Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard
Author: Emmuska Orczy
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0602751.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard
Emmuska Orczy




* * *



WELL, you know, some say she is the daughter of a duke, others that
she was born in the gutter, and that the handle has been soldered on
to her name in order to give her style and influence.

I could say a lot, of course, but "my lips are sealed," as the poets
say. All through her successful career at the Yard she honoured me
with her friendship and confidence, but when she took me in
partnership, as it were, she made me promise that I would never
breathe a word of her private life, and this I swore on my Bible
oath--"wish I may die," and all the rest of it.

Yes, we always called her "my lady," from the moment that she was put
at the head of our section; and the chief called her "Lady Molly" in
our presence. We of the Female Department are dreadfully snubbed by
the men, though don't tell me that women have not ten times as much
intuition as the blundering and sterner sex; my firm belief is that we
shouldn't have half so many undetected crimes if some of the so-called
mysteries were put to the test of feminine investigation.

Do you suppose for a moment, for instance, that the truth about that
extraordinary case at Ninescore would ever have come to light if the
men alone had had the handling of it? Would any man have taken so bold
a risk as Lady Molly did when--But I am anticipating.

Let me go back to that memorable morning when she came into my room in
a wild state of agitation.

"The chief says I may go down to Ninescore if I like, Mary," she said
in a voice all a-quiver with excitement.

"You!" I ejaculated. "What for?"

"What for--what for?" she repeated eagerly. "Mary, don't you
understand? It is the chance I have been waiting for--the chance of a
lifetime? They are all desperate about the case up at the Yard; the
public is furious, and columns of sarcastic letters appear in the
daily press. None of our men know what to do; they are at their wits'
end, and so this morning I went to the chief--"

"Yes?" I queried eagerly, for she had suddenly ceased speaking.

"Well, never mind now how I did it--I will tell you all about it on
the way, for we have just got time to catch the 11 a.m. down to
Canterbury. The chief says I may go, and that I may take whom I like
with me. He suggested one of the men, but somehow I feel that this is
woman's work, and I'd rather have you, Mary, than anyone. We will go
over the preliminaries of the case together in the train, as I don't
suppose that you have got them at your fingers' ends yet, and you have
only just got time to put a few things together and meet me at Charing
Cross booking-office in time for that 11.0 sharp."

She was off before I could ask her any more questions, and anyhow I
was too flabbergasted to say much. A murder case in the hands of the
Female Department! Such a thing had been unheard of until now. But I
was all excitement, too, and you may be sure I was at the station in
good time.

Fortunately Lady Molly and I had a carriage to ourselves. It was a
non-stop run to Canterbury, so we had plenty of time before us, and I
was longing to know all about this case, you bet, since I was to have
the honour of helping Lady Molly in it.

The murder of Mary Nicholls had actually been committed at Ash Court,
a fine old mansion which stands in the village of Ninescore. The Court
is surrounded by magnificently timbered grounds, the most fascinating
portion of which is an island in the midst of a small pond, which is
spanned by a tiny rustic bridge. The island is called "The
Wilderness," and is at the furthermost end of the grounds, out of
sight and earshot of the mansion itself. It was in this charming spot,
on the edge of the pond, that the body of a girl was found on the 5th
of February last.

I will spare you the horrible details of this gruesome discovery.
Suffice it to say for the present that the unfortunate woman was lying
on her face, with the lower portion of her body on the small grass-
covered embankment, and her head, arms, and shoulders sunk in the
slime of the stagnant water just below.

It was Timothy Coleman, one of the under-gardeners at Ash Court, who
first made this appalling discovery. He had crossed the rustic bridge
and traversed the little island in its entirety, when he noticed
something blue lying half in and half out of the water beyond. Timothy
is a stolid, unemotional kind of yokel, and, once having ascertained
that the object was a woman's body in a blue dress with white facings,
he quietly stooped and tried to lift it out of the mud.

But here even his stolidity gave way at the terrible sight which was
revealed before him. That the woman--whoever she might be--had been
brutally murdered was obvious, her dress in front being stained with
blood; but what was so awful that it even turned old Timothy sick with
horror, was that, owing to the head, arms and shoulders having
apparently been in the slime for some time, they were in an advanced
state of decomposition.

Well, whatever was necessary was immediately done, of course. Coleman
went to get assistance from the lodge, and soon the police were on the
scene and had removed the unfortunate victim's remains to the small
local police-station.

Ninescore is a sleepy, out-of-the-way village, situated some seven
miles from Canterbury and four from Sandwich. Soon everyone in the
place had heard that a terrible murder had been committed in the
village, and all the details were already freely discussed at the
Green Man.

To begin with, everyone said that though the body itself might be
practically unrecognisable, the bright blue serge dress with the white
facings was unmistakable, as were the pearl and ruby ring and the red
leather purse found by Inspector Meisures close to the murdered
woman's hand.

Within two hours of Timothy Coleman's gruesome find the identity of
the unfortunate victim was firmly established as that of Mary
Nicholls, who lived with her sister Susan at 2, Elm Cottages, in
Ninescore Lane, almost opposite Ash Court. It was also known that when
the police called at that address they found the place locked and
apparently uninhabited.

Mrs. Hooker, who lived at No. 1 next door, explained to Inspector
Meisures that Susan and Mary Nicholls had left home about a fortnight
ago, and that she had not seen them since.

"It'll be a fortnight to-morrow," she said. "I was just inside my own
front door a-calling to the cat to come in. It was past seven o'clock,
and as dark a night as ever you did see. You could hardly see your
'and afore your eyes, and there was a nasty damp drizzle comin' from
everywhere. Susan and Mary come out of their cottage; I couldn't
rightly see Susan, but I 'eard Mary's voice quite distinck. She says:
'We'll have to 'urry,' says she. I, thinkin' they might be goin' to do
some shoppin' in the village, calls out to them that I'd just 'eard
the church clock strike seven, and that bein' Thursday, and early
closin', they'd find all the shops shut at Ninescore. But they took no
notice, and walked off towards the village, and that's the last I ever
seed o' them two."

Further questioning among the village folk brought forth many curious
details. It seems that Mary Nicholls was a very flighty young woman,
about whom there had already been quite a good deal of scandal, whilst
Susan, on the other hand--who was very sober and steady in her
conduct--had chafed considerably under her younger sister's
questionable reputation, and, according to Mrs. Hooker, many were the
bitter quarrels which occurred between the two girls. These quarrels,
it seems, had been especially violent within the last year whenever
Mr. Lionel Lydgate called at the cottage. He was a London gentleman,
it appears--a young man about town, it afterwards transpired--but he
frequently stayed at Canterbury, where he had some friends, and on
those occasions he would come over to Ninescore in his smart dogcart
and take Mary out for drives.

Mr. Lydgate is brother to Lord Edbrooke, the multi-millionaire, who
was the recipient of birthday honours last year. His lordship resides
at Edbrooke Castle, but he and his brother Lionel had rented Ash Court
once or twice, as both were keen golfers and Sandwich Links are very
close by. Lord Edbrooke, I may add, is a married man. Mr. Lionel
Lydgate, on the other hand, is just engaged to Miss Marbury, daughter
of one of the canons of Canterbury.

No wonder, therefore, that Susan Nicholls strongly objected to her
sister's name being still coupled with that of a young man far above
her in station, who, moreover, was about to marry a young lady in his
own rank of life.

But Mary seemed not to care. She was a young woman who only liked fun
and pleasure, and she shrugged her shoulders at public opinion, even
though there were ugly rumours anent the parentage of a little baby
girl whom she herself had placed under the care of Mrs. Williams, a
widow who lived in a somewhat isolated cottage on the Canterbury road.
Mary had told Mrs. Williams that the father of the child, who was her
own brother, had died very suddenly, leaving the little one on her and
Susan's hands; and, as they couldn't look after it properly, they
wished Mrs. Williams to have charge of it. To this the latter readily

The sum for the keep of the infant was decided upon, and thereafter
Mary Nicholls had come every week to see the little girl, and always
brought the money with her.

Inspector Meisures called on Mrs. Williams, and certainly the worthy
widow had a very startling sequel to relate to the above story.

"A fortnight to-morrow," explained Mrs. Williams to the inspector, "a
little after seven o'clock, Mary Nicholls come runnin' into my
cottage. It was an awful night, pitch dark and a nasty drizzle. Mary
says to me she's in a great hurry; she is goin' up to London by a
train from Canterbury and wants to say good-bye to the child. She
seemed terribly excited, and her clothes were very wet. I brings baby
to her, and she kisses it rather wild-like and says to me: 'You'll
take great care of her, Mrs. Williams,' she says; 'I may be gone some
time.' Then she puts baby down and gives me £2, the child's keep for
eight weeks."

After which, it appears, Mary once more said "good-bye" and ran out of
the cottage, Mrs. Williams going as far as the front door with her.
The night was very dark, and she couldn't see if Mary was alone or
not, until presently she heard her voice saying tearfully: "I had to
kiss baby--" then the voice died out in the distance "on the way to
Canterbury," Mrs. Williams said most emphatically.

So far, you see, Inspector Meisures was able to fix the departure of
the two sisters Nicholls from Ninescore on the night of January 23rd.
Obviously they left their cottage about seven, went to Mrs. Williams,
where Susan remained outside while Mary went in to say good-bye to the

After that all traces of them seem to have vanished. Whether they did
go to Canterbury, and caught the last up train, at what station they
alighted, or when poor Mary came back, could not at present be

According to the medical officer, the unfortunate girl must have been
dead twelve or thirteen days at the very least, as, though the
stagnant water may have accelerated decomposition, the head could not
have got into such an advanced state much under a fortnight.

At Canterbury station neither the booking-clerk nor the porters could
throw any light upon the subject. Canterbury West is a busy station,
and scores of passengers buy tickets and go through the barriers every
day. It was impossible, therefore, to give any positive information
about two young women who may or may not have travelled by the last up
train on Saturday, January 23rd--that is, a fortnight before.

One thing only was certain--whether Susan went to Canterbury and
travelled by that up train or not, alone or with her sister--Mary had
undoubtedly come back to Ninescore either the same night or the
following day, since Timothy Coleman found her half-decomposed remains
in the grounds of Ash Court a fortnight later.

Had she come back to meet her lover, or what? And where was Susan now?

From the first, therefore, you see, there was a great element of
mystery about the whole case, and it was only natural that the local
police should feel that, unless something more definite came out at
the inquest, they would like to have the assistance of some of the
fellows at the Yard.

So the preliminary notes were sent up to London, and some of them
drifted into our hands. Lady Molly was deeply interested in it from
the first, and my firm belief is that she simply worried the chief
into allowing her to go down to Ninescore and see what she could do.


AT first it was understood that Lady Molly should only go down to
Canterbury after the inquest, if the local police still felt that they
were in want of assistance from London. But nothing was further from
my lady's intentions than to wait until then.

"I was not going to miss the first act of a romantic drama," she said
to me just as our train steamed into Canterbury station. "Pick up your
bag, Mary. We're going to tramp it to Ninescore--two lady artists on a
sketching tour, remember--and we'll find lodgings in the village, I
dare say."

We had some lunch in Canterbury, and then we started to walk the six
and a half miles to Ninescore, carrying our bags. We put up at one of
the cottages, where the legend "Apartments for single respectable lady
or gentleman" had hospitably invited us to enter, and at eight o'clock
the next morning we found our way to the local police-station, where
the inquest was to take place. Such a funny little place, you know--
just a cottage converted for official use--and the small room packed
to its utmost holding capacity. The entire able-bodied population of
the neighbourhood had, I verily believe, congregated in these ten
cubic yards of stuffy atmosphere.

Inspector Meisures, apprised by the chief of our arrival, had reserved
two good places for us well in sight of witnesses, coroner and jury.
The room was insupportably close, but I assure you that neither Lady
Molly nor I thought much about our comfort then. We were terribly

From the outset the case seemed, as it were, to wrap itself more and
more in its mantle of impenetrable mystery. There was precious little
in the way of clues, only that awful intuition, that dark unspoken
suspicion with regard to one particular man's guilt, which one could
feel hovering in the minds of all those present.

Neither the police nor Timothy Coleman had anything to add to what was
already known. The ring and purse were produced, also the dress worn
by the murdered woman. All were sworn to by several witnesses as
having been the property of Mary Nicholls.

Timothy, on being closely questioned, said that, in his opinion, the
girl's body had been pushed into the mud, as the head was absolutely
embedded in it, and he didn't see how she could have fallen like that.

Medical evidence was repeated; it was as uncertain--as vague--as
before. Owing to the state of the head and neck it was impossible to
ascertain by what means the death blow had been dealt. The doctor
repeated his statement that the unfortunate girl must have been dead
quite a fortnight. The body was discovered on February 5th--a
fortnight before that would have been on or about January 23rd.

The caretaker who lived at the lodge at Ash Court could also throw but
little light on the mysterious event. Neither he nor any member of his
family had seen or heard anything to arouse their suspicions. Against
that he explained that "The Wilderness," where the murder was
committed, is situated some 200 yards from the lodge, with the mansion
and flower garden lying between. Replying to a question put to him by
a juryman, he said that that portion of the grounds is only divided
off from Ninescore Lane by a low, brick wall, which has a door in it,
opening into the lane almost opposite Elm Cottages. He added that the
mansion had been empty for over a year, and that he succeeded the last
man, who died, about twelve months ago. Mr. Lydgate had not been down
for golf since witness had been in charge.

It would be useless to recapitulate all that the various witnesses had
already told the police, and were now prepared to swear to. The
private life of the two sisters Nicholls was gone into at full length,
as much, at least, as was publicly known. But you know what village
folk are; except when there is a bit of scandal and gossip, they know
precious little of one another's inner lives.

The two girls appeared to be very comfortably off. Mary was always
smartly dressed; and the baby girl, whom she had placed in Mrs.
Williams's charge, had plenty of good and expensive clothes, whilst
her keep, 5s. a week, was paid with unfailing regularity. What seemed
certain, however, was that they did not get on well together, that
Susan violently objected to Mary's association with Mr. Lydgate, and
that recently she had spoken to the vicar asking him to try to
persuade her sister to go away from Ninescore altogether, so as to
break entirely with the past. The Reverend Octavius Ludlow, Vicar of
Ninescore, seems thereupon to have had a little talk with Mary on the
subject, suggesting that she should accept a good situation in London.

"But," continued the reverend gentleman, "I didn't make much
impression on her. All she replied to me was that she certainly need
never go into service, as she had a good income of her own, and could
obtain £5,000 or more quite easily at any time if she chose."

"Did you mention Mr. Lydgate's name to her at all?" asked the coroner.

"Yes, I did," said the vicar, after a slight hesitation.

"Well, what was her attitude then?"

"I am afraid she laughed," replied the Reverend Octavius, primly, "and
said very picturesquely, if somewhat ungrammatically, that 'some folks
didn't know what they was talkin' about.'"

All very indefinite, you see. Nothing to get hold of, no motive
suggested--beyond a very vague suspicion, perhaps, of blackmail--to
account for a brutal crime. I must not, however, forget to tell you
the two other facts which came to light in the course of this
extraordinary inquest. Though, at the time, these facts seemed of
wonderful moment for the elucidation of the mystery, they only helped
ultimately to plunge the whole case into darkness still more
impenetrable than before.

I am alluding, firstly, to the deposition of James Franklin, a carter
in the employ of one of the local farmers. He stated that about half-
past six on that same Saturday night, January 23rd, he was walking
along Ninescore Lane leading his horse and cart, as the night was
indeed pitch dark. Just as he came somewhere near Elm Cottages he
heard a man's voice saying in a kind of hoarse whisper:

"Open the door, can't you? It's as dark as blazes!"

Then a pause, after which the same voice added:

"Mary, where the dickens are you?" Whereupon a girl's voice replied:
"All right, I'm coming."

James Franklin heard nothing more after that, nor did he see anyone in
the gloom.

With the stolidity peculiar to the Kentish peasantry, he thought no
more of this until the day when he heard that Mary Nicholls had been
murdered; then he voluntarily came forward and told his story to the
police. Now, when he was closely questioned, he was quite unable to
say whether these voices proceeded from that side of the lane where
stand Elm Cottages or from the other side, which is edged by the low,
brick wall.

Finally, Inspector Meisures, who really showed an extraordinary sense
of what was dramatic, here produced a document which he had reserved
for the last. This was a piece of paper which he had found in the red
leather purse already mentioned, and which at first had not been
thought very important, as the writing was identified by several
people as that of the deceased, and consisted merely of a series of
dates and hours scribbled in pencil on a scrap of notepaper. But
suddenly these dates had assumed a weird and terrible significance:
two of them, at least--December 26th and January 1st followed by "10
a.m."--were days on which Mr. Lydgate came over to Ninescore and took
Mary for drives. One or two witnesses swore to this positively. Both
dates had been local meets of the harriers, to which other folk from
the village had gone, and Mary had openly said afterwards how much she
had enjoyed these.

The other dates (there were six altogether) were more or less vague.
One Mrs. Hooker remembered as being coincident with a day Mary
Nicholls had spent away from home; but the last date, scribbled in the
same handwriting, was January 23rd, and below it the hour--6 p.m.

The coroner now adjourned the inquest. An explanation from Mr. Lionel
Lydgate had become imperative.


PUBLIC excitement had by now reached a very high pitch; it was no
longer a case of mere local interest. The country inns all round the
immediate neighbourhood were packed with visitors from London,
artists, journalists, dramatists, and actor-managers, whilst the
hotels and fly-proprietors of Canterbury were doing a roaring trade.

Certain facts and one vivid picture stood out clearly before the
thoughtful mind in the midst of a chaos of conflicting and irrelevant
evidence: the picture was that of the two women tramping in the wet
and pitch dark night towards Canterbury. Beyond that everything was a

When did Mary Nicholls come back to Ninescore, and why?

To keep an appointment made with Lionel Lydgate, it was openly
whispered; but that appointment--if the rough notes were interpreted
rightly--was for the very day on which she and her sister went away
from home. A man's voice called to her at half-past six certainly, and
she replied to it. Franklin, the carter, heard her; but half an hour
afterwards Mrs. Hooker heard her voice when she left home with her
sister, and she visited Mrs. Williams after that.

The only theory compatible with all this was, of course, that Mary
merely accompanied Susan part of the way to Canterbury, then went back
to meet her lover, who enticed her into the deserted grounds of Ash
Court, and there murdered her.

The motive was not far to seek. Mr. Lionel Lydgate, about to marry,
wished to silence for ever a voice that threatened to be unpleasantly
persistent in its demands for money and in its threats of scandal.

But there was one great argument against that theory--the
disappearance of Susan Nicholls. She had been extensively advertised
for. The murder of her sister was published broadcast in every
newspaper in the United Kingdom--she could not be ignorant of it. And,
above all, she hated Mr. Lydgate. Why did she not come and add the
weight of her testimony against him if, indeed, he was guilty?

And if Mr. Lydgate was innocent, then where was the criminal? And why
had Susan Nicholls disappeared?

Why? Why? Why?

Well, the next day would show. Mr. Lionel Lydgate had been cited by
the police to give evidence at the adjourned inquest.

Good-looking, very athletic, and obviously frightfully upset and
nervous, he entered the little courtroom, accompanied by his
solicitor, just before the coroner and jury took their seats.

He looked keenly at Lady Molly as he sat down, and from the expression
on his face I guessed that he was much puzzled to know who she was.

He was the first witness called. Manfully and clearly he gave a
concise account of his association with the deceased.

"She was pretty and amusing," he said. "I liked to take her out when I
was in the neighborhood; it was no trouble to me. There was no harm in
her, whatever the village gossips might say. I know she had been in
trouble, as they say, but that had nothing to do with me. It wasn't
for me to be hard on a girl, and I fancy that she has been very badly
treated by some scoundrel."

Here he was hard pressed by the coroner, who wished him to explain
what he meant. But Mr. Lydgate turned obstinate, and to every leading
question he replied stolidly and very emphatically:

"I don't know who it was. It had nothing to do with me, but I was
sorry for the girl because of everyone turning against her, including
her sister, and I tried to give her a little pleasure when I could."

That was all right. Very sympathetically told. The public quite liked
this pleasing specimen of English cricket-, golf--and football-loving
manhood. Subsequently Mr. Lydgate admitted meeting Mary on December
26th and January 1st, but he swore most emphatically that that was the
last he ever saw of her.

"But the 23rd of January," here insinuated the coroner; "you made an
appointment with the deceased then?"

"Certainly not," he replied.

"But you met her on that day?"

"Most emphatically no," he replied quietly. "I went down to Edbrooke
Castle, my brother's place in Lincolnshire, on the 20th of last month,
and only got back to town about three days ago."

"You swear to that, Mr. Lydgate?" asked the coroner.

"I do, indeed, and there are a score of witnesses to bear me out. The
family, the house-party, the servants."

He tried to dominate his own excitement. I suppose, poor man, he had
only just realised that certain horrible suspicions had been resting
upon him. His solicitor pacified him, and presently he sat down,
whilst I must say that everyone there present was relieved at the
thought that the handsome young athlete was not a murderer, after all.
To look at him it certainly seemed preposterous.

But then, of course, there was the deadlock, and as there were no more
witnesses to be heard, no new facts to elucidate, the jury returned
the usual verdict against some person or persons unknown; and we, the
keenly interested spectators, were left to face the problem--Who
murdered Mary Nicholls, and where was her sister Susan?


AFTER the verdict we found our way back to our lodgings. Lady Molly
tramped along silently, with that deep furrow between her brows which
I knew meant that she was deep in thought.

"Now we'll have some tea," I said, with a sigh of relief, as soon as
we entered the cottage door.

"No, you won't," replied my lady, dryly. "I am going to write out a
telegram, and we'll go straight on to Canterbury and send it from

"To Canterbury!" I gasped. "Two hours' walk at least, for I don't
suppose we can get a trap, and it is past three o'clock. Why not send
your telegram from Ninescore?"

"Mary, you are stupid," was all the reply I got.

She wrote out two telegrams--one of which was at least three dozen
words long--and, once more calling to me to come along, we set out for

I was tea-less, cross, and puzzled. Lady Molly was alert, cheerful,
and irritatingly active.

We reached the first telegraph office a little before five. My lady
sent the telegram without condescending to tell me anything of its
destination or contents; then she took me to the Castle Hotel and
graciously offered me tea.

"May I be allowed to inquire whether you propose tramping back to
Ninescore to-night?" I asked with a slight touch of sarcasm, as I
really felt put out.

"No, Mary," she replied, quietly munching a bit of Sally Lunn; "I have
engaged a couple of rooms at this hotel and wired the chief that any
message will find us here to-morrow morning."

After that there was nothing for it but quietude, patience, and
finally supper and bed.

The next morning my lady walked into my room before I had finished
dressing. She had a newspaper in her hand, and threw it down on the
bed as she said calmly:

"It was in the evening paper all right last night. I think we shall be
in time."

No use asking her what "it" meant. It was easier to pick up the paper,
which I did. It was a late edition of one of the leading London
evening shockers, and at once the front page, with its startling
headline, attracted my attention:


Then, below that, a short paragraph:--

"We regret to learn that the little baby daughter of the unfortunate girl
who was murdered recently at Ash Court, Ninescore. Kent, under such
terrible and mysterious circumstances, is very seriously ill at the
cottage of Mrs. Williams, in whose charge she is. The local doctor who
visited her to-day declares that she cannot last more than a few hours.
At the time of going to press the nature of the child's complaint was
not known to our special representative at Ninescore."

"What does this mean?" I gasped.

But before she could reply there was a knock at the door.

"A telegram for Miss Granard," said the voice of the hall-porter.

"Quick, Mary," said Lady Molly, eagerly. "I told the chief and also
Meisures to wire here and to you."

The telegram turned out to have come from Ninescore, and was signed
"Meisures." Lady Molly read it aloud:

"Mary Nicholls arrived here this morning.
Detained her at station. Come at once."

"Mary Nicholls! I don't understand," was all I could contrive to say.

But she only replied:

"I knew it! I knew it! Oh, Mary, what a wonderful thing is human
nature, and how I thank Heaven that gave me a knowledge of it!"

She made me get dressed all in a hurry, and then we swallowed some
breakfast hastily whilst a fly was being got for us. I had, perforce,
to satisfy my curiosity from my own inner consciousness. Lady Molly
was too absorbed to take any notice of me. Evidently the chief knew
what she had done and approved of it: the telegram from Meisures
pointed to that.

My lady had suddenly become a personality. Dressed very quietly, and
in a smart close-fitting hat, she looked years older than her age,
owing also to the seriousness of her mien.

The fly took us to Ninescore fairly quickly. At the little police-
station we found Meisures awaiting us. He had Elliot and Pegram from
the Yard with him. They had obviously got their orders, for all three
of them were mighty deferential.

"The woman is Mary Nicholls, right enough," said Meisures, as Lady
Molly brushed quickly past him, "the woman who was supposed to have
been murdered. It's that silly bogus paragraph about the infant
brought her out of her hiding-place. I wonder how it got in," he added
blandly; "the child is well enough."

"I wonder," said Lady Molly, whilst a smile--the first I had seen that
morning--lit up her pretty face.

"I suppose the other sister will turn up too, presently," rejoined
Elliot. "Pretty lot of trouble we shall have now. If Mary Nicholls is
alive and kickin', who was murdered at Ash Court, say I?"

"I wonder," said Lady Molly, with the same charming smile.

Then she went in to see Mary Nicholls.

The Reverend Octavius Ludlow was sitting beside the girl, who seemed
in great distress, for she was crying bitterly.

Lady Molly asked Elliott and the others to remain in the passage
whilst she herself went into the room, I following behind her.

When the door was shut, she went up to Mary Nicholls, and assuming a
hard and severe manner, she said:

"Well, you have at last made up your mind, have you, Nicholls? I
suppose you know that we have applied for a warrant for your arrest?"

The woman gave a shriek which unmistakably was one of fear.

"My arrest?" she gasped. "What for?"

"The murder of your sister Susan."

"'Twasn't me!" she said quickly.

"Then Susan is dead?" retorted Lady Molly, quietly.

Mary saw that she had betrayed herself. She gave Lady Molly a look of
agonised horror, then turned as white as a sheet and would have fallen
had not the Reverend Octavius Ludlow gently led her to a chair.

"It wasn't me," she repeated, with a heart-broken sob.

"That will be for you to prove," said Lady Molly dryly. "The child
cannot now, of course remain with Mrs. Williams; she will be removed
to the workhouse, and--"

"No, that shan't be," said the mother excitedly. "She shan't be, I
tell you. The workhouse, indeed," she added in a paroxysm of
hysterical tears, "and her father a lord!"

The reverend gentleman and I gasped in astonishment; but Lady Molly
had worked up to this climax so ingeniously that it was obvious she
had guessed it all along, and had merely led Mary Nicholls on in order
to get this admission from her.

How well she had known human nature in pitting the child against the
sweetheart! Mary Nicholls was ready enough to hide herself, to part
from her child even for a while, in order to save the man she had once
loved from the consequences of his crime; but when she heard that her
child was dying, she no longer could bear to leave it among strangers,
and when Lady Molly taunted her with the workhouse, she exclaimed in
her maternal pride:

"The workhouse! And her father a lord!"

Driven into a corner, she confessed the whole truth.

Lord Edbrooke, then Mr. Lydgate, was the father of her child. Knowing
this, her sister Susan had, for over a year now, systematically
blackmailed the unfortunate man--not altogether, it seems, without
Mary's connivance. In January last she got him to come down to
Ninescore under the distinct promise that Mary would meet him and hand
over to him the letters she had received from him, as well as the ring
he had given her, in exchange for the sum of £5,000.

The meeting-place was arranged, but at the last moment Mary was afraid
to go in the dark. Susan, nothing daunted, but anxious about her own
reputation in case she should be seen talking to a man so late at
night, put on Mary's dress, took the ring and the letters, also her
sister's purse, and went to meet Lord Edbrooke.

What happened at that interview no one will ever know. It ended with
the murder of the blackmailer. I suppose the fact that Susan had, in
measure, begun by impersonating her sister, gave the murderer the
first thought of confusing the identity of his victim by the horrible
device of burying the body in the slimy mud. Anyway, he almost did
succeed in hoodwinking the police, and would have done so entirely but
for Lady Molly's strange intuition in the matter.

After his crime he ran instinctively to Mary's cottage. He had to make
a clean breast of it to her, as, without her help, he was a doomed

So he persuaded her to go away from home and to leave no clue or trace
of herself or her sister in Ninescore. With the help of money which he
would give her, she could begin life anew somewhere else, and no doubt
he deluded the unfortunate girl with promises that her child would be
restored to her very soon.

Thus he enticed Mary Nicholls away, who would have been the great and
all-important witness against him the moment his crime was discovered.
A girl of Mary's type and class instinctively obeys the man she has
once loved, the man who is the father of her child. She consented to
disappear and to allow all the world to believe that she had been
murdered by some unknown miscreant.

Then the murderer quietly returned to his luxurious home at Edbrooke
Castle, unsuspected. No one had thought of mentioning his name in
connection with that of Mary Nicholls. In the days when he used to
come down to Ash Court he was Mr. Lydgate, and, when he became a peer,
sleepy, out-of-the-way Ninescore ceased to think of him.

Perhaps Mr. Lionel Lydgate knew all about his brother's association
with the village girl. From his attitude at the inquest I should say
he did, but of course he would not betray his own brother unless
forced to do so.

Now, of course, the whole aspect of the case was changed: the veil of
mystery had been torn asunder owing to the insight, the marvelous
intuition, of a woman who, in my opinion, is the most wonderful
psychologist of her time.

You know the sequel. Our fellows at the Yard, aided by the local
police, took their lead from Lady Molly, and began their
investigations of Lord Edbrooke's movements on or about the 23rd of

Even their preliminary inquiries revealed the fact that his lordship
had left Edbrooke Castle on the 21st. He went up to town, saying to
his wife and household that he was called away on business, and not
even taking his valet with him. He put up at the Langham Hotel.

But here police investigations came to an abrupt ending. Lord Edbrooke
evidently got wind of them. Anyway, the day after Lady Molly so
cleverly enticed Mary Nicholls out of her hiding-place, and surprised
her into an admission of the truth, the unfortunate man threw himself
in front of the express train at Grantham railway station, and was
instantly killed. Human justice cannot reach him now!

But don't tell me that a man would have thought of that bogus
paragraph, or of the taunt which stung the motherly pride of the
village girl to the quick, and thus wrung from her an admission which
no amount of male ingenuity would ever have obtained.



ALTHOUGH, mind you, Lady Molly's methods in connection with the
Ninescore mystery were not altogether approved of at the Yard,
nevertheless, her shrewdness and ingenuity in the matter were so
undoubted that they earned for her a reputation, then and there, which
placed her in the foremost rank of the force. And presently, when
everyone--public and police alike--were set by the ears over the
Frewin miniatures, and a reward of 1,000 guineas was offered for
information that would lead to the apprehension of the thief, the
chief, of his own accord and without any hesitation, offered the job
to her.

I don't know much about so-called works of art myself, but you can't
be in the detective force, female or otherwise, without knowing
something of the value of most things, and I don't think that Mr.
Frewin put an excessive value on his Englehearts when he stated that
they were worth £10,000. There were eight of them, all on ivory, about
three to four inches high, and they were said to be the most perfect
specimens of their kind. Mr. Frewin himself had had an offer for them,
less than two years ago, of 200,000 francs from the trustees of the
Louvre, which offer, mind you, he had refused. I dare say you know
that he was an immensely wealthy man, a great collector himself, as
well as dealer, and that several of the most unique and most highly
priced works of art found their way into his private collection. Among
them, of course, the Engleheart miniatures were the most noteworthy.

For some time before his death Mr. Frewin had been a great invalid,
and for over two years he had not been able to go beyond the boundary
of his charming property, Blatchley House, near Brighton.

There is a sad story in connection with the serious illness of Mr.
Frewin--an illness which, if you remember, has since resulted in the
poor old gentleman's death. He had an only son, a young man on whom
the old art-dealer had lavished all the education and, subsequently,
all the social advantages which money could give. The boy was
exceptionally good-looking, and had inherited from his mother a great
charm of manner which made him very popular. The Honourable Mrs.
Frewin is the daughter of an English peer, more endowed with physical
attributes than with worldly goods. Besides that, she is an
exceptionally beautiful woman, has a glorious voice, is a fine
violinist, and is no mean water-colour artist, having more than once
exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Unfortunately, at one time, young Frewin had got into very bad
company, made many debts, some of which were quite unavowable, and
there were rumours current at the time to the effect that had the
police got wind of certain transactions in connection with a brother
officer's cheque, a very unpleasant prosecution would have followed.
Be that as it may, young Lionel Frewin had to quit his regiment, and
presently he went off to Canada, where he is supposed to have gone in
for farming. According to the story related by some of the servants at
Blatchley House, there were violent scenes between father and son
before the former consented to pay some of the young spendthrift's
most pressing debts, and then find the further sum of money which was
to enable young Frewin to commence a new life in the colonies.

Mrs. Frewin, of course, took the matter very much to heart. She was a
dainty, refined, artistic creature, who idolised her only son, but she
had evidently no influence whatever over her husband, who, in common
with certain English families of Jewish extraction, had an
extraordinary hardness of character where the integrity of his own
business fame was concerned. He absolutely never forgave his son what
he considered a slur cast upon his name by the young spendthrift; he
packed him off to Canada, and openly told him that he was to expect
nothing further from him. All the Frewin money and the priceless art
collection would be left by will to a nephew, James Hyam, whose honour
and general conduct had always been beyond reproach.

That Mr. Frewin really took his hereto idolised son's defalcations
very much to heart was shown by the fact that the poor old man's
health completely broke down after that. He had an apoplectic fit,
and, although he somewhat recovered, he always remained an invalid.

His eyesight and brain power were distinctly enfeebled, and about nine
months ago he had a renewed seizure, which resulted in paralysis
first, and subsequently in his death. The greatest, if not the only,
joy the poor old man had during the two years which he spent pinned to
an invalid chair was his art collection. Blatchley House was a perfect
art museum, and the invalid would have his chair wheeled up and down
the great hall and along the rooms where his pictures and china and,
above all, where his priceless miniatures were stored. He took an
enormous pride in these, and it was, I think, with a view to
brightening him up a little that Mrs. Frewin invited Monsieur de
Colinville--who had always been a great friend of her husband--to come
and stay at Blatchley. Of course, there is no greater connoisseur of
art anywhere than that distinguished Frenchman, and it was through him
that the celebrated offer of £8,000 was made by the Louvre for the
Engleheart miniatures.

Though, of course, the invalid declined the offer, he took a great
pleasure and pride in the fact that it had been made, as, in addition
to Monsieur de Colinville himself, several members of the committee of
art advisers to the Louvre came over from Paris in order to try and
persuade Mr. Frewin to sell his unique treasures.

However, the invalid was obdurate about that. He was not in want of
money, and the celebrated Frewin art collection would go intact to his
widow for her life, and then to his heir, Mr. James Hyam, a great
connoisseur himself and art dealer of St. Petersburg and London.

It was really a merciful dispensation of Providence that the old man
never knew of the disappearance of his valued miniatures. By the time
that extraordinary mystery had come to light he was dead.

On the evening of January the 14th, at half-past eight, Mr. Frewin had
a third paralytic seizure, from which he never recovered. His valet,
Kennet, and his two nurses were with him at the time, and Mrs. Frewin,
quickly apprised of the terrible event, flew to his bedside, whilst
the motor was at once despatched for the doctor. About an hour or two
later the dying man seemed to rally somewhat, but he appeared very
restless and agitated, and his eyes were roaming anxiously about the

"I expect it is his precious miniatures he wants," said Nurse Dawson.
"He is always quiet when he can play with them."

She reached for the large, leather case which contained the priceless
art treasures, and, opening it, placed it on the bed beside the
patient. Mr. Frewin, however, was obviously too near death to care
even for his favourite toy. He fingered the miniatures with trembling
hands for a few moments, and then sank back exhausted on the pillows.

"He is dying," said the doctor quietly, turning to Mrs. Frewin.

"I have something to say to him," she then said. "Can I remain alone
with him for a few minutes?"

"Certainly," said the doctor, as he himself discreetly retired; "but I
think one of the nurses had better remain within earshot."

Nurse Dawson, it appeared, remained within earshot to some purpose,
for she overheard what Mrs. Frewin was saying to her dying husband.

"It is about Lionel--your only son," she said. "Can you understand
what I say?"

The sick man nodded.

"You remember that he is in Brighton, staying with Alicia. I can go
and fetch him in the motor if you will consent to see him."

Again the dying man nodded. I suppose Mrs. Frewin took this to mean
acquiescence, for the next moment she rang for John Chipps, the
butler, and gave him instructions to order her motor at once. She then
kissed the patient on the forehead and prepared to leave the room; but
just before she did so, her eyes lighted on the case of miniatures,
and she said to Kennet, the valet:

"Give these to Chipps, and tell him to put them in the library."

She then went to put on her furs preparatory to going out. When she
was quite ready she met Chipps on the landing, who had just come up to
tell her that the motor was at the door. He had in his hand the case
of miniatures which Kennet had given him.

"Put the case on the library table, Chipps, when you go down," she

"Yes, madam," he replied.

He followed her downstairs, then slipped into the library, put the
case on the table as he had been directed, after which he saw his
mistress into the motor, and finally closed the front door.


ABOUT an hour later Mrs. Frewin came back, but without her son. It
transpired afterwards that the young man was more vindictive than his
father; he refused to go to the latter's bedside in order to be
reconciled at the eleventh hour to a man who then had no longer either
his wits or his physical senses about him. However, the dying man was
spared the knowledge of his son's irreconcilable conduct, for, after a
long and wearisome night passed in a state of coma, he died at about
6.0 a.m.

It was quite late the following afternoon when Mrs. Frewin suddenly
recollected the case of miniatures, which should have been locked in
their accustomed cabinet. She strolled leisurely into the library--she
was very fatigued and worn out with the long vigil and the sorrow and
anxiety she had just gone through. A quarter of an hour later John
Chipps found her in the same room, sitting dazed and almost fainting
in an arm-chair. In response to the old butler's anxious query, she

"The miniatures--where are they?"

Scared at the abruptness of the query and at his mistress's changed
tone of voice, Chipps gazed quickly around him.

"You told me to put them on the table, ma'am," he murmured, "and I did
so. They certainly don't seem to be in the room now--" he added, with
a sudden feeling of terror.

"Run and ask one of the nurses at once if the case was taken up to Mr.
Frewin's room during the night?"

Chipps, needless to say, did not wait to be told twice. He was
beginning to feel very anxious. He spoke to Kennet and also to the two
nurses, and asked them if, by any chance, the miniatures were in the
late master's room. To this Kennet and the nurses replied in the
negative. The last they had seen of the miniatures was when Chipps
took them from the valet and followed his mistress downstairs with the
case in his hands.

The poor old butler was in despair; the cook was in hysterics, and
consternation reigned throughout the house. The disappearance of the
miniatures caused almost a greater excitement than the death of the
master, who had been a dying man so long that he was almost a stranger
to the servants at Blatchley.

Mrs. Frewin was the first to recover her presence of mind.

"Send a motor at once to the police-station at Brighton," she said
very calmly, as soon as she completely realised that the miniatures
were nowhere to be found. "It is my duty to see that this matter is
thoroughly gone into at once."

Within half an hour of the discovery of the theft, Detective Inspector
Hankin and Police Constable McLeod had both arrived from Brighton,
having availed themselves of Mrs. Frewin's motor. They are shrewd men,
both of them, and it did not take them many minutes before they had
made up their minds how the robbery had taken place. By whom it was
done was quite another matter, and would take some time and some
ingenuity to find out.

What Detective Inspector Hankin had gathered was this: While John
Chipps saw his mistress into the motor, the front door of the house
had, of necessity, been left wide open. The motor then made a start,
but after a few paces it stopped, and Mrs. Frewin put her head out of
the window and shouted to Chipps some instructions with regard to the
nurses' evening collation, which, in view of Mr. Frewin's state, she
feared might be forgotten. Chipps, being an elderly man and a little
deaf, did not hear her voice distinctly, so he ran up to the motor,
and she repeated her instructions to him. In Inspector Hankin's mind
there was no doubt that the thief, who must have been hanging about
the shrubbery that evening, took that opportunity to sneak into the
house, then to hide himself in a convenient spot until he could find
an opportunity for the robbery which he had in view.

The butler declared that, when he returned, he saw nothing unusual. He
had only been gone a little over a minute; he then fastened and bolted
the front door, and, according to his usual custom, he put up all the
shutters of the ground-floor windows, including, of course, those in
the library. He had no light with him when he did this accustomed
round, for, of course, he knew his way well enough in the dark, and
the electric chandelier in the hall gave him what light he wanted.

While he was putting up the shutters, Chipps was giving no particular
thought to the miniatures, but, strangely enough, he seems to have
thought of them about an hour later, when most of the servants had
gone to bed and he was waiting up for his mistress. He then, quite
casually and almost absent-mindedly, when crossing the hall, turned
the key of the library door, thus locking it from the outside.

Of course, throughout all this we must remember that Blatchley House
was not in its normal state that night, since its master was actually
dying in a room on the floor above the library. The two nurses and
Kennet, the valet, were all awake, and with him during the whole of
that night. Kennet certainly was in and out of the room several times,
having to run down and fetch various things required by the doctor or
the nurses. In order to do this he did not use the principal
staircase, nor did he have to cross the hall, but, as far as the upper
landing and the secondary stairs were concerned, he certainly had not
noticed anything unusual or suspicious; whilst when Mrs. Frewin came
home, she went straight up to the first floor, and certainly noticed
nothing in any way to arouse her suspicions. But, of course, this
meant very little, as she certainly must have been too upset and
agitated to see anything.

The servants were not apprised of the death of their master until
after their breakfast. In the meanwhile Emily, the housemaid, had been
in, as usual, to "do" the library. She distinctly noticed, when she
first went in, that none of the shutters were up and that one of the
windows was open. She thought at the time that someone must have been
in the room before her, and meant to ask Chipps about it, when the
news of the master's death drove all thoughts of open windows from her
mind. Strangely enough, when Hankin questioned her more closely about
it, and she had had time to recollect everything more clearly, she
made the extraordinary statement that she certainly had noticed that
the door of the library was locked on the outside when she first went
into the room, the key being in the lock.

"Then, didn't it strike you as very funny," asked Hankin, "that the
door was locked on the outside, and yet that the shutters were
unbarred and one of the windows was open?"

"Yes, I did seem to think of that," replied Emily, with that pleasant
vagueness peculiar to her class; "but then, the room did not look like
burglars--it was quite tidy, just as it had been left last night, and
burglars always seem to leave a great mess behind, else I should have
noticed," she added, with offended dignity.

"But did you not see that the miniatures were not in their usual

"Oh they often wasn't in the cabinet, as the master used to ask for
them sometimes to be brought to his room."

That was, of course, indisputable. It was clearly evident that the
burglar had had plenty of chances to make good his escape. You see,
the actual time when the miscreant must have sneaked into the room had
now been narrowed down to about an hour and a half, between the time
when Mrs. Frewin finally left in her motor to about an hour later,
when Chipps turned the key in the door of the library and thus
undoubtedly locked the thief in. At what precise time of the night he
effected his escape could not anyhow be ascertained. It must have been
after Mrs. Frewin came back again, as Hankin held that she or her
chauffeur would have noticed that one of the library windows was open.
This opinion was not shared by Elliott from the Yard, who helped in
the investigation of this mysterious crime, as Mrs. Frewin was
certainly very agitated and upset that evening, and her powers of
perception would necessarily be blunted. As for the chauffeur: we all
know that the strong headlights on a motor are so dazzling that
nothing can be seen outside their blinding circle of light.

Be that as it may, it remained doubtful when the thief made good his
escape. It was easy enough to effect, and, as there is a square of
flagstones in front of the main door and just below the library
windows, the thief left not the slightest trace of footprints, whilst
the drop from the window is less than eight feet.

What was strange in the whole case, and struck Detective Hankin
immediately, was the fact that the burglar, whoever he was, must have
known a great deal about the house and its ways. He also must have had
a definite purpose in his mind not usually to be found in the brain of
a common housebreaker. He must have meant to steal the miniatures and
nothing else, since he made his way straight to the library, and,
having secured the booty, at once made good his escape without trying
to get any other article which could more easily be disposed of than
works of art.

You may imagine, therefore, how delicate a task now confronted
Inspector Hankin. You see, he had questioned everyone in the house,
including Mr. Frewin's valet and nurses, and from them he casually
heard of Mrs. Frewin's parting words to her dying husband and of her
mention of the scapegrace son, who was evidently in the immediate
neighbourhood, and whom she wished to come and see his father. Mrs.
Frewin, closely questioned by the detective, admitted that her son was
staying in Brighton, and that she saw him that very evening.

"Mr. Lionel Frewin is staying at the Metropole Hotel," she said
coldly, "and he was dining with my sister, Lady Steyne, last night. He
was in the house at Sussex Square when I arrived in my motor," she
added hastily, guessing, perhaps, the unavowed suspicion which had
arisen in Hankin's mind, "and he was still there when I left. I drove
home very fast, naturally, as my husband's condition was known to me
to be quite hopeless, and that he was not expected to live more than
perhaps a few hours. We covered the seven miles between this house and
that of my sister in less than a quarter of an hour."

This statement of Mrs. Frewin's was, if you remember, fully confirmed
both by her sister and her brother-in-law, Lady Steyne and Sir
Michael. There was no doubt that young Lionel Frewin was staying at
the Hotel Metropole in Brighton, that he was that evening dining with
the Steynes at Sussex Square when his mother arrived in her motor.
Mrs. Frewin stayed about an hour, during which time she, presumably,
tried to influence her son to go back to Blatchley with her in order
to see his dying father. Of course, what exactly happened at that
family interview none of the four people present was inclined to
reveal. Against that both Sir Michael and Lady Steyne were prepared to
swear that Mr. Lionel Frewin was in the house when his mother arrived,
and that he did not leave them until long after she had driven away.

There lay the hitch, you see, for already the public jumped to
conclusions, and, terribly prejudiced as it is in a case of this sort,
it had made up its mind that Mr. Lionel Frewin, once more pressed for
money, had stolen his father's precious miniatures in order to sell
them in America for a high sum. Everyone's sympathy was dead against
the young son who refused to be reconciled to his father, although the
latter was dying.

According to one of the footmen in Lady Steyne's employ, who had taken
whiskies and sodas in while the interview between Mrs. Frewin and her
son was taking place, Mr. Lionel had said very testily:

"It's all very well, mother, but that is sheer sentimentality. The
guv'nor threw me on my beam ends when a little kindness and help would
have meant a different future to me; he chose to break my life because
of some early peccadilloes--and I am not going to fawn round him and
play the hypocrite when he has no intention of altering his will and
has cut me off with a shilling. He must be half imbecile by now, and
won't know me anyway."

But with all this, and with public opinion so dead against him, it was
quite impossible to bring the crime home to the young man. The
burglar, whoever he was, must have sneaked into the library some time
before Chipps closed the door on the outside, since it was still so
found by Emily the following morning. Thereupon the public, determined
that Lionel Frewin should in some way be implicated in the theft, made
up its mind that the doting mother, hearing of her son's woeful want
of money, stole the miniatures herself that night and gave them to


WHEN Lady Molly heard this theory she laughed, and shrugged her pretty

"Old Mr. Frewin was dying, was he not, at the time of the burglary?"
she said. "Why should his wife, soon to become his widow, take the
trouble to go through a laboured and daring comedy of a burglary in
order to possess herself of things which would become hers within the
next few hours? Even if, after Mr. Frewin's death, she could not
actually dispose of the miniatures, the old man left her a large sum
of money and a big income by his will, with which she could help her
spendthrift son as much as she pleased."

This was, of course, why the mystery in this strange case was so deep.
At the Yard they did all that they could. Within forty-eight hours
they had notices printed in almost every European language, which
contained rough sketches of the stolen miniatures hastily supplied by
Mrs. Frewin herself. These were sent to as many of the great museums
and art collectors abroad as possible, and of course to the principal
American cities and to American millionaires. There is no doubt that
the thief would find it very difficult to dispose of the miniatures,
and until he could sell them his booty would, of course, not benefit
him in any way. Works of art cannot be tampered with, or melted down
or taken to pieces, like silver or jewellery, and, so far as could be
ascertained, the thief did not appear to make the slightest attempt to
dispose of the booty, and the mystery became more dark, more
impenetrable than ever.

"Will you undertake the job?" said the chief one day to Lady Molly.

"Yes," she replied, "on two distinct conditions."

"What are they?"

"That you will not bother me with useless questions, and that you will
send out fresh notices to all the museums and art collectors you can
think of, and request them to let you know of any art purchases they
may have made within the last two years."

"The last two years!" ejaculated the chief, "why, the miniatures were
only stolen three months ago."

"Did I not say that you were not to ask me useless questions?"

This to the chief, mind you; and he only smiled, whilst I nearly fell
backwards at her daring. But he did send out the notices, and it was
generally understood that Lady Molly now had charge of the case.


IT was about seven weeks later when, one morning, I found her at
breakfast looking wonderfully bright and excited.

"The Yard has had sheaves of replies, Mary," she said gaily, "and the
chief still thinks I am a complete fool."

"Why, what has happened?"

"Only this, that the art museum at Budapest has now in its possession
a set of eight miniatures by Engleheart; but the authorities did not
think that the first notices from Scotland Yard could possibly refer
to these, as they had been purchased from a private source a little
over two years ago."

"But two years ago the Frewin miniatures were still at Blatchley
House, and Mr. Frewin was fingering them daily," I said, not
understanding, and wondering what she was driving at.

"I know that," she said gaily, "so does the chief. That is why he
thinks that I am a first-class idiot."

"But what do you wish to do now?"

"Go to Brighton, Mary, take you with me and try to elucidate the
mystery of the Frewin miniatures."

"I don't understand," I gasped, bewildered.

"No, and you won't until we get there," she replied, running up to me
and kissing me in her pretty, engaging way.

That same afternoon we went to Brighton and took up our abode at the
Hotel Metropole. Now you know I always believed from the very first
that she was a born lady and all the rest of it, but even I was taken
aback at the number of acquaintances and smart friends she had all
over the place. It was "Hello, Lady Molly! whoever would have thought
of meeting you here?" and "Upon my word! this is good luck," all the

She smiled and chatted gaily with all the folk as if she had known
them all her life, but I could easily see that none of these people
knew that she had anything to do with the Yard.

Brighton is not such a very big place as one would suppose, and most
of the fashionable residents of the gay city find their way sooner or
later to the luxurious dining-room of the Hotel Metropole, if only for
a quiet little dinner given when the cook is out. Therefore I was not
a little surprised when, one evening, about a week after our arrival
and just as we were sitting down to the table d'hôte dinner, Lady
Molly suddenly placed one of her delicate hands on my arm.

"Look behind you, a little to your left, Mary, but not just this
minute. When you do you will see two ladies and two gentlemen sitting
at a small table quite close to us. They are Sir Michael and Lady
Steyne, the Honourable Mrs. Frewin in deep black, and her son, Mr.
Lionel Frewin."

I looked round as soon as I could, and gazed with some interest at the
hero and heroine of the Blatchley House drama. We had a quiet little
dinner, and Lady Molly having all of a sudden become very silent and
self-possessed, altogether different from her gay, excited self of the
past few days, I scented that something important was in the air, and
tried to look as unconcerned as my lady herself. After dinner we
ordered coffee, and as Lady Molly strolled through into the lounge, I
noticed that she ordered our tray to be placed at a table which was in
very close proximity to one already occupied by Lady Steyne and her

Lady Steyne, I noticed, gave Lady Molly a pleasant nod when we first
came in, and Sir Michael got up and bowed, saying, "How d'ye do?" We
sat down and began a desultory conversation together. Soon, as usual,
we were joined by various friends and acquaintances who all
congregated round our table and set themselves to entertaining us
right pleasantly. Presently the conversation drifted to art matter,
Sir Anthony Truscott being there, who is, as you know, one of the
keepers of the Art Department at South Kensington Museum.

"I am crazy about miniatures just now," said Lady Molly in response to
a remark from Sir Anthony.

I tried not to look astonished.

"And Miss Granard and I," continued my lady, quite unblushingly, "have
been travelling all over the Continent in order to try and secure some
rare specimens."

"Indeed," said Sir Anthony. "Have you found anything very wonderful?"

"We certainly have discovered some rare works of art," replied Lady
Molly, "have we not, Mary? Now the two Englehearts we bought at
Budapest are undoubtedly quite unique."

"Engleheart--and at Budapest!" remarked Sir Anthony. "I thought I knew
the collections at most of the great Continental cities, but I
certainly have no recollection of such treasures in the Hungarian

"Oh, they were only purchased two years ago, and have only been shown
to the public recently," remarked Lady Molly. "There was originally a
set of eight, so the comptroller, Mr. Pulszky, informed me. He bought
them from an English collector whose name I have now forgotten, and he
is very proud of them, but they cost the country a great deal more
money than it could afford, and in order somewhat to recoup himself
Mr. Pulszky sold two out of the eight at, I must say, a very stiff

While she was talking I could not help noticing the strange glitter in
her eyes. Then a curious smothered sound broke upon my ear. I turned
and saw Mrs. Frewin looking with glowing and dilated eyes at the
charming picture presented by Lady Molly.

"I should like to show you my purchases," said the latter to Sir
Anthony. "One or two foreign connoisseurs have seen the two miniatures
and declare them to be the finest in existence. Mary," she added,
turning to me, "would you be so kind as to run up to my room and get
me the small sealed packet which is at the bottom of my dressing-case?
Here are the keys."

A little bewildered, yet guessing by her manner that I had a part to
play, I took the keys from her and went up to her room. In her
dressing-case I certainly found a small, square, flat packet, and with
that in my hand I prepared to go downstairs again. I had just locked
the bedroom door when I was suddenly confronted by a tall, graceful
woman dressed in deep black, whom I at once recognised as the
Honourable Mrs. Frewin.

"You are Miss Granard?" she said quickly and excitedly; her voice was
tremulous and she seemed a prey to the greatest possible excitement.
Without waiting for my reply she continued eagerly:

"Miss Granard, there is no time to be more explicit, but I give you my
word, the word of a very wretched, heart-broken woman, that my very
life depends upon my catching a glimpse of the contents of the parcel
that you now have in your hand."

"But--" I murmured, hopelessly bewildered.

"There is no 'but,'" she replied. "It is a matter of life and death.
Her are £200, Miss Granard, if you will let me handle that packet,"
and with trembling hands she drew a bundle of bank-notes from her

I hesitated, not because I had any notion of acceding to Mrs. Frewin's
request, but because I did not quite know how I ought to act at this
strange juncture, when a pleasant, mellow voice broke in suddenly:

"You may take the money, Mary, if you wish. You have my permission to
hand the packet over to this lady," and Lady Molly, charming, graceful
and elegant in her beautiful directoire gown, stood smiling some few
feet away, with Hankin just visible in the gloom of the corridor.

She advanced towards us, took the small packet from my hands, and held
it out towards Mrs. Frewin.

"Will you open it?" she said, "or shall I?"

Mrs. Frewin did not move. She stood as if turned to stone. Then with
dexterous fingers my lady broke the seals of the packet and drew from
it a few sheets of plain white cardboard and a thin piece of match-

"There!" said Lady Molly, fingering the bits of cardboard while she
kept her fine large eyes fixed on Mrs. Frewin; "£200 is a big price to
pay for a sight of these worthless things."

"Then this was a vulgar trick," said Mrs. Frewin, drawing herself up
with an air which did not affect Lady Molly in the least.

"A trick, certainly," she replied with her winning smile, "vulgar, if
you will call it so--pleasant to us all, Mrs. Frewin, since you so
readily fell into it."

"Well, and what are you going to do next?"

"Report the matter to my chief," said Lady Molly, quietly. "We have
all been very severely blamed for not discovering sooner the truth
about the disappearance of the Frewin miniatures."

"You don't know the truth now," retorted Mrs. Frewin.

"Oh, yes, I do," replied Lady Molly, still smiling. "I know that two
years ago your son, Mr. Lionel Frewin, was in terrible monetary
difficulties. There was something unavowable, which he dared not tell
his father. You had to set to work to find money somehow. You had no
capital at your own disposal, and you wished to save your son from the
terrible consequences of his own folly. It was soon after M. de
Colinville's visit. Your husband had had his first apoplectic seizure;
his mind and eyesight were somewhat impaired. You are a clever artist
yourself, and you schemed out a plan whereby you carefully copied the
priceless miniatures and then entrusted them to your son for sale to
the Art Museum at Budapest, where there was but little likelihood of
their being seen by anyone who knew they had belonged to your husband.
English people do not stay more than one night there, at the Hotel
Hungaria. Your copies were works of art in themselves, and you had no
difficulty in deceiving your husband in the state of mind he then was,
but when he lay dying you realised that his will would inevitably be
proved, wherein he bequeathed the miniatures to Mr. James Hyam, and
that these would have to be valued for probate. Frightened now that
the substitution would be discovered, you devised the clever comedy of
the burglary at Blatchley, which, in the circumstances, could never be
brought home to you or your son. I don't know where you subsequently
concealed the spurious Engleheart miniatures which you calmly took out
of the library and hid away during the night of your husband's death,
but no doubt our men will find that out," she added quietly, "now that
they are on the track."

With a frightened shriek Mrs. Frewin turned as if she would fly, but
Lady Molly was too quick for her, and barred the way. Then, with that
wonderful charm of manner and that innate kindliness which always
characterised her, she took hold of the unfortunate woman's wrist.

"Let me give you a word of advice," she said gently. "We at the Yard
will be quite content with a confession from you, which will clear us
of negligence and satisfy us that the crime has been brought home to
its perpetrator. After that try and enter into an arrangement with
your husband's legatee, Mr. James Hyam. Make a clean breast of the
whole thing to him and offer him full monetary compensation. For the
sake of the family he won't refuse. He would have nothing to gain by
bruiting the whole thing abroad; and for his own sake and that of his
late uncle, who was so good to him, I don't think you would find him
hard to deal with."

Mrs. Frewin paused awhile, undecided and still defiant. Then her
attitude softened; she turned and looked full at the beautiful, kind
eyes turned eagerly up to hers, and pressing Lady Molly's tiny hand in
both her own she whispered:

"I will take your advice. God bless you."

She was gone, and Lady Molly called Hankin to her side.

"Until we have that confession, Hankin," she said, with the quiet
manner she always adopted where matters connected with her work were
concerned, "Mum's the word."

"Ay, and after that, too, my lady," replied Hankin, earnestly.

You see, she could do anything she liked with the men, and I, of
course, was her slave.

Now we have got the confession, Mrs. Frewin is on the best of terms
with Mr. James Hyam, who has behaved very well about the whole thing,
and the public has forgotten all about the mystery of the Frewin



IT all began with the murder of Mr. Andrew Carrthwaite, at Palermo.

He had been found dead in the garden of his villa just outside the
town, with a stiletto between his shoulder blades and a piece of rough
Irish tweed, obviously torn from his assailant's coat, clutched
tightly in his hand.

All that was known of Mr. Carrthwaite over here was that he was a
Yorkshireman, owner of some marble works in Sicily, a man who employed
a great many hands; and that, unlike most employers of labour over
there, he had a perfect horror of the many secret societies and
Socialist clubs which abound in that part of the world. He would not
become a slave to the ever-growing tyranny of the Mafia and its
kindred associations, and therefore he made it a hard and fast rule
that no workman employed by him, from the foremost to the meanest
hand, should belong to any society, club, or trade union of any sort
or kind.

At first, robbery was thought to have been the sole object of the
crime, for Mr. Carrthwaite's gold watch, marked with his initials "A.
C.," and his chain were missing, but the Sicilian police were soon
inclined to the belief that this was merely a blind, and that personal
spite and revenge were at the bottom of that dastardly outrage.

One clue, remember, had remained in the possession of the authorities.
This was the piece of rough Irish tweed, found in the murdered man's

Within twenty-four hours a dozen witnesses were prepared to swear that
that fragment of cloth was part of a coat habitually worn by Mr.
Carrthwaite's English overseer, Mr. Cecil Shuttleworth. It appears
that this young man had lately, in defiance of the rigid rules
prescribed by his employer, joined a local society--semi-social, semi-
religious--which came under the ban of the old Yorkshireman's

Apparently there had been several bitter quarrels between Mr.
Carrthwaite and young Shuttleworth, culminating in one tempestuous
scene, witnessed by the former's servants at his villa; and although
these people did not understand the actual words that passed between
the two Englishmen, it was pretty clear that they amounted to an
ultimatum on the one side and defiance on the other. The dismissal of
the overseer followed immediately, and that same evening Mr.
Carrthwaite was found murdered in his garden.

Mind you--according to English ideas--the preliminary investigations
in that mysterious crime were hurried through in a manner which we
should think unfair to the accused. It seemed from the first as if the
Sicilian police had wilfully made up their minds that Shuttleworth was
guilty. For instance, although so many people were prepared to swear
that the young English overseer had often worn a coat of which the
piece found in the murdered man's hand was undoubtedly a torn
fragment, yet the coat itself was not found among his effects, neither
were his late master's watch and chain.

Nevertheless, the young man was arrested within a few hours of the
murder, and--after the formalities of the preliminary "instruction"--
was duly committed to stand his trial on the capital charge.

It was about this time that I severed my official connection with the
Yard. Lady Molly now employed me as her private secretary, and I was
working with her one day in the study of our snug little flat in Maida
Vale, when our trim servant came in to us with a card and a letter on
a salver.

Lady Molly glanced at the card, then handed it across to me. It bore
the name: Mr. Jeremiah Shuttleworth.

The letter was from the chief.

"Not much in it," she commented, glancing rapidly at its contents.
"The chief only says, 'This is the father of the man who is charged
with the Palermo murder. As obstinate as a mule, but you have my
permission to do what he wants.' Emily, show the gentleman in," she

The next moment a short, thick-set man entered our little study. He
had sandy hair and a freckled skin; there was a great look of
determination in the square face and a fund of dogged obstinacy in the
broad, somewhat heavy jaw. In response to Lady Molly's invitation he
sat down and began with extraordinary abruptness:

"I suppose you know what I have come about--er--miss?" he suggested.

"Well!" she replied, holding up his own card, "I can guess."

"My son, miss--I mean ma'am," he said in a husky voice. "He is
innocent. I swear it by the living--"

He checked himself, obviously ashamed of this outburst; then he
resumed more calmly.

"Of course, there's the business about the coat, and that coat did
belong to my son, but--"

"Well, yes?" asked Lady Molly, for he had paused again, as if waiting
to be encouraged in his narrative, "what about that coat?"

"It has been found in London, miss," he replied quietly. "The fiendish
brutes who committed the crime thought out this monstrous way of
diverting attention from themselves by getting hold of my son's coat
and making the actual assassin wear it, in case he was espied in the

There was silence in the little study for awhile. I was amazed, aghast
at the suggestion put forward by that rough north-countryman, that
sorely stricken father who spoke with curious intensity of language
and of feeling. Lady Molly was the first to break the solemn silence.

"What makes you think, Mr. Shuttleworth, that the assassination of Mr.
Carrthwaite was the work of a gang of murderers?" she asked.

"I know Sicily," he replied simply. "My boy's mother was a native of
Messina. The place is riddled with secret societies, murdering,
anarchical clubs: organisations against which Mr. Carrthwaite waged
deadly warfare. It is one of these--the Mafia, probably--that decreed
that Mr. Carrthwaite should be done away with. They could not do with
such a powerful and hard-headed enemy."

"You may be right, Mr. Shuttleworth, but tell me more about the coat."

"Well, that'll be damning proof against the blackguards, anyway. I am
on the eve of a second marriage, miss--ma'am," continued the man with
seeming irrelevance. "The lady is a widow. Mrs. Tadworth is her name--
but her father was an Italian named Badeni, a connection of my first
wife's, and that's how I came to know him and his daughter. You know
Leather Lane, don't you? It might be in Italy, for Italian's the only
language one hears about there. Badeni owned a house in Bread Street,
Leather Lane, and let lodgings to his fellow-countrymen there; this
business my future wife still carries on. About a week ago two men
arrived at the house, father and son, so they said, who wanted a cheap
bedroom; all their meals, including breakfast, they would take
outside, and would be out, moreover, most of the day.

"It seems that they had often lodged at Badeni's before--the old
reprobate no doubt was one of their gang--and when they understood
that Mrs. Tadworth was their former friend's daughter they were quite

"They gave their name as Piatti, and told Mrs. Tadworth that they came
from Turin. But I happened to hear them talking on the stairs, and I
knew that they were Sicilians, both of them.

"You may well imagine that just now everything hailing from Sicily is
of vital importance to me, and somehow I suspected those two men from
the very first. Mrs. Tadworth is quite at one with me in wanting to
move heaven and earth to prove the innocence of my boy. She watched
those people for me as a cat would watch a mouse. The older man
professed to be very fond of gardening, and presently he obtained Mrs.
Tadworth's permission to busy himself in the little strip of barren
ground at the back of the house. This she told me last night whilst we
were having supper together in her little parlour. Somehow I seemed to
get an inspiration like. The Piattis had gone out together as usual
for their evening meal. I got a spade and went out into the strip of
garden, I worked for about an hour, and then my heart gave one big
leap--my spade had met a certain curious, soft resistance--the next
moment I was working away with hands and nails, and soon unearthed a
coat--the coat, miss," he continued, unable now to control his
excitement, "with the bit torn out of the back, and in the pocket the
watch and chain belonging to the murdered man, for they bear the
initials 'A. C.' The fiendish brutes! I knew it--I knew it, and now I
can prove the innocence of my boy!"

Again there was a pause. I was too much absorbed in the palpitating
narrative to attempt to breathe a word, and I knew that Lady Molly was
placidly waiting until the man had somewhat recovered from his
vehement outburst.

"Of course, you can prove your boy's innocence now," she said, smiling
encouragingly into his flushed face. "But what have you done with the

"Left it buried where I found it," he replied more calmly. "They must
not suspect that I am on their track."

She nodded approvingly.

"No doubt, then, my chief has told you that the best course to pursue
now will be to place the whole matter in the hands of the English
police. Our people at Scotland Yard will then immediately communicate
with the Sicilian authorities, and in the meanwhile we can keep the
two men in Leather Lane well under surveillance."

"Yes, he told me all that," said Mr. Shuttleworth, quietly.


"And I told him that his 'communicating with the Sicilian police
authorities' would result in my boy's trial being summarily concluded,
in his being sent to the gallows, whilst every proof of his innocence
would be destroyed, or, at any rate, kept back until too late."

"You are mad, Mr. Shuttleworth!" she ejaculated.

"Maybe I am," he rejoined quietly. "You see, you do not know Sicily,
and I do. You do not know its many clubs and bands of assassins,
beside whom the so-called Russian Nihilists are simple, blundering
children. The Mafia, which is the parent of all such murderous
organisations, has members and agents in every town, village, and
hamlet in Italy, in every post-office and barracks, in every trade and
profession from the highest to the lowest in the land. The Sicilian
police force is infested with it, so are the Italian customs. I would
not trust either with what means my boy's life and more to me."


"The police would suppress the evidence connected with the proofs
which I hold. At the frontier the coat, the watch and chain would
disappear; of that I am as convinced as that I am a living man--"

Lady Molly made no comment. She was meditating. That there was truth
in what the man said, no one could deny.

The few details which we had gleaned over here of the hurried
investigations, the summary commitment for trial of the accused, the
hasty dismissal of all evidence in his favour, proved that, at any
rate, the father's anxiety was well founded.

"But, then, what in the world do you propose to do?" said Lady Molly
after a while. "Do you want to take the proofs over yourself to your
boy's advocate? Is that it?"

"No, that would be no good," he replied simply. "I am known in Sicily.
I should be watched, probably murdered, too, and my death would not
benefit my boy."

"But what then?"

"My boy's uncle is chief officer of police at Cividale, on the Austro-
Italian frontier. I know that I can rely on his devotion. Mrs.
Tadworth, whose interest in my boy is almost equal to my own, and
whose connection with me cannot possibly be known out there, will take
the proofs of my boy's innocence to him. He will know what to do and
how to reach my son's advocate safely, which no one else could
guarantee to do."

"Well," said Lady Molly, "that being so, what is it that you want us
to do in the matter?"

"I want a lady's help, miss--er--ma'am," he replied, "someone who is
able, willing, strong, and, if possible, enthusiastic, to accompany
Mrs. Tadworth--perhaps in the capacity of a maid--just to avert the
usual suspicious glances thrown at a lady traveling alone. Also the
question of foreign languages comes in. The gentleman I saw at
Scotland Yard said that if you cared to go he would give you a
fortnight's leave of absence."

"Yes, I'll go!" rejoined Lady Molly, simply.


WE sat in the study a long while after that--Mr. Shuttleworth, Lady
Molly and I--discussing the plans of the exciting journey; for I, too,
as you will see, was destined to play my small part in this drama
which had the life or death of an innocent man for its dénouement.

I don't think I need bore you with an account of our discussion; all,
I think, that will interest you is the plan of campaign we finally
decided upon.

There seemed to be no doubt that Mr. Shuttleworth had succeeded so far
in not arousing the suspicions of the Piattis. Therefore, that night,
when they were safely out of the way, Mr. Shuttleworth would once more
unearth the coat, and watch and chain, and then bury a coat similar in
colour and texture in that same hole in the ground; this might perhaps
serve to put the miscreants off their guard, if by any chance one of
them should busy himself again in the garden.

After that Mrs. Tadworth would hide about her the proofs of young
Shuttleworth's innocence and join Lady Molly at our flat in Maida
Vale, where she would spend the night preparatory to the two ladies
leaving London for abroad, the following morning, by the 9.0 a.m.
train from Charing Cross en route for Vienna, Budapest, and finally

But our scheme was even more comprehensive than that and herein lay my
own little share in it, of which I tell you presently.

The same evening at half-past nine Mrs. Tadworth arrived at the flat
with the coat, and watch and chain, which were to be placed in the
hands of Colonel Grassi, the chief police officer at Cividale.

I took a keen look at the lady, you may be sure of that. It was a
pretty little face enough, and she herself could not have been much
more than seven or eight and twenty, but to me the whole appearance
and manner of the woman suggested weakness of character, rather than
that devotion on which poor Mr. Shuttleworth so implicitly relied.

I suppose that it was on that account that I felt unaccountably down-
hearted and anxious when I bade farewell to my own dear lady--a
feeling in which she obviously did not share. Then I began to enact
the rôle which had been assigned to me.

I dressed up in Mrs. Tadworth's clothes--we were about the same
height--and putting on her hat and closely fitting veil, I set out for
Leather Lane. For as many hours as I could possibly contrive to keep
up the deception, I was to impersonate Mrs. Tadworth in her own house.

As I dare say you have guessed by now, that lady was not in affluent
circumstances, and the house in a small by-street off Leather Lane did
not boast of a staff of servants. In fact, Mrs. Tadworth did all the
domestic work herself, with the help of a charwoman for a couple of
hours in the mornings.

That charwoman had, in accordance with Lady Molly's plan, been given a
week's wages in lieu of notice. I--as Mrs. Tadworth--would be supposed
the next day to be confined to my room with a cold, and Emily--our own
little maid, a bright girl, who would go through fire and water for
Lady Molly or for me--would represent a new charwoman.

As soon as anything occurred to arouse my suspicions that our secret
had been discovered, I was to wire to Lady Molly at the various points
which she gave me.

Thus provided with an important and comprehensive part, I duly
installed myself at Bread Street, Leather Lane. Emily--who had been
told just enough of the story, and no more, to make her eager, excited
and satisfied--entered into the spirit of her rôle as eagerly as I did

That first night was quite uneventful. The Piattis came home some time
after eleven and went straight up to their room.

Emily, looking as like a bedraggled charwoman as her trim figure would
allow, was in the hall the next morning when the two men started off
for breakfast. She told me afterwards that the younger one looked at
her very keenly, and asked her why the other servant had gone. Emily
replied with due and proper vagueness, whereupon the Sicilians said no
more and went out together.

That was a long and wearisome day which I spent cooped up in the tiny,
stuffy parlour, ceaselessly watching the tiny patch of ground at the
back, devoured with anxiety, following the travellers in my mind on
their way across Europe.

Towards midday one of the Piattis came home and presently strolled out
into the garden. Evidently the change of servants had aroused his
suspicions, for I could see him feeling about the earth with his spade
and looking up now and again towards the window of the parlour,
whereat I contrived to show him the form of a pseudo Mrs. Tadworth
moving about the room.

Mr. Shuttleworth and I were having supper in that same back parlour at
about nine o'clock on that memorable evening, when we suddenly heard
the front door being opened with a latchkey, and then very cautiously
shut again.

One of the two men had returned at an hour most unusual for their
otherwise very regular habits. The way, too, in which the door had
been opened and shut suggested a desire for secrecy and silence.
Instinctively I turned off the gas in the parlour, and with a quick
gesture pointed to the front room, the door of which stood open, and I
whispered hurriedly to Mr. Shuttleworth.

"Speak to him!"

Fortunately, the great aim which he had in view had rendered his
perceptions very keen.

He went into the front room, in which the gas, fortunately, was alight
at the time, and opening the door which gave thence on to the passage,
he said pleasantly:

"Oh, Mr. Piatti! is that you? Can I do any thing for you?"

"Ah, yes! zank you," replied the Sicilian, whose voice I could hear
was husky and unsteady, "if you would be so kind--I--I feel so
fainting and queer to-night--ze warm weazer, I zink. Would you--would
you be so kind to fetch me a little--er--ammoniac--er--sal volatile
you call it, I zink--from ze apothecary? I would go lie on my bed--if
you would be so kind--"

"Why, of course I will, Mr. Piatti," said Mr. Shuttleworth, who
somehow got an intuition of what I wanted to do, and literally played
into my hands. "I'll go at once."

He went to get his hat from the rack in the hall whilst the Sicilian
murmured profuse "Zank you's," and then I heard the front door bang

From where I was I could not see Piatti, but I imagined him standing
in the dimly-lighted passage listening to Mr. Shuttleworth's
retreating footsteps.

Presently I heard him walking along towards the back door, and soon I
perceived something moving about in the little bit of ground beyond.
He had gone to get his spade. He meant to unearth the coat and the
watch and chain which, for some reason or another, he must have
thought were no longer safe in their original hiding-place. Had the
gang of murderers heard that the man who frequently visited their
landlady was the father of Cecil Shuttleworth over at Palermo?

At that moment I paused neither to speculate nor yet to plan. I ran
down to the kitchen, for I no longer wanted to watch Piatti. I knew
what he was doing.

I didn't want to frighten Emily, and she had been made to understand
all along that she might have to leave the house with me again at any
time, at a moment's notice; she and I had kept our small handbag ready
packed in the kitchen, whence we could reach the area steps quickly
and easily.

Now I quietly beckoned to her that the time had come. She took the bag
and followed me. Just as we shut the area gate behind us, we heard the
garden door violently slammed. Piatti had got the coat, and by now was
examining the pockets in order to find the watch and chain. Within the
next ten seconds he would realise that the coat which he held was not
the one which he had buried in the garden, and that the real proofs of
his guilt--or his complicity in the guilt of another--had disappeared.

We did not wait for those ten seconds, but flew down Bread Street, in
the direction of Leather Lane, where I knew Mr. Shuttleworth would be
on the lookout for me.

"Yes," I said hurriedly, directly I spied him at the angle of the
street; "it's all up. I am off to Budapest by the early Continental
to-morrow morning. I shall catch them at the Hungaria. See Emily
safely to the flat."

Obviously there was no time to lose, and before either Mr.
Shuttleworth or Emily could make a remark I had left them standing,
and had quickly mixed my insignificant personality with the passers-

I strolled down Leather Lane quite leisurely; you see, my face was
unknown to the Piattis. They had only seen dim outlines of me behind
very dirty window-panes.

I did not go to the flat. I knew Mr. Shuttleworth would take care of
Emily, so that night I slept at the Grand Hotel, Charing Cross,
leaving the next morning by the 9.0 a.m., having booked my berth on
the Orient Express as far as Budapest.


WELL, you know the saying: It is easy to be wise after the event.

Of course, when I saw the older Piatti standing in the hall of the
Hotel Hungaria at Budapest I realised that I had been followed from
the moment that Emily and I ran out of the house at Bread Street. The
son had obviously kept me in view whilst I was still in London, and
the father had travelled across Europe, unperceived by me, in the same
train as myself, had seen me step into the fiacre at Budapest, and
heard me tell the smart coachman to drive to the Hungaria.

I made hasty arrangements for my room, and then asked if "Mrs. Carey,"
from London, was still at the hotel with her maid--for that was the
name under which Mrs. Tadworth was to travel--and was answered in the
affirmative. "Mrs. Carey" was even then supping in the dining-room,
whence the strains of beautiful Hungarian melodies played by Berkes'
inimitable band seemed to mock my anxiety.

"Mrs. Carey's maid," they told me, was having her meal in the
steward's room.

I tried to prosecute my hasty inquiries as quietly as I could, but
Piatti's eyes and sarcastic smile seemed to follow me everywhere,
whilst he went about calmly ordering his room and seeing to the
disposal of his luggage.

Almost every official at the Hungaria speaks English, and I had no
difficulty in finding my way to the steward's room. To my chagrin Lady
Molly was not there. Someone told me that no doubt "Mrs. Carey's maid"
had gone back to her mistress's room, which they told me was No. 118
on the first floor.

A few precious moments were thus wasted whilst I ran back towards the
hall; you know the long, seemingly interminable, corridors and
passages of the Hungaria! Fortunately, in one of these I presently
beheld my dear lady walking towards me. At sight of her all my
anxieties seemed to fall from me like a discarded mantle.

She looked quite serene and placid, but with her own quick perception
she at once guessed what had brought me to Budapest.

"They have found out about the coat," she said, quickly drawing me
aside into one of the smaller passages, which fortunately at the
moment was dark and deserted, "and, of course, he has followed you--"

I nodded affirmatively.

"That Mrs. Tadworth is a vapid, weak-kneed little fool," she said,
with angry vehemence. "We ought to be at Cividale by now--and she
declared herself too ill and too fatigued to continue the journey. How
that poor Shuttleworth could be so blind as to trust her passes

"Mary," she added more calmly, "go down into the hall at once. Watch
that idiot of a woman for all you're worth. She is terrified of the
Sicilians, and I firmly believe that Piatti can force her to give up
the proofs of the crime to him."

"Where are they--the proofs, I mean?" I asked anxiously.

"Locked up in her trunk--she won't entrust them to me. Obstinate
little fool."

I had never seen my dear lady so angry; however, she said nothing more
then, and presently I took leave of her and worked my way back towards
the hall. One glance round the brilliantly-lighted place assured me
that neither Piatti nor Mrs. Tadworth was there. I could not tell you
what it was that suddenly filled my heart with foreboding.

I ran up to the first floor and reached room No. 118. The outer door
was open, and without a moment's hesitation I applied my eye to the
keyhole of the inner one.

The room was brilliantly lighted from within, and exactly opposite,
but with his back to me, stood Piatti, whilst squatting on a low stool
beside him was Mrs. Tadworth.

A trunk stood open close to her hand, and she was obviously busy
turning over its contents. My very heart stood still with horror. Was
I about to witness--thus powerless to interfere--one of the most
hideous acts of cowardly treachery it was possible to conceive?

Something, however, must at that moment have attracted Piatti's
attention, for he suddenly turned and strode towards the door.
Needless to say that I beat a hasty retreat.

My one idea was, of course, to find Lady Molly and tell her what I had
seen. Unfortunately, the Hungaria is a veritable maze of corridors,
stairs and passages, and I did not know the number of her room. At
first I did not wish to attract further attention by again asking
about "Mrs. Carey's maid" at the office, and my stupid ignorance of
foreign languages precluded my talking to the female servants.

I had been up and down the stairs half a dozen times, tired,
miserable, and anxious, when at last, in the far distance, I espied my
dear lady's graceful silhouette. Eagerly I ran to her, and was
promptly admonished for my careless impetuosity.

"Mrs. Tadworth is genuinely frightened," added Lady Molly in response
to my look of painful suspense, "but so far she has been able to
hoodwink Piatti by opening my trunk before him instead of hers, and
telling him that the proofs were not in her own keeping. But she is
too stupid to keep that deception up, and, of course, he won't allow
himself to be put off a second time. We must start for Cividale as
soon as possible. Unfortunately, the earliest train is not till 9.15
to-morrow morning. The danger to that unfortunate young man over at
Palermo, brought about by this woman's cowardly idiocy and the
father's misguided trust, is already incalculable."

It was, of course, useless for me to express fear now for my dear
lady's safety. I smothered my anxiety as best I could, and, full of
deadly forebodings, I bade her anon a fond good-night.

Needless to say that I scarcely slept, and at eight o'clock the next
morning I was fully dressed and out of my room.

The first glance down the corridor on which gave No. 118 at once
confirmed my worst fears. Unusual bustle reigned there at this early
hour. Officials came and went, maids stood about gossiping, and the
next moment, to my literally agonised horror, I beheld two gendarmes,
with an officer, being escorted by the hotel manager to the rooms
occupied by Mrs. Tadworth and Lady Molly.

Oh, how I cursed then our British ignorance of foreign tongues. The
officials were too busy to bother about me, and the maids only knew
that portion of the English language which refers to baths and to hot
water. Finally, to my intense relief, I discovered a willing porter,
ready and able to give me information in my own tongue of the events
which had disturbed the serene quietude of the Hotel Hungaria.

Great heavens! Shall I ever forget what I endured when I grasped the
full meaning of what he told me with a placid smile and a shrug of the

"The affair is most mysterious," he explained, "not robbery--oh, no!
no!--for it is Mrs. Carey, who has gone--disappeared! And it is Mrs.
Carey's maid who was found, stunned, gagged and unconscious, tied to
one of the bedposts in room No. 118."


WELL, why should I bore you by recounting the agonised suspense, the
mortal anxiety, which I endured for all those subsequent weary days
which at the time seemed like so many centuries?

My own dear lady, the woman for whom I would have gone through fire
and water with a cheerful smile, had been brutally assaulted, almost
murdered, so the smiling porter assured me, and my very existence was
ignored by the stolid officials, who looked down upon me with a frown
of impassive disapproval whilst I entreated, raged and stormed
alternately, begging to be allowed to go and nurse the sick lady, who
was my own dearest friend, dearer than any child could be to its

Oh, that awful red tapeism that besets one at every turn, paralyses
and disheartens one! What I suffered I really could not describe.

But if I was not allowed to see Lady Molly, at least I was able to
wreak vengeance upon her cowardly assailants. Mrs. Tadworth, by her
disappearance, had tacitly confessed her participation in the outrage,
of that I had no doubt, but I was equally certain that she was both
too stupid and too weak to commit such a crime unaided.

Piatti was at the bottom of it all. Without a moment's hesitation I
laid information against him through the medium of an interpreter. I
accused him boldly of being an accessory to the assault for purposes
of robbery. Unswervingly I repeated my story of how I had seen him in
close conversation the day before with Mrs. Carey, whose real name I
declared to be Mrs. Tadworth.

The chief object of the robbery I suggested to be a valuable gold
watch and chain, with initials "A. C.," belonging to my friend, who
had travelled with Mrs. Carey to Budapest as her companion, not her
maid. This was a bold move on my part, and I felt reckless, I can tell
you. Fortunately, my story was corroborated by the fact that the floor
valet had seen Piatti hanging about the corridor outside No. 118 at an
extraordinarily early hour of the morning. My firm belief was that the
wretch had been admitted into the room by that horrid Mrs. Tadworth.
He had terrorised her, probably had threatened her life. She had then
agreed out of sheer cowardice to deliver to him the proofs of his own
guilt in the Palermo murder case, and when Lady Molly, hearing the
voices, came out of her own room, Piatti knocked her down lest she
should intervene. Mrs. Tadworth thereupon--weak and silly little
fool!--was seized with panic, and succeeded, no doubt with his help,
in leaving the hotel, and probably Budapest, before the outrage was

Why Piatti had not done likewise, I could not conjecture. He seems to
have gone back quietly to his own room after that; and it was not till
an hour later that the chambermaid, surprised at seeing the door of
No. 118 slightly ajar, had peeped in, and there was greeted by the
awful sight of "the maid," gagged, bound and unconscious.

Well, I gained my wish, and had the satisfaction presently of knowing
that Piatti--although, mind you, he emphatically denied my story from
beginning to end--had been placed under arrest pending further

The British Consul was very kind to me; though I was not allowed to
see my dear lady, who had been removed to the hospital. I heard that
the Hungarian police were moving heaven and earth to find "Mrs. Carey"
and bring her to justice.

Her disappearance told severely against her, and after three days of
such intense anxiety as I never wish to live through again, I received
a message from the Consulate informing me that "Mrs. Carey" had been
arrested at Alsórév, on the Austro-Hungarian frontier, and was even
now on her way to Budapest under escort.

You may imagine how I quivered with anxiety and with rage when, on the
morning after that welcome news, I was told that "Mrs. Carey" was
detained at the gendarmerie, and had asked to see Miss Mary Granard
from London, at present residing at the Hotel Hungaria.

The impudent wretch! Wanting to see me, indeed! Well, I, too, wanted
to see her; the woman whom I despised as a coward and a traitor; who
had betrayed the fond and foolish trust of a stricken father; who had
dashed the last hopes of an innocent man in danger of his life; and
who, finally, had been the cause of an assault that had all but
killed, perhaps, the woman I loved best in the world.

I felt like the embodiment of hate and contempt. I loathed the woman,
and I hied me in a fiacre to the gendarmerie, escorted by one of the
clerks from the Consulate, simply thirsting with the desire to tell an
ignoble female exactly what I thought of her.

I had to wait some two or three minutes in the bare, barrack-like room
of the gendarmerie; then the door opened, there was a rustle of silk,
followed by the sound of measured footsteps of soldiery, and the next
moment Lady Molly, serene and placid and, as usual, exquisitely
dressed, stood smiling before me.

"You have got me into this plight, Mary," she said, with her merry
laugh; "you'll have to get me out of it again."

"But--I don't understand," was all that I could gasp.

"It is very simple, and I'll explain it all fully when we are on our
way home to Maida Vale," she said. "For the moment you and Mrs.
Tadworth will have to make sundry affidavits that I did not assault my
maid nor rob her of a watch and chain. The British Consul will help
you, and it is only a question of days, and in the meanwhile I may
tell you that Budapest prison life is quite interesting, and not so
uncomfortable as one would imagine."

Of course, the moment she spoke I got an intuition of what had really
occurred, and I can assure you that I was heartily ashamed that I
should ever have doubted Lady Molly's cleverness in carrying through
successfully so important, so vital a business as the righting of an
innocent man.

Mrs. Tadworth was pusillanimous and stupid. At Budapest she cried a
halt, for she really felt unstrung and ill after the hurried journey,
the change of air and food, and what not. Lady Molly, however, had no
difficulty in persuading her that during the enforced stay of twenty-
four hours at the Hungaria their two rôles should be reversed. Lady
Molly would be "Mrs. Carey," coming from England, whilst Mrs. Tadworth
would be the maid.

My dear lady--not thinking at the time that my knowledge of this fact
would be of any importance to her own plans--had not mentioned it to
me during the brief interview which I had with her. Then, when Piatti
arrived upon the scene, Mrs. Tadworth got into a real panic.
Fortunately, she had the good sense, or the cowardice, then and there
to entrust the coat and watch and chain to Lady Molly, and when Piatti
followed her into her room she was able to show him that the proofs
were not then in her possession. This was the scene which I had
witnessed through the keyhole.

But, of course, the Sicilian would return to the charge, and equally,
of course, Mrs. Tadworth would sacrifice the Shuttleworths, father and
son, to save her own skin. Lady Molly knew that. She is strong, active
and determined; she had a brief hand-to-hand struggle with Mrs.
Tadworth that night, and finally succeeded in tying her, half
unconscious, to the bedpost, thus assuring herself that for at least
twenty-four hours that vapid little fool would be unable to either act
for herself or to betray my dear, intrepid lady's plans.

When, the following morning, Piatti opened the door of No. 118, which
had purposely been left on the latch, he was greeted with the sight of
Mrs. Tadworth pinioned and half dead with fear, whilst the valuable
proofs of his own guilt and young Shuttleworth's innocence had
completely disappeared.

For remember that Lady Molly's face was not known to him or to his
gang, and she had caught the first train to Cividale even whilst
Piatti still believed that he held that silly Mrs. Tadworth in the
hollow of his hand. I may as well tell you here that she reached the
frontier safely, and was quite sharp enough to seek out Colonel Grassi
and, with the necessary words of explanation, to hand over to him the
proofs of young Shuttleworth's innocence.

My action in the matter helped her. At the hotel she was supposed to
be the mistress and Mrs. Tadworth the maid, and everyone was told that
"Mrs. Carey's maid" had been assaulted, and removed to the hospital.
But I denounced Piatti then and there, thinking he had attacked my
dear lady, and I got him put under lock and key so quickly that he had
not the time to communicate with his associates.

Thanks to Colonel Grassi's exertions, young Shuttleworth was acquitted
of the charge of murder; but I may as well tell you here that neither
Piatti nor his son, nor any of that gang, were arrested for the crime.
The proofs of their guilt--the Irish-tweed coat and the murdered man's
watch and chain--were most mysteriously suppressed, after young
Shuttleworth's advocate had obtained the verdict of "not guilty" for

Such is the Sicilian police. Mr. Shuttleworth, senior, evidently knew
what he was talking about.

Of course, we had no difficulty in obtaining Lady Molly's release. The
British Consul saw to that. But in Budapest they still call the
assault on "Mrs. Carey" at the Hotel Hungaria a mystery, for she
exonerated Lady Molly fully, but she refused to accuse Piatti. She was
afraid of him, of course, and so they had to set him free.

I wonder where he is now, the wicked old wretch!



CAN you wonder that, when some of the ablest of our fellows at the
Yard were at their wits' ends to know what to do, the chief
instinctively turned to Lady Molly?

Surely the Fordwych Castle Mystery, as it was universally called, was
a case which more than any other required feminine tact, intuition,
and all those qualities of which my dear lady possessed more than her
usual share.

With the exception of Mr. McKinley, the lawyer, and young Jack
d'Alboukirk, there were only women connected with the case.

If you have studied Debrett at all, you know as well as I do that the
peerage is one of those old English ones which date back some six
hundred years, and that the present Lady d'Alboukirk is a baroness in
her own right, the title and estates descending to heirs-general. If
you have perused that same interesting volume carefully, you will also
have discovered that the late Lord d'Alboukirk had two daughters, the
eldest, Clementina Cecilia--the present Baroness, who succeeded him--
the other, Margaret Florence, who married in 1884 Jean Laurent
Duplessis, a Frenchman whom Debrett vaguely describes as "of
Pondicherry, India," and of whom she had issue two daughters,
Henriette Marie, heir now to the ancient barony of d'Alboukirk of
Fordwych, and Joan, born two years later.

There seems to have been some mystery or romance attached to this
marriage of the Honourable Margaret Florence d'Alboukirk to the
dashing young officer of the Foreign Legion. Old Lord d'Alboukirk at
the time was British Ambassador in Paris, and he seems to have had
grave objections to the union, but Miss Margaret, openly flouting her
father's displeasure, and throwing prudence to the winds, ran away
from home one fine day with Captain Duplessis, and from Pondicherry
wrote a curt letter to her relatives telling them of her marriage with
the man she loved best in all the world. Old Lord d'Alboukirk never
got over his daughter's wilfulness. She had been his favourite, it
appears, and her secret marriage and deceit practically broke his
heart. He was kind to her, however, to the end, and when the first
baby girl was born and the young pair seemed to be in straitened
circumstances, he made them an allowance until the day of his
daughter's death, which occurred three years after her elopement, on
the birth of her second child.

When, on the death of her father, the Honourable Clementina Cecilia
came into the title and fortune, she seemed to have thought it her
duty to take some interest in her late sister's eldest child, who,
failing her own marriage, and issue, was heir to the barony of
d'Alboukirk. Thus it was that Miss Henriette Marie Duplessis came,
with her father's consent, to live with her aunt at Fordwych Castle.
Debrett will tell you, moreover, that in 1901 she assumed the name of
d'Alboukirk, in lieu of her own, by royal licence. Failing her, the
title and estate would devolve firstly on her sister Joan, and
subsequently on a fairly distant cousin, Captain John d'Alboukirk, at
present a young officer in the Guards.

According to her servants, the present Baroness d'Alboukirk is very
self-willed, but otherwise neither more nor less eccentric than any
north-country old maid would be who had such an exceptional position
to keep up in the social world. The one soft trait in her otherwise
not very lovable character is her great affection for her late
sister's child. Miss Henriette Duplessis d'Alboukirk has inherited
from her French father dark eyes and hair and a somewhat swarthy
complexion, but no doubt it is from her English ancestry that she has
derived a somewhat masculine frame and a very great fondness for all
outdoor pursuits. She is very athletic, knows how to fence and to box,
rides to hounds, and is a remarkably good shot.

From all accounts, the first hint of trouble in that gorgeous home was
coincident with the arrival at Fordwych of a young, very pretty girl
visitor, who was attended by her maid, a half-caste woman, dark-
complexioned and surly of temper, but obviously of dog-like devotion
towards her young mistress. This visit seems to have come as a
surprise to the entire household at Fordwych Castle, her ladyship
having said nothing about it until the very morning that the guests
were expected. She then briefly ordered one of the housemaids to get a
bedroom ready for a young lady, and to put up a small camp-bedstead in
an adjoining dressing-room. Even Miss Henriette seems to have been
taken by surprise at the announcement of this visit, for, according to
Jane Taylor, the housemaid in question, there was a violent word-
passage between the old lady and her niece, the latter winding up an
excited speech with the words:

"At any rate, aunt, there won't be room for both of us in this house!"
After which she flounced out of the room, banging the door behind her.

Very soon the household was made to understand that the newcomer was
none other than Miss Joan Duplessis, Miss Henriette's younger sister.
It appears that Captain Duplessis had recently died in Pondicherry,
and that the young girl then wrote to her aunt, Lady d'Alboukirk,
claiming her help and protection, which the old lady naturally
considered it her duty to extend to her.

It appears that Miss Joan was very unlike her sister, as she was
petite and fair, more English-looking than foreign, and had pretty,
dainty ways which soon endeared her to the household. The devotion
existing between her and the half-caste woman she had brought from
India was, moreover, unique.

It seems, however, that from the moment these newcomers came into the
house, dissensions, often degenerating into violent quarrels, became
the order of the day. Henriette seemed to have taken a strong dislike
to her younger sister, and most particularly to the latter's dark
attendant, who was vaguely known in the house as Roonah.

That some events of serious import were looming ahead, the servants at
Fordwych were pretty sure. The butler and footmen at dinner heard
scraps of conversation which sounded very ominous. There was talk of
"lawyers," of "proofs," of "marriage and birth certificates," quickly
suppressed when the servants happened to be about. Her ladyship looked
terribly anxious and worried, and she and Miss Henriette spent long
hours closeted together in a small boudoir, whence proceeded ominous
sounds of heartrending weeping on her ladyship's part, and angry and
violent words from Miss Henriette.

Mr. McKinley, the eminent lawyer from London, came down two or three
times to Fordwych, and held long conversations with her ladyship,
after which the latter's eyes were very swollen and red. The household
thought it more than strange that Roonah, the Indian servant, was
almost invariably present at these interviews between Mr. McKinley,
her ladyship, and Miss Joan. Otherwise the woman kept herself very
much aloof; she spoke very little, hardly took any notice of anyone
save of her ladyship and her young mistress, and the outbursts of Miss
Henriette's temper seemed to leave her quite unmoved. A strange fact
was that she had taken a sudden and great fancy for frequenting a
small Roman Catholic convent chapel which was distant about half a
mile from the Castle, and presently it was understood that Roonah, who
had been a Parsee, had been converted by the attendant priest to the
Roman Catholic faith.

All this happened, mind you, within the last two or three months; in
fact, Miss Joan had been in the Castle exactly twelve weeks when
Captain Jack d'Alboukirk came to pay his cousin one of his periodical
visits. From the first he seems to have taken a great fancy to his
cousin Joan, and soon everyone noticed that this fancy was rapidly
ripening into love. It was equally certain that from that moment
dissensions between the two sisters became more frequent and more
violent; the generally accepted opinion being that Miss Henriette was
jealous of Joan, whilst Lady d'Alboukirk herself, for some
unexplainable reason, seems to have regarded this love-making with
marked disfavour.

Then came the tragedy.

One morning Joan ran downstairs, pale, and trembling from head to
foot, moaning and sobbing as she ran:

"Roonah!--my poor old Roonah!--I knew it--I knew it!"

Captain Jack happened to meet her at the foot of the stairs. He
pressed her with questions, but the girl was unable to speak. She
merely pointed mutely to the floor above. The young man, genuinely
alarmed, ran quickly upstairs; he threw open the door leading to
Roonah's room, and there, to his horror, he saw the unfortunate woman
lying across the small camp-bedstead, with a handkerchief over her
nose and mouth, her throat cut.

The sight was horrible.

Poor Roonah was obviously dead.

Without losing his presence of mind, Captain Jack quietly shut the
door again, after urgently begging Joan to compose herself, and try to
keep up, at any rate until the local doctor could be sent for and the
terrible news gently broken to Lady d'Alboukirk.

The doctor, hastily summoned, arrived some twenty minutes later. He
could but confirm Joan's and Captain Jack's fears. Roonah was indeed
dead--in fact, she had been dead some hours.


FROM the very first, mind you, the public took a more than usually
keen interest in this mysterious occurrence. The evening papers on the
very day of the murder were ablaze with flaming headlines such as:





and so forth.

As time went on, the mystery deepened more and more, and I suppose
Lady Molly must have had an inkling that sooner or later the chief
would have to rely on her help and advice, for she sent me down to
attend the inquest, and gave me strict orders to keep eyes and ears
open for every detail in connection with the crime--however trivial it
might seem. She herself remained in town, awaiting a summons from the

The inquest was held in the dining-room of Fordwych Castle, and the
noble hall was crowded to its utmost when the coroner and jury finally
took their seats, after having viewed the body of the poor murdered
woman upstairs.

The scene was dramatic enough to please any novelist, and an awed hush
descended over the crowd when, just before the proceedings began, a
door was thrown open, and in walked--stiff and erect--the Baroness
d'Alboukirk, escorted by her niece, Miss Henriette, and closely
followed by her cousin, Captain Jack, of the Guards.

The old lady's face was as indifferent and haughty as usual, and so
was that of her athletic niece. Captain Jack, on the other hand,
looked troubled and flushed. Everyone noted that, directly he entered
the room, his eyes sought a small, dark figure that sat silent and
immovable beside the portly figure of the great lawyer, Mr. Hubert
McKinley. This was Miss Joan Duplessis, in a plain black stuff gown,
her young face pale and tear-stained.

Dr. Walker, the local practitioner, was, of course, the first witness
called. His evidence was purely medical. He deposed to having made an
examination of the body, and stated that he found that a handkerchief
saturated with chloroform had been pressed to the woman's nostrils,
probably while she was asleep, her throat having subsequently been cut
with a sharp knife; death must have been instantaneous, as the poor
thing did not appear to have struggled at all.

In answer to a question from the coroner, the doctor said that no
great force or violence would be required for the gruesome deed, since
the victim was undeniably unconscious when it was done. At the same
time it argued unusual coolness and determination.

The handkerchief was produced, also the knife. The former was a
bright-coloured one, stated to be the property of the deceased. The
latter was a foreign, old-fashioned hunting-knife, one of a panoply of
small arms and other weapons which adorned a corner of the hall. It
had been found by Detective Elliott in a clump of gorse on the
adjoining golf links. There could be no question that it had been used
by the murderer for his fell purpose, since at the time it was found
it still bore traces of blood.

Captain Jack was the next witness called. He had very little to say,
as he merely saw the body from across the room, and immediately closed
the door again and, having begged his cousin to compose herself,
called his own valet and sent him off for the doctor.

Some of the staff of Fordwych Castle were called, all of whom
testified to the Indian woman's curious taciturnity, which left her
quite isolated among her fellow-servants. Miss Henriette's maid,
however, Jane Partlett, had one or two more interesting facts to
record. She seems to have been more intimate with the deceased woman
than anyone else, and on one occasion, at least, had quite a
confidential talk with her.

"She talked chiefly about her mistress," said Jane, in answer to a
question from the coroner, "to whom she was most devoted. She told me
that she loved her so, she would readily die for her. Of course, I
thought that silly like, and just mad, foreign talk, but Roonah was
very angry when I laughed at her, and then she undid her dress in
front, and showed me some papers which were sown in the lining of her
dress. 'All these papers my little missee's fortune,' she said to me.
'Roonah guard these with her life. Someone must kill Roonah before
taking them from her!'

"This was about six weeks ago," continued Jane, whilst a strange
feeling of awe seemed to descend upon all those present whilst the
girl spoke. "Lately she became much more silent, and, on my once
referring to the papers, she turned on me savage like and told me to
hold my tongue."

Asked if she had mentioned the incident of the papers to anyone, Jane
replied in the negative.

"Except to Miss Henriette, of course," she added, after a slight
moment of hesitation.

Throughout all these preliminary examinations Lady d'Alboukirk,
sitting between her cousin Captain Jack and her niece Henriette, had
remained quite silent in an erect attitude expressive of haughty
indifference. Henriette, on the other hand, looked distinctly bored.
Once or twice she had yawned audibly, which caused quite a feeling of
anger against her among the spectators. Such callousness in the midst
of so mysterious a tragedy, and when her own sister was obviously in
such deep sorrow, impressed everyone very unfavourably. It was well
known that the young lady had had a fencing lesson just before the
inquest in the room immediately below that where Roonah lay dead, and
that within an hour of the discovery of the tragedy she was calmly
playing golf.

Then Miss Joan Duplessis was called.

When the young girl stepped forward there was that awed hush in the
room which usually falls upon an attentive audience when the curtain
is about to rise on the crucial act of a dramatic play. But she was
calm and self-possessed, and wonderfully pathetic-looking in her deep
black and with the obvious lines of sorrow which the sad death of a
faithful friend had traced on her young face.

In answer to the coroner, she gave her name as Joan Clarissa
Duplessis, and briefly stated that until the day of her servant's
death she had been a resident at Fordwych Castle, but that since then
she had left that temporary home, and had taken up her abode at the
d'Alboukirk Arms, a quiet little hostelry on the outskirts of the

There was a distinct feeling of astonishment on the part of those who
were not aware of this fact, and then the coroner said kindly:

"You were born, I think, in Pondicherry, in India, and are the younger
daughter of Captain and Mrs. Duplessis, who was own sister to her

"I was born in Pondicherry," replied the young girl, quietly, "and I
am the only legitimate child of the late Captain and Mrs. Duplessis,
own sister to her ladyship."

A wave of sensation, quickly suppressed by the coroner, went through
the crowd at these words. The emphasis which the witness had put on
the word "legitimate" could not be mistaken, and everyone felt that
here must lie the clue to theso far impenetrable, mystery of the
Indian woman's death.

All eyes were now turned on old Lady d'Alboukirk and on her niece
Henriette, but the two ladies were carrying on a whispered
conversation together, and had apparently ceased to take any further
interest in the proceedings.

"The deceased was your confidential maid, was she not?" asked the
coroner, after a slight pause.


"She came over to England with you recently?"

"Yes; she had to accompany me in order to help me to make good my
claim to being my late mother's only legitimate child, and therefore
the heir to the barony of d'Alboukirk."

Her voice had trembled a little as she said this, but now, as
breathless silence reigned in the room, she seemed to make a visible
effort to control herself, and, replying to the coroner's question,
she gave a clear and satisfactory account of her terrible discovery of
her faithful servant's death. Her evidence had lasted about a quarter
of an hour or so, when suddenly the coroner put the momentous question
to her:

"Do you know anything about the papers which the deceased woman
carried about her person, and reference to which has already been

"Yes," she replied quietly; "they were the proofs relating to my
claim. My father, Captain Duplessis, had in early youth, and before he
met my mother, contracted a secret union with a half-caste woman, who
was Roonah's own sister. Being tired of her, he chose to repudiate
her--she had no children--but the legality of the marriage was never
for a moment in question. After that, he married my mother, and his
first wife subsequently died, chiefly of a broken heart; but her death
only occurred two months after the birth of my sister Henriette. My
father, I think, had been led to believe that his first wife had died
some two years previously, and he was no doubt very much shocked when
he realised what a grievous wrong he had done our mother. In order to
mend matters somewhat, he and she went through a new form of
marriage--a legal one this time--and my father paid a lot of money to
Roonah's relatives to have the matter hushed up. Less than a year
after this second--and only legal--marriage, I was born and my mother

"Then these papers of which so much has been said--what did they
consist of?"

"There were the marriage certificates of my father's first wife--and
two sworn statements as to her death, two months after the birth of my
sister Henriette; one by Dr. Rénaud, who was at the time a well-known
medical man in Pondicherry, and the other by Roonah herself, who had
held her dying sister in her arms. Dr. Rénaud is dead, and now Roonah
has been murdered, and all the proofs have gone with her--"

Her voice broke in a passion of sobs, which, with manifest self-
control, she quickly suppressed. In that crowded court you could have
heard a pin drop, so great was the tension of intense excitement and

"Then those papers remained in your maid's possession? Why was that?"
asked the coroner.

"I did not dare to carry the papers about with me," said the witness,
while a curious look of terror crept into her young face as she looked
across at her aunt and sister. "Roonah would not part with them. She
carried them in the lining of her dress, and at night they were all
under her pillow. After her--her death, and when Dr. Walker had left,
I thought it my duty to take possession of the papers which meant my
whole future to me, and which I desired then to place in Mr.
McKinley's charge. But, though I carefully searched the bed and all
the clothing by my poor Roonah's side, I did not find the papers. They
were gone."

I won't attempt to describe to you the sensation caused by the
deposition of this witness. All eyes wandered from her pale young face
to that of her sister, who sat almost opposite to her, shrugging her
athletic shoulders and gazing at the pathetic young figure before her
with callous and haughty indifference.

"Now, putting aside the question of the papers for the moment," said
the coroner, after a pause, "do you happen to know anything of your
late servant's private life? Had she an enemy, or perhaps a lover?"

"No," replied the girl; "Roonah's whole life was centred in me and in
my claim. I had often begged her to place our papers in Mr. McKinley's
charge, but she would trust no one. I wish she had obeyed me," here
moaned the poor girl involuntarily, "and I should not have lost what
means my whole future to me, and the being who loved me best in all
the world would not have been so foully murdered."

Of course, it was terrible to see this young girl thus instinctively,
and surely unintentionally, proffering so awful an accusation against
those who stood so near to her. That the whole case had become
hopelessly involved and mysterious, nobody could deny. Can you imagine
the mental picture formed in the mind of all present by the story, so
pathetically told, of this girl who had come over to England in order
to make good her claim which she felt to be just, and who, in one fell
swoop, saw that claim rendered very difficult to prove through the
dastardly murder of her principal witness?

That the claim was seriously jeopardised by the death of Roonah and
the disappearance of the papers, was made very clear, mind you,
through the statements of Mr. McKinley, the lawyer. He could not say
very much, of course, and his statements could never have been taken
as actual proof, because Roonah and Joan had never fully trusted him
and had never actually placed the proofs of the claim in his hands. He
certainly had seen the marriage certificate of Captain Duplessis's
wife, and a copy of this, as he very properly stated, could easily be
obtained. The woman seems to have died during the great cholera
epidemic of 1881, when, owing to the great number of deaths which
occurred, the deceit and concealment practised by the natives at
Pondicherry, and the supineness of the French Government, death
certificates were very casually and often incorrectly made out.

Roonah had come over to England ready to swear that her sister had
died in her arms two months after the birth of Captain Duplessis's
eldest child, and there was the sworn testimony of Dr. Rénaud, since
dead. These affidavits Mr. McKinley had seen and read.

Against that, the only proof which now remained of the justice of Joan
Duplessis's claim was the fact that her mother and father went through
a second form of marriage some time after the birth of their first
child, Henriette. This fact was not denied, and, of course, it could
be easily proved, if necessary, but even then it would in no way be
conclusive. It implied the presence of a doubt in Captain Duplessis's
mind, a doubt which the second marriage ceremony may have served to
set at rest; but it in no way established the illegitimacy of his
eldest daughter.

In fact, the more Mr. McKinley spoke, the more convinced did everyone
become that the theft of the papers had everything to do with the
murder of the unfortunate Roonah. She would not part with the proofs
which meant her mistress's fortune, and she paid for her devotion with
her life.

Several more witnesses were called after that. The servants were
closely questioned, the doctor was recalled, but, in spite of long and
arduous efforts, the coroner and jury could not bring a single real
fact to light beyond those already stated.

The Indian woman had been murdered!

The papers which she always carried about her body had disappeared.

Beyond that, nothing! An impenetrable wall of silence and mystery!

The butler at Fordwych Castle had certainly missed the knife with
which Roonah had been killed from its accustomed place on the morning
after the murder had been committed, but not before, and the mystery
further gained in intensity from the fact that the only purchase of
chloroform in the district had been traced to the murdered woman

She had gone down to the local chemist one day some two or three weeks
previously, and shown him a prescription for cleansing the hair which
required some chloroform in it. He gave her a very small quantity in a
tiny bottle, which was subsequently found empty on her own dressing-
table. No one at Fordwych Castle could swear to having heard any
unaccustomed noise during that memorable night. Even Joan, who slept
in the room adjoining that where the unfortunate Roonah lay, said she
had heard nothing unusual. But then, the door of communication between
the two rooms was shut, and the murderer had been quick and silent.

Thus this extraordinary inquest drew to a close, leaving in its train
an air of dark suspicion and of unexplainable horror.

The jury returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or
persons unknown," and the next moment Lady d'Alboukirk rose, and,
leaning on her niece's arm, quietly walked out of the room.


TWO of our best men from the Yard, Pegram and Elliott, were left in
charge of the case. They remained at Fordwych (the little town close
by), as did Miss Joan, who had taken up her permanent abode at the
d'Alboukirk Arms, whilst I returned to town immediately after the
inquest. Captain Jack had rejoined his regiment, and apparently the
ladies of the Castle had resumed their quiet, luxurious life just the
same as heretofore. The old lady led her own somewhat isolated, semi-
regal life; Miss Henriette fenced and boxed, played hockey and golf,
and over the fine Castle and its haughty inmates there hovered like an
ugly bird of prey the threatening presence of a nameless suspicion.

The two ladies might choose to flout public opinion, but public
opinion was dead against them. No one dared formulate a charge, but
everyone remembered that Miss Henriette had, on the very morning of
the murder, been playing golf in the field where the knife was
discovered, and that if Miss Joan Duplessis ever failed to make good
her claim to the barony of d'Alboukirk, Miss Henriette would remain in
undisputed possession. So now, when the ladies drove past in the
village street, no one doffed a cap to salute them, and when at church
the parson read out the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt do no murder,"
all eyes gazed with fearsome awe at the old Baroness and her niece.

Splendid isolation reigned at Fordwych Castle. The daily papers grew
more and more sarcastic at the expense of the Scotland Yard
authorities, and the public more and more impatient.

Then it was that the chief grew desperate and sent for Lady Molly, the
result of the interview being that I once more made the journey down
to Fordwych, but this time in the company of my dear lady, who had
received carte blanche from headquarters to do whatever she thought
right in the investigation of the mysterious crime.

She and I arrived at Fordwych at 8.0 p.m., after the usual long wait
at Newcastle. We put up at the d'Alboukirk Arms, and, over a hasty and
very bad supper, Lady Molly allowed me a brief insight into her plans.

"I can see every detail of that murder, Mary," she said earnestly,
"just as if I had lived at the Castle all the time. I know exactly
where our fellows are wrong, and why they cannot get on. But, although
the chief has given me a free hand, what I am going to do is so
irregular that if I fail I shall probably get my immediate congé,
whilst some of the disgrace is bound to stick to you. It is not too
late--you may yet draw back, and leave me to act alone."

I looked her straight in the face. Her dark eyes were gleaming; there
was the power of second sight in them, or of marvelous intuition of
"men and things."

"I'll follow your lead, my Lady Molly," I said quietly.

"Then go to bed now," she replied, with that strange transition of
manner which to me was so attractive and to everyone else so

In spite of my protest, she refused to listen to any more talk or to
answer any more questions, and, perforce, I had to go to my room. The
next morning I saw her graceful figure, immaculately dressed in a
perfect tailor-made gown, standing beside my bed at a very early hour.

"Why, what is the time?" I ejaculated, suddenly wide awake.

"Too early for you to get up," she replied quietly. "I am going to
early Mass at the Roman Catholic convent close by."

"To Mass at the Roman Catholic convent?"

"Yes. Don't repeat all my words, Mary; it is silly, and wastes time. I
have introduced myself in the neighbourhood as the American, Mrs.
Silas A. Ogen, whose motor has broken down and is being repaired at
Newcastle, while I, its owner, amuse myself by viewing the beauties of
the neighbourhood. Being a Roman Catholic, I go to Mass first, and,
having met Lady d'Alboukirk once in London, I go to pay her a
respectful visit afterwards. When I come back we will have breakfast
together. You might try in the meantime to scrape up an acquaintance
with Miss Joan Duplessis, who is still staying here, and ask her to
join us at breakfast."

She was gone before I could make another remark, and I could but obey
her instantly to the letter.

An hour later I saw Miss Joan Duplessis strolling in the hotel garden.
It was not difficult to pass the time of day with the young girl, who
seemed quite to brighten up at having someone to talk to. We spoke of
the weather and so forth, and I steadily avoided the topic of the
Fordwych Castle tragedy until the return of Lady Molly at about ten
o'clock. She came back looking just as smart, just as self-possessed,
as when she had started three hours earlier. Only I, who knew her so
well, noted the glitter of triumph in her eyes, and knew that she had
not failed. She was accompanied by Pegram, who, however, immediately
left her side and went straight into the hotel, whilst she joined us
in the garden, and, after a few graceful words, introduced herself to
Miss Joan Duplessis and asked her to join us in the coffee-room

The room was empty and we sat down to table, I quivering with
excitement and awaiting events. Through the open window I saw Elliott
walking rapidly down the village street. Presently the waitress went
off, and I being too excited to eat or speak, Lady Molly carried on a
running conversation with Miss Joan, asking her about her life in
India and her father, Captain Duplessis. Joan admitted that she had
always been her father's favourite.

"He never liked Henriette, somehow," she explained.

Lady Molly asked her when she had first known Roonah.

"She came to the house when my mother died," replied Joan, "and she
had charge of me as a baby." At Pondicherry no one had thought it
strange that she came as a servant into an officer's house where her
own sister had reigned as mistress. Pondicherry is a French
settlement, and manners and customs there are often very peculiar.

I ventured to ask her what were her future plans.

"Well," she said, with a great touch of sadness, "I can, of course, do
nothing whilst my aunt is alive. I cannot force her to let me live at
Fordwych or to acknowledge me as her heir. After her death, if my
sister does assume the title and fortune of d'Alboukirk," she added,
whilst suddenly a strange look of vengefulness--almost of hatred and
cruelty--marred the child-like expression of her face, "then I shall
revive the story of the tragedy of Roonah's death, and I hope that
public opinion--"

She paused here in her speech, and I, who had been gazing out of the
window, turned my eyes on her. She was ashy-pale, staring straight
before her; her hands dropped the knife and fork which she had held.
Then I saw the Pegram had come into the room, that he had come up to
the table and placed a packet of papers in Lady Molly's hand.

I saw it all as in a flash!

There was a loud cry of despair like an animal at bay, a shrill cry,
followed by a deep one from Pegram of "No, you don't," and before
anyone could prevent her, Joan's graceful young figure stood outlined
for a short moment at the open window.

The next moment she had disappeared into the depth below, and we heard
a dull thud which nearly froze the blood in my veins.

Pegram ran out of the room, but Lady Molly sat quite still.

"I have succeeded in clearing the innocent," she said quietly; "but
the guilty has meted out to herself her own punishment."

"Then it was she?" I murmured, horror-struck.

"Yes. I suspected it from the first," replied Lady Molly calmly. "It
was this conversion of Roonah to Roman Catholicism and her consequent
change of manner which gave me the first clue."

"But why--why?" I muttered.

"A simple reason, Mary," she rejoined, tapping the packet of papers
with her delicate hand; and, breaking open the string that held the
letters, she laid them out upon the table. "The whole thing was a
fraud from beginning to end. The woman's marriage certificate was all
right, of course, but I mistrusted the genuineness of the other papers
from the moment that I heard that Roonah would not part with them and
would not allow Mr. McKinley to have charge of them. I am sure that
the idea at first was merely one of blackmail. The papers were only to
be the means of extorting money from the old lady, and there was no
thought of taking them into court.

"Roonah's part was, of course, the important thing in the whole case,
since she was here prepared to swear to the actual date of the first
Madame Duplessis's death. The initiative, of course, may have come
either from Joan or from Captain Duplessis himself, out of hatred for
the family who would have nothing to do with him and his favourite
younger daughter. That, of course, we shall never know. At first
Roonah was a Parsee, with a dog-like devotion to the girl whom she had
nursed as a baby, and who no doubt had drilled her well into the part
she was to play. But presently she became a Roman Catholic--an ardent
convert, remember, with all a Roman Catholic's fear of hell-fire. I
went to the convent this morning. I heard the priest's sermon there,
and I realised what an influence his eloquence must have had over
poor, ignorant, superstitious Roonah. She was still ready to die for
her young mistress, but she was no longer prepared to swear to a lie
for her sake. After Mass I called at Fordwych Castle. I explained my
position to old Lady d'Alboukirk, who took me into the room where
Roonah had slept and died. There I found two things," continued Lady
Molly, as she opened the elegant reticule which still hung upon her
arm, and placed a big key and a prayer-book before me.

"The key I found in a drawer of an old cupboard in the dressing-room
where Roonah slept, with all sorts of odds and ends belonging to the
unfortunate woman, and going to the door which led into what had been
Joan's bedroom, I found that it was locked, and that this key fitted
into the lock. Roonah had locked that door herself on her own side--
she was afraid of her mistress. I knew now that I was right in my
surmise. The prayer-book is a Roman Catholic one. It is heavily
thumbmarked there, where false oaths and lying are denounced as being
deadly sins for which hell-fire would be the punishment. Roonah,
terrorised by fear of the supernatural, a new convert to the faith,
was afraid of committing a deadly sin.

"Who knows what passed between the two women, both of whom have come
to so violent and terrible an end? Who can tell what prayers, tears,
persuasions Joan Duplessis employed from the time she realised that
Roonah did not mean to swear to the lie which would have brought her
mistress wealth and glamour until the awful day when she finally
understood that Roonah would no longer even hold her tongue, and
devised a terrible means of silencing her for ever?

"With this certainty before me, I ventured on my big coup. I was so
sure, you see. I kept Joan talking in here whilst I sent Pegram to her
room with orders to break open the locks of her hand-bag and dressing-
case. There!--I told you that if I was wrong I would probably be
dismissed the force for irregularity, as of course I had no right to
do that; but if Pegram found the papers there where I felt sure they
would be, we could bring the murderer to justice. I know my own sex
pretty well, don't I, Mary? I knew that Joan Duplessis had not
destroyed--never would destroy--those papers."

Even as Lady Molly spoke we could hear heavy tramping outside the
passage. I ran to the door, and there was met by Pegram.

"She is quite dead, miss," he said. "It was a drop of forty feet, and
a stone pavement down below."

The guilty had indeed meted out her own punishment to herself!

Lady d'Alboukirk sent Lady Molly a cheque for £5,000 the day the whole
affair was made known to the public.

I think you will say that it had been well earned. With her own dainty
hands my dear lady had lifted the veil which hung over the tragedy of
Fordwych Castle, and with the finding of the papers in Joan
Duplessis's dressing-bag, and the unfortunate girl's suicide, the
murder of the Indian woman was no longer a mystery.



I DON'T think that anyone ever knew that the real eludication of the
extraordinary mystery known to the newspaper-reading public as the
"Somersetshire Outrage" was evolved in my own dear lady's quick,
intuitive brain.

As a matter of fact, to this day--as far as the public is concerned--
the Somersetshire outrage never was properly explained; and it is a
very usual thing for those busybodies who are so fond of criticising
the police to point to that case as an instance of remarkable
incompetence on the part of our detective department.

A young woman named Jane Turner, a visitor at Weston-super-Mare, had
been discovered one afternoon in a helpless condition, bound and
gagged, and suffering from terror and inanition, in the bedroom which
she occupied in a well-known apartment-house of that town. The police
had been immediately sent for, and as soon as Miss Turner had
recovered she gave what explanation she could of the mysterious

She was employed in one of the large drapery shops in Bristol, and was
spending her annual holiday at Weston-super-Mare. Her father was the
local butcher at Banwell--a village distant about four miles from
Weston--and it appears that somewhere near one o'clock in the
afternoon of Friday, the 3rd of September, she was busy in her bedroom
putting a few things together in a handbag, preparatory to driving out
to Banwell, meaning to pay her parents a week-end visit.

There was a knock at her door, and a voice said, "It's me, Jane--may I
come in?"

She did not recognise the voice, but somehow thought that it must be
that of a friend, so she shouted, "Come in!"

This was all that the poor thing recollected definitely, for the next
moment the door was thrown open, someone rushed at her with amazing
violence, she heard the crash of a falling table and felt a blow on
the side of her head, whilst a damp handkerchief was pressed to her
nose and mouth.

Then she remembered nothing more.

When she gradually came to her senses she found herself in the
terrible plight in which Mrs. Skeward--her landlady--discovered her
twenty-four hours later.

When pressed to try and describe her assailant, she said that when the
door was thrown open she thought that she saw an elderly woman in a
wide mantle and wearing bonnet and veil, but that, at the same time,
she was quite sure, from the strength and brutality of the onslaught,
that she was attacked by a man. She had no enemies, and no possessions
worth stealing; but her hand-bag, which, however, only contained a few
worthless trifles, had certainly disappeared.

The people of the house, on the other hand, could throw but little
light on the mystery which surrounded this very extraordinary and
seemingly purposeless assault.

Mrs. Skeward only remembered that on Friday Miss Turner told her that
she was just off to Banwell, and would be away for the week-end; but
that she wished to keep her room on, against her return on the Monday

That was somewhere about half-past twelve o'clock, at the hour when
luncheons were being got ready for the various lodgers; small wonder,
therefore, that no one in the busy apartment-house took much count of
the fact that Miss Turner was not seen to leave the house after that,
and no doubt the wretched girl would have been left for several days
in the pitiable condition in which she was ultimately found but for
the fact that Mrs. Skeward happened to be of the usual grasping type
common to those of her kind.

Weston-super-Mare was over-full that week-end, and Mrs. Skeward, beset
by applicants for accommodation, did not see why she should not let
her absent lodger's room for the night or two that the latter happened
to be away, and thus get money twice over for it.

She conducted a visitor up to Miss Turner's room on the Saturday
afternoon, and, throwing open the door--which, by the way, was not
locked--was horrified to see the poor girl half-sitting, half-slipping
off the chair to which she had been tied with a rope, whilst a woolen
shawl was wound round the lower part of her face.

As soon as she had released the unfortunate victim, Mrs. Skeward sent
for the police, and it was through the intelligent efforts of
Detective Parsons--a local man--that a few scraps of very hazy
evidence were then and there collected.

First, there was the question of the elderly female in the wide
mantle, spoken of by Jane Turner as her assailant. It seems that
someone answering to that description had called on the Friday at
about one o'clock, and asked to see Miss Turner. The maid who answered
the door replied that she thought Miss Turner had gone to Banwell.

"Oh!" said the old dame, "she won't have started yet. I am Miss
Turner's mother, and I was to call for her so that we might drive out

"Then p'r'aps Miss Turner is still in her room," suggested the maid.
"Shall I go and see?"

"Don't trouble," replied the woman; "I know my way. I'll go myself."

Whereupon the old dame walked past the servant, crossed the hall and
went upstairs. No one saw her come down again, but one of the lodgers
seems to have heard a knock at Jane Turner's door, and the female
voice saying, "It's me, Jane--may I come in?"

What happened subsequently, who the mysterious old female was, and how
and for what purpose she assaulted Jane Turner and robbed her of a few
valueless articles, was the puzzle which faced the police then, and
which--so far as the public is concerned--has never been solved. Jane
Turner's mother was in bed at the time suffering from a broken ankle
and unable to move. The elderly woman was, therefore, an impostor, and
the search after her--though keen and hot enough at the time, I assure
you--has remained, in the eyes of the public, absolutely fruitless.
But of this more anon.

On the actual scene of the crime there was but little to guide
subsequent investigation. The rope with which Jane Turner had been
pinioned supplied no clue; the wool shawl was Miss Turner's own,
snatched up by the miscreant to smother the girl's screams; on the
floor was a handkerchief, without initial or laundry mark, which
obviously had been saturated with chloroform; and close by a bottle
which had contained the anæsthetic. A small table was overturned, and
the articles which had been resting upon it were lying all around--
such as a vase which had held a few flowers, a box of biscuits, and
several issues of the West of England Times.

And nothing more. The miscreant, having accomplished his fell purpose,
succeeded evidently in walking straight out of the house unobserved;
his exit being undoubtedly easily managed owing to it being the busy
luncheon hour.

Various theories were, of course, put forward by some of our ablest
fellows at the Yard; the most likely solution being the guilt or, at
least, the complicity of the girl's sweetheart, Arthur Cutbush--a
ne'er-do-well, who spent the greater part of his time on race-courses.
Inspector Danvers, whom the chief had sent down to assist the local
police, declared that Jane Turner herself suspected her sweetheart,
and was trying to shield him by stating she possessed nothing of any
value; whereas, no doubt, the young blackguard knew that she had some
money, and had planned this amazing coup in order to rob her of it.

Danvers was quite chagrined when, on investigation, it was proved that
Arthur Cutbush had gone to the York races three days before the
assault, and never left that city until the Saturday evening, when a
telegram from Miss Turner summoned him to Weston.

Moreover, the girl did not break off her engagement with young
Cutbush, and thus the total absence of motive was a serious bar to the
likelihood of the theory.

Then it was the Chief sent for Lady Molly. No doubt he began to feel
that here, too, was a case where feminine tact and my lady's own
marvellous intuition might prove more useful than the more approved
methods of the sterner sex.


"Of course, there is a woman in the case, Mary," said Lady Molly to
me, when she came home from the interview with the chief, "although
they all pooh-pooh that theory at the Yard, and declare that the
female voice--to which the only two witnesses we have are prepared to
swear--was a disguised one."

"You think, then, that a woman assaulted Jane Turner?"

"Well," she replied somewhat evasively, "if a man assumes a feminine
voice, the result is a high-pitched, unnatural treble; and that, I
feel convinced, would have struck either the maid or the lodger, or
both, as peculiar."

This was the train of thought which my dear lady and I were following
up, when, with that sudden transition of manner so characteristic of
her, she said abruptly to me:

"Mary, look out a train for Weston-super-Mare. We must try to get down
there to-night."

"Chief's orders?" I asked.

"No--mine," she replied laconically. "Where's the A B C?"

Well, we got off that self-same afternoon, and in the evening we were
having dinner at the Grand Hotel, Weston-super-Mare.

My dear lady had been pondering all through the journey, and even now
she was singularly silent and absorbed. There was a deep frown between
her eyes, and every now and then the luminous, dark orbs would
suddenly narrow, and the pupils contract as if smitten with a sudden

I was not a little puzzled as to what was going on in that active
brain of hers, but my experience was that silence on my part was the
surest card to play.

Lady Molly had entered our names in the hotel book as Mrs. Walter Bell
and Miss Granard from London; and the day after our arrival there came
two heavy parcels for her under that name. She had them taken upstairs
to our private sitting-room, and there we undid them together.

To my astonishment they contained stacks of newspapers: as far as I
could see at a glance, back numbers of the West of England Times
covering a whole year.

"Find and cut out the 'Personal' column of every number, Mary," said
Lady Molly to me. "I'll look through them on my return. I am going for
a walk, and will be home by lunch time."

I knew, of course, that she was intent on her business and on that
only, and as soon as she had gone out I set myself to the wearisome
task which she had allotted me. My dear lady was evidently working out
a problem in her mind, the solution of which she expected to find in a
back number of the West of England Times.

By the time she returned I had the "Personal" column of some three
hundred numbers of the paper neatly filed and docketed for her
perusal. She thanked me for my promptitude with one of her charming
looks, but said little, if anything, all through luncheon. After that
meal she set to work. I could see her studying each scrap of paper
minutely, comparing one with the other, arranging them in sets in
front of her, and making marginal notes on them all the while.

With but a brief interval for tea, she sat at her table for close on
four hours, at the end of which she swept all the scraps of paper on
one side, with the exception of a few which she kept in her hand. Then
she looked up at me, and I sighed with relief.

My dear lady was positively beaming.

"You have found what you wanted?" I asked eagerly.

"What I expected," she replied.

"May I know?"

She spread out the bits of paper before me. There were six altogether,
and each of these columns had one paragraph specially marked with a

"Only look at the paragraphs which I have marked," she said.

I did what I was told. But if in my heart I had vaguely hoped that I
should then and there be confronted with the solution of the mystery
which surrounded the Somersetshire outrage, I was doomed to

Each of the marked paragraphs in the "Personal" columns bore the
initials H. S. H., and their purport was invariably an assignation at
one of the small railway stations on the line between Bristol and

I suppose that my bewilderment must have been supremely comical, for
my lady's rippling laugh went echoing through the bare, dull hotel

"You don't see it, Mary?" she asked gaily.

"I confess I don't," I replied. "It completely baffles me."

"And yet," she said more gravely, "those few silly paragraphs have
given me the clue to the mysterious assault on Jane Turner, which has
been puzzling our fellows at the Yard for over three weeks."

"But how? I don't understand."

"You will, Mary, directly we get back to town. During my morning walk
I have learnt all that I want to know, and now these paragraphs have
set my mind at rest."


THE next day we were back in town.

Already, at Bristol, we had bought a London morning paper, which
contained in its centre page a short notice under the following
startling headlines:




The article went on to say:

  "We are officially informed that the police have recently obtained
knowledge of certain facts which establish beyond a doubt the motive
of the brutal assault committed on the person of Miss Jane Turner. We
are not authorised to say more at present than that certain startling
developments are imminent."

On the way up my dear lady had initiated me into some of her views
with regard to the case itself, which at the chief's desire she had
now taken entirely in hand, and also into her immediate plans, of
which the above article was merely the preface.

She it was who had "officially informed" the Press Association, and,
needless to say, the news duly appeared in most of the London and
provincial dailies.

How unerring was her intuition, and how well thought out her scheme,
was proved within the next four-and-twenty hours in our own little
flat, when our Emily, looking somewhat important and awed, announced
Her Serene Highness the Countess of Hohengebirg.

H. S. H.--the conspicuous initials in the "Personal" columns of the
West of England Times! You may imagine how I stared at the exquisite
apparition--all lace and chiffon and roses--which the next moment
literally swept into our office, past poor, open-mouthed Emily.

Had my dear lady taken leave of her senses when she suggested that
this beautiful young woman with the soft, fair hair, with the pleading
blue eyes and childlike mouth, had anything to do with a brutal
assault on a shop girl?

The young Countess shook hands with Lady Molly and with me, and then,
with a deep sigh, she sank into the comfortable chair which I was
offering her.

Speaking throughout with great diffidence, but always in the gentle
tones of a child that knows it has been naughty, she began by
explaining that she had been to Scotland Yard, where a very charming
man--the chief, I presume--had been most kind and sent her hither,
where he promised her she would find help and consolation in her
dreadful, dreadful trouble.

Encouraged by Lady Molly, she soon plunged into her narrative: a
pathetic tale of her own frivolity and foolishness.

She was originally Lady Muriel Wolfe-Strongham, daughter of the Duke
of Weston, and when scarce out of the schoolroom had met the Grand
Duke of Starkburg-Nauheim, who fell in love with her and married her.
The union was a morganatic one, the Grand Duke conferring on his
English wife the title of the Countess of Hohengebirg and the rank of
Serene Highness.

It seems that, at first, the marriage was a fairly happy one, in spite
of the bitter animosity of the mother and sister of the Grand Duke:
the Dowager Grand Duchess holding that all English girls were loud and
unwomanly, and the Princess Amalie, seeing in her brother's marriage a
serious bar to the fulfilment of her own highly ambitious matrimonial

"They can't bear me, because I don't knit socks and don't know how to
bake almond cakes," said her dear little Serene Highness, looking up
with tender appeal at Lady Molly's grave and beautiful face; "and they
will be so happy to see a real estrangement between my husband and

It appears that last year, while the Grand Duke was doing his annual
cure at Marienbad, the Countess of Hohengebirg went to Folkestone for
the benefit of her little boy's health. She stayed at one of the
Hotels there merely as any English lady of wealth might do--with
nurses and her own maid, of course, but without the paraphernalia and
nuisance of her usual German retinue.

Whilst there she met an old acquaintance of her father's, a Mr.
Rumboldt, who is a rich financier, it seems, and who at one time moved
in the best society, but whose reputation had greatly suffered
recently, owing to a much talked of divorce case which brought his
name into unenviable notoriety.

Her Serene Highness, with more mopping of her blue eyes, assured Lady
Molly that over at Schloss Starkburg she did not read the English
papers, and was therefore quite unaware that Mr. Rumboldt, who used to
be a persona grata in her father's house, was no longer a fit and
proper acquaintance for her.

"It was a very fine morning," she continued with gentle pathos, "and I
was deadly dull at Folkestone. Mr. Rumboldt persuaded me to go with
him on a short trip on his yacht. We were to cross over to Boulogne,
have luncheon there, and come home in the cool of the evening."

"And, of course, something occurred to disable the yacht," concluded
Lady Molly gravely, as the lady herself had paused in her narrative.

"Of course," whispered the little Countess through her tears.

"And, of course, it was too late to get back by the ordinary afternoon
mail boat?"

"That boat had gone an hour before, and the next did not leave until
the middle of the night."

"So you had perforce to wait until then, and in the meanwhile you were
seen by a girl named Jane Turner, who knew you by sight, and who has
been blackmailing you ever since."

"How did you guess that?" ejaculated Her Highness, with a look of such
comical bewilderment in her large, blue eyes that Lady Molly and I had
perforce to laugh.

"Well," replied my dear lady after awhile, resuming her gravity, "we
have a way in our profession of putting two and two together, haven't
we? And in this case it was not very difficult. The assignations for
secret meetings at out-of-the-way railway stations which were
addressed to H. S. H. in the columns of the West of England Times
recently, gave me one clue, shall we say? The mysterious assault on a
young woman, whose home was close to those very railway stations as
well as to Bristol Castle--your parents' residence, where you have
frequently been staying of late, was another piece that fitted in the
puzzle; whilst the number of copies of the West of England Times that
were found in that same young woman's room helped to draw my thoughts
to her. Then your visit to me to-day--it is very simple, you see."

"I suppose so," said H. S. H. with a sigh. "Only it is worse even than
you suggest, for that horrid Jane Turner, to whom I had been ever so
kind when I was a girl, took a snapshot of me and Mr. Rumboldt
standing on the steps of Hôtel des Bains at Boulogne. I saw her doing
it and rushed down the steps to stop her. She talked quite nicely
then--hypocritical wretch!--and said that perhaps the plate would be
no good when it was developed, and if it were she would destroy it. I
was not to worry; she would contrive to let me know through the agony
column of the West of England Times, which--as I was going home to
Bristol Castle to stay with my parents--I could see every day, but she
had no idea I should have minded, and all that sort of rigmarole. Oh!
she is a wicked girl, isn't she, to worry me so?"

And once again the lace handkerchief found its way to the most
beautiful pair of blue eyes I think I have ever seen. I could not help
smiling, though I was really very sorry for the silly, emotional, dear
little thing.

"And instead of reassurance in the West of England Times, you found a
demand for a secret meeting at a country railway station?"

"Yes! And when I went there--terrified lest I should be seen--Jane
Turner did not meet me herself. Her mother came and at once talked of
selling the photograph to my husband or to my mother-in-law. She said
it was worth four thousand pounds to Jane, and that she had advised
her daughter not to sell it to me for less."

"What did you reply?"

"That I hadn't got four thousand pounds," said the Countess ruefully;
"so after a lot of argument it was agreed that I was to pay Jane two
hundred and fifty pounds a year out of my dress allowance. She would
keep the negative as security, but promised never to let anyone see it
so long as she got her money regularly. It was also arranged that
whenever I stayed with my parents at Bristol Castle, Jane would make
appointments to meet me through the columns of the West of England
Times, and I was to pay up the instalments then just as she directed."

I could have laughed, if the whole thing had not been so tragic, for
truly the way this silly, harmless little woman had allowed herself to
be bullied and blackmailed by a pair of grasping females was beyond

"And this has been going on for over a year," commented Lady Molly

"Yes, but I never met Jane Turner again: it was always her mother who

"You knew her mother before that, I presume?"

"Oh, no. I only knew Jane because she had been sewing-maid at the
Castle some few years ago."

"I see," said Lady Molly slowly. "What was the woman like whom you
used to meet at the railway stations, and to whom you paid over Miss
Turner's money?"

"Oh, I couldn't tell you what she was like. I never saw her properly."

"Never saw her properly?" ejaculated Lady Molly, and it seemed to my
well-trained ears as if there was a ring of exultation in my dear
lady's voice.

"No," replied the little Countess ruefully. "She always appointed a
late hour of the evening, and those little stations on that line are
very badly lighted. I had such difficulties getting away from home
without exciting comment, and used to beg her to let me meet her at a
more convenient hour. But she always refused."

Lady Molly remained thoughtful for a while; then she asked abruptly:

"Why don't you prosecute Jane Turner for blackmail?"

"Oh, I dare not--I dare not!" ejaculated the little Countess, in
genuine terror. "My husband would never forgive me, and his female
relations would do their best afterwards to widen the breach between
us. It was because of the article in the London newspaper about the
assault on Jane Turner--the talk of a clue and of startling
developments--that I got terrified, and went to Scotland Yard. Oh, no!
no! no! Promise me that my name won't be dragged into this case. It
would ruin me for ever!"

She was sobbing now; her grief and fear were very pathetic to witness,
and she moaned through her sobs:

"Those wicked people know that I daren't risk an exposure, and simply
prey on me like vampires because of that. The last time I saw the old
woman I told her that I would confess everything to my husband--I
couldn't bear to go on like this. But she only laughed; she knew I
should never dare."

"When was this?" asked Lady Molly.

"About three weeks ago--just before Jane Turner was assaulted and
robbed of the photographs."

"How do you know she was robbed of the photographs?"

"She wrote and told me so," replied the young Countess, who seemed
strangely awed now by my dear lady's earnest question. And from a
dainty reticule she took a piece of paper, which bore traces of many
bitter tears on its crumpled surface. This she handed to Lady Molly,
who took it from her. It was a type-written letter, which bore no
signature. Lady Molly perused it in silence first, then read its
contents out aloud to me:--

  "To H. S. H. the Countess of Hohengebirg.

  "You think I have been worrying you the past twelve months about
your adventure with Mr. Rumboldt in Boulogne. But it was not me; it
was one who has power over me, and who knew about the photograph. He
made me act as I did. But whilst I kept the photo you were safe. Now
he has assaulted me and nearly killed me, and taken the negative away.
I can, and will, get it out of him again, but it will mean a large sum
down. Can you manage one thousand pounds?"

"When did you get this?" asked Lady Molly.

"Only a few days ago," replied the Countess. "And oh! I have been
enduring agonies of doubt and fear for the past three weeks, for I had
heard nothing from Jane since the assault, and I wondered what had

"You have not sent a reply, I hope."

"No. I was going to, when I saw the article in the London paper, and
the fear that all had been discovered threw me into such a state of
agony that I came straight up to town and saw the gentleman at
Scotland Yard, who sent me on to you. Oh!" she entreated again and
again, "you won't do anything that will cause a scandal! Promise me--
promise me! I believe I should commit suicide rather than face it--and
I could find a thousand pounds."

"I don't think you need do either," said Lady Molly. "Now, may I think
over the whole matter quietly to myself," she added, "and talk it over
with my friend here? I may be able to let you have some good news

She rose, intimating kindly that the interview was over. But it was by
no means that yet, for there was still a good deal of entreaty and a
great many tears on the one part, and reiterated kind assurances on
the other. However when, some ten minutes later, the dainty clouds of
lace and chiffon were finally wafted out of our office, we both felt
that the poor, harmless, unutterably foolish little lady looked
distinctly consoled and more happy than she had been for the past
twelve months.


"YES! she has been an utter little goose," Lady Molly was saying to me
an hour later when we were having luncheon; "but that Jane Turner is a
remarkably clever girl."

"I suppose you think, as I do, that the mysterious elderly female, who
seems to have impersonated the mother all through, was an accomplice
of Jane Turner's, and that the assault was a put-up job between them,"
I said. "Inspector Danvers will be delighted--for this theory is a
near approach to his own."

"H'm!" was all the comment vouchsafed on my remark.

"I am sure it was Arthur Cutbush, the girl's sweetheart, after all," I
retorted hotly, "and you'll see that, put to the test of sworn
evidence, his alibi at the time of the assault itself won't hold good.
Moreover, now," I added triumphantly, "we have knowledge which has
been lacking all along--the motive."

"Ah!" said my lady, smiling at my enthusiasm, "that's how you argue,
Mary, is it?"

"Yes, and in my opinion the only question in doubt is whether Arthur
Cutbush acted in collusion with Jane Turner or against her."

"Well, suppose we go and elucidate that point--and some others--at
once," concluded Lady Molly as she rose from the table.

She decided to return to Bristol that same evening. We were going by
the 8.50 p.m., and I was just getting ready--the cab being already at
the door--when I was somewhat startled by the sudden appearance into
my room of an old lady, very beautifully dressed, with snow-white hair
dressed high above a severe, interesting face.

A merry, rippling laugh issuing from the wrinkled mouth, and a closer
scrutiny on my part, soon revealed the identity of my dear lady,
dressed up to look like an extremely dignified grande dame of the old
school, whilst a pair of long, old-fashioned earrings gave a curious,
foreign look to her whole appearance.

I didn't quite see why she chose to arrive at the Grand Hotel,
Bristol, in that particular disguise, nor why she entered our names in
the hotel book as Grand Duchess and Princess Amalie von Starkburg,
from Germany; nor did she tell me anything that evening.

But by the next afternoon, when we drove out together in a fly, I was
well up in the rôle which I had to play. My lady had made me dress in
a very rich black silk dress of her own, and ordered me to do my hair
in a somewhat frumpish fashion, with a parting, and a "bun" at the
back. She herself looked more like Royalty travelling incognito than
ever, and no wonder small children and tradesmen's boys stared open-
mouthed when we alighted from our fly outside one of the mean-looking
little houses in Bread Street.

In answer to our ring, a smutty little servant opened the door, and my
lady asked her if Miss Jane Turner lived here and if she were in.

"Yes, Miss Turner lives here, and it bein' Thursday and early closin'
she's home from business."

"Then please tell her," said Lady Molly in her grandest manner, "that
the Dowager Grand Duchess of Starkburg-Nauheim and the Princess Amalie
desire to see her."

The poor little maid nearly fell backwards with astonishment. She
gasped an agitated "Lor!" and then flew down the narrow passage and up
the steep staircase, closely followed by my dear lady and myself.

On the first-floor landing the girl, with nervous haste, knocked at a
door, opened it and muttered half audibly:

"Ladies to see you, miss!"

Then she fled incontinently upstairs. I have never been able to decide
whether that little girl thought that we were lunatics, ghosts, or

But already Lady Molly had sailed into the room, where Miss Jane
Turner apparently had been sitting reading a novel. She jumped up when
we entered, and stared open-eyed at the gorgeous apparitions. She was
not a bad-looking girl but for the provoking, bold look in her black
eyes, and the general slatternly appearance of her person.

"Pray do not disturb yourself, Miss Turner," said Lady Molly in broken
English, as she sank into a chair, and beckoned me to do likewise.
"Pray sit down--I vill be brief. You have a compromising photograph--
is it not?--of my daughter-in-law ze Countess of Hohengebirg. I am ze
Grand Duchess of Starkburg-Nauheim--zis is my daughter, ze Princess
Amalie. We are here incognito. You understand? Not?"

And, with inimitable elegance of gesture, my dear lady raised a pair
of "starers" to her eyes and fixed them on Jane Turner's quaking

Never had I seen suspicion, nay terror, depicted so plainly on a young
face, but I will do the girl the justice to state that she pulled
herself together with marvellous strength of will.

She fought down her awed respect of this great lady; or rather shall I
say that the British middle-class want of respect for social
superiority, especially if it be foreign, now stood her in good stead?

"I don't know what you are talking about," she said with an arrogant
toss of the head.

"Zat is a lie, is it not?" rejoined Lady Molly calmly, as she drew
from her reticule the typewritten letter which Jane Turner had sent to
the Countess of Hohengebirg. "Zis you wrote to my daughter-in-law; ze
letter reached me instead of her. It interests me much. I vill give
you two tousend pounds for ze photograph of her and Mr.--er--Rumboldt.
You vill sell it to me for zat, is it not?"

The production of the letter had somewhat cowed Jane's bold spirit.
But she was still defiant.

"I haven't got the photograph here," she said.

"Ah, no! but you vill get it--yes?" said my lady, quietly replacing
the letter in her reticule. "In ze letter you offer to get it for
tousend pound. I vill give you two tousend. To-day is a holiday for
you. You vill get ze photograph from ze gentleman--not? And I vill
vait here till you come back."

Whereupon she rearranged her skirts round her and folded her hands
placidly, like one prepared to wait.

"I haven't got the photograph," said Jane Turner, doggedly, "and I
can't get it to-day. The--the person who has it doesn't live in

"No? Ah! but quite close, isn't it?" rejoined my lady, placidly. "I
can vait all ze day."

"No, you shan't!" retorted Jane Turner, whose voice now shook with
obvious rage or fear--I knew not which. "I can't get the photograph
to-day--so there! And I won't sell it to you--I won't. I don't want
your two thousand pounds. How do I know you are not an imposter?"

"From zis, my good girl," said Lady Molly, quietly; "that if I leave
zis room wizout ze photograph, I go straight to ze police with zis
letter, and you shall be prosecuted by ze Grand Duke, my son, for
blackmailing his wife. You see, I am not like my daughter-in-law; I am
not afraid of a scandal. So you vill fetch ze photograph--isn't it? I
and ze Princess Amalie vill vait for it here. Zat is your bedroom--
not?" she added, pointing to a door which obviously gave on an inner
room. "Vill you put on your hat and go at once, please? Two tousend
pound or two years in prison--you have ze choice--isn't it?"

Jane Turner tried to keep up her air of defiance, looking Lady Molly
full in the face; but I who watched her could see the boldness in her
eyes gradually giving place to fear, and then to terror and even
despair; the girl's face seemed literally to grow old as I looked at
it--pale, haggard, and drawn--whilst Lady Molly kept her stern,
luminous eyes fixed steadily upon her.

Then, with a curious, wild gesture, which somehow filled me with a
nameless fear, Jane Turner turned on her heel and ran into the inner

There followed a moment of silence. To me it was tense and agonising.
I was straining my ears to hear what was going on in that inner room.
That my dear lady was not as callous as she wished to appear was shown
by the strange look of expectancy in her beautiful eyes.

The minutes sped on--how many I could not afterwards have said. I was
conscious of a clock ticking monotonously over the shabby mantelpiece,
of an errand boy outside shouting at the top of his voice, of the
measured step of the cab horse which had brought us hither being
walked up and down the street.

Then suddenly there was a violent crash, as of heavy furniture being
thrown down. I could not suppress a scream, for my nerves by now were
terribly on the jar.

"Quick, Mary--the inner room!" said Lady Molly. "I thought the girl
might do that."

I dared not pause in order to ask what "that" meant, but flew to the

It was locked.

"Downstairs--quick!" commanded my lady. "I ordered Danvers to be on
the watch outside."

You may imagine how I flew, and how I blessed my dear lady's
forethought in the midst of her daring plan, when, having literally
torn open the front door, I saw Inspector Danvers in plain clothes,
calmly patrolling the street. I beckoned to him--he was keeping a
sharp look-out--and together we ran back into the house.

Fortunately, the landlady and the servant were busy in the basement,
and had neither heard the crash nor seen me run in search of Danvers.
My dear lady was still alone in the dingy parlour, stooping against
the door of the inner room, her ear glued to the keyhole.

"Not too late, I think," she whispered hurriedly. "Break it open,

Danvers, who is a great, strong man, soon put his shoulder to the
rickety door, which yielded to the first blow.

The sight which greeted us filled me with horror, for I had never seen
such a tragedy before. The wretched girl, Jane Turner, had tied a rope
to a ring in the ceiling, which I suppose at one time held a hanging
lamp; the other end of that rope she had formed into a slip-noose, and
passed round her neck.

She had apparently climbed on to a table, and then used her best
efforts to end her life by kicking the table away from under her. This
was the crash which we had heard, and which had caused us to come to
her rescue. Fortunately, her feet had caught in the back of a chair
close by; the slip-noose was strangling her, and her face was awful to
behold, but she was not dead.

Danvers soon got her down. He is a first-aid man, and has done these
terrible jobs before. As soon as the girl had partially recovered,
Lady Molly sent him and me out of the room. In the dark and dusty
parlour, where but a few moments ago I had played my small part in a
grim comedy, I now waited to hear what the sequel to it would be.

Danvers had been gone some time, and the shades of evening were
drawing in; outside, the mean-looking street looked particularly
dreary. It was close on six o'clock when at last I heard the welcome
rustle of silks, the opening of a door, and at last my dear lady--
looking grave but serene--came out of the inner room, and, beckoning
to me, without a word led the way out of the house and into the fly,
which was still waiting at the door.

"We'll send a doctor to her," were her first words as soon as we were
clear of Bread Street. "But she is quite all right now, save that she
wants a sleeping draught. Well, she has been punished enough, I think.
She won't try her hand at blackmailing again."

"Then the photograph never existed?" I asked amazed.

"No; the plate was a failure, but Jane Turner would not thus readily
give up the idea of getting money out of the poor, pusillanimous
Countess. We know how she succeeded in terrorizing that silly little
woman. It is wonderful how cleverly a girl like that worked out such a
complicated scheme, all alone."

"All alone?"

"Yes; there was no one else. She was the elderly woman who used to
meet the Countess, and who rang at the front door of the Weston
apartment-house. She arranged the whole of the mise en scène of the
assault on herself, all alone, and took everybody in with it--it was
so perfectly done. She planned and executed it because she was afraid
that the little Countess would be goaded into confessing her folly to
her husband, or to her own parents, when a prosecution for blackmail
would inevitably follow. So she risked everything on a big coup, and
almost succeeded in getting a thousand pounds from Her Serene
Highness, meaning to reassure her, as soon as she had the money, by
the statement that the negative and prints had been destroyed. But the
appearance of the Grand Duchess of Starkburg-Nauheim this afternoon
frightened her into an act of despair. Confronted with the prosecution
she dreaded and with the prison she dared not face, she, in a mad
moment, attempted to take her life."

"I suppose now the whole matter will be hushed up."

"Yes," replied Lady Molly with a wistful sigh. "The public will never
know who assaulted Jane Turner."

She was naturally a little regretful at that. But it was a joy to see
her the day when she was able to assure Her Serene Highness the
Countess of Hohengebirg that she need never again fear the
consequences of that fatal day's folly.



YES! we are just back from our holiday, my dear lady and I--a well-
earned holiday, I can tell you that.

We went to Porhoët, you know--a dear little village in the hinterland
of Brittany, not very far from the coast; an enchanting spot, hidden
away in a valley, bordered by a mountain stream, wild, romantic,
picturesque--Brittany, in fact.

We had discovered the little place quite accidentally last year, in
the course of our wanderings, and stayed there then about three weeks,
laying the foundations of that strange adventure which reached its
culminating point just a month ago.

I don't know if the story will interest you, for Lady Molly's share in
the adventure was purely a private one and had nothing whatever to do
with her professional work. At the same time it illustrates in a very
marked manner that extraordinary faculty which she possesses of
divining her fellow-creatures' motives and intentions.

We had rooms and pension in the dear little convent on the outskirts
of the village, close to the quaint church and the picturesque
presbytery, and soon we made the acquaintance of the Curé, a simple-
minded, kindly old man, whose sorrow at the thought that two such
charming English ladies as Lady Molly and myself should be heretics
was more than counter-balanced by his delight in having someone of the
"great outside world"--as he called it--to talk to, whilst he told us
quite ingenuously something of his own simple life, of this village
which he loved, and also of his parishioners.

One personality among the latter occupied his thoughts and
conversation a great deal, and I must say interested us keenly. It was
that of Miss Angela de Genneville, who owned the magnificent château
of Porhoët, one of the seven wonders of architectural France. She was
an Englishwoman by birth--being of a Jersey family--and was immensely
wealthy, her uncle, who was also her godfather, having bequeathed to
her the largest cigar factory in St. Heliers, besides three-quarters
of a million sterling.

To say that Miss de Genneville was eccentric was but to put it mildly;
in the village she was generally thought to be quite mad. The Curé
vaguely hinted that a tragic love story was at the bottom of all her
eccentricities. Certain it is that, for no apparent reason, and when
she was still a youngish woman, she had sold the Jersey business and
realised the whole of her fortune. After two years of continuous
travelling, she came to Brittany on a visit to her sister--the widowed
Marquise de Terhoven, who owned a small property close to Porhoët, and
lived there in retirement and poverty with her only son, Amédé.

Miss Angela de Genneville was agreeably taken with the beauty and
quietude of this remote little village. The beautiful château of
Porhoët being for sale at the time, she bought it, took out letters of
naturalization, became a French subject, and from that moment never
went outside the precincts of her newly acquired domain.

She never returned to England, and, with the exception of the Curé and
her own sister and nephew, saw no one beyond her small retinue of

But the dear old Curé thought all the world of her, for she was
supremely charitable to him and to the poor, and scarcely a day passed
but he told us something either of her kindness or of her eccentric
ways. One day he arrived at the convent at an unaccustomed hour; we
had just finished our simple déjeuner of steaming coffee and rolls
when we saw him coming towards us across the garden.

That he was excited and perturbed was at once apparent by his hurried
gait and by the flush on his kindly face. He bade us a very hasty
"Good morning, my daughters!" and plunged abruptly into his subject.
He explained with great volubility, which was intended to mask his
agitation, that he was the bearer of an invitation to the charming
English lady--a curious invitation, ah, yes! perhaps!--Mademoiselle de
Genneville--very eccentric--but she is in great trouble--in very
serious trouble--and very ill too, now--poor lady--half paralysed and
feeble--yes, feeble in the brain--and then her nephew, the Marquis
Amédé de Terhoven--such a misguided young man--has got into bad
company in that den of wickedness called Paris--since then it has been
debts--always debts--his mother is so indulgent!--too indulgent! but
an only son!--the charming English ladies would understand. It was
very sad--very, very sad--and no wonder Mademoiselle de Genneville was
very angry. She had paid Monsieur le Marquis' debts once, twice, three
times--but now she will not pay any more--but she is in great trouble
and wants a friend--a female friend, one of her own country, she
declares--for he himself, alas! was only a poor curé de village, and
did not understand great ladies and their curious ways. It would be
true Christian charity if the charming English lady would come and see

"But her own sister, the Marquise?" suggested Lady Molly, breaking in
on the old man's volubility.

"Ah! her sister, of course," he replied with a sigh. "Madame la
Marquise--but then she is Monsieur le Marquis' mother, and the
charming English lady would understand--a mother's heart, of course--"

"But I am a complete stranger to Miss de Genneville," protested Lady

"Ah, but Mademoiselle has always remained an Englishwoman at heart,"
replied the Curé. "She said to me to-day: 'I seem to long for an
Englishwoman's handshake, a sober-minded, sensible Englishwoman, to
help me in this difficulty. Bring your English friend to me, Monsieur
le Curé, if she will come to the assistance of an old woman who has no
one to turn to in her distress.'"

Of course, after that I knew that my dear lady would yield. Moreover,
she was keenly interested in Miss de Genneville, and without further
discussion she told Monsieur le Curé that she was quite ready to
accompany him to the château of Porhoët.


OF course, I was not present at the interview, but Lady Molly has so
often told me all that happened and how it happened, and with such a
wealth of picturesque and minute detail, that sometimes I find it
difficult to realise that I myself was not there in person.

It seems that Monsier le Curé himself ushered my lady into the
presence of Miss Angela de Genneville. The old lady was not alone when
they entered; Madame la Marquise de Terhoven, an elderly, somewhat
florid woman, whose features, though distinctly coarse, recalled those
of her sister, sat on a high-backed chair close to a table, on which
her fingers were nervously drumming a tattoo, whilst in the window
embrasure stood a young man whose resemblance to both the ladies at
once proclaimed him to Lady Molly's quick perception as the son of the
one and nephew of the other--the Marquis de Terhoven, in fact.

Miss de Genneville sat erect in a huge armchair; her face was the hue
of yellow wax, the flesh literally shrivelled on the bones, the eyes
of a curious, unnatural brilliance; one hand clutched feverishly the
arm of her chair, the other, totally paralysed, lay limp and inert on
her lap.

"Ah! the Englishwoman at last, thank God!" she said in a high-pitched,
strident voice as soon as Lady Molly entered the room. "Come here, my
dear, for I have wanted one of your kind badly. A true-hearted
Englishwoman is the finest product of God's earth, after all's said
and done. Pardieu! but I breathe again," she added, as my dear lady
advanced somewhat diffidently to greet her, and took the trembling
hand which Miss Angela extended to her.

"Sit down close to me," commanded the eccentric old lady, whilst Lady
Molly, confused, and not a little angered at finding herself in the
very midst of what was obviously a family conclave, was vaguely
wondering how soon she could slip away again. But the trembling hand
of the paralytic clutched her own slender wrist so tightly, forcing
her to sink into a low chair close by, and holding her there as with a
grip of steel, that it would have been useless and perhaps cruel to

Satisfied now that her newly found friend, as well as Monsieur le
Curé, were prepared to remain by her and to listen to what she had to
say, the sick woman turned with a look of violent wrath towards the
window embrasure.

"I was just telling that fine nephew of mine that he is counting his
chickens before they are hatched. I am not yet dead, as Monsieur my
nephew can see; and I have made a will--aye, and placed it where his
thievish fingers can never reach it."

The young man, who up to now had been gazing stolidly out of the
window, now suddenly turned on his heel, confronting the old woman,
with a look of hate gleaming in his eyes.

"We can fight the will," here interposed Madame la Marquise, icily.

"On what grounds?" queried the other.

"That you were paralysed and imbecile when you made it," replied the
Marquise, dryly.

Monsieur le Curé, who up to now had been fidgeting nervously with his
hat, now raised his hands and eyes up to the ceiling to emphasise the
horror which he felt at this callous suggestion. Lady Molly no longer
desired to go; the half-paralysed grip on her wrist had relaxed, but
she sat there quietly, interested with every fibre of her quick
intelligence in the moving drama which was being unfolded before her.

There was a pause now, a silence broken only by the monotonous ticking
of a monumental, curious-looking clock which stood in an angle of the
room. Miss de Genneville had made no reply to her sister's cruel
taunt, but a look, furtive, maniacal, almost dangerous, now crept into
her eyes.

Then she addressed the Curé.

"I pray you pen, ink and paper--here, on this table," she requested.
Then as he complied with alacrity, she once more turned to her nephew,
and pointing to the writing materials:

"Sit down and write, Amédé," she commanded.

"Write what?" he queried.

"A confession, my nephew," said the old woman, with a shrill laugh. "A
confession of those little pecaddilloes of yours, which, unless I come
to your rescue now, will land you for seven years in a penal
settlement, if I mistake not. Eh, my fine nephew?"

"A confession?" retorted Amédé de Terhoven savagely. "Do you take me
for a fool?"

"No, my nephew, I take you for a wise man--who understands that his
dear aunt will not buy those interesting forgeries, perpetrated by
Monsieur le Marquis Amédé de Terhoven, and offered to her by
Rubinstein the money-lender, unless that confession is written and
signed by you. Write Amédé, write that confession, my dear nephew, if
you do not wish to see yourself in the dock on a charge of forging
your aunt's name to a bill for one hundred thousand francs."

Amédé muttered a curse between his teeth. Obviously the old woman's
shaft had struck home. He knew himself to be in a hopeless plight. It
appears that a money-lender had threatened to send the forged bills to
Monsieur le Procureur de la République unless they were paid within
twenty-four hours, and no one could pay them but Miss de Genneville,
who had refused to do it except at the price of this humiliating

A look of intelligence passed between mother and son. Intercepted by
Lady Molly and interpreted by her, it seemed to suggest the idea of
humouring the old aunt, for the moment, until the forgeries were
safely out of the money-lender's hands, then of mollifying her later
on, when perhaps she would have forgotten, or sunk deeper into
helplessness and imbecility.

As if in answer to his mother's look the young man now said curtly:

"I must know what use you mean to make of the confession if I do write

"That will depend on yourself," replied Mademoiselle, dryly. "You may
be sure that I will not willingly send my own nephew to penal

For another moment the young man hesitated, then he sat down, sullen
and wrathful, and said:

"I'll write--you may dictate--"

The old woman laughed a short, dry, sarcastic laugh. Then, at her
dictation, Amédé wrote:

  "I, Amédé, Marquis de Terhoven, hereby make confession to having
forged Mademoiselle Angela de Genneville's name to the annexed bills,
thereby obtaining the sum of one hundred thousand francs from Abraham
Rubinstein, of Brest."

"Now, Monsieur le Curé, will you kindly witness le Marquis'
signature?" said the irascible old lady when Amédé had finished
writing; "and you, too, my dear?" she added, turning to Lady Molly.

My dear lady hesitated for a moment. Naturally she did not desire to
be thus mixed up in this family feud, but a strange impulse had drawn
her sympathy to this eccentric old lady, who, in the midst of her
semi-regal splendour seemed so forlorn, between her nephew, who was a
criminal and a blackguard, and her sister, who was but little less

Obeying this impulse, and also a look of entreaty from the Curé, she
affixed her own signature as witness to the document, and this despite
the fact that both the Marquise and her son threw her a look of hate
which might have made a weaker spirit tremble with foreboding.

Not so Lady Molly. Those very same threatening looks served but to
decide her. Then, at Mademoiselle's command, she folded up the
document, slipped it into an envelope, sealed it, and finally
addressed it to M. le Procureur de la République, resident at Caen.

Amédé watched all these proceedings with eyes that were burning with
impotent wrath.

"This letter," now resumed the old lady, more calmly, "will be sent
under cover to my lawyer Maître Vendôme, of Paris, who drew up my
will, with orders only to post it in case of certain eventualities,
which I will explain later on. In the meanwhile, my dear nephew, you
may apprise your friend, Abraham Rubinstein, that I will buy back
those interesting forgeries of yours on the day on which I hear from
Maître Vendôme that he has safely received my letter with this

"This is infamous--" here broke in the Marquise, rising in full wrath,
unable to control herself any longer. "I'll have you put under
restraint as a dangerous lunatic. I--"

"Then, of course, I could not buy back the bills from Rubinstein,"
rejoined Mademoiselle, calmly.

Then, as the Marquise subsided--cowed, terrified, realising the
hopelessness of her son's position--the old lady turned placidly to my
dear lady, whilst her trembling fingers once more clutched the slender
hand of her newly found English friend.

"I have asked you, my dear, and Monsieur le Curé, to come to me to-
day," she said, "because I wish you both to be of assistance to me in
the carrying out of my dying wishes. You must promise me most
solemnly, both of you, that when I am dead you will carry out these
wishes to the letter. Promise!" she added with passionate earnestness.

The promise was duly given by Lady Molly and the old Curé, then
Mademoiselle resumed more calmly:

"And now I want you to look at that clock," she said abruptly, with
seeming irrelevance. "It is an old heirloom which belonged to the
former owners of Porhoët, and which I bought along with the house. You
will notice that it is one of the most remarkable pieces of mechanism
which brain of man has ever devised, for it has this great
peculiarity, that it goes for three hundred and sixty-six days
consecutively, keeping most perfect time. When the works have all but
run down, the weights--which are enormous--release a certain spring,
and the great doors of the case open of themselves, thus allowing the
clock to be wound up. After that is done, and the doors pushed to
again, no one can open them until another three hundred and sixty-six
days have gone by--that is to say, not without breaking the case to

Lady Molly examined the curious old clock with great attention.
Vaguely she guessed already what the drift of the old lady's curious
explanations would be.

"Two days ago," continued Mademoiselle, "the clock was open, and
Monsieur le Curé wound it up, but before I pushed the doors to again I
slipped certain papers into the case--you remember, Monsieur?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle, I remember," responded the old man.

"Those papers were my last will and testament, bequeathing all I
possess to the parish of Porhoët," said Miss de Genneville, dryly,
"and now the doors of the massive case are closed. No one can get at
my will for another three hundred and sixty-four days--no one," she
added with a shrill laugh, "not even my nephew, Amédé de Terhoven."

A silence ensued, only broken by the rustle of Madame la Marquise's
silk dress as she shrugged her shoulders and gave a short, sarcastic

"My dear," resumed Mademoiselle, looking straight into Lady Molly's
eager, glowing face, "you must promise me that, three hundred and
sixty-four days hence, that is to say on the 20th September next year,
you and Monsieur le Curé--or one of you if the other be
incapacitated--will be present in this room at this hour when the door
of the clock will open. You will then wind up the family heirloom,
take out the papers which you will find buried beneath the weights,
and hand them over to Maître Vendôme for probate at the earliest
opportunity. Monseigneur the Bishop of Caen, the Mayor of this
Commune, and the Souspréfet of this Department have all been informed
of the contents of my will, and also that it is practically in the
keeping of le Curé de Porhoët, who, no doubt, realises what the
serious consequences to himself would be if he failed to produce the
will at the necessary time."

The poor Curé gasped with terror.

"But--but--but--" he stammered meekly, "I may be forcibly prevented
from entering the house--I might be ill or--"

He shuddered with an unavowable fear, then added more calmly:

"I might be unjustly accused then of stealing the will--of defrauding
the poor of Porhoët in favour of--Mademoiselle's direct heirs."

"Have no fear, my good friend," said Mademoiselle, dryly; "though I
have one foot in the grave I am not quite so imbecile as my dear
sister and nephew here would suggest, and I have provided for every
eventuality. If you are ill or otherwise prevented by outside causes
from being present here on the day and hour named, this charming
English lady will be able to replace you. But if either of you is
forcibly prevented from entering this house, or if, having entered
this room, the slightest violence or even pressure is put upon you, or
if you should find the clock broken, damaged and--stripped of its
contents, all you need do is to apprise Maître Vendôme of the fact. He
will know how to act."

"What would he do?"

"Send a certain confession we all know of to Monsieur le Procureur de
la République," replied the old lady, fixing the young Marquis Amédé
with her irascible eye. "That same confession," she continued lightly,
"Maître Vendôme is instructed to destroy if you, Monsieur, and my
English friend here, and the clock, are all undamaged on the eventful

There was silence in the great, dark room for awhile, broken only by
the sarcastic chuckle of the enfeebled invalid, tired out after this
harrowing scene, wherein she had pitted her half-maniacal ingenuity
against the greed and rapacity of a conscienceless roué.

That she had hemmed her nephew and sister in on every side could not
be denied. Lady Molly herself felt somewhat awed at this weird revenge
conceived by the outraged old lady against her grasping relatives.

She was far too interested in the whole drama to give up her own part
in it, and, as she subsequently explained to me, she felt it her duty
to remain the partner and co-worker of the poor Curé in this dangerous
task of securing to the poor of Porhoët the fortune which otherwise
would be squandered away on gaming tables and race-courses.

For this, and many reasons too complicated to analyse, she decided to
accept her share in the trust imposed upon her by her newly-found

Neither the Marquise nor her son took any notice of Lady Molly as she
presently took leave of Mademoiselle de Genneville, who, at the last,
made her take a solemn oath that she would stand by the Curé and
fulfil the wishes of a dying and much-wronged woman.

Much perturbed, monsieur le Curé went away. Lady Molly went several
times after that to the château of Porhoët to see the invalid, who had
taken a violent fancy to her. In October we had, perforce, to return
to England and to work, and the following spring we had news from the
Curé that Mademoiselle de Genneville was dead.


LADY MOLLY had certainly been working too hard, and was in a feeble
state of health when we reached Porhoët the following 19th of
September, less than twenty-four hours before the eventful moment when
the old clock would reveal the will and testament of Mademoiselle de

We walked straight from the station to the presbytery, anxious to see
the Curé and to make all arrangements for to-morrow's business. To our
terrible sorrow and distress, we were informed by the housekeeper that
the Curé was very seriously ill at the hospital at Brest, whither he
had been removed by the doctor's orders.

This was the first inkling I had that things would not go as smoothly
as I had anticipated. Miss de Genneville's dispositions with regard to
the sensational disclosure of her will had, to my mind, been so ably
taken that it had never struck me until now that the Marquise de
Terhoven and her precious son would make a desperate fight before they
gave up all thoughts of the coveted fortune.

I imagined the Marquis hemmed in on every side; any violence offered
against the Curé or Lady Molly when they entered the château in order
to accomplish the task allotted to them being visited by the sending
of the confession to Monsieur le Procureur de la République, when
prosecution for forgery would immediately follow. Damage to the clock
itself would be punished in the same way.

But I had never thought of sudden illnesses, of--heaven help us!--
poison or unaccountable accidents to either the Curé or to the woman I
loved best in all the world.

No wonder Lady Molly looked pale and fragile as, having thanked the
housekeeper, we found our way in silence to the convent where we had
once again engaged rooms.

Somehow the hospitality shown us last year had lost something of its
cordiality. Moreover, our bedrooms this time did not communicate with
one another, but opened out independently on to a stone passage.

The sister who showed us upstairs explained, somewhat shamefacedly,
that as the Mother Superior had not expected us, she had let the room
which was between our two bedrooms to a lady visitor, who, however,
was ill in bed at the present moment.

That sixth sense, of which so much has been said and written, but
which I will not attempt to explain, told me plainly enough that we
were no longer amidst friends in the convent.

Had bribery been at work? Was the lady visitor a spy set upon our
movements by the Terhovens? It was impossible to say. I could no
longer chase away the many gloomy forebodings which assailed me the
rest of that day and drove away sleep during the night. I can assure
you that in my heart I wished all eccentric old ladies and their
hidden wills at the bottom of the sea.

My dear lady was apparently also very deeply perturbed; any attempt on
my part to broach the subject of Miss de Genneville's will was
promptly and authoritatively checked by her. At the same time I knew
her well enough to guess that all these nameless dangers which seemed
to have crept up round her only served to enhance her determination to
carry out her old friend's dying wishes to the letter.

We went to bed quite early; for the first time without that delightful
final gossip, when events, plans, surmises and work were freely
discussed between us. The unseen lady visitor in the room which
separated us acted as a wet blanket on our intimacy.

I stayed with Lady Molly until she was in bed. She hardly talked to me
whilst she undressed, but when I kissed her "good-night" she whispered
almost inaudibly right into my ear:

"The Terhoven faction are at work. They may waylay you and offer you a
bribe to keep me out of the château to-morrow. Pretend to fall in with
their views. Accept all bribes and place yourself at their disposal. I
must not say more now. We are being spied upon."

That my lady was, as usual, right in her surmises was proved within
the next five minutes. I had slipped out of her room, and was just
going into mine, when I heard my name spoken hardly above a whisper,
whilst I felt my arm gently seized from behind.

An elderly, somewhat florid, woman stood before me attired in a dingy-
coloured dressing-gown. She was pointing towards my own bedroom door,
implying her desire to accompany me to my room. Remembering my dear
lady's parting injunctions, I nodded in acquiescence. She followed me,
after having peered cautiously up and down the passage.

Then, when the door was duly closed, and she was satisfied that we
were alone, she said very abruptly:

"Miss Granard, tell me! you are poor, eh?--a paid companion to your
rich friend, what?"

Still thinking of Lady Molly's commands, I replied with a pathetic

"Then," said the old lady, eagerly, "would you like to earn fifty
thousand francs?"

The eagerness with which I responded "Rather!" apparently pleased her,
for she gave a sigh of satisfaction.

"You know the story of my sister's will--of the clock?" she asked
eagerly: "of your friend's role in this shameless business?"

Once more I nodded. I knew that my lady had guessed rightly. This was
the Marquise de Terhoven, planted here in the convent to gain my
confidence, to spy on Lady Molly, and to offer me a bribe.

Now for some clever tactics on my part.

"Can you prevent your friend from being at the château to-morrow
before one o'clock?" asked the Marquise.

"Easily," I replied calmly.


"She is ill, as you know. The doctor has ordered her a sleeping
draught. I administer it. I can arrange that she has a strong dose in
the morning instead of her other medicine. She will sleep till the
late afternoon."

I rattled this off glibly in my best French. Madame la Marquise heaved
a deep sigh of relief.

"Ah! that is good!" she said. "Then listen to me. Do as I tell you,
and to-morrow you will be richer by fifty thousand francs. Come to the
château in the morning, dressed in your friend's clothes. My son will
be there; together you will assist at the opening of the secret doors,
and when my son has wound up the old clock himself, he will place
fifty thousand francs in your hands."

"But Monsieur le Curé?" I suggested tentatively.

"He is ill," she replied curtly.

But as she spoke these three words there was such an evil sneer in her
face, such a look of cruel triumph in her eyes, that all my worst
suspicions were at once confirmed.

Had these people's unscrupulous rapacity indeed bribed some needy
country practitioner to put the Curé temporarily out of the way? It
was too awful to think of, and I can tell you that I needed all my
presence of mind, all my desire to act my part bravely and
intelligently to the end, not to fly from this woman in horror.

She gave me a few more instructions with regard to the services which
she and her precious son would expect of me on the morrow. It seems
that, some time before her death, Miss de Genneville had laid strict
injunctions on two of her most trusted men-servants to remain in the
château, and to be on the watch on the eventful 20th day of September
of this year, lest any serious violence be done to the English lady or
to the Curé. It was with a view to allay any suspicion which might
arise in the minds of these two men that the Marquis desired me to
impersonate Lady Molly to-morrow, and to enter with him--on seemingly
friendly terms--the room where stood the monumental clock.

For these services, together with those whereby Lady Molly was to be
sent into a drugged sleep whilst the theft of the will was being
carried through, I--Mary Granard--was to receive from Monsieur le
Marquis de Terhoven the sum of fifty thousand francs.

All these matters being settled to this wicked woman's apparent
satisfaction, she presently took hold of both my hands, shook them
warmly, and called me her dearest friend; assured me of everlasting
gratitude, and finally, to my intense relief, slipped noiselessly out
of my room.


I SURMISED--I think correctly--that Madame la Marquise would spend
most of the night with her ear glued to the thin partition which
separated her room from that of Lady Molly; so I did not dare to go
and report myself and the momentous conversation which I had just had,
and vaguely wondered when I should have an opportunity of talking
matters over with my dear lady without feeling that a spy was at my

The next morning when I went into her room, to my boundless
amazement--and before I had time to utter a word--she moaned audibly,
as if in great pain, and said feebly, but very distinctly:

"Oh, Mary! I'm so glad you've come. I feel terribly ill. I haven't had
a wink of sleep all night, and I am too weak to attempt to get up."

Fortunately my perceptions had not been dulled by the excitement of
the past few hours, and I could see that she was not so ill as she
made out. Her eyes sought mine as I approached her bed, and her lips
alone framed the words which I believed I interpreted correctly.

"Do as they want. I stay in bed. Will explain later."

Evidently she had reason to think that we were being closely watched;
but what I could not understand was, what did she expect would happen
if she herself were not present when the opening of the clock door
would disclose the will? Did she want me to snatch the document: to
bear the brunt of the Terhovens' wrath and disappointment? It was not
like her to be afraid of fulfilling a duty, however dangerous that
fulfilment might prove; and it certainly was not like her to break a
promise given to a dying person.

But, of course, my business was to obey. Assuming that our movements
were being watched, I poured out a dose of medicine for my dear lady,
which she took and then fell back on her pillows as if exhausted.

"I think I could sleep now, Mary," she said; "but wake me later on; I
must be at the château by twelve o'clock, you know."

As one of Lady Molly's boxes was in my room, I had no difficulty in
arraying myself in some of her clothes. Thus equipped and closely
veiled, still ignorant of my lady's plans, anxious, but determined to
obey like a soldier, blindly and unquestioningly, I made my way to the
château a little before noon.

An old butler opened the door in answer to my ring, and in the inner
hall sat the Marquise de Terhoven, whilst her son was walking
agitatedly up and down.

"Ah! here comes my lady," said the Marquise, with easy unconcern. "You
have come, my lady," she added, rising and taking my hand, "to perform
a duty which will rob my son of a fortune which by right should have
been his. We can put no hindrance in your way, under penalty of an
appalling disgrace which would then fall on my son; moreover, my late
sister has filled this house with guards and spies. So, believe me,
you need have no fear. You can perform your duty undisturbed. Perhaps
you will not object to my son keeping you company. My precious sister
had the door of her room removed before her death and a curtain put in
its stead," she concluded with what was intended to be the sneer of a
disappointed fortune-hunter, "so the least call from you will bring
her spies to your assistance."

Without a word the Marquis and I bowed to one another, then, preceded
by the old family butler, we went up the monumental staircase to what
I suppose had been the eccentric old lady's room.

The butler drew the portière curtain aside and he remained in the
corridor whilst we went within. There stood the massive clock exactly
as my lady had often described it to me. It was ticking with slow and
deep-toned majesty.

Monsieur le Marquis pointed to an armchair for me. He was obviously in
a state of terrible nerve-tension. He could not sit still, and his
fingers were incessantly clasped and unclasped with a curious, febrile
movement, which betrayed his intense agitation.

I was about to make a remark when he abruptly seized my wrist, placed
one finger to his lips, and pointed in the direction of the portière.
Apparently he thought that someone was on the watch outside, but the
clock itself was so placed that it could not be seen by anyone who was
not actually in the room.

After that we were both silent, whilst that old piece of mechanism
ticked on relentlessly, still hiding the secret which it contained.

I would have given two years' salary to know what Lady Molly would
have wished me to do. Frankly, I fully expected to see her walk in at
any moment. I could not bring myself to believe that she meant to
shirk her duty.

But she had said to me, "Fall in with their views," So that when,
presently, the Marquis beckoned to me across the room to come and
examine the clock, I obeyed readily enough. I felt, by that time, as
if my entire body was stuffed with needles and pins, which were
pricking my nerves and skin until I could have yelled with the agony
of the sensation.

I walked across the room as if in a dream, and looked at the curious
clock which, in less than fifteen minutes, would reveal its hidden
secret. I suppose cleverer people than poor Mary Granard could enter
into long philosophical disquisitions as to this dumb piece of
mechanism which held the fate of this ruined, unscrupulous gambler
safely within its doors; but I was only conscious of that incessant
tick, tick, tick, whilst my eyes literally ached with staring at the

I don't know now how it all happened, for, of course, I was taken
unawares; but the next moment I found myself quite helpless, hardly
able to breathe, for a woolen scarf was being wound round my mouth,
whilst two strong arms encircled my body so that I could not move.

"This is only a protection for myself, my dear Miss Granard," a
trembling voice whispered in my car; "keep quite still; no harm will
come to you. In ten minutes you shall have your fifty thousand francs
in your pocket, and can walk unconcernedly out of the château. Neither
your English lady nor Monsieur le Curé can say that they suffered any
violence, nor will the clock be damaged. What happens after that I
care not. The law cannot wrest the old fool's fortune from me, once I
have destroyed her accursed will."

To begin to tell you what passed in my mind then were an
impossibility. Did I actually guess what would happen, and what my
dear lady had planned? Or was it merely the ingrafted sympathy which
exists between her and me which caused me to act blindly in accordance
with her wishes?

"Fall in with their views. Take their bribes," she had said, and I--
like a soldier--obeyed this command to the letter.

I remained absolutely still, scarcely moving an eyelid as I watched
the face of the clock, the minutes speeding on--now three--now five--
now ten--

I could hear the Marquis' stertorous breathing close beside me.

Was I dreaming, or did I really see now a dark line--the width of a
hair--between the massive double doors of the clock case? Oh, how my
pulses throbbed!

That dark line was widening perceptibly. The doors were slowly
opening! For the moment I almost felt in sympathy with the blackguard
who was on the watch with me. His agitation must have been the most
exquisite torture.

Now we could distinctly see the glimmer of white paper--not pressed
down by the ponderous weights, but lying loosely just inside the
doors; and anon, as the aperture widened, the papers fell out just at
my feet.

With a smothered, gurgling exclamation which I will not attempt to
describe, the Marquis literally fell on that paper, like a hungry wild
beast upon its prey. He was on his knees before me, and I could see
that the paper was a square envelope, which, with a trembling hand, he
tore open.

It contained a short document whereon the signature "Amédé de
Terhoven" was clearly visible. It was the confession of forgery made
by the young Marquis just a year ago; there were also a few banknotes:
some hundred thousand francs, perhaps. The young man threw them
furiously aside, and once more turned to the clock. The doors were
wide open, but they revealed nothing save the huge and complicated
mechanism of the clock.

Mademoiselle de Genneville--eccentric and far-seeing to the last--had
played this gigantic hoax on her scheming relatives. Whilst they
directed all their unscrupulous energies towards trying to obtain
possession of her will in one place, she had calmly put it securely
somewhere else.

Meantime, Monsieur le Marquis had sufficient presence of mind, and, I
must own, sufficient dignity, not only to release me from my bonds but
also to offer me the fifty thousand francs which he had promised me.

"I can wind up the clock now," he said dully, "and you can walk
straight out of this place. No one need know that you impersonated
your friend. She, no doubt, knew of this--hoax; therefore we found the
scheme to keep her out of the way so easy of accomplishment. It was a
grisly joke, wasn't it? How the old witch must be chortling in her

Needless to say, I did not take his money. He escorted me downstairs
silently, subdued, no doubt, by the spirit of hatred which had
followed him up from the land of shadows.

He even showed no surprise when, on reaching the hall, he was met by
his late aunt's lawyer, Maître Vendôme, and also by Lady Molly, who
had just arrived. Madame la Marquise de Terhoven was nowhere to be

My dear lady smiled at me approvingly, and when I came near her she
contrived to draw me aside and to whisper hurriedly:

"You have done admirably, Mary. I came to fetch you. But now that this
young blackguard is thoroughly outwitted, we may as well go, for our
work here is done."

The Marquis did not even glance at her as she slightly bowed her head
to him, took leave of Maître Vendôme, and finally walked out of the
château with me.

As soon as we were out in the open air I begged for an explanation.

"Maître Vendôme has Mademoiselle's will," she replied. "She had
enjoined him to read it in the château to-day in the presence of the
three trustees appointed for the poor of Porhoët, who inherit all her

"And the Terhovens?" I asked.

"They've got his confession back," she said dryly, "and they will
receive an annuity from the trustees."

"And you knew this all along?" I rejoined somewhat reproachfully.

"Yes, so did the Curé, but Mademoiselle made me swear a most solemn
oath not to reveal her secret even to you; she was so afraid of the
machinations of the Terhovens. You see," continued Lady Molly, smiling
at my eagerness, "Miss de Genneville possessed the ancient key
wherewith she could open the clock case at any time. Obviously, even
so perfect a piece of mechanism might go wrong, when examination and
re-adjustment of the works would be necessary. After the family
conclave wherein she had announced that her will was hidden in the
clock, I--at my next interview with her--begged her to modify this
idea, to send her will to her solicitor, but to leave the Terhovens
under the impression that it was still lying in its strange hiding
place. At first she refused to listen to me or to discuss the subject,
but I am happy to say that I finally succeeded in persuading her, with
what result you already know."

"But poor Monsieur le Curé!" I ejaculated.

Her bright eyes gleamed with merriment.

"Oh! that was a final little hoax. He himself, poor dear, was afraid
lest he might blurt out the whole thing. His illness was partly a
sham, and he is quite all right again now, but the doctor at the Brest
hospital is a great friend of his, and is keeping him there until all
this business has blown over."

"I was the only one who was kept in the dark," I concluded ruefully.

"Yes, Mary, dear," said my dear lady, gently; "it was a promise,
remember. But I never thought that we should get so much excitement
outside our own professional work."

It certainly had been a non-professional experience; but here, too, as
in the detection of crime, her keen intuition had proved more than a
match for an unscrupulous blackguard, and certainly on the 20th day of
September last I lived through the most exciting ten minutes of my



IT was a fairly merry Christmas party, although the surliness of our
host somewhat marred the festivities. But imagine two such beautiful
young women as my own dear lady and Margaret Ceely, and a Christmas
Eve Cinderella in the beautiful ball-room at Clevere Hall, and you
will understand that even Major Ceely's well-known cantankerous temper
could not altogether spoil the merriment of a good, old-fashioned,
festive gathering.

It is a far cry from a Christmas Eve party to a series of cattle-
maiming outrages, yet I am forced to mention these now, for although
they were ultimately proved to have no connection with the murder of
the unfortunate Major, yet they were undoubtedly the means whereby the
miscreant was enabled to accomplish the horrible deed with surety,
swiftness, and--as it turned out afterwards--a very grave chance of

Everyone in the neighbourhood had been taking the keenest possible
interest in those dastardly outrages against innocent animals. They
were either the work of desperate ruffians who stick at nothing in
order to obtain a few shillings, or else of madmen with weird
propensities for purposeless crimes.

Once or twice suspicious characters had been seen lurking about in the
fields, and on more than one occasion a cart was heard in the middle
of the night driving away at furious speed. Whenever this occurred the
discovery of a fresh outrage was sure to follow, but, so far, the
miscreants had succeeded in baffling not only the police, but also the
many farm hands who had formed themselves into a band of volunteer
watchmen, determined to bring the cattle maimers to justice.

We had all been talking about these mysterious events during the
dinner which preceded the dance at Clevere Hall; but later on, when
the young people had assembled, and when the first strains of "The
Merry Widow" waltz had set us aglow with prospective enjoyment, the
unpleasant topic was wholly forgotten.

The guests went away early, Major Ceely, as usual, doing nothing to
detain them; and by midnight all of us who were staying in the house
had gone up to bed.

My dear lady and I shared a bedroom and dressing-room together, our
windows giving on the front. Clevere Hall is, as you know, not very
far from York, on the other side of Bishopthorpe, and is one of the
finest old mansions in the neighbourhood, its only disadvantage being
that, in spite of the gardens being very extensive in the rear, the
front of the house lies very near the road.

It was about two hours after I had switched off the electric light and
called out "Good-night" to my dear lady, that something roused me out
of my first sleep. Suddenly I felt very wide-awake, and sat up in bed.
Most unmistakably--though still from some considerable distance along
the road--came the sound of a cart being driven at unusual speed.

Evidently my dear lady was also awake. She jumped out of bed and,
drawing aside the curtains, looked out of the window. The same idea
had, of course, flashed upon us both, at the very moment of waking:
all the conversations anent the cattle-maimers and their cart, which
we had heard since our arrival at Clevere, recurring to our minds

I had joined Lady Molly beside the window, and I don't know how many
minutes we remained there in observation, not more than two probably,
for anon the sound of the cart died away in the distance along a side
road. Suddenly we were startled with a terrible cry of "Murder! Help!
Help!" issuing from the other side of the house, followed by an awful,
deadly silence. I stood there near the window shivering with terror,
while my dear lady, having already turned on the light, was hastily
slipping into some clothes.

The cry had, of course, aroused the entire household, but my dear lady
was even then the first to get downstairs, and to reach the garden
door at the back of the house, whence the weird and despairing cry had
undoubtedly proceeded.

That door was wide open. Two steps lead from it to the terraced walk
which borders the house on that side, and along these steps Major
Ceely was lying, face downwards, with arms outstretched, and a
terrible wound between his shoulder-blades.

A gun was lying close by--his own. It was easy to conjecture that he,
too, hearing the rumble of the wheels, had run out, gun in hand,
meaning, no doubt, to effect, or at least to help, in the capture of
the escaping criminals. Someone had been lying in wait for him; that
was obvious--someone who had perhaps waited and watched for this
special opportunity for days, or even weeks, in order to catch the
unfortunate man unawares.

Well, it were useless to recapitulate all the various little incidents
which occurred from the moment when Lady Molly and the butler first
lifted the Major's lifeless body from the terrace steps until that
instant when Miss Ceely, with remarkable coolness and presence of
mind, gave what details she could of the terrible event to the local
police inspector and to the doctor, both hastily summoned.

These little incidents, with but slight variations, occur in every
instance when a crime has been committed. The broad facts alone are of
weird and paramount interest.

Major Ceely was dead. He had been stabbed with amazing sureness and
terrible violence in the back. The weapon used must have been some
sort of heavy, clasp knife. The murdered man was now lying in his own
bedroom upstairs, even as the Christmas bells on that cold, crisp
morning sent cheering echoes through the stillness of the air.

We had, of course, left the house, as had all the other guests.
Everyone felt the deepest possible sympathy for the beautiful young
girl who had been so full of the joy of living but a few hours ago,
and was now the pivot round which revolved the weird shadow of
tragedy, of curious suspicions and of an ever-growing mystery. But at
such times all strangers, acquaintances, and even friends in a house,
are only an additional burden to an already overwhelming load of
sorrow and of trouble.

We took up our quarters at the "Black Swan," in York. The local
superintendent, hearing that Lady Molly had been actually a guest at
Clevere on the night of the murder, had asked her to remain in the

There was no doubt that she could easily obtain the chief's consent to
assist the local police in the elucidation of this extraordinary
crime. At this time both her reputation and her remarkable powers were
at their zenith, and there was not a single member of the entire
police force in the kingdom who would not have availed himself gladly
of her help when confronted with a seemingly impenetrable mystery.

That the murder of Major Ceely threatened to become such no one could
deny. In cases of this sort, when no robbery of any kind has
accompanied the graver crime, it is the duty of the police and also of
the coroner to try to find out, first and foremost, what possible
motive there could be behind so cowardly an assault; and among
motives, of course, deadly hatred, revenge, and animosity stand

But here the police were at once confronted with the terrible
difficulty, not of discovering whether Major Ceely had an enemy at
all, but rather which, of all those people who owed him a grudge,
hated him sufficiently to risk hanging for the sake of getting him out
of the way.

As a matter of fact, the unfortunate Major was one of those miserable
people who seem to live in a state of perpetual enmity with everything
and everybody. Morning, noon and night he grumbled, and when he did
not grumble he quarreled either with his own daughter or with the
people of his household, or with his neighbours.

I had often heard about him and his eccentric, disagreeable ways from
Lady Molly, who had known him for many years. She--like everybody in
the county who otherwise would have shunned the old man--kept up a
semblance of friendship with him for the sake of the daughter.

Margaret Ceely was a singularly beautiful girl, and as the Major was
reputed to be very wealthy, these two facts perhaps combined to
prevent the irascible gentleman from living in quite so complete an
isolation as he would have wished.

Mammas of marriageable young men vied with one another in their
welcome to Miss Ceely at garden parties, dances and bazaars. Indeed,
Margaret had been surrounded with admirers ever since she had come out
of the schoolroom. Needless to say, the cantankerous Major received
these pretenders to his daughter's hand not only with insolent
disdain, but at times even with violent opposition.

In spite of this the moths fluttered round the candle, and amongst
this venturesome tribe none stood out more prominently than Mr.
Laurence Smethick, son of the M.P. for the Pakethorpe division. Some
folk there were who vowed that the young people were secretly engaged,
in spite of the fact that Margaret was an outrageous flirt and openly
encouraged more than one of her crowd of adorers.

Be that as it may, one thing was very certain--namely, that Major
Ceely did not approve of Mr. Smethick any more than he did of the
others, and there had been more than one quarrel between the young man
and his prospective father-in-law.

On that memorable Christmas Eve at Clevere none of us could fail to
notice his absence; whilst Margaret, on the other hand, had shown
marked predilection for the society of Captain Glynne, who, since the
sudden death of his cousin, Viscount Heslington, Lord Ullesthorpe's
only son (who was killed in the hunting field last October, if you
remember), had become heir to the earldom and its £40,000 a year.

Personally, I strongly disapproved of Margaret's behaviour the night
of the dance; her attitude with regard to Mr. Smethick--whose constant
attendance on her had justified the rumour that they were engaged--
being more than callous.

On that morning of December 24th--Christmas Eve, in fact--the young
man had called at Clevere. I remember seeing him just as he was being
shown into the boudoir downstairs. A few moments later the sound of
angry voices rose with appalling distinctness from that room. We all
tried not to listen, yet could not fail to hear Major Ceely's
overbearing words of rudeness to the visitor, who, it seems, had
merely asked to see Miss Ceely, and had been most unexpectedly
confronted by the irascible and extremely disagreeable Major. Of
course, the young man speedily lost his temper, too, and the whole
incident ended with a very unpleasant quarrel between the two men in
the hall, and with the Major peremptorily forbidding Mr. Smethick ever
to darken his doors again.

On that night Major Ceely was murdered.


OF course, at first, no one attached any importance to this weird
coincidence. The very thought of connecting the idea of murder with
that of the personality of a bright, good-looking young Yorkshireman
like Mr. Smethick seemed, indeed, preposterous, and with one accord
all of us who were practically witnesses to the quarrel between the
two men, tacitly agreed to say nothing at all about it at the inquest,
unless we were absolutely obliged to do so on oath.

In view of the Major's terrible temper, this quarrel, mind you, had
not the importance which it otherwise would have had; and we all
flattered ourselves that we had well succeeded in parrying the
coroner's questions.

The verdict at the inquest was against some person or persons unknown;
and I, for one, was very glad that young Smethick's name had not been
mentioned in connection with this terrible crime.

Two days later the superintendent at Bishopthorpe sent an urgent
telephonic message to Lady Molly, begging her to come to the police-
station immediately. We had the use of a motor all the while that we
stayed at the "Black Swan," and in less than ten minutes we were
bowling along at express speed towards Bishopthorpe.

On arrival we were immediately shown into Superintendent Etty's
private room behind the office. He was there talking with Danvers--who
had recently come down from London. In a corner of the room, sitting
very straight on a high-backed chair, was a youngish woman of the
servant class, who, as we entered, cast a quick, and I thought
suspicious, glance at us both.

She was dressed in a coat and skirt of shabby-looking black, and
although her face might have been called good-looking--for she had
fine, dark eyes--her entire appearance was distinctly repellent. It
suggested slatternliness in an unusual degree; there were holes in her
shoes and in her stockings, the sleeve of her coat was half unsewn,
and the braid on her skirt hung in loops all round the bottom. She had
very red and very coarse-looking hands, and undoubtedly there was a
furtive expression in her eyes, which, when she began speaking,
changed to one of defiance.

Etty came forward with great alacrity when my dear lady entered. He
looked perturbed, and seemed greatly relieved at sight of her.

"She is the wife of one of the outdoor men at Clevere," he explained
rapidly to Lady Molly, nodding in the direction of the young woman,
"and she has come here with such a queer tale that I thought you would
like to hear it."

"She knows something about the murder?" asked Lady Molly.

"Noa! I didn't say that!" here interposed the woman, roughly, "doan't
you go and tell no lies, Master Inspector. I thought as how you might
wish to know what my husband saw on the night when the Major was
murdered, that's all; and I've come to tell you."

"Why didn't your husband come himself?" asked Lady Molly.

"Oh, Haggett ain't well enough--he--" she began explaining, with a
careless shrug of the shoulders, "so to speak--"

"The fact of the matter is, my lady," interposed Etty, "this woman's
husband is half-witted. I believe he is only kept on in the garden
because he is very strong and can help with the digging. It is because
his testimony is so little to be relied on that I wished to consult
you as to how we should act in the matter."

"What is his testimony, then?"

"Tell this lady what you have just told us, Mrs. Haggett, will you?"
said Etty, curtly.

Again that quick, suspicious glance shot into the woman's eyes. Lady
Molly took the chair which Danvers had brought forward for her, and
sat down opposite Mrs. Haggett, fixing her earnest, calm gaze upon

"There's not much to tell," said the woman, sullenly. "Haggett is
certainly queer in his head sometimes--and when he is queer he goes
wandering about the place of nights."

"Yes?" said my lady, for Mrs. Haggett had paused awhile and now seemed
unwilling to proceed.

"Well!" she resumed with sudden determination, "he had got one of his
queer fits on Christmas Eve, and didn't come in till long after
midnight. He told me as how he'd seen a young gentleman prowling about
the garden on the terrace side. He heard the cry of 'Murder' and
'Help' soon after that, and ran in home because he was frightened."

"Home?" asked Lady Molly, quietly, "where is home?"

"The cottage where we live. Just back of the kitchen garden."

"Why didn't you tell all this to the superintendent before?"

"Because Haggett only told me last night, when he seemed less queer-
like. He is mighty silent when the fits are on him."

"Did he know who the gentleman was whom he saw?"

"No, ma'am--I don't suppose he did--leastways he wouldn't say--but--"

"Yes? But?"

"He found this in the garden yesterday," said the woman, holding out a
screw of paper which apparently she had held tightly clutched up to
now, "and maybe that's what brought Christmas Eve and the murder back
to his mind."

Lady Molly took the thing from her, and undid the soiled bit of paper
with her dainty fingers. The next moment she held up for Etty's
inspection a beautiful ring composed of an exquisitely carved
moonstone surrounded with diamonds of unusual brilliance.

At the moment the setting and the stones themselves were marred by
scraps of sticky mud which clung to them; the ring obviously having
lain on the ground, and perhaps been trampled on for some days, and
then been only very partially washed.

"At any rate you can find out the ownership of the ring," commented my
dear lady after awhile, in answer to Etty's silent attitude of
expectancy. "There would be no harm in that."

Then she turned once more to the woman.

"I'll walk with you to your cottage, if I may," she said decisively,
"and have a chat with your husband. Is he at home?"

I thought Mrs. Haggett took this suggestion with marked reluctance. I
could well imagine, from her own personal appearance, that her home
was most unlikely to be in a fit state for a lady's visit. However,
she could, of course, do nothing but obey, and, after a few muttered
words of grudging acquiescence, she rose from her chair and stalked
towards the door, leaving my lady to follow as she chose.

Before going, however, she turned and shot an angry glance at Etty.

"You'll give me back the ring, Master Inspector," she said with her
usual tone of sullen defiance. "'Findings is keepings' you know."

"I am afraid not," replied Etty, curtly; "but there's always the
reward offered by Miss Ceely for information which would lead to the
apprehension of her father's murderer. You may get that, you know. It
is a hundred pounds."

"Yes! I knew that," she remarked dryly, as, without further comment,
she finally went out of the room.


MY dear lady came back very disappointed from her interview with

It seems that he was indeed half-witted--almost an imbecile, in fact,
with but a few lucid intervals, of which this present day was one.
But, of course, his testimony was practically valueless.

He reiterated the story already told by his wife, adding no details.
He had seen a young gentleman roaming on the terraced walk on the
night of the murder. He did not know who the young gentleman was. He
was going homewards when he heard the cry of "Murder," and ran to his
cottage because he was frightened. He picked up the ring yesterday in
the perennial border below the terrace and gave it to his wife.

Two of these brief statements made by the imbecile were easily proved
to be true, and my dear lady had ascertained this before she returned
to me. One of the Clevere under-gardeners said he had seen Haggett
running home in the small hours of that fateful Christmas morning. He
himself had been on the watch for the cattle-maimers that night, and
remembered the little circumstance quite plainly. He added that
Haggett certainly looked to be in a panic.

Then Newby, another outdoor man at the Hall, saw Haggett pick up the
ring in the perennial border and advised him to take it to the police.

Somehow, all of us who were so interested in that terrible Christmas
tragedy felt strangely perturbed at all this. No names had been
mentioned as yet, but whenever my dear lady and I looked at one
another, or whenever we talked to Etty or Danvers, we all felt that a
certain name, one particular personality, was lurking at the back of
all our minds.

The two men, of course, had no sentimental scruples to worry them.
Taking the Haggett story merely as a clue, they worked diligently on
that, with the result that twenty-four hours later Etty appeared in
our private room at the "Black Swan" and calmly informed us that he
had just got a warrant out against Mr. Laurence Smethick on a charge
of murder, and was on his way even now to effect the arrest.

"Mr. Smethick did not murder Major Ceely," was Lady Molly's firm and
only comment when she heard the news.

"Well, my lady, that's as it may be!" rejoined Etty, speaking with
that deference with which the entire force invariably addressed my
dear lady; "but we have collected a sufficiency of evidence, at any
rate, to justify the arrest, and, in my opinion, enough of it to hang
any man. Mr. Smethick purchased the moonstone and diamond ring at
Nicholson's in Coney Street about a week ago. He was seen abroad on
Christmas Eve by several persons, loitering round the gates at Clevere
Hall, somewhere about the time when the guests were leaving after the
dance, and, again, some few moments after the first cry of 'Murder'
had been heard. His own valet admits that his master did not get home
that night until long after 2.0 a.m., whilst even Miss Granard here
won't deny that there was a terrible quarrel between Mr. Smethick and
Major Ceely less than twenty-four hours before the latter was

Lady Molly offered no remark to this array of facts which Etty thus
pitilessly marshalled before us, but I could not refrain from

"Mr. Smethick is innocent, I am sure."

"I hope, for his sake, he may be," retorted Etty, gravely, "but
somehow 'tis a pity that he don't seem able to give a good account of
himself between midnight and two o'clock that Christmas morning."

"Oh!" I ejaculated, "what does he say about that?"

"Nothing," said the man dryly; "that's just the trouble."

Well, of course, as you who read the papers will doubtless remember,
Mr. Laurence Smethick, son of Colonel Smethick, M.P., of Pakethorpe
Hall, Yorks, was arrested on the charge of having murdered Major Ceely
on the night of December 24th-25th, and, after the usual magisterial
inquiry, was duly committed to stand his trial at the next York

I remember well that, throughout his preliminary ordeal, young
Smethick bore himself like one who had given up all hope of refuting
the terrible charges brought against him, and, I must say, the
formidable number of witnesses which the police brought up against him
more than explained that attitude.

Of course, Haggett was not called, but, as it happened, there were
plenty of people to swear that Mr. Laurence Smethick was seen
loitering round the gates of Clevere Hall after the guests had
departed on Christmas Eve. The head gardener, who lives at the lodge
actually spoke to him, and Captain Glynne, leaning out of his
brougham, was heard to exclaim:

"Hello, Smethick, what are you doing here at this time of night?"

And there were others, too.

To Captain Glynne's credit, be it here recorded, he tried his best to
deny having recognized his unfortunate friend in the dark. Pressed by
the magistrate, he said obstinately:

"I thought at the time that it was Mr. Smethick standing by the lodge
gates, but on thinking the matter over I feel sure that I was

On the other hand, what stood dead against young Smethick was,
firstly, the question of the ring, and then the fact that he was seen
in the immediate neighbourhood of Clevere, both at midnight and again
at about two, when some men, who had been on the watch for the cattle-
maimers, saw him walking away rapidly in the direction of Pakethorpe.

What was, of course, unexplainable and very terrible to witness was
Mr. Smethick's obstinate silence with regard to his own movements
during those fatal hours on that night. He did not contradict those
who said that they had seen him at about midnight near the gates of
Clevere, nor his own valet's statements as to the hour when he
returned home. All he said was that he could not account for what he
did between the time when the guests left the Hall and he himself went
back to Pakethorpe. He realized the danger in which he stood, and what
caused him to be silent about a matter which might mean life or death
to him could not easily be conjectured.

The ownership of the ring he could not and did not dispute. He had
lost it in the grounds of Clevere, he said. But the jeweller in Coney
Street swore that he had sold the ring to Mr. Smethick on the 8th of
December, whilst it was a well-known and an admitted fact that the
young man had not openly been inside the gates of Clevere for over a
fortnight before that.

On this evidence Laurence Smethick was committed for trial. Though the
actual weapon with which the unfortunate Major had been stabbed had
not been found, nor its ownership traced, there was such a vast array
of circumstantial evidence against the young man that bail was

He had, on the advice of his solicitor, Mr. Grayson--one of the ablest
lawyers in York--reserved his defence, and on that miserable afternoon
at the close of the year, we all filed out of the crowded court,
feeling terribly depressed and anxious.


MY dear lady and I walked back to our hotel in silence. Our hearts
seemed to weigh heavily within us. We felt mortally sorry for that
good-looking young Yorkshireman, who, we were convinced, was innocent,
yet at the same time seemed involved in a tangled web of deadly
circumstances from which he seemed quite unable to extricate himself.

We did not feel like discussing the matter in the open streets,
neither did we make any comment when presently, in a block in the
traffic in Coney Street, we saw Margaret Ceely driving her smart dog-
cart, whilst sitting beside her, and talking with great earnestness
close to her ear, sat Captain Glynne.

She was in deep mourning, and had obviously been doing some shopping,
for she was surrounded with parcels; so perhaps it was hypercritical
to blame her. Yet somehow it struck me that just at the moment when
there hung in the balance the life and honour of a man with whose name
her own had oft been linked by popular rumour, it showed more than
callous contempt for his welfare to be seen driving about with another
man who, since his sudden access to fortune, had undoubtedly become a
rival in her favours.

When we arrived at the "Black Swan," we were surprised to hear that
Mr. Grayson had called to see my dear lady, and was upstairs waiting.

Lady Molly ran up to our sitting-room and greeted him with marked
cordiality. Mr. Grayson is an elderly dry-looking man, but he looked
visibly affected, and it was some time before he seemed able to plunge
into the subject which had brought him hither. He fidgeted in his
chair, and started talking about the weather.

"I am not here in a strictly professional capacity, you know," said
Lady Molly presently, with a kindly smile and with a view to helping
him out of his embarrassment. "Our police, I fear me, have an
exaggerated view of my capacities, and the men here asked me
unofficially to remain in the neighbourhood and to give them my advice
if they should require it. Our chief is very lenient to me and has
allowed me to stay. Therefore, if there is anything I can do--"

"Indeed, indeed there is!" ejaculated Mr. Grayson with sudden energy.
"From all I hear, there is not another soul in the kingdom but you who
can save this innocent man from the gallows."

My dear lady heaved a little sigh of satisfaction. She had all along
wanted to have a more important finger in that Yorkshire pie.

"Mr. Smethick?" she said.

"Yes; my unfortunate young client," replied the lawyer. "I may as well
tell you," he resumed after a slight pause, during which he seemed to
pull himself together, "as briefly as possible what occurred on
December 24th last and on the following Christmas morning. You will
then understand the terrible plight in which my client finds himself,
and how impossible it is for him to explain his actions on that
eventful night. You will understand, also, why I have come to ask your
help and your advice. Mr. Smethick considered himself engaged to Miss
Ceely. The engagement had not been made public because of Major
Ceely's anticipated opposition, but the young people had been very
intimate, and many letters had passed between them. On the morning of
the 24th Mr. Smethick called at the Hall, his intention then being
merely to present his fiancée with the ring you know of. You remember
the unfortunate contretemps that occurred: I mean the unprovoked
quarrel sought by Major Ceely with my poor client, ending with the
irascible old man forbidding Mr. Smethick the house.

"My client walked out of Clevere feeling, as you may well imagine,
very wrathful; on the doorstep, just as he was leaving, he met Miss
Margaret, and told her very briefly what had occurred. She took the
matter very lightly at first, but finally became more serious, and
ended the brief interview with the request that, since he could not
come to the dance after what had occurred, he should come and see her
afterwards, meeting her in the gardens soon after midnight. She would
not take the ring from him then, but talked a good deal of sentiment
about Christmas morning, asking him to bring the ring to her at night,
and also the letters which she had written him. Well--you can guess
the rest."

Lady Molly nodded thoughtfully.

"Miss Ceely was playing a double game," continued Mr. Grayson,
earnestly. "She was determined to break off all relationship with Mr.
Smethick, for she had transferred her volatile affections to Captain
Glynne, who had lately become heir to an earldom and £40,000 a year.
Under the guise of sentimental twaddle she got my unfortunate client
to meet her at night in the grounds of Clevere and to give up to her
the letters which might have compromised her in the eyes of her new
lover. At two o'clock a.m. Major Ceely was murdered by one of his
numerous enemies; as to which I do not know, nor does Mr. Smethick. He
had just parted from Miss Ceely at the very moment when the first cry
of 'Murder' roused Clevere from its slumbers. This she could confirm
if she only would, for the two were still in sight of each other, she
inside the gates, he just a little way down the road. Mr. Smethick saw
Margaret Ceely run rapidly back towards the house. He waited about a
little while, half hesitating what to do; then he reflected that his
presence might be embarrassing, or even compromising to her whom, in
spite of all, he still loved dearly; and knowing that there were
plenty of men in and about the house to render what assistance was
necessary, he finally turned his steps and went home a broken-hearted
man, since she had given him the go-by, taken her letters away, and
flung contemptuously into the mud the ring he had bought for her."

The lawyer paused, mopping his forehead and gazing with whole-souled
earnestness at my lady's beautiful, thoughtful face.

"Has Mr. Smethick spoken to Miss Ceely since?" asked Lady Molly, after
a while.

"No; but I did," replied the lawyer.

"What was her attitude?"

"One of bitter and callous contempt. She denies my unfortunate
client's story from beginning to end; declares that she never saw him
after she bade him 'good-morning' on the doorstep of Clevere Hall,
when she heard of his unfortunate quarrel with her father. Nay, more;
she scornfully calls the whole tale a cowardly attempt to shield a
dastardly crime behind a still more dastardly libel on a defenceless

We were all silent now, buried in thought which none of us would have
cared to translate into words. That the impasse seemed indeed hopeless
no one could deny.

The tower of damning evidence against the unfortunate young man had
indeed been built by remorseless circumstances with no faltering hand.

Margaret Ceely alone could have saved him, but with brutal
indifference she preferred the sacrifice of an innocent man's life and
honour to that of her own chances of a brilliant marriage. There are
such women in the world; thank God I have never met any but that one!

Yet am I wrong when I say that she alone could save the unfortunate
young man, who throughout was behaving with such consummate gallantry,
refusing to give his own explanation of the events that occurred on
that Christmas morning, unless she chose first to tell the tale. There
was one present now in the dingy little room at the "Black Swan" who
could disentangle that weird skein of coincidences, if any human being
not gifted with miraculous powers could indeed do it at this eleventh

She now said, gently:

"What would you like me to do in this matter, Mr. Grayson? And why
have you come to me rather than to the police?"

"How can I go with this tale to the police?" he ejaculated in obvious
despair. "Would they not also look upon it as a dastardly libel on a
woman's reputation? We have no proofs, remember, and Miss Ceely denies
the whole story from first to last. No, no!" he exclaimed with
wonderful fervour. "I came to you because I have heard of your
marvellous gifts, your extraordinary intuition. Someone murdered Major
Ceely! It was not my old friend Colonel Smethick's son. Find out who
it was, then! I beg of you, find out who it was!"

He fell back in his chair broken down with grief. With inexpressible
gentleness Lady Molly went up to him and placed her beautiful white
hand on his shoulder.

"I will do my best, Mr. Grayson," she said simply.


WE remained alone and singularly quiet the whole of that evening. That
my dear lady's active brain was hard at work I could guess by the
brilliance of her eyes, and that sort of absolute stillness in her
person through which one could almost feel the delicate nerves

The story told her by the lawyer had moved her singularly. Mind you,
she had always been morally convinced of young Smethick's innocence,
but in her the professional woman always fought hard battles against
the sentimentalist, and in this instance the overwhelming
circumstantial evidence and the conviction of her superiors had forced
her to accept the young man's guilt as something out of her ken.

By his silence, too, the young man had tacitly confessed; and if a man
is perceived on the very scene of a crime, both before it has been
committed and directly afterwards; if something admittedly belonging
to him is found within three yards of where the murderer must have
stood; if, added to this, he has had a bitter quarrel with the victim,
and can give no account of his actions or whereabouts during the fatal
time, it were vain to cling to optimistic beliefs in that same man's

But now matters had assumed an altogether different aspect. The story
told by Mr. Smethick's lawyer had all the appearance of truth.
Margaret Ceely's character, her callousness on the very day when her
late fiancé stood in the dock, her quick transference of her
affections to the richer man, all made the account of the events on
Christmas night as told by Mr. Grayson extremely plausible.

No wonder my dear lady was buried in thought.

"I shall have to take the threads up from the beginning, Mary," she
said to me the following morning, when after breakfast she appeared in
her neat coat and skirt, with hat and gloves, ready to go out, "so, on
the whole, I think I will begin with a visit to the Haggetts."

"I may come with you, I suppose?" I suggested meekly.

"Oh, yes!" she rejoined carelessly.

Somehow I had an inkling that the carelessness of her mood was only on
the surface. It was not likely that she--my sweet, womanly, ultra-
feminine, beautiful lady--should feel callously on this absorbing

We motored down to Bishopthorpe. It was bitterly cold, raw, damp, and
foggy. The chauffeur had some difficulty in finding the cottage, the
"home" of the imbecile gardener and his wife.

There was certainly not much look of home about the place. When, after
much knocking at the door, Mrs. Haggett finally opened it, we saw
before us one of the most miserable, slatternly places I think I ever

In reply to Lady Molly's somewhat curt inquiry, the woman said that
Haggett was in bed, suffering from one of his "fits."

"That is a great pity," said my dear lady, rather unsympathetically, I
thought, "for I must speak with him at once."

"What is it about?" asked the woman, sullenly. "I can take a message."

"I am afraid not," rejoined my lady. "I was asked to see Haggett

"By whom, I'd like to know," she retorted, now almost insolently.

"I dare say you would. But you are wasting precious time. Hadn't you
better help your husband on with his clothes? This lady and I will
wait in the parlour."

After some hesitation the woman finally complied, looking very sulky
the while.

We went into the miserable little room wherein not only grinding
poverty but also untidiness and dirt were visible all round. We sat
down on two of the cleanest-looking chairs, and waited whilst a
colloquy in subdued voices went on in the room over our heads.

The colloquy, I may say, seemed to consist of agitated whispers on one
part, and wailing complaints on the other. This was followed presently
by some thuds and much shuffling, and presently Haggett, looking
uncared-for, dirty, and unkempt, entered the parlour, followed by his

He came forward, dragging his ill-shod feet and pulling nervously at
his forelock.

"Ah!" said my lady, kindly; "I am glad to see you down, Haggett,
though I am afraid I haven't very good news for you."

"Yes, miss!" murmured the man, obviously not quite comprehending what
was said to him.

"I represent the workhouse authorities," continued Lady Molly, "and I
thought we could arrange for you and your wife to come into the Union
to-night, perhaps."

"The Union?" here interposed the woman, roughly. "What do you mean? We
ain't going to the Union?"

"Well! but since you are not staying here," rejoined my lady, blandly,
"you will find it impossible to get another situation for your husband
in his present mental condition."

"Miss Ceely won't give us the go-by," she retorted defiantly.

"She might wish to carry out her late father's intentions," said Lady
Molly with seeming carelessness.

"The Major was a cruel, cantankerous brute," shouted the woman with
unpremeditated violence. "Haggett had served him faithfully for twelve
years, and--"

She checked herself abruptly, and cast one of her quick, furtive
glances at Lady Molly.

Her silence now had become as significant as her outburst of rage, and
it was Lady Molly who concluded the phrase for her.

"And yet he dismissed him without warning," she said calmly.

"Who told you that?" retorted the woman.

"The same people, no doubt, who declare that you and Haggett had a
grudge against the Major for this dismissal."

"That's a lie," asserted Mrs. Haggett, doggedly; "we gave information
about Mr. Smethick having killed the Major because--"

"Ah," interrupted Lady Molly, quickly, "but then Mr. Smethick did not
murder Major Ceely, and your information therefore was useless!"

"Then who killed the Major, I should like to know?"

Her manner was arrogant, coarse, and extremely unpleasant. I marvelled
why my dear lady put up with it, and what was going on in that busy
brain of hers. She looked quite urbane and smiling, whilst I wondered
what in the world she meant by this story of the workhouse and the
dismissal of Haggett.

"Ah, that's what none of us know!" she now said lightly; "some folks
say it was your husband."

"They lie!" she retorted quickly, whilst the imbecile, evidently not
understanding the drift of the conversation, was mechanically stroking
his red mop of hair and looking helplessly all round him.

"He was home before the cries of 'Murder' were heard in the house,"
continued Mrs. Haggett.

"How do you know?" asked Lady Molly, quickly.

"How do I know?"

"Yes; you couldn't have heard the cries all the way to this cottage--
why, it's over half a mile from the Hall!"

"He was home, I say," she repeated with dogged obstinacy.

"You sent him?"

"He didn't do it--"

"No one will believe you, especially when the knife is found."

"What knife?"

"His clasp knife, with which he killed Major Ceely," said Lady Molly,
quietly; "see, he has it in his hand now."

And with a sudden, wholly unexpected gesture she pointed to the
imbecile, who in an aimless way had prowled round the room whilst this
rapid colloquy was going on.

The purport of it all must in some sort of way have found an echo in
his enfeebled brain. He wandered up to the dresser whereon lay the
remnants of that morning's breakfast, together with some crockery and

In that same half-witted and irresponsible way he had picked up one of
the knives and now was holding it out towards his wife, whilst a look
of fear spread over his countenance.

"I can't do it, Annie, I can't--you'd better do it," he said.

There was dead silence in the little room. The woman Haggett stood as
if turned to stone. Ignorant and superstitious as she was, I suppose
that the situation had laid hold of her nerves, and that she felt that
the finger of a relentless Fate was even now being pointed at her.

The imbecile was shuffling forward, closer and closer to his wife,
still holding out the knife towards her and murmuring brokenly:

"I can't do it. You'd better, Annie--you'd better--"

He was close to her now, and all at once her rigidity and nerve-strain
gave way; she gave a hoarse cry, and snatching the knife from the poor
wretch, she rushed at him ready to strike.

Lady Molly and I were both young, active and strong; and there was
nothing of the squeamish grande dame about my dear lady when quick
action was needed. But even then we had some difficulty in dragging
Annie Haggett away from her miserable husband. Blinded with fury, she
was ready to kill the man who had betrayed her. Finally, we succeeded
in wresting the knife from her.

You may be sure that it required some pluck after that to sit down
again quietly and to remain in the same room with this woman, who
already had one crime upon her conscience, and with this weird, half-
witted creature who kept on murmuring pitiably:

"You'd better do it, Annie--"

Well, you've read the account of the case, so you know what followed.
Lady Molly did not move from that room until she had obtained the
woman's full confession. All she did for her own protection was to
order me to open the window and to blow the police whistle which she
handed to me. The police-station fortunately was not very far, and
sound carried in the frosty air.

She admitted to me afterwards that it had been foolish, perhaps, not
to have brought Etty or Danvers with her, but she was supremely
anxious not to put the woman on the alert from the very start, hence
her circumlocutory speeches anent the workhouse, and Haggett's
probable dismissal.

That the woman had had some connection with the crime, Lady Molly,
with her keen intuition, had always felt; but as there was no witness
to the murder itself, and all circumstantial evidence was dead against
young Smethick, there was only one chance of successful discovery, and
that was the murderer's own confession.

If you think over the interview between my dear lady and the Haggetts
on that memorable morning, you will realise how admirably Lady Molly
had led up to the weird finish. She would not speak to the woman
unless Haggett was present, and she felt sure that as soon as the
subject of the murder cropped up, the imbecile would either do or say
something that would reveal the truth.

Mechanically, when Major Ceely's name was mentioned, he had taken up
the knife. The whole scene recurred to his tottering mind. That the
Major had summarily dismissed him recently was one of those bold
guesses which Lady Molly was wont to make.

That Haggett had been merely egged on by his wife, and had been too
terrified at the last to do the deed himself was no surprise to her,
and hardly one to me, whilst the fact that the woman ultimately
wreaked her own passionate revenge upon the unfortunate Major was
hardly to be wondered at, in the face of her own coarse and elemental

Cowed by the quickness of events, and by the appearance of Danvers and
Etty on the scene, she finally made full confession.

She was maddened by the Major's brutality, when with rough, cruel
words he suddenly turned her husband adrift, refusing to give him
further employment. She herself had great ascendency over the
imbecile, and had drilled him into a part of hate and of revenge. At
first he had seemed ready and willing to obey. It was arranged that he
was to watch on the terrace every night until such time as an alarm of
the recurrence of the cattle-maiming outrages should lure the Major
out alone.

This effectually occurred on Christmas morning, but not before
Haggett, frightened and pusillanimous, was ready to flee rather than
to accomplish the villainous deed. But Annie Haggett, guessing perhaps
that he would shrink from the crime at the last, had also kept watch
every night. Picture the prospective murderer watching and being

When Haggett came across his wife he deputed her to do the deed

I suppose that either terror of discovery or merely desire for the
promised reward had caused the woman to fasten the crime on another.

The finding of the ring by Haggett was the beginning of that cruel
thought which, but for my dear lady's marvellous powers, would indeed
have sent a brave young man to the gallows.

Ah, you wish to know if Margaret Ceely is married? No! Captain Glynne
cried off. What suspicions crossed his mind I cannot say; but he never
proposed to Margaret, and now she is in Australia--staying with an
aunt, I think--and she has sold Clevere Hall.



OF course, I knew at once by the expression of her face that morning
that my dear lady had some important business on hand.

She had a bundle in her arms, consisting of a shabby-looking coat and
skirt, and a very dowdy hat trimmed with bunches of cheap, calico

"Put on these things at once, Mary," she said curtly, "for you are
going to apply for the situation of 'good plain cook,' so mind you
look the part."

"But where in the world--?" I gasped in astonishment.

"In the house of Mr. Nicholas Jones, in Eaton Terrace," she
interrupted dryly, "the one occupied until recently by his sister, the
late Mrs. Dunstan. Mrs. Jones is advertising for a cook, and you must
get that place."

As you know, I have carried obedience to the level of a fine art. Nor
was I altogether astonished that my dear lady had at last been asked
to put one of her dainty fingers in that Dunstan pie, which was
puzzling our fellows more completely than any other case I have ever

I don't know if you remember the many circumstances, the various
contradictions which were cropping up at every turn, and which baffled
our ablest detectives at the very moment when they thought themselves
most near the solution of that strange mystery.

Mrs. Dunstan herself was a very uninteresting individual: self-
righteous, self-conscious and fat, a perfect type of the moneyed
middle-class woman whose balance at the local bank is invariably
heavier than that of her neighbours. Her niece, Violet Frostwicke,
lived with her: a smart, pretty girl, inordinately fond of dainty
clothes and other luxuries which money can give. Being totally
impecunious herself, she bore with the older woman's constantly
varying caprices with almost angelic patience, a fact probably
attributable to Mrs. Dunstan's testamentary intentions, which, as she
often averred, were in favour of her niece.

In addition to these two ladies, the household consisted of three
servants and Miss Cruikshank. The latter was a quiet, unassuming girl
who was by way of being secretary and lady-help to Mrs. Dunstan, but
who, in reality, was nothing but a willing drudge. Up betimes in the
morning, she combined the work of a housekeeper with that of an upper
servant. She interviewed the tradespeople, kept the servants in order,
and ironed and smartened up Miss Violet's blouses. A Cinderella, in

Mrs. Dunstan kept a cook and two maids, all of whom had been with her
for years. In addition to these, a charwoman came very early in the
morning to light fires, clean boots, and do the front steps.

On November 22nd, 1907--for the early history of this curious drama
dates back to that year--the charwoman who had been employed at Mrs.
Dunstan's house in Eaton Terrace for some considerable time, sent word
in the morning that in future she would be unable to come. Her husband
had been obliged to move to lodgings nearer to his work, and she
herself could not undertake to come the greater distance at the early
hour at which Mrs. Dunstan required her.

The woman had written a very nice letter explaining these facts, and
sent it by hand, stating at the same time that the bearer of the note
was a very respectable woman, a friend of her own, who would be very
pleased to "oblige" Mrs. Dunstan by taking on the morning's work.

I must tell you that the message and its bearer arrived at Eaton
Terrace somewhere about 6.0 a.m., when no one was down except the
Cinderella of the house, Miss Cruikshank.

She saw the woman, liked her appearance, and there and then engaged
her to do the work, subject to Mrs. Dunstan's approval.

The woman, who had given her name as Mrs. Thomas, seemed very quiet
and respectable. She said that she lived close by, in St. Peter's
Mews, and therefore could come as early as Mrs. Dunstan wished. In
fact, from that day, she came every morning at 5.30 a.m., and by seven
o'clock had finished her work, and was able to go home.

If, in addition to these details, I tell you that, at that time,
pretty Miss Violet Frostwicke was engaged to a young Scotsman, Mr.
David Athol, of whom her aunt totally disapproved, I shall have put
before you all the personages who, directly or indirectly, were
connected with that drama, the final act of which has not yet been
witnessed either by the police or by the public.


ON the following New Year's Eve, Mrs. Dunstan, as was her invariable
custom on that day, went to her married brother's house to dine and to
see the New Year in.

During her absence the usual thing occurred at Eaton Terrace. Miss
Violet Frostwicke took the opportunity of inviting Mr. David Athol to
spend the evening with her.

Mrs. Dunstan's servants, mind you, all knew of the engagement between
the young people, and with the characteristic sentimentality of their
class, connived at these secret meetings and helped to hoodwink the
irascible old aunt.

Mr. Athol was a good-looking young man, whose chief demerit lay in his
total lack of money or prospects. Also he was by way of being an
actor, another deadly sin in the eyes of the puritanically-minded old

Already, on more than one occasion, there had been vigorous wordy
warfare 'twixt Mr. Athol and Mrs. Dunstan, and the latter had declared
that if Violet chose to take up with this mountebank, she should never
see a penny of her aunt's money now or in the future.

The young man did not come very often to Eaton Terrace, but on this
festive New Year's Eve, when Mrs. Dunstan was not expected to be home
until long after midnight, it seemed too splendid an opportunity for
an ardent lover to miss.

As ill-luck would have it, Mrs. Dunstan had not felt very well after
her copious dinner, and her brother, Mr. Nicholas Jones, escorted her
home soon after ten o'clock.

Jane, the parlour-maid who opened the front door, was, in her own
graphic language, "knocked all of a heap" when she saw her mistress,
knowing full well that Mr. Athol was still in the dining-room with
Miss Violet, and that Miss Cruikshank was at that very moment busy
getting him a whisky and soda.

Meanwhile the coat and hat in the hall had revealed the young man's
presence in the house.

For a moment Mrs. Dunstan paused, whilst Jane stood by trembling with
fright. Then the old lady turned to Mr. Nicholas Jones, who was still
standing on the doorstep, and said quietly:

"Will you telephone over to Mr. Blenkinsop, Nick, the first thing in
the morning, and tell him I'll be at his office by ten o'clock?"

Mr. Blenkinsop was Mrs. Dunstan's solicitor, and as Jane explained to
the cook later on, what could such an appointment mean but a
determination to cut Miss Violet out of the missis's will with the
proverbial shilling?

After this Mrs. Dunstan took leave of her brother and went straight
into the dining-room.

According to the subsequent testimony of all three servants, the
mistress "went on dreadful." Words were not easily distinguishable
from behind the closed door, but it seems that, immediately she
entered, Mrs. Dunstan's voice was raised as if in terrible anger, and
a few moments later Miss Violet fled crying from the dining-room, and
ran quickly upstairs.

Whilst the door was thus momentarily opened and shut, the voice of the
old lady was heard saying, in majestic wrath:

"That's what you have done. Get out of this house. As for her, she'll
never see a penny of my money, and she may starve for aught I care!"

The quarrel seems to have continued for a short while after that, the
servants being too deeply awed by those last vindictive words which
they had heard to take much note of what went on subsequently.

Mrs. Dunstan and Mr. Athol were closeted together for some time; but
apparently the old lady's wrath did not subside, for when she marched
up to bed an hour later she was heard to say:

"Out of this house she shall go, and the first thing in the morning,
too. I'll have no goings-on with a mountebank like you."

Miss Cruikshank was terribly upset.

"It is a frightful blow for Miss Violet," she said to cook, "but
perhaps Mrs. Dunstan will feel more forgiving in the morning. I'll
take her up a glass of champagne now. She is very fond of that, and it
will help her to get to sleep."

Miss Cruikshank went up with the champagne, and told cook to see Mr.
Athol out of the house; but the young man, who seemed very anxious and
agitated, would not go away immediately. He stayed in the dining-room,
smoking, for a while, and when the two younger servants went up to
bed, he asked cook to let him remain until he had seen Miss Violet
once more, for he was sure she would come down again--he had asked
Miss Cruikshank to beg her to do so.

Mrs. Kennett, the cook, was a kind-hearted old woman. She had taken
the young people under her special protection, and felt very vexed
that the course of true love should not be allowed to run quite
smoothly. So she told Mr. Athol to make himself happy and comfortable
in the dining-room, and she would sit up by the fire in the library
until he was ready to go.

The good soul thereupon made up the fire in the library, drew a chair
in front of it, and--went fast to sleep.

Suddenly something awoke her. She sat up and looked round in that
dazed manner peculiar to people just aroused from deep sleep.

She looked at the clock; it was past three. Surely, she thought, it
must have been Mr. Athol calling to her which had caused her to wake.
She went into the hall, where the gas had not yet been turned off, and
there she saw Miss Violet, fully dressed and wearing a hat and coat,
in the very act of going out at the front door.

In the cook's own words, before she could ask a question or even utter
a sound, the young girl had opened the front door, which was still on
the latch, and then banged it to again, she herself having disappeared
into the darkness of the street beyond.

Mrs. Kennett ran to the door and out into the street as fast as her
old legs would let her; but the night was an exceptionally foggy one.
Violet, no doubt, had walked rapidly away, and there came no answer to
Mrs. Kennett's repeated calls.

Thoroughly upset, and not knowing what to do, the good woman went back
into the house. Mr. Athol had evidently left, for there was no sign of
him in the dining-room or elsewhere. She then went upstairs and
knocked at Mrs. Dunstan's door. To her astonishment the gas was still
burning in her mistress's room, as she could see a thin ray of light
filtering through the keyhole. At her first knock there came a quick,
impatient answer:

"What is it?"

"Miss Violet, 'm," said the cook, who was too agitated to speak very
coherently, "she is gone--"

"The best thing she could do," came promptly from the other side of
the door. "You go to bed, Mrs. Kennett, and don't worry."

Whereupon the gas was suddenly turned off inside the room, and, in
spite of Mrs. Kennett's further feeble protests, no other word issued
from the room save another impatient:

"Go to bed."

The cook then did as she was bid; but before going to bed she made the
round of the house, turned off all the gas, and finally bolted the
front door.


SOME three hours later the servants were called, as usual, by Miss
Cruikshank, who then went down to open the area door to Mrs. Thomas,
the charwoman.

At half-past six, when Mary the housemaid came down, candle in hand,
she saw the charwoman a flight or two lower down, also apparently in
the act of going downstairs. This astonished Mary not a little, as the
woman's work lay entirely in the basement, and she was supposed never
to come to the upper floors.

The woman, though walking rapidly down the stairs, seemed, moreover,
to be carrying something heavy.

"Anything wrong, Mrs. Thomas?" asked Mary, in a whisper.

The woman looked up, pausing a moment immediately under the gas
bracket, the by-pass of which shed a feeble light upon her and upon
her burden. The latter Mary recognised as the bag containing the sand
which, on frosty mornings, had to be strewn on the front steps of the

On the whole, though she certainly was puzzled, Mary did not think
very much about the incident then. As was her custom, she went into
the housemaid's closet, got the hot water for Miss Cruikshank's bath,
and carried it to the latter's room, where she also pulled up the
blinds and got things ready generally. For Miss Cruikshank usually ran
down in her dressing-gown, and came up to tidy herself later on.

As a rule, by the time the three servants got downstairs, it was
nearly seven, and Mrs. Thomas had generally gone by that time; but on
this occasion Mary was earlier. Miss Cruikshank was busy in the
kitchen getting Mrs. Dunstan's tea ready. Mary spoke about seeing Mrs.
Thomas on the stairs with the bag of sand, and Miss Cruikshank, too,
was very astonished at the occurrence.

Mrs. Kennett was not yet down, and the charwoman apparently had gone;
her work had been done as usual, and the sand was strewn over the
stone steps in front, as the frosty fog had rendered them very

At a quarter past seven Miss Cruikshank went up with Mrs. Dunstan's
tea, and less than two minutes later a fearful scream rang through the
entire house, followed by the noise of breaking crockery.

In an instant the two maids ran upstairs, straight to Mrs. Dunstan's
room, the door of which stood wide open.

The first thing Mary and Jane were conscious of was a terrific smell
of gas, then of Miss Cruikshank, with eyes dilated with horror,
staring at the bed in front of her, whereon lay Mrs. Dunstan, with one
end of a piece of indiarubber piping still resting in her mouth, her
jaw having dropped in death. The other end of that piece of piping was
attached to the burner of a gas-bracket on the wall close by.

Every window in the room was fastened and the curtains drawn. The
whole room reeked of gas.

Mrs. Dunstan had been asphyxiated by its fumes.


A YEAR went by after the discovery of the mysterious tragedy, and I
can assure you that our fellows at the Yard had one of the toughest
jobs in connection with the case that ever fell to their lot. Just
think of all the contradictions which met them at every turn.

Firstly, the disappearance of Miss Violet.

No sooner had the women in the Dunstan household roused themselves
sufficiently from their horror at the terrible discovery which they
had just made, than they were confronted with another almost equally
awful fact--awful, of course, because of its connection with the
primary tragedy.

Miss Violet Frostwicke had gone. Her room was empty, her bed had not
been slept in. She herself had been seen by the cook, Mrs. Kennett,
stealing out of the house at dead of night.

To connect the pretty, dainty young girl even remotely with a crime so
hideous, so callous, as the deliberate murder of an old woman, who had
been as a mother to her, seemed absolutely out of the question, and by
tacit consent the four women, who now remained in the desolate and
gloom-laden house at Eaton Terrace, forbore to mention Miss Violet
Frostiwicke's name either to police or doctor.

Both these, of course, had been summoned immediately; Miss Cruikshank
sending Mary to the police-station and thence to Dr. Folwell, in Eaton
Square, whilst Jane went off in a cab to fetch Mr. Nicholas Jones,
who, fortunately, had not yet left for his place of business.

The doctor's and the police-inspector's first thought, on examining
the mise en scène of the terrible tragedy, was that Mrs. Dunstan had
committed suicide. It was practically impossible to imagine that a
woman in full possession of health and strength would allow a piece of
indiarubber piping to be fixed between her teeth, and would, without a
struggle, continue to inhale the poisonous fumes which would mean
certain death. Yet there were no marks of injury upon the body,
nothing to show how sufficient unconsciousness had been produced in
the victim to permit of the miscreant completing his awesome deed.

But the theory of suicide set up by Dr. Folwell was promptly refuted
by the most cursory examination of the room.

Though the drawers were found closed, they had obviously been turned
over, as if the murderer had been in search either of money or papers,
or the key of the safe.

The latter, on investigation, was found to be open, whilst the key lay
on the floor close by. A brief examination of the safe revealed the
fact that the tin boxes must have been ransacked, for they contained
neither money nor important papers now, whilst the gold and platinum
settings of necklaces, bracelets, and a tiara showed that the stones--
which, as Mr. Nicholas Jones subsequently averred, were of
considerable value--had been carefully, if somewhat clumsily, taken
out by obvious inexperienced hands.

On the whole, therefore, appearances suggested deliberate, systematic,
and very leisurely robbery, which wholly contradicted the theory of

Then suddenly the name of Miss Frostwicke was mentioned. Who first
brought it on the tapis no one subsequently could say; but in a moment
the whole story of the young girl's engagement to Mr. Athol, in
defiance of her aunt's wishes, the quarrel of the night before, and
the final disappearance of both young people from the house during the
small hours of the morning, was dragged from the four unwilling
witnesses by the able police-inspector.

Nay, more. One very unpleasant little circumstance was detailed by one
of the maids and corroborated by Miss Cruikshank.

It seems that when the latter took up the champagne to Mrs. Dunstan,
the old lady desired Miss Violet to come to her room. Mary, the
housemaid, was on the stairs when she saw the young girl, still
dressed in her evening gown of white chiffon, her eyes still swollen
with tears, knocking at her aunt's door.

The police-inspector was busy taking notes, already building up in his
mind a simple, if very sensational, case against Violet Frostwicke,
when Mrs. Kennett promptly upset all his calculations.

Miss Violet could have had nothing to do with the murder of her aunt,
seeing that Mrs. Dunstan was alive and actually spoke to the cook when
the latter knocked at her bedroom door after she had seen the young
girl walk out of the house.

Then came the question of Mr. Athol. But, if you remember, it was
quite impossible even to begin to build up a case against the young
man. His own statement that he left the house at about midnight,
having totally forgotten to rouse the cook when he did so, was amply
corroborated from every side.

The cabman who took him up to the corner of Eaton Terrace at 11.50
p.m. was one witness in his favour; his landlady at his rooms in
Jermyn Street, who let him in, since he had mislaid his latchkey, and
who took him up some tea at seven o'clock the next morning, was
another; whilst, when Mary saw Miss Violet going into her aunt's room,
the clock at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, was just striking twelve.

I dare say you think I ought by now to have mentioned the charwoman,
Mrs. Thomas, who represented the final, most complete, most hopeless
contradiction in this remarkable case.

Mrs. Thomas was seen by Mary, the housemaid, at half-past six o'clock
in the morning, coming down from the upper floors, where she had no
business to be, and carrying the bag of sand used for strewing over
the slippery front-door steps.

The bag of sand, of course, was always kept in the area.

The moment that bag of sand was mentioned Dr. Folwell gave a curious
gasp. Here, at least, was the solution to one mystery. The victim had
been stunned whilst still in bed by a blow on the head dealt with that
bag of sand; and whilst she was unconscious the callous miscreant had
robbed her and finally asphyxiated her with the gas fumes.

Where was the woman who, at half-past six in the morning, was seen in
possession of the silent instrument of death?

Mrs. Thomas had disappeared. The last that was then or ever has been
seen of her was when she passed underneath the dim light of a by-pass
on the landing, as if tired out with the weight which she was

Since then, as you know, the police have been unswerving in their
efforts to find Mrs. Thomas. The address which she had given in St.
Peter's Mews was found to be false. No one of that name or appearance
had ever been seen there.

The woman who was supposed to have sent her with a letter of
recommendation to Mrs. Dunstan knew nothing of her. She swore that she
had never sent anyone with a letter to Mrs. Dunstan. She gave up her
work there one day because she found it too hard at such an early hour
in the morning; but she never heard anything more from her late
employer after that.

Strange, wasn't it, that two people should have disappeared out of
that house on that same memorable night?

Of course, you will remember the tremendous sensation that was caused
some twenty-four hours later, when it transpired that the young person
who had thrown herself into the river from Waterloo Bridge on that
same eventful morning, and whose body was subsequently recovered and
conveyed to the Thames Police station, was identified as Miss Violet
Frostwicke, the niece of the lady who had been murdered in her own
house in Eaton Terrace.

Neither money nor diamonds were found on poor Miss Violet. She had
herself given the most complete proof that she, at least, had no hand
in robbing or killing Mrs. Dunstan.

The public wondered why she took her aunt's wrath and her probable
disinheritance so fearfully to heart, and sympathised with Mr. David
Athol for the terribly sad loss which he had sustained.

But Mrs. Thomas, the charwoman, had not yet been found.


I THINK I looked an extremely respectable, good plain cook when I
presented myself at the house in Eaton Terrace in response to the
advertisement in the "Daily Telegraph."

As, in addition to my prepossessing appearance, I also asked very low
wages and declared myself ready to do anything except scour the front
steps and the stone area, I was immediately engaged by Mrs. Jones, and
was duly installed in the house the following day under the name of
Mrs. Curwen.

But few events had occurred here since the discovery of the dual
tragedy, now more than a year ago, and none that had thrown any light
upon the mystery which surrounded it.

The verdict at the inquest had been one of wilful murder against a
person known as Mrs. Thomas, the weight of evidence, coupled with her
disappearance, having been very heavy against her; and there was a
warrant out for her arrest.

Mrs. Dunstan had died intestate. To the astonishment of all those in
the know, she had never signed the will which Messrs. Blenkinsop and
Blenkinsop had drafted for her, and wherein she bequeathed £20,000 and
the lease of her house in Eaton Terrace to her beloved niece, Violet
Frostwicke, £1,000 to Miss Cruikshank, and other, smaller, legacies to
friends or servants.

In default of a will, Mr. Nicholas Jones, only brother of the
deceased, became possessed of all her wealth.

He was a very rich man himself, and many people thought that he ought
to give Miss Cruikshank the £1,000 which the poor girl had thus lost
through no fault of her own.

What his ultimate intentions were with regard to this no one could
know. For the present he contented himself with moving to Eaton
Terrace with his family; and, as his wife was a great invalid, he
asked Miss Cruikshank to continue to make her home in the house and to
help in its management.

Neither the diamonds nor the money stolen from Mrs. Dunstan's safe
were ever traced. It seems that Mrs. Dunstan, a day or two before her
death, had sold a freehold cottage which she owned near Teddington.
The money, as is customary, had been handed over to her in gold, in
Mr. Blenkinsop's office, and she had been foolish enough not to bank
it immediately. This money and the diamonds had been the chief spoils
of her assailant. And all the while no trace of Mrs. Thomas, in spite
of the most strenuous efforts on the part of the police to find her.

Strangely enough, when I had been in Eaton Terrace about three days,
and was already getting very tired of early rising and hard work, the
charwoman there fell ill one day and did not come to her work as

I, of course, grumbled like six, for I had to be on my hands and knees
the next morning scrubbing stone steps, and my thoughts of Lady Molly,
for the moment, were not quite as loyal as they usually were.

Suddenly I heard a shuffling footstep close behind me. I turned and
saw a rough-looking, ill-dressed woman standing at the bottom of the

"What do you want?" I asked sourly, for I was in a very bad humour.

"I saw you scrubbing them steps, miss," she replied in a raucous
voice; "my 'usband is out of work, and the children hain't 'ad no
breakfast this morning. I'd do them steps, miss, if you'd give me a

The woman certainly did not look very prepossessing, with her shabby,
broad-brimmed hat hiding the upper part of her face, and her skirt,
torn and muddy, pinned up untidily round her stooping figure.

However, I did not think that I could be doing anything very wrong by
letting her do this one bit of rough work, which I hated, so I agreed
to give her sixpence, and left her there with kneeling mat and
scrubbing-brush, and went in, leaving, however, the front door open.

In the hall I met Miss Cruikshank, who, as usual, was down before
everybody else.

"What is it, Curwen?" she asked, for through the open door she had
caught sight of the woman kneeling on the step.

"A woman, miss," I replied, somewhat curtly. "She offered to do the
steps. I thought Mrs. Jones wouldn't mind, as Mrs. Callaghan hasn't
turned up."

Miss Cruikshank hesitated an instant, and then walked up to the front

At the same moment the woman looked up, rose from her knees, and
boldly went up to accost Miss Cruikshank.

"You'll remember me, miss," she said, in her raucous voice. "I used to
work for Mrs. Dunstan once. My name is Mrs. Thomas."

No wonder Miss Cruikshank uttered a quickly smothered cry of horror.
Thinking that she would faint, I ran to her assistance; but she waved
me aside and then said quite quietly:

"This poor woman's mind is deranged. She is no more Mrs. Thomas than I
am. Perhaps we had better send for the police."

"Yes, miss; p'r'aps you'd better," said the woman with a sigh. "My
secret has been weighin' heavy on me of late."

"But, my good woman," said Miss Cruikshank, very kindly, for I suppose
that she thought, as I did, that this was one of those singular cases
of madness which sometimes cause innocent people to accuse themselves
of undiscovered crimes. "You are not Mrs. Thomas at all. I knew Mrs.
Thomas well, of course--and--"

"Of course you knew me, miss," replied the woman. "The last
conversation you and I had together was in the kitchen that morning,
when Mrs. Dunstan was killed. I remember your saying to me--"

"Fetch the police, Curwen," said Miss Cruikshank, peremptorily.

Whereupon the woman broke into a harsh and loud laugh of defiance.

To tell you the truth, I was not a little puzzled. That this scene had
been foreseen by my dear lady, and that she had sent me to this house
on purpose that I should witness it, I was absolutely convinced. But--
here was my dilemma: ought I to warn the police at once or not?

On the whole, I decided that my best plan would undoubtedly be to
communicate with Lady Molly first of all, and to await her
instructions. So I ran upstairs, scribbled a hasty note to my dear
lady, and, in response to Miss Cruikshank's orders, flew out of the
house through the area gate, noticing, as I did so, that Miss
Cruikshank was still parleying with the woman on the doorstep.

I sent the note off to Maida Vale by taxicab; then I went back to
Eaton Terrace. Miss Cruikshank met me at the front door, and told me
that she had tried to detain the woman, pending my return; but that
she felt very sorry for the unfortunate creature, who obviously was
labouring under a delusion, and she had allowed her to go away.

About an hour later I received a curt note from Lady Molly ordering me
to do nothing whatever without her special authorisation.

In the course of the day, Miss Cruikshank told me that she had been to
the police-station, and had consulted with the inspector, who said
there would be no harm in engaging the pseudo Mrs. Thomas to work at
Eaton Terrace, especially as thus she would remain under observation.

Then followed a curious era in Mr. Nicholas Jones's otherwise well-
ordered household. We three servants, instead of being called at six
as heretofore, were allowed to sleep on until seven. When we came down
we were not scolded. On the contrary, we found our work already done.

The charwoman--whoever she was--must have been a very hard-working
woman. It was marvellous what she accomplished single-handed before
seven a.m., by which time she had invariably gone.

The two maids, of course, were content to let this pleasant state of
things go on, but I was devoured with curiosity.

One morning I crept quietly downstairs and went into the kitchen soon
after six. I found the pseudo Mrs. Thomas sitting at a very copious
breakfast. I noticed that she had on altogether different--though
equally shabby and dirty--clothes from those she had worn when she
first appeared on the doorstep of 180, Eaton Terrace. Near her plate
were three or four golden sovereigns over which she had thrown her
grimy hand.

Miss Cruikshank the while was on her hands and knees scrubbing the
floor. At sight of me she jumped up, and with obvious confusion
muttered something about "hating to be idle," etc.

That day Miss Cruikshank told me that I did not suit Mrs. Jones, who
wished me to leave at the end of my month. In the afternoon I received
a little note from my dear lady, telling me to be downstairs by six
o'clock the following morning.

I did as I was ordered, of course, and when I came into the kitchen
punctually at six a.m. I found the charwoman sitting at the table with
a pile of gold in front of her, which she was counting over with a
very grubby finger. She had her back to me, and was saying as I

"I think if you was to give me another fifty quid I'd leave you the
rest now. You'd still have the diamonds and the rest of the money."

She spoke to Miss Cruikshank, who was facing me, and who, on seeing me
appear, turned as white as a ghost. But she quickly recovered herself,
and, standing between me and the woman, she said vehemently:

"What do you mean by prying on me like this? Go and pack your boxes
and leave the house this instant."

But before I could reply the woman had interposed.

"Don't you fret yourself, miss," she said, placing her grimy hand on
Miss Cruikshank's shoulder. "There's the bag of sand in that there
corner; we'll knock 'er down as we did Mrs. Dunstan--eh?"

"Hold your tongue, you lying fool!" said the girl, who now looked like
a maddened fury.

"Give me that other fifty quid and I'll hold my tongue," retorted the
woman, boldly.

"This creature is mad," said Miss Cruikshank, who had made a vigorous
and successful effort to recover herself. "She is under the delusion
that not only is she Mrs. Thomas, but that she murdered Mrs. Dunstan--

"No--no!" interrupted the woman. "I only came back that morning
because I recollected that you had left the bag of sand upstairs after
you so cleverly did away with Mrs. Dunstan, robbed her of all her
money and jewels, and even were sharp enough to imitate her voice when
Mrs. Kennett, the cook, terrified you by speaking to Mrs. Dunstan
through the door."

"It is false! You are not Mrs. Thomas. The two maids who are here now,
and who were in this house at the time, can swear that you are a

"Let us change clothes now, Miss Cruikshank," said a voice, which
sounded almost weirdly in my ear in spite of its familiarity, for I
could not locate whence it came, "and see if in a charwoman's dress
those two maids would not recognise you."

"Mary," continued the same familiar voice, "help me out of these
filthy clothes. Perhaps Miss Cruikshank would like to resume her own
part of Mrs. Thomas, the charwoman."

"Liars and impostors--both!" shouted the girl, who was rapidly losing
all presence of mind. "I'll send for the police."

"Quite unnecessary," rejoined Lady Molly coolly; "Detective-Inspector
Danvers is just outside that door."

The girl made a dash for the other door, but I was too quick for her,
and held her back, even whilst Lady Molly gave a short, sharp call
which brought Danvers on the scene.

I must say that Miss Cruikshank made a bold fight, but Danvers had two
of our fellows with him, and arrested her on the warrant for the
apprehension of the person known as Mrs. Thomas.

The clothes of the charwoman who had so mysteriously disappeared had
been found by Lady Molly at the back of the coal cellar, and she was
still dressed in them at the present moment.

No wonder I had not recognised my own dainty lady in the grimy woman
who had so successfully played the part of a blackmailer on the
murderess of Mrs. Dunstan. She explained to me subsequently that the
first inkling that she had had of the horrible truth--namely, that it
was Miss Cruikshank who had deliberately planned to murder Mrs.
Dunstan by impersonating a charwoman for a while, and thus throwing
dust in the eyes of the police--was when she heard of the callous
words which the old lady was supposed to have uttered when she was
told of Miss Violet's flight from the house in the middle of the

"She may have been very angry at the girl's escapade," explained Lady
Molly to me, "but she would not have allowed her to starve. Such
cruelty was out of all proportion to the offence. Then I looked about
me for a stronger motive for the old lady's wrath; and, remembering
what she said on New Year's Eve, when Violet fled crying from the
room, I came to the conclusion that her anger was not directed against
her niece, but against the other girl, and against the man who had
transferred his affections from Violet Frostwicke to Miss Cruikshank,
and had not only irritated Mrs. Dunstan by this clandestine, double-
faced love-making, but had broken the heart of his trusting fiancée.

"No doubt Miss Cruikshank did not know that the will, whereby she was
to inherit £1,000, was not signed, and no doubt she and young Athol
planned out that cruel murder between them. The charwoman was also a
bag of sand which was literally thrown in the eyes of the police."

"But," I objected, "I can't understand how a cold-blooded creature
like that Miss Cruikshank could have allowed herself to be terrorised
and blackmailed. She knew that you could not be Mrs. Thomas, since
Mrs. Thomas never existed."

"Yes; but one must reckon a little sometimes with that negligible
quantity known as conscience. My appearance as Mrs. Thomas vaguely
frightened Miss Cruikshank. She wondered who I was and what I knew.
When, three days later, I found the shabby clothes in the coal-cellar
and appeared dressed in them, she lost her head. She gave me money!
From that moment she was done for. Confession was only a matter of

And Miss Cruikshank did make full confession. She was recommended to
mercy on account of her sex, but she was plucky enough not to
implicate David Athol in the recital of her crime.

He has since emigrated to Western Canada.



I HAVE heard many people say--people, too, mind you, who read their
daily paper regularly--that it is quite impossible for anyone to
"disappear" within the confines of the British Isles. At the same time
these wise people invariably admit one great exception to their
otherwise unimpeachable theory, and that is the case of Mr. Leonard
Marvell, who, as you know, walked out one afternoon from the Scotia
Hotel in Cromwell Road and has never been seen or heard of since.

Information had originally been given to the police by Mr. Marvell's
sister Olive, a Scotchwoman of the usually accepted type: tall, bony,
with sandy-coloured hair, and a somewhat melancholy expression in her
blue-grey eyes.

Her brother, she said, had gone out on a rather foggy afternoon. I
think it was the 3rd of February, just about a year ago. His intention
had been to go and consult a solicitor in the City--whose address had
been given him recently by a friend--about some private business of
his own.

Mr. Marvell had told his sister that he would get a train at South
Kensington Station to Moorgate Street, and walk thence to Finsbury
Square. She was to expect him home by dinner-time.

As he was, however, very irregular in his habits, being fond of
spending his evenings at restaurants and music-halls, the sister did
not feel the least anxious when he did not return home at the
appointed time. She had her dinner in the table d'hôte room, and went
to bed soon after 10.0.

She and her brother occupied two bedrooms and a sitting-room on the
second floor of the little private hotel. Miss Marvell, moreover, had
a maid always with her, as she was somewhat of an invalid. This girl,
Rosie Campbell, a nice-looking Scotch lassie, slept on the top floor.

It was only on the following morning, when Mr. Leonard did not put in
an appearance at breakfast, that Miss Marvell began to feel anxious.
According to her own account, she sent Rosie in to see if anything was
the matter, and the girl, wide-eyed and not a little frightened, came
back with the news that Mr. Marvell was not in his room, and that his
bed had not been slept in that night.

With characteristic Scottish reserve, Miss Olive said nothing about
the matter at the time to anyone, nor did she give information to the
police until two days later, when she herself had exhausted every
means in her power to discover her brother's whereabouts.

She had seen the lawyer to whose office Leonard Marvell had intended
going that afternoon, but Mr. Statham, the solicitor in question, had
seen nothing of the missing man.

With great adroitness Rosie, the maid, had made inquiries at South
Kensington and Moorgate Street stations. At the former, the booking
clerk, who knew Mr. Marvell by sight, distinctly remembered selling
him a first-class ticket to one of the City stations in the early part
of the afternoon; but at Moorgate Street, which is a very busy
station, no one recollected seeing a tall, red-haired Scotchman in an
Inverness cape--such was the description given of the missing man. By
that time the fog had become very thick in the City; traffic was
disorganised, and everyone felt fussy, ill-tempered, and self-centred.

These, in substance, were the details which Miss Marvell gave to the
police on the subject of her brother's strange disappearance.

At first she did not appear very anxious; she seemed to have great
faith in Mr. Marvell's power to look after himself; moreover, she
declared positively that her brother had neither valuables nor money
about his person when he went out that afternoon.

But as day succeeded day and no trace of the missing man had yet been
found, matters became more serious, and the search instituted by our
fellows at the Yard waxed more keen.

A description of Mr. Leonard Marvell was published in the leading
London and provincial dailies. Unfortunately, there was no good
photograph of him extant, and descriptions are apt to prove vague.

Very little was known about the man beyond his disappearance, which
had rendered him famous. He and his sister had arrived at the Scotia
Hotel about a month previously, and subsequently they were joined by
the maid Campbell.

Scotch people are far too reserved ever to speak of themselves or
their affairs to strangers. Brother and sister spoke very little to
anyone at the hotel. They had their meals in their sitting-room,
waited on by the maid, who messed with the staff. But, in face of the
present terrible calamity, Miss Marvell's frigidity relaxed before the
police inspector, to whom she gave what information she could about
her brother.

"He was like a son to me," she explained with scarcely restrained
tears, "for we lost our parents early in life, and as we were left
very, very badly off, our relations took but little notice of us. My
brother was years younger than I am--and though he was a little wild
and fond of pleasure, he was as good as gold to me, and has supported
us both for years by journalistic work. We came to London from Glasgow
about a month ago, because Leonard got a very good appointment on the
staff of the 'Daily Post.'"

All this, of course, was soon proved to be true; and although, on
minute inquiries being instituted in Glasgow, but little seemed to be
known about Mr. Leonard Marvell in that city, there seemed no doubt
that he had done some reporting for the "Courier," and that latterly,
in response to an advertisement, he had applied for and obtained
regular employment on the "Daily Post."

The latter enterprising halfpenny journal, with characteristic
magnanimity, made an offer of £50 reward to any of its subscribers who
gave information which would lead to the discovery of the whereabouts
of Mr. Leonard Marvell.

But time went by, and that £50 remained unclaimed.


LADY MOLLY had not seemed as interested as she usually was in cases of
this sort. With strange flippancy--wholly unlike herself--she remarked
that one Scotch journalist more or less in London did not vastly

I was much amused, therefore, one morning about three weeks after the
mysterious disappearance of Mr. Leonard Marvell, when Jane, our little
parlour-maid, brought in a card accompanied by a letter.

The card bore the name "Miss Olive Marvell." The letter was the usual
formula from the chief, asking Lady Molly to have a talk with the lady
in question, and to come and see him on the subject after the

With a smothered yawn my dear lady told Jane to show in Miss Marvell.

"There are two of them, my lady," said Jane, as she prepared to obey.

"Two what?" asked Lady Molly with a laugh.

"Two ladies, I mean," explained Jane.

"Well! Show them both into the drawing-room," said Lady Molly,

Then, as Jane went off on this errand, a very funny thing happened;
funny, because during the entire course of my intimate association
with my dear lady, I had never known her act with such marked
indifference in the face of an obviously interesting case. She turned
to me and said:

"Mary, you had better see these two women, whoever they may be; I feel
that they would bore me to distraction. Take note of what they say,
and let me know. Now, don't argue," she added with a laugh, which
peremptorily put a stop to my rising protest, "but go and interview
Miss Marvell and Co."

Needless to say, I promptly did as I was told, and the next few
seconds saw me installed in our little drawing-room, saying polite
preliminaries to the two ladies who sat opposite to me.

I had no need to ask which of them was Miss Marvell. Tall, ill-dressed
in deep black, with a heavy crape veil over her face, and black cotton
gloves, she looked the uncompromising Scotchwoman to the life. In
strange contrast to her depressing appearance, there sat beside her an
over-dressed, much behatted, peroxided young woman, who bore the stamp
of the profession all over her pretty, painted face.

Miss Marvell, I was glad to note, was not long in plunging into the
subject which had brought her here.

"I saw a gentleman at Scotland Yard," she explained, after a short
preamble, "because Miss--er--Lulu Fay came to me at the hotel this
very morning with a story which, in my opinion, should have been told
to the police directly my brother's disappearance became known, and
not three weeks later."

The emphasis which she laid on the last few words and the stern look
with which she regarded the golden-haired young woman beside her,
showed the disapproval with which the rigid Scotchwoman viewed any
connection which her brother might have had with the lady, whose very
name seemed unpleasant to her lips.

Miss--er--Lulu Fay blushed even through her rouge, and turned a pair
of large, liquid eyes imploringly upon me.

"I--I didn't know. I was frightened," she stammered.

"There's no occasion to be frightened now," retorted Miss Marvell,
"and the sooner you try and be truthful about the whole matter, the
better it will be for all of us."

And the stern woman's lips closed with a snap, as she deliberately
turned her back on Miss Fay and began turning over the leaves of a
magazine which happened to be on a table close to her hand.

I muttered a few words of encouragement, for the little actress looked
ready to cry. I spoke as kindly as I could, telling her that if indeed
she could throw some light on Mr. Marvell's present whereabouts it was
her duty to be quite frank on the subject.

She "hem"-ed and "ha"-ed for awhile, and her simpering ways were just
beginning to tell on my nerves, when she suddenly started talking very

"I am principal boy at the Grand," she explained with great
volubility; "and I knew Mr. Leonard Marvell well--in fact--er--he paid
me a good deal of attention and--"

"Yes--and--?" I queried, for the girl was obviously nervous.

There was a pause. Miss Fay began to cry.

"And it seems that my brother took this young--er--lady to supper on
the night of February 3rd, after which no one has ever seen or heard
of him again," here interposed Miss Marvell, quietly.

"Is that so?" I asked.

Lulu Fay nodded, whilst heavy tears fell upon her clasped hands.

"But why did you not tell this to the police three weeks ago?" I
ejaculated, with all the sternness at my command.

"I--I was frightened," she stammered.

"Frightened? Of what?"

"I am engaged to Lord Mountnewte and--"

"And you did not wish him to know that you were accepting the
attentions of Mr. Leonard Marvell--was that it? Well," I added, with
involuntary impatience, "what happened after you had supper with Mr.

"Oh! I hope--I hope that nothing happened," she said through more
tears; "we had supper at the Trocadero, and he saw me into my
brougham. Suddenly, just as I was driving away, I saw Lord Mountnewte
standing quite close to us in the crowd."

"Did the two men know one another?" I asked.

"No," replied Miss Fay; "at least, I didn't think so, but when I
looked back through the window of my carriage I saw them standing on
the kerb talking to each other for a moment, and then walk off
together towards Piccadilly Circus. That is the last I have seen of
either of them," continued the little actress with a fresh flood of
tears. "Lord Mountnewte hasn't spoken to me since, and Mr. Marvell has
disappeared with my money and my diamonds."

"Your money and your diamonds?" I gasped in amazement.

"Yes; he told me he was a jeweller, and that my diamonds wanted re-
setting. He took them with him that evening, for he said that London
jewellers were clumsy thieves, and that he would love to do the work
for me himself. I also gave him two hundred pounds, which he said he
would want for buying the gold and platinum required for the settings.
And now he has disappeared--and my diamonds--and my money! Oh! I have
been very--very foolish--and--"

Her voice broke down completely. Of course, one often hears of the
idiocy of girls giving money and jewels unquestioningly to clever
adventurers who know how to trade upon their inordinate vanity. There
was, therefore, nothing very out of the way in the story just told me
by Miss--er--Lulu Fay, until the moment when Miss Marvell's quiet
voice, with its marked Scotch burr, broke in upon the short silence
which had followed the actress's narrative.

"As I explained to the chief detective-inspector at Scotland Yard,"
she said calmly, "the story which this young--er--lady tells is only
partly true. She may have had supper with Mr. Leonard Marvell on the
night of February 3rd, and he may have paid her certain attentions;
but he never deceived her by telling her that he was a jeweller, nor
did he obtain possession of her diamonds and her money through false
statements. My brother was the soul of honour and loyalty. If for some
reason which Miss--er--Lulu Fay chooses to keep secret, he had her
jewels and money in his possession on the fatal February 3rd, then I
think his disappearance is accounted for. He has been robbed and
perhaps murdered."

Like a true Scotchwoman she did not give way to tears, but even her
harsh voice trembled slightly when she thus bore witness to her
brother's honesty, and expressed the fears which assailed her as to
his fate.

Imagine my plight! I could ill forgive my dear lady for leaving me in
this unpleasant position--a sort of peacemaker between two women who
evidently hated one another, and each of whom was trying her best to
give the other "the lie direct."

I ventured to ring for our faithful Jane and to send her with an
imploring message to Lady Molly, begging her to come and disentangle
the threads of this muddled skein with her clever fingers; but Jane
returned with a curt note from my dear lady, telling me not to worry
about such a silly case, and to bow the two women out of the flat as
soon as possible and then come for a nice walk.

I wore my official manner as well as I could, trying not to betray the
'prentice hand. Of course, the interview lasted a great deal longer,
and there was considerably more talk than I can tell you of in a brief
narrative. But the gist of it all was just as I have said. Miss Lulu
Fay stuck to every point of the story which she had originally told
Miss Marvell. It was the latter uncompromising lady who had
immediately marched the younger woman off to Scotland Yard in order
that she might repeat her tale to the police. I did not wonder that
the chief promptly referred them both to Lady Molly.

Anyway, I made excellent shorthand notes of the conflicting stories
which I heard; and I finally saw, with real relief, the two women walk
out of our little front door.


MISS--ER--LULU FAY, mind you, never contradicted in any one particular
the original story which she had told me, about going out to supper
with Leonard Marvell, entrusting him with £200 and the diamonds, which
he said he would have reset for her, and seeing him finally in close
conversation with her recognised fiancé, Lord Mountnewte. Miss
Marvell, on the other hand, very commendably refused to admit that her
brother acted dishonestly towards the girl. If he had her jewels and
money in his possession at the time of his disappearance, then he had
undoubtedly been robbed, or perhaps murdered, on his way back to the
hotel, and if Lord Mountnewte had been the last to speak to him on
that fatal night, then Lord Mountnewte must be able to throw some
light on the mysterious occurrence.

Our fellows at the Yard were abnormally active. It seemed, on the face
of it, impossible that a man, healthy, vigorous, and admittedly sober,
should vanish in London between Piccadilly Circus and Cromwell Road
without leaving the slightest trace of himself or of the valuables
said to have been in his possession.

Of course, Lord Mountnewte was closely questioned. He was a young
Guardsman of the usual pattern, and, after a great deal of vapid talk
which irritated Detective-Inspector Saunders not a little, he made the
following statement--

"I certainly am acquainted with Miss Lulu Fay. On the night in
question I was standing outside the Troc, when I saw this young lady
at her own carriage window talking to a tall man in an Inverness cape.
She had, earlier in the day, refused my invitation to supper, saying
that she was not feeling very well, and would go home directly after
the theatre; therefore I felt, naturally, a little vexed. I was just
about to hail a taxi, meaning to go on to the club, when, to my
intense astonishment, the man in the Inverness cape came up to me and
asked me if I could tell him the best way to get back to Cromwell

"And what did you do?" asked Saunders.

"I walked a few steps with him and put him on his way," replied Lord
Mountnewte, blandly.

In Saunder's own expressive words, he thought that story "fishy." He
could not imagine the arm of coincidence being quite so long as to
cause these two men--who presumably were both in love with the same
girl, and who had just met at a moment when one of them was obviously
suffering pangs of jealously--to hold merely a topographical
conversation with one another. But it was equally difficult to suppose
that the eldest son and heir of the Marquis of Loam should murder a
successful rival and then rob him in the streets of London.

Moreover, here came the eternal and unanswerable questions: If Lord
Mountnewte had murdered Leonard Marvell, where and how had he done it,
and what had he done with the body?

I dare say you are wondering by this time why I have said nothing
about the maid, Rosie Campbell.

Well, plenty of very clever people (I mean those who write letters to
the papers and give suggestions to every official department in the
kingdom) thought that the police ought to keep a very strict eye upon
that pretty Scotch lassie. For she was very pretty, and had quaint,
demure ways which rendered her singularly attractive, in spite of the
fact that, for most masculine tastes, she would have been considered
too tall. Of course, Saunders and Danvers kept an eye on her--you may
be sure of that--and got a good deal of information about her from the
people at the hotel. Most of it, unfortunately, was irrelevant to the
case. She was maid-attendant to Miss Marvell, who was feeble in
health, and who went out but little. Rosie waited on her master and
mistress upstairs, carrying their meals to their private room, and
doing their bedrooms. The rest of the day she was fairly free, and was
quite sociable downstairs with the hotel staff.

With regard to her movements and actions on that memorable 3rd of
February, Saunders--though he worked very hard--could glean but little
useful information. You see, in a hotel of that kind, with an average
of thirty to forty guests at one time, it is extremely difficult to
state positively what any one person did or did not do on that
particular day.

Most people at the Scotia remembered that Miss Marvell dined in the
table d'hôte room on that 3rd of February; this she did about once a
fortnight, when her maid had an evening "out."

The hotel staff also recollected fairly distinctly that Miss Rosie
Campbell was not in the steward's room at supper-time that evening,
but no one could remember definitely when she came in.

One of the chambermaids who occupied the bedroom adjoining hers, said
she heard her moving about soon after midnight; the hall porter
declared that he saw her come in just before half-past twelve when he
closed the doors for the night.

But one of the ground-floor valets said that, on the morning of the
4th, he saw Miss Marvell's maid, in hat and coat, slip into the house
and upstairs, very quickly and quietly, soon after the front doors
were opened, namely, about 7.0 a.m.

Here, of course, was a direct contradiction between the chambermaid
and hall porter on the one side, and the valet on the other, whilst
Miss Marvell said that Campbell came into her room and made her some
tea long before seven o'clock every morning, including that of the

I assure you our fellows at the Yard were ready to tear their hair out
by the roots, from sheer aggravation at this maze of contradictions
which met them at every turn.

The whole thing seemed so simple. There was nothing "to it" as it
were, and but very little real suggestion of foul play, and yet Mr.
Leonard Marvell had disappeared, and no trace of him could be found.

Everyone now talked freely of murder. London is a big town, and this
would not have been the first instance of a stranger--for Mr. Leonard
Marvell was practically a stranger in London--being enticed to a
lonely part of the city on a foggy night, and there done away with and
robbed, and the body hidden in an out-of-the-way cellar, where it
might not be discovered for months to come.

But the newspaper-reading public is notably fickle, and Mr. Leonard
Marvell was soon forgotten by everyone save the chief and the batch of
our fellows who had charge of the case.

Thus I heard through Danvers one day that Rosie Campbell had left Miss
Marvell's employ, and was living in rooms in Findlater Terrace, near
Walham Green.

I was alone in our Maida Vale flat at the time, my dear lady having
gone to spend the week-end with the Dowager Lady Loam, who was an old
friend of hers; nor, when she returned, did she seem any more
interested in Rosie Campbell's movements than she had been hitherto.

Yet another month went by, and I for one had absolutely ceased to
think of the man in the Inverness cape, who had so mysteriously and so
completely vanished in the very midst of busy London, when, one
morning early in January, Lady Molly made her appearance in my room,
looking more like the landlady of a disreputable gambling-house than
anything else I could imagine.

"What in the world--?" I began.

"Yes! I think I look the part," she replied, surveying with obvious
complacency the extraordinary figure which confronted her in the

My dear lady had on a purple cloth coat and skirt of a peculiarly
vivid hue, and of a singular cut, which made her matchless figure look
like a sack of potatoes. Her soft brown hair was quite hidden beneath
a "transformation," of that yellow-reddish tint only to be met with in
very cheap dyes.

As for her hat! I won't attempt to describe it. It towered above and
around her face, which was plentifully covered with brick-red and with
that kind of powder which causes the cheeks to look a deep mauve.

My dear lady looked, indeed, a perfect picture of appalling vulgarity.

"Where are you going in this elegant attire?" I asked in amazement.

"I have taken rooms in Findlater Terrace," she replied lightly. "I
feel that the air of Walham Green will do us both good. Our amiable,
if somewhat slatternly, landlady expects us in time for luncheon. You
will have to keep rigidly in the background, Mary, all the while we
are there. I said that I was bringing an invalid niece with me, and,
as a preliminary, you may as well tie two or three thick veils over
your face. I think I may safely promise that you won't be dull."

And we certainly were not dull during our brief stay at 34, Findlater
Terrace, Walham Green. Fully equipped, and arrayed in our
extraordinary garments, we duly arrived there, in a rickety four-
wheeler, on the top of which were perched two seedy-looking boxes.

The landlady was a toothless old creature, who apparently thought
washing a quite unnecessary proceeding. In this she was evidently at
one with every one of her neighbours. Findlater Terrace looked
unspeakably squalid; groups of dirty children congregated in the
gutters and gave forth discordant shrieks as our cab drove up.

Through my thick veils I thought that, some distance down the road, I
spied a horsy-looking man in ill-fitting riding-breeches and gaiters,
who vaguely reminded me of Danvers.

Within half an hour of our installation, and whilst we were eating a
tough steak over a doubtful table cloth, my dear lady told me that she
had been waiting a full month, until rooms in this particular house
happened to be vacant. Fortunately the population in Findlater Terrace
is always a shifting one, and Lady Molly had kept a sharp eye on No.
34, where, on the floor above, lived Miss Rosie Campbell. Directly the
last set of lodgers walked out of the ground-floor rooms, we were
ready to walk in.

My dear lady's manners and customs, whilst living at the above
aristocratic address, were fully in keeping with her appearance. The
shrill, rasping voice which she assumed echoed from attic to cellar.

One day I heard her giving vague hints to the landlady that her
husband, Mr. Marcus Stein, had had a little trouble with the police
about a small hotel which he had kept somewhere near Fitzroy Square,
and where "young gentlemen used to come and play cards of a night."
The landlady was also made to understand that the worthy Mr. Stein was
now living temporarily at His Majesty's expense, whilst Mrs. Stein had
to live a somewhat secluded life, away from her fashionable friends.

The misfortunes of the pseudo Mrs. Stein in no way marred the
amiability of Mrs. Tredwen, our landlady. The inhabitants of Findlater
Terrace care very little about the antecedents of their lodgers, so
long as they pay their week's rent in advance, and settle their
"extras" without much murmur.

This Lady Molly did, with a generosity characteristic of an ex-lady of
means. She never grumbled at the quantity of jam and marmalade which
we were supposed to have consumed every week, and which anon reached
titanic proportions. She tolerated Mrs. Tredwen's cat, tipped
Ermyntrude--the tousled lodging-house slavey--lavishly, and lent the
upstairs lodger her spirit-lamp and curling-tongs when Miss Rosie
Campbell's got out of order.

A certain degree of intimacy followed the loan of those curling-tongs.
Miss Campbell, reserved and demure, greatly sympathised with the lady
who was not on the best of terms with the police. I kept steadily in
the background. The two ladies did not visit each other's rooms, but
they held long and confidential conversations on the landings, and I
gathered, presently, that the pseudo Mrs. Stein had succeeded in
persuading Rosie Campbell that, if the police were watching No. 34,
Findlater Terrace, at all, it was undoubtedly on account of the
unfortunate Mr. Stein's faithful wife.

I found it a little difficult to fathom Lady Molly's intentions. We
had been in the house over three weeks, and nothing whatever had
happened. Once I ventured on a discreet query as to whether we were to
expect the sudden re-appearance of Mr. Leonard Marvell.

"For if that's all about it," I argued, "then surely the men from the
Yard could have kept the house in view, without all this inconvenience
and masquerading on our part."

But to this tirade my dear lady vouchsafed no reply.

She and her newly acquired friend were, about this time, deeply
interested in the case known as the "West End Shop Robberies," which
no doubt you recollect, since they occurred such a very little while
ago. Ladies who were shopping in the large drapers' emporiums during
the crowded and busy sale time, lost reticules, purses, and valuable
parcels, without any trace of the clever thief being found.

The drapers, during sale-time, invariably employ detectives in plain
clothes to look after their goods, but in this case it was the
customers who were robbed, and the detectives, attentive to every
attempt at "shop-lifting," had had no eyes for the more subtle thief.

I had already noticed Miss Rosie Campbell's keen look of excitement
whenever the pseudo Mrs. Stein discussed these cases with her. I was
not a bit surprised, therefore, when, one afternoon at about teatime,
my dear lady came home from her habitual walk, and, at the top of her
shrill voice, called out to me from the hall:

"Mary! Mary! they've got the man of the shop robberies. He's given the
silly police the slip this time, but they know who he is now, and I
suppose they'll get him presently. 'Tisn't anybody I know," she added,
with that harsh, common laugh which she had adopted for her part.

I had come out of the room in response to her call, and was standing
just outside our own sitting-room door. Mrs. Tredwen, too, bedraggled
and unkempt, as usual, had sneaked up the area steps, closely followed
by Ermyntrude.

But on the half-landing just above us the trembling figure of Rosie
Campbell, with scared white face and dilated eyes, looked on the verge
of a sudden fall.

Still talking shrilly and volubly, Lady Molly ran up to her, but
Campbell met her half-way, and the pseudo Mrs. Stein, taking vigorous
hold of her wrist, dragged her into our own sitting-room.

"Pull yourself together, now," she said with rough kindness; "that owl
Tredwen is listening, and you needn't let her know too much. Shut the
door, Mary. Lor' bless you, m'dear, I've gone through worse scares
than these. There! you just lie down on this sofa a bit. My niece'll
make you a nice cup o'tea; and I'll go and get an evening paper, and
see what's going on. I suppose you are very interested in the shop
robbery man, or you wouldn't have took on so."

Without waiting for Campbell's contradiction to this statement, Lady
Molly flounced out of the house.

Miss Campbell hardly spoke during the next ten minutes that she and I
were left alone together. She lay on the sofa with eyes wide open,
staring up at the ceiling, evidently still in a great state of fear.

I had just got tea ready when Lady Molly came back. She had an evening
paper in her hand, but threw this down on the table directly she came

"I could only get an early edition," she said breathlessly, "and the
silly thing hasn't got anything in it about the matter."

She drew near to the sofa, and, subduing the shrillness of her voice,
she whispered rapidly, bending down towards Campbell:

"There's a man hanging about at the corner down there. No, no; it's
not the police," she added quickly, in response to the girl's sudden
start of alarm. "Trust me, my dear, for knowing a 'tec when I see one!
Why, I'd smell one half a mile off. No; my opinion is that it's your
man, my dear, and that he's in a devil of a hole."

"Oh! he oughtn't to come here," ejaculated Campbell in great alarm.
"He'll get me into trouble and do himself no good. He's been a fool!"
she added, with a fierceness wholly unlike her usual demure placidity,
"getting himself caught like that. Now I suppose we shall have to hook
it--if there's time."

"Can I do anything to help you?" asked the pseudo Mrs. Stein. "You
know I've been through all this myself, when they was after Mr. Stein.
Or perhaps Mary could do something."

"Well, yes," said the girl, after a slight pause, during which she
seemed to be gathering her wits together; "I'll write a note, and you
shall take it, if you will, to a friend of mine--a lady who lives in
the Cromwell Road. But if you still see a man lurking about at the
corner of the street, then, just as you pass him, say the word
'Campbell,' and if he replies 'Rosie,' then give him the note. Will
you do that?"

"Of course I will, my dear. Just you leave it all to me."

And the pseudo Mrs. Stein brought ink and paper and placed them on the
table. Rosie Campbell wrote a brief note, and then fastened it down
with a bit of sealing-wax before she handed it over to Lady Molly. The
note was addressed to Miss Marvell, Scotia Hotel, Cromwell Road.

"You understand?" she said eagerly. "Don't give the note to the man
unless he says 'Rosie' in reply to the word 'Campbell.'"

"All right--all right!" said Lady Molly, slipping the note into her
reticule. "And you go up to your room, Miss Campbell; it's no good
giving that old fool Tredwen too much to gossip about."

Rosie Campbell went upstairs, and presently my dear lady and I were
walking rapidly down the badly-lighted street.

"Where is the man?" I whispered eagerly as soon as we were out of
earshot of No. 34.

"There is no man," replied Lady Molly, quickly.

"But the West End shop thief?" I asked.

"He hasn't been caught yet, and won't be either, for he is far too
clever a scoundrel to fall into an ordinary trap."

She did not give me time to ask further questions, for presently, when
we had reached Reporton Square, my dear lady handed me the note
written by Campbell, and said:

"Go straight on to the Scotia Hotel, and ask for Miss Marvell; send up
the note to her, but don't let her see you, as she knows you by sight.
I must see the chief first, and will be with you as soon as possible.
Having delivered the note, you must hang about outside as long as you
can. Use your wits; she must not leave the hotel before I see her."

There was no hansom to be got in this elegant quarter of the town, so,
having parted from my dear lady, I made for the nearest Underground
station, and took a train for South Kensington.

Thus it was nearly seven o'clock before I reached the Scotia. In
answer to my inquiries for Miss Marvell, I was told that she was ill
in bed and could see no one. I replied that I had only brought a note
for her, and would wait for a reply.

Acting on my dear lady's instructions, I was as slow in my movements
as ever I could be, and was some time in finding the note and handing
it to a waiter, who then took it upstairs.

Presently he returned with the message: "Miss Marvell says there is no

Whereupon I asked for pen and paper at the office, and wrote the
following brief note on my own responsibility, using my wits as my
dear lady had bidden me to do.

"Please, madam," I wrote, "will you send just a line to Miss Rosie
Campbell? She seems very upset and frightened at some news she has

Once more the waiter ran upstairs, and returned with a sealed
envelope, which I slipped into my reticule.

Time was slipping by very slowly. I did not know how long I should
have to wait outside in the cold, when, to my horror, I heard a hard
voice, with a marked Scotch accent, saying:

"I am going out, waiter, and shan't be back to dinner. Tell them to
lay a little cold supper upstairs in my room."

The next moment Miss Marvell, with coat, hat, and veil, was descending
the stairs.

My plight was awkward. I certainly did not think it safe to present
myself before the lady; she would undoubtedly recollect my face. Yet I
had orders to detain her until the appearance of Lady Molly.

Miss Marvell seemed in no hurry. She was putting on her gloves as she
came downstairs. In the hall she gave a few more instructions to the
porter, whilst I, in a dark corner in the background, was vaguely
planning an assault or an alarm of fire.

Suddenly, at the hotel entrance, where the porter was obsequiously
holding open the door for Miss Marvell to pass through, I saw the
latter's figure stiffen; she took one step back as if involuntarily,
then, equally quickly, attempted to dart across the threshold, on
which a group--composed of my dear lady, of Saunders, and of two or
three people scarcely distinguishable in the gloom beyond--had
suddenly made its appearance.

Miss Marvell was forced to retreat into the hall; already I had heard
Saunder's hurriedly whispered words:

"Try and not make a fuss in this place, now. Everything can go off
quietly, you know."

Danvers and Cotton, whom I knew well, were already standing one each
side of Miss Marvell, whilst suddenly amongst this group I recognised
Fanny, the wife of Danvers, who is one of our female searchers at the

"Shall we go up to your own room?" suggested Saunders.

"I think that is quite unnecessary," interposed Lady Molly. "I feel
convinced that Mr. Leonard Marvell will yield to the inevitable
quietly, and follow you without giving any trouble."

Marvell, however, did make a bold dash for liberty. As Lady Molly had
said previously, he was far too clever to allow himself to be captured
easily. But my dear lady had been cleverer. As she told me
subsequently, she had from the first suspected that the trio who
lodged at the Scotia Hotel were really only a duo--namely, Leonard
Marvell and his wife. The latter impersonated a maid most of the time;
but among these two clever people the three characters were
interchangeable. Of course, there was no Miss Marvell at all. Leonard
was alternately dressed up as man or woman, according to the
requirements of his villainies.

"As soon as I heard that Miss Marvell was very tall and bony," said
Lady Molly, "I thought that there might be a possibility of her being
merely a man in disguise. Then there was the fact--but little dwelt on
by either the police or the public--that no one seems ever to have
seen brother and sister together, nor was the entire trio ever seen at
one and the same time.

"On that 3rd of February Leonard Marvell went out. No doubt he changed
his attire in a lady's waiting-room at one of the railway stations;
subsequently he came home, now dressed as Miss Marvell, and had dinner
in the table d'hôte room so as to set up a fairly plausible alibi. But
ultimately it was his wife, the pseudo Rosie Campbell, who stayed
indoors that night, whilst he, Leonard Marvell, when going out after
dinner, impersonated the maid until he was clear of the hotel; then he
reassumed his male clothes once more, no doubt in the deserted
waiting-room of some railway station, and met Miss Lulu Fay at supper,
subsequently returning to the hotel in the guise of the maid.

"You see the game of criss-cross, don't you? This interchanging of
characters was bound to baffle everyone. Many clever scoundrels have
assumed disguises, sometimes impersonating members of the opposite sex
to their own, but never before have I known two people play the part
of three. Thus, endless contradictions followed as to the hour when
Campbell the maid went out and when she came in, for at one time it
was she herself who was seen by the valet, and at another it was
Leonard Marvell dressed in her clothes."

He was also clever enough to accost Lord Mountnewte in the open
street, thus bringing further complications into this strange case.

After the successful robbery of Miss Fay's diamonds, Leonard Marvell
and his wife parted for awhile. They were waiting for an opportunity
to get across the Channel and there turn their booty into solid cash.
Whilst Mrs. Marvell, alias Rosie Campbell, led a retired life in
Findlater Terrace, Leonard kept his hand in with West End shop

Then Lady Molly entered the lists. As usual, her scheme was bold and
daring; she trusted her own intuition and acted accordingly.

When she brought home the false news that the author of the shop
robberies had been spotted by the police, Rosie Campbell's obvious
terror confirmed her suspicions. The note written by the latter to the
so-called Miss Marvell, though it contained nothing in any way
incriminating, was the crowning certitude that my dear lady was right,
as usual, in all her surmises.

And now Mr. Leonard Marvell will be living for a couple of years at
the tax-payers' expense; he has "disappeared" temporarily from the
public eye.

Rosie Campbell--i.e. Mrs. Marvell--has gone to Glasgow. I feel
convinced that two years hence we shall hear of the worthy couple



LADY MOLLY always had the idea that if the finger of Fate had pointed
to Mathis' in Regent Street, rather than to Lyons', as the most
advisable place for us to have a cup of tea that afternoon, Mr.
Culledon would be alive at the present moment.

My dear lady is quite sure--and needless to say that I share her
belief in herself--that she would have anticipated the murderer's
intentions, and thus prevented one of the most cruel and callous of
crimes which were ever perpetrated in the heart of London.

She and I had been to a matinée of "Trilby," and were having tea at
Lyons', which is exactly opposite Mathis' Vienna café in Regent
Street. From where we sat we commanded a view of the street and of the
café, which had been very crowded during the last hour.

We had lingered over our toasted muffin until past six, when our
attention was drawn to the unusual commotion which had arisen both
outside and in the brilliantly lighted place over the road.

We saw two men run out of the doorway, and return a minute or two
later in company with a policeman. You know what is the inevitable
result of such a proceeding in London. Within three minutes a crowd
had collected outside Mathis'. Two or three more constables had
already assembled, and had some difficulty in keeping the entrance
clear of intruders.

But already my dear lady, keen as a pointer on the scent, had hastily
paid her bill, and, without waiting to see if I followed her or not,
had quickly crossed the road, and the next moment her graceful form
was lost in the crowd.

I went after her, impelled by curiosity, and presently caught sight of
her in close conversation with one of our own men. I have always
thought that Lady Molly must have eyes at the back of her head,
otherwise how could she have known that I stood behind her now?
Anyway, she beckoned to me, and together we entered Mathis', much to
the astonishment and anger of the less fortunate crowd.

The usually gay little place was indeed sadly transformed. In one
corner the waitresses, in dainty caps and aprons, had put their heads
together, and were eagerly whispering to one another whilst casting
furtive looks at the small group assembled in front of one of those
pretty alcoves, which, as you know, line the walls all round the big
tea-room at Mathis'.

Here two of our men were busy with pencil and note-book, whilst one
fair-haired waitress, dissolved in tears, was apparently giving them a
great deal of irrelevant and confused information.

Chief Inspector Saunders had, I understood, been already sent for; the
constables, confronted with this extraordinary tragedy, were casting
anxious glances towards the main entrance, whilst putting the
conventional questions to the young waitress. And in the alcove
itself, raised from the floor of the room by a couple of carpeted
steps, the cause of all this commotion, all this anxiety, and all
these tears, sat huddled up on a chair, with arms lying straight
across the marble-topped table, on which the usual paraphernalia of
afternoon tea still lay scattered about. The upper part of the body,
limp, backboneless, and awry, half propped up against the wall, half
falling back upon the outstretched arms, told quite plainly its weird
tale of death.

Before my dear lady and I had time to ask any questions, Saunders
arrived in a taxicab. He was accompanied by the medical officer, Dr.
Townson, who at once busied himself with the dead man, whilst Saunders
went up quickly to Lady Molly.

"The chief suggested sending for you," he said quickly; "he was
'phoning you when I left. There's a woman in this case, and we shall
rely on you a good deal."

"What has happened?" asked my dear lady, whose fine eyes were glowing
with excitement at the mere suggestion of work.

"I have only a few stray particulars," replied Saunders, "but the
chief witness is that yellow-haired girl over there. We'll find out
what we can from her directly Dr. Townson has given us his opinion."

The medical officer, who had been kneeling beside the dead man, now
rose and turned to Saunders. His face was very grave.

"The whole matter is simple enough, so far as I am concerned," he
said. "The man has been killed by a terrific dose of morphia--
administered, no doubt, in this cup of chocolate," he added, pointing
to a cup in which there still lingered the cold dregs of the thick

"But when did this occur?" asked Saunders, turning to the waitress.

"I can't say," she replied, speaking with obvious nervousness. "The
gentleman came in very early with a lady, somewhere about four. They
made straight for this alcove. The place was just beginning to fill,
and the music had begun."

"And where is the lady now?"

"She went off almost directly. She had ordered tea for herself and a
cup of chocolate for the gentleman, also muffins and cakes. About five
minutes afterwards, as I went past their table, I heard her say to
him. 'I am afraid I must go now, or Jay's will be closed, but I'll be
back in less than half an hour. You'll wait for me, won't you?'"

"Did the gentleman seem all right then?"

"Oh, yes," said the waitress. "He had just begun to sip his chocolate,
and merely said 'S'long,' as she gathered up her gloves and muff and
then went out of the shop."

"And she has not returned since?"


"When did you first notice there was anything wrong with this
gentleman?" asked Lady Molly.

"Well," said the girl with some hesitation, "I looked at him once or
twice as I went up and down, for he certainly seemed to have fallen
all of a heap. Of course, I thought that he had gone to sleep, and I
spoke to the manageress about him, but she thought that I ought to
leave him alone for a bit. Then we got very busy, and I paid no more
attention to him, until about six o'clock, when most afternoon tea
customers had gone, and we were beginning to get the tables ready for
dinners. Then I certainly did think there was something wrong with the
man. I called to the manageress, and we sent for the police."

"And the lady who was with him at first, what was she like? Would you
know her again?" queried Saunders.

"I don't know," replied the girl; "you see, I have to attend to such
crowds of people of an afternoon, I can't notice each one. And she had
on one of those enormous mushroom hats; no one could have seen her
face--not more than her chin--unless they looked right under the hat."

"Would you know the hat again?" asked Lady Molly.

"Yes--I think I should," said the waitress. "It was black velvet and
had a lot of plumes. It was enormous," she added, with a sigh of
admiration and of longing for the monumental headgear.

During the girl's narrative one of the constables had searched the
dead man's pockets. Among other items, he had found several letters
addressed to Mark Culledon, Esq., some with an address in Lombard
Street, others with one in Fitzjohn's Avenue, Hampstead. The initials
M. C., which appeared both in the hat and on the silver mount of a
letter-case belonging to the unfortunate gentleman, proved his
identity beyond a doubt.

A house in Fitzjohn's Avenue does not, somehow, suggest a bachelor
establishment. Even whilst Saunders and the other men were looking
through the belongings of the deceased, Lady Molly had already thought
of his family--children, perhaps a wife, a mother--who could tell?

What awful news to bring to an unsuspecting, happy family, who might
even now be expecting the return of father, husband, or son, at the
very moment when he lay murdered in a public place, the victim of some
hideous plot or feminine revenge!

As our amiable friends in Paris would say, it jumped to the eyes that
there was a woman in the case--a woman who had worn a gargantuan hat
for the obvious purpose of remaining unidentifiable when the question
of the unfortunate victim's companion that afternoon came up for
solution. And all these facts to put before an expectant wife or an
anxious mother!

As, no doubt, you have already foreseen, Lady Molly took the difficult
task on her own kind shoulders. She and I drove together to Lorbury
House, Fitzjohn's Avenue, and on asking of the manservant who opened
the door if his mistress were at home, we were told that Lady Irene
Culledon was in the drawing-room.

Mine is not a story of sentiment, so I am not going to dwell on that
interview, which was one of the most painful moments I recollect
having lived through.

Lady Irene was young--not five-and-twenty, I should say--petite and
frail-looking, but with a quiet dignity of manner which was most
impressive. She was Irish, as you know, the daughter of the Earl of
Athyville, and, it seems, had married Mr. Mark Culledon in the teeth
of strenuous opposition on the part of her family, which was as
penniless as it was aristocratic, whilst Mr. Culledon had great
prospects and a splendid business, but possessed neither ancestors nor
high connections. She had only been married six months, poor little
soul, and from all accounts must have idolised her husband.

Lady Molly broke the news to her with infinite tact, but there it was!
It was a terrific blow--wasn't it?--to deal to a young wife--now a
widow; and there was so little that a stranger could say in these
circumstances. Even my dear lady's gentle voice, her persuasive
eloquence, her kindly words, sounded empty and conventional in the
face of such appalling grief.


OF course, everyone expected that the inquest would reveal something
of the murdered man's inner life--would, in fact, allow the over-eager
public to get a peep into Mr. Mark Culledon's secret orchard, wherein
walked a lady who wore abnormally large velvet hats, and who nourished
in her heart one of those terrible grudges against a man which can
only find satisfaction in crime.

Equally, of course, the inquest revealed nothing that the public did
not already know. The young widow was extremely reticent on the
subject of her late husband's life, and the servants had all been
fresh arrivals when the young couple, just home from their honeymoon,
organised their new household at Lorbury House.

There was an old aunt of the deceased--a Mrs. Steinberg--who lived
with the Culledons, but who at the present moment was very ill.
Someone in the house--one of the younger servants, probably--very
foolishly had told her every detail of the awful tragedy. With
positively amazing strength, the invalid thereupon insisted on making
a sworn statement, which she desired should be placed before the
coroner's jury. She wished to bear solemn testimony to the integrity
of her late nephew, Mark Culledon, in case the personality of the
mysterious woman in the big hat suggested to evilly disposed minds any
thought of scandal.

"Mark Culledon was the one nephew whom I loved," she stated with
solemn emphasis. "I have shown my love for him by bequeathing to him
the large fortune which I inherited from the late Mr. Steinberg. Mark
was the soul of honour, or I should have cut him out of my will as I
did my other nephews and nieces. I was brought up in a Scotch home,
and I hate all this modern fastness and smartness, which are only
other words for what I call profligacy."

Needless to say, the old lady's statement, solemn though it was, was
of no use whatever for the elucidation of the mystery which surrounded
the death of Mr. Mark Culledon. But as Mrs. Steinberg had talked of
"other nephews," whom she had cut out of her will in favour of the
murdered man, the police directed inquiries in those various quarters.

Mr. Mark Culledon certainly had several brothers and sisters, also
cousins, who at different times--usually for some peccadillo or
other--seemed to have incurred the wrath of the strait-laced old lady.
But there did not appeal to have been any ill-feeling in the family
owing to this. Mrs. Steinberg was sole mistress of her fortune. She
might just as well have bequeathed it in toto to some hospital as to
one particular nephew whom she favoured, and the various relations
were glad, on the whole, that the money was going to remain in the
family rather than be cast abroad.

The mystery surrounding the woman in the big hat deepened as the days
went by. As you know, the longer the period of time which elapses
between a crime and the identification of the criminal, the greater
chance the latter has of remaining at large.

In spite of strenuous efforts and close questionings of every one of
the employees at Mathis', no one could give a very accurate
description of the lady who had tea with the deceased on that fateful

The first glimmer of light on the mysterious occurrence was thrown,
about three weeks later, by a young woman named Katherine Harris, who
had been parlour-maid at Lorbury House when first Mr. and Lady Irene
Culledon returned from their honeymoon.

I must tell you that Mrs. Steinberg had died a few days after the
inquest. The excitement had been too much for her enfeebled heart.
Just before her death she had deposited £250 with her banker, which
sum was to be paid over to any person giving information which would
lead to the apprehension and conviction of the murderer of Mr. Mark

This offer had stimulated everyone's zeal, and, I presume, had aroused
Katherine Harris to a realisation of what had all the while been her
obvious duty.

Lady Molly saw her in the chief's private office, and had much ado to
disentangle the threads of the girl's confused narrative. But the main
point of Harris's story was that a foreign lady had once called at
Lorbury House, about a week after the master and mistress had returned
from their honeymoon. Lady Irene was out at the time, and Mr. Culledon
saw the lady in his smoking-room.

"She was a very handsome lady," explained Harris, "and was beautifully

"Did she wear a large hat?" asked the chief.

"I don't remember if it was particularly large," replied the girl.

"But you remember what the lady was like?" suggested Lady Molly.

"Yes, pretty well. She was very, very tall, and very good-looking."

"Would you know her again if you saw her?" rejoined my dear lady.

"Oh, yes; I think so," was Katherine Harris's reply.

Unfortunately, beyond this assurance the girl could say nothing very
definite. The foreign lady seems to have been closeted with Mr.
Culledon for about an hour, at the end of which time Lady Irene came

The butler being out that afternoon it was Harris who let her mistress
in, and as the latter asked no questions, the girl did not volunteer
the information that her master had a visitor. She went back to the
servants' hall, but five minutes later the smoking-room bell rang, and
she had to run up again. The foreign lady was then in the hall alone,
and obviously waiting to be shown out. This Harris did, after which
Mr. Culledon came out of his room, and, in the girl's on graphic
words, "he went on dreadful."

"I didn't know I 'ad done anything so very wrong," she explained, "but
the master seemed quite furious, and said I wasn't a proper parlour-
maid, or I'd have known that visitors must not be shown in straight
away like that. I ought to have said that I didn't know if Mr.
Culledon was in; that I would go and see. Oh, he did go on at me!"
continued Katherine Harris, volubly. "And I suppose he complained to
the mistress, for she give me notice the next day."

"And you have never seen the foreign lady since?" concluded Lady

"No; she never come while I was there."

"By the way, how did you know she was foreign. Did she speak like a

"Oh, no," replied the girl. "She did not say much--only asked for Mr.
Culledon--but she looked French like."

This unanswerable bit of logic concluded Katherine's statement. She
was very anxious to know whether, if the foreign lady was hanged for
murder, she herself would get the £250.

On Lady Molly's assurance that she certainly would, she departed in
apparent content.


"WELL! we are no nearer than we were before," said the chief, with an
impatient sigh, when the door had closed behind Katherine Harris.

"Don't you think so?" rejoined Lady Molly, blandly.

"Do you consider that what we have heard just now has helped us to
discover who was the woman in the big hat?" retorted the chief,
somewhat testily.

"Perhaps not," replied my dear lady, with her sweet smile; "but it may
help us to discover who murdered Mr. Culledon."

With which enigmatical statement she effectually silenced the chief,
and finally walked out of his office, followed by her faithful Mary.

Following Katherine Harris's indications, a description of the lady
who was wanted in connection with the murder of Mr. Culledon was very
widely circulated, and within two days of the interview with the ex-
parlour-maid another very momentous one took place in the same office.

Lady Molly was at work with the chief over some reports, whilst I was
taking shorthand notes at a side desk, when a card was brought in by
one of the men, and the next moment, without waiting either for
permission to enter or to be more formally announced, a magnificent
apparition literally sailed into the dust-covered little back office,
filling it with an atmosphere of Parma violets and russia leather.

I don't think that I had ever seen a more beautiful woman in my life.
Tall, with a splendid figure and perfect carriage, she vaguely
reminded me of the portraits one sees of the late Empress of Austria.
This lady was, moreover, dressed to perfection, and wore a large hat
adorned with a quantity of plumes.

The chief had instinctively risen to greet her, whilst Lady Molly,
still and placid, was eyeing her with a quizzical smile.

"You know who I am, sir," began the visitor as soon as she had sunk
gracefully into a chair; "my name is on that card. My appearance, I
understand, tallies exactly with that of a woman who is supposed to
have murdered Mark Culledon."

She said this so calmly, with such perfect self-possession, that I
literally gasped. The chief, too, seemed to have been metaphorically
lifted off his feet. He tried to mutter a reply.

"Oh, don't trouble yourself, sir!" she interrupted him, with a smile.
"My landlady, my servant, my friends have all read the description of
the woman who murdered Mr. Culledon. For the past twenty-four hours I
have been watched by your police, therefore I have come to you of my
own accord, before they came to arrest me in my flat. I am not too
soon, am I?" she asked, with that same cool indifference which was so
startling, considering the subject of her conversation.

She spoke English with a scarcely perceptible foreign accent, but I
quite understood what Katherine Harris had meant when she said that
the lady looked "French like." She certainly did not look English, and
when I caught sight of her name on the card, which the chief had
handed to Lady Molly, I put her down at once as Viennese. Miss
Elizabeth Löwenthal had all the charm, the grace, the elegance, which
one associates with Austrian women more than with those of any other

No wonder the chief found it difficult to tell her that, as a matter
of fact, the police were about to apply for a warrant that very
morning for her arrest on a charge of wilful murder.

"I know--I know," she said, seeming to divine his thoughts; "but let
me tell you at once, sir, that I did not murder Mark Culledon. He
treated me shamefully, and I would willingly have made a scandal just
to spite him; he had become so respectable and strait-laced. But
between scandal and murder there is a wide gulf. Don't you think so,
madam," she added, turning for the first time towards Lady Molly.

"Undoubtedly," replied my dear lady, with the same quizzical smile.

"A wide gulf which, no doubt, Miss Elizabeth Löwenthal will best be
able to demonstrate to the magistrate to-morrow," rejoined the chief,
with official sternness of manner.

I thought that, for the space of a few seconds, the lady lost her
self-assurance at this obvious suggestion--the bloom on her cheeks
seemed to vanish, and two hard lines appeared between her fine eyes.
But, frightened or not, she quickly recovered herself, and said

"Now, my dear sir, let us understand one another. I came here for that
express purpose. I take it that you don't want your police to look
ridiculous any more than I want a scandal. I don't want detectives to
hang about round my flat, questioning my neighbours and my servants.
They would soon find out that I did not murder Mark Culledon, of
course; but the atmosphere of the police would hang round me, and I--I
prefer Parma violets," she added, raising a daintily perfumed
handkerchief to her nose.

"Then you have come to make a statement?" asked the chief.

"Yes," she replied; "I'll tell you all I know. Mr. Culledon was
engaged to marry me; then he met the daughter of an earl, and thought
he would like her better as a wife than a simple Miss Löwenthal. I
suppose I should be considered an undesirable match for a young man
who has a highly respectable and snobbish aunt, who would leave him
all her money only on the condition that he made a suitable marriage.
I have a voice, and I came over to England two years ago to study
English, so that I might sing in oratorio at the Albert Hall. I met
Mark on the Calais-Dover boat, when he was returning from a holiday
abroad. He fell in love with me, and presently he asked me to be his
wife. After some demur, I accepted him; we became engaged, but he told
me that our engagement must remain a secret, for he had an old aunt
from whom he had great expectations, and who might not approve of his
marrying a foreign girl, who was without connections and a
professional singer. From that moment I mistrusted him, nor was I very
astonished when gradually his affection for me seemed to cool. Soon
after, he informed me, quite callously, that he had changed his mind,
and was going to marry some swell English lady. I didn't care much,
but I wanted to punish him by making a scandal, you understand. I went
to his house just to worry him, and finally I decided to bring an
action for breach of promise against him. It would have upset him, I
know; no doubt his aunt would have cut him out of her will. That is
all I wanted, but I did not care enough about him to murder him."

Somehow her tale carried conviction. We were all of us obviously
impressed. The chief alone looked visibly disturbed, and I could read
what was going on in his mind.

"As you say, Miss Löwenthal," he rejoined, "the police would have
found all this out within the next few hours. Once your connection
with the murdered man was known to us, the record of your past and his
becomes an easy one to peruse. No doubt, too," he added insinuatingly,
"our men would soon have been placed in possession of the one
undisputable proof of your complete innocence with regard to that
fateful afternoon spent at Mathis' café."

"What is that?" she queried blandly.

"An alibi."

"You mean, where I was during the time that Mark was being murdered in
a tea shop?"

"Yes," said the chief.

"I was out for a walk," she replied quietly.

"Shopping, perhaps?"


"You met some one who would remember the circumstance--or your
servants could say at what time you came in?"

"No," she repeated dryly; "I met no one, for I took a brisk walk on
Primrose Hill. My two servants could only say that I went out at three
o'clock that afternoon and returned after five."

There was silence in the little office for a moment or two. I could
hear the scraping of the pen with which the chief was idly scribbling
geometrical figures on his blotting pad.

Lady Molly was quite still. Her large, luminous eyes were fixed on the
beautiful woman who had just told us her strange story, with its
unaccountable sequel, its mystery which had deepened with the last
phrase which she had uttered. Miss Löwenthal, I felt sure, was
conscious of her peril. I am not sufficiently a psychologist to know
whether it was guilt or merely fear which was distorting the handsome
features now, hardening the face and causing the lips to tremble.

Lady Molly scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper, which she then
passed over to the chief. Miss Löwenthal was making visible efforts to
steady her nerves.

"That is all I have to tell you," she said, in a voice which sounded
dry and harsh. "I think I will go home now."

But she did not rise from her chair, and seemed to hesitate as if
fearful lest permission to go were not granted her.

To her obvious astonishment--and, I must add, to my own--the chief
immediately rose and said, quite urbanely:

"I thank you very much for the helpful information which you have
given me. Of course, we may rely on your presence in town for the next
few days, may we not?"

She seemed greatly relieved, and all at once resumed her former charm
of manner and elegance of attitude. The beautiful face was lit up by a

The chief was bowing to her in quite a foreign fashion, and in spite
of her visible reassurance she eyed him very intently. Then she went
up to Lady Molly and held out her hand.

My dear lady took it without an instant's hesitation. I, who knew that
it was the few words hastily scribbled by Lady Molly which had
dictated the chief's conduct with regard to Miss Löwenthal, was left
wondering whether the woman I loved best in all the world had been
shaking hands with a murderess.


NO doubt you will remember the sensation which was caused by the
arrest of Miss Löwenthal, on a charge of having murdered Mr. Mark
Culledon, by administering morphia to him in a cup of chocolate at
Mathis' café in Regent Street.

The beauty of the accused, her undeniable charm of manner, the
hitherto blameless character of her life, all tended to make the
public take violent sides either for or against her, and the usual
budget of amateur correspondence, suggestions, recriminations and
advice poured into the chief's office in titanic proportions.

I must say that, personally, all my sympathies went out to Miss
Löwenthal. As I have said before, I am no psychologist, but I had seen
her in the original interview at the office, and I could not get rid
of an absolutely unreasoning certitude that the beautiful Viennese
singer was innocent.

The magistrate's court was packed, as you may well imagine, on that
first day of the inquiry; and, of course, sympathy with the accused
went up to fever pitch when she staggered into the dock, beautiful
still, despite the ravages caused by horror, anxiety, fear, in face of
the deadly peril in which she stood.

The magistrate was most kind to her; her solicitor was unimpeachably
assiduous; even our fellows, who had to give evidence against her, did
no more than their duty, and were as lenient in their statements as

Miss Löwenthal had been arrested in her flat by Danvers, accompanied
by two constables. She had loudly protested her innocence all along,
and did so still, pleading "Not guilty" in a firm voice.

The great points in favour of the arrest were, firstly, the undoubted
motive of disappointment and revenge against a faithless sweetheart,
then the total inability to prove any kind of alibi, which, under the
circumstances, certainly added to the appearance of guilt.

The question of where the fatal drug was obtained was more difficult
to prove. It was stated that Mr. Mark Culledon was director of several
important companies, one of which carried on business as wholesale

Therefore it was argued that the accused, at different times and under
some pretext or other, had obtained drugs from Mr. Culledon himself.
She had admitted to having visited the deceased at his office in the
City, both before and after his marriage.

Miss Löwenthal listened to all this evidence against her with a hard,
set face, as she did also to Katherine Harris's statement about her
calling on Mr. Culledon at Lorbury House, but she brightened up
visibly when the various attendants at Mathis' café were placed in the

A very large hat belonging to the accused was shown to the witnesses,
but, though the police upheld the theory that that was the headgear
worn by the mysterious lady at the café on that fateful afternoon, the
waitresses made distinctly contradictory statements with regard to it.

Whilst one girl swore that she recognised the very hat, another was
equally positive that it was distinctly smaller than the one she
recollected, and when the hat was placed on the head of Miss
Löwenthal, three out of the four witnesses positively refused to
identify her.

Most of these young women declared that though the accused, when
wearing the big hat, looked as if she might have been the lady in
question, yet there was a certain something about her which was

With that vagueness which is a usual and highly irritating
characteristic of their class, the girls finally parried every
question by refusing to swear positively either for or against the
identity of Miss Löwenthal.

"There's something that's different about her somehow," one of the
waitresses asserted positively.

"What is it that's different?" asked the solicitor for the accused,
pressing his point.

"I can't say," was the perpetual, maddening reply.

Of course the poor young widow had to be dragged into the case, and
here, I think, opinions and even expressions of sympathy were quite

The whole tragedy had been inexpressibly painful to her, of course,
and now it must have seemed doubly so. The scandal which had
accumulated round her late husband's name must have added the
poignancy of shame to that of grief. Mark Culledon had behaved as
callously to the girl whom clearly he had married from interested,
family motives, as he had to the one whom he had heartlessly cast

Lady Irene, however, was most moderate in her statements. There was no
doubt that she had known of her husband's previous entanglement with
Miss Löwenthal, but apparently had not thought fit to make him
accountable for the past. She did not know that Miss Löwenthal had
threatened a breach of promise action against her husband.

Throughout her evidence she spoke with absolute calm and dignity, and
looked indeed a strange contrast, in her closely fitting tailor-made
costume of black serge and tiny black toque, to the more brilliant
woman who stood in the dock.

The two great points in favour of the accused were, firstly, the
vagueness of the witnesses who were called to identify her, and,
secondly, the fact that she had undoubtedly begun proceedings for
breach of promise against the deceased. Judging by the latter's
letters to her, she would have had a splendid case against him, which
fact naturally dealt a severe blow to the theory as to motive for the

On the whole, the magistrate felt that there was not a sufficiency of
evidence against the accused to warrant his committing her for trial;
he therefore discharged her, and, amid loud applause from the public,
Miss Löwenthal left the court a free woman.

Now, I know that the public did loudly, and, to my mind, very justly,
blame the police for that arrest, which was denounced as being as
cruel as it was unjustifiable. I felt as strongly as anybody on the
subject, for I knew that the prosecution had been instituted in
defiance of Lady Molly's express advice, and in distinct contradiction
to the evidence which she had collected. When, therefore, the chief
asked my dear lady to renew her efforts in that mysterious case, it
was small wonder that her enthusiasm did not respond to his anxiety.
That she would do her duty was beyond a doubt, but she had very
naturally lost her more fervent interest in the case.

The mysterious woman in the big hat was still the chief subject of
leading articles in the papers, coupled with that of the ineptitude of
the police who could not discover her. There were caricatures and
picture post-cards in all the shop windows of a gigantic hat covering
the whole figure of its wearer, only the feet, and a very long and
pointed chin, protruding from beneath the enormous brim. Below was the
device, "Who is she? Ask the police?"

One day--it was the second since the discharge of Miss Löwenthal--my
dear lady came into my room beaming. It was the first time I had seen
her smile for more than a week, and already I had guessed what it was
that had cheered her.

"Good news, Mary," she said gaily. "At last I've got the chief to let
me have a free hand. Oh, dear! what a lot of argument it takes to
extricate that man from the tangled meshes of red tape!"

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Prove that my theory is right as to who murdered Mark Culledon," she
replied seriously; "and as a preliminary we'll go and ask his servants
at Lorbury House a few questions."

It was then three o'clock in the afternoon. At Lady Molly's bidding, I
dressed somewhat smartly, and together we went off in a taxi to
Fitzjohn's Avenue.

Lady Molly had written a few words on one of her cards, urgently
requesting an interview with Lady Irene Culledon. This she handed over
to the man-servant who opened the door at Lorbury House. A few moments
later we were sitting in the cosy boudoir. The young widow, high-bred
and dignified in her tight-fitting black gown, sat opposite to us, her
white hands folded demurely before her, her small head, with its very
close coiffure, bent in closest attention towards Lady Molly.

"I most sincerely hope, Lady Irene," began my dear lady, in her most
gentle and persuasive voice, "that you will look with all possible
indulgence on my growing desire--shared, I may say, by all my
superiors at Scotland Yard--to elucidate the mystery which still
surrounds your late husband's death."

Lady Molly paused, as if waiting for encouragement to proceed. The
subject must have been extremely painful to the young widow;
nevertheless she responded quite gently:

"I can understand that the police wish to do their duty in the matter;
as for me, I have done all, I think, that could be expected of me. I
am not made of iron, and after that day in the police court--"

She checked herself, as if afraid of having betrayed more emotion than
was consistent with good breeding, and concluded more calmly:

"I cannot do any more."

"I fully appreciate your feelings in the matter," said Lady Molly,
"but you would not mind helping us--would you?--in a passive way, if
you could, by some simple means, further the cause of justice."

"What is it you want me to do?" asked Lady Irene.

"Only to allow me to ring for two of your maids and to ask them a few
questions. I promise you that they shall not be of such a nature as to
cause you the slightest pain."

For a moment I thought that the young widow hesitated, then, without a
word, she rose and rang the bell.

"Which of my servants did you wish to see?" she asked, turning to my
dear lady as soon as the butler entered in answer to the bell.

"Your own maid and your parlour-maid, if I may," replied Lady Molly.

Lady Irene gave the necessary orders, and we all sat expectant and
silent until, a minute or two later, two girls entered the room. One
wore a cap and apron, the other, in neat black dress and dainty lace
collar, was obviously the lady's maid.

"This lady," said their mistress, addressing the two girls, "wishes to
ask you a few questions. She is a representative of the police, so you
had better do your best to satisfy her with your answers."

"Oh!" rejoined Lady Molly pleasantly--choosing not to notice the tone
of acerbity with which the young widow had spoken, nor the
unmistakable barrier of hostility and reserve which her words had
immediately raised between the young servants and the "representative
of the police"--"what I am going to ask these two young ladies is
neither very difficult nor very unpleasant. I merely want their kind
help in a little comedy which will have to be played this evening, in
order to test the accuracy of certain statements made by one of the
waitresses at Mathis' tea shop with regard to the terrible tragedy
which has darkened this house. You will do that much, will you not?"
she added, speaking directly to the maids.

No one can be so winning or so persuasive as my dear lady. In a moment
I saw the girls' hostility melting before the sunshine of Lady Molly's

"We'll do what we can, ma'am," said the maid.

"That's a brave, good girl!" replied my lady. "You must know that the
chief waitress at Mathis' has, this very morning, identified the woman
in the big hat who, we all believe, murdered your late master. Yes!"
she continued, in response to a gasp of astonishment which seemed to
go round the room like a wave, "the girl seems quite positive, both as
regards the hat and the woman who wore it. But, of course, one cannot
allow a human life to be sworn away without bringing every possible
proof to bear on such a statement, and I am sure that everyone in this
house will understand that we don't want to introduce strangers more
than we can help into this sad affair, which already has been bruited
abroad too much."

She paused a moment; then, as neither Lady Irene nor the maids made
any comment, she continued:

"My superiors at Scotland Yard think it their duty to try and confuse
the witness as much as possible in her act of identification. They
desire that a certain number of ladies wearing abnormally large hats
should parade before the waitress. Among them will be, of course, the
one whom the girl has already identified as being the mysterious
person who had tea with Mr. Culledon at Mathis' that afternoon.

"My superiors can then satisfy themselves whether the waitress is or
is not so sure of her statement that she invariably picks out again
and again one particular individual amongst a number of others or

"Surely," interrupted Lady Irene, dryly, "you and your superiors do
not expect my servants to help in such a farce?"

"We don't look upon such a proceeding as a farce, Lady Irene,"
rejoined Lady Molly, gently. "It is often resorted to in the interests
of an accused person, and we certainly would ask the co-operation of
your household."

"I don't see what they can do."

But the two girls did not seem unwilling. The idea appealed to them, I
felt sure; it suggested an exciting episode, and gave promise of
variety in their monotonous lives.

"I am sure both these young ladies possess fine big hats," continued
Lady Molly with an encouraging smile.

"I should not allow them to wear ridiculous headgear," retorted Lady
Irene, sternly.

"I have the one your ladyship wouldn't wear, and threw away,"
interposed the young parlour-maid. "I put it together again with the
scraps I found in the dusthole."

There was just one instant of absolute silence, one of those magnetic
moments when Fate seems to have dropped the spool on which she was
spinning the threads of a life, and is just stooping in order to pick
it up.

Lady Irene raised a black-bordered handkerchief to her lips, then said

"I don't know what you mean, Mary. I never wear big hats."

"No, my lady," here interposed the lady's maid; "but Mary means the
one you ordered at Sanchia's and only wore the once--the day you went
to that concert."

"Which day was that?" asked Lady Molly, blandly.

"Oh! I couldn't forget that day," ejaculated the maid; "her ladyship
came home from the concert--I had undressed her, and she told me that
she would never wear her big hat again--it was too heavy. That same
day Mr. Culledon was murdered."

"That hat would answer our purpose very well," said Lady Molly, quite
calmly. "Perhaps Mary will go and fetch it, and you had better go and
help her put it on."

The two girls went out of the room without another word, and there
were we three women left facing one another, with that awful secret,
only half-revealed, hovering in the air like an intangible spectre.

"What are you going to do, Lady Irene?" asked Lady Molly, after a
moment's pause, during which I literally could hear my own heart
beating, whilst I watched the rigid figure of the widow in deep black
crape, her face set and white, her eyes fixed steadily on Lady Molly.

"You can't prove it!" she said defiantly.

"I think we can," rejoined Lady Molly, simply; "at any rate, I mean to
try. I have two of the waitresses from Mathis' outside in a cab, and I
have already spoken to the attendant who served you at Sanchia's, an
obscure milliner in a back street near Portland Road. We know that you
were at great pains there to order a hat of certain dimensions and to
your own minute description; it was a copy of one you had once seen
Miss Löwenthal wear when you met her at your late husband's office. We
can prove that meeting, too. Then we have your maid's testimony that
you wore that same hat once, and once only, the day, presumably, that
you went out to a concert--a statement which you will find it
difficult to substantiate--and also the day on which your husband was

"Bah! the public will laugh at you!" retorted Lady Irene, still
defiantly. "You would not dare to formulate so monstrous a charge!"

"It will not seem monstrous when justice has weighed in the balance
the facts which we can prove. Let me tell you a few of these, the
result of careful investigation. There is the fact that you knew of
Mr. Culledon's entanglement with Miss Elizabeth Löwenthal, and did
your best to keep it from old Mrs. Steinberg's knowledge, realising
that any scandal round her favourite nephew would result in the old
lady cutting him--and therefore you--out of her will. You dismissed a
parlour-maid for the sole reason that she had been present when Miss
Löwenthal was shown into Mr. Culledon's study. There is the fact that
Mrs. Steinberg had so worded her will that, in the event of her nephew
dying before her, her fortune would devolve on you; the fact that,
with Miss Löwenthal's action for breach of promise against your
husband, your last hope of keeping the scandal from the old lady's
ears had effectually vanished. You saw the fortune eluding your grasp;
you feared Mrs. Steinberg would alter her will. Had you found the
means, and had you dared, would you not rather have killed the old
lady? But discovery would have been certain. The other crime was
bolder and surer. You have inherited the old lady's millions, for she
never knew of her nephew's earlier peccadillos.

"All this we can state and prove, and the history of the hat, bought,
and worn one day only, that same memorable day, and then thrown away."

A loud laugh interrupted her--a laugh that froze my very marrow.

"There is one fact you have forgotten, my lady of Scotland Yard," came
in sharp, strident accents from the black-robed figure, which seemed
to have become strangely spectral in the fast gathering gloom which
had been enveloping the luxurious little boudoir. "Don't omit to
mention the fact that the accused took the law into her own hands."

And before my dear lady and I could rush to prevent her, Lady Irene
Culledon had conveyed something--we dared not think what--to her

"Find Danvers quickly, Mary!" said Lady Molly, calmly. "You'll find
him outside. Bring a doctor back with you."

Even as she spoke Lady Irene, with a cry of agony, fell senseless in
my dear lady's arms.

The doctor, I may tell you, came too late. The unfortunate woman
evidently had a good knowledge of poisons. She had been determined not
to fail; in case of discovery, she was ready and able to mete out
justice to herself.

I don't think the public ever knew the real truth about the woman in
the big hat. Interest in her went the way of all things. Yet my dear
lady had been right from beginning to end. With unerring precision she
had placed her dainty finger on the real motive and the real
perpetrator of the crime--the ambitious woman who had married solely
for money, and meant to have that money even at the cost of one of the
most dastardly murders that have ever darkened the criminal annals of
this country.

I asked Lady Molly what it was that first made her think of Lady Irene
as the possible murderess. No one else for a moment had thought her

"The big hat," replied my dear lady with a smile. "Had the mysterious
woman at Mathis' been tall, the waitresses would not, one and all,
have been struck by the abnormal size of the hat. The wearer must have
been petite, hence the reason that under a wide brim only the chin
would be visible. I at once sought for a small woman. Our fellows did
not think of that, because they are men."

You see how simple it all was!



MANY people have asked me whether I knew when, and in what
circumstances, Lady Molly joined the detective staff at Scotland Yard,
who she was, and how she managed to keep her position in Society--as
she undoubtedly did--whilst exercising a profession which usually does
not make for high social standing.

Well, of course, there is much that I have known all along about my
dear lady--just as much, in fact, as her aristocratic friends and
relations did--but I had promised her not to let the general public
know anything of her private life until she gave me leave to do so.

Now things have taken a different turn, and I can tell you all I know.
But I must go back some years for that, and recall to your mind that
extraordinary crime known in those days as the Baddock Will Case,
which sent one of the most prominent and popular young men in Society
to penal servitude--a life sentence, mind you, which was considered to
be remarkably lenient by a number of people who thought that Captain
de Mazareen ought to have been hanged.

He was such a good-looking young soldier in those days. I specially
remember him at the late Queen's funeral--one of the tallest men in
the British Army, and with that peculiar charm of manner which, alas!
one has ceased to associate with young Englishmen nowadays. If to
these two undeniable advantages you add the one that Hubert de
Mazareen was the dearly loved grandson of Sir Jeremiah Baddock, the
multi-millionaire shipowner of Liverpool, you will realize how easy it
was for that young Guardsman to ingratiate himself with every woman in
Society, and more particularly with every mamma who had a marriageable

But Fate and Love have a proverbial knack of making a muddle of
things. Captain de Mazareen, with a bevy of pretty and eligible girls
from whom to select a wife, chose to fall in love with the one woman
in the whole of England who, in his grandfather's opinion, should have
remained a stranger, even an enemy, to him.

You remember the sad story--more than a quarter of a century old now--
of Sir Jeremiah's unhappy second marriage with the pretty French
actress, Mlle. Adèle Desty, who was then over thirty years younger
than himself. He married her abroad, and never brought her to England.
She made him supremely wretched for about three years, and finally ran
away with the Earl of Flintshire, whom she had met at Monte Carlo.

Well! it was with a daughter of that same Earl of Flintshire, Lady
Molly Robertson-Kirk, that Captain Hubert de Mazareen fell desperately
in love. Imagine Sir Jeremiah's feelings when he heard of it.

Captain Hubert, you must know, had resigned his commission in 1902 at
his grandfather's request, when the latter's health first began to
fail. He had taken up his permanent abode at Appledore Castle, Sir
Jeremiah's magnificent home in Cumberland, and, of course, it was
generally understood that ultimately he would become possessed of the
wealthy shipowner's millions as well as of the fine property, seeing
that his mother had been Sir Jeremiah's only child by the latter's
first marriage.

Lord Flintshire's property was quite close to Appledore; but, needless
to say, old Sir Jeremiah never forgave his noble neighbour the cruel
wrong he had suffered at his hands.

The second Lady Baddock, afterwards Countess of Flintshire, has been
dead twenty years. Neither the county nor the more exclusive sets of
London ever received her, but her daughter Molly, who inherited all
her beauty and none of her faults, was the idol of her father, and the
acknowledged queen of county and town Society

You see, it was the ancient, yet ever new, story of Cappelletti and
Montecchi over again, and one day Captain Hubert de Mazareen had to
tell Sir Jeremiah that he desired to marry the daughter of his
grandfather's most cruel enemy.

What the immediate result of that announcement was no one could say.
Neither Sir Jeremiah nor Captain Hubert de Mazareen would have allowed
servants or dependents to hear a word of disagreement that might have
passed between them, much less to suspect that an unpleasant scene had

Outwardly everything went on as usual at Appledore Castle for about a
fortnight or so, after which Captain Hubert went away one day,
ostensibly for a brief stay in London; but he never re-entered the
doors of the Castle until after the dark veil of an appalling tragedy
had begun to descend on the stately old Cumberland home.

Sir Jeremiah bore up pretty well for a time, then he had a slight
paralytic stroke and became a confirmed invalid. The postmaster at
Appledore declared that after that many letters came, addressed to Sir
Jeremiah in Captain Hubert's well-known handwriting and bearing the
London postmark; but presumably the old gentleman felt bitterly
irreconcilable towards his grandson, for Captain de Mazareen was never
seen at the Castle.

Soon the invalid grew more and more eccentric and morose. He ordered
all the reception rooms of his magnificent home to be closed and
shuttered, and he dismissed all his indoor servants, with the
exception of his own male attendant and an old married couple named
Bradley, who had been in his service for years, and who now did the
little work that was required in what had once been one of the most
richly appointed country mansions in England.

Bitter resentment against his once dearly loved grandson, and against
the man who had robbed him of his young wife twenty-five years ago,
seemed to have cut off the old man from contact with the outside

Thus matters stood until the spring of 1903, when Sir Jeremiah
announced one morning to the three members of his household that Mr.
Philip Baddock was coming to stay at the Castle, and that a room must
be got ready immediately.

Mr. Philip Baddock came that same evening. He was a young man of quite
ordinary appearance: short, rather dark, with the somewhat uncouth
manners suggestive of an upbringing in a country parsonage.

His arrival created no little excitement in the neighbourhood. Who was
Mr. Philip Baddock, and where did he come from? No one had ever heard
of him before, and now--after a very brief time spent at the Castle--
he seemed to be gradually taking up the position which originally had
belonged to Captain Hubert.

He took over the command of the small household, dismissing Sir
Jeremiah's personal attendant after a while and engaging another. He
supervised the outdoor men, reducing the staff both in the gardens and
the stables. He sold most of the horses and carriages, and presently
bought a motor-car, which he at once took to driving all over the

But he spoke to no one in the village, and soon, in answer to
inquiries by one or two of Sir Jeremiah's faithful friends and
cronies, the reply came regularly from Mr. Philip Baddock that the
invalid was disinclined for company. Only Doctor Thorne, the local
practitioner, saw the patient. Sir Jeremiah, it was understood, was
slowly sinking towards the grave; but his mind was quite clear, even
if his temper was abnormal.

One day Mr. Philip Baddock made inquiries in the village for a good
chauffeur. George Taylor presented himself, and was at once told off
to drive the car as quickly as possible to Carlisle, to the office of
Mr. Steadman, solicitor, and to bring that gentleman back to the
Castle as soon as he could come.

The distance from Appledore to Carlisle is over fifty miles. It was
seven o'clock in the evening before George Taylor was back, bringing
Mr. Steadman with him.

The solicitor was received at the Castle door by old Bradley, and at
Sir Jeremiah's door by Felkin, the new attendant, who showed him in.
The interview between the invalid and Mr. Steadman lasted half an
hour, after which the latter was driven back to Carlisle by George

That same evening a telegram was sent off by Mr. Philip Baddock to
Captain de Mazareen in London, containing the few words:

"Sir Jeremiah very ill. Come at once."

Twenty-four hours later Captain Hubert arrived at Appledore Castle--
too late, however, to see his grandfather alive.

Sir Jeremiah Baddock had died an hour before the arrival of his once
so tenderly cherished grandson, and all hopes of a reconciliation had
now been mercilessly annihilated by death.

The end had come much more suddenly than Doctor Thorne had
anticipated. He had seen the patient in the morning and thought that
he might last some days. But when Sir Jeremiah had heard that Captain
de Mazareen had been sent for he had worked himself into a state of
such terrible agitation that the poor, overtaxed brain and heart
finally gave way.


THE events of those memorable days--in the early spring of 1904--are
so graven on my memory that I can recount them as if they happened

I was maid to Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk at the time. Since then she
has honoured me with her friendship.

Directly after Captain Hubert's first estrangement from his
grandfather she and I came down to Cumberland and lived very quietly
at Kirk Hall, which, as you know, is but a stone's throw from

Here Captain Hubert paid my dear lady several visits. She had
irrevocably made up her mind that their engagement was to be
indefinitely prolonged, for she had a vague hope that, sooner or
later, Sir Jeremiah would relent towards the grandson whom he had
loved so dearly. At any rate there was a chance of it whilst the
marriage had not actually taken place.

Captain de Mazareen, mind you, was in no sense of the word badly off.
His father had left him some £25,000, and Lady Molly had a small
private fortune of her own. Therefore I assure you that there was not
a single mercenary thought behind this protracted engagement or
Captain Hubert's desire for a reconciliation with his grandfather.

The evening that he arrived at Appledore in response to Mr. Philip
Baddock's telegram Lady Molly met him at the station. He sent his
luggage on to Kirk Hall, and the two young people walked together as
far as the Elkhorn Woods, which divide the Earl of Flintshire's
property from Appledore itself.

Here they met Mr. Steadman, the solicitor, who had motored over from
Carlisle in response to an urgent summons from Sir Jeremiah Baddock,
but whose car had broken down about two hundred yards up the road.

It seems that the chauffeur had suggested his walking on through the
woods, it being an exceptionally fine and mild spring evening, with a
glorious full moon overhead, which lit up almost every turn of the
path that cuts through the pretty coppice.

Lady Molly had given me rendezvous at the edge of the wood, so that I
might accompany her home after she had taken leave of Captain Hubert.
It seems that the latter knew Mr. Steadman slightly, as we saw the two
men shake hands with one another, then, after a few words of
conversation, turn off to walk together through the wood. We then made
our way back silently to Kirk Hall.

My dear lady was inexpressibly sad. She appreciated very deeply the
love which Captain Hubert bore for his grandfather, and was loath to
see the final annihilation of all her hopes of an ultimate
reconciliation between the two men.

I had dressed Lady Molly for dinner, and she was just going downstairs
when Captain de Mazareen arrived at the Hall.

He announced the sad news of his grandfather's death and looked
extremely dejected and upset.

Of course, he stayed at the Hall, for Mr. Philip Baddock seemed quite
to have taken command at Appledore Castle, and Captain Hubert did not
care to be beholden to him for hospitality.

My dear lady asked him what had become of Mr. Steadman.

"I don't know," he replied. "He started to walk with me through the
wood, then he seemed to think that the tramp would be too much for
him, and that the car could be put right very quickly. He preferred to
drive round, and was quite sure that he would meet me at the Castle in
less than half an hour. However, he never turned up."

Lady Molly asked several more questions about Sir Jeremiah, which
Captain Hubert answered in a listless way. He had been met at the door
of the Castle by Mr. Philip Baddock, who told him that the old
gentleman had breathed his last half an hour before.

I remember that we all went to bed that night feeling quite
unaccountably depressed. It seemed that something more tragic than the
natural death of a septuagenarian hovered in the air of these remote
Cumberland villages.

The next morning our strange premonitions were confirmed. Lord
Flintshire, my dear lady, and Captain Hubert were sitting at breakfast
when the news was brought to the Hall that Mr. Steadman, the Carlisle
solicitor, had been found murdered in the Elkhorn Woods earlier in the
morning. Evidently he had been stunned, and then done to death by a
heavily-loaded stick or some similar weapon. When he was discovered in
the early hours of the morning, he had, apparently, been dead some
time. The local police were at once apprised of the terrible event,
which created as much excitement as the death of the eccentric old
millionaire at Appledore Castle.

Everyone at Kirk Hall, of course, was keenly interested, and Captain
de Mazareen went over to Appledore as soon as he could in order to
place his information at the service of the police.

It is a strange fact, but nevertheless a true one, that when a deadly
peril arises such as now threatened Captain de Mazareen, the person
most in danger is the last to be conscious of it.

I am quite sure that Lady Molly, the moment she heard that Mr.
Steadman had been murdered in the Elkhorn Woods, realized that the man
she loved would be implicated in that tragedy in some sinister manner.
But that is the intuition of a woman--of a woman who loves.

As for Captain Hubert, he went about during the whole of that day
quite unconscious of the abyss which already was yawning at his feet.
He even discussed quite equably the several valuable bits of
information which the local police had already collected, and which
eventually formed a portion of that damning fabric of circumstantial
evidence which was to bring him within sight of the gallows.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Philip Baddock sent him a stiff little note,
saying that, as Captain de Mazareen was now the owner of Appledore
Castle, he (Philip Baddock) did not desire to trespass a moment longer
than was necessary on his relative's hospitality, and had arranged to
stay at the village inn until after the funeral, when he would leave

To this Captain Hubert sent an equally curt note saying that, as far
as he knew, he had no say in the matter of anyone coming or going from
the Castle, and that Mr. Philip Baddock must, of course, please
himself as to whether he stayed there or not.

So far, of course, the old gentleman's testamentary dispositions were
not known. He had made a will in 1902 bequeathing Appledore and
everything he possessed unconditionally to his beloved grandson,
Hubert de Mazareen, whom he also appointed his sole executor. That
will was lodged with Mr. Truscott, who had been solicitor to the
deceased practically until the last moment, when Mr. Steadman, a new
arrival at Carlisle, had been sent for.

Whether that will had been revoked or not Mr. Truscott did not know;
but, in the course of the afternoon, Lord Flintshire, whilst out
driving, met the local superintendent of police, who told him that Mr.
Steadman's senior partner--a Mr. Fuelling--had made a statement to the
effect that Sir Jeremiah had sent for Mr. Steadman the day before his
death and given instructions for the drafting of a new will whereby
the old gentleman bequeathed Appledore and everything he possessed to
his beloved grandson, Hubert de Mazareen, but only on the condition
that the latter did not marry the daughter or any other relative of
the Earl of Flintshire. In the event of Hubert de Mazareen
disregarding this condition at any future time of his life, Sir
Jeremiah's entire fortune was to devolve on Philip Baddock, sole issue
of testator's second marriage, with Adèle Desty. The draft of this
will, added Mr. Fuelling, was in Mr. Steadman's pocket ready for Sir
Jeremiah's signature on that fateful night when the unfortunate young
solicitor was murdered.

The draft had not been found in the murdered man's pocket. A copy of
it, however, was in Mr. Fuelling's safe. But as this will had never
been signed by the deceased the one of 1902 remained valid, and
Captain Hubert de Mazareen remained unconditionally his grandfather's
sole heir.


EVENTS crowded thick and fast on that day--one of the most miserable I
have ever lived through.

After an early tea, which my dear lady had alone in her little
boudoir, she sent me down to ask Captain Hubert to come up and speak
to her. He did so at once, and I went into the next room--which was
Lady Molly's bedroom--to prepare her dress for the evening.

I had, of course, discreetly closed the door of communication between
the two rooms, but after the first five minutes, Lady Molly
deliberately reopened it, from which I gathered that she actually
wished me to know what was going on.

It was then a little after four o'clock. I could hear Captain de
Mazareen's voice, low-toned and infinitely tender. He adored my dear
lady, but he was a very quiet man, and it was only by the passionate
tensity of his attitude when he was near her that a shrewdly observant
person could guess how deeply he cared. Now, through the open door, I
could see his handsome head bowed very low, so that he could better
look into her upturned eyes. His arms were round her, as if he were
fighting the world for the possession of her, and would never let her
go again. But there were tears in her eyes.

"Hubert," she said after a while, "I want you to marry me. Will you?"

"Will I?" he whispered, with an intensity of passionate longing which
seemed to me then so unutterably pathetic that I could have sat down
and had a good cry.

"But," rejoined Lady Molly earnestly, "I mean as soon as possible--to-
morrow, by special licence. You can wire to Mr. Hurford to-night, and
he will see about it the first thing in the morning. We can travel up
to town by the night train. Father and Mary will come with me. Father
has promised, you know, and we can be married to-morrow . . . I think
that would be the quickest way."

There was a pause. I could well imagine how astonished and perturbed
Captain Hubert must be feeling. It was such a strange request for a
woman to make at such a time. I could see by the expression of his
eyes that he was trying to read her thoughts. But she looked up quite
serenely at him, and, frankly, I do not think that he had the
slightest inkling of the sublime motive at the back of her strange

"You prefer to be married in London rather than here?" he asked quite

"Yes," she replied; "I desire to be married in London to-morrow."

A few moments later my dear lady quietly shut the door again, and I
heard and saw no more; but half an hour later she called me. She was
alone in her boudoir, bravely trying to smile through a veil of tears.
Captain Hubert's footsteps could still be heard going along the hall

Lady Molly listened until the final echo of that tread died away in
the distance; then she buried her sweet face on my shoulder and sobbed
her very heart out.

"Get ready as quickly as you can, Mary," she said to me when the
paroxysm had somewhat subsided. "We go up to town by the 9.10."

"Is his lordship coming with us, my lady?" I asked.

"Oh, yes!" she said, whilst a bright smile lit up her face. "Father is
simply grand . . . and yet he knows."

"Knows what, my lady?" I queried instinctively, for Lady Molly had
paused, and I saw a look of acute pain once more darken her soft, grey

"My father knows," she said, slowly and almost tonelessly, "that half
an hour ago the police found a weighted stick in the Elkhorn Woods not
far from the spot where Mr. Steadman was murdered. The stick has the
appearance of having been very vigorously cleaned and scraped recently
in spite of which fact tiny traces of blood are still visible on the
leaden knob. The inspector showed my father that stick. I saw it too.
It is the property of Captain Hubert de Mazareen, and by to-morrow, at
the latest, it will be identified as such."

There was silence in the little boudoir now: a silence broken only by
the sound of dull sobs which rose from my dear lady's overburdened
heart. Lady Molly at this moment had looked into the future, and with
that unerring intuition which has since been of such immense service
to her she had already perceived the grim web which Fate was weaving
round the destiny of the man she loved.

I said nothing. What could I say? I waited for her to speak again.

The first words she uttered after the terrible pronouncement which she
had just made were:

"I'll wear my white cloth gown to-morrow, Mary. It is the most
becoming frock I have, and I want to look my best on my wedding day."


CAPTAIN HUBERT DE MAZAREEN was married to Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk by
special licence on April 22nd, 1904, at the Church of St. Margaret,
Westminster. No one was present to witness the ceremony except the
Earl of Flintshire and myself. No one was apprised of the event at the
time, nor, until recently, did anyone know that Lady Molly of Scotland
Yard was the wife of De Mazareen the convict.

As you know, he was arrested at Appledore railway station the
following morning and charged with the wilful murder of Alexander
Steadman, solicitor, of Carlisle.

Everything was against him from the first. The draft of the will which
Mr. Steadman was taking up to Sir Jeremiah for signature supplied the
motive for the alleged crime, and he was the last person seen in
company with the murdered man.

The chauffeur, George Taylor, who had driven to Carlisle to fetch Mr.
Steadman, and brought him back that evening, explained how two of his
tyres burst almost simultaneously after going over a bit of broken
road close to the coppice. He had suggested to Mr. Steadman the idea
of walking through the wood, and, as he had not two fresh tyres with
him, he started pushing his car along, as the village was not more
than half a mile away. He never saw Mr. Steadman again.

The stick with which the terrible deed had been committed was the most
damning piece of evidence against the accused. It had been identified
as his property by more than one witness, and was found within twenty
yards of the victim, obviously cleaned and scraped, but still bearing
minute traces of blood. Moreover, it had actually been seen in Captain
Hubert's hand by one or two of the porters when he arrived at
Appledore Station on that fatal night, was met there by Lady Molly,
and subsequently walked away with her previous to meeting Mr. Steadman
on the edge of the wood.

Captain de Mazareen, late of His Majesty's Household Brigade, was
indicted for the wilful murder of Alexander Steadman, tried at the
next assizes, found guilty, and condemned to be hanged. The jury,
however, had strongly recommended him to mercy owing to his hitherto
spotless reputation, and to the many services he had rendered his
country during the last Boer War. A monster petition was sent up to
the Home Office, and the sentence was commuted to twenty years' penal

That same year, Lady Molly applied for, and obtained, a small post on
the detective staff of the police. From that small post she has worked
her way upwards, analysing and studying, exercising her powers of
intuition and of deduction, until at the present moment she is
considered, by chiefs and men alike, the greatest authority among them
on criminal investigation.

The Earl of Flintshire died some three years ago. Kirk Hall devolved
on a distant cousin, but Lady Molly has kept a small home at Kirk
ready for her husband when he comes back from Dartmoor.

The task of her life is to apply her gifts, and the obvious advantages
at her disposal as a prominent member of the detective force, to prove
the innocence of Captain Hubert de Mazareen, which she never doubted
for a moment.

But it was sublime, and at the same time deeply pathetic, to see the
frantic efforts at self-sacrifice which these two noble-hearted young
people made for one another's sake.

Directly Captain Hubert realised that, so far as proving his innocence
was concerned, he was a lost man, he used every effort to release Lady
Molly from the bonds of matrimony. The marriage had been, and was
still, kept a profound secret. He determined to plead guilty to murder
at his trial, and then to make a declaration that he had entrapped
Lady Molly into a marriage, knowing at the time that a warrant was out
for his arrest, and hoping, by his connection with the Earl of
Flintshire, to obtain a certain amount of leniency. When he was
sufficiently convinced that such a course was out of the question, he
begged Lady Molly to bring a nullity suit against him. He would not
defend it. He only wished to set her free.

But the love she bore him triumphed over all. They did keep their
marriage a secret, but she remained faithful to him in every thought
and feeling within her, and loyal to him with her whole soul. Only I--
once her maid, now her devoted friend--knew what she suffered, even
whilst she threw herself heart and mind into her work.

We lived mostly in our little flat in Maida Vale, but spent some
delightful days of freedom and peace in the little house at Kirk.
Hither--in spite of the terrible memories the place evoked--Lady Molly
loved to spend her time in wandering over the ground where that
mysterious crime had been committed which had doomed an innocent man
to the life of a convict.

"That mystery has got to be cleared up, Mary," she would repeat to me
with unswerving loyalty, "and cleared up soon, before Captain de
Mazareen loses all joy in life and all belief in me."


I SUSPECT you will be interested to hear something about Appledore
Castle and about Mr. Philip Baddock, who had been so near getting an
immense fortune, yet had it snatched from him before his very eyes.

As Sir Jeremiah Baddock never signed the will of 1904, Captain de
Mazareen's solicitors, on his behalf, sought to obtain probate of the
former one, dated 1902. In view of the terrible circumstances
connected with the proposed last testamentary dispositions of the
deceased, Mr. Philip Baddock was advised to fight that suit.

It seems that he really was the son of Sir Jeremiah by the latter's
second marriage with Mlle. Desty, but the old gentleman, with
heartless vengefulness, had practically repudiated the boy from the
first, and absolutely refused to have anything to do with him beyond
paying for his maintenance and education, and afterwards making him a
goodly allowance on the express condition that Philip--soon to become
a young man--never set his foot on English soil.

The condition was strictly complied with. Philip Baddock was born
abroad, and lived abroad until 1903, when he suddenly appeared at
Appledore Castle. Whether Sir Jeremiah, in a fit of tardy repentance,
had sent for him, or whether he risked coming of his own accord, no
one ever knew.

Captain de Mazareen was not, until that same year 1903, aware of the
existence of Philip Baddock any more than was anybody else, and he
spent his last days of freedom in stating positively that he would not
accept the terms of the will of 1902, but would agree to Sir
Jeremiah's fortune being divided up as it would have been if the old
gentleman had died intestate. Thus Philip Baddock, the son, and Hubert
de Mazareen, the grandson, received an equal share of Sir Jeremiah's
immense wealth, estimated at close upon £2,000,000 sterling.

Appledore was put up for sale and bought in by Mr. Philip Baddock, who
took up his residence there and gradually gained for himself a
position in the county as one of the most wealthy magnates in the
north of England. Thus he became acquainted with the present Lord
Flintshire, and, later on, met my dear lady. She neither sought nor
avoided his acquaintance, and even went once to a dinner party at
Appledore Castle.

That was lately, on the occasion of our last stay at Kirk. I had gone
up to the Castle in the brougham so that I might accompany Lady Molly
home, and had been shown into the library, whither my dear lady came
in order to put on her cloak.

While she was doing so Mr. Philip Baddock came in. He had a newspaper
in his hand and seemed greatly agitated.

"Such extraordinary news, Lady Molly," he said, pointing to a head-
line in the paper. "You know, of course, that the other day a convict
succeeded in effecting his escape from Dartmoor?"

"Yes, I knew that," said my dear lady, quietly.

"Well, I have reason to--to suppose," continued Mr. Baddock, "that
that convict was none other than my unfortunate nephew, De Mazareen."

"Yes?" rejoined Lady Molly, whose perfect calm and serene expression
of face contrasted strangely with the obvious agitation of Philip

"Heaven knows that he tried to do me an evil turn," rejoined the
latter after a while; "but of course I bear him no grudge, now that
the law has given me that which he tried to wrench from me--a just
share of my father's possessions. Since he has thrown himself on my

"Thrown himself on your mercy!" ejaculated my dear lady, whose face
had become almost grey with a sudden fear. "What do you mean?"

"De Mazareen is in my house at the present moment," replied Mr.
Baddock, quietly.


"Yes. It seems that he tramped here. I am afraid that his object was
to try and see you. He wants money, of course. I happened to be out in
the woods this afternoon, and saw him.

"No, no!" added Philip Baddock quickly, in response to an instinctive
gasp of pain from Lady Molly; "you need not have the slightest fear.
My nephew is as safe with me as he would be in your own house. I
brought him here, for he was exhausted with fatigue and want of food.
None of my servants know of his presence in the house except Felkin,
whom I can trust. By to-morrow he will have rested. . . . We'll make a
start in the very early morning in my car; we'll get to Liverpool
before midday. De Mazareen shall wear Felkin's clothes--no one will
know him. One of the Baddock steamers is leaving for Buenos Ayres the
same afternoon, and I can arrange with the captain. You need not have
the slightest fear," he repeated, with simple yet earnest emphasis; "I
pledge you my word that De Mazareen will be safe."

"I should like to thank you," she murmured.

"Please don't," he rejoined with a sad smile. "It is a great happiness
to me to be able to do this. . . . I know that you--you cared for him
at one time. . . . I wish you had known and trusted me in those days--
but I am glad of this opportunity which enables me to tell you that,
even had my father signed his last will and testament, I should have
shared his fortune with De Mazareen. The man whom you honoured with
your love need never have resorted to crime in order to gain a

Philip Baddock paused. His eyes were fixed on Lady Molly with
unmistakable love and an appeal for sympathy. I had no idea that he
cared for her--nor had she, I am quite sure. Her heart belonged solely
to the poor, fugitive convict, but she could not fail, I thought, to
be touched by the other man's obvious sincerity and earnestness.

There was silence in the room for a few moments. Only the old clock in
its Sheraton case ticked on in solemn imperturbability.

Lady Molly turned her luminous eyes on the man who had just made so
simple, so touching a profession of love. Was she about to tell him
that she was no longer free, that she bore the name of the man whom
the law had ostracised and pronounced a criminal--who had even now, by
this daring attempt at escape, added a few years to his already long
term of punishment and another load to his burden of shame?

"Do you think," she asked quietly, "that I might speak to Captain de
Mazareen for a few moments without endangering his safety?"

Mr. Baddock did not reply immediately. He seemed to be pondering over
the request. Then he said:

"I will see that everything is safe. I don't think there need be any

He went out of the room, and my dear lady and I were left alone for a
minute or two. She was so calm and serene that I marvelled at her
self-control, and wondered what was going on in her mind.

"Mary," she said to me, speaking very quickly, for already we could
hear two men's footsteps approaching the library door, "you must
station yourself just outside the front door; you understand? If you
see or hear anything suspicious come and warn me at once."

I made ready to obey, and the next moment the door opened and Mr.
Philip Baddock entered, accompanied by Captain Hubert.

I smothered the involuntary sob which rose to my throat at sight of
the man who had once been the most gallant, the handsomest soldier I
had ever seen. I had only just time to notice that Mr. Baddock
prepared to leave the room again immediately. At the door he turned
back and said to Lady Molly:

"Felkin has gone down to the lodge. If he hears or sees anything that
seems suspicious he will ring up on the telephone;" and he pointed to
the apparatus which stood on the library table in the centre of the

After that he closed the door, and I was left to imagine the moments
of joy, mingled with acute anguish, which my dear lady would be living

I walked up and down restlessly on the terrace which fronts the
Castle. The house itself appeared silent and dark: I presume all the
servants had gone to bed. Far away on my right I caught the glimmer of
a light. It came from the lodge where Felkin was watching. From the
church in Appledore village came the sound of the clock striking the
hour of midnight.

How long I had been on the watch I cannot say, when suddenly I was
aware of a man's figure running rapidly along the drive towards the
house. The next moment the figure had skirted the Castle, apparently
making for one of the back doors.

I did not hesitate a moment. Having left the big front door on the
latch, I ran straight in and made for the library door.

Already Mr. Philip Baddock had forestalled me. His hand was on the
latch. Without more ado he pushed open the door and I followed him in.

Lady Molly was sitting on the sofa, with Captain Hubert beside her.
They both rose at our entrance.

"The police!" said Mr. Baddock, speaking very rapidly. "Felkin has
just run up from the lodge. He is getting the car ready. Pray God we
may yet be able to get away."

Even as he spoke the front door bell sounded with a loud clang, which
to me had the sound of a death knell.

"It is too late, you see," said my dear lady, quietly.

"No, not too late," ejaculated Philip Baddock, in a rapid whisper.
"Quick! De Mazareen, follow me through the hall. Felkin is at the
stables getting the car ready. It will be some time before the
servants are roused."

"Mary, I am sure, has failed to fasten the front door," interrupted
Lady Molly, with the same strange calm. "I think the police are
already in the hall."

There was no mistaking the muffled sound of feet treading the thick
Turkey carpet in the hall. The library had but one exit. Captain
Hubert was literally in a trap. But Mr. Baddock had not lost his
presence of mind.

"The police would never dream of searching my house," he said; "they
will take my word that De Mazareen is not here. Here!" he added,
pointing to a tall Jacobean wardrobe which stood in an angle of the
room. "In there, man, and leave the rest to me!"

"I am afraid that such a proceeding would bring useless trouble upon
you, Mr. Baddock," once more interposed Lady Molly; "the police, if
they do not at once find Captain de Mazareen, will surely search the

"Impossible! They would not dare!"

"Indeed they would. The police know that Captain de Mazareen is here."

"I swear they do not," rejoined Mr. Baddock. "Felkin is no traitor,
and no one else--"

"It was I who gave information to the police," said Lady Molly,
speaking loudly and clearly. "I called up the superintendent on the
telephone just now, and told him that his men would find the escaped
convict hiding at Appledore Castle."

"You!" ejaculated Mr. Baddock, in a tone of surprise and horror, not
unmixed with a certain note of triumph. "You?"

"Yes!" she replied calmly. "I am of the police, you know. I had to do
my duty. Open the door, Mary," she added, turning to me.

Captain Hubert had not spoken a word so far. Now, when the men, led by
Detective-Inspector Etty, entered the room, he walked with a firm step
towards them, held out his hands for the irons, and with a final look
at Lady Molly, in which love, trust, and hope were clearly expressed,
he passed out of the room and was soon lost to sight.

My dear lady waited until the heavy footfalls had died away; then she
turned with a pleasant smile to Mr. Philip Baddock:

"I thank you for your kind thoughts of me," she said, "and for your
noble efforts on behalf of your nephew. My position was a difficult
one. I hope you will forgive the pain I have been obliged to bring
upon you."

"I will do more than forgive, Lady Molly," he said earnestly, "I will
venture to hope."

He took her hand and kissed it. Then she beckoned to me and I followed
her into the hall.

Our brougham--a hired one--had been waiting in the stable-yard. We
drove home in silence; but half an hour later, when my dear lady
kissed me good night she whispered in my ear:

"And now, Mary, we'll prove him innocent."



ONE or two people knew that at one time Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk had
been engaged to Captain Hubert de Mazareen, who was now convict No.
97, undergoing a life sentence for the murder of Mr. Steadman, a
solicitor of Carlisle, in the Elkhorn woods in April, 1904. Few, on
the other hand, knew of the secret marriage solemnised on that never-
to-be-forgotten afternoon, when all of us present in the church, with
the exception of the bridegroom himself, were fully aware that proofs
of guilt--deadly and irrefutable--were even then being heaped up
against the man to whom Lady Molly was plighting her troth, for better
or for worse, with her mental eyes wide open, her unerring intuition
keen to the fact that nothing but a miracle could save the man she
loved from an ignoble condemnation, perhaps from the gallows.

The husband of my dear lady, the man whom she loved with all the
strength of her romantic and passionate nature, was duty tried and
convicted of murder. Condemned to be hanged, he was reprieved, and his
sentence commuted to penal servitude for life.

The question of Sir Jeremiah's estate became a complicated one, for
his last will and testament was never signed, and the former one,
dated 1902, bequeathed everything he possessed unconditionally to his
beloved grandson Hubert.

After much legal argument, which it is useless to recapitulate here,
it was agreed between the parties, and ratified in court, that the
deceased gentleman's vast wealth should be disposed of as if he had
died intestate. One half of it, therefore, went to Captain Hubert de
Mazareen, grandson, and the other half to Philip Baddock, the son. The
latter bought Appledore Castle and resided there, whilst his nephew
became No. 97 in Dartmoor Prison.

Captain Hubert had served two years of his sentence when he made that
daring and successful escape which caused so much sensation at the
time. He managed to reach Appledore, where he was discovered by Mr.
Philip Baddock, who gave him food and shelter and got everything ready
for the safe conveyance of his unfortunate nephew to Liverpool and
thence to a port of safety in South America.

You remember how he was thwarted in this laudable attempt by Lady
Molly herself, who communicated with the police and gave up convict
No. 97 into the hands of the authorities once more.

Of course, public outcry was loud against my dear lady's action. Sense
of duty was all very well, so people argued, but no one could forget
that at one time Captain Hubert de Mazareen and Lady Molly Robertson-
Kirk had actually been engaged to be married, and it seemed positively
monstrous for a woman to be so pitiless towards the man whom she must
at one time have loved.

You see how little people understood my dear lady's motives. Some went
so far as to say that she had only contemplated marriage with Captain
Hubert de Mazareen because he was then, presumably, the heir to Sir
Jeremiah's fortune; now--continued the gossips--she was equally ready
to marry Mr. Philip Baddock, who at any rate was the happy possessor
of one half of the deceased gentleman's wealth.

Certainly Lady Molly's conduct at this time helped to foster this
idea. Finding that even the chief was inclined to give her the cold
shoulder, she shut up our flat in Maida Vale and took up her residence
at the little house which she owned in Kirk, and from the windows of
which she had a splendid view of stately Appledore Castle nestling
among the trees on the hillside.

I was with her, of course, and Mr. Philip Baddock was a frequent
visitor at the house. There could be no doubt that he admired her
greatly, and that she accepted his attentions with a fair amount of
graciousness. The county fought shy of her. Her former engagement to
Captain de Mazareen was well known, and her treachery to him--so it
was called--was severely censured.

Living almost in isolation m the village, her whole soul seemed
wrapped in thoughts of how to unravel the mystery of the death of Mr.
Steadman. Captain de Mazareen had sworn in his defence that the
solicitor, after starting to walk through the Elkhorn woods with him,
had feared that the tramp over rough ground would be too much for him,
and had almost immediately turned back in order to regain the road.
But the chauffeur, George Taylor, who was busy with the broken-down
car some two hundred yards up the road, never saw Mr. Steadman again,
whilst Captain de Mazareen arrived at the gates of Appledore Castle
alone. Here he was met by Mr. Philip Baddock, who informed him that
Sir Jeremiah had breathed his last an hour before.

No one at the Castle recollected seeing a stick in Captain Hubert's
hand when he arrived, whilst there were several witnesses who swore
that he carried one at Appledore Station when he started to walk with
her ladyship. The stick was found close to the body of the solicitor;
and the solicitor, when he met with his terrible death, had in his
pocket the draft of a will which meant disinheritance to Captain de

Here was the awful problem which Lady Molly had to face and to solve
if she persisted in believing that the man whom she loved, and whom
she had married at the moment when she knew that proofs of guilt were
dead against him, was indeed innocent.


WE had spent all the morning shopping in Carlisle, and in the
afternoon we called on Mr. Fuelling, of the firm of Fuelling, Steadman
and Co., solicitors.

Lady Molly had some business to arrange in connection with the
purchase of an additional bit of land to round off her little garden
at Kirk.

Mr. Fuelling was courteous, but distinctly stiff, in his manner
towards the lady who was "connected with the police," more especially
when--her business being transacted--she seemed inclined to tarry for
a little while in the busy solicitor's office, and to lead
conversation round to the subject of the murder of Mr. Steadman.

"Five years have gone by since then," said Mr. Fuelling, curtly, in
response to a remark from Lady Molly. "I prefer not to revive
unpleasant memories."

"You, of course, believed Captain de Mazareen guilty?" retorted my
dear lady, imperturbably.

"There were circumstances--" rejoined the solicitor, "and--and, of
course, I hardly knew the unfortunate young man. Messrs. Truscott and
Truscott used to be the family solicitors."

"Yes. It seemed curious that when Sir Jeremiah wished to make his will
he should have sent for you, rather than for his accustomed lawyer,"
mused Lady Molly.

"Sir Jeremiah did not send for me," replied Mr. Fuelling, with some
acerbity, "he sent for my junior, Mr. Steadman."

"Perhaps Mr. Steadman was a personal friend of his."

"Not at all. Not at all. Mr. Steadman was a new arrival in Carlisle,
and had never seen Sir Jeremiah before the day when he was sent for
and, in a brief interview, drafted the will which, alas! proved to be
the primary cause of my unfortunate young partner's death."

"You cannot draft a will in a brief interview, Mr. Fuelling," remarked
Lady Molly, lightly.

"Mr. Steadman did so," retorted Mr. Fuelling, curtly. "Though Sir
Jeremiah's mind was as clear as crystal, he was very feeble, and the
interview had to take place in a darkened room. That was the only time
my young partner saw Sir Jeremiah. Twenty-four hours later they were
both dead."

"Oh!" commented my dear lady with sudden indifference. "Well! I won't
detain you, Mr. Fuelling. Good afternoon."

A few moments later, having parted from the worthy old solicitor, we
were out in the street once more.

"The darkened room is my first ray of light," quoth Lady Molly to me,
with a smile at her own paradoxical remark.

When we reached home later that afternoon we were met at the garden
gate by Mr. Felkin, Mr. Philip Baddock's friend and agent, who lived
with him at Appledore Castle.

Mr. Felkin was a curious personality; very taciturn in manner but a
man of considerable education. He was the son of a country parson, and
at the time of his father's death he had been studying for the medical
profession. Finding himself unable to pursue his studies for lack of
means, and being left entirely destitute, he had been forced to earn
his living by taking up the less exalted calling of male nurse. It
seems that he had met Mr. Philip Baddock on the Continent some years
ago, and the two young men had somehow drifted into close
acquaintanceship. When the late Sir Jeremiah required a personal
nurse-attendant Mr. Philip Baddock sent for his friend and installed
him at Appledore Castle.

Here Mr. Felkin remained, even after the old gentleman's death. He was
nominally called Mr. Baddock's agent, but really did very little work.
He was very fond of shooting and of riding, and spent his life in the
pursuit of these sports, and he always had plenty of money to spend.

But everyone voted him a disagreeable bear, and the only one who ever
succeeded in making him smile was Lady Molly, who always showed an
unaccountable liking for the uncouth creature. Even now, when he
extended a somewhat grimy hand and murmured a clumsy apology at his
intrusion, she greeted him with warm effusiveness and insisted on his
coming into the house.

We all turned to walk along the little drive, when Mr. Baddock's car
came whizzing round the corner of the road from the Village. He pulled
up at our gate, and the next moment had joined us in the drive.

There was a very black look in his eyes, as they wandered restlessly
from my dear lady's face to that of his friend. Lady Molly's little
hand was even then resting on Mr. Felkin's coat-sleeve; she had been
in the act of leading him herself towards the house, and did not
withdraw her hand when Mr. Baddock appeared upon the scene.

"Burton has just called about those estimates, Felkin," said the
latter, somewhat roughly; "he is waiting at the Castle. You had better
take the car--I can walk home later on."

"Oh! how disappointing!" exclaimed Lady Molly, with what looked
uncommonly like a pout. "I was going to have such a cosy chat with Mr.
Felkin--all about horses and dogs. Couldn't you see that tiresome
Burton, Mr. Baddock?" she added ingenuously.

I don't think that Mr. Baddock actually swore, but I am sure he was
very near doing so.

"Burton can wait," said Mr. Felkin, curtly.

"No, he cannot," retorted Philip Baddock, whose face was a frowning
mirror of uncontrolled jealousy; "take the car, Felkin, and go at

For a moment it seemed as if Felkin would refuse to obey. The two men
stood looking at each other, measuring one another's power of will and
strength of passion. Hate and jealousy were clearly written in each
pair of glowering eyes. Philip Baddock looked defiant, and Felkin
taciturn and sulky.

Close to them stood my dear lady. Her beautiful eyes literally glowed
with triumph. That these two men loved her, each in his own curious,
uncontrolled way, I, her friend and confidant, knew very well. I had
seen, and often puzzled over, the feminine attacks which she had made
on the susceptibilities of that morose lout Felkin. It had taken her
nearly two years to bring him to her feet. During that time she had
alternately rendered him happy with her smiles and half mad with her
coquetries, whilst Philip Baddock's love for her was perpetually
fanned by his ever-growing jealousy.

I remember that I often thought her game a cruel one. She was one of
those women whom few men could resist; if she really desired to
conquer she invariably succeeded, and her victory over Felkin seemed
to me as purposeless as it was unkind. After all, she was the lawful
wife of Captain de Mazareen, and to rouse hatred between two friends
for the sake of her love, when that love was not hers to give, seemed
unworthy of her. At this moment, when I could read deadly hatred in
the faces of these two men, her cooing laugh grated unpleasantly on my

"Never mind, Mr. Felkin," she said, turning her luminous eyes on him.
"Since you have so hard a taskmaster, you must do your duty now. But,"
she added, throwing a strange, defiant look at Mr. Baddock, "I shall
be at home this evening; come and have our cosy chat after dinner."

She gave him her hand, and he took it with a certain clumsy gallantry
and raised it to his lips. I thought that Philip Baddock would strike
his friend with his open hand. The veins on his temples were swollen
like dark cords, and I don't think that I ever saw such an evil look
in anyone's eyes before.

Strangely enough, the moment Mr. Felkin's back was turned my dear lady
seemed to set herself the task of soothing the violent passions which
she had wilfully aroused in the other man. She invited him to come
into the house, and, some ten minutes later, I heard her singing to
him. When, later on, I went into the boudoir to join them at tea, she
was sitting on the music stool whilst he half bent over her, half
knelt at her feet; her hands were clasped in her lap, and his fingers
were closed over hers.

He did not attempt to leave her side when he saw me entering the room.
In fact, he wore a triumphant air of possession, and paid her those
little attentions which only an accepted lover would dare to offer.

He left soon after tea, and she accompanied him to the door. She gave
him her hand to kiss, and I, who stood at some little distance in the
shadow, thought that he would take her in his arms, so yielding and
gracious did she seem. But some look or gesture on her part must have
checked him, for he turned and walked quickly down the drive.

Lady Molly stood in the doorway gazing out towards the sunset. I, in
my humble mind, wondered once again what was the purport of this cruel


HALf an hour later she called to me, asked for her hat, told me to put
on mine and to come out for a stroll.

As so often happened, she led the way towards the Elkhorn woods, which
in spite, or perhaps because, of the painful memories they evoked, was
a very favourite walk of hers.

As a rule the wood, especially that portion of it where the
unfortunate solicitor had been murdered, was deserted after sunset.
The villagers declared that Mr. Steadman's ghost haunted the clearing,
and that the cry of the murdered man, as he was being foully struck
from behind, could be distinctly heard echoing through the trees.

Needless to say, these superstitious fancies never disturbed Lady
Molly. She liked to wander over the ground where was committed that
mysterious crime which had sent to ignominy worse than death the man
she loved so passionately. It seemed as if she meant to wrench its
secret from the silent ground, from the leafy undergrowth, from the
furtive inhabitants of the glades.

The sun had gone down behind the hills; the wood was dark and still.
We strolled up as far as the first clearing, where a plain, granite
stone, put up by Mr. Philip Baddock, marked the spot where Mr.
Steadman had been murdered.

We sat down on it to rest. My dear lady's mood was a silent one; I did
not dare to disturb it, and, for a while, only the gentle "hush--sh--
sh" of the leaves, stirred by the evening breeze, broke the peaceful
stillness of the glade.

Then we heard a murmur of voices, deep-toned and low. We could not
hear the words spoken, though we both strained our ears, and presently
Lady Molly arose and cautiously made her way among the trees in the
direction whence the voices came, I following as closely as I could.

We had not gone far when we recognised the voices, and heard the words
that were said. I paused, distinctly frightened, whilst my dear lady
whispered a warning "Hush!"

Never in all my life had I heard so much hatred, such vengeful
malignity expressed in the intonation of the human voice as I did in
the half-dozen words which now struck my ear.

"You will give her up, or--"

It was Mr. Felkin who spoke. I recognised his raucous delivery, but I
could not distinguish either of the two men in the gloom.

"Or what?" queried the other, in a voice which trembled with either
rage or fear--perhaps with both.

"You will give her up," repeated Felkin, sullenly. "I tell you that it
is an impossibility--do you understand?--an impossibility for me to
stand by and see her wedded to you, or to any other man for the matter
of that. But that is neither here nor there," he added after a slight
pause. "It is with you I have to deal now. You shan't have her--you
shan't--I won't allow it, even if I have to--"

He paused again. I cannot describe the extraordinary effect this rough
voice coming out of the darkness had upon my nerves. I had edged up to
Lady Molly, and had succeeded in getting hold of her hand. It was like
ice, and she herself was as rigid as that piece of granite on which we
had been sitting.

"You seem bubbling over with covert threats," interposed Philip
Baddock, with what was obviously a sneer; "what are the extreme
measures to which you will resort if I do not give up the lady whom I
love with my whole heart, and who has honoured me to-day by accepting
my hand in marriage?"

"That is a lie!" ejaculated Felkin.

"What is a lie?" queried the other, quietly.

"She has not accepted you--and you know it. You are trying to keep me
away from her--arrogating rights which you do not possess. Give her
up, man, give her up. It will be best for you. She will listen to me--
I can win her all right--but you must stand aside for me this time.
Take the word of a desperate man for it, Baddock. It will be best for
you to give her up."

Silence reigned in the wood for a few moments, and then we heard
Philip Baddock's voice again, but he seemed to speak more calmly,
almost indifferently, as I thought.

"Are you going now?" he asked. "Won't you come in to dinner?"

"No," replied Felkin, "I don't want any dinner, and I have an
appointment for afterwards."

"Don't let us part ill friends, Felkin," continued Philip Baddock in
conciliatory tones. "Do you know that, personally, my feeling is that
no woman on earth is worth a serious quarrel between two old friends,
such as we have been."

"I'm glad you think so," rejoined the other drily. "S'long."

The cracking of twigs on the moss-covered ground indicated that the
two men had parted and were going their several ways.

With infinite caution, and holding my hand tightly in hers, my dear
lady made her way along the narrow path which led us out of the wood.

Once in the road we walked rapidly, and soon reached our garden gate.
Lady Molly had not spoken a word during all that time, and no one knew
better than I did how to respect her silence.

During dinner she tried to talk of indifferent subjects, and never
once alluded to the two men whom she had thus wilfully pitted one
against the other. That her calm was only on the surface, however, I
realised from the fact that every sound on the gravel path outside
caused her to start. She was, of course, expecting the visit of Mr.

At eight o'clock he came. It was obvious that he had spent the past
hour in wandering about in the woods. He looked untidy and unkempt. My
dear lady greeted him very coldly, and when he tried to kiss her hand
she withdrew it abruptly.

Our drawing-room was a double one, divided by portière curtains. Lady
Molly led the way into the front room, followed by Mr. Felkin. Then
she drew the curtains together, leaving me standing behind them. I
concluded that she wished me to stay there and to listen, conscious of
the fact that Felkin, in the agitated mood in which he was, would be
quite oblivious of my presence.

I almost pitied the poor man, for to me--the listener--it was at once
apparent that my dear lady had only bidden him come to-night in order
to torture him. For about a year she had been playing with him as a
cat does with a mouse; encouraging him at times with sweet words and
smiles, repelling him at others with coldness not unmixed with
coquetry. But to-night her coldness was unalloyed; her voice was
trenchant, her attitude almost one of contempt.

I missed the beginning of their conversation, for the curtains were
thick and I did not like to go too near, but soon Mr. Felkin's voice
was raised. It was harsh and uncompromising.

"I suppose that I am only good enough for a summer's flirtation?" he
said sullenly, "but not to marry, eh? The owner of Appledore Castle,
the millionaire, Mr. Baddock, is more in your line--"

"It certainly would be a more suitable match for me," rejoined Lady
Molly, coolly.

"He told me you had formally accepted him," said the man, with
enforced calm; "is that true?"

"Partly," she replied.

"But you won't marry him!"

The exclamation seemed to come straight from a heart brimful of
passion, of love, of hate, and of revenge. The voice had the same
intonation in it which had rung an hour ago in the dark Elkhorn woods.

"I may do," came in quiet accents from my dear lady.

"You won't marry him," repeated Felkin, roughly.

"Who shall prevent me?" retorted Lady Molly, with a low, sarcastic

"I will."

"You?" she said contemptuously.

"I told him an hour ago that he must give you up. I tell you now that
you shall not be Philip Baddock's wife."

"Oh!" she interposed. And I could almost see the disdainful shrug of
her shoulders, the flash of contempt in her expressive eyes.

No doubt it maddened him to see her so cool, so indifferent, when he
had thought that he could win her. I do believe that the poor wretch
loved her. She was always beautiful, but never more so than to-night
when she had obviously determined finally to dismiss him.

"If you marry Philip Baddock," he now said, in a voice which quivered
with uncontrolled passion, "then within six months of your wedding-day
you will be a widow, for your husband will have ended his life on the

"You are mad!" she retorted calmly.

"That is as it may be," he replied. "I warned him to-night, and he
seems inclined to heed my warning; but he won't stand aside if you
beckon to him. Therefore, if you love him, take my warning. I may not
be able to get you, but I swear to you that Philip Baddock shan't
either. I'll see him hanged first," he added, with gruesome

"And you think that you can force me to do your bidding by such paltry
threats?" she retorted.

"Paltry threats? Ask Philip Baddock if my threats are paltry. He knows
full well that in my room at Appledore Castle, safe from thievish
fingers, lie the proofs that he killed Alexander Steadman in the
Elkhorn woods. Oh! I wouldn't help him in his nefarious deeds until he
placed himself in my hands. He had to take my terms or leave the thing
alone altogether, for he could not work without me. My wants are few,
and he has treated and paid me well. Now we are rivals, and I'll
destroy him before I'll let him gloat over me.

"Do you know how we worked it? Sir Jeremiah would not disinherit his
grandson--he steadily refused to make a will in Philip Baddock's
favour. But when he was practically dying we sent for Alexander
Steadman--a newcomer, who had never seen Sir Jeremiah before--and I
impersonated the old gentleman for the occasion. Yes, I!" he repeated
with a coarse laugh, "I was Sir Jeremiah for the space of half an
hour, and I think that I played the part splendidly. I dictated the
terms of a new will. Young Steadman never suspected the fraud for a
single instant. We had darkened the room for the comedy, you see, and
Mr. Steadman was destined by Baddock and myself never to set eyes on
the real Sir Jeremiah.

"After the interview Baddock sent for Captain de Mazareen; this was
all part of his plan and mine. We engineered it all, and we knew that
Sir Jeremiah could only last a few hours. We sent for Steadman again,
and I myself scattered a few dozen sharp nails among the loose stones
in the road where the motorcar was intended to break down, thus
forcing the solicitor to walk through the woods. Captain de Mazareen's
appearance on the scene at that particular moment was an unrehearsed
effect which nearly upset all our plans, for had Mr. Steadman stuck to
him that night, instead of turning back, he would probably be alive
now, and Baddock and I would be doing time somewhere for attempted
fraud. We should have been done, at any rate.

"Well! you know what happened. Mr. Steadman was killed. Baddock killed
him, and then ran straight back to the house, just in time to greet
Captain de Mazareen, who evidently had loitered on his way. But it was
I who thought of the stick, as an additional precaution to avert
suspicion from ourselves. Captain de Mazareen was carrying one, and
left it in the hall at the Castle. I cut my own hand and stained the
stick with it, then polished and cleaned it up, and later, during the
night, deposited it in the near neighbourhood of the murdered body.
Ingenious, wasn't it? I am a clever beggar, you see. Because I was
cleverer than Baddock he could not do without me, and because he could
not do without me I made him write and sign a request to me to help
him to manufacture a bogus will and then to murder the solicitor who
had drawn it up. And I have hidden that precious document in the wing
of Appledore Castle which I inhabit; the exact spot is known only to
myself. Baddock has often tried to find out, but all he knows is that
these things are in that particular wing of the house. I have the
document, and the draft of the will taken out of Mr. Steadman's
pocket, and the short bludgeon with which he was killed--it is still
stained with blood--and the rags with which I cleaned the stick. I
swear that I will never make use of these things against Philip
Baddock unless he drives me to it, and if you make use of what I have
just told you I'll swear that I have lied. No one can find the proofs
which I hold. But on the day that you marry Baddock I'll place them in
the hands of the police."

There was silence in the room. I could almost hear the beating of my
own heart, so horrified, so appalled was I at the horrible tale which
the man had just told to my dear lady.

The villainy of the whole scheme was so terrible, and at the same time
so cunning, that it seemed inconceivable that human brain could have
engendered it. Vaguely in my dull mind I wondered if Lady Molly would
have to commit bigamy before she could wrench from this evildoer's
hands the proofs that would set her own husband free from his

What she said I did not hear, what he meant to retort I never knew,
for at that moment my attention was attracted by the sound of running
footsteps on the gravel, followed by a loud knock at our front door.
Instinctively I ran to open it. Our old gardener was standing there
hatless and breathless.

"Appledore Castle, miss," he stammered, "it's on fire. I thought you
would like to know."

Before I had time to reply I heard a loud oath uttered close behind
me, and the next moment Felkin dashed out of the drawing-room into the

"Is there a bicycle here that I can take?" he shouted to the gardener.

"Yes, sir," replied the old man; "my son has one. Just in that shed,
sir, on your left."

In fewer seconds than it takes to relate, Felkin had rushed to the
shed, dragged out the bicycle, mounted it, and I think that within two
minutes of hearing the awful news, he was bowling along the road, and
was soon out of sight.


ONE wing of the stately mansion was ablaze when, a quarter of an hour
later, my dear lady and I arrived upon the scene. We had come on our
bicycles not long after Mr. Felkin.

At the very moment that the weird spectacle burst fully upon our gaze,
a loud cry of horror had just risen from the hundred or so people who
stood watching the terrible conflagration, whilst the local fire
brigade, assisted by Mr. Baddock's men, were working with the
hydrants. That cry found echo in our own throats as we saw a man
clambering, with the rapidity of a monkey, up a long ladder which had
been propped up against a second floor window of the flaming portion
of the building. The red glow illumined the large, shaggy head of
Felkin, throwing for a moment into bold relief his hooked nose and
straggly beard. For the space of three seconds perhaps he stood thus,
outlined against what looked like a glowing furnace behind him, and
the next instant he had disappeared beyond the window embrasure.

"This is madness!" came in loud accents from out the crowd in the
foreground, and before one fully realised whence that voice had come,
Mr. Philip Baddock was in his turn seen clambering up that awful
ladder. A dozen pairs of hands reached him just in time to drag him
back from the perilous ascent. He fought to free himself, but the
firemen were determined and soon succeeded in bringing him back to
level ground, whilst two of them, helmeted and well-equipped, took his
place upon the ladder.

The foremost had hardly reached the level of the first story when
Felkin's figure once more appeared in the window embrasure above. He
was staggering like a man drunk or fainting, his shaggy hair and beard
were blown about his head by the terrible draught caused by the
flames, and he waved his arms over his head, giving the impression to
those below, who gazed horrified, that he was either possessed or
dying. In one hand he held what looked like a great, long bundle.

We could see him now put one leg forward, obviously gathering strength
to climb the somewhat high window ledge. With a shout of encouragement
the two firemen scrambled up with squirrel-like agility, and the cry
of "They're coming! they're coming! Hold on, Felkin!" rose from a
hundred excited throats.

The unfortunate man made another effort. We could see his face clearly
now in the almost blinding glow which surrounded him. It was distorted
with fear and also with agony.

He gave one raucous cry, which I do believe will echo in my ears as
long as I live, and with a superhuman effort he hurled the bundle
which he held out of the window.

At that same moment there was a terrific hissing, followed by a loud
crash. The floor beneath the feet of the unfortunate man must have
given way, for he disappeared suddenly in a sea of flames.

The bundle which he had hurled down had struck the foremost fireman on
the head. He lost his hold, and as he fell he dragged his unfortunate
comrade down with him. The others ran to the rescue of their comrades.
I don't think they were seriously hurt, but what happened directly
after among the crowd, the firemen, or the burning building, I cannot
tell you. I only know that at the moment when Felkin's figure was, for
the second time, seen in the frame of the glowing window, Lady Molly
seized my hand and dragged me forward through the crowd.

Her husband's life was hanging in the balance, just as much as that of
the miserable wretch who was courting a horrible death for the sake of
those proofs which--as it was proved afterwards--Philip Baddock tried
to destroy by such drastic means.

The excitement round the ladder, the fall of the two firemen, the
crashing in of the floor and the gruesome disappearance of Felkin
caused so much excitement in the crowd that the bundle which the
unfortunate man had thrown remained unheeded for the moment. But
Philip Baddock reached the spot where it fell thirty seconds after
Lady Molly did. She had already picked it up, when he said harshly:

"Give me that. It is mine. Felkin risked his life to save it for me."

Inspector Etty, however, stood close by, and before Philip Baddock
realised what Lady Molly meant to do, she had turned quickly and
placed the bundle in the inspector's hands.

"You know me, Etty, don't you?" she said rapidly.

"Oh, yes, my lady!" he replied.

"Then take the utmost care of this bundle. It contains proofs of one
of the most dastardly crimes ever committed in this country."

No other words could have aroused the enthusiasm and caution of Etty
in the same manner.

After that Philip Baddock might protest, might rage, storm, or try to
bribe, but the proofs of his guilt and Captain de Mazareen's innocence
were safe in the hands of the police, and bound to come to light at

But, as a matter of fact, Baddock neither stormed nor pleaded. When
Lady Molly turned to him once more he had disappeared.

* * * * *

You know the rest, of course. It occurred too recently to be
recounted. Philip Baddock was found the next morning with a bullet
through his head, lying on the granite stone which, with cruel
hypocrisy, he himself had erected in memory of Mr. Steadman whom he
had so foully murdered.

The unfortunate Felkin had not lied when he said that the proofs which
he held of Baddock's guilt were conclusive and deadly.

Captain de Mazareen obtained His Majesty's gracious pardon after five
years of martyrdom which he had borne with heroic fortitude.

I was not present when Lady Molly was once more united to the man who
so ardently worshipped and trusted her, and to whose love, innocence,
and cause she had remained so sublimely loyal throughout the past few

She has given up her connection with the police. The reason for it has
gone with the return of her happiness, over which I--her ever faithful
Mary Granard--will, with your permission, draw a veil.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia