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The Bittermeads Mystery by E. R. Punshon

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Was that, then, the lure which had brought John Clive to meet his
death? Was this the bait that had made him disregard the warnings
he had received, and come alone to so quiet and solitary a spot?

Dunn had a moment of quick envy of him; he lay so quiet and still
in the warm sunshine, with nothing to trouble or distress him any
more for ever.

Then, stumblingly and heavily, Dunn turned an went away, and his
eyes were very hard, his bearded face set like iron.

Like a man in a dream, or one obsessed by some purpose before which
all other things faded into nothingness, he went his way, the way
Ella had taken in her flight - through the wood, through the spinney
to the public foot-path, and then out on the road that led to

When he entered the garden there, he saw Ella sitting quietly on a
deck-chair close to her mother, quietly busy with some fancy work.

He could not believe it; he stood watching in bewilderment,
appalled and wondering, watching her white hands flashing busily
to and fro, hearing the soft murmur of her voice as now and then she
addressed some remark to her mother, who nodded drowsily in the
sunshine over a book open on her knees.

Ella was dressed all in white; she had flung aside her hat, and the
quiet breeze played in her fair hair, and stirred gently a stray
curl that had escaped across her broad low brow.

The picture was one of gentleness and peace and an innocence that
thought no wrong, and yet with his own eyes he had seen her not
an hour ago fleeing with hurried steps and fearful looks from the
spot where lay a murdered man.

Somewhat unsteadily, for he felt so little master of himself, it
was as though he had no longer even control of his own limbs, Dunn
stumbled forward, and Ella looked up and saw him, and saw also that
he was looking at her very strangely.

She rose and came towards him, her needlework still in her hands.

"What is the matter?" she said in a voice of some concern. "Are
you ill?"

"No," he answered. "No. I've been looking for Mr. Clive."

"Have you?" she said, a little surprised apparently, but in no
way flustered or disturbed. "Did you find him?"

Dunn did not answer, for indeed he could not, and she said again:

"Did you find him?"

Still he made no answer, for it seemed to him those four words were
the most awful that any one had ever uttered since the beginning of
the world.

"What is the matter?" she said again. "Is anything the matter?"

"Oh, no, no," he said, and he gave himself a little shake like a
man wakening from deep sleep and trying to remember where he was.

"Well, then," she said.

"I found Mr. Clive," he said hardly and abruptly. And he repeated
again: "Yes, I found him."

They remained standing close together and facing each other, and
he saw her as through a veil of red, and it was as though a red
mist enveloped her, and where her shadow lay the earth was red, he
thought, and where she put her foot it seemed to him red tracks
remained, and never before had he understood how utterly he loved
her and must love her, now and for evermore.

But he uttered no sound and made no movement, only stood very still,
thinking to himself how dreadful it was that he loved her so greatly.

She was not paying him, any attention now. A rose bush was near by,
and she picked one of the flowers, and arranged it carefully at her

She said, still looking at him:

"Do you know - I wish you would shave yourself?"

"Why?" he mumbled.

"I should like to see you," she answered. "I think I have a
curiosity to see you."

"I should think you could do that well enough," he said in the same
low, mumbled tones.

"No," she answered. "I can only see some very untidy hair and a
pair of eyes - not very nice eyes, rather frightening eyes. I
should like to see the rest of your face some day so as to know
what it's like."

"Perhaps you shall - some day," he said.

"Is that a threat?" she asked. "It sounded like one."

"Perhaps," he answered.

She laughed lightly and turned away.

"You make me very curious," she said. "But then, you 'ye always
done that."

She went back to her seat by her mother, and he walked on moodily
to the house.

Mrs. Dawson said to Ella:

"How can you talk to that man, my dear? I think he looks perfectly
dreadful - hardly like a human being."

"I was just telling him he ought to shave himself," said Ella.
"I told him I should like to know what he was really like."

"I shall ask father," said Mrs. Dawson sternly, "to make it a
condition of his employment here."



Dunn knew very well that he ought to give immediate information to
the authorities of what had happened.

But he did not. He told himself that nothing could help poor John
Clive, and that any precipitate action on his part might still
fatally compromise his plans, which were now so near completion.

But his real reason was that he knew that if he came forward he
would be very closely questioned, and sooner or later forced to tell
the things he knew so terribly involving Ella.

And he knew that to surrender her to the police and proclaim her to
the world as guilty of such things were tasks beyond his strength;
though, to himself, with a touch of wildness in his thoughts, he
said that no proved and certain guilt should go unpunished even
though his own hand - It was a train of ideas he did not pursue.

"Charley Wright first and now John Clive," he said to himself. "But
the end is not yet."

Again he would not let his thoughts go on but checked them abruptly.

In this dark and troubled mood he went out to busy himself with the
garden, and all the time he worked he watched with a sort of vertigo
of horror where Ella sat in the sunshine by her mother's side, her
white hands moving nimbly to and fro upon her needlework.

It was not long, however, before the tragedy of the wood was
discovered, for Clive had been seen to go in that direction, and
when he did not return a search was made that was soon successful.

The news was brought to Bittermeads towards evening by a tradesman's
boy, who came up from the village to bring something that had been
ordered from there.

"Have you heard?" he said to Dunn excitedly. "Mr. Clive's been shot
dead by poachers."

"Oh - by poachers?" repeated Dunn.

"Yes, poachers," the boy answered, and went on excitedly to tell
his tale with many, and generally very inaccurate, details.

But that the crime had been discovered and instantly set down to
poachers was at least certain, and Dunn realized at once that the
adoption of this simple and apparently plausible theory would put
an end to all really careful investigation of the circumstances
and make the discovery of the truth highly improbable.

For the idea that the murder was the work of poachers would, when
once adopted, fill the minds of the police and of every one else,
and no suspicion would be directed elsewhere.

By the tremendous relief he felt, Dunn understood how heavy had been
the burden of fear and apprehension that till now had oppressed him.

If he had not found that handkerchief - if he had not secured that
letter - why, by now the police would be at Bittermeads.

"All the same," he thought. "No one who is guilty shall escape
through me."

But what this phrase meant, and what he intended to do, he would
not permit himself to think out clearly or try to understand.

The boy, having told his story, hurried off to spread the news
elsewhere to more appreciative ears, for, he thought disgustedly,
it might have been just nothing at all for all the interest the
gardener at Bittermeads had shown.

As soon as he was gone, Dunn went across to the house, and going up
to the window of the drawing-room where Ella and her mother were
having tea, he tapped on the pane.

Ella looked up and saw him, and came at once to open the window,
while from behind Mrs. Dawson frowned in severe disapproval of what
she considered a great liberty.

"Mr. Clive has been shot," Dunn said abruptly. "They say poachers
did it. He was killed instantly."

Ella did not seem at first to understand. She looked puzzled and
bewildered, and did not seem to grasp the full import of his words.

"What - what do you say?" she asked. "Mr. Clive - Who's killed?"

Dunn thought to himself that her acting was the most wonderful thing
he had ever seen.

It was extraordinary that she should be able to make that grey
pallor come over her cheeks as though the meaning of what he said
were only now entering her mind; wonderful that she should be able
so well to give the idea of a great horror and a great doubt coming
slowly into her startled eyes.

"Mr. Clive?" she said again.

"Yes, he's been killed," Dunn said. "By poachers, apparently."

"What is that? What is that man saying?" shrilled Mrs. Dawson from
behind. "Mr. Clive - John - why, he was here yesterday."

Dunn turned his back and walked away. He heard Ella call after him,
but he would not look back because he feared what he might do if he
obeyed her call.

With an odd buzzing in his ears, with the blood throbbing through
his brain as though something must soon break there, he walked
blindly on, and as he came to the gate of Bittermeads he saw a
motor-car coming up the road.

It was Deede Dawson's car, and he was driving it, and by his side
sat a sulkily-smiling stranger, his air that of one not sure of his
welcome, but determined to enforce it, in whom, with a quick start,
Dunn recognized his burglar, the man whose attempt to break into
Bittermeads he had frustrated, and whose place he had taken.

He put up his hand instinctively for them to stop, and Deede Dawson
at once obeyed the gesture.

Dunn noticed that the smile upon his lips was more gentle and
winning than ever, the look in his eyes more dark and menacing.

"Well, Dunn, what is it?" he said as pleasantly as he always spoke.
"Mr. Allen," he added to his companion, "this is my man, Dunn, I
told you about, my gardener and chauffeur, and a very industrious
steady fellow - and quite trustworthy."

He seemed to lay a certain emphasis on the last two words, and Allen
put his head on one side and looked at Dunn with an odd, mixture of
familiarity, suspicion, hesitation, and an uncertain assumption of
superiority, but with no hint of recognition showing.

"Glad to hear it," he said. "You always want to know whom you can

"Mr. Clive has been murdered," Dunn said abruptly. "Poachers, it
is said. Did you know?"

"We heard about it as we came through the village," answered Deede
Dawson. "Very sad, very dreadful. It will be a great shock to poor
Ella, I fear. Take the car on to the garage, will you?" he added.

He drove on up the drive, and at the front door they alighted and
entered the house together. Dunn followed, and getting into the
car, drove it to the garage, where he busied himself cleaning it.
As he worked he wondered very much what was the meaning of this
sudden appearance on terms of friendship with Deede Dawson of this
man Allen, whom he had last seen trying to break into the house at

Was Allen an accomplice of Deede Dawson, or a dupe, or, more
probably, a new recruit?

At any rate, to Dunn it seemed that the crisis he had expected and
prepared for was now fast approaching, and he told himself that if
he had failed in Clive's case, those others he was working for he
must not fail to save.

"Looks as if Dawson's plans were nearly ready," he said to himself.
"Well, so are mine."

He finished his work and shutting the garage door, he was turning
away when he saw Ella coming towards him.

She was extremely pale, and her eyes seemed larger than ever, and
very bright against the deathly whiteness of her cheeks.

She was wearing a blouse that was cut a little low, and he notice
with a kind of terror how soft and round was her throat, like a
column of pale and perfect ivory.

He hoped she would not speak to him, for he thought perhaps he could
not bear it if she did, but she halted near by, and said:

"This is very dreadful about poor Mr. Clive."

"Very," he answered moodily.

"Why should poachers kill him?" she asked. "Why should they want

"I don't know," he answered, watching not her but her soft throat,
where he could see a pulse fluttering. "Perhaps it wasn't poachers,"
he added.

She started violently, and gave a quick look that seemed to make yet
more certain the certainty he already entertained.

"Who else could it be?" she asked in a low voice.

He did not answer.

After what seemed a long time she said:

"You asked me a question once - do you remember?"

He shook his head.

"Why don't you speak? Why can't you speak?" she cried angrily.
"Why can't you. say something instead of just shaking your head?"

"You see, I've asked you so many questions," he said slowly.
"Perhaps I shall ask you some more some day - which question do you

"I mean when you asked me if I had ever met any one who spoke in a
very shrill, high whistling sort of voice? Do you remember?"

"Yes," he said. "You wouldn't tell me."

"Well, I will now," she said. "I did meet a man once with a voice
like that. Do you remember the night you, came here that I drove
away in the car with a packing-case you carried downstairs?"

"Do I - remember?" he gasped, for that memory, and the thought of
how she had driven away into the night with, that grisly thing behind
her on the car had never since left his mind by night or by day.

"Yes," she exclaimed impatiently. "Why do you keep staring so? Are
you as stupid as you choose to look? Do you remember?"

"I remember," he answered heavily. "I remember very well."

"Well, then, the man I took that packing-case to had a voice just
like that - high and shrill, whistling almost."

"I thought as much," said Dunn. "May I ask you another question?"

She nodded.

"May I smoke?"

She nodded again with a touch of impatience.

He took a cigarette from his pocket and put it in his mouth and
lighted a match, but the match, when he had lighted it, he used to
put light to a scrap of folded paper with writing on it, like a note.

This piece of paper he used to light his cigarette with and when he
had done so he watched the paper burn to an ash, not dropping it to
the ground till the little flame stung his fingers.

The ash that had fallen he ground into the path where they stood
with the heel of his boot.

"What have you burned there?" she asked, as if she suspected it was
something of importance he had destroyed.

In fact it was the note that had fallen from dead John Clive's hand
wherein Ella had asked him to meet her at the oak where he had met
his death.

That bit of paper would have been enough, Dunn thought, to place a
harsh hempen noose about the soft white throat he watched where the
little pulse still fluttered up and down. But now it was burnt and
utterly destroyed, and no one would ever see it.

At the thought he laughed and she drew back, very startled.

"Oh, what is the matter?" she exclaimed.

"Nothing," he answered. "Nothing in all the world except that I
love you."



When he had said this he went a step or two aside and sat down on
the stump of a tree. He was very agitated and disturbed for he had
not in the very least meant to say such a thing, he had not even
known that he really felt like that.

It was, indeed, a rush and power of quite unexpected passion that
had swept him away and made him for the moment lose all control
of himself. Ella showed much more composure. She had become
extraordinarily pale, but otherwise she did not appear in any way

She remained silent, her eyes bent on the ground, her only movement
a gesture by which she rubbed softly and in turn each of her wrists
as though they hurt her.

"Well, can't you say something?" he asked roughly, annoyed by her
persistent silence.

"I don't see that there's anything for me to say," she answered.

"Oh, well now then," he muttered; quite disconcerted.

She raised her eyes from the ground, and for the first time looked
full at him, in her expression both curiosity and resentment.

"It is perfectly intolerable," she said with a heaving breast.
"Will you tell me who you are?"

"I've told you one thing," he answered sullenly, his eyes on fire.
"I should have thought that was enough. I'll tell you nothing more."

"I think you are the most horrid man I ever met," she cried. "And
the very, very ugliest - all that hair on your face so that no one
can see anything else. What are you like when you cut it off?"

"Does that matter?" he asked, in the same gruff and surly manner.

"I should think it matters a good deal when I ask you," she
exclaimed. "Do you expect any one to care for a man she has never
seen - nothing but hair. You hurt my wrists awfully that night,"
she added resentfully. "And you've never even hinted you're sorry."

His reply was unexpected and it disconcerted her greatly and for
the first time, for he caught both her wrists in his hands and
kissed them passionately where the cords had been.

"You mustn't do that, please don't do that," she said quickly,
trying to release herself.

Her strength was nothing to his and he stood up and put his arm
around her and strained her to him in an embrace so passionate and
powerful she could not have resisted it though she had wished to.

But no thought of resistance came to her, since for the moment she
had lost all consciousness of everything save the strange thrill of
his bright, clear eyes looking so closely into hers, of his strong
arms holding her so firmly.

He released her, or rather she at last freed herself by an effort
he did not oppose, and she fled away down the path.

She had an impression that her hair would come down and that that
would make her look a fright, and she put up her hands hurriedly
to secure it. She never looked back to where he stood, breathing
heavily and looking after her and thinking not of her, but of two
dead men whom he had seen of late.

"Shall I make the third?" he wondered. "I do not care if I do,
not I."

The path Ella had fled by led into another along which when she
reached it she saw Deede Dawson coming.

She stopped at once and began to busy herself with a flower-bed
overrun with weeds, but she could not entirely conceal her agitation
from her stepfather's cold grey eyes.

"Oh, there you are, Ella, he said, with all that false geniality of
his that filled the girl with such loathing and distrust. "Have you
seen Dunn? Oh, there he is, isn't he? I wanted to ask you, Ella,
what do you think of Dunn?"

She glanced over her shoulder towards where Dunn stood, and she
managed to answer with a passable air of indifference.

"Well, I suppose," she said, "that he is quite the ugliest man I
ever saw. Of course, if he cut all of that hair off - "

Deede Dawson laughed though his eyes remained as hard and cold as

"I shall have to give him orders to shave," he said. "Your mother
was telling me I ought to the other day, she said it didn't look
respectable to have a man about with all that hair on his face.
Though I don't see myself why hair isn't respectable, do you?"

"It looks odd," answered Ella carelessly.

Deede Dawson laughed again, and walked on to where Dunn was standing
waiting for him. With his perpetual smile that his cold and evil
eyes so strangely contradicted, he said to him:

"Well, what have you and Ella been talking about?"

"Why do you ask?" growled Dunn.

"Because she looks upset," answered Deede Dawson. "Oh, don't be shy
about it. Shall I give you a little good advice?"


"Never shave."

"Why not?"

"Because that thick growth of hair hiding your face gives you an air
of mystery and romance no woman could possibly resist. You're a
perpetual puzzle, and to pique a woman's curiosity is the surest way
to interest her. Why, there are plenty of women who would marry you
simply to find out what is under all that hair. So never you shave."

"I don't mean to."

"Unless, of course, you have to - for purposes of disguise, for

"I thought you were hinting that the beard itself was a disguise,"
retorted Dunn.

"Removing it might become a better one," answered Deede Dawson.
"You told me once you knew this part fairly well. Do you know
Wreste Abbey?"

Dunn gave his questioner a scowling look that seemed full of anger
and suspicion.

"What about it if I do?" he asked.

"I am asking if you do know it," said Deede Dawson.

"Yes, I do. Well?"

"It belongs to Lord Chobham, doesn't it?"

Dunn nodded.

"Old man, isn't he?"

"I'm not a book of reference about Lord Chobham," answered Dunn.
"If you want to know his age, you can easily find out, I suppose.
What's the sense of asking me a lot of questions like that?"

"He has no family, and his heir is his younger brother, General
Dunsmore, who has one son, Rupert, I believe. Do you know if
that's so?"

"Look here," said Dunn, speaking with a great appearance of anger.
"Don't you go too far, or maybe something you won't like will happen.
If you've anything to say, say it straight out. Or there'll be

Deede Dawson seemed a little surprised at the vehemence of the
other's tone.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Don't you like the family, or what's
upsetting you?"

Dunn seemed almost choking with fury. He half-lifted one hand and
let it fall again.

"If ever I get hold of that young Rupert Dunsmore," he said with a
little gasp for breath. "If ever I come face to face with him - man
to man - "

"Dear me!" smiled Deede Dawson, lifting his eyebrows. "I'm treading
on sore toes, it seems. What's the trouble between you?"

"Never you mind," replied Dunn roughly. "That's my business. But
no man ever had a worse enemy than he's been to me."

"Has he, though?" said Deede Dawson, who seemed very interested and
even a little excited. "What did he do?"

"Never you mind," Dunn repeated. "That's my affair, but I swore I'd
get even with him some day and I will, too."

"Suppose," said Deede Dawson. "Suppose I showed you a way?"

Dunn did not answer at first, and for some moments the two men stood
watching each other and staring into each other's eyes as though
each was trying to read the depths of the other's soul.

"Suppose," said Deede Dawson very softly. "Suppose you were to meet
Rupert Dunsmore - alone - quite alone?"

Still Dunn did not answer, but somehow it appeared that his silence
was full of a very deadly significance.

"Suppose you did - what would you do?" murmured Deede Dawson again,
and his voice sank lower with each word he uttered till the last
was a scarce-audible whisper.

Dunn stopped and picked up a hoe that was lying near by. He placed
the tough ash handle across his knee, and with a movement of his
powerful hands, he broke the hoe across.

The two smashed pieces he dropped on the ground, and looking at
Deede Dawson, he said:

"Like that - if ever Rupert Dunsmore and I meet alone, only one of
us will go away alive." And he confirmed it with an oath.

Deede Dawson clapped him on the shoulder, and laughed.

"Good!" he cried. "Why, you're the man I've been looking for for
a long time. The fact is, Rupert Dunsmore played me a nasty trick
once, and I want to clear accounts with him. Now, suppose I show
him to you - ?"

"You do that," said Dunn, and he repeated the oath he had sworn
before. "You show him to me, and I'll take care he never troubles
any one again."

"That's the way I like to hear a man talk," cried Deede Dawson.
"Dunsmore has been away for a time on business I can make a guess
at, but he is coming back soon. Should you know him if you saw

"Should I know him?" repeated Dunn contemptuously. "Should I know

"That's good," said Deede Dawson again. "By the way, perhaps you
can tell me, hasn't Lord Chobham a rather distant cousin, Walter
Dunsmore, living with him as secretary or something of the sort
- quite a distant relative, I believe, though in the direct line
of succession?"

"Very likely," said Dunn indifferently. "I think so, but I don't
care anything about the rest of them. It's only Rupert Dunsmore I
have anything



It was a little later when Deede Dawson returned to the subject of
Wreste Abbey.

"Lord Chobham has a very valuable collection of plate and jewellery
and so on, hasn't he?" he asked.

"Oh, there's plenty of the stuff there," Dunn answered. "Why?"

"Oh, I was thinking a visit might be made fairly profitable," Deede
Dawson said carelessly, for the first time definitely throwing off
his mask of law-abiding citizen under which he lived at Bittermeads.

"It would be a risky job," answered Dunn, showing no surprise at the
suggestion. "The stuff's well guarded, and then, that's not what
I'm thinking about - it's meeting Rupert Dunsmore, man to man, and
no one to come between us. If that ever happens - "

Deede Dawson nodded reassuringly.

"That'll be all right," he said. "So you shall, I promise you that.
But we might as well kill two birds with one stone and clear a bit
of profit, too. I've got to live, like any one else, and I haven't
five thousand a year of my own, so I get my living out of those who
have, and I don't see who has any right to blame me. Mind, if there
was any money in chess, I should be a millionaire, but there isn't,
and if a man can make a fortune on the Stock Exchange, which takes
no more thought or skill than auction-bridge, why shouldn't I make a
bit when I can? There's the 'D. D.' gambit I've invented, people
will be studying and playing for centuries, but it'll never bring me
a penny for all the brain-work I put into it, and so I've got to
protect myself, haven't I?"

"It's what I do with less talk about it," answered Dunn
contemptuously. "Why, I've guessed all that from the first when
you weren't so all-fired keen on seeing me in gaol, as most of your
honest, hard-working lot, who only do their swindling in business-hours,
would have been. And I've kept my eyes open, of course. It wasn't
hard to twig you did a bit on the cross yourself. Well, that's your
affair, but one thing I do want to know - how much does Miss Cayley

For all his efforts he could not keep his anxiety entirely out of
his voice as he said this, and recognizing that thereby he had
perhaps risked rousing some suspicion in the other's mind, he added:

"And her mother - the young lady and her mother, how much do they

"Oh," answered Deede Dawson, with his false laugh and cold-watchful
eyes. "My wife knows nothing at all, but Ella's the best helper
I've ever had. She looks so innocent, she can take in any one, and
she never gives the show away, she acts all the time. A wonderful
girl and useful - you'd hardly believe how useful."

Dunn did not answer. It was only by a supreme effort that he kept
his hands from Deede Dawson's throat. He did not believe a word of
what the other said, for he knew well the utter falseness of the man.
None the less, the accusation troubled him and chilled him to the
heart, as though with the touch of the finger of death.

"You remember that packing-case," Deede Dawson added. "The one you
helped me to get away from here the night you came. Well, she knew
what was in it, though you would never have thought so, to look at
her, would you?"

His cold eyes were very intent and keen as he said this, and Dunn
thought to himself that it had been said more to test any possible
knowledge or suspicion of his own than for any other reason. With
a manner of only slight interest, he answered carelessly:

"Did she? Why? Wasn't it your stuff? Had it been pinched? But
she was safe enough, the police would never stop a smart young lady
in a motor-car, except on very strong evidence."

"Perhaps not," agreed Deede Dawson. "That's one reason why Ella's
so useful. But I've been thinking things out, and trying to make
them work in together, and I think the first thing to do is for you
to drive Allen and Ella over to Wreste Abbey this afternoon, so
that they may have a good look around."

"Oh, Miss Cayley and Allen," Dunn muttered.

The new-comer, Allen, had been making himself very much at home at
Bittermeads since his arrival, though he had not so far troubled
to any great extent either Ella in the house or Dunn outside. His
idea of comfort seemed to be to stay in bed very late, and spend
his time when he did get up in the breakfast-room in the company
of a box of cigars and a bottle of whisky.

The suggestion that he and Ella should pay a visit together to
Wreste Abbey was one that greatly surprised Dunn.

"All right," he said. "This afternoon? I'll get the car ready."

"This is the afternoon the Abbey is thrown open to visitors, isn't
it?" asked Deede Dawson. "Allen and Ella can get in as tourists,
and have a good look round, and you can look round outside and get
to know the lie of the land. There won't be long to wait, for
Rupert Dunsmore will be back from his little excursion before long,
I expect."

He laughed in his mirthless way, and walked off, and Dunn, as he
got the car ready, seemed a good deal preoccupied and a little

"How can he know that Rupert Dunsmore is coming back?" he said to
himself. "Can he have any way of finding out things I don't know
about? And if he did, how could he know - that? Most likely it's
only a guess to soothe me down, and he doesn't really know anything
at all about it."

After lunch, Allen and Ella appeared together, ready for their
expedition. Ella looked her best in a big motoring coat and a
close-fitting hat, with a long blue veil. Allen was, for almost
the first time since his arrival, shaved, washed and tidy.

He looked indeed as respectable as his sinister and forbidding
countenance would permit, and though Deede Dawson had made him as
smart as possible, he had permitted him to gratify his own florid
taste in adornment, so that his air of prosperity and wealth had
the appearance of being that of some recently-enriched vulgarian
whose association with a motor-car and a well-dressed girl of Ella's
type was probably due to the fact that he had recently purchased
them both out of newly-acquired wealth.

Dunn wore a neat chauffeur's costume, with which, however, his
bearded face did not go too well. He felt indeed that their whole
turn-out was far too conspicuous considering the real nature of
their errand, and far too likely to attract attention, and he
wondered if Deede Dawson's subtle and calculating mind had not for
some private reason desired that to be so.

"He is keeping well in the background himself," Dunn mused. "He may
reckon that if things go wrong - in case of any pursuit - it's a
good move perhaps in a way, but he may find an unexpected check to
his king opened on him."

The drive was a long one, and Ella noticed that though Dunn consulted
his map frequently, he never appeared in any doubt concerning the way.

A little before three they drove into the village that lay round the
park gates of Wreste Abbey.

Motors were not allowed in the park, so Dunn put theirs in the garage
of the little hotel, that was already almost full, for visiting day
at Wreste Abbey generally drew a goodly number of tourists, while
Ella and Allen, in odd companionship, walked up to the Abbey by the
famous approach through the chestnut avenue.

Allen was quiet and surly, and much on his guard, and very
uncomfortable in Ella's company, and Ella herself, though for
different reasons was equally silent.

But the beauty of the walk through the chestnut avenue, and of the
vista with the great house at the end, drew from her a quick
exclamation of delight.

"How beautiful a place this is," she said aloud. "And how peaceful
and how quiet."

"Don't like these quiet places myself," grumbled Allen. "Don't like
'em, don't trust 'em. Give me lots of traffic; when everything's so
awful quiet you've only got to kick your foot against a stone or drop
a tool, and likely as not you'll wake the whole blessed place."

"Wake " repeated Ella, noticing the word, and she repeated it with
emphasis. "Why do you say 'wake'?"



Ella did not say anything more, and in their character of tourists
visiting the place, they were admitted to the Abbey and passed on
though its magnificent rooms, where was stored a collection rich
and rare even for one of the stateliest homes of England.

"What a wonderful place!" Ella sighed wistfully. Yet she could not
enjoy the spectacle of all these treasures as she would have done
at another time, for she was always watching Allen, who hung about
a good deal, and seemed to look more at the locks of the cases that
held some of the more valuable of the objects shown than at the
things themselves, and generally spent fully half the time in each
room at the window, admiring, the view, he said; but for quite
another reason, Ella suspected.

"I shall speak when I get back," she said to herself, pale and
resolute. "I don't care what happens; I don't care if I have to
tell mother - perhaps she knows already. Anyhow, I shall speak."

Having come to this determination, she grew cheerful and more
interested apparently in what they were seeing, as well as less
watchful of her companion. When, presently, they left the house to
go into the gardens, it happened that they noticed an old gentleman
walking at a little distance behind a gate marked "Private," and
leaning on the arm of a tall, thin, clean-shaven man of middle-age.

"Lord Chobham, the old gentleman," whispered a tourist, who was
standing near. "I saw him once in the House of Lords. That's his
secretary with him, Mr. Dunsmore, one of the family; he manages
everything now the old gentleman is getting so feeble."

Ella walked on frowning and a little worried, for she thought she
had seen the secretary before and yet could not remember where.
Soon she noticed Dunn, who had apparently been obeying Deede Dawson's
orders to look round outside and get to know the lie of the land.

He seemed at present to be a good deal interested in Lord Chobham
and his companion, for he went and leaned on the gate and stared at
them so rudely that one or two of the other tourists noticed it
and frowned at him. But he took no notice, and presently, as if
not seeing that the gate was marked "Private," he pushed it open
and walked through.

Noticing the impertinent intrusion almost at once, Mr. Dunsmore
turned round and called "This is private."

Dunn did not seem to hear, and Mr. Dunsmore walked across to him
with a very impatient air, while the little group of tourists
watched, with much interest and indignation and a very comforting
sense of superiority.

"He ought to be sent right out of the grounds," they told each other.
"That's the sort of rude behaviour other people have to suffer for."

"Now, my man," said Mr. Dunsmore sharply, "this is private, you've
no business here."

"Sorry, sir; beg pardon, I'm sure," said Dunn, touching his hat, and
as he did so he said in a sharp, penetrating whisper: "Look out -
trouble's brewing - don't know what, but look out, all the time."

He had spoken so quickly and quietly, in the very act of turning away,
that none of the onlookers could have told that a word had passed, but
for the very violent start that Walter Dunsmore made and his quick
movement forward as if to follow the other. Immediately Dunn turned
back towards him with a swift warning gesture of his hand.

"Careful, you fool, they're looking," he said in a quick whisper,
and in a loud voice : "Very sorry, sir; beg pardon - I'm sure
I didn't mean anything."

Walter Dunsmore swung round upon his heel and went quickly back to
where Lord Chobham waited; and his face was like that of one who
has gazed into the very eyes of death.

"Lord in Heaven," he muttered, "it's all over, I'm done." And his
hand felt for a little metal box he carried in his waistcoat pocket
and that held half a dozen small round tablets, each of them a strong
man's death.

But he took his hand away again as he rejoined his cousin, patron,
and employer, old Lord Chobham.

"What's the matter, Walter?" Lord Chobham asked. "You look pale."

"The fellow was a bit impudent; he made me angry," said Walter
carelessly. He fingered the little box in his waistcoat pocket and
thought how one tablet on his tongue would always end it all. "By
the way, oughtn't Rupert to be back soon?" he asked.

"Yes, he ought," said Lord Chobham severely. "It's time he married
and settled down - I shall speak to his father about it. The boy
is always rushing off somewhere or another when he ought to be
getting to know the estate and the tenants."

Walter Dunsmore laughed.

"I think he knows them both fairly well already," he said. "Not a
tenant on the place but swears by Rupert. He's a fine fellow, uncle."

"Oh, you always stick up for him; you and he were always friends,"
answered Lord Chobham in a grumbling tone, but really very pleased.
"I know I'm never allowed to say a word about Rupert."

"Well, he's a fine fellow and a good friend," said Walter, and the
two disappeared into the house by a small side-door as Dunn pushed
his way through the group of tourists who looked at him with marked
and severe disapproval.

"Disgraceful," one of them said quite loudly, and another added: "I
believe he said something impudent to that gentleman. I saw him go
quite white, and look as if he were in two minds about ordering the
fellow right out of the grounds." And a third expressed the general
opinion that the culprit looked a real ruffian with all that hair
on his face. "Might be a gorilla," said the third tourist. "And
look what a clumsy sort of walk he has; perhaps he's been drinking."

But Dunn was quite indifferent to, and indeed unaware of this popular
condemnation as he made his way back to the hotel garage where he had
left their car. He seemed rather well pleased than otherwise as he
walked on.

"Quite a stroke of luck for once," he mused, and he smiled to
himself, and stroked the thick growth of his untidy beard. "It's
been worth while, for he didn't recognize me in the least, and had
quite a shock, but, all the same, I shan't be sorry to shave and
see my own face again."

He had the car out and ready when Ella and Allen came back. Allen
at once made an excuse to leave them, and went into the hotel bar
to get a drink of whisky, and when they were alone, Ella, who was
looking very troubled and thoughtful, said to Dunn

"We saw Lord Chobham in the garden with a gentleman some one told
us was a relative of his, a Mr. Walter Dunsmore. Did you see them?"

"Yes," answered Dunn, a little surprised, and giving her a quick
and searching look from his bright, keen eyes. I saw them. Why - "

"I think I've seen the one they said was Mr. Walter Dunsmore before,
and I can't think where," she answered, puckering her brows.
"I can't think - do you know anything about him?"

"I know he is Mr. Walter Dunsmore," answered Dunn slowly, and I
know he is one of the family, and a great friend of Rupert Dunsmore's.
Rupert Dunsmore is Lord Chobham's nephew, you know, and heir, after
his father, to the title and estates. His father, General Dunsmore,
brought him and Walter up together like brothers, but recently Walter
has lived at the Abbey as Lord Chobham's secretary and companion.
The general likes to live abroad a good deal, and his son Rupert is
always away on some sporting or exploring expedition or another."

"It's very strange," Ella said again. "I'm sure I've seen Walter
Dunsmore before but I can't think where."

Allen came from the bar, having quenched his thirst for the time
being, and they started off, arriving back at Bittermeads fairly
early in the evening, for Dunn had brought them along at a good
rate, and apparently remembered the road so well from the afternoon
that he never once had occasion to refer to the map.

He took the car round to the garage, and Allen and Ella went into
the house, where Allen made his way at once to the breakfast-room,
searching for more whisky and cigars, while Ella, after a quick
word with her mother to assure her of their safe return, went to
find Deede Dawson.

"Ah, dear child, you are back then," he greeted her. "Well, how
have you enjoyed yourself? Had a pleasant time?"

"It was not for pleasure we went there, I think," she said

He looked up quickly, and though his perpetual smile still played
as usual about his lips, his eyes were hard and daunting as they
fixed themselves on hers. Before that sinister stare her own eyes
sank, and sought the little travelling set of chessmen and board
that were before him.

"See," he said, "I've just brought off a mate. Neat isn't it?

She looked up at him, and her eyes were steadier now.

"I've only one thing to say to you," she said. "I came here to say
it. If anything happens at Wreste Abbey I shall go straight to the

"Indeed," he said, "indeed." He fingered the chessmen as though all
his attention were engaged by them. "May I ask why?" he murmured.
"For what purpose?"

"To tell them," she answered quietly, "what I - know."

"And what do you know?" he asked indifferently. "What do you know
that is likely to interest the police?"

"I ought to have said, perhaps," she answered after a pause, "what
I suspect."

"Ah, that's so different, isn't?" he murmured gently. " So very
different. You see we all of us suspect so many things."

She did not answer, for she had said all she had to say and she was
afraid that her strength would not carry her further. She began to
walk away, but he called her back.

"Oh, how do you think your mother is today?" he asked." Do you know,
her condition seems to me quite serious at times. I wonder if you
are overanxious?"

"She is better - much better!" Ella answered, and added with a sudden
burst of fiercest, white-hot passion: "But I think it would be better
if we had both died before we met you."

She hurried away, for she was afraid of breaking down, and Deede
Dawson smiled the more as he again turned his attention to his
chessmen, taking them up and putting them down in turn.

"She's turning nasty," he mused. "I don't think she'll dare - but
she might. She's only a pawn, but a pawn can cause a lot of trouble
at times - a pawn may become a queen and give the mate. When a pawn
threatens trouble it's best to - remove it."

He went out and came back a little late and busied himself with a
four-move chess problem which absorbed all his attention, and which
he did not solve to his satisfaction till past midnight. Then he
went upstairs to bed, but at the door of his room he paused and went
on very softly up the narrow stairs that led to the attics above.

Outside the one in which Dunn slept, he waited a little till the
unbroken sound of regular breathing from within assured him that
the occupant slept.

Cautiously and carefully he crept on, and entered the one adjoining,
where he turned the light of the electric flashlight he carried on a
large, empty packing-case that stood in one corner.

With a two-foot rule he took from his pocket he measured it
carefully and nodded with great satisfaction.

"A little smaller than the other," he said to himself. "But, then,
it hasn't got to hold so much." He laughed in his silent, mirthless
way, as at something that amused him. "A good deal less," he thought.
"And Dunn shall drive."

He laughed again, and for a moment or two stood there in the
darkness, laughing silently to himself, and then, speaking aloud,
he called out:

"You can come in, Dunn."

Dunn, whom a creaking board had betrayed, came forward unconcernedly
in his sleeping attire.

"I saw it was you," he remarked. "At first I thought something was

"Nothing, nothing," answered Deede Dawson. "I was only looking at
this packing-case. I may have to send one away again soon, and I
wanted to be sure this was big enough. If I do, I shall want you to

"Not Miss Cayley?" asked Dunn.

"No, no," answered Deede Dawson. "She might be with you perhaps, but
she wouldn't drive. Night driving is always dangerous, I think, don't

"There's things more dangerous," Dunn remarked.

"Oh, quite true," answered Deede Dawson. "Well, did you enjoy your
visit to Wreste Abbey?"

"No," answered Dunn roughly. "I didn't see Rupert Dunsmore, and it
wouldn't have been any good if I had with all those people about."

"You're too impatient," Deede Dawson smiled. "I'm getting everything
ready; you can't properly expect to win a game in a dozen moves. You
must develop your pieces properly and have all ready before you start
your attack. As soon as I'm ready - why, I'll act - and you'll have
to do the rest."

"I see," said Dunn thoughtfully.



In point of fact Dunn had not been asleep when Deede Dawson came
listening at his door. Of late he had slept little and that little
had been much disturbed by evil, haunting dreams in which perpetually
he saw his dead friend, Charley Wright, and dead John Clive always
together, while behind them floated the pale and lovely face of Ella,
at whom the two dead men looked and whispered to each other.

In the day such thoughts troubled him less, for when he was under
the influence of Ella's gentle presence, and when he could watch her
clear and candid eyes, he found all doubt and suspicion melting away
like snow beneath warm sunshine.

But in the silence of the night they returned, returned very
dreadfully, so dreadfully that often as he lay awake in the darkness
beads of sweat stood upon his forehead and he would drive his great
hands one against the other in his passionate effort to still the
thoughts that tormented him. Then, in the morning again, the sound
of Ella's voice, the merest glimpse of her grave and gracious
personality, would bring back once more his instinctive belief in

The morning after Deede Dawson had paid his visit to the attic there
was news, however, that disturbed him greatly, for Mrs. Barker, the
charwoman who came each morning to Bittermeads, told them that two
men in the village - notorious poachers - had been arrested by the
police on a charge of being concerned in Mr. Clive's death.

The news was a great shock to Dunn, for, knowing as he thought he
did, that the police were working on an entirely wrong idea, he had
not supposed they would ever find themselves able to make any arrest.
As a matter of fact, these arrests they had made were the result of
desperation on the part of the police, who unable to discover
anything and entirely absorbed by their preconceived idea that the
crime was the work of poachers, had arrested men they knew were
poachers in the vague hope of somehow discovering something or of
somehow getting hold of some useful clue.

But that Dunn did not know, and feared unlucky chance or undesigned
coincidence must have appeared to suggest the guilt of the men and
that they were really in actual danger of trial and conviction. He
had, too, received that morning, through the secret means of
communication he kept open with an agent in London, conclusive proof
that at the moment of Clive's death Deede Dawson was in town on
business that seemed obscure enough, but none the less in town,
and therefore undoubtedly innocent of the actual perpetration of
the murder.

Who, then, was left who could have fired the fatal shot?

It was a question Dunn dared not even ask himself but he saw very
plainly that if the proceedings against the two arrested men were
to be pressed, he would be forced to come forward before his
preparations were ready and tell all he knew, no matter at what cost.

All the morning he waited and watched for his opportunity to speak
to Ella, who was in a brighter and gayer mood than he had ever seen
her in before.

At breakfast Deede Dawson had assured her that he could not conceive
what were the suspicions she had referred to the night previously,
and while he would certainly have no objection to her mentioning
them at any time, in any quarter she thought fit if anything happened
at Wreste Abbey - and would indeed be the first to urge her to do so
- he, for his part, considered it most unlikely that anything of the
sort she seemed to dread would in fact occur.

"Not at all likely," he said with his happy, beaming smile that
never reached those cold eyes of his. "I should say myself that
nothing ever did happen at Wreste Abbey, not since the Flood, anyhow.
It strikes me as the most peaceful, secluded spot in all England."

"I'm very glad you think so," said Ella, tremendously relieved and
glad to hear him say so, and supposing, though his smooth words and
smiles and protestations deceived her very little, that, at any rate,
what she had said had forced him to abandon whatever plans he had
been forming in that direction.

Her victory, as it seemed to her, won so easily and containing good
promise of further success in the future, cheered her immensely, and
it was in almost a happy mood that she went unto the garden after
lunch and met Dunn in a quiet, well-hidden corner, where he had been
waiting and watching for long.

His appearance startled her - his eyes were so wild, his whole
manner so strained and restless, and she gave a little dismayed
exclamation as she saw him.

"Oh, what's the matter? "' she asked. "Aren't you well? You look - "

She paused for she did not know exactly how it was he did look;;
and he said in his harshest, most abrupt manner

"Do you remember Charley Wright?"

"Why do you ask?" she said, puzzled. "Is anything wrong?"

"Do you remember John Clive?" he asked, disregarding this. "Have
you heard two men have been arrested for his murder?"

"Mrs. Barker told me so,"' she answered gravely. He came a little
nearer, almost threateningly nearer.

"What do you think of that?" he asked.

She lifted one hand and put it gently on his arm. The touch of it
thrilled him through and through, and he felt a little dazed as he
watched it resting on his coat sleeve. She had become very pale
also and her voice was low and strained as she said

"Have you had suspicions too?"

He looked at her as if fascinated for a moment, and then nodded
twice and very slowly.

"So have I," she sighed in tones so low he could scarcely hear them.

"Oh, you, you also," he muttered, almost suffocating.

"Yes," she said. "Yes - perhaps the same as yours. My stepfather,"
she breathed, "Mr. Deede Dawson."

He watched her closely and moodily, but he did not speak.

"I was afraid - at first," she whispered. "But I was wrong - quite
wrong. It is as certain as it can be that he was in London at the

>From his pocket Dunn took out the handkerchief of hers that he had
found near the body of the dead man.

"Is this yours?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered. "Yes, where did you get it?"

He did not answer, but he lifted his hands one after the other, and
put them on her shoulder, with the fingers outspread to encircle her
throat. It seemed to him that when she acknowledged the ownership
of the handkerchief she acknowledged also the perpetration of the
deed, and he became a little mad, and he had it in his mind that the
slightest, the very slightest, pressure of his fingers on that soft,
round throat would put it for ever out of her power to do such things
again. Then for himself death would be easy and welcome, and there
would be an end to all these doubts and fears that racked him with
anguish beyond bearing.

"What are you going to do?" she asked, making no attempt to resist
or escape.

Ever so slightly the pressure of his hands upon her throat
strengthened and increased. A very little more and the lovely
thing of life he watched would be broken and cold for ever. Her
eyes were steady, she showed no sign of fear, she stood perfectly
still, her hands loosely clasped together before her. He groaned,
and his arms fell to his side, helpless. Without the slightest
change of expression, she

"What were you going to do?"

"I don't know," he answered. "Do you ever go mad? I do, I think.
Perhaps you do too, and that explains it. Do you know where Charley
Wright is?"

"Yes," she answered directly. "Why? Did you know him, then?"

"You know where he is now?" Dunn repeated.

She nodded quietly.

"I heard from him only last week," she said.

"I am certainly mad or you are," he muttered, staring at her with
eyes in which such wonder and horror showed that it seemed there
really was a touch of madness there.

"What is the matter?" she asked.

"You heard from him last week," he said again, and again she

"Yes - last week. Why not?"

He leaned forward, and before she knew what he intended to do he
kissed her pale, cool cheek.

Once more she stood still and immobile, her hands loosely clasped
before her. It might have been that he had kissed a statue, and
her perfect stillness made him afraid.

"Ella," he said. "Ella."

"Why did you do that?" she said, a little wildly now in her turn.
"It was not that you were going to do to me before."

"I love you," he muttered excusingly.

She shook her head.

"You know too little of me; you have too many doubt and fears," she
said. "You do not love me, you do not even trust me."

"I love you all the same," he asserted positively and roughly. "I
loved you - it was when I tied your hands to the chair that night
and you looked at me with such contempt, and asked me if I felt
proud. That stung, that stung. I loved you then."

"You see," she said sadly, you do not even pretend to trust me. I
don't know why you should. Why are you here? Why are you disguised
with all that growth of hair? There is something you are preparing,
planning. I know it. I feel it. What is it?"

"I told you once before," he answered, "that the end of this will
be Deede Dawson's death or mine. That's what I'm preparing."

"He is very cunning, very clever," she said. "Do you think he
suspects you?"

"He suspects every one always," answered Dunn. "I've been trying
to get proof to act on. I haven't succeeded. Not yet. Nothing
definite. If I can't, I shall act without. That's all."

"If I told him even half of what you just said," she said, looking
at him. "What would happen?"

"You see, I trust you," he answered bitterly.

She shook her head, but her eyes were soft and tender as she said:

"It wasn't trust in me made you say all that, it was because you
didn't care what happened after."

"No," he said. "But when I see you, I forget everything. Do you
love me?"

"Why, I've never even seen you yet," she exclaimed with something
like a smile. "I only know you as two eyes over a tangle of hair
that I don't believe you ever either brush or comb. Do you know,
sometimes I am curious."

He took her hand and drew her to sit beside him on the bench under
a tree near by. All his doubts and fears and suspicions he set far
from him, and remembered nothing save that she was the woman for
whom yearned all the depths of his soul as by pre-ordained decree.
And she, too, forgot all else save that she had met her man - her
man, to her strange, aloof, mysterious, but dominating all her life
as though by primal necessity.

When they parted, it was with an agreement to meet again that
evening, and in the twilight they spent a halcyon hour together,
saying little, feeling much.

It was only when at last she had left him that he remembered all
that had passed, that had happened, that he knew, suspected, dreaded,
all that he planned and intended and would be soon called upon to put
into action.

"She's made me mad," he said to himself, and for a long time he sat
there in the darkness, in the stillness of the evening, motionless
as the tree in whose shade he sat, plunged in the most profound and
strange reverie, from which presently his quick ear, alert and keen
even when his mind was deep in thought, caught the light and careful
sound of an approaching footstep.

In a moment he was up and gliding through the darkness to meet who
was coming, and almost at once a voice hailed him cautiously.

"There you are, Dunn," Deede Dawson said. "I've been looking for
you everywhere. Tomorrow or next day we shall be able to strike;
everything is ready at last, and I'll tell you now exactly what we
are going to do."

"That's good news," said Dunn softly.

"Come this way," Deede Dawson said, and led Dunn through the
darkness to the gate that admitted to the Bittermeads grounds from
the high road.

Here he paused, and stood for a long time in silence, leaning on
the gate and looking out across the road to the common beyond.
Close beside him stood Dunn, controlling his impatience as best he
could, and wondering if at last the secret springs of all these
happenings was to be laid bare to him.

But Deede Dawson seemed in no hurry to begin. For a long time he
remained in the same attitude, silent and sombre in the darkness,
and when at last he spoke it was to utter a remark that quite took
Dunn by surprise.

"What a lovely night," he said in low and pensive tones, very unlike
those he generally used. "I remember when I was a boy - that's a
long time ago."

Dunn was too surprised by this sudden and very unexpected lapse into
sentiment to answer. Deede Dawson went on as if thinking to himself:

"A long time - I've done a lot - seen a lot since then - too much,
perhaps - I remember mother told me once - poor soul, I believe she
used to be rather proud of me - "

"Your mother?" Dunn said wondering greatly to think this man should
still have such memories.

But Deede Dawson seemed either to resent his tone or else to be
angry with himself for giving way to such weakness. In a voice more
like his usual one, he said harshly and sneeringly:

"Oh, yes, I had a mother once, just like everybody else. Why not?
Most people have their mothers, though it's not an arrangement I
should care to defend. Now then, Ella was with you tonight; you
and she were alone together a long time."

"Well," growled Dunn, "what of it?"

"Fine girl, isn't she?" asked Deede Dawson, and laughed.

Dunn did not speak. It filled him with such loathing to hear this
man so much as utter Ella's name, it was all he could do to keep
his hands motionless by his side and not make use of them about the
other's throat.

"She's been useful, very useful," Deede Dawson went on meditatively.
"Her mother had some money when I married her. I don't mind telling
you it's all spent now, but Ella's a little fortune in herself."

"I didn't know we came to talk about her," said Dunn slowly. "I
thought you had something else to say to me."

"So I have," Deede Dawson answered. "That's why I brought you here.
We are safe from eavesdroppers here, in a house you can never tell
who is behind a curtain or a door. But then, Ella is a part of my
plans, a very important part. Do you remember I told you I might
want you to take a second packing-case away from here in the car
one night?"

"Yes, I remember," said Dunn slowly. "I remember. What would be
in it? The same sort of thing that was in - that other?"

"Yes," answered Deede Dawson. "Much the same."

"I shall want to see for myself," said Dunn. "I'm a trustful sort of
person, but I don't go driving about the country with packing-cases
late at night unless I've seen for myself what's inside."



"Very wise of you," yawned Deede Dawson. "That's just what Ella
said - what's that?"

For instinctively Dunn had raised his hand, but he lowered it again
at once.

"Oh, cut the cackle," he said impatiently. "Tell me what you want
me to do, and make it plain, very plain, for I can tell you there's
a good deal about all this I don't understand, and I'm not inclined
to trust you far. For one thing, what are you after yourself? Where
do you come in? What are you going to get? And there's another
thing I want to say. If you are thinking of playing any tricks on
me don't do it, unless you are ready to take big risks. There's only
one man alive who ever made a fool of me, and his name is Rupert
Dunsmore, and I don't think he's today what insurance companies call
a good risk. Not by any manner of means." He paused to laugh
harshly. "Let's get to business," he said. "Look here, how do I
know you mean all you say about Rupert Dunsrnore? What's he to you?"

"Nothing," answered Deede Dawson promptly. "Nothing. But there's
some one I'm acting for to whom he is a good deal."

"Who is that?" Dunn asked sharply.

"Do you think I'm going to tell you?" retorted the other, and
laughed in his cold, mirthless manner. "Perhaps you aren't the
only one who owes him a grudge."

"That's likely enough, but I want to know where I'm standing," said
Dunn. "Is this unknown person you say you are acting for anxious
to bring about Rupert Dunsmore's death?"

"I'm not answering any questions, so you needn't ask them," replied
Deede Dawson.

"But I will tell you that there's something big going on. Or I
shouldn't be in it, I don't use my brains on small things, you know.
If it comes off all right, I - " He paused, and for once a thrill
of genuine emotion sounded in his voice. "Thousands," he said
abruptly. "Yes, and more - more. But there's an obstacle - Rupert
Dunsmore. It's your place to remove him. That '11 suit you, and
it'll mean good pay, as much as you like to ask for in reason. And
Ella, if you want her. The girl won't be any use to me when this
is over, and you can have her if you like. I don't think she'll
object from what I can see - not that it would matter if she did.
So there you are. Put Rupert Dunsmore out of the way and it'll be
the best day's work you've ever done, and you shall have Ella into
the bargain - if you claim her. Makeweight."

He began to laugh again and Dunn laughed, too, for while he was not
sure what it was that amused Deede Dawson, there were certain
aspects of all this that bore for him a very curious and ironic

"All right," he said. "You bring me face to face with Rupert
Dunsmore and you won't have to grumble about the result, for I
swear only one of us will go away alive. But how are you going to
do it?"

"I've my plan, and it's simple enough," answered Deede Dawson.
"Though I can tell you it took some working out. But the simplest
problem is always the best, whether in life or in chess." Again he
indulged in a low and guarded outburst of his thin, mirthless
laughter before he continued: "I suppose you know Rupert Dunsmore
is one of those restless people who are never content except when
wandering about in some out of the way place or another, as often
as not no one having the least idea of his whereabouts. Then he
turns up unexpectedly, only to disappear again when the whim takes
him. Lately he has been away on one of these trips, but I happen
to know he is coming back almost at once - what's the matter?"

"I was only wondering how you knew that," answered Dunn, who had
given a sudden start.

"Oh, I know, never mind how," Deede Dawson said. "I know that
tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock he will be waiting by the side
of Brook Bourne Spring in Ottom's Wood, near General Dunsmore's
place. Which is as out of the way and quiet and lonely a spot as
you could wish for."

"And you have information that he will be there?" Dunn said
incredulously. "How can you possibly be sure of that?"

"Never mind how," answered Deede Dawson. "I am sure. That's enough.
My information is certain."

"Oh, it is, is it? "Dunn muttered. "You are a wonderful man, Mr.
Dawson. You know everything - or nearly everything. You are sure
of everything - or nearly everything - but suppose he changes his
mind at the last moment and doesn't come after all?"

"He won't," answered Deede Dawson. "You be there and you'll find
him there all right."

"Well, perhaps," said Dunn slowly. "But what I want to know is why
you are so sure? There's a good deal hangs on your being right,
you know."

"I only wish I was as certain of everything else," Deede Dawson said.

"Oh, all right," exclaimed Dunn. "I suppose you know and you may
be right."

"I am," Deede Dawson assured him. "Listen carefully now, there
mustn't be any blunders. You are to make an early start tomorrow.
I don't want you to take the car for fear of its being seen and
identified. You must take the train to London and then another
train back immediately to Delsby. From Delsby you'll have an
eighteen-mile walk through lonely country where you aren't likely
to meet any one, and must try not to. The less you are seen the
better. You know that for yourself, and for your own sake you'll
be careful. You'll have no time to spare, but you will be able to
get to the place I told you of by four all right - no earlier, no
later. You must arrange to be there at four exactly. You may
spoil all if you are too early. Almost as soon as you get there,
Rupert Dunsmore will arrive. You must do the rest for yourself,
and then you must strike straight across country for here. You can
look up your routes on the map. There will be less risk of
attracting attention if you come and go by different ways. You
ought to be here again some time in the small hours. I'll let you
in, and you'll have cleared your own score with Rupert Dunsmore and
earned more money than you ever have had in all your life before.
Now, can I depend on you?"

"Yes - yes," answered Dunn, over whom there had come a new and
strange sense of unreality as he stood and listened to cold-blooded
murder being thus calmly, coolly planned, as though it were some
afternoon's pleasure trip that was being arranged, so that he
hardly knew whether he did, in fact, hear this smooth, low,
unceasing voice that from the darkness at his side laid down such
a bloody road for his feet to travel.

"Oh, yes, you can depend on me," he said. "But can I depend on you,
when you say Rupert Dunsmore will be there at that time and that

It was a moment or two before Deede Dawson answered, and then his
voice was very low and soft and confident as he said:

"Yes, you can - absolutely. You see, I know his plans."

"Oh, do you?" Dunn said as though satisfied. "Oh, well then, it's
no wonder you're so sure."

"No wonder at all," agreed Deede Dawson. "There's just one other
thing I can tell you. Some one else will be there, too, at Brook
Bourne Spring in Ottam's Wood."

"Who's that?" asked Dunn sharply.

"The man," said Deede Dawson, "who is behind all this - the man you
and I are working for - the man who's going to pay us, even better
than he thinks."

"He - he will be there?" repeated Dunn, drawing a deep, breath.

"Yes, but you won't see him, and it wouldn't help you if you did,"
Deede Dawson told him. "Most likely he'll be disguised - a mask,
perhaps; I don't know. Anyhow, he'll be there. Watching. I'm
not suggesting you would do such a thing as never go near the place,
loaf around a bit, then come back and report Rupert Dunsmore out of
the way for good, draw your pay and vanish, and leave us to find out
he was as lively and troublesome as ever. I don't think you would
do that, because you sounded as if you meant what you said when you
told me he was your worst enemy. But it's just as well to be sure,
and so we mean to have a witness; and as it's what you might call
a delicate matter, that witness will most likely be our employer
himself. So you had better do the job thoroughly if you want your

"I see you take your precautions," remarked Dunn. "Well, that's
all right, I don't mind."

"You understand exactly what you've got to do?" Deede Dawson asked.

Dunn nodded.

"What about Allen?" he asked. "Does he take any part in this show?"

"He and I are planning a little visit to Wreste Abbey rather early
the same night, during the dinner-hour most likely," answered Deede
Dawson carelessly. "We can get in at one of the long gallery windows
quite easily, Allen says. He kept his eyes open that day you all
went there. It may be helpful to give the police two problems to
work on at once; and besides, big as this thing is, there's a
shortage of ready money at present. But our little affair at Wreste
Abbey will have nothing to do with you. You mind what you've got
to do, and don't trouble about anything else. See?"

"I see," answered Dunn slowly. "And if you can arrange for Rupert
Dunsmore to be there at that time all right, I'll answer for the

"You needn't be uneasy about that," Deede Dawson said, and laughed.
"You see, I know his plans," he repeated, and laughed again; and
still laughing that chill, mirthless way of his, he turned and
walked back towards the house.

Dunn watched him go through the darkness, and to himself he

"Yes, but I wonder if you do."



The hour was late by now, but Dunn felt no inclination for sleep,
and there was no need for him to return indoors as yet, since Deede
Dawson, who always locked up the house himself, never did so till
past midnight. Till the small hours, very often he was accustomed
to sit up absorbed in those chess problems, the composing and
solving of which were his great passion, so that, indeed, it is
probable that under other circumstances he might have passed a
perfectly harmless and peaceful existence, known to wide circles as
an extraordinarily clever problemist and utterly unknown elsewhere.

But the Fate that is, after all, but man's own character writ large,
had decreed otherwise. And the little, fat, smiling man bending
over his travelling chess board on which he moved delicately to and
fro the tiny red and white men of carved ivory, now and again
removing a piece and laying it aside, had done as much with as
little concern to his fellow creatures from the very beginning of
his terrible career.

Outside, leaning on the gate where Deede Dawson had left him, Dunn
was deep in thought that was not always very comforting, for there
was very much in all this laid out for him to accomplish that he
did not understand and that disturbed him a good deal.

A careful, cautious "Hist!" broke in upon his thoughts, and in an
instant he stiffened to close attention, every nerve on the alert.

The sound was repeated, a faint and wary footstep sounded, and in
the darkness a form appeared and stole slowly nearer.

Dunn poised for a moment, ready for attack or retreat, and then all
at once his tense attitude relaxed.

"You, Walter," he exclaimed. "That's good! But how did you get
here? And how did you know where I was?"

The new-comer drew a little nearer and showed the tall, thin form
of Walter Dunsmore to whom Dunn had spoken at Wreste Abbey.

"I had to come," he murmured. "I couldn't rest without seeing you.
You upset me the other day, saying what you did. Isn't it very
dangerous your being here? Suppose Deede Dawson - "

"Oh, if he suspected, there would soon be an end of me," answered
Dunn grimly. "But I think I'm going to win - at least, I did till

"What's happened?" the other asked sharply and anxiously.

"He has been telling me his plans," answered Dunn. "He has told me
everything - he has put himself entirely in my power - he has done
what I have been waiting and hoping for ever since I came here.
He has given me his full confidence at last, and I never felt more
uneasy or less certain of success than I do at this moment."

"He has told you - everything?" Walter Dunsmore asked. "Everything,
except who is behind it all," answered Dunn. "I asked him who he
was acting for, and he refused to say. But we shall know that
tomorrow, for he told me something almost as good - he told me where
this employer would be at four o'clock tomorrow afternoon. So then
we shall have him, unless Deede Dawson was lying."

"Of course, it all depends on finding that out," remarked Walter
thoughtfully. "Finding out his identity."

"Yes, that's the key move to the problem," Dunn said. "And tomorrow
we shall know it, if Deede Dawson was speaking the truth just now."

"I should think he was," said Walter slowly. "I should think it is
certain he was. You may depend on that, I think."

"I think so, too," agreed Dunn. "But how did you find out where I

"You know that day you came to Wreste Abbey? There was some fellow
you had with you who told the landlord of the Chobham Arms, so I
easily found out from him," answered Walter.

"Anyhow, I'm glad you're here," Dunn said. "I was wondering how to
get in touch with you. Well, this is Deede Dawson's plan in brief.
Tomorrow, at four in the afternoon, Rupert Dunsmore is to be killed
- and I've undertaken to do the deed."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Walter, starting.

"I've promised that if Deede Dawson will bring me face to face with
Rupert Dunsmore, I'll murder him," answered Dunn, laughing softly.

"A fairly safe offer on your part, isn't it?" observed Walter. "At
least, unless there's any saving clause about mirrors."

"Oh, none," answered Dunn. "I told Deede Dawson Rupert Dunsmore
was my worst enemy, and that's true enough, for I think every man's
worst enemy is himself."

"I wish I had none worse," muttered Walter.

"I think you haven't, old chap," Dunn said smilingly. "But come
across the road. It'll be safer on the common. Deede Dawson is
so cunning one is never safe from him. One can never be sure
he isn't creeping up behind."

"Well, I daresay it's wise to take every precaution," observed
Walter. "But I can't imagine either him or any one else getting
near you without your knowledge."

Robert Dunn, - or rather, Rupert Dunsmore, as was his name by
right of birth - laughed again to himself, very softly in the

"Perhaps not," he said. "But I take no chances I can avoid with
Deede Dawson. Come along."

They crossed the road together and sat down on the common at an
open spot, where none could well approach them unheard or unseen.
Dunn laid his hand affectionately on Walter's shoulder as they
settled themselves.

"Old chap," he said. "It was good of you to come here. You've run
some risk. It's none too safe near Bittermeads. But I'm glad to
see you, Walter. It's a tremendous relief after all this strain of
doubt and watching and suspicion to be with some one I know - some
one I can trust - some one like you, Walter."

In the darkness, Walter put out his hand and took Dunn's and held
it for a moment.

"I have been anxious about you," he said. Dunn returned the
pressure warmly.

"I know," he said. "Jove, old chap, it's good to see you again.
You don't know what it's like after all this long time, feeling that
every step was a step in the dark, to be at last with a real friend

"I think I can guess," Walter said softly.

Dunn shook his head.

"No one could," he said. "I tell you I've doubted, distrusted,
suspected till I wasn't sure of my own shadow. Well, that's all
over now. Tomorrow we can act."

"Tell me what I'm to do," Walter Dunsmore said.

"There's a whole lot I don't understand yet," Dunn continued slowly.
"I suppose it was that that was making me feel so jolly down before
you came. I don't feel sure somehow - not sure. Deede Dawson is
such a cunning brute. He seems to have laid his whole hand bare,
and yet there may be cards up his sleeve still. Besides, his plan
he told me about seems so bald. And I don't understand why he
should think he is so sure of what I - I mean, of what Rupert
- it's a bit confusing to have a double identity - is going to do.
He says he is sure Rupert Dunsmore is to be at the Brook Bourne
Spring tomorrow at four. He says his information is certain, and
that he has full knowledge of what Rupert Dunsmore is going to do,
which is more than I have. But what can it be that's making him
so sure?"

"That's probably simple enough," said Walter. "You said you
suspected there was a leakage from Burns & Swift's office, and you
told Burns to make misleading statements about your movements
occasionally when he was dictating his letters. Well, I expect this
is one."

"That may be; only Deede Dawson seems so very sure," answered Dunn.
"But what's specially important is his saying that his employer,
whoever it is, who is behind all this, will be there too."

"A meeting? Is that it?" exclaimed Walter.

"No, that's not the idea," answered Dunn. "You see, the idea is
that Rupert Dunsmore will be there at four, and that I'm to be
there in ambush to murder myself. Whoever is behind all this will
be there too - to see I carry out my work properly. And that gives
us our chance."

"Oh, that's good," exclaimed Walter. "We shall have him for

"That's what I want you to see to," said Dunn. "I want you to have
men you can trust well hidden all round, ready to collar him. And
I want you to have all the roads leading to Ottam's Wood well
watched and every one going along them noted. You understand?"

"That's quite easy," declared Walter. "I can promise not a soul
will get into Ottam's Wood without being seen, and I'll make very
sure indeed of getting hold. of any one hiding anywhere near Brook
Bourne Spring. And once we've done that - once we know who it is - "

"Yes," agreed Dunn. "We shall be all right then. That is the one
thing necessary to know - the key move to the problem - the
identity of who it is pulling the strings. He must be a clever
beggar; anyhow, I mean to see him hang for it yet."

"I daresay he's clever," agreed Walter. "He is playing for big
stakes. Anyhow, we'll have him tomorrow all right; that seems
certain - at last."

"At last," agreed Dunn, with a long-drawn sigh. "Ugh! it's all
been such a nightmare. It's been pretty awful, knowing there was
some one - not able to guess who. Ever since you discovered that
first attempt, ever since we became certain there was a plot going
on to clear out every one in succession to the Chobham estates -
and that was jolly plain, though the fools of police did babble
about no evidence, as if pistol bullets come from nowhere and
poisoned cups of tea - "

"Ah, I was to blame there, that was my fault," said Walter. "You
see, we had no proof about the shooting, and when I had spilt that
tea, no proof of poison either. I shall always regret that."

"A bit of bad luck," Dunn agreed. "But accidents will happen.
Anyhow, it was clear enough some one was trying to make a jolly
clear sweep. It may be a madman; it may be some one with a grudge
against us; it may be, as poor Charley thought, some one in the
line of succession, who is just clearing the way to inherit the
title and estates himself. I wish I knew what made Charley
suspicious of Deede Dawson in the first place."

"You don't know that?" Walter asked.

"No, he never told me," answered Dunn. "Poor Charley, it cost him
his life. That's another thing we must find out - where they've
hidden his body."

"He was sure from the first," remarked Walter, "that it was a
conspiracy on the part of some one in the line of succession?"

"Yes," agreed Dunn. "It's likely enough, too. You see, ever since
that big family row and dispersion eighty years ago, a whole branch
of the family has been entirely lost sight of. There may be half a
dozen possible heirs we know nothing about. Like poor John Clive.
I daresay if we had known of his existence we should have begun by
suspecting him."

"There's one thing pretty sure," remarked Walter. "If these
pleasant little arrangements did succeed, it would be a fairly safe
guess that the inheritor of the title and estates was the guilty
person. It might be brought home to him, too."

"Perhaps," agreed Dunn dryly. "But just a trifle too late to
interest me for one. And I don't mean to let the dad or uncle be
sacrificed if I can help it. I failed with Clive, poor fellow, but
I don't mean to again, and I don't see how we can. Deede Dawson
has exposed his hand. Now we can play ours."

"But what are you going to do?" Walter asked. "Are you going to
follow out his instructions?"

"To the letter," Dunn answered. "We are dealing with very wary,
suspicious people, and the least thing might make them take alarm.
The important point, f course, is the promise that Deede Dawson's
employer will be at Brook Bourne Spring tomorrow afternoon. That's
our trump card. Everything bangs on that. And to make sure there's
no hitch, I shall do exactly what I've been told to do. I expect
I shall be watched. I shall be there at four o'clock, and ten
minutes after I hope we shall have laid hands on - whoever it is."

Walter nodded.

"I don't see how we can fail," he said.



"No," Dunn agreed after a long pause. "No, I don't see myself how
failure is possible; I don't see what there is to go wrong. All the
same, I shan't be sorry when it's all over; I suppose I'm nervous,
that's the truth of it. But Deede Dawson's hardly the sort of man
I should have expected to lay all his cards on the table so openly."

"Oh, I think that's natural enough," answered Walter. "Quite
natural - he thinks you are in with him and he tells you what he
wants you to do. But I don't quite see the object of your visit to
the Abbey the other day. You gave me the shock of my life, I think.
I hadn't the least idea who you were - that beard makes a wonderful

Dunn laughed quietly.

"It's a good disguise," he admitted. "I didn't quite know myself
first time I looked in a mirror. We went to the Abbey to prepare
for a burglary there."

"Oh, is that on the cards, too?" exclaimed Walter. "I didn't expect

"Yes," answered Dunn. "My own idea is that Deede Dawson sees an
opportunity for making a bit on his own. After all of us are
disposed of and his friend has got the title and estates, he won't
dare to prosecute of course, and so Deede Dawson thinks it a good
opportunity to visit the Abbey and pick up any pictures or heirlooms
or so-so he can that it would be almost impossible to dispose of in
the ordinary way, but that he expects he will be able to sell back
at a good price to the new owner of the property. I think he
calculates that that gentleman will be ready to pay as much as he
is asked. I don't know, but I think that's his idea from something
he said the other day about the uselessness of even good stuff from
a big house unless you knew of a sure market, or could sell it back
again to the owner."

"Jolly clever idea if it works all right," said Walter slowly. "I
can see Mr. Deede Dawson is a man who needs watching. And I suppose
we had better be on the look-out at the Abbey tomorrow night?"

"Evening," corrected Dunn. "It's planned for the dinner-hour."

"Right," said Walter. "We shall see some crowded hours tomorrow, I
expect. Well, it's like this, as I understand it - we had better be
sure everything is quite clear. Their idea is that you will meet
and murder Rupert Dunsmore, who they have no notion is really your
own self, at Brook Bourne Spring at four tomorrow afternoon, and the
unknown somebody who is behind all this business will be in hiding
there to make sure you do your work properly. Our idea is to watch
all the roads leading to Ottam's Wood and to have men in ambush near
the spring to seize any one hiding there at that time. Then we shall
know who is at the bottom of all these plots and shall be able to
smash the whole conspiracy. In addition, Deede Dawson and this other
man you speak of, Allen, are going to break into the Abbey tomorrow

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