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The Crimson Blind by Fred M. White

Part 6 out of 7

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"Give it to Lord Littimer and tell him where we found it. And then we
shall be rid of one of the most pestilential rascals the world has ever
seen. When you get back to Brighton I want you to tell this story to
Hatherly Bell."

"I will," David replied. "What a weird, fascinating story it is! And the
sooner I am back the better I shall be pleased. I wonder if our man is
awake yet. If you will excuse me, I will go up and see. Ah!"

There was the sound of somebody moving overhead.



At the same moment Williams came softly in. There was a grin of
satisfaction on his face.

"The brute is fast asleep," he said. "I've just been in his room. He left
the lamp burning, and there is a lump on the side of his head as big as
an ostrich egg. But he didn't mean to go to sleep; he hasn't taken any of
his clothes off. On the whole, sir, wouldn't it be better for you to wake
our man up and get him away?"

David was of the same opinion. Van Sneck was lying on the bed looking
vacantly about him. He seemed older and more worn, perhaps, because his
beard and moustache were growing ragged and dirty on his face. He pressed
his hand to his head in a confused kind of way.

"I tell you I can't find it," he said; "the thing slipped out of my
hand--a small thing like that easily might. What's the good of making a
fuss about a ring not worth £20? Search my pockets if you like. What a
murderous-looking dog you are when you're out of temper!"

All this in a vague, rambling way, in a slightly foreign accent. David
touched him on the shoulder.

"Won't you come back with me to Brighton?" he said.

"Certainly," was the ready response; "you look a good sort of chap. I'll
go anywhere you please. Not that I've got a penny of money left. What a
spree it has been. Who are you?"

"My name is Steel. I am David Steel, the novelist."

A peculiarly cunning look came over Van Sneck's face.

"I got your letter," he said. "And I came. It was after I had had that
row with Henson. Henson is a bigger scoundrel than I am, though you may
not think it."

"I accept your statement implicitly," David said, drily.

"Well, he is. And I got your letter. And I called.... And you nearly
killed me. And I dropped it down in the corner of the conservatory."

"Dropped what?" David asked, sharply.

"Nothing," said Van Sneck. "What do you mean by talking about dropping
things. I never dropped anything in my life. I make others do that, eh,
eh! But I can't remember anything. It just comes back to me, and then
there is a wheel goes round in my head.... Who are you?"

David gave up the matter as hopeless. This was emphatically a case
for Bell. Once let him get Van Sneck back to Brighton and Bell could
do the rest.

"We'd better go," he said to Enid. "We are merely wasting time here."

"I suppose so," Enid said, thoughtfully. "All the same, I should greatly
like to know what it is that our friend Van Sneck dropped."

It was a long and tedious journey back to Brighton again, for the patient
seemed to tire easily, and he evinced a marked predilection for sitting
by the roadside and singing. It was very late before David reached his
house. Bell beamed his satisfaction. Van Sneck, with a half-gleam of
recognition of his surroundings, and with a statement that he had been
there before, lapsed into silence. Bell produced a small phial in a
chemist's wrapper and poured the contents into a glass. With a curt
command to drink he passed the glass over to Van Sneck.

The latter drank the small dose, and Bell carried him more or less to a
ground-floor bedroom behind the dining-room. There he speedily undressed
his patient and got him into bed. Van Sneck was practically fast asleep
before his head had touched the pillow.

"I went out and got that dose with a view to eventualities," Bell
explained. "I know pretty well what is the matter with Van Sneck, and I
propose to operate upon him, with the help of Heritage. I've put him in
my bed and locked the door. I shall sleep in the big armchair."

David flung himself into a big deck lounge and lighted a cigarette.

"My word, that has been a bit of a business," he said. "Pour me out a
little whisky in one of the long glasses and fill it up with soda....
Oh, that's better. I never felt so thirsty in my life. I got Van Sneck
away without Henson having the slightest suspicion that he was there,
and I had the satisfaction of giving Henson a smashing blow without his
seeing me."

"Sounds like conjuring," Bell said, behind his cigar. "Explain yourself."

David went carefully into details. He told the story of Prince Rupert's
ring to a listener who followed him with the most flattering attention.

"Of course, all this is new to me," Bell said, presently, "though I knew
the family well up to that time. Depend upon it, Enid is right. Henson
has got the ring. But how fortunately everything seems to have turned out
for the scoundrel."

"If a man likes to be an unscrupulous blackguard he can make use of all
events," David said. "But even Henson is not quite so clever as we take
him to be. He has found out the trick we played upon him over Chris
Henson, but he hasn't the faintest idea that all this time he has been
living under the same roof at Littimer."

"The girl is a wonderful actress," Bell replied. "I only guessed who she
was. If I hadn't known as much as I do she would have deceived me. But
Henson has shot his bolt. After we have operated upon Van Sneck we shall
be pretty near the truth. It is a great pull to have him in the house."

"And a nasty thing for Henson--"

"Who will find out before to-morrow is over. I feel pretty sure that this
house is watched carefully. Any firm of private detectives would do that,
and they need be told nothing either. I know that I was followed when I
went to the chemist's to fetch that dose for our friend yonder. Still, it
is a sign that Henson is getting frightened."

"Why do you bring Heritage into this matter?" David asked.

"Well, for a variety of reasons. First of all, Heritage is an old
friend of mine, and I take a great interest in his case. I am going to
give him a chance to recover his lost confidence, and he is a splendid
operator. Besides, I want to know why Henson has gone out of his way to
be so kind to Heritage. And, finally, Heritage was the family doctor of
the Carfax people you just mentioned before he went to practise in
London. Let me once get Heritage round again, and I shall be greatly
disappointed if he does not give us a good deal of valuable information
regarding Reginald Henson."

"And Cross. What about him?"

"Oh, Cross will do as I ask him. Without egotism, he knows that the case
is perfectly safe in my hands. And if we care to look after Van Sneck,
why, there will be one the less burden in the hospital. What a funny
business it is! Van Sneck gets nearly done to death under this roof, and
he comes back here to be cured again."

David yawned sleepily as he rose.

"Well, I've had enough of it for to-night," he said. "I'm dog-tried, and
I must confess to feeling sick of the Hensons and Littimers, and all
their works."

"Including their friend, Miss Ruth Gates?" Bell said, slily. "Still, they
have made pretty good use of you, and I expect you will be glad to get
back to your work again. At the same time, you need not trouble your head
for plots for many a day."

David admitted that the situation had its compensations, and went off to
bed. Bell met him the next day as fresh as if he had had a full night's
rest, and vouchsafed the information that the patient was as well as
possible. He was cold and no longer feverish.

"In fact, he is ready for the operation at any time," he said. "I shall
get Heritage here to dinner, and we shall operate afterwards with
electric light. It will be a good steadier for Heritage's nerves, and
the electric light is the best light of all for this business. If you
have got a few yards of spare flex from your reading-lamp I'll rig the
thing up without troubling your electrician. I can attach it to your
study lamp."

"I've got what you want," David said. "Now come in to breakfast."

There was a pile of letters on the table, and on the top a telegram. It
was a long message, and Bell watched Steel's face curiously.

"From Littimer Castle," he suggested. "Am I right?"

"As usual," David cried. "My little scheme over that diamond star has
worked magnificently. Miss Chris tells me that she has--by Jove, Bell,
just listen--she has solved the problem of the cigar-case; she has found
out the whole thing. She wants me to meet her in London to-morrow, when
she will tell me everything."



Lord Littimer sat on the terrace, shaded from the sun by an awning over
his deck-chair. From his expression he seemed to be at peace with all the
world. His brown, eager face had lost its usually keen, suspicious look;
he smoked a cigarette lazily. Chris sat opposite him looking as little
like a hard-working secretary as possible.

As a matter of fact, there was nothing for her to do. Littimer had
already tired of his lady secretary idea, and had Chris not
interested and amused him he would have found some means to get rid
of her before now.

But she did interest and amuse and puzzle him. There was something
charmingly reminiscent about the girl. She was like somebody he had once
known and cared for, but for the life of him he could not think who. And
when curiosity sometimes got the better of good breeding Chris would
baffle him in the most engaging manner.

"Really, you are an exceedingly clever girl," he said.

"In fact, we are both exceedingly clever," Chris replied, coolly. "And
yet nobody is ever quite so clever as he imagines himself to be. Do you
ever make bad mistakes, Lord Littimer?"

"Sometimes," Littimer said, with a touch of cynical humour. "For
instance, I married some years ago. That was bad. Then I had a son, which
was worse."

"At one time you were fond of your family?"

"Well, upon my word, you are the only creature I ever met who has had the
audacity to ask me that question. Yes, I was very fond of my wife and my
son, and, God help me, I am fond of them still. I don't know why I talk
to you like this."

"I do," Chris said, gently. "It is because unconsciously you yearn for
sympathy. And you fancy you are in no way to blame; you imagine that you
acted in the only way consistent with your position and dignity. You
fancied that your son was a vulgar thief. And I am under the impression
that Lady Littimer had money."

"She had a large fortune," Littimer said, faintly. "Miss Lee, do you know
that I have a great mind to box your ears?"

Chris laughed unsteadily. She was horribly frightened, though she did not
show it. She had been waiting for days to catch Littimer in this mood.
And she did not feel disposed to go back now. The task must be
accomplished some time.

"Lady Littimer was very rich," she went on, "and she was devoted to
Frank, your son. Now, if he had wanted a large sum of money very badly,
and had gone to his mother, she would have given it to him without the
slightest hesitation?"

"What fond mother wouldn't?"

"I am obliged to you for conceding the point. Your son wanted money.
and he robbed you when he could have had anything for the asking from
his mother."

"Sounds logical," Littimer said, flippantly. "Who had the money?"

"The same man who stole Prince Rupert's ring--Reginald Henson."

Littimer dropped his cigarette and sat upright in his chair. He was keen
and alert enough now. There were traces of agitation on his face.

"That is a serious accusation," he said.

"Not more serious than your accusation against your son," Chris retorted.

"Well, perhaps not," Littimer admitted. "But why do you take up
Frank's cause in this way? Is there any romance budding under my
unconscious eyes?"

"Now you are talking nonsense," Chris said, with just a touch of colour
in her cheeks. "I say, and I am going to prove when the time comes, that
Reginald Henson was the thief. I am sorry to pain you, but it is
absolutely necessary to go into these matters. When those foolish
letters, written by a foolish girl, fell into your hands, your son vowed
that he would get them back, by force if necessary. He made that rash
speech in hearing of Reginald Henson. Henson probably lurked about until
he saw the robbery committed. Then it occurred to him that he might do a
little robbery on his own account, seeing that your son would get the
credit of it. The safe was open, and so he walked off with your ring and
your money."

"My dear young lady, this is all mere surmise."

"So you imagine. At that time Reginald Henson had a kind of home which he
was running at 218, Brunswick Square, Brighton. Lady Littimer had just
relinquished a similar undertaking there. Previously Reginald Henson had
a home at Huddersfield. Mind you, he didn't run either in his own name,
and he kept studiously in the background. But he was desperately hard up
at the time in consequence of his dissipation and extravagance, and the
money he collected for his home went into his own pocket. Then the police
got wind of the matter, and Reginald Henson discreetly disappeared from
Brighton just in time to save himself from arrest for frauds there and at
Huddersfield. A member of the Huddersfield police is in a high position
at Brighton. He has recognised Reginald Henson as the man who was
'wanted' at Huddersfield. I don't know if there will be a prosecution
after all these years, but there you are."

"You are speaking from authority?"

"Certainly I am. Reginald Henson, as such, is not known to Inspector
Marley, but I sent the latter a photograph of Henson, and he returned it
this morning with a letter to the effect that it was the man the
Huddersfield police were looking for."

"What an interesting girl you are," Littimer murmured. "Always so
full of surprises. Our dear Reginald is even a greater rascal than I
took him for."

"Well, he took your money, and that saved him. He took your ring, a
facsimile of which he had made before for some ingenious purpose. It came
with a vengeance. Then Claire Carfax committed suicide, thanks to your
indiscretion and folly."

"Go on. Rub it in. Never mind about my feelings."

"I'm not minding," Chris said, coolly. "Henson saw his game and played it
boldly. I could not have told you all this yesterday, but a letter I had
this morning cleared the ground wonderfully. Henson wanted to cause
family differences, and he succeeded. Previously he got Dr. Bell out of
the way by means of the second Rembrandt. You can't deny there is a
second Rembrandt now, seeing that it is locked up in your safe. And where
do you think Bell found it? Why, at 218, Brunswick Square, Brighton,
where Henson had to leave it seven years ago when the police were so hot
upon his trail. He was fearful lest you and Bell should come together
again, and that is why he came here at night to steal your Rembrandt. And
yet you trusted that man blindly all the time your own son was suffering
on mere suspicions. How blind you have been!"

"I'm blind still," Littimer said, curtly. "My dear young lady, I admit
that you are making out a pretty strong case; indeed, I might go farther,
and say that you have all my sympathy. But what you say would not be
taken as evidence in a court of law. If you produce that ring, for
instance--but that is at the bottom of the North Sea."

Chris took a small cardboard box from her pocket, and from thence
produced a ring. It was a ruby ring with black pearls on either side, and
had some inscription inside.

"Look at that," she said. "It was sent to me to-day by my--by a friend of
mine. It is the ring which Reginald Henson shows to Lady Littimer when he
wants money from her. It was lost by Henson a night or two ago, and it
fell into the hands of someone who is interested, like myself, in the
exposure and disgrace of Reginald Henson."

Littimer examined the ring carefully.

"It is a wonderfully good imitation," he said, presently.

"So I am told," said Chris. "So good that it must have actually been
copied from the original. Now, how could Henson have had a copy made
unless he possessed the original? Will you be good enough to answer me
that question, Lord Littimer?"

Littimer could do no more than gaze at the ring in his hand for
some time.

"I could have sworn--indeed, I am ready to swear--that the real ring was
never in anybody's possession but mine from the day that Frank was a year
old till it disappeared. Of course, scores of people had looked at it,
Henson amongst the rest. But how did Claire Carfax--"

"Easily enough. Henson had a first copy made from a description. I don't
know why; probably we shall never know why. Probably he had it done when
he knew that your son and Miss Carfax had struck up a flirtation. It was
he who forged a letter from Frank to Miss Carfax, enclosing the ring. By
that means he hoped to create mischief which, if it had been nipped in
the bud, could never have been traced to him. As matters turned out he
succeeded beyond his wildest expectations. He had got the real ring, too,
which was likely to prove a very useful thing in case he ever wanted to
make terms. A second and a faithful copy was made--the copy you hold in
your hands--to hold temptingly over Lady Littimer's head when he wanted
large sums of money from her."

"The scoundrel! He gets the money, of course?"

"He does. To my certain knowledge he has had nearly £70,000. But the case
is in good hands. You have only to wait a few days longer and the man
will be exposed. Already, as you see, I have wound his accomplice, the
Reverend James Merritt, round my finger. Of course, the idea of getting
up a bazaar has all been nonsense. I am only waiting for a little further
information, and then Merritt will feel the iron hand under the velvet
glove. Unless I am greatly mistaken, Merritt can tell us where Prince
Rupert's ring is. Already Van Sneck is in our grasp."

"Van Sneck! Is he in England?"

"He is. Did you read that strange case of a man being found half murdered
in the conservatory of Mr. Steel, the novelist, in Brighton? Well, that
was Van Sneck. But I can't tell you any more at present. You must wait
and be content."

"Tell me one thing, and I will wait as long as you like. Who are you?"

Chris shook her head, merrily. A great relief had been taken off her
mind. She had approached a delicate and difficult matter, and she had
succeeded beyond her expectations. That she had shaken the man opposite
her sorely was evident from his face. The hardness had gone from his
eyes, his lips were no longer bitter and cynical.

"I may have been guilty of a great wrong," he murmured. "All these years
I may have been living under a misapprehension. And you have told me what
I should never have suspected, although I have never had a high opinion
of my dear Reginald. Where is my wife now?"

"She is still at Longdean Grange. You will notice a great change in her,
a great and sorrowful change. But it is not too late to--"

Littimer rose and went swiftly towards the house. At any other time the
action would have been rude, but Chris fully understood. She had
touched the man to the bottom of his soul, and he was anxious to hide
his emotion.

"Poor man," Chris murmured. "His hard cynicism conceals a deal of
suffering. But the suffering is past; we have only to wait patiently for
daylight now."

Chris rose restlessly in her turn and strolled along the terrace to her
favourite spot looking over the cliffs. There was nobody about; it was
very hot there. The girl removed her glasses and pushed back the banded
hair from her forehead. She had drawn a photograph from her pocket which
she was regarding intently. She was quite heedless of the fact that
somebody was coming along the cliffs towards her. She raised the
photograph to her lips and kissed it tenderly.

"Poor Frank," she murmured. "Poor fellow, so weak and amiable. And yet
with all your faults--"

Chris paused, and a little cry escaped her lips. Frank Littimer, looking
very wild and haggard, stood before her.

"I beg your pardon," he began. "I came to see you because--"

The words died away. He staggered back, pale as the foam beating on the
rocks below, his hand clutching at his left side as if there was some
mortal pain there.

"Chris," he murmured. "Chris, Chris, Chris! And they told me--"

He could say no more, he could only stand there trembling from head to
foot, fearful lest his mocking senses were making sport of him. Surely,
it was some beautiful vision he had come upon. With one unsteady hand he
touched the girl's sleeve; he pressed her warm red cheeks with his
fingers, and with that touch his manhood came back to him.

"Darling," he whispered, eagerly. "Dearest, what does it mean?"

Chris stood there, smiling rosily. She had not meant to betray herself;
fate had done that for her, and she was not sorry. It was a cruel trick
they had played upon Frank, but it had been necessary. Chris held out her
hand with a loving little gesture.

"Are you not going to kiss me, dear?" she asked, sweetly.

Frank Littimer needed no further invitation. It was quiet and secluded
there, and nobody could possibly see them. With a little sigh Chris felt
her lover's arms about her and his kisses warm on her lips. The clever,
brilliant girl had disappeared; a pretty, timid creature stood in her
place for the time. For the moment Frank Littimer could do no more than
gaze into her eyes with rapture and amazement. There was plenty of time
for explanations.

"Let us go into the arbour," Frank suggested. "No, I am not going to
release your hand for a moment. If I do you will fly away again. Chris,
dear Chris, why did you serve me so?"

"It was absolutely necessary," Chris replied. "It was necessary to
deceive Reginald Henson. But it was hard work the other night."

"You mean when I came here and--"

"Tried to steal the Rembrandt. Oh, you needn't explain. I know that you
had to come. And we have Henson in our power at last."

"I am afraid that is too good to be true. But tell me everything from the
beginning. I am as dazed and confused as a tired man roused out of a
sound sleep."

Chris proceeded to explain from the beginning of all things. It was an
exceedingly interesting and exciting narrative to Frank Littimer, and he
followed it carefully. He would have remained there all day listening to
the music of Chris's voice and looking into her eyes. He had come there
miserable and downcast to ask a question, and behold he had suddenly
found all the joy and sweetness of existence.

"And so you have accomplished all this?" he said, at length. "What a
glorious adventure it must have been, and how clever you are! So is Mr.
David Steel. Many a time I have tried to break through the shackles, but
Reginald has always been too strong for me."

"Well, he's shot his bolt, now," Chris smiled. "I have just been opening
your father's eyes."

Frank laughed as he had not laughed for a long time.

"Do you mean to say he doesn't know who you are?" he asked.

"My dear boy, he hasn't the faintest idea. Neither had you the faintest
idea when I made you a prisoner the other night. But he will know soon."

"God grant that he may," Frank said, fervently.

He bent over and pressed his lips passionately to those of Chris. When he
looked up again Lord Littimer was standing before the arbour, wearing his
most cynical expression.

"He does know," he said. "My dear young lady, you need not move. The
expression of sweet confusion on your face is infinitely pleasing. I did
not imagine that one so perfectly self-possessed could look like that. It
gives me quite a nice sense of superiority. And you, sir?"

The last words were uttered a little sternly. Frank had risen. His face
was pale, his manner resolute and respectful.

"I came here to ask Miss Lee a question, sir, not knowing, of course,
who she was."

"And she betrayed herself, eh?"

"I am sorry if I have done so," Chris said, "but I should not have done
so unless I had been taken by surprise. It was so hot that I had taken
off my glasses and put my hair up. Then Frank came up and surprised me."

"You have grown an exceedingly pretty girl, Chris," Littimer said,
critically. "Of course, I recognise you now. You are nicer-looking than
Miss Lee."

Chris put on her glasses and rolled her hair down resolutely.

"You will be good enough to understand that I am going to continue Miss
Lee for the present," she said. "My task is a long way from being
finished yet. Lord Littimer, you are not going to send Frank away?"

Littimer looked undecided.

"I don't know," he said. "Frank, I have heard a great deal to-day to
cause me to think that I might have done you a grave injustice. And yet I
am not sure.... In any case, it would be bad policy for you to remain
here. If the news came to the ears of Reginald Henson it might upset Miss
Machiavelli's plans."

"That had not occurred to me for the moment," Chris exclaimed. "On the
whole, Frank had better not stay. But I should dearly like to see you two
shake hands."

Frank Littimer made an involuntary gesture, and then he drew back.

"I'd--I'd rather not," he said. "At least, not until my character has
been fully vindicated. Heaven knows I have suffered enough for a boyish

"And you have youth on your side," Littimer said gravely. "Whereas I--"

"I know, I know. It has been terrible all round. I took those letters
of poor Claire's away because they were sacred property, and for no eye
but mine--"

"No eye but yours saw them. I was going to send them back again. I
wish I had."

"Aye, so do I. I took them and destroyed them. But I take Heaven to
witness that I touched nothing else besides. If it was the last word I
ever uttered--what is that fellow doing here in that garb? It is one of
Henson's most disreputable tools."

Merritt was coming across the terrace. He paused suspiciously as he
caught sight of Frank, but Chris, with a friendly wave of her hand,
encouraged him to come on.

"It is all part of the game," she said. "I sent for our friend Merritt,
but when I did so I had no idea that Frank would be present. Since you
are here you might just as well stay and hear a little more of the
strange doings of Reginald Henson. The time has come to let Merritt know
that I am not the clever lady burglar he takes me for."

Merritt came up doggedly. Evidently the presence of Frank Littimer
disturbed him. Chris motioned him to a seat, quite gaily.

"You are very punctual," she said. "I told you I wanted you to give Lord
Littimer and myself a little advice and assistance. In the first place we
want to know where that gun-metal diamond-mounted cigar-case, at present
for sale in Rutter's window, came from. We want to know how it got there
and who sold it to Rutter's people. Also we want to know why Van Sneck
purchased a similar cigar-case from Walen's, of Brighton."

Merritt's heavy jaw dropped, his face turned a dull yellow. He looked
round helplessly for some means of escape, and then relinquished the idea
with a sigh.

"Done," he said. "Clear done. And by a woman, too! A smart woman, I
admit, but a woman all the same. And yet why didn't you--"

Merritt paused, lost in the contemplation of a problem beyond his
intellectual strength.

"You have nothing to fear," Chris said, with a smile. "Tell us all
you know and conceal nothing, and you will be free when we have done
with you."

Merritt wiped his dry lips with the back of his hand.

"I come peaceable," he said, hoarsely. "And I'm going to tell you all
about it."



There was an uneasy grin on Merrill's face, a suggestion that he did not
altogether trust those around him. Hard experience in the ways of the
wicked had taught him the folly of putting his confidence in anyone. Just
for the moment the impulse to shuffle was upon him.

"If I say nothing, then I can't do any harm," he remarked, sapiently.
"Best, on the whole, for me to keep my tongue between my teeth."

"Mr. Henson is a dangerous man to cross," Chris suggested.

"He is that," Merritt agreed. "You don't know him as I do."

Chris conceded the point, though she had her own views on that
matter. Lord Littimer had seated himself on the broad stone bench
along the terrace, whence he was watching the scene with the greatest
zest and interest.

"You imagine Mr. Henson to be a friend of yours?" Chris asked.

Merritt nodded and grinned. So long as he was useful to Henson he was
fairly safe.

"Mr. Merritt," Chris asked, suddenly, "have you ever heard of
Reuben Taylor?"

The effect of the question was electrical. Merritt's square jaw dropped
with a click, there was fear in the furtive eyes that he cast around him.

"I read about Reuben Taylor in one of our very smart papers lately,"
Chris went on. "It appears that Mr. Taylor is a person who nobody seems
to have seen, but who from time to time does a vast service to the
community at large. He is not exactly a philanthropist, for he is well
rewarded for his labours both by the police and his clients. Suppose Mr.
Merritt here had done some wrong."

"A great effort of imagination," Littimer murmured, gently.

"Had done something wrong, and an enemy or quondam friend wants to 'put
him away.' I believe that is the correct expression. In that case he does
not go to the police himself, because he is usually of a modest and
retiring disposition. No, he usually puts down a few particulars in the
way of a letter and sends it to Reuben Taylor under cover at a certain
address. Is not that quite correct, Mr. Merritt?"

"Right," Merritt said, hoarsely. "Some day we shall find out who Taylor
is, and--"

"Never mind that. Do you know that the night before your friend Mr.
Henson left the Castle he placed in the post-bag a letter addressed to
Mr. Reuben Taylor? In view of what I read recently in the paper alluded
to the name struck me as strange. Now, Mr. Merritt, is it possible that
letter had anything to do with you?"

Merritt did not appear to hear the question. His eyes were fixed on
space; there was a sanguine clenching of his fists as if they had been
about the throat of a foe.

"If I had him here," he murmured. "If I only had him here! He's given me
away. After all that I have done for him he's given me away."

His listeners said nothing; they fully appreciated the situation.
Merritt's presence at the Castle was both dangerous and hazardous
for Henson.

"If you went away to-day you might be safe?" Chris suggested.

"Aye, I might," Merritt said, with a cunning grin in his eyes. "If I had
a hundred pounds."

Chris glanced significantly at Littimer, who nodded and took up
the parable.

"You shall have the money," he said. "And you shall go as soon as you
have answered Miss Lee's questions."

Merritt proclaimed himself eager to say anything. But Merritt's
information proved to be a great deal less than she had anticipated.

"I stole that picture," Merritt confessed. "I was brought down here on
purpose. Henson sent to London and said he had a job for me. It was to
get the picture from Dr. Bell. I didn't ask any questions, but set to
work at once."

"Did you know what the picture was?" Chris asked.

"Bless you, yes; it was a Rembrandt engraving. Why, it was I who in the
first place stole the first Rembrandt from his lordship yonder, in
Amsterdam. I got into his lordship's sitting-room by climbing down a
spout, and I took the picture."

"But the other belonged to Van Sneck," said Chris.

"It did; and Van Sneck had to leave Amsterdam hurriedly, being wanted
by the police. Henson told me that Van Sneck had a second copy of 'The
Crimson Blind,' and I had to burgle that as well; and I had to get
into Dr. Bell's room and put the second copy in his portmanteau. Why?
Ask somebody wiser than me. It was all some deep game of Henson's,
only you may be pretty sure he didn't tell _me_ what the game was. I
got my money and returned to London, and till pretty recently I saw no
more of Henson."

"But you came into the game again," said Littimer.

"Quite lately, your lordship. I went down to Brighton. I was told as Bell
had got hold of the second Rembrandt owing to Henson's carelessness, and
that he was pretty certain to bring it here. He did bring it here, and I
tried to stop him on the way, and he half killed me."

"Those half measures are so unsatisfactory," Littimer smiled.

Merritt grinned. He fully appreciated the humour of the remark.

"That attack and the way it was brought about were suggested by Henson,"
he went on. "If it failed, I was to come up to the Castle here without
delay and tell Henson so. I came, and he covered my movements whilst I
pinched the picture. I had been told that the thing was fastened to the
wall, but a pair of steel pliers made no odds to that. I took the picture
home, and two days later it vanished. And that's all I know about it."

"Lame and impotent conclusion!" said Littimer.

"Wait a moment," Chris cried. "You found the diamond star which
you pawned--"

"At your request, miss. Don't go for to say as you've forgotten that."

"I have forgotten nothing," Chris said, with a smile. "I want to know
about the cigar-case."

Merritt looked blankly at the speaker. Evidently this was strange
ground to him.

"I don't know anything about that," he said. "What sort of a cigar-case?"

"Gun-metal set with diamonds. The same case or a similar one to that
purchased by Van Sneck from Walen's in Brighton. Come, rack your brains a
bit. Did you ever see anything of Van Sneck about the time of his
accident? You know where he is?"

"Yes. He's in the County Hospital at Brighton, He was found in Mr.
Steel's house nearly dead. It's coming back to me now. A gun-metal
cigar-case set in diamonds. That would be a dull thing with sparkling
stones all over it. Of course! Why, I saw it in Van Sneck's hands the day
he was assaulted. I recollect asking him where he got it from, and he
said that it was a present from Henson. He was going off to meet Henson
then by the corner of Brunswick Square."

"Did you see Van Sneck again that day?"

"Later on in the afternoon. We went into the Continental together. Van
Sneck had been drinking."

"You did not see the cigar-case again?"

"No. Van Sneck gave me a cigar which he took from the common sort of case
that they give away with seven cigars for a shilling. I asked him if he
had seen Henson, and he said that he had. He seemed pretty full up
against Henson, and said something about the latter having played him a
scurvy trick and he didn't like it, and that he'd be even yet. I didn't
take any notice of that, because it was no new thing for Henson to play
it low down on his pals."

"Did anything else happen at that interview?" Chris asked, anxiously.
"Think! The most trivial thing to you would perhaps be of the greatest
importance to us."

Merritt knitted his brows thoughtfully.

"We had a rambling kind of talk," he said. "It was mostly Van Sneck who
talked. I left him at last because he got sulky over my refusal to take a
letter for him to Kemp Town."

"Indeed! Do you recollect where that letter was addressed to?"

"Well, of course I've forgotten the address; but it was to some writing
man--Stone, or Flint, or--"

"Steel, perhaps?"

"That's the name! David Steel, Esq. Van Sneck wanted me to take that
letter, saying as it would put a spoke in Reginald Henson's wheel, but I
didn't see it. A boy took the letter at last."

"Did you see an answer come back?"

"Yes, some hour or so later. Van Sneck seemed to be greatly pleased with
it. He said he was going to make an evening call late that night that
would cook Henson's goose. And he was what you call gassy about
it: said he had told Henson plump and plain what he was going to do, and
that he was not afraid of Henson or any man breathing."

Chris asked no further questions for the moment. The track was getting
clearer. She had, of course, heard by this time of the letter presumedly
written by David Steel to the injured man Van Sneck, which had been found
in his pocket by Dr. Cross. The latter had been written most assuredly in
reply to the note Merritt had just alluded to, but certainly not written
by David Steel. Who, then, seeing that it was Steel's private note-paper?
The more Chris thought over this the more she was puzzled. Henson could
have told her, of course, but nobody else.

Doubtless, Henson had started on his present campaign with a dozen
different schemes. Probably one of them called for a supply of Steel's
note-paper. Somebody unknown had procured the paper, as David Steel had
testimony in the form of his last quarter's account. The lad engaged by
Van Sneck to carry the letter from the Continental to 15, Downend
Terrace, must have been intercepted by Henson or somebody in Henson's pay
and given the forged reply, a reply that actually brought Van Sneck to
Steel's house on the night of the great adventure. Henson had been warned
by the somewhat intoxicated Van Sneck what he was going to do, and he had
prepared accordingly.

A sudden light came to Chris. Henson had found out part of their scheme.
He knew that David Steel would be probably away from home on the night in
question. In that case, having made certain of this, and having gained a
pretty good knowledge of Steel's household habits, what easier than to
enter Steel's house in his absence, wait for Van Sneck, and murder him
then and there?

It was not a pretty thought, and Chris recoiled from it.

"How could Van Sneck have got into Steel's house?" she asked. "I know for
a fact that Mr. Steel was not at home, and that he closed the door
carefully behind him when he left the house that night."

Merritt grinned at the simplicity of the question. It was not worthy of
the brilliant lady who had so far got the better of him.

"Latch-keys are very much alike," he said. "Give me three latch-keys, and
I'll open ninety doors out of a hundred. Give me six latch-keys of
various patterns, and I'll guarantee to open the other ten."

"I had not thought of that," Chris admitted. "Did Van Sneck happen by any
chance to tell you what he and Mr. Henson had been quarrelling about?"

"He was too excited to tell anything properly. He was jabbering something
about a ring all the time."

"What sort of a ring?"

"That I can't tell you, miss. I fancy it was a ring that Van Sneck
had made."

"Made! Is Van Sneck a working jeweller or anything of that kind?"

"He's one of the cleverest fellows with his fingers that you ever saw.
Give him a bit of old gold and a few stones and he'll make you a bracelet
that will pass for antique. Half the so-called antiques picked up on the
Continent have been faked by Van Sneck. There was that ring, for
instance, that Henson had, supposed to be the property of some swell he
called Prince Rupert. Why, Van Sneck copied it for him in a couple of
days, till you couldn't tell t'other from which."

Chris choked the cry that rose to her lips. She glanced at Littimer, who
had dropped his glass, and was regarding Merritt with a kind of frozen,
pallid curiosity. Chris signalled Littimer to speak. She had no words of
her own for the present.

"How long ago was that?" Littimer asked, hoarsely.

"About seven years, speaking from memory. There were two copies made--one
from description. The other was much more faithful. Perhaps there were
three copies, but I forget now. Van Sneck raved over the ring; it might
have been a mine of gold for the fuss he made over it."

Littimer asked no further questions. But from the glance he gave first to
Chris and then to his son the girl could see that he was satisfied. He
knew at last that he had done his son a grave injustice--he knew the
truth. It seemed to Chris that years had slipped suddenly from his
shoulders. His face was still grave and set; his eyes were hard; but the
gleam in them was for the man who had done him this terrible injury.

"I fancy we are wandering from the subject," Chris said, with
commendable steadiness. "We will leave the matter of the ring out of the
question. Mr. Merritt, I don't propose to tell you too much, but you can
help me a little farther on the way. That cigar-case you saw in Van
Sneck's possession passed to Mr. Henson. By him, or by somebody in his
employ, it was substituted for a precisely similar case intended for a
present to Mr. Steel. The substitution has caused Mr. Steel a great deal
of trouble."

"Seeing as Van Sneck was found half dead in Mr. Steel's house, and seeing
as he claimed the cigar-case, what could be proved to be Van Sneck's, I'm
not surprised," Merritt grinned.

"Then you know all about it?"

"Don't know anything about it," Merritt growled, doggedly. "I guessed
that. When you said as the one case had been substituted for the other,
it don't want a regiment of schoolmasters to see where the pea lies. What
you've got to do now is to find Mr. Steel's case."

"I have already found it, as I hinted to you. It is at Rutter's, in
Moreton Wells. It was sold to them by the gentleman who had given up
smoking. I want you to go into Moreton Wells with me to-day and see if
you can get at the gentleman's identity."

Mr. Merritt demurred. It was all very well for Chris, he pointed out in
his picturesque language. She had her little lot of fish to fry, but at
the same time he had to draw his money and be away before the police were
down upon him. If Miss Lee liked to start at once--"

"I am ready at any moment," Chris said. "In any case you will have
to go to Moreton Wells, and I can give you a little more information
on the way."

"You had better go along, Frank," Littimer suggested, under his breath.
"I fervently hope now that the day is not far distant when you can return
altogether, but for the present your presence is dangerous. We must give
that rascal Henson no cause for suspicion."

"You are quite right," Frank replied. "And I'd like to--to shake hands
now, dad."

Littimer put out his hand, without a word. The cool, cynical man of the
world would have found it difficult to utter a syllable just then. When
he looked up again he was smiling.

"Go along," he said. "You're a lucky fellow, Frank. That girl's one in
a million."

A dog-cart driven by Chris brought herself and her companion into
Moreton Wells in an hour, Frank had struck off across country in the
direction of the nearest station. The appearance of himself in More ton
Wells on the front of a dog-cart from the Castle would have caused a
nine days' wonder.

"Now, what I want to impress upon you is this," said Chris. "Mr. Steel's
cigar-case was stolen and one belonging to Van Sneck substituted for it.
The stolen one was returned to the shop from which it was purchased
almost immediately, so soon, indeed, that the transaction was never
entered on the books. We are pretty certain that Reginald Henson did
that, and we know that he is at the bottom of the mystery. But to prevent
anything happening, and to prevent our getting the case back again,
Henson had to go farther. The case must be beyond our reach. Therefore, I
decline to believe that it was a mere coincidence that took a stranger
into Lockhart's directly after Henson had been there to look at some
gun-metal cigar-cases set in diamonds. The stranger purchased the case,
and asked for it to be sent to the Metropole to 'John Smith.' With the
hundreds of letters and visitors there it would be almost impossible to
trace the case or the man."

"Lockhart's might help you?"

"They have as far as they can. The cigar-case was sold to a tall
American. Beyond that it is impossible to go."

A meaning smile dawned on Merritt's face.

"They might have taken more notice of the gentleman at Rutter's," he
said, "being a smaller shop. I'm going to admire that case and pretend
it belonged to a friend of mine."

"I want you to try and buy it for me," Chris said, quietly.

Rutter's was reached at length, and after some preliminaries the
cigar-case was approached. Merritt took it up, with a well-feigned air of

"Why, this must have belonged to my old friend, B--," he exclaimed.
"It's not new?"

"No, sir," the assistant explained. "We purchased it from a gentleman
who stayed for a day or two here at the Lion, a friend of Mr.
Reginald Henson."

"A tall man?" said Merritt, tentatively. "Long, thin beard and slightly
marked with small-pox? Gave the name of Rawlins?"

"That's the gentleman, sir. Perhaps you may like to purchase the case?"

The purchase was made in due course, and together Chris and her queer
companion left the shop.

"Rawlins is an American swindler of the smartest type," said Merritt. "If
you get him in a corner ask him what he and Henson were doing in America
some two years ago. Rawlins is in this little game for certain. But you
ought to trace him by means of the Lion people. Oh, lor'!"

Merritt slipped back into an entry as a little, cleanshaven man passed
along the street. His eyes had a dark look of fear in them.

"They're after me," he said, huskily. "That was one of them. Excuse
me, miss."

Merritt darted away and flung himself into a passing cab. His face was
dark with passion; the big veins stood out on his forehead like cords.

"The cur," he snarled--"the mean cur! I'll be even with him yet. If I
can only catch the 4.48 at the Junction I'll be in London before them.
And I'll go down to Brighton, if I have to foot it all the way, and,
once I get there, look to yourself, Reginald Henson. A hundred pounds is
a good sum to go on with. I'll kill that cur--I'll choke the life out of
him. Cabby, if you get to the Junction by a quarter to five I'll give
you a quid."

"The quid's as good as mine, sir," cabby said, cheerfully. "Get
along, lass."

Meanwhile Chris had returned thoughtfully to the dog-cart, musing over
the last discovery. She felt quite satisfied with her afternoon's work.
Then a new idea struck her. She crossed over to the post-office and
dispatched a long telegram thus:--

"To David Steel, 15, Downend Terrace, Brighton.

"Go to Walen's and ascertain full description of the tentative customer
who suggested the firm should procure gun-metal cigar-case for him to
look at. Ask if he was a tall man with a thin beard and a face slightly
pock-marked. Then telephone result to me here. Quite safe, as Henson is
away. Great discoveries to tell you.--CHRISTABEL LEE."

Chris paid for her telegram and then drove thoughtfully homeward.



Lord Littimer was greatly interested in all that Chris had to say. The
whole story was confided to him after dinner. Over his coffee on the
terrace he offered many shrewd suggestions.

"There is one thing wherein you have made a mistake," he said. "And that
is in your idea that Henson changed those cigar-cases after Miss Gates
laid your votive offering on Steel's doorstep."

"How else could it be done?" Chris said.

"My dear, the thing is quite obvious. You have already told me that
Henson was quite aware what you were going to do--at least that he knew
you were going to consult Steel. Also he knew that you were going to make
Steel a present, and by a little judicious eavesdropping he contrived to
glean all about the cigar-case. The fellow has already admitted to your
sister that he listened. How long was that before you bought the

"I should say it might have been a week. We had inquiries to make, you
know. In the first instance we never dreamt of offering Mr. Steel money.
I blush to think of that folly."

"Well, blush a little later on when you have more time. Then Henson had a
week to work out his little scheme. He knows all about the cigar-case; he
knows where it is going to be bought. Then he goes to Lockhart's and
purchases some trifle in the shape of a cigar-case; he has it packed up,
yellow string and all. This is his dummy. By keeping his eyes open he
gets the chance he is waiting for. Ruth Gates hadn't the faintest idea
that he knew anything when she left that case the day she bought it
within reach of Henson. He gets her out of the way for a minute or two,
he unties the parcel, and places the Van Sneck case in it. No, by Jove,
he needn't have bought anything from Lockhart's at all. I only thought of
that to account for the yellow string and the stamped paper that
Lockhart's people use. He first takes one case out of the parcel and
replaces it with another, and there you are. You may depend upon it that
was the way in which it was done."

The more Chris thought over the matter the more certain she felt that
such was the case. Like most apparently wonderful things, the explanation
was absurdly simple. A conjurer's most marvellous tricks are generally
the easiest.

"How foolish of us not to have thought of this before," Chris said,
thoughtfully. "At any rate, we know all about it now. And we know who
bought the cigar-case so promptly returned to Lockhart's by Henson. I
should like to see this Rawlins."

"You have got to find him first," said Littimer.

"I'm going into Moreton Wells again to-morrow to make inquiries,"
said Chris.

But she was saved the trouble. Once more the ever-blessed telephone stood
her in good stead. She was just on the point of starting for Moreton
Wells when Steel called her up. Chris recognised him with a thrill of
eager pleasure.

"You need not be afraid," she said. "You can speak quite freely. How is
Van Sneck?"

"Very queer," David responded. "Bell hoped to have operated upon him
before this, but such a course has not been deemed quite prudent. The day
after to-morrow it will be, I expect. Henson has found out where Van
Sneck is."

"Indeed. Has he been to see you?"

"He has been more than once on all kinds of ingenious pretences. But I
didn't call you up to tell you this. We have been making inquiries at
Walen's, Marley and myself. The time has come now to let Marley behind
the scenes a bit."

"Did Walen's people know anything about the tall American?"

"Oh, yes. A tall American with a thin beard and a faint suggestion of
small-pox called about a week before the great adventure, and asked to
see some gun-metal diamond-mounted cigar-cases--like the one in
Lockhart's window."

"Did he really volunteer that remark?"

"He did, saying also that Lockhart's were too dear. Walen's hadn't got
what he wanted, but they promised to get some cases out of stock, which
meant that they would go to the same wholesale house as Lockhart's and
get some similar cases. As a matter of fact, one of Walen's assistants
was sent round to study the case in Lockhart's window. The cases were
procured on the chance of a sale, but the American never turned up again.
No notice was taken of this, because such things often happen to

"And this was about a week before the night of the great adventure?"

"Yes. Wait a bit. I have not quite finished yet. Now, once I had
ascertained this, an important fact becomes obvious. The American didn't
want a cigar-case at all."

"But he subsequently purchased the one returned to Lockhart's shop."

"That remark does not suggest your usual acumen. The American was
preparing the ground for Van Sneck to purchase with a view to a
subsequent exchange. You have not fully grasped the vileness of this
plot yet. I went to Lockhart's and succeeded in discovering that the
purchaser of the returned case was a tall American, quite of the
pattern I expected. Then I managed to get on to the trail at the
Metropole here. They recollected when I could describe the man; they
also recollected the largeness of his tips. Then I traced my man to the
Lion at Moreton Wells, where he had obviously gone to see Reginald
Henson. From the Lion our friend went to the Royal at Scarsdale Sands,
where he is staying at present."

"Under the name of John Smith?"

"I suppose so, seeing that all the inquiries under that name were
successful. If you would like me to come up and interview the man
for you--"

"I should like you to do nothing of the kind," Chris said. "You are more
useful in Brighton, and I am going to interview Mr. John Smith Rawlins
for myself. Good-bye. Just one moment. For the next few days my address
will be the Royal Hotel, Scarsdale Sands."

Chris countermanded the dog-cart she had ordered and repaired to the
library, where Littimer was tying some trout-flies behind a cloud of
cigarette smoke.

"Thought you had gone to Moreton Wells," he said. "Been at the telephone
again? A pretty nice bill I shall have to pay for all those long messages
of yours."

"Mr. Steel pays this time," Chris said, gaily. "He has just given me some
information that obviates the necessity of going into the town. My dear
uncle, you want a change. You look tired and languid--"

"Depression of spirits and a disinclination to exercise after food. Also
a morbid craving for seven to eight hours' sleep every night. What's the
little game?"

"Bracing air," Chris laughed. "Lord Littimer and his secretary, Miss Lee,
are going to spend a few days at Scarsdale Sands, Royal Hotel, to
recuperate after their literary labours."

"The air here being so poor and enervating," Littimer said, cynically.
"In other words, I suppose you have traced Rawlins to Scarsdale Sands?"

"How clever you are," said Chris, admiringly. "Walen's American and
Lockhart's American, with the modest pseudonym of John Smith, are what
Mrs. Malaprop would call three single gentlemen rolled into one. We are
going to make the acquaintance of John Smith Rawlins."

"Oh, indeed, and when do we start, may I ask?"

Chris responded coolly that she hoped to get away in the course of the
day. With a great show of virtuous resignation Lord Littimer consented.

"I have always been the jest of fortune," he said, plaintively; "but I
never expected to be dragged all over the place at my time of life by a
girl who is anxious to make me acquainted with the choicest blackguardism
in the kingdom. I leave my happy home, my cook, and my cellar, for at
least a week of hotel living. Well, one can only die once."

Chris bustled away to make the necessary arrangements. Some few hours
later Lord Littimer was looking out from his luxurious private
sitting-room with the assumption of being a martyr. He and Chris were
dressed for dinner; they were waiting for the bell to summon them to the
dining-room. When they got down at length they found quite a large number
of guests already seated at the many small tables.

"Your man here?" Littimer asked, languidly.

Chris indicated two people seated in a window opposite.

"There!" she whispered. "There he is. And what a pretty girl with him!"



Littimer put up his glass and gazed with apparent vacancy in the
direction of the window. He saw a tall man with a grey beard and hair; a
man most immaculately dressed and of distinctly distinguished appearance.
Littimer was fain to admit that he would have taken him for a gentleman
under any circumstances. In manner, style, and speech he left nothing to
be desired.

"That chap has a fortune in his face and accent," Littimer said. "'Pon my
word, he is a chance acquaintance that one would ask to dinner without
the slightest hesitation. And the girl--"

"Is his daughter," Chris said. "The likeness is very strong."

"It is," Littimer admitted. "A singularly pretty, refined girl, with
quite the grand air. It is an air that mere education seldom gives; but
it seems to have done so in yonder case. And how fond they seem to be of
one another! Depend upon it, Chris, whatever that man may be his daughter
knows nothing of it. And yet you tell me that the police--"

"Well, never mind the police, now. We can get Mr. Steel to tell Marley
all about 'John Smith' if we can't contrive to force his hand without.
But with that pretty girl before my eyes I shouldn't like to do anything
harsh. Up till now I have always pictured the typical educated scoundrel
as a man who was utterly devoid of feelings of any kind."

Dinner proceeded quietly enough, Chris having eyes for hardly anything
else beyond the couple in the window. She rose presently, with a little
gasp, and hastily lifted a tankard of iced water from the table. The girl
opposite her had turned pale and her dark head had drooped forward.

"I hope it is not serious," said Chris. "Drink a little of this;
it is iced."

"And they told me they had no ice in the house," the man Rawlins
muttered. "A little of this, Grace. It is one of her old fainting fits.
Ah, that is better."

The man Rawlins spoke with the tenderest solicitude. The look of positive
relief on his face as his daughter smiled at him told of a deep devotion
and affection for the girl. Chris, looking on, was wondering vaguely
whether or not she had made a mistake.

"Lord Littimer obtained our ice," she said. "Pray keep this. Oh, yes,
that is Lord Littimer over there. I am his secretary."

Littimer strolled across himself and murmured his condolences. A little
time later and the four of them were outside in the verandah taking ices
together. Rawlins might have been, and no doubt was, a finished
scoundrel, but there was no question as to his fascinating manner and his
brilliant qualities as a conversationalist. A man of nerve too, and full
of resources. All the same, Littimer was asking himself and wondering who
the man really was. By birth he must have been born a gentleman, Littimer
did not doubt for a moment.

But there was one soft spot in the man, and that was his love for his
daughter. For her sake he had been travelling all over the world for
years; for years he had despaired of seeing her live to womanhood. But
she was gradually growing better; indeed, if she had not walked so far
to-day nothing would have happened. All the time that Rawlins was talking
his eyes were resting tenderly on his daughter. The hard, steely look
seemed to have gone out of them altogether.

Altogether a charming and many-sided rascal, Littimer thought. He
was fond, as he called it, of collecting types of humanity, and here
was a new and fascinating specimen. The two men talked together till
long after dark, and Rawlins never betrayed himself. He might have
been an Ambassador or Cabinet Minister unbending after a long period
of heavy labour.

Meanwhile Chris had drawn Grace Rawlins apart from the others. The girl
was quiet and self-contained, but evidently a lady. She seemed to have
but few enthusiasms, but one of them was for her father. He was the most
wonderful man in the world, the most kind and considerate. He was very
rich; indeed, it was a good thing, or she would never have been able to
see so much of the world. He had given up nearly the whole of his life to
her, and now she was nearly as strong as other girls. Chris listened in a
dazed, confused kind of way. She had not expected anything like this; and
when had Rawlins found time for those brilliant predatory schemes that
she had heard of?

"Well, what do you think of them?" Littimer asked, when at length he and
Chris were alone. "I suppose it isn't possible that you and I have made
a mistake?"

"I'm afraid not," Chris said, half sadly. "But what a strange case

"Passing strange. I'll go bail that that man is born and bred a
gentleman; and, what is more, he is no more of an American than I am. I
kept on forgetting from time to time what he was and taking him for one
of our own class. And, finally, I capped my folly by asking him to bring
his daughter for a drive to-morrow and a lunch on the Gapstone. What do
you think of that?"

"Splendid," Chris said, coolly. "Nothing could be better. You will be
good enough to exercise all your powers of fascination on Miss Rawlins
to-morrow, and leave her father to me. I thought of a little plan tonight
which I believe will succeed admirably. At first I expected to have to
carry matters with a high hand, but now I am going to get Mr. Rawlins
through his daughter. I shall know all I want to by to-morrow night."

Littimer smiled at this sanguine expectation.

"I sincerely hope you will," he said, drily. "But I doubt it very much
indeed. You have one of the cleverest men in Europe to deal with.

But Chris was in no way cast down. She had carefully planned out her
line of action, and the more she thought over it the more sure of
success she felt. A few hours more and--but she didn't care to dwell too
closely on that.

It was after luncheon that Chris's opportunity came. Lord Littimer and
Grace Rawlins had gone off to inspect something especially beautiful in
the way of a waterfall, leaving Chris and Rawlins alone. The latter was
talking brilliantly over his cigarette.

"Is Lord Littimer any relation of yours?" he asked.

"Well, yes," Chris admitted. "I hope he will be a nearer relation
before long."

"Oh, you mean to say--may I venture to congratulate--"

"It isn't quite that," Chris laughed, with a little rising in colour. "I
am not thinking of Lord Littimer, but of his son.... Yes, I see you raise
your eyebrows--probably you are aware of the story, as most people are.
And you are wondering why I am on such friendly terms with Lord Littimer
under the circumstances. And I am wondering why you should call yourself
John Smith."

The listener coolly flicked the ash from his cigarette. His face was
like a mask.

"John Smith is a good name," he said. "Can you suggest a better?"

"If you ask me to do so I can. I should call myself John Rawlins."

There was just the ghost of a smile on Rawlins's lips.

"There is a man of that name," he said, slowly, "who attained
considerable notoriety in the States. People said that he was the
_dernière cri_ of refined rascality. He was supposed to be without
feeling of any kind; his villainies were the theme of admiration amongst
financial magnates. There were brokers who piously thanked Providence
because Rawlins had never thought of going on the Stock Exchange, where
he could have robbed and plundered with impunity. And this Rawlins always
baffles the police. If he baffles them a little longer they won't be able
to touch him at all. At present, despite his outward show, he has hardly
a dollar to call his own. But he is on to a great _coup_ now, and,
strange to say, an honest one. Do you know the man, Miss Lee?"

Chris met the speaker's eyes firmly.

"I met him last night for the first time," she said.

"In that case you can hardly be said to know him," Rawlins murmured. "If
you drive him into a corner he will do desperate things. If you tried
that game on with him you would regret it for the rest of your life. Good
heavens, you are like a child playing about amidst a lot of unguarded
machinery. Why do you do it?"

"That I will tell you presently. Mr. Rawlins, you have a daughter."

The hard look died out of the listener's eyes.

"Whom I love better than my life," he said. "There are two John
Rawlins's--the one you know; and, well, the other one. I should be sorry
to show you the other one."

"For the sake of your daughter I don't want to see the other one."

"Then why do you pit yourself against me like this?"

"I don't think you are displaying your usual lucidity," Chris said,
coolly. Her heart was beating fast, but she did not show it. "Just
reflect for a moment. I have found you out. I know pretty well what you
are. I need not have told you anything of this. I need have done no more
than gone to the police and told them where to find you. But I don't want
to do that; I hate to do it after what I saw last night. You have your
child, and she loves you. Could I unmask you before her eyes?"

"You would kill her," Rawlins said, a little unsteadily; "and you would
kill me, I verily believe. That child is all the world to me. I committed
my first theft so that she could have the change the doctors declared to
be absolutely necessary. I intended to repay the money--the old, old
story. And I was found out by my employers and discharged. Thank
goodness, my wife was dead. Since then I have preyed on society.... But I
need not go into that sordid story. You are not going to betray me?"

"I said before that I should do nothing of the kind."

"Then why do you let me know that you have discovered my identity?"

"Because I want you to help me. I fancy you respect my sex, Mr. Rawlins?"

"Call me Smith, please. I have always respected your sex. All the
kindness and sympathy of my life have been for women. And I can lay my
hand on my heart and declare that I never yet wronged one of them in
thought or deed. The man who is cruel to women is no man."

"And yet your friend Reginald Henson is that sort."

Rawlins smiled again. He began to understand a little of what was passing
in Chris's mind.

"Would you mind going a little more into details?" he suggested. "So
Henson is that sort. Well, I didn't know, or he had never had my
assistance in his little scheme. Oh, of course, I have known him for
years as a scoundrel. So he oppresses women."

"He has done so for a long time: he is blighting my life and the life of
my sister and another. And it seems to me that I have that rascal under
my thumb at last. You cannot save him--you can do no more than place
obstacles in my way; but even those I should overcome. And you admit that
I am likely to be dangerous to you."

"You can kill my daughter. I am in your power to that extent."

"As if I should," Chris said. "It is only Reginald Henson whom I want to
strike. I want you to answer a few questions; to tell me why you went to
Walen's and induced them to procure a certain cigar-case for you, and why
you subsequently went to Lockhart's at Brighton and bought a precisely
similar one."

Rawlins looked in surprise at the speaker. A tinge of admiration was on
his face. There was a keenness and audacity after his own heart.

"Go on," he said, slowly. "Tell me everything openly and freely, and
when you have done so I will give you all the information that lies in
my power."



"So Reginald Henson bullies women," Rawlins said, after a long pause.
There was a queer smile on his face; he appeared perfectly at his ease.
He did not look in the least like a desperate criminal whom Chris could
have driven out of the country by one word to the police. In his
perfectly-fitting grey suit he seemed more like a lord of ancient acres
than anything else. "It is not a nice thing to bully women."

"Reginald Henson finds it quite a congenial occupation," Chris
said, bitterly.

Rawlins pulled thoughtfully at his cigarette.

"I am to a certain extent in your power," he said. "You have discovered
my identity at a time when I could sacrifice thousands for it not to be
known that I am in England. How you have discovered me matters as little
as how a card-player gets the ace of trumps. And I understand that the
price of your silence is the betrayal of Henson?"

"That is about what it comes to," said Chris.

"In the parlance of the lower type of rascal, I am to 'round on my pal'?"

"If you like to put it in that way, Mr. Smith."

"I never did such a thing in my life before. And, at the same time, I
don't mind admitting that I was never so sorely tried. At the present
moment I am on the verge of a large fortune, and I am making my grand
_coup_ honestly. Would you deem it exaggeration on my part if I said that
I was exceedingly glad of the fact?"

"Mr. Smith," Chris said, earnestly, "I have seen how fond you are of your

"That is an exceedingly clever remark of yours, young lady," Rawlins
smiled. "You know that you have found the soft spot in my nature, and you
are going to hammer on it till you reduce me to submission. I am not a
religious man, but my one prayer is that Grace shall never find me out.
When my _coup_ comes off I am going to settle in England and become
intensely respectable."

"With Reginald Henson for your secretary, I suppose?"

"No, I am going to drop the past. But to return to our subject. Are you
asking me to betray Henson to the police?"

"Nothing of the kind," Chris cried, hastily. "I--I would do anything to
avoid a family scandal. All I want is a controlling power over the man."

"The man who bullies women?"

"The same. For seven years he has wrecked the lives of five of us--three
women. He has parted husband and wife, he has driven the man I love into
exile. And the poor wife is gradually going hopelessly mad under his
cruelties. And he blackmails us, he extorts large sums of money from us.
If you only knew what we have suffered at the hands of the rascal!"

Rawlins nodded in sympathy.

"I did not imagine that," he said. "Of course, I have known for years
that Henson was pretty bad. You may smile, but I have never had any
sympathy with his methods and hypocritical ways, perhaps because I never
did anything of the kind myself. Nobody can say that I ever robbed
anybody who was poor or defenceless or foolish. By heavens, I am a more
honest man than hundreds of London and New York capitalists. It is the
hard rogues amongst us who have always been my mark. But to injure and
wound women and children!"

"Which means that you are going to help me?" Chris asked, quietly.

"As far as I can, certainly. Especially as you are going to let Henson
down easily. Now please ask me any questions that you like."

"This is very good of you," said Chris. "In the first place, did you ever
hear Mr. Henson speak of his relations or friends?"

"Nobody beyond Lord Littimer. You see, Henson and I were extremely useful
to one another once or twice, but he never trusted me, and I never
trusted him. I never cared for his methods."

"Did you go to Brighton lately on purpose to help him?"

"Certainly not. I had business in Brighton for some considerable time,
and my daughter was with me. When she went away to stay with friends for
a short time I moved to the Metropole."

"Then why did you go to Walen's in Brighton and ask them to show you some
gun-metal cigar-cases like the one in Lockhart's window?"

"Simply because Henson asked me to. He came to me just before I went to
the Metropole and told me he had a big thing on. He didn't give me the
least idea what it was, nor did I ask him. He suggested the idea of the
cigar-case, and said that I need not go near Walen's again, and I didn't.
I assure you I had no curiosity on the matter. In any case a little thing
like that couldn't hurt me. Some days later Henson came to me again, and
asked me to go to Lockhart's and purchase the cigar-case I had previously
seen. He wanted me to get the case so that I could not be traced. Again I
agreed. I was leaving the Metropole the next day, so the matter was easy.
I called and purchased the cigar-case on approval, I forwarded
dollar-notes in payment from the Metropole, and the next day I left."

"And you did all that without a single question?"

"I did. It was only a little consideration for an old confederate."

"And suppose that confederate had played you false?"

Two tiny points of flame danced in Rawlins's eyes.

"Henson would never have dared," he said. "My mind was quite easy on
that score."

"I understand," Chris murmured. "And you kept the cigar-case?"

"Yes, I rather liked it. And I could afford a luxury of that kind
just then."

"Then why did you dispose of it to Rutter's in Moreton Wells? And why
Moreton Wells?"

Rawlins laughed as he lighted a fresh cigarette.

"I came to Moreton Wells knowing that Henson was at Littimer Castle," he
explained. "I went there to borrow £200 from Henson. Unfortunately I
found him in great need of money. Somebody who had promised him a large
sum of money had disappointed him."

Chris smiled. She had heard all about Lady Littimer's adventure with the
ring, and her stubborn refusal to give Henson any further supplies.

"Presently I can tell you who disappointed Henson," she said. "But fancy
you being short of--"

"Of ready money; I frequently am. One of your great millionaires told me
lately that he was frequently hard up for a thousand pounds cash. I have
frequently been hard up for five pounds. Hence the fact that I sold the
cigar-case at Moreton Wells."

"Well, the ground is clear so far," said Chris. "Do you know Van Sneck?"

"I know Van Sneck very well," Rawlins said, without hesitation. "A
wonderfully clever man."

"And a great scoundrel, I presume?"

"Well, on the whole, I should say not. Weak, rather than wicked. Van
Sneck has been a tool and creature of Henson's for years. If he could
only keep away from the drink he might make a fortune. But what has Van
Sneck got to do with it?"

"A great deal," Chris said, drily. "And now, please, follow carefully
what I am going to say. A little time ago we poor, persecuted women put
our heads together to get free from Reginald Henson. We agreed to ask Mr.
David Steel, the well-known novelist, to show us a way of escape.
Unhappily for us, Henson got to know of it."

Rawlins was really interested at last.

"Pardon me," he said, eagerly, "if I ask a question or two before you
proceed. Is Mr. David Steel the gentleman who found a man half murdered
in his house in Brighton?"

"The same. But don't you know who the injured man was?"

"You don't mean to say it was Van Sneck?" Rawlins cried.

Chris nodded gravely. Rawlins looked like a man who was groping about in
a sudden dazzle of blinding light.

"I begin to understand," he muttered. "The scoundrel!"

"After that I will resume," Chris said. "You must understand that Mr.
Steel was a stranger to us. We hit upon the idea of interviewing him
anonymously, so to speak, and we were going to give him a gun-metal
cigar-case mounted in diamonds. A friend of mine purchased that
cigar-case at Lockhart's. Mind you, Reginald Henson knew all about this.
The same day Henson's tool, Van Sneck, purchased a similar case from
Walen's--a case really procured for your approval--and later on in the
day the case passed from Van Sneck to Henson, who dexterously changed
the cases."

"Complex," Rawlins muttered. "But I begin to see what is coming."

"The cases were changed, and the one from Walen's in due course became
Mr. Steel's. Now note where Henson's diabolical cunning comes in. The
same night Van Sneck is found half murdered in Mr. Steel's house, and in
his pocket is the receipt for the very cigar-case that Mr. Steel claimed
as his own property."

"Very awkward for Steel," Rawlins said, thoughtfully.

"Of course it was. And why was it done? So that we should be forced to
come forward and exonerate Mr. Steel from blame. We should have had to
tell the whole story, and then Henson would have learnt what steps we
were taking to get rid of him."

Rawlins was quiet for some time. Admiration for the scheme was uppermost
in his mind, but there was another thought that caused him to glance
curiously at Chris.

"And that is all you know?" he asked.

"Not quite," Chris replied. "I know that on the day of the attempted
murder Van Sneck quarrelled with Reginald Henson, who he said had treated
him badly. Van Sneck had in some way found out that Reginald Henson meant
mischief to Mr. Steel. Also he couldn't get the money he wanted. Probably
he had purchased that cigar-case at Walen's, and Henson could not repay
him for the purchase of it. Then he went off and wrote to Mr. Steel,
asking the latter to see him, as he had threatened Henson he would do."

"Ah!" Rawlins exclaimed, suddenly. "Are you sure of this?"

"Certain. I heard it from a man who was with Van Sneck at the time, a man
called Merritt."

"James Merritt. Really, you have been in choice company, Miss Lee. Your
knowledge of the criminal classes is getting extensive and peculiar."

"Merritt told me this. And an answer came back."

"An answer from Mr. Steel?"

"Purporting to be an answer from Mr. Steel. A very clever forgery, as a
matter of fact. Of course that forgery was Henson's work, because we know
that Henson coolly ordered notepaper in Mr. Steel's name. He forgot to
pay the bill, and that is how the thing came out. Besides, the little wad
of papers on which the forgery was written is in Mr. Steel's hands. Now,
what do you make of that?"

Rawlins turned the matter over thoughtfully in his mind.

"Did Henson know that Mr. Steel would be from home that night?" he asked.

"Of course. He probably also knew where our meeting with Mr. Steel was to
take place."

"Then the matter is pretty obvious," said Rawlins. "Van Sneck, by some
means or other, gets an inkling of what is going on. He wanted money from
Henson, which he couldn't get, Henson being very short lately, and then
they quarrelled. Van Sneck was fool enough to threaten Henson with what
he was going to do. Van Sneck's note was dispatched by hand and
intercepted by Henson with a reply. By the way, will you be good enough
to give me the gist of the reply?"

"It was a short letter from Mr. Steel and signed with his initials, and
saying in effect that he was at home every night and would see Van Sneck
about twelve or some time like that. He was merely to knock quietly, as
the household would be in bed, and Mr. Steel would let him in."

"And Mr. Steel never wrote that letter at all?"

"No; for the simple reason that he never had Van Sneck's note."

"Which Henson intercepted, of course. Now, the mere fact of the reply
coming on Mr. Steel's paper is evidence that Henson had plotted some
other or alternative scheme against Mr. Steel. How long before the
cigar-case episode had you decided to consult the novelist?"

"We began to talk about it nine or ten days before."

"And Henson got to hear of it. Then a better idea occurred to Henson, and
the first idea which necessitated getting hold of Mr. Steel's notepaper
was abandoned. Subsequently, as you have just told me, the note-paper
came in useful after all. Henson knew that Steel would be out that night.
And, therefore, Van Sneck is deliberately lured to Steel's house to be
murdered there."

"I see," Chris said, faintly. "This had never occurred to me before.
Murdered, by whom?"

"By whom? Why, by Reginald Henson, of course."

Just for a moment Chris felt as if all the world was slipping away
under her feet.

"But how could he do it?" she asked.

"Quite easily. And throw all the blame on Mr. Steel. Look at the evidence
he had ready to his hand against the latter. The changed cigar-case would
come near to hang a man. And Van Sneck was in the way. Steel goes out to
meet you or some of your friends. All his household are in bed. As a
novelist he comes and goes as he likes and nobody takes any heed. He goes
and leaves his door on the latch. Any money it is the common latch they
put on thousands of doors. Henson lets himself into the house and coolly
waits Van Sneck's coming. The rest you can imagine."

Chris had no reply for a moment or two. Rawlins's suggestion had burst
upon her like a bomb. And it was all so dreadfully, horribly probable.
Henson could have done this thing with absolute impunity. It was
impossible to imagine for a moment that David Steel was the criminal. Who
else could it be, then, but Reginald Henson?

"I'm afraid this has come as a shock to you," Rawlins said, quietly.

"It has, indeed," said Chris. "And your reasoning is so dreadfully

"Well, I may be wrong, after all," Rawlins suggested.

Chris shook her head doubtfully. She felt absolutely assured that Rawlins
was right. But, then, Henson would hardly have run so terrible a risk for
a little thing like that. He could easily have silenced Van Sneck by a
specious promise or two. There must be another reason for--

It came to Chris in a moment. She saw the light quite plainly.

"Mr. Smith," she said, eagerly, "where did you first meet Henson and
Van Sneck?"

"We first came together some eight years ago in Amsterdam."

"Would you mind telling me what your business was?"

"So far as I can recollect it was connected with some old silver--William
and Mary and Queen Anne cups and _jardinières_. We had made a bit of a
find that we could authenticate, but we wanted a lot of the stuff,
well--faked. You see, Van Sneck was an authority on that kind of thing,
and we employed him to cut marks off small genuine things and attach them
to spurious large ones. On the whole, we made a very successful business
of it for a long time."

"You found Van Sneck an excellent copyist. Did he ever copy
anything for you?"

"No. But Henson employed him now and again. Van Sneck could construct a
thing from a mere description. There was a ring he did for Henson--"

"Was that called Prince Rupert's ring, by any chance?"

"That was the name of the ring. Why?"

"We will come to that presently. Did you ever see Prince Rupert's ring?"

"Well, I did. It was in Amsterdam again, about a year later than the time
I mentioned just now. Henson brought the real ring for Van Sneck to copy.
Van Sneck went into raptures over it. He said he had never seen anything
of the kind so beautiful. He made a copy of the ring, which he handed
back with the original to Henson."

Chris nodded. This pretty faithful copy of the ring was the one that
Henson had used as a magnet to draw Lady Littimer's money and the same
one that had found its way into Steel's possession. But Chris had another
idea to follow up.

"You hinted to me just now that Henson was short of money," she said. "Do
you mean to say he is in dire need of some large sum?"

"That's it," Rawlins replied. "I rather fancy there has been some stir
with the police over some business up at Huddersfield some years ago."

"A so-called home both there and at Brighton?"

"That's it. It was the idea that Henson conveyed to me when I saw him at
Moreton Wells. It appears that a certain Inspector Marley, of the
Brighton Police, is the same man who used to have the warrants for the
Huddersfield affair in his hands. Henson felt pretty sure that Marley had
recognised him. He told me that if the worst came to the worst he had
something he could sell to Littimer for a large sum of money."

"I know," Chris exclaimed. "It is the Prince Rupert's ring."

"Well, I can't say anything about that. Is this ring a valuable

"Not in itself. But the loss of it has caused a dreadful lot of misery
and suffering. Mr. Smith, Reginald Henson had no business with that ring
at all. He stole it and made it appear as if somebody else had done so by
means of conveying the copy to the very last person who should have
possessed it. That sad business broke up a happy home and has made five
people miserable for many years. And whichever way you turn, whichever
way you look, you find the cloven foot of Henson everywhere. Now, what
you have told me just now gives me a new idea. The secret that Henson was
going to sell to Lord Littimer for a large sum was the story of the
missing ring and the restitution of the same."

"Kind of brazening it out, you mean?"

"Yes. Lord Littimer would give three times ten thousand pounds to have
that ring again. But at this point Henson has met with a serious check in
his plans. Driven into a corner, he has resolved to make a clean breast
of it to Lord Littimer. He procures the ring from his strong box, and
then he makes a discovery."

"Which is more than I have. Pray proceed."

"He discovers that he has not got the real Prince Rupert's ring."

Rawlins looked up with a slightly puzzled air.

"Will you kindly tell me what you mean?" he said.

"It was a forgery. Van Sneck made a copy from a mere description. That
copy served its purpose with a vengeance, and is now at the bottom of the
North Sea. I need not go into details, because it is a family secret, and
does not concern our conversation at all. At that time the _real_ ring
came into Henson's possession, and he wanted a copy to hold over the head
of an unfortunate lady whom he would have ruined before long. You told me
just now that Van Sneck had fallen in love with Prince Rupert's ring and
could hardly bear to part with it. He didn't."

"No? But how could he retain it?"

"Quite easily. The copy was quite faithful, but still _it was_ a copy.
But secretly Van Sneck makes a copy that would deceive everybody but an
expert, and this he hands over to--"

"To Henson as the real ring," Rawlins cried, excitedly.

Chris smiled, a little pleased at her acumen.

"Precisely," she said. "I see that you are inclined to be of my opinion."

"Well, upon my word, I am," Rawlins confessed. "But I don't quite
see why--"

"Please let me finish," Chris went on, excitedly. "Reginald Henson is
driven back on his last trenches. He has to get the ring for Lord
Littimer. He takes out the ring after all these years, never dreaming
that Van Sneck would dare to play such a trick upon him, and finds out
the forgery. Did you ever see that man when he is really angry?"

"He is not pretty then," Rawlins said.

"Pretty! He is murder personified. Kindly try to imagine his feelings
when he discovers he has been deceived. Mind you, this is only a theory
of mine, but I feel certain that it will prove correct. Henson's last
hope is snatched away from him. But he does not go straight to Van Sneck
and accuse him of his duplicity. He knows that Van Sneck stole the ring
for sheer love of the gem, and that he would not dare to part with it. He
assumes that the ring is in Van Sneck's possession. And when Van Sneck
threatened to expose part of the business to Mr. Steel, Henson makes no
attempt to soothe him. Why? Because he sees a cunning way of getting back
the ring. He himself lures Van Sneck to Mr. Steel's house, and there he
almost murders him for the sake of the ring. Of course, he meant to kill
Van Sneck in such a way that the blame could not possibly fall upon him."

"Can you prove that he knew anything about it?"

"I can prove that he knew who Van Sneck was at a time when the hospital
people were doing their best to identify the man. And I know how
fearfully uneasy he was when he got to know that some of us were aware
who Van Sneck was. It has been a pretty tangle for a long time, but the
skein is all coming out smoothly at last. And if we could get the ring
which Henson forced by violence from Van Sneck--"

"Excuse me. He did nothing of the kind."

Chris looked up eagerly.

"Oh," she cried, "have you more to tell me, then?"

"Nothing authentic," Rawlins said; "merely surmise. Van Sneck is going to
recover. If he does it will be hard for Henson, who ought to get away
with his plunder at once. Why doesn't he go and blackmail Lord Littimer
and sell him the ring and clear out of the country? He doesn't do so
because the ring is not yet in his possession."

"Then you imagine that Van Sneck--"

"Still has the ring probably in his possession at the present moment. If
you only knew where Van Sneck happened to be."

Chris rose to her feet with an excited cry.

"I do know," she exclaimed; "he is in the house where he was half
murdered. And Mr. Steel shall know all this before he sleeps to-night."



Bell's sanguine expectation that Van Sneck would be ready for an
immediate operation was not quite correct. As the day wore on the man
seemed more feverish and restless, which feverishness was followed by a
certain want of strength. After due deliberation Dr. Cross suggested that
the operation should be postponed for a day or two.

"The man is out of our hands," he said. "You have identified him, and
you desire that he should remain here. It is pretty irregular
altogether. And I hope I shan't get into trouble over it. Still, in such
capable hands as yours--"

Bell acknowledged the compliment with a smile.

"Between Heritage and myself," he said, "we shall pull him through, eh,

The other doctor nodded brightly. For some little time he had been
directly under Bell's influence, and that had meant a marvellous change
for the better, he had lost a deal of his hesitating manner, and was
looking forward to the operation with the keenest interest.

"However, I will put you all right," Bell said. "I fancy the time has
come when we can confide to a certain extent in Marley. And if the police
approve of Van Sneck being here, I don't see that you can say any more."

Cross was emphatically of the same opinion. Later on, in the course of a
long interview with Marley, Bell and Steel opened the latter's eyes to a
considerable extent.

"Well, I must congratulate you, sir," he said to Steel. "I'm bound to
confess that things looked pretty black against you at one time. Indeed,
I should have been fully justified in arresting you for the attempted
murder of Van Sneck."

"But you never deemed me guilty, Marley?"

"No, I didn't," Marley said, thoughtfully. "I argued in your favour
against my better judgment. I gather even now that there is a great deal
for me to know."

"And which you are not going to learn," Bell said, drily. "When we have
Van Sneck all right again, and ready to swear to the author of the
mischief, you will have to be satisfied."

"That would satisfy me, sir. And I'm glad that cigar-case mystery is
settled. You'll let me know how the operation goes on?"

Steel promised to do so, and the two returned to Downend Terrace
together. They found Heritage a little excited and disturbed.

"Do you know I have had a visitor?" he exclaimed.

Bell started slightly. He looked just a little anxious.

"I'm going to guess it at once," he said. "Reginald Henson has
been here."

"You are certainly a wonderful fellow," Heritage said, admiringly.
"Nobody else could possibly have guessed that. He came to see me,
of course."

"Oh, of course," Bell said, drily. "Naturally, he would have no
ulterior motive. Did he happen to know that we had a kind of patient
under the roof?"

Heritage explained that Henson seemed to know something about it. Also,
by singular coincidence, he had met Van Sneck abroad. He expressed a
desire to see the patient, but Heritage's professional caution had got
the better of his friendship for once. Henson had given way finally,

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