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Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer

Part 6 out of 6

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in the ninth?"

I was still groping for the significance of this point when, re-
crossing the hall, we entered the library again, to find Inspector
Aylesbury posed squarely before the mantelpiece stating his case to

"You see," he was saying, in his most oratorical manner, as we entered,
"every little detail fits perfectly into place. For instance, I find
that a woman, called Mrs. Powis, who for the past two years had acted
as housekeeper at the Guest House and never taken a holiday, was sent
away recently to her married daughter in London. See what that means?
Her room is at the back of the house, and her evidence would have been
fatal. Ah Tsong, of course, is a liar. I made up my mind about that the
moment I clapped eyes on him. Mrs. Camber is the only innocent party.
She was asleep in the front of the house when the shot was fired, and I
believe her when she says that she cannot swear to the matter of

"A very interesting case. Inspector," said Wessex, glancing at Harley.
"I have not examined the body yet, but I understand that it was a clean
wound through the head."

"The bullet entered at the juncture of the nasal and frontal bones,"
explained Harley, rapidly, "and it came out between the base of the
occipital and first cervical. Without going into unpleasant surgical
details, the wound was a perfectly _straight_ one. There was no

"I understand that a regulation rifle was used?"

"Yes," said Inspector Aylesbury; "we have it."

"And at what range did you say, Inspector?"

"Roughly, a hundred yards."

"Possibly less," murmured Harley.

"Hundred yards or less," said Wessex, musingly; "and the obstruction
met with in the case of a man shot in that way would be--" He looked
towards Paul Harley.

"Less than if the bullet had struck the skull higher up," was the
reply. "It passed clean through."

"Therefore," continued Wessex, "I am waiting to hear, Inspector, where
you found the bullet lodged?"

"Eh?" said the Inspector, and he slowly turned his prominent eyes in
Harley's direction. "Oh, I see. That's why you wanted to examine the
Tudor garden, is it?"

"Exactly," replied Harley.

The face of Inspector Aylesbury grew very red.

"I had deferred looking for the bullet," he explained, "as the case was
already as clear as daylight. Probably Mr. Harley has discovered it."

"I have," said Harley, shortly.

"Is it the regulation bullet?" asked Wessex.

"It is. I found it embedded in one of the yew trees."

"There you are!" exclaimed Aylesbury. "There isn't the ghost of a

Wessex looked at Harley in undisguised perplexity.

"I must say, Mr. Harley," he admitted, "that I have never met with a
clearer case."

"Neither have I," agreed Harley, cheerfully. "I am going to ask
Inspector Aylesbury to return here after nightfall. There is a little
experiment which I should like to make, and which would definitely
establish my case."

"_Your_ case?" said Aylesbury.

"My case, yes."

"You are not going to tell me that you still persist in believing
Camber to be innocent?"

"Not at all. I am merely going to ask you to return at nightfall to
assist me in this minor investigation."

"If you ask my opinion," said the Inspector, "no further evidence is

"I don't agree with you," replied Harley, quietly. "Whatever your own
ideas upon the subject may be, I, personally, have not yet discovered
one single piece of convincing evidence for the prosecution of Camber."

"What!" exclaimed Aylesbury, and even Detective-Inspector Wessex stared
at the speaker incredulously.

"My dear Inspector Aylesbury," concluded Harley, "when you have
witnessed the experiment which I propose to make this evening you will
realize, as I have already realized^ that we are faced by a tremendous

"What tremendous task?"

"The task of discovering who shot Colonel Menendez."



Paul Harley, with Wessex and Inspector Aylesbury, presently set out for
Market Hilton, where Colin Camber and Ah Tsong were detained and where
the body of Colonel Menendez had been conveyed for the purpose of the
post-mortem. I had volunteered to remain at Cray's Folly, my motive
being not wholly an unselfish one.

"Refer reporters to me, Mr. Knox," said Inspector Wessex. "Don't let
them trouble the ladies. And tell them as little as possible,

The drone of the engine having died away down the avenue, I presently
found myself alone, but as I crossed the hall in the direction of the
library, intending to walk out upon the southern lawns, I saw Val
Beverley coming toward me from Madame de Stämer's room.

She remained rather pale, but smiled at me courageously.

"Have they all gone, Mr. Knox?" she asked. "I have really been hiding.
I suppose you knew?"

"I suspected it," I said, smiling. "Yes, they are all gone. How is
Madame de Stämer, now?"

"She is quite calm. Curiously, almost uncannily calm. She is writing.
Tell me, please, what does Mr. Harley think of Inspector Aylesbury's
preposterous ideas?"

"He thinks he is a fool," I replied, hotly, "as I do."

"But whatever will happen if he persists in dragging me into this
horrible case?"

"He will not drag you into it," I said, quietly. "He has been
superseded by a cleverer man, and the case is practically under
Harley's direction now."

"Thank Heaven for that," she murmured. "I wonder----" She looked at me

"Yes?" I prompted.

"I have been thinking about poor Mrs. Camber all alone in that gloomy
house, and wondering----"

"Perhaps I know. You are going to visit her?"

Val Beverley nodded, watching me.

"Can you leave Madame de Stämer with safety?"

"Oh, yes, I think so. Nita can attend to her."

"And may I accompany you, Miss Beverley? For more reasons than one, I,
too, should like to call upon Mrs. Camber."

"We might try," she said, hesitatingly. "I really only wanted to be
kind. You won't begin to cross-examine her, will you?"

"Certainly not," I answered; "although there are many things I should
like her to tell us."

"Well, suppose we go," said the girl, "and let events take their own

As a result, I presently found myself, Val Beverley by my side, walking
across the meadow path. With the unpleasant hush of Cray's Folly left
behind, the day seemed to grow brighter. I thought that the skylarks
had never sung more sweetly. Yet in this same instant of sheerly
physical enjoyment I experienced a pang of remorse, remembering the
tragic woman we had left behind, and the poor little sorrowful girl we
were going to visit. My emotions were very mingled, then, and I retain
no recollection of our conversation up to the time that we came to the
Guest House.

We were admitted by a really charming old lady, who informed us that
her name was Mrs. Powis and that she was but an hour returned from
London, whither she had been summoned by telegram.

She showed us into a quaint, small drawing room which owed its
atmosphere quite clearly to Mrs. Camber, for whereas the study was
indescribably untidy, this was a model of neatness without being formal
or unhomely. Here, in a few moments, Mrs. Camber joined us, an
appealing little figure of wistful, almost elfin, beauty. I was
surprised and delighted to find that an instant bond of sympathy sprang
up between the two girls. I diplomatically left them together for a
while, going into Camber's room to smoke my pipe. And when I returned:

"Oh, Mr. Knox," said Val Beverley, "Mrs. Camber has something to tell
you which she thinks you ought to know."

"Concerning Colonel Menendez?" I asked, eagerly.

Mrs. Camber nodded her golden head.

"Yes," she replied, but glancing at Val Beverley as if to gather
confidence. "The truth can never hurt Colin. He has nothing to conceal.
May I tell you?"

"I am all anxiety to hear," I assured her.

"Would you rather I went, Mrs. Camber?" asked Val Beverley.

Mrs. Camber reached across and took her hand.

"Please, no," she replied. "Stay here with me. I am afraid it is rather
a long story."

"Never mind," I said. "It will be time well spent if it leads us any
nearer to the truth."

"Yes?" she questioned, watching me anxiously, "you think so? I think
so, too."

She became silent, sitting looking straight before her, the pupils of
her blue eyes widely dilated. Then, at first in a queer, far-away
voice, she began to speak again.

"I must tell you," she commenced "that before--my marriage, my name
was Isabella de Valera."

I started.

"Ysola was my baby way of saying it, and so I came to be called Ysola.
My father was manager of one of Señor Don Juan's estates, in a small
island near the coast of Cuba. My mother"--she raised her little hands
eloquently--"was half-caste. Do you know? And she and my father--"

She looked pleadingly at Val Beverley.

"I understand," whispered the latter with deep sympathy; "but you don't
think it makes any difference, do you?"

"No?" said Mrs. Camber with a quaint little gesture. "To you, perhaps
not, but there, where I was born, oh! so much. Well, then, my mother
died when I was very little. Ah Tsong was her servant. There are many
Chinese in the West Indies, you see, and I can just remember he carried
me in to see her. Of course I didn't understand. My father quarrelled
bitterly with the priests because they would not bury her in holy
ground. I think he no longer believed afterward. I loved him very much.
He was good to me; and I was a queen in that little island. All the
negroes loved me, because of my mother, I think, who was partly
descended from slaves, as they were. But I had not begun to understand
how hard it was all going to be when my father sent me to a convent in

"I hated to go, but while I was there I learned all about myself. I
knew that I was outcast. It was"--she raised her hand--"not possible
to stay. I was only fifteen when I came home, but all the same I was a
woman. I was no more a child, and happy no longer. After a while,
perhaps, when I forgot what I had suffered at the convent, I became
less miserable. My father did all in his power to make me happy, and I
was glad the work-people loved me. But I was very lonely. Ah Tsong

Her eyes filled with tears.

"Can you imagine," she asked, "that when my father was away in distant
parts of the island at night, Ah Tsong slept outside my door? Some of
them say, 'Do not trust the Chinese' I say, except my husband and my
father, I have never known another one to trust but Ah Tsong. Now they
have taken him away from me."

Tears glittered on her lashes, but she brushed them aside angrily, and

"I was still less than twenty, and looked, they told me, only fourteen,
when Señor Menendez came to inspect his estate. I had never seen him
before. There had been a rising in the island, in the year after I was
born, and he had only just escaped with his life. He was hated. People
called him Devil Menendez. Especially, no woman was safe from him, and
in the old days, when his power had been great, he had used it for

"My father was afraid when he heard he was coming. He would have sent
me away, but before it could be arranged Señor the Colonel arrived. He
had in his company a French lady. I thought her very beautiful and
elegant. It was Madame de Stämer. It is only four years ago, a little
more, but her hair was dark brown. She was splendidly dressed and such
a wonderful horsewoman. The first time I saw her I felt as they had
made me feel at the convent. I wanted to hide from her. She was so
grand a lady, and I came from slaves."

She paused hesitatingly and stared down at her own tiny feet.

"Pardon me interrupting you, Mrs. Camber," I said, "but can you tell me
in what way these two are related?"

She looked up with her naïve smile.

"I can tell you, yes. A cousin of Señor Menendez married a sister of
Madame de Stämer."

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "a very remote kinship."

"It was in this way they met, in Paris, I think, and"--she raised her
hands expressively--"she came with him to the West Indies, although it
was during the great war. I think she loved him more than her soul, and
me--me she hated. As Señor Menendez dismounted from his horse in front
of the house he saw me."

She sighed and ceased speaking again. Then:

"That very night," she continued, "he began. Do you know? I was trying
to escape from him when Madame de Stämer found us. She called me a
shameful name, and my father, who heard it, ordered her out of the
house. Señor Menendez spoke sharply, and my father struck him."

She paused once more, biting her lip agitatedly, but presently

"Do you know what they are like, the Spanish, when their blood is hot?
Senor Menendez had a revolver, but my father knocked it from his grasp.
Then they fought with their bare hands. I was too frightened even to
cry out. It was all a horrible dream. What Madame de Stämer did, I do
not know. I could see nothing but two figures twined together on the
floor. At last one of them arose. I saw it was my father, and I
remember no more."

She was almost overcome by her tragic recollections, but presently,
with a wonderful courage, which, together with her daintiness of form,
spoke eloquently of good blood on one side at any rate, continued to

"My father found he must go to Cuba to make arrangements for the
future. Of course, our life there was finished. Ah Tsong stayed with
me. You have heard how it used to be in those islands in the old days,
but now you think it is so different? I used to think it was different,
too. On the first night my father was away, Ah Tsong, who had gone out,
was so long returning I became afraid. Then a strange negro came with
news that he had been taken ill with cholera, and was lying at a place
not far from the house. I forgot my fears and hurried off with this
man. Ah!"

She laughed wildly.

"I did not know I should never return, and I did not know I should
never see my father again. To you this must seem all wild and strange,
because there is a law in England. There is a law in Cuba, too, but in
some of those little islands the only law is the law of the strongest."

She raised her hands to her face and there was silence for a while.

"Of course it was a trap," she presently continued. "I was taken to an
island called El Manas which belonged to Senor Menendez, and where he
had a house. This he could do, but"--she threw back her head proudly--
"my spirit he could not break. Lots and lots of money would be mine,
and estates of my own; but one thing about him I must tell: he never
showed me violence. For one, two, three weeks I stayed a prisoner in
his house. All the servants were faithful to him and I could not find a
friend among them. Although quite innocent, I was ruined. Do you know?"

She raised her eyes pathetically to Val Beverley.

"I thought my heart was broken, for something told me my father was
dead. This was true."

"What!" I exclaimed. "You don't mean--"

"I don't know, I don't know," she answered, brokenly. "He died on his
way to Havana. They said it was an accident. Well--at last, Señor
Menendez offered me marriage. I thought if I agreed it would give me my
freedom, and I could run away and find Ah Tsong."

She paused, and a flush coloured her delicate face and faded again,
leaving it very pale.

"We were married in the house, by a Spanish priest. Oh"--she raised her
hands pathetically--"do you know what a woman is like? My spirit was
not broken still, but crushed. I had now nothing but kindness and
gifts. I might never have known, but Senor Menendez, who thought"--she
smiled sadly--"I was beautiful, took me to Cuba, where he had a great
house. Please remember, please," she pleaded, "before you judge of me,
that I was so young and had never known love, except the love of my
father. I did not even dream, then, his death was not an accident.

"I was proud of my jewels and fine dresses. But I began to notice that
Juan did not present any of his friends to me. We went about, but to
strange places, never to visit people of his own kind, and none came to
visit us. Then one night I heard someone on the balcony of my room. I
was so frightened I could not cry out. It was good I was like that, for
the curtain was pulled open and Ah Tsong came in."

She clutched convulsively at the arms of her chair.

"He told me!" she said in a very low voice.

Then, looking up pitifully:

"Do you know?" she asked in her quaint way. "It was a mock marriage. He
had done it and thought no shame, because it was so with my mother.

Her beautiful eyes flashed, and for the first time since I had met
Ysola Camber I saw the real Spanish spirit of the woman leap to life.

"He did not know me. Perhaps I did not know myself. That night, with no
money, without a ring, a piece of lace, a peseta, anything that had
belonged to him, I went with Ah Tsong. We made our way to a half-sister
of my father's who lived in Puerto Principe, and at first--she would
not have me. I was talked about, she said, in all the islands. She told
me of my poor father. She told me I had dragged the name of de Valera
in the dirt. At last I made her understand--that what everyone else
had known, I had never even dreamed of."

She looked up wistfully, as if thinking that we might doubt her.

"Do you know?" she whispered.

"I know--oh! I know!" said Val Beverley. I loved her for the sympathy
in her voice and in her eyes. "It is very, very brave of you to tell us
this, Mrs. Camber."

"Yes? Do you think so?" asked the girl, simply. "What does it matter if
it can help Colin?

"This aunt of mine," she presently continued, "was a poor woman, and it
was while I was hiding in her house--because spies of Senor Menendez
were searching for me--that I met--my husband. He was studying in Cuba
the strange things he writes about, you see. And before I knew what had
happened--I found I loved him more than all else in the world. It is so
wonderful, that feeling," she said, looking across at Val Beverley. "Do
you know?"

The girl flushed deeply, and lowered her eyes, but made no reply.

"Because you are a woman, too, you will perhaps understand," she
resumed. "I did not tell him. I did not dare to tell him at first. I
was so madly happy I had no courage to speak. But when"--her voice sank
lower and lower--"he asked me to marry him, I told him. Nothing he
could ever do would change my love for him now, because he forgave me
and made me his wife."

I feared that at last she was going to break down, for her voice became
very tremulous and tears leapt again into her eyes. She conquered her
emotion, however, and went on:

"We crossed over to the States, and Colin's family who had heard of his
marriage--some friend of Señor Menendez had told them--would not know
us. It meant that Colin, who would have been a rich man, was very poor.
It made no difference. He was splendid. And I was so happy it was all
like a dream. He made me forget I was to blame for his troubles. Then
we were in Washington--and I saw Señor Menendez in the hotel!

"Oh, my heart stopped tearing. For me it seemed like the end of
everything. I knew, I knew, he was following me. But he had not seen
me, and without telling Colin the reason, I made him leave Washington,
He was glad to go. Wherever we went, in America, they seemed to find
out about my mother. I got to hate them, hate them all. We came to
England, and Colin heard about this house, and we took it.

"At last we were really happy. No one knew us. Because we were strange,
and because of Ah Tsong, they looked at us very funny and kept away,
but we did not care. Then Sir James Appleton sold Cray's Folly."

She looked up quickly.

"How can I tell you? It must have been by Ah Tsong that he traced me to
Surrey. Some spy had told him there was a Chinaman living here. Oh, I
don't know how he found out, but when I heard who was coming to Cray's
Folly I thought I should die.

"Something I must tell you now. When I had told my story to Colin, one
thing I had not told him, because I was afraid what he might do. I had
not told him the name of the man who had caused me to suffer so much.
On the day I first saw Señor Menendez walking in the garden of Cray's
Folly I knew I must tell my husband what he had so often asked me to
tell him--the name of the man. I told him--and at first I thought he
would go mad. He began to drink--do you know? It is a failing in his
family. But because I knew--because I knew--I forgave him, and hoped,
always hoped, that he would stop. He promised to do so. He had given up
going out each day to drink, and was working again like he used to
work--too hard, too hard, but it was better than the other way."

She stopped speaking, and suddenly, before I could divine her
intention, dropped upon her knees, and raised her clasped hands to me.

"He did not, he did not kill him!" she cried, passionately. "He did
not! O God! I who love him tell you he did not! You think he did. You
do--you do! I can see it in your eyes!"

"Believe me, Mrs. Camber," I answered, deeply moved, "I don't doubt
your word for a moment."

She continued to look at me for a while, and then turned to Val

"_You_ don't think he did," she sobbed, "do you?"

She looked such a child, such a pretty, helpless child, as she knelt
there on the carpet, that I felt a lump rising in my throat.

Val Beverley dropped down impulsively beside her and put her arms
around the slender shoulders.

"Of course I don't," she exclaimed, indignantly. "Of course I don't.
It's quite unthinkable."

"I know it is," moaned the other, raising her tearful face. "I love him
and know his great soul. But what do these others know, and they will
never believe _me_."

"Have courage," I said. "It has never failed you yet. Mr. Paul Harley
has promised to clear him by to-night."

"He has promised?" she whispered, still kneeling and clutching Val
Beverley tightly. She looked up at me with hope reborn in her beautiful
eyes. "He has promised? Oh, I thank him. May God bless him. I know he
will succeed."

I turned aside, and walked out across the hall and into the empty



I recognize that whosoever may have taken the trouble to follow my
chronicle thus far will be little disposed to suffer any intrusion of
my personal affairs at such a point. Therefore I shall pass lightly
over the walk back to Cray's Folly, during which I contrived to learn
much about Val Beverley's personal history but little to advance the
investigation which I was there to assist.

As I had surmised, Miss Beverley had been amply provided for by her
father, and was bound to Madame de Stämer by no other ties than those
of friendship and esteem. Very reluctantly I released her, on our
returning to the house; for she, perforce, hurried off to Madame's
room, leaving me looking after her in a state of delightful
bewilderment, the significance of which I could not disguise from
myself. The absurd suspicions of Inspector Aylesbury were forgotten; so
was the shadow upon the blind of Colonel Menendez's study. I only knew
that love had come to me, an unbidden guest, to stay for ever.

Manoel informed me that a number of pressmen, not to be denied, had
taken photographs of the Tudor garden and of the spot where Colonel
Menendez had been found, but Pedro, following my instructions, had
referred them all to Market Hilton.

I was standing in the doorway talking to the man when I heard the drone
of Harley's motor in the avenue, and a moment later he and Wessex
stepped out in front of the porch and joined me. I thought that Wessex
looked stern and rather confused, but Harley was quite his old self,
his keen eyes gleaming humorously, and an expression of geniality upon
his tanned features.

"Hullo, Knox!" he cried, "any developments?"

"Yes," I said. "Suppose we go up to your room and talk."

"Good enough."

Inspector Wessex nodded without speaking, and the three of us mounted
the staircase and entered Paul Harley's room. Harley seated himself
upon the bed and began to load his pipe, whilst Wessex, who seemed very
restless, stood staring out of the window. I sat down in the armchair,

"I have had an interesting interview with Mrs, Camber," I said.

"What?" exclaimed Harley. "Good. Tell us all about it."

Wessex turned, hands clasped behind him, and listened in silence to an
account which I gave of my visit to the Guest House. When I had

"It seems to me," said the Inspector, slowly, "that the only doubtful
point in the case against Camber is cleared up; namely, his motive."

"It certainly looks like it," agreed Harley. "But how strangely Mrs.
Camber's story differs from that of Menendez although there are points
of contact. I regret, however, that you were unable to settle the most
important matter of all."

"You mean whether or not she had visited Cray's Folly?"


"Then you still consider my theory to be correct?" I asked eagerly.

"Up to a point it has been proved to be," he returned. "I must
congratulate you upon a piece of really brilliant reasoning, Knox. But
respecting the most crucial moment of all, we are still without
information, unfortunately. However, whilst the presence or otherwise,
of Mrs. Camber in Cray's Folly on the night preceding the tragedy may
prove to bear intimately upon the case, an experiment which I propose
to make presently will give the matter an entirely different

"Hm," said Wessex, doubtfully, "I am looking forward to this experiment
of yours, Mr. Harley, with great interest. To be perfectly honest, I
have no more idea than the man in the moon how you hope to clear

"No," replied Harley, musingly, "the weight of evidence against him is
crushing. But you are a man of great experience, Wessex, in criminal
investigations. Tell me honestly, have you ever known a murder case in
which there was such conclusive material for the prosecution?"

"Never," replied the Inspector, promptly. "In this respect, as in
others, the case is unique."

"You have seen Camber," continued Harley, "and have been enabled to
form some sort of judgment respecting his character. You will admit
that he is a clever man, brilliantly clever. Keep this fact in mind.
Remember his studies, and he does not deny that they have included
Voodoo. Remember his enquiries into the significance of Bat Wing.
Remember, as we now learn definitely from Mrs. Camber's evidence, that
he was in Cuba at the same time as the late Colonel Menendez, and once,
at least, actually in the same hotel in the United States. Consider the
rifle found under the floor of the hut; and, having weighed all these
points judicially, Wessex, tell me frankly, if in the whole course of
your experience, you have ever met with a more perfect frame-up?"

"What!" shouted Wessex, in sudden excitement. "What!"

"I said a frame-up," repeated Harley, quietly. "An American term, but
one which will be familiar to you."

"Good God!" muttered the detective, "you have turned all my ideas
upside down."

"What may be termed the _physical_ evidence," continued Harley,
"is complete, I admit: too complete. There lies the weak spot. But what
I will call the psychological evidence points in a totally different
direction. A man clever enough to have planned this crime, and Camber
undoubtedly is such a man, could not--it is humanly impossible--have
been fool enough, deliberately to lay such a train of damning facts.
It's a frame-up, Wessex! I had begun to suspect this even before I met
Camber. Having met him, I knew that I was right. Then came an
inspiration. I saw where there must be a flaw in the plan. It was
geographically impossible that this could be otherwise."

"Geographically impossible?" I said, in a hushed voice, for Harley had
truly astounded me.

"Geographical is the term, Knox. I admit that the discovery of the
rifle beneath the floor of the hut appalled me."

"I could see that it did."

"It was the crowning piece of evidence, Knox, evidence of such fiendish
cleverness on the part of those who had plotted Menendez's death that I
began to wonder whether after all it would be possible to defeat them.
I realized that Camber's life hung upon a hair. For the production of
that rifle before a jury of twelve moderately stupid men and true could
not fail to carry enormous weight. Whereas the delicate point upon
which my counter case rested might be more difficult to demonstrate in
court. To-night, however, we shall put it to the test, and there are
means, no doubt, which will occur to me later, of making its
significance evident to one not acquainted with the locality. The press
photographs, which I understand have been taken, may possibly help us
in this."

Bewildered by my friend's revolutionary ideas, which explained the
hitherto mysterious nature of his enquiries, I scarcely knew what to
say; but:

"If it's a frame-up, Mr. Harley," said Wessex, "and the more I think
about it the more it has that look to me, practically speaking, we have
not yet started on the search for the murderer."

"We have not," replied Harley, grimly. "But I have a dawning idea of a
method by which we shall be enabled to narrow down this enquiry."

It must be unnecessary for me to speak of the state of suppressed
excitement in which we passed the remainder of that afternoon and
evening. Dr. Rolleston called again to see Madame de Stämer, and
reported that she was quite calm. In fact, he almost echoed Val
Beverley's words spoken earlier in the day.

"She is unnaturally calm, Mr. Knox," he said in confidence. "I
understand that the dead man was a cousin, but I almost suspect that
she was madly in love with him."

I nodded shortly, admiring his acute intelligence.

"I think you are right, doctor," I replied, "and if it is so, her
amazing fortitude is all the more admirable."

"Admirable?" he echoed. "As I said before, she has the courage of ten

A formal dinner was out of the question, of course; indeed, no one
attempted to dress. Val Beverley excused herself, saying that she would
dine in Madame's room, and Harley, Wessex, and I, partook of wine and
sandwiches in the library.

Inspector Aylesbury arrived about eight o'clock in a mood of repressed
irritation. Pedro showed him in to where the three of us were seated,

"Good evening, gentlemen," said he, "here I am, as arranged, but as I
am up to my eyes in work on the case, I will ask you, Mr. Harley, to
carry out this experiment of yours as quickly as possible."

"No time shall be lost," replied my friend, quietly. "May I request you
to accompany Detective-Inspector Wessex and Mr. Knox to the Guest House
by the high road? Do not needlessly alarm Mrs. Camber. Indeed, I think
you might confine your attention to Mrs. Powis. Merely request
permission to walk down the garden to the hut, and be good enough to
wait there until I join you, which will be in a few minutes after your

Inspector Aylesbury uttered an inarticulate, grunting sound, but I, who
knew Harley so well, could see that he felt himself to be upon the eve
of a signal triumph. What he proposed to do, I had no idea, save that
it was designed to clear Colin Camber. I prayed that it might also
clear his pathetic girl-wife; and in a sort of gloomy silence I set out
with Wessex and Aylesbury, down the drive, past the lodge, which seemed
to be deserted to-night, and along the tree-lined high road, cool and
sweet in the dusk of evening.

Aylesbury was very morose, and Wessex, who had lighted his pipe, did
not seem to be in a talkative mood either. He had the utmost faith in
Paul Harley, but it was evident enough that he was oppressed by the
weight of evidence against Camber. I divined the fact that he was
turning over in his mind the idea of the frame-up, and endeavouring to
re-adjust the established facts in accordance with this new point of

We were admitted to the Guest House by Mrs. Powis, a cheery old soul;
one of those born optimists whose special task in life seems to be that
of a friend in need.

As she opened the door, she smiled, shook her head, and raised her
finger to her lips.

"Be as quiet as you can, sir," she said. "I have got her to sleep."

She spoke of Mrs. Camber as one refers to a child, and, quite
understanding her anxiety:

"There will be no occasion to disturb her, Mrs. Powis," I replied. "We
merely wish to walk down to the bottom of the garden to make a few

"Yes, gentlemen," she whispered, quietly closing the door as we all
entered the hall.

She led us through the rear portion of the house, and past the quarters
of Ah Tsong into that neglected garden which I remembered so well.

"There you are, sir, and may Heaven help you to find the truth."

"Rest assured that the truth will be found, Mrs. Powis," I answered.

Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat, but Wessex, puffing at his
pipe, made no remark whatever until we were all come to the hut
overhanging the little ravine.

"This is where I found the rifle, Detective-Inspector," explained

Wessex nodded absently.

It was another perfect night, with only a faint tracery of cloud to be
seen like lingering smoke over on the western horizon. Everything
seemed very still, so that although we were several miles from the
railway line, when presently a train sped on its way one might have
supposed, from the apparent nearness of the sound, that the track was
no farther off than the grounds of Cray's Folly.

Toward those grounds, automatically, our glances were drawn; and we
stood there staring down at the ghostly map of the gardens, and all
wondering, no doubt, what Harley was doing and when he would be joining

Very faintly I could hear the water of the little stream bubbling
beneath us. Then, just as this awkward silence was becoming
intolerable, there came a scraping and scratching from the shadows of
the gully, and:

"Give me a hand, Knox!" cried the voice of Harley from below. "I want
to avoid the barbed wire if possible."

He had come across country, and as I scrambled down the slope to meet
him I could not help wondering with what object he had sent us ahead by
the high road. Presently, when he came clambering up into the garden,
this in a measure was explained, for:

"You are all wondering," he began, rapidly, "what I am up to, no doubt.
Let me endeavour to make it clear. In order that my test should be
conclusive, and in no way influenced by pre-knowledge of certain
arrangements which I had made, I sent you on ahead of me. Not wishing
to waste time, I followed by the shorter route. And now gentlemen, let
us begin."

"Good," muttered Inspector Aylesbury.

"But first of all," continued Harley, "I wish each one of you in turn
to look out of the window of the hut, and down into the Tudor garden of
Cray's Folly. Will you begin, Wessex?"

Wessex, taking his pipe out of his mouth, and staring hard at the
speaker, nodded, entered the hut, and kneeling on the wooden seat,
looked out of the window.

"Open the panes," said Harley, "so that you have a perfectly clear

Wessex slid the panes open and stared intently down into the valley.

"Do you see anything unusual in the garden?"

"Nothing," he reported.

"And now, Inspector Aylesbury."

Inspector Aylesbury stamped noisily across the little hut, and peered
out, briefly.

"I can see the garden," he said.

"Can you see the sun-dial?"

"Quite clearly."

"Good. And now you, Knox."

I followed, filled with astonishment.

"Do you see the sun-dial?" asked Harley, again.

"Quite clearly."

"And beyond it?"

"Yes, I can see beyond it. I can even see its shadow lying like a black
band on the path."

"And you can see the yew trees?"

"Of course."

"But nothing else? Nothing unusual?"


"Very well," said Harley, tersely. "And now, gentlemen, we take to the
rough ground, proceeding due east. Will you be good enough to follow?"

Walking around the hut he found an opening in the hedge, and scrambled
down into the place where rank grass grew and through which he and I on
a previous occasion had made our way to the high road. To-night,
however, he did not turn toward the high road, but proceeded along the
crest of the hill.

I followed him, excited by the novelty of the proceedings. Wessex, very
silent, came behind me, and Inspector Aylesbury, swearing under his
breath, waded through the long grass at the rear.

"Will you all turn your attention to the garden again, please?" cried

We all paused, looking to the right.

"Anything unusual?"

We were agreed that there was not.

"Very well," said my friend. "You will kindly note that from this point
onward the formation of the ground prevents our obtaining any other
view of Cray's Folly or its gardens until we reach the path to the
valley, or turn on to the high road. From a point on the latter the
tower may be seen but that is all. The first part of my experiment is
concluded, gentlemen. We will now return."

Giving us no opportunity for comment, he plunged on in the direction of
the stream, and at a point which I regarded as unnecessarily difficult,
crossed it, to the great discomfiture of the heavy Inspector Aylesbury.
A few minutes later we found ourselves once more in the grounds of
Cray's Folly.

Harley, evidently with a definite objective in view, led the way up the
terraces, through the rhododendrons, and round the base of the tower.
He crossed to the sunken garden, and at the top of the steps paused.

"Be good enough to regard the sun-dial from this point," he directed.

Even as he spoke, I caught my breath, and I heard Aylesbury utter a
sort of gasping sound.

Beyond the sun-dial and slightly to the left of it, viewed from where
we stood, a faint, elfin light flickered, at a point apparently some
four or five feet above the ground!

"What's this?" muttered Wessex.

"Follow again, gentlemen," said Harley quietly.

He led the way down to the garden and along the path to the sun-dial.
This he passed, pausing immediately in front of the yew tree in which I
knew the bullet to be embedded.

He did not speak, but, extending his finger, pointed.

A piece of candle, some four inches long, was attached by means of a
nail to the bark of the tree, so that its flame burned immediately in
front of the bullet embedded there!

For perhaps ten seconds no one spoke; indeed I think no one moved.

"Good God!" murmured Wessex. "You have done some clever things to my
knowledge, Mr. Harley, but this crowns them all."

"Clever things!" said Inspector Aylesbury. "I think it's a lot of
damned tomfoolery."

"Do you, Inspector?" asked the Scotland Yard man, quietly. "I don't. I
think it has saved the life of an innocent man."

"What's that? What's that?" cried Aylesbury.

"This candle was burning here on the yew tree," explained Harley, "at
the time that you looked out of the window of the hut. You could not
see it. You could not see it from the crest adjoining the Guest House--
the only other spot in the neighbourhood from which this garden is
visible. Now, since the course of a bullet is more or less straight,
and since the nature of the murdered man's wound proves that it was not
deflected in any way, I submit that the one embedded in the yew tree
before you could not possibly have been fired from the Guest House! The
second part of my experiment, gentlemen, will be designed to prove from
whence it _was_ fired."



Up to the very moment that Paul Harley, who had withdrawn, rejoined us
in the garden, Inspector Aylesbury had not grasped the significance of
that candle burning upon the yew tree. He continued to stare at it as
if hypnotized, and when my friend re-appeared, carrying a long ash
staff and a sheet of cardboard, I could have laughed to witness the
expression upon the Inspector's face, had I not been too deeply
impressed with that which underlay this strange business.

Wessex, on the other hand, was watching my friend eagerly, as an
earnest student in the class-room might watch a demonstration by some
celebrated lecturer.

"You will notice," said Paul Harley, "that I have had a number of
boards laid down upon the ground yonder, near the sun-dial. They cover
a spot where the turf has worn very thin. Now, this garden, because of
its sunken position, is naturally damp. Perhaps, Wessex, you would take
up these planks for me."

Inspector Wessex obeyed, and Harley, laying the ash stick and cardboard
upon the ground, directed the ray of an electric torch upon the spot

"The footprints of Colonel Menendez!" he explained. "Here he turned
from the tiled path. He advanced three paces in the direction of the
sun-dial, you observe, then stood still, facing we may suppose, since
this is the indication of the prints, in a southerly direction."

"Straight toward the Guest House," muttered Inspector Aylesbury.

"Roughly," corrected Harley. "He was fronting in that direction,
certainly, but his head may have been turned either to the right or to
the left. You observe from the great depth of the toe-marks that on
this spot he actually fell. Then, here"--he moved the light--"is the
impression of his knee, and here again--"

He shone the white ray upon a discoloured patch of grass, and then
returned the lamp to his pocket.

"I am going to make a hole in the turf," he continued, "directly
between these two footprints, which seem to indicate that the Colonel
was standing in the military position of attention at the moment that
he met his death."

With the end of the ash stick, which was pointed, he proceeded to do

"Colonel Menendez," he went on, "stood rather over six feet in his
shoes. The stick which now stands upright in the turf measures six
feet, from the chalk mark up to which I have buried it to the slot
which I have cut in the top. Into this slot I now wedge my sheet of

As he placed the sheet of cardboard in the slot which he had indicated,
I saw that a round hole was cut in it some six inches in diameter. We
watched these proceedings in silence, then:

"If you will allow me to adjust the candle, gentlemen," said Harley,
"which has burned a little too low for my purpose, I shall proceed to
the second part of this experiment."

He walked up to the yew tree, and by means of bending the nail upward
he raised the flame of the candle level with the base of the embedded

"By heavens!" cried Wessex, suddenly divining the object of these
proceedings, "Mr. Harley, this is genius!"

"Thank you, Wessex," Harley replied, quietly, but nevertheless he was
unable to hide his gratification. "You see my point?"


"In ten minutes we shall know the truth."

"Oh, I see," muttered Inspector Aylesbury; "we shall know the truth,
eh? If you ask me the truth, it's this, that we are a set of lunatics."

"My dear Inspector Aylesbury," said Harley, good humouredly, "surely
you have grasped the lesson of experiment number one?"

"Well," admitted the other, "it's funny, certainly. I mean, it wants a
lot of explaining, but I can't say I'm convinced."

"That's a pity," murmured Wessex, "because I am."

"You see, Inspector," Harley continued, patiently, "the body of Colonel
Menendez as it lay formed a straight line between the sun-dial and the
hut in the garden of the Guest House. That is to say: a line drawn from
the window of the hut to the sun-dial must have passed through the
body. Very well. Such an imaginary line, if continued _beyond_ the
sun-dial, would have terminated near the base of the _seventh yew_
tree. Accordingly, I naturally looked for the _bullet_ there. It
was not there. But I found it, as you know, in the ninth tree.
Therefore, the shot could not possibly have been fired from the Guest
House, because the spot in the ninth yew where the bullet had lodged is
not visible from the Guest House."

Inspector Aylesbury removed his cap and scratched his head vigorously.

"In order that we may avoid waste of valuable time," said Harley,
finally, "let us take a hasty observation from here. As a matter of
fact, I have done so already, as nearly as was possible, without
employing this rough apparatus."

He knelt down beside the yew tree, lowering his head so that the
candlelight shone upon the brown, eager face, and looked upward, over
the top of the sun-dial and through the hole in the cardboard.

"Yes," he muttered, a note of rising excitement in his voice. "As I
thought, as I thought. Come, gentlemen, let us hurry."

He walked rapidly out of the garden, and up the steps, whilst we
followed dumb with wonder--or such at any rate was the cause of my own

In the hall Pedro was standing, a bunch of keys in his hand, and
evidently expecting Harley.

"Will you take us by the shortest way to the tower stairs?" my friend

"Yes, sir."

Doubting, wondering, scarcely knowing whether to be fearful or
jubilant, I followed, along a carpeted corridor, and thence, a heavy,
oaken door being unlocked, across a dusty and deserted apartment
apparently intended for a drawing room. From this, through a second
doorway we were led into a small, square, unfurnished room, which I
knew must be situated in the base of the tower. Yet a third door was
unlocked, and:

"Here is the stair, sir," said Pedro.

In Indian file we mounted to the first floor, to find ourselves in a
second, identical room, also stripped of furniture and decorations.
Harley barely glanced out of the northern window, shook his head, and:

"Next floor, Pedro," he directed.

Up we went, our footsteps arousing a cloud of dust from the uncarpeted
stairs, and the sound of our movements echoing in hollow fashion around
the deserted rooms.

Gaining the next floor, Harley, unable any longer to conceal his
excitement, ran to the north window, looked out, and:

"Gentlemen," he said, "my experiment is complete!"

He turned, his back to the window, and faced us in the dusk of the

"Assuming the ash stick to represent the upright body of Colonel
Menendez," he continued, "and the sheet of cardboard to represent his
head, the hole which I have cut in it corresponds fairly nearly to the
position of his forehead. Further assuming the bullet to have
illustrated Euclid's definition of a straight line, such a line,
_followed back_ from the yew tree to the spot where the rifle
rested, would pass through the hole in the cardboard! In other words,
there is only one place from which it is possible to see the flame of
the candle _through the hole in the cardboard_: the place where
the rifle rested! Stand here in the left-hand angle of the window and
stoop down! Will you come first, Knox?"

I stepped across the room, bent down, and stared out of the window,
across the Tudor garden. Plainly I could see the sun-dial with the ash
stick planted before it. I could see the piece of cardboard which
surmounted it--and, through the hole cut in the cardboard, I could see
the feeble flame of the candle nailed to the ninth yew tree!

I stood upright, knowing that I had grown pale, and conscious of a
moist sensation upon my forehead.

"Merciful God!" I said in a hollow voice. "It was from _this
window_ that the shot was fired which killed him!"



From the ensuing consultation in the library we did not rise until
close upon midnight. To the turbid intelligence of Inspector Aylesbury
the fact by this time had penetrated that Colin Camber was innocent,
that he was the victim of a frame-up, and that Colonel Juan Menendez
had been shot from a window of his own house.

By a process of lucid reasoning which must have convinced a junior
schoolboy, Paul Harley, there in the big library, with its garish
bookcases and its Moorish ornaments, had eliminated every member of the
household from the list of suspects. His concluding words, I remember,
were as follows:

"Of the known occupants of Cray's Folly on the night of the tragedy we
now find ourselves reduced to four, any one of whom, from the point of
view of an impartial critic uninfluenced by personal character,
question, or motive, or any consideration other than that of physical
possibility, might have shot Colonel Menendez. They are, firstly:

"In order to believe me guilty, it would be necessary to discount the
evidence of Knox, who saw me on the gravel path below at the time that
the shot was fired from the tower window.

"Secondly: Knox; whose guilt, equally, could only be assumed by means
of eliminating _my_ evidence, since I saw him at the window of my
room at the time that the shot was fired.

"Thirdly: Madame de Stämer. Regarding this suspect, in the first place
she could not have gained access to the tower room without assistance,
and in the second place she was so passionately devoted to the late
Colonel Menendez that Dr. Rolleston is of opinion that her reason may
remain permanently impaired by the shock of his death. Fourthly and
lastly: Miss Val Beverley."

Over my own feelings, as he had uttered the girl's name, I must pass in

"Miss Val Beverley is the only one of the four suspects who is not in a
position to establish a sound alibi so far as I can see at the moment;
but in this case entire absence of motive renders the suspicion absurd.
Having dealt with the _known_ occupants, I shall not touch upon
the possibility that some stranger had gained access to the house. This
opens up a province of speculation which we must explore at greater
leisure, for it would be profitless to attempt such an exploration

Thus the gathering had broken up, Inspector Aylesbury returning to
Market Hilton to make his report and to release Colin Camber and Ah
Tsong, and Wessex to seek his quarters at the Lavender Arms.

I remember that having seen them off, Harley and I stood in the hall,
staring at one another in a very odd way, and so we stood when Val
Beverley came quietly from Madame de Stämer's room and spoke to us.

"Pedro has told me what you have done, Mr. Harley," she said in a low
voice. "Oh, thank God you have cleared him. But what, in Heaven's name,
does your new discovery mean?"

"You may well ask," Harley answered, grimly. "If my first task was a
hard one, that which remains before me looks more nearly hopeless than
anything I have ever been called upon to attempt."

"It is horrible, it is horrible," said the girl, shudderingly. "Oh, Mr.
Knox," she turned to me, "I have felt all along that there was some
stranger in the house----"

"You have told me so."

"Conundrums! Conundrums!" muttered Harley, irritably. "Where am I to
begin, upon what am I to erect any feasible theory?" He turned abruptly
to Val Beverley. "Does Madame de Stämer know?"

"Yes," she answered, nodding her head; "and hearing the others depart,
she asked me to tell you that sleep is impossible until you have
personally given her the details of your discovery."

"She wishes to see me?" asked Harley, eagerly.

"She insists upon seeing you," replied the girl, "and also requests Mr.
Knox to visit her." She paused, biting her lip. "Madame's manner is
very, very odd. Dr. Rolleston cannot understand her at all. I expect he
has told you? She has been sitting there for hours and hours, writing."

"Writing?" exclaimed Harley. "Letters?"

"I don't know what she has been writing," confessed Val Beverley. "She
declines to tell me, or to show me what she has written. But there is
quite a little stack of manuscript upon the table beside her bed. Won't
you come in?"

I could see that she was more troubled than she cared to confess, and I
wondered if Dr. Rolleston's unpleasant suspicions might have solid
foundation, and if the loss of her cousin had affected Madame de
Stämer's brain.

Presently, then, ushered by Val Beverley, I found myself once more in
the violet and silver room in which on that great bed of state Madame
reclined amid silken pillows. Her art never deserted her, not even in
moments of ultimate stress, and that she had prepared herself for this
interview was evident enough.

I had thought previously that one night of horror had added five years
to her apparent age. I thought now that she looked radiantly beautiful.
That expression in her eyes, which I knew I must forevermore associate
with the memory of the dying tigress, had faded entirely. They remained
still, as of old, but to-night they were velvety soft. The lips were
relaxed in a smile of tenderness. I observed, with surprise, that she
wore much jewelery, and upon her white bosom gleamed the famous rope of
pearls which I knew her to treasure above almost anything in her

Again the fear touched me coldly that much sorrow had made her mad. But
at her very first word of greeting I was immediately reassured.

"Ah, my friend," she said, as I entered, a caressing note in her deep,
vibrant voice, "you have great news, they tell me? Mr. Harley, I was
afraid that you had deserted me, sir. If you had done so I should have
been very angry with you. Set the two armchairs here on my right, Val,
dear, and sit close beside me."

Then, as we seated ourselves:

"You are not smoking, my friends," she continued, "and I know that you
are both so fond of a smoke."

Paul Harley excused himself but I accepted a cigarette which Val
Beverley offered me from a silver box on the table, and presently:

"I am here, like a prisoner of the Bastille," declared Madame,
shrugging her shoulders, "where only echoes reach me. Now, Mr. Harley,
tell me of this wonderful discovery of yours."

Harley inclined his head gravely, and in that succinct fashion which he
had at command acquainted Madame with the result of his two
experiments. As he completed the account:

"Ah," she sighed, and lay back upon her pillows, "so to-night he is
again a free man, the poor Colin Camber. And his wife is happy once

"Thank God," I murmured. "Her sorrow was pathetic."

"Only the pure in heart can thank God," said Madame, strangely, "but I,
too, am glad. I have written, here"--she pointed to a little heap of
violet note-paper upon a table placed at the opposite side of the bed--
"how glad I am."

Harley and I stared vaguely across at the table. I saw Val Beverley
glancing uneasily in the same direction. Save for the writing materials
and little heap of manuscript, it held only a cup and saucer, a few
sandwiches, and a medicine bottle containing the prescription which Dr.
Rolleston had made up for the invalid.

"I am curious to know what you have written, Madame," declared Harley.

"Yes, you are curious?" she said. "Very well, then, I will tell you,
and afterward you may read if you wish." She turned to me. "You, my
friend," she whispered, and reaching over she laid her jewelled hand
upon my arm, "you have spoken with Ysola de Valera this afternoon, they
tell me?"

"With Mrs. Camber?" I asked, startled. "Yes, that is true."

"Ah, Mrs. Camber," murmured Madame. "I knew her as Ysola de Valera. She
is beautiful, in her golden doll way. You think so?" Then, ere I had
time to reply: "She told you, I suppose, eh?"

"She told me," I replied with a certain embarrassment, "that she had
met you some years ago in Cuba."

"Ah, yes, although _I_ told the fat Inspector it was not so. How
we lie, we women! And of course she told you in what relation I stood
to Juan Menendez?"

"She did not, Madame de Stämer."

"No-no? Well, it was nice of her. No matter. _I_ will tell you. I
was his mistress."

She spoke without bravado, but quite without shame, seeming to glory in
the statement.

"I met him in Paris," she continued, half closing her eyes. "I was
staying at the house of my sister, and my sister, you understand, was
married to Juan's cousin. That is how we met. I was married. Yes, it is
true. But in France our parents find our husbands and our lovers find
our hearts. Yet sometimes these marriages are happy. To me this good
thing had not happened, and in the moment when Juan's hand touched mine
a living fire entered into my heart and it has been burning ever since;
burning-burning, always till I die.

"Very well, I am a shameless woman, yes. But I have lived, and I have
loved, and I am content. I went with him to Cuba, and from Cuba to
another island where he had estates, and the name of which I shall not
pronounce, because it hurts me so, even yet. There he set eyes upon
Ysola de Valera, the daughter of his manager, and, pouf!"

She shrugged and snapped her fingers.

"He was like that, you understand? I knew it well. They did not call
him Devil Menendez for nothing. There was a scene, a dreadful scene,
and after that another, and yet a third. I have pride. If I had seemed
to forget it, still it was there. I left him, and went back to France.
I tried to forget. I entered upon works of charity for the soldiers at
a time when others were becoming tired. I spent a great part of my
fortune upon establishing a hospital, and this child"--she threw her
arm around Val Beverley--"worked with me night and day. I think I
wanted to die. Often I tried to die. Did I not, dear?"

"You did, Madame," said the girl in a very low voice.

"Twice I was arrested in the French lines, where I had crept dressed
like a _poilu_, from where I shot down many a Prussian. Is it not

"It is true," answered the girl, nodding her head.

"They caught me and arrested me," said Madame, with a sort of triumph.
"If it had been the British"--she raised her hand in that Bernhardt
gesture--"with me it would have gone hard. But in France a woman's
smile goes farther than in England. I had had my fun. They called me
'good comrade!' Perhaps I paid with a kiss. What does it matter? But
they heard of me, those Prussian dogs. They knew and could not forgive.
How often did they come over to bomb us, Val, dear?"

"Oh, many, many times," said the girl, shudderingly.

"And at last they succeeded," added Madame, bitterly. "God! the black
villains! Let me not think of it."

She clenched her hands and closed her eyes entirely, but presently
resumed again:

"If they had killed me I should have been glad, but they only made of
me a cripple. M. de Stämer had been killed a few weeks before this. I
am sorry I forgot to mention it. I was a widow. And when after this
catastrophe I could be moved, I went to a little villa belonging to my
husband at Nice, to gain strength, and this child came with me, like a
ray of sunshine.

"Here, to wake the fire in my heart, came Juan, deserted, broken,
wounded in soul, but most of all in pride, in that evil pride which
belongs to his race, which is so different from the pride of France,
but for which all the same I could never hate him.

"Ysola de Valera had run away from his great house in Cuba. Yes! A
woman had dared to leave him, the man who had left so many women. To me
it was pathetic. I was sorry for him. He had been searching the world
for her. He loved this little golden-haired girl as he had never loved
me. But to me he came with his broken heart, and I"--her voice
trembled--"I took him back. He still cared for me, you understand. Ah!"
She laughed. "I am not a woman who is lightly forgotten. But the great
passion that burned in his Spanish soul was revenge.

"He was a broken man not only in mind, but in body. Let me tell you. In
that island which I have not named there is a horrible disease called
by the natives the Creeping Sickness. It is supposed to come from a
poisonous place named the Black Belt, and a part of this Black Belt is
near, too near, to the hacienda in which Juan sometimes lived."

Paul Harley started and glanced at me significantly.

"They think, those simple negroes, that it is witchcraft, Voodoo, the
work of the Obeah man. It is of two kinds, rapid and slow. Those who
suffer from the first kind just decline and decline and die in great
agony. Others recover, or seem to do so. It is, I suppose, a matter of
constitution. Juan had had this sickness and had recovered, or so the
doctors said, but, ah!"

She lay back, shaking her finger characteristically.

"In one year, in two, three, a swift pain comes, like a needle, you
understand? Perhaps in the foot, in the hand, in the arm. It is
exquisite, deathly, while it lasts, but it only lasts for a few
moments. It is agony. And then it goes, leaving nothing to show what
has caused it. But, my friends, it is a death warning!

"If it comes here"--she raised one delicate white hand--"you may have
five years to live; if in the foot, ten, or more. But"--she sank her
voice dramatically--"the nearer it is to the heart, the less are the
days that remain to you of life."

"You mean that it recurs?" asked Harley.

"Perhaps in a week, perhaps not for another year, it comes again, that
quick agony. This time in the shoulder, in the knee. It is the second
warning. Three times it may come, four times, but at last"--she laid
her hand upon her breast--"it comes here, in the heart, and all is

She paused as if exhausted, closing her eyes again, whilst we three who
listened looked at one another in an awestricken silence, until the
vibrant voice resumed:

"There is only one man in Europe who understands this thing, this
Creeping Sickness. He is a Frenchman who lives in Paris. To him Juan
had been, and he had told him, this clever man, 'If you are very quiet
and do not exert yourself, and only take as much exercise as is
necessary for your general health, you have one year to live--'"

"My God!" groaned Harley.

"Yes, such was the verdict. And there is no cure. The poor sufferer
must wait and wait, always wait, for that sudden pang, not knowing if
it will come in his heart and be the finish. Yes. This living death,
then, and revenge, were the things ruling Juan's life at the time of
which I tell you. He had traced Ysola de Valera to England. A chance
remark in a London hotel had told him that a Chinaman had been seen in
a Surrey village and of course had caused much silly chatter. He
enquired at once, and he found out that Colin Camber, the man who had
taken Ysola from him, was living with her at the Guest House, here, on
the hill. How shall I tell you the rest?"

"Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Harley, his glance set upon her, with a
sort of horror in his gray eyes, "I think I can guess."

She turned to him rapidly.

"M. Harley," she said, "you are a clever man. I believe you are a
genius. And I have the strength to tell you because I am happy to-
night. Because of his great wealth Juan succeeded in buying Cray's
Folly from Sir James Appleton to whom it belonged. He told everybody he
leased it, but really he bought it. He paid him more than twice its
value, and so obtained possession.

"But the plan was not yet complete, although it had taken form in that
clever, wicked brain of his. Oh! I could tell you stories of the
Menendez, and of the things they have done for love and revenge, which
even you, who know much of life, would doubt, I think. Yes, you would
not believe. But to continue. Shall I tell you upon what terms he had
returned to me, eh? I will. Once more he would suffer that pang of
death in life, for he had courage, ah! such great courage, and then,
when the waiting for the next grew more than even his fearless heart
could bear, I, who also had courage, and who loved him, should----" She
paused, "Do you understand?"

Harley nodded dumbly, and suddenly I found Val Beverley's little
fingers twined about mine.

"I agreed," continued the deep voice. "It was a boon which I, too,
would have asked from one who loved me. But to die, knowing another
cherished the woman who had been torn from him, was an impossibility
for Juan Menendez. What he had schemed to do at first I never knew. But
presently, because of our situation here, and because of that which he
had asked of me, it came, the great plan.

"On the night he told me, a night I shall never forget, I drew back in
horror from him--I, Marie de Stämer, who thought I knew the blackest
that was in him. I shrank. And because of that scene it came to him
again in the early morning--the moment of agony, the needle pain, here,
low down in his left breast.

"He pleaded with me to do the wicked thing that he had planned, and
because I dared not refuse, knowing he might die at my feet, I
consented. But, my friends, I had my own plan, too, of which he knew
nothing. On the next day he went to Paris, and was told he had two
months to live, with great, such great care, but perhaps only a week, a
day, if he should permit his hot passions to inflame that threatened
heart. Very well.

"I said yes, yes, to all that he suggested, and he began to lay the
trail--the trail to lead to his enemy. It was his hobby, this
vengeance. He was like a big, cruel boy. It was he, himself, Juan
Menendez, who broke into Cray's Folly. It was he who nailed the bat
wing to the door. It was he who bought two rifles of a kind of which so
many millions were made during the war that anybody might possess one.
And it was he who concealed the first of these, one cartridge
discharged, under the floor of the hut in the garden of the Guest
House. The other, which was to be used, he placed--"

"In the shutter-case of one of the tower rooms," continued Paul Harley.
"I know! I found it there to-night."

"What?" I asked, "you found it, Harley?"

"I returned to look for it," he said. "At the present moment it is
upstairs in my room."

"Ah, M. Harley," exclaimed Madame, smiling at him radiantly, "I love
your genius. Then it was," she continued, "that he thought himself
ready, ready for revenge and ready for death. He summoned you, M.
Harley, to be an expert witness. He placed with you evidence which
could not fail to lead to the arrest of M. Camber. Very well. I allowed
him to do all this. His courage, _mon Dieu_, how I worshipped his

"At night, when everyone slept, and he could drop the mask, I have seen
what he suffered. I have begged him, begged him upon my knees, to allow
me to end it then and there; to forget his dream of revenge, to die
without this last stain upon his soul. But he, expecting at any hour,
at any minute, to know again the agony which cannot be described, which
is unlike any other suffered by the flesh--refused, refused! And I"--
she raised her eyes ecstatically--"I have worshipped this courage of
his, although it was evil--bad.

"The full moon gives the best light, and so he planned it for the night
of the full moon. But on the night before, because of some scene which
he had with you, M. Harley, nearly I thought his plans would come to
nothing. Nearly I thought the last act of love which he asked of me
would never be performed. He sat there, up in the little room which he
liked best, the coldness upon him which always came before the pang,
waiting, waiting, a deathly dew on his forehead, for the end; and I, I
who loved him better than life, watched him. And, so Fate willed it,
the pang never came."

"You watched him?" I whispered.

Harley turned to me slowly.

"Don't you understand, Knox?" he said, in a voice curiously unlike his

"Ah, my friend," Madame de Stämer laid her hand upon my arm with that
caressing gesture which I knew, "you do understand, don't you? The
power to use my limbs returned to me during the last week that I lived
in Nice."

She bent forward and raised her face, in an almost agonized appeal to
Val Beverley.

"My dear, my dear," she said, "forgive me, forgive me! But I loved him
so. One day, I think"--her glance sought my face--"you will know. Then
you will forgive."

"Oh, Madame, Madame," whispered the girl, and began to sob silently.

"Is it enough?" asked Madame de Stämer, raising her head, and looking
defiantly at Paul Harley. "Last night, you, M. Harley, who have genius,
nearly brought it all to nothing. You passed the door in the shrubbery
just when Juan was preparing to go out. I was watching from the window
above. Then, when you had gone, he came out--smoking his last

"I went to my place, entering the tower room by the door from that
corridor. I opened the window. It had been carefully oiled. It was
soundless. I was cold as one already dead, but love made me strong. I
had seen him suffer. I took the rifle from its hiding-place, the heavy
rifle which so few women could use. It was no heavier than some which I
had used before, and to good purpose."

Again she paused, and I saw her lips trembling. Before my mind's eye
the picture arose which I had seen from Harley's window, the picture of
Colonel Juan Menendez walking in the moonlight along the path to the
sun-dial, with halting steps, with clenched fists, but upright as a
soldier on parade. Walking on, dauntlessly, to his execution. Out of a
sort of haze, which seemed to obscure both sight and hearing, I heard
Madame speaking again.

"He turned his head toward me. He threw me a kiss--and I fired. Did you
think a woman lived who could perform such a deed, eh? If you did not
think so, it is because you have never looked into the eyes of one who
loved with her body, her mind, and with her soul. I think, yes, I think
I went mad. The rifle I remember I replaced. But I remember no more.

She sighed in a resigned, weary way, untwining her arm from about Val
Beverley, and falling back upon her pillows.

"It is all written here," she said; "every word of it, my friends, and
signed at the bottom. I am a murderess, but it was a merciful deed. You
see, I had a plan of which Juan knew nothing. This was my plan." She
pointed to the heap of manuscript. "I would give him relief from his
agonies, yes. For although he was an evil man, I loved him better than
life. I would let him die happy, thinking his revenge complete. But
others to suffer? No, no! a thousand times no! Ah, I am so tired."

She took up the little medicine bottle, poured its contents into the
glass, and emptied it at a draught.

Paul Harley, as though galvanized, sprang to his feet. "My God!" he
cried, huskily, "Stop her, stop her!" Val Beverley, now desperately
white, clutched at me with quivering fingers, her agonized glance set
upon the smiling face of Madame de Stämer.

"No fuss, dear friends," said Madame, gently, "no trouble, no nasty
stomach-pumps; for it is useless. I shall just fall asleep in a few
moments now, and when I wake Juan will be with me."

Her face was radiant. It became lighted up magically. I knew in that
grim hour what a beautiful woman Madame de Stämer must have been. She
rested her hand upon Val Beverley's head, and looked at me with her
strange, still eyes.

"Be good to her, my friend," she whispered. "She is English, but not
cold like some. She, too, can love."

She closed her eyes and dropped back upon her pillows for the last



This shall be a brief afterword, for I have little else to say. As
Madame had predicted, all antidotes and restoratives were of no avail.
She had taken enough of some drug which she had evidently had in her
possession for this very purpose to ensure that there should be no
awakening, and although Dr. Rolleston was on the spot within half an
hour, Madame de Stämer was already past human aid.

There are perhaps one or two details which may be of interest. For
instance, as a result of the post-mortem examination of Colonel
Menendez, no trace of disease was discovered in any of the organs, but
from information supplied by his solicitors, Harley succeeded in
tracing the Paris specialist to whom Madame de Stämer had referred; and
he confirmed her statement in every particular. The disease, to which
he gave some name which I have forgotten, was untraceable, he declared,
by any means thus far known to science.

As we had anticipated, the bulk of Colonel Don Juan's wealth he had
bequeathed to Madame de Stämer, and she in turn had provided that all
of which she might die possessed should be divided between certain
charities and Val Beverley.

I thus found myself at the time when all these legal processes
terminated engaged to marry a girl as wealthy as she was beautiful.
Therefore, except for the many grim memories which it had left with me,
nothing but personal good fortune resulted from my sojourn at Cray's
Folly, beneath the shadow of that Bat Wing which had had no existence
outside the cunning imagination of Colonel Juan Menendez.


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