Part 3 out of 5
"Felt like snow this morning. By the way, I didn't get your note till my
arrival here to-night."
Marvel began to feel that things were shaping nicely. "I sent it as soon
as I could, Mr. Bullard. Awful weather up there last night--something
ghastly. Wouldn't take on the job again for ten, times the money."
"Well, it's over, and I take it that you were quite successful."
"Oh, that part of it was easy, Mr. Bullard."
"Good!" With that Mr. Bullard's geniality vanished. "I say, where's the
Mr. Marvel grinned pleasantly. "Always in such a hurry, Mr. Bullard! But
don't be alarmed; the Green Box is all right--very much all right."
"Look here, Marvel. I'm not in the humour for any humbug. I want that
"And I want that four hundred pounds before I produce the box--"
"Well, the money's ready."
"--and another five hundred when you touch the box--"
"You impudent swine!" cried Bullard viciously. "So that's your game!"
"Well, Mr. Bullard, when I came to think it over in that ghastly
blizzard, I saw you had inadvertently underestimated the value of my
services, and considering that I had already parted with those valuable
papers of mine for one--"
"Oh, shut it, man! Do you take me for a fool?"
"On the contrary, Mr. Bullard! You want that box badly, and an extra five
hundred is neither here nor there to you."
Bullard's expression was so ugly then that the pretender wavered. "Where
is the Green Box? Answer!"
"Give me the four hundred, and I'll take you to it."
"Take me to it? I think not!"
"Oh, Mr. Bullard, surely you don't distrust me."
Bullard appeared to reflect, and said harshly: "One more chance. Bring
the box here at ten to-morrow morning, and I'll give you two hundred
extra, you dirty little thief!"
"Five hundred, Mr. Bullard," said Marvel gently. He could have
Again Bullard appeared to be lost in thought, his fingers toyed with the
nugget on his chain. At last he said sullenly: "I might have known you
would try it on, you scoundrel. But I must have the box first thing in
the morning. It's awkward enough not to have it tonight." He turned to
his desk and picked up an envelope with a typewritten address. He sat
staring at it as though he had forgotten Marvel's presence.
Suddenly he wheeled and spoke. "You shall have five hundred in the
"And four hundred to-night, Mr. Bullard."
"Yes--an hour hence. Do you know the Victoria Docks?--Of course you do.
Well, the street named here"--he tapped the envelope--"is close to them.
Deliver this letter and bring me back an answer--and the four hundred are
yours. Hold your tongue! The thing is too private for an ordinary
messenger. It's entirely owing to your vile behaviour that this letter
must be delivered to-night. Will you take it, or must I take it myself?
Mind, if I do, you can go to the devil for your four hundred, ay, and the
five hundred to boot. I've stood the limit from you, Marvel, and I'm
quite equal to locking you up in our strong-room here till you're ready
and eager to give up the box for nothing!"
"Come, come, Mr. Bullard," said Marvel, rising, "there's no need for all
this--this roughness. I'll take the letter with pleasure if you'll give
me a couple of hundred to go on with."
Bullard tossed the letter back on the desk, and proceeded to light a
Marvel took a step forward. "I was only joking, Mr. Bullard. I'll take
your message, and trust you."
"Very well," growled the other, handing it over. "Take care of it. You
ought to be back in an hour. You'll find me here."
"Eight you are!" said Marvel, and went jauntily from the room.
Bullard sank back in his chair. "The blind fool!" he murmured, and
An hour later he was dining in the Savoy restaurant.
About ten o'clock he was shown into Lancaster's library. He was in
evening dress. He carried a suit case bearing, in the midst of many old
labels, his own initials. The moment the door was shut he said--
"Where's Mrs. Lancaster? Didn't she get my note?"
Lancaster, his weary eyes blinking in the sudden rousing from a troubled
nap, replied: "Yes, it caught her as she was about to leave the house
with Doris. Is anything the matter?"
"Did Doris go alone?"
"I wish you would tell Mrs. Lancaster--"
At that moment the lady entered, gloriously attired, her eyes
"What's the matter, Mr. Bullard?"
"Thanks for staying at home in response to my request," he said suavely.
"I have hopes that you won't find it a wasted evening. By the way, can
you get rid of the attentions of your servants at so early an hour?"
Her sullen eyes brightened with curiosity. "I daresay I can, Mr. Bullard,
but may I ask--"
"Please add the favour to the one already granted, and rejoin us here as
soon as possible."
When she had gone, Bullard laid the suitcase on a chair, opened it, and
took out the Green Box which he placed on the table. Then deliberately,
and with a steady hand, he helped himself to a cigarette from his host's
silver box, and lit it carefully.
"Well, Lancaster," he said, after exhaling a long whiff, "how's that?"
"Great Heavens!" Lancaster stopped staring and sat down feebly. "How did
you get it? Where? Surely not in the same place as before!"
"That I can't tell you. The point that interests me is that it is here
now. My story will keep--it's quite good enough for that. By the bye,
where are your congratulations?"
Lancaster stretched out a shaking hand. "Take it away, for God's sake,"
he said. "Don't--don't let my wife see those stones. I tell you again,
Bullard--I swear it--I don't want one more than will clear me of that
"Don't talk rot," was the light retort. "Mrs. Lancaster is going to
choose one or two for luck. Between ourselves, as her prospective
son-in-law I naturally desire to win her favour, as well as her entire
confidence in my ability to provide suitably for her daughter. Besides,
you must see that for your own sake it is better that she should be
invol--pardon--interested. Why groan, my friend? Your troubles are over."
Mrs. Lancaster came in, gazed, and pounced. "What is it? What's wrong
with Robert? What is all the mystery about?"
"This little box," said Bullard, patting it, "contains what I may call
the Christopher Collection. No more questions now, if you please. Pray be
seated. Are the servants--?"
"Yes, yes! Open it! I must see--"
"Unfortunately we lack the key. However, my expert tin-opener ought
now to be waiting outside. I'll fetch him in, apologising for his
uncouthness, which he can't help. He might like a little whisky,
Lancaster. Ah, I see it is already provided. Better have some
yourself, old man."
With these words, Bullard left the room to return a minute later with a
rough-looking man in garb that might have been termed semi-sea-faring.
There was nothing particularly sinister about his reddish-bearded face,
but his eyes were full of fears and suspicions, and the ordinary person
would have shrunk from his contact. His conductor having locked the
"This is Mr. Flitch, who--"
"Damn ye!" muttered the man with a start and a scowl.
"Or, rather, Mr. Dunning, who is going to open the box for us. But you
will please excuse me while I first ask him one or two personal
questions. Well, Dunning, you got my note?"
"Ain't I here?"
"You attended to the messenger?"
A mere grunt of assent.
"Under lock and key?"
"Not a scrap."
"Never you mind about that. I done what ye wanted. He's safe enough. Come
For an instant Bullard looked like striking the fellow, but he laughed,
saying: "Well, it wasn't my money. Now you can go ahead. That's your job
on the table. Want a refreshment first?"
"No," growled Flitch, alias Dunning, with a suspicious look at Mrs.
Lancaster. He slouched over to the table and seated himself. From a big
pocket he brought a cloth bundle, unrolled it on the table, and disclosed
an array of steel implements of curious and varied shapes. His fingers
were coarse and filthy, but his touch was exquisite; it was something
worth seeing, the way he manipulated his tools in the lock of the Green
Box. In a little while he seemed to forget the existence of the
spectators. He even smiled in the absorption of his work. There was no
forcing or wrenching: all was done in coaxing, persuasive fashion. But it
was no simple task, and thirty minutes went past.
Bullard, seated by the table, rarely shifted his gaze from the busy
fingers. Mrs. Lancaster, on the couch, a little way off, devoured the
casket with brilliant, greedy stare. As for Lancaster, in his chair by
the hearth, he had turned his face from the scene of operations, and sat
motionless, one hand gripping the chair-arm, the other shading his eyes.
At last the worker paused, drew a long breath, and made to raise the lid.
But Bullard's hand shot out and held it.
"That will do, my man."
The worker let go with a shrug of his shoulders, and proceeded to bundle
up his tools.
"I could do wi' a drink now," he grumbled. "Neat."
Bullard turned to the small table at his elbow, and poured out half a
tumbler of whisky. The other, having stuffed the bundle into his pocket,
rose, seized the glass, and gulped the contents. He set the glass on the
table and held out his hand. Bullard laid a heap of sovereigns in it, and
it closed as if automatically.
"Report when he's really hungry," said Bullard in an undertone, and the
man nodded. "Mr. Lancaster," he said aloud, "would you mind showing this
man to the door? I'll do nothing till you come back."
"Eh--what's that?" quavered Lancaster, exposing a dazed-looking
"Oh, I'll do it," said his wife, rising impatiently. "This way, my man."
He slouched out after her. There was silence in the room till she
"What a loathsome creature," she remarked. "Flitch, you called him. Is
not that the name of the man who went out hunting with Alan Craig, Mr.
Bullard? No wonder--"
"Look here!" said Bullard, and lifted the lid.
The woman's breath went in with a hiss. Unable to resist, her husband
crept from his place and stood peering over her shoulder.
Bullard lifted out the shallow trays and laid them side by side. The room
seemed to be filled with a new light.
"Six hundred thousand pounds," Bullard murmured.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Lancaster in a reverential whisper. Then she started
violently. "Nothing--nothing," she added quickly, and went on gazing. She
had remembered that she had not re-locked the door, though she had drawn
the heavy curtain. But she could not tear herself yet awhile from that
delicious spectacle of wealth.
They were all three fascinated.
After a while Bullard moved slightly. "May I choose a lucky one for you,
Mrs. Lancaster?" he asked, and picked out a fairly large stone.
He dropped it as though it had stung.
He took up another and paused--paused while his face grew old.... A third
he took from another tray and touched it to his tongue.... A fourth from
the third tray.... A fifth....
Then his fist flew up and fell on the edges of two trays so that the
contents shot up like a spray in sunshine and scattered over the room. In
a strangled voice he yelled--
"Paste, by God! We're tricked!"
The door opened; the curtain was drawn aside.
"Father! Who was that dreadful man who--"
In the stifling silence, Doris, home hours before her time, stood there
in dance gown and white cloak, a latch-key in her hand, her eyes wide
with wonder--wonder that gave place to horror.
It would have been beyond Teddy France to describe clearly his own
feelings as he waited in the Lancasters' drawing-room late on the
following afternoon. His dearest friend was alive; his dearest hope was
dead. Yet how could he be otherwise than glad, if only on Doris's
account? Early in the day he had sent her a note, express, begging her to
be at home at five. This meant questionings and reproaches from Mrs.
Lancaster, for she and her daughter had what she deemed a most important
social engagement; but the girl was firm, and eventually the mother went
off alone in a sullen temper.
In any case, Doris would have revolted from tea and tattle that
afternoon. She had suffered a great shock the previous night. And since
Teddy's note had suggested something most urgent, but told her nothing,
she entered the drawing-room to meet him with foreboding added to a
consuming fear. At the sight of him, so honest and kindly, she could have
gone to his arms out of sheer longing for peace and comforting.
Teddy thought he had himself well in hand for his delicate task, but he
was pale, and she noticed it.
"What is it?" she asked, all apprehension.
"Something good, Doris, but I can't tell you until you sit down."
"Good!" She forced a smile. She would not hurt his feelings, though
apparently he had nothing very important to tell her after all. Poor
Doris! all the big things in her life nowadays were of the evil sort.
"Well, why don't you tell me, Teddy?"
"Because it's so tremendously good.'"
"Oh!" There was no mistaking his earnestness. Her mind turned quickly to
Bullard. Had Teddy found out something?
"Doris, if you were given one wish, what would you wish for? You know,
you can say anything to me."
She did not hesitate. "I'd wish that father were free from a great and
"Well, we may hope for that, I'm sure. But if--if the wish would bring
about something that--that you had believed past hoping for--what then?"
He did not wait for her answer. "Doris," he said gently, "somebody has
come home, safe and sound.... I had a letter from Alan Craig this
morning. He is at Grey House now." He paused, puzzled. She was taking it
so much more calmly than he had expected. The room was dusky and the
fire-light deceptive, so he could hardly read her face. But presently he
descried the glint of tears, and next moment she drooped and hid her eyes
in her hands.
He spoke again. "For a reason which I don't yet know, Alan has come home
secretly. He asks me to beg you to trust him for a little while. He must
have a very strong reason for the secrecy. He wants my advice and help,
so I'm leaving for Scotland to-night. If you have any message, please
give me it now, Doris, and I'll leave you. You must want to be alone."
He waited, leaning against the mantel, watching her bowed head, torn
betwixt loyalty and longing. Minutes passed before she uncovered her eyes
and sat up. "Teddy," she said, "please sit down. There are things I must
tell you before you go to Scotland." She wiped her eyes and put away the
handkerchief as if for good. "You must be thinking me a very strange and
heartless girl. You must be asking yourself why I am not overjoyed at the
wonderful news. Don't speak. I suppose I don't properly realise it yet.
Alan is alive and well!--I never was so glad of anything; I'll never
cease to be glad of it. And just for a moment nothing else in the world
seemed to matter. But--but I can't escape--I am like a prisoner told of a
great joy which she can never look upon--"
"Doris, what are you saying? You don't for a moment imagine that
"Let me go on while I can. It's not easy to make my story coherent, so be
patient... Something most awful happened last night. You know I was at
the Lesters' dance, but I only stayed an hour--I got so worried about
father. I pleaded a headache, and they got a taxi for me. It would be
nearly eleven when I left. The fog was lifting. Just as the cab was
reaching home I looked out and saw a dreadful-looking man coming from our
door. He stared at me so horribly, so suspiciously, that I waited in the
cab till he was well away. I had a latch-key and let myself in quietly. I
went into the drawing-room. The lights were on, but the fire was low and
no one was there. Mother had spoken of going early to bed, and I thought
she must have done so. I went along to the library. There was no sound,
but as I opened the door I heard a hoarse voice, though what it said I
did not catch. It was followed by a smash. I drew back the curtain--you
know how it hangs across the corner--and I saw--"
"Doris," the young man cried, "you're distressing yourself--"
"I must tell you, or go mad. Mr. Bullard was sitting at the table with
his back to me. Father and mother were standing on the other side. They
were just ghastly. On the table was a dark green roundish box, open, and
some trays of diamonds. There were diamonds on the floor, too." Doris
paused and wet her lips. "When I was a young girl," she continued,
"before we came home, you know, Christopher Craig took me into his house
one afternoon to give me some sweets, as he often did, and after bidding
me not tell anybody, he showed me a dark green box, and in it were trays
of diamonds. I never forgot it."
"But my dear girl--"
"Almost at once mother ordered me to go away. I went up to my room, and
thought till I began to understand. I asked myself questions. What were
those sudden journeys to Scotland for? Why was father so nervous
afterwards? Who was the dreadful-looking man I saw? What made father and
mother look so--so awful when I found them in the library?"
A heartsick feeling possessed Teddy, while he said: "But, Doris, all
those apparently ugly things may be capable of explanation."
"Wait! ... Of course I could not sleep. I didn't know what to do with
myself. At three in the morning I went down to the library for a book,
though I knew I should never read it.... And before the cold fire
he--father was sitting alone, like a--a broken man. Oh, Teddy, you always
liked father, didn't you?" Ere lie could reply she proceeded: "He was so
lonely, poor father! I loved him better than ever I had done.... And
after a while he told me things--things I can't tell even to you. But the
box of diamonds was Christopher Craig's--now Alan's. Father would not
blame Mr. Bullard more than himself--but _I_ know.... And now here is a
strange thing: all those diamonds are false, and of little value compared
with the real. And, do you know, father was glad of that, though it means
ruin. Father supposes it was a trick of Caw's--Caw was Mr. Craig's
servant--I used to like him--and he was really very fond of me when I was
a little girl--and so I thought of a plan." She sighed.
"Am I to hear your plan, Doris?"
"Oh, it can never be carried out now. It was just this: I would make
a journey to Scotland, with the box in my dressing-case--it's there
now; but let me go on. Then I would hire a car for a day's run round
the coast, and I would call at Mr. Craig's house--quite casually, of
course--just to see how my old acquaintance, Caw, was getting on.
That would be--or would have been--the most natural thing in the
world. Of course Caw would ask me into the house, and would offer to
get me tea. And while he was getting it--well, I know where the box
used to be kept--"
"You brave little soul!"
"Oh, I'd risk anything for father," she said simply. "Once the box was
back in its place, he would be safe from one horror, at any rate. The
stones, though they are imitation, are worth several thousand pounds.
Even if Caw found me out, I don't think he'd do anything terrible."
"But why should Caw suspect your--"
"He doesn't suspect--he _knows_! There are things about it I can't
understand, but this morning my plan seemed the best possible. Before we
went to bed father and I got slips of wood and jammed the box so tightly
shut that you would have said it was locked--there was no key, you
understand. Then--it was my idea--I got a little earth from a plant in
the dining-room and made a few dirty marks on the carpet and window-sill.
And I took the decanter and poured a lot of the whiskey out of the
window, which I left open; and I put a soiled tumbler on the floor. And
we broke the door of the cabinet where the box had been, and then we went
up to bed, and I took the box with me."
Teddy stood up. "You perfect brick!" he cried; "I feel like cheering!"
She smiled the ghost of a smile. "And now you've guessed that there was a
fuss about burglars in the morning, and Father 'phoned Mr. Bullard that
the box was gone--which was not quite true, but as true as Mr. Bullard
deserved--and Mr. Bullard came furious to the house, and left vowing
vengeance on the dreadful-looking man who had unlocked the box the night
before. So you see my poor little plan worked so far--only so far."
"What you mean," said the young man softly, "is that Alan must not
"Caw is bound to tell Alan, has probably told him already. Don't you see
how hideous the situation has become for father--and Alan, too?"
"I do see it. But now--you know there's not a bigger-hearted chap in the
world than Alan Craig--suppose your father were simply to tell him
"Oh, never!" she exclaimed. "That would mean betraying Mr. Bullard, and
father is--no, I can't tell you more. And I'm terrified that Mr. Bullard
may yet discover that the box was not stolen last night after all--he's
so horribly clever."
Teddy considered for a moment. "If the box were back in its old place,"
he said slowly, "that would end the matter in one way--"
"In every way, for Alan and I would never meet again--"
"You know Alan better than that, Doris. It is possible that Alan is
not yet aware of the--the loss; even possible that Caw has not
"Oh! if I could only hope for that!--not that I could ever face Alan
again. But, Teddy--"
"Well," he said deliberately, "it might be worth while to act on the
possibility. If you think so, I'm your man, Doris."
"You--you would take the box?" Her suddenly shining eyes gazed up at his
face in such gratitude and admiration that he turned slightly away. "You
would risk your friendship with Alan--"
"Nonsense! Don't put it that way, Doris; and don't talk of never facing
Alan again. All this will pass. The thing we want to do now is to make it
pass as quickly as possible. Give me the box and the necessary
directions, and I'll do my best."
"Oh, you are good! I confess I thought of your doing it, but the idea
came all of a sudden and I hated it. I still hate it. It's making you do
an underhand thing; it's cheating Alan in a way."
"It's returning his property, anyway," said Teddy, not too easily. "But
the more I think of it, the more necessary it seems. For we do not know
that the box belongs to Alan alone; and supposing others were interested
in the diamonds, false though they are, Alan might be forced to--to act.
So let me have it now, and I'll clear out, for I can tell you I'm pretty
funky about meeting Mrs. Lancaster with it in my hand. And, Doris, it's
plain to me that your father is somehow bound to Mr. Bullard. If you can,
find out how much--excuse my bluntness--it would take to free him. I'm a
poor devil, yet I might be able to do something in some way--"
"Oh, Teddy, Teddy, what am I to say to you?"
"Not another word, Doris, or we'll be caught!" He laughed shortly, strode
to a switch and flooded the room with light. There was a limit even to
Five minutes later he left the house with a tidy brown-paper parcel
under his arm.
In her room Doris fell on her knees, and when thanksgiving and petitions
were ended remained in that position, thinking. And one of her thoughts
was rather a strange question: "Why am I not more glad--madly glad--that
Alan is alive?" And she remembered that she had sent no message.
About four o'clock Bullard came into his private office full of
ill-suppressed wrath. Lancaster, who had been waiting for him in fear and
trembling, looked a mute enquiry.
"Yes," said Bullard harshly, "I found the beast after losing all those
precious hours, and I may tell you at once, he had nothing whatever to do
with the disappearance of the Green Box from your cabinet. He accounted
for all his doings after leaving Earl's Gate, and I was able to verify
his story. He went straight to a filthy gambling hell, lost a lot of
money and got dead drunk. He's not decently sober yet."
"Then who could have done it?" Lancaster forced himself to say.
"Spare me idiotic questions! What I want to know is why on earth you did
not take better care of the box."
"I daresay I ought to have put it in my safe," the other stammered, "but
you left it with me as if it was nothing to you, and it--it really had
become of so little value--comparatively--"
"Of little value! Why, its value to us might have been immense. The
stones are paste, but what does that prove? Simply that Christopher's
real stones are elsewhere. Christopher wasn't such a fool after all, and
Caw has not tricked us wittingly. Caw imagines we've got the real stones
right enough. At first I thought it might be otherwise, but my new theory
is the one to hold water. The stones we saw that afternoon in Grey House
were the stones we looked on last night--"
"Then--oh, my God!--Christopher was suspecting us, playing with us, all
"Keep calm. Remember, Christopher told us we should have our reward--"
"And this is it!" Lancaster groaned.
For the moment Bullard's self-confidence was shaken--but only for the
moment. "Listen, Lancaster," he said steadily. "Christopher trusted no
man absolutely--and who would, with half a million involved? He may even
have doubted Caw. But Christopher was as friendly as ever, and he did not
tell us, without meaning something, that the diamonds would be divided
into three portions when his cursed clock had stopped. And so I believe
that we shall yet get our shares--on a certain condition.--Are you
Lancaster nodded in vague fashion. "But the condition ..."
"Oh, Lord! hasn't it dawned? Why, the shares shall be ours when the clock
stops, provided the Green Box, its contents intact, is then in its place
in Christopher's study. Doesn't that hold water up to the brim?"
Lancaster turned away his face. He could have cried out.
"And now," said Bullard bitterly, "you've let the Green Box slip through
"Why didn't you tell me all that last night?" cried the ill-starred
Lancaster. He dared not tell Bullard that the Green Box was safe in his
house. Bullard would never, however great the compensation, forgive
trickery against himself; and Bullard's theory remained to be proved.
Lancaster's soul now seized on its last hope: that Doris would be able to
carry out her plan of conveying the box to Grey House. "Why didn't you
tell me last night?" he repeated.
"Is that all you've got to say?" Bullard asked, a sort of snarl in his
voice: "And I suppose you still expect me to put you right over that
twenty-five thousand pounds!"
"My God, Bullard, but you _promised_! Oh, surely, you don't mean
to fail me!"
Bullard threw himself into the chair at his desk. While he chose a cigar
he regained something of his customary control. "I beg your pardon,
Lancaster," he said presently. "I ought not to have said that, seeing
that I have your daughter's promise, and do not doubt it. But the thing
has hit me--both of us--hard.... Now don't you think you had better go
home? Don't work yourself into an illness again. The Green Box is
gone--for good, I fear. We can't call in the police, you know. But there
are still things to be done--for instance, find out whether the real
diamonds are in Grey House--and, mark you, I think they are! If I were
only certain, I'd act on the will at once. That beast Flitch has been
restless lately. Wants to leave the country. His evidence might be
necessary in proving the loss of Craig. But we'll talk it out to-morrow.
Are you going?"
Without a word Lancaster went out; but he sat in his own private office
for several hours.
"What prevents me," asked Bullard of himself, "from throwing the
worthless fool overboard and letting him sink?" And the only answer was
"Doris. I believe he'd sell his rights in the will for--"
The telephone on his desk buzzed. Next moment he was listening to the
voice of Mrs. Lancaster.
"I'm just going out," it said, "and I thought I ought to let you know
about Doris. She had an express letter from young France this morning,
and insists on staying at home now to receive him. You asked me to keep
an eye on him. Any news? ... Why don't you answer?"
"Pardon, my dear lady. No; there is no news, except that I've been on the
wrong track and have small hope of getting upon the right one. Thank you
for letting me know; at the same time, I must keep to my bargain with
Doris--no interference, you understand. By the way, has Doris referred to
"Not with a single word."
"Ah! ... I may call to-morrow. When does Mr. France arrive?"
"Five. But what's to be done about--?"
"To-morrow, please, to-morrow. Look after your husband, will you?
The woman's soul was still seething with resentment against the man on
account of the diamond fiasco, as she called it; at the same time, she
was acutely sensible of the fact that now more than ever his friendship
was essential to her interests.
Bullard lay back in his chair, frowning thoughtfully. Odd that Doris had
made no reference to her glimpse of the scene in the library last night.
Odd, too, that she should be receiving France at such an hour. And there
were other things that struck him as odd. Lancaster's manner during their
recent talk, for instance.... Francis Bullard had made the bulk of his
fortune through unlikely happenings; it had become a habit with him to
deal, as it were, in "off chances." At all events, he felt he would like
to secure a sight of young France's face as the latter came from the
house. It might tell him something. Before long he left the office and
the City. Rain was beginning to fall.
It was falling heavily when Teddy came down the steps of 13 Earl's Gate.
He was wondering which way would take him the more speedily to a cab,
when a taxi appeared moving slowly towards him out of the streaming
gloom. He whistled, and the chauffeur replied, "Right, sir," steering
towards the pavement. The cab came to rest midway between two lamps. The
man reached back and threw the door open. Teddy gave his address, and got
in. At the same moment the opposite door was torn open; the parcel was
snatched from his possession; the door banged. The cab started. Teddy had
a mere glimpse of some one muffled to the mouth, hat brim drawn low. He
turned and sprang out, staggered badly, almost fell, recovered his
balance, and beheld a figure leaving the step for the interior of the
retreating cab. He ran after it with a shout,--and remembered the dangers
in publicity. Still, he continued to run, seeking to make out the number
which had got plastered with mud. Hopeless! Travelling now at a high
speed the cab disappeared round a corner, and Mr. Bullard had secured
considerably more than he had come for.
At that moment the most wretched young man in London was Teddy France.
What was he to do? He could not go North without informing Doris of the
calamity. He could not trust the information to a letter. There he stood
in the rain, cursing himself and imagining the cruel blow it would be to
the girl. Suddenly he realised that no time must be lost. To wait until
later in the evening would doom his chances of seeing Doris alone. He
must return to the house at once--and as he took the first step, a car
purred softly up to No. 13, and deposited Mrs. Lancaster. It was all up!
To call now for the second time would rouse all manner of suspicions.
An hour later, drenched and in despair, he entered a post office and
telegraphed to Alan, postponing his visit for twenty-four hours. Then he
went home, and after worrying his mother by making a miserable dinner,
went forth again, and, having changed his mind, returned to Earl's Gate.
Mrs. and Miss Lancaster, the servant informed him, had gone out for the
evening. Thereupon he determined to resume his shadowing of Bullard, whom
he could not help connecting, directly or indirectly, with his late
assailant. On this occasion he went about the business with some
boldness. At Bright's Hotel he made enquiry at the office, after assuring
himself that Bullard was not in the lounge or its vicinity.
"Mr. Bullard has gone to Paris for a couple of days," the clerk told him.
"Left here twenty minutes ago."
Teddy had his doubts. He visited a number of stations and spent a good
deal of money on cab fares, but failed to obtain the smallest
satisfaction. He finished up at the midnight train from King's Cross. Had
he been able to be in two places at the same time, he would have got what
he wanted at St. Pancras.
In another part of the Midland train that carried Bullard North, sat the
man Flitch, alias Dunning. Once more Bullard had need of his skill. He
was decently clothed in ready-mades and almost recovered, roughly
speaking, from his bout of the previous night. But he was full of
melancholy. Bullard's fee for the opening of the Green Box, not to
mention the small fortune annexed from Mr. Marvel, was all gone. What he
had not lost over the cards had been stolen while he lay fuddled. Thus he
had been ready enough for another job from his patron. The hapless
Marvel, by the way, had been left secure in a dungeon-like cellar, with
enough bread and water to keep body and soul together for a couple of
days. Bullard had not had time to decide what to do with the creature.
In the seclusion of his sleeping berth Bullard examined the Green Box,
forcing it open with a bright little tool. He would get a new key for it
in Glasgow on the morrow. He cursed his luck and Lancaster. It would have
gone hard indeed with Lancaster but for the existence of Doris. But
Bullard was an optimist in his way. He was far from being beaten. Before
the train was twenty miles on its journey his head was on the pillow; two
minutes later the busy, plotting brain was at rest--recovering energy and
keenness for the next act.
The night was fine but still very dark. An hour or so hence the moon at
its full would make many things visible, and chiefly for that reason but
also because he desired to return to London the same night, Bullard with
his unsavoury companion, had arrived thus early at the gates of Grey
House. Yet now it looked as though his programme would have to be
abandoned, or, at any rate, drastically altered. For the house, as was
plain to see, was occupied. There was no great display of lights, but a
ruddy glow shone through the glazed inner door, and a thin white shaft
fell from a slit between the drawn curtains of the familiar upper room.
"Caw taking a look round, no doubt," remarked Bullard, recovering from
his first annoyance. "Wonder where the beggar has his lodgings and how
long he is likely to hang about.
"Is the game up, mister?" asked the man at his elbow. "Cause if so,
I'll just remind ye that I got to get paid, results or no results. Ye
brought me here to open a door for ye, and 'tisn't my fault if the
door's open already."
"Shut up till I've thought a bit." After a pause, Bullard began: "Pay
"Not that name, damn ye!"
"Idiot, then. I was going to say that I could have done with an hour or
two in that house, but that a couple of minutes would be better than
"Couple o' minutes? That's easy--if ye don't mind a little risk."
"I'm used to risks," said Bullard, shifting the Green Box to his other
arm. "But it is vital that I go in and out without being seen."
"Can't guarantee anything in this blasted rotten world," said Flitch,
"but I think I can do the trick for you."
"By bringin' whoever's in the house out at the back door while you slips
in at the front."
"Do you mean that you will knock at the back--"
"Cheese it, mister! It's your turn to listen now. I've got in my pocket
here a couple o' useful little articles which I never travels without
when engaged on a job o' this sort--as I was pretty sure it was goin' to
be. Them little articles is noisy, but ye can't have everything, even in
Heaven, and as things has turned out now, they're just _it_." Mr. Flitch,
at last in his element, paused to chuckle hoarsely.
"Oh, hurry up. You're talking of explosives."
"Go up one! Well, now, mister, suppose I sneaks up round to the back
premises and fixes the pretty things all serene and comfortable to one of
the outhouses, then lights the fuses and retires. In a little
while--bang! bang! What price that for fetchin' yer friend out at the
back door just to see if something hasn't maybe dropped off the
"I believe you've hit it," said Bullard after consideration. "How long do
the fuses burn?"
"Two minutes to a sec. The moment I've seen 'em go off proper I'll come
back and wait for ye here, unless there's a chase, when I'll bolt for the
car. Meanwhile you'll ha' crept up to near the house, ready to do yer bit
as soon's ye hear yer friend movin'. It's chancey of course, but that's
the sort o' trade it is. Better take this"--Flitch brought something from
his breast-pocket--"in case the key's turned in that front door."
"Thanks; I've got one. Now say it all again so that we have no
A few minutes later Bullard was crouching at the side of the steps beyond
reach of the rosy light, his nerves taut, his whole being waiting for the
signal. Smartly it came, and the stillness of the winter night was
The sound of some one running downstairs reached his ears; next it came
from the oak-floored hall, diminishing; then a door--possibly one with a
spring--went shut with a smash. Silence for a brief space, then noise
from the back of the house. It was now or never.
Up the steps he bounded, yet halted to clean his boots on the mat. At
that moment he thought he heard a cry, but nothing could stay him now.
The shining tool in his clutch was unnecessary: the handle turned, the
door opened. He sped across the hall and upstairs. Lights were burning in
Christopher's old room; the pendulum of the clock scintillated as it
swung. The fire burned cheerfully. There was a smell of Turkish tobacco.
A book lay open on the writing table. Bullard noticed all these things
and for an instant wavered and wondered. Without further pause, however,
he placed the Green Box in its old refuge, carefully closed the drawer,
and rose to go. Just for a moment the clock held him. Then he shook his
fist at it and bolted. Closing the front door noiselessly after him, he
went softly down the steps and across the gravel till he stepped upon the
grass border, when he made swiftly, recklessly, for the gates.
A yard from them he all but fell over Flitch. That gentleman was lying
face downwards, in a perfect agony of terror, scrabbling the gravel,
mumbling to the Almighty to save him.
Bullard shook him, whispering savagely: "Get up, you fool! It's all
right; we've done the trick--"
"O God, don't let his ghost get me! He was the first I ever killed, O
God, and I wanted the money bad--"
"Curse you, Flitch! What the devil's the matter? If you won't come now, I
must leave you to get caught--and that's the end of _you_!" Bullard
gripped him by the collar and dragged him to his knees.
And now Caw's voice was heard calling: "Mr. Alan, Mr. Alan, wait till I
get another lamp."
At that on Bullard's face the sweat broke thickly. With a gasp he let
Flitch drop like a heavy sack, and started to run.
Not far beyond the gates Flitch overtook him.
Between thick sobs Flitch was moaning: "I heard his voice. 'Twas clear
and strong. He's alive! ... I didn't kill him after all. Oh, God, I'm
that thankful. I heard his voice. He's alive...."
Bullard swung his hand backwards and smote the babbling mouth. "Idiot! Do
you think there's no punishment for attempted murder?"
"I'll confess--I'll confess to himself--and he'll forgive--"
"Will you! Is attempted murder your only crime? Shut your crazy mouth
now, or it will be the worse for you."
And so, panting with exertion and passion, the fearful twain came to the
car hidden in the wood. But Bullard was already recovering.
* * * * *
"No damage that I can see, except to the door of the garage," said Caw at
last. "The car's all right."
"We'd better take a turn round the house," answered Alan, "though it's a
search-light that's wanted tonight."
"Be careful, sir!"
"Oh, nonsense! Whoever it was has cleared out long ago." He moved off in
advance, and was turning the corner, flashing his torch into the
shrubbery, when a pale figure flew out of the darkness.
"You're safe!" cried a voice in tones of supreme relief. "Oh, but I was
terrified for you!"
"Miss Handyside!" A flash had shown him a white-face, wide eyes, parted
lips--also a hand gripping a pretty revolver. His finger left the
electric button. Impulsively he softly exclaimed: "Does it matter to you,
Darkness and a hush for the space of a long breath, and something
happened to those two young people. Then Caw joined them.
"What was it?" the girl enquired, almost coldly. "We heard shots, and I
ran through the passage--father is following--and I came out by the front
"Weren't you afraid, miss?" Caw asked on a note of admiration.
"Yes, but--" she halted.
"The only thing that has happened, Miss Handyside, so far as we have
discovered, is that some ass has been setting off fireworks against the
garage door," said Alan. "Anyway, we can't do anything to-night. Let's go
in and find Dr. Handyside. He'll be horribly anxious about you."
"There will be a moon shortly," Caw remarked, "and I'll take a look round
then, Mr. Alan."
"Right! Let us have something hot--coffee and so on--upstairs."
"Very good, sir. Your pardon, miss, but that nice pistol--"
"Oh, _would_ you take it away from me, Caw?" she sighed. "Keep it till I
ask for it."
"Thank you, miss." Caw received the little weapon.
It was, of course, utterly absurd, but at the moment Alan felt annoyed
with his servant.
They found the doctor starting to negotiate the stair.
"Ah," he cried, "glad to see you! What the dickens are your friends
after this time, Alan? Stealing your coals for a change?" He laughed,
but one could have seen that he was immensely relieved by the sight of
Together they spent a couple of hours in the study and discussed a dozen
theories. Perhaps Alan had least to say for himself. He was inclined to
be absent-minded. On the other hand, he discovered, after a while, that
he was disposed to look rather too frequently in the direction of his
girl guest. Left to himself, he became aware that his plan for the
immediate future was not altogether satisfactory. It was too late now to
ask Teddy to delay his already postponed visit, but had that been
feasible he would have made up his mind to start for London in the
morning. Doris was in London, and his desire was towards her--or was it
partly his duty?
"So that's my story up to date," said Alan, and took out his pipe.
"And a very pretty story it is," returned Teddy, "if only there didn't
need to be a sequel, old man. Of course, you can't possibly let the
matter drop. I wouldn't myself."
The two friends were seated in the study of Grey House. The November
twilight was failing. Teddy had arrived early in the day, and since then
they had spent few silent moments together.
At the outset Teddy had forgotten all his troubles in the joy of the
resumed intercourse, but before long even the tale of Alan's adventures
had not served to keep them in abeyance--especially the thoughts of
Doris. Teddy would never forget that interview when he had confessed to
the losing of the Green Box. It had been a stunning blow to the girl who
had considered only the disaster it entailed for her father. For Teddy
she had had no reproaches, only gentleness. "You must have had a very
wretched night," she said kindly. "Now we can only wait and see what
happens. You must not worry too much."
"If I were sure Bullard had it, I'd go this minute and offer every penny
I have," Teddy desperately declared.
"I cannot imagine Mr. Bullard wanting the box for what it might be worth
in money," she said; "I'm afraid he may use it in some way against
father--and poor father was almost happy last night.--Oh, Teddy, I didn't
mean to hurt you, you've done your best." He had turned away because
there were tears in his eyes.
"Has Mr. Lancaster told you," he asked presently, "whether money would
break the power of Bullard over him?"
After a little while her reply came in a whisper: "Yes; but it's an
impossible sum--twenty-five thousand pounds." Teddy let out a groan, and
just then Mrs. Lancaster had intervened.
"Yes," Alan was saying, "I'm going to make a big effort to find
"He isn't by any chance a smallish dark man with a queer nose?"
"He's a huge, ruddy man--but what made you ask, Teddy?"
"I'll come to that when I'm telling you my little story of how I tried to
"Shadow Bullard! Good Heavens!--you!"
"Something to do in my spare time," said Teddy with a feeble smile.
The host eyed him in the firelight. "You don't feel like telling it just
at once, do you?" he enquired kindly. He had been thinking his friend was
looking none too fit.
"Oh, I don't mind, Alan, if you care to have it now."
"I admit curiosity. Is there anything to prevent your telling it in Caw's
presence? Be quite candid--"
"Caw is welcome to it."
"Thanks," Alan rang the bell. "Caw and I have a good many gaps in
our knowledge, and it's just possible that you may be able to fill
some for us."
"I've found out next to nothing definite except that Bullard is a rank
liar; but I'm determined to go on with the shadowing--"
Caw appeared, and was about to remove the tea-tray.
"Never mind that just now," said Alan. "Give us lights, sit down, and
listen to what Mr. France has to say.... Go ahead, Teddy. We'll keep
quiet till you've finished."
Teddy's, as we should have expected, was not a very long story. At its
conclusion Alan turned to the servant.
"Am I to speak, sir? Very good. Then I will only say two things. Firstly,
I was a very great fool to be taken in by Mr. Bullard's wire from Paris:
I ought to have considered the chance of his having an assistant over
there. Secondly, the man with the nose, sir, is Edwin Marvel, an uncommon
bad egg, if I may say so, known to my master in the old days; and I am
inclined to think that Mr. Bullard employed him to pinch--beg pardon,
obtain--the Green Box, though I do not believe for a moment that Mr.
Bullard trusted him far with it."
"You are convinced then that Bullard has the box now?" said Alan.
"If I hadn't been convinced before--which I was, Mr. Alan--Mr. France's
remarks would have satisfied me. If I may ask, Mr. France, what do you
think about it yourself?"
Poor Teddy! He would fain have abandoned concealment there and then, but
all he sadly permitted himself to say was: "If Bullard hasn't got it, who
has?" In the same breath he asked: "But why was the confounded thing not
kept in a safe place?"
"By my uncle's orders it was kept in a drawer in that table. One might be
pardoned for fancying that the whole affair is a sort of game--and rather
a silly one at that," Alan said, a trifle irritably. "But for Caw's
assurance to the contrary I'd refuse to believe that the box contained
anything worth having. My uncle was not a fool, and yet--"
Caw, who could not endure hearing his late master's methods called in
question, interrupted gently: "Pardon, sir, but possibly Mr. France might
care to see where the box was kept."
"Show him, then."
The servant got up and went to the writing-table. "In this drawer,"
he began, stooping, and drew it open.... "Good God, Mr. Alan, the
box is back!"
Alan jumped while Teddy sat down on the nearest seat.
Alan was first to speak. "What we want at once," said he, "is a
"A locksmith, sir!" ejaculated Caw, his countenance expressing the
"Of course! We must have the box opened, though we can hardly expect to
find anything in it at this time of day."
"But--but my master's wishes, Mr. Alan!"
Alan suppressed a strong word. "You mean that we ought not to open it
until the clock stops?"
"Sir," said Caw, "if my master meant anything when he bade me throw the
key into the loch, I am sure he meant the box to remain closed until
the time appointed for the ending of my service to him. Besides, he
"But hang it all! he did not foresee an emergency like this!"
"I cannot say, sir. At any rate, it is not for me to question his wisdom.
I am in your service, Mr. Alan, and proud of it, but I am also in his,
until the clock stops--and so I beg of you very kindly, sir, not to put
me in a position that might make me seem disrespectful to the wishes of
yourself or him." The little speech was delivered with such quiet dignity
and withal in such frank appeal that Alan was touched.
"Upon my word, Caw," he said warmly, "you're the right sort! All the
same, it's a horribly annoying situation. I must think it over."
Suddenly, with a laugh, he turned and shook his fist at the clock.
"Confound you! can't you get a big move on?"
"If I may say so," said the servant, "I sympathise with you, Mr. Alan,
regarding that clock. The only reason, I think, for its being made to go
for a year was to allow time for your return. And now within a fortnight
of its starting, here you are, sir, safe and sound!"
Teddy roused himself. "Is there any reason why it should not be stopped
before its time?" he enquired.
Caw's mouth opened. "My master's orders" was on his tongue. And yet, as
he had just said in other words, the object of the clock's existence, so
far as he knew it, had been already attained. "So far as he knew
it!"--that was the clause that stuck.
"Well, Caw?" said Alan, "what were you going to say?"
Caw shook his head. "I haven't knowledge enough to answer either 'yes' or
'no.' I have imagined, Mr. Alan, that that clock may be doing more than
just telling the time. Sometimes, indeed, I think it--it _knows_
At that moment a bell rang in the distance. "Excuse me, sir," said Caw
and went out.
"What's the man driving at?" said Alan with natural enough impatience.
"Well," his friend replied slowly, "doesn't it seem queer that the clock
should have been put there simply to proclaim when the year was up? A
grocer's calendar could have done that much--"
"By Jove!" Christopher's nephew strode across the room and stood staring
at the timepiece. "Teddy," he said at last, "if it weren't for that
blighted Green Box, I'd be imagining all sorts of--"
Caw entered with a telegram on a tray. "For you, Mr. France," he said,
presenting it. "The messenger waits."
Teddy read and went rather pale.
"Not bad news, old man?" Alan asked, coming over.
"Yes, it's bad--and yet it might have been worse. Read it. Don't go,
Caw--or rather, ask the messenger to wait--"
"We'll ring for you, Caw," said Alan.
The message in his hand ran on to a second sheet, and was as follows:
"Father has heard of Alan's return from B. The shock was too much, but
though weak he is very glad. But I fear for him. Tell Alan whatever you
think desirable. This is a last resort. Reply Queen's Road P.O.
In Alan's heart an angry question flared up and went out. Why this appeal
to Teddy? Nay, enough that she needed help. Besides, she might not have
felt at liberty to address him direct. He looked up with a tender
expression and met his friend's eye--good honest eyes that were bound to
betray a secret such as Teddy's.... It struck Alan then that his return
to home life might have consequences more momentous than he had dreamed
of. With a slight flush on his tanned skin he went back to his chair by
the fire, and, motioning Teddy to one opposite, said:--
"Just do what Doris says, old man. Tell me whatever you think desirable,
and no more. And before you begin, I'll remind you that in all our talk
to-day I have never once uttered a word against Lancaster. The man has
been simply the victim, the tool, of Bullard. Caw thinks the same, and my
uncle said as much just before he died. You and I know that he is no
villain. And why delay sending an answer to this wire? There can be only
one answer. You'll find forms on the table."
"Won't you send it, Alan?"
"I'll send one to Lancaster himself."
"Mrs. Lancaster is on Bullard's side."
"Besides," Teddy continued, rather awkwardly, "I feel that you ought to
hear what I have to say before you promise Lancaster--"
"I was merely going to ask him not to worry about anything."
"Exactly! But I had better tell you at once that in order to follow your
advice Lancaster would require to have twenty-five thousand pounds."
Alan gave a soft whistle. Then he laughed pleasantly. "You may tell Doris
to tell him not to worry about anything. I'm owing him fifteen hundred
and interest as it is."
"Alan!" cried Teddy, incredulous; "you don't really--"
"Oh, shut up! Put it any way you like, but don't keep Doris waiting.
Listen! How will this do? 'Tell father with Alan's regards, no cause for
anxiety in any direction, and he hopes to see you both almost
immediately. Guard this from B.' ... Anything else?"
"I--I'd like to mention that the box is here."
"The box! But what in creation does Doris know--"
"I'll be telling you in a minute," Teddy interrupted, looking hot and
"All right. Go ahead."
Teddy added to the message: "Surprised to find box safe here." Then, with
his pencil dabbing the blotting-paper, he said: "Alan, if you don't mind
my suggesting it, I think she'd like a word from you--for herself." He
had evidently forgotten that he had brought no "word" for Alan.
The latter did not reply at once. "You might put," he said slowly, his
gaze on the fire, "'Trust Alan,' or words to that effect--No, don't say
Teddy gave him a puzzled glance, sighed, and completed the message.
Alan rang the bell, remarking: "Caw will be interested to know that it
was Bullard who was here last night with his petards. Pretty clever chap,
Bullard. But what on earth made him return the box?"
"I can tell you that also," said Teddy, as Caw came in for the telegram.
"Quick as you can, Caw," Alan said. "Mr. France has more to tell us."
The friends smoked in silence till the servant came back.
This time Teddy reserved nothing save Doris's promise to marry Bullard at
the end of a year. That, he felt, was for Doris herself to tell. Beyond
an occasional exclamation his recital met with no interruption. When he
had made an end there was a long pause while Alan and Caw filled up
mentally a few more of the gaps in their knowledge. The latter was sadly
upset by the revelation of the stones being paste.
"I wonder," said the former, "who the man was who opened the box
"Lancaster, I fancy, will be able to tell you. Bullard seems to have
rather a choice set of assistants. Doris described him as a
"May I ask you a question, Mr. Alan?"
"Certainly--as many as you like."
The servant was gazing at the carpet. "When Mr. France informed us that
the diamonds in the Green Box were false, why, sir, did your eyes jump to
the clock?" He rose without waiting for the answer. "And may I remind
you, gentlemen, that you are dining at Dr. Handyside's in twenty minutes
from now?" He was going out when Alan recalled him.
"Have you the address of the chap who made the clock, Caw?"
"I have, sir."
"Then wire him now asking him to come here in the morning. And, by the
way, Caw--" Alan hesitated.
"You don't mind being left alone this evening?"
"No, sir. I hardly expect that anything will happen _this_ evening.
Besides, it is evidently known now that you are at home. Also, which
I omitted to mention before, there is the bell wire to Dr.
"Then that's all right," Alan said, not without relief, "and you'll have
that big dog by to-morrow or next day."
Caw bowed and went out.
"You didn't answer his question about the clock," remarked Teddy.
"Confound the clock!" Alan laughed and got up. "For a moment I had a mad
idea that--well, never mind for the present. We don't want to be late
Bullard was still in Glasgow. The return of Alan Craig--for he had soon
come to laugh at Marvel's story--had been a staggering blow. The will, by
which he had reckoned to win, should all other means fail, was become a
sheet of waste paper. Moreover, the "other means" were almost certainly
rendered impracticable by the presence of Alan at Grey House. Those,
however, were only his first thoughts.
The car bearing him and the shivering Flitch from the scene of their
success and consternation was not ten miles on its way when his nerves
and mind began to regain their normal steadiness and order. Another five
miles, and the germ of a fresh plot began to swell in his brain--perhaps
the ugliest, grimmest plot yet conceived and developed in that defiled
temple. It was a crude plot, too, and quite unworthy of Francis Bullard,
as he would have realised for himself had he not been obsessed by the new
conviction that the real diamonds, now virtually Alan's, were hidden in
the clock in that upper room. Further, it contained a serious flaw, in
that it allowed nothing for the possibility of Alan's making a fresh
will. And finally, if one may be permitted to put the primary objection
last, it depended on the possession of the Green Box which had just
passed from his keeping.
Nevertheless, commonsense like conscience failed to condemn the scheme,
and Bullard drove into Glasgow with his mind made up.
An awkward situation was now created by the presence of Flitch. Bullard
dared not, for more reasons than one, let the creature go his own ways,
and eventually, swallowing his disgust, he took a double-room in a
third-rate temperance hotel, giving the landlord a hint to the effect
that he was shepherding a semi-reformed dipsomaniac. It was a long night
for Bullard, and probably the same for Flitch who between dozes either
prayed for Heaven's mercy, or groaned for anybody's whisky.
On the morrow, fortunately for Bullard's plans, the wretch had apparently
got over his penitence and was certainly none the worse of his short
spell of compulsory abstinence. All the same, Bullard on going out, after
Flitch's breakfast, to enjoy his own elsewhere, locked the latter into
the bedroom, which was on the third floor. First of all he despatched to
Lancaster a telegram brutal in its curtness: "Alan Craig is at Grey
House." Later he made a number of purchases in places not much patronised
by the general public, then took a room at the North British Hotel
wherein he shut himself until lunch time. Having enjoyed a carefully
chosen meal, he returned to his inferior lodging and permitted the
captive to feed. Thereafter a hushed and lengthy conversation took place
in the frowsy bedroom. At times Flitch objected, at times he pleaded, and
in the end was bullied into sullen acquiescence.
"And I've got to stick in this hole till it suits ye, have I?" he
"Just so. Pity you're not fond of reading. I see there's a Bible on the
dressing-table," Bullard said airily. "But it won't be for more than a
day or two--three at the outside. I must be back in London on Monday
morning whether we pull it off or not."
"Monday! But look here, mister, what about that chap we left chained up
in the cellar?"
Bullard had forgotten, for the time being, about the ill-starred Marvel,
but the reminder did not trouble him. Marvel out of the way for good
would not be a happening to regret. "I daresay our friend will have an
appetite by Monday," he remarked, playing with the nugget.
"He'll be dead! I'd bet anything he's eaten his bit by now, and yon's a
hellish cold place in this weather. If I'd known murder was yer game, Mr.
"That'll do. You can leave the matter to me. Do you want to get out of
this country or not, Flitch?"
"God knows I do!"
"Then you know who is the only person who can help you to go. Don't be a
fool. Good afternoon!"
He took a cab to the North British Hotel. On alighting, a newsboy offered
him a paper. He was passing on when his eye was caught by the
bill--"Serious Rioting on the Rand." He bought a paper and with set
countenance made his way to the writing-room off the lounge. At that hour
the place was deserted, and in the furthest corner he seated himself and
opened the paper. Trouble had been threatening on the Rand for some time,
but Billiard was quite unprepared for a catastrophe such as he was now
called upon to face. The details were few but fateful. Thus:--
"The group of mines controlled by the Aasvogel Syndicate are the chief
sufferers so far. Dynamite was freely used, and power-houses, batteries
and cyanide-houses present scenes of hopeless ruin. The shafts, it is
stated, are destroyed. Several persons on the staff of the Lucifer Mine
are unaccounted for. At the moment of cabling fires are raging in several
For several minutes after he had mastered the significance of it all,
Bullard sat perfectly still. There was a curious pallor about his mouth
and he had a shaken, shrunken look generally. Letting the paper slip to
the floor he rang the bell, and, when the waiter arrived, ordered tea.
"But first fetch me some telegraph forms," he said.
A busy hour followed. Keenly considered and reconsidered messages had to
be written for despatch to his private brokers as well as to those who
acted for the Syndicate, and to the Syndicate's secretary. By prompt
action something--a good deal perhaps--might be saved from the
wreckage--for himself. For others he had no thought. "This finishes
Lancaster," he said to himself; "he'll have to face the music, after
all." He sighed. "Means losing Doris, perhaps...."
The fates, it seemed, were conspiring to force his hand. It was now
imperative that he should be in London by the following night, at latest.
He foresaw a journey to South Africa, a long stay there. Was he going to
be compelled to abandon his greatly daring new scheme? Why, the new
scheme was a hundred times more urgent, more vital than it had been a
couple of hours ago! And yet it would be sheer madness to attempt to
carry it out to-night--unless the unlikely happened. He looked up at the
clock--five-twenty already!--and murmured "impossible."
His reflections were disturbed by the sing-song voice of a page-boy
coming through the lounge.
"Number one hundred and seventy-four," it droned, "number one
Bullard darted to the door. "Here, boy," he called a trifle hoarsely,
holding out his hand.
A moment later he was opening an envelope. There was nothing in it. He
dropped it upon the fire, took his coat and hat, and left the hotel by
the station door.
At a corner of the bookstall, at which hurried suburban passengers were
grabbing evening papers, a youngish man in a bowler hat, of wholly
undistinguished appearance, was apparently engrossed in the study of
picture postcards, but he turned as Bullard approached, and presently the
two were strolling up No. 3 platform.
"Well, sir, I've hardly had time to do much, but I thought I had better
report what little I've gathered," said the youngish man. "It doesn't
seem very important--"
"Go ahead," said Bullard impatiently.
"Right, Mr. Warren. Mr. Craig and his friend--"
"Sorry I didn't get the name to-day--but--"
"Never mind! Go on!"
"Mr. Craig and his friend are dining to-night at the house next door--Dr.
"Ah! How did you learn that?"
"The doctor's housekeeper. She wouldn't have her photo taken, but she
didn't object to a chat." The youngish man smiled to himself. Evidently
his news was worth more than he had anticipated.
"Sure it's to-night?"
"Absolutely, Mr. Warren."
"I'm afraid not, sir. You must understand--"
"Thanks. Well, Mr. Barry, I've decided to let the matter drop for
The private detective's face fell. He had been congratulating himself
on having secured a "good thing." But he brightened at his patron's
"Will ten pounds satisfy you?"
"Why, sir, it's very good of you!"
Bullard passed him a couple of notes. "I may want your services later.
Re-entering the hotel he passed through to the door opening on the
Square, had a cab summoned, and drove to his lodging of the
"Wake up, Dunning! I've remembered your name this time, you see! We'll be
in London to-morrow! Meanwhile, to business! If you're hungry, you can
have something to eat in the car."
* * * * *
Alan and Teddy took the long way to the doctor's; a breath of fresh air
was desirable after so many hours indoors. Though dark the night was
fine, with a suspicion of frost in the air. Having seen them depart, Caw
turned the key in the glass door. He went upstairs and methodically
switched off all unnecessary lights and supplied the study fire with
fuel. He was meditating on the return of the Green Box and the no less
startling revelation concerning its contents, and just to reassure
himself he opened the deep drawer. There it lay, the familiar, maddening
thing! "I guess they won't bother their heads about _you_ again," he
reflected, "but I wonder what they'll go for next?" He paused before the
clock and wagged his head. "We'll have to keep an eye on you, my
friend," he muttered, then switched off the last light, and went down to
He was enjoying his first pipe when the bell rang.
"Another wire, I should say," he sighed, getting up reluctantly. "Wonder
whether I should ring or take it along. They can hardly have finished
dinner yet," He put his hand in his pocket and felt his revolver. "Shan't
be caught napping, anyway."
He went briskly down the hall and opened the door. He had a bare glimpse
of a big, burly figure--and then a dense fine spray of intense odour
caught him full in the face. Blindly he sought to bang the door, but
staggered sideways in an agony of gasping and weeping. He fell, clawing
at the wall, and lay stupefied, at the mercy of the unknown, who
promptly proceeded with whipcord to truss him up both neatly and
securely. Then he was gagged, drawn into the room on the right, the
dining-room, and locked in.
Flitch went back to the front door and waved his hand, and Bullard,
carrying a small black bag, appeared out of the darkness.
"Get back to the car," he said. "I shan't be long." He closed and locked
the door on his assistant and went swiftly upstairs. He was not thirty
seconds gone, when Flitch followed stealthily in his wake. It was nothing
to Flitch to turn an ordinary key from the other side.
In the study Bullard switched on the light over the writing-table.
Opening his bag he took out the contents--an oblong package in waterproof
paper sealed with wax in several places, with the short ends of three
broad tapes protruding from the top, and a tube of liquid glue. He opened
the deep drawer, and after noting the precise position of the Green Box,
drew it forth and set it on the table. He wrought rapidly but without
flurry. Opening the box with the key he had procured in Glasgow the
previous day, he transferred its contents, trays and all, to his bag.
"Looks as if they hadn't discovered it yet," he thought. Then over the
bottom of the box he squeezed a goodly quantity of glue. He placed the
package in the box, cautiously pressing it down. He lowered the lid and
found that a slight pressure was required for its complete closing. This
seemed to please him. Raising the lid again, he placed a sheet of
notepaper between the tapes and the waterproof paper and smeared the
tapes thickly with glue. For a brief space he regarded his handiwork,
then put down the lid, forcing it gently until the key turned.
Withdrawing the key, he replaced the box exactly as he had found it, and
finally, after consideration, dropped the key in beside it.
He wiped sweat from his forehead. He felt faintish, and perhaps
conscience was whispering for the last time. But without lingering,
taking his bag, he turned away from the table and stood gazing at the
clock. The flashing pendulum exasperated him with its suggestion. He was
tempted to smash the thick glass there and then. Only that mysterious,
sluggish, iridescent fluid deterred him. The cruel man is usually
exceedingly sensitive about his own skin. But with an inspiration he made
a note of the words minutely engraved on the rim surrounding the
dial--"A. Guidet, Glasgow." Then with a curse he departed.
On reaching the car he found Flitch in a dismal state.
"Mr. Bullard," moaned the creature, "will ye tell me what was in the bag
that ye carried it so careful? Will ye swear this is the last job ye'll
ever make me do?"
"Oh, shut up!" was the answer, followed by the unspoken words; "I must
get rid of this swine, somehow."
They made good time to Glasgow and caught the late express for London.
Before the train started Bullard posted a note to Barry, the detective:
"Find out and wire me the address of A. Guidet, a clockmaker, in
Morning brought a telegram from Monsieur Guidet, and a couple of hours
later the little Frenchman arrived at Grey House in a sorry state of
apprehension. The clock!--impossible that he could have failed in any
way!--there must have been gross and deliberate ill-usage! ... and many
more words to the same effect. When he stopped for breath Caw assured him
that there was nothing wrong with the clock and mentioned why and by whom
the summons had been sent him. Whereupon Monsieur went frantic. "Stop the
clock--nevaire!--what crime to think of!--the clock must not stop till he
"All right, Monsoor, you can explain all that to Mr. Alan Craig. The
clock, like everything else here, belongs to him now,--and I happen to
have a headache this morning."
"Hah! you have rejoice at the return of the young Mr. Craik," said
Guidet, controlling himself and sympathetically considering Caw's red
eyes and husky voice. "Good!--but you look upon the wine when he was
wheesky, and there is not so much jolly good fellow in the
morning--eh, Mr. Caw?"
"Oh, yes, we've been doing a lot of rejoicing--I don't think," returned
Caw with weary good humour. Thanks to Handyside's attentions he was not
much the worse of the spray which had been more efficacious than
virulent. Within half an hour he had managed to attract the attention of
the house-keeper who had given the alarm. What had puzzled every one
concerned was that the attempt should have ended as it had begun with the
assault on the servant. Nothing had been touched. "Must have taken
fright," was the only conclusion arrived at after a thorough search and
rather a discursive consultation.
Caw ushered the clock-maker into the study. Handyside and Marjorie were
present by invitation.
"You had better wait, Caw," said Alan. "Be seated, Monsieur Guidet. Many
thanks for coming so promptly."
Monsieur bowed solemnly to each person, looked for a moment as if he
were going to bow to his masterpiece also, and took the chair
preferred by Caw.
"It was my dutiful pleasure to come with speed, Mr. Craik, for sake of
your high respectable uncle, and I am at his service, I hope, when I am
Alan gave the embarrassed nod of the average Briton listening to an
ordinary observation elegantly expressed. "Very good of you, I'm sure.
Well, I suppose Caw has told you why we have troubled you--simply to have
your opinion as to stopping the clock now, instead of allowing it to go
on for nearly a year."
Obvious was the effort with which Monsieur Guidet restrained his feelings
while he enquired whether the clock had been annoying anybody.
"By no means," Alan answered, wondering how much the man knew. "But my
friends and I have come to the conclusion that certain annoyances will
not stop until the clock does. I hesitate to ask you questions,
"I beg that you will not do so, Mr. Craik. I have leetle knowledge, but
it is discreet and confiding. But in one thing I am sure: your reverent"
(possibly he meant "revered") "uncle did not mean the clock to bring
annoyance to you and your friends. No, sir!"
"In that case, I should imagine he would have wished it to stop as soon
as possible. Caw assures me that the main object in making the clock to
go for a whole year was to allow time for my return before certain wishes
of my uncle took effect. You take my meaning?"
"I do, sir; and though the late Mr. Craik did not remark it so to me, I
can believe such a thing was in his brains at the time. But to stop the
clock before he has finished his course--that is another story, sir!"
Teddy put in a word. "Dangerous, Monsieur?"
"Why do you ask such a question, sir?"
"My friend probably refers to the notice and to the green fluid,"
"Monsieur," cried Marjorie, "may I guess what the danger is?"
"Hush, Marjorie!" muttered her father.
Monsieur gave her a beautiful smile and a charming bow. "Mademoiselle,"
he said sweetly, "is welcome to one hundred thousand guesses."
With that there fell a silence. It was broken by Caw.
"If I may say so, Monsoor seems to have forgotten that the clock is the
property of Mr. Alan Craig, and therefore--"
"Mr. Caw," said Guidet quickly, "because I remember that, I say what I
say; I refuse what I refuse."
"Come, Monsieur," said Alan, "it is an open secret that that clock is
more than a time-keeper."
"Myself would almost suspect so much." He said it so quaintly that a
smile went round. Caw alone preserved a stolid expression.
"Monsoor," he said very quietly, "I respectfully ask the lady and the
gentleman here present to bear witness to a promise which I am ready to
put in writing. ... If I am alive when that clock stops, about a year
hence, I will pay you, Monsoor, a thousand pounds."
Guidet sprang up and sat down again. He appealed to Alan. "What does he
mean, Mr. Craik?"
"He means," Alan answered, "that whatever possible danger there may be in
stopping the clock, there is very probable danger in letting it go on. Is
that it, Caw?"
"Yes, Mr. Alan, and I hope you will believe that my remark was not
"The trouble, Monsieur," added Alan, "is that like yourself I cannot
"One, if you please, Mr. Craik. Is the danger for you also?"
Alan smiled. "I'm not worrying much--"
Marjorie interposed. "Yes, yes, Monsieur!" she exclaimed, and hastily
lowered a flushed face.
The Frenchman was plainly distressed. "This," he said at last, "was not
expected. I perceive that you have enemies, that my esteemed patron had
enemies also. Not so bad did I understand it to be. I imagined Mr.
Christopher Craik was humourist as well as clever man--"
"So he was," the host interrupted; "but the ball he set rolling is now
doing so more violently than I can believe he intended. Still, if
stopping the clock before its time is likely to stultify his memory in
any way--why then, Monsieur, I, for one, will do my best to keep it
going. What do you say, Caw?"
"If that is how you feel, sir, then I say, 'long live the clock!'"
"Hear, hear!" murmured Teddy.
"Caw," cried Miss Handyside, "you're simply splendid!"
Caw had not blushed so warmly for many years.
Guidet, pale and perturbed, had taken a little book from his pocket and
opened it at a page of tiny figures close-packed. Now he rose. "If I may
go to a quiet place for one half-hour, I--I will see if anything can be
done, Mr. Craik, but I promise nothings."
"See that Monsieur Guidet has quietness and some refreshment," said Alan
to the servant, and the two left the room.
"Let's go for a walk," remarked Teddy. "This clock business is getting on
my nerves. I shall never again wear socks with--"
"But I do think," said Marjorie hopefully, "the funny little man means to
Dr. Handyside got up and strolled over to the clock. "Monsieur Guidet,"
he observed, "has evidently the sensibilities of an artist as well as the
ordinary feelings of humanity. Caw has appealed to the latter. If I were
you, Alan, I should appeal to the former by suggesting to Guidet the
probability of an attack on the clock itself."
On the way out-of-doors, Alan looked into the room where the Frenchman
sat staring at a diagram roughly drawn on notepaper. He wagged his
"I fear I can do nothings," he sighed.
"Perhaps I ought to mention, Monsieur," Alan said, as if the idea had
just occurred to him, "that my enemies are just as likely to attack the
clock as my person--more likely, it may be."
"Hah!" Guidet bounded on his seat. "My clock!--They dare to attack
"Possibly with explosives--"
"Enough! Pray leave me, Mr. Craik. I--I may yet find a way. Give me a
During the walk up the loch Teddy actually forgot the clock. Alan and
Marjorie were in front, and he noted his friend's bearing towards the
girl with a pained wonder, and thought of Doris.
On returning to the house they found Monsieur waiting for them. He held
a sheaf of papers covered with queer drawings and calculations. And he
hung his head.
"Mr. Craik," he said sadly, "I have struggle, but it is no use. I see an
hour, thirteen days after to-day, when perhaps I _might_ stop him without
disaster--but only perhaps--only perhaps. And so I dare not, will not
risk. One leetle, tiny mistake of a second, and"--he made an expressive
gesture--"all is lost."
The silence of dismay was broken by Handyside.
"But bless my soul, Monsieur Guidet, if you stop him at the wrong time,
you can easily set him going again."
"Not so! He stop once, he stop for ever."
"But," cried Marjorie excitedly, "although you stop him--the clock, I
mean--it will still be there; it won't fly away."
The little man regarded her for a moment. "Mademoiselle," he said and
bowed, "he will be done--finished--dead. I will say no more." He turned
to Alan. "Mr. Craik, I am sorry to be not obliging to you. Yes; and I
confess I am nearly more sorry for myself. But I hope the time comes when
you will understand and excuse. The good God preserve you and him--and
Mr. Caw--from enemies." He bowed all round. "Adieu."
And so ended the little company's great expectations.
"I suppose there's nothing for it but to hang on," said Alan with a
laugh, "and get used to the situation. I think you, Teddy, had better
chuck your berth in London, live here, and help me to write that book on
my Eskimo experiences."
"Very pleased," replied Teddy, "if you don't mind my having the jumps
once a while."
"Oh, do come and stay with Mr. Craig," said Marjorie in her impulsive
fashion, which annoyed Teddy chiefly because he was forced to confess it
charming. He disapproved of the proprietary interest she seemed to take
in his friend, and yet had circumstances been a little different, how he
would have welcomed it!
"A very good notion," observed Handyside. "The clock can't have too many
guardians, and I don't imagine you would care to bring in strangers."
"Not to be thought of," replied Alan. "But I'm sorry for Caw. Teddy and I
must leave him alone for a few days. We're catching the two o'clock
steamer. Things to see about in Glasgow, and on to London in the morning.
I'm hoping the big dog may turn up to-day."
Marjorie gave her father a surreptitious nudge.
"I don't like intruding my services," said the doctor, "but I should be
very glad to spend the nights here during your absence--"
"Me, too," said Marjorie.
"Be quiet, infant! Just be candid, Alan."
"I'd be jolly glad to think of Caw having your support, doctor," the
young man heartily answered, "but it would be accepting too much. I have
no right to bring you into my troubles--"
"Then that's settled," said Handyside. "I hope you don't mind my saying
it, but I've felt a new man since I learned that the stones were false.
Marjorie and I must be going now, and there's only one thing I want to be
sure of before we part."
"What is that, doctor?"
"I want to be sure that the Green Box is in its place."
They all laughed. "That's easy!" Alan opened the drawer. "Behold!--just
where it was last night."
Marjorie's hand darted downward. "What key is this?" she cried,
holding it up.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "I could swear that wasn't there last night."
"Might have been lying in the shadow," Teddy suggested. "It's a new key."
"Oh, do try it in the box!"
"I think we may do that much." Alan lifted the box to the table. "Try it
yourself, Miss Handyside."
"It fits!--it turns! Oh, Mr. Craig, just one little peep inside!"
"Against the rules," said Teddy, burning with curiosity.
"We decided that it would be against my uncle's wishes to open the box
before the clock stopped," Alan said reluctantly. Then brightly--"But, I
say! we didn't take into account the fact that it had been already
opened, though not by us--which alters the position considerably. Don't
you agree, Teddy?"
"Oh, confound the thing, I'm dying to see inside, and yet--"
"I rather think--" began the doctor.
"Oh, don't think, father!" said Marjorie, her fingers on the edge of the
lid. She looked to Alan. "May I?"
A tap, and Caw came in with a telegram for Alan.
"Excuse me," the host said, and opened it.
Caw caught sight of the key in the box, forgot his manners, and leapt
forward, laying his hand on the lid.
And Alan went white as death. "Turn the key, Caw," he said hoarsely, "and
take it away." Partially recovering himself, he apologised to the girl.
"It was too rude of me, but something reminded me that I should be
betraying a trust by opening the box now. Please try to forgive me."
She was very kind about it, for there was no mistaking his distress.
Presently she and the doctor departed. Alan dropped into a chair and
handed the message to the wondering Teddy.
"Read it aloud. Listen Caw."
"Handed in at Fenchurch Street, 11:20 a. m. Alan Craig, Grey House, Loch
Long. _For life's sake don't ever try to open Green Box--Friend_."
In the train, nearing London, Alan and Teddy yawned simultaneously,
caught each other's eye, and grinned.
"We've had a deuce of a talk," said Alan, "and I hope you feel wiser, for
I don't. How much simpler it would all have been had my uncle refrained
from those explicit instructions respecting Bullard. We've actually got
to be tender with the man until that blessed clock stops."
"But oh, what a difference afterwards!--though I doubt if we'll ever get
anything like even with the beggar. By the way, about the Green Box--"
"Don't return to it!"
"I must, old chap. Do you still take that warning wire seriously? You
don't think now that it was sent by Bullard for purposes of his own?"
"I feel that the warning was genuine and not Bullard's. Yet who could
have sent it? Lancaster? Doris? ... But how should they know there was
anything changed about the box? Also, was it Bullard who was in the house
the night before last? It was certainly not he who went for Caw.... Oh,
Lord, we're beginning all over again! Let's chuck it for the present.
And, I say, Teddy, won't you come with me to Earl's Gate after we've had
"Thanks, no. I've made up my mind to have another dose of shadowing our
friend. Ten to one I have no luck, but instinct calls."
"It's jolly good of you, and I'm afraid it's going to be a filthy night
of fog. Well, when shall I see you?"
"Depends. Don't wait up for me. To-morrow is included in my leave, and
the next day is Sunday, so we are not pressed for time."
"Consider what I said about your coming to Grey House for the winter.
You could help me in many ways. Of course, I don't want you to risk
your prospects at the office, not to mention your person, and you must
allow me to--"
"I'll see what can be done. You know I'm keen to see the thing through.
By the way, I needn't remind you to be mighty slim to-night so far as
Mrs. Lancaster is concerned. She represents Bullard in that house. You
spoke of inviting Lancaster to return North with you for a change of
scene, and Heaven knows the old chap must need it; but don't you think
such an invitation might simply mean upsetting the whole boiling of fat
into the fire? Bullard--"
"And don't you think that the sooner we have the flare up the
better?--Oh, hang! I keep on forgetting about that clock!"
"Lucky blighter! However, it's your affair, and the change might be
Lancaster's salvation. He'll never get any peace for his poor weary soul
where he is."
"You are fond of the man, Teddy?"
"Always liked him," Teddy answered, a trifle shortly. "Not so fond as you
are, judging from what you're doing for him."
"Oh, drop that! I suppose there's no likelihood of getting them all to
"Can you imagine Mrs. Lancaster existing for a week without crowds of
people and shops and theatres?"
"Well, we'll see," said Alan. "I--I'll consult Doris about it."
Ten minutes later they were in the Midland Hotel. Alan found a telegram
from Caw--"Nothing doing,"--and received a legal-looking person who had
been awaiting his arrival.
* * * * *
Time, the kindly concealer, is also the pitiless exposer. How often in
the Arctic had Alan imagined, with his whole being athrill, this reunion
with the girl who, in the last strained moment of parting, had promised
to wait for him! How often had Doris, in the secrecy of her soul, even
when the last hope of reunion had failed, repeated the promise as though
the spirit of her lost lover could hear! And now fate had set these two
once more face to face, and--neither was quite sure. Emotion indeed was
theirs, joy and thankfulness, but passionate rapture--no! A clasping of
hands, a kiss after ever so slight a hesitation, and the embrace that
both had dreamed of was somehow evaded.
"You haven't changed, Alan, except to look bigger and stronger," she
remarked, after a little while.
"And you are more lovely than ever, Doris," he said; and now he could
have embraced her just for her sheer grace and beauty. He was angry with
himself and not a little humbled, for he had never really doubted his
love for Doris. Her comparative calmness troubled rather than wounded
him, for his faith in her was not yet faltering like his faith in
himself, and he wondered whether her calmness was born of girl's pride or
woman's insight. Nevertheless, amid all doubts and questionings his main
purpose remained unwavering: he was here to ask Doris to marry him as
soon as possible, so that he might rescue her and her father from the
difficulties besetting them.
As for Doris, her mind was working almost at cross purposes with his.
Apart from the double barrier created by her father's unhappy position
and her promise to Bullard, she knew that she could not willingly
marry Alan, for at last it was given her to realise why the first news
of his safety, as told by Teddy France, had failed to glorify her own
She had seated herself, bidding him with a gesture to do the same,
and now they were placed with the width of the hearth between them.
She was the first to break the silence that had followed a few