoon, but if you send me a wire, I will come back here at any
moment you like to mention. I am not feeling particularly happy over
this business, for more reasons than I care to mention. You see, Roy
Harley has always been a friend of mine. We were at school together, we
joined the Army the same month, and we are both in the same battalion
of the Guards. As a man of the world, Mr. Blythe, I think you will
agree that I was quite right when I stipulated that Harley must either
clear his character or leave the Army. It was a bitter decision to
have to come to, and all the more so as we were rivals. You understand
what I mean? And, on a certain occasion Harley behaved so well that I
admired him all the more. He gave me my chance, but there was another
party to be consulted, and when I found that it was all useless I
resigned in Harley's favour. You can imagine my feelings then, when I
had to take the course I mention. What else could I possibly do?"

"That is rather a flattering question," Blythe said, with an unsteady
smile. "And, at the same time, it is rather humorous to think that the
man called Hilton Blythe--though that is not my proper name by any
means--should be appealed to by a soldier and a gentleman on a point of
honour. Because you see, even in my world we have our code. And that
is why I want to let those two men down as easily as possible. You
see, to-morrow, they might be my confederates, though that is putting
an extreme case. Still, if I can satisfy you beyond the shadow of a
doubt that Harley has been the victim of a vile conspiracy, you may be
disposed to be satisfied and not let the thing go any further."

"I shall be more than satisfied," Prest said. "Do what you suggest,
and those two men can go to the devil their own way so far as I am
concerned."

Whereupon they parted, and a few minutes later Blythe turned into a
garage at the corner of Preston-street, and asked for a car to be
placed at his disposal for the next hour or two. He paid his deposit,
and seated himself in the motor.

"Where to, sir," the driver asked.

"Fishbourne Towers," Blythe replied. "I suppose you know where it is.
Lord Fishbourne's place, near Arundel."

"Oh, that's all right, sir," the driver said. "I've been there before.
I can get you there in an hour, easy."




CHAPTER XXII.--THE MISSING LINK.

Fishbourne came across the library where Blythe was awaiting him, with
an expression on his face that was not unkindly, but certainly one of
embarrassment.

"I got your telephone message," he said. "Though why you want to see me
is past my understanding. My dear fellow, for the sake of old times,
I am ready to do anything I can to help you, but, at the same time, I
wish you had not come here."

"Well, it might certainly have been avoided," Blythe confessed. "But it
is so many years since I was in a house of this sort last, that I could
not resist the temptation. There was a time, once, when I was a welcome
guest under your roof."

"No one regrets the reason why you are not still a friend of mine more
than I do. But sit down and let us talk the matter over. I feel quite
sure that you did not come here this afternoon merely to look at my
family pictures, and to feel that once upon a time you were entitled to
meet me on terms of perfect equality."

"That is perfectly true," Blythe said, "Don't let us have any sentiment
for God's sake. I came here to-day, because I thought perhaps you would
like to have your family plate back again."

"Well of course I should. And if you can show me a way, I think that
you won't find me ungrateful."

"There is no question of gratitude between you and me, Fishbourne. You
were one of the few who stood up for me when I was down in the depths,
and I am not going to forget it. It is too late for me to come back
now, and one way and another I have not done so badly. I could retire
from the business at any moment with a comfortable fortune but I am
not old enough yet. And that is why I hate taking a holiday. If I have
too much time I begin to think, and when I begin to think, all the old
devils come and gibber before me, and my thoughts turn to drink. There
is no other man in the world I would have told, but my conscience still
sorely troubles me at times. But that is the other side of the story.
Now, I have got a car outside, and if you don't mind running into
Brighton with me, I think I can show you a way to get hold of what you
have lost."

"In that case, I will most certainly come," Fishbourne said. "Can I
get you some tea, or something of that sort? No? Well a cigar or a
cigarette?"

Blythe helped himself to a cigarette, which he smoked whilst his
involuntary host was getting ready for the journey. Half an hour later,
they were on their way back to Brighton, and talking over old times
when they were boys together, very much as if there had been nothing
to come between them since the days when they were at Eton. And, after
this, Fishbourne's curiosity began to get the better of him, and he
asked Blythe a number of questions.

"Perhaps I had better make a clean breast of it," the latter said. "I
didn't want to do it, but I think you had better be put on your guard.
What do you know of the man called Mark Shute?"

"Oh well, he is one of us. A man who has distinguished himself in his
own walk of life, and one who, undoubtedly, has been a great game shot.
Is there anything wrong with him?"

"Everything is wrong. You may say he is one of you, but I prefer to say
he is one of us. You look surprised, but it is a fact all the same.
You will search London in vain to find anyone who knows what Shute was
doing during that fifteen years he was out of England, but there are
plenty of men in South America, and notably in California, who could
tell you. My dear fellow, he and Macglendy between them robbed you of
the Cellini plate."

"Impossible," Fishbourne cried.

"Not at all. I could prove it to you, beyond a demonstration, if I
liked. Not only did they take your plate, but they got hold of Lady
Vickery's jewels, when they were actually under your roof, and, but for
a bit of amazing good luck, they would have had Lady Fishbourne's gems
as well. But I think I can restore everything, and I don't want the
police to know anything about it. If you will consent to that, then I
can put you right, and, what is more, I can clear Macglendy and Shute
out of the country altogether."

"But why do you want to protect those scoundrels?"

"Well, let us call it an inverted version of noblesse oblige,"
Blythe smiled. "I suppose you have heard a proverb to the effect that
dog does not eat dog. Do you follow me?"

"Perfectly," Fishbourne said gravely. "I suppose it is much the same
all over the world. Still, I don't see why I should worry about it,
especially if you can give me what you suggest. But I must confess that
I am astonished. I should never have suspected Shute of anything of
the sort, and that other man, Macglendy, seemed quite a decent fellow,
though he obviously does not belong to the same class as Shute. And yet
you tell me he is just as bad."

"Rather worse, I should say. Macglendy is handsome enough, and very
distinguished in his fine features and yellow beard, but he happens
to be a sort of half-bred Jew, who started life in the purlieus of
Glasgow. Hence his Scotch brogue, and also his name."

"Well, I have heard of Scottish Jews," Fishbourne said, "and most of
them claiming to belong to some famous clan, but I never met a better
imitation than Macglendy."

"By Jove, there they are," Blythe cried. "Keep well back in the car,
and don't let them see you with me, or else the whole game will be up."

They were just reaching the outskirts of Shorehaven, on the Worthing
road, when another car passed, with Shute and Macglendy inside,
evidently on their way to the Green Bungalow. But they saw nothing of
the other two, for Blythe's eyes were a little too sharp, and the cars
passed one another without recognition.

Shute was talking eagerly to his companion, and appeared to be on very
good terms with himself as they passed swiftly along in the direction
of Shorehaven. Arrived there, they left the car some little distance
from the bungalow, and crossed the shingle up to the front door. Here
Shute produced a latch-key, and, together with Macglendy, entered the
house.

"We'll just sit down here and have a smoke and a drink," Shute said,
"until it gets properly dark, and we can move all that stuff without
attracting attention. The car will be quite safe where it is, and it is
just as well we didn't bring a chauffeur with us. You can never be too
careful."

He pulled down the blinds, and turned on the light. Then he produced a
cigar box and a tantalus, with some glasses and a syphon, and placed
them on the table.

"We'll just wait another hour," he said. "Then back to your place in
Brunswick Square for a mouthful of food, and, after that, off to London
with the stuff. I have found the right man to buy it, at quite a good
price, and, upon my word, I am much obliged to Blythe for telling us
that Fishbourne's plate was historic."

"Yes, that was rather a good tip, wasn't it?" Macglendy chuckled. "And
there is no reason at all why he should have any share of this. At
least, there is no reason why he should have a share of the money we
get from the jewels. We had better drop the business as far as this
part of the country is concerned, Shute. I don't know why, but I have
got an impression that we are being watched. It is only one of my
instincts, perhaps----"

"Oh, I don't think so," Shute said. "What makes you imagine that? Have
you seen anything suspicious?"

"Well, I don't like the way in which my wife disappeared. I know she
has gone back to her own people, where she can stay, as far as I am
concerned. She is not much use to me now, since she has got to look so
old, but I am sure her people didn't fetch her, and she would never
have had the courage to go, unless somebody had helped. That is one of
the reasons why I want to start somewhere else, and now that we have
got Harley so securely in our hands, we shall be able to choose our own
neighbourhood. By the way, what has become of young Harley?"

"Oh, I have turned him loose for the moment," Shute said
contemptuously. "I believe he is in London. He is quite safe. He never
suspected for a moment the trick we played upon him over that cocaine
business, and still believes that he had some sort of mysterious
illness. Before the month is out, he will have to chuck the Army, and
people will wonder why. There will be all sorts of talk, because you
never can help people talking, and you and I don't particularly want
to. Besides, he will have to leave all his clubs, and that will be the
worst scandal of the lot. When people begin to cold-shoulder him he
will be pleased to fall back upon us, and then we can use him to our
hearts' content. Socially speaking, you can regard Harley as dead and
damned."

"Yes, that's right," Macglendy chuckled. "It will be a fine thing to
have a man with us that we can do what we like with. And the mere fact
that be has any amount of money does not make the arrangement any the
less desirable. I know where most of the money will be within the next
12 months."

They sat there chuckling and drinking for some time, until it grew dark
outside, and then Shute rose and remarked that it was time that they
were moving. Saying this, he walked into the little kitchen at the back
of the sitting room, and, removing the matting from the floor, pulled
away a part of the skirting and raised three or four boards, disclosing
underneath the mass of dry shingle upon which the bungalow was built.

"There never was such a hiding place, I think," he said. "All Scotland
Yard might come down here and never be a bit the wiser. Now, come
along, and help to put the stone on one side."

At the end of half an hour the shingle was piled in a corner of the
kitchen, and under where it was lain, appeared a round iron lid, which
was evidently the top of a hidden safe. Shute removed the lid, and
plunged his hand down in the hollow circular, which was lined with
steel. Then he rose suddenly and confronted Andrew with a face that was
white and almost despairing.

"The stuff's gone," he gasped. "The damned thing is empty. Here, come
and look for yourself."

Macglendy almost fell over in his sickening anxiety, but it was even as
Shute had said. The jewels and plate had vanished.




CHAPTER XXIII.--A MYSTIFIED BARONET.

Blythe said very little more until the Hotel Metropolitan was reached,
and he had Fishbourne comfortably seated in his private room discussing
a choice cigar. And this was exactly what it should be, for Fishbourne
had no great desire to be seen with Blythe in any of the more public
apartments. He was no more of a snob than most people, but the line had
to be drawn somewhere. Blythe, however, was quite aware of this and the
knowledge cost him a pang or two. It was many years now since he had
sat down with one of his own class in a purely friendly way, and the
ghosts of the past rose before him.

"Now, I dare say you are wondering what all this means," he said,
just a little uneasily. "You are puzzled to understand why, with my
record, I should be interfering in your affairs. In the first place I
have already told you that I want nothing, and that is true. Call it
sentiment if you like--you could use no better word."

"Then there is more here than meets the eye?"

"Assuredly there is, Fishbourne. I want to speak to you as one man to
another, and as if we were on a perfect equality."

"Why not?" Fishbourne said, good-naturedly. "Why not?"

"Then I will go ahead. You are one of the few men who know my secret.
It has been well kept, not for my sake but out of consideration for
one I care much for. It is part of the punishment I have to bear, and
I am not complaining; moreover, the secret is to be kept perhaps until
my time comes. Then possibly I may choose to speak. Meanwhile the
happiness of a certain person is in danger. Not to make a mystery of
it, I mean Miss Frond. Did you know that there was an understanding
between her and Roy Harley?"

"Not to be certain," Fishbourne remarked. "All the same, I am delighted
to hear it. But look here--what has become of Harley? I am very
concerned about him. From what I can make out he has got into some
deuce of a mess, and has vanished. If you can put me wise so far as he
is concerned I shall be grateful."

"As a matter of fact, Harley is in Brighton at the present moment,"
Blythe replied. "Now, if you are in no hurry, I will tell you a story
that I think will interest you."

Fishbourne remarked that his time was entirely at Blythe's disposal,
and the latter went into details telling in a manner that aroused
Fishbourne's deepest interest. He walked up and down the room with a
cigar in his mouth that was cold without the slightest degree being
aware of the fact.

"Well, I'm dashed," he said. "So that's the game, is it? No wonder
you are interested. And you came on all this drama quite by accident.
No wonder you were anxious to put it all right. Now, look here, I am
quite at your disposal, and am ready to do anything you please. But
how are you going to convince Prest? He must be convinced and, in the
circumstances you mention, he may not be content to accept your word
for it that Shute and Macglendy are the scoundrels you say they are.
See what I mean?"

"Oh, I see what you mean plainly enough. To put it in another form, my
word is no better than Shute's. Oh, I have thought all that out, and
I can see my way quite clearly. Now, if I want you, say the day after
to-morrow, at about eleven o'clock in the evening, in this very room,
are you prepared to come? Mind, I can answer no questions. All I can do
is to assure you that, if you will help me in this matter in the way I
mention, you will be doing a wonderful service to Roy Harley and the
girl he is engaged to."

"That is quite good enough for me," Fishbourne said emphatically. "Tell
me what to do, and I am your man."

"I am exceedingly grateful to you," Blythe said. "I must have a
credible witness, who would bring me the right evidence at the right
moment. I have already explained to you why I want to expose those two
men without landing them in the hands of the police. You shall have
your plate back, and Vickery shall have his wife's jewels. I am going
to give you practical evidence of this."

With that, Blythe retired for a moment or two into his bedroom, which
adjoined the sitting room, and returned presently, with a large
portmanteau. From this, under the astonished eyes of Fishbourne, he
produced the whole of the missing plate, in the green baize bags
together with a number of shabby cases, containing a mass of gems, that
glittered as the light fell upon them.

"There you are," he said, quietly. "Now, I don't want to take any
credit for myself, but you must admit that, had I liked, I could have
got off with all this stuff, and nobody would have been any the wiser.
But, believe me, I had no temptation to do anything of the sort. We
will shove all this in a taxi presently, and you can take it back to
Fishbourne Towers. When you give Vickery his lot, you can suggest to
him that you got the stuff back by compounding a felony, and give him a
hint to keep his mouth shut. He can say he found the jewels in his own
grounds, if you like."

"Well, I'm dashed," Fishbourne said. "I owe you something for this,
anyway. What can I do to repay you?"

"By doing just what I ask," Blythe said. "I want you to come here the
evening of the day after to-morrow at the time suggested, and walk into
the room without knocking. I shall be greatly obliged if you could
manage to appear precisely at eleven o'clock."

"That does not sound very difficult," Fishbourne laughed.

"Perhaps not. But that is not quite all. Have you ever been on
Shorehaven Beach?"

"You mean what's called Bungalow Town. Yes, I know it quite well. I
had a fancy to have a shanty there once myself, but it never came to
anything."

"Then perhaps you know a place there called the Green Bungalow. It
stands by itself, just at the end of the beach, and was used during the
war by the naval authorities."

"Oh, I know it quite well," Fishbourne said. "I have been inside the
place several times."

"That's all to the good," Blythe went on. "I want you to call there
in the afternoon, before you come along here, and do a bit of quiet
burglary. I will see to it that there is no one on the premises. If you
go round to the back of the house, you will find that you can get in by
pushing back the catch of the kitchen window. When you have done that,
I want you to go into the sitting-room, in the corner of which you
will find a small card-table, covered with a green cloth. There is a
drawer at one end of it, and in this drawer you will see two new packs
of cards. I borrowed one pack for a certain purpose, but I was careful
to replace it later on. Put them in your pocket, and bring them here
when you come. Don't produce them till I ask you to do so, and don't be
in the least afraid when the time comes to proclaim openly how you got
them."

"All this I will do, of course," Fishbourne said. "Upon my word, I am
looking forward to the adventure. It reminds me of my hot youth, before
I settled down to humdrum respectability. But aren't you going to tell
me what all this means?"

"I would much rather not, if it is all the same to you," Blythe said.
"Why spoil the story by reading the last chapter first? I have worked
it out carefully in my mind, and you may be sure that I am not going to
fail. I have two exceedingly clever men to deal with, but nobody in my
line has ever got the best of me yet, and I shall be greatly surprised
if that happens now."

With this, Fishbourne had to be content. He went off presently in a
taxi, with the portmanteau at his feet, and dropped in at the house of
his friend Vickery on his way back. The latter opened his eyes widely
enough when he caught sight of the familiar cases, and turned eagerly
to Fishbourne for an explanation.

"Now, how on earth did all this come about?" he asked.

"Don't you think that you had better go through those cases first and
see that they are all right?" Fishbourne suggested.

Vickery compiled and certified presently that not so much as a clasp
was missing. He looked up to Fishbourne for an explanation, but the
other merely smiled mysteriously.

"I am not going to tell you," he said. "It was a wonderful piece of
luck, and you will be pleased to hear that my Cellini plate came back
through the same channel. And it didn't cost me a halfpenny either.
A man whom I befriended many years ago put me on the right track,
and--well, there you are. He asked me to go and see him, and when the
interview was finished I came back with all that stuff, and my own
besides. But you are not to say a word about it to a soul. You can
hint that you have got your valuables again, and take all the credit
yourself, if you like. And if the police want to ask any awkward
questions, refer them to me."

"Well, I suppose I ought to be satisfied," Vickery said. "And anyway,
I am deucedly grateful to you. But my curiosity is amazing. Won't you
give me even a hint?"

"Not a syllable," Fishbourne said, firmly. "You are too great a
chatterbox for that. You couldn't keep your mouth shut to save your
life, and would be certain to tell your wife, and once a woman knows
the story, it will be all over the county."

"Then you don't intend to tell your own missus?"

"Not more than is necessary. Now, look here, Vickery, I particularly
want this thing kept a secret, because it has to do with the happiness
of people who have very little concern with your business and mine. And
there is a man behind it whom I have a great respect for, though you
would be astonished enough if I mentioned his name. So try and forget
all about it, like the good fellow that you are, and be content with
getting your wife's jewels back. It has been a wonderful slice of luck.
That should be sufficient."

"Oh, very well," Vickery said, swallowing his obvious disappointment.
"I am not ungrateful, old chap, I am not indeed. But, Lord, when I come
to think of the questions I shall be asked, I am all in a cold sweat. I
don't know what to say."

"That is why I am not going to tell you anything," Fishbourne laughed.
"If you don't know, you can't tell."

"There is something to that," Vickery admitted. "Tell you what, come
over here the day after to-morrow and dine and bring your wife with
you. Then perhaps you will be able to help me out. I shall never get
through by myself."

"Can't be done," Fishbourne said. "The game is not finished yet, and,
on the date you mention, I am taking rather an important hand in it."

And with that the little baronet had to be content.




CHAPTER XXIV.--SETTING THE TRAP.

Blythe was not very far away from his hotel during the next day,
because he knew perfectly well that it would not be long before Shute
and Macglendy came in search of him. It was just after tea when he was
seated in the Metropolitan lounge that the confederates came up and
accosted him none too civilly.

"Now, don't make a scene here," Blythe said quietly. "If you have
anything to say, follow me up to my private room."

There seemed to be no objection to this course, and, a few moments
later, Shute was opening his batteries.

"You call yourself a friend," he said. "A nice way to treat anyone who
has behaved towards you as we have done. But, we are not going to sit
down quietly and be robbed in this way, are we Macglendy? Now, what
have you done with that stuff?"

"I am not going to pretend to misunderstand you," Blythe said. "The
stuff, as you call it, is already in the hands of those that it belongs
to. I took the liberty of returning it, and if you are not satisfied,
then the remedy is in your own hands."

"It's a damned lie," Shute foamed. "You have sold the stuff and put the
money in your pocket."

"Well, if you like to think so," said Blythe, in his blandest possible
way, "I suppose you must. But if you knew the truth, I have saved you
from a good deal of--well--unpleasantness. I suppose it never occurred
to you that the police were watching all this time? You have been just
a trifle over bold."

"Do you really mean that?" Shute asked.

"Well, I mean that I have got you out of a serious mess, but, at the
same time, you two will have to clear out of England and give an
undertaking not to return. If you fail to do this, then you will find
yourselves in gaol as sure as you are sitting opposite me. Fishbourne
knows all about it. He knows that you robbed him of the Cellini plate,
and that you used his house as a rendezvous for your raid on Vickery's
place. When I tell you this, I think you will understand why it will
be necessary for you to leave the country. When I discovered all this,
I lost no time in putting matters right. You see, I knew Fishbourne
long before I had the pleasure of the acquaintance of either of you,
and, though we are no longer on visiting terms, he still has a sort
of sneaking liking for me, and, when I saw him, I had very little
difficulty in coming to an arrangement. Of course, if you like to
repudiate the whole thing, you can, but, in the face of what I have
told you, I don't think either of you will be disposed to do anything
of the sort. Now, which is it to be? You have just about three days in
which to make up your minds."

Shute glanced unhappily at his colleague, who sat there, in his chair,
groaning to himself. All the fight had gone out of both of them, and
they were just children in Blythe's hands.

"It's devilish awkward," Shute groaned. "Harley has managed to give us
the slip, and ignores our letters and telegrams, and, on the top of
that, we have lost a lot of stuff that would have been worth at least
twenty thousand pounds to us, just at the moment when we are both
infernally hard up. Macglendy and myself were at the end of our tether
when we lifted all that plate and gems, and now we hardly know what to
do."

"Yes, I quite understand," Blythe said, with a suggestion of sympathy.
"But you had better go, all the same. Now, look here, I have got a
suggestion to make. If you want a thousand or two to get away with, I
think I can manage it. You come round here to-morrow evening, say, at
ten o'clock, and I will have the pigeon waiting for you. Never mind,
for a moment, who it is, though I rather think you have met him before.
There is plenty of money there, and the man isn't afraid of losing it.
We ought to cut up a little fortune between us. What do you say?"

The two rascals fairly tumbled over one another in their eagerness to
accept.

"Then that is settled," Blythe said cheerfully. "If you come round here
at ten to-morrow, we can talk over the plan of campaign so that there
won't be any hitch. I am sorry I can't stay now, because I have other
things to do. I suppose you have got some cards of the right sort? I
came down here without anything of the kind. If you haven't, you might
telegraph for some."

"That's all right," Shute grinned. "We have got the cards, all right.
In fact, we got a fresh set only yesterday."

Blythe dismissed the two a minute or two later, and almost immediately
went out and sent a telegram to Prest in London. In the course of the
evening he got the expected reply, and next afternoon, met Shute and
Macglendy again just after five o'clock, and for an hour or more they
discussed their plans for the evening.

It was shortly after ten o'clock when Shute and Macglendy walked
casually into Blythe's private room as if they were dropping in for
a friendly chat, but they exchanged glances as they saw Prest seated
there opposite Blythe. Still, they had no suspicions of what was going
to take place, for Prest met them in the friendliest possible spirit,
and, for some time, they sat chatting there as if they had been quite
old friends.

Half an hour or so elapsed before Blythe quite skilfully, and
apparently heartlessly, brought up the question of cards. Would Prest
take a hand in a little flutter? Blythe insinuated that he had heard a
good deal with regard to Prest's skill as a poker player, which game he
knew just a little of himself, though he was prepared to learn at the
hands of those more expert than himself.

"Oh, I don't mind," Prest said carelessly. "What do you want to play
for? If we are going to play poker in earnest, then I like to have a
real gamble."

"All right," Shute said. "In that case, I vote that we have no limit.
Anybody got any cards?"

"As a matter of fact, I have got two packs in my pocket at the present
moment," Prest said. "My overcoat is hanging up in the cloakroom, so if
you will ring the bell, I will give my ticket to the waiter and he can
get them. Funny thing that I should have those cards in my pocket, but
I was expecting a man down to-night, who would want to play, but at the
last moment he could not get away and so my cards come in after all."

The two packs came upstairs presently, and, after glancing at them
in a casual way, Shute placed them on the mantelpiece. Then, whilst
Blythe was holding Prest in conversation, Macglendy removed the
cards from their resting place, and slipped them dexterously in his
trousers pocket, at the same time producing two other packs which he
had evidently concealed somewhere about his clothing. He threw them
carelessly on the table, and Prest tore the covers off.

Then they sat down to play in earnest. At first, the fortunes of
the evening seemed to vary, and then, so gradually, as to be almost
imperceptible, the tide began to set against Prest. It seemed to him
that he could do nothing right. He declared upon quite good hands,
only to find himself face to face with something better in the keeping
of his opponents. By the end of half an hour he was some hundreds of
pounds on the wrong side.

"Very strange," he said. "I have been holding some really wonderful
cards, but not wonderful enough. In all my experience I have never seen
such amazing hands."

"Oh, I don't know," Blythe said. "I am not much more fortunate myself.
It's these other two men who are winning all the money. If you don't
mind, I think I will stand out for a hand."

Blythe rose from the table and proceeded to the sideboard apparently
on hospitality bent. He stood there, drawing corks, and mixing drinks,
after which he turned his back upon the players and appeared to be
looking into the fire whilst he smoked a cigar. He could see everything
that was going on in the looking glass, and every now and again he
glanced at the clock. It still wanted ten minutes before Fishbourne was
timed to appear, and he was waiting, quite impatiently, for him, for
the hour to strike. He smiled to himself as he saw Prest go down again
on a hand which, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, would have been a
sure and certain winner.

"Upon my word, I believe the cards are bewitched to-night," Prest
exclaimed. "Straight flushes and full houses are all the same
apparently. Here, Blythe, you come and take my place for a bit. Perhaps
if I sit out for half an hour and smoke a cigar, the luck will turn.
Not that I am superstitious."

"Just a couple more hands," Blythe said. "And then I am with you. I
want to mix you fellows a drink which I don't think any of you have
tasted before. It's a sort of champagne cocktail."

"All right," Prest laughed. "Only don't be too long, because it might
be a very expensive drink for me."

He took up the cards again and passed them on to Shute, whose turn it
was to deal. The dealer gave the cards an extra shuffle, as was his
right, and skilfully scattered the hands on the table. With his back
still towards them, Blythe was watching carefully with the aid of the
mirror. Then he turned suddenly round, before a declaration was made,
and asked to have a look at the pack.

"What, is there anything wrong?" Shute asked.

"I am sure I don't know," Blythe answered. "Only it looked to me as if
one of the cards was bent. Perhaps I am wrong. Go on, and don't mind
me."

He crossed over to the sideboard, and stood there with one eye upon the
clock. It was now within two or three minutes of eleven, and it seemed
to Blythe that he could hear a footstep coming along the corridor in
the direction of his sitting room. With a certain amount of excitement,
which was quite foreign to his nature, he strolled casually across to
the table, and, picking up a dozen or so of the unused cards lying on
it, glanced at the backs, holding them slanting, so that the light
might fall upon them.

"These cards are marked," he declared quietly.

"Marked!" Shute cried, as he jumped to his feet. "Blythe, what do you
mean? What do you insinuate."

"I insinuate nothing," Blythe said. "I am making a plain statement,
which I am in a position to prove."

The words were barely out of his mouth before the clock on the
mantelpiece struck the hour and Fishbourne came into the room.

Shute gave one swift glance at Blythe and his mouth closed like a
steel trap. What was in the wind he had not the least idea, but his
instinct told him that it would be nothing to his advantage. Nor did
he suppose for a moment that Blythe was going to play the traitor to
his own class, that is, the class that latterly he had elected to
belong to. For Shute, too, had fallen in much the same way as his more
brilliant confrere, and this, to a certain extent, was more or less
a bond of union between them. Not that he would have trusted Blythe in
a professional matter any further than he could have helped. And this
was the opening move in some new and ingenious scheme for their mutual
advantage that Blythe had worked out without saying a word to his
associates.

Macglendy, on the other hand, had edged towards the door directly
he had caught sight of Fishbourne's face. He would have discreetly
disappeared if Blythe had not been too quick for him.

"Oh, no," the latter said. "I really cannot permit you to run away in
that fashion. We are all acquainted with one another, and there is no
occasion to stand on ceremony."

Prest had risen to his feet cold and suspicious, and by far the most
puzzled of them all. And yet he had a dim understanding of what was
going on. It was a case of history repeating itself. For here he was
much in the same case as Harley had been on that fateful night in
the Green Bungalow when he had been fairly detected playing poker
with marked cards that he had produced himself. For those were his
cards lying there on the table, and they had come from his own pocket
precisely as Harley had produced these with which he had contributed to
his own downfall.




CHAPTER XXV.--PREST IS SATISFIED.

And yet, Blythe had promised that if Prest would place himself
entirely in his hands, he, Blythe, would not only show how Harley had
been treated, but, furthermore, would expose the whole conspiracy.
Therefore, it was just as well to sit down quietly and to watch the
development of events. At any rate, it was good to know that a man of
Fishbourne's reputation was present, though he might have been there
entirely by accident. At the same time, there was a rather grim touch
of humour about the corners of Fishbourne's lips which suggested that
his presence there was not entirely fortuitous.

"Ah, now that we are all here, I think it would be just as well to
have an explanation," Blythe said quietly. "I am glad you have come,
Fishbourne, because you are the one man I need. We have just been
having a little unpleasantness. I want you, as an old hand at the game,
to take up those cards, which we have just been playing with, and
examine the backs of them carefully. Just as a hint, I might suggest
that you hold them where the light can fall on the backs. If you do
that, I think you will find that they are all marked in some way--that
is, with little spots here and there, where the glaze has been removed."

Without hesitation, Fishbourne picked up the cards, and proceeded to
examine them carefully.

"You are quite right," he said presently. "They are all marked. It's an
old dodge, as I learnt to my cost in the old bachelor days when I was
shooting in the Rocky Mountains. I used to come down to the settlements
frequently, and play a deal of poker. It was an expensive game for me,
but it taught me a certain amount of wisdom. I suppose I must have
lost nearly ten thousand pounds before what our American cousins call
a professional sport, to whom I had rendered a service, put me wise. I
was robbed with cards exactly like those, and I understand that they
are of Japanese make, and supplied for the use of swindlers. Oh, there
is not the slightest doubt about it--the question is, who found them?"

"Our friend Prest," Blythe said smilingly. "They are his cards, and I
don't think he will deny it."

"I do," Prest cried. "Oh, I don't mean to say that I did not bring two
packs of cards with me, which I bought this afternoon at a shop called
Weston's in Castle Square. But, before I go any further, I may say that
I should not have got those cards at all if Mr. Blythe had not asked me
to do so."

"That is absolutely true," Blythe went on, in the same pleasant way.
"But I don't think Mr. Prest is going to tell us that those cards lying
on the table are the same that he purchased."

"I can't explain," Prest replied. "Unless, perhaps, the assistant in
Weston's shop gave me trick cards by mistake."

"In which case," Blythe said, "you are accusing a firm of honest
tradesmen of dealing in swindlers' accessories. Surely you are not
serious in going as far as that?"

Prest bit his lip, but remained silent. Macglendy was beginning to
recover himself, and stood a little in the background waiting on
events. It seemed to him that here was Blythe, working out some
brilliant and original scheme to their mutual benefit. Shute was
frankly puzzled, but deemed it wiser to say nothing.

"Well, there we are," Blythe went on. "When we started to play cards
this evening we had no packs available, and Mr. Prest volunteered the
statement that he had two packs in his overcoat pocket downstairs. They
were fetched by a waiter, and Prest opened them himself. I don't think
that he will deny that."

"Certainly not," Prest cried. "It is exactly as Mr. Blythe says. I sent
for those cards, and I tore the covers off before they were shuffled.
There they are, in the fireplace. Now please let's have a clear
understanding. Am I accused of coming here this evening to play cards
for heavy states with marked packs in my possession? Is that quite
plain?"

"I don't see how it can be otherwise," Blythe said. "Come, Mr. Prest,
be reasonable. Only a few days ago, exactly the same thing happened
in a house called the Green Bungalow at Shorehaven, when Mr. Roy
Harley was accused of the same thing. He is a friend of yours, and the
case was so plain that you were bound to believe in Harley's guilt.
I believe it worried you a great deal, but, all the same, you made
it quite clear that if the scandal were to be hushed up, Harley must
resign his commission in the Guards, and take his name off the books of
all his clubs."

"That is perfectly true," Prest admitted. "It was a great grief to me
to have to do so, and, all the more because there was a lady in the
case, but I apologise for alluding to that. You see, in Harley's case,
the evidence was so clear----"

"Yes, but isn't the case equally clear here?" Blythe smiled. "It seems
to me that it is exactly on all fours with the other business. We
cannot let the matter drop now."

"I can't understand it," Prest exclaimed. "It is utterly beyond me. It
makes my blood boil to think that I should be accused of anything of
the sort. Fishbourne, you know me well enough to give me credit for
something----"

Prest broke down, unable to continue, Fishbourne came forward and laid
his hand on the other's shoulder.

"Of course I do," he said. "Now, Blythe, don't you think this comedy
has gone far enough?"

"Well, perhaps it has," Blythe replied. "I only wanted to drive it
right home to Prest that a man might be innocent with a thousand
deadly proofs against him. I want him to try and realise what Harley's
feelings were that night in the Green Bungalow when his friend turned
upon him and made certain harsh conditions. Oh, please don't interrupt
me. In the circumstances, I should probably have done the same thing.
It does not follow that an innocent man always has the appearance of
being innocent, or carries his honesty in his countenance, as certain
writers of fiction will have us believe. For instance, our young friend
Prest would not impress a jury at the present moment. But that is all
by the way. Now, Mr. Prest, in the face of what has just happened,
can't you understand your friend Harley indignantly denying the charge
made against him?"

"I don't know what to say," Prest stammered.

"Then let me say it for you. Harley was absolutely innocent, and so
are you, as I am going to prove in a minute or two. In the excitement
of the moment, you have forgotten that it was I who suggested that you
should bring a pack of cards or two with you this evening. It was I who
put your friend off, the reason for which you will see in due course.
Now, when you came in here this evening, you took the two packs of
cards from the waiter, and put them on the corner of the mantelpiece.
When you sat down in a chair with your back to the fireplace Macglendy
walked behind you and dropped these cards in his pocket. In the place
of them, he produced two packs of trick cards, which had not been
opened, and handed them to you to tear the covers off----"

It seemed to Shute that it was time to interfere. He came forward
threateningly, and, just for a moment, it looked as if he were going to
indulge in violence.

"Here, what is the meaning of all this?" he demanded truculently. "You
can't carry it off in this high-handed way. Macglendy is a friend of
mine, and I am not going to sit quietly down and see him accused of
this sort of thing. Come along, Macglendy, let us leave these men to
themselves."

"Oh, no, you don't," Fishbourne said. "If you want to leave the room,
then you will have to fight me for the door key."

So saying, he turned the key in the lock, and dropped it in is pocket.
He stood there, quite calmly, with his broad shoulders thrown back, and
Shute wisely thought better of it.

"Very well," the latter said sulkily. "Let's have the whole thing out,
and perhaps, when it is finished, I shall be able to tell you a chapter
or two from the history of the polished scoundrel who calls himself
Hilton Blythe."

"My dear sir," Blythe smiled blandly. "You cannot tell Lord Fishbourne
more about myself than he knows already. There were times when we were
great friends, the same as you and he were friends up to a few minutes
ago. Now, sit down and take it quietly. Before I have done, you will be
grateful that you did so, because otherwise before many hours are over
your head, you would have found yourself in gaol in connection with a
certain set of plate that we both know of. But please yourself. So far
as I am concerned, you are free to leave the room. Now, Mr. Macglendy,
are you in the same mind as your friend?"

Neither Macglendy nor Shute moved an inch.




CHAPTER XXVI.--OUT OF THE WOOD.

Blythe was dominating the situation, as he always did. He knew now that
he had these fellow rogues of his in the hollow of his hand, and he was
going to do the best he could for them. As he had already explained to
Fishbourne, dog does not eat dog, and if he could keep these men out of
gaol, consistent with a determination to clear Harley's name, then he
was going to do it.

"Now listen to me," he went on. "For certain reasons, those two men
there made up their minds to get Roy Harley into their power. He had
just come into a deal of money, and, moreover, he had a yacht upon
which the partners had designs. So they lured him down to the Green
Bungalow to play poker, and they got you, Prest, to join the party. At
Shute's instigation Harley brought with him two packs of cards which he
had purchased at Weston's in Castle Square, and these he produced on
the night I am speaking about, and opened them himself. Now precisely
the same thing happened as has happened to-night. The cards were
changed by Macglendy, and certain prepared pack substituted for them. I
know this is so, because the two packs bought by Harley were carelessly
thrown into the drawer of the card table at the bungalow, and left
there----"

"Can you prove that?" Shute queried.

"No, but I can," Fishbourne said. "I took the liberty of entering
the bungalow which you mentioned at about five o'clock acting under
instructions received, as they say in the police court, and there I
found two unopened packs of cards which I produce."

He laid the unopened packs upon the table, and Blythe immediately took
possession of them.

"Now, I am going to prove that these are the packs that Harley bought,"
he said. "See, I tear one of them open, and what do we find? A view
of Sandringham in water colours on the one pack, and behold Windsor
Castle on the other. Now, within a few hours almost, of those packs
being purchased, I went to Weston's to try and match them. I wanted
one pack of each. They are called the Royal cards by the way. I was
told that they had only one pack left, and that the last pair had been
brought the day before by a gentleman whom the assistant subsequently
identified for me as Roy Harley. And that reminds me. On the night of
the tragedy, as I may call it, Harley was found with a missing card in
his pocket, the ace of spades, I think. Now, Fishbourne, if you will
take up those cards that we were playing with when you came in--I mean
the pack that was being actually dealt you will find that a card is
missing. Kindly tell me which it is?"

"The King of Diamonds," Fishbourne said presently.

"Ah, precisely. Now, Mr. Prest, if you will put your hand into the
pocket of your dinner jacket, I think you will find that the missing
card is there. Am I right?"

To his own unutterable astonishment and dismay, Prest did as he was
told, and laid the missing card on the table.

"I swear I never put it there," he stammered.

"Of course you didn't," Blythe said smilingly. "As a matter of fact, I
put it there, just as Macglendy placed the Ace of Spades in Harley's
pocket. But that was done designedly, and it had its due effect. What
I am showing you now, is to prove to you beyond a demonstration, that
your friend Harley was the victim of a cruel and calculating fraud. And
now, after what has happened, you must admit that he is innocent."

"Oh, I do," Prest commented. "I do."

"Now, that's all very fine," Shute smiled. "But when we came here
to-night Blythe knew well enough that we were out to rob Prest by means
of marked cards. I might just as well confess it, now that Fishbourne
knows all about me. I don't profess to understand what Blythe is
driving at. He is one of the most cunning devils in Europe, and you can
all depend upon it that he is using you for his own purposes."

"Not to make money," Blythe said calmly. "There are other reasons
besides that. Now, own up. Didn't you lure Harley to the Green
Bungalow, not so much to rob him, as to get him into your power, and
ruin him socially? It suited your purpose to have an independent
witness in the form of Mr. Prest, but that I don't want to go into. For
the sake of your own skins, you had better admit all I say is correct.
Because it is very possible that Lord Fishbourne may not be disposed to
compound a felony."

"Very well," Shute said sulkily. "Have it your own way. We did all you
say we did, and I don't mind admitting that Harley was a mere tool in
our hands. We wanted the thing done in Mr. Prest's presence, because
we knew perfectly well what course he would take. We did change those
cards----"

"Ah, just a moment," Blythe said. "Macglendy, hand me the cards you
changed just now."

With a somewhat shamefaced air, Macglendy produced the cards from a
secret pocket, and laid them on the table. Blythe tore the covers off,
and poured the cards through his hand.

"Ah, here we are," he said. "More Royal packs. Further proof positive
if we really needed it. Fishbourne, I think you will see that there is
no object in carrying this interview any further. You might give me
that key, if you don't mind."

"With all the pleasure in life," Fishbourne said as he handed it over.
"This has been rather a dramatic experience, but, at the same time, a
painful one. A day or two ago these men were guests under my roof, and
the recollection of it leaves an unpleasant taste in one's mouth. I am
not going to prosecute either of you, but if you are not out of England
within twenty-four hours, most certainly I shall change by mind. And
now you know."

A minute or two later the two discomfited scoundrels were out in the
corridor, followed by Blythe.

"Well, a nice friend you are," Shute said bitterly. "What is the
meaning of all this play-acting stunt of yours?"

"Well, to a certain extent I will explain," Blythe said. "But I don't
propose to tell you everything. There are reasons, very powerful
reasons, why it was necessary to clear Harley's good name. Not that
I am getting anything out of it, quite the contrary. But that need
not concern you. I had to do what I said, and it was necessary that
the thing should be accomplished in the presence of Prest. He will
apologise to his friend now, and the incident will be closed. I was
rather sorry to bring in Fishbourne, but if I had not, and bound him to
secrecy, you would have been in the hands of the police long ago. It
was a very foolish thing on your part, to try and deceive me over those
burglaries, and do me out of my share of the plunder, and, by doing
so, you very nearly landed yourselves in prison. You owe me a debt of
gratitude for saving you from that, and listen, Fishbourne is quite
serious in what he said just now about your leaving England. You are
two wise birds in your way, and I don't think I need say any more. When
you come to work it out, you will see that I have been a real friend to
you both."

Blythe turned on his heel, and went back to the sitting room, quite
content with his evening's work.

"Well, that is finished," he said. "Now, Mr. Prest, I leave you to make
your own peace with your friend, Harley. You had better see him without
delay, and explain everything that happened to-night. You need not
dwell on my part of the drama."

"I will do it with pleasure," Prest said. "I will see Harley the first
thing in the morning, and shake hands with him. But he owes you a great
deal, though. I wonder----"

"Well, go on, say it," Blythe said. "You wonder why an old hardened
sinner like myself should go out of his way to play a part in a
dramatic love story. Well, that is my own business. Most of us get
more sentimental as we grow older, though few people would accuse me
of that sort of weakness. Still, there it is. You can tell Harley what
you like but don't bring me into it any more than you can help. I
require no thanks, and, in any case, I shall be out of reach of them
to-morrow afternoon. As a matter of fact, I have pressing business in
Paris, which I have shamefully neglected in my anxiety to see this
thing through. We may meet again, or we may not. But now, if you don't
mind, I will ask you to leave us, because I have a good many things to
talk over with Lord Fishbourne. In the happy old days, he and I were
great friends, and I would give a great deal to say that we were the
same to-day. However, those are all vain regrets. So, if you don't mind
shaking hands with me, and saying good night, I shall be more than
obliged to you."

"What an extraordinary mixture of a man you are," Fishbourne said,
when, at length, Prest had vanished. "My dear fellow, if you had only
kept straight, you might have become anything."

"Yes, quite a tragedy in its way, isn't it?" Blythe smiled. "Still,
even my life has its compensations, and I have thoroughly enjoyed this
unusual experience. To begin with, I have brought two loving hearts
together, and I have restored the wife of that scoundrel Macglendy to
her friends. Perhaps, some of these days, when I am growing old, I may
be disposed to see Miss Frond----"

"What? Aren't you going to tell her the truth?" Fishbourne cried. "Is
she never to know?"

"You forget my compact," Blythe said, sadly. "I passed my word for what
it is worth, to disappear from my world, and never be known again by my
own name. The man you know vanished, and Hilton Blythe took his place.
To everybody, except one or two of my very old friends, I am dead. The
old scandal has been forgotten, and is rarely alluded to now."

"But still," Fishbourne said. "But still----"

"My dear old friend, if I may still call you so, I assure you there
is no more to be said. The future lies in the lap of the gods, and
I am too worldly wise to seek it. But it will always be a sweet and
tender recollection to me that when Nettie Frond and her lover found
themselves in bitter trouble, it was her own father who came out of the
depths and saved the whole situation. And with that, I think, there is
nothing more to be said."


THE END.


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