Part 5 out of 6
to have seen there before. Again, half unconsciously, he listened,
and again he found the silence oppressive. He went back to his
room, brought out some of the books which it had been his intention
to study, and sat and read over the fire.
At ten o'clock he went to bed. As he threw open his window before
undressing, it seemed to him that he could catch the sound of voices
from the sea. He listened intently. A grey pall hung everywhere.
To the left, with strange indistinctness, almost like something
human struggling to assert itself, came the fitful flash from the
light at the entrance to the tidal way. Once more he strained his
ears. This time there was no doubt about it. He heard the sound
of fishermen's voices. He heard one of them say distinctly:
"Hard aport, Dave lad! That's Fentolin's light. Keep her out a bit.
Through a rift in the mist, he caught a glimpse of the brown sail
of a fishing-boat, dangerously near the land. He watched it alter
its course slightly and pass on. Then again there was silence. He
undressed slowly and went to bed.
Later on he woke with a start and sat up in bed, listening intently,
listening for he knew not what. Except for the backward scream of
the pebbles, dragged down every few seconds by the receding waves,
an unbroken silence seemed to prevail. He struck a match and looked
at his watch. It was exactly three o'clock. He got out of bed. He
was a man in perfect health, ignorant of the meaning of nerves, a
man of proved courage. Yet he was conscious that his pulses were
beating with absurd rapidity. A new feeling seemed to possess him.
He could almost have declared that he was afraid. What sound had
awakened him? He had no idea, yet he seemed to have a distinct and
absolute conviction that it had been a real sound and no dream.
He drew aside the curtains and looked out of the window. The mist
now seemed to have become almost a fog, to have closed in upon sea
and land. There was nothing whatever to be seen. As he stood there
for a moment, listening, his face became moist with the drifting
vapour. Suddenly upon the beach he saw what at first he imagined
must be an optical illusion - a long shaft of light, invisible in
itself except that it seemed to slightly change the density of the
mist. He threw on an overcoat over his pyjamas, thrust on his
slippers, and taking up his own electric torch, hastily descended
the stairs. He opened the front door and stepped out on to the
beach. He stood in the very place where the light had seemed to
be, and looked inland. There was no sign of any human person, not
a sound except the falling of the sea upon the pebbly beach. He
raised his voice and called out. Somehow or other, speech seemed
to be a relief.
There was no response. He tried again.
"Is any one there?"
Still no answer. He watched the veiled light from the harbour
appear and disappear. It threw no shadow of illumination upon the
spot to which he had gazed from his window. One window at St.
David's Hall was illuminated. The rest of the place was wrapped
now in darkness. He walked up to the boat-house. The door was
still locked. There was no sign that any one had been there.
Reluctantly at last he re-entered the Tower and made his way
"Confound that fellow Kinsley!" he muttered, as he threw off his
overcoat. "All his silly suggestions and melodramatic ideas have
given me a fit of nerves. I am going to bed, and I am going to
sleep. That couldn't have been a light I saw at all. I couldn't
have heard anything. I am going to sleep."
Hamel awoke to find his room filled with sunshine and a soft wind
blowing in through the open window. There was a pleasant odour of
coffee floating up from the kitchen. He looked at his watch - it
was past eight o'clock. The sea was glittering and bespangled with
sunlight. He found among his scanty belongings a bathing suit, and,
wrapped in his overcoat, hurried down-stairs.
"Breakfast in half an hour, Mrs. Cox," he called out.
She stood at the door, watching him as he stepped across the pebbles
and plunged in. For a few moments he swam. Then he turned over on
his back. The sunlight was gleaming from every window of St. David's
Hall. He even fancied that upon the terrace he could see a
white-clad figure looking towards him. He turned over and swam once
more. From her place in the doorway Mrs. Cox called out to him.
"Mind the Dagger Rocks, sir!"
He waved his hand. The splendid exhilaration of the salt water
seemed to give him unlimited courage. He dived, but the woman's
cry of fear soon recalled him. Presently he swam to shore and
hurried up the beach. Mrs. Cox, with a sigh of relief, disappeared
into the kitchen.
"Those rocks on your nerves again, Mrs. Cox?" he asked,
good-humouredly, as he took his place at the breakfast table a
quarter of an hour later.
"It's only us who live here, sir," she answered, "who know how
terrible they are. There s one - it comes up like my hand - a long
spike. A boat once struck upon that, and it's as though it'd been
sawn through the middle."
"I must have a look at them some day," he declared. "I am going to
work this morning, Mrs. Cox. Lunch at one o'clock."
He took rugs and established himself with a pile of books at the
back of a grassy knoll, sheltered from the wind, with the sea almost
at his feet. He sharpened his pencil and numbered the page of his
notebook. Then he looked up towards the Hall garden and found
himself dreaming. The sunshine was delicious, and a gentle optimism
seemed to steal over him.
"I am a fool!" he murmured to himself. "I am catching some part of
these people's folly. Mr. Fentolin is only an ordinary, crotchety
invalid with queer tastes. On the big things he is probably like
other men. I shall go to him this morning."
A sea-gull screamed over his head. Little, brown sailed
fishing-boats came gliding down the harbourway. A pleasant,
sensuous joyfulness seemed part of the spirit of the day. Hamel
stretched himself out upon the dry sand.
"Work be hanged!" he exclaimed.
A soft voice answered him almost in his ear, a voice which was
becoming very familiar.
"A most admirable sentiment, my young friend, which you seem to be
doing your best to live up to. Not a line written, I see."
He sat up upon his rug. Mr. Fentolin, in his little carriage, was
there by his side. Behind was the faithful Meekins, with an easel
under his arm.
"I trust that your first night in your new abode has been a pleasant
one?" Mr. Fentolin asked.
"I slept quite well, thanks," Hamel replied. "Glad to see you're
going to paint."
Mr. Fentolin shook his head gloomily.
"It is, alas!" he declared, "one of my weaknesses. I can work only
in solitude. I came down on the chance that the fine weather might
have tempted you over to the Golf Club. As it is, I shall return."
"I am awfully sorry," Hamel said. "Can't I go out of sight
Mr. Fentolin sighed.
"I will not ask your pardon for my absurd humours," he continued,
a little sadly. "Their existence, however, I cannot deny. I
"It seems a pity for you to do that," Hamel remarked. "You see,
I might stay here for some time."
Mr. Fentolin's face darkened. He looked at the young man with a
sort of pensive wrath.
"If," the latter went on, "you say 'yes' to something I am going
to ask you, I might even stay - in the neighbourhood - for longer
Mr. Fentolin sat quite motionless in his chair; his eyes were
fixed upon Hamel.
"What is it that you are going to ask me?" he demanded.
"I want to marry your niece."
Mr. Fentolin looked at the young man in mild surprise.
"A sudden decision on your part, Mr. Hamel?" he murmured.
"Not at all," Hamel assured him. "I have been ten years looking
"And the young lady?" Mr. Fentolin enquired. "What does she say?"
"I believe, sir," Hamel replied, "that she would be willing."
Mr. Fentolin sighed.
"One is forced sometimes," he remarked regretfully, "to realise
the selfishness of our young people. For many years one devotes
oneself to providing them with all the comforts and luxuries of
life. Then, in a single day, they turn around and give everything
they have to give to a stranger. So you want to marry Esther?"
"If you please."
"She has a very moderate fortune."
"She need have none at all," Hamel replied; "I have enough."
Mr. Fentolin glanced towards the house.
"Then," he said, "I think you had better go and tell her so; in
which case, I shall be able to paint."
"I have your permission, then?" Hamel asked, rising to his feet
"Negatively," Mr. Fentolin agreed, "you have. I cannot refuse.
Esther is of age; the thing is reasonable. I do not know whether
she will be happy with you or not. A young man of your
disposition who declines to study the whims of an unfortunate
creature like myself is scarcely likely to be possessed of much
sensibility. However, perhaps your views as to a solitary
residence here will change with your engagement to my niece."
Hamel did not reply for a moment. He was trying to ask himself
why, even in the midst of this rush of anticipatory happiness, he
should be conscious of a certain reluctance to leave the Tower - and
Mr. Fentolin. He was looking longingly towards the Hall. Mr.
Fentolin waved him away.
"Go and make love," he ordered, "and leave me alone. We are both
in pursuit of beauty - only our methods differ."
Hamel hesitated no longer but walked up the narrow path with
swift, buoyant footsteps. Everywhere he seemed to be surrounded
by the glorious spring sunshine. It glittered in the little pools
and creeks by his side. It drew a new colour from the dun-coloured
marshes, the masses of emerald seaweed, the shimmering sands. It
flashed in the long row of windows of the Hall. As he drew nearer,
he could see the banks of yellow crocuses in the sloping gardens
behind. There were odours of spring in the air. He ran lightly
up the terrace steps. There was an easy-chair drawn into her
favourite corner, and a book upon the table, but no sign of Esther.
He hesitated for a moment, and then, retracing his steps along the
terrace, entered the house by the front door, which stood wide
open. There was no one in the hall, scarcely a sound about the
place. A great clock ticked solemnly from the foot of the stairs.
There was not even a servant in sight. Hamel wandered around, a
a loss what to do. He opened the door of the drawing-room and
looked in. It was empty. He turned away, meaning to ring a bell.
On his way across the hall he paused. A curiously suggestive
sound reached him faintly from the end of one of the passages.
It was the click of a typewriter.
Hamel stood for a moment perfectly still. He had hurried up to
the Hall, filled with the one selfish joy common to all mankind.
He had had no thought save the thought of seeing Esther. The
click of that machine brought him hack to the stern realities of
life. He remembered his talk to Kinsley, his promise. On the
hall table he could see from where he was standing the great
headlines which announced the nation's anxiety. He was in the house
of a suspected spy. The click of the typewriter was an accompaniment
to his thought. He looked around once more and listened. Then he
made his way quietly across the hail and down the long passage, at
the end of which the room which Mr. Fentolin called his workroom
was situated. He turned the handle of the door and entered, closing
it immediately behind him. The woman who was typing paused with her
fingers upon the keys. Her eyes met his coldly, without curiosity.
She had paused in her work, but she took no other notice of his
"Has Mr. Fentolin sent you here?" she asked at last.
He came over to the typewriter.
"Mr. Fentolin has not sent me," he said slowly. "I am here on my
own account. I dare say you will think that I am a lunatic to
come to you like this. Nevertheless, please listen to me."
Her fingers left the keys. She laid her hands upon the table in
front of her. He drew a little nearer. She covered over the sheets
of paper with which she was surrounded with a pad of blotting-paper.
He pointed suddenly to them.
"Why do you do that?" he demanded. "What is there in your work
that you are afraid I might see?"
She answered him without hesitation.
"These are private papers of Mr. Fentolin's. No one has any
business to see them. No one has any business to enter this room.
Why are you here?"
"I came to the Hall to find Miss Fentolin," he replied. "I heard
the click of your typewriter. I came to you, I suppose I should
say, on impulse."
Her eyes rested upon his, filled with a cold and questioning light.
"There's an impression up in London," Hamel went on, "that Mr.
Fentolin has been interfering by means of his wireless in affairs
which don't concern him, and giving away valuable information.
This man Dunster's disappearance is as yet unexplained. I feel
myself justified in making certain investigations, and among the
first of them I should like you to tell me exactly the nature of
the work for which Mr. Fentolin finds a secretary necessary?"
She glanced towards the bell. He moved to the edge of the table
as though to intercept her.
"In any ordinary case," he continued, "I would not ask you to
betray your employer's confidence. As things are, I think I am
justified. You are English, are you not? You realise, I suppose,
that the country is on the brink of war?"
She looked at him from the depths of her still, lusterless eyes.
"You must be a very foolish person," she remarked, "if you expect
to obtain information in this manner."
"Perhaps I am," he confessed, "but my folly has brought me to you,
and you can give me the information if you will."
"Where is Mr. Fentolin?" she asked.
"Down at the Tower," he replied. "I left him there. He sent me
up to see Miss Fentolin. I was looking for her when the click of
your typewriter reminded me of other things."
She turned composedly back to her work.
"I think," she said, "that you had better go and find Miss Fentolin."
"Don't talk nonsense! You can't think I have risked giving myself
away to you for nothing? I mean to search this room, to read the
papers which you are typing."
She glanced around her a little contemptuously.
"You are welcome," she assured him. "Pray proceed."
They exchanged the glances of duelists. Her plain black frock was
buttoned up to her throat. Her colourless face seemed set in exact
and expressionless lines. Her eyes were like windows of glass. He
felt only their scrutiny; nothing of the reason for it, or of the
thoughts which stirred behind in her brain. There was nothing about
her attitude which seemed in any way threatening, yet he had the
feeling that in this interview it was she who possessed the upper
"You are a foolish person," she said calmly. "You are so foolish
that you are not, in all probability, in the slightest degree
dangerous. Believe me, ours is an unequal duel. There is a bell
upon this table which has apparently escaped your notice. I sit
with my finger upon the button - so. I have only to press it, and
the servants will be here. I do not wish to press it. I do not
desire that you should be, as you certainly would be, banished from
He was immensely puzzled. She had not resented his strange
intrusion. She had accepted it, indeed, with curious equanimity.
Her forefinger lingered still over the little ivory knob of the bell
attached to her desk. He shrugged his shoulders.
"You have the advantage of me," he admitted, a little curtly. "All
the same, I think I could possess myself of those sheets of paper,
you know, before the bell was answered."
"Would it be wise, I wonder, then, to ensure their safety?" she
Her finger pressed the bell. He took a quick step forward. She
held out her hand.
"Stop!" she ordered. "These sheets will tell you nothing which you
do not know already unless you are a fool. Never mind the bell.
That is my affair. I am sending you away."
He leaned a little towards her.
"It wouldn't be possible to bribe you, I suppose?"
She shook her head.
"I wonder you haven't tried that before. No, it would not - not
with money, that is to say."
"You'll tell Mr. Fentolin, I presume?" he asked quickly.
"I have nothing to tell him," she replied. "Nothing has happened.
Richards," she went on, as a servant entered the room, "Mr. Hamel
is looking for Miss Fentolin. Will you see if you can find her?"
The man's expression was full of polite regret.
"Miss Fentolin went over to Legh Woods early this morning, sir,"
he announced. "She is staying to lunch with Lady Saxthorpe."
Hamel stood quite still for a moment. Then he turned to the window.
In the far distance he could catch a glimpse of the Tower. Mr.
Fentolin's chair had disappeared from the walk.
"I am sorry," he said. "I must have made a mistake. I will hurry
There were more questions which he was longing to ask, but the cold
negativeness of her manner chilled him. She sat with her fingers
poised over the keys, waiting for his departure. He turned and
left the room.
Mr. Fentolin, his carriage drawn up close to the beach, was painting
steadily when Hamel stood once more by his side. His eyes moved
only from the sea to the canvas. He never turned his head.
"So your wooing has not prospered, my young friend," he remarked
gently. "I am sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
"Your niece has gone out to lunch," Hamel replied shortly.
Mr. Fentolin stopped painting. His face was full of concern as he
looked up at Hamel.
"My dear sir," he exclaimed, "how can I apologise! Of course she
has gone out to lunch. She has gone out to Lady Saxthorpe's. I
remember the subject being discussed. I myself, in fact, was the
instigator of her going. I owe you a thousand apologies, Mr. Hamel.
Let me make what amends are possible for your useless journey.
Dine with us to-night."
"You are very kind."
"A poor amends," Mr. Fentolin continued. "A morning like this was
made for lovers. Sunshine and blue sky, a salt breeze flavoured
just a little with that lavender, and a stroll through my spring
gardens, where my hyacinths are like a field of purple and gold,
a mantle of jewels upon the brown earth. Ah, well! One's thoughts
will wander to the beautiful things of life. There were once women
who loved me, Mr. Hamel."
Hamel looked doubtfully at the strange little figure in the chair.
Was this genuine, he wondered, a voluntary outburst, or was it some
subtle attempt to incite sympathy? Mr. Fentolin seemed almost to
have read his thought.
"It is not for the sake of your pity that I say this," he continued.
"Mine is only the passing across the line which age as well as
infirmity makes inevitable. No one in the world who lives to grow
old, and who has loved and felt the fire of it in his veins, can
pass that line without sorrow, or look back without a pang. I am
among a great army. Well, well, I shall paint no more to-day," he
"Where is your servant?" Hamel asked.
Mr. Fentolin glanced around him carelessly.
"He has wandered away out of sight. He knows well how necessary
solitude is to me if once I take the brush between my fingers
- solitude natural and entire, I mean. If any one is within a
dozen yards of me I know it, even though I cannot see them.
Meekins is wandering somewhere the other side of the Tower."
"Shall I call him ?"
"On no account," Mr. Fentolin begged. "Presently he will appear,
in plenty of time. There is the morning to be passed - barely
eleven o'clock, I think, now. I shall sit in my chair, and sink a
little down, and dream of these beautiful lights, these rolling,
foam-flecked waves, these patches of blue and shifting green. I
can form them in my brain. I can make a picture there, even though
my fingers refuse to move. You are not an aesthete, I think, Mr.
Hamel? The study of beauty does not mean to you what it did to your
father, and my father, and, in a smaller way to me."
"Perhaps not," Hamel confessed. "I believe I feel these things
somewhere, because they bring a queer sense of content with them.
I am afraid, though, that my artistic perceptions are not so keen
as some men's."
Mr. Fentolin looked at him thoughtfully.
"It is the physical life in your veins - too splendid to permit you
abstract pleasures. Compensations again, you see - compensations.
I wonder what the law is that governs these things. I have
forgotten sometimes," he went on, "forgotten my own infirmities in
the soft intoxication of a wonderful seascape. Only," he went on,
his face a little grey, "it is the physical in life which triumphs.
There are the hungry hours which nothing will satisfy."
His head sank, his chin rested upon his chest. He had all the
appearance now of a man who talks in bitter earnest. Yet Hamel
wondered. He looked towards the Tower; there was no sign of Meekins.
The sea-gulls went screaming above their heads. Mr. Fentolin never
moved. His eyes seemed half closed. It was only when Hamel rose to
his feet that he looked swiftly up.
"Stay with me, I beg you, Mr. Hamel," he said. "I am in one of
the moods when solitude, even for a moment, is dangerous. Do you
know what I have sometimes thought to myself?"
He pointed to the planked way which led down the steep, pebbly beach
to the sea.
"I have sometimes thought," he went on, "that it would be glorious
to find a friend to stand by my side at the top of the planks, just
there, when the tide was high, and to bid him loose my chair and to
steer it myself, to steer it down the narrow path into the arms of
the sea. The first touch of the salt waves, the last touch of life.
Why not? One sleeps without fear."
He lifted his head suddenly. Meekins had appeared, coming round
from the back of the Tower. Instantly Mr. Fentolin's whole manner
changed. He sat up in his chair.
"It is arranged, then," he said. "You dine with us to-night. For
the other matters of which you have spoken, well, let them rest in
the hands of the gods. You are not very kind to me. I am not sure
whether you would make Esther a good husband. I am not sure, even,
that I like you. You take no pains to make yourself agreeable.
Considering that your father was an artist, you seem to me rather a
dull and uninspired young man. But who can tell? There may be
things stirring beneath that torpid brain of yours of which no other
person knows save yourself."
The concentrated gaze of Mr. Fentolin's keen eyes was hard to meet,
but Hamel came out of the ordeal without flinching.
"At eight o'clock, Mr. Fentolin," he answered. "I can see that I
must try to earn your better opinion."
Hamel read steadily for the remainder of the morning. It was past
one o'clock when he rose stiffly from his seat among the sand
knolls and, strolling back to the Tower, opened the door and
entered. The cloth was laid for luncheon in the little
sitting-room, but there were no signs of Hannah Cox. He passed
on into the kitchen and came to a sudden standstill. Once more
the memory of his own work passed away from him. Once more he
was back again among that queer, clouded tangle of strange
suspicions, of thrilling, half-formed fears, which had assailed
him at times ever since his arrival at St, David's. He stopped
quite short. The words which rose to his lips died away. He
felt the breathless, compelling need for silence and grew tense in
the effort to make no sound.
Hannah Cox was kneeling on the stone floor. Her ear was close to
the crack of the door which led into the boat-house. Her face,
half turned from it, was set in a strange, concentrated passion of
listening; her lips were parted, her eyes half closed. She took
no more notice of Hamel or his arrival than if he had been some
useless piece of furniture. Every faculty seemed to be absorbed in
that one intense effort of listening. There was no need of her
out-stretched finger. Hamel fell in at once with a mood so mesmeric.
He, too, listened. The small clock which she had brought with her
from the village ticked away upon the mantelpiece. The full sea
fell with placid softness upon the high beach outside. Some slight
noise of cooking came from the stove. Save for these things there
was silence. Yet, for a space of time which Hamel could never have
measured, they both listened. When at last the woman rose to her
feet, Hamel, finding words at last, was surprised to find that his
throat was dry.
"What is it, Mrs. Cox?" he asked. "Why were you listening there?"
Her face was absolutely expressionless. She was busying herself
now with a small saucepan, and her back was turned towards him.
"I spend my life, sir," she said, "listening and waiting. One
never knows when the end may come."
"But the boat-house," Hamel objected. "No one has been in there
his morning, have they?"
"Who can tell?" she answered. "He could go anywhere when he chose,
or how he chose - through the keyhole, if he wanted."
"But why listen?" Hamel persisted. "There is nothing in there now
but some odds and ends of machinery."
She turned from the fire and looked at him for a moment. Her eyes
were colourless, her tone unemotional.
"Maybe! There's no harm in listening."
"Did you hear anything which made you want to listen?"
"Who can tell?" she answered. "A woman who lives well-nigh alone,
as I live, in a quiet place, hears things so often that other folk
never listen to. There's always something in my ears, night or day.
Sometimes I am not sure whether it's in this world or the other. It
was like that with me just then. It was for that reason I listened.
Your luncheon's ready, sir."
Hamel walked thoughtfully back into his sitting-room. He seated
himself before a spotless cloth and watched Hannah Cox spread out
his well-cooked, cleanly-served meal.
"If there's anything you want, sir," she said, "I shall hear you at
a word. The kitchen door is open."
"One moment, Mrs. Cox."
She lingered there patiently, with the tray in her hand.
"There was some sound," Hamel continued, "perhaps a real sound,
perhaps a fancy, which made you go down on your knees in the kitchen.
Tell me what it was."
"The sound I always hear, sir," she answered quietly. "I hear it in
the night, and I hear it when I stand by the sea and look out. I
have heard it for so many years that who can tell whether it comes
from this world or the other - the cry of men who die!"
She passed out. Hamel looked after her, for a moment, like a man
in a dream. In his fancy he could see her back again once more in
the kitchen, kneeling on the stone floor, - listening!
A cold twilight had fallen upon the land when Hamel left the Tower
that evening and walked briskly along the foot-way to the Hall.
Little patches of mist hung over the creeks, the sky was almost
frosty. The lights from St. David's Hall shone like cheerful
beacons before him. He hastened up the stone steps, crossed the
terrace, and passed into the hall. A servant conducted him at once
to the drawing-room. Mrs. Fentolin, in a pink evening dress, with
a pink ornament in her hair, held out both her hands. In the
background, Mr. Fentolin, in his queerly-cut evening clothes, sat
with folded arms, leaning back in his carriage. He listened grimly
to his sister-in-law as she stood with Hamel's hands in hers.
"My dear Mr. Hamel!" she exclaimed. "How perfectly charming of you
to come up and relieve a little our sad loneliness! Delightful, I
call it, of you. I was just saying so to Miles."
Hamel looked around the room. Already his heart was beginning to
"Miss Fentolin is well, I hope?" he asked.
"Well, but a very naughty girl," her mother declared. "I let her
go to Lady Saxthorpe's to lunch, and now we have had simply the
firmest letter from Lady Saxthorpe. They insist upon keeping Esther
to dine and sleep. I have had to send her evening clothes, but you
can't tell, Mr. Hamel, how I miss her."
Hamel's disappointment was a little too obvious to pass unnoticed.
There was a shade of annoyance, too, in his face. Mr. Fentolin
"Let us be quite candid with Mr. Hamel, dear Florence," he begged.
"I have spoken to my sister-in-law and told her the substance of
our conversation this morning," he proceeded, wheeling his chair
nearer to Hamel. "She is thunderstruck. She wishes to reflect, to
consider. Esther chanced to be away. We have encouraged her
absence for a few more hours."
"I hope, Mrs. Fentolin," Hamel said simply, "that you will give
her to me. I am not a rich man, but I am fairly well off. I should
be willing to live exactly where Esther wishes, and I would do my
best to make her happy."
Mrs. Fentolin opened her lips once and closed them again. She
laughed a little - a high-pitched, semi-hysterical laugh. The hand
which gripped her fan was straining so that the blue veins stood out
almost like whipcord.
"Esther is very young, Mr. Hamel. We must talk this over. You have
known her for such a very short time."
A servant announced dinner, and Hamel offered his arm to his hostess.
"Is Gerald away, too?" he asked.
"We do indeed owe you our apologies," Mr. Fentolin declared.
"Gerald is spending a couple of days at the Dormy House at
Brancaster - a golf arrangement made some time back."
"He promised to play with me to-morrow," Hamel remarked thoughtfully.
"He said nothing about going away."
"I fear that like most young men of his age he has little memory,"
Mr. Fentolin sighed. "However, he will be back to-morrow or the
next day. I owe you my apologies, Mr. Hamel, for our lack of young
people. We must do our best to entertain our guest, Florence. You
must be at your best, dear. You must tell him some of those capital
stories of yours."
Mrs. Fentolin shivered for a moment. Hamel, as he handed her to her
place, was struck by a strange look which she threw upon him, half
furtive, full of pain. Her hand almost clung to his. She slipped a
little, and he held her tightly. Then he was suddenly conscious
that something hard was being pressed into his palm. He drew his
hand away at once.
"You seem a little unsteady this evening, my dear Florence," Mr.
Fentolin remarked, peering across the round table.
She eyed him nonchalantly enough.
"The floor is slippery," she said. "I was glad, for a moment, of
Mr. Hamel's strong hand. Where are those dear puppies? Chow-Chow,"
she went on, "come and sit by your mistress at once."
Hamel's fingers inside his waistcoat pocket were smoothing out the
crumpled piece of paper which she had passed to him. Soon he had
it quite flat. Mrs. Fentolin, as though freed from some anxiety,
chattered away gaily.
"I don't know that I shall apologise to Mr. Hamel at all for the
young people being away," she declared. "Just fancy what we have
saved him from - a solitary meal served by Hannah Cox! Do you know
that they say she is half-witted, Mr. Hamel?"
"So far, she has looked after me very well," Hamel observed.
"Her intellect is defective," Mr. Fentolin remarked, "on one point
only. The good woman is obsessed by the idea that her husband and
sons are still calling to her from the Dagger Rocks. It is almost
pitiful to meet her wandering about there on a stormy night. The
seacoasts are full of these little village tragedies - real
tragedies, too, however insignificant they may seem to us."
Mr. Fentolin's tone was gently sympathetic. He changed the subject
a moment or two later, however.
"Nero fiddles to-night," he said, "while Rome burns. There are
hundreds in our position, yet it certainly seems queer that we
should be sitting here so quietly when the whole country is in such
a state of excitement. I see the press this morning is preaching
an immediate declaration of war."
"Against whom?" Mrs. Fentolin asked.
Mr. Fentolin smiled.
"That does seem to be rather the trouble," he admitted. "Russia,
Austria, Germany, Italy, and France are all assisting at a
Conference to which no English representative has been bidden. In
a sense, of course, that is equivalent to an act of hostility from
all these countries towards England. The question is whether we
have or have not a secret understanding with France, and if so, how
far she will be bound by it. There is a rumour that when Monsieur
Deschelles was asked formally whom he represented, that he replied
- 'France and Great Britain.' There may be something in it. It is
hard to see how any English statesman could have left unguarded the
Mediterranean, with all that it means, trusting simply to the faith
of a country with whom we have no binding agreement. On the other
hand, there is the mobilisation of the fleet. If France is really
faithful, one wonders if there was need for such an extreme step."
"I am out of touch with political affairs," Hamel declared. "I have
been away from England for so long."
"I, on the other hand," Mr. Fentolin continued, his eyes glittering
a little, "have made the study of the political situation in Europe
my hobby for years. I have sent to me the leading newspapers of
Berlin, Rome, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Vienna. For two hours
every day I read them, side by side. It is curious sometimes to
note the common understanding which seems to exist between the
Powers not bound by any formal alliance. For years war seemed a
very unlikely thing, and now," he added, leaning forward in his
chair, "I pronounce it almost a certainty."
Hamel looked at his host a little curiously. Mr. Fentolin's
gentleness of expression seemed to have departed. His face was
hard, his eyes agleam. He had almost the look of a bird of prey.
For some reason, the thought of war seemed to be a joy to him.
Perhaps he read something of Hamel's wonder in his expression, for
with a shrug of the shoulders he dismissed the subject.
"Well," he concluded, "all these things lie on the knees of the gods.
I dare say you wonder, Mr. Hamel, why a poor useless creature like
myself should take the slightest interest in passing events? It is
just the fascination of the looker-on. I want your opinion about
that champagne. Florence dear, you must join us. We will drink to
Mr. Hamel's health. We will perhaps couple that toast in our minds
with the sentiment which I am sure is not very far from your
Hamel raised his glass and bowed to his host and hostess. He was
not wholly at his ease. It seemed to him that he was being watched
with a queer persistence by both of them. Mrs. Fentolin continued
to talk and laugh with a gaiety which was too obviously forced. Mr.
Fentolin posed for a while as the benevolent listener. He mildly
applauded his sister-in-law's stories, and encouraged Hamel in the
recital of some of his reminiscences. Suddenly the door was opened.
Miss Price appeared. She walked smoothly across the room and stood
by Mr. Fentolin's side. Stooping down, she whispered in his ear. He
pushed his chair back a little from the table. His face was dark
"I said not before ten to-night," he muttered.
Again she spoke in his ear, so softly that the sound of her voice
itself scarcely travelled even as far as where Hamel was sitting.
Mr. Fentolin looked steadfastly for a moment at his sister-in-law
and from her to Hamel. Then he backed his chair away front the
"I shall have to ask to be excused for three minutes," he said.
"I must speak upon the telephone. It is a call from some one who
declares that they have important news."
He turned the steering-wheel of his chair, and with Miss Price
by his side passed across the dining-room, out of the Oasis of
rose-shaded lights into the shadows, and through the open door.
From there he turned his head before he disappeared, as though to
watch his guest. Mrs. Fentolin was busy fondling one of her dogs,
which she had raised to her lap, and Hamel was watching her with a
"Koto, you little idiot, why can't you sit up like your sister?
Was its tail in the way, then! Mr. Hamel," she whispered under her
breath, so softly that he barely caught the words, although he was
only a few feet away, "don't look at me. I feel as though we were
being watched all the time. You can destroy that piece of paper in
your pocket. All that it says is 'Leave here immediately after
Hamel sipped his wine in a nonchalant fashion. His fingers had
strayed over the silky coat of the little dog, which she had held
out as though for his inspection.
"How can I?" he asked. "What excuse can I make?"
"Invent one," she insisted swiftly. "Leave here before ten o'clock.
Don't let anything keep you. And destroy that piece of paper in
your pocket, if you can - now."
"But, Mrs. Fentolin -" he began.
She caught up one of her absurd little pets and held it to her mouth.
"Meekins is in the doorway," she whispered
"Don't argue with me, please. You are in danger you know nothing
about. Pass me the cigarettes."
She leaned back in her chair, smoking quickly. She held one of the
dogs on her knee and talked rubbish to it. Hamel watched her,
leaning back in his carved oak chair, and he found it hard to keep
the pity from his eyes. The woman was playing a part, playing it
with desperate and pitiful earnestness, a part which seemed the more
tragical because of the soft splendour of their surroundings. From
the shadowy walls, huge, dimly-seen pictures hung about them, a
strange and yet impressive background. Their small round
dining-table, with its rare cut glass, its perfect appointments, its
bowls of pink roses, was like a spot of wonderful colour in the great
room. Two men servants stood at the sideboard a few yards away, a
triumph of negativeness. The butler, who had been absent for a
moment, stood now silently waiting behind his master's place. Hamel
was oppressed, during those few minutes of waiting, by a curious
sense of unreality, as though he were taking part in some strange
tableau. There was something unreal about his surroundings and his
own presence there; something unreal in the atmosphere, charged as
it seemed to be with some omen of impending happenings; something
unreal in that whispered warning, those few hoarsely uttered words
which had stolen to his hearing across the clusters of drooping
roses; the absurd babble of the woman, who sat there with tragic
things under the powder with which her face was daubed.
"Koto must learn to sit upon his tail - like that. No, not another
grape till he sits up. There, then!"
She was leaning forward with a grape between her teeth, towards the
tiny animal who was trying in vain to balance his absurdly shaped
little body upon the tablecloth. Hamel, without looking around,
knew quite well what was happening. Soon he heard the click of the
chair. Mr. Fentolin was back in his place. His skin seemed paler
and more parchment-like than ever. His eyes glittered.
"It seems," he announced quietly, as he raised his wine-glass to his
lips with the air of one needing support, "that we entertained an
angel unawares here. This Mr. Dunster is lost for the second time.
A very important personage he turns out to be."
"You mean the American whom Gerald brought home after the accident?"
Mrs. Fentolin asked carelessly.
Mr. Fentolin replied. "He insisted upon continuing his journey
before he was strong enough. I warned him of what might happen.
He has evidently been take ill somewhere. It seems that he was
on his way to The Hague."
"Do you mean that he has disappeared altogether this time?" Hamel
Mr. Fentolin shook his head.
"No, he has found his way to The Hague safely enough. He is lying
there at a hotel in the city, but he is unconscious. There is some
talk about his having been robbed on the way. At any rate, they
are tracing his movements backwards. We are to be honoured with a
visit from one of Scotland Yard's detectives, to reconstruct his
journey from here. Our quiet little corner of the world is becoming
quite notorious. Florence dear, you are tired. I can see it in
your eyes. Your headache continues, I am sure. We will not be
selfish. Mr. Hamel and I are going to have a long evening in the
library. Let me recommend a phenacetin and bed."
She rose at once to her feet, with a dog under either arm.
"I'll take the phenacetin," she promised, "but I hate going to bed
early. Shall I see you again, I wonder, Mr. Hamel?"
"Not this evening, I fear," he answered. "I am going to ask Mr.
Fentolin to excuse me early."
She passed out of the room. Hamel escorted her as far as the door
and then returned. Mr. Fentolin was sitting quite still in his
chair. His eyes were fixed upon the tablecloth. He looked up
quickly as Hamel resumed his seat.
"You are not in earnest, I hope, Mr. Hamel," he said, "when you tell
me that you must leave early? I have been anticipating a long
evening. My library is filled with books on South America which I
want to discuss with you."
"Another evening, if you don't mind," Hamel begged. "To-night I
must ask you to excuse my hurrying away."
Mr. Fentolin looked up from underneath his eyelids. His glance was
quick and penetrating.
"Why this haste?"
Hamel shrugged his shoulders.
"To tell you the truth," he admitted, "I had an idea while I was
reading an article on cantilever bridges this morning. I want to
work it out."
Mr. Fentolin glanced behind him. The door of the dining-room was
closed. The servants had disappeared. Meekins alone, looking more
like a prize fighter than ever in his somber evening clothes, had
taken the place of the butler behind his master's chair.
"We shall see," Mr. Fentolin said quietly.
Mr. Fentolin pointed to the little pile of books upon the table,
the deep easy-chair, the green-shaded lamps, the decanter of wine.
He had insisted upon a visit, however brief, to the library.
"It is a student's appeal which I make to you, Mr. Hamel," he said,
with a whimsical smile. "Here we are in my study, with the door
closed, secure against interruption, a bright fire in the grate, a
bowling and ever-increasing wind outside. Let us go together over
the ground of your last wonderful expedition over the Andes. You
will find that I am not altogether ignorant of your profession, or
of those very interesting geological problems which you spoke of in
connection with that marvellous railway scheme. We will discuss
them side by side as sybarites, hang ourselves around with cigarette
smoke, drink wine, and presently coffee. It is necessary, is it
not, for many reasons, that we become better acquainted? You realise
that, I am sure, and you will not persist in returning to your
Hamel's eyes were fixed a little longingly upon some of the volumes
with which the table was covered.
"You must not think me ungrateful or churlish, Mr. Fentolin," he
begged. "I have a habit of keeping promises which I make to myself,
and to-night I have made myself a promise that I will be back at
the Tower by ten o'clock."
"You are obdurate?" Mr. Fentolin asked softly.
"I am afraid I am."
Mr. Fentolin busied himself with the handle of his chair.
"Tell me," he insisted, "is there any other person save yourself
to whom you have given this mysterious promise?"
"No one," Hamel replied promptly.
"I am a person very sensitive to atmosphere," Mr. Fentolin continued
slowly. "Since the unfortunate visit of this man Dunster, I seem to
have been conscious of a certain suspicion, a little cloud of
suspicion under which I seem to live and move, even among the members
of my own household. My sister-in-law is nervous and hysterical;
Gerald has been sullen and disobedient; Esther has avoided me. And
now - well, I find even your attitude a little difficult to
understand. What does it mean, Mr. Hamel?"
Hamel shook his head.
"I am not in the confidence of the different members of your family,"
he answered. "So far as I, personally, am concerned -"
"It pleases me sometimes," Mr. Fentolin interrupted, "to interfere
to some extent in the affairs of the outside world. If I do so,
that is my business. I do it for my own amusement. It is at no
time a serious position which I take up. Have I by any chance, Mr.
Hamel, become an object of suspicion to you?"
"There are matters in which you are concerned," Hamel admitted,
"which I do not understand, but I see no purpose in discussing them."
Mr. Fentolin wheeled his chair round in a semicircle. He was now
between the door and Hamel.
"Weaker mortals than I, Mr. Hamel," he said calmly, "have wielded
before now the powers of life and death. From my chair I can make
the lightnings bite. Science has done away with the triumph of
muscularity. Even as we are here together at this moment, Mr. Hamel,
if we should disagree, it is I who am the preordained victor."
Hamel saw the glitter in his hand. This was so end, then, of all
doubt! He remained silent.
"Suspicions which are, in a sense, absurd," Mr. Fentolin continued,
"have grown until I find them obtrusive and obnoxious. What have I
to do with Mr. John P. Dunster? I sent him out from my house. If
he is lost or ill, the affair is not mine. Yet one by one those
around me are falling away. I told you an hour ago that Gerald was
at Brancaster. It is a lie. He has left this house, but no soul
in it knows his destination."
"You mean that he has run away?"
Mr. Fentolin nodded.
"All that I can surmise is that he has followed Dunster," he
proceeded. "He has an idea that in some way I robbed or injured
the man. He has broken the bond of relationship between us. He
has broken his solemn vow. He has run a grave and terrible risk."
"What of Miss Esther?" Hamel asked quickly.
"I have sent her away," Mr. Fentolin replied, "until we come to a
clear understanding, you and I. You seem to be a harmless enough
person, Mr. Hamel but appearances are sometimes deceptive. It has
been suggested to me that you are a spy."
"By whom?" Hamel demanded.
"By those in whom I trust," Mr. Fentolin told him sternly. "You
are a friend of Reginald Kinsley. You met him in Norwich the other
day - secretly. Kinsley's chief is a member of the Government. He
is one of those who will find eternal obloquy if The Hague
Conference comes to a successful termination. For some strange
reason, I am supposed to have robbed or harmed the one man in the
world whose message might bring to nought that Conference. Are you
here to watch me, Mr. Hamel? Are you one of those who believe that
I am either in the pay of a foreign country, or that my harmless
efforts to interest myself in great things are efforts inimical to
this country; that I am, in short, a traitor?"
"You must admit that many of your actions are incomprehensible,"
Hamel replied slowly. "There are things here which I do not
understand - which certainly require explanation."
"Still, why do you make them your business?" Mr. Fentolin
persisted. "If indeed the course which I steer is a harmless one,"
he continued, with a strange new glitter in his eyes, "then you are
an impertinent stranger to whom my doors cannot any longer be open.
If you have taken advantage of my hospitality to spy upon me and my
actions, if indeed you have a mission here, then you can carry it
with you down into hell!"
"I understand that you are threatening me?" Hamel murmured.
Mr. Fentolin smiled.
"Scarcely that, my young friend. I am not quite the obvious sort
of villain who flourishes revolvers and lures his victims into
secret chambers. These words to you are simply words of warning.
I am not like other men, neither am I used to being crossed. When
I am crossed, I am dangerous. Leave here, if you will, in safety,
and mind your own affairs; but if you show one particle of
curiosity as to mine, if you interfere in matters which concern me
and me only, remember that you are encircled by powers which are
entirely ruthless, absolutely omnipotent. You can walk back to the
Tower to-night and remember that there isn't a step you take which
might not be your last if I willed it, and never a soul the wiser.
There's a very hungry little mother here who takes her victims and
holds them tight. You can hear her calling to you now. Listen!"
He held up his finger. The tide had turned, and through the
half-open window came the low thunder of the waves.
"You decline to share my evening," Mr. Fentolin concluded. "Let
it be so. Go your own way, Hamel, only take care that your way does
not cross mine."
He backed his chair slowly and pressed the bell. Hamel felt himself
dismissed. He passed out into the hall. The door of the
drawing-room stood open, and he heard the sound of Mrs. Fentolin's
thin voice singing some little French song. He hesitated and then
stepped in. With one hand she beckoned him to her, continuing to
play all the time. He stepped over to her side.
"I come to make my adieux," he whispered, with a glance towards the
"You are leaving, then?" she asked quickly.
"Mr. Fentolin is in a strange humour," she went on, a moment later,
after she had struck the final chords of her song. "There are
things going on around us which no one can understand. I think
that one of his schemes has miscarried; he has gone too far. He
suspects you; I cannot tell you why or how. If only you would go
"What about Esther?" he asked quietly.
"You must leave her," she cried, with a little catch in her throat.
"Gerald has broken away. Esther and I must carry still the burden."
She motioned him to go. He touched her fingers for a moment.
"Mrs. Fentolin," he said, "I have been a good many years making up
my mind. Now that I have done so, I do not think that any one will
keep Esther from me."
She looked at him a little pitifully, a little wistfully. Then,
with a shrug of the shoulders, she turned round to the piano and
recommenced to play. Hamel took his coat and hat from a servant
who was waiting in the hail and passed out into the night.
He walked briskly until he reached the Tower. The wind had risen,
but there was still enough light to help him on his way. The
little building was in complete darkness. He opened the door and
stepped into the sitting-room, lit the lamp, and, holding it over
his head, went down the passage and into the kitchen. Then he gave
a start. The lamp nearly slipped from his fingers. Kneeling on
the stone floor, in very much the same attitude as he had found her
earlier in the day, Hannah Cox was crouching patiently by the door
which led into the boat-house, her face expressionless, her ear
turned towards the crack. She was still listening.
Hamel set down the lamp upon the table. He glanced at the little
clock upon the dresser; it was a quarter past ten. The woman had
observed his entrance, although it seemed in no way to have
"Do you know the time, Mrs. Cox?" he asked. "You ought to have been
home hours ago. What are you doing there?"
She rose to her feet. Her expression was one of dogged but patient
"I started for home before nine o'clock, sir," she told him, "but
it was worse than ever to-night. All the way along by the sea I
seemed to hear their voices, so I came back. I came back to listen.
I have been listening for an hour."
Hamel looked at her with a frown upon his forehead.
"Mrs. Cox," he said, "I wish I could understand what it is that you
have in your mind. Those are not real voices that you hear; you
cannot believe that?"
"Not real voices," she repeated, without the slightest expression in
"Of course not! And tell me what connection you find between these
fancies of yours and that room? Why do you come and listen here?
"I do not know," she answered patiently.
"You must have some reason," he persisted.
"I have no reason," she assured him, "only some day I shall see
behind these doors. Afterwards, I shall hear the voices no more."
She was busy tying a shawl around her head. Hamel watched her,
still puzzled. He could not get rid of the idea that there was
some method behind her madness.
"Tell me - I have found you listening here before. Have you ever
heard anything suspicious?"
"I have heard nothing yet," she admitted, "nothing that counts."
"Come," he continued, "couldn't we clear this matter up sensibly?
Do you believe that there is anybody in there? Do you believe the
place is being used in any way for a wrong purpose? If so, we will
insist upon having the keys from Mr. Fentolin. He cannot refuse.
The place is mine.
"Mr. Fentolin would not give you the keys, sir," she replied. "If
he did, it would be useless."
"Would you like me to break the door in?" Hamel asked.
"You could not do it, sir," she told him, "not you nor anybody else.
The door is thicker than my fist, of solid oak. It was a mechanic
from New York who fitted the locks. I have heard it said in the
village - Bill Hamas, the carpenter, declares that there are double
doors. The workmen who were employed here were housed in a tent
upon the beach and sent home the day they finished their job. They
were never allowed in the village. They were foreigners, most of
them. They came from nobody knows where, and when they had finished
they disappeared. Why was that, sir? What is there inside which
Mr. Fentolin needs to guard so carefully?"
"Mr. Fentolin has invented something," Hamel explained. "He keeps
the model in there. Inventors are very jealous of their work."
She looked down upon the floor for a moment.
"I shall be here at seven o'clock in the morning, sir. I will give
you your breakfast at the usual time."
Hamel opened the door for her.
"Good night, Mrs. Cox," he said. "Would you like me to walk a
little way with you? It's a lonely path to the village, and the
dikes are full."
"Thank you, no, sir," she replied. "It's a lonely way, right enough,
but it isn't loneliness that frightens me. I am less afraid out
with the winds and the darkness than under this roof. If I lose my
way and wander all night upon the marsh, I'll be safer out there
than you, sir."
She passed away, and Hamel watched her disappear into the darkness.
Then he dragged out a bowl of tobacco and filled a pipe. Although
he was half ashamed of himself, he strolled back once more into the
kitchen, and, drawing up a stool, he sat down just where he had
discovered Hannah Cox, sat still and listened. No sound of any sort
reached him. He sat there for ten minutes. Then he scrambled to
"She is mad, of course!" he muttered.
He mixed himself a whisky and soda, relit his pipe, which had gone
out, and drew up an easy-chair to the fire which she had left him
in the sitting-room. The wind had increased in violence, and the
panes of his window rattled continually. He yawned and tried to
fancy that he was sleepy. It was useless. He was compelled to
admit the truth - that his nerves were all on edge. In a sense he
was afraid. The thought of bed repelled him. He had not a single
impulse towards repose. Outside, the wind all the time was
gathering force. More than once his window was splashed with the
spray carried on by the wind which followed the tide. He sat quite
still and tried to think calmly, tried to piece together in his mind
the sequence of events which had brought him to this part of the
world and which had led to his remaining where he was, an undesired
hanger-on at the threshold of Miles Fentolin. He had the feeling
that to-night he had burned his boats. There was no longer any
pretence of friendliness possible between him and this strange
creature. Mr. Fentolin suspected him, realised that he himself was
suspected. But of what? Hamel moved in his chair restlessly.
Sometimes that gathering cloud of suspicion seemed to him grotesque.
Of what real harm could he be capable, this little autocrat who from
his chair seemed to exercise such a malign influence upon every one
with whom he was brought into contact? Hamel sighed. The riddle
was insoluble. With a sudden rush of warmer and more joyous
feelings, he let the subject slip away from him. He closed his eyes
and dreamed for a while. There was a new world before him, joys
which only so short a time ago he had fancied had passed him by.
He sat up in his chair with a start. The fire had become merely
a handful of grey ashes, his limbs were numb and stiff. The lamp
was flickering out. He had been dozing, how long he had no idea.
Something had awakened him abruptly. There was a cold draught
blowing through the room. He turned his head, his hands still
gripping the sides of his chair. His heart gave a leap. The
outer door was a few inches open, was being held open by some
invisible force. There was some one there, some one on the point
of entering stealthily. Even as he watched, the crack became a
little wider. He sat with his eyes riveted upon that opening
space. The unseen hand was still at work. Every instant he
expected to see a face thrust forward. The sensation of absolute
physical fear by which he was oppressed was a revelation to him.
He found himself wishing almost feverishly that he was armed. The
physical strength in which he had trusted seemed to him at that
instant a valueless and impotent thing. There was a splash of
spray or raindrops against the window and through the crack in
the door. The lamp chimney hissed and spluttered and finally the
light went out. The room was in sudden darkness. Hamel sprang
then to his feet. Silence had become an intolerable thing. He
felt the close presence of another human being creeping in upon
"Who's there?" he cried. "Who's there, I say?"
There was no direct answer, only the door was pushed a little
further open. He had stepped close to it now. The sweep of the
wind was upon his face, although in the black darkness he could
see nothing. And then a sudden recollection flashed in upon him.
From his trousers pocket he snatched a little electric torch. In
an instant his thumb had pressed the button. He turned it upon
the door. The shivering white hand which held it open was plainly
in view. It was the hand of a woman! He stepped swiftly forward.
A dark figure almost fell into his arms.
"Mrs. Fentolin!" he exclaimed, aghast.
An hysterical cry, choked and subdued, broke from her lips. He
half carried, half led her to his easy-chair. Suddenly steadied by
the presence of this unlooked-for emergency, he closed the outside
door and relit the lamp with firm fingers. Then he turned to face
her, and his amazement at this strange visit became consternation.
She was still in her dinner-gown of black satin, but it was soaked
through with the rain and hung about her like a black shroud. She
had lost one shoe, and there was a great hole in her silk stocking.
Her hair was all disarranged; one of its numerous switches was
hanging down over her ear. The rouge upon her cheeks had run down
on to her neck. She sat there, looking at him out of her hollow
eyes like some trapped animal. She was shaking with fear. It was
fear, not faintness, which kept her silent.
"Tell me, please, what is the matter?" he insisted, speaking as
indifferently as he could. "Tell me at once what has happened?"
She pointed to the door.
"Lock it!" she implored.
He turned down the latch and drew the bolt. The sound seemed to
give her a little courage. Her fingers went to her throat for a
"Give me some water."
He poured out some soda-water. She drank only o sip and put it down
again. He began to be alarmed. She had the appearance of one who
has suddenly lost her senses.
"Please tell me just what has happened?" he begged. "If I can help
in any way, you know I will. But you must tell me. Do you realise
that it is three o'clock? I should have been in bed, only I went
to sleep over the fire here."
"I know," she answered. "It is just the wind that has taken away
my breath. It was a hard struggle to get here. Listen - you are
our friend, Mr. Hamel - Esther's and mine? Swear that you are our
"Upon my honour, I am," he assured her. "You should know that."
"For eight years," she went on, her voice clear enough now, although
it seemed charged with a curious metallic vibration, "for eight
years we've borne it, all three of us, slaves, bound hand and foot,
lashed with his tongue, driven along the path of his desires. We
have seen evil things. We have been on the point of rebellion, and
he's come a little nearer and he's pointed back. He has taken me by
the hand, and I have walked by the side of his chair, loathing it,
loathing myself, out on to the terrace and down below, just where
it happened. You know what happened there, Mr. Hamel?"
"You mean where Mr. Fentolin met with his accident."
"It was no accident!" she cried, glancing for a moment around her.
"It was no accident! It was my husband who took him up and threw
him over the terrace, down below; my husband who tried to kill him;
Esther's father - Gerald's father! Miles was in the Foreign Office
then, and he did something disgraceful. He sold a secret to Austria.
He was always a great gambler, and he was in debt. Seymour found
out about it. He followed him down here. They met upon the terrace.
I - I saw it!"
He was silent for a moment.
"No one has known the truth," he murmured.
"No one has ever known," she assented, "and our broken lives have
been the price. It was Miles himself who made the bargain. We - we
can't go on, Mr. Hamel."
"I begin to understand," Hamel said softly. "You suffer everything
from Miles Fentolin because he kept the secret. Very well, that
belongs to the past. Something has happened, something to-night,
which has brought you here. Tell me about it?"
Once more her voice began to shake.
"We've seen - terrible things - horrible things," she faltered.
"We've held our peace. Perhaps it's been nearly as bad before,
but we've closed our eyes; we haven't wanted to know. Now - we
can't help it. Mr. Hamel, Esther isn't at Lord Saxthorpe's.
She never went there. They didn't ask her. And Dunster - the
man Dunster -"
"'Where is Esther?" Hamel interrupted suddenly.
"Locked up away from you, locked up because she rebelled!"
She shook her head. Her eyes were filled with horror.
"But he left the Hall - I saw him!"
She shook her head.
"It wasn't Dunster. It was the man Miles makes use of - Ryan, the
librarian. He was once an actor."
"Where is Dunster, then?" Hamel asked quickly. "What has become
She opened her lips and closed them again, struggled to speak and
failed. She sat there, breathing quickly, but silent. The power
of speech had gone.
Hamel, for the next few minutes, forgot everything else in his
efforts to restore to consciousness his unexpected visitor. He
rebuilt the fire, heated some water upon his spirit lamp, and forced
some hot drink between the lips of the woman who was now almost in
a state of collapse. Then he wrapped her round in his own ulster
and drew her closer to the fire. He tried during those few moments
to put away the memory of all that she had told him. Gradually she
began to recover. She opened her eyes and drew a little sigh. She
made no effort at speech, however. She simply lay and looked at
him like some wounded animal. He came over to her side and chafed
one of her cold hands.
"Come," he said at last, "you begin to look more like yourself now.
You are quite safe in here, and, for Esther's sake as well as your
own, you know that I am your friend."
She nodded, and her fingers gently pressed his.
"I am sure of it," she murmured.
"Now let us see where we are," he continued. "Tell me exactly why
you risked so much by leaving St. David's Hall to-night and coming
down here. Isn't there any chance that he might find out?"
"I don't know," she answered. "It was Lucy Price who sent me. She
came to my room just as I was undressing."
"Lucy Price," he repeated. "The secretary?"
"Yes! She told me that she had meant to come to you herself. She
sent me instead. She thought it best. This man Dunster is being
kept alive because there is something Miles wants him to tell him,
and he won't. But to-night, if he is still alive, if he won't tell,
they mean to make away with him. They are afraid."
"Miss Price told you this?" Hamel asked gravely.
Mrs. Fentolin nodded.
"Yes! She said so. She knows - she knows everything. She has
been like the rest of us. She, too, has suffered. She, too, has
reached the breaking point. She loved him before the accident.
She has been his slave ever since. Listen!"
She suddenly clutched his arm. They were both silent. There was
nothing to be heard but the wind. She leaned a little closer to
"Lucy Price sent me here to-night because she was afraid that it
was to-night they meant to take him from his hiding-place and kill
him. The police have left off searching for Mr. Dunster in Yarmouth
and at The Hague. There is a detective in the neighbourhood and
another one on his way here. They are afraid to keep him alive any
"Where was Mr. Fentolin when you left?" Hamel asked.
"I asked Lucy Price that," she replied. "When she came to my room,
there were no signs of his leaving. She told me to come and tell
you everything. Do you know where Mr. Dunster is?"
Hamel shook his head.
"Within a few yards of here," she went on. "He is in the
boat-house, the place where Miles told you he kept a model of his
invention. They brought him here the night before they put his
clothes on Ryan and sent him off disguised as Mr. Dunster, in the
car to Yarmouth."
Hamel started up, but she clutched at his arm and pulled him back.
"No," she cried, "you can't break in! There are double doors and
a wonderful lock. The boat-house is yours; the building is yours.
In the morning you must demand the keys - if he does not come
"And how are we to know," Hamel asked, "if he comes to-night?"
"Go outside," she whispered. "Look towards St. David's Hall and
tell me how many lights you can see."
He drew back the bolt, unlatched the door, and stepped out into the
darkness. The wind and the driving rain beat against his face. A
cloud of spray enveloped and soaked him. Like lamps hung in the
sky, the lights of St. David's Hall shone out through the black
gulf. He counted them carefully; then he stepped back.
"There are seven," he told her, closing the door with an effort.
She counted upon her fingers.
"I must come and see," she muttered. "I must be sure. Help me."
He lifted her to her feet, and they staggered out together.
"Look!" she went on, gripping his arm. "You see that row of lights?
If anything happens, if Mr. Fentolin leaves the Hall to-night to
come down here, a light will appear on the left in the far corner.
We must watch for that light. We must watch -"
The words, whispered hoarsely into his ear, suddenly died away.
Even as they stood there, far away from the other lights, another
one shone suddenly out in the spot towards which she had pointed,
and continued to burn steadily. He felt the woman who was clinging
to his arm become suddenly a dead weight.
"She was right!" Mrs. Fentolin moaned. "He is coming down to-night!
He is preparing to leave now; perhaps he has already started! What
shall we do? What shall we do?"
Hamel was conscious of a gathering sense of excitement. He, too,
looked at the signal which was flashing out its message towards them.
Then he gripped his companion's arm and almost carried her back into
"Look here," he said firmly, "you can do nothing further. You have
done your part and done it well. Stay where you are and wait. The
rest belongs to me."
"But what can you do?" she demanded, her voice shaking with fear.
"Meekins will come with him, and Doctor Sarson, unless he is here
already. What can you do against them? Meekins can break any
ordinary man's back, and Mr. Fentolin will have a revolver."
Hamel threw another log on to the fire and drew her chair closer
"Never mind about," he declared cheerfully. "Mr. Fentolin is too
clever to attempt violence, except as a last resource. He knows
that I have friends in London who would need some explanation
of my disappearance. Stay here and wait."
She recognised the note of authority in his tone, and she bowed her
head. Then she looked up at him; she was a changed woman.
"Perhaps I have done ill to drag you into our troubles, Mr. Hamel,"
she said, "and yet, I believe in you. I believe that you really
care for Esther. If you can help us now, it will be for your
happiness, too. You are a man. God bless you!"
Hamel groped his way round the side of the Tower and took up a
position at the extreme corner of the landward side of the building,
within a yard of the closed doors. The light far out upon the left
was still gleaming brightly, but two of the others in a line with
it had disappeared. He flattened himself against the wall and
waited, listening intently, his eyes straining through the darkness.
Yet they were almost upon him before he had the slightest indication
of their presence. A single gleam of light in the path, come and
gone like a flash, the gleam of an electric torch directed
momentarily towards the road, was his first indication that they
were near. A moment or two later he heard the strange click, click
of the little engine attached to Mr. Fentolin's chair. Hamel set
his teeth and stepped a few inches further back. The darkness was
so intense that they were actually within a yard or so of him before
he could even dimly discern their shapes. There were three of them
- Mr. Fentolin in his chair, Doctor Sarson, and Meekins. They
paused for a moment while the latter produced a key. Hamel
distinctly heard a slow, soft whisper from Doctor Sarson.
"Shall I go round to the front and see that he is in bed?"
"No need," Mr. Fentolin replied calmly. "It is nearly four o'clock.
Better not to risk the sound of your footsteps upon the pebbles.
The door swung noiselessly open. The darkness was so complete that
even though Hamel could have touched them with an outstretched hand,
their shapes were invisible. Hamel, who had formed no definite
plans, had no time to hesitate. As the last one disappeared through
the door, he, too, slipped in. He turned abruptly to the left and,
holding his breath, stood against the wall. The door closed behind
them. The gleam of the electric light flashed across the stone
floor and rested for a moment upon a trap-door, which Meekins had
already stooped to lift. It fell back noiselessly upon rubber studs,
and Meekins immediately slipped through it a ladder, on either side
of which was a grooved stretch of board, evidently fashioned to
allow Mr. Fentolin's carriage to pass down. Hamel held his breath.
The moment for him was critical. If the light flashed once in his
direction, he must be discovered. Both Meekins and Doctor Sarson,
however, were intent upon the task of steering Mr. Fentolin's little
carriage down below. They placed the wheels in the two grooves,
and Meekins secured the carriage with a rope which he let run
through his fingers. As soon as the little vehicle had apparently
reached the bottom, he turned, thrust the electric torch in his
pocket, and stepped lightly down the ladder. Doctor Sarson
followed his example. They disappeared in perfect silence and left
the door open. Presently a gleam of light came travelling up, from
which Hamel knew that they had lit a lamp below. Very softly he
crept across the floor, threw himself upon his stomach and peered
down. Below him was a room, or rather a cellar, parts of which
seemed to have been cut out of the solid rock. Immediately
underneath was a plain iron bedstead, on which was lying stretched
the figure of a man. In those first few moments Hamel failed
altogether to recognise Mr. Dunster. He was thin and white, and
he seemed to have shrunken; his face, with its coarse growth of
beard, seemed like the face of an old man. Yet the eyes were open,
eyes dull and heavy as though with pain. So far no word had been
spoken, but at that moment Mr. Fentolin broke the silence.
"My dear guest," he said, "I bring you our most sincere apologies.
It has gone very much against the grain, I can assure you, to have
neglected you for so long a time. It is entirely the fault of the
very troublesome young man who occupies the other portion of this
building. In the daytime his presence makes it exceedingly
difficult for us to offer you those little attentions which you
might naturally expect."
The man upon the bed neither moved nor changed his position in any
way. Nor did he speak. All power of initiative seemed to have
deserted him. He lay quite still, his eyes fixed upon Mr. Fentolin.
"There comes a time," the latter continued, "when every one of us
is confronted with what might be described as the crisis of our
lives. Yours has come, my guest, at precisely this moment. It is,
if my watch tells me the truth, five and twenty minutes to four.
It is the last day of April. The year you know. You have exactly
one minute to decide whether you will live a short time longer, or
whether you will on this last day of April, and before - say, a
quarter to four, make that little journey the nature of which you
and I have discussed more than once."
Still the man upon the bed made no movement nor any reply. Mr.
Fentolin sighed and beckoned to Doctor Sarson.
"I am afraid," he whispered, "that that wonderful drug of yours,
Doctor, has been even a little too far-reaching in its results. It
has kept our friend so quiet that he has lost even the power of
speech, perhaps even the desire to speak. A little restorative,
I think - just a few drops."
Doctor Sarson nodded silently. He drew from his pocket a little
phial and poured into a wine-glass which stood on a table by the
side of the bed, half a dozen drops of some ruby-coloured liquid,
to which he added a tablespoonful of water. Then he leaned once
more over the bed and poured the contents of the glass between the
lips of the semi-conscious man.
"Give him two minutes," he said calmly. "He will be able to speak
Mr. Fentolin nodded and leaned back in his chair. He glanced around
the room a little critically. There was a thick carpet upon the
floor, a sofa piled with cushions in one corner, and several other
articles of furniture. The walls, however, were uncovered and were
stained with damp. A great pink fungus stood out within a few
inches of the bed, a grim mixture of exquisite colouring and
loathsome imperfections. The atmosphere was fetid. Meekins suddenly
struck a match and lit some grains of powder in a saucer. A curious
odour of incense stole through the place. Mr. Fentolin nodded
"That is better," he declared. "Really, the atmosphere here is
positively unpleasant. I am ashamed to think that our guest has
had to put up with it so long. And yet," he went on, "I think we
must call it his own fault. I trust that he will no longer be
The effect of the restorative began to show itself. The man on the
bed moved restlessly. His eyes were no longer altogether
expressionless. He was staring at Mr. Fentolin as one looks at some
horrible vision. Mr. Fentolin smiled pleasantly.
"Now you are looking more like your old self, my dear Mr. Dunster,"
he remarked. "I don't think that I need repeat what I said when I
first came, need I? You have just to utter that one word, and your
little visit to us will be at an end."
The man looked around at all of them. He raised himself a little
on his elbow. For the first time, Hamel, crouching above,
recognised any likeness to Mr. John P. Dunster.
"I'll see you in hell first!"
Mr. Fentolin's face momentarily darkened. He moved a little nearer
to the man upon the bed.
"Dunster," he said, "I am in grim earnest. Never mind arguments.
Never mind why I am on the other side. They are restless about you
in America. Unless I can cable that word to-morrow morning, they'll
communicate direct with The Hague, and I shall have had my trouble
for nothing. It is not my custom to put up with failure. Therefore,
let me tell you that no single one of my threats has been
exaggerated. My patience has reached its breaking point. Give me
that word, or before four o'clock strikes, you will find yourself
in a new chamber, among the corpses of those misguided fishermen,
mariners of ancient days, and a few others. It's only a matter of
fifty yards out to the great sea pit below the Dagger Rocks - I've
spoken to you about it before, haven't I? So surely as I speak to
you of it at this moment."
Mr. Fentolin's speech came to an abrupt termination. A convulsive
movement of Meekins', an expression of blank amazement on the part
of Doctor Sarson, had suddenly checked the words upon his lips. He
turned his head quickly in the direction towards which they had been
gazing, towards which in fact, at that moment, Meekins, with a low
cry, had made a fruitless spring. The ladder down which they had
descended was slowly disappearing. Meekins, with a jump, missed
the last rung by only a few inches. Some unseen hand was drawing
it up. Already the last few feet were vanishing in mid-air. Mr.
Fentolin sat quite quiet and still. He looked through the trap-door
and saw Hamel.
"Most ingenious and, I must confess, most successful, my young
friend!" he exclaimed pleasantly. "When you have made the ladder
quite secure, perhaps you will be so good as to discuss this little
matter with us?"
There was no immediate reply. The eyes of all four men were turned
now upon that empty space through which the ladder had finally
disappeared. Mr. Fentolin's fingers disappeared within the pocket
of his coat. Something very bright was glistening in his hand when
he withdrew it.
"Come and parley with us, Mr. Hamel," he begged. "You will not find
Hamel's voice came back in reply, but Hamel himself kept well away
from the opening.
"The conditions," he said, "are unpropitious. A little time for
reflection will do you no harm."
The trap-doors were suddenly closed. Mr. Fentolin's face, as he
looked up, became diabolic.
"We are trapped!" he muttered; "caught like rats in a hole!"
A gleam of day was in the sky as Hamel, with Mrs. Fentolin by his
side, passed along the path which led from the Tower to St. David's
Hall. Lights were still burning from its windows; the outline of
the building itself was faintly defined against the sky. Behind
him, across the sea, was that one straight line of grey merging
into silver. The rain had ceased and the wind had dropped. On
either side of them stretched the brimming creeks.
"Can we get into the house without waking any one?" he asked.
"Quite easily," she assured him. "The front door is never barred."
She walked by his side, swiftly and with surprising vigour. In the
still, grey light, her face was more ghastly than ever, but there
was a new firmness about her mouth, a new decision in her tone.
They reached the Hall without further speech, and she led the way
to a small door on the eastern side, through which they entered
noiselessly and passed along a little passage out into the hall.
A couple of lights were still burning. The place seemed full of
"What are you going to do now?" she whispered.
"I want to ring up London on the telephone," he replied. "I know
that there is a detective either in the neighbourhood or on his
way here, but I shall tell my friend that he had better come down
"I am going to release Esther," she said. "She is locked in her
room. The telephone is in the study. I will come down there to
She passed silently up the broad staircase. Hamel groped his way
across the hail into the library. He turned on the small electric
reading-lamp and drew up a chair to the side of the telephone. Even
as he lifted the receiver to his ear, he looked around him half
apprehensively. It seemed as though every moment he would hear the
click of Mr. Fentolin's chair.
He got the exchange at Norwich without difficulty, and a few minutes
later a sleepy reply came from the number he had rung up in London.
It was Kinsley's servant who answered.
"I want to speak to Mr. Kinsley at once upon most important
business," Hamel announced.
"Very sorry, sir," the man repelled. "Mr. Kinsley left town last
night for the country."
"Where has he gone?" Hamel demanded quickly. "You can tell me.
You know who I am; I am Mr. Hamel."
"Into Norfolk somewhere, sir. He went with several other gentlemen."
"Is that Bullen?" Hamel asked.
The man admitted the fact.
"Can you tell me if any of the people with whom Mr. Kinsley left
London were connected with the police?" he inquired.
The man hesitated.
"I believe so, sir," he admitted. "The gentlemen started in a
motor-car and were going to drive all night."
Hamel laid down the receiver. At any rate, he would not be left
long with this responsibility upon him. He walked out into the hall.
The house was still wrapped in deep silence. Then, from somewhere
above him, coming down the stairs, he heard the rustle of a woman's
gown. He looked up, and saw Miss Price, fully dressed, coming
slowly towards him. She held up her finger and led the way back
into the library. She was dressed as neatly as ever, but there
was a queer light in her eyes.
"I have seen Mrs. Seymour Fentolin," she said. "She tells me that
you have left Mr. Fentolin and the others in the subterranean room
of the Tower."
"They have Dunster down there," he told her. "I followed them in;
it seemed the best thing to do. I have a friend from London who is
on his way down here now with some detective officers, to enquire
into the matter of Dunster's disappearance."
"Are you going to leave them where they are until these people
arrive?" she asked.
"I think so," he replied, after a moment's hesitation. "I don't
seem to have had time to consider even what to do. The opportunity
came, and I embraced it. There they are, and they won't dare to
do any further harm to Dunster now. Mrs. Fentolin was down in my
room, and I thought it best to bring her back first before I even
parleyed with them again.
"You must be careful," she advised slowly. "The man Dunster has
been drugged, he has lost some of his will; he may have lost some
of his mental balance. Mr. Fentolin is clever. He will find a
dozen ways to wriggle out of any charge that can be brought against
him. You know what he has really done?"
"I can guess."
"He has kept back a document signed by the twelve men in America
who control the whole of Wall Street, who control practically the
money markets of the world. That document is a warning to Germany
that they will have no war against England. Owing to Mr. Fentolin,
it has not been delivered, and the Conference is sitting now. War
may be declared at any moment."
"But as a matter of common sense," Hamel asked, "why does Mr.
Fentolin desire war?"
"You do not understand Mr. Fentolin," she told him quietly. "He
is not like other men. There are some who live almost entirely for
the sake of making others happy, who find joy in seeing people
content and satisfied. Mr. Fentolin is the reverse of this. He
has but one craving in life: to see pain in others. To see a human
being suffer is to him a debauch of happiness. A war which laid
this country waste would fill him with a delight which you could
never understand. There are no normal human beings like this. It
is a disease in the man, a disease which came upon him after his
"Yet you have all been his slaves," Hamel said curiously.
"We have all been his slaves," she admitted, "for different reasons.
Before his accident came, Mr. Fentolin was my master and the only
man in the world for me. After his accident, I think my feelings
for him, if anything, grew stronger. I became his slave. I sold
my conscience, my self-respect, everything in life worth having, to
bring a smile to his lips, to help him through a single moment of
his misery. And just lately the reaction has come. He has played
with me just as he would sit and pull the legs out of a spider to
watch its agony. I have been one of his favourite amusements. And
even now, if he came into this room I think that I should be
helpless. I should probably fall at his feet and pray for
Hamel looked at her wonderingly.
"I have come down to warn you," she went on. "It is possible that
this is the beginning of the end, that his wonderful fortune will
desert him, that his star has gone down. But remember that he has
the brains and courage of genius. You think that you have him in
a trap. Don't be surprised, when you go back, to find that he has
turned the tables upon you."
"Impossible!" Hamel declared. "I looked all round the place. There
isn't a window or opening anywhere. The trap-door is in the middle
of the ceiling and it is fifteen feet from the floor. It shuts
with a spring."
"It may be as you say," she observed. "It may be that he is safe.
Remember, though, if you go near him, that he is desperate."
"Do you know where Miss Fentolin is?" he interrupted.
"She is with her mother," the woman replied, impatiently. "She is
coming down. Tell me, what are you going to do with Mr. Fentolin?
Nothing else matters."
"I have a friend," Hamel answered, "who will see to that."
"If you are relying upon the law," she said, "I think you will find
that the law cannot touch him. Mr. Dunster was brought to the
house in a perfectly natural manner. He was certainly injured, and
injured in a railway accident. Doctor Sarson is a fully qualified
surgeon, and he will declare that Mr. Dunster was unfit to travel.
If necessary, they will have destroyed `the man's intelligence. If
you think that you have him broken, let me warn you that you may be
disappointed. Let me, if I may, give you one word of advice."
"Please do," Hamel begged.
She looked at him coldly. Her tone was still free from any sort of
"You have taken up some sort of position here," she continued, "as
a friend of Mrs. Seymour Fentolin, a friend of the family. Don't
let them come back under the yoke. You know the secret of their
"I know it," he admitted.
"They have been his slaves because their absolute obedience to his
will was one of the conditions of his secrecy. He has drawn the
cords too tight. Better let the truth be known, if needs be, than
have their three lives broken. Don't let them go back under his
governance. For me, I cannot tell. If he comes back, as he will
come back, I may become his slave again, but let them break away.
Listen - that is Mrs. Fentolin."
She left him. Hamel followed her out into the hail. Esther and
her mother were already at the foot of the stairs. He drew them
into the study. Esther gave him her hands, but she was trembling
in every limb.
"I am terrified!" she whispered. "Every moment I think I can hear
the click of that awful carriage. He will come back; I am sure he
will come back!"
"He may," Hamel answered sturdily, "but never to make you people
his slaves again. You have done enough. You have earned your
"I agree," Mrs. Fentolin said firmly. "We have gone on from
sacrifice to sacrifice, until it has become a habit with us to
consider him the master of our bodies and our souls. To-day,
Esther, we have reached the breaking point. Not even for the sake
of that message from the other side of the grave, not even to
preserve his honour and his memory, can we do more."
Hamel held up his finger. He opened the French windows, and they
followed him out on to the terrace. The grey dawn had broken now
over the sea. There were gleams of fitful sunshine on the marshes.
Some distance away a large motor-car was coming rapidly along the
Mr. John P. Dunster, lying flat upon his little bed, watched with
dilated eyes the disappearance of the ladder. Then he laughed. It
was a queer sound - broken, spasmodic, devoid of any of the ordinary
elements of humor - and yet it was a laugh. Mr. Fentolin turned his
head towards his prisoner and nodded thoughtfully.
"What a constitution, my friend!" he exclaimed, without any trace
of disturbance in his voice. "And what a sense of humour! Strange
that a trifling circumstance like this should affect it. Meekins,
burn some more of the powder. The atmosphere down here may be
salubrious, but I am unaccustomed to it."
"Perhaps," Mr. Dunster said in a hollow tone, you will have some
opportunity now of discovering with me what it is like."
"That, too, is just possible," Mr. Fentolin admitted, blowing out
a little volume of smoke from a cigarette which he had just lit,
"but one never knows. We have friends, and our position, although,