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Till the Clock Stops by John Joy Bell

Part 2 out of 5

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of paper of poor quality, bearing a few lines in a school-boyish hand.



"_Sir,_--Herewith the sum of 990 which I accepted
from you the other night owing to a misunderstanding.
Without apologies for doubting
your honesty--Yours truly,

"J. CAW."

Lancaster drew a long breath. "So he was fooling us, Bullard."

"Not at all! Some one was fooling him!--only he has managed--I'm
convinced of that--to regain possession of the green box. As I impressed
on you just after the fiasco, there was some one in one of the presses,
and now it is evident that Caw captured that person after we had left.
Unfortunately, it means that a fourth person has knowledge of the
diamonds. Still, my friend, we have another chance."

"What? You don't mean to say--"

"Certainly, we shall try again,--we must! And the sooner the better! That
is, unless we find we can settle amicably with the invaluable Caw. His
note suggests that possibility, doesn't it? His impertinence gives me

"It is the letter," said Lancaster heavily, "of an honest man--"

"Up to the tune of a thousand pounds. A wise man, if you like, who
foresaw the possibility of the notes being stopped."

"You would not have dared do that."

"I had already written off my share as a bad debt," said Bullard, with a
smile, "but Caw was not to know that."

The older man rested his head upon his hand. "You cannot be certain," he
said slowly, "that the green box is still in the house."

"True. Otherwise I'd be tempted to produce Alan Craig's will and finish
the business. All the nonsense about the clock and the postponed division
could not prevent our taking possession of the house and everything in
it. Why, even that absurdly costly clock would be ours.... And yet
there's always the risk of--"

"Bullard, let us produce the will and dare the risk of losing the
diamonds. From the bottom of my heart I tell you, I will be content
with 25,000."

"So you think at the moment. But apart from your own feelings--not to
mention mine--what about Mrs. Lancaster's?"

"I--I have already told her we cannot go on living as we are doing."

"Yes? And her reply?"

Lancaster was mute.

"Have you, by any chance, mentioned to her the matter of
the!--a--debt to the--"

"For God's sake, don't torture!"

"I have no wish to do that," said Bullard quietly. "Let us change the
subject, which is not really urgent at present, for one which, I trust,
may be less disagreeable to you."

The host wiped his forehead. "What is it about?" he asked wearily.

"Your daughter."


Teddy was not afraid of Mrs. Lancaster, but he soon gathered that she had
come to stay, and as the situation seemed to him difficult for Doris, he
took his leave with assumed cheerfulness. In bidding the girl good-night
he dropped in a whispered "to-morrow," which was, perhaps, more of a
comfort to Doris than she would have admitted to herself. Immediately
after his departure she expressed her intention of going to bed.

"Just for a moment, Doris. Do sit down again. We must settle what you are
going to wear at the Thurstans' on the seventeenth." And Mrs. Lancaster
plunged into a long discussion on frocks with numerous side issues.

A few weeks ago she would certainly have hesitated over Bullard as a
son-in-law. Now she was prepared to accept him as such, not, it should be
said, with joy and thanksgiving, yet not, on the other hand, with
hopeless resignation. After all, he was richer than any of the men she
knew, and in view of her husband's deplorable confession it would be
well, if not vital, to have him on her side. Far better to abandon the
idea of a title than to risk all continuing its pursuit. She would see to
it that she did not have to abandon her other ambitions.

When Bullard made his appearance, however, she betrayed no unusual
interest in the man.

"Was Robert not thinking of going to bed?" she casually enquired.

"He ought to be there now, Mrs. Lancaster. If I were you--"

"I shan't be a minute," she said, rising, "but I really must look
after him."

Bullard closed the door, and came back to the hearth.

"I am glad of this opportunity, Miss Doris," he said, "to tell you
something that has been in my mind to say for a very long time. Don't
be alarmed."

She rose, but made no attempt to go from him. Perhaps instinct told her
that there could be no ultimate escape.

"I don't wear my heart on my sleeve," he went on evenly, "but I dare say
you have at least suspected my feelings for you. I have never flattered
myself that you have regarded me as more than a friend of the house--a
good friend, I hope--and you have known me so long that you may have come
to consider me an old friend in more senses than one. Yet here I am,
Doris, asking you to marry me--"

"Please, Mr. Bullard--" The whisper came from pale lips.

He proceeded gently, steadily--"At present you would say that you cannot
give me the affection I desire, yet I would ask to be allowed to try to
earn it. I can give you many things besides a whole-hearted admiration,
Doris. You are the only woman I have ever thought of as wife. With me you
would be secure from worldly hardships, and I venture to believe that you
would never regret marrying me. One word more. You have been sad of late.
No business of mine, perhaps, but if there is anything I can do, you may
command me. Doris, will you marry me?"

Perhaps she liked him better at that moment than ever she had done;
certainly better than ever she would like him again. For he broke the
long silence with these words--

"I have your father's permission, your mother's approval."

"My father's permission!" she said faintly. For support she laid her arm
on the mantel. Her mind was in a turmoil. At last--"I cannot marry you,
Mr. Bullard."

"With all respect," he quietly answered, "I cannot take your words
as final."

She was not indignant, only afraid. "You speak of my father's
'permission,'" she managed to say. "Does that include his 'approval'? You
will forgive me, but--"

"I will forgive you anything but a refusal."

"Then please excuse my leaving you. I will come back."

She went quickly to the library. From the table Mr. Lancaster raised a
face whose haggard aspect almost made her cry out--so aged it was, so
stricken with trouble. She closed the door, went over to the table, and
halted opposite him.

"Father, do you really wish me to marry Mr. Bullard?"

"My child, life--everything--is uncertain, and so--and so I would see you
provided for."

"I am not afraid of poverty--compared with some things." She nerved
herself. "Father, you and I used to be frank with each other. Will
it--help you if I marry Mr. Billiard?"

The man writhed. "Yes, Doris," he whispered at last.

"In what way?" Again she had to wait for his reply.

"It--it would save me..."

"Save you?"

"...from a grave difficulty..."


"...disgrace." His head drooped. And suddenly all that mattered to heart
was swamped by a wave of loving pity. She ran round to him and clasped
him, and kissed him. "Oh, my dear," she sighed, "it was never, never
your fault."

Then she went back to the drawing-room. She looked straight at Bullard as
he stood by the fire, well-dressed, well-groomed, and just rather
well-fed. And there and then she made up her mind.

"Mr. Bullard," she said calmly, "I promise to marry you, if you still
wish it, a year hence; but I will not be engaged to you formally or
openly. That is all I can say--all I can offer you."

He frowned slightly at her tone rather than her words. The least
trustworthy people are not the least trusting, and he did not doubt,
knowing her as he did, that she would redeem any promise she made,
nor was he particularly anxious for marriage within a year. But he
had his vanity.

"Do you mean," he asked with increased suavity, "that you would wish to
ignore my existence until the year is up?"

"Not your existence, Mr. Bullard--we should meet as before, I
suppose--but--well, I think you must see what I mean."

He bowed. "It shall be as you will, Doris. Enough that I have your word
for a year hence. Or"--he smiled--"let us say, when the clock stops,
which your father will tell you is practically the same thing. Don't look
so puzzled! Will you give me your hand on it?" The man was not without
dignity; he made no attempt to detain her hand.

"Thank you and good-night," he said. "I will pay my respects to Mrs.
Lancaster to-morrow afternoon."

He went out with the step of success. He had not only secured a wife to
be proud of, but had, he believed, disarmed a possible enemy. For some
time he had had vaguely uneasy moments with regard to Teddy France.

When the door had closed Doris dropped her face in her hands, but her
eyes remained dry. Five minutes later, Mrs. Lancaster, coming in,
received the calm and brief announcement that her daughter had promised
to marry Mr. Bullard a year hence; that until then he was to be regarded
as an ordinary acquaintance, and that he would call upon Mrs. Lancaster
on the following afternoon.

The mother was not heartless. "You are doing this to help your father,
Doris. I know all about it. It is--it is noble of you!"

The girl looked at her, and the question rushed to her lips--"Oh, why
have _you_, his wife, never done anything to help him?" But it remained
unuttered. "Good-night, mother," she said, and hastened to the refuge
of her room.

She wrote a few lines to Teddy, stating simply what she had done. After
that she gave way.

* * * * *

About the same hour, in Dr. Handyside's study, four hundred miles away, a
conference of three people was drawing to a close. Earlier in the day Caw
had received a belated visit from Mr. Harvie, the Glasgow lawyer, who,
owing to illness, had been unable to attend to business since his
client's death. Beyond the information that Caw had been left the sum of
5,000 free of duty, the old housekeeper an annuity, and the doctor
1,000, Mr. Harvie had little to say. The rest of his late client's
fortune, the house and its contents, were already Alan's--if the young
man were still alive, and Mr. Harvie, whatever his own ideas might be,
was under an obligation to assume as much until--a slight grimace of
disapproval--"the clock stopped." "I have other instructions," he added,
"but they are not to be acted on at present." He had returned to town by
the last steamer.

"So we have come back to where we started," Dr. Handyside was saying.
"The sum total of our discoveries is that we can do next to nothing. If I
hadn't become so intimate with your master's character--not his affairs,
you understand, Caw--I should have had very little respect for his
methods. As for his motives, they are no business of ours."

"If I may say so," returned Caw, who would have been happier standing at
attention than sitting in Miss Handyside's company, "you take a lofty
view of the matter, sir, and you put it in a nutshell when you say that
his motives are none of our business. I am sorry to have brought you and
Miss Handyside into the trouble--"

"I rather think I came in," observed Miss Handyside with a smile.

"Which is a fact, miss. And very welcome, too, if I may say so. Also, Mr.
Craig trusted you both."

"Wherefore it is up to us to trust his wisdom and respect his
wishes," said Handyside. "The green box must remain where it is and
take its chance."

"If you hadn't told us," said Marjorie to Caw, "that you were the last to
see inside the box, I should be imagining all sorts of things. And those
two men were his friends!"

Caw's expression resumed its usual stolidity. To have replied that
they had ceased to be his master's friends would have involved
explanations which he did not feel at liberty to impart even to those
trustworthy people.

"Do you think they will try again, Caw?" the girl pursued. "I wish you
had not sent back the money--"

"Don't be absurd, Marjorie!" said her father. "Caw had no choice."

"Well, sir, I was sorely tempted to stick to it as a bit of revenge, but
I asked myself what my master would have done--and then, as you say, sir,
there was no choice. As to your question, miss, I answer 'Yes.' A man
like Mr. Bullard--I'm not so sure of the other--would not give up trying
for such a prize. You see, I learned his ways out there in the old days.
All his successes were made by bold methods. He feared nothing, cared for
nobody. Oh, yes, he is bound to have another try, though I don't fancy it
will be to-morrow or the next day."

"One would almost imagine," remarked the doctor, easing his injured foot
on the supporting chair, "that the beggars guessed you were powerless in
the matter."

Caw shook his head. "Hardly that, sir. They had a sight of my
revolver--though, of course, that was after I had made sure they had got
the box, and was only a miserable attempt to give them a shake-up. But
they were not to know that. Their strong point is this, sir. They have
the knowledge that the existence of the diamonds is practically a secret.
Even Mr. Alan, even the lawyer has never heard of them. Only Bullard,
Lancaster, and Caw knew of them; and Caw is in the minority. And they say
to themselves--'Once we get the box, we have only to swear that it
contained papers belonging to us, that Mr. Craig had the loan of it, and
so forth.' Then how is Caw going to disprove their words? they ask
themselves. 'Can't be done! If Caw begins to talk of half-a-million in
diamonds left in a writing-table drawer, he'll only get laughed at, and
if we've nothing better to do, we can get up an action for slander.'
There you are, sir! That's what I fancy I see at the back of their heads,
and I'm sure I'm right."

"I believe you are, Caw!" cried Marjorie. "What do you say, father?"

"I am inclined to accept the diagnosis," replied the doctor, smiling at
her eagerness. "Well, Caw, just one question more. What is your position,
supposing those two gentlemen made an attempt by deputy?"

At that Caw smiled for the first time. "If I may say so, sir, I think
your services would be required for the deputy!" Becoming grave, he
added--"I have taken the liberty of running a new wire along the passage,
sir. The opening of the door of my master's room will cause a bell to
ring--not too loudly--in the quarters you have kindly provided for me in
this house."

"Capital!" said the doctor.

"And if you, sir, would be good enough to give your housekeeper some
explanation that would satisfy her without giving away things--"

"That will be all right, Caw," Miss Handyside assured him. "When you get
to know Mrs. Butters, you will realise that she is not as others are,
being a woman absolutely without curiosity."

"Thank you, miss." Caw smiled faintly and got up. "Unless there is
anything more, sir--" he began.

"Nothing at all," said the doctor kindly.

"Thank you, sir. Good-night, sir. Good-night, miss."

"Trustworthy chap," Handyside remarked when the door had closed. "The
legacy seems to have made no difference, though it upset him for the
moment. And he knows all that's worth knowing about cars and electric
lighting," he added rather irrelevantly. "I believe we'll be able to give
him enough to do, after all."

"Between ourselves, father," said Marjorie suddenly, "have you the
slightest hope of Alan Craig's return?"

"Not the slightest, my dear. He was a fine lad. I wish you had met him,
but you were always gadding somewhere when he visited his uncle."

"I shan't be doing much gadding in the near future," she remarked

"Why this sudden change from years of neglecting your only father?"

"I'm going to be on the spot in case anything happens next door."

"Indeed!" said the doctor drily.


When Teddy France, bidding Doris a formal goodnight, whispered
"to-morrow" he had in mind a certain reception at the house of a mutual
acquaintance, and he went home looking forward to meeting her there with
hopes irrepressible. He felt that the girl he had loved for years was--if
not with her whole heart--on the verge of surrender; would have been his
by now but for the untimely entrance of Bullard and the succeeding
intervention of Mrs. Lancaster; and he lived most of the night and the
following day in a state of exaltation.

Thus Doris's note, received in the evening, was a blow that seemed to
crash to the centre of his soul. At first he imagined wicked,
unreasonable things. Then, his wrath failing, he realised that only one
thing could have made Doris act as she had done. She had been driven by a
sudden overpowering pressure. Who had exerted it? Teddy did not doubt the
mother's ability for coercion any more than her vaunting ambition, and he
shrunk from blaming the father; yet he feared that Mr. Lancaster, beset
by financial troubles of which he had long had an inkling, had sought a
way out through the sacrifice of his daughter. Well, there was nothing to
be done, he decided in his misery; interference on his part would be
worse than vain, and would only cause Doris to suffer a little more.

At rather a late hour the craving for a glimpse of her drew him, after
all, to the reception.

She was dancing when he entered the room, and, with a pang of angry pain,
he discovered that she was lovelier than ever. Her face gave no hint of
the heart-sickness she endured; she nodded to him in the old friendly
way, and the easy recognition brought home to him the cool truth that,
after all, the wild hopes of the previous night had been of his own
making, not hers. Yet why had she written and so quickly, to inform him
of her bargain with Bullard? Was her note just an uncontrollable cry for
pity, sympathy?

It was after midnight when he led her to a corner in the deserted

"Shall I congratulate you, Doris?" he asked gently.

"Why, yes, I think you had better," she answered with a bitter little
smile, "on having done my duty. Don't look so shocked, Teddy," she
went on, "I had to say it, and you are the only person besides father
and mother who knows what I have done. And now I'm going to ask a
great favour."

"Yes, Doris?"

"It is that you will prove your friendship to me--prove it once more,
Teddy--by never, after to-night, referring to the matter. I'm going to
try hard not to let it poison my life--for a year, at any rate."

"Very well.... But I must ask at least one question."


"Could _I_ have done anything to prevent this?"

"No one," she answered sadly, "could have done anything, excepting one
man, and he died last week--Christopher Craig."

"Christopher Craig--dead? No wonder your father has been upset. Of course
I know of their long friendship in South Africa, and once I was Mr.
Craig's guest in Scotland along with Alan. The old man had a tremendous
admiration for you, Doris."

"I loved him, though I did not see him for several years before the end.
Well, I have answered your question. Have I your promise?"

He put his hand tenderly over hers. "I will give you two promises,
Doris," he said deliberately; "the one you ask for and another. I promise
you that Bullard shall never call you his wife!"

"Oh!" she cried, pale. "Why do you say that?"

"Because I mean it--and it is all I have to say." He laughed shortly.
"But I am going to lay myself out to confound Mr. Bullard within the
year, and I will do it. Now tell me this, Doris; are you and I to
continue being friends--openly, I mean?"

"Why not? I must have one friend."

He bent and kissed her hand, and rose abruptly. "Let us go back to
the dancing before I lose my head," he said, with a twisted smile.
"And I must not do that when at last I've got something to do that's
worth doing!"

Teddy was a creature of impulses and instincts not by any means
infallible. They had led him into blunders and scrapes before now. On the
other hand, they had protected him from mistakes no less serious. Had he
been a matter-of-fact person he would have said to himself: "What can I
do? I know of nothing positive against Bullard. Being a poor man, I
cannot, by a stroke of the pen, make Lancaster independent of him, and I
need not waste my wits in plotting to confound him by some great
financial operation such as I've read of in novels," But what Teddy said
to himself was something to this effect: "I suspect that Bullard is not
quite straight, and if one watches such a man for twelve months as though
one's life depended on the watching, one is likely to learn something.
The only question at present is where to begin."

It is not to be assumed that Teddy went home from the reception in a
light-hearted, hopeful condition. On the contrary he was extremely
harassed, and wished he had kept to himself the brave prophecy made to
Doris. Nevertheless, dawn found him unshaken in his determination to make
good that prophecy. If, instead of spending the whole morning in doing
his duty to the insurance company, he had been able to spend an early
part of it in a state of invisibility within Bullard's private office, he
would have justified himself beyond his highest expectations.

Bullard on entering the outer office, about nine-thirty, received from
the chief clerk a curious signal which was equivalent to the words
"Undesirable waiting to see you. Bolt for private room." But either
Bullard was slower than usual this morning, or the "Undesirable" too
alert. Ere the former's hand left the open door the latter stepped round
it, saying--

"How are you, Mr. Bullard? Been waiting--"

"Get out of this," said Bullard crisply, and stood away from the door.

"Really," said the visitor with an absurdly pained look, "this is a
very unkind reception." He was a small individual of dark complexion,
leering eyes and vulgar mouth. His clothing was respectable, if not
fashionable; he displayed a considerable amount of starched linen of
indifferent lustre.

"Get out!"

"Give me five minutes." The tone was servile, yet not wholly so. "Worth
your while, Mr. Bullard."

Bullard looked him up and down. "Very well," he said abruptly. "Close
that door and follow me." He said no more until they were in his room,
himself seated at his desk, the other standing a little way off and
turning his bowler hat between his hands.

"Now, Marvel, what the devil do you want?"

The visitor smiled deprecatingly into his revolving hat. "What do most of
us want, Mr. Bullard?"

"I'll tell you what most of us do not want--the attentions of the

"Tut, tut, Mr. Bullard. Of course _we_ don't want that, nor do _we_ need
it--do _we?_" The impudence of the fellow's manner was exquisite.

Bullard, toying with the nugget on his chain, affected not to notice it.
Harshly he said: "Eighteen months ago--"

"In this very room, Mr. Bullard--"

"--I handed you five hundred pounds on the express condition that you
used the ticket for Montreal, which I supplied, and never approached
me again."

"I am sorry to say," the other said after a moment, "that Canada did not
agree with my health, and I assure you that I made the five hundred go as
far as possible."

"All that may be very interesting to yourself and friends--if you
have any."

"You, Mr. Bullard, are my sole friend."

Bullard grinned. "If you imagine I'm going to be a friend in need, you
are mightily mistaken!"

"Please don't be nasty, Mr. Bullard--"

"Leave my name alone, and clear out. Time's up." Bullard turned to a pile
of letters.

"This is a blow," murmured Marvel, "a sad blow. But I would remind you
that the five hundred was not a gift, but a payment for certain

"Quite so. And it closed our acquaintance. Go!"

"I wonder if it did. One moment. I desire to return once more to South
Africa. Things are looking up there again. With five hundred pounds--"

"That's enough. I'm busy."

"Just another moment. Touching those documents relating to the affair of
Christopher Craig's brother--"

"Shut up!"

"--it is one of the strangest inadvertencies you ever heard of, Mr.
Bullard, but the fact remains that, eighteen months ago, I delivered to
you--not the originals but copies--"

Bullard wheeled round. "Don't try that game, Marvel. You are quite
capable of forgery, but I made certain that they were originals before I
burned them."

"Ah, you burned them! What a pity! So you can't compare them with the
documents I hold--in a very safe place, Mr. Bullard."

"I should not take the trouble in any case. Now will you clear out or
be thrown?"

"You make it very hard for me. Do you wish me to take the originals to
Mr. Christopher Craig?"

"Pray do. He's dead."

"Dead!" Mr. Marvel took a step backward. "Dear, dear!" He raised his hat
to his face as though to screen his emotion and smiled into it. "When did
it happen?"

"A few days ago. Now, once and for all--"

"Then nothing remains to me but to offer the papers to his brother's son,
an undoubtedly interested party, Mr. Alan--"

"Alan Craig is also dead."

Mr. Marvel's hat fell to the floor, and lay neglected. Mr. Marvel began
to laugh softly while Bullard wondered whether the man's sanity, always
suspect, had given way.

"Come, come, Mr. Bullard," Marvel coughed at last; "come, come!"

"Young Craig," said Bullard, restraining himself, "was lost on an Arctic
expedition, a year ago."

"Then he must have been found again."

"... What do you say?"

"Why, I saw him--let me see--just fourteen days ago."


"I'd know Frank Craig's son anywhere, Mr. Bullard; and there he was on
the quay at Montreal, the day I left. What's the matter?"

With a supreme effort Bullard controlled himself.

"Marvel," he said, "what do you expect to gain by bringing me a lie
like that?"

"It is no lie," the other returned with a fairly straight glance. "I was
as near to him as I am to you at this moment. He was in a labourer's


"--working with a gang on the quay."

"You were mistaken. The search party gave up in despair."

"I know nothing of that, Mr. Bullard, but I'm prepared to take oath--"

"There is no need for Alan Craig, if it were he, to be working as a quay
labourer. I tell you--"

"I am so sure of what I say, Mr. Bullard, that failing to get my price
from you, I will cross the Atlantic again, working my passage if need be,
to place the documents in the hands of that quay labourer. Since his
uncle old Christopher is dead, there must be something pretty solid
awaiting him." Marvel, stooping leisurely, picked up his hat and
carefully eliminated the dent.

"Look here," said Bullard, breaking a silence. "Did you or did you not
swindle me with those papers?"

"An inadvertence on my part, if you please, Mr. Bullard."

"Oh, go to the devil! You can't blackmail me. Go and work your passage,
if you like."

The other took a step forward. "Do you think I had better see Mr.
Lancaster? I could explain to him that he is less guilty in the
matter of Christopher's brother than he imagines himself to be. I
could even prove--"

"Lancaster is unwell--"

"My disclosures might make him feel better--eh?"

Bullard felt himself being cornered. He reflected for a moment;
then--"How are you going to satisfy me that the papers you say you hold
are the originals?"

"I'm afraid you must take my word for it."

"Your word--ugh! Will you bring them here at nine o'clock to-night?"

"Will you bring 500 in five-pound notes?"

It seemed that they had reached a deadlock. Bullard was thinking

At last he spoke. "No; I will bring one hundred pounds, and I will tell
you how you may earn--earn mind--the remaining four. If you accept the
job--not a difficult one--you will give me the papers in exchange for
the hundred."


"Not another word. Take my offer or leave it." Bullard turned to his
desk. "And don't dare to lie to me again. Also, ask yourself what chance
your word would have against mine in a court of law?"

At the end of twenty seconds the other said quickly: "I will be here at
nine," and turned towards the door.

"By the way," Bullard called over his shoulder, "you had better come
prepared for a night journey. And, I say! as you go out now try to look
as if you had been damned badly treated. Further, before you come back,
do what you can to alter that face of yours."

The door closed; Bullard's expression relaxed. For the first time in his
life he had been within an ace of admitting--to himself--defeat. But all
was not lost, even if he accepted Marvel's story, which he was very far
from doing, his intelligence revolting no less at the bare idea of Alan
Craig's existence than at that of the young man's supporting it as a quay
labourer. Furthermore, were it proved to him that Alan had actually come
from the Arctic, he would still not despair. He would have to act at high
speed, but he was used to crises. As to Mr. Marvel, well, that clever
person was going to be made useful to begin with; afterwards....

Bullard broke away from the clutches of thought to attend to the more
urgent letters. He had just finished when his colleague came in.

"Hullo, Lancaster," he cried cheerfully, "I fancied your doctor had
commanded rest. Glad to see you all the same. As a matter of fact, I was
coming to look you up shortly."

"Couldn't rest at home," returned Lancaster, seating himself at the
fire. "I say, Bullard," he said abruptly, "you'll be good to my
girl--won't you?"

Bullard's eyebrows went up, but his voice was kindly. "Do you doubt it,

"N-no. But you can surely understand my feelings--my anxiety. She--she
has been a good daughter."

Bullard nodded. "It won't be my fault," he said quietly, "if Doris
regrets marrying me."

"Thank you, Bullard." As though ashamed of his emotion the older man
immediately changed the subject. "Anything fresh this morning?"

The other smiled. "One moment." He got up, went to a cabinet and came
back with a glass containing a little brandy. "The journey to the City
has tired you. Drink up!"

"Thanks; you are thoughtful." Lancaster took a few sips, and went white.
"Bullard, have you something bad to tell me?"

"Finish your brandy. ... Well, it might have been worse. Steady! Don't
get excited, or I shan't tell you."

After a moment--"Go on," said Lancaster.

"Marvel has come back from Canada."

"Ah! ... But I always feared he would. More money, I suppose?"

"Precisely. Only he brought a piece of news which I have so far refused
to credit, though doubtless stranger things have happened. Pull yourself
together. Marvel declares that, a fortnight ago, he saw Alan Craig in
the flesh."

"Alan Craig!" Lancaster fell back in the big chair. "Thank God," he
murmured, "thank God!" Tears rushed to his eyes.

"Better let me give you details, few as they are, before you give further
thanks," Bullard said. "Bear in mind what manner of man Marvel is; also,
that his story was part of a threat to extort money."

A minute later Lancaster was eagerly asking: "But don't you think it may
be true, Bullard?"

"For the present," was the cool reply, "we are going to act as though it
were true, as though the will were waste paper--not that I ever
considered it as anything but a last resource, for its production would
involve sundry unattractive formalities."

"And yet," said Lancaster uneasily, "you told me once of a man who had
seen Alan die."

"Leave that out for the present. I shall deal with Flitch presently, and
God help him if he has played a game of his own! Meantime, the one object
in view must be the Green Box at Grey House."

"For Heaven's sake be cautious! You spoke of bribing the man Caw, but the
more I have thought of it--"

"That's past. There is no time for delicate negotiations. If the box is
still in the house, we must find and take it; if elsewhere, we must make
other plans. But I'm pretty sure it has not gone to a bank or safe
deposit. Christopher meant it to remain in the house, so that it should
be part of his gift to Alan."

"Caw will be on the alert."

"He will not expect a second attempt all at once. Hang it, man, we must
take risks! 600,000! I'm not going to let any chance slip." Bullard
went over to his desk and picked up a cablegram. "The Iris mine is
flooded again. That means at least a couple of thousand less for each of
us this year."

Lancaster groaned helplessly. "Trouble upon trouble! But I cannot face
another visit to Christopher's house--"

"Be easy. You shall be spared that. I think I had better tell you nothing
for the present--except that I may take a run over to Paris within the
next few days."


"You can say I'm there if any one asks."

Lancaster drew his hand across his brow. "Sometimes," he said slowly, "I
wish I were at peace--in jail."

"Don't be a fool! You'll feel differently when we open the Green Box."

The other shook his head. "There's another point that has worried me
horribly. We have thought we were the only persons outside of Grey
House who knew of the diamonds; but who was the person who took the box
that night? Whoever he was he must have seen us and heard something of
our talk."

"Yes," said Bullard, with a short laugh, "it seems very dreadful and
mysterious, doesn't it?--especially as Caw recovered the diamonds so
speedily. I've thought it out, Lancaster, and I've struck only one
reasonable conclusion. There was no fourth person present that night. Caw
was fooling us all the time. The cupboard is really a passage to another
room, made for old Christopher's convenience, no doubt. How's that?"

"Caw acted well, if he were acting. And why should he have suspected
us at all?"

"Simply because he happened to know what was in the box. Who would trust
a fellow creature alone with 600,000 in a portable form? And Caw was
probably in the position of guardian. Have you a better theory?"

Lancaster leaned forward, staring at the carpet. "It came into my mind
last night," he said in a queerly hushed voice, "that it might have
been ... Christopher himself."

"Good God, man, positively you must have a change of air! Do you doubt
that Christopher is dead?"

A pause.

"Bullard, what you and I, his friends, were doing that night was enough
to--to make him rise--oh, no, I don't mean that--though the diamonds were
so much to him. It was a crazy thought. I must get rid of it."

"I should say so." Bullard forced a laugh. "Meantime, you may comfort
your soul with the assurance that you'll have nothing to do with this
fresh attempt, except to share in the spoil. If I were you, I'd go home
now and get Doris to join you in a long run into the country. Let the
wind blow away those absurd fears and fancies. I'm calling on your wife
this afternoon, you know."

The other rose obediently. "Your news has upset me. I don't know what to
think. Marvel was always such a liar. I--I suppose nothing I can say or
do will move you from your present course?"

"Nothing, Lancaster."

Lancaster sighed and with shoulders bowed went out.


The same night Teddy France started on his quest, wishing with all his
heart that it were cleaner work. Still a beginning had to be made. He had
not the flimsiest clue to direct him, but the thought occurred to him
that it might be worth while to attempt to learn in what manner Bullard
spent some of his evenings. Bullard, he was aware, had of late been
living at Bright's Hotel, a select and expensive establishment situated
within hail of Bond Street.

About eight o'clock Teddy sauntered across the lounge of Bright's, as
though looking for a friend, and glanced through the glass doors of the
dining-room. To his satisfaction, he saw the man he wanted, seated at a
table, alone, and not in his customary evening dress. Teddy retired, left
the hotel, and at the opposite pavement engaged a taxicab. He got inside,
after instructing the man to be on the alert. He lit a cigarette, telling
himself that, by a thousand to one, he had embarked on a futile, idiotic
errand. However, within half-an-hour, Bullard appeared in the hotel
doorway, and spoke to a braided personage who promptly whistled for a
cab. By the time he was on board, the motor of Teddy's cab was running,
the chauffeur in his seat. Presently the two cabs rolled away from their
respective pavements.

Five minutes later Teddy let out a grunt of disgust. Bullard was
evidently making for the City, presumably for his office. "Drop it!" said
common sense; "go on!" said instinct ... and Teddy went on.

It was nearing nine o'clock when Bullard's cab drew up at the magnificent
entrance to Manchester House in New Broad Street, at that hour a
well-nigh deserted thoroughfare. As Teddy was driven past he saw Bullard
run up the steps. Twenty yards further on he got out, settled with his
man, and strolled back. Entering the huge headquarters of several hundred
mining and finance companies, and noting that the lift was closed for the
night, he proceeded to search the oaken boards which formed a sort of
directory of the tenants inscribed in gilt lettering. He learned that
Bullard's office was on the fourth of the nine floors; at the same time
he memorised the name of a firm on the fifth floor. Then he ascended
leisurely. Care-takers and cleaners were about, but apparently they had
finished their tasks above the fourth floor. He spoke to one of them, an
elderly man.

"Can you tell me if Mr. Stern of Stern & Lynoch has returned?"

"No, sir. I've just left their office on the fifth floor. Nobody there."

Teddy consulted his watch. "I'm a little before my time; guess I'd better
go up and wait."

The man nodded as one who didn't care whether the enquirer died or lived,
and went about his business.

There was an indifferent light left on the fifth landing and the stair
leading to it. Teddy found a point of vantage whence through the wire
walls of the shaft he could obtain a view, not of Bullard's office
itself, but of the corridor leading thereto. On the way up he had noted
that the Aasvogel Syndicate's door was just round the corner and that it
was the only one showing a light.

Calling himself a fool for his pains, he settled down to the wretched
game of spying. He had not long to wait--much to his combined
astonishment and gratification. "This must be my lucky night," he
reflected. A man appeared on the landing--a foreign-looking person with a
heavy dark moustache under an oddly shaped nose, wearing eyeglasses, and
carrying a suit case--and made for the corridor. Ere he turned the corner
he cast an anxious glance over his shoulder, which glance was more
cheering to Teddy than a pint of champagne would have been just then. And
next moment the gentle opening and closing of a door further delighted
and excited him. Without a doubt the man had gone into Bullard's office!

Within the minute Teddy was again calling himself names. Ass! Was
there anything even mildly extraordinary in the visitor or the visit?
After a while he decided that he could not lose much if he transferred
his espionage to the outside of Manchester House. Fortunately it was a
fine night, for, as it came to pass, he had nearly two hours to kick
his heels.

Then the Aasvogel's visitor came forth alone, and in haste, and turned in
the direction of Liverpool Street. Shortly afterwards he boarded a King's
Cross bus, mounting to the top. Teddy took a seat inside, still calling
himself names, yet unable to abandon the absurd chase.

At King's Cross the man, along with a dozen passengers, got out and made
for the main-line station. Teddy followed at a discreet distance till
within the booking hall, when he put on speed and contrived to be close
to his quarry as the latter stopped at a ticket window--first class--to
Teddy's amaze. He heard him book "return Glasgow."

Now the Glasgow portion of this particular night train, usually an
exceedingly long one, is next to the engine. Perhaps that is why the
Great Northern Company has kindly placed a little refreshment saloon
towards the extremity of the platform. The traveller, after a glance at
the train, entered the saloon. The weary sleuth resisted the desire for a
drink and proceeded to stroll up and down the Glasgow portion. Five
minutes before the train was due to start the traveller reappeared wiping
his mouth, and got into a vacant compartment. He placed his suit case on
a seat and went out into the corridor.

"Well," Teddy said to himself, "that jolly well ends it. The old
story--suspect a Johnny because he doesn't look a handsome gentleman!
Serves me right!" All the same, he lingered, a few paces from the
carriage. Four minutes passed and the traveller was still absent. Thirty
seconds left ... fifteen ... five ... the starting signal ... the first,
almost imperceptible movement of the prodigious train.

Just then the traveller reappeared in the compartment, picked up the suit
case, sat down and opened at. But--Teddy sprang forward open-mouthed--it
wasn't the same man! The train was gathering speed. Teddy ran alongside
and stared in. The traveller glanced over his shoulder, just as that man
had done on the office landing, then turned away. But again Teddy had
caught a glimpse of a profile including an oddly shaped nose. Why, good
Lord! it _was_ the same man--only the beggar had lost his eyeglasses and
moustache! ... Our sleuth had made a discovery, indeed, but how on earth
was it going to profit him? Disregarding expense--no new failing on his
part, to be sure--he took a cab back to Manchester House.

The Aasvogel office was in darkness. The surmise might easily be wrong,
Teddy admitted to himself, yet it did look confoundedly as though
Bullard had returned to the City that night with the particular object
of meeting the quick-change gentleman now on his way to Glasgow. At all
events the affair was interesting enough to spoil another night's rest
for Teddy France.

Two mornings later Bullard received the following brief note, which was
undated and unsigned, in an envelope postmarked Glasgow:

"No one on premises at night. Probably tomorrow night."

Bullard informed the chief clerk and telephoned to Lancaster that he was
leaving for Paris by the night train. Apparently he reached there safely,
for next morning the office received a telegram relating to some company
business, not, perhaps, of the first importance, handed in at the Gare du
Nord office and signed Bullard. And Teddy, calling at the Lancasters'
house in the evening, just to obtain a glimpse of his beloved, who alas!
was with a dinner and theatre party, learned from Mr. Lancaster, who was
always glad to see the young man, that Mr. Bullard had run over to Paris.
Which was naturally rather astounding news to Teddy, whose own eyes had
seen Mr. Bullard enter the Glasgow sleeping car at Euston, about
twenty-four hours earlier.


Dr. Handyside was too fond of his easy-going seaside existence to be
readily induced to leave home. At the same time, he had not severed all
ties with Glasgow, which ties included a select coterie of kindred
spirits who dined together once a month during the winter in a somewhat
old-fashioned restaurant; and he would have been exceedingly loth to
miss one of their cosy gatherings. But he insisted on sleeping in his
own bed, and accordingly, there being no steamer connection at so late
an hour, it was his custom to return by train to Helensburgh and thence
complete the journey in his car which he drove himself, reaching home
shortly after midnight.

To-night's dinner, however, had seemed hopelessly beyond his reach, owing
to his injured foot, which as yet merely allowed him to hobble a few
yards, and which would have been worse than useless in driving. But we
are never too old to worry over trifles, and in the course of the
morning, while in the garage, he blurted out the difficulty to Caw. It
was really an appeal, and at any other time Caw would have been mildly
amused. Now he was embarrassed, for while anxious to oblige the doctor,
he had no intention of losing all connection with Grey House for several
hours in the middle of the night.

He shook his head. "I only wish I could drive you home to-night, sir," he
said, "but you see--"

"All right, Caw," said Handyside, looking ashamed of himself, and hobbled
off, still hankering, however.

An hour later Caw came to him in the study, and presented an open
telegram. "Will you be pleased to look at this, sir?"

The doctor read:--

"Registered letter received. Best policy.


"God bless me, Caw!--the man's in Paris!"

"Quite so, sir. I shall be glad to have your instructions for this
evening, sir. Very thoughtful of Mr. Bullard, if I may say so--damn
him!"--the last inaudible.

"I've been wondering whether he would acknowledge the notes," said
Handyside, brightening up and hobbling to the door. "Marjorie," he
called, "for Heaven's sake see if I've got a decent tie for to-night!"

* * * * *

And now it was midnight. The southerly gale which had broken out late in
the afternoon was booming up the loch, bombarding the house, and gusts of
bitter rain were thrashing the exposed windows.

Marjorie flung a couple of logs on the study fire and returned to her
book. She had prepared sundry comforts for her father and was
awaiting, not without anxiety, his arrival. She was thankful he had
Caw with him. A large portion of the journey was being made in the
very teeth of the tempest.

A tap on the door brought her round with a start. It was only Mrs.
Butters, the housekeeper, or, to be precise, the head and shoulders of
that estimable but slow-witted female, heavily swathed in a couple of
grey shawls.

"What on earth is the matter?" exclaimed Marjorie. "Why aren't you in

"Please, miss, do you think I might do something to stop the alarum clock
of that Mr. Caw?" Mrs. Butters was not yet at all sure of Caw. "It's been
ringin' for close on an hour, and I can't--"

The girl was up like a shot--her face set, her hands clenched. What was
she to do? It would take an age to explain to the housekeeper, who, when
she did understand, would in all probability simply howl helplessly.

"Close on an hour," she said to herself. "Oh, Heavens, the thing must
have been done long ago!" Still, she could not be absolutely sure. She
glanced at the clock. No, her father and Caw were not even due yet....
"Mrs. Butters," she managed to say in a fairly steady voice, "please go
back to bed. I--I'll attend to the alarum immediately. Go at once or
you'll catch your death of cold."

Left alone, she grew pale, but within the moment she had crossed to a
bureau--her own--and was taking out a purchase made in Glasgow the
previous day. "Oh, why didn't I practise in the wood this morning, as I
said I would?" she sighed, fumbling with a little ivory-handled
revolver. She shuddered. "Oh, I can't ... I daren't ... I _must_!" And
ran from the room.

Marjorie will never forget that journey through the passage, her light a
flickering taper, for the electric illumination was no longer in
operation. At the end of it she had literally to force her limbs to mount
the narrow stairs. At the top, with her ear to the closed door, she could
hear nothing save her pounding heart. There was no keyhole, no crevice
whereby she might know whether it was light or dark on the other side.
Caw had spoken that morning of making a peep-hole in the door. She would
have given much for one now. And the taper was burning fast.

"They must have gone," she thought, "yet how can I be sure? On such a
night they might be tempted to stay awhile from the storm." Hand with
revolver pressed to breast, she listened again. Not a sound. But the
silence might be explained by the presence of a solitary man, she told
herself, not necessarily one of the two she had seen that other night. A
rough brute, perhaps, who would stick at nothing in that empty house. Yet
the very thought pricked her courage even at the moment when the
descending flame stung her finger. Unlike Caw she was under no obligation
to his late master. If a thief was there, she would shoot before she
would let the Green Box go.

She dropped the taper, trod on it, and gasped to find herself in utter
darkness. Once more she laid her ear against the panel, and this time,
surely, a sound reached the straining nerves--a faint noise of something
solid though not ponderous falling upon something less resonant than
wood, less dulling than carpet. She felt like collapsing. But her will,
her pride, came to the rescue. "If I don't open that door," she said to
herself, "I'll be ashamed of myself for the rest of my days."

Her finger fluttered on the spring-button and pressed; her hand pushed.
As the door gave she perceived that the room _was_ lighted, though not
brilliantly; she heard nothing but a howling of wind and a rattling of
rain. A whiff of smoky coal met her nostrils. The silent moving door was
now half open. She took a couple of steps inwards and halted, her left
hand clinging to the door's edge, her right clutching the pretty weapon.
And she all but screamed....

Under the lights of two candles on the mantel, in an easy-chair drawn up
to the recently kindled fire, reclined a man, his head thrown back, his
eyes closed. His legs were outstretched, his boots on the hearth,
steaming, one of them in dangerous proximity to a large coal evidently
newly fallen. On another chair lay a drenched greatcoat and cap.

The man was young, somewhat slight of build, of fresh and pleasing
countenance, clean shaven, of indeterminate colouring. His crisp hair was
so trim in spite of its dampness as to suggest the attentions of a barber
within the last twelve hours. His hands were rough and bore traces of
scars; the fingers, though slender for a man, might have belonged to a
labourer's; the first and second of the left hand resting on the
chair-arm held a cigarette--unlighted. The expression of his countenance
was happy--contentedly so.

"Oh!" thought Marjorie, "he _couldn't_ steal!" and in the same breath
perceived that he was not asleep. He moved slightly, with a lazy grunt.

His hand wandered to a pocket, felt within, came out empty, and wandered
to another, with like result. "Hang it!" he muttered, and opening his
eyes, tried, absurdly enough, to see what might be on the mantel without
the trouble of rising.

Neither bold nor fearful now, simply fascinated and wondering whether he
would get up or do without matches, Marjorie watched him. And the next
thing she knew was that his eyes were staring into hers. Then fear,
suspicion and sense of duty returned with a rush. The men who had already
attempted to steal the Green Box had been just as well dressed--better,
indeed. She was taking no chances. With firm determination, but also with
a wavering hand, she raised the revolver.

"Great Heaven!" shouted the young man, "be carefull or you'll hurt
yourself!" He wriggled up and sprang to his feet.

"Who--who are you?" Marjorie demanded with a regrettable quaver. "Have
you come after the Green Box? Because, if so--"

"Would you mind," he said very gently, "putting down your pistol? Those
things are so apt to go off unexpectedly, and at the moment you appear to
be aiming at my uncle's best beloved Bone--"

The revolver fell softly on the thick carpet. Marjorie felt like
falling after it.

"Thank you," he said gratefully. "You have mentioned a Green Box, but
having brought no luggage, I don't seem to grasp--"

"Your uncle!" she whispered.

"Mr. Christopher Craig." He regarded her for a moment and his expression
changed. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed, "is it possible that he is no longer
tenant of the house? You see, I arrived late, and deciding not to disturb
any one, just proceeded to make myself comfortable for the night, and--"

Marjorie pulled herself together. "You are not--"

At that instant Caw, breathing hard, sprang from the darkness, then
stopped as if shot.

"Well, Caw," said the young man, "I'm jolly glad to see you."

"Oh, my good God!" gasped Caw, "it's Mr. Alan!" He began to shake
where he stood.

"Confound me!" said the young man under his breath, "I clean forgot I was
supposed to be dead a year." He strode over to the servant. "Shake hands,
Caw, just to make sure I'm of ordinary flesh and blood. I'm sorry to have
upset you like this," He turned to the girl. "And to you I make my
apology for having alarmed--"

"You didn't!"

"--for imagining I had alarmed you," he corrected himself with a bow and
twinkling eyes.

The latter drew her smile despite her still jangling nerves. "I suppose I
have to apologise, too," she said, "for taking you for a--a burglar."

"Not at all, because--I may as well confess it at once--no burglar can be
more anxious to avoid discovery than I am--or was."

Caw found his speech. "Mr. Alan, sir, I--I haven't words to express my
feelings at seeing you alive and well--I really haven't." He turned away
with a heave of his shoulders as Dr. Handyside, limping painfully,
appeared in the doorway.

It was his turn to be astounded, but his welcome when it came was of the
heartiest. "I take it," he went on, "that Marjorie, my daughter, and you
have already made each other's acquaintance."

"If Miss Handyside will have it so," said Alan, repressing a smile as
Marjorie, with a decided return of colour, stooped and secured the
revolver which had escaped her parent's eye. "Naturally Miss Handyside
was a little surprised to find me here until I explained who I was." His
gaze travelled to the servant who stood apart in meditative regard of the
clock. "Caw, how is my uncle?"

Handyside prevented a pause. "There is so much to tell you, Mr. Craig,
that I propose an adjournment to my study where we shall find some
refreshment which I fancy you can do with. You are not aware, I believe,
that your uncle had a private passage built between our two houses, which
not only explains our appearance here, but provides a short route to food
and warmth."

"Then my uncle--" began Alan, evidently a little puzzled.

"Your pardon, Mr. Alan," said Caw, coming forward, "but it is necessary
to ask you one question. How did you get into the house?"

The young man laughed. "I suppose you don't think it worth while locking
doors in these unsophisticated parts. After I had rung twice, and was
wondering what was going to happen to me, I found that the outer door was
unfastened and that the inner door was not locked. So I came in and made
myself at home, unwilling to disturb--What's the matter. Caw? And you,
doctor? Why, Miss Handyside, what have I said?"

But none of the gravely concerned faces was looking in his direction.

With a heavy sigh Caw went over to the writing table, stopped and drew
out the deep drawer on the right.

For a moment or two there was no sound save that of the storm. Then, with
a gesture of hopelessness, Caw slowly raised himself.

"Yes," he said, in a small, bitter voice, "it is gone!"


Alan Craig, as he afterwards stated, had entered Grey House at a quarter
before midnight; the clock had attracted his attention as soon as he lit
the candles. The candles, he had noticed, had been used not long
previously, for the wicks were softish, and he had been aware of an odour
of tobacco, not stale, in the atmosphere of the study. These two little
discoveries had been sufficient to end the incipient idea induced by the
stillness and chilliness that the house might be temporarily uninhabited.

Less than half an hour prior to Alan's arrival, the man Marvel left by
unbolting the outer door. He had entered by cutting through a lightly
barred window at the back, and would have retired by the same way but for
the fact that he had wounded one of his hands rather severely, and could
not risk disturbing his rough and hasty bandage.

But though injured and drenched to the skin, and facing a long tramp in
the vilest of weather, he turned from the gates of Grey House in a fairly
cheerful temper. He had done the job and done it easily. The Green Box
reposed in his suit case, and would fetch four hundred pounds on
delivery. Only four hundred pounds? Well, Mr. Bullard had named that sum,
but perhaps--and Mr. Marvel grinned against the gale--Mr. Bullard was not
going to get off quite so cheaply. To Marvel's sort, possession is not
just a miserable nine points of the law: it is all the law and as much of
the profits as trickery can extract.

No, no!--he stumbled in the almost pitch darkness, and cursed
briefly--Mr. Bullard was not going to handle his Green Box for much less
than a thousand pounds! If only the key had been available, reflected
this choice specimen of humanity, he would have had a look at the
contents. Papers, Mr. Bullard had said--more incriminating documents, no
doubt! Mr. Bullard was a very nice man, he was, but he could not always
have it his own way. Mr. Bullard ...

A sound in, but not of, the storm, muttered in Marvel's ears. Peering
ahead, he descried a small light. He was passing a wood at the time, and
the windy tumult as well as the roaring from the loch made confusion for
his hearing; but presently he recognised the intruding sound as the
throbbing of a motor. "Some silly fool got a breakdown," he was thinking
sympathetically, when a terrific gust caught and fairly staggered him.
Ere he fully recovered balance and breath something cold and clammy fell
upon his face, was dragged down over his shoulders and arms, blinding,
pinioning him. The suit case was rudely wrenched from his hand; he was
violently pushed and tripped; and with a stifled yell he fell heavily on
the footpath and rolled into the brimming gutter.... By the time he
regained footing, the use of eyes and ears, there was no light visible,
no sound save that of wrathful nature.

* * * * *

In the doctor's study it was the host who undertook the duty of breaking
to Alan the news of his uncle's death; it was Caw who informed him of the
old man's thought for him during the last year of life, on the very last
day of it.

"You must understand, sir," the servant added, "that from the day after
you went away my master was living not in his own house, but in yours. It
pleased him to think of it that way, sir. 'I am not leaving my nephew
anything,' he used to say to me; 'I have given him what I had to give.'
He always believed in your safe return, though to others it seemed so
impossible. There are many things to be told--you have already witnessed
something that must have puzzled you, sir--but with your permission I
will say no more till tomorrow, when I have got my wits together again,
as it were."

"I think I can keep my curiosity under till then, Caw," said the young
man, "and, to tell the truth, I don't feel equal to talking about my
Uncle Christopher's affairs just yet. But if Dr. Handyside isn't too
tired, I'd like to explain without delay why I made a secret of my
existence, also why I came home--well, like a thief in the night." He
glanced a little quizzingly at Marjorie, who blushed and retorted

"Don't you think you owe me--us--the explanation, Mr. Craig?"

"Mr. Craig owes us nothing," Handyside said; "and I ought to remind him
that while we were his uncle's friends--his most intimate friends, I
might say, these five years--we are now, in a sense, intruders who have
no claim whatever on Mr. Craig's confidence. Further"--the doctor's tone
became rueful--"I fear I am greatly to blame--"

Alan interposed, "I want you to accept my confidence. I came home
expecting to find myself as poor as when I went to the Arctic, and now I
find my good uncle has altered all that, and in my new circumstances I
may decide to change certain plans I had made. But I must first put
myself right with my uncle's friends as well as his trusted servant. I'll
make a short story of it--just the bare facts."

"As you will," said the doctor. "Caw, take a chair."

"If I may say so, sir, I prefer to stand."

"Caw," said Miss Handyside, "take a chair."

"Very good, miss," said Caw, and seated himself near the door.

"As I learned by consulting old newspapers on the other side," said Alan,
"the expedition returned home safely at the time appointed; but I was
reported lost--lost while out hunting. I'll start from that hunting
episode, though trifling incidents had happened before then, which ought,
perhaps, to have put me on the alert. One of the best shots, if not the
best, in the expedition was a man named Flitch. Like myself, he joined in
place of another man, almost at the last moment. He was a rough
character, and his position was merely that of an odd-job man, but I must
say he did most things well, especially in the mechanical line. He and I
had frequently made hunting excursions together, but always with one or
two other members of the party. And now, for the first time, we went out
from the camp alone."

"Oh!" murmured Marjorie.

"We tramped an unusually long way from the camp--at Flitch's instigation,
as I recognised afterwards; but in the end we were rewarded by coming on
a fine bear. 'You take first shot,' said Flitch, in his curt, sullen
fashion. I did, and was lucky. But the gun was not down from my shoulder
when Flitch deliberately shot me in the back--not with his gun, but with
a revolver he had never shown before--"

"The dirty hound!" growled Caw.

"I fell, feeling horribly sick, and as I lay I saw him toss the revolver
into a seal hole. Then, as he stood staring at me, I must have fainted."

"The beast!" cried Marjorie.

"When I came to myself--how long I remained unconscious, I never learned
exactly--I was on a sort of bed, and an aged Eskimo was bending over me.
I had been picked up by a couple of his party out after seals. I must
have lain there for weeks under the care of that queer old medicine man
who, somehow, contrived to doctor or bewitch me back from the grave, for
the wound was rather a bad one. The Eskimos treated me very decently, and
it was not till I was convalescent that I realised I was their prisoner.
I rather think they must have fled with me from the search party
mentioned in the newspapers. The tribe, as far as I could gather, had a
grudge against white men in general, though not against any person in
particular. Well, I practically became one of them for the winter that
followed. In time I grew fit and ready for anything, but they had annexed
my gun and other belongings, which left me pretty helpless. However, I
had the luck to save one of the young men during a tussle with a bear,
and he was absurdly grateful. Eventually he planned a way of escape and
guided me, after a good many mishaps, to an American whaler that had been
compelled to winter in the ice. I told the skipper most of my story, but
begged him to keep it quiet from the others, and between us we invented a
plausible enough tale for the crew. The ship came out of the ice all
right, but was wrecked, by running ashore, on the homeward trip. Some of
us got to land and found our way into British Columbia. I had enough
money to take me across Canada, but when I got to Montreal I was
penniless. I took any jobs that offered until I had scraped together
enough for a steerage ticket home--"

"But my master would have sent anything you had asked for!"
exclaimed Caw.

"I did not doubt it. Only, you see, I was desperately afraid of my
existence getting known, and--"

"But why?"--from the impulsive Marjorie.

"An obsession, if you like," said Alan with a grave smile. "During all
the time of my convalescence, and in all the periods of leisure that
followed, I kept wondering what on earth had made Flitch want to kill me.
We had never had anything like a quarrel, and what had he to gain by my
death? He had robbed me of nothing. It's a great big 'Why,' and I've got
to find the answer to it. But I'm keeping you from bed."

"Go ahead," said Handyside. "Have you no suspicions?"

"I have; but they seem a bit far-fetched, especially now that I'm home.
At any rate, I dare not mention them yet.... I arrived in Glasgow this
afternoon, and got made as civilised-looking as was possible in a couple
of hours. I had intended coming on here by rail and steamer, but an
out-of-date time-table deceived me, and too late I found that the winter
service just started gave no train after five. At the hotel they
suggested motoring, and after a meal I started on what seemed a first
rate car. But we had a breakdown lasting an hour, a dozen miles out of
Glasgow, and then, running down Garelochside in the face of the storm, we
smashed into the ditch. After making sure that the car was hopeless, I
left the man at a wayside cottage and tramped the rest of the way. Hence
my late arrival, and you know the rest."

"May I ask," said Caw, "if you met anybody on the road--near home, I

"I passed a person who seemed to be intoxicated, if judged by his violent
language, but in the darkness and the rain we must have been practically
invisible to each other."

"If he was using bad language, sir," said Caw, rising, "he was certainly
not the party I am thinking of. May I retire, gentlemen?" he inquired,
glancing towards Miss Handyside.

"Yes, Caw. You will have much to tell Mr. Craig to-morrow," said the
doctor. "I leave it to you to explain why you were absent to-night. I
doubt I shall never get over it."

Caw made a stiff little inclination, saying, "My fault alone, sir,"
and went out.

"There goes a good and faithful servant," remarked Handyside; "and a good
chauffeur, too," he added with a heavy sigh.

"Mr. Craig," said Marjorie, breaking a silence, "do you wish us to
regard you as non-existent--I mean to say, do you wish your return to be
kept a secret?"

"I'm going to sleep on that question, Miss Handyside," he replied.

"I can keep a secret rather well, and I believe father can, too," she
said. "Won't you tell us whom you sus--"

"Marjorie," the doctor interposed, "the lateness of the hour is telling
on your discretion."

"I'm afraid it is." She got up, went to her bureau, scribbled something
on a half sheet of paper, folded it neatly, and presented it to Alan.
"Don't look at it till you are in your room," she said softly. "Good
night, and sleep well."

Ten minutes later, in the guest's bedroom, Alan opened the paper and read
the words--

"Mr. Bullard?"


By ten o'clock next morning Caw, who had risen at five, had Grey House in
a fair state of comfort for the reception of its new master, if not its
new owner. The producers of warmth and electricity were at work again;
the elderly housekeeper, who in Christopher's time had never been
upstairs, was recalled from a near village just when she was beginning to
wonder whether, after all, perfect happiness was included in retirement
with an ample annuity, in the garden a man was already reducing the more
apparent ravages of the gale. Caw himself quietly repaired the moderate
damage done by the thief of the Green Box. Following the instructions
written by his late master, he had sent a telegram to the Glasgow lawyer.
He was in the study dusting the thick glass protecting the clock when,
about ten thirty, Alan arrived via the passage.

"An odd place for a clock," the young man remarked. "I had a look at it
last night. But why 'dangerous,' and what's that green stuff?"

"Mr. Craig intended that the clock should not be interfered with before
it stopped--nearly a year hence, sir. I understand the liquid is
something stronger than water, but whether explosive or poisonous, I
could not say, sir."

"Curious notion!" Alan pointed to the pendulum flashing gloriously in the
sunlight now breaking through the racing clouds. "Are they diamonds?"

"Yes, sir. Worth, I have heard, about two thousand pounds."

"Then, of course, they would account for the precautions."

"Very likely, sir. Only I have a feeling that this clock has a meaning
which we shall not learn until it stops. The maker constructed it in a
locked room in this house, of which my master had the key, and I think my
master knew even more about it than Monsoor Guidet did. Is the
temperature here agreeable to you, sir?"

"A trifle warm, don't you think?"

"It shall be regulated to suit you, sir. Mr. Craig was sensitive to a
degree, one way or the other."

Alan turned abruptly from the clock which, somehow, he was finding
fascinating. "Well, now, Caw," he said, dropping into an easy chair by
the fire, "hadn't you better begin to explain things?"

"At once, if you wish it, sir. But I'm hoping that Mr. Craig's lawyer
from Glasgow, Mr. Harvie, will be here at noon, and as he may have fuller
information than I can give, I was wondering if you would not care to
hear him first. Indeed, Mr. Alan, I think it would be worth your while to
wait, I could tell you a good deal, but my master did not tell me
everything, though I have sometimes thought he meant to tell me more--"

"Very well, Caw. I'll ask only one question for the present. Did my uncle
see anything of Mr. Bullard within the last few months of his life?"

Caw let fall the duster and recovered it before he answered: "Yes, sir.
On the afternoon of the day of his death Mr. Bullard and Mr. Lancaster
sat in this room with him."

"Mr. Lancaster, too!"

"Yes, sir."

"Thanks; that will do for the present. Now I have a letter to write. By
the bye, do you remember my friend, Mr. France, being here once? I am
going to send for him."

"I remember Mr. France very well indeed, sir, and I will do my best to
make him comfortable. I think you will find everything here," Caw moved
the chair at the desk.

Alan got up, then hesitated. "Do you know, Caw, I can hardly bring myself
to take possession in this cool fashion right away."

"My master would have wished for nothing better. You will remember, sir,
that all has been yours for the last eighteen months." Caw made the stiff
little bow that betokened retiral.

"A moment. Caw," said the young man. "I take it that you would have done
anything for my uncle."

"That is so," was the quiet reply, "and, if I may say so, Mr. Alan, I am
here to do anything for you."

He was gone, leaving Alan perplexed and not a little touched, for he
could not doubt the man's sincerity. Presently he sat down and wrote to
Teddy France, disguising his writing as much as possible.

"My dear Teddy:

"Before you go further, get a grip on yourself, then turn the page very
slowly and look at the signature. Have you done so? You see, I want
firstly to avoid giving you a sudden scare, and I hope it has been at
least modified, old man; secondly, though I'm very much alive, I'm not
advertising the fact at present and trust you to help me in keeping it
dark. My story is too long to put on paper, but you shall have it all as
soon as you can come to listen. Is it possible for you to get leave at
once and come here for a couple of days? I badly want to see you again
and ask your help and advice. Wire me on receipt of this. Relying on your

"Yours as ever,


"P.S.: I'd like Doris to know, but only if you can find a way to tell her
secretly. Ask her to trust me for a little while."

The visit of Mr. Harvie, the lawyer, who arrived at noon, meant little
but disappointment for Alan. After a few polite words of congratulation,
the lawyer dived into business, explaining Alan's position as the result
of his uncle's deed of gift, and reciting a short list of securities
mixed up with money figures.

"All very simple and satisfactory so far as it goes, Mr. Craig," he said,
"and, of course, I am always at your service should you think I can be of
the slightest help. Your uncle's will provided only for a legacy and an
annuity to the male and female servants, also a thousand pounds to Dr.
Handyside, the residue, about four thousand pounds, falling to yourself.
My duty for the present ends with the delivery of this"--he handed an
envelope to Alan--"though my responsibilities do not cease until the
clock stops."

"I wish you would explain the clock, Mr. Harvie."

Mr. Harvie wagged his head. "My knowledge concerning the clock is
confined to written instructions of my late client, whereby I shall be
present when it stops, but my duties then will depend on circumstances.
The significance of the clock itself I do not yet comprehend. All I know
it that the clock will run a year from the date of my client's death, and
that, at least twenty-four hours prior to the stoppage, I shall be warned
and informed of the hour at which I must be present." He paused to purse
his lips and continued: "I do not think you will resent my remarking, Mr.
Craig, that for as sane a business man as ever I met, your uncle had some
of the oddest ideas--which, nevertheless, you and I are bound to respect.
Possibly a chat with Mr. Caw may dispel some of the fog you have stepped
into on your otherwise fortunate and happy return home. I feel that Mr.
Caw knows a great deal more than I, but in this case, at any rate"--Mr.
Harvie permitted himself to smile--"what I do not know is none of my

"You can assure me that absolutely everything in this house belongs to
me?" said Alan after a short silence. "You know of nothing which my uncle
intended to make over to friends?"

"Nothing whatever. Mr. Craig was absolutely clear on that point when I
drew up the Deed of Gift. Still, as I have said, in any new difficulty I
am at your service. I liked your uncle, Mr. Craig. I once mentioned a sad
case of unmerited poverty to him, and his generosity astonished, nay,
shamed me. You have a good man's place to fill."

Mr. Harvie stayed to lunch--Caw performed wonders in the
circumstances--and caught the two o'clock steamer. As soon as he was
gone, Alan opened the envelope. If he had looked for revelations within,
he was bound to be once more disappointed. The enclosure consisted simply
of a letter, and not a lengthy one at that.


"26th October, 1913.

"My dear Alan:

"It is written that we shall not meet again. My malady grows daily worse,
and the end may come at any moment. But I am of good cheer because of my
faith in your ultimate return. Whence comes that faith I cannot tell--but
whence comes any great and steadfast faith? When you come into this house
and the little fortune that has been yours since you left for the Arctic,
you may meet with some puzzling things; you may even be tempted to say,
or think, that the old man must have been a little 'cracked.' But one
must amuse oneself, especially when thought gnaws and time hangs heavy;
and if there happens to be a way of attaining one's chief desires which
is not altogether a tiresome and conventional way, why not choose it, as
I have done? Should my whims cost you trouble or annoyance, forgive me.
Let things take their course, if at all possible, till the Clock stops.
Trust Caw, who knows as much as I care for any one to know; Lawyer
Harvie, who knows next to nothing; Handyside and his daughter who may, or
may not, know anything. In my latter days my trust in human nature has
been shaken, though not destroyed; yet I say to you: Rather a host of
declared enemies than one doubtful friend. Farewell, Alan, and may God
send you happiness. A man can make pleasure for himself.

"Your affectionate uncle,


* * * * *

After a little while Alan rang for Caw.

The servant's eyes held a glimmer of anticipation induced by the lawyer's
visit. Surely Mr. Harvie had been able to divulge something that would
render his coming task a little easier, for Caw had still to tell of the
Green Box and at the same time conceal the fact that Christopher Craig
had died at bitter enmity with his two old friends--or at all events, the
grounds of that enmity. As though Christopher had wished to lay
particular stress on his desire for such concealment, Caw had found among
his written instructions the following words: "At all costs, my nephew is
to be spared the tragedy of his parents' ruin."

At Alan's first remark the glimmer went out.

"No, Caw, I'm no wiser than I was this morning. Mr. Harvie knows nothing
except that he is to be present when the clock stops, and a letter
written to me by my uncle, which he gave me, leaves me as much in the
dark as ever. My uncle's letter says, however, that I am to trust you,
and that you know more than any one."

Caw made a slight inclination. "May I ask if the letter makes mention of
Dr. Handyside and Miss Handyside, sir?"

"I am to trust them also," Alan replied, with a smile, "as well as
Mr. Harvie."

"Thank you, sir. As you have seen, sir, I have ventured to trust Dr.
Handyside and Miss Handyside a bit of my own; in fact I was forced into
so doing; and, though I had my master's word for it, if necessary, I am
glad to hear it again from you, sir. As for Mr. Harvie, I take leave to
hope we shall not require to trust him."

"Why on earth--?"

"Well, sir, he's a lawyer--"

"Good lord, Caw! What are you driving at? My uncle trusted him, and
his letter--"

"If you'll excuse me, sir, you have just been telling me that Mr. Harvie
knows next to nothing. Mr. Harvie, I beg to say, is a very nice
gentleman, and as honest as any lawyer need hope for to be; but a lawyer
is the last sort of human being we want to have in this business, sir."

"I'm afraid I don't quite grasp--" began Alan, amused by the other's

"Well, sir, did you ever go to a lawyer to ask a question?"

"I can't say I have, that I remember."

"Then, sir, I have. I once asked a lawyer one question, and before he
could, or would, answer it, sir, he asked me fifty, and then his answer
was rot--beg pardon, sir--unsatisfactory. But what I mean is just this,
sir. With all due deference to Mr. Harvie, we don't want outsiders asking
questions. My master himself would have been against it, and I'm hoping
you will understand why before very long, sir."

Alan sat up. "Before we go any further," he said, "will you tell me what
you were looking for last night when you opened a drawer in that
writing-table and--well, go ahead."

Caw took out his handkerchief and wiped his brow. "A green box, sir, that
had been there a few hours earlier."

"The contents?"

"Diamonds, sir."


"Diamonds, sir."

"I didn't know there were diamonds--except in that pendulum."

The other gave a faint sigh.

"Were those in the box of any great value?"

Caw moistened his lips. "Six hundred thousand pounds--"

"Oh, nonsense!"

"My master's words, sir."

"Then--why should they have been left lying there?"

"My master's orders, sir."

Alan opened his mouth, but found no speech. Said Caw: "You find it
difficult to believe, sir, but there are other things just as difficult.
For instance, I was forbidden to use any violence to prevent the box
being taken away--that is, taken away by certain parties. A horrid
position for me, sir."

"Yes," assented Alan, absently. Presently he went on: "Don't imagine
that I doubt anything you have said, Caw--except that the diamonds,
whose value there must surely be some extraordinary mistake about, were
in the box."

"But, Mr. Alan, I can swear they were! It was I who closed and put the
box in the drawer for the last time, at my master's request. He had been
admiring them, as he often did--"

"Who were the parties who were to be allowed to take the box?"

After a moment's hesitation,--"Mr. Bullard, sir, and Mr. Lancaster. They
were the only persons besides myself who knew about the diamonds. I
should tell you that my master showed them the diamonds that afternoon."

"Good God!" said Alan under his breath. Aloud: "Are you telling me that
you suspect those two gentlemen of st--taking the box?"

"They came here late on the night after my master's death, with that
object, sir."

"But the box was taken last night."

"I can't swear that it was they who were here last night, but I can swear
they would have had the box on the night I have named, sir, but for Miss

"Miss Handyside! ... Sit down, man, and tell your story. I'll try not to

"Thank you, sir." Caw drew a chair from the wall; for once he was glad to
be seated. He told his story in a crisp, straightforward fashion,
avoiding side issues, and his listener heard him out in silence.

There was a pause before the latter spoke.

"You've given me something to think about, Caw," he said gravely.
"Meantime I'll ask only three questions. Have you any doubt that the box
and its contents belonged entirely to my uncle?"

"None at all, sir. I remember his getting the box made--twelve years ago,
I should say. Also, I knew he had made a great deal of money and was
putting it into diamonds."

"He hadn't a duplicate box?"

"If he had, sir, I should have seen it. For the last two years of his
life, I had to look after everything for him, even open his safe."

"I see. Now tell me: Did my uncle and Messrs. Bullard and Lancaster part
on good terms that afternoon?"

Caw could have smiled with relief at the form in which the enquiry was
put. "Why, sir," he said, with ill-suppressed eagerness, "they shook
hands, and my master bade them a kind farewell. Mr. Lancaster was visibly

"And they were back the next night!"

"Six hundred thousand pounds is a lot of money, sir."

Alan got up, strode to the window, and looked out for a minute's space.

"What would you say, Caw," he asked, turning abruptly, "if I told you
that for the last eighteen months I have regarded Mr. Bullard and Mr.
Lancaster as my best friends?"

The servant, who had risen also, replied respectfully: "I would say I was
very sorry, sir."

"Indeed!--And if I told you that they had helped me with a large sum of
money--what then?"

"I should take the liberty, sir, of wondering what you gave them for it."

"Good Heavens!" the young man exclaimed, "the thing is impossible!"
Controlling himself--"Thanks, Caw, I'll not trouble you more for
the present."

"Very good, sir. When will you take tea?"

"I'm taking tea with Dr. Handyside."

"Very good, sir. I had better show you how the door works from
this side."

* * * * *

It was a much worried young man whom Caw presently left alone. Until last
night, when he had looked at Marjorie Handyside's note, it had never
occurred to him to connect the crime in the Arctic wastes with the will
he had signed in the Aasvogel Syndicate office, on that fine spring
morning, eighteen months ago. His only suspicion, which in nine thoughts
out of ten he had almost rejected for its absurdity, was against the man
Garnet whose place he had filled in the Expedition. Garnet, who was an
author and a vile-tempered fellow even in good health, had gone half
crazy because the Expedition was not postponed for a year on his account.
He had cursed Alan as a scheming interloper, and so forth, and had
actually expressed the wish that he might leave his bones "up there." And
last night, the girl's note had given his mind nothing more than a nasty
jar. Bullard?--why, that idea, he had thought, was still more absurd than
the other!

But now what was he to believe? Caw's revelation seemed to leave him no
choice. And yet the thing appeared preposterous. Bullard and Lancaster
were rich men, and while his acquaintance with the former had been
comparatively slight, memories of the latter's frequent kindnesses and
hospitality had warmed his heart many a time during his exile in the
Arctic. Lancaster a trafficker in murder?--Lancaster the delicate, gentle
father of the girl who had promised to wait for him? No, by Heaven, he
would not believe it! As for Bullard--

The sinking sun shot a ray against the clock, and the glitter of diamonds
roused him from his brooding. It was the Handysides' tea hour. He must
try to get a quiet word with his hostess. He had met her at breakfast,
but the doctor had been present. There were several things he wanted to
say--must say--to her. She was brave--much braver than he had given her
credit for a few hours ago--as well as bonny. As he descended to the
passage he thought of how she had outwitted Bullard. Fortune was with
him; he found her alone in the drawing-room.

"I always give father ten minutes grace when he's cleaning his car, and
it's pretty messy after last night, while he has got to be careful with
his foot," she explained. "By the way, Mr. Craig, I have to apologise for
my curiosity of last night, but I'm not used to stories like yours."

"My apology is about a more serious matter," he replied. "I've just been
hearing from Caw of how you rescued the Green Box at the first attempt to
remove it. It was the pluckiest thing I ever heard of, and I'm under a
tremendous obligation to you."

"Oh, please don't!" she said, with a laugh and a blush. "You must
understand that I hadn't a pistol that night. The pistol was an awful
failure, wasn't it? You weren't a bit afraid--for yourself, anyway--and I
was terrified. I'd have been far more effective if I'd just opened the
door an inch and called 'boo!'"

"I fancy that would have finished me, Miss Handyside! But do you want to
learn to shoot? If so, and you'd allow me, I'd give you a lesson or two,
with pleasure."

"Would you?--But you mustn't tell father. Luckily he didn't notice the
horrid thing last night. Now, I think I'd better give him a hail to
come to tea."

"One moment, please," said Allan. "Would you mind telling me why you
wrote down that name last night?"

She became grave at once. "Was it the wrong one, Mr. Craig?"

"I can only hope so. But what made you think it a possible one? Had you
ever seen the man before that night?"

"No." She paused, then said slowly: "Mr. Craig, if he wanted your uncle's
diamonds that night, it is likely that he wanted them long before then,
and it must have occurred to him that your life stood in his way of ever
getting them as a gift or legacy." She halted, and then asked: "Well?"

"This is for your ears alone, Miss Handyside," he said on an impulse.
"When I wanted very much to go to the Arctic and could not find the
necessary money, Mr. Bullard and--and another man advanced it, and I made
a will in their favour."

"Oh, how horrible!"

"And yet all that proves nothing with regard to the man Flitch."

"No more does this," she quickly rejoined. "But when I saw that Bullard
man's face as he laid the Green Box on the table, I felt that there was
a being who would stick at nothing. I'll never forget his expression. It
was as if the humanness had fallen from a face. It was--devilish....
That was what made me write down his name last night." She held up her
hand. "Hush!"

Dr. Handyside hobbled in, looking far from happy. "Has Caw told you how
he came to be absent from his charge last night, Mr. Craig?" he asked.

"In the same circumstances I'd have been absent myself," said Alan.

Marjorie gave him a grateful glance. "Poor father feels as if he owed you
over half a million," she said.

The guest laughed. "Well, he can easily feel that he has paid the
debt--by taking the Green Box as seriously as I do!"

"In other words as a joke?" said Handyside sadly. "That's very generous
of you, Alan, if I may say so,--to quote Caw--but the Green Box is too
hard and cold a fact to jest about."

"Then let us ignore it, if you please. My uncle's letter, which his
lawyer handed me to-day, requests me to let things take their course, if
at all possible, until the Clock stops; and that's what I'm going to do
so far, at least, as that blessed Green Box is concerned. As a matter of
fact, the Clock interests me far more than the box."

"Why?" said Marjorie.

"I don't know, but there it is!"

"Have you any hope," asked Handyside, "that there is any chance of
recovering the box or, rather, its contents? Forgive my harping on
the subject?"

"No," answered Alan, thinking of Doris Lancaster. "And pray believe me,
doctor, when I say that I care as little as I hope."

For which saying Marjorie could have kissed him.


The unspeakable Marvel reached London shortly after seven p.m.,--nearly
an hour late. A sleet storm had descended on the Metropolis. He took a
four-wheeler to the City. It crawled, but he was glad of the time to
rehearse once more the part he had decided to play, during the latter
hours of the railway journey. Here was a desperate idea inspired by a
desperate situation. A hundred other ideas had offered themselves only to
be rejected. He shivered with more than cold, fingered the flask in his
pocket, but refrained from seeking its perfidious comfort. There must be
no slackening wits in view of what was coming.

At last the cab stopped at his destination. With stiffened limbs he
ascended the weary flights of stairs, paused on the fourth landing to
blow into his hands and flap his arms. Then, after a glance round, he
turned into the corridor on the left. The door of the Aasvogel Syndicate
offices was still unlocked, by arrangement. He opened it quietly, stepped
in, and as quietly closed it, turning the key. With a fairly firm and
confident step he advanced to the lighted room at the end of the passage.
His old foolish, ingratiating smile was on his face when he entered.

Bullard swung round from his desk.

"Hullo!" he cried genially. "Got back! Beastly weather, isn't it? Just
returned from Paris an hour ago. Sit down and warm yourself."

"Thanks, Mr. Bullard." Marvel took a chair at the fire and proceeded to
chafe his hands. "Paris, did you say? Coldish there, I suppose?"

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