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Title:  The Silver Bullet
Author: Fergus Hume
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Language: English
Date first posted:  September 2017
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The Silver Bullet

Fergus Hume


Chapter 1.- The House in the Pine Wood
Chapter 2.- De mortuis nil nisi malum
Chapter 3.- The Verdict of the Jury
Chapter 4.- At Beorminster
Chapter 5.- The Theory of Mrs. Marsh
Chapter 6.- “The Changeling”
Chapter 7.- A Nine Days’ Wonder
Chapter 8.- A Curious Discovery
Chapter 9.- Herrick Is Suspicious
Chapter 10.- The Secret Writings
Chapter 11.- Settling Down
Chapter 12.- Second-Sight
Chapter 13.- The Wooing of Robin Joyce
Chapter 14.- The Confession Of Bess
Chapter 15.- Robin Joyce Explains Himself
Chapter 16.- Bess the Detective
Chapter 17.- Unexpected Evidence
Chapter 18.- Part of the Truth
Chapter 19.- Don Manuel’s Recollections
Chapter 20.- The Revd. Pentland Corn
Chapter 21.- Another Mystery
Chapter 22.- A Message from the Dead
Chapter 23.- The Unexpected Happens
Chapter 24.- The Story Of Frisco
Chapter 25.- Sidney Speaks Out
Chapter 26.- The Truth
Chapter 27.- A Final Surprise

Chapter 1
The House In The Pine Wood

“We had better lie down and die,” said Robin peevishly. “I can’t go a step further,” and to emphasise his words he deliberately sat.

“Infernal little duffer,” growled Herrick. “Huh! Might have guessed you would Joyce.” He threw himself down beside his companion and continued grumbling. “You have tobacco, a fine night, and a heather couch of the finest, yet you talk as though the world were coming to an end.”

“I’m sure this moor never will,” sighed Joyce, reminded of his cigarettes, “we have been trudging it since eight in the morning, yet it still stretches to the back-of-beyond. Hai!”

The pedestrians were pronouncedly isolated. A moonless sky thickly jewelled with stars, arched over a treeless moor, far-stretching as the plain of Shinar. In the luminous summer twilight, the eye could see for a moderate distance, but to no clearly defined horizon; and the verge of sight was limited by vague shadows, hardly definite enough to be mists.

The moor exhaled the noonday heats in thin white vapour, which shut out from the external world those who nestled to its bosom. A sense of solitude, the brooding silence, the formless surroundings, and above all, the insistence of the infinite, would have appealed on ordinary occasions to the poetical and superstitious side of Robin’s nature. But at the moment, his nerves were uppermost. He was worn-out, fractious as a child, and in his helplessness could have cried like one. Herrick knew his friend’s frail physique and inherited neurosis: therefore he forebore to make bad worse by ill advised sympathy. Judiciously waiting until Joyce had in some degree soothed himself with tobacco, he talked of the common-place.

“Nine o’clock,” said he peering at his watch; “thirteen hour’s walking. Nothing to me Robin, but a goodish stretch to you. However we are within hail of civilization, and in England. A few miles further we’ll pick up a village of sorts no doubt. One would think you were exploiting Africa the way you howl.”

He spoke thus callously, in order to brace his friend; but Joyce resented the tone with that exaggerated sense of injury peculiar to the neurotic. “I am no Hercules like you Jim,” he protested sullenly; “all your finer feelings have been blunted by beef and beer. You can’t feel things as I do. Also,” continued Robin still more querulously, “it seems to have escaped your memory, that I returned only last night from a two day’s visit to Town.”

“If you will break up your holiday into fragments, you must not expect to receive the benefit its enjoyment as a whole would give you. It was jolly enough last week sauntering through the Midlands, till you larked up to London, and fagged yourself with its detestable civilization.”

Joyce threw aside his cigarette and nervously began to roll another. “It was no lark which took me up Jim. The letter that came to the Southberry Inn was about—her business.”

“Sorry old man. I keep forgetting your troubles. Heat and the want of food make me savage. We’ll rest here for a time, and then push on. Not that a night in the open would matter to me.”

Joyce made no reply but lying full length on the dry herbage, stared at the scintillating sky. At his elbow, Herrick, cross-legged like a fakir, gave himself up to the enjoyment of a disreputable pipe. The more highly-strung man considered the circumstances which had placed him where he was.

Two months previously, Robin Joyce had lost his mother, to whom he had been devotedly attached: and the consequent grief had made a wreck of him. For weeks he had shut himself up in the flat once brightened by her presence to luxuriate in woe. He possessed in a large degree that instinct for martyrdom, latent in many people, which searches for sorrow, as a more joyous nature hunts for pleasure. The blow of Mrs. Joyce’s death had fallen unexpectedly, but it brought home to Robin, the knowledge—strange as it may sound—that a mental pleasure can be plucked from misfortune. He locked himself in his room, wept much, and ate little; neglected his business of contributor to several newspapers, and his personal appearance. Thus the pain of his loss merged itself in that delight of self-mortification, which must have been experienced by the hermits of the Thebiad. Not entirely from religious motives was the desert made populous with hermits in the days of Cyril and Hypatia.

Herrick did not realize this transcendental indulgence, nor would he have understood it, had he done so. Emphatically a sane man, he would have deemed it a weakness degrading to the will, if not a species of lunacy. As it was, he merely saw that Robin yielded to an unrestrained grief detrimental to his health, and insisted upon carrying him off for a spell in the open air. With less trouble than he anticipated, Robin’s consent was obtained. The mourner threw himself with ardour into the scheme, selected the county of Berks as the most inviting for a ramble; and when fairly started, showed a power of endurance amazing in one so frail.

Jim however being a doctor, was less astonished than a layman would have been. He knew that in Joyce a tremendous nerve power dominated the feebler muscular force, and that the man would go on like a blood-horse until he dropped from sheer exhaustion. The collapse on the moor did not surprise him. He only wondered that Robin had held out for so many days.

“But I wish you had not gone to London,” said Herrick pursuing aloud this train of thought.

“I had to go,” replied Joyce not troubling to query the remark. “The lawyer wrote about my poor mother’s property. In my sorrow, I had neglected to look after it, but at Southberry Junction feeling better, thanks to your open air cure, I thought it wise to attend to the matter.”

Then Joyce went on to state with much detail, how he had caught the Paddington express at Marleigh—their last stopping place—and had seen his lawyer. The business took some time to settle; but it resulted in the knowledge that Joyce found himself possessed of five hundred a year in Consols. “Also the flat and the furniture,” said Robin, “so I am not so badly off. I can devote myself wholly to novels now, and shall not have to rack my brains for newspaper articles.”

Herrick nodded over a newly-filled pipe. “Did you sleep at the flat?”

“No, I went up on Tuesday as you know, and slept that night at the Hull Hotel, a small house in one of the Strand side streets. Last night, I joined you at Southberry.”

“And it is now Thursday,” said Herrick laughing. “How particular you are as to detail Robin. Well, Southberry is a goodish way behind us now and Saxham is our next resting place. Feel better?”

“Yes, thanks. In another quarter of an hour, I shall make the attempt to reach Saxham. But we are so late, I fear no bed—”

“Oh, that’s alright. We can wake the landlord, I calculate we have only three miles.”

“Quite enough too. By the way Jim, what did you do, when I left you?”

In the semi-darkness Herrick chuckled. “Fell in love!” said he.

“H’m! You lost no time about it. And she?”

“A daughter of the gods, divinely tall; dark hair, creamy skin, sea-blue eyes the figure and gait of Diana, and—”

“More of the Celt than the Greek,” interrupted Joyce, “blue eyes, black hair, that is the Irish type. Where did you see her?”

“In Southberry Church, talking to a puny curate, who did not deserve such a companion. Oh, Robin, her voice! like an Eolian harp.”

“It must possess a variety of tones then Jim. Did she see you?”

Herrick nodded and laughed again. “She looked and blushed. Beauty drew me with a single hair, therefore I thrilled responsive. Love at first sight Robin. Heigh-ho! never again shall I see this Helen of Marleigh.”

“Live in hope,” said Joyce, springing to his feet. “Allons, mon ami.”

The more leisurely Herrick rose, markedly surprised at this sudden recuperation. “Wonderful man. One minute you are dying, the next skipping like a two year old. Hysterical all the same,” he added as Joyce laughed.

“Those three miles,” explained the other feverishly, “I feel that I have to walk them, and my determination is braced to breaking point.”

“That means you’ll collapse half way,” retorted the doctor unstrapping his knapsack. “Light a match. Valerian for you my man.”

Robin made no objection. He knew the value of Valerian for those unruly nerves of his, at present vibrating like so many harp-strings, twangled by an unskilful player. His small white face looked smaller and whiter than ever in the faint light of the match; but his great black eyes flamed like wind-blown torches. The contrast of Herrick’s sun-tanned Saxon looks, struck him as almost ludicrous. Joyce needed no mirror to assure him of his appearance at the moment. He knew only too well how he aged on the eve of a nerve storm. For the present it was averted by the valerian; but he knew and so did Herrick, that sooner or later it would surely come.

“We must get on as fast as possible,” said Herrick, the knapsack again on his broad back. “Food, drink, rest; you need all three. Forward!”

For some time they walked on in silence. Robin was so small, Dr. Jim so large, that they looked like the giant and dwarf of the old fairy tale on their travels. But in this case it was the giant who did all the work. Joyce was a pampered, lazy, irresponsible child, in the direct line of descent from Harold Skimpole. If Jim Herrick must be likened to another hero of romance, Amyas Leigh was his prototype.

The shadows melted before them, and closed in behind, and still there was nothing but plain and mist. At the end of two miles a dark bulk like a thunder-cloud, loomed before them. It stretched directly across their path. “Bogey,” laughed Robin.

“A wood,” said the more prosaic Jim, “this moor is fringed with pine-woods: remember the forest we passed through this morning.”

“In the cheerful sunshine,” shuddered Joyce. “I don’t like woodlands by night. The fairies are about and goblins of the worst. Ha! Yonder the lantern of Puck. Oberon holds revel in the wood.”

“Puck must be putting a girdle round the earth then Robin,” said Herrick and stared at the white starry light, which beamed above the trees.

“Hecate’s torch,” cried Joyce, “a meeting of witches,” and he began to chant the gruesome rhymes of the sisterhood, as Macbeth heard them. “The scene is a blasted heath too,” said he.

By this time the moon was rising, and silver shafts struck inward to the heart of the pines. The aerial light vanished behind the leafy screen, as the travellers came to a halt on the verge of the undergrowth.

“We must get through,” said Dr. Jim, “or if you like Robin, we can skirt round. Saxham village is just beyond I fancy.”

“Let us choose the bee-line,” murmured Joyce. “I want a bed and a meal as soon as possible. This part of the world is unknown to me. You lead.”

“I don’t know it myself. However here’s a path. We’ll follow it to the light. That comes from a tower of sorts. Too high up for a house.”

With Herrick as pioneer, they plunged into the wood, following a winding path. In the gloom, their heads came into contact with boughs and tree-trunks but occasionally the moon made radiant the secret recesses, and revealed unexpected openings. The path sometimes passed across a glade, on the sward of which Joyce declared he saw the fairies dancing: and anon plunged into a cimmerian gloom suggestive of the underworld. No wind swung the heavy pine-boughs; the wild creatures of the wood gave no sign, made no stir: yet the explorers heard a low persistent swish-swurr-swish, like the murmur of a dying breeze. It came from no particular direction, but droned on all sides without pause, without change of note. Herrick heard Robin’s hysterical sob, as the insistent sound bored into his brain. He would have made some remark; but at the moment they emerged into a open space of considerable size. Here, ringed by pines, loomed a vast grey house, with a slim tower. In that tower burned the steady light outshining even the moon’s lustre. But what was more remarkable still, was the illumination of the mansion. Every window radiated white fire.

“Queer,” said Robin halting on the verge of the wood, “not even a fence or a wall: a path or an outhouse. One would think that this was an inferior Aladdin’s palace dropped here by some negligent genii. All ablaze too,” he added wonderingly; “the owner must be giving a ball.”

“No signs of guests anyhow,” returned Herrick as puzzled as his companion. “H’m! Queer thing to find Versailles in a pine wood. However it may afford us a bed and a supper.”

It was certainly strange. The circle of trees stopped short of the building at fifty yards. On all sides stretched an expanse of shorn and well-kept turf, pathless as the sea. In its midst the mansion was dropped—as Joyce aptly put it—unexpectedly. A two-storey Tudor building, with battlements, and mullioned windows, terraces and flights of shallow steps: the whole weather-worn and grey in the moonlight, over-grown with ivy, and distinctly ruinous. The dilapidated state of the house, contrasted in a rather sinister manner with the perfectly-kept lawn. Also another curious contrast, was the tower. This tacked on to the western corner, stood like a lean white ghost, watching over its earthly habitation. Its gleaming stone-work and sharp outlines showed that it had been built within the last decade. A distinct anachronism, which marred the quaint antiquity of the mediæval mansion.

“He must be an astrologer,” said Joyce referring to the owner, “or it may be that the tower is an inland pharos, to guide travellers across that pathless moor. A horrible place,” he muttered.

“Why horrible?” asked Dr. Jim as they crossed the lawn.

Robin shuddered, and cast a backward glance. “I can hardly explain. But to my mind, there is something sinister in this lonely mansion, ablaze with light, yet devoid of inhabitants.”

“We have yet to find out if that is the case Robin. Hullo! the door is open,” and in the strong moonlight they looked wonderingly at each other.

The heavy door—oak, clamped with iron—was slightly ajar. Herrick bent upon consummating the adventure, pushed it slightly open. They beheld a large hall with a tesselated pavement, and stately columns. Between these last stood black oak high-backed chairs upholstered in red velvet: also statues of Greek gods and goddesses, holding aloft opaque globes, radiant with light. A vast marble staircase with wide and shallow steps, sloped upwards, and on either side of this, from the height of the landing fell scarlet velvet curtains, shutting in the hall. The whiteness of the marble, the crimson of the draperies, the brilliance of the light; these sumptuous furnishings amazed the dusty pedestrians. It was as though, on a lonely prairie, one should step suddenly into the splendours of the Vatican.

“The palace of the Sleeping Beauty,” whispered the awe-struck Robin. “Who can say romance is dead, when one can stumble upon such an adventure.”

Herrick shared Robin’s perplexity: but of a more practical nature, he addressed himself less to the romance than to the reality. Seeing no one, hearing nothing, he touched an ivory button, that glimmered a white spot beside the door. Immediately a silvery succession of sounds, shrilled through the—apparently—lonely house. “Electric bells, electric light. The hermit of this establishment is up-to-date.”

“He is also deaf, and has no servants,” said Joyce impatiently after a few minutes had passed. “Has a Borgian banquet taken place here? The guests seem to be dead. Hai! the whole thing is damnable.”

“Don’t let yourself go,” said the doctor roughly squeezing the little man’s arm, “wait and see the upshot.”

Again and again they rang the bell, and themselves heard its imperative summons: but no one appeared. Then they took their courage in both hands, and stepped into the house. Passing through the crimson curtains, they found themselves in a wide corridor enamelled green, with velvet carpet and more light-bearing statues. On either side were doors draped with emerald silk. Herrick led the way through one of these, for Joyce, rendered timorous by the adventure would not take the initiative.

In the first room, an oval table was set out for a solitary meal. The linen was bleached as the Alpine snow, the silver antique, the crystal exquisite, the porcelain worth its weight in gold. An iridescent glass vase in the centre was filled with flowers, but these drooped, withered and brown. The bread also was stale, the fruits were shrivelled from their early freshness. Magnificently furnished and draped, the room glowed in splendour, under innumerable electric lights. But the intruders had eyes only for that sumptuous table, with its air of desolation, and its place set for one. Anything more sinister can scarcely be conceived.

“No one has sat down to this meal,” said Herrick lifting the covers of the silver dishes, “it has stood here for hours, if not for days. Let us see if we can find the creature for whom it was intended.”

“Perhaps you expect to find the Beast that loved Beauty, since you call him a creature,” said Robin hysterically. “Here is wine.”

Dr. Jim went to the sideboard, whereon were ranged decanters of Venetian glass containing many different vintages. Passing over these he selected a pint bottle of champagne. “We must make free of our position,” he said, unwiring this, “afterwards we can apologise.”

“Ugh!” cried Robin as the cork popped with a staccato sound in the silence. “How gruesome; give me a glass at once Jim.”

“I don’t know if it is good for you in your present state,” replied the doctor brimming a goblet, “however the whole adventure is so queer, that an attack of nerves is excusable. Drink up.”

Robin did so, and was joined by Jim. They finished the bottle, and felt exhilarated, and more ready to face the unknown. Again Herrick led the way to further explorations. Adjacent to the dining-room, they discovered a small kitchen, white-tiled and completely furnished. “Our hermit cooks for himself,” declared Dr. Jim, eying the utensils of polished copper. “This is not a servant’s kitchen: also it is off the dining-room.”

Robin made no reply, but followed his friend, his large eyes becoming larger at every fresh discovery. They entered a drawing-room filled with splendid furniture, silver knick-knacks, costly china, and Eastern hangings of great price. There was a library stored with books in magnificent bindings, and with tables piled with latter-day magazines, novels and newspapers. “Our hermit keeps himself abreast of the world,” commented Jim.

Then came a picture gallery, but this was on a second storey and lighted from the roof. Treasures of art ancient and modern glowed here under the radiance of the light, which illuminated every room. A smoking-room fashioned like a ship’s cabin: a Japanese apartment, crammed with the lacquer work, and stiff embroideries of Yeddo and Yokahama; a shooting gallery; a bowling alley; a music room, containing a magnificent Erard. Finally a dozen bedrooms furnished with taste and luxury. To crown all they discovered a gymnasium fitted up completely even to foils and boxing gloves: and a huge bathroom. This last was throughout of white marble, with a square pool of water in the centre. “What a pond to bathe in!” cried Jim enviously, for he was hot and dusty. “Our hermit is an ancient Roman; he understands how to enjoy life. Come along Robin!”

But by this time they had explored almost the whole of the wonderful house. There remained the back premises, but on entering, they found nothing but darkness and dirt, squalor and coldness. The hermit’s attention to his mansion stopped short at the servant’s door. “And I don’t believe he has any servants,” declared Joyce. “How the deuce does he keep all this clean?”

The doctor shook his head. He hardly knew what to say. The situation was beyond him. A palace in the wilderness, with an open door inviting thieves! Crammed with treasures, brilliant with light, uninhabited, deserted. Was there ever anything so wonderful? He had to pinch himself to make sure that he was awake. “We have got into the world of the fourth dimension: the fairy-land of the Arabian Nights. What do you think Joyce?”

“I think we had better climb up to the tower,” said Robin with unusual common sense, “It is the only place we have left unexplored. There is a light there too; Aladdin may be aloft.”

Herrick shook his head. “He would have heard the bell. However come along. We must find someone.”

With some difficulty they discovered the staircase leading to the tower. It was narrow but straight, and not so steep as might have been expected. At the top Herrick—leading as usual—was confronted by a closed door of plain deal. It was not locked however, and having knocked without receiving a reply he opened it. Joyce at his heels peeped over his shoulder and beheld a small square room with windows on all four sides, and a large central globe burning in the ceiling. In contrast to the rest of the house, this room was absolutely bare. Blank walls, Chinese matting on the floor, a camp bedstead in one corner, a deal table without a covering in another, and two cane chairs. No anchorite could have had a more ascetic cell.

Herrick took in the scene at a glance, took in also, its—to him—central feature, the body of a man lying face downwards, near the bed. Joyce saw the corpse also, and remained at the door, shaking and white.

“Murder or suicide?” Jim asked himself as he turned over the dead.

That, which had once been a man, was in evening dress. In the finest of linen and jewellery, the most immaculate of clothes, it lay under the scrutinising eye of Dr. Herrick. A lean evil face, with a hook nose, scanty grey hair cut short and a long moustache carefully trimmed. The left hand gripped a revolver; the shirt front over the heart was covered with blood, and a stream, coagulated and black, streaked the matting.

“In God’s name?” cried Joyce not daring to enter, “what is it?”

“It was once the owner of this house I suppose,” said Herrick grimly. “Now, it is a piece of carrion. Suicide apparently. Dead over twenty-four hours. Shot through the heart. A steady hand to do that. H’m, left-handed too. Is it suicide, or murder? Here’s a damnable discovery to cap the adventure,” said Dr. Jim gravely.

From the doorway came a gasp, a tittering laugh. Jim had just time to spring forward when Joyce lunged into his arms. The long expected nerve-storm had come at last.

Chapter 2
De mortuis nil nisi malum

“And sunsets fire, the Saxham spire,
My guide post unto heaven.”

So sang midway in the last century a local poet, who died long since and passed, poems and all, into oblivion. But the famous spire in its copper sheathing still catches the sunlight, and glows in the centre of Saxham, a veritable pillar of fire. Those natives who have emigrated, enlisted as soldiers, taken situations in London and elsewhere, shipped before the mast, as some have done, always remember church and spire. The children recall its ruddy blaze when they read Exodus.

Saxham was not a large place. It might have contained a couple of hundred inhabitants, probably less, and these principally agricultural labourers. They worked on the farms and estates which dotted the vast alluvial plain stretching to Beorminster. As the city, like that one mentioned in the Bible, is set upon a hill, the twin towers of the cathedral and Bishop Gandolf’s spire can easily be seen from Saxham. But the villagers prefer their own spire and their own parson, rarely venturing the three miles to Beorminster. Those who do go, always return to their beloved hamlet, more convinced than ever as to the superiority of their birthplace. A sturdy stubborn set of rustics, these men and women of Saxham.

The topography of the country as set down in Herrick’s map, showed that Saxham was almost the centre of the district, taking Beorminster as the real navel. The great plain was covered with many such hamlets, each clustering round its parent church; but Saxham was the nearest to the city. Far away on the other side was smoky Irongrip the manufacturing town; almost in sight of Marleigh and Heathcroft. Then sixteen miles across Southberry Heath (which Herrick and Joyce had so wearily trodden on the previous night) Southberry Junction roared with perpetual traffic for here, the great main line tapped the local railways which converged from all points. The pine-woods, sheltering Saxham from the chill winds of the moor, also barred it from the outside world, as Southberry was considered to be. Saxham, with its neighbouring hamlets, claimed to belong solely to Beorminster. The folk would have called themselves autochthonous, had they known of such a word and its meaning.

The plan of the village was simple. In its centre was a genuine village green, with a quincunx of immemorial elms. From this ran four streets through the mass of houses, until they passed beyond them altogether and out into the country. On one side stands St. Edith’s church in a nest of trees; on the other ‘The Carr Arms’ an inn of undoubted antiquity. The remaining two sides are occupied by rows of mediæval-looking houses, inhabited by those whom Saxham calls “the best people,” by which is meant the tradesmen. There was no doctor or lawyer and the rector representing the gentry in the village itself, dwelt on its outskirts. The country people lived outside the village on their estates and visited it only on business; and as there were no Radicals in Saxham, these were looked upon as more than mortal.

Under the red tiled roof of ‘The Carr Arms,’ Robin Joyce was still sleeping the next morning when the green was filled with excited people talking of the murder—so they called it. The events of the previous night had so shaken the nerve of the little man, that it was all Herrick could do to get him out of that ghastly mansion, and down to the inn. Dr. Jim, rousing the landlord, had told his story and after seeing Robin to bed, had turned in himself. What did it matter to him, that the great house was still ablaze in the pine-wood, still filled with precious things, and its doors and windows open to thieves? He was too tired almost to think, and the moment his head was on the pillow, he fell into a heavy dreamless slumber, which lasted until ten the next morning.

From this much-needed rest, he was awakened by Napper, the landlord, a burly man, with a ruddy face suggestive of beef and beer in large quantities. In no very pleasant humour, Jim sat up, to demand with a growl and an adjective what was wanted. On being informed that Mr. Inspector Bridge of Beorminster waited to see him, the events of the night came back on his still drowsy brain with a rush. Thoroughly awakened, he promised to be down in half an hour, and forthwith tumbled into the largest cold bath Napper could provide. After a douche, and ten minutes’ gymnastics, the Doctor hurried into a clean shirt and his homespun suit. While he dressed he meditated on the fact that Napper had lost no time in telling the police what had happened. In a few minutes he looked into Robin’s bedroom, and finding his companion still in an exhausted slumber, he went downstairs alone, to face the officer.

Inspector Bridge was a tall lean man with a serious face, and—what was surprising taken in conjunction with his funereal looks—a jocular manner. The man’s humour lurked in his eyes—a grey pair of twinklers, which belied the turned-down corners of his mouth. His movements were slow, his tone was brisk and businesslike. Rather a contradictory personality Herrick thought, and concluded that Bridge resembled nothing so much as an undertaker out for a holiday. His profession would thus account for the solemnity and slowness, and the holiday explain his brisk jocularity.

This incongruous officer considered the young man with a pursed-up mouth and a humorsome eye. He saw that Herrick was a gentleman, and this opinion being confirmed—in the Inspector’s mind—by the sight of a signet ring, he treated him with more deference than he had been prepared to show. Napper’s report of the pedestrians had led Bridge to infer that they were of the genus “tramp.”

“Good morning sir,” began the Inspector genially. “I have come to see you about this murder of Colonel Carr. My card—Mr.—Mr.—”

“Dr. Herrick,” said Jim, glancing at what he profanely called the official ticket. “Have you breakfasted Mr. Inspector? If not, or if you have—it really doesn’t really matter—take the meal with me. I must eat before I can talk.”

Bridge was only too willing, and Herrick went up several degrees in his good opinion. “Napper can cater excellently,” said he rubbing his hands. “I have often tested his hospitality.”

Dr. Jim privately thought that the Inspector was not averse to testing anyone’s hospitality: but the man seemed decent enough, and Herrick was sufficiently worldly-wise to make himself agreeable to Jack-in-Office. In another half hour the two were seated in a pleasant parlour before a well-spread table. Bridge performed wonders in the way of eating. How he could remain lean with such an appetite, was a wonder to Jim. But the doctor himself was not far behind, and between the two of them, they swept the table clean. Then Herrick lighted his pipe, ensconced himself in a chintz-covered arm-chair near the window, and prepared to answer the Inspector’s questions before asking several of his own.

At the out-set Bridge detailed, all that had been done up to that moment. Three policemen were looking after “The Pines” (so was the house called), and guarding the dead; a doctor was expected from Beorminster to inspect the body; the Coroner to attend to the inquest; and the relatives of the deceased had been notified. Then Mr. Inspector put Herrick through a stiff examination, and took down all he said. When the officer was quite satisfied and his note-book was full, Jim proceeded to make enquiries on his own account. The strangeness of the whole affair, roused his curiosity, and—as Bridge pleasantly observed,—he showed marked symptoms of “detective fever.” This was the first time Jim had stumbled across the disease.

“The dead man was called Colonel Carr?” asked Dr. Herrick, crossing his legs.

The Inspector nodded. “A well-known county name,” said he, “Wilfred Lloyd Carr. You can see it in Burke’s Landed Gentry. But what you will not see,” added Bridge with a dry cough, “is the name he was known by hereabouts,—wicked Colonel Carr sir. That is what every man woman and child called him, not without reason Doctor.”

“H’m! It does sound as though he had a bad reputation.”

“Bad sir,” echoed the Inspector not without pride, “a regular out and out rip. But that he belonged to the gentry, he would have been through my hands I can tell you. And to think of him being murdered. I ain’t astonished, no I ain’t astonished. He was too wicked to die in his bed as the Christian he wasn’t.”

“Why do you say he was murdered?” asked Jim alertly. “The revolver was in his hand. Looks like suicide to me,—at the first glance of course.”

Bridge laughed grimly and shook his head. “Colonel Carr was the last man in the world to take his own life sir,—too much afraid of the burning pit for that. I examined the body this morning, and I say—murder. Certainly my examination was cursory. But if he had shot himself through the heart, the linen over it would have been scorched. There is no mark of powder not even a singe. No sir, that shot was fired at a long range. If you did not alter the position of the body Dr. Herrick, I should say that the shot had been fired from the door.”

“I did not alter the position of the body Mr. Inspector. I merely turned it over, and replaced it. H’m! murder you say. And the assassin placed the revolver in the dead hand to hint at suicide. Clever man or woman Mr. Inspector. Which?”

“Lord knows,” replied Bridge rubbing his grey hair. “The Colonel had heaps and heaps of enemies I can tell you. Whether man or woman, I do not know. But I’ll tell you one thing Dr. Herrick, whosoever fired the shot knew the Colonel excellently well.”

“I see what you mean. The assassin knew that his victim was left-handed.”

“Right sir. You’ve hit it. Now,” added Bridge meditatively, “could it have been Frisco?”

“Frisco. Who is he or her?”

“Frisco was the servant of Colonel Carr,” explained the Inspector, “and as great a mystery as his master; San Francisco, he called himself, and that I take it is the name of a town. The wicked Colonel shortened it to Frisco for short. Yes! Frisco might have killed him!”

“If you would only give me a concise biography of Carr, I should be less in the dark Mr. Inspector.”

“Oh, you’ll hear plenty of stories about him,—none of them creditable. But to put all you need know at present into a nut-shell, I can only say that the wicked Colonel returned here from foreign parts ten years ago. He built that tower, and shut himself up to live the life of a recluse. He brought Frisco with him, and the two inhabited that house all alone. No one thought of going near it.”

“Ah! That is why the crime was not discovered earlier.”

“Certainly Doctor. The milkman, the baker, and the butcher, were always instructed to leave their goods in a porch at the side of the house. In that porch,” added Bridge, “we have found two days provisions. To-day is Friday, last night when you discovered the body was Thursday, and the provisions for that day and Wednesday were untouched.”

“H’m! So Carr was alive on Tuesday!”

“I believe doctor, that he was murdered on Tuesday night. According to Napper, Frisco, was drinking here on that evening, and spoke ill of his master. Carr must have been alive then. If Frisco killed him, he would leave Saxham on Tuesday night, therefore the provisions for Wednesday and Thursday would not be taken in.”

“Did not the baker and the rest suspect anything, when they found two day’s provisions untouched?”

“Lord bless you, no sir,” said Bridge jovially. “The wicked Colonel was that queer, that nothing he did seemed strange.”

“Well!” said Jim after a pause. “From what you tell me, it seems likely that this man Frisco knows something of the murder, if he did not commit it himself. Can’t you find him?”

“There is no sign of the man sir.”

“What about his appearance?”

“A stout sailor, that’s what he looked like,” said Bridge reflecting, “red hair and blue eyes, an American way of speaking, and a cross on his forehead right above the nose.”

“A cross! What do you mean?”

“A scar sir; a criss-cross slash with a knife. Frisco said he got it in South America. But I don’t rightly know how. Frisco could be secret if he liked, even in his cups, and he could drink rum by the bucket.”

“Have you set the detectives after him?”

“Not yet. I am waiting until the inquest is held. It takes place to-day at ‘The Pines.’ You will be there Dr. Herrick, and your friend?”

“Certainly. But my friend can tell you no more than I can. If I were you though Mr. Inspector, I should certainly seek out this Frisco man at once. What is his real name?”

“I don’t know nor anyone else sir. He was a mystery I tell you. As to looking him up, I like to do things in an orderly manner. First the inquest and all the available evidence sir. Then we shall see.”

Herrick shrugged his broad shoulders. It was not his business to instruct Bridge, but it seemed to him foolish to delay hunting for this mysterious Frisco. The man might be innocent, but on the face of it there appeared to be a strong suspicion against him. Men do not disappear without some reason; and as Frisco was gone, leaving a dead body behind him, it looked as though terror had winged his heels. His reasons could resolve themselves into only one of two things. Either he had murdered his master himself, and had fled to avoid the consequences, or he knew who had committed the crime and, intimidated by the assassin, had made himself scarce.

While Herrick was turning over the situation in his own mind, a knock came to the door, immediately afterwards a girl entered. She was a slip of a thing, who looked about nineteen, slim and well-set up. Her face was oval and thin, and burnt red by wind and sun. Herrick had never before seen hair of such a glorious red; it resembled ruddy gold, and was wreathed in burnished coils round her well-shaped head. This young lady had eyes of a sapphire blue, and a firm-set mouth. Dressed in a navy serge plainly made, with a linen collar, a brown leathern belt, and gauntlet gloves, she looked trig and neat. A girl likely to be passed over in a crowd until one looked into her wonderful eyes. The soul that looked out of them proved she was a woman of no common intelligence. Her manner was refined and well-bred. She was remarkably cool, and after a shrewd glance at Herrick, addressed herself to the Inspector.

“I beg your pardon for interrupting you,” she said in a brisk but not unmusical voice, “this inquest Mr. Inspector?”

“It takes place at ‘The Pines’ this afternoon Miss Endicotte,” replied Bridge who seemed to know her well. “But surely Miss you will not attend.”

“Certainly Mr. Bridge. I do the copy for the Chronicle. Besides, poor Colonel Carr was my friend, and I want to hear the truth about his death.”

Herrick looked sharply at the only person he had heard speak sympathetically of the dead man. “There lives some soul of good in all things evil,” he quoted, and a flash of the girl’s teeth showed that she perfectly understood.

“Oh, I know that everyone speaks ill of the Colonel,” said she a trifle sadly, “he was bad enough, no doubt. Yet, your quotation applies to him more than the gossip about him would lead you to suppose.” Here she glanced at Bridge. Not so much to emphasise the fact that he talked ill of the dead, as to invite an introduction. Bridge was quick to see her real meaning.

“This is Dr. Herrick, who found the body,” said he, “and this lady, doctor is Miss Bess Endicotte, who reports for the Beorminster Weekly Chronicle.”

Jim was a trifle surprised and disappointed to find that this charming young lady occupied such a position, though why he should have been either he could not explain even to himself. However he bowed with a smile, and received the same courtesies in return. Miss Endicotte’s eyes rested approvingly on his splendid figure. “This is what I call a man,” they seemed to say, but with her tongue she uttered quite different sentiments.

“I am glad to meet you Dr. Herrick,” she said gracefully, “you must tell me all about your discovery,—that is, you do not mind my making copy out of you.”

“Not at all,” responded Herrick eagerly, “I am accustomed to be made copy of. My friend Mr. Joyce, who is at present upstairs asleep, is a literary man. I am quite hand and glove with the guild I assure you.”

“In that case we must be friends,” said Miss Endicotte frankly. “Mr. Joyce was with you last night?”

“Unfortunate yes Miss Endicotte. He is a nervous man, and not strong. I am sorry to say that the terrible sight upset him. All the good I hoped he would obtain from this walking tour has disappeared.”

“Are you on a walking tour?” asked Bridge who was putting on his cap.

“Yes! For the last fortnight we have been tramping over the country. The last place we stopped at was Southberry. Then we crossed the Heath to stumble on this disagreeable adventure. Why do you smile Miss Endicotte?”

The girl flushed a trifle. “I have heard of you!”

“Of me,” Jim stared, “but I am not known in this part of the country my dear lady. Have we met before? Somehow, your face seems familiar?”

“It would be more familiar were I two inches taller and had dark hair,” said Miss Endicotte with an amused look, “if you will stare at—”

“Ah!” interrupted Jim eagerly, “I remember now. The lady I saw talking to the little curate in Southberry church!—”

“Was my sister,” replied the girl. “When you mentioned Southberry, I remembered that she mentioned how you stared at her, and described your appearance. Then I recognised you.”

“I hope your sister did not think me rude,” said Jim rather confused, “but the fact is, she is so—”

“I know,” interrupted Miss Bess composedly. “Ida is accustomed to admiration. But this is not business,” she added turning to Bridge, “Well what’s to be done now Mr. Inspector?”

“Nothing can be done until the inquest is held,” he replied going towards the door. “But I recommend you Miss Bess, to interview this gentleman. He can tell you much that will be of interest to your readers.”

The Inspector slipped out with a laugh, and Miss Endicotte turned her sparkling eyes on Dr. Herrick. “I hope you won’t think me a nuisance,” she said, hesitating, “but if you could.—”

“Only too pleased,” said Jim placing a chair. “What is it you wish to know Miss Endicotte?”

“All about yourself and your friend, and the walking tour, and the discovery.” Thus far she rattled on blithely, but then flushed, and stammered. “Please do not think me rude,” she murmured, “in my present capacity I am simply a machine for the Beormister Chronicle. If you do not wish to tell me anything—”

“I have not the slightest objection,” replied Jim laughing. “Do you object to my smoking? I can answer your questions better if I smoke.”

“Please do,” cried Miss Endicotte eagerly. “I am used to it. My brother Frank is never without a pipe in his mouth.”

“Your brother and I should get on well together then,” said Herrick artfully, not that he wanted to meet the brother so much as the beauty-sister of Southberry Church, “however—this interview!”

Miss Bess—as the Inspector called her, pulled out a pocket-book, and became the reporter at once. She was versed in her profession and put the shrewdest of questions. All the same she appeared to be nervous at times, and Herrick guessed that it was the innately refined woman struggling with the necessary obstrusiveness of the bread-winner. However he did his best to put her at her ease, and told his story as concisely as possible.

“My name is James Calthorpe Herrick,” he said. “I am a doctor, supposed to be practising in West Kensington, London. My friend Joyce was one of my patients—is I should say. He lost his mother and fell ill—by the way you need not put that down Miss Endicotte. All you need let your readers know is, that Mr. Joyce and myself have been on a walking tour, and stumbled—as I said before, on the Pines, and the body.” After which statement Herrick detailed the arrival at the lighted house, the exploration and the discovery.

Miss Endicotte put all this down, and promised to amplify it in such a manner that it would not trench upon Herrick’s private affairs. Then he asked the girl about Colonel Carr. She was rather reticent on the subject.

“I do not feel that I am justified in speaking of the matter,” she said shaking her head, “all I can say is that Colonel Carr was better than his reputation. From what I can gather he was murdered. Well, he expected to be—that is—” she broke off and flushed.

“He expected to be murdered!” Herrick looked keenly at her.

“Hush,” said Miss Endicotte with a glance at the door. “I have no right to say that. It is a long story, and not very clear. If you remain in Saxham, if we become better acquainted, I might—how long do you stay?”

“It all depends upon my friend,” replied Herrick his curiosity at fever-heat with these hints, “he is ill I am afraid. I must go up and see him now. We shall meet again I hope.”

“I think so. I shall be at the inquest. And you?”

“Of course. I must give evidence. Joyce also if he is well enough. By the way Bridge mentioned some relatives of Carr’s. Who are they?”

“Mrs. Marsh and her son,” said the girl with some reluctance, “they live in the Bishop’s Close at Beorminster. It will be a great shock to them, although they were not on good terms with the Colonel.”

“Will they be at the inquest?”

“Mr. Marsh will be there but his mother is very ill. She caught cold a day or two ago, and is now in bed with a sharp attack of pneumonia.”

“Troubles never come singly,” said Herrick sententiously, “by the way, the suspicions of Bridge about Frisco?—”

“I am sure he is innocent,” cried Miss Endicotte flushing. “Frisco was bad, but he loved the Colonel. He would not have killed him. I—I—” she suddenly shook her head, checked herself, and walked out of the room. Herrick stared. Was it possible that this charming girl knew the truth?

Chapter 3
The Verdict Of The Jury

Robin woke calmer after his rest. The nervous excitement had passed away, but the reaction had left him as weak as a child. He looked shrivelled up and pale when Herrick saw him. At once the doctor sat down to feel the little man’s pulse, which was slow and faint.

“You must stay in bed to-day,” ordered the doctor replacing his watch. “I shall send you up some strong soup. Sleep as much as you can, that is the best thing to pull you round.”

“Should I not get up to look after this business with you?”

“There is no need. The police have taken charge of the Case. Your evidence is exactly the same as mine, so I shall represent you at the Inquest.”

“Is there to be an inquest?” asked Joyce with languid interest.

“Certainly! This afternoon at the house. From what Inspector Bridge told me it would seem that Colonel Carr was shot on Tuesday night.”

“Is the dead man’s name Colonel Carr?”

“Yes! Wicked Colonel Carr. From all accounts he was one of the worst.”

“Why did he commit suicide?”

“He did not, if Bridge is to be believed. He insists that the man was shot—perhaps by his servant, who has vanished. However we shall hear all that is to be heard this afternoon.”

A colour crept into the wan cheek of Joyce. “I should like to get up and hear all about it,” said he, “there might be material for a story.”

“You can hear details later on. At present you must stay in bed, until we return to Town.”

“What about our walking tour?”

“I have decided to cut that short,” replied the doctor, “this adventure has given me a distaste for the trip. In a day or so, when you are rested we will return to London. My practice is small but I must attend to it.”

“And what about me Jim?”

“Well!” reflected Herrick, “you are now well enough off not to make work an imperative necessity. I think you should go abroad for a time, and do nothing, until you are quite yourself. Explore Italy or Spain, and don’t do a stroke of work. Change of scene and company will make you your old self again in a short time.”

“Never, never!” moaned Joyce. “I shall never get over her death.”

“Nonsense! Don’t give way Robin. You must be a man—”

“It was so sudden,” pleaded Robin piteously.

“I know. Didn’t I attend her! But apoplexy always ends suddenly. Your mother was a stout woman and took no exercise. That fit might have been expected; I warned her often. You know I am sorry for your loss Robin; but sorrow will not bring back the dead. You have your part to play in the world, so you must put this grief behind you. If I talk a little brutally, you must excuse me. To a man of your temperament, sympathy is the worst thing possible.”

In Herrick’s hands Joyce was more or less of a child, so he submitted—rather against his will—to remain in bed, while his friend went forth to hear the news. As might have been guessed Robin employed his solitude in gloating over his sorrow. This weakness he did not dare to reveal to Jim, fearing lest he should be lectured again. Still, he could not but acknowledge to himself that Herrick’s advice was sensible.

Meantime the doctor made a tour of the village. The villagers, swarming like bees in the excitement of the moment, recognised a stranger, and guessed that this was one of the two gentlemen said to have discovered the body. Hence Herrick found himself the subject of considerable curiosity, but was not molested or accosted in any way, until he met with a clergyman. This was on the outskirts of the village, where a gorse-covered common stretched up to the pine wood surrounding the house of Colonel Carr. The parson seemed to have been wandering on the waste land, for he appeared suddenly at Herrick’s elbow like a ghost. Probably he had seen the stranger coming and had just stepped out from behind a bush.

“You are Dr. Herrick?” he asked nervously.

Jim signified that he was. “I am, addressing the vicar?” he hazarded.

“The rector,” corrected the other. “I am Mr. Pentland Corn. You will excuse my breaking in on your meditations,” he continued, “but I guessed that you were the finder of the body of our late lamented friend.”

“Humph! From all I have heard, there is very little lamentation over the Colonel’s death.”

“Scandal and evil tongues,” replied Mr. Corn rather tautologically, “Carr had his good points.”

“That is what Miss Endicotte says.”

“Indeed! I was not aware that you knew Miss Endicotte?”

“She came to the inn this morning to see Inspector Bridge about this—”

“Wait!” said the Revd. Pentland in a hurry, “some mistake. Miss Bess is the journalist. Her elder sister Miss Ida is the head of the family. The nominal head I should say, since Miss Bess manages everything.”

The rector smiled as he spoke, and Herrick on account of that smile took rather a fancy to him. The Revd. Pentland Corn—wonderful name—was something under forty; and looked more like a soldier than a parson. He had a smart soldierly figure, wore a moustache, and his hair cropped close. But for his clothes, Herrick would have taken him for a military man. He looked pale, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he seemed to be labouring under considerable stress of emotion. Perhaps the death of Carr had been too much for him. Yet after the first remark he shirked the subject and talked of the Endicottes.

“That is the proper name of the family,” said Corn hurriedly, “a very old family in these parts. But Miss Bess calls her collective brothers and sisters ‘The Biff’s.’“

Dr. Jim smiled. There seemed to be something fascinating about the name, something characteristic of the girl he had met at the inn. “The Biff’s,” he repeated laughing outright, “and how is that derived from the high sounding name of Endicotte?”

“It is not derived from that at all Dr. Herrick. It is simply the initials of the family. There are five of them. Bess, Ida, Frank, Flo, and Sidney.”

“I see; Biff’s! Ha! Ha, how amusing. Do they live near here?”

“A quarter of a mile away, at the back of my house. Sidney is my pupil and a strange boy he is. But I have no business to tell all these things to a stranger,” added Corn in confusion.

“Anything you say to me is perfectly safe,” replied Herrick pleasantly. “I think Miss Bess a clever young lady.”

“And as good as she is clever.”

“A great friend of the late Colonel’s I believe,” said Jim.

Pentland Corn moistened his dry lips. “He was kind to her,” was his reply delivered in a faint voice. “You will excuse my emotion Dr. Herrick but I am rather shaken by this death. Usually we are free from crime, and for this to happen in my parish! It is terrible.

“You knew Colonel Carr well?”

“Very well. I tried to win him from his evil ways. But he was cut off in the midst of his sin. Oh, it is awful. Yet I liked him. He was a good friend to me on one occasion. The reason I stopped you, was to ask if you met anyone in the house last night.”

“No one. Myself and my friend hunted all over it. The servant bolted, I have been told.”

“Frisco has certainly disappeared,” responded Corn looking at the ground, “but I do not think he is the guilty person. He was devoted to the Colonel.”

“Then why did he run away?”

“Ah! who can say! There was a mystery in Colonel Carr’s life Mr. Herrick, which I fear will never be cleared up. You will be at the Inquest?”

“Yes. It takes place at three this afternoon. And you sir?”

“No! I shall not be there. I cannot bear to—but that is neither here nor there,” broke off Corn hurriedly, “tell me, was the house alight?”

“Every room was lighted. It blazed like a palace in the wood.”

“Colonel Carr’s whim. He surrounded himself with the most beautiful things and installed the electric light. Water power you know,” added the rector rather inconsequently. “I expect the wheel was going constantly for the two days before the body was discovered.”

Herrick recollected the murmur in the wood, and now guessed that it came from the waterfall, which turned the wheel for the dynamos. There was no doubt that Colonel Carr surrounded himself with every comfort. “Did he ever have guests to stay with him?” he asked.

The rector made a gesture of surprise. “If you had known Colonel Carr you would not ask such a question. He hated his fellow-mortals.”

“Then why had he so many bedrooms?”

“I cannot tell you. But I am certain that he never had anyone to stay in the house. I have been in it once or twice myself, and Miss Bess has paid a visit. But no other person has ever entered.”

“Humph! Quite a mystery. What about Marsh?”

“Ah I expect you heard of him from Miss Bess. He is a great friend of the Biffs. Stephen Marsh will inherit the Colonel’s property I expect.”

“What relation was he to Carr?”

“His nephew. But the two never spoke. They hated each other.”

“Mrs. Marsh then is the Colonel’s sister?”

“Oh, dear me no. The present Mrs. Marsh is only step-mother to Stephen. A violent terrible woman with Italian blood in her veins. It was she I think who put Stephen against his uncle.”

“She is very ill I hear. Pneumonia.”

“Dear me,” said Corn startled, “why she was at my house on Tuesday! But it was raining when Stephen came for her. I expect she got a chill then.”

“No doubt. At all events she is seriously ill now I understand.”

“Ha!” said the rector and looked down again. “I wonder if any doctor will attend her. She has quarrelled with them all. Well, there is no more to be said Dr. Herrick. By the way, if I have talked freely, you must excuse me for doing so. I have a reason. Some day I hope to tell it to you. Are you stopping here for long?”

“A day or so. I am on a walking tour with my friend Mr. Joyce. We return shortly to London. Good-day Mr. Corn.”

“Good-day,” replied the rector raising his hat, and slipped away into the gorse bushes like a ghost.

Herrick walked on somewhat puzzled. What was the meaning of this frank speech, to a stranger. The parson looked smarter and more of a man of the world than many serious minded people would have approved of. Yet he had talked, to say the least of it, in a most indiscreet manner. Moreover he had promised (quite unnecessarily) to explain his reason for doing so to the doctor. What did it all mean? “Does he know something, as well as Miss Bess?” thought Herrick returning to the inn. “Both of them seem to have a better opinion of Colonel Carr, than the rest of the people. Humph! I seem to be surrounded by mysteries here. Well. We shall see what the inquest will do.”

Robin proved more fractious than Herrick expected. He was most anxious to be present at the inquest: but in the end over-ruled by the stronger will of his friend, he consented to remain where he was. The doctor walked by himself to the Pines, and was received by Inspector Bridge who introduced him to the Coroner, and to Dr. Tiler, who had examined the body. After some discussion, Bridge collected a jury of mixed villagers and Beorminster citizens. After these had inspected the body, the witnesses were called.

Herrick gave evidence of his discovery, of the position of the body, and of the condition of the house. He was followed by Tiler, who declared that in his opinion Carr had been shot on Tuesday night (going by the condition of the body). He flouted the idea of suicide.

“The shirt-front was neither blackened nor singed,” said Tiler, “and it would have been had the deceased fired the revolver at so close a range. He was shot through the heart, and as I believe, by someone who stood at the door. It seems to me, that he was standing by the bed, and heard a footstep on the stairs. At once he turned, only to meet the levelled revolver. The shot passed through his heart and imbedded itself in the opposite wall. Again, there are three other shots in different parts of the body. One in the neck, another in the abdomen, and a third in the right leg. But the shot that killed the deceased was the the first that went through the heart.”

“How do you know that such a shot was the first?” asked the Coroner.

“From an examination of the wounds,” replied Tiler, “the remaining three shots were fired when the man was down.

“And dead!” said the Coroner aghast.

“Certainly. The deceased must have died almost instantaneously.”

A thrill of horror passed through those present at the idea, that the assassin had fired three more shots at the dead body. There was something horrible about the wreaking of such vengeance. And vengeance it must have been, for Bridge proved that no robbery had taken place.

But the most interesting part of Bridge’s evidence was yet to come. He produced the revolver found in the hand of the dead man. All six chambers proved to be loaded. Therefore it would not have been this weapon which had been used. The idea of suicide was out of the question.

“Also gentlemen,” continued the Inspector, “the first shot was fired with a different weapon to that employed to fire the other three. The bullet which passed through the heart and embedded itself in the wall, has been extracted. Here it is. The other three shots were found in the body and in the floor. Here they are.”

The pieces of evidence thus produced were placed before the jury. The first bullet was round—of the old-fashioned kind fired from a muzzle-loading pistol. The remaining three were conical in shape, and of the most modern manufacture. Plainly then two pistols had been used. One of an antique pattern to fire the first shot—the shot which killed the Colonel: and the other a revolver of the most modern type. And this latter had been merely employed to make a target of the dead body. “Finally,” said Bridge after explaining all this, “the third pistol—or rather revolver found in the hand of the deceased, was not fired at all. The chambers are loaded—there is no smoke-stain on the barrels. It was simply put into the left hand of the dead to hint at suicide. The person who did so, knew that Colonel Carr was left-handed, but in his agitation forgot that the six chambers were loaded. In fact he defeated his own scheme.”

This evidence was surprising enough. Why should the assassin use two pistols, when one would have sufficed? “And?” asked the Coroner, “why do you say ‘he’ Mr. Inspector? Do you then think that the guilty person is a man?”

“I don’t think a woman would have committed so brutal a murder,” said Bridge bluntly. “She would have been satisfied with killing the man, and not have proceeded to mutilate the body. Also the idea of putting a revolver into the hand of the dead would not occur to a woman.”

“There I differ from you Mr. Inspector,” contradicted the Coroner, “a woman might do such a thing, and it is more likely a woman would forget in her agitation that the revolver was loaded, than would a man in the like circumstances.”

Inspector and Coroner argued out this point. At length Bridge losing his temper stated that he believed Frisco shot his master and called Napper as a witness.

The landlord stated that on Tuesday night at six o’clock Frisco had been drinking rum at the Carr Arms. He seemed to be angry with his master whom he alleged had treated him badly. As he left the inn, about seven o’clock, he said, “let him take care, or he won’t live long.” At the time Napper thought it was merely a drunken threat; but in the face of the death and Frisco’s flight he thought that the man was guilty. Of course the Coroner, who had lost his temper with Bridge, told Napper that he did not want his opinion, but simply his evidence. There was further trouble about this remark, in which the Inspector got the worst of it.

A final witness was Stephen Marsh. He was a tall slight young man with bowed shoulders, and a pensive face. He stated that he had called on the evening of the murder for his mother at the rectory. She had been up at “The Pines” in the afternoon, and as she drove home told him, that Colonel Carr had expressed his intention of living for many a long day.

Coroner. “Why is Mrs. Marsh not here to give evidence?”

Marsh. “My mother is seriously ill in bed and could not come.”

Coroner. “Her evidence must be taken. Did she say how the conversation came about to induce the deceased to make such a speech.”

Marsh. “Yes! My mother wanted the Colonel to lend her some money. He refused. She said that he might as well, as when he died the estate would come to me. It was then that my uncle expressed his determination to live for many a long day. I merely give this evidence to show that my uncle had no thought of committing suicide.”

Coroner. “Have you seen your uncle lately?”

Marsh. “No! Not for six months. We were not on good terms.”

Coroner. “How was it then that Mrs. Marsh called to see him on the afternoon of the murder?”

Marsh. “She was determined to go. I asked her not to, but she insisted.”

At this reply there came a smile upon the faces of those of the jury who lived at Beorminster. Afterwards Herrick learned that Mrs. Marsh was well known as possessed of a violent temper, and there was no doubt (as some one remarked) that she had given the Colonel a good talking to.

However the evidence of Marsh did not point to who had killed Carr. At the time there was no more available evidence. Bridge insisted that Frisco was guilty. He had left the house in the clothes he stood up in, evidently driven forth in a panic. He had made inquiries, and had heard from the police at Southberry, that Frisco—or a person answering to the description of Frisco—had gone to London by the morning train. At this moment Herrick asked to be allowed to give further evidence. He had just recollected that he had seen such a man as was described.

“I was stopping at Southberry,” said Herrick, “waiting for my friend Mr. Joyce who had gone to London. He went up on Tuesday morning. I was stopping at an inn near the railway station. I got up early—about seven—to send a wire to my house in London. I had to go to the telegraph office at the station. On the platform I saw a stout man with a soft hat pulled over his face. He was dressed in a blue serge suit with a red tie, and looked like a sailor. I waited until the London train went, and saw him get into a third class carriage.”

Coroner. “How is it Dr. Herrick that you recollect this only now?”

“Because I never thought of the matter before. Since Inspector Bridge has given a description of the dress and especially the red tie. I am sure the man was Frisco. I did not see his face.”

The Coroner was displeased with this evidence, and said so. In fact he was a disagreeable man, with a strong animus against Bridge. As there was no more evidence, he summed up, trying to prove that Frisco could have had nothing to do with the murder. However the jury were of a different opinion and more sensible, so they brought in a verdict of wilful murder against Frisco. This made the Coroner ill-tempered again and he left “The Pines” in a great rage. However the verdict was given, the inquest was at an end, and the jury left the house.

Stephen Marsh as the nearest relative of the dead man, asked Bridge to allow the three policemen to remain in the house, as he had to return to his mother. Bridge consented, and then Marsh went up to Herrick who was standing in the hall.

“Doctor,” said he, “will you come with me to Beorminster? I want you to attend my mother.”

Herrick stared. “She has a doctor already has she not Mr. Marsh?”

Marsh shook his head. “No,” he replied in a low voice “no Beorminster doctor will attend her. Please come sir. She is so ill.”

Although he was partly prepared for this explanation, Herrick could not help staring. What had Mrs. Marsh done that the medical fraternity at Beorminster should boycott her in this way? “You are quite sure that no one will attend her?” he asked incredulously.

“Perfectly. She has quarrelled with all the doctors. I am very lucky to find you Dr. Herrick, or I should be obliged to send to London or to Southberry. And we are so poor, that the expense would be too much for us. You will come I hope.”

Jim liked the young man’s face. It was soft and mild, but remarkably handsome in a dark way. He could quite understand from such a face that a woman of imperious temper such as Mrs. Marsh appeared to be, could dominate and bully her step-son. If fact Stephen gave Herrick the impression of being crushed. It seemed to be Herrick’s fate to meet with people who needed to be bolstered up,—witness Robin Joyce. Also he had a shrewd suspicion that the Revd. Pentland Corn was of the weak type. The proverb says that some men come into the world booted and spurred others saddled and bridled. Herrick was of the former type, and these three weaklings of the latter. However, in spite of his strong will, and dominating character, Jim had a kind heart. He therefore consented to do Marsh the favour he asked.

“But I must go first to the inn,” he said, “my friend is there, and I must see after him.”

“I’ll wait for you,” said Stephen, “but pray do not be long. I think my mother is dying.”

“Nonsense,” said Dr. Jim cheerily, “I’ll pull her round. Never give way.”

Marsh put out his hand and shook Jim’s. “I have wanted a friend for many a long day,” he said. “I believe I have found one in you.”

“That’s all right Marsh,” and so Jim took a second burden on his shoulder.

Chapter 4
At Beorminster

On their way to the inn, Herrick and his companion, met Bess Endicotte. She looked angry and her eyes sparkled as she advanced towards the two men.

“Isn’t it a shame?” she said rapidly, “that verdict I mean. I don’t believe that Frisco killed the Colonel.”

“If he did not there was no reason why he should have run away,” replied Marsh.

“Well!” cried Miss Endicotte indignantly, “I did not expect to hear you say that Stephen. You know as well as I do that the Colonel always said that Frisco was in the same danger as he was himself.”

“What danger was that?” asked Herrick sharply.

Bess hesitated, and seemed to regret that she had let her tongue wag so freely, but Marsh answered for her. “We do not know what it was,” he said simply, “but my uncle always hinted that he had enemies. Frisco knew his secrets; we did not.”

“And if that is the case why should Frisco kill him?” retorted Bess. “However what is done can’t be undone. I suppose Frisco will be arrested!”

“They’ll have to catch him first,” said Dr. Jim a trifle grimly, “and as the man has got away so rapidly, and is now lost in the wilderness of London, I expect they will have some difficulty in doing that.”

“You are sure it was Frisco you saw at Southberry?”

“Well I did not see his face. But the clothes of the man at the station were the same in all respects as those described by Napper.”

“I’ve put everything down,” said Miss Endicotte, “and now I am going home to Biffstead to put the article into shape. But I do not believe that Frisco is guilty. Who is, I do not pretend to know; but I intend to find out.”

“What the police fail to do, you cannot Bess,” said Stephen wagging his head, “but we must not wait. Dr. Herrick is coming with me to Beorminster.”

“I’m so glad,” cried the girl. “It is a shame none of the doctors seeing your mother! How lucky that Dr. Herrick is here. I shall see you again doctor shan’t I! I have much to say to you.”

“I shall call on you with pleasure,” said Jim gravely shaking hands. “At Biffstead I suppose?”

Both Stephen and Bess laughed. “Oh, that is only my joke,” said she, “I call our family the Biffs and the house Biffstead. The Grange is where we live. Anyone will point out the place. Come when you can.”

As the two men resumed their walk, Herrick could not forbear expressing himself about Bess. “What a clever girl she is,” said he, “those eyes of hers twinkle like stars when she grows excited. You know the family do you not Marsh?”

“I have known them all my life. We played together as children. Ida is my greatest friend.”

Herrick glanced a little jealously at the young man. “I saw her by chance at Southberry,” he said carelessly, “she is very beautiful.”

“Very, but not so clever as Bess. Bess is the head and tail and middle of the family. Were it not for her, it would go to pieces. But here we are at the inn. I’ll wait for you here Herrick.”

“I won’t be long,” said the doctor, and ran up the stairs.

As might be guessed Robin the selfish was by no means pleased to be left alone. He did not want Jim to go to Beorminster, not even although the call was so imperative. “What shall I do without you?” he asked.

“You will go to sleep,” replied Herrick calmly, “now no nonsense Joyce. I have promised to see Mrs. Marsh and I must keep my word.”

“How long will you be?”

“It all depends upon the state in which I find Mrs. Marsh. If she is very ill I may stay all night. Good-bye Robin.”

“Good-bye,” returned the little man a trifle sulkily, “there is far too much of the good Samaritan about you Jim.”

“You never think of that in relation to yourself,” said Herrick with a laugh. “I hope to be back this evening. Make yourself comfortable.”

As he ran down to rejoin Marsh, he could not help contrasting the two natures of Stephen and Robin. It is true that he had not had much experience of Marsh; but from what he had seen of him, he judged that he was of a grateful, kindly disposition. Joyce on the other hand, although he looked upon Jim as his best friend, was selfish to the core. Herrick from long association, and because he had plucked him back on one occasion from the grave, was attached to him. But he oftentimes acknowledged that were not Robin an interesting “case” from a medical point of view, as he undoubtedly was, he could not stand much of him. Still he had been so long the little man’s friend, that he could not tear himself away from old associations. Nevertheless Robin’s yoke was beginning to gall, and Herrick was glad to get a day away from his society. Friendship is a tender plant, and nothing kills it sooner than selfishness. But Robin in his peevish self-satisfaction had not the sense to see that.

“Do you mind going by the bus?” asked Marsh with a flush. “I am not rich enough to afford a cart of any sort.”

“I am quite used to public conveyances,” said Herrick gaily, “and as to your being poor, the dark days are over now.”

“I suppose so,” replied Marsh thankfully, “at least my uncle always told me that I was to be his heir, although we quarrelled so much. I have to take the name of Carr, and fulfil certain duties. I do not know what they are, but I shall do them if only to get the money. I do so want to be rich. Ah here is the bus.”

“What about the will?” asked Herrick as they climbed up to the roof of the clumsy conveyance, “pardon me, perhaps I should not ask you.”

“I do not mind in the least,” said Stephen, “indeed I am glad to find that you take an interest in me. I have had a lonely life. The Biffs are my only friends. By the way who told you about the Biffs?”

Herrick described his meeting with Pentland Corn, and the conversation that had ensued. “He was remarkably confidential,” said Herrick.

“That is strange,” said Marsh thoughtfully. “He usually keeps his mouth very much closed. However,” he added in a lighter tone, “we can talk of him again. At present, we will speak of the will. I have written to my uncle’s solicitors informing them of his terrible death. I expect to hear from them to-morrow or the next day—perhaps later.”

“Who are your uncle’s lawyers—or rather I should say yours?”

“Frith and Frith!”

“Of Steel Lane. Cheapside?” asked Herrick in a tone of surprise.

“Yes! Do you know them?”

“I know of them. They are the solicitors of my friend Joyce!”

“That is strange,” said Marsh gaily, “the world is very small after all is it not. But I am forgetting my mother,” he added sadly.

“I was told that Mrs. Marsh was your step-mother.”

“So she is; but we get on very well together. She is devoted to me. I expect you have heard of her violent temper.”

“Well I have,” said Herrick hesitating, “it seems to be well known, if you will excuse my saying so.”

“Oh, it’s Town talk,” replied Stephen with a vexed flush, “but she is really a good dear woman, and her own worst enemy. Since my father’s death five years ago she has been my best friend. Once she nursed me through a most serious illness. There are worse women in the world than my step-mother Herrick, as you will find. She is a noble-looking woman, and I am glad to be rich if only for her sake. She is fond of luxury, but for my sake has borne poverty. And we have been very, very poor,” finished Stephen with a sigh.

Every word the young man uttered revealed his good heart. Jim was pleased to find such an unsophisticated youth for once in his life. The young men he knew were usually old before their time, and took a pride in being so. But Marsh talked with such candour, that Herrick saw he was as simple as the day. “You are a good fellow Marsh,” said Jim. “I am glad to have met you.”

“I echo your compliment,” said the other, “but here we are at Beorminster. I hope my mother is no worse.”

The vehicle stopped at the foot of the hill upon which the cathedral was built. Herrick followed his companion up a winding street, as steep as those at Malta, and after a breathless climb found himself in the great square. The vast fabric of the cathedral rose black against a saffron sky, and the bells were ringing for the evening service. Stephen led the way towards a far corner of the square, and turned into a dingy side street sloping down the other side of the hill. Stopping at a tall narrow house three doors down, he admitted himself by means of his latch-key and conducted his companion into a dark passage. A woman with a candle held high above her head appeared at the end. She was very old, with white hair and fierce black eyes, a foreigner, as Herrick guessed.

“How is my mother, Petronella?” asked Stephen hurriedly.

“Eh Gran’ Dio, bad, very bad Signor,” replied the old Italian, “she die if no doctor come!”

“I have brought one, Petronella.”

“Thanks be to the saints!” cried Petronella. “This way Signor Dottore. My signora is up the stair. Piano! Piano. She is bad so bad. Piano!”

Herrick suppressed a laugh. The “Piano! Piano” of Petronella reminded him of the opening chorus in the Barber of Seville. However he recovered his grave air when introduced into the bedroom of Mrs. Marsh. A few minutes examination convinced him that she was extremely ill. Her pulse was rapid, she was in a high fever, and her face looked scarlet. Still she was conscious, and when the doctor had finished with her for the time being she beckoned to her step-son.

“The death—the examination?” she asked hoarsely.

“The jury have brought in a verdict of wilful murder against Frisco.”

In spite of the pain she was suffering Mrs. Marsh sank back on her pillow with a smile. “I always thought that man would kill Carr some day” she muttered. “Who is the doctor Stephen?”

Marsh detailed all he knew about Herrick while that gentleman was giving directions to Petronella. His step-mother listened attentively, and nodded when he finished. “I am glad he had the decency to come,” she said. “These wretches here should be punished by the law. I don’t want to die now there is a chance of being comfortable for the rest of my life.”

“You must not talk Mrs. Marsh,” said Herrick coming to her bedside, “and I think your son had better go downstairs.”

“Am I very ill?” asked the woman.

“Oh, you are not so bad as you might be,” replied Jim cheerfully, “do not excite yourself, obey my directions, and you will be all right shortly.”

“I suffer such pains,” moaned Mrs. Marsh, “I can get no sleep. Chloral.”

“What’s that?” asked Herrick sharply.

“Chloral or morphia. Give me something to soothe the pain.”

“I’ll see to it,” said the doctor cheerfully, and looked at the handsome face of his patient. He saw that she was a highly-strung woman, and from the word she had used he guessed that she was in the habit of taking chloral to induce sleep. Mrs. Marsh was the kind of person who would end her days in a mad-house, if not soothed by artificial means. From the passionate expression in her eyes, the wrinkles on her face, her impatient gestures, Herrick saw that she had absolutely no control over her temper. Perhaps the rumours he had heard of her influenced such a judgment; but afterwards he found that he was absolutely right. The outbursts of rage to which Mrs. Marsh was subject were little removed from madness. The only person who could deal with her was Petronella, who (as Herrick learned) had been her nurse, and knew how to manage and humour her.

“I shall stay here all night,” he said to the Italian, after certain remedies had been applied. “Make up a bed for me somewhere and send out to the chemist for this prescription to be made up.”

It was late when Jim descended. He found Stephen waiting for him at the foot of the stairs, and was conducted by him into a small bare room, sparsely furnished with two arm chairs, a few books and a table covered with writing materials. Herrick rather tired, threw himself into one of the chairs, and informed Stephen that he would stay the night.

“Is my mother so ill?” asked the young man anxiously.

“Pretty bad, but I have seen worse cases. Don’t you trouble yourself Marsh. I’ll do the best I can to save her life.”

“Save her life,” echoed Stephen sadly. “Ah, what a terrible thing it will be if she dies now, when wealth is coming. She always wanted to be rich and now—life is very cruel.”

“That depends upon the way you look at it,” said Jim. “Give me some supper Marsh, and a whisky. I feel rather played out.”

The meal was waiting in a poverty-stricken looking dining-room. Jim saw that the pauperism of the Marshes was no fiction. They were evidently terribly poor. Certainly the Colonel had done nothing to alleviate their distress. “He would not give us a penny,” said Stephen after supper, and when they were smoking in the small room which proved to be the young man’s special sanctum. “All the time he kept telling me that I was his heir, but refused to help my mother and me. I do not want to speak evil of the dead” added Stephen, “but Colonel Carr—” he shook his head.

By this time Herrick had seen his patient sinking into a sleep, and leaving Petronella to call him should anything go wrong, was prepared for a little conversation. He utilised the time by asking Marsh about himself and his uncle. The young man answered him with the utmost frankness, and indeed seemed glad to have a friend in whom he could confide.

“My father was a gentleman farmer,” he said, “but he attended more to pleasure than to business. While out hunting, he saved the life of Miss Carr the Colonel’s sister. Afterwards she married him. I was their only child, for my mother died when I was born. My father lost all his money from reckless living, and went abroad for economy. In Italy he met my step-mother, who is the daughter of an English consul by an Italian mother. He met her in a little town on the Adriatic coast. Her father was dead and she was alone save for Petronella. It was her intention to become a singer; but she fell in love with my father. He brought her home to Beorminster, along with Petronella, who would not leave her. With what remained of his money, my father bought this house. Five years ago he died, leaving my mother two hundred a year. With this freehold and that income we have managed to scrape along. I was educated at Bedford, and afterwards went to Oxford. My father said that though he could give me no money, he could at least afford me a decent education. I believe he pinched himself to do so. Mrs. Marsh helped me; for she has always been good to me. I was twenty-one years old when my father died, and after the funeral I wanted to go to London and become a journalist. Mrs. Marsh however would not hear of this. She insisted that I was the Colonel’s heir and that I should wait till he died.—”

“Ah!” interrupted Herrick shaking his head, “bad thing waiting for dead men’s shoes.”

“Do you think it was my wish to do so?” protested Stephen passionately. “I should much have preferred to earn my own living, and fight my way in London. I have some talent as a poet and a writer, and I was prepared to battle with the world like other people. But Mrs. Marsh made me stop with her. I am twenty-six years of age now, and I have done nothing. I write poetry and send it to the American magazines, also a few prose articles. These keep me supplied with pocket-money. It was Bess who put me on to the New York papers. There, the editors are more open to new talent.”

“And the Colonel refused to help you?”

“Always. But I never asked him. I hated that man,” said Marsh between his teeth. “I never went near his house. At times my mother called to see him. She always fought viciously with him, and I think he liked her for that. Most people were afraid of him, and he admired her for standing up to him. Colonel Carr thought me a fool and a weakling because I stayed with Mrs. Marsh instead of going out into the world. But I ask you Herrick, what else could I have done? Mrs. Marsh had always been good to me; she sacrificed much so that I might be well educated, so the least I could do was to stop with her. Again and again I wanted her to come with me to London; but she always refused.”

“I understand,” said Jim, filling his pipe, “she wished to keep an eye on the Colonel.”

“I think so. Carr always said that I was to be his heir. He has no relative but me, and he was reported to be wealthy.”

“I should think so Marsh. That house is filled with treasure! Did he inherit his money?”

Stephen looked up alertly. “Ah, now you are touching on the secret of Carr’s life,” he said with some excitement. “His father died ruined, and left him nothing but ‘The Pines’ with a few acres of farm, and corn-land. Do you know how old Colonel Carr was, doctor?”

“No! I saw him only after his death. Not very old I should say.”

“Just sixty,” replied Stephen, “and into his life he crammed enough wickedness to fill a century. He was twenty when his father died, and in the army. By gambling and speculating he supported himself, and left his sister, my mother, in that old ruined house. Afterwards he left the army—cashiered for cheating at cards, and led a hand to mouth existence. But he would never sell ‘The Pines,’ however hard up he was. He stopped there on occasions, and played the devil all round. I can’t tell you how bad he was. It is the common-talk of the countryside. He was called Mad Carr, and Wicked Carr.”

“Colonel Carr?” put in Herrick.

“No! he was only a captain when he left the army at the age of thirty. I believe he called himself Colonel when he returned ten years ago.”

“From what quarter of the world?”

Marsh shook his head. “I cannot tell you,” said he slowly, “for twenty years Carr vanished from England. My mother was left behind in the old house, and afterwards married my father. She should have made a better match, but she had little money, and the reputation of her brother did her no good. However she married my father, and afterwards died when I was born. That was the end of her. The Colonel left his lawyers to look after the property, and remained away. I always heard that it was in South America he picked up his money. At all events he returned here ten years ago with plenty of cash. The first thing he did was to put the house in order, and fill it with splendid furniture. He engaged a staff of servants, and wanted to entertain. At first the people were disposed to be friendly, but he went on worse than ever, and everybody cut him. In a rage he sent away all the servants and only kept Frisco.”

“Did Frisco come back with him from South America?”

“Yes! But whether it was South America or North I cannot say. Frisco could hold his tongue when he chose. However Carr turned his back on the country people, and went on worse than ever. He was said to be mad but I think it was mere devilment myself. One queer thing he did—no! Two queer things.”

“The building of the tower was one,” said Herrick shrewdly.

Marsh nodded. “And the other mad act was the throwing down of the walls and fences round the Pines.”

Dr. Jim looked puzzled. “Humph,” said he, “I noticed that the house had no fences round it. One came upon it suddenly, as if it had been dropped from the skies. Carr threw down the walls, to show that he was not afraid. On the other hand he must have built that tower to show that he was.”

“I do not understand what you mean?”

“Why? It is not difficult if you remember what you said to me when we met that girl. You hinted that Carr was afraid of something in which Frisco was concerned. Well then; evidently his first attitude was one of defiance towards this fear. Afterwards he thought better of it and built the tower. A man would not leave that splendid house to sleep in a bare room at the top of a tower unless he was afraid.”

“I think you are right,” said Stephen musingly, “but I don’t know what he was afraid of. It was the third year after he returned that he built the tower, and he was in such a hurry to get it done, that he had the men working at it by night. You know he has a magnificent system of electricity round about ‘The Pines.’ Well, the lights were on night after night until the tower was finished, and relays of workmen replaced one another. The whole county wondered at the way Carr went on.”

“He gave no explanation?”

“No! He saw no one, but shut himself up like a hermit. Frisco attended to the house, and cooked the Colonel’s meals. But I think Carr often cooked for himself. He was fond of cooking. For eight years he never went outside that house.”

“Humph! That accounts for the gymnasium, the bowling alley, and the shooting gallery. What about his business?”

“He did it all my means of letter. Frith and Frith sent down a clerk occasionally. Carr was a clever man of business, and invested his money in good securities. So my mother said. She used to beard him in his den.”

“And the clergyman, Corn?”

“Yes! He called also to try and reform the Colonel, but he did not succeed. A good fellow Corn, but weak. Can hold his tongue though.”

“On the contrary he talked a good deal to me.”

“So you said,” muttered Stephen. “I wonder what he meant by that?”

“Did he know the secret of Carr’s life?”

“Not that I know of. Corn always kept his mouth shut as I said. Why he should have talked openly to you I can’t say?”

“It seems to me that there are mysteries on all sides,” said Herrick with a shrug. “Miss Bess used to visit Carr you say?”

“She did once or twice; but I shall leave her to tell you of her visits and her opinion of her host.”

“Marsh!” said Dr. Jim after a pause. “Have you any idea who murdered Carr?”

“No! Not the remotest. Unless it was Frisco.”

“On the face of it, one would think so. Why did Frisco run away?”

Stephen rubbed his chin. “I think we must ask Bess,” said he thoughtfully, “if anyone knows what is at the back of all this it is Bess Endicotte.”

Chapter 5
The Theory Of Mrs. Marsh

For the next week or so, Herrick had his hands full. Mrs. Marsh grew rapidly worse, and several times nearly slipped through his fingers. But the doctor’s skill, Petronella’s nursing, and above all the indomitable determination of Mrs. Marsh not to die, enabled her to turn the corner. She became much better, but still suffered from racking pains. At times Herrick gave her morphia, but did so sparingly. From Petronella he learned that she had taken chloral for years past, and feared that if she gained a taste for morphia she might take to it instead of the weaker drug. For Stephen’s sake, Jim could not let that happen.

Never had Herrick had so unruly a patient. He did not wonder that she had quarrelled with all the Beorminster doctors. The wonder was that she had a friend left. Her temper was ungovernable, and she fought Herrick on every point that did not chime in with her inclinations. In spite of the fact that he was attending her out of sheer kindness, and had intimated to Stephen that he expected no fee, Mrs. Marsh abused him virulently whenever she felt so inclined. But then she abused everyone, even Petronella, who was her slave. As to Stephen, devoted as he was to her, she could not find words bad enough for him sometimes. He was a fool, a ninny, a milksop, he lived upon her charity, etc., etc. Yet there were times when the young man was all that was good in her eyes. Even Herrick came in for his share of praise at odd moments.

“Gran’ Dio!” Petronella would say to Herrick after some tussel, “was there ever such a diavola as the Padrona?”

The old Italian woman had taken a great fancy to Dr. Jim. He was good to her mistress whom she idolized, he was kind to Petronella herself, and could speak her language. He had once made a tour of Europe for three years with a young dipsomaniac and had contrived to pick up three or four tongues, which he spoke remarkably correctly. Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dr. Jim knew them all and could both read and write them with wonderful accuracy. In the eyes of Petronella he was a marvellous man, and she often talked to him on subjects which she would not discuss with anyone else.

“Do not be angry with the padrona Signor Dottore,” she said sometimes, “it is the blood of the Michelotto family. Eh, the Michelotti were wicked!”

“Like Colonel Carr? Eh, Petronella?”

“Signor Dottore, the Colonel was an angel of light to the wicked Michelotti. The padrona is the last of them, and it is not wonder she is angry. Per Bacco,” added Petronella who could swear on occasions, “see this casa—a fitting casa for the last of the grand signori.”

“But it is all right now Petronella. As soon as your signora can be removed we shall take her to The Pines.

“That is a fine casa if you like!” Petronella spat, and shook her white elf-locks. “It will bring no luck. Eh Signor, but that man had the evil eye. Once I went with the padrona to see him. He overlooked me although I made horns, and I hurt my foot. If my padrona goes to that casa she will die.”

Herrick shrugged his shoulders, and did not argue. There was no means of persuading Petronella out of the spite she had taken to The Pines. It was now the property of Stephen Marsh. The senior partner of Frith and Frith had come down personally with the will. This left Stephen the house, on condition that he pulled down the tower. Furthermore the personal property of the late Colonel, amounting to eight thousand a year well invested, was given to the young man on a still more curious condition.

“You are to have a special vault constructed in Saxham churchyard,” said Mr. Frith, “it is to be built of stone and lined with sheet iron. The body of our late client is to be put in there, and you alone are to hold the key of the door. Once a month you are to enter the vault and see that the body is safe. If you do this for a year then the property becomes yours absolutely. If you miss going once, the money goes to—Frisco.”

“To Frisco—the Colonel’s servant!” said Stephen in surprise, “and by that name Mr. Frith?”

“Yes! It is legal enough. But the man evidently murdered his master, and has gone away to avoid consequences, I do not think you will be troubled by him. Also Mr. Marsh—or rather Mr. Carr since you have to take the name—you can avert all chance of this man getting the money by visiting the vault monthly for a year.”

Here was another mystery. Why the money should have been left to Frisco no one could guess. Stephen often talked it over with Herrick, but could come to no conclusion. However he set to work to carry out the terms of the will. A body of workmen were employed to take down the tower; and Mr. Corn was seen about the construction of a new vault. Evidently the Colonel did not consider that his remains would be safe in the ancestral burial-place. In spite of all secrecy, the countryside came to know of this strange provision of Carr’s will, and it was said that he wanted to make sure that his body would not be carried off by the devil to whom he had sold himself. In fact the general opinion was, that some night the remains would be carried off like those of the old woman of Berkley. The villagers grew confused over the matter, and did not distinguish between the body and soul.

While Mrs. Marsh was slowly getting better, and Stephen was attending to the carrying-out of the will, Dr. Jim remained at Saxham, or rather for the sake of his patient he lived at Beorminster, paying occasional visits to the village. Robin had long since returned to London, and had left in much anger at Jim’s refusal to accompany him.

“You have found a new friend,” he said angrily, “and I must go to the wall. I do call it unfair Jim.”

“My dear Robin, I cannot be your shadow. You are quite well able to look after yourself now. I took you for this walking tour, to do you good. Now you are in excellent health. I must remain here until Mrs. Marsh is quite well. Remember if I go she has no doctor to attend her.”

“I can’t do without you,” persisted Robin. “You have such an influence over me that I am lost if you are away.”

“You must take up your life on your own shoulders,” replied Herrick impatiently; “it is no use relying on other people. But if you feel that I am so indispensable to you, why not stay here? You have money, no ties, and can do your work here better than in London.”

“I want to go back to town. If I stay here I shall not see much of you. Marsh is your friend now.”

“I like Marsh. He is a good fellow, and I can make something of him. I suppose Robin you think I am after his money; but you know me better than that. The three hundred a year I have is enough for me. I was never a man for luxury.”

“I never thought or hinted such a thing,” said Joyce with a blush. “Well, if you like to stay here Jim, I’ll return to London, and we can meet when you return. I suppose you’ll be back some time,—that is if Miss Endicotte will let you go.”

“Nonsense,” replied Dr. Jim, “she has no thought of me. I like her very much but in my present state of poverty I could not ask her to be my wife.”

Joyce said nothing more, but the next week took his leave. He was much missed in Saxham where his bright talk and merry face had made him a general favourite. The Biff’s especially were sorry. Bess had foregathered with Joyce on the common ground of literature, and she lamented when he departed.

“Why can’t you stay here?” she said in her blunt way, “you can work better in the country.”

“No, Miss Bess. I am like Charles Lamb; London is my home. I cannot get enough of the divine fire in this tame locality.”

“There is nothing tame about it,” cried Bess fired with indignation.

Joyce laughed. “Not to you perhaps; but I prefer London myself. However, I hope you will let me come down and see you at times. And we can correspond. And if you have any manuscripts you think well of, send them to me. I will see what I can do with them.”

This arrangement was made, and Robin, taking a friendly leave of Jim went back to his West Kensington fiat. He wrote frequently at first, but after a time his letters became rarer. Herrick was sorry, but on the whole somewhat relieved to be rid of such a burden. For Robin was one of those people who are delightful to meet and terrible to live with. Had he been ill or in trouble the conscientious Jim would have stayed with him. But since he had been particularly well after that attack of nerves when the body was discovered, there was no necessity for Herrick to martyrise himself further.

And besides Jim had fallen seriously in love with Ida Endicotte. When Mrs. Marsh was fairly on the road to recovery, Stephen had taken Jim over to Saxham and introduced him to the Biffs. They lived in a tumbledown house of considerable size, down a deep and leafy lane. At one time the Endicottes had been great folks, but the late Mr. Endicotte who had married the daughter of an Earl, had squandered the revenues of the family. His wife Lady Arabella had died of sheer worry, and Mr. Endicotte had found himself alone with five children and an impoverished estate.

For a time he did his best to keep things together, but ultimately died—as it was said—of a broken heart. It seemed probable that the five children would go on the parish. “What a fall for the haughty Endicotte.”

It was at this juncture that Lord Gartham stepped in. He was an Irish peer, and poor himself, but he could not see his sister’s children entirely penniless. Ida the eldest was twenty-four when her father died; Bess, had reached the age of twenty-three; and Sidney the youngest, was sixteen. The five Endicottes were all handsome, and had high spirits; but poorer than the proverbial church mouse. What was to be done?

“We’ll earn our own livings,” said Bess who was the most energetic of the five. “Ida can look after the house, Frank can manage the farm; and Sidney can go to school, and I shall ask Mr. Arch to take me on to the Weekly Chronicle.”

“But my dear child!” expostulated the Earl.

“What does it matter?” cried Bess. “We are the Endicottes whatever we may do. Everybody knows who we are and what we are. There is nothing disgraceful in earning one’s own living Uncle Gar!”

The Earl—rather a helpless person—who had never done a stroke of honest work in his life, was rather surprised at the energy of Bess. However her scheme recommended itself to his favour since there was absolutely no other way of settling the matter. In one way and another, Lord Gartham paid off the debts by selling some of the land, and arranged that the united five should have a small income which they would have to increase as best they could. Thus it was that the Endicottes found themselves with their ancestral home, a small farm, two hundred a year, and the world before them.

They were all young and hearty so they thought very little of the matter. Bess obtained a post on the Weekly Chronicle at Beorminster, Ida looked after the house, and Frank managed the farm. Flo was put to a Beorminster school, whence she returned once a week to Saxham, and Sidney studied under Mr. Corn who expressed a desire to take him. The countryside all approved of this independent spirit, and made much of the Biffs.

When the Colonel died, this had been going on for three years. Ida was still unmarried, as she had refused several offers. “I cannot leave the children,” she said, and people were divided as to the wisdom of this attitude. Some said it was right; but the majority agreed that it was a pity such a beautiful girl should develop into an old maid. But the fact is no one knew Ida’s secret. She was in love with Stephen, and although they had never spoken on the subject they understood one another very well. Hitherto Stephen’s poverty had prevented his speaking openly. Now the inheritance of eight thousand a year had altered all that, and he intended to ask Ida to be his wife on the very earliest opportunity.

It was a pity Jim did not know of this. He had fallen in love with Ida, and as she was always pleasant to him, it never crossed his mind that her heart was engaged. Open on most points with his new friend, Stephen out of delicacy for Ida was reticent about his love. So Jim continued to live in a Fool’s Paradise, and not even the sharp-eyed Joyce had been able to able to enlighten him.

Certainly Mrs. Marsh had spoken to Jim on the subject. She wanted Stephen to marry Miss Endicotte, But Dr. Herrick thought that was merely her own desire, and did not think there was anything serious between the young people. Nor could Mrs. Marsh inform him of more than the fact that they liked one another, and that it was the desire of her heart to see them married.

One day when Stephen was at Saxham, Mrs. Marsh had a long talk with the doctor in which he saw more of her stormy character, than had ever been shown to him before. She could sit up in bed now, and wearied of the society of Petronella, frequently asked Herrick to stay beside her.

“You are one of the few sensible men I have met,” she said, drawing her black brows together. “Come and talk. I want you to tell me what you think of Stephen.”

“What can I think but that he is the best of fellows,” replied Jim taking a chair by the beside.

“H’m! That sounds like the ‘weakest of men,’ Stephen I mean. You are strong enough in every way. That is why I want you to look after Stephen.”

“How do you mean look after him Mrs. Marsh.” The widow mused for a time before replying. “He is a good-hearted fool,” she said at last, “and with his sweet nature is likely to be imposed upon in this world. Now he is rich and scoundrels will prey on him. I want you to see he comes to no harm.”

“But I have to return to London,” remonstrated Jim, rather taken aback by the responsibility thrust upon him. “I am not a rich man Mrs. Marsh, and I must look after my practice.”

“I can arrange all that,” she replied sharply. “You are a good man Dr. Herrick. I can see that; and I’m no fool. All your influence over Stephen will be for good. I can get him to offer you some inducement to stay beside him—at all events until he is married.”

“Until he is married?” echoed Jim puzzled. “Has he any intention of getting married?”

“Not that I know of. He is too much wrapped up in his poetry. But I wish him to marry Ida Endicotte. She is a well-born girl and a good woman. I think she will make Stephen an excellent wife. She likes him.”

Jim felt the blood flush in his face. “Liking is not love,” he said in a rather irritated tone.

Mrs. Marsh pulled the curtains aside so that the light fell on the face of the young man. Then after a scrutiny she gave a short laugh. “So that is it, is it?” she said. “You are in love with the girl!”

“I never said so Mrs. Marsh.”

“Pshaw! You can’t blind me. I am a woman. Come. You are in love.”

Herrick shrugged his broad shoulders. “I do not see why I should deny it,” he said coldly, “I am in love with Miss Endicotte; but so far as I can judge she is not in love with me.

“I don’t think she is in love with anyone,” replied Mrs. Marsh, “but I have not seen enough of her to judge. If I could only see them together, I could tell. She likes Stephen though. But here I am chained to this bed and cannot get out to attend to matters of importance. Humph!” she eyed Herrick steadily, “so you are in love with her! Well! it has been the desire of my life to see Stephen married to Ida, but for all that, I want you to stay. Stephen shall give you a thousand a year to stay.”

“My dear Mrs. Marsh!”

“Now don’t contradict me or you will put me out of temper. And you know what that means. I ask you to stop, to show my regard for you. Many another woman would get you out of the way rather than see her pet scheme interfered with. I am not that sort of narrow-minded person. You shall have your chance along with Stephen. If she loves you, marry her in God’s name and let’s have done with the matter. If however she prefers my poor Stephen—sweet-hearted fool that he is—you must promise me not to put any obstacle in the way of the marriage.”

“If Miss Endicotte prefers your step-son I certainly should not think of objecting Mrs. Marsh,” said Herrick stiffly. “Your remark is rather unnecessary.”

“I don’t think it is,” retorted the widow, “you are a gentleman, I know. But you are also a human being, and when love comes into the question there are few things a man will not do, or a woman for the matter of that!” She clenched her thin hand that laid outside the coverlet, and her face darkened. “I know! I know,” she muttered between her teeth, “who should know but I who have suffered? Give me something to drink doctor. My throat is dry with talking.”

“I think I had better leave you,” said Herrick after her thirst was assuaged, “you are wearying yourself.”

“Don’t go,” cried Mrs. Marsh abruptly, “I have much to say of importance. I may not be here long to say it.”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Marsh. You are getting better,—much better.”

“All the same I may die; one never knows,” said the widow gloomily.

Herrick laughed at these forebodings. “What!” said he trying to joke her out of so morbid a mood, “have you enemies, like Carr?”

“Anyone who came into contact with Carr was bound to have enemies,” said Mrs. Marsh bitterly. “He was a devil if ever there was one. However this is not to the point,” she went on impatiently, “I want to know if you will stay with Stephen for a thousand a year?”

“It is a tempting offer to a poor man like myself,” said Herrick with some hesitation, “but until Stephen himself asks me to stay, I cannot promise. He may not wish—”

“Oh, that is all right Dr. Herrick. Stephen knows that you are his best friend. I want you to take him in hand and make a man of him. He is too fond of poring over books; too careless of his physical health. Make him ride, and golf, and all the rest of it. I have been a fool keeping him so much beside me. But I love the boy, and that was my woman’s weakness. Now he is rich, teach him how to use his riches and be happy.”

“You have most influence over him” said Herrick still hesitating.

“I have had too much and not for the best” was her gloomy reply, “no; you are the teacher he wants. Besides who knows what may happen to me?”

Herrick looked at her uneasily. Again she had hinted at something of danger to herself. “I wish you would be plain with me,” he said.

“What do you mean?” asked Mrs. Marsh with a frown.

“I think you can guess,” retorted the doctor. “You hint at your dying; so far as I know there is not the least likelihood of your doing so unless you take an overdose of that chloral which I am always advising you to leave off. Have you some enemy who is likely to—”

“No!” replied Mrs. Marsh with unnecessary violence, “I have no enemy. But I feel—I have a presentiment—that I am not long for this world. As an Italian you know I am bound to be superstitious.”

“I should think the English part of your blood would revolt against such morbid nonsense. Again I say you are not plain with me.”

“I am. How dare you talk to me so!” cried Mrs. Marsh furiously. “You are the one man I have met in this world of fools, other than that dead devil Carr. If I made a confidant of anyone it would be of you. But so far as I personally am concerned there is nothing to say. But Stephen—” she hesitated and fell to plucking restlessly at the coverlet.

“Well! You wish me to be his bear-leader? If he is willing, I am willing. A thousand a year is not to be despised. Moreover my conscience is perfectly clear as regards Miss Endicotte.”

“I understand. If she loves you, marry her by all means! If Stephen is her choice, you must promise—”

“I promise nothing,” said Herrick impatiently walking to and fro, “there is no necessity to promise. I am a man of honour. If Stephen and Miss Endicotte love one another I am the last man in the world to step between them. You know that.”

“If I didn’t I should not ask you to stop and look after him,” said Mrs. Marsh cynically. “However, you complained of my want of confidence. I am going to amend that. Do you know why I want you to stay with Stephen.”

“To make a man of him—so you said.”

“That certainly, but it is something of an excuse. I also want you—and this is the main reason—to guard him.”

“Against whom? What are you hinting at?” asked Herrick sharply.

“At Frisco,” was the unexpected reply. “Oh, you may look astonished, but if you remember the will?—well?”

“The will,” repeated Dr. Jim, “I see what you mean. The money goes to Frisco if Stephen should neglect to visit the vault monthly for a year. What of that?”

“This much. Frisco killed Colonel Carr. Oh, I am sure of it! If not, why did he fly? Besides there is no one else I can think of who had an interest in Carr’s death. I do not know what secrets he had, but what there were Frisco knew. That was why Carr left the money to him failing Stephen.”

“Nonsense. If Frisco possessed Colonel Carr’s secrets he could have blackmailed him without the necessity of murder.”

“Ah, you don’t know,” said Mrs. Marsh mysteriously. “I have heard Frisco and Carr quarrel. It is my belief—if you remember Napper’s evidence that they quarrelled on the night of the murder. They must have fought a duel, which is just what two devils like them would do. Frisco killed his master before he could fire a shot. That is why all the chambers of the revolver were found loaded. Well, Frisco has had to fly; but he will not give up his chance of getting the money. No! He will,” here Mrs. Marsh bent forward to whisper, “he will try and maim or kill Stephen so that he may not fulfil the conditions of the will—and visit the vault. Then Frisco will claim the money. I have thought this all out while lying here.”

“It is ingenious,” replied Herrick, “but you forget that if Frisco shows himself, he will be arrested. That stops his attempting to harm Stephen.”

Mrs. Marsh shook her head. “You do not know Frisco; I do,” she said: and not another word could Herrick extract from her.

Chapter 6
“The Changeling”

While the tower at “The Pines” was being pulled down, Stephen paid frequent visits to Saxham. Sometimes Dr. Herrick went with him, and together they would go through that wonderful house. Marsh had never before been inside it, and he was amazed at the luxury. His life had been so simple, so deprived of all beauty, that his artistic temperament had been starved from lack of nutriment. Highly gifted with the imaginative faculty, possessed of a keen perception of loveliness, Stephen revelled in the beautiful things which filled every corner of the house.

“You will have to get a wife to share it all,” said Herrick one day after his conversation with Mrs. Marsh. He looked keenly at the young man as he spoke.

Stephen however betrayed no emotion. “I suppose I shall have to marry some day,” he said coolly. “If I were to die without children my cousin would get the property.”

“I did not know you had a cousin?” said Herrick, rather astonished.

“I believe so. A distant cousin, although I have never seen him. My mother can tell you all about him. It seems that Colonel Carr’s father had a younger brother who was turned out by his father. He went to America and married there. Then he died leaving a widow and a daughter. The widow died and the daughter married some one in the States. I do not know the name but my mother may. I believe there is a son, but whether he is in America or in England I cannot say.”

“Humph!” said Jim, “very interesting. I must ask your mother about this. If you secure the property by complying with the conditions of the will, it will be yours entirely. Even if you do not marry, you will be able to leave it to whomsoever you please.”

“I should leave it to my cousin, whatever his name is,” said Stephen in a careless tone. “It seems to me that he has the right to enjoy it after me, since he is of the Carr blood.”

“Always provided you do not marry and have children!”

“Of course. But there is time enough to think of marriage. I want my mother to be sole mistress of this beautiful place for a time. She has had such a dose of poverty that I should like her to taste luxury.”

“You are not in love then?” asked Herrick in a jocular tone.

“I don’t know!” this time Stephen flushed. “I’ll tell you when I am. Meantime let me enjoy the present. I’ll soon have this tower down and the house put to rights. Then my mother can come. I hope you will stay also Herrick,” he added rather anxiously. “I don’t want to lose my friend you know.”

“It all depends,” replied Jim with a flush. He was thinking of Ida. “I will remain until your mother is quite well. You may be sure of that.”

Nothing more was said at the time. Herrick could not be certain that Stephen was in love with Ida or that the girl had set her heart on Marsh. They were excellent friends, but in spite of Herrick’s lynx eye he could not learn if they understood one another. As a matter of fact they did; but neither of them wished to hurry matters. Both felt that Mrs. Marsh would have to be consulted before anything was settled, and therefore waited until she recovered her health and was established at “The Pines.”

Mrs. Marsh slowly regained her strength, and almost dispensed with Herrick’s attendance. She never recurred to the subject of Ida or of Frisco after that one interview, although Herrick several times tried to make her speak. Evidently she knew something about the man—perhaps had heard the Colonel speak of him. But whatever it was she kept her own counsel. There was no need that she should do otherwise. Perhaps if Frisco had made his appearance she might have been induced to speak out, but the ex-sailor (as Herrick learned he was) had vanished completely. He was traced to Paddington station, and after that all sign of the trail was lost. Like a rain drop he had disappeared into the mighty sea of London life, and in spite of all offers of reward not a hint could be gained of his whereabouts.

It was generally considered that he was the criminal, most people holding that he had shot the Colonel unawares. Napper’s evidence went to prove that the two men were on bad terms with one another, and probably Frisco excited by rum and a sense of his wrongs, whatever these might be, had returned to “The Pines” with the intention of righting himself. No one entertained the idea of a duel having been fought. Only Mrs. Marsh gave Frisco that grace. Herrick considered her theory a feasible one, and felt that it was confirmed by the fact of the revolver found in the dead man’s hand being loaded. If Frisco had fired first, the Colonel would have fallen with his weapon undischarged, and this would account for the six chambers being filled. But what it would not account for was the fact of one bullet being different to the remaining three. That was a puzzle, and Dr. Jim could in nowise arrive at the solution of the problem, although he thought over it a great deal.

Bess Endicotte was the only person who insisted on Frisco’s innocence. She declared that the man was too devoted to his master to kill him, and that there could be no reason for the crime. This she explained to Herrick a week after the interview with Mrs. Marsh. Both Herrick and Marsh had come over to Biffstead to spend the afternoon, intending to return to Beorminster by the last bus, somewhere about ten o’clock. It was characteristic of Stephen’s simple habits that he still went to and fro by the public vehicle, although he could now have afforded a cart, a horse, a bicycle, or even (had he so chosen) a motor-car. But before taking full advantage of his new position and of his wealth, he wanted his mother to be well enough to direct matters. She had held him in subjection for so many years, that he hesitated to do anything without her approval. So Herrick and Stephen came to Saxham by the bus, or used their legs. For the sake of his health Herrick made Marsh walk as much as possible. The man was visionary and it was necessary to shake him into something like practical life by exercise.

On arriving at the Grange, the two young men, found the whole family at home. There was Ida tall and beautiful who welcomed the visitors in her usual placid way. She was of the Junoesque type, stately and maternal, moving like a large goddess amongst minor mortals. Bess, who was all alert and vivacious, was accustomed to make fun of Ida’s stately ways. “The Sacred White Cow,” said Bess folding her hands, and when Ida remonstrated pointed out that the term meant no disrespect. “Juno was called ox-eyed, and I’m sure the cow is a most beautiful animal,” said she inconsequently. “Why should a comparison to a useful animal be taken as an insult? If I said you were like a fawn, or a stag, or a swan, you would be quite pleased. But because I call you a lovely snowy cow—you are a beautiful cow,” broke off Bess with a shrug, “the sacred white cow. There!”

“Really Bess, you are getting more dreadful every day,” cried Ida helplessly, “please don’t call me this horrid name when Stephen and Dr. Herrick come.”

“Dr. Herrick would understand; he is a scholar. However I won’t call you anything but Juno—will that do?”

“I should prefer to be called by my proper name!”

Bess made a mouth but yielded the point. She was devotedly fond of Ida, and always said that her beauty would raise the family into affluence once more. “My brains may do something,” she said, “but Ida’s looks will attract all the men of wealth and position.”

“I do not want any of them,” protested Ida with a blush. “Do let me see after my own future, Bess darling.”

Undeniably Bess was the cleverest of the family. She was so bright and quick, and possessed of such indomitable perseverance, that she easily exercised a despotic sway over the weaker vessels. Ida looked after the house, but Bess was the real head who paid the bills, and bullied the tradesmen, and saw that everything was in order. Even Frank gave way before her. But Frank was rather like Ida in the matter of bovine simplicity. He was a big handsome fellow, never out of temper. When he was not looking after the farm he strolled in the fields, and searched into the secret workings of Nature. Sometimes he wrote articles for the papers and magazines. A Gilbert White of the Parish of Saxham, that is what Frank Endicotte was. Some of his articles had even been accepted in London, and when he could be induced to write, he usually made a few guineas. But Frank was lazy, and it needed all the scolding of Bess to make him do his duty in the way of literary work. So far as the farm went he was never idle, as he loved an open air-life, and took a genuine interest in stock, top drainage and crops.

Florence, who was now home on her weekly holiday, bounced out on Dr. Jim and Stephen as they came up the avenue. She was a girl in her teens, more like Bess than any of the rest, and bubbled over with animal spirits. This was her last quarter at school, and now her hair was turned up and she had arrived at the dignity of long frocks. But at heart she was still a schoolgirl, and on this especial day had let down her long hair much to the dismay of Ida who was nothing if not conventional.

“Oh, Stephen!” she cried clasping him by the arm. “I am so glad you have come. Frank is writing, Bess is typing, and Ida is making a new dress. I have no one to amuse me.”

“Where is the Changeling?” asked Stephen laughing.

“Sidney! Oh, he has a holiday, and has gone over to see ‘The Pines.’ You know how fond he is of going there. He was the only one of us that was not afraid of the Colonel.”

“I don’t think Bess was.”

“No. It would take an army to frighten Bess. How are you Dr. Herrick? I am rude not to have spoken to you before. Come inside, and wake us all up. I am sure this place is like the palace of the Sleeping Beauty.”

“Suppose we go over to ‘The Pines’ and have afternoon tea in one of the rooms,” suggested Stephen. “There is no food there, but we can take what we want from here, and have a picnic.”

“Jolly!” cried Flo the schoolgirl, “there are kettles and tea-pots and all the rest of the things we want at ‘The Pines’ I suppose?”

“The house is remarkably well furnished,” said Herrick laughing. “It is a good idea; three o’clock. We had better go at once.”

The others entered into the scheme with avidity, and thus it was that Herrick found himself walking beside Bess to “The Pines.” Not without a pang had he relinquished Ida to his friend; but bearing in mind the confidence reposed in him by Mrs. Marsh, he desired to act as fairly as possible. Besides he was growing fond of Bess. She was such a bright companion, and so clever. At first she was disinclined to speak of the Colonel and Frisco, but gradually became more outspoken. In his quiet way Herrick had a wonderful gift of making people talk. “I wouldn’t say it to any one but you Dr. Jim,” said Bess—for so she now called him, “but there is something about you that makes me believe in you. I think you must have a kind of daemonic influence like Goethe.”

“I am sympathetic if that is what you mean,” said Jim. “I took to you immediately I saw you in the inn parlour.”

Bess blushed a little through her tanned skin, and cast a keen look at the big man. Somehow Herrick was conscious of that look, and wondered what it was for. Perhaps with a woman’s quickness Bess divined that he admired Ida and did not approve of it. However she was too clever to say anything if such was the case, but went on to talk of Colonel Carr and Frisco.

“I liked Frisco,” she said in her quick decisive way, “he was a bad man and some of the things he told me he had done were really dreadful; but somehow he was attractive. Much better than the Colonel.”

“I thought you liked the Colonel,” said Jim with a side glance.

“Well you see it was this way,” replied the girl laughing. “I was rather bold in introducing myself to him, and he was so kind that I forgave him his bad reputation.”

“How was it you met him?”

“I wanted some copy for the Chronicle and did not know what to write about. Something had to be done, so I kept my ears open for an idea. Ida happened to mention something about ‘The Pines,’ so I thought it would be nice to see all the wonderful furniture that was in the house. Would you believe it,” she added lightly, “I went straight to ‘The Pines’ and asked to see Colonel Carr? At first he refused, but I was so persistent that he let me come in. I told him frankly what I wanted and how hard up I was for an article. He was so taken back by my assurance that he said I could describe ‘The Pines,’ provided I did so under a fictitious name. Then he took me all over the house himself; gave me tea in the big drawing-room and sent me off. I got a good article out of what he showed me, but of course I said that it was a description of a millionaire’s palace in Park Lane. Nobody believed that. I think the Colonel guessed they wouldn’t. He just let me write the article to make the people’s mouths water with telling about things he would not let them see.”

“A nice Christian spirit!” remarked Jim grimly. “Ah! but you must remember that he was treated very badly by the country people when he came back from America.”

“Oh! Then America was the place of his exile?”

“So Frisco said; Mexico and Peru. The two had many adventures and used to tell me about them. I made up several stories out of the material I got from them.”

“You called to see the Colonel again then?”

“Why not! He was always polite, and I wasn’t a bit afraid of him. Oh, I know he had a dreadful reputation, but he was never rude to me. Poor man,” said Bess letting her eyes rest pensively on the house which they were now approaching, “I think he was very weary of living alone.”

“Were the Colonel and Frisco good friends?”

“The very best. Frisco adored the Colonel, who had saved his life. Both of them seem rather afraid of—” here Bess was silent.

“Of what?”

“I hardly know. But they hinted at some enemy who would kill the pair of them if he discovered their whereabouts. That was what Frisco meant at the public-house, when he hinted about his master not living long. If Frisco had given information, the enemy would have killed the Colonel.”

“I wonder if Frisco did, and then went away to escape the consequences?”

“No!” said Bess thoughtfully. “Frisco would have been killed also. I think myself that the enemy found out the Colonel and murdered him; then Frisco ran away to save his own life.”

“Humph! That is one way of looking at the matter. Did you hear if any stranger was seen in the neighbourhood on the night of the murder?”

Bess looked quickly at her companion. “No,” she said with some hesitation. “I never heard of anyone. Besides it would have come out in the evidence.”

“You have no idea who killed the man?”

“Certainly not. If I knew I should tell. There was something—I’ll tell you that later.”

“Tell it to me now!”

“I can’t do that until I get my facts together,” said Bess firmly, “Look here Dr. Jim, I intend to find out the truth about this mystery. From something the Colonel let drop, I believe it is concerned with the money he came back with.”

“From South America?”

“Or from North America,” replied Miss Endicotte musingly, “I am not quite clear. But I’ll ask you to help me when I get my facts together.”

“You rouse my curiosity. Tell me now what you—”

“I said no and I mean no,” retorted Bess setting her mouth firmly. “You will be here for some time yet. If you go away I shall write to you. I am sure we shall find out who killed the Colonel, and I am equally sure that Frisco is not the man.”

“Well. Have it your own way. Tell me one thing. How is it the Colonel was so anxious about the preservation of his body?”

“Ah! Now you are asking more than I can tell you.”

“You know though,” said Jim looking at her sharply.

“I think—I am not sure. Wait, Dr. Jim. In good time you shall know all that I know. This is a romance in real life.”

“A tragedy rather,” said Herrick grimly, “mind you keep your promise.”

“You can be sure I shall keep it,” said Bess nodding and for the time being the matter ended. But Jim was considerably puzzled. How she could have got hold of information of which the police knew nothing was difficult to say. All the same he had more confidence in the brains of Bess than in those of Inspector Bridge.

As it was Saturday afternoon, the workmen had knocked off for the day. By this time the tower was half demolished, and curious it looked in its dilapidated state, with the pile of débris round about its base. The visitors looked at it for some time, then went into the house. In the kitchen off the dining-room they found an old woman who agreed to boil the kettle for them. After some deliberation they fixed on the library as the best place for the meal. On entering they found a boy reading in the corner under the window.

“You here Sidney?” said Ida amazed. “How can you come here without asking Stephen’s permission?”

“Stephen doesn’t mind I’m sure,” replied Sidney with a smile, and Stephen assured him that he was welcome. While the others were talking and admiring the place Dr. Jim stood looking at the boy who was leaning back on the sofa taken up with his own thoughts. There was something peculiar about Sidney Endicotte, which procured him the name of the Changeling. This was given to him in fun by Bess; but many people in the village really believed that he was half a fairy if not a whole one. This reputation rose from the fact that the lad possessed that gift which in Scotland is called the second sight. No one in Saxham who saw Master Sidney’s large blue eyes fixed upon him or her but turned pale. In Italy he would have been credited with the Evil eye, and indeed old Petronella always crossed herself when she chanced to meet him. Once or twice Sidney had foretold the death of those who had afterwards died. Thus he had an uncanny reputation.

He was a small thin boy looking much older than his years. Although he was but sixteen, yet on occasions he looked quite twenty. Pale, thin-faced, with large blue eyes, and a curious insistent gaze, he sometimes made even his own family feel uncomfortable. Then he had such peculiar habits. At night he was generally wakeful, and he slept much in the day-time particularly in cold weather. Sometimes he would slip out of his bedroom by the window and remain away for hours. When questioned where he had been he used vaguely to answer “In the wood.” The doctors who had seen him could make nothing of him. He was healthy in his own way, his head was clear, and Corn reported that he learned rapidly. But about him hung a glamour not of this world. He might have been a male Kilmeny who had returned from fairy-land. Bess sometimes called him Thomas the Rhymer. When she did so Sidney would nod and laugh in so strange a way, that Bess herself grew frightened, and dropped the name.

“How do you feel to-day Sidney?” asked Jim sitting down beside the boy.

“Not very well,” he replied vaguely. “I feel that I am not myself. I came here to read myself to sleep.”

“Why did you want to do that?”

“Because I could go away then. I always do when I feel like this.”

“Like what?” Jim was puzzled. The boy was by no means mad, yet he talked in a manner quite beyond the comprehension of a sane person. Jim had never met anyone like him before and was much taken up with the oddity of the case from a medical point of view.

“I can’t explain; you would not understand,” said Sidney. “Please leave me alone, Dr. Herrick.”

At this moment Bess called to Jim from the other side of the room and he hurried across to her. Sidney remained vaguely staring into nothingness. After a time his eyes closed and he looked as though he were fast asleep. The others gathered round the tea table, and prepared to eat. Bess would not allow her brother to be awakened.

“It makes him ill if he is roused suddenly,” she said. “He will wake up himself and be all right.”

“It doesn’t look to me like a natural sleep,” said Jim anxiously. “How pale he is! Don’t you think—”

“No,” said Ida sharply, “I agree with Bess. Sidney had better be left alone. He gets into these states at times. Let us have tea. I am so hungry, and it’s past five.”

“A quarter past,” said Stephen glancing at his watch.

They began to eat and drink, laughing and enjoying themselves. No one took any notice of Sidney, and even Jim’s attention was distracted. The boy remained on the sofa, leaning back, white as snow, and drawing long deep breaths. He looked like a dead person.

After a time the conversation languished. The tea was done, the food was finished, and they talked about packing up to go. “Poor Sidney’s tea is quite cold,” said Ida. “I really think we might wake him now. Oh, he is coming to himself. Wake up Sidney, and have some tea. It is nearly six and we must be getting home.”

The boy’s face had now a delicate pink tinge on it, and he seemed more himself than he had been when he fell asleep. For a moment he was silent. Then he looked slowly round at those who were present, until his blue eyes fixed themselves calmly on Stephen.

“Mr. Marsh!” he said quietly, “you had better go home. Your mother is dead.”

Ida gave a cry and Stephen turned pale. Bess alone retained sufficient presence of mind to cross over to the boy and shake him, “Sidney, what do you mean by saying such a horrible thing.”

“It is true,” replied the boy quietly, “Mrs. Marsh is dead. I have just seen her. She died at half-past five. Go home Stephen.”

Without a word Marsh rushed from the room. He knew of Sidney’s prophecies, and dreaded lest this one should be true. He made for Beorminster as fast as he could go, and was met by Petronella.

“My padrona is dead!” said the old woman.

Chapter 7
A Nine Days’ Wonder

Petronella made the terrible announcement with ominous calmness. Then, when she saw Stephen staring at her open-mouthed, her wild southern nature could no longer be controlled. With a choking sob, she flung her apron over her head, and began to lament loudly for her dear padrona. Her voice ascended shrilling in a long wail, like that of the Corsican vocieri. Luckily there were few people in the street, and the sound was scarcely noticed; it was simply thought that the excitable Italian woman was in one of her tantrums. And Beorminster was used to Petronella’s fits of rage. Stephen caught her suddenly and dragging her inside by main force closed the door.

Before Petronella could recover her breath for another howl, she found herself on one of the dining-room chairs with Marsh standing over her. The young man was so shaken that he could hardly speak. The prophecy of Sidney, the hurried journey to Beorminster on a grocer’s cart which he had met near Saxham, and now the terrible confirmation of the death; these things shook him to the soul. He hardly recognised his own voice. “Tell me everything that happened,” he said slowly, “do not make any mistake. I must know all.”

Petronella crossed herself. “Holy Virgin,” she muttered, “his eyes are like coals.” Then after a muffled wail, she burst out into rapid Italian which Stephen understood easily from his habit of talking to her and to Mrs. Marsh.

“After you left at mid-day Signor Stephano, the padrona tried to get a little sleep. When the postman came at two o’clock, he brought one letter for her. I took it up, and woke her. Then I went out of the room. In a quarter of an hour the Signora called me. She looked white, so white. The letter was before her. She told me to give her the chloral as she wanted to sleep. I asked her if she had bad news in the letter. She said no, but that she felt suddenly sick. I gave her the medicine in the little bottle, and went away. She took some I think, for when I went up again an hour later she was asleep. I went again and again—she was still asleep. Then I took up her tea, and wanted to waken her. Gran’ Dio—she was dead—dead!”

“What time was that Petronella?”

“At half past five Signor, the hour when I always take up the Signora’s tea. Oh, she is dead and I nursed her. Cursed be it that I live still.”

While the old woman wailed on, Stephen shuddered. The hour was that which Sidney had named. “Are you sure she died at that time?” he asked.

“Quite sure Signor Stephano. When I went in before she was only asleep; I saw her breathing. I was up at a quarter past five and she still breathed, and had a colour in her poor cheek. When I set down the tray I turned to see that she was quite still, her face pale as snow. I put my hand to her heart. She was dead. Ah Dio mio, she must have passed away when I entered the room. I heard a sigh at the door,” said Petronella beginning to embellish. “It was her spirit that passed. What could I do but open the window to let the soul go free? Ah Holy Virgin!” and the old woman crossed herself again.

By this time Stephen had somewhat recovered his composure. Without a word he went up to the room. Petronella had drawn a sheet over the dead. He drew it down gently, and saw the waxen face beneath. Every wrinkle had been smoothed away, and there rested a peaceful expression on that once stormy countenance. As Marsh stood tearlessly looking at the dead, he heard a light step enter the room. Herrick appeared, almost as pale as the dead woman. After a glance at the corpse, he recognised that all was over, and looked at Marsh with a shudder.

“Yes!” whispered the young man replying to the unspoken thought, “at half past five o’clock!”

Herrick shuddered again and drew the sheet over the dead face. Then he took Stephen by the arm and led him downstairs into the study. There he left him in a chair and went into the dining-room, whence he returned with a decanter and two glasses. Pouring out two stiff glasses of brandy he forced Stephen to drink one, and took the other himself. Both were in need of the stimulant, for the event had shaken them considerably.

By and bye Marsh laid down his head on the table and wept quietly. He had been devoted to the dead woman and was all unstrung. Moreover the uncanny way in which the first announcement of the death had been made, shocked him deeply. Herrick went out to see Petronella. He found her in the death chamber. A genuine Romanist, she had placed candles round the bed, and a crucifix on the breast of the dead, On her knees she was praying aloud. Seeing that all had been done that could be done, Herrick returned to the study. Stephen was calmer, and inclined to talk.

“It was half past five as Sidney said,” he said in a low voice. “Oh, Herrick what does it mean?”

“I do not know,” said the usually sceptically doctor, “After you had gone, I asked the boy how he knew. He said that while asleep he had dreamed—so he put it—that he was standing in your mother’s bedroom. She was dying in a stupor, and he saw the breath gradually leave her body. He also said that he saw her spirit after she was dead. But of course that must be nonsense.”

“After what he said I can believe anything” said Marsh, “what else?”

“Well,” said Jim uncomfortably, “he described the bedroom exactly. Was he ever in it Stephen?”

“No; certainly not. And he described it?”

“Exactly; and as being in the state in which it now is. He said that Petronella came in at the door with a tray and placed it beside the bed. She then put her hand on your mother’s heart and found that she was dead. Afterwards she opened the window. Why—what—Stephen?”

“My God!” cried the young man now ghastly white. “That is exactly what Petronella told me she did. Oh, oh!” and he fainted. Herrick scarcely wondered at it; he felt deadly sick himself and it needed another glass of brandy before he could recover himself sufficiently to attend to the unconscious man.

Next day the news was known all over Beorminster; and Sidney’s prophecy also. The Endicotte family would fain have kept it to themselves; but Sidney himself had spread the news. For on the way home and before the rumour could have reached Saxham,—which it did not until late that night—he told several people of Mrs. Marsh’s death and the hour at which it had occurred. So the report spread, and that night Saxham, accustomed to Sidney’s second sight, was in a ferment. Many believed, others doubted, and the upshot was that a few enquirers went over to Beorminster whence they rushed back with a confirmation of the news. Mrs. Marsh was dead, and moreover she had passed away at half past five. Up till a late hour that night nothing was talked about but this wonderful boy, and next morning a crowd collected about “The Grange” hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Ida was very angry at Sidney’s indiscretion and told him so. He took it all placidly. “Why should I not say that Mrs. Marsh was dead?” he asked. “She is dead; and she died at the time I said.”

“But how did you know, Sidney dear?” asked the perplexed sister. “When I was on the sofa in the library I dreamed that I was in her room, I saw her die, and the white spirit get out of her body. The spirit pointed to a bottle on the table beside the bed, and then I forgot all till I woke on the sofa and saw Stephen looking at me. Then I told him to go home. There is nothing strange about it Ida. You know I can see things.”

Ida shuddered and ran away to tell Bess that Sidney was a most uncomfortable person to talk to. The boy stayed indoors at the request of Bess all the morning, and then slipped off in the afternoon to go to his favourite haunt in the pine wood. When he came into the village the next day, he refused to talk of his dream or vision or whatever it might be called, and seemed quite cross when it was referred to. From that day Sidney was shunned as though he had the plague. Everyone was afraid of being told too much about themselves or their relations. This troubled the boy very little. He went on living in his usual dreamy way, and had no more visions for a time. Even at Biffstead he was regarded as something dangerous. But there by tacit consent the subject was dropped.

What Dr. Jim thought of all this, it was difficult to say. Sidney’s prophecy was thrown into the background so far as he was concerned by the discovery that Mrs. Marsh had died from an overdose of chloral. He had always warned her that she might make a mistake, and apparently she had done so at last. But when Petronella told him of the letter he changed his mind. What if she had committed suicide? He recollected her vague allusions to enemies, and her persistent declaration that she might not live long. At once he set about hunting for the letter, Petronella helping him. But it was not to be discovered although they searched high and low. At last, Herrick spied ashes in the fireless grate, and found that some paper had been burnt, without doubt the letter Mrs. Marsh had received.

“Was there a fire in the grate on the day Mrs. Marsh died?” he asked.

“No, Signor Dottore. The grate was empty.”

“Of course. I need not have asked. This flimsy stuff would have been swept away with the ashes. Humph! She must have got up and burnt the letter, and then—Well, we must wait for the inquest.”

It was Herrick who attended to all the details of the funeral, as Marsh was completely bewildered by the sudden catastrophe. The inquest resulted in a verdict that Mrs. Marsh had died from an overdose of chloral, but no one hinted at suicide. As Dr. Jim gave evidence of her use of the drug to alleviate pain and obtain sleep, it was concluded that she had miscalculated the dose. Even Stephen believed that this was the case, for Herrick said nothing of his suspicions. What Petronella thought Dr. Jim could not find out. She was as secret as the grave.

Mrs. Marsh was buried in the family vault of the Carr’s at Saxham. A large number of people came to the funeral, not because the dead woman had been popular, but that they wished to attend the rites of a person whose death had been foretold in so curious a manner. In the vault, the coffin was laid beside that of the late Colonel, and Herrick shuddered as he thought of these enemies lying side by side. Certainly, when the new vault was ready the body of the Colonel would be removed to it, in accordance with the terms of the will. But it would be some time before this was completed, and meantime Carr’s body remained in the old sepulchre. Pending its removal, Stephen had had a new iron door put on the old vault, and kept the key to himself. It was quite safe in his pocket, and he never parted from it.

After the funeral Herrick made several attempts to discover something about the letter delivered to Mrs. Marsh on the day of her death, although he was careful not to hint that it had any connection with her sudden end. But although he questioned the postman and the postal authorities, he could gain very little satisfaction. It was a plain envelope stamped—so far as could be remembered—with the London post-mark. “Humph!” said Dr. Jim to himself when he acquired this information. “Frisco is in London. I wonder if he wrote that letter?”

However it was little use conjecturing. Mrs. Marsh was dead and had taken her secret and the secret of Colonel Carr along with her into the next world. Herrick put the idea out of his head, as he had much to do in considering his future position. Three or four days after the funeral he was alone with Stephen in the Beorminster house, and there spoke to the young man about his movements.

“I must return to London Marsh,” he said. “I can do no more good here; and I must attend to my practice.”

“No,” replied Stephen quickly, “you must not leave me like this Herrick. I have grown used to you as a companion. I like you more than any man I ever met, and without you I should be lost. You must stay with me. Is your practice a large one?”

“On the contrary it is very small. I have been established in West Kensington only for two years. If I had not a small income of my own I should starve.”

“Well you must come to me. I hope you will Herrick. I am rich, and I can allow you a good income—say a thousand a year.”

“That is generous of you Marsh. Did your mother speak of this to you?”

“No! she did not. Why do you ask?”

“Because she wanted me to stay with you, and proposed the same amount.”

“I am glad,” cried Stephen his face lighting up. “I can do this much at least for her memory. So she wished you to remain with me? You will of course. I cannot do without you.”

Herrick smoked in silence for a few minutes. “A man in my position has no right to turn his back on such good fortune. All the same Marsh, if I did not like you personally; if I did not think I could earn my income by helping you, I would not take the position.”

“Then you will do so?” cried Stephen stretching out his hand.

The doctor grasped it heartily in token of acceptance. “But I am not without scruples as to taking such a large amount of money,” said he. “I make only a couple of hundred a year by my practice. You rate me at a high value.”

“Not too high for the good you will do me,” said Marsh heartily. “I have been a different man since you came into my life. You have shown me how to look at things in a broader spirit. I am less morbid than I was. No, Herrick. I have eight thousand a year, and you shall have the sum I name.”

“Very good. I am delighted. But for what period? You see Marsh, some day you will marry, and then you will find in your wife the companion necessary to your existence; you will not want me. I think we had better make an agreement for three years. By that time I shall have done you all the good I can; you will be used to your position. And,” continued Jim looking into the young man’s eyes, “you will be looking for a wife.”

Stephen nodded. “Three years then,” he said, “if you want a document, the lawyers can draw it up. As to marrying, I dare say I shall marry. Already I have”—here he broke off abruptly, “there are some things a man cannot talk about even to his best friend. Let the subject of love and marriage be tabooed between us Herrick.”

“Certainly!” replied the doctor rather stiffly, “I have no wish to force your confidence Marsh.”

“It’s not that; but—I have an idea in my head. It may come to nothing. On the other hand—well,” he dismissed it with a wave of his hand, “time enough to talk about it when it ripens. Let us change the subject.”

In the face of this unwillingness on the part of Marsh, Herrick was obliged to do as he was asked. He wondered if Stephen really loved Ida Endicotte or whether it was Bess who attracted him. Time alone would reveal the truth, so Herrick for the moment thought no more about the matter. He had engaged himself to look after Stephen, and at once set to work to earn his income. The subject was introduced by Marsh.

“I think you and I ought to go abroad for a year or two,” he said restlessly. “I feel that both Beorminster and Saxham are distasteful to me for a time. I have arranged to let Petronella live here, on a small income. I thought she would like to return to Italy, but she begged me to allow her to stay here for a time. I asked her to go to ‘The Pines’ but she refused. So here she must stay, and you and I Herrick?—”

“We will go up to London for a couple of weeks,” said Herrick promptly.

“But I want to go further afield and for a longer time.”

“Have you forgotten the terms of the will?” put in Dr. Jim. “You must pay a monthly visit to that vault, or the money goes to Frisco!”

Stephen nodded somewhat grimly. “I should have remembered,” said he, “yes! I cannot travel until the year is at an end. But even if it so happened that I did not go to the vault and lost the money, I do not think that Frisco would return to claim it.”

“Well I don’t know,” replied Herrick musingly, “after all we cannot be certain that Frisco killed his master. He may re-appear and explain his flight and prove his innocence. On the face of it, it would seem he is guilty but the evidence is all circumstantial. Better stick to the terms of the will, and not give him the chance of claiming the money.”

“Very good Herrick. Then we will go up to London, and you can take me to tailors and all the other tradesmen whose goods I may need. I want you to educate me Dr. Jim. You have had a varied experience of the world and I have not. I am a country mouse, and you the Town one.”

“At thirty-five I must have had some experience Marsh. Yes! I have travelled in my time. I have been round Europe with a man I was trying to reclaim from strong drink—”

“Did you succeed?”

“Partly,” replied the doctor with a shrug, “he is a fairly decent member of society now. Nothing to boast of. Well Marsh, I have also been doctor on a liner to the East. Finally I went with an expedition into the interior of Africa. Now I am settled in the dull quarter of West Kensington, and often wish I could be off again on the long trail. Civilised life is too respectable for me.”

“When the year is out we will go on the long trail together.”

“Well,” said Herrick, “an exploration of our planet will do you no harm. Later on you can settle down and be comfortable with a wife—I beg your pardon I am trenching on forbidden ground. However Marsh I am glad things are so arranged. It is a bit of good luck for me.”

“And for me also Herrick. You can do me nothing but good.”

“I hope so,” said Herrick cheerfully “the first thing I intend to do is to take you out into the open air. You must hunt and shoot and golf and swim, and get yourself into a state of physical perfection. Your mind is all right. I like your poems, and you have it in you to do great things Marsh. But first of all you must attend to the body.”

“I have neglected these things,” said Stephen straightening himself, “but my life was so narrow, that I did not look after myself as a man should. Besides to tell you the truth Herrick I am so much of the student, that out-of-door life never attracted me.”

“That is because you have never had a companion to interest you in the life,” said Herrick smiling. “Now, I am devoted to athletic sports of all kinds. If I can infect you with my enthusiasm you will soon be able to take the deepest interest in them yourself. Not that I was fortunate enough to succeed with Joyce,” finished Dr. Jim with a shrug.

“Ah, your friend who was staying at the Carr Arms? I never met him.”

“You will when we go to town. He is not a bad little chap but his brain is too large for his body, Besides which he is neurotic, and intensely trying at times. I don’t suppose I should have cured him altogether, but I could have made him twice the man he was, had he only taken my advice. But Robin was always as obstinate as a mule. He lives into himself and for himself. There is no hope for a man like that.”

“I hope you will succeed with me Herrick.”

“I am certain to succeed with you. In the first place your nerves are not diseased: in the second you are less selfish, and thirdly you are sensible enough to see sense—and that last is not given to many men. Well, we have had a long talk Marsh, so we had better go to bed, and begin our new life to-morrow.”

It was three days after this that the two went up to London. Herrick called at Biffstead, and told Bess about his new relations with Stephen. She expressed herself greatly pleased. “You will do him no end of good,” she said, “physical exercise is what he needs. He in making good use of his money,” she added emphatically.

“You have too good an opinion of me, Miss Bess.”

The girl laughed, and blushed. In her heart she liked Herrick greatly. He was so big, so strong, so sensible—exactly the sort of man she admired. Frank, her brother resembled him in many ways, but he was not so worldly-wise, nor perhaps so clever. However she was too much the woman to make a direct reply to Herrick’s speech, and changed the subject. “When you come back we must have our talk,” she said. “Meantime I shall give you something to go on with in London. Do you know anything about cryptographs Dr. Jim?”

“No. I have looked into the subject once or twice, but I never did much good at it. Why?” Bess went to her desk and fished out a bit of paper. “I want you to see if you can solve this,” she said. “I have done my best and failed. It is a piece of paper I picked up in the Colonel’s house when he was alive. I am sure it has to do with his secret, whatever that might be. Else why should it be in secret writing?”

Herrick took the paper she held out. It was a yellow kind of Chinese paper, tough, and wrinkled. On it was written in red ink the following,

“S.g.d. K.Z.R.S. V.z.q.m.h.f. S.h.k.k. 1.5.I.t.k.x. S.i.d.n. C.d.z.s.g. T.m.k.d.r.r.—”

This jumble of letters made Herrick stare. He could make nothing of them. Yet here, no doubt, was the secret of Colonel Carr! Perhaps if the writing could be read, the reason of his death might be explained, even the name of the assassin might be given. Bess watched him eagerly.

“What do you think of it?” she asked.

“I daresay it may help us,” Herrick said doubtfully, “if the Colonel had a secret?”

If he had,” cried Bess emphatically. “I know he had!”

“Then it may be contained in this mixture of letters. You have failed, you say? Well Miss Bess, I don’t know that I shall succeed. However I will try. You will let me have this?”

“If you will take the very greatest care of it. I have a copy to be sure; but that is the original.”

“I’ll bring it back to you safe and sound in two weeks.”

“You will be back then?” she asked with a quick flush.

“Certainly. I shall arrange about my practice and return for good.”

Bess looked down. “I am glad,” she said in a low tone; then thinking she might have said too much she smiled in his face. “Of course I am glad,” she cried gaily, “are we not pledged to find out who killed the Colonel?”

Chapter 8
A Curious Discovery

It was now quite two months since the death of Colonel Carr, and all this time Robin had been in London. He had written to Herrick telling him he felt so much better that he would not go abroad. “I have a new idea for a novel,” wrote Joyce, “and now that I have the leisure, I intend to throw myself heart and soul into it. I still keep on my flat.” Herrick therefore determined that his first visit should be to the little man.

Stephen and the doctor took up their abode in the Guelph Hotel in Jermyn Street. It was the first time the young man had been in London, and the novelty and excitement of town life, did much to dispel the grief he felt for the death of his step-mother. It was not that he regretted her the less, but he was sensible enough to see that it was foolish to weep over an irremediable misfortune. He therefore took Herrick’s advice and threw himself with ardour into fitting himself out with a complete ward-robe for the first time in his life. The doctor took him to the best West-End shops, instructed him in the topography of the fashionable locality, and when Stephen was fairly set going, found time to attend to his own business.

He first went to his house in West Kensington, and saw that it was all right. Then he called upon the young practitioner who had nursed his practice while he was away, and made him an offer to sell it. The young doctor who had only lately started in the district was overjoyed at the chance as Jim had got together a fair number of patients. Herrick made the terms of purchase as light as possible, and spread the payment over a considerable time. Dr. Grant asked two days for consideration, as being poor it was necessary he should see his way how to pay the money. At once Jim consented to this, and after finishing this necessary business, he went off to Robin’s flat. The arrangement and discussion with Grant had taken up the best part of the afternoon, and it was close upon seven when Herrick found time to see his friend. At first he hesitated, and half made up his mind to put it off until the next day. But as he was in the neighbourhood, he finally decided to go, and sent a wire to Marsh that he would not be home until ten o’clock. He intended to ask Joyce for a meal, making sure that he would be welcome. Yet strange to say, Robin was not so hearty as Herrick expected. Perhaps he had not got over his anger at the desertion of the doctor; but after his last letter Jim could not think that such was the case. In spite of their severance, Herrick still wished to keep an eye on Robin knowing that he was foolish in many ways. Therefore when Joyce showed a disposition not to invite him to stay, Herrick at once determined that he would remain. There was a reason at the back of this confusion, and Herrick in the interests of a weak man, resolved to find out what it might be. Seeing that he was bent on remaining, Robin made the best of what he evidently considered a bad job, and became more of his old self.

“You are not looking so well, as your letter led me to hope Robin,” said Herrick, when the two were smoking in the study.

“I am in the best of health,” said Robin quickly. “But of course I have been working hard at my book, and that takes it out of a chap.”

“Read me some of the chapters,” said Herrick, who once had been a kind of literary adviser to the author.

Robin shook his head uneasily. “Not until the book is done,” he said. “I want you to get an impression as a whole. This will be my master-piece. Besides,” he added glancing at the clock, “we might be interrupted. At half past seven a friend of mine is coming to dinner.”

“I hope my unexpected coming will not upset your arrangements Joyce?”

“Of course not—how can you think so?” said Robin with an air of constraint that did not escape Herrick. “You are always welcome. Will you stop the night? I can put you up.”

“No! I must get back to Marsh. I am his companion and doctor for the time being. A very good billet I assure you Robin.”

“What about your practice?” asked Joyce.

“I am now selling it to Grant. It is such a small practice that it is not worth my while to stick to it as against an assured income of a thousand a year.”

“Is that what Marsh gives you?”

“Yes! I do not mind telling you Robin as you are such an old friend. But do not mention this to anyone else. I stay with Marsh for three years. In this way I shall be able to save money and buy a practice in a better part of the town. It is a wonderful bit of luck.”

“It is indeed, and I congratulate you,” replied Robin cheerfully and shaking his friend by the hand. “Marsh must be well off to be able to afford your companionship at that price.”

“Yes! He has been left about eight thousand a year more or less by Colonel Carr, his late uncle. But that is his business Robin. We will not talk about it.”

“Have they yet found out who killed Colonel Carr?”

“Not yet. Of course it is supposed that Frisco killed him; but the man has disappeared. When he is caught we shall know the truth. You read the case Robin. What do you think?”

“It seems as though that man were guilty,” replied Joyce slowly, “but I am not prepared to offer an opinion. The fact is I am so busy with my book that I have put all these horrors out of my head. By the way, what about your Southberry Helen?”

“Miss Endicotte? Oh, I have seen a good deal of her.”

“And you are still in love?”

“Not very passionately perhaps. But I think a respectable affection is better to marry upon than a wild romantic adoration that will not resist the wear and tear of life. I hope some day if Miss Endicotte will allow me, to marry her—that is when I have a good practice. But if another man more worthy of her comes along, why—”

“Ardent lover!” laughed Joyce. “If you really felt any passion you would not contemplate with equanimity the idea of an intruder. I believe you like that little journalistic girl better.”

A kind of dull anger stirred in the doctor’s breast at hearing Bess so flippantly alluded to. But he saw that Joyce did not mean any harm, so turned off the remark with a laugh. “She is a charming young lady Robin. But she is better as a comrade than she would be as a wife.”

“A comrade is what you want,” said Joyce shrewdly. “Your luke-warm affection will not win you the love of a woman.”

“Perhaps not. However we shall see,” Herrick was annoyed, for he felt there was some truth in this remark. He was glad when a ring came to the door and interrupted a conversation which was rapidly getting unpleasant to him. “There’s your friend. Who is he?”

“A Mexican called Don Manuel Santiago.”

“Humph! It it not often one foregathers with that nationality in London. Where did you meet him?”

“At the Apollo Club, Johnstone introduced me to him. Here he is. I think you will like him.”

Herrick was not so sure. He had met with Mexicans on their native heath and did not like the breed. However as the man was the guest of Joyce, he felt compelled to behave at least politely. All the same knowing Robin’s weakness in picking up doubtful acquaintances, he determined to be observant of the Mexican.

“Dr. Herrick, Don Manuel Santiago. And this Señor, is my very best friend.”

The little dark man clicked his heels together, foreign fashion, and bowed politely. Herrick looked at him from head to foot in one swift glance, and made up his mind that the man was a rogue, an adventurer, if nothing worse. He was not tall, and he was very lean. His face was swarthy; he had a hook nose, a black moustache, and a pair of restless shifty dark eyes. Accurately dressed in an evening suit, he wore too much jewellery. Yet for all this he did not look vulgar. There was a somewhat dangerous air about him. Herrick watching his face intently made up his mind that Don Manuel was a half caste Indian.

“I am pleased to meet you Señor,” said Don Manuel in good English but with a foreign accent. “Dr. Herrick? Ah! I know the name.”

“Indeed!” said Dr. Jim, looking surprised. Robin also shared his astonishment, and expressed it.

“Why, Santiago you did not tell me you knew Herrick!” said he, as they took their seats at table.

“Did I not?” replied the Don carelessly. “Ah! that was no doubt because his name was never mentioned between us. But if I am not mistaken,” said he addressing himself directly to Jim, “you were concerned in that strange case of my friend Colonel Carr.”

Herrick almost bounded from his seat. That here of all places and in so unexpected a way, he should meet with a stranger who knew Carr, was like fiction. Had the incident occurred in a novel, he would have put it down as a freak of imagination on the author’s part. Yet the thing had happened in real life and to himself. “Was Carr a friend of yours?” he asked.

“Twelve years and more ago,” replied Santiago quietly, “we knew one another intimately in Mexico.”

“Mexico!” muttered Herrick, recalling what Bess had said about Frisco’s tales of North and South America, “not in Peru?”

“We went to Peru together—on an expedition.”

“What sort of an expedition?” asked Joyce eagerly.

“To make our fortunes. That is the sort of expedition we all are bound to undertake.”

Herrick thought of Colonel Carr’s money. Was he on the point of learning sufficient of the man’s wild life in the Americas, to reveal what his secret was? “Did you succeed?” he asked.

“I did not—the Colonel did. Afterwards he returned to England, and I lost sight of him. When I came over six months ago, I heard of him, and intended to pay him a visit. But I put it off and off and off—until—” he made a rapid gesture, “poor Carr! His was a sad end.”

“An unexpected one,” said Herrick fixing his eyes on the man. “Did you know his servant, Frisco?”

“No!” replied Manuel calmly. “Frisco was after my time, or before it; I forget which.”

Somehow Herrick felt instinctively that this was a lie. According to Bess the ex-sailor had been with Carr throughout his wandering life. It was incredible that if such was the case (and Jim preferred to believe Frisco rather than Santiago)—that Frisco should not have gone on to Peru. He would be needed on an expedition such as Manuel spoke of.

“Were you treasure-hunting” asked Jim.

Don Manuel nodded “Yes! The Peruvians buried a lot of gold and jewels, at the time of the Conquest. Carr got wind of a hiding place from some one—an Indian I believe, and induced me to go with him to Peru. I was doing nothing at the time, so I went.”

“Carr found the treasure?”

“I believe so. Colonel Carr was rich was he not?”

“Very rich,” chimed in Joyce. “Do you remember Herrick, how astonished we were at the magnificence of that house?”

“I remember,” said Herrick curtly. The interruption did not please him, as he wanted particularly to hear what Santiago had to say. “But Señor Manuel, if you started on this search together, how was it that you do not know for certain if Colonel Carr was successful?”

Don Manuel’s face grew black and his eyes flashed. “If you would know the reason Señor, Colonel Carr was a devil!”

“Ha!” said Herrick with a short laugh. “That is no news.”

“We shared the expenses of the expedition, we were to share the profits; but Carr treated me shamefully. The treasure was said to be concealed beyond Cuzco—where it does not matter. I know, but I do not intend to tell. I fell ill at the first stage of the journey after we left Cuzco and were amongst the mountains. What did Carr do? He left me to the care of the Indians, and pushed on himself. That was the last I saw of the devil. For two years I was held captive amongst the Indians and barely escaped with my life. I hunted for Carr when I got to Callao; but he had disappeared. I traced him to Mexico. He vanished from Vera Cruz. I was worn out and ill. I went back to my own family, and all these years I thought nothing about the Colonel. But chance brought me to England, and chance led me to hear where Colonel Carr was settled. As I said I would have seen him to reproach him for his treachery, but—” Don Manuel shrugged—“he is dead. That is the end.”

“A strange story, and not creditable to Carr,” said Herrick wondering if all this was a lie. “Who was it told you where Colonel Carr lived?”

“I did not,” said Joyce on whose face Jim’s eyes rested for a moment. “I knew nothing of this until this moment.”

“Where I heard the name Señor, can be of little interest to you,” said the Don with a sneer. “It was in London. I tell you no more.”

“I do not want you to tell me anything,” retorted Herrick the blood rushing to his face. “So far, I am interested in your story, but if you choose to be silent, you are at liberty to do so.”

“Pardon,” said Manuel humbly, “I did not intend to provoke your anger,” but as he spoke there was a nasty glitter in his eyes, “I cannot tell you who gave me the information without breaking confidence with a friend.”

Herrick grunted, but he said nothing. Santiago was evidently a dangerous little devil. For all he knew the Mexican might have had something to do with the murder. Of all strange circumstances that Herrick had stumbled upon this surely was the strangest! To find the man who knew of the past of Colonel Carr, in the company of Robin Joyce.

As the meal was now at an end, the three adjourned to the study where they began to smoke. Herrick had his pipe, Joyce a cigarette, and Manuel produced one of those long lean Mexican cigars, that only a hardened smoker can enjoy. As he bent forward over the spirit lamp, Jim saw by the touch of grey on his temples and the wrinkles down the side of his neck that the man was much older than he had thought. At the first glance Santiago looked—if you wanted to be disagreeable—say thirty-five. Herrick was now sure he was over fifty. But the man was in wonderfully good condition. Having noticed him at the table Jim saw that he was both abstemious and temperate.

For some reason not apparent, Manuel desired to ingratiate himself with Herrick, and tried by picturesque talk to banish the disagreeable impression he had made by his last remark. He told the most wonderful stories of his adventures by land and sea. According to his own account he had lived a life of hair-breadth escapes. South America he knew from Quito to the Horn, and had explored the unknown portions at the risk of his life. He had been captive to Indians, he had been tortured—Herrick noted that his left ear was missing—and he had been almost frozen while ascending Chimborazo. Then he had hunted for treasure, fought for it with knives when it was found, and by his own confession had more than one death to his account. All this he told in vivid picturesque language and with a wonderful command of the English tongue. Herrick complimented him on his capabilities as a linguist.

“Oh, I know seven or eight languages,” said Manuel boastfully “not to speak of Indian dialects. I have been all over Europe. Yes, Señor, when I made money—and I have made a great deal—I came always to Europe to spend it. That I did royally. Oh, they know me in every capital. Of all, give me Vienna. Oh, Señor, I am known on the Prater.”

“And to the police no doubt,” thought Herrick; but for his own private reasons did not give vent to this opinion. He said aloud, “I suppose Don Manuel, you were not surprised to hear of Colonel Carr’s death.”

Santiago flashed a quick glance at the imperturbable countenance of the doctor. “Oh, but I was,” said he “to escape all the dangers of the tropics, and then to die in a quiet little English village. Strange! To be sure though,” added Manuel with another glance, “he brought his murderer with him. And Frisco was capable of anything!”

“Oh!” put in Herrick sharply, “I thought you did not know Frisco!”

“Nor did I Señor,” said Santiago covering his mistake with wonderful swiftness “but I heard of him. He was a devil worse than Carr, if that can be possible. They were attached to one another but quarrelled—Oh, yes, Señor I assure you they quarrelled. Once over a game of cards, Carr slashed Frisco across the face.”

“Oh, that was it, was it?” murmured Herrick as he recalled the criss-cross slash on Frisco’s face which had been described to him. “A queer couple. What was Frisco’s real name?”

“I do not know,” snapped Manuel with a surprising curtness considering his late voluble talk. Shortly he took his leave, with a politely expressed hope that he would meet Herrick again. When the Mexican was gone, Joyce turned eagerly to his friend and asked what he thought of him. “If you want to know my real opinion, he is a thorough little blackguard. Cut him Robin, or you will get into trouble.”

“I don’t see why I should. He is a decent fellow. His only vice is gambling. He would sell his shirt to gamble.”

“Humph! Looks a card-sharper. Where does he gamble principally?”

“In a club down in Pimlico,—the Parrot Club. Very few people know about it. But the play is very high?”

“Oh. So you met Santiago there,” said Herrick lazily.

But Joyce saw the trap and avoided it. “No! I told you I met him at the Apollo Club—that is respectable enough I hope? And Archy Johnstone introduced him to me. He is decent, isn’t he?”

“Oh, I have nothing to say,” replied Herrick with a yawn, putting on his coat, “only, if that man gets you into trouble don’t blame me. He will probably induce you to gamble and all your new income of five hundred a year will go once and for all.”

A peculiar expression swept across Joyce’s face and he opened and shut his hands nervously. However he held his tongue, and having said good-night Herrick went away, sorry to see that his friend was in such bad company. He regarded Don Manuel as a rook and Joyce as a pigeon. But he knew the little man well enough to know that his interference was vain. Joyce could be as obstinate as a mule at times.

When he got back to the Guelph Hotel it was close on eleven. All the same Stephen was sitting up for him over a meditative pipe. The sight of his honest handsome face was quite a relief to Herrick after the crafty looks of Manuel. And truth to tell, Joyce had fallen also in Herrick’s estimation; for as a man he could not compare with Marsh. Not for the first time Dr. Jim began to think there was something sly and evil about Robin. Hitherto, he had been too much taken up with the man’s nerves to think much of his moral character. But after this long absence he saw plainly that Joyce was deteriorating rapidly. The company he had been in this very night proved it, if there were any truth in the saying that birds of a feather flock together.

“Hullo Stephen!” said Herrick taking off his coat, “why did you not go to bed man? Sitting up all alone, like a maid on the Eve of St. Agnes.”

“I did not want to go to bed until you came home,” said Stephen, “you know I always like a chat. Have some whisky?”

“Thanks. Shove over the tobacco-jar. Well Marsh, I have arranged about the sale of my practice. It’s all right.”

“I am delighted. You are sure you do not mind giving it up?”

“Not for a thousand a year,” replied Herrick with a laugh. “I never made so much in all my medical life. Not to mention the delights of your society. What have you been doing?”

“Shopping mostly. Then I called in on Frith and Frith to talk about business. I heard of your friend Joyce there.”

“The deuce you did!” said Jim wheeling round. “I have just been dining with him, and I do not think he is improved. Frith and Frith are his lawyers I know. How did his name crop up?”

“In the course of my talk about the Colonel’s business.”

Herrick stared. “What do you mean?” he asked roughly.

“Well, you will be rather astonished,” continued Marsh lighting his pipe, “but the fact is Colonel Carr allowed Mrs. Joyce, the mother of your friend an income of five hundred a year.”

“No!” said Herrick, and thought that this was just the sum Robin said he had been left by his mother’s will.

“Yes! Why, I do not know. Nor could Frith tell me. The Colonel never called to see Mrs. Joyce; he never wrote her a letter. But he directed Frith to pay her an annuity of five hundred pounds.”

“An annuity? Then it ceased at her death?”

“Of course. The son gets nothing. The reason Frith mentioned it, was that he wished to know if I had found anything amongst my uncle’s papers likely to show why the annuity had been paid, and whether it ought to be continued to the son.”

“Queer!” said Herrick. He remembered that Robin had told him that he had interviewed the lawyers and had been informed of his income. Why had Robin told a lie? “I suppose,” said the doctor after a pause, “that Frith did not take it upon himself to promise Joyce the continuance of this annuity?”

“Certainly not,” replied Stephen, “he had no right. Of course I told him that I knew nothing about the matter and would not pay anything to Joyce. Still—as he is your friend?—”

“Never mind that. I don’t want you to pay him anything. Did Joyce call to see Frith do you know?”

“A week after his mother’s death. He has not been since. They told him then that he need not expect any more money.”

“A week after his mother’s death,” related the doctor “and it was two months later we were on that walking tour! Did not Joyce call to see Frith somewhere about the twenty-fourth of July?”

“No! It was towards the end of April he called. He has not been near them since. You look rather pale, Herrick.”

“It’s nothing,” replied the doctor. “I have had rather a turn, that’s all.”

Chapter 9
Herrick Is Suspicious

Dr. Jim slept very little that night. He was turning over in his mind Joyce’s strange conduct. Now that he remembered, Robin had been very particular as to the details of his whereabouts. He had gone to Town on a Tuesday leaving Herrick at the Southberry Railway Inn. According to his story he had seen Frith and Frith the same afternoon, and again the next morning. The intervening night he had slept at the Hull Hotel in a side Street off the Strand. Then on Wednesday afternoon, he had rejoined Dr. Jim at Southberry and on Thursday morning had started to cross the Heath. It was on that same night, that the two had discovered the body of Colonel Carr. So far Herrick had believed this story.

But now, the fact that he had not called on the lawyers had put a different complexion on the affair. Also his statement concerning the money left to him was proved—by the evidence of the solicitors who paid the annuity—to be a lie. Robin therefore had not been so deeply plunged in grief as he appeared to be, when he could call a few days after his mother’s death to see if he was to inherit the money. Herrick considered that probably when alone in the flat he had found some paper stating that the five hundred a year terminated at his mother’s death, and had gone to Frith and Frith in order to ascertain if this were true. Besides his mother might have told him this on her deathbed. But what else had she told him? Colonel Carr was not the man to pay out money for nothing. Mrs. Joyce must have had some hold over him.

However the main point, and that which vexed Dr. Jim most, was the fact that Robin had not called on the solicitors, as he said he had done. At Southberry he had received a letter calling him up to town. Jim had not read the letter, but since Robin had told him the contents he never doubted that it was from the firm of Frith. If he had not called on them, why was the letter sent, and where was he during the two days he was in Town? Herrick reckoned back the dates. It was Thursday the twenty-sixth of July when they arrived at Saxham. Robin had gone to Town on the twenty-fourth, and on that same night Colonel Carr (according to the medical evidence) had been shot.

“Good Heavens!” said Jim when this came into his mind, “can it be possible that Joyce killed the man? There is no reason why he should. I am a suspicious fool. He was in London even though he did not call on the solicitors. There is no proof that he was at Saxham. He said himself when he went through the Pine wood that he did not know the country.”

Then Jim recollected that it was Robin who had selected the route for the walking tour. Could it be possible that he knew of the existence of the House in the Pine Wood, and had designedly led Herrick that way in order that the murder should be discovered, and suspicion averted from himself? “No! No!” Cried Jim tossing and turning, “he could not have contrived so damnable a scheme. Besides he slept at the Hull Hotel.”

In this way he kept arguing out the situation, but by the morning he had come to no conclusion. The evidence against Robin was not strong enough. But while shaving Dr. Jim made up his mind to call on Frith and Frith, and also to look in at the Hull Hotel. Nevertheless whatever he found, he resolved to hold his tongue so far as Robin was concerned. Joyce was far too intimate with Don Manuel to please Herrick. And Don Manuel, as the doctor remembered professed a hatred of Carr. He also might have something to do with the matter.

“Stephen” said Herrick at breakfast, “I want you to look after yourself again to-day. I have business to do.”

“All right,” replied Marsh, “I can amuse myself. There is The National Gallery to see; and the Tower, and Westminster Abbey. I should only bore you taking you to these places.”

“I am never bored in your company,” said Jim absently, his thoughts intent on what he had to do, “but I shall be at your service to-morrow.

“You have to see about your practice I suppose Herrick?”

“Yes. Also some other business. How long do you want to stay in Town?”

“A week is enough for the present,” replied Marsh, “we came for two, did we not? I have got all the clothes, I need. They will be ready by the end of this week; then we can go back. You want to return?”

“Yes! I have an idea in my head. Later on I will tell it to you.” Marsh turned to ask what Herrick meant but seeing that his friend was taken up with his own thoughts, he said nothing. After breakfast Jim left Marsh to look over the morning paper, and went out.

The first place he sought out was the lawyer’s office. Mr. Frith the junior partner received him, all the more readily, when he heard the name. On the previous day, Stephen had been enthusiastic on the subject of his new friend. Frith junior took to Jim at once.

“I am glad to see you,” he said pushing forward a chair, “Mr. Marsh-Carr told us all about you. I am glad he has had the good sense to select you as a companion. He needs shaking up.”

“Marsh is a good fellow,” replied Jim, “and anything I can do to make a man of him shall be done. But the material is there, Mr. Frith.”

“Yes! But that step-mother of his did a great deal to ruin him. He could not call his soul his own. I do not think her death is much to be regretted,” finished Frith with a dry smile.

“She was rather stormy, but I think she really loved her step-son. What are you smiling at?”

“I was recalling one or two interviews I had with the lady in question,” said the young lawyer. “She was, as you say, stormy. Even the Colonel was afraid of her, so he sent her up to us.”

“What did she come about?”

“An annuity for herself and an income for her son, the present owner of the estate. Colonel Carr refused to allow her one penny. He said that he had made his will in favour of Stephen Marsh, and that both he and Mrs. Marsh could wait until his death. I tried hard to persuade him to allow her something but he refused. Mrs. Marsh used to come up and make scenes in this office. Stormy!” chuckled Frith. “I should think she was.”

“What was your opinion of Colonel Carr?”

“Well,” drawled the lawyer with a quick glance, “that is rather a leading question. The man is dead, and he was a good client to us. But speaking as man to man and in confidence doctor, I think he was the greatest scoundrel in the Three Kingdoms.”

“That’s rather strong Mr. Frith.”

“Yet it falls short of the truth Dr. Herrick. However the man is dead, so we may leave him at rest. He met with a terrible death, and his own familiar friend put an end to him. The Colonel had not much human feeling but when dying he must have felt a pang at the thought that the only creature he had been kind to was putting him out of the way.”

“Humph!” said Jim using his favourite ejaculation, “do you believe that Frisco did kill him?”

“I do not know anyone else who could have done so. And if he did not, why did he run away? Why does he keep hidden? Yes, Dr. Herrick, I think the crime can be safely put down to his account. Queer man too,” added Frith reflectively, “he was slangy and a good bit of a brute, yet there was something of the gentleman about him. He could speak good English when he chose, which was not often.”

“The Colonel brought him from South America?”

“Did he now?” said Frith sharply, “I never knew that before. Frisco at times came up about Carr’s business but he was careful to say nothing about himself. He seemed fond of his master. That is why it is so strange he should have killed him. But then we know that the collie, which is the most faithful of dogs, goes mad at times and attacks his master. I expect it was something of the same kind with Frisco.”

“Do you know how the Colonel made his money?” asked Herrick.

“No! nor does anyone else that I know of. I am certain of one thing, that it was made in some shady way. Carr was an out and out bad lot. A kind of Captain Kidd.”

“Strange that you should mention his name in conjunction with Kidd. He had a treasure likewise, had he not?”

“What do you mean by ‘had a treasure likewise?’“

Herrick considered a minute before replying. As a rule he was not a man given to loose speaking, and preferred to do his own work without the assistance of any one. But he saw that Frith was a shrewd and capable man, and that in case of need, his advice was not to be despised. So far as Joyce was concerned, Jim did not intend to say anything at present, as he was not yet sure of his ground and even had he been sure, he would have hesitated to betray his friend, however guilty he might be. Concerning Don Manuel, he had no such scruples, so he then and there told the lawyer all that had passed at the flat. Frith listened attentively, but seemed in no way astonished.

“It is the sort of thing one would expect from Carr,” he said. “The man was a bad lot, and I daresay if we knew all the details of that expedition we should find it less innocent than this Mexican has depicted. Still, leaving the man amongst the Indians was bad enough. So that was how he made his money. I always knew it was not made in any respectable way.”

“Few fortunes are,” said Herrick dryly.

“That is true; but some methods may be more damnable than others, as in this case. Carr I know went away many years ago, as poor as a rat. I have heard my father speak of him. He came back ten years ago with no end of money. We helped him to invest it. As the income is eight thousand a year Dr. Herrick, you may guess what the principal amounted to. Treasure-hunting sounds innocent enough, even romantic, but in Carr’s hands I can guess what a piece of rascality it was. The man could not run straight. If there was a possibility of going the wrong way, he took that in preference to following the right path.”

“Still,” said Herrick approaching the main object of his visit, “the man had some good points. For instance, he was charitable to Mrs. Joyce.”

“Of West Kensington?” said Frith with a stare. “How did you know about her.”

“Joyce is a friend of mine. I was with him on a walking-tour when he received your letter asking him to call.”

“Nonsense. We never wrote the man a letter in our lives!”

“Not on or about the twenty-third of July?”

“No! I am positive. I should have known. It is true that he called to see us a few days after his mother’s death, about the annuity which Carr ordered to be paid to Mrs. Joyce. He wanted to know if he would have it also. We communicated with Colonel Carr, who replied in his characteristic way that Joyce could go to the devil. Afterwards Joyce called a second time and we told him the message.”

“The second time was on the twenty-fourth of July?”

“No! It was towards the end of April. We have not seen him since, nor, as I say, have we written him any letter.”

This concise explanation showed Herrick that Robin for reasons of his own had told a deliberate lie. Whatever he had come to London about, it was not to see the Solicitors as he had alleged to Herrick. Dr. Jim pulled his moustache reflectively. “Why was an annuity paid to Mrs. Joyce?”

“I don’t know,” replied Frith, “and even if I did, it would be a breach of professional etiquette to tell you. A year after the Colonel came back to England—about nine years ago—he ordered my father to send a monthly cheque to Mrs. Joyce at an address at Hampstead. She sent a receipt every time, but she never came to see us, and we had absolutely nothing to do with her. When she changed her address, which she did several times, she notified the fact and we sent her allowance to the new place. That is all I know of the annuity. And as I say the Colonel stopped it when she died. What it was for, I don’t know. The Colonel was dark in many ways.”

“He was evidently a most dangerous person,” said, Herrick rising to take his leave. “However he has received the reward of his crimes. By the way I suppose all the business of Marsh is in your hands?”

“Yes! It is all in order. The Colonel was a most methodical man, and left his estate in the best of conditions. We are now arranging for letters patent for this change of name. Our client has arranged to call himself Marsh-Carr. I suppose he did not like the idea of Carr alone.”

“Can you wonder at it considering the reputation of the name?”

“No! not a very nice name to give one’s wife,” laughed Frith rising. “Well good-bye Dr. Herrick. I am glad to have seen you, and still more glad to think that our client has so excellent a friend at his elbow.”

Herrick laughed at this praise and departed, very pleased that he had been received in so friendly a way. He fancied at one time that Frith might have looked upon him as an interloper, and it was a great compliment to him, that these shrewd lawyers should be so satisfied with Stephen’s choice of a friend.

From the city Herrick went to the Strand in search of the Hull Hotel. He was now very doubtful of Robin’s honesty. If the man had lied in one thing he would in another. Jim was quite prepared to find that Joyce was not known at the Strand public-house, but in this instance he proved to be wrong. Directed by a friendly policeman, he soon found the place. It was a small pot-house of anything but a reputable appearance. Herrick stepped inside, and was confronted by a stout woman with a squint. In answer to his inquiry for the landlord, she announced that the house belonged to her, and demanded his business. Herrick seeing the necessity for caution went about his task in an artful way.

“There was a friend of mine who stayed here on the night of the twenty-fourth of July last,” he said. “He wrote to me from this place on that date, and as I have received no letter since, I have come to inquire if he is still to be found here?”

“What is his name sir?”

“Mr. Robin Joyce.”

“Don’t know it,” grunted the landlady. “Robin Joyce,” she rubbed her nose, and then shouted. “Tilda! Do you know a party as stayed here called Robin Joyce? Look up the books—twenty-fourth July.”

A smart-looking girl dressed in a tawdry manner made her appearance and requested her mother (the stout lady was her mother it appeared) not to make such a noise. Then she addressed herself to Herrick. “I need not look at the books sir. I remember Mr. Robin Joyce quite well. A little man is he not—clean-shaven—with rather long hair and big, big black eyes. Nervous manner sir.”

“That is him,” replied Herrick thankful to hear that his friend was known at the address he had given. “He slept here on the night of the twenty-fourth of July.”

“Beg your pardon sir, but he did nothing of the sort. He came here after mid-day with a black bag and engaged a room. Then he went out almost at once, promising to be back to dinner. It was ordered, but he never came. No sir, I did not see him until mid-day next morning.”

“You are certain he did not sleep here on that night.”

“Quite certain sir. You remember mother, he told both of us when he came back that he had been staying with a friend.”

“Yes! I remember now. Then he paid his bill and went away, to catch a train, he said.”

“The Paddington train,” put in the daughter. “I heard him tell the cabby to drive to Paddington.”

Herrick thanked the two women for their information, and asked if Mr. Joyce had been there since. Both were positive he had not. “I saw him only once sir and he did not sleep here,” were the last words of the daughter. So Herrick departed fully convinced that Robin had told him a second lie. Naturally the little man never thought that anything would happen likely to induce Herrick to make enquires. Nor would such have been the case, but for Stephen’s remark about the annuity.

“The question now,” said Herrick to himself, “is whether he was at Saxham on that night. If I can prove that—” he shook his head, and acknowledged that things were beginning to look black against Joyce.

For the moment he almost made up his mind to go at once to West Kensington and tell Joyce the whole story, demanding at the same time an explanation of these—apparently unnecessary lies. But on second thoughts he resolved to wait until he could make certain that Joyce had gone down to Saxham. Robin would probably take the afternoon train to Beorminster. In that case however he would have had to change at Southberry Junction and as Herrick was at the Junction he might not risk doing so. There was Heathcroft of course. That was six miles from Saxham, and could be reached by another line. He might have gone that way and walked the six miles. “But I cannot say anything for certain until I make enquiries,” thought Herrick and so resolved to wait until he returned to “The Pines” with Marsh.

The next two or three days Herrick spent with Stephen. Not a word did he say about the business he had been employed upon. He did not even speak of Joyce, tried not to think of him, but gave himself up to the enjoyment of the moment. Owing to his recent bereavement Stephen would not go to any theatre, but the two managed to find amusement in exploring London. With the greatest good humour, Herrick permitted himself to be dragged to the Tower, the Abbey, and to several other places which Stephen had already visited. Also there was much shopping to do, clothes to be tried on, and all kinds of fascinating things to be bought. Stephen purchased a selection of presents for the Biffs, and made Herrick help him to choose them. They arranged to go back at the week’s end, when “The Pines” would be ready to receive them.

“I expect it is all in order by this time,” said Stephen, “and Ida promised to see after the servants for me. Bess is superintending the whole business. I have told her to do exactly as she pleases, and there is nothing she likes better. We shall find the place in apple-pie order when we go back.”

“Why do you not marry Miss Bess?” said Herrick laughing.

“I like Bess very much, but she is not the wife for me,” said Stephen seriously. “Ida is better suited to me.”

Herrick felt a pang of jealousy. What chance had he against this wealthy favourite of fortune. Then he rebuked himself for the ungrateful feeling and swore if he saw the least love existing between Marsh and Ida that he would at once crush down his own passion. As yet (as he had told Joyce) it was not very strong; but in the sunshine of Ida’s beauty and charm, it might easily assume gigantic proportions. If it did, and Stephen loved her, why then good-bye to his income. For Herrick felt that under the circumstances the situation would be so unbearable that he would be forced to leave Saxham. If Stephen would only say definitely if he loved the girl Herrick would know how to act. At present he was quite in the dark. Still until he could be quite sure he judged it wiser to hold himself well in hand.

Later on it occurred to him that he would see Joyce and ask him to come down to Saxham. If he had really committed the murder (and of this there was as yet no proof) he would naturally refuse to come. On the other hand he might dare as much. However, on the whole as straws show which way the wind blows and he knew what a nervous man Joyce was, Herrick thought he would be able to decide by his manner if he really had any dislike to Saxham.

He therefore one afternoon went to West Kensington. By this time he had settled with Grant about his practice, and arranged the manner of payment. His sole business was with Robin, and he went at once to the Mansions. The servant said that Mr. Joyce was absent, but was expected in soon, and that another gentleman was waiting in the drawing-room to see him. Herrick had his suspicions at once, and was not at all surprised to meet the smiling face of Don Manuel Santiago.

“Ah, you have come to see our friend,” said the Mexican, shaking Herrick’s hand in the most hearty manner. “I also. He will be back shortly.”

“How are you Don Manuel?” said Herrick politely. “Well, I hope?”

The speech was obvious, but the fact is Herrick was observing the Mexican from under his eyelids. When Santiago thought himself unobserved he stole glances at his visitor. Apparently he neither liked nor trusted Herrick. The doctor wondered what bond bound Robin and this scamp together. Joyce was a scamp also and worse if his visit to Saxham could be proved. Manuel answered the inquiry with a careless speech and a puzzled look, evidently wondering why it was made. After a time he began to walk restlessly about the room exclaiming that he wanted a cigarette, and he had exhausted his own. Herrick politely offered his case, as he wanted to put the Mexican at his ease and get him to speak, in the hope of learning something from him, but Don Manuel refused the offer.

“I smoke only my own particular kind,” he said, “ah! now I remember. I left some in Joyce’s study. I will go and look for them. Will you come also, Señor? We had better smoke in the study. Joyce does not like the smoke in this room—” he cast a look round and shrugged, “this ugly room,” said Don Manuel spitefully.

Herrick followed rather because he wished to keep this shifty creature in sight than because he wanted to smoke. Manuel went to the writing table and shifted the papers about. He searched the mantelpiece, and then casting his eyes on a tobacco cabinette walked towards that.

“He had found them and put them in there,” said Manuel and pulled open several drawers.

The Cabinet was at Herrick’s elbow, and he could see into all the drawers as the Mexican opened them. In the lowest drawer was a pistol. Don Manuel took it out.

“A strange place to keep a revolver,” he said. “No, it is not a revolver what can it be—so large—so clumsy, Señor?”

Herrick took the weapon handed to him while Manuel continued his search for the cigarettes. A frightful suspicion flashed into his mind as he saw the old-fashioned weapon in the Mexican’s hand. He remembered that the death wound had been inflicted by a roughly cast bullet, and that at the inquest it was said such had been fired from an antique pistol. Here was the very thing in his hand—an old pistol, silver-mounted, and clumsy in the extreme. The muzzle was large, and could well fire the big bullet that had passed through the heart of Carr to bury itself in the opposite wall. And this was in Joyce’s house. Herrick felt sick.

Manuel turned to him with a shrug. “There are no cigarettes here,” he said, “Joyce has smoked them. Señor you look ill—pale.”

“It is nothing,” replied Herrick, replacing the weapon in the cabinet “I am subject to attacks of faintness. I think Don Manuel, that you had better say nothing, to Joyce about our finding that pistol. He might not like us to be prying into his cabinet.”

“As you please,” said Santiago with a shrug, “but Joyce would never be angry with me. What is the pistol Señor?”

“Oh, some old-fashioned weapon that Joyce brought in a curiosity shop very probably,” replied the doctor carelessly, “it certainly is not the kind of thing one would use.”

“No,” replied Don Manuel equally carelessly, “an ugly thing. I will say nothing. A cigarette? Señor, I will take one of yours. Ah, there is my dear friend Joyce.”

While the Mexican was lighting the cigarette Robin entered, and greeted Herrick rather stiffly. It was all Jim could do to bring himself to shake hands with the man he now believed to be a criminal. Yet in spite of all he had learned, in spite of the discovery of the old-fashioned pistol, he could not yet bring himself quite to believe in Robin’s guilt. He still hoped for the best, and talked easily enough.

“How pale you are Jim,” said Joyce abruptly, “what is the matter?”

“I am so much a countryman now, that London does not agree with me.”

Joyce laughed at the joke. “I prefer London myself.”

“That is a pity,” said Herrick, “for I am returning to Saxham to-morrow, and I want you to come down for a few days next week.”

“I shall be delighted,” replied Robin at once. “I can put up at The Carr Arms. I do not know Marsh you know.”

“I daresay when he meets you he will ask you to stay at ‘The Pines,’“ said Herrick, “but you will come down Robin? I have seen so little of you, and I do not want our friendship to end so abruptly.”

“Certainly. I will come with pleasure,” replied Joyce so warmly that Herrick’s heart smote him for his treachery. But when he remembered how Joyce had deceived him, how he had led him to the very house in which to all appearance—he had committed a crime, the doctor’s heart grew hard and he was quite prepared to play his part and trap this man. He was now beginning to regard Robin as a little reptile extremely dangerous who needed to be crushed.

“I shall come next week,” said Joyce gaily, “and if Marsh likes me, he may as you say, ask me to ‘The Pines.’ You might come also Manuel.”

“Perhaps, if I have a day to spare,” said the Mexican. “I should like to see the place where my dear friend Carr died.”

He glanced at Herrick as he spoke, but the doctor was not attending to him and did not see the look. Tea was being brought in, and Herrick wanted to get away at once. He felt that knowing what he did, he could never break bread with Robin again. He fervently hoped that the man was innocent, but things looked black.

“I must go now Robin,” said Herrick hurriedly, “remember you must come.”

“I promise. Won’t you have tea?”

“No thanks; Marsh expects me. Good-bye until we meet at Saxham. Don Manuel, Adieu!”

“Till we meet at Saxham,” said the ready foreigner, and Herrick hurried out of the room and down the stairs. Not till he was in the train did he remember that he should have been wise enough to have secured the pistol as evidence.

“But he may not be guilty after all,” said Jim hopefully. His heart told him that he was wrong. The circumstantial evidence was too strong.

Chapter 10
The Secret Writings

Dr. Jim could not conceal from himself, that he was rather jumping at conclusions with regard to the guilt of Joyce. The man had deliberately lied about his visit to Frith, and had not slept at the Hull Hotel, as he had stated. Herrick could not account for Robin’s movements on the night of the twenty-fourth of July, and on that same night Colonel Carr had met with his death. Then again, Robin was connected indirectly with Carr through his mother, although there was nothing to show the relations which had existed between the Colonel and Mrs. Joyce. Finally Joyce was in possession of an old-fashioned weapon, firing a round bullet of the antiquated sort. And Carr had been killed with just such a bullet. This was all the evidence Jim could find which was likely to inculpate Robin.

On the other hand there was no reason why Joyce should not be able to defend himself. He certainly could not explain away the lies he had told Herrick about the visit to the solicitors, and the pretended income, but he might be able to account for his doings on the night of the twenty-fourth, and for the possession of the pistol. After all he had shown no hesitation in accepting Herrick’s invitation to Saxham. If he were guilty he would be afraid to venture there lest he should be met by some one who had seen him on the night of the murder in the vicinity of “The Pines.” His determination to come to Saxham looked like innocence, and Jim granted as much.

The most important link to be discovered in the chain of evidence, was the way in which Robin (if guilty) had come to Saxham. Owing to the presence of Herrick at Southberry, he would not have risked going by that line, seeing that he had to change at the junction. The other line branched off from the main trunk, before it reached Southberry and touched at Heathcroft, six miles from Saxham. Herrick made up his mind that when he got to Saxham, he would go to Heathcroft to make inquiries. If he could prove that Robin had alighted at that station, there would no longer be any doubt of his guilt. No doubt Joyce, if he had come to Heathcroft, had disguised himself, but he might not think of increasing his stature by artificial means, and he was so exceptionally small that even the most casual observer would remark upon it.

“I shall give him every opportunity of defending himself,” thought Herrick. “If I find that he came to Heathcroft, he will have to account to me for his doings. I must know the truth, or else part with him as a friend for ever.” Then the doctor thought with a qualm, that if he did learn the truth, the parting might be more complete than he imagined. If Joyce were indeed guilty he would find himself in a dilemma, as to whether he should hold his tongue or denounce the man he had been so friendly with. It would not be a pleasant position.

It was when he was in the train that Herrick thought of this. With Stephen he was returning to Saxham, and the two had provided themselves with newspapers and magazines to beguile the tedium of the journey. For some time Herrick had been concealed behind the Daily Telegraph, pretending to read. But in reality he had been thinking over the case of Robin Joyce. Marsh was in good spirits, and inclined to talk. So Dr. Jim yielded, for after all his thoughts were anything but pleasant.

“You are glad to go back to Saxham Stephen?” he said.

Marsh-Carr (as he must now be called) nodded and smiled. “Very glad,” he said. “I find a little of London goes a long way. I want to be in my own country amongst my own friends.”

“You will have a large circle soon Stephen. When you are settled at ‘The Pines,’ all the county will call. They will be delighted that in that beautiful house, there will be some one they can know. You must make the Carr family once more important in the county.”

“I am afraid I am not ambitious,” said Stephen, “my nature is a somewhat retiring one, I fancy. I shall attend to my estates and write poetry.”

“You have no desire to go into parliament?”

“Not the least. Books and friends; those are what I want. Of course I shall try and do good in my own way, but I do not wish to take part in public life. There will be plenty for me to do in a small way Herrick.”

“I think you are right,” responded Herrick soberly, “and you have had such a wretched life hitherto, that it is but fair you should have a few years of enjoyment. But you must travel for a time before you settle down.”

“I shall be pleased to. But of course as you know I shall not be able to leave Saxham until the end of a year. I want to be certain of holding the property. I wonder why my uncle left instructions that a new vault should be built, and should be visited; and why for a year?”

“I cannot understand myself,” replied Herrick, “your uncle was a man of mystery. But I have learned something of his past Stephen,” and Herrick related his meeting with Don Manuel and what he had been told about the doings of Carr in South America.

Stephen looked uneasy and grave. “I hope this money was obtained in quite a proper way,” he said, “otherwise I should be afraid to use it. If it is what the gipsies call red money—that is obtained by bloodshed, I would rather give it up. For it can bring only a curse.”

“I do not think you need trouble on that score,” replied Jim with a shrug. “Heaven knows that Carr was not scrupulous, but with regard to the fortune he brought home, if it was taken from some treasure chamber of those Inca monarchs, the spoil was legitimate enough. If I came across such a treasure I should have no hesitation in taking it. The worst feature of the expedition was the leaving of Santiago with the Indians, but as he is still alive, no harm has been done.”

“Do you think I ought to give him some money?” asked Stephen.

“Certainly not,” was Herrick’s emphatic reply. “In the first place we do not know that the story is true; in the second place I am convinced that the Mexican is a scoundrel, and in the third, it is not your place to impoverish yourself for the sake of other people.”

“I wish I could find out the story of my uncle’s life!”

“Well! Don Manuel is probably coming down to Saxham on a sentimental pilgrimage to see the grave of a man he detested. He may tell you all he knows if you question him.”

“Probably he will tell me a very pretty story,” said Stephen dryly, “but will it be true. I do not want the Arabian Nights.”

Herrick shrugged his shoulders. “I should not care to take Santiago’s word myself,” he said, “still amongst his lies there may be some grain of truth. But where the real truth will be found is in that secret writing which Bess gave to me.”

“Bess!” cried Marsh-Carr with a smile.

Dr. Jim coloured and apologised. “A slip of the tongue,” he said, “I hear you talk of Bess so frequently that I am apt to fall into the same habit. But this writing,” he added hurriedly to avoid further explanation, “as you know, we can make nothing of it. Yet if we could read it, something tangible might be discovered.”

“I really do not see why I should trouble at all about my uncle’s villainies,” said Marsh-Carr rather impatiently, “the estate is mine now, and I want to enjoy it without worrying my conscience. Of course I do worry. As to the writing, there is a cryptogram in the ‘Telegraph’ which resembles the paper you showed me. Here it is, in the Agony Column.”

Herrick took the newspaper, and looked at the paragraph indicated by Stephen. The jumble of letters did indeed resemble that on the piece of Chinese paper. In print the cryptogram was as follows:—Eqhrbn: Gxcd: Ozqj: Bnqmdq; 15, Nbsnadq: Rodzj: Sn: Aktd: Bknsgdr: Vghsd: Gzs: Fknur: Rgndr: Dzqqr: Lnmdx.

Dr. Jim read this over twice, then took out the Chinese paper and compared the two cryptograms. “I believe the secret writing is the same,” he said with some excitement. “See Stephen, in each there are figures, and in each the figures are the same. Fifteen. I believe that this was inserted by some one who knew Carr. It may be from Frisco communicating with a third person about the murder.”

“True enough;” replied Stephen, “yet it might merely be a coincidence.”

“If the figures were not the same I might think so. But that in both there should be fifteen is strange, to say the least of it.”

“Perhaps thirty is the key to the cipher.”

“It might be so,” said Herrick studying the ‘Telegraph,’ “but I am hanged if I can see how to apply it. Oh, that Edgar Allen Poe were at hand! He could unravel any cipher in ten minutes. The man had a marvellous gift in that way.”

“I once read a book on cipher-writing,” said Marsh-Carr after a pause, “it said that to unravel a line of secret writing, it was best to search for the character that represented ‘E,’ since that letter is used more frequently than any other in the English language.”

“There you lay a finger on the weak spot,” said Jim quickly, “This cipher may be written in Spanish for all I know.”

“Why in Spanish particularly?”

“Because if it applied to Colonel Carr and his doings, that is the most likely language he would use, other than English. He was mostly in Mexico and Peru, if Manuel is to be believed, and there Spanish is spoken as you know, Stephen. This may be a writing in that tongue.”

“Well Herrick, you know Spanish, so you might,—”

“Yes, I might,” interrupted Dr. Jim sarcastically, “if I were acquainted with secret writing. But this is Dutch to me and worse, for I have some knowledge of Dutch and absolutely none of this. Let us try your “E” idea Stephen, and see what we make of it. The Chinese paper cipher is the shortest. We will count the letter that is most frequent, and call it ‘E.’ Something may come of the attempt.” Herrick counted and Stephen checked his reckoning. “Four ‘D’s,’“ said Jim. “Five ‘K’s.’ Three ‘Z’s:’ and Three ‘R’s.’. Humph! Seems to me that ‘K’ is the predominating letter, and once it comes ‘K.K’ which might stand for double ‘E.’ Well we’ll call it ‘E.’“

“But here are two ‘R’s’ together,” said Stephen. “That might stand also for double ‘E.’“

“Yes! But you forget that there are five ‘K’s’ to three ‘R’s.’ We agreed to call the letter which predominated ‘E.’“

“All right. Fire away, and see what you make of it.”

For the next hour the two men with pencil and paper, did their best to extort sense from the jumble of letters on this basis. At the end of the time they were both out of temper, and had not succeeded in obtaining even one reasonable word.

“Hang it!” said Stephen throwing his paper to the other end of the carriage. “I don’t believe it makes sense at all!”

“Nonsense,” replied Herrick wiping his face, “it is sure to make sense. All ciphers do. And I daresay this is an easy one. The easiest are usually the most difficult to unravel. That is an epigram Stephen.”

Stephen had taken up the paper again and was studying the cipher. “Fifteen I.T.K.X.” he said musingly, “the figures and the letters run together here.”

“So they do in the Telegraph cipher,” said Herrick, and read out, “Fifteen N.b.s.n.a.d.q. What of that?”

“I thought it might be a date,” said Marsh-Carr apologetically.

Dr. Jim laughed. “It might—on the other hand it might not.”

“You forget the figures are concealed the same as the letters,” said Stephen.

“How do we know that,” retorted the doctor. “Fifteen may be the key to the cipher. You may count one, or count five: or add the two together and count six: or subtract the two and count four. Then again you may have to count from left to right or right to left. And after all the cipher may be in Spanish, or English or in the Indian tongue for the matter of that; Carr was mixed up with the South American Indians you know. We’ll never discover it Stephen. But I tell you what,” added Jim struck with a sudden thought, “this Mexican devil may know what it means!”

“In that case he must have put it in the paper,” said Stephen, “he knew Carr and the cipher was used by Carr. What is more likely—”

Herrick frowned. “There is some conspiracy on,” he muttered. “I do not see what it all means. We must learn what these ciphers mean Stephen. It is a serious matter. Do you think the key might be found amongst your uncle’s papers?”

“He left no papers,” replied Stephen, “I have looked.”

Dr. Jim shook his head. The thing was beyond him. He replaced the Chinese paper in his pocket-book, and cut out the notice in the Telegraph. “I say Stephen,” he said while thus employed, “did your uncle take in the ‘Daily Telegraph?’“

“Yes! He used to pass it on to Bess when he had done with it.”

“There you see!” cried Jim triumphantly, “another link. This cipher has been put in the newspaper your uncle usually read. Oh, be sure it has to do with his business—perhaps with his death. Well, we shall see.”

Nothing more was said about the matter, as the two were a trifle exhausted by their efforts to read the ciphers. When the train arrived at the Beorminster Station, they were met by Frank Endicotte, who came towards them in a state of excitement usually foreign to his nature.

“Glad to see you fellows back,” said Frank shaking hands. “Bess got the wire you sent Steve, and insisted that I should meet you here. I have brought a cart, borrowed it from Pentland Corn. He wanted his groom to come too, but there was not enough room for four. Got much luggage?”

“No! Only a couple of portmanteaux. The heavy baggage is coming on by a goods train,” laughed Stephen. “I have been buying up the whole of London! I say Frank how are the Biffs?”

“All right,” replied Frank as they put up the portmanteaux on the dog-cart. “Up you get Steve. Will you drive, or you Herrick?”

“No!” replied the doctor grimly, “you have undertaken the responsibility of that horse. If I kill it, Corn will blame me. Drive yourself. I’ll stick on behind.”

“No! No,” protested Stephen, “get up in front Herrick.”

“Certainly not. The Lord of the Manor of Saxham must have the first place.” He swung himself up to the back seat, “send her along Frank.”

In a few minutes they were rattling home along the Southberry road, and Frank was telling Marsh-Carr all that had been done at ‘The Pines.’ It seemed that Bess and Ida had engaged a moderate staff of servants, the most indispensable that is; as they left the choice of the others to Stephen. The house had been cleaned from top to bottom, food had been got in, and a good dinner awaited the travellers. “Bess, Ida and I are coming over later on,” explained Frank, “we want to hear of your adventures.”

“I am afraid we have none,” said Marsh-Carr with a laugh.

Herrick said nothing. He was thinking, if he told all he had discovered and talked about his suspicions, he might create a sensation. However the time was not yet ripe to take the Biffs into his confidence. Bess was the one he would consult if necessary.

Frank deposited them at “The Pines” and then drove away to the Rectory to restore the cart. Stephen found the house in admirable order, and a good dinner waiting for him and his friend in the dining-room. Herrick felt rather a qualm as he sat down, remembering that ghastly meal which had waited for the dead Colonel. However he was too healthy a man to give way to such morbid fancies, and made an excellent meal. Afterwards he and Stephen had coffee in the library, and as the evening was chilly, Marsh-Carr ordered a fire to be lighted. In a state of comfort they sat in comfortable arm-chairs smoking luxuriously. Hitherto Stephen had smoked only cigarettes, but lately, by the advice of his doctor, had begun pipe-smoking. After a time, he found it much more satisfying than the cigarettes.

“I suppose they will be here soon,” said Stephen glancing at his watch.

Herrick grunted. Truth to tell he felt so comfortable that he did not want to be disturbed. There was a good deal of the bachelor about Herrick. However, just as Stephen replaced his watch, one of the new footmen announced the Biffs; not by that name certainly. “Mr. Endicotte, the Misses Endicotte,” said Phillips. He had been in the service of the Bishop of Beorminster and prided himself on knowing the manners of good society.

“Well,” said Bess when the first greeting was over and they were all seated comfortably round the fire, “what do you think of the house?”

“It is splendid,” said Stephen, “I have to thank you and Ida heartily. But I won’t stop short at thanks.” And then the presents were produced. They took the form of jewellery and both the girls were delighted.

“Oh, lovely! lovely,” cried Ida looking at the emerald ring which Stephen had placed on her finger. “I do so love jewels!” As she spoke she caught the eye of Marsh-Carr fixed significantly on her, and blushed. She knew very well why the ring had been bought although Stephen had not placed it on the engagement finger.

Herrick did not notice this by-play which might have enlightened him. He was busy talking to Frank about the new gun which he was examining. Frank had always wanted a gun and was in the seventh heaven of delight. Bess also was pleased with a bangle. But she would rather have had books. However she did not say so, as she did not wish Stephen to think she was disappointed. “I have something for Flo and Sidney, but those can wait,” said Stephen.

Frank was so taken up with his new gun, that Stephen devoted himself to Ida. Herrick was thus thrown into the society of Bess, who asked him if he had solved the cryptogram. “No, I have not,” he replied, “and here is another of the same sort which appeared in the Telegraph of to-day.”

Bess glanced at it with interest. “I have seen something like that before,” she said thoughtfully, “several times a cipher like that has been in the Telegraph. I never thought it had anything to do with the Colonel.”

“I am sure it had,” said Herrick eagerly. “Have you the cuttings?”

“No; I did not think it was necessary to keep them. They all appeared within the last year.”

“Humph,” said Herrick, “I’ll send for a file of the newspaper. But this cipher? I wish we could read it. I believe it has some connection with Carr’s death, or at all events with the secret of his life.”

“I can’t make it out,” said Bess looking at the cutting and the scrap of Chinese paper, “unless—” she hesitated.

“Well, unless what?”

“I was talking to Frisco one day,” said Bess, “he had been drinking rum as usual and was rather drunk. The Colonel had sent him to the post-office for the letters and he held one in his hand the only one which had come that day. It was about three months ago, shortly after I picked up the piece of Chinese paper. This one,” she shook it at Herrick.

“I understand. Go on!”

“I noticed that the envelope of the letter Frisco carried was of the same paper.”

“Ha!” cried the doctor, “this is interesting. Yes?”

“Frisco was shaking the letter—waving it over his head, and singing. I stopped to tell him he ought to be ashamed of himself being in such a state, when he knew perfectly well how to behave.”

“One minute,” interrupted Herrick remembering what Frith had said “was this Frisco a gentleman?”

“Yes and No,” replied Bess. “He had a refined way of speaking in spite of the frightful American slang he used. At times when he was quite sober he would speak to me in the most refined way. At other times he was just awful.”

“A large fat man was he not?”

“Yes. Immensely stout: but his face was rather handsome. He was about the same age as the Colonel. There was something attractive about Frisco,” finished Bess with a sigh, “he was his own worst enemy.”

“Well, about this letter?”

“He was waving it and singing. I met him in the pine wood, where I had been to look for Sidney. I told him that he might lose it since he was so drunk. He laughed and said no one could read it. He knew the letter by the envelope.”

“Ha!” said Herrick, “by the Chinese paper! It is noticeable. Well?”

“I asked him what he meant? He laughed again, and went away singing, ‘Move on One! Move on One!’ I took no notice of the words at the time, but as he had a cipher letter in his hand I have often wondered if he applied the words to the cipher.”

“Move one on!” repeated Herrick excitedly, and glanced at the Chinese paper cipher. “Humph! Stephen thought that fifteen I.T.K.X. might be a date. If this cipher has to do with the murder—”

“A date!” interrupted Bess eagerly, “well! Colonel Carr was murdered in July. Dr. Jim, in the word July there are four letters, and—”

“I see what you mean. And here are four letters I.T.K.X.: also the number fifteen.”

“Move on one,” said Bess repeating the cry of Frisco, “that is take the next figures to one and five.”

“Two, six,” said Herrick, “by heaven that must mean the twenty-sixth! Move on one of these four letters. I stands or J, T, for U, K for L, and X in place of Y. July,” cried Herrick dashing down the pen. “Here is the solution of the cryptogram.”

“The twenty-sixth of July,” repeated Bess, “and the Colonel was murdered on the twenty-fourth. I do not see the connection.”

“We have not worked out the whole cipher yet,” said Dr. Jim, “here, take a pen and write down the alphabet.” Bess did this as rapidly as possible as she saw what the doctor meant. “Now place A under B, B under C, and so on to the end of the alphabet.”

“Bess did this also, ‘I can put Z under no letter,’ she said.”

“Yes you can. Z goes under A, I have heard of this cipher. It is written with misleading letters. You simply take the next letter for the one that is down. Come, we will apply the result to these ciphers.”

This is what they got. In the Chinese paper cipher:—

“The last warning. Till 26 July. Then death. Unless—”

And in the printed cipher of the ‘Daily Telegraph’:—

“Frisco. Hyde Park Corner. 26 October. Speak to blue clothes, white hat, gloves, shoes. Carr’s money.”

Chapter 11
Settling Down

The cipher was so simple that Herrick wondered that he had not solved it before. It merely consisted of the alphabet arranged in two lines as follows:—

A.B.C.D.E.F.G.H.I.J.K.L.M.N.O.P.Q.R.S.T.U.V.W.X.Y.Z. Z,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,

The cipher was written by using the second line as though it were the first. All that had to be done was to write out the alphabet as above, and use the first line in place of the second. Nothing could be more ingenious, or—when it was known—more simple. But for all that, Herrick would not have found the key, had he not recollected Stephen’s remark that the number fifteen might be a date, and had not Bess related Frisco’s apparently meaningless words.

However here was the reading of the riddle. Colonel Carr had been warned to do a certain thing, and was threatened with death if he did not do it. He was given up to the twenty-sixth of July, but the punishment, vengeance, or whatever it was had been executed on the twenty-fourth. Jim could see no reason for this anticipation of the cipher letter.

As to the cryptogram in the agony Column of the “Daily Telegraph,” it would seem that someone knew that Frisco was in London and wished to see him about Carr’s money. This rather bore out Herrick’s belief that there was a conspiracy in progress to rob Stephen of his inherited wealth. Was Captain Manuel striking in the dark? Or had Robin Joyce anything to do with the matter? Herrick asked himself these questions, but he did not seek an answer from Bess. Until he was absolutely sure of Robin’s guilt he did not wish to say a word. And if he told Bess about Santiago, he would have to reveal what Joyce had—presumably—done. At all events the mere mention of Santiago’s name and where he met him would invite questions regarding Joyce.

“If I were you Dr. Jim,” said Bess the next day, when they met to talk over their discovery, “I should go up to London and wait at Hyde Park Corner. It will be easy for you to see a person dressed as noticeably as the man who put in the cipher intends to be. I should think a navy blue serge with white hat, gloves, and boots would attract attention. You can then see if the person meets Frisco, and, and—”

“And give Frisco in charge,” finished Herrick.

“No,” said Miss Endicotte decisively, “I should not do that. At present public opinion and circumstantial evidence is so much against Frisco, that he would not have a fair trial. If he did murder Colonel Carr, which I don’t believe—you can prove it by watching him. See where he and the man who meets him are going, follow on, and be guided by circumstances how to act. Have you any idea who put this in?”

Dr. Jim suspected Don Manuel, but he did not think it wise to say so. “I really cannot be sure,” said he shirking the question, “of course we are all in the dark about this business. Again I notice that no time is mentioned in the cipher.”

“Oh! I can understand that,” replied Bess producing a slip of paper from her pocket, “when I got home last night I looked through the file of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ given to me by Colonel Carr. I thought there might be a third cipher. See, here it is. It appeared about the beginning of August.”

Herrick looked at the third cipher. It was worded exactly the same as the one that had appeared in the newspaper at the later date, save that in it the hour of three o’clock was mentioned as the time of meeting.

“Humph!” said Dr. Jim, “I wonder if Frisco obeyed this first request?”

“I am sure he did,” answered Bess readily, “if he had not, the time of meeting would be put into the second. No, Dr. Jim. It is because the person who wants to meet Frisco met him the first time, that he has omitted the hour. He knows that Frisco will be there at three o’clock if he comes at all. You go up and see what you can do.”

“It is now the twenty-second,” said Herrick after a moment. “All right, I’ll go up. But I should say nothing of all this to Stephen.”

“Nor to anyone,” replied Bess warmly, “let us work out the thing ourselves and put an end to the conspiracy. I am sure it is one,” she added, “for you see Carr’s money is mentioned. I hope poor Stephen will not be murdered next!”

“I hope not,” said Herrick rather gloomily. He was recalling what Mrs. Marsh had said to him about Frisco and of a possible danger to her step-son. “At all events I shall look after him carefully. But all this seems to show that Frisco is not the good man you thought him.”

“It does look bad for Frisco,” admitted Bess dejectedly, “still he may be able to explain if he can only summon up courage to take his trial. I should not like to be mistaken in Frisco. There was something I liked about him.”

“Well, I’ll go up to town and watch,” said Herrick. “By the way, my friend Joyce is coming down here next week to stay for a time.”

“I am so glad,” said Bess eagerly. “I saw only a glimpse of him last time. He is an author, and we shall have so much to talk about.”

Herrick was rather annoyed by her enthusiasm. He did not like the idea of Joyce whom he suspected, being too great a friend of this girl’s. Yet when he came to think over the matter, his annoyance was ridiculous. He was jealous of Stephen with Ida, and now irritated at the prospect of Bess getting on well with Robin. “I do not love the two of them,” said Herrick to himself with a vexed laugh, “yet I like both. At all events if Joyce does come down, I’ll keep them apart as much as possible. I must know the truth about Joyce before I let him again into my circle of friends. In any case he is a liar if no worse.”

This was an unsatisfactory frame of mind in which to renew a friendship. But Jim had no such intention. Finding that Robin had told him two deliberate falsehoods, he made up his mind that all was at an end between them. Herrick had a very high opinion of the sacredness of friendship, and was in addition as Dr. Johnson said “a good hater.” He either liked a man greatly or disliked him immensely. With the utmost calmness he went to work to get his quondam friend by his side in order to learn the truth. If Joyce had murdered Carr, if he was mixed up with Frisco and Don Manuel in a conspiracy against Stephen, there was no punishment he did not deserve. But although Herrick was hard, he was also just. Every chance would be given to Joyce to prove his innocence. And if in the end he proved to be guilty, Jim knew in his heart of hearts that he would let him go free. Much as he might deserve the punishment of the law, Jim felt that for the sake of their old friendship he could not be the one to hand him over to Justice.

It must not be thought that Herrick took his discovery calmly. He suffered greatly on learning the worthlessness of the man he had so trusted. He had saved Robin’s life by nursing him through a dangerous illness, and had been attracted by his ambition to become a great novelist. He had also tried to make a man of him by strengthening his will and mending his nerves, being sorry for the tortured creature. But since the man was so inherently bad Herrick sternly cut himself off from him. He waited only to be certain of the worst to cast Robin out of his life. But until he was certain, he gave him the benefit of the doubt. It was a painful position, but Jim set his teeth and stuck to it.

The journey to town was a complete failure. Herrick watched at Hyde Park Corner all day, and thereby incurred the unjust suspicions of the police. But he saw neither the eccentrically-dressed individual, who had described himself in the cipher, nor the ex-sailor, whom he hoped to recognise by his monstrous stoutness, and if chance offered, by the scar on his forehead. Neither one of them came to the rendezvous, so Dr. Jim returned to Saxham a sadder but not a wiser man. Bess consoled him.

“They must have got some suspicion that they were being watched,” she said, “sooner or later another of these ciphers will appear in the paper and you will have a chance of catching them.”

“Humph!” said Jim disbelieving, “if they are suspicious, they will make some other arrangements for you see, they must have guessed that in some way I had solved the cipher. It is all darkness and mystery,” said Herrick vexedly. “For the time being at all events I intend to put it out of my head.”

This he did and with considerable success. There was much to do at “The Pines” and with its new master. The estate had to be put in order, more servants had to be engaged with the assistance of Ida, and the walls and fences had to be put up again. Also the new vault was rapidly approaching completion and Stephen hoped to have his uncle’s body removed into it before Christmas. In the meantime he did not neglect to go monthly and even weekly to the family sepulchre to see that all was safe. As yet nothing had been disturbed. Stephen began to think that the necessity of protecting the body of the wicked Colonel was all moonshine. But Herrick knew better. He still believed in the existence of a conspiracy, and kept his eyes and ears open. It was well in these days, that Marsh-Carr had so watchful a guardian.

Joyce arrived at the Carr Arms with Don Manuel, and the two made themselves very agreeable, Herrick did not approve of their calling at Biffstead, but he either had to quarrel openly with them, or tolerate the acquaintance, as a row would have spoilt his plans and perhaps (if his suspicions were correct) exposed Stephen to danger. Herrick held his peace and made himself agreeable. Indeed neither Robin nor Santiago had any idea that he was their enemy, so well did he play his part. Dr. Jim hated to wear a mask, but much could be done by guile, and nothing at all could be gained by force, so he consented to do violence to his usually open nature.

Meantime he devoted himself to educating Stephen out-of-doors. Horses were bought and the two rode daily. Herrick taught Stephen how to swim, to fence, to box, and to golf. Indeed the Biffs also took to golfing, for Herrick obtained permission to lay out part of the heath as a links. Then the young men and maidens of the county came to play and Saxham became quite busy. Even the Beorminster people contrived to learn the game, and the clerical society there curates, dean, and even the canons played with zest and judgment. Herrick as the original starter of the game was voted an acquisition to the county and made much of. He and Stephen were asked everywhere and as the weeks went by Marsh-Carr became a different man. He lost his air of shyness, became straighter in the back, spent less time poring over books and more in the open air. Needless to say he was warmly attached to the doctor, and it was now “Jim and Steve” between them. And the Biffs approved of the friendship.

Since he had lost the friendship of Robin, Herrick paid more attention to Ida. He never paused to analyse his feelings towards her, and foolishly believed that he loved her. She knew better and smiled at the attentions paid to her by Dr. Jim. Herrick was no wiser than his neighbours when it came to a question of sex, and because he admired Ida thought that she was the only woman in the world for him. He had never been in love before and mistook the affection he felt for a beautiful and kind-hearted girl for the genuine passion spoken of by poets. If it was, Jim did not think it was so bad as they made out. He had not himself felt the wound, so he jested at the scars of others. Ida was amused at the dear, large, stupid creature and played the rôle of Omphale to his Hercules, but she knew quite well when to pull him up. When his attentions became too pressing she did so in her own quiet way. Strange to say Stephen did not notice his friend’s folly, or if he did, he made no remark.

One day the Biffs took afternoon tea in the pine-wood round the mansion. Stephen and Herrick were there, the Biffs themselves, and Don Manuel with Robin. The latter was much excited and chattered on in a merry way which amused everyone save Herrick, who looked at him rather sourly. Bess was too attentive to Joyce to please the doctor.

“Come and sit by me Mr. Joyce,” she said making a place beside her when they sat on the grass for tea. “You shall feed me.”

“Ah, what a privilege!” put in Santiago and Bess frowned. She did not like the Spaniard.

“I am so hungry,” announced Robin. “Jim, you sit over there by Miss Endicotte, and Mr. Marsh can sit beside Miss Flo.”

Santiago placed himself beside Sidney who at once got up and walked away to the other side of the circle. Sidney hated the Mexican, and openly said as much. There was a bad feeling about him, said Sidney, and he sometimes shivered and turned pale when in Don Manuel’s company. The Mexican did not seem annoyed. He understood Sidney better than did the others. Or he said he did and explained his reasons to Herrick. The doctor laughed at him when these were explained and declined to argue such nonsense. At this Don Manuel smiled but did not take offence. He had his own reasons for remaining on friendly terms with Jim.

“How pleasant it is here,” said Bess looking at the green boughs overhead, “so solitary! One would think we were miles away in the country.”

“So we are,” said Robin amidst a general laugh. “How many more miles do you want us to be Miss Bess?”

The girl laughed herself. “You know what I mean perfectly well. Of course nothing could be more absolutely rural than this, but Saxham is the same. What I meant to say is that no human habitation can be seen hereabouts.”

“No. The tower has disappeared;” said Stephen gravely, “it used to be visible from here. Just over those two pines.”

Santiago chimed in. “Ah, that is where my poor friend met with his death! I wonder you are not afraid to live in the house, Señor.”

“Why should he be afraid?” put in Ida rather indignantly.

“Ghosts are not pleasant things,” said the Mexican with a shrug.

“Do you mean to say that the wicked Colonel walks?” asked Robin.

“You are talking nonsense,” said Herrick who was beginning to find the conversation disagreeable, and in the presence of Stephen, not in good taste. “There are no such things as ghosts, and the room in which Colonel Carr died has been demolished. If you talk like this the ignorant country people will be inventing some legend.”

Sidney who had been listening to all this very quietly looking first at one speaker and then at the other, let his grave blue eyes fall upon the doctor. “How do you know that there are no such things as ghosts?” he demanded. “There are. I have seen them myself.”

Everybody shuddered, and Santiago looked at the boy with a curious smile.

“Where have you seen a ghost?” asked Herrick quietly.

“In this wood, in the village churchyard; all kinds of shapes and forms. They do not frighten me. Only bad people are frightened. You would be,” he added looking at Santiago.

“Yes,” responded that gentleman, “you are quite right. I am glad I have not your gift of seeing things.”

“You laugh at it I suppose?”

“Pardon me, I know too much about it to laugh.”

“The tower,” said Sidney suddenly turning to Stephen. “I know you can see it from here. Often and often I have sat in the darkness under yonder tree and watched the shapes in the light that streamed from the windows. All had shapes—all wicked spirits,” said Sidney. “The Colonel was so wicked that nothing good would come near him.”

Ida thought that this conversation had gone quite far enough, and when Herrick glanced at her interposed, “Sidney you are talking nonsense!”

The boy got up in a kind of cold rage. “Always nonsense,” said he, “because you are all blind and stupid.” And he walked away.

“Is he mad?” said Robin, his mouth open.

Bess was about to contradict him rather indignantly when Santiago interposed. “He is far from mad,” said he, “but he has a wonderful gift, denied to us who are of common clay. Of course the doctor does not believe in this. He is a materialist.”

“No, I am not,” replied Herrick rather nettled, “but I do not believe in things that cannot be proved by the senses.”

“I said you were a materialist,” replied Santiago, and refused to speak further. It was on another occasion and when no one was present that Jim renewed the conversation.

Meanwhile the doctor was angry at the attention paid by Joyce to Bess. The little man had now known her some weeks and had taken a violent fancy to her. He haunted her like a shadow, and she did not seem to dislike it. Herrick did, but as he had no right to interfere he was obliged to look on in silence. More than ever he regretted his folly in inducing Robin to come down to Saxham. Not for all the schemes in the world would he have Bess Endicotte lose her heart to Joyce. Until this day such an idea had never entered his head: but now he saw more clearly. Bess was distinctly pleased with Robin’s attentions. Should she really get to care for him (and Robin was attractive when he liked) Herrick knew that he would be forced to interfere. Even if he had to denounce Joyce to the law, he would put an end to such a possibility. He could not even see the two together without annoyance, and rose abruptly to walk away.

As he went in the direction of the heath, and by almost the same path as he and Joyce had come on that terrible night, he heard a light step behind and turned to see Ida. She looked more lovely than ever, for having followed him rapidly her face was somewhat flushed. Just as he was on the edge of the heath she laid her hand on his arm. A thrill ran through the strong frame of the doctor. He thought this was love. But indeed any man would have felt as much had Ida Endicotte touched him.

She was beautiful, and moreover had a magnetic attraction, which drew the most sullen under her charm. How much more then Herrick, who frankly acknowledged that she was—what he rather obviously called—an angel.

“Don’t follow him Dr. Jim,” she said breathlessly. “Believe me, he is better alone. I know his moods.”

“Are you talking of Sidney?” asked Herrick in surprise.

“Yes! I thought you followed him,” she cast a look across the moor where the slender figure of the boy could just be seen disappearing on the horizon. “How fast he walks. Here, there, and everywhere, like a ghost!”

“I did not follow Sidney,” said Herrick gravely, “but I see that I must take the boy in hand. His brain is too excitable.”

“You don’t think he is mad,” said Ida turning pale. “I assure you that he is very shrewd in many ways, and looks after himself thoroughly. But he was always a delicate boy with strange habits.”

“He is a poet,” said Herrick decisively, “that is why he ‘sees things’ as he puts it. His imagination and brain power are too strong for his weak body. If he went in for exercise and took pleasure in sport he would soon lose these unhealthy phantasies. They would pass away in verse.”

“Do you think he ought to go to a public school?”

“Certainly not. The boy is too peculiar; too rare a spirit. The other boys would not understand him, and he would be as unhappy as Coleridge and Lamb. No! He needs looking after privately. I like Corn, but he does not understand the boy. Let me see to it, Miss Endicotte.”

“Indeed,” faltered Ida, “I should be very glad. We are all very fond of Sidney; but he is peculiar as you say. And you have done wonders with Stephen. I can see that.”

“I have only induced him to take an interest in healthy things,” said Herrick, “the rest follows as a matter of course. But I am glad you are pleased. You know that I am anxious to please you—Ida.”

Miss Endicotte blushed and drew back with a look of surprise. Then she seemed to make up her mind, and instead of leaving him as seemed to be her original intention, she walked on beside him towards the moor. “You are very kind,” she said simply.

“You are not angry at my calling you Ida?”

“Not at all. I call you Dr. Jim. You seem to be a kind of brother to us all. I am glad that Stephen has so good a friend.”

“But I do not want to be a brother,” said Jim in a deep voice, trying to take her hand. “You must understand—”

She drew her hand away quietly. “I do understand,” she said in low tones. “But I beg of you not to go on talking like this.”

“But Ida—you must have seen. I love you.”

“No! You do not love me, Dr. Jim,” she laid her hand on his shoulder, and looked gravely into his flushed face. “If you had really been in love with me, I should not have waited. You saw how I turned to go and changed my mind. That was because I wish to put matters right between us.”

“I do not understand Ida.”

“I know you don’t and that is why you speak. If you were in love with me Dr. Jim, you would know that I am in love with someone else.”

“In love with someone else? Not—not Stephen?”

“Yes! Stephen, and he loves me. Oh, you look astonished. I said you did not know what love meant. Had you really felt the passion you believe you feel, you would have guessed. You like me because we get on well together; because you think I am pretty.” Here she blushed and laughed. “I am talking foolishly I fear. But what I mean to say is that it is only Ida Endicotte you love, not the real woman. If you did; if your heart was filled with a true passion, you would have seen that Stephen and I understand one another.

“Has he asked you to—” stammered Herrick.

“There was no need that he should ask,” replied Ida. “I am quite content to wait until he speaks, because I know. And he knows that I know. That is true love Dr. Jim. We do not need mere words.”

Jim looked down rather shamefaced. Ida took him by the arm and forced him to face her. “Confess,” she said with a laughing face, “you are not quite brokenhearted that I will not marry you?”

“No!” replied Jim rather astonished at the calmness of his feelings. “I can’t say I feel suicidal.”

Ida shrugged her queenly shoulders. “You see,” was her remark, “what I said was true. You do not love the true woman. No, Dr. Jim,” she put her hand into his, “I am glad we have had this talk. The moon can never be yours, so do not cry for it. When you are really and truly in love, you will feel very different to what you do now I assure you.”

Jim more himself, laughed. “Where did you learn all this lore?”

“Mother Nature taught it to me,” laughed Ida. “I needed no teaching. I knew years ago that Stephen and I were born for one another. Yet we have always been merely friends; nothing more. He has not even said to me as much as you have done. We understand, both of us. That is why I have refused so many good offers. Other people could not understand, not even Bess, clever as she is, but I knew, so did Stephen. It is for this reason I refuse you Dr. Jim. Not that you have asked me,” she finished laughing.

Jim laughed too, for he was now once more at his ease with her. “I have been making a fool of myself,” he said, “and you are a dear good woman to take me in such a spirit. I suppose it was not really love after all.”

“My dear Dr. Jim, you do not even know the meaning of the word. But if I had chosen you would have learned it. Do you know,” she added with another laugh, “you remind me of the cook, who was of that ‘appy disposition that she could marry anyone? You had better be careful Dr. Jim, for any clever woman who let you believe she loved you could become Mrs. Herrick!”

“I do not think so,” said Jim grimly.

“I do, and I am sure of it. Well, I have been a traitress to my sex and have warned you. I could say something more but I shall leave you to find it out.”

“Find what out?”

“Ah that is part of the finding. You are a great big stupid wise man Dr. Jim, and I love you for your folly. But some day you will be happy. You do not understand what I mean at present. Don’t try to understand. It will come upon you unexpectedly. And now,” she held out her hand like a queen, “we are friends; we are brother and sister.”

“Brother, and sister Ida,” said Jim kissing that white hand. This time he did not feel the slightest thrill. “You are right,” he cried rather vexed. “I do not know what love is.”

“But you will some day, and soon. I see it coming.” Thus spoke Ida, and refused to explain herself further. But Jim understood her—dimly.

Chapter 12

Herrick was much happier now that his relations with Ida were properly adjusted. He recognised how true was her woman’s instinct which had gone at once to the root of the matter. He had never truly loved her, as a woman demands to be loved. The very fact that he had been blind to her feeling for Stephen showed that what he had mistaken for true passion—if it could be so called—was wholly false. He had been attracted by her beauty, by her kindly spirit, by that sympathy which every genuine woman can give to a man whom she finds pleasant company; but of the sacred feeling, which is named love, yet which has no name, he had not felt one thrill. With feminine cleverness she had taken his gimcrack passion in the right way, and had shown him in the kindest of words, how poor a thing it really was. There was no ill feeling in his heart now that he had lost her. He could regard her as a dear friend, and even be glad that she should marry Stephen.

So far Herrick was quite content. Yet there was a vague yearning in his breast for companionship, and sympathy. Certainly he had both from Stephen; but Stephen was a man, and could not be to him what a woman could be. Herrick had lived a life, so active and full of interest that he had never found time to think of love or of womankind. Now that there was—so to speak a pause in his life—the vacuum thus created required to be filled up in some way. For man, was woman created, and Jim was simply yearning (although in his materialistic blindness he did not know it) for the other part of himself. Ida had hinted that what he wanted would come to him; yet so blind was Jim, that he could not see the advancing vision. He looked to all four points of the horizon, and saw—nothing. It was a wonder to him in after years that it had been so with him. But it was but that dense gloom which heralds the dawn. And the glory of day was at hand.

In this unsatisfactory mood, wanting something yet not knowing what it was that he wanted, Jim was anything but a pleasant companion. Formerly he had been serenely strong, never out of temper, and always sufficient in himself to himself. Now he was easily irritated, he smoked more than was good for him, he looked upon his fellow mortals with jaundiced eyes. In vain he rode, he boxed, he fenced, he swam, he took long tramps into the country. External Nature could do nothing for him. The secret of his redemption was within him, yet he did not know how to learn it. Poor Jim! Those dark days took much of his pride from him. He learned then how poor a thing is man; how dependent upon forces which although within himself he is unable through weakness or through ignorance to control.

One form of Herrick’s unrest took the shape of being almost openly rude to Robin. The little man was in the habit of haunting Biffstead. He was by this time desperately in love with Bess, and took no pains to conceal his feelings. Manuel encouraged it, for the Mexican was his confidant. Robin would have told Herrick had the doctor shown any sympathetic disposition to listen. But Jim avoided him on all occasions. Perhaps Robin guessed the cause, for he let sleeping dogs lie, and never asked what it was that had come between them. He knew that it would be wiser for him to leave Saxham, yet so deeply was he in love that he could not tear himself away from so dangerous a neighbourhood.

Jim felt that if he spoke to Robin he might say too much, so he sounded Manuel on the subject of their leaving. He wished both men to go, conspiracy or no conspiracy. The mystery of the affair was beginning to exasperate Jim, and as has been said before he was not in his usual good-tempered frame of mind.

One day he encountered Santiago on the common. The Mexican was in good spirits and expressed his pleasure at the meeting. The doctor nodded grimly, but did not return the compliment. “When are you two going away?” he asked. Manuel looked up at the hard tone and saw at once that Jim had made up his mind to be disagreeable. But the Mexican was not lacking in courage and had no thought of retreating. “I do not quite understand what you mean Señor,” he said with coldness.

“I am talking of you and Joyce. When are you going?”

“When it suits me to leave, Señor. I have every right to stop here if I so choose, and I do choose. As to Joyce, you had better ask him yourself.”

Jim saw that he had taken the wrong tone with the man and by a great effort of will became more friendly. “You need not be angry Santiago,” he said. “I only ask because I see that Joyce is attracted by Miss Bess Endicotte. That is wrong.”

“Eh!” Santiago shrugged his shoulders, “Why should it be wrong? She is a most charming lady and your friend Joyce loves her.”

“Ridiculous! He can never marry her,” said Herrick angrily.

“There is no reason why he should not. Of course it is none of my business, Señor, and I fail to see why you should speak to me about it.”

“See here, Don Manuel. I speak to you because I know that Robin has come under the power of your will. You do what you like with him, and I want you to take him away. He must not ask Miss Bess to marry him, for the very simple reason that he has no income and no position. Such a marriage would be a bad one for the girl.”

“Are you in—”

“Drop that!” cried Herrick so fiercely that the Mexican was cowed. “I am responsible for Joyce and for you also, seeing that I asked you both to come here. You must go away.”

“So far as Joyce is concerned I shall use the influence you are pleased to talk about to get him to leave. As for myself, the Rev. Pentland Corn has asked me to stop with him for a week or so; I have accepted.”

“Pentland Corn!” said Herrick surprised. “What can there be in common between the rector and you?”

“Oh, I know that I am a bad man,” replied the Mexican smoothly, “but perhaps this priest may improve me. I believe he did his best with Colonel Carr; but with me he may not fail. We are friends—great friends.

“I do not understand,” muttered Herrick eyeing the man curiously.

“Is there any need you should?” retorted Don Manuel working himself into a rage. “Señor, I do not understand that you talk to me so.”

“That’s all right,” replied Jim coolly. He did not want to quarrel with the man as yet. “We need not lose our tempers like schoolboys. You can stay a century with Corn for all I care! But Joyce—”

“If I have any influence with him he shall go.”

“Very good. I would have spoken to him myself, but your influence over him is stronger than mine.”

Santiago shrugged his shoulders. “You ascribe to me more power than I possess,” said he, “I do not wish to obtain influence over any one. To me Joyce is a pleasant friend, nothing more. When I go back to London probably I shall see little of him. And I return to Mexico in two months.”

Herrick was pleased to hear this. If there was any conspiracy, and Don Manuel was mixed up in it, the thing would at all events come to a head within eight weeks. It was time it did, for Herrick was weary of fighting with shadows. Once he had something definite before him he could fight; and a vague threat in the Mexican’s tone assured him that he would not have long to wait.

As he had no excuse for leaving Don Manuel the doctor was forced to return to the village with him. On the way they passed Sidney, who was walking towards the moor. Herrick called to the boy, who merely waved his hand and passed on. Jim noticed that his face was singularly colourless, of a hue resembling that which it had assumed when he had slept on the library sofa prior to his announcement of Mrs. Marsh’s death.

“How ill that boy looks!” muttered Herrick.

“Pardon me,” interposed Manuel, “he is not ill. But he is in that frame of mind which will bring him into contact with spiritual intelligences.”

“How do you know?”

“By his rapt look and his fixed eye. That boy Dr. Herrick, is clairvoyant.”

Herrick was angry at once. “You are talking the jargon of the spiritualists,” he said roughly, “all trickery and fraud.”

“Believe me nothing of the sort Señor. I myself have seen the most extraordinary things.”

Herrick looked at him with a disdainful smile. “I know you are not a good man Santiago, nor do you wish to be thought one. But I credited you with more intelligence than to believe in hallucinations.”

Don Manuel not at all offended laughed. “True I am not a good man,” he said, “and more is the pity. I am afraid to go where that lad can go—into the astral plane. You do not understand? No! you are as I said before, a materialistic being. But I am not a fool Dr. Herrick, and I can tell you that I know something of the psychic faculty. In Mexico I have seen the most wonderful things.”

“Tell me all about it,” said Jim humouring the man, “I am a sceptic you know. All the spiritualism I have ever seen is humbug.”

“This of which I talk is not spiritualism,” rejoined Manuel coldly, “it is the occult science. What is the good of my explaining anything to you? You would only laugh, you cannot see, you never will see. The prison of the flesh is too strong for you to break through.”

“I am a healthy man if that is what you mean,” retorted Jim, “but about this boy? He is queer, I admit.”

“Ah you can see that!” said Manuel sarcastically. “I congratulate you. Eh! he foretold the death of Mrs. Marsh. Is it not so?”

“Yes! But that was a coincidence.”

“Of course. These things are always coincidences—to you. But to me it is a proof that the boy can enter the astral plane. He does not know what it is; he is not instructed but he can go.”

“I don’t know what it is myself.”

“It is another world that is all around us,” said Manuel waving his hand, “it interweaves itself into our world but having only limited senses we cannot see it. That boy has senses finer than ours and he can see. If you gave him a crystal, a blob of ink, any shining surface with depth, he would see the most wonderful things. Have you read Zanoni, Señor?”

“Bulwer Lytton’s romance? Yes.”

“Of course you call it a romance; but there is much truth in it. Well, it is useless for me to explain, besides I am not a good man, and to tell you all I should be good. That boy however? You want to make him like yourself. Well then make him eat plenty of meat, and take exercise, make him fat, place him amongst boys who will laugh at him, and he will be like the rest of the world. He will not lose his power altogether. It will come to him at odd moments. But he will not be the dreamer you see him, no! and he will not be able to see.”

“I have thought of that myself,” said Herrick lazily, “the boy is half-starved and queer—a poet in temperament. I will take him in hand, and—”

“And make him like yourself. Did I not say so?” Manuel paused, then laughed. “To-night if I am not mistaken he will astonish you,” he said. “I know the look he had on his face. Something is in the air. He sees it he will tell you about it, and you will laugh.”

“Tell me about what?”

“I do not know; I am not clairvoyant. Wait and see,” and Manuel turning on his heel went into the Carr Arms which they had approached during their conversation. Herrick looked after him with a smile of contempt. “A charlatan!” he muttered, “and I thought he was only a villain. Humph! I do not think one need be afraid of him—now.”

All the same in spite of his openly expressed scepticism, the conversation haunted him. He determined to keep Sidney in his company and see if anything happened. Herrick scoffed at the things Manuel had been talking about, yet he could not deny that the incident of the prophecy of Mrs. Marsh’s death was very remarkable. Indeed Jim shuddered as he wondered if this uncanny boy was about to prophesy something similar. However he put the gruesome thought out of his mind, and went to Biffstead. Here he met Joyce coming out of the gate. The little man looked quite joyous, and greeted Herrick gaily.

“Are you just going in? I was coming to you. Miss Endicotte asked me to take a message to you.”

“What is it?” said Herrick forcing himself to be civil. It was most important that he should not quarrel with Robin at present. He hated himself because he was obliged to wear this mask; but the circumstances of the case and the interests of Stephen required it.

“Miss Endicotte wants you and Marsh-Carr to come to dinner. She has asked me also. I am going back to dress.”

“And to invite Don Manuel I suppose,” sneered Herrick.

“No,” replied Joyce simply. He either did not notice the sneer, or wished it to appear that he had not perceived it. “Manuel dines with Pentland Corn to-night.”

“I hear he is going to stay with him.”

“Yes, Corn and he have taken to one another.”

“Curious they should, and not creditable to Corn,” said Herrick and went inside, leaving Joyce staring after him.

The little man frowned, and his face assumed a most unpleasant expression. “I wonder if he knows anything?” he thought biting his fingers. “He is quite different to what he used to be. I don’t care. I can hold my own,” and with this defiant declaration he marched away holding his head in the air. Certainly Dr. Jim was not wrong in suspecting Robin to be other than he seemed.

“Then you won’t come to dinner?” said Ida when Herrick presented himself. “What a pity! Bess will be disappointed.”

“I think not,” replied Herrick dryly. “I understand Joyce is coming. But that is neither here nor there, I shall tell Stephen that you want him and so shall be left alone in the house. Will you send over Sidney to dine with me. I want him particularly.”

“But he is only a boy. He will bore you.”

“On the contrary, I find him a very interesting study. You know I promised to take him in hand. Well, I want to have a talk with him.”

“I am sure it is very good of you to take so much trouble Dr. Jim,” said Ida gratefully. “Certainly; I will send him when he returns from the moor. He went out for a walk. And you will tell Stephen to come over?”

“Yes, as soon as I get back. He has been writing poetry all the day, and needs to be taken out of himself. I am very glad you have asked him.”

Herrick bowed himself out and returned to “The Pines.” Of course Stephen was delighted at the idea of a dinner with Ida, but did not want to leave his friend alone. “That’s all right,” said Herrick. “Sidney is coming to keep me company.”

Stephen shuddered. “Then I am glad I am going away,” he said, “that boy is most uncomfortable—so uncanny.”

“You will certainly find more pleasure in Miss Endicotte’s society!” laughed Herrick. Stephen laughed too and looked sharply at his friend. But true to his reticent nature he said nothing.

In due time Marsh-Carr departed and Sidney arrived. The boy had more colour in his cheeks, and his eyes had lost the fixed expression noticed by Don Manuel. He and Dr. Jim were on friendly terms and Sidney was pleased that he had been asked to dine. All the same he made a bad meal. The dinner was excellent but the boy restricted himself to the plainest of the dishes and very little of them. He did not touch meat but seemed to prefer vegetables. Herrick noticed this abstinence.

“You will never grow strong if you don’t eat beef, Sidney,” he said with a smile, “all English boys should eat beef.”

“I never liked it,” replied the boy abruptly. “I do not like any meat; it is disagreeable to me.”

“And you never touch wine I notice.”

“No. I once drank a glass of beer. Ugh!” Sidney made a wry face and shuddered at the recollection. “How can people like such things.”

“What do you live on then?” asked Herrick.

“Fruit vegetables and plain water. I do not often touch tea.”

“Don’t you think that is unhealthy?”

“No, I feel alright Dr. Jim. I am never ill. Ida is always fussing over me, but I am much stronger than I look.”

“Appearances are deceptive then,” said Herrick dryly, and rose to go to the library. “I suppose you do not smoke Sidney, you are too young to indulge in that. Perhaps you do though?”

“I never smoke, I never will. I suppose I am different from other boys, but all the things they like to do I dislike.”

Herrick thought that this was the queerest lad he had ever met, but for the moment he dropped the subject. After a time he began to talk sport to see if Sidney would take any interest in it. The boy answered politely but was obviously bored. Not even the account of a tiger hunt with which Herrick strove to rouse him, had any effect. The doctor more puzzled than ever, and recollecting what Santiago had said, changed the tone of the conversation. He spoke of the fakirs in India, of their self-mortifications, and the visions they asserted they had. This was strange conversation for a boy of sixteen, but then Sidney was a freak. He woke up upon this topic, and began to talk brightly. His face became animated, a look of interest came into his eyes, and he talked in a way so far above his years that Herrick was astounded.

“I seem to know India,” said Sidney, “often times I see pictures of in it my mind. The bright blue skies, the brilliant vegetation, the queerly-dressed people. And the long range of mountains,” he continued as in a dream, “peaks of snow against a cold sky. Those must be the Himalaya Mountains.”

“You have read about India,” said Herrick, “and so it has impressed itself on your mind.”

“No! I know more about the country than I have read. It is just as if I had once lived there.”

Dr. Jim had a smattering of the theory of reincarnation. He did not believe in it, but on questioning Sidney he really began to believe that the boy must have been in India in some former life. Else how did this country-bred youth know about the gorgeous east. He said things which he could not possibly have read in books. For two hours Herrick drew him out on the subject and was fairly astounded at the mind which laid itself out before his gaze. Later on Sidney began to grow restless and again his eyes took on that fixed look. Rising he walked up and down the library. Dr. Jim asked what was the matter.

“I’m going to see something,” said Sidney in a most matter of fact tone, “the feeling is always the same. I feel as if I were not myself; as if I did not belong to my body.”

“Do you want to sleep?” asked Herrick anxiously and with a thrill.

“No, I feel particularly wide awake. I wish Stephen were back!”

Dr. Jim sat up alertly. “Why do you wish that?”

“There is something bad going to happen to him. I feel that he—he is in danger. I don’t know,” Sidney passed his thin hand across his eyes, “there is a dark cloud, but bad,—bad.”

Herrick felt half inclined to go with Sidney to Biffstead and walk home with Marsh-Carr. But he was ashamed to give way to what seemed a foolish impulse. He laughed at the boy, and began to question him on other subjects. “You are fond of wandering about at night?” he said.

“I go to the Pine wood very often,” replied Sidney still uneasy, “it is so amusing to watch them.”

“Them? Who?—What are you talking about?”

“I suppose you would call them fairies,” said the boy, “they are real people to me. Little men and women, so busy about their work.”

Herrick stared. This sounded like the ravings of a lunatic. “There are no such things as fairies,” he said roughly.

“I have seen them,” replied Sidney obstinately, “but we will not talk of them Dr. Jim. You would not believe me if I told you what I have seen.”

“See here Sydney,” said Herrick after a pause, “I believe you do see things in a way. You have a most vivid imagination and a strong poetic temperament. The way in which you described India shows me that. I believe you think of these queer things so much that you make yourself see them—a kind of hallucination. If you ate meat and took to sport, these unhealthy visions would pass away.”

“I daresay,” replied Sidney indifferently. He apparently did not wish to argue the matter. But he held to his own opinion nevertheless. There were a few moments of silence, then the boy exclaimed. “It is coming nearer—the danger to Stephen. Dr. Jim! Let us go to Biffstead. I am sure there is danger.”

Herrick the materialist however, would not give way on this point. He thought it would be weak for him to yield to the boy’s folly. “Nonsense,” he said roughly. “You are giving way to your imagination. Nothing can happen to Stephen. If there is danger,” he added in a joking manner, to make Sidney ashamed of himself, “why don’t you go to sleep and see what it is? There is the sofa.”

“No! I feel wide awake, and yet I feel—I feel,” Sidney clenched his hand.

Herrick reflected for a moment. Santiago had said that the boy was clairvoyant, and could see visions in any shining surface or in a blob of ink. There was a large silver ink pot on the table. More as a joke than in earnest, Herrick pushed this across to Sidney. “Look there and see what is the matter,” he said.

Sidney looked offended. “If you do not believe me, you need not laugh,” he declared. “I shall go to Biffstead myself. It is eleven o’clock. Quite time I was home.”

“No! No! Look in the ink first,” said Herrick, now much more in earnest. He really wished to see if the vivid imagination of the boy would see a picture in the black pool. “Have you ever looked into a crystal Sidney.”

“No, I can see things without looking into anything.”

“When you are asleep? Vivid dreams?”

“Perhaps,” said the boy quietly, “but in the dark I can—no matter. Do not at us talk Dr. Jim. You only laugh at me and I want to go home.”

“To warn Stephen?” said Herrick angrily.

“Yes,” retorted Sidney doggedly, “to warn Stephen. He is in danger.”

“Well I’ll go with you Sidney. It seems that you must be humoured. But to oblige me, see if you can discern the Arabian Nights in the ink-pot. I am sure you will see Stephen seated quietly in your drawing-room talking to your sisters, with Joyce.”

Very unwillingly Sidney did what he was asked. He knew that Herrick was laughing at him, and was particularly sensitive to ridicule. With a look of reproach which made Dr. Jim feel rather ashamed the boy drew the big silver ink-pot towards him and stared into the black oval. The chimes of the clock striking eleven had just died away and there was an absolute silence, broken only by the faint crackle of the fire. All the lights in the room had been turned off early in the evening at the request of Sidney himself. The boy disliked the full blaze. Only on the writing-table was a green-shaded lamp, and close to this:—but in such a position that the light did not fall into the ink-well, stood the silver pot. Herrick half vexed with himself for encouraging this folly, watched the boy quietly from an arm-chair. Sidney bent over the ink and stared into it hard. After a minute or two Herrick saw a quiver pass through the boy’s frame. “What is it Sidney?”

“I see the drawing-room at Biffstead,” said Sidney quietly, “but Stephen is not there! Mr. Joyce is talking to Ida and Bess.”

Herrick laughed. “What nonsense! Stephen is certainly there. If he is not, had you not better look for him?”

“I see him now,” continued Sidney taking no notice of the ridicule. “He is walking in the churchyard.”

“Rubbish!” declared the sceptic in the arm-chair, “what should take Stephen to the churchyard at this time of the night? It is not on his way home.”

“He is in the churchyard,” insisted Sidney, “there he walks amongst the tombstones. He is going to the new vault. For a time he looks at it.”

“How can you see that when the night is dark?” cried Herrick rising, “there is no moon. Come away Sidney, this is bad for you.”

“Wait! Wait!” said the boy hastily, “the danger, the danger. Stephen has left the new vault; he has gone to the old one. He is being followed, by a man in a dark cloak. The man has a big stick. He comes behind Stephen he—he—stop! stop!” the boy almost screamed. “No!—don’t hit him! Do not hit him. Stephen! Help.”

“Sidney,” cried Herrick, catching the boy by the arm and now thoroughly frightened “don’t go on in this silly fashion.”

“I tell you the man has struck Stephen,” said Sidney passionately, “he is lying by the old vault unconscious from a blow on the head. The man has gone. I don’t know where. Let me go, Mr. Herrick. Stephen is—”

Sidney wrenched himself away from Herrick and went staggering towards the door with his hands held out. Dr. Jim followed him to stop him from leaving the house in this state. But the boy gained the hall before he did. Once there and he seemed to gather strength. He caught up his cap and pulling open the massive door passed outside. Herrick taken by surprise did not wait to put on his own cap. He went after the lad bare-headed thinking he had been seized with a fit of madness. In spite of the darkness of the night he followed on Sidney’s heels so closely that he was enabled to keep him in sight. Jim wondered where he was going, being still sceptical of harm to Stephen.

Sidney passed swiftly beyond the belt of pines and down the lane which led to Biffstead. “He is going home,” thought Herrick with relief.

But the lad did not go home. He turned off sharp to the left, and entered the churchyard through a side lane. Herrick, now awestruck at his strange experience which he did not understand, ran after him stumbling over the graves. Sidney never fell. He passed swiftly to the old vault of the Carrs. Beside it was a dark body on the ground.

“Stephen! Stephen!” cried the lad, and then sank exhausted beside the body.

Herrick came up thunderstruck at that cry, struck a match and held it close to the ground beside the face of the unconscious man. He started back with an irrepressible cry and let the match fall. It was Stephen Marsh-Carr who was lying there, and he was bleeding from a wound on the back of the head. And beside him, also unconscious, lay the lad who had foreseen the accident.

“Or crime,” said Herrick aloud in a shaky voice, “this is the work of Frisco.”

Chapter 13
The Wooing Of Robin Joyce

Bewildered as Herrick was by the strangeness of this discovery, he had nerve enough to pull himself together and go for assistance. In spite of the lateness of the hour, the Carr Arms was full of labourers drinking and smoking. A number of these came at once to the churchyard when they heard of the accident—for so Herrick put it—and Stephen was carried to his house. Herrick had ascertained before seeking assistance that his friend still lived. Meanwhile Sidney had revived, but was in a drowsy state. “I want to go home,” he said. Herrick after whispering him to say nothing of the vision seen in the ink-pot, sent him to Biffstead in charge of the landlord Napper. Then he accompanied the body of his friend to “The Pines.” Herrick could not help thinking of it as the body though he knew Stephen still lived. But it was quite probable that he would be an actual corpse before the dawn.

“Mr. Marsh-Carr has met with an accident,” was the explanation of the doctor to his helpers, and they went away. But they knew very well that it was no accident, and moreover the presence of Sidney besides the body hinted that another wonderful event had taken place.

“Master Sidney said that his mother was dead,” remarked the wiseacres, “and he has found the dead body of Mr. Marsh himself now!”

“He is not dead,” said others.

“Ah! But he will die. Master Sidney, never makes a mistake.” And by the next morning a legend had been circulated that the uncanny boy, had foretold the death of the new Squire. When those who called at ‘The Pines’ heard that Marsh-Carr had lived through the night, they were quite disappointed. It seemed a reflection on Master Sidney. Yet the boy had held his tongue and no one knew really what had happened. In default of the truth then, they took refuge in a fable. There was absolutely no authority for what was said, but Sidney had been found unconscious beside the unconscious Squire. That was enough material out of which to form a wonderful story, and it lost nothing in the telling.

Meanwhile, Herrick fulfilled his duties of medical attendant to his friend, smiling grimly the while, that the need should come so comparatively early in their acquaintance. He had known Marsh-Carr but a little over five months. The meeting had taken place in July and it was now near Christmas. The doctor examined the wound on the back of the head. It was a nasty jagged cut, evidently made by some blunt instrument. “A big stick as the boy said, no doubt,” mused Herrick as he plastered and bathed and bound it up. “Stephen is stunned for the time being, but I do not think that the brain is injured. His head is pretty hard. Frisco had good intentions, but not sufficient judgment to strike hard.” For of course it was Frisco who had done this. Dr. Jim remembered what Mrs. Marsh had said and regretted that she had passed away without informing him more fully of what she knew about Frisco. That the ex-sailor should dare to come down to the scene of his first crime in order to commit a second (for at the moment Herrick credited Frisco rather than Joyce with the Carr murder) was wonderful enough, but his reason must be more wonderful still. It was impossible that he should be able to get the fortune even if he put Stephen out of the way, for he was a proven murderer, and if he showed himself would be at once arrested. Certainly he might explain all suspicions away, but that was doubtful in the face of such strong evidence. Yet, apparently he had made up his mind to remove Stephen, and get the money.

“But he won’t if I can help it,” muttered Herrick, “the beast. I’ll carry Stephen to the vault myself so that the terms of the monthly visit may be fulfilled. Not that I don’t think he will be on his feet sooner than Frisco expects. The job had been badly done.”

He sent in a message to Beorminster by a groom, telling Bridge of the new outrage and advising a search to be made for Frisco. Then the patient having been attended to and the would-be assassin recommended to the attention of the police, Dr. Jim could do nothing more. He sat before the library fire and smoked, thinking deeply the while.

“I wonder if Joyce attempted this murder,” he thought. “There is something queer about this stopping here. But that boy said Joyce was at Biffstead talking to his sisters, if I believe one part of that vision—and I am bound to do that—I must believe the other. Not Joyce then, but there is Don Manuel, he is connected with Robin in some underhand way. Besides, he professed to hate Carr, to regret the loss of the treasure. It might be he, if he has been with Corn all the night well and good—if not, he will have to account to me for his time. I do not believe in the little reptile.”

His meditations were ended by a sleepy servant who announced Ida, Bess and Frank. With them came Joyce wide-eyed with wonder; but so far as Dr. Jim could see there was no sign of terror or of guilt on his face, and Robin was not the man to conceal his feelings.

“Napper brought home Sidney and told us of this dreadful thing,” said Bess who seemed the most collected of the party. “Is he—is he—”

“No, he is not dead nor do I think he will die. The blow was badly aimed.”

“Who could have done it?” asked Frank frowning.

“I have my own opinion, but I prefer not to express it at present,” said the doctor somewhat curtly.

“I want you to take me to him doctor,” said Ida looking at him with imploring eyes. “Let me watch beside him.”

“You can do no good Miss Endicotte,” replied Herrick, “better let me look after him. To-morrow you can come over and watch if you like. I think he will recover consciousness before the dawn.”

“Thank God for that!” cried Ida devoutly and then she wept. The strain on her had been very great and she was glad of the relief of tears.

“Have you looked for the man who did this?” asked Joyce.

“I have sent a message to the police at Beorminster,” said Herrick without looking at him. “You can do no good Joyce; better go back to the inn. By the way your friend Santiago?”

“He has been with Corn all the night,” said Frank, “we met them coming here. They had just heard the news, but Bess persuaded them to stay away thinking they would only bother you.”

“I think it is best to keep the house as quiet as possible. Has Sidney said anything?” he asked looking at the sisters.

Ida clasped her hands in terror. “Did Sidney say this would happen?”

“Yes. He looked into yonder ink-pot and foretold the assault. I cannot understand the thing myself, but we can talk of it to-morrow. In the meantime, all of you hold your tongues about Sidney.”

This they all promised to do and now being more at rest in their minds about Stephen, they went away. Herrick drew Bess aside at the door. “Come over with Ida to-morrow morning,” he muttered, “I want to speak to you.”

She nodded and ran after the rest who were disappearing into the darkness. Herrick with a frown returned to the library. “It was not Joyce,” he muttered, “it was not Manuel. After all it must be Frisco. Well, if the police are clever they will catch him before he can leave the district. Ha! I’ll send a message to Southberry, it was that way he escaped last time.”

Herrick hastily wrote out an explanation. He did not need to add a description of Frisco as the hand-bills had sufficiently described him. This he sent off with another groom, then went to pass the night beside the bed of his patient. All that night Stephen lay as still as a corpse.

It was towards morning when he moved and showed signs of returning consciousness. Herrick was assiduous in his attendance, and success crowned his efforts. Gradually Stephen came to himself, with a dull pain in his head, weak, but quite himself. “Where—where am I?” were his first stammering words.

“In your own house,” said Herrick quickly, “don’t talk my dear chap; you have had an accident.”

“I remember,” muttered Stephen, “at the vault, a blow,—yes, and—”

“Be quiet,” said Herrick sternly, “you must not talk I tell you!” And after another attempt Stephen obeyed. Shortly he fell asleep. Herrick drew a long breath. The worst was over. For once the villany of Frisco had failed in its object.

Several people called that morning, amongst others Mr. Corn. The clergyman did not look well, and hurriedly asked after the sufferer. “I hope he is better,” he said, “a terrible affair Dr. Herrick!”

“A cowardly crime!” said Herrick sharply. “However we can talk of that when Marsh gets better. Meantime Mr. Corn, will you tell me if Don Manuel was at your house last night?”

“Dear me, yes,” replied Corn surprised. “He came to dinner, and stayed with me up till midnight. I was walking with him to the Carr Arms, when we met the Miss Endicottes who told us of this terrible business. Why do you ask me the question Dr. Herrick?”

“I have no special reason,” replied Herrick mendaciously, “save that being in a sense responsible for the visit of Santiago to this place, I wish to warn you that I know nothing about him.”

“Have you anything to say against his character?” asked the rector sharply.

“No! I know nothing about him. All I can say is that I do not like the man, and I think he is a bad lot. If you like to tell him this Mr. Corn you are at liberty to do so.”

“I am not the man to make mischief,” said Corn hotly, “so far as I can see Don Manuel appears to me to be perfectly respectable. If he is not, I can look after myself Dr. Herrick.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Herrick ceremoniously, “I did not wish to infer that you could not. All I have to say is that Mr. Marsh is better, and that in a week he will be about.”

Pentland Corn murmured something about being pleased, and took his departure. Herrick did not quite know what to make of the rector. He was a good preacher, a kind-hearted man, and in his own way, clever. But he seemed to be weak, and usually had a haggard look on his face for which there was no apparent reason. Sometimes he went away to the sea-side for his health and invariably returned looking worse than ever. Altogether the man was a mystery, and Herrick could not make out what was at the back of his timidity, and his restless behaviour. “I seem to be surrounded with mysteries,” said Herrick to himself. “I wonder if I shall ever get to the bottom of any one of them. If I do, the rest will easily be unravelled. I suspect the whole lot are of a piece.”

Ida came that morning, and Bess. This latter young lady waited in the library while Herrick took up Ida to the room of Stephen. She had insisted upon going up to watch beside him. “It is my right you know,” she said to Dr. Jim, and he silently admitted that it was.

Stephen had just opened his eyes when they entered. He tried to speak, but Ida placed her hand on his mouth and Herrick frowned. Marsh obediently held his tongue, and Ida sat by his bedside. However the patient managed to kiss Ida’s hand. Then Herrick went down to see Bess, warning Ida that Stephen was not to speak. Marsh did make another attempt but Miss Endicotte would not allow it. “The doctor says you are to be quiet. If you say a word I shall go away.”

“The ring?” murmured Stephen, looking at her.

She knew what he meant. Drawing the emerald ring he had brought her from town off the finger it was on, she put it on the engagement finger.

“Will that please your lordship?” said Ida gaily, but the tears were in her eyes. Stephen looked again. Thus was the situation adjusted between them without words. They were engaged to be married. Stephen fell asleep again holding the hand of his promised wife. Both were happy.

Meantime Bess and Herrick were in consultation. Herrick told the girl what Mrs. Marsh had said about Frisco, and how Stephen had been struck down from behind. “So it looks to me,” he said, “as though this man were trying to get the money.”

“It does,” admitted Bess reflectively, “but why should Frisco do all these dreadful things to get the fortune? If he had Colonel Carr in his power he need not have killed him; nor need he now try and get Stephen out of the way. I don’t understand it. However, as you have told the police both at Beorminster and Southberry, I am sure the man will be caught. I hope so I’m sure.”

“Ah! Then you champion Frisco no longer?”

“No, if it were really he who attempted to murder Stephen I hope he will be caught and punished. All the same I do not think he killed Colonel Carr.”

“What can be your reason for saying so?”

Bess hesitated. “Some time ago I promised to tell you something about the Colonel,” she said. “I will do so in a week from to-day.”

“Why not now?”

She shook her head. “Please do not ask me, but as far as this assault on Stephen goes, I am quite with you about Frisco. I hope he will be caught and punished.”

“You are a strange girl,” said Dr. Jim, “and a mystery like the rest.”

“Who are the rest?” asked Bess smiling.

“Well,” replied Jim after a pause, “Mrs. Marsh was one, you are another and Pentland Corn is a third—”

“Pentland Corn!” she echoed turning pale, “you don’t suspect him of—”

“I don’t suspect him of anything, but I do not understand why he is so intimate with that Mexican.”

Bess opened her mouth to make a remark, then she changed her mind. “I can say nothing now,” she said abruptly, “later on. Ida is with Stephen. Oh, well, I need not wait. I must go into Beorminster. They will be asking for news of this for the paper. I might hear something about Frisco there. If I do I shall let you know. Good-bye!” and before Herrick could stop her she was off like a swallow.

Evidently Bess knew something about Corn which she did want to admit at present. Herrick wondered what it could be. Surely she did not think the clergyman had liked Carr so much that he was working for the discovery of his murderer. “But she is doing some detective business on her own account,” thought Jim rather vexed. “She will get into trouble if she does not take care. I wish she would let me know what she is up to. I’ll wait a week, no longer. After that, she must speak out.”

But before the week was ended, accident brought about a confession from Bess which Dr. Jim was far from expecting. It arose out of the wooing of Robin Joyce. Whether Manuel had used his influence or not to induce Joyce to leave Saxham, it is impossible to say. If he had, one would have thought that Robin would have resented the interference of his former friend Herrick. But several times during the week he met Dr. Jim, yet made no sign that Santiago had told him of the doctor’s wish. He continued to haunt Biffstead and Dr. Jim hardly ever went there without meeting Robin coming or going. This did not make Jim any the more amiable.

The accident to Stephen caused great excitement in the country. Bridge came over to see the squire and to interview Dr. Jim. But nothing came of his talk or—so-called vigilance. The police both at Southberry and Beorminster failed to find any trace of Frisco, although the railway stations were watched carefully. Thanks to Herrick’s prompt action, it was impossible that the man could have left the district without the knowledge of the police, yet he was not even seen. Bridge went to Heathcroft, but failed to learn that anyone resembling the ex-sailor had boarded a train at that station. To all appearances Frisco had not been in the neighbourhood. Yet if Frisco was not the culprit, who was?

Herrick knew that Joyce had been at Biffstead on the evening of the assault. According to the evidence of Corn, Don Manuel had been at the rectory till midnight. As the assault on Stephen took place shortly after eleven both these men must be held guiltless. Stephen himself could give no help. He had left the Biffs at a quarter to eleven, with the intention of coming straight back to “The Pines.” Then as the night was fine, he thought he would go and have a look at the vault. He went into the churchyard and after seeing the new vault went on to the old one. While looking at it, he received a blow at the back of his head and remembered no more until he found himself in bed with Herrick bending over him. He had heard no footsteps behind him. The blow had been struck in the most unexpected manner, and he had been taken completely by surprise.

All this puzzled Herrick greatly. However, he determined to wait for another week to hear what Bess had to say. She might tell him something tangible, likely to lead to an explanation of these mysteries. But even if she did not Dr. Jim made up his mind to move in the matter. He would first have a talk with Robin and learn if he had anything to do with the death. He would have to explain away the evidence of the old-fashioned pistol being in his possession. It might not have been the weapon used; on the other hand, Herrick felt convinced in his own mind that it was. To unravel the puzzle therefore, Robin was the man he intended to begin with. He was assisted to make a start by the folly of Joyce himself, and this incidentally brought about the confession of Bess.

One afternoon towards the end of the week Herrick went to Biffstead. Ida was at “The Pines” with Stephen, and Bess was alone. Hearing this, Herrick volunteered to fetch her, and started off. As he approached the house he heard the voice of the girl raised in anger. She appeared at the French window of the drawing-room which looked out on the front of the house, and seemed in a state of alarm. The moment she saw him she passed rapidly through the window and caught him by the arm. At the same moment Robin, greatly excited, appeared at the window.

“Come back! Come back, Miss Bess. I did not mean it,” he said.

“What is the matter?” asked Dr. Jim astonished.

“Come inside,” panted Bess, “that man! I want you to thrash him. Oh, the coward!”

Dr. Jim took Bess by the arm and drew her into the room. Robin winced and shrank aside as the doctor entered. Bess had evidently been typing at her worktable, for it was drawn near the window, and some manuscript lay open on the table. Before this stood a chair, and near it was another chair in which to all appearances Robin Joyce had been seated.

“Now then!” said Herrick, when he had placed the girl in her chair, “what does this mean?”

“Nothing,” said Robin very pale but trying to speak calmly. “Only that I asked Miss Endicotte to be my wife, and she refused.”

“Quite right,” flashed out Herrick angrily. “What right have you to ask her to be your wife?”

Before Robin could answer (not that he showed any inclination to do so) Bess started to her feet. “Yes!” she said indignantly. “He did ask me to be his wife and because I refused to marry him, he threatened me.”

“Threatened you,” Herrick turned on Joyce with a dangerous look.

“No! No!” implored Robin very white, “forget what I said. I did not mean any harm. I shall go away.”

Herrick seized him by the wrist. “You will do nothing of the sort,” he said quietly. “You must wait until I have heard all about this.”

Robin winced again and looked cowed. His lips were dry, his face was pale, and he cast an imploring look upon Bess. The girl returned that look with one of defiance and addressed herself to Herrick.

“Do you know what that little coward has accused me of?” she cried fiercely. “He said that I murdered Colonel Carr!”

Dr. Jim laughed. The accusation was so absurd that he could not help laughing. “Of course the man is mad,” he said briefly.

“I did not say that you had murdered Colonel Carr,” cried Robin. “I only said that you were near the house at the time of the murder.”

“Ah!” cried Herrick turning on the little wretch, “and how do you know that Mr. Joyce? Come. Out with it.”

“He said he saw me,” put in Bess.

“I did see you,” said Robin making a clean breast of it. “You were near the house and for all I know—”

“So you did come to Saxham on that night,” interrupted Herrick. “Oh, you liar! You went to see Frith and Frith; you slept at the Hull Hotel, did you? And all the time you were down here! I believe you killed Colonel Carr yourself.”

“I swear I did not,” shrieked Robin, “she did if anyone.”

“Don’t you dare to say that again,” cried Bess, “you are telling a lie.”

“Were you not on the lawn in front of the house?” asked Robin.

“Yes, I was, and I can account for my presence to Dr. Herrick—not to you—little toad that you are,” cried the angry girl. “Send him away,” she added turning to Jim, “and I’ll tell you all.”

“Go back to the Carr Arms,” said Herrick to Joyce sternly, “and wait for me there. If you try to run away, I shall have you arrested.”

“You cannot arrest me,” blustered Robin looking desperately afraid.

“I can. I have evidence you know nothing about. Go!”

Robin seemed inclined to dispute the order, but when Herrick made a step in his direction he caught up his hat and fled through the window. “He will run away,” said Bess.

“Let him try,” remarked Herrick grimly, “I can have him arrested at once and I will. Insult you, did he—the hound!”

“It was my own fault for being so kind to him,” cried Bess excitedly, “as if I cared for him. It was only because he was a writer that I let him come and see me so often. But I shall not have anything more to do with him. He sent me a manuscript. I shall send it back. Where is it? and she began to pull out the drawers in the writing-table.

“Don’t get excited Bess,” said Jim using her Christian name in his hurry. “I will put it alright.”

But Bess in a rage kept turning over the papers and scattering them on the floor in her search for the manuscript. Suddenly she tossed aside a pile of writing-paper in the left-hand drawer. Underneath was an old fashioned pistol. She looked at it in astonishment. “Where did that come from?” she asked in dismay, taking it up.

Herrick took it from her. He recognised it at once. It was the very pistol that Manuel had shown him in Joyce’s flat.

“What does it mean?” asked Bess quite amazed at the discovery.

“It means that Joyce is even more of a hound than I thought he was.”

Chapter 14
The Confession Of Bess

Bess Endicotte stared at Herrick where he stood with a black look on his face, and the clumsy weapon in his hand. “And I’ll see Bridge about it,” he was saying, “the bullet’s still at the police office. If it fits this—” he clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

“What?” cried Bess finding her tongue, and asking the question with a shiver. “Is that the pistol with which—” here her voice died away in her throat. “It can’t be,” she whispered.

Herrick looked at her in his turn, and slipped the pistol into his pocket. “I know what you are thinking about,” he said quietly, “but the pistol will do you no harm. I have seen it before. You are all right Bess.”

“All right!” she echoed and drawing her brows together. “What do you mean?”

“Why, what should I mean, but that Joyce slipped this devilish piece of evidence into the table drawer, just to accuse you of—”

She bounded to her feet, grasping the idea for the first time. “He did that, did he?” she cried her head flung back, her eyes angry. “Oh!” she stamped, “what should be done to such a man! And you can sit quietly there Dr. Jim.”

“Because I want to hear your story. After this, you must tell me all you know; all you have heard. As for Joyce,” his mouth twisted, “leave him to me. He will not get off easily I promise you.”

“To put the pistol there, that I—” she broke off again, and looked at him in a scared manner. “Did he kill Carr?” she asked.

“That I can’t say—yet. To kill the man he must have had some strong motive. I have yet to learn the motive strong or weak that would make Joyce risk his neck. He is careful of his neck too,” explained Dr. Jim. “I have a mind to break it.”

“And why?” asked Bess round-eyed. She had never seen the good-tempered doctor in such a rage.

“I wonder you can’t guess,” remarked Herrick cooling down. With a gasp Bess drew back. Their eyes met. A sudden crimson flushed her face, and she turned it away. “Yes,” said Herrick taking her hand, “and I only knew it myself a moment ago.”

“What are you talking about?” cried the girl snatching her hand away.

“I am talking of you and myself. Ida said that it would come all of a sudden, and she was right, here it is, and I have been looking in the wrong place for it these many months.”

Bess knew perfectly well what he meant, but she made a show of not understanding. “I think we are talking nonsense,” she said. “There is much to be done, if what you say about the pistol is true.”

“Yes,” said Herrick again, “as you say there is much to be done. The other thing can stand over for a time. You know well enough; but it suits you to hold me at arm’s length. Woman’s way I suppose. Well,” he brisked up and his voice took a sharper tone, “let us get to business. This rascal tried to inculpate you in the crime. He shall have the finest thrashing he ever had. The pistol I can explain away. I have seen it in his house, and I can guess that he slipped it into that drawer so as to make his case against you the stronger. He thought if he accused you and could back his accusation with evidence that you would never dare to refuse him—the mean hound!”

“Indeed it would never have come to that,” said the girl proudly. “I am not the woman to be won by threats. He did accuse me of the murder, and I defied him to do his worst. I suppose if you had not come, he would have shown me the pistol next. The mean scoundrel!” she clenched her fist, “beat him well Dr. Jim.”

“What a blood-thirsty person it is,” laughed Jim, “but upon my word you know, this is the strangest of wooings.”

“Never mind that,” said Bess drawing back, “we can talk later of such things. But my position is anything but a pleasant one. That little man will make trouble.”

“If he does not, his Mexican friend will. They are a proper pair of scamps. However I am equal to both of them. Leave Joyce to me. I know all about him; but about yourself, nothing. Joyce—I take it—accuses you of being near ‘The Pines’ on the night of the murder.”

“And at the hour,” said Bess quickly. “This is what I have been trying to make up my mind to tell you all the week. The necessity of doing so has come earlier than I expected, but I shall explain myself now.” She came to a stop and looked at him questioningly. “Of course you know I had nothing to do with the crime itself?”

“I am sure of that,” said Herrick heartily. “But I think you know who did it. Come now, confess!”

“You are mistaken,” cried Bess. “All I know is that Frisco is innocent.”

“Have you proof of this?”

“The proof of my own eyes; I saw him at the door of the house when the shots were being fired.”

“You heard the shots?”

“Three of them. The fourth I did not hear.”

“Humph! About what hour was this?”

“Between nine and ten.”

“And what were you doing out at that hour?”

Bess paused. “I had better tell you all from the beginning,” she said slowly, “then you can judge for yourself. I have told no one as yet. It was too terrible, and—” she hesitated, “I had other reasons for silence. Yet if Frisco had been tried for his life, I should have come forward in spite of all. He is perfectly innocent. I can prove it.”

“Strange,” muttered Herrick taking a seat. “Well, let us hear.”

“What about that horrid Joyce?”

“I’ll attend to him later. He will stay at the inn until I come. That is, if he is really innocent. Of course if he tries to bolt, I shall know he is guilty, and have him arrested. Oh, Joyce knows me, and will act accordingly. Never mind him. Go on with your story.”

“It is not much of a story,” said Bess. “You know the habit that Sidney has of going to the Pine Wood?”

“To see the fairies? Yes, he told me all about that.”

“Well, on the night of the murder, he went away as usual. It came on to rain and Ida was in a great state. She thought he would catch his death of cold—he is so delicate you know. I said I would go and look for him, and about nine o’clock I set out. I knew he would be in the Pine woods. It was raining and I wrapped a long cloak about me. He was not in the wood, although I searched everywhere with a lantern. Then I came out of the wood by mistake right on to the Colonel’s lawn. The light was burning in the tower, and the whole of the house was illuminated.”

“Just as I saw it,” muttered Herrick. “Yes?”

“I crossed the lawn to come home, when I heard three shots fired one after the other in the tower. I heard them plainly. I turned with a start; but the Colonel had done so many queer things that I thought he was only shooting to amuse himself.”

“It never struck you that it was murder?”

“No! If the Colonel had not been so eccentric I might have suspected, but nothing ever surprised me in that house. I waited for a moment. There were no more shots. I looked towards the house and there I saw Frisco standing in the doorway. I saw him quite plainly.”

“That was some time after hearing the shots?”

“Indeed no. It was immediately after the first shot. When the other two were fired I saw him there. I thought that he might see me, and as I did not want Colonel Carr to think I had been spying round his house at so late an hour, I ran home as fast as I could. Sidney had arrived before me. I said nothing about the shots, and went to bed. When I heard how you had discovered the body, I knew that I had heard the shots fired by the murderer. But I knew also that when Frisco was missing he was not guilty. So that was why I defended him. I could not speak plainer could I?”

“Well, I see no reason why you should not have told the story you tell me now.”

“If Frisco had been arrested I should have. But you know,” here Bess looked down, “can you not understand Dr. Jim? The people round about here are sad scandalmongers. Because I called on Colonel Carr to get an article as I told you, people said that I was fast.”

“The brutes!” cried Herrick firing up.

“Well then, you can understand that if it had become known that I was near Colonel Carr’s house so late at night, there would have been more talk. I really don’t know what they would have said. So I said nothing not even to Ida. Of course I could have told them that I went out to get Sidney—but—” Bess shrugged her shoulders, “you know how spiteful people are. No! After consideration I thought it best to hold my tongue.”

“But you might have told me,” said Herrick.

“I was afraid to,” faltered Bess.

“You foolish child, as though I should not have understood!”

“Well,” she said with a sigh of relief, “I am glad I have told you now.”

“So am I, as it has brought Joyce to the rope’s end. How did he say he saw you on that night?”

“He was in the Pine Wood; on the verge of the lawn.”

“And for what reason?”

“He did not tell me; nor did I ask him. You see,” said Bess, “I was so angry that he should accuse me of shooting the Colonel, that I gave him no time to explain. Then you came, and—you know the rest.”

“Humph! Well, Joyce shall explain to me his reasons for coming to Saxham. Of course I knew that he was here on that night.”

“You knew?” said Miss Endicotte much astonished. “How could you know.”

“The information came to me by accident more or less,” replied Herrick and forthwith he explained, how Stephen’s remark as to Robin’s income had led him to examine into the doings of the little man on that night. “And,” continued the doctor, “I went to Heathcroft station. There I learned that a little man muffled up in a great coat (he had the excuse of the rain, but it really was a disguise) had arrived at Heathcroft by the seven o’clock train from London.”

“But Heathcroft is six miles from this place.”

“So Joyce knew. Therefore he was thoughtful enough to bring his bicycle with him. Oh, he came here right enough—to see the Colonel I suppose.”

“To murder him?”

“I really can’t be sure of that Bess. You see Carr, for some reason we do not know, allowed Mrs. Joyce an income of five hundred a year. Robin wanted this to be continued to him. The solicitors told him that Carr refused it. Therefore I can only think that he came down to try and persuade Carr to be more generous. But,” added Herrick with emphasis, “I hardly think that for such a reason Joyce would commit a murder. He hasn’t the pluck.”

“That may be,” replied Bess thoughtfully, “but it seems to me that if he did not, he took a great deal of unnecessary trouble to conceal his movements from you. Besides which, he led you directly to the house, where he knew—at all events I think so—that the body would be found.”

“It is certainly strange, and looks as though his movements had been premeditated. It was Joyce who selected the country for the walking tour. Yet so far as I know he was never in these parts before. And I am bound to say that it was I who led the way to ‘The Pines’ on that night.”

“I daresay. He was too clever to take the initiative. But he no doubt made suggestions.”

“Yes, he did that. Well, I must get the truth out of the man himself. He must account to me for the possession of that pistol, and for his being in the Pine wood on the night of the murder. I wonder he gave himself away like he did.”

Bess curled her lip. “He did not intend it,” she said, “he thought that if he frightened me I would consent to marry him to save my own skin and then hold my tongue about his presence at Saxham. Oh! all his calculations were carefully made, you may be sure Dr. Jim. It was only because he mistook my character that they were upset.”

Herrick nodded. “There is Don Manuel of course,” he said.

“The Mexican! What about him?”

“Well, I wonder if he has anything to do with this. It is strange that he should be so friendly with Joyce, or with Corn too for the matter of that. Joyce said that a mutual friend of his and mine introduced him to Santiago. I took the trouble to write to that friend—a man called Johnstone, and I learned that Johnstone had never seen or heard of Don Manuel, nor had the Mexican ever been to the Apollo Club where, according to Robin the introduction took place. Where they met, and why they met, I have yet to find out. Luckily I have now enough evidence to force my dear friend Joyce to be candid. And I shall not spare him,” said Herrick with a grim smile. “He is a liar and a scoundrel. I never was so mistaken in a man before. I prided myself upon reading character. It seems that I am not so clever as I thought.”

“No doubt there is something between them, since they are so intimate,” was the reply of Miss Endicotte, “but whether it has to do with the murder I do not know. Did Señor Santiago know Colonel Carr?”

“In South America, and hated him like poison. It seems they both went on a treasure-hunting expedition in Peru.”

“Treasure-hunting! Peru. Ah I remember, that was the expedition Frisco used to talk about.”

“Was Frisco with the Colonel there?”

“Yes. He let drop hints that he and the Colonel had found treasure in Peru, and that they had lost themselves. Of course I do not know the whole story. But from what Frisco said I know it was in that way Colonel Carr obtained his wealth.”

“What a liar that Manuel is!” said Herrick. “He denied that he had ever seen Frisco, According to Manuel only he and Carr were on the expedition. Santiago fell ill, and Carr left him amongst the Indians. He was held in captivity for two years, and when he got back to civilisation Carr had vanished with the treasure. He—I am speaking of the Mexican—arrived in England six months ago—in search of Colonel Carr no doubt.”

“I wonder if he killed him?”

“He might have, and yet I do not know. Revenge is a poor thing when no substantial benefit is to be derived. Santiago wants wealth. He would have managed the affair in a different way.”

“But remember the warnings!”

“Three of them. Yes! That is the kind of way Santiago would go to work. Try and frighten Carr into parting with a substantial amount. But I do not think that he would kill the goose with the golden eggs—at all events until he was in possession of some of the eggs. No, I can’t think the Mexican is guilty.”

“Then Joyce must have done it.”

“Perhaps. But he is such a coward.”

“If not either of those two, who is it?” asked Bess. “Not Frisco?”

Herrick looked at her, “I am not so sure,” he said coolly, “you see the alibi you provide for Frisco does not touch the subject. You saw the man at the door when three shots were fired. Well, if you remember at the inquest it was proved—as much as it could be proved—that those three shots were fired at a dead body. Therefore when you heard them the man was already dead. Why should Frisco not have done it and then come down leaving his accomplice to do what he liked.”

“I see what you mean,” said Bess, “it was the bullet that killed the Colonel—the old fashioned bullet—”

“Fired from this if I am not mistaken,” went on Herrick producing the pistol.

“You can’t be sure of that. And admitting that it is so, how did the pistol come into possession of Joyce, if Frisco used it?”

“I am in the dark there,” said Herrick vexedly. “I must get the truth out of Joyce. Time to see him now,” and he glanced at his watch. “As to the pistol I’ll see Bridge and find out if the bullet fits.”

Bess held out her hand. “Let me do that,” she said, “while you are watching Joyce and the Mexican I can attend to that matter.”

“Do you think you will be able?” hesitated Herrick.

“I am certain I can. Besides I want to have some part in the discovery of the truth.”

The doctor handed her the pistol. He knew that she was a clever girl, and would not undertake a thing unless she could execute it thoroughly. “You and I can do the detective business together,” he said. “I will look after Joyce and Santiago and Frisco if I can find him; your part will be to trace the pistol and to see if the bullet fits. You can manage Bridge?”

“Easily,” replied Bess, putting the pistol away, “he is so conceited that a little flattery goes a long way with him.”

“Don’t let him meddle in this matter. He will only spoil it. I know what to do. Leave it to me.”

Dr. Jim took up his hat to go. Suddenly he recollected a point he had not yet discussed and sat down again. “About Pentland Corn,” said he, “what do you think of him Bess?”

“He is a good man,” she replied promptly, “but he is weak. I am sure there is nothing wrong about him.”

“Yet why should he make such a friend of Santiago?”

“I do not know. Shall I ask him?”

“He would not tell you the truth if you did. He has his own secrets.”

Bess nodded. “But I do not believe they are bad secrets,” she said, “the rector is a man with a past—a sad past. Did you know he was a soldier before he became a parson?”

“No,” replied Dr. Jim, “and yet I always thought he had a martial air about him. Why did he leave the army?”

“He said he had a call. No!” added Bess hastily seeing the doctor’s lip curl, “I do not think he is a hypocrite. He is most devout.”

“Humph! I do not believe much in that emotional religion,” said Jim with a shake of his head, “a call had he, and left the army for that? I should like to hear a more feasible story. He was a friend of Colonel Carr’s?”

“Yes, he was the only person the Colonel saw, and he used to go very often to ‘The Pines.’ But I do not think he did Colonel Carr much good.”

“On the contrary it is probable that the Colonel did a weak man like that a good deal of harm,” Herrick stopped; then said suddenly. “He knows something about this murder?”

“What makes you think so?” said Bess startled.

“Well! He did not come to the inquest, and seeing that he was the parson of the parish and a great friend of the dead man I think that strange myself. Also when I met him in the morning after the murder he talked nonsense, sheer nonsense, and was in a sort of hysterical condition.”

“That might have been because of the shock,” replied Bess thoughtfully, “I know one thing at least about Mr. Corn. He will not look upon a corpse.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, nor does anyone else. The parishioners are sometimes annoyed because he will not come and see their dead. Mr. Corn will pray with a dying person but he will not look on a dead one.”

“Humph! And he was a soldier!” said Herrick. “I must look into this.”

“You have quite enough to do at present I think. I will see to the pistol, and you can go now to Joyce.”

“Then we can meet and compare notes. And Bess, we understand one another?”

Miss Endicotte flushed. “I wish you would not talk nonsense,” she cried, “there are other and more important things to think of.”

Dr. Jim would have protested, but she re-entered the house, and left him to his own thoughts. These were pleasant in spite of the discovery of Robin’s iniquities. Jim now saw that he had been in love with Bess without knowing it. The shock of Joyce’s wooing had brought about the discovery. “And what a fool I have been not to see it before!” said Dr. Jim. “No wonder they say Love is blind,” and he whistled light-heartedly.

Chapter 15
Robin Joyce Explains Himself

Whether it was the charm of the girl’s society based upon his new discovery, or the interest of the conversation from a detective’s point of view, that detained Herrick with her for over two hours, it is impossible to say. Probably Dr. Jim could not have given a satisfactory answer himself. But as he hurried along the road to the Carr Arms he acknowledged that he had been dilatory, for in two hours Robin could have got away from Saxham. But Dr. Jim did not think he would go. Robin was a child in many ways, and was not quick in making plans. Besides, he would be bewildered by the sudden revelation of his rascality and for the moment he would not be able to think of his own safety. Or at least if he did think, he would be unable to make any plans. Also—and of this Herrick was certain—he had very little money to come and go on.

“No,” thought the doctor, as he swung into the village green, “Robin knows better than to give me the slip. He would be afraid that I would show him no mercy when I caught him up. Probably he will make out some story and implore me for the sake of our past friendship to be silent. If he tells me the whole truth and if he did not actually kill Carr, I might—but then he insulted Bess, and tried to get her into danger.” The doctor clenched his fist and frowned. “I’ll give him a thrashing at all events. There is a bad time coming for you Robin my man.”

The prognostications of Dr. Jim proved to be correct. Joyce had not attempted flight. He was waiting in his sitting-room for the coming of the doctor, and he looked horribly frightened. Herrick could have found it in his heart to be sorry for the wretched little creature with his white haggard face and staring eyes; but he remembered what was at stake, and made up his mind to be stern even to the verge of brutality. For all he knew this treacherous little scoundrel might have hinted to the outside world that Bess was involved in the murder of Carr. If he had done this, Herrick considered that nothing would be too bad for him. It was in a very stern frame of mind that Dr. Jim sat down opposite his former friend. Robin winced at the regard of those once kind eyes. He felt like a rabbit in the presence of a boa-constrictor. “Well!” said Jim grimly eying the miserable wretch, “and what have you to say for yourself?”

“Nothing!” returned Robin sullenly. “I am afraid I shall not be satisfied with that Joyce. You will have to tell me the whole of your doings, from first to last.”

“I have done nothing so very wrong Jim—”

“One moment,” interposed Herrick, “I think you had better call me by my last name. We are not friends now you know.”

“Will, I call you Dr. Herrick,” said Robin with a small sneer.

“I think it might be better—sir,” drawled Herrick, and the contempt in his tone made the self-satisfied Joyce wince.

“If I had done anything wrong I should not have waited to see you.”

“That’s a lie,” replied the plain-spoken Jim. “You know me better than that. Had you bolted I should have had the police on your track before night-fall. You know me, as I said before. Your only chance is to make a clean breast of this damnable business.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t bandy words with me Joyce. It won’t do. You are in a cleft stick and no amount of wriggling will serve you. If you want a lead here is one. You told me at Southberry that you went up up see Frith and Frith.”

“So I did.—”

“Oh, Lord!” cried Herrick in a tone of disgust “will you never be done with your petty falsehoods. I know that you have not seen the solicitors for some months—certainly not on the twenty-fourth of July. Frith told me how you tried to get your mother’s annuity transferred to yourself. Come now! Don’t play the fool with me. You did not sleep at the Hull hotel?”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I went there. And I know also that you alighted from the seven train at Heathcroft station, and rode on your bicycle to Saxham—I don’t know for what purpose, unless it was to kill the Colonel.”

“No! No!” this time Joyce was really afraid. “I did not kill him!”

“That remains to be proved. What about that pistol you slipped into the drawer of Bess Endicotte’s writing-table—now, you are about to lie again! It won’t do;—it won’t do. The truth, you rat of a man.”

“Don’t call names,” muttered Joyce weakly.

“I beg your pardon. I will not call you any more names. Let us conduct this conversation calmly. But you have to tell me the whole truth, or—”

“Well,” said Joyce defiantly, “and if I refuse? What then.”

“I will hand you over to the Beorminster police.”

“You have no evidence—”

“I have more than you think of. You ass,” said Herrick in a cold rage, “for the sake of our past friendship I have been sparing you all these weeks. I got you down here in the hope that you would be man enough to come forward and confess your follies. I do not say crimes, for you have not pluck enough to commit the smallest. But you kept your own counsel, and thought you were pulling wool over my eyes. I have seen through all these weeks. And now you insult the woman I love, and—”

Robin jumped up in a childish rage. “You don’t love her—you won’t marry her,” he panted. “I won’t have it!”

“Sit down,” commanded Herrick sternly, “you have nothing to say in the matter. Leave Miss Endicotte’s name out of it. We have had enough of this nonsense. Confess what you have done.”

“I won’t,” Joyce set his teeth.

“Very good. Then I shall send for the police.”

“You dare not.”

“Ah! You think so.” Herrick rose and walked towards the bell. Joyce anticipated him and stood in his path with flashing eyes. Herrick laughed. “Are you about to measure your strength against mine?” he said.

Before he could speak further the little man had flung himself at his throat like a wild beast. Strong as Herrick was, the abnormal nerve force of Joyce made him no mean antagonist. But the contest was unequal, and at last Herrick lifted Joyce above his head, shook him as a terrier does a rat, and pitched him headlong into a chair, where the creature, helpless, and overborne, sat gnashing his teeth and glaring. For the moment Herrick thought he was mad. “Have you had enough?” asked the doctor recovering his breath, “if not I am quite willing to administer the thrashing you so richly deserve.”

Joyce still glared and stamped in impotent rage. Then he suddenly burst into tears and hid his face in his hands. “You great brute,” he wailed, “you might spare me!”

“Spare you!” echoed Herrick contemptuously, “and did you think of sparing that poor girl, whom you were trying to blackmail into marriage! You may thank your stars Joyce that you have to deal with a man who knows you as I do. If it had been another man, they would have left you half dead on the floor. You shall have justice from me, never fear.”

Robin still continued to sob, and huddled up in the big chair looked scarcely as large as a child. “I feel ill—ill—horribly ill.”

“You’ll feel much worse before I’ve done with you,” said the relentless Herrick, “sit up and talk rationally. All this won’t do with me. You have tried all your tricks, they are of no avail. Here are pen ink and paper. I intend to take down all you say, and you will sign the statement.”

“I’ll see you to the devil first,” cried Joyce sitting up tear-stained and dishevelled but with an evil look in his eyes.

“You will do exactly as you are bid,” replied Herrick selecting a pen, “now begin, and tell no lies. I have information of which you know nothing, and if I catch you tripping—well you know what to expect.”

Joyce saw that he was helpless. He had tried defiance, force, tears, and was now at the end of his resources. Herrick pitilessly held to his point. Seeing that there was no help for it, the little scamp dried his eyes, arranged his coat and hardened himself into a reasonable frame of mind. “You have the whip hand,” he said sullenly, “so I must give in.”

“I think that is very wise of you. After all you might have known that such play-acting would not impose upon me. Now you are to tell me all you did at Saxham on that night and why you came down. I shall probably ask you a few questions to which I shall require truthful answers. And remember what I said. I know more about your doings than you give me credit for. I can tell if you speak the truth or not. Now go on.”

Dr. Jim squared his elbows and settled himself to write. Joyce cast one look at the door as though he meditated flight. But he knew that such a dash for liberty would result in his incarceration in prison so he abandoned it and sullenly began to talk.

“I did come down to Saxham on the twenty-fourth,” he confessed.

“I thought so. And your story of seeing Frith and Frith was a lie.”

“Yes! I did not want you to know.”

“Not only that, but you wished to make use of me. I was to prove your alibi, Eh? You chose this country for our walking tour on purpose?”

“I planned the whole thing,” said Joyce shamelessly and with something of pleasure in his own cleverness. “You think yourself clever Herrick, but I, whom you have always despised, have made a tool of you.”

“Up to a point you have no doubt. But there is a proverb about playing with edged tools, you seem to have forgotten. As to your saying that I despise you I never did so, until I found out—never mind how—that you had told me a lie about going to London from Southberry.”

“It was my own business.”

“And I was to be your tool, as you have just said. Go on.”

Joyce thought for a moment. “As I have done nothing so very wrong,” he said, “there is no reason why I should not tell you everything from the beginning. I suppose you will admit that.”

“No reason at all. Go on.”

“Very good. Well then until my mother died I had no idea of her position—nor,” added Joyce, “have I any very clear idea now. She left a paper behind her which explained much, but not all. I will show it to you when you come up to London.”

“Thank you; I will remind you of that promise.”

Robin scowled and continued. “My mother said that between a certain Colonel Carr and herself there existed a business arrangement that she should receive five hundred a year for her life. The arrangement was made by my dead father for services rendered to Colonel Carr.”

“What were those services?”

“That is one of the things I do not know. The paper said nothing about them. The five hundred a year was to be paid to my mother and when she died it was to stop. So you see that in place of having an income as I thought I was left a pauper. My mother had saved some money—about three hundred pounds. I am living on that now. I was in despair, and I went to the solicitors who pay the annuity to ask if Colonel Carr would continue it. They wrote to the Colonel and he refused.

“I know that,” said Herrick smoothly, “Frith told me.”

“You seem to have meddled a good deal in my business,” sneered Joyce. “Well, I was again in despair, as I saw nothing before me but a life of hard work. I read over the paper again. My mother said in it that Carr was a dangerous man, but that he had enemies, who threatened to kill him. She advised me to see him, but to take all precautions against my visit being known to anyone.

“Why?” asked Dr. Jim, “I see no reason.”

“Nor did I,” responded Robin with a shrug; he was now quite himself again and seemed to enjoy the telling of the story. “She hinted however that if Colonel Carr ever died by violence—and she was sure he would—I might be accused of the crime if I went to see him. She said that it was dangerous to be in his company for that reason.”

“It seems to me a very ridiculous reason.”

“I thought it was. All the same as she knew more about the matter than I did, I thought it best to adopt her suggestion. I wished to see Carr and ask him to continue the annuity. But I wished to see him secretly so that if he was murdered—as my mother hinted—I should not be dragged into the matter. For that reason I made the plans you blame.

“And were a fool to do so,” said Dr. Jim vigorously, “why in the name of heaven did you not tell me all this? I should have come and seen Carr with you openly. I should not have been afraid of being implicated in a crime, though the man were murdered half a dozen times over. The secret means you took to avert suspicion falling on you, have only resulted in your being suspected—at least by me.”

“I thought you did not suspect me?” said Joyce snappishly.

“Not of the crime, for I know what a coward you are. But you know something about it. Still, if the police knew all I do, you would find yourself in Queer Street. Again I say that in your desire to avert suspicion from yourself, you have brought it upon your head. However I think the reason given in the paper you speak of ridiculous. Go on. What of your plans? How were they carried out?”

“I first looked up a map of the country to see where Carr lived. Then as you had proposed a walking tour, I induced you to take the route which ran right across Carr’s place. I thought if anything occurred you could prove that I was with you.”

“But did you expect the man to be murdered while we were on our tour?”

“I did not know what might happen. As it was I knew the man was dead when I rejoined you at Southberry. But my idea was to see him, and then to pass afterwards with you through the village. When I set out on the walking tour I never thought he would be murdered.”

“It was, to say the least, strange that Carr should meet with his death at so critical a moment to you,” said Herrick doubtfully, “he had lived safely for ten years.”

“It was chance I suppose. At all events I did not kill him as you seem to suppose. I simply wished to see him about the annuity. When I left you at Southberry and went to London on the plea of seeing Frith and Frith, I left my bag at the Hull Hotel to provide a second alibi. I intended to get down and see Carr, then be back and sleep at the Hull Hotel on that night. It was the murder that threw me out.”

Herrick laughed. “And it was the murder against which you were taking all these precautions. How ironical! Well?”

“I went to my flat and got my bicycle, and I wrapped myself up in my great-coat. Then I went down to Saxham by the Heathcroft line. I alighted there at seven o’clock; had something to eat at the railway bar, and then rode on my bicycle to Saxham. I found the house from the map and waited in the pine woods before I could make up my mind to go in and seek for an interview.”

“At what time did you hide in the Pine Woods?”

“Between eight and nine o’clock. While there I heard a single shot. It frightened me. But I did not think that it was murder. No,” said Robin to himself with a shiver, “I did not think it was murder.”

“That would be the death shot,” said Herrick, “seeing that Miss Bess heard the other three.”

“I heard them also. But that was after nine.”

“And all this time you remained near the house?”

“No! I went on to the other side of the Pine wood keeping the tower in sight. I saw a girl with a lantern searching the wood. She passed near where I lay and I saw her plainly. That is how I recognised her.”

“And why did you accuse her?”

“I thought she might have had something to do with the crime,” said Joyce sullenly, “you must confess it was queer to see a girl in the woods at that hour. If she was innocent why should she have been about the house so late?”

“Don’t you dare to hint that she is not innocent,” cried Herrick violently. “She went to look for her brother Sidney. She heard the shots too. Did you see Frisco at the door of the house?”

“No! It was some time after I lost sight of Miss Bess that I heard the shots, I thought she might have fired them. I waited till ten o’clock, and then thought I would go and see what was the matter. I walked through the wood, and entered the house. It was all alight and quite deserted, just as we found it. As I had heard the shots in the tower I climbed up. At the top I saw what you and I saw—the dead body of the Colonel. He was quite dead. I was afraid, for the very thing I dreaded had come to pass. I saw how wise was my mother’s advice, and being afraid lest someone should come and I should be arrested for the crime I went away. I got my bicycle which I had left in the Pine wood and rode back to Heathcroft. I found the last train gone, so I could not get back to the Hull Hotel. I feared to sleep in any inn lest the police, when the crime was discovered, should make search for strangers. I passed the night in a wood, then rode on at dawn to a station beyond Heathcroft, where I got a cup of coffee at the bar of the station. Then I took the train back to London, went to the Hull Hotel, and said that I had passed the night with a friend. Afterwards I caught the Southberry train and rejoined you. That is all.”

“A very pretty story!” remarked Herrick grimly, “then you were anxious to push on across the moor that we might find the body together?”

“Not exactly; I thought it would be already found when we arrived. However when I saw the house blazing I knew that nothing had been disturbed. We went in and—you know—”

“I know that you took a fit of hysteria,” said Herrick. “I thought it was fatigue, but now I understand it was because you were playing a part. This is all very well, how do I know you did not kill the man?”

“I did not; I swear I did not,” cried Joyce with a shiver.

“What about that pistol?”

“That has nothing to do with the murder.”

“Was it not the weapon that was used?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Where did you get it?”

Joyce hesitated and wriggled. “I do not see why you should ask me?”

“Don’t you indeed,” said Herrick grimly, “I see a very good reason. Carr was shot through the heart with a bullet that might very well fit that ancient weapon.”

“How do you know that I put it into the drawer at ‘The Grange?’“

“Are you going to lie about that? It won’t do Joyce. I saw that pistol at your flat,—in your tobacco cabinet.”

Joyce turned white. He had been quite prepared to lie, but this information showed him how futile that would be. “How did you find it in there?” he asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t poking and prying. Manuel hunting for cigarettes showed it to me. He dropped across it by accident.”

Joyce sprang to his feet. “The liar, oh, the liar!” he cried. “Manuel! why he knew it was in the cabinet.”

“And he placed it there, Eh!”

“I never said so!” muttered Robin passing his tongue over his dry lips.

“Oh, but I can see it it your face. Evidently Manuel played upon you the same trick you intended to play upon Bess. A nice pair, upon my soul!” Herrick paused for a moment. “What has Manuel to do with this?”

“Nothing, that I know of,” retorted Joyce sullenly. “He brought me the pistol, but refused to say where he got it. He knows something of this matter I think.”

“I am very certain he does. However, I’ll speak to him. Where is he?”

“He went over to Beorminster this afternoon.

“Very good I’ll see him when he comes back. By the way, you told me a lie about him, Johnstone did not introduce you at the Apollo Club.”

Joyce shrugged his shoulders. “Since you know so much you might as well know more,” he said coolly. “I met Manuel at the Pimlico gambling club. We played together and became friends. Oddly enough, he knew all about Carr. That drew us together. We talked a good deal about the business, and I told him what I told you. But he is a scoundrel,” said Joyce gritting his teeth, “he wants to make out that I shot Carr with that pistol, and showed it to you in my flat to inculpate me.”

“Which was what you proposed to do with that girl!”

“I did,” said Robin sullenly. “I wanted to marry her; and I made my plans so that she should not dare to refuse.”

Herrick rose to his feet. “Joyce,” said he calmly, “I had intended to give you a thrashing; but you are such a miserable wretch that if I man-handled you I should probably kill you. You can go free for me. But you shall leave this place by the five o’clock train from Beorminster. I’ll see to it myself.”

“I thought you would,” sneered Joyce, “so I have packed my clothes. And what are you going to do next?”

“Keep an eye on you. Go back to your flat. If you try to run I’ll have you arrested. Do not think because I send you to London that you will be beyond the reach of my arm. You and Manuel are plotting to get this money of Stephen Marsh.”

“I am not, whatever Santiago may be doing. He got everything out of me and told me nothing in return. Save that he knew Carr and hated him I do not know anything. I don’t believe that the pistol is the one used in the murder. Santiago probably read about an old-fashioned weapon being used, and knowing that I was down here on the night put that pistol—”

“Yes! Yes, I see all that. You see what a scoundrel you have taken up with! Upon my word Joyce, you had better have stuck to me.”

“It is too late now,” said Robin with something of a sob, “you’ll never trust me again.”

“Never,” replied Herrick calmly, “I have not yet got to the bottom of this business. But I believe you are the tool rather than the accomplice of this Mexican. However I will deal with him. You go to London, and hold yourself in readiness for my orders.”

“I’ll be even with Santiago yet for his treachery,” said Robin rising.

“That you can settle between yourselves. Hullo, don’t go yet. Sign this paper. I have written down all you told me.”

“I won’t sign.”

“You will, and at once. I will be the witness. If you don’t I will not protect you in any way.”

“You won’t let me get into trouble?” said Joyce taking the pen.

“Not if what you have told me is true. Sign.”

So Joyce signed and Herrick witnessed the document. The doctor placed it in his pocket and then ordered a trap from Napper. After Joyce had paid his bill, the doctor drove him to Beorminster. The five o’clock train was on the point of departure, but he just managed to catch it. As he flung himself into a carriage he held out his hand to Herrick.

“No,” replied Jim coldly, “we have done with all that. And no tricks, or you’ll get the worst of it.”

“I’ll go straight to my flat,” said Joyce sulkily, and as the train steamed out of the station he cursed his former friend.

He would have cursed him still more if he had seen what he did next. The doctor went to the telegraph office, and wrote out a wire describing Joyce’s face, clothes, figure, and all: also set down the train by which he would arrive at Paddington. This he sent to a firm of private detectives with whom he had already done business. “There,” said Herrick with a grim smile when the wire was despatched, “Joyce will be watched from the moment he gets to town. Any tricks, and—” the doctor laughed.

Apparently he did not yet trust the little man in spite of his confession.

Chapter 16
Bess The Detective

In this way Saxham was purged of one undesirable person. Herrick was pleased that he had acted with such promptitude. Bess would no longer be vexed by the odious attentions of the little scamp who had tormented her. Dr. Jim smiled to think how much of the jealous rival there was about his dealings with his quondam friend. He now recognised that Bess was the woman he desired for his wife. Nor did he think she would refuse to become Mrs. Herrick when he could give her a home worthy of her. Had she disliked his attentions, she would not have permitted even the strange hour’s wooing, which was all they had of love, since Jim had found his heart. He laughed at the recollection.

“To talk of love between intervals of detective analysis,” he thought as he walked back to Saxham, having sent on Napper’s cart by the groom, “is a strange way of wooing one’s wife, and the last kind I expected to indulge in. But Bess enjoyed it I fancy. I must recompense myself in a more leisurely way, when this business is at an end.”

On arriving at Saxham, the doctor called in at the Carr Arms to see Don Manuel. He wanted to hear from the man himself if he had really given the pistol to Joyce, and if so how it had come into his possession. It might be that he had bought it in order to incriminate Robin—although at present Herrick could see no very good reason for such incrimination—on the other hand the pistol might be the veritable weapon used to shoot Carr. But that could be proved only by the test of the bullet, and he would have to wait until Bess saw Bridge about that. In some way Herrick felt convinced that Santiago was connected with the crime. He had known and hated Carr; he was far too intimate with Joyce for mere friendship, and he showed too great a desire to remain in the parish. That he should have in some way gained possession of the real pistol was not unlikely. “And it might be that he used it himself,” said Dr. Jim as he entered the inn, “although I should think he would have used a more modern weapon for choice?”

“On speaking to Napper about the Mexican a shock awaited him. The landlord expressed the broadest surprise that Mr. Joyce had not told Dr. Herrick of Santiago’s departure. The Mexican had gone to London by an early train. Herrick swore beneath his breath, feeling that he had been outwitted.

“When Mr. Joyce came back here this afternoon did he see Don Manuel?”

“Aye sir, that he did. The foreigner was waiting for him, and they talked for an hour. After that Don Manuel came down with his trunk—he had but one, doctor, and drove in to catch an earlier train.”

“To Beorminster?” asked Herrick.

“No sir. To Heathcroft. He paid his bill alright though. But I was astonished Mr. Joyce left us so suddenly. There is nothing wrong I hope.”

“By no means,” replied Herrick with a carelessness he was far from feeling. “I believe Don Manuel had to go up on business, and asked Mr. Joyce to join him later.”

“Will they be coming here again sir?” asked Napper, and on receiving a reply in the negative expressed his regret. “They didn’t pay much, but they was sure,” said the worthy landlord.

“Did you hear Señor Santiago say where he was going?” asked Herrick. But this the landlord could not tell him.

Dr. Jim walked away annoyed that he had been taken in. He felt that Robin had been tutored to play his part by the cleverer scoundrel. No doubt Robin had told the Mexican of his intrusion into the case, and Santiago had taken alarm. He knew well enough that Dr. Jim would recognise the pistol, and that he would force Robin to say where he had obtained it. Evidently Don Manuel thought it would be better for him to disappear than to face an examination. Yet he could have told Joyce to make up some story about the pistol so that he might not be brought into it. The whole business was part of the conspiracy. Don Manuel was in it, Robin also, and Herrick felt that the firm of Joyce and Santiago had been one too many for him.

All the same he remembered that he had set a watch on Joyce. If the scamp tried to hide, or went to any place to meet Manuel, he would be followed. “I shall go up to Town to-morrow,” said Herrick on his way to ‘The Pines.’ “Wherever Joyce has gone, there Manuel will be. I shall run both to earth and learn what all this means by questioning them in each other’s company. They won’t trick me a second time! Well, I have done enough detective work for the day. I’ll think of something else.”

Stephen was now so far on the road to recovery, that he was able to leave his room. He had seen little of Jim lately, but he did not miss him, thanks to the constant attendance of Ida. Marsh-Carr was as devoted a friend as ever to Herrick, he still believed him the cleverest and best of men, but now his whole heart was filled with the image of Ida. The two were constantly together, and the girl had had no small share in nursing back her promised husband to health. The wound in the head had mended and the blow had left no effect behind it beyond an occasional head-ache.

Stephen never gave his assailant a thought. He quite forgot Carr’s tragic death, and all the strange circumstances which had brought about his change of fortune. At times he even ceased to remember his step-mother, much as he had loved her. All his thoughts were for Ida, and with her he passed hours planning their future. They never talked of the past, and noticing this, Herrick forebore to tell his friend that he was still working to discover the murderer of Colonel Carr, and striving to baffle a possible conspiracy that had for its aim, the loss to Stephen not only of the Carr fortune, but possibly also of his life. Jim felt quite competent to deal with the matter himself, and did not think it necessary to spoil Marsh-Carr’s love-making with such common-place things. Therefore he remained in ignorance of Herrick’s doings.

“How late you are,” said Stephen who was already dressed for dinner. “I have been anxiously expecting you this last hour!”

“I had to go into Beorminster,” said Herrick carelessly. “Joyce has been called up to town and I went to see the last of him.”

“I am glad he has gone,” Stephen said gravely. “I don’t like him. I think he is false. As for the Mexican—” he shrugged his shoulders.

Herrick, who was pouring himself a glass of sherry as an appetizer turned with a laugh. “The Mexican is a bad lot sure enough,” he said. “As to Joyce he is more of a fool than a knave.”

“I forgot that he was your friend.”

“You do quite right to use the past tense Steve. He was my friend, but he is so no longer.” Herrick laughed again and sipped his sherry. “I have taken you for a change.”

“You know well that I will never fail you,” said Stephen warmly. “No. I suppose we shall remain good friends till you marry. Then you will forget me, and think only of your wife.”

“You know better than that Jim. Besides Ida is fond of you.”

“I know. I was fond of Ida too at one time—that was before she was engaged to you. But I have not played you false Steve.”

“You are telling me old news,” replied Marsh-Carr smiling. “I saw that you were in love with Ida.”

“No. I was never in love. I thought I was, but my love was a snare and a delusion. But you thought so did you? Were you not jealous?”

“Not at all. I knew that Ida was mine, and I trusted her—you too.”

“Wonderful man!” said Herrick looking into the fire. “Well you did right to trust us both. We are merely friends now. Indeed I know we never were anything else. I was blind; but she was not. However I am glad that you two are engaged. You will be happy.”

“And when am I to congratulate you?”

“At this very minute if you like. Is it Bess you are talking of?”

Stephen sat up on the sofa looking astonished. “Yes,” he said, “Ida saw that she was in love with you—”

“Ida is a clever woman. She prophesied my love would come suddenly. Bess has not yet formally consented to be my wife; but I think it will be all right.”

“I am more than delighted. We shall be brothers-in-law. And you will always stay here Jim?”

“Living on you my dear fellow? No, I shall start practice again in Town, when I have got together sufficient money. Then when I am doing fairly well Bess shall come to me and supplement my income by writing novels in the intervals of looking after the house.”

“Herrick you must not go away. You promised.”

“Until you were married. But be of good cheer Steve, I won’t leave you until everything is right.” Dr. Jim said these last words with a significance which was lost on his listener.

“I thought that your friend Joyce—”

“Oh! he never had a chance. I was a fool to let him hang after Bess. However I found out to-day what she was to me, so it is all right now.”

“Bess and Ida are coming over this evening with Frank.”

“All the better. I can make my proposal in due form. By the way Steve I am going up Town to-morrow if you can spare me.”

“Certainly. But it is not to make arrangements to leave me is it?”

“I should think not! I shall never go till you tell me Steve. No, I am going to see about some business of my own. Well I must dress. I hope you have a good dinner for me. I am very hungry.”

“You think of nothing but eating,” said Stephen with a laugh.

The dinner gave every satisfaction even to Herrick who was somewhat fastidious. But Ida had seen that a good cook was engaged, and the two men had nothing to complain of. Dinner over, Herrick supported Stephen into the library, and placed him on the sofa. Then he sat beside him and they smoked over their coffee and cognac. “But you must go to bed at half past ten,” said Herrick sternly.

“What a tyrant you are Jim. Hark, there are the girls.”

They came in looking charming, and in the best of spirits. It needed but a glance for Dr. Jim to see that Bess had said nothing about Joyce to her brother or sister. What a wise little woman she was! When Ida and Frank had seated themselves beside Stephen, Jim drew her into a remote corner of the room.

“You said nothing about our adventure of to-day,” he whispered.

“No,” she replied in the same tone, “I thought it best not to. And Mr. Joyce?”

“You will not be troubled with him again. He has gone to town. I do not think he will come back. Santiago has gone also.”

“What about his threat against me?”

“That is alright. I have his confession in my pocket.”

“Did he kill Colonel Carr?”

“No! I have not yet solved that problem. But do not let us talk of these unpleasant things any more Bess. To-morrow you shall know all. In the meantime make yourself agreeable to me and tell me how much you love me. Come now. After this afternoon you cannot deny—”

“I neither deny nor affirm,” said Bess her face one glow of scarlet—but that might have been the fire—“you were not in earnest to-day.”

“Indeed I was. Can’t you see that I love you with my whole heart and soul! I never knew until to-day how much I did love you.”

“I thought it was Ida?” faltered Bess.

“I thought so too for a period of madness. But I know now that I was mistaken. We are the best of friends as you can see. But you have not replied to my question.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“That I am the dearest man in the world, and that you have loved me for ever so long. Come now?”

“It is true,” said Bess sinking her voice. “I have loved you. I do love you and I am thankful to be your wife.”

“I am a poor doctor remember.”

“I love you for yourself, not for any money you may have.”

“Faith,” said Herrick, “that is lucky for me! Come here. Behind this screen—there now.”

“Oh! Dr. Jim—No—Very well. Jim, without the doctor. Do not go on like this. We are not alone.”

“Will you come into another room?” teased Jim.

“Certainly not. Jim what are you doing?”

“Leading you into the world,” said Herrick laughing. Bess laughed also and blushed when Jim led her before the three astonished people who looked at them in amazement. “Lady and gentlemen,” said Dr. Jim, “do you know who this is?”

“Bess I suppose,” said the stupid brother.

“And more than that,” cried Ida rising to take her sister in her arms, “oh! Bess darling, I am so glad.”

“Hurrah!” cried Stephen and pinched Frank’s arm.

That youth was still dense, although the truth was staring him in the face. He looked at the two girls almost weeping with pleasure in one another’s arms; at the laughing faces of Herrick and Stephen. Still he did not understand, not having yet experienced the love of woman.

“You are stupid Frank,” cried Ida, “can’t you see?”

“Can’t you see,” said Herrick gripping Frank’s arm. “What a blind brother-in-law I shall have.”

“Oh!” Frank’s eyes opened wide. “Are you to marry Bess?” Herrick nodded. “And Stephen takes Ida?” the engaged couple laughed. “Well,” said Frank, “that is two of them gone, and who is to look after Biffstead?”

“Flo of course,” said Stephen.

“As if she could! Bess is the top, tail, and bottom of the house.”

“That she is,” cried Ida hugging her sister, “and I am jealous of Jim taking her away from us!” Then she gave Herrick a roguish glance. “Was I not right?” she asked.

“Perfectly right,” he replied, and drew Bess down on the seat beside him. Ida went as by instinct to Stephen. Only the miserable Frank was left out in the cold, and said so. The quartette laughed heartlessly.

There was not a happier party in the whole three kingdoms than that seated before the fire in the house of wicked Colonel Carr. If the shade of the old man had been present in the room, he must—or rather It must have sighed enviously at the sight of such happiness. Not during his reign had such truth and honour and clean delight prevailed in the old house. It was a merry evening. “Memory of the Golden Age,” said Jim.

The next morning Dr. Herrick re-entered the work-a-day world. He walked over to Biffstead and found Bess just setting out for Beorminster on her bicycle. “You can leave that,” he said after a kiss had been exchanged, “I will drive you over to Beorminster in the cart. I told the groom to put in the horse and bring it round here.”

“You are going to Town?” asked Bess.

“Yes! On the track of those two scamps. You are going to see Bridge about that bullet?”

“Yes! I have the pistol in my pocket,” she replied showing it.

“Very good. Can you drive the cart back?”

“Of course I can. Drive? Who ever heard of asking a country girl such a question. You do not know my accomplishments Jim.”

“I know that you are the dearest and sweetest and most sensible girl in the whole wide world. But I say we won’t take the groom. In the first place I want you all to myself. In the second, I must tell you all that took place when I interviewed Joyce yesterday.”

Bess, needless to say thought this a capital plan, so when the groom brought round the cart he was sent away. He saw the pair drive towards the village and there was a broad grin on his face. He knew very well what they were to one another. In some mysterious way the news had got to the servants’ hall and had been well discussed that very morning. The lovers drove into Beorminster and talked in the most matter of fact way about the conspiracy. Their heads were so close together that one would have thought they were exchanging the tenderest confidences. In place of that the detective fever was raging in both their breasts, and they were like a couple of Scotland Yard officials.

Then Herrick took a last farewell, promised to return in the course of a few days, and caught the express. When the train disappeared round the curve Bess went back to the cart and drove it to some stables where she put it up. Afterwards she went into the lower part of Beorminster where Mr. Inspector Bridge had his office. He happened to be in and brightened up when he saw her. Bridge had a great opinion of the younger Miss Endicotte.

“What good wind brings you here Miss?” he asked.

“Ah!” said Bess solemnly, “that requires some telling Mr. Inspector. It is about this pistol?” and she produced it from her pocket.

“Pistol!” echoed Bridge puzzled, “ah! it is the pistol of the Carr case?”

“That is what I want to find out,” said Miss Endicotte who had her story all ready to tell, and had discussed its details with Dr. Jim during the drive. “I found this the other day in the Pine wood near Colonel Carr’s house. It is a clumsy old-fashioned thing; but I remembered what was said about the bullet being old-fashioned also. Now I want you to see if the bullet fits the muzzle of this.”

“H’m!” said Bridge with his most important air and looking down the muzzle, “so you found this pistol in the grass—and near the house? Perhaps—I say perhaps mind you Miss Bess—this might be the weapon we have been looking for so long. Is there a name on the butt?”

“No,” said Bess promptly, “you only find that in novels. There is not so much as a scratch on the handle.”

“An old weapon,” observed Bridge wagging his head ponderously and irritating Bess to a frenzy with his platitudes. “Well, we must see if the bullet—Ha! yes, the bullet. Now where is it?”

Bridge went hunting over some shelves, and then he took to excavating in drawers—opened a safe, dug under dusty piles of papers, and suddenly produced (Bess never saw from where) a small box in which something rattled. When he opened this there were three conical bullets and one fat round one. “Ah,” cried Bess, “there it is. Try! please try Mr. Inspector.”

“All in good time Miss,” said the aggravating Bridge, and dropped the bullet into the muzzle. It disappeared, and he nodded solemnly. “It is the pistol,” he said, “you have made a valuable discovery Miss. If there was only a name or initials on the handle,” he sighed.

Bess was not attending to him. She took the pistol and dropped out the bullet; then rammed it home again, and nodded in her turn. “There is no doubt of it,” she said, “this the pistol that shot Colonel Carr.”

“Will you leave it with me Miss?” asked Bridge, “I might find out something likely to lead to the detection of the assassin.”

Bess laughed delightedly. From that last phrase she knew that Inspector Bridge had been reading detective fiction of the worst. She knew also that the pistol would afford no clue to the truth until it was in capable hands. Therefore as she thought it would be safer in the Beorminster police office than in the untidy house of Biffstead where everybody was always turning over everybody else’s drawers she consented that Bridge should take charge of it. The Inspector with an important air put away the pistol in his safe. He was about to replace the box, when he noticed that Bess had the round bullet in her hand.

“Come Miss give it back?” he said. “Belongs to the Crown that does.”

“A queer bullet,” murmured Bess, “made in a mould. Here is the seam. I do not believe it is lead. It is too hard for lead. Have you a pen-knife Mr. Inspector? Ah,” she seized one lying on the desk, “this will do. I don’t believe this is lead.”

“Nonsense,” said Bridge crossly, “all bullets are made of lead.”

“This is not,” cried Bess who was scratching away vigorously. “See how hard it is. And the scratches shine. Inspector Bridge,” she said in a solemn tone, “I believe this is silver.”

“It can’t be.” The Inspector took it up and examined it in his turn. What Bess said was true. The bullet was hard, not soft as lead should be, and moreover it was hard to scratch, and the little scraping she had given it glittered in parts just like silver. “It might be,” murmured Bridge.

“There is a silversmith just round the corner,” said Bess in great excitement. “Do come and let him see it. I want to know for certain that it is silver.”

“I do not know what good that will do Miss Bess. If it is silver that will not help us to catch Frisco any the sooner.”

“No! but you can’t think what discoveries you might make if you knew it was silver for certain. I know how you can put things together, and a piece of evidence like this—oh I am sure you could do a lot with it.”

Bridge in his own heart did not very well see what he could do. But he was not proof against flattery as the artful Bess well knew, so he went round the corner with her to a convenient jeweller’s and offered him the bullet. “Will you please to tell me what this is?” he said in his most official tone. “Do not destroy it Mr. Blinks, or deform it in any way. It is the property of the Crown. All the Crown wants to know is the metal of which this is formed.”

Mr. Blinks was much impressed with this speech. Promising to be careful he took the bullet into the next room—into his workshop and there performed some trick of the trade. When he returned he handed the bullet to Bridge very little altered. “It is of silver, Mr. Bridge,” he said.

“All of silver?” asked Bridge while Bess tried to suppress her excitement.

“All of silver Mr. Bridge. It has been cast in a mould. Probably a cup or a silver plate has been melted down. What is it Mr. Inspector?”

“The property of the Crown,” replied Bridge solemnly and departed. When in the office he locked up the bullet and looked at Bess. “I really do not see how this discovery can help me,” he said.

“Think over it Mr. Inspector. You will be certain to hit upon some link.”

But Bess herself was as far away from the truth as the Inspector. As she drove back to Saxham, she wondered how it came about that the bullet which had killed Carr was cast in silver, and to this she could find no answer.

Chapter 17
Unexpected Evidence

The surprising discovery that the bullet was of silver, elevated the crime from the common-place to the romantic. That an old-fashioned weapon should have been used in these days when firearms have reached such a pitch of perfection, was remarkable enough, but that the assassin should have reverted to the superstitions of the Middle Ages for his missile, was almost beyond belief. In spite of her quick brain, Bess could not come to any decision. Failing a discussion with Dr. Jim she resolved to leave the vexed question at rest.

All the same she did not pause in her detective work. Having followed up one clue, until it ended—for the time being—in nothing, she hunted about for another. So far she had made two discoveries. The pistol which Joyce declared he had received from Don Manuel was certainly the weapon with which the murder had been committed; and the bullet was of silver. But this knowledge resulted in nothing. Certainly it cast a strong suspicion on the Mexican; but that part of the puzzle Bess felt she could safely leave to Herrick. So far as her particular business was concerned she could do no more, until she heard her colleague’s report. Pending this, she began to work in a different direction. It occurred to her that she had never questioned Sidney about his doings in the Pine wood on the night of the murder. Possibly he might be able to supply some clue to the mystery.

“He was in the habit of watching the tower,” said Bess to herself, “he said as much on that day when we had the picnic. I wonder if he saw anything suspicious on that night; then he might have seen that horrid little Joyce, or perhaps Frisco. I’ll see what he knows.”

Sidney was not an easy person to question. His fantasies of thought, had been laughed at so frequently, the truth of his statements so often denied, that he had grown reticent. What he saw, what he heard, he kept to himself, and not even his own family could get him to explain himself on occasions when they really desired information. The boy mooned about in a dreamy state of mind, saying little beyond the merest common places and for the most part lived in that world of fantasy which was anathema-maranatha to the people around him. He was like a wild animal, shy, timid, and intensely suspicious.

Bess thought that he might be more open with her, when he was—so to speak—in his native wilds. She therefore watched her opportunity, and followed him to one of his favourite haunts in the pine wood, where it fringed the moor. Here one afternoon, she found him seated in a secluded glade beside one of those remarkable circles, which the country people call fairy rings. So steadily was he gazing at this in the half-light which filtered through the overhead boughs, that he did not notice her approach. To be sure she trod softly and used the same precaution as she would have done when approaching the haunt of some timid animal.

Sidney had always been a puzzle to everyone, but Bess understood him better than most people. Besides she had discussed him frequently with Santiago, and was inclined to take the Mexican’s view of the boy’s peculiarities. Remembering the oft-quoted saying of Hamlet. Bess was less sceptical than those around her. She could not see why Sidney should not possess the power of seeing,—what in the generally accepted sense is called the unseen. Considering what the lad had foretold with regard to the death of Mrs. Marsh and the accident to her step-son, it was impossible to say that Sidney was either a fool or a madman. There was some reason for his fantasies—so-called: and Bess regarded him with a certain amount of awe. She could not understand him; but she granted that he was a rare spirit, far removed from the common-place mortal.

“Well Thomas the Rhymer,” said Bess gaily, when her shadow fell on the fairy-ring, “are you looking for the Queen of Elf-land?”

It was characteristic of Sidney that he was never taken by surprise. At the sound of her voice he neither started nor expressed any anger. All he did was to raise his serious eyes to her face, and observe quietly, “I knew you were coming, Bess dear.”

She threw herself down beside him and nodded towards the fairy-ring. “Did they tell you?” she asked in low tone, and in all good faith.

“No, Bess. This is not the time for the little people to be abroad. I was only looking at their dancing-ground.”

“Have you seen them here?”

“Often,” replied Sidney with conviction, “small naked folk who dance and sing and play on queer instruments. They know that I see them; but they are not angry.”

“I believe you are a fairy yourself Sidney.”

“No. I have a soul—what you call a soul—and the fairies have none. They are only the creatures who attend to the works of Nature; her servants. I can see them because—” here Sidney broke off, “it is no use my telling you Bess, you would not understand.”

Bess quite admitted this. She could not understand. All the same she did not tell her brother that he was a fool as many people would have done. She simply nodded, and passed the subject by. Her errand was to find out what Sidney had seen in the actual world. After the manner of her sex she approached the matter by a side-issue. “Sidney dear,” said she, “do you know that Mr. Joyce has gone away to London?”

“No! I did not,” replied Sidney gravely, “but I am very glad he has gone. A bad man Bess, and he would have done you harm.”

“How? What do you mean.” Sidney passed his hand across his face. “I cannot explain,” he said in a troubled voice, “you see Bess, bad people carry about with them a bad atmosphere. That Mexican was very wicked; Joyce not so bad. Both of them made me feel quite ill. Did you never see how I refused to sit beside them? Well, that was because they gave me such pain. Not physical pain but a kind of uncomfortable feeling, which I can’t put into words.”

“In what an old-fashioned way you talk Sidney,” said Bess puzzled, “one would think you were a hundred.”

“I know more than I say. Corn did not teach me everything I know!

“Tell me Sidney. Do you like Mr. Corn?”

“I do—in a way. He is not bad, but he is weak. With good people he is good, with bad people he is bad. I am glad that Don Manuel has gone to Town. He was doing Mr. Corn a lot of harm. But if I told you what I know of these things you would only laugh at me.”

“No, I would not Sidney,” said his sister earnestly, “I am sure that you are so sensitive that you feel these influences you talk about.”

“Sensitive,” echoed Sidney, “yes! I suppose that is what you would call it. You have come here to ask me a question?” he said abruptly.

“How do you know that?” she demanded, then seeing him shrug his thin shoulders, she admitted the truth of what he said. “I want to ask you who you saw in the Pine wood on the night when Colonel Carr was killed?”

Sidney thought for a moment, then raised his eyes towards the gap in the trees formerly blocked by the tower. “I saw a lot of red mist about the tower,” he said, “that was anger. I saw too—” he shook his head impatiently. “It is not these things you wish to know Bess?”

“I want to know who killed Colonel Carr?”

“I can’t tell you Bess. If I knew I should tell. But I don’t. On that night I came here, looking for things—” said Sidney with a side-glance to see if she were laughing, “and although I felt that there was a bad influence about the house, I never went near it. I kept away and wandered on to the moor. That is why you missed me, when you came to look for me. I did not mind the rain. But I saw your lantern, and thought you would be anxious, so I returned home. Then you came back yourself.”

“Yes. That is all true. But tell me Sidney, did you see Mr. Joyce in the wood or on the moor?”

“No. I did not see him. Stephen was the only person I saw.”

Bess started violently. “Stephen,” she said, “surely you must be mistaken.”

“No,” replied the boy indifferently, “why should I be mistaken? You know I can see in the dark like a cat. Before I saw your lantern, I had seen Stephen on the lawn looking at the tower. I do not know what time it was, so don’t ask me. You are always so particular about time,” said Sidney peevishly, “as though it mattered.”

Bess reflected. It was strange that Stephen should have been in the vicinity of the house on that night and yet have escaped her notice. But she remembered that being intent upon looking for her brother that she had not even seen Joyce, although he was lurking in the bushes at her elbow. True she had caught a glimpse of Frisco. But that was when she consciously looked at the door. It was possible that Sidney might have come across Stephen. “Did you speak to him?” she asked.

“No. Why should I have spoken to him?”

“Did he go into the house?”

“Not that I saw Bess. He was looking up at the tower, standing on the lawn by the trees. I went away to the other side of the wood, and out on to the moor. That is all I know.”

“But Sidney, did you see Frisco crossing the moor?”

“I did not. When I saw your lantern I went home. I wish you would stop asking me questions,” he cried irritably, “you make my head ache.”

After this speech, he relapsed into one of his silent fits, and Bess could not get him to speak. Knowing from experience that Sidney was hopeless when in this mood, she left him still by the fairy ring, and took her way back to Biffstead. The house was empty, as Ida had gone to Beorminster to see Flo, and Frank was attending to the farm.

Bess sat down and wondered what could be the meaning of Stephen’s presence at “The Pines” on that night. She knew that he had come over from Beorminster to escort his mother home. But then Mrs. Marsh had been with Mr. Corn the whole evening, and there was no reason why Stephen should have gone out of his way to visit “The Pines.” It was in the afternoon that Mrs. Marsh had seen the Colonel, and Stephen must have known that she would not be at the great house after nine o’clock. This, Bess, calculating by her own movements, was the hour at which Sidney had seen him. He was looking up at the tower too, so Sidney said. “But he can’t have had anything to do with it,” she thought restlessly, “he disliked the Colonel, but he didn’t—no, I won’t even think of it! Such a thing if true, would kill Ida. Yet I must find out from Stephen himself why he was in the wood on that night.”

She reflected. At this hour Stephen would be alone. Why should she not go over and see him. In one way or another she could tell him about the pistol and the silver bullet and see from the expression of his face if he knew anything about either. It was incredible that Stephen should have fired the shot. He was the Colonel’s heir; but even to gain the money he certainly was too good a man to commit a crime. Yet if what Sidney said was true, Stephen had been on the lawn about the time Colonel Carr was shot. He must know something about the matter.

“I’ll see him,” said Bess putting on her hat again. “I shall not be able to sleep a wink until I know what he has to say.”

In another half hour she was in the library where Stephen was established on the sofa. He looked thin, and rather worried, but his face brightened when he saw her. “This is good of you Bess,” he said stretching out his hand, “I am all alone; Herrick is in Town; Ida at Beorminster. Not a soul to speak to. Draw that chair close to the fire. Shall I ring for tea?”

“It is too early yet,” she said reassured by this bright talk. It was incredible that a man who spoke so lightly should have a black crime on his soul. “I just want to chatter for a bit; I am so tired of my own company.”

“So am I. Well you talk about Jim, and I’ll discourse about Ida. We shall be quite happy. By the way, when will Ida be back?”

“About dinner time. She will come over and see you afterwards.”

“I wish she would come to dinner here,” said Stephen, “you also and Frank and Sidney. I miss Jim horribly, and it is no fun eating a long solemn meal alone. Upon my word Bess, I sometimes long for the days when Petronella’s macaroni could be eaten hurriedly, and without this formality. I would rather have a book than a footman about the table.”

“What a mixed way of talking,” said Bess pensively, “you have a book on the table as a rule, I suppose you are glad all the same that you have the Colonel’s money?”

“Of course I am,” said Stephen frankly, “it enables me to marry Ida. I was so afraid lest she should marry someone else before I came into my kingdom. But I could not ask her to be my wife when I was a pauper could I Bess? She’s a rare jewel that requires a rich setting.”

“I don’t think Ida values money so much as all that,” said Bess gravely. “She would have married you without a sixpence. But I am glad all the same that the money came to you so soon. It is nice to be rich.”

“So it is,” admitted Stephen gladly. “I can buy whatever books I like.”

Bess laughed at this speech. “I am afraid you will grow into a bookworm.”

“No. Jim has got me out of bad habits in that respect. At one time I did nothing but read. Now I ride and swim and box and fence and shoot—”

Bess started at the last word. It gave her the opening she desired. “Are you a good shot?” she asked.

“I was always a good shot,” said Stephen coolly, “that is, with a pistol. I never handled a gun until I came here.”

“I did not know you had ever handled a pistol either?”

“Oh yes, I did. Young Capron gave me permission to shoot rabbits on his estate ages ago. I could not afford to buy a gun, but I did manage to get enough money to screw out a revolver—and a very good one. I believe it was brought here from Beorminster, unless Petronella overlooked it. But I have not used it for over a year. Rabbit shooting with a pistol is not much fun especially when one is alone.”

“I should like to see the pistol,” said Bess, after a pause.

“Go over then to the box behind that screen,” said Stephen, “if it is anywhere it will be in there. There are all sorts of odds and ends, rag tag and bobtail of my former existence.”

Bess did as she was told and walked slowly over and behind the large gilded screen which stood in a far corner of the library. Here, pushed to one side, was a moderately sized box, the lid of which was open. She found in it a few books, many manuscripts, pens, an inkstand, and all the paraphernalia of a writing table. These she enumerated aloud.

“I know,” said Stephen from the sofa, “those are the the contents of my study. I expect Petronella threw all the things into that trunk. The pistol is bound to be there—in a small mahogany-box. I always kept it on the mantelpiece of my study. Be careful if you find it Bess. All six chambers are loaded.”

After some search Bess came across just such a box, and opened it to find a neat little revolver of the most modern pattern. She carried this, box and all, to a table near the sofa. Again Stephen warned her that the weapon was loaded. “I kept it loaded because my mother was always afraid of thieves poor soul,” he said, “though heaven knows there was little enough to steal in that dismal house of ours! What is it Bess?”

“There are only three chambers loaded,” said Bess thickly. In a flash she remembered the three shots fired into the dead body—and the conical shape of the bullets. Those in the weapon she held were conical in shape.

“Nonsense,” said Stephen nervously. “I always kept the whole six loaded. You must be making a mistake,” he took the revolver from her and examined it closely. “You are right,” he said with a long breath. “Three of them are empty.”

As he spoke he looked up apparently with indifference. When his eye caught hers he saw something in her expression which made him start and flush crimson. For a moment they looked at one another. Then Stephen swung himself up to a sitting position and laid the pistol on the side table. “Why do you look at me like that Bess?” he asked in a hurried tone.

For a minute she did not reply. But she felt that she must know the truth, and burst out hurriedly “Stephen! You were on the lawn on the night your uncle was killed!”

The young man started to his feet, and then fell back again on the sofa white, and amazed. “How do know?” he stuttered.

“Sidney saw you. He told me. Oh, Stephen,—three chambers of your revolver empty—three shots at—” she felt suffocated and could not continue.

“Wait! Wait” Stephen put his hand to his head. It felt confused. His face was of a deep purple. Bess thought that he would have a fit and blamed herself for having blurted out her suspicions.

“Wait! Wait” muttered Marsh-Carr again as she moved towards the bell to summon assistance. He sat down on the sofa, his face in his hands, rocking himself to and fro. Then he heaved a deep sigh, and looked up at her white haggard face. “You will not tell Ida,” he said.

With her hands twisted in her hair Bess stepped back. She suppressed a shriek. “Stephen!” she cried hoarsely “You did not—you—”

“I did not murder him. No,” replied the young man harshly. “He was already dead when I fired those three shots.”

“Then it was you who?—”

“It was I,” cried Stephen, rising to his feet with a fierce look, “and you are going to denounce me, I suppose!”

“No! No! how can you think I would do such a thing? But Ida, poor Ida!”

“You must not tell her,” cried Stephen grasping her wrist until she winced with the pain. “Do what you like, but say nothing to Ida. I would rather break off our engagement on another plea than that she should know.”

The pain of the twist he gave her arm brought Bess back to a more normal state of mind. She pulled herself together, and sat down. “Stephen,” she said slowly, “no one but you and I will share this secret. Can you swear to me that Colonel Carr was already dead when you fired those shots? I want the truth!”

“He was already dead,” said Marsh-Carr sitting down quietly, “did you not hear the medical evidence at the inquest? It was the bullet which killed him. My shots were fired at a carcase.”

“Why did you do such a horrible thing?” wailed Bess.

“Because I was mad for the time being,” said Stephen gloomily, “I will tell you all if you are strong enough to hear it.”

“After what I know, I am strong enough to hear anything. Oh! To think that you should have behaved in so barbarous a manner.”

Stephen winced. “It was barbarous I confess,” said he, “but I was mad for the time being. After all you must not be too hard on me. I did not kill my respected uncle,” he sneered.

Bess shivered. She had never before seen this side of Stephen’s character, and the new experience was unpleasant. It even stirred her into unconsidered indignation. “Since you went up that tower with a revolver, you must have intended to kill the man,” she said.

“Perhaps I did, perhaps I did not,” he answered in a most brazen manner, “but the plain truth is that I wanted to frighten him.

“And did you think a revolver would frighten a man who had faced death fifty and a hundred times?” said Bess with scorn. She recalled to her memory several episodes Carr had told her of his American doings; she well knew the dare-devilry latent in the man.

“Carr was old, and had lost his nerve. I counted upon that. I never intended to kill him. When I went up the tower the work had been done for me already.”

“And who did it?”

“I do not know,” said Stephen earnestly, “upon my soul Bess I do not know—the man was dead when I saw him. It was sheer rage that made me fire those three shots. The brute that is in me, as it is in every man, came to the surface. But of the real murderer I saw no trace. I did not see Frisco whom I take to be the man.”

“It was not Frisco,” flashed out Bess, “However,” she continued sick at heart, “you had better tell me how it came about.”

“Partly through my love for Ida, partly through my mother,” said Marsh-Carr gloomily. “It came to my mother’s ears that the Colonel intended to disinherit me. I suppose Frisco got the upper hand and induced him to alter his will—that is if he did alter it which I doubt.”

“Of course he did not Stephen. If he had left the money to anyone else you would not be here.”

“I am not so sure about that,” replied the young man savagely. “Frisco might have taken the second will from the corpse. At all events I know that Frith and Frith drafted no new will. If it was drawn the Colonel must have drawn it himself. However Frisco let out in one of his drunken fits at Beorminster that Carr intended to cut me off. My mother heard the news and came home in a frenzy of rage. It was for that reason she called on Carr on the afternoon you know of. The twenty-fourth was it not? She intended to argue him into a better frame of mind. He only laughed at her and said he would leave his money as pleased him. She told me the next day. But Carr was dead then.”

“What made you decide to frighten him?”

“Am I not telling you!” said Stephen impatiently. “When my mother went to Saxham I knew she would fail. A woman could not deal with a devil like my beloved uncle. I determined to see what I could do with a revolver. I would have fought a duel with him to keep my rights,” said the young man fiercely, “but I would not have killed him in cold blood. No, indeed.”

“Well go on,” said Bess, “I want to know all.”

“There is little to tell,” said Marsh-Carr. “I was going to Saxham to fetch home my mother who was at the rectory. I thought I would visit ‘The Pines’ and see the Colonel. I did so, some time before nine.”

“Ah! it was about that hour Sidney saw you.”

“I daresay. I stood on the lawn looking at the tower, and could not make up my mind to enter the house. It was all ablaze with lights, and quite deserted.”

“No,” said Bess recalling her own experience. “I heard you fire the shots and saw Frisco at the door. He was drunk and hanging on to the post.”

“You heard me fire the shots. I did not know you were about?”

“I was then. I had gone to look for Sidney. But you see Frisco—”

“It was Frisco,” said Stephen vehemently. “I tell you Carr was dead when I went up, lying face downward. If Frisco was at the door, he was just clearing out after killing the man. He knew that he would be arrested.”

“But he must have heard the shots?”

“Then he knew that someone had discovered the body which would make him run for it all the more quickly. However to make a long story short I fired the three shots you know of, and then returned to my mother at the rectory. I said nothing about the matter, as I had not killed Carr. If Frisco is not the murderer I do not know who is. That is all I can tell you Bess, you see I am not such a guilty wretch as you thought.”

“I know that,” said Bess impetuously, “If you were I should insist upon your leaving Ida. To fire at the dead was savage, but, as I know the man must have been dead at the time—the medical evidence proves that, I will say nothing. Why did you not tell me of this before?”

“What use would it have been?” said Stephen raising his eyebrows, “I cannot tell you anything likely to lead to the capture of the assassin, and beside it is not a pleasant thing to tell about myself. I should not have told you now, but that you have been one too many for me. I should have re-loaded the three chambers of that revolver. But I forgot and put it away thinking all six were loaded. I should be ashamed to let Jim or Ida know that I had been such a beast.”

“I shall say nothing to them,” said Bess coldly, “but I am disappointed in you Stephen.”

“I know,” said the young man humbly, “I should have had more self-control. But you will not turn your back on me for this Bess?”

“No. All the same I can’t feel as I did towards you. Let me go away and think Stephen. And—put away that revolver.”

Marsh-Carr nodded, and slipped the weapon into his pocket. But he made no attempt to detain Bess. She went away with a sore heart.

Chapter 18
Part Of The Truth

While Bess was thus employed, her colleague had his hands full in London. On arriving at Paddington, Herrick drove directly to the West Kensington Flat. It was closed, and the porter explained that Mr. Joyce had been away for some weeks.

“Ah, that is a pity,” said Dr. Jim with a grim smile. “I wished to see him most particularly.”

“I expect him back shortly sir,” said the man.

“Ah! Has he written to fix the date of his return?”

“Not yet sir. But Mr. Joyce never remains away more than a month or two.”

“He may change his habits this time.”

“I don’t think so sir. Shall I tell him you called sir?”

“No. You need not go so far as that. When he comes home just send a wire to that address. And this for yourself.”

The porter, a venal creature in uniform, looked at the half sovereign and the address of the Guelph Hotel in Jermyn Street. He promised faithfully to send a wire the moment Mr. Joyce returned, and Dr. Jim went away, very well satisfied that he had done right in having Robin watched. “Damned little scoundrel!” growled Herrick. “What is the use of sparing him? But that he is in the hands of a stronger villain, I would lay him by the heels straight off. But I shall deal with Santiago this time. I expect he and Joyce are plotting together in some hole.”

In another hour Herrick was climbing a flight of dingy stairs in the neighbourhood of the Strand. He stopped at the second landing and before a door, which bore the name of Kidd, Belcher & Co, Private Inquiry Office. On entering he was confronted by a dirty undersized boy. Kidd was absent on business, but Belcher was in, and on giving his card, Dr. Jim was shown into the next room. Here at a table near the window sat a man. That is he stood on two legs, he was neatly dressed, and he talked in a prim precise voice. But going by his face he was a ferret. The long face and nose, the broad forehead and small receding chin, and above all the red-rimmed eyes without eyebrows or eyelashes. All this made him look very much like a ferret. And his nature was also of the beast. He was a sly, silent, cunning tracker, relentless when once he had hunted down his prey. A dangerous man, a deadly man, who had elected to place himself on the side of the law, as offering the better price. Had he chosen to be one of the great criminal profession, Mr. Belcher would have been a dangerous opponent to the police. Luckily he found that honesty paid better than roguery, therefore he was at the disposal of Dr. Jim, for the watching of Santiago and Joyce. He talked freely on this point. “It’s all right sir,” he said in his whispering voice and arranging his neat white tie. “Kidd caught him at the Paddington station, and followed him to Pimlico.”

“Oh, he is in Pimlico is he?”

“Watched by three boys, and Kidd himself. Four kids I call them,” said Mr. Belcher with a silent laugh. “You see sir that Mexican gent prefers to live at Pimlico because it is near the Gambling Club. We need not mention names sir, as I have an interest in that club and don’t want the police to know of it. I hunt with the hounds and run with the fox you see,” and Belcher gave another of his silent laughs.

“Humph!” said Jim taking no notice of the joke, “so Joyce is at Santiago’s lodgings is he?”

“Drove straight therefrom Paddington, and has not been out of doors since. The Don has been sir. He never thinks you are after him.”

“I fancy he has rather a contempt for my brains,” said Jim. “However we shall see about that. I’ll go to those lodgings.”

“Would you mind telling me what the Mexican has done sir?”

“I would mind very much Mr. Belcher. When I want to tell you my business you won’t have to help me. It is a private matter. But later on there may be something in it likely to pay you. At present all I want you to do is to keep an eye on Joyce and Santiago. I will pay you well for it.”

“Yes sir, thank you, sir. Excuse my curiosity. Quite professional.”

“No doubt; but you will make more money by asking no questions. If things are as I suspect with these two it will put a lot of cash into your pockets. Meanwhile, hold your tongue.”

“Very good Dr. Herrick,” said the ferret meekly, “so long as you know your business, I don’t need to teach it to you. But you know our firm. We are straight.”

“So long as you are paid. Otherwise you prefer to keep gambling saloons unknown to the police. Oh, never fear man, I shall say nothing. By the way, lend me a revolver:”

“Ha!” said the ferret with sudden interest, “is it as bad as that?”

“I think so. One at least of the two will show fight, and it won’t be the man you followed from Paddington. You had better come with me Belcher. I want to know if the coast is clear. If the two catch sight of me from the window, they may clear out. While I am talking to them, you and Kidd can remain outside. If you hear a shot, rush up with the nearest policeman. But I won’t fire unless I am driven to it.”

“Going to shoot one of them Dr. Herrick?” said Belcher producing a very serviceable weapon which Jim slipped into his breast pocket.

“Not unless either one draws on me. It is the Mexican I fear. But it is the more likely I shall only fire the revolver by way of a signal. You know what you have to do?”

“Yes sir,” said the ferret with something of admiration in his whisper, “you ought to have been in our profession doctor. You provide against every chance.”

“Except sudden death,” laughed Jim as they went down the dingy stairs, “I have a tough article to deal with in that Santiago. Do you know anything about him Belcher.”

The ferret shook his head and waved a neat umbrella to a passing hansom. “Not much sir,” he replied, “he’s been in England over six months, and always in the same lodgings. He has money but not too much of it. I got to know him at the club, and he gambled so high and won so much that I made it my business to look after him. But I could find out nothing to get the whip hand of him, sir.”

“Mr. Joyce goes to your club also?”

“Yes sir. I told you so when you called to see me first. I knew the name at once. Kidd knows him too, but he doesn’t know Kidd. That was why I sent Kidd to Paddington. He’s a fool, sir.”

“True enough,” replied Herrick dryly, “but even a fool can become dangerous in the hands of an unscrupulous scoundrel like Santiago. Oh, I do not know anything against him,” added Herrick seeing the ferret’s eyes twinkle. “I am only going by the little I do know.”

“Not enough to jail him I suppose, sir?”

“Not yet, but there might be soon,” replied Jim, glancing sideways at his neat companion. He well knew that Belcher and Kidd liked to know secrets in order to extort blackmail. A dangerous pair; but Jim knew how to deal with them. They were rather afraid of Jim. He knew too much.

Herrick had become acquainted with the ferret through having saved the life of his small daughter, and as this child was the apple of the man’s eye, he adored Jim and was in the habit of speaking to him more freely than he otherwise would have done. Therefore Jim got to know more about the Private Inquiry Firm than was altogether wise. However, he could keep his mouth shut, and, as at present, he sometimes found the pair useful. But the connection was not a pleasant one, even so, and Herrick was wont to comfort himself with the reflection that when dirty work has to be done, no man can be nice in the choice of his instruments.

Directed by the ferret, the cab stopped at the corner of a Pimlico street in a quiet neighbourhood. There he left the doctor in the cab, and went along to reconnoitre. In ten minutes he came back.

“The Mexican has gone out,” said Belcher, “he has been away an hour. But Joyce is in the sitting-room. Kidd saw his face two or three times at the window. If you creep along the street under the house he won’t be able to see you.”

“Right you are,” said Dr. Jim climbing down, and paying off the cab—lavishly because he did not want a disturbance, “you wait outside both of you and keep an eye on the policeman. When you hear a shot—”

“You needn’t tell me twice Dr. Herrick,” said Belcher, his professional pride wounded. “Off you go sir, I’ll stop hereabouts and whistle if the Mexican comes along. He doesn’t know my real business.”

“Jim nodded, and walked along to number forty-three, where—as Belcher told him Santiago had rooms on the first floor. On the opposite side of the street he saw Kidd with a green shade and picturesquely attired in rags, playing the part of a pavement artist. At the end of the street three or four boys were playing marbles. No one would suspect that either man or boys were spies. Jim fingered his revolver, and rang the bell.

“I want to see Mr. Joyce,” he said to the slattern who opened the door, “my name is Nuttall, and I come from Don Manuel Santiago.”

The slattern suspecting nothing from this calm address conducted Jim up the stairs. She opened a door and gave the message to Robin. Herrick heard his voice telling her to show in Mr. Nuttall, and he guessed from the sound of it that Joyce was uneasy. The slattern pushed Jim to the door and then dropped down stairs rapidly. She wanted to get back to her novel, for her mistress was away for the afternoon.

“Well Joyce and how are you?”

Robin gave a kind of squeal like that of a trapped animal, and fell back into the chair from which he had risen to welcome Mr. Nuttall. His face grew white, his jaw dropped, and he collapsed into a limp heap. Fright so paralysed his tongue that he could not speak. Jim smiled politely and closed the door. Then he took a chair opposite to the wretched creature.

“You are a proper little scoundrel,” he said in withering tones, “I am sorry to see you brought so low as this, Joyce.”

“What do you want?” cried Robin flaming into sudden fury. “Have you not humiliated me enough, but that you must come after me—”

“To find you in hiding with Don Manuel. Go easy Joyce, and keep a civil tongue in your head.”

“I’d like to kill you,” he muttered, his face distorted with fury.

“I have no doubt you would, and I have also small doubt but that your friend Santiago will try.”

“Do you want to see him?”

“And you. Yes. You told me such lies at Saxham, coached by Don Manuel I suppose, that I wish to talk to the two of you together.”

“If you don’t leave this place I will call the police.”

“Do so by all means. I shall give you in charge when they appear. Come Joyce, don’t be a fool! You have to sit down and do what I tell you.”

Joyce resumed his seat and bit his fingers. “Santiago will kill you,” he muttered viciously. “I hope he will!”

“Thank you; I see pity is wasted on a reptile like you. But see here,” said Jim with sudden fierceness. “I am prepared for you and for the Mexican also. I have only to fire this,” he showed the revolver “and the detectives who are waiting will come up.”

“Detectives!” cried Joyce white as snow and trembling.

“Yes, you fool. I gave you every chance to clear yourself. You abused my leniency, and plotted with Santiago to cheat me. This time you will not get off so easy. I wonder how you will like being in the dock on a charge of conspiracy.”

“It’s—it’s—it’s a lie!”

“It’s the truth, and you know it. You and Santiago wish to get the money left by Colonel Carr. You tried to murder Stephen in the churchyard.”

“It was not I,” gasped Robin shaking with fright, “I was with the Miss Endicottes all the time.”

“Oh, I know that your accomplice is the bolder villain. It was he—” here Herrick made a shot in the dark, “—it was Santiago who struck Marsh.”

“I know he did,” sobbed Joyce falling into the trap, “but I—”

“Never mind about yourself,” said Jim exulting in having extorted this piece of information, “tell me what there is between Santiago and Corn that made him force the parson to tell a lie in order to prove his alibi. Corn said that Manuel was with him all the evening. You know that is false. Manuel went out and struck Stephen Marsh.”

“I don’t know what power Santiago has over Corn,” said Robin wiping his eyes, “he never told me; but he has some. He treats me like a dog, and I can’t call my soul my own.”

“You poor little rat!” said Herrick with a certain pity. “Then the best thing you can do is to come back to me, and tell me all you know about this scoundrel.”

“No! No!” whimpered Joyce, “he would kill me.”

“Not he! I shall know how to save you, and if you do not tell,” said Dr. Jim in a sharp tone, “I’ll have you arrested as being concerned in this murder of Colonel Carr.”

“I am innocent; you know I am innocent!”

“I know nothing of the sort,” replied Herrick unexpectedly. “I have your word for it, and your confession of your doings on that night. But there is quite enough in that confession—signed by yourself, mind—to justify your being arrested on suspicion of having committed the crime. Do you think a jury would believe in your story, especially as I can prove that the pistol with which—as I verily believe—the crime was committed was in your possession?”

“I got it from Santiago.”

“So you said, and yet at the time you told me, it was out of my power to question the man. You knew that he had gone up to Town by the Heathcroft line, and you did not tell me.”

“I was afraid. He forced me to hold my tongue.”

“You had better be a little more afraid of me. I can do you more mischief than Don Manuel is likely to do. He will have sufficient to do to look after himself. But I knew what a slippery little devil you were Joyce, and so I had you watched from the moment you disembarked at the Paddington station. You can’t move a step now without my knowledge. So you need not try to give me the slip again.”

By this time Joyce was in a state of collapse. He saw that Herrick had been too clever for him. Between his fear of Santiago and his fear of Herrick he was in a pitiable state of mind. Dr. Jim felt sorry for the miserable creature in spite of the contempt which his conduct righteously provoked. “I’ll tell you what I can,” said Joyce after a pause.

“I think you are wise. You expect Santiago back soon?”

“At five o’clock.”

“It is a quarter past four now,” said Herrick glancing at his watch. “I will wait for him.”

“He is dangerous,” said Joyce alarmed, and rising from his chair.

“So am I. It is not a man like me who is afraid of a Mexican Greaser, Mr. Joyce. Don’t go near that window. You’ll be making signals to your friend. I don’t trust you.”

“On my honour—” began Joyce returning to his seat.

“You haven’t got any. Now then, why did Santiago try to get Marsh killed?”

“He did not want to kill him. He only desired that he should be disabled and prevented from going to the vault.”

Herrick whistled. “Ah, he has been looking up the will at Doctor’s Commons. Well, and what does he expect to gain by the money going to Frisco? The man is in communication with him I suppose?”

“No,” said Joyce sulkily, “he is in communication with me.”

“The devil!” Herrick sprang to his feet. “So you put that cipher in the paper, asking Frisco to meet you at Hyde Park Corner.”

“Yes I did. I put in the first and the second.”

“Who taught you the cipher? It was one that Colonel Carr knew.”

“Santiago taught it to me.”

“Ah! Now we are getting at the truth,” said Herrick, “and where did you meet Santiago may I ask? No lie this time, please?”

“I met him at the gambling club in this district.”

“Oh, you did. I never knew that gambling was a vice of yours. It seems one never does know a man. I thought better of you. Well, and for what reason did Santiago tell you about this cipher.”

“I knew him before I went on the walking tour with you. When I came back to London I went to the club and saw him there. He talked about the murder of Carr and had seen my name as one of the men who found the body. In one way and another he got everything out of me.”

“The story you told me?”

“Yes! He made me tell everything.”

“Clever man,” said Herrick with a nod, “but of course you are so weak poor soul, that you would tell everything. I now see how this man got you into his power. Well, and why did he teach you the cipher.”

“It seems he knew Frisco—”

“Oh! He denied that. I knew that was a lie; but no matter.”

“I said that Frisco was in London, and that I should like to find him. I wanted to know if Frisco had really killed Colonel Carr.”

“Oh!” Herrick shrugged his shoulders, “and were you simple enough to think that Frisco would tell you?”

“He did tell me—”

“That he was innocent of course?”

“Yes. That he was innocent. But if he had told me that he was guilty I could not have betrayed him.”

“Humph!” said Dr. Jim with a sharp glance, “you are getting more mysterious every moment. Well, so you put in that cipher—the first—by the direction of the Mexican?

“Yes. And met Frisco at Hyde Park Corner. I also put in the second when I wanted to see Frisco again. He wouldn’t give me his address, but said if I wanted to see him I was to communicate by the cipher. I did not meet him the second time, because I saw you waiting to catch us.”

“Ah! That was clever of you.”

“Of you too,” said Joyce, “how did you learn the cipher?”

“That is my business. Be civil,” said Dr. Jim sharply, “go on. You saw this man you say, and he told you he was innocent, which is a lie. I suppose Santiago saw him also?”

“Yes. We were all three in my flat.”

“Nice party,” said Dr. Jim sarcastically, “and you made up this conspiracy between the lot of you?”

“Yes! We wanted Marsh to lose the money.”

“I do not see where the advantage would come in,” said Dr. Jim reflectively, “the money would go to Frisco certainly, but he could not benefit, without running the risk of arrest.”

“He was not to appear at all in the matter,” explained Joyce. “When the money came to him, he was to feign death and make a will leaving the fortune to me; I was to share it with him and Santiago.”

Herrick stared. The conspiracy was more complete than he had thought, and very cunning too. “Upon my word that is clever,” he said in a tone half of jest and half admiration, “although I do not exactly see how the law would look at the matter. Frisco wanted for murder—to feign death—fortune left to you—money to be shared between the presumed corpse and the two plotters left alive. Why! it’s like a melodrama. You would have had some difficulty in proving the death of Frisco though.”

“Oh, Santiago was going to manage that,” said Joyce with confidence.

“I am sure he would, even to going the length of making a real corpse of the man after the will was signed.”

Joyce jumped up and began to walk up and down much agitated. “No,” he said, “bad as you think me Herrick, I should never have consented to Frisco being put out of the way. The death would have been proved without that. Frisco would have received his share of the money. He would have gone free. I would rather die myself than that anything should happen to Frisco. Yes, you may look; I would.”

Dr. Jim shrugged his shoulders. “Your conscience has grown very tender all of a sudden, that you should desire to shield a scoundrel. Is Frisco a relative of yours that you should be so careful of his skin?”

Joyce dropped into his seat and looked straight at the doctor. “Frisco is my father,” he said deliberately.

Dr. Jim jumped up in his turn and stared down at the pinched white face. He could scarcely believe his ears. “Your father?” he gasped, “is this another part of your conspiracy?”

“It is the truth,” said Joyce simply, so simply that Herrick was convinced that for once he was telling no lie. “When he met me and came to my flat, he told me he was my father. I did not believe him, but he soon convinced me by showing me my mother’s letters.

“Addressed to him where?”

“Colonel Carr’s.”

“Oh!” Herrick dropped back into his chair, “so this accounts for the annuity! What is your father’s real name?”

“Joyce! The same as mine. He was Colonel Carr’s Cousin.”

Herrick was amazed, and remembered what he had heard about the uncle of the wicked Colonel. “Carr’s father turned a son out of doors,” he muttered “the son went to America and married. He had one daughter—”

“My mother. She was the Carr’s cousin, not my father’s. I am getting confused,” murmured Joyce feeling his head.

“In that case you are cousin to Stephen Marsh?”

“Yes. And I should have the money, since my grandfather was the brother of Colonel Carr. That was why I conspired, as you call it. That was why my father and Santiago tried to help me to get my rights. What do you think of it now Herrick?”

“I think that you went the wrong way to work,” said Jim, “that is if you are telling me the truth,—which I doubt.”

“It is the truth,” cried Joyce clenching his fist, “if you do not believe me,” he added listening for a moment, “here is one who will tell you.”

“Santiago!” said Herrick rising to be ready for emergencies.

“Yes! He is coming up the stair now.”

At that moment there was a shrill whistle outside, Belcher’s signal.

Chapter 19
Don Manuel’s Recollections

Santiago entered the room quite unsuspiciously. His step was light, his eyes were bright, and he had evidently been successfully plotting some new and lucrative villainy. In a moment his astonished eyes lighted upon Herrick, standing tall and smiling on the hearth-rug. A Spanish oath of the coarsest slipped from his mouth, and he looked about as evil as a man can look who knows that the game is up. However he was plucky enough to show fight. He even attempted bluff.

“What are you doing in my rooms Señor?” he demanded in Spanish. “If you—”

“Don’t you think we had better keep to English?” said Herrick blandly. “I know you speak it so well, and of course we have our mutual friend Joyce to consider. You are surprised to see me. Natural, very natural.”

Joyce sat in his chair silent and white. He was too frightened to open his mouth for he knew something of Don Manuel’s rages, and dreaded the tornado which would ensue when the Mexican learned how Herrick had been told everything by his weak-kneed coadjutor. For a moment Santiago (still in ignorance as to the true state of affairs), ground his teeth. Then by an effort of will he recovered his smile, and to all appearances his usual temper. “You will excuse me if I spoke rudely Señor,” he said with a polite bow, “it is not my custom. But I am rather taken aback at meeting you here. I do not remember having asked you to come.”

“That’s all right,” replied Jim cheerfully. He did not sit down, for Santiago was still on his feet. And one can use a revolver better when standing. “I heard that you had been suddenly called to Town yesterday. I therefore made it my business to follow.”

“Very kind of you,” said Santiago slipping his hand into his breast pocket, an action which was imitated by Herrick, “but how did you find out my address? I never gave it to you.”

“An oversight on your part my dear Don Manuel,” replied Jim politely but watchful of the man’s slightest action, “but the fact is my friend Joyce left Beorminster yesterday as you know—that was after his talk with you I believe. I thought that it was possible you might ask him to stop with you for a day or so in place of returning to his own home. Therefore I telegraphed to town asking certain friends of mine to keep a watch on him and—you.”

“What am I to understood from all this Señor?”

“This much. That your game is up. Joyce has told me much; I have waited to see if you will tell me more.”

Don Manuel cast a black look at Robin who began to whimper. “I could not help it,” he said, “it’s all over. I had to tell him.”

“You told him what?” demanded the Mexican livid with rage.

“All about the conspiracy—Frisco, and a few other—ah, would you”—for Don Manuel had whipped out his revolver. Herrick was just as quick and the two men faced one another. Robin gave a shriek like a frightened woman. The sight was an unpleasant one.

“For God’s sake!” cried Joyce wringing his hands.

“One moment before you fire Señor,” said Herrick coolly, “I would have you know that the firing of a single shot will bring up the police.” Santiago dropped his revolver with a start. “The police,” he muttered; then after a pause he returned his weapon to his pocket. “You can do the same Señor,” he said calmly.

“I don’t think we shall have much use for them,” said Herrick putting away his weapon and sitting down. “I think we may talk now that these preliminaries are ended. Will you not be seated Señor Manuel.”

“In my own house!” exclaimed the Spaniard between his teeth but sat nevertheless.

“Quite so; I have to ask you pardon for that. But you see my friend, I must stand if you do, and I am tired. You might use that pretty little weapon in your pocket.”

“I may do so yet,” said Santiago with an ugly look.

“Possibly. All the same I would point out that your intention has its disadvantages. In the first place I am a good and a quick shot. In the second as my shot or yours would summon the police, you might get into trouble.”

“The police can do nothing to me.”

“If you attempt to kill me I think they can do a lot. We are not in Mexico now, Señor Santiago. Come, let us talk sensibly. I am sure you must see that I am in a position to dictate my own terms. You will not find them hard I assure you always provided—”

“Provided what?”

“That you did not murder Colonel Carr. If you did, I fear—I fear I shall be obliged to hand you over to the police. We have a prejudice against people being killed in this country, Don Manuel.”

“Oh, curse your fine speeches!” growled the Don. “I did not kill Carr if that is what you are driving at.” He paused and cast a look at Joyce. “I see that you have got the better of me. If that white-livered cur had held his tongue—however I must make the best of a bad job. Come, if I answer your questions freely and frankly will you promise not to inform the police of what I tell you?”

“No, I can’t promise that. If you know where Frisco is you must tell me. I want to have that man hanged.” Joyce started up with a cry. “I am sorry Robin, if he is your father, but as he is a murderer also he must—”

“One moment,” interposed Santiago coolly, “Frisco is no murderer.”

“Indeed? Then, as you were in possession of the pistol with which Colonel Carr was shot, perhaps you can tell me who used it. That is,” said Herrick significantly, “if you did not use it yourself.”

“I don’t use weapons of that sort,” said Santiago scornfully, “besides it was my game to frighten Carr, not to kill him.”

“I see. It was you who sent those warnings in cipher.”

“You know that do you. Yes, it was I, and to make Carr afraid. He had few good nights after he got those warnings I know.”

“They were all bluff?”

“So far as I was concerned,” replied Santiago easily, “but had I chosen they could have been sent in deadly earnest.”

“I do not understand.”

“I do not think you will until I explain. But first I must be assured of my own safety before I speak.”

“Well,” said Dr. Jim pulling out his pipe, “its this way you see. I want to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. Also to learn who killed Carr. I could have you arrested on a charge of trying to kill Marsh,” here the Mexican muttered a curse on Robin’s head and the little man winced. “But if you will prove to me that you did not kill Carr and tell me the whole truth, why I will let you go back to Mexico unharmed.”

“And if I refuse?” demanded Don Manuel.

“In that case I’ll call up the police and give you and Joyce in charge for conspiracy and assault with intent to kill.”

“I did not wish to kill him,” protested Manuel, “I only wanted to prevent him going to the vault.”

“And so allow the money to pass to Frisco,” put in Herrick, “very clever. I know all about that. Tell me something new.”

“If I had only been here before you intimidated this—”

“You would have done as he has done,” said Herrick; then changing his tone, he spoke sharply. “We are wasting time. Tell me all I want to know; answer my questions, and you shall go free, save that I shall have you watched until the true murderer of Colonel Carr has been found. If you refuse you shall be arrested forthwith.”

“And if I were to shoot you?” cried Santiago savagely half rising.

“You would be hanged, or else you would have to end your own life. Don’t I tell you the sound of the shot will bring up the men I have had posted?”

Santiago reflected for a moment, then he took out his revolver and tossed it carelessly on to the table. “You are the stronger Señor. I give in. Allow me to roll a cigarette, and I will answer all your questions. I am not afraid, for I can swear by the Holy Mother that I did not kill Carr and—” added Santiago with a gay laugh, “I rather regret I did not.”

“Come,” said Herrick lighting his pipe, “the story. In the first place where did you meet Colonel Carr?”

“In Mexico about twenty years ago. You would not think it to look at me. But I am not young, Señor Herrick.”

“Did you meet Frisco at the same time?”

“Joyce’s father? I did.”

“Wait a moment,” said Robin, “I wanted to tell Herrick the precise relationship between myself and Colonel Carr, but I grew confused. Was not my mother his niece? I forget. I am so muddled.”

“No. It is this way. The uncle of Colonel Carr, a younger brother of his father was turned out of doors by the grandfather. He went to the States and married. He died leaving a widow and daughter. The widow died and the daughter married an American. Your father was the son, and he married your mother. You are their son. Therefore you were a kind of third or fourth cousin to Carr. Your father Frisco was a second cousin. I think it is this way, but,” Santiago shrugged his shoulders “your English relationships are so very confusing.”

“Cousins will do,” said Herrick. “Did Carr know that Frisco—we will continue to call him so as it is rather confusing—did Carr I say, know that Frisco was his second cousin?”

“Yes! For that reason he allowed Mrs. Joyce an annuity of five hundred a year.”

“Why was it not continued to our friend here?”

Don Manuel laughed. “I think the Colonel and Frisco had quarrelled by then, and Carr had told him to look after his own brat.”

“How dare you?” cried Robin jumping up.

“My friend, I repeat what the Colonel said. That is all.”

Herrick interposed. “Did Mrs. Joyce know that Frisco was with Carr?”

“Oh, dear me no. She thought she was a widow.”

“That is true,” said Robin gloomily, “my mother always said that my father had died in America. I could not believe that Frisco was my father until he convinced me.”

“I think we both convinced you,” said the Mexican with a laugh, “but it strikes me Dr. Herrick that we are beginning the story at the wrong end. Let me tell it in my own way. It will be much clearer.”

“I hope it will be true.”

“Oh, as to that I have no reason to conceal anything now,” said Don Manuel with a shrug, “you may as well know all. The money is lost and I shall return to Mexico as poor as I set out. Well?”

“Tell the story in your own way,” growled Herrick disliking the coolness of the man yet half admiring his nerve.

“Well then,” said Santiago placing a cigarette in his mouth and crossing his legs, “it is this way. Twenty years ago I met Colonel Carr. He was in the war between Chili and Peru, and a brave soldier he was. A brute also. There was nothing he would not do to get money. He had left his home a pauper, and he swore he would go back a millionaire. But when the war was at an end, he had not got the fortune he wanted. It was about that time that Frisco fell in with Carr.”

“And Frisco introduced himself as a cousin?”

“Just that,” said Santiago briskly. “They soon found out the relationship. Joyce—I am speaking of your father my friend,” this in an aside to Robin, “Joyce came from San Francisco, so the Colonel one day being drunk, called him Frisco—the name stuck to him. After that they were what you English call pals, and hung round Lima trying to make money. I was in the army then and saw much of them. Frisco was as anxious as Carr to be rich. He said he had left a wife and son in California.”

“That was you Robin,” put in Herrick much interested.

“Yes. That was Robin,” said Don Manuel with a sour glance at the little man whom he had not yet forgiven for his cowardly confession. “Well Señor, the two tried to make money and could not. Then they heard of the treasures buried by the Indians when Pizarro conquered Peru. They went off to Cuzco; afterwards up into the mountains. For some months they were gone. One day they came back to Lima to see me, ragged and poor. They had caught an Indian who knew of a large treasure in gold and jewels. He told them where it was hidden, and gave them a plan.”

“But I thought the Indians would not tell,” said Herrick, who knew something of the country of which Santiago was speaking.

“This one did,” said the Mexican with a smile, “they tortured him with a red-hot gun barrel. Don’t look so astonished Señor. Indians are not much above the beasts, and I told you Carr was a devil. They tortured him till he gave them the plan. Carr was afraid of losing it, so he made Frisco tattoo it on his breast, and then burnt the original plan.”

“Ah!” Herrick started to his feet, “I see now why Carr wanted his body watched for a year! At the end of that time the plan—’

“Would not be recognisable,” finished Santiago quietly. “Exactly so, Señor. Carr knew from the ciphers I sent him that I was in the country and would in some way try to get a sight of that plan. For that, he shut himself up in the tower, and—”

“Wait a bit,” said Herrick, “he built that tower when he came home ten years ago. Your coming did not make him build it.”

“He knew that someone would come and try to kill him,” said Don Manuel coolly, “but I am telling the end before the beginning. Let me go on. Well, Dr. Herrick, as I said, Colonel Carr had that plan tattooed on his breast. He would not show it to me, but wanted me to join in an expedition to get the treasure. I got the money and fitted out the expedition. We started off to Cuzco, then up the Apurimac and on the mountains. I told you something of this before Señor. On the way they betrayed me into the hands of some Indians, and went on themselves. I cursed my fate when I learned their treachery. I was held captive for two, three years. To revenge myself on Carr I told the Indians how he had found the treasure. They were furious, and sent out men to protect it. But Carr fought them and got away to the coast with a quantity of jewels, and gold. He went to the States, and afterwards came on to England where he settled down at ‘The Pines.’ But at Lima he was twice nearly assassinated, and knew that the Indians had appointed some of their more civilised countrymen to follow and kill him and to cut the plan of the hiding-place out of his flesh. He knew also that these appointed would follow him across the water to the ends of the earth. But he managed to give them the slip, and never thought that in an obscure country village he would be in danger. All the same he built the tower that he might keep himself safe while asleep.”

“And are you one of these emissaries?” asked Herrick.

Santiago shook his head. “I might have been had I so chosen,” said he, “but I wanted a share of the money myself, or at all events a plan of the hiding-place, that I might search for it.”

“How did you hear all this, when you were a captive?”

“I did not—then. It was when I got back to Lima that I heard. I could not learn where Carr had gone. I did not know even if Carr was his real name. I hunted for him both in North and South America, but he had so cleverly concealed his trail that I could not trace him. Then I was ill for a long time after the privations I had suffered amongst the Indians. It was only within the last year that I discovered the whereabouts of Carr. I then came to England to frighten him. So I sent those cipher warnings. I wanted a share of the money’ or the plan. Carr refused to give me either.”

“Ah! you saw him then?”

“No! he wrote me a letter defying me to do my worst. Of course he thought that I was one of those appointed to kill him. That was why he lived in the Tower, and arranged that his body should be watched after his death. Dead or alive you see he was determined that I should get nothing.”

“You came down to Saxham to break into the vault?” suggested Herrick.

“No, I should have done so, had I not hit upon this other plan—what you call the conspiracy. But I thought that through this little fool I might get the money. I deserve it more than Stephen Marsh.”

There was silence for a few minutes. Santiago was regretting the downfall of his hopes. Robin was wondering about his own future, and Dr. Jim reflected on the strange story which had been told to him. “Did you never go down to Saxham?” he asked. “Oh, yes, Señor,” replied the Mexican airily “on the night when Colonel Carr was murdered, I was at the rectory.”

“With Pentland Corn,” said Herrick, “then you knew him before?”

“I know him better than anyone in his parish knows him,” said Santiago, “he is a gambler. Often he leaves his Church to come to the Pimlico Club and gamble. It was there that I met him. He was the friend I spoke of when I first saw you, Señor Herrick—the friend who told me about Colonel Carr. As I had the secret of this padre I used him as an intermediator between myself and Carr.”

Herrick was surprised to hear this about Corn, and could easily see how the unfortunate man had been kept under the thumb of this adventurer. “You are certainly skilful in finding tools,” said he dryly and with a glance at the silent Joyce. “So you were at the rectory on that night? How can I be sure that you were not at ‘The Pines?’“

“Oh! You want to accuse me of the murder!” said Don Manuel rather amused. “I assure you I did not kill Carr. It was not my aim to do so. I wished to get the money without danger from your laws. To be plain Señor, I went to Pentland Corn, to see if he could bribe or force Frisco into betraying Carr into my hands. I came to Beorminster by a late train, and went to Saxham by the public coach. About nine I came to the rectory. The Reverend Corn was out, but I waited for him.”

“He could not have been out,” said Herrick. “Mrs. Marsh was with him, and her son had come to fetch her.”

“You are right except as to the time, Señor. Mrs. Marsh had gone by nine, and her son also. Corn came back and said that he had taken them to the public conveyance. He was pale, and looked haggard. I told him he lied. He lost his nerve and threw on the table a pistol—”

“Ha! The pistol you gave to Joyce?”

“The same,” replied Santiago coolly, “the weapon with which Carr was murdered.”

“Do you mean to say that Corn killed the Colonel?” cried Herrick starting to his feet. “It is a lie. I do not believe it.”

“Then why ask me to tell you the truth. It was Corn who killed Carr. He was a gambler, and deeply in the Colonel’s debt. Those visits he paid to ‘The Pines’ were not to convert Carr as he alleged, but to gamble with him. He lost much money to Carr. The Colonel threatened if he did not pay, to denounce him. Corn knew that he would lose his position, if this was done. He knew also that Carr was a threatened man; I had told him. It then occurred to him to kill Carr, and he thought that the suspicion might be shifted on to those who had lost the treasure. Thus his secret and himself would be safe.”

“It is incredible!” said Herrick, and even Joyce looked amazed. “It is true,” replied the Mexican. “Of course if you will not believe me I really cannot help it. I know that Corn is guilty. He told me so himself, and I took from him the pistol by way of proof. Being thus in my power, I forced him to do my bidding. You can see now, how he declared that I had not left him on the night Señor Marsh was assaulted. It was I who struck him, and Corn by my directions proved the alibi. That is the whole story Señor. Is there anything else you want to know?”

“The whereabouts of Frisco?”

“Ah I can’t tell you that. Frisco trusts no one, not even me. When Joyce or myself want to see him, we have to put a cipher into the ‘Telegraph.’ ”

“Then you must do so now; I want to see the man.”

“Why? He is innocent.”

“So you say. But I have yet to be convinced of Pentland Corn’s guilt.”

Joyce jumped to his feet. “I am sure my father is innocent,” he cried, “but I will get him to see you if you like.”

“I think it would be better,” said Herrick dryly and took up his hat.

“One moment, Señor,” said Santiago quietly, “how do we stand?”

“I shall do nothing until I see Corn, and learn if he really killed Carr as you say. In the meantime Joyce can go back to his flat, and you can remain here Don Manuel. You are perfectly safe from the police.”

“But you will have us watched?”

“Certainly,” said Herrick with a nod, “you see I cannot trust you. Besides I want you to write down all you have told me, and sign it. I have Joyce’s confession. I want yours.”

“I will do so with pleasure,” replied the Mexican after a pause, “I have done nothing against your law.”

“Nothing, except try to kill Marsh.”

“Oh! you have promised to hold me guiltless of that.”

“True enough. You are safe so far as that is concerned. There is honour amongst thieves, Señor Manuel. I have come lately so much into contact with people like you and Joyce, that I feel rather a bad lot myself.”

The Mexican drew himself up and his eyes glittered. “Señor, you shall answer me for those words. I am a gentleman, and I challenge you to a duel. You dare not refuse.”

“We’ll see about that, when this matter of Carr’s death is settled, Don Manuel. Meantime, remember that every move you make, I shall know of and baffle.”

Santiago shrugged his shoulders. “The fine scheme is ended,” he said, “this little fool has spoilt all. I will do what you wish Señor, since you are too strong for me.”

“Very good. And Joyce, you must get your father to see me.”

“If I can,” muttered Robin with a glance of hatred.

“You must,” answered Herrick going to the door. “Good-bye gentlemen, I shall leave you to settle your own affairs now.” And he went out laughing.

Chapter 20
The Revd. Pentland Corn

Herrick did not take all that Santiago had said for gospel truth. The Mexican was too clever and too bold a man to give in so tamely, seeing what was at stake. For the moment he had recognised that he was powerless, and had surrendered until such time as he could recover his position. Dr. Jim could have stopped all his machinations, by having him arrested for the assault on Stephen. But he did not wish to bring the police into the matter at present. In the first place so many lies had been told about the Case, there were so many things to be explained, that he was not sure of his ground. And for the sake of Stephen he did not wish to create a scandal. Colonel Carr’s reputation was quite bad enough without making it worse.

Therefore the only thing that Jim could do was to have the two scamps watched. Certainly they might warn Frisco to clear out; but whatever Santiago did, Herrick felt sure that Joyce would not counsel such a course. The little man knew well enough that his safety depended upon Herrick, and would do nothing which might jeopardise his safety. The Mexican might plot and plan; but Joyce would certainly obey orders. Also, they could do little if closely watched. Herrick then gave his orders to Kidd and Belcher, and returned the next day to Saxham.

“If anything important occurs,” he said to the ferret, “you can wire me.”

“But we are in the dark,” protested Belcher, “if you would only—”

“No, Belcher,” interrupted Jim sharply, “we settled all that before. All you have to do, is to see if either of these men tries to leave the country, or if they meet a man who looks like a sailor. Then you can wire me. I shall come up to town at once and deal with the matter myself.”

“What might be the sailor’s name?”

“It might be anything,” replied Herrick dryly. “It won’t do Belcher. You are not to know my aims until I choose to let you know. If you will not work for me on these terms, just say so and I’ll get some one else.”

“I’ll do whatever you like Dr. Herrick,” said the ferret submissively, and went away to fulfil his duties devoured with curiosity. In spite of his regard for Dr. Jim, the man wanted to make money out of him. He therefore determined to learn all he could about Joyce and the Mexican, and treat with them on his own account if he gained any knowledge likely to be useful from a blackmailing point of view. The ferret and his partner were rogues in grain. They did not even keep faithful to their employer, or to each other for the matter of that. “Honour amongst thieves” was not a proverb practised in the Strand office.

Herrick had another talk with Joyce before he returned to Saxham. The little man had gone back to his flat. Having him all to himself, and the yoke of Don Manuel being to some extent broken, Dr. Jim was able to deal more easily with him. He promised the poor fool, that if he remained faithful and did not intrigue any more with his father or the Mexican, that he should be given a new chance of leading a clean existence. Indeed Herrick spoke so seriously that he reduced Joyce to tears, and to many protestations that henceforward he would be all that was good. It was not improbable that he would mend. He had had a severe lesson, and had narrowly escaped getting into the clutches of the law. With a less kindly man than Herrick, his position would indeed would have been a serious one. He therefore appreciated the kindness accorded to him—or said he did—and Jim departed satisfied that so far as Robin was concerned, he had nullified the schemes of Santiago. In this way he hoped to take the heart out of the conspiracy against Stephen and Stephen’s money.

“The next person to deal with is Corn,” he said to himself as he got into the train, “he is another fool if not worse, as Manuel told me. I seem to have dealt with nothing but fools and scoundrels ever since I started out on that unhappy walking tour. Colonel Carr was evil in his life, and he has left an evil influence behind him.”

Later on Dr. Jim reproached himself for blaming the walking-tour. If it had brought him into trouble it had also given him a promise of future happiness. But for that walk he would never have met Bess. After all his anxiety in London Herrick wanted to have a quiet hour with the girl who was the light of his eyes. Jim did not call her this, for he was not a romantic person; but he felt he would like to be with her. And he was anxious to know what she had discovered about the pistol. Bess had not sent him a report as she had promised, and Herrick concluded that she had discovered nothing worth the sending. All the same he wished to see her at once. But he put off the happy hour. There was business to be done before pleasure could be taken.

It was after nine o’clock before Herrick arrived at the Beorminster Station. He had not sent for the cart, as he did not wish Stephen to know of his arrival at present. Dr. Jim had made up his mind to call in and get the truth out of the clergyman before returning to “The Pines.” Therefore, determined to get his plans into thorough order, Jim left his portmanteau at Beorminster to be sent on the next morning and himself walked to Saxham.

In due time he arrived at the rectory, and was shown into the rector’s study, where he found the man himself. The Revd. Pentland looked nervous at this untimely visit, and more so as he saw that Dr. Jim was not in evening dress and must therefore have come straight from town. Corn’s conscience was uneasy, and every untoward event fluttered his nerves. However he composed himself with a strong effort, and asked Herrick to be seated.

“You have just come from town I see,” he observed with a nervous glance.

“Yes! And I want particularly to have a chat with you before going to ‘The Pines,’ and on a painful subject, Mr. Corn.”

The rector shivered, and turned even paler than usual. “Is there anything wrong?” he asked faintly. “Let me know the worst at once.”

“Why should you expect any worst Mr. Corn?”

The man shook his head and passed a handkerchief across his dry lips. “I want to know the worst,” he said again, without heeding the question. “I can see by your face that there is something wrong which concerns me.”

Herrick gave a short laugh. “Upon my word you are a singularly indiscreet man Mr. Corn,” he said, “you give yourself away right and left. When I met you first of all, you behaved in a foolish manner. Now you are very little better. You are a clergyman and a gentleman with an assured position. Why don’t you assume the defensive and ask what I mean by such speeches as I have made—as I am now making!”

“Because I would have to tell you all about myself sooner or later,” said Corn in a low voice. “You are a strong man, and I want to confide in someone like yourself. I am not strong. I was—once—but something happened,” he sighed and nodded, “a terrible thing happened.”

Herrick wondered if he was about to confess to the murder. However he did not wish to hurry the confession, which he saw Corn was on the point of making. He wondered that such a smart and soldierly-looking man should own himself to be so weak. “I am quite at your service,” he said coldly, “and for my own part Mr. Corn I do not think you have used either myself or Mr. Marsh over well.”

“In what way?” This time Corn really did look amazed.

“You told a lie to shield Don Manuel. It was the Mexican who struck that blow at my friend, and you knew it. How could you a gentleman, and a clergyman stoop to shield a would-be murderer.”

Corn rose to his feet and braced himself to a great effort. “You are right,” he said frankly, “but I was compelled to such a course.”

Herrick nodded. “I know. I have heard all from Santiago.”

Corn recoiled. “He told you,” he grasped sitting down.

“Yes. He told me how he had you in his power; how he forced you to lie for him. I made him tell me the truth; now I wished to hear the confirmation of this story from you.”

“It is true; it is true!” cried Corn desperately. “If he told you that I was a gambler, that I owed money—it is true—”

“I don’t mean that so much,” said Herrick sharply, “as to the accusation he makes against you of having murdered Colonel Carr.”

The clergyman, who had been leaning his head on his arms in an agony of grief, looked up suddenly with a bewildered stare. “Santiago said that about me?” he demanded.

“It is not true?”

“It is the foulest lie he ever spoke!” cried Corn with indignation. “I am bad in many ways Dr. Herrick—yet I have my excuses, as you shall hear. But as to murdering Carr, I did nothing of the sort.”

“How was it then that Don Manuel obtained from you the pistol with which the crime was committed?”

Corn looked round the room, and went to the door. Opening this he looked out for a moment to see that the coast was clear. Then he shut it locked it and came back to the fire-place looking more like a ghost than ever. “I picked it up,” he said in a whisper, “yes, on the lawn of ‘The Pines.’ I knew that Colonel Carr had been shot with it. But I dare not tell.”

“Why not? Were you afraid of being inculpated?”

“No.” Corn hesitated and wiped his face. “I must tell you,” he said with a gasp, “there is no help for it! This secret has weighed on my soul until I can bear it no longer. It was a woman who shot Carr.”

Herrick rose slowly hardly believing his ears. “A woman?” he echoed.

Corn nodded and whispered again, “Mrs. Marsh,” he said.

“That,” said Herrick, “is a lie.”

“It is the truth; I swear it is the truth. She shot Carr because he was about to disinherit her son. If you will sit down I will tell you all I know. I am glad that it has come to this,” panted Corn wiping his forehead, “I am glad that I can tell you. The secret has nearly killed me.”

“Did you tell Santiago?” asked Dr. Jim seated again and much bewildered.

“No, I told no one. Santiago on the evidence of that pistol really believed that I was guilty. But it is a lie—a lie, and he used it to force me to hide his wickedness. I protested my innocence; but he would never believe me. And that because I refused to say who was guilty.”

Herrick placed his hands on the shoulders of the agitated man and forced him into the chair. “Come,” said he in a more friendly tone, “you are not so weak or so bad as I thought Corn. You took the blame on yourself. Oh, I know you protested your innocence to Santiago; still he would always think you guilty. He is not the man to believe that any human being would shield another. Why did you shield Mrs. Marsh?”

“For her son’s sake,” said Corn, “and for the sake of Ida Endicotte.”

Herrick stared. “What has she got to do with it?”

“I love her,” said Corn in a low voice shading his eyes with the palm of his hand, “but she told me that her whole life was wrapped up in Stephen’s. If he knew that his mother had killed Carr, he is quixotic enough to throw up the whole fortune out of shame. Then he would not be able to marry Ida and her heart would be broken. It is for this reason that I held my peace.”

“Yet you let Stephen be assaulted,” said Herrick, “his death would have ruined the life of Ida just the same.”

“I did not know about the assault until after it was committed,” said Corn quickly, “then Santiago—but I cannot tell you the story in scraps like this. Better let me tell you all about myself, and what led to my present weakness. Then you will appreciate what I have gone through.”

Herrick nodded, “it is best so. Go on. You can safely confide in me, Corn. I only retain the right to use such information as may clear up the mystery of this murder.”

Corn seized his arm. “You will not tell about Mrs. Marsh?” he panted.

“Not without consulting you. Be certain Corn that I am too true a friend to Stephen, to do anything harmful to him. But there is much at stake and I must be allowed to use my own judgment. You can rely on me.”

“I am sure of that,” said the clergyman in admiration, “you are a strong-willed man. I was strong myself once—in a way. But my crime—”

“Crime! I thought you had not killed Carr.”

“No,” said Corn in a low voice, “But I have the blood of a fellow creature on my hands for all that,” and he buried his face in his hands.

“I judge no man,” said Herrick after a pause, “but do not tell me anything that may render it difficult for me to keep sacred your confidence.”

“Oh, there is nothing you need fear from that,” replied Corn drearily. “It was an accident. Wait till I recover myself.”

The man took a turn up and down the room. After five minutes he resumed his seat and spoke composedly. “My name is not Corn,” he began, “Langham is my name—Francis Langham. I was in the army.”

“So Bess Endicotte said,” nodded Herrick.

Corn smiled faintly. “Yes! I let that slip one day, when she was talking of my looking like a soldier. But she does not know my real name. No one does save the Bishop who gave me this living. Ah! he was a good man. He is dead now. But I have to thank him for saving my reason and my life.”

“How was that?” asked Herrick settling himself.

“I was quartered in the West Indies,” said Corn after a pause, “and I there had a friend, who joined about the same time as I did. I need not tell you his name or the number of my regiment. All you need know is the simple story of my misery. My friend and I were always together; they called us David and Jonathan in the regiment. Well,” here Corn nerved himself to a tremendous effort, “we were out shooting ducks. We were parted amongst the reeds on the borders of the lake. I thought I saw the brown back of a duck through some reeds. Without thinking I fired, and—I killed my friend! Oh, my God!”

When the man’s head went down on the table, Herrick clasped him by the shoulder. He was profoundly moved by the miserable story, and could well understand how a once strong man had been changed by this tragic deed into a weak, tremulous, creature. He did not say a word of comfort. It would have been useless. After a time Corn recovered himself and continued in a dull hard voice.

“There was an inquiry. I was exonerated from all blame. But I knew that I had killed my friend, that I had the blood of a fellow creature on my hands. I left my regiment and sent in my papers. Under another name I returned to England. All my relations were dead save my uncle the Bishop. He tried to calm me. I would not be calm. I would have committed suicide but that I felt that it was my duty to suffer for my crime.”

“Not a crime,” interposed Herrick gently “an accident.”

“Yes! It was. Yet I can’t help—but no matter. I took to gambling to drown my remorse and grief. I had never touched cards before. They became a passion with me. Other men take to drink,—I to cards. But all in vain. When the excitement of the game was over—in the morning, then my misery came back. I went to my uncle. He implored me to find peace in the bosom of the church, for he did not look upon me as the guilty wretch I was. I consented. As Pentland Corn I studied for the church. I became a priest,—a curate and worked in the slums of the East End. I left off gambling, and felt more at ease, thinking I was expiating my folly. In an evil hour—after years of hard work—my uncle gave me this living. I took it. Shortly afterwards he died. Then I realised the folly of accepting a charge where I had time to brood. The past came back to me, and—I took to gambling again.

“That was weak Corn,” said Herrick decisively.

“I know it was—but I was in a manner driven to it. There was little work to do here. Society had no attractions for me. So then I had long—long hours of agony. I wanted to forget the past, and—”

“You should have gone back to the East End.”

Corn nodded. “I should have done many things,” said he bitterly, “but that accident had taken all the manhood out of me. I drifted—drifted. Well to make a long story short, I took to going away to London at times to indulge in gambling and forget my sorrow.”

“I know. And you went to that club in Pimlico.”

“I did. Santiago told you that I suppose. I met him there. In an incautious moment I told him about Colonel Carr. Then I heard of the grudge he bore against him.”

“Do you know the story of that expedition?”

“Most of it. I warned Colonel Carr against his enemy. He laughed, feeling safe in his tower. Then learning that I was fond of cards, Carr made me play with him. It was said that I went to ‘The Pines’ to convert the man. It was to gamble—so low had I sunk.”

Herrick shook his head. But he was so sorry for the man that he could not blame him for his folly. Corn resumed.

“Night after night I gambled there. Also I went to London, and met Don Manuel at the Pimlico club. So, the life went on. And now for the story of that night.” Here Corn drew his chair closer to that of his listener, and continued his revelation in a whisper.

“I knew Mrs. Marsh very well and saw much of her,” he said, “she was a very violent and terrible woman.”

“I know that,” said Herrick remembering his own experiences.

“Oftentimes I tried to check her wrath. She would call and see Carr, and they always fought when they met. I think Carr enjoyed tormenting her, for he never forbade her visits. He was a wicked man, Herrick.”

“One of the worst, judging from his reputation.”

“Yet he had his good points. He helped me with money to pay my gambling debts not twice, but thrice.”

“Did he know your story?”

“No, I could not tell it to him, he would only have laughed at my remorse. It would have seemed foolish to him. He thought that I was simply a profligate clergyman, and liked me for that very reason, Oh, I do not defend myself Herrick; I sank low, very low, but my excuse must be the sorrow of my life. It took all the courage and self respect out of me. But after this I shall give up this charge and return to the East-End. There I will work hard and forget my folly, my sorrow. The gambling will lose its hold over me then.”

“I think you will be wise. Go on.”

“Well, on that day of the murder Mrs. March came to me in a rage. She had heard through Frisco—he had spoken in one of his drunken fits—that Carr was going to disinherit her son. She went to see him from this house. I tried to stop her; but she would go. They had a furious quarrel in the afternoon, and Mrs. Marsh swore that she would kill Carr if he disinherited Stephen.”

“She did not kill him in the afternoon?”

“No. Because he was alive after five o’clock. Someone saw him at the window of the tower. Well, Mrs. Marsh dined with me. After dinner she worked herself into a rage. Carr had laughed at her on that afternoon, and had said that he would do what he liked with his money. In fact from all she told me, he treated her like a brute; he was one you know Herrick,” and Jim nodded, remembering the torture of the Indian.

“Stephen was to come for her,” said the rector wearily; the telling of this story fatigued him. “Somewhere about nine o’clock she was to meet him at the Carr Arms, and take the bus back to Beorminster. After eight she went out. It was so early that I wanted her to stop. She refused. At nine Stephen arrived. He could not find his mother. She was not at the Carr Arms. I then guessed that she had gone to see Carr again. In my fear lest she might do something dreadful I blurted out my suspicions. At once Stephen understood what I meant. He went himself to ‘The Pines;’ I waited for some time. Then I was in such a state that I followed. The house was all ablaze, but I heard nothing. This was about half past nine or a quarter to ten. I went up as far as the door. On the steps I picked up that pistol—which I guessed had been used by Mrs. Marsh. I slipped it into my pocket. Then I returned home. I went also to the Carr Arms and learned that Stephen and his mother had caught the bus some time after nine o’clock, I tried to think that Mrs. Marsh had not shot the man. I returned here to think it out. Santiago was waiting for me. He had come by the last bus from Beorminster, and had been waiting since nine. In fact he came just after I went after Stephen. It was really a quarter past nine when he came.”

“Do you think he had been to ‘The Pines?’ asked Herrick keenly.

“I do not know. But you can learn that from the busman who drove him here. I did not inquire myself. He had come to get me to take him to see Carr. I refused, and without thinking I threw the pistol on the table. I was much agitated, and he saw that. He got out of me that I had been to ‘The Pines.’ After looking at the pistol he said he would go to ‘The Pines’ himself. I refused to let him go. After a time I gave him some money and persuaded him to go. I drove him to Heathcroft station in my cart. He took the pistol with him. I did not notice that he had done so. In a day or two when the murder became known he wrote and accused me of being the criminal. I denied it. But he had read the report of the death and how the wound had been inflicted by an old-fashioned weapon. When he came here with Joyce he insisted that I was guilty. I said that I was not but would say nothing about Mrs. Marsh. It was this knowledge that he used to make me hold my tongue about the assault on Stephen. What could I do Herrick?” said Corn piteously. “Appearances were against me. Santiago could prove that I had the pistol. I had been to ‘The Pines,’ and I owed Colonel Carr money. Also there was my own story. Had I been arrested, all would have come out. No! I had to do what Santiago told me.”

“Humph!” said Jim, “I can see your dilemma. And what about Mrs. Marsh? Did Stephen suspect her?”

“No. He told me that he had gone to ‘The Pines’ and looked at the house. He saw nothing and heard nothing. He therefore returned to the Carr Arms, and found his mother waiting for him. She said that he had missed her, and evidently invented a story which satisfied him. No Herrick, I do not think Stephen suspected his step-mother. But she shot the Colonel I am sure. She left my house in a rage and she several times threatened to kill him. Then she was not at the Carr Arms. After nine the man was shot.”

Herrick nodded. “Did you ask Mrs. Marsh to explain?”

“No! She fell ill if you remember, and took to her bed. I could not bring myself to see her. I therefore held my tongue, and I should have continued to do so but that Don Manuel threatened me. Therefore I determined to tell you all when I could. What you heard from him is in the main true. But I did not kill Carr. The blood of one human being on my hands is enough. Do you despise me Herrick?”

Dr. Jim rose and took the hand of the unhappy man. “My friend, I pity you from the bottom of my soul. If you had only found some one to advise you, all this trouble would not have occurred.”

“That is true. But my uncle who knew the story of my misery was dead. I shrank from telling anyone. But when I got to know you and saw how strong and self-reliant you were, and recognised also the goodness of your heart I felt that I could safely confide in you, You will not tell anyone what I have told you?”

“Need you ask me that!” said Herrick with a hearty shake of the hand. “Of course your secret is safe with me.”

“And about Mrs. Marsh?”

“I shall see into that,” said Herrick gravely. “Remember Santiago is a dangerous man. I do not know what trouble he may yet cause. If necessary I must use what you have told me about the crime. But you may be sure that for Stephen’s sake and for yours, I shall be circumspect in my dealings with the matter. As for you, my friend, wait here until this mystery is quite solved; then go back to the East End, or to the Wild Lands as a missionary.”

“Yes,” said Corn with a sigh, “I know. Only in that way shall I find rest.”

The two men shook hands and parted very good friends. Corn returned to his study intensely relieved by the sympathy, and by the fact that he had some one to share his secret. Herrick walked home to “The Pines” wondering at the perplexity of the case. He thought less of Corn than of Mrs. Marsh. Suddenly he stopped.

“I see,” he said to himself, “this was why Mrs. Marsh poisoned herself with an overdose of chloral. Poor woman!”

Chapter 21
Another Mystery

The first thing that struck Dr. Jim the next day, was an alteration in the demeanour of his friend. When Herrick arrived at “The Pines” after his visit to Corn, the Squire had already retired to bed, and was asleep, so the servant said. Not wishing to disturb him, Jim had supper all to himself, and went to his own room after a brisk walk on the terrace. It struck him as curious that Stephen did not come down to breakfast the next morning as he was now comparatively well. On asking for the Squire he was informed that Marsh-Carr had gone out for a walk. Herrick therefore had another lonely meal, wondering the while what had taken Stephen out so early. The young man did not return till late in the afternoon, and then excused himself by stating that he had been to see Petronella at Beorminster.

“She is still in that dull house,” said Marsh-Carr gloomily, “although I think she is tired of it and wants to go to her own country. But she refuses to go all the same.”

“What is her reason?” asked Herrick sharply.

“I can’t get it out of her. She says my mother left a message with her.”

“For you, I suppose? Well why doesn’t she deliver it and get away.”

“The message is for you Herrick.”

Dr. Jim stared. “For me!” he cried. “Why, what possible message can your poor mother have left for me?”

“I really do not know,” replied Stephen indifferently, “you had better see Petronella and ask her. She is looking very ill and if she stays much longer in that damp house she will die.”

“All right,” replied Herrick coolly, “I’ll look her up some time. I daresay the message is only one asking me to look after you.”

So Dr. Jim said, but in his heart he was wondering if the dead woman had left behind her any confession of her crime. She might have done so. Yet if she had poisoned herself to escape the consequences, it would have been foolish of her to incriminate herself. Herrick resolved to see Petronella at the first opportunity and learn what it was that she had to tell him. If there were any really important message it was strange that the old Italian had not delivered it long ago. He had seen her frequently and there had been ample opportunity for her to fulfil her mistress’ dying wish. However Herrick put this out of his mind for the moment and turned his attention to Stephen. “You are not looking well Steve,” he said gravely, “your face is white, you have dark rings round your eyes, and a haggard look as though you had not slept all night.”

“I am not yet quite myself,” said Marsh-Carr in a far more irritable tone than Herrick had ever heard him use before.

“I can see that, and being someone else has not improved your temper. I hope I have not offended you by going to town Steve?”

“Certainly not. How can you think so?”

“Well,” said Dr. Jim looking at him, “it struck me that you have been trying to avoid me lately. If you are tired of me Steve, you need only say so, and I’ll pack up and go.”

“No, I’m hanged if you will,” said the Squire vigorously. “I can’t do without you. I have been worried a trifle and it has told on my present state of health. I’ll be all right in a day or so.”

“Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No. It is a private matter, and concerns myself only.”

In the face of this intimation Herrick could not press his inquiries and began to speak on other subjects, Stephen replying more or less absently. As soon as he could he withdrew to his own room, saying he wanted to lie down. Herrick did not seek to detain him, but shook his head. “Something is wrong and he won’t tell me what it is,” he thought, “I wonder if Santiago has been tampering with him in any way. Perhaps Bess may know the reason for this change. I’ll see her at once.”

But the extraordinary thing was that he found Bess changed also. He had left her bright and merry, anxious to probe the secret of Colonel Carr’s death. He returned to find her nervous, ill at ease, and disinclined to continue her detective investigations.

“I don’t think we shall arrive at anything,” she said when Herrick pressed her. “I spoke to Inspector Bridge and he can do nothing. He is a professional, and if he fails, how can we hope to succeed?”

“Inspector Bridge is a conceited ass,” replied Dr. Jim gravely. “He knows absolutely nothing. I know more than he does.”

“Did you see the Mexican and Mr. Joyce?” asked Bess.

“I saw them and I spoke to them, and I have found out something which I need not tell you just now. It would be useless to do so. I must search out the matter for myself, and when I succeed you shall know.”

Bess sighed. “I do not mind in the least,” she said mournfully. “I have ceased to take an interest in the matter. If Frisco did not kill Colonel Carr I do not know who did.”

“Humph! You are changeable, like all women,” said Dr. Jim rather puzzled by her attitude, yet never guessing its cause. “By the way, did you find out anything about that pistol?”

“Yes.” Bess thought she might as well tell him, as he would certainly learn the truth sooner or later from Bridge. “The bullet fits the barrel.

“I thought so,” said Jim. “It is the weapon which was used.”

“Yes,” answered Bess; then after a pause. “I made another discovery.”

“Oh, you did? And about what, my dear?”

“The bullet which was used. It is of silver.”

“Of silver? What do you mean? Isn’t it lead?”

Bess laughed rather irritably. “If it was of lead how could it be silver?” she asked and then went on to tell how the jeweller had examined the missile. “Isn’t it curious?” she said.

Herrick nodded absently. His eyes were fixed on the ground and he was trying to think of the reason Mrs. Marsh could have had for using so expensive a bullet. Certainly the weapon was old-fashioned and she would have to manufacture the bullets for herself. But why use silver in preference to lead, or pewter? In an ordinary household the supply of the last two metals was likely to be more plentiful than the first. This was a problem, but one of so trifling a nature that Herrick dismissed it almost immediately. He turned his attention to Bess.

“What have you and Stephen been doing with yourselves?” he asked.

Bess started violently and changed colour at once. “Nothing Jim,” she said stiffly, “why do you ask?”

“Well, you both look ill. Stephen is avoiding me, and you are as silent as an owl.”

“Not so stupid I hope,” said Bess with a laugh. At this moment Ida entered the room, and nothing more was said. But Ida also complained of Stephen’s health. “I wish you would make him stay in bed Dr. Jim,” she said, “I am certain that he has got up too soon and is not strong enough to go about. Look how pale he is, and silent. I can’t get a word out of him.”

Herrick nodded. “I am not pleased myself Ida. This comes of my running away to Town. I’ll exert my authority.”

He spoke to Stephen and urged him to lie up for a few days. The young man obeyed meekly enough, and this very meekness made Herrick uneasy. He would rather that Stephen had shown fight. But the Squire remained in bed, took what was given him, and hardly ever opened his mouth. Ida was in despair; Herrick was puzzled, and the two met to discuss the situation.

“When did he change like this?” asked Dr. Jim.

“I think it was the day after you left,” replied Ida tearfully, “I went to Beorminster to see Flo, and left him quite bright. When I met him again, he was dull, and quiet, and white. Yet Bess was with him while I was away, so he should not have missed me so much.”

“Oh!” said Jim with sudden interest, “so Bess was with him, was she? H’m! It strikes me that Bess herself is not so bright as she might be.”

“Indeed you are right there,” said Miss Endicotte, “she is sad and silent just like Stephen. Or else she is so gay that I think she is too excited. She cries for the least thing, and laughs without any cause.”

“Humph! Sounds like hysteria to me. Yet Bess is not given that way.”

“Of course not,” said Ida repelling the suggestion hastily, “she is a strong, healthy, sensible girl and above such weakness. But as you say she and Stephen have both changed. I think,” here Ida hesitated and looked down. It amazed Herrick when she looked up to see that her eyes were filled with tears. He could not understand it all.

“My dear girl what is the matter?” he exclaimed irritably, “are you ill also. The devil has broken loose here since my departure.”

“I—I—can’t—help it,” sobbed Ida, “I thought that Bess and Stephen might—might like one another.”

“Of course they do Ida. Why shouldn’t they?”

“You don’t understand what I mean. I wonder if they were in love with one another and regret their engagements.”

Herrick burst into such a hearty fit of laughter that she was cheered. “I never heard such nonsense in my life!” he said. “Where is your women’s wit Ida? Why, Bess loves me devotedly I am certain. As for Stephen, he adores the very ground you walk on. No! It’s not that my dear girl.”

“Then what can it be?” asked Ida drying her tears.

“I shall question Bess until I find out,” said Herrick grimly. “You have no idea how I can torture people with cross examination.”

True to his idea, Dr. Jim sought out Bess. He came across her in the Pine wood beside the fairy circle. Her eyes were cast on the ground and she looked despondent. When she saw Herrick she made as if to go away.

Dr. Jim felt wounded. “Bess! Don’t you want to see me.”

“Of course I do,” she said brightly, “only, I’m not very well.”

“Neither is Stephen,” said Dr. Jim, and he saw by her start that the remark made her nervous. “Have you two quarrelled?”

“No! we have not; we are great friends.”

“Are you in love with one another then?”

Bess grew crimson and stamped. “How dare you say such a thing as that even in jest?” she said. “What would Ida say if she heard it.”

“It was Ida’s own idea,” replied Herrick with a smile, “seeing you two so glum, she fancied that you regretted your engagements and wanted to marry one another. Just say if this is the case Bess and Ida and I will console each other! That would be only fair, you know!”

The first smile that Herrick had seen on her face since his return dimpled the cheek of Bess. “I never heard such nonsense. I like Stephen, but you are the man I love. You stupid Jim; you know that!”

“I am not quite sure if I do,” said Jim gravely; “in love there should be complete confidence.”

“Surely there is, between us,” said Bess nervously.

“You can’t look me in the face and repeat that.”

Bess made the attempt, and failed. “It is nothing!” she said obstinately.

“There is something however,” said Dr. Jim sternly, “you and Stephen have some secret between you which is making you both ill. What is it?”

“I can’t tell you Jim.”

“Then there is a secret?”

“I won’t be questioned like this!” cried Bess with angry evasion.

Herrick took her by the arm and forced her to look into his face. “My dear girl,” he said, “I am to be your husband, and you must obey and consult me in all things. If you are playing with fire, I must know. Do you not trust me Bess?”

“Yes. But the secret is not my own.”

“In that case I won’t press you for an explanation,” he said relaxing his grip, “you are a foolish girl to have any secrets from one who loves you. But I suppose you have given your word not to tell?”

“Yes. I cannot break my word.”

Herrick nodded. “I do not ask you to. The secret of Stephen shall be respected. I do not even ask you if it has to do with the murder of his uncle. There is no need to ask.”

Bess looked at him irresolutely, her face scarlet. Then without a word she went slowly away. Herrick looked after her and nodded to himself. “I believe she has found out something about Mrs. Marsh, and has told Stephen; that would account for their melancholy and for the secret which she says exists between them. I shall ask Stephen.”

That same afternoon Herrick went back to “The Pines” and into the bedroom of Marsh-Carr. The young man was lying staring at the ceiling. He seemed listless and worn-out. When Jim entered he turned his face towards the wall so as to avoid his friend’s eyes. Herrick pretended to take no notice although he was cut to the heart by the avoidance of his gaze. He was very fond of Stephen, and mourned over this thing which had come between them. However it was necessary to take extreme measures if the situation was to be improved.

“Steve,” said Herrick formulating a plan, “I can’t eat alone any longer, you must come down to dinner to-night.”

“I can’t,” said Stephen in a muffled tone, “I am too ill.”

“I know you are. Life and brightness and my society are what you need. I was wrong to send you to bed. As your doctor I now order you to get up.”

Stephen turned sulky. “I don’t want to.”

“You do not know what is good for you my friend,” said Herrick coolly, “I shall expect to find you dressed and down to dinner at eight. After a good meal you will be more like your old self.”

In this way after much coaxing, scolding, ordering and threatening Jim got the young man to get up and dress. Marsh-Carr did so reluctantly enough, for he was desperately afraid of betraying the secret he had told Bess, to the sharp eyes of Herrick. However he was really tired himself of being alone. This seclusion could not be kept up for ever, and it was as well to make a beginning and get back into the old routine. He therefore dressed with some care after a bath, and came down into the drawing-room looking much better. Herrick was standing on the hearth-rug, big and masterful. “Here you are at last,” he said, “just in time for a glass of sherry.”

Stephen protested, but Herrick insisted. “You want something to make you eat after being in bed all day. This sherry and bitters will do for a medicine. I want you to eat and drink well to-night Steve. You must get colour into your cheek and fire into your eye. What will Ida say if I attend to you so badly?”

Stephen drank the sherry and felt better. Then they went to eat a capital dinner and Dr. Jim saw that his friend tasted every dish. He also made him drink champagne, and talked the whole time in a lively way that was infectious. By the time dinner was over Stephen felt positively happy. Then came cigars, coffee, and cognac, in the library.

“Now Steve, don’t you feel better?” said Herrick when they were seated vis-à-vis beside a blazing fire.

“Yes,” replied the Squire and looking round the gorgeously-coloured room, at the evidence of wealth and luxury spread out on every hand. “I feel immensely better. I suppose I shall pick up soon.”

“If you follow the advice I shall leave with you, I think you will,” said Herrick with intention and stared at the fire.

“What do you mean Jim? You don’t intend to—”

“Ah, but I do though Steve. I cannot stay with anyone who does not trust me wholly. I want to be your friend. Your step-mother asked me to look after you. I promised to do what I could, but unless you give me your unreserved confidence, it is useless for me to remain.”

Stephen rose agitated and began to pace the room. “I trust you in every way Jim; you know I do.”

“I know nothing of the sort Steve. You trust Bess though.”

“Ah! She has told you?” cried Marsh-Carr angrily.

“No! she has told me nothing. But I am not a fool Steve and I have eyes in my head. I saw that she was as sad as you, and by putting two and two together I became certain that there was something between you to make both sad. Bess would not tell me anything, nor did I ask her. She is a loyal little woman. Still from her manner I guessed there was a secret. I am certain,” added Herrick looking steadily at his friend, “that such a secret can only have to do with the death of your uncle. Now, as I am looking after this case you must tell me what you know. If you do not, I shall throw up the matter and leave you. I must be trusted all in all, or not at all, my friend.”

While Herrick was speaking Stephen had sat down. He changed from red to white from white to red again and his breathing became short and hard. He saw that Herrick was in earnest, and that he would either have to tell or lose his friend. In a tumult of anxiety he rose again and began to pace the room. “You put me to a hard test,” he cried.

“Perhaps I do,” replied Dr. Jim calmly, “but it is to prove your friendship and your manhood. Tell me the truth.”

“You will despise me if I do,” said Marsh-Carr thoughtlessly and regretted the words almost as soon as they had left his mouth.

Herrick appeared unmoved although he was inwardly surprised. “I do not think anything you could say or do would make me despise you,” he said in his calmest tone. “I know you too well to think you would do anything dishonourable. Come what is it?”

But Stephen still remained silent, his eyes on the ground, He was debating whether he would go on or not. Herrick saw his hesitation and guessed its cause. “You have got over the worst now,” he said soothingly. “Come along, Steve. Sit down and tell me.”

“No,” replied Stephen hoarsely, “I prefer to stand up.” Then suddenly. “It was I who fired those three shots into the body of my uncle.”

“Was it?” said Herrick quietly. “And why did you do that.”

“Because I was mad at the time?”

“Had you not better tell me the whole affair? Then I shall be in a position to judge of your madness.”

Stephen was amazed at the calm way in which his friend took the intelligence. However he had gone so far that there was nothing left to do but to confess all as he had confessed to Bess. In a hurried manner the young man repeated the tale, and informed Herrick how Bess had found out the truth by means of the revolver. “And now you must despise me” was his final remark. He sunk into his chair with a groan.

Herrick paused for a moment to think. Then he carefully lighted his pipe. “I do not despise you by any manner of means,” he said calmly, “but I must admit that I think you are quixotic.”

The word—to Stephen’s mind was so inapplicable to the situation that he looked up astonished, scarcely believing his ears. “Quixotic!” he repeated. “I do not quite see.”

“Well,” said Herrick nodding, “you see Mrs. Marsh is dead, so no harm can be done to her. It is good of you to screen her memory—”

“Stop! Stop! What do you mean Herrick?” cried the Squire much agitated.

“I mean that you have taken this guilt on your head to screen your step-mother’s memory.”

Stephen paused. Then he looked up resolutely. “Yes,” he said, “I may tell you, if I tell no one else. It was my mother who fired those shots. Bess found out about my pistol which my mother used, so I took the blame on myself.”

“You chivalrous ass!” said Herrick with a growl, “and you’ve been fretting over this? Why didn’t you save time by telling me before?”

“I thought—I thought—”

“Never mind what you thought. After you came to seek your mother at the rectory, and did not find her, what did you do?”

Stephen stared. “How do you know that I did not find her there?” he asked.

“I know more than you think. Tell me all that you saw?”

“I saw nothing,” replied Stephen. “Corn said that my mother had gone to the Carr Arms. I could not find her there. I fancied in one of her rages, she might have gone up to ‘The Pines.’ I went there but saw nothing. Then I came back to the Carr Arms and found my mother. She said I had missed her. I thought she spoke the truth. I never questioned her even after I heard of Carr’s death. It never entered my head that she had killed the man.”

“Then how did you guess?”

“It came into my head like a flash when Bess said that my revolver was empty in three chambers. I was certain that when I put it away the whole six were loaded. Even as Bess spoke it entered my mind that my mother must have taken the revolver, and have gone up after she left the rectory a second time, to threaten the Colonel. She must have found him dead and then have fired the three shots into his body. Then she replaced the revolver. I never thought of looking at it. It was brought here along with some other things and it was only when Bess—”

“I see,” nodded Dr. Jim, “now look here Steve, had your mother another pistol—an old-fashioned horse pistol?”

“No, I am sure she had not. At least, I never saw her with one. It was with such a pistol that Carr was shot. Good heavens Herrick, you do not mean to say that my mother killed the man.”

“Well; I have heard your account and I have heard the account of Corn. I do not know how to reconcile the two.”

“Corn—Corn the rector? What has he to do with it?”

“A good deal. So have Joyce and Santiago and others. See here Steve, I have been searching for evidence in this case for a long time. To spare you I said nothing, but now that your step-mother has been brought into the matter it is but right you should know. Sit down. I will tell you a long and interesting story.”

Rather dazed, Stephen did as he was told. Then Dr. Jim related all that he had learned, bringing the narrative down to the end of his interview with the Revd. Pentland Corn. “Now what do you think?” he asked when the whole story was told.

“I do not know what to think. My mother—I can’t believe that she would—would.”

“It does seem strange,” said Herrick, “but I tell you what. It is my opinion that this message Petronella will deliver, will tell the truth.”

Chapter 22
A Message From The Dead

The old Italian woman looked very ill. Her form was shrunken, her face thin and white, her eyes unnaturally large. Evidently the misty climate of the midlands chilled her to the bone. She had developed a hacking cough, and shook with ague when the east wind tormented Beorminster. Herrick was shocked at the change which had taken place in her appearance during these few short weeks. Apparently Petronella was not long for this world. But the near approach of death did not appal her; she was terribly lonely, now that her mistress was gone.

“Signor Dottore,” she croaked when Herrick made his appearance, “you have come to see me. That is good. But you will not cure me. No. I am dead Signor. Dio mio! what does it matter?” and she ended with a characteristic shrug, punctuated with a cough.

“Indeed you do look ill Petronella,” said Dr. Jim sympathetically. “I must ask the Squire to send over someone to look after you.”

“No,” replied the old woman obstinately, “I am well here. And it will not be for long signor. Soon shall I be in my beautiful Italy.”

“At least, come over to ‘The Pines’ Petronella. You will be better attended to there, and it is warmer.”

But Petronella crossed herself with pious horror. “Go to that devil casa Signor! Not me. He had the evil eye, that man who died. Si Signor. I went one day with the padrona, and he swore at me. I had an accident the next day. Cospetto; a jettatura that Signor. But come in, come in, Signor Dottore. This is the best room,” she led Herrick into what had once been the drawing-room. “Un bicchiére de Chianti Signor. Signor Stefan sent me some Chianti.”

“No thank you Petronella,” replied Herrick sitting down on a dusty seat, “I want to have a chat with you. We will talk in your own language if you like.”

“Ah no, Signor, I speak the English well, thanks be to the saints. My padrona was fond of speaking the English. So, we will talk Signor Dottore.”

Herrick acquiesced with a shrug. He was quite prepared to talk any language she chose provided he got what he wanted. He was not very certain how to go about the matter. Petronella was a shy bird, and inclined to be obstinate. He felt his way in a round-about fashion, so as to take her by surprise.

“You will be glad to get back to Italy Petronella?”

“Si! Si. To the little town by the Adriatic. There I was born Signor, and there will I die—if I die not here. Ah Dio!”

“You are in pain I fear?”

Petronella shrugged her lean shoulders “I am always in pain,” she said, “my legs and body—all pain. But the padrona left me something to take thanks be to her, povera signora, and the pain goes.”

“Not chloral, I hope?”

“Si Signor. A little bottle of chloral. I take not much, only when I am bad, so bad. Then the pain goes.”

“Be careful what you do Petronella. Remember your mistress died from taking too much.”

“I shall be careful,” muttered the old woman, “eh Dio mio! what does it matter if I die? All alone in this big house, and Signor Stefano away.”

“You saw him the other day he told me,” said Dr. Jim carefully approaching his business, “he told me you had some message for me.”

Petronella nodded and screwed up her thin lips. “Only when he is in danger Signor. Not now. He is too well.”

“What do you mean Petronella?” asked Herrick puzzled by her nods.

“Signor Dottore,” said Petronella standing very straight, “my padrona before she died called to me. She gave me a large letter, and told me to give it to the Signor Dottore when Signor Stefano was in danger.”

“Oh!” Herrick’s eyes flashed. He had always wondered how it was that Mrs. Marsh had died without making any sign. After the conversation she had had with him he quite expected that she would have left him a farewell message. It appeared that she had done so, but that the letter had been withheld by Petronella, according to instructions. “When did she write this Petronella? You said nothing about it at the time.”

“No. I did what I was told to do Signor. Ecco Signor Dottore, it was in this way. After my padrona got the letter from the postman in the middle of the day, she was very angry and afraid.”

“Afraid! Why was she afraid?”

“Chi lo sa,” shrugged Petronella, “she said nothing to me. But she told me to bring pen and ink and paper. All the afternoon she was writing. Eh, how she did write! Then she put all the writing into an envelope Signor, and wrote our name on it. She told me to give it to the Signor Dottore when Signor Stefano was in danger. She said the Signor Dottore was a good man.” I give it to you Signor, but not now; “No,” and Petronella closing her mouth firmly shook her aged head.

“I think you had better give it to me this very minute Petronella,” said Herrick rising, “for Signor Stefano is in very great danger indeed!”

“As how Signor Dottore?”

“He may be accused of murdering his uncle, Colonel Carr!”

“Eh Dio mio!” crowed the old women. “Did I not say that the dead man had the evil eye! Did I not tell the Signora that evil would come to the young Signor from this death?” She caught Herrick’s arm and fixed her glittering eyes on his face. “You swear to me that this is true what you say? Signor Stefano is in danger. Eh? Eh?”

“I swear he is Petronella,” replied Herrick earnestly, “and this packet you talk of may save him.”

“Ah si! Well do I know Signor Dottore that is so. My padrona said that it told how the danger could be set aside. You understand. In this letter Signor, there is a strange story.”

“Do you now what it is Petronella?”

“No, Signor Dottore. The padrona did not tell me. But she said it was a strange story. And to be read when my young Signor was in danger. I will go and bring it. La! La! La! It is danger. Dio mio! That wicked Signor who is dead—birbanti—ladroni. The evil eye—the evil eye.”

Coughing as she went the old woman hobbled out of the room. Dr. Jim sat still wondering if he was about to learn the truth at last. If Pentland Corn was to be believed, Mrs. Marsh had been at “The Pines” about the hour when the crime had been committed. Herrick did not now believe that she had killed the man herself, as she had been possessed of the modern revolver with which the three shots had been fired. It was impossible to imagine that she had fired one shot with an old-fashioned weapon, and had then reverted to the use of the new revolver. No! The first shot,—the death shot had been fired by some one else, possibly by Frisco. Mrs. Marsh had met the assassin in the house, but for reasons of her own had not divulged the name.

Also judging from her conversation she had known a great deal about Carr and Frisco, especially about the latter, seeing that she had warned Jim that Frisco might attempt to kill Stephen. As a matter of fact although the man had not struck the blow himself, he had guided the hand of Santiago to strike it. Herrick wondered if Mrs. Marsh would say anything about the Mexican. “At all events I shall know the truth at last,” he said. “After reading this letter, the mystery will be one no longer. But why did Mrs. Marsh delay such important information all this time?”

This was a question he could not answer. He was still puzzling over it when Petronella entered the room carrying a large blue envelope, sealed with the Carr crest. This she handed to Herrick with much ceremony. “There is my trust Signor,” she croaked, “bear witness by all the saints that I gave it only when the young Signor was in danger.”

“That is all right Petronella. I shall read it here. Will you stay?”

“No, Signor Dottore. I do not want to hear the secrets of my padrona. I go to make myself a meal Signor. You stay here and read. A glass of wine Signor Dottore. Eh, pour l’amor di Dio, un bicchiére de Chianti?”

Herrick politely refused the attention, and Petronella went grumbling out of the room. She was a hospitable old soul, and liked the doctor. When he was alone in that dismal, deserted, apartment, he drew up his chair close to the window and opened the envelope. Five or six sheets of closely-written paper fell out; also a typewritten letter. After a glance at this last, Dr. Jim smoothed out the paper and began to read. The story—as it might be called—commenced abruptly. This impetuosity was extremely characteristic of Mrs. Marsh. After a glance round the room Dr. Jim settled to read. The manuscript was as follows:—

“I am a wicked woman and an evil woman. There you see Mr. Herrick I place my character before you in the first line. I know you are no fool, or I should not make such a confession. But when you read these pages I shall be in my grave, so what you say or think does not matter. If these pages are made public, there will be blame enough from other people. To save my boy they must be made public. I can foresee that he will be accused of the murder of that beast Carr. I swear that he is innocent. He knows nothing. From the grave I send out my voice to defend him. And you are a clever man Herrick. The defence of my poor boy I confide to you. If you do not do your best I swear to haunt you if it be possible for the dead to return. But after all, you are too sensible to be frightened by this talk. Let me get to the facts of the case. Those will interest you more than the ravings of a dying woman. So I begin:—”

“I have said that Colonel Carr was a beast. I repeat it. He was a cruel tiger. Rolling in wealth, he refused to give me any money. Yet he knew that I was accustomed to luxury, and that Stephen was his nephew. No wonder I hated the man. Again and again I implored ‘him almost on my knees to allow me sufficient to live on. He always refused with his sneering laugh. Often I wonder that I did not kill him. Yet he had one good point. He had loved his sister, and out of love for her memory, he made Stephen his heir. He also caused him to be educated, but when that was done, he refused to allow him an income to live like a gentleman. I hated Carr for that. Even if he had not allowed me money, still his own sister’s child should not have felt the pinch of poverty. I love Stephen. He is a kind, good boy, and has put up with my vile temper all these years. Now that he is rich I hope he will marry Ida, if she does not prefer you, and I do not think that is likely), and live the happy life of a country gentleman. My blessings on them both.

“To come to the point which I know you want to reach. On the night of Carr’s murder I was at the rectory. It came to my ears through some words dropped by Frisco when he was intoxicated, that Carr intended to disinherit my son. Whom he intended to favour I do not know, nor do I care. But I could not stand meekly by and see the lad robbed of what was righteously his own. I went into Saxham that afternoon to see Carr and to remonstrate against his committing the monstrous injustice he contemplated. He saw me with the greatest coolness and behaved quite in accordance with his character. In vain did I point out that Stephen was the sole living representative of his blood, and was entitled by law to the property. Carr said that he had another relative living; a cousin descended from an uncle of his, who had been turned out of doors by his grandfather. This uncle had married in America, and had died, leaving a daughter who married a Yankee. It was the son of this daughter to whom Carr referred as his cousin. Furthermore he declared that his cousin had a son about the age of my Stephen. I asked him if he intended to leave the property to this cousin and his brat. But this he denied. He said that he had made the money himself and would leave it to whomsoever he pleased. In a word he defied me. I was helpless. I could do nothing, and that afternoon I left ‘The Pines’ mad with rage, after a threat to kill Carr. Needless to say he laughed at my threat.

“Why did I not kill him then you will ask? Because I wanted to give the man one last chance. I warned him that I would shoot him if he persisted in his injustice. I said that I would return that evening for my answer. Then I went to the rectory and had dinner with Pentland Corn.

“Here, my dear Herrick, I may state that I had brought a pistol with me—or rather a revolver. It belonged to Stephen who at one time had a craze for shooting. The revolver was put away in its case, which was on the mantelpiece of his study. I remembered that it was there, and on looking I found that all six chambers were loaded. I knew that Stephen never troubled about the weapon, so I took it with me to ‘The Pines.’ But on that afternoon I did not use it. Carr, I said to myself, should have his chance.

“Stephen was to come to the rectory for me about nine. Some time before that I told Corn that I would go to the Carr Arms to meet Stephen, but I intended to go to ‘The Pines;’ Corn never suspected my intention. I went quickly up to ‘The Pines’ shortly before nine. I found no one in the lower part of the house. Frisco, I suppose was sleeping off his drunken fit, as I heard from Napper that he had been drinking in the afternoon and had uttered threats against his master. I knew that if anywhere, Carr would be in the Tower. The table was laid out for dinner, but he was not in the dining-room. I went upstairs, and found him in the tower chamber. He was in evening dress lying dead with his face downward. I turned him over, and saw that he had been shot through the heart. At once I guessed that Frisco had carried out his threat and had murdered the Colonel. But I thought Carr might have altered his will before dying. I was quite mad with rage, thinking he had cheated me. Then I did what you will consider a terrible and a barbarous thing. I fired three shots into his dead body. I suppose it was wicked of me, seeing that the man was dead. But I am Italian as you know, and I was mad with fury at the thought of how this beast had treated me. The only revenge I could take was to have my share in his death, so I fired three times. It did me good, and I came away much calmer. I see you raise your eyebrows in horror, my virtuous Herrick! Ah bah! you are English, and cold-blooded as a frog. I am Italian, and I did what I did. I have no other excuse to make.

“I was only a few minutes in the tower chamber. Then I came down to get away lest I should be accused of the crime. At the door below I met Frisco. He had his hat and coat on, and a small bundle in his hand. I said, ‘You have killed him. He lies dead upstairs.’ Frisco denied that he was guilty, and referred to my three shots. I explained, and told him he could call up the whole countryside to hear what I had done. At the same time I warned him that as I had found the Colonel dead I would accuse him of the murder. Frisco repeated that he had not killed him, but said he might have done so later on, Carr had treated him so badly. He was entitled to the money: he was a relative of Carr’s. I saw at once that this was the cousin, and said so. Frisco did not deny it. He told me he would have to go away as he might be accused of the murder, and could not afford to remain and face the matter out. But he warned me that if Stephen took the property he would find means to get rid of Stephen. I laughed at him: but I was afraid. Frisco was almost as big a brute as his master and cousin. Then seized with a sudden panic, he ran out of the house and into the Pine wood. I left also, and got down to the Carr Arms, where afterwards Stephen came for me. I told him that I had been there all the time but that he must have missed me.

“That is the truth as regards the events of that night. I found Carr dead, and in anger I fired those three shots. Who killed the man I do not know. I am inclined to believe it was Frisco in spite of his protestations of innocence. But you know how he ran away. He went to London, and from London he wrote to me. I enclose his letter.

“The next few days and the murder was known. I said nothing. I replaced the revolver in its case; I persuaded Stephen that I had not been to ‘The Pines’ on that night, and he believed me. Then he became possessed of the property, on certain conditions. I breathed freely. Carr had not had the time to make a new will, and my boy was safe.”

“So far, so good, then came the bolt from the blue. I received the enclosed letter from Frisco, in which he threatened to write to the police and denounce me. If he does this I am lost. It will be difficult for me to defend myself. The evidence against me, if the matter is looked into, will be too strong. But you can see that for yourself Herrick, so I need not be more explicit. Under these circumstances and to save Stephen I have made up my mind to die. If the truth about my visit came to light, even although I were proved guiltless of the murder, Stephen is quite foolish enough to give up the money. He is a good boy but weak,—quixotic. The only way I can save him—and myself also for that matter—is to die.

“I am not afraid; I have had such a wretched life that I do not think things will be worse in the next world. Besides the chloral, against the abuse of which you are always warning me, affords me a chance of slipping quietly and painlessly out of a world that is much too hard for me. If I die, Stephen will be safe, for Frisco can do nothing. His threats will fall harmless on the dead. The man is dangerous though. He might try to murder Stephen. I gave you a hint of that Herrick. But I know you are clever and so long as you are with my boy I do not fear for him in that way.

“Yet as regards the rest. It is possible that Frisco may denounce Stephen as guilty of murder. Stephen told me he went to ‘The Pines,’ that night to see if I had gone up there. Some one may have seen him. Then I used his revolver. That would also be evidence against him, and even if I destroyed the weapon that would still be evidence against him. While I live I dare not tell the whole truth. Therefore I make this confession and I shall give it to Petronella. She will deliver it to you when danger threatens Stephen. From the contents of this you will know how to act, so as to thwart Frisco. Stephen is innocent, and I verily believe that Frisco is guilty in spite of his denial.

“I can die in peace now, for I know when this confession is in your hands that Stephen will be safe. I trust to your head and to your heart, Herrick. I am sure you will not fail me. No doubt you think I am going to extremes in dying. That may be. But I am sick of this life. Even if I lived I should have nothing but trouble. Besides my poor Stephen has had quite enough of me. I hope he will marry Ida and be happy. Were I to live and remain with them I should spoil their happiness. What would a sour old woman do with two such lovers? Well Herrick I am about to seal this up and then I shall take a dose of chloral—an overdose. Thus my death will appear to be an accident. The world will think so. I wonder if you will? You also may be deceived. But I think you will be clever enough to doubt the accident, for you know I am not the woman to be careless.

“Do not show this to Stephen unless you are absolutely compelled. I love the boy and I want him to think the best of the woman who is gone. So no more. Good-bye to you, my dear Herrick. You have been a good friend to me. Continue to be so to my boy. And also if you have any religion (which I doubt) pray for the soul of Bianca Marsh!”

“And here I sign my name for the last time.

“Bianca Marsh.”

When Herrick finished this extraordinary document, he laid it down with a sigh for the memory of the wrong-headed impulsive woman who had written it. She had acted foolishly, but for the best. And since the poor soul had gone to her account Herrick could not find it in his heart to blame her. After a pause he took up the typewritten letter.

It was typed in purple ink, was without date or address, and even the signature of Frisco was in print. It ran as follows:—

“If you do not make your son do justice to me and to my ‘son, I will write and tell the police that you murdered Colonel Carr. I must have half the money left by Carr allowed to me by arrangement. You can answer my letter by an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph. Then I will write to you and make arrangements. All I want to know now is whether you will insist upon your son giving the money, or face the disgrace of being arrested for the murder. I have a witness who can prove your presence in the house. If necessary I will come forward and give myself up. I can save myself and condemn you. Choose. I shall look every morning in the paper.


Herrick read this precious letter over twice. He wondered that it was typed instead of written, not that he did not see the reason for this, but that he wondered how a hunted fugitive like Frisco could procure a machine. Then the truth flashed into his mind.

“Robin,” said Herrick rolling up the papers, “Frisco met him, went to his chambers, and disclosed the fact that he was his father. Ha! Between the two of them they wrote this letter so as to frighten Mrs. Marsh into giving them the money through her influence over Stephen. Robin typed the letter and sent it. The little scamp. He did not tell me that. Humph! I shall go again to town and see him. Then Frisco must be produced from his hiding-place. Robin can and shall do that.”

This was all very well, but still the mystery of Carr’s death was unsolved. Mrs. Marsh was innocent. She declared Frisco to be guilty. On the face of it, he was. But Herrick had his doubts. The case was getting more difficult at every fresh discovery. For the first time he mistrusted his own powers of dealing with the matter.

“I must consult Stephen and Bess,” said Dr. Jim, and left the house. In his pocket was the confession of the late Mrs. Marsh.

Chapter 23
The Unexpected Happens

For the next twenty-four hours, Dr. Jim kept his counsel. He said sufficient to set Stephen’s mind at rest about his mother, but did not tell the whole story or show the confession which he had obtained from Petronella. He wanted to turn matters over in his own mind before doing this. The fact is Jim was getting a little weary of the whole affair. Every new piece of evidence that came to light seemed only to complicate it. He had felt sure that the paper left by Mrs. Marsh would solve the mystery; but although it told much it did not reveal all. She declared in a half-hearted sort of way that Frisco was guilty. But she gave no proofs; the man in that hurried conversation at the door, had denied the charge, and beyond the fact of his flight there was no evidence against him. It occurred to Jim that the best thing to do would be to drop the matter altogether. It seemed useless to follow such a will-o-the-wisp.

“Still I do not like to do this on my own responsibility,” he thought after much consideration, “it will be best for me to lay all the facts before Bess and Stephen, and go by what they say. If they want to go on with it, well and good. If not, I shall end it at once.”

With this idea, a most sensible one under the circumstances. Herrick called a council of war. Bess came over from Biffstead, and met Stephen and Jim in the library by appointment. There Herrick again told the whole story of his dealings with the matter, and ended up by placing Mrs. Marsh’s letter and its enclosure before them. When the Squire and Bess had read the documents, and were in possession of all the facts connected with the murder of Colonel Carr, Herrick made a speech to them on that basis.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that it is foolish going on with this matter. From all that I can see Frisco is the guilty man. But he has disappeared, and I do not think it is worth while hunting him down. To hang him for the murder of a scoundrel like Carr—I beg your pardon Steve but your late uncle was a scoundrel—will be no gratification to any of us. Moreover if he were caught and tried, this letter might have to be produced. I think it best to stop short at this point.”

Before Stephen could give his opinion, Bess interrupted him, to dwell, after the custom of a woman, on a minor point. “You foolish boy,” she said in reproachful tones. “I see that you took the blame of your mother’s doings on yourself. That was stupid. You might have trusted me!”

“My dear Bess, I could not blacken her memory, even to you.

“Perhaps not; but I should have understood. Now that I think of it,” she added, “I wonder that I was so foolish as to believe you. It was entirely opposed to your nature to fire at a dead man.”

Stephen winced. “Do not say anything more about it Bess,” he said, “she did that. Let the matter rest there. And now about continuing the search. I agree with Jim;—it is best to do nothing more.”

“I am not so sure of that,” replied Bess obstinately, “you see Santiago may still try and get the money.”

“No,” said Jim positively, “I do not think so. He has been found out. His conspiracy is at an end. He knows that any further move on his part will meet with failure. Believe me, he will return to Mexico, and give up fighting. The wisest thing he can do.”

“What about Joyce?” asked Marsh-Carr.

“He is worse than useless. Take away Don Manuel, and Joyce is lost. He has neither the pluck nor the intelligence to carry through a plot on his own account.”

“But his father Frisco may use him as an instrument.”

“Frisco has to clear himself first. Joyce knows if he does anything with his father that I can have him arrested. Rather than that should happen I believe he would give up Frisco to justice.”

Bess shuddered. “His own father!” she exclaimed.

“Oh! as to that, you can hardly blame Joyce if he does not feel particularly filial. His father has done nothing for him. Besides Joyce senior deserted his wife, and Robin was devote to his mother. It is one of the best traits in his otherwise poor character. No, Bess, I think if Robin came to chose between his own skin and that of Frisco, his father would be the one to suffer. Robin believes in everyone for himself.”

“He is a wicked little wretch!”

“He is and he is not. Weak rather than wicked. His scheme to mix you up in the murder by means of that pistol was invented by the Mexican. Joyce only did as he was told.”

“But in that case,” said Stephen looking up, “I do not see what Santiago had to gain. Robin wanted Bess to marry him. He wanted to inveigle her into the case so that she might not refuse out of fear. But what would that matter to Santiago. Her marriage with Joyce would not have helped on his schemes.”

“True enough,” said Herrick musingly, “but I daresay it was Frisco who suggested the marriage. He wanted to get the money through his son, and perhaps thought he would get more if he put off Robin with Bess.”

Miss Endicotte reddened. “Thank you for nothing Jim,” she said indignantly, “I was evidently to be a pawn in the game.”

“It seems to me that we have all been pawns,” said Jim grimly, “just consider the mistakes that have been made while we have been searching for the true assassin of Colonel Carr.”

Bess laughed. “First of all I was suspected,” she said.

“Oh, no; that was only a half-hearted attempt on the part of Frisco and his precious son. There was no real evidence to implicate you Bess. I think—speaking for myself—that I first suspected Robin Joyce. It was your remark about his income Stephen, that aroused my suspicions. Well the chain runs as follows,” and Herrick ticked off on his fingers, “Joyce first on the authority—mainly—of the pistol. He said he got it from the Don so I suspected Manuel. He proved his innocence, and accused Pentland Corn. I saw him and he told me he had picked up the pistol on the lawn of this house. It was his belief that Mrs. Marsh was guilty.”

“And myself?” said Stephen with a smile.

“No, you were like Bess and came into the matter on your own account. I never believed you had anything to do with the affair. But your step-mother is the last whom I believed might have something to do with it. Certainly she had; but from her letter we know she didn’t kill the man. And here we come to a dead stop.”

“What about Frisco?” said Marsh-Carr.

“I believe he is the guilty person,” said Dr. Jim positively, “are you going to defend him, Bess?”

The girl looked troubled. “I admit that matters look black against him,” she said slowly. “He threatened the Colonel; he was alone in the house with him, and Mrs. Marsh found him ready to fly. On the other hand there is something to be said in his favour. Evidently he should have had a share in this treasure. For some reason the Colonel would not give it to him during his life, and only afforded him a chance of getting it after Stephen’s death—”

“Not even then,” interrupted Herrick “for if Stephen had fulfilled the conditions of the will, the fortune would become his absolutely and he would be able to will it away.”

“Then I can’t understand it,” said Bess, “unless Frisco knew of this unjust will—for that it is, if he helped to get the treasure—and murdered the Colonel out of revenge.”

“I believe he did,” said Stephen.

“No!” put in Dr. Jim briskly, “I do not agree with you. It is my opinion that what Mrs. Marsh said to me before she died was the right view.”

“What was that?”

“Frisco and the Colonel fought a duel. I believe that Frisco came back from the inn drunk and filled with fur against the Colonel. It might have been, that through the visit to Mrs. Marsh in the afternoon he had found out all about the will. The Colonel probably defied him, and then Frisco would suggest a duel. He fired first and the Colonel fell with his still loaded weapon in his hand.”

“That is all theory,” said Bess still defending the ex-sailor, “but you seem to forget Jim that the death shot was fired with that clumsy pistol. If there had been a duel Frisco would have had at least as good a weapon as the Colonel. There are plenty of revolvers of the new pattern in the gun-room. I am sure Frisco would not have placed himself at such a disadvantage. And again the silver bullet. Why should Frisco have used that?”

Dr. Jim rubbed his head with a vexed air. “I am afraid you are right Bess,” he said, “a duel is out of the question. I can’t see anything ahead. So far as I am concerned, I give up trying to solve the riddle.”

“So do I,” said Marsh-Carr, “I know now that my poor mother did not kill the man, so that is all I care about. Let the matter rest Herrick. You can send Santiago to Mexico I suppose?”

“Yes, but I think he will want some money.”

“Give him what he wants and let him go.”

“I think that will be best, and as for Joyce I’ll see that he keeps quiet.”

Bess struck in. “What about Frisco?”

“He must look after himself,” said Dr. Jim, “innocent or guilty we can do nothing with him so long as he remains in hiding.”

“But you can find him?”

“Through Joyce. Yes, I can. But on the whole I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. No, Bess. The whole thing is ended. Now come the peaceful times. It is necessary to cultivate our garden, as says Voltaire.”

Stephen laughed. “I think so too,” said he, “for my part I intend to put the whole matter out of my head and arrange with Ida as to the date of our marriage. As my poor mother has died so lately, we can have a quiet wedding; but married I shall be and as soon as I can.”

“Why?” asked Bess.

“In the first place I want Ida to be my wife because I love her dearly, and in the second I want to marry her and make my will after the marriage in her favour.”

“Why can’t you make it now?”

“It would not be legal. Marriage invalidates a will.”

Herrick who had been thinking, looked up with bright eyes. “Stephen,” he said, “you are afraid of Frisco.”

“Yes, I am. He may try and murder me to get the money, so by marrying Ida and leaving it to her, I shall put the matter out of his power. Once he gets to know that the money has gone from him for ever, he may leave me alone. He tried through Santiago to kill me once, and failed. He may not fail the second time.”

“There is something in that,” said Herrick, and then the council of war—as Bess called it—broke up. The final decision of the three was to let the case stand where it was. They washed their hands of the whole affair.

For the next fortnight there was absolute peace. Stephen and Ida arranged to be married in two months, and Dr. Jim began to talk of his future with Bess. Jim did not want to live with Stephen after the marriage, and yet he could not leave him, without forfeiting his income. Of course Stephen insisted that Herrick should take a certain sum a year, until he got on his feet, but Jim would not consent to this. “I can’t take money I do not work for,” he said decisively, “if you will lend me a small sum, I’ll go back to London and start a practice in a new place. I expect it will be a long time before I am able to marry Bess. But she will wait for me.”

Bess expressed herself favourably on this point. She would wait for Jim till her hair grew gray, and meantime she could manage Biffstead for Frank, after Ida was settled at “The Pines.” Neither Stephen nor Ida could do anything with this obstinate couple, and they gave up the attempt in despair. “But I think it is an infernal shame your leaving me in the lurch,” said Stephen, “remember what my mother said!”

“Oh, I intend to see you through the year, in case Frisco should attempt to stop your visits to the vault,” replied Jim. “But after that I must go and carve out my own fortune.”

“Well, who knows what may happen by then,” said Marsh-Carr. He was determined in some way to benefit Jim. “I’ll have to force the money on the fellow he grumbled to Ida.

“Bess is just as obstinate,” she sighed, “however they will be with us for some months yet. Wait and see, Stephen.”

Herrick meanwhile was priding himself that all was at an end. He wrote to Joyce stating that he intended to do nothing, and also let Santiago know his decision. From neither did he receive an answer. But this he did not mind. “They are powerless to do harm,” he said to Bess.

And indeed he never expected to hear of the pair again. But one morning Bess came to him with the Daily Telegraph and pointed out in silence a cipher message in the agony column. It was worded similarly to that put in before, and asked Frisco to meet the inserter at Hyde Park Corner at three o’clock in two days. “Humph!” said Jim meditatively, “Robin wants to see his father again!”

“What will you do Jim?” asked Bess anxiously.

“Nothing. Why should I?”

“If Robin meets his father they will plot against Stephen.”

“They can’t do anything but physical harm, and I am always with him.”

But Bess was not to be put off in this way. “I really think you should write to Mr. Joyce about it Jim.”

“He will not answer.”

“Perhaps not. But he will see that you have your eye on him.”

“True enough. I’ll see to it, Bess.”

Jim fully intended to do so, but foolishly put off the matter for a few hours. He wrote to Joyce only on the day before the appointed meeting, an on the next day received a telegram, to the effect that it was not Joyce who had inserted the cipher nor, so said the wire, had Don Manuel.

“What the devil does this mean?” said Jim to himself. “Is it a lie, or a truth? If a lie, Manuel and Joyce are plotting. If true, someone else is taking a hand in the game. I’ll see Bess.”

The advice of Bess was that Jim should go up to Town without delay. “I am sure there is some mischief brewing,” she said, “you had better go up by this afternoon’s train.”

“No,” said Jim after a pause, “I’ll see Steve first. He must know all about this before I go. In fact I think I’ll take him with me.”

“But he has gone away for the day,” said Bess, “you know he went out cycling with Ida. He won’t be back all day. You have no time to lose.”

“I’ll wait until he comes back,” said Herrick. “I tell you what Bess; this may be a scheme to get me away from Stephen, in order that they may try and hurt him during my absence. After that assault of Manuel’s I’m never easy in my mind away from the boy. I can’t leave him here. If I go up to Town he must come with me.”

Bess was struck by this view of the matter. There might be something in it, she thought. The consequence was that Herrick waited the return of Stephen and arranged to go up to town with him the next morning. All the same Stephen laughed at Dr. Jim. “You are a a perfect old woman about me!” he said. “I can look after myself!”

“I am sure you can deal with honourable foes,” said Jim, “but here there is every probability you may be struck in the dark.”

Stephen shrugged his shoulders. “Very well Jim. You know best. We can go to town by the mid-day express, to-morrow.”

But before they left “The Pines,” they received a surprise. In the Times newspaper which usually arrived shortly after eleven, Stephen found some news which surprised him. He went at once in search of Dr. Jim and found him buttoning his gloves on the door-step waiting for the cart to come round. “What do you think of that Herrick?” said the Squire.

“The devil!” said Dr. Jim, and well he might. There was a paragraph in the paper to the effect that the man called Frisco who was wanted for the murder of Colonel Carr of Saxham, had been captured on the preceding day. No further details were given, but what Herrick read was quite sufficient. He dropped the paper and stared at Stephen.

“Shall we need go up to Town now?” asked the Squire.

“Yes! We must catch this train. Here comes the cart; I shall go and see Joyce at his flat. He may know what this means.”

“What about Bess?” asked Stephen.

“We have no time to talk over the matter with her now. She will see the news in the ‘Telegraph.’ We can send her a wire from Beorminster station, not to worry herself. Jump in Steve.”

In a few minutes they were driving hard for the cathedral city. At the station Herrick sent the proposed wire to Biffstead, and they caught the express. “We shall be in town for a few days over this,” said Herrick when they were comfortably settled, “I think I can see.”

“See what?” asked Marsh-Carr. “What it means. This is the revenge of that blackguard Santiago for losing the money.”

“Do you think he put in the cipher?”

“I am sure he did, and gave information to the police meantime. No doubt when Frisco arrived at the rendezvous thinking to meet his son he was arrested by officers in plain clothes. I have not much sympathy for Frisco, who, I fear, is a bad lot. All the same it is hard that he should be tripped up in his stride by that brute of a Greaser.”

“It might be so. I wonder if Don Manuel has stayed to see the matter out. It is the kind of thing he would like to do.”

“Oh, I am sure of that Steve. All the same he wants to look after his own skin. When Frisco is tried, he will tell all he knows about the Mexican’s doings out of revenge. Santiago can’t face an inquiry as you know. His assault on you, is enough to get him into serious trouble. No, my friend; Don Manuel has done his mischief and cleared out. By this time he is on his way to the new world. Beast!” muttered Herrick between his teeth, “I should like to make it hot for him!”

On arriving in Town Herrick sent Stephen with the luggage to the hotel in Jermyn Street and himself drove off to West Kensington. He learned from the porter that Joyce was in, and ran upstairs. In a few minutes he was seated in the little man’s drawing-room listening to his reproaches.

“I did not think you would sell me like this Herrick!” said Robin wringing his hands in his usual womanish way, “whatever I may have done to you, you should have kept faith with me. You always pretended to be so superior.”

“Ah! Did I?” said Herrick calmly but a trifle bewildered at these accusations. “And now perhaps you will tell me what I have done.”

“You know well enough. You put that cipher in the paper and betrayed my unfortunate father. I did not think it of you.”

“He was arrested at Hyde Park Corner?”

“Yes. At three o’clock yesterday. Of course he thought that I put the cipher in and came to meet me. But why do I tell you all this. You are perfectly well aware of the success of your treachery.”

Herrick shrugged his shoulders. At the present moment he did not think it necessary to correct the man. “How about your friend Santiago?”

“I wish he was here to punish you!” cried Joyce venomously, “he was quite as clever as you Herrick. But you waited till he sailed, before plotting to capture my father.”

“So the Don has sailed? When did he go?”

“Four days since,” replied Robin dropping into a chair, “as if you didn’t know! Why do you come here to exult over me?”

“Because I wish to tell you that you are wrong in thinking I put that cipher in the paper. As I wrote to you from Saxham I decided to let the matter rest. Whether your father was guilty or innocent I did not care so long as you and he left Marsh alone. The man who put that into the paper was Santiago.”

“I do not believe it.”

Herrick shrugged his shoulders. “As you please; but it is true for all that. I know the cipher, but I give you my word I did not insert it. You knew the cipher, and I am sure you did not use it to betray your father. The only other person who knew it was the Don, and he has left this last sting behind him out of revenge for losing the money.”

Robin shook his head. “I might believe that,” he said, “if I did not know it was you.”

“But I tell you it was not!” cried Jim impatiently.

“It was. It was. Those private detectives who worked for you told me all about it. You told them to have my father arrested.”

“Belcher and Kidd!” cried Herrick jumping up.

“Ah, you know the name. Yes. They gave notice to the police and had my poor father taken. I guessed it was their work and through you.”

Dr. Jim stood for a moment in a brown study. He saw well enough what had occurred. The ferret had made use of Santiago to find out the business, and knowing of the reward had made use of the information extorted from Santiago. “I expect they let him leave England on condition that he told them the business and helped them to trap Frisco by means of the cipher. The scoundrels!”

“Well,” said Robin “what are you going to do now?”

“I am going to see Belcher and Kidd,” said Herrick, “and I tell you Robin that your friend Santiago has done all this. I have had no hand in it.”

“But why should Santiago—”

“You had better ask your father that,” said Herrick. “I suspect he has no cause to love that Mexican! You can believe me or not Robin. But the truth is the truth. I have not played you false.”

Robin shook his head. He still doubted. Dr. Jim tried no longer to convince him, but left the flat to have it out with the treacherous firm he had employed.

Chapter 24
The Story Of Frisco

It was not until Herrick was well on his way back to the centre of the Town, that he remembered his omission to ask Robin about the typewritten letter. But after all, it did not matter. He knew perfectly well that Joyce had typed it at his father’s dictation, and the denial or admission of the little man would make no difference. Things had got past that point.

“I must see Belcher and Kidd,” said Herrick to himself, “and learn exactly how Santiago managed the business. Then I’ll give Frith a look in. I must find some way of speaking to Frisco. Now that he is driven into a corner, he may tell the truth—that is, if it is not likely to hang him.”

When he arrived at the Strand office of the private inquiry firm, he was received by Kidd. Belcher, it appeared, had gone out for the day on business. Kidd was a heavy man with a red face, and a pair of leering grey eyes. Dr. Jim could put up with the ferret but Kidd he detested. However, as Kidd was the only representative of the firm present, he tackled him, and with no light hand, for Jim was in a royal rage at the way he had been tricked by this cunning pair of rascals.

“What is this I hear about the arrest of the man Frisco?” he asked.

“Just this doctor,” replied Kidd in his heavy voice but civilly enough “Don Manuel Santiago gave Belcher the tip how Frisco could be trapped, and as me and him wanted to earn the reward, we fixed the matter up.”

“Against my wish,” retorted Dr. Jim, “did I not say, that you were not to meddle in the matter?”

“And why shouldn’t we get the reward if we could sir?”

“I had my own reasons that Frisco should be left at large. You have spoilt a plan of mine, and likely as not have caught the wrong man.”

“As to that sir,” said Kidd doggedly, “I don’t know. But right or wrong we’ve caught the man and claim the reward.”

“It is offered by Mr. Stephen Marsh-Carr,” said Herrick coolly, “and the matter is in my hands. It is just as likely as not that I may stop Mr. Marsh-Carr from paying you one penny. You had better have done my business properly Kidd.”

“We did do it properly,” said Kidd in a surly tone.

“I don’t think so. It was my wish that the Mexican should be watched. You have let him leave the country.”

“I didn’t,” protested Kidd, who would have been insolent but that he was afraid of losing the reward, “that was Belcher’s game.”

“Belcher’s price for receiving instructions how to trap Frisco,” scoffed Herrick. “Do you think I don’t know that Santiago taught the cipher to your damned partner.”

“You might be civil Dr. Herrick.”

“I shall be what I please. You were engaged by me to do certain business, and you have done it badly. Had I wanted Frisco caught I should have told you. Now just you let me know, how it all came about.”

“What about the reward sir?”

“I’ll see to that. You fools—to go against me like this. I can do your business considerable damage by telling the way you have tricked me.”

“Oh, sir! you won’t do that,” growled Kidd now thoroughly frightened.

“It all depends upon how you conduct yourself. The harm is done, but I must know how Santiago managed the business.”

“It was this way sir,” replied the cowed Kidd. “Belcher watched the foreign cove sir, and kept out of sight. But the Don knew him from going to the gambling club.”

“Ah! that’s another matter I can spoil for you Kidd. I know too much of your shady business for you to play the fool with me. Go on man.”

It took Kidd all he knew, to keep his temper under this speech. But he knew that Dr. Herrick would do what he had threatened if he was not implicitly obeyed. Had Jim been a smaller man, Kidd might have tried conclusion with his fists; but he knew Herrick too well to attempt such folly. Once upon a time Kidd had seen the doctor thrash a larger and much heavier man. From that day, he resolved never to have a fight with a man so versed in the noble art as this high-tempered gentleman.

“Well sir,” he continued in a sulky growl, “it was this way. Santiago spotted Belcher, and asked him what he was up to. Belcher would not tell, but in the end, the Don got the truth out of him. Then he said that if Belcher and me could catch Frisco we could get a bigger sum of money, than by watching him. Belcher was always anxious to know what was at the back of all this. When he heard it was the Carr murder case, he saw it was a big thing for him and me. So he said he would let the Don go, if he helped him to catch Frisco. Then the Don showed us the cipher—he wrote it out himself, and put it in the newspaper. Frisco came to the place, and me and Belcher had a detective and a warrant. We caught him easy. He is now in quod sir.”

“And Santiago is on the high seas on his way to Mexico. You are a precious pair of scoundrels Kidd. Why did you tell Mr. Joyce that I had managed all this business?”

“It was the Don as asked us to do that sir.”

“To make trouble I suppose,” said Herrick rising, “you send Belcher to see me at the Guelph hotel this evening. I have something to say to him.”

“Take care sir. The ferret ain’t an easy man to tackle.”

Herrick paused at the door and looked the big man up and down. “Confound your insolence,” he said, “do you think you or that rat can stand up against me. I can ruin you both if I choose, and stop your getting that reward. As for Belcher, if he is impudent I’ll wring his neck.”

“I am sorry we did it sir.”

“You may well be,” was Herrick’s grim reply.

“But I ain’t going to be bullied by anyone,” said Kidd with sudden anger.

“That is quite enough my man,” replied Dr. Jim opening the door and speaking quietly, “if you try that game, you’ll get the worst of it.”

Kidd looked dangerous for a moment, but after a glance into the eyes of his proposed antagonist he cooled down considerably. He knew perfectly well, that Herrick could smash him. Moreover the calm courage of Herrick quelled his brute passion. Dr. Jim waited for a time, then departed leaving Kidd growling and cursing in impotent rage.

“A dangerous ruffian,” thought Herrick as he went into the Strand, “but I think he and Belcher know me too well to play the fool.”

For the moment he intended to go back to the Guelph Hotel and see Stephen; but on reflection drove to the solicitors. It was necessary that he should interview Frisco, and Frith would be the man most likely to obtain for him the permission to do so. The lawyer was in, and expressed his pleasure at the capture of Colonel Carr’s assassin.

“As to that, I am not certain,” said Herrick lightly, “I want to hear what he has to say Frith, and you must get me permission to see the man.”

“Don’t you think he killed Carr?” asked Frith.

“On the face of it, I do,” replied Herrick, “all the same there have been so many surprises in this case that I am prepared for more. Besides, I am rather mad over the business,” and he told Frith how he had been tricked by Belcher and his partner.

“Couple of scoundrels,” said Frith nodding, “it’s not the first dirty trick they have played. Don’t you engage them again Dr. Herrick. I’ll find men who are more to be trusted.”

“I hope to heaven that I won’t have occasion to employ any more private detectives. I tell you what Frith, ever since I have engaged in this affair I feel as though I had been bathing in dirty water. But that I promised Mrs. Marsh to protect her son, I should not have done it.”

“You seem to have gone pretty exhaustively into the business,” said Frith after he had heard the whole story, “for an amateur you have managed remarkably well.”

Herrick laughed, “I have made mistakes I admit. But then, as you say, I am only an amateur and not the detective of fiction. He never makes mistakes. I wish he had had this case to deal with. However the thing is nearly at an end, thank goodness.”

“It will end with the hanging of Frisco.”

“Who knows. He may have some other story to tell.”

“You may be sure he will swear that he is innocent,” said Frith.

“Very likely,” responded Herrick, “and the queer thing is Frith that he may really be innocent.”

“It looks to me, from what you have told me, as though he were guilty.”

“Oh, as to that, I’ve thought several people guilty and have always found out that I am wrong, when they came to explain. However, I want to see this man and hear what he has to say. Can you manage it?”

“I’ll see what I can do. You are at the Guelph Hotel ain’t you? Very good. I’ll see to it. I might come along and call on Marsh-Carr.”

“I should, if I were you,” replied Dr. Jim with a laugh, “always be attentive to your clients Frith.”

Leaving the solicitor to arrange matters, Herrick went back to the Hotel and dinner with Stephen. He told him all that he had done, and the Squire was much interested. “I hope it is coming to an end though,” he said. “I have had about enough of this sort of thing.”

“Think of me,” said Jim with a shrug.

“Oh, you have behaved like a brick Jim. I do not know how to thank you.”

“Bosh my dear chap. There is no question of thanks between you and myself. I promised your mother to see you through, and I intend to keep my word.”

“And you won’t let me make things right for you,” grumbled Stephen.

“Wait till everything is squared up, then we will see. I may ask you to be my banker after all. Well Steve, Santiago has gone away, so you are relieved of at least one of your enemies. Joyce can do nothing without his father, and that gentleman is in gaol.”

“Will you want me to go with you to-morrow?”

“No, prefer to see him alone. I’ll get more out of him in that way. I wonder what I’ll hear this time. However let us think no more of the matter just now. We might take a turn down to see the Earl’s Court Exhibition. There’s always something going on there. It’s not exactly like a theatre Steve or I should not ask you to go. But you must be cheered up somehow. We can’t stay in this dismal hotel all the evening talking about a criminal.”

Stephen assented, as he always did to whatever Herrick proposed. They went to the exhibition and spent a pleasant evening. When they returned Dr. Jim retired straightway to bed, “I shall have a lot of talking to do to-morrow so I must get as much rest as I possibly can,” said he.

In some mysterious way, Frith obtained the required permission, and Herrick found himself introduced into a small cell, where Frisco sat on his bed in a gloomy frame of mind. After exchanging a few words with the warder, Frith got the man to go away leaving Herrick and Frisco alone.

“So you are Dr. Herrick,” remarked Frisco calmly, “I am glad to meet you.”

He spoke in a rather refined voice, and did not at all look like the truculent ruffian Herrick had expected to meet. He was no longer fat, but had quite a shapely figure. Also his face had lost the redness of incessant drinking. Misfortune had sobered and improved the man. He was plainly dressed in a suit of black serge, which as he afterwards informed Herrick had been supplied by his son. But even if he had been still more changed Dr. Jim would have recognised him from the cries-cross scar on his forehead. Frisco saw him looking at it, and smiled.

“The Colonel’s handiwork,” said he quietly. “He marked me with a bowie in Los Angelos one drunken evening. But I gave him as good as he gave me Dr. Herrick. He lost a finger.” And Frisco fell to whistling at the pleasing recollection. There was no doubt about the man being a scoundrel. Herrick felt his way carefully.

“How did you know me?” he asked abruptly.

Frisco smiled, “I heard the man who came with you, call you by your name. As for the rest, of course Robin has told me all about you. You are a clever man Dr. Herrick, and I think a kind one. If you had not been, you would not have burdened yourself with that miserable rat I have the misfortune to call my son. All the same,” added Frisco with a scowl. “You trapped me in rather a shabby way.”

“Ah! That is one reason why I came to see you,” said Herrick coolly, “I did not trap you at all. No one was more surprised than I at the news of your arrest. It was Santiago who put that cipher in the paper and told the police about you. And Santiago is beyond your reach on the high seas. So you see that I am not so mean, as you thought me.”

“That’s it,” said Frisco, “you always fought fair and I could not understand your playing low down like this. So it was the greaser was it? By Heaven! when I catch him—” Frisco doubled his arm. “It’s time he was out of the world,” said Frisco, “a beating’s too easy. I’ll go west for him.”

“How do you mean you’ll go west?” asked Herrick thinking of the man’s position which was—apparently—considerably within the shadow of the gallows.

Frisco looked at him with a careless laugh. He understood, “Oh, I’ve been in worse holes than this,” he said, “why once in California the rope was round my neck for horse-stealing. Carr got me out of that mess.”

“You were a great friend of Carr’s?”

“Why,” said the man slowly, “he was my cousin you know, and we had the same blood in us—the bad Carr blood. How I ever came to have such a brat of a Methodist parson for a son I can’t make out. Got it from his mother I suppose, she was always a whimpering devil.

“I didn’t come here to discuss your son and wife Joyce—”

“Frisco’s my name for the time being,” said the man coolly, “when I get across the pond again I’ll take to a more Christian one.”

“Humph! You won’t have an easy time getting out of this scrape.”

“Well no, you’re about right there Herrick. You don’t mind me dropping the Mister I hope. I feel friendly to you. You’re about the only man of the whole lot. Stephen isn’t a bad chap; but if he hadn’t had you beside him, I’d have got that money. Well I’m to be tried for my life. What are you going to do Herrick?”

“Something quixotic,” replied the doctor, “Robin has no money, neither have you, so I am going to supply you with a solicitor and see you through. If you are guilty I wish to see you hanged, if innocent free. All the same,” said Herrick frankly, “I tell you candidly Frisco, that I don’t think it fair to hang you for the killing of a brute like Carr.”

Frisco stared at Dr. Jim in a hard unwinking manner, but he was visibly moved. “You’re a white man Doc,” said he, “and I’m a bad lot. All the same if you don’t mind—” he held out his hand.

“I’ll take that only on one condition,” said Herrick, “that you tell me you are innocent of murder.”

Frisco drew back his hand, and recovered his hard manner. “You bet I’m not,” he said, “that is where Carr had the pull over me. There are two Towns in South America I daren’t go near—” he burst out laughing. “So you won’t shake hands,” said he “well I don’t blame you. I am a bad lot—but Carr was a damned sight worse sonny. You can take that from me.”

“We are wasting time I think,” said Herrick coldly, “I want to help you if I can. You shall have a lawyer, to defend you. But I want to ask you as man to man:—Did you shoot Carr?”

Frisco thought for a moment stroking his chin. “Well there’s not many men I’d tell my mind to but you are one. I did not kill Carr.”

“Then who did?”

“I’ll tell you in a few minutes. But you let me reel out my yarn first.”

“I know most of it from Robin and Santiago.”

“You don’t know all,” replied Frisco quietly “I’ve been with Carr these twenty years and more. He was a devil and treated me like a dog. I helped him to get that treasure and he cheated me of my share of it.”

“I shouldn’t think you were the man to be cheated.”

“Not in an ordinary way, you bet. But the Colonel had the bulge on me I guess. He could have handed me over to the authorities in San Francisco for a murder. Oh! don’t look scared Herrick. I’m not going to own up to all my crimes. I have committed heaps though.”

“Oh, damn your beastly talk,” said Herrick angrily, for the shamelessness of the man made him sick, “just tell me about that night.”

“All in good time sonny,” said the unmoved Frisco, “I stayed with the Colonel and let him keep my money because I did not want my wife to know I was alive. She was a good woman and I treated her like a brute. That was one reason. The second was because of my own skin. I did not want to be hanged, and Carr could have hanged me any day. The third reason,” and here Frisco looked curiously at Herrick, “you’ll hardly believe the third reason. But it was a kind of tenderness for Carr. Somehow, devil as he was, I liked him. Never met a man I cottoned to more. He saved my life, I saved his, we fought with knives and with fists, and played the devil with one another all round. Yet somehow we stuck together, and never went back on one another. Rum thing wasn’t it Herrick.”

“Honour amongst thieves,” said Dr. Jim with a shrug.

“You bet that’s it,” retorted Frisco. “So you can see Herrick that I was not the sort of man to put Carr out of the way. I got drunk, so did he but we held together in that blamed house always waiting for death.”

“Ah! The Indians, I suppose.”

“Santiago told you that I guess,” said the man. “Yes, there was some half Spanish half Indian greasers in Lima that would have followed us to the end of the world had they spotted our whereabouts. Santiago was one, but he wished for the money on his own hook and didn’t split. Well Carr is dead so he is safe enough, but if I’m not hanged I guess Santiago will let out on me. Then I’ll have a time getting away.”

“Was it on account of this fear that Carr built the tower.”

Frisco nodded. “You’ve hit it. Queer chap Carr, a mixture of bravado and fear. He threw down all the fences and walls and left the doors of the house open every night just to show he was not afraid. All the same he never slept but in that tower. I didn’t. If any of the greasers had come, they’d have knifed me easy enough. Well Carr went under before his time but by the hand he least expected.”

“Who was it?” asked Herrick impatiently.

“Well,” drawled the ruffian “it wasn’t Mrs. Marsh. We had a talk—”

“I know all about that. I also saw the letter you wrote her.”

“Oh, you did. She kept that as an ace. Robin typed it on his blamed machine for me. I wanted to get the money quietly, but the old lady went under in time and spoilt my game there.”

“She killed herself,” said Herrick curtly.

“Did she now,” said Frisco in admiration, “she was a screamer of a woman—not like my wife. Killed herself. Lord,” he chuckled.

“Go on with your story.”

“It is a story isn’t it. Well I guess it was this way. I let Carr keep the money, when he was alive on the understanding that it was all left to me. He made a will in my favour, and then, the devil made a later one giving the money to Stephen with a reversion to me if his bones weren’t looked after.”

“I know,” said Herrick coolly, “and you tried to have Stephen disabled.”

“Right you are; and the blamed Santiago bungled the affair. If I had been on the spot—well that’s all done with. About the will. Mrs. Marsh came and kicked up a row about the will in favour of her son saying the Colonel was going to alter it. She picked up something of that from me when I had a cargo aboard. But I never knew till after she came, how Carr was tricking me. When she went—and she did curse him—I had a row with Carr. He told me the kind of will he’d made. We had almost a stand up fight. He brought in the murder business about me as usual, and I knuckled under as usual. Then I went off to drink rum at the Carr Arms.”

“Yes, and to threaten the Colonel.”

“Oh! that wasn’t on my own account. All I meant was that if I gave the tip to the Lima greasers, Carr would be knifed. That fool Napper thought I meant to do the job myself. Well sir I came back and lay down to sleep off the rum. Carr got his own dinner, and then dressed himself up as he always did. Blamed foolishness I always called it. Cooking your dinner and then wearing a starched shirt to eat it. Pah!” Frisco spat.

“He wanted to keep his self-respect I suppose.”

“He had no occasion for an article of that sort Herrick. Self-respect and Carr!—well I should smile. However, I was asleep. When I was pulling round sober, and thinking of getting up to eat, I heard a shot. Oh! I am too used to the sound of shooting not to know it when I hear it. I wondered if Carr was in the shooting gallery. After a time—twenty minutes maybe I got up and went into the gallery. No one there. I went up to the tower after visiting the dining-room. I found the Colonel dead. I was in a fright I can tell you. In a flash I saw that my neck was in the rope. I had threatened the Colonel and they’d think I’d killed him. Also I was wanted in Frisco and South America and half a hundred places. My name would come out may-be (but I am not afraid of that now Herrick) and I would be turned off as sure as a gun. I went downstairs and drank some wine. In the house—and coming down from a room under the one in which Carr lay shot—I saw someone. As he came down the tower steps, it is my opinion he shot the Colonel. If it wasn’t him I don’t know who could have done it.”

“And who was it you say?”

“Why! don’t jump Herrick. It was Sidney Endicotte.”

Herrick stared. “That lad never killed the Colonel,” he said.

“Then who did?” asked Frisco impatiently, “that boy just hated Carr. I never could make out why, and he was half-witted besides. Then there was the pistol I read about in the papers. It is just the kind of weapon a boy of that sort might pick up cheap in a shop of sorts. A man like me would have used a Derringer. No, I’m sure that boy shot him. He came right upon me, as cool as you like and says, ‘He’s quite dead.’“

“Did he say that?”

I swear he did, “He’s quite dead,” says Sidney, “then before I could get my breath he went out into the night, and I lost him.

“Why did you not follow?”

“I had to think of my own safety. It was no use my accusing a boy and a half idiot you see. No one would believe he’d killed Carr when I was in the house—and with my blamed past. I just went to the back to make up a bundle and clear out. While I was packing I heard three shots, and jumped for the door. Lord I was in a fright.”

“It was Mrs. Marsh.”

“Yes. She came down looking like a tigress, and said I’d killed Carr. I was at the door with my bundle. I denied it, and said I’d make it hot for her. She said I’d better look after myself and cleared. I didn’t wait you may be sure, for in spite of her firing the shots I didn’t know but what she’d rouse the village. So I went straight across the moor and caught the train at Southberry. Here I’ve been hidden in London ever since. I had money. When that ran out I dropped across that cipher in the paper, and met my fool of a son. Then—well you know the rest.”

“It’s a strange story,” said Herrick much distressed. It did not seem at all unlikely, but that Sidney had killed the Colonel.

“It’s a true one. Well, what are you going to do.”

“I shall see this boy, and find out if what you say is true.”

“Oh! I expect he’s such an idiot that he’ll think he’s done something fine and own up. But that my neck is in danger, I would not split on Sidney. But they’ll only shut him up in an asylum. They would hang me, so of two evils I choose the least. Are you off Herrick?”

“Yes, I’ll see if this is true, and get you a lawyer.”

“Thanks old man. You’re a good sort. So-long,” and Frisco quite calm waved his hand as Dr. Jim left the cell. He did not seem to be in the least afraid, and evidently thought his release was a foregone conclusion. A dangerous cool-headed ruffian was Frisco.

Chapter 25
Sidney Speaks Out

After that interview with Frisco, Dr. Jim took Stephen straight off to Saxham. There was nothing left for him to do in Town. Frisco was in prison and safe enough. Joyce shut himself up in his flat, and would not even reply to the note Herrick wrote him. Belcher—for obvious reasons had not called at the Guelph Hotel,—and with his partner was keeping out of the doctor’s way. Jim saw Frith for a brief few minutes, instructed him to see after the defence of Frisco, and then drove to Paddington where Marsh-Carr awaited him. By favour of the guard and five shillings they secured a smoking carriage to themselves. When the train was fairly out of the town, and whizzed through a desolate winter country, Dr. Herrick looked at Stephen.

“What do you think of it all?” he asked lighting his pipe.

“This story of Frisco’s?”

“Yes. It’s a living truth. I can see by your face that you wish to believe the man a liar. He is, but not in this instance. What he says is absolutely true. I saw his eyes when he spoke. The tongue may lie, but a man’s eyes—” Jim shook his head.

“But it can’t be true,” cried Stephen looking white and worried, “good heaven’s Jim, if Sidney really shot Carr, think of the disgrace to Ida and Bess. Ourselves! I don’t mind that. But these poor girls.”

“Well,” said Jim after a pause, “you see it’s not so bad as it might be. I am sure you must know of the estimation Sidney is held in, round about Saxham. If it comes out that he shot the Colonel, no one will express any surprise. It’s no slur on the girls, Steve. Sidney is looked upon as something beyond the pale of humanity.”

“What will they do with him?” asked Stephen anxiously.

“If he really did commit the crime, he will be placed in an asylum. The boy is too queer to be judged by ordinary standards. Frisco cleared out although he knew Sidney had killed Carr, because he thought no one would believe the boy had done it. The suspicion certainly would have rested on Frisco. He would have been wiser to have given himself up. But for the reasons I told you of—the same reasons that kept him quiet under the Colonel’s unjust appropriation of his property—Frisco preferred to cut. He is wiser, now that he has had time to reflect over the matter. His devilries in the Americas were done under other names, and as Joyce he will not be wanted in San Francisco. I daresay if he had not been caught he would have given himself up in the long run. It was the Don he was afraid of. Now the Don is away, Frisco is convinced he will be set free.”

“He must stand his trial?”

“Certainly. I have told Frith to see after him. But his defence will be that Sidney killed the man. There is no way of averting that. The question in my mind,” said Herrick looking at Marsh-Carr “is, whether the boy really did do so.”

“Have you any doubt on the subject?” asked Stephen eagerly.

“I have a great many doubts,” replied Jim dryly, “and until the person who really murdered Carr confesses, I shall continue to doubt. You see Steve, ever since I took up this matter I have been following up false trails. Every person I have stumbled upon, and to whose guilt the evidence at the time procurable, pointed, has laid the blame on some one else, who in turn has passed on the guilt to another party. I suspected Joyce. He accused Santiago. The Don said Pentland Corn was guilty. Corn declared that Mrs. Marsh had fired the shot. Now we know from accurate evidence that all these persons are innocent. Frisco was suspected from the very first. He is caught and swears—truly enough according to his own belief, that the boy murdered the Colonel. How do I know but what Sidney may be able to prove his innocence, and accuse someone else. The chain may go on endlessly so far as I can see.”

“I understand the difficulty,” replied Stephen wearily, “but I cannot for the life of me see why Sidney should kill the man.”

“There comes in the queer character of the boy,” said Herrick “he detested the Colonel—said he was a bad man. He might have got into his head in some way or another that such a man was better out of the world. If so, he would make no more account of killing Carr than he would of putting a fly out of existence. Indeed he would rather spare the fly, for I have noticed that he is tender to all that breathes.”

“But would he keep quiet over the matter?”

“I think so. Sidney was never the boy to talk. Then there is the pistol Stephen. That is an old-fashioned weapon that a boy might buy in Beorminster for a few pence, or he might have found it in the lumber room of the Grange—there are many of these ancient firearms to be found in the houses of old families. If Sidney dropped across such a weapon he might have then concluded to kill Carr. You see, from the account of Frisco, that he came down the Tower stairs and said, quite calmly, that the Colonel was dead. He may just as calmly admit to me or to you that he killed the man.”

“Mad! Mad!” groaned Marsh-Carr, “he must be mad.”

“No. That does not follow. The boy is strange. There are things about him which I cannot explain. So far as I can see Sidney does not come within the range of science. That foretelling of your mother’s death, and his extraordinary statement that you were in danger, puzzled me beyond words. I must believe, because I am convinced by the evidence of my own senses. All the same I cannot explain or understand. There are laws of Nature with which we are unacquainted. I believe that this boy comes under some unknown laws. You cannot account for the actions of such a person. The boy would do things which we should call wrong, yet he would see no harm in doing them. If he is guilty, he will be put away in an asylum. At the same time I am sure he is perfectly sane.”

“I am puzzled myself about him,” admitted Stephen, “and he is a most uncomfortable boy to have about one. Still I have always found him upright and honourable. I have never known him to tell a lie. But he must know all about this case and how Frisco has been accused.”

“I’m not so sure of that. Sidney lives with his head in the clouds. He perhaps has heard that Frisco has been accused, but, as the man does not now come across his path, he never thinks of any possible danger to him. Again Stephen, that silver bullet is queer.”

“How do you mean queer?”

“Well you know the mediæval superstition that a warlock can be killed only by a silver bullet. A thing of that sort, is exactly what would appeal to the dreamy nature of Sidney. He is something of a mystic himself remember. He might have taken it into his head, that Carr was a warlock who had dealings with the devil—”

“I am sure he would have every reason to think so,” said Marsh-Carr, “if any man was hand in glove with Satan, my uncle was that man.”

“You see what you say yourself. Then Sidney thinking in a less sane fashion on the same subject might have considered it his duty to deliver the world from such a wizard. He would certainly then use a silver bullet, thinking (according to the mediæval superstition) that the man could not be killed by ordinary lead.”

“It’s all theory,” said Stephen gloomily, “and fantastic at that.”

“As you say—all theory and fantastic,” admitted Herrick, “but you must remember that we are dealing with a fantastic nature. But we must see this boy and question him when we get home.”

“He will deny everything.”

“On the contrary if I know anything of the boy, he will calmly admit what he has done.”

“You will not tell Bess or Ida?”

“That would be unwise. We must be certain of Sidney first. We shall say nothing to-night, but get Sidney to come over to ‘The Pines’ on the morrow and ask him frankly if he killed Carr.”

“Bess is sure to ask you about Frisco,” said Stephen.

“Oh, I can baffle her curiosity,” replied Herrick. “I shall tell her nothing about my visit to the man. All about his arrest she can know.”

“I think it will be better to hold our tongues altogether Jim. Ida is getting worried by this incessant mystery, although she knows very little.”

“I’m sure I don’t wonder. I’m worried myself. However, we must learn what we can from Sidney. I hope to Heaven the lad is innocent, but if he is not, I don’t look upon him in the light of an ordinary criminal. He is a freak of nature. Were I put into the witness-box I could not say on my oath that he is mad.”

“Let us drop the subject,” said Stephen who looked haggard, “I am getting nervous and anxious.”

Jim acquiesced in this sensible view and the two betook themselves to the magazines and newspapers. Until they arrived at Beorminster, they said little to one another, and even then were—for them—taciturn. A groom and cart awaited them, and they drove to Saxham in silence. It did not do to talk of Sidney with a servant at their elbows. But curiously enough the groom had news for Stephen, which brought in the name of Sidney.

“Please sir, that Italian woman—”

“What’s the matter with her?” asked Herrick who was driving.

“She is very ill sir, and it is said she will die.”

“Die!” echoed Stephen in surprise.

“She was not bad enough for that when I saw her last. What do you think Herrick?”

“She looked very sick certainly, but so far as I can judge was in no immediate danger of death. Who says this Parry?”

The groom sunk his voice to a whisper, and seemed nervous, “Master Sidney,” he said.

Both men looked round at this. Then at each other. Herrick was the first to break the silence. “When did Master Sidney say that Parry?”

“Yesterday sir. Mr. Napper, he met him in Beorminster in the Cathedral Square about four o’clock. He asked him joking-like where he was going. Master Sidney said, just as quiet as he does speak sir, that he was going to see the Italian woman die. Napper was that taken aback you could have knocked him down with a feather sir. Then Master Sidney said she would die in two days, which I take to mean sir, that she’ll go off to-morrow. And I’m sure she will sir,” added Parry with conviction.

“Is this story known Parry?” asked his master rather vexed.

“No sir. Napper went at once to see Miss Endicotte when he came back to Saxham. She asked him to say nothing about it, but he had already told Phelps the gardener sir. Then Phelps told us all sir, but we have said nothing outside about it.”

“See you don’t then,” said Stephen sharply, “the first of my servants who says a word will be discharged, mind that Parry.”

The groom touched his hat and relapsed into silence. “Where is Master Sidney now Parry?” asked Herrick after a pause.

“At the house in Beorminster sir. He has been there all night. Miss Endicotte went over, but she could not get him away. He says he must stay there until the Italian woman dies sir.”

“Humph! You need say no more Parry,” and the doctor drove on in silence. But Marsh-Carr knew from the way he urged the mare, how perturbed he was over this information. Stephen was upset himself. There was something disquieting about everything in connection with Sidney.

After dinner at “The Pines,” Herrick made Stephen lie down, as he was yet far from strong, and walked across to Biffstead. Here he saw the two girls and Frank, who were very much troubled by this latest freak of their brother.

“I don’t know what to do with him,” said Frank, “I went over and insisted he should come home. I took him by the shoulder to force him out of the house, but he got in such a passion that I thought he would have a fit. So I left him until you came back.”

“You go over and get him away Jim,” implored Ida, “you have more influence over him than anyone else. I have gone and Bess also, but he will not come. We can’t carry him back by main force and make a scandal.”

“I’ll go,” said Herrick, “but I did not know that I had any influence with him. He is a lad one can do nothing with. How does the old woman take his telling her she is about to die.”

“She is quite calm. Evidently she thinks Sidney is a kind of prophet. He is telling her not to be afraid and talking the queerest things to her. I am sure Sidney is mad,” sobbed Ida, “he will be shut up in an asylum someday.”

Herrick said nothing. The poor girl little knew how truly she spoke. If Sidney had indeed killed Carr, he would certainly be shut up. Considering his extraordinary character, perhaps this would be all the better for his friends and relatives, if not for himself. “I will go over in the morning,” said Herrick on reflection, “he may be more reasonable in the morning. I am beginning to understand him a little.”

“I’m sure I don’t,” said Ida, and Frank echoed her opinion. This was natural enough. No man is a hero to his relatives.

All this time Bess said nothing. While Jim was away, she had worried much over her brother’s freak, but now that the doctor had returned she was satisfied that all would be well. Herrick exercised over Bess, the same influence he did over most people he came into contact with. Stephen and the girls, were both more than ordinarily intelligent, but they deferred to Jim in a most remarkable manner. If any one could manage Sidney, Bess felt that Herrick was the man. Jim was not so certain himself. The boy had never come under his influence, and in his own calm way held his own against everyone.

“What about Frisco?” asked Bess who had followed Herrick down the avenue, “has he really been arrested?”

Dr. Jim nodded. “Santiago betrayed him to some private Inquiry Agents I employed,” he said, “a mean shabby piece of work Bess. Joyce put it down to me. I assured him that I had nothing to do with the matter, but he refused to believe me.”

“He is so mean himself, that he cannot believe any good of other people,” said Bess scornfully, “what is to be done now about Frisco?”

“I am thinking,” replied her lover evasively, “when I have come to a conclusion I’ll tell you Bess. But I fancy the end is in sight.”

“I hope so,” sighed the girl. “I am so tired of this anxiety.”

“Shortly you will have no more, dear,” and Jim took her in his arms to kiss her good-bye, “the night is dark, but the dawn is breaking.”

Next morning Dr. Herrick walked over to Beorminster. He left Stephen at home although the Squire wanted to come also. “No,” said Jim, “it is best for me to speak to the boy alone, I’ll get more out of him.” And Stephen recognised that this was the more sensible course.

It was eleven o’clock when Herrick rapped at the door of the Beorminster house. It was opened by Sidney, who looked calm and complacent as usual. “I heard you had come back Dr. Jim,” he said.

“Did your prophetic instinct tell you that?” asked Herrick testily.

The boy was so difficult to understand that he could not help feeling annoyed. A man over thirty does not like treating a lad of sixteen as his equal. Yet Sidney somehow compelled that respect.

“No,” replied he sweetly. “I am very stupid about some things. When a thought comes to me, it comes. I cannot call it.”

“Then the thought came to you that Petronella would die?”

“She will die Dr. Jim. Two days ago I felt that she would die. So I came over to see her. She was afraid of death, till I talked to her. Now she is quite peaceful. She does not fear.”

“Are you afraid of death Sidney?”

“Why should I be? I know.”

“You know what?”

“That there is nothing to be afraid of.” The boy spoke quite serenely and without any suggestion of pose. He had conducted Herrick to the dining-room and the two were seated opposite one another. On the table were the remains of Sidney’s breakfast,—a glass of milk, some fruit and a loaf of bread. “I had to get these myself,” he said, “Petronella is in bed in Mrs. Marsh’s room. She is very ill.”

“I knew she was ill some time ago,” replied Herrick trying to assert himself, “but I think I can cure her.”

“She will not live,” said Sidney, staring in the most unwinking manner at Dr. Jim. “She will die before sunset. I know.”

“Can you explain how you do know?” asked the doctor roughly.

This time it was the boy who was puzzled, “I can’t,” he said. “I feel that Petronella will die. I can say no more than that.”

Herrick groaned. It was useless to try and understand this extraordinary lad. Evidently he did not understand himself. Yet his former prophecies had come to pass so absolutely, that Dr. Jim could not help thinking that this last would come true also. However, this was not the business about which he had come. “Sidney,” he said after a pause, “do you know that Frisco, who used to be with Colonel Carr, has been arrested?”

“I heard Bess say so.”

“What do you think of it?”

“I never thought of it at all. He is in no danger, Dr. Jim. It was not Frisco who killed Colonel Carr.”

“How do you know that?” asked Herrick startled. Was the boy about to confess that he was guilty.

“I was in the house just after Colonel Carr was killed.”

“Oh! Then you did not shoot him yourself?” Sidney frowned, but appeared very little disturbed.

“Why should I have killed him?” he said calmly. “Colonel Carr was a wicked man. I told him he would die by violence some day. But he only laughed at me. He thought I was mad or a fool. You do also, Dr. Jim.”

“I don’t know what to think,” said Jim angrily; “I never met anyone like you before, Sidney. If I had not some knowledge that the things you say come true I should think you were pretending. A boy like you ought to be whipped.”

“That is what the Colonel said,” replied Sidney quietly. “But tell me, Dr. Jim, did you really think I had killed him?”

“I did not. But Frisco says you did.”

“If he believed that, he would not have run away,” said Sidney shrewdly.

“Well come to the point. Who murdered the Colonel?”

“Petronella,” said Sidney.

Herrick rose up with a look of surprise. Astonished as he was he could hardly help laughing. This statement bore out his speech to Stephen. He had said that Sidney would accuse someone else. Now it only remained for Petronella to shift the blame on to the shoulders of a third party. “I do not believe that,” said Herrick, “why should Petronella kill Carr?”

“You had better come up and hear what she has to say Dr. Jim.”

“In a moment. But tell me how you know—through your instinct?”

Sidney shook his head. “No. That feeling only comes at times,” he said. “I do not pretend to know everything. I said so before. I don’t know why you should look on me as queer Dr. Jim,” he continued plaintively, “it is not my fault if things come into my head. When they do, I sometimes tell people, but not always. I don’t like being laughed at.”

“You’re a queer fish,” muttered Dr. Jim, annoyed by this human problem he could not understand. “I should like you to be examined by a committee of doctors.”

“They would not understand Dr. Jim, and I can’t explain. But you want to hear how I knew. Well on the night Colonel Carr was killed I went to the Pine wood after seven o’clock.”

“Had you any premonition that he would be murdered?”

“No. I had no feeling of any kind. I was in the wood for some time. At half past seven I felt hungry, but I did not want to go to Biffstead as I knew Ida would try and keep me in. It was raining, but I did not mind that. I like the open air where I can breathe. A house makes me choke.”

“I understand. Go on.”

“As I was hungry I thought I would go and get something from Colonel Carr. I sometimes went to see him, though I did not like him. He was always kind to me, although I think he was afraid. Well I went into the house just before eight.”

“You said half past seven just now.”

“I did not go in at once,” said the boy, with a gesture of irritation; “do not interrupt me, Dr. Jim. I went to the dining-room and found the dinner on the table, but the Colonel was not there. I took a piece of bread and some water. While I was eating I heard a shot. I wondered what it was.”

“You did not feel that murder was been committed?”

“No. Why should I have felt? I Just wondered what the shot might be. After a bit I went out into the hall to see if the Colonel had come in. I thought he might be out. I saw Petronella run through the hall and out into the night. I wondered what she was doing there, and followed her, but I lost her as she went through the woods. Then I walked about for a time, up till nine. I thought again about the shot and went back to the house. I went up the tower and saw Colonel Carr lying dead, so I knew Petronella had killed him. I came down the—”

“How was it you did not meet Frisco, who had gone up to see the Colonel?”

“I heard someone coming and went into a lower room. I thought it might be Petronella coming back. I saw it was Frisco and saw him come down again. Then I came and said to him ‘He is quite dead,’ and went out. After that I went on the moor. Then some time afterwards I heard three more shots. I saw Bess and her lantern and went home.”

“Why did you say nothing of all this before?” asked Herrick. “There was no reason. If Frisco had been caught before, I should have told you. But he had got away, and I did not think it was right to tell about Petronella. Colonel Carr was a wicked man, and he deserved to be killed. He did a lot of harm,” said Sidney, with a shudder.

“How comes it you tell me now, Sidney?”

“Because Bess told me Frisco had been arrested. He is wicked too, but I did not want him to be hanged for shooting Carr, as I knew that he was innocent. I came over to see Petronella, for I had a feeling that she would die, and I wanted to know from herself before she died if she was guilty. She denied it at first, but I said I would not go away until she told me all. That was why I stayed all night. She tried to run away. I said I would tell the police.”

“That was unlike you Sidney.”

“No, it wasn’t,” replied the boy positively, “I knew that Petronella was the one who shot Carr. If she did not confess, Frisco would be hanged—”

“You never thought you might be accused?”

“No. I did not do it,” replied Sidney calmly, “why should I be accused?”

Herrick sighed impatiently. The boy could not, or would not, understand, “I suppose then Petronella confessed in the end.”

“Yes. I made her write it down that she killed Carr. It is in Italian but I do not know the language. You must see that it is all right Dr. Jim. I did that because I thought she might die before you arrived. But now that you are here, come up and see her. I will go for Inspector Bridge.”

Dr. Jim was aghast. Here was Sidney in a new character. “Why for Bridge?”

“He must hear her confession,” said Sidney putting on his hat. “Perhaps she has written down something different in the Italian. I will give you the paper when I come back. But I must go for Bridge,” and Sidney, before Herrick could say a word, was out of the room. Dr. Jim heard the front door close behind the boy.

“There is not much insanity about this act,” muttered Herrick to himself, I shall see Petronella at once, he smiled grimly, “I wonder who she will accuse,” he said.

Chapter 26
The Truth

In the room where Mrs. Marsh had died, and in the same bed, lay the old Italian woman dying also. She was sitting up, with a red woollen shawl wrapped round her bony shoulders, and her lean hands told her rosary. Whatever views Sidney might have instilled into her regarding life beyond the grave, Petronella still remained within the fold of Peter. She was muttering prayer after prayer with feverish haste and the black beads slipped quickly from between her fingers.

The room was dusty, dark and untidy. Near the bed was a bottle of Chianti and some bread, but the flask was full and the loaf untouched. Petronella was past earthly food. Herrick saw the mark of death on her yellow face. She seemed pleased to see him and not at all afraid. Receiving him with a chuckle, she interpreted the look in his eyes.

“So he has told you, that young Signor,” she said in her own tongue, “ah! I thought he would. It was time—but too late Signor Dottore—too late for the prison. I go into Purgatory. Ten pounds for masses Signor. You will see that they are said. Then I may get into Paradise to rest. I need rest. All my life I have worked hard. The Good God will not be hard on poor old Petronella.”

Dr. Jim took a chair by the bedside, and felt her pulse. “You need nourishing food Petronella,” he said soothingly, “a cup of soup now—”

“Eh! Eh Signor Dottore that will not help me. I am dying. You do not know. I have never told you. Cancer Signor—a bad cancer. I shall die.”

“I may be able to—”

“No, I do not want that. They would put me in prison. Let me die. The young Signor said I would die. It is foolish to live. I will go to my Padrona and explain.”

“Then you did shoot the Colonel, Petronella?”

“Si! Si!” the old woman coughed, “he was a devil-man. He was cruel to my padrona, to the young Signor. Also he had the evil eye. Hard to kill. Oh, yes,” she chuckled, “but the silver bullet—ah yes the silver bullet.” Dr. Jim looked at her in silence. He wondered that he had not suspected Petronella before. After Bess had told him about the bullet, he had been certain that the person who had fired the shot, was of a superstitious nature. Mrs. Marsh being Italian might have thought of the same thing. But she was educated, and above such folly. Petronella, a woman of the people with feudal instincts, had clung to that wild belief of the Middle Ages. She was the one person of Dr. Jim’s acquaintances, who would have dreamed of such a thing, and her, he had not suspected.

“Why did you use a silver bullet Petronella?”

“Eh! the man was a diavolo—a witch creature—he had the evil eye. Did I not meet with an accident after he had over-looked me. It was better he should die, rather than live to ruin the Signora. A silver bullet. Only in that way Signor can those aided by the devil perish. I am not sorry. No. It was a good deed. The young Signor said so.”

“All the same Petronella I must tell you that Frisco is accused of this murder. He is in prison. It is unfair that he should suffer for what you have done, so you must make confession.”

“I have done so Signor Dottore. I wrote with my own hand in my own language, that I Petronella had slain this devil-man with a silver bullet.”

“Even so,” said Herrick, “but I want to write down your confession myself. You can sign it and the police officer can witness it. Thus, will the man who is in prison for your crime be saved.”

“The police,” echoed Petronella, “ah, I knew they would come. But they will not put me in prison Signor. I die. I die, and that soon. Eh! as you will. You have been good to me. I will do what you want. Yonder in the corner Signor—the padrona’s ink and pen—also the paper. Write down what I say, and I will sign. What does it matter now I die.”

Dr. Jim found the materials and placing them on the little round table looked at Petronella. She nodded and muttered a prayer, then began to speak in her usual rapid manner. She spoke in Italian, but Dr. Jim for the benefit of Bridge translated it into English. Luckily Herrick was an excellent linguist and found no difficulty in doing this.

“Signor,” began Petronella, “it happened in this way. I was at the house of that devil-man with the Signora—oh a long time ago. The padrona went to ask him for money. He refused, the cursed robber,—and we were so poor—so poor. My signora the last of a great race, poor. Gran’ Dio. It was evil that she should be poor. But the devil-man would give not one lira. Ah no! He kept all. I was angered, because of my padrona. I saw on the table a cup of silver, and that I took.”

“You stole the cup?”

“Why not. My padrona was poor. That devil-man saw me, he struck me—yes, even me Petronella a free Italian. And he over-looked me with his evil eye. I shuddered. I knew that I would have an accident. And the next day I hurt myself. Ah the wicked wretch. I gave back the cup, as he made me. But when we went down the stairs I took another of silver. This time he saw me not, and I carried it here under my shawl.”

“What did Mrs. Marsh say?”

“My padrona was angry. But I did not care. I did not sell the silver cup as she was angered, but I kept it, yes, for the silver bullet—”

Herrick looked up from his writing. “Had you made up your mind then to kill Colonel Carr?” he asked.

“No, not then. I should have liked to: because he cast on me the evil eye. Ah Dio mio I made horns, but it was no use. I had an accident. No Signor Dottore I did not wish to kill him then—very much. Later on when the will—the will—”

“Did you know about the will?”

“Si! Si! It was that Frisco told me. I was in the market. He also, and he had the wine in him. He talked foolishly, and said that his Signor would make another will leaving all the money to him. I saw that my poor padrona and the young Signor Stefano would be ruined. I came back and told the Signora. She was angered. Then she said she would go to see this devil-man. Signor,” here Petronella clutched Herrick by the wrist, “I knew that my padrona had a temper. She could rage. I feared what she might do. I watched—eh! yes, I watched. She was to dine with the padre at Saxham, and then see the wicked Signor.”

“Did you not know she would see him in the afternoon?”

“No! She said she would go about nine and see him. That after his dinner he would be in a good temper and might not do this wrong. Signor, I saw that she took with her a pistol.”

“The revolver of Mr. Marsh?”

“Si! Si! She took it from the case in the room of the young Signor Stefano. I saw her. I knew that if the devil-man laughed at her she would kill him. Yes. She would.”

“No, Petronella,” said Dr. Jim soothingly, “she only meant to frighten him. So she said in the letter you gave me.”

“No Signor,” replied the old woman indignantly, “the daughter of the Micholotti would not be so weak. She would have killed him.”

“Upon my soul,” muttered Herrick, “I believe she would.”

“I was in great alarm Signor,” went on Petronella. “I thought if she did so, that she would be put in prison. It was terrible to think so. I was angered against the devil-man. He had struck me; he had looked upon me with the evil eye. Now he would tempt my Signora to kill him and so be put in prison. I saw that all would be lost. Then I said to myself, to me Petronella, that I would kill him alone.”

The old woman drew herself up in bed, and looked majestic as she spoke. Herrick was profoundly sorry for her. She had carried her feudal instinct to excess, and so had jeopardised her life for the sake of her mistress. He understood well how she had been urged to this. The blow, the evil eye, the possibility of her young master being ruined by another will, and above all, the chance that her Signora might kill the man herself—a fiery faithful creature like Petronella could not let such things be. As she said, she made up her mind to kill Carr, before Mrs. Marsh could see him. Where she made the mistake was, that she thought her mistress would see the man at night. As a matter of fact she did, but already had seen him in the day. Perhaps Mrs. Marsh guessed what Petronella might do, and she had told a falsehood about the time of calling at “The Pines.”

“When the Signora departed,” said Petronella, rocking to and fro, for she was in pain, “I got my pistol. Si, Signor, it was the pistol of my husband. He fought for the King when we freed Italy. I too, was in the war. I shot many—oh many. He showed me; I was not afraid to shoot.”

This piece of information showed Herrick how it was Carr had been shot through the heart. Petronella, having been in the Italian war of liberation, knew how to handle firearms. Probably she was an excellent markswoman. The shooting of Carr proved her to be so.

“I had bullets,” said Petronella, “but they were of lead. I knew that the devil man protected by the Wicked One, could not be slain by only a leaden bullet. I wanted a silver one. Ah Gran’ Dio! there was no silver in this house. Then I thought of the cup I had taken. I got it and melted it down over a big fire. I made three bullets in the mould of my husband. I took his powder flask, but it was empty. The young Signor Stefano had powder in his room—I stole it. Then I loaded the pistol and set it aside till the night.”

“Where was Mr. Marsh all this time?” asked Herrick.

“He was in the house in the afternoon, and went to eat with a friend of his, Signor Barker—”

“The newspaper editor,” said Dr. Jim. He remembered that this was the man who looked after the Beorminster Chronicle and took an interest in Stephen’s poetry, “he dined with him?”

“Si Signor, and said he would not be back till late. He was to bring home the Signora from Saxham. I was all alone and I saw what I could do.”

“And what did you do Petronella?”

“I hid the pistol in my shawl and walked to Saxham. I got there before eight. I went to the big house, I found it empty. I climbed the stair where I knew the devil man would be in the tower. He was standing by his bed dressed to eat. He took up a pistol but let it down when he saw it was only old Petronella.”

“You mean he still held the pistol?”

“Yes. I waited for a moment as he stared at me, and then shot him. I aimed for the heart,” said Petronella hugging her knees. “The silver bullet went through the heart. Oh, my husband showed me how to shoot Signor.”

“What did you do then?”

“I made sure the devil-man was dead. He fell on his face. Then I went down the stairs. I saw someone, I did not know who it was. But the young Signor told me he was there. I ran through the pine wood, and he followed, I hid behind a tree, and then after a time I got home. No one knew that I had been out, and when the Signora and the young Signor Stefano came back I said nothing. The Signora looked white. She said nothing to me but I knew that she had seen the devil-man. What did I care. She could not kill him again. That is all Signor.”

“You lost the pistol?”

“I lost my husband’s pistol,” said Petronella precisely, “it dropped from my pocket when I ran, I did not care. No one would know that it belonged to me. Then I heard Frisco had gone. I was glad. They would not think I had killed the devil man.”

“Didn’t Mrs. Marsh suspect?”

“My signora? No. She said nothing. I was certain she had fired the other three shots for I know my signora. Also I looked at the revolver in the case when she put it back.”

“If Frisco had been arrested at once would you have spoken out?”

“No. Frisco was a bad man too. I would be glad if they put him in prison.”

“Why do you tell now then?”

“The young Signor made me tell. Ah! he is a terrible young Signor. He makes me afraid. He said I would die, and that I must tell at once or he would speak to the police. Well I have told and I die. Have you all down Signor. I will sign. Ah! Dio mio!” she started up in bed, “the police.”

It was indeed Bridge who entered with a red face and astonished eyes. He was followed by Sidney looking calm, just as though the Inspector had not been scolding him all the way because he had not told about Petronella before. But it took someone stronger than Inspector Bridge to frighten Sidney. For a moment the Inspector stared at the bed, and at his prisoner as he regarded the old woman. Then he spoke to Dr. Jim.

“This is an extraordinary thing sir,” he said slowly.

“Very,” assented Herrick, “I only knew of it myself an hour ago.”

“I thought this young gentleman was telling me a lie.”

“It is the truth,” said Petronella pointing to Herrick, “the Signor has written all down. Here, see me sign my name, and you can say I signed it.”

Inspector Bridge wanted to talk, but Dr. Jim made him a sign to be silent. The old woman was sinking fast and there was no time to be lost. With great difficulty she signed her name. Herrick and Bridge appended their signatures, and all was over.

“This will set Frisco free,” said Bridge, “and now I must see about getting a warrant out for this woman.”

“It is too late,” said Dr. Jim, “she is dying.”

“She won’t die,” said Bridge with a disdainful smile, “all this is done to cheat the law. I have a policeman downstairs. He shall come up and watch her, while I go for a warrant of arrest.”

“She will die before sunset,” said Sidney calmly, and went to the old women. He took her hand. “Good bye Petronella. You will be happy soon. You know what is to be done.”

“Si Si. I know. I am happy. I will go to my husband,” said Petronella. Then she looked at Dr. Jim with a worn smile. “I did it for my signora,” she said, “you can go. You can do me no good now.”

Herrick saw that well enough. However he went to see if he could get a nurse to heat some soup, and revive the woman. To be sure it was little use bringing her back to health and strength just to hang her. But Dr. Jim acted for the best. He went out with Sidney and the Inspector, leaving two policemen in charge. Bridge had the confession in his pocket, and intended to go up to town to deliver it into the hands of the proper authorities. Frisco had to be released seeing that he was innocent. “And I always thought he was,” said Bridge lying in the most shameless manner.

Sidney looked after the man with a queer smile when he went away. “He is only wasting time,” said the boy.

“We may keep the old woman alive till to-morrow,” said Herrick.

Sidney shook his head. “She will die before sunset,” he said.

Out of sheer perversity Dr. Jim wanted to thwart this prophecy. He saw that bad as Petronella was, she could be kept alive by stimulants, and this he intended to do, if only to baffle this extraordinary boy. For once in a way, he wished to prove Sidney in the wrong. The boy perhaps guessed his intentions, for he smiled again, and then said abruptly, that he was going back to Saxham.

“Will you tell them what has happened?” asked Herrick.

“No,” replied Sidney, after a pause, “I am not fond of talking. You can tell them if you like.”

“Very good,” said Dr. Jim coolly, “then you ask Ida, Frank, and Bess to be at ‘The Pines’ about five o’clock. I shall return by that time and then everything can be explained. Thank heaven we know the truth at last. It is about time the matter came to an end. Will you be at ‘The Pines’ also?”

“I am going to have a long sleep,” said Sidney. “I feel very tired.”

He turned away with a nod, and Herrick stared after him. Jim was a doctor of the most advanced school, he had studied much, he was quick in seeing things, and on the whole prided himself on his knowledge. But he could make nothing of Sidney. The boy and his ways were beyond him altogether. Sidney would have baffled a committee of Doctors.

Herrick searched for a nurse and found one speedily, for he knew where to go. He brought her back to the house, and set her to heat some soup. Then he gave various directions, sent out for certain medicine, and did what he could to revive the strength of the old woman. Bridge allowed Petronella to have the bedroom to herself, but he kept the two policemen in the house and got out his warrant. Nothing was known in the town about the matter, as Bridge wished to wait until all was in order before telling the public. He foresaw that glory would accrue to him by the story he intended to tell. He had resolved to give Sidney and Herrick no more credit than he could help. Dr. Jim guessed as much when he heard Bridge talking. But he was rather pleased than otherwise. He did not want this latest freak of the uncanny changeling to be talked about. Besides, Bridge amused him. He was so very human in his love of praise.

His philanthropic work being ended, Herrick walked back to Saxham. He reached ‘The Pines’ some time after five, and already found the assembled party impatiently expecting his arrival. Sidney, it appeared, had just said sufficient to pique the curiosity of his family. He hinted that some untoward event had occurred with which Herrick was connected, but refused to say what it was. Then he had retired to bed in full daylight, and announced that he was going to sleep for twenty-four hours. What was to be done with such a boy.

“He grows more eccentric every day,” sighed Ida.

Stephen laughed, “Oh! his eccentricities are harmless enough. That is if—” here he caught Herrick’s eye and hesitated. He did not know but what Sidney might have confessed the crime of which Frisco accused him.

“Oh! that’s all right,” said Jim cheerily.

“What is?” asked Bess, wondering at the sudden relief expressed on Stephen’s face. “Jim, you have something to tell us.”

“Yes. Something very important—about the murder.”

“The murder of Carr,” cried Frank astonished. “Oh! I thought that was done with long ago.”

“On the contrary,” said Dr. Jim, “I have been working at it all these months trying to learn the truth. Stephen and Bess have been helping me.”

“Well,” said Ida, looking from her lover to the doctor, “I do call it mean. I should have been told.”

“It would only have worried you, dear,” said the Squire.

“But what is the difficulty?” cried Frank puzzled. “Frisco killed the Colonel. There was no secret about that.”

“Frisco did not kill Carr,” said Herrick, “the jury were wrong, so were we all. It was Petronella who shot the man.”

Stephen jumped up, as Bess uttered a cry of amazement. “Petronella,” he stammered. “Thank God! Sidney did not do it.

“Sidney!” cried Bess and Ida in a breath.

Herrick hurriedly explained. “Frisco accused Sidney because he was in the house at the time of the murder. That was when you were looking for him, Bess. Do you remember?”

“I should think so,” she cried. “No wonder I could not find him. But Petronella. Was the pistol hers and the silver bullet?”

“What are you talking about, Bess dear?”

“Let me explain,” said Dr. Jim, before Bess could answer Ida, “it is a long story and I think you will find it interesting.” And then Herrick told the whole complicated case from the time he and Joyce found the dead body of Colonel Carr in the Tower which now no longer existed. He was frequently interrupted with exclamations of horror from Ida, and of rage from Frank. When he ended, the latter jumped up. “If I meet that little wretch, Joyce, again,” said Frank, “I’ll break every bone in his body. The idea of trying to mix up Bess in the matter.”

“He has received a worse punishment than a thrashing,” said Stephen, “I think you can leave him to the punishment of destiny, Frank.”

A babel of voices ensued. Everyone was talking at once, and for fully an hour they discussed the case in all its bearings.

“I suppose Frisco will be released now,” said Bess triumphantly. “I knew that he was innocent. I said so all along.”

“All the same he is a bad lot,” remarked Herrick, “the less we have to do with him the better.”

“I don’t think he’ll come down here again in a hurry,” said Marsh-Carr thankfully, “and Santiago has sailed for Mexico. Thus we are rid of the whole gang. Hullo! What’s that?” It was a violent ringing at the door, and Herrick started to his feet, looking perturbed. “I hope nothing is wrong now,” he said. “I am getting so nervous with all this, that I am always expecting the worst of tidings.”

As he spoke, the footman ushered in Inspector Bridge, in a state of excitement. The man could hardly speak, and was scarlet in the face with suppressed rage and alarm. “I beg your pardon,” he said to the company; “but this woman—Petronella—”

“What is the matter?” asked Dr. Jim.

“She is dead.”

All looked at one another.

“And before sunset,” remarked Herrick, thinking of Sidney. “How did it happen, Bridge?”

“She had a bottle of chloral under her pillow, and while the nurse’s back was turned, she drank it. I was called, too late. She is as dead as a door-nail, and has spoilt a most beautiful case.”

Leaving the others to discuss the matter with Bridge, Herrick hastily excused himself. He ran across to Biffstead, and up into Sidney’s bedroom. The boy was sleeping quietly, but Dr. Jim woke him promptly.

“I say,” he cried, shaking the boy’s shoulder, “she is dead.”

“Petronella,” said Sidney drowsily, “I know she is. I said she would die before sunset.”

“You told her to take that chloral.”

“No,” said Sidney in a sleepy manner, “she wanted to take it before she confessed, but I stopped her. But she was bound to die; I said she might get out of the world more easily if she took it. I daresay she died quietly—in a sleep.”

“You have behaved shamefully,” cried Herrick wrathfully.

“No. She was bound to die in any case. Why should she not die as she pleased? Go away, Dr. Jim, I want to sleep,” and Sidney closed his eyes.

Herrick, in the face of this calmness, was helpless, so he departed. The boy had baffled him to the very end.

Chapter 27
A Final Surprise

In this way the trouble left as a legacy by the wicked Colonel came to an end. Frisco was duly tried, and on the confession of Petronella he was acquitted. A very meagre report of the proceedings appeared in the newspapers. In taking down the confession Herrick had not inserted the fact of Mrs. Marsh’s connection with the matter. Frisco said nothing to his counsel about the three shots fired after the Colonel was dead. Therefore the name of Stephen’s step-mother was spared the disgrace of her mad impulsive act. For obvious reasons the most interesting part of the case was left untold, and the public never knew the complications that had ensued in searching for the assassin. Frisco was tried briefly, was acquitted, and when set free he disappeared. Where he went no one knew, and no one cared.

By the advice of Dr. Jim, Stephen paid to Belcher and Kidd the reward that he had promised for the capture of Frisco. Herrick was afraid that if it was not paid that the two might search into the matter more particularly than would be agreeable to the feelings of Marsh-Carr. Stephen saw this danger himself, and gladly sent a cheque for the money. But Belcher and Kidd will get no more business from Dr. Herrick.

“And I hope I’ll never come into connection with detective business again,” said Herrick earnestly, “it is all very well to read about: but in real life it is not so pleasant. However we have done with it all.”

Certainly he was done with the case, but not entirely with Frisco. One day the ex-sailor arrived at Saxham, and asked to see Mr. Marsh-Carr. At the time Stephen was indoors, and luckily for him Dr. Herrick had not gone out. When the name of Frisco was given the two looked at one another in surprise. They had hoped never to hear it again.

“Shall I see him, Jim?” asked Stephen doubtfully.

“Certainly. I shall see him also,” replied Herrick, “he can have come here for no good purpose. But I would rather have him as an open enemy than striking in the dark.”

The consequence of this speech was that Frisco was shown into the library. He was glad to see Marsh-Carr and visibly annoyed to find that the doctor was present.

“My business is private,” said Frisco.

“You must tell it to me in the presence of, Dr. Herrick,” said Stephen, scenting trouble; “I do nothing without his advice.”

“Worse luck,” growled Frisco, and sat down with a scowl.

Herrick laughed. “You do not seem pleased that you have escaped the gallows, Frisco,” he said, “or perhaps you are sorry the criminal did not turn out to be Sidney Endicotte.”

“I don’t care a fig who it was so long as it wasn’t me,” replied the ex-sailor. “Huh! fancy Carr being shot by an old hag after going through all the dangers he did. I always thought he’d have a mean end.”

“This is beside the point,” said Stephen, “as I suppose you did not not come here to criticise my uncle, you had better tell me your business.”

“It’s not pleasant business,” said Frisco coolly.

“So I should expect, seeing that you have come about it,” said the Squire; “however, I shall be pleased to hear what it is.”

Frisco took a paper out of his pocket.

“I don’t think you will,” said he; “I have here, Mr. Marsh-Carr, the last will of the Colonel.”

Stephen started to his feet and turned pale. Herrick, who had been listening intently, struck in: “I suppose it leaves all the money to you, Mr. Joyce-Frisco?”

“No,” growled Frisco, “and you needn’t Señor. It’s a good will for you if it’s true what Robin says.”

“And what does Robin say?”

“That you are to marry Miss Bess.”

“That is perfectly true,” replied Herrick coolly, “but I do not see what she has to do with your business.”

“You will soon Dr. Herrick. The money is left to her.”

“What,” cried Stephen loudly, “Carr has left his money to Bess?”

“You bet. Here’s the will,” and Frisco threw it across the table. “He said she was the only man amongst the lot of you. See how honest I am Herrick. I want to make you a rich man ‘cause you stood by me in trouble I never forget a pal, not me.”

Meantime Stephen and Jim were looking over the paper. “Why,” cried Herrick bursting into a laugh, “it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Here is the Colonel’s signature, but there are no witnesses.”

“Ah! you see that do you,” said Frisco with a chuckle, “that’s so. But I tell you that if my milksop had married the girl—my fool-son Robin I mean—there would have been witnesses, and the will would have been proved in law.”

“I daresay,” said Stephen who sat down again with a recovered colour, “well, even if this will had have been genuine I should not have minded. There is no one I would give the money to sooner than Dr. Herrick.

“Stuff and nonsense!” cried Jim, although he reddened with pleasure at this tribute of friendship, “as if I or Bess would have taken a penny of it. Oh! I see what your game was Frisco. You wanted Robin to marry Bess, and then you would have got witnesses to this will, and taken the money from Stephen. Is that so?”

“That is so,” rejoined Frisco leaning back, “as the fool could not get the girl, I tried the other plan of stopping Marsh going to the vault. That failed because of you Dr. Herrick. If it had not been for you I’d have had that money.”

“You confess your villainies very coolly,” said Marsh-Carr sharply, “do you know that I can lay you by the heels for that assault.”

“Oh, no you can’t. T’was Santiago struck you. You can’t prove that I had anything to do with it. And,” said Frisco impudently, “you would not if you could. Remember, I held my tongue about—”

“Yes! Yes,” said Stephen hastily, “it was good of you to say nothing about my unhappy mother. I am so far indebted to you—”

“Ah! that’s just what I’ve come about.”

“What do you mean?” asked Jim sharply.

“Lord! Doc, you ain’t half sharp enough. I want the Squire here to give me a thousand pounds to start afresh. I and Robin are going back to the States, and we want something to begin life on.”

“That is only fair,” put in Stephen eagerly, “I am—”

“Wait a bit,” said Jim, “let us hear on what grounds Frisco asks you to do this.”

Frisco was quite ready to show grounds. “Well in the first place I held my tongue about Mrs. Marsh firing at the dead body.”

“Yes. I owe you something for that,” said Stephen flushing and wincing.

“In the second,” said Frisco raising his finger. “I brought you that will unwitnessed so that you can still keep the money. If Robin had got the girl I shouldn’t have done that. My name as one witness and Santiago as another, and where would you be?”

“Santiago was never in this house,” said Herrick, “and a will has to be signed when the testator and the witnesses are together.”

“Oh, I’d have arranged all that. My own signature you could not dispute as I was Carr’s right-hand man. I’d have paid Santiago half a year’s income to sign. He’d have done it like a shot. And the will would have stood any test then.”

“That is true enough,” said Herrick reflectively, “so long as the Colonel’s signature was right the rest was easy. Where did you get this will?”

“It was on his table. He must have been fooling with it when the old woman Petronella shot him. It was about this will that Mrs. Marsh made such a fuss, only she thought the money was to be left to me.”

“Ah! You let that out yourself.”

“Being drunk,” said Frisco with a laugh, “well I took away the will and afterwards thought to use it, by marrying Robin to Bess Endicotte. But you see Mr. Marsh,” he added turning to Stephen, “I did not have the witnesses names put, so you keep the money instead of handing it over to Miss Bess.”

“Whether he had done so or not,” cried Dr. Jim hotly, “Bess would not have taken it. The money is rightfully Stephen’s.”

“Ah! That brings me to the third point,” said Frisco unmoved, “I worked for that money. I went through hot and cold and danger to get it. Half of it should have been mine. But Carr had the whip hand of me, so I’m out of it. Now gentlemen, I know where that câche is. If you’ll give me a thousand to fit out an expedition we’ll cry quits. I and Robin are going to get more treasure. Carr didn’t take away the lot.”

“But remember that the Indians are warned,” said Herrick, “they have very likely removed the rest of the jewels.”

“That’s what I’ve got to find out,” said Frisco, “and Robin is coming along with me to be made a man of. Well, these three points, Mr. Marsh, are clear enough. I ought to have half the money, but as you have the upper hand, I ask a thousand pounds—as my right.”

“I certainly think you are entitled to that much,” said Stephen, “what do you say, Herrick?”

“I’m with you, Steve. Give him the money.”

Frisco chuckled while Stephen wrote out a cheque for the amount. When the ex-sailor placed it in his pocket he stood up to go. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, with some sort of emotion, “I thank you for this treatment. You are both white men. I have behaved badly, but this makes all square. I can tell you one thing, Mr. Marsh, that you will have no further trouble about the money. Even if the Indians knew, they would do nothing to you, now that Carr has gone. As to the plan, I daresay his body by this time is—well no matter. I go out of your life gentlemen, so does Robin—to be made a man of. There remains Santiago. He won’t trouble you. I’m going to shoot him when I drop across him in Mexico.”

“You can do what you like there, Frisco. I daresay another crime won’t matter much to you.”

“It wouldn’t be a crime but an act of justice. He played me a dirty trick, Dr. Herrick. However, I’m off. You won’t shake hands so I don’t offer. So long gentlemen both,” said Frisco walking towards the door, “and may you live long and be happy. As to that devil Carr—” Frisco spat and then departed. They never saw him again.

A year later information came through a newspaper, stating the fate of an expedition that had gone into the interior of Peru. The Indians of the Cordilleras had attacked the camp and the three white men who led the expedition were killed. Their names were Joyce, alias Frisco, his son Robin, and a Mexican called Santiago.

“Poor Robin,” said Herrick when he read this to his wife, “he was a mean little scoundrel, but I’m sorry that he came to such an end. As to Santiago, Frisco must have made it up with him and taken him to look after the treasure. Well, the whole three are dead. Let us forget them.”

But this is anticipating. On the evening of the day when Frisco appeared, Stephen announced to the assembled Biffs that Dr. Herrick intended to accept half the income of the wicked Colonel with the permission of Bess. Jim was on his feet at once. “Come,” he cried, very red, “I intend to do nothing of the sort. What rubbish are you talking, Steve.”

“I only ask Bess to read this paper,” said Stephen and gave Bess the incomplete will.

“Ah! true,” replied Herrick, “it is only fair that she should decide for herself. But I’ll have no part in the matter.”

“The Colonel going to leave his money to me,” cried Bess, “well I never heard such nonsense Stephen. As if I would take a penny from you, or Ida.”

“I told you so,” cried Dr. Jim triumphantly, “I knew Bess would think the same as I. Hurrah! Bess, kiss me.”

“Is this a proper will, Steve?” asked Ida looking at the paper.

“No. Frisco brought it here to-day to cause trouble. But as you see there are no witnesses, so it is not valid.”

“And yet you want to offer me half the money.”

“Take it, Bess,” cried Ida, “I am sure Stephen and I can live well on four thousand a year.”

“I won’t,” said Bess, “these were the Colonel’s intentions—very kind I’m sure. But even if the will were legal I should not accept. Jim, am I not right?”

“Perfectly right, darling. You and I will make our own way.”

“It’s all nonsense,” said Stephen, “you must take some money. It is only fair that the Colonel’s intentions should be respected in some way.”

There was a great deal of argument. Finally Bess and Dr. Herrick agreed to take one thousand a year for life. “There,” said Ida kissing her sister, “I hope that is all right.”

“And now Jim will go away,” said Stephen gloomily.

“Not until the year’s end, and until the money is firmly in your possession,” was the reply of the doctor, “remember you have some months’ visits to pay to that vault. Even though Frisco has gone we must carry out the will.”

“And at the end of the year?”

“I’ll establish myself in practice somewhere,” said Dr. Herrick, “perhaps in Beorminster so as to be near you. Bess can then go on writing for the ‘Weekly Chronicle.’“

“Indeed, I shall write a novel,” cried Bess, “I want a London fame.”

And so it was settled. For a year Herrick remained at “The Pines” with the Squire. Then there was a double wedding. Ida and Stephen came back to live in the Wicked Colonel’s house, and Dr. Herrick and his bride established himself in a comfortable mansion in Beorminster. He became immensely popular, and also having married into a county family, he was much sought after by the county invalids. Frank and Sidney were left at Biffstead and Flo came home to keep house for them.

The Rev. Pentland Corn gave up his charge of the Parish, and went out to the East as a missionary. No one could understand the reason for this folly—as they called it—save Herrick. He understood only too well, and his was the last hand Pentland Corn clasped when he left England for India. His place was taken by a young and amiable rector, who will probably marry Flo Endicotte. Then Frank will have to keep the house himself or marry in self-defence.

As to Sidney, the queer boy. Herrick took that young gentleman in hand and tried to make him a healthy man. He made him ride, shoot, swim, and indulge in all manner of out-of-door sports. At first Sidney rebelled, but as he was really fond of Herrick he began to take kindly to the regime. The consequence was he became more of a boy in a few months, and actually began to eat meat. Herrick watched over him with the greatest care and gradually Sidney lost his unpleasant faculty of “seeing things.” He went to college, and there he now is, becoming rapidly more of a normal person. Once he met with a Theosophist who told him, after hearing his story, that he had sunk the spirit in the flesh and blamed Herrick severely. In fact, this gentleman took a journey to Saxham to see and expostulate with Herrick on the wickedness of debasing the psychic gifts of the boy.

“I would rather see him a healthy man,” said the doctor impatiently, “in what you say there may be a good deal. But the boy is now in better health and easier to live with.”

“Ah! you do not deserve to have such a person in the family,” said the theosophist, “but your work will not endure for ever. You have made Mr. Endicotte eat meat, and materialised him. But in a few years he will recover his gift. It will be stronger than ever.”

“Then I hope he won’t come here,” said Herrick, “I have every respect for persons so gifted, but I don’t like them. To have one at your elbow, who sees into the future and foretells death, and is always seeing creatures of the air is horrible.”

“You are a sceptic, Dr. Herrick.”

“No. I think there are many things of which we know nothing—I mean in regard to what we talk about. But for my part I want to do my duty in this life and leave all these occult things to people who like them. I should like my brother-in-law to act likewise. However, he is in good health now, and I should be sorry to see him relapse into the state he was when I first met him.”

Thereupon the Theosophist sighed and departed. All the same he is keeping a watch over Sidney, and should the boy again develope the clairvoyant faculty, he will be made better use of, by those who understand.

And then a happy day came when in Stephen’s arms was placed a boy. Bess Herrick placed him therein. “Do you know who this is?” she asked.

“My son and heir,” replied Stephen, bending over the infant, “what else, or who else should he be?”

“The first the very first really innocent creature who has been in this house for close upon a century.”

“That is complimentary to us all Bess,” said her husband who had entered the room, “but what if he is?”

Bess looked solemn. “I think he is the guardian angel of Ida and Steve, to keep away the evil spirit of Colonel Carr.”

“Come now Bess, you are not like Sidney. You have not seen—?”

“I have seen nothing Jim. But the village people are already making a legend about the Wicked Colonel. They say he walks. I hope, now that this innocent child is here, that they will leave off inventing such horrid things. I don’t want ‘The Pines’ to have the reputation of being haunted. And you know how stories grow, Jim.”

“I know this,” replied Dr. Herrick, “that Carr was murdered in a room which has vanished into thin air. If his ghost walks anywhere it must be in the Pine wood. There is no call for him to haunt this place.”

Some one repeated this saying of Herrick’s, and what he had said in jest was spoken of in earnest. In a few months it was commonly reported that the Wicked Colonel had been seen in the Pine wood, surrounded with a red glow, significant of the habitation his spirit, for its sins, dwelt in. In vain more sensible people laughed at this tale. It came to be firmly believed in, and it was said that when any misfortune was about to befall the Marsh-Carr family, that the shade of the Colonel appeared.

“It is the penalty of greatness,” said Dr. Jim to Stephen, “a county family is not really respectable until it has its private ghost.”

And in this way Wicked Colonel Carr became a tradition.


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