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Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

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"And what conclusion have you formed?"

"None at the moment; but I think one is slowly crystalizing."

"Hm," muttered Harley, as we paced slowly on amid the rose trees. "Of
one thing I am satisfied."

"What is that?"

"That Colonel Menendez is not afraid of Bat Wing, whoever or whatever
Bat Wing may be."

"Not afraid?"

"Certainly he is not afraid, Knox. He has possibly been afraid in the
past, but now he is resigned."

"Resigned to what?"

"Resigned to death!"

"Good God, Harley, you are right!" I cried. "You are right! I saw it in
his eyes as we left the library."

Harley stopped and turned to me sharply.

"You saw this in the Colonel's eyes?" he challenged.

"I did."

"Which corroborates my theory," he said, softly; "for _I_ had seen
it elsewhere."

"Where do you mean, Harley?"

"In the face of Madame de Stämer."


"Knox"--Harley rested his hand upon my arm and looked about him
cautiously--"_she knows._"

"But knows what?"

"That is the question which we are here to answer, but I am as sure as
it is humanly possible to be sure of anything that whatever Colonel
Menendez may tell us to-night, one point at least he will withhold."

"What do you expect him to withhold?"

"The meaning of the sign of the Bat Wing."

"Then you think he knows its meaning?"

"He has told us that it is the death-token of Voodoo."

I stared at Harley in perplexity.

"Then you believe his explanation to be false?"

"Not necessarily, Knox. It may be what he claims for it. But he is
keeping something back. He speaks all the time from behind a barrier
which he, himself, has deliberately erected against me."

"I cannot understand why he should do so," I declared, as he looked at
me steadily. "Within the last few moments I have become definitely
convinced that his appeal to you was no idle one. Therefore, why should
he not offer you every aid in his power?"

"Why, indeed?" muttered Harley.

"The same thing," I continued, "applies to Madame de Stämer. If ever I
have seen love-light in a woman's eyes I have seen it in hers, to-day,
whenever her glance has rested upon Colonel Menendez. Harley, I believe
she literally worships the ground he walks upon."

"She does, she does!" cried my companion, and emphasized the words with
beats of his clenched fist. "It is utterly, damnably mystifying. But I
tell you, she knows, Knox, she knows!"

"You mean she knows that he is a doomed man?"

Harley nodded rapidly.

"They both know," he replied; "but there is something which they dare
not divulge."

He glanced at me swiftly, and his bronzed face wore a peculiar

"Have you had an opportunity of any private conversation with Miss Val
Beverley?" he enquired.

"Yes," I said. "Surely you remember that you found me chatting with her
when you returned from your inspection of the tower."

"I remember perfectly well, but I thought you might have just met. Now
it appears to me, Knox, that you have quickly established yourself in
the good books of a very charming girl. My only reason for visiting the
tower was to afford you just this opportunity! Don't frown. Beyond
reminding you of the fact that she has been on intimate terms with
Madame de Stämer for some years, I will not intrude in any way upon
your private plans in that direction."

I stared at him, and I suppose my expression was an angry one.

"Surely you don't misunderstand me?" he said. "A cultured English girl
of that type cannot possibly have lived with these people without
learning something of the matters which are puzzling us so badly. Am I
asking too much?"

"I see what you mean," I said, slowly. "No, I suppose you are right,

"Good," he muttered. "I will leave that side of the enquiry in your
very capable hands, Knox."

He paused, and began to stare about him.

"From this point," said he, "we have an unobstructed view of the

We turned and stood looking up at the unsightly gray structure, with
its geometrical rows of windows and the minaret-like gallery at the

"Of course"--I broke a silence of some moments duration--"the entire
scheme of Cray's Folly is peculiar, but the rooms, except for a
uniformity which is monotonous, and an unimaginative scheme of
decoration which makes them all seem alike, are airy and well lighted,
eminently sane and substantial. The tower, however, is quite
inexcusable, unless the idea was to enable the occupant to look over
the tops of the trees in all directions."

"Yes," agreed Harley, "it is an ugly landmark. But yonder up the slope
I can see the corner of what seems to be a very picturesque house of
some kind."

"I caught a glimpse of it earlier to-day," I replied, "Yes, from this
point a little more of it is visible. Apparently quite an old place."

I paused, staring up the hillside, but Harley, hands locked behind him
and chin lowered reflectively, was pacing on. I joined him, and we
proceeded for some little distance in silence, passing a gardener who
touched his cap respectfully and to whom I thought at first my
companion was about to address some remark. Harley passed on, however,
still occupied, it seemed, with his reflections, and coming to a gravel
path which, bordering one side of the lawns, led down from terrace to
terrace into the valley, turned, and began to descend.

"Let us go and interview the swans," he murmured absently.



In certain moods Paul Harley was impossible as a companion, and I, who
knew him well, had learned to leave him to his own devices at such
times. These moods invariably corresponded with his meeting some
problem to the heart of which the lance of his keen wit failed to
penetrate. His humour might not display itself in the spoken word, he
merely became oblivious of everything and everybody around him. People
might talk to him and he scarce noted their presence, familiar faces
appear and he would see them not. Outwardly he remained the observant
Harley who could see further into a mystery than any other in England,
but his observation was entirely introspective; although he moved amid
the hustle of life he was spiritually alone, communing with the
solitude which dwells in every man's heart.

Presently, then, as we came to the lake at the foot of the sloping
lawns, where water lilies were growing and quite a number of swans had
their habitation, I detected the fact that I had ceased to exist so far
as Harley was concerned. Knowing this mood of old, I pursued my way
alone, pressing on across the valley and making for a swing gate which
seemed to open upon a public footpath. Coming to this gate I turned and
looked back.

Paul Harley was standing where I had left him by the edge of the lake,
staring as if hypnotized at the slowly moving swans. But I would have
been prepared to wager that he saw neither swans nor lake, but mentally
was far from the spot, deep in some complex maze of reflection through
which no ordinary mind could hope to follow him.

I glanced at my watch and found that it was but little after two
o'clock. Luncheon at Cray's Folly was early. I therefore had some time
upon my hands and I determined to employ it in exploring part of the
neighbourhood. Accordingly I filled and lighted my pipe and strolled
leisurely along the footpath, enjoying the beauty of the afternoon, and
admiring the magnificent timber which grew upon the southerly slopes of
the valley.

Larks sang high above me and the air was fragrant with those wonderful
earthy scents which belong to an English countryside. A herd of very
fine Jersey cattle presently claimed inspection, and a little farther
on I found myself upon a high road where a brown-faced fellow seated
aloft upon a hay-cart cheerily gave me good-day as I passed.

Quite at random I turned to the left and followed the road, so that
presently I found myself in a very small village, the principal
building of which was a very small inn called the "Lavender Arms."

Colonel Menendez's curaįao, combined with the heat of the day, had made
me thirsty; for which reason I stepped into the bar-parlour determined
to sample the local ale. I wars served by the landlady, a neat, round,
red little person, and as she retired, having placed a foam-capped mug
upon the counter, her glance rested for a moment upon the only other
occupant of the room, a man seated in an armchair immediately to the
right of the door. A glass of whisky stood on the window ledge at his
elbow, and that it was by no means the first which he had imbibed, his
appearance seemed to indicate.

Having tasted the cool contents of my mug, I leaned back against the
counter and looked at this person curiously.

He was apparently of about medium height, but of a somewhat fragile
appearance. He was dressed like a country gentleman, and a stick and
soft hat lay upon the ledge near his glass. But the thing about him
which had immediately arrested my attention was his really
extraordinary resemblance to Paul Harley's engraving of Edgar Allan

I wondered at first if Harley's frequent references to die eccentric
American genius, to whom he accorded a sort of hero-worship, were
responsible for my imagining a close resemblance where only a slight
one existed. But inspection of that strange, dark face convinced me of
the fact that my first impression had been a true one. Perhaps, in my
curiosity, I stared rather rudely.

"You will pardon me, sir," said the stranger, and I was startled to
note that he spoke with a faint American accent, "but are you a
literary man?"

As I had judged to be the case, he was slightly bemused, but by no
means drunk, and although his question was abrupt it was spoken civilly

"Journalism is one of the several occupations in which I have failed,"
I replied, lightly.

"You are not a fiction writer?"

"I lack the imagination necessary for that craft, sir."

The other wagged his head slowly and took a drink of whisky.
"Nevertheless," he said, and raised his finger solemnly, "you were
thinking that I resembled Edgar Allan Poe!"

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, for the man had really amazed me. "You
clearly resemble him in more ways than one. I must really ask you to
inform me how you deduced such a fact from a mere glance of mine."

"I will tell you, sir," he replied. "But, first, I must replenish my
glass, and I should be honoured if you would permit me to replenish

"Thanks very much," I said, "but I would rather you excused me."

"As you wish, sir," replied the American with grave courtesy, "as you

He stepped up to the counter and rapped upon it with half a crown,
until the landlady appeared. She treated me to a pathetic glance, but
refilled the empty glass.

My American acquaintance having returned to his seat and having added a
very little water to the whisky went on:

"Now, sir," said he, "my name is Colin Camber, formerly of Richmond,
Virginia, United States of America, but now of the Guest House, Surrey,
England, at your service."

Taking my cue from Mr. Camber's gloomy but lofty manner, I bowed
formally and mentioned my name.

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Knox," he assured me;
"and now, sir, to answer your question. When you came in a few moments
ago you glanced at me. Your eyes did not open widely as is the case
when one recognizes, or thinks one recognizes, an acquaintance, they
narrowed. This indicated retrospection. For a moment they turned aside.
You were focussing a fugitive idea, a memory. You captured it. You
looked at me again, and your successive glances read as follows: The
hair worn uncommonly long, the mathematical brow, the eyes of a poet,
the slight moustache, small mouth, weak chin; the glass at his elbow.
The resemblance is complete. Knowing how complete it is myself, sir, I
ventured to test my theory, and it proved to be sound."

Now, as Mr. Colin Camber had thus spoken in the serious manner of a
slightly drunken man, I had formed the opinion that I stood in the
presence of a very singular character. Here was that seeming
mesalliance which not infrequently begets genius: a powerful and
original mind allied to a weak will. I wondered what Mr. Colin Camber's
occupation might be, and somewhat, too, I wondered why his name was
unfamiliar to me. For that the possessor of that brow and those eyes
could fail to make his mark in any profession which he might take up I
was unwilling to believe.

"Your exposition has been very interesting, Mr. Camber," I said. "You
are a singularly close observer, I perceive."

"Yes," he replied, "I have passed my life in observing the ways of my
fellowmen, a study which I have pursued in various parts of the world
without appreciable benefit to myself. I refer to financial benefit."

He contemplated me with a look which had grown suddenly pathetic.

"I would not have you think, sir," he added, "that I am an habitual
toper. I have latterly been much upset by--domestic worries, and--er--"
He emptied his glass at a draught. "Surely, Mr. Knox, you are going
to replenish? Whilst you are doing so, would you kindly request Mrs.
Wootton to extend the same favour to myself?"

But at that moment Mrs. Wootton in person appeared behind the counter.
"Time, please, gentlemen," she said; "it is gone half-past two."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Camber, rising. "What is that? You decline to
serve me, Mrs. Wootton?"

"Why, not at all, Mr. Camber," answered the landlady, "but I can serve
no one now; it's after time."

"You decline to serve me," he muttered, his speech becoming slurred.
"Am I, then, to be insulted?"

I caught a glance of entreaty from the landlady. "My dear sir," I said,
genially, "we must bow to the law, I suppose. At least we are better
off here than in America."

"Ah, that is true," agreed Mr. Camber, throwing his head back and
speaking the words as though they possessed some deep dramatic
significance. "Yes, but such laws are an insult to every intelligent

He sat down again rather heavily, and I stood looking from him to the
landlady, and wondering what I should do. The matter was decided for
me, however, in a way which I could never have foreseen. For, hearing a
light footfall upon the step which led up to the bar-parlour, I turned
--and there almost beside me stood a wrinkled little Chinaman!

He wore a blue suit and a tweed cap, he wore queer, thick-soled
slippers, and his face was like a smiling mask hewn out of very old
ivory. I could scarcely credit the evidence of my senses, since the
Lavender Arms was one of the last places in which I should have looked
for a native of China.

Mr. Colin Camber rose again, and fixing his melancholy eyes upon the

"Ah Tsong," he said in a tone of cold anger, "what are you doing here?"

Quite unmoved the Chinaman replied:

"Blingee you chit, sir, vellee soon go back."

"What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Camber. "Answer me, Ah Tsong: who sent

"Lilly missee," crooned the Chinaman, smiling up into the other's face
with a sort of childish entreaty. "Lilly missee."

"Oh," said Mr. Camber in a changed voice. "Oh."

He stood very upright for a moment, his gaze set upon the wrinkled
Chinese face. Then he looked at Mrs. Wootton and bowed, and looked at
me and bowed, very stiffly.

"I must excuse myself, sir," he announced. "My wife desires my presence
at home."

I returned his bow, and as he walked quite steadily toward the door,
followed by Ah Tsong, he paused, turned, and said: "Mr. Knox, I should
esteem it a friendly action if you would spare me an hour of your
company before you leave Surrey. My visitors are few. Any one, any one,
will direct you to the Guest House. I am persuaded that we have much in
common. Good-day, sir."

He went down the steps, disappearing in company with the Chinaman, and
having watched them go, I turned to Mrs. Wootton, the landlady, in
silent astonishment.

She nodded her head and sighed.

"The same every day and every evening for months past," she said. "I am
afraid it's going to be the death of him."

"Do you mean that Mr. Camber comes here every day and is always fetched
by the Chinaman?"

"Twice every day," corrected the landlady, "and his poor wife sends
here regularly."

"What a tragedy," I muttered, "and such a brilliant man."

"Ah," said she, busily removing jugs and glasses from the counter, "it
does seem a terrible thing."

"Has Mr. Camber lived for long in this neighbourhood?" I ventured to

"It was about three years ago, sir, that he took the old Guest House at
Mid-Hatton. I remember the time well enough because of all the trouble
there was about him bringing a Chinaman down here."

"I can imagine it must have created something of a sensation," I
murmured. "Is the Guest House a large property?"

"Oh, no, sir, only ten rooms and a garden, and it had been vacant for a
long time. It belongs to what is called the Crayland Park Estate."

"Mr. Camber, I take it, is a literary man?"

"So I believe, sir."

Mrs. Wootton, having cleared the counter, glanced up at the clock and
then at me with a cheery but significant smile.

"I see that it is after time," I said, returning the smile, "but the
queer people who seem to live hereabouts interest me very much."

"I can't wonder at that, sir!" said the landlady, laughing outright.
"Chinamen and Spanish men and what-not. If some of the old gentry that
lived here before the war could see it, they wouldn't recognize the
place, of that I am sure."

"Ah, well," said I, pausing at the step, "I shall hope to see more of
Mr. Camber, and of yourself too, madam, for your ale is excellent."

"Thank you, sir, I'm sure," said the landlady much gratified, "but as
to Mr. Camber, I really doubt if he would know you if you met him
again. Not if he was sober, I mean."


"Oh, it's a fact, believe me. Just in the last six months or so he has
started on the rampage like, but some of the people he has met in here
and asked to call upon him have done it, thinking he meant it."

"And they have not been well received?" said I, lingering.

"They have had the door shut in their faces!" declared Mrs. Wootton
with a certain indignation. "He either does not remember what he says
or does when he is in drink, or he pretends he doesn't. Oh, dear, it's
a funny world. Well, good-day, sir."

"Good-day," said I, and came out of the Lavender Arms full of sympathy
with the views of the "old gentry," as outlined by Mrs. Wootton; for
certainly it would seem that this quiet spot in the Surrey Hills had
become a rallying ground for peculiar people.



Of tea upon the veranda of Cray's Folly that afternoon I retain several
notable memories. I got into closer touch with my host and hostess,
without achieving anything like a proper understanding of either of
them, and I procured a new viewpoint of Miss Val Beverley. Her repose
was misleading. She deliberately subjugated her own vital personality
to that of Madame de Stämer, why, I knew not, unless she felt herself
under an obligation to do so. That her blue-gray eyes could be wistful
was true enough, they could also be gay; and once I detected in them a
look of sadness which dispelled the butterfly illusion belonging to her
dainty slenderness, to her mobile lips, to the vagabond curling hair of
russet brown.

Paul Harley's manner remained absent, but I who knew his moods so well
recognized that this abstraction was no longer real. It was a pose
which he often adopted when in reality he was keenly interested in his
surroundings. It baffled me, however, as effectively as it baffled
others, and whilst at one moment I decided that he was studying Colonel
Menendez, in the next I became convinced that Madame de Stämer was the
subject upon his mental dissecting table.

That he should find in Madame a fascinating problem did not surprise
me. She must have afforded tempting study for any psychologist. I could
not fathom the nature of the kinship existing between herself and the
Spanish colonel, for Madame de Stämer was French to her fingertips. Her
expressions, her gestures, her whole outlook on life proclaimed the
fashionable Parisienne.

She possessed a vigorous masculine intelligence and was the most
entertaining companion imaginable. She was daringly outspoken, and it
was hard to believe that her gaiety was forced. Yet, as the afternoon
wore on, I became more and more convinced that such was the case.

I thought that before affliction visited her Madame de Stämer must have
been a vivacious and a beautiful woman. Her vivacity remained and much
of her beauty, so that it was difficult to believe her snow-white hair
to be a product of nature. Again and again I found myself regarding it
as a powdered coiffure of the Pompadour period and wondering why Madame
wore no patches.

That a deep and sympathetic understanding existed between herself and
Colonel Menendez was unmistakable. More than once I intercepted glances
from the dark eyes of Madame which were lover-like, yet laden with a
profound sorrow. She was playing a rôle, and I was convinced that
Harley knew this. It was not merely a courageous fight against
affliction on the part of a woman of the world, versed in masking her
real self from the prying eyes of society, it was a studied performance
prompted by some deeper motive.

She dressed with exquisite taste, and to see her seated there amid her
cushions, gesticulating vivaciously, one would never have supposed that
she was crippled. My admiration for her momentarily increased, the more
so since I could see that she was sincerely fond of Val Beverley, whose
every movement she followed with looks of almost motherly affection.
This was all the more strange as Madame de Stämer whose age, I
supposed, lay somewhere on the sunny side of forty, was of a type which
expects, and wins, admiration, long after the average woman has ceased
to be attractive.

One endowed with such a temperament is as a rule unreasonably jealous
of youth and good looks in another. I could not determine if Madame's
attitude were to be ascribed to complacent self-satisfaction or to a
nobler motive. It sufficed for me that she took an unfeigned joy in the
youthful sweetness of her companion.

"Val, dear," she said, presently, addressing the girl, "you should make
those sleeves shorter, my dear."

She had a rapid way of speaking, and possessed a slightly husky but
fascinatingly vibrant voice.

"Your arms are very pretty. You should not hide them."

Val Beverley blushed, and laughed to conceal her embarrassment.

"Oh, my dear," exclaimed Madame, "why be ashamed of arms? All women
have arms, but some do well to hide them."

"Quite right, Marie," agreed the Colonel, his thin voice affording an
odd contrast to the deeper tones of his cousin. "But it is the scraggy
ones who seem to delight in displaying their angles."

"The English, yes," Madame admitted, "but the French, no. They are too
clever, Juan."

"Frenchwomen think too much about their looks," said Val Beverley,
quietly. "Oh, you know they do, Madame. They would rather die than be
without admiration."

Madame shrugged her shoulders.

"So would I, my dear," she confessed, "although I cannot walk. Without
admiration there is"--she snapped her fingers--"nothing. And who would
notice a linnet when a bird of paradise was about, however sweet her
voice? Tell me that, my dear?"

Paul Harley aroused himself and laughed heartily.

"Yet," he said, "I think with Miss Beverley, that this love of elegance
does not always make for happiness. Surely it is the cause of half the
domestic tragedies in France?"

"Ah, the French love elegance," cried Madame, shrugging, "they cannot
help it. To secure what is elegant a Frenchwoman will sometimes forget
her husband, yes, but never forget herself."

"Really, Marie," protested the Colonel, "you say most strange things!"

"Is that so, Juan?" she replied, casting one of her queer glances in
his direction; "but how would you like to be surrounded by a lot of
drabs, eh? That man, Mr. Knox," she extended one white hand in the
direction of Colonel Menendez, the fingers half closed, in a gesture
which curiously reminded me of Sarah Bernhardt, "that man would notice
if a parlourmaid came into the room with a shoe unbuttoned. Poof! if we
love elegance it is because without it the men would never love

Colonel Menendez bent across the table and kissed the white fingers in
his courtier-like fashion.

"My sweet cousin," he said, "I should love you in rags."

Madame smiled and flushed like a girl, but withdrawing her hand she

"They would have to be _pretty_ rags!" she added.

During this little scene I detected Val Beverley looking at me in a
vaguely troubled way, and it was easy to guess that she was wondering
what construction I should place upon it. However:

"I am going into the town," declared Madame de Stämer, energetically."
Half the things ordered from Hartley's have never been sent."

"Oh, Madame, please let _me_ go," cried Val Beverley.

"My dear," pronounced Madame, "I will not let you go, but I will let
you come with me if you wish."

She rang a little bell which stood upon the tea-table beside the urn,
and Pedro came out through the drawing room.

"Pedro," she said, "is the car ready?"

The Spanish butler bowed.

"Tell Carter to bring it round. Hurry, dear," to the girl, "if you are
coming with me. I shall not be a minute."

Thereupon she whisked her mechanical chair about, waved her hand to
dismiss Pedro, and went steering through the drawing room at a great
rate, with Val Beverley walking beside her.

As we resumed our seats Colonel Menendez lay back with half-closed
eyes, his glance following the chair and its occupant until both were
swallowed up in the shadows of the big drawing room.

"Madame de Stämer is a very remarkable woman," said Paul Harley.

"Remarkable?" replied the Colonel. "The spirit of all the old chivalry
of France is imprisoned within her, I think."

He passed cigarettes around, of a long kind resembling cheroots and
wrapped in tobacco leaf. I thought it strange that having thus
emphasized Madame's nationality he did not feel it incumbent upon him
to explain the mystery of their kinship. However, he made no attempt to
do so, and almost before we had lighted up, a racy little two-seater
was driven around the gravel path by Carter, the chauffeur who had
brought us to Cray's Folly from London.

The man descended and began to arrange wraps and cushions, and a few
moments later back came Madame again, dressed for driving. Carter was
about to lift her into the car when Colonel Menendez stood up and

"Sit down, Juan, sit down!" said Madame, sharply.

A look of keen anxiety, I had almost said of pain, leapt into her eyes,
and the Colonel hesitated.

"How often must I tell you," continued the throbbing voice, "that you
must not exert yourself."

Colonel Menendez accepted the rebuke humbly, but the incident struck me
as grotesque; for it was difficult to associate delicacy with such a
fine specimen of well-preserved manhood as the Colonel.

However, Carter performed the duty of assisting Madame into her little
car, and when for a moment he supported her upright, before placing her
among the cushions, I noted that she was a tall woman, slender and

All smiles and light, sparkling conversation, she settled herself
comfortably at the wheel and Val Beverley got in beside her. Madame
nodded to Carter in dismissal, waved her hand to Colonel Menendez,
cried "Au revoir!" and then away went the little car, swinging around
the angle of the house and out of sight.

Our host stood bare-headed upon the veranda listening to the sound of
the engine dying away among the trees. He seemed to be lost in
reflection from which he only aroused himself when the purr of the
motor became inaudible.

"And now, gentlemen," he said, and suppressed a sigh, "we have much to
talk about. This spot is cool, but is it sufficiently private? Perhaps,
Mr. Harley, you would prefer to talk in the library?"

Paul Harley flicked ash from the end of his cigarette.

"Better still in your own study, Colonel Menendez," he replied.

"What, do you suspect eavesdroppers?" asked the Colonel, his manner
becoming momentarily agitated.

He looked at Harley as though he suspected the latter of possessing
private information.

"We should neglect no possible precaution," answered my friend. "That
agencies inimical to your safety are focussed upon the house your own
statement amply demonstrates."

Colonel Menendez seemed to be on the point of speaking again, but he
checked himself and in silence led the way through the ornate library
to a smaller room which opened out of it, and which was furnished as a

Here the motif was distinctly one of officialdom. Although the Southern
element was not lacking, it was not so marked as in the library or in
the hall. The place was appointed for utility rather than ornament.
Everything was in perfect order. In the library, with the blinds drawn,
one might have supposed oneself in Trinidad; in the study, under
similar conditions, one might equally well have imagined Downing Street
to lie outside the windows. Essentially, this was the workroom of a man
of affairs.

Having settled ourselves comfortably, Paul Harley opened the

"In several particulars," said he, "I find my information to be

He consulted the back of an envelope, upon which, I presumed during the
afternoon, he had made a number of pencilled notes.

"For instance," he continued, "your detection of someone watching the
house, and subsequently of someone forcing an entrance, had no visible
association with the presence of the bat wing attached to your front

"No," replied the Colonel, slowly, "these episodes took place a month

"Exactly a month ago?"

"They took place immediately before the last full moon."

"Ah, before the full moon. And because you associate the activities of
Voodoo with the full moon, you believe that the old menace has again
become active?"

The Colonel nodded emphatically. He was busily engaged in rolling one
of his eternal cigarettes.

"This belief of yours was recently confirmed by the discovery of the
bat wing?"

"I no longer doubted," said Colonel Menendez, shrugging his shoulders.
"How could I?"

"Quite so," murmured Harley, absently, and evidently pursuing some
private train of thought. "And now, I take it that your suspicions, if
expressed in words would amount to this: During your last visit to Cuba
you (_a_) either killed some high priest of Voodoo, or (_b_) seriously
injured him? Assuming the first theory to be the correct one, your
death was determined upon by the sect over which he had formerly
presided. Assuming the second to be accurate, however, it is presumably
the man himself for whom we must look. Now, Colonel Menendez, kindly
inform me if you recall the name of this man?"

"I recall it very well," replied the Colonel. "His name was M'kombo,
and he was a Benin negro."

"Assuming that he is still alive, what, roughly, would his age be to-

The Colonel seemed to meditate, pushing a box of long Martinique cigars
across the table in my direction.

"He would be an old man," he pronounced. "I, myself, am fifty-two, and
I should say that M'kombo if alive to-day would be nearer to seventy
than sixty."

"Ah," murmured Harley, "and did he speak English?"

"A few words, I believe."

Paul Harley fixed his gaze upon the dark, aquiline face.

"In short," he said, "do you really suspect that it was M'kombo whose
shadow you saw upon the lawn, who a month ago made a midnight entrance
into Cray's Folly, and who recently pinned a bat wing to the door?"

Colonel Menendez seemed somewhat taken aback by this direct question.
"I cannot believe it," he confessed.

"Do you believe that this order or religion of Voodooism has any
existence outside those places where African negroes or descendents of
negroes are settled?"

"I should not have been prepared to believe it, Mr. Harley, prior to my
experiences in Washington and elsewhere."

"Then you do believe that there are representatives of this cult to be
met with in Europe and America?"

"I should have been prepared to believe it possible in America, for in
America there are many negroes, but in England----"

Again he shrugged his shoulders.

"I would remind you," said Harley, quietly, "that there are also quite
a number of negroes in England. If you seriously believe Voodoo to
follow negro migration, I can see no objection to assuming it to be a
universal cult."

"Such an idea is incredible."

"Yet by what other hypothesis," asked Harley, "are we to cover the
facts of your own case as stated by yourself? Now," he consulted his
pencilled notes, "there is another point. I gather that these African
sorcerers rely largely upon what I may term intimidation. In other
words, they claim the power of wishing an enemy to death."

He raised his eyes and stared grimly at the Colonel.

"I should not like to suppose that a man of your courage and culture
could subscribe to such a belief."

"I do not, sir," declared the Colonel, warmly. "No Obeah man could ever
exercise his will upon _me!_"

"Yet, if I may say so," murmured Harley, "your will to live seems to
have become somewhat weakened."

"What do you mean?"

Colonel Menendez stood up, his delicate nostrils dilated. He glared
angrily at Harley.

"I mean that I perceive a certain resignation in your manner of which I
do not approve."

"You do not _approve?_" said Colonel Menendez, softly; and I thought as
he stood looking down upon my friend that I had rarely seen a more
formidable figure.

Paul Harley had roused him unaccountably, and knowing my friend for a
master of tact I knew also that this had been deliberate, although I
could not even dimly perceive his object.

"I occupy the position of a specialist," Harley continued, "and you
occupy that of my patient. Now, you cannot disguise from me that your
mental opposition to this danger which threatens has become slackened.
Allow me to remind you that the strongest defence is counter-attack.
You are angry, Colonel Menendez, but I would rather see you angry than
apathetic. To come to my last point. You spoke of a neighbour in terms
which led me to suppose that you suspected him of some association with
your enemies. May I ask for the name of this person?"

Colonel Menendez sat down again, puffing furiously at his cigarette,
whilst beginning to roll another. He was much disturbed, was fighting
to regain mastery of himself.

"I apologize from the bottom of my heart," he said, "for a breach of
good behaviour which really was unforgivable. I was angry when I should
have been grateful. Much that you have said is true. Because it is
true, I despise myself."

He flashed a glance at Paul Harley.

"Awake," he continued, "I care for no man breathing, black or white;
but _asleep_"--he shrugged his shoulders. "It is in sleep that these
dealers in unclean things obtain their advantage."

"You excite my curiosity," declared Harley.

"Listen," Colonel Menendez bent forward, resting his elbows upon his
knees. Between the yellow fingers of his left hand he held the newly
completed cigarette whilst he continued to puff vigorously at the old
one. "You recollect my speaking of the death of a certain native girl?"

Paul Harley nodded.

"The real cause of her death was never known, but I obtained evidence
to show that on the night after the wing of a bat had been attached to
her hut, she wandered out in her sleep and visited the Black Belt. Can
you doubt that someone was calling her?"

"Calling her?"

"Mr. Harley, she was obeying the call of M'kombo!"

"The _call_ of M'kombo? You refer to some kind of hypnotic

"I illustrate," replied the Colonel, "to help to make clear something
which I have to tell you. On the night when last the moon was full--on
the night after someone had entered the house--I had retired early to
bed. Suddenly I awoke, feeling very cold. I awoke, I say, and where do
you suppose I found myself?"

"I am all anxiety to hear."

"On the point of entering the Tudor garden--you call it Tudor garden?--
which is visible from the window of your room!"

"Most extraordinary," murmured Harley; "and you were in your night

"I was."

"And what had awakened you?"

"An accident. I believe a lucky accident. I had cut my bare foot upon
the gravel and the pain awakened! me."

"You had no recollection of any dream which had prompted you to go down
into the garden?" "None whatever."

"Does your room face in that direction?"

"It does not. It faces the lake on the south of the house. I had
descended to a side door, unbarred it, and walked entirely around the
east wing before I awakened."

"Your room faces the lake," murmured Harley.


Their glances met, and in Paul Harley's expression there seemed to be a

"You have not yet told me," said he, "the name of your neighbour."

Colonel Menendez lighted his new cigarette.

"Mr. Harley," he confessed, "I regret that I ever referred to this
suspicion of mine. Indeed it is hardly a suspicion, it is what I may
call a desperate doubt. Do you say that, a desperate doubt?"

"I think I follow you," said Harley.

"The fact is this, I only know of one person within ten miles of Cray's
Folly who has ever visited Cuba."


"I have no other scrap of evidence to associate him I with my shadowy
enemy. This being so, you will pardon me if I ask you to forget that I
ever referred to his existence."

He spoke the words with a sort of lofty finality, and accompanied them
with a gesture of the hands which really left Harley no alternative but
to drop the subject.

Again their glances met, and it was patent to me that underlying all
this conversation was something beyond my ken. What it was that Harley
suspected I could not imagine, nor what it was that Colonel Menendez
desired to conceal; but tension was in the very air. The Spaniard was
on the defensive, and Paul Harley was puzzled, irritated.

It was a strange interview, and one which in the light of after events
I recognized to possess extraordinary significance. That sixth sense of
Harley's was awake, was prompting him, but to what extent he understood
its promptings at that hour I did not know, and have never known to
this day. Intuitively, I believe, as he sat there staring at Colonel
Menendez, he began to perceive the shadow within a shadow which was the
secret of Cray's Folly, which was the thing called Bat Wing, which was
the devilish force at that very hour alive and potent in our midst.



This conversation in Colonel Menendez's study produced a very
unpleasant impression upon my mind. The atmosphere of Cray's Folly
seemed to become charged with unrest. Of Madame de Stämer and Miss
Beverley I saw nothing up to the time that I retired to dress. Having
dressed I walked into Harley's room, anxious to learn if he had formed
any theory to account for the singular business which had brought us to

Harley had excused himself directly we had left the study, stating that
he wished to get to the village post-office in time to send a telegram
to London. Our host had suggested a messenger, but this, as well as the
offer of a car, Harley had declined, saying that the exercise would aid
reflection. Nevertheless, I was surprised to find his room empty, for I
could not imagine why the sending of a telegram should have detained
him so long.

Dusk was falling, and viewed from the open window the Tudor garden
below looked very beautiful, part of it lying in a sort of purplish
shadow and the rest being mystically lighted as though viewed through a
golden veil. To the whole picture a sort of magic quality was added by
a speck of high-light which rested upon the face of the old sun-dial.

I thought that here was a fit illustration for a fairy tale; then I
remembered the Colonel's account of how he had awakened in the act of
entering this romantic plaisance, and I was touched anew by an
unrestfulness, by a sense of the uncanny,

I observed a book lying upon the dressing table, and concluding that it
was one which Harley had brought with him, I took it up, glancing at
the title. It was "Negro Magic," and switching on the light, for there
was a private electric plant in Cray's Folly, I opened the book at
random and began to read.

"The religion of the negro," said this authority, "is emotional, and
more often than not associated with beliefs in witchcraft and in the
rites known as Voodoo or Obi Mysteries. It has been endeavoured by some
students to show that these are relics of the Fetish worship of
equatorial Africa, but such a genealogy has never been satisfactorily
demonstrated. The cannibalistic rituals, human sacrifices, and obscene
ceremonies resembling those of the Black Sabbath of the Middle Ages,
reported to prevail in Haiti and other of the islands, and by some
among the negroes of the Southern States of America, may be said to
rest on doubtful authority. Nevertheless, it is a fact beyond doubt
that among the negroes both of the West Indies and the United States
there is a widespread belief in the powers of the Obeah man. A native
who believes himself to have come under the spell of such a sorcerer
will sink into a kind of decline and sometimes die."

At this point I discovered several paragraphs underlined in pencil, and
concluding that the underlining had been done by Paul Harley, I read
them with particular care. They were as follows: "According to Hesketh
J. Bell, the term Obeah is most probably derived from the substantive
Obi, a word used on the East coast of Africa to denote witchcraft,
sorcery, and fetishism in general. The etymology of Obi has been traced
to a very antique source, stretching far back into Egyptian mythology.
A serpent in the Egyptian language was called Ob or Aub. Obion is still
the Egyptian name for a serpent. Moses, in the name of God, forbade the
Israelites ever to enquire of the demon, Ob, which is translated in our
Bible: Charmer or wizard, divinator or sorcerer. The Witch of Endor is
called Oub or Ob, translated Pythonissa; and Oubois was the name of the
basilisk or royal serpent, emblem of the Sun and an ancient oracular
deity of Africa."

A paragraph followed which was doubly underlined, and pursuing my
reading I made a discovery which literally caused me to hold my breath.
This is what I read:

"In a recent contribution to the _Occult Review_, Mr. Colin Camber, the
American authority, offered some very curious particulars in support of
a theory to show that whereas snakes and scorpions have always been
recognized as sacred by Voodoo worshippers, the real emblem of their
unclean religion is the bat, especially _the Vampire Bat of South

"He pointed out that the symptoms of one dying beneath the spell of an
Obeah man are closely paralleled in the cases of men and animals who
have suffered from nocturnal attacks of blood-sucking bats."

I laid the open book down upon the bed. My brain was in a tumult. The
several theories, or outlines of theories which hitherto I had
entertained, were, by these simple paragraphs, cast into the utmost
disorder. I thought of the Colonel's covert references to a neighbour
whom he feared, of his guarded statement that the devotees of Voodoo
were not confined to the West Indies, of the attack upon him in
Washington, of the bat wing pinned to the door of Cray's Folly.

Incredulously, I thought of my acquaintance of the Lavender Arms, with
his bemused expression and his magnificent brow; and a great doubt and
wonder grew up in my mind.

I became increasingly impatient for the return of Paul Harley. I felt
that a clue of the first importance had fallen into my possession; so
that when, presently, as I walked impatiently up and down the room, the
door opened and Harley entered, I greeted him excitedly.

"Harley!" I cried, "Harley! I have learned a most extraordinary thing!"

Even as I spoke and looked into the keen, eager face, the expression in
Harley's eyes struck me. I recognized that in him, too, intense
excitement was pent up. Furthermore, he was in one of his irritable
moods. But, full of my own discoveries:

"I chanced to glance at this book," I continued, "whilst I was waiting
for you. You have underlined certain passages."

He stared at me queerly.

"I discovered the book in my own library after you had gone last night,
Knox, and it was then that I marked the passages which struck me as

"But, Harley," I cried, "the man who is quoted here, Colin Camber,
lives in this very neighbourhood!"

"I know."

"What! You know?"

"I learned it from Inspector Aylesbury of the County Police half an
hour ago."

Harley frowned perplexedly. "Then, why, in Heaven's name didn't you
tell me?" he exclaimed. "It would have saved me a most disagreeable
journey into Market Hilton."

"Market Hilton! What, have you been into the town?"

"That is exactly where I have been, Knox. I 'phoned through to Innes
from the village post-office after lunch to have the car sent down.
There is a convenient garage by the Lavender Arms."

"But the Colonel has three cars," I exclaimed.

"The horse has four legs," replied Harley, irritably, "but although I
have only two, there are times when I prefer to use them. I am still
wondering why you failed to mention this piece of information when you
had obtained it."

"My dear Harley," said I, patiently, "how could I possibly be expected
to attach any importance to the matter? You must remember that at the
time I had never seen this work on negro sorcery."

"No," said Harley, dropping down upon the bed, "that is perfectly true,
Knox. I am afraid I have a liver at times; a distinct Indian liver.
Excuse me, old man, but to tell you the truth I feel strangely inclined
to pack my bag and leave for London without a moment's delay."

"What!" I cried.

"Oh, I know you would be sorry to go, Knox," said Harley, smiling, "and
so, for many reasons, should I. But I have the strongest possible
objection to being trifled with."

"I am afraid I don't quite understand you, Harley."

"Well, just consider the matter for a moment. Do you suppose that
Colonel Menendez is ignorant of the fact that his nearest neighbour is
a recognized authority upon Voodoo and allied subjects?"

"You are speaking, of course, of Colin Camber?"

"Of none other."

"No," I replied, thoughtfully, "the Colonel must know, of course, that
Camber resides in the neighbourhood."

"And that he knows something of the nature of Camber's studies his
remarks sufficiently indicate," added Harley. "The whole theory to
account for these attacks upon his life rests on the premise that
agents of these Obeah people are established in England and America.
Then, in spite of my direct questions, he leaves me to find out for
myself that Colin Camber's property practically adjoins his own!"

"Really! Does he reside so near as that?"

"My dear fellow," cried Harley, "he lives at a place called the Guest
House. You can see it from part of the grounds of Cray's Folly. We were
looking at it to-day."

"What! the house on the hillside?"

"That's the Guest House! What do you make of it, Knox? That Menendez
suspects this man is beyond doubt. Why should he hesitate to mention
his name?"

"Well," I replied, slowly, "probably because to associate practical
sorcery and assassination with such a character would be preposterous."

"But the man is admittedly a student of these things, Knox."

"He may be, and that he is a genius of some kind I am quite prepared to
believe. But having had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Colin Camber, I am
not prepared to believe him capable of murder."

I suppose I spoke with a certain air of triumph, for Paul Harley
regarded me silently for a while.

"You seem to be taking this case out of my hands, Knox," he said.
"Whilst I have been systematically at work racing about the county in
quest of information you would appear to have blundered further into
the labyrinth than all my industry has enabled me to do."

He remained in a very evil humour, and now the cause of this suddenly
came to light.

"I have spent a thoroughly unpleasant afternoon," he continued,
"interviewing an impossible country policeman who had never heard of my

This display of human resentment honestly delighted me. It was
refreshing to know that the omniscient Paul Harley was capable of

"One, Inspector Aylesbury," he went on, bitterly, "a large person
bearing a really interesting resemblance to a walrus, but lacking that
creature's intelligence. It was not until Superintendent East had
spoken to him from Scotland Yard that he ceased to treat me as a
suspect. But his new attitude was almost more provoking than the old
one. He adopted the manner of a regimental sergeant-major reluctantly
interviewing a private with a grievance. If matters should so develop
that we are compelled to deal with that fish-faced idiot, God help us

He burst out laughing, his good humour suddenly quite restored, and
taking out his pipe began industriously to load it.

"I can smoke while I am changing," he said, "and you can sit there and
tell me all about Colin Camber."

I did as he requested, and Harley, who could change quicker than any
man I had ever known, had just finished tying his bow as I completed my
story of the encounter at the Lavender Arms.

"Hm," he muttered, as I ceased speaking. "At every turn I realize that
without you I should have been lost, Knox. I am afraid I shall have to
change your duties to-morrow."

"Change my duties? What do you mean?"

"I warn you that the new ones will be less pleasant than the old! In
other words, I must ask you to tear yourself away from Miss Val
Beverley for an hour in the morning, and take advantage of Mr. Camber's
invitation to call upon him."

"Frankly, I doubt if he would acknowledge me."

"Nevertheless, you have a better excuse than I. In the circumstances it
is most important that we should get in touch with this man."

"Very well," I said, ruefully. "I will do my best. But you don't
seriously think, Harley, that the danger comes from there?"

Paul Harley took his dinner jacket from the chair upon which the man
had laid it out, and turned to me.

"My dear Knox," he said, "you may remember that I spoke, recently, of
retiring from this profession?"

"You did."

"My retirement will not be voluntary, Knox. I shall be kicked out as an
incompetent ass; for, respecting the connection, if any, between the
narrative of Colonel Menendez, the bat wing nailed to the door of the
house, and Mr. Colin Camber, I have not the foggiest notion. In this,
at last, I have triumphed over Auguste Dupin. Auguste Dupin never
confessed defeat."



If luncheon had seemed extravagant, dinner at Cray's Folly proved to be
a veritable Roman banquet. To associate ideas of selfishness with Miss
Beverley was hateful, but the more I learned of the luxurious life of
this queer household hidden away in the Surrey Hills the less I
wondered at any one's consenting to share such exile. I had hitherto
counted an American freak dinner, organized by a lucky plunger and held
at the Café de Paris, as the last word in extravagant feasting. But I
learned now that what was caviare in Monte Carlo was ordinary fare at
Cray's Folly.

Colonel Menendez was an epicure with an endless purse. The excellence
of one of the courses upon which I had commented led to a curious

"You approve of the efforts of my chef?" said the Colonel.

"He is worthy of his employer," I replied.

Colonel Menendez bowed in his cavalierly fashion and Madame de Stämer
positively beamed upon me.

"You shall speak for him," said the Spaniard. "He was with me in Cuba,
but has no reputation in London. There are hotels that would snap him

I looked at the speaker in surprise.

"Surely he is not leaving you?" I asked.

The Colonel exhibited a momentary embarrassment.

"No, no. No, no," he replied, waving his hand gracefully, "I was only
thinking that he--" there was a scarcely perceptible pause--"might wish
to better himself. You understand?"

I understood only too well; and recollecting the, words spoken by Paul
Harley that afternoon, respecting the Colonel's will to live, I became
conscious of an uncomfortable sense of chill.

If I had doubted that in so speaking he had been contemplating his own
death, the behaviour of Madame de Stämer must have convinced me. Her
complexion was slightly but cleverly made up, with all the exquisite
art of the Parisienne, but even through the artificial bloom I saw her
cheeks blanch. Her face grew haggard and her eyes burned unnaturally.
She turned quickly aside to address Paul Harley, but I knew that the
significance of this slight episode had not escaped him.

He was by no means at ease. In the first place, he was badly puzzled;
in the second place, he was angry. He felt it incumbent upon him to
save this man from a menace which he, Paul Harley, evidently recognized
to be real, although to me it appeared wildly chimerical, and the very
person upon whose active coöperation he naturally counted not only
seemed resigned to his fate, but by deliberate omission of important
data added to Harley's difficulties.

How much of this secret drama proceeding in Cray's Folly was
appreciated by Val Beverley I could not determine. On this occasion, I
remember, she was simply but perfectly dressed and, in my eyes, seemed
the most sweetly desirable woman I had ever known. Realizing that I had
already revealed my interest in the girl, I was oddly self-conscious,
and a hundred times during the progress of dinner I glanced across at
Harley, expecting to detect his quizzical smile. He was very stern,
however, and seemed more reserved than usual. He was uncertain of his
ground, I could see. He resented the understanding which evidently
existed between Colonel Menendez and Madame de Stämer, and to which,
although his aid had been sought, he was not admitted.

It seemed to me, personally, that an almost palpable shadow lay upon
the room. Although, save for this one lapse, our host throughout talked
gaily and entertainingly, I was obsessed by a memory of the expression
which I had detected upon his face that morning, the expression of a
doomed man.

What, in Heaven's name, I asked myself, did it all mean? If ever I saw
the fighting spirit looking out of any man's eyes, it looked out of the
eyes of Don Juan Sarmiento Menendez. Why, then, did he lie down to the
menace of this mysterious Bat Wing, and if he counted opposition
futile, why had he summoned Paul Harley to Cray's Folly?

With the passing of every moment I sympathized more fully with the
perplexity of my friend, and no longer wondered that even his highly
specialized faculties had failed to detect an explanation.

Remembering Colin Camber as I had seen him at the Lavender Arms, it was
simply impossible to suppose that such a man as Menendez could fear
such a man as Camber. True, I had seen the latter at a disadvantage,
and I knew well enough that many a genius has been also a drunkard. But
although I was prepared to find that Colin Camber possessed genius, I
found it hard to believe that this was of a criminal type. That such a
character could be the representative of some remote negro society was
an idea too grotesque to be entertained for a moment.

I was tempted to believe that his presence in the neighbourhood of this
haunted Cuban was one of those strange coincidences which in criminal
history have sometimes proved so tragic for their victims.

Madame de Stämer, avoiding the Colonel's glances, which were
pathetically apologetic, gradually recovered herself, and:

"My dear," she said to Val Beverley, "you look perfectly sweet to-
night. Don't you think she looks perfectly sweet, Mr. Knox?"

Ignoring a look of entreaty from the blue-gray eyes:

"Perfectly," I replied.

"Oh, Mr. Knox," cried the girl, "why do you encourage her? She says
embarrassing things like that every time I put on a new dress."

Her reference to a new dress set me speculating again upon the apparent
anomaly of her presence at Cray's Folly. That she was not a
professional "companion" was clear enough. I assumed that her father
had left her suitably provided for, since she wore such expensively
simple gowns. She had a delightful trick of blushing when attention was
focussed upon her, and said Madame de Stämer:

"To be able to blush like that I would give my string of pearls--no,
half of it."

"My dear Marie," declared Colonel Menendez, "I have seen you blush

"No, no," Madame disclaimed the suggestion with one of those Bernhardt
gestures, "I blushed my last blush when my second husband introduced me
to my first husband's wife."

"Madame!" exclaimed Val Beverley, "how can you say such things?" She
turned to me. "Really, Mr. Knox, they are all fables."

"In fables we renew our youth," said Madame.

"Ah," sighed Colonel Menendez; "our youth, our youth."

"Why sigh, Juan, why regret?" cried Madame, immediately. "Old age is
only tragic to those who have never been young."

She directed a glance toward him as she spoke those words, and as I had
felt when I had seen his tragic face on the veranda that morning I felt
again in detecting this look of Madame de Stämer's. The yearning yet
selfless love which it expressed was not for my eyes to witness.

"Thank God, Marie," replied the Colonel, and gallantly kissed his hand
to her, "we have both been young, gloriously young."

When, at the termination of this truly historic dinner, the ladies left

"Remember, Juan," said Madame, raising her white, jewelled hand, and
holding the fingers characteristically curled, "no excitement, no
billiards, no cards."

Colonel Menendez bowed deeply, as the invalid wheeled herself from the
room, followed by Miss Beverley. My heart was beating delightfully, for
in the moment of departure the latter had favoured me with a
significant glance, which seemed to say, "I am looking forward to a
chat with you presently."

"Ah," said Colonel Menendez, when we three men found ourselves alone,
"truly I am blessed in the autumn of my life with such charming
companionship. Beauty and wit, youth and discretion. Is he not a happy
man who possesses all these?"

"He should be," said Harley, gravely.

The saturnine Pedro entered with some wonderful crusted port, and
Colonel Menendez offered cigars.

"I believe you are a pipe-smoker," said our courteous host to Harley,
"and if this is so, I know that you will prefer your favourite mixture
to any cigar that ever was rolled."

"Many thanks," said Harley, to whom no more delicate compliment could
have been paid.

He was indeed an inveterate pipe-smoker, and only rarely did he truly
enjoy a cigar, however choice its pedigree. With a sigh of content he
began to fill his briar. His mood was more restful, and covertly I
watched him studying our host. The night remained very warm and one of
the two windows of the dining room, which was the most homely apartment
in Cray's Folly, was wide open, offering a prospect of sweeping velvet
lawns touched by the magic of the moonlight.

A short silence fell, to be broken by the Colonel.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I trust you do not regret your fishing

"I could cheerfully pass the rest of my days in such ideal
surroundings," replied Paul Harley.

I nodded in agreement.

"But," continued my friend, speaking very deliberately, "I have to
remember that I am here upon business, and that my professional
reputation is perhaps at stake."

He stared very hard at Colonel Menendez.

"I have spoken with your butler, known as Pedro, and with some of the
other servants, and have learned all that there is to be learned about
the person unknown who gained admittance to the house a month ago, and
concerning the wing of a bat, found attached to the door more

"And to what conclusion have you come?" asked Colonel Menendez,

He bent forward, resting his elbows upon his knees, a pose which he
frequently adopted. He was smoking a cigar, but his total absorption in
the topic under discussion was revealed by the fact that from a pocket
in his dinner jacket he had taken out a portion of tobacco, had laid it
in a slip of rice paper, and was busily rolling one of his eternal

"I might be enabled to come to one," replied Harley, "if you would
answer a very simple question."

"What is this question?"

"It is this--Have you any idea who nailed the bat's wing to your door?"

Colonel Menendez's eyes opened very widely, and his face became more
aquiline than ever.

"You have heard my story, Mr. Harley," he replied, softly. "If I know
the explanation, why do I come to you?"

Paul Harley puffed at his pipe. His expression did not alter in the

"I merely wondered if your suspicions tended in the direction of Mr.
Colin Camber," he said.

"Colin Camber!"

As the Colonel spoke the name either I became victim of a strange
delusion or his face was momentarily convulsed. If my senses served me
aright then his pronouncing of the words "Colin Camber" occasioned him
positive agony. He clutched the arms of his chair, striving, I thought,
to retain composure, and in this he succeeded, for when he spoke again
his voice was quite normal.

"Have you any particular reason for your remark, Mr. Harley?"

"I have a reason," replied Paul Harley, "but don't misunderstand me. I
suggest nothing against Mr. Camber. I should be glad, however, to know
if you are acquainted with him?"

"We have never met."

"You possibly know him by repute?"

"I have heard of him, Mr. Harley. But to be perfectly frank, I have
little in common with citizens of the United States."

A note of arrogance, which at times crept into his high, thin voice,
became perceptible now, and the aristocratic, aquiline face looked very

How the conversation would have developed I know not, but at this
moment Pedro entered and delivered a message in Spanish to the Colonel,
whereupon the latter arose and with very profuse apologies begged
permission to leave us for a few moments.

When he had retired:

"I am going upstairs to write a letter, Knox," said Paul Harley. "Carry
on with your old duties to-day, your new ones do not commence until to-

With that he laughed and walked out of the dining room, leaving me
wondering whether to be grateful or annoyed. However, it did not take
me long to find my way to the drawing room where the two ladies were
seated side by side upon a settee, Madame's chair having been wheeled
into a corner.

"Ah, Mr. Knox," exclaimed Madame as I entered, "have the others
deserted, then?"

"Scarcely deserted, I think. They are merely straggling."

"Absent without leave," murmured Val Beverley.

I laughed, and drew up a chair. Madame de Stämer was smoking, but Miss
Beverley was not. Accordingly, I offered her a cigarette, which she
accepted, and as I was lighting it with elaborate care, every moment
finding a new beauty in her charming face, Pedro again appeared and
addressed some remark in Spanish to Madame.

"My chair, Pedro," she said; "I will come at once."

The Spanish butler wheeled the chair across to the settee, and lifting
her with an ease which spoke of long practice, placed her amidst the
cushions where she spent so many hours of her life.

"I know you will excuse me, dear," she said to Val Beverley, "because I
feel sure that Mr. Knox will do his very best to make up for my
absence. Presently, I shall be back."

Pedro holding the door open, she went wheeling out, and I found myself
alone with Val Beverley.

At the time I was much too delighted to question the circumstances
which had led to this tęte-ā-tęte, but had I cared to give the matter
any consideration, it must have presented rather curious features. The
call first of host and then of hostess was inconsistent with the
courtesy of the master of Cray's Folly, which, like the appointments of
his home and his mode of life, was elaborate. But these ideas did not
trouble me at the moment.

Suddenly, however, indeed before I had time to speak, the girl started
and laid her hand upon my arm.

"Did you hear something?" she whispered, "a queer sort of sound?"

"No," I replied, "what kind of sound?"

"An odd sort of sound, almost like--the flapping of wings."

I saw that she had turned pale, I saw the confirmation of something
which I had only partly realised before: that her life at Cray's Folly
was a constant fight against some haunting shadow. Her gaiety, her
lightness, were but a mask. For now, in those wide-open eyes, I read
absolute horror.

"Miss Beverley," I said, grasping her hand reassuringly, "you alarm me.
What has made you so nervous to-night?"

"To-night!" she echoed, "to-night? It is every night. If you had not
come--" she corrected herself--"if someone had not come, I don't think
I could have stayed. I am sure I could not have stayed."

"Doubtless the attempted burglary alarmed you?" I suggested, intending
to sooth her fears.

"Burglary?" She smiled unmirthfully. "It was no burglary."

"Why do you say so, Miss Beverley?"

"Do you think I don't know why Mr. Harley is here?" she challenged.
"Oh, believe me, I know--I know. I, too, saw the bat's wing nailed to
the door, Mr. Knox. You are surely not going to suggest that this was
the work of a burglar?"

I seated myself beside her on the settee.

"You have great courage," I said. "Believe me, I quite understand all
that you have suffered."

"Is my acting so poor?" she asked, with a pathetic smile.

"No, it is wonderful, but to a sympathetic observer only acting,

I noted that my presence reassured her, and was much comforted by this

"Would you like to tell me all about it," I continued; "or would this
merely renew your fears?"

"I should like to tell you," she replied in a low voice, glancing about
her as if to make sure that we were alone. "Except for odd people,
friends, I suppose, of the Colonel's, we have had so few visitors since
we have been at Cray's Folly. Apart from all sorts of queer happenings
which really"--she laughed nervously--"may have no significance
whatever, the crowning mystery to my mind is why Colonel Menendez
should have leased this huge house."

"He does not entertain very much, then?"

"Scarcely at all. The 'County'--do you know what I mean by the
'County?'--began by receiving him with open arms and ended by sending
him to Coventry. His lavish style of entertainment they labelled
'swank'--horrible word but very expressive! They concluded that they
did not understand him, and of everything they don't understand they
disapprove. So after the first month or so it became very lonely at
Cray's Folly. Our foreign servants--there are five of them altogether--
got us a dreadfully bad name. Then, little by little, a sort of cloud
seemed to settle on everything. The Colonel made two visits abroad, I
don't know exactly where he went, but on his return from the first
visit Madame de Stämer changed."

"Changed?--in what way?"

"I am afraid it would be hopeless to try to make you understand, Mr.
Knox, but in some subtle way she changed. Underneath all her vivacity
she is a tragic woman, and--oh, how can I explain?" Val Beverley made a
little gesture of despair.

"Perhaps you mean," I suggested, "that she seemed to become even less
happy than before?"

"Yes," she replied, looking at me eagerly. "Has Colonel Menendez told
you anything to account for it?"

"Nothing," I said, "He has left us strangely in the dark. But you say
he went abroad on a second and more recent occasion?"

"Yes, not much more than a month ago. And after that, somehow or other,
matters seemed to come to a head. I confess I became horribly
frightened, but to have left would have seemed like desertion, and
Madame de Stämer has been so good to me."

"Did you actually witness any of the episodes which took place about a
month ago?"

Val Beverley shook her head.

"I never saw anything really definite," she replied.

"Yet, evidently you either saw or heard something which alarmed you."

"Yes, that is true, but it is so difficult to explain."

"Could you try to explain?"

"I will try if you wish, for really I am longing to talk to someone
about it. For instance, on several occasions I have heard footsteps in
the corridor outside my room."

"At night?"

"Yes, at night."

"Strange footsteps?"

She nodded.

"That is the uncanny part of it. You know how familiar one grows with
the footsteps of persons living in the same house? Well, these
footsteps were quite unfamiliar to me."

"And you say they passed your door?"

"Yes. My rooms are almost directly overhead. And right at the end of
the corridor, that is on the southeast corner of the building, is
Colonel Menendez's bedroom, and facing it a sort of little smoke-room.
It was in this direction that the footsteps went."

"To Colonel Menendez's room?"

"Yes. They were light, furtive footsteps."

"This took place late at night?"

"Quite late, long after everyone had retired."

She paused, staring at me with a sort of embarrassment, and presently:

"Were the footsteps those of a man or a woman?" I asked.

"Of a woman. Someone, Mr. Knox," she bent forward, and that look of
fear began to creep into her eyes again, "with whose footsteps I was
quite unfamiliar."

"You mean a stranger to the house?"

"Yes. Oh, it was uncanny." She shuddered. "The first time I heard it I
had been lying awake listening. I was nervous. Madame de Stämer had
told me that morning that the Colonel had seen someone lurking about
the lawns on the previous night. Then, as I lay awake listening for the
slightest sound, I suddenly detected these footsteps; and they paused--
right outside my door."

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed. "What did you do?"

"Frankly, I was too frightened to do anything. I just lay still with my
heart beating horribly, and presently they passed on, and I heard them
no more."

"Was your door locked?"

"No." She laughed nervously. "But it has been locked every night since

"And these sounds were repeated on other nights?"

"Yes, I have often heard them, Mr. Knox. What makes it so strange is
that all the servants sleep out in the west wing, as you know, and
Pedro locks the communicating door every night before retiring."

"It is certainly strange," I muttered.

"It is horrible," declared the girl, almost in a whisper. "For what can
it mean except that there is someone in Cray's Folly who is never seen
during the daytime?"

"But that is incredible."

"It is not so incredible in a big house like this. Besides, what other
explanation can there be?"

"There must be one," I said, reassuringly. "Have you spoken of this to
Madame de Stämer?"


Val Beverley's expression grew troubled.

"Had she any explanation to offer?"

"None. Her attitude mystified me very much. Indeed, instead of
reassuring me, she frightened me more than ever by her very silence. I
grew to dread the coming of each night. Then--" she hesitated again,
looking at me pathetically--"twice I have been awakened by a loud cry."

"What kind of cry?"

"I could not tell you, Mr. Knox. You see I have always been asleep when
it has come, but I have sat up trembling and dimly aware that what had
awakened me was a cry of some kind."

"You have no idea from whence it proceeded?"

"None whatever. Of course, all these things may seem trivial to you,
and possibly they can be explained in quite a simple way. But this
feeling of something I pending has grown almost unendurable. Then, I
don't understand Madame and the Colonel at all."

She suddenly stopped speaking and flushed with embarrassment.

"If you mean that Madame de Stämer is in love with her cousin, I agree
with you," I said, quietly.

"Oh, is it so evident as that?" murmured Val Beverley. She laughed to
cover her confusion. "I wish I could understand what it all means."

At this point our tęte-ā-tęte was interrupted by the return of Madame
de Stämer.

"Oh, la la!" she cried, "the Colonel must have allowed himself to
become too animated this evening. He is threatened with one of his
attacks and I have insisted upon his immediate retirement. He makes his
apologies, but knows you will understand."

I expressed my concern, and:

"I was unaware that Colonel Menendez's health was impaired," I said.

"Ah," Madame shrugged characteristically. "Juan has travelled too much
of the road of life on top speed, Mr. Knox." She snapped her white
fingers and grimaced significantly. "Excitement is bad for him."

She wheeled her chair up beside Val Beverley, and taking the girl's
hand patted it affectionately.

"You look pale to-night, my dear," she said. "All this bogey business
is getting on your nerves, eh?"

"Oh, not at all," declared the girl. "It is very mysterious and
annoying, of course."

"But M. Paul Harley will presently tell us what it is all about,"
concluded Madame. "Yes, I trust so. We want no Cuban devils here at
Cray's Folly."

I had hoped that she would speak further of the matter, but having thus
apologized for our host's absence, she plunged into an amusing account
of Parisian society, and of the changes which five years of war had
brought about. Her comments, although brilliant, were superficial, the
only point I recollect being her reference to a certain Baron Bergmann,
a Swedish diplomat, who, according to Madame, had the longest nose and
the shortest memory in Paris, so that in the cold weather, "he even
sometimes forgot to blow his nose."

Her brightness I thought was almost feverish. She chattered and laughed
and gesticulated, but on this occasion she was overacting. Underneath
all her vivacity lay something cold and grim.

Harley rejoined us in half an hour or so, but I could see that he was
as conscious of the air of tension as I was. All Madame's high spirits
could not enable her to conceal the fact that she was anxious to
retire. But Harley's evident desire to do likewise surprised me very
greatly; for from the point of view of the investigation the day had
been an unsatisfactory one. I knew that there must be a hundred and one
things which my friend desired to know, questions which Madame de
Stämer could have answered. Nevertheless, at about ten o'clock we
separated for the night, and although I was intensely anxious to talk
to Harley, his reticent mood had descended upon him again, and:

"Sleep well, Knox," he said, as he paused at my door. "I may be
awakening you early."

With which cryptic remark and not another word he passed on and entered
his own room.



Perhaps it was childish on my part, but I accepted this curt dismissal
very ill-humouredly. That Harley, for some reason of his own, wished to
be alone, was evident enough, but I resented being excluded from his
confidence, even temporarily. It would seem that he had formed a theory
in the prosecution of which my coöperation was not needed. And what
with profitless conjectures concerning its nature, and memories of Val
Beverley's pathetic parting glance as we had bade one another good-
night, sleep seemed to be out of the question, and I stood for a long
time staring out of the open window.

The weather remained almost tropically hot, and the moon floated in a
cloudless sky. I looked down upon the closely matted leaves of the box
hedge, which rose to within a few feet of my window, and to the left I
could obtain a view of the close-hemmed courtyard before the doors of
Cray's Folly. On the right the yews began, obstructing my view of the
Tudor garden, but the night air was fragrant, and the outlook one of

After a time, then, as no sound came from the adjoining room, I turned
in, and despite all things was soon fast asleep.

Almost immediately, it seemed, I was awakened. In point of fact, nearly
four hours had elapsed. A hand grasped my shoulder, and I sprang up in
bed with a stifled cry, but:

"It's all right, Knox," came Harley's voice. "Don't make a noise."

"Harley!" I said. "Harley! what has happened?"

"Nothing, nothing. I am sorry to have to disturb your beauty sleep, but
in the absence of Innes I am compelled to use you as a dictaphone,
Knox. I like to record impressions while they are fresh, hence my
having awakened you."

"But what has happened?" I asked again, for my brain was not yet fully

"No, don't light up!" said Harley, grasping my wrist as I reached out
toward the table-lamp.

His figure showed as a black silhouette against the dim square of the

"Why not?"

"Well, it's nearly two o'clock. The light might be observed."

"Two o'clock?" I exclaimed.

"Yes. I think we might smoke, though. Have you any cigarettes? I have
left my pipe behind."

I managed to find my case, and in the dim light of the match which I
presently struck I saw that Paul Harley's face was very fixed and grim.
He seated himself on the edge of my bed, and:

"I have been guilty of a breach of hospitality, Knox," he began. "Not
only have I secretly had my own car sent down here, but I have had
something else sent, as well. I brought it in under my coat this

"To what do you refer, Harley?"

"You remember the silken rope-ladder with bamboo rungs which I brought
from Hongkong on one occasion?"


"Well, I have it in my bag now."

"But, my dear fellow, what possible use can it be to you at Cray's

"It has been of great use," he returned, shortly.

"It enabled me to descend from my window a couple of hours ago and to
return again quite recently without disturbing the household. Don't
reproach me, Knox. I know it is a breach of confidence, but so is the
behaviour of Colonel Menendez."

"You refer to his reticence on certain points?"

"I do. I have a reputation to lose, Knox, and if an ingenious piece of
Chinese workmanship can save it, it shall be saved."

"But, my dear Harley, why should you want to leave the house secretly
at night?"

Paul Harley's cigarette glowed in the dark, then:

"My original object," he replied, "was to endeavour to learn if any one
were really watching the place. For instance, I wanted to see if all
lights were out at the Guest House."

"And were they?" I asked, eagerly.

"They were. Secondly," he continued, "I wanted to convince myself that
there were no nocturnal prowlers from within or without."

"What do you mean by within or without?"

"Listen, Knox." He bent toward me in the dark, grasping my shoulder
firmly. "One window in Cray's Folly was lighted up."

"At what hour?"

"The light is there yet."

That he was about to make some strange revelation I divined. I detected
the fact, too, that he believed this revelation would be unpleasant to
me; and in this I found an explanation of his earlier behaviour. He had
seemed distraught and ill at ease when he had joined Madame de Stämer,
Miss Beverley, and myself in the drawing room. I could only suppose
that this and the abrupt parting with me outside my door had been due
to his holding a theory which he had proposed to put to the test before
confiding it to me. I remember that I spoke very slowly as I asked him
the question:

"Whose is the lighted window, Harley?"

"Has Colonel Menendez taken you into a little snuggery or smoke-room
which faces his bedroom in the southeast corner of the house?"

"No, but Miss Beverley has mentioned the room."

"Ah. Well, there is a light in that room, Knox."

"Possibly the Colonel has not retired?"

"According to Madame de Stämer he went to bed several hours ago, you
may remember."

"True," I murmured, fumbling for the significance of his words.

"The next point is this," he resumed. "You saw Madame retire to her own
room, which, as you know, is on the ground floor, and I have satisfied
myself that the door communicating with the servants' wing is locked."

"I see. But to what is all this leading, Harley?"

"To a very curious fact, and the fact is this: The Colonel is not

I sat bolt upright.

"What?" I cried.

"Not so loud," warned Harley.

"But, Harley--"

"My dear fellow, we must face facts. I repeat, the Colonel is not

"Why do you say so?"

"Twice I have seen a shadow on the blind of the smoke-room."

"His own shadow, probably."

Again Paul Harley's cigarette glowed in the darkness.

"I am prepared to swear," he replied, "that it was the shadow of a


"Don't get excited, Knox. I am dealing with the strangest case of my
career, and I am jumping to no conclusions. But just let us look at the
circumstances judicially. The whole of the domestic staff we may
dismiss, with the one exception of Mrs. Fisher, who, so far as I can
make out, occupies the position of a sort of working housekeeper, and
whose rooms are in the corner of the west wing immediately facing the
kitchen garden. Possibly you have not met Mrs. Fisher, Knox, but I have
made it my business to interview the whole of the staff and I may say
that Mrs. Fisher is a short, stout old lady, a native of Kent, I
believe, whose outline in no way corresponds to that which I saw upon
the blind. Therefore, unless the door which communicates with the

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