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The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton

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(Scanned by Georges Allaire

Etext prepared by Dianne Bean of Phoenix, Arizona.

By Gilbert K. Chesterton





Harold March, the rising reviewer and social critic, was walking
vigorously across a great tableland of moors and commons,
the horizon of which was fringed with the far-off woods of
the famous estate of Torwood Park. He was a good-looking young
man in tweeds, with very pale curly hair and pale clear eyes.
Walking in wind and sun in the very landscape of liberty,
he was still young enough to remember his politics and not
merely try to forget them. For his errand at Torwood Park was
a political one; it was the place of appointment named by no less
a person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Howard Horne,
then introducing his so-called Socialist budget, and prepared
to expound it in an interview with so promising a penman.
Harold March was the sort of man who knows everything
about politics, and nothing about politicians. He also knew
a great deal about art, letters, philosophy, and general culture;
about almost everything, indeed, except the world he was living in.

Abruptly, in the middle of those sunny and windy flats, he came upon
a sort of cleft almost narrow enough to be called a crack in the land.
It was just large enough to be the water-course for a small stream
which vanished at intervals under green tunnels of undergrowth,
as if in a dwarfish forest. Indeed, he had an odd feeling
as if he were a giant looking over the valley of the pygmies.
When he dropped into the hollow, however, the impression was lost;
the rocky banks, though hardly above the height of a cottage,
hung over and had the profile of a precipice. As he began to wander
down the course of the stream, in idle but romantic curiosity,
and saw the water shining in short strips between the great gray
boulders and bushes as soft as great green mosses, he fell into
quite an opposite vein of fantasy. It was rather as if the earth
had opened and swallowed him into a sort of underworld of dreams.
And when he became conscious of a human figure dark against
the silver stream, sitting on a large boulder and looking rather
like a large bird, it was perhaps with some of the premonition's
proper to a man who meets the strangest friendship of his life.

The man was apparently fishing; or at least was fixed in a
fisherman's attitude with more than a fisherman's immobility.
March was able to examine the man almost as if he had
been a statue for some minutes before the statue spoke.
He was a tall, fair man, cadaverous, and a little lackadaisical,
with heavy eyelids and a highbridged nose. When his face was shaded
with his wide white hat, his light mustache and lithe figure gave
him a look of youth. But the Panama lay on the moss beside him;
and the spectator could see that his brow was prematurely bald;
and this, combined with a certain hollowness about the eyes,
had an air of headwork and even headache. But the most curious
thing about him, realized after a short scrutiny, was that,
though he looked like a fisherman, he was not fishing.

He was holding, instead of a rod, something that might have been
a landing-net which some fishermen use, but which was much
more like the ordinary toy net which children carry, and which
they generally use indifferently for shrimps or butterflies.
He was dipping this into the water at intervals, gravely regarding
its harvest of weed or mud, and emptying it out again.

"No, I haven't caught anything," he remarked, calmly, as if answering
an unspoken query. "When I do I have to throw it back again;
especially the big fish. But some of the little beasts interest
me when I get 'em."

"A scientific interest, I suppose?" observed March.

"Of a rather amateurish sort, I fear," answered the strange fisherman.
"I have a sort of hobby about what they call 'phenomena
of phosphorescence.' But it would be rather awkward to go about
in society crying stinking fish."

"I suppose it would," said March, with a smile.

"Rather odd to enter a drawing-room carrying a large
luminous cod," continued the stranger, in his listless way.
"How quaint it would, be if one could carry it about
like a lantern, or have little sprats for candles.
Some of the seabeasts would really be very pretty like lampshades;
the blue sea-snail that glitters all over like starlight;
and some of the red starfish really shine like red stars.
But, naturally, I'm not looking for them here."

March thought of asking him what he was looking for; but, feeling unequal
to a technical discussion at least as deep as the deep-sea fishes,
he returned to more ordinary topics.

"Delightful sort of hole this is," he said. "This little dell
and river here. It's like those places Stevenson talks about,
where something ought to happen."

"I know," answered the other. "I think it's because the place itself,
so to speak, seems to happen and not merely to exist.
Perhaps that's what old Picasso and some of the Cubists are trying
to express by angles and jagged lines. Look at that wall like
low cliffs that juts forward just at right angles to the slope
of turf sweeping up to it. That's like a silent collision.
It's like a breaker and the back-wash of a wave."

March looked at the low-browed crag overhanging the green
slope and nodded. He was interested in a man who turned
so easily from the technicalities of science to those of art;
and asked him if he admired the new angular artists.

"As I feel it, the Cubists are not Cubist enough," replied the stranger.
"I mean they're not thick enough. By making things mathematical they
make them thin. Take the living lines out of that landscape, simplify it
to a right angle, and you flatten it out to a mere diagram on paper.
Diagrams have their own beauty; but it is of just the other sort,
They stand for the unalterable things; the calm, eternal, mathematical
sort of truths; what somebody calls the 'white radiance of'--"

He stopped, and before the next word came something had
happened almost too quickly and completely to be realized.
From behind the overhanging rock came a noise and rush like
that of a railway train; and a great motor car appeared.
It topped the crest of cliff, black against the sun,
like a battle-chariot rushing to destruction in some wild epic.
March automatically put out his hand in one futile gesture,
as if to catch a falling tea-cup in a drawing-room.

For the fraction of a flash it seemed to leave the ledge of rock
like a flying ship; then the very sky seemed to turn over
like a wheel, and it lay a ruin amid the tall grasses below,
a line of gray smoke going up slowly from it into the silent air.
A little lower the figure of a man with gray hair lay tumbled
down the steep green slope, his limbs lying all at random,
and his face turned away.

The eccentric fisherman dropped his net and walked swiftly toward
the spot, his new acquaintance following him. As they drew near
there seemed a sort of monstrous irony in the fact that the dead
machine was still throbbing and thundering as busily as a factory,
while the man lay so still.

He was unquestionably dead. The blood flowed in the grass
from a hopelessly fatal fracture at the back of the skull;
but the face, which was turned to the sun, was uninjured
and strangely arresting in itself. It was one of those cases
of a strange face so unmistakable as to feel familiar.
We feel, somehow, that we ought to recognize it, even though we do not.
It was of the broad, square sort with great jaws, almost like
that of a highly intellectual ape; the wide mouth shut so tight
as to be traced by a mere line; the nose short with the sort
of nostrils that seem to gape with an appetite for the air.
The oddest thing about the face was that one of the eyebrows was
cocked up at a much sharper angle than the other. March thought
he had never seen a face so naturally alive as that dead one.
And its ugly energy seemed all the stranger for its halo of hoary hair.
Some papers lay half fallen out of the pocket, and from among them
March extracted a card-case. He read the name on the card aloud.

"Sir Humphrey Turnbull. I'm sure I've heard that name somewhere."

His companion only gave a sort of a little sigh and was
silent for a moment, as if ruminating, then he merely said,
"The poor fellow is quite gone," and added some scientific terms
in which his auditor once more found himself out of his depth.

"As things are," continued the same curiously well-informed person,
"it will be more legal for us to leave the body as it is until
the police are informed. In fact, I think it will be well if nobody
except the police is informed. Don't be surprised if I seem
to be keeping it dark from some of our neighbors round here."
Then, as if prompted to regularize his rather abrupt confidence,
he said: "I've come down to see my cousin at Torwood;
my name is Horne Fisher. Might be a pun on my pottering
about here, mightn't it?"

"Is Sir Howard Horne your cousin?" asked March. "I'm going
to Torwood Park to see him myself; only about his public work,
of course, and the wonderful stand he is making for his principles.
I think this Budget is the greatest thing in English history.
If it fails, it will be the most heroic failure in English history.
Are you an admirer of your great kinsman, Mr. Fisher?"

"Rather," said Mr. Fisher. "He's the best shot I know."

Then, as if sincerely repentant of his nonchalance, he added,
with a sort of enthusiasm:

"No, but really, he's a BEAUTIFUL shot."

As if fired by his own words, he took a sort of leap at
the ledges of the rock above him, and scaled them with a sudden
agility in startling contrast to his general lassitude.
He had stood for some seconds on the headland above, with his
aquiline profile under the Panama hat relieved against the sky
and peering over the countryside before his companion had
collected himself sufficiently to scramble up after him.

The level above was a stretch of common turf on which the tracks
of the fated car were plowed plainly enough; but the brink of it
was broken as with rocky teeth; broken boulders of all shapes
and sizes lay near the edge; it was almost incredible that any
one could have deliberately driven into such a death trap,
especially in broad daylight.

"I can't make head or tail of it," said March. "Was he blind?
Or blind drunk?"

"Neither, by the look of him," replied the other.

"Then it was suicide."

"It doesn't seem a cozy way of doing it," remarked the man
called Fisher. "Besides, I don't fancy poor old Puggy would
commit suicide, somehow."

"Poor old who?" inquired the wondering journalist., "Did you know
this unfortunate man?"

"Nobody knew him exactly," replied Fisher, with some vagueness.
"But one KNEW him, of course. He'd been a terror in his time,
in Parliament and the courts, and so on; especially in that row
about the aliens who were deported as undesirables, when he wanted
one of 'em hanged for murder. He was so sick about it that he retired
from the bench. Since then he mostly motored about by himself;
but he was coming to Torwood, too, for the week-end; and I don't see
why he should deliberately break his neck almost at the very door.
I believe Hoggs--I mean my cousin Howard--was coming down specially
to meet him."

"Torwood Park doesn't belong to your cousin?" inquired March.

"No; it used to belong to the Winthrops, you know," replied the other.
"Now a new man's got it; a man from Montreal named Jenkins. Hoggs comes
for the shooting; I told you he was a lovely shot."

This repeated eulogy on the great social statesman affected Harold March
as if somebody had defined Napoleon as a distinguished player of nap.
But he had another half-formed impression struggling in this flood
of unfamiliar things, and he brought it to the surface before
it could vanish.

"Jenkins," he repeated. "Surely you don't mean Jefferson Jenkins,
the social reformer? I mean the man who's fighting for the new
cottage-estate scheme. It would be as interesting to meet him as any
Cabinet Minister in the world, if you'll excuse my saying so."

"Yes; Hoggs told him it would have to be cottages," said Fisher. "He said
the breed of cattle had improved too often, and people were beginning
to laugh. And, of course, you must hang a peerage on to something;
though the poor chap hasn't got it yet. Hullo, here's somebody else."

They had started walking in the tracks of the car,
leaving it behind them in the hollow, still humming horribly
like a huge insect that had killed a man. The tracks took
them to the corner of the road, one arm of which went
on in the same line toward the distant gates of the park.
It was clear that the car had been driven down the long
straight road, and then, instead of turning with the road
to the left, had gone straight on over the turf to its doom.
But it was not this discovery that had riveted Fisher's eye,
but something even more solid. At the angle of the white road a dark
and solitary figure was standing almost as still as a finger post.
It was that of a big man in rough shooting-clothes, bareheaded,
and with tousled curly hair that gave him a rather wild look.
On a nearer approach this first more fantastic impression faded;
in a full light the figure took on more conventional colors,
as of an ordinary gentleman who happened to have come out
without a hat and without very studiously brushing his hair.
But the massive stature remained, and something deep
and even cavernous about the setting of the eyes redeemed.
his animal good looks from the commonplace. But March had no time
to study the man more closely, for, much to his astonishment,
his guide merely observed, "Hullo, Jack!" and walked past
him as if he had indeed been a signpost, and without
attempting to inform him of the catastrophe beyond the rocks.
It was relatively a small thing, but it was only the first
in a string of singular antics on which his new and eccentric
friend was leading him.

The man they had passed looked after them in rather a suspicious fashion,
but Fisher continued serenely on his way along the straight road that ran
past the gates of the great estate.

"That's John Burke, the traveler," he condescended to explain.
"I expect you've heard of him; shoots big game and all that.
Sorry I couldn't stop to introduce you, but I dare say you'll
meet him later on."

"I know his book, of course," said March, with renewed interest.
"That is certainly a fine piece of description, about their being
only conscious of the closeness of the elephant when the colossal
head blocked out the moon."

"Yes, young Halkett writes jolly well, I think. What? Didn't you know
Halkett wrote Burke's book for him? Burke can't use anything except
a gun; and you can't write with that. Oh, he's genuine enough in his way,
you know, as brave as a lion, or a good deal braver by all accounts."

"You seem to know all about him," observed March, with a rather
bewildered laugh, "and about a good many other people."

Fisher's bald brow became abruptly corrugated, and a curious
expression came into his eyes.

"I know too much," he said. "That's what's the matter with me.
That's what's the matter with all of us, and the whole show; we know
too much. Too much about one another; too much about ourselves.
That's why I'm really interested, just now, about one thing that
I don't know."

"And that is?" inquired the other.

"Why that poor fellow is dead."

They had walked along the straight road for nearly a mile,
conversing at intervals in this fashion; and March had a
singular sense of the whole world being turned inside out.
Mr. Horne Fisher did not especially abuse his friends and relatives
in fashionable society; of some of them he spoke with affection.
But they seemed to be an entirely new set of men and women,
who happened to have the same nerves as the men and women mentioned
most often in the newspapers. Yet no fury of revolt could have seemed
to him more utterly revolutionary than this cold familiarity.
It was like daylight on the other side of stage scenery.

They reached the great lodge gates of the park, and, to March's surprise,
passed them and continued along the interminable white, straight road.
But he was himself too early for his appointment with Sir Howard,
and was not disinclined to see the end of his new friend's experiment,
whatever it might be. They had long left the moorland behind them,
and half the white road was gray in the great shadow of the Torwood
pine forests, themselves like gray bars shuttered against the sunshine
and within, amid that clear noon, manufacturing their own midnight.
Soon, however, rifts began to appear in them like gleams
of colored windows; the trees thinned and fell away as the road
went forward, showing the wild, irregular copses in which,
as Fisher said, the house-party had been blazing away all day.
And about two hundred yards farther on they came to the first turn
of the road.

At the corner stood a sort of decayed inn with the dingy sign
of The Grapes. The signboard was dark and indecipherable by now,
and hung black against the sky and the gray moorland beyond,
about as inviting as a gallows. March remarked that it looked
like a tavern for vinegar instead of wine.

"A good phrase," said Fisher, "and so it would be if you were
silly enough to drink wine in it. But the beer is very good,
and so is the brandy."

March followed him to the bar parlor with some wonder, and his dim sense
of repugnance was not dismissed by the first sight of the innkeeper,
who was widely different from the genial innkeepers of romance, a bony
man, very silent behind a black mustache, but with black, restless eyes.
Taciturn as he was, the investigator succeeded at last in extracting
a scrap of information from him, by dint of ordering beer and talking
to him persistently and minutely on the subject of motor cars.
He evidently regarded the innkeeper as in some singular way an authority
on motor cars; as being deep in the secrets of the mechanism,
management, and mismanagement of motor cars; holding the man all
the time with a glittering eye like the Ancient Mariner. Out of all
this rather mysterious conversation there did emerge at last a sort
of admission that one particular motor car, of a given description,
had stopped before the inn about an hour before, and that an elderly man
had alighted, requiring some mechanical assistance. Asked if the visitor
required any other assistance, the innkeeper said shortly that the old
gentleman had filled his flask and taken a packet of sandwiches.
And with these words the somewhat inhospitable host had walked hastily
out of the bar, and they heard him banging doors in the dark interior.

Fisher's weary eye wandered round the dusty and dreary inn parlor
and rested dreamily on a glass case containing a stuffed bird,
with a gun hung on hooks above it, which seemed to be its only ornament.

"Puggy was a humorist," he observed, "at least in his own rather
grim style. But it seems rather too grim a joke for a man to buy
a packet of sandwiches when he is just going to commit suicide."

"If you come to that," answered March, "it isn't very usual
for a man to buy a packet of sandwiches when he's just outside
the door of a grand house he's going to stop at."

"No . . . no," repeated Fisher, almost mechanically; and then suddenly
cocked his eye at his interlocutor with a much livelier expression.

"By Jove! that's an idea. You're perfectly right.
And that suggests a very queer idea, doesn't it?"

There was a silence, and then March started with irrational
nervousness as the door of the inn was flung open and another man
walked rapidly to the counter. He had struck it with a coin
and called out for brandy before he saw the other two guests,
who were sitting at a bare wooden table under the window.
When he turned about with a rather wild stare, March had yet
another unexpected emotion, for his guide hailed the man as Hoggs
and introduced him as Sir Howard Horne.

He looked rather older than his boyish portraits in the
illustrated papers, as is the way of politicians; his flat,
fair hair was touched with gray, but his face was almost
comically round, with a Roman nose which, when combined with
his quick, bright eyes, raised a vague reminiscence of a parrot.
He had a cap rather at the back of his head and a gun under his arm.
Harold March had imagined many things about his meeting with
the great political reformer, but he had never pictured him
with a gun under his arm, drinking brandy in a public house.

"So you're stopping at Jink's, too," said Fisher. "Everybody seems
to be at Jink's."

"Yes," replied the Chancellor of the Exchequer. "Jolly good shooting.
At least all of it that isn't Jink's shooting. I never knew a chap
with such good shooting that was such a bad shot. Mind you,
he's a jolly good fellow and all that; I don't say a word against him.
But he never learned to hold a gun when he was packing pork
or whatever he did. They say he shot the cockade off his own
servant's hat; just like him to have cockades, of course.
He shot the weathercock off his own ridiculous gilded summerhouse.
It's the only cock he'll ever kill, I should think.
Are you coming up there now?"

Fisher said, rather vaguely, that he was following soon, when he had
fixed something up; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer left the inn.
March fancied he had been a little upset or impatient when he called
for the brandy; but he had talked himself back into a satisfactory state,
if the talk had not been quite what his literary visitor had expected.
Fisher, a few minutes afterward, slowly led the way out of the tavern
and stood in the middle of the road, looking down in the direction
from which they had traveled. Then he walked back about two hundred
yards in that direction and stood still again.

"I should think this is about the place," he said.

"What place?" asked his companion.

"The place where the poor fellow was killed," said Fisher, sadly.

"What do you mean?" demanded March.

"He was smashed up on the rocks a mile and a half from here."

"No, he wasn't," replied Fisher. "He didn't fall on the rocks at all.
Didn't you notice that he only fell on the slope of soft
grass underneath? But I saw that he had a bullet in him already."

Then after a pause he added:

"He was alive at the inn, but he was dead long before he came
to the rocks. So he was shot as he drove his car down this strip
of straight road, and I should think somewhere about here.
After that, of course, the car went straight on with nobody
to stop or turn it. It's really a very cunning dodge in its way;
for the body would be found far away, and most people
would say, as you do, that it was an accident to a motorist.
The murderer must have been a clever brute."

"But wouldn't the shot be heard at the inn or somewhere?" asked March.

"It would be heard. But it would not be noticed.
That," continued the investigator, "is where he was clever again.
Shooting was going on all over the place all day; very likely
he timed his shot so as to drown it in a number of others.
Certainly he was a first-class criminal. And he was something
else as well."

"What do you mean?" asked his companion, with a creepy premonition
of something coming, he knew not why.

"He was a first-class shot," said Fisher. He had turned
his back abruptly and was walking down a narrow, grassy lane,
little more than a cart track, which lay opposite the inn and marked
the end of the great estate and the beginning of the open moors.
March plodded after him with the same idle perseverance,
and found him staring through a gap in giant weeds and thorns
at the flat face of a painted paling. From behind the paling
rose the great gray columns of a row of poplars, which filled
the heavens above them with dark-green shadow and shook
faintly in a wind which had sunk slowly into a breeze.
The afternoon was already deepening into evening, and the titanic
shadows of the poplars lengthened over a third of the landscape.

"Are you a first-class criminal?" asked Fisher, in a friendly tone.
"I'm afraid I'm not. But I think I can manage to be a sort
of fourth-rate burglar."

And before his companion could reply he had managed to swing
himself up and over the fence; March followed without much
bodily effort, but with considerable mental disturbance.
The poplars grew so close against the fence that they had some
difficulty in slipping past them, and beyond the poplars they could
see only a high hedge of laurel, green and lustrous in the level sun.
Something in this limitation by a series of living walls made him
feel as if he were really entering a shattered house instead of an
open field. It was as if he came in by a disused door or window
and found the way blocked by furniture. When they had circumvented
the laurel hedge, they came out on a sort of terrace of turf,
which fell by one green step to an oblong lawn like a bowling green.
Beyond this was the only building in sight, a low conservatory,
which seemed far away from anywhere, like a glass cottage
standing in its own fields in fairyland. Fisher knew that lonely
look of the outlying parts of a great house well enough.
He realized that it is more of a satire on aristocracy than if it
were choked with weeds and littered with ruins. For it is not
neglected and yet it is deserted; at any rate, it is disused.
It is regularly swept and garnished for a master who never comes.

Looking over the lawn, however, he saw one object which he had
not apparently expected. It was a sort of tripod supporting
a large disk like the round top of a table tipped sideways,
and it was not until they had dropped on to the lawn and walked
across to look at it that March realized that it was a target.
It was worn and weatherstained; the gay colors of its concentric
rings were faded; possibly it had been set up in those
far-off Victorian days when there was a fashion of archery.
March had one of his vague visions of ladies in cloudy crinolines
and gentlemen in outlandish hats and whiskers revisiting
that lost garden like ghosts.

Fisher, who was peering more closely at the target, startled him
by an exclamation.

"Hullo!" he said. "Somebody has been peppering this thing with shot,
after all, and quite lately, too. Why, I believe old Jink's been
trying to improve his bad shooting here."

"Yes, and it looks as if it still wanted improving,"
answered March, laughing. "Not one of these shots is anywhere
near the bull's-eye; they seem just scattered about in
the wildest way."

"In the wildest way," repeated Fisher, still peering intently
at the target. He seemed merely to assent, but March fancied
his eye was shining under its sleepy lid and that he straightened
his stooping figure with a strange effort.

"Excuse me a moment," he said, feeling in his pockets.
"I think I've got some of my chemicals; and after that we'll
go up to the house." And he stooped again over the target,
putting something with his finger over each of the shot-holes,
so far as March could see merely a dull-gray smear.
Then they went through the gathering twilight up the long green
avenues to the great house.

Here again, however, the eccentric investigator did not enter
by the front door. He walked round the house until he found
a window open, and, leaping into it, introduced his friend
to what appeared to be the gun-room. Rows of the regular
instruments for bringing down birds stood against the walls;
but across a table in the window lay one or two weapons of a
heavier and more formidable pattern.

"Hullo I these are Burke's big-game rifles," said Fisher.
"I never knew he kept them here." He lifted one of them,
examined it briefly, and put it down again, frowning heavily.
Almost as he did so a strange young man came hurriedly into the room.
He was dark and sturdy, with a bumpy forehead and a bulldog jaw,
and he spoke with a curt apology.

"I left Major Burke's guns here," he said, "and he wants them packed up.
He's going away to-night."

And he carried off the two rifles without casting a glance at
the stranger; through the open window they could see his short,
dark figure walking away across the glimmering garden.
Fisher got out of the window again and stood looking after him.

"That's Halkett, whom I told you about," he said. "I knew he was a sort
of secretary and had to do with Burke's papers; but I never knew he.
had anything to do with his guns. But he's just the sort of silent,
sensible little devil who might be very good at anything; the sort
of man you know for years before you find he's a chess champion."

He had begun to walk in the direction of the disappearing secretary,
and they soon came within sight of the rest of the house-party talking
and laughing on the lawn. They could see the tall figure and loose
mane of the lion-hunter dominating the little group.

"By the way," observed Fisher, "when we were talking about
Burke and Halkett, I said that a man couldn't very well write
with a gun. Well, I'm not so sure now. Did you ever hear
of an artist so clever that he could draw with a gun?
There's a wonderful chap loose about here."

Sir Howard hailed Fisher and his friend the journalist
with almost boisterous amiability. The latter was presented
to Major Burke and Mr. Halkett and also (by way of a parenthesis)
to his host, Mr. Jenkins, a commonplace little man in loud tweeds,
whom everybody else seemed to treat with a sort of affection,
as if he were a baby.

The irrepressible Chancellor of the Exchequer was still talking
about the birds he had brought down, the birds that Burke
and Halkett had brought down, and the birds that Jenkins,
their host, had failed to bring down. It seemed to be a sort
of sociable monomania.

"You and your big game," he ejaculated, aggressively,
to Burke. "Why, anybody could shoot big game. You want to be
a shot to shoot small game."

"Quite so," interposed Horne Fisher. "Now if only a hippopotamus
could fly up in the air out of that bush, or you preserved flying
elephants on the estate, why, then--"

"Why even Jink might hit that sort of bird," cried Sir Howard,
hilariously slapping his host on the back. "Even he might hit
a haystack or a hippopotamus."

"Look here, you fellows," said Fisher. "I want you to come
along with me for a minute and shoot at something else.
Not a hippopotamus. Another kind of queer animal I've found
on the estate. It's an animal with three legs and one eye,
and it's all the colors of the rainbow."

"What the deuce are you talking about?" asked Burke.

"You come along and see," replied Fisher, cheerfully.

Such people seldom reject anything nonsensical, for they are always
seeking for somethingnew. They gravely rearmed themselves fromthe
gun-room and trooped along at the tail of their guide, Sir Howard
only pausing, in a sort of ecstasy, to point out the celebrated gilt
summerhouse on which the gilt weathercock still stood crooked.
It was dusk turning to dark by the time they reached the remote green
by the poplars and accepted the new and aimless game of shooting
at the old mark.

The last light seemed to fade from the lawn, and the poplars
against the sunset were like great plumes upon a purple hearse,
when the futile procession finally curved round, and came out
in front of the target. Sir Howard again slapped his host on
the shoulder, shoving him playfully forward to take the first shot.
The shoulder and arm he touched seemed unnaturally stiff and angular.
Mr. Jenkins was holding his gun in an attitude more awkward
than any that his satiric friends had seen or expected.

At the same instant a horrible scream seemed to come from nowhere.
It was so unnatural and so unsuited to the scene that it might
have been made by some inhuman thing flying on wings above them
or eavesdropping in the dark woods beyond. But Fisher knew that it
had started and stopped on the pale lips of Jefferson Jenkins,
of Montreal, and no one at that moment catching sight of
Jefferson Jenkins's face would have complained that it was commonplace.
The next moment a torrent of guttural but good-humored oaths came from
Major Burke as he and the two other men saw what was in front of them.
The target stood up in the dim grass like a dark goblin grinning
at them, and it was literally grinning. It had two eyes like stars,
and in similar livid points of light were picked out the two upturned
and open nostrils and the two ends of the wide and tight mouth.
A few white dots above each eye indicated the hoary eyebrows;
and one of them ran upward almost erect. It was a brilliant
caricature done in bright botted lines and March knew of whom.
It shone in the shadowy grass, smeared with sea fire as if one
of the submarine monsters had crawled into the twilight garden;
but it had the head of a dead man.

"It's only luminous paint," said Burke. "Old Fisher's been having
a joke with that phosphorescent stuff of his."

"Seems to be meant for old Puggy"' observed Sir Howard. "Hits him
off very well."

With that they all laughed, except Jenkins. When they had all done,
he made a noise like the first effort of an animal to laugh,
and Horne Fisher suddenly strode across to him and said:

"Mr. Jenkins, I must speak to you at once in private."

It was by the little watercourse in the moors, on the slope
under the hanging rock, that March met his new friend Fisher,
by appointment, shortly after the ugly and almost grotesque
scene that had broken up the group in the garden.

"It was a monkey-trick of mine," observed Fisher, gloomily,
"putting phosphorus on the target; but the only chance
to make him jump was to give him the horrors suddenly.
And when he saw the face he'd shot at shining on the target
he practiced on, all lit up with an infernal light, he did jump.
Quite enough for my own intellectual satisfaction."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand even now," said March,
"exactly what he did or why he did it."

"You ought to," replied Fisher, with his rather dreary smile,
"for you gave me the first suggestion yourself. Oh yes, you did;
and it was. a very shrewd one. You said a man wouldn't take
sandwiches with him to dine at a great house. It was quite true;
and the inference was that, though he was going there,
he didn't mean to dine there. Or, at any rate, that he might
not be dining there. It occurred to me at once that he probably
expected the visit to be unpleasant, or the reception doubtful,
or something that would prevent his accepting hospitality.
Then it struck me that Turnbull was a terror to certain shady
characters in the past, and that he had come down to identify
and denounce one of them. The chances at the start pointed
to the host--that is, Jenkins. I'm morally certain now that
Jenkins was the undesirable alien Turnbull wanted to convict
in another shooting-affair, but you see the shooting gentleman
had another shot in his locker."

"But you said he would have to be a very good shot," protested March.

"Jenkins is a very good shot," said Fisher. "A very good shot
who can pretend to be a very bad shot. Shall I tell you the second
hint I hit on, after yours, to make me think it was Jenkins? It was
my cousin's account of his bad shooting. He'd shot a cockade off
a hat and a weathercock off a building. Now, in fact, a man must
shoot very well indeed to shoot so badly as that. He must shoot
very neatly to hit the cockade and not the head, or even the hat.
If the shots had really gone at random, the chances are a thousand to one
that they would not have hit such prominent and picturesque objects.
They were chosen because they were prominent and picturesque objects.
They make a story to go the round of society. He keeps the crooked
weathercock in the summerhouse to perpetuate the story of a legend.
And then he lay in wait with his evil eye and wicked gun, safely ambushed
behind the legend of his own incompetence.

"But there is more than that. There is the summerhouse itself.
I mean there is the whole thing. There's all that Jenkins
gets chaffed about, the gilding and the gaudy colors and all
the vulgarity that's supposed to stamp him as an upstart.
Now, as a matter of fact, upstarts generally don't do this.
God knows there's enough of 'em in society; and one knows
'em well enough. And this is the very last thing they do.
They're generally only too keen to know the right thing and do it;
and they instantly put themselves body and soul into the hands
of art decorators and art experts, who do the whole thing for them.
There's hardly another millionaire alive who has the moral courage
to have a gilt monogram on a chair like that one in the gun-room.
For that matter, there's the name as well as the monogram.
Names like Tompkins and Jenkins and Jinks are funny without
being vulgar; I mean they are vulgar without being common.
If you prefer it, they are commonplace without being common.
They are just the names to be chosen to LOOK ordinary,
but they're really rather extraordinary. Do you know many people
called Tompkins? It's a good deal rarer than Talbot. It's pretty
much the same with the comic clothes of the parvenu.
Jenkins dresses like a character in Punch. But that's because
he is a character in Punch. I mean he's a fictitious character.
He's a fabulous animal. He doesn't exist.

"Have you ever considered what it must be like to be a man who
doesn't exist? I mean to be a man with a fictitious character that
he has to keep up at the expense not merely of personal talents:
To be a new kind of hypocrite hiding a talent in a new kind of napkin.
This man has chosen his hypocrisy very ingeniously; it was really
a new one. A subtle villain has dressed up as a dashing gentleman
and a worthy business man and a philanthropist and a saint; but the loud
checks of a comical little cad were really rather a new disguise.
But the disguise must be very irksome to a man who can really do things.
This is a dexterous little cosmopolitan guttersnipe who can do scores of
things, not only shoot, but draw and paint, and probably play the fiddle.
Now a man like that may find the hiding of his talents useful;
but he could never help wanting to use them where they were useless.
If he can draw, he will draw absent-mindedly on blotting paper.
I suspect this rascal has often drawn poor old Puggy's face on
blotting paper. Probably he began doing it in blots as he afterward
did it in dots, or rather shots. It was the same sort of thing;
he found a disused target in a deserted yard and couldn't resist
indulging in a little secret shooting, like secret drinking.
You thought the shots all scattered and irregular, and so
they were; but not accidental. No two distances were alike;
but the different points were exactly where he wanted to put them.
There's nothing needs such mathematical precision as a wild caricature.
I've dabbled a little in drawing myself, and I assure you that to put
one dot where you want it is a marvel with a pen close to a piece
of paper. It was a miracle to do it across a garden with a gun.
But a man who can work those miracles will always itch to work them,
if it's only in the dark."

After a pause March observed, thoughtfully, "But he couldn't have
brought him down like a bird with one of those little guns."

"No; that was why I went into the gun-room," replied Fisher. "He did it
with one of Burke's rifles, and Burke thought he knew the sound of it.
That's why he rushed out without a hat, looking so wild. He saw
nothing but a car passing quickly, which he followed for a little way,
and then concluded he'd made a mistake."

There was another silence, during which Fisher sat on a great
stone as motionless as on their first meeting, and watched
the gray and silver river eddying past under the bushes.
Then March said, abruptly, "Of course he knows the truth now."

"Nobody knows the truth but you and I," answered Fisher,
with a certain softening in his voice. "And I don't think you
and I will ever quarrel."

"What do you mean?" asked March, in an altered accent.
"What have you done about it?"

Horne Fisher continued to gaze steadily at the eddying stream.
At last he said, "The police have proved it was a motor accident."

"But you know it was not."

"I told you that I know too much," replied Fisher, with his eye
on the river. "I know that, and I know a great many other things.
I know the atmosphere and the way the whole thing works.
I know this fellow has succeeded in making himself something
incurably commonplace and comic. I know you can't get up
a persecution of old Toole or Little Tich. If I were to tell
Hoggs or Halkett that old Jink was an assassin, they would
almost die of laughter before my eyes. Oh, I don't say their
laughter's quite innocent, though it's genuine in its way.
They want old Jink, and they couldn't do without him. I don't say
I'm quite innocent. I like Hoggs; I don't want him to be down
and out; and he'd be done for if Jink can't pay for his coronet.
They were devilish near the line at the last election.
But the only real objection to it is that it's impossible.
Nobody would believe it; it's not in the picture.
The crooked weathercock would always turn it into a joke."

"Don't you think this is infamous?" asked March, quietly.

"I think a good many things," replied the other. "If you people ever
happen to blow the whole tangle of society to hell with dynamite,
I don't know that the human race will be much the worse.
But don't be too hard on me merely because I know what society is.
That's why I moon away my time over things like stinking fish."

There was a pause as he settled himself down again by the stream;
and then he added:

"I told you before I had to throw back the big fish."


This tale begins among a tangle of tales round a name that is at
once recent and legendary. The name is that of Michael O'Neill,
popularly called Prince Michael, partly because he claimed
descent from ancient Fenian princes, and partly because he was
credited with a plan to make himself prince president of Ireland,
as the last Napoleon did of France. He was undoubtedly
a gentleman of honorable pedigree and of many accomplishments,
but two of his accomplishments emerged from all the rest.
He had a talent for appearing when he was not wanted and a
talent for disappearing when he was wanted, especially when
he was wanted by the police. It may be added that his
disappearances were more dangerous than his appearances.
In the latter he seldom went beyond the sensational--
pasting up seditious placards, tearing down official placards,
making flamboyant speeches, or unfurling forbidden flags.
But in order to effect the former he would sometimes fight for
his freedom with startling energy, from which men were sometimes
lucky to escape with a broken head instead of a broken neck.
His most famous feats of escape, however, were due to dexterity
and not to violence. On a cloudless summer morning he had come down
a country road white with dust, and, pausing outside a farmhouse,
had told the farmer's daughter, with elegant indifference,
that the local police were in pursuit of him. The girl's name
was Bridget Royce, a somber and even sullen type of beauty,
and she looked at him darkly, as if in doubt, and said,
"Do you want me to hide you?" Upon which he only laughed,
leaped lightly over the stone wall, and strode toward the farm,
merely throwing over his shoulder the remark, "Thank you,
I have generally been quite capable of hiding myself."
In which proceeding he acted with a tragic ignorance of the
nature of women; and there fell on his path in that sunshine
a shadow of doom.

While he disappeared through the farmhouse the girl remained for a few
moments looking up the road, and two perspiring policemen came plowing up
to the door where she stood. Though still angry, she was still silent,
and a quarter of an hour later the officers had searched the house
and were already inspecting the kitchen garden and cornfield behind it.
In the ugly reaction of her mood she might have been tempted even to
point out the fugitive, but for a small difficulty that she had no more
notion than the policemen had of where he could possibly have gone.
The kitchen garden was inclosed by a very low wall, and the cornfield
beyond lay aslant like a square patch on a great green hill on
which he could still have been seen even as a dot in the distance.
Everything stood solid in its familiar place; the apple tree was
too small to support or hide a climber; the only shed stood open
and obviously empty; there was no sound save the droning of summer
flies and the occasional flutter of a bird unfamiliar enough to be
surprised by the scarecrow in the field; there was scarcely a shadow
save a few blue lines that fell from the thin tree; every detail
was picked out by the brilliant day light as if in a microscope.
The girl described the scene later, with all the passionate realism
of her race, and, whether or no the policemen had a similar eye for
the picturesque, they had at least an eye for the facts of the case,
and were compelled to give up the chase and retire from the scene.
Bridget Royce remained as if in a trance, staring at the sunlit
garden in which a man had just vanished like a fairy. She was still
in a sinister mood, and the miracle took in her mind a character of
unfriendliness and fear, as if the fairy were decidedly a bad fairy.
The sun upon the glittering garden depressed her more than the darkness,
but she continued to stare at it. Then the world itself went
half-witted and she screamed. The scarecrow moved in the sun light.
It had stood with its back to her in a battered old black hat and a
tattered garment, and with all its tatters flying, it strode away
across the hill.

She did not analyze the audacious trick by which the man had turned
to his advantage the subtle effects of the expected and the obvious;
she was still under the cloud of more individual complexities, and she
noticed must of all that the vanishing scarecrow did not even turn to look
at the farm. And the fates that were running so adverse to his fantastic
career of freedom ruled that his next adventure, though it had the same
success in another quarter, should increase the danger in this quarter.
Among the many similar adventures related of him in this manner it is also
said that some days afterward another girl, named Mary Cregan, found him
concealed on the farm where she worked; and if the story is true, she must
also have had the shock of an uncanny experience, for when she was busy at
some lonely task in the yard she heard a voice speaking out of the well,
and found that the eccentric had managed to drop himself into the bucket
which was some little way below, the well only partly full of water.
In this case, however, he had to appeal to the woman to wind up the rope.
And men say it was when this news was told to the other woman that her
soul walked over the border line of treason.

Such, at least, were the stories told of him in the countryside,
and there were many more--as that he had stood insolently in a splendid
green dressing gown on the steps of a great hotel, and then led
the police a chase through a long suite of grand apartments, and finally
through his own bedroom on to a balcony that overhung the river.
The moment the pursuers stepped on to the balcony it broke under them,
and they dropped pell-mell into the eddying waters, while Michael,
who had thrown off his gown and dived, was able to swim away.
It was said that he had carefully cut away the props so that
they would not support anything so heavy as a policeman.
But here again he was immediately fortunate, yet ultimately
unfortunate, for it is said that one of the men was drowned,
leaving a family feud which made a little rift in his popularity.
These stories can now be told in some detail, not because they are
the most marvelous of his many adventures, but because these alone
were not covered with silence by the loyalty of the peasantry.
These alone found their way into official reports, and it is these
which three of the chief officials of the country were reading
and discussing when the more remarkable part of this story begins.

Night was far advanced and the lights shone in the cottage
that served for a temporary police station near the coast.
On one side of it were the last houses of the straggling village,
and on the other nothing but a waste moorland stretching away
toward the sea, the line of which was broken by no landmark except
a solitary tower of the prehistoric pattern still found in Ireland,
standing up as slender as a column, but pointed like a pyramid.
At a wooden table in front of the window, which normally
looked out on this landscape, sat two men in plain clothes,
but with something of a military bearing, for indeed they
were the two chiefs of the detective service of that district.
The senior of the two, both in age and rank, was a sturdy man
with a short white beard, and frosty eyebrows fixed in a frown
which suggested rather worry than severity.

His name was Morton, and he was a Liverpool man long
pickled in the Irish quarrels, and doing his duty among
them in a sour fashion not altogether unsympathetic.
He had spoken a few sentences to his companion, Nolan, a tall,
dark man with a cadaverous equine Irish face, when he seemed to
remember something and touched a bell which rang in another room.
The subordinate he had summoned immediately appeared with a sheaf
of papers in his hand.

"Sit down, Wilson," he said. "Those are the dispositions, I suppose."

"Yes," replied the third officer. "I think I've got all there
is to be got out of them, so I sent the people away."

"Did Mary Cregan give evidence?" asked Morton, with a frown
that looked a little heavier than usual.

"No, but her master did," answered the man called Wilson,
who had flat, red hair and a plain, pale face, not without sharpness.
"I think he's hanging round the girl himself and is out against a rival.
There's always some reason of that sort when we are told the truth
about anything. And you bet the other girl told right enough."

"Well, let's hope they'll be some sort of use," remarked Nolan,
in a somewhat hopeless manner, gazing out into the darkness.

"Anything is to the good," said Morton, "that lets us know
anything about him."

"Do we know anything about him?" asked the melancholy Irishman.

"We know one thing about him," said Wilson, "and it's the one thing
that nobody ever knew before. We know where be is."

"Are you sure?" inquired Morton, looking at him sharply.

"Quite sure," replied his assistant. "At this very minute
he is in that tower over there by the shore. If you go near
enough you'll see the candle burning in the window."

As he spoke the noise of a horn sounded on the road outside,
and a moment after they heard the throbbing of a motor car brought
to a standstill before the door. Morton instantly sprang to his feet.
tly sprang to his feet.

"Thank the Lord that's the car from Dublin," he said.
"I can't do anything without special authority, not if he were
sitting on the top of the tower and putting out his tongue at us.
But the chief can do what he thinks best."

He hurried out to the entrance and was soon exchanging greetings with
a big handsome man in a fur coat, who brought into the dingy little
station the indescribable glow of the great cities and the luxuries
of the great world.

For this was Sir Walter Carey, an official of such eminence in
Dublin Castle that nothing short of the case of Prince Michael would
have brought him on such a journey in the middle of the night.
But the case of Prince Michael, as it happened, was complicated by
legalism as well as lawlessness. On the last occasion he had escaped
by a forensic quibble and not, as usual, by a private escapade; and it
was a question whether at the moment he was amenable to the law or not.
It might be necessary to stretch a point, but a man like Sir Walter
could probably stretch it as far as he liked.

Whether he intended to do so was a question to be considered.
Despite the almost aggressive touch of luxury in the fur coat,
it soon became apparent that Sir Walter's large leonine head was
for use as well as ornament, and he considered the matter soberly
and sanely enough. Five chairs were set round the plain deal table,
for who should Sir Walter bring with him but his young relative
and secretary, Horne Fisher. Sir Walter listened with grave attention,
and his secretary with polite boredom, to the string of episodes
by which the police had traced the flying rebel from the steps
of the hotel to the solitary tower beside the sea. There at least
he was cornered between the moors and the breakers; and the scout
sent by Wilson reported him as writing under a solitary candle,
perhaps composing another of his tremendous proclamations.
Indeed, it would have been typical of him to choose it as the place
in which finally to turn to bay. He had some remote claim on it,
as on a family castle; and those who knew him thought him capable
of imitating the primitive Irish chieftains who fell fighting
against the sea.

"I saw some queer-looking people leaving as I came in,"
said Sir Walter Carey. "I suppose they were your witnesses.
But why do they turn up here at this time of night?"

Morton smiled grimly. "They come here by night because they would
be dead men if they came here by day. They are criminals committing
a crime that is more horrible here than theft or murder."

"What crime do you mean?" asked the other, with some curiosity.

"They are helping the law," said Morton.

There was a silence, and Sir Walter considered the papers before him
with an abstracted eye. At last he spoke.

"Quite so; but look here, if the local feeling is as lively
as that there are a good many points to consider. I believe
the new Act will enable me to collar him now if I think it best.
But is it best? A serious rising would do us no good in Parliament,
and the government has enemies in England as well as Ireland. It won't
do if I have done what looks a little like sharp practice,
and then only raised a revolution."

"It's all the other way," said the man called Wilson, rather quickly.
"There won't be half so much of a revolution if you arrest him
as there will if you leave him loose for three days longer.
But, anyhow, there can't be anything nowadays that the proper
police can't manage."

"Mr. Wilson is a Londoner," said the Irish detective, with a smile.

"Yes, I'm a cockney, all right," replied Wilson, "and I think I'm
all the better for that. Especially at this job, oddly enough."

Sir Walter seemed slightly amused at the pertinacity of the third officer,
and perhaps even more amused at the slight accent with which he spoke,
which rendered rather needless his boast about his origin.

"Do you mean to say," he asked, "that you know more about the business
here because you have come from London?"

"Sounds funny, I know, but I do believe it," answered Wilson. "I believe
these affairs want fresh methods. But most of all I believe they want
a fresh eye."

The superior officers laughed, and the redhaired man went
on with a slight touch of temper:

"Well, look at the facts. See how the fellow got away every time,
and you'll understand what I mean. Why was he able to stand
in the place of the scarecrow, hidden by nothing but an old hat?
Because it was a village policeman who knew the scarecrow
was there, was expecting it, and therefore took no notice of it.
Now I never expect a scarecrow. I've never seen one in
the street, and I stare at one when I see it in the field.
It's a new thing to me and worth noticing. And it was just
the same when he hid in the well. You are ready to find a well
in a place like that; you look for a well, and so you don't see it.
I don't look for it, and therefore I do look at it."

"It is certainly an idea," said Sir Walter, smiling, "but what about
the balcony? Balconies are occasionally seen in London."

"But not rivers right under them, as if it was in Venice," replied Wilson.

"It is certainly a new idea," repeated Sir Walter, with something
like respect. He had all the love of the luxurious classes for
new ideas. But he also had a critical faculty, and was inclined
to think, after due reflection, that it was a true idea as well.

Growing dawn had already turned the window panes from black to gray
when Sir Walter got abruptly to his feet. The others rose also,
taking this for a signal that the arrest was to be undertaken.
But their leader stood for a moment in deep thought, as if conscious
that he had come to a parting of the ways.

Suddenly the silence was pierced by a long, wailing cry from the dark
moors outside. The silence that followed it seemed more startling
than the shriek itself, and it lasted until Nolan said, heavily:

" 'Tis the banshee. Somebody is marked for the grave."

His long, large-featured face was as pale as a moon, and it was easy
to remember that he was the only Irishman in the room.

"Well, I know that banshee," said Wilson, cheerfully, "ignorant as you
think I am of these things. I talked to that banshee myself an hour ago,
and I sent that banshee up to the tower and told her to sing out like
that if she could get a glimpse of our friend writing his proclamation."

"Do you mean that girl Bridget Royce?" asked Morton, drawing his frosty
brows together. "Has she turned king's evidence to that extent?"

"Yes," answered Wilson. "I know very little of these local things,
you tell me, but I reckon an angry woman is much the same
in all countries."

Nolan, however, seemed still moody and unlike himself.
"It's an ugly noise and an ugly business altogether," he said.
"If it's really the end of Prince Michael it may well be the end
of other things as well. When the spirit is on him he would
escape by a ladder of dead men, and wade through that sea if it
were made of blood."

"Is that the real reason of your pious alarms?" asked Wilson,
with a slight sneer.

The Irishman's pale face blackened with a new passion.

"I have faced as many murderers in County Clare as you ever fought
with in Clapham junction, Mr. Cockney," he said.

"Hush, please," said Morton, sharply. "Wilson, you have no
kind of right to imply doubt of your superior's conduct.
I hope you will prove yourself as courageous and trustworthy
as he has always been."

The pale face of the red-haired man seemed a shade paler,
but he was silent and composed, and Sir Walter went up to Nolan
with marked courtesy, saying, "Shall we go outside now,
and get this business done?"

Dawn had lifted, leaving a wide chasm of white between a great gray
cloud and the great gray moorland, beyond which the tower was outlined
against the daybreak and the sea.

Something in its plain and primitive shape vaguely
suggested the dawn in the first days of the earth, in some
prehistoric time when even the colors were hardly created,
when there was only blank daylight between cloud and clay.
These dead hues were relieved only by one spot of gold--
the spark of the candle alight in the window of the lonely tower,
and burning on into the broadening daylight. As the group
of detectives, followed by a cordon of policemen, spread out
into a crescent to cut off all escape, the light in the tower
flashed as if it were moved for a moment, and then went out.
They knew the man inside had realized the daylight and blown
out his candle.

"There are other windows, aren't there?" asked Morton,
"and a door, of course, somewhere round the corner?
Only a round tower has no corners."

"Another example of my small suggestion," observed Wilson, quietly.
"That queer tower was the first thing I saw when I came to these parts;
and I can tell you a little more about it--or, at any rate, the outside
of it. There are four windows altogether, one a little way from
this one, but just out of sight. Those are both on the ground floor,
and so is the third on the other side, making a sort of triangle.
But the fourth is just above the third, and I suppose it looks on
an upper floor."

"It's only a sort of loft, reached by a ladder, said Nolan. "I've played
in the place when I was a child. It's no more than an empty shell."
And his sad face grew sadder, thinking perhaps of the tragedy of his
country and the part that he played in it.

"The man must have got a table and chair, at any rate," said Wilson,
"but no doubt he could have got those from some cottage.
If I might make a suggestion, sir, I think we ought
to approach all the five entrances at once, so to speak.
One of us should go to the door and one to each window;
Macbride here has a ladder for the upper window."

Mr. Horne Fisher languidly turned to his distinguished relative
and spoke for the first time.

"I am rather a convert to the cockney school of psychology,"
he said in an almost inaudible voice.

The others seemed to feel the same influence in different ways,
for the group began to break up in the manner indicated.
Morton moved toward the window immediately in front of them,
where the hidden outlaw had just snuffed the candle; Nolan, a little
farther westward to the next window; while Wilson, followed by
Macbride with the ladder, went round to the two windows at the back.
Sir Walter Carey himself, followed by his secretary,
began to walk round toward the only door, to demand admittance
in a more regular fashion.

"He will be armed, of course," remarked Sir Walter, casually.

"By all accounts," replied Horne Fisher, "he can do
more with a candlestick than most men with a pistol.
But he is pretty sure to have the pistol, too."

Even as he spoke the question was answered with a tongue of thunder.
Morton had just placed himself in front of the nearest window,
his broad shoulders. blocking the aperture. For an instant it was lit
from within as with red fire, followed by a thundering throng of echoes.
The square shoulders seemed to alter in shape, and the sturdy figure
collapsed among the tall, rank grasses at the foot of the tower.
A puff of smoke floated from the window like a little cloud.
The two men behind rushed to the spot and raised him, but he was dead.

Sir Walter straightened himself and called out something that was
lost in another noise of firing; it was possible that the police
were already avenging their comrade from the other side.
Fisher had already raced round to the next window, and a new cry
of astonishment from him brought his patron to the same spot.
Nolan, the Irish policeman, had also fallen, sprawling all his
great length in the grass, and it was red with his blood.
He was still alive when they reached him, but there was death
on his face, and he was only able to make a final gesture
telling them that all was over; and, with a broken word and a
heroic effort, motioning them on to where his other comrades
were besieging the back of the tower. Stunned by these rapid
and repeated shocks, the two men could only vaguely obey
the gesture, and, finding their way to the other windows at the back,
they discovered a scene equally startling, if less final and tragic.
The other two officers were not dead or mortally wounded,
but Macbride lay with a broken leg and his ladder on top of him,
evidently thrown down from the top window of the tower;
while Wilson lay on his face, quite still as if stunned,
with his red head among the gray and silver of the sea holly.
In him, however, the impotence was but momentary, for he began
to move and rise as the others came round the tower.

"My God! it's like an explosion!" cried Sir Walter;
and indeed it was the only word for this unearthly energy,
by which one man had been able to deal death or destruction
on three sides of the same small triangle at the same instant.

Wilson had already scrambled to his feet and with splendid
energy flew again at the window, revolver in hand.
He fired twice into the opening and then disappeared in his
own smoke; but the thud of his feet and the shock of a falling
chair told them that the intrepid Londoner had managed at
last to leap into the room. Then followed a curious silence;
and Sir Walter, walking to the window through the thinning smoke,
looked into the hollow shell of the ancient tower.
Except for Wilson, staring around him, there was nobody there.

The inside of the tower was a single empty room, with nothing
but a plain wooden chair and a table on which were pens,
ink and paper, and the candlestick. Halfway up the high wall
there was a rude timber platform under the upper window,
a small loft which was more like a large shelf. It was reached
only by a ladder, and it seemed to be as bare as the bare walls.
Wilson completed his survey of the place and then went and stared
at the things on the table. Then he silently pointed with
his lean forefinger at the open page of the large notebook.
The writer had suddenly stopped writing, even in the middle
of a word.

"I said it was like an explosion," said Sir Walter Carey at last.
"And really the man himself seems to have suddenly exploded.
But he has blown himself up somehow without touching the tower.
He's burst more like a bubble than a bomb."

"He has touched more valuable things than the tower,"
said Wilson, gloomily.

There was a long silence, and then Sir Walter said, seriously:
"Well, Mr. Wilson, I am not a detective, and these unhappy
happenings have left you in charge of that branch of the business.
We all lament the cause of this, but I should like to say that I myself
have the strongest confidence in your capacity for carrying on the work.
What do you think we should do next?"

Wilson seemed to rouse himself from his depression and acknowledged
the speaker's words with a warmer civility than he had hitherto
shown to anybody. He called in a few of the police to assist
in routing out the interior, leaving the rest to spread themselves
in a search party outside.

"I think," he said, "the first thing is to make quite sure about
the inside of this place, as it was hardly physically possible
for him to have got outside. I suppose poor Nolan would have
brought in his banshee and said it was supernaturally possible.
But I've got no use for disembodied spirits when I'm dealing with facts.
And the facts before me are an empty tower with a ladder, a chair,
and a table."

"The spiritualists," said Sir Walter, with a smile, "would say
that spirits could find a great deal of use for a table."

"I dare say they could if the spirits were on the table--in a bottle,"
replied Wilson, with a curl of his pale lip. "The people round here,
when they're all sodden up with Irish whisky, may believe in such things.
I think they want a little education in this country."

Horne Fisher's heavy eyelids fluttered in a faint attempt to rise,
as if he were tempted to a lazy protest against the contemptuous
tone of the investigator.

"The Irish believe far too much in spirits to believe
in spiritualism," he murmured. "They know too much about 'em.
If you want a simple and childlike faith in any spirit that comes
along you can get it in your favorite London."

"I don't want to get it anywhere," said Wilson, shortly.
"I say I'm dealing with much simpler things than your
simple faith, with a table and a chair and a ladder.
Now what I want to say about them at the start is this.
They are all three made roughly enough of plain wood.
But the table and the chair are fairly new and comparatively clean.
The ladder is covered with dust and there is a cobweb under
the top rung of it. That means that he borrowed the first
two quite recently from some cottage, as we supposed,
but the ladder has been a long time in this rotten old dustbin.
Probably it was part of the original furniture, an heirloom
in this magnificent palace of the Irish kings."

Again Fisher looked at him under his eyelids, but seemed too sleepy
to speak, and Wilson went on with his argument.

"Now it's quite clear that something very odd has just happened
in this place. The chances are ten to one, it seems to me,
that it had something specially to do with this place.
Probably he came here because he could do it only here;
it doesn't seem very inviting otherwise. But the man knew it
of old; they say it belonged to his family, so that altogether,
I think, everything points to something in the construction
of the tower itself."

"Your reasoning seems to me excellent," said Sir Walter,
who was listening attentively. "But what could it be?"

"You see now what I mean about the ladder," went on the detective;
"it's the only old piece of furniture here and the first thing
that caught that cockney eye of mine. But there is something else.
That loft up there is a sort of lumber room without any lumber.
So far as I can see, it's as empty as everything else; and,
as things are, I don't see the use of the ladder leading to it.
It seems to me, as I can't find anything unusual down here,
that it might pay us to look up there."

He got briskly off the table on which he was sitting
(for the only chair was allotted to Sir Walter) and ran rapidly
up the ladder to the platform above. He was soon followed
by the others, Mr. Fisher going last, however, with an appearance
of considerable nonchalance.

At this stage, however, they were destined to disappointment;
Wilson nosed in every corner like a terrier and examined the roof
almost in the posture of a fly, but half an hour afterward
they had to confess that they were still without a clew.
Sir Walter's private secretary seemed more and more threatened
with inappropriate slumber, and, having been the last to climb up
the ladder, seemed now to lack the energy even to climb down again.

"Come along, Fisher," called out Sir Walter from below, when the others
had regained the floor. "We must consider whether we'll pull the whole
place to pieces to see what it's made of."

"I'm coming in a minute," said the voice from the ledge above their heads,
a voice somewhat suggestive of an articulate yawn.

"What are you waiting for?" asked Sir Walter, impatiently.
"Can you see anything there?"

"Well, yes, in a way," replied the voice, vaguely. "In fact,
I see it quite plain now."

"What is it?" asked Wilson, sharply, from the table on which he sat
kicking his heels restlessly.

"Well, it's a man," said Horne Fisher.

Wilson bounded off the table as if he had been kicked off it.
"What do you mean?" he cried. "How can you possibly see a man?"

"I can see him through the window," replied the secretary, mildly.
"I see him coming across the moor. He's making a bee line across the open
country toward this tower. He evidently means to pay us a visit.
And, considering who it seems to be, perhaps it would be more polite.
if we were all at the door to receive him." And in a leisurely manner
the secretary came down the ladder.

"Who it seems to be!" repeated Sir Walter in astonishment.

"Well, I think it's the man you call Prince Michael,"
observed Mr. Fisher, airily. "In fact, I'm sure it is.
I've seen the police portraits of him."

There was a dead silence, and Sir Walter's usually steady brain
seemed to go round like a windmill.

"But, hang it all!" he said at last, "even supposing his own explosion
could have thrown him half a mile away, without passing through
any of the windows, and left him alive enough for a country walk--
even then, why the devil should he walk in this direction?
The murderer does not generally revisit the scene of his crime
so rapidly as all that."

"He doesn't know yet that it is the scene of his crime,"
answered Horne Fisher.

"What on earth do you mean? You credit him with rather singular
absence of mind."

"Well, the truth is, it isn't the scene of his crime," said Fisher,
and went and looked out of the window.

There was another silence, and then Sir Walter said, quietly: "What sort
of notion have you really got in your head, Fisher? Have you developed
a new theory about how this fellow escaped out of the ring round him?"

"He never escaped at all," answered the man at the window,
without turning round. "He never escaped out of the ring because
he was never inside the ring. He was not in this tower at all,
at least not when we were surrounding it."

He turned and leaned back against the window, but, in spite
of his usual listless manner, they almost fancied that the face
in shadow was a little pale.

"I began to guess something of the sort when we were some way from
the tower," he said. "Did you notice that sort of flash or flicker
the candle gave before it was extinguished? I was almost certain it
was only the last leap the flame gives when a candle burns itself out.
And then I came into this room and I saw that."

He pointed at the table and Sir Walter caught his breath with a sort
of curse at his own blindness. For the candle in the candlestick had
obviously burned itself away to nothing and left him, mentally, at least,
very completely in the dark.

"Then there is a sort of mathematical question," went on Fisher,
leaning back in his limp way and looking up at the bare walls,
as if tracing imaginary diagrams there. "It's not so easy for a
man in the third angle to face the other two at the same moment,
especially if they are at the base of an isosceles.
I am sorry if it sounds like a lecture on geometry, but--"

"I'm afraid we have no time for it," said Wilson, coldly.
"If this man is really coming back, I must give my orders at once."

"I think I'll go on with it, though," observed Fisher,
staring at the roof with insolent serenity.

"I must ask you, Mr. Fisher, to let me conduct my inquiry on my
own lines," said Wilson, firmly. "I am the officer in charge now."

"Yes," remarked Horne Fisher, softly, but with an accent that somehow
chilled the hearer. "Yes. But why?"

Sir Walter was staring, for he had never seen his rather
lackadaisical young friend look like that before.
Fisher was looking at Wilson with lifted lids, and the eyes
under them seemed to have shed or shifted a film, as do the eyes
of an eagle.

"Why are you the officer in charge now?" he asked.
"Why can you conduct the inquiry on your own lines now?
How did it come about, I wonder, that the elder officers are
not here to interfere with anything you do?"

Nobody spoke, and nobody can say how soon anyone would have
collected his wits to speak when a noise came from without.
It was the heavy and hollow sound of a blow upon the door
of the tower, and to their shaken spirits it sounded strangely
like the hammer of doom.

The wooden door of the tower moved on its rusty hinges under
the hand that struck it and Prince Michael came into the room.
Nobody had the smallest doubt about his identity.
His light clothes, though frayed with his adventures,
were of fine and almost foppish cut, and he wore a pointed beard,
or imperial, perhaps as a further reminiscence of Louis Napoleon;
but he was a much taller and more graceful man that his prototype.
Before anyone could speak he had silenced everyone for an instant
with a slight but splendid gesture of hospitality.

"Gentlemen," he said, "this is a poor place now, but you
are heartily welcome."

Wilson was the first to recover, and he took a stride toward the newcomer.

"Michael O'Neill, I arrest you in the king's name for the murder
of Francis Morton and James Nolan. It is my duty to warn you--"

"No, no, Mr. Wilson," cried Fisher, suddenly. "You shall not commit
a third murder."

Sir Walter Carey rose from his chair, which fell over with a
crash behind him. "What does all this mean?" he called out
in an authoritative manner.

"It means," said Fisher, "that this man, Hooker Wilson,
as soon as he had put his head in at that window, killed his
two comrades who had put their heads in at the other windows,
by firing across the empty room. That is what it means.
And if you want to know, count how many times he is supposed
to have fired and then count the charges left in his revolver."

Wilson, who was still sitting on the table, abruptly put a hand
out for the weapon that lay beside him. But the next movement was
the most unexpected of all, for the prince standing in the doorway
passed suddenly from the dignity of a statue to the swiftness
of an acrobat and rent the revolver out of the detective's hand.

"You dog!" he cried. "So you are the type of English truth, as I am
of Irish tragedy--you who come to kill me, wading through the blood
of your brethren. If they had fallen in a feud on the hillside,
it would be called murder, and yet your sin might be forgiven you.
But I, who am innocent, I was to be slain with ceremony.
There would belong speeches and patient judges listening to my vain
plea of innocence, noting down my despair and disregarding it.
Yes, that is what I call assassination. But killing may be no murder;
there is one shot left in this little gun, and I know where
it should go."

Wilson turned quickly on the table, and even as he turned he twisted
in agony, for Michael shot him through the body where he sat,
so that he tumbled off the table like lumber.

The police rushed to lift him; Sir Walter stood speechless;
and then, with a strange and weary gesture, Horne Fisher spoke.

"You are indeed a type of the Irish tragedy," he said.
"You were entirely in the right, and you have put yourself
in the wrong."

The prince's face was like marble for a space then there
dawned in his eyes a light not unlike that of despair.
He laughed suddenly and flung the smoking pistol on the ground.

"I am indeed in the wrong," he said. "I have committed a crime
that may justly bring a curse on me and my children."

Horne Fisher did not seem entirely satisfied with this very
sudden repentance; he kept his eyes on the man and only said,
in a low voice, "What crime do you mean?"

"I have helped English justice," replied Prince Michael. "I have
avenged your king's officers; I have done the work of his hangman.
For that truly I deserve to be hanged."

And he turned to the police with a gesture that did not so much
surrender to them, but rather command them to arrest him.

This was the story that Horne Fisher told to Harold March,
the journalist, many years after, in a little, but luxurious,
restaurant near Picca dilly. He had invited March to dinner
some time after the affair he called "The Face in the Target,"
and the conversation had naturally turned on that mystery
and afterward on earlier memories of Fisher's life and the way
in which he was led to study such problems as those of
Prince Michael. Horne Fisher was fifteen years older;
his thin hair had faded to frontal baldness, and his long,
thin hands dropped less with affectation and more with fatigue.
And he told the story of the Irish adventure of his youth,
because it recorded the first occasion on which he had ever come
in contact with crime, or discovered how darkly and how terribly
crime can be entangled with law.

"Hooker Wilson was the first criminal I ever knew, and he was
a policeman," explained Fisher, twirling his wine glass.
"And all my life has been a mixed-up business of the sort.
He was a man of very real talent, and perhaps genius,
and well worth studying, both as a detective and a criminal.
His white face and red hair were typical of him, for he was one
of those who are cold and yet on fire for fame; and he could
control anger, but not ambition. He swallowed the snubs of his
superiors in that first quarrel, though he boiled with resentment;
but when he suddenly saw the two heads dark against the dawn
and framed in the two windows, he could not miss the chance,
not only of revenge, but of the removal of the two obstacles to
his promotion. He was a dead shot and counted on silencing both,
though proof against him would have been hard in any case.
But, as a matter of fact, he had a narrow escape, in the case
of Nolan, who lived just long enough to say, 'Wilson' and point.
We thought he was summoning help for his comrade, but he was really
denouncing his murderer. After that it was easy to throw down
the ladder above him (for a man up a ladder cannot see clearly
what is below and behind) and to throw himself on the ground
as another victim of the catastrophe.

"But there was mixed up with his murderous ambition a real belief,
not only in his own talents, but in his own theories. He did believe
in what he called a fresh eye, and he did want scope for fresh methods.
There was something in his view, but it failed where such things
commonly fail, because the fresh eye cannot see the unseen.
It is true about the ladder and the scarecrow, but not about
the life and the soul; and he made a bad mistake about what
a man like Michael would do when he heard a woman scream.
All Michael's very vanity and vainglory made him rush out at once;
he would have walked into Dublin Castle for a lady's glove.
Call it his pose or what you will, but he would have done it.
What happened when he met her is another story, and one we may never know,
but from tales I've heard since, they must have been reconciled.
Wilson was wrong there; but there was something, for all that,
in his notion that the newcomer sees most, and that the man on the spot
may know too much to know anything. He was right about some things.
He was right about me."

"About you?" asked Harold March in some wonder.

"I am the man who knows too much to know anything, or, at any rate,
to do anything," said Horne Fisher. "I don't mean especially
about Ireland. I mean about England. I mean about the whole way
we are governed, and perhaps the only way we can be governed.
You asked me just now what became of the survivors of that tragedy.
Well, Wilson recovered and we managed to persuade him to retire.
But we had to pension that damnable murderer more magnificently
than any hero who ever fought for England. I managed to save
Michael from the worst, but we had to send that perfectly innocent
man to penal servitude for a crime we know he never committed,
and it was only afterward that we could connive in a sneakish way at
his escape. And Sir Walter Carey is Prime Minister of this country,
which he would probably never have been if the truth had been told
of such a horrible scandal in his department. It might have done
for us altogether in Ireland; it would certainly have done for him.
And he is my father's old friend, and has always smothered
me with kindness. I am too tangled up with the whole thing,
you see, and I was certainly never born to set it right.
You look distressed, not to say shocked, and I'm not at all offended
at it. Let us change the subject by all means, if you like.
What do you think of this Burgundy? It's rather a discovery of mine,
like the restaurant itself."

And he proceeded to talk learnedly and luxuriantly on all the wines
of the world; on which subject, also, some moralists would consider
that he knew too much.


A large map of London would be needed to display the wild
and zigzag course of one day's journey undertaken by an uncle
and his nephew; or, to speak more truly, of a nephew and his uncle.
For the nephew, a schoolboy on a holiday, was in theory the god
in the car, or in the cab, tram, tube, and so on, while his uncle
was at most a priest dancing before him and offering sacrifices.
To put it more soberly, the schoolboy had something of the
stolid air of a young duke doing the grand tour, while his
elderly relative was reduced to the position of a courier,
who nevertheless had to pay for everything like a patron.
The schoolboy was officially known as Summers Minor,
and in a more social manner as Stinks, the only public tribute
to his career as an amateur photographer and electrician.
The uncle was the Rev. Thomas Twyford, a lean and lively
old gentleman with a red, eager face and white hair.
He was in the ordinary way a country clergyman, but he was
one of those who achieve the paradox of being famous in an
obscure way, because they are famous in an obscure world.
In a small circle of ecclesiastical archaeologists, who were
the only people who could even understand one another's
discoveries, he occupied a recognized and respectable place.
And a critic might have found even in that day's journey at least
as much of the uncle's hobby as of the nephew's holiday.

His original purpose had been wholly paternal and festive. But, like many
other intelligent people, he was not above the weakness of playing
with a toy to amuse himself, on the theory that it would amuse a child.
His toys were crowns and miters and croziers and swords of state;
and he had lingered over them, telling himself that the boy ought
to see all the sights of London. And at the end of the day,
after a tremendous tea, he rather gave the game away by winding
up with a visit in which hardly any human boy could be conceived
as taking an interest--an underground chamber supposed to have been
a chapel, recently excavated on the north bank of the Thames,
and containing literally nothing whatever but one old silver coin.
But the coin, to those who knew, was more solitary and splendid
than the Koh-i-noor. It was Roman, and was said to bear the head
of St. Paul; and round it raged the most vital controversies about
the ancient British Church. It could hardly be denied, however,
that the controversies left Summers Minor comparatively cold.

Indeed, the things that interested Summers Minor, and the things that did
not interest him, had mystified and amused his uncle for several hours.
He exhibited the English schoolboy's startling ignorance and
startling knowledge--knowledge of some special classification
in which he can generally correct and confound his elders.
He considered himself entitled, at Hampton Court on a holiday,
to forget the very names of Cardinal Wolsey or William of Orange;
but he could hardly be dragged from some details about the
arrangement of the electric bells in the neighboring hotel.
He was solidly dazed by Westminster Abbey, which is not so
unnatural since that church became the lumber room of the larger
and less successful statuary of the eighteenth century.
But he had a magic and minute knowledge of the Westminster omnibuses,
and indeed of the whole omnibus system of London, the colors
and numbers of which he knew as a herald knows heraldry.
He would cry out against a momentary confusion between a light-green
Paddington and a dark-green Bayswater vehicle, as his uncle would
at the identification of a Greek ikon and a Roman image.

"Do you collect omnibuses like stamps?" asked his uncle.
"They must need a rather large album. Or do you keep them
in your locker?"

"I keep them in my head," replied the nephew, with legitimate firmness.

"It does you credit, I admit," replied the clergyman.
"I suppose it were vain to ask for what purpose you have
learned that out of a thousand things. There hardly seems
to be a career in it, unless you could be permanently on
the pavement to prevent old ladies getting into the wrong bus.
Well, we must get out of this one, for this is our place.
I want to show you what they call St. Paul's Penny."

"Is it like St. Paul's Cathedral?" asked the youth with resignation,
as they alighted.

At the entrance their eyes were arrested by a singular figure
evidently hovering there with a similar anxiety to enter.
It was that of a dark, thin man in a long black robe rather like
a cassock; but the black cap on his head was of too strange a shape
to be a biretta. It suggested, rather, some archaic headdress
of Persia or Babylon. He had a curious black beard appearing only
at the corners of his chin, and his large eyes were oddly set in his
face like the flat decorative eyes painted in old Egyptian profiles.
Before they had gathered more than a general impression of him,
he had dived into the doorway that was their own destination.

Nothing could be seen above ground of the sunken sanctuary
except a strong wooden hut, of the sort recently run up for many
military and official purposes, the wooden floor of which was
indeed a mere platform over the excavated cavity below.
A soldier stood as a sentry outside, and a superior soldier,
an Anglo-Indian officer of distinction, sat writing at the desk inside.
Indeed, the sightseers soon found that this particular sight
was surrounded with the most extraordinary precautions.
I have compared the silver coin to the Koh-i-noor, and in one sense
it was even conventionally comparable, since by a historical
accident it was at one time almost counted among the Crown jewels,
or at least the Crown relics, until one of the royal princes publicly
restored it to the shrine to which it was supposed to belong.
Other causes combined to concentrate official vigilance upon it;
there had been a scare about spies carrying explosives in small objects,
and one of those experimental orders which pass like waves over
bureaucracy had decreed first that all visitors should change their
clothes for a sort of official sackcloth, and then (when this method
caused some murmurs) that they should at least turn out their pockets.
Colonel Morris, the officer in charge, was a short, active man
with a grim and leathery face, but a lively and humorous eye--
a contradiction borne out by his conduct, for he at once derided
the safeguards and yet insisted on them.

"I don't care a button myself for Paul's Penny, or such things,"
he admitted in answer to some antiquarian openings from the clergyman
who was slightly acquainted with him, "but I wear the King's coat,
you know, and it's a serious thing when the King's uncle leaves
a thing here with his own hands under my charge. But as for
saints and relics and things, I fear I'm a bit of a Voltairian;
what you would call a skeptic."

"I'm not sure it's even skeptical to believe in the royal family
and not in the 'Holy' Family," replied Mr. Twyford. "But, of course,
I can easily empty my pockets, to show I don't carry a bomb."

The little heap of the parson's possessions which he left on the table
consisted chiefly of papers, over and above a pipe and a tobacco
pouch and some Roman and Saxon coins. The rest were catalogues
of old books, and pamphlets, like one entitled "The Use of Sarum,"
one glance at which was sufficient both for the colonel and
the schoolboy. They could not see the use of Sarum at all.
The contents of the boy's pockets naturally made a larger heap,
and included marbles, a ball of string, an electric torch,
a magnet, a small catapult, and, of course, a large pocketknife,
almost to be described as a small tool box, a complex apparatus
on which he seemed disposed to linger, pointing out that it included
a pair of nippers, a tool for punching holes in wood, and, above all,
an instrument for taking stones out of a horse's hoof.
The comparative absence of any horse he appeared to regard
as irrelevant, as if it were a mere appendage easily supplied.
But when the turn came of the gentleman in the black gown,
he did not turn out his pockets, but merely spread out his hands.

"I have no possessions," he said.

"I'm afraid I must ask you to empty your pockets and make sure,"
observed the colonel, gruffly.

"I have no pockets," said the stranger.

Mr. Twyford was looking at the long black gown with a learned eye.

"Are you a monk?" he asked, in a puzzled fashion.

"I am a magus," replied the stranger. "You have heard of
the magi, perhaps? I am a magician."

"Oh, I say!" exclaimed Summers Minor, with prominent eyes.

"But I was once a monk," went on the other. "I am what you
would call an escaped monk. Yes, I have escaped into eternity.
But the monks held one truth at least, that the highest life should
be without possessions. I have no pocket money and no pockets,
and all the stars are my trinkets."

"They are out of reach, anyhow," observed Colonel Morris,
in a tone which suggested that it was well for them.
"I've known a good many magicians myself in India--mango plant
and all. But the Indian ones are all frauds, I'll swear.
In fact, I had a good deal of fun showing them up.
More fun than I have over this dreary job, anyhow. But here comes
Mr. Symon, who will show you over the old cellar downstairs."

Mr. Symon, the official guardian and guide, was a young man,
prematurely gray, with a grave mouth which contrasted curiously with
a very small, dark mustache with waxed points, that seemed somehow,
separate from it, as if a black fly had settled on his face.
He spoke with the accent of Oxford and the permanent official,
but in as dead a fashion as the most indifferent hired guide.
They descended a dark stone staircase, at the floor of which
Symon pressed a button and a door opened on a dark room,
or, rather, a room which had an instant before been dark.
For almost as the heavy iron door swung open an almost
blinding blaze of electric lights filled the whole interior.
The fitful enthusiasm of Stinks at once caught fire, and he eagerly
asked if the lights and the door worked together.

"Yes, it's all one system," replied Symon. "It was all fitted
up for the day His Royal Highness deposited the thing here.
You see, it's locked up behind a glass case exactly as he left it."

A glance showed that the arrangements for guarding the treasure were
indeed as strong as they were simple. A single pane of glass cut
off one corner of the room, in an iron framework let into the rock
walls and the wooden roof above; there was now no possibility
of reopening the case without elaborate labor, except by breaking
the glass, which would probably arouse the night watchman who was
always within a few feet of it, even if he had fallen asleep.
A close examination would have showed many more ingenious safeguards;
but the eye of the Rev. Thomas Twyford, at least, was already riveted
on what interested him much more--the dull silver disk which shone
in the white light against a plain background of black velvet.

"St. Paul's Penny, said to commemorate the visit of St. Paul to Britain,
was probably preserved in this chapel until the eighth century,"
Symon was saying in his clear but colorless voice. "In the ninth
century it is supposed to have been carried away by the barbarians,
and it reappears, after the conversion of the northern Goths,
in the possession of the royal family of Gothland. His Royal Highness,
the Duke of Gothland, retained it always in his own private custody,
and when he decided to exhibit it to the public, placed it here with
his own hand. It was immediately sealed up in such a manner--"

Unluckily at this point Summers Minor, whose attention had
somewhat strayed from the religious wars of the ninth century,
caught sight of a short length of wire appearing in a broken
patch in the wall. He precipitated himself at it, calling out,
"I say, say, does that connect?"

It was evident that it did connect, for no sooner had the boy
given it a twitch than the whole room went black, as if they
had all been struck blind, and an instant afterward they heard
the dull crash of the closing door.

"Well, you've done it now," said Symon, in his tranquil fashion.
Then after a pause he added, "I suppose they'll miss us sooner or later,
and no doubt they can get it open; but it may take some little time."

There was a silence, and then the unconquerable Stinks observed:

"Rotten that I had to leave my electric torch."

"I think," said his uncle, with restraint, "that we are sufficiently
convinced of your interest in electricity."

Then after a pause he remarked, more amiably: "I suppose if I
regretted any of my own impedimenta, it would be the pipe.
Though, as a matter of fact, it's not much fun smoking in the dark.
Everything seems different in the dark."

"Everything is different in the dark," said a third voice, that of
the man who called himself a magician. It was a very musical voice,
and rather in contrast with his sinister and swarthy visage, which was
now invisible. "Perhaps you don't know how terrible a truth that is.
All you see are pictures made by the sun, faces and furniture and
flowers and trees. The things themselves may be quite strange to you.
Something else may be standing now where you saw a table or a chair.
The face of your friend may be quite different in the dark."

A short, indescribable noise broke the stillness.
Twyford started for a second, and then said, sharply:

"Really, I don't think it's a suitable occasion for trying
to frighten a child."

"Who's a child?" cried the indignant Summers, with a voice
that had a crow, but also something of a crack in it.
"And who's a funk, either? Not me."

"I will be silent, then," said the other voice out of the darkness.
"But silence also makes and unmakes."

The required silence remained unbroken for a long time until
at last the clergyman said to Symon in a low voice:

"I suppose it's all right about air?"

"Oh, yes," replied the other aloud; "there's a fireplace and a chimney
in the office just by the door."

A bound and the noise of a falling chair told them that the irrepressible
rising generation had once more thrown itself across the room.
They heard the ejaculation: "A chimney! Why, I'll be--" and the rest
was lost in muffled, but exultant, cries.

The uncle called repeatedly and vainly, groped his way at last to
the opening, and, peering up it, caught a glimpse of a disk of daylight,
which seemed to suggest that the fugitive had vanished in safety.
Making his way back to the group by the glass case, he fell over
the fallen chair and took a moment to collect himself again.
He had opened his mouth to speak to Symon, when he stopped,
and suddenly found himself blinking in the full shock of the white light,
and looking over the other man's shoulder, he saw that the door
was standing open.

"So they've got at us at last," he observed to Symon.

The man in the black robe was leaning against the wall some yards away,
with a smile carved on his face.

"Here comes Colonel Morris," went on Twyford, still speaking
to Symon. "One of us will have to tell him how the light
went out. Will you?"

But Symon still said nothing. He was standing as still as a statue,
and looking steadily at the black velvet behind the glass screen.
He was looking at the black velvet because there was nothing else
to look at. St. Paul's Penny was gone.

Colonel Morris entered the room with two new visitors;
presumably two new sightseers delayed by the accident.
The foremost was a tall, fair, rather languid-looking man with a
bald brow and a high-bridged nose; his companion was a younger
man with light, curly hair and frank, and even innocent, eyes.
Symon scarcely seemed to hear the newcomers; it seemed almost
as if he had not realized that the return of the light revealed
his brooding attitude. Then he started in a guilty fashion,
and when he saw the elder of the two strangers, his pale face
seemed to turn a shade paler.

"Why it's Horne Fisher!" and then after a pause he said in a low voice,
"I'm in the devil of a hole, Fisher."

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