Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Vanished Messenger by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

or town of any importance nearer."

"Very well," Mr. Dunster decided. "I will accept your version of
the affair. I will, then, up to this point acknowledge myself your
debtor. But will you tell me why my dressing-case has been opened,
my clothes removed, and a pocket-book containing papers of great
importance to me has been tampered with?"

"My dear Mr. Dunster," his host repelled calmly, "you surely cannot
imagine that you are among thieves! Your dressing-case was opened
and the contents of your pocket-book inspected with a view to
ascertaining your address, or the names of some friends with whom
we might communicate."

"Am I to understand that they are to be restored to me, then?" Mr.
Dunster demanded.

"Without a doubt, yes!" Mr. Fentolin assured him. "You, however,
are not fit for anything, at the present moment, but to return to
your bed, from which I understand you rose rather suddenly a few
minutes ago."

"On the contrary," Mr. Dunster insisted, "I am feeling absolutely
well enough to travel. I have an appointment on the Continent of
great importance, as you may judge by the fact that at Liverpool
Street I chartered a special train. I trust that nothing in my
manner may have given you offence, but I am anxious to get through
with the business which brought me over to this side of the water.
I have sent for you to ask that my pocket-book, dressing-case, and
clothes be at once restored to me, and that I be provided with
the means of continuing my journey without a moment's further delay."

Mr. Fentolin shook his head very gently, very regretfully, but also

"Mr. Dunster," he pleaded, "do be reasonable. Think of all you have
been through. I can quite sympathise with you in your impatience,
but I am forced to tell you that the doctor who has been attending
you since the moment you were brought into this house has absolutely
forbidden anything of the sort."

Mr. Dunster seemed, for a moment, to struggle for composure.

"I am an American citizen," he declared. "I am willing to listen
to the advice of any physician, but so long as I take the risk, I
am not bound to follow it.

"In the present case I decline to follow it. I ask for facilities
to leave this house at once."

Mr. Fentolin sighed.

"In your own interests," he said calmly, "they will not be granted
to you."

Mr. Dunster had spoken all the time like a man struggling to
preserve his self-control. There were signs now that his will was
ceasing to serve him. His eyes flashed fire, his voice was raised.

"Will not be granted to me?" he repeated. "Do you mean to say,
then, that I am to be kept here against my will?"

Mr. Fentolin made no immediate reply. With the delicate fingers of
his right hand he pushed back the hair from his forehead. He looked
at his questioner soothingly, as one might look at a spoiled child.

"Against my will?" Mr. Dunster repeated, raising his voice still
higher. "Mr. Fentolin, if the truth must be told, I have heard of
you before and been warned against you. I decline to accept any
longer the hospitality of your roof. I insist upon leaving it.
If you will not provide me with any means of doing so, I will walk."

He made a motion as though to rise from the bed. Meekins' hand very
gently closed upon his arm. One could judge that the grip was like
a grip of iron.

"Dear me," Mr. Fentolin said, "this is really very unreasonable of
you! If you have heard of me, Mr. Dunster, you ought to understand
that notwithstanding my unfortunate physical trouble, I am a person
of consequence and position in this county. I am a magistrate,
ex-high sheriff, and a great land-owner here. I think I may say
without boasting that I represent one of the most ancient families
in this country. Why, therefore, should you treat me as though it
were to my interest to inveigle you under my roof and keep you there
for some guilty purpose? Cannot you understand that it is for your
own good I hesitate to part with you?"

"I understand nothing of the sort," Mr. Dunster exclaimed angrily.
"Let us bring this nonsense to an end. I want my clothes, and if
you won't lend me a car or a trap, I'll walk to the nearest railway

Mr. Fentolin shook his head.

"I am quite sure," he said, "that you are not in a position to
travel. Even in the dining-room just now I heard a disturbance for
which I was told that you were responsible."

"I simply insisted upon having my clothes," Mr. Dunster explained.
"Your servant refused to fetch them. Perhaps I lost my temper.
If so, I am sorry. I am not used to being thwarted."

"A few days' rest -" Mr. Fentolin began.

"A few days' rest be hanged!" Mr. Dunster interrupted fiercely.
"Listen, Mr. Fentolin," he added, with the air of one making a last
effort to preserve his temper, "the mission with which I am charged
is one of greater importance than you can imagine. So much depends
upon it that my own life, if that is in danger, would be a mere
trifle in comparison with the issues involved. If I am not allowed
to continue upon my journey at once, the consequences may be more
serious than I can tell you, to you and yours, to your own country.
There! - I am telling you a great deal, but I want you to understand
that I am in earnest. I have a mission which I must perform, and
which I must perform quickly."

"You are very mysterious," Mr. Fentolin murmured.

"I will leave nothing to chance," Mr. Dunster continued. "Send
this man who seems to have constituted himself my jailer out of
earshot, and I will tell you even more."

Mr. Fentolin turned to Meekins.

"You can leave the room for a moment," he ordered. "Wait upon the

Meekins very unwillingly turned to obey.

"You will excuse me, sir," he objected doubtfully, "but I am not at
all sure that he is safe."

Mr. Fentolin smiled faintly.

"You need have no fear, Meekins," he declared. "I am quite sure
that you are mistaken. I think that Mr. Dunster is incapable of
any act of violence towards a person in my unfortunate position.
I am willing to trust myself with him - perfectly willing, Meekins."

Meekins, with ponderous footsteps, left the room and closed the door
behind him. Mr. Fentolin leaned a little forward in his chair. It
seemed as though he were on springs. The fingers of his right hand
had disappeared in the pocket of his black velvet dinner-coat. He
was certainly prepared for all emergencies.

"Now, Mr. Dunster," he said softly, "you can speak to me without

Mr. Dunster dropped his voice. His tone became one of fierce

"Look here," he exclaimed, "I don't think you ought to force me to
give myself away like this, but, after all, you are an Englishman,
with a stake in your country, and I presume you don't want her to
take a back seat for the next few generations. Listen here. It's
to save your country that I want to get to The Hague without a
second's delay. I tell you that if I don't get there, if the message
I convey doesn't reach its destination, you may find an agreement
signed between certain Powers which will mean the greatest diplomatic
humiliation which Great Britain has ever known. Aye, and more than
that!" Mr. Dunster continued. "It may be that the bogey you've been
setting before yourself for all these years may trot out into life,
and you may find St. David's Hall a barrack for German soldiers
before many months have passed."

Mr. Fentolin shook his head in gentle disbelief.

"You are speaking to one," he declared, "who knows more of the
political situation than you imagine. In my younger days I was in
the Foreign Office. Since my unfortunate accident I have preserved
the keenest interest in politics. I tell you frankly that I do not
believe you. As the Powers are grouped at present, I do not believe
in the possibility of a successful invasion of this country."

"Perhaps not," Mr. Dunster replied eagerly, "but the grouping of
the Powers as it has existed during the last few years is on the
eve of a great change. I cannot take you wholly into my confidence.
I can only give you my word of honour as a friend to your country
that the message I carry is her only salvation. Having told you as
much as that, I do not think I am asking too much if I ask you for
my clothes and dressing-case, and for the fastest motor-car you can
furnish me with. I guess I can get from here to Yarmouth, and from
there I can charter something which will take me to the other side."

Mr. Fentolin raised the little gold whistle to his lips and blew it
very softly. Meekins at once entered, closing the door behind him.
He moved silently to the side of the man who had risen now from the
bed, and who was standing with his hand grasping the post and his
eyes fixed upon Mr. Fentolin, as though awaiting his answer.

"Our conversation," the latter said calmly, "has reached a point,
Mr. Dunster, at which I think we may leave it for the moment. You
have told me some very surprising things. I perceive that you are
a more interesting visitor even than I had thought."

He raised his left hand, and Meekins, who seemed to have been
waiting for some signal of the sort, suddenly, with a movement of
his knee and right arm, flung Dunster hack upon the bed. The man
opened his mouth to shout, but already, with lightning-like
dexterity, his assailant had inserted a gag between his teeth.
Treating his struggles as the struggles of a baby, Meekins next
proceeded to secure his wrists with handcuffs. He then held his
feet together while he quietly wound a coil of cord around them.
Mr. Fentolin watched the proceedings from his chair with an air of
pleased and critical interest.

"Very well done, Meekins - very neatly done, indeed!" he exclaimed.
"As I was saying, Mr. Dunster," he continued, turning his chair,
"our conversation has reached a point at which I think we may
safely leave it for a time. We will discuss these matters again.
Your pretext of a political mission is, of course, an absurd one,
but fortunately you have fallen into good hands. Take good care of
Mr. Dunster, Meekins. I can see that he is a very important
personage. We must be careful not to lose sight of him."

Mr. Fentolin steered his chair to the door, opened it, and passed
out. On the landing he blew his whistle; the lift almost immediately
ascended. A moment or two later he glided into the dining-room. The
three men were still seated around the table. A decanter of wine,
almost empty, was before Doctor Sarson, whose pallid cheeks, however,
were as yet unflushed.

"At last, my dear guest," Mr. Fentolin exclaimed, turning to Hamel,
"I am able to return to you. If you will drink no more wine, let
us have our coffee in the library, you and I. I want to talk to
you about the Tower."


Mr. Fentolin led the way to a delightful little corner of his
library, where before the open grate, recently piled with hissing
logs, an easy chair had been drawn. He wheeled himself up to the
other side of the hearthrug and leaned back with a little air of
exhaustion. The butler, who seemed to have appeared unsummoned
from somewhere among the shadows, served coffee and poured some
old brandy into large and wonderfully thin glasses.

"Why my house should be turned into an asylum to gratify the
hospitable instincts of my young nephew, I cannot imagine," Mr.
Fentolin grumbled. "A most extraordinary person, our visitor,
I can assure you. Quite violent, too, he was at first."

"Have you had any outside advice about his condition?" Hamel

Mr. Fentolin glanced across those few feet of space and looked at
Hamel with swift suspicion.

"Why should I?" he asked. "Doctor Sarson is fully qualified, and
the case seems to present no unusual characteristics."

Hamel sipped his brandy thoughtfully.

"I don't know why I suggested it," he admitted. "I only thought
that an outside doctor might help you to get rid of the fellow."

Mr. Fentolin shrugged his shoulders.

"After all," he said, "the matter is of no real consequence. Doctor
Sarson assures me that we shall be able to send him on his way very
shortly. In the meantime, Mr. Hamel, what about the Tower?"

"What about it?" Hamel asked, selecting a cigar from the box which
had been pushed to his side. "I am sure I haven't any wish to
inconvenience you."

"I will be quite frank," Mr. Fentolin declared. "I do not dispute
your right for a moment. On the other hand, my few hours daily down
there have become a habit with me. I do not wish to give them up.
Stay here with us, Mr. Hamel. You will be doing us a great kindness.
My nephew and niece have too little congenial society. Make up your
mind to give us a fortnight of your time, and I can assure you that
we will do our best to make yours a pleasant stay."

Hamel was a little taken aback.

"Mr. Fentolin," he said, "I couldn't think of accepting your
hospitality to such an extent. My idea in coming here was simply
to fulfil an old promise to my father and to rough it at the Tower
for a week or so, and when that was over, I don't suppose I should
ever be likely to come back again. You had better let me carry out
that plan, and afterwards the place shall be entirely at your

"You don't quite understand," Mr. Fentolin persisted, a little
irritably. "I sit there every morning. I want, for instance, to
be there to-morrow morning, and the next morning, and the morning
afterwards, to finish a little seascape I have commenced. Nowhere
else will do. Call it a whim or what you will I have begun the
picture, and I want to finish it."

"Well, you can sit there all right," Hamel assured him. "I shall
be out playing golf or fishing. I shall do nothing but sleep there."

"And very uncomfortable you will be," Mr. Fentolin pointed out.
"You have no servant, I understand, and there is no one in the
village fit to look after you. Think of my thirty-nine empty rooms,
my books here, my gardens, my motor-cars, my young people, entirely
at your service. You can have a suite to yourself. You can
disappear when you like. To all effects and purposes you will be
the master of St. David's Hall. Be reasonable. Don't you think,
now, that you can spend a fortnight more pleasantly under such
circumstances than by playing the misanthrope down at the Tower?"

"Please don't think," Hamel begged, "that I don't appreciate your
hospitality. I should feel uncomfortable, however, if I paid you
a visit of the length you have suggested. Come, I don't see," he
added, "why my occupation of the Tower should interfere with you.
I should be away from it by about nine or ten o'clock every morning.
I should probably only sleep there. Can't you accept the use of
it all the rest of the time? I can assure you that you will be
welcome to come and go as though it were entirely your own."

Mr. Fentolin had lit a cigarette and was watching the blue smoke
curl upwards to the ceiling.

"You're an obstinate man, Mr. Hamel," he sighed, "but I suppose
you must have your own way. By-the-by, you would only need to use
the up-stairs room and the sitting-room. You will not need the
outhouse - rather more than an outhouse, though isn't it? I mean
the shed which leads out from the kitchen, where the lifeboat used
to be kept?"

"I don't think I shall need that," Hamel admitted, a little

"To tell you the truth," Mr. Fentolin continued, "among my other
hobbies I have done a little inventing. I work sometimes at a
model there. It is foolish, perhaps, but I wish no one to see it.
Do you mind if I keep the keys of the place?"

"Not in the least," Hamel replied. "Tell me, what direction do your
inventions take, Mr. Fentolin?

"Before you go," Mr. Fentolin promised, "I will show you my little
model at work. Until then we will not talk of it. Now come, be
frank with me. Shall we exchange ideas for a little time? Will you
talk of books? They are my daily friends. I have thousands of them,
beloved companions on every side. Or will you talk of politics or
travel? Or would you rather be frivolous with my niece and nephew?
That, I think, is Esther playing."

"To be quite frank," Hamel declared bluntly, "I should like to talk
to your niece."

Mr. Fentolin smiled as though amused. His amusement, however,
was perfectly good-natured.

"If you will open this door," he said, "you will see another one
exactly opposite to you. That is the drawing-room. You will find
Esther there. Before you go, will you pass me the Quarterly Review?
Thank you."

Hamel crossed the hail, opened the door of the room to which he
had been directed, and made his way towards the piano. Esther was
there, playing softly to herself with eyes half closed. He came
and stood by her side, and she stopped abruptly. Her eyes
questioned him. Then her fingers stole once more over the keys,
more softly still.

"I have just left your uncle," Hamel said. "He told me that I might
come in here."

"Yes?" she murmured.

"He was very hospitable," Hamel continued. "He wanted me to remain
here as a guest and not go to the Tower at all."

"And you?"

"I am going to the Tower," he said. "I am going there to-morrow
or the day after."

The music swelled beneath her fingers.

"For how long?"

"For a week or so. I am just giving your uncle time to clear out
his belongings. I am leaving him the outhouse."

"He asked you to leave him that?" she whispered.


"You are not going in there at all?"

"Not at all."

Again she played a little more loudly for a few moments. Then the
music died away once more.

"What reason did he give for keeping possession of that?"

"Another bobby," Hamel replied. "He is an inventor, it seems. He
has the model of something there; he would not tell me what."

She shivered a little, and her music drifted away. She bent over
the keys, her face hidden from him.

"You will not go away just yet?" she asked softly. "You are going
to stay for a few days, at any rate?"

"Without a doubt," he assured her. "I am altogether my own master."

"Thank God," she murmured.

He leaned with his elbow against the top of the piano, looking down
at her. Since dinnertime she had fastened a large red rose in the
front of her gown.

"Do you know that this is all rather mysterious?" he said calmly.

"'What is mysterious?" she demanded.

"The atmosphere of the place: your uncle's queer aversion to my
having the Tower; your visitor up-stairs, who fights with the
servants while we are at dinner; your uncle himself, whose will
seems to be law not only to you but to your brother, who must be
of age, I should think, and who seems to have plenty of spirit."

"We live here, both of us," she told him. "He is our guardian."

"Naturally," Hamel replied, "and yet, it may have been my fancy, of
course, but at dinnertime I seemed to get a queer impression.

"Tell it me?" she insisted, her fingers breaking suddenly into a
livelier melody. "Tell it me at once? You were there all the time.
I could see you watching. Tell me what you thought?"

She had turned her head now, and her eyes were fixed upon his. They
were large and soft, capable, he knew, of infinite expression. Yet
at that moment the light that shone from them was simply one of fear,
half curious, half shrinking.

"My impression," he said, "was that both of you disliked and feared
Mr. Fentolin, yet for some reason or other that you were his abject

Her fingers seemed suddenly inspired with diabolical strength and
energy. Strange chords crashed and broke beneath them. She played
some unfamiliar music with tense and fierce energy. Suddenly she
paused and rose to her feet.

"Come out on to the terrace," she invited. "You are not afraid of

He followed her without a word. She opened the French windows, and
they stepped out on to the long, broad stone promenade. The night
was dark, and there was little to be seen. The light was burning
at the entrance to the waterway; a few lights were twinkling from
the village. The soft moaning of the sea was distinctly audible.
She moved to the edge of the palisading. He followed her closely.

"You are right, Mr. Hamel," she said. "I think that I am more
afraid of him than any woman ever was of any man in this world."

"Then why do you live here?" he protested. "You must have other
relations to whom you could go. And your brother - why doesn't
he do something - go into one of the professions? He could surely
leave easily enough?"

"I will tell you a secret," she answered calmly. "Perhaps it will
help you to understand. You know my uncle's condition. You know
that it was the result of an accident?"

"I have heard so," he replied gravely.

She clutched at his arm.

"Come," she said.

Side by side they walked the entire length of the terrace. When
they reached the corner, they were met with a fierce gust of wind.
She battled along, and he followed her. They were looking inland
now. There were no lights visible - nothing but dark, chaotic
emptiness. From somewhere below him he could hear the wind in the

"This way," she directed. "Be careful."

They walked to the very edge of the palisading. It was scarcely
more than a couple of feet high. She pointed downwards.

"Can you see?" she whispered.

By degrees his eyes faintly penetrated the darkness. It was as
though they were looking down a precipice. The descent was perfectly
sheer for nearly a hundred feet. At the bottom were the pine trees.

"Come here again in the morning," she whispered. "You will see then.
I brought you here to show you the place. It was here that the
accident happened."

"What accident?"

"Mr. Fentolin's," she continued. "It was here that he went over.
He was picked up with both his legs broken. They never thought that
he would live."

Hamel shivered a little. As his eyes grew accustomed to the
darkness, he saw more distinctly than ever the sheer fall, the tops
of the bending trees below.

"What a horrible thing!" he exclaimed.

"It was more horrible than you know," she continued, dropping her
voice a little, almost whispering in his ear. "I do not know why
I tell you this - you, a stranger - but if I do not tell some one,
I think that the memory of it will drive me mad. It was no accident
at all. Mr. Fentolin was thrown over!"

"By whom?" he asked.

She clung to his arm for a moment.

"Ah, don't ask me!" she begged. "No one knows. My uncle gave out,
as soon as he was conscious, that it was an accident."

"That, at any rate, was fine of him," Hamel declared.

She shivered.

"He was proud, at least, of our family name. Whatever credit he
deserves for it, he must have. It was owing to that accident that
we became his slaves: nothing but that - his absolute slaves, to
wait upon him, if he would, hand and foot. You see, he has never
been able to marry. His life was, of course, ruined. So the burden
came to us. We took it up, little thinking what was in store for us.
Five years ago we came here to live. Gerald wanted to go into the
army; I wanted to travel with my mother. Gerald has done all the
work secretly, but he has never been allowed to pass his examinations.
I have never left England except to spend two years at the strictest
boarding-school in Paris, to which I was taken and fetched away by
one of his creatures. We live here, with the shadow of this thing
always with us. We are his puppets. If we hesitate to do his
bidding, he reminds us. So far, we have been his creatures, body
and soul. Whether it will go on, I cannot say - oh, I cannot say!
It is bad for us, but - there is mother, too. He makes her life a
perfect hell!"

A roar of wind came booming once more across the marshes, bending
the trees which grew so thickly beneath them and which ascended
precipitately to the back of the house. The French windows behind
rattled. She looked around nervously.

"I am afraid of him all the time," she murmured. "He seems to
overhear everything - he or his creatures. Listen!"

They were silent for several moments. He whispered in her ear so
closely that through the darkness he could, see the fire in her

"You are telling me half," he said. "Tell me everything. Who
threw your uncle over the parapet?"

She stood by his side, motionless and trembling.

"It was the passion of a moment," she said at last, speaking
hoarsely. "I cannot tell you. Listen! Listen!"

"There is no one near," Hamel assured her. "It is the wind which
shakes the windows. I wish that you would tell me everything. I
would like to be your friend. Believe me, I have that desire,
really. There are so many things which I do not understand. That
it is dull here for you, of course, is natural, but there is
something more than that. You seem always to fear something. Your
uncle is a selfish man, naturally, although to look at him he seems
to have the disposition of an angel. But beyond that, is there
anything of which you are afraid? You seem all the time to live
in fear."

She suddenly clutched his hand. There was nothing of affection in
her touch, and yet he felt a thrill of delight.

"There are strange things which happen here," she whispered, "things
which neither Gerald nor I understand. Yet they terrify us. I
think that very soon the end will come. Neither of us can stand
it very much longer. We have no friends. Somehow or other, he
seems to manage to keep us always isolated."

"I shall not go away from here," Hamel said firmly, "at present.
Mind, I am not at all sure that, living this solitary life as you
do, you have not become a little over-nervous; that you have not
exaggerated the fear of some things. To me your uncle seems
merely quixotic and egregiously selfish. However that may be, I
am going to remain." She clutched once, more at his arm, her
finger was upraised. They listened together. From somewhere
behind them came the clear, low wailing of a Violin.

"It is Mr. Fentolin," she whispered. "Please come in; let us go
in at once. He only plays when he is excited. I am afraid! Oh,
I am afraid that something is going to happen!"

She was already round the corner and on her way to the main terrace.
He followed her closely.


"Let us follow the example of all great golfers," Hamel said. "Let
us for this morning, at any rate, imagine that your whole world is
encompassed within these eighteen holes. We have been sent here in
a moment of good humour by your tyrant uncle. The sun shines, and
the wind is from the west. Why not?"

"That is all very well for you," she retorted, smiling, "but I have
topped my drive."

"Purely an incident," he assured her. "The vicissitudes of the game
do not enter into the question. I have driven a ball far above my
usual form, but I am not gloating over it. I prefer to remember
only that I am going to spend the next two hours with you."

She played her shot, and they walked for a little way together.
She was suddenly silent.

"Do you know," she said finally, just a little gravely, "I am not
at all used to speeches of this sort."

"Then you ought to be," he declared. "Nothing but the lonely life
you have been living has kept you from hearing them continually."

She laughed a little at the impotence of her rebuff and paused for
a moment to make her next shot. Hamel, standing a little on one
side, watched her appraisingly. Her short, grey tweed skirt was
obviously the handiwork of an accomplished tailor. Her grey
stockings and suede shoes were immaculate and showed a care for her
appearance which pleased him. Her swing, too, revealed a grace,
the grace of long arms and a supple body, at which previously he
had only guessed. The sunshine seemed to have brought out a copper
tinge from her abundant brown hair.

"Do you know," he remarked, "I think I am beginning to like your
uncle. Great idea of his, sending us off here directly after

Her face darkened for a moment, and he realised his error. The
same thought, indeed, had been in both their minds. Mr. Fentolin's
courteous suggestion had been offered to them almost in the shape
of a command. It was scarcely possible to escape from the
reflection that he had desired to rid himself of their presence for
the morning.

"Of course," he went on, "I knew that these links were good - quite
famous, aren't they?"

"I have played on so few others," she told him. "I learned my golf
here with King, the professional."

He took off his cap and handed it to his caddy. He himself was
beginning already to look younger. The long blue waves came
rippling up the creeks. The salt wind, soft with sunshine, blew
in their faces. The marshes on the landward side were mauve with
lavender blossom. In the distance, the red-tiled cottages nestled
deep among a background of green trees and rising fields.

"This indeed is a land of peace," he declared. "If I hadn't to
give you quite so many strokes, I should be really enjoying myself."

"You don't play like a man who has been living abroad for a great
many years," she remarked. "Tell me about some of the places you
have visited?"

"Don't let us talk seriously," he begged. "I'll tell you of them
but let it be later on. This morning I feel that the spring air
is getting into my head. I have an absurd desire to talk nonsense."

"So far," she admitted, "you haven't been altogether unsuccessful."

"If you are alluding," he replied, "to the personal remarks I was
emboldened to make on my way here, I can only say that they were
excused by their truthfulness."

"I am not at all sure that you have known me long enough to tell
me what colours suit me," she demurred.

"Then what will you say," he enquired, "if I admire the angle of
that quill in your hat?"

"Don't do it," she laughed. "If you continue like this, I may have
to go home."

"You have sent the car away," he reminded her cheerfully. "You
would simply have to sit upon the balcony and reflect upon your
wasted morning."

"I decline to talk upon the putting green," she said. "It puts me
off. If you will stand perfectly quiet and say nothing, I will
play the like."

They moved off presently to the next teeing ground.

"I don't believe this nonsense is good for our golf," she said.

"It is immensely good for us as human beings," he protested.

They had played the ninth hole and turned for home. On their right
now was a shimmering stretch of wet sand and a thin line of sea, in
the distance. The tide, receding, had left little islands of virgin
sand, grass tufted, the home of countless sea-gulls. A brown-sailed
fishing boat was racing for the narrow entrance to the tidal way.

"I am beginning to understand what there is about this coast which
fascinated my father so," he remarked.

"Are you?" she answered gravely. "Years ago I used to love it, but
not now."

He tried to change the subject, but the gloom had settled upon her
face once more.

"You don't know what it is like," she went on, as they walked side
by side after their balls, "to live day and night in fear, with no
one to talk to - no one, that is to say, who is not under the same
shadow. Even the voices of the wind and the sea, and the screaming
of the birds, seem to bring always an evil message. There is
nothing kindly or hopeful even in the sunshine. At night, when the
tide comes thundering in as it does so often at this time of the
year, one is afraid. There is so much to make one afraid!"

She had turned pale again, notwithstanding the sunshine and the
freshening wind. He laid his hand lightly upon her arm. She
suffered his touch without appearing to notice it.

"Ah, you mustn't talk like that!" he pleaded. "Do you know what
you make me feel like?"

She came back from the world of her own unhappy imaginings.

"Really, I forgot myself," she declared, with a little smile.
"Never mind, it does one good sometimes. One up, are you?
Henceforth, then, golf - all the rigour of the game, mind."

He fell in with her mood, and their conversation touched only upon
the game. On the last green he suffered defeat and acknowledged
it with a little grimace.

"If I might say so, Miss Fentolin," he protested, "you are a little
too good for your handicap. I used to play a very reasonable
scratch myself, but I can't give you the strokes."

She smiled.

"Doubtless your long absence abroad," she began slowly, "has
affected your game."

"I was round in eighty-one," he grumbled.

"You must have travelled in many countries," she continued, "where
golf was an impossibility."

"Naturally," he admitted. "Let us stay and have lunch and try

She shook her head with a little sigh of regret.

"You see, the car is waiting," she pointed out. "We are expected
home. I shan't be a minute putting my clubs away."

They sped swiftly along the level road towards St. David's Hall.
Far in the distance they saw it, built upon that strange hill,
with the sunlight flashing in its windows. He looked at it long
and curiously.

"I think," he said, "that yours is the most extraordinarily
situated house I have ever seen. Fancy a gigantic mound like that
in the midst of an absolutely flat marsh."

She nodded.

"There is no other house quite like it in England," she said. "I
suppose it is really a wonderful place. Have you looked at the

"Not carefully," he told her.

"You must before you leave," she insisted. "Mr. Fentolin is a great
judge, and so was his father."

Their road curved a little to the sea, and at its last bend they
were close to the pebbly ridge on which the Tower was built. He
touched the electric bell and stopped the car.

"Do let us walk along and have a look at my queer possession once
more," he begged. "Luncheon, you told me, is not till half-past
one, and it is a quarter to now."

She hesitated for a moment and then assented. They left the car
and walked along the little track, bordered with white posts, which
led on to the ridge. To their right was the village, separated
from them only by one level stretch of meadowland; in the background,
the hall. They turned along the raised dike just inside the pebbly
beach, and she showed her companion the narrow waterway up to the
village. At its entrance was a tall iron upright, with a ladder
attached and a great lamp at the top.

"That is to show them the way in at night, isn't it?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Yes," she told him. "Mr. Fentolin had it placed there. And yet,"
she went on, "curiously enough, since it was erected, there have
been more wrecks than ever."

"It doesn't seem a dangerous beach," he remarked.

She pointed to a spot about fifty yards from the Tower. It was the
spot to which the woman whom he had met on the day of his arrival
had pointed.

"You can't see them," she said; "they are always out of sight, even
when the tide is at the lowest - but there are some hideous sunken
rocks there. 'The Daggers,' they call them. One or two fishing
boats have been lost on them, trying to make the village. When Mr.
Fentolin put up the lamp, every one thought that it would be quite
safe to try and get in at night. This winter, though, there have
been three wrecks which no one could understand. It must be
something in the currents, or a sort of optical illusion, because
in the last shipwreck one man was saved, and he swore that at the
time they struck the rock, they were headed straight for the light."

They had reached the Tower now. Hamel became a little absorbed.
They walked around it, and he tried the front door. He found, as
he had expected, that it opened readily. He looked around him for
several moments.

"Your uncle has been here this morning," he remarked quietly.

"Very likely."

"That outhouse," he continued, "must be quite a large place. Have
you any idea what it is he works upon there?"

"None," she answered.

He looked around him once more.

"Mr. Fentolin has been preparing for my coming," he observed. "I
see that he has moved a few of his personal things."

She made no reply, only she shivered a little as she stepped back
into the sunshine.

"I don't believe you like my little domicile," he remarked, as they
started off homeward.

"I don't," she admitted curtly.

"In the train," he reminded her, "you seemed rather to discourage
my coming here. Yet last night, after dinner -"

"I was wrong," she interrupted. "I should have said nothing, and
yet I couldn't help it. I don't suppose it will make any difference."

"Make any difference to what?"

"I cannot tell you," she confessed. "Only I have a strange antipathy
to the place. I don't like it. My uncle sometimes shuts himself up
here for quite a long time. We have an idea, Gerald and I, that
things happen here sometimes which no one knows of. When he comes
back, he is moody and ill-tempered, or else half mad with excitement.
He isn't always the amiable creature whom you have met. He has the
face of an angel, but there are times -"

"Well, don't let's talk about him," Hamel begged, as her voice
faltered. "Now that I am going to stay in the neighbourhood for a
few days, you must please remember that it is partly your
responsibility. You are not going to shut yourself up, are you?
You'll come and play golf again?"

"If he will let me," she promised.

"I think he will let you, right enough," Hamel observed. "Between
you and me, I rather think he hates having me down at the Tower at
all. He will encourage anything that takes me away, even as far as
the Golf Club."

They were approaching the Hall now. She was looking once more as
she had looked last night. She had lost her colour, her walk was
no longer buoyant. She had the air of a prisoner who, after a brief
spell of liberty, enters once more the place of his confinement.
Gerald came out to meet them as they climbed the stone steps which
led on to the terrace. He glanced behind as he greeted them, and
then almost stealthily took a telegram from his pocket.

"This came for you," he remarked, handing it to Hamel. "I met the
boy bringing it out of the office."

Hamel tore it open, with a word of thanks. Gerald stood in front
of him as he read.

"If you wouldn't mind putting it away at once," he asked, a little
uncomfortably. "You see, the telegraph office is in the place, and
my uncle has a queer rule that every telegram is brought to him
before it is delivered."

Hamel did not speak for a moment. He was looking at the few words
scrawled across the pink sheet with a heavy black pencil:

"Make every enquiry in your neighbourhood
for an American, John P. Dunster, entrusted
with message of great importance, addressed to
Von Dusenberg, The Hague. Is believed to
have been in railway accident near Wymondham
and to have been taken from inn by young man
in motor-car. Suggest that he is being im-
properly detained."

Hamel crumpled up the telegram and thrust it into his pocket.

"By-the-by," he asked, as they ascended the steps, "what did you
say the name of this poor fellow was who is lying ill up-stairs?"

Gerald hesitated for a moment. Then he answered as though a species
of recklessness had seized him.

"He called himself Mr. John P. Dunster."


Mr. Fentolin, having succeeded in getting rid of his niece and his
somewhat embarrassing guest for at least two hours, was seated in
his study, planning out a somewhat strenuous morning, when his
privacy was invaded by Doctor Sarson.

"Our guest," the latter announced, in his usual cold and measured
tones, "has sent me to request that you will favour him with an

Mr. Fentolin laid his pen deliberately down.

"So soon," he murmured. "Very well, Sarson, I am at his service.
Say that I will come at once."

Mr. Fentolin lost no time in paying this suggested visit. Mr. John
P. Dunster, shaved and clothed, was seated in an easy-chair drawn
up to the window of his room, smoking what he was forced to confess
was a very excellent cigar. He turned his head as the door opened,
and Mr. Fentolin waved his hand pleasantly.

"Really," he declared, "this is most agreeable. I had an idea, Mr.
Dunster, that I should find you a reasonable person. Men of your
eminence in their profession usually are."

Mr. Dunster looked at the speaker curiously.

"And what might my profession be, Mr. Fentolin?" he asked. "You
seem to know a great deal about me."

"It is true," Mr. Fentolin admitted. "I do know a great deal."

Mr. Dunster knocked the ash from his cigar.

"Well," he said, "I have been the hearer of several important
communications from my side of the Atlantic to England and to the
Continent, and I have always known that there was a certain amount
of risk in the business. Once I had an exceedingly narrow shave,"
he continued reminiscently, "but this is the first time I have ever
been dead up against it, and I don't mind confessing that you've
fairly got me puzzled. Who the mischief are you, Mr. Fentolin,
and what are you interfering about?"

Mr. Fentolin smiled queerly.

"I am what you see," he replied. "I am one of those unfortunate
human beings who, by reason of their physical misfortunes, are cut
off from the world of actual life. I have been compelled to seek
distraction in strange quarters. I have wealth - great wealth I
suppose I should say; an inordinate curiosity, a talent for intrigue.
As to the direction in which I carry on my intrigues, or even as to
the direct interests which I study, that is a matter, Mr. Dunster,
upon which I shall not gratify your curiosity nor anybody else's.
But, you see, I am admitting freely that it does interest me to
interfere in great affairs."

"But how on earth did you get to know about me," Mr. Dunster asked,
"and my errand? You couldn't possibly have got me here in an
ordinary way. It was an entire fluke."

"There, you speak with some show of reason. I have a nephew whom
you have met, who is devoted to me."

"Mr. Gerald Fentolin," Mr. Dunster remarked drily.

"Precisely," Mr. Fentolin declared. "Well, I admit frankly the
truth of what you say. Your - shall we say capture, was by way of
being a gigantic fluke. My nephew's instructions simply were to
travel down by the train to Harwich with you, to endeavour to make
your acquaintance, to follow you on to your destination, and, if
any chance to do so occurred, to relieve you of your pocket-book.
That, however, I never ventured to expect. What really happened
was, as you have yourself suggested, almost in the nature of a
miracle. My nephew showed himself to be possessed of gifts which
were a revelation to me. He not only succeeded in travelling with
you by the special train, but after its wreck he was clever enough
to bring you here, instead of delivering you over to the mercies
of a village doctor. I really cannot find words to express my
appreciation of my nephew's conduct."

"I could," Mr. Dunster muttered, "very easily!"

Mr. Fentolin sighed gently.

"Perhaps our points of view might differ."

"We have spent a very agreeable few minutes in explanations," Mr.
Dunster continued. "Would it be asking too much if I now suggest
that we remove the buttons from our foils?"

"Why not?" Mr. Fentolin assented smoothly. "Your first question
to yourself, under these circumstances, would naturally be: 'What
does Mr. Fentolin want with me?' I will answer that question for
you. All that I ask - it is really very little - is the word
agreed upon."

Mr. Dunster held his cigar a little way off and looked steadfastly
at his host for a moment. "So you have interpreted my cipher?"

Mr. Fentolin spread out the palms of his hands in a delicate gesture.

"My dear Mr. Dunster," he said, "one of the simplest, I think, that
was ever strung together. I am somewhat of an authority upon

"I gather," Mr. Dunster went on, although his cigar was burning
itself out, "that you have broken the seal of my dispatches?"

Mr. Fentolin closed his eyes as though he had heard a discord.

"Nothing so clumsy as that, I hope," he murmured gently. "I will
not insult a person of your experience and intelligence by
enumerating the various ways in which the seal of a dispatch may
be liquefied. It is quite true that I have read with much pleasure
the letter which you are carrying from a certain group of very
distinguished men to a certain person now in The Hague. The letter,
however, is replaced in its envelope; the seal is still there. You
need have no fears whatever concerning it. All that I require is
that one word from you."

"And if I give you that one word?" Mr. Dunster asked.

"If you give it me, as I think you will," Mr. Fentolin replied
suavely, "I shall then telegraph to my agent, or rather I should
say to a dear friend of mine who lives at The Hague, and that
single word will be cabled by him from The Hague to New York."

"And in that case," Mr. Dunster enquired, "what would become of me?"

"You would give us the great pleasure of your company here for a
very brief visit," Mr. Fentolin answered. "We should, I can assure
you, do our very best to entertain you."

"And the dispatch which I am carrying to The Hague?"

"Would remain here with you."

Mr. Dunster knocked the ash from his cigar. Without being a man
of great parts, he was a shrewd person, possessed of an abundant
stock of common sense. He applied himself, for a few moments, to
a consideration of this affair, without arriving at any satisfactory

"Come, Mr. Fentolin," he said at last, "you must really forgive me,
but I can't see what you're driving at. You are an Englishman, are
you not?"

"I am an Englishman," Mr. Fentolin confessed "or rather," he added,
with ghastly humour, "I am half an Englishman."

"You are, I am sure," Mr. Dunster continued, "a person of
intelligence, a well-read person, a person of perceptions. Surely
you can see and appreciate the danger with which your country is

"With regard to political affairs," Mr. Fentolin admitted, "I
consider myself unusually well posted - in fact, the study of the
diplomatic methods of the various great Powers is rather a hobby
of mine."

"Yet," Mr. Dunster persisted, "you do not wish this letter delivered
to that little conference in The Hague, which you must be aware is
now sitting practically to determine the fate of your nation?"

"I do not wish," Mr. Fentolin replied, "I do not intend, that that
letter shall be delivered. Why do you worry about my point of view?
I may have a dozen reasons. I may believe that it will be good for
my country to suffer a little chastisement."

"Or you may," Mr. Dunster suggested, glancing keenly at his host,
"be the paid agent of some foreign Power."

Mr. Fentolin shook his head.

"My means," he pointed out, "should place me above such suspicion.
My income, I really believe, is rather more than fifty thousand
pounds a year. I should not enter into these adventures, which
naturally are not entirely dissociated from a certain amount of risk,
for the purposes of financial gain."

Mr. Dunster was still mystified.

"Granted that you do so from pure love of adventure," he declared,
"I still cannot see why you should range yourself on the side of
your country's enemies.

"In time," Mr. Fentolin observed, "even that may become clear to
you. At present, well - just that word, if you please?"

Mr. Dunster shook his head.

"No," he decided, "I do not think so. I cannot make up my mind to
tell you that word."

Mr. Fentolin gave no sign of annoyance or even disappointment. He
simply sighed. His eyes were full of a gentle sympathy, his face
indicated a certain amount of concern.

"You distress me," he declared. "Perhaps it is my fault. I have
not made myself sufficiently clear. The knowledge of that word is
a necessity to me. Without it I cannot complete my plans. Without
it I very much fear, dear Mr. Dunster, that your sojourn among us
may be longer than you have any idea of."

Mr. Dunster laughed a little derisively.

"We've passed those days," he remarked. "I've done my best to enter
into the humour of this situation, but there are limits. You can't
keep prisoners in English country houses, nowadays. There are a
dozen ways of communicating with the outside world, and when that's
once done, it seems to me that the position of Squire Fentolin of
St. David's Hall might be a little peculiar."

Mr. Fentolin smiled, very slightly, still very blandly.

"Alas, my stalwart friend, I fear that you are by nature an optimist!
I am not a betting man, but I am prepared to bet you a hundred pounds
to one that you have made your last communication with the outside
world until I say the word."

Mr. Dunster was obviously plentifully supplied with either courage
or bravado, for he only laughed.

"Then you had better make up your mind at once, Mr. Fentolin, how
soon that word is to be spoken, or you may lose your money," he

Mr. Fentolin sat very quietly in his chair.

"You mean, then," he asked, "that you do not intend to humour me in
this little matter?"

"I do not intend," Mr. Dunster assured him, "to part with that word
to you or to any one else in the the world. When my message has
been presented to the person to whom it has been addressed, when my
trust is discharged, then and then only shall I send that cablegram.
That moment can only arrive at the end of my journey."

Mr. Fentolin leaned now a little forward in his chair. His face
was still smooth and expressionless, but there was a queer sort of
meaning in his words.

"The end of your journey," he said grimly, "may be nearer than you

"If I am not heard of in The Hague to-morrow at the latest," Mr.
Dunster pointed out, "remember that before many more hours have
passed, I shall be searched for, even to the far corners of the

"Let me assure you," Mr. Fentolin promised serenely, "that though
your friends search for you up in the skies or down in the bowels
of the earth, they will not find you. My hiding-places are not as
other people's."

Mr. Dunster beat lightly with his square, blunt forefinger upon the
table which stood by his side.

"That's not the sort of talk I understand," he declared curtly.
"Let us understand one another, if we can. What is to happen to me,
if I refuse to give you that word?"

Mr. Fentolin held his hand in front of his eyes, as though to shut
out some unwelcome vision.

"Dear me," he exclaimed, "how unpleasant! Why should you force me
to disclose my plans? Be content, dear Mr. Dunster, with the
knowledge of this one fact: we cannot part with you. I have thought
it over from every point of view, and I have come to that conclusion;
always presuming," he went on, "that the knowledge of that little
word of which we have spoken remains in its secret chamber of your

Mr. Dunster smoked in silence for a few minutes.

"I am very comfortable here," he remarked.

"You delight me," Mr. Fentolin murmured.

"Your cook," Mr. Dunster continued, "has won my heartfelt
appreciation. Your cigars and wines are fit for any nobleman.
Perhaps, after all, this little rest is good for me."

Mr. Fentolin listened attentively.

"Do not forget," he said, "that there is always a limit fixed,
whether it be one day, two days, or three days."

"A limit to your complacence, I presume?"

Mr. Fentolin assented.

"Obviously, then," Mr. Dunster concluded, "you wish those who sent
me to believe that my message has been delivered. Yet there I must
confess that you puzzle me. What I cannot see is, to put it bluntly,
where you come in. Any one of the countries represented at this
little conference would only be the gainers by the miscarriage of
my message, which is, without doubt, so far as they are concerned,
of a distasteful nature. Your own country alone could be the
sufferer. Now what interest in the world, then, is there left - what
interest in the world can you possibly represent - which can be the
gainer by your present action?"

Mr. Fentolin's eyes grew suddenly a little brighter. There was a
light upon his face strange to witness,

"The power which is to be the gainer," he said quietly, "is the
power encompassed by these walls,"

He touched his chest; his long, slim fingers were folded upon it.

"When I meet a man whom I like," he continued softly, "I take him
into my confidence. Picture me, if you will, as a kind of Puck.
Haven't you heard that with the decay of the body comes sometimes
a malignant growth in the brain; a Caliban-like desire for evil to
fall upon the world; a desire to escape from the loneliness of
suffering, the isolation of black misery?"

Mr. John P. Dunster let his cigar burn out. He looked
steadfastly at this strange little figure whose chair had
imperceptibly moved a little nearer to his.

"You know what the withholding of this message you carry may mean,"
Mr. Fentolin proceeded. "You come here, bearing to Europe the word
of a great people, a people whose voice is powerful enough even to
still the gathering furies. I have read your ciphered message. It
is what I feared. It is my will, mine - Miles Fentolin's - that
that message be not delivered."

"I wonder," Mr. Dunster muttered under his breath, "whether you are
in earnest."

"In your heart," Mr. Fentolin told him, "you know that I am. I can
see the truth in your face. Now, for the first time, you begin to

"To a certain extent," Mr. Dunster admitted. "Where I am still in
the dark, however, is why you should expect that I should become
your confederate. It is true that by holding me up and obstructing
my message, you may bring about the evil you seek, but unless that
word is cabled back to New York, and my senders believe that my
message has been delivered, there can be no certainty. What has
been trusted to me as the safest means of transmission, might, in
an emergency, be committed to a cable."

"Excellent reasoning," Fentolin agreed. "For the very reasons you
name that word will be given."

Mr. Dunster's face was momentarily troubled. There was something in
the still, cold emphasis of this man's voice which made him shiver.

"Do you think," Mr. Fentolin went on, "that I spend a great fortune
buying the secrets of the world, that I live from day to day with
the risk of ignominious detection always hovering about me - do
you think that I do this and am yet unprepared to run the final risks
of life and death? Have you ever talked with a murderer, Mr. Dunster?
Has curiosity ever taken you within the walls of Sing Sing? Have you
sat within the cell of a doomed man and felt the thrill of his touch,
of his close presence? Well, I will not ask you those questions. I
will simply tell you that you are talking to one now."

Mr. Dunster had forgotten his extinct cigar. He found it difficult
to remove his eyes from Mr. Fentolin's face. He was half fascinated,
half stirred with a vague, mysterious fear. Underneath these wild
words ran always that hard note of truth.

"You seem to be in earnest," he muttered.

"I am," Mr. Fentolin assured him quietly. "I have more than once
been instrumental in bringing about the death of those who have
crossed my purposes. I plead guilty to the weakness of Nero.
Suffering and death are things of joy to me. There!"

"I am not sure," Mr. Dunster said slowly, "that I ought not to
wring your neck."

Mr. Fentolin smiled. His chair receded an inch or two. There was
never a time when his expression had seemed more seraphic.

"There is no emergency of that sort," he remarked, "for which I am
not prepared."

His little revolver gleamed for a minute beneath his cuff. He
backed his chair slowly and with wonderful skill towards the door.

"We will fix the period of your probation, Mr. Dunster, at - say,
twenty-four hours," he decided. "Please make yourself until then
entirely at home. My cook, my cellar, my cigar cabinets, are at
your disposal. If some happy impulse," he concluded, "should show
you the only reasonable course by dinnertime, it would give me the
utmost pleasure to have you join us at that meal. I can promise
you a cheque beneath your plate which even you might think worth
considering, wine in your glass which kings might sigh for, cigars
by your side which even your Mr. Pierpont Morgan could not buy.
Au revoir!"

The door opened and closed. Mr. Dunster sat staring into the open
space like a man still a little dazed.


The beautiful but somewhat austere front of St. David's Hall seemed,
in a sense, transformed, as Hamel and his companion climbed the worn
grey steps which led on to the broad sweep of terrace. Evidently
visitors had recently arrived. A dark, rather good-looking woman,
with pleasant round face and a ceaseless flow of conversation, was
chattering away to Mr. Fentolin. By her side stood another woman who
was a stranger to Hamel - thin, still elegant, with tired, worn face,
and the shadow of something in her eyes which reminded him at once of
Esther. She wore a large picture hat and carried a little Pomeranian
dog under her arm. In the background, an insignificant-looking man
with grey side-whiskers and spectacles was beaming upon everybody.
Mr. Fentolin waved his hand and beckoned to Hamel and Esther as they
somewhat hesitatingly approached.

"This is one of my fortunate mornings, you see, Esther!" he exclaimed,
smiling. "Lady Saxthorpe has brought her husband over to lunch. Lady
Saxthorpe," he added, turning to the woman at his side, "let me present
to you the son of one of the first men to realise the elusive beauty
of our coast. This is Mr. Hamel, son of Peter Hamel, R.A. - the
Countess of Saxthorpe."

Lady Saxthorpe, who had been engaged in greeting
Esther, held out her hand and smiled good-humouredly at Hamel.

"I know your father's work quite well," she declared, "and I don't
wonder that you have made a pilgrimage here. They tell me that he
painted nineteen pictures - pictures of importance, that is to say
- within this little area of ten miles. Do you paint, Mr. Hamel?"

"Not at all," Hamel answered.

"Our friend Hamel," Mr. Fentolin intervened, "woos other and sterner
muses. He fights nature in distant countries, spans her gorges with
iron bridges, stems the fury of her rivers, and carries to the
boundary of the world that little twin line of metal which brings
men like ants to the work-heaps of the universe. My dear Florence,"
he added, suddenly turning to the woman at his other side, "for the
moment I had forgotten. You have not met our guest yet. Hamel,
this is my sister-in-law, Mrs. Seymour Fentolin."

She held out her hand to him, unnaturally thin and white, covered
with jewels. Again he saw something in her eyes which stirred him

"It is so nice that you are able to spend a few days: with us, Mr.
Hamel," she said quietly. "I am sorry that I have been too
indisposed to make your acquaintance earlier."

"And," Mr. Fentolin continued, "you must know my young friend here,
too. Mr. Hamel - Lord Saxthorpe."

The latter shook hands heartily with the young man.

"I knew your father quite well," he announced. "Queer thing, he
used to hang out for months at a time at that little shanty on the
beach there. Hardest work in the world to get him away. He came
over to dine with us once or twice, but we saw scarcely anything
of him. I hope his son will not prove so obdurate."

"You are very kind," Hamel murmured.

"Mr. Hamel came into these parts to claim his father's property,"
Mr. Fentolin said. "However, I have persuaded him to spend a day
or two up here before he transforms himself into a misanthrope.
What of his golf, Esther, eh?"

"Mr. Hamel plays very well, indeed," the girl replied.

"Your niece was too good for me," Hamel confessed.

Mr. Fentolin smiled.

"The politeness of this younger generation," he remarked, "keeps
the truth sometimes hidden from us. I perceive that I shall not
be told who won. Lady Saxthorpe, you are fortunate indeed in the
morning you have chosen for your visit. There is no sun in the
world like an April sun, and no corner of the earth where it shines
with such effect as here. Look steadily to the eastward of that
second dike and you will see the pink light upon the sands, which
baffled every one until our friend Hamel came and caught it on
his canvas."

"I do see it," Lady Saxthorpe murmured. "What eyes you have, Mr.
Fentolin! What perception for colour!"

"Dear lady," Mr. Fentolin said, "I am one of those who benefit by
the law of compensations. On a morning like this I can spend hours
merely feasting my eyes upon this prospect, and I can find, if not
happiness, the next best thing. The world is full of beautiful
places, but the strange part of it is that beauty has countless
phases, and each phase differs in some subtle and unexplainable
manner from all others. Look with me fixedly, dear Lady Saxthorpe.
Look, indeed, with more than your eyes. Look at that flush of wild
lavender, where it fades into the sands on one side, and strikes the
emerald green of that wet seamoss on the other. Look at the liquid
blue of that tongue of sea which creeps along its bed through the
yellow sands, through the dark meadowland, which creeps and oozes
and widens till in an hour's time it will have become a river. Look
at my sand islands, virgin from the foot of man, the home of
sea-gulls, the islands of a day. There may be other and more
beautiful places. There is none quite like this."

"I pity you no longer," Lady Saxthorpe asserted fervently. "The
eyes of the artist are a finer possession than the limbs of the

The butler announced luncheon, and they all trooped in. Hamel
found himself next to Lady Saxthorpe.

"Dear Mr. Fentolin has been so kind," she confided to him as they
took their places. "I came in fear and trembling to ask for a very
small cheque for my dear brother's diocese. My brother is a
colonial bishop, you know. Can you imagine what Mr. Fentolin has
given me?"

Hamel wondered politely. Lady Saxthorpe continued with an air of

"A thousand pounds! Just fancy that - a thousand pounds! And some
people say he is so difficult," she went on, dropping her voice.
"Mrs. Hungerford came all the way over from Norwich to beg for the
infirmary there, and he gave her nothing."

"What was his excuse?" Hamel asked.

"I think he told her that it was against his principles to give to
hospitals," Lady Saxthorpe replied. "He thinks that they should be
supported out of the rates."

"Some people have queer ideas of charity," Hamel remarked. "Now I
am afraid that if I had been Mr. Fentolin, I would have given the
thousand pounds willingly to a hospital, but not a penny to a

Mr. Fentolin looked suddenly down the table. He was some distance
away, but his hearing was wonderful.

"Ah, my dear Hamel," he said, "believe me, missions are very
wonderful things. It is only from a very careful study of their
results that I have brought myself to be a considerable supporter
of those where I have some personal knowledge of the organisation.
Hospitals, on the other hand, provide for the poor what they ought
to be able to provide for themselves. The one thing to avoid in
the giving away of money is pauperisation. What do you think,

His sister-in-law, who was seated at the other end of the table,
looked across at him with a bright but stereotyped smile.

"I agree with you, of course, Miles. I always agree with you. Mr.
Fentolin has the knack of being right about most things," she
continued, turning to Lord Saxthorpe. "His judgment is really

"Wish we could get him to come and sit on the bench sometimes, then,"
Lord Saxthorpe remarked heartily. "Our neighbours in this part of
the world are not overburdened with brains. By-the-by," he went on,
"that reminds me. You haven't got such a thing as a mysterious
invalid in the house, have you?"

There was a moment's rather curious silence. Mr. Fentolin was
sitting like a carved figure, with a glass of wine half raised to
his lips. Gerald had broken off in the middle of a sentence and
was staring at Lord Saxthorpe. Esther was sitting perfectly still,
her face grave and calm, her eyes alone full of fear. Lord
Saxthorpe was not an observant man and he continued, quite
unconscious of the sensation which his question had aroused.

"Sounds a silly thing to ask you, doesn't it? They're all full of
it at Wells, though. I sat on the bench this morning and went into
the police-station for a moment first. Seems they've got a long
dispatch from Scotland Yard about a missing man who is supposed to
be in this part of the world. He came down in a special train on
Tuesday night - the night of the great flood - and his train was
wrecked at Wymondham. After that he was taken on by some one in a
motor-car. Colonel Renshaw wanted me to allude to the matter from
the bench, but it seemed to me that it was an affair entirely for
the police."

As though suddenly realising the unexpected interest which his
words had caused, Lord Saxthorpe brought his sentence to a
conclusion and glanced enquiringly around the table.

"A man could scarcely disappear in a civilised neighbourhood like
this," Mr. Fentolin remarked quietly, "but there is a certain
amount of coincidence about your question. May I ask whether it
was altogether a haphazard one?"

"Absolutely," Lord Saxthorpe declared. "The idea seems to be that
the fellow was brought to one of the houses in the neighbourhood,
and we were all rather chaffing one another this morning about it.
Inspector Yardley - the stout fellow with the beard, you know - was
just starting off in his dog-cart to make enquiries round the
neighbourhood. If any one in fiction wants a type of the ridiculous
detective, there he is, ready-made."

"The coincidence of your question," Mr. Fentolin said smoothly, "is
certainly a strange one. The mysterious stranger is within our

Lady Saxthorpe, who had been out of the conversation for far too
long, laid down her knife and fork.

"My dear Mr. Fentolin!" she exclaimed. "My dear Mrs. Fentolin!
This is really most exciting! Do tell us all about it at once. I
thought that the man was supposed to have been decoyed away in a
motor-car. Do you know his name and all about him?"

"There are a few minor points," Mr. Fentolin murmured, "such as
his religious convictions and his size in boots, which I could
not swear about, but so far as regards his name and his occupation,
I think I can gratify your curiosity. He is a Mr. John P. Dunster,
and he appears to be the representative of an American firm of
bankers, on his way to Germany to conclude a loan."

"God bless my soul!" Lord Saxthorpe exclaimed wonderingly. "The
fellow is actually here under this roof! But who brought him?
How did he find his way?"

"Better ask Gerald," Mr. Fentolin replied. "He is the abductor.
It seems that they both missed the train from Liverpool Street,
and Mr. Dunster invited Gerald to travel down in his special train.
Very kind of him, but might have been very unlucky for Gerald.
As you know, they got smashed up at Wymondham, and Gerald, feeling
in a way responsible for him, brought him on here; quite properly,
I think. Sarson has been looking after him, but I am afraid he has
slight concussion of the brain."

"I shall remember this all my life," Lord Saxthorpe declared
solemnly, "as one of the most singular coincidences which has ever
come within my personal knowledge. Perhaps after lunch, Mr.
Fentolin, you will let some of your people telephone to the
police-station at Wells? There really is an important enquiry
respecting this man. I should not be surprised," he added,
dropping his voice a little for the benefit of the servants,
"to find that Scotland Yard needed him on their own account."

"In that case," Mr. Fentolin remarked, "he is quite safe, for Sarson
tells me there is no chance of his being able to travel, at any rate
for twenty-four hours."

Lady Saxthorpe shivered.

"Aren't you afraid to have him in the house?" she asked, "a man who
is really and actually wanted by Scotland Yard? When one considers
that nothing ever happens here except an occasional shipwreck in
the winter and a flower-show in the summer, it does sound positively
thrilling. I wonder what he has done."

They discussed the subject of Mr. Dunster's possible iniquities.
Meanwhile, a young man carrying his hat in his hand had slipped in
past the servants and was leaning over Mr. Fentolin's chair. He
laid two or three sheets of paper upon the table and waited while
his employer glanced them through and dismissed him with a little

"My wireless has been busy this morning," Mr. Fentolin remarked.
"We seem to have collected about forty messages from different
battleships and cruisers. There must be a whole squadron barely
thirty miles out."

"You don't really think," Lady Saxthorpe asked, "that there is any
fear of war, do you, Mr. Fentolin?"

He answered her with a certain amount of gravity. "Who can tell?
The papers this morning were bad. This conference at The Hague is
still unexplained. France's attitude in the matter is especially

"I am a strong supporter of Lord Roberts," Lord Saxthorpe said,
"and I believe in the vital necessity of some scheme for national
service. At the same time, I find it hard to believe that a
successful invasion of this country is within the bounds of

"I quite agree with you, Lord Saxthorpe," Mr. Fentolin declared
smoothly. "All the same, this Hague Conference is a most mysterious
affair. The papers this morning are ominously silent about the
fleet. From the tangle of messages we have picked up, I should say,
without a doubt, that some form of mobilisation is going on in the
North Sea. If Lady Saxthorpe thinks it warm enough, shall we take
our coffee upon the terrace?"

"The terrace, by all means," her ladyship assented, rising from her
place. "What a wonderful man you are, Mr. Fentolin, with your
wireless telegraphy, and your telegraph office in the house, and
telephones. Does it really amuse you to be so modern?"

"To a certain extent, yes," Mr. Fentolin sighed, as he guided his
chair along the hall. "When my misfortune first came, I used to
speculate a good deal upon the Stock Exchange. That was really the
reason I went in for all these modern appliances."

"And now?" she asked. "What use do you make of them now?"

Mr. Fentolin smiled quietly. He looked out sea-ward, beyond the
sky-line, from whence had come to him, through the clouds, that
tangle of messages.

"I like to feel," he said, "that the turning wheel of life is not
altogether out of earshot. I like to dabble just a little in the
knowledge of these things."

Lord Saxthorpe came strolling up to them.

"You won't forget to telephone about this guest of yours?" he
asked fussily.

"It is already done," Mr. Fentolin assured him. "My dear sister,
why so silent?"

Mrs. Fentolin turned slowly towards him. She, too, had been
standing with her eyes fixed upon the distant sea-line. Her face
seemed suddenly to have aged, her forced vivacity to have departed.
Her little Pomeranian rubbed against her feet in vain. Yet at the
sound of Mr. Fentolin's voice, she seemed to come back to herself
as though by magic.

"I was looking where you were looking," she declared lightly,
"just trying to see a little way beyond. So silly, isn't it?
Chow-Chow, you bad little dog, come and you shall have your dinner."

She strolled off, humming a tune to herself. Lord Saxthorpe watched
her with a shadow upon his plain, good-humoured face.

"Somehow or other," he remarked quietly, "Mrs. Fentolin never seems
to have got over the loss of her husband, does she? How long is it
since he died?"

"Eight years," Mr. Fentolin replied. "It was just six months after
my own accident."

"I am losing a great deal of sympathy for you, Mr. Fentolin," Lady
Saxthorpe confessed, coming over to his side. "You have so many
resources, there is so much in life which you can do. You paint,
as we all know, exquisitely. They tell me that you play the violin
like a master. You have unlimited time for reading, and they say
that you are one of the greatest living authorities upon the
politics of Europe. Your morning paper must bring you so much that
is interesting."

"It is true," Mr. Fentolin admitted, "that I have compensations
which no one can guess at, compensations which appeal to me more as
time steals on. And yet -"

He stopped short.

"And yet?" Lady Saxthorpe repeated interrogatively.

Mr.. Fentolin was watching Gerald drive golf balls from the lawn
beneath. He pointed downwards.

"I was like that when I was his age," he said quietly.


Mr. Fentolin remained upon the terrace long after the departure of
his guests. He had found a sunny corner out of the wind, and he sat
there with a telescope by his side and a budget of newspapers upon
his knee. On some pretext or another he had detained all the others
of the household so that they formed a little court around him.
Even Hamel, who had said something about a walk, had been induced
to stop by an appealing glance from Esther. Mr. Fentolin was in one
of his most loquacious moods. For some reason or other, the visit
of the Saxthorpes seemed to have excited him. He talked continually,
with the briefest pauses. Every now and then he gazed steadily
across the marshes through his telescope.

"Lord Saxthorpe," he remarked, "has, I must confess, greatly
excited my curiosity as to the identity of our visitor. Such a
harmless-looking person, he seems, to be causing such a commotion.
Gerald, don't you feel your responsibility in the matter?"

"Yes, sir, I do!" Gerald replied, with unexpected grimness. "I
feel my responsibility deeply."

Mr. Fentolin, who was holding the telescope to his eye, touched
Hamel on the shoulder.

"My young friend," he said, "your eyes are better than mine. You
see the road there? Look along it, between the white posts, as far
as you can. What do you make of that black speck?"

Hamel held the telescope to his eye and steadied it upon the little
tripod stand.

"It looks like a horse and trap," he announced. "Good!" Mr.
Fentolin declared. "It seemed so to me, but I was not sure. My eyes
are weak this afternoon. How many people are in the trap?"

"Two," Hamel answered. "I can see them distinctly now. One man is
driving, another is sitting by his side. They are coming this way."

Mr. Fentolin blew his whistle. Meekins appeared almost directly.
His master whispered a word in his ear. The man at once departed.

"Let me make use of your eyes once more," Mr. Fentolin begged.
"About these two men in the trap, Mr. Hamel. Is one of them, by any
chance, wearing a uniform?"

"They both are," Hamel replied. "The man who is driving is wearing
a peaked hat. He looks like a police inspector. The man by his side
is an ordinary policeman."

Mr. Fentolin sighed gently.

"It is very interesting," he said. "Let us hope that we shall not
see an arrest under my roof. I should feel it a reflection upon my
hospitality. I trust, I sincerely trust, that this visit does not
bode any harm to Mr. John P. Dunster."

Gerald rose impatiently to his feet and swung across the terrace.
Mr. Fentolin, however, called him back.

"Gerald," he advised, "better not go away. The inspector may desire
to ask you questions. You will have nothing to conceal. It was a
natural and delightful impulse of yours to bring the man who had
befriended you, and who was your companion in that disaster, straight
to your own home for treatment and care. It was an admirable impulse,
my boy. You have nothing to be ashamed of."

"Shall I tell him, too -" Gerald began.

"Be careful, Gerald."

Mr. Fentolin's words seemed to be charged with a swift, rapier-like
note. The boy broke off in his speech. He looked at Hamel and was

"Dear me," Mrs. Fentolin murmured, "I am sure there is no need for
us to talk about this poor man as though anybody had done anything
wrong in having him here. This, I suppose, must be the Inspector
Yardley whom Lord Saxthorpe spoke of."

"A very intelligent-looking officer, I am sure," Mr. Fentolin
remarked. "Gerald, go and meet him, if you please. I should like
to speak to him out here."

The dog-cart had drawn up at the front door, and the inspector had
already alighted. Gerald intervened as he was in the act of
questioning the butler.

"Mr. Fentolin would like to speak to you, inspector," he said, "if
you will come this way."

The inspector followed Gerald and saluted the little group solemnly.
Mr. Fentolin held out his hand.

"You got my telephone message, inspector?" he asked.

"We have not received any message that I know of, sir," the inspector
replied. "I have come over here in accordance with instructions
received from headquarters - in fact from Scotland Yard."

"Quite so," Mr. Fentolin assented. "You've come over, I presume,
to make enquiries concerning Mr. John P. Dunster?"

"That is the name of the gentleman, sir."

"I only understood to-day from my friend Lord Saxthorpe," Mr.
Fentolin continued, "that Mr. Dunster was being enquired about as
though he had disappeared. My nephew brought him here after the
railway accident at Wymondham, since when he has been under the
care of my own physician. I trust that you have nothing serious
against him?"

"My first duty, sir," the inspector pronounced, "is to see the
gentleman in question."

"By all means," Mr. Fentolin agreed. "Gerald, will you take the
inspector up to Mr. Dunster's rooms? Or stop, I will go myself."

Mr. Fentolin started his chair and beckoned the inspector to follow
him. Meekins, who was waiting inside the hall, escorted them by
means of the lift to the second floor. They made their way to Mr.
Dunster's room. Mr. Fentolin knocked softly at the door. It was
opened by the nurse.

"How is the patient?" Mr. Fentolin enquired.

Doctor Sarson appeared from the interior of the room.

"Still unconscious," he reported. "Otherwise, the symptoms are
favourable. He is quite unfit," the doctor added, looking steadily
at the inspector, "to be removed or questioned."

"There is no idea of anything of the sort," Mr. Fentolin explained.
"It is Inspector Yardley's duty to satisfy himself that Mr. Dunster
is here. It is necessary for the inspector to see your patient, so
that he can make his report at headquarters."

Doctor Sarson bowed.

"That is quite simple, sir," he said. "Please step in."

They all entered the room, which was large and handsomely furnished.
Through the open windows came a gentle current of fresh air. Mr.
Dunster lay in the midst of all the luxury of fine linen sheets and
embroidered pillow-cases. The inspector looked at him stolidly.

"Is he asleep?" he asked.

The doctor shook his head.

"It is the third day of his concussion," he whispered. "He is still
unconscious. He will remain in the same condition for another two
days. After that he will begin to recover."

Mr. Fentolin touched the inspector on the arm.

"You see his clothing at the foot of the bed," he pointed out.
"His linen is marked with his name. That is his dressing-case with
his name painted on it."

"I am quite satisfied, sir," the inspector announced. "I will not
intrude any further."

They left the room. Mr. Fentolin himself escorted the inspector
into the library and ordered whisky and cigars.

"I don't know whether I am unreasonably curious," Mr. Fentolin
remarked, "but is it really true that you have had enquiries from
Scotland Yard about the poor fellow up-stairs?"

"We had a very important enquiry indeed, sir," the inspector replied.
"I have instructions to telegraph all I have been able to discover,

"Pardon my putting it plainly," Mr. Fentolin asked, "but is our
friend a criminal?"

"I wouldn't go so far as that, sir," the inspector answered. "I
know of no charge against him. I don't know that I have the right
to say so much," he added, sipping his whisky and soda, "but putting
two and two together, I should rather come to the conclusion that he
was a person of some political importance."

"Not a criminal at all?"

"Not as I know of," the inspector assented.
"That isn't the way I read the enquiries at all."

"You relieve me," Mr. Fentolin declared. "Now what about his

"There's a man coming down shortly from Scotland Yard," the
inspector announced, a little gloomily. "My orders were to touch
nothing, but to locate him."

"Well, you've succeeded so far," Mr. Fentolin remarked. "Here he
is, and here I think he will stay until some days after your friend
from Scotland Yard can get here."

"It does seem so, indeed," the inspector agreed. "To me he looks
terrible ill. But there's one thing sure, he's having all the care
and attention that's possible. And now, sir, I'll not intrude
further upon your time. I'll just make my report, and you'll
probably have a visit from the Scotland Yard man sometime within
the next few days."

Mr. Fentolin escorted the inspector to his dog-cart, shook hands
with him, and watched him drive off. Only Mrs. Seymour Fentolin
remained upon the terrace. He glided over to her side.

"My dear florence," he asked, "where are the others?"

"Mr. Hamel and Esther have gone for a walk," she answered. "Gerald
has disappeared somewhere. Has anything - is everything all right?"

"Naturally," Mr. Fentolin replied easily. "All that the inspector
desired was to see Mr. Dunster. He has seen him. The poor fellow
was unfortunately unconscious, but our friend will at least be able
to report that he was in good hands and well cared for."

"Unconscious," Mrs. Fentolin repeated. "I thought that he was

"One is always subject to those slight relapses in an affair of
concussion," Mr. Fentolin explained.

Mrs. Fentolin laid down her work and leaned a little towards her
brother-in-law. Her hand rested upon his. Her voice had fallen
to a whisper.

"Miles," she said, "forgive me, but are you sure that you are not
getting a little out of your depth? Remember that there are some
risks which are not worth while."

"Quite true," he answered. "And there are some risks, my dear
Florence, which are worth every drop of blood in a man's body, and
every breath of life. The peace of Europe turns upon that man
up-stairs. It is worth taking a little risk for, worth a little
danger. I have made my plans, and I mean to carry them through.
Tell me, when I was up-stairs, this fellow Hamel - was he talking
confidentially to Gerald?"

"Not particularly."

"I am not sure that I trust him," Mr. Fentolin continued. "He had
a telegram yesterday from a man in the Foreign Office, a telegram
which I did not see. He took the trouble to walk three miles to
send the reply to it from another office."

"But after all," Mrs. Fentolin protested, "you know who he is. You
know that he is Peter Hamel's son. He had a definite purpose in
coming here."

Mr. Fentolin nodded.

"Quite true," he admitted. "But for that, Mr. Hamel would have
found a little trouble before now. As it is, he must be watched.
If any one comes between me and the things for which I am scheming
to-day, they will risk death."

Mrs. Fentolin sighed. She was watching the figures of Esther and
Hamel far away in the distance, picking their way across the last
strip of marshland which lay between them and the sea.

"Miles," she said earnestly, "you take advice from no one. You
will go your own way, I know. And yet, it seems to me that life
holds so many compensations for you without your taking these
terrible risks. I am not thinking of any one else. I am not
pleading to you for the sake of any one else. I am thinking
only of yourself. I have had a sort of feeling ever since this
man was brought into the house, that trouble would come of it. To
me the trouble seems to be gathering even now."

Mr. Fentolin laughed softly, a little contemptuously.

"Presentiments," he scoffed, "are the excuses of cowards. Don't be
afraid, Florence. Remember always that I look ahead. Do you think
that I could stay here contented with what you call my compensations
- my art, the study of beautiful things, the calm epicureanism of
the sedate and simple life? You know very well that I could not do
that. The craving for other things is in my heart and blood. The
excitement which I cannot have in one way, I must find in another,
and I think that before many nights have passed, I shall lie on my
pillow and hear the guns roar, hear the footsteps of the great
armies of the world moving into battle. It is for that I live,

She took up her knitting again. Her eyes were fixed upon the
sky-line. Twice she opened her lips, but twice no words came.

"You understand?" he whispered. "You begin to understand, don't

She looked at him only for a moment and back at her work.

"I suppose so," she sighed.


In the middle of that night Hamel sat up in bed, awakened with a
sudden start by some sound, only the faintest echo of which remained
in his consciousness. His nerves were tingling with a sense of
excitement. He sat up in bed and listened. Suddenly it came again
- a long, low moan of pain, stifled at the end as though repressed
by some outside agency. He leaped from his bed, hurried on a few
clothes, and stepped out on to the landing. The cry had seemed
to him to come from the further end of the long corridor - in the
direction, indeed, of the room where Mr. Dunster lay. He made his

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest