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The Bittermeads Mystery by E. R. Punshon

Part 2 out of 4

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Doubtful and afraid, Deede Dawson stood hesitant. His forehead had
become very damp, and he wiped it with a nervous gesture.

"Is that your name - your real name?" he muttered.

"Never had another that I know of," Dunn answered.

Deede Dawson sat down again on the chair. He was still plainly
very disturbed and shaken, and Ella seemed scarcely less agitated,
though Dunn, watching them both very keenly, noticed that she was
now looking at Deede Dawson with a somewhat strange expression and
with an air as though his extreme excitement puzzled her and made
her - afraid.

"Nothing wrong with the name, is there?" Dunn muttered again.

"No, no," Deede Dawson answered. "No. It's merely a coincidence,
that's all. A coincidence, I suppose, Ella?"

Ella did not answer. Her expression was very troubled and full of
doubt as she stood looking from her stepfather to Dunn and back

"It's only that your name happens to be the same as that of a friend
of ours - a great friend of my daughter's," Deede Dawson said as
though he felt obliged to offer some explanation. "That's all - a
coincidence. It startled me for the moment." He laughed. "That's
all. Well, my man, it happens there is something I can make you
useful in. If you do prove useful and do what I tell you, perhaps
you may get let off. I might even keep you on in a job. I won't
say I will, but I might. You look a likely sort of fellow for work,
and I daresay you aren't any more dishonest than most people. Funny
how things happen - quite a coincidence, your name. Well, come on;
it's that packing-case you saw in the attic upstairs. I want you
to help me downstairs with that - Charley Wright."



Robert Dunn was by no means sure that he was not going to his death
as he went out of Ella's room on his way to the attics above, for
he had perceived a certain doubt and suspicion in Deede Dawson's
manner, and he thought it very likely that a fatal intention lay

But he obeyed with a brisk promptitude of manner, like one who saw
a prospect of escape opening before him, and as he went he saw that
Ella had relapsed into her former indifference and was once more
giving all her attention to bathing her wrists with eau-de-Cologne;
and he saw, too, that Deede Dawson, following close behind, kept
always his revolver ready.

"Perhaps he only wants to get me out of her way before he shoots,"
he reflected. "Perhaps there is room in that packing-case for two.
It will be strange to die. Shall I try to rush him? But he would
shoot at once, and I shouldn't have a chance. One thing, if
anything happens to me, no one will ever know what's become of poor

And this seemed to him a great pity, so that he began to form
confused and foolish plans for securing that his friend's fate
should become known.

With a sudden start, for he had not known he was there, he found
himself standing on the threshold of that attic of death. It was
quite dark up here, and from behind Deede Dawson's voice told him
impatiently to enter.

He obeyed, wondering if ever again he would cross that threshold
alive, and Deede Dawson followed him into the dark attic so that
Dunn was appalled by the man's rashness, for how could he tell that
his victim would not take this opportunity to rise up from the
place where he had been thrust and take his revenge?

"What an idea," he thought to himself. "I must be going dotty, it's
the strain of expecting a bullet in my back all the time, I suppose.
I was never like this before."

Deede Dawson struck a match and put it to a gas-jet that lighted up
the whole room. Between him and Dunn lay the packing-case, and Dunn
was surprised to see that it was still there and that nothing had
changed or moved; and then again he said to himself that this was a
foolish thought only worthy of some excitable, hysterical girl.

"It's being too much for me," he thought resignedly. "I've heard
of people being driven mad by horror. I suppose that's what's
happening to me."

"You look - queer," Deede Dawson's voice interrupted the confused
medley of his thoughts. "Why do you look like that - Charley

Dunn looked moodily across the case in which the body of the
murdered man was hidden to where the murderer stood.

After a pause, and speaking with an effort, he said:

"You'd look queer if some one with a pistol was watching you all
the time the way you watch me."

"You do what I tell you and you'll be all right," Deede Dawson
answered. "You see that packing-case?"

Dunn nodded.

"It's big enough," he said.

"Would you like to know?" asked Deede Dawson slowly with his slow,
perpetual smile. "Would you like to know what's in it - Charley

And again Dunn was certain that a faint suspicion hung about those
last two words, and that his life and death hung very evenly in
the balance.

"Silver, you said," he muttered. "Didn't you?"

"Ah, yes - yes - to be sure," answered Deede Dawson. "Yes, so I
did. Silver. I want the lid nailed down. There's a hammer and
nails there. Get to work and look sharp."

Dunn stepped forward and began to set about a task that was so
terrible and strange, and that yet he had, at peril of his life - at
peril of more than that, indeed - to treat as of small importance.

Standing a little distance from the lighted gas-jet, Deede Dawson
watched him narrowly, and as Dunn worked he was very sure that to
betray the least sign of his knowledge would be to bring instantly
a bullet crashing through his brain.

It seemed curious to him that he had so carefully replaced
everything after making his discovery, and that without any
forethought or special intention he had put back everything so
exactly as he had found it when the slightest neglect or failure
in that respect would most certainly have cost him his life.

And he felt that as yet he could not afford to die.

One by one he drove in the nails, and as he worked at his gruesome
task he heard the faintest rustle on the landing without - the
faintest sound of a soft breath cautiously drawn in, of a light
foot very carefully set down.

Deede Dawson plainly heard nothing; indeed, no ear less acute and
less well-trained than Dunn's could have caught sounds that were so
slight and low, but he, listening between each stroke of his hammer,
was sure that it was Ella who had followed them, and that she
crouched upon the landing without, watching and listening.

Did that mean, he wondered, that she, too, knew? Or was it merely
natural curiosity; hostile in part, perhaps, since evidently the
relations between her and her stepfather were not too friendly - a
desire to know what task there could be in the attics so late at
night for which Deede Dawson had such need of his captive's help?

Or was it by any chance because she wished to know how things went
with him, and what was to be his fate?

In any case, Dunn was sure that Ella had followed then, and was on
the landing without.

He drove home the last nail and stood up. "That's done," he said.

"And well done," said Deede Dawson. "Well done - Charley Wright."

He spoke the name softly and lingeringly, and then all at once he
began to laugh, a low and somewhat dreadful laughter that had in it
no mirth at all, and that sounded horrible and strange in the chill
emptiness of the attic.

Leaning one hand on the packing-case that served as the coffin of
his dead friend, Dunn swore a silent oath to exact full retribution,
and henceforth to put that purpose on a level with the mission on
which originally he had come.

Aloud, and in a grumbling tone he said:

"What's the matter with my name? It's a name like any other. What's
wrong with it?"

"What should there be?" flashed Deede Dawson in reply.

"I don't know," Dunn answered. "You keep repeating it so, that's all."

"It's a very good name," Deede Dawson said. "An excellent name.
But it's not suitable. Not here." He began to laugh again and then
stopped abruptly.

"Do you know, I think you had better choose another?" he said.

"It's all one to me," declared Dunn. "If Charley Wright don't suit,
how will Robert Dunn do? I knew a man of that name once."

"It's a better name than Charley Wright," said Deede Dawson. "We'll
call you Robert Dunn - Charley Wright. Do you know why I can't have
you call yourself Charley Wight?"

Dunn shook his head.

"Because I don't like it," said Deede Dawson. "Why, that's a name
that would drive me mad," he muttered, half to himself.

Dunn did not speak, but he thought this was a strange thing for the
other to say and showed that even he, cold and remorseless and
without any natural feeling, as he had seemed to be, yet had about
him still some touch of humanity.

And as he mused on this, which seemed to him so strange, though
really it was not strange at all, his attentive ears caught the
sound of a soft step without, beginning to descend the stairs.

Had that name, then, been more than she also could bear?

If so, she must know.

"I don't see why, I don't see what's wrong with it," he said aloud.
"But Robert Dunn will suit me just as well."

"All a matter of taste," said Deede Dawson, his manner more composed
and natural again.

"It's a funny thing now - suppose my name was Charley Wright, then
there would be two Charley Wrights in this attic, eh? A coincidence,
that would be?"

"I suppose so," answered Dunn. "I knew another man named Charley
Wright once."

"Did you? Where's he?"

"Oh, he's dead," answered Dunn.

Deede Dawson could not repress the start he gave and for a moment
Dunn thought that his suspicions were really roused. He came a
little nearer, his pistol still ready in his hand.

"Dead, is he?" he said. "That's a pity. He's not here, then; but
it would be funny wouldn't it, if there were two Charley Wrights in
one room?"

"I don't know what you mean," Dunn answered. "I think there are
lots of funnier things than that would be."

"That's where you're wrong," retorted Deede Dawson, and he laughed
again, shrilly and dreadfully, a laughter that had in it anything
but mirth.

"Can you carry that packing-case downstairs if I help you get it on
your shoulder?" he asked abruptly.

"It's heavy, but I might," Dunn answered.

He supposed that now it was about to be hidden somewhere and he felt
that he must know where, since that knowledge would mean everything
and enable him to set the authorities to work at once immediately he
could communicate with them.

The weight of the thing taxed even his great strength to the utmost,
but he managed it somehow, and bending beneath his burden, he
descended the stairs to the hall and then, following the orders
Deede Dawson gave him from behind, out into the open air.

He was nearly exhausted when at last his task-master told him he
could put it down as he stood still for a minute or two to recover
his breath and strength.

The night was not very dark, for a young moon was shining in a clear
sky, and it appeared to Dunn, as he felt his strength returning,
that now at last he might find an opportunity of making an attack
upon his captor with some chance of success.

Hitherto, in the house, in the bright glare of the gas lights, he
had known that the first suspicious movement he made would have
ensured his being instantly and remorselessly shot down, his mission

But here in the open air, in the night that the moon illumined but
faintly, it was different, and as he watched for his opportunity he
felt that sooner or later it was sure to come.

But Deede Dawson was alert and wary, his pistol never left his hand,
he kept so well on his guard he gave Dunn no opening to take him
unawares, and Dunn did not wish to run too desperate a chance,
since he was sure that sooner or later one giving fair chance of
success would present itself.

"Do you want it carried any further?" he asked. "It's very heavy."

"I suppose you mean you're wondering what's in it?" said Deede
Dawson sharply.

"It's nothing to me what's in it - silver or anything else,"
retorted Dunn. "Do you want me to carry it further, that's all I

"No," answered Deede Dawson. "No, I don't. Do you know, if you
knew what was really in it, you'd be surprised?"

"Very likely," answered Dunn. "Why not?"

"Yes, you would be surprised," Deede Dawson repeated, and suddenly
shouted into the darkness: "Are you ready? Are you ready there?"

Dunn was very startled, for somehow, he had supposed all along that
Deede Dawson was quite alone.

There was no answer to his call, but after a minute or two there
was the sound of a motor-ear engine starting and then a big car
came gliding forward and stopped in front of them, driven by a form
so muffled in coats and coverings as to be indistinguishable in that
faint light.

"Put the case inside," Deede Dawson said. "I'll help you."

With some trouble they succeeded in getting the case in and Deede
Dawson covered it carefully with a big rug.

When he had done so he stepped back.

"Ready, Ella?" he said.

"Yes," answered the girl's soft and low voice that already Dunn
could have sworn to amidst a thousand others.



"Go ahead, then," said Deede Dawson, and the great car with its
terrible burden shot away into the night.

For a moment or two Deede Dawson stood looking after it, and then
he turned and walked slowly towards the house, and mechanically Dunn
followed, the sole thought in his mind, the one idea of which he was
conscious, that of Ella driving away into the darkness with the dead
body of his murdered friend in the car behind her.

Did she - know? he asked himself. Or was she ignorant of what it
was she had with her?

It seemed to him that that question, hammering itself so awfully
upon his mind and clamouring for an answer, must soon send him mad.

And still before him floated perpetually a picture of long, dark,
lonely roads, of a rushing motor-car driven by a lovely girl, of the
awful thing hidden in the car behind her.

Dully he recognized that the opportunity for which he had watched
and waited so patiently had come and gone a dozen times, for Deede
Dawson had now quite relaxed his former wary care.

It was as though he supposed all danger over, as though in the
reaction after an enormous strain he could think of nothing but the
immediate relief. He hardly gave a single glance at Dunn, whose
faintest movement before had never escaped him. He had even put his
pistol back in his pocket, and at almost any moment Dunn, with his
unusual strength and agility, could have seized and mastered him.

But for such an enterprise Dunn had no longer any spirit, for all
his mind was taken up by that one picture so clear in his thoughts
of Ella in her great car driving the dead man through the night.
"She must know," he said to himself. "She must, or she would never
have gone off like that at that time - she can't know, it's
impossible, or she would never have dared."

And again it seemed to him that this doubt was driving him mad.

Deede Dawson entered the house and got a bottle of whisky and a
syphon of soda-water and mixed himself a drink. For the first time
since Ella's departure he seemed to remember Dunn's presence.

"Oh, there you are," he said.

Dunn did not answer. He stood moodily on the threshold, wondering
why he did not rush upon the other, and with his knee upon his chest,
his hands about his throat, force him to answer the question that
was still whispering, shouting, screaming itself into his ears:

"Does she know what it is she drives with her on that big car through
the black and lonely night?"

"Like a drink?" asked Deede Dawson.

Dunn shook his head, and it came to him that he did not attack Deede
Dawson and force the truth from him because he dared not, because he
was afraid, because he feared what the answer might be.

"There's a tool-shed at the bottom of the garden," Deede Dawson said
to him. "You can sleep there, tonight. You'll find some sacks you
can make a bed of."

Without a word in reply Dunn turned and stumbled away. He felt very
tired - physically exhausted - and the idea of a bed, even of sacks
in an outhouse, became all at once extraordinarily attractive.

He found the place without difficulty, and, making a pile of the
sacks, flung himself down on them and was asleep almost at once.
But almost as promptly he awoke again, for he had dreamed of Ella
driving her car through the night towards some strange peril from
which in his dream he was trying frantically and ineffectively to
save her when he awoke.

So it was all through the night.

His utter and complete exhaustion compelled him to sleep, and every
time some fresh, fantastic dream in which Ella and the huge motor-car
and the dreadful burden she had with her always figured, awoke him
with a fresh start.

But towards morning he fell into a heavy sleep from which presently
he awoke to find it broad daylight and Deede Dawson standing on the
threshold of the shed with his perpetually smiling lips and his
cold, unsmiling eyes.

"Well, my man; had a good sleep?" he said.

"I was tired," Dunn answered.

"Yes, we had a busy night," agreed Deede Dawson. "I slept well,
too. I've been wondering what to do with you. Of course, I ought
to hand you over to the police, and it's rather a risk taking on a
man of your character, but I've decided to give you a chance.
Probably you'll misuse it. But I'll give you an opportunity as
gardener and chauffeur here. You can drive a car, you say?"

Dunn nodded.

"That's all right," said Deede Dawson.

"You shall have your board and lodging, and I'll get you some decent
clothes instead of those rags; and if you prove satisfactory and
make yourself useful you'll find I can pay well. There will be
plenty of chances for you to make a little money - if you know how
to take them."

"When it's money," growled Dunn, "you give me the chance, and see."

"I think," added Deede Dawson, "I think it might improve your looks
if you shaved."

Dunn passed his hand over the tangle of hair that hid his features
so effectually.

"What for?" he asked.

"Oh, well: please yourself," answered Deede Dawson; "I don't know
that it matters, and perhaps you have reasons of your own for
preferring a beard. Come on up to the house now and I'll tell Mrs.
Dawson to give you some breakfast. And you might as well have a
wash, too, perhaps - unless you object to that as well as to shaving."

Dunn rose without answering, made his toilet by shaking off some of
the dust that clung to him, and followed his new employer out of the
tool-house into the open air.

It was a fresh and lovely morning, and coming towards them down one
of the garden paths was Ella, looking as fresh and lovely as the
morning in a dainty cotton frock with lace at her throat and wrists.

That she could possibly have spent the night tearing across country
in a powerful car conveying a dead man to an unknown destination,
appeared to Dunn a clean impossibility, and for a moment he almost
supposed he had been mistaken in thinking he recognized her voice.

But he knew he had not, that he had made no mistake, that it had
indeed been Ella he had seen dash away into the darkness on her
strange and terrible errand.

"Oh, my daughter," said Deede Dawson carelessly, noticing Dunn's
surprise. "Oh, yes, she's back - you didn't expect to see her this
morning. Well, Ella, Dunn's surprised to see you back so soon,
aren't you, Dunn?"

Dunn did not answer, for a kind of vertigo of horror had come upon
him, and for a moment all things revolved about him in a whirling
circle wherein the one fixed point was Ella's gentle lovely face
that sometimes, he thought, had a small round hole with blue edges
in the very centre of the forehead, above the nose.

It was her voice, clear and a little loud, that called him back to

"He's not well," she was saying. "He's going to faint."

"I'm all right," he muttered. "It was nothing, nothing, it's only
that I've had nothing to eat for so long."

"Oh, poor man!" exclaimed Ella.

"Come up to the house," Deede Dawson said.

"Breakfast's ready," Ella said. "Mother told me to find you."

"Has the woman come yet?" Deede Dawson asked. "If she has, you
might tell her to give Dunn some breakfast. I've just been telling
him I'm willing to give him another chance and to take him on as
gardener and chauffeur, so you can keep an eye on him and see if he
works well."

Ella was silent for a moment, but her expression was grave and a
little puzzled as though she did not quite understand this and
wondered what it meant, and when she looked up at her stepfather,
Dunn was certain there was both distrust and suspicion in her manner.

"I suppose," she said then, "last night seemed to you a good
recommendation?" As she spoke she glanced at her wrists where the
bruises still showed, and Deede Dawson's smile broadened.

"One should always be ready to give another chance to a poor fellow
who's down," he said. "He may run straight now he's got an
opportunity. I told him he had better shave, but he seems to think
a beard suits him best. What do you say?"

"Breakfast's waiting," Ella answered, turning away without taking
any notice of the question.

"I'll go in then," said Deede Dawson. "You might show Dunn the way
to the kitchen - his name's Robert Dunn, by the way - and tell Mrs.
Barker to give him something to eat."

"I should think he could find his way there himself," Ella remarked.

But though she made this protest, she obeyed at once, for though she
used a considerable liberty of speech to her stepfather, it was none
the less evident that she was very much afraid of him and would not
be very likely to disobey him or oppose him directly.

"This way," she said to Dunn, and walked on along a path that led
to the hack of the house. Once she stopped and looked hack. She
smiled slightly and disdainfully as she did so, and Dunn saw that
she was looking at a clump of small bushes near where they had been

He guessed at once that she believed Deede Dawson to be behind those
bushes watching them, and when she glanced at him he understood that
she wished him to know it also.

He said nothing, though a faint movement visible in the bushes
convinced him that her suspicions, if, indeed, she had them, were
well-founded, and they walked on in silence, Ella a little ahead,
and Dunn a step or two behind.

The garden was a large one, and had at one time been well cultivated,
but now it was neglected and overgrown. It struck Dunn that if he
was to be the gardener here he would certainly not find himself short
of work, and Ella, without looking round, said to him over her

"Do you know anything about gardening?"

"A little, miss," he answered.

"You needn't call me 'miss,'" she observed. "When a man has tied
a girl to a chair I think he may regard himself as on terms of some
familiarity with her."

"What must I call you?" he asked, and his words bore to himself a
double meaning, for, indeed, what name was it by which he ought to
call her?

But she seemed to notice nothing as she answered "My name is Cayley
- Ella Cayley. You can call me Miss Cayley. Do you know anything
of motoring?"

"Yes," he answered. "Though I never cared much for motoring at night."

She gave him a quick glance, but said no more, and they came almost
immediately to the back door.

Ella opened it and entered, nodding to him to follow, and crossing a
narrow, stone-floored passage, she entered the kitchen where a tall
gaunt elderly woman in a black bonnet and, a course apron was at

"This is Dunn, Mrs. Barker," she called, raising her voice. "He is
the new gardener. Will you give him some breakfast, please?" She
added to Dunn:

"When you've finished, you can go to the garage and wash the car,
and when you speak to Mrs. Barker you must shout. She is quite deaf,
that is why my stepfather engaged her, because he was sorry for her
and wanted to give her a chance, you know... "



When he had finished his breakfast, and after he had had the wash
of which he certainly stood in considerable need, Dunn made his
way to the garage and there occupied himself cleaning the car.
He noticed that the mud with which it was liberally covered was of
a light sandy sort, and he discovered on one of the tyres a small

Apparently, therefore, last night's wild journey had been to the
coast, and it was a natural inference that the sea had provided a
secure hiding-place for the packing-case and its dreadful contents.

But then that meant that there was no evidence left on which he
could take action.

As he busied himself with his task, he tried to think out as clearly
as he could the position in which he found himself and to decide
what he ought to do next.

To his quick and hasty nature the swiftest action was always the
most congenial, and had he followed his instinct, he would have lost
no time in denouncing Deede Dawson. But his cooler thoughts told
him that he dared not do that, since it would be to involve risks,
not for himself, but for others, that he simply dared not contemplate.

He felt that the police, even if they credited his story, which he
also felt that very likely they would not do, could not act on his
sole evidence.

And even if they did act and did arrest Deede Dawson, it was certain
no jury would convict on so strange a story, so entirely

The only result would be to strengthen Deede Dawson's position by
the warning, to show him his danger, and to give him the
opportunity, if he chose to use it, of disappearing and beginning
again his plots and plans after some fresh and perhaps more deadly

"Whereas at present," he mused, "at any rate, I'm here and he
doesn't seem to suspect me, and I can watch and wait for a time,
till I see my way more clearly."

And this decision he came to was a great relief to him, for he
desired very greatly to know more before he acted and in especial
to find out for certain what was Ella's position in all this.

It was Deede Dawson's voice that broke in upon his meditations.

"Ah, you're busy," he said. "That's right, I like to see a man
working hard. I've got some new things for you I think may fi
fairly well, and Mrs. Dawson is going to get one of the attics
ready for you to sleep in.

"Very good, sir," said Dunn.

He wondered which attic was to be assigned to him and if it would
be that one in which he had found his friend's body. He suspected,
too, that he was to be lodged in the house so that Deede Dawson
might watch him, and this pleased him, since it meant that he, in
his turn, would be able to watch Deede Dawson.

Not that there appeared much to watch, for the days passed on and
it seemed a very harmless and quiet life that Deede Dawson lived
with his wife and stepdaughter.

But for the memory, burned into Dunn's mind, of what he had seen
that night of his arrival, he would have been inclined to say that
no more harmless, gentle soul existed than Deede Dawson.

But as it was, the man's very gentleness and smiling urbanity
filled him with a loathing that it was at times all he could do
to control.

The attic assigned to him to sleep in was that where he had made
his dreadful discovery, and he believed this had been done as a
further test of his ignorance, for he was sure Deede Dawson
watched him closely to see if the idea of being there was in any
way repugnant to him.

Indeed at another time he might have shrunk from the idea of
sleeping each night in the very room where his friend had been
foully done to death, but now he derived a certain grim
satisfaction and a strengthening of his nerves for the task that
lay before him.

Only a very few visitors came to Bittermeads, especially now that
Mr. John Clive, who had, come often, was laid up. But one or two
of the people from the village came occasionally, and the vicar
appeared two or three times every week, ostensibly to play chess
with Deede Dawson, but in reality, Dunn thought, drawn there by
Ella, who, however, seemed quite unaware of the attraction she
exercised over the good man.

Dunn did not find that he was expected to do very much work, and in
fact, he was left a good deal to himself.

Once or twice the car was taken out, and occasionally Deede Dawson
would come into the garden and chat with him idly for a few minutes
on indifferent subjects. When it was fine he would often bring out
a little travelling set of chessmen and board and proceed to amuse
himself, working out or composing problems.

One day he called Dunn up to admire a problem he had just composed.

"Pretty clever, eh?" he said, admiring his own work with much
complacence. "Quite an original idea of mine and I think the key
move will take some finding. What do you say? I suppose you do
play chess?"

"Only a very little," answered Dunn.

"Try a game with me," said Deede Dawson, and won it easily, for in
fact, Dunn was by no means a strong player.

His swift victory appeared to delight Deede Dawson immensely.

"A very pretty mate I brought off there against you," he declared.
"I've not often seen a prettier. Now you try to solve that problem
of mine, it's easy enough once you hit on the key move."

Dunn thought to himself that there were other and more important
problems which would soon be solved if only the key move could be

He said aloud that he would try what he could do, and Deede Dawson
promised him half a sovereign if he solved it within a week.

"I mayn't manage it within a week," said Dunn. "I don't say I will.
But sooner or later I shall find it out."

During all this time he had seen little of Ella, who appeared to
come very little into the garden and who, when she did so, avoided
him in a somewhat marked manner.

Her mother, Mrs. Dawson, was a little faded woman, with timid eyes
and a frightened manner. Her health did not seem to be good, and
Ella looked after her very assiduously. That she went in deadly
fear of her husband was fairly evident, though he seemed to treat
her always with great consideration and kindness and even with a
show of affection, to which at times she responded and from which
at other times she appeared to shrink with inexplicable terror.

"She doesn't know," Dunn said to himself. "But she suspects
- something."

Ella, he still watched with the same care and secrecy, and sometimes
he seemed to see her walking amidst the flowers as an angel of
sweetness and laughing innocence; and sometimes he saw her, as it
were, with the shadow of death around her beauty, and behind her
gentle eyes and winning ways a great and horrible abyss.

Of one thing he was certain - her mind was troubled and she was not
at ease; and it was plain, also, that she feared her smiling
soft-spoken stepfather.

As the days passed, too, Dunn grew convinced that she was watching
him all the time, even when she seemed most indifferent, as closely
and as intently as he watched her.

"All watching together," Dunn thought grimly. "It would be simple
enough, I suppose, if one could hit on the key move, but that I
suppose no one knows but Deede Dawson himself. One thing, he can't
very well be up to any fresh mischief while he's lounging about here
like this. I suppose he is simply waiting his time."

As for the chess problem, that baffled him entirely. He said as
much to Deede Dawson, who was very pleased, but would not tell him
what the solution was.

"No, no, find it out for yourself," he said, chuckling with a
merriment in which, for once his cold eyes seemed to take full share.

"I'll go on trying," said Dunn, and it grew to be quite a custom
between them for Deede Dawson to ask him how he was getting on
with the problem; and for Dunn to reply that he was still searching
for the key move.

Several times little errands took Dunn into the village, where,
discreetly listening to the current gossip, he learned that Mr.
John Clive of Ramsdon Place had been injured in an attack made upon
him by a gang of ferocious poachers - at least a dozen in number
- but was making good progress towards recovery.

Also, he found that Mr. John Clive's visits to Bittermeads had not
gone unremarked, or wholly uncriticized, since there was a vague
feeling that a Mr. Clive of Ramsdon Place ought to make a better

"But a pretty face is all a young man thinks of," said the more
experienced; and on the whole, it seemed to be felt that the open
attention Clive paid to Ella was at least easily to be understood.

Almost the first visit Clive paid, when he was allowed to venture
out, was to Bittermeads; and Dunn, returning one afternoon from an
errand, found him established on the lawn in the company of Ella,
and looking little the worse for his adventure.

He and Ella seemed to be talking very animatedly, and Dunn took the
opportunity to busy himself with some gardening work not far away,
so that he could watch their behaviour.

He told himself it was necessary he should know in what relation
they stood to each other, and as he heard them chatting and
laughing together with great apparent friendliness and enjoyment,
he remembered with considerable satisfaction how he had already
broken one rib of Clive's, and he wished very much for an opportunity
to break another.

For, without knowing why, he was beginning to conceive an intense
dislike for Clive; and, also, it did not seem to him quite good
taste for Ella to sit and chat and laugh with him so readily.

"But we were told," he caught a stray remark of Ella's, "that it
was a gang of at least a dozen that attacked you."

"No," answered Clive reluctantly. "No, I think there was only one.
But he had a grip like a bear."

"He must have been very strong," remarked Ella thoughtfully.

"I would give fifty pounds to meet him again, and have it out in
the light, when one could see what one was doing," declared Clive
with great vigour.

"Oh, you would, would you?" muttered Dunn to himself. "Well, one
of these days I may claim that fifty."

He looked round at Clive as he thought this, and Clive noticed him,
and said:

"Is that a new man you've got there Miss Cayley? Doesn't he rather
want a shave? Where on earth did Mr. Dawson pick him up?"

"Oh, he came here with the very best testimonials, and father
engaged him on the spot," answered Ella, touching her wrists
thoughtfully. "He certainly is not very handsome, but then that
doesn't matter, does it?"

She spoke more loudly than usual, and Dunn was certain she did so
in order that he might hear what she said. So he had no scruple
in lingering on pretence of being busy with a rose bush, and heard
Clive say:

"Well, if he were one of my chaps, I should tell him to put the
lawn-mower over his own face."

Ella laughed amusedly.

"Oh, what an idea, Mr. Clive," she cried, and Dunn thought to himself:

"Yes, one day I shall very certainly claim that fifty pounds."



When Clive had gone that afternoon, Ella, who had accompanied him
as far as the gate, and had from thence waved him a farewell, came
back to the spot where Dunn was working.

She stood still, watching him, and he looked up at her and then
went on with his work without speaking, for now, as always, the
appalling thought was perpetually in his mind: "Must she not have
known what it was she had with her in the car when she went driving
that night?"

After a little, she turned away, as if disappointed that he took no
notice of her presence.

At once he raised himself from the task he had been bending over,
and stood moodily watching the slim, graceful figure, about which
hung such clouds of doubt and dread, and she, turning around
suddenly, as if she actually felt the impact of his gaze, saw him,
and saw the strange expression in his eyes.

"Why do you look at me like that?" she asked quickly, her soft and
gentle tones a little shrill, as though swift fear had come upon her.

"Like what?" he mumbled.

"Oh, you know," she cried passionately. "Am I to be the next?" she

He started, and looked at her wonderingly, asking himself if these
words of hers bore the grim meaning that his mind instantly gave

Was it possible that if she did know something of what was going on
in this quiet country house, during these peaceful autumn days, she
knew it not as willing accomplice, but as a helpless, destined victim
who saw no way of escape.

As if she feared she had said too much, she turned and began to
walk away.

At once he followed.

"Stop one moment," he exclaimed. "Miss Cayley."

She obeyed, turning quickly to face him. They were both very pale,
and both were under the influence of strong excitement. But between
them there hung a thick cloud of doubt and dread that neither could

All at once Dunn, unable to control himself longer, burst out with
that question which for so long had hovered on his lips.

"Do you know," he said, "do you know what you took away with you in
the car that night I came here?"

"The packing-case, you meant" she asked. "Of course I do; I helped
to get it ready - what's the matter?"

"Nothing," he muttered, though indeed he had staggered as beneath
some sudden and violent blow. "Oh - did you?" he said, with an

"Certainly," she answered. "Now I've answered your question, will
you answer me one? Why did you tell us your name was Charley Wright?"

"I knew a man of that name once," he answered. "He's dead now."

"I thought perhaps," she said slowly and quite calmly, "that it was
because you had seen the name written on a photograph in my room."

"No, it wasn't that," he answered gravely, and his doubts that for
a moment had seemed so terribly confirmed, now came back again, for
though she had said that she knew of the contents of the
packing-case, yet, if that were really so, how was it conceivable
that she should speak of such a thing so calmly?

And yet again, if she could do it, perhaps also she could talk of
it without emotion. Once more there was fear in his eyes as he
watched her, and her own were troubled and doubtful.

"Why do you have all that hair on your face?" she asked.

"Well, why shouldn't I?" he retorted. "It saves trouble."

"Does it?" she said. "Do you know what it looks like - like a

"A disguise?" he repeated. "Why should I want a disguise?"

"Do you think I'm quite a fool because I'm a woman?" she asked
impatiently. "Do you suppose I couldn't see very well when you
came that night that you were not an ordinary burglar? You had
some reason of your own for breaking into this house. What was

"I'll tell you," he answered, "if you'll tell me truly what was in
that packing-case?"

"Oh, now I understand," she cried excitedly. "It was to find that
out you came - and then Mr. Dawson made you help us get it away.
That was splendid."

He did not speak, for once more a kind of horror held him dumb, as
it seemed to him that she really - knew.

She saw the mingled horror and bewilderment in his eyes, and she
laughed lightly as though that amused her.

"Do you know," she said, "I believe I guessed as much from the
first, but I'm afraid Mr. Dawson was too clever for you - as he is
for most people. Only then," she added, wrinkling her brows as
though a new point puzzled her, "why are you staying here like

"Can't you guess that too?" he asked hoarsely.

"No," she said, shaking her head with a frankly puzzled air. "No,
I can't. That's puzzled me all the time. Do you know - I think
you ought to shave?"


"A beard makes a good disguise," she answered, "so good it's hardly
fair for you to have it when I can't."

"Perhaps you need it less," he answered bitterly, "or perhaps no
disguise could be so effective as the one you have already."

"What's that?" she asked.

"Bright eyes, a pretty face, a clear complexion," he answered.

He spoke with an extreme energy and bitterness that she did not in
the least understand, and that quite took away from the words any
suspicion of intentional rudeness.

"If I have all that, I suppose it's natural and not a disguise,"
she remarked.

"My beard is natural too," he retorted.

"All the same, I wish you would cut it off," she answered. "I
should like to see what you look like."

She turned and walked away, and the more Dunn thought over this
conversation, the less he felt he understood it.

What had she meant by that strange start and look she had given him
when she had asked if she were to be the next? And when she
asserted so confidently that she knew what was in the packing-case,
was that true, or was she speaking under some mistaken impression,
or had she wished to deceive him?

The more he thought, the more disturbed he felt, and every hour that
passed he seemed to feel more and more strongly the influence of her
gracious beauty, the horror of his suspicions of her.

The next day Clive came again, and again Ella seemed very pleased
to see him, and again Dunn, hanging about in their vicinity,
watched gloomily their friendly intercourse.

That Clive was in love with Ella seemed fairly certain; at any rate,
he showed himself strongly attracted by her, and very eager for
her company.

How she felt was more doubtful, though she made no concealment of
the fact that she liked to see him, and found pleasure in having
him there. Dunn, moving about near at hand, was aware of an odd
impression that she knew he was watching them, and that she wished
him to do so for several times he saw her glance in his direction.

He could always move with a most extraordinary lightness of foot,
so that, big and clumsy as he seemed in build, he could easily go
unheard and even unseen, and John Clive seemed to have little idea
that he remained so persistently near at hand.

This gift or power of Dunn's he had acquired in far-off lands, where
life may easily depend on the snapping of a twig or the right
interpretation of a trampled grass-blade, and he was using it now,
almost unconsciously, so as to make his presence near Ella and Clive
as unobtrusive as possible, when his keen eye caught sight of a bush,
of which leaves and branches were moving against the wind.

For that he knew there could be but one explanation, and when he
walked round, so as to get behind this bush, he was not surprised
to see Deede Dawson crouching there, his eyes very intent and eager,
his unsmiling lips drawn back to show his white teeth in a
threatening grin or snarl.

Near by him was his little chess-board and men, and as Dunn came up
behind he looked round quickly and saw him.

For a moment his eyes were deadly and his hand dropped to his
hip-pocket, where Dunn had reason to believe he carried a formidable
little automatic pistol.

But almost at once his expression changed, and with a gesture he
invited Dunn to crouch down at his side. For a little they remained
like this, and then Deede Dawson moved cautiously away, signing to
Dunn to follow him.

When they were at a safe distance he turned to Dunn and said

"Is he serious, do you think, or is he playing with her? I'll make
him pay for it if he is."

"How should I know?" answered Dunn, quite certain it was no such
anxiety as this that had set Deede Dawson watching them so carefully.

Deede Dawson seemed to feel that the explanation he had offered was
a little crude, and he made no attempt to enlarge on it.

With a complete change of manner, with his old smile on his lips
and his eyes as dark and unsmiling as ever, he said

"Pretty girl, Ella - isn't she?"

"She is more than pretty, she is beautiful," Dunn answered with an
emphasis that made Deede Dawson look at him sharply.

"Think so?" he said, and gave his peculiar laugh that had so little
mirth in it. "Well, you're right, she is. He'll be a lucky man
that gets her - and she's to be had, you know. But I'll tell you
one thing, it won't be John Clive."

"I thought it rather looked," observed Dunn, "as if Miss Cayley
might mean - "

Deede Dawson interrupted with a quick jerk of his head.

"Never mind what she means, it'll be what I mean," he declared. "I
am boss; and what's more, she knows it. I believe in a man being
master in his own family. Don't you?'

"If he can be," retorted Dunn. "But still, a girl naturally - "

"Naturally nothing," Deede Dawson interrupted again. "I tell you
what I want for her, a man I can-trust-trust-that's the great thing.
Some one I can trust."

He nodded at Dunn as he said this and then walked off, and Dunn
felt very puzzled as he, too, turned away.

"Was he offering her to me?" he asked himself. "It almost sounded
like it. If so, it must mean there's something he wants from me
pretty bad. She's beautiful enough to turn any man's head - but
did she know about poor Charlie's murder? - help in it, perhaps?
- as she said she did with the packing-case."

He paused, and all his body was shaken by strong and fierce emotion.

"God help me," he groaned. "I believe I would marry her tomorrow
if I could, innocent or guilty."



It was the next day that there arrived by the morning post a letter
for Dunn.

Deede Dawson raised his eyebrows slightly when he saw it; and he
did not hand it on until he had made himself master of its contents,
though that did not prove to be very enlightening or interesting.
The note, in fact, merely expressed gratification at the news that
Dunn had secured steady work, a somewhat weak hope that he would
keep it, and a still fainter hope that now perhaps he would be able
to return the ten shillings borrowed, apparently from the writer, at
some time in the past.

Mr. Deede Dawson, in spite of the jejune nature of the communication,
read it very carefully and indeed even went so far as to examine the
letter through a powerful magnifying-glass.

But he made no discovery by the aid of that instrument, and he
neglected, for no man thinks of everything, to expose the letter to
a gentle heat, which was what Dunn did when, presently, he received
it, apparently unopened and with not the least sign to show that it
had been tampered with in any way whatever.

Gradually, however, as Dunn held it to the fire, there appeared
between the lines fresh writing, which he read very eagerly, and
which ran:

"Jane Dunsmore, born 1830, married, against family wishes, John
Clive and had one son, John, killed early this year in a motor-car
accident, leaving one son, John, now of Ramsdon Place and third in
line of succession to the Wreste Abbey property."

When he had read the message thus strangely and with such
precaution conveyed to him, Dunn burnt the letter and went that day
about his work in a very grave and thoughtful mood.

"I knew it couldn't be a mere coincidence," he mused. "It wasn't
possible. I must manage to warn him, somehow; but, ten to one, he
won't believe a word, and I don't know that I blame him - I shouldn't
in his place. And he might go straight to Deede Dawson and ruin
everything. I don't know that it wouldn't be wiser and safer to say
nothing for the present, till I'm more sure of my ground - and then
it may be too late."

"Just possibly," he thought, "the job Deede Dawson clearly thinks
he can make me useful in may have something to do with Clive. If so,
I may be able to see my way more clearly."

As it happened, Clive was away for a few days on some business he
had to attend to, so that for the present Dunn thought he could
afford to wait.

But during the week-end Clive returned, and on the Monday he came
again to Bittermeads.

It was never very agreeable to Dunn to have to stand aloof while
Clive was laughing and chatting and drinking his tea with Ella and
her mother, and of those feelings of annoyance and vexation he made
this time a somewhat ostentatious show.

That his manner of sulky anger and resentment did not go unnoticed
by Deede Dawson he was very sure, but nothing was said at the time.

Next morning Deede Dawson called him while he was busy in the garage
and insisted on his trying to solve another chess problem.

"I haven't managed the other yet," Dunn protested. "It's not too
easy to hit on these key-moves."

"Never mind try this one," Deede Dawson said; and Ella, going out
for a morning stroll with her mother, saw them thus, poring together
over the travelling chess-board.

"They seem busy, don't they?" she remarked. "Father is making quite
a friend of that man."

"I don't like him," declared Mrs. Dawson, quite vigorously for her.
"I'm sure a man with such a lot of hair on his face can't be really
nice, and I thought he was inclined to be rude yesterday."

"Yes," agreed Ella. "Yes, he was. I think Mr. Clive was a little
vexed, though he took no notice, I suppose he couldn't very well."

"I don't like the man at all," Mrs. Dawson repeated. "All that
hair, too. Do you like him?"

"I don't know," Ella answered, and after she and her mother had
returned from their walk she took occasion to find Dunn in the
garden and ask him some trifling question or another.

"You are interested in chess?" she remarked, when he had answered

"All problems are interesting till one finds the answer to them,"
he replied.

"There's one I know of," she retorted. "I wish you would solve
for me."

"Tell me what it is," he said quickly. "Will you?"

She shook her head slightly, but she was watching him very intently
from her clear, candid eyes, and now, as always, her nearness to
him, the infinite appeal he found in her every look and movement,
the very fragrance of her hair, bore him away beyond all purpose
and intention.

"Tell me what it is," he said again. "Won't you? Miss Cayley, if
you and I were to trust each other - it's not difficult to see
there's something troubling you."

"Most people have some trouble or another," she answered evasively.

He came a little nearer to her, and instead of the gruff, harsh
tones he habitually used, his voice was singularly pleasant and low
as he said:

"People who are in trouble need help, Miss Cayley. Will you let me
help you?"

"You can't," she answered, shaking her head. "No one could."

"How can you tell that?" he asked eagerly. "Perhaps I know more
already than you think."

"I daresay you do," she said slowly. "I have thought that a long
time. Will you tell me one thing? - Are you his friend or not?"

There was no need for Dunn to ask to whom the pronoun she used

"I am so much not his friend," he answered as quietly and
deliberately as she had spoken. "That it's either his life or mine.

At that she drew back in a startled way as though his words had gone
beyond her expectations.

"How do I know I can trust you?" she said presently, half to herself,
half to him.

"You can," he said, and it was as though he flung the whole of his
enigmatic and vivid personality into those two words.

"You can," he said again. "Absolutely."

"I must think," she muttered, pressing her hands to her head. "So
much depends - how can I trust you? Why should I - why?"

"Because I'll trust you first," he answered with a touch of
exultation in his manner. "Listen to me and I'll tell you
everything. And that means I put my life in your hands. Well,
that's nothing; I would do that any time; but other people's lives
will be in your power, too - yes, and everything I'm here for,
everything. Now listen."

"Not now," she interrupted sharply. "He may be watching, listening
- he generally is." Again there was no need between them to
specify to whom the pronoun referred. "Will you meet me tonight
near the sweet-pea border - about nine?"

She glided away as she spoke without waiting for him to answer, and
as soon as he was free from the magic of her presence, reaction
came and he was torn by a thousand doubts and fears and worse.

"Why, I'm mad, mad," he groaned. "I've no right to tell what I
said I would, no right at all."

And again there returned to him his vivid, dreadful memory of how
she had started on that midnight drive with her car so awfully laden.

And again there returned to him his old appalling doubt:

"Did she not know?"

And though he would willingly have left his life in her hands, he
knew he had no right to put that of others there, and yet it
seemed to him he must keep the appointment and the promise he had

About nine that evening, then, he made his way to the sweet-pea
border, though, as he went, he resolved that he would not tell her
what he had said he would.

Because he trusted his own strength so little when he was with her,
he confirmed this resolution by an oath he swore to himself: and
even that he was not certain would be a sure protection against the
witchery she wielded.

So it was with a mind doubtful and troubled more than it had ever
been since the beginning of these things that he came to the border
where the sweet-peas grew, and saw a dark shadow already close by

But when he came a little nearer he saw that it was not Ella who
was there but Deede Dawson and his first thought was that she had
betrayed him.

"That you, Dunn?" Deede Dawson hailed him in his usual pleasant,
friendly manner.

"Yes," Dunn answered warily, keeping himself ready for any

Deede Dawson took a cigar from his pocket and lighted it and offered
one to Dunn, who refused it abruptly.

Deede Dawson laughed at that in his peculiar, mirthless way.

"Am I being the third that's proverbially no company?" he asked.
"Were you expecting to find some one else here? I thought I saw a
white frock vanish just as I came up."

Dunn made no answer, and Deede Dawson continued after a pause

"That's why I waited. You are being just a little bit rapid in
this affair, aren't you?"

"I don't know why. You said something, didn't you?" muttered Dunn,
beginning to think that, after all, Deede Dawson's presence here
was due to accident - or rather to his unceasing and unfailing
watchfulness, and not to any treachery of Ella's.

"Yes, I did, didn't I ?" he agreed pleasantly. "But you are a
working gardener taken on out of charity to give you a chance and
keep you out of gaol, and you are looking a little high when you
think of your master's ward and daughter, aren't you?"

"There was a time when I shouldn't have thought so," answered Dunn.

"We're talking of the present, my good man," Deede Dawson said
impatiently. "If you want the girl you must win her. It can be
done, but it won't be easy."

"Tell me how," said Dunn.

"Oh, that's going too fast and too far," answered the other with
his mirthless laugh. "Now, there's Mr. John Clive - what about

"I'll answer for him," replied Dunn slowly and thickly. "I've put
better men than John Clive out of my way before today."

"That's the way to talk," cried Deede Dawson. "Dunn, dare you play
a big game for big stakes?"

"Try me," said Dunn.

"If I showed you," Deede Dawson's voice sank to a whisper, "if I
showed you a pretty girl for a wife - a fortune to win - what would
you say?"

"Try me," said Dunn again, and then, making his voice as low and
hoarse as was Dunn's, he asked:

"Is it Clive?"

"Later - perhaps," answered Deede Dawson. "There's some one else
- first. Are you ready?"

"Try me," said Dunn for the third time, and as he spoke his quick
ear caught the faint sound of a retreating footstep, and he told
himself that Ella must have lingered near and had perhaps heard all
they said.

"Try me," he said once more, speaking more loudly and clearly this



Dunn went to his room that night with the feeling that a crisis was
approaching. And he wished very greatly that he knew how much Ella
had overheard of his talk with her stepfather, and what
interpretation she had put upon it.

He determined that in the morning he would take the very first
opportunity he could find of speaking to her.

But in the morning it appeared that Mrs. Dawson had had a bad night,
and was very unwell, and Ella hardly stirred from her side all day.

Even when Clive called in the afternoon she would not come down,
but sent instead a message begging to be excused because of her
mother's indisposition, and Dunn, from a secure spot in the garden,
watched the young man retire, looking very disconsolate.

This day, too, Dunn saw nothing of Deede Dawson, for that gentleman
immediately after breakfast disappeared without saying anything to
anybody, and by night had still not returned.

Dunn therefore was left entirely to himself, and to him the day
seemed one of the longest he had ever spent.

That Ella remained so persistently with her mother troubled him a
good deal, for he did not think such close seclusion on her part
could be really necessary.

He was inclined to fear that Ella had overheard enough of what had
passed between him and Deede Dawson to rouse her mistrust, and that
she was therefore deliberately keeping out of his way.

Then too, he was troubled in another fashion by Deede Dawson's
absence, for he was afraid it might mean that plans were being
prepared, or possibly action being taken, that might mature
disastrously before he himself was ready to act.

All day this feeling of unrest and apprehension continued, and at
night when he went upstairs to bed it was stronger than ever. He
felt convinced now that Ella was deliberately avoiding him. But
then, if she distrusted him, that must be because she feared he
was on her stepfather's side, and if it seemed to her that who was
on his side was of necessity an object of suspicion to herself, then
there could be no such bond of dread and guilt between them as any
guilty knowledge on her part of Wright's death would involve.

The substantial proof this exercise in logic appeared to afford of
Ella's innocence brought him much comfort, but did not lighten his
sense of apprehension and unrest, for he thought that in this
situation in which he found himself his doubts of Ella had merely
been turned into doubts on Ella's part of himself, and that the one
was just as likely as the other to end disastrously.

"Though I don't know what I can do," he muttered as he stood in his
attic, "if I gain Deede Dawson's confidence I lose Ella's, and if
I win Ella's, Deede Dawson will at once suspect me."

He w I over to the window and looked out, supporting himself on his
elbows, and gazing moodily into the darkness.

As he stood there a faint sound came softly to his ear through the
stillness of the quiet night in which nothing stirred.

He listened, and heard it again. Beyond doubt some one was stirring
in the garden below, moving about there very cautiously and carefully,
and at once Dunn glided from the room and down the stairs with all
that extraordinary lightness of tread and agility of movement of
which his heavy body and clumsy-looking build gave so small promise.

He had not been living so many days in the house without having
taken certain precautions, of which one had been to secure for
himself a swift and silent egress whenever necessity might arise.

Keys to both the front and back doors were in his possession, and
the passage window on the ground floor he could at need lift
bodily from its frame, leaving ample room for passage either in
or out. This was the method of departure he chose now since he
did not know but that the doors might be watched.

Lifting the window down, he swung himself outside, replacing behind
him the window so that it appeared to be as firmly in position as
ever, but could be removed again almost instantly should need arise.

Once outside he listened again, and though at first everything was
quiet, presently he heard again a cautious step going to and fro
at a little distance.

Crouching in the shadow of the house, he listened intently, and
soon was able to assure himself that there was but one footstep
and that he would have only one individual to deal with.

"It won't be Deede Dawson's," he thought to himself, "but it may
very likely be some one waiting for him to return. I must find out
who - and why."

Slipping through the darkness of the night, with whose shadows he
seemed to melt and mingle, as though he were but another one of
them, he moved quickly in the direction of these cautious footsteps
he had listened to.

They had ceased now, and the silence was profound, for those faint
multitudinous noises of the night that murmur without ceasing in
the woods and fields are less noticeable near the habitations of men.

A little puzzled, Dunn paused to listen again and once more crept
forward a careful yard or two, and then lay still, feeling it would
not be safe to venture further till he was more sure of his
direction, and till some fresh sound to guide him reached his ears.

He had not long to wait, for very soon, from quite close by, he
heard something that surprised and perplexed him equally - a deep,
long-drawn sigh.

Again he heard it, and in utter wonder asked himself who this
could be who came into another person's garden late at night to
stand and sigh, and what such a proceeding could mean.

Once more he heard the sigh, deeper even than before, and then after
it a low murmur in which at first he could distinguish nothing, but
then caught the name of Ella being whispered over and over again.

He bent forward, more and more puzzled, trying in vain to make out
something in the darkness, and then from under a tree, whose shadow
had hitherto been a complete concealment, there moved forward a form
so tall and bulky there could be little doubt whom it belonged to.

"John Clive - what on earth - !" Dunn muttered, his bewilderment
increasing, and the next moment he understood and had some difficulty
in preventing himself from bursting out laughing as there reached
him the unmistakable sound of a kiss lightly blown through the air.

Clive was sending a kiss through the night towards Ella's room and
his nocturnal visit was nothing more than the whim of a love-sick

With Dunn, his first amusement gave way almost at once to an extreme

For, in the first place, these proceedings seemed to him exceedingly
impertinent, for what possible right did Clive imagine he had to
come playing the fool like this, sighing in the dark and blowing
kisses like a baby to its mammy?

And secondly, unless he were greatly mistaken, John Clive might just
as sensibly and safely have dropped overboard from a ship in
mid-Atlantic for a swim as come to indulge his sentimentalities in
the Bittermeads garden at night.

"You silly ass!" he said in a voice that was very low, but very
distinct and very full of an extreme disgust and anger.

Clive fairly leaped in the air with his surprise, and turned and
made a sudden dash at the spot whence Dunn's voice had come, but
where Dunn no longer was.

"What the blazes -?" he began, spluttering in ineffectual rage.
"You - you -!"

"You silly ass!" Dunn repeated, no less emphatically than before.

Clive made another rush that a somewhat prickly bush very
effectually stopped.

"You - who are you - where - what - how dare you?" he gasped
as he picked himself up and tried to disentangle himself from the

"Don't make such a row," said Dunn from a new direction. "Do you
want to raise the whole neighbourhood? Haven't you played the fool
enough? If you want to commit suicide, why can't you cut your
throat quietly and decently at home, instead of coming alone to the
garden at Bittermeads at night?"

There was a note of sombre and intense conviction in his voice that
penetrated even the excited mind of the raging Clive.

"What do you mean?" he asked, and then:

"Who are you?"

"Never mind who I am," answered Dunn. "And I mean just what I say.
You might as well commit suicide out of hand as come fooling about
here alone at night."

"You're crazy, you're talking rubbish!" Clive exclaimed.

"I'm neither crazy nor talking rubbish," answered Dunn. "But if
you persist in making such a row I shall take myself off and leave
you to see the thing through by yourself and get yourself knocked
on the head any way you like best."

"Oh, I'm beginning to understand," said Clive. "I suppose you're
one of my poaching friends - are you? Look here, if you know who
it was who attacked me the other night you can earn fifty pounds
any time you like."

"Your poaching friends, as you call them," answered Dunn, " are
most likely only anxious to keep out of your way. This has
nothing to do with them."

"Well, come nearer and let me see you," Clive said. "You needn't
be afraid. You can't expect me to take any notice of some one I
can't see, talking rubbish in the dark."

"I don't much care whether you take any notice or not," answered
Dunn. "You can go your own silly way if you like, it's nothing to
me. I've warned you, and if you care to listen I'll make my warning
a little clearer. And one thing I will tell you - one man already
has left this house hidden in a packing-case with a bullet through
his brain, and I will ask you a question: 'How did your father die?'"

"He was killed in a motor-car accident," answered Clive hesitatingly,
as though not certain whether to continue this strange and puzzling
conversation or break it off.

"There are many accidents," said Dunn. "And that may have been one,
for all I know, or it may not. Well, I've warned you. I had to do
that. You'll probably go on acting like a fool and believing that
nowadays murders don't happen, but if you're wise, you'll go home
to bed and run no more silly risks."

"Of course I'm not going to pay the least attention," began Clive,
when Dunn interrupted him sharply.

"Hush! hush!" he said sharply. "Crouch down: don't make a sound,
don't stir or move. Hush!"

For Dunn's sharp ear had caught the sound of approaching footsteps
that were drawing quickly nearer, and almost instantly he guessed
who it would be, for there were few pedestrians who came along that
lonely road so late at night.

There were two of them apparently, and at the gate of Bittermeads
they halted.

"Well, good night," said then a voice both Dunn and Clive knew at
once for Deede Dawson's." - That was a pretty check by the knight
I showed you, wasn't it?"

A thin, high, somewhat peculiar voice cursed Deede Dawson, chess,
and the pretty mate by the knight very comprehensively.

"It's young Clive that worries me," said the voice when it had
finished these expressions of disapproval.

"No need," answered Deede Dawson's voice with that strange mirthless
laugh of his. "No need at all; before the week's out he'll trouble
no one any more.

When he heard this, Clive would have betrayed himself by some
startled movement or angry exclamation had not Dunn's heavy hand
upon his shoulder held him down with a grave and steady pressure
there was no disregarding.

Deede Dawson and his unknown companion went on towards the house,
and admitted themselves, and as the door closed behind them Clive
swung round sharply in the darkness towards Dunn.

"What's it mean?" he muttered in the bewildered and
slightly-pathetic voice of a child at once frightened and puzzled.
"What for?" Why should any one -?"

"It's a long story," began Dunn, and paused.

He saw that the unexpected confirmation of his warning Clive had
thus received from Deede Dawson's own lips had rendered his task
of convincing Clive immensely more easy.

What he had wished to say had now at least a certainty of being
listened to, a probability of being believed, and there was at
any rate, he supposed, no longer the danger he had before dreaded
of Clive's going straight with the whole story to Deede Dawson
in arrogant disbelief of a word of it.

But he still distrusted Clive's discretion, and feared some rash
and hasty action that might ruin all his plans, and allow Deede
Dawson time to escape.

Besides he felt that the immediate task before him was to find
out who Deede Dawson's new companion was, and, if possible,
overhear anything they might have to say to each other.

That, and the discovery of the new-comer's identity, might prove
to be of the utmost importance.

"I can't explain now," he said hurriedly. "I'll see you tomorrow
sometime. Don't do anything till you hear from me. Your life may
depend on it - and other people's lives that matter more."

"Tell me who you are first," Clive said quickly, incautiously
raising his voice. "I can manage to take care of myself all right,
I think, but I want to know who you are."

"H-ssh!" muttered Dunn. "Not so loud."

"There was a fellow made an attack on me one night a little while
ago," Clive went on unheedingly. "You remind me of him somehow.
I don't think I trust you, my man. I think you had better come
along to the police with me."

But Dunn's sharp ears had caught the sound of the house door
opening cautiously, and he guessed that Deede Dawson had taken
the alarm and was creeping out to see who invaded so late at night
the privacy of his garden.

"Clear out quick! Quiet! If you want to go on living. I'll stop
them from following if I can. If you make the least noise you're
done for."

Most likely the man they had seen in his company would be with him,
and both of them would be armed. Neither Clive nor Dunn had a
weapon, and Dunn saw the danger of the position and took the only
course available.

"Go," he whispered fiercely into Clive's ear.



He melted away into the darkness as he spoke, and through the night
he slipped, one shadow more amongst many, from tree to bush, from
bush to tree. Across a patch of open grass he crawled on his hands
and knees; and once lay fiat on his face when against the skyline
he saw a figure he was sure was Deede Dawson's creep by a yard or
two on his right hand.

On his left another shadow showed, distinguishable in the night
only because it moved.

In a moment both shadows were gone, secret and deadly in the dark,
and Dunn was very sure that Clive's life and his own both hung
upon a slender chance, for if either of them was discovered the
leaping bullet would do the rest.

It would be safe and easy - suspected burglars in a garden at
midnight - nothing could be said. He lay very still with his face
to the dewy sod, and all the night seemed full to him of searching
footsteps and of a swift and murderous going to and fro.

He heard distinctly from the road a sudden, muffled sound as Clive
in the darkness blunderingly missed his footing and fell upon one

"That's finished him," Dunn thought grimly, his ears straining for
the sharp pistol report that would tell Clive's tale was done, and
then he was aware of a cat, a favourite of Ella's and often petted
by himself, that was crouching near by under a tree, most likely
much puzzled and alarmed by this sudden irruption of hurrying men
into its domain. Instantly Dunn saw his chance, and seizing the
animal, lifted it and threw it in the direction where he guessed
Deede Dawson to be.

His guess was good and fortune served him well, for the tabby
flying caterwauling through the air alighted almost exactly in
front of Deede Dawson on top of a small bush. For a moment it
hung there, quite unhurt, but very frightened, and emitted a yell,
then fled.

In the quietness the tumult of its scrambling flight sounded
astonishingly loud, so that it sounded as through a miniature
avalanche had been let loose in the garden.

"Only cats," Deede Dawson exclaimed disgustedly, and from behind,
nearer the house, Dunn called:

"Who's there? What is it? What's the matter? Is it Mr. Dawson?
Is anything wrong?"

"I think there is," said Deede Dawson softly. "I think, perhaps,
there is. What are you doing out here at this time of night,
Charley Wright?"

"I heard a noise and came down to see what it was," answered Dunn.
"There was a light in the breakfast-room, but I didn't see any one,
and the front door was open so I came out here. Is anything wrong?"

"That's what I want to know," said Deede Dawson. "Come back to the
house with me. If any one is about, he can just take himself off."

He spoke the last sentence loudly, and Dunn took it as a veiled
instruction to his companion to depart.

He realized that if he had saved Clive he had done so at the cost
of missing the best opportunity that had yet come his way of
obtaining very important, and, perhaps, decisive information.

To have discovered the identity of this stranger who had come
visiting Deede Dawson might have meant much, and he told himself
angrily that Clive's safety had certainly not been worth purchasing
at the cost of such a lost chance, though he supposed that was a
point on which Clive himself might possibly entertain a different

But now there was nothing for it but to go quietly back to the
house, for clearly Deede Dawson's suspicions were aroused and he
had his revolver ready in his hand.

"I suppose it was only cats all the time," he observed, with apparent
unconcern. "But at first I made sure there were burglars in the

"And I suppose," suggested Deede Dawson. "You think one burglar's
enough in a household."

"I don't mean to have any one else mucking around," growled Dunn
in answer.

"Very admirable sentiments," said Deede Dawson and asked several
more questions that showed he still entertained some suspicion of
Dunn, and was not altogether satisfied that his appearance in the
garden was quite innocent, or that the noise heard there was due,
solely to cats.

Dunn answered as best he could, and Deede Dawson listened and smiled,
and smiled again, and watched him from eyes that did not smile at

"Oh, well," Deede Dawson said at last, with a yawn. "Anyhow, it's
all right now. You had better get along back to bed, and I'll lock
up." He accompanied Dunn into the hall and watched him ascend the
stairs, and as Dunn went slowly up them he felt by no means sure
that soon a bullet would not come questing after him, searching for
heart or brain.

For he was sure that Deede Dawson still suspected him, and he knew
Deede Dawson to be very sudden and swift in action. But nothing
happened, he reached the broad, first landing in safety, and he was
about to go on up to his attic when he beard a door at the end of
the passage open and saw Ella appear in her dressing-gown.

"What is the matter ?" she asked, in a low voice.

"It's all right," he answered. "There was a noise in the garden,
and I came down to see what it was, but it's only cats."

"Oh, is that all?" she said distrustfully.

"Yes," he answered, in a lower voice still, he said:

"Will you tell me something? Do you know any one who talks in a
very peculiar shrill high voice?"

She did not answer, and, after a moment's hesitation, went back
into her room and closed the door behind her.

He went on up to his attic with the feeling that she could have
answered if she had wished to, and lay down in a troubled and
dispirited mood.

For he was sure now that Ella mistrusted him and would give him
no assistance, and that weighed upon him greatly, as did also his
conviction that what it behoved him above all else to know - the
identity of the man who, in this affair, stood behind Deede Dawson
and made use of his fierce and fatal energies - he had had it in
his power to discover and had failed to make use of the opportunity.

"I would rather know that," he said to himself, "than save a dozen
Clives ten times over." Though again it occurred to him that on
this point Clive might hold another opinion. "If he hadn't made
such a blundering row I might have got to know who Deede Dawson's
visitor was. I must try to get a word with Clive tomorrow by hook
or crook, though I daresay Deede Dawson will be very much on the

However, next morning Deede Dawson not only made no reference to
the events of the night, but had out the car and went off
immediately after breakfast without saying when he would be back.

As soon after his departure as possible, Dunn also set out and took
his way through the woods towards Ramsdon Place on the look-out for
an opportunity to speak to Clive unobserved.

He thought it most likely that Clive would be drawn towards the
vicinity of Bittermeads by the double fascination of curiosity and
fear, and he supposed that if he waited and watched in the woods he
would be sure presently to see him.

But though he remained for long hidden at a spot whence he could
command the road to Bittermeads from Ramsdon Place, he saw nothing
at all of Clive, and the sunny lazy morning was well advanced when
he was startled by the sound of a gun shot some distance away.

"A keeper shooting rabbits, I suppose," he thought, looking round
just in time to see Ella running through the wood from the direction
whence the sound of the shot had seemed to come, and then vanish
again with a quick look behind her into the heart of a close-growing



There had been an air of haste, almost of furtiveness, about this
swift appearance and more swift vanishing of Ella, that made Dunn
ask himself uneasily what errand she could have been on.

He hesitated for a moment, half expecting to see her return again,
or that there would be some other development, but he heard and saw

He caught no further glimpse of Ella, whom the green depths of the
spinney hid well; and he heard no more shots.

After a little, he left the spot where he had been waiting and went
across to where he had seen her.

The exact spot where she had entered the spinney was marked, for
she had broken the branch of a young tree in brushing quickly by it,
and a bramble she had trodden on had not yet lifted itself from the
earth to which she had pressed it.

By other signs like these, plain enough and easy to read - for she
had hurried on in great haste and without care, almost, indeed, as
one who fled from some great danger or from some dreadful sight,
and who had no thought to spare save for flight alone - he followed
the way she had gone till it took him to a beaten public path that
almost at once led over a stile to the high road which passed in
front of Bittermeads. Along this beaten path, trodden by many,
Ella's light foot had left no perceptible mark, and Dunn made no
attempt to track her further, since it seemed certain that she had
been simply hurrying back home.

"She was badly frightened over something or another," he said to
himself. "She never stopped once, she went as straight and quick
as she could. I wonder what upset her like that?"

He went back the way he had come, and at the spot where he had seen
her enter the spinney he set to work to pick up her trail in the
direction whence she had appeared, for he thought that if he followed
it he might find out what had been the cause of her evident alarm.

The ground was much more open here, and the trail correspondingly
more difficult to follow, for often there was little but a trodden
blade of grass to show where she had passed; and sometimes, where
the ground was bare and hard, there was no visible sign left at all.

Once or twice at such places he was totally at fault, but by casting
round in a wide circle like a dog scenting his prey he was able to
pick up her tracks again.

They seemed to lead right into the depths of the wood, through lonely
spots that only the keepers knew, and where others seldom came.

But that he was on the right trail he presently had proof, for on
the bank of a lovely and hidden dell he picked up a tiny embroidered
handkerchief with the initials "E. C." worked in one corner.

It had evidently been lying there only a very short time, for it
was perfectly clean and fresh, and he picked it up and held it for
a moment in his hands, smiling to himself with pleasure at its
daintiness and smallness, and yet still uneasily wondering why she
had come here, and why she had fled away again so quickly.

The morning was very fine and calm, though in the west heavy clouds
were gathering and seemed to promise rain soon. But overhead the
sun shone brightly, the air was calm and warm, and the little dell
on whose verge he stood a very pretty and pleasant place.

A small stream wandered through it, the grass that carpeted it was
green and soft, near by a great oak stood alone and spread its
majestic branches far out on every side to give cool shelter from
the summer heat.

The thought occurred to Dunn that this was just such a pretty and
secluded spot as two lovers might choose to exchange their vows in,
and the thought stung him intolerably as he wondered whether it was
for such a reason that Ella had come here.

But if so, why had she fled away again in such strange haste?

He walked on slowly for a yard or two, not now attempting to follow
Ella's trail, for he had the impression that this was her
destination, and that she had gone no further than here.

All at once he caught sight of the form of a man lying hidden in
the long grass that nearly covered him from view just where the
far-spreading branches of the great oak ceased to give their shade.

At first Dunn thought he was sleeping, and he was just about to
call out to him when something in the rigidity of the man's position
and his utter stillness struck him unpleasantly.

He went quickly to the man's side, and the face of dead John Clive,
supine and still, stared up at him from unseeing eyes.

He had been killed by a charge of small shot fired at such close
quarters that his breast was shot nearly in two and his clothing
and flesh charred by the burning powder.

But Dunn, standing staring down at the dead man, saw not him, but
Ella. Ella fleeing away silently and furtively through the trees
as from some sight or scene of guilt and terror.

He stooped closer over the dead man. Death had been instantaneous.
Of course there could be no doubt. From one hand a piece of folded
paper had fallen.

Dunn picked it up, and saw that there was writing on it, and he
read it over slowly.

"Dear Mr. Clive, - Can you meet me as before by the oak
tomorrow at eleven? There is something I very much want to
say to you. - Yours sincerely,

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