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The Master Detective by Percy James Brebner

Part 5 out of 6

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blackguard and it suits Scotland Yard to neglect its duty."

An inquest in connection with a very extraordinary case had taken place
that day, and had been adjourned.

On the previous Monday, between seven and eight in the evening, the
traffic had become congested at Hyde Park Corner, chiefly owing to the
fog, and the attention of a gentleman standing on the pavement--a Mr.
Lester Williams--had been drawn suddenly to the occupant of a taxi.
Possibly a street lamp, or the light on an adjacent motor, picked out the
lady's face particularly, and he had opened the door before he called to
the driver.

The lady was leaning back in the corner, but he saw at once that
something was wrong, and when he touched her the horrible truth
became apparent.

She was dead.

He called to the driver to draw up to the curb and then called a
policeman. Williams jumped at once to the conclusion that a crime had
been committed, and the police took the same view.

There was no difficulty as regards identification. She was Lady Tavener,
wife of Sir John Tavener, M.P. The driver, Thomas Wood, had come from the
other side of Twickenham and had taken up Sir John and his wife at their
own front door. He had constantly driven them up to town and elsewhere,
sometimes separately, sometimes together. On this occasion he had driven
to a house on Richmond Green, where Sir John had got out. Lady Tavener
was going on to the Piccadilly Hotel. Wood had got as far as Hyde Park
Corner when a gentleman called to him. He had not seen the gentleman open
the door of the taxi, knew nothing in fact until he was told to drive up
to the curb and Lady Tavener was taken out dead.

At the inquest the evidence took rather a curious turn. It was common
knowledge that Sir John had married Lady Tavener after her divorce from a
Mr. Curtis, since dead, and Sir John's reputation was none of the best.

Veiled accusations were constantly made against him in those would-be
smart journals catering for that public interested in this kind of
scandal, and several questions founded on this knowledge were put to him
at the inquest.

He came out of the ordeal very well, and gave his evidence in a
straightforward manner. He did not pretend that he and his wife did not
quarrel at times, sometimes rather severely he admitted, but he
maintained there was no reason why his wife should commit suicide. He
ignored altogether the idea that he was in any way responsible for her
death. She seemed in perfect health when he had left her that evening.
She was dining with some people called Folliott, and was going on to the
theater with them afterwards. He also believed that a crime had been

The medical evidence threw some doubt on this opinion, however. True,
there were slight marks on Lady Tavener's throat, but it was possible she
had caused them herself by catching hold of her own throat in some spasm.
She was addicted to drugs, a fact which she had concealed from her
husband apparently, and her general condition was such that a shock or
some sudden excitement might very easily prove fatal. Two doctors were
agreed upon this point, and said that she was in a condition known as
status lymphaticus.

After the inquest I had gone to see Quarles, and his one idea was that
Sir John should have been arrested. Zena's sarcastic suggestion that her
grandfather would hang him merely because of his reputation, had made the
old man lose his temper altogether.

As I was the representative of Scotland Yard in that empty room at
Chelsea, I felt compelled to say something in its defense.

"Have you read the evidence given to-day carefully?" I asked.

"I was there," he snapped.

I had not seen him and was astonished.

"Arrest Tavener," he went on, "and then you may be able to solve the
problem. There may be extenuating circumstances, but they can be dealt
with afterwards. Let us go into another room."

He got up and brought the discussion to a close. He was in one of those
moods in which there was no doing anything with him.

Although I was at the inquest, I had had little to do with the case up to
this point; now it came entirely into my hands, and it may be that
Quarles's advice was at the back of my mind during my inquiries.

I made one or two rather interesting and significant discoveries. The
Folliotts, with whom it was said Lady Tavener was dining that night, did
not know Sir John, and moreover, they had no appointment with Lady
Tavener that evening, nor were they dining at the Piccadilly Hotel. The
people on Richmond Green, with whom Sir John had dined, admitted that he
was in an excited condition. He made an expected division in the House of
Commons an excuse for leaving early, directly after dinner in fact, but
he had not gone to the House and did not arrive home until after
midnight, when he found a constable waiting for him with the news of his
wife's death.

These facts were given in evidence at the next hearing, but it was less
due to them than to public feeling, I fancy, that a verdict of murder
against Sir John Tavener was returned.

That night I went again to Chelsea.

"I see that you have arrested him, Wigan," was the professor's greeting.

"I don't believe he is guilty," I answered.

"Why not? Let us have the reasons. But tell me first, what was his
demeanor when he heard the verdict? Was he astonished?"

"He seemed to be pitying a body of men who could make such a mistake."

"Ah, he will play to the gallery even when death knocks at his door. Why
do you think he is not guilty, Wigan?"

"Intuition for one reason."

"Come, that is a woman's prerogative."

"That sixth sense, which is usually denied to men," corrected Zena.

"Then for tangible reasons," I said; "if he killed his wife he committed
the crime between Twickenham and Richmond Green, knowing perfectly well
that her death must be discovered at the end of her journey. He would
know that suspicion would inevitably fall upon him."

"That seems a good argument, Wigan, but, as a fact, suspicion did not
immediately fall upon him. He has only been arrested to-day, and even now
you think he has been wrongly arrested. The very daring of the crime was
in his favor."

"My second reason is this," I went on. "If he were guilty, would he
deliberately have closed the door of escape open for him by the doctors
and declare that he did not believe his wife committed suicide? Would he
not have jumped at the idea?"

"That also sounds a good argument," said Quarles, "but is it? He could
not deny that he and his wife quarreled rather badly at times, but he
wanted to justify his position, and he felt confident the opinion of the
doctors would stand, no matter what he might say. If no other facts come
to light, suicide will be the line of defense, Wigan, and it will be
exceedingly hard to get any judge and jury to convict him. Nothing
carries greater weight than medical evidence, and you will find the
doctors sticking to their opinion no matter what happens. No, Wigan, your
reasons do not prove that he is not an exceedingly clever and calculating
rascal. On the present evidence I think he would escape the hangman, but
the public will continue to think him guilty unless some one else stands
in the dock in his place."

"I wonder whether the Folliotts have told the truth," said Zena.

"Intuition, Wigan," laughed Quarles, "jumps to the end of the journey and
wants to argue backwards."

"Do you not often do the same, dear?"

"Perhaps, but not this time. I think you said the taxi had been in charge
of the police?"

"Yes," I answered.

"I should like to see it."

"We can go to-morrow."

I had already spent a couple of hours with that taxi, and I was rather
anxious to see how Quarles would go to work with it.

He began with the metal work and the lamps, nodded his admiration at the
way they were kept, and remarked that but for the vehicle number and the
registering machine it might be a private car. He examined the engine and
the tires, using his lens; seemed to be particularly interested in the
texture of the rubber, and picked out some grains of soil which had stuck
in the tire. All four tires came in for this close inspection.

Inside the taxi his lens went slowly over every inch of the
upholstering, and with the blade of a penknife he scraped up some soil
from the carpet. This he put on a piece of white paper and spent a long
time investigating it. He opened and shut the door half a dozen times,
and shook his head. Then he seated himself in the driver's seat, and in
pantomime drove the car for a few moments. Afterwards, he stood back and
regarded the car as a whole.

"Well, Wigan, it is a very good taxi; let us go and have a ride in
another one."

He did not hail the first we encountered, and when he did call one it was
for the sake of the driver, I fancy. He explained that he wanted to drive
to Richmond Green by Hammersmith and Kew Bridge.

"And we don't want to go too fast," said Quarles.

"Don't you be afraid, guv'nor, I shan't run you into anything; you won't
come to no harm with me."

"It isn't that," said Quarles, "but I'm out to enjoy myself. I'll add a
good bit to what that clock thing says at the end of the run."

"Thank you, guv'nor."

"Now just get down and open this thing to let me have a look at
the works."

The driver looked at me, and I nodded. No doubt he thought I was the old
man's keeper.

Quarles looked at the engine.

"It isn't new," he remarked.

"No, guv'nor."

"How long has it been running?"

"I couldn't say. I'm not buying this on the hire system."

"You fellows do that sometimes, eh?"

"Yes, guv'nor, there are several of us chaps own their own taxi."

"That's good. Now for Richmond, and go slowly from Hyde Park Corner."

I never remember a more tedious journey. Quarles hardly spoke a word the
whole way, but sat leaning forward, looking keenly from one side of the
road to the other, as if he were bent on obtaining a mental picture of
every yard of the way. Arriving at Richmond Green he did no more than
just glance at the house where Sir John had dined that night, and then
told the man to drive to Twickenham as fast as he liked to go.

"Stop him when we reach Tavener's house, Wigan. You know it, I suppose?"

I did, and stopped the driver when we got there. Quarles had the car
turned round, then he got out and examined the tires with his lenses. The
driver winked at me, and I nodded to assure him that I knew the eccentric
gentleman I had to deal with, and that he was quite harmless.

We then drove back to Richmond rapidly, and from there went toward town,
but more slowly. By Kew Gardens along to Kew Bridge Quarles did not seem
particularly interested in the journey, but as we drew near Hammersmith
he became alert again.

We were going slowly past St. Paul's school when he told the driver to
take the second turning to the left. It was a narrow street, a big
warehouse, which was being enlarged, on one side, and a coal yard on
the other. About fifty yards down this street, the driver was
instructed to stop.

"We will get out for a minute and look at the view," said Quarles

I confess I found nothing whatever to interest me, but Quarles seemed to
find the blank walls of the warehouse and coal yard attractive.

"Now, driver, you can turn round and get us back to Hyde Park Corner as
quickly as you like," said the professor as we got into the taxi again.

Arriving at our destination he told the driver to go into the park, and
there stopped him. Again he examined the tires and the texture of them,
picking some soil from the rubber, and he scraped up some dust from the
floor of the taxi with a penknife and put it in an envelope.

"Thank you, my man," he said, paying a substantial fare.

"You're welcome, guv'nor," said the driver with a grin.

"He is fully persuaded that he has been driving a lunatic and his
keeper," Quarles said as he walked away. "I suppose you can find the
driver of the other taxi, Wigan."

"We might have found him this morning. He lives at Twickenham."

"I want you to see him and ask him two questions. First, was the fog in
Hammersmith, or elsewhere on the journey, thick enough to bring him to a
standstill before he reached Hyde Park Corner? Secondly, is he quite sure
that the man who opened the door and called to him had not just got out
of the taxi?"


"You ask him these two questions and get him to answer definitely," said
Quarles in that aggravating and dictatorial manner he sometimes has.
"To-morrow night come to Chelsea. I am not prepared to talk any more
about the Tavener case until then."

Without another word he went off in the direction of Victoria, leaving an
angry man behind him. I am afraid I swore. However, I hunted up the
driver of the taxi, and went to Chelsea the following night, still
somewhat out of temper.

Quarles and Zena were already in the empty room waiting for me.

"Well, what did the man say?" asked the professor.

"The fog did not stop him anywhere until he got to Hyde Park Corner, and
he is sure Lady Tavener was alone after leaving Richmond."

"He stuck to that?"

"He did, but after some consideration he said that he had almost come to
a standstill in Hammersmith Broadway on account of the trams. I suggested
that some one might have got into the taxi then, but while admitting the
bare possibility, he did not think it likely."

"Did he give you the impression that he believed Tavener guilty?"

"Yes. He seemed to consider his arrest a proof of it."

"Naturally," said the professor.

"Your whole investigation seems to be for the purpose of proving Sir John
innocent," I said. "Why were you so anxious to have him arrested?"

"Pardon me, my one idea is to get at the truth. Always be careful of your
premises, Wigan. That is the first essential for a logical conclusion.
Zena has said that because a dog has a bad name I want to hang him. Well,
she gave me an idea; started a theory, in fact. Let us go through the
case. First there is the question of suicide. It must come first, because
if we are logical--the law is not always logical, you know--if we are
logical, it is obvious no man could be hanged while the doctors stuck
tight to their opinion. However, I have reason for leaving the question
of suicide until last. Therefore we investigate the question of murder.
Had Sir John disappeared after visiting the house on Richmond Green, I
suppose not one person in ten thousand would have believed him innocent."

"But he didn't," I said.

"No," said Quarles. "But he behaved in a most peculiar manner. He left
immediately after dinner, did not reach home until after midnight, and
has not yet attempted to account for his time. He was in an abnormal
condition. We will make a mental note of that, Wigan."

I nodded.

"We will assume that when he left her Lady Tavener was alive," Quarles
went on. "At Hyde Park Corner she was dead, and the driver Wood was
entirely ignorant that anything had happened. Yet, if murder was done,
some one must have joined Lady Tavener during the journey. Wood says he
was not held up by the fog, but on being pressed a little, speaks of
coming nearly to a standstill in Hammersmith Broadway. There, or
somewhere else, because we must remember Wood may have forgotten nearly
coming to other stoppages, since driving in a fog must have required the
whole of his attention--somewhere, somebody must have joined her. The
driver, again under pressure, admits the bare possibility, but does not
think it likely. However, we must assume that some one at some place did
enter the taxi."

Zena was leaning forward eagerly, and I waited quietly for Quarles
to continue.

"It follows that whoever it was must have been known to Lady Tavener," he
said slowly. "Otherwise she would have called out to the driver or to
people passing."

"You mean that he left it at Hyde Park Corner after the murder," said
Zena. "You think it was Lester Williams."

"There is the possibility that he was getting out of the taxi instead
of rushing to it, because he noticed the occupant looked peculiar,"
Quarles admitted.

"In that case would he have called the driver's attention?" I asked.
"Your theory seems to demand actions which no man would be fool enough
to commit."

"You can never tell upon what lines a criminal's brain will work, Wigan.
I maintain that the same arguments I have used with regard to Sir John
would apply in Lester Williams's case. Still, there are one or two points
to consider. If you go to Hyde Park Corner you will find it difficult to
pitch on any lamp which could throw sufficient light upon the face of the
occupant leaning back in the corner as to cause alarm to any one on the
pavement. I am taking into consideration the position of the taxi in the
roadway and the angle at which the light would have to be thrown. And,
since motor lights are in the front of cars, and Lady Tavener was facing
the way her taxi was going, it is very improbable that the lights of
another car would serve this purpose. Besides, it was a foggy night."

"Then you believe Williams was getting out of the taxi?" I asked.

"Let me talk about the contents of this first," said Quarles, separating
an envelope from some papers on the table. "You will admit that I
examined the taxi fairly thoroughly."

"You certainly did."

"And I came to one or two very definite conclusions, Wigan. The engine is
practically new, very different from that of the taxi we took to
Twickenham, which was of exactly the same make. I took some trouble in my
choice of a taxi, you remember. I grant, of course, this may not be a
very reliable proof, but the tires told the same story, I think."

"The first taxi might just have had new tires," I suggested.

"I do not fancy the whole four would have been renewed at the same time,"
he returned. "It is not usual. My conclusion was that the taxi had not
been used very much."

"I must confess I do not see where this is leading us," I said.

"It led us to Twickenham, Wigan. In our down journey we covered the road
taken by the taxi that night if it came direct to Hyde Park Corner. At
Twickenham I examined the tires, and they satisfied me that so far there
was nothing to negative a theory I had formed. On the return journey we
turned into that side street--I had noted it on the way down--and at the
end of our journey I examined the tires again and the floor of the taxi.
I preserved what I found then in this envelope, and it is perfectly clear
that our taxi had been driven over a road strewn with brick dust and coal
dust, and that persons treading on such a road had entered the taxi."

"Of course, we both got out," I remarked.

"To admire the view," said Quarles. "And you may have noticed that there
were few windows from which an inquisitive person could have told what we
were doing. At night the place would be quite lonely unless the
bricklayers and coal porters were working overtime. Now, Wigan, on the
tires of the first taxi, and on its carpet, was dust exactly
corresponding to that which I found on the tires and floor of our taxi.
That is significant. Brick dust and coal dust together, remember. They
are not a usual combination on a main road out of London."

I did not answer, I had no comment to make.

"If we have no very definite facts," Quarles went on, "we have many
peculiar circumstances, and I will try and reconstruct the tragedy for
you. Sir John and his wife have quarreled at times we know, and to some
extent at any rate have gone each their own way recently. The fact that
Sir John was the cause of her divorce, and married her, may be taken as
proof that he was fond of his wife. A reformed rake constantly is, and
often develops a strong vein of jealousy besides. That Lady Tavener was
supposed by her husband to be dining with the Folliotts, who, as a fact,
had no appointment with her that night, shows that she did not always
explain her going and coming to her husband. I suggest that Sir John had
begun to suspect his wife, and that his reason for leaving Richmond early
was to ascertain whether she was going to the theater with the Folliotts
as she had told him."

"It is an ingenious theory," I admitted.

"We follow Lady Tavener," said Quarles. "It is not likely she was going
to spend the evening alone, or the Folliotts would never have been
mentioned. She was going to meet some one. I suggest it was Lester
Williams who had arranged to meet her at Hyde Park Corner. Whether the
idea was to join her in the taxi, or that she should leave the taxi there
with orders that the driver should meet her after the theater, I cannot
say. I am inclined to think it was the former, and I hazard a guess that
Lady Tavener had not known Williams very long. Of course, his explanation
goes by the board. He was on the lookout for the taxi. From the pavement
he only saw the taxi, but when he opened the door he found a tragedy."

"But why should you think he was a new acquaintance of Lady Tavener's?"
asked Zena.

"Since he hurried to the door instead of waiting for the taxi to draw to
the curb, I conclude he was taking advantage of the stoppage to join Lady
Tavener in the taxi. Had she intended to leave the taxi there, he would
have waited until it came to the pavement. But my theory demands that he
should have been on the watch for the taxi, therefore he must have known
it. Had Lady Tavener often used the taxi when she met Williams, Wood, the
driver, would have recognized Williams. This does not appear to have been
the case, therefore I conclude they were comparatively new friends."

"Do we come back to the theory of suicide, then?" I asked.

"Not yet," Quarles answered. "At present we merely find a reason why Sir
John and Lester Williams have said so little, the one concerning his
suspicions, the other about his knowledge of Lady Tavener. Since his wife
was dead, why should Sir John say anything to cast a reflection upon her.
For the same reason, why should Williams implicate himself in any way.
From their different viewpoints they are both anxious to shield Lady
Tavener's name. Therefore, Wigan, since we wanted to learn the truth, it
was a good move to put Sir John in such a position that, to save himself,
he must speak. Had we left him alone I have little doubt he would have
ended by accepting the doctor's opinion and, rather than explain
anything, would have remained silent."

"And allowed suspicion to rest on his name?" said Zena.

"It wouldn't. The doctor's evidence would have made people sympathize
with him and regret that he should ever have been under suspicion. I am
not saying he had made a deep calculation on these chances, but he was
content to wait and let things take their course. He is still doing so.
His arrest has not brought any explanation from him."

"But he has said he believes his wife met with foul play,"
persisted Zena. "Do you believe he would do nothing to bring the
murderer to justice?"

"I think not. I think he would value his wife's name more than his
revenge. If Sir John knew that his wife was meeting Williams that night,
he might presently lose his temper and cause a scandal."

"And he will know later, if your theory is right?" I said.

"Perhaps not," said Quarles. "Let us get back to the contents of this
envelope. The driver would have us believe that the first taxi came
direct from Richmond to Hyde Park Corner. We have strong reasons for
believing it did not. Therefore, either he went out of his way, by Lady
Tavener's orders, to call for some one, or some one got into the taxi
without his knowledge. I sat on the driver's seat, Wigan, and I admit
that, if fully occupied with driving, as he would be on a foggy night,
entrance might have been made without his knowledge, but on one
condition. The door must have been easy to open. The door of that taxi
isn't easy. I tried it. It is exceedingly stiff, difficult to open, and
impossible to close without a very considerable noise. Therefore Wood
knows that some one entered, and we know that that some one must have
walked on a road covered with brick dust and coal dust."

"Who is it?" I asked.

"Wood himself. He turned into the road we turned into. If Lady Tavener
noticed that he had done so, she would not think anything of it. She
would imagine the road was up and a detour necessary. As a matter of
fact, she would not have time to think much, and I do not think she was
alarmed, not even when Wood opened the door. As he did so I imagine he
said something of this sort: 'I think it only right to warn your Ladyship
that Sir John is suspicious.' He had to give some excuse for stopping the
taxi and going to his fare. Whether he knew that Sir John was suspicious
or not is immaterial. He had constantly driven Lady Tavener, and was
probably aware that some of her friends were not her husband's. At any
rate, some remark of this kind would allay her suspicions, and then--"

"He murdered her?" asked Zena sharply.

"Well, I fancy this is where we come to the question of suicide," said
Quarles. "He intended to murder her, had his fingers on her throat, in
fact, but the sudden excitement saved him. I think she actually died of
shock, as the doctors declare. I think he was able to say something to
her which caused that shock."

"I can hardly believe--"

"Wait, Wigan," the professor said, interrupting me. "You will agree
that, from the first, Wood's evidence would naturally accuse Sir John.
When you saw him and pressed him with the two questions I suggested he
still sought to leave the impression upon you that Sir John was guilty;
but since your questions showed there was a doubt in your mind, he
admitted, to safeguard himself, the possibility of some one having
entered the taxi surreptitiously. One other point which counts, I think.
One of the lamps of the taxi, and only one of them, had recently been
removed from its socket. I imagine he took it to make quite sure that
Lady Tavener was dead."

"But he had often driven Lady Tavener. Why had he waited so long?"
said Zena.

"And what reason had he for the murder?" I asked.

"It was probably the first time he had driven them together, when Sir
John had left his wife during the journey, and he wanted to implicate Sir
John. In short, this was his first opportunity for the double revenge he
was waiting for. I have shown, at least I think I have, that the taxi was
not often used. We shall find it is his own taxi, I think, bought
outright or being purchased on the hire system. I should say he rarely
hired himself out except to Sir John and Lady Tavener. He was not an
ordinary driver, but a very clever schemer, and, like a clever schemer, I
think one little point has given him away altogether. Curtis, from whom
Lady Tavener was divorced, died shortly afterwards, you may remember, of
a broken heart, his friends said, which means that he grieved abnormally
at the breaking up of his happiness. It is natural that his friends and
relations should hate the Taveners, and one of them conceived the idea of
revenge. It is curious that several of the Curtises are called Baldwood
Curtis. Baldwood is a family name. It was easy to assume the name of
Wood. It would be likely to jump into the mind if one of them wanted to
assume a name."

"What a horrible plot," said Zena, with a shudder.

"Horrible and clever," said Quarles.

"I wonder if you are right, dear."

"I have no doubt, but Wigan will be able to tell us presently."

He was right, I think, practically in every particular. I am not sure
what would have happened to Wood. Technically he had not actually killed
Lady Tavener, but he solved the difficulty of his punishment himself.
Expecting the worst, I suppose, he managed to hang himself in his cell.



The yellow taxi must still have been a topic of conversation with the
public when Quarles and I became involved in two cases which tried us
both considerably, and in which we ran great risk.

The reading of detective tales imagined by comfortable authors who show
colossal ignorance regarding my profession, has often amused, me. Pistols
usually begin the string of impossibilities and a convenient pair of
handcuffs is at the end. These are the tales of fiction, not of real life
as a rule, yet in the two cases I speak of the reality was certainly as
strange as fiction and very nearly as dangerous.

There had been a series of hotel robberies in London, so cleverly
conceived and carried out that Scotland Yard was altogether at fault. I
had had nothing to do with this investigation, being engaged on other
cases, but one Friday morning my chief told me I must lend my colleagues
a hand. Within an hour of our interview I was making myself conversant
with what had been done, and on Friday afternoon and during the whole of
Saturday I was busy with the affair.

On Monday morning, however, I was called to the chief's room and told to
devote myself to the recovery of a jeweled chalice which had been stolen
from St. Ethelburga's Church, Bloomsbury, on the previous day. Since the
vicar, the Rev. John Harding, was an intimate friend of the chief's,
there was a sort of compliment in my being taken from important work to
attend to this case, but I admit I did not start on this new job with any
great enthusiasm, and was rather annoyed at being switched off the
hotels, as it were, and put on to the church.

I went with the vicar to Bloomsbury in a taxi, and gathered information
on the way. The chalice had been given to the church about eighteen
months ago by an old lady, a Miss Morrison, who had since died. She had
possessed some remarkable jewelry, diamonds and pearls, and these had
been set in the chalice which she had presented to St. Ethelburga's,
where she had attended regularly for six or seven years. The chalice was
insured for £5,000, but this was undoubtedly below its actual value. It
was not used constantly, only on the great festivals, and on certain
Saints' days specified by Miss Morrison when she made the gift. The
previous day happened to be one of these Saints' days, and the chalice
had been used at the early celebration. The vicar had put it back into
its case and locked it in the safe himself. The key of the safe had not
been out of his possession since, yet this morning the safe was found
open and the chalice gone.

"You have no suspicion?" I asked.

"None," he answered, but not until after a momentary pause.

"You do not answer very decidedly, Mr. Harding."

"I do, yes, I do really. In a catastrophe of this kind all kinds of ideas
come into the mind, very absurd ones some of them," and he laughed a
little uneasily.

"It would be wise to tell me even the absurd ones," I said.

"Very well, but perhaps you had better examine the vestry and the safe
first," he said as the taxi stopped.

I found the vestry in charge of a constable, and as we entered a
clergyman joined us. The vicar introduced me to the Rev. Cyril Hayes, his
curate. The vestry and the safe were just as they had been found that
morning; nothing had been moved. Yesterday had been wet, and the flooring
of wooden blocks in the choir vestry bore witness to the fact that
neither men nor boys had wiped their feet too thoroughly. Even in the
clergy vestry, which was carpeted, there were boot marks, so it seemed
probable that the weather had rendered abortive any clue there might have
been in this direction. There were two safes in the clergy vestry, a
large one standing out in the room and a small one built into the wall.
It was in the latter that the chalice had been kept, and the door was
open. Apparently two or three blows had been struck at the wall with a
chisel, or some sharp instrument, and there were several scratches on the
edge of the door and around the keyhole; but it was quite evident to me
that the safe had been opened with a key. I asked the vicar for his key,
but it would not turn in the lock.

"Was anything besides the chalice stolen?" I asked.

"No," the vicar returned. "As you see, there is another chalice and two
patens in the safe, one paten of gold, but it was not taken, not even
touched, I fancy. It was the chalice and the chalice only that the
thieves came for."

"It seems foolish to keep such a valuable chalice in the vestry," I said.

"It is kept in the bank as a rule," the vicar answered. "I got it from
the bank on Saturday and it would have gone back this morning. Of course
it was not possible to keep such a gift a secret. The church papers had
paragraphs about it, which some of the daily papers copied."

"Every gang in London knew of its existence then," I said.

"True," said the curate, "and you might go further than that and remember
that much of our work here lies in some very poor and some very
disreputable neighborhoods."

"It does," said the vicar. "Amongst our parishioners we must have many
thieves, I am afraid."

"There are thieves and thieves," said Mr. Hayes, "and I fancy there are
many who would not meddle with the sacred vessels of a church.
Superstition perhaps, but a powerful deterrent."

The vicar shook his head, evidently not agreeing with this opinion.

"Probably I have had more to do with thieves than you have, vicar," he
said with a smile, and turning to me he went on: "I am very interested in
a hooligans' club we have. They are a rough lot I can assure you. Many of
them have seen the inside of a jail, some of them will again possibly;
but there's a leaven of good stuff in them. Saints have been reared from
such poor material before now."

"When do you meet?" I asked.

"Mondays and Thursdays."

"To-night. I'll look in to-night."


"I may find the solution to the theft at your club," I said. The
suggestion seemed to annoy him.

That the safe had been opened with a key and not broken open indicated
that some one connected with the church was directly or indirectly
responsible for the theft, and this idea was strengthened by the fact
that it was impossible to tell how the robbers had entered the church.
The verger had come in as usual that morning by the north door which he
had found locked, and it was subsequently ascertained that all the other
doors were locked. Some of you may know the church and remember that it
is rather dark, its windows few and high up; indeed, only by one of the
baptistry windows could an entry possibly have been effected, and I could
find nothing to suggest that this method had been used. A few keen
questions did not cause the verger to contradict himself in the slightest
particular, and his fifteen years' service seemed to exonerate him.

"Is it possible that you left the door unlocked last night by mistake?"
I queried.

"I should have found it open this morning," he said, as if he were
surprised at my overlooking this point.

I had not overlooked it. I was wondering whether he had found it open and
was concealing the fact, fearing dismissal for his carelessness.

A little later I had a private talk with the vicar.

"I think you had better tell me your suspicions," I said.

"There is nothing which amounts to a suspicion," he answered reluctantly.
"It does not take a skilled detective, Mr. Wigan, to see that some one
connected with the church must have had a hand in the affair. It is not
the work of ordinary thieves. Therefore, as I said, absurd ideas will
come. It happens that my curate, Mr. Hayes, is much in debt, and has had
recourse to money lenders. He has said nothing to me about it; indeed, it
was only last week that I became aware of the fact, and I decided not to
speak to him until after Sunday. I was going to talk to him this morning.
It was a painful duty, and naturally--"

"Naturally you cannot help thinking about it in connection with
the chalice."

The vicar nodded as though words seemed to him too definite in such a
delicate matter. That the two things had become connected in his mind
evidently distressed him, and he was soon talking in the kindest manner
about his curate, anxious to impress me with the excellent work Mr. Hayes
was doing in the parish.

"The hooligans' club, for instance?" I said.

"That amongst other things," he answered.

"Miss Morrison was one of your rich parishioners, I presume."

"She was not a parishioner at all," said Mr. Harding. "She lived at
Walham Green. She came to St. Ethelburga's because she liked our
services, drove here in a hired fly every Sunday morning. I visited her,
at her request, when she was ill some three years ago, but I really knew
little of her. To be quite truthful I thought her somewhat eccentric, and
never supposed she was wealthy. The presentation of the chalice came as a
great surprise."

"Have you a photograph of the chalice?"

"No; but Miss Morrison's niece might have. I know Miss Morrison had one
taken, a copy of it appeared in the church papers. The niece, Miss
Belford, continues to live at Walham Green--No. 3 Cedars Road."

"Does she attend the church?" I asked, as I made a note of the address.

"Oh, yes. She used to come with her aunt, and since Miss Morrison's
death she has taken up some parish work. I know her much better than I
did her aunt."

"Of course she has not yet heard of the theft?"

"No, I have not talked about it to any one. I thought silence was the
best policy."

I quite agreed with him and suggested he should keep the theft a secret
for the next few hours.

With Mr. Hayes and his hooligans' club at the back of my mind, I made one
or two enquiries in the neighborhood, and then started for Walham Green.
On my way to the Underground I met Percival, one of the men engaged upon
the hotel robberies, and stood talking to him for a few minutes. He was
rather keen on a clue he had got hold of, but I was now sufficiently
interested in the stolen chalice not to be envious.

No. 3 Cedars Road was quite a small house--forty pounds a year perhaps,
and Miss Belford was a more attractive person than I expected to find. I
don't know why, but I had expected to see a typical old maid; instead of
which I was met by a young woman who had considerable claims to beauty.
She opened the door herself, her maid being out, and was astonished when
I said the Vicar of St. Ethelburga's had sent me.

She asked me in to a small but tastefully appointed dining-room, and when
I told her my news, seemed more concerned on her aunt's account than at
the loss of the chalice.

"Poor auntie!" she exclaimed. "Whilst she had the jewels she was always
afraid some one would steal them, and now--now some one has."

"Mr. Harding thought you would have a photograph of the chalice," I said.

"I am sorry, I haven't. There were two or three, but I don't know
what auntie did with them. She was a dear, but had funny little
secretive ways."

"Mr. Harding led me to suppose she was eccentric," I said. "It is often
the way with wealthy old ladies."

"Wealthy!" she laughed. "She left me all she had, and I shall not be able
to afford to go on living here."

"How came she to give the jewels to the church then?"

"I hardly know, and I will confess that I was a little disappointed when
she did so. Does that sound very ungrateful in view of the fact that she
left me everything else!"

"No. It is natural under the circumstances."

"She was very fond of me, but as I have said, she was secretive and she
certainly did not give me her entire confidence. I fancy the jewels were
connected with some romance in her past life, and for that reason she did
not wish any one else to possess them."

"You can't give me any idea of the nature of this romance, Miss Belford?"


"It might possibly help me."

"There is one thing I could do," she said. "My aunt had a very old
friend living in Yorkshire. She would be likely to know, and under the
circumstances might tell. If you think it would be any use I will
write to her."

"I wish you would."

"If a romance in my aunt's life had something to do with the robbery, it
seems strange that the jewels have been safe so long. They were always
kept in the house. I should have thought it would have been easier to
steal them from here than from the church."

"I do not think we can be sure of that," I said.

"Besides, the jewels have been quite safe at St. Ethelburga's for
eighteen months," she added.

"That is a point I admit. I understand that you work in Mr. Harding's
parish, so you know Mr. Hayes, of course."

"I have not been brought much in contact with him. I have sung once or
twice at his hooligan club entertainments. He has made a great success
of the club."

"Regenerating ruffians and drafting them into church work, eh?"

"I believe he has had great influence with them."

"I am going to visit that club to-night."

"You will find he is doing a great work. You will--surely you are not

"That reformation may be only skin deep? I am, Miss Belford. The daily
environment of these fellows makes it easy for them to slip back into
their old ways."

From Walham Green I went to Chelsea. I wanted to see Zena Quarles, and
there was nothing more to be done in the chalice case until I had visited
the hooligan club. Not for a moment would I appear to sneer at the
regenerating work which may be accomplished by such institutions, but
experience has taught me that it is often the cakes and ale, so to speak,
which attract, while character remains unchanged, or at the best very
thinly veneered. There are always exceptions, of course. It is difficult
for the uninitiated to realize that men go in for crime as a means of
livelihood, and are trained to become expert even as others are trained
to succeed in respectable professions. Many grades go to make up a
successful gang, and I had great hope of recognizing some youngster's
face at the club which would give me a clue to the gang which had worked
this robbery.

"You're the very man I was thinking about," said Quarles when I was shown
into the dining-room. "You have come to tell me that you are on these
hotel robberies. Sit down, Wigan. How goes the inquiry?"

"You are wrong, professor. I was on the job for a day and a half, but
I'm off it again. I am investigating the theft of a jeweled chalice."

"Left in a cheap safe in an insecure vestry, I suppose," he said
in a tone of disgust. "Serves them right. Such things should be
kept in a bank."

I explained that it was only kept in the vestry safe until it could be
returned to the bank, but the fact did not seem to impress him.

He made no suggestion that we should adjourn to that empty room, where we
had discussed so many cases. I told him the story, although I was not
seeking his help, and he was not interested enough to ask a single
question when I had finished. He only wanted to discuss the hotel

"I am going to that club this evening," I went on.

"The fact doesn't interest me," he returned snappishly.

"Fortunately I didn't come for your help; I wanted to see Zena."

"She's out and won't be home until late."

"And your temper's gone out, too, eh, Professor?"

"What do you mean?"

"That you are simply lusting to be on the warpath," I laughed. "It might
do you good to come and see the hooligans with me to-night. Besides, if
we could settle the chalice case promptly we might be investigating the
hotel robberies before the end of the week."

This suggestion clinched the matter. He came, believing possibly that I
congratulated myself upon having drawn him into the affair, which was not
a fact. I was glad of his company, but I did not want his help.

Knowing something of such places, this hooligans' club astonished me. The
raw material was rough enough, but Mr. Hayes had worked wonders with it.
His personality had made no particular impression on me that morning, but
his achievement proved him a man of force and character. Quarles was
evidently interested in him and his work. If what the vicar had told me
about his curate had left even a faint speculation regarding his
integrity in my mind, it was dissipated.

Visitors to the club were not an infrequent occurrence, Mr. Hayes told
us. He was rather proud that the institution had served as a type on
which to form others.

"There mustn't be too much religion," he said. "The flotsam and jetsam of
life have to learn to be men and women first. Some of them are learning
to be men here."

While I listened to him I had been eagerly scanning the faces before me.
There was not one I recognized. I wandered about the room, feigning
interest in the game of bagatelle which was going forward with somewhat
noisy excitement, and stood by chess and draught players for a few
moments to study their faces closely. I looked keenly at each new
arrival, but my clue was yet to seek.

Suddenly a young fellow entered, rather smarter than most of them, and I
recognized him at once. Possibly the hooligans' club had been his
salvation, but he had been bred amongst thieves, thieves I knew and had
handled at times.

"I began to think you weren't coming to-night, Squires."

"Just looked in to say I can't come, sir," was the answer. "Got a chance
of a place, sir, and going to look after it."

"That's right. Good luck to you. You can refer to me, you know."

"Thank you, sir."

With a careless word to two or three of the youths as he passed down the
room, Squires sauntered out.

"That's our man," I whispered to Quarles, and without waiting to take
leave of Mr. Hayes, I hastened to the door. Squires was going slowly down
the street, no evidence of alarm about him, no desire apparently to lose
himself in the crowd. He had not got very far when Quarles joined me,
keen now there was a trail to follow.

"I know the gang he used to be friendly with," I said as we began to
follow, "although I've got nothing definite against this youngster. It
was this gang, I believe, that worked the series of frauds on jewelers
three years ago, although we never brought it home to them. Just the men
to deal with a jeweled chalice, eh, professor? I expect young Squires
recognized me and guesses I am after it."

Our object was to track young Squires to his destination. Since he was
connected with St. Ethelburga's through the hooligan club, it was quite
likely he had had a direct hand in the robbery, but it was certain others
were the prime movers, and I guessed he was on the way to warn them that
I was on the trail.

At the corner of a street he stopped to speak to a man and a woman, and
we were obliged to interest ourselves in a convenient shop door. He stood
at the corner talking for at least ten minutes. Quarles thought he was
having words with the woman, but it could not have been much of a quarrel
for none of the passersby took any particular notice of them. Presently
the man and woman crossed the street arm in arm, and Squires sauntered
round the corner. We were quickly at the corner, afraid of losing sight
of him. He was still in sight, still walking slowly. Once he turned to
light a cigarette, and after that he increased his pace a little.

"It's evident he lied when he said he was going to look for a job,"
I remarked.

"But it's not so evident that one of us ought not to have followed the
man and woman," said Quarles. "They may have gone to do the warning."

"I think not," I answered. "If you have noted our direction you will find
we have traveled a pretty circuitous route. He'll wait until he thinks he
is safe from pursuit, and then take a bee line for his destination."

As if he would prove my words Squires mended his pace, swinging down one
street and up another as if he had suddenly become definite. At corners
he gained on us, I think he must have run the moment he was out of sight,
and in one short street we were only just in time to see him disappear
round a corner.

"I'm going to give this up soon, Wigan," said Quarles as we hurried in
pursuit. "I don't care how many jewels the chalice had in it."

We were round the corner. Squires had disappeared, but we could hear
running feet in the distance.

"That settles it," said Quarles, coming to halt a dozen yards from the
corner. "Go on if you like, Wigan, but--"

I heard no more. Something struck me, enveloped me, and there was an end.
I am not very sure when a new beginning happened. Perhaps it is only an
after consideration which makes me remember a whirring sound in my ears,
and a certain swinging motion, and a murmur which was soothing. I am
quite sure of the pain which subsequently came to me. My head was big
with it, my limbs twisted with it. I was conscious of nothing else for a
period to which I cannot place limits. Then there was fire in my throat.

I was sitting in the angle of a wall, on the floor; at a little distance
from me was a light which presently resolved itself into a candle stuck
in the neck of a bottle. There were moving shadows--I saw them, I think,
before I was conscious of the man and woman who made them. The man had
just poured brandy down my throat, the girl, with her arms akimbo,
watched him.

"He'll do now," said the man.

"Can't see why we take such trouble to keep death away," was the
woman's answer.

"Are you in love with the hangman?"

The girl laughed, caught up the bottle, making the shadows dance like a
delirium, then I slipped back into darkness again.

All kinds of things came into my mind after that, disordered dreams, and
then I heard my name.

"Wigan! Wigan!"

I was still sitting in an angle of a wall, trussed like a fowl, but I
was awake.

"Is that you, Professor?"

"No more hooligan clubs, Wigan."

"What happened?"

"I remember turning a corner," Quarles answered, "and I woke up here. We
were sandbagged, or something of the kind, and serves us right. If we
wanted to follow any one we ought to have followed the man and woman. Can
you drag yourself over to this corner? We can talk quietly then."

It was rather a painful and lengthy operation, but I fancy the effort did
me good. My brain was clearer, I began to grip things again.

"Where are we?" I said.

"Locked in a cellar, but where I do not know. We're lucky to be no worse
off, and probably I'm especially lucky in not having been sandbagged by
the man who dealt with you. He would probably have closed my account, for
he must have hit you a tremendous blow. I had come to myself before the
man and woman brought you brandy. I just moved to show I wasn't dead and
watched them."

"You'll know them again."

"They both wore masks. About this chalice, Wigan."

"No doubt we've hurried it into the melting pot," I returned.

"I've been half asleep since our friend left us, but I've done some
thinking, too. Reminded of my empty room by this cellar, I expect. There
are one or two curious points about this chalice."

"Are they worth considering--now?"

"I think so. It will serve to pass the time. I didn't take any interest
in your story at the time, but I think I remember the facts. You must
correct me if I go wrong. First, then, we may take it as certain that the
church was not broken into in an ordinary way. We assume, therefore, that
some one connected with the church had a hand in the robbery. You
satisfied yourself that an entry was not effected by the only possible
window, we therefore ask who had keys of the church. The answer would
appear to be the vicar, the verger, and possibly, even probably, Mr.
Hayes. Had keys been in the possession of any other person for any
purpose, either temporarily or otherwise, the vicar--I am assuming his
integrity--would have mentioned it. Now the vicar does not suggest that
he has any suspicion against the verger, nor do you appear to have
entertained any, but Mr. Harding does suggest a suspicion of his curate
by mentioning his debts and his dealings with money lenders."

"It was under pressure. I am convinced he has no real suspicion."

"At any rate his story influenced you. You made some inquiries
concerning Mr. Hayes. That is an important point. Had you not heard at
the same time of this hooligan club, you would probably have made further
inquiries about the curate. I think you missed something."

"Oh, nonsense. You've seen the man and must appreciate--"

"His worth," said Quarles. "I do, but he leads to speculation. Let us
consider the safe for a moment. There were marks from a blow of the
chisel on the wall, scratches on the safe door, and by the keyhole, but
you are satisfied that the safe was opened with a key, yet the vicar's
key will not turn the lock. Why should an expert thief trouble to make
these marks or to suggest that the safe had been broken open, even to
the extent of jamming the lock in some way? The only possible
explanation would be that the expert wished to leave the impression than
an amateur had been at work. I can see no reason why he should wish to
do so, and at any rate he failed. You were not deceived; you looked for
the expert at once."

"And the hunter has been trapped. We were hotter on the trail than I

"It is a warning to me to keep out of cases in which I feel no interest,"
said Quarles. "Still, circumstances have aroused my interest now. There
is no doubt, Wigan, that there was every reason to look for an amateur in
this business, and in spite of the hooligan club, you seem to have been
half conscious of this fact. You would have been glad to know what the
romance connected with the jewels was. Not idle curiosity, I take it, but
a grasping for a clue in that direction. Miss Belford cannot help you
beyond writing to her aunt's old friend in Yorkshire, yet had it not been
for the hooligans' club, I fancy you would have followed this trail more
keenly. According to Miss Belford, apart from the jewels, her aunt had
not left sufficient to enable the niece to go on living in Cedars Road,
yet while Miss Morrison was alive it was sufficient, apparently. Of
course the niece may have more expensive tastes, but under the
circumstances it was rather a curious statement. She believes that a past
romance was the reason why the jewels were left to the church, and she
admits that she was disappointed they were not left to her. It seems
possible, doesn't it, that at one time she hoped to have them after her
aunt's death? That would mean there was no valid reason why she
shouldn't, and I think you might reasonably have speculated that she knew
more of the romance than she admitted."

"You wouldn't have thought so if you had talked with her."

"Possibly not," returned Quarles. "I started handicapped in this case, I
was not interested in it; Zena was not at hand to ask one of her absurd
questions, which have so often put me on the right road. The road we have
traveled has landed us here, and I have been thinking of another road we
might have traveled. We will forget the hooligans' club. We start with
the assumption that the robbery was the work of an amateur, we have ample
reasons for thinking so. We do not suspect the vicar, we are inclined to
exonerate the verger, and we finally decide that Mr. Hayes is innocent.
We are met with a difficulty at once. How was the church entered? We may
assume that some person in the Sunday evening congregation remained
hidden in the church, committed the burglary, opening the safe with a
duplicate key, marking the wall and the door, and giving a wrench to the
lock to suggest ordinary thieves. Had it not been for the hooligan club,
these efforts to mislead would not have been very successful, I fancy.
They show that the amateur had small knowledge of the ways of experts.
The thief, having secured the chalice, is still locked in the church. How
to escape? It is a case of an all night vigil. When the verger arrives on
Monday morning and passes through the church towards the vestry, the
thief slips out. Now it is obvious that to make this possible the thief
must have known a great deal about the church and its working, must have
come in contact with the vicar constantly, or it would have been
impossible to get an impression of the safe key. We therefore look
amongst the church workers for the thief."

"Your deductions would be more interesting were we not lying trussed in
this cellar," I said. "I am trying to wriggle some of these knots loose."

"That's right," said Quarles, "When you are free you can undo me. My dear
Wigan, it is the fact that we are in this cellar which makes these
deductions so interesting. The chalice was stolen for the sake of the
jewels, that is evident, or the thief would have taken the gold paten as
well; and the jewels have a romance attached to them. We don't know what
that romance is, but we have an eccentric old lady the possessor of the
jewels; we have reason to suppose that she was not otherwise rich, and we
have a niece apparently ignorant of her aunt's past. She admits
disappointment that the jewels were left to the church; she complains
that her own circumstances are straitened. In spite of the fact that she
lives in Walham Green, she becomes, after her aunt's death, a worker in
St. Ethelburga's parish in Bloomsbury. We have in Miss Belford one who
knows the general working of the church, one who has been brought in
contact with the vicar--Mr. Harding said he knew her very well,
remember; and moreover she is closely connected with the jewels. It is
possible, even, that she knows the romance behind the jewels and feels
that they are hers by right and ought never to have been given to the
church. This would account entirely for such a woman turning thief."

"The fact remains we are in this cellar," I said.

"It is a very interesting fact," said Quarles. "Of course I cannot be
sure that the man and woman who were in this cellar were the same young
Squires met, but I believe they were. The woman stood with her arms
akimbo in each case, the position was identical. They learnt from young
Squires that we were following and went off to warn some of their fellows
who waited for us, Squires leading us into the trap by arrangement. The
gang has beaten us, Wigan."

"And the chalice is in the melting pot," I remarked.

"I don't believe the gang knows anything about the chalice," said the
professor quietly.

"Not know! Why--"

"Wigan, you stopped to speak to a colleague engaged on the hotel
robberies this morning. You were seen, I believe. It was immediately
assumed that you were on that job, and when Squires saw you to-night at
the club he thought you were after the hotel robbers. Without being aware
of it we were probably hot on their track."

"It is impossible," I said.

"Why should it be?" Quarles asked. "Once get a fixed idea in the mind,
and it is exceedingly difficult to give opposing theories their due
weight. The hooligan club got into your mind. There were many reasons why
it should, especially with Mr. Hayes as the connecting link; you could
not believe him guilty so you fell back upon the club. One other point, a
very important one. The chalice was only used on great festivals and
certain Saints' days. There are several reasons why the robbery would be
difficult on a great festival. The church would not be in its normal
condition, owing to decorations or increased services, perhaps; besides,
the thief--a church worker we assume--might be missed from some function
connected with the church which would cause suspicion. On the other hand,
many Saints' days occur in the week when there is no late evening
service, perhaps, and if there is, only a small congregation. It would be
remembered who was present. The chalice was stolen on a Saints' day which
happened to fall on a Sunday, and must therefore remain in the church all
night. How many people do you suppose know which Saints' days were
specified by Miss Morrison? Very few. I warrant you were not far from the
chalice when you were talking to Miss Belford. How are you getting on
with your knots, Wigan?"

"I am not tied so tightly as I might be."

"Good. With luck you may yet be in time to prevent Miss Belford
getting away."

"I don't believe she has anything to do with the chalice," I answered.

"All the same, I should take another journey to Walham Green," said
Quarles. "When one is dealing with a woman it is well to remember that
she is more direct than a man, is inclined to use simpler methods, and is
often more thorough. Witness the man and woman in this cellar. The man
gave you brandy to revive you: the woman didn't see any reason why you
shouldn't die. She interested me. A woman like that is a source of
strength to a gang. I fancy there is a glimmer of daylight through a
grating yonder."

I got free from my bonds after a time, and I undid Quarles. The cellar
door was a flimsy affair, my shoulder against the lock burst it open at
once. No one rushed to prevent our escape. The house was as silent as
the grave.

"Our captors have decamped," said Quarles. "We must have been hot upon
the trail last night, Wigan."

The house was empty apparently, but we did not search it thoroughly then.
Escape was our first thought. I could give instructions to the first
constable we met to keep a watch on the house. We left by an area and
found ourselves at the end of a blind road in Hampstead. The house was
detached, and fifty yards or more from its nearest neighbor.

"Reserved for future investigation," Quarles remarked. "Our first
business is the jeweled chalice."

Only a dim light had found its way through the cellar grating, but the
day had begun. There was the rumble of an early milk cart. In spite of
aching head and stiff limbs, only one idea possessed us; and the first
taxi we found took us to Walham Green.

Miss Belford had gone. She must have left the house yesterday within half
an hour of my leaving it. Inquiry subsequently proved that her servant
had left on the Saturday, and that during the last week Miss Belford had
disposed of her furniture just as it stood.

Quarles was right, although we had no actual proof until some months
later, when we had almost forgotten the jeweled chalice.

Miss Belford wrote to Mr. Harding. The jewels were left to Miss Morrison,
she said, by an old lover. Why they had not married she could not say,
but from old letters it appeared there had been a quarrel, and the man
had married elsewhere. Miss Belford was the daughter of that marriage.
She was not really Miss Morrison's niece, although she had always called
her aunt. The jewels were left to Miss Morrison absolutely, to sell or do
as she liked with, but Miss Belford declared that, in a letter which was
with the jewels when Miss Morrison received them after Mr. Belford's
death, and which she afterwards found amongst her papers, her father
evidently expected that his daughter would ultimately benefit. The letter
went on to explain how the theft had been accomplished, and the letter

"Had I known my aunt contemplated giving the jewels to the church, I
should have taken them before, because I had always expected them to come
to me. They were presented before I knew anything about it. I could do
nothing, I was dependent upon her. When I found my father's letter I knew
I had been robbed--that is the word, Mr. Harding, robbed. In taking the
chalice I have only taken what belongs to me. On reflection you will
probably consider that I was quite justified."

I can affirm that the vicar of St. Ethelburga's did not think so, and
since Miss Belford's letter, which came from America, did not give any
address I imagine she was not sure what attitude Mr. Harding would take
up. What became of the gems, or how they were disposed of, I do not know;
I only know that there is no jeweled chalice at St. Ethelburga's now, and
I fancy the vicar thinks that, as a detective, I was a ghastly failure.



Brilliant sunshine and a sufficient breeze, a well-appointed forty-ton
yawl, nothing to do but lie basking on the warm deck, conscious of a very
pretty woman at the helm--well, you may go a long way before you find
anything to beat it for pure enjoyment.

How I came to be spending my time under such enviable circumstances
requires some explanation, especially when I state that the exceedingly
pretty woman was not Zena Quarles.

It will be remembered that to attend to the jeweled chalice case, which
proved to be an affair of a day and a night only, I had been taken off a
job concerning a series of hotel robberies, and I was particularly glad
to be put back upon this case, because Quarles was so intensely
interested in it. Although the chalice case was not actually cleared up
satisfactorily for some months, it was practically certain that the
attack made upon us had nothing to do with the theft of the chalice.

The professor was convinced that, unconsciously, we had been hot upon the
trail of the hotel robberies, that the trails of the two cases had, in
fact, crossed each other. It seemed to me that he had jumped to this
conclusion upon insufficient evidence, but I determined to make a
thorough investigation of the house at Hampstead at once.

The house was in charge of a caretaker named Mason, who lived there in
one sparsely furnished room, but on the night of our capture he had
absented himself without leave. This looked suspicious, but the man was
able to prove that he had told the truth as to his whereabouts, and
further inquiry elicited nothing against him. Quarles also declared
emphatically that Mason was not the masked man he had seen in the cellar.

I next managed to get an interview with the owner of the house, a Mr.
Wibley. He had lived in it himself for a time, but it had now been empty
for about two years. It was a good house, but old-fashioned. People did
not like basements, and as the house was in a neighborhood which was
deteriorating he had not felt inclined to spend money upon it. He knew
nothing about the caretaker who had been put there by the house agent,
but he was very keen to give me any help in his power, for he had himself
been a victim of one of the hotel robberies. Business occasionally
brought him to town from his house in Hampshire, and while staying in an
hotel a big haul had been made, and a necklace which he had bought for
his daughter only that day was amongst the property stolen.

All these robberies, which had occurred over a period of six months, had
been carried out with a success which entirely baffled the authorities.

Apparently rooms were rifled during the table d'hôte; at least, it was
always late in the evening that the robberies were discovered. In no case
had a guest or a servant left suddenly or suspiciously, and drastic
search had discovered nothing. There could be little doubt that a clever
gang was at work, but during this period not a single stolen article had
been traced. Scotland Yard had any number of men engaged upon the case;
known thieves were watched, and fences kept under observation; but as a
fact there had been no clue at all until Quarles and I had been kidnaped.

Of course, there was no certainty that our capture had anything to do
with these robberies. Quarles based his conviction on the fact that I had
spoken to another detective, Percival, who was known to have the case in
hand. He believed that I had been seen, that it was concluded that the
case was in my hands, that in hunting for the chalice I had stumbled on
the other trail, was so hot upon it, in fact, that prompt action on the
thieves' part was absolutely necessary.

It was obvious that our capture must be a clue to something; it was
natural, perhaps, to jump to the conclusion that it concerned these
robberies, but Quarles's arguments did not altogether convince me. I had
half a dozen men hunting for young Squires, who had almost certainly led
us into an ambush that night and who had disappeared completely. His old
haunts had not known him for a long time; his old companions had lost
sight of him. It was generally understood that he had cut his old ways
and had turned pious, an evident reference to the hooligan club. At one
time he had certainly been friendly with some of the members of a gang I
knew of, a gang quite likely to be responsible for these robberies, but
inquiries went to show that this gang had practically ceased to exist as
an organization.

For nearly a week I was busy morning, noon, and night collecting evidence
and facts which were retailed to Quarles, and then I broke down. Nervous
energy had kept me going, I suppose, but the blow I had received was not
to be ignored. The doctor ordered rest, and I went to Folkestone. I
suppose I looked ill, and, perchance, a little interesting; at any rate,
I was the recipient of quite a lot of sympathy, and it was on the third
afternoon of my stay in the hotel that Mrs. Selborne spoke to me. She
had heard me telling some one that I was recovering from an accident.

She had a yacht in the harbor. She had great faith in the recuperating
power of yachting. She would have her skipper up that evening, if I would
make use of the yacht next day. I hesitated to accept her kind offer. She
evidently meant me to go alone; said she had not intended to use the
yacht on the following day; but it was finally arranged that she should
take me for a sail. It was the first of several. On the first occasion
she also took a lady staying in the hotel, and on the second a lad who
was there with his parents, but as they were both bad sailors we went by
ourselves the third time.

"It spoils the pleasure to see other people ill," said Mrs. Selborne. "I
think we might really go alone without unduly shocking people."

So it happened that I was enjoying the breeze and the sunshine under
ideal circumstances and with as charming a companion as a man could
wish to have.

I told Zena so in one of my letters; so convincingly, I regret to say,
that the dear girl did not like it. There was really no cause for
jealousy, but bring a man in close contact with a pretty and charming
woman, especially on a yacht, and he is almost certain to flirt with
her a little.

It was very mild and harmless in my case, and indeed Mrs. Selborne, jolly
and somewhat unconventional as she was, would have resented any liberty.
We frankly enjoyed each other's society, and at the end of a few days
might have known each other for years.

Certainly I owed her a debt of gratitude, for the yacht did me worlds of
good. I told her so that afternoon.

"You certainly look better," she said.

"You will send me back to work sooner than I expected."


"At the end of the week."

"And I expect my husband to-morrow."

I don't suppose she meant it, but she said it as if she regretted
his coming.

"Is he fond of yachting?" I asked.

"It bores him to tears," she laughed. "Most of the things which I like
do. Still, he is very good to me. I am an old man's darling, you know."

It was the first time she had mentioned her husband, and she had not
shown the slightest curiosity in my affairs. She was just a good pal for
the time being. That was how she had impressed me, but this afternoon she
was--how shall I put it?--she was rather more of a woman than usual. I
might easily imagine she had given me an opening for a serious
flirtation. Her manner might suggest that I had become more to her than
she had intended. I put the idea away from me, mentally kicking myself
for allowing it to get into my head at all.

"We shall sail as usual to-morrow," she told her skipper when we landed.

"Very good, ma'am."

"Mr. Selborne arrives to-morrow night. Let some one go up for his
luggage. Half past ten."

"Yes, ma'am."

Mrs. Selborne and I walked back to the hotel and stood on the lawn
talking for a little while before going to dress for dinner.

"To-morrow will be our last cruise, I am afraid," she said, looking
across the Leas. "I hope it will be fine."

"I hope so."

"It would really be a terrible disappointment to me if it were not. I
would go--Ah, now I am being tempted to talk foolishly."

She turned from me a little defiantly. She was certainly very attractive,
and naturally fell into poses which showed her off to the best advantage.
A man, sitting on the lawn, paused in the act of taking a cigarette from
his case to look at her. His interest pleased me. I was human, and it
flattered my vanity to know that I counted with this woman.

"What desperate thing were you going to say?" I asked.

"You will laugh at me."

"I am more likely to match you in desperation."

"I was going to say I would go to-morrow, wet or fine, wind or sunshine,
rather than miss our last day."

Could I do less than make a compact that it should be so? If I admit
there was no sign of a coming change in the weather it must not be
supposed that I am trying to make out that her beauty and personality did
not affect me. They did.

"I could almost pray for bad weather just to see that you are a man of
your word," she laughed. "Is it a promise?"

"It is."

She went in to dress, and I smoked a cigarette before doing likewise.

As I entered my room and closed the door, a man stepped from behind
the wardrobe. It was the man who had been interested in Mrs. Selborne
on the lawn.

"Pardon. I wished to speak to you alone, and this seemed the only

"I'll hear what you have to say before I hand you over to the
management," I answered.

"It is a delicate matter," he returned, with a simper, which made me
desire to kick him. "It concerns a lady. You are Mr. James Murray; at
least, that is the name you entered in the hotel books."

"It is my name," I answered.

"Part of it, I think, part of it. You are usually called Murray Wigan, I
believe, and you are engaged to Miss Quarles--Miss Zena Quarles, the
granddaughter of a rather stupid professor."

"What has this to do with you?"

"I said it was a delicate matter," he went on. "My client has reason to
believe that you are--shall I say enamored of a lady staying in this
hotel? You may have noticed me on the lawn just now when you were talking
to the lady--I judge it was the lady. Your taste, sir, appeals to me, but
I am bound to say--"

"Are you a private detective?"

"Just an inquiry agent; helpful in saving people trouble sometimes."

"Do you mean to tell me that Miss Quarles--"

"No, not exactly, but, my dear Wigan--"

It was Quarles. He changed his voice, seemed to alter his figure, but of
course the make-up remained. He was a perfect genius in altering his

"Was that the lady?" he asked. "Zena mentioned you were yachting with a
Mrs. Selborne down here. I don't think she quite liked it. She was woman
enough to read between the lines of your letter."

"Oh, nonsense!" I exclaimed.

"Quite so; still the lady is decidedly attractive, and Murray Wigan is a
man. The man who holds himself barred from admiring one woman just
because he happens to be engaged to another is not a very conspicuous
biped. I am not reproaching you, I should probably do the same myself,
but Zena will take you to task no doubt, and you will explain and
promise not to do it any more, and--"

"I haven't done anything which requires explanation," I said irritably.

"Of course not, but that may not be Zena's view, and I daresay Mrs.
Selborne believes you are more than half in love with her. I happened to
overhear part of your conversation. She was putting your admiration to
the test, rather a severe test, by the way, since you are an invalid.
Probably she is smiling to herself in the glass as she dresses for
dinner, which reminds me you have none too much time to dress, and you
must not be late to-night."

"Why not? I am feeling quite fit again. If there is anything to be done I
am quite capable of doing it."

"Dress, Wigan, while I talk. Since you broke down at a crucial point I
have been helping Percival. I daresay he will get the kudos in this case,
but you mustn't grudge him that."

"I don't."

"We have progressed," Quarles went on. "I will give you my line of
argument and the result so far. We start with Squires. He led us into a
trap, but the gang with which he was formerly connected has practically
ceased to exist. His old companions have seen nothing of him; he is
supposed to have turned good, and I find he has been a member of that
hooligan club for over a year with an irreproachable record during that
time. Two conclusions seem to arise; either Squires is connected with
another gang, or some compulsion was put upon him to betray us. I incline
to the second idea, and if I am correct there must have been a strong
incentive to persuade Squires to do what he did. Perhaps he wished to
protect some one."

"What did Percival say to that?" I asked as I put the links into my

"He jeered at it, of course, as you are inclined to do; indeed, it was
quite a long time before Percival awoke to the fact that I was not quite
a fool. Now the machinery of Scotland Yard seems to have proved that
these robberies are not the work of a known gang; we may therefore assume
that persons unknown to the police are at work. The methods adopted are
clever. The property is stolen, yet no one has disappeared from the
hotel, neither guest nor servant, and in no case has any of the property
been found in the possession of any one in the hotel. Shall we suppose
that it has been carefully lowered from a bedroom window to an accomplice
without? None of this property has been traced, which leads us to two
hypotheses; either it has been got out of the country and disposed of
abroad, or the thieves can afford to bide their time. When you consider
the worth of the jewels stolen, it seems remarkable that nothing should
have been traced in the known markets abroad, and I am inclined to think
the thieves can afford to wait. Having arrived at this point--"

"Without a scrap of evidence," I put in.

"Without any evidence," said Quarles imperturbably. "I began to suspect
that my arch villain, for of course there is a leading spirit, must be in
command of wealth; and, remembering the short period during which the
robberies have happened, I ventured a guess that, once a sufficient
fortune were acquired, he would disappear, that his great coup being
accomplished he would retire from business, and become a respectable
citizen of this or some other country--a gentleman who had acquired
wealth by speculation."

"Once a man has known the excitement of crime he does not give it up," I
said. "That's the result of experience, Professor, not guesswork."

"Quite so, but I had visualized an extraordinary personality. Where was I
to find such a man and the efficient confederates who were helping him in
his schemes? One or more of them must have been present at each robbery,
and would no doubt be amongst those who had lost property. Theory, of
course, but we now come to something practical--the house at Hampstead.
If my theory of crossed trails were correct, if you were thought to be
engaged on this investigation, then that house was in some way linked
with the robberies. I may mention incidentally the value of having such a
place of retreat; the spoil could be deposited there until it could
safely be removed to a better hiding place.

"This, of course, would inculpate the caretaker Mason. He has been
carefully watched; he has done nothing to give himself away, the result
of careful training, I fancy. Through this house we get another link--the
owner, Mr. Wibley. He has been a sufferer in these robberies, losing a
necklace he had just purchased for his daughter. Certainly a man to know
under the circumstances. As you are aware, he lives in Hampshire, and I
had a sudden desire to see that part of the country. I didn't call upon
Mr. Wibley, although he was at home.

"His daughter was away--it was quite true he has a daughter. I took
rather elaborate precautions not to encounter Mr. Wibley; he might be
curious about a stranger in the country, but he would have been
astonished to know how much I saw of him. No, there was nothing
suspicious about him, except that on two occasions a man met him on a
lonely road, evidently with important business to transact. On the day
after the second meeting Mr. Wibley departed and came to Hythe. No later
than this morning he was playing golf there with this same man he met in
Hampshire. The golf was poor, but they talked a lot."

"Still, I do not see--"

"One moment, Wigan. The other man is staying in your hotel."

"You think--"

"I think it was intended to rob this hotel, but I believe the idea
has been abandoned," said Quarles. "However, I have put the manager
on his guard."

"And pointed out the man you suspect!"


"That was foolish. If the thief is as clever as you imagine, he will
probably notice the manager's interest in him. I should say you have
warned him most effectually."

"I don't think so. You see, it was you I pointed out to the manager."

I paused with one arm in my waistcoat to stare at him.

"I have arranged that he shall not interfere with you," said Quarles.
"You will be able to go yachting to-morrow. I was obliged to fix matters
so that I could come and go as I chose, and it was safer to draw the
manager's attention to one man rather than allow him to suspect others,
amongst them the very man we want to hoodwink, perhaps. The fact is,
Wigan, I believe the gang know you are here, and think you are here on
business. Plans will have been made accordingly, and it is therefore
absolutely necessary that you should go on just as you have been doing. I
don't think the hotel will be robbed now, but I am not sure. Sunshine or
storm, go with Mrs. Selborne to-morrow. Exactly what is going to happen
I do not know, but at the end of your cruise to-morrow you may want all
your wits about you."

"Are you staying in the hotel?" I asked.

"No, at Hythe, and I spend some of my time on Romney Marsh. I am
interested in a lonely house there. You must go; there is the gong. I
must tell you about the house another time."

"When shall I see you again?"

"To-morrow night. Leave me here. I will sneak out after you have gone."

It was natural my eyes should wander round the dining-room that night,
trying to discover by intuition which was the man who might engineer a
robbery at the hotel.

Once the manager entered the room, and, knowing what I did, I could not
doubt he wanted to satisfy himself that I was there. It did not worry me
that Quarles had made use of me in this way; I was quite prepared to be
arrested if the robbery did take place, but I was annoyed that the
professor had told me so little.

It was his way; I had had experience of it before, but it was treatment I
had never been able to get used to.

After dinner Mrs. Selborne joined me in the lounge for a little while,
and talked about our sail next day, and then I was asked to make up a
bridge table.

Remembering Zena's attitude, according to Quarles, I was rather glad to
get away from Mrs. Selborne. She played bridge, too, but not at my table.

There was no burglary that night, and the following morning was as good
for yachting as one could desire. However, we could not start at our
usual time. The crew consisted of the skipper and two hands, and one of
the hands came up to say that it was necessary to replace some gear,
which would take until midday. Mrs. Selborne was very angry.

"We shall have to kill time until twelve o 'clock," she said, turning to
me. "It is a pity, but we'll get our sail somehow if all the gear goes
wrong. It is very likely only an excuse to get a short day's work, but I
am not expert enough to challenge my skipper."

When we got aboard soon after noon, however, she had a great deal to say
to the skipper; would have him point out exactly what had gone wrong, and
showed him quite plainly she did not believe there need have been so long
a delay; but she soon recovered her temper when she took the helm, and
her good spirits became infectious.

I was on holiday, and was not inclined to bother my head with problems.
If for a moment I wondered what Quarles was doing, I quickly forgot all
about him.

I repeat, when you have got a pretty woman on a yacht, and she is
inclined to be exceedingly gracious, nothing else matters much for the
time being.

We had lunch, and Mrs. Selborne smoked a cigarette before we returned to
the deck. The skipper was at the tiller, but she did not relieve him. She
was in a lazy mood, and I arranged some cushions to make her comfortable.
We were standing well out from Dungeness.

Mrs. Selborne seemed a little surprised at our position.

"We must get back to dinner," she said to the skipper.

"That'll be all right, ma'am," he answered.

"We must pay some attention to the conventions," she laughed, speaking to
me in an undertone. "We couldn't plead foul weather as an excuse for
being late, could we?"

"We started late, and it is our last sail," I said.

The skipper did not alter his course, and Mrs. Selborne lapsed
into silence.

The comfort and laziness made her drowsy, I expect. I know they did me. I
caught myself nodding more and more.

Suddenly there was a jerk, effectually rousing me from my nodding
condition. I thought we had struck something. The next instant I rolled
on my back. A rope was round my arms and legs. The skipper was still at
the helm, and he smiled as one of the hands tied me up. The other hand
was doing the same to Mrs. Selborne.

There was fear in her face; she tried to speak, but could not.

"What the devil is--"

"A shut mouth, mister, is your best plan," said the skipper. "Get her
down below, Jim. Chuck her on one of the bunks; she'll be out of the
way there."

"Help me! Save me!" she said as they lifted her up and carried her down.

"Now see here," said the skipper, slipping a hand into his pocket and
showing me a revolver, "if you feel inclined to do any shouting, you
suppress it, or this is going to drill a hole in your head. It's a detail
that you might shout yourself hoarse and no one would pay any attention."

"What's the game?" I said. "For the sake of the lady I might come
to terms."

"That's not the game, anyway, and I don't want any conversation."

Quarles! I thought of him now. The hotel gang was at work, and this was
one of the moves. How it was going to serve their ends I did not see,
unless--unless I was presently dropped overboard.

It was an unpleasant contemplation, and I am afraid I cursed Quarles. If
he had only told me a little more I might at least have been prepared and
made a fight for it. What about Mrs. Selborne? Would they drown her, too?
They might put her ashore somewhere.

The coast about Dungeness is desolate enough. It would be easy to slip in
after dark and leave her. Not a sound came from the cabin, and the two
hands returned to the deck. By the skipper's orders they lashed me in a
sitting position to a skylight.

We were still standing out to sea, and one of the hands took the tiller;
the other received instructions to kick the wind out of me if I shouted
or began asking questions. Then the skipper went below.

I listened, but I could not hear him speak to Mrs. Selborne.

It was fine sunset that evening. When we presently came round and stood
in towards shore I got a feast of color over Romney Marsh. Watching the
ever-changing colors as the night crept out of the sea, I remembered that
Quarles was interested in Romney Marsh, in a lonely house there about
which he had had no time to tell me last night; had this lonely house an
interest for me? I tried to work out the plot in a dozen ways,
endeavoring to understand how the thieves could secure themselves if I
were allowed to live.

That gorgeous sunset was depressing. The coming night might be so full of
ominous meaning for me.

It was dark by the time we drew in towards the shore. A light or two
marked Dymchurch to our left, to our right were the lights of Hythe.

By what landmark the skipper chose his position I do not know, but
presently the anchor was let go and we swung round. The tide must have
been nearly at the full. A few minutes later the dinghy was got into the
water, and the steps let down.

Everything was accomplished as neatly and deliberately as I had seen it
done each time I had gone sailing in the yacht.

Then the skipper came over to me and tried my bonds to make sure I had
not worked them loose under cover of the darkness.

"All right," he said. "You can get her up."

Evidently they were going to take Mrs. Selborne ashore.

She came up on deck, she was not brought up. She was not bound in any

"Half past ten," said the skipper. "Sure you will be all right alone?"

I could not tell to which of the hands he spoke; at any rate, he got no
answer except by a nod, perhaps. Half past ten; that was the time Mrs.
Selborne's husband was to arrive.

Then came a surprise. The three men got into the dinghy and pulled
towards the shore.

I was left alone with Mrs. Selborne.

"Caught, Mr. Murray--Wigan."

She laughed as she paused between my two names, and seated herself on a
corner of the skylight with a revolver in her lap.

"We can talk," she went on, "but a shout would be dangerous. I am used to
handling firearms. Our last sail together, a notable one, and not yet
over. You're a more pleasant companion than I expected to find you, but
you are not such a great detective as I had been led to suppose."

I was too astonished to make any kind of answer. She was quite right. I
had never detected a criminal in her. All her kindness was an elaborate
scheme to get me in her power. Did Quarles know? Surely not, or he would
have put me on my guard.

"Posing as an invalid was an excellent notion," she went on, "and you are
not altogether a failure. You have prevented a haul being made at the
Folkestone Hotel because we could not discover what men you had at work.
I wonder how you got on my track?"

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her I hadn't, to say that my being
there was chance, that I really was an invalid, but I kept the confession
back. I remembered Quarles saying I might want all my wits about me at
the end of this cruise. This seemed to be the end as far as I was

"I don't suppose you are going to tell me how these robberies have been
managed," I said, "so you cannot expect me to give away my secrets."

"I will tell you one thing," she answered; "there will be no more
robberies by us. From to-night we begin to enjoy the proceeds."

"That is interesting."

"And you will quite appreciate that, although you are not so clever as
people imagine, you are a difficulty."

"It is no use my petitioning you to let me go for the sake of--of our

"I am afraid not."

"What then?"

"Dead men tell no tales," she said.

It was an uncomfortable answer. It was the only way out of the
difficulty I had been able to conceive.

"Pardon me, they do," I returned quietly. "In watching me so carefully,
and beating me at the game, you have advertised your interest in me to
scores of people. You have forged a link between us. My death will mean a
quick search for you and your confederates. I am likely to be more
dangerous to you dead than alive."

"Do you suppose that has not been considered and arranged for?"

"And do you suppose a detective values his life if by his death he can
bring notorious criminals to justice?" I asked.

"What exactly do you mean?"

We might have been discussing some commonplace question across a
tea table.

"For the sake of argument, let us suppose one or two of your confederates
have not hoodwinked me so completely as you have done. You can understand
the possibility and appreciate the probable result."

"Do I look like a woman to be frightened by such a thin story?"
she asked.

"Certainly not. You are so reckless a person you have, no doubt, courage
to face any unpleasant consequence which may arise."

"I have wit enough to know that prevention is better than cure," she
returned. "Within an hour, Mr. Wigan, my confederates and all who could
possibly witness against me will be on board this yacht. How long some of
them will remain on board I have not yet decided."

She was evidently not afraid. Her plans must be very complete.

"As I cannot be allowed to live, a sketch of your career would interest
me. It would serve to pass the time."

"The past does not concern me, the future does," she answered. "You may
appreciate my general idea of making things safe. I fancy this yacht will
be cast away on a lonely spot on the French coast. I know the spot, and I
expect one or two persons will be drowned. That will be quite natural,
won't it? Should the accident chance to be heard of at Folkestone, it
will be surmised that I am drowned. Bodies do not always come ashore, you
know. One thing is quite certain; Mrs. Selborne and all trace of her will
have disappeared."

"It is rather a diabolical scheme," I said.

"I regret the necessity. I daresay you have sometimes done the same when
a victim of your cleverness has come to the gallows."

She got up and walked away from me, but she did not cease to watch me. I
wondered if she would fire should I venture to shout.

It was a long hour, but presently there came the distinct dip of oars. In
spite of my unenviable position I felt excited. I thought there were two
boats. Naturally there would be. The dinghy was small; crew and
confederates could not have got into it.

There was the rattle of oars in the rowlocks, then a man climbed on deck,
others coming quickly after him, and in that moment Mrs. Selborne swung
round and fired. The bullet struck the woodwork of the skylight close to
my head. I doubt if I shall ever be so near death again until my hour
actually sounds.

Her arm was struck up before she could fire again, and a familiar voice
was shouting:

"It's all right, Wigan. The lady completes the business. We have
got the lot."

Christopher Quarles had come aboard with the police, those in the dinghy
wearing the coats and caps the crew had worn, so that any one watching on
the yacht for their return might be deceived.

The prisoners were left in the hands of the police, and a motor took
Quarles and myself back to Folkestone. He told me the whole story before
we slept that night.

The lonely house on Romney Marsh had been bought by Wibley some months
ago in the name of Reynolds. He had let it be known that, after certain
alterations had been made, he was coming to live there, so it was natural
that a couple of men, looking like painters, should presently arrive and
be constantly about the place. If three or four men were seen there on

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