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Arthur Gask - Collected Stories and Articles:
Arthur Gask:
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Collected Stories and Articles

by

Arthur Gask

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This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. THE MARTYR ON THE LAND
  2. THE GUARDIAN ANGEL
  3. THE PASSION YEARS
  4. THE HANGING JUDGE
  5. THE WORM WITH THE STING IN HIS TAIL
  6. DOCTORS OFF DUTY
  7. "SECRET SERVICE"
  8. THE MIRACLE
  9. THE JUDGE'S SECRET
  10. THE ADVENTURESS
  11. DEATH IN THE CONSULTING ROOM
  12. THE WAYS OF CHANCE
  13. REJUVENATION
  14. A VOICE FROM THE DEAD
  15. "BUGGY"
  16. "INVASION"
  17. RUSSIAN RETROSPECT
  18. THE AMAZING ADVENTURE OF MARMADUKE
  19. GHOSTS
  20. SEEDTIME AND HARVEST
  21. THE MARK OF HONOR
  22. BUGGY'S BABIES
  23. THE LOTTERY TICKET
  24. THE WILL
  25. THE WAY OF CHANCE
  26. BLACK MARKET.
  27. THE HATTON GARDEN CRIME
  28. THE BISHOP'S DILEMMA.


THE MARTYR ON THE LAND

As published in The Advertiser, Adelaide, 4 February 1935.

In this arresting article, a former city-dweller, who once
cherished the comfortable belief that farming is a charming
and profitable occupation, tells how he has learned the truth,
and what bitter reflections it has engendered in his mind.


BEFORE me, upon my desk, lies a purchase-docket from one of the largest firms of cream-buyers in South Australia. It is dated December 18 last, and reads:— "Weight of cream, 25 lb.; cheque enclosed, 7/7." And this docket is symptomatic of the whole life story of the farmer of today.

Up to a year ago, living always in the cities, I regarded the plight of the farmer as being wholly due to his want of foresight and lack of business ability. Fair weather or foul, said I, he was always complaining; and, if he were now impoverished and in financial straits, it was because, among all classes of the community, he, least of all, had accommodated himself to the changed conditions of the times. He should count his blessings, I thought. He lived a free and glorious life in the open air; he was spared the strain and nervous tension of the city; he had the best of things to eat at his very door; and if, in the pursuit of his calling, he did occasionally meet with adverse conditions, then the good seasons must make up for the bad, and he must be thankful that he was in any employment at all!

That was a year ago. Since then, having lived with farmers, and with farmers only, I have changed my mind; and, indeed, have come to marvel at the man upon the land as a very patient, and, in the main, ungrumbling individual struggling manfully beneath a burden that it seems quite hopeless he will ever be able to bear.

At no time is there an occupation that offers more uncertain reward than the farmer's; and now the margin between profit and loss is so very small that his days are one continual round of harassing anxiety, with but the remotest chance of things coming out on the right side of the ledger at the end of the year.

The dweller in the city does not realise that from seed time unto harvest the farmer never knows from day to day what calamity may befall him, being never sure that in one short hour, almost, he will not lose the fruit of a whole year's labor.

Sun, wind, and rain out of due season mean only a passing inconvenience to those in the city; but to the farmer they may, and very often do, spell absolute disaster.

Take that Black Monday of last month, for instance—December 17, the day of the most terrible dust storm within living memory. Adelaide folk, absorbing their iced drinks, could not know that in many districts it was being fatal to thousands of acres of unreaped oats, shaking out all the grain and leaving nothing but the empty stalks.

SEED TIME AND HARVEST

"WHILE the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest shall not cease," says Holy Writ; but that surely does not apply to the farmer in Australia. Seed-time, if you like. Seed-time with all the long days of heavy and patient toil that precede it: the ploughing, the harrowing, the cultivating and the cultivating again, but the harvest—ah, that is quite a different matter. The farmer is never certain, until the grain is actually in his barn, that there is going to be any harvest at all.

On that morning of December 17, a farmer near me was reaping a small crop of seven acres of oats that he sows every year as feed for his horses. His normal harvest from this little patch is 70 bags. The first time he went round with the harvester, he got two bags; then up came the wind, and he had to go round ten times to obtain the next two bags. In all, that day he harvested 10 bags of oats instead of the usual 70.

And that happening is just a very ordinary instance of the uncertainty of the farmer's life, for he is always at the mercy of the caprices of the elements. Drought, frost, hail, tempest, and the blast of the hot north wind, are for ever threatening him; and it is just a gamble that at least one of them does not injure him in some way or other during the course of each year.

After a good rain he may hopefully sow his seed. A light rain may then follow, and after that a drying wind may sweep down and bake the surface of the ground so hard that the sprouting grain will not be able to push its way through, so that the whole sowing will have to be done all over again. Or a dry spell may follow upon the seeding, and the seed malt and become useless.

Once more, the crop may come up and show all the promise of a good harvest. Then, just as it is maturing, a hard frost may ensue and kill the flower, and the whole crop be lost. Or, when the grain is in the head, a hailstorm may come and break all the heads off. Then, in sandy soils, a succession of hot winds may destroy everything, or, in heavier soils, so pinch the grains that they will become light and totally useless for making into flour.

LIFE OF HAZARDS

YET again, if the reaping of the ripened crop be retarded by days of continuous rain—as, indeed, has happened in many districts this year—the grain will become bleached, and, with the gluten washed out, of much poorer quality. Sometimes, even a total loss may follow by the grain starting to grow in the heads. Also, the winds may so flatten down the stalks that up to 50 per cent. of the crop may not be able to be gathered in the harvester. Much of the grain, too, may then have been shaken out, and, as we have seen in the case of oats, the whole of the crop may thus be lost.

Despite all this, I have by no means exhausted the hazards of a farmer's calling or the misfortunes that are continually befalling him. This year, in particular, has been a most unhappy one. Owing to the drought, there was no green feed for stock right up to the end of the winter; and, although a farmer might hand-feed his sheep with the wheat that he could so ill spare, many of the ewes became so weak that when they dropped their lambs they had no milk for them, and, in consequence, morning after morning, the paddocks were strewn with the bodies of the dead. Then, after the drought, came the plague of grasshoppers; and, in those districts where they arrived too late to ruin all the crops, they stripped bare the precious lucern and played havoc with the other kinds of feed, so that today in many places the farmers have already had to draw upon their winter stores of hay.

WHAT DOES HE GET?

AND even when all things are propitious from a seasonal point of view, what does the ordinary so-called mixed farmer get out of everything? Seven shillings and seven pence for 25 lb. of cream; 6d. a pound for butter; anything up to 5d. or 6d. a dozen for his eggs; and perhaps 2/ for a good fat fowl. He may feed a pig twice and even three times a day for six or seven months, and maybe think himself lucky if he collects 50/, or even only a couple of pounds. He will sell a calf as big as a Newfoundland dog, and perhaps get only 27/6 or 30/; and for a prime fat young sheep he may get anything from 15/ up to £1. As for his wheat, well, all the world knows what he gets for that; but how many people realise what its low price means to the man who produces it?

It is upon the wheat crop that the farmer depends mainly for his livelihood, and he labors all the year round to obtain it. Suppose he farms, as we do, in the lower north, and wheat is quoted at 2/6 a bushel, delivered at Port Adelaide. That means 7/6 for a bag of three bushels, or, deducting 7½d. for the one-twelfth he has used as seed, he will be receiving only 6/10½. it has cost him from 8d. to 9d. to buy each wheat bag, and, roughly, he has spent another 6d. upon the super he has had to use to obtain the three bushels. That brings the 6/10½ down to 5/7½. Deduct, then, another 4d. for the upkeep of his horses or his tractor, and it leaves him with 5/3½. After he has had the expense of carting the bag of wheat to the Burra railway station, he has to pay one shilling more for the freight charge to Port Adelaide, so, in the end, making no allowance for the ageing of his horses or the depreciation on his tractor or the repairs and replacements to his implements, he nets 4/3½ upon each bag, and, assuming that he averages six bags to the acre, which is a good average for good land up here, he receives the magnificent sum of 25/9 upon each acre.

THE WITHERED ARM

IF he has harvested 200 acres under the best of possible conditions, and has escaped all the disasters I have enumerated, the money he will receive for his entire crop will be only £257 10/, or, if the price of wheat keeps up to 2/9 a bushel, just over £300. Consider, too, that to reap 200 acres of wheat each year upon a mixed farm, the acreage of the farm must be at least 500 acres. Then think, quite apart from the £600 to £700 that he has expended upon his plant and implements, what he must have paid for 500 acres of good farming land. Almost certainly, at least £6,000; and, if that be so, it is more than probable that there is a mortgage running of £4,000, with £200 to pay each year in interest.

Then how can it be expected, at current prices, that he will ever be able to live and pay his way? Moreover, upon all sides he sees shrinking markets and a glutted world; a world that does not want his produce, and, indeed, could not pay for it if it did. Can it be that, instead of being the backbone of the Commonwealth, the farmer has become now its withered arm, needing constant and expensive treatment from the Treasury to support him upon the sick list? In any case, he is the victim of circumstances over which no one, and he least of all, has had any control; and it is not his fault if he stands today, a pathetic figure, silhouetted against the dusk of the one-time prosperity of the world—the martyr on the land.


THE GUARDIAN ANGEL

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide 4 April 1935.

ONE burning summer day in South Australia, towards late afternoon, two men were drinking in the bar of a small hotel, situated about 50 miles north of the railway line that runs its long and dreary way between Yunta and Broken Hill.

They looked hard-bitten and well-salted adventurers, who if the world had dealt unkindly to them, had nevertheless at all times been prepared to pass on that unkindness to others to the best of their abilities.

One of them was tall, with hawk-like face and eyes, and of an appearance generally not unlike that of a bird of prey, and the other of much shorter stature, with coarse and sallow features, would certainly not have inspired confidence upon a chance encounter in a lonely place.

The hotel stood by itself, and was the last of the ramshackle buildings, comprising the little township that lay isolated in the surrounding wilderness of uninhabited bush.

The men were strangers to the hotel, having arrived barely an hour previously, in a shabby car that now stood blistering outside, and it annoyed the landlord considerably that he could learn nothing about them.

With the confiding nature of one to whom it was at all times a pleasure to impart information, he had, unasked, given them the news of the little township, but to all his scarcely veiled suggestions that they should be communicative in return, they had made no response.

They had just, from time to time, ordered more refreshment, and in the intervals replied curtly, and in monosyllables only, to his advances.

Their reticence was the more annoying because the landlord was sure, from everything about them, that a frank disclosure of their business would have greatly interested him. That they had been prospecting after gold he had no doubt, and that they had been unsuccessful in their quest he was equally as certain.

He had not kept a hotel for ten years in a gold-bearing district for nothing, and all the signs of "no luck" were most unmistakably apparent. They showed no eagerness or hurry to get away, and no indications even, that they themselves knew what they were going to do next. They seemed, he thought, to be men who, having failed in one direction, were now just waiting for another to open up.

Resentful at having to do all the talking, their palpable unfriendliness at last stung him into silence, and resigning himself to the inevitable, he imitated their bored attitudes and stared stonily, out of the window.

Suddenly then, the brisk 'toot-toot' of a motor horn was heard in the distance, and at once his face brightened.

"Ah!" he exclaimed with animation, "that's Bent Spinks. I'd know his horn anywhere." He shot a malicious glance at the strangers. "He strikes it rich every time."

The tall man at last deigned to ask a question. "Where?" he asked carelessly.

"Where!" echoed the landlord grinning, "why, everywhere! He always makes his pile."

The tall man made no comment, but the landlord, his amiability now in part restored, went on, "Yes. I'll bet he carries a couple of hundred with him every time he comes through here, and it's four journeys he makes a year." He became more explanatory. "He's a travelling draper and covers six or seven hundred miles each trip. Very smart man, and going to be married soon."

A gaily-colored light delivery van pulled up before the hotel and a dapper little man alighted and entered the bar. He shook hands with the landlord and ordered a long beer. He noticed the strangers. "Evening, gentlemen," he said politely, "a hot day."

The stranger nodded without replying, the taller of them, however, eyeing him intently.

The draper was of slight physique and of a rather foreign appearance. He had a sallow, oval face and large dark eyes, and he sported a heavy moustache, with the ends spikily waxed.

He chatted with the landlord, as he sipped his beer slowly. "I shall be staying the night, Sam," he said presently. "I've a little job to do on the car." He took out his watch and clicked his tongue. "Gee! but tea must be coming on. It's nearly six o'clock."

The shorter of the two strangers thereupon at once looked at his own watch and, rising to has feet, picked up his hat. He motioned to his companion and moved towards the door.

But the voice of the hawk-faced man broke in quietly. "We want tea, too, landlord. We shall be sleeping here tonight."

The short man, after a moment's hesitation put down his hat and, with no comment, resumed his seat.

In the meal that followed, strangely enough, the little draper, in spite of the good fare provided, had anything but a pleasant time. He had sat down prepared to enjoy everything, and then all at once he began to worry and lose all interest in the food.

It was not that he found himself in stiff or disagreeable company. On the contrary, for the two strangers, the only others there, were chatty, and affable in manner.

They discussed things in general; the weather, the likelihood of rain coming and the varying merits of different motor cars. They appeared interested in all he said, and laughed appreciatively when he trotted out some of his old stock jokes. Indeed, altogether their behavior was only what one would have expected of ordinary, good-natured travellers at a casual meeting.

Still the little draper was not happy, for his instinct was telling him that, for some reason, he had become an object of special interest to them, and very soon he was sensing an atmosphere of danger as when, in his commercial ventures, someone was trying to jockey him into a bad deal.

So he was not by any means in an easy frame of mind during the meal, and when later he retired to his room and prepared for bed, thinking everything over, he soon became positively afraid.

He had a good sum of money with him, and he was sure the men were crooks. They looked hard-up crooks, too, and the tall one, particularly, he was certain, would stick at nothing, for his eyes were hard and cruel and his mouth was set in a pitiless straight line.

He thought then of his journey on the morrow, and the forty-seven long miles he would have to cover before he struck the next township, and fellow-men again. What then if they held him up and robbed him?

He knew the dirt-track would be good, and if appearances counted for anything, he would easily be able to outdistance them in his car. But that would not help him if they got away first and laid in wait for him, say, at Binders Creek, ten miles out. He would have to slow down to walking pace when crossing the bed of the creek there, and they would be able to get him without any trouble if they were so minded to.

His heart beat violently as, sitting upon the bed, he stared out into the shadows with frightened eyes.

That he was not the man to put up a fight he was quite aware. Certainly there was a pistol in one of the side-pockets of the car, but he would never dare to use it, for his, he knew, was not the courage of lethal weapons. His bravery was of the commercial kind, and there, he prided himself, he could hold his own with anyone and chance his profits almost to the razor's edge. But fighting—that was a different matter, and he would never fit the bill.

For a long time he thought everything over and then his pulse began to slow down and his confidence to come back. He saw what he must do! He would be up and away by daylight, and then, whether his suspicions were justified or not, he could escape all chances of being held up.

He made sure that his door was securely fastened and then, without undressing, threw himself upon the bed.

But sleep was long in coming, for the moment he had put out his candle all his fears came back, and he tossed and fidgetted until in the end he thought he would be awake all night. But Nature had her way at last, and towards morning he sank into a troubled slumber.

The night waned and the dawn grew dim, but he slept on heavily, until suddenly he was awakened in the crisis of a dreadful dream.

It was a dream that froze him to the marrow, for it struck at him in a vital spot.

He dreamed that he had sold a woman a line of towelling, three pillow-slips, and a colored counterpane, all of good quality, and she had not paid for them and he did not remember either her name or address. It was a dreadful dream and he awoke shivering, and in a muck sweat.

He rubbed his eyes and then sprang in consternation from the bed, for it was broad daylight, and he heard a car being started up in the yard. He looked at his watch and saw that it was past 8 o'clock.

Darting to the window, he was just in time to catch sight of the two strangers driving off in their shabby car, and he bit savagely at his moustache and his mouth grew very dry.

But daylight has always a reassuring effect upon the human mind. The phantoms of darkness lose their grip, and so often then, laughter and mocking take the place of fears.

And thus it was that morning with Bert Spinks, only a few minutes after the strangers had gone.

His first shock over, he saw he had awakened to quite a pleasant morning. A cool change had set in during the night, and the overburdening heat of the previous day had gone. He heard the landlord's wife bustling in the kitchen, and smelt the agreeable smells of coffee and an appetising grill.

He was a fool, he told himself with a sickly smile. Yes, he was a fool. It was a commonplace and everyday world in which he lived, and highway robberies and hold-ups were only picture stunts.

So he took heart again, and, symptomatic of his calmer state, waxed his moustache tips to their usual points of vanishment.

After breakfast he attended to his car, and by 10 o'clock was waving a gay farewell to the landlord, as, with a gold-tipped cigarette between his lips, he drove blithely away.

But, unhappily, his contented state of mind did not continue for very long, and the moment he was fairly away from the township, he began to become apprehensive again.

The track was so very lonely and the bush stretched for so many miles on either side! If those men were really crooks, they must have realised at once how easy it would be for them to put a bullet in him and escape all consequences of their crime, for, with his body buried under the sand, and his car driven deep into the bush, they could be thousands of miles away before it even began to be surmised what had happened to him.

Giving way to his fears, he had soon worked himself again into a state of absolute terror, and a mile off the dreaded Binders Creek, the last vestige of his courage left him, and he turned his car round hastily and headed back to the township.

It was instinct, he told himself. He was certain there was danger. Of course, those men were waiting for him at the creek. They would be just behind the rise on the far bank, and what their intentions were, there could be no doubt. No, he would wait at the hotel and not take to the track again until he had someone to come with him. He could easily make some excuse to explain his return. He would say he was not feeling well, or that his car was giving trouble. Thank goodness, he was his own master and could do exactly as he liked!

Quite confident then, that he was acting rightly, he drove back to the township, but, when arriving before the hotel, he saw the landlord there in conversation with another man, he felt rather sheepish and the reasons he was intending to give for his return no longer seemed quite as adequate as he had been regarding them.

The landlord hailed him boisterously. "Good gracious! Bert. Now what on earth had happened?"

"Oh! nothing much," replied the draper, now thinking all suddenly again that he was a fool. "It's only that I found I'd hardly any water in the radiator."

The landlord shook his head. "But it's Fate that's brought you back, Bert," he said solemnly. "Fate and old Granny Henson's prayers. Pete here was to have driven the old girl down to Yunta this morning to catch the train to Adelaide, but he can't do it, because now he's got a broken axle. Granny's in a dreadful state, because there's no one else in the township today with a car, and it's her great-granddaughter's wedding tomorrow." He grinned. "I don't know whether it'll be quite proper, but you'll take her now, of course!"

The little draper drew in a deep breath. "Sure, I'll be delighted," he replied, in a voice, however, that did not sound exactly like his own. "When will she be ready to start?"

"Straightaway," said the man whom the landlord had referred to as Pete. "I'll have her here in less than ten minutes," and off he went, at a run.

Bert Spinks made a pretence of filling up his radiator, and then after a stiff rum in the bar, sat down to wait for his passenger.

His feelings were mixed and, strange to say, it was amusement that was now uppermost. He had been obsessed that it was dangerous to take the track alone, and now, behold! a companion had been thrust upon him. An old woman! It was a joke! His heart palpitated unpleasantly and he had another rum.

Very quickly, in fact in less than the ten minutes specified, Granny Henson appeared. She was very old and very deaf, but she was tall, straight-backed and as stiff as a poker. She looked at the draper with a pair of very troubled eyes, and thanked him shakily for offering to take her down, but she made a great demur when she found her seat was going to be an open one, next to the driver.

"But I shall be cold," she croaked. "Can't I go inside?"

"No seats, marm," shouted back the draper, "only goods, inside. But I tell you what I'll do. I'll lend you a nice thick rug out of my stock. No,"—the rum was really very strong—"I'll give you one. A real good Onkaparinga, and you shall keep it, as a present to remember your great granddaughter's wedding day."

The old lady was hoisted up, and well tucked in, and the draper started his engine.

"Go easy, Bert," called out the landlord. "She's well over ninety, remember." He winked his eye. "And no stopping on the way, even if you are not yet a married man."

The little draper winked back delightedly and letting in his clutch, for the second time that day the bonnet of the light delivery van was turned for Yunta, Adelaide, and home.

In after years Bert Spinks often thought that there was much in that ride of the nature of a dream, for, as in dreams, he felt no astonishment at anything that happened. It seemed all quite ordinary and commonplace.

As he drove along, the strong rum warmed within him, and he felt as brave as a lion. Binders Creek held no terrors for him, and he had no apprehension at all as to who might be waiting for him there. Indeed, he seemed to be like a man who was playing some huge practical joke, and he felt irresponsible and light-hearted as a boy. He shouted small-talk to the old lady and continually tootled up his horn, to amuse her by making the parrots fly up among the trees.

The bank of the creek soon hove in sight and slowing down, the draper tootled loudly half a dozen times, as if to make certain that anybody waiting there should know that he was coming. It pleased him not a little to imagine that he saw two heads bob up quickly on the farther side and then, as quickly bob down again.

He dropped into the bed of the creek very slowly, talking loudly to the old lady all the time. Up the far side he crawled, and then upon the top, he came upon, just as he had been expecting, the two strangers of the previous night.

Their car was parked a little way to one side of the track, and they were both leaning against it. The hawk-faced man was frowning and his companion had got his mouth wide open, as if very surprised. Hawk-face was holding his right hand in his trouser pocket.

Still proceeding very slowly, for the track was rough, and of course his passenger must not be shaken, the draper drew level with the strangers, and then, with a grand flourish of his arm, he gave them the time of day. But neither of them made any response or took the slightest notice of his courtesy. All their looks were concentrated upon Granny Henson, and they stared and stared, as if for all the world they had never seen an old woman before.

It was all over in a few seconds, and then, for Bert Spinks, it was good-bye for ever to the strangers and their shabby car.

A minute later, and in spite of all protests on the part of Granny Henson, the light delivery van was touching fifty miles an hour.

Everything then proceeded without mishap, and long before noon the old lady was deposited with her friends in Yunta, there to await the departure of the train for Adelaide, whilst the draper, with no delay, and with an open throttle, took the track along the railway line to Peterborough.

There had, however, been one little poignant incident at their parting. The reaction from the two rums having long since set in, the draper had been minded to put the Onkaparinga rug back into stock, for the old lady being so very deaf, he was hoping she had not heard him offer it to her as a gift.

But he at once found that he was quite mistaken there, for whilst Granny Henson allowed him to carry in, without demur, all the other items of her belongings, the old fingers clutched tightly to the rug, and would not for one moment let it out of their grasp. He sighed deeply, for the selling price of the article was forty-six and six.

* * * *

SOME six weeks later Bert Spinks was married to a big, strapping girl of fine proportions, and in due time a noisy little Spinks arrived to make great inroads upon the draper's stock of baby clothes.

From the very first Bert was immensely proud of his tomato-faced offspring and, the infant being a boy, he secretly resolved to make of him a professional man. With this end in view, then, as time went on, he grudged every penny that was expended unnecessarily, and worried, when in his commercial ventures, he did not consider his profits had been large enough.

In his ruminating moments, too, it was always a grief to him that he had once parted for nothing with a genuine Onkaparinga rug, and that he had given it to an entire stranger whom he had not seen before or since.

But it was one day, he excused himself, when the heat had made him foolish, and he had mistaken two harmless and inoffensive prospectors for assassins of the worst bushranging type.

This memory rankled in him for a long time, but its bitterness passed, all suddenly, about five years after his meeting with Granny Henson.

At a loose end one afternoon in Adelaide, he was passing down a side-street when his eyes fell upon an announcement in huge lettering that a waxworks show was being held in a small hall there.

"All the latest notabilities," he read, "and just added, James Blendiron, the infamous murderer of Blakeside Farm."

He paid the admission sixpence and went in, but the waxworks did not prove very entertaining and soon, becoming bored, he was just about to leave again, when his attention was attracted to a small group of people who were standing in awed silence before a narrow alcove at the far end of the hall.

Idly curious as to what could be of such interest to them, he strolled over, and reading a notice above the alcove that it contained the exact representation of the Blakeside Farm murderer, "true to life in every particular," he approached close up, to see what the man had been like.

Then he received such a staggering shock that his breath come in quick jerks, and his legs almost gave way under him, for, to his amazement and horror, he recognised in James Blendiron, the hawk-faced man of Binder's Creek!

There was no possibility of any mistake, and the eyes glared at him now with the same relentless evil that had so filled him with fear those years ago.

He had read all about Blendiron, as indeed who in the Commonwealth had not? A man of dreadful crimes, who, at last, after long immunity, had fallen into the clutches of the law, and less than two months previously had paid the extreme penalty.

The little draper wiped the perspiration from his forehead and like an evildoer himself, crept from the hall.

* * * *

UPON his next journey through the bush, when he was passing, as per schedule, through the little township where Granny Henson lived, he enquired after her, and learnt, strangely enough, that she had only a few days previously passed away. As she had been the oldest inhabitant in the district, and in her hundred and first year, a public subscription was being raised to provide means for erecting a suitable headstone upon her grave.

To everyone's astonishment, Bert Spinks at once contributed five pounds.

"Now, I wonder," mused the landlord of the hotel when he heard about it. "I wonder"—he shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "But if she had only been about 80 years younger"—he chuckled—"only about 80 years, after that journey down to Yunta together—then I could have understood everything."


THE PASSION YEARS

As published in The Australian Women's Weekly, 26 December 1936.

A charming story, in an Australian setting, of a
man who had no money; a girl who had too much.


THEY sat on the bed-edge, all pink and white in their robes-de-nuit, and they looked pretty enough to eat. Midnight had long since sounded but on, on, they chattered like the race—old daughters of Mother Eve.

"Yes, Mary, they just worship each other, and now they've got the loveliest baby in all the world. And yet it all began to happen only just a year ago to-day. Jim had never seen Della until then, and I was the only one of our family who had spoken to her.

"It seems just like a tale one reads and, of course, it's a very sentimental one, too. Oh, no dear, you take it from me sentiment is not all sickly, and only those say it is who are getting old and sickly themselves. Sentiment's the most beautiful thing in all the world, and when you're first in love, well, the sentiment there is just too holy and too sacred to understand.

"I tell you, when Harold first kissed me it was the most wonderful moment of my whole life, and Mother says one of the next most wonderful will be when they first put Harold's baby in my arms.

"Oh, you goose! You needn't blush! Of course, you'll be married yourself, some day, and a baby's only what every girl who's really in love looks forward to. So, you needn't pretend to be shocked at all.

"Well, about Della and Jim. We were on the racecourse at Flemington, and Jim had plunged on his filly, Rose of Dawn, to win a tremendous lot of money. Yes, it was awfully stupid of him, I know, and I was as angry about it as anything. But then, what can a sister do? I had told him how wrong it was of him, and he had admitted to me that morning how foolish he had been.

"If he lost, it meant quite the end of everything for him as far as racing was concerned, for he would have to sell up all his horses and never own any more again. And you can imagine what that would have meant to him, dear, when all our lives we have had horses about us and racing is in our very bones. You remember it was Father who bred the great McAlpin, whose children are now scattered all over the world.

"Well, it was just before the race and we were sitting in the members' stand and I was telling Violet Carmichael something of what Jim had done. I didn't tell her everything, by a long way; but I let her know poor Jim would be very hard hit if his filly lost, and that he would have to give up racing altogether and go into a bank or be a curate or do something like that.

"I had just finished telling her when I turned round to find that Della Charter was sitting exactly behind us and must have heard everything. 'The little cat!' I thought, and I was furious. I knew she was the only child of the rich old John Charter, who had made millions of dollars in the wheat pit in Chicago, and I disliked her because she was supposed to be purse-proud, with all the money they had got. I just hated to think she had heard all about Jim's money affairs. So I pretended not to have noticed her, and then, before she could get any opportunity to speak to me, Jim came up and the starting-bell rang for the horses to be sent away.

"Oh, Mary, it was an awful race, and it will haunt me as long as I live! Rose of Dawn should have won easily, but through no fault of hers she was beaten in the very last stride. She got off all right and, coming round the bend, was well up and only just behind the leaders, running on the inside of them all.

"'She'll win,'" whispered Jim exultingly. "'She'll leave them standing still, the moment she's called upon.'

"I felt my heart bursting with excitement. We could see them all so plainly, as they came thundering into the straight, and nothing was going as effortlessly as Rose of Dawn.

"But then, suddenly, the awful thing happened!

"Lord Rayleigh's great horse, Leviathan, swerved right in and drove Rose of Dawn almost on to the rails. It was simply ghastly! Her jockey had to snatch her up to prevent a most dreadful accident. He had to pull her up, almost dead, and then, when he brought her round again on the outside, she had lost her good position and was lengths and lengths behind all the other horses.

"I shut my eyes and felt as if I were going to faint, but then, almost instantly, a perfectly thundering shout came up from the crowd and I opened them again to see what had happened.

"Rose of Dawn had been sent after the field again, and she was galloping like the wind. She had her beautiful head low down and was coming with a withering rush that was simply glorious to see. Of course, it looked quite hopeless, for she was much too far behind, but, realising what she was attempting, the very courage of it appealed to everyone and the crowd just roared for her to come on.

"Then almost in a few seconds, so it seemed, she was again among the other horses. One after another she picked them up and passed them as if they were common hacks, until ten yards from home there were only two in front of her and she was close upon the heels of even these. For a moment, then, everyone thought she was actually going to win, for she headed Wild Aster when three lengths from the judge's box, but with a fearful effort the other horse, Poisoned Berry, just managed to keep his head in front, and she was beaten in the last stride.

"Mary, I nearly wept, and poor Jim went white as death. But I saw him draw in his face, as a proud man always does when he meets defeat, and then he looked down and gave me a quiet, brave smile.

"'It's all right, little woman.'" he whispered. "'It's all in the game, and it was a great race, anyhow.' Then before I could say a word to try and console him, the voice of Della Charter broke in.

"'Say, Miss Bevan.' she said in that quiet, slow drawl of hers, 'introduce me to your brother, will you? Sure, that was the most wonderful race I've ever seen, and I guess I've lost more on it than I'll ever lose again.'

"I turned round in a perfect spasm of fury. I would snap her head off, I determined. The tactless and bad-mannered little minx! To break in at a dreadful moment like that, when we were both of us so strung up with emotion that even Jim's voice, as she must have heard, was half-broken in his distress! Yes, I would be downright insulting to her! I turned round, I say, and then—I saw that with all her quiet drawl, her eyes, like mine, were wet with tears.

"I introduced Jim, like a lamb.

"Oh, Mary, do you ever realise what angels we women can be?

"There was Jim in a perfect agony of disappointment and remorse. He was deep down in the depths, and left to himself, with all his courage, would have fought out in dreadful bitterness those next few hours, for there seemed no silver lining anywhere to his cloud.

"But Delia stepped in and took all the sting out of everything. She brought him back to common sense and hope. Indeed, in a very few minutes he was looking at her as if he had somehow, miraculously, something in the world even more interesting than his beloved filly, Rose of Dawn.

"And I don't wonder she fascinated him. She looked so beautiful that afternoon. Excitement had given her a most lovely color, and, with those big grey eyes in that Madonna face of hers, she looked the picture of a very beautiful woman.

"She asked Jim to take her down to tea, and then, to the great envy of all the men, she kept him by her side all the rest of the afternoon. She introduced him to her father, and Jim made such a hit there that the old man insisted we should both dine with them that night at their hotel.

"Then things began to move very quickly.

"They invited us up for ten days to a house-party at their gorgeous place at Melton Bay, and there we mixed with some of the most wealthy people in Australia. We had a glorious time, and Della, to the great amusement of everybody, made a dead set at Jim.

"There was no doubt about it. She singled him out, and the two of them were always to be found together. Jim, of course, was soon hopelessly in love with her, and, as the days went by, he could not help seeing she was not indifferent to him, too.

"But Jim is proud, and suddenly, to everyone's surprise, he took to avoiding her and keeping as much out of her way as possible. I knew what it was at once. He was thinking of Della's money and wasn't going to have it said that he had run after her because she was rich. Then poor Della began to look unhappy, but she's quite as proud as Jim and wasn't going to try and lead on any man who didn't want her. So she, in turn, became distant and everybody wondered what had happened and if there had been a quarrel.

"So things were up to the last day before the house party was going to break up, and then I, if you please, stepped in. I thought it high time I took a part in the game and went no trumps on a heart hand.

"It was just after breakfast and I went to Jim in the rose-garden, close by a spraying fountain. 'Jim,' I said curtly, 'you're a fool.' He looked at me very curiously. 'Well, what about it?' he asked with a wistful smile. 'Della's in love with you,' I blurted out—he got very red—'and everybody seems aware of it but you'—he got even redder still. 'Yes,' I went on angrily, 'and you're making them all laugh at her, because you don't propose.'

"Jim simply glared at me. 'You're quite mistaken, Dorothy,' he said sharply. 'She's not in love with me. You women are always imagining things.'

"'Imagining!' I cried hotly. 'Why, I'm positive about it! I tell you again that you're a fool, for you're in love with her yourself, too.'

"'I'm not a fortune-hunter, anyhow,' he said, coldly, and without another word he turned and walked away.

"Then, not two minutes after, I met Della and, like Jim, she looked pale and unhappy. 'Della,' I burst out impulsively 'Jim loves you; but he won't tell you so because you're well-off and he is not.'

"Just for one moment she seemed startled and then, but for a suddenly heightened color, it might have been she had not taken in what I had said. She looked at me gravely and her beautiful face—she is very beautiful, Mary—had all the calmness of perfect self-control. 'Yes.' I went on, 'and I've just told him he's a fool. He's down there by the fountain and if he's not weeping, too, it's only because he's a man.'

"'Thank you, Dorothy,' said Della, very quietly. 'I've always thought you were a wise child.'

"She left me at once and turned to go into the garden, but from what they told me afterwards I was able to piece together most of what happened when, a minute later, she came upon Jim. She found him by the fountain, where I had told her he would be, and he smiled gravely as she approached.


Illustration

Della found Jim in the garden by the fountain.
He smiled gravely as she approached him.


"She plucked a little rosebud and she held it out to him in her beautiful white hand.

"'Isn't it lovely?' she asked, innocently.

"'Yes, lovely,' smiled Jim. 'I've always thought so.'

"Della then blushed crimson. She pretended to smell the rosebud and brushed it over lightly with her lips. Della's got such a pretty mouth, Mary, and if I were a man I should be always wanting to—well, anyhow, Della kissed the rose and held it out again towards Jim. 'You may have it,' she said, ever so softly; 'that is, of course, if you really want it.'

"Della says Jim got white as a ghost, but he reached out and took both the hand and the rose. 'Which may I have?' he asked in a whisper, looking her straight in the eyes.

"Then Della says there was a long silence, until Jim suddenly straightened himself up and let go her hand. 'I am too poor to marry a girl like you,' he said, gently, and he made as if to turn away. But Della laid her hand upon his arm.

'Riches don't count always, Jim,' she whispered, 'and the richest woman may be the poorest if she's not brave enough to take love when it comes her way.'

"Then, I don't quite know what happened, for they won't, either of them, tell me much; but I expect Jim took her in his arms.

"No one saw either of them again until just before lunch, and then they came into the lounge, where we were all waiting for the sounding of the gong. They looked quite cool and ordinary, too ordinary, I thought in a flash. Della came over to me and kissed me. 'Oh, Della,' I exclaimed instantly, 'I'm so glad.'

"'What about, dear?' she asked, blushing furiously and darting, I saw, a quick glance at Jim.

"'You darling,' I replied, 'your cheeks smell of tobacco!'

"Everybody burst out laughing, and then Jim kissed her brazenly in front of us all.

"'Now, you little fibber,' I asked presently, 'tell me exactly what you did lose that afternoon when Rose of Dawn was beaten.'

"Della looked radiant. 'I lost my heart, Dorothy,' she whispered. That was all.'

"Well, they were married six weeks afterwards and this morning, at a quarter-past five, I was made Aunty Dorothy. Yes, dear, I think we had better go to sleep now; but isn't my nightie pretty? Those bows—oh, well, you see pink is Harold's favorite color, and soon—but there, you're blushing again. Good-night, Mary. Keep to your side of the bed and pinch me if I snore. Yes, it's a good thing the baby is a boy, for if it had been a girl I'm sure they'd have wanted to call it Rose of Dawn."


THE HANGING JUDGE

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 29 August 1940

THE night was dark and tempestuous but, with the heavy curtains drawn and a bright fire burning, the atmosphere of the well-furnished room was that of relaxation and comfort.

Apparently, however, there was no appreciation of his surroundings by the bowed old man, sitting huddled in the big arm-chair and staring so intently into the fire. His face was strained and troubled, and one hand was pressed tightly over his heart, as if it pained him there.

"God, that ever I should have lived to see a son of mine tried for murder!" he muttered bitterly. "Five days of anguish for me, and can I wonder this poor old heart of mine is worrying me? Ah, but it was a near thing and up to the very last it looked as if the jury might convict him! The evidence of his guilt was so overwhelming that everyone must be saying now it was only the extraordinary summing-up of the judge which saved him." He sighed heavily. "But for that summing-up he would be in the condemned cell to-night."

"Of course, he was guilty? I knew quite well he was. I had not seen him for five and twenty years, but I could tell when he was lying. He lied just as his mother used to lie when she was deceiving me. He has that same trick of hooding the eyes she had when she was not going to speak the truth, and I saw that he was lying the whole time he was under oath."

He went on with another deep sigh, "Thank God he did not know his father was present, seeing and hearing everything. But then he has never heard of me. He thinks that other man was his father and that both his parents have been dead these many years. Doris said on her death bed she had told him nothing and I believe she was speaking the truth there."

"Of course, I know Harold had ample provocation for committing the murder, remembering, as I always do, how the serpent first came into my home. The dead man was of evil character and undoubtedly bent upon leading Harold's wife astray."

The old man sighed for the third time and for a little while his mutterings were stilled. Downstairs, in the kitchen, the servants were playing cards and, while the butler was dealing, the cook remarked with a shiver, "I'm sure we're going to hear of a death soon. Those three tea-leaves in a straight line in my cup to-night meant someone dying, I'm quite certain."

"Splendid!" commented the butler jocularly. "And I'll bet it'll be that rat which has been coming into my pantry. I set a trap for him just now."

The old man in the room above had started to mutter again. "But let me think clearly," he said into the fire. "Now was Harold's acquittal actually all due to that summing-up? Had I been one of those jurymen, what should I have been thinking when old Macarten had finished for the Crown? Should I have been believing my son guilty then?"

He shut his eyes wearily. "But I will go over the whole dreadful story again, just as it was unfolded in the Court, day by day. I will recall everything from the very beginning, until that last moment when Harold stepped down out of the dock a free man, and see how it strikes me now."

"Harold is twenty-six and the cashier in a suburban bank. He has been married for two years to a girl who is not yet twenty- one. There are no children, but their home is a happy one and they do not quarrel. The murdered man was a bachelor, a stockbroker in the city, and up to three months ago had been a close friend of the family. Harold, however, had not liked his visiting Dorothy when she was alone and had told him so, bluntly. The friendships had in consequence been broken off at once and, subsequently, when the two men had met at the houses of mutual acquaintances, it had been noticed they were distant towards each other."

"We come now to the fatal night of Mrs. Brendon's dance in her big house, facing the river and with only the road running in between. The party was a large one for the coming of age of the only daughter. Forty-four people had accepted and four rooms upon the ground floor had been specially set apart for them. In one the men left their hats and coats, in another they danced, in the third there were five tables set out for bridge and in the fourth was a buffet where the guests helped themselves to refreshments.

"The stockbroker, Denbigh, was the last to arrive, and it is suggested Dorothy was on the lookout for him and saw him coming up the drive in his car. At any rate, she went immediately, as she explained afterwards, to get some cigarettes which Harold had left in his overcoat."

"One of the maids happened to go into the cloakroom almost at the same time and came upon Dorothy and Denbigh there. She said they were standing very close together and it looked as if Denbigh had been about to kiss Dorothy when she, the maid, had so unexpectedly come in. She testified, also, that Harold passed along the passage at that exact moment and must have seen everything, because she saw him glance into the room as he went by."

"Nothing more of any importance happened until about eleven o'clock, when Denbigh left a girl with whom he had been dancing, with the explanation that he had to go out to look at his car. It was a frosty night and he wanted to run the engine for a few minutes, so that the water in the radiator should not freeze."

"The party went on until about half-past one and then, when all the guests had gone, Mrs. Brendon remarked to her husband that she had seen very little of Denbigh during the evening and that he had not even come up to say good-bye. She thought it strange."

"The next morning, to everyone's amazement, Denbigh's car was found to be still round by the side of the house, where it was known he had parked it when he had arrived the previous evening. Mrs. Brendon thereupon immediately rang up Denbigh's flat, to learn from his housekeeper that he had not returned home and that no message had been received to account for his absence. Later in the day his body was found in the river, among the weeds, not two hundred yards from the Brendon house, and the evidence adduced at the inquest proved conclusively that he had been thrown into the river to drown, after having first been rendered unconscious by being knocked down by a blow upon his jaw. There were all signs that this blow had been delivered with a clenched fist.

"The following day a taxi driver went to the police and told them that just after eleven upon the night of the murder, when passing along the road in front of the Brendon's house, he had seen someone hurrying into their drive and had recognised him as the cashier of the local bank.

"My son was arrested that afternoon.

"Now, there were five reasons for suggesting Harold must be the murderer, and Macarten thundered them all in with the craft and cunning of a great advocate who has practised in the Criminal Courts for thirty years. One, Harold had every cause to hate the murdered man. Two, his temper had been wrought up to frenzy by seeing Denbigh had been about to kiss his wife. Three, he had been at the bridge tables most of the evening and, once, when he had been dummy, had absented himself from the room for quite an appreciable time. Upon his return he had apologised for keeping the game waiting, with the explanation he had been to the refreshment buffet. Four, the time of his absence from the room had been about eleven o'clock, coinciding exactly with the time it was known the deceased had gone out to attend to his car. Also, it had been about that time, too, when the taxi driver had seen my son hurrying from the road into the drive. Five, when the police had arrested him he had a small half- healed abrasion upon one of the knuckles of his right hand."

"Yes, those were the five points against him and they made a damning indictment. Old Macarten was at his best and I could see he was impressing the jury."

"Harold put on a bold front in the witness-box, too bold I thought. He denied scornfully that he hated Denbigh, and the man's partiality for his wife only amused him. He had not seen them together in the cloak room, as he had not been in the passage at that time. He had not left the house at all during the evening and had never gone farther from the card room than the refreshment buffet. As for the piece of skin off his knuckles, well, he didn't remember what had done it. It might have happened when he had been mending a tennis racquet the previous afternoon.

"His defence was certainly straight-forward enough, but it was evident the jury did not believe him. They looked very coldly at him. Then Macarten was upon his feet again, slashing the defence to ribbons. A brazen defence, he scoffed, and just what was to be expected from a brazen murderer! The accused, with great boldness, had taken the terrible risk of being seen carrying the unconscious body of the man he had struck down across the public highway and now, with the same effrontery he was endeavoring to bounce the jury into believing he was not guilty of the murder."

"As Macarten's impassioned speech had proceeded, I had seen the faces of the jury harden, until it was apparent to me they had made up their minds and were intending to convict my son. His guilt was clear, and I would have had no mercy had I been one of them. When Macarten resumed his seat a hush of awed expectancy filled the court. Now, nothing but the judge's summing-up stood between my son and a verdict of wilful murder."

"And what chance had he there, no doubt all were asking themselves? Was not this judge, in all arraignments upon the capital charge, notorious for leaning always to the side of the prosecution? Was he not even called the hanging judge?"

"So, as this fateful summing-up began, my eyes roved round the court and I took in the varying expressions of those assembled there. Macarten was leaning back, flushed and confident; the jurymen were looking anywhere but at the prisoner, as jurymen always look when they are about to hand over an accused to death; the spectators were stirring uneasily at the thought of seeing the putting on of the black cap, and Harold, with his face as white as chalk, was moistening over his dry lips with his tongue."

"Ah, that summing-up; what a surprise it was to everyone!"

"When it began to take shape, when the drift of it was realised, a change began to manifest itself everywhere in the court. Macarten's look of confidence was replaced by one of bewildered surprise; the jurymen frowned as if they were very puzzled, and the quietness of the court lost something of its dreadful hush, as if it were no longer the vestibule to a chamber of death. Harold, too, began to regain something of his lost color."

"What had happened?"

"The incredible! The hanging judge was actually summing-up in favor of the accused! The vulture upon the bench had become as a cooing dove!"

"Then I saw the expression upon Macarten's face pass quickly from that of astonishment to one of intense anger, for none would have been realising better than he that, in defiance of all the damning evidence which had been brought forward against the accused, the judge was now apparently straining every nerve to bring about the man's acquittal. The spectators were quick to sense it, too, and began to breathe more freely. A verdict of wilful murder was no longer so certain and they might, after all, be spared the horror of hearing a fellow creature sentenced to death."

The old man paused here, his emotion appearing to have carried him almost to the verge of exhaustion. He was now clasping both hands over his heart. In a few moments, however, he drew in a deep breath, and, in his anger, his voice rising to louder tones, he went on bitterly. "Yes, I could hear myself speaking coldly and dispassionately as became one clothed in the majesty of the law, but to my shame I knew I was abusing my high office deliberately to defeat the ends of justice. I was cheating the gallows. I was preserving a life which was forfeit to the law."

He shook his head mournfully. "But never have I pleaded better. Every art which I had learned in seventy years I used to save my son. Every trick of oratory which was my gift, I called into play to confuse and mislead the jury. I belittled every point the Crown had made. I cast doubts upon the reliability of every witness they had called. I warned vehemently against the pitfalls of evidence which was purely circumstantial. I urged—but God, my heart, my heart! I cannot breathe! It is my punishment and I am——"

Downstairs the butler had just played the ace of spades. "And that means you're finished," he exclaimed triumphantly to the cook. "You've taken your last trick, and—but, hark! What's that? It sounded like someone falling! It must have been the master! Quick, upstairs with me! Quick!"

"Those tea leaves, those tea leaves!" wailed the cook, following him in a run towards the door. "I knew they meant something!"


THE WORM WITH THE STING IN HIS TAIL

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 19 September 1940.


THE bull-necked man at the desk frowned at the meek-looking, little, elderly one who was standing so obsequiously before him.

"I have sent for you, Binns," he said sharply, "to tell you that as from Saturday next we shall no longer be requiring your services."

The little man's eyes opened very wide and his fingers twitched nervously. "You are going to get rid of me, Mr.Higgins!" he exclaimed, as if he could not believe what he had heard. He swallowed hard. "Then you are displeased with the way I have been carrying out my duties?"

The head of the Bacchus Wine and Spirit Company shook his head. "No, not exactly," he replied. He pursed up his lips. "But you are getting old, Binns, and I prefer to have younger people about me."

Binns spoke tremulously. "I have been a good servant to the firm, sir. I have worked very long hours. I have always been the first to come in the morning and the last to go away at night."

"And that was what you were paid for, wasn't it?" commented Mr. Higgins brusquely. "You got your money every week." He shrugged his shoulders. "No, you needn't grumble. You have had a good innings here."

"But—but Mr. Higgins," protested the little man, "you arranged with Mr. Henry when you took over the cellars to keep me on. You promised him you——"

"That was three years ago," retorted Mr. Higgins testily, "and——"

"No, not quite three years yet, sir," corrected Binns quickly, "not three years until the third of next month." He spoke modestly. "I have a good memory for dates, sir, and it was upon the third of July, the year before last, when the business was sold."

Mr. Higgins waved a big and fat hand. "Well, three years or two years, what does it matter?" He nodded, "At any rate, now Mr. Henry has died I feel absolved from my promise."

"Of course, I know no mention of my being kept on was put down in the deed of sale, sir," went on Binns sadly, "and everything was left to your——." He stopped suddenly and then added chokingly, "I would just tell you, sir, that I have no money saved and an invalid wife to support."

Mr. Higgins was arranging the papers upon his desk. "Your private affairs, Binns," he commented coldly, "your private affairs, and I am not concerned with them."

"I have been here a long time, sir, a very long time," pleaded Binns.

"Exactly," nodded Mr. Higgins, "and for that reason, when you leave us on Saturday you will receive an extra fortnight's salary."

Binns's lips moved rapidly, as if he were making a lightning calculation. "And the fortnight's salary being £5, sir," he said, with his voice now a little more steady, "it will mean that for each of the forty-two years I have been here I shall be receiving about two shillings and eightpence halfpenny." His smile was a sad one. "I am good at figures as well as dates, sir."

"Quite so," agreed Mr. Higgins, "and they are useful gifts to possess." He nodded again. "Well on Saturday you will hand over your keys, and we shall not be seeing you any more."

A short silence followed, and then Binns said meekly, "I shall be missed, sir. I have been useful to you, and always most solicitous for the good reputation of all members of the firm."

"No doubt, no doubt!" commented Mr. Higgins, without taking his eyes from his desk. "But you can go, now, Binns. I have told you all I wanted to."

Binns, however, seemed disinclined to terminate the interview. Instead, he remained twiddling his thumbs and eyeing his employer intently. "And you will give me a good reference, sir?" he asked at length. "Thank you, sir. I think I shall try if Messrs. Taggart & Taggart will take me on."

Mr. Higgins looked up with a jerk. "Why Taggart & Taggart?" he asked with a hard frown. "Why them in particular?"

"We-ell, sir, replied Binns hesitatingly, "With your being so friendly with their Mr. John"—he coughed slightly—"and the members of his family, perhaps they may be more interested in me than if I had been working for a firm they knew nothing about."

A moment's intent scrutiny of Binns's face, and Mr. Higgins remarked carelessly, "Oh, that's it, is it? Well, do as you please," and he resumed his interest in the papers upon his desk.

Binns drew in a deep and resolute breath. "Last Wednesday week, sir," he went on, "it was the 19th—I told you I was good at remembering dates—when I came in here the first thing that morning, I picked up a lady's compact on the carpet."

Mr. Higgins jerked up his head again, this time even more sharply, and for a few seconds glared bewilderingly at Binns. Then his face took on a dusky hue. "It belongs to my wife," he said with a great affectation of carelessness. "She lost one, but didn't remember where. Have you got it here now?"

Bin ignored the question, "But it couldn't have been dropped by Mrs. Higgins, sir. She was away in Scotland at the time. I heard you telling Mr. Bruce so that same morning. Besides, the compact had the initials R.F.T. upon it." He coughed discreetly. "I believe, sir, Mrs. John Taggart's Christian names are Rita Fanny."

A dead silence followed, and then Mr. Higgins said angrily. "You are making it all up. You found no such compact here. It is a damned lie."

"But it is not, sir," said Binns earnestly. "I did find the compact here, and I showed it all round to the young ladies in the office; but, of course, I did not mention how I had come by it. I made out I had picked it up in the park as I was coming to work. I did not let them see the initials, either. I kept my thumb over the corner."

"Give it to me!" ordered Mr. Higgins angrily. "You are a thief."

"Oh, no, sir," said Binns firmly. "If I did not find it here, as you are so certain, then it can have nothing to do with you. If I give it up to anyone it must be to the police. It is a valuable compact, sir, solid silver, and I don't want to get into trouble."

If looks could have killed, Binns would have been a dead man. "What's your game?" snarled Mr. Higgins. "Are you attempting to blackmail me?"

Binns looked horrified. "No, no, sir, I wouldn't think of such a thing." He produced his discreet cough again, "You see, sir, whatever information one may gather, it is not blackmail until one tries to make use of it to extort money from someone. I have a cousin, sir, an inspector at Scotland Yard, and he has told me that."

"Well, what do you want?" asked Mr. Higgins, with his face as black as night. "What are you making out you found that compact here for, if it's not for the purpose of blackmail? What do you want, I say?"

"Nothing, nothing at all, sir," replied Binns, looking as if most hurt. "I only mention the matter to you to let you see, as I say, how zealous I have been for the reputation of the firm."

"Then that compact you are talking about," asked Mr. Higgins, "where is it?"

Binns looked very stupid. He pretended to think. "For the moment, sir," he said hesitatingly, "for the moment I have forgotten where I put it. Indeed, I may have lost it altogether. Sometimes my memory, except for dates and figures, is very bad. I forget things so quickly." His face brightened. "Why I might even forget, sir, you had said you would have to be getting rid of me shortly."

Mr. Higgins made no comment. He stared hard at Binns, but the fury in his face was now replaced by a sullen frown.

Binns went on firmly. "No, sir, I cannot find that compact." He spoke most respectfully. "But for my own sake I shall forget I ever saw it." He nodded solemnly. "I never talk."

Mr. Higgins saw it was no good to press the matter. "You can go," he said quietly, "and about your leaving us on Saturday——" he appeared to hesitate—— "well, as you have been with us so long and have no money saved, I suppose we shall have to keep you on."

"Thank you, sir," said Binns meekly. "I am sure it is very kind of you," and he glided from the room.

Mr. Higgins gritted his teeth in fury. Of a most masterful disposition and successful in all his business affairs, it was gall and wormwood to him to have now to knuckle under to a creature like Binns, whom he had always despised as little better than a worm in intelligence. He was shrewd enough, however, to realise he could not afford to make an enemy of him, at any rate for the time being.

He thought for a long while and then picked up the receiver upon his desk and put through a call.

"Hullo, that you, Fan?" he asked softly, but very distinctly. "You lost that silver compact John gave you, a couple of weeks ago? Well, damn it, that night we came in here after the pictures and split a bottle of Champagne, you dropped it in my room and it was picked up by one of the clerks the next morning. No, no, there's going to be no fuss, but from the initials on it, this clerk guesses whose it is and won't give it up. He pretends he's lost it, which I know is a lie. No, no, it's not going to be awkward for us. He's not going to talk, and it only means I can't give him the sack which I was intending to. That's all. Now you listen. We must look ahead and make things quite safe if he starts blackmailing me. You are coming up to the Lord Mayor's Show tomorrow, aren't you? Well, call in here on your way home and bring John with you. Then, later on, if the compact business should crop up, you can make out you lost it here then. See? No, it's quite all right and you needn't worry in the slightest. Then I'll be seeing you and John tomorrow. Good-bye."

He hung up the receiver and smiled a grim, cunning smile. "That'll settle him," he nodded. "That'll spike his guns. In a couple of weeks or so I'll say Fan thinks she dropped her compact when she came here with her husband, and it'll be deuced awkward then for little Blackmail Binns. If, as he says, he did show it to the others, they'll be remembering his tale about picking it up in the park, but it'll be a thousand to one they, none of them, will recollect the particular date."

The next afternoon Mr. and Mrs. John Taggart dropped in to have a glass of wine with Mr. Higgins, and the lady was greatly admired by the firm's employees as she passed through their room. It was agreed she was a very pretty woman, and Binns, in particular, eyed her with great interest. That night, too, after he had returned home she was very much in his thoughts.

Binns was by no means the creature of poor intelligence his employer imagined and, when he chose to exert himself, was quite shrewd and farseeing. So, thinking over Mrs. Taggart's visit to the office that afternoon, he envisioned possibilities of trouble for himself at some future date. His employer might give him the sack with perfect safety if it could be made out the lady had lost her compact when upon her visit with her husband upon Lord Mayor's Day.

Accordingly, with the purpose of forestalling any action Mr. Higgins might make, the following morning Binns announced to the clerks, generally, and to the five girl ones in particular, that he was intending shortly to present the silver compact he had picked up to one of the latter.

"I have not seen it mentioned in any advertisement for lost articles," he said, "and so I think it will be quite all right my giving it away."

"Oh, you are a dear, Binney," exclaimed the sprightly Mary Weston, "but who's going to be the lucky one?"

"Well, of course, you'll have to draw for it," replied Binns.

"Then when's the drawing going to take place, today?"

Binns shook his head. "No, not today. I think I ought to keep it at least a month or six weeks, in case any advertisement appears." He pretended to think. "Let me see, when did I find it?"

"I know," said Mary Western promptly. "It was a fortnight yesterday, on a Wednesday. Don't you remember I said you ought to give it to me for my birthday, and that was two days afterwards, on the Friday, the 21st."

"Yes, it was on the Wednesday," supplemented another girl. "Silver Box was running in the Bibury Cup that afternoon and we backed it because you had picked up the silver compact." She looked reproachful. "You cost several of us a hard-earned shilling that day."

"Stop talking, you girls," reproved Mr. Eden, the head clerk, sharply. "You'll only be making mistakes if you mag on like a lot of monkeys," and the room subsided into quietness again.

The days sped by and Binns was left in peace. He made no mistake, however, in thinking that his encounter with Mr. Higgins had passed out of the latter's mind. On the contrary, for his employer never came in contact with him without giving him a nasty look. He made his displeasure felt in another way, too. It was Binns's special duty to keep an account of the stock in the cellars, and now, if Mr. Higgins wanted to know anything, instead of sending for Binns himself, he had taken to making his enquiries through Mr. Eden who had in turn, had to come to Binns for the information and pass it on. No, Binns was quite sure Mr. Higgins was not going to take his defeat lying down, but was only waiting his chance to get his revenge.

And things happened exactly as Binns expected.

One morning, about three weeks later Mr. Higgins strode into the clerks' room. "Mrs. Taggart," he announced frowningly, "thinks she lost a silver compact here when she came the other day with Mr. Taggart. It has her initials, R.F.T., in one corner. Have any of you seen anything of it?"

Faces dropped instantly, a dead silence fell over the room and uneasy glances were made in the direction of Binns.

Binns, however, spoke up unhesitatingly. "She lost it that afternoon, sir," he asked, "when she came in after the Lord Mayor's Show? On the fifth, wasn't it?" and Mr. Higgins had to nod a grudging assent.

"Well, sir," went on Bums smilingly, "I've not seen it anywhere, but, strangely enough, I found a silver compact a fortnight before. I picked mine up in the park as I was coming to work on Wednesday, the 19th of last month," his smile was most ingratiating, "but, of course, it couldn't have been the one Mrs. Taggart lost a fortnight later."

Mr. Higgins spoke in a voice of thunder. "And who else besides yourself knows the exact date when you found this compact you say you picked up outside?" he demanded accusingly.

Binns appeared in no way disconcerted. "Oh, everyone here, sir," he replied smilingly. "Directly I showed it to them, Miss Weston wanted me to give it to her for her birthday, which was not until two days later, the 21st."

"Yes, Mr. Higgins," added Mary Weston timidly, "I did ask for it for my birthday, which was coming on the following Friday."

The face of Mr. Higgins was a study. He bit his lip hard and glared so angrily at Mary Weston that it might almost have seemed that she had herself admitted stealing the compact.

The head clerk now added his corroboration. "It is as Miss Weston says, sir," he said. "It was while we were stocktaking that Binns was showing the compact round and I ordered him to put it away, as he was hindering everyone in their work and we shouldn't be finished in time. If you remember, sir, the stocktaking was over in the week ending the 22nd."

Mr. Higgins turned without a word and left the room. He did not dare trust himself to speak. He was too furious.

Binns's feelings were mixed. He was elated that he had been far-seeing enough to guess what his employer would do, but at the same time depressed because the latter was so evidently vengefully disposed towards him. He knew his master's character and that once the latter had decided upon any line of action he would not easily be turned from it. Still, Binns was an obstinate man himself, and now determined he would not leave the firm until he felt inclined to. He liked his work in the cellars, and their smell, even, had become a part of his life. No, he would stick it out until his own good time and then, accepting the inevitable, give notice himself.

While he remained, however, he would be very careful what he did, and give his employer no chance of putting anything up against him. And, as events proved, it was well he kept his eyes open.

A few days later complaints began among the clerks that money was being taken from their coats and handbags whenever they were left in the cloakrooms. Joe Henderson swore that some coppers had gone from the pocket of his overcoat and another clerk missed two shillings in the same way. Then Miss Brown had a pound note taken from her handbag, which she had forgotten to bring in with her and place in her desk.

The head clerk thought it his duty to mention the matter to Mr. Higgins, whereupon the latter looked very grave. "Then we have a thief among us," he nodded ominously, "and we shall have to find out who he is. Don't tell anyone you've told me and in a few days we'll set a trap."

So, one morning the following week, Mr. Higgins called Miss Brown into his room. "See here," he said, "we must find out who's taking this money. So here are two ten-shilling notes and two half-crowns; I have got the numbers of the notes and the half-crowns are marked. Put them in your handbag tomorrow and forget to bring the bag out of the cloakroom when you arrive in the morning. Then if we find any of the money has been taken we'll have detectives in to search everybody in the building."

Miss Brown was staid and elderly and could be trusted to hold her tongue. The next morning she did as she had been bidden and the bait was left for the thief to take. About eleven o'clock she found one of the notes had gone and immediately informed Mr. Higgins.

"Good," nodded her employer, "then I'll slip out and get in the detective at once."

Now it happened that a few minutes later Binns had occasion to go to his overcoat for a pocket handkerchief, and he noted with surprise that the flap of one of his pockets was tucked inside. He was puzzled, for he was very methodical and was certain he had not left the flap like that. Wondering if any joke had been played upon him, he thrust his hand down into the pocket and felt carefully round. Immediately he came upon a hole in the lining and was more puzzled than ever because he knew it had not been there before.

Quickly withdrawing his hand, he felt outside round the edge of the overcoat, in case anything had been pushed through the hole. Then his eyes bulged and he caught his breath as he felt the unmistakable crinkling of a treasury note.

"Gosh," he exclaimed, "it's a plant! Someone's intending to fix me up!" and in a flash he had taken out his pocket-knife and was cutting the lining. With hands which shook he drew out a ten-shilling note.

"Whew!" he whispered breathlessly, "what an escape!"

Barely five minutes later, he was sitting at his desk in the big room among the other fifteen employees of the Bacchus Wine and Spirit Company, when the door opened sharply and Mr. Higgins, followed by two men and a woman, walked in.

The head of the firm looked very stern and grim. "It is a dreadful thing," he announced, "but there is a thief among you. Someone has taken a ten-shilling note from Miss Brown's handbag and it must be one of you in this room. These gentlemen and this lady here are detectives, and I must request all of you to submit to a search. Your overcoats and bags will be brought in, too, and gone through." He glared round. "Now, does anyone decline to be searched."

Binns spoke up excitedly. "But it may not be necessary, sir. It may be all a mistake that anybody's stolen a ten-shilling note, for I picked up one, only two or three minutes ago, in the passage just outside your room. I thought it must be yours and so put it upon your desk. I've just told Mr. Eden about it." He smiled his pleasant smile. "I happened to glance at the number, sir, and I think it included three sevens."

One of the detectives, who seemed to be in charge of the others, looked down at a piece of paper he was holding in his hand. Then he looked up and nodded to Mr. Higgins. "That's probably the one," he said, and he frowned as if in annoyance that they had been brought there upon a fool's errand. He made a move towards the door. "Now where's your room, sir? We'll settle the matter at once."

He left the room with the positively astounded Mr. Higgins and everyone sighed a sigh of great relief. A buzz of subdued conversation followed, but it did hot last long, for the detective returned almost immediately. "It's all O.K., ladies and gentlemen," he announced with a grim smile. "The note was the one Mr. Higgins had thought had been stolen and so there's nothing doing this time."

The staff saw no more of their employer that day, but again Binns's elation was mingled with apprehension. He realised more than ever that he would have to be most wary or his employer would be getting him in the end.

To his great astonishment, however, Mr. Higgins seemed quite all right again the next morning and twice called him into his room to ask him about the stock on hand in the cellar, his manner being so pleasant that Binns began wondering if, after all, he had been the one to plant the note in the overcoat lining.

Another week went by and then, one afternoon, Binns was summoned again to his employer. "About that '67 port, how do we stand?" the latter asked, and he spoke as if Binns were among his greatest friends.

Binns told him and, after a few more questions, was dismissed with the customary curt nod Mr. Higgins always gave to his employees. Then, just as he was leaving the room, Mr. Higgins called out, "Oh, now you're here, go down and fetch up a bottle of the Bollinger. I'm expecting visitors in a few minutes," and he made a motion with his hand in the direction of a small and narrow door in the corner of the room.

The small door opened on to Mr. Higgins's private staircase leading down to the big cellars of the building. The staircase went down about twenty feet and was narrow and very steep. A handrail was provided at one side, without holding on to which the descent was hardly safe.

Binns had often been down to the cellars by that way before and, opening the door, made to switch on the light at the head of the stairs. But the light did not come on and he thought the lamp must have fused. Familiar, however, with the stairs he prepared to go down.

"Be quick," called out Mr. Higgins. "I think I hear my visitors coming now."

Now it happened that that morning Binns had got a touch of rheumatism in one of his knees and was using that leg as tenderly as possible. In consequence, with the first downward step he took, he leaned heavily upon the rail to support himself. Then, to his consternation, the rail came out of its protecting socket with a jerk and it was as much as he could do to prevent himself falling head-long down on to the stone flags of the cellar below.

Realisation of what had happened came to him in a light—and he caught his breath in consternation. Another trap had been set for him and he had escaped only by the merest chance! Turning round, he shakily descended the stairs backwards. Then, when at the bottom, he looked up and would have sworn he saw the shadow of his master's head upon the open door above. Mr. Higgins was waiting—listening to hear him fall.

He returned with the bottle of champagne as if nothing had happened, but, as he was expecting, there were no visitors waiting for it.

"I must tell you, sir," he said, "that the rail has worked loose, and is in an unsafe condition. I had better send James to put it right," and, without lifting his eyes from the figures he was pretending to add up, Mr. Higgins nodded a surly assent.

That night it was a long time before Binns got off to sleep. His thoughts were most uneasy ones, for he was really frightened of to what lengths, even to deliberate murder, his employer was prepared to go to get rid of him. For the moment Binns was inclined to throw up the sponge, and, himself, give notice the next morning, but in the end his obstinacy prevailed over his fears, and he resolved to continue to stay on.

A few days later, however, a dreadful tragedy occurred, and all Binns's fears for his own safety were swept away. Mr. Higgins met with a fatal accident, being killed instantly. It happened in this way.

Binns was alone in the cellars when he inadvertently dropped a match and set alight to a little heap of straw. It was really only a small matter and not much damage could have followed in any case, but Binns lost his head in his fright and shouted, "Fire, fire!" as if the whole building were in imminent danger.

The staff came rushing down pell-mell. Mr. Higgins, up in his room, must have heard the cries, too, for the door opening on the narrow staircase was heard to open violently. Then, it was remembered later, some of them had thought they heard a muffled cry at the far end of the cellar where the staircase was. For the moment, however, everyone had been so occupied with extinguishing the blazing straw that no notice had been taken.

When, however, the fire had been put out, Mr. Eden, the head clerk, exclaimed, "The Gov'nor! Where's he? He must have heard the noise!"

Then someone called but, "Good God, what's that lying on the stones?" and all, rushing up, saw the body of their employer huddled up at the foot of the staircase, with its head turned at a dreadful angle. Mr.Higgins was quite dead. He had broken his neck by falling from high up on the staircase. Later, it was discovered that one of the steps had unaccountably worked loose, and it was realised that must have caused him to fall.

He was buried a few days later, and all the men employees of the firm attended the funeral. By special request of the executors, Binns, as the oldest servant of the firm, was one of the pallbearers, and it was noted by many with what sorrowful dignity he carried himself.

The business was taken over by one of Mr. Higgins's nephews, and when, six months later, Binns handed in his resignation, in recognition of his long services to the firm, he was granted a pension of thirty shillings a week.

Binns did not, however, really need the pension, as he was the owner of the house he lived in, as well as those on either side. From the two latter he drew quite a comfortable little income.

Strangely enough, he had not—as he told Mr. Higgins—an invalid wife. On the contrary, she was in the best of health, and, incidentally, twenty years younger than he was. She was very fond of him. Also, another strange thing, Binns had no cousin an inspector in Scotland Yard. His only blood relation was an uncle, who was a street bookmaker, and the latter often twitted his nephew that he had not courage enough to have a bet with him. He said he was a born coward and would never dare to take any risks. As we have seen, however, he was greatly mistaken.


DOCTORS OFF DUTY

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 7 November 1940.


AN important medical congress had been opened that morning in a big northern city, and, after dinner that night, a little party of medical men were smoking and talking in the library of a palatial mansion which was giving them hospitality for the duration of the congress. Their host, a wealthy manufacturer, had arranged with the organising committee of the congress to put up a round score of the visiting members, and, his house and grounds being among the show places of the district, he had been allotted some of the chairmen of the various sections. He was now thrilled at entertaining such distinguished members of the profession under his roof.

"And I suppose," he laughed, "I should be quite safe tonight if I were to be suddenly attacked with any kind of disease. I mean there must be a specialist here for almost everything."

"Certainly there is, Sir Herbert," laughed back a merry-looking little man who, for all his diminutive size, was one of the best known authorities upon nervous diseases in the Western Hemisphere, "and among the lot of us I am sure we should be able to manage your decease somehow. With all the new drugs which have come out lately we should have a splendid chance."

"And people have the idea," went on Sir Herbert jokingly, "that in no calling in the world are there so many really good and really bad men as among you doctors."

"Exactly!" commented the nerve specialist, but now speaking quite seriously. "The very nature of our work, with all its opportunities, brings out both the best and worst in us." He nodded. "But I like to think that, considering our number, there are very few black sheep among us. Occasional money-grabbers, of course, who trade with their eyes for ever upon the till and who put in every extra visit they can and operate wherever they guess there's a bit of cash." He nodded again. "Still, those are the exceptions and the majority of us are quite decent men."

"In a district near where I am," growled an old and grizzled general practitioner, the panel and lodge patients of whose practice ran into many thousands, "there's a fellow who boasts he takes out an appendix almost every morning before breakfast." He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know where he finds them. I often see a hundred patients a day, and it's an event when I send a patient into hospital for an appendicectomy. And it's the same with tonsils. I don't agree with this wholesale taking of them out."

"But perhaps you're a wee bit old fashioned, Dr. Gregson," smiled a bright-faced young surgeon, prominent among the ear, nose and throat men in the West of England. "You general practitioners are not ready enough to appreciate the beautiful new instruments and appliances which are being turned out for us by the manufacturers."

"I, certainly, am slow there," said the old G.P. frowningly. He nodded significantly. "But my patients live just as long without them and they probably suffer a great deal less."

"I'm quite sure they do, Dr. Gregson," smiled a great Harley street consulting physician. He went on banteringly. "All these young surgeons think of is cutting you about. They're crazed to open you somewhere. It's your blood they want."

Another physician chimed in in the same vein. "Quite right, sir, there is a false glamor about surgery, and so many in our profession want to make it the hallmark of cleverness if they can cut you open and you don't die on the operating table. They'd like the public to think so, too."

"Yes," nodded a second general practitioner darkly, "and I know several men who can do a good operation and yet who are rotten doctors, for all that. With many minor ailments they are perfect duds and can't treat even an ordinary indigestion properly." He smiled. "It's we common G.P.'s who are the salt of the profession, and no man becomes a great surgeon—I don't mean a good operator, for that doesn't necessarily mean a good surgeon—unless he has first graduated from among us."

"But why," asked their host, looking rather puzzled, "does a good operator not always mean a good surgeon?"

"Well, he may only have operated because he has made a faulty diagnosis," replied the G.P. "Suppose you go to him with a hard swelling in a gland and he tells you you've got a growth there and cuts the whole gland out. Then he finds the swelling is only a hardened abscess and all he need have done to put you right was to have lanced it. Now, although he may have done a perfect operation you wouldn't call him a good surgeon, would you?" He shook his head. "No, a good surgeon must be a good physician, first."

A famous surgeon who could command almost any fee for his operations took up the tale. "You are quite right, Dr. Hensley," he said. He shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly. "I know that what little success I have had I owe entirely to the foundation the five gruelling years I spent as an assistant up North gave me. My employer had a huge practice among the poorest classes and my work made a good physician of me." He smiled a grim smile. "A shilling for a consultation, including a bottle of medicine, and, as with Dr. Gregson here, our visiting list ran into hundreds a day."

"But what could you do to them," asked his interested host, "when you were attending to so many?"

"All that was necessary," replied the surgeon. "As with my employer, I became most expert in making a lightning diagnosis. Some, I could see with one glance, had nothing much the matter with them, and two minutes was all they got." He nodded. "Others may have taken up half an hour." He turned to the old general practitioner. "That's the way you handle them, too, is it not, Dr. Gregson?"

Dr. Gregson nodded. "And I've been so long at the game that I can tell with one look at them whether they're heart, lung or kidney cases." His old shrewd eyes glinted. "Ay, and also whether I'll be getting my money paid."

There were smiles all round, and then their host, addressing them all, generally, remarked, "And, of course, being brought in contact with so many people, you must have had many very interesting experiences."

"We have," replied an old doctor, Dr. Smith, who was not far off eighty and who had given up active practice for some years, but who in his time had been noted for his successes in difficult cases of midwifery. "And it is only natural," he went on, "for the life of a medical man is one great adventure from start to finish, from beginning to end. We are present at all the crises of our patients' lives, their births, their deaths, and all the sicknesses and accidents in between. No, we can't help seeing and hearing a lot."

"Then tell us one of your adventures, Master," called out a young doctor. "We all know everything you say is worth listening to."

The others joined in with the request, and the old man was flattered. "Well," he said slowly. "I'll give you a little bit of romance, and the moral it points is the absolute trust which most people have in their medical man. I mean a confidence which they take to themselves as a matter of course. They are sure that if he knows any secret about them he will not give them away. There is no need for them to exact any promise."

He spoke fervently. "Gad, in this particular instance I held a woman's secret for nearly fifty years, and yet, ignoring there was any secret to hide and that I knew all about it, during all that time she lived a happy, smiling, and confident life! She was certain I should never give her away."

A rustle of interest stirred round the room, and the old man went on. "What happened was this. When I was quite young, indeed, only just qualified, I went to look after the practice of a man who had been ordered away for a long voyage, and who would not be returning to work for a year."

"I had not been there long when a young woman came in to book me"—he smiled—"for the forthcoming interesting event so natural with members of her sex. She had left things rather late, and there were only a few weeks to go. She was very pretty, and I guessed at once there was tragedy about the business, because she said she was a stranger to the town and all upon her own. She asked me to engage the nurse and not get an expensive one. She told me she was twenty-two, but I was sure she was younger than that. She said she was Mrs. Brown.

"In due time, after some little anxiety for me, as the case was by no means an easy one, the baby was born in the house where the girl had apartments. She was a little daughter, and when delivered was not pretty to look at, as there was a big naevus covering the whole of one side of the face and the entire nose as well." He turned to his host. "I mean, Sir Herbert, she had one of those port wine stain birthmarks which are so disfiguring for anyone when they grow up, and particularly so for a girl. This one was so big that it would have been impossible to do anything for it." He frowned. "There was also a deformity of one foot. The child was not breathing when she was born.

"I made a lightning decision as to what I should do, and all my life long I have never regretted what it was. The mother was in a bad way and needed all the attention I could give her. The child was, so obviously to me, born out of wedlock, and if she lived, unsightly as she would grow up, would have to face both the pity as well as the scorn of the world. So"—he paused a few moments—"if she had come from heaven I let her return there straightaway. I made no attempt to start the breathing." He looked round the room. "Now does anyone here say I did wrong?"

A silence followed, and, no one taking up the challenge, he went on—"The mother soon got well, and in a fortnight passed out of my life, as I thought, for ever. I never expected to hear or see anything more of her. But I was greatly mistaken, for a little over two years later I met her again.

"I had gone up North and set up in practice in a district where it was destined I should remain for the rest of my professional life. A couple of months or so after I arrived I was invited to a dance and there, to my amazement, was introduced to my one-time patient, the pretty Mrs. Brown. Her name was now given me as Miss So-and-So, but, of course, I recognised her at once, realising at the same moment that she had recognised me, too. Still, only just a quick intake of breath, a levelling of the beautifully arched eyebrows and a lightning look of dismay in the soft grey eyes, and that was all the evidence of recognition she showed. I thought her prettier than ever, for now the sadness upon her face had passed. She quite fascinated me. We had several dances together, and I took her into supper, but our conversation was just the ordinary conventional one, and there was not the slightest allusion to our having met before.

"Later, I was told that she and her people had not long come to live in the town, and that she had there met and become engaged to a very nice young fellow. It was to be an excellent match for her, as the boy was very well-off. I became friendly with her family, and when the marriage took place was present as an esteemed guest.

"None of her people were then patients of mine, neither were any of her husband's. So I was very astonished when one day, less than a year later, her husband called upon me and asked me to attend his wife in a few months' time. I went to see her professionally, and, in the course of our conversation, she remarked with a smile, "I thought I would prefer you to anyone else as you would understand me."

The old doctor slapped his hands together. "And that was the only remark with any suggestion of reference to my earlier association with her she ever made. Just think of it! For nearly fifty years I was an intimate friend of the family, as well as being their medical attendant, and yet—she never asked me to keep silent about what I knew. It never entered into her mind that I should betray her secret. She never so much as said. 'I can trust you, can't I? You'll never mention about that Mrs. Brown?' No"—his old eyes glowed with pride—"she took it for granted she could rely upon my honor, without making any appeal to me."

He went on. "Besides this first child of her happy married life, I brought four more into the world for her, and lovely children they all were. Then, as the years rolled on, I was the first to set eyes upon the little ones of her two daughters, and when a much loved and greatly respected old lady was carried to her last resting place, shortly before I gave up practice"—his voice was reverent and solemn—"her secret was buried with her." He spoke huskily. "That is my little story, gentlemen."

"A very interesting one, Dr. Smith," commented his host, "and you told it very nicely, too."

"Well, as I say," said the old doctor, "the only moral I wanted to point was the unquestioning reliance the ordinary men and women place upon their medical men, and, I believe, deservedly so."

Another doctor spoke up. "Now I'll tell you a little story and it's a humorous one. It points no moral and, if it be true, rather reflects upon us as a profession." He laughed. "We need a little taking-down sometimes." He drew the eyes of his audience upon him and began.

"Two well-to-do elderly ladies lived in a small country town, and the younger of them fancied she was not in good health, and always upon the verge of a complete breakdown. In consequence, she was a reliable source of income to the local medico, who put in an almost daily visit, with a becomingly solemn face. The patient didn't get any better, which was not to be wondered at, when you realise she had nothing the matter with her. Still, the elder sister began to get worried, and one day told the doctor she thought a specialist from London ought to be brought down.

"The doctor considered, and then, remembering an old fellow-student of his who had risen to eminence, and with whom he thought he would like to have a yarn, suggested, well, we'll call him, Sir Pompey Flapdoddle. The sister was quite agreeable, and so Sir Pompey was communicated with, and he came down.

"Now, this elder lady was most anxious to know from what disease her sister was really suffering, and, accordingly, made arrangements to listen in to what the two doctors would say when they came to discuss the case after the examination in the bedroom had taken place. So she kept out of the way when the great man arrived, and secreted herself behind a screen in the room into which they would be shown afterwards, to talk things over. Sherry and biscuits had been provided.

"The examination over, the two medicos duly came in. The door was shut carefully, and the sister prepared to listen hard. The old friends at once began to talk animatedly together. They spoke of their hospital days and the happy times they had had; of their old fellow-students and what had become of them; how White had worked up a big practice in Liverpool, how Black had died of fever on the West Coast of Africa; how Green had married a rich wife, and now did nothing but play golf. Then they exchanged a few stories which made the listener behind the screen hold her breath in horror, while the narrators themselves were muffling their laughter so that it should not be heard outside. And all the time not a word had been said about the patient. She had not been referred to in any way.

"Presently the listener heard the pushing back of chairs and the great consultant say, 'Well, old chap, it's been very nice to have a chat with you, and many thanks for having me down.'

"'Not at all, my dear fellow,' said the local medico. 'I shall always be only pleased to do anything I can.'

"'Then, good-bye, my boy,' went on the consultant, 'and good luck to you,' and they both walked towards the door.

"'Here, one moment!' exclaimed the other, 'You've not given me your opinion of the patient. What do you think of her?'

"'Think of her?' laughed the consultant, 'why, I think she's the ugliest old woman I ever saw.'

"'Ha, ha!' laughed back the local man, 'but you wouldn't say that if you had seen her sister. She's even uglier still.'"

When the general laughter which the story had evoked had died down, the famous surgeon stirred in his chair, and began slowly. "But, harking back to operations which the few unscrupulous men among us perform when they know perfectly well they are not necessary, although it's in the nature of a confession, I'll tell you what I once did." He looked upon everyone with a grim smile, and lowered his voice impressively. "For the first and only time in my life I myself performed an operation which, when I did it, I was absolutely convinced was wholly unnecessary."

He paused for a moment to let his words sink in, noting with some amusement the astounded looks upon the faces of his audience.

He went on—"Yes, it's an extraordinary story, and brings home the almost inconceivable things which may happen to any of us. I was just over thirty then, and struggling to get a footing as a surgeon in London, and with no private means behind me. You will all understand what that meant, keeping up appearances and half-starving to do it. I had taken my 'master of surgery,' and by great good luck been appointed an assistant surgeon at St. Bengers. Of course, that helped me a bit, but private patients were coming in very slowly, and there were many days when I sat in my expensive consulting room in Wimpole street and didn't see a soul."

"At that time my main standby was Sir Benjamin Luke—dear old Ben—the greatest surgeon of his day. He was very kind to me, and I often picked up a few guineas from patients he sent me. In fact, but for him I am sure I should have had to go back to an assistantship with some general practitioner, as all the money I had saved had been spent in trying to establish myself where I was. I particularly mention that to make you all realise under what obligations to him I was at that time.

"Well, one morning he rang me up. He was going away that same afternoon for a month's holiday, and he was sending me a man called Martin, who would be coming straight away, and whose appendix he wanted me to remove as speedily as possible. It was not, however, an acute case, but one of long-standing inflammation, and the patient was a slippery one to handle. For months and months he, Sir Benjamin, had been urging him to have it out, but the man had been shilly-shallying and unable to make up his mind. Now things had come to such a pass that to delay any longer would be really dangerous.

"Still, bad as his condition is," went on Sir Benjamin over the phone, "you'll have to bounce him into it. When you've examined him you must give him no time to think, but take him on the hop and rush him into hospital immediately. Operate today as a matter of extreme urgency. That's the only way you'll get him before it comes to an actual perforation. Oh, and remember, he's unreliable in everything he says. To put it plainly, he's a dreadful liar. He may say he has no symptoms at all, or he may describe ones quite different from those he really has. He's inclined to be very secretive, too, and likes to make a mystery of everything. So, if he's in the mood he may not mention me at all, and say nothing about my having told him to come to you. If he doesn't choose to tell you that, you act as if you knew nothing, and just deal with him as a new patient who has been recommended to you, you don't know by whom. You understand the position. Take no notice of anything he says, insist that an immediate operation is a matter of extreme urgency, and don't give him the opportunity to change his mind. Rush him into hospital I say."

The surgeon went on—"I kept close to my consulting room all that day, but it was not until towards the end of the afternoon, and just when I was disappointedly thinking the man was not going to turn up that he arrived. As I have already told you, patients were not very plentiful with me, and, in consequence, my nurse came into me with some natural excitement. 'A new patient, doctor,' she said. 'A Mr. Martin, and he wants to know if you can see him without an appointment. I told him I thought I could put him in in a few minutes if he waited.'

"So I kept him waiting a quarter of an hour, prepared, however, to rush out at any moment if I heard any movement in the hall which suggested he had got tired of waiting. Ah, you smile! But that's a custom well-known to the profession and I dare venture we've many of us done it in our time. To go on. When, at length I had him shown in, I thought him at once, as Sir Benjamin had intimated to me, a secretive and uncommunicative man, as he did not mention who had recommended me to him and, moreover made no reference to any abdominal symptoms. His only complaint was that for a long time he had been suffering from severe frontal headaches which quite incapacitated him while they lasted. He had lately begun to fear he must have a tumor on the brain.

"I paid little attention to what he told me about his head and, apparently to his great surprise, made him strip, and started to examine his abdomen. Then, to my amazement, I could not find the very slightest trace of anything wrong. I pushed and pummelled, but there was absolutely no tenderness, and the abdomen was that of a normal healthy man.

"I was in a dreadful quandary! What was I to do? How could I possibly make out the instant operation was imperative? Yet, was I to pit my judgment against that of a great surgeon like Sir Benjamin, than whom no one had a more profound knowledge of the diseases of the abdomen? Should I send this man away, telling him he had nothing the matter with him which a holiday and some mild sedative might put right, when all along for many months the renowned Sir Benjamin Luke had been insisting he was seriously ill and in grave danger? Then, another consideration, was I to run the risk of offending my best friend, the one man who had helped me whenever he could? It was a dreadful position for me to be in."

The famous surgeon sighed heavily. "Gentlemen, I gave in. I stifled my conscience with the feeble excuse that, after all, I was only obeying the orders of one much older and wiser than I. So I told the patient all Sir Benjamin had bidden me. Oh, yes, I frightened him right enough, and, patting myself upon the back for succeeding where Sir Benjamin had failed, made him enter a hospital within the hour, arranging that I would operate at nine o'clock that night.

"Everything seemed to be promising well until I got a 'phone call from a medical man in a town about forty miles from London. He said he was a cousin of this Mr. Martin and, having just heard of the operation, would like to be present. He asked when it was going to take place, and I had to tell him.

"I was aghast! The last thing I wanted was a shrewd G.P.—and most of you G.P.'s are shrewd enough, in all conscience—seeing the healthy appendix I was going to take out. So, plunging even deeper into the mire, without letting this cousin know anything about it and under an excuse of urgency, I advanced the time of the operation an hour, and it was all over and I was well away from the hospital and not to be got at again that night by the time he had arrived in town. I heard next day that, when he had asked to see the offending appendix, he had been most disappointed to learn I had taken it off with me.

"The next morning the patient said he was feeling fine. The wife was by the bedside when I appeared, and she thanked me most gratefully for having made her husband have the operation performed so quickly, thus giving him such a little time to think about it beforehand. I tell you I felt horrible, but tried hard to console myself, as I had done before, that I had only been obeying orders, and had acted exactly as Sir Benjamin would have done had his services been available."

The surgeon paused here to light a cigarette, and then continued. "Now, for the perfectly astounding sequel. That same afternoon I was seated once more in my consulting room, as usual disengaged, when in came my nurse, looking, as she had done the previous day, quite excited. "There's another new patient here, doctor," she said, "of the same name as the one who came yesterday, another Mr. Martin, and he says he's been sent you by Sir Benjamin Luke."

"What!" I exclaimed incredulously, with a cold shiver running up my spine. "Another patient of the name of Martin, and he says he's been sent by Sir Benjamin!"

"Yes, doctor, and he wants to see you as quickly as possible. He says he's in pain and thinks he ought to be operated upon immediately."

"God, I felt sick with horror! What a ghastly mistake! I've operated upon the wrong man!

"I ordered him to be shown in instantly, and at once the urgency of the matter was beyond any possibility of doubt. The man was in a very grave condition, and not a moment must be lost. Indeed, things looked so bad that I wouldn't let him even return home, but drove him straight to the hospital, where the other Martin was. Fortunately, he had had nothing to eat that day, and the moment I could get the anaesthetist round, in not much over an hour, he was being put under the anaesthetic. Heavens, I was only just in time! The abscess would have burst in a matter of only minutes!"

He leant back in his chair and looked round smilingly. "Well, the two Martins were soon convalescent and reclining upon the balcony together, no doubt discussing the coincidence of the similarity of their names and complaints, and the wonderful doctor who was attending to them. He nodded emphatically. "But wasn't it a marvellous thing that, when I was expecting one Martin, two of the same name should appear one after the other. Of course, I know Martin is not a rare name, but it's by no means a common one."

"And did you get a big fee from the first Martin?" asked one of the other doctors banteringly.

The surgeon shook his head smilingly. "No, only a very moderate one, and I sent it as an anonymous donation to my hospital." He laughed. "But the patient expressed his willingness to pay double or treble the amount, as he had benefited so greatly from the operation. You see, from the day I took out his appendix he never had a single one of those headaches which had been his curse for years and years. That was an extraordinary happening, too."

"But not so extraordinary as you perhaps think, doctor," broke in his host immediately, "as I happen to know just such a case in my own family. My poor father, who is dead now, was cured of dreadful headaches in exactly the same way, when he was quite a young man. A surgeon in London, I don't remember his name, took out his appendix, it must be nearly thirty years ago, for precisely the same reason." He laughed merrily. "Why, if you hadn't told us your patient was called Martin, you might be the very doctor who operated upon my father, for ours, too, is a name which might easily have had a double. There are plenty of people about called Hunter." He rose from his chair and made a movement towards the door. "But come on, now. We'll go and join the ladies. They are going to give us some music."

"Whew, but what a narrow escape that was!" murmured the great surgeon under his breath. He swallowed hard. "What a mercy I didn't give the right name! Fancy after all these years meeting the man's son! Gad, as old Smith has just told me, we medical men do see life!"


"SECRET SERVICE"

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 27 March 1941.


IT was in the old untroubled days before Dictators walked the earth and the scene was the lounge of a luxurious hotel upon the Cornish Riviera. The hour was after dinner, and a number of the guests had been discussing the case of a well-known public man who mysteriously disappeared from his home a few weeks previously, after it had been found out he had for many years been leading a double life.

"And, of course, there would be a woman in it!" drawled a cynical-looking man about thirty. There's a woman in everything when there's any trouble. They cause it all."

"Nonsense!" snapped an aristocratic blonde who always had a little cluster of admirers round her. "It's you horrid men who make all the trouble. You never leave us poor women alone." She turned to a distinguished looking old man who was regarding them all with an amused smile upon his clever, intellectual face. "Isn't that so, Dr. Smith? We are quite harmless if left to ourselves, aren't we?"

"Quite harmless!" nodded the old doctor emphatically. He fibbed with great gallantry. "I've never yet known a woman do anything wrong." He shook his head. "But about this particular man we've been talking of; a great deal too much fuss is being made about his disappearance, simply because he happens to be well in the public eye. Why, if we only knew it, a hundred and one such mysteries are taking place every day under our very eyes!"

"And I expect you, as a doctor, could tell us some very interesting stories of double lives, if you only would," nodded the blonde.

"Certainly, I could," agreed Dr. Smith readily. His old eyes twinkled. "Only they mightn't be all true. You've heard just now what a dreadful fibber I can be."

The blonde looked pleadingly at him. "But do tell us a story, doctor. There's nearly always something a little bit improper about doctors' stories, and it will give some of us girls a chance to lower our eyes and show off what nice long lashes we've got. Yes, tell us a story, whether it's true or not."

The others joining with her request, the old doctor said at last, "Well, I'll tell you one, and the great merit of it will be that it's quite true. It points out in what mystery we can be living for years and years and yet—be quite unaware of it." He settled himself back comfortably in his chair. "Now it's about a young fellow whom we'll call Jack Robinson. He was the only son of well-to-do parents and had been living the usual life of most young men of his class, good public school, then on to a university, plenty of money for sport, cars, travelling about, and all that. It had been intended he should become a medical man, but he wouldn't settle down to anything and idled about for so long that at last his father got sick of him and all his ways. There was a quarrel and he left the house with only a few pounds in his pocket and with no prospects at all.

"I knew the family well, and about three months later ran up against the boy in the Strand. He looked shabby and down at heel, and there was no doubt things were not going too well with him. He was annoyed with meeting me, and curtly refused the offer of a couple of pounds, getting away as quickly as possible to escape any questioning. I saw no more of him until some months later we chanced to meet again, one evening in the West End. To my astonishment, he was looking quite his old self again, smartly dressed and with all signs of prosperity about him. Standing well over six feet, I thought what a good-looking young fellow he was. I asked what he was doing, but he shook his head and declined to say.

"I suggested our dining together at the 'Rialto'—you know, one of the best and most expensive restaurants in London—and after a little hesitation he agreed, but only on the condition that I came as his guest. I was a little bit disturbed because I knew, as well as he would know, that the dinner and the wine there would cost him at least fifty shillings.

"Into the Rialto we went, and one thing struck me at once. He was most anxious not to be noticed and tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible by humping his shoulders and keeping his head down as we made our way to the table he had selected at the far end of the restaurant. All the meal time, too, when he was taking stock of the other diners, it was his eyes only and not his head which he moved. Yes, for some reason, he was undoubtedly most uneasy.

"Regardless of the price, he ordered a bottle of vintage champagne, with the evident intention of impressing upon me that he had plenty of money. I asked him again how he was making his living, but he only smiled and, upon my saying that at all events I hoped he was doing it honestly, he replied evasively. "Oh, yes, as things go nowadays!" We had a pleasant meal together and then, upon parting, with some hesitation, he asked me as a favor that if I should happen to come across him again, unexpectedly, wherever he was, unless he spoke to me first would I please take no notice and appear not to recognise him. He wouldn't explain any more, but, of course, I promised.

"I didn't see him again for a very long while, but some two years later got news of him through a mutual friend who had happened to come across him in one of those many new garden cities which have sprung up recently just outside the metropolitan area. He was married to a very pretty girl and they were occupying one of the largest and best houses on the estate. They had a good car, kept two maids and were about the most well-to-do among the little community in which they lived.

The old doctor paused here and beamed round upon his audience with twinkling eyes as he asked, "Now, what do you think his occupation was supposed to be?"

"I know," answered the blonde. "He'd become a bookmaker, of course!"

"Certainly not," reproved Dr. Smith indignantly. "His work was much more romantic than that."

"He was a dress-designer," suggested the cynical-looking man, "and and had all the lovely women in London buzzing round him like flies."

"He told fortunes," said a second man, "and the police were after him."

Dr. Smith nodded solemnly. "He was in the Secret Service and told off to watch all the most dangerous spies coming to London. That's what my friend had found out."

"Oh, how thrilling," exclaimed the blonde, "but did everybody know it?"

"Of course, they didn't! Only a very few, just his wife's parents and her relations. He was the mystery man of that little garden city. Later I met his wife and heard all the story of his coming there and the sensation he had made. It was most interesting for, although so well-off, he'd had a lot of difficulty in getting the girl. Her father was a middle-aged clerk, upon a small salary, in a tea broker's in the city and, sensible and well-balanced, he had a great objection to giving his daughter to anyone who was so evasive about his occupation that he would not disclose where he went to work every day.

"I must tell you here that there were lots of boys after Margaret, that was the girl's name, and she had no end of chances of making a good marriage for one in her position. Her parents may have been commonplace and not much to look at, but she herself was a real little beauty and with her lovely profile, perfect features and aristocratic bearing it might easily have been imagined she came of a long line of noble ancestors.

"Well, just when it seemed the young couple would have to elope to get married, the whole difficulty was smoothed out in a most unexpected manner and, all in a few moments, Margaret's father was completely satisfied as to young Jack Robinson's fitness to become his son-in-law.

"It happened, Jack had had tickets given him for a swell flower show in Chelsea, organised by society people in aid of some charity, and he took Margaret and her parents with him. The latter would not have gone or indeed, have allowed him to take Margaret if they had not heard a certain Royal Duke might be coming. Sure enough the old Duke and his Duchess put in an appearance and proceeded to mingle unobtrusively with the other visitors. Then, to the parents' stupendous amazement, His Royal Highness, happening to catch sight of Jack Robinson, gave him a most friendly nod, actually exclaiming, 'Hope you're enjoying yourself, Robinson?' Then apparently taking in that Jack was in the company of a remarkably pretty-looking girl, he added smilingly, 'And I see flowers are not the only beautiful things here this afternoon.'

"Margaret's parents were almost overwhelmed with pride, but Jack appeared to think little of it, just explaining modestly that his work often brought him in contact with most important people.

"Jack and the pretty Margaret were married shortly afterwards and, later, Jack became reconciled to his father, driving down unexpectedly to the latter's place in Hampshire one Sunday afternoon. Margaret had by then grown into a very beautiful woman and had presented her husband with a lovely little boy. Apparently, Jack was in better circumstances than ever, but he declined to give his father any further information as to his occupation except to tell him, exactly as he had told Margaret's parents, that he was in the Secret Service.

"More than ten years passed by and then, quite by accident I found out what he was actually doing. One night I was visiting one of London's most luxurious hotels, we'll call it the 'Great Babel,' and suddenly I came upon Jack in what I thought must be a disguise. He was dressed as the commissionaire of the hotel. I can't say I was very surprised, for if he were in the Secret Service the 'Great Babel' would be a most natural place for him to be watching, frequented as it is by foreigners from all parts of the world. I very seldom dined out, but that night had come as the guest of an old friend. During the course of the meal I made some discreet enquiries of our waiter as to the very handsome commissionaire I had seen at the door when I came in, and learnt to my astonishment that he was there under his own name of Jack Robinson.

"'How long has he been here?' I asked, and I could have dropped through the floor when I received the reply, 'Oh, I should think it must be getting on for 15 years.'"

The old doctor paused impressively. "So, that was his Secret Service, bowing visitors into the hotel, bowing them out again and calling taxis for them! Gad, but wasn't I amazed!

"I didn't see him again when I went out and supposed, and quite rightly, too, that he must have gone off duty. Still, I wasn't going to let the matter end there and, as a friend of the family, was intending to find out in what other way he was making his money. I was minded to go down to where I knew he was now living, upon the following Sunday, but he forestalled me by calling at my professional rooms in town the very next afternoon. He had seen me in the hotel, right enough, and came to shut my mouth before I had had much opportunity to tell anybody.

"He came into my consulting-room with a grin and frankly told me everything. He had obtained employment at the Great Babel within a few days of my having met him looking so shabby, that first time in the street, to begin with as under porter, but rising to be their head commissioner within a few months. He said he owed his rapid promotion to being able to speak French and German, and a smattering of Italian as well. Not even his wife knew he was there, for he had still kept up the fiction of the Secret Service with her, and the strange thing was that none of the people about his home life seemed to have recognised him.

"But then came his most astounding statement and it will make some of your mouths water. His weekly wage was £3, but he assured me, and produced his bank passbook to prove it, that his tips during that same time often amounted to upwards of £50."

"£50 from tips!" exclaimed the cynical-looking man angrily. "Why it's the salary of a Cabinet Minister!"

"Yes," smiled Dr. Smith, "and most probably more than the manager of the hotel himself earned." He was drawing near the end of his story. "You see only wealthy people would be coming to the Great Babel and Jack Robinson, being of such a good appearance and looking so distinguished, none of them would care to give him a really small tip. Besides, with his knowledge of the continent and the best places where one could spend a lot of money, he was most useful to many visitors, particularly so to Americans.

"Well, for ten more years after he came to see me that afternoon he remained on at the Great Babel, and during all that time managed to keep from his wife and family what his occupation really was. They never found him out. Just think of it! For five and twenty years he lived that double life, giving his children the best surroundings possible. He sent his boys to the best public schools and then on to the university. One qualified brilliantly as a medical man and the other got high into the Indian Civil Service, and they never learnt what their father was. I say 'was,' because he left the Great Babel nearly a couple of years back.

"But why did he leave there if he was doing so well?" asked the good-looking blonde. "Had he got enough money to retire?"

"Partly that," replied Dr. Smith, "and partly for family reasons. One of his daughters, who is as beautiful as her mother was, was making an excellent marriage and, with her moving in such good society circles, it would have been a dreadful thing if the father's occupation had become known. Besides, his own father is quite a wealthy man and, the only child, there was no necessity for him to keep on where he was. So Jack Robinson retired and, having grown a beard, no one would recognise him now." The old man rose to his feet. "Well, goodnight all, and I hope you liked my little story, although, as I say, it has the merit of being strictly true," and, with a smiling bow all round, he left the room.

"Interesting old chap!" remarked a man thoughtfully. He shook his head. "But I'm sure I've seen him before. His face seems familiar, somehow."

The following day some passing motorists, calling in at the hotel for lunch, happened to meet there a man they knew. Looking round at those gathered together for the meal, one of the newcomers remarked: "Ah, I see you got old Sir Michael staying here. He won't remember me, although I was introduced to him some little time ago. I know his son pretty well."

His friend followed the direction he indicated. "But that's a Dr. Smith!" he exclaimed. "He's no Sir Michael Somebody!"

"Oh, isn't he?" laughed the other. "He's Sir Michael Barrow, right enough. He got his baronetcy when he was made Physician to the King. He's an eccentric old chap, and often goes about under an assumed name. He thinks people always want to ask him a lot of questions if they know who he really is."

The friend expressed his astonishment. "Is he married?" he asked.

"He was, but he's been a widower now for many years. His granddaughter was the beautiful Mary Barrow, who's portrait was in the Academy last year. You remember she married young Lord Thurlow."

A suspicion stirred in the other's mind. "Who's her father?" he asked sharply.

"John Barrow, the heir to the baronetcy. He runs a model farm near Haslemere. Used to be something in the Secret Service up to a couple of years ago. Very decent chap!"

His friend gave a low whistle, but made no comment.


THE MIRACLE

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 1 & 8 May 1941

MARY BELL always remembered it was the day after her twenty-sixth birthday when she first felt the pain. She was in church and had just got up from her knees when she felt a sharp stab in her side. It only lasted for a few seconds and then went off. But it hurt her again, for quite a minute, as she was walking home.

Then the next morning, when she was in her bath, she felt it and, pressing hard, she could just feel a tender spot. All that week it bothered her on and off, remaining for yet longer and longer periods when it came on. It was worse at night and when she was tired. She thought she must have ricked herself at some time, but she could not remember when. She did not worry about it, however, being sure it would pass off soon.

But by the end of a fortnight it was nearly always with her, unless she was sitting still or lying down. It was not by any means a bad pain, just an ache. She still took no notice of it, for otherwise she felt quite well.

Mary Bell worked in a wheat-broker's office in Pitt street, Sydney, and her salary was 55/- a week. She was an orphan and had no relations, except some cousins in Adelaide with whom she very seldom communicated. She was quite a pretty girl, but could have made herself much more attractive than she did, had she chosen. She had a good complexion, nice, soft brown eyes, and a perfect set of teeth. Also, her hair was wavey. She was of medium height and had a well-formed and beautifully proportioned little figure.

But she dressed cheaply and dowdily, making no attempt to enlist the interest of the other sex. She had had no "affairs," and seemed, without any, to be quite content. She was very quiet and reserved in disposition and had, practically, no friends. In her work at the office she was capable and trustworthy.

She lived in a cheap boarding house in one of the unfashionable suburbs of Sydney and, without realising it, her life was drab and uninteresting.

The ache went on, until gradually it became part of her life, but she found that if she held her left side stiffly and in a certain position as she walked, she hardly felt it, and so, for nearly five months, she was quite content to let it remain like that.

Then one day she happened to pick up a newspaper and read, in an editorial commenting upon the deliberations of a recent medical congress, that the very gravest warning had been given about any pains or swellings in any part of the body which could not be accounted for, and she went grey with horror.

She had had her ache and swelling for nearly five months, and, oh, God, if it turned out to be——!

It was in the sitting-room of the boarding house, just after the evening meal, when she had picked up the newspaper and, turning her head down so that no one should see her ashen face, she tottered up to her bedroom.

Then alone, and with temples throbbing and lying wide-eyed upon the bed, she thought out what she must do.

She would go to a doctor at once and, even if her worst fears were confirmed, it might not be too late for an operation. After all, although latterly the pain had been almost a constant one, the swelling was still very small, and she had to press hard to feel it.

No, she would not go to a local doctor; she would choose a most experienced one. She would go to one of the big consultants in Macquarie street, no matter what she would have to pay. One thing, she could afford it for, thank heaven, she had some money saved.

Then she thought at once of Dr. Oscar Holthusen. She had heard he was terribly expensive, but knew that for more than a generation he had been one of the foremost consulting physicians in Sydney. He was certainly getting old, but he was reputed to be still wonderful and she herself knew he was a kind and gentle man and one of whom no one need be afraid.

She had heard him lecture once at a big girl's club to which at one time she had belonged, and she always remembered what he had said to them then.

He had spoken on the subject that was generally supposed to be nearest to his heart, the power of the mind over the body and how, in sickness, its influence could be far greater than the most marvellous potions of any fabled magician of ancient times. Indeed, he said they were only at the beginning of their knowledge there, and no doubt in years to come perfect miracles of healing would be brought about by the will power of the sufferers alone.

The next morning she rang up his consulting rooms and was given an appointment for the next day at twelve o'clock. The secretary said Mary was very fortunate for, had not a patient just postponed her appointment, she would have had to wait at least a week, the doctor being so full up with engagements.

So the following day, a few minutes after noon, Mary Bell was being ushered into the consulting room and received with an old-world courtesy by the doctor. His face was as kind and gentle as she remembered it, and save for his beautiful silvered hair brushed close upon his head, it was, she thought, not unlike that of some medieval saint in the stained-glass window of a church. He was small and frail-looking, but his deep-set eyes were very bright and burned with a strong vitality.

He made her feel quite at her ease at once, and in a few moments she was unburdening to him all her fears.

He smiled when she told him of the warning she had read in the news papers.

"Not at your age, young lady," he said. "It is highly improbable."

Then he was just stretching out his hand to the bell upon his desk when, suddenly, a great change came over his countenance, his lips parted, his calm expression altered to one of some excitement, and he drew back his hand sharply. Then he stretched it out again, he hesitated, and finally the hand came to rest upon his knees.

A short silence followed, with the doctor staring very thoughtfully at a big engraving of "The Martyr"' upon the wall.

At last he turned again to Mary and, with his deep-set eyes regarding her most intently, began asking her a lot of questions.

He wanted to know all about her temperament and disposition; was she self-reliant, had she good powers of self-control, was her will strong, and could she concentrate. Then he asked a lot about her home surroundings; what was her occupation, did she go out much, did she make many friends and was she engaged to be married.

"I like to get to know as much as possible about all my patients," he explained smilingly, "so that in my treatment I can deal with the mind as well as with the body."

He touched the bell upon his desk, with no hesitation this time. "Now, I'll examine you. Just go behind that screen, please, and Nurse will help you to undress."

His examination was very thorough and carried out in perfect silence. His face was very grave all the time. Then with a curt gesture he motioned to her to put on her clothes and, leaving her to the attentions of the nurse, left the room.

When she was dressed again the nurse told her to resume her seat by the desk until the doctor returned, but the latter appeared almost before she had had time to sit down.

"Well, I can't give you any decided opinion, Miss Bell," he said slowly, and Mary thought with a pang that he was avoiding her eyes, "until you've been X-rayed. You've got something there, but what it is I can't tell." He took one of his cards out of a case and wrote quickly upon it. "Now, I've just spoken on the telephone to this Dr. Neville, and you are to go over to him at once, he's only just across the street. He'll X-ray you straight away, and I'll get the skiagram tonight. Then you can come and see me tomorrow at five minutes to twelve and I'll tell you everything."

The following day, the moment she entered the consulting room, Mary saw by the expression upon the doctor's face that he had bad news to tell.

"I've got something?" she asked breathlessly. "There is something there?"

He nodded very slowly. "Yes. I'm sorry to tell you there is, Miss Bell."

"And I shall have to be operated upon?" she gasped.

He shook his head. "No," he said, "it is inoperable. It has reached the walls of the great arteries. You have left it too long," and then, when Mary covered her face with her hands and broke into convulsive sobs, he came and stood over her and laid his hand in deepest sympathy upon her shoulder.

"Poor little woman!" he exclaimed. "I am so sorry for you, and you'll want all your courage now. It seems awful that a beautiful, white young body like yours should house so hideous a thing, but there it is. Nature strikes blindly, and a queen upon her throne and the poorest beggar-girl may both suffer in the same way."

Then, with Mary controlling herself and beginning to calm down, he told her exactly what would happen. She had about nine months to live, but for the first five or six she would feel very little different and the pain would not get worse. She was to come and see him regularly once a month, and when the pain began to get really bad he would put her in a hospital and see she suffered as little as possible.

"So for five or six months," he said, "you can lead what life you will and I'll tell you how to make the best of everything." He spoke most earnestly. "You must get accustomed to this horrible thing and not let its dreadful presence frighten you. Get to grips with it at once and let it become familiar to you. Concentrate your mind upon it. Put your hand upon your side and say, 'I know you're there, but you're not going to terrify me. I'll regard you just as an ordinary occurrence.'" He nodded. "Yes, prove your courage and show how the mind can triumph over the body."

Poor Mary Bell drank of a bitter cup in the ensuing days, and it needed all her courage to let no one sense the terror in her heart. She was a little quieter, perhaps, and even a little more reserved, but she was always ready with her grave smile, and in her work she was as competent and thorough as ever.

She did not mind the day so much, but the nights were hours of haunting horror for her. Then her fears overcame her and it was not until she was utterly exhausted and the grey dawn was creeping into the room, that she would sink into a brief and fitful slumber.

But one day something happened, and her mind turned a complete somersault. She took a grip of life again and vistas of happiness, more wonderful than she had ever known before, suddenly opened up before her.

It happened in this way.

When she was passing along Pitt street in the dinner hour the traffic was suddenly held up, and she stopped, with curiosity, to regard a very unusual looking car that was close to the kerb.

The car was an open single-seater one and, richly appointed with its silver-plated bonnet, it looked to Mary the last word in luxury. Inside were two very pretty girls and, beautifully gowned, they were talking animatedly together.

With a fierce pang of anguish in her heart Mary thought how different their lives were going to be to hers. They had probably everything the world could offer—health, riches, love, friendship, and happy homes—while she—she was an untouchable, friendless, loveless, and so soon to pass away in the white and narrow bed of a hospital ward.

Ah—and a clarion call rang through her! She had five months yet when she could enjoy life! She had money saved, and why shouldn't she then spend it all to pack in that short remaining time such memories of happiness that they would be an anodyne in the few but awful weeks that would follow after?

Oh, heaven, why hadn't she thought of it before?

That night in her bedroom, all feelings of depression left her, and flushed and excited, she was considering what she would do.

She would give up her daily drudgery at the office; she would leave the dreary boarding house, she would be gowned by Madame Lamontaine, she would go and stop at one of the best hotels, she would have drives in motor cars, she would go to concerts and theatres, and she would live the life of a rich and carefree girl!

Ah! but she had only just £252, and that wouldn't last long! She couldn't carry out her programme upon that! Her dresses alone would cost at least £100!

Her great hopes began to droop and wither, and then another thought came to her and she was all excitement again.

She must gamble with this £252! She must risk everything, and either lose it or turn it into £1,000!

Risk was no stranger to her, for in her nine years in a wheat-broker's office she had lived the whole time in an atmosphere of gambling, or "speculation," as it was called. Wheat was always going up and down, and the rise or fall of a penny a bushel often meant huge sums of money to the men who frequented the office day by day.

The next morning she drew out her £252 from the bank, and that same afternoon presented herself to her employer in his private room.

"I come on business today, Mr. Bentley," she said calmly to the keen-eyed and rather poker-faced middle-aged man who was seated at a large desk there. She laid down five £50 notes before him. "I want you to buy wheat for me with this upon a three-penny cover."

"Say it again," said her employer frowningly, and when she had complied with his request, he asked with a scowl, "Whose money is this?"

"Mine," replied Mary. "I've just drawn it from the bank."

"All your savings, I suppose," he grunted. He pushed the notes away. "Well, I'll do no business for you. The market's panicky, and I won't encourage you."

"But, Mr. Bentley," pleaded Mary tremulously, "I have to risk it. Something has happened in my life, something I can't tell you, and I must have much more money or none at all. Just this £250 will not help me, and if I lose it I shall be no worse off." She spoke with great earnestness. "Please do as I want you to or it will only mean I shall have to go to someone else and may then get cheated."

Without a word her employer drew out a slip of paper from a pigeonhole and commenced to write. There was silence for a few moments and then he looked up and said. "Now let us be quite clear. Wheat stands at 4/10 today, and I am to buy enough with this £250 so that if limits are reduced 3d. a bushel your cover will have run off and you will have lost all your £250. You quite understand, do you not?"

"Yes, perfectly," nodded Mary, "and if it goes up 3d. a bushel and I ask you to sell, I shall have made £250 or thereabouts."

"Exactly!" he said dryly. "If it goes up." He smiled a grim smile. "But don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

However, Mary's good fortune was in the ascendant, for after remaining stationary for two days the market went up a penny and the following day twopence. She sold at once, with Mr. Bentley making no comment, but when two day's later wheat had dropped a penny and Mary came in, this time with £400 to speculate, he expressed himself forcibly.

"Don't be so foolish, Miss Bell," he snapped. "You've made good once and be content with that."

But Mary was firm, and in the end he gave way. Then Mary had a very worrying week, and all the pain in her side was forgotten in her anxiety about the price of wheat. It dropped a penny, recovered twopence half penny and then dropped a penny again. Finally, three days in succession it rose a penny and Mary, tempting fortune no longer, instructed her employer to sell.

"And you're a very lucky young woman," said the latter, when later he handed her a cheque for well over £800. "To turn £250 into more than £800 in ten days is what few of us are able to do who have been in wheat all our lives." He waved her aside. "Now don't you come near me again."

Mary looked very embarrassed. "And I shan't be coming near you at all soon," she said, "for I want to give you notice now. I have to give up my work here."

Mr. Bentley looked astonished. "Give notice!" he exclaimed. He pointed to the cheque in her hand. "You've got a nerve, haven't you?"

"I am so sorry about it," said Mary apologetically, "but the truth is I am to have a serious operation in about six months, and I want to take a long holiday to get strong for it."

"Ah!" exclaimed her employer. He nodded. "Yes, I believe you. I've noticed you've not been looking well lately. Well, you can go at the end of the week. Come and see me when you are strong again."

A fortnight later a very elegant looking Miss Dorothy Bell—Dorothy was Mary's other Christian name and she thought it sounded more important than Mary—had taken up her residence at the magnificent Semiris Hotel, and making arrangements to stay at least three months she had been accommodated with sitting-room, bedroom and bathroom en suite for the trifle of £12 12/ a week.

She was beautifully gowned, and everything about her suggested good taste, and ample means to indulge in it. Very wisely she had placed herself entirely in the hands of those best able to judge what styles would suit her, and the result was a very sweet, charming, and even a distinguished-looking young woman.

At the Semiris she was soon referred to by everyone as "The Mysterious Lady," because no one seemed to know anything about her. She was never seen to speak to anyone, she never had any visitors, and no letters ever came for her.

She could have made friends in plenty had she wanted to, for everyone was interested in her, and the men especially so. But she kept herself to herself, firmly but politely discouraging any advances.

She regarded herself as an untouchable.

She was not unhappy, however, and appreciated to the full all her luxurious surroundings. She revelled in the peace of everything. She loved her bright and comfortable rooms, with their incomparable view over the glorious harbor. She enjoyed the food and was never weary of the fine hotel orchestra. She had her motor drives, as she had promised herself, and she went to concerts, theatres, and pictures whenever the mood took her.

Strangely enough, her side was better and not nearly so painful, but Dr. Holthusen warned her that, unhappily, she must build no hopes upon that, for, as the growth invaded the surrounding tissues, it might paralyse the sensory nerves, and they would then fail to pass on sensations.

She had been to the doctor upon three more occasions and he had been kindness itself to her. He had been most interested to learn if she had been concentrating upon her trouble as he had advised her to, and when she had told him, rather fibbingly, that she had, he seemed very pleased.

"That's right," he said encouragingly, "and then it will lose all its terrors for you."

She had been X-rayed again after every visit, but each time she had been sent to a new radiologist. The doctor had explained he was not at all satisfied with the old ones.

When she had been at the Semiris just over three and a half months, it came to her all of a sudden one morning, that the promised period of immunity from pain was quickly passing, and had now a bare two months to run.

So, acting upon an impulse, she resolved to go for a sea voyage, and selected the one to South Africa, because she found there was a boat of the same line returning only two days after she would arrive at Capetown.

Then one glorious summer evening she found herself upon the good ship Nestor, and watching with moist eyes the dim and quickly receding lights of the great city.

"And when I see you again, you dear old Sydney," she murmured chokingly, "I shall be among the ways of pain. I shall be near the end then and my days will be almost done."

It had been her intention to be as reserved as ever upon the boat, but she soon realised that it was quite impossible, as everyone wanted to be so friendly. So almost at once she was whirled into all the gaiety of shipboard life, and to her astonishment she found she was enjoying it.

What did it matter, she asked herself. She would never see any of these people again! They would pass out of her life just as she was going to pass out of life itself. So she would take the best the hours could give her, and it would be a bright memory to her as she lay stretched upon the hospital bed.

So she played bridge, she danced, and she joined in all the sports. She was a great favorite with everyone, and seemingly of so natural and happy a disposition she disarmed all the jealousy the women might have had because of the attention the men gave her. The men were her great trouble, and with several of them she had difficulty in preventing their flirtations developing into serious love-making. But she managed it somehow, except in the case of one elderly widower, and he, getting her alone on deck one night, two days before they were due to arrive at Capetown, made a proposal of marriage to her.

He was well-to-do and a very nice man, and when she regretfully refused him was most dejected. They parted at Capetown, but after the boat had left for England she received a registered packet at her hotel, and, opening it, found it contained a very beautiful diamond ring. "My poor wife's," wrote the donor, "and no one but you shall wear it." And as he put no address on the letter she knew she would have to keep it.

The return voyage to Australia followed much upon the same lines as that from Sydney. Again she was most popular and, as before, quickly came to have her bevy of admirers. Her side had begun to hurt her quite a lot now, but she put it resolutely out of her mind, and her happy, smiling face told nothing of the dreadful fate which she knew was overshadowing her.

One man among the other passengers soon singled himself out as her most attentive admirer, a young doctor who was coming out to Australia to make it his permanent home. He told her he had been suddenly summoned from London because an uncle of his had been taken very ill. The doctor's name was Errol Strone, and he was very good-looking, with a strong, firm face and calm grey eyes.

He had taken a great fancy to her and was always hovering about wherever she was. She felt instinctively that his interest in her was becoming serious, and took good care that she should never be with him alone.

One night, three days before the boat was due to arrive at Port Adelaide, there was a fancy dress ball, and Mary went as "The Spirit of Night." She thought in grim amusement that her choice was most appropriate, as her own night was so soon to fall.

Another girl passenger who had been a mannequin in London had improvised the dress for her, and the general opinion was that Dorothy Bell was absolutely beautiful that night. Her pain was saddening her and there was a wistful, haunting look in her eyes that made an irresistible appeal.

Towards midnight, tired out and unable to stand her pain any longer, she slipped away from the ball-room and, getting hold of her cabin stewardess, asked for a boiling hot bath. Then, lying back, soothed and made drowsy by the heat of the water, she suddenly realised she was about to faint.

She had just strength enough to call out, "Help! help!" and then she remembered nothing more until she came to and found herself in her own bed.

She was wrapped in a blanket and Dr. Strone and one of the ship's nurses were bending over her, with a very anxious-looking stewardess hovering in the background.

"That'll do now, Sister," said the doctor. "She's coming to and must have a little brandy in some hot milk."

He shook his finger reprovingly at Mary. "Fie, fie, young woman," he said smilingly, "you should never have a bath as hot as that. It was enough to knock out a strong man, to say nothing of a girl who had been indulging in violent exercise all the evening."

He left her in a few minutes and she sank into a troubled sleep. She dreamt that someone was offering her a cup of great happiness, and then, just as she was about to drink from it, it was dashed from her lips.

The next morning she felt quite all right again and, except that her side was aching, no worse for her adventure in the bath.

She thanked the doctor prettily, but he made light of it. "The stewardess happened to find me first," he said, "and that's how I came to attend you." He smiled. "In the ordinary way, you know, it's the privilege of the ship's doctor to attend to all the pretty girls."

The night before they were due to reach Port Adelaide, she made her way alone up on to the boat deck and, leaning over the rail in sad contemplation of the beautiful moonlit sea, was suddenly startled by the sound of footsteps she had come to know so well.

Then before she could make a movement to prevent it, she felt an arm encircle her waist, she was drawn close to a tall figure, her face was tilted up and Dr. Strone was kissing her passionately upon the lips.

Just for one fleeting second she made an effort to wrench her face away, but the ecstacy of his kisses sapped all her strength, and she soon found herself in abject surrender, folded unresistingly in his arms, and even returning his caresses.

For the moment she was lost to everything but his nearness to her, and with her arms around his neck, her kisses were as long and as fervent as his own.

Her madness lasted longer than a minute and then she realised what was happening. She—the untouchable to all men—was allowing a man to kiss her and actually kissing him in return!

She suddenly thrust him away from her. "No, no," she choked, "you ought not to have kissed me. It was wicked of me to let you do it. You must not touch me at all."

"But why not?" asked Dr. Strone. "You're not married already are you? You're not engaged?" He spoke passionately. "Then why shouldn't I kiss you. I want you to promise to become my wife."

"Oh, no, I can't promise you," she wailed. "Please go away now. I'll answer you some other time."

"Well," he smiled, quite unperturbed, "I'm leaving the boat, as you know, tomorrow, and going overland to Sydney." He sighed. "So, I suppose I'll have to wait until you get there. Give me your address, anyhow."

So it was left at that, and the next morning she said good-bye to him in front of all the others, giving him no chance to speak to her alone. Then as he was going down the gangway she whispered. "And please don't meet the boat when it arrives at Sydney. If you do, I shall be terribly angry. You can come and see me the next day."

She saw him land upon the wharf with dreadful feelings in her heart, for she knew she would never see him again. She had given him a false address.

Then for five weeks she hid herself away in a good class guest home, to which was attached a large garden. She never went beyond the garden, fearful that she might meet Dr. Strone. She often wondered what he thought of her and hoped he had forgotten her. Her side hurt her a good deal now, and she could no longer walk far. Strangely enough, she found she was not losing weight.

At last when nearly seven months had sped away since her first visit to Dr. Holthusen, she rang up for an appointment with him, believing that her going into a hospital could not much longer be delayed.

It was a strange voice that answered her and she realised the old doctor must have got a new secretary. Yes, she could come on Thursday at four o'clock, she was told, and then she was asked if she were a new patient. When she said no, there seemed to be some hesitation at the other end of the wire and then the voice repeated that Thursday at four would be all right.

So at the appointed time she arrived in Dr. Holthusen's waiting room, and the nurse at once appeared. "It's a long time since we've seen you, Miss Bell," said the latter smiling, and Mary thought she seemed rather embarrassed.

"Yes, I've been for a sea voyage," explained Mary. "Will the doctor be very angry, do you think?"

"No-o, I don't think so," replied the nurse. "You see, he's——" but at that moment a bell rang, and with an apology the nurse slipped away.

A minute or two later, Mary was shown into the consulting room, and she thought the door was closed very quickly behind her. Then she saw someone, whom she knew instantly was not the doctor, with his back towards her, and as he turned quickly at hearing the door close, to her consternation she saw it was Dr. Errol Strone.

For a moment they both stared at each other without speaking, and then Dr. Strone exclaimed incredulously, "You! It's you!" He picked up an index-card, off the table. "You're not this Miss Mary Bell referred to here?"

Mary felt her knees sinking under her and from a deathly pallor her face flamed to a furious red. "Yes, I'm Mary Bell," she faltered. "Mary's my other Christian name." Her voice steadied. "I want to see Dr. Holthusen, please. I'm a patient of his."

But Dr. Strone was still staring at her in abject amazement and then he turned his eyes again upon the card. "Left iliac region," he muttered, "probably sarcoma!" He drew in a deep breath. "Sit down, will you please, Miss Bell."

"But I want to see Dr. Holthusen," repeated Mary nervously.

"He is away, very ill," said Dr. Strone. "No, he'll never come back, and I am taking on all his patients. I am his nephew—by marriage." He smiled faintly. I told you I'd been called to Australia because of my uncle being ill."

"But I can't let you attend me after the friends we've been," said Mary, warmly. "I wouldn't think of it."

"Nonsense," said Dr. Strone sharply, "you're nothing but 'a case' to me now. Sit down at once."

Feeling weak and tottery and unable to resist his stern command, Mary did as she was requested, and with his face all puckered up into a frown, Dr. Strone went on looking from her to the card and then to her again. "You've been here five times," he said, looking very puzzled, "and you've had four X-rays for trouble that began five months before my uncle first saw you! What did he say you'd got?"

"A growth," whispered Mary faintly. "He gave me about nine months to live,"—she could hardly speak—"and the time expires in about two months. I've had trouble for more than a year now."

"Good God!" exclaimed Dr. Strone, and he looked the very picture of bewilderment. Then he said very quietly, "Well, now you just tell me everything, everything right from the very beginning."

And so, choking back her tears and her voice gathering strength as she went along, Mary told him the whole story of the past twelve months; how she had been a typiste in an office when the pain had come on, how she had read the medical warning about unaccountable pain, how she had consulted his uncle and what she had been then told, how she had gambled with all her savings to get enough money to live the last months of her life in luxury, and all that happened after.

And all the time Dr. Strone listened intently; frowning when she told of her visits to his uncle, smiling, as he heard of her successful gamble in wheat, and with a calm impassive face when she mentioned her hotel life and the voyage to South Africa. "Now just one question," he said when she had finished, and he pointed to her right side. "Did you get that long scar there only from having your appendix taken out?"

"Yes, it had to be done suddenly, when I was in the country," she replied, "and the young doctor there said he had great difficulty in finding it." A sudden thought struck her and she grew scarlet. "But how do you know about that long scar?"

He spoke with studied carelessness. "I noticed it when I was lifting you out of the bath that night," he said. "I happened to be passing in the corridor when the stewardess heard your cry for help. Then I climbed over the bathroom door and got you out." He touched the bell upon the desk "Now we'll have a look at those X-rays."

But his study of the X-rays only made him frown more heavily. "Not a sign of anything there," he snapped. "But I'll have a look at where the pain is."

So, as upon each visit before, Mary was taken behind the screen and the nurse helped her to undress. Then Dr. Strone proceeded to examine her, much as his uncle had done, only that he was much quicker and did not press her side so much. He made her lie upon her back, then turn over, and finally she had to stand up and bend slowly down. All the time he looked as solemn as if he were at a funeral.

Then he said sharply. "You've no growth at all. You've nothing the matter with you except that one of your muscles is badly torn and, as you've been going about with it like that for longer than a year, it'll take some little time to heal. I'll strap up your side with plaster now, and you'll go straight into a private hospital, for at least a fortnight, and be kept perfectly still."

"But you're sure?" gasped Mary. "You're perfectly sure?" and when he repeated he was, she burst into a passionate flood of tears.

"Put on your clothes," he said curtly, "and I'll talk to you."

Mary came round the screen to find him seated at the desk and looking very grim and stern. She sat down as he bade her and the nurse left the room.

A short silence followed and then, as if with a great effort, Dr. Strone began to speak. It seemed as if he were struggling under the stress of some very strong emotion.

"You've been a very wronged woman, Miss Bell," he said huskily, "and no words can express the grief I feel." He drew in a deep breath. "My uncle has deliberately imposed upon you to further his dreadful scientific ends. He wanted to find out if, by telling you you had a growth in your side, the concentration of your mind could ultimately produce one." He gritted his teeth. "It was a fiendish thing to do."

Mary was crying softly. "Oh, it was awful of him," she sobbed, "and he ought to be punished."

"He is punished," said Dr. Strone sternly. "He is in an asylum for the insane."

A long silence followed, and then he went on. "You see, Miss Bell, he was an old man and the study of the influence of the mind upon the body had been the obsession of his later years. His concentration had eaten into his sanity. He knew, as we all know, that willpower can cure many diseases and he wanted to prove most definitely and without a shadow of a doubt that it can also create them, even organic ones. You came along with your fears of a malignant growth. You tempted him and he fell."

Mary was drying her eyes. "Well, I shall forget it all in time, shan't I?" she asked. "I shall become an ordinary woman again one day?"

"Of course, you will," replied the doctor stoutly. "With the wonderful strength of character you have, in a few weeks, even, it will be all only a memory to you." He spoke in business-like tones. "Now this is what we are going to do. I'm ringing up a private hospital, and when I've finished with the two patients who are now waiting, Nurse and I will take you there in my car. Nurse will go and get any clothes that are necessary." He hesitated a moment and seemed rather embarrassed. "Now as to funds." He smiled. "Have you spent all that £900?"

Mary blushed furiously. "Certainly not. I've still got more than £80 and that——"

"Will be ample," interrupted the doctor, "until I get you another position." He nodded. "I've plenty of influence, and there will be no difficulty there."

And then for a month it seemed to Mary that the days flew by in a delicious but very troubled dream. At first, and when in the hospital, she saw Dr. Strone almost every day, but never dared to look him straight in the face, lest he should see her feelings for him in her eyes.

She could not make him out. He was kindness itself to her, but always most coldly professional, and even when she had left the hospital and was visiting him again at his consulting room, he never showed the slightest trace of any personal interest. The nurse was always present and, the examinations over, he bowed her out, she thought, as quickly as possible. The passionate lover of the boat-deck had completely faded away.

Then came her last visit to him, she knew it was to be the last because he had told her a few days previously that it would be, and her appointment was for five o'clock, a much later hour than was usual.

He examined her side carefully and pronounced her quite cured. Then, when the nurse had left the room, and she herself was thanking him for his great kindness and preparing to say good-bye, he interrupted her with the nicest smile he had given her all the time he had been attending her.

"Oh, I've not quite done with you yet," he said. "I promised I would get you another position, and I've found it, and am going to take you to see if you would like it, straight-away."

"But Dr. Strone——" she began.

"No!" he interrupted, "I've arranged it all. Now, I shan't be five minutes and you go and sit in my car outside until I'm ready."

Hurt and dreadfully saddened that her romance was all over, she was half inclined to refuse, but he bustled her out quickly and she found herself seated in his car almost before she knew what had happened. Her heart beat a little tremulously at the thought of a drive alone with him.

He did not keep her waiting very long and then, with hardly a word spoken, they drove through the city. It was not a long drive and in about twenty minutes they were turning into a side road that went down to one of the innumerable little bays of the harbor.

"Here we are!" he exclaimed as they passed through a gate leading into a curving avenue of overhanging trees. Through the trees Mary could see a dainty little bungalow perched upon the low cliffs, and just above the sea.

But Dr. Strone did not drive the whole length of the avenue, and proceeding only just far enough, so that they were out of sight of any people passing in the road, brought the car abruptly to a standstill. The spot was a secluded one, and Mary's knees began to tremble.

Then her companion suddenly slipped his arm around her, and without a word, drew her close to him. He tilted up her chin and looked into her eyes. A moment's waiting and he bent down and started to kiss her passionately.

Mary made no pretence that his kisses were unwelcome, and for a long minute clung to him in ecstacy. A supreme happiness was surging through her, and Heaven was no farther than that garden by the sea.

But they had to pause at last to take breath, and then he asked mockingly: "And I suppose, sweetheart, you've been expecting me to kiss you like this, every time you've come to see me!"

"Oh, no, I haven't," she replied instantly, and in smiling indignation. "I never thought of such a thing." Then she gave him a demure look and added softly: "Still, I might not have been very angry if you had."

"Well, I simply didn't do it," he laughed merrily, "because on principle I never kiss anyone during professional hours." He regarded her tenderly. "Yes, you little darling, I made up my mind you should become my wife that night as I was lifting you out of that bath." He drew her to him again. "I had rescued you, and thought you sort of belonged to me from that moment. So we'll be married straight-away, this week or next, and"—he pointed to the bungalow—"our honeymoon will be spent there."

And then so deep and long a silence followed that a willy-wagtail came and perched himself upon the bonnet of the car. It would, however, have been more in accordance with the fitness of things had the wagtail been a bird of Paradise.


THE JUDGE'S SECRET

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 15 May 1941.

IT was getting on for ten o'clock at night, and in a closely-curtained room upon the top floor of a high building a woman was gazing intently into a large crystal ball reposing upon a bed of black velvet in the centre of a small table. The only illuminant of the room was a small, red-globed lamp, close beside which an incense pastille was burning in a brass bowl. The woman's head was hooded in a dark shawl. A deep silence filled the room.

Seated opposite to the woman, on the other side of the table, a man was scowling sullenly. Well into middle age, he was distinguished-looking, and, with his lofty brow, his shrewd, stern eyes, and his resolute mouth and chin, he seemed very out of place as a client in a fortune teller's parlor.

Indeed, none realised better than he himself that he was out of place there and he was furious for having come. A judge of the Supreme Court, a man of the highest intellectual attainments and noted for his unsparing condemnation of all forms of chicanery and sham, he knew it would be a public scandal if it became known where he had been.

But he was excusing himself that it was in contemptuous curiosity only he had come. He had been taking a long walk, as he often did at night when he had something particularly important to think about, and, overtaken by a heavy shower of rain, had sought shelter in the entrance hall of a large block of offices. Then, his eyes roving carelessly round to the notice board upon which were inscribed the names of the many tenants of the building, he had suddenly become interested with a name he saw there.

"Madame Laselle!" he had exclaimed. "Now where have I heard that name before? Ah, I remember! The fortune-teller, the woman who bamboozled Susan last week at Mrs. Travers's!"

How scornful he had felt at the recollection! His wife had returned from her friend's house with an amazing tale of the marvellous powers of a crystal-gazer, an un-French-looking woman with a French name and a decided Scotch accent, who had been hired for the afternoon to tell fortunes. She had mentioned many intimate details of his wife's family life, and, besides detailing happenings in her past, had confidently predicted much of what her future would be.

How contemptuously he had smiled as he had stood waiting for the rain to stop! How convenient it would be if someone would tell him about the future, and, particularly so, about that investment a friend of his was trying to induce him to make and about which he had to give his decision on the morrow! It would certainly be most useful if he could learn what was going to happen to that gold mine in Western Australia! Bah, what credulous creatures nearly all woman were!

Then, the rain continuing to pour down in torrents and chafing at his enforced inactivity, the idea had come to him suddenly that he would go up and see what this fortune-telling woman was like. It was almost certain she would keep evening hours and he was curious to determine how a woman speaking broken English with a Scotch accent could have managed to so impose upon an audience of educated, if naturally inclined to be credulous, women.

At first he had dismissed the idea with the utmost scorn, but the rain still going on, more to occupy his time than anything, he had thought it would be amusing to see exactly what the woman was like, and so, finally, he had mounted the four flights of stairs and rung upon her door. "Madame Laselle, Vocational Adviser," he had read upon the brass plate, and, in answer to his ring, it had been she herself, as he had guessed at once, who had opened the door.

"I want to consult you," he had said, but she had only stared hard and suspiciously at him, making no sign for him to enter the room. So he had added drily—"I have nothing to do with the police and I am quite alone. It is quite by chance I am here. I was caught in this rain, and, waiting in the entrance hall, happened to catch sight of your name upon the notice board."

"Vat you know about me?" she asked with a frown.

"That you are a crystal-gazer," he snapped. He tried to keep the contempt out of his tones. "That you can read the past and the future."

After a few moments of further hesitation, she at last invited him to enter and very quickly, to his idea, the tomfoolery had begun. For a short while he was interested in the paraphernalia of charlatancy, the darkness, the red lamp, and the burning incense pastille, but his interest there soon waned and, soothed by the silence and the semi-darkness, his thoughts began harking back to the matter of the contemplated investment. Should he put his money in it? It was a biggish sum his friend was advising, and there was no doubt a great, great element of risk in the venture. Now that the courts were up, too, his friend wanted him to fly back with him for a long holiday, and he was not over-partial to aeroplanes at any time. Yes, everything wanted a lot of consideration and——

But his thoughts were interrupted here, for the fortune-teller at last began to speak and in a few moments, as if in a dream and to his intense amazement, he realised she seemed to be warning him against the very matters which had been in his thoughts.

"I see," she droned slowly and in a husky monotone, "two paths stretching away before you and mooch vill depend upon vich vun you take. Zey are drawing close now and you must make a choice from vich; vunce chosen, you vill not be able to draw back. Vun leads down into ze bowels of ze earth. It go on and on, but zen stop all at vonce." She considered for a few moments and then shook her head slowly. "No, zat is not ze path you must take, for zose who follow it vill have to turn back. It lead novere."

Her listener's face was screwed up in a heavy frown. Of course, she was giving him the usual patter she gave to all her dupes, but how strangely what she was saying fitted in! The pathway into the bowels of the earth might easily mean the entrance into a mine, and she was telling him it would not be a profitable one to follow. She was suggesting the gold-bearing veins might peter out. It was certainly a remarkable coincidence!

She went on, droning more slowly than ever. "I see a great roll of sky. It ees blue and high and vide and ze sun ees shining. Ah, but from far avay I see a storm ees coming. Black clouds are gazering." Her voice quickened. "A ship ees plunging and rolling as if in pain. No, it ees not a ship. It ees an aeroplane in zose clouds and it disappear, oh, it disappear in smoke." Her voice trailed away. "For ze moment all ees dark."

The judge's frown was heavier than ever. It was incredible, but the coincidence was there, too! Still, only just coincidences that she had first hinted about what might perhaps be a mine and then had specifically referred to an aeroplane. Then, with a start he asked himself did she know who he was and was she only fooling him? But he answered the latter of the two questions on the instant. No, by no possibility could she be fooling him for, even if she was aware who he was, she could not have known anything about the mining property in Western Australia or the suggested trip by aeroplane. Those matters were known only to himself, his wife and his friend.

The fortune-teller was addressing him directly. "You, Monsieur, you go in no aeroplane. It vill be dangerous eef you do."

The judge spoke bitingly. "It is always easy to give advice, and easier still to read the future. A child is safe in telling you what is going to happen, as no one is in a position to contradict him."

"Zat ees so," she agreed at once. She nodded darkly. "But sometime I tell ze past as veil as ze future."

"Then tell me my past," he scoffed.

"It vill cost more money, for it take more of my nerve out of me," and upon his shrugging his shoulders contemptuously, she turned once again to her crystal.

Another long silence followed and the judge was about to tell her he couldn't stop when her monologue started again.

"I see long ago," she said, "a young man who row in a boat viz ozers. Eet is on a river and zere is many on ze banks. I do not see vot happen, for et fade avay. Zen I see a church viz many in eet and zis man who is older now ees standing viz a lady at his side."

"When I was married, I suppose!" commented the judge drily. "A happening in the lives of most men and not difficult to guess!"

The woman took no notice of the interruption and, keeping her eyes intently on the crystal, went on, "Zee lady ees tall and fair. She have blue eyes and a noble face."

"A good shot!" murmured the judge, frowningly to himself. "That describes Susan right enough, but then it is the description of hundreds of thousands of other brides."

The woman continued—"Zen I see zis man, mooch older still, in a room which look like vun of a 'ospital. He look very ill and zere ees a nurse standing by ze bedside. She bend over him and stroke his forehead. She ees young and have dark eyes, zis nurse, and she ees of petite figure, but she ees beautiful and have a lovely little face. The man vatch her always ven she ees zere and his eyes follow her ven she move. She smile at him, and he smile back at her."

Again a silence ensued, for there was now no interruption by the judge. His eyes were wide and staring, his ruddy face had paled and his forehead was pricked over in little beads of sweat. It seemed that he could hardly get his breath. He was hanging upon every word she uttered.

She went on—"I see zis man and zis girl togezer many times. He hold her in his arms, he kiss her and—ah, ze darkness come and zis crystal show no more." Her voice rose sharply in excitement. "Vait, vait! Ze darkness clear and eet show zis girl again. It ees in ze street and zere ees an upset motor car and men are running tovards eet. Ze girl ees lying on ze ground. She ees all crumpled up and she does not move. Her face is very vite. Aah, but she ees dead! She vill smile and kiss no more!"

A hoarse ejaculation from her client, and the woman rose abruptly to her feet, throwing a cloth over the crystal with one hand and switching on the electric light with the other. "I tell you no more," she said. "Ze strain ees too great."

The judge spoke with an effort. "What's the charge?" he asked hoarsely.

"Vot you like," she replied. "Vot you sink it vorth."

The judge threw down a pound note and rose sharply to his feet. His only thought now was to get away as quickly as he could. Of the strong character he was, his mind was in a panic because of what she had told him, and he wanted now to think as hard as he had ever had to think in his whole life.

With a curt nod to the woman, he let himself out of the room and passed hurriedly down the stairs and into the street. The rain was falling heavier than ever, but he plunged into it, so oblivious to all discomfort that he did not even trouble to turn up the collar of his coat. His mind was in a state of dreadful turmoil.

God, by what means had the woman been able to uncover that so closely hidden secret of his life? It was impossible she could have learnt it in the ordinary way, for not a soul in the world had ever been aware that he and Elsie were lovers. They had guarded every step they took. They had made certain there should be no discovery.

His thoughts raced back along the years. His marriage, five and twenty years ago, had been one only of convenience, and Susan had been but a stepping stone in his professional career. Her people had money and influence. Then when not far off 50, it was barely five years back, Elsie had come into his life. He had been taken ill with pneumonia and she had been his special nurse. He had fallen madly in love with her and she had returned his affection. After he had got well and left the hospital they had continued to meet in great secrecy until that terrible day when she had been killed in a motor accident. The crystal-gazer had described her exactly, dark-eyed, petite and with a lovely little face.

He could hardly think coherently. What did it mean? How had the woman been able to see everything in her glass? Was it then possible that after all there was truth in what he, in common with all educated men, had held to be a shameless fraud? Were there powers that the world regarded with scorn and contempt, simply because they did not understand them?

Arriving home, he found his wife had gone to bed and, proceeding into his study, he unlocked his desk and from beneath some papers in one of the bottom drawers abstracted a small photograph. It was that of the dead girl in her nurse's uniform and upon the back of it was written in an unformed school girl handwriting. "To one to whom I give all my love.—From Elsie Bowen."

A scalding tear furrowed down his cheek.

It was a long time that night before he closed his eyes, but before sleep came at last he had made up his mind to make an intense study of Occult Science and determine for himself if there were any truth in it.

In the morning he informed his friend that he would not be investing in the mine and that, therefore, his projected flight to Western Australia would not take place. Then, his disbelief that the future could be foretold having been so profoundly shaken by the disclosures the crystal-gazer had been able to make about his past, he was not at all surprised when the aeroplane in which he was to have travelled crashed, with all its occupants being killed. As he was now expecting, too, the following week the report of the expert upon the mining proposition was unfavorable and the shares slumped badly.

A few days later he paid another visit to Madame Laselle's rooms, but found she had left the building, with no one knowing to where she had gone. To his indignation, he learnt she had had to go because of the threatening of the police.

Then commenced an entirely new life for the judge, with him becoming an entirely changed man. Convinced now that there were forces in the world of which hitherto he had not dreamed, he became an ardent student of Occult Science and devoted all his leisure to acquiring knowledge of what are known as "The Secret Teachings of the East." Much to his family's disgust, he gave up all social functions, apart from his duties in the courts, becoming almost a recluse.

This state of things went on for several years, and then he received a dreadful shock, one destined to be as far-reaching in its consequences for him as that he had received when he had paid his visit to the crystal-gazer upon that stormy night.

One evening after dinner, just as he was upon the point of retiring as usual to his study, his wife remarked casually, "Oh, Horace, you remember my coming home from Mrs. Traver's, one afternoon some years ago, full of the astonishing things a crystal-gazer, that Madame Laselle, had told me?"

The judge's heart stirred at the mention of the name. "Yes, I remember," he replied. "She told you several things which had happened to you."

His wife nodded significantly. "And I don't wonder she was able to." She laughed merrily. "Why, she was Robert's sister and so, of course, would have known all about me."

"I don't understand,'' frowned the judge. "What do you mean?"

"Well, this morning cook pointed out to me a piece in the newspaper which said that this Madame Laselle had been arrested in Adelaide, and she told me she had learnt some time ago that the woman's real name was Flora McCullum and, as I say, that she was Robert's sister. Now didn't I tell you at the time that she spoke her broken French with a Scotch accent?"

"But which Robert's sister?" asked the judge sharply, an icy shiver beginning to run down his spine.

His wife was amused. "Robert, the butler we had at the time, Robert McCullum, the man we used to think was always listening at the doors. Don't you remember you sent him away in the end because you caught him opening your desk when, one day, you had left your keys about?"

She went on talking, but her husband was no longer listening. He felt sick and stunned in mortification, for his mind had suddenly been illuminated with a great light.

He swallowed hard. So he had been taken in as easily as the most credulous of those he had been wont to so despise. Without the slightest doubt the crystal-gazer had recognised him as her brother's employer and, from what the latter had told her of him and his household she had built up all she had been pretending to see in the crystal.

She had made out she had seen him as a young man in a boat race because her brother had, of course, mentioned the pair of sculls hanging upon the study wall. She had told him of the tall, fair girl of noble features who had been his bride, because her brother had described to her the big photograph of the wedding group in the drawing room and, lastly, when searching through his, the judge's, desk, the man had come upon the photo, with the affectionate inscription on the back, and surmising a hidden attachment, had passed on the information there, again. It was public knowledge that he, the judge, had been an inmate of a private hospital for many weeks.

Then, about the goldmine and the projected flight to Western Australia, her brother had, of course, overheard all about them, and it had been just a guess that the plane would run into a thunderstorm—planes often did—and that the goldmine venture would turn out to be an unprofitable one—how often did they not?

He went hot and cold in turns, feeling in the lowest depths of humiliation. From the tittle-tattle of a domestic servant passed on to a common, uneducated woman who lived by her habitual cheating and deceit, he, who's lifework it was to weigh evidence, had been led, like the veriest simpleton, to envision a mighty world of occult mysteries to be explored.

He burst suddenly into a loud laugh.

"What are you laughing at Horace?" asked his wife.

"At the thought of how easily people are taken in, my dear," he replied, and then he astonished her by adding, "But come, now, I'm giving up all my studies for a while, so let's go to the pictures tonight."


THE ADVENTURESS

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 30 October 1941.

THE baby had been hushed to sleep, and, with one last lingering look of adoration, the young mother moved very softly over to her desk and sat down to write. She was very pretty, so young, it seemed, to have maternal cares, but as she looked round at the luxuriously appointed room she gave a sigh of deep contentment. Fortune, she knew, had indeed been kind to her! She had everything she could want!

She picked up her pen and continued her interrupted letter. "No, Nancy dear," she wrote, "I never forget I have a cousin in far-off England, although I have not seen her for fifteen years. You left Australia just after mother died, and I was only seven then.

"Yesterday was the first anniversary of our wedding, and I am so happy. Of course everyone said I had made a great catch, but it was a real love-match, and I would have married John if he hadn't had a penny. You will have heard I was working in a café before I was married to him, but that makes no difference to what he thinks of me, and we are devoted to each other.

"Yes, it was a real romance, and I'll tell you all about it from the very beginning when it started, less than eighteen months ago. When poor father died at the beginning of last year we two girls were left almost penniless, and we came up to the city at once to find some way of earning our own living. Hilda got a situation with a kindly old lawyer, but I had no luck at all. Trade happened to be very bad at the time, and the shops wouldn't engage an inexperienced hand when plenty of experienced ones were available. In the offices it was the same. Being nearly twenty-one, I was too old to start as a learner, and the registry offices could supply properly trained clerks to anyone who wanted them.

"One morning, when almost in desperation because funds were getting so low, I saw an advertisement in one of the newspapers for a waitress in a café, and I went after the situation at once. I hated the idea of being a waitress, but what could I do?

"Arriving at the café I found there were a lot of girls waiting to be interviewed, and thought dismally I should have very little chance. However, directly my turn came and I was taken into the proprietress, a Mrs. Lewis, I felt much more hopeful. She had a very kind face, and was undoubtedly a lady. She eyed me critically, and at once started to ask me all sorts of questions about myself, very quickly and without wasting a moment of time. Finally, she said smilingly, 'Well, although you've had no experience, I'll give you a trial. You're pretty, and that counts a lot. Besides, the work can easily be picked up by anyone of ordinary intelligence.' 'But what are the wages?' I asked timidly. 'One pound a week,' she replied, and then, seeing my face fall, as well it might, considering I was paying 22/6 at the boarding house, she added quickly, 'But then, you ought to make as much again or that in tips. My customers are all of a good class, professional men and heads of business houses, and they are most of them quite generous. The charges here are high to keep the place select.' She spoke warningly. 'But you take care of yourself and keep everybody at a distance. There are always plenty of pitfalls in a city for pretty girls.'

"There were four other waitresses, and they soon put me in the way of things. I felt very nervous at first, but in a few days flattered myself I was as quick and competent as anyone. Most of our customers were elderly, but there was a fair sprinkling of younger men. They all seemed well-to-do and, to my great delight, the first week I made over 35/ in tips. It wasn't a nice feeling, taking the sixpences and threepences at first, but I soon got over it and regarded it as quite the natural thing. A number of those I served, both young and elderly, were often inclined to be friendly, but I treated them all the same and never encouraged any conversation when it began to get personal.

"Mrs. Lewis had the eyes of a hawk, and always seemed to know what was going on. 'That's right, my dear,' she said to me one day, 'never make yourself too cheap and they'll think the more of you.'

"I had been there about a month when one morning John came in, and I thought at once that I had met my fate. He looked so handsome and carried himself so boldly and confidently that I was interested in him at once. His eyes roved round the room and then, to my great delight, he came and sat down at one of my tables. 'Hullo,' he exclaimed smilingly, 'and so you're the new star they've got here. I've heard about you and that they call you the duchess.'

"But I only just smiled back and, having brought what he had ordered, moved away. Then I was thrilled to notice that several times he was looking in my direction. When he left he gave me a smiling nod, and I found he had put sixpence under the plate for me.

"Oh, Nancy, that sixpence made me feel so miserable! It woke me with a horrible thunderclap from my beautiful day dream of meeting my Prince Charming while working in that café, for then, for the first time, I realised the great gulf which must always stretch between me and those to whom I was carrying what they had ordered to eat and drink. What a little fool I had been all along, for how could I have ever thought that any man would want to pick for his wife a girl who had been taking threepences and sixpences from everyone who offered them!

"I felt miserably unhappy for the rest of that day, but that night, when I was undressing, all my pride and courage suddenly came back and I felt quite hopeful once again. At any rate, I told myself I would be no easy conquest for anyone and, if I fell in love with this boy and he with me, it would be through the marriage vows alone that I would go to him.

"The next morning John appeared in the café again and my foolish heart started to go pit-a-pat immediately. As I had been sure he would, he came straight to my tables, and smiled as charmingly at me as he had done the day before. But I had got myself well in hand and waited upon him demurely, giving him no idea of how interested I was in him. By then I had learnt from the other girls that he was John McCairne, the only son of old Hugh McCairne, who was very wealthy and owned one of the largest sheep stations in Australia.

"Then John took to coming regularly to the Rialto whenever, as he explained, he was down in the city. 'Mind your steps, young woman,' nodded Mrs. Lewis, who was taking in everything. 'That man likes pretty girls, but he's only a flirt. Lots of society mothers have tried to get him for their daughters, but they've all failed. Besides, he's not likely to mean anything serious with you, even if he were a marrying man.' I only smiled, but when one day he asked me to come out for the evening, with the plan I had mapped out, I shook my head. 'But why not?' he asked with a frown. 'You say you've got no boy friend, so where'll be the harm?' "

"'I don't know you well enough,' I laughed. 'I'm not a prude, but I don't go out with everyone.'

"He looked annoyed and then didn't come near the Rialto for a whole week, although I had heard he was in the city. Then, when he did resume his visits, he renewed his invitation every time. At last I agreed, and it was arranged he should take me to the pictures.

"It was a thrilling moment for me when I met him outside the Theatre Royal, for it was the first time he had seen me when not in my waitress's uniform. But, hoping for such an occasion, I had been preparing for it for a long time, and, indeed, had spent down to my last pound to have every thing ready.

"Never mind what I wore, but it was all good, and Hilda, who saw me off, was positive I looked as well-dressed as any girl in the city could want to be. John told me afterwards that he drew in a deep breath when he caught sight of me, but all he said then was, 'My word, but you do look nice! Why, you're a real little beauty!'

"He was very nice and polite all the evening, and not a bit forward, and I enjoyed everything immensely. He drove me home in his car, which I did not altogether like, because our boarding-house looked so shabby. When we said good-bye we just shook hands, but he squeezed mine ever so slightly.

"Then commenced a most happy time for me. Whenever he was down in the city he used to take me out twice and even three times during the week. He had kissed me now, and I had kissed him back, but I took care the kisses should be always short ones and allowed no lingering over them.

"One night, when we were together in his car upon one of the beaches he kissed me, and then suddenly put his arm round my waist and made to pull me tightly to him. But I disengaged myself instantly, and said very sharply, 'No, John, I won't have it, and if you try that again I won't come out with you any more.'

"'Why not?' he asked in an equally as sharp a tone as I had used, and I could see that he was inclined to be really angry.

"'Because I don't think people should embrace unless things are serious between them,' I replied warmly.

"'Ho, ho, then you are not serious with me!' he exclaimed, and there was just a trace of sarcasm in his tones.

"I shook my head. 'Not yet,' I laughed teasingly. 'I'm trying you out, and I'm not quite certain about you.' I nodded. 'There are several things about you which don't please me. For one thing, you have too many whiskies and sodas for a man of your age. They are not good for you.'

"He reddened furiously, and stared in astonishment. Then a long silence followed, and it was quite five minutes before either of us spoke again. Then he said smilingly, 'Well, you're either a very wise young woman or else a very cold one. I can't quite make out which.'

"'I'm neither,' I smiled back. I became serious. 'I'm just a girl who intends to go to her real lover as God made her, and not with any secrets she'll be always having to hide.'

"'Hum,' he remarked thoughtfully, 'you're dangerous, and I see I shall have to be very careful.' But for all that, his goodnight kiss would have been warmer if I had let it be.

"Then things began to move quickly towards a climax. One afternoon about 3 o'clock and during the slack time when there were few people in the café, a tall, erect man midway between sixty and seventy, I thought, came in and, after a good look round, walked over and sat down at a table near where I was standing. His distinguished, handsome face seemed somehow familiar to me. He regarded me curiously as he asked curtly for coffee and toast and, when I had served him and was attending to other customers, I saw his eyes were following me round. Presently, when at his request I made out his docket, he handed me a one pound note, and then when I returned him his 19 shillings in change, he pushed a two-shilling piece towards me over the table. 'Too much,' I smiled, laying down a shilling and sixpence.

"'Oh, that's it, is it?' he said with his face puckered up into a frown. He spoke scornfully, 'To kind of let me know, I suppose, that the two shillings wouldn't get me any forwarder, and that you preferred younger men.' Then, before I could take in what he meant, he went on very sharply, 'Here, young woman, my name's Hugh McCairne, and I want to know what you think is going to be the end of your going about with my boy.'

"My breath caught in my throat. Now, I realised why his face had seemed familiar. Of course, he was John's father! I could feel myself getting hot all over.

"He went on quickly, raising his voice, 'Yes, you may well blush, but it's about time you thought where things were leading you. With any sense, you must see——'

"'Hush, hush,' I exclaimed sharply, because some of the other customers were beginning to look round in our direction, 'this is not the place to discuss it!' I spoke with some indignation, 'Please, remember I have my living to get here, and you are attracting attention. If you want to speak to me it can be done somewhere else.'

"He calmed down at once. 'Well, will you meet me tonight at my hotel, the Semiris, at 7 o'clock?' he asked curtly. I hesitated, but I had got all my wits about me now, and was perfectly cool and collected. 'And I suppose that means you are asking me to dinner,' I said thoughtfully.

"He raised his eyebrows as if rather surprised and smiled coldly. 'All right,' he nodded. 'I'll give you something to eat. Then it's to be 7 o'clock and don't you be late, as I hate unpunctuality.'

"Now Nancy, my dear old father-in-law will have it that everything I did that night was done of deliberate purpose to entrap him. But if he is right, I only wanted to make him realise that, if ever John did ask me, I was quite nice enough to be his wife. The Semiris, of course, you remember, is about the most fashionable hotel in town, and I learnt afterwards that Mr. McCairne had never intended for one moment to take me to dinner there. Instead, he had meant to go to some quiet little place where it was not likely he would be recognised in my company. So when I arrived at the Semiris, he was waiting outside, all ready to whisk me away quickly before anybody had noticed our meeting.

"But when he saw me very nicely dressed and quite presentable—he didn't recognise me at first—after a moment's hesitation he changed his mind and with a grim and purposeful face took me into the big dining hall of the hotel.

"He did not seem too pleased, however, when we were given a table in the very centre of the room, but the place was crowded and that happened to be the only table available. When we were seated, he looked round frowningly and nodded to some men he knew, but in a few moments he turned back to me and his face broke into a rather reluctant smile. 'Gad, you're good-looking all right, Miss Trevor!' he exclaimed. 'I'll admit that. You're by far the prettiest girl here, and are making quite a lot of interest.' He chuckled, 'There are two friends of mine close near, all eyes and ears for what's going on, and won't they just have a tale to tell about me!' He made a grimace. 'I hope to goodness I get home before they do, to explain everything to my wife.'

"Then, all suddenly, his manner became most friendly. 'Now will you have a cocktail?' he asked. 'Oh, you won't! You want to keep your complexion, do you? Well, it's certainly worth keeping! But what would you like to drink? What, claret! Why, I quite thought you'd choose champagne!' He frowned. 'Has my son ever given you champagne?'

"'He's offered it, but I've refused,' I smiled. I had determined upon my line of action and spoke boldly. 'That's one thing I've talked to John about,' I went on. 'He has far too many nice things to drink. Never, of course, more than he can take easily, but more than are good for a boy of his age.'

"Mr. McCairne fairly gasped. 'But you've got a nerve, haven't you,' he exclaimed, 'talking as if you had some proprietary interest in my son?' He glared at me. 'What are your intentions, young woman?' He could hardly get his breath. 'Do you think he's going to marry you?'

"I interested myself in my fish for quite a minute before replying. Then I said rather hesitatingly, 'I don't quite know, Mr. McCairne. We've neither of us made up our minds yet.' I laughed. 'I'm not quite certain I should accept him, even if he proposed.'

"Mr. McCairne gulped down his astonishment and pretended to be very amused. 'And you a waitress in a café,' he exclaimed, 'in part depending upon your livelihood upon tips!'

"'That's nothing,' I said coolly. 'You were only a station hand once, probably earning far less than I am. Why are you proud of telling people how you have worked your way up!'

"He bowed ironically. 'A hit, Miss Trevor, a good hit!' he exclaimed. He nodded frowningly. 'Yes, you're a clever young woman, and I see my boy will have to look out!'

"'But why should he have to look out?' I asked warmly. 'Why should it be wrong if he wanted me to be his wife? You say I'm quite presentable! Well, I'm educated and I come of good stock. My father was a doctor.' I spoke with some sharpness. 'What do you find wrong about me?' He made no answer, and, the waiter coming to change our plates, quite a long silence ensued. 'Well,' I asked at last, 'can't you think of anything wrong?'

"I saw I had driven him into a corner, and he smiled and shook his head. 'Not for the moment,' he replied. He sighed. 'But come, let's talk about something else.'

"So we started upon quite an interesting conversation, chiefly about ourselves. He told me about his early struggles and how he had gradually made his way, and I told him of my life as a doctor's daughter in a small bush town and, humorously, of my adventures when looking for a situation in the city. The conversation was continued after dinner in the lounge, and ten o'clock came before either of us had realised how quickly the time had flown. Then I said I must be going home. Mr. McCairne made a grimace.

"'Look here, my dear,' he said, 'you've hypnotised me, and I really don't know what to say about you and John.' He smiled with mock resignation. 'I think you'd better come and spend a weekend with us at Riverdale. Then we'll see what John's mother thinks about you. Now, would you like to come?'

"My legs went all wobbly, but I pulled myself together and said I'd like to, very much. 'But I think you might very nicely ask my sister as well,' I went on. 'Then it won't look so obvious that I am being brought down for inspection.'

"'A good idea!' he exclaimed. The grim look returned to his face. 'And then we'll be able to see what the other member of the family is like. Riverdale is only just over a hundred miles from the city, and John can bring you both down.'

"'But one thing, please, Mr. McCairne,' I said. 'I'd like you to invite me openly in front of John. He'll be up in the city tomorrow, won't he? Well, he'll most likely come to the Rialto about eleven. So you appear a few minutes after.

"'You little schemer!' he exclaimed with mock severity. 'You'll be trying to run the whole family soon.' He nodded, 'Still, I'll do as you suggest.' Then he added as an afterthought, 'but I don't think we'd better say anything to John, at any rate, for the present, about our having met here tonight. I'll tell him myself later on.'

"The next morning John came into the Rialto rather later than I expected, and we had had only just time to say a few words when Mr. McCairne appeared and came straight up to us.

"'Ha, ha, my boy,' he exclaimed, shaking a finger reprovingly. 'I've found out at last what has been bringing you down so often to the city! No, no, you needn't introduce us. I came in yesterday and had a little chat with this young lady.'

"John's face was a study, and for the moment he seemed downright annoyed, but then his easy smile came back, and, thinking I must be brightened,?? he nodded reassuringly to me. 'It's all right, Helen,' he said, 'my father's a dear old fellow, and you needn't be in the least bit afraid of him.'

"'Afraid of me!' laughed the old man, as if it were a good joke. 'Why, the boot's on the other foot. I'm the one to be afraid of a girl with eyes like hers.'

"I left them together and did not return to their table until they were getting up to leave. Then, in saying good-bye, Mr. McCairne gave me the invitation for the following Friday.

"Oh, Nancy, that weekend was such a triumph for me! John's mother took to me at once, and treated me as if I were a most honored guest. She was a sweet old lady and not a bit stuck-up. John was very quiet and didn't say much, but I could see he was proud of me, and very pleased with the way things were going. Strangely enough, although we were left a lot together that weekend our love-making was very restrained, on my part because I had no intention of letting John think I took anything for granted, and upon his, because, as he told me afterwards, he never liked things to be arranged for him, and he thought his parents were doing it then.

"On the Sunday night, just before we got ready to go back to the city, Mr. McCairne drew me to one side. 'Look here, little woman,' he said, 'both the wife and I are very happy about everything, and would like to see you and John come to an understanding. But you must first get to thoroughly know your own minds, and so what I suggest is this. Hand in your notice to the Rialto at once, and then come here as my secretary and companion to my wife. I'll give you £100 a year, and if you and my boy don't finally hit it off'— he shook his finger at me—'then, you little adventuress, I'll look out for a husband for you somewhere else. Yes, you can kiss me if you like, but I'm sure it won't be one like those you give John.' You can imagine how thrilled I was.

"I went to them a fortnight afterwards, and things could not have been happier for me. John was most attentive and made very few trips to the city, and then only when he was absolutely obliged to go. I was more in love with him than ever, and we seemed to be drifting into a matter-of-course engagement.

"But suddenly a dreadful thing happened, and if I hadn't acted as the bold little adventuress they all laughingly pretended me to be. I might have lost John altogether.

"All at once John became cold towards me. He didn't want to kiss me any more, and, as much as possible, avoided being alone with me. He took to stopping up in the city, too, for two and even three days at a time, and altogether it was quite plain to everybody that he was intending to drop me.

"His father and mother were most upset, but they said nothing to me, and, of course, I was much too proud to refer to it. I felt terribly hurt, but tried not to let anyone see it, and, outwardly, was just as smiling and bright as before.

"Then one night at dinner John suddenly announced he was going for a trip to Colombo and sailing the following week. He explained he wanted a change, and was sure the voyage would do him good.

"Mr. and Mrs. McCairne looked dumbfounded and didn't say a word, but I made myself appear to be most interested and asked him all sorts of questions about the voyage and what the boat he was going in was like. I was as happy about it as if I were going myself. After dinner, however, when without a word he left the room, I followed him. 'Here, John,' I said firmly, 'I want to speak to you. Come out into the garden.'

He frowned and hesitated, but my manner was insistent and he came after me. I led him into the summer house just across the lawn. My heart was beating like a sledge hammer, but I held myself well in hand.

"'Sit down,' I said, and seating myself down, too, but well away from him, I went on sharply, 'Now, I want an explanation, please, and it's not only myself I'm thinking of but of your father and mother as well. You must see how you're upsetting them.' I spoke disdainfully. 'What does it all mean?'

"'What does what all mean?' he echoed, making out he was surprised at my question.

"'Oh, don't pretend you don't know,' I retorted angrily. 'Something's turned you against me and it's a week since you've offered to kiss me. You avoid me, too, as if I were something hateful. What's happened?'

"He regarded me very coldly. 'I don't like girls,' he said slowly, and holding my eyes with his, 'who make out they're so straight and proper and then, when it suits them, carry on in a way which suggests the exact opposite.'

"'Meaning me?' I asked incredulously.

"'Who else?' he scoffed. Then he rapped out fiercely, 'Who was that old man you were seen sitting with in the lounge of the Semiris Hotel, one night, late, a little while before you came up here?'

"I gasped and, so overwhelming was my relief, I could not speak. Instead, I threw back my head and burst into nervous but rippling laughter. 'Oh, you foolish boy,' I cried, 'and so it's that which has been making you behave all this time like a sulky child?' I was trembling all over and could not keep my voice from shaking. 'Why, hasn't your dad ever told you? It was he who took me to the Semiris that night and——' but I broke down and burst into tears.

"John had his arms round me in two seconds. 'No, no, you shall never kiss me again,' I cried furiously. 'You've doubted me and——'

"But with his face pressed so close to mine I could not get out another word. I just closed my eyes and the next few minutes were among the very happiest in all my life.

"And you just understand, you little witch, that I'll be kissing you now for keeps,' he said masterfully, when at last he let me free to smooth down my dishevelled hair. He pulled me to him again and his voice dropped tenderly. 'Oh, I'm so ashamed of myself. I'll never doubt you again.'

"Presently we went back into the house and his father's face broke into a delighted smile as he saw us walking so close together, with John holding tightly to my hand.

"'But what's happened?' gasped his mother, with her eyes opened very wide.

"'Oh, nothing much,' laughed John. He bent down and kissed me shamelessly in front of them. 'Only that this young woman here has just asked me to be her husband and, to save argument, I've consented.'

"'Oh, you story-teller!' I protested vehemently. 'I did nothing of the kind,' but both his parents pretended not to believe me.

"Six weeks later we were married, and I know I had the very loveliest honeymoon any girl could have ever had. But I must finish now, for I hear John's car in the drive and want to seal this letter up, so that he cannot suggest he should read what I've been writing about. He'd only laugh and say it was at last the frank confession of his little adventuress. So, with heaps of love until I write again,

Your affectionate cousin,

"Helen McCairne."


DEATH IN THE CONSULTING ROOM

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 29 January 1942.

ONE evening Dr. Wilkie was staying late at his consulting rooms on North terrace, in Adelaide, the beautiful city of the plains. It was getting on for half-past 6, and his nurse had been gone some time. The big building of Kensington House was by then almost emptied of its usual tenants.

The doctor was a good-looking young fellow of eight and twenty, but just now his face was puckered into a worried and uneasy frown. It was the end of the month, and he was making up his accounts. Unhappily, there were not many to go out, and, more unhappily still, he knew there would be a good many coming in.

Things had not been been going too well with him lately, and he was thankful he was a bachelor, with no one depending upon him. He was quite aware he was under a cloud. Some six months previously a great misfortune had overtaken him, and done his practice a lot of harm. When single-handed, he had lost a patient under an anaesthetic, and, although his professional brethren were unanimous, it had not been his fault, and would have happened with anyone, people generally blamed him, because there had not been another medical man present when he had been attending to the patient.

He had been called in suddenly to a little girl who had dislocated her shoulder. It was quite a simple dislocation, and he knew it would take only a few seconds to replace, but, to save the child any pain he had given her a whiff of chloroform. Then, to his horror, she had all at once stopped breathing, and, though he had tried everything, he had not been able to bring her to.

It had been a ghastly business, with the father and mother standing by, and the most terrible moment of all his life. He would never forget it, however long he lived.

The post-mortem had shown most conclusively that the child's death had been due to status lymphaticus, a rather rare diseased condition in which the lymphatic tissues have become greatly overgrown. By no possibility could the death have been foreseen and prevented, and in any case, it was not likely the child would have lived long. Although apparently in the best of health, she was yet living in a dangerous state, and even a slight shock might have had fatal consequences.

The whole matter had been most unfortunate for him, particularly so as the parents were wealthy and influential society people. It would be a long time before things were forgotten.

He was working on at his accounts when suddenly the bell up on the waiting-room door pinged loudly. "Confound it!" he exclaimed. "Now who on earth can it be at this time? I can't make out I'm not here, as, of course, he's seen the light."

Opening the door, he was confronted with an elderly-looking man in a long overcoat and a thick scarf round his neck.

"The doctor!" exclaimed the man. "Well, my name is Harris, but you don't know me, and I'm sorry I've come so late. I've only just made up my mind to see someone, and I've been ringing all the doctors' doors in the building. I'd given it up as hopeless until I saw your light. Now, I shall be so much obliged if you'd give me a few minutes. I shan't keep you long."

Dr. Wilkie frowned. It was annoying to be disturbed when he was so busy, but, then, his circumstances were certainly not flourishing enough to warrant his turning away any patient at whatever time they happened to arrive.

"Come in," he said. "It's a bit late," he smiled, "but then we doctors are supposed to be ready any time. Sit down and tell me what's the matter."

"It's my neck," said the man. "I've got a nasty boil there and I think it ought to be lanced."

The doctor made a quick examination. "Yes, it should be done at once," he nodded.

"But I shall want something to send me to sleep," said the man. "I'm a great baby where pain is concerned."

"Well, we'll give you a whiff," said the doctor. "Now when did you last have anything to eat?"

"This morning, about seven o'clock, and then it was only a cup of coffee and a bit of bread and butter. I haven't felt inclined to eat anything with this boil."

"All right, then," said the doctor. "I'll lance it straight away. It's a small matter, and you need not go into any hospital to have it done. I'll do it at your home. Now who would you like to give you the anaesthetic, and where do you live?"

The man laughed. "I don't live anywhere, and I don't know anybody, let alone any doctor. I'm only just passing through Adelaide on a boat, the Nerbudda. We arrived this morning from Melbourne, and we're leaving tomorrow at five a.m. I'm going to England."

Dr. Wilkie frowned. "But where do you come from? Where do your relations live?"

"I've come from Townsville just now," replied the man, "but I've no relations there. In fact, I don't know whether I've got any relations at all. I rather think not, but if I have they're in Norwich, in England, from where I came a good many years ago." He spoke persuasively, "Look here, doctor, couldn't you do the whole business on the spot, here now, and then I'd go straight back to the boat in a taxi. The skipper would look after me once I got on board."

"But hasn't the boat got a proper medical man?" asked Dr. Wilkie.

The patient shook his head. "No, we're only a small cargo boat, and when we're sick the skipper's our only standby," he replied. He began taking off his collar. "Come on, doctor, let's get it over."

The doctor still hesitated. "How are you in general health?" he asked. "Ever had any trouble with your heart?"

"Never!" said the patient emphatically, and Dr. Wilkie remembered afterwards how quickly he had spoken. "I've been as fit as a fiddle all my life, and now I'm only fifty-one."

The doctor examined him and found nothing wrong. "Well, I'll want that belt off," he said. "You won't be able to breathe properly with it on," and he turned round and busied himself with getting everything ready. The patient, with a movement which to an observer might, perhaps, have seemed unnecessarily quick, snapped off the belt referred to and thrust it furtively under his coat and waistcoat, which he had already placed upon a chair.

"Now make yourself quite comfortable upon this couch," said the doctor, "and breathe naturally, in the ordinary way," and in a minute, at latest, the anaesthesia should have begun. The instant, however, the inhaler was over the patient's face, he uttered a groan of dreadful agony, and, pulling up his hands, gripped fiercely at his chest. He groaned dreadfully again, his face, from which the doctor had snatched the inhaler, was contorted in spasm, and then, with a long, deep sigh, all his muscles seemed to relax to nothingness and—he was dead. It had all happened in less than ten seconds.

"God," exclaimed Dr. Wilkie with his own face as white as death; "it's angina!"

And angina pectoris it undoubtedly was; that dread disease of the heart which may hover over its victims for years and years and never strike, and yet may strike suddenly and bring death almost in the twinkling of an eye.

Dr. Wilkie saw it was all over, and realised nothing could be done. He sank back into a chair and wiped the beads of sweat from his ghastly face. "God," he exclaimed again, "what a tragedy! Another death when I have been giving the anaesthetic alone by myself! It will mean ruin for me!"

And then suddenly he heard footsteps in the corridor just outside his room, loud laughing voices and his bell was pinged again.

"What luck," he heard someone say; "so he's in after all, and we can get him to make the fourth! He won't mind playing for five bob a hundred. He's a real gambler at cards."

The doctor swallowed hard. The speaker was well known to him. It was young Bentley of the Stock Exchange. It couldn't be worse, he groaned. The man was one of the biggest gossips in the city, and, if he were one of the first to learn what had just happened, would make a fine tale of it for weeks and weeks. He sat silent and made no sound.

The bell was pinged again. Then the same voice came in disappointment, "Gad, he's not in! The beggar's gone off, forgetting to switch off his lights," and after a few more moments of waiting the late callers returned up the corridor the way they had come.

Dr. Wilkie was much calmer now. He had thought out what he would do. He would take the dead man with him in his car almost straight away to the hospital and, arriving there, make out he must have died on the way. Anything better than that he should have to give out there had been a death in his consulting rooms. Then he would say nothing about having started to give him an anaesthetic. It would be quite simple, the body was not heavy, and he could carry it down to his car through the back entrance of the building. His car was parked in the yard beyond, and no one would be likely to be there if he waited a further few minutes.

Realising, of course, that the body must be fully clothed when it reached the hospital, he started to replace all the dead man's garments. Lifting up the waistcoat, a small tin box dropped out of one of the pockets, and picking it up his eyes opened very wide as they fell on the label on the lid.

"Nitrite of amyl capsules!" he gasped. His face puckered up in furious anger. "Then he was subject to angina attacks! The wretch—he lied to me so that I should give him the anaesthetic! What a dirty trick!"

Putting on the waistcoat, he snatched up the jacket, and the belt which had been tucked underneath came into view. He lifted up that, too, and instantly the expression upon his face underwent a startling change. The belt was heavy, very heavy, as heavy as gold!

His hands shook as he proceeded to examine what it contained. Two of its four pockets were filled with well wrapped-up Australian sovereigns and the others were stuffed hard with Australian and English bank notes!

An hour later Dr. Wilkie was still in his consulting room, which now, however, was in complete darkness. He was sitting back in the chair he always occupied when he was interviewing patients. He was no longer frowning, his expression being only a very thoughtful one. The dead man, fully clothed again, was lying extended upon the couch, but the belt he had been wearing was now locked in one of the drawers of the doctor's desk. Every now and then the doctor flashed a little torch to see how the time was passing. He was waiting to be almost absolutely sure the building was deserted.

At last 9 o'clock struck, and he rose stealthily to his feet. The time for action had come.

Now, in after years, although he knew that what he did that night by sudden decision was absolutely wrong and contrary to all moral code, Dr. Wilkie always tried to make excuses for himself. To begin with, he argued, the patient had treated him most dishonorably in deceiving him and making out he had never suffered from any form of heart trouble, whereas by the carrying about of those capsules with him he must have been aware he had a very grave disease and was living always on the precipice side. And he had lied there, deliberately and selfishly, so that he might receive an anaesthetic straight away, when there was only one doctor to attend him. He had given no thought to the injury it would be doing to the doctor's reputation if anything went wrong. So Dr. Wilkie argued that in bare justice he was entitled to substantial compensation for the predicament he was now in. And in what way could he obtain that compensation, he went on, except by appointing himself the dead man's heir and appropriating what was in the belt. Another thing, the man had said he didn't think he had any living relations, and so, really, no one was actually being robbed.

Of course, it was all very crooked reasoning, but to some extent it eased the doctor's conscience and prevented him regarding himself as an undoubted member of the criminal classes.

The following afternoon a paragraph appeared in the evening newspaper announcing that that morning the body of an unknown man had been found at the entrance to a small by-road leading off the main one to Mount Lofty, and that an inquest would be held on the morrow.

With the inquest duly taking place, it was found the man had died from natural causes. Nothing had been discovered as to his identity, but it was mentioned £10, plus a few shillings, had been found in his pockets. In the same issue of the evening newspaper which gave an account of the inquest was a stop-press message announcing that a steamship, believed to be the Nerbudda, had founded in a tremendous storm in the Great Australian Bight, and it was feared all hands had been lost. Neither then or later did it enter into anybody's mind that the man whose body had been found near Mount Lofty was to have been one of her passengers.

There was exactly £2,105 in the belt which had come off the dead man, £325 in gold and £1,700 in notes, and the money put Dr. Wilkie well upon his feet. He was, however, most cautious how he handled it, paying none of the notes in large amounts into his bank. Instead, he kept them in the safe in his house and, for the most part, drew upon them as he wanted for expenses. They were all in tens and fives, and of no sequence. From appearance, too, they had been well in circulation, and so he had no fear that any of the numbers had been kept.

He did not touch any of the sovereigns until nearly a whole year had gone, and then, finding they were worth more than their face value, sent two hundred of them to the Mint in Melbourne. The remaining one hundred and twenty-five he was intending to retain, with some idea at the back of his mind that they should be kept handy for some unexpected emergency.

It seemed, however, that the tide of prosperity for him had definitely set in. Moving to a good house in North Adelaide, and buying one of the best cars, was evidence to the majority of people that his practice must be increasing, and that, therefore, he must know his work well and be a good doctor. So he began to be talked about as one of the rising young physicians of the city, and more and more patients started to come in.

Then prosperous, good-looking, and with very nice manners, he was considered a most eligible candidate for matrimony, but, although partial to the society of the other sex, he never showed a preference for any particular girl. As the price of success, he knew he would have to marry one day, for no one cares too much for an elderly bachelor doctor. But he told himself there was plenty of time, and when he did marry it would be his head more than his heart which would guide him. His marriage would be one of convenience, and he would probably marry for money. He had not much belief in love, as distinct from the state of passion into which most men could work themselves when intrigued with a pretty girl.

His conscience continued to worry him a little about that money he had taken, and the knowledge of how he had been tempted and fallen made him feel very sorry for those who had done wrong and been caught. One day he read in the newspaper how a middle- aged clerk, with a wife and young family, after struggling for years and years under an ever-increasing load of debt, had at last succumbed to temptation and embezzled his employer's money. The embezzlement had been going on for longer than a year, and the amount involved had mounted up to more than £200. At last the man had been caught, and, brought before the magistrate, had been committed for trial, bail being refused.

Dr. Wilkie sought the family out, saw to it that they were in no want while the breadwinner was away, and employed a first class lawyer to defend him. Then, when the case came up for trial and the man pleaded guilty, to everyone's amazement it was learnt that every penny of the embezzled money had been refunded by the wife. This made things look not nearly so black, and, after an impassioned appeal by the lawyer for mercy, the presiding judge allowed the prisoner to go free under the First Offender's Act. Added to that, it never came out who, someone provided the man with a motor car and some small amount of capital to enable him to start as a travelling salesman himself.

In many other instances when, through their own weakness and folly, people were down and out, the young doctor helped them to their feet again, and gave them back their self-respect. "Part of my atonement," he told himself. He made a grimace. "But I'm doing it very comfortably and easily for myself, and it's really nothing of the punishment I ought to have. In fact, it's no punishment at all. I can afford the money and don't miss it at all." He sighed. "If the mills of God grind slowly, then I'm certainly getting off very lightly."

About a year later, however, he got a nasty jar, and realised, that though one's wrongdoing might have been most carefully buried very deep down, it's ghost was liable to rise at any moment.

One night he was dining out and his hostess suddenly remarked. "Oh, Dr. Wilkie, have you noticed that pretty little new nurse they've got at the Children's Hospital?" She laughed. "But there, of course, you have! You men are all the same, although some of you try to make out we women have no appeal to you except at patients."

Dr. Wilkie smiled. "To which nurse do you refer, particularly?" he asked. "There are quite a lot of pretty ones there."

"To the little one with that auburn hair and those lovely eyes. Nurse Harris, she's called. You must have seen her. She's a quiet, gentle little thing."

"Yes, I know her," nodded the doctor. "She seems very shy."

"Well, I met her at a small tea party this afternoon," went on his hostess, "and she told us quite a little romance. She's only come over from England a few weeks, and thinks she's got a rich uncle somewhere here. They've heard nothing about him for many years, but someone at home told them a little while ago that they'd met him, and he was very wealthy. He'd made a fortune in sheep or cattle on shares or something."

"Well, why doesn't she look him up?" asked Dr. Wilkie. He smiled. "That seems the reasonable thing for her to do."

"But she doesn't know where he is and the man who brought the news couldn't tell her. All he knew was that he met this supposed uncle once when upon a holiday cruise to New Guinea. He hadn't the remotest idea where he lived, except that it was somewhere in Australia."

"But how does he know the man was this girl's uncle?"

"He doesn't know at all, but it certainly looks like it, the same name, about the right age, and them both coming out here about 30 years ago from the same place in England. Norwich, in Norfolk."

Dr. Wilkie felt a horrible shiver run down his spine. "God, then this girl must be the dead man's niece! His name had been Harris, and he said he came from Norwich. So he had had relations to leave his money to, and, in taking it, he, Derek Wilkie, was just a common thief!"

However, when he got home that night and was thinking everything over, Dr. Wilkie was by no means so certain that the patient who had come to him that fateful evening could have been the girl's uncle. The man had hardly been the type to go on a holiday cruise to New Guinea. Also, he had not seemed as if he were accustomed to riches. Rather, he appeared to have lived rough and not to have made a big success in life. Probably, he had spent all his time in scraping together that money he had in the belt, and had ruined his health in doing so. Besides, a really rich man would not have been carrying so much money on him, and, certainly, would not have been travelling home in a small cargo vessel. Another thing, too, and here the doctor smiled ever so slightly, the man who died was of much too coarse and rough a fibre to have a niece of the daintiness of little nurse Harris now at the Children's Hospital.

Of course, as his hostess that evening had rightly surmised, he had noticed Nurse Harris! Indeed, what man who came to the hospital had not? She was unusually pretty, with eyes of a rare forget-me-not color, and with nice features, a good complexion and rich auburn hair and had a most attractive personality.

The following morning, when visiting the hospital, the very first nurse with whom he was brought in contact was this one, who was occasioning him so much thought. She did some slight services for him, very deftly with her beautifully moulded small hands, and, upon preparing to leave the ward, he stopped for a few moments to ask her how she was getting on. It amused him to notice how deeply she blushed. She was not very intellectual, he thought, but she was certainly very pretty and of the clinging type which so appeals to the other sex. It made him most uncomfortable to think that there was even the most remote possibility he had taken money which, rightly, belonged to her. He, in part, however, consoled himself with the thought that her future was assured. With her prettiness she was sure to get married, and, if she played her cards well—he was inclined to be a little uncertain there—marry well.

He would have been thunderstruck if he had known what was then passing through Annabel St. Clair Harris's mind. She had certainly decided she would get married, and for her future husband she had chosen a young medical man, one Derek Wilkie, of North terrace. She knew she would have her work cut out to get him, but for all that she was quite confident in her ultimate success. Her mirror told her several times a day that her chances were good.

And then, in the succeeding weeks, followed an interesting little struggle between the two, with one of the participants in the fight being quite unaware that he was taking part in any contest at all.

At first matters proceeded very quietly, all that happened being it had become quite the natural thing for Nurse Harris to catch Dr. Wilkie's eye whenever he came into her ward, and quite natural, too, for him to give her a nod and pleasant smile. Also, whenever they were attending some little patient alone together, he would nearly always make some small chatty remark to her. He was interested to learn how she liked Australia, if she found the climate too hot, and if her work were too tiring for her.

At the annual Nurses' Ball he had two dances with her and took her into supper. On the whole, however, she was disappointed, as she had been half hoping he would have wanted to sit out one of the dances with her in the garden. But nothing happened like that. He was just very pleasant and friendly with her, but there was not the very suggestion of any flirtation.

Still, all the same, Annabel would have, undoubtedly, been not a little heartened had she known he was thinking quite a lot about her after he got home. "A fascinating little girl, that," he told himself with a frown, "and I shall certainly have to be careful. Now, if only I were a marrying man——," but he shook his head and stopped himself from contemplating the possibility. Still, he dreamed about her during the night.

The next morning, however, she went completely out of his mind, for upon opening his paper at breakfast time he received a most terrible shock, with the vision of penal servitude flashing up instantly into his mind.

He read that a number of sovereigns had been found to be missing from the gold reserves of a certain Queensland bank and that, although the theft had only just been discovered, it must have taken place about two years previously. The announcement went on to state that from the number of the stolen sovereigns involved the police were hopeful of being able to trace whoever had disposed of them.

"And what if they were the ones I took from that belt," exclaimed Dr. Wilkie with a face as white as death. His heart beat like a sledge-hammer. "Good God, they will trace me by my having sold them direct to the Melbourne Mint! Oh, what a fool I've been!"

That day he went through the greatest mental torture he thought it possible for him to endure. He had sowed the wind and now he would reap the whirlwind. His punishment loomed up before him. Ruin and disgrace were staring him in the face. The police might be coming for him any moment now and the only tale he could think of to tell them would sound flimsy and improbable in the extreme.

He was going to make out that his last remaining relation, the old aunt who had died a little less than two years previously, had given him the sovereigns. It was quite true he had been her heir, but, for many years she had been living upon a small annuity, and all that had come to him at her death had been some odd bits of old furniture.

In the first moment of panic he had snatched the remaining one hundred and twenty-five sovereigns out of his safe and, making certain neither of his two maids was about, had thrust them, wrapped round a thick sock, deep in the soft earth under the wood-heap. He realised he would have no explanation at all to give if exactly 325 sovereigns had been stolen and that number traced to him.

With a dreadful anguish in his heart, he yet went about his work that day with his usual smiling face, and no one could have dreamt the trouble he was in. It was his morning at the hospital, and to everyone he was as bright as ever. He was cheerful with the little patients, chatted to the sisters and gave Nurse Harris his nicest smile. His rounds of his wards over, he was just upon the point of going out of the hospital when Nurse Harris came running out after him with his stethoscope which, in his abstraction, he had inadvertently left behind. Then, as he was thanking her, she interrupted hastily, in an intense whisper, "Oh, doctor, here are the parents of that little girl with the bad pneumonia. Do speak to them. They'll think so much of anything coming from you. They know how desperately sick she is and they're terribly worried."

Dr. Wilkie turned sharply to find a man and a woman almost at his elbow. The man was older than the woman, who was, obviously, still in her early twenties. They both looked absolutely worn out with anxiety.

"Mrs. Benson," said Nurse Harris sweetly, "this is the doctor who's looking after your little Dorothy. He'll tell you how she's getting on."

"Oh, doctor, " burst out the woman, almost in tears. "Do tell me she's going to get well!"

"Get well!" smiled Dr. Wilkie. "Of course, she is!" His face sobered down. "She's a very sick little girl now, but she's responding beautifully to that wonderful new drug we've given her, and tomorrow I expect to see a great change for the better." His nice smile came again. "Now, don't you worry. If your little daughter belonged to the Queen of England she couldn't be better looked after than she is now. Good-bye."

"And Heaven forgive me, for being so sure," he sighed, as he drove away in his car. "The poor kid's deuced bad, but at any rate she's no worse this morning."

That afternoon he got through his patients somehow, but he was devoutly thankful when the last appointment was through. He was just preparing to leave for home, when his nurse came in quickly with the announcement that an Inspector Benson wanted to see him. Then she went on to add, "He says he only just wants to speak to you for one minute about his little girl in the Children's Hospital." She smiled. "He's brought you a lovely bunch of carnations."

The doctor felt almost faint in his relief. With her first words he had been quite sure the police had come for him, but now he remembered that that morning Nurse Harris had addressed the mother of the very sick child as "Mrs. Benson."

"Show him in," he said a little huskily, "but if anyone else comes now, say I've gone."

The inspector was most apologetic for coming to the rooms so late, but was venturing, he said, to bring him some carnations for his kindness to them that morning. "I've just come from the hospital, sir," he went on, "and the sister told me my little girl is decidedly better this afternoon." His voice choked. "Oh, how you relieved our minds this morning sir! My poor wife hadn't eaten a thing for days, but after you had spoken to us she went home and had a good meal. We were so grateful to you."

"Not at all!" smiled the doctor. "They are happy moments for us when we can give our patients and and their friends some hope." A sudden thought struck him and he went on to ask a question, the asking of which was to alter the whole course of his life. "Oh, by the by, he said, "have you, by chance, heard anything officially about those sovereigns which I read in this morning's newspaper had been stolen from a Queensland bank?"

The inspector nodded. "Yes, sir, we heard about it last night, and we're to look out for a possible confederate of the thief. It is thought the sovereigns may have been sold over here. At the time when they are supposed to have been stolen they were worth about twenty-five shillings. Of course, they're worth more than that now."

He went on, "The story's rather interesting. It appears an officer in the All Consolidated Bank in Brisbane died suddenly last week, and the idea came to somebody to go through the bags of gold which, at one time, had been under his special charge. Then it was found that one of the bags had been tampered with by taking out some of the sovereigns and substituting two-shilling pieces to make up the correct weight." He laughed. "An old trick which ought to have been foreseen and guarded against."

"But how do they know, as the papers say, that the stealing took place two years ago?" frowned the doctor.

The inspector smiled. "Because it happens that two years ago all the bags had been taken away from this particular officer who's just died and put under seal. No one had any access to them since. So, they know they were tampered with when he held them."

"Very bad management, I should say," nodded the doctor. "Do you know if the bank lost much?"

"No, only two hundred sovereigns. Those were all which had been taken."

The doctor's mind functioned slowly. Then he asked sharply, and with rising excitement, "Are you sure it was only two hundred? Not any more?"

"No, no more, sir. They're all we've got to enquire about over here to find out, as I say, if that officer passed them over to some South Australian confederate to get rid of." He shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. "And a lot of chance we've got after all these months."

The inspector took his leave, and Dr. Wilkie lost no time in getting away. He saw a way out of everything and how, whatever happened now, he could place himself in a position of no danger at all.

Still for all that, he was to learn within an hour that he had had one of the narrowest escapes possible, and that it had been by only a matter of minutes that he had managed to save himself.

He had been back home less than half an hour, occupying himself feverishly in taking certain precautions in case the police ever should come to question him, when he heard a car pull up in the road, and from his study window saw two men, who were strangers to him, getting out. They looked big and hefty, exactly, he told himself with a dreadful pang, like policemen.

His heart beat furiously and he could hardly get his breath. Then, all in the flash of a second, his confidence came back and he smiled. He was sure he had the situation well in hand if only he met it boldly.

A maid knocked at the door and came in. "Two gentlemen to see you, sir," she said. "They say they're not patients and won't give their names. They say the matter is important. I've shown them into the breakfast room."

Dr. Wilkie went into them at once. "Good evening," he said pleasantly, "and what is it you want?"

One of the strangers handed him his card. "I'm Inspector Brandon," he said, "and this gentleman is Inspector Williams." His voice was grim and hard. "We've come to ask you some questions."

To their amazement the doctor looked very amused. "But you're quick, aren't you?" he asked smilingly. "Why it was only this morning that I read about it in the newspapers!" He nodded. "Of course, you've come to ask me about those 200 sovereigns I sold to the Mint in Melbourne last year!"

The inspector scowled. He had certainly not expected quite so cheerful a reception. "That's it!" he nodded back quickly. "You've hit the nail on the head, right enough." He looked very stern. "Then you admit you sold them?"

"Certainly!" laughed Dr. Wilkie. "Didn't I sell them in my own name, and give my proper North terrace address?" It might have been almost a joke from the way he was taking it. "You didn't have any difficulty in finding me, did you?"

The inspector was looking rather annoyed. Evidently, he had thought he was on a soft thing, and now he was note quite so sure. He ignored the doctor's question, and, instead, asked one himself. "Where did you get the 200 sovereigns from? That's what we want to know."

The doctor was still smiling. "And I'll tell you," he replied. "An aunt of mine, the late Mrs. Stone, of Port Augusta, gave them to me. She had died about two months before I sold them."

The inspector spoke with heavy sarcasm. "Ah, and that'll clear up everything, as, of course, they were set down in the probate. She left them to you in her will!"

"No, she didn't," corrected the doctor. "She made me a present of them soon after I qualified, which was nearly six years ago. I was not to sell them until after she was dead, and I didn't do so."

It was the inspector who looked amused now. "And, of course, you will be able to produce ample evidence to prove all this?" he asked.

Dr. Wilkie shook his head. "No, not a soul was told about it." He scoffed. "Who'd want it known he's got a lot of sovereigns in the house, particularly so as I'd got no safe then?"

The two inspectors looked at each other, and then the one who'd been doing all the talking turned back to the doctor and said reprovingly, "Come, come, Dr. Wilkie, all this a little bit thin, isn't it? You don't really expect us to believe it, do you?" He raised his voice harshly. "Two hundred sovereigns were stolen from the Brisbane bank, and you are known to have been in the possession of the same number. You, now, want us to believe that your——"

"I don't want you to believe anything," retorted the doctor angrily. "I'm not interested in your beliefs in the very slightest degree."

"Those two hundred sovereigns," went on the inspector, raising his hand impressively, "were——"

"My own lawful property," broke in Dr. Wilkie hotly, "equally as are the other ones I have in my safe now. They belong definitely to me, and——"

The inspector's words came like the strike of a snake. "What other ones?" he demanded, in an angry tone. "What do you mean? Are you making out you've got any more? How many? Then show us them."

A few minutes later it was a decidedly disgusted pair of detectives who left the doctor's house. They had both seen and handled the other hundred and twenty-five sovereigns, which had been done up in a faded piece of old newspaper, dated seven years before, and which were tucked in an old work-box, from its appearance, made many years before either of them had been born. They had had to admit that their whole case had fallen down, and, rather grudgingly, had apologised to Dr. Wilkie for having entertained suspicions of his honesty. They were most annoyed that to get all the credit of the arrest for themselves they had persuaded the authorities in Melbourne to send them all this long distance upon what had turned out to be a wild-goose chase.

Poor fellows, how were they to know how badly they had been deceived? How they were to know the sovereigns had been put in that work-box only a bare ten minutes before they had arrived, and that the faded piece of old newspaper had been hurriedly snatched from the lining of a drawer in his aunt's very ancient wardrobe, reposing derelict in the lumber-room.

As they were driving away from the doctor's house, the elder inspector remarked frowningly to his colleague, "But there's no getting away from it, Thomas; that tale he told us must be true."

"I suppose so," admitted the other grudgingly. He shook his head. "Still I'd like very much to know why those blessed sovereigns smelt so strong of fresh earth. No, you needn't grin. I'm not a smoker like you and can depend upon my good old nose anywhere." He looked puzzled. "I don't understand it at all."

Dr. Wilkie never heard anything more about the stolen Brisbane sovereigns and, in a few days, the matter had ceased to trouble him and he was picking up the threads of his old carefree life again. He felt under a great debt of gratitude to Nurse Harris for her making the two Bensons known to him that morning outside the hospital. But for that encounter, the father would not have visited him later and furnished him with the information which had enabled him deal so effectively with the detectives from Melbourne. With all his gratitude to the nurse, however, he told himself he was not going to let it drift into any feeling of romance.

In the meantime Annabel had been thinking quite a lot about him, and boldly making up her mind to make him take more interest in her. So one morning she rang up his professional rooms and told his nurse she was wanting to see him about herself. She said she had got neuritis and was also bothered with insomnia.

Accordingly, the next afternoon she showed him a very nicely- moulded little arm and pointed out where she was getting the pain. He examined the arm carefully, rather annoyed, however, that the thought had entered into his mind how smooth and soft it would feel if he put it against his cheek. Still it was only in a most correct professional way that he advised her what to do, and gave her a prescription for something to make her sleep.

"And come back to me in a fortnight," he told her, "and I'll see how you've been getting on."

Annabel had no intention of getting the sleeping tablets, but that night she wished devoutly that she had. She was deeply in love with the doctor and the thinking about him kept her awake for many hours. She was very despondent, for it seemed now so evident to her there was not the slightest tender feeling on his side. With all his pleasantness towards her he was only regarding her in just the same light as all the other girls he met. He would never fall in love with her.

And then chance came to her help in a most unexpected way.

Upon the afternoon of the day before she was due to pay him the next professional visit she went down to Seacliff to take a little child of some very poor parents some vests she had knitted for him. Upon her way back to the railway station, coming to a café she thought she would go in for a quick cup of tea. As she entered she heard a car draw up outside, and her heart began bumping violently when she saw Dr. Wilkie come in after her. He caught sight of her at once, and, after the very briefest hesitation, came and sat down beside her. He ordered tea for them both, and said there was no hurry for her to catch any train, as he would drive her back to the hospital.

"And it's lucky I met you," he smiled, "for there's a big shower coming over and you'd have certainly got wet before you reached the railway station."

Then for half an hour they sat talking and, of set purpose, he drew her out about her life in England. She told him her father had been a doctor and it was his death a year previously which had determined her to come to Australia. She had now no relations in England, but believed her late father's brother was alive somewhere in Australia. She said nothing, however, about this uncle being supposed to be a very rich man. The doctor listened most interestedly and, regarding her critically, thought many times how attractive she was.

The rain held off and at last they got up to leave. They had not, however, gone very far before the sky blackened and big drops of rain began to fall. "Hullo," exclaimed the doctor, peering through the windscreen, "but it looks as if a real cloudburst were coming right over us," and, turning into a small bye-road almost arched above with thick branches of trees, he pulled up in the lee of a high wall. "I think we'll stop here for a minute or two," he went on. "It'll only be a shower and will soon pass. Still, it's no good driving through a deluge of rain if one can avoid it."

It was not long before lighting-up time, and with the heavy cloud hanging over, everything became very dark. The rain began to pour down in torrents, and even in part sheltered as they were, it crashed thunderously upon the roof of the car. The air became bitterly cold and Annabel shivered. Dr. Wilkie smiled round at her. "Feeling cold?" he asked. "And so am I." He leant over to the back of the car and pulled up a rug. "It's not a very big one," he called out above the noise of the rain, "but it'll be large enough for us both if you come a bit closer to me. That's it," and he reached out and pulled her near to him.

Annabel shivered, but, it was no longer from cold. "Not feeling warm yet?" laughed the doctor. "Then come nearer still. Don't be afraid," and this time he drew her very close to him. Then what was more natural than that he should look down to see if she were quite comfortable, what was more natural still, when realising the closeness of her face to his, that he should kiss her? Her lips were soft and moist and he thought it quite a nice kiss. Then, to adopt the phraseology of the profession, he took another dose of the same medicine, finding it this time even more to his liking, as the kiss was now returned. A third kiss was exchanged and then, to his horror he realised what he had done.

His regret was instantaneous and profound, but—and he was always most thankful for it afterwards— he did not let Annabel see it. He disengaged himself gently from her, and, bending his head down, peered intently through the windscreen. All his interest now was, apparently, to see how the storm was going. He was trying to act now so that the girl beside him should think his kissing had been just a casual and careless happening, with no real significance. Externally he was quite calm, but inwardly he was furious with himself. Although he admired Annabel, he was not a scrap in love with her, and it simply horrified him to think he might have led her to admit she had some deeper feelings for him. It was a really dreadful thing for him to have done.

An awkward silence followed, and then, the storm beginning to die down, he said briskly, "Well, I think we'd better be getting on. I've got an appointment in North Enfield at six."

They talked very little during the rest of the journey, both being busy with their own thoughts. Annabel could not rightly analyse hers, being thrilled and dejected at the same time. A hopeful tremor went through her when, in parting, the doctor remarked with a smile that he would be seeing her again on the morrow when she came to him about her arm. Later, when he was putting his car back in the garage, he noticed she had left her purse on the seat. Hesitating a moment, for he was wondering if it were important enough for him to ring her up, and that he most certainly did not want to do and let everybody learn she had been with him in his car, he opened it. It contained the return half of her railway ticket and just over three shillings in money.

"Poor little thing," he frowned, "and perhaps that's all she's got until next pay-day when, as a probationer, she'll only be getting a few shillings a week!" He sighed. "And there's just the chance that this car, as well as almost everything else I've got, by rights belongs to her. Really, it's not nice knowing oneself to be a sort of thief and meeting the very person one, perhaps, has robbed!"

That night his thoughts kept him awake until well into the small hours, and his conscience told him that the very least he could do was to marry Nurse Harris. Then, as he remembered how pretty she had looked when he was bending down over her in the car, he knew that if only he were a marrying man it would be no hardship. She was certainly the prettiest girl he had come across, and, if he were any judge of character, one of the very nicest ones, too. He feel asleep at last and dreamed he was being put in prison. It was a truly dreadful dream, and he woke up bathed in perspiration.

Many times during the next morning he considered how he would meet Annabel when she came to him that afternoon but, in the end, could come to no conclusion. One moment, he was relieved to think his own nurse would be hovering about, and the next he was annoyed that she would be.

Then chance took a hand in the game again and played a strong card in Annabel's favor. At half-past four Dr. Wilkie's nurse came in to him, looking rather flustered. "Oh, doctor," she exclaimed, "I wonder if you would mind if I went off now. I've just had a message that my sister's been taken ill, and I want to go to her as soon as I can. There are only two more patients to come. Nurse Harris at five, and Mrs. Mornington at a quarter past."

Of course he let her go. Then, when Annabel duly arrived at five, she was kept waiting and the patient who had come after her taken in, first. She trembled when at length the doctor himself came to usher her into the consulting room.

His manner was quiet and very professional. He examined the arm gravely and pronounced it all right. Then he leant back to his chair and regarded her critically. "And so, Nurse Harris," he said, "for the time, at all events, I've finished with you as a patient." His face broke into a pleasant smile. "And now I'm going to speak to you as a friend." He raised his hand warningly. "But, first, can I depend upon you to give a message to matron when you get back?"

Poor little Annabel's heart was all of a flutter. His words were very ordinary, but somehow she sensed something behind them, and she noticed his hand was shaking. She steadied her voice with an effort. "Of course, you can," she laughed. "As a nurse, am I not being trained not to forget anything? What's the message?"

He moved his chair a little closer to her and she felt her legs shaking under her. "You're to tell her," he said slowly, "that you'll be leaving the hospital very shortly, as soon as its convenient for her."

Annabel reddened furiously. There was no misunderstanding what he meant, but, with all the thrill of happiness which stirred in her, came also the woman instinct not to surrender herself without some sort of struggle. She rose to her feet to get farther from him and with a little bow, asked mockingly, "And am I to take that, please sir, as an offer of marriage?" She smiled archly. "Because, if so, I shall require time to think it over, and get advice from my friends. I shall have to enquire also, into your charac——," but that was as far as she got before he had taken her in his arms, and for quite a long minute, made speech impossible.

There was surely no happier or more triumphant young woman in all the world than was Nurse Harris when she went to give her message to matron that night. "I've come to tell you," she said very demurely, "that I shall be leaving you very shortly, whenever it is convenient for you after a fortnight from now."

The matron's face fell. "Oh, I'm sorry, nurse," she said. "I'm quite pleased with you, and thought you were getting on so nicely. Why do you want to leave?"

Annabel blushed. "I'm going to be married, matron, as soon as I can get away."

"Oh, and pray to whom?" smiled the matron. ''Who's the fortunate man?"

"Dr. Wilkie," replied Annabel. She looked shy and cast down her eyes. "We became engaged this afternoon."

The matron gasped, "Oh, you sly little puss!" Her face beamed. "And this has been going on under our own eyes, and yet I'm sure none of us have noticed it. I congratulate you, dear. Your doctor's a very nice man."

In about ten minutes everybody in the hospital had heard of the engagement, in a quarter of an hour it was beginning to filter round outside, and long before midnight it had been discussed at scores of bridge tables in society circles.

They were married within the month and went to the Blue Mountains for their honeymoon. If the doctor had not been in love with his wife when he took her away, that was certainly not the case when he returned home with her. All the honeymoon long he had been wanting to kick himself for having dared to imagine there was going to be any sacrifice on his part in marrying her. Over and over again, he told himself he was one of the most fortunate of men, and that, surely, never had there been a sweeter or prettier girl for a wife.

After six months of marriage, too, his general view of matrimony can be best realised by his telling Annabel one morning that the happiest moment for him of all the day was when he came home at night and saw her waiting for him in the hall.

The months passed on and then came one of the most astonishing happenings to the chain of events following upon the coming of the man with the belt to Dr. Wilkie upon that fateful night.

It was getting on towards Melbourne Cup time, and one day the doctor said to his wife, "Look here, sweetheart, what about us going to see the Cup run? That'll be your last outing for a long time, and then you'll have to begin to take things easier."

Annabel was delighted and so the great day found them upon the historic racecourse. They lost their money on the Cup, but in the race following Annabel saw there was a horse of the unusual name of "Pride of Yare" down to run.

"Oh, do let's back him, dear!" she exclaimed excitedly. "The Yare is the name of the river which runs round my home to dear old England. I've often swum in it as a girl."

So they each invested a pound and, with no one seeming to think the horse stood much chance, the bookmaker gave them twenty to one.

To their great delight the horse won easily, and it was a thrilling moment for Annabel when she saw her husband collect £42. Later, passing the stall where "Pride of Yare" was standing to have his aluminium running shoes taken off, they saw a good- looking, well-dressed man of about fifty talking smilingly to the "boy" who was holding the horse's head. "That's the owner, of course," said the doctor, and, looking down at their race- card, he saw that his name was Montague.

That night after dinner, in the lounge of their hotel, they saw the same man again, standing talking to some friends. "Oh, doesn't he look pleased!" exclaimed Annabel. "I suppose he won a lot of money."

A waiter at that moment came up to bring them their coffee, and the doctor asked casually. "Does that Mr. Montague over there own many horses, do you know?"

The waiter looked in the direction he indicated. "Oh, yes, sir, quite a number! He won the Caulfield Cup the other day with Yarmouth, and, they say, got a fortune out of it, too." He smiled. "Of course, his real name is not Montague. In private life he's Mr. John Harris. He owns Wongalla, one of the biggest sheep stations in New South Wales."

The waiter moved off, and Annabel exclaimed faintly, "Oh, Derek, Yare and Yarmouth, both Norfolk names, and a John Harris was my father's brother! I do believe he's my uncle!"

Dr. Wilkie frowned. He was inclined to be cautious. "Is he like your father to look at?" he asked sharply.

Annabel looked troubled. "N-o, he's not," she replied hesitatingly. "He's fair, and father was dark. He's much bigger, too, than poor father was. Still——"

But the object of their conversation at that moment left the men he had been talking to and moved up the lounge to pass quite close to where they were sitting. In passing, as most men did the doctor had noticed with pride, he glanced interestedly at Annabel and then, with a quick look from her to her husband. Then he moved on across the lounge and went and sat down by himself.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Dr. Wilkie excitedly. "Did you see his eyes?" he could hardly get his breath. "They are the same forget-me-not color as yours." He jumped to his feet. "You stay there and I'll go and give him the surprise of his life."

He walked briskly across the lounge and addressed the good- looking man sitting down. "Excuse me, sir," he said, "but does it happen you come from Norwich, in England?"

"I do," nodded the man, looking rather puzzled.

"And did you have a brother, a doctor, whose names were Edward Harris, and who practised in Norwich?"

"I did," was the reply.

Dr. Wilkie laughed happily. "Then come along, sir, and I'll introduce you to your niece, my wife."

For just a moment Mr. Harris appeared to hesitate, and then he rose up and followed the doctor. When he came up to Annabel he took a long look at her and then his face broke into an expression of great delight. "Yes, you're the little Annabel I've heard about," he exclaimed joyfully. "You're the very spit of your mother, the Isabel Bevan I knew thirty years ago, although, like me, you've got my dear mother's forget-me-not colored eyes. Now, how on earth did you find me out? Tell me all about it. I'm a lonely old bachelor and just thrilled to meet one of my own flesh and blood."

A few days later, they all returned to Adelaide together, and the next morning it appeared in the social columns of "The Advertiser" that Mr. John Harris, of Wongalla Station, New South Wales, and the owner of the Caulfield Cup winner, was staying with his niece, Mrs. Derek Wilkie.

A great flutter was caused in society circles, and those important dames who had been inclined to cold-shoulder Mrs. Dr. Wilkie because in her maiden days she had been only a nurse at the Children's Hospital, now tumbled over one another to be quickest on her doorstep. No one was told how Annabel had come to find her uncle, and it was believed she had known about him all along. It was generally conceded that the doctor had been a very clever fellow to have annexed so quietly such a rich prize as the heiress of John Harris for his wife.

When Mr. Harris was bidding them good-bye to return to New South Wales, he gave Annabel a sealed envelope. "A little present between you both," he said, "but you're not to open it until I have gone.

The envelope contained a cheque for £10,000.

A few days later, the treasurer of the Children's Hospital received an anonymous donation, all in bank notes, and the exact sum they amounted to was two thousand, one hundred and five pounds.

At last Dr. Wilkie thought he was purged of his offence, and his opinion was that he had got off very lightly. His conscience was now at rest.


THE WAYS OF CHANCE

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 2 July 1942.

IT was breakfast time at Cosey-corner Guest Home in Prospect, and the grim-faced Mrs. Fowlery was feeding her brood of boarders. The seven of them was made up of two elegant young lady typistes, whose perfume smelt very nice, three gents engaged in commercial pursuits, a clerk in a solicitor's office, and a middle-aged civil servant who left for work of a morning nearly an hour later than anybody else.

The boarders had just sat down and Bertie Bostock, one of the commercial gents, looked gloomily at the rashers of bacon on his plate, being strongly of opinion that they were of smaller dimensions than those the others had received. He sighed, however, with resignation, being quite aware that that was one of Mrs. Fowlery's little ways of making her boarders remember when they were behind with their payments. It was always easy to tell by the way she helped people whether they were financial or not.

"Going to be a fine day," remarked Miss James, one of the elegant young ladies with the nice smell. "I see the papers say some nice weather is setting in."

"Don't you believe it," grunted Mr. Oldflowers, the civil servant. "Prospects for fine weather couldn't be worse if that weather man says they're coming. The idiot ought to be paid by results, and then there'd be another family receiving rations."

"But perhaps he hasn't got any family, Mr. Oldflowers," suggested Miss James sweetly.

"Oh, but he's sure to have," was the quick retort. "Muddlers like him are always most prolific in propagating their species. I've always noticed it."

Mrs. Fowlery thought the conversation was beginning to border on the indelicate, and broke in quickly. "Oh, Miss James, now I think of it, would you mind noticing for me what the price of tomatoes on the stalls is today? I'm sure my greengrocer is cheating me. He looked secretive and turned away his eyes when I told him yesterday he was quite tuppence too high. I believe——"

But Mrs. Fowlery's belief on that particular matter was never to be disclosed, for at that moment the maid came in with the letters, and all interest was immediately focused upon a registered one which she handed to young Bostock.

The latter's pleasant face clouded. He knew he was behind with the weekly payments on his motor bicycle. "Hullo, what's this?" he frowned.

"It may be a summons!" remarked the lawyer's clerk, winking round the table. "It looks deuced like one to me."

But Bertie's face had cleared. He had recognised the handwriting. It was from his married sister in Port Augusta. "Joy, it's a present!" he exclaimed."It's my birthday today and I am twenty-four."

Miss Perkins, the other pleasant smeller, broke in sweetly, "But Mr. Bostock, didn't you say that Saturday evening last month when you brought in all those bottles of beer it was your birthday then?"

For the moment Bertie looked doubtful, and then he seemed to remember. "Ah, so I did!" he exclaimed. He shook his head. "But it wasn't true, Miss Perkins." He smiled. "I'm afraid I'm not a truthful man. I'm like my father." He looked round at the lawyer's clerk who had suggested the probability of his registered letter being a summons and added, "You see he was brought up for the law and that accounted for it."

With a request to be forgiven, he opened the envelope. It contained a very short letter wrapped round a little wad of notes. "My dear Bert," he read, "many happy returns. Tom had a big spot of luck at the races yesterday and sends you £10 for a birthday present. We don't forget what a sport you were when we were so hard up when I was ill. With heaps of love, Susan."

Bert assumed a grand air. "From my solicitor," he announced carelessly, "just telling me my uncle has died and that I have succeeded to the estates and the baronetcy." He thrust the notes back, uncounted, and held up the envelope for inspection. "A hundred pounds to go on with," he grinned, "to make sure I don't go short of drinks and cigarettes."

Mock congratulations were showered on him and then, the telephone ringing sharply in an adjoining room, Mrs. Fowlery went to see who it was. "Mr. Bostock," she called out, "a Mr. Percy Packer wants you," and with a somewhat puzzled frown from Bert, went to the phone. He did not, however, attempt to close the intervening door and the breakfasters stayed their conversation to hear what was going on.

They heard a big "Oh," and then Bert exclaimed, "Really, really." Quite a long silence followed and then Bert said, "Of course, of course, that's the right thing." Then Bert's voice came very loudly. "Well, old man, I'll never be 24 again, but many thanks for your congratulations. See you later."

He returned into the breakfast room to finish his interrupted meal, and it was remembered afterwards he looked a little pale.

"Just an invitation to lunch today at Government House," he announced airily. "It was His Excellency's secretary speaking, and he said how anxious Sir Roger was that I should come."

"But I didn't know," commented Miss James doubtfully, "that Mr. Percy Packer was the Governor's secretary. I thought he was that friend of yours who works with you in the Manchester Department at Dogberry's and Jones."

"Not at all," retorted Bert emphatically. "My friend, the Mr. Packer who works with me is quite a different person. This Pakker the Governor's secretary spells his name with two K's."

The meal over, they all rose up to go their several ways. Arriving at Dogberry and Jones's Departmental Store, Bert found his crony, the Packer with one K, waiting outside, and at once to an interested observer their conduct might have seemed most peculiar. Their faces wore the broadest of grins, but they didn't speak, being content to wring each other's hands as if they would never let them go. At last, however, they betook themselves down to the basement of the store, where, for quite five minutes, an intense whispered colloquy ensued, until, indeed, it was time for them to go upstairs and resume the selling of sheets, pillow-cases, dish-cloths, &c. to the opulent and elite of the city.

During the course of the morning, however, whenever they chanced to meet, their conduct, at any rate to their fellow employees was, to say the least of it, strange. They made fearful grimaces at each other, horrid gurgling sounds came from their throats, and they dug each other fiercely in the ribs whenever opportunity offered. Miss Tomkins in "the dresses" put it down to beer, and would have taken an affidavit that she smelt peppermints, but Miss Winchester in the "millinery" was more romantic, and a profound student of detective and dope stories, was seriously of opinion they had been taking drugs. She said they "rolled the balls of the eyes," just as one of the characters did in "Poisoned Pills," an absorbing novel she had recently been reading.

But all unmindful of the comment they had evoked, Bert and Percy were joyously happy of heart and in the lunch-hour, disdaining the provender provided by the firm, went out and had a "good feed" as they called it, at a fish café.

"Now, Perce, old man," said Bert, as he drained the last drop of coffee from his cup and spooned out the sugar, "we ought to celebrate tonight. What about feeding at the good old Semiris and taking a couple of birds with us." He tapped the registered envelope which had been following him about all the morning in his hip pocket. "I'll advance the ready and it can go down to the expenses of the firm."

"All right, my boy," agreed Perce at once. "I'll bring my girl"—he frowned—"but what about you? You're not engaged like me."

"Not yet," frowned back Bert darkly, "although it mayn't be long now." He nodded. "Still I'll bring along my bit of stuff. I won't be without a skirt. We'll all meet at Beehive corner at 6.45 and after the feed do a decent picture afterwards."

Early that afternoon, Bert made a quick dash from the Manchester Department, and approached the very superior Miss Millington on "the perfumery." For long he had worshipped her from afar, but had never dared to try and become friendly. Now he went up boldly.

"I say, Miss Millington," he said gaily, "what about you coming with me tonight to a nice little dinner somewhere"—he didn't mention the Semiris for he wanted that to be a surprise to her—"and afterwards to see 'Purple Passion' at the Princess. I think you'd enjoy the evening. Will you come?"

Miss Millington regarded him haughtily. The "perfumery" was always a cut above the "manchester," and apart from that, she didn't consider Bert to be too strongly financial. When she came across him at the beaches, as she occasionally did, she noticed he was always wearing the same old shabby blazer.

"Thank you," she said coldly, "but I have another engagement."

Bert flushed hotly. The snub was so obvious and she had spoken so loudly that assistants at other counters had heard. He grinned uncomfortably and was going away as quickly as he could, when an eager voice hailed him from the counter adjoining the perfumery one. "Now, why don't you ask me, Mr. Bostock?" it called out laughingly. "I'll come with the greatest of pleasure."

He turned to see who had spoken and saw it was little Kitty Clover, in the gloves. She was small, but undeniably pretty, with soft brown eyes. He knew her very slightly, and, hitherto, had always thought her very shy.

"Oh, it's you, is it, Miss Clover?" he laughed back. He pretended to feel in his pocket for an imaginary piece of paper. "Well, you are down on my list anyhow, but I forget the exact order." He nodded smilingly. "Still, as you've put in your claim first, you shall come if you'd like to."

"Thank you, Mr. Bostock," replied Kitty, now casting down her eyes. "I'm sure I shall enjoy it immensely. I've been longing to see 'Purple Passion,' but hadn't found the right person yet to take me."

Bert was quite thrilled at her saying "the right person." At any rate she realised coming with him was not like going with anyone who asked her. "Then it's 6.50 tonight at the Beehive corner," he said, "and, please, don't be late. Mr. Packer's bringing his young lady and it'll be a party of four." He nodded smilingly. "And you look extra nice, Miss Clover, as I'm booking a table for dinner at the Semiris. It's my birthday today, and I've had a good wad of notes sent me."

Kitty Clover looked all excitement, but Miss Millington, very disdainful. All the same, however, deep down, the latter young lady was rather wishing she hadn't been so hasty in her refusal. She ought to have enquired where Bert was intending to go for the meal first.

When Bert had gone she called across to Kitty. "Don't you be so sure about the Semiris, my dear. Very likely it'll only be coffee and sandwiches at some café."

Kitty did not seem downcast, which attitude of mind turned out to be a sensible one, as towards five o'clock it was definitely known to the assistants all through the big store that Bert Bostock had got Miss Pimpkins at the stamp counter to ring up the Semiris and book four seats for dinner that evening. It was rumored, too, a wealthy aunt who kept a fish and chips shop in Port Pirie had sent him £50 for his birthday.

Looking back in after years, young Bert always regarded that evening as one of the happiest of his life. To begin with, the dinner at the Semiris had been an epicurean feast, and as the good wine had coursed through his veins—they had had a bottle of champagne at fifteen and six the bottle—he had felt the equal and, indeed, almost the superior of any one in the big dining-room.

It was the first time any of them had been to an expensive hotel (the dinner had cost 7/6 each), and it was quite true there had been one very awkward moment when the bowing waiter had presented the menu all in French. However, at Kitty's whispered injunction, after ordering clear soup for them all, Bert had waved him away, saying they would consider what they would have next.

Then Kitty had turned out to be a veritable tower of strength, for, five and twenty years back, her mother had been a maid in a nobleman's service in England, and from her she had picked up the meanings of quite a lot of things in French. So she knew that "merlans a la francais" was only fried whiting, that "tournedos aux champignons" must mean beef fillet and mushrooms, that "veau" was veal; "poulet" chicken and "canape" duck.

So, like an experienced navigator she steered them through the menu, until at last they came safe into harbor with a mouthful of homely Welsh rarebit. Bert was delighted with her for, apart from her triumph over the menu, she looked so refreshingly pretty and sweet. Once, during the meal he felt gently for her foot with his, and only desisted from pressing much harder when she whispered, "Be careful, dear boy, these stockings are the only ones I've got to match this dress."

He was thrilled with the confidence, and thrilled, even more, when later, in the darkness of "Purple Passion," she snuggled very close to him and let him hold her little shaking hand at an exciting moment in the picture when the villain's revolver was going bang, bang, bang, all over the place. It came to him then, as in a flash of intuition, that perhaps Fate had destined him to be her protector for ever and a day. To blazes with Miss Millington and all her type, he thought!

Percy's girl had turned out to be very charming, too, and she and Kitty had got on like a house on fire. It was discovered they lived close to each other. So the two young fellows saw them home together across the parklands, and as Percy, of course, kissed his girl good-night, Bert wanted to follow suit with Kitty. The latter was sweetly shy at first, but, after a moment, put up her lips and allowed the kiss to be a very nice one.

The next day nothing of much event took place to the two friends. They appeared much quieter and exchanged no more broad grins and sly digs in the ribs. Indeed, it was as if some great responsibility had flung its heavy mantle over them and sobered them down. Kitty and Bert, however, managed to give each other a few tender glances and the latter received a hurriedly whispered invitation to come home to tea the following evening and meet Kitty's mother. He had already learnt she was a widow and Kitty her only child.

But, if of that day there be nothing to record, it is quite different of the next. It began with more whispered conversation directly Bert and Percy met at the store, accompanied by many smiles and nods; the grins and rib-diggings, however, were not resumed. Things had proceeded long beyond that stage and apparently some great crisis was near. The two friends had schemed to go out to dinner at the same time and, accordingly, five minutes past twelve found them in King William street upon the steps of the stately portals of the South Australian Bank.

"We're right every time in coming here," said Bert confidently. "My knowing old Bellingham will make everything easy. He'll trust me, for all his eight years as our churchwarden he's been having an eyeful of me singing in the choir. Come on, old man, we won't see anyone lower than him."

So, after considerable frowning on the part of minor officers of the bank, they were ushered into the manager's presence.

"Good morning, sir," said Bert, gulping down a lump in his throat; "you remember me? Well, this is Mr. Percy Packer, who works with me at Dogberry & Jones's. We want to open two separate accounts."

"Certainly!" said the manager. His eyebrows went up a little. "What with?"

"This!" said Bert, repressing a grin of triumph, and he handed him a small, thin piece of paper.

"Ah, a lottery ticket!" exclaimed the manager. He frowned. "You've been gambling!"

"Oh, no, sir," exclaimed Bert quickly, "at least, not exactly!" He coughed. "Most of this money you see goes to support the hospitals."

"Ah, that's better," nodded the manager. He looked interested. "And you've drawn a prize! How much?"

Bert could just manage to get out his words. "£20,000, sir. Here's the result slip. It only came this morning. See our number, 776655, has got the first prize."

Mr. Bellingham frowned again, stared hard, compared the numbers, and tut-tutted several times.

"All right, young gentlemen," he said at last, rising to his feet. "We'll collect this money for you, and if we use the air mail and the 'phone you'll be credited with the money in about two days' time. Good-bye, and if you take my advice, you'll clear out for a little holiday. It is sure to become known and then"—he smiled a grim smile—"you'll be astounded at the number of friends you've got."

The secret was kept from everyone for three days and neither Kitty nor Percy's young lady were told. Losing no time, Bert had asked Kitty to be his wife that evening when he had gone to her home to be introduced to her mother. Of all places, the proposal had been made in the tram, and Kitty had blushed so prettily that an elderly gentleman opposite had been carried quite half a mile beyond his destination, and been made by the conductor to pay an other tuppence in consequence.

Kitty had mouthed a 'yes', above the rattle of the tram, but the first affianced kiss had not passed between them until they were in the front garden of Kitty's home. Bert and the mother had been very pleased with each other.

When, at last, the money had arrived at the bank and the two young fellows had been provided with cheque books, they resolved to give notice to their employers. Bert went in first to see Mr. Dogberry and the old man received him with a scowl.

"What is it you want, Bostock?" he asked irritably. "I'm very busy." Bert said he had come to give notice and, upon being asked testily to which other firm he was going, replied he was intending in future to lead an outdoor life and was going on the land.

"Then are you going to buy some extensive property?" asked Mr. Dogberry with heavy sarcasm.

"Not to start off with, sir," replied Bert smilingly. "I shall go out as a farmhand, first, to learn everything before I invest any of my money."

"Oh, and have you much money to invest, may I ask?" enquired Mr. Dogberry with a grin and chilling smile.

Bert, certain that the story of their good fortune was bound to become known sooner or later, saw no reason for keeping anything back, and so told his employer how he and Percy Packer had come to win £20,000.

The old man nearly jumped out of his chair. "£10,000 each!" he gasped. "Why, it's a fortune!" He could hardly get his breath. "Does everybody know?"

"No, sir, not yet," smiled Bert, pretending a great respect, "you're the first one to hear about it. We thought it best to tell you before anyone else."

"Quite right, quite right," nodded his employer, "the proper thing to do!" A thought struck him and his eyes, opened very wide. "But I say, what a splendid advertisement it should be for the firm! A paragraph in the newspaper, 'Two young gentlemen in the Manchester department of Dogberry and Jones win £20,000'!" He raised his voice excitedly. "Why, everyone will be talking about us!"

"I suppose so," smiled Bert. "A little bit out of the ordinary, isn't it?"

"Most decidedly it is!" nodded Mr. Dogberry. He became quite excited. "But Mr. Bostock"—he called him Mr. now:—"I must ask you as a favor not to leave us straightaway. At any rate stay on for a few weeks, and everyone will be coming to have a look at you." He rubbed his hands together. "Yes, I'll get that paragraph in at once." His eyes sparkled. "'Smart young salesmen—so keen upon their work—most reluctant to give it up notwithstanding the turn of Fortune's wheel—the lure of selling superfine sheets and blankets still holds them—their lives so happy that——'" but an idea came to him and he demanded sharply, "You're not married, are you?"

"Not yet," replied Bert smilingly, "but I soon shall be. I'm engaged to your Miss Clover in the gloves."

Mr. Dogberry raised his hand excitedly. "Better and better still! We'll make the paragraph more interesting than ever. 'Young salesman in the Manchester engaged to lovely girl in the gloves! Fortune showering her favors upon him!'" His hands shook. "Oh, Mr. Bostock, I implore that neither you nor Miss Clover leave us for a while. And the same with that splendid young Mr. Packer. The Manchester and the glove departments will have record sales."

So Percy Packer and Kitty Clover being called in, it ended in them all agreeing to remain on with the firm for three weeks. The two friends rather enjoyed the interest they excited in their customers, but were most annoyed by one newspaper referring to them as "two dashing young haberdashers." Everyone in drapery circles knows that the Manchester department is miles above the lowly haberdashery one.

A week after they had left the business, Bert and Kitty were married. The night before Kitty had a short but very serious conversation with her mother. "You know, mum," she said, "I've grown really very fond of Bert. He's a dear boy, and I'll do my very best to make him a good wife." She looked troubled. "But I don't like marrying him with this dreadful secret on my mind. How awful if he found it out!"

"But he won't find it out," nodded her mother confidently. "Your aunty knows when to hold her tongue, and she'll never say a word. Don't you worry there."

"But it doesn't seem fair, mum," protested Kitty. "I feel I ought to tell him."

"Nonsense," exclaimed her mother. "A girl's secrets are her own until she's married, and if she blabs them out she always regrets it. No. You say nothing and you'll never be sorry for it."

Kitty was over-ruled and did as her mother bade her. So Bert never learnt she had known from the very beginning that he had won that £10,000, and, accordingly, had deliberately set her cap to get him.

It had come about in this way. Her aunty was an agent for Pusher's patent carpet sweepers, and upon the morning when Percy was phoning Bert about their having drawn the winning lottery ticket, it happened she had been making an early call upon the former's landlady to collect an installment on the sweeper she had sold her. Standing waiting in the hall, she had overheard everything Percy had said, and, chancing to meet Kitty in the street a few minutes later, had passed on the news to her.

So Kitty had been an artful little puss, but who will hold that against her? Are not all girls by nature artful, and as she went on to make Bert a splendid little wife, surely no one will blame her, for acting as she did. No one, perhaps, except the one-time perfumery young lady, Miss Millington. Still, as she married a well-to-do butcher, and in almost record time presented him with three little butchers to carry on the line, certainly she had no cause to be envious.

She was happy, too, in her oft repeated boast that she had once given the cold shoulder to an ardent admirer who had just come in for £10,000. She did not mention, however, that at the time she had known nothing about his possessing so much money.


REJUVENATION

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 3 September 1942

MATHEW PONTING BROWN lived a very humdrum life, and no one could have called it a happy one. At forty he was an old man with an habitual worried expression upon his face. He was short and slight of figure, his hair was greying, and he actually sported whiskers. As long as anyone had known him it was said he had always worn the same suit. That was not, however, true, for he bought a new one every four or five years. Still, as each new suit was the exact copy of the one before it in style, cut and color, it can easily be understood how the legend of the eternal durability of his clothes arose.

He was a bachelor, living in lodgings in an unpretentious street in North Adelaide, and his way of life was the same from one year's end to another. A ledger clerk at Boomer and Hunt's, he had been with the firm since he was seventeen, and was considered steady and trustworthy. Of very limited intelligence, however, he had never risen from a very subordinate position. By his fellow clerks and the employees of the firm, generally, he was called "Doormat," and he never seemed to resent the implied contempt in the nickname.

He had no vices and no hobby. He didn't drink, he didn't smoke, he never went to races, and he had never been known to address any member of the other sex by her Christian name. Every Sunday, morning and evening, he attended a little church of some queer sect in a little bye-lane near Ovingham, but he never was seen to open his mouth there, and his interest in the affairs of the church appeared to end when he had come out of its doors. So, with no relations or friends, his surroundings were as lonely as possibly could be, and he slunk through life a very ghost of a man, interested in no one and with no one interested in him.

With his habits very simple, he was not troubled with any form of ill-health until well into his fortieth year. Then he began to suffer from what for a long while he thought was only indigestion. He did not take much notice of it at first but, the discomfort in the pit of his stomach continuing and getting no better, he suddenly started worrying that, perhaps, some dreadful disease might be setting in. Reading his morning paper from end to end, as he did every day, from its advertisement columns he had acquired a most comprehensive knowledge of the many ills which many quack doctors were anxious to treat, and so was mentally ripe for the suggestion of almost any kind of affliction.

Getting thoroughly frightened at last, he decided to see a doctor, but, knowing none, he could not make up his mind which particular one to choose. Then, remembering the advertisement of a Chinaman which had often caught his eye, after a lot of thinking, he came to the conclusion he could not do better than go to him.

The Chinaman was a Wei Hung Ling, who lived in a little bye-street off King William road. To Mathew's simple mind it seemed he must be a man of great knowledge, ministering, as he was able, according to his advertisements, to almost all the ailments human nature was prone to.

He described himself as a natural healer, specialising in eyes, nose, throat, heart, lungs, and other less romantic parts of the human body. Apart from this extensive repertoire, the Chinaman was also a psychologist, a hypnotist, and a vocational adviser. His advertisement, moreover, suggested he might be consulted about the stars. Altogether Mathew thought he would be quite safe in consulting him, and, accordingly, one afternoon, upon leaving Boomer and Hunt's, he made his way to the Chinaman's place of practice.

Now, whatever may have been the attainments of this Wei Hung Ling in the healing art, he was certainly a pretty shrewd judge of human nature, for directly he clapped eyes on the nervous, shrinking Mathew Brown, he saw possibilities of good profit. If rightly handled, the little chap was just the very kind to be kept hanging about for years.

Swallowing hard in his nervousness, Mathew described his symptoms, and, asking many questions about his occupation and mode of life, short of exactly finding out what his salary was a week, the Chinaman was speedily in possession of nearly all there was to learn about his new patient. Then he made him partly undress, and having prodded his stomach very hard and listened to its rumblings through a stethoscope, he tut-tutted very gravely many times. Finally he gave his verdict.

It was a good thing he had come to him, he told Mathew solemnly, for he had come only just in time. The pain and discomfort he had suffered from were far more than an ordinary indigestion. They were the first stage of a very serious trouble. Still, with patience and extended treatment, he was most hopeful everything would come all right in the end.

Mathew must have X-ray treatment, the galvanic battery and massage, as well as medicines. He must come to be treated three times a week. As to fees, Ling couldn't say how much it would cost, but with such treatments it was, of course, customary to pay something on account. Mathew was thoroughly frightened, and with no demur parted with five one pound notes on account. The treatment was started at once with a dose of the battery, which made him feel rather faint and sick. Indeed, he looked so white and shaky, that the Chinaman produced a good-sized tumbler full of port and insisted upon his drinking it. Never having taken alcohol before, Mathew responded at once to the heavy wine, and, except for rather wobbly legs, expressed himself as feeling much better. Finally, Ling bowed him out with a little box of evil-looking pills and the strict injunction he was to return in two days' time.

Mathew walked slowly down King William road towards the stop, where he would pick up a North Adelaide tram. He had to walk slowly, because not only could he not trust his legs over-much, but also there was a blurred mist before his eyes. However, he soon reached the stop, and was crossing over to the safety zone when everything seemed to go black and he felt faint again. It was only for a few seconds, and then he felt all right. His tram arriving, he mounted the step and sank gratefully into a seat. Really, he told himself, that Chinaman's medicine had been very strong. He had no idea it was just ordinary port wine he had been given.

That night, according to instructions, he took two pills and two more the next morning. He felt astonished with the effect they had on him. It was not only that they took away the pain in his stomach, but they gave him also such a feeling of well-being. He felt he was treading upon air and was so light-hearted, too. Passing out through the garden of the house where he lodged, he plucked one of his landlady's prize rosebuds, strangely enough not caring whether she saw him or not. He knew she would be very angry if she did, as she was showing a bouquet of roses at a local flower show the following week.

Arriving early at the office, he almost ran into one of the other clerks, pretty little Dolly Thompson, in the passage. They were the first to arrive. "Now then, Doormat, dear," she called out gaily, "where are you going? But how nice you smell! Who on earth gave you that dinky little rose?"

"I acquired it by conquest, pretty one," replied Mathew grandly, and it seemed to him it was some other person speaking. "In other words, I stole it from my landlady's garden."

"You wicked man," exclaimed the girl disgustedly, "give it to me at once," and then, when he had smilingly handed it over and she was busy arranging it in her dress, he bent over and gave her a resounding kiss as near to her mouth as he could get.

"You little beast, Doormat!" she exclaimed, pushing him away indignantly. "How dare you do that? Why, I'm almost inclined to scratch your eyes out, you wretch!"

"No, my dear, you're not," he retorted firmly. "And you'll say nothing about it either, and then I'll buy you a box of chocolates."

"A shilling one?" she queried scornfully.

"No, a five shilling one." And again it seemed to him someone else was speaking, as he added importantly, "Don't tell anyone, but I've come in for a lot of money. My old aunt died last week and left me a few hundred."

"Really?" asked the girl with her eyes opened very wide. "Then buy yourself some new clothes at once, and get your hair cut, too. It's the way you dress and those awful whiskers you've got that make you look such an old corpse." She pretended to look coy. "Why, I've let men much older than you take me out, when they dressed properly and looked decent."

Mathew had his hair cut that very day, and at the same time was measured for a suit of clothes by one of the best tailors in Adelaide. He had plenty of money, for he had saved more than £400.

When on the evening of the following day he kept his appointment with the Chinaman, and told him delightedly how much better he felt. "My indigestion is all gone, and I feel quite different all round." He laughed. "Why, I even see now when a girl's good-looking or not, and I haven't noticed that for years. Those pills of yours must be very strong."

Wei Hung Ling nodded. "Yes, they are restoring your vital energy and that's what I meant them to do." He smiled a cunning smile. "But it is not only the pills which are making you feel so much better." He fixed Mathew intently with his eyes and added very solemnly, "You didn't know, did you, that I had hypnotised you! Well, I had, and I had willed you should become young again." He spoke as one with great authority. "You do as I tell you and in six months I will have taken twenty years off your life."

Mathew was thrilled and, at the Chinaman's suggestion, so that there should be no slipping back, paid down a further two pounds for pills of an even stronger nature.

And in the months which followed, although he was being well and consistently milked by Wei Hung Ling, he never for one moment regretted having gone to him. His whole life was altered in a most extraordinary degree. He had become sharp and quick, where before he had been dull and slow, and, indeed, was now so capable in everything he undertook, that he soon found he was being given responsible duties, with his salary being raised accordingly.

After working hours, too, everything was different. He took Dolly Thompson out quite a lot, and both his kisses and his presents were now accepted as a matter of course. Indeed, the office was expecting that an engagement would be announced any day. Mathew, however, was taking his time there. Appetite had grown with eating and, although very taken with the charms of the fascinating little Dolly, he had several other little flirtations in hand at the same time. He had moved to a good-class guest home and a lively young widow there was beginning to regard him as her private property. Also, he was sweet on a girl in a lawyer's office. Her name was Penelope and she had a good eye for the main chance.

And not only was Mathew prospering in his work and his love affairs, but he was also most fortunate in other ways. Attending the local race meetings and knowing nothing whatsoever about horses, time after time he made quite useful sums of money by backing certain animals, either because he liked their names, or else because the numbers on their saddle-cloths coincided with those which he had cause to remember for some particular reason, quite unconnected with racing.

One afternoon, for instance, he had a pound on a horse because its number was 20 and he had suddenly remembered the Chinaman had said he would take that number of years off his life. The horse won and paid £185 10/ in the totalisator.

Splashing his money about as he now did, everyone seemed to want to be friendly with him and, going out quite a lot, he was always meeting people, anxious to share in his good fortune. Strangely enough, however, he had developed a great shrewdness of character and always managed to avoid the pitfalls which were being set for him. He flattered himself he could pick out the go-getters from the honest ones every time.

Instead of the little packet of measly sandwiches and the glass of milk which in the days gone by consisted of his lunch, he now made a substantial meal at a good-class café, and sitting always at the same table, got to know a young fellow who generally came to sit opposite to him.

Just nodding casually at each other, at first, it was some weeks before they began to talk of themselves, and then Mathew learnt his new acquaintance was a clerk in a lawyer's office, was twenty-six years of age, and half engaged to a very pretty girl, but had very poor prospects of being able to get married. He was always hoping, however, that one day some great happening would avalanche into his life, and everything would be quite different. He was a great believer in Fate.

"We can't help ourselves," he said. "We're running in a groove, and everything we say or do has been arranged years and years before we were born, to fit in with the lives of other people."

"Then why was it fated," smiled Mathew, "that I should come and sit down at your table."

"Don't know," replied the young fellow. He smiled, "Perhaps it was to teach me not to take so much salt. It was you who told me about it first, and I've learnt since then it makes your arteries grow hard as you get old." He nodded. "So, perhaps, just from this chance meeting with you, I may live ten or fifteen years longer than I should have done if it hadn't happened."

Mathew nodded back, feeling quite a thrill at the important part he might be playing in this boy's destiny.

One lunch-time the boy arrived looking very preoccupied, and after a long silence said earnestly:— "Look here, Mr. Brown, do you ever speculate? Do you ever take a risk?"

Mathew laughed. "I'm middle-aged with a bit of dough, and if I take a girl to the pictures and squeeze her hand in the dark, why, it's always on the cards that she'll be thinking I ought to mean business and start to sue me for breach of promise the next morning." He seemed very amused. "Yes, I'm accustomed to take risks."

The young man laughed back. "I didn't mean in that way. I meant do you ever speculate in stocks and shares?"

Mathew shook his head. "Don't know enough about them." He was anxious. "But what makes you ask?"

"Because," said the young man solemnly, "I'm pretty certain I've got some information about a certain gold-mine which may send the shares up from the few pence they are now to as many shillings, or, perhaps, even pounds. Oh, yes, I know a bit about gold shares. My Dad lost all his money in them and that's why we're so deuced poor today."

Mathew expressed his interest, and having promised the young man profound secrecy, the latter went on. "Listen, last month the Silver Moon people took over another gold mining property, a badly worked mine which so far has done no good, and everyone was very curious why they did it, for they are known as a very shrewd lot. Their shares now stand at seven pence."

"Seven pence!" exclaimed Mathew. "Surely that's not much for a share in a gold mine."

"Often too much," smiled the young man. He went on. "Now here comes the funny business. Next door to us lives a chap called Entwhistle, a retired mining engineer. He's really given up active work now, but sometimes he's still consulted because he's supposed to know more about gold mining than any man in Australia. People don't go to him often, because he charges a deuced big fee. Well, yesterday, he received a telegram, and, because that storm we had has flattened all the telephone posts in our road, the wire was delivered by hand, with the boy, as usual, waiting to know if there was any answer."

The young man spoke very solemnly. "Well, here Fate steps in. I was in our garden when Entwhistle came out of his front door to give the boy the reply to the telegram and as the old man is very deaf he shouted what the words were, 'Halliday, Silver Moon, Kalgoorlie,' he bawled, 'Accept terms—coming by plane tomorrow, Entwhistle.'"

"Then what does it all mean?" frowned Mathew.

"That they think they've struck it rich," was the instant reply, "and they want Entwhistle to assure them it's worth while going to the expense of putting down new machinery." He nodded, "And I'll bet they paid him a huge sum. He's always vowed he'd never set foot in a plane under five hundred guineas."

"And what do you think'll happen?" asked Mathew.

"The shares'll go up at once the moment it leaks out that Entwhistle's been called in. I shouldn't wonder if they don't go up tuppence or threepence this afternoon."

A short silence followed and then Mathew said with decision. "Look here, my boy, I'll go in with you. We'll buy a thousand shares each, at once, straight-away within the hour."

The young fellow got very red. "Can't do it, sir," he said. "I've no spare cash."

"Well, I'll lend it to you," nodded Mathew. "No, that's all right. It'll be a little excitement for us whatever happens. Now how do you set about getting these shares."

So it ended in the two hurriedly making their way to a stockbroker the young man knew. But the stockbroker was out and to fill in the few minutes before he returned, they went into a hotel and had some drinks. Under the influence of two sloe gins, Mathew took a most rosy view of everything and it ended in him buying two thousand shares for himself and one for his friend. They cost him, with commission, a little over £100.

Nothing happened for three days, and then the boy came rushing excitedly into the café at lunch time to give the startling information that not an hour previously Silver Moons had jumped from eightpence to two shillings.

"It's leaked out that Entwhistle was over there," he whispered hoarsely, "and some say he's given them a marvellous report."

And exactly what report the mining expert had given Mathew never knew. All that interested him was that he found himself being carried violently forward in the crest of a tremendous boom in Silver Moons. The shares soared and soared, from two shillings to five, from five shillings to a pound and then up, up, up until seventy odd shillings was reached. Then, upon the advice of his friend, Mathew sold out, finding himself in the possession of more than £7,000.

Keeping the whole matter to himself for a couple of weeks, he at last went to the heads of the firm and told them what had happened. They were aghast, but, their first surprise over, regarded him with great respect.

"Well, well, Mr. Brown," said old Boomer, "you do astonish us. Certainly, of late, you've given us good reason for surprise in many directions, but we didn't think you had as much go in you as this." He frowned. "And now, of course, I suppose you will be leaving us. You will want to——"

"No, no," broke in Mr. Hunt with a significant look at his partner, "decide nothing precipitately, Mr. Brown." He coughed. "Don't say anything for a few days, and we may have a suggestion to make to you." He smiled. "You know we are both older than we used to be, and don't want to go on working for ever."

In the meantime, Mathew's love affairs were becoming rather involved, and it seemed he was in the way of getting himself into trouble. He was inclined to think something of his good fortune must somehow have leaked out, as all his lady loves were most actively pushing their claims. He was practically engaged to Dolly Thompson on the quiet; he had been taking the little widow out and buying her expensive presents, and he spent as much time as he could with Penelope of the lawyer's office, when he could safely get away from the other two.

Strangely enough, his deceit did not worry him in the least. Indeed, he never gave it a thought, taking all his love adventures as the natural result of the rejuvenation Wei Hung Ling had promised him. He was free of the Chinaman now, and that did not trouble him either. A month back he had seen in the newspapers that the premises off King William road had been raided, and Ling committed for trial for trafficking in forbidden drugs.

Late one night Mathew took counsel of himself in his bedroom. Things had become very awkward, and a crisis was certainly approaching. That afternoon the partners had announced to their other employees that they were taking him into partnership, and Dolly had at once triumphantly broadcast their engagement. Yet, the previous evening after sitting with the widow on the parklands, and overcome by her caresses and the fragrance of the particular scent she had been using, he had asked her to marry him. Also, that very morning he had lunched with Penelope at a fashionable hotel, and snatched a passionate kiss from her in a secluded corner of the lounge when no one else was by. He had arranged, too, to spend the following Sunday with her at her home.

He looked into the mirror and thoughtfully regarded the image reflected there. He saw a distinguished, handsome man who did not look a day older than 30; a man with a strong, clever face, and calm, confident eyes.

"What a change from what I was six months ago!'' he nodded. "Yes, it's exactly six months to day, on May 2nd, since I first visited old Ling, and what a lot has happened in that time!" He went on. "Sure, you ought to go a long way, Mathew, for nothing now is beyond your grasp. A partner in an important business firm, you must get on the city council. Then it will be only another step to becoming the lord mayor. After that—who knows? You may be Sir Mathew very soon.

He undressed himself and quickly got into bed. "I must get a good sleep now. I have a busy day tomorrow. Dolly, Penelope and Susan, how shall I manage them all?" but, his head touching the pillow, his thoughts trailed away into nothingness and .... he was asleep.

* * * *

One of the house surgeons of the Adelaide Hospital was showing two interested elderly ladies over the new wing of the building. As they entered a small ward, some nurses were putting a screen round one of the beds.

"A patient just died?" whispered one of the ladies sympathetically.

The house surgeon nodded. "We expected it. A bad accident case! He hadn't a chance when they brought him in."

"How long ago, since it happened?"

The house surgeon considered. "Three days last Tuesday evening, May 2nd, he was knocked down by a motor lorry in King William road while waiting for a tram. His injuries were shocking. Fractured base of the skull, five ribs broken and a compound fracture of the thigh. But it was probably mostly his own fault, as he reeked of port wine when he was picked up."

"Was he a young man?"

"No, about forty, so his firm told us. He was a clerk in a soft-goods warehouse and, apparently, without any relations or friends, as not a soul's been to see him since he was brought in."

"Oh, what a dreadful death."

The house surgeon smiled. "The accident was dreadful, but the dying wasn't. He's been chock full of morphia and, judging by his talk, has had a lovely time. He won huge sums at the races and made a fortune in a gold-mine. Also, he became the head partner of his soft-goods firm. As for love affairs, why he had sweethearts all over the place, Penelope, Dorothy, Susan, and it seemed he was going to marry all of them."

"How shocking," murmured the other lady. "He must have been a thoroughly bad man!"

The house surgeon shook his head. "No, I don't think so. He was only just an ordinary man and in his dreams he let himself go." He laughed. "His name was Mathew, but he was certainly no saint."


A VOICE FROM THE DEAD

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 30 September 1942.

IT was quite late at night, and they had just returned from a bridge party. The two of them were discussing the people who had been present, as they were drinking a nightcap cup of tea.

"And then Camilla Brendon," said Mrs. James, a lively little woman, seemingly full of the joy of life, "isn't she smart and hasn't she kept her good looks? Do you know, dear, she's turned forty-two? Oh, yes, I know it for certain! We went to the same school together and she's a year older than I, and I'm forty-one."

"Well, she could have passed for thirty tonight," commented the other. "Hasn't she got a clever face?"

"And she is clever, Lucy; the cleverest woman I know. She's well read and highly intellectual. She's the president of our Literary Society and none of the men can take her down."

"But her husband looks very ordinary. I mean he's not a bit clever. I can't imagine her marrying a man like him."

"Neither can anyone else," commented Mrs. James, "but then Ted Brendon's a dear old chap. As you say, he's not a bit clever, but he's an ideal family man, and he just worships Camilla and the children."

Lucy smiled. "Then, of course, she married him for money. I remember old man Brendon left plenty when he died."

Her friend shook her head. "No, dear, you're wrong there. Camilla never was that sort. Besides, she was doing journalistic work then, and must have had quite a good salary." She looked thoughtful. "No, Lucy, she didn't marry him for money and I'm certain she didn't marry him for love. I rather think she married him out of gratitude for his kindness to the man she'd been engaged to before. That one died as the result of a terrible accident when they were miles away from everywhere, and Ted had nursed him and cared for him until he was dead."

"Then she had had a lover before her present husband!" exclaimed Lucy. She nodded. "And I suppose she loved him!"

"Yes, passionately," replied Mrs. James with emphasis. She smiled. "Under the mask of that proud and cold face of hers, Camilla hides what is left of feelings of the deepest passion.

"As a girl, as you can guess, she was very lovely, but no man appealed to her until Ransom Hellingsby came into her life. Then from an icicle she became the burning fiery furnace. I knew her intimately then, and she confided in me more than she did in anyone else. She just idolised this Ransom of hers."

"And what sort of man was he? An Adonis superman, with all the virtues!"

Her friend sighed. "At any rate, she thought so. Oh, yes, he was good-looking, right enough, and very clever, too. He was a barrister, and everyone said he had a great future. He just swept Camilla off her feet and she loved him with every nerve and drop of blood in her."

"And he worshipped her in return?"

Mrs. James hesitated. "Yes and no. He couldn't help being fond of her in a man's sort of way, for she was so lovely to look at. Still, he'd been fond of many others before her, and, even when he was engaged to Camilla, he's supposed to have had other girl friends." She shook her head. "He wouldn't have made her the husband Ted Brendon has." She nodded again. "There were tales, too, that he drank."

"Well, what happened to him? You haven't told me."

"Oh, he was killed on a holiday! He and Ted Brendon and Michael Barling, now His Honor Judge Barling, were away shooting and fishing on Kangaroo Island, and in the wildest and most desolate part, Ransom fell over a cliff and got terribly hurt. His injuries were so bad, they daren't move him. Their car was 20 miles away, and, leaving Ted to look after him, Michael started to tramp 20 miles to get help. He sprained his ankle on the way, however, and it was two days before he was able to direct the rescue party to where Ransom was lying. Ted had done everything he could for him, but only a skilful surgeon could have saved him, and he was dead when they arrived."

"What a dreadful tragedy!" exclaimed Lucy. "I wonder it didn't kill Camilla."

"It almost did. She was heart-broken, and it was only to Ted Brendon she could ever bring herself to talk about what had happened. He often saw her, and, as Ransom's greatest friend, I suppose she thought he was all of Ransom that was left to her. At any rate, she must have been so grateful to him for his devotion to her dead Ransom and become so accustomed to him, that in the end she thought she could put up with him always. She could see, as everyone else did, that he was desperately in love with her. So two years later she married him."

"Is she happy?"

"Oh, yes, I think so—in a way. She's got two boys, the elder is 17, and a lovely girl of 15, and everything in the way of money she could want. Still, although it's more than 20 years ago, I think she still lives a bit in the past. When no one's watching her, her face in repose is sad."

The next morning the object of their conversation was seated alone in the breakfast room of her beautiful and well-appointed house. She had just seen her husband off in his car, but had returned to the table to finish her cup of coffee and glance through the morning newspaper.

As her old school friend had stated, she was still, at 42, a very handsome woman. She was well and tastefully dressed, and everything about her spoke of the woman of refinement. She had a good profile and perfect complexion. Her eyes were large and of a deep blue. She held herself gracefully and her general poise was as of one who was very sure of herself.

It happened to be the 18th anniversary of her wedding, and she smiled faintly as she thought of the warm good-bye her husband had just given her.

Dear old Ted, she had known him since she was a little child, but had never given it a thought that he had been in love with her in those far-off years when she was only a long-legged girl just out of pigtails!

But then Ted had always been shy, and one to keep himself in the background. Even all that time after her great trouble he would have never dared to speak of his feelings for her if she hadn't taken pity on him and met him three parts of the way.

Well, he had proved the kindest of husbands for her, and she could not wish for anyone more considerate. He was so unselfish, too, and without a trace of jealousy. He had not minded in the least when she had asked if their first little one could be called Ransom, whereas most men would not have liked it that their son should be named after an old lover of their wife's, but he had just smiled and bowed his head in sorrowful memory, she had known, for the dead. Of course, he had loved Ransom, too. David and Jonathan they had been called at school, and in their college life, later, they had been inseparable.

Then that awful tragedy when Ransom had been killed! What torture it had been for Ted to give her all the ghastly details. But she had insisted she should know all at once, so that there should never be anything more terrible to tell her.

Her thoughts wandered then to her children and her mother's heart warmed within her. What a splendid man her elder son Ransom the second was going to be! Strong, masterful, and capable as the other Ransom had been. Indeed, she always liked to think he was not unlike him in appearance, too. And that must be, so her secret thoughts ran, because her first lovers image had remained so vivid in her mind.

Then her daughter, 15, only two years younger than Ransom, how lovely she was, and what a sweet disposition was hers. She had her father's ways, and what a treasure she would be for some man one day! She was—but her thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of the maid with the letters.

She ran through them carelessly, and then her face brightened as she saw one in the handwriting of her one-time lover's sister. She had always liked old Miss Hellingsby, who had been ten years older than Ransom.

The letter was a thick one in a big envelope, and, opening it, she found another envelope wrapped round with a piece of white paper, upon which was written, "Do not open this until you have read my letter." Miss Hellingsby's letter read:—


"Dearest Camilla—I was clearing out an old cupboard yesterday and came across a jacket of poor Ransom's. It was the spare one he must have taken with him on that dreadful holiday. As I was handling it, I felt something which had slipped down in the lining. It was this letter from him to you, which I now enclose. Of course, I have not opened it, and at first was inclined to burn it. But, then, I realised it really belonged to you, and so send it along.

Your affectionate friend,

Clare Hellingsby."


Camilla caught her breath, and, even after all those years, her heart beat much quicker. She opened the enclosed letter with trembling fingers, and her eyes wonderingly devoured what was written. It was dated Thursday, December 29. "The day before the accident," she murmured. "It was on the Friday he fell over that awful cliff."

After a few lines of endearment, and his declaring he was quite well, except for an occasional bout of neuralgia which bothered him a little, she came to a part which made her face blanch, and almost choked her as she breathed.


"Now here's something very strange, sweetheart," she read, "and I can't make it out. It sounds incredible, but something's happened to Ted, and I believe that for some reason he has come to hate me. Yesterday I had caught him several times looking very queerly at me when he thought I wasn't watching, and last night I half think he wanted me to do myself an injury.

"It was like this. Our camp is in a hollow just behind a big cliff, with a bit of a creek on the land side, where one can often get a duck when they come over about dusk. Well, after tea I went out by myself to try and pot some, and was in hiding behind some bushes. Of course, I had got my gun loaded. Then something, I don't know what, made me take the cartridges out and have a squint down the barrels of the gun. Perhaps I thought I hadn't cleaned them the previous day after we had been out after quail. At any rate, to my horror, I found one of the barrels was choked up hard with caked mud. Only one of them, that was the funny part, but if I had fired the gun, then, good God! I might have got my hand blown off or even worse than that.

"I knew the day before that the ground had been very muddy after the rain, and I had certainly put down my gun once or twice, but I couldn't credit the barrel having got in that state. Of course, that Ted has really been looking at me queerly and that he put the mud in the barrel of the gun may be all imagination, and I only tell you so that when you write back you may tell me what an ass I am. I have such great faith in your good sense. Some days fishing boats come in close to the shore, and I may get one to take this tomorrow."


The letter finished up with more endearing terms.

Camilla sat on with a white, set face. It was inconceivable, but what if Ransom had been pushed over that cliff and had not fallen over as had been made out?

When he had been killed there had been practically no enquiry at all. The island sergeant of police had made his report, and the coroner, to save himself trouble, everyone said, had not thought it necessary to hold any inquest.

But Ted——a murderer! It was incredible! Still, who could fathom the secrets of a man's heart where the passion for a woman was concerned? Had not history told over and over again how the natures of the gentlest and most inoffensive of men could harden and become brute-like when baulked in their pursuit of one of the other sex. They, too, then had lost all sense of conscience.

And Ted had been loving her all the time! He had told her so and how miserable his life had been, believing as he did then, that she could never be his!

Oh, how sorry she was she had been given that letter! Her affection for her husband had never merged into real passion, and she would loathe him now if she learnt he had had any part in Ransom's death.

Again she told herself it was impossible, but she added she could not let the matter rest there. No, she would go and see Michael Barling, the judge, and get the truth out of him that very day. He had been there with Ted when the accident had occurred, and so she would spring the letter upon him, being confident that, from the expression upon his face, she would be able to make out whether her husband had been guilty or not. It was vacation time, and the judge would probably be working in his garden in the afternoon. He was a bachelor, and flowers were the absorbing hobby of his life.

As she had expected, she found the judge at home, and he took her at once into his study.

"Michael," she said solemnly, "I can trust you, can't I? You'll always tell me the truth."

A distinguished looking man, with a keen, intellectual face and calm grey eyes, he regarded her curiously. "Certainly, Camilla," he replied, and he added, "there should surely have been no need for you to ask me that?"

"Well, here's a letter of Ransom's," she went on quickly, "and it was only given me this morning. His sister found it in the lining of the spare jacket he took away with him when you all went on that dreadful holiday." Her voice shook. "It is dated the day before he died. Here it is. Yes, read it right through and then you'll be sure it's his letter."

The judge took the letter from her with a calm impassive face, but he was soon frowning heavily. A long silence followed, for he read the letter twice before he looked up at her.

He spoke very quietly. "I don't know what to tell you, Camilla," he said. He tapped the letter disdainfully. "But, of course, what he suggests about Ted is all nonsense. All our guns were liable to get muddied, and Ransom was notoriously careless about his."

"Then what do you mean by saying you didn't know what to tell me?" asked Camilla sharply. "Are you keeping anything back?" Her voice shook. "Didn't Ransom die in the way it was given out?" She almost broke down. "Did my husband push him over the cliff?"

The judge's face was dark with indignation. "Don't be a fool, Camilla, and don't give way to hysteria. How dare you think such a thing about Ted?" He spoke scornfully. "I thought time had made you into a sensible, level-headed woman, and that——"

"But you said just now you didn't know what you ought to tell me," broke in Camilla tearfully, "and I thought you meant you were keeping something back."

"And so I was," commented the judge sternly, "but now I see I'll have to tell it you." He pointed to the letter he had given back to her. "For that neuralgia he refers to there, Ransom had been drinking heavily. He wasn't responsible for what he wrote, and, to make no bones about it, the next day he was drunk when he fell over that cliff."

Camilla covered her face with her hands. "Oh, but I can't believe it," she choked. "Ransom was always such a particular man. I'm sure he never drank too much."

"But he did," retorted the judge sharply. "He broke out occasionally when he was away. It wasn't often, but then he was as bad as anyone." He spoke regretfully. "I'm sorry, Cam, I had to tell you this, but you forced me to. I couldn't let the very faintest suspicion of anything rankle on in your mind."

"Then Ted wasn't near him when he fell over the cliff?" she asked faintly.

"Half the length of this room away," replied the judge. "I was much closer." He patted her kindly on the shoulder. "Look here, little woman, go back home and be the very nicest wife in the world to Ted. He's worth it, I tell you, every inch of him."

She began to mop her eyes. "I know that, Michael. He's been an ideal husband and father. I'll forget all about this letter, and burn it directly I get home. I've been very foolish."

"Yes, you have," smiled the judge, "but don't wait until you get home to burn this letter. Burn it straightaway in this grate. Here, give it to me and I'll set a match to it. That's right. There—it's all gone up in smoke," he raised his finger warningly, "and now you never breathe a word to your husband that you received it. Promise me, now. Good, you're a sensible woman again!"

He saw her out of the house, and then, returning to his study, sank back wearily into an armchair and wiped over his forehead with his handkerchief.

"Whew, that was unpleasant," he murmured with a wry face, "and may God forgive me for the lie!" He nodded. "Still, he was drunk right enough two nights before, or else, with Ted present, he'd have never let out about that other woman he was carrying on with. The brute, going to be married within a month to an innocent and lovely girl like Cam., and yet boasting about the mistress he'd got! Gad, how Ted glared at him, the devoted Ted who up to then had always regarded him as his hero! But with Ted's secret adoration of Cam. Ransom's admission was sacrilege of the vilest nature."

He sighed heavily. "Yes, I had to tell her that lie, or else their two lives would have become one long drawn-out misery. She'd have never forgiven Ted because, indirectly, of course, everything was due to him. He certainly provoked the fight by suddenly blurting out to Ransom what he thought of him. Still, the fighting was perfectly fair, I saw to that, and there'd have been no accident at all if Ransom hadn't staggered back too far under that blow and lost his balance." He sighed again. "But it was best for Cam that he was killed. He'd have made her a shocking husband, and I don't wonder old Ted told me the other day that he regretted nothing."

Then, suddenly, the judge's eyes happening to rove round the room, fell upon the ashes of the burnt letter in the grate and, with a gesture as if of great annoyance, he strode over and ground them to powder under his foot.

All at once, then, he started and stood stock still. His jaw dropped and his forehead became all puckered up in a puzzled frown. He stared into vacancy and held his breath as if he were listening. But he was not listening—it was only that a sudden thought had come to him, and for the moment he would not give it expression.

"God, I had quite forgotten about that!" he exclaimed at last. "What about the choked-up barrel of the gun? Men have been killed by less than that."

With seeming reluctance he followed up the train of thought. "Was Ransom purposely lying about it to prejudice Camilla against Ted, in case Ted told her anything? He could tell by Ted's manner what he thought of him. Or did Ted really block up that barrel? Did he deliberately intend to——"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I'll never ask him, anyhow. Goaded by Ransom's treachery to Camilla, it would have been a sort of wild justice, and with a man of Ted's kind and gentle disposition"—he half smiled—"the wrath of the sheep."


"BUGGY"

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 29 April 1943

HIS master and mistress called him Soda, but to the children he was always known as Buggy, because when he had come to them as a very small puppy there were crawlers in his little coat which made him scratch a lot.

He was a little Scotty and picturesquely ugly with his huge head, very short legs, and great, lumpy, heavy paws. Eyes, nose and small body he was black as night all over. An aristocrat to his claw tips, and a descendant of a long line of noble ancestors, he carried his little tail stiffly upright in defiance of all the world.

He was only a young dog and he lived in one of the suburbs of a big city. Except for an occasional scamper outside with the children, his little world was bounded by four high garden walls, and there he carried on relentless war with everything which flew, crept, crawled or ran. He was game as a pebble and, as quick as lightning, his pounce was swift as the strike of a snake. His scent, too, was keen as a razor's edge, and woe betide any rodent who imagined he could hide away, even under many feet of garden rubbish. Buggy's front paws would then work like flails, untiring as a piston under full pressure, until he had routed him out. A few yards of hectic rush would follow before the unhappy rat or mouse was bitten, crunched and shaken into that Valhalla where the spirits of all rodents go.

With birds he was less successful and rarely caught one, for both his strategy and tactics were undeniably bad. He scorned all ambushes or lying in wait and, instead, directly one had alighted upon the lawn, would launch himself like an arrow upon it, barking, however, so vociferously all the while that the bird would have ample warning to fly and escape.

The one exception to his unceasing chase after birds was Mickum, the magpie, and there experience had taught him to keep well away from her spiteful beak and fiercely beating wings. Once, when she had had her nest in one of the garden trees, she had most strongly resented his interest in her two little Mickums, and he never forgot the painful peck she had given him on the side of his nose. After that he had left her sulkily alone.

As with birds, with cats he had not much luck, for again he was so noisy in his approach that they invariably had sufficient time to climb back safely on to the wall or run up some friendly tree. Still, he was known far and wide in catdom, and mother cats were wont to warn their kittens it was most unlikely they would ever grow to cathood if they played or hunted in the garden of Number Seven.

So Buggy passed his days, feared by so many rats, mice, cats and birds, and yet so much loved and petted by all the children who came to know him. To all humans he was such a friendly little animal.

When Buggy was just over a year old a great sorrow came into his life, for his master moved with his family into a flat where it was one of the ten commandments of the proprietor of the building that no dogs were allowed.

So Buggy's master gave him to a friend who was a farmer far away in the country, and one morning of most dreadful memory to the little dog he was given a most unusual big breakfast of underdone liver, his favorite dish, and, after much hugging and petting by the moist-eyed children, was driven off in the lap of the eldest girl to the railway station. There he was consigned to the care of the guard of a country bound train, and tied up in the brake-van.

He could not understand it and, a few minutes later, the rumbling of the wheels and the jolting of the train filled his little heart with terror. The guard, however, was a doggy man, and between stations stroked him and talked to him quite a lot. But the guard's voice was strange and his smell was different from any Buggy was accustomed to and, in consequence, the friendliness was not much appreciated. Buggy thought of the garden of Number Seven, the mice who would be running unchecked in the rubbish heap, and the big black cat from next door, who would probably be insolently upon the wall, and his heart was heavy that he was not there to put things right.

The day seemed endless, but at last when dusk was falling the train drew up at a siding and Buggy was taken out on to the platform. "Here's your new boss, old man," said the guard, "and I'm sure he'll be kind to you."

He was given into the arms of a big man who smelt of earth and a strange new smell which he was to learn later was that of sheep. "Hullo, hullo," said the man, holding him up at arms' length, "now what's going to be the good of you on a farm? Gosh, what a little beggar! No, no, Soda, don't tremble like that. No one's going to hurt you, little chap."

"Soda's not his name," said the guard. "The little girl who kissed him good-bye called him Buggy."

"And a darned good name," laughed the man. "He's not much bigger than a fair-sized bug himself."

After a very jolting ride in an old car, Buggy arrived at his new home, and a young woman stroked him and cuddled him and put him down in a little basket before a nice warm fire. He was given a drink of milk and, according to instructions received, a nice supper of cut up meat, gravy, potatoes and greens. As much as possible he tried, as indeed he always did, to nose away the greens, but there was too much delicious gravy on them and, in the end, he licked the saucer clean.

Then he squatted before the fire, watching with sad and melancholy eyes the man and his wife having their meal. From their glances in his direction he could see they were talking about him, but he was not interested, and his thoughts were only of his lost home.

Still, there was one bright spot that evening when, suddenly, he caught sight of an immense tabby cat stealing stealthily into the room. For the moment he did not realise his good fortune, but then he went after her like a bullet from a gun. However, he slipped badly on the linoleum and before he could get to her she had sprung on to the top of a high cupboard and was out of reach. She spat fiercely and the hair on her back stood up like wires.

"No, Buggy, darling," called out the woman reprovingly, "you must never hurt old Pom-Pom. You must become great friends." But the men roared with laughter and thought it a splendid joke.

Buggy was put to bed in his basket in a cupboard at the end of the passage, with the door, however, left open so that he should get plenty of air. All was quiet and peaceful until about the middle of the night, and then the man and his wife were awakened by yelps and frenzied scuttling in the passage.

"What the devil is it?" roared the man, and he jumped out of bed and ran out of the bedroom, flashing his torch. "Tarnation," he shouted gleefully, "the little beggar's caught that big rat!" and Buggy was patted and stroked and praised before he was returned to his cupboard.

The next morning Buggy was taken out into the yard and introduced to Blackbeetle, the big sheep dog. For a few moments they smelt at each other suspiciously, but then they both began wagging their tails. "It's not bad up here," said Blackbeetle, talking things over. "They're quite decent to you and there's plenty of good grub. I've got a spare bone or two now in my kennel if you feel peckish, but you'll not find much meat on them, as they were part of my supper last night." He spoke warningly. "But you'll have to leave Pom-Pom alone or the mistress won't like it. He's no blessed good now, but he's one of the family."

Gradually Buggy began to settle down, and as time passed the memory of his old home in part faded away. There was plenty of sport in the barns, and it was a poor day if he didn't kill two or three rats. As for mice, he caught hundreds among the cornsacks, greatly to the envy of Blackbeetle, whose big body could not wriggle into places where Buggy's little one went.

Rabbits, however, became Buggy's great delight, and when his master took him with him into the paddocks he was in the seventh heaven of dog joy, routing them out of the bushes and chasing them back into the burrows. Sometimes he actually caught one, and though his master generally took it away from him, it always meant succulent innards for his tea.

Sometimes he was put down a fox hole, and it was grand sport, for yelping and snarling like a beast of great size, he would so terrify its inmates that out they would bolt to fall to his master's gun or be caught by the sheepdog who would be whining and whimpering all the time because he was too big to go down the hole. Time and often Buggy got bitten, but he would bite hard in return, and fear never came into his heart.

Ploughing time came round presently, and then he went with his master for the whole day long among the hills some miles distant from the homestead. Rabbits were plentiful there, and while his master was ploughing round and round the paddock, he would enjoy himself sniffing and scraping among the burrows.

Once he came upon a big brown snake basking in the sun. It was the first snake he had seen, and, all unaware of the danger he was running, he set upon it with no delay. It lifted its dreadful head and hissed, but that did not deter Buggy in the very least. It was something for him to kill, and he started upon the job at once, jumping round it and barking excitedly. The instinct, however, handed down to him by thousands and thousands of his ancestors warned him to keep clear of the deadly uplifted head, and it was not until the snake started to glide off in the direction of its hole that he closed in to the attack. Then, like lightning, he sprang on to it and made his sharp little teeth meet in the neck.

The snake's body lashed round him furiously, but he held on grimly, shaking the snake violently as he was accustomed to do rats, and soon he could tell that it was dead. He was so pleased with himself for having killed something new that, without letting it drop out of his mouth, he carried it with great pride to show his master. To his disgust the latter was quite angry and gave him a couple of little cuffs.

"Silly little idiot!" he scowled. "You leave snakes alone or you'll soon be having a little grave with a cross and a bit of writing on it. 'Here lies Buggy, the fool!'"

And that night Blackbeetle, the sheepdog, gave him a scolding, too. "Never go near a snake, my son," he said, "or sooner or later he'll get you as sure as bones are bones." The big dog spoke sadly. "I lost my poor wife, Titbits, that way, as faithful a wife as any dog ever had. Seventy-three children she gave me, and I've got sons and daughters all over the place."

"Seventy-three!" exclaimed Buggy in great surprise. "Then didn't they have to drown a lot of them?"

"Drown!" ejaculated Blackbeetle angrily. "Good gracious, no! They were all sold at high prices." He drew himself up proudly. "I'm a pedigree dog, I am, and the son of Blackspot, whose grandfather was Blackangas, the famous Scotch dog. All his descendants were called Black Something, and that's why I'm Blackbeetle." He sighed. "I suppose they'd used up all the other Black names and had to call me that."

Buggy spoke with some pride, too. "My mother was Cosey Corner," he said, "and I believe she was sold for fifty guineas."

"Never heard of her," said the sheepdog contemptuously, "but then few people are interested in small dogs."

Buggy felt humbled. "But how did your wife come to be killed?" he asked.

"Went for a snake the same as you did," was the reply. "He bit her on the nose and she was dead in 10 minutes. Some day I'll take you and show you some of her bones. There are still a few left by the creek. She was a very finely formed dog."

At supper that night Buggy's master told his wife all about the snake. "I was scared almost out of my life," he said, "when up he came with a big 6ft. one trailing behind him. Gosh, the little devil will never be afraid of anything!"

However, he was mistaken there, for only a few days later Buggy knew fear for the first time, and it happened in this way.

His master was ploughing and as usual, he wandered away to do a bit of hunting. He chased a nice fat-looking bunny rabbit into his burrow and then for a good half-hour tried to scrape him out. Of course he was unsuccessful and, presently tiring with his exertions, he lay down for a bit of a rest. He stretched himself at full length and closed his eyes. The sun was nice and warm and, in the distance, he could hear the hum of his master's tractor going round. It was very soothing and soon he had dropped to sleep. It was quite a nice sleep, and he dreamed of rats and mice and other things which dogs love.

Picky, the son of Nasrah the crow, came passing by and saw him, and in great haste flew off to tell his father. "Dad," he said excitedly, "there's a black lamb lying by the rabbit burrows and he must be sick for he's lying not as lambs generally lie. He's got his legs stretched out."

"Good," nodded Nasrah, "then we'll go and pick his eyes out. That's the ticket, my son."

So Nasrah told his wife and off they flew, but other crows noticed them flying so straight and guessed there must be something important on and flew after them.

Nasrah alighted warily a few yards away from the sleeping Buggy and proceeded to give his opinion after the wisdom of crow lore. "He's got funny feet," he said, "and for his size an unusual amount of wool. Still, he's a lamb right enough, and as Picky says, he must be very sick from the way he's stretched out. But he's not dead yet, because his legs keep twitching. So we must wait a little while."

More and more crows arrived, and soon there was a complete circle of them gathered round the unconscious Buggy. Crows, with all their cruelty, are cowardly birds and they hesitated to peck at him until he was dead, or very nearly so. Besides, they could not make out exactly where his eyes were, as everything about his face was so black and the hair was so thick.

Buggy dreamed on and on and the crows, getting more and more impatient, hopped closer and closer until they were only a few feet away. Suddenly then, a big blowfly alighted on Buggy's nose and he awoke.

He blinked his eyes a few times and then sat up. The crows hopped back a few feet or so, but, thinking it must be his last dying effort, did not move very far. Buggy blinked hard again. Great Bones, where was he? What had happened? There was a ring of big, evil-looking birds all around him! They had even bigger beaks than had had Mickum, the magpie, in the garden of Number Seven, and they were looking at him with cruel, dreadful eyes! They were not afraid of him and he was all alone! He could not hear the tractor now and so his master must have left him and gone home! He did not remember that his master would be now having a spell while he ate his dinner.

Terror filled poor Buggy's heart, stark naked terror—and he lifted up his head and howled, a long drawn, melancholy howl.

The effect was startling and, if ever crows could gasp, they would certainly have gasped then. Never had they heard a lamb make a noise like that! No, it could not be a lamb! Then it was some new strange animal and he might be dangerous to them all! So, quicker than it takes to tell, and long before the howl had died away, they had flung themselves up into the air and, with hoarse and raucous cries, were flying swiftly away.

Buggy found himself alone.

That night he told the whole story to the sheepdog, and when he had finished the latter asked thoughtfully, "Do you say they were all round you? Some of them were actually behind?"

"Yes, behind me," nodded Buggy. "In front of me and on both sides."

The sheepdog looked very grave. "Then anything might have happened to you," he said. "You'll never know in what real danger you were. Crows are all right if you're watching them, but if not——then they'll do anything." He sighed heavily. "If my poor wife, Titbits, were here now, she'll tell you that."

"Why, did they do anything to her?" asked Buggy with saucer eyes.

"They did," nodded Blackbeetle, "and it was when she was carrying her sixth litter. I know it grave her a great shock, because a few weeks later she had only seven pups in stead of her usual nine or ten. What happened? Well, one day Titbits had seen a big crow perching about the place all the afternoon, and in the evening she saw him again when she was having a bit of supper in this very yard. He was atop of that big gate there. She was keeping her eye on him, right enough, when suddenly she heard a great crash somewhere by the barn. She got up and turned round so that her back was towards the crow to see what it was. She found it was only old Gooseberry kicking over her milkpans and, turning back again, saw the darned crow——"

"Coming straight at her," interrupted Buggy excitedly.

"No," snarled the sheepdog, "flying away with her blooming bone."


"INVASION"

As published in The Chronicle, Adelaide, 27 May 1943.


ALL the long and sweltering afternoon, from under the bank of a small creek some 20 miles inland off one of the most desolate stretches of the north-west coast of Western Australia, the three Japanese airmen had been watching the lonely little homestead. The whole time they had been chattering like monkeys, with their ape-like faces contorted in excitement.

They were ravenously hungry and the house meant food for them. Four days previously their plane had crashed some 20 miles behind the Ninety Mile Beach, and all they had had to eat in their wandering since then had been two small parrots which, with a prodigious expenditure of ammunition, they had managed to bring down with the one automatic pistol they possessed between them.

The house, however, meant more to them than food, for they would be able to learn from its inmates exactly where they were. They were sure they could not be very far from the mouth of the de Grey river and, if they could reach the coast there, they thought they would be able to steal a boat and escape out to sea where their submarines were always lurking.

Still, they dared not approach the house until darkness had well fallen, because there were from three to four hundred yards of open ground to be crossed, and they knew they would almost certainly be seen by the tall lanky man who had come into view several times. They were sure he would have a gun or rifle of some kind, and they had only one cartridge left in their pistol.

They had soon been confident they knew everyone who was living in the house. Besides the man, there was a young woman whom they took to be his wife, a small child, and an old woman who might be the mother of either of the parents. Several times they had seen all the four together, sitting in the shade on the verandah.

They had a good pair of binoculars with them, and they smiled and nodded quite a lot as they noted the younger woman was comely and of a good figure.

They guessed what the occupation of the man must be, for the house was situated only a short distance away from a high vermin-proof fence stretching to beyond sight over the barren wilderness of sand. They had heard of this fence and knew it to be the one running for thirteen hundred and fifty miles across Western Australia. So a certain length of it would be under the man's care for him to see it was always in good enough repair to keep out the rabbits. They guessed, also, that the next habitation would be many miles distant, perhaps even half a day's journey by car, and that the telephone they saw connected to the house would probably lead there.

For a long while they had wondered angrily why the man had not gone off upon his daily work in the car, which they could see through the open door of a shed at the side of the house, but, with a curse, they suddenly remembered that the day was Sunday, the day upon which the fool Australians did nothing except eat huge meals and loaf about.

Still for a short time at all events, the man had been doing some kind of work, as they had heard sounds of hammering coming from somewhere at the back of the house. The hammering, however, had soon stopped and they had seen the man come slouching on to the verandah and slump down on to a bench there close to the two women and the child.

All unaware of the danger threatening them, the girl and her mother had been talking animatedly together, finding quite a lot to talk about, as indeed so often happens with people living in very lonely places, notwithstanding that from one month to another they see no new faces to relieve the monotony of their lives.

Now the young wife turned to her husband. "You've been quick in mending that gutter, Jim," she said. "Have you made a good job of it?"

"No job at all," grunted Jim. "I haven't got any nails long enough. I'll have to ring up old Sandy to give me some. He'll be at the end of his beat tomorrow, and I'll meet him at the hill. I'll go and ring up now before I forget," and he got up and went into the house. He was back again in a few minutes and resumed his seat upon the bench. He had now got a rather rusty-looking gun with him and he proceeded to polish it up vigorously with a piece of oiled rag.

"Now if you had not been so careless as to run out of cartridges," said the older woman severely, "you could have got us a pigeon or two. There were a lot down among the trees by the creek this morning——" she looked across into the distance "—though they seem all to have flown away now."

"Yes, I mustn't run short again," said the man, "but as I've told you I thought I'd got another box."

"The war news is pretty good, isn't it?" remarked his wife. "The wireless says the Japs didn't do much harm with that raid on Wyndham." She looked troubled. "But I'm always thinking we shall have them here one day, and not a door in the house locks. We should be quite helpless if they came."

Her husband guffawed. "What would they want to come here for," he asked, "and what good would any flimsy doors do if they did come."

"Oh, they might want to come to blow up the fence and let the rabbits through," broke in his mother-in-law, "anything to frighten us and do harm. At any rate I shan't feel happy until we've killed them all and the war's over." She nodded vigorously. "Somehow I don't feel easy today. That big rooster was crowing at one o'clock this morning and that's a bad sign. It means there's going to be a death somewhere."

"And it'll be him who's going to die," grinned Jim. "I'll be killing him on Thursday, so that he'll be nice and tender for Sunday." He scowled at the old woman. "But don't you talk such nonsense, Mother. You'll be frightening Mary with your rotten ideas."

An hour, nearly two, passed and, dusk approaching, the wife went inside to prepare the evening meal. The Japanese saw a light appear in one of the windows of the house, and, a few minutes later, the family all sitting round the table. With their binoculars the airmen could see quite plainly through the wire screen of the open window.

The moment they had been waiting for had at last arrived and, climbing up over the bank of the creek, they ran stealthily up to the house. They opened the wire door very quietly and, traversing a short passage, burst into the living-room.

The younger woman shrieked and sprang up to seize her child. The elder woman jumped to her feet, too, but from her tightly pressed lips came no sound. Only the man remained seated where he was. He seemed stunned, and his mouth gaped and his face paled, even under its heavy tan.

"Hold up your hands," shouted one of the Japanese in perfectly good English, pointing his pistol at the man, and the latter, recovering from his surprise, obeyed instantly.

"Stand up," ordered the Japanese sharply. "Turn round," and again the man obeyed. Then very quickly his wrists were tied tightly together behind him with part of a torn teacloth and he was pushed back into his chair. Next, his ankles were tied to the rails of the chair. The Japanese now took some notice of the women.

"Don't be frightened, ladies," said their leader with an ugly smile. "All we want is plenty to eat and drink." He leered at the young wife. "We mean you no harm."

"But you shan't have anything," called out the old woman with blazing eyes. "We won't——"

"Be quiet, Mother," said the husband sternly, "or you'll only make things worse." He nodded to his wife. "Give them everything we've got, Mary. It'll be best for us if we do."

The Japanese spokesman now started to question the man. "How far are you from the next house?" he demanded.

"About forty miles. My mate, Sandy, lives there. He works on the fence, same as I do."

"And how far are you from the de Grey River?"

"Nearly fifty, not quite."

"Is your car in good running order?"

"Yes, I could take you to the de Grey in a couple of hours."

"Which way should we go?"

"You can't make any mistake. You follow the track going west."

"Could we get a boat there without being seen?"

The man hesitated. "Yes, if you turn off south into the bush directly you come in sight of the township and work your way round to the wharf. You'll find several boats tied up there, and there's no one looking after them at night."

The old woman burst out angrily. "You're a traitor, Jim! These men are our enemies, and you're going to help them to escape."

The man shrugged his shoulders. "Can't help it, mother. They've got the upper hand of us and if we treat them fair they'll go away and leave us. You heard him say they're not going to hurt us."

"You fool," shouted the old woman savagely, "can't you see they're only——"

"Shut your mouth, woman," ordered the Japanese sharply, "and bring us all you've got to eat in the house. We'll be taking some of it away with us."

The old woman subsided mutteringly into her chair, but the wife did as her husband had told her to and put more food on the table.

The Japanese, seating themselves down, proceeded to eat hastily, talking, however, among themselves most of the time. Every now and then they eyed the younger woman in a way which made her feel sick with fear. She was clutching her child again and choking back her tears with a great effort. Presently the Japanese who was, apparently, the only one of three who could speak English, remarked smilingly to her, "It's a pity there are not three of you, young lady. Still . . .,' but he shrugged his shoulders and said something to his companions in their own language which, from their expressions, seemed to them to be a good joke.

So the intense drama proceeded in that little room. The old woman was like a baffled tigress who knew she had neither teeth nor claws; the young wife was terrified at the thought of what might be going to happen to them all, and the Japanese were pleasurably excited, with more than even murder in their hearts. Only the bound man in the chair was calm, though his forehead was now pricked out in little beads of sweat.

His eyes kept wandering to the clock upon the mantelshelf as if he were considering how much longer he had to live, for, notwithstanding the promise of the Japanese who spoke English, he was under no delusion that he could expect any mercy from him. They would just take him out and kill him when they had finished their meal, and his child and his wife's mother would meet the same fate. He shuddered when he thought what would happen to his wife.

He watched the three men intently. They were just like animals in the way they took their food. Their small yellow faces were hard and cruel, their arms were long like ape's, and their strong bony hands looked the very hands for throttling people. He wondered how he would have to die; the bullet, the knife or those dreadful hands about his neck.

Their hunger and thirst at last satisfied, with meaning nods to one another, the three Japanese rose simultaneously to their feet. Their leader said a few quick words to his companions and then turned to the others in the room, "You," he said to the man, "are to go out with these gentlemen and show them how to start the car. We shall drive it ourselves and shan't want you to come. Take the old woman out with you to carry the lantern. The child can go with her, too." He made a smiling bow to the wife. "You will remain here."

The girl shuddered and went white as death, and for the first time there was terror upon the husband's face, but the old woman was undaunted and prepared to show fight. "You yellow beasts," she shouted, "I'll not leave my daughter alone. I'll . . ." She made a dash towards a big carving knife on the table, but one of the Japanese was too quick for her and seized her roughly by the arm. His leader gave him a sharp order and the man pulled out an ugly-looking knife from his belt. The old woman struggled fiercely.

Then the avalanche descended.

In quick succession three rifle bullets came tearing through the wire screen of the window, and two of the Japanese crashed on to the floor. They had both been shot in the head, and after a few convulsive movements lay quite still where they had fallen, but the third man, their leader, had been missed, and, taking in like lightning that the danger was coming from the window, he darted to the door to escape from the room.

But the old woman was between him and the door, and, though looking as ghastly as if she were dead, had yet got all her wits about her. Exactly at the right moment she put out her foot and tripped him heavily. Then, before he could get up, she had snatched a chopper off the dresser and given him a vicious blow upon the back of his head. He groaned and lay still.

A few moments of dreadful silence followed, and then an elderly red-haired man with a still smoking rifle in his hand burst into the room. "Gude for you, mother," he shouted gleefully as he took in the old woman with her chopper standing over the prostrate Japanese. He bent down. "Yes, you've done for him, all recht," he went on in the broadest Scotch. "But if not, I'll finish him off outside," and with no ceremony he grabbed him by the heel and dragged him out along the passage to the front entrance of the house.

He was back again very quickly and patted the old woman on the back. "But you're a bonny lassie, you are," he exclaimed admiringly. "It were a gude blow, and he's as dead as a herring." He turned to the trembling wife. "Dinna ye fash yerself, ye poor gal. Them yeller deils can do no harm no more." He regarded the two bodies on the floor with obvious satisfaction. "But I were taking no chances, as I were not sure what pistols they had got. So I just put ma bullets furst."

"But Jim was talking to them quite friendly," choked the old woman. "He was telling them how to escape to the de Grey River. He's a traitor and a coward."

"Nay, nay," reproved the Scotchman, "he war a brave mon and full of sense. He war keeping them talking 'till I got here with ma gun. He knew what he were aboot all the time."

"But it was touch and go for us all, Sandy," said Jim reproachfully. "You cut it very fine."

"But I didn't," laughed the other, "not near so fine as ye think. I was biding ootside some wee minutes till I could get 'em quite clear without hurting any of ye. I were watchin' over ye, dinna fear."

He untied Jim quickly, and the latter gave him a warm clasp of the hand before throwing his arms round his wife. "I was sure you'd come, Sandy. I knew you wouldn't fail us."

"Not I," exclaimed Sandy stoutly, "but I had to leave ma car a gude mile away so that they shouldna hear it, and run the rest of the way for ma verra life." Then turned to the old woman. "That mon you hit with the chopper war a verra bad fellow. Ye ken I picked up a bit of their beastly language when the pearling boats war in and I heard him tell they others to stick a knife in Jim's back when they got him ootside and give ye a stick, too."

"But Jim," gasped the wife, lifting her tear-stained face from his shoulder, "how did you know Sandy was coming?"

"Because I had phoned him," laughed her husband happily. "When I went up on that ladder to mend the gutter I saw the three devils hiding in the creek, and I guessed they were only waiting until it got dark to rush the house. So it was Sandy and his gun that I phoned for, and not any big nails. That's why, too, I brought my old gun on to the verandah, to let them see it. They weren't to know I'd got no cartridges for it. Then when we all came inside I knew it would be no good barricading the place because they'd have broken in easily or shot at us through the windows somewhere."

"And I coom at wunce," nodded Sandy, "after I'd had a wee talk with de Grey station an told 'em what war oop. They'll no be long in gettin' here, either. Hark, hark, there be a car cooming the noo. Let's bide for 'em ootside, awa from these dead pigs."

They went out at once as he suggested, the old woman, however, lagging behind just long enough to acquire a pair of laces from the shoes of one of the dead men.

"They're just what Jim wants so badly," she muttered darkly, "and I owe him something for calling him a traitor."

She smiled grimly to herself. "Yes, I'll give them to him as a present, and he'll never know where I got them."


RUSSIAN RETROSPECT

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 29 January 1944.


WHEN this fell tide of blood and agony has ebbed, when this scourge of horrors unbelievable no longer lashes on the quivering shoulders of mankind, and when the veil of secrecy and mystery and lies is at last lifted, surely the historian will record that, above all happenings of these dreadful years, it was that one of the 22nd day in June, 1941, which saved the world, for it was then that the great German Colossus laid his body open to a mortal blow.


DESPAIR

I SO well remember that Sunday afternoon when it came over the air that Germany was attacking Russia. I was living then in what city dwellers would call a very lonely place, high up by the range of hills dominated by the Camel's Hump.

It had been a most depressing day, and now dusk was drawing in under a dark and lowering sky. Fierce rainsqualls were beating down, the glistening mud, and the cold was as biting as it can be in mid-winter in South Australia, nearly 3,000 ft. above sea level.

I had been writing at my desk, but my thoughts now wandered to the war, where things were looking every bit as bleak for us as was the outlook from my window. Everything seemed to be going badly.

The bitter humiliation of our so recent evacuation from Crete was still rankling, but, far worse than any loss of prestige, with the island in enemy hands our whole position in the Eastern Mediterranean was threatened, with Libya, Suez, Syria, and all that lay beyond in more than possible danger.

Rommel had just thrown us back at Sollum, and the high hopes held out to us of our attack there had come to nothing. Vichy had just made what "The Times" described as a "diabolical pact" with Germany.

The Turco-German pact, to which the same newspaper referred to as "bad business," had just been signed. The U-boat campaign was going against us, and day by day we were being warned that our shipping losses were very grave.

Indeed, only that week Hore-Belisha, the former Minister for War, had summed up the whole situation in the House of Commons in one biting sentence when he declared we were suffering defeat after defeat in both war and diplomacy.

DOUBT

REGARDING Russia, Hitler was exerting a deadly pressure on her. He was demanding grain, minerals, and oil, and she would have to give them to him or be annihilated. It was agreed by all competent observers she was in no condition to fight, and also that Stalin would never dare to arm his peasantry, certain that with weapons in their hands they would turn against him.

This, then, was the world position when that Sunday afternoon, depressed and thinking any fresh news would be bad news, I switched on the wireless, and upon my horrified ears fell the words:—"German forces have crossed the frontier and invaded Russia."

Then came Hitler's message to his people. "Weighed down with heavy care for many months, I can at last speak... a German concentration, the greatest the world has ever known, has been completed... our soldiers are now advancing from East Prussia to the Carpathians... I have decided to put the fate and future of the German Reich into their hands, and may God help us in the battle."

Followed a warning to the Russian people from the Berlin Radio:—"It is useless to resist... you are facing the best Army in the world, which, in a few weeks, annihilated the strongest armies in Europe."

I was in the very depths of depression. So, it had really come! Hitler would add Russia to the other conquered nations! He would get his grain, his minerals, and his oil! Then, satiated with Soviet blood and spoil, he would turn as a giant refreshed, upon our sceptred isle, "This precious stone set in the silver sea."

I switched off the wireless, not thrilled, as I realise now I should have been, in one of the most joyful moments of my life, for, had I only known it, the announcement which had just come through was the most wonderful piece of good news for many a long, long day. I had thought it was the death-knell of a nation I had heard, whereas it had been the joybells for a nation born again.

Who, however, on that dreary Sunday afternoon, in their wildest flights of imagination would have ever dared to think that more than two and a half years later, Leningrad would not have been taken, Moscow would not have fallen, and the Red Army would be fighting near to the Polish border?

HOPE

NOW come two dreadful thoughts. Where would we be today if none of these things had happened, or where either, if instead of using it in Russia, Hitler had sent even one- quarter of that mighty Army over to North Africa?

Do we dare to think? Remembering by what an uncomfortably narrow margin the tide was finally turned against Rommel and his hosts, can we conceive there would have been any El Alamein victory, any triumph in Tunisia, or any of the successes which followed after? Indeed, would not Libya, Egypt, Suez, Iran, Iraq, and even more have been lost to us, and could we have ever won them back?

Then we must realise, too, that if Hitler had left Russia alone and, after over-running North Africa, had concentrated all his energies nearer home upon the construction of fighting planes, bombers, and U-boats, particularly upon the last when we were then so ill-prepared to meet the menace, things would have been very different today.

If we were still unconquered, the question we would be asking ourselves now would not be can we beat Germany, but—can we save ourselves from complete and utter annihilation.

So in those last moments of Schicklgruber's black and evil life, when he kneels waiting for the axe to fall, or he stands waiting for the noose to jerk upon his neck, or, more likely still, when he feels the cold barrel of his own revolver pressed against his forehead, surely his last thought will be that it was on that fatal day in June, 1941, he made the wrong move and—lost the game.


THE AMAZING ADVENTURE OF MARMADUKE

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, March, 1944


MARMADUKE DANGERFIELD, for all his high sounding names, was a very ordinary and commonplace looking little man. Of slight physique, he had light, watery blue eyes and scanty, sandy-colored hair. He did not smoke, he drank sparingly of alcoholic beverages, and he was not much interested in pretty girls.

A bachelor, and living all his adult life in lodgings, he had consumed vast quantities of the indigestible concoctions of bad cooks, with the result that at 37 years of age he was a confirmed dyspeptic and the gloomy possessor of many subsidiary ailments which apparently resisted all attempts to dislodge them.

Flitting from doctor to doctor as a bee flits from flower to flower, besides what they prescribed for him, he was always taking patent medicines, and it was really wonderful how his constitution stood up to everything.

A piano-tuner by occupation, he had literary ambitions and was quite confident that he would one day write a book—exactly what it was to be about he was not certain—which would make him famous. His day dreams were brightest when he was by himself in lonely places, and, in summer, at fine week-ends he would often ride off on his bicycle, far from the city, and, provided with food and a few simple cooking utensils, set up a little camp and sleep under the stars. He always took care, however, to carry with him adequate supplies of whatever medicines he was believing at that particular moment to be necessary for the ensuring of good health.

One evening, upon one of these excursions, he found himself some hundred and twenty miles north of Adelaide, a long way distant from any habitation. It was rocky, treeless country, and he had left all roads behind him, and followed a narrow track leading up to a high range of hills. He pitched his camp among a small cluster of rocks just off the track, choosing this site because there was a well-filled dam close near, and, with the water in it looking clean and clear, he would be able to have a refreshing swim in the morning.

He was boiling his billy in preparation for the evening meal when greatly to his surprise, as the place was so very lonely, a man came into view, bicycling along the track. He stood up to watch him pass by, but the man, catching sight of him, alighted from his machine and proceeded to wheel it over the rough ground to the rocks. He asked Marmaduke if he would let him have a match.

The piano-tuner was only too happy to oblige, and, anxious for a chat, invited him to have a drink of tea. The man at once sat down and it ended in his sharing the whole meal, tinned salmon, cucumber, cheese, and dates, the indigestible things for which, above all others, Marmaduke's soul always craved.


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Always confiding, Marmaduke talked freely about himself, and the stranger, though more reticently inclined, told something of his own adventurous life. Only thirty-four, he had been prospector after gold, boundary rider, drover, rabbit-trapper, and a hunter of wild dogs. Marmaduke was an eager listener. Here was the very man, he was sure, who could provide material for a dozen books, and he would have liked to listen to him for hours. Darkness, however, was not far off, and the stranger said he must be moving on, as he had a long ride yet before him.

Disappointed at losing so interesting a companion, Marmaduke asked him to look him up when he was next in the city, and started to search hurriedly in his pocketbook for one of his cards. In his fluster he spilled its contents, and two £5 notes fluttered to the ground. The stranger picked them up, staring hard at them before he handed them over.

Finding his card at last, Marmaduke gave it to the stranger, and the latter put it in his tobacco tin. "Shan't lose it there," he smiled, and then it seemed, he was no longer in such a hurry to go. He related more of his adventures, and finally suggested that, as he was feeling so tired, he should pitch his camp there, too, for the night.

Marmaduke expressed himself as delighted, and added laughingly, "And I'll be able to give you a nice little night cap to make certain of a good sleep. I've got some whisky in my flask, and it'll do us both good."

So, while the stranger was preparing his bed, Marmaduke got the whisky ready. He always had a tot at night, because in it he nearly always put a sleeping tablet. His latest doctor had prescribed some, which, he said, were extra strong, and warned him never to take more than one at a time. Marmaduke, however, often exceeded the instructions of his medical advisers and that night, feeling stiff after his riding, was intending to take a double dose.

Their final preparations for bed ready, they drank the whisky to each other's healths and a good night's rest. The stranger tossed his down in one big gulp, and then licked over his lips with a rather frowning face.

"What whisky is that?" he asked curiously. "Got a bit of a rum taste, hasn't it?"

"No, I don't think so," replied Marmaduke, drinking his more slowly. "It's good Scotch," and then, all in a flash, to his consternation, he realised what had happened. It was in the stranger's mug he had put the two sleeping tablets!

For the moment he was on the point of blurting out the unfortunate mistake he had made. Instantly, however, he thought better of it. It might, perhaps, frighten his new-found friend, and, if he kept silent, no harm would be done. So he said nothing, and, lying back comfortably, the two talked on for another hour or so. Presently the conversation lapsed, and, after a few moments, with some amusement Marmaduke heard loud snores.

"He's settled now," he grinned, "and I hope I go off soon, too."

But it was a long while before he dropped off, and then his sleep was broken. The night had turned chilly and he cuddled into his blankets, afraid that he would be catching cold. Many times he woke up and every time he heard his companion's loud snores. Towards morning, however, his sleep became deeper, and it was broad daylight when he finally woke up for good. Indeed, even then he might not have awakened if it had not been for the barking of a dog and the loud baaing of sheep. He sprang to his feet to see a man driving a mob to the dam.

He moved over to waken the stranger. In his sleep the latter had thrown off the upper part of his blanket, and there was a big, hefty-looking knife which must have fallen out of his pocket by his side. At the sound of Marmaduke's voice he sat up with a jerk, and from his startled appearance evidently could not take in where he was. He scowled—and then his eyes fell upon the man with the sheep, who was coming up to speak to them.

"Here, you!" called out the man angrily. "You've no business to have lit a fire there. One spark and you would have had all this paddock alight. It's folk like you who bring all these bushfires on us. You value your miserable cup of tea more than the lives of hundreds of sheep and thousands of pounds' damage to other people's property. Now you just clear off. You're not to light another fire."

The stranger said nothing, but Marmaduke was full of protestations and assurances of the care he always took. The man, however, ignored everything he said, and then without another word just stood watching them until they had collected their things together and ridden off on their bicycles. The two went different ways, and Marmaduke was annoyed at the curt, unfriendly nod the stranger gave him in parting. The weather looked as if it was going to break, and, fearful of catching cold, Marmaduke rode the whole way home that day.

A week passed, and one Monday evening Marmaduke returned home to his lodgings to find two stern-faced men waiting to speak to him. "We're police," said one of them nastily. "We want to know where you were on Saturday afternoon."

Marmaduke was frightened at his menacing tone and looked as guilty as anyone could be of anything he was going to be accused of. "Why, at home here," he stammered. "I was working in the garden."

"Can you bring anyone to prove it?" asked the detective, and Marmaduke's landlady was at once called in to verify the truth of what he had said. She was dismissed with a nod, and the detective produced an old tobacco tin. "This yours?" he asked, a little bit less roughly. "No! You don't smoke? Well, ever seen this before?"

The trembling Marmaduke shook his head. "No, I haven't," he replied.

"Then how does this card of yours happen to be in it?" snapped the detective. "Did you give it to anyone?"

Marmaduke's eyes opened very wide. "Yes, yes. I do remember that tin now," he exclaimed excitedly. "It belonged to a man whom I met when on a holiday the week before last. I gave him that card of mine to call upon me when he was next in the city, and I recollect him putting it inside to be sure he should not lose it."

"Where did you meet him?" snapped the detective.

"When I was camping on the range between Burra and Clare."

"Not near Gladstone?"

"No, a good fifty miles from there, but why do you ask?"

"Because we want that man very badly. Good heavens! Don't you read the newspapers? Didn't you see about the farmer near Gladstone being murdered?"

Marmaduke went as white as a sheet. Of course he had read about the murder, and it was the main topic on everybody's lips. It had been a dreadful crime in a lonely farmhouse. An elderly farmer had happened to be alone that afternoon, and his wife had returned home to find him lying dead in a pool of blood with his head terribly battered in. The house had been ransacked and more than £300 in notes and some jewellery stolen. So far as the public had heard, there was no trace of the murderer.

"Oh, yes!" he answered shakily. "Of course I've heard about it." His knees shook under him. "But do you think, it was the man I met who did it?"

"Pretty certain," nodded the detective. "This tin was picked up near the house and it must have dropped out of his pocket, as the farmer's wife said she had never seen it before." He put his hand on Marmaduke's arm. "Here, you must come up to the Watchhouse with us and tell your story there."

So for two hours and longer Marmaduke was the centre of interest at the police headquarters. A little shaky, he yet told his story well, bringing in quite dramatically the man being about to ride off until the incident of the dropped £5 notes. He told, too, of his mistake with the sleeping tablets and his seeing the knife by the stranger's side when he woke him up in the morning.

"Gad! But you were lucky," exclaimed the Chief Inspector. "You'd have been cold meat right enough if you hadn't doped him off. Now you just give us a good description, of what he was like."

Here, however, Marmaduke was a rotten reed to rely upon, and the police were most disgusted when they found he could give them no adequate description at all. He said the man was neither dark nor fair and just ordinary looking. He didn't know what color his hair was, as he had kept his cap on all the time, even when he had gone off to sleep. Also, he wasn't certain if he were either tall or short and he couldn't remember the exact color of his eyes. Of only one thing was he sure, and that was that he would be certain to recognise him again if he saw him.

The following day he was taken up in a police car to where his camp had been and the man with the sheep run to earth. With the latter the police had another disappointment, as the man had no recollection of what Marmaduke's companion had been like. Certainly, he stated, he remembered Marmaduke, but only because the piano tuner had excused himself so volubly and, he added rudely, had looked such a fool.

Weeks went by and the murderer was no nearer being caught. A reward of £500 was offered, and it became the obsession of Marmaduke's life to earn the money. Every day, all day long, he was on the look-out. Morning, noon, and night, whenever his work permitted, he promenaded up and down the main streets of the city. He stood outside cinemas, he loitered by tobacco shops, and he frequented bars. Many times he thought he saw the stranger at a distance, but a closer inspection always disappointed him. Often his hard staring annoyed people and more than once he was threatened with unpleasant consequences.

Longer than two months had passed, and then one afternoon he almost jumped out of his skin. He saw the stranger passing just by the town hall.

He was sure of it! He was certain it was he! But he hesitated, with his heart beating like a piston. No, he wasn't quite so sure! This man was well dressed and looked spic and span. In a way he was quite different, and yet——

The man was smoking a cigarette and walking towards Victoria square. In a perfect agony of doubt Marmaduke followed him. The man turned into Flinders street and made straight up to a car parked by the kerb. He opened the door, and then—something happened and Marmaduke leapt upon his back and clasped him tightly in his arms.

"Help! Help!" he shrieked to a passer-by. "This man has picked my pocket! He's got my wallet on him! I felt him take it!"

With an oath the man tried to fling Marmaduke off, but Marmaduke clung tightly until a little crowd was gathered. "Don't let him get away!" he panted. "Don't let him get into his car!"

A policeman came running up, and Marmaduke again shrieked his accusation. The man shook with rage and denied everything, but the policeman ordered sternly they should both come with him to the Watchhouse.

It was close, and Marmaduke thrilled to see in the charge-room a detective to whom he was well known.

"This man," began the policeman, indicating Marmaduke, "charges this gentleman with picking his pocket. He says——"

But the excited Marmaduke had now recovered his breath and interrupted shrilly: "No, I don't say that now. I only said it to get him brought here." His voice choked again, so that he could only speak with difficulty. "He's the——!" He almost shrieked. "He's the Gladstone murderer. He's the man I gave my card to."

A few brief seconds of stunned silence followed, and it was seen the well-dressed man had gone as white as a sheet. Suddenly he sprang over to Marmaduke and lunged him a fearful blow, but the policeman knocked his arm up just in time and seized hold of him as he made a dash for the door.

"I followed him up King William street," cried the exultant Marmaduke, "but I wasn't sure till I saw him spit, and then I knew. He was spitting a lot that night when he was talking to me."

The man's guilt was obvious straight away, as the murdered farmer's watch was actually found on him. Also, his fingermarks were identical with those on the chopper with which the farmer had been killed.

In due time he was hanged, and when all the facts became known Marmaduke was the hero of the hour. His photograph was in all the newspapers and everybody wanted to talk to him. He got the £500 reward, and on the strength of it married a pretty young lady reporter who had come to interview him. A bouncing, sandy-haired boy quickly eventuated, and Marmaduke's supply of patent medicines was at once cut off. The wife insisted that the baby and the dopes were too expensive luxuries to be allowed together.


GHOSTS

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 8 April 1944.


IT was the ending of the fourth day of the 'Hylden versus Hylden and Carnarvon' divorce case, and excitement was running high. Not, indeed, that there had been any excitement in the court itself for His Honor, Judge Bevan- Royal, was a stern martinet, and emotion was given no rein when he was presiding on the Bench.

Fifty-five years of age, he had been admitted to the practice of the law in the Old Country some 30 years previously. Migrating, however, to South Australia, he had soon made his mark, and at 45 had been elevated to the Bench. Of an austere morality, and with a well-known distaste for dealing with cases of matrimonial infidelity, it was nevertheless generally conceded he was by far the best divorce judge in the State. Devoid of sentiment and cold as ice where a pretty face was concerned, it was agreed on all sides that in any case he was handling he would hold the scales of justice to the balance of the finest gossamer of a spider's web.

Never influenced in the slightest degree by the most passionate appeal of counsel, and, indeed, regarding all their eloquence as an attempt to fog the issues involved, his mind would sink like a plummet to the bottom rock of facts, and guilt or innocence was determined by him in an atmosphere as calm and still as that of an age-old hermetically sealed tomb.

But if there had been no apparent excitement in the court it was very different outside, as Sir Miles and Lady Hylden were among the best-known figures in society circles in Adelaide, and Dr. Carnarvon was one of its most promising young medical men. The knight was a wealthy man in the middle fifties, and his wife, the lovely Madelaine Adair before her marriage, was nearly 30 years younger than he. They had been married two years, and there were no children. Madelaine was Sir Miles' third wife.

It was the old, old story, of an elderly lover passionately enamored of a young girl, and she marrying him for position and all that wealth could give.

By no means could it be said that Sir Miles was a pleasant character, either in looks or ways. Short and stout, with his head coming straight off his shoulders, he had a red, vein-lined face and hard, searching eyes. Undoubtedly, however, he was most capable, and, with the courage and tenacity of a bull-dog, he had bullied his way to fortune, and in his colorful life obtained nearly all he wanted. He had wanted Madelaine, and he had got her, like everything else—by purchase.

On her part, Madelaine was of some character, and certainly no weakling. With never any real affection for her husband, she might yet have made him a good wife if she had ever learnt to respect him, but, with his passion for her quickly cooling, he had lost all interest in her, and was soon on the look-out again for favors from any pretty woman who happened to take his fancy. Also, of late, he had become a hard and heavy drinker.


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So, less than a year after their marriage, they had both begun to go their own ways. Madelaine had been the bright society butterfly, enjoying herself as best she could, and, with no interference from her husband, making her own circle of friends.

Then, suddenly, and without the slightest warning, Sir Miles had pulled her up with a jerk, accused her of unfaithfulness, turned her out of the house, and had the papers served, naming Dr. Carnarvon as the co-respondent. He claimed £5,000 damages. Both Lady Hylden and the doctor strenuously denied the charge, and the cream of the South Australian Bar had been briefed by the contending parties.

In the course of the proceedings in the court two very different pictures of Sir Miles had been given. In one he had been held up as an affectionate, very wronged, and very shocked husband, who had suddenly found himself betrayed by the one man above all others he should have been able to trust—the family medical adviser. In the other, he had been portrayed as the neglecting and unscrupulous husband who, getting tired of his wife and scheming to be rid of her, had deliberately thrown her as much as possible in the doctor's way, just biding his time until be thought he had accumulated enough evidence of guilt against her.

He told the court he had had no suspicions at all until one night, coming home from a public dinner a good hour before he was expected, he had seen a man rush out from one of the french windows, and get away by scaling the garden wall. He had recognised the man as Dr. Carnarvon.

At once instituting inquiries, he had learnt the doctor had been in the habit of paying secret visits to the house, not coming up openly in his car, but parking the car in an unfrequented lane some hundreds of yards away.

In the witness box both Lady Hylden and the doctor had denied the secret visits, and, referring to the particular night when Sir Miles averred he had recognised the doctor running from the house, Madelaine had sworn she had had no visitors at all that evening, adding scornfully that, if she had had one, her husband had certainly been in no condition to recognise who he was, as he, Sir Miles, had been three-parts intoxicated when he had arrived home.

In the course of the trial, what was considered as one of the strongest points made by counsel against Madelaine had been that her personal maid, who had been turned out of the house at the same time as her mistress, had most mysteriously disappeared directly after she had had been served with a subpoena to attend the court. If she had been put in the witness box, insisted counsel, from her would have been dragged the damning admission of the many secret visits of Dr. Carnarvon. Making matters look even worse, it had been shown that the day before the girl had disappeared Madelaine had cashed a cheque for £100.

It was true, Madelaine had explained this cheque by stating she had drawn it to use at the races. As, however, it was well known she had never taken much interest in racing, and, indeed, could not mention one single horse on which she had ever placed more than £1, the explanation had been regarded by everyone as very weak and unconvincing.

With the adjournment of the court on the fourth afternoon, Judge Bevan-Royal retired to his private room, and, taking off his wig and disrobing, leant back tiredly in a big arm-chair, and thoughtfully considered the three parties in the case. He had met them all socially. Sir Miles he detested, he could not help admiring the wife, and, from what he had seen of Dr. Carnarvon, he liked him.

Of course, however, Lady Hylden and the doctor were guilty! There could be so doubt about that and on the morrow he would grant the petition for the dissolution of the marriage. But he had no sympathy with the husband, and would give him no damages. By his neglect and general manner of living he had contributed to his wife's infidelity. At any rate, he looked a satyr, and, possibly, nay probably, was every bit as bad as she was.

Had not he, Bevan-Royal, with his own eyes, seen him making up to that young widow-woman at that garden party the previous week? Yes, he had watched him ogling her in that horrid way. Perhaps he would marry her next and she would be wife number four.

He was sorry for Dr. Carnarvon. It would mean utter ruin for him, even if his name was not removed from the medical register. But then he had gone into things with his eyes open, and he must take the consequences.

His meditations were interrupted by an attendant knocking on the door and entering the room. "A young gentleman would like to speak to Your Honor," he said. "His name is Smith, and he says he comes from England."

"Smith!" exclaimed the judge. "What does he want?"

"He says his business is private, Your Honor, but he'll only keep you a minute or two."

"Show him in," frowned the judge, and a smart young man in the uniform of the mercantile marine was ushered in. He was unusually good-looking, with a smiling, open countenance.

"Judge Bevan-Royal?" he asked. "Then, pardon my troubling you, sir," he went on, "but I come under peculiar circumstances. My mother died rather suddenly some six months ago, and I found among her things an old newspaper cutting of many years back, saying you had been made a judge here in Adelaide. Never having heard her speak of you, I was curious if she had ever known you, and thought that if ever I were in Adelaide, I would come and see you to find out."

The judge's eyes were hooded, and he was regarding his visitor intently. "What was your mother's Christian name?" he asked after a few moments' hesitation.

"Gertrude, sir," was his reply. "She was a hospital nurse."

"Then I did know her," nodded the judge. "She nursed me through a very serious illness, and, the doctors said, saved my life. I have always had most grateful feelings for her." He frowned. "I wrote to her after I had come out here, but the letter was returned through the Dead Letter Office. She had gone away, and left no address."

"She did it on purpose, sir," said the boy. "She didn't want my father to know where she was. He had been very unkind to her, and she had left him before I was born. I have never seen him, and do not even know if he is alive."

"Then you are the only child?" said the judge. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-five next birthday, sir," replied the boy. He spoke proudly. "I am first officer on s.s. Nerbudda."

They chatted on for quite awhile, and, learning the boy would be in Adelaide until the following afternoon, the judge invited him to dinner at a hotel that evening, They had a very pleasant meal together, and, in parting, the judge asked him to write to him occasionally, adding that if ever he could be of any service to him, he would be most happy to do all he could.

The judge slept badly that night, and the next morning, when he took his seat on the Bench, it was noticed he was paler than usual. The court was crowded. Lady Hylden was not present, but both Sir Miles and Dr. Carnarvon were. Sir Miles looked vindictively confident, but the doctor, though he tried not to show it, was obviously ill at ease. The spectators, generally, having little doubt what the judgment was going to be, thought it very plucky on the doctor's part, to be intending to receive the blow in public.

In a profound and impressive silence, the judge commenced in calm, unhurried tones. He regretted, he said, that none of the parties to the case had impressed him very favorably, as, undoubtedly, much of the testimony given had been exaggerated, even to the point of deliberate falsehood. The petitioner had exaggerated to support his contention of the respondents' guilt, and they had exaggerated in their insistence on their innocence.

Referring specifically to the petitioner, the judge went on, it was surely hard to credit that, if the guilty association of his wife with Dr. Carnarvon had been continuing for so long, he would have had no suspicions of what was happening until the full realisation of it came to him on that particular night—as he put it—with the suddenness of a clap of thunder.

He had admitted, he had allowed—even more than that—that he had encouraged Dr. Carnarvon to be his wife's escort on many occasions. Himself engrossed in business matters, he had asked the doctor to deputise for him, and, in consequence, the two had gone about together to pictures, theatres, concerts, and other public functions. His contention was that his only motive had been to give his wife pleasure, and that he was exposing her to danger had never entered into his mind.

Yet, the petitioner was a shrewd, alert, and far-seeing man, as was evidenced by his business successes, and, surely, it would have been imagined, he would have been one of the last persons not to have noticed what was going on under his very eyes, and seen whither things were leading. Turning to the matter of the co-respondent's innocence or guilt, the judge said he was faced with another problem, as he had to ask himself if it were possible, a single, unattached man of Dr. Carnarvon's age could have been so much in the company of so attractive a woman as Lady Hylden without any feelings beyond those of mere friendship being aroused. If so, the question was—with the many opportunities he had had—had he kept those feelings under wise and proper control? Was it probable he had?

Coming to the disappearance of Lady Hylden's maid, His Honor said, he was not putting that in the scales as determining either innocence or guilt, as it was impossible to say which side her evidence would have favored. Certainly, placed in the witness-box, her evidence might have gone far to prove the wife's guilt; on the other hand, however, might it not have helped to establish her innocence? Without knowing which party to the action—if, indeed, either party—were responsible for this shameful attempt to impede the course of justice, he, the judge, would have to ignore the incident altogether.

After speaking for upwards of an hour, he gave his judgment in one short sentence, which exploded like a bomb in the court. "Viewing all the circumstances, I am not satisfied the case for the petitioner has been made out, and therefore do not grant the petition for the dissolution of the marriage."

For a few seconds a stunned and amazed silence followed, and, then, an almost audible sigh of relief rippled round. Sir Miles was seen to be absolutely purple in his fury, while Dr. Carnarvon's face was white and unsmiling.

That same evening the judge was about to sit down to dinner, when his wife came in from answering the telephone. "It was Dr. Bentley," she said. "He rang up to say Sir Miles had a stroke of apoplexy half an hour ago, and passed away almost at once."

His Honor did not appear to be much interested. "Only what might have been expected," he remarked. "He looked that type of man."

The daughter of the house, the judge's only child, came in. She was a good-looking girl of 21, and the apple of her father's eye. "Oh, dad," she exclaimed with animation, "I've something which will interest you. Jean Matthews and I were having lunch today at the Old Grotto cafe, and at a table near us was such a handsome young officer in Merchant Navy uniform. I did so admire him, and—" she laughed merrily,—"I think he was interested in me, because he kept looking in our direction."

The judge was examining the pattern of the carpet, but he glanced up affectionately at her. "And wasn't that quite natural?" he smiled. "Aren't you worth looking at?"

"But that's not what I want to tell you," she went on. She spoke impressively. "This boy, dad, was so much like you. He had your shaped head, your eyes, and his hair was even wavy like yours. The likeness was so striking."

"Then I must be a type," smiled the judge, and he turned the conversation by asking her how she was getting on with her golf.


SEEDTIME AND HARVEST

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 20 May 1944.


THE earth is ever a hard master, and the farm was one of that number in Australia, not very distant from a township and yet far enough away to make life lonely for those living in it. He had purposely come home late and night had well fallen when his boots clattered outside the lobby door. He was a big and rather coarse-looking man of 34.

Entering the kitchen he gave his wife a quick look and then turned away his eyes. "I'm late," he remarked carelessly. "I stopped to finish a bit of fencing." He pulled off his sodden boots. "The creek's high tonight and there's more rain coming."

His wife nodded understandingly, but made no comment. She was an unusually good-looking girl and more than 10 years her husband's junior. She had a good profile, a faultless complexion, and big, clear dark-blue eyes.

There was a suggestion of hardness, however, about her otherwise very pretty mouth. Her figure was supple and beautifully proportioned.

"Tea's ready," she said quietly, and they sat down to what was almost a silent meal. They were both of reserved dispositions and it was never their habit to talk much. They had been married six months, and he was quite aware she had never really had any affection for him, becoming his wife only on her parents' persuasion.

His farm was prosperous, and the bargain had been he would make them an allowance on her marrying him. So, after some considerable urging, she had done what would be best for them.

"You've knocked your knuckles," she said presently. "How did you come to hurt them?"

"Tightening a nut on the drill," he replied. "It's nothing much, just taken the skin off."

"But I must put some plaster on," she said. "They don't look nice, and you can't work with them like that."

She had been a nurse before their marriage, and the contents of a small cupboard in their bedroom provided for most emergencies.

The night was cold, and the meal finished and the washing-up over, they sat before the fire. He smoked meditatively and she read. Occasionally they exchanged a few words, but she never kept her eyes lifted very long from her book.

Presently he stretched himself and yawned. "I think I'll go to bed," he said. "The cold's made me feel sleepy," and he rose to his feet and looked at her interrogatively. "Coming?" he asked.

"Not yet," she replied. "I'll read a little longer."

He went alone into the bedroom and, to his surprise, because it was not his usual habit to do so, found himself dropping off to sleep almost at once. Then, to his amazement, the next thing of which he was conscious was seeing daylight through the window and hearing his wife laying the breakfast things in the adjoining room.

He had slept the whole night through without stirring. He looked at the impression of his wife's head on the pillow beside him, and wondered how it was she had managed to come to bed and also get up without waking him. But he was under no illusion that her carefulness had not been of set purpose.

"The devil," he frowned, as he jumped hurriedly out of bed, "but I couldn't have slept sounder if I'd been drugged."

* * * * *

SOME forty years later the morning train pulled up at a little railway siding 300 and more miles from Sydney, and a middle-aged man in semi-clerical attire alighted. He was slight in build, with a thin, ascetic face, and his expression was mild and very gentle.

His eyes were of a peculiar light-blue forget-me-not color. His clothes were shiny and well worn, and he carried a small leather bag, equally as shabby. By calling he was a lay missionary, and for many years his work had lain among the lesser known Pacific islands.

A big, heavy framed man, with a weather-beaten face, and clad in rough working clothes was standing on the platform and he came forward at once. "Hullo, Peter," he exclaimed, as he held out a large and earth-grimed hand. "I should have recognised you anywhere."

"Hullo, Tom," returned the missionary, and the hand he gave was small and delicate in contrast with that of his brother's. "How's dad?"

"Crook," said Tom. He grinned, "Or he wouldn't have asked for you. Doctor says he may go any day now."

He led the way to a small, ramshackle dog cart with a very old pony between the shafts, and they both mounted and settled themselves down for the six-mile journey to the farm.

"How's mother?" asked the missionary, wincing at the fierce blow his brother had given to the pony.

"Always grumbling. The rheumatics have got her and she works too hard. We can't afford to pay for any help."

"Then, isn't the farm doing well?"

"No, the sand's drifted over all the best paddocks," and the big man whipped up the pony again with an oath which made the missionary wince for the second time.

The conversation languished and, as they drove along, the missionary's eyes roved sadly over the countryside. Every hill, creek, and paddock was familiar to him, and the memories were unhappy ones.

It was 20 years since he had left home, and for all that time he had not seen his parents. The eldest born, and always frail and delicate as a boy, and totally unfit for farm work, his father had never taken to him and, eventually, he had left home for Sydney to train as a school teacher.

Of a serious disposition, however, missionary work had appealed to him; and he had gone to the islands, living a life of hardship and privation, but with his heart and soul in his labors.

Some months previously his mother had written him his father was in very poor health, and that he must come at once if he wanted to see him before he died. With some difficulty, he had obtained a substitute and made the long journey with what speed he could.

Arriving at the farm, an old woman hobbled to the door. She was bent and frail and with a shrivelled, yellow skin. Hardship and unceasing toil had taken a dreadful toll of her, but it was obvious she had been anything but ill-looking once, for her profile was good and her eyes were a beautiful dark blue.

"Oh, Peter," she exclaimed querulously as the missionary bent down and kissed her, "how old you've grown!"

"But 20 years, mother!" he laughed. "What else could you expect?" His face sobered. "But how's dad?"

She shook her head. "A sick man. His heart's failing and he may go any day now. I expected you would come too late to see him."

"Oh, then I'll go straight in to him," said Peter.

"No, no," said his mother quickly, "he's asleep, and you mustn't wake him. Besides, I'm just going to dish up the dinner, and your brothers can't wait. They have their work to do."

Two other men tramped in noisily and shook hands heartily with the missionary. They were almost the facsimile of the one who had met him at the railway station, with the same red face, the same big bodies, and the same horny, earth-grimed hands. They were merry, jovial fellows, and looked full of life.

They all sat down to the meal. The missionary ate very little, but the other brothers ate hungrily consuming everything with great gusto. They seemed, too, in a tremendous hurry, as if they were all going to catch trains, washing down everything quickly with cup after cup of steaming, milkless tea.

When they talked it was only about crops and cows who were expecting calves and of a sow who would have to be killed because she was beginning to get short in her litters.

And the whole time they were regarding their brother with amused and covert smiles, kicking one another furtively under the table, as if he were something of a joke to them. The meal finished, they rushed off, and Peter was taken in to see his father, the mother leaving the two to have their talk together.

The old man's lips were very blue and he spoke faintly. "I wanted to see you, Peter," he said slowly, "because I've got something on my mind and I felt I must tell somebody." He paused a long moment. "Forty years ago I killed a man."

His son's mouth gaped. "But by accident, of course, dad!" he exclaimed quickly.

"No, no, on purpose," was the grim reply. "I had meant to kill him if ever I got the chance, for he was coming after your mother, and I knew he'd get her if I didn't.

"One afternoon I had a fight with him by the creek and stunned him with an axe. Then I threw him into the creek to drown. His body was carried into the river and never found."

"Oh, dad, dad, how could you?" exclaimed the missionary in great distress.

"He worked in a bank," went on the old man, "and had been your mother's sweetheart before I married her, and he used to come up here much more than I liked, for it made her cold towards me.

"Then, one afternoon, when he thought I'd be away, I caught him creeping up behind the trees in the big paddock. He tried to make out he'd come to ask me to lend him money, as he'd been robbing the bank and was going to be found out.

"That he'd robbed the bank was quite true, but it was your mother he was after then, and we had some words and I struck him down."

"My God, my God," exclaimed Peter, his voice choking, "and you've been keeping this dreadful secret for all these years!"

"But it hasn't worried me at all until lately," went on the old man, "and it doesn't worry me much now. I know I did right, for he would have ruined my home. Then, when he came no more, your mother altered towards me, and a year after he was dead you were born."

He spoke bitterly. "Still, he must have been always in her memory, because when you came I saw you had got his eyes. Yours are just the same light-blue color as his were. Your mother never dreamed that I've noticed it, but I have, and that's why I never took to you and was glad when you went away."

His voice grew fainter. "But go away now. I want to sleep. I'll have another talk with you later," and Peter went out and prayed that his father might be granted longer life to show true repentance for his sin.

That night after supper, when the old man was still sleeping and the other brothers were in bed, his mother said to Peter, "And, of course, dad only wanted to see you to confess that he'd killed Les Donelly."

Peter gasped. "Oh, mother, then did you know? Oh, what a terrible secret for you to have had to keep to yourself!"

She nodded spitefully. "Fiddlesticks, there was no such secret to keep! He didn't kill him, though for a punishment I've let him think so all these years.

"I was among the trees that afternoon and saw him throw Les in the creek, but I dragged Les out when he was swept beyond the bend, and he didn't die until three years later, when he was killed in the Boer War."

"And so he wasn't drowned after all," exclaimed the missionary in great relief.

The old woman laughed scoffingly. "No, not he, and I kept him hidden for three months in that old hut which used to be among the willows. No one ever learnt he was there, and I nursed him until he had got over the hurt your father had given him and I had scraped enough money from the housekeeping to give him to get safely away."

A wistful look came into her eyes. "He was a fine lad, but he was wanted by the police." She nodded again. "Well, as your father's broken his silence at last, I'll tell him everything tomorrow.

"Oh, yes, but I will, for I've never had any love for him, though he's made me bear him those three lumping sons," and the missionary went out and prayed now that the old man might die.

That night, in answer to Peter's prayer, the angel of death passed by, and the old man died without his wife having had speech with him again. In the morning, when the missionary was shaving, he sighed heavily, for, as he looked in the mirror, he thought his eyes were of a lighter blue than ever.


THE MARK OF HONOR


Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 3 June 1944.

IN the year after the end of the Much Greater War, Dr. Julius Revire was upon a visit to his compatriot, Count Bornski. One of the few members of the Polish aristocracy to have survived the war with any means at all, the count was living in Devonshire. He was married to a beautiful young girl still in her teens, and they had been blessed with as lovely a little son as ever gladdened any parents' hearts.

Yet, after only a few hours with them, the doctor realised there was a shadow over the house. Certainly it was obvious the count worshipped his young wife and that she was devoted to him. Also, the wife's mother, who lived with them, was held in affectionate regard. Still, they were not a happy family, they seldom smiled, and in repose their faces were grave and solemn. The glorious little son, too, seemed to have brought them no happiness, and they received the doctor's praises of the child's beauty with no pride or enthusiasm.

One night at dinner the count opened a bottle of fine old French Burgundy, and, as it were, forced himself into an appearance of gaiety. He related to his wife and her mother how the doctor had once saved his life.

"It was in a jungle in the heart of the Belgian Congo," he said, "and I was literally sick unto death. Two days before I had trodden on a scorpion and it had bitten me in the sole of the foot. I had no one by me except an incapable native bearer. I was in agony and could do nothing to the wound, because of its position and my leg being enormously swollen right up to the hip. I am sure I was about to shoot myself, for I had my loaded revolver in my hand—when lo and behold! out into the clearing marched the doctor, with a whole army of bearers, carrying stores." He shuddered. "Oh, he was cruel, this doctor here! He lanced me every five minutes with his wicked little knife."

"But I had to," laughed the doctor, "or you wouldn't have been here now." He made a grimace. "Never have I seen such a dreadful foot, before or since. It was swollen as big as a bison's head, and in the night it used to haunt me in my dreams. For months I couldn't get it out of my mind, and I have always thought since that it was one of the best remembered objects of that long journey of mine."

The air of gloom over the house continuing to be so depressing, the doctor taxed his friend about it. "What's the matter with you all, Edmond?" he asked sharply. "You all seem as if you were in some great trouble. What is it?"

The Count started. "You've noticed it?" he asked.

"Noticed it!" exclaimed the doctor. "Why, you are all going about as if you were under sentence of death. Tell me what it means? Don't forget I'm a medical man as well as your friend."

"Ah, so you are!" exclaimed the count. "I had forgotten that." He hesitated a moment and then burst out, "Listen, Julius. I'll tell you as terrible a story as any husband could ever tell."

He went on slowly: "Now, you know something of the part I played in that army raised among us prisoners by the Soviet Union. Well, I had been given my regiment, and, about two months before the war ended, was in the advance, as part of a battalion driving back the Huns. One evening we arrived at a little town which had been evacuated by the enemy a few days previously. They had not gone far away, but, with a broad river running between us and all the bridges blown up, were considering themselves safe, at any rate for the moment. The wretches had left the usual trail of blood and torture behind them, with women and children butchered and a score or so of old men hanged in the market-place.

"Darkness had fallen, and I had just finished my last meal in the ruined house I was occupying, when an orderly came in to tell me a peasant woman wanted to speak to me. She wouldn't state her business, but said it was private and important. I had her brought in, and she stood before me. Though she was roughly dressed, I was impressed by her bearing.

"'Monsieur,' she said, 'will you do a very unhappy woman a favor? In the chivalry of your great country will you help me?'

"I asked her what she wanted, and she told me a harrowing story. It appeared that when in possession of the town some German officers had taken her daughter away and subjected her to horrible ill-treatment. The girl, however, had managed to escape from them and hidden herself in the forest until she had seen them drive away. Then she had returned home.

"'But she will not believe they are gone for good, Monsieur.' choked the woman, 'and is terrified they will come for her again. She will not eat or sleep, and she will go mad unless we can convince her she is safe. If you will come and speak to her and let her see you, as the colonel in your uniform, she will realise everything is all right.'"

The Count shrugged his shoulders. "I was good-natured and I went. She led me to a little house and took me into a room where her daughter was in bed." The Count heaved a big sigh. "My friend, I was astounded. Never had I seen such a beautiful young creature before! Certainly she looked ill, and her expression was of one haunted by a great fear. Nothing however, could hide the loveliness which was hers, the perfect features, the glorious eyes, the exquisitely moulded lips, and the beautifully poised little head. I knew she could be only about seventeen.

"I sat down and talked to her. I stroked her hair and I patted her hands. I told her she had nothing to be afraid of now, for never would the vile Hun pollute that sacred soil again, except as a slave. She was very brave and choked back her tears, thanking me so prettily for having come to reassure her. She said she would be able to sleep, now she knew I was near her. I bade her good-bye, and her mother led me outside. Then I got another surprise.

"'Monsieur, le Conte,' said the mother, and her voice was hard as steel, 'will you do me another favor? Will you avenge my daughter's shame?'

"She went on fiercely, 'I want those men killed. There are five of them, and they lie tonight not seven miles from here. They are in a house by themselves on the outskirts of a village. I have a man ready who will guide you across the river by a secret ford. Oh, go and kill them!' she pleaded. 'You are brave and I know adventure will not frighten you.'

"I liked the idea, and, after a few moments' consideration, asked, 'But this guide of yours, how do you know he can be trusted?'

"'Trusted!' she scoffed. Her eyes blazed. 'Why, he would as soon betray his God as be false to me! He has served my family all his life.'

"Well, to make a long story short, I did as she asked me. We took the five German officers prisoners without arousing the village. One by one, bound and gagged, I had them led out behind the house. I whispered a few words into the ear of each, so that he should know for what he was being killed, and then butchered him with my dagger like a sheep. The next morning I sent the girl's mother five blood-fouled swastikas cut from the wretches' uniforms, so that she should know that her daughter's shame had been avenged."

The Count went on with a frown: "The next night the mother came to me again. 'Monsieur,' she said, 'you have done me two favors and I want you to do me a third, a greater one this time,' and then, to my amazement, she asked me to marry her daughter.

"'I know you are not married or even affianced,' she said quickly, seeing I was too dumbfounded to speak, 'for I have ways of learning many things in this unhappy country, and I have made inquiries. So, if you are heart-whole, Monsieur, take pity, for it is probably a matter of life or death for my child.'

"'But she is in no danger now!' I exclaimed in bewilderment. Then what is she afraid of?'

"'She is afraid, Monsieur'—she hesitated—'she is afraid that, as a girl unwed, she may become——"

"'Good God!' I exclaimed, 'it is most improbable.'

"'Improbable, but not impossible,' said the mother, 'and it has become the only thought in her mind. She does not eat, she does not sleep, and I hear her sobbing in the night. Remember, she is convent-reared, Monsieur, and is fearing Heaven will be denied her if what she so dreads should happen, when her motherhood has not been sanctified by the rites of the Church.'

"'But Madame,' I remonstrated, 'however beautiful your daughter may be, and I admit I cannot conceive anyone more lovely, I could not bring into a proud family such as mine a bride of whom I know so little.'

"Instantly she smiled, and bending over to me whispered who she was. It is not necessary for me to give you her name, but I assure you, Julius, she was not very far from the steps of a throne. She went on quickly, 'With you, Monsieur, I know it will make no difference, but another might be influenced by learning that her dowry will be a hundred thousand crowns. We have property in England and it cannot be taken from us.'

"I still hesitated, and she urged pleadingly, 'Oh, do have pity on the child! If you do not wish it you can leave her at the church door and never see her again.' She raised her hand warningly. 'And don't forget, Monsieur, a soldier's life is never sure. You may be killed in the next battle, even in the next few hours, and then at the Day of Judgment you will stand blessed by this crowning act of pity.'"

The Count nodded. "She had touched the right chord. Any hour we might be hurled against the Hun again and my good fortune might not always hold. Yes, I would bring comfort to this child, and one man should, in part, at all events, atone for the wrong done by others. I told the mother I would do as she wished, and, thanking me tearfully, she said Anna would be at the church in twenty minutes."

"Anna!" exclaimed the doctor. "The Countess! But I thought it must be she!"

The Count nodded and went on: "It was a strange wedding in that ruined church, and the only lights were the candles on the altar." He smiled. "I would not swear the priest was not our guide of the previous night, as both in figure and voice they were very similar. Well, the service over, I reverently kissed my bride. 'Good-bye, little one,' I whispered, 'and the best of fortune to you.'

"'Good-bye!' she laughed, 'but it is not going to be good-bye yet. There's our wedding supper to be eaten and a bottle of rare wine to toast ourselves with. No, my husband, you are coming home with me. The good things are all laid out and ready.'"

The Count shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "What could I do? Of course, I went and—stayed. We had a week's honeymoon before my regiment was sent forward again, and during those few days I came to love my child-wife devotedly. Every hour I seemed to find more endearing qualities in her. She reciprocated my affection, too, and hated me to be out of her sight. When we parted she was heartbroken, but we had the hope the war would end soon and that then I should join them in England, to which they were expecting to escape any day. They had great influence.

"You know most of the rest. Shortly afterwards I was wounded, and lay in hospital for nearly two months. Then one day I received a letter from my wife, written from here, and imploring me to come to her as soon as I possibly could. Her mother enclosed a short note, explaining everything.

"A fortnight later I arrived, and then, notwithstanding all the happiness of reunion, began an anxious time for us all. We never dared to speak our thoughts, but you can realise what was always in our minds. Oh, how we prayed the child would be like me! It was agony to think——"

"I know, I know, my poor friend," broke in the doctor. "You need not put it into words."

The Count heaved a big sigh. "And you see what has happened—a perfect child, a most beautiful baby, but exactly like his mother, all his mother and with no features of mine. We all want to love him, to snatch him up and cover him with caresses. We long to give him the fondness which every little child should have, and yet every time I take him in my arms I have to repress a shudder. And I can see it is the same with my poor wife and her mother. They dare not let their feelings go." He gripped the doctor by the arm. "And the tragedy is it will go on for ever. We shall never be certain. We shall never know. We are a stricken family and our unhappiness is without end."

The doctor was most grieved at his friends distress, but, seeing he could give no consolation, privately determined to make his visit as short as possible. The following afternoon the child was lying on a rug, stretched out upon the lawn, gurgling and cooing and kicking out his little legs as all babies do. The Count was kneeling on the rug, by his side. The mother, the grandmother, and the doctor were seated near, watching all that was going on. The expressions upon the faces of the two women were inscrutable.

Suddenly the doctor started, he frowned heavily, and then, rising quickly to his feet, moved over and picked up the baby. "Now that's funny!" he exclaimed, and his voice rose in excitement as he held out one little pink foot for them all to inspect. "You've all noticed that haven't you?" he went on, pointing to a small, star-shaped mole on the outer edge of the sole, just in front of the heel.

"I should say we have," commented the grandmother, rather irritably. "One doesn't bath a baby every day for nearly six months and not notice every mark he's got."

"Well," smiled the doctor, "it's exactly the same shape as the mole his father has on the sole of HIS foot, and, funnily enough it's exactly in the same place." He chuckled gleefully. "There's a wonderful case of heredity, if you like, the child being stamped with his father's seal! Really, I've never seen anything so exactly similar before!"

A stunned silence followed. The two women were pale as death and stared saucer-eyed, first at the doctor and then at the baby's foot.

The Count stammered incredulously: "Have I a mole there, too? I've never seen it."

"I don't suppose you have," laughed the doctor, "for you couldn't without a looking-glass. But I've seen it hundreds of times. It was part of those dreadful dreams your awful foot gave me after you had been bitten by that scorpion." He thrust the baby into his mother's arms. "Here, Edmond, off with that left shoe and sock. I'll show everybody I've not forgotten those dreadful nightmares."

Pushing the Count down on to his back upon the lawn, in a trice Dr. Revire was holding up his friend's naked foot. "There it is, as plain as a pikestaff!" he exclaimed triumphantly, "and exactly where the baby's got his. I knew my recollection was good, even after all these years. See, too, where I was, as he says, so cruel with my wicked little knife?"

The Countess and her mother had darted forward, for a few seconds to stare down open-mouthed at the upturned sole of the Count's foot. Then, with a loud cry, the young wife clutched the baby tightly to her and began covering him with fierce and passionate kisses. The grandmother tottered back, half-fainting, and sank into her chair.

"Here, Edmond," called out the doctor, laughingly, "if you want your shoe you'll have to come and catch me for it," and he ran across the lawn and pretended to hide among the trees. He thought it kindest to leave the family to recover their composure by themselves.


BUGGY'S BABIES

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 17 June 1944.

BLACK as night was Buggy, the Scotch terrier, of Mudside Farm, and surely never was there a more picturesque, ugly little dog. His huge head seemed many times too big for his slender little body, his legs were short and stumpy, and his flat, squat paws of an enormous size. His rough and shaggy coat was as thick as the thickest mat you could ever see.

For all his ugliness, however, everybody loved him, and, directly they caught sight of him, all children and most grown-ups, too, wanted to snatch him up and give him a good hug. Notwithstanding his sad and melancholy eyes, like pools of blackest ink, he was a jovial, merry little fellow, and inclined to be friendly with everyone.

Yet—Buggy was a killer. Of the five cats on the farm, however, he took only a contemptuous notice, but woe betide any strange courting Tom who came sneaking round at night to say "How-do-you-do?" to them. Buggy had no sympathy with feline romance. Always ready for a fight, he was game as a pebble, and would give battle to dogs five times his size. Then, if his onslaught upon them were only that of a midget submarine, his deep and thunderous growls were well worthy of a battleship, and it was incredible how such fierce and awe-inspiring sounds could issue from so small a stomach.

One morning Blackbeetle, the old sheepdog, spoke very seriously to him. "See here, my son," he said sternly, "what did you mean by coming home so late last night? Oh, yes, I heard you, though you tried to sneak home, like master did a night or two ago, when he'd been driving that pretty Mrs. Jenkins home, and, instead, told mistress he was late because he'd had a puncture."

"Oh, he drove her home, did he?" exclaimed Buggy, anxious to turn the conversation. "Well, I wonder she let him, for I know he drives much too fast for her."

"Who told you that?" frowned Blackbeetle.

"I was under the back seat of the car one day last week," explained Buggy, "when he drove her down to get her mail, and I heard her keep on telling him to 'Stop it.' She said several times, 'No, you mustn't.'"

The elder dog looked pityingly at his young companion, but, suppressing a grin, repeated his question. "Why did you come home so late?" He scowled. "But I needn't ask. I know you had been going after that Susie McBottle."

"And what if I had?" asked Buggy defiantly. "It's no business of yours."

"Oh, isn't it!" exclaimed Blackbeetle warmly. "You know quite well that I'm responsible for the good conduct of this yard, and I won't have a young dog like you trapesing about after strange females."

"But I've done no harm," protested Buggy. "We only just rubbed noses through the fence."

"Because it was too high for either of you to jump over," sneered the sheepdog. He shook his head angrily. "You had no business to start speaking to her. You don't know anything about her people, and everybody says she's only a common dog-shop dog, and cost about five shillings. I'm sure McBottle, the pig man, wouldn't have paid more."

"But she's worth her weight in gold to me," said Buggy grandly, "and I shall pay her attention if I want to."

"Ha, I don't think you will," scoffed Blackbeetle. "I heard Master say you're to be chained up at night. He's very cross about it."

A few days later Jock McBottle, a lean, raw-boned Scotchman, a breeder of pigs, and smelling strongly of his calling, came round to Mudside Farm and called out over the fence: "I say, Farmer Ben, wot aboot makin' a match atween yer leetle Boogy and ma Susie? She'd hav some bonnie poopies."

"I daresay," grunted Ben, who didn't like McBottle, but who, all the same, was quite agreeable to make some money out of him. "All right, but it'll cost you three guineas. My dog's a pedigree animal, from Tut-Tut out of Cosey Corner."

"Three guineas be blamed!" snorted McBottle. "Why, to buy yer Boogy he's no worth more than a few bob. Coom, now, mon, be raisonable! I'll gie yer won of the poops."

Ben was furious, and then followed quite a heated and acrimonious exchange of ideas, in which it came out that for many months Ben's face and general appearance had been most distasteful to Jock McBottle; also, according to Ben, that the other's ancestry, at any rate on the maternal side, was little different from that of his dog, Susie. Eventually, the two gentlemen parted angrily, with the cryptic remark from the lean Scotchman that anything might happen, and 'yer never can tell.'

"No, you don't," shouted back Ben angrily. "There'll be none of that. From now on my dog'll be kept on the chain night and day, to make certain no bug-bitten Scotchman steals a pedigree litter."

About a week later, however, Buggy slipped his chain during the night, and in the morning was nowhere to be found. Directly Ben knew it, he got out his car and drove over to McBottle's.

"Here you," he bawled out angrily, striding without ceremony into the pig-yard, "have you decoyed my dog away? If you have, I tell you straight, I'll have the law on you, quick and lively." He shook his fist in McBottle's face. "You dirty thief."

"Dirty thief yerself!" shrieked the Scotchman, jumping about like a scalded cat. "It'll be me wot'll be dragging yer into court for heavy damages. Where's ma leetle Susie gone? She's no been seen since yester morn, and it's ma opeenion it's yer and yer immoral abdoocting dorg who're at the bottom of it. Where's Susie gone I want to ken."

For a long time Ben was unbelieving, but a thorough search over the pig premises and the weeping corroboration of their loss by the Scotsman's nine dirty-faced little children at last convinced him, and he went swearing and fuming away.

That night it started to rain heavily, and, when all the McBottle children were asleep and their father was just undressing by taking off his boots, hoarse and snappy barks were heard outside the gate.

"That'll not be our Susie," frowned McBottle to his wife, "but what for is any dawg to coom barking round here tonight I canna think. I'll gang oot and see," and he quickly got dressed again by resuming his boots. Lighting a lantern, he crossed the yard to find to his great astonishment Buggy by the fence. Buggy's little legs were mired to his stomach, and his bedraggled coat was sodden with the pouring rain. He proceeded to bark loudly.

"Git oot, yer noisy leetle baste," shouted McBottle. "Go awa at wonce," and he threw stones and threatened him with a stick. But Buggy would not budge, and continuing to bark hoarsely, would not go away.

McBottle's massive spouse arrived to see what was happening. "Nay, nay, mon," she called out, "dinna drive him awa. Maybe he's followed Susie by her scent and found her with a broken leg. He's coom to take yer where she is."

"By goom, yer may be right!" exclaimed the excited Scotsman. "I'll awa wi' him and see whaur he goes."

"But wrap yersel' oop well, Jock," warned his wife. "The rain's fair cruel, and yer'll want two sacks over yer to keep dry."

Jock saddled his old pony and rode out of the yard, swinging a hurricane lantern to light the way. Buggy seemed to know exactly what was wanted of him, and set off up the road at a good pace, looking back, however, many times to make sure that he was being followed. Presently he left the road and turned up along the side of a swiftly running creek.

"Ah, and it's oop in the hills we're going," muttered the soaked Scotsman. "Then the poor, wet dawgie is sure caught in a rabbit trap."

It was an awful ride, with the rain continuing to pour down in sheets. Mile after mile they went, until McBottle reckoned they had come a good four miles from home. Still, he had given quite a lot of his dour love to his dog, and, hopeful now that he would be finding her, gave no thought to anything else. And, sure enough, at last he did find her, a drenched and shivering little creature lying by a rabbit warren, with one of her feet held fast in the cruel jaws of a trap. She whimpered feebly when the light of the lantern fell upon her, and tried to wag her tail. Buggy licked her face and then jumped round delightedly, barking hoarse, snappy barks.

"Puir leetle lassie," almost sobbed the Scotsman as he released Susie from the trap and gathered her up in his arms. "Oh, but yer have had a bad cruel time!" He turned down to Buggy, who now made no attempt to get away, and patted him, too. "Yer a fine, wee dawgie, my boy, and it's a gude hot sooper yer shall have for this."

With both dogs cuddled up under his arm and warmed by the shelter of the sacks, he jogged back home much quicker than he had come. His wife was overjoyed, and cuddled Buggy almost as much as she did her own dog. They were both well dried before the fire, given warm milk, and—oh, joy of joys—had a saucer of pig's liver placed before them.

"And yer'll no be taking him back home tonicht, Jock?" asked the wife, indicating Buggy.

"Nay, not tonicht," replied Jock. He gave her a crafty look. "Nor tomorrow nicht, nor the nicht after." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "Leetle Boogy will be our guest for a leetle while in the barn by the far paddock. Nay, nay, the bairns is not to ken. We'll keep it from everyone." He shook his head angrily. "Yon swearing farmer-mon called me a scratching Scotch scoundrel, and, by goom, I'll be one the noo."

So, it was a week and longer before Buggy saw Mudside Farm again. Then, late one night, he was dropped about a quarter of a mile from his home and given a friendly kick to hasten back there. His coat was well matted with dust and burrs, and round his neck was what McBottle considered a most artistic piece of work, a collar of a piece of dirty rope with a frayed end hanging down to give all appearance that Buggy had broken away from somewhere.

After barking outside the farmhouse door to announce his return. Buggy was received with great joy by his master and mistress, as they had long since given up all hope of seeing him again. Notwithstanding that he was ravenously hungry, another piece of artistic work on McBottle's part, and speedily got rid of a substantial meal, the farmer had his suspicions at once. "Darn it all," he swore viciously, "he smells of pig!"

A man of quick action when his temper was roused, the first thing the next morning Ben was round at the pig farm and, striding angrily into the yard, was not at all surprised to see McBottle's little Scotch terrier there. The children were busy, petting and patting her.

"And when did you find her?" he asked sneeringly of the eldest one, a girl of about 12, rawboned and freckled like her father.

"Oh, she coom back last night," exclaimed the girl excitedly. "Some bad mon had stolen her and she were half-starved. She had a rope tied round her neck."

In the light of Ben's suspicions this information was highly disconcerting, as he thought the girl was not old enough to lie plausibly. Besides, the other children were crowding round so eagerly to fondle the little dog that it was obvious her presence was something of a novelty to them. The Scotchman's wife came out and corroborated her daughter's story with much detail.

"But where's your husband?" snapped Ben.

"Gone oot to the poleece station," replied the wife instantly, "to offer a beeg reward to find oot who took Susie. He's determined to have the villains poot in gaol."

Ben returned home puzzled, but still suspicious. He was sure McBottle would have offered no 'beeg reward' if there had been the slightest chance of anyone claiming it, and his suspicions were by no means dissipated by a conversation he had with the Scotchman when the latter called round at the farm that same afternoon.

"I hear yer Boogy's coom back, too," he shouted over the gate with a great affectation of friendliness, "and it's a happy thing we've got our pets back." He gritted his teeth angrily. "Still, I'm detarmined to have the law on the scoondrels, and I've told them at the poleece station it'll be a coople of five-pun notes for anywon who catches them."

At that moment Buggy came running up and began jumping round the pig-breeder in the most friendly fashion. "He seems to know you pretty well," scowled Ben. "That's funny, isn't it?"

"Nay, not at all," laughed McBottle. "All animals take to me. They ken I'm their friend."

Ben saw it was useless to lose his temper, but asked sarcastically, "And about those puppies, have you brought the three guineas with you?"

The Scotchman shook his head. "I ha thought better of it. Boogy's pedigree don't quite satisfy me and I'll be looking for something better. Gude morning to yer and gude luck," and he rode away, hardly trying to suppress one of the broadest of grins.

Some months went by, and then a neighbour brought round to Ben a copy of the local newspaper. "See this," he said, pointing to an advertisement on the front page. "That McBottle's taken to breeding pedigree Scotch terriers, as well as those scrofulous-looking pigs of his."

Ben took the paper from him and his eyes opened very wide as he read the advertisement: "On Friday next at the Burra Market, by the favor of Jock McBottle, Esq., of Pigsty Stud Farm, Silverbody & Lively will auction seven pedigree Scotch terriers by Hush-Hush out of Bonnie Hieland Lassie. Reserve price four guineas each."

Ben's face was black as thunder, but he made no particular comment. He was not the kind of man who like people to think anyone had got the better of him.

On Friday evening he came home from market in a very chastened frame of mind. "There is no doubt about it," he said gloomily to his wife. "They are Buggy's puppies right enough; they are so exactly like him that I wished I hadn't taken him in with me. Everyone could see they were his, and they were all laughing. And, what's more—"he almost choked in his rage—"that scoundrel McBottle was stalking about as bold as brass, if you please, taking orders for the next litter. Why, I'm almost of a mind to——"

"No, we'll have none of that," said his wife firmly. "You'll be sensible and get a proper mate for Buggy. That's what you've got to do."

That night Blackbeetle, the sheepdog, spoke very solemnly to Buggy over their evening bones. "You told me a lot of skites, my son," he said sadly, "about where you were that week when you were away, but I don't blame you. When you're sweethearting I know it's not considered wrong to tell whackers when you are shielding the other party. It's not like telling a lie when you've taken another dog's bone and say you haven't seen it. Still, you know I'm your friend, and, with my experience in those matters, I do think you might have told me a bit more and not let everything come to me as such a surprise."

Buggy hung his head. "But it wasn't all my secret, Blackbeetle, and even now I can't tell you everything. I—I——"

"Say no more about it son," broke in Blackbeetle. "Really, I ought not to have referred to it." He looked down his nose. "In my days I was a bit of a dog of the world, too, and I quite understand." A thought struck him. "But I say, did the pups look like you?"

"Exactly," sighed Buggy. "They are very handsome!"

"And how did master take it?" asked the sheepdog.

Buggy grinned. "He picked me up by the scruff of the neck and said that if he thought I understood he'd give me a dose of the strap, but, when he had gone out mistress kissed me on the forehead and gave me a piece of biscuit."

"That's it, that's it," exclaimed Blackbeetle excitedly, "just what I would have expected she would do. A woman always loves the bad man, and, if she's not the one to suffer, is always ready to make excuses for him."

He laughed derisively. "Of course, she thinks it was little Susie who led you astray. Ha, ha, ha!"


THE LOTTERY TICKET

Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 23 September 1944.

THE Rev. Samuel Popplecockle ought never to have been a clergyman, and no one realised it better than did he himself.

It was not that he was not a good little man—he was only 5 ft. 4 in. in his boots—for he was good and moral in all respects. In all his life he had only kissed one girl, and she his wife. He drank only water, tea, and big glasses of milk, and he had never had a penny on a horse. He was good tempered too, kind-hearted, and in every way inoffensive. The mistake was he had taken orders, not as a calling, but just as a pleasant and not over-laborious way of earning his living.

It was all his Uncle Ebenezer's fault, and that gentleman had a lot to answer for. When Sammy left school—he was always Sammy then—he went first into a broker's office in the city, but he was not considered sharp enough there and, after a month's trial, was told his services were no longer required. He next went into a bank, but there he got on no better and no bouquets were showered upon him when he left.

Then Uncle Ebenezer came upon the scene. He was serious and earnest and, from his appearance, it might perhaps have been judged there was not much enjoyment in life. He told Samuel—Samuel now—that his mission was the Church. He led his nephew to believe that if he became a clergyman, in due time in a parish of his own, he would become a leader of men. He would rank almost as important as the doctor.

Certainly, Samuel was dazzled at the aspect, so temptingly held out to him. He thought he would love to be a leader of men. He was interested in sicknesses and accidents, too, and always curious about other people's affairs. It might have been that at present he did not feel equal to presiding at meetings and all that, but his uncle assured him it would come, that he would rise to the occasions and do important work in the world.

So, at Uncle Ebenezer's expense, he was sent to a theological college to be trained, and in due time was ordained. As a curate in a city parish he was not much of a success, though people liked him for his simplicity and gentle ways. When he had got over his nervousness he could take a service without making any mistakes, though preaching was always a terrible ordeal for him. There, however, his good-natured vicar called upon him as little as possible.

Falling in love, he married a pretty girl almost as retiring as himself, and they managed to live contentedly upon his £200 a year stipend. His only hobby was raising chickens in their little back garden. For this purpose he had acquired a small incubator and, when a batch of chickens was hatched out, he would sit for hours and hours watching them, in the hope that one day he would be able to tell by their appearance, and without handling them, which were going to turn out pullets and which cockerels. He was confident he would discover the secret eventually.

So, up to his thirtieth year, his life was quite a happy one and, no doubt, it would have continued happy if Uncle Ebenezer had not interfered again. The latter was a town councillor and somewhat of an important personage in the city, and he thought it only right that he should use his influence on his nephew's behalf and, as he called it, pull strings.

Samuel found himself installed as rector of the little town of Buggawolla, about 150 miles up in the country, and right from the beginning realised that the responsibilities thrust upon him were more than he could carry. He was not fitted to take any lead in social affairs, being much too shy. He could not give advice, as it was advice he wanted himself, and he could not make speeches. The matter of his sermons, however, he did get over, as he took to buying them at 5/- each from a man in Tasmania, whose advertisement he had happened to come upon one day in a Melbourne newspaper. That their quality was not high, he did not think mattered very much and, at any rate, they occupied the usually allotted 10 minutes.

As time went on it was obvious to even the most careless observer that Samuel was not a success in the parish. His congregations became smaller and smaller, the offertories dropped alarmingly, and the enrolments in the Sunday school showed a progressive falling off. It was not that anyone disliked Samuel. He was too inoffensive to dislike and he, really, had no enemies. It was just that he was a nonentity, a misfit, and the proverbial round peg in the square hole. The bishop was very annoyed and, time after time, expressed his disappointment when he came to the town. His reproofs, however, did no good, and poor Samuel came to dread his visits as a schoolboy dreads the headmaster when he is carpeted before him.

Added to all these worries, Samuel began to get badly into debt. His nice little wife was as bad a manager as was he and had no idea of running a household in any methodical or economical way. Accordingly, they lived beyond their means and were soon owing money everywhere.


Illustration

One Sunday he was in the depths of depression. Besides the pressure of his creditors, he was behind with his assurance premiums, he had only a pound or two of ready money and, to crown all, only a few days before his bank manager had written him his account was overdrawn £37 and must be set straight as soon as possible. One Sunday evening his incubator had gone wrong and, stopping to try to get it right he was almost late for the evening service. He had not even had time to read the sermon he was going to preach that night but had snatched up the top one of a new batch which had arrived only the previous day from Tasmania, and run in haste to the church.

Then, when in due time he mounted into the pulpit and started upon his sermon, greatly to his annoyance he found it was a fierce denunciation of the evils of all forms of gambling. It was certainly a most unfortunate sermon for him to have picked up, as it happened the Melbourne Cup was close at hand and a popular station owner in the district was running a well-favored horse in the race. All the townspeople were backing it.

Most unfortunately for Samuel, the editor of the local newspaper happened to be among the congregation at the church that evening and, instantly sensing the sermon to be good copy, he took copious notes, with the result that in the next issue of his paper a good summary of the sermon appeared, causing not a little interest in the town. Some people were annoyed, but others only amused, and the idea came to a few young sporting bloods to play what they considered a good joke upon the preacher. Accordingly, Samuel received a letter announcing that in appreciation of his sermon, some of his admirers had subscribed to purchase him a ticket in the forthcoming 'Great Australian Lottery,' and the letter was signed Bert Bar-one, 'bookie.' and William Winner, Percy Pickemall, and Thomas Ten-to-one, 'happy punters.'

Samuel tore up the letter contemptuously, believing it to be only a stupid joke. However, at the end of the week the promised ticket duly arrived, with the number all sevens, 77777. Samuel tossed it over to his wife. "Throw it into the fire," he said. "A pretty scandal it would be if it got out I had a ticket in a lottery." Then, to his consternation and amazement a telegram came, addressed in full to the Rev. Samuel Popplecockle, announcing that number 77777 had drawn the first prize in the great lottery.

"But does it really mean, Samuel," asked his wife, all of a twitter, "that you've won some money? How much will it be?"

"I don't know," he replied irritably, "and at any rate they wouldn't pay it, as I've thrown away the ticket."

"But I picked it up," exclaimed his wife excitedly, "and wrapped it round the candle in baby's candle stick to make it keep in."

The soiled and crumpled ticket was found, and she asked tremblingly, "Now what are you going to do?"

"Nothing," snapped Samuel. "I'll have nothing to do with it."

"Nonsense," she exclaimed fiercely. "Of course, you will." She flared up. "Here are we as hard up as any family can be, with me afraid to order another pound of sugar from the grocer—and you tell me you're not going to take money which will get us out of all our troubles." She spoke with surprising decision for her. "Put on your hat at once and go round and see Mr. Brown. As a bank manager he'll tell you what's best to do."

So a nervous and very reluctant Samuel went round to the bank and, thinking he had come to ask for a further overdraft, the manager looked very grim and stern. His eyes, however, popped like marbles when he took in the lottery ticket and the telegram Samuel handed to him. "Good heavens," he exclaimed, "you've won £20,000!" His eyebrows went up with a jerk, and he looked most amused. "So you ventured on a ticket, even after that sermon you preached!"

"No, no," almost wailed Samuel. "I didn't send for it. It was sent to me for a joke," and he went on to relate about the letter he had received first.

"But my conscience won't let me take it," choked Samuel. "I shan't touch a penny."

"Not touch a penny!" exclaimed the bank manager. He spoke drily. "But I should have thought your conscience would trouble you less if you took the money and paid your debts. I happen to know the milkman badly wants that £22 you owe him."

"Now you go home and think it over," he said kindly. "Don't decide anything in a hurry. You take my advice and shut yourself away from everybody. Don't go to the door and don't you answer the phone. Directly it gets known, you'll have all the begging people in the State after you. Let your wife attend to them and say you're away or ill. In the meantime I'll arrange about this ticket with our Sydney branch." He patted him on the shoulder. "Remember, you can do a lot of good in the world with £20,000."

Samuel and his wife spent a very worried four days, but the latter rose splendidly to the occasion. She denied Samuel to everyone and, when the result slips arrived in the State, which they did on the Thursday, her job was no easy one. All sorts of people wanted to have speech with the clergyman winner of the £20,000, the worst being two newspaper men.

The climax came on the Friday, just after the bank manager had sent round a note saying the £20,000 had now been credited to Samuel's account. The telephone rang, and Mrs. Popplecockle came to fetch Samuel. Her face was white and anxious. "The bishop," she mouthed breathlessly, "and he won't go away. He insists upon speaking to you."

"All right," choked Samuel. "I knew it had to come sooner or later, and I may as well get it over now."

The bishop's voice was very cold and stern. "I learn, Popplecockle," he said icily, "that you've won £20,000 in a lottery."

"Yes, sir," agreed Samuel in shaking tones, "but I didn't buy the ticket. Someone sent it to me as a joke," and he related once again how it had happened.

"Then the whole story is to be made public," ordered the bishop. His voice rose. "And you can't take the money."

"But it was paid into my bank this morning, sir," said Samuel, feeling like a rabbit before a snake. "It was sent from Sydney."

"But we'll soon settle that," cried the bishop. "You shall give it to charity. You can endow our cathedral institute here and we can do with two thousand for a new organ." He considered for a few moments. "Now, can you put me up for the week-end if I come down tomorrow. You can hand me over the cheque then."

"Yes, sir," agreed Samuel, with his heart in his boots, and, telling him then to expect him on the evening train, the bishop rang off.

"I'm to give it to him for charity," almost wept Samuel, leaning hard against his wife. "He's coming for it tomorrow evening and going to stay over the week-end with us."

"Oh, is he?" she snapped. "He's certainly not." She spoke fiercely. "Charity, indeed! But it's me and the children you've got to consider first." She stamped her foot. "Look here, Samuel, I'm sick of waiting for you to make up your mind, and so I'm going to make it up for you. We'll keep that money——" her eyes flashed excitedly, "—and we'll leave here by the quarter to 6 train tomorrow morning. We'll take only what we can pack in our suitcases, and we'll get as far away from this little pokey town as we can. It has only unhappy memories for us both. Now, you write me a cheque for £100 and I'll go round to the bank and cash it at once. And I'll arrange, too, with Mr. Brown for him to settle up everything for us after we've gone."

"But the bishop, when he comes tomorrow," wailed Samuel, "he'll——"

"Find Emma here to look after him, and you'll leave a letter for him saying you've accepted a call in another State."

Samuel wavered. "But what can I do if we go somewhere else?" he asked. "No one will take me, even as a curate, if I run away like this."

"You'll not want them to," she retorted, "it's poultry farming you'll take up." She almost whispered the next words. "And you'll buy an incubator which hatches a thousand chicks."

Samuel trembled, but wrote out the cheque.

* * * * *

Ten years later, when the bishop was returning by train from a church congress in Brisbane, he got into conversation with a fellow traveller and, the train pulling up at a small station, the latter suddenly pointed to a man who had just alighted from another carriage. "See that chap," he exclaimed excitedly, "that little fellow with the big stomach and a paper in his hand? Well, in a few days he will probably be regarded as a great man, a great benefactor to humankind."

"Then is he particularly good at some kind of game," asked the bishop with heavy sarcasm, "golf, cricket, or ping-pong, for instance?"

"No, he's a poultry farmer," laughed the other, "about the most successful in the State, and he says he's at last discovered a most simple way of finding out the sex of chickens, directly they are hatched. He says it is only a matter of taking note of their preference for color. One half of a little run is painted a violent red and the other a dull grey. The chicks are put in and, when they've settled down, he swears all the pullets gather in the red part and the cockerels in the grey. He says the test never fails."

The bishop was mildly interested. "But how are they going to prove whether he's right or wrong?" he asked.

"Oh, next week hundreds of poultry fanciers are coming here from all parts of the Commonwealth, and he's going to put 200 chicks to the test. Then, when these chicks have chosen their color, they're all going to be killed and cut open to see what sex they are. If it's found he's right, it will be of most wonderful benefit to all the poultry world."

"What's his name?" frowned the bishop. "I seem to remember his face."

"Smith, just Smith," replied the other. "Another humble Smith."

For days the poultryman's face worried the bishop, and then one night he sat up suddenly in bed and shouted, "I have it. I can place him now. He was Popplecockle! That's who he was!"

His startled wife sat up, too. "What's the matter with you, Augustus?" she asked anxiously. "What's happened?"

"Oh, nothing much, Jane," he sighed. "Only that I've just remembered a wandering sheep."

"Then go to sleep again at once," she exclaimed irritably. "You drank too much claret at dinner. That's what's upsetting you."


THE WILL

Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 11 November 1944.

AT 20 years of age, June Brandon was not only of a very nice disposition, but also an undeniably pretty girl. Of an aristocratic appearance, she had beautiful grey eyes, a good profile, and a faultless complexion.

She had no knowledge as to her parents, having been born in an apartment house in a poor suburb of North London. Her mother died within a few hours of her birth and left behind no clue to her identity.

No relatives coming forward to make inquiries and with only a few pounds found among the dead mother's effects, the baby was taken to a public orphanage, where she passed all her childhood and girlhood days. She had been christened June because she had been born in that month.

She was so obviously of a superior class to the other girls at the institution that, instead of being put out into domestic service when she was 16, she was placed in the infirmary as a nurse-probationer. Then, some two years later, a wealthy and titled patroness of the orphanage came to hear about her and suggested taking her as a nurse-attendant.

Accordingly, June was installed at Roding Hall, a large house near Brighton, to wait upon Lady Sandall, the childless and elderly widow of Sir James Sandall, who had been a high official in the Indian Civil Service.

A very bad-tempered woman, Lady Sandall was alternately kind and harsh to June. It pleased her to help on the girl's education by constant instruction and by encouraging her to study the best works in English literature.

Also, finding her so quick and intelligent, she was soon using her as a private secretary, giving her a private room to herself and letting her take all her meals with the housekeeper.

On the other hand, when in her bad moods, her ladyship was very hard on June, furious about the most trivial things and often finding fault most unjustly.

Masterful with everyone, her servants were greatly afraid of her, the one exception being Fordyce, the elderly butler who had served her and Sir James for nearly 30 years.

A refined and even distinguished-looking man, Fordyce seemed to have a restraining influence upon his mistress, and it was said she often consulted him about her private affairs.


JUST over sixty when June came to her, Lady Sandall was in a bad state of health, suffering a lot from her heart. She had been repeatedly warned by her doctor not to give way to her emotions; in other words, to try to control her tempers.

She had only two relatives, both nephews. One was in the forties, a well-to-do stockbroker in the city, but the other, Reggie Wynward, only 22, was the favored one, which was as it should have been, as he had no means at all. He was within a few months of qualifying as a medical man.

He was a good-looking, manly young fellow, but had to mind his steps very carefully to keep in the good graces of his irascible aunt.

June realised to the full how fortunate she had been to come to Lady Sandall, for after two years at the Hall she found she had so educated herself that she could well hold her own with any of the society callers who visited her employer.

So, putting up smilingly with the latter's frequent bouts of bad temper, she was really happy and contented, and she became happier still when young Wynward took to coming frequently to the Hall.

As was natural, the two fell in love, and very soon were making opportunities to meet alone, sometimes in the garden when Lady Sandall was in bed, and sometimes, upon much rarer occasions, when June had the day off and could spend it in London.

They had to be very careful, however, that Lady Sandall learnt nothing of what was going on, as she made no secret that, as her heir, she had ambitious matrimonial plans for Reggie.


ONCE, as if suspecting something, she warned him sharply against June. "You keep her at a distance, my boy," she ordered sternly, "and take care she doesn't lead you on. She's pretty enough, I admit, but I'm not going to have you mixed up with a girl of her history, or you'll lose every penny I intend to leave you. So you just take that in with no nonsense."

Reggie laughed it off, but about three months later the worst happened for the lovers, as late one night she caught Reggie in June's room.

Not feeling well, she had gone to bed early, but was unable to sleep. About 11 o'clock she had gone round to June's room intending to fetch her to give her some message. Opening the door unceremoniously, as was her wont, to her amazement she saw June sitting on Reggie's knee in an armchair drawn up before the fire.


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Opening the door unceremoniously, she saw June sitting on Reggie's knee


For a long moment she stood thunderstruck, and then she shouted to Reggie: "You young blackguard!" To June she addressed a horrid word.

In consternation the two had sprung to their feet. "But it's quite all right, Aunt," Reggie called out. "We are properly married. We were married more than a month ago."

"Married!" screamed Lady Sandall. "Oh, you young fool!" She was almost choking with rage. "Then both of you get out of this house at once. You shan't remain here another minute, and I'll never have anything more to do with either of you. Get your things together instantly and go off."

And, standing in the doorway, she hurled every abusive word she could think of at them, rousing the whole house with her shouting. Getting rid of her at last, Reggie rang up for a taxi, and, in less than half an hour, he and June were being driven to a hotel.

The following morning, well before 8 o'clock, Lady Sandall was ringing up Mr. John Litchfield, her solicitor, in London, with the intention of ordering him to draw up a new will, leaving everything to her other nephew, Samuel Gorringe, but to her great annoyance she learnt he was out of town and would not be back for a couple of days.

Leaving nothing to chance, she immediately wrote out another will herself on the Hall notepaper. It read:


"I revoke all former wills. To my nephew, Reginald Wynward, I leave the sum of one shilling. To his wife, formerly known as June Brandon and for 18 years an inmate of the Balham Public Orphanage, an institution in the main for children born out of wedlock, I leave also one shilling towards the upkeep of the baby which is no doubt now well upon the way. All the rest of my estate and effects I leave to my nephew, Samuel Gorringe."


Fordyce and Mrs. Humphrey, the cook, were summoned to witness her signature, and then she had herself driven to the post office and despatched the will by registered letter to London. Returning home, she collapsed altogether, and her doctor was phoned for to come in urgent haste. Her heart was failing quickly, and, with no response to treatment, she passed away during the night.

The following week Mr. Litchfield sent for Reggie and told him about the new will. "I'm very sorry," he said, "but there will be only those shillings for you and your wife. The will she drew up herself is perfectly valid and the whole estate, about £65,000, goes to your cousin. It's an unjust and spiteful will, particularly as I know she promised your uncle just before he died to look after you. Still, there's no getting behind it."


REGGIE had a high opinion of Mr. Litchfield's abilities, and at once gave up all hope of getting anything. So he was very surprised when about a week later, a young Brighton solicitor, Charlie Jackson, came up to London, expressly to see him and suggest the will should be contested.

Jackson was barely 24 and, only a few months previously, had been admitted to the practice of the law. Reggie knew him very slightly, and only because it happened they belonged to the same tennis club.

"But I'm told I haven't a hope in the world," said Reggie.

"Oh, but I think you have," said the other. "That will shows spite, and, besides, your cousin may be willing to compromise."

"Not he!" scoffed Reggie. "We've always disliked each other." He shook his head. "No, Jackson, I'll not dispute it. I haven't the money for one thing."

"But never you mind about the money," said Jackson. "Of course, it's not ethical for me to take the case up on spec, but, if you're agreeable, I'll finance everything, and, if nothing comes of it, promise not to send you in any account." He laughed. "In any case, it'll be a ripping advertisement for me."

Upon these terms Reggie was quite agreeable and, accordingly, notice was served upon his cousin's solicitors that the will would be contested. When the day for the hearing arrived everyone in court was most amused at the idea of so boyish-looking a country solicitor pitting himself against the mighty Jarvis Romilly, one of the most eminent King's Counsel practising in the Probate Court. They were most curious as to exactly what line of action he was going to take. Lord Royston was presiding over the proceedings.

As a matter of formality, the deceased woman's will was first produced, and Mrs. Humphrey, the cook, went into the witness box to testify to having seen the dead woman put her signature to it.

"And you saw your mistress sign it," asked the K.C., "in the presence of your fellow-servant, Mr. Fordyce, and you put your signature in the presence of them both?"

"Yes, sir, I did," replied the cook, and the K.C. at once sat down.

Young Mr. Jackson rose to his feet. "And did Lady Sandall seem quite all right that morning?" he asked. "Quite capable of knowing what she was doing?"

"Oh, yes, sir," replied the cook. "She was not in a good temper, but she knew what she was doing all right." And Mr. Jackson, too, resumed his seat, while Mrs. Humphrey proceeded to leave the witness box and the court.

The butler was then called, and he stepped briskly into the box. He was asked if he, too, had witnessed Lady Sandall's signature in the presence of the cook. Upon his replying in the affirmative, the K.C. again sat down.

"Now, Mr. Fordyce," asked young Jackson, "did her ladyship appear to you to be in a state of unusual agitation when she affixed her signature?"

The butler considered. "Well, at any rate, sir," he replied, "she was not so the moment before she signed"—he smiled—"but, as I did not actually see her write her name, I cannot say what was exactly her condition at that very moment."

It did not seem that Mr. Jackson could believe the evidence of his ears. "What," he exclaimed, "you now tell us you did not see her sign the will?"

"Not actually, sir," said the butler, "because, just as she took up the pen to sign, I thought I heard the front door bell ring and went out to see. I wasn't gone a minute and, when I came back, both she and Cook had signed. That's how it was Mrs. Humphrey witnessed the signature before me. Otherwise I was to have signed first."


A STUNNED silence filled the court. It was as if all present had been turned into graven images. Mr. Jackson recovered first, and with grim smile, turned to his lordship.

"Then that concludes my case, my lord, and it will not be necessary for me to proceed further. The testament was not properly executed and therefore is invalid," and he plumped down into his seat.

Jarvis Romilly jumped to his feet. "I ask, my lord," he cried fiercely, "that the previous witness be detained before she has had time to leave the precincts of the court," and, upon a sign from the judge, an usher hurried out.

The K.C. turned menacingly to the butler. "Now, sir," he declaimed, "after having testified on oath that you saw deceased put her signature to the will—you now say you were not present when she signed."

The butler looked very frightened. "Yes, sir. I am sorry, sir. It was a mistake. But I thought I had witnessed the signing all right, as, when I came back, the ink on the other signatures was still wet."

The K.C. now spoke quietly, almost in silky tones. "And later," he asked, "you happened to mention to Mr. Wynward exactly what had taken place?"

"No, no, sir," cried Fordyce. "I never mentioned it to him at all. I haven't seen or spoken to him since that night he left the Hall," and no amount of questioning could now make him contradict himself.

Mrs. Humphrey was recalled. "Now, madam," said Romilly, with a pleasant smile, "you told us your mistress signed the will in your presence and that of Mr. Fordyce, too. That is so, is it not?"

"Yes, sir," replied the cook.

"Mr. Fordyce was actually standing at your side," went on the K.C.

"Yes, sir," replied the cook again and then, a startled look coining into her face, she added quickly, "No, sir, not quite all the time. I remember now that he went out for a moment to attend to the bell."

"Before your mistress signed?" asked Romilly, and the court was as hushed and still as the grave.

"Yes, sir," nodded the cook, "and before I signed, too. I recollect we had just written our names when he came back."

Most non-plussed at her corroboration of the butler's story, the great King's Council tried in every way to shake her testimony, until at last his lordship intervened. "I do not think, Mr. Romilly," he said, "it will be any good your further questioning the witness. She is undoubtedly speaking the truth. The will is invalid, and I accordingly decline to grant probate."

"But your lordship," protested the K.C., "the intention of the testator is so clear and it is not justice if——"

"But how often have I not had to explain," interrupted his lordship wearily, "that it is law I have to dispense in this court, and not necessarily justice. No, I decline to grant probate."


SO, under the previous will, Reggie Wynward succeeded to the estate, and one day some weeks later, Fordyce came to see him. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you," said Reggie. "I couldn't find out where you had gone, and I wanted to do something for you."

The butler shook his head. "No thank you, sir. I have all I need. Under my late master's will I came into £2,000 when her ladyship died or I left her service. I've only come now to clear up a few things."

"Well," said Reggie, "I have a lot to thank you for. But for your accidentally leaving the room when the will was being signed I should have only got that shilling."

"But it was no accident, sir," said the butler gravely. "I went out on purpose to invalidate the will. I only pretended to think I heard the bell, for, knowing her ladyship's impatience, I felt sure she would sign without waiting for me to come back."

Reggie was aghast. "But—but have you told this to anyone besides me?" he asked. A sudden light dawned upon him and his hand shot out accusingly. "A-ah. I know you have. You told Mr. Jackson."

Fordyce nodded. "Yes, sir, and we both thought it wisest not to mention it to you then, so that the other side should not be able to suggest there was any conspiracy between us."

"Conspiracy between us!" exclaimed the astounded Reggie. "What on earth do you mean? You had no interest in the will or me."

"Not so much perhaps in you, sir," said Fordyce, "but I certainly had an interest in your wife,"—he smiled drily—"as she happens to be my niece. No, no, she does not know it, and I have no wish she should. I only mention it now so that you shall know you have no reason to be ashamed of her. Her mother was none of those dreadful things her ladyship called out that night. We come of a good yeoman family, and my sister was a schoolteacher when the gentleman who was your wife's father met her."

"Were they married?" asked Reggie hoarsely.

"No, sir, but I am sure they would have been if young Lord Rutland—he was your wife's father—had not been killed in the hunting field before it was known what was going to happen." Fordyce's voice shook. "I was in India for 20 years and knew nothing of my poor sister's misfortune until I came back four years ago. Then, with great difficulty, I found out about June and traced her to the orphanage.

"No, it was not chance she came to Lady Sandall. I got her ladyship interested in the orphanage by pretending I knew the matron, and then I suggested she should engage June as her nurse-attendant."

The butler rose to go. "One thing more, sir. I have just posted to June, anonymously, of course, an old photograph of her father and mother taken at a county ball 24 years ago. You will recognise them both by their likeness to her. Good-bye, sir, and the best of happiness to you. I am sailing for Australia tomorrow, and neither of you will see me again," and, with a warm handshake, the two men parted.

That evening, in great excitement, June showed Reggie the photo which had just arrived. It was a flashlight one taken on a ballroom floor, and, under two of the dancers was written, 'Your father and mother, who are both dead.'

"I wonder who sent it," exclaimed June. "But oh, Reggie, aren't they both good looking. Do you really think they are my mother and father?"

And when her husband nodded emphatically, she went on, "But isn't it strange? My mother somehow reminds me of—whom do you think?—why, Fordyce!" And, after another long look at the photograph, Reggie agreed with her again.


THE WAY OF CHANCE

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 27 January 1945.

THEY had been married 13 years when Matt Huggins was the cause of his wife's untimely and sudden death. There was no premeditation about the act and, in a way, her passing was quite accidental. He was shocked with what he had done.

There could be no doubt, however, she had been leading him a most unhappy life. An inoffensive, good-natured little man, he had had a lot to put up with her, and even in the very early days of their honeymoon she had started to nag him. Nothing he ever did was right and she bullied him unmercifully. She took away his beer, she wouldn't let him smoke in the house, the wireless was turned on for what she wanted, and, when she was tired of listening, it was turned off as a waste of electricity.

When he came home tired of an evening she would not let him read the newspaper until he had done the many odd jobs she was always finding for him, and when they were finished it was nearly always time for bed, and any further use of the lights considered as more waste of electricity.


MATT was head clerk in a lawyer's office, and every penny of his £6 a week salary had to be strictly accounted for. When his Aunt Emily died and he came into the nice little legacy of £4,000, it was all banked in his wife's name and she invested it as she thought best.

Year after year he put up with everything almost uncomplainingly, hardly ever daring even to answer her back, and then the end came. It was not like the worm turning, but rather as the wrath of a sheep. One quick blow with a rolling pin and she was dead.

This dreadful climax to Matt's way of sorrow had eventuated one evening in early summer when they were spending his annual holiday at a small bungalow they had on a beach some 20 miles from the city. He had been helping her dry up the tea things and had dropped a saucer. It had broken all to pieces and, in her anger, she had lashed at him with the wet cloth she had in her hand. It had caught him in the eye and the pain stung him like a red-hot needle.

AS she had made a lash at him again, he had snatched up a heavy rolling pin from the table and struck at her uplifted arm. Missing the arm, however, the blow had landed hard on her head, and she had crashed down against the stone upright of the fireplace and broken her neck. She had made no sound and, after a few convulsive movements, had lain quite still.

There was no doubt she was dead. Her mouth had gaped open, her head lay at a sickening angle, and she was not breathing.

Matt burst into tears. He had not meant to do it, he told himself. It was an accident which she had brought upon herself. Still, it would look like murder and, of course, he would be hanged for it. A sob caught his breath. But he wouldn't mind hanging. She had made him sick of life, and for a long time he had had nothing to live for. She had hated him and made him hate her. He was not sorry she was dead.

He dried his eyes. Now he would go and give himself up. It would be a long walk to the nearest police station, quite five miles, but he would start at once and get it over. Ah, but he must go and feed old Hobson's fowls first and water his canaries.


HOBSON was his friend, the only friend he had been allowed to have. His wife had encouraged the friendship there because the old sea captain was an ardent fisherman, and often gave them fish. His bungalow was next door, and he and Mrs. Hobson lived there all the year round.

Just now, however, they were both away in Melbourne, and Matt had charge of the key. No, he musn't let the old man down! He would attend to his birds, and at the same time give himself a good nip from the bottle of brandy he had noticed in the cupboard where the canary seed was kept!

Going outside, for a long moment he stood looking at the sea, realising with a pang that after that night he might never see it again.

He remembered the shark they had seen that morning, and which had made them cut short their dip so quickly. How he wished they had not noticed it and that it had taken him! Then at any rate he wouldn't be going to be hanged, as he was now!

Here his conscience smote him unpleasantly as he speculated upon what a difference it would have made to everything if the shark had taken his wife, and it, and not he, had been the cause of her death.


HE fed Hobson's fowls, and gave the canaries their water, also, he had a stiff tot of the brandy, and the unaccustomed spirit seemed to liven him up a lot. His thought harked back to the shark, and, all suddenly, an amazing idea leapt into his mind.

If the shark hadn't got his wife that morning—what harm would it be if it got her now? It might still be prowling about, and he could wade out with the body and then go shrieking off to the people in the cafe that he had seen her drawn under! Then all would be put right, and—ah! but what if the shark were not there to take the body, and, it drifting back to shore, it was found out how his wife had really died? He would be hanged just the same.

But let him think calmly. What if he got rid of the body in another way, if he buried it somewhere and then, very early tomorrow morning, went down as usual to bathe and, a few minutes later, ran in a state of terror to the cafe with his carefully prepared tale?

He was sure they would believe him, as it was well known to everyone that a shark had been seen recently in the neighbourhood. And he knew where he could bury the body, too—in a deep pit which his wife had made him dig in their little back yard that very morning. It had been dug for the household rubbish, and was a good 4 ft below the surface of the sand. It was the very place, and the body would never be discovered there.


HE took another good nip of the brandy, and thought out all the details of his plan.

The next morning everything went off without a hitch. The proprietor of the cafe did not for a moment doubt his story, and, pushing down a boat with all possible speed, for an hour and longer, with Matt a tearful and woebegone looking passenger, rowed backwards and forwards over the place where the wife was supposed to have been last seen. The local policeman was rung up and, news of what had happened becoming known, reporters were rushed to the scene, with city newspaper readers being later intrigued with exciting headlines,


WIFE TAKEN BY SHARK OFF HUNTER'S BEACH.
HUSBAND EYE WITNESS OF DREADFUL TRAGEDY.


MATT comported himself as became the bereaved husband, sad, sorrowing, and with a haunted look in his eyes. He had thought it wisest to stay on at the bungalow to keep morbid sight-seers from coming too close. He was sure if he were not about they would invade his front garden and back yard to peer through the windows.

In a way he was most uneasy about that back yard, for, to his guilty mind, in its uncared for and unkempt condition it looked just the very place where a body would be buried. He comforted himself, however, with the thought that his story had been believed everywhere.


THEN chance threw down an evil card against him, and suspicion was aroused in the mind of, perhaps, the very worst person possible. One morning Detective-Inspector Alec McNab was in a tram and overheard two men talking about the tragedy.

"And it's about the best thing which could have happened," said one of them, "at any rate for the husband. She led him an awful life, and I'd bet any money that, privately, he is reckoning that shark as about the best friend he ever had."

"That's so," nodded the other. "I knew them both, and she was a dreadful nagger." He grinned. "It was a good thing that chap from the cafe saw the shark take her, or people might be thinking he drowned her himself."

But the inspector, remembering the local policeman's report, knew the second man was wrong, and that Matt alone had seen the shark take his wife. So, certain faint suspicions coming into his mind, he thought it quite worth while to go down to Hunter's Beach that same afternoon, and have a talk with the husband.


BY great good luck Matt knew the inspector by sight, he having once been pointed out to him in court when his, Matt's, employer was defending a man charged with illegal betting.

So, when sitting on the low cliff before the row of bungalows, Matt saw two men coming along in a car and recognised one of them as the inspector, he had a few moments to prepare himself and get a good grip of his composure. An instinct, to say nothing of his guilty conscience, told him they were coming to speak to him.

The car pulled up and the inspector asked to be directed to where Mr. Matthew Huggins lived. Matt's heart was beating painfully, for, he knew he was in terrible danger.

If this awful inspector went into the back yard he would surely suspect something at once. He had eyes like a hawk, and nothing would escape him. Matt put on a stolid look. "I'm that man," he said gruffly. "What do you want?"

"We're police from Adelaide," replied the inspector, "and we want a few words with you." The two detectives jumped out of the car and their eyes roved seawards. "So this is where the shark was," said the inspector, "but you don't often get them as close in shore, do you?"

"Very seldom," grunted Matt. "I've only once seen one before in the five years I've been coming down here."


THE inspector eyed him intently and, with a certain disappointment, did not think he was the kind of man who would have had pluck enough to commit a dreadful crime, but for all that, asked sharply, "And I understand no one but you saw the shark?"

Matt shook his head slowly. "No one but me that morning," he replied, "but plenty saw it the days before." He sighed heavily. "I suppose it was waiting until it got its meal." He caught sight of some people coming along the cliff and went on quickly, "but come inside if you want to talk. I'm a public curiosity now, and people stare at me until I feel sick."

With all his wits about him and as bold as brass, he led the way—not to his own bungalow, but to Hobson's. As it happened, both the doors, front and back, were wide open. He had been inside a few minutes before to put back a book he had borrowed and, the place smelling stuffy, he had opened up everywhere to let in the air.

He took the detectives into the sitting room and waved them to chairs. The bungalow, unlike his, was nicely furnished in a homey and comfortable sort of way. A big fishing rod was hanging on the wall and the inspector, an enthusiastic fisherman, pounced upon it at once. "Gad, that's a beautiful rod," he exclaimed, "a genuine Mackenzie!" And he plunged into an animated discussion about fishing, or rather he talked and Matt listened, as the latter had never caught a fish in all his life, and was not interested.


PRESENTLY the inspector asked, "And what's the biggest butterfish you've ever caught?"

Matt dared not answer. He had no idea what butterfish, big or little, weighed. "Oh, don't talk any more about fishing," he exclaimed irritably. "My poor wife was as keen on it as I was, and I don't suppose I'll ever go fishing again." He spoke sharply. "Besides, I'm sure you didn't come down here to talk to me about fish."

The inspector was annoyed. He had been snubbed in front of a subordinate, and it stung him to a line of questioning upon which, otherwise, he might not have been quite so willing to start. "Certainly not," he frowned. He eyed Matt very hard, and rapped out, "Now you and your wife did not get on too well together, did you?"

Matt met his stare unflinchingly. He had bluffed the inspector about the bungalow and his success there gave him confidence. "Who said so?" he asked quietly.

"Never mind. We heard it," replied the inspector. He nodded unpleasantly. "We police hear a lot of things," and then as Matt was silent, he went on, "It's only the truth, isn't it?"


MATT weighed his words carefully. "We had little tiffs at times, but they weren't big enough to have made me let that shark get her if I could have prevented it." His eyes glared. "I suppose that's what you mean."

The inspector certainly had not though the implication of his question would have been met so boldly, and he was now angry with himself for having asked it. If everything were above board, this little man looked just the very chap to complain to headquarters, or, worse still, go writing to the newspapers about inconsiderate treatment by the police.

He hastened to put things right. "No, I don't mean that," he said quickly, "and I only put the question just as a matter of routine to be assured by you it was no case of your wife having drowned herself, say after a quarrel."

Matt would have liked to have laughed. The idea of his wife committing suicide on his account seemed so funny. "But she wasn't drowned." he said sharply. "If it hadn't been for that shark she'd be alive now." He smiled a grim smile. "Besides, if there had been any suicide business after a quarrel it would have been me doing it and not her. She wasn't made that way."


WHATEVER suspicions the inspector had been wanting to entertain, Matt's open frankness dissipated them and he had to smile back.

"Nice little place you've got here," he said. "Do you mind if we go through it?"

Of course, Matt did not mind and, indeed, he felt quite a pride in showing them over. The Hobsons were methodical people and all the rooms were neat and tidy. From the back door the inspector meditatively regarded the little yard which the old sea captain had made into a thriving garden. Every foot of it was growing something.

The detectives went back to the city, and at the end of the week, with the return of the Hobsons, Matt followed.


TEN years went by, and at forty-five Matt was a happy and contented man. He had filled out a lot and no longer looked skinny and underfed. He had long since married again, and his wife, a good fifteen years younger than he, was amiable and good tempered. She had presented him with three children, of whom he was immensely proud.

One Sunday afternoon Inspector McNab and a friend were fishing off the jetty at Largs Bay when Matt and his little family walked by. The friend passed the time of day to Matt, and when they were out of earshot remarked to the inspector. "Now, that's a man who had a most dreadful experience some years ago. He saw the woman who was his wife then taken by a shark, before his very eyes, when they were both bathing off Hunters Beach."

The inspector nodded. "I remember him. I went down there to make inquiries about it at the time. He was a great fisherman, wasn't he?"

His friend looked puzzled. "Fisherman!" he exclaimed. "No, he never fished."

"But he did," insisted the inspector, who never liked to be contradicted. "He took me into his bungalow and it was full of tackle. Why, he'd got a fine Mackenzie rod!"

HIS friend shook his head. "But you're mixing him up with someone else, old man. I'd stake my life Matt Huggins never baited a hook in those days. He hated anything to do with fish, and when he had any given him used to say it made him sick to have to clean them. I tell you, I knew him pretty well, as we lived next door to him in Prospect, and I've been to his rotten old bungalow, too."

"His bungalow wasn't rotten or old," scowled the inspector. "It was nicely furnished and he'd some lovely canaries there."

"Oh. I see it!" exclaimed the other. "It's Captain Hobson's bungalow you're thinking of, and the old chap was the fisherman you mean. His place was next door to Matt's, and it was he who had that Mackenzie rod and the canaries. I remember now that when Hobson was away Matt used to go in to attend to his birds."


THE inspector's face was a study. "So that was his little game, was it?" he thought. "Well, he tricked me right enough."

And then he was so preoccupied that his friend had to shout to him that he'd got a bite. Presently he asked casually: "And has this Huggins still got the bungalow he had then? Do you know?"

The friend nodded. "Yes, he's got it though he never goes there now. It's been shut up ever since that shark business, and no one understands why he doesn't sell it."

The inspector, however, thought he understood, and his thoughts boded ill for the happy husband and father.

The two remained on the jetty for a little while longer, and then the inspector began to pack up and said he must be going home.

He was still very preoccupied, so preoccupied, indeed, that, in crossing the road he did not see a big lorry coming, and, stepping straight in front of it was knocked down and killed instantly.

Matt's good luck was holding to the end.


BLACK MARKET

Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 3 March 1945.

TODHUNTER MCSTOTTLEBAUGH held quite on important position in the Income Tax Department and, contrary to what some people might have expected, his expression was a mild and gentle one. Happily married, he had a sensible, good-looking wife and three nice children. Certainly, he was a good father and, as far as the neighbors had been able to find out, a faithful husband as well.

His life was just that of the ordinary suburban dweller. Every morning he left home at a regular time and, every evening, returned at a regular time, too. At night he read or listened to the wireless, and at week-ends worked in his little garden, occasionally taking his family out for little jaunts to one of the beaches or the hills on Sundays.

In fact he was, to all appearance, a very ordinary man and, as far as I can ascertain, up to his fortieth year showed no signs of any moral or mental aberration. Then, however, came the war with its shortages, restrictions, and rationing, and almost in the twinkling of an eye, as it were, his whole outlook on life was altered.

He became a collector of things which were in short supply, a hoarder, and a crawler from shop to shop to acquire articles which he did not necessarily want but which were difficult to obtain. It became a craze, a veritable obsession with him.

It was his wife who started it all. One morning she asked him to try to get her some sago in the city on his way home, as the local grocer had got none. Accordingly, missing his usual tram that afternoon, he set out upon the quest.

The first two shops had none, but at the third, with some hesitation upon the girl's part because she did not recognise him as a regular customer, he was given a pound. Then, as she was getting him his change, he heard another girl who was serving a lady tell her she was lucky she was able to give her some prunes, as they had very few left and did not know when any more would be coming in.

Whereupon Todhunter was instantly seized with an urge for prunes, too, and he glowed with pleasure when later, to his wife's great delight, he presented her with prunes as well as the sago.

"Oh, but you're a splendid shopper, Tod, dear," she said, "and I really think I'd better get you to do all my shopping for me. Girls will give things to men when they won't to a woman."

So Todhunter was set on the downward path, and, entering into the matter with great zest, very soon there was a huge accumulation of groceries in the store-cupboard—anything which it was supposed might one day become hard to obtain.

Dozens of bottles of soup appeared, packets of peas galore, lentils, haricot beans, tinned meats of all descriptions, sauces, and preserved fruits. But it was condensed milk which for some time was his long suit, and scores and scores of tins were piled high up to the very ceiling.

Then pickles came into their own, for Todhunter heard there would shortly be no labor available to produce them, and he struck hard and heavily to get in a good supply, rarely an evening passing without his bringing home two or more bottles.

To them he was soon adding boxes and boxes of macaroni and vermicelli, because one of his colleagues at the taxation office had told him their supply was quickly running out.


Illustration

To begin with, his wife had been amused, but speedily she became annoyed, telling him sharply that she was beginning to tremble every time she saw him coming home with his bag. Todhunter, however, had tasted blood and was not to be stayed, the very next evening after her reproof arriving home with three 2-oz. packets of mustard and two tins of golden syrup. A mania with him now to add to their store every day, from unrationed goods he quickly passed to rationed ones, and the acquisition of an unlawful pound of butter or a few extra ounces of tea filled him with a dreadful joy.

"But you're sure to be found out one day," protested his wife, almost tearfully, "and you know it's black marketing."

"In a very harmless way, Mary," he smiled, "and I'll take good care I'm not caught. I'm a pretty wily bird at it now."

But once having fallen to black marketing, the lure became stronger every day, and soon Todhunter took to transgressing in other ways than food.

It became a regular habit with him to have a bet at his newsagent's shop every Saturday when he was returning home from the office. Certainly, it was only a matter of a few shillings, and he was really not much interested in horses and knew little about them, but it gave him a great thrill to hand his little betting slip over the counter, with the chance always there that a policeman might rush into the shop and catch him red- handed.

Now, it happened that one evening, when waiting with a friend for a tram in Victoria square, two men came out of the watchhouse, and the friend remarked to him they were Billikin and Brown, of the lottery and gaming squad, two of the smartest detectives in the force.

With great interest Tod took good note of their faces, and, as it turned out, it was well for him that he did so, for the following Saturday, just as he was approaching the newsagent's shop to hand in his betting slip, he caught sight of a man with a smutted face and in dirty overalls lounging on the pavement a dozen or so yards away. He recognised him instantly as one of the two detectives who had been pointed out to him, and, with a quickly beating heart, passed the newsagent's shop.

Safe out of sight, he tore up his betting slip and dropped the pieces down a drain.

A good sportsman, he thought it only decent to warn the newsagent. Walking quickly back into the main street, with difficulty he suppressed a whistle when he saw on the opposite pavement the second detective in a railway porter's uniform. His knees shook under him as he went into the shop. Fortunately the newsagent was there alone.

"Detectives outside," Todhunter whispered hoarsely, "from the gaming squad!"

The newsagent's face went the color of putty and his eyes popped like corks. "Are you sure?" he whispered back.

"Quite!" breathed Todhunter. "Billikin and Brown! One's in overalls and the other's got a railway man's uniform."

Quick as the strike of a snake, the newsagent grabbed up a small box from under the counter and darted into the room behind the shop. Todhunter began turning over some Christmas cards in a tray on the counter. Two, three, almost five minutes passed, and the newsagent returned into the shop. "All serene," he grinned. "Everything gone into the kitchen fire, and I've doctored the phone so that it won't ring. Thank you very much, sir, I'm sure. I'm——"


BUT the shop door opened violently and the two detectives, accompanied by two other men burst in. "We're police," snapped one, "and we've come to search your premises. We suspect you of illegal betting. Come out from behind that counter and keep your hands out of your pockets."

Todhunter at once made himself scarce, but he heard all about it the next day. Of course, the police had found nothing.

"Not even a bit of burnt paper," grinned the newsagent, "and one of the 'tecs sat for a good half hour before the blooming phone, all ready for my customers to ring up bets, before he tumbled to it that it was out of order. Didn't I just laugh and weren't they just wild about it?"

Now it might have been thought that so narrow an escape would have warned Todhunter of the risks he was running, for he knew quite well that any public conviction for black-marketing would lose him his situation in the taxation office and all the benefits of more than 20 years' service. But no, he didn't take the warning, and his next lapse was as serious as could be, for he was hindering the war effort by buying black-market petrol.

He happened to mention where he was accustomed to get his monthly two-gallon allowance of petrol that the ration was so small he would not be able to take the usual motor holiday at Christmas.

Whereupon the garage man said that, though HE could not give him any extra spirit, he knew of a party who could, and it ended in six four-gallon tins being delivered to Todhunter, late one night, at 30/the tin. They were hidden away under some old sacks at the back of the garage.

The man who brought the tins had furtive-looking, beady eyes, and Todhunter felt ashamed of himself for having any dealings with him. Now, for the first time, when he told his wife about the unlawful petrol, she was most angry about it.

"It isn't worth it," she said sharply, "for a man in your position can't afford to take such risks. Your whole career will be ruined if it's found out."

"I know that," admitted Todhunter uneasily, "but who's going to split on me? No, I'm quite safe."


THERE, however, he was entirely wrong, for he was reckoning without Mrs. Coshey. Mrs. Coshey was the washer-lady and, of alcoholic habits and erratic ways, there was never anything but an armed neutrality between her and Mrs. McStottlebaugh. On the Monday before Christmas she came to work an hour late, smelling strongly of malt liquor and hiccuping explosively with every word she spoke.

She was obviously in no condition to do her work properly, and was told so in no uncertain way. Whereupon she 'downed tools' instantly—in her case that meant dropping a cake of soap—demanded 'her time' and took herself off, muttering vengeance, with her hat all askew.

The next day the Liquid Fuel Board received a badly scrawled anonymous letter informing them the people at 17 Boomerang terrace had a large store of petrol in their garage, hidden under sacks.

That same afternoon two grim-faced men from the board arrived at Todhunter's house and, stating where they came from, demanded to go over the garage. His wife, who answered the door, realised at once there was no help for it and took them there, hoping against hope they would not notice the sacks. However, they pounced upon them immediately and exposed the row of neatly soldered tins. With a last desperate attempt to put them off, poor Mrs. Mac said the tins contained only water.

"WE are starting for a camping holiday on Saturday," she explained, "and always take our own water with us. When we are away my husband is most particular what water the children drink."

The men half-smiled, and one of them said gravely, "I'm sorry, Madam, but it will be our duty to open them, to see if what you say is correct."

Some three-quarters of an hour later Todhunter arrived home in a state of great jubilation, having acquired no less than three more small packets of mustard. He found his wife lying back in an armchair, looking very pale and exhausted.

"But what's the matter, Mary," he asked anxiously. "Are you feeling ill?"

"Two men from the Liquid Fuel Board have just been," she said brokenly, "and they insisted upon going into the garage."

Todhunter had gone as white as a ghost. "But did they notice the tins?" he asked hoarsely.

"That's all they came for," she nodded. "They knew they were there, and went straight to them at once. That horrible Mrs. Coshey must have given us away out of spite. Of course, she had been spying about and looked under the sacks, but I told the men the tins contained only water which we're taking away with us on our holiday at the week-end. But they didn't believe me, and said they must open them to see."

"And did they open them?" asked Todhunter, hardly able to get out his words and, when she had nodded miserably, he sank down weakly on to the sofa. "Serves me right," he choked. "Now it means disgrace and being turned out of the service. Oh. what a fool I've been!"

His wife was half-crying and half-laughing. "Yes, you have," she cried hysterically, "and such, a big one, too."

Then, to his amazement, she darted over to him and threw her arms round his neck. "But I won't punish you any more, dear," she went on, "though I wanted to scare you just a little, so that you shouldn't be so silly again. No, you're not going to be disgraced and everything is all right."

"But what do you mean?" he voiced. "You've just said they opened the tins."

"And so they did," she cried, "but they found that all they had got in them——" she paused dramatically—"was what I had said they had, just water, plain water!" She laughed merrily. "Oh, you great gaby, that black-market petrol man had cheated you and you paid him £9 for six tins of water!"

Todhunter tried hard to feel furious, but his relief was so great that he had difficulty in preventing himself from crying.

"Yes, and you should have seen their faces." his wife went on. "At first they looked thunderstruck, and were furious with me for laughing. Then, though I am sure they suspected something fishy, they had to laugh, too, and, in the end, off they went, apologising to me most politely for the annoyance they had given."

Todhunter is a reformed character now, and no longer has any dealings with the black market. Also, the provision shops know him no more. However, he is always on the look-out for the man who sold him those tins of water, though should he meet him he is not quite certain what he will do—give him a black eye or offer to stand him a drink.


THE HATTON GARDEN CRIME

Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 17 March 1945

FOR many years Reuben Leyden had been one of the best-known diamond dealers in Hatton Garden and it was said that, almost fabulous sums of money had at times, in the course of a few minutes, changed hands in his modest suite of rooms. Of a shrewd and intellectual countenance, he was a rather frail-looking small man of slight physique. He had a peculiar melodious voice, with just the trace of Dutch accent in his speech. His office staff consisted of three girl clerks and a burly pugilistic attendant. This latter was always well within call.

One morning two new clients called at Leyden's place of business. Both men were about middle age.

One was tall and aristocratic looking, smartly, and even foppishly dressed, and sporting a large monocle. The other, of much heavier build, was well-dressed, too, his right arm, however, with the hand swathed in a thick bandage, was carried in a sling.

"I want to see Mr. Leyden," drawled the tall man to the pugilistic attendant who had come forward. "I'm Sir Francis Bessington," and he handed over his visiting card. The attendant looked questioningly at the second man. "Major von Swartz," snapped the latter in gutteral tones. "We are friends."

The card was taken into the inner office, and, a few seconds later, the two visitors were ushered into Reuben Leyden, who was seated behind a big table desk. The attendant followed them, and, after pushing to the door, but not closing it, seated himself down at a small desk in a corner of the room, and began busying himself with some papers. He had an automatic pistol in his pocket. Leyden never took any chances with strangers.

Acknowledging the dealer's good morning with a curt nod, Sir Francis produced a fair-sized diamond from some cotton-wool in a small box and handed it across the desk.

"I want to know what you'll match this stone for," he said.

Leyden motioned them both to chairs, and proceeded to examine the diamond under a powerful magnifying glass. "It is a goot stone," he remarked presently, "quite a goot stone."

"Of course it is," snapped the men with the bandaged hand, "and I know something about diamonds, as I lived in Johannesburg for a couple of years." He added rudely, "I've come here with my friend to make sure he pays no extortionate price."

Leyden smiled. "No one pays me an extortionate price," he said gently. "I'm quite a fair dealer," and pulling a glass case containing some fine scales before him, he proceeded to weigh the diamond carefully. "Yes, I can match it," he said, and rising from his chair, he passed out of sight into a small inner room leading out of his office.

Returning very quickly with a small cardboard box in his hand, from some tissue paper he spilled about a dozen glittering stones on to a small square of black velvet, which he had taken from a drawer in the desk. After some consideration, he picked out one and placed it side by side with the one Sir Francis had brought with him. "It will cost you £110," he said. "As I told you, yours is a goot stone, but mine is even a little better."

"Too much," snapped the German. "You must take off £20." He turned to Sir Francis and spoke rapidly in his own tongue. "The price is quite reasonable, but we must beat him down. I'll do all the arguing because you are always such a fool in making a bargain."

"Ja, ja," nodded Sir Francis.

He could not have continued the conversation further in German as 'Ja' and 'Nein' were the only words he knew.

Von Swartz turned back to the dealer. "Yes, we offer you £90."

The dealer shook his head. "But I cannot sell at that price. You are getting goot value at £110, the best of values."

"Let's have your magnifying glass," said the German. "It's a bit awkward for me with this poisoned hand." He examined the stone carefully, and then asked, "Been all your life in diamonds, I suppose?"

"All my life," nodded the dealer. "And my family, for four generations, have been all cutters or dealers." He spoke proudly. "It was my father who cut the great Cullinan diamond for His Majesty King Edward VII. He was more than two years on the work."

Von Swartz looked more amiable, and finally it was agreed to pay the sum asked.

The two then took their leave, with the intimation that they might be returning in a day or two for some more stones, as Sr Francis was intending to make up a necklace. The attendant was asked to call a taxi, and given half a crown as a tip.

Driving away, the German, speaking now in much less gutteral tones, asked rather anxiously. "Well, do you think you can do it, Matt?"

"Sure, after a little practice at home," grinned the other, and he added in a good imitation of the dealer's voice, "It is a goot stone, and I cannot sell for less." He laughed. "But do you think he understood what you said in German?"

"Of course he did," replied von Swartz. "I tell you I know for certain he lived for some time in Stuttgart and that his wife's a German."

He nodded. "What I said then would convince him we were just ordinary buyers."

The following day the two returned again, and with the attendant a witness of the transaction, bought another diamond, this time paying £130 for a slightly bigger one.

They seemed much more friendly now, and as if they no longer thought they were going to be cheated. "And some time within the next month or so," drawled the man who was passing himself off as Sir Francis Bessington, "I may be bringing you the necklace for which I am wanting these new stones." He sighed heavily. "The ladies are deuced expensive, particularly the extra pretty ones."

Out in the street again, the man who had called himself von Swartz said confidently, "Now, next time I shall be very surprised if the old devil keeps that ugly brute of an attendant in the room. Jews are naturally secretive, and he won't like the man seeing too much of what business he is doing and guessing at the big profits he must be making."

He shook his head vexatiously. "Still, until he is cleared out we can't do a thing."

Two days later they were back in the dealer's office, and they cursed deeply when the attendant prepared to take up his accustomed seat. However, Leyden made a slight adjustment to the position of the ink well upon his desk, and, that being an arranged signal, to the great relief of the two visitors, the man at once proceeded to leave the room. Still, he only pulled the door to and did not quite close it.

Very soon quite a good assortment of diamonds were spread out upon the dealer's little square of black velvet, and he was pointing out their beauty and value. The German had moved up closer to the desk table to get a better view.

Then, suddenly, von Swartz's injured hand slipped from its bandage and, quick as the strike of a snake, had shot out over the desk and gripped the dealer fiercely by the throat. The latter had not had the very fraction of a second's warning, and he uttered no cry and made no sound as the German threw himself over the desk and lifted him bodily out of his chair. The strange thing, however, was that it seemed the dealer was still talking, and even in slightly louder tones than before.

"But they are goot stones," came his melodious voice, "and the best that money can buy."

With the Jew black in the face, and now quite unconscious, von Swartz laid him noiselessly upon the floor and, slipping on a pair of gloves, darted into the little inner room where the precious stones were always kept.

"But you must really knock off £100, Mr. Leyden," came the slow, drawling voice of Sir Francis, "and then we'll call it a deal." And the voice of the dealer answered back that he could not possibly reduce his price.

Then for some minutes an imaginary conversation was carried on, with the rumble of the voices clearly audible in the adjoining room.

The dual speaker had nerves of steel, and his voice never trembled, but for all that, his face had blanched a horrid sickly colour, and his forehead was pricked out in little beads of sweat. Success or failure was now balanced on the razor's edge, and everything depended upon what happened in the next few minutes.

There—uncovered for all to see—was the dreadful face of the throttled dealer, while a bare 10 yards away, and with an unclosed door between sat the all unconscious office staff.

Another caller arriving to see the dealer, a message for him on the phone, and dammit! It would mean death on the scaffold for them both! That fool, Bert, had such a heavy hand, and it was any odds the Jew was dead!

The German reappeared at last, patting his pockets significantly, and his voice was now heard in the brief conversation which ensued.

It seemed a bargain was quickly struck and the money passed over. Leyden was heard bidding his customers good-bye, and von Swartz came smilingly into the outer office. Sir Francis, however, lingered for half a minute or so at the open door of the dealer's room, laughingly chiding Leyden for having extorted so much good money for a few paltry stones.

Then came the critical moment as Sir Francis pulled to Leyden's door, and the two companions prepared to leave the building. As once before, the attendant was asked to call a taxi, and it happened a disengaged one was found close by. Another half-crown tip was passed over, and the attendant stood on the pavement watching them drive away.

A quarter of an hour passed, and then one of the girls went in to her employer to inquire if she could now go out for her lunch. What she saw when she entered the room, however, quite took away all desire for food.

* * * *

ONE morning some three weeks later the Chief Commissioner of Police was talking to one of the head detective-inspectors of Scotland Yard.

The latter seemed in a very despondent mood. "And as far as I can see, sir," he said, "there seems little hope now of picking up any clue. Beyond that the murderers must have been in close touch with Sir Francis Bessington, as evidenced by their making use of one of his stolen visiting cards the very morning after he had left Southampton for the United States we have found out practically nothing. We have uncovered no trace of any foreigner he knew whose description would answer to that of the supposed Major von Swartz, and the identity of the other killer is equally as unknown. Yes, we are completely at a dead end."

"It's unfortunate," sighed the Commissioner, "as the newspapers are so very vicious and clamouring for our blood."

Now it happened that at that very moment when this disconsolate conversion was taking place at Scotland Yard two men had just arrived at Euston to catch the Scotch express. They had booked for Glasgow and looked just ordinary men, tourists it might have been, off upon a holiday. One was tall and slim, and the other of much stouter build.

Just from force of habit, perhaps, they glanced round quickly, as they entered a first-class carriage.

No one appeared to be interested in them, and no one, apparently, gave them a second thought.

Taking two corner seats opposite each other by the window, it seemed they were going to have the compartment to themselves, but a minute or two before the train started an elderly and rather distinguished-looking old gentleman with white hair entered hurriedly and took possession of a corner seat on the corridor side.

He was followed immediately by another man, obviously his servant and probably his butler, in ordinary clothes. This latter placed a small suitcase upon the rack, handed his master a small handbag and a rug, and mouthed rather than asked if he could do anything more.

The old gentleman shook his head and, taking a magazine out of his bag, at once proceeded to read. Whereupon his servant turned to the other two occupants of the carriage and said most respectfully:

"My master is stone deaf, gentlemen, and could not hear if a gun were fired off right under his ear. So, if anyone comes to see his ticket will you very kindly explain to the collector that he must nudge him to attract his attention."

The two men said smilingly that they would.

The train started upon its long journey without anyone else coming into the carriage and the two companions, evidently in high spirits and thinking it a good joke, began to chip the deaf old gentleman.

They called him 'Old Snoozer,' and asked him where he'd left his best girl. Then they addressed him by names which were by no means polite, suggesting that his parentage, at any rate upon his mother's side, was a matter he would no doubt like to forget. They remarked, too, that he looked 'a hardened old whats-er-name,' and shook with merriment at their own wit.

Getting tired of their play at last, they left him alone and talked between themselves.

The old gentleman read on for some time, and then, probably for a change of occupation, put down his magazine and, taking a pad out of his bag, proceeded to write.

The whole time he never once lifted his eyes or took the very slightest notice of the two men. At Crewe the inspector came to examine the tickets, and it seemed that the old gentleman was not only deaf, but also very stupid, as for a long time he could not remember where he had put his ticket.

At last, however the inspector found it for him among the muddled-up papers in his bag. The old gentleman then handed over a tip with a pleasant word of thanks.

Later on more passengers entered the compartment, but nothing out of the ordinary happened until Carlisle was reached, and then, before even the train had been brought to a standstill, a police inspector had swung himself on board and, followed by three men in plainclothes, had hurried along the corridor straight to the compartment containing the old gentleman.

Taking no notice of him, however, he pushed his way in straight up to the two men who had also come on the train at Euston. "I want a word with you two gentlemen," he said sharply, "so will you please come to the stationmaster's office with me at once."

The men gasped in consternation, and then the right hand of the shorter of them darted back to his hip-pocket, but the inspector threw himself upon him and jerked out the hand again which was now seen to be clutching to an automatic. A fierce but brief struggle ensued before the man was secured and carried out.

His companion, as white as death, gave no trouble, and was taken out, too. It was all over very quickly, and, in a few minutes the journey northwards was resumed in the usual way.

The evening of the following day the Chief Commissioner of Police left Scotland Yard in an obviously most cheerful frame of mind.

"Yes, my dear," he said to his wife after dinner, "of course it was a most wonderful piece of luck."

"Though all the credit of their arrests will come to us, every bit of it belongs to old Lord Barnstable."

"But what on earth had it to do with him?" asked his wife.

"Everything," laughed the Commissioner, "for it was he who landed them high and dry into our net. It was like this:

"It appears that when upon a train journey the old boy has a perfect horror of being drawn into boring conversations with other travellers, and so, when his man had fixed him up in a seat he has orders to tell anyone else in the carriage that his master is stone deaf, and will they very kindly explain that to any ticket collector who comes round."

"This happened yesterday, when his lordship took his seat in the Scotch Express. His man told the tale to two men, the only other passengers in the carriage. Then when the train had started upon its journey, these men, as a vulgar sort of joke, began abusing his lordship and calling him all sorts of unpleasant names, quite sure, of course, that he wouldn't hear a word.

"Presently, the joke beginning to wear a bit thin, they took to discussing their own affairs, and his lordship pricked up his ears when they began talking about the Hatton Garden murder. In a few minutes he was quite certain the crime had been their work, and that they were then actually carrying the diamonds on them. They even mentioned the name of the fence in Glasgow they were taking them to."

"But how could they have been so stupid!" exclaimed his wife.

The Commissioner laughed. "We learnt later they had shared a large bottle of champagne at the refreshment buffet at Euston before getting on the train, and it was that, no doubt, which was making them so lively. At any rate, to go on with the story, his lordship stopped reading and started writing letters. He wrote three as a blind.

"Then when the ticket inspectors came round at the Crewe, His Lordship pretended to be very muddled and unable to find his ticket, and it ended in the inspector helping him to go through the bag.

"There—right on the top of some papers—the man saw an envelope addressed to the stationmaster at Crewe and marked in big letters, 'Urgent—very urgent. Deliver instantly.'

"Fortunately, in bending over the bag, the inspector had had his back turned to the two men at the other end of the carriage, and in consequence they did not see him pick up the envelope. Within five minutes the stationmaster was phoning us at the Yard. Lord Barnstable's word was good enough for us, and we got ready to arrest the men at Carlisle."

He chuckled. "And now, as His Lordship refuses to allow the part he played to become known, as I say, we shall get all the credit, and the public may never learn how we were helped."

"But who were the men?" asked his wife.

"One was a fourth-rate provincial actor, and the other whom we believe to have been the actual killer because of his strength, was the cloakroom attendant at the Ormonde, Sir Francis Bessington's favourite club."

The Commissioner frowned. "Ah, but for one little false step at that club we should have been right on the bullseye, and perhaps have uncovered the wretches ourselves.

"Our mistake there was that we looked for a German who would have known Sir Francis was going to America, instead of trying to find a man who SPOKE German. This cloakroom fellow had been a prisoner in Germany for nearly four years during the last war, and spoke the language almost like a native."

His face cleared. "Never mind, all's well that ends well, and I may even get a knighthood out of this, with any luck."


THE BISHOP'S DILEMMA

Illustration

As published in The Mail, Adelaide, 7 August 1948.

NOW there could he no doubt his Right Reverence, Matthew Bossington-Brown, Bishop of Mungalatoo, was of a decided and masterful personality. Of strong evangelistic principles, he ruled his diocese, if not with the proverbial rod of iron, at least with a rod of the new plastic material in every way as hard and unbending. He exacted an implicit obedience from all his clergy, and woe betide one who wanted to wear a biretta, officiate in too ornate vestments, or indulge in any practices he considered to be too ritualistic in their tendencies.

His powers of organisation were excellent; he allowed no slackness; at all times he was grimly determined to make his denomination a vital force in the community. A strict moralist, he was old-fashioned in many of his ideas. He hated to see women smoking, he disapproved strongly of lip-stick, a painted face was his abomination. He thought short skirts cheapening to the sex and, indeed, all attenuated garments found ill-favor in his sight. Out of step with the latter-day world, he nevertheless practised all he preached, and, accordingly, if not particularly well-liked, he was greatly respected. With no children, he was married to a prim and rather austere-looking woman a few years older than himself.

In the early sixties, in appearance, Mr. Bishop was tall and gaunt. He had big fierce eyes under bushy brows and was clean-shaven except for well-trimmed short whiskers. He was always impeccably dressed as if he had just come straight from his clerical tailor.

One hot and sultry Monday morning he set out in his car to return home from a weekend spent in a small town some 200 miles up-country. He had been holding confirmation and it could not be said everything had gone off to his satisfaction. There should, he thought, have been more candidates to be confirmed, the offertories should have been larger, and altogether that the vicar was not zealous enough in his work. Apart from church matters, too, the arrangements made for his stay at the vicarage had not pleased him.

The cooking had been bad and given him indigestion, the table manners of the vicar's seven offspring had been disgusting, and, worst of all, the vicar's pigs had greatly annoyed him. Their sty was unduly close to the house, and not only did their fearsome odor penetrate strongly up to his bedroom, but also their grunting and snorting had kept him awake the greater part of the night.

On the Sunday morning he had complained about the horrid animals and been assured they should trouble him no more the next night, as they had been removed to a shed some distance away. However, the brutes had somehow managed to escape, and, unawed by the episcopal wrath, long before it was light had begun rooting noisily in the flower bed actually under his very window. There had been no more sleep for him then. The only consolation he had had was in realising what havoc the pigs must have made in the vicarage garden.

Irritable and cross, the bishop was very glad to say good-bye after breakfast, though it was certainly a dreadful morning to be starting upon his long journey back home. Not a breath of air was stirring, and, though no sun was shining, the heat was terrific. The sky was black and low, and he had been warned to get on to the bitumen, nearly 100 miles away, as quickly as possible, as there were all signs of a big rain developing.

A few miles upon his journey he was in a bath of perspiration from head to foot, and his clerical attire was altogether too much for him. So, the road being lonely and unfrequented, he pulled up his car and stripped off his outer garments, collar, episcopal gaiters, and all. These he folded tidily and thrust in his suitcase, donning in their stead a pair of rather oily overalls, which he always carried with him in case he had to change a tyre, and a light dustcoat which he buttoned up to his chin. Thus attired, he told himself he looked anything but the high and important church dignitary he was. But he did not expect to have to get out of the car again until he had driven it right into his own garage.

Much more comfortable now, he was making quick progress until a few miles farther on, when a man, standing by a stationary car, hailed him, and he had to stop. The man said his car had broken down and might take a long time to put right, so would the bishop very kindly give a lift to a young woman passenger as far as a railway station, about 10 miles up the road.

The bishop looked at the young woman who had now got out of the stranded car. His immediate impression was by no means a pleasant one. She was of the type he so disliked, very short-skirted, all painted up, and with an impudent smile upon her pert little face. Of course, he could not refuse, however, and so her suitcase was bundled into the back of the car next to his own, and with all the assurance in the world she took her seat beside him.

As he had surmised from her appearance, there was nothing backward about the young woman. She started at once to open up a lively and intimate conversation, at least on her side, as the bishop spoke as little as he could. Presently, she remarked she loved dancing, and asked him if he did not, too.

"And how do you know I have ever danced at all?" he asked with a frown.

"Of course you have," she giggled. "I'll bet you've been a gay old dog in your time. You look like one now," and she went on to expatiate upon the many dances she had been to, and the good times she had had with her boys. The bishop was scandalised, and devoutly thankful when the railway station was reached and he could drop her and her suitcase.

Then, only a few miles farther on, his troubles began. The skies opened and the rain came down, almost in a solid sheet of water so it seemed. Very soon the car began to slither and slide, and the bishop had the greatest difficulty in keeping to the road. Every minute the going got worse and worse, and in the two ensuing hours he barely made 30 miles. Twice he got stuck, and with difficulty extricated himself in reverse and went on again.

At length, just as he was realising he would not be able to plough his way through the heavy going much longer, he saw a small hotel just beyond a wide sheet of water covering the entire breadth of the road. He thought it was impossible for him to get through, but, accelerating fiercely, he just managed it, and drew up in a state of exhaustion before the hotel door.

Quite a number of people on the hotel verandah had been watching him and shouting encouragement to come on, with one of them, he saw, taking snaps of him as he arrived. The landlord of the hotel came forward and told him where his car should be parked.

"You're lucky I can give you a room," said the man. "I've got a crowd stuck up here already and you're about the last I can take in."

"But I only want to stop until the rain is over," frowned the bishop, "I hope to go on again this afternoon."

"You won't do that," laughed the man grimly, "and I shouldn't like to say when the roads'll be fit for motors again. We've been having tremendous rain. Some of the telephone poles are already down and we're cut off from everywhere. What is your name?" He caught the last syllable. "Then come in, Mr. Brown, I'll show you to your room." Carrying his suit case, the bishop followed him to the back of the building.

Left to himself, the bishop took off his dustcoat with the intention, after a good wash, of resuming his clerical clothes. Then, suddenly, he smelt a peculiar odor, one he had smelt so often upon hot evenings in the cathedral, the smell of face powder and scent.

It seemed to come from the direction of his suitcase which he had thrown upon the bed. Very puzzled, he proceeded to undo the straps. Throwing back the lid, right on the top was a woman's nightdress, blue with dainty pink ribbons. Not crediting the evidence of his eyes, he snatched up the garment, and to his horror came upon two pairs of scanties underneath. He knew what they were instantly from the obscene advertisements of certain city departmental stores which had often caught his eyes in the daily newspapers.

His breath almost choked as he realised what had happened. He had given that horrid girl his suitcase instead of hers. They were so much alike, and in his haste to get rid of her he could understand the mistake. Great heavens! then he was landed among strange people in this awful little public house with nothing but the things he stood up in—no clerical clothes, no shaving apparatus, no comb or hairbrush, nothing at all!

But his equanimity soon returned. It was most annoying, but really what did it matter? He would have to go on wearing just what he had got on, but in all probability, among the other people held up in the hotel his attire would be nothing out of the way. They would be just country folk who were accustomed to go about in anything and, not crediting the hotel-keeper's gloomy forecast of the weather, it might be only for a few hours and he would be off again in the morning. He would tell no one who he was, and so far from the city, particularly as he was not in clerical clothes, it was hardly likely he would be recognised. He would not say anything about the changed suitcases either, because if it got in the newspapers it might easily bring ridicule upon the cloth.

The midday meal was taken at a long table in the crowded little dining room. There were 10 others there, and though some of them were well dressed, as he had expected, they looked just very ordinary people, and not of the cultured class. He was just given a general good-day, and then no one took any more notice of him. He made no attempt to join in the conversation as it didn't interest him, being all about the splendid rain, crops, the price of sheep, and horse racing.

He spent a very boring afternoon, looking out of the window at the still pouring rain. There appeared to be no books in the hotel, no reading matter at all except some out-of-date daily newspapers. Some of the others played cards, but not being a card player, he did not join in. To the few remarks made to him, he gave only curt responses, and continued to be left alone.

One of the other people staying there was a stout, red-faced man, who, the landlord whispered, was one of the most important men in the State, "Sid Stevens, our biggest bookmaker! You could win a couple of thousand from him and he wouldn't turn a hair," the landlord said. The bishop sighed deeply as he thought of the public estimation of the values of the various services rendered to them.

The next morning the rain was still falling, and the hotel was now surrounded by a wide belt of water. It was an uncomfortable day for the bishop. He was unkempt and unshaven because, fearful of infection, he would not beg the loan of a razor from anyone. He knew from their covert glances in his direction that some of the other guests were becoming curious about him. He was quite aware his was a face which looked shocking when he had not shaved, even for one day.

That evening came a dreadful happening. For a few minutes the bishop experienced perhaps the most worried moments of his life.

They had just sat down to the evening meal when the last to arrive was a flashy, overdressed woman, whose make-up had often offended the bishop's eye. She came in with a white and frightened face, closely followed by the landlord. The latter pushed to the door behind him and announced hoarsely, "Ladies and gentlemen, a dreadful thing has happened in my hotel. Someone has stolen this lady's pearl necklace, which she values at £700. We have a thief among us here."

A startled silence filled the room. All eyes were upon the landlord. He went on sternly. "Yes, I regret to say the thief must be one of you here. It is impossible my wife or I could have taken the necklace, and our two helps are my cousins, and have been with me for more than 10 years. Also——"

"One moment," broke in the bookmaker, sharply, "when was the necklace stolen?"

"It must have been this afternoon," said the owner of the necklace, almost in tears. "I saw it in the drawer in my wardrobe just after lunch, and 10 minutes ago I found it had gone."

The landlord went on. "Now, no one from outside the hotel can have taken it, because the floodwaters would have prevented anyone getting near the place." He looked most distressed. "So I must ask you all to allow yourselves and your luggage to be searched."

"Well, that's simple," said a commercial traveller, "and no one can object."

The bishop went icy cold in horror. Search the suitcase in his room and find him in possession of those awful female garments! Suppose it came out later who he was and the newspapers got hold of the story—what a disgrace it would be to the church!

He spoke up quickly, to scotch the idea at once. "Nonsense," he exclaimed, "the necklace can't have been taken! The lady has just mislaid it. Let her look again." His voice was firm. "I, for one, refuse to be searched."

Everyone looked astounded and several called out at once, "But why not?"

"Because," said the bishop coldly—he looked round scornfully—"I am a clergyman and the search would be degrading to my cloth."

A moment's gasp of astonishment, and the atmosphere of the room became almost hilarious. What, this unshaven, unkempt fellow a clergyman! This grubby-looking extraordinary dressed individual a——!

"Unfrocked?" asked one man, trying to be funny.

"Test him out," cried another. "Let him say the Ten Commandments."

The bishop's face was black with anger, but what his retort would have been will never be known, for the door burst open and the landlord's wife came running quickly into the room. "It's found!" she exclaimed excitedly. "My little girl—she's only three—had taken it to bed with her. Oh, I'm so sorry."

It was some minutes before anyone had quietened down, except the bishop, who had at once calmly resumed his soup. The bookmaker spoke up smilingly. "Look here," he said, indicating the bishop, "whoever this gentleman may be, some of us have not been over-polite to him, and I should like to make some amends." He raised his voice. "Landlord, bring half a dozen bottles of your best champagne." The commercial traveller led the applause which followed.

The bishop had full command of the occasion. "And let this be a lesson to you good people," he said, in his best pontifical manner, "not to judge anyone by appearances. You see me as I am now, because, unhappily, I lost my luggage in that storm." And that was all they could get out of him, even after two glasses of champagne.

The rain stopped at last and a strong, drying wind sprang up. With all prospects of resuming his journey the following afternoon, the bishop thought his troubles were practically over. Alas, however, another bad one was yet come. In the morning after breakfast all the marooned travellers were standing about on the verandah, rejoicing in a hot sun which was quickly drying up the roads, when a horse and trap with four people headed past the hotel.

Suddenly an excited voice called shrilly, "Stop, stop, there's the old guy who went off with my beautiful nightie and all my other things." The bishop, to his horror, realised the voice came from the girl whose suitcase he had got in his room.

Very red in the face, he brought the suitcase out, but the excited girl would insist upon opening it then and there in front of them all to make sure her belongings were intact. In a loud voice and to a highly interested audience, she proceeded to relate what had happened. However, she accompanied the explanation with so many nods and grins that several of those present were half inclined to believe she was not telling the whole story.

Then, to crown all, the man who had been driving the trap, after staring hard at the bishop for some minutes, suddenly recognised him and addressed him by name. He assured him that the episcopal suitcase was quite safe and at a certain railway station all ready to be despatched to the city. The hotel guests were staggered, but several of them were quick to try to make out to one another that all along they had thought the ill-dressed stranger was no ordinary man.

THE poor bishop arrived home that evening, devoutly hoping nothing of his adventure would become public property. Alas, it did, and the following week the issue of a scandal-loving newspaper proceeded to entertain its readers with a spicy story of a highly placed ecclesiastic—it mentioned no name—who was found in possession of certain most intimate female garments upon arriving solo at a country hotel.

The bishop was certain everyone guessed who the ecclesiastic was, and, in consequence, was by no means gratified at the large congregations which, for many weeks after, gathered in every church where it had been announced he was going to preach.


THE END

Project Gutenberg Australia