The Mystery Queen
by Fergus Hume
I. A STRANGE
Chapter II. A
Chapter IV. AN
Chapter V. MUDDY
Chapter VI. THE
Chapter VII. THE
Chapter XI. ON
Chapter XII. AN
Chapter XIII. A
Chapter XIV. A
Chapter XVII. AT
Chapter I. A STRANGE VISITOR
"A penny for your thoughts, Dad," cried Lillian, suppressing a
school-girl desire to throw one of the nuts on her plate at her father
and rouse him from his brown study.
Sir Charles Moon looked up with a start, and drew his bushy grey
eye-brows together. "Some people would give more than that to know
them, my dear."
"What sort of people?" asked the young man who sat beside Lillian,
industriously cracking filberts for her consumption.
"Dangerous people," replied Sir Charles grimly, "very dangerous,
Mrs. Bolstreath, fat, fair, and fifty, Lillian's paid companion and
chaperon, leaned back complacently. She had enjoyed an excellent
dinner: she was beautifully dressed: and shortly she would witness the
newest musical comedy; three very good reasons for her amiable
expression. "All people are dangerous to millionaires," she remarked,
pointing the compliment at her employer, 'since all people enjoy life
with wealth, and wish to get the millionaire's money honestly or
"The people you mention have failed to get mine, Mrs. Bolstreath,"
was the millionaire's dry response.
"Of course I speak generally and not of any particular person, Sir
"I am aware of it," he answered, nodding; and showed a tendency to
relapse into his meditation, but that his daughter raised her price for
"A sixpence for your thoughts, Dad, a shilling—ten shillings—then
one pound, you insatiable person."
"My kingdom for an explicit statement," murmured Dan, laying aside
the crackers. "Lillian, my child, you must not eat any more nuts, or
you will be having indigestion."
"I believe Dad has indigestion already."
"Some people will have it very badly before I am done with them,"
said Sir Charles, not echoing his daughter's laughter: then, to prevent
further questions being asked, he addressed himself to the young man.
"How are things going with you, Halliday?"
When Sir Charles asked questions thus stiffly, Dan knew that he was
not too well pleased, and guessed the reason, which had to do with
Lillian, and with Lillian's friendly attitude to a swain not
overburdened with money—to wit, his very own self—who replied
diplomatically. "Things are going up with me, sir, if you mean
"Frivolous! Frivolous!" muttered the big man seriously; "as a
well-educated young man who wants money, you should aim at higher
"He aims at the sun," said Lillian gaily, "how much higher do you
expect him to aim, Dad?"
"Aiming at the sun is he," said Moon heavily; "h'm! he'll be like
that classical chap, who flew too high and came smash."
"Do you mean Icarus or Phaeton, Sir Charles?" asked Mrs.
Bolstreath, who, having been a governess, prided herself upon
"I don't know which of the two; perhaps one, perhaps both. But he
flew in an aeroplane like Dan here, and came to grief."
"Oh!" Lillian turned distinctly pale. "I hope, Dan, you won't come
Before the guest could reply, Sir Charles reassured his daughter.
"Naught was never in danger," he said, still grim and unsmiling, "don't
trouble, Lillian, my dear. Dan won't come to grief in that way,
although he may in another."
Lillian opened her blue eyes and stared while young Halliday grew
crimson and fiddled with the nutshells. "I don't know what you mean,
Dad?" said the girl after a puzzled pause.
"I think Dan does," rejoined her father, rising and pushing back
his chair slowly. He looked at his watch. "Seven-thirty; you have
plenty of time to see your play, which does not begin until nine," he
added, walking towards the door. "Mrs. Bolstreath, I should like to
speak with you."
"My dear Lillian, I have no time to wait. There is an important
appointment at nine o'clock here, and afterwards I must go to the
House. Go and enjoy yourself, but don't—" here his stern grey eyes
rested on Dan's bent head in a significant way—"don't be foolish. Mrs.
Bolstreath," he beckoned, and left the room.
"Oh!" sighed the chaperon-governess-companion, for she was all
three, a kind of modern Cerberus, guarding the millionaire's child. "I
thought it would come to this!" and she also looked significantly at
Halliday before she vanished to join her employer.
Lillian stared at the closed door through which both her father and
Mrs. Bolstreath had passed, and then looked at Dan, sitting somewhat
disconsolately at the disordered dinner-table. She was a delicately
pretty girl of a fair fragile type, not yet twenty years of age, and
resembled a shepherdess of Dresden china in her dainty perfection. With
her pale golden hair, and rose-leaf complexion; arrayed in a simple
white silk frock with snowy pearls round her slender neck, she looked
like a wreath of faint mist. At least Dan fancifully thought so, as he
stole a glance at her frail beauty, or perhaps she was more like a
silver-point drawing, exquisitely fine. But whatever image love might
find to express her loveliness, Dan knew in his hot passion that she
was the one girl in the world for him. Lillian Halliday was a much
better name for her than Lillian Moon.
Dan himself was tall and slim, dark and virile, with a clear-cut,
clean-shaven face suggestive of strength and activity. His bronzed
complexion suggested an open-air life, while the eagle look in his dark
eyes was that new vast-distance expression rapidly being acquired by
those who devote themselves to aviation. No one could deny Dan's good
looks or clean life or daring nature, and he was all that a girl could
desire in the way of a fairy prince. But fathers do not approve of
fairy princes unless they come laden with jewels and gold. To bring
such to Lillian was rather like taking coals to Newcastle since her
father was so wealthy; but much desires more, and Sir Charles wanted a
rich son-in-law. Dan could not supply this particular adjective, and
therefore—as he would have put it in the newest slang of the newest
profession—was out of the fly. Not that he intended to be, in spite of
Sir Charles, since love can laugh at stern fathers as easily as at
bolts and bars.
And all this time Lillian stared at the door, and then at Dan, and
then at her plate, putting two and two together. But in spite of her
feminine intuition, she could not make four, and turned to her
lover—for that Dan was, and a declared lover too—for an explanation.
"What does Dad mean?"
Dan raised his handsome head and laughed as grimly as Sir Charles
had done earlier. "He means that I shan't be asked to dinner any more."
"Why? You have done nothing."
"No; but I intend to do something."
Dan glanced at the closed door and seeing that there was no
immediate chance of butler or footmen entering took her in his arms.
"Marry you," he whispered between two kisses.
"There's no intention about that," pouted the girl; "we have
settled that ever so long ago."
"So your father suspects, and for that reason he is warning Mrs.
"Warning the dragon," said Miss Moon, who used the term quite in an
affectionate way, "why, the dragon is on our side."
"I dare say your father guesses as much. For that reason I'll stake
my life that he is telling her at this moment she must never let us be
together alone after this evening. After all, my dear, I don't see why
you should look at me in such a puzzled way. You know well enough that
Sir Charles wants you to marry Curberry."
"Marry Lord Curberry," cried Lillian, her pale skin colouring a
deep rose hue; "why I told Dad I wouldn't do that."
"Did you tell Dad that you loved me?"
"No. There's no need to," said the girl promptly.
Dan coughed drily. "I quite agree with you," he said rising,
"there's no need to, since every time I look at you, I give myself
away. But you surely understand, darling, that as I haven't a title and
I haven't money I can't have you. Hothouse grapes are for the rich and
not for a poor devil like me."
"You might find a prettier simile," laughed Lillian, not at all
discomposed, although she now thoroughly understood the meaning of her
father's abrupt departure with Mrs. Bolstreath. Then she rose and took
Dan by the lapels of his coat, upon which he promptly linked her to
himself by placing both arms round her waist. "Dearest," she said
earnestly, "I shall marry you and you only. We have been brought up
more or less together, and we have always loved one another. Dad was
your guardian: you have five hundred a year of your own, and if we
marry Dad can give us plenty, and—"
"I know all that," interrupted Halliday, placing her arms round his
neck, "and it is just because Sir Charles knows also, that he will
never consent to our marriage. I guessed what was in the wind weeks
ago, darling heart, and every day I have been expecting what has
occurred to-night. For that reason, I have come here as often as
possible and have arranged for you and the dragon to go to the theatre
to-night. But, believe me, Lillian, it will be for the last time.
To-morrow I shall receive a note saying that I am to stay away from
Lord Curberry's bride."
"I'm not his bride and I never shall be!" stamped Lillian, and the
tears came into her pretty eyes, whereupon Dan, as a loyal lover, wiped
them away with his pocket-handkerchief tenderly, "and—and—" she
"And—and—" he mocked, knowing her requirements, which led him to
console her with a long and lingering kiss. "Oh!" he sighed and
Lillian, nestling in his arms, echoed the sigh. The moment of perfect
understanding and perfect love held them until the sudden opening of
the door placed Dan on one side of the table and Lillian on the other.
"It won't do, my dears," said the new-comer, who was none other
than Mrs. Bolstreath, flaming with wrath, but not, as the lovers found
later, at them. "I know quite well that Dan hasn't wasted his time in
this league-divided wooing."
"We thought that one of the servants—" began the young man, when
Mrs. Bolstreath interrupted.
"Well, and am I not one of the servants? Sir Charles has reminded
me of the fact three times with information that I am not worth my
salt, much less the good table he keeps."
"Oh! Bolly dear," and Lillian ran to the stout chaperon to embrace
her with many kisses, "was Dad nasty?"
"He wasn't agreeable," assented Mrs. Bolstreath, fanning herself
with her handkerchief, for the interview had heated her. "You can't
expect him to be, my sweet, when his daughter loves a pauper."
"Thank you," murmured Dan bowing, "but don't you think it is time
we went to the theatre, Bolly dear."
"You must not be so familiar, young man," said the chaperon,
broadly smiling at the dark handsome face. "Sir Charles wants Lillian
"Then I shan't!" Lillian stamped again. "I hate Lord Curberry."
"And you love Dan!"
"Don't be so familiar, young woman," said Halliday, in a joking
way, "unless you are on our side, that is."
"If I were not on your side," rejoined Mrs. Bolstreath,
majestically, "I should be the very dragon Lillian calls me. After all,
Dan, you are poor."
"Poor, but honest."
"Worse and worse. Honest people never grow rich. And then you have
such a dangerous profession; taking people flying trips in those
aeroplanes. One never can be sure if you will be home to supper. I'm
sure Lillian would not care to marry a husband who was uncertain about
being home for supper."
"I'll marry Dan," said Lillian, and embraced Dan, who returned the
"Children! Children!" Mrs. Bolstreath raised her hands in horror,
"think of what you are doing. The servants may be in at any moment.
Come to the drawing-room and have coffee. The motor-car is waiting
and—hush, separate, separate," cried the chaperon, "someone is
She spoke truly, for the lovers had just time to fly asunder when
Sir Charles's secretary entered swiftly. He was a lean, tall,
haggard-looking young fellow of thirty with a pallid complexion and
scanty light hair. A thin moustache half concealed a weak mouth, and he
blinked his eyes in a nervous manner when he bowed to the ladies and
excused his presence. "Sir Charles left his spectacles here," he said
in a soft and rather unsteady voice, "he sent me for them and—" he had
glided to the other side of the table by this time—"oh, here they are!
The motor-car waits, Miss Moon."
"Where is my father?" asked Lillian irrelevantly. "Tell me, Mr.
"In the library, Miss Moon," said the secretary glibly, "but he
cannot see anyone just now—not even you, Miss Moon."
"He is waiting to interview an official from Scotland Yard—a Mr.
Durwin on important business."
"You see," murmured Dan to Lillian in an undertone, "your father
intends to lock me up for daring to love you."
Miss Moon took no notice. "What is the business?" she asked
"Indeed I don't know, Miss Moon. It is strictly private. Sir
Charles has related nothing to me. And if you will excuse me—if you
don't mind—these spectacles are wanted and—" he babbled himself out
of the room, while Mrs. Bolstreath turned on her charge.
"You don't mean to say, you foolish child, that you were going to
see your father about this," she indicated Halliday.
"I don't care about being called a 'this'!" said Dan, stiffly.
Neither lady noticed the protest. "I want to make it clear to my
father as soon as possible, that I shall marry Dan and no one else,"
declared Lillian, pursing up her pretty mouth obstinately.
"Then take him at the right moment," retorted Mrs. Bolstreath
crossly, for the late interview had tried even her amiable temper.
"Just now he is seething with indignation that an aviator should dare
to raise his eyes to you."
"Aviators generally look down," said Dan flippantly; "am I to be
allowed to take you and Lillian to the theatre this evening?"
"Yes. Although Sir Charles mentioned that you would do better to
spend your money on other things than mere frivolity."
"Oh!" said Halliday with a shrug, "as to that, this particular
frivolity is costing me nothing. I got the box from Freddy Laurance,
who is on that very up-to-date newspaper 'The Moment' as a reporter. I
have dined at my future father-in-law's expense, and now I go in his
motor-car without paying for the trip. I don't see that my pleasures
could cost me less. Even Sir Charles must be satisfied with such strict
"Sir Charles will be satisfied with nothing save a promise for you
to go away and leave Lillian alone," said Mrs. Bolstreath, sadly; "he
has no feeling of romance such as makes me foolish enough to encourage
"You called me that before," said Dan, coolly; "well, there's no
getting over facts. I am a pauper, but I love Lillian."
"And I—" began Lillian, advancing, only to be waved back and
prevented from speaking further by Mrs. Bolstreath.
"Don't make love before my very eyes," she said crossly; "after all
I am paid to keep you two apart, and—and—well, there's no time for
coffee, so we had better finish the discussion in the car. There is
plenty of time between Hampstead and the Strand to allow of a long
argument. And remember, Dan," Mrs. Bolstreath turned at the door to
shake her finger, "this is your last chance of uninterrupted
conversation with Lillian."
"Let us make honey while the flowers bloom," whispered Halliday,
poetically, and stole a final and hasty kiss before he led the girl
after the amiable dragon, who had already left the room.
The lovers found her talking to a poorly-dressed and rather stout
female clothed in rusty mourning, who looked the picture of decent but
respectable poverty. The entrance door stood open, and the waiting
motor-car could be seen at the steps, while the footman stood near Mrs.
Bolstreath, watching her chatting to the stranger and wearing an
injured expression. It seemed that the decent woman wished to see Sir
Charles, and the footman had refused her admission since his master was
not to be disturbed. The woman—she called herself Mrs. Brown and was
extremely tearful—had therefore appealed to the dragon, who was
explaining that she could do nothing.
"Oh, but I am sure you can get Sir Charles Moon to see me, my
lady," wailed Mrs. Brown with a dingy handkerchief to her red eyes, "my
son has been lost overboard off one of those steamers Sir Charles owns,
and I want to ask him to give me some money. My son was my only
support, and now I am starving."
Lillian knew that her father owned a number of tramp steamers,
which picked up cargoes all over the world, and saw no reason why the
woman should not have the interview since her son had been drowned
while in Moon's service. The hour was certainly awkward, since Sir
Charles had an appointment before he went down to the House. But a
starving woman and a sorrowful woman required some consideration, so
she stepped forward hastily and touched Mrs. Brown's rusty cloak.
"I shall ask my father to see you," she said quickly; "wait here!"
and without consulting Mrs. Bolstreath she went impulsively to her
father's study, while Mrs. Brown dabbed her eyes with the handkerchief
and called down blessings on her young head.
Dan believed the story of the lost son, but doubted the tale of
starvation, as Mrs. Brown looked too stout to have been without food
for any length of time. He looked hard at her face, which was more
wrinkled than a fat woman's should be; although such lines might be
ascribed to grief. She wept profusely and was so overcome with sorrow
that she let down a ragged veil when she saw Dan's eager gaze. The
young gentleman, she observed, could not understand a mother's
feelings, or he would not make a show of her by inquisitive glances.
The remark was somewhat irrelevant, and the action of letting down the
veil unnecessary, but much might be pardoned to a woman so obviously
Dan was about to excuse his inquiring looks, when Lillian danced
back with the joyful information that her father would see Mrs. Brown
for a few minutes if she went in at once. "And I have asked him to help
you," said the girl, patting the fearful woman's shoulder, as she
passed to the motor-car. "Oh! it's past eight o'clock. Dan, we'll never
be in time."
"The musical comedy doesn't begin until nine," Halliday assured
her, and in a few minutes the three of them were comfortably seated in
the luxurious car, which whirled at break-neck speed towards the
Of course Lillian and Dan took every advantage of the opportunity,
seeing that Mrs. Bolstreath was sympathetic enough to close her eyes to
their philanderings. They talked all the way to the Curtain Theatre;
they talked all through the musical comedy; and talked all the way back
to the house at Hampstead. Mrs. Bolstreath, knowing that the young
couple would not have another opportunity for uninterrupted
love-making, and being entirely in favour of the match, attended to the
stage and left them to whisper unreproved. She could not see why Dan,
whom Lillian had loved since the pair had played together as children,
should be set aside in favour of a dry-as-dust barrister, even though
he had lately come into a fortune and a title. "But of course," said
Mrs. Bolstreath between the acts, "if you could only invent a perfect
flying-machine, they would make you a duke or something and give you a
large income. Then you could marry."
"What are you talking about, Bolly darling?" asked Lillian, much
puzzled, as she could not be supposed to know what was going on inside
her friend's head.
"About you and Dan, dear. He has no money and—"
"I shall make heaps and heaps of money," said Dan, sturdily;
"aviation is full of paying possibilities, and the nation that first
obtains command of the air will rule the world. I'm no fool!"
"You're a commoner," snapped Mrs. Bolstreath quickly, "and unless,
as I said, you are made a duke for inventing a perfect aeroplane, Lord
Curberry is certainly a better match for Lillian."
"He's as dull as tombs," said Miss Moon with her pretty nose in the
"You can't expect to have everything, my dear child."
"I can expect to have Dan," retorted Lillian decidedly, whereat Dan
whispered sweet words and squeezed his darling's gloved hand.
"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, as the curtain rose on the second
act, "I'll do my best to help you since I believe in young love and
true love. Hush, children, people are looking! Attend to the stage."
Dan and Lillian did their best to follow her advice and sat
demurely in the box side by side, watching the heroine flirt in a duet
with the hero, both giving vent to their feelings in a lively musical
number. But they really took little interest in "The Happy Bachelor!"
as the piece was called, in spite of the pretty girls and the
picturesque scenery. They were together and that was all they cared
about, and although a dark cloud of parental opposition hovered over
them, they were not yet enveloped in its gloom. And after all, since
Mrs. Bolstreath was strongly prejudiced in their favour, Lillian hoped
that she might induce Sir Charles to change his mind concerning Lord
Curberry. He loved his daughter dearly and would not like to see her
unhappy, as she certainly would be if compelled to marry any one but
The One. Lillian said this to Mrs. Bolstreath and to Dan several times
on the way home, and they entirely agreed with her.
"Although I haven't much influence with Sir Charles," Mrs.
Bolstreath warned them, "and he is fond of having his own way."
"He always does what I ask," said Lillian confidently. "Why,
although he was so busy this evening, he saw Mrs. Brown when I pleaded
"He couldn't resist you," whispered Dan fondly; "no one could."
Mrs. Bolstreath argued this point, saying that Lillian was Sir
Charles's daughter, and fathers could not be expected to feel like
lovers. She also mentioned that she was jeopardising her situation by
advocating the match, which was certainly a bad one from a financial
point of view, and would probably be turned out of doors as an old
romantic fool. The lovers assured her she was the most sensible of
women and that if she was turned out of doors they would take her into
the cottage where they proposed to reside like two turtle doves. Then
came laughter and kisses and the feeling that the world was not such a
bad place after all. It was a very merry trio that alighted at the door
of Moon's great Hampstead mansion.
Then came a shock, the worse for being wholly unexpected. At the
door the three were met by Marcus Penn, who was Moon's secretary. He
looked leaner and more haggard than ever, and his general attitude was
that of the bearer of evil news. Dan and Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath
stared at him in amazement. "You may as well know the worst at once,
Miss Moon," said Penn, his lips quivering with nervousness, "your
father is dead. He has been murdered."
Chapter II. A COMPLETE MYSTERY
It was Mrs. Bolstreath who carried Lillian upstairs in her stout
arms, for when Penn made his brusque announcement the girl fainted
straight away, which was very natural considering the horror of the
information. Dan remained behind to tell the secretary that he was
several kinds of fool, since no one but a superfine ass would blurt out
so terrible a story to a delicate girl. Not that Penn had told much,
for Lillian had become unconscious the moment her bewildered brain
grasped that the father she had left a few hours earlier in good health
and spirits was now a corpse. But he told more to Dan, and mentioned
that Mr. Durwin was in the library wherein the death had taken place.
"Mr. Durwin? Who is Mr. Durwin?" asked Dan trying to collect his
sense, which had been scattered by the dreadful news.
"An official from Scotland Yard; I told you so after dinner," said
Penn in an injured tone; "he came to see Sir Charles by appointment at
nine o'clock and found him a corpse."
"Sir Charles was alive when we left shortly after eight," remarked
Dan sharply; "at a quarter-past eight, to be precise. What took place
in the meantime?"
"Obviously the violent death of Sir Charles," faltered the
"What evidence have you to show that he died by violence?" asked
"Mr. Durwin called in a doctor, and he says that Sir Charles has
been poisoned," blurted out Penn uneasily. "I believe that woman—Mrs.
Brown she called herself—poisoned him. She left the house at a quarter
to nine, so the footman says, for he let her out, and—"
"It is impossible that a complete stranger should poison Sir
Charles," interrupted Dan impatiently; "she would not have the chance."
"She was alone with Sir Charles for thirty minutes, more or less,"
said Penn tartly; "she had every chance and she took it."
"But how could she induce Sir Charles to drink poison?"
"She didn't induce him to drink anything. The doctor says that the
scratch at the back of the dead man's neck—"
"Here!" Dan roughly pushed the secretary aside, becoming impatient
of the scrappy way in which he detailed what had happened. "Let me go
to the library for myself and see what has happened. Sir Charles can't
"It's twelve o'clock now," retorted Penn, stepping aside, "and he's
been dead quite three hours, as the doctor will tell you."
Before the man finished his sentence, Dan, scarcely grasping the
situation, so rapidly had it evolved, ran through the hall towards the
back of the spacious house, where the library was situated. He dashed
into the large and luxuriously furnished room and collided with a
police officer, who promptly took him by the shoulder. There were three
other men in the room, who turned from the corpse they were looking at
when they heard the noise of Halliday's abrupt entrance. The foremost
man, and the one who spoke first, was short and stout and arrayed in
uniform, with cold grey eyes, and a hard mouth.
"What's this—what's this?" he demanded in a raucous voice. "Who
"My name is Halliday," said Dan hurriedly. "I am engaged to Miss
Moon and we have just returned from the theatre to hear—to hear—" He
caught sight of Moon's body seated in the desk-chair and drooping
limply over the table. "Oh, it is true, then! He is dead. Good heavens!
Who murdered him?"
"How do you know that Sir Charles has been murdered?" asked the
"Mr. Penn, the secretary, told me just now in the hall," said Dan,
shaking himself free of the policeman. "He blurted it out like a fool,
and Miss Moon has fainted. Mrs. Bolstreath has taken her upstairs. But
how did it come about? Who found the body, and—"
"I found the body," interrupted one of the other men, who was tall
and calm-faced, with a bald head and a heavy iron-grey moustache,
perfectly clothed in fashionable evening-dress, and somewhat imperious
in his manner of speaking. "I had an appointment with Sir Charles at
nine o'clock and came here to find him, as you now see him"—he waved
his hand towards the desk—"the doctor will tell you how he died."
"By poison," said the third man, who was dark, young, unobtrusive
and retiring in manner. "You see this deep scratch on the back of the
neck. In that way the poison was administered. I take it that Sir
Charles was bending over his desk and the person who committed the
crime scratched him with some very sharp instrument impregnated with
"Mrs. Brown!" gasped Dan, staring at the heavy swollen body of his
late guardian, who, only a few hours back, had been in perfect health.
The three men glanced at one another as he said the name, and even
the policeman on guard at the door looked interested. The individual in
uniform spoke with his cold eyes on Dan's agitated face. "What do you
know of Mrs. Brown, Mr. Halliday?" he demanded abruptly.
"Don't you know that a woman of that name called here?"
"Yes. The secretary, Mr. Penn, told us that Miss Moon induced her
father to see a certain Mrs. Brown, who claimed that her son had been
drowned while working on one of the steamers owned by Sir Charles. You
saw her also I believe?"
"I was in the hall when Miss Moon went to induce her father to see
the poor woman. That was about a quarter past eight o'clock."
"And Mrs. Brown—as we have found from inquiry—left the house at a
quarter to nine. Do you think she is guilty?"
"I can't say. Didn't the footman see the body—that is, if Mrs.
Brown committed the crime—when he came to show her out? Sir Charles
would naturally ring his bell when the interview was over, and the
footman would come to conduct her to the door."
"Sir Charles never rang his bell!" said the officer, drily. "Mrs.
Brown passed through the entrance hall at a quarter to nine o'clock,
and mentioned to the footman—quite unnecessarily, I think—that Sir
Charles had given her money. He let her out of the house. Naturally,
the footman, not hearing any bell, did not enter this room, nor—so far
as any one else is concerned—did a single person. Only when Mr.
"I came at nine o'clock," interrupted the bald-headed man
imperiously, "to keep my appointment. The footman told Mr. Penn, who
took me to Sir Charles. He knocked but there was no answer, so he
opened the door and we saw this." He again waved his hand towards the
"Does Mr. Penn know nothing?" asked Halliday, doubtfully.
"No," answered the other. "Inspector Tenson has questioned him
carefully in my presence. Mr. Penn says that he brought Sir Charles his
spectacles from the dining-room before you left for the theatre with
the two ladies, and then was sent to his own room by his employer to
write the usual letters. He remained there until nine o'clock when he
was called out to receive me, and we know that Mr. Penn speaks truly,
for the typewriting girl who was typing Sir Charles's letters to Mr.
Penn's dictation, says that he did not leave the room all the time."
"May I look at the body?" asked Dan approaching the desk, and on
receiving an affirmative reply from Durwin, bent over the dead.
The corpse was much swollen, the face indeed being greatly bloated,
while the deep scratch on the nape of the neck looked venomous and
angry. Yet it was a slight wound to bring about so great a catastrophe,
and the poison must have been very deadly and swift; deadly because
apparently Sir Charles had no time to move before it did its work, and
swift because he could not even have called for assistance, which he
surely would have done had he been able to keep his senses. Dan
mentioned this to the watchful doctor, who nodded.
"I can't say for certain," he remarked cautiously, "but I fancy
that snake-poison has been used. That will be seen to, when the
post-mortem is made."
"And this fly?" Halliday pointed to an insect which was just behind
the left ear of the dead man.
"Fly!" echoed Inspector Tenson in surprise, and hastily advancing
to look. "A fly in November. Impossible! Yet it is a fly, and dead. If
not," he swept the neck of the corpse with his curved hand, "it would
get away. H'm! Now I wonder what this means? Get me a magnifying
There was not much difficulty in procuring one, as such an article
lay on the desk itself; being used, no doubt, by Sir Charles to aid his
failing sight when he examined important documents. Tenson inspected
the fly and removed it—took it to a near electric light and examined
it. Then he came back and examined the place behind the left ear whence
he had removed it.
"It's been gummed on," he declared in surprise—a surprise which
was also visible in the faces of the other men; "you can see the
glistening spot on the skin, and the fly's legs are sticky." He
balanced the fly on his little finger as he spoke. "I am sure they are
sticky, although it is hard to say with such a small insect. However,"
he carefully put away the fly in a silver match-box, "we'll have this
examined under a more powerful glass. You are all witnesses, gentlemen,
that a fly was found near the wound which caused Sir Charles Moon's
"And the scent? What about the scent?" Dan sniffed as he spoke and
then bent his nose to the dead man. "It seems to come from the
"Scent!" echoed Durwin sharply, and sniffed. "Yes, I observed that
scent. But I did not take any notice of it."
"Nor did I," said the doctor. "I noticed it also."
"And I," followed on the Inspector, "and why should we take notice
of it, Mr. Halliday? Many men use scent."
"Sir Charles never did," said Dan emphatically; "he hated scents of
all kinds even when women used them. He certainly would never have used
them himself. I'll swear to that."
"Then this scent assumes importance." Durwin sniffed again, and
held his aquiline nose high. "It is fainter now. But I smelt it very
strongly when I first came in and looked at the body. A strange perfume
The three men tried to realise the peculiar odour of the scent, and
became aware that it was rich and heavy and sickly, and somewhat drowsy
in its suggestion.
"A kind of thing to render a man sleepy," said Dan, musingly.
"Or insensible," said Inspector Tenson hastily, and put his nose to
the dead man's chin and mouth. He shook his head as he straightened
himself. "I fancied from your observation, Mr. Halliday, that the scent
might have been used as a kind of chloroform, but there's no smell
about the face. It comes from the clothes," he sniffed again; "yes, it
certainly comes from the clothes. Did you smell this scent on Mrs.
Brown?" he demanded, suddenly.
"No, I did not," admitted Halliday promptly, "otherwise I should
certainly have noted it. I have a keen sense of smell. Mrs. Bolstreath
and Lil—I mean Miss Moon—might have noticed it, however."
At that moment, as if in answer to her name, the door opened
suddenly and Lillian brushed past the policeman in a headlong entrance
into the library. Her fair hair was in disorder, her face was
bloodless, and her eyes were staring and wild. Behind her came Mrs.
Bolstreath hurriedly, evidently trying to restrain her. But the girl
would not be restrained, and rushed forward scattering the small group
round the dead, to fling herself on the body.
"Oh, Father, Father!" she sobbed, burying her face on the shoulder
of her dearly-loved parent. "How awful it is. Oh, my heart will break.
How shall I ever get over it. Father! Father! Father!"
She wept and wailed so violently that the four men were touched by
her great grief. Both Mr. Durwin and Inspector Tenson had daughters of
their own, while the young doctor was engaged. They could feel for her
thoroughly, and no one made any attempt to remove her from the body
until Mrs. Bolstreath stepped forward. "Lillian, darling. Lillian, my
child," she said soothingly, and tried to lead the poor girl away.
But Lillian only clung closer to her beloved dead. "No! No! Let me
alone. I can't leave him. Poor, dear Father—oh, I shall die!"
"Dear," said Mrs. Bolstreath, raising her firmly but kindly, "your
father is not there, but in heaven! Only the clay remains."
"It is all I have. And Father was so good, so kind—oh, who can
have killed him in this cruel way?" She looked round with streaming
"We think that a Mrs. Brown—" began the Inspector, only to be
answered by a loud cry from the distraught girl.
"Mrs. Brown! Then I have killed Father! I have killed him! I
persuaded him to see the woman, because she was in trouble. And she
killed him—oh, the wretch—the—the—oh—oh! What had I done to her
that she should rob me of my dear, kind father?" and she cried bitterly
in her old friend's tender arms.
"Had you ever seen Mrs. Brown before?" asked Durwin in his
imperious voice, although he lowered it in deference to her grief.
Lillian winced at the harsh sound. "No, no! I never saw her before.
How could I have seen her before? She said that her son had been
drowned, and that she was poor. I asked Father to help her, and he told
me he would. It's my fault that she saw my father and now"—her voice
leaped an octave—"he's dead. Oh—oh! my father—my father!" and she
tried to break from Mrs. Bolstreath's arms to fling herself on the dead
"Lillian darling, don't cry," said Dan, placing his hand on her
"You have not lost the dearest and best of fathers!" she sobbed
"Your loss is my loss," said Halliday in a voice of pain, "but we
must be brave, both you and I." He associated himself with her so as to
calm her grief. "It's not your fault that your dear father is dead."
"I persuaded him to see Mrs. Brown. And she—she—she—"
"We can't say if this woman is guilty, as yet," said Durwin
hastily, "so do not blame yourself, Miss Moon. But did you smell any
scent on this Mrs. Brown?"
Lillian looked at him vacantly and shook her head. Then she burst
once more into hard and painful sobbing, trying again to embrace the
"Don't ask her any questions, Sir," said Halliday, in a low voice
to Mr. Durwin, "you see she is not in a fit state to reply. Lillian,"
he raised her up from her knees and gently but firmly detached her arms
from the dead. "My darling, your father is past all earthly aid. We can
do nothing but avenge him. Go with Mrs. Bolstreath and lie down. We
must be firm."
"Firm! Firm—and Father dead!" wailed Lillian. "Oh, what a wretch
that Mrs. Brown must be to kill him! Kill her, Dan—oh, make her
suffer! My good, kind father, who—who—oh"—she flung herself on Dan's
neck—"take me away! take me away!" and her lover promptly carried her
to the door.
Mrs. Bolstreath, who had been talking hurriedly to Inspector
Tenson, came after the pair and took the girl from Dan. "She must lie
down and have a sleeping-draught," she said softly. "If the doctor will
The doctor was only too glad to come. He was a young man beginning
to practise medicine in the neighbourhood, and had been hurriedly
summoned in default of an older physician. The chance of gaining a new
and wealthy patient was too good to lose, so he quickly followed Mrs.
Bolstreath as she led the half-unconscious girl up the stairs. Dan
closed the door and returned to the Inspector and the official from
Scotland Yard. The former was speaking.
"Mrs. Bolstreath did not smell any perfume on Mrs. Brown," he was
saying, "and ladies are very quick to notice such things. Miss Moon
also shook her head."
"I don't think Miss Moon was in a state of mind to understand what
you were saying, Mr. Inspector," said Halliday, drily. "However, I am
quite sure from my own observation that Mrs. Brown did not use the
perfume. I would have noticed it at once, for I spotted it the moment I
examined the body."
"So did I," said Durwin once more; "but I thought Sir Charles might
have used it. You say he did not, therefore the scent is a clue."
"It does not lead to the indictment of Mrs. Brown, however, Sir,"
said Tenson thoughtfully, "since she had no perfume of that sort about
her. But she must have killed Sir Charles, for she was the last person
who saw him alive."
"She may come forward and exonerate herself," suggested Dan after a
pause, "or she may have left her address with Sir Charles."
"I have glanced through the papers on the desk and can find no
address," was the Inspector's reply; "yet, if she gave it to him, it
would be there."
Durwin meditated, then looked up. "As she was the mother of the man
in Sir Charles's employment who was drowned," he said in his harsh
voice, and now very official in his manner, "in the offices of the
company who own the steamers—Sir Charles was a director and chief
shareholder, I understand from his secretary Mr. Penn—will be found
the drowned man's address, which will be that of his mother."
"But I can't see what motive Mrs. Brown had to murder Sir Charles,"
remarked Dan in a puzzled tone.
"We'll learn the motive when we find Mrs. Brown," said Tenson, who
had made a note of Durwin's suggestion. "Many people think they have
grievances against the rich, and we know that the late Sir Charles was
a millionaire. He doubtless had enemies—dangerous enemies."
"Dangerous!" The word recalled to Dan what Moon had said at the
dinner-table when Lillian had playfully offered him a penny for his
thoughts. "Sir Charles at dinner said something about dangerous
"What did he say?" asked the Inspector and again opened his
Dan reported the conversation, which was not very satisfactory, as
Moon had only spoken generally. Tenson noted down the few remarks, but
did not appear to think them important. Durwin, however, was struck by
what had been said.
"Sir Charles asked me here to explain about a certain gang he
believed was in existence," he remarked.
"What's that, Sir?" asked the Inspector alertly. "Did he tell you
"Of course he didn't. How could he when he was dead when I
arrived?" retorted Durwin with a frown. "He simply said that he wished
to see me in my official capacity about some gang, but gave me no
details. Those were to be left until I called here. He preferred to see
me here instead of at my office for reasons which he declared he would
state when we met in this room."
"Then you think that a gang—"
"Mr. Inspector," interrupted Durwin, stiffly, "I have told you all
that was said by the deceased. Whether the gang is dangerous, or what
the members do, or where they are, I cannot say. Have you examined
these windows?" he asked suddenly, pointing to three French-windows at
the side of the room.
"Yes," said Tenson promptly, "as soon as I entered the apartment I
did so. They are all locked."
"And if they were not, no one could enter there," put in Dan
quickly. "Outside is a walled garden and the wall is very high with
broken bottles on top. I suppose, Mr. Durwin, you are thinking that
someone may have come in to kill Sir Charles between the time of Mrs.
Brown's departure and your coming?"
"Yes," assented the other sharply, "if the perfume is a clue, Mrs.
Brown must be innocent. Penn, as we know from the statement of the
typewriter girl, was in his room all the time, and the servants have
fully accounted for themselves. We examined them all—the Inspector and
I did, that is—when you were at the theatre," he waved his hand with a
shrug. "Who can say who is guilty?"
"Well," said Tenson, snapping the elastic-band round his note-book
and putting it into his pocket, "we have the evidence of the fly and
"What do you think about the fly?" asked Dan, staring.
"I don't know what to think. It is an artificial fly, exquisitely
made and has been gummed on the dead man's neck behind the left ear.
The assassin must have placed it there, since a man would scarcely do
such a silly thing himself. Why it was placed there I can't say, any
more than I can guess why Sir Charles was murdered, or who murdered
him. The affair is a complete mystery, as you must admit."
Before the inquest and after the inquest, more people than the
three men who had held the discussion in the presence of the dead,
admitted that the affair was a mystery. In fact the evidence at the
inquest only plunged the matter into deeper gloom. Tenson, acting on
Darwin's advice, sought the office of the tramp-steamer company—the
Universal Carrier Line—in which the late Sir Charles was chief
shareholder and director, to learn without any difficulty the
whereabouts of Mrs. Brown, the mother of the drowned man. She proved to
be an entirely different person to the woman who had given the name on
the fatal night, being lean instead of stout, comparatively young
instead of old, and rather handsome in an elderly way in place of being
wrinkled and worn with grief. She declared that she had never been near
Moon's house on the night of the murder or on any other night. Mrs.
Bolstreath, Lillian, the footman, and Dan all swore that she was not
the Mrs. Brown who had sought the interview with Sir Charles. Therefore
it was argued by everyone that Mrs. Brown, taking a false name and
telling a false story, must have come to see Moon with the deliberate
intention of murdering him. Search was made for her, but she could not
be found. From the moment she passed out of the front door she had
vanished, and although a description was published of her appearance,
and a reward was offered for her apprehension, no one came forward to
claim it. Guilty or innocent, she was invisible.
Inspector Tenson did not speak at the inquest of the gang about
which Sir Charles had intended to converse with Mr. Durwin, as it did
not seem to have any bearing on the case. Also, as Durwin suggested, if
it had any bearing it was best to keep the matter quiet until more
evidence was forthcoming to show that such a gang—whatever its
business was—existed. Then the strange episode of the fly was
suppressed for the same reason. Privately, Tenson informed Dan that he
would not be surprised to learn that there was a gang of murderers in
existence whose sign-manual was a fly, real or artificial, and
instanced another gang, which had been broken up some years previously,
who always impressed the figure of a purple fern on their victims. But
the whole idea, said Tenson, was so vague that he thought it best to
suppress the fact of the artificial fly on the dead man's neck. "If
there's anything in it," finished the Inspector, "there's sure to be
other murders committed, and the fly placed on the victim. We'll wait
and see, and if a second case occurs, we'll be sure that such a gang
exists and will collar the beasts. Best to say nothing, Mr. Halliday."
So he said nothing, and Dan said nothing, and Durwin, who approved
of the necessary secrecy, held his tongue. Of course there was a lot of
talk and many theories as to who had murdered the millionaire, and why
he had been murdered in so ingenious a manner. The post-mortem
examination proved that Moon had died of snake-poison administered
through the scratch on the neck, and the circumstantial evidence at the
inquest went to show that he must have been taken unawares, while
bending over his desk. Some people thought that Mrs. Brown was innocent
because of the absence of the perfume; others declared she must be
guilty on account of her false name and false story, and the fact that
Moon was found dead a quarter of an hour after she left the house. No
doubt, the circumstantial evidence was very strong, but it could not be
said positively that the woman was guilty, even though she did not
appear to defend her character.
So the jury thought, for they brought in the only possible verdict
twelve good and lawful men could bring in: "Wilful murder against some
person or persons unknown," and there the matter ended for sheer want
of further evidence. The affair was a mystery and a mystery it
"And will until the Day of Judgment!" said Tenson, finally.
Chapter III. DUTY BEFORE PLEASURE
The year ended sadly for Lillian, since she had lost her father,
her lover, and her home, gaining instead the doubtful companionship of
a paternal uncle, who stepped into the position of guardian. The girl,
although she did not know it at the time, was leaving a pleasant
flowery lane to turn into a flinty high road, arched by a dismal sky.
It is true that she still possessed Mrs. Bolstreath to comfort her, but
the loss of Dan could scarcely be compensated by the attentions of the
chaperon. Not that Halliday was altogether lost; but he had been pushed
out of her life by Sir John Moon, who approved as little of this suitor
as the late baronet had done.
"You see, my dear child," he explained to Lillian, immediately
after the new year and when things were more restful, "as your guardian
and uncle, I have to see that you make a good match."
"What is marriage without love?" queried Miss Moon scornfully.
"Love!" Sir John shrugged his elegant shoulders and sneered. "Love
is all very well, but a title is better. I say nothing about money, as
you have any amount of that useful article. Now, Lord Curberry—"
"I detest Lord Curberry, and I shan't marry Lord Curberry,"
interrupted Lillian, frowning, and her mind held a picture of the lean,
ascetic peer with the cruel, grey eyes. As a barrister, Curberry was no
doubt admirable; as a nobleman, he filled his new position very well;
but she could not see him as a lover, try as she might. Not that she
did try, for under no conditions and under no pressure did she intend
to become his wife."
"Your father wished you to marry Lord Curberry," hinted Uncle John
"My father wished me to be happy," cried Lillian hotly, "and I
can't be happy unless I marry Dan."
"That aviator man! Pooh! He has nothing to give you."
"He gives himself, and that is all I want."
"I see. Love in a cottage and—"
Lillian interrupted again. "There's no need for love in a cottage.
I have plenty of money; you said as much yourself, Uncle John."
"My dear," said the new baronet gravely, "from what I saw of young
Halliday he is too proud a man to live on his wife. And you would not
respect him if he did. I think better of you than that, my child."
"Dan has his profession."
"H'm! And a dangerous one at that. Besides, he doesn't make much
"He will though. Dan is a genius; he has all kinds of ideas about
flying machines, and some day he will conquer the air."
"Meantime, you will be growing old waiting for him."
"Not at all," Lillian assured him. "I shall be with him, helping
all I can."
"You won't with my consent," cried her uncle, heatedly.
"Then I shall do without your consent. I shan't give up Dan."
"In that case," sighed Sir John, rising to show that the interview
was ended—and certainly it had ended in a clash of wills—"there is
nothing for me to do but to make young Halliday give you up."
"He'll never do that," said Miss Moon, pausing at the door with a
fluttering heart, for her uncle spoke very decidedly.
"Oh, I think so," replied Moon, with the air of a man sure of his
ground. "He has, I am sure, some notion of honour."
"It isn't honourable to give up a woman."
"It isn't honourable to live on a woman."
The two antagonists glared at one another, and a silence ensued.
Neither would give way, and neither would compromise in any way.
Lillian wanted Dan as her husband, a post Sir John did not intend the
young man to fill. But he saw plainly enough that harsh measures would
drive Lillian to desperation, and he did not yet know sufficient of
Halliday to be sure that he would not grasp at a rich wife. Sir John
believed that men were like himself, and would do anything—honourable,
or, at a pinch, dishonourable—to secure a life of ease and comfort.
However, as he swiftly reflected, Halliday was young, and probably
would be wax in the hands of a clever man, such as Moon considered
himself to be. It would be best to see him and control the boy's mind
by appealing to his decency—so Sir John put it.
"Very good, my dear," he said, when he reached this point, "matters
are at a dead-lock between us. I suggest that you let me interview
"I don't mind, so long as I see him first," pouted the girl,
Sir John smiled drily. "So as to arm him for the fray. Very well. I
consent, my dear. You can arrange your campaign, and then I can discuss
the matter with this very undesirable suitor. But you must give me your
promise that you will not run away with him meanwhile."
Lillian held herself very erect and replied stiffly. "Of course I
promise, Uncle John. I am not ashamed of loving Dan, and I shall marry
him in a proper manner. But I shan't marry Lord Curberry," she ended,
and fairly ran away, so as to prevent further objections.
"Oh, my dear, I think you will," grinned Sir John at the closed
door, and he sat down to pen a diplomatic letter to Mr. Halliday,
earnestly wishing to have the matter settled and done with. "These
romantic young nuisances," said the schemer crossly.
The new baronet was a slim, well-preserved dandy of sixty, who
looked no older than forty-five, owing to the means he took to keep
himself fit. He was the younger and only brother of Moon, and inherited
the title since there was no nephew to take it. He also inherited ten
thousand a year on condition that he acted as Lillian's guardian. It
was no mean task, for the girl had an income of £50,000 coming in every
twelve months. There would be plenty of hard-up flies gathering round
this honey-pot, and Sir John foresaw that it would not be an easy
business to settle the young lady's matrimonial future, especially as
the said young lady was obstinate beyond belief. Sir John, being a
loafer by nature, had never possessed sufficient money to indulge to
the full in his luxurious tastes, since his brother had not financed
him as largely as he could have wished. But now that he was safe for
the rest of his life on an income which would enable him to enjoy the
world's good, Sir John did not wish to be bothered. It was his aim to
get his niece married and settled as soon as possible, so that she
could be looked after by a husband.
Under these circumstances, and since Lillian was anxious to marry
Dan, it was strange that the baronet should not allow her to indulge
her fancy. He objected for two reasons: one was that he really did not
think Halliday a good match; and, moreover, he knew of his late
brother's opinion concerning the matter of the wooing. The second
reason had to do with the fact that he had borrowed a large sum of
money from Lord Curberry, and did not wish to pay it back again, even
though he could do so easily enough in his present flourishing
circumstances. Curberry offered to forego the payment if Sir John could
persuade Lillian to marry him. And as Moon wanted to be able to talk
about the girl as a peeress, and did not want to reduce his new income
by frittering it away in paying back debts, he was determined to bring
about the very desirable marriage, as he truly considered it to be.
"Curberry is sure to go in for politics," thought the plotter, "and
he has enough brains to become Prime Minister if he likes. He's got a
decent income, too, and a very old title. With Lillian's money and
beauty she should have a titled husband. Besides," this was an
after-thought, "Curberry can make himself deuced disagreeable if he
likes." And perhaps it was this last idea which made Sir John so
anxious for the marriage to take place.
The late Sir Charles had been a big, burly, broad-shouldered man,
with a powerful clean-shaven face—the kind of over-bearing, pushing
personality which was bound to come up top wherever men were
congregated. And Sir Charles had massively pushed his way from poverty
to affluence, from obscurity into notoriety, if not fame. Now his
honours and wealth were in the hands of two people infinitely weaker
than he had been. Lillian was but a delicate girl, solely bent upon
marriage with an undesirable suitor, while Sir John had no desire to do
anything with his new income and new title save to enjoy the goods
which the gods had sent him so unexpectedly. He was by no means a
strong man, being finical, self-indulgent, and quite feminine in his
love for dress and luxury. Much smaller and slighter than his masterful
brother, he was perfectly arrayed on all occasions in purple and fine
linen; very self-possessed, very polite, and invariably quiet in his
manner. He had several small talents, and indulged in painting, poetry,
and music, producing specimens of each as weak and neatly finished as
he was himself. He also collected china and stamps, old lace and
jewels, which he loved for their colour and glitter. Such a man was too
fantastical to earn the respect of Lillian, who adored the strength
which showed itself in Dan. Consequently, she felt certain that she
would be able to force him to consent to her desires.
But in this, the girl, inexperienced in worldly matters and in
human nature, reckoned without knowledge of Sir John's obstinacy, which
was a singularly striking trait of the man's character. Like most weak
people the new baronet loved to domineer, and, moreover, when his ease
was at stake, he could be strong even to cruelty, since fear begets
that quality as much as it fosters cowardice. Moon had removed Lillian
and Mrs. Bolstreath to his new house in Mayfair, because it was not
wise that the girl should remain at Hampstead where everything served
to remind her of the good father she had lost. Therefore Sir John
wished for no trouble to take place under his roof, as such—so he put
it—would shatter his nerves. The mere fact that Lillian wished to
marry young Halliday, and that Curberry wished to marry her, was a
fruitful source of ills. It stands to Sir John's credit that he did not
take the easiest method of getting rid of his niece by allowing her to
become Mrs. Halliday. He had a conscience of some sort, and intended to
carry out his late brother's desire that Lillian should become a
peeress. So far as the girl's inclinations were concerned he cared
little, since he looked upon her as a child who required guidance. And
to guide her in the proper direction—that is, towards the altar in
Curberry's company—Sir John put himself to considerable inconvenience,
and acted honestly with the very best intentions. His egotism—the
powerful egotism of a weak man—prevented him from seeing that Lillian
was also a human being, and had her right to freedom of choice.
It must be said that for a dilettante Sir John acted with
surprising promptitude. He took the two women to his own house, and let
the mansion at Hampstead to an Australian millionaire, who paid an
excellent rent. Then he saw the lawyers, and went into details
concerning the property. Luckily, Sir Charles had gradually withdrawn
from business a few years before his death, since he had more or less
concentrated his mind on politics. Therefore, the income was mostly
well invested, and, with the exception of the line of steamers with
which Mrs. Brown's son had been concerned, there were few interests
which required personal supervision. Sir John, having power under the
will, sold the dead man's interest in the ships, withdrew from several
other speculations, and having seen that the securities, which meant
fifty thousand a year to Lillian, and ten thousand a year to himself,
were all in good order, he settled down to enjoy results. The
lawyers—on whom he kept an eye—received the money and banked it, and
consulted with Sir John regarding re-investments. They also, by the new
baronet's direction, offered a reward of £1,000 for the discovery of
the murderess. So, shortly after the new year everything was more or
less settled, and Sir John found himself able to attend once more to
his lace and jewels, his music and poetry. Only Lillian's marriage
remained to be arranged, and after his conversation with the girl, Sir
John appointed a day for Dan to call. That young gentleman, who had
been hovering round, lost no time in obeying the summons, which was
worded amiably enough, and presented himself in due time. Sir John
received him with great affability; offered him a chair and a
cigarette, and came to the point at once.
"It's about Lillian I wish to see you, Mr. Halliday," he remarked,
placing the tips of his fingers delicately together. "You can go up to
the drawing-room afterwards and have tea with her and with Mrs.
Bolstreath. But we must have a chat first to adjust the situation."
"What situation?" asked Dan, wilfully dense.
"Oh, I think you understand," rejoined Sir John, drily. "Well?"
"I love her," was all that Dan could find to say.
"Naturally. Lillian is a charming girl, and you are a young man of
discernment. At least, I hope so, as I wish you to give Lillian up."
Dan rose and pitched his cigarette into the fire. "Never!" he
cried, looking pale and determined and singularly virile and handsome.
"How can you ask such a thing, Mr. Moon—I mean Sir John."
"My new title doesn't come easily, I see," said the baronet
smoothly. "Oh, I quite understand! My poor brother died so unexpectedly
that none of us have got used to the new order of things. You least of
all, Mr. Halliday."
"Why not 'Dan'?" asked that young gentleman, leaning against the
mantelpiece since he felt that he could talk better standing than
"Because, as I say, there is a new order of things. I have known
you all your life, my dear boy, as your parents placed you in my late
brother's charge when you were only five years of age. But I say Mr.
Halliday instead of Dan as I wish you to understand that we are talking
as businessmen and not as old friends."
"You take away your friendship—"
"Not at all, Mr. Halliday. We shall be better friends than ever
when we have had our talk and you have done the right thing. Probably I
shall then call you Dan, as of yore."
"You can call me what you please," said Dan obstinately, and rather
angrily, for the fiddling methods of Sir John annoyed him. "But I won't
give up the dearest girl in the world."
"Her father wished her to marry Lord Curberry."
"If her father had lived, bless him!" retorted Halliday vehemently,
"he would have seen that Lillian loves me, and not Curberry, in which
case he would not have withheld his consent."
"Oh, I think he would," said Sir John amiably. "Lillian is rich,
and my poor brother wished to obtain a title for her. Very natural, Mr.
Halliday, as you must see for yourself. Charles always aimed at high
"He loved Lillian and would not have seen her unhappy," said Dan
"I don't see that Curberry would make her unhappy. He is devoted to
"But she does not love him," argued Halliday crossly; "and how can
there be happiness when love is lacking? Come, Sir John, you have, as
you said just now, known me all my life. I am honourable and
clean-living and well-born, while Lillian loves me. What objection have
you to the match?"
"The same objection as my brother had, Mr. Halliday. Lillian is
wealthy and you are poor."
"I have only a few hundreds a year, it is true, but—"
"No 'buts' if you please." Sir John flung up a delicate hand in
protest. "You can't argue away facts. If you marry Lillian, you will
live on her."
Dan bit his lip and clenched his hands to prevent his temper from
showing itself too strongly. "If another man had said that to me, Sir
John, I should have knocked him down."
"Brute force is no argument," rejoined Moon unruffled. "Consider,
Mr. Halliday, you have a few hundreds a year and Lillian has fifty
thousand coming in every twelve months. Being wealthy, she can scarcely
live on your income, so to keep up the position she has been born to
she must live on her own. Husband and wife are one, as we are assured
by the Church, therefore if she lives on the fifty thousand per annum,
you must live on it also."
"I wouldn't take a single penny!" cried Dan, hotly and boyishly.
"Oh, I am not suggesting that you would," said Sir John easily,
"but Lillian cannot live in the cottage your few hundreds would run to,
and if she lives, as she must, being rich, in a large house, you must
live there also, and in a style which your income does not warrant. You
know what people will say under the circumstances. Either you must take
Lillian to live on your small income, which is not fair to her, or you
must live on her large one, which is not fair to you. I speak to a man
of honour, remember."
"These arguments are sophistical."
"Not at all. You can't escape from facts."
"Then is this miserable money to stand between us?" asked Dan in
despair, for he could not deny that there was great truth in what Sir
The baronet shrugged his shoulders. "It seems likely unless you can
make a fortune equal to Lillian's."
"Why not? Aviation is yet in its infancy."
"Quite so, and thus accidents are continually happening. If you
marry my niece, it is probable that you will shortly leave her a widow.
No! No! In whatever way you look at the matter, Mr. Halliday, the match
is most undesirable. Be a man—a man of honour—and give Lillian up."
"To be miserable with Lord Curberry," said Dan fiercely, "never!"
And he meant what he said, as Sir John saw very plainly.
This being the case the baronet used another argument to obtain
what he wanted. "I have been young myself, and I know how you feel," he
said quietly. "Very good. I suggest a compromise."
"What is it?" muttered Dan dropping into his chair again and
looking very miserable, as was natural, seeing what he stood to lose.
"My poor brother," went on Sir John smoothly, and crossing his
legs, "has been struck down when most enjoying life. The person who
murdered him —presumably the woman who called herself Mrs. Brown—has
not yet been discovered in spite of the efforts of the police backed by
a substantial reward. I propose, Mr. Halliday, that you search for this
person, the period of searching to be limited to one year. If you find
her and she is punished, then you shall marry Lillian; if you fail,
then you must stand aside and allow her to marry Lord Curberry."
"You forget," said Dan, not jumping at the chance as Sir John
expected, "if I do bring the woman to justice, your arguments regarding
my living on Lillian remain in full force."
"Oh, as to that, Mr. Halliday, when the time comes, I can find
arguments equally strong on the other side. To use one now, if you
revenge my brother's death, no one will deny but what you have every
right to marry his daughter and enjoy her income. That would be only
"Well," echoed Dan dully, and reflected with his sad eyes on the
carpet. Then he looked up anxiously. "Meanwhile, Lillian may marry Lord
"Oh," said Sir John, coolly, "if you can't trust her—"
"He can trust her," cried the voice of the girl, herself, and the
curtain of the folding doors was drawn quickly aside.
"Lillian!" cried Dan, springing to his feet and opening his arms.
Sir John saw his niece rush into those same arms and laughed.
"H'm!" said he whimsically. "I quite forgot that the folding-doors into
the next room were open. You have been listening."
Lillian twisted herself in Dan's arms, but did not leave them, as
she felt safe within that warm embrace.
"Of course I have been listening," she cried scornfully; "as soon
as I knew Dan was in the house, and in the library, I listened. I told
Bolly that I was coming down to listen, and though she tried to prevent
me, I came. Who has a better right to listen when all the conversation
was about me, and remember, I should have seen him first?"
"Well," said her uncle unmoved, "it's no use arguing with you. A
man's idea of honour and a woman's are quite opposed to one another.
You heard. What have you to say?"
"I think you're horrid," snapped Lillian, in a school-girl manner;
"as if my money mattered. I am quite willing to give it to you and
marry Dan on what he has. It's better to love in a garret than to hate
in a drawing-room."
"Quite epigrammatic," murmured Sir John cynically. "Well, my dear,
I am much obliged to you for your fifty thousand a year offer, but I
fancy what I have is enough for me. I never did care for millions, and
always wondered why my late brother should wear himself out in
obtaining them. I decline."
"Whether you decline or not, I marry Dan," said Lillian hotly.
"What does Dan say?"
The young man disengaged himself. He had kept silent during the
passage of arms between uncle and niece. "I say that I can trust
Lillian to remain true to me for twelve months."
"For ever, for ever, for ever!" cried the girl, her face flaming
and her eyes flashing; "but don't make any promise of letting our
marriage depend upon finding the woman who murdered my poor father."
"Ah," said Sir John contemptuously, "you never loved your father, I
"How dare you say that?" flashed out the girl, panting with anger.
"My dear, ask yourself," replied Moon patiently; "your father has
been basely murdered. Yet you do not wish to avenge his death and
prefer your own happiness to the fulfilment of a solemn duty. Of
course," added Sir John, with a shrug, for he now knew what line of
argument to take, "you can't trust yourself to be faithful for twelve
"I can trust myself to be faithful, and for twelve centuries, if
"No, no, no!" smiled Moon, shaking his head. "You prefer pleasure
to duty. I see you love yourself more than you loved your father.
Well," he rose and waved his hands with a gesture of dismissal, "go
your way, my dear, and marry Dan—you observe I call you 'Dan', Mr.
Halliday, since you are to become my nephew straight away. When is the
wedding to be?"
"You consent?" cried Lillian, opening her eyes widely.
"I can't stop you," said Moon, still continuing his crafty
diplomacy. "You will soon be of age and you can buy your husband at
once, since you dare not risk a probation of twelve months."
"I can risk twelve years," retorted Lillian uneasily, for in a
flash she understood how selfishly she was behaving, seeing that her
father's assassin was still at large, "and to prove it—" She looked at
He understood and spoke, although he had already made up his mind
as to the best course to pursue. "To prove it," he said steadily, "we
accept your proposal, Sir John. Lillian will wait twelve months, and
during that time I shall search for the woman who murdered Sir Charles.
If I don't find her—"
"Lillian marries Lord Curberry," said Moon quickly.
"No," cried the girl defiantly; "that part of the agreement I
decline to assent to. Twelve months or twelve years it may take before
the truth comes to light, but I marry no one but Dan."
Sir John reflected on the dangers of aviation and swiftly came to a
conclusion. "We'll see at the end of the year," he said cautiously,
"much may happen in that time."
"So long as Lillian's wedding to Curberry doesn't happen," said Dan
obstinately, "I don't care. But it is understood that Lillian is not to
be worried about the matter?"
"That depends upon what you and Lillian call worry," said Moon
drily; "so far as I am concerned I shall not coerce her in any way. All
I wish for is the promise of you both that you will wait twelve months
before taking any steps to marry. Meantime, you must not see too much
"Oh," cried the girl, indignantly, "you would push Dan out of my
"It's a test," explained Sir John, blinking nervously. "You will be
in mourning for the next twelve months, and should see few people."
"Of whom Dan will be one," she flashed out.
"Occasionally—very occasionally, you can see him. But, of course,
if you can't trust yourself to be true without being continually
reminded that Mr. Halliday exists, there is no more to be said."
"I can trust myself," muttered the girl uneasily.
"And I can trust Lillian," said Dan promptly and decisively.
"It does not look like it since you always wish to see one another.
And remember, Lillian, you owe it to your father's memory to put all
thoughts of love, which is self, out of your heart until the mystery of
his death is entirely solved."
"There is something in that," said Halliday thoughtfully, and
Lillian nodded; "but of course I can write to Lillian."
"Occasionally," said the baronet again; "you must both be tested by
a year's separation, with a meeting or a letter every now and then.
Duty must be the keynote of the twelve months and not pleasure. Well?"
The lovers looked at one another and sighed. The terms were hard,
but not so hard as Sir John might have made them. Still both the boy
and the girl —they were little else—recognised that their duty was to
the dead. Afterwards pleasure would be theirs. Silently they accepted
and silently adjusted to the situation. "We agree!" said the two almost
"Very good," said Moon, rubbing his hands, "how do you intend to
begin your search for the missing woman, Mr. Halliday?"
"I don't know," murmured Dan, miserably.
"Neither do I," rejoined Sir John with great amiability. "Come to
And to tea the lovers went as to a funeral feast. But Sir John
Chapter IV. AN AMATEUR DETECTIVE
Dan left the Mayfair house very mournfully, feeling that Sir John
was indeed master of the situation. By a skilful appeal to the generous
emotions of youth, to the boy's honour and to the girl's affections, he
had procured a respite of twelve months, during which time the lovers
could do nothing, bound as they were by silken threads. This would give
Curberry time to push his suit, and there was always a chance that Dan
would come to grief in one of his aerial trips in which case Lillian
would certainly be driven to marry her titled swain. Halliday knew
nothing of Moon's reckoning on these points, or he would have only
accepted the situation on condition that Curberry was not to meet or
write to the girl oftener than himself. Logically speaking, the peer
and the commoner should have been placed on the same footing. But Dan's
grief at the parting confused his understanding, and he had not been
clever enough to seize his opportunity. Therefore Sir John, winning all
along the line, had cleared the path for Curberry, and had more or less
blocked it for Dan. But, as yet, the young man did not grasp the full
extent of Sir John's worldly wisdom.
What Halliday had to do—and this dominated his mind immediately he
left the house—was to solve the mystery of Sir Charles's death. The
sooner he captured the false Mrs. Brown, who, presumably, had murdered
the old man, the sooner would he lead Lillian to the altar. Therefore
he was feverishly anxious to begin, but for the life of him he did not
see how to make a start. He had absolutely no experience of what
constituted the business of a detective, and was daunted at the outset
by the difficulties of the path. All the same he never thought of
halting, but pressed forward without a pause. And the first step he
took was to consult a friend, on the obvious assumption that two heads
are better than one.
It was Freddy Laurance whom he decided to interview, since that
very up-to-date young journalist knew everyone of any note, and almost
everything of interest, being, indeed, aware of much of which the
ordinary man in the street was ignorant. He and Dan had been to Oxford
together, and for many years had been the best of friends. Laurance had
been brought up in the expectation of being a rich man. But
over-speculation ruined his father, and on leaving the university he
was thrown unprepared on the world to make his money as best he could,
without any sort of training in particular. Hearty praise from an
expert for three or four newspaper articles suggested journalism, and
having an observant eye and a ready pen, the young man was successful
from the beginning. For a time he was a free-lance, writing
indiscriminately for this journal and for that, until the proprietor of
"The Moment", a halfpenny daily, secured his exclusive services at a
salary which procured Freddy the luxuries of life. This was something
to have achieved at the age of five and twenty.
"The Moment" was a bright shoot-folly-as-it-flies sort of journal,
which detailed the news of the day in epigrammatic scraps. Its longest
articles did not exceed a quarter of a column, and important events
were usually restricted to paragraphs. It, indeed, skimmed the cream of
events, and ten minutes' study of its sheets gave a busy man all the
information he required concerning the doings of humanity. Also it
daily published an extra sheet concerned entirely with letters from the
public to the public, and many of these were prolix, as the paragraph
rule did not apply to this portion of the journal. People wrote herein
on this, that, and the other thing, ventilating their ideas and
suggesting schemes. And as many wrote many bought, so that friends and
relatives might read their letters, therefore vanity gave "The Moment"
quite a large circulation independent of its orthodox issue. The
proprietor made money in two ways; by supplying gossip for curious
people, and by giving vain persons the chance of seeing themselves in
print. Seeing what human nature is, it is scarcely to be wondered at
that "The Moment" was a great success, and sold largely in town and
Freddy's post was that of a roving correspondent. Whenever any
event of interest took place in any of the four corners of the globe,
Laurance went to take notes on the spot, and his information was boiled
down into concise illuminative paragraphs. Indeed, the older
journalists said that it was hardly worth while for him to make such
long journeys for the sake of condensed-milk news; but, as Freddy's
details were always amusing as well as abrupt, the editor and the
public and the proprietor were satisfied. A man who can flash a vivid
picture into the dullest mind in few words is well worth money.
Therefore was Laurance greatly appreciated.
Dan walked to a grimy lane leading from Fleet Street with some
doubt in his puzzled mind as to whether Freddy would be in his office.
At a moment's notice the man would dart off to the ends of the earth,
and was more or less on the move through the three hundred and
sixty-five days of the year. But, of late, sensational events had
concentrated themselves in England, so Dan hoped that his friend would
be on the spot. An inquiry from the gorgeous individual who guarded the
entrance to the red brick building wherein "The Moment" was printed and
published and composed, revealed that Mr. Laurance was not only in
London, but in his office at the very second, so Dan sent up his name,
and rejoiced at the catching of this carrier-pigeon. And it was a good
omen also that Freddy saw him straight away, since he generally refused
himself to every one on the plea of business.
"But I couldn't resist seeing you, Dan," remarked Mr. Laurance,
when he had shaken hands, before supplying his visitor with a cigarette
and a chair. "I was coming to see you, if the mountain hadn't come to
Dan lighted up, and through the smoke of tobacco stared
inquisitively at his friend, wondering what this introductory remark
meant. Laurance was rather like Dan in personal appearance, being tall
and slim and clean-shaven, with Greek features and an aristocratic
look. But he was decidedly fair, as Halliday was decidedly dark, and
his eyes were less like those of an eagle than the eyes of the aviator.
But then Laurance was not accustomed to the boundless spaces of the
air, although he had twice ascended in an airship; therefore the new
expression of the new race was wanting. Nevertheless, he looked a
capable, alert young man, able to get the full value out of every
minute. He was an admirable type of the restless, present-day seeker.
"Well, Mahomet," said Dan, leisurely, "here's the mountain. What
have you to say to it?"
"That murder of Sir Charles Moon."
Halliday quivered with surprise. It was so amazing that Laurance
should hit upon the very subject which employed his own thoughts.
"Yes?" he enquired.
"You are engaged to Miss Moon; you were in the house when the crime
was committed; you saw the body; you—"
"Stop! Stop! I was not in the house when the crime was committed. I
returned there from the theatre some time later—in fact about
midnight. I certainly did see the body. As to being engaged to Miss
Moon—h'm! I came to see you about that, Freddy."
"The deuce you did. Great minds jump. What?" Laurance puffed a blue
cloud, sat down astride a chair and leaned his arms on the back.
"That you and I should be on the hunt? Well it is."
"On the hunt!" echoed Laurance, staring. "What do you mean?"
"I should rather ask that question of you," said Dan drily. "Sir
Charles is dead and buried these many weeks, and the woman who
assassinated him can't be found, in spite of the reward and the efforts
of the police. Why, at this late hour, do you wish to rake up stale
news? I thought that 'The Moment' was more up-to-date."
"It will be very much up-to-date when the next murder is
committed," observed Laurance, grimly and significantly.
The legs of Dan's chair grated, as he pushed it back in sheer
surprise. "What do you mean by the next murder?" he demanded sharply.
"Well, this gang—"
"Gang! gang! Who says there is a gang?" and Dan's thought flew back
to Durwin's reason for visiting Sir Charles.
"Humph!" growled Laurance, thrusting his hands into his pockets.
"I'm disappointed. I thought you knew more."
"I know a good deal," retorted the other quickly, "but I don't
intend to talk to you about what I know until I learn your game."
"What about your own?"
"That comes later also," said Halliday promptly. "Go on! I want to
know why you rake up Moon's murder."
"Naturally you do, seeing you are engaged to the daughter."
"Am I? I am not quite sure. She loves me and I love her, but the
new baronet wants her to marry Lord Curberry. She refused, and I kicked
up a row some hours back. Result, we are on probation for one year,
during which time I am to discover the assassin of Sir Charles."
"And if you don't?"
"Time enough to talk about that when I fail," said Halliday coolly;
"at least I have twelve months to hunt round. I came for your help, but
it seems that you want mine. Why?"
Freddy, through sheer absence of mind, flung away a half-smoked
cigarette and lighted another. Then he rose and strolled across the
room to lean his shoulders against the mantelpiece. "We can help one
another, I think," was his final observation.
"I hope so. In any case I intend to marry Lillian. All the same to
pacify Sir John, I am willing to become a detective. You know my game.
"Listen," said Laurance vivaciously. "I forgot all about the
murder, since there seemed to be no chance of the truth coming to
light, and so did everyone else for the same reason. But a few nights
ago I was dining out, and met a chap called Durwin—"
"Scotland Yard man," interrupted Dan, nodding several times. "He
came to see Sir Charles on business and found the corpse."
"Just so. Well, after dinner we had a chat, and he told me that he
was anxious to learn who killed Moon, because he didn't want any more
murders of the kind to happen—as a police official, you understand."
"Strange he should be confidential on that point," murmured
Halliday thoughtfully, "seeing that he wished his theory regarding a
possible gang kept quiet, in the hope of making discoveries."
"He has changed his mind about secrecy, and so has Tenson," said
"Oh!" Dan raised his eyebrows. "The Inspector. You have seen him
Laurance nodded. "After I questioned Durwin, and learned what he
had to say I saw Tenson and interviewed him. They told me about the fly
on the neck, and remembering the case of the purple fern, and having
regard to the fact that the fly in question was artificial, both men
are inclined to believe in the existence of a gang, whose trade-mark
the said fly is."
Dan nodded again. "Quite so; and then Durwin came to see Moon and
hear about the gang. He found him dead."
"So you said; so Durwin said," rejoined Laurance quietly. "It seems
very certain, putting this and that together, that Sir Charles became
dangerous to this gang, whatever it is and wherever it exists, so was
put to death by the false Mrs. Brown, who came expressly to kill him."
"So far I am with you on all fours," said Halliday. "Well?"
"Well, both Durwin and Tenson, dreading lest the gang may commit
another crime, wish me to make the matter as public as I can, so as to
frighten the beasts."
"H'm!" said Dan, looking at his neat brown boots. "They have
changed their minds, it seems. Their first idea was to keep the matter
quiet, so as to catch these devils red-handed. However, publicity may
be a good thing. How do you intend to begin?"
"I have got facts from Tenson and from Durwin," said Freddy
promptly; "and now, since you saw the body and found the fly, I want to
get the facts from you. On what I acquire I shall write a letter in
that extra sheet of ours, and you can be pretty certain from what you
know of human nature that any amount of people will reply to my
"They may reply to no purpose."
"I'm not so sure of that, Dan. If I mention the fly as a trade-mark
and recall the strange case of the purple fern, some one may write
about matters known to themselves from positive knowledge. If this gang
exists, it has committed more murders than one, but the fly being a
small insect may not have been noticed so easily as the trade-mark in
the other crimes. I wonder you spotted it, anyhow."
"It was easily seen, being on the back of the neck near the wound.
Besides, flies in November—the month of the murder—are rare. Finally
Tenson discovered the fly to be artificial, which shows that it was
purposely placed on the dead man's neck, near the wound. H'm!" he
reflected, "perhaps someone may know of some crime with the fly
trade-mark, and in that case we can be certain that such a gang does
"So I think," cried Laurance quickly, "and for that reason I intend
to start a discussion by writing an open letter. Publicity may frighten
these beasts into dropping their trade; on the other hand, it may goad
the gang into asserting itself. In either case the subject will be
ventilated, and we may learn more or less of the truth."
"Yes. I think it's a good idea, Freddy. And the perfume? Did Durwin
or the Inspector tell you anything about the perfume? No, I can see by
your blank stare that they didn't. Listen, Freddy, and store this
knowledge in your blessed brain, my son. It is a clue, I am sure," and
Halliday forthwith related to his attentive listener details concerning
the strange perfume which had impregnated the clothes of the dead man.
"And Sir Charles hated perfumes," he ended, emphatically; "he didn't
even like Lillian or Mrs. Bolstreath to use them, and they obeyed him."
"Curious," mused the journalist, and idly scribbling on his
blotting-paper; he was back at his desk by this time. "What sort of
scent is it?"
"My dear chap, you ask me to describe the impossible," retorted
Dan, with uplifted eyebrows. "How the deuce can I get the kind of smell
into your head? It must be smelt to be understood. All I can say is
that the perfume was rich and heavy, suggestive of drowsiness. Indeed,
I used that word, and Tenson thought of some kind of chloroform used,
perhaps, to stupefy the victim before killing him. But there was no
odour about the mouth or nose."
"On the handkerchief, perhaps?" suggested the reporter.
"No. Tenson smelt the handkerchief."
"Well, if this Mrs. Brown used this perfume, you and Miss Moon and
Mrs. Bolstreath must have smelt it on her in the hall. I understand
from Durwin that you all three saw the woman."
"Yes. And Lillian, poor girl, persuaded her father to see the
wretch. But we did not smell the perfume on the woman. Tenson or
Durwin—I forget which—asked us that question."
"Humph!" said Laurance, after a pause; "it may be a kind of
trade-mark, like the fly business." He took a note. "I shall use this
evidence in my letter to the public. I suppose, Dan, you would
recognise the scent again?"
"Oh, yes! I have a keen sense of smell, you know. But I don't
expect I shall ever drop across this particular fragrance, Freddy."
"There's always Monsieur Chance, you know," remarked Laurance,
tapping his white teeth with a pencil. "Perhaps the gang use this scent
so as to identify one another—in the dark it may be—like cats. How
does that strike you?"
"As purely theoretical," said Dan, with a shrug, and reached for
another cigarette; "it's a case of perhaps, and perhaps not."
Laurance assented. "But everything so far is theoretical in this
case," he argued; "you have told me all you know?"
"Every bit, even to my year of probation. Do you know Curberry?"
"Yes. He was a slap-up barrister. A pity he got title and money, as
he has left the Bar, and is a good man spoiled. Lucky chap all the
same, as his uncle and cousin both died unexpectedly, to give him his
chance of the House of Lords."
"How did they die?"
"Motor accident. Car went over a cliff. Only the chauffeur was
saved, and he broke both legs. Do you know the present Lord Curberry?"
"I have seen him, and think he's a dried-up, cruel-looking beast,"
said Dan, with considerable frankness. "I'd rather see Lillian dead
than his wife."
"Hear, hear!" applauded Laurance, smiling. "The girl's too
delightful to be wasted on Curberry. You have my blessing on the match,
"Thanks," said Dan ruefully, "but I have to bring it off first. Sir
John's infernally clever, and managed to get both Lillian and I to
consent to let matters stand over for a year, during which time I guess
he'll push Curberry's suit. But I can trust Lillian to be true to me,
bless her! and Mrs. Bolstreath is quite on our side. After all,"
murmured the young man disconsolately, "it's only fair that Sir Charles
should be avenged. Perhaps it would be selfish for Lillian and I to
marry and live happy ever afterwards, without making some attempt to
square things. The question is how to start. I'm hanged if I know, and
so I came to you."
"Well," said Laurance thoughtfully, "there's a hope of Monsieur
Chance, you know. In many ways you may stumble on clues even without
looking for them, since this gang—if it exists—must carry on an
extensive business. All you can do, Dan, is to keep your eyes and ears
and nose open—the last for that scent, you know. On my part I shall
write the letter, and publish it in the annex of 'The Moment'. Then we
shall see what will happen."
"Yes, I think that's about the best way to begin. Stir up the muddy
water, and we may find what is at the bottom of the pond. But there's
one thing to be considered, and that is money. If I'm going to hunt for
these scoundrels I need cash, and to own up, Freddy, I haven't very
"You're so beastly extravagant," said Laurance grinning, "and your
private income goes nowhere."
"Huh! what's five hundred a year?"
"Ten pounds a week, more or less. However, there's your aviation. I
hear that you take people on flights for money?"
Dan nodded. "It's the latest fashionable folly, which is a good
thing for me, old son. I get pretty well paid, and it means fun."
"With some risk of death," said Laurance drily.
"Well, yes. But that is a peculiarity of present-day fun. People
love to play with death—it thrills them. However, if I am to hunt for
the assassin of Sir Charles, I can't give much attention to aviation,
and I repeat that I want money. Oceans of it."
"Would two thousand pounds suit you?"
"Rather. Only I'm not going to borrow from you, old man, thank
"I haven't that amount to lend," said Freddy, drily; "but you must
have seen, if you read our very interesting paper, that our proprietor
has offered a prize of two thousand pounds for a successful flight from
London to York."
"A kind of up-to-date Dick Turpin, I suppose," laughed Dan, rising
and stretching his long limbs. "Good, I'll have a shot; I may win."
"You will, if you use a Vincent machine."
"Vincent, Vincent? Where have I heard that name?"
"Everywhere, if you knew anything of the aviation world," snapped
Laurance rather crossly, for at times Dan's indolence in acquiring
necessary information annoyed him. "Solomon Vincent, who has been
inventing airships and new-fangled aeroplanes for ever so long."
"Yes, yes! I remember now. He's a genius. Everyone knows him."
"Everyone knows of him, except yourself; but no one knows him
personally. He lives a secluded life up in Hillshire, on the borders of
the moors, where he can find wide space for his experiments in aerial
craft. I interviewed him a year ago, and—and—" Laurance blushed red.
"Hullo, what's this?" asked Dan shrewdly. "Can it be that the
inventor has a daughter fair?"
"A niece," retorted Laurance, recovering; "why shouldn't I be in
love as well as you, Halliday? However, that doesn't matter."
"It matters a great deal to you."
"Never mind. What you have to do is to secure one of Vincent's
machines and try for this race. If you win the prize you will have
heaps of money to search for the gang. But why doesn't Miss Moon—"
"I don't take Lillian's money," said Dan curtly, and blushed in his
turn. "It is a good idea, Freddy. How can I get hold of the machine?"
"I shall take you up to Hillshire next week, and you can see
Vincent for yourself. He can talk to you, and—"
"And you can talk to the niece. What's her name?"
"Oh, shut up and get out!" said Laurance, turning away, "you're
interrupting my work."
"Going to write a letter to the beloved," said Dan, leisurely
making for the door. "All right, old son, I'll go! You know my address,
so write me when you want me. I'd like to see Vincent's machines, as I
hear he has made several good improvements, and everything tells in a
"Keep your eyes open," Laurance called after him; "remember
Monsieur Chance may prove to be our best friend."
Dan departed, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't believe in
heaven-sent miracles," were his last words. But they were wasted on
Freddy, for that alert young man was already buried in his work. It was
painful to witness such industry, in Halliday's opinion.
In an inquiring frame of mind, the amateur detective strolled along
Fleet Street, thinking of Lillian instead of keeping his wits about
him, as Freddy had requested. It seemed impossible that he should
strike on a clue without deliberately searching for it, which he did
not feel inclined to do at the moment. Monsieur Chance, indeed! He was
a mythical personage in whom this sceptical young man did not believe.
Besides, love dominated his thoughts to the exclusion of minor matters,
and he dreamed about his darling all along the Strand. Thus he did not
look where he was going, and stumbled into the midst of a Charing Cross
crowd, where a motor had broken down after colliding with a 'bus. A
policeman was conversing with the chauffeur and the 'bus driver, who
were conversing abusively with one another. The crowd blocked the
street and stopped the traffic in order to enjoy the conversation,
which left nothing to be desired in the way of free language. Dan
halted idly as a spectator, not because he wished to be one, but for
the very simple reason that he could not get through the crowd into
Thrust up against one man, and wedged in by two others, and
surrounded by hundreds, he grumbled at the delay, and peered over
shoulders to see when the incident would end. As he did so, he suddenly
in his mind's eye saw a vision of Sir Charles lying dead in the
well-lighted library. While wondering why he thought of the crime at
this particular moment, he became aware that a familiar scent assailed
his nostrils, the scent about which he had talked to Durwin and Tenson
and Laurance. Nosing like a hound, he tried to find the person from
whom it emanated, and almost immediately fixed on a spectator at his
elbow. A moment later the man turned, and Dan found himself face to
face with Marcus Penn.
Chapter V. MUDDY WATER
The secretary of the late Sir Charles Moon smiled irresolutely when
he recognised Dan. That young gentleman, who thought Penn a weak-kneed
idiot, had never taken much notice of him, and but for the fact that he
was perfumed with the unusual scent would not have spoken to him now.
But as he looked at the lank creature with his yellow face, and scanty
moustache, he guessed that he was exactly the effeminate sort of person
who would use perfume. What he wished to know was why he affected this
particular kind of fragrance, and whence he obtained it. To gain the
information he pretended a friendliness for the man he was far from
feeling. Dan, strong, virile, and self-confident, was not altogether
just to Penn, who was not responsible for his pallid looks and weak
character. But Halliday was not a perfect individual by any means, and
had yet to learn that the weak are meant to be protected and helped
instead of being despised.
"You here, Mr. Penn?" said Dan, thus formal to mark the difference
"Yes," replied the man in his faint, hesitating voice, and, as they
moved out of the crowd, Halliday smelt the weird perfume more strongly
than ever shaken from Penn's clothes by his movements. "I stopped to
look at the accident."
"A very ordinary one," rejoined Halliday, with a shrug. "By the
way, I have not seen you since the funeral of Sir Charles. What are you
doing now, if I may ask?"
"I am secretary to Lord Curberry."
"Oh!" The reply gave Dan something of a shock, for he did not
expect at the moment to hear his rival's name. But then the whole
incident of meeting Penn and smelling the incriminating perfume was
strange. Monsieur Chance had proved himself to be an actuality instead
of the mythical personage Dan had believed him to be. It was certainly
odd that the meeting had taken place, and odder still that Penn should
prove to be the servant of Curberry.
As Halliday said nothing more than "Oh!" the other man stroked his
moustache and explained. "Sir John got me the post, Mr. Halliday," he
said with his shifty eyes anywhere but on Dan's inquiring face. "I was
quite stranded after Sir Charles's unexpected death, and did not know
where to turn for employment. As I support a widowed mother, the
situation was rather serious, so I took my courage in my hands and went
to Sir John. He was good enough to recommend me to Lord Curberry, and I
have been with his lordship for a month, more or less."
"I congratulate you, Mr. Penn, and Lord Curberry also. Sir Charles
always said you were an excellent secretary." Dan stopped as Penn bowed
his acknowledgements to the compliment, and cast a keen side glance at
the man. They were walking through Trafalgar Square by this time;
passing under the shadow of Nelson's Column. "Do you know what I was
thinking of when behind you in the crowd yonder, Mr. Penn?" he asked
abruptly, and it must be confessed rather undiplomatically, if he
wished to get at the truth.
"No," said the secretary, with simplicity and manifest surprise.
"No, Mr. Halliday, how can I guess your thoughts?"
"I was thinking of the murder of your late employer," said Dan
Penn blinked and shivered. "It's a horrible subject to think
about," he remarked in a low voice. "I can scarcely get it out of my
own thoughts. I suppose the sight of me reminded you of the crime, Mr.
"Scarcely, since I was behind you and did not recognise you until
you turned," replied Dan, calmly, and the other appeared to be
"Then how—" he began, only to be cut short.
"It's that scent."
"Scent!" echoed Penn nervously but manifestly still surprised. "I
don't understand what you mean, Mr. Halliday. I like scent, and use
much of it."
Dan's lip curled. "So I perceive. But where did you get the
particular scent you are using now, may I ask?"
Something in his tone annoyed the secretary, for he drew himself up
and halted. "I don't know why you should criticise my tastes, Mr.
"I'm not criticising them, and don't jump down my throat. But you
reek of some strange perfume, which I last smelt—" He paused.
"You cannot have smelt it anywhere," said Penn indifferently.
"What do you mean by that exactly?" asked Dan with considerable
Penn resumed his walk and drew his light eyebrows together. "I am
willing to explain as soon as you tell me why you speak of the scent."
"Hang it, man!" rejoined Halliday, dropping into step, "any one
would notice the scent and speak of it since it is so strong."
"Oh"—Penn's brow cleared—"I understand now. You have taken a
fancy to the scent and wish me to get you some."
Halliday was about to make an indignant denial, when he suddenly
changed his mind, seeing a chance of learning something. "Well, can you
get me some?"
"No," said Penn coolly; "I cannot. This is a particular perfume
which comes from the Island of Sumatra. I have a cousin there who knows
that I like perfumes, and he sent me a single bottle."
"Can't I buy it anywhere?"
"No, it is not to be obtained in England," said Penn curtly.
"In that case," said Halliday slowly, "it is strange that I should
have smelt the same perfume on the clothes of Sir Charles after his
"Did you?" Penn looked surprised. "That is impossible. Why, Sir
Charles detested scents, and I never dared to use this one until I left
him for the night."
"You used it on the night of the murder?"
"Of course. I used it every night when I left Sir Charles. On that
evening he sent me away with my usual batch of letters, and was going
down to the House later. I would not have seen him until the next
morning, so I took the opportunity to indulge in this taste."
"Then how did Sir Charles's clothes become impregnated with it?"
"I am unable to say. Why do you ask? Surely"—Penn turned an
alarmed face towards the speaker, and looked yellower than
ever—"surely you do not suspect me of keeping back anything from the
police likely to lead to the detection of the assassin."
"Ask yourself, Mr. Penn," said Dan coldly. "I and Inspector Tenson
and Mr. Durwin smelt this particular perfume on the clothes of the dead
man, and I do not mind telling you that the police consider it to be
something of a clue."
"A clue to what? To me? It must be, since I alone possess this
scent. I certainly came into the library when summoned by Mr. Durwin,
and I helped to look after Sir Charles. As I was strongly perfumed with
the scent it is not impossible that my employer's clothes took what,
doubtless, you will call the taint. I think," ended Penn in a dignified
manner, "that such is the proper explanation. You have found a mare's
nest, Mr. Halliday."
"Upon my word, I believe I have," said Dan, quite good-humouredly,
"but you must forgive me, Mr. Penn. Inspector Tenson agreed with me
that the fly and the scent were clues."
"About the fly I know nothing," said the secretary positively, "but
this scent is not to be had in England, and Sir Charles's clothes could
only have gathered the fragrance from mine. If Inspector Tenson
"No, no, no!" interrrupted Halliday quickly. "I assure you that he
"He would if you told him of our meeting," retorted Penn as they
passed into Piccadilly Circus, "and as I don't like even a suspicion to
rest on me, Mr. Halliday—for my good name is my fortune—I shall go
and see him and explain the whole circumstance. Indeed, if he wishes
it, I shall give him the bottle which my cousin posted to me from
Sumatra, and never shall I use the scent again. I do not like these
"Don't make a mountain out of a mole-hill," said Dan, drily; "if I
have hurt your feelings, I apologise."
"I accept your apology only on condition that you accept my
Dan inwardly chuckled at Penn's dignity, but replied readily
enough. "Oh, yes, for if I did not accept your explanation I should not
make any apology. You are probably right since the scent must have got
on to Sir Charles's clothes from your own. The clue—as we took it to
be—has ended in smoke."
"But don't you think that I should see Inspector Tenson and
"There is no need," Dan assured him, soothingly. "If the Inspector
says anything about the scent, I shall explain; and, after all, it was
I who suggested the perfume as a clue."
"Would you like what is left of the bottle?" asked Penn, pacified
by the very frank apology of the other.
"No, thanks, I never use perfumes. I hate them."
"So did Sir Charles," mused Penn, and eyeing Dan with a lack-lustre
gaze. "I wonder he did not suspect me of liking them. If he had come
upon me scented in this manner, he would have kicked me out."
"It is to be hoped Lord Curberry has not the same dislike," said
Dan, who having learned all he wished, desired to escape from such
"No, he has not," said Penn with great simplicity; "he is very kind
to me. I suppose he will marry Miss Moon."
"Then you suppose wrong. He will not," snapped Halliday roughly.
"He loves her devotedly," insisted the secretary, and with a glint
of malice in his pale-coloured eyes.
"Good day," rejoined Dan shortly, as he did not wish to argue the
matter. He turned into Regent Street—for by this time they had crossed
the Circus—when Penn ran after him and seized his arm.
"Is there any chance of the woman who killed Sir Charles being
"No," replied Dan, halting for a moment. "Why?"
"Because Sir Charles was good to me, and I should like his death to
be avenged. That is only natural. Surely the police will search."
"They are searching, Mr. Penn, and can discover nothing."
"Perhaps Lord Curberry may hunt for this woman. I shall ask him to,
and as he loves Miss Moon so devotedly, he will try and learn the
Irritated by this speech—for Penn knew all about the rivalry—Dan
became scarlet. "I shall discover the truth. Lord Curberry need not
"If you discover the truth—" began Penn, and hesitated.
"Well?" asked Halliday sharply.
"I think Lord Curberry will certainly marry Miss Moon."
"What do you mean by that?" demanded Dan, but Penn gave no answer.
Shaking his head significantly, he stepped back, and in one moment was
lost in the midst of the crowd which thronged the corner. Halliday
would have followed, for the man's last observation seemed to hint that
he knew more about the truth than he was disposed to admit; but many
people came between him and the secretary, so it was impossible to get
hold of him again. Dan was forced to walk on alone and he walked on
Did Penn know the truth? It seemed impossible that he should know
it. The evidence of the typewriting girl went to show that he had not
left his private room all the evening until summoned by Durwin when the
death was discovered. What Penn said about the perfume appeared to be
reasonable enough, as he certainly had handled the body, and if reeking
of the scent —as he was reeking on this very day—it was not
surprising that the odour should communicate itself to the dress
clothes of the dead man. Some odours cling very powerfully, and endure
for a considerable time. This Sumatra scent assuredly had done so, for
it was quite three hours after the death that Dan himself had seen the
corpse, and even then he had smelt the perfume. However, on the face of
it, Halliday saw no reason to doubt Penn's statement, and quite
understood how he became, through Sir John's mediation, the secretary
of Lord Curberry. Only the last speech of the secretary was strange.
Why should he say that, if the truth were discovered by Dan, Curberry
would marry the girl, when, on the discovery of the truth—so far as
Dan could see—the marriage of himself to Lillian depended? Dan could
find no answer to this question, and had half a mind to follow Penn to
his new employer's house, so as to force an explanation. But as he knew
Curberry did not like him, he decided to let matters stand as they
were, and only reveal what he had heard to Laurance.
For the next four or five days, young Halliday went about his
business in a quiet, determined manner, and thought as little as
possible of Lillian. He did not even write or call to see her, since he
wished to give up his whole attention to discovering the truth about
Moon's death. If he thought of love and Lillian, he certainly could not
concentrate his mind on the necessary search. And such attention was
very necessary, if he intended to marry the girl. He became certain
that in some way Sir John intended to trick him, but if he found out
the false Mrs. Brown, and solved the mystery, Sir John would be forced
out of sheer justice to sanction the marriage. It was heroical of
Halliday to turn his thoughts from his beloved and it was no easy task
to one so deeply in love as he was. But he saw the need of it, and
manfully set himself to endure present pain for future joy. Whether
Lillian saw things in the same light, or resented his neglect, he did
not know, as he had no word from her; neither came there any letter
from Mrs. Bolstreath. Dan had certainly been pushed out of the girl's
life by her astute uncle; but it was his own common sense that kept him
out of it; for the time being—be it understood. Love demands its
martyrs and Halliday had become one for Love's sake. By doing so,
although he knew it not, he was displaying more real love towards her
than he had ever done in his life before.
Meanwhile, Laurance lost no time in publishing his letter, which
dealt with the mystery of Moon's death. As "The Moment", including its
extra letter-writing sheet, had a large circulation, and as it was a
season devoid of news, the letter caused great discussions. It was
sufficiently alarming to those who loved law and order, since it boldly
announced that a gang of criminals existed which coldly and cautiously
and deliberately employed its members to put people to death. The
letter called attention to the fly—and that an artificial one—on Sir
Charles's neck near the poisoned wound, and declared that such was the
sign-manual of the accursed society. No mention was made of the scent,
since Dan had explained what Penn had said to Laurance, and Laurance
had accepted the explanation as valid. But there was quite enough in
the letter to startle the most dull, especially when the writer called
attention to the happening of various mysterious murders, and suggested
that such were the work of this misguided set of people who constituted
the unknown gang. Finally, Freddy ended his letter by saying that Moon
had knowledge of the gang, and had sent for a Scotland Yard
official—name not given—to explain the whole matter, when he met with
his death. It was a fact, therefore, that the false Mrs. Brown was an
emissary of the gang who had been detailed to murder Sir Charles and
had performed her vile errand only too well. A postscript to the
epistle invited discussion, and particularly called upon any person who
knew of an artificial fly being found on a corpse to give evidence.
In two days the sheet was filled with letters from various people,
and the matter was much discussed. Some of the writers laughed at the
idea of such a society existing in a civilised country such as England
was, while others expressed alarm and asked what the police were doing
not to arrest the criminals. These last scribes evidently entirely
forgot that no one knew where the central quarters of the gang were,
and that the letter of Mr. Laurance was an attempt to root out the
heart of the mystery. Those who appeared in print and aided the
circulation of "The Moment" by buying their own lucubrations certainly
did not help much. The generality of the letters were discursive and
ornate, wandering very much from the point, and giving no positive
information such as would assist Freddy's purpose. But three or four
epistles drew attention to certain mysterious crimes, the perpetrators
of which had never been brought to justice, and who were not even
known. There was the case of a young girl found dead on the Brighton
railway line near Redhill, and who must have been thrown out of the
train. Then someone wrote about a miser in the East End who had been
strangled, and another person recalled the drowning of a well-known
philanthropist in the Serpentine. A verdict of suicide had been brought
in as regards this last victim, but the writer of the letter positively
asserted that the philanthropist had not the slightest intention of
making away with himself. Finally came a batch of letters concerning
children who had been murdered.
But only in one case did it appear that any fly was seen on the
victim, and that was when a schoolmistress was stabbed to the heart
while in bed and asleep. The assassin had entered and escaped by the
window, and the victim's mother—who wrote the letter drawing attention
to this case—had found the fly on her daughter's cheek. She had
thought nothing of it at the time, and had brushed away the insect. But
after the mention of the fly on Sir Charles Moon's neck, she remembered
the incident. Also it turned out that the schoolmistress, had she
lived, would have inherited a large sum of money. It was this last
circumstance that suggested the intervention of the gang to murder the
girl so that someone else might inherit. But all the letters dealing
with the various cases were vague, and no enlightening details could be
given. All that could be said was that there were many unusual deaths,
the mystery of which could not be solved. Laurance, reading the letters
during the week of their appearance, felt sure that the gang existed,
but he was more or less alone in his opinion. Even Dan was doubtful.
"It seems such a large order for a number of people to band
themselves together in order to murder on this comprehensive scale," he
objected; "and I don't quite see the object. Many of the victims
mentioned in these letters are poor."
"You seem to have changed your mind about the matter," said
Laurance drily, "for when my letter appeared you were assured that
there was such a gang."
"Only because of Sir Charles's remarks to Durwin."
"It was a pity Sir Charles was not more explicit," retorted Freddy
"He had no time to be explicit," said Dan, patiently, "since he
died before he could explain. But let us admit, for the sake of
argument, that such a gang exists. Why should the members murder poor
"Folks have been murdered by way of revenge, as well as for money.
And let me remind you, Dan, that four or five of these victims
mentioned in the letters had money, or were about to inherit money. I
am quite convinced," said Laurance, striking the table, "that there is
such an association."
"An association for what?"
"You are very dull. To get undesirable people out of the way.
Remember, in the reign of Louis XIV, there were dozens of poisoners in
Paris who undertook to kill people when engaged to do so. The reason
was for revenge, or desire for money, or—or—or for other reasons,"
ended Laurance vaguely.
"Hum!" Dan stroked his chin, "it may be as you say. Certainly Sir
Charles was got rid of, because he knew too much."
"About this gang," insisted Laurance, "since he was to see Durwin
about the same. I am certain that such an association exists."
"You said that before," Halliday reminded him.
"And I say it again. At all events there is one thing certain—that
we have learned from these letters of many mysterious crimes."
"But only in one case was the fly discovered," objected Dan again.
"That is not to be wondered at," replied the journalist; "the
wonder is that such a small insect should be noticed at all. No one
would ever think of connecting a fly, whether dead or alive, with the
death. The mother of the schoolmistress did not, until your experience
with regard to Moon was quoted in my letter. The fly business is quite
"And perhaps means nothing."
"Oh, I think it does, seeing that in Moon's case the fly was
artificial. Probably in the case of the schoolmistress it was
artificial also, only the mother who noticed it did not make an
examination. Why should she? I wonder the gang don't have a better
"Perhaps the gang may think it would be spotted if it did."
"Then why have any trade-mark at all," answered Laurance, sensibly.
"If there is to be a sign, there should be some sensible one. If the
fly was stamped on the skin, as the purple fern was stamped, there
would be some sense in the matter. But a fly, artificial or not, is—"
Freddy spread out his hands, for words entirely failed him.
"Well," said Dan after a pause, "I don't know what to say, since
everything is so vague. However, I shall assume that such a gang
exists, and shall do my best to help you to bring about its
destruction, as that means my marriage to Lillian. To help, I must have
money, so the sooner we get north and engage one of Vincent's machines
with all the latest improvements, the better shall I be pleased." He
moved towards the door, as they were in Laurance's rooms when this
conversation took place, and there he halted. "I think, Freddy, you
will have a chance of proving in your own person, as to the truth of
your supposition regarding this gang!"
"What do you mean?" asked Laurance somewhat startled.
"Well," murmured Dan, "the gang know you started the hunt for its
destruction, as I expect the members read the papers. If that is the
case you will be a source of danger, such as Sir Charles was and—"
"I'll look after myself," interrupted Laurance grimly.
"Well, if you don't, and the worst comes," said Dan agreeably, "I
shall carefully examine your corpse for the celebrated fly."
"I'll look after myself," said Laurance again, "and if you think I
am going to give up doing business through fear of death, you are much
mistaken. If I can find the gang and exterminate them, I'll get a much
larger salary, and so will be able to marry Mildred."
"Oh, that's her name is it! Mildred Vincent! Is she pretty?"
"You might not think so since Miss Moon is your ideal," said
Freddy, with a blush. "Mildred is dark and tall, and
well-proportioned—none of your skimpy women, old man."
"Lillian isn't skimpy," cried Halliday indignantly.
"I never said she was. Let us call her fairy-like."
"That's better. And your Mildred?"
"You'll see her when we go north the day after to-morrow."
"Good!" Dan nodded thankfully, "we go to Vincent the day after
"Yes. Meet me at a quarter to twelve at St. Pancras Station; the
train leaves at mid-day and we change for Beswick about four o'clock. I
expect we'll arrive—all going well—at Sheepeak about six."
"Good! But why shouldn't all go well?" inquired Dan, after a pause.
Laurance chuckled. "According to you, the gang will hunt me down,
and as you are in my company—well!" he chuckled again.
"Oh, I don't care a cent for the gang, no more than yourself,"
retorted Dan with a shrug. "I'm not even going to think of the beasts.
We go north to get the machine which will enable me to win this two
thousand. And then—"
"And then?" echoed Laurance with a grin.
"Then I shall discover the truth, crush the gang, and marry
In this way, therefore, the muddy water was stirred up.
Chapter VI. THE INVENTOR
Freddy Laurance usually opened his mouth to ask questions, rarely
to talk about himself. In the newspaper world, confidences may mean
copy; given that such are worthy to appear in print. Therefore, as the
young man found, it is just as well to be sparing of personal details,
and having made this discovery, he was careful to keep his tongue
between his teeth in all matters dealing with his private life. This
reticence, useful in business but wholly unnecessary in
friendship—particularly when the friendship had to do with Dan
Halliday—had grown upon Laurance to such an extent that he said very
little about his love affair. Dan, being a genial soul, and a
fellow-sufferer in the cause of Cupid, and having heart-whole liking
for the journalist, resented being shut out in this way. He therefore
made it his business to extract Freddy's love story from him when the
two were in the train making for Sheepeak, via Thawley and Beswick.
"Where did you meet her?" asked Dan abruptly, as they had the
compartment to themselves, and he had exhausted not only the newspapers
but the magazines.
"Her?" repeated Laurance, who was calmly smoking, with his feet on
the opposite seat; "what her?"
"The Her. The one girl in the world for you?"
"Oh, bosh!" Freddy coloured, and looked pleasantly embarrassed.
"Is it? Perhaps you are right" and Dan began to hum a simple little
American song, entitled, "I wonder who's kissing her now."
Laurance took this personally. "No one is! I can trust her."
"Trust who?" asked Dan innocently.
"The person you mentioned now. Miss Vincent,—Mildred."
"Did I mention her? Well, now you recall her name, I did. Old man,
we are the best of friends, but this fourth estate habit of holding
your confounded tongue is getting on my nerves. Give yourself a treat
by letting yourself go. I am ready to listen," and he leaned back with
a seraphic smile.
Freddy did not fence any longer, but came out with details. After
all, since he could trust Dan, he was beginning to think that it would
be delightful to talk his heart empty. "She's the dearest girl in the
world," was the preamble.
Dan twiddled his thumbs. "We all say that. Now Lillian—"
"Mildred! We are speaking of her." Freddy spoke very fast lest his
friend should interrupt. Since Dan wanted confidences, Dan should have
them given to him in a most thorough manner. "Mildred is an angel, and
her uncle is an old respectable, clever beast."
"Yes!" said Halliday persuasively. "I thought in that way of Sir
Charles when he interrupted private conversations between Lillian and
myself. I am of the same opinion as regards Sir John Moon because—"
"Yes, I know what you mean by 'because'. But with regard to
"Who is an angel. Yes?"
"I met her a year ago in London—Regent Street, to be precise as to
locality. A snob spoke to her without an introduction, so she appealed
to me, and I punched his head. Then I escorted her home—"
"To Hillshire? What a knight-errant!" chuckled Dan.
"Don't be an ass. I escorted her to the Guelph Hotel in Jermyn
Street, where she and her uncle were staying. The uncle appreciated the
service I did for his niece, and made me welcome, especially when he
found that, as a newspaper man, I was able to talk in print about his
machines. For an inventor the old man has an excellent idea of
"Inventors being generally fools. So you called the next day to see
if Miss Vincent's nerves were better."
Freddy cast a look of surprise at Dan's dark face. "How did you
guess that, Halliday? Well, I did, and I got on better with Solomon
Vincent than ever."
"Undoubtedly you got on better with the niece," murmured Dan,
"Well," Laurance coloured, "you might put it that way."
"I do put it that way," said Dan firmly, "and from personal
"Not with Mildred. To make a long story short, I saw a great deal
of them in town, and took them out to dinner and got them theatre
seats, and fell deeper in love every day. Then Vincent asked me to
visit Sheepeak to inspect his machines and I wrote several articles in
"Ah. I thought I remembered Vincent's name. I read those articles.
But you didn't mention the niece."
"Ass!" said the journalist scornfully, "is it likely? Well, that's
the whole yarn. I've been several times to Sheepeak and Vincent likes
"To the extent of taking you as a nephew?" inquired Dan,
"No, hang him! That's why I call him a beast. He says that Mildred
is necessary to his comfort as a housekeeper, and he won't allow her to
marry me. She is such a good girl that she obeys her uncle because he
brought her up when her parents died, and has been a father to her."
"A dull romance and a league-long wooing, with the lady in
Hillshire and the swain in London. How long is this unsatisfactory
state of things going to last, my son?"
"I don't know," rejoined Freddy mournfully, "until her uncle dies,
"Then let us hope he'll fly once too often," said Dan cheerfully;
"but do not be downhearted. I am sure it will be all right. I shall
dance at your wedding and you will dance at mine. By the way, there's
no necessity to talk to Vincent or his niece about our endeavours to
spot this gang."
"Of course not. The matter won't be mentioned. All I am talking
about is private, and you come to Sheepeak with me to get a machine so
as to win the London to York race. It will be an advertisement for
"That's all right. And Mildred—talk about her, old man. I know you
are dying to explain the kind of angel she really is. Lull me to sleep
with lover's rhapsodies"—a request with which Freddy, now having
broken the ice, was perfectly willing to comply. He described Mildred's
appearance with a lover's wealth of details, drew attention to her many
admirable qualities, quoted her speeches, praised her talents, and thus
entertained his friend—and incidentally himself—all the way to
Thawley. Dan closed his eyes and listened, puffing comfortably at his
pipe. Occasionally he threw in a word, but for the greater part of the
time held his peace, and let Laurance babble on about his darling's
perfections. Secretly, Dan did not think these could match Lillian's in
At the great manufacturing town of Thawley, which was overshadowed
by a cloud of dun smoke, the travellers left the main line, and crossed
to another platform where they boarded the local train to Beswick. This
station was only six miles down the line, and they turned on their
tracks to reach it, since it branched off from the main artery into the
wilds. It nestled at the foot of a lofty hill covered from top to
bottom with trees, now more or less leafless. Laurance informed his
companion that there was a ruined abbey hidden in the wood, and also
pointed out several interesting places, for he was well acquainted with
the locality. At Beswick they piled their bags on a ramshackle old
trap, and proceeded in this to climb up a long, winding, steep road,
which mounted gradually to the moors. As the year was yet wintry and
the hour was late, the air became wonderfully keen, and—as Freddy
said—inspiriting. Dan, however, did not find it so, as he felt quite
sleepy, and yawned the whole way until the trap stopped at the solitary
hotel of Sheepeak, a rough stone house, with thick walls and a slate
The landlady, raw-boned, sharp-eyed, and not at all beautiful, met
them at the door, smiling in what was meant for an amiable manner when
she saw Laurance. "Oh, you're here again?" she said defiantly, and Dan
noticed that beyond the northern burr she did not reproduce the country
"Yes, Mrs. Pelgrin, and I have brought a friend to stay for three
or four days. We want two bedrooms and a sitting-room, and supper
"You shall have them," said Mrs. Pelgrin, still defiantly.
"And the price will be a pound each for the four days," ventured
"With ten shillings extra for the sitting-room," said Mrs. Pelgrin,
"Oh, come now."
"I'll not take you in for less."
"Well," put in Dan, shrugging, "sooner than stand here in the cold
and argue, I shall pay the extra ten shillings."
"Cold, do you call it? Cold!" Mrs. Pelgrin's tone was one of scorn.
"Ha, cold!" and she led the way through a flagged stone passage to a
large and comfortable room at the back of the house. "Will this suit
"That's all right, Mrs. Pelgrin," said Freddy, throwing himself
down on a slippery horse-hair sofa—"and supper?"
"You'll have it when it's ready, no sooner and no later," barked
the ogress, leaving the room. "Cold is it?" and she laughed hoarsely.
"I say, Freddy," observed Halliday in a lazy tone, "why is the good
lady so very savage?"
"She isn't. Mrs. Pelgrin is quite fond of me. I've stayed here
"Fond of you?" echoed Dan, with a chuckle. "Good Lord, how does she
speak to those she isn't fond of?"
"It's northern brusqueness. She's honest—"
"But rude. The two seem to go together with many people. They think
they will be taken for rascals if they are decently polite."
Laurance remonstrated. "Mrs. Pelgrin is a rough diamond."
"I like my jewels polished. However, here we are and here we stay,
and here we eat, if that amiable lady will bring in supper. Then I
shall go to bed, as I shall certainly yawn my head off if I don't."
"But it's just after six," cried Laurance. "I want to take you to
see Vincent to-night—this evening, that is."
"Go yourself and see the beautiful Mildred," muttered Dan drowsily.
"Two's company and three's a crowd. I'm going to bed"; and, in spite of
Laurance's arguments against such sloth, to bed he went, after a brisk
fight with Mrs. Pelgrin over a fire in his sleeping apartment. He said
that he wanted one, while the landlady declared that it was
unnecessary. Finally Dan got his own way, and when the fire was
blazing, Mrs. Pelgrin said goodnight.
"But you're no more nor a butterfly," she informed her guest, and
went out banging the door, with muttering remarks concerning people who
"No doubt this weather is here regarded as tropical," murmured Dan,
getting into bed and referring to the weather; then he giggled over
Mrs. Pelgrin's manners until he fell asleep.
Next morning Laurance woke him at eight, and Dan grumbled about
getting up, although he was assured that he had slept the clock round.
However a cold bath soon brisked him up, and he came down to the
sitting-room with an excellent appetite for breakfast. Mrs. Pelgrin
brought it in, and again joked in her fierce way about the cold, which
the butterfly—as she again termed Dan—was supposed to feel so keenly.
Laurance talked about Mildred, who had been delighted to see him, but
mentioned regretfully that he did not think that Dan would get the
machine he was in search of.
"Why not?" asked Dan Halliday, lighting his pipe and finishing his
third cup of coffee. "Vincent wants his aeroplanes exploited, doesn't
he? And where will he find a better chance than for an experienced man,
such as I am, flying his latest invention in 'The Moment's' London to
"Vincent's a queer fish. That's all I can say," retorted Laurance.
"Well, you can't say more and you can't say less, I suppose. We'll
go and have a look at the queer fish in his pond whenever you like."
"At eleven o'clock then."
"Right oh! I can talk to the uncle and you can take on the niece.
It's a fair division of labour."
This arrangement was willingly agreed to by Laurance, as Dan was
certain it would be since he saw that his friend was fathoms deep in
love. Afterwards, the two went out of doors and surveyed the landscape.
Sheepeak was situated on the top of a lofty tableland, the village
being a tolerably large collection of substantial stone houses, whence
the moors spread north and south, east and west. From where they were,
the friends could see the green squares of cultivated fields, the
purple bloom of the heather, and the azure hues which distance gave to
the distant mountains. Here and there the vast country, which looked
enormously large from the elevation whence they surveyed it, dipped
into verdant dales, snugly clothed with forests, and sprinkled with
manor-houses and villages, big and little. The lands were so
far-stretching and the prospect so extensive, that Dan became mightily
impressed with the magnitude of the sky. It covered them like a huge
inverted cup, and as there was nothing to break its league-long sweep,
Dan felt quite small in the immensity which surrounded him above and
"I feel like a pill in the Desert of Sahara," said Halliday,
"What is the sensation of feeling like a pill?" rejoined Laurance
drily, for he was not an imaginative individual.
"Only a poet can explain, Freddy, and you are very earthy."
"I never knew you were a genius," snapped Laurance, with a shrug.
"You have much to learn," replied Halliday reprovingly; "and as
it's near eleven o'clock, suppose we light out for Vincent."
Freddy agreed, and skirting the village for three-quarters of a
mile, they suddenly came upon a small cottage, with walls and roof of
yellowish stone covered with lichen, and standing in a small garden of
wind-tormented vegetation. A low stone wall divided this from the high
road, and the visitors entered through a small wooden gate to pass up a
cobblestone walk to the modest door. But the cottage itself was dwarfed
wholly by huge sheds of wood covered with roofs of galvanised tin,
which loomed up suddenly behind it, on a vast scale more in keeping
with the character of the landscape. These were the workshops of
Vincent, where he built his machines and housed them from prying eyes.
The fields at the back cultivated into smooth lawns were where the
aeroplanes started to fly over hill and dale to the wonderment of the
"Though they are pretty well used to Vincent's vagaries by this
time," said Freddy, ending his explanation.
Mildred received them in the small parlour of the cottage which was
about the size of a doll's drawing-room, and expressed herself as
pleased to make the acquaintance of Mr. Halliday. Her uncle, she
mentioned, was busy as usual in his workshop, but would see the
visitors in half an hour. While she explained, Dan took stock of her,
and admitted that she was really a very amiable and pretty girl, though
not a patch on Lillian. But then Dan did not care for tall ladies with
olive complexions, blue eyes, dark hair, and the regal melancholy look
of discrowned queens. Mildred—the name suited her—was too tall and
stately for his taste, which approved more of little golden-haired
women, fairy-like and frolicsome. Miss Vincent looked serious and
thoughtful, and although her smile was delicious, she smiled very
seldom. It seemed to Dan that her solitary life in these moorlands and
in the company—when she enjoyed it—of her morose uncle, made the girl
sober beyond her years, which were not more than two and twenty.
However, many minds many tastes, and Dan could not deny but what
Freddy's fair Saxon looks went very well with the Celtic mystic
appearance of the inventor's niece. They were a handsome couple,
indeed, but much too solemn in looks and character for Dan, whose
liking leaned to the frivolous side of things.
"Don't you find it dull here, Miss Vincent?" asked Halliday
"Dull!" she echoed, turning her somewhat sad eyes of dark blue in
his direction, "oh, not at all. Why, I have a great deal to do. We have
only one servant and I assist in the housework. My uncle is not easy to
cater for, as he has many likes and dislikes with regard to food. Then
he employs a certain number of workmen, and I have to pay them every
Saturday. Indeed, I look after all the financial part of my uncle's
"Is it a business, or a whim—a hobby?" inquired Dan respectfully,
for, being frivolous, he was struck with awe at the multitude of Miss
"Well, more of the last than the first perhaps," said Mildred
smiling at his respectful expression. "Uncle Solomon really doesn't
care for publicity. All his aim is to construct a perfect machine, and
he is always inventing, and improving, and thinking of new ways in
which to obtain the mastery of the air."
"His machines have been tried by other people, though," remarked
"Oh, yes, and with great success. But uncle doesn't even read the
papers to see what is said about his aeroplanes, although he is always
anxious to learn what other inventors are doing, and takes a great
interest in races across the Channel and over the Alps, and from city
to city. But he is wrapt up in his own schemes, and works for twelve
and more hours out of the twenty-four towards perfecting his machines.
Public applause or public rewards don't appeal to him, you see, Mr.
Halliday; it's the work itself."
"Ah, that's the true spirit of genius," said Dan approvingly, "a
man like that is sure to arrive."
"He will never arrive," said Miss Vincent quietly, "for as soon as
he arrives at one point, he only regards it as a resting-place to start
for a further goal. He doesn't care for food, or drink, or clothes, or
politics, or amusements, or anything for which the ordinary man
strives. His machine takes up all his attention."
"Happy man! To have one strong aim and to be allowed to work at
that aim, is the true happiness of any man. I shall be glad to have a
talk with him."
"He doesn't talk much, Mr. Halliday."
"A man obsessed with one idea seldom does," retorted the young
fellow. "I hope, however, he will let me have a machine for this race.
I can handle any aeroplane, once it is explained to me, and Freddy
here, says that your uncle's machines have many improvements likely to
tell against competitors."
"I am not sure if he will let you have a machine," said Mildred,
her face clouding; "he is very jealous and whimsical, you know."
"Like all inventors," murmured Laurance rising, "let us go and see
"Yes," added Dan, also getting on his feet, "and then you take
Freddy away, Miss Vincent, and let me talk to your uncle. I shall get
what I want, somehow."
Mildred laughed and led the way out of the cottage by the back
door. "It is not an easy task you have set yourself to do," she said,
doubtfully; "here are the workshops and the buildings where the
machines are housed, and yonder is Uncle Solomon."
The buildings looked plebeian and gimcrack with their flimsy wooden
walls and tin roofs, impressive only in their magnitude. They must have
cost a deal to erect in this neighbourhood where all the houses, great
and small, were of stone; and wood was comparatively scarce. Vincent,
as Dan considered, must be well-off to indulge in so expensive a hobby.
To be sure, by racing he could gain prizes, and if successful could
also sell machines at a good figure; but from what Mildred had said, it
seemed to Dan that her uncle had the true jealous spirit of an
inventor, and did not let his darlings go out of his hands if he could
help it. To live on this vast moorland, working at his inventions and
experimenting with his ideas was enough for Solomon Vincent, without
the applause and rewards of the world. Undoubtedly to carry out his
plans he must have a private income, and not an inconsiderable one at
"Uncle, this is Mr. Laurance and Mr. Halliday," said Mildred,
introducing the two young men, though the first did not require
But Vincent like most inventors, was absent-minded, and it took him
quite a minute to recognise Laurance, whom he had not seen on the
"Mr. Laurance and Mr. Halliday," he said casually, and turning from
the workman to whom he had been speaking—"yes, of course. You
understand about the propellor, Quinton," he added, again taking up his
conversation with the workman, "it must be seen to at once," and quite
oblivious of the company he went on giving instructions, until the man
went away to do his task, and Mildred touched her uncle's arm.
"This is Mr. Laurance and Mr.—"
"Of course I know it is Mr. Laurance," said Vincent testily, "do
you think I am blind? How do you do, Laurance. Good-bye, I am busy."
"And this is Mr. Halliday, who wants a machine," went on Mildred
"Indeed. Then Mr. Halliday shan't get one," retorted Vincent, and
sauntered into the nearest shed with a scowl on his lean face. He was
an acrid-looking man of fifty, with untidy grey hair and an untrimmed
"Follow him, and he will talk," said Mildred hastily, "I shall
remain here with Freddy, as uncle doesn't like many people to be about
"He is not easy to get on with," sighed Dan, "I can see that."
However, he took the girl's advice and went into the shed after the
ungracious inventor, leaving the lovers to return to the cottage
parlour, which they did forthwith. Laurance was quite astute enough to
lose no time, since the moments spent with Mildred were all golden and
not easily obtainable.
Dan marched into the shed with a fine air of possession, and again
surveyed Vincent, who was examining some specifications near a window.
The man was carelessly dressed in a shabby suit of blue serge, and
seemed to care little about his personal appearance. Marking once more
his shaggy hair and beard, and yellow skin considerably wrinkled, the
young man went up to him. As if waking from a dream, Vincent looked up,
and Dan met the gaze of two very keen dark eyes, whose expression was
anything but amiable.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" demanded the owner of the
"My name is Halliday. I want a machine to race between London and
York. I have just been introduced to you by your niece."
"My niece should have more sense than to have brought you here,"
cried the inventor fiercely; "you come to spy out my ideas and to steal
"I assure you I don't," said Dan drily. "I am not a genius as you
"All the more reason you should pick my brains," snapped Vincent,
in no way mollified by the compliment, as Dan intended he should be.
Halliday laughed. "If I did, I could make no use of my pickings,
Mr. Vincent, as you may guess. I can handle a machine, but I can't put
"Who told you about me?" demanded the man suspiciously.
"He's a meddlesome fool."
"Well," said Dan cheerfully, "there may be two opinions about that,
"I don't want him, and I don't want you, and I don't want any one.
Why do you come and bother me when I don't want you?"
"Because my wants are to be considered. See here, Mr. Vincent,"
added Halliday in a coaxing voice, for he saw that it was necessary to
humour this clever man like a child, "there is to be a race between
London and York for a big prize given by 'The Moment', the paper Mr.
Laurance works for. I wish to compete, but my machine isn't so good as
I should like it to be. I hear that you have made several improvements
which make for speed and easier handling of aeroplanes. Let me have one
of your latest, and I'll share the prize with you. It's two thousand,
"I don't want money," snapped Vincent abruptly.
"I congratulate you," said Dan coolly; "and yet large sums must be
needed to help you to build machines. You must be rich. Are you rich?"
Vincent grew a dusky red, and glanced in an odd way over his
shoulder, as if he expected to find someone at his elbow. "Mind your
own business," he said in a harsh voice, and with suppressed fury;
"whether I'm rich or not, is my business. You shan't have an aeroplane
of mine. Clear out!"
Dan did clear out, but as he went, wondered why the man was so
angry and confused. He seemed quite afraid of the simple question that
had been put.
Chapter VII. THE HERMIT LADIES
Dan was not naturally of a suspicious nature, but since taking up
the profession of a detective, he had become so. Slight matters that
formerly he would not have noticed, now attracted his attention, and,
as the saying goes, he saw a bird in every bush. For this reason while
returning slowly to the cottage, he considered Vincent's backward
glance, which hinted at nervousness, and his unnecessarily angry reply
to the question as to whether he was rich. Usually dreamy and
absent-minded, the turn taken by the conversation had awakened the
tiger in the man, and apparently he regarded Halliday as
over-inquisitive. Yet why the inventor should take this view, Dan could
not conjecture. But after musing for a few minutes, the young man began
to think that he was making a mountain our of a mole-hill. And whatever
secret Vincent had in his life, as his suddenly aggressive attitude
showed, it could have nothing to do with the particular quest upon
which Dan was bent. Halliday therefore dismissed the matter from his
mind with a shrug, and went into the cottage to disturb the lovers.
"Well, Mr. Halliday," remarked Mildred, whose cheeks were flushed
and whose eyes were bright, "what did my uncle say?"
"Very little, but what he did say was to the point. He refuses to
let me have a machine."
"How like him," ejaculated Laurance quickly; "but upon what
Dan scratched his chin. "Really, I don't know. He seems to think
that I am a spy desirous of learning his trade secrets. He called you a
meddling fool, Freddy."
"Ah, that is because I wish to marry Mildred," replied Freddy,
drily; "it is very natural that Mr. Vincent should object to a man, who
comes to rob him of his treasure, so I don't mind his abuse."
"I am not a treasure," cried Mildred, becoming pink.
"You are. Who knows that better than I, my darling."
"You think too well of me."
"Impossible. You are the best and dearest—"
"Stop! Stop!" Mildred covered her face. "Remember we are not
"Oh, don't mind me," said Dan, phlegmatically. "I'm in love myself,
She nodded comprehendingly. "With Miss Moon. Freddy has told me."
"Has he told you that my marriage depends upon my finding out who
murdered her father?" questioned the young man dismally.
"Yes, and that you need money for the search."
"Which money," continued Laurance determinedly, "must be obtained
by Dan winning this London to York race. That can be done, I am
certain, with one of your uncle's aeroplanes, Mildred, as he has made
wonderful improvements in their structure, and—"
"But he declines to furnish me with a machine," interrupted
Halliday in a vexed tone, "not even my offer to share the £2,000 prize
tempts him. He is too rich, I suppose?" he cast an inquiring glance at
Mildred shook her head. "Uncle Solomon is not rich," she replied
"He must be," insisted Dan sharply; "he could not indulge in such
an expensive hobby otherwise."
"Mrs. Jarsell helps him with money, though, to be sure, he has a
little of his own. Still, unless she supplied money, Uncle Solomon
could not go on building aeroplanes, especially as he rarely sells one,
and wishes to keep all his inventions to himself. His idea is to invent
a perfect machine and then sell it to the Government, and he fancies
that if he allows anyone else to handle his aeroplanes, his secrets may
be prematurely discovered."
"Well, I can see his objection in that way," assented Dan, "since
more ideas are stolen than pocket handkerchiefs, as Balzac says. But
"She is a rich and rather eccentric lady, who lives at The Grange,"
said Mr. Laurance, before Mildred could reply.
"I am as wise as I was before, Freddy. It's an odd thing for a lady
to finance an inventor of flying machines. She must be large-minded and
have a very great deal of money."
"She is large-minded and she has plenty of money," admitted Mildred
vivaciously; "her influence with my uncle is extraordinary."
"Not at all if she supplies the cash," said Dan cynically; "but I
have an idea, Miss Vincent. Suppose we enlist Mrs. Jarsell's
"About the murder?"
"No," said Halliday, after thinking for a moment or so. "I don't
see the use of talking too much about that. The more secret Freddy and
I keep our hunt, the better prospect have we of success, since the gang
will not be on guard, as it were. No, Miss Vincent, introduce me to
Mrs. Jarsell as a young and ardent lover who wishes to make money in
order to marry the girl of his heart. If she is romantic—and nine old
ladies out of ten are romantic—she will induce your uncle to give me
his newest aeroplane."
"If she decides to help you, Uncle Solomon certainly will give you
what you want," Mildred assured him, "since Mrs. Jarsell has supplied
him with so much money for his experiments." She thought for a second,
then raised her head cheerfully. "We shall see Mrs. Jarsell and Miss
Armour this afternoon."
"Who is Miss Armour?"
"Mrs. Jarsell's companion and relative and confidential friend.
She's a dear old thing, and is sure to sympathise with your romance."
"All the better, so long as she can influence Mrs. Jarsell."
"She can influence her, as Mrs. Jarsell swears by her," put in
Freddy. "Oh, I think you'll pull it off, Dan! It's a good idea to work
old Vincent through the hermit ladies."
"The hermit ladies," echoed Dan wonderingly, "an odd reputation.
Hermits are usually masculine."
"Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour are an exception," said Laurance
laughing; "in fact they are modern representatives of that eccentric
couple of ladies who lived at Llangollen. You remember them."
"I have heard the names," murmured Dan reflectively. "The Old
Ladies of Llangollen, who eloped together and lived in Wales. I should
rather like to see this pair that follow so strange an example. When
are we to go?"
"This afternoon," repeated Mildred, nodding brightly, "I really
think something may come of the visit, Mr. Halliday. You and Freddy go
back to 'The Peacock' for dinner and then call for me later—say at
three o'clock. I am a favourite with the hermit ladies and have leave
to bring anyone to afternoon tea,—especially nice young men. Mrs.
Jarsell and Miss Armour are fond of young men."
"Giddy old things," said Dan gaily. "I hope they will take a fancy
to me; I shall do my best to charm them. Well?"
"You must go now, Mr. Halliday, as I have much to do before taking
an hour off."
"Vincent works you too hard, Mildred," said Laurance impatiently,
as he took up his cap, "you can't call a moment your own."
"I shall call two hours or so my own this afternoon," replied
Mildred amiably, and sent the young men away quite happy, since there
was a promising chance that Dan would gain his ends.
"That's a delightful girl," said Dan, when the two were seated at
dinner. "I should like to marry her if Lillian were not in existence."
"I'm glad that Lillian is, Dan, since I want to marry Mildred
myself. Don't poach, you animal."
"I won't," promised Halliday generously, "I don't like dark hair.
But it's no use arguing. Let us eat and drink, for I have to fascinate
Mrs. Jarsell and her bosom friend. I'll get hold of that aeroplane
"We are here for that purpose," said Laurance, determined to have
the last word, and as Dan was hungry he let him have it.
The Grange—at which they arrived late in the afternoon, the two
men escorting the one girl—was a large, rambling mansion built of
yellowish stone, its original colour more or less washed out by rain
and burnt out by sunshine. The surface of the massive walls was grimy
with black and rough with lichens, while the broad, flat stones of the
roof were covered with damp green moss. The house, although in two
storeys, was of no great height, and stood on the uttermost verge of
the hill, which sloped abruptly down into the valley. The view should
have been very fine, but sundry tall houses had been built round The
Grange, which prevented the owner from enjoying the magnificent aspect.
This shutting-in—according to legend—was due to the malice of a
disinherited brother of Jacobean times, who had created quite a village
round about the estate so as to block out the view. But the present
inhabitants did not mind much, for, as Mildred explained, both Miss
Armour and Mrs. Jarsell stayed within doors a great deal.
"In fact, Miss Armour is more or less paralysed, and sits in a big
chair all day, reading and knitting, and talking and playing Patience,"
said Mildred, as the trio turned into a small courtyard, and found
themselves facing a squat door, set in a porch sufficiently massive to
serve for the entrance to a mausoleum.
An elderly maid, in an incongruous dress of brilliant scarlet,
admitted them into a darkish hall, whose atmosphere, suggestive of a
Turkish bath in a mild way, hinted that the house was heated by steam
pipes, as was indeed the case. There were some carved boxes of black
oak in the hall and three or four uncomfortable high-backed chairs, but
the walls and floor were bare, and the general aspect was somewhat
bleak. However, when the visitors were conducted along a narrow
passage, ill-lighted and dismal, they were introduced to a large
low-ceilinged room, richly and luxuriously and picturesquely furnished.
The brilliant garb of the maid-servant suited this room much better
than it did hall or passage, and there was a suggestion of tropical
splendour about the woman and the sitting-room which revealed in Mrs.
Jarsell a strong love of colour, warmth, and light. Indeed, although
there were three large windows looking out on to a garden, and
immediately facing the door by which they had entered, yet the light
which was admitted being insufficient—perhaps because of the wintry
gloom—the apartment was brilliantly illuminated by six lamps. Three of
these stood at one end of the room, and three at the other, on tall
brass stands, and the light, radiating through opaque globes, filled
the place with mellow splendour. The vivid scene it revealed was a
strange and unexpected one to find in these barren wilds.
What impressed Dan straight away, was the prevalence of scarlet.
The walls were covered with brightly toned paper, the floor with a
carpet of violently brilliant hue, and even the ceiling was splashed
with arabesque designs, blood-red against the white background. The
furniture was of black oak upholstered in satin of the same fiery tint,
while the draperies were of a dense black, funereal in aspect. A large
fire glowed on a wide hearth in a vermilion-tiled alcove, and the
poker, tongs, shovel, and pincers were of brass. Also there were brass
candlesticks, a tripod of the same alloy in which incense slowly
smouldered and even brazen warming-pans of antique pattern were ranged
on either side of the fire-place. Thus, the general colour-scheme was
of black, scarlet, and yellow. What with the barbaric hues, the warm
atmosphere, and the faint scent of incense, Dan felt as though he had
stumbled on the den of a magician, malicious and dangerous. But this
may have only been an impression caused by coming suddenly into this
tropical room out of the chill air and neutral-tinted landscape.
Neither Mrs. Jarsell nor Miss Armour, however, carried their love
of violent colour into their personal attire, as both were
arrayed—somewhat incongruously, considering the season—in unrelieved
white. The former lady was tall and bulky and somewhat assertive in
manner, with a masculine cast of countenance and watchful dark eyes.
From the smooth olive texture of her skin, she had probably possessed
jet-black hair, before age turned her still plentiful locks completely
white. She was not, Dan concluded, more that fifty, as she possessed
great vitality, and gripped his hand in a vigorous, manly way, quite in
keeping with her commanding looks. Her white gown was made perfectly
plain; she did not display even a ribbon, and wore no jewellery
whatsoever, yet her whole appearance was distinguished and dignified.
Indeed, when she welcomed the young people she assumed something of a
motherly air, but if the hint conveyed by the barbarically decorated
room was to be taken, she was anything but maternal. Mrs. Jarsell, as
Dan mentally confessed, was something of a puzzle; he could not place
her, as the saying goes.
Miss Armour had also an unusual personality, being the antithesis
of her friend in looks and manner. To Mrs. Jarsell's massive
assertiveness she opposed a fragile timidity, and was as small of body
as the other was large. Her oval, many-wrinkled face was the hue of old
ivory, her features were delicate, and her small head drooped in a
rather pensive manner. Her white hair, not so plentiful as that of Mrs.
Jarsell, was smoothly arranged under a dainty cap of white lace,
decorated, oddly enough, with diamond ornaments. And, indeed, she wore
enough jewellery for both ladies; rings on her slender fingers, and
chains round her neck, and bracelets on her wrists, with a belt of
turquoise stones, a ruby brooch, and earrings of pearls. On a less
refined person, this overloading of ornaments would have looked vulgar,
but Miss Armour, although she glittered at all points like a heathen
idol, preserved a calm dignity, which caused her sumptuous display to
appear perfectly natural. It was very strange that so mild-looking a
woman should deck herself out in this manner; so she, also, was a
puzzle to Halliday's intelligence. Indeed, the two ladies, in their
splendid room, suggested dreams of the Arabian Nights to Dan, and gave
him the impression of being concerned in some gorgeous romance.
Miss Armour, seated in the big chair which Mildred had mentioned,
looked over Dan with mild, brown eyes, and evidently approved of his
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Halliday," she said in a soft and
musical voice, quite silvery in its sound. "To an old person, such as I
am, the young are always welcome."
Dan felt called upon to pay a compliment. "You don't look old," he
"Well, now-a-days, sixty cannot be called old," said Miss Armour
with a pretty laugh, "as I am assured that women of that age actually
dance in London."
"The age-limit has been extended since Victorian times," laughed
Laurance, who had seated himself near one of the windows beside
"Yes," assented Mrs. Jarsell, in deep tones suggestive of a
mellow-sounding bell. "In those times, women went on the shelf at
thirty-five, and lived again in their children. Now-a-days, there are
no old people."
"Certainly not in this room," said Dan courteously.
"You are Irish, I should say, Mr. Halliday," remarked Miss Armour,
smiling, as she resumed her knitting of a red and white striped shawl;
"only an Irishman could pay such a pretty compliment."
"My mother was Irish," admitted Dan, amiably, "and I made a special
journey to kiss the Blarney stone in the hope that it might oil my
Mrs. Jarsell in her heavy way seemed amused. "You have certainly
accomplished your purpose, Mr. Halliday. But what does a gay young man,
as I see you are, do in this solitary neighbourhood?" and her keen
black eyes swept over him from head to foot inquiringly.
"Ah," put in Freddy quickly, "that question brings out the reason
of our visit to you, Mrs. Jarsell. Behold in my friend a lover."
"Delightful," cried Miss Armour with great animation, "and the
"Miss Moon, the daughter of Sir Charles Moon."
"Moon? Moon?" murmured Miss Armour, as though she were invoking the
planet. "I seem to have heard that name somewhere. Eliza?" she glanced
at her friend.
"Don't you remember the murder we read about some months ago?"
replied Mrs. Jarsell heavily. "It was much talked about."
"It would need to be to reach my ears, Eliza; you know that I don't
like hearing about crime. In this neighbourhood," she addressed herself
to Dan, "we live a quiet and uneventful life, and although we take one
London newspaper daily, we know little of what is going on in the
world. My friend reads to me about the theatres and dresses, and
sometimes politics, but rarely does she inflict murder cases on me. I
don't like to hear of crime."
"I read that particular case because it caused so great a
sensation," said Mrs. Jarsell, in a deprecating tone. "You remember Sir
Charles was poisoned by some unknown woman. And now I recall the case,
Mr. Halliday, your name was mentioned in connection with it."
"Probably," said Dan, lightly, "I am engaged to Miss Moon."
"Have the police discovered who murdered Sir Charles?"
"No. Nor is there any chance that the police will make the
discovery. The woman came and the woman went after doing her work, but
she has vanished into thin air, like Macbeth's witches."
"I wonder why she murdered Sir Charles?" asked Mrs. Jarsell, after
Halliday glanced at Laurance, and it was the latter who replied in
a most cautious manner, wishing to say as little as possible about the
quest. "The reason is not known, Mrs. Jarsell."
"But, why—" began Mildred, only to be cut short somewhat
impatiently by Miss Armour, who had been moving uneasily.
"Don't talk any more about the horrid thing," she broke out
impetuously, "I don't want to hear. Tell me of your love affair, Mr.
"There is little to tell," said Dan, relieved that the conversation
was changed in this manner, since he did not desire to say too much of
his business in connection with the crime, "and I would not tell you
that little, but that I wish to enlist your sympathies and those of
"You have mine already," declared the old lady vivaciously, "but
"Mrs. Jarsell can help me."
"Indeed," said that lady, looking at him hard, "in what way?"
"Let me explain," chimed in Freddy, impatient of Dan's slower
methods, "Mr. Halliday wishes to marry Miss Moon and wants money."
"But she has plenty, Mr. Laurance. The papers said that the late
Sir Charles was a millionaire."
"So he was, and Miss Moon is his heiress," cried Dan, quickly; "all
the same, I don't wish to live on my wife, and so desire to be in a
position to offer her a home, however humble. Now I am an aviator, Miss
Armour, and there is to be a race for £2,000 between London and York. I
wish to compete and desire one of Mr. Vincent's machines, as they are
the most improved kind on the market."
"They are not on the market," said Mrs. Jarsell, frowning. "Mr.
Vincent will not part with his machines until he perfects a
masterpiece, and then hopes to sell it to the Government. I don't
wonder that you failed to get an aeroplane from him."
"I did not say that," said Dan swiftly.
"Not in so many words," rejoined Mrs. Jarsell deliberately, "but I
can guess why you want my assistance. Mr. Vincent will give you a
machine if I ask him."
"And you will?" said Halliday, eagerly.
"Oh, Eliza, you must," put in Miss Armour quickly. "Vincent will do
anything for you, since you have helped him so much with money."
"I shall be delighted to help," said Mrs. Jarsell, in her quiet,
slow manner; "you shall have the machine, Mr. Halliday, and I hope you
will win the race and marry Miss Moon. But you are a bold man to offer
to wed an heiress on £2,000. Don't you want more money?"
"I want heaps and heaps," said Dan laughing, "but I have no chance
of getting it. However, two thousand will do to start with.
Lillian—Miss Moon, that is—loves me well enough to marry me at once,
even on the prize given by 'The Moment'."
"Well, Eliza will get you the machine, that is certain, Mr.
Halliday. As to the rest, I have no doubt you will be successful and
win the money; but you must have much more in order to marry Miss Moon,
since I can see that you are much too honourable a man to live on her
millions. The cards"—Miss Armour hastily put away her knitting and
took a small box from a drawer in the tiny table which stood at her
elbow—"my Patience cards, Mr. Halliday, for you know, having few
amusements, I am devoted to the game. Also I can tell fortunes. I shall
tell yours," and she opened the box to take out two packs of cards.
"Dan isn't superstitious," laughed Freddy, and approached with
"I don't know," said Halliday gravely. "I have known cases—"
"Well, have your fortune told now," broke in Mrs. Jarsell, going to
the door, "it will amuse Miss Armour to reveal your future while I see
about the tea. I am sure you young people must be hungry."
"But I haven't thanked you for your promise to get me the machine."
Mrs. Jarsell nodded in a friendly manner. "When you win the race
and marry the young lady, you can thank me," she said with ponderous
playfulness. "Miss Armour will tell you if the Fates will be kind to
you in both respects," and she disappeared to get the tea, or rather to
instruct the red-robed servant to bring it in.
Meanwhile, Miss Armour, her mild face quite flushed with
excitement, was spreading out the cards after Dan had shuffled them.
She used only one pack, and Freddy looked on at the disposition of the
coloured oblongs with the deepest interest. Dan idly took up the unused
pack, and the moment he brought them near his eyes to examine them, he
became aware that there clung to them the same mysterious scent which
Penn had stated came from Sumatra. New as he was to the detective
business, he yet had enough sense to suppress his excitement at this
discovery. Seeing that the ex-secretary had stated very positively that
no one but himself in England possessed the perfume, it was strange,
indeed, that Dan should come across it in these wilds, and connected
with the personal possessions of a harmless old lady, confined to her
chair by partial paralysis. In spite of his coolness, he was so
thunderstruck that he could scarcely stammer a reply to Miss Armour,
when she asked him if his colour-card was clubs or spades. She saw his
"What is the matter?" she demanded sharply, and her face grew
"The heat of the room, the scents, make me feel rather faint," said
"Remove the incense burner to the end of the room, Mr. Laurance,"
said Miss Armour, and when the young man did so, she turned to
Halliday. "Are you, then, so susceptible to scents?"
"Yes. I don't like strong perfumes. You do apparently, Miss Armour.
Why, even your cards are scented," and he held out the odd pack.
The lady took the cards and smelt them, but showed no sign of
emotion. "I expect it's some scent Eliza gave me a few weeks ago. I had
it on my handkerchief, and it must have got on to the cards. Have you
ever smelt a perfume like it before?" she asked, suddenly.
"No," said Dan, lying promptly, as he thought it best to be on the
safe side, "and I hope I shan't again. It's too rich for my taste."
"And was for mine," said Miss Armour indifferently. "I only used it
once or twice. Strange that you should be so susceptible to scents.
However, you feel better now. That's right. And the cards? See! There
is great good fortune coming to you."
"That's jolly," said Dan, now quite recovered.
"In a few weeks," said Miss Armour impressively, "a wonderful
chance will be offered to you. If you take it, a large amount of money
will be yours within the year. You will marry Miss Moon if you seize
this chance. If you do not, she will marry another person," and the
fortune-teller gathered her pack.
"In that case, I shall take the chance at once," said Dan promptly.
Miss Armour looked at him hard. "I advise you to do so," she said
Chapter VIII. AVIATION
The tea that followed the fortune-telling was quite a success, as
Miss Armour was a most amusing talker, and the rest of the party proved
themselves to be good listeners. The old lady, being an invalid, had
ample time for reading, and concerned herself chiefly with French
Memoires, the cynical light-hearted tone of which appealed to her. But
she was also well posted in English literature of the best kind, and
could converse very ably—as she did—on leading authors and their
works. Dan complimented her on the knowledge she had attained to.
"Oh, but it is no credit to me, Mr. Halliday," Miss Armour
protested. "I have so much time unoccupied, and grow weary of playing
Patience and of knitting. It would be strange if I did not know
something after years and years of reading. Books are my best friends."
"Then Mrs. Jarsell is also a book, or say a human document," said
"She is the best woman in the world," cried Miss Armour, while Mrs.
Jarsell bent her heavy white eyebrows in acknowledgement of the
compliment. "You can have no idea how kind she is to me."
"And to whom should I be kind, but to my old governess," said Mrs.
Jarsell in a gruff way. "Why, you have taught me all I know."
"And I should think Miss Armour could teach a lot," said Laurance,
in his pleasant manner; "you know so much and have such tact, that you
should be out in the world governing people, Miss Armour."
She sent a sharp glance in his direction, as if to enquire what he
exactly meant. Then she accepted the compliment with a charming laugh.
"But for this dreadful paralysis, I should, indeed, love to be out in
the world. I long to deal with human nature, and make people do what I
"Can you?" asked Mildred, anxiously.
"Yes, child," replied the ex-governess quietly, "because I base my
diplomacy on the knowledge that everyone, with few exceptions, is ruled
by self. Harp on that string, and you can manage anyone."
"Miss Armour," put in Mrs. Jarsell, in her deep voice, "rather
talks of what she would do than what she does. Here, we see few people.
I go up to town on occasions, but very rarely."
"You must find it dull," said Dan candidly.
For some reason Miss Armour appeared to think this speech amusing.
"Oh, no; I don't find life dull at all, I assure you. There is always a
great deal to be done, when one knows how to set about the doing."
"As how?" questioned the young man, somewhat puzzled.
"Books and music, and card-games and knitting-work," said Mrs.
Jarsell quickly, as if she did not approve of Miss Armour's
observations; "nothing more."
"Quite so; nothing more," assented the governess, but with a sudden
flash of her brown eyes directed towards her friend. "Here we are out
of the world. Do you stay long, Mr. Halliday?"
"Only for another couple of days, until I can get the machine."
"You shall get it, I promise you," said Mrs. Jarsell graciously,
when the trio arose to depart. "Mr. Vincent owes me too much to
disregard my request."
"Of course," chimed in Mildred. "Uncle Solomon would never be able
to build his aeroplanes if you didn't help him with money. Good-bye,
"Good-bye, dear child. I shall say au revoir to you, Mr. Halliday,
as I shall expect you to come and see me again, if only to let me know
that your fortune has come true."
"Will it, do you think?"
"Yes," said Miss Armour positively. "I am quite certain that the
chance foretold by the cards will be given to you."
Dan hoped it would, and thanked the lady for her happy prediction,
after which he and Freddy, with Mildred between them, left the weird
house, and walked up the darkened road towards the village. Halliday
went at once to the "Peacock", wishing to give Freddy and his beloved a
chance of a tete-a-tete. They took it readily enough, as Laurance
escorted the girl home. It was an hour before he returned to an overdue
supper, which Mrs. Pelgrin served with fierce grumbling. After supper,
Dan spoke his mind to Laurance.
"When I took up that extra pack of cards," he said abruptly, "I
smelt that same perfume that hung about Sir Charles's clothes when he
"What!" Freddy sat up aghast in his corner of the room, "the
perfume about which Penn explained?"
"The same. But did he explain? It seems to me that he told a lie.
If he only had one bottle, and the perfume is not procurable in
England, seeing it is manufactured in Sumatra, how did Miss Armour
become possessed of it?"
"It may not be the same scent," said Laurance, still aghast; "you
see a bird in every bush, Dan."
"This is not a question for the eyes, but for the nose. I tell you,
Freddy, that the perfume is exactly the same."
"Why did you not ask Miss Armour about it?"
"I did; you heard me. She got it from Mrs. Jarsell, so she said.
Now where did Mrs. Jarsell get it? From Sumatra?"
"Perhaps. Why not ask her straight out?"
"No," said Dan decisively. "I shall not mention the subject to Mrs.
Jarsell until I have questioned Marcus Penn once more. He told me a lie
once, by saying that no one in this country possessed this especial
perfume. He shan't tell me another."
"How do you mean to get him to tell you the truth?" asked Freddy
"Never mind. I have some sort of a plan. I shan't explain until it
comes off. There is some connection between that perfume and the crime,
I am certain," concluded Dan, with a positive air.
Laurance wriggled uneasily. "Oh, that is absurd! On such an
assumption, you suggest that Miss Armour knows about the matter."
"About what matter?"
"You know-the gang."
"Well," said Halliday, smoking thoughtfully, "we are not entirely
certain yet if such a gang exists. It's all theory anyhow, in spite of
the letters you drew from this person and the other. Penn certainly
explained the scent, but told an obvious lie, since Miss Armour has it.
I don't say that she knows anything, but it is strange that she should
possess the Sumatra perfume."
"Other people can send the same perfume to England," retorted
Freddy. "Penn isn't the sole person who has friends in Sumatra. Mrs.
Jarsell, since she gave the scent to Miss Armour, may have friends in
that island. Ask her."
"No," said Dan, very positively. "I shall ask no one until I make
Penn speak out. In any case, I want to know why he told a lie."
"Perhaps he didn't."
"I'm jolly well sure that he did."
"Then, to put it plainly—you suspect Mrs. Jarsell?"
"To answer plainly, I don't. There can be no connection between two
harmless old ladies living in these wilds and the murder of Sir
Charles. Yet this confounded scent forms a link between the dead man,
Mrs. Jarsell, and Penn."
Laurance rubbed his chin reflectively. "It's odd, to say the least
of it. I suppose you are certain that the perfume is the same?"
"I'll swear to it." Dan rose and knocked the ashes out of his pipe.
"And I intend to learn how Mrs. Jarsell became possessed of it. I may
be on a wild goose chase. All the same, with the stake I have, I can't
afford to lose an opportunity."
"So Miss Armour said, when she told your fortune," commented Freddy
"Yes. I wonder what she meant?" Dan stretched himself. "I'm for
bed. Ring the bell, and ask Mrs. Pelgrin for the spirits."
Laurance, not feeling called upon to resume the conversation, as he
was tired himself, did as he was told, and Mrs. Pelgrin, raw-boned and
grim, bounced aggressively into the room, to demand fiercely what they
required. She sniffed when whisky was ordered, but as its consumption
would increase her bill, she brought in a bottle of "Johnny Walker" and
a syphon of soda, without comment. When she turned to depart, and
wished them good-night in tones suggestive of a gaoler, a sudden
thought struck Dan. It would not be amiss, he thought, to question Mrs.
Pelgrin concerning the hermit ladies. Not that he expected a great deal
to result from his examination, as the worthy woman was a she-cat, and
what she knew would probably have to be clawed out of her.
"We had tea at the Grange to-day, Mrs. Pelgrin," said Dan casually.
The landlady wrapped her hands in her apron, and wheeled grimly at
the door to speak agressively. "Ho!" she grunted.
"I said 'Ho,' and 'Ho's' all I'm going to say."
"Well," drawled Freddy with a shrug, "you can't say much less, you
"Less or much, I don't say anything," retorted Mrs. Pelgrin,
screwing up her hard mouth and nodding.
"Nobody wants you to say anything," remarked Dan lazily, but on the
Of course this speech opened the landlady's mouth. "People say as
it's queer two ladies should live like dormice in a haystack," she
"That's like people. They will meddle with what doesn't concern
"Not me," snorted Mrs. Pelgrin violently, and epigrammatically. "I
don't say what I could say, for what I could say wouldn't be what's
right to say."
"Wouldn't it?" inquired Freddy, innocently.
"No, it wouldn't, Sir; I'm not to be pumped," cried Mrs. Pelgrin,
"try you ever so hard. So there!" and she screwed up her mouth tighter
"Who is pumping?" asked Dan coolly; "I simply remarked that we had
tea with Mrs. Jarsell and Miss Armour to-day."
"Friends of yours, no doubt?" snapped the landlady.
"I never saw them before to-day, Mrs. Pelgrin."
"Then don't see them again," advised the woman sharply.
"Thank you for that advice. Anything wrong?"
"Wrong! Wrong! What should be wrong?" Mrs. Pelgrin became more
violent than ever. "There's nothing wrong."
"Then that's all right," said Halliday coolly. "Good-night."
Mrs. Pelgrin stared hard at him, evidently wondering why he did not
press his questions, seeing how significant a remark she had made. The
idea that her conversation was trivial in his eyes hurt her
self-esteem. She gave another hint that she knew something. "I wonder
how those ladies make their money," she observed casually to the
"Ah, I wonder," agreed Dan, making a covert sign that Freddy should
restrain the question now on the tip of his tongue.
"Three motor-cars," said Mrs. Pelgrin musingly, "four servants,
women all and sluts at that, I do say, with a house like a palace
inside, whatever it may be to look at from the road. All that needs
money, Mr. Halliday."
"Quite so. Nothing for nothing in this greedy world."
"Ten years have those ladies been here," continued the landlady,
exasperated by this indifference as Dan intended she should be, "and
dull they must find that old house. To be sure, Miss Armour is ill, and
never moves from her chair—so they say," she ended emphatically and
stared at Halliday.
"So who say?" he inquired phlegmatically.
"Everyone, Sir. She's paralysed—so they say."
"And Mrs. Jarsell attends to her like an angel," remarked Dan
suavely; "they say that also, you know."
"Why do you advise us not to see the ladies again?" asked Freddy,
who could not longer rein in his curiosity.
Halliday was annoyed by the question, as he thought it would dry up
the stream of Mrs. Pelgrin's hinted information. But, instead of this
happening, she became excessively frank. "Well, it's this way, Mr.
Laurance," she said, rubbing her nose in a vexed manner. "You are two
nice young gentlemen, and I don't want either of you to step in and
spoil George's chance."
"My nephew, he being the son of my late husband's brother, and a
porter at the Thawley railway station. Mrs. Jarsell had taken quite a
fancy to him, he being a handsome lad in his way, and the chances are
she will leave him a lot of her money, if you two gentlemen don't take
her fancy. Now you know my reason for not wanting you to see her
"Oh, I don't think Mrs. Jarsell will leave either my friend or me
money," said Dan affably. "George Pelgrin is quite safe. I suppose one
good turn deserves another."
"What do you mean?" said the landlady, sharper than ever.
"Well, George Pelgrin must have done something for Mrs. Jarsell to
make her leave him money."
"He's done nothing, and she don't say she'll leave him her money.
But George thinks she might, seeing she has taken a fancy to him. I
don't want you, or Mr. Laurance here, to spoil my nephew's chances."
"Oh, we shan't do that!" rejoined Halliday calmly. "I suppose
George finds it dull at the Thawley station, when there are no Sheepeak
friends there with him. Working at the station, that is."
"Oh, he doesn't find it dull!" replied Mrs. Pelgrin innocently; "he
has made friends with plenty of Thawley folk. Are you going away
"Perhaps, and perhaps the next day," said Dan, wondering at the
direct question. "You see I wish to get an aeroplane from Mr. Vincent,
and as soon as I do, I shall go back to London."
"You'll be seeing Mrs. Jarsell again."
Halliday shook his head. "I shall be too busy to spare the time."
Mrs. Pelgrin drew a breath of relief, and again became fierce. "I
ain't ashamed of what I've said," she declared, pulling open the door
violently; "you can tell the whole village if you like," and she
bounced out as she had bounced in, leaving Laurance overcome with
"Now what's the meaning of all that chatter?" he asked, staring at
"Oh, it's very plain! Mrs. Jarsell has taken a fancy to her nephew,
and Mrs. Pelgrin thinks our fascinations may spoil his chance of
getting money. What I want to know is what George has done for Mrs.
Jarsell to warrant the deep interest she apparently takes in him.
Evidently," mused Dan to himself, "there are no other Sheepeak people
employed at the Thawley station."
"What of that?" Laurance stared harder than ever.
"Nothing. Only George Pelgrin would be the only person likely to
know Mrs. Jarsell at the Thawley station. There are motor-cars also,
"I really don't see what you are driving at, Dan."
"I scarcely see myself, save that I want to learn the secret of
that perfume, and why it forms a link between Moon and Penn and Mrs.
"But how can this chatter of Mrs. Pelgrin help?" asked Freddy, more
and more puzzled.
Dan lighted his bedroom candle and walked slowly to the door before
he replied. "I shall have to sleep upon what I know before I can answer
that," he said, nodding. "Good-night, old chap!"
"But Dan, Dan, Dan!" called out Laurance, who had heard just enough
to make him wish to hear more, "tell me—"; he stopped speaking, as he
saw that Halliday was out of hearing. It was in a very dissatisfied
frame of mind that Laurance retired to his bed.
Next morning Dan had evidently quite forgotten the conversation of
the landlady, for he made no remark, and although Freddy tried to start
the subject again he declined to revert to it. Halliday declared that
he did not know what to say, that he was putting two and two together,
but as yet could not make four, and that it would be just as well to
seek Mr. Solomon Vincent, to hear if he was disposed to supply an
aeroplane. "Only I wonder," he remarked irrelevantly, as he walked up
the road with his friend, "how it comes that Mrs. Pelgrin speaks more
like a Londoner than a Derbyshire woman."
"I thought we discussed that question before," replied Laurance.
"School-boards are doing away largely with the local dialect. Also Mrs.
Pelgrin, as Mildred told me, was in service for some years at Reading.
Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I ask nothing!" said Dan easily, "it was only an idea I had."
"Connected with the case?"
"Yes, and with Mrs. Jarsell."
"Pooh! You see a bird in every bush, Dan."
"So you said before," rejoined Halliday, drily; "why repeat
yourself? Hullo, there is our inventor!" he added, as they drew near to
the cottage, "and, by jove! he's smiling. Mrs. Jarsell has evidently
spoken to him."
It was as Dan said, for Vincent received the young men with a sour
smile, which sat uneasily on his face, since he was more accustomed to
frowning. However, as he was disposed to be amiable, Dan was thankful
for small mercies, and expressed his feeling loudly when the inventor
graciously placed at his disposal an aeroplane of the latest
"I owe Mrs. Jarsell much," said Vincent, leading the way towards
the shed, "so her requests must be granted. Here is the machine, Mr.
"It's very good of you—"
"It isn't. Don't thank me, but Mrs. Jarsell. Speaking for myself, I
shouldn't allow you to have the aeroplane," said Vincent sourly. "I
want to keep all my improvements to myself until I make a perfect
"Oh, I'll keep all your secrets," Dan assured him cheerfully as
they entered the vast shed, "and I'll share the prize money with you."
"I don't want it. Win the race and prove that my machine is the
best. That is all I ask. By the way, where is Laurance?"
"Don't you remember? We left him in the cottage with your niece."
"I don't want him to marry her, and he shan't," said Vincent with a
frown, speaking on the subject unexpectedly, "and, what is more, since
he's a newspaper man, I don't want you to talk too freely to him about
"Laurance can hold his tongue," rejoined Dan somewhat stiffly;
"your trade secrets are safe with him. So this is the machine," he
ended, to avert further discussion on the inventor's part.
"Yes," said Vincent, forgetting all else in the passion of his
hobby, and he began to explain matters. "A biplane, as you see, and it
can carry enough oil and essence for a twelve hours' flight. Wheel it
out," he added, turning to a quartette of workmen. "Mr. Halliday will
try a flight."
Dan was only too ready, as the beauty of the machine appealed to
him immensely, especially when he beheld it in the pale light of the
sun, when it was brought into the open. The men wheeled it out of the
back part of the shed onto a level lawn, which could serve as a
starting-place. Vincent talked all the time in a great state of
excitement, and pointed out the various improvements and beauties of
The planes were not exactly horizontal, since Vincent considered
that he gained more power by making them branch at a slight angle. The
wings were doubly covered with fine canvas, and a broad streak of
crimson ran through their white, which the inventor informed Dan was a
characteristic of all his machines. "A sort of distinguishing mark, as
it were," said Vincent. Another improvement was that the aviator could
steer with his knees on occasions, which gave freedom to the hands when
necessary. The engine was light and powerful, with tremendous
driving-power considering its size. Finally, the steering-seat—the
bridge of the airship, as it might be—was fenced in comfortably with
aluminium, and a broad expanse of mica protected the controller of the
aeroplane from the force of the winds. It was really an admirable
machine and Halliday was loud in his praises, to which, however, its
maker paid little attention. Genius does not require laudation; talent
Dan inspected the machine in every direction, tried the steering
gear which ran easily, saw that the engine was well supplied with fuel,
and tested, as well as he could, the various spars and ropes and bolts.
Then he took his seat in the pilot-box, and prepared for a trial
"Not that she hasn't been out before," said Vincent, while Dan
gathered his energies to start. "Ready, Mr. Halliday. Let her go."
The workmen ran the machine along the lawn, Dan set the propellor
going, and after lightly spinning along the ground for some distance
the aeroplane rose into the grey sky like an immense bird. A side
glance showed Dan that Mildred and her lover were running out of the
shed, and had arrived just a moment too late to witness his start.
However, he had no time to pay attention to terrestrial matters, for
all his capabilities were given to handling the new craft. Up and up he
went to a considerable height with the engine running true and sweet,
then dived nearly to earth in switch-back fashion, only to tower again
like a hawk. Shortly he was at a lofty elevation travelling along at
top speed in the direction of the ten-mile-distant Thawley. Vincent and
his workmen, Laurance and the girl, became mere black dots, and beneath
him the earth slipped past at more than railroad speed. Once in the
vast spaces of the firmament Dan let his engines travel at their
fastest, and the vanes of the propeller spun, as an American would say,
like greased lightning. Halliday's pulses raced almost as fast, as the
joy of playing with death seized him. In the delicate structure of the
aeroplane—being its soul and controlling power —he felt like a bird
and swooped in mighty arcs in proof of his mastership of the sky.
In a few minutes he was over Thawley, and a downward glance showed
him innumerable black insects running with excitement here, there, and
everywhere, as the machine was sighted. Dan dipped nearly to the
weather-cock of the parish church, then slid out towards the northern
portion of the town. Making his aerial way with the speed of the wind
Thawley was soon left behind and the aviator hovered over a wide
country dotted with villages, intersected with streams, and rough with
more or less high hills that divided the many vales of the country. Ten
minutes took him out of Hillshire, and he flew over the wild Yorkshire
moors. The air sang past him on either side of the mica screen, which
prevented his breath being taken away. Everything was taut and fit and
neat, and in its right place, and the engine sang a song of triumph,
which mingled with the droning hum of the screw. Below was the painted
earth, above the grey sky, faintly illuminated by the wintry sunshine,
and between the two Halliday flew with the swiftness of a kestrel
sighting its prey. Dan was used to this sublime excitement, and could
control his feelings—otherwise he would have shouted for joy, which
would have been from his point of view, a mere waste of energy.
He finally reached York, circled round the Minster, and then turned
his craft homeward in glee. The machine was certainly the best he had
yet handled, and he made sure that, given moderately decent conditions,
he would win the race and gain the £2,000 necessary to continue his
search for Moon's murderess. And the capture of her, as he reminded
himself, meant his marriage with Lillian. No wonder the young man's
heart beat high, for it was not easy to come by so magnificent an
aeroplane, and he felt as grateful to Vincent for building it as he
felt to Mrs. Jarsell for procuring him the mastership of the same.
Those Dan left on the lawn behind the Sheepeak shed stared steadily
into the grey distance, and shortly saw a dim spot moving towards them
with the swiftness of an eagle. Larger and larger it grew, until they
could distinguish the aeroplane's construction, like a delicate tracery
against the clouds. In a wide circle it moved gracefully and then like
a bird folding its wings, settled gently at the very feet of its
inventor. The trial was a complete success in every way.
Chapter IX. MAHOMET'S COFFIN
The aeroplane acquired by Halliday could be dismounted in three
parts, so that it could easily have been taken to pieces and packed for
transfer to London. But the race for "The Moment" prize was to take
place within seven days, and Dan wished to familiarize himself with the
machine as much as was possible in the interval. For this reason he
decided to go by air to the metropolis, taking the journey in easy
flights, with intervals of rest between. He therefore arranged to send
his baggage back to town with Freddy, and carried only a small black
bag containing absolutely necessary personal effects. Freddy did not
object to this plan, as he did not wish to leave Mildred sooner than
was necessary. Therefore Dan started and Laurance remained behind to
pass golden hours in the girl's society. However, he promised his
friend to be in London within two days. And as Halliday, besides
covering the hundred and sixty odd miles in short flights, desired to
practise aviation in the open spaces of the country before getting to
the capital, it was not needful for Freddy to return to his business
until forty-eight hours had passed. This arrangement suited both the
young men very well.
Vincent, who was now as hot in Dan's favour as he had been cold,
presided at the start, and again and again went over various details in
connection with the machine, which was much dearer to him than any
child could have been. Now that his objections had been set aside by
the intervention of Mrs. Jarsell, the inventor was desperately anxious
that Dan should win the race, as such a triumph would undoubtedly show
the value of the new-fangled biplane. Not that Vincent wished for the
money, or even for the glory, but he very greatly desired to show other
inventors that he was their master. His vanity, being purely concerned
with the result of nights and days of meditation, could only be
gratified by actual proof that he had conquered the air. Not entirely
that is, for Vincent was far too thorough in his genius to believe that
Rome could be built in a day; but at all events he trusted that his
machine would reveal itself as the best that any man had yet
constructed. So far as that was concerned Halliday, accustomed to
aviation, believed that the sour old man had succeeded.
"If I don't win the race, it won't be your fault, Mr. Vincent," Dan
assured him, as he stepped into the pilot's box, and with this farewell
speech the inventor expressed himself very well content. He did not
expect impossibilities, and he saw that the man to whom he had
entrusted his darling airship was both cool and enthusiastic, qualities
which go far towards gaining complete success.
It was a calm day with scarcely any wind when Dan began his flight,
and as the biplane could easily attain sixty miles an hour he would
have had no difficulty in reaching London early in the afternoon. But
he did not make straight for the south, but circled gradually down to
Rugby, where he proposed to remain for the night. Dawdling in the air,
it was five hours before he alighted outside the town, and feeling
weary with the strain on his nerves—for the machine required dexterous
handling—he determined to rest. Without much difficulty he found a
friendly farmer, who was willing that the airship should be housed in
an empty barn for the night. When all was safe and Halliday had
arranged that no one should enter the barn, he sought out a cheap inn
on the borders of the place to rest for the night, within watching
distance of his craft. Next morning, after breakfast, he concluded to
start again, but after a visit to the barn to see that all was well, he
returned to the inn for an hour.
It was necessary, he thought, to consider the situation and his
future plans; therefore he wished for solitude to do so. Owing to his
fatigue he had not been able to think much on the previous night before
sleep overtook him.
The plan, which Dan intended to carry into effect when he reached
town, was to force Penn into confessing what he actually knew
concerning the perfume. He had obviously spoken falsely as to his being
its sole possessor in England, since Mrs. Jarsell had given the like
scent to her old governess. Yet, why should Penn lie in this fashion,
unless there was some secret connected with the perfume, which he
desired to keep concealed? And assuredly the scent had clung round the
clothes of the dead man. Dan determined to force Penn into confession,
and that could only be done by frightening him greatly. To carry out
this plan, Halliday wrote to the man asking him for an interview, and
when he came—as Dan was certain he would—intended, in some way, to
inveigle him into taking a flight. Once Penn was in the air his fears
could be played upon to some purpose. At least Dan thought so, and was
hot to make the experiment.
Of course, the young man did not suspect Mrs. Jarsell of being
connected in any way with crime of any sort. Still it was strange that
the perfume from Sumatra should form a link between her and Sir Charles
Moon with Penn intervening. It was also strange that Mrs. Pelgrin
should hint that Mrs. Jarsell had secrets. She had not said as much in
so many words, but the general trend of her cautious conversation went
to show that Mrs. Jarsell was not entirely open and above board. The
landlady had wondered where the owner of the Grange got her money. Now
why should she so wonder, unless she had proofs that the said money was
not come by honestly? And why, also, should she, in a quite unnecessary
way, mention her nephew—who was the Thawley station porter—as being
friendly with Mrs. Jarsell to such an extent that there was a chance of
his getting a legacy? Ladies of wealth do not make friends of railway
porters without reason, and Dan wished to learn the reason in this
particular case. By a diplomatic question he had ascertained from Mrs.
Pelgrin that her nephew was the sole Sheepeak person employed at the
station. Consequently he would naturally be the sole person who knew
Mrs. Jarsell and all about her; therefore it was not impossible that
the lady befriended the man so that he might not speak of her visits to
town. Yet why should he not do so, Mrs. Jarsell's doings being entirely
honest? Then there were three motor-cars, a quite unnecessary number
for a lady to keep, especially as, according to her own story, she went
out little and spent most of her time in attending to Miss Armour. On
the whole, although his suspicions were vague, Dan had an idea that
Mrs. Jarsell's doings would not bear the light of day. Still—and
especially since she had procured him the biplane—he would not have
troubled about her rustic affairs save for the fact of the perfume. It
might be—and this he hoped to discover—that Penn's confession would
show more plainly the link which connected Mrs. Jarsell with the
Hampstead crime. Yet on the face of it the very idea seemed monstrous
and Dan scorned himself for his folly as he wrote the letter to Penn.
Nevertheless, something stronger than himself drove him to post the
Afterwards, to get the unpleasant taste of conspiring out of his
mouth, the young man wrote a lover-like epistle to Lillian, telling her
about his capture of the aeroplane. "You and Mrs. Bolstreath must come
and see the start of the race at Blackheath," wrote Dan, "and your mere
presence will inspire me to do my very best to win. Much hangs on my
gaining this race, as I want the money to prosecute the search for your
father's assassin!" Then Halliday left business for pleasure, and,
telling Lillian that he adored her to distraction, urged her not to see
too much of Lord Curberry. Finally, he declared that he was hungering
for a glimpse of her angel face, and now that he was returning to
London intended to call and see her, despite the prohibition of Sir
John. There was much more passionate writing to the same effect, and
the letter ended with sentiments of lively and lofty devotion. If
another man had written the letter Dan would have smiled at its
vehemence, since the scribe cast himself under Miss Moon's dainty feet
to be trampled upon. But as Dan was the author of the epistle, he only
regretted that he could not say more ardent things than he had set
down. To such lengths does the passion of love carry the most
matter-of-fact of men; and Halliday certainly prided himself upon being
a very up-to-date child of this materialistic age, believing in nothing
he could not see, or touch, or feel.
The letters having been posted, and the bill paid, and the black
bag packed, Dan took his way to the barn of the friendly farmer. He
found quite a number of people before the great doors, as the news that
an aviator was in the neighbourhood had spread rapidly. The farmer did
not wish to take any rent for the night's lodging of the aeroplane, but
as it had been guarded so carefully and was housed so comfortably,
Halliday insisted upon the man having some recompense for his kindness.
Then with the assistance of three or four willing onlookers the machine
was wheeled out into the meadow wherein the barn stood. It was close
upon mid-day when Dan started and the spectators gasped with awe and
delighted surprise when the biplane, like a big dragon-fly, soared into
the cloudy sky. Willing to give them pleasure, since an airship was not
a common sight in the neighbourhood, Halliday did some fancy flying and
circled and dipped and towered directly over the town before finally
waving his hand in farewell. A thin cry of many throats came to his
ears as he sped southward, and he was delighted to find how readily the
machine answered to every motion of his hand. He almost felt that he
was riding on a live thing, all nerves and energy, so obedient was the
craft to his will. The machine was like a flying beetle, the planes
motionless to sustain the body like the front wings of the insect,
while the propeller, spinning vigorously, acted like the back wings to
drive ahead. Dan had a faint idea of seeing some comparison of this
sort in a magazine, and wondered if Vincent, having seen it also, had
constructed his aeroplane on insect lines. But he soon dropped all
conjecture to attend strictly to his business, which was to reach
London as speedily as possible; no very difficult task, considering the
swiftness of his vehicle.
It was convenient that Dan should know a shed at Blackheath where
he could house his machine, as Lord Curberry's house was in that
neighbourhood. Once on the spot it would be easy to have an interview
with Marcus Penn, and perhaps not difficult to induce him to take the
air in the lofty spaces of the sky. The neighbourhood was well known to
Halliday, for his occupation of aviation brought him often there, and
he had experimented with various inventions at various times, where the
land afforded room for the departure and arrival of the machines;
therefore, when he reached London's outskirts he made for Blackheath,
and without difficulty brought the aeroplane to earth, a stone-throw
from the shed in question. It said a great deal for the capabilities of
the biplane that her pilot was enabled to strike his destination so
exactly. Of course, the usual concourse of people gathered when the
great bird-like structure fluttered down from the sky, but Dan sent a
messenger to the man who looked after the shed, and soon had Vincent's
masterpiece safely put away under lock and key. As he had been
practising flying and strenuously testing the qualities of the machine,
it was quite five o'clock before he was free to do what he would. As
the distance from Rugby was just over eighty miles he could have
arrived much earlier had he wished. But there was no need to do so, and
every need to accustom himself to handling the biplane easily in view
of the great race.
When Dan had given certain instructions to the man who looked after
the shed and was responsible for the safety of the machine, he walked
across the heath to a comfortable inn, where he was well-known, as he
had put up at it many times previously. It was here that he had
appointed the meeting with Marcus Penn for the next morning, but so
eager was he to come face to face with the man and wring the truth out
of him, that he almost decided to walk to Lord Curberry's house, which
was two miles distant. But a swift reflection that he could do nothing
until the next morning—since Penn had to be coaxed on to the aeroplane
and certainly would decline a night-run—decided him to wait. The
"Black Bull" was a particularly comfortable hotel and the landlady
supplied tasty dinners; therefore Halliday took the good the gods sent
him and settled down for a quiet evening. After a stroll to the shed to
see that Vincent's creation was all right he returned to the inn and
went to bed. His nerves speedily relaxed, and he slept deeply until
nine o'clock in the morning. As he had invited Penn to see him at
eleven, he had just time to take his breakfast comfortably, read the
newspaper, and saunter out to breathe the fresh air before his visitor
Marcus Penn had not improved in looks since Dan had last seen him.
His thin face was still yellow, his hair and moustache still scanty,
and he appeared to be as nervous as ever. When he sat down he looked
apprehensively at Halliday with his pale eyes, and passed his tongue
over his dry lips. It seemed to the aviator that Penn's conscience was
not quite at rest, else he would scarcely look so scared, when—on the
face of it—there was no need to do so. Dan, however, soon set him at
his ease, which was the first necessary step towards gaining his
confidence. For, unless that was gained the man assuredly would not
mount the aeroplane.
"How are you getting along, Mr. Penn?" said Halliday, genially.
"Have a cigarette and something wet? Oh, I forgot you don't drink so
early in the day. I am glad you are up to time, as I am just starting
out on a fly."
"Really," remarked the secretary eagerly. "I should like to see you
make a start. Is your flying-machine near at hand?"
"In the shed over yonder, on the verge of the heath," said Dan,
jerking his head over his left shoulder; "but I daresay you wonder why
I asked you to see me, Mr. Penn?"
"Well, er—that is—er—I did wonder a trifle," hesitated the pale
man, and again looked anxious.
"It has to do with your literary ambitions," said Halliday slowly.
Penn flushed, looking both relieved on learning why he had been
summoned to the meeting and pleased that the subject should be of such
personal interest. "What do you know of my literary ambitions?" he
"All that Miss Moon could tell me," said Dan, promptly, and this
was absolutely correct, as Lillian had long ago asked him to aid the
secretary, although he had never troubled about the matter until now.
"Yes, I certainly did tell Miss Moon that I wished to become a
novelist. I found her sympathetic."
"Yes, she would be; she always is. I suppose," said Dan darting off
at a tangent, "that you are comfortable with Lord Curberry?"
"Oh, yes," assented the man, cheerfully. "I have good pay and
little to do, and Lord Curberry is very kind. I have plenty of time to
write my stories."
"Have you had any published?"
"No," sighed Penn, sadly, "I have tried again and again to get some
short tales printed, but so far, without success."
"Well, then, you know that I have a friend—Mr. Frederick
Laurance—who is on that newspaper 'The Moment'. I suggest that you
should send me some of your manuscripts for him to read. If he approves
of them he will see what he can do, as he knows nearly everyone of any
note in the literary world."
"Oh, you are too good. I shall be delighted. All the same," Penn
hesitated, and writhed, "why should you do this for me?"
"It is Miss Moon who is doing this for you," rejoined Halliday,
saying what was perfectly true. "She asked me to help you. I suppose
she comes sometimes to Lord Curberry's house?"
"Oh, yes," said Penn, with a swift glance at him, "her uncle, Sir
John, and Miss Moon and Mrs. Bolstreath dined with Lord Curberry last
week. I am afraid, Mr. Halliday," added the secretary timidly, "that
you will lose Miss Moon."
Dan laughed cheerfully. "I don't think so. Why should I?"
"Her uncle is very anxious for her to marry Lord Curberry, who is
also very desirous to make Miss Moon his wife."
"That shows Curberry's good taste," said Halliday rising, and
putting on his cap. "However, she is to be my wife, and Curberry and
Sir John can go hang."
"I should not be so sure, Mr. Halliday," said Penn, in a mysterious
manner; "when Lord Curberry wants anything, he generally gets it."
"He is crying for the moon just now," said the other man, making a
pun, "and the moon is no man's property. However, I must go off to
start for my flying practice. I am going to compete in the London to
York race next week. Come with me and see me start. As to your stories,
you can send them to me at my old address, which you knew when you were
with Sir Charles. I shall see Mr. Laurance about them."
"You are good," murmured Penn, drawing a long breath and following
Dan out of the inn, "I am obliged to you."
"To Miss Moon, you mean. She is the one who takes an interest in
your literary efforts. But come along and see my machine. I got it from
an inventor called Vincent," and Dan turned suddenly to shoot an
inquiring glance at his companion. It occurred to him that Penn might
have heard the name since Penn had the perfume as well as Mrs. Jarsell,
who knew the inventor. But evidently Penn had not heard the name, for
he gave no sign of knowledge.
"I hope it is a good machine," he said innocently and weakly.
"Very good," said Halliday, as they halted near the great doors of
the shed, "a clipper. Why not try a fly with me?"
"Oh!" Penn shrank back. "I should be afraid."
"Nonsense, man!" joked the aviator while the aeroplane was wheeled
out, and the usual crowd of onlookers began to gather. "As a literary
man you ought to experience all sensation so as to write about it.
Coming stories will be full of flying-machines and airships."
"Isn't it dangerous?" asked Penn, looking at the delicate structure
which appeared almost too fragile to sustain one person, let alone two.
"Not at all, especially if one doesn't do any fancy flying, which I
shall avoid if you come with me."
"I should like to have the experience," hesitated the secretary,
"that is if you will not fly too high or too far."
"I'll take you across the heath and back again and will keep within
a tolerably safe distance from the ground."
"It's tempting," quavered Penn, wistfully, while Dan busied himself
in getting things square.
"Please yourself," rejoined Halliday carelessly, and satisfied that
the timid man was nibbling at the bait. "I can't stay here all day." He
slipped into the pilot's seat. "Well, well?"
"I really think I should like—where am I to sit?"
"In this place." Dan touched a spring and the pilot box of
aluminium lengthened out so that there was room for two people. This
was one of Vincent's improvements upon which he prided himself, as the
vehicle could, by adjusting the closed-in car, seat two people or one,
as the need arose. "But don't come, if you feel the least fear."
Those of the idle spectators close at hand grinned at Penn's pale
face, and he was stung into accepting hastily what he would have
rejected in a cooler moment. "I am not afraid," he said, trying to
steady his voice, and with an air of bravado he stepped in beside the
aviator. "Oh, I say!" he gasped.
And no wonder. Dan did not give him a moment to change his mind.
Having captured his prey, he intended to keep him, so set the engine
going almost before Penn was comfortably seated. In less time than it
takes to tell the aeroplane whirled along the ground swiftly and lifted
herself gracefully upward. Penn gasped again, and glanced down at the
sinking ground, where the spectators were already beginning to grow
smaller. But the motion of the biplane was so easy, and the face of her
pilot so composed, that after the first thrill of terror Penn began to
feel that flying was not such a very dangerous pastime as he had
"Wonderful, wonderful," he murmured, as the great artificial bird
glided smoothly through the air, "but don't—don't go too high, Mr.
"I shall go high enough to smash you," said Dan, coolly. He was
circling in swallow flights round the heath, now high now low, now
swift now slow, and had the machine so entirely under command that he
was enabled to give a certain amount of his attention, though not all,
to his companion.
Penn gasped again, and his terror revived. "Smash me! Oh!" he
"Yes," said Dan, not looking, since he had to watch where he was
going, but speaking rapidly and clearly all the same. "I want to know
the truth about that perfume. About the Sumatra perfume which you told
me was possessed alone by you. That was a lie, and you know it was a
"I—I—I don't know anything about it," whimpered the secretary.
"Yes you do. Out with the truth," said Dan relentlessly, "if you
don't I shall drop you overboard to smash like an egg."
Penn clung to his seat desperately. "That would be murder."
"I daresay, but I shouldn't suffer. Accidents will happen in
aeroplanes you know. You are like Mahomet's coffin, slung between
heaven and earth, and overboard Mahomet's coffin will go in a few
minutes, unless—" Dan swerved the machine which tilted slightly and
Penn went green with terror.
"What—what—what do you want to know?" he wailed, as the biplane
dipped nearly to earth, to sweep upward in a graceful curve.
"Who is Mrs. Jarsell?"
"I—oh, Lord—I don't know."
"You do. She has this perfume also. Has it anything to do with a
"Yes, yes." Penn's teeth were chattering, and the sinking motion
made him sick.
"What has it to do with a gang?"
"It's—it's a—a sign."
"Was Sir Charles murdered by this gang?"
"I don't know—I don't know. Oh!" Penn screamed and clutched again
at the side of the car.
"You do. This false Mrs. Brown belonged to the gang."
"I can't say. I daren't tell you. If I say anything I shall die."
"You shall die if you don't say what I want you to say," said Dan
between his teeth, and again the machine dipped and towered. "I'll tilt
you out, I swear, if you don't tell me who murdered Sir Charles."
"I don't know, I tell you," cried Penn desperately, "the perfume
has to do with a society of people, who—who—but I daren't speak. I
should be killed. I have said too much as it is. And if you reveal what
I have said, you will be killed also."
"I don't care. Is Mrs. Jarsell connected with this gang?"
"I don't know Mrs. Jarsell," said Penn sullenly, although his
terrified face showed that he was nearly frightened out of his wits.
"Do you belong to this—" started Dan, when a sudden action of Penn
took him by surprise. In endeavouring to frighten the man he had flown
too low, and the aeroplane was only six feet off the ground, preparing
to swing skyward again. The secretary, in desperation, flung himself
sideways out of the machine, as it curved at the lowest and fell
heavily on the herbage of the heath. Dan could not stop to see if he
was safe or hurt, but soared aloft again to a considerable height.
Circling widely he came sailing directly over the spot where the
secretary had tumbled out in his desperate endeavour to escape. Already
the man had picked himself up and was limping off toward the town as
quickly as he was able.
"Now", said Dan grimly to himself, "he will have me arrested for
attempted murder. That's all right," and he chuckled contentedly, even
though he had not been entirely successful in his endeavour to make
Chapter X. ANOTHER MYSTERY
In his anxiety to learn the truth Dan was perfectly willing to be
arrested on whatever charge Penn might wish to bring against him. After
all, publicity was what he chiefly aimed at, and if he gave his reasons
for threatening the secretary, he felt confident that the man would
find it difficult to clear his character. Certainly Halliday had not
intended to take Penn's life, and had not the man been such a coward he
would have simply laughed at the idea of being tilted out of the
machine. But his nerves, shaken by the possible danger, had given way,
and he had said much which he would have preferred to keep locked up in
his heart. But that the aeroplane, by dipping so low, had afforded Penn
the chance of escape at the risk of a rough fall, he would have spoken
at greater length. And yet, after turning the matter over in his own
mind, Dan could not be sure of this.
But this much Halliday had learned. A gang assuredly existed, and
the perfume was a sign of recognition amongst the members, who
apparently followed each other's trails by scent. Penn declined to say
if his late employer had been done to death by the fraternity, but the
perfume on the dead man's clothes answered this question very
positively. Also the secretary had denied that the false Mrs. Brown
belonged to the gang, a statement which was absurd, as undoubtedly she
was the emissary employed to bring about the death. Finally, the fact
that Mrs. Jarsell used the Sumatra scent brought her into connection
with the Hampstead crime whatever Penn might say. For these reasons Dan
felt that he had struck a trail, which would end in the capture of
Moon's assassin and the breaking up of a dangerous organisation.
On reflection he concluded that Penn would have said very little
more, even though face to face with what he believed to be imminent
death. He had hinted sufficiently to show that revelation was dangerous
not only to himself but to Halliday, for if the gang learned that their
secret was betrayed, it was certain that death would be portioned out
to the man who heard, as well as to the man who spoke. On this
assumption Dan felt confident that Penn would take no action in the
matter, and would probably hold his tongue about the adventure. If he
told any of the gang to which he presumably belonged, he would have to
admit that he had betrayed the secret of the perfume, in which case he
would assuredly be killed by his unscrupulous associates. The death of
Dan, as the young man believed, would follow, but he also believed that
by taking care of his own skin Penn would remove any risk of vengeance
following himself; therefore he was not surprised when he heard nothing
from Penn, or of Penn during the days that passed before the morning of
the great race. Meanwhile he detailed the conversation to Laurance.
That young gentleman had returned to town with some regret since
Mildred Vincent was not by his side. But to assure himself of an early
marriage by securing a steady income, he flung himself into
journalistic work with redoubled energy, working night and day to gain
an increased salary. He was in his office employed on a political
article when Dan presented himself, and was not overpleased to give up
even a moment of his precious time. In fact, he grumbled.
"I wish you would come after business hours, Halliday," he said,
"Oh, fudge!" retorted Dan, lightly. "A journalist hasn't any
business hours. Like a king, he is always in harness. Why do you
require me to tell you such elementary truths, Freddy?"
"I have an important article to write."
"Well, then, you can write it in ten minutes or so. I shan't keep
Laurance pushed away his writing paper, leaned back in his chair,
and reached for a cigarette. "What is it, then?" he asked resignedly.
Dan paced the office and related his adventure. "So you see, old
son, that the perfume is of great importance, as I always suspected."
Laurance nodded gravely. "It appears so. But if what you think is
true, would the man have disclosed a secret dangerous to his own
"People will disclose anything when on the rack," replied Dan with
a shrug, "and the aeroplane was my rack. The fool really believed that
I would tilt him overboard, and therefore said what he did say to save
his confounded skin. If he had not escaped so cleverly he would have
"I doubt it. From the hint he gave, if it was death for him not to
confess to you, because you could kill him, it was equally death for
him to speak, if his associates are prepared to murder him for
babbling. However, we are now quite certain that the gang alluded to by
Sir Charles does exist. Undoubtedly he was got out of the way since he
knew too much."
"It is a pity he did not reveal his knowledge to Durwin."
"He intended to do so, but was murdered before Durwin arrived, as
we know. By the way, Durwin is as keen as we are over this search. I
met him the other day and he said that he was hunting everywhere for
evidence. Why not tell him what you have learned, Dan? He can make Penn
"Penn won't speak further," denied Dan abruptly. "I think, as it
is, he dreads the vengeance of his comrades."
"Durwin belongs to Scotland Yard, and has powers to drive Penn into
a corner, so he may be able to force confession. I think you should
consult with Durwin about the matter."
"After the race, then."
"Why not before the race, which does not take place for a couple of
"I don't like doing things in a hurry," said Halliday, uneasily. "I
want to question Mrs. Jarsell, and see if she knows anything."
"If she does, which is doubtful, she will assuredly refuse to
speak. So far, I see no connection between her and the gang."
"You forget the perfume."
"H'm, yes," said Laurance meditatively, "perhaps you are right. I
want to have more evidence before I can give an opinion. But since Penn
told you so much, aren't you in danger from the gang yourself, Dan?"
"I think not. Penn, for his own sake, will hold his tongue. At all
events he has not moved so far."
"That doesn't say he won't move. I should examine that aeroplane
very carefully before the race, if I were you."
"Oh, I'll do that! I know the machine thoroughly by this time, and
if it has been tampered with I shall soon spot the trickery. Well, now
that I have brought you up to date with my information I shall leave
you to work."
"One moment. Is Miss Moon going to see you start for York?"
"Yes. I got a letter from her this morning. She and Mrs. Bolstreath
come to the aviation ground with Lord Curberry, confound him!" and
frowning angrily, Dan took his leave. He was anything but amiably
disposed towards his rival.
Everything was quiet as regards the criminal business for the next
two days, since Penn made no attempt to punish Dan for the fright he
had given him. Halliday himself was much too eager over the race to
trouble about the matter, but he kept a sharp eye on the Vincent
machine, still stored at Blackheath, so as to guard against any
tampering. The start was to take place at Blackheath, and on the
appointed day five competitors were on the spot surrounded by a large
crowd of curious people anxious to witness the conquest of the air.
Amongst those present was Durwin, who pushed his way to where Dan was
looking over his aeroplane. The aviator did not see the lean, keen-eyed
man until he was touched on the elbow.
"Is it all right, Halliday?" asked Durwin, nodding towards the
"Perfect. She's a beauty, and it won't be her fault if I don't lift
York Minster before sunset. What are you doing here, Mr. Durwin? I
didn't know that you took an interest in aviation."
"I take an interest in this search for Moon's assassin," said
Durwin, drily, but in low tones. "Laurance saw me and related your
discovery. I am looking about for Marcus Penn and intend to ask him
"He may be on the ground," said Dan, glancing around, "since Lord
Curberry's place is a stone-throw away. But he won't speak."
"I'll make him speak," said Durwin with a grim look. "Well, I hope
you'll win, Halliday. When you return to town look me up. I may have
something to tell you," and he moved away with a significant look.
Dan could not leave his machine, or he would have followed, as
there were several questions which he greatly desired to ask. The day
was cold and dry, with few clouds, and a good deal of sunshine, so the
conditions for the race were fairly good. The wind was rather high, and
that vexed the aviators, as the art of flying is not yet so perfect as
to control the winds when they are over-strong. However, to go against
these powerful air-currents would be an excellent test of the qualities
of the various machines. The start was to take place at one o'clock,
and the competitors hoped to reach their destination before five
o'clock. Some of the aeroplanes could travel at forty miles an hour;
others at fifty, but so far as Dan knew, his was the sole machine which
could gather sixty-miles-an-hour speed. If Vincent could be believed,
the aeroplane ought to travel the hundred and eighty odd miles, if the
conditions were tolerably good, in a trifle over three hours. Dan, now
having perfect mastery of the biplane, hoped to accomplish the
wonderful journey in a shorter space of time. But this hope had yet to
Meanwhile, having seen that all was in order, he turned to speak to
Lillian who had just come up accompanied by Mrs. Bolstreath. Lord
Curberry was in attendance, and in the distance Dan caught a glimpse of
the yellow-faced secretary, looking unhappy and nervous.
"Oh, Dan, I do hope you will win!" cried Lillian, who looked
extremely pretty, but more than a trifle anxious; "it does seem so
dangerous to fly in such a light machine."
"She's the best I have yet struck," Dan assured her. "Don't you
think she's as perfect as Lillian, Mrs. Bolstreath?"
The elderly lady laughed and cast a side-glance at Curberry, to see
how he took Halliday's complimentary speech. "Well, I suppose you
cannot think of anything prettier to say. I have heard of a woman being
compared to a gazelle and to a ship, but never to a flying-machine."
"Mr. Halliday is very up to date in his compliments," said Curberry
with a slight sneer. He was a tall, bilious-looking man, with pale blue
eyes and a thin-lipped sinister mouth, not at all prepossessing in
appearance, although immaculate in dress.
Dan laughed. Being confident that Lillian would never marry this
spectre, he could afford to laugh. "We young people," he said, with
emphasis, "go with the times, Lord Curberry."
"Meaning that I belong to the past generation," retorted the other
with a flash in his pale eyes; "you will find that I don't in some
ways," and he glanced significantly at Lillian.
Mrs. Bolstreath looked nervous, but Miss Moon was supremely
indifferent. She did not care for Lord Curberry, and in spite of her
uncle's advocacy had not the slightest idea of marrying the man;
therefore she ignored him as consistently as she could considering the
way he thrust himself into her company. Without taking notice of this
passage of arms, she began to question her lover about the airship, and
gathered quite a stock of information before the start. Curberry, being
ignorant of aviation, was out of the picture, as the saying goes, so
fumed and fretted and looked daggers at Dan. It took all Mrs.
Bolstreath's diplomacy to keep him in a moderately good temper. Luckily
Laurance strolled up, note-book in hand, as he was reporting for "The
Moment", and greeted the party gaily. He knew Curberry slightly and
nodded to him without any word or salutation. In common with many other
people, Freddy did not like the man, who was by no means a popular
"Isn't it a splendid day for the race, Miss Moon," said Laurance,
casting an upward glance at the grey sky. "I look forward to
chronicling Dan's triumph in 'The Moment' to-morrow morning. Well, old
fellow," he slapped Halliday jovially on the back, "are you prepared
for what Jules Verne would call the very greatest journey of the
"The century is yet young," replied Dan, drily, "and it's only one
hundred and eighty odd miles I have to travel. Considering that
aviators have reached a successful distance of five hundred miles this
race is a trifle."
"Well," said Lord Curberry, trying to be amiable—a hard task for
him, seeing how much Lillian was taken up with the hero of the
moment—"aviation has certainly accomplished wonders since Santos
Dumont took his flight of ten yards some four years ago."
"Oh, you do know something about aviation, Lord Curberry," said Dan
"I know that it is dangerous, Mr. Halliday."
"Oh, Dan." Lillian grew pale, knowing what the spiteful speech
"I think flying looks more dangerous than it is," said Dan, with a
reassuring glance, "and Miss Moon has come here to be my mascot."
"You will wire your safe arrival as soon as you get to York," said
Mrs. Bolstreath anxiously.
"Oh, every one will wire," cried Freddy, taking out his
field-glass, "the telegraph offices will be kept hard at work all the
night. As sure as I stand here, Mrs. Bolstreath, Dan will be the richer
to-morrow by £2,000."
"If he is safe, I shall be content," breathed Lillian, and she
looked as though she would have kissed Dan then and there, in spite of
the presence of the crowd and Lord Curberry.
That unsuccessful suitor scowled, and was about to make one of his
acid speeches, when the authorities arranging the race came to declare
that all was ready for the start. Already the cinematographs were at
work taking pictures of the crowd and the machines and their various
pilots. Policemen drove back the throng to some distance, so that the
aeroplanes might have a clear space to run in, and just as the hour of
one sounded the start was made amidst a breathless silence. The
aeroplanes ran along the ground like startled hens, and sprang into the
air at various points. The eyes of the people from looking level now
began to stare upward at the diminishing dots which towered and raced
for the north. A zig-zag monoplane was leading, but Lillian had only
eyes for Dan's craft. Freddy gave her his field-glasses so that she
might get a better view. Three of the aeroplanes bunched, but two
circled away some distance in wide arcs, and of the two, one machine
belonged to Dan. The onlookers saw him increase the speed of his
propeller and then, like an arrow from the bow, he sped swiftly out of
sight in a straight line. A cheer rose from the throng, as the Vincent
biplane was leading by some lengths, and Lillian gave Freddy back his
"I hope he'll come back safe," she said, with quivering lip.
"Of course he will," Laurance assure her. "Dan is one of the most
cautious aviators we have."
"But there is always a risk," sneered Lord Curberry.
"Probably. Only a brave man would take the risk."
"You don't fly yourself, Mr. Laurance."
"As you see," was the calm reply, as Curberry's enmity was too
paltry to trouble about. "Well, Miss Moon, we can't see anything more,
so I suppose you will go home."
"Miss Moon is coming to luncheon with me," said Lord Curberry, "and
Mrs. Bolstreath also."
"I am very hungry," said that lady pensively, "so I don't say—"
"Hallo!" interrupted Laurance, as a clamour arose on the outskirts
of the now fast diminishing crowd, "what's the matter? In the interests
of my paper I must see what is taking place," and with a hasty raising
of his hat to the ladies he left them to the care of Lord Curberry.
As he pushed his way towards the commotion he heard a voice asking
if the man was quite dead, and fancied that some one must have fallen
down in a fit. But when he broke through the ring of policemen, and
beheld Durwin lying on the ground, with staring eyes and a ghastly,
expressionless face, the sight so startled him that he caught a
"What's all this?" he demanded hoarsely. "Is Mr. Durwin dead?"
"Durwin," echoed the policeman sharply, "do you know the
"Of course. He is Mr. Durwin, one of the Scotland Yard officials. I
wonder you don't know that."
"I never heard of him, Sir. He must belong to the detective
"What's the matter with him; has he had a fit?"
"He's been murdered," said the constable, shortly.
"Murdered?" Laurance stared at the man in a horrified manner, and
his thoughts flew to the gang which he and Dan and Durwin were trying
to root out. Was this another crime similar to that committed at
Hampstead, when Sir Charles was killed for knowing too much? "Is there
a fly on him?" asked the reporter hastily, "see if there's a fly."
"A fly?" The policeman evidently thought the speaker was crazy.
"What has a fly to do with the matter? Here's the inspector, who was
sent for some time ago. You had better speak to him, Sir."
Laurance did so, and advanced towards the soldierly-looking
official who made his appearance. In a low and rapid voice, Laurance
hastily explained that the prone man was Mr. Durwin, of Scotland Yard,
and also handed the inspector his own card. Meanwhile a doctor was
examining the body, and found that the deceased had been murdered by
having a dagger thrust under his left shoulder-blade. He was quite
dead, and must have passed away almost immediately the blow was
delivered. The inspector received this uncompromising statement with
natural surprise, and knelt down beside the corpse to verify the
declaration. There was no doubt that the medical man spoke the truth,
for a stream of blood stained the back of Durwin's coat, and had soaked
into the ground. The thrust must have been made with a very sharp
instrument, and was undoubtedly delivered with great force.
"Who knows anything of this?" demanded the inspector, rising and
looking at the awe-struck faces of the crowd sharply.
A slim lady-like girl stepped forward. "I was standing close to the
gentleman," she explained nervously, "and we were all looking at the
airships as they went away. I heard him give a gasp, and when I turned
at the the sound, he was slipping to the ground. That's all I know."
"Did you see any one strike him?"
"No, I didn't. How could I, when with the rest I was staring at the
airships going away. The gentleman was staring also, I think. But of
course I didn't take much notice of him, as he was a stranger to me."
"I saw him fall," put in a rough man, something like a navvy; "he
was crushed up against me in the crowd, and I felt him tumbling. I
heard him gurgle, too, and heard this young lady cry out. Then I saw
him on the ground, and pushed back the folk, saying there was a cove
dying. "But I didn't think it was murder," ended the man, shuddering.
"Nor did I," chimed in the slim girl. "I fancied it was a fit. I'm
sure we were all so crushed up with the lot of people, that I shouldn't
have been surprised if he had taken a fit."
This was all that could be learned, and the inspector took the
names and addresses of the two who had spoken. There were other people
who had noted the man on the ground, but these were the sole ones to
see the fall. They had, as it were, almost caught the assassin
red-handed. But it was impossible to say who was guilty, for the throng
was so dense and every one's attention had been so earnestly fixed
skyward on the airships that no one could say who had struck down the
unfortunate gentleman. The inspector was much impressed when he learned
the identity of the dead man. Once or twice he had received official
letters from Durwin, but he had never set eyes on him until he beheld
him dead. But for Laurance he would not have known who he was, and
therefore questioned that young gentleman closely when the body was
carried by four policemen off the ground to the nearest place where it
could be placed under shelter.
"And what about this fly?" asked the inspector, having heard of the
question from the policeman to whom Laurance had spoken.
"Don't you remember the case of Sir Charles Moon?"
"Yes. The woman who killed him was never discovered. I remember
about the fly, and also I remember the letters written to that
newspaper of yours."
"I wrote the first letter that brought forth the correspondence,"
said Freddy quickly. "Sir Charles had some idea that a gang of
criminals was in existence, and invited Mr. Durwin to his house to
explain. Before Mr. Durwin arrived Sir Charles was murdered. Since then
he had been looking into the matter, and I believe that he also learned
"You think that this gang you mention had him put out of the way?"
"Yes, I do, and that is why I asked if there was a fly on him. It's
the trade-mark of these devils, I fancy."
"Well, there didn't appear to be any fly on him," said the
inspector, in an uneasy tone. "All the same, I think your idea is
right. Moon was murdered because he knew too much, and Mr. Durwin has
been got out of the way for the same reason; at least, I think so.
However, we shall learn more between this and the inquest. You will
attend, Mr. Laurance?"
"Of course. I am only too anxious to find out all I can about this
dangerous gang. It must be broken up."
"The breaking up will be attended with considerable danger," said
the inspector, in a very dry tone. Then he noted Freddy's address and
let him go.
Laurance returned to the office of "The Moment" and hastily wrote
his description of the start for the London to York race, after which
he saw the editor and related what he knew about the death of Durwin.
Permitted to write the article dealing with the subject, Laurance gave
a concise account, and although he did not say too much, yet hinted
very plainly that the death of the Scotland Yard official was connected
indirectly with the murder of Sir Charles Moon. Remembering that Penn
was now Lord Curberry's secretary, and that Lord Curberry's house was
near the aviation ground, Freddy wondered if Penn had been amidst the
crowd. Dan could have told him that he had been; but, at present,
Laurance did not know this. However, he had a shrewd idea that as Penn
was connected with one murder, he was probably connected with the
other. Then Freddy cursed himself for not having observed if there was
any special perfume hanging about the dead man's clothes. As he did not
know the particular smell of the Sumatra scent he would not be able to
say if it was the one Dan had traced to Mrs. Jarsell, but if there was
any scent at all, it was worth while looking into the matter. To repair
his negligence he finished writing the article —which was very
short—and then started for Blackheath to view the corpse again.
As he was leaving the office of the paper a telegram was put into
his hand. It proved to be from Dan, and had been sent from Bedford.
"Had an accident," ran the wire, "rudder broke. No bones broken, but
shaken by fall. I return this evening to town and will
"Now I wonder," murmured Laurance, when he read the telegram, "if
that machine was tampered with, after all. If so, the gang must be
getting scared. First Moon, then Durwin, now an attempt on Dan's life.
By Jove, I'll be the next." The idea was by no means a pleasant one.
Chapter XI. ON THE TRAIL
When Dan, looking rather pale and sick, presented himself at The
Moment office late that same evening, the first question Laurance put
to him was relative to the accident. "Was your machine tampered with?"
asked Freddy, in a breathless manner, and almost immediately the door
"No, it wasn't," replied Halliday, sinking with a tired sigh into
the nearest chair. "I was making a quick turn and the rudder gave way;
I put too great a strain on it, and came fluttering to the ground like
a shot partridge. That was a few miles beyond Bedford. However, I had
the aeroplane dismounted and packed away in a village close at hand,
then after a rest caught the express to St. Pancras. You got my wire?"
"Yes, and I fancied this tumble must be the work of the gang."
"Not a bit of it. My bad flying, that's all. Well, I have lost the
race, and the man who flew the Zig-zag monoplane has won, though he
took his own time in arriving at York. A dashed bad machine I think he
had, even though it's come out top for the time being. I'm a bit
shaken, and feel sick, but a night's rest will put me square."
"Why didn't you go straight home and get it?" inquired Freddy
anxiously, for there was no denying that Dan looked considerably
"I read about this death of Durwin in a late edition of an evening
paper, and couldn't rest until I knew the truth. The paper only gave a
hint. Tell me what you know."
Laurance did so, and then handed Halliday a proof of his article on
the subject which was to appear in the morning issue of "The Moment".
He supplemented the same with further information.
"I went down to see if there was any scent on the clothes of the
corpse," he explained, "it's still at Blackheath, you know, in charge
of the inspector. There's no perfume, anyhow."
"And no fly?"
"No. I asked that the moment I saw Durwin stretched out on the
ground. If this crime is the work of the gang, the sign-manual is
"All the same it is the work of the gang, I truly believe,"
remarked Dan, in grim tones. "Durwin has been on the hunt, and very
probably, since he discovered the death of Moon first of all, he has
been watched. One of the gang got behind him in the crowd, and knifed
him in the crush. It would be perfectly easy for the assassin to slip
away, without being noticed, since everyone was watching the flight of
Laurance nodded. "I agree with you. But who is the assassin?"
"Well," said Dan, reflectively, "I saw Penn on the ground."
"The deuce you did!" cried Freddy jumping up; "did he—"
"Don't be in too great a hurry. He seems to me much too nervous a
man to handle this job."
"But he belongs to the gang," insisted Laurance, sharply. "He has
as good as admitted that much by what he said of the perfume."
"Oh yes, I believe he has something to do with the association,
which, by the way, appears to be a kind of joint-stock company, like
that one mentioned by Balzac in his story 'Histoire des Treize', and—"
"Oh, hang your literary references!" interrupted Freddy, anxiously
pacing the office, "do you believe that Penn struck the blow?"
"No, I don't. The gang must have better men than he to strike."
"Or women," muttered Laurance, thinking of the false Mrs. Brown.
"However, since Penn was in the crowd, and is plainly in the secret of
the gang, don't you think we ought to tell the Blackheath inspector
about the matter, and also Inspector Tenson, who had charge of the
"No," said Dan, after a pause. "If Penn is arrested and questioned,
he will say nothing. As he hinted, he would be killed if he gave away
the gang; so as he wouldn't split, when I threatened him on the
aeroplane, he certainly won't speak out if questioned by the police.
And we haven't got enough evidence to prove his complicity, remember.
Better keep silence, Freddy, and let the police get at the truth by
themselves. Meanwhile, we can look round and keep an eye on Penn."
After some argument, Laurance agreed to act as his friend
suggested. It was no doubt the wiser course to take no action until
absolute proof could be procured that the secretary was a member of the
gang. Also, if Penn were arrested, the organisation might break up and
scatter out of sheer alarm, in which case all the villains would not be
caught. Dan deemed it best to work quietly until the whole of the
scoundrels could be netted, and to do so it was necessary to preserve
silence. Thus it came about that, at the inquest on Durwin, nothing
came to light likely to connect this crime with the preceding one. The
hint given by Freddy in "The Moment" was not taken, and, indeed, was
laughed at. There was neither perfume nor fly on the corpse of the
unfortunate man, and consequently no link between Blackheath and
Hampstead. An open verdict was brought in, and Durwin was buried
without the truth becoming known in any detail. Then a new sensation
took up the attention of the public.
Nevertheless, both Dan and his friend were convinced that Durwin,
having learned too much, had been done to death by the gang for its own
safety in the same way as Sir Charles Moon had been removed. They
employed a private detective to watch Penn, but gave him no hint that
they suspected him in any way. Through Penn, who was the sole person
they knew for certain—and on the evidence of the perfume was connected
with the gang—they hoped to arrive at the truth, but the time was not
yet ripe for questioning him as regarded his nefarious doings. But they
kept him well in sight so as to watch the path he took in life. There
was no doubt that by following the same they would arrive at a
gathering of the dangerous person, whose association threatened to
disintegrate society. As Dan, quoting Balzac's fiction, had observed,
it was Ferragus and his fellow-conspirators in a modern setting.
Dan, having lost the race, and consequently the £2,000, was short
of funds, and Laurance not being rich could not lend him any money.
However, the two managed to borrow a certain sum from a grasping
money-lender, which supplied the sinews of war for the time being, and
Halliday had the Vincent aeroplane brought to Blackheath again, and
made some money in his usual way by taking various people trips for
short distances. Aviation was now quite a Society craze, especially for
ladies desirous of a new sensation, so Dan did extremely well. A few
months later he intended to attempt a cross-Channel flight, for which a
French millionaire was offering a large prize, but in the meantime he
got along as best he could. Nothing happened for a week or two, likely
to stir up the muddy water which concealed the doings of the gang, and
there were no new murders. Then Dan took Lillian to a cinematograph
exhibition, and made a discovery.
Of course Lillian was profoundly grieved that her lover should have
lost the race, but comforted herself with the reflection that he was
safe. Had she been able, she would have interdicted Dan from trying
further flights, especially in the face of the many accidents which
were occurring in connection with aviation all over the world. Dan,
however, laughed at her fears, and insisted upon continuing his
dangerous vocation. Nevertheless, he promised in a moment of
tenderness, to give up aviation when he and Lillian were married,
though at present affairs in this direction did not look bright. As yet
Dan had discovered very little likely to lead to the detection of
Moon's assassin, and until that individual was brought to justice, Sir
John would never consent to the match. The course of true love in these
dark days was by no means running so smoothly as the pair desired.
Lord Curberry haunted Sir John Moon's house, and pestered Lillian
with undesired attentions until she was openly rude to him. But this
did not at all damp his ardour; he merely smiled acidly and continued
to send flowers and theatre seats, and lastly articles of jewellery,
which she declined to accept. And always Sir John was at her elbow,
croaking out what a lucky girl she was to attract the attention of the
peer. With her money and his title, to say nothing of his talents, the
marriage would be an ideal one. Lillian did not agree, and with the
obstinacy of a woman in love with the wrong person, preferred to think
of, and long for, Dan Halliday. More than that, with the connivance of
Mrs. Bolstreath, who was heart and soul with the poor suitor, Lillian
contrived to meet him at various times, and enjoy herself not a little.
On these occasions they were like children let loose from an
over-severe nursery. Sometimes, Mrs. Bolstreath came as chaperon, and
sometimes, knowing that Dan was a gentleman, she allowed them to be
together, solus and alone, which, naturally, they liked much better.
But on the whole, and so that no one might talk, the good-natured,
smiling woman followed their restless footsteps to restaurants and
theatres—matinees, that is—even to cinematographs. It was at one of
these last entertainments that Dan received a shock.
On this particular occasion, Mrs. Bolstreath was not with them, as
she had gone shopping in Regent Street. An appointment had been made by
her to meet Lillian and Dan at five, when the trio intended to have
afternoon tea in New Bond Street. Meantime, as it was only three
o'clock, the lovers had the whole of London to themselves. The day was
rather fine, so Lillian proposed to go to the unfashionable spaces of
the park, where she was not likely to meet with any acquaintance. Dan
was willing, and they walked along Piccadilly in a leisurely manner.
Then Lillian stumbled on a biograph theatre, and read the programme.
When she saw that a set of pictures represented the aviation ground at
Blackheath, and the start for the London to York race, nothing would
serve her whim, but that she must go in and see the film. Dan was
willing to oblige her, as he also was curious to see himself in a
moving-picture. Therefore, they soon found themselves being guided by
an attendant with an electric-torch, through the warm darkness of the
hall to a couple of well-cushioned seats. The performance was a
continuous one, the pictures repeating themselves again and again, so
the lovers arrived in the middle of an interesting story of which they
did not know the beginning. Anxious to see what had gone before,
Lillian exacted a promise from her complaisant swain that they should
wait until the repetition. Dan agreed, but reminded her that this delay
would mean no walk in the park.
"Never mind," said Lillian, slipping her hand into his under cover
of the friendly twilight, "we can stay here until we meet Bolly in New
Bond Street; you know I adore cinematographs."
"And me also I hope," insinuated Dan, to which the answer was a
friendly and very emphatic squeeze.
As is usual with such entertainments the pictures were a mixture of
comedy and tragedy, so as not to dwell too long on one note. But
Lillian, in an impatient mood, waited anxiously for the aviation
scenes. These were in due time thrown on the screen, and the girl gave
a little cry of pleasure when she saw Dan tinkering at his aeroplane,
every gesture being faithfully reproduced. Halliday himself was greatly
amused by this resurrection of his doing, and felt an odd feeling at
coming face to face with himself in this way. Then he started, greatly
surprised, for in front of the crowd, and disproportionately large in
comparison with the rest of the figures, he beheld the massive form of
Mrs. Jarsell moving across the illuminated picture. She even paused to
look round at someone in the mob, so he had a distinct front view of
her powerful face. There could be no mistake, as she was a singularly
noticeable woman, and when she finally passed away from the screen, he
sat wondering at the odd chance which had shown him that she had been
on the Blackheath aviation ground on the very day and about the very
time Durwin had met with his mysterious death. Her presence suggested
the possession of the Sumatra scent perfume, which in its turn recalled
Penn's ownership of the same, and the scent of the dead Sir Charles
Moon's clothes. More than ever Dan was convinced that Mrs. Jarsell was
connected with the gang, and therefore with the two tragedies which
were perplexing justice. He was glad that he had promised to wait for
the repetition, and when Lillian wished to go, after she had seen the
start of the picture, which had met them half-finished on their
entrance, Dan urged her to stop and witness the aviation scenes once
"It is so amusing to see oneself in this way," said Dan, artfully.
Lillian pouted. "I wish I could have been taken also," she said
with a sigh of pleasure, and willingly consented to wait.
The second view convinced Halliday absolutely that he was right. It
was Mrs. Jarsell who moved so royally across the screen, and what
puzzled him was that she appeared to be well dressed, without any
attempt at disguise. Yet, if she had come to Blackheath bent upon
crime, she would surely have worn a veil, so as not to be noticed.
Still, Mrs. Jarsell, living a secluded life at Sheepeak, would not be
known to anyone in London, and might not think it necessary to disguise
herself in any way. Moreover, if by chance she was recognised through
any possible disguise, such a thing would mean the asking of leading
questions. However, there was no doubt that she had been on the
aviation ground when Durwin was murdered, and Dan determined to go that
same night to Sheepeak and make inquiries. He was very silent when at
the afternoon tea with the ladies, but Lillian chattered enough for
two, and gave Mrs. Bolstreath a vivid account of the animated pictures.
The companion certainly did hint that Halliday was not quite himself,
but he averted further inquiries by saying that he had a headache. Then
he took leave of the pair, and went to see what train he could catch to
Thawley, being in so great a hurry that he did not even call on Freddy
Laurance to acquaint him with his wonderful discovery.
Thus Halliday most unexpectedly found himself standing on the
Thawley Station platform a few minutes after nine o'clock, as he had
left St. Pancras by the six o'clock express. It was now too late to
travel by the local to Beswick, for when he reached that place there
was the long hill to climb to Sheepeak, and the Peacock Hotel would
probably be closed by the time he got to his destination. Dan therefore
decided to remain in Thawley for the night, and secured a bed at an
hotel near the station. Early next morning he came to look for George
Pelgrin, with whom he wished to talk, and had no difficulty in finding
him. A brother-porter brought the man to him, and handing over his bag,
Halliday requested to be led to the platform whence the Beswick local
departed. Then he began to ask artful questions.
Pelgrin was a big bovine creature, with sleepy blue eyes, and a
slow, ponderous manner, which argued small intelligence. Dan wondered
why a clever woman like Mrs. Jarsell should interest herself in such a
creature, and to find out cautiously introduced the lady's name. "I was
staying at your aunt's hotel in Sheepeak some time ago," said Dan, as
George carried his bag over the bridge, "and she told me that you are
quite a favourite with my friend, Mrs. Jarsell of The Grange."
"Aye," grinned George amiably, "that I be, Sir. I come from
Sheepeak, and Mrs. Jarsell she takes interest in Sheepeak folk. "send
for George," she says, when coming to London, and I puts her straight
as she likes."
"She comes to town pretty often I expect," said Halliday, lightly,
"which is all the better for your pocket."
"Why, no," said Pelgrin, thoughtfully, "she don't go away much from
Sheepeak, not even to come to Thawley. Once in a few months she goes to
London to see things. "George," she says, "I'm going to look up
friends," or "George, I'm after lawyer's business this day," she says.
Oh, she's good to me and Aunt Marian, is Mrs. Jarsell. I wish she'd
come to London oftener," ended George in dismal tones, "for she gives
me half-a-crown always, and don't come as often as I'd like, seeing as
I wants money."
"Ah, she's a stay-at-home," commented Halliday.
"Looking after that friend of hers, Miss Armour, she is," agreed
"Well, she has been a good friend to me," said the other man,
stepping lightly into a first-class compartment, "for she got me an
aeroplane from Mr. Vincent."
"Aye," said Pelgrin, "I know him. Crosspatch he is, Sir."
"I think so, too. But Mrs. Jarsell promised to come to London and
see me in the London to York race. You heard of it, I suppose."
"Aye, that I did," said Pelgrin, and mentioned the exact date,
"we'd a heap of traffic that day, folk going to York to see them
airships arrive. But Mrs. Jarsell wasn't one of them, Sir."
"She wouldn't go to York, but to London."
"She didn't go nowhere," said George doggedly, "on that day anyhow.
"Send for George," she always says, and on the day of that flying-race
send for me she did not. So she stayed at home, I reckon."
"Oh," Dan looked disappointed. "I did so want her to see me flying
in this race, Pelgrin, since she got Mr. Vincent to give me the
"Well, she didn't see you, Sir, for she never went to London on
that day early or late, I swear. She don't go much away from Sheepeak,
and hasn't been there—to London that is, Sir—for months. And she
always tips me half-a-crown," ended George once more.
Dan took the hint and handed over the money. "There you are. And I
hope Mrs. Jarsell will travel oftener so that you may become rich."
"Aye, I need money, me being engaged as it were," said Pelgrin,
with a grin, touching his forelock, and he went on explaining his
private affairs, which had to do with a girl, until the train steamed
out of the station.
Dan was puzzled. According to the cinematograph Mrs. Jarsell had
certainly been in town on the day of the race, yet this yokel swore
that she had not travelled from the Thawley station. Yet there was no
other route by which she could come. Of course, according to Mrs.
Pelgrin, the woman owned three motors and could go to London in that
way. There was just a chance that she might have done so, but Dan did
not know how he was to find out. It would be no use asking Mrs.
Jarsell, as she would deny having been out of Sheepeak. Yet since she
was wholly undisguised on the Blackheath ground, why should she deny
her identity? It might be that she would admit having gone to the big
city—say by motor—and would defy him to credit her with the death of
Durwin. Not that Dan would be foolish enough to accuse her of the same,
as he had no evidence to bring forward, save the fact of the perfume,
and that was a weak reed upon which to lean. Mrs. Pelgrin might know
something, however, and to Mrs. Pelgrin he determined to apply for
At the end of his journey, and when he arrived in a ramshackle fly,
he was welcomed by her as usual—that is, she bounced out of the inn,
and placing her arms akimbo, smiled grimly. "Oh, so you are here
again," she said in exactly the same way in which she had greeted
"Yes," said Halliday readily, having his excuse cut and dried, "I
lost the flying race, and have come to apologise to Mr. Vincent for
misusing his machine. I only want a midday meal, as I leave again this
"You shall have your dinner," snapped Mrs. Pelgrin, leading the way
into the inn after Dan had arranged for the driver of the trap to wait
for three or four hours. "So you didn't win that race. Aye, Mr. Vincent
will be rare mad with you, thinking what he does of those kites he
Halliday sat down in the well-remembered room and laughed. "The
fortune of war, Mrs. Pelgrin. But I am sorry I lost the race, Mrs.
Jarsell, who got me the aeroplane, will also be disappointed. Did she
tell you about the start?"
"Eh! man, would a lady like her come chattering to a humble body
like me?" was the landlady's reply, as she laid the table rapidly, "not
that she saw the race, mind you, Mr. Halliday."
"Oh, but she must have," replied Dan, with pretended surprise, "she
promised to come and see me start from Blackheath."
"She did not go to London," persisted Mrs. Pelgrin, her eyes
becoming angry at the contradiction, "I mind that well, because she
came to see me about some eggs on the very day you were flying, and,
says she, 'It will be a good day for Mr. Vincent's machine to win the
"Are you sure?" asked Dan, more puzzled than ever to find that the
stories of Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew were in accordance with one
"Do you take me for a fool?" cried Mrs. Pelgrin, her sallow face
becoming a fiery red; "am I not telling you again and again that Mrs.
Jarsell never went to see your rubbishy race? She came here to get some
eggs from me, and sat in this very room at nine o'clock, or a little
after. You take me for a liar, you—you—oh, I'll best see to the
dinner, or I'll lose my temper," and the sharp-tongued woman, having
already lost it, bounced out of the room.
"Mrs. Jarsell was here at nine o'clock, or a little after,"
repeated Dan, in a wondering tone, "then she could not have been in
London. All the same, I swear I saw her on that cinematograph." Here he
opened his bag and took out an "A.B.C.", to see the trains from Thawley
An examination showed him that, even if Mrs. Jarsell had left
Thawley Station at nine o'clock exactly, she would not have reached St.
Pancras until twelve-five. This would scarcely give her time to arrive
at Blackheath. The aeroplanes had started in the race at one o'clock,
and, according to the evidence at the inquest the people had been
looking at them flying northward at the moment Durwin was stabbed. Mrs.
Jarsell could hardly have arrived on the ground by one o'clock if she
only got to St. Pancras at mid-day. And then, to do that, she would
have been obliged to leave Thawley at nine o'clock. According to George
she had not been near the station on that day, and if Mrs. Pelgrin was
to be believed, she was in the very room he now occupied at the hour
when the express departed. It was clearly impossible that she could
have got to Thawley for the nine o'clock train, let alone it being
impossible that had she caught the express she could have arrived in
London in time to execute the crime by one o'clock, or a trifle later.
Yet, on the one hand, was the evidence of Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew,
while on the other hand was the evidence of the cinematograph. One or
the other must assuredly be wrong. Of course the landlady and George
might be telling lies, but on the face of it there was no need for them
to do so. Moreover, as Dan had sprung his questions on them
unexpectedly, they could not have been ready with false answers.
"She must have used a motor-car," thought Halliday, restoring the
"A.B.C." to his bag, "yet even so, she was here at nine o'clock, and
could not have reached town in the three hours and odd minutes. D—
Mrs. Pelgrin brought in the dinner with compressed lips and showed
small disposition to chatter. Anxious not to arouse her suspicions by
asking any further questions, Dan began to talk of other matters, and
gradually she became more friendly. He told her that he had employed
George and had given him half-a-crown, since the mention of money
appeared to melt her into civility more than did anything else. Mrs.
Pelgrin smiled grimly, and observed that "George was a grasping hound,"
an amiable speech which did not argue that she was on the best of terms
with the sleepy-eyed man at Thawley Station. After Dan had learned
indirectly all he could from her he sought out Vincent's cottage, only
to learn that the inventor and his niece were absent for the day. As he
could frame no excuse to visit Mrs. Jarsell there was nothing left for
him to do but to travel back to town; therefore he found himself once
more in St. Pancras Station, comparatively early in the evening,
wondering what was the solution of this new problem.
Chapter XII. AN AMAZING ADVENTURE
Next day Dan went to look up Laurance and have a consultation, as
he was considerably puzzled over the new problem and did not know
exactly how to act. But Fate was against him, so far as having a second
opinion was concerned, for Laurance proved to be absent. An anarchistic
plot, of which "The Moment" desired to know the details, had taken him
to Vienna, and it was probable that he would not return for at least a
week. Halliday might have expected something of the sort, as in the
prosecution of his business Freddy was here, there, and everywhere,
never knowing his next destination, which depended entirely on the
latest sensation. But hitherto few startling events had summoned
Laurance out of England, and Dan had been accustomed to finding him
always on the spot for a consultation. He left the office of "The
Moment" in a rather disconsolate frame of mind.
There was no doubt that Halliday badly needed someone to talk to
about the matters which occupied his thoughts. But, failing Freddy, who
was working alongside him, he did not know any one worth
consulting—any one, that is, whose advice would be worth taking.
Certainly there were the two inspectors of police—one at Hampstead
and one at Blackheath—who were deeply interested in the respective
deaths of Moon and Durwin. They would have been delighted to discuss
the entire business threadbare in the hope of solving the mystery of
the two crimes. But Dan did not wish to bring the police into the
matter until he had more evidence to go upon. After all, what he knew
concerning Mrs. Jarsell and Penn was both vague and uncertain, while
the clue of the perfume being so slight might be scouted as ridiculous
by these cut-and-dried officials. What Halliday wished to do was to
establish a connection between the doings at Sheepeak, Blackheath, and
Hampstead on evidence that could not be questioned, so that he might
submit a complete case to the police. He could not do this until he
acquired positive proof, and he desired to acquire the same by his own
endeavours supplemented by those of Laurance. Therefore, as Freddy was
away on business, and Dan did not care about placing his unfinished
case before the inspectors, he went about his ordinary affairs, waiting
for his friend's return. This was all that he could do, and he did it
A hint from Lord Curberry had evidently made Sir John more vigilant
as regarded his niece. Dan called at the house and was denied an
interview; he wrote a letter and received no answer; and although he
haunted Bond Street and Regent Street, the park and the theatres, he
could catch no glimpse of Lillian. After three days of unavailing
endeavour he went to Bedford and attended to the transfer of his
aeroplane to Blackheath, bringing it up in the train personally. Then
he put it together again, and took short flights in the vicinity of
London, after repairing the damage done to the rudder. All the same,
his heart was not in the business of aviation at the moment, as the
detective fever had seized him, and he felt that he could not rest
until he had solved the mystery of the two crimes. But at the moment,
he saw no way by which he could advance towards a consummation of his
wishes, and simply fiddled away his time until the return of Laurance.
Then, after a threshing out of details, he hoped to make some sort of
move in the darkness.
But Fate decreed that he should act alone and without advice, and
the intimation of Fate's intention came in the form of a short letter
from Marcus Penn, asking for an interview. "I am confident," wrote the
secretary, "that from what you threatened in the aeroplane you suspect
me of knowing something relative to Sir Charles Moon's murder. As I am
entirely innocent, I resent these suspicions, and I wish you to meet me
in order that they should be cleared away. If you will meet me at the
booking-office of the Bakerloo Tube, I can take you to the person who
gave me the perfume. He will be able to tell you that I have no
connection with any one criminal." Then the letter went on to state day
and hour of the appointment, and ended with the feeble signature of the
writer. Dan always thought that Penn's signature revealed only too
plainly the weakness of his character.
Of course he intended to go, even though he remembered that Penn
had declared the identity of the person who had given him the perfume.
His cousin in Sumatra had sent the same to him, the secretary had said,
yet he now proposed to introduce Dan to another person, who was the
donor of the scent. Unless, indeed—and this was possible—the Sumatra
cousin had come to England with the intention of exonerating Penn.
Certainly, Penn might mean mischief, and might be dexterously luring
him into a trap. But Halliday felt that he was quite equal to dealing
with a timid personality such as the secretary possessed. Also, when
going to keep the appointment, he slipped a revolver into his
hip-pocket, to be used if necessary. It might be—and Dan's adventurous
blood reached fever heat at the mere idea—that Penn intended to
introduce him to his brother scoundrels, who constituted this
mysterious gang. If so, there was a very good chance that at last he
might learn something tangible concerning the organisation. Undoubtedly
there was a great risk of his losing liberty, if not life, and it was
impossible to say what precautions this society of cut-throats might
take to preserve its secrets. But Halliday was not of a nervous nature,
and, moreover, was willing to risk everything on one cast of the die,
instead of lingering in suspense. He therefore got himself ready
without saying a word to anyone, and kept the appointment. And, indeed,
now that Laurance was absent, there was no one to whom he could speak.
It chanced to be a somewhat foggy night when Dan descended to the
underground in Trafalgar Square, but out of the darkness and in the
light he had no difficulty in recognising Penn. The secretary was well
wrapped up in a heavy great-coat, and welcomed the young man with a
nervous smile, blinking his pale eyes furiously, as was his custom when
much moved. However, he spoke amiably enough, and appeared to bear no
malice against his companion, notwithstanding the threat in the
"I am glad you have come, Mr. Halliday," said Penn, in a would-be
dignified tone, "as I wish to clear my character from the grave doubts
you cast upon it when we last met."
"Your admissions favoured the grave doubts," retorted Dan lightly.
"I spoke foolishly, Mr. Halliday, as I was quite upset by your
"H'm! I wonder to see you trust yourself again with such a
bloodthirsty being as I am, Mr. Penn."
"Oh, I knew you were only bluffing in the aeroplane," said the
secretary, in a meek voice and with a shrug.
"The means you took to escape further questioning showed me that!"
The dry tone of Dan stirred the man's chilly blood to greater heat.
"You have no right to interfere with my private affairs," he said,
"But when those affairs have to do with a crime—"
"They have not. I know nothing about the matter," Penn's breath was
short, and he tried to keep his voice from quavering. "When you see my
cousin he will prove that he gave me the scent."
"Oh! then your Sumatra cousin is now in England?"
"Yes! Otherwise, I should not have asked you to come."
"Are we to meet him here?" questioned Dan, glancing round
"No. We can go to him in a taxi. I thought of the Tube first, but
we can get to our destination quicker in a motor. Come!" and Penn,
leading the way, ascended the stairs down which Halliday had lately
"Where are we going to?" asked Dan, but the secretary, being some
distance ahead, either did not hear the question, or did not desire to
reply to the same. "I suppose," added Halliday, as the two stood once
more in the foggy upper-world, "that your cousin wishes to see Mrs.
"My cousin doesn't know Mrs. Jarsell, neither do I," retorted Penn,
"Curious that she should possess the perfume," murmured Dan,
sceptically, "and one which you say is unique."
"In England that is," said the secretary, as they stepped into a
taxi-cab which evidently was waiting for them, near the Trafalgar
Square lions, "but this lady whose name you mention may know someone in
Sumatra also, and in that way the perfume may have come into her
"Ah!" Dan made himself comfortable, while Penn pulled up the
windows of the taxi, so as to keep out the damp air, "the long arm of
"The improbably usually occurs in real life and not in novels, Mr.
Dan laughed and watched the street lights flash past the blurred
windows as the taxi turned up the Haymarket. He wondered where they
were going, and as he believed that Penn would not give him any
information he carefully watched to see the route. His companion
adjusted his silk muffler well over his mouth, with a murmured
explanation about his weak lungs, and then held out a silver cigarette
case to Dan, clicking it open as he did so.
"Will you smoke, Mr. Halliday?"
"No, thank you," replied the other, cautiously, "for the present, I
don't care about it," and Penn shrugged his shoulders, evidently
understanding that Dan did not trust him or his gifts. After a time he
took out a cigarette and lighted a match.
"These cigarettes are of a particular kind," he remarked, and blew
a cloud of smoke directly under Halliday's nose, after which he
readjusted the muffler, not only over his mouth, but over his nose.
Dan started, for the whiff of smoke filled the close confinement of
the taxi with the well-known flavour of the Sumatra scent. He was about
to make a remark when the scent grew stronger as the cigarette burned
steadily with a red, smouldering tip, and he felt suddenly faint. "Pull
down the window," he gasped, and leaned forward to do so himself.
For answer, Penn suddenly pulled the young man back into his seat,
and enveloped him in a cloud of drowsy smoke, keeping his own mouth and
nose well covered meanwhile with the silk muffler. Halliday made a
faint struggle to retain his senses and the control of his muscles, but
the known world receded rapidly from him, and he seemed to be withdrawn
into gulfs of utter gloom. The last coherent thought which came into
his mind was that the pretended cigarette produced by Penn was a
drugged pastile. Then an effort to grasp the undoubted fact that he had
been lured into a skilful trap which had shut down on him, used up his
remaining will-power, and he remembered no more. Whither he went into
darkness, or what he did, Dan never knew, as there seemed to be no
break in the time that elapsed from his becoming unconscious in the
taxi and waking with the acrid smell of some reviving salts in his
nostrils. He might have been on earth or in sky and sea; he did not
know, for he opened his eyes languidly in a dense gloom.
"Where am I?" he asked, but there was no reply. His senses came
back to him with a rush, owing perhaps to the power of the stimulant
applied to bring him round. He sat up alertly in his chair, and felt
immediately that his arms were bound tightly to his sides, so that he
could not use his revolver, or even strike a match. He certainly would
have done this latter had he been able to, for he greatly desired to be
informed as to the quality of his surroundings. He presumed that he was
in a large room of some kind, and he became convinced by his sixth
sense that the room was crowded with people. When fully himself Dan
could hear the soft breathing of many unseen beings, but whether they
were men or women, or a mixture of the sexes, he could not say. Even
when his eyes became accustomed to the gloom he could discern nothing,
for the darkness was that of Egypt. And the silence, save for the
steady breathing, was most uncanny.
Dan felt it incumbent upon him to make some attempt towards
acquiring knowledge. "What is the meaning of this outrage?" he demanded
loudly and in a resolute tone, "I insist upon knowing!"
From the near distance came a whispering voice, which made him
shiver. "No one insists here," said the unknown speaker, "all obey."
"Who is it that all obey?" demanded the prisoner undauntedly.
"Queen Beelzebub!" murmured the voice, soft and sibilant.
There flashed into Dan's mind some teaching, secular or sacred—he
could not tell which at the moment—relative to a deity who had to do
with flies. A Phoenician deity he fancied, but surely if his memory
served him, a male godling. Beelzebub, the god of Flies! He remembered
now, and remembered also the trade-mark of the mysterious society
formed for the purpose of murdering various people, for various
reasons, known and unknown.
"So you have got me at last," he said aloud; "I might have guessed
that Penn would trap me."
"No names," said the unseen speaker coldly, "it will be the worse
for you if you mention names."
"Am I addressing Beelzebub?" asked Dan, and for the life of him he
could not keep the irony out of his tones, for the whole thing was so
"I see; you have given the god of Flies a consort. May I ask why I
have been brought here?"
"We intend to make you an offer."
"Who we? What we?"
"The members of the Society of Flies, of which I am the head."
"H'm, I understand. Don't you think you had better loose my hands
and turn up the lights?"
"Be silent!" ordered the voice imperiously, and, as Dan fancied,
with some hint of temper at the flippant way in which he talked, "be
silent and listen!"
"I can't help myself," said Halliday coolly, "go on, please."
There was a soft rustle, as if the unseen company admired his
courage for behaving calmly in what was, undoubtedly, a weird and
trying situation. Then some distance away a disc of red light, like a
winter sun, appeared with nerve-shaking swiftness. It revealed none of
the company, for all were still in the gloom, but concentrated its
angry rays on a large and solemn visage, unhuman in its stillness and
awful calm. It was an Egyptian face, such as belongs to the statues of
the gods of Kem, and the head-dress, stiff and formal, was also
suggestive of the Nile. Of more than usual size, Dan could only see its
vast features, but fancied that a red robe fell in folds from the neck
downward. There was something grand about this severe face, and in the
darkness, with the scarlet light gleaming fiercely on its immobility,
it was assuredly effective, if somewhat theatrical. The lips did not
move when Queen Beelzebub began to speak, but the eyes were alive; the
eyes of the person concealed behind the mask. Dan noticed that when the
face became visible in the angry red light, that the speaker ceased to
whisper, and the voice became deep, voluminous, and resonant as that of
a gong. The tone was that of a man, but it might have been a woman
speaking through an artificial mouthpiece. The final thing which Dan
noticed was that the whole atmosphere of the room reeked with the rich
fragrance of the Sumatra scent.
"You are very daring and meddlesome," said the voice, issuing in
chilly tones from behind the stately mask, "for you have intruded
yourself into affairs which have nothing to do with you."
"They have everything to do with me," retorted Halliday decisively,
and feeling reckless, "if you and your society are omniscient, you
"Omniscient is a good word. We know that you love Lillian Moon and
wish to marry her; we know that her uncle is willing this should be so,
if you discover the truth about his brother's death. You have been
searching for the assassin, and you are still searching. That search
"I think not."
"If you refuse to obey," said Queen Beelzebub, coldly, "we can put
you out of the way, as we have put others out of the way."
A faint murmur of laughter was heard, suggestive of scorn. "We care
nothing for the law," said the speaker, contemptuously.
"Oh, I think you do, or you would not have taken all this trouble
to have brought me here."
"You are here to receive an offer."
"Indeed. I shall be glad to hear the offer."
"We wish you to join the Society of Flies, and swear to obey me,
"Thank you, but an association of cut-throats does not appeal to
"Think twice before you refuse," the voice became threatening.
"I think once, and that is sufficient," returned Dan, drily.
"You are at our mercy. We can kill you as we have killed others."
"There are worse things than death. Dishonour."
"You talk like a fool," scoffed Queen Beelzebub. "What is
dishonour? Merely a word. It means nothing."
"I can well believe that it means nothing to you and your friends,
said Dan, who was weary of this fencing: "may I ask what advantage I
gain by becoming a member of your bloodthirsty gang?"
"We are an association," boomed the great voice, "banded against
the injustice of the world. We resent few people having wealth and the
majority going without the necessaries of life. Being limited in
number, the Law is too strong for us, and we cannot gain our objects
openly; therefore we have to strike in the dark."
"And your objects?"
"To equalise wealth, to give our members wealth, position, comfort,
"Oh. It's a kind of Socialistic community. You work for the poor."
"We work for ourselves."
"Rather selfish, isn't it?"
"People will only work for self, and to those who labour for us we
give all that they wish for. Become a member, and you will realise your
"Perhaps," said Halliday, in a caustic tone, "I may realise that
without your aid."
"We think not. To marry Lillian Moon you must find who murdered her
father, and that person will never be found."
"Then why stop me from searching?"
"It is a pity you should waste your time," said Queen Beelzebub
sarcastically; "besides, you are one who would do honour to our
"Perhaps. But would the society do honour to me?"
"We can give you what you desire, on certain conditions."
"What are they?"
"You must take the oath and sign the book; swear to obey me, who am
the head of this association, without question; promise to be secret,
and give all your talents to forwarding the aims of the Society of
"H'm," said Dan, coolly, "a very comprehensive oath indeed. And the
"Wealth and power. We are banded together to get what we want,
independent of the law, and we think that the end justifies the means.
We accept money from those people who desire to get rid of their
enemies, or of those who stand between them and their desires. We
supply plans of English forts to foreign powers on condition that large
sums are paid to us. We trade on the secrets of people, which we learn
in various ways. If we are asked by any member to get him something,
all the resources of the society are at his disposal. Rivals can be
removed if he wants to marry; relatives can be put out of the way if he
wishes for their money. There is no height to which an ambitious man
cannot climb with our aid. Join us, and you shall marry Lillian Moon
within the year, and also shall enjoy her large fortune."
Desirous to learn more of the villainies with which this precious
band of scoundrels was concerned, Dan temporised. "And if I refuse?"
"You will be put to death!"
"Now? At this very moment?" Dan's blood ran cold, for, after all,
he was yet young, and life was sweet to him.
"No. You will be allowed to go, and death shall fall upon you when
you least expect it. Thus your agony will be great, for death may find
you tomorrow, or in a week, a month, or a year. We are not afraid you
will tell the police, for if you do it will only hasten your end.
Besides, you do not know where you are, and shall be taken away as
secretly as you have been brought here. The Law cannot touch us,
because we work underground like moles, and even if you told the
police, your story of what has happened would only be laughed at. The
police," here the voice sneered, "think everything is known, and refuse
to believe that we exist."
"Well," said Dan, as if making up his mind, "can I ever leave the
society if I once join it?"
"Yes," said Queen Beelzebub, unexpectedly; "when you take the oath
you must swear to be sober, chaste, and secret, since these qualities
are needed to keep a member in good working trim. A certain amount of
work you must do in connection with our aims, so that you dare not
speak without being implicated in our doings. But, after a time, you
can leave with money, position, or power—whatever you desire, and then
can lead your own life, however profligate it may be. But while a
member you must be a saint."
"A black saint," murmured Dan, wondering at the solid ground upon
which this association was founded, and thinking how dangerous it could
be with its misdirected aims, "well, I don't say 'No' and I don't say
'Yes'. I must have time to think what my answer will be."
"You shall have one month to consider, and then you shall be
brought here secretly again," said Queen Beelzebub, authoritatively,
"but you will be wise if you join us. We wish you to do so because you
have brains, and we want brains. Our society will rule the world if we
get clever men to join, as the training of our members in sobriety,
chastity, self-control, and secrecy is that of the so-called saints."
"I see," said Dan cheerfully, "the Lord's Prayer said backward, so
to speak, your Majesty. Well, the whole business is clever, and
extremely well managed as I can see. I shall take my month's respite,
"And then if you say 'Yes', you will have all that the world can
give you; if you say 'No', prepare for death."
A murmur, vague and indistinct, went round the dark room. "Prepare
"And if I speak to the police in the meantime?" asked Dan, yawning.
"You have been warned that if you do, death will follow
immediately," declared Queen Beelzebub, "no human law can protect you
from us. Enough has been said, and you have thirty days to decide what
to do." As she spoke, the red light vanished as abruptly as it had
come. Dan could only hear the steady breathing of many people in the
gloom, and wondered how many members of this devilish society were
At that moment, and while the thought was yet in his mind, he felt
that a pastille was being held under his nose. The drowsy scent stole
into his brain, although he tried to avert his head, and almost
immediately he became again unconscious. Again he fell into gulfs of
gloom, and remembered nothing. When he recovered his senses, he was
seated in a four-wheeler, driving in an unknown direction, and he was
alone. His head ached, but he struck a match and looked at his watch.
It was eleven o'clock.
"Where did you find me?" he asked the cabman, putting his head out
of the window, and noticing that he was in a well-lighted street.
"A friend of yours brought you to my cab," said the man, "saying
you was drunk—dead drunk. He gave me your address, and I'm taking you
"Clever," said Dan to himself, accepting the explanation without
Chapter XIII. A BOLD DETERMINATION
Dan went to bed with an aching head, doubtless induced by the power
of the drug which had been used to stupefy him. The Sumatra perfume was
evidently both powerful and useful, as it was used by the Society of
Flies not only as a means of recognition in the form of a harmless
scent, but as a soporific to bring about insensibility. Probably many a
person had been rendered unconscious by the drowsy smoke, and taken to
the headquarters of the infernal association, there to become members.
But where the headquarters were to be found, Dan had not the slightest
notion. And, as his head pained him greatly, he decided to wait until
the next morning before thinking out the matter. Off and on he managed
to sleep a trifle, but it was not until the small hours that true
slumber came to him. It was nine o'clock when he woke, and then he
found his head clear, and the pain absent. Only an evil taste remained
in his mouth, and after a cold bath he felt more himself, although a
touch of languor remained to recall to his recollection what he had
After breakfast he lighted a pipe, and began to think over late
events as carefully as was necessary. On alighting at his own door he
had paid the driver of the four-wheeled cab, and had asked questions,
which the man was willing enough to answer. Halliday hoped by learning
where the cabman had picked him up to discover at least the
neighbourhood wherein the headquarters were situated. It was difficult
to think that an unconscious person, as he had been, could have been
taken any great distance along streets, or roads, or lanes, without
attention being attracted. But the cabman explained that the friend who
had placed his fare in the four-wheeler had removed him from a taxi,
which the friend declared had broken down. "And he wanted to get you
home, you being drunk," explained the driver, "so he shoved you into my
trap, and I drove off, having the address I was to take you to, leaving
your friend to look after the broken-down taxi, along with the
From this explanation it was apparent that on being removed from
the dark room Dan had been transported for some distance, long or
short, in the taxi. He did not believe that the same had broken down,
but that his friend—probably Marcus Penn—had hailed the first cab he
saw, and on pretence of an accident had got rid of him in this clever
way. It was West Kensington where this exchange had taken place,
according to the cabman's story, but since he had been driven an
indefinite distance by Penn in the taxi, the headquarters might be in
Hampstead, or Blackheath, or Ilford, or, indeed, anywhere round about
London, if not in the heart of the metropolis itself. All bearings were
lost by the clever way in which the return had been carried out.
And now Halliday scarcely knew what to do, or how to act. He did
not dare to tell the police, as the first sign of activity on the part
of the authorities would mean his own death in some mysterious way. He
also would be found with an artificial fly near the wound, and the
odour of the Sumatra scent on his clothes. As Dan did not wish to die,
he therefore hesitated to make any statement to Inspector Tenson of
Hampstead, who was so anxious to learn the secret and gain the reward.
In fact, he hoped that the man would not come to his rooms—he had been
there several times in quest of information—lest he should smell the
Sumatra scent. Dan found that he had brought the perfume away on his
clothes when he examined them, which was scarcely to be wondered at
considering how powerfully the dark room had reeked of the odour.
Certainly Tenson did not know the scent so well as Halliday did,
although he had experienced a whiff of it when examining the body of
Sir Charles Moon. But he might have forgotten the smell.
While Dan turned over his clothes—the blue serge suit he had worn
on the previous night—he found a piece of paper in one of the trousers
pockets which contained a message type-written in crimson ink. It was
set forth in the third person, by no less an individual than Queen
Beelzebub herself, and ran as follows-
"QUEEN BEELZEBUB warns Daniel Halliday that not only his own life
depends upon his secrecy but the life of Lillian Moon also. Should he
apply to the authorities, or in any way recount his adventures, the
girl he loves will be put out of the way, and afterwards Daniel
Halliday will be dealt with. At the end of thirty days Queen Beelzebub
expects to receive homage from her new subject, who will receive notice
of time and place fixed for the ceremony. Remember!"
"Quite a Charles-the-First ring about that last word," thought Dan,
frowning at the threatening message; "the scoundrels: they have tied my
hands with a vengeance. What the deuce am I to do?"
It was useless for him to ask himself this question as the only
answer could be, "Nothing!" If he moved in any way likely to harm the
society he ran the chance of sacrificing, not only himself, but
Lillian. It was bad enough that he should be done to death—he might
have risked that so as to break up the organisation; but it was
impossible to place the girl he loved in so dangerous a position. Queen
Beelzebub knew what she was about when she used the phrase. And
Halliday was well aware that the society had a long arm, and that
nothing could protect Lillian from these moles who were working in
darkness—clever, deadly, and unscrupulous.
For the next two days the young man went about in a dream, or
rather in a nightmare. He did not dare to see Lillian, or to write to
Lillian, lest the members of the Society should believe he was
betraying them. They appeared to have spies everywhere, and there was
no move on the chessboard which he could make which might not be
detected. Yet he could not wait passively for the rest of the thirty
days, since he had no idea of joining the band, and had only asked for
a respite so as to think out some means of escape. More than ever he
longed for the return of Laurance. He could trust him, and a
consultation between the two might evolve some scheme by which to
baffle the subjects of the accursed woman who called herself Queen
Beelzebub. Dan wondered if she was Mrs. Jarsell, but the evidence of
the perfume seemed too slight a link to join her with this deadly
organisation. Of course, there was Marcus Penn, who was a member and
knew everything; but he would not speak, since he also ran a risk of
death should he betray too much. Still, Dan, being in the same boat and
under the same ban, fancied that the secretary might be frank, as his
confidence could not be abused. Now, if he could get Penn to state
positively that Mrs. Jarsell was Queen Beelzebub, he might have
something tangible upon which to work. But, taking into consideration
the Egyptian mask, and the alteration of the voice by means of the
artificial mouth-piece, Dan believed that she wished to keep her
identity secret; always presuming that Queen Beelzebub was the "she" in
question. On this assumption Halliday concluded that Penn could not
speak out, and bothered himself for hours as to whether it would be
worth while to ask the secretary questions.
While still in this undecided frame of mind he received a morning
visit from Laurance, who turned up unexpectedly. Freddy, in pursuit of
his business, played puss-in-the-corner all over the world, coming and
going from London in the most unexpected manner. He reminded Dan of
this when the young man jumped up with an exclamation at his sudden
"You might have known that I would turn up, anyhow," he said,
sitting down, and accepting an offer to have breakfast. "I never know
where I shall be on any given date, and you must be always prepared for
the unexpected so far as I am concerned. I heard you were looking for
me, when I returned last night from Vienna, so I came along to feed
Halliday ordered his man to bring in a clean cup, and poured out
coffee, after which he heaped Freddy's plate with bacon and kidneys.
"There you are, old fellow, eat away and get yourself ready for a long
talk. I have heaps to tell you likely to be interesting."
"About the murder of Durwin?" questioned, reaching for toast.
"Yes, and about the murder of Sir Charles Moon also. You don't mind
my smoking while you eat?"
"No. Smoke away! Have you seen 'The Moment' this morning?"
"No. Anything interesting in it about your Austrian excursion?"
"Oh, yes," said Laurance, indifferently, "I managed to learn a good
deal about these anarchistic beasts, and it's set all out in print. But
that's not what I meant," he fumbled in his pockets. "Hang it! I
haven't brought a paper, and I meant to. There's a death chronicled
Dan sat up and shivered. "Another of the murders?"
"Yes. Marcus Penn this time."
"Penn!" Halliday dropped his pipe. "The devil," he picked it up
again. "I wonder why they killed him?"
"He told you too much, maybe," said Laurance, drily; "anyhow, the
gang has got rid of him by drowning him in an ornamental pond in
"He might have fallen in," suggested Dan, uneasily, "or he might
have committed suicide out of sheer terror."
"Well, he might have," admitted Freddy, thoughtfully, "but from
what I saw of the man I should think he was too great a coward to
Dan smoked in a meditative manner. "I suppose she killed him, or
had him killed," he said aloud, after a pause.
"The she-devil who presides over the Society of Flies. Queen
Laurance dropped his knife and fork to stare hard at his friend.
"So you have learned something since I have been away?"
"Several things. Wait a moment." Dan rose and retired to his
bedroom, while Freddy pushed away the breakfast things, as he did not
wish to eat further in the face of Halliday's hint, which had taken
away his appetite. In a few minutes Dan came back to the sitting-room
carrying the clothes he had worn on the night of his kidnapping, which
still retained a faint odour of the fatal scent belonging to the gang.
"Smell that," said Dan, placing the clothes on his friend's knee.
Laurance sniffed. "Is this the Sumatra scent?" he asked, "h'm;
quite a tropical fragrance. But I thought you proved to your
satisfaction that there was nothing in this perfume business?"
"I always had my doubts," said Halliday, drily, "they were lulled
by Penn's lies and reawakened when I found the scent at Mrs. Jarsell's.
Now I know all about the matter. I place my life in your hands by
"Is it as serious as that?" asked Laurance, uneasily.
"Yes. Serious to me and to Lillian also. Read that."
The journalist scanned the crimson type-writing, and his eyes
opened larger and larger as he grasped the meaning of the message.
"Where the deuce did you get this?" he demanded, hurriedly.
"I found it in my pocket when I got back the other night."
"From the headquarters of the Society of Flies."
"There is a gang then?" asked Laurance, starting.
"Yes. A very well-organised gang, presided over by Queen Beelzebub,
the consort of the gentleman of that name, who is the god of Flies."
"Where are the headquarters?"
"I don't know."
"We may be able to trace the gang by this," said Freddy, examining
the type-written paper. "If Inspector Tenson—"
"If Tenson gets hold of that and learns anything, which by the way
I don't think he can, from that paper, my life won't be worth a cent;
neither will that of Lillian. I might not care for my own life, but I
care a great deal for her. I want to have a consultation as to what is
best to be done to save her from these devils."
"Well, you can depend upon my saying nothing, Dan. It seems
serious. Tell me all about your discoveries."
Halliday did so, starting with his visit to the cinematograph with
Lillian, and his recognition of Mrs. Jarsell in the animated picture.
Then he recounted his journey to Hillshire, and what he had learned
from Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew. "So on the face of it," concluded
Dan, earnestly, "I don't see how Mrs. Jarsell could have got to London.
She didn't go by train and could not have gone by motor. Yet, I'm sure
she was on the Blackheath grounds."
"It is a puzzle," admitted Freddy, drawing his brows together, "but
go on; you have something else to tell me."
"Rather," and Dan detailed all that had taken place from the time
he received Penn's invitation to meet him in the Bakerloo Tube to the
moment when he arrived at his rooms again in the four-wheeler. "What do
you make of it all, Freddy?" asked Halliday, when he ended and
relighted his pipe.
"Give me time to think," said Laurance, and rose to pace the room.
For a time there was a dead silence, each man busy with his own
thoughts. It was Dan who spoke first, and said what was uppermost in
"Of course my hands are tied," he said dismally, "I dare not risk
Lillian's life. These beasts have killed her father, and Durwin, and
Penn, all because they got to know too much. They may kill Lillian
also, and in the same mysterious way."
"But she knows nothing," said Freddy, anxiously.
"No. But I do, and if I speak—well, then you know what will
happen. Queen Beelzebub saw that I cared little for my own life, so she
is striking at me through Lillian. "The girl he loves!" says that
message. Clever woman Mrs. Jarsell; she has me on toast."
"But, my dear fellow, you can't be sure that your masked demon is
Mrs. Jarsell, since you did not see her face, or recognise her voice."
"I admit that the mask concealed her features, and I believe that
she spoke through an artifical mouth-piece to disguise the voice.
Still, there is the evidence of her possessing the perfume, which plays
such a large part in the gang's doings. Also her appearance in the
animated picture, which proves her to have been on the Blackheath
"But Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew declare positively that she could
not have been there."
"Quite so, but Mrs. Pelgrin and her nephew may be paid to keep
silence," retorted Dan, in a worried tone; "then Miss Armour, if you
remember, prophesied that I should have a wonderful offer made to me.
If I accepted I should marry Lillian and enjoy a large fortune. Well,
an offer in precisely the same words was made to me, on condition that
I joined the gang."
"But surely you don't believe that a paralysed woman like Miss
Armour has anything to do with this business?" questioned Laurance,
Dan shrugged his shoulders. "Miss Armour is the friend of Mrs.
Jarsell, whom I suspect, and certainly told my fortune, as you heard.
Mrs. Jarsell may have told her what to say, knowing that the prophecy
would be fulfilled. I don't say that Miss Armour knows about this
infernal organisation, as the very idea would horrify her. But Mrs.
Jarsell may use the poor woman as a tool."
"I can't believe that Miss Armour knows anything," said Freddy,
decidedly; "to begin with, the Society of Flies needs useful people,
and an invalid like Miss Armour would be of no use."
"I admit that Miss Armour is in the dark," replied Halliday,
impatiently; "all the same, her prophecy, together with the perfume and
the cinematograph evidence, hints at Mrs. Jarsell's complicity. Again,
the false Mrs. Brown who murdered Sir Charles was stout and massive.
Mrs. Jarsell is stout and massive."
"Plenty of women are stout and massive," asserted the reporter,
"but you saw the false Mrs. Brown yourself. Did you recognise Mrs.
Jarsell as that person?"
"No. But Mrs. Brown was so wrinkled for a fat woman that I remember
thinking at the time she might be a fraud. I daresay—I am positive, in
fact—that her face was made up, and while I looked at her she let down
her veil—another hint that she did not wish to be examined too
"If you think that Mrs. Jarsell murdered Moon and Durwin, and you
have the evidence you speak of, you should reveal all to the police."
"And risk Lillian's life and my own? Freddy, you must take me for a
Laurance shook his head. "No. I don't underrate your cleverness,
and I see that you are in a tight place. You can't move with safety to
yourself and Miss Moon. Yet, if you don't move, what is to be done?"
"Well," said Dan, after a pause, "I have a month to think matters
out. My idea is to hide Lillian somewhere under the care of Mrs.
Bolstreath, and then take action. So long as Lillian is safe I am ready
to risk my own life to bring these mysteries to light."
"I am with you," cried Freddy, enthusiastically, "it's a good
scheme, Dan. I wonder how Miss Moon is to be hidden though; since the
Society of Flies may employ spies to find her whereabouts?"
"Oh, every member of the Society is a spy," was Halliday's answer,
"although I don't know how many members of the gang there are. Penn
could have told us, and perhaps could have proved the identity of Mrs.
Jarsell with Queen Beelzebub. But he's dead, and—"
"And was murdered," broke in Laurance decisively. "I am quite sure
that—because he could prove too much for Mrs. Jarsell's safety—he was
got rid of."
"Oh!" Dan looked up with a smile, "then you believe that Mrs.
"I don't know what to believe until more evidence is forthcoming,"
said the reporter, impatiently, "but Miss Moon's hiding-place, with
Mrs. Bolstreath as her guardian?"
Halliday reflected, and then made the last answer Freddy expected
to hear, considering the circumstances. "At Sheepeak with Miss
Vincent," he declared.
"Dan, are you serious? You place her under the guns of the enemy."
"Quite so, and there has been proof that under the guns is the
safest place in some cases. It is in this, I am sure. Should Mrs.
Jarsell be the person we suspect her to be, she will not foul her own
nest at Sheepeak. Therefore she will not dare to have Lillian killed
within a stone-throw of her own house. By daring all, we gain all."
"It's a risk," said Laurance, pondering. "I can see that."
"So can I. Everything is risky in this business."
"Then there's Mildred," rejoined the journalist, uneasily. "I
really do not want her to be brought into the matter."
"It will be all right, Freddy, and much the safer for Lillian. Mrs.
Jarsell won't have the courage to hurt my promised wife, when your
promised wife is in her company. Still, if you have qualms—"
"No, no, no!" interrupted Laurance, eagerly, "after all, I cannot
be half a friend, and if Mildred is willing, when she learns the whole
circumstance, that is, I shall agree. After all, if anything does
happen, we can accuse Mrs. Jarsell, and if she is Queen Beelzebub she
will end her career in gaol. I don't think she will risk that by
hurting the girls."
"Oh, she would never hurt Miss Vincent, I am sure, and would only
harm Lillian because I have to be frightened into joining her gang. No,
Freddy, a daring policy is the best in this case. We'll place Lillian
with Mrs. Bolstreath under Mildred Vincent's charge—under the guns of
the enemy as you say. I am sure the result will be good."
"But Sir John Moon will make a row if you take his niece away?"
"Let him," retorted Dan, contemptuously. "I can deal with that
fribble of a man. After all, Lillian need only be absent from London
for a month, and during that time we must break up the gang, with or
without the aid of the police. If we don't, I shall certainly be
murdered, like Moon and Durwin and Penn have been, and on the same
grounds—that I know too much. But I daresay Lillian will then be left
alone, and Sir John can carry out his pet scheme and marry her to
"I wonder," said Laurance, musingly, "if Curberry has anything to
do with the gang in question."
"I think not, he has nothing to gain."
"Now he hasn't," said Freddy, drily; "but he had a good deal to
gain when he was a barrister and two lives stood between him and a
title and a fortune."
The two men looked at one another. "I see what you mean," said Dan,
slowly, "h'm. Of course he may be a member and the society may have
cleared his uncle and cousin out of the way. But we can't be sure. One
thing at a time, Freddy. I am going to see Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath
and get them to fly to Sheepeak."
"But you will have to reveal what we know, and that will frighten
Dan looked vexed and gnawed his nether lip. "I don't want to say
more than is necessary," he replied, "as for their own safety, the less
they know about the business, the better. Perhaps I may induce Lillian
to elope with me to Sheepeak, and need not explain to her. But Mrs.
Bolstreath must know more."
"Well," said Freddy, putting on his hat, "I leave these matters in
your very capable hands. So far as I am concerned, I am going to
Blackheath to see about this death of Penn. I may get into the house—"
"Well?" asked Halliday, raising his eyebrows.
"Well, if Curberry does favour this Society of Flies, who knows
what I may discover? Also some truths may come out at the inquest. Penn
belonged to the gang as we know, and when he wanted a situation, he was
taken on by Lord Curberry. That hints at much. However, we shall see;
we shall see!" and with a careless nod Freddy took his leave, while Dan
changed his clothes with the intention of calling at Sir John Moon's
Owing to a late breakfast, and the long conversation with Laurance,
it was quite one o'clock before Dan reached his destination. He half
expected to be refused admittance as usual, especially when he learned
from the footman that Miss Moon was not in the house. But failing
Lillian, who had no doubt gone out on a shopping expedition and would
shortly return to luncheon, Dan sent in his name to Mrs. Bolstreath,
with a request for an interview. It was best to explain the situation
to her, he thought, since no time should be lost in assuring Lillian's
safety. The chaperon saw the young man at once, and when introduced
into the room where she was seated, he was struck by her worried air.
His thought immediately flew to the girl.
"Lillian?" he asked anxiously, "is anything the matter with
"Oh, that girl will break my heart with her freaks," said Mrs.
Bolstreath, in an irritable tone; "she knows that Sir John does not
approve of her going out by herself, and that my retaining my situation
depends upon my looking after her closely. Yet she has gone out without
"Where has she gone to?"
"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, looking at him, "I think she has gone
to Lord Curberry's house."
Dan's lip curled. "that ought to please Sir John. Is he with her?"
"No. Sir John is in the country for a few days. He would not be
pleased at Lillian going to see Lord Curberry without my being
"But why has she gone to see a man she hates?" asked Halliday,
"It is not Lord Curberry she wishes to see." Mrs. Bolstreath
hesitated. "I suppose you saw that Mr. Penn is dead?" she asked,
"It was in the morning paper, I know—that is, the announcement of
his death," said Dan. "Laurance came and told me. Well?"
"This morning Lillian received a letter from Mr. Penn, written a
few days ago, saying that if anything happened to him, she was to go to
Lord Curberry and find some important paper he has left behind him for
"Oh!" Dan started to his feet, "then Penn has left a confession?"
"A confession?" Mrs. Bolstreath looked puzzled.
"He must have guessed that his death was determined upon," said
Halliday to himself, but loud enough for his companion to hear,
"perhaps the truth will come out in that confession."
"What truth? For heaven's sake, Mr. Halliday, speak plainly. I am
worried enough as it is over Lillian's escapade. Is anything wrong?"
"A great deal. Mrs. Bolstreath, I have to confide in you in order
to save Lillian from death—from a death like her father suffered."
Mrs. Bolstreath screamed. "Oh, what is it, what is it?"
"You must be silent about what I tell you."
"Of course I shall. I can keep a secret. But tell me, tell me," she
"If you don't keep the secret all our lives are in jeopardy. There
is no time to be lost. I must follow Lillian to Curberry's house at
once. Listen, Mrs. Bolstreath, and remember every word I say is
important." Then Dan in a tearing hurry related much that he knew,
though not more than was absolutely necessary. However, he told enough
to make Mrs. Bolstreath almost crazy with terror. "Keep your head and
my confidence," said Halliday, sharply; "we must beat these demons at
their own game. Get ready and come with me to Blackheath; on the way I
can explain further."
"You think that Lillian is safe?" implored Mrs. Bolstreath,
preparing to leave the room and assume her out-of-door things.
"Yes. Yet, if Curberry is connected with the gang and thinks she is
hunting for Penn's confession, he may—but it won't bear thinking of.
We must go to Lillian at once. You will work with me to save Lillian?"
"With all my heart and soul and body," cried the chaperon, wildly.
"Then get ready and come with me at once," said Dan, imperiously.
Chapter XIV. A BUSY AFTERNOON
Lord Curberry was something of a student and a great deal of a
man-about-town, so his residence at Blackheath was an ideal one for an
individual who blended such opposite qualities. His pleasant Georgian
mansion of mellow red brick stood sufficiently far from London to
secure privacy for study, and yet was sufficiently near to enable its
owner to reach Picadilly, Bond Street, the clubs and the theatres
easily, when he felt so disposed. The chief seat of the family, indeed,
was situated in Somersetshire, but Curberry, not possessing a sporting
nature, rarely went to live in the country. The Blackheath estate was
not large, consisting only of a few acres of woodland, surrounded by a
lofty stone wall; but this wall and the trees of the park so
sequestered the house that its seclusion suggested a situation in the
very wildest parts of England. In every way, therefore, this compact
place suited Lord Curberry and he lived there for the greater part of
When Dan and Mrs. Bolstreath arrived they found that the house had
been thrown open to the public, so to speak. That is, there was a crowd
at the entrance-gates, many people in the grounds, and not a few in the
very mansion itself. There was not much difficulty in guessing that
Marcus Penn's death had drawn a morbid multitude into the neighbourhood
wherein he had come to his untimely end. Moreover, the inquest was to
be held in the house, and the public desired ardently to hear if the
verdict would be "suicide!" "Murder!" or merely "Accident!" In any
case, sensational developments were expected, since the death of the
secretary was both violent and unexpected. As a barrister, Curberry
assisted the law in every possible way and had permitted the inquest to
take place in the house instead of ordering the body of the unfortunate
man to be removed to the nearest mortuary. Everyone commented on his
kindness in this respect, and approved of his consideration. For the
time being Curberry was more popular than he had ever been before.
As Dan walked up the short avenue, and noted the disorganisation of
the establishment, he made a significant remark to the agitated
chaperon. "I don't think that Curberry will have much time to give to
Lillian. All the better isn't it?"
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," said Mrs. Bolstreath, much
"Well, Penn must have concealed his confession somewhere about the
house, so if Lillian wishes to find it, she must get rid of Curberry
"But wouldn't it be wise of her to tell him and ask him to assist
in the search?" suggested the lady.
"No. If Penn wished Curberry to see his confession, he would have
given it to him for delivery to Lillian. He doesn't want Curberry to
see what he has written. H'm"—Dan reflected that he had used the
present tense— "I forgot that the poor chap is dead."
"But surely," Mrs. Bolstreath's voice sank to a horrified whisper,
"surely you don't think that Lord Curberry has anything to do with
these horrible people you have been telling me about?"
"I say nothing—because I know nothing—for certain, that is. I
only suspect—er—well—that Curberry may be in the swim. Now don't go
and give away the show by changing your manner towards the man,"
continued Halliday, hastily; "act as you have always acted and, indeed,
I want you to make yourself as agreeable as possible. Take him away if
you can, and leave me alone with Lillian."
"But for what reason?"
"Well, if Curberry is mixed up in this shady business he will not
leave Lillian alone. He may wonder, and probably does, at her
unexpected presence here, on this day of all days; therefore he may
suspect a confession by his secretary, and will keep his eyes open."
"Oh, you go too far," cried Mrs. Bolstreath, fanning herself with
"Perhaps I do," assented Dan, in a very dry tone; "but in a case
like this it is just as well to take all necessary precautions. And in
any case Curberry will haunt Lillian's footsteps until she is out of
the house, if only to find out why she paid this unnecessary visit."
"He can ask her," said the chaperon curtly.
"He won't, if he is what I suspect him to be. But there, I may be
accusing the man wrongfully."
"I'm sure you are. Lord Curberry is a perfect gentleman."
"Perfect gentlemen have been discovered doing shady things before
now. However, you understand the comedy we have arranged. You have come
to fetch Lillian back, and I came to escort you. Then get Curberry away
on some pretext and let me have ten minutes talk with Lillian.
"Yes," gasped Mrs. Bolstreath; "but I don't like these things."
"One can't touch pitch without being defiled," quoted Dan,
cynically, as they arrived at the open hall door; "we wish to see Lord
This last question was addressed to a footman, who came to meet
them. He recognised Mrs. Bolstreath as having been in the house before
with Miss Moon, so readily explained that the young lady was with his
master in the drawing-room. Everything was so upset with the inquest,
that he never thought of asking for a card, so conducted the visitors
to where Lord Curberry was entertaining the girl. Having announced the
names and fairly pushed them into the room, the footman departed in a
hurry, as there was much excitement amongst the servants and he wished
to hear all that was being said. Had not Curberry been attending to
Lillian, he would have kept better order, as he was a severe master,
and expected decency under all circumstances. But no doubt he also was
disturbed by the unusual invasion of his house.
"My-dear-Lillian," cried Mrs. Bolstreath, in large capitals, and
advancing towards the end of the room, where Lillian was seated,
looking uncomfortable, "my dear Lillian!" She glared at Lord Curberry.
The gentleman had evidently been pressing his suit, a proceeding
which sufficiently explained Miss Moon's discomfort. He was as
cadaverous as ever in his looks, and his pale-blue eyes, thin lips and
general sneering expression struck Dan afresh as uncommonly unpleasant.
The man flushed to a brick red under Mrs. Bolstreath's glare and
hastened to excuse himself. "I am not to blame, I assure you," he said,
"Blame!" echoes Lillian, with a thankful glance at the sight of her
lover, "why do you say 'blame', Lord Curberry?"
"You ask that?" said Mrs. Bolstreath, plumping down indignantly,
"when you go away without my knowledge to pay an unauthorised visit to
a—a—a bachelor. If I thought that Lord Curberry—"
"I am not to blame," said that gentleman again with a scowl, for he
did not like to stand on the defensive.
"Of course you aren't," remarked Miss Moon, easily, and with
another glance at Dan to point her words. "I saw in the paper that poor
Mr. Penn was dead, and as he had been my dear father's secretary I came
on the impulse of the moment to learn exactly what had happened."
Curberry nodded acquiescence. "I have explained the circumstance to
Miss Moon and I shall explain matters to you, Mrs. Bolstreath! As for
Mr. Halliday," he frowned at Dan, "I don't know why he has come."
"To escort me, at my request," said Mrs. Bolstreath, coldly. "It
was necessary for me to call here, and take Lillian home. Why did you
come?" she asked again.
"To hear about Mr. Penn," repeated Lillian, rather crossly. "I have
been telling you so for the last few minutes."
"I am curious about Penn's death myself," said Dan, agreeably; "did
he commit suicide?"
Curberry wheeled at the word. "Why should he commit suicide?" he
demanded with suspicion written on every line of his clean-shaven face.
Dan shrugged his shoulder. "I'm sure I can't say," he answered
good-humouredly; "only a man in good health isn't found drowned unless
he has some reason to get into the pond."
"Penn was not in good health," said Curberry, sharply; "he was
always complaining and did his work so badly that I intended to give
"Perhaps he committed suicide because you did."
"No. I did not tell him to go, and, after all, I can't say that he
did kill himself. He was all right at luncheon yesterday, which was
when I last set eyes on him. I went to town and returned at five
o'clock to hear that he was dead. One of the servants walking in the
park found his body in the ornamental water at the bottom of the
"Did anyone push him in?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath.
"I think not. He was on good terms with the servants, although not
popular in any way. No one in my employment would have murdered him,
and, as the gates were closed and no one called between luncheon and
five o'clock yesterday, it is quite certain that he was not murdered by
a stranger. In fact, I don't believe he was murdered at all."
"Suicide, then?" suggested Dan once more, and again Curberry looked
at him unpleasantly, as if not relishing the idea.
"So far as I saw he had no intention of committing suicide," he
said in cold manner; "however, the evidence at the inquest will settle
"I expect he didn't look where he was going and fell in," said
Lillian suddenly. "Mr. Penn was always absent-minded you know."
"I frequently found him so," remarked Curberry grimly; "he made a
great mess of his work occasionally. I am inclined to agree with you,
"Well," said Dan, after a pause, "let us settle that Penn fell in
by accident, until we hear the verdict of the jury. When does the
inquest take place?"
"In another hour," responded the host, glancing at his watch; "I
was just impressing upon Miss Moon the necessity of returning home when
you arrived. I have to be present, of course, so as to state what I
know of Penn."
"You will give him a good character?" asked Halliday, pointedly.
Curberry stared in a supercilious way. "The best of characters," he
said. "I had no fault to find with him save that he was absent-minded,
a quality which no doubt accounts for his death, poor chap."
"Well, well, it's all very sad," said Mrs. Bolstreath in a matter
of fact way; "but all our talking will not bring the poor man back.
Lillian, child, we must go home, now that your curiosity is satisfied.
But first I shall ask Lord Curberry to give me some of those hot-house
flowers I see yonder," and she nodded towards a conservatory, which
could be entered from the drawing-room by means of a French window.
"Oh, I shall be charmed," said Curberry, with alacrity; "and
perhaps Miss Moon will come also to choose the flowers."
"I can wait here," replied Lillian, carelessly. "I have every
confidence in Mrs. Bolstreath's choice."
Curberry scowled at Dan, for he understood well enough that Lillian
wished to remain with his rival. However, he could make no further
objection without appearing rude, so he moved reluctantly towards the
conservatory beside the chaperon. Yet Dan saw plainly that he was
determined not to lose sight of the two, for he plucked the flowers
which were directly in front of the French window, and thus could gain
a view of the young couple every now and then, when facing round to
speak with Mrs. Bolstreath. Lillian noticed this espionage, also, and
whispered to Dan, who had sauntered across the room close to her elbow.
"He won't let us out of his sight," said Lillian, rapidly, "and I
can't get to the library, although I have been trying all the time."
"Why do you wish to get to the library?" asked Dan, in a low voice.
Lillian rose suddenly and dropped a piece of paper. "Put your foot
on it and pick it up when he is not looking," she said, swiftly; "hush,
he's coming back," and then she raised her voice as Curberry returned
to the room. "Of course Mr. Penn was always nervous. I really think his
health was bad."
"Still on the disagreeable subject of the death," remarked
Curberry, who had a handful of flowers to offer. "I wish you wouldn't
think of these things, Lillian—I beg pardon, Miss Moon. Please take
these flowers and let me escort you and Mrs. Bolstreath out of the
house. Its atmosphere is uncomfortable just now."
He took no notice of Dan, but offered his arm to Lillian. With a
swift glance at her lover, at Mrs. Bolstreath, at the room, the
flowers, at anything save Dan's right foot, which was placed firmly on
the scrap of paper, she accepted his offer. The chaperon followed, and
when Curberry's back was turned she noticed that Halliday stooped
swiftly to pick up the paper. But that he gave her a warning glance she
would have asked an indiscreet question. As it was, she went after her
host and pupil, walking beside Dan, who had now slipped the paper into
his trousers pocket. But Mrs. Bolstreath could not restrain her
"What is it?" she whispered, as they walked into the entrance hall.
"Nothing! Nothing!" he replied, softly. "take Lillian home at once.
I shall follow later," and with this Mrs. Bolstreath was obliged to be
content, although she was desperately anxious to know more.
"I wish I could escort you home," said Curberry, as the two ladies
and he stood on the steps; "but my duty keeps me here for the inquest.
Perhaps Mr. Halliday will oblige."
"I am afraid not," said Dan, stolidly. "I promised to meet my
friend Mr. Laurance here. He is coming about the matter of Penn's
death. Why, there he is." And sure enough, at a moment that could not
have been better chosen, Freddy appeared advancing up the avenue.
"Well," said Mrs. Bolstreath, catching a significant glance from
Dan. "We are not able to wait and chat. Lord Curberry, we detain you."
"No! no! Let me walk for some distance with you," cried Curberry,
and bareheaded as he was he strolled down the avenue between the two
ladies. Laurance took off his hat and Lillian bowed graciously, as did
Mrs. Bolstreath. But Lord Curberry took no notice of the reporter
beyond a rude stare.
"That's just as it should be," remarked Halliday, watching the
man's retreating form, while Freddy came up to him; "you're just the
man we want."
"We?" echoed Laurance, glancing round.
"Lillian and myself. See here, this is the note sent by Penn to
her, and it asks her to do something which she has not been able to
accomplish owing to our noble friend's vigilance."
"I'm just going to find out. I haven't read the note as yet," and
with a second glance to make sure that Curberry was at a safe distance
Dan opened the piece of paper, and read it hurriedly. A moment later he
slipped it again into his pocket and took Freddy's arm. "It's only a
few lines saying that Penn has left a document which he wishes Lillian
to read. It is to be found between the pages of the second volume of
Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall'. Hum! So that is why Lillian wished to get
into the library."
"Let me go," said Freddy, eagerly.
"No! no! You catch Curberry as he returns and keep him in
conversation on some plea or other. Then I can slip into the house and
seek the library without being noticed."
"Won't the servants—"
"Oh, the house is all upset this day with the inquest, and everyone
is wandering about more or less at large. I'll chance it."
"But if Lord Curberry asks for you?"
"Say that I am in the library and that I am waiting to have an
"On what subject?" asked Laurance, rather puzzled by this scheming.
"I'll find the subject," said Dan, retreating towards the door of
the house; "all I want is five minutes in the library to find the
confession. Detain Curberry for that time. Here he is coming back and
here I am going forward."
As he spoke Dan vanished into the house and came face to face with
the butler. "I am waiting for Lord Curberry," said Dan, "will you show
me into the library, please."
Suspecting nothing wrong and impressed by Dan's cool manner, the
butler conducted him to the room in question, and after intimating that
he would tell his lordship, departed, closing the door. Halliday ran
his eye round the shelves, which extended on three sides of the large
compartment from floor to ceiling. It seemed impossible to find the
book he was in search of, in so short space of time as would probably
be at his disposal. He wished that Penn had indicated the position of
Gibbon's masterpiece. However, Halliday, by a stroke of luck, suddenly
realised that Curberry numbered his shelves alphabetically, and
catalogued his books so to speak by the initial letter of the author's
name. Those beginning with "A" were placed on the shelf ticketed with
that letter, as Allison, Allen, Anderson, and so on, while the shelf
"B" contained Browning, Bronte, Burns, and others. Going by this way of
finding the whereabouts of books, Dan discovered Gibbon's "Decline and
Fall" on shelf "G" and laid his hand on the second volume. But as luck
would have it, Lord Curberry suddenly entered the room just as he was
about to open it. Halliday looked up, retaining the volume in his hand.
"I am rather surprised to see you here, Mr. Halliday," said
Curberry, in a cold and haughty tone, "you know that I am busy with
this inquest and have no time for conversation. Besides," he looked
hard at his visitor, "you could have explained your business out of
"Not in the presence of the ladies," said Dan promptly; "however, I
won't keep you more than five minutes," and he wondered how he was to
secure the confession without the knowledge of his host.
"I am waiting to hear what you have to say," said Curberry,
throwing his lean figure into a chair, "you have been making yourself
at home," he added, with a sneer, glancing at the book.
Dan laid it on the table. "I took up Gibbon's second volume, just
to pass the time," said he carelessly, "I apologise if you think me
"I don't think anything," rejoined Curberry, with a shrug, "except
that I am anxious to know why you desire a private conversation."
"It is about Lillian—"
"Miss Moon, if you please."
"Lillian, to me, Lord Curberry."
"Nothing of the sort, Sir," cried the other suitor furiously, and
his pale eyes grew angry. "Sir John Moon wishes me to marry his niece."
"Probably, but his niece wishes to marry me."
"That she shall never do."
"Oh, I think so. And what I wish to say, Lord Curberry, is
this—that you annoy Miss Moon with your attentions. They must cease."
"How dare you; how dare you; how dare you!"
"Oh, I dare anything where Lillian is concerned," retorted
Halliday, and again in a careless manner took up the book, leaning
against the table and crossing his legs as he did so.
"Leave my house," cried Curberry, starting to his feet, for this
nonchalant behaviour irritated him greatly.
"Oh, willingly! I simply stayed to warn you that Lillian must not
be annoyed by you in any way."
"And if I do not obey you?" sneered the other, quivering with rage.
"I shall make myself unpleasant, Lord Curberry."
"Do you know to whom you are speaking?"
"Well," said Dan, slowly, and with a keen glance at the angry face,
"I am not quite sure. I am not Asmodeus to unroof houses, you know."
Curberry's yellow face suddenly became white, and his lips trembled
nervously. "I don't understand you."
"I scarcely understand myself, and—"
"Wait," interrupted Curberry, as a knock came to the door, "there
is no need to let everyone overhear our conversation. Come in!" he
The butler entered. "You are wanted at the inquest, my lord," he
said, and as Curberry's face was bent inquiringly on that of the
servant, Dan seized the opportunity to slip a stiff sheaf of papers out
of the Gibbon volume. As a matter of fact, it was three or four sheets
joined at the corner by a brass clasp. Scarcely had he got it in his
hand when Curberry wheeled, after hurriedly telling the butler that he
would come shortly.
"What have you there?" demanded the host, advancing menacingly.
"Some papers of mine," said Dan, preparing to put the sheets into
"It's a lie. You must have taken them from the table, or out of
that book, Mr. Halliday. Yes, I am sure you did. Give me what you have
"No," said Dan, retreating before Curberry's advance, "you are not
Before he could get out another word, the man flung himself forward
and made a snatch at the papers. Held loosely by the corner clasp they
flew into a kind of fan, and Curberry managed to grasp one or two of
the sheets. In the momentary struggle these were torn away, and then
the owner of the house released himself suddenly. The next moment he
had flung the sheets into the fire, apparently thinking he had got them
all. Dan cleverly thrust the one or two remaining sheets into his
pocket, and played the part of a man who has been robbed.
"How dare you destroy my papers," he cried indignantly.
"They were mine," said Curberry, gasping with relief, "and now they
"They were Penn's," retorted Halliday, sharply, "perhaps that is
why they have been destroyed by you."
"What do you mean; what do you mean?"
"Never mind. I think you understand."
"I don't. I swear I don't."
"In that case," said Dan, slowly, "you can make public the fact
that I came into your library to find a document in the second volume
of Gibbon, which was placed there by Marcus Penn. But you won't, Lord
"If the papers were not destroyed, I would place them before the
Coroner at once," said Curberry, wiping his face and with a glance at
the fire on which fluttered a few black shreds—all that remained of
what he had thrown in. "I think you must be mad to talk as you do."
"If I am, why not make the matter public?" asked Dan, drily.
"I don't care about a scandal," said Curberry, loftily.
"Well," Halliday retreated to the library door, "perhaps the death
of Penn will be scandal enough. Those papers doubtless contained an
account of the reasons which led to his death."
"I'm sorry that I burnt them then," said Curberry in a studied tone
of regret. "I am an impulsive man, Mr. Halliday, and you should not
have annoyed me in the way you did. How did you know that the papers
were in the second volume of Gibbon?"
"Were they addressed to you?"
"What were they about?"
"D— you, sir, how dare you?"
"Good day, Lord Curberry," interrupted Dan, and walked out of the
room, leaving his host looking the picture of consternation and dread.
Chapter XV. ABSOLUTE PROOF
It did not require a particularly clever man to guess that Lord
Curberry was connected with the Society of Flies. Had he been entirely
ignorant of that association, he would not have displayed such
agitation when he saw the paper in Dan's hand, nor would he have
struggled to gain possession of them, much less have destroyed them.
Penn certainly was one of the gang, and on that account, probably,
Curberry had engaged him as a secretary after the death of Moon. Also
he may have had some suspicion that Penn was a traitor, and had guessed
that the papers betrayed the society. Otherwise, he would have placed
the same before the Coroner, so as to elucidate the reason why the
secretary had been done to death. That he had been, Halliday was quite
convinced, as Penn was too nervous a man to commit suicide and must
have been assisted out of the world by some other person.
"But the verdict of suicide has been brought in," argued Laurance,
when Dan related his adventures.
"I daresay. Curberry's evidence was to the effect that Penn had
been considerably worried of late. Of course, that is true, but he
wouldn't have killed himself, I'll swear. However!" Dan chuckled, "I
have a sheet or two remaining of the confession, and we may learn much
"Will it state that Curberry belonged to Queen Beelzebub's gang?"
"I think so. If Curberry does not, he would have made a row and
kicked me out of the house. I had no business in the library and no
right to take the papers, you know. But I defied Curberry to create a
scandal, and left him in a pleasing state of uncertainty as to what I
knew and what I intended to do. He was green with fright."
"You had better take care, Dan, or the society will murder you,"
warned Laurance, in an uneasy tone.
"Oh, I'm safe enough for the given month," returned Halliday,
positively; "so far, I have said nothing, and until I do notify the
authorities all will be well with me."
"But Miss Moon?"
"I join her, and Mrs. Bolstreath, at St. Pancras this evening, to
catch the six o'clock express to Thawley. Have you written to Miss
"Yes. There is no time to receive a reply, but she is aware that
the ladies will stay at the Peacock Hotel, Sheepeak, under the wing of
Mrs. Pelgrin. I only hope," added Freddy, emphatically, "that you are
doing right in placing Miss Moon in the lion's mouth."
"Under the guns of the enemy, you said before. Oh, yes, I am right,
especially now that I hold a part of Penn's confession. I shall
contrive to let Mrs. Jarsell know that I do, and that if anything
happens to Lillian, I can make it hot for her."
"Does the confession implicate Mrs. Jarsell?"
"Yes, it does. I have not had time to decipher the crooked writing
of our late friend, but intend to do so when in the train this evening.
But the little I saw, hinted that Mrs. Jarsell was in the swim."
"I wish you would leave the confession with me," said Laurance, who
was desperately anxious to know the exact truth.
"Can't, my dear fellow, nor have I time to let you read it, even if
I had it on me, which I haven't. My taxi is at the door of this office,
and I'm off to St. Pancras in five minutes. Remember, Freddy, that this
confession is my sole weapon to protect Lillian. When Mrs. Jarsell
learns that I have it, she will not dare to move, and will keep her
subjects off the grass also."
"But Curberry will tell her that he has destroyed the confession."
"So he thinks," chuckled Halliday, "but I shall tell her that I
rescued enough of it to damn her and her precious gang."
"But how can you tell her without danger?"
"I shall find a way, although I haven't formulated any scheme as
yet. Perhaps she will ask me what all this—the story of Queen
Beelzebub you know—has to do with her. I shall reply that it has
nothing to do with her, but that I know how she desires to assist in my
love affair. Oh, I'll manage somehow, old son, you may be certain.
"Wait a moment," said Laurance, following Dan to the door, "what
about Sir John Moon? He will make a row over Lillian's flight, and you
will get into trouble."
"He may make a row if he likes, but as Lillian is under the wing of
Mrs. Bolstreath, her duly-appointed chaperon, I don't see what he can
say. She is quite ready to take all blame."
"Of course," said Laurance, thoughtfully, "Sir John may belong to
the society himself, in which case, like Curberry, he dare not make a
"No," rejoined Dan, positively, "I don't believe Sir John belongs
to the gang. I wish he did, as it would smooth things. Curberry dare
not make open trouble, because he is one of Queen Beelzebub's subjects,
but Sir John may because he isn't. However, I shall risk taking Lillian
away with Mrs. Bolstreath to play the part of dragon, and Sir John can
do what he jolly well likes. Luckily, he is in the country on a visit
just now, so we can get clear away without a fuss. By the way, you were
at the inquest. Was there any fly found on Penn's body, or was there
mention of any scent?"
"No. The man was drowned, and it was not possible for either scent
or fly to be on his corpse or clothes. The evidence clearly pointed to
"H'm. Curberry brought that about," said Dan grimly; "however, I am
jolly well sure that Penn was murdered by one of the gang."
"Not by Curberry. He was away at the time of the death."
"Perhaps. I'd like to be certain of that. But in any case, he may
have others of the gang in his employment, who could polish off the
traitor. Queen Beelzebub's subjects are of all classes, Well, I'm off."
Halliday took his way to St. Pancras forthwith, and found Mrs.
Bolstreath and her charge waiting for him. Lillian was greatly excited
and curious, as she did not yet know the reason for this sudden trip
northward. Instructed by Dan, the chaperon had refused to impart
knowledge, as the young man intended to tell the girl everything when
they were in the train. However, Miss Moon was enjoying the unexpected
journey and had every faith in her companion. Also, so long as she was
in Dan's company, she did not care where she went, or why she went, or
when she went. She loved Halliday too completely for there to be any
room for distrust in her mind.
"Dan," said Mrs. Bolstreath, when they were stepping into the
first-class compartment which Halliday had wired to reserve to
themselves, "I have written to Sir John saying that Lillian required a
change, and that I was taking her to Hillshire, to see some friends of
mine. When he has this explanation he will not make any trouble, or
even any inquiries. He has every trust in me."
"Good," said Dan, heartily, "you make an excellent conspirator."
"Conspirator," echoed Lillian, gaily, "now what does that
mysterious word mean, Dan? I am quite in the dark."
"You shall know all before we get to Thawley. Make yourself
"Do we stay at Thawley?" asked the girl, arranging her rug.
"For the night. I have telegraphed, engaging rooms for you and Mrs.
Bolstreath at the best hotel. To-morrow we go to Sheepeak."
"Where is that?"
"Some miles from Thawley. You must live quietly for a short time,
"It's all immensely exciting, of course," cried Miss Moon,
petulantly, "but I should like to know what it all means."
"Patience! Patience!" said Dan, in a teasing tone, "little girls
should be content to wait. By jove, we're off."
The long train glided out of the station, gathering impetus as it
left the lights of London behind. Mrs. Bolstreath made herself
comfortable in one corner of the compartment, and Lillian did the same
in another corner, while Dan sat on the opposite seat and addressed his
conversation to both impartially. The girl could scarcely restrain her
impatience, so anxious was she to learn the reason for this unexpected
"Now, Dan, now!" she cried, clapping her hands, "there is no stop
until Bedford, so we have plenty of time to hear the story."
"One minute," said Halliday, who was now in possession of the three
sheets of foolscap, which he had rescued from Curberry's grip, "I must
bring the story up to date, and cannot do so until I read this
statement. By the way, Lillian, why should Penn send to you about the
"I'm sure I don't know. But, of course, he knew how grieved I was
over my father's murder, and perhaps wished to set my mind at rest."
Dan looked at her curiously. "Why should you think that Penn knew
of anything likely to set your mind at rest on that point?"
Lillian cast down her eyes thoughtfully. "I always thought that Mr.
Penn knew much more than he would confess about poor father's death. I
quite forgot that I thought so until I got the letter asking me to look
into the second volume of Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall' in Lord
Curberry's library. Dear me!" murmured the girl, folding her hands,
"how I did try to get into the library."
"Curberry would not let you?"
"No. I think he was puzzled why I wished to go. But he did not ask
me any questions."
"I quite believe that," said Dan, grimly; "asking questions was a
dangerous game for him to play. However, when he found me in the
library, he evidently recalled your desire to go there, and it flashed
across him that we were working in concert. No wonder he destroyed the
papers on the chance that Penn might have left incriminating evidence
"I don't know what you are talking about," said Lillian, fretfully.
"Well," observed Dan, smoothing out the foolscap, "Penn, no doubt,
left the clue as to the whereabouts of the confession to you, so that
you might learn who murdered your father."
"Ah, I always believed Mr. Penn knew. Is the name in that paper?"
she asked eagerly, and leaning forward.
"It may or it may not be, dear. You see the greater part of the
confession was destroyed by Lord Curberry. He was afraid."
"Dan!" Lillian caught her lover's hand, "you don't think that Lord
Curberry killed my father?"
"No, no, no!" said Halliday, quickly. "I am sure he did not.
However, you shall hear all that I know, and Laurance knows, and all
that Mrs. Bolstreath is acquainted with. Only let me read these few
The girl, on fire with curiosity, would have objected, but that
Mrs. Bolstreath touched her shoulder significantly. With an effort to
restrain her curiosity which was creditable considering the
circumstances, she nestled into her corner of the carriage, while Dan
glanced through the manuscript. In spite of Penn's crooked
handwriting—and it was very bad indeed—it did not take much time for
the young man to master the contents of the confession. He uttered an
exclamation of vexation when he reached the end.
"Like a serial story, it breaks off at the most interesting part,"
he said, crossly. "However, I have learned something."
"What have you learned?" demanded Mrs. Bolstreath immediately.
"All in good time," said Halliday, quietly. "I must first tell
Lillian what we both know, and then I can bring our discoveries up to
date by saying what is in this confession," and he tapped his
breast-pocket, wherein he had placed the sheets. "Now then, Lillian."
"Now then, Dan," she mocked, "just tell me all, for I cannot keep
silence any longer."
"You will have to, if you desire to hear the story. Only don't be
worried by what I am about to tell you. You are safe with me."
Lillian shrugged her shoulders, as if to imply that there was no
need for him to state such a plain truth, and looked at him with
inquiring eyes. As she appeared to be brave and collected, Dan had no
hesitation in relating to her all that he had already told Mrs.
Bolstreath, and thus the girl became thoroughly informed of the
underhand doings which had taken place since the death of her father.
As Halliday explained, her eyes became larger and rounder and more
shining. Still, the colour did not leave her cheeks, and although she
was intensely interested, she did not display any fright. This was
creditable to her courage, considering that the revelation hinted at
many possible dangers to herself and to her lover. Dan brought the
story up to the time they started from London, and then waited to hear
"It's dreadful and wonderful, and very horrid," said Lillian,
drawing a deep breath; "do you think that Mr. Penn murdered my father?"
"No. The evidence of the girl to whom he was dictating letters to
be type-written proves that he did not enter the library at the time
when the death was supposed to have taken place—"
"Then Lord Curberry? He—"
"I don't believe Lord Curberry, either directly or indirectly, had
anything to do with the matter," said Dan, decisively. "Sir Charles
approved of his suit rather than of mine, so it was to Curberry's
interest to keep your father alive and well. My dear, it was the false
Mrs. Brown who killed Sir Charles, and she came as an agent of this
ghastly Society of Flies, because he got to know too much about the
"Then Mrs. Brown is Mrs. Jarsell?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath,
"I can't be sure of that," said the young man, thoughtfully; "of
course, the sole evidence that proves Mrs. Jarsell to be connected with
the gang is the presence of the Sumatra scent in her Hillshire house,
and her presence on the Blackheath grounds when Durwin was murdered."
"But, by your own showing, she could not have reached London in
"That is quite true, and yet I recognised her plainly enough on the
day Lillian and I saw the animated pictures. However, we can leave that
fact alone for the moment. I am certain that Mrs. Jarsell is Queen
Beelzebub, for Penn says as much." He tapped his breast-pocket again.
"Oh," cried Lillian, eagerly, "what does the confession say?"
"I'll give you the gist of it," replied Halliday, quietly. "Penn
begins with a statement of his early life. He was the son of a
clergyman, and his mother is still alive. From a public school he went
to Cambridge, and thence to London, where he tried to make a living by
literature. Not being clever he did not succeed, and fell into low
water. I am bound to say that he did not trouble much about his own
poverty, but seemed to be greatly concerned on account of his mother,
who is badly off—so he says. Then he was tempted and fell, poor
"Who tempted him?" demanded Mrs. Bolstreath.
"A young man whom he met when he was staying in a Bloomsbury
boarding-house, very hard up. The man said that he belonged to a
society which could make its members rich, and proposed to introduce
Penn. This was done, in the same way, I presume, in which I was taken
to these mysterious headquarters. The first fruits of Penn's connection
with Queen Beelzebub was that Sir Charles Moon engaged him as
secretary, so, getting a good salary, he was enabled to give his mother
Lillian looked alarmed. "But my father did not belong to the
"No. Of course he didn't. But Penn was placed as his secretary—the
business was managed through Curberry, who does belong to the gang—so
that he might inveigle Sir Charles into becoming a member. Penn appears
to have lost his nerve, and did not dare to persuade Sir Charles, so
another person was put on to the business. The name is not given."
"But why did Queen Beelzebub wish my father to belong to her gang?"
asked Lillian, with natural perplexity.
"The reason is plain, my dear. Sir Charles was an influential man,
and could be of great service to the association. He learned enough to
show him that a dangerous organisation existed, and then sent for Mr.
Durwin, who belonged to New Scotland Yard, so that he might reveal what
he knew. Penn learned this, since he saw the letter written by your
father, Lillian, and at once told the society. Then the false Mrs.
Brown was sent to stop Sir Charles, and—" Dan made an eloquent gesture
with his hands. There did not seem to be much need of further
"Mrs. Brown undoubtedly murdered Sir Charles," commented Mrs.
Bolstreath, in a thoughtful way, "but is she Mrs. Jarsell?"
"Penn says as much," repeated Dan, who had made the same remark
earlier, "but it is just at that point he ends. Listen, and I shall
read you the last sentence," and Halliday took the papers from his
pocket. The three sheets were intact, as Curberry only rent away the
rest from the brass clasp. At the end of the third page Halliday read,
"Mrs. Jarsell of the Grange, Hillshire, can explain how Mrs.—" Dan
broke off with a frown. "Here we come to the end of the page, and can
learn no more. Curberry burnt the most important part of the
confession, which doubtless gave full details of Mrs. Jarsell's
connection with the gang."
"She could explain about Mrs. Brown, I suppose," said Lillian,
"Yes. The first word over the page is, I am certain, Brown. What is
more, I believe Mrs. Jarsell and Mrs. Brown are one and the same."
"If I see Mrs. Jarsell, I may recognise her, Dan. I saw the false
Mrs. Brown, remember, and it was because of me that she was admitted to
an interview with my father."
"If you do recognise her, which I doubt, you must not let on that
you know who she really is," Dan warned the girl; "our business just
now, and until we get more evidence, is to pretend entire ignorance of
these things. You are up in Hillshire for a change of air, Lillian, and
know nothing. Mrs. Jarsell, relying on the clever way in which she was
disguised, will never dream that you connect her with the poor woman
who came on that fatal night to see your father. You understand?"
"Quite," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, before the girl could speak, "and
I shall see that Lillian acts her part of knowing nothing."
"Remember that you deal with an extraordinarily clever woman, Mrs.
"I am a woman also, so diamond can cut diamond."
"But, Dan," asked Lillian, timidly, "do you think that Mrs. Jarsell
really did murder my father?"
"On what evidence we have, I believe she did. She murdered your
father and Durwin because they knew too much, and I should not be
surprised to learn, in spite of the verdict at the inquest, that she
got rid of Penn."
"Why should she?"
"Penn let out too much to me," explained Dan, putting away the
confession, "and, in any case, was a weak sort of chap, who was a
source of danger to the society. Queen Beelzebub, who is, I believe,
Mrs. Jarsell, evidently thought it was best to silence him. I am sure
that Penn did not commit suicide, and was drowned by Mrs. Jarsell.
Still, in the absence of further evidence, we can do nothing."
"What action will you take now?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, quickly.
"Before leaving Thawley to-morrow morning," said Halliday, after a
pause, "I shall post this confession to Laurance, and tell him to make
use of it only should he hear that anything happens to me."
"Or to me," chimed in Lillian, and looked a trifle nervous.
"My dear, nothing can happen to you," said Dan, decidedly, "cheek
by jowl, as it were, with Mrs. Jarsell, you are perfectly safe. Queen
Beelzebub confines her doings to London and keeps the name of Mrs.
Jarsell clean in Hillshire, for obvious reasons. The Grange is her
place of refuge, and no one would connect an innocent country lady with
criminal doings in London. If she is what we think her to be, she will
not hurt a hair of your head in Hillshire."
"All the same, I don't intend to see her," said Lillian,
"There is no reason that you should. She may call and try to learn
why you are staying at The Peacock Hotel, and if so, will probably ask
you to The Grange. Don't go," ended Dan, emphatically.
"Of course not," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, equally decisive; "leave
that to me, since I am responsible for Lillian."
"You can say that I am ill with nerves or consumption, or
something," said the girl, vaguely. "I don't want to meet the woman if
she murdered my father."
"If you do," said Dan, impressively, "don't reveal your
suspicions," and then he went on to instruct the two ladies how they
were to behave in the enemy's country. That they were safe there, so
long as they pretended ignorance, Dan did not doubt, but should Mrs.
Jarsell learn that they knew so much about her, she might adopt a
counsel of despair and strike. It did not do to drive so dangerous a
woman into a corner.
For the rest of the journey very little was said. The subject had
been thoroughly threshed out. Lillian had been informed of what was
going on, and all plans had been made for the future. The girl was to
live at The Peacock and see Miss Vincent, and chat with Mrs. Pelgrin,
and take walks and admire the country, and to conduct herself generally
as one who came simply for a change of air. If she did not go to The
Grange—and on the plea of illness, she could excuse herself from
going—Mrs. Jarsell could not harm her in any way. And, indeed, even if
Mrs. Jarsell did succeed in getting her to come to afternoon tea, Dan
had a plan in his head whereby to ensure Lillian against any use being
made of the Sumatra scent. It was a daring thing to take Miss Moon into
the jaws of the lion, yet that very daring would probably prove to be
her safeguard. But Halliday had done what he could to guard against the
events of a threatening future, and now could only wait to see what
would take place. At the moment there was nothing more to be done.
In due course the train arrived at Thawley Station, and Dan singled
out George Pelgrin to convey luggage to a cab. Mindful of his last tip,
George displayed great alacrity in performing his duties as porter,
and, what is more, when he received another half-crown gave
inadvertently a piece of valuable information, which Halliday was far
"That's the second two-and-six since yesterday," said George,
spitting on the coin for luck. "Mrs. Jarsell gave me the same when she
came back yesterday evening."
"Oh!" Dan was startled, but did not show it, "your Sheepeak friend
has been to London then?"
"Went a couple of days ago, and came back last night," said
Pelgrin, "and she says to me, 'George, look after my traps, for you're
the only smart porter in this station,' she says. Ah, she's a kind lady
is Mrs. Jarsell, and that civil as never was. There's the luggage in
the cab all right, Sir. The Vulcan Hotel? Yes, sir. Drive on, cabby."
Mrs. Bolstreath and Lillian had not heard this conversation, but
Dan pondered over it on the way to the hotel. Mrs. Jarsell had then
been in London at the time of Penn's death, and probably—although he
could not prove this—she was responsible for the same. When the young
man arrived at the hotel, and the ladies went to rest, he wrote a
letter to Laurance, detailing the new fact he had learned, and
instructed him what use to make of the confession if anything happened
to himself in Hillshire. Then he enclosed the confession and went out
personally to register the packet. Once it was posted he felt that he
had done all that was possible.
"And now," said Dan, to himself, "we'll see what more Queen
Beelzebub will make."
Chapter XVI. DAN'S DIPLOMACY
Mrs. Pelgrin welcomed her unexpected guests with great delight and
showed her appreciation of their coming by emphatic aggressiveness. Why
she should mask a kind heart and an excellent disposition by assuming a
brusque demeanour is not very clear, but certainly the more amiable she
felt the more disagreeable did she become. In fact, the landlady
appeared to believe that honesty of purpose was best shown by blunt
speeches and abrupt movements. Consequently, she did not get on
particularly well with Mrs. Bolstreath, who demanded respect and
deference from underlings, which Mrs. Pelgrin positively declined to
render. She termed the chaperon "a fine madam," in the same spirit as
she had called Dan "a butterfly," and was always ready for a war of
words. But, admiring Lillian's gay and lively character, she waited on
the girl hand and foot, yet with an air of protest to hide the real
satisfaction she felt at having her in the house. To Mrs. Pelgrin,
Lillian was a goddess who had descended from high Olympus to mingle for
a time with mere mortals.
Out of consideration for Halliday's desire to seek safety for
Lillian by placing her under the guns of the enemy, Mrs. Bolstreath
decided to remain a week at The Peacock Hotel. Later she arranged to go
to Hartlepool in Durhamshire, where she and her charge could find
shelter with two spinsters who kept a school. The chaperon admitted
that she felt uneasy in the near vicinity of Queen Beelzebub, and all
Dan's assurance could not quieten her fears. She thought that he was
playing too bold a game, and that ill would come of the stay at
Sheepeak. Lillian was more confident, always confident that Dan could
do no wrong, and she was quite indifferent to Mrs. Jarsell's doings.
However, she agreed to go to Hartlepool, and as Mrs. Bolstreath was
bent upon the change, Halliday accepted the situation.
Meanwhile, he decided to call at The Grange on some innocent
pretext and diplomatically give Queen Beelzebub to understand that he
held the winning card in the game he was playing with the Society of
Flies. This could be done, he ventured to think, by pretending that
Mrs. Jarsell knew nothing about the nefarious association, and he did
not believe that she would remove her mask, since it was to her
interest to observe secrecy in Hillshire. However, he left this matter
of a call and an explanation in abeyance for the time being, and for a
couple of days attended to the three ladies. The third, it is needless
to say, was Mildred Vincent, who called at The Peacock Hotel on receipt
of her lover's letter. She gave Dan to understand that he was out of
favour with the inventor.
"Uncle has never forgiven you for not winning the race," said
Mildred, at afternoon tea; "he says you should have gained the prize."
"I wish I had," said Halliday, drily, "the money would have been
very acceptable. It was my fancy-flying did the mischief, as I broke
the rudder. However, I shall call and apologise."
"He won't see you, Mr. Halliday."
"Ah, that's so like an inventor, who is as touchy as a minor poet."
"Mrs. Jarsell is annoyed also," continued Mildred, sadly; "she says
you should have made a better use of the favour she procured for you."
"It seems to me that I am in hot water all round, Miss Vincent. All
the same, I shall survive these dislikes."
"It is absurd," cried Lillian, with indignation. "Dan risked his
life to win the race, and if he hadn't had such bad luck he would have
"Thanks, my dear girl, but it was less bad luck than carelessness,
and a certain amount of vanity, to show how I could handle the
"You are very modest, Dan," said Mrs. Bolstreath, laughing.
"It is my best quality," replied Halliday, with a twinkle in his
"Where is Mr. Vincent's machine now?" questioned Mildred.
"At Blackheath stored away. I suppose, as it was only lent I shall
have to return it to your uncle. But I shall have a final fly on it
when I go back to London in a few days."
"Does Miss Moon go back also?"
"Not to London," interposed Mrs. Bolstreath, "we propose to visit
some friends in Scotland."
Lillian looked up in surprise, as Hartlepool certainly was not in
Scotland, and she thought that Mrs. Bolstreath's geography was at
fault. But a significant look from Dan showed her that he understood
why the wrong address had been given. Mrs. Bolstreath, with too much
zeal, mistrusted Mildred, although she had no cause to do so. Certainly
Mildred, in perfect innocence, did she know the actual destination,
might tell her uncle, who would assuredly tell Mrs. Jarsell, and for
obvious reasons it was not necessary that Mrs. Jarsell should learn
where the city of refuge was situated. All the same, Dan did not think
for a moment that Mildred knew anything about the Society of Flies. But
he was beginning to fancy that Vincent had some such knowledge, as Mrs.
Jarsell financed him, and that she would not do so, he was positive,
unless she made something out of the business. It was very convenient
for Queen Beelzebub to have an inventor at her elbow who could
construct swift aeroplanes. And it was at this point of his meditations
that Dan jumped up so suddenly as to spill his tea.
"What's the matter?" asked Lillian, making a dash at the cup and
saucer to save breakage.
"I've got an idea," said Halliday, with a gasp. "I must go out and
think it over," and without excusing himself further, he rushed from
"That's not like Dan," remarked Mrs. Bolstreath, uneasily; "he is
calm and cool-headed as a rule. I wonder what is the matter."
"Oh, he'll tell us when he comes back," replied Lillian,
philosophically. "I can always trust Dan." Then she turned the
conversation in a somewhat heedless manner. "Do you like living here,
"Well," admitted Mildred, "it is rather too quiet for my taste. But
I have plenty to do in looking after my uncle and his business. He
depends so much on me, that I wonder what he will do when I get
"When do you intend to get married?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath,
curiously. She could not disabuse herself of the idea that, living so
close to Mrs. Jarsell, and having an uncle who was helped by Mrs.
Jarsell, the girl knew something about the Society of Flies.
"Next year, the year after—I don't exactly know. It all depends
upon my dear Freddy's success. We must have a home and an income. But I
suppose we shall marry sooner or later, and then Mrs. Jarsell can look
after Uncle Solomon."
"Who is Mrs. Jarsell?" asked Lillian, artfully and cautiously.
"Se is an old lady who lives at The Grange with another old lady,
her former governess, Miss Armour. Both are charming. If you are dull
here, perhaps, Miss Moon, you would like to meet them?"
"Later, later," put in Mrs. Bolstreath, hurriedly; "thank you for
the suggestion, Miss Vincent. Meanwhile, we wish to explore the
country. It is a charming neighbourhood, although very quiet in many
Mildred agreed and then began to plan excursions to this place and
that, with the idea of making the stay of the visitors at Sheepeak
pleasant. So agreeably did she behave and took such trouble in
designing trips that Mrs. Bolstreath revised her opinion and began to
believe that so nice a girl could not possibly know of Mrs. Jarsell's
doings, whatever knowledge her uncle might be possessed of.
And Dan, walking at top speed along the high road in a vain attempt
to quieten his mind, was convinced that the inventor had some such
knowledge. The idea which had brought him to his feet, and had sent him
out to work off his excitement, was that the inventor was responsible
for Mrs. Jarsell's presence in London at unexpected moments. She
financed him and retained him at her elbow, so to speak, that she might
utilise his capabilities and his clever inventions. If, on the day of
the London to York race, Mrs. Jarsell was at The Peacock Hotel about
the hour of nine o'clock—as she certainly was on the evidence of Mrs.
Pelgrin, who had no obvious reason to tell a lie—she could not have
got to London by train or motor in time to murder Durwin. Yet she was
assuredly at Blackheath, if the cinematograph was to be believed. Dan
had hitherto been puzzled to reconcile apparent impossibilities, but at
tea-time the solution of the problem had suddenly flashed into his
mind. Mrs. Jarsell had travelled to town on an aeroplane.
"It is about one hundred and sixty miles from this place to town,"
muttered Dan, walking very fast, and talking aloud to himself in his
excitement, "so she could accomplish that distance with ease in three
hours, considering that Vincent's machine can fly at sixty miles in
sixty minutes. He said so and I proved that he spoke truly when I
experimented with the machine he lent me. Mrs. Jarsell was at The
Peacock Hotel at nine o'clock, and the cinematograph showed she was at
Blackheath at one o'clock. The race started then, and Durwin was killed
shortly afterwards. Sixty miles an hour means one hundred and eighty
miles in three hours. Say she started at half-past nine—which she
could easily do. Leaving Mrs. Pelgrin immediately for Vincent's
place—she could reach London by half-past twelve, if not earlier,
seeing she had just one hundred and sixty miles to go. There would be
no difficulty in her reaching Blackheath and stabbing Durwin at the
time the death took place; and, of course, had she travelled from
Sheepeak to Thawley to catch the London express at nine o'clock, she
could not have been at The Peacock Hotel at that hour. The aeroplane
had been used to establish an alibi."
Halliday was convinced that in this way the miracle of Mrs. Jarsell
had taken place. No other means of transit could have landed her at the
place where Durwin had met with his death. Of course, this assumption
intimated that Mrs. Jarsell was an accomplished aviator, and that there
had been no hitch in the journey from Sheepeak to Blackheath. But these
were not impossibilities, for Vincent probably had taught the woman how
to fly, and perhaps had handled the machine himself. There was room for
two in the aeroplane, as Dan very well knew, since he had taken Penn
for a flight himself, and the vehicle used was probably built on the
same lines as the one lent. Since aviation was yet in its infancy there
was certainly a possibility that such a journey could not take place
without accidents or hindrance. But, as inferior machines had
accomplished greater distances, Dan quite believed that Mrs. Jarsell,
with or without Vincent as pilot, had reached London in one smooth
stretch of flying. On other occasions she might not have been so
successful, but on this one she probably had, for to get to Blackheath
in time to commit the crime it would have been necessary for her to use
rightfully every second of the given time. No wonder with such a means
of transit at her disposal she could prove an advantageous alibi, when
occasion demanded. Also, since the late conquest of the air afforded
her the opportunity of swift travelling, greatly in excess of other
human inventions, it was quite reasonable that she should live so far
from the scene of her criminal exploits.
Thinking thus, Halliday stumbled across the very person who was in
his thought. He rushed with bent head along the roads and unconsciously
mounted towards the vast spaces of the moorlands, stretching under grey
skies. Thus—and he swiftly decided that the collision was meant—he
ran into Mrs. Jarsell, who approached in the opposite direction. She
laughed and expostulated, as if Dan was in the wrong, although she must
have seen him coming, and the road was wide enough for her to move to
"Really, Mr. Halliday, you require the whole country to move in,"
said Mrs. Jarsell in her heavy way, and with an affectation of
"I—I—I beg pardon," stammered Dan, not quite himself, and stared
at her as though she had suddenly risen out of the earth. Indeed, so
far as he was concerned, she had done so, ignorant as he was of her
The woman was arrayed in her favourite white, but as the day was
chilly, she wore a voluminous cloak of scarlet silk quilted and padded
and warm both in looks and wear. Her black eyes, set in her olive-hued
face, peered from under her white hair as watchfully as ever. At the
present moment, her heavy countenance wore an expression of amusement
at the startled looks of the young man, and she commented on them with
"One would think I was a ghost, Mr. Halliday. You will admit that I
am a very substantial ghost," and she shook her silver-mounted can
playfully at him.
"I didn't expect to meet you here," said Dan, drawing a deep
breath, and thinking how best he could introduce the subject of
"Nor did I expect to meet you," responded Mrs. Jarsell, still
phlegmatically playful. "Have you risen from the earth, or dropped from
the skies? I did not even know that you were in the neighbourhood."
Dan grimly decided that this last statement was false, since he had
been a whole two days at The Peacock Hotel, and he was certain Mrs.
Jarsell must have heard of his visit. Also of the ladies sheltering
under Mrs. Pelgrin's wing, for in the country gossip is more prevalent
than in town. "I came up for a day or two, or three or four," said Dan,
"You don't appear to be very decided in your own mind," rejoined
Mrs. Jarsell, drily, and sat down on a large block of granite, which
was embedded amongst the heather; "our neighbourhood evidently has a
fascination for you," her eye searched his face carefully. "I am
pleased, as we are proud of our scenery hereabouts. Those who come
once, come twice: quite a proverb, isn't it? Is your friend Mr.
Laurance with you?"
"Not on this occasion," answered Dan, coolly, and coming to the
point. "I came with two ladies, Miss Moon and her companion. They are
stopping at The Peacock Hotel for a short time."
"Miss Moon! Miss Moon!" mused Mrs. Jarsell, "oh, yes, the young
lady you are engaged to marry. The daughter of that poor man who was
"You have an excellent memory, Mrs. Jarsell."
"We have little to exercise our memories in this dull place," said
the woman graciously, and with a motherly air, "you don't ask after
Miss Armour, I observe. That is very unkind of you, as you are a great
favourite with her."
"Miss Armour is my very good friend," responded Halliday,
cautiously, "and so are you, since you induced Mr. Vincent to lend me
"I am as glad that I did that, as I am sorry you lost the race, Mr.
"Fortune of war," said Dan, lightly, "we can't always be successful
you know, Mrs. Jarsell. I wish you had seen the start; it was grand."
"I wish I had," said the woman, lying glibly, "but it was
impossible for me to leave Miss Armour on that day, as she had bad
health. In fact, Mr Vincent wished to go also and see how his machine
worked; but he could not get away either. Still," added Mrs. Jarsell,
with a cheerful air, "perhaps it is as well, so far as I am concerned,
that I could not go. Aviation seems to be very dangerous, and I should
have been afraid for your safety."
"Oh, I shall never come to harm in the air, I hope," responded Dan,
with emphasis, "you must let me take you up some day."
Mrs. Jarsell shuddered. "I should be terrified out of my wits," she
protested, "fancy a heavy woman such as I am, trying to emulate a bird.
Why, I am quite sure I would fall and smash like an egg, even supposing
there is any machine capable of bearing my none too trifling weight."
"Oh, I think there is, Mrs. Jarsell. Some machines can carry two
you know, and lately in France, an aviator took five or six people from
one given point to another. It is quite safe."
Mrs. Jarsell shook her head seriously. "I think not, since aviation
is yet in its infancy. In five years, if I live as long, I may venture,
but now —no thank you, Mr. Halliday."
"Most ladies are afraid, certainly. Even Miss Moon, who is plucky,
will not let me take her for a fly."
"Miss Moon, of course. I was quite forgetting her. I hope you will
bring her to see me and Miss Armour."
"If she stays here, certainly. But I think of returning to town
to-morrow, so I may not be able to bring her. I daresay Mrs. Bolstreath
will, however," ended Dan, quite certain in his own mind that the
chaperon would find some good excuse to avoid the visit.
"I shall be delighted," Mrs. Jarsell murmured vaguely; "how have
you been, Mr. Halliday, since I saw you last?"
It seemed to Dan that she asked this question with intention, and
he was entirely willing to give her a frank answer. In frankness, as in
taking Lillian under the guns of the enemy lay the safety of both.
Halliday was convinced of this. "I have been rather worried," he said,
slowly, and with a side-glance at Mrs. Jarsell's watchful face. "I had
"I love adventures," replied the woman, heavily, "and this one?"
"Well. I was hustled into a taxi-cab and carried in a drugged
condition to some place where I met with a collection of scoundrels. A
kind of murder-gang, you might call it, who slay, blackmail, and thieve
for the sake of power."
"Rather a strange reason," said Mrs. Jarsell, equably, and not at
all moved. "I should say the reason was money."
"That, with power," explained Dan; "but, indeed, this society
appears to be governed on wonderful principles, such as one would
ascribe to honest men."
"In what way?" Mrs. Jarsell was quite curious in a detached manner.
"Well, the members are chaste and sober and industrious."
"They must be virtuous. You are describing a society of saints."
"Quite so; only these saints apply their virtues to crime. They
have a head who is called Queen Beelzebub."
Mrs. Jarsell shuddered and drew lines on the dust of the road with
her can slowly and carefully. "Did you see her?" she asked, "it's a
horrid name, full of horrid possibilities."
"No, I did not see her or any one," said Dan, frankly; "the room
was in darkness save for a red light round Queen Beelzebub's mask."
"Oh, this person wore a mask! How did you know she was a woman?"
"Well, you see the name is Queen Beelzebub."
"That might be taken by a man to hide the truth."
"It might," admitted the other carelessly, "and indeed, I don't
think that any woman would have the nerve to belong to such a gang."
"I agree with you," said Mrs. Jarsell, gravely, "well, and what
"I was asked by Queen Beelzebub to join the gang and share the
profits, which you may guess are large. I have a month to think over
Mrs. Jarsell looked at him keenly. "surely, you would never belong
to such an organisation," she said with a reproachful tone in her heavy
"Oh, I don't know. I have my own axe to grind like other people,
and if this gang helps me to grind it I may consider the offer. Do I
shock you, Mrs. Jarsell? Your voice sounded as though I did."
"You shock me more than I can say," she replied decisively; "that
an honest man should even think of such a thing is dreadful. This gang
should be denounced to the police. I wonder you have not done so
Dan shook his head and admired the cool, clever way in which she
was playing a very dangerous game, though to be sure, she was far from
suspecting that he guessed her connection with Queen Beelzebub.
"I can't do that yet."
"What do you mean by—yet?" questioned Mrs. Jarsell, and this time,
there was a distinct note of alarm in her voice.
"I risk death if I denounce the gang, not only to myself, but to
Miss Moon. I am sure she and I would be killed as her father was
killed, if I moved in the matter. Also, I am not sure of many things."
Mrs. Jarsell, still drawing patterns, spoke thoughtfully. "I don't
think you are wise to speak of this gang if it is so dangerous, even to
a country mouse such as I am. Of course, I shall say nothing, as I have
no one to say anything to, and if I had I should not speak. But if you
talk to a stranger like me, about things you were told to keep secret,
you or Miss Moon may be murdered."
"I thought so a week ago," admitted Halliday, candidly.
"Then you don't think so now."
"No. Not since Marcus Penn died."
Mrs. Jarsell drew a long breath and wriggled uneasily. "Who is
"Well, he was the secretary of Sir Charles Moon, and afterwards he
was the secretary of Lord Curberry. Now he's a corpse."
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Jarsell, suddenly, "I wish you wouldn't talk of
these horrible things. Has this gang—"
"Murdered him?" finished the young man; "yes, I believe so,
although a verdict of suicide was brought in. But poor Penn's death may
be the means of saving me and Miss Moon."
"Indeed," the woman's tone became harsh and imperative, but she did
not ask any questions.
"Yes. He left a confession."
Even the side-glance Dan sent in Mrs. Jarsell's direction showed
him that her olive cheeks had turned to a dead white. However, she said
nothing, although she moistened her lips slowly, so he went on easily
as if he were telling an idle story. "This confession was concealed in
Lord Curberry's house, but Penn sent a note of its whereabouts to Miss
Moon, who told me. I got the confession and placed it in safe keeping."
"That was wise," said Mrs. Jarsell, with an effort. "And the safe
"Oh, I shall only tell the whereabouts of the confession and the
name of the person who holds it when there is no necessity for the
confession to be used."
"I don't see quite what you mean, Mr. Halliday."
"Well, you see, Mrs. Jarsell, I have to protect myself and Miss
Moon from the machinations of the society. The person who holds the
confession will not open the sealed envelope in which it is placed
unless something happens to Miss Moon or to myself. Therefore, so long
as no member of the gang hurts us the secrets of the gang are quite
To his attentive ear it seemed that Mrs. Jarsell drew a long breath
of relief. With a command of herself which did her credit, she
displayed no emotion but observed playfully, "It is very clever of you
and very wise to guard yourself in this way. Certainly the gang cannot
hurt you in any way so long as there is a danger of the confession
being opened in the event of things happening to you or to Miss Moon. I
suppose the confession is a very dreadful one, Mr. Halliday?"
"It is not so dreadful or so full as I should like it to be," said
Dan, in his calmest manner; "but there is sufficient set down to
warrant the interference of the authorities. If that confession comes
to the notice of the Scotland Yard officials they can lay hands on the
gang"; he was bluffing when he said this, as he was not quite sure if
Curberry had not let Mrs. Jarsell know that the confession—as Curberry
thought—had been destroyed.
"I think the police should know," said Mrs. Jarsell, rising.
"Thank you for nothing," said Dan, following her example; "but if I
move in the matter, I run the risk of death. Besides, I may accept the
offter of the society. Who knows?"
"Don't do that," implored Mrs. Jarsell so earnestly that Dan was
convinced Curberry had not told her of any confession, "it's so
"Perhaps it is. However, if these beasts leave me and Miss Moon
alone, the confession won't be opened and the gang is safe.
"Otherwise the whole association will be exposed to the danger of
arrest," said Mrs. Jarsell, lightly; "well, it sounds all very dreadful
to a country lady as I am. I wish you had not told me. Why did you tell
"Because," said Dan, ironically, "I look upon you as a friend."
Mrs. Jarsell's face cleared and she smiled. "I am your friend," she
said in an emphatic way, "and believe me, when I say that I am sure
Miss Moon is safe."
"Thank you," replied Dan, agreeably, "I am sure also."
Then they parted with mutual compliments, smiles, and handshakes.
Chapter XVII. AT BAY
When Dan left Mrs. Jarsell he was very well pleased with the
promise she had given concerning the safety of Lillian. He fully
believed that she, in her role of Queen Beelzebub, would keep that
promise faithfully, if only because her own interests demanded such
honesty. The fact that the confession of Penn was in the hands of a
third party to be made use of should anything happen to Miss Moon,
prevented the Society of Flies from carrying out the threat made to him
at the secret meeting. To save their own lives the members would be
forced—much against their will no doubt —to spare those of Lillian
and himself. Dan chuckled at the way in which he had circumvented the
deadly organisation. But he had only scotched the snake, he had not
killed it, and until he did so there was always the chance that it
would strike when able to do so with safety. But while Penn's
confession remained in Laurance's hands, all was well.
One thing struck Halliday as strange, and that was the persistence
with which Mrs. Jarsell kept up the comedy of
having-nothing-to-do-with-the-matter during so confidential a
conversation. She knew that Penn had been a doubtful member of her
gang; she knew that he had been despatched—as Dan truly
believed—because he was not to be trusted, and now she knew that he
had left a confession behind him, which was in the hands of her
enemies. Also, she was aware that the man who spoke to her had read the
confession and must have guessed that her name, as Queen Beelzebub, was
mentioned therein. This being the case, it was to be presumed that she
would speak freely, but in place of doing so, she had pretended
ignorance, and for his own ends he had humoured her feigning. Either
she doubted that such a confession existed or she guessed in whose
possession it was, and intended to regain it.
"Queen Beelzebub knows well enough that Freddy is my best friend,"
thought Dan, as he returned to The Peacock Hotel, "and it would be
reasonable for her to believe that he had Penn's confession, which is
certainly the case. I should not be at all surprised if Freddy was
inveigled into a trap as I was, so that he might be forced to surrender
the document or rather what remains of it. If that were managed, Queen
Beelzebub would revenge herself on Lillian and on me, since there would
be nothing left to shielf us from her spite. And in any case Freddy is
in danger, as I am certain she guesses that he holds the confession."
He mused for a few moments, and then added, aloud, "I shall return to
town at once and see him."
The more he thought the more he saw the necessity of doing this.
Mrs. Jarsell's first move to counterplot him would be to seek out Lord
Curberry and learn all she could, relative to what Penn had left behind
him. Certainly Curberry would assure her that he had burnt the
confession, in which case Queen Beelzebub would think that she would be
free to act. But Halliday believed she was of too suspicious a nature
to be quite convinced that he had only bluffed. Before taking any steps
she would decidedly ascertain for certain—although in what way it was
difficult to say—if there really was any compromising document in
Laurance's hands. To do so, she would, as Dan had thought a few minutes
before, set a trap for him, and brow-beat him into stating what he knew
and what he held. Therefore, for Freddy's sake, it was necessary to go
to London, and report in detail the conversation on the moor. Then the
two could arrange what was best to be done. They were dealing with a
coterie of daring scoundrels, who would stop at nothing to secure their
own safety, and it behoved them to move warily. "We are walking on a
volcano," was Halliday's concluding reflection.
Of course, as it was useless to alarm the ladies, Dan said nothing
of his meeting with Queen Beelzebub on the moor. However, on being
questioned, he confessed the sudden thought which had sent him out of
doors, and both Lillian and Mrs. Bolstreath agreed that it was entirely
probable that Mrs. Jarsell did travel in up-to-date aeroplanes, like a
mischief-making fairy. Then in turn, they told him that Mildred had
stayed for quite a long time and was altogether more charming on each
occasion she appeared. She suggested many trips and Mrs. Bolstreath was
inclined to stay at Sheepeak longer than she intended in spite of the
near menace of Queen Beelzebub. Lillian was delighted with the lovely
scenery, so gracious after the drab hues of London.
"I don't see why we shouldn't get a house here after we are
married," she said to her lover, "one of those delicious old manor
houses of faded yellow stone. I could live quietly with Mrs.
Bolstreath, while you ran up to business on your aeroplane."
"And all the time you would be fretting lest any harm came to him,"
said the chaperon, shaking her head; "besides, my dear, when you are
married, you won't want me to be with you."
"Dear Bolly, I shall always want you, and so will Dan."
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Bolstreath, briskly, "two's company and
"Well," remarked Halliday, leisurely, "we can settle the matter
when we are married, Lillian. Remember, before your uncle will consent,
I shall have to discover who murdered your father."
"You have discovered who murdered him. It was the false Mrs. Brown,
who is Mrs. Jarsell, who is Queen Beelzebub."
"So I believe, but I have to prove my case," said Dan, drily, "and,
moreover, I won't find it easy to place the woman in the dock when she
has this accursed society at the back of her."
"You don't think there is danger?" asked Lillian, hastily.
"No, no, no! Things are safer than ever, my dear. I go to town this
evening and can leave you here with the certainty that all is well."
"You go to town this evening?" said Mrs. Bolstreath, anxiously;
"isn't that a very sudden resolution?"
"Oh, I think not," answered Dan, in an easy way, "I came down here
only to settle you and Lillian. By the way, Sir John—"
"I wired our address, and he wrote me," interrupted Mrs.
Bolstreath; "he is quite pleased that we are away. I rather think," the
lady added, thoughtfully, "that Sir John is not ill-pleased we are
away. At his age the constant presence of two women in his house is
rather disconcerting. Finding we had left town, he returned there to
enjoy having his own house to himself."
"In that case," said Dan, cheerfully, "he will be glad to see
"But to Lord Curberry, not to you."
"I would die rather than marry Lord Curberry," said Lillian,
decisively, and with her chin in the air.
"You won't be asked to do either one or the other, my dear,"
replied Dan, in his calmest tone. "We shall marry right enough whatever
opposition Sir John may make. As to Lord Curberry," he hesitated.
"Well?" asked Mrs. Bolstreath, impatiently.
"I intend to see him when I return to town."
"I think it will be as well. Better have a complete understanding
with him so that he will not worry Lillian any more."
"He won't," answered Dan, grimly, "and now I shall have to get
away. I see Mrs. Pelgrin has had the trap brought round. Take care of
Lillian kissed her lover and followed him to the door of the
sitting-room with a gay laugh. "Lillian can look after herself," she
said lightly, "I am not afraid of Mrs. Jarsell or of any one else. But
you take care, Dan. I fear much more for you than for myself."
"I'm all right!" Dan, with an Englishman's dislike for an emotional
scene, kissed the girl again and slipped out of the door. They saw him
drive away in the gloom of the evening, and then settled to make
themselves comfortable. Neither Lillian nor Mrs. Bolstreath would admit
as much, but both felt rather downcast at Dan's sudden departure.
Luckily, as he had been so cool and composed, they did not connect it
with any fresh development likely to give trouble. In some vague way
Mrs. Bolstreath guessed that Dan had spiked the guns of the enemy under
which they were encamped, and her certainty of safety being infectious,
Lillian also felt quite at her ease.
Meanwhile, Dan reached the Beswick station in the ramshackle trap
and was lucky enough to catch the in-going train to Thawley, just as it
started to glide past the platform. The fortunate connection enabled
him to board the 7.20 p.m. express to London, where he hoped to arrive
shortly before eleven that same evening. Knowing that Laurance's work
kept him up late at night, he wired from Thawley, asking him to come to
St. Pancras Station. Important as was Freddy's time, Dan knew that he
would respond to the call at once, guessing what large issues would be
the outcome of the present situation. Therefore, as the train dropped
south, Halliday felt quite comfortable, as he had done all he could to
arrange matters for the moment. Indeed, so assured did he feel that he
had taken all possible precautions, that he did not even trouble to
think over the matter, but fell asleep and refreshed his weary brain
and body. Only when the train arrived at St. Pancras did he tumble out,
sleepy still, to catch a sight of his faithful friend on the platform.
"Nothing wrong?" asked Laurance, hurrying up.
"Nothing wrong," responded Dan, with a yawn, "but I have much to
talk to you about. Get a four-wheeler."
"A taxi, you mean."
"I don't mean. I wish to travel as slowly as possible, so as to
explain matters. Tell the man to drive to 'The Moment' office. There I
can drop you and go on to my rooms."
Thus understanding the situation, Freddy selected a shaky old cab,
drawn by a shaky old horse, and the rate at which it progressed through
the brilliantly-lighted streets was so slow that they were a very long
time arriving at 'The Moment' office in Fleet Street. In the
damp-smelling interior of this antique conveyance, Halliday, now quite
alert and clear-headed, gave his friend a full account of all that had
happened, particularly emphasising the interview with Mrs. Jarsell.
"H'm," commented Freddy, when he ended, "so she didn't give herself
"No. And very wisely too, I think. She didn't know how much I knew,
and wasn't keen on giving me rope to hang her."
"But she knows you have read Penn's confession—what there is of
"I didn't tell her that I had anything else than the full
confession, old son. She may think I have the whole document intact,
or—and this I fancy is probable—she may believe that there isn't any
confession in existence."
"Curberry may have written to her, telling her that he burnt the
"No," said Dan, after a pause, "I really don't think he has done
that. Mrs. Jarsell went dead white when I mentioned a confession."
"Then she believes that you spoke the truth," persisted Laurance,
"She may, or she may not, as I said before," retorted Halliday,
"anyhow, as she can't be sure if I'm in jest or earnest, she will delay
proceedings until she sees Curberry. If he swears that he burnt the
confession, Mrs. Jarsell may act; therefore I want you to send him an
unsigned telegram, containing these three words, "All is discovered!""
"What will that do?"
"Put the fear of God into Curberry, into Queen Beelzebub, and into
the Society of Flies as a whole. The warning will be so vague that they
won't know who will strike the blow."
"They will suspect you, Dan."
"In that case," replied Halliday, promptly, "Queen Beelzebub will
leave Lillian alone, and my object will be obtained. I want to gain
time, and can only do so with safety to Lillian by keeping these beasts
in a state of uncertainty as to how much or how little is known."
"I see," Laurance thought the plan a good one; "since you say that
you have the confession and Curberry will say that he destroyed it,
Queen Beelzebub will be undecided. This telegram, like a bolt from the
blue, will clinch matters and make her and her gang pause before they
take steps to hurt you or Miss Moon. I'll send the wire. What then?"
"Then—to-morrow that is—I go down to see Curberry, and have it
out with him. His name is mentioned in the portion of the confession
which you hold and we know enough to ensure his arrest."
"That is doubtful," protested Freddy, thoughtfully, "I have read
the confession. Penn hints a lot about Curberry, but doesn't say enough
"Never mind, he says enough for my purpose, which is to scare
Curberry; belonging to the Society of Flies as he does. I believe he
got his uncle and cousin put out of the way to inherit the title and
property. I'll harp on that string. If Queen Beelzebub calls—"
"There's the danger, Dan," interposed Freddy quickly and anxiously.
"I know. I am far from suggesting that there is not danger, as we
are driving these people into a corner. If I don't turn up at your
office by five o'clock to-morrow, Freddy, or if I don't send a wire
saying that I am safe, you get Inspector Tenson, tell him all, show him
the confession, and come down with him to Blackheath to see the
inspector who has charge of the Durwin murder. Then, armed with the
authority of the law, you can go to Curberry's house. If I am missing,
you will know how to act."
Laurance drew a deep breath as the cab turned into Fleet Street.
"It's a big risk for you, Dan."
"Pooh. As an aviator I am always taking risks. I must settle this
business somehow, if I wish to marry Lillian and save her life as well
as my own from these infernal beasts. Here you get down, Freddy. Don't
forget to do as I tell you," and Laurance promised to adhere faithfully
to his instructions, while the four-wheeler lumbered away in the
direction of the Strand.
Halliday possessed one of those rare natures which invariably
reveal their best in time of danger. He knew what to say and how to act
when in a tight corner and his training as an aviator had learned him
to take risks, which less level-headed men would have judiciously
avoided. At the present moment he required all his energies to cope
with unforeseen emergencies, since he did not quite know what action
would be taken against him. Of course he was confident that some sort
of action would be taken, since he had aroused the wrath of a
brilliantly clever and intensely evil set of people. Fearful for its
own safety, the Society of Flies would do its best to get rid of him
and to get rid of Lillian, as its members had got rid of others who had
stood in their crooked path. Both he and the girl were safeguarded so
far by the confession, but it all depended upon what Curberry said to
Queen Beelzebub as to how long such a safeguard would be efficacious.
He had told the woman one story, but Curberry would tell her another,
so it was doubtful which she would believe. The telegram from an
unknown source might turn the balance in his favour, and lead both Mrs.
Jarsell and her friends to believe that there was a chance of their
devilish doings coming to light. Having arrived at this conclusion, Dan
fell asleep, quite indifferent to the fact that the sword of Damocles
hung over his head, and that the single hair might part at any moment.
Herein he showed the steadiness of his nerves, and the value of a
nature trained to face the worst smilingly.
Next morning Halliday arose brisk and cheerful, with the
expectation of having a most exciting day, and as soon as he finished
his breakfast made his way, by train, to Blackheath. On arriving there,
somewhere about twelve o'clock, he did not go immediately to Curberry's
house, but walked to the place where the Vincent aeroplane was housed.
It had just struck him that Mrs. Jarsell might have wired to one of her
friends to damage the machine, so that it could not be used. She had
procured it for him and he —to put it plainly—had abused her
friendship, so it was not likely she would permit him to retain,
unharmed, a wonderful airship, with which he could make money and win
fame. But when he reached the shed and saw the man whom he had engaged
to watch the machine, he found that his fears were groundless. No one
had been near the place, and, so far as he could ascertain, the
aeroplane was in perfect condition. Then it struck Dan, as it was yet
too early to call on Lord Curberry, that he might indulge in a little
fly. His enemy's house was only a stone's throw distant, on the borders
of the open space, and Halliday did not intend to lose sight of the
entrance gate, lest Mrs. Jarsell should steal in unobserved. In the
air, and hovering directly over the grounds, he could see all who came
and went. Also, incidentally, he might gain information as to what was
going on in the gardens. Somewhat oddly it occurred to him that if
Queen Beelzebub came, she might push Curberry into the ornamental pond,
as Marcus Penn had been pushed. There was no knowing what she might do
in her despair. In brutal English, Queen Beelzebub was at bay, and
could fight, like the rat she was, in the corner into which she was
being slowly driven by circumstances, engineered by Mr. Daniel
Therefore, Dan saw to the fittings of the biplane, and ascertained
by sight and touch that they had not been tampered with. He oiled the
engine, saw that it did not lack petrol, and in fact was as careful of
all and everything connected with the structure as though he were
preparing for a long race. Of course there was the usual crowd of
loafers who came to see him start, and he swept upward from the ground
in a graceful curve. The aeroplane acted easily and truthfully,
according to its very excellent design, and the aviator, after making a
wide circle, dropped down to pass slowly over the grounds of Curberry's
mansion. He could see no one about, even though the day was fine and
sunny, so concluded that the owner, having received the anonymous
telegram, was shivering within doors, terrified to venture out. In his
impatience to learn the absolute truth, Dan turned his machine back to
the shed, and came to rest almost at the very door.
Owing to the examination of the aeroplane, and the experimental
flight to test its working order, time had passed uncommon swiftly, and
it was now fifteen minutes past one o'clock. Dan made up his mind to
beard Curberry in his library, without waiting for the arrival of Queen
Beelzebub, who, after all, might not arrive. His man and some willing
onlookers wheeled the machine into the great shed, and the doors were
about to be closed when one of the crowd uttered an exclamation, which
was echoed by many others. Halliday, always on the alert for the
unexpected, came quickly to the door of the building, and saw everyone
looking upward and northward, to where a small black dot spotted the
blue of the sky. It increased in size rapidly, and there was no
difficulty in seeing that it was a flying- machine. At once a thought
entered Dan's mind that there was Mrs. Jarsell on a Vincent biplane,
paying her expected visit, although he had no reason to suppose that
she was the pilot. Wondering if he was right or wrong in his surmise,
he waited with a fast-beating heart, and became certain of the truth of
his guess very shortly. Travelling at a great height, the strange
biplane poised itself directly over the open space, and then began to
drop slowly into the enclosed grounds of Lord Curberry's mansion. Not
having field-glasses Halliday could not make out if the pilot was a man
or a woman, but when the machine, cleverly managed, disappeared below
the trees and walls of the park, he was convinced that Queen Beelzebub
had arrived. At once he determined to make a third at her interview
with Curberry, whatever objections might be raised. But first he
arranged what to do in order to guard against future events of a
"Wheel my machine out again," he ordered the man and those who had
assisted; "see that everything is in order, and have everything
prepared to start. Do not let any one touch this," and he tapped the
aeroplane; "you understand?"
"Yes, Sir," said the man, stolidly, "you're going for another fly?"
"Exactly. The person who arrived is a friend of mine. I am going
into yonder house to ask if a race can be arranged."
Knowing that he could trust his man to guard the machine, and
certain it would not be tampered with when hundreds of eyes were
watching it, Halliday walked across the open space with serene
confidence. It struck him that if Mrs. Jarsell wished to escape, she
would certainly use her biplane, and it was just as well to follow in
his own and run her to earth. As both machines were made by Vincent,
the speed of each would be about equal, and in any case, Dan hoped to
keep Queen Beelzebub in sight, if it was necessary to give chase.
Having thus prepared for possible emergencies the young man entered the
big gates of the park and hastened up the short avenue. Soon he found
himself at the front door, and as he rang the bell, glanced round for
Mrs. Jarsell's flying-machine. It was not visible, so he presumed she
had left it on the broad and spacious lawn on the further side of the
house. It was in his mind to go and tamper with the engine to prevent
her further flight, but before he could make up his mind to this
course, the door opened and the footman appeared.
"I wish to see Lord Curberry," said Halliday, giving the man his
card, "on most important business. Can he see me?"
"I'll inquire, Sir. He is with a lady just now, and has been for
the last ten minutes. Please wait here, Sir," and he introduced Dan
into the hall.
Again, when left alone, Halliday had the impulse to go out and look
to the gear of the machine, with the idea of putting things wrong, and
again the footman appeared before he could decide if it would be wise
to do so. "His lordship will see you, Sir," said the man, who looked
rather uncomfortable, "but he seems to be ill."
"Ill," echoed Dan, wondering what new devilry was taking place,
"and the lady?"
"She is not with his lordship now, Sir," said the footman, in a
bewildered manner, "yet I showed her into the library a few minutes
"Do you know the lady?" asked Halliday sharply.
"No, Sir. At least, I can't tell, Sir. She came in one of them
flying-machines, and wears a thick veil. She's a stout lady, sir, with
a sharp manner."
"Take me to your master," commanded Dan, not caring to inquire
further, since it was best to question Lord Curberry himself, and the
man obeyed, still bewildered and nervous in his manner. The entrance of
Queen Beelzebub into the house had evidently upset things.
Ushered into the library, Dan waited for the closing of the door,
and then advanced to where Curberry was seated at his desk, near the
window. The man looked gaunt and haggard, and very sick. When the young
man advanced he rose as if moved by springs and held out a telegram in
a trembling hand.
"You—you—sent this?" quavered Curberry, and Halliday could see
that the perspiration beaded his bald high forehead.
In a flash Halliday guessed that this was the wire which Laurance
had dispatched according to arrangement. "No, I did not send you any
telegram," he denied, calmly, and with perfect truth.
"You sent this, saying that all is discovered," stuttered Curberry
again, and dropped back into his seat, "you have learned too much. She
says that you know everything."
"Ah, you know the name. I guessed as much. She is here; she is
"Who is Queen Beelzebub?" demanded Dan, anxiously.
"You know. Why do you ask questions you know the answer to? I know
why you have come: to have me arrested. I thought I destroyed the
confession of that infernal Penn. But she says—"
"I retained sufficient to show me—"
"Yes, yes! You know all. You have won. I fought you for Lillian,
and there is no chance of my gaining her for my wife. You won't either.
You have to reckon with Queen Beelzebub. As for me, as for me—" he
faltered and trembled.
Dan stepped right up to the desk. "What's the matter?"
"I—I—I have taken poison," gasped Curberry, and dropped his head
on his hands with a sob.
Chapter XVIII. THE FLIGHT
"Poison!" echoed Dan, startled out of his composure, for he was far
from expecting such a word, "the doctor—"
"No doctor can do me any good," sobbed Curberry lifting his haggard
face, and looking up with wild, despairing eyes, "there is no antidote
to this drug I have taken. It is painless more or less, and in an hour
I shall be dead, as it works but slowly. Time enough for me to speak."
"Let me get a doctor," insisted Halliday, for so distraught did the
man look that he was not surprised that the servant had been
uncomfortable, "you must not die without—"
Curberry struggled to his feet, and laid hands on his visitor. "No,
no! I am ready to die," he said in a harsh, strained voice; "why should
I be kept alive to be hanged—to be disgraced—to be—"
"Then you admit—"
"I admit everything in this—this," he touched a few loose sheets
of paper lying on the desk, "this confession. Like Penn, I have made
"You must have a doctor," said Halliday, and ran to the bell.
Curberry, with a wonderful strength, seeing how ill he looked, rose
swiftly, and sprang after him. "If you call a doctor, I shall shoot
myself," he said, hoarsely, and pulled out a small revolver. "I would
rather die by means of the poison I have taken, since it is more
painless. But sooner than be taken by the police, I shall shoot
myself—and you too —and you too."
Halliday waved aside this threat. "You won't see the police—"
"The doctor would try and save me," insisted Curberry, fiercely,
"and I will not be saved only to be hanged. Stay here and listen to me.
I have something to say. Touch the button of the bell and I shoot!" As
he spoke, he levelled the revolver. "Quick, quick, what will you do?"
"Have your own way," agreed Halliday, and moved to the desk, where
he sat down on a convenient chair. Curberry, with a groan, returned to
his seat, and laid the revolver on the blotting-paper, ready for
instant use should necessity arise. Even as yet he did not wholly trust
And there was cause for this suspicion. Since Dan was unarmed, he
could do nothing against a man with a quick-firing weapon, but he made
up his mind to snatch at the revolver the moment Curberry was off his
guard. Yet, even as he decided upon this course, he said to himself
that it was foolish. The man's recovery, supposing a doctor did arrive,
meant the man's arrest, and in Dan's opinion, as in Curberry's, death
was better than disgrace. It was a most uncomfortable situation, but
Halliday did not see anything to do but to listen to what his host had
to say. The poor wretch had poisoned himself, and was keeping all help
at bay with his revolver. He would be dead in an hour, or half an hour,
as he hinted, so the best thing was to hear his story in the hope that
by its means those who had brought him to this pass, could be punished.
But it was a weird experience to sit beside a tormented man, who
declined to be saved from a tragic death.
"Did Queen Beelzebub give you the poison?" asked Halliday,
shivering at the grey pinched look on Curberry's face.
"Long ago; long ago; not now," muttered the man, groaning. "Every
member of the Society of Flies has this poison to escape arrest, should
there be danger. It is a painless poison, more or less, and acts
slowly, and—but I have told you all this before. There is not much
time," he pressed his hands on his heart, "while I retain my strength
and my senses, listen!"
"But where is this woman you call Queen Beelzebub?" demanded Dan,
looking round anxiously. "I saw her arrive in an aeroplane."
"She did; she came to tell me that you knew all about our society."
"You belong to it?"
"Yes, curse it! and those who dragged me into the matter. I was
getting on all right in the law, when I was tempted and fell."
"Your uncle and your cousin—"
"Yes, yes!" broke in Curberry, with another groan; "she said that
if I joined the society they could be got rid of. They were got rid of
because I wished for the title and the money."
"But for what reason?"
"So that I could marry Lillian. Moon refused to listen to me so
long as I was merely a struggling barrister. But when I became wealthy,
and—and—oh, this pain! The poison is a lie like all the rest of the
business. She declared it was painless, and now—and now—" He broke
off, to wipe the perspiration from his face.
Dan half rose. "Let me call assistance. It may not be too late—"
Curberry pointed his revolver at him as he moved.
"It is too late," he said, setting his teeth, "if I do not die, I
must face the worst. You—you have brought me to this."
"I!" echoed Halliday, sitting down again, "in what way?"
"You meddled and meddled, and—and you sent that telegram."
"I did not."
"Then your meddling has brought the police into the matter. That
telegram may have been sent by a friend or an enemy; in either case it
is true, for all is discovered. I was—" Curberry gasped with pain
again, and moistened his dry lips. "I was sitting with it, wondering if
it was best to end things or to wait and see if the warning was a true
one. Then she came in through yonder door," he nodded towards the
entrance from the terrace into the library. "she told me that you—that
you—oh—oh!" he groaned and rocked himself from side to side, yet kept
a grip on the revolver, lest Dan should call or ring for assistance, or
endeavour to secure the weapon.
"So you took the poison?" said Halliday, wondering how he could
manage to evade being shot and yet summon a doctor.
"When she said that all was known, I did. Then she—she—"
"Queen Beelzebub, you mean?"
"Curse her, yes! Like Eve she tempted me, and like Adam I fell."
"Where is she?"
"Up in Penn's old rooms, searching for any further confessions he
may have left. Oh," Curberry rocked and moaned, "I thought when I
snatched it from you, and burnt it, that all evidence was destroyed."
"I saved a few sheets."
"Do they contain mention of my name?"
"Yes. They do, and—"
"I thought so. I thought so. It's just as well that I took the
poison. The title and money I paid such a price to obtain will go to my
cousin, who is at Oxford—a young fool, with no brains. Oh, to lose
all, when everything was so bright. I could have married Lillian and
served my country, and—"
"You could not have married Lillian," interrupted Dan, positively,
"for she loves me and me only. As to serving your country, how could
you with an easy conscience, when you have broken its law by taking the
lives of your uncle and cousin?"
"I did not. The society saw to that," gasped Curberry with a
"You engaged the society to end their lives, you—you—murderer."
"Don't call names," moaned the man, "at least I have not murdered
you, although I have every reason to. You meddled with matters which do
not concern you."
"I meddled in matters which concern every honest man who loves law
and order, Lord Curberry," said Dan sternly; "apart from the death of
Sir Charles Moon, which I was bound to avenge for Lillian's sake, it
was my duty to stop this wholesale murder. Perhaps you had Moon killed
"I didn't; I didn't. It was to my interest that he should live, for
if he had I should have been married to his daughter by this time.
Queen Beelzebub murdered him because he was offered a chance of
belonging to the society and refused."
"In that," said Dan, still sternly, "acting as an honest man."
"He acted as a foolish man. For learning too much, he sent for
Durwin to reveal what he knew. Penn found out his intended treachery,
and told the Queen. She came—you saw her when she came—and she killed
"She killed Durwin?"
"Yes," gasped Curberry, who was growing whiter and more haggard
"And Marcus Penn?"
"I killed him. I had to, or be killed myself. He betrayed too much
"Only out of fear," said Dan, looking at the murderer more with
pity than with anger, for he was suffering greatly.
"Not even fear should have made him reveal anything about the
scent. He confessed his folly and was doomed to death. I went away on
that day, and then came back secretly, having ordered Penn to meet me
by the ornamental water, to speak about the society. He suspected
something, because he wrote that confession and let Lillian know where
it was concealed. But he came, and I managed to stupefy him with the
Sumatra scent, after which I thrust him under water, and when I was
sure he was dead, I got away secretly, returning openly to hear that
his body had been found."
"You wicked wretch," said Dan, scarcely able to restrain his
disgust, although he felt he should not be too hard on one already
being severely punished for his crimes.
"Don't call names," said Curberry, with an attempt at a laugh,
"after all, I am better than you think, since I am trying to save you.
I want you to live and marry Lillian, and use this confession," he laid
his hands on the loose sheets of paper, "from Queen Beelzebub, so that
you can put an end to her wicked doings. Hide the papers when she comes
back, or she will destroy them."
As this was very probable, Dan stretched out his hand for the
papers. Curberry feverishly gathered them together, speaking in a
halting manner, as he did so. "Wait till I put them together," he said,
painfully; "this is a full account of my connection with the society
and its evil doings. It accounts for the death of Moon, of Durwin, of
Penn, and of myself. But take care, Halliday, for Queen Beelzebub will
not give in without a fight."
"She can do nothing," said Dan, watching Curberry pinning the loose
papers together. "Laurance holds what remains of Penn's confession, and
will inform the police shortly. If you would only let me get a doctor."
"No, no, no! I refuse to live and face the reward of my wickedness.
I prefer to pay the cost of my folly in joining the society. My name is
disgraced, but I won't be on earth to suffer for the disgrace. That
brainless young fool who succeeds me will not trouble so long as he
gets the money and the title, which he is certain to. But marry
Lillian, and take care of her. Queen Beelzebub will strike at you
"She dare not while I hold the confession of Penn," said Dan,
grimly; "sooner or later she shall stand in the dock."
"That she never will, believe me. She has a means of escape if the
worst comes to the worst. Oh," Curberry half rose, and then fell back
in his chair, "the end is coming; my eyes are growing dim,
and—and—and—ah," he uttered a shriek, "save yourself!" and with a
shaking hand he grasped the revolver.
As Curberry's eyes were looking past him, Dan, with the
subconscious instinct of self-preservation, had just time to rise and
swerve to one side, when a hand grazed his shoulder. The young man
gripped his chair, and swung it up as a barrier between himself and a
stout woman, who was immediately behind him. She was dressed in a long,
black cloak, with a close-fitting cloth cap, and wore a heavy veil of
the motor style, with pieces of mica let in as eye-holes. Not a word
did she say, but seeing Dan's action, drew back with a deep, indrawn
breath like the hiss of a baffled snake.
"Take care; take care; she has—the serpent poison," gasped
Curberry, who was sitting loosely in his chair, gripping his revolver.
Halliday remembered the wicked wound on Sir Charles Moon's neck and
his flesh grew cold, for the slightest touch of that morsel on shining
steel in Queen Beelzebub's hand meant swift death. "You fiend!" he
shouted, and with a cry of anger, flung the heavy chair fairly at her.
With the leap of a pantheress, she sprang to one side, and the
chair crashed against the opposite wall while the woman glided rapidly
round to the open door leading on to the terrace. A shot rang out as
she reached it, and Dan knew that the dying man had fired on his enemy.
Apparently the bullet did not reach its mark, for Queen Beelzebub still
moved on silent, sinister, and dangerous. Halliday flung himself
forward to get between her and the door, so as to prevent her escape,
but with a faint snarl like a beast at bay she stabbed at him with the
death-tipped piece of steel. He leaped back to save himself from being
scratched, while Curberry dragged himself painfully to the bell-button
near the fire-place, and pressed it with his remaining strength. "I'm
done for—call the police. You—you, oh!" He fell prone on the
hearth-rug, and the revolver dropped beside him.
Halliday ran forward on the impulse of the moment to offer aid,
hastily picking up the weapon meanwhile, and as he did so, Queen
Beelzebub sprang through the door into the open. "she's making for the
aeroplane," cried Dan, and would have followed on the instant, but that
Curberry gripped him fast.
"Stay, stay! A priest, a clergyman. I'm dying," and a deadly fear
became apparent in his glazed eyes, "get a—a—a—Help!"
As he cried, retaining Dan's coat in a grip of iron, the door of
the room opened, and the butler with the footman beside him rushed in.
The shot, as well as the ringing of the bell, had brought them
immediately to the spot. Trying to disengage himself, Dan gave hasty
orders. "send for a doctor; send for a clergyman; send for the police.
That woman has murdered your master."
"Catch her; stop her—oh—oh!" Curberry's grip loosened, and he
rolled over with a moan. Whether he was dead or alive, Dan did not wait
to see. Every moment was precious, if he intended to stay the flight of
Queen Beelzebub. The terrified men came to assist their dying master,
and more servants, attracted by the noise, poured in at the library
door. A backward glance showed Dan that Curberry was being attended to,
and then he sped along the terrace towards the lawn at the side of the
house. Here he arrived, just a moment too late, for already the
aeroplane, propelled by two grooms, was spinning along the turf, with
Queen Beelzebub in the pilot's seat. Like the wicked fairy of nursery
tale, she was escaping in her dragon-car, and even in that hour of
success she did not utter a sound. Silent and menacing she mounted into
the air, and Halliday dashed forward with a cry of rage as she lifted
above his reach.
There was not a moment to be lost, and without another glance at
the men who had so innocently assisted, he raced down the avenue, and
sprang through the entrance gates. Queen Beelzebub might make for her
lair in Hillshire, or it might be that she would cross the Channel to
seek safety on the Continent; but, wherever she went, Dan intended to
follow. She would not escape him this time, and he flew like an arrow
from the bow across the open space outside the park, to where his man
still stood guard by his own machine. The little crowd around had their
faces turned heavenward, and were shouting at the sight of the biplane,
now dwindling to a black dot, as it receded swiftly from Blackheath.
Dan felt a throb of satisfaction as he saw that Queen Beelzebub was
making for the north.
"Out of the way; out of the way!" gasped the young man, charging
through the throng, and it scattered at his approach; "let her go, let
her go!" and he sprang into the pilot's seat to start the engine.
Immediately the screw began to spin, slowly at first, but gathering
in speed every second. The aeroplane moved, and ran with bird-like
swiftness along the ground, then soared with the hum of a giant bee.
Halliday swept in a vast circle, like an actor taking the stage, then
turned the nose of his machine in the direction of the black dot. This
was to be his pole-star towards which he was to continually direct his
course, until the goal, wherever it might be, was attained. The many
men, women and children standing round the Blackheath shed shouted and
cheered, thinking that they were witnessing the start of an exciting
race; but they little knew that it was a chase dealing with the serious
issues of life and death. Halliday heard the thin sound of their voices
reach him faintly, then settled down to handle his biplane in a
masterly manner. Since both aeroplanes were made by Vincent, it was
probable that both were equal in durability and speed. But Queen
Beelzebub had gained a very fair start, and Dan knew that it would
require all his knowledge of aviation to catch her up. Her escape or
capture depended entirely upon the dexterity with which he manoeuvred
the delicate structure which bore him. On her part, the woman would use
all her knowledge to get away safely, but Dan did not believe that her
capability as an aeronaut was equal to his own. In this contest it was
science against despair, and given the machines as equal, yet the
pilots as unequal, it was hard to say what would be the result.
Halliday, racing to save Lillian's life, and to gain her as his wife,
believed that the final victory would remain with him.
It was an unusually pleasant day, with a pale blue sky, lightly
sprinkled with feathery white clouds. A gentle wind was blowing, which
was not sufficiently strong to impede the speed of the aeroplanes. Yet
it was chilly in these high altitudes, and in his haste Dan had not put
on his overcoat. Before the end of the chase he grimly expected to be
well-nigh frozen, but did not mind so uncomfortable a prospect so long
as he gained his aim. Before him fled the woman he was determined to
capture and place in the criminal dock to answer for her manifold sins.
Thinking of what she had done, and how her path was strewn with
victims, the young man set his teeth and tried his best to force the
pace. But this was useless, as the biplane could not do more than it
was intended to do. Although he had now been racing northward for over
an hour, the distance between pursuer and pursued appeared to be much
the same, and the receding black dot did not seem to be growing larger.
Dan was irritated, yet felt that even though he was not gaining, he was
not losing, and that was much, taking all things into account. There
was always the chance that Queen Beelzebub's machine might break down,
and then she would be as helpless as a bird with a broken wing.
Also—and Dan did not blind himself to this possibility—his own
aeroplane might come to grief, as it had done during the London to York
race. But benefiting by his former experience he did not try any
fancy-flying, and held to a straight, undeviating course. Both machines
were making a bee-line for the goal, which Halliday now guessed very
plainly was The Grange in Sheepeak, Hillshire.
It had been about two o'clock when the chase started, but already
those taking part in it were miles upon miles distant from London,
since the aeroplanes were flying at the rate of between fifty and sixty
miles an hour. Harrow, St. Albans, Luton, Bedford, and Northampton had
long since dropped behind, and Queen Beelzebub, swerving to the left,
was making for Rugby, so as to get into the straight line for
Hillshire, and particularly for Thawley. Passing over the famous
school-town, her pace slackened somewhat, and Dan managed to secure the
advantage of a few miles. But when her machine lifted Birmingham, she
increased her speed, a fact which made Dan curse. He had been under the
impression that she was running short of oil and petrol, but apparently
this was not the case. She had simply reduced her speed so as to nurse
her resources, since she could take this bold step because of the start
she had gained at the outset. Halliday grudgingly confessed to himself
that the woman knew her business, as she wasted no time. Her machine
neither rose nor fell, nor deviated to right or left over-much, and all
she did was to hold to a straight line at a moderate height above the
earth, humouring her engine, and straining as little as might be the
wings, spars, bolts, and such-like gear of the biplane. Vincent had
taught her admirably, and Dan no longer undervalued her as an
antagonist. She was dexterous, bold, resourceful, and venturesome. His
admiration, now freely given, was mixed with pity that so clever a
human being should debase her gifts to harry mankind. Such qualities as
she possessed made her more dangerous, as she was an intellectual
animal, slaying with taught skill rather than with instinctive cunning.
As the afternoon drew on, and the chase still continued, the night
began to shut down. Gliding over Derby the town was veiled in the grey
mists of swiftly-falling dusk, and when Nottingham came in sight it was
distinguished by a thousand glittering pin-points of light, the usual
nightly illumination. Matlock and Mansfield, Holdbrook and Wayleigh,
gleamed beneath like jewelled crowns, and when the stars began to
appear the aeroplanes were flying between two firmaments, radiant with
multi-coloured orbs of light.
At last Thawley rose into view burning like a furnace under its
veil of smoke and the dim shroudings of twilight, while a vague murmur
like the swarming of bees came muffled to the ears of those who drove
the machines. Yet at these heights the coming dark was not yet very
intense, and Queen Beelzebub's aeroplane beginning to slacken speed,
Dan was able to keep it well in view. He saw it rather vaguely closer
at hand, a shadow against the shadow of the grey sky. Minute by minute
he drew nearer and began to discern the outlines more or less clearly.
But it must be admitted that at the best the clearness was not quite
that which deserved the use of such a word. However, Dan, cold, hungry,
and weary with the strain on his nerves, could think of none better at
Queen Beelzebub was decidedly losing speed. Her machine seemed to
falter after it left Thawley, as if it was doubtful how to find its way
home in this world of shadows. But at Beswick the woman made a last
effort, as it seemed, like a wounded animal dragging itself faster
homeward as it neared its den, and her aeroplane towered aloft to the
vast tableland of the moors. Halliday was close behind, and when they
hovered over Sheepeak the two biplanes were only a stone throw from one
another. He exulted, for now he had driven the woman to her citadel,
and for her there was no escape even by her machine, as that was—so to
speak—worn out. She was at her last gasp, and would have to fight or
yield. She elected to fight when the airships swung in the foggy air
over the fields near The Grange. If she alighted, Queen Beelzebub knew
that her pursuer would alight also and capture her, so she described a
rapid circle with what motive power was left her, and plunged downward
on her enemy to ram his machine.
Dan saw the movement, and with his hand on the steering gear,
swerved to one side, dropping lower as he did so. The other machine
swooped harmlessly overhead, but, recovering quickly, once more came
down with the dip of a hawk on a heron. Halliday dodged again, then
thinking that two could play at the dangerous game, he watched his
chance and rushed straightly at his prey. Queen Beelzebub saw him
coming, and adopted his tactics—that is, she dropped below his onset,
and Dan's aeroplane swept on without result. Once more he came down to
her level, and by this time the machines were only twenty feet from the
ground. This time, as he dashed forward, the woman was not dexterous
enough to get out of the way, and the two clashed violently with a
ripping, breaking, smashing sound. With the engines still spinning, but
with broken wings, the biplanes dropped to the earth, tangled together,
Dan's uppermost, clutching at its prey, so to speak, like a hawk
clutching a partridge. Down they came, and the rising earth met them
with a smashing blow.
Halliday was shaken, but did not become unconscious. Clearing his
feet and arms from the tangle of ropes and canvas, he emerged from the
confused heap, and dragged out the woman by her dress, which fluttered
out from the wreckage. To tear off her veil and light a match took a
"Miss Armour!" cried Dan, greatly amazed. And Miss Armour it was,
Chapter XIX. TREACHERY
In the chill grey gloom of the fields—damp, depressing, and
misty—with the wreckage of the airship piled up around him, and the
insensible woman lying at his feet, Dan stood bewildered, his nerves
jangling like ill-tuned bells. The twenty feet fall had not harmed him
in limb or body; but the violent contact with the earth, broken in some
measure by the fact that his enemy's aeroplane had been underneath,
resulted in a displacement of his normal powers. He felt battered and
bruised, deadly sick and wished to lie on the wet grass, indifferent to
everything and everyone. But with a dangerous creature at his elbow,
this was not to be thought of, even though that same creature was
unable to exercise her wicked will. Moreover, The Grange was only a
stone's throw distant, and doubtless Mrs. Jarsell had been watching for
the coming of her friend. If this were the case, she would come out
with help—for Queen Beelzebub that is. How Halliday would be treated
he was much too muddled in his brain to consider. Finally, he dropped
on his knees, longing for brandy to pull him together, and began to
think with difficulty.
This woman was not Mrs. Jarsell, but Miss Armour. Seeing that he
knew her to be old, feeble, and paralysed, this was most remarkable.
Curberry had called her Queen Beelzebub, so Miss Armour, and not Mrs.
Jarsell, was the head of the Society of Flies, and the cause of all the
trouble. In a weak way, Dan considered that she evidently was not so
old as she had made herself out to be, and certainly she was not
paralysed. No woman without the use of her limbs could have escaped so
swiftly, or have worked the aeroplane so dexterously. Miss Armour, the
delicate, kind-hearted old lady, was the infernal Queen Beelzebub who
had spoken behind the mask when in the darkness the scarlet light had
made an accursed halo round her head. And now she was dead—stone dead.
A moment's reflection assured him that he could not be certain on
this point without examination, so he tore open her dress, and laid his
hand on her heart. It beat feebly, so he knew that she was still alive,
although she was crumpled up in a heap amidst the wreckage. This
knowledge restored Halliday more positively to his senses. She was so
dangerous that, even helpless as she appeared to be, he could not tell
what devilry she might not make use of to get the upper hand. She still
had the piece of steel tipped with the deadly snake poison, and even a
feeble woman could inflict death with that. The idea made Dan search in
her pockets to secure the subtle weapon of defence, but even while he
fumbled and hunted, he was pulled violently backward.
"Mr. Halliday!" gasped Mrs. Jarsell, holding a lantern to his white
face; "hold him," she added to a couple of men who were beside her.
"I've—I've caught Queen Beelzebub red-handed," muttered Dan,
striving to get on his feet, and thinking in a muddled way that Mrs.
Jarsell had seen the arrival of the aeroplanes, the battle in the air,
and the catastrophe. She must have come stealthily across the
intervening fields with her myrmidons, and thus he had been caught
unawares. He knew well that once in her grip, since she was an
accomplice of Queen Beelzebub's he could expect no mercy, and what was
worse, Lillian would be in danger. He therefore in a weak way, fought
his best to escape. If he could only reach Mrs. Pelgrin's hotel he
would be safe. But the men were too strong for him, and he was beaten
to his knees. Then, what with the hunger that gnawed him, the bitter
cold, the fall, and the general surprise of the situation, his senses
left him. He uttered a weary sigh, and slipped to the ground, limp and
Then again, as had happened when Penn had drugged him in the
taxi-cab, he felt himself swallowed up in gloom; felt himself falling
interminably, and lost sight of the physical world and its
surroundings. To all intents and purposes he was dead, and from the
moment he closed his eyes in that misty meadow he remembered nothing
When his eyes opened again, they shut at once, for the blaze of
light was painful. Dimly he fancied that he heard a telephonic voice
give an order, and he felt that some ardent spirit was being poured
down his throat. The fiery liquor put new life into him; his heart
began to beat more strongly, and he felt that his weak limbs were
regaining a fictitious strength. With a thankful sigh he opened his
eyes again, and a bewildered look round made him understand that he was
in the barbaric sitting-room of The Grange. He saw the violent
contrasts of red and yellow and black; he realised the glare and
glitter and oppressive splendour of the many lamps, and his nostrils
were filled with the well-known Sumatra scent. Reason came back to him
with a rush, and he knew in what a dangerous position he was placed.
Here he was in the power of Queen Beelzebub and her factotum, Mrs.
Jarsell—at their mercy completely, as it were, although he was assured
that he would receive none at all. He had hunted down the gang; he was
breaking up the gang; and now in his hour of triumph he was at the
mercy of the gang. Queen Beelzebub was top, tail, and bottom of the
society, and he was in her grip. She would not relax it, he knew very
well, until the life was squeezed out of him.
The realisation of his danger and the memory of what his
helplessness meant to Lillian, nerved him to recover full control of
his consciousness. While there was life there was hope, and as his
captors had not murdered him while he was insensible, Dan concluded
that they would not do so when he had recovered his wits. Queen
Beelzebub would play with him, he fancied, as a cat plays with a mouse,
and in that case he might find some means of escape. So far he had
beaten her all along the line, and he might beat her still, although
she certainly held the winning cards at the moment. As these things
flashed across his brain, he yawned and stretched himself, looking
round in a leisurely way as he did so. Still feeling a trifle stiff and
sore, his thinking powers were nevertheless in good working order, as
they at once responded to the command of his indomitable will.
Therefore, with wonderful self-control, he smiled amiably, and stared
into every corner, in order to spy out the weakness of the land. But he
was being watched, as he soon knew, and his thoughts were read.
"No," snarled a silvery voice, higher in tone than that of Mrs.
Jarsell, "I have you and I mean to keep you."
Queen Beelzebub, alive and well, and as completely in possession of
her senses as he was, sat in her big carved chair near the open
fireplace just as she had sat when he paid that long distant visit with
Freddy Laurance and Mildred. Her face was as wrinkled as ever, but
instead of being of the ivory hue which had impressed him on a former
occasion, it was deadly white, and looked particularly venomous. Her
white hair had been smoothly brushed and she wore a loose cloak of
scarlet velvet, which fell to her feet. But in the fall she had
suffered, since Dan noticed that her right arm was bound up in bandages
and splints, resting in a black silk scarf against her breast. His eyes
fastened on this, and Miss Armour laughed in a thin, spiteful manner,
which hinted at the wrath that consumed her.
"Yes," she said, in answer to his mute query, "I have broken my
arm, thanks to you, Mr. Halliday. You smashed my aeroplane and sent me
to the ground."
"That is what you tried to do with me," said Dan, drily, and
settling himself comfortably in his chair, since he felt convinced that
he was in no immediate danger. "Tit for tat, Queen Beelzebub, or shall
I call you Miss Armour?"
"The real name or the feigned name, doesn't matter," rejoined the
lady, very coolly, "you can call me what you like for the time you have
"Oh!" said Halliday, equally coolly, and aware that the
cat-and-mouse torment was beginning, "so that's it, is it?"
Mrs. Jarsell stood beside her friend's chair, and was handing her
food in an anxious manner. The large and ponderous woman looked like a
child overcome with terror. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks were
hollow, and the immense vitality she possessed appeared to be at a very
low ebb. She was arrayed in white as usual, but her garb was not so
colourless as her face. She even looked smaller than formerly, and was
shrunken in her clothes. There was something pitiful in the spectacle
of this large phlegmatic female broken down, worn out, and overcome
with dread of the future. As she attended to Miss Armour the tears
rolled down her face, which had so suddenly grown old. The sight seemed
to irritate the other woman, who was much more frail, but who had a
much more powerful will. Dan saw in a flash that he had been mistaken
in thinking that Mrs. Jarsell was strong. Her strength lay in her
imposing looks; but she was the mere tool of that fragile, delicate old
lady, whose glittering eyes revealed the iron will, which dominated her
weak age-worn body. Here, indeed, was the true Queen Beelzebub, driven
into a corner and prepared to fight to the last. Halliday felt, with a
creeping of the flesh, that he had come to grips with an evil power,
which it would be desperately hard to conquer. Miss Armour saw the
shadow in his eyes.
"You're afraid," she taunted him.
Dan agreed. "Not physically, you understand," he said quietly, "but
you seem to be so thoroughly wicked that the spiritual part of myself
quails for the moment. But it doesn't matter much, you know, seeing
that you have much more cause to fear that I may shoot you at sight,"
and he fumbled in his pocket for Curberry's revolver which he had
picked up when leaving the room.
"I removed that when you were insensible," gasped Mrs. Jarsell,
wiping her eyes and turning a heavy white face in his direction.
"Of course," said Miss Armour, in a hard voice. "I ordered the
search to be made in case you had any weapons. Now you are quite
defenceless, and at my mercy, you meddling ape."
"How long have I been insensible?" asked Dan, ignoring the feminine
spite which led her to call him names.
"For quite an hour!" sighed Mrs. Jarsell, whose great body was
shaking, as if with the ague. "I had you brought here along with Miss
Armour. You were both in a kind of faint. Now you are all right, and—"
"And I am all right," finished Miss Armour, imperiously, "which is
much more to the purpose. Better had you died when you fell from the
aeroplane, Mr. Halliday, than have recovered so completely as you seem
to have done."
"You mean mischief?"
"Oh, yes, I mean mischief," replied Queen Beelzebub, amiably, "and
I mean torture, such as will make you wince. I'll prove what sort of a
man you are."
"You had better make haste then," said Dan, with a shrug, and
bracing up his courage to beat this fiend with her own weapons, "by
this time the police know all about Curberry."
"What's that to me? The police can't connect me with his death?"
"Not so far as you know, but as my friend Laurance promised to take
action at five o'clock if he did not hear from me, I expect with the
Blackheath and Hampstead inspectors he is now in Lord Curberry's house.
An explanation from Laurance will soon bring the authorities to this
Mrs. Jarsell burst into hysterical tears. "I knew there was great
danger," she wailed. "I knew that the end had come!" and she sank at
Miss Armour's feet in a fit of despair, the picture of a beaten woman.
"Oh, shut up, Eliza!" said Queen Beelzebub savagely, and her eyes
glittered more venomously than ever, "you always play the fool when
wits are needed to keep things straight."
"You can't keep them straight," said Dan, calmly, lounging in his
chair, "your career is at an end, Miss Armour."
"We'll see about that, Mr. Halliday. Oh, you needn't look at me in
that way, my friend! I still have the snake-poisoned lancet, you know,
and if you try to spring on me, even though my arm is broken, you will
meet with a sudden and unpleasant death."
"I don't want to touch you," retorted Halliday. "I shall leave the
hangman to finish you off."
"That he never shall do," snapped Miss Armour, her eyes flashing
and her nostrils dilating, "not one member of that glorious society I
have founded shall ever be done to death by those accursed people in
authority. I, and my subjects who obey me so loyally, will vanish."
"Will you? Not while the ports and railway stations are watched,"
sneered Halliday, with contempt, "and I don't think your friend Vincent
can supply aeroplanes in sufficient quantity for you all to get away.
Even if you did by some extraordinary chance, the world would be hunted
"It can be hunted from the North Pole to the South, Mr. Halliday,
but neither the members of the Society of Flies nor its queen will be
discovered. We will be as if we had never been," she concluded
triumphantly, and as she spoke, the big woman, sobbing at her feet,
shivered and shook, and uttered a muffled cry of terror.
Queen Beelzebub kicked her. "Get up, Eliza, you fool!" she said,
contemptuously, "you know quite well that I have made ready for
everything this long time."
"But I don't want to—"
"If you say another word," interrupted Miss Armour, viciously, "you
shall afford sport for the society, as this meddling beast shall do."
Dan laughed gaily, determined not to show the white feather,
although his heart was filled with fear. He did not mind a clean,
short, sharp death, but he did not wish to be tortured and mutilated,
as he believed this incarnate demon intended he should be. Curiously
enough, his laugh instead of exciting Queen Beelzebub to further wrath
seemed to extort her unwilling admiration.
"You are a brave man, Mr. Halliday," she muttered, reluctantly;
then burst out furiously, "Oh, you young fool, why did you not accept
the offer I made you?"
"The offer you prophesied in this very room would be made," said
Halliday, complacently; "well, you see, Miss Armour, or Queen
Beelzebub, or whatever you like to call yourself, I happen to have a
"That is your weakness," said the woman, calmly, "throw it on the
rubbish heap, my friend. It is useless."
"Now it is, so far as joining your infernal organisation is
concerned, I am quite sure. To-morrow the police will be here, and the
Society of Flies will cease to exist."
"That is possible, and yet may not be probable, Mr. Halliday. If
the society does cease to exist, it will not do so in the way you
contemplate. Eliza!" added Miss Armour, impatiently, "if you will sniff
and howl, go and do so in some other room. I can't stand you just now.
My nerves are shaken, and my arm is hurting me. Go away."
"And leave you with—" Mrs. Jarsell cast a terrified look at Dan.
"Pooh!" cried Queen Beelzebub, contemptuously, "you don't think
that I am afraid of him. I have the lancet with the snake poison, and
if he tries to get out of the door or the window you know very well
that every exit is watched. Go away and employ your time better than
sobbing and moaning. You know what you have to do, you poor silly
"Yes," sighed Mrs. Jarsell, and stumbled towards the door like a
rebuked infant. "I'll send the telegrams before eight. But the village
post-office will learn too much if I send them."
"Never mind. The whole world will learn too much before to-morrow
night, my dear Eliza. However, neither you nor I, nor any one else
concerned, will be here to get into trouble."
Mrs. Jarsell threw her hands above her head. "The end has come; the
end has come," she wailed tearfully, "we are lost, lost, lost!"
"I know that as well as you do," said Miss Armour, cheerfully,
"thanks to this idiot here. However, he shall pay for his meddling."
"But if the police—"
"If you don't get out," interrupted Queen Beelzebub, in a cold
fury, "I shall prick you with the lancet—you know what that means."
"It would be better than the other thing," moaned Mrs. Jarsell,
clinging to the door, which she had opened.
"What other thing?" inquired Halliday, on the alert for
Queen Beelzebub replied. "You shall know before you die! Eliza,
will you go and send those telegrams, you silly fool? If you don't obey
me—" the woman's face took on such a wicked expression that Mrs.
Jarsell, with a piteous cry, fled, hastily closing the door after her.
Then Miss Armour drank a little of the wine that was on the table
beside her and looked smilingly at her prisoner. "I never could make
anything of Eliza," she explained, "always a whimpering cry-baby. I
wouldn't have had her in the society but that I wished to use this
house, which belongs to her, and of course when we started her money
Halliday being alone, glanced around to see if he could escape. He
could not attack Miss Armour, old and feeble as she was, because of the
poisoned piece of steel which she had concealed about her. He had seen
the effects on Sir Charles Moon, and did not wish to risk so sudden a
death. For the sake of Lillian it was necessary that he should live,
since, if he did not, there was no one left to protect her; therefore
he did not think of meddling with Queen Beelzebub, but cast an anxious
look at windows and door. Escape that way was equally impossible, as
all were guarded. There seemed to be nothing for it but to wait and
take what chance offered itself later. He could see none at the moment.
The position was unpleasant, especially when he remembered that he was
to be tortured, but his manhood prevented his showing the least sign of
fear. To intimate that he cared nothing for her threats he took out his
pipe and tobacco pouch.
"Do you mind my smoking, Miss Armour?"
"Not at all, unless you would rather eat. There's food on the table
behind you. Oh," she laughed, when she saw the expression on his face,
as he glanced round, "don't be alarmed, I don't intend to poison you!
That death will be too easy. You can eat and drink and smoke with
perfect safety. I intend to end your life in a less merciful manner."
"Well," said Dan, going to the table, and taking a sandwich
together with a glass of port wine, "I think you are spiteful enough to
give me a bad time before dying, so I am quite sure that I can eat and
drink with safety!"
"Oh, what a pity; what a pity," said Miss Armour, thoughtfully,
when the young man returned to his seat and began to make a hurried
"What's a pity?" asked Dan, carelessly.
"That you and I should be enemies. I gave you the chance to be
friendly with me, you know, but you wouldn't take it. Yet I admire you,
and have always admired you. You have courage, brains, coolness, and
persistence. These are valuable qualities such as I needed for a member
of my society. If I had not seen that you possessed them and wished to
make use of them by binding you to my society, I should have ended your
life long ago."
"As Sir Charles Moon's life was ended; as Durwin's life was cut
short; as Penn was disposed of, and as Lord Curberry was dispatched."
"Well, no. Curberry poisoned himself because he feared that
everything was about to come out."
"As it will."
"Probably," said Queen Beelzebub, indifferently, "but there are yet
some hours before the end. No, my friend, you will not die like those
you have mentioned. Your cleverness demands a more ingenious death."
"You are a very clever woman," said Dan, finishing his glass of
"I am. You will admire my cleverness when you—" she checked
herself and laughed. "I knew a Chinese mandarin once and he told me
many things, Mr. Halliday. You can guess what he told me."
"Something about torture?" said Dan, lighting his pipe, "quite so.
You go to the Chinese to learn how to hurt a man. I thought you were
Miss Armour sneered. "Isn't this indifference rather overdone, Mr.
"Well, it is a trifle. I'm in a blue funk, and can you blame me,"
he shuddered; "a man doesn't like to die by inches, you know. However,
as we understand one another, suppose we while away the time by your
telling me how you came to start this damned gang of yours."
"My dear young friend, I admire your courage so much, that I can
refuse you nothing," mocked Miss Armour, wincing as she moved her
broken arm. "I really should be in bed with my hurt."
"You'll get feverish if you don't lay up," Dan advised her.
"Oh, I don't think so. I know about other drugs than the Sumatra
scent, Mr. Halliday. Of course, a broken arm," she added with a sigh,
"can't be mended by all the drugs in the world. Time alone can put it
right, and, thanks to you, I shan't have time to get cured. If you had
only fought with me intead of against me, this would not have happened.
Well, my society—"
"Yes. What about your society?" questioned Dan, politely and
Queen Beelzebub cast an admiring look in his direction and began to
speak in a quiet lady-like manner, as though she were presiding at a
tea-table, and the subject of conversation was quite an ordinary one.
"I was left an orphan at an early age," she said leisurely, "poor and
honest and friendless. For years I led what you fools call a decent
life, earning my bread by going out as a governess. But poverty and
honesty did not please me, especially since the first was the outcome
of the last. I never wished to marry, as I did not care for men. I did
not wish for society, or fame, or flirtation, or indeed anything a
woman usually longs for. I desired power!" and as she uttered the last
word an infernal expression of pride came over her white and delicate
"Power for a bad purpose?"
"Well, you see, Mr. Halliday, I could not get power for a good one.
The sole way in which I could obtain my ends was to appeal to people's
self-love. I read of those Italian societies, and the way in which they
terrorised the world. Whatever the members of those societies want they
get, because they work by blackmail, by threats, by the knife, and with
poison. I always wished to found a society of that sort, but I noticed
how frequently things went wrong because the members of various
societies got mixed up with women, or drank too much, or gave
themselves away in a moment of profligacy."
"Ah," Dan smoked calmly, "now I understand why your rules were so
"You speak of them in the past tense," said Miss Armour, curiously.
"Well," Dan pressed down the tobacco in his pipe, "the society is
done for; it's gastados, used up, bust, and all the rest of it. Well?"
"Well," echoed the woman, passing over his remark with a sneer. "I
wished to collect a body of men and women who were to live like saints
and use all the power such self-denial gave them to gain all they
wanted for themselves."
"A devilishly clever scheme."
"But not original, like my tortures," Queen Beelzebub assured him.
"In Australia—Sydney, New South Wales—I fancy there are societies who
have the same rules. They call such an organisation there a 'Push!' I
Dan nodded. "I have heard of such things."
"Well, then—to make a long story short, as I want to go to bed,
and can't enjoy your delightful society much longer—I intended to work
on those lines. Years and years ago Mrs. Jarsell was a favourite pupil
of mine. We parted and she married a man with money. He died," Miss
Armour laughed, "in fact, since he treated Eliza badly, I got rid of
"Oh, so that is the hold you have on her."
"Quite so. I met her again and got rid of the husband. He left her
his money and I came to live with Eliza as a companion. For a time we
went into London society, and I soon managed to get a few people
together by appealing to their egotism. Some kicked at my ideas—others
did not, and in the end I collected quite a large number. Then I made
Eliza take this house as it struck me that aeroplanes might be utilised
for criminal purposes. I don't say that when this idea came to me
aeroplanes were so good as they are now, but I believed that aviation
would improve, and that the air would be conquered. Chance brought
Vincent into my life. He became a member of the Society of Flies, and
manufactured the machines. He also learned me how to handle them—"
"I am bound to say that he had an excellent pupil," put in Dan,
"Thank you," Miss Armour smiled and nodded. "I fancy I am pretty
good. But you see that by using an aeroplane I was able to get up and
down to London without people knowing. I was, so to speak, in two
places at once, by travelling fast, and so could prove an alibi
"No. Eliza murdered him. She went up in an aeroplane along with
Vincent, since she is too silly to handle one herself. To kill
Moon—that was my work because he learned too much and refused to join
me—I went to town by train in the character of the false Mrs. Brown.
Penn was killed by Curberry, who had to obey me, or suffer himself. Oh,
I assure you I am quite autocratic, Mr. Halliday," finished the woman
"I quite believe that," said Halliday, drily, "but did all this
villainy give you pleasure?"
"Oh, yes," Miss Armour's nostrils again dilated, and her eyes again
flashed triumphantly, "think of the power I held until you interfered.
I pretended for greater safety to be paralysed, and no one ever
connected a poor invalid lady with Queen Beelzebub."
"I did not, I assure you. I believed Queen Beelzebub to be Mrs.
"Eliza," Miss Armour scoffed, "why, she's a poor weak fool, and
only did what I ordered her to do because I implicated her along with
myself in the murder of her husband. However, she has been useful, as
without her money I could not have started the business. Power!" she
repeated, "yes, I have a great power. High or low, rich or poor, there
was no one I could not remove if I chose. My subjects worked for me
willingly, or unwillingly."
"You are a kind of 'Old Woman of the Mountains', like the gentleman
of that name who invented the Assassins—that gang about the time of
"Quite so, although it is not polite of you to call me an old
woman. By the way, I got Curberry his title by getting rid of his uncle
"Yes. So he told me," said Dan, marvelling that the woman could
speak so calmly about her wickedness.
"Oh, you are shocked," she laughed gaily, "what a fool you are! I
could tell you much concerning many murders and disappearances which
the police knew nothing about. For some years I have ruled like a
despot, and—and—well," she yawned, "it's all over. Oh, what a pity!"
"I think not. People will sleep quieter when they know Queen
Beelzebub and her demons are harmless."
"Harmless," she echoed the word with a laugh, and touched a silver
bell that stood at her elbow, "we shall all be harmless enough
to-morrow, if indeed you speak truly, and your friend Laurance is
coming up here with the police."
"He is, I assure you," said Dan, wondering why she rang the bell;
"but who are the members of your gang?"
"You'll see them to-morrow, when you afford sport for them," said
Queen Beelzebub in a weary way, and looked fagged out; "meanwhile, I
must have you safely locked up," and as she spoke, two big men entered
"Hang you, I shan't!" began Dan, and sprang to his feet. But the
two men had their hands on him; and shortly he was trussed up like a
"You are less clever than I thought," said Queen Beelzebub,
sneering, "or you would not fight against impossibilities. Good night!
Take him away."
And as they were commanded, the two big men took him away in
Chapter XX. QUEEN BEELZEBUB'S END
Unable to resist superior force Dan ceased to struggle, thinking it
was best to play a waiting game, until chance afforded him the
opportunity of escape. Hitherto his good fortune had saved him from
grave perils, and he trusted that finally it would prove strong enough
to extricate him from this last difficulty. He was taken down a short
flight of damp steps and thrust into what he took to be a disused
coal-cellar. Here the two big men released him from his bonds and
retired, locking the door behind them. Once or twice he asked
questions, but receiving no reply he asked no more. They left a lantern
for his use, and the light, although only that of a candle, was very
acceptable in the cimmerian darkness of this underground dungeon. When
left alone the prisoner stretched himself, swung his arms and stamped
with his feet to get warm, after which he made an examination of his
Halliday found that the cellar was small with stone floor, stone
roof, and stone walls, all more or less humid. Light and air came
through a shaft on the right of the entrance, which was too narrow to
permit of escape. Evidently the place had been used before as a prison,
and no doubt for refractory members of the society, since there was
some spare furniture. In one corner was a low bed, in another a deal
table, in a third a wash-stand, and finally there was one kitchen chair
on which Dan took his seat to think over matters. He had eaten, so did
not feel hungry, and solaced himself with his pipe, a luxury for which
he felt very grateful. It could not be said that his thoughts were
pleasant; they could scarcely be so, under the circumstances, as there
was no denying he was in a most uncomfortable plight.
So Miss Armour, the delicate maiden lady, was Queen Beelzebub, and
the imposing Mrs. Jarsell was only her tool. Dan was surprised when he
reflected on this, and could not help admiring the infernal cunning of
the woman who had arranged matters. Miss Armour was without doubt a
born criminal, who much preferred doing evil to doing good. As Mrs.
Jarsell's companion, she could have led a blameless existence,
surrounded by attention and comfort and luxury, but her craving for
power had led her into dark paths. For all her care, she might have
guessed that in a law-abiding country the truth of her murderous
association would come to the notice of the authorities sooner or
later. And when the knowledge had become public, with all her cunning
she was unable to cope with the situation. Like the fox in the fable,
her many wiles had proved useless, and here she was driven into a
corner. What she intended to do Dan could not think. He did not see in
what way she could escape punishment.
Of course the young man was perfectly satisfied that Freddy was
moving in the matter down south. According to instructions he must have
gone to Lord Curberry's house at Blackheath when he failed to receive
news of his friend, and what he discovered there would assure him that
it was time to take public action and inform the police of what was
going on. The servants would be questioned and Curberry's body would be
examined, while the visit of the veiled woman and her flight in the
aeroplane would be explained. Laurance would guess at once that the
unknown lady was Queen Beelzebub attending to her iniquitous business,
and an inquiry at the shed would soon inform him of the pursuit.
Halliday believed that on the morrow Laurance, together with the
police, would arrive at Sheepeak, and then the end would come.
Meanwhile he was in great danger unless Freddy appeared in time to
rescue him, for Miss Armour was very spiteful and her last act of power
would undoubtedly be to murder him for the action he had taken in
bringing about her downfall. But this had to be faced, and if death was
certain, he hoped that it would be immediate, since even his brave
nature quailed at the idea of suffering ingenious Chinese tortures. As
to Lillian, Dan was quite sure she would not be harmed, because Queen
Beelzebub had her hands full and would not have time to kill her.
Indeed, if she decided to do so, it would not be easy for her to find
anyone to execute her commands, for every member of the Society of
Flies must by this time have become aware of the danger which
threatened their organisation. Halliday believed that the telegrams
alluded to by Miss Armour and which were to be sent by Mrs. Jarsell
were intended to summon the members to a conference. Yet what use such
a meeting would be, the young man could not think. The net of the law
would capture the entire gang without doubt. And yet Queen Beelzebub
was so infernally cunning that Dan could not be sure she would not find
some means of saving herself and her subjects, even at the eleventh
In thoughts such as these the night passed slowly and the hours
seemed interminable. The candle in the lantern burned itself out, and
he found himself in complete darkness, while the silence was only
broken by the drip of water from the walls, or by his own breathing and
restless movements. Dan felt as though he were in a tomb, and his
lively imagination conjured up all kinds of horrors until, worn out,
physically and mentally, he fell into a profound slumber. When he
opened his eyes again it was dawn, for he saw the cold light streaming
down through the air shaft. A glance at his watch assured him that it
was seven o'clock, and he wondered if food would be brought to him
shortly. As he had only eaten a sandwich and drank a glass of port wine
since yesterday morning's breakfast, he felt most uncommonly hungry,
and in spite of the peril in which he stood he longed ardently for
food. In the meantime, for comfort, he lighted his pipe again, sat on
his bed, and watched the thin beam of sunlight move slowly across the
stone floor of his cell. This was an unexpected adventure sure enough,
and unpleasant as it was now, it promised to be still more unpleasant
before it was concluded. All that Halliday could hope for was that
Laurance with the police would arrive in time to save his life, and
deliver him from imprisonment.
At ten o'clock—Dan looked again at his watch when the door
opened—Mrs. Jarsell entered with a tray, on which were two boiled
eggs, bread and butter, and coffee. Placing this on the table she was
about to leave, as she had entered, in silence, when Dan caught her
dress. At once with a shiver she drew back and displayed the lancet
tipped with the serpent-poison.
"If you try to escape, I shall kill you," she said in her heavy
Dan looked at her curiously, and saw that she was less imposing
than ever for all her massive looks. All her self-restraint was gone,
her eyes were red; her face was disfigured with tears; and her big body
looked flabby and inert. A greater collapse or a more pitiful spectacle
can scarcely be imagined, and Dan felt quite sorry for her, even though
he knew she was banded against him with others to bring him to a cruel
death. "I shall not try to escape," he said, slowly; "that is, I shan't
try just now."
Pausing at the door, Mrs. Jarsell, still on guard with the lancet,
looked at him sorrowfully. "You can never escape," she said brokenly,
"try as you may, for the house is guarded by four men, who are sworn to
obey Miss Armour."
"Queen Beelzebub, you mean," said Halliday with a shrug.
"I wish I had never heard the name," cried Mrs. Jarsell with a sob.
"I quite believe that. I am very sorry for you."
"You have every need to be. Thanks to you, we are all caught in a
trap, and there is no means of escape."
"Really. I thought that Miss Armour—"
Mrs. Jarsell shuddered. "she has an idea, but I hope it will not be
necessary for her to carry out her idea. After all, things may not be
so bad as they seem, Mr. Halliday."
"If you mean the police, I am afraid they are," he retorted with
another shrug and with great emphasis; "by this time my friend Laurance
has informed the Scotland Yard authorities of what we know."
"What do you know?" demanded Mrs. Jarsell, with a gasp, and she was
forced to lean against the door for support.
"Everything," said Dan, briefly, "so with your permission I shall
have my breakfast, Mrs. Jarsell," and he began to eat with a good
"Oh, how can you; how can you?" cried the big woman, convulsively,
"think of the danger you stand in!"
"I shall escape!"
"Escape, and from Queen Beelzebub? Nobody has ever escaped her."
"I shall, and you will be the means of my escaping."
"Me!" Mrs. Jarsell used bad grammar in her astonishment, "how can
"That is your affair," broke in Halliday, pouring out the coffee.
"Why should I help you to escape?"
"Because you are a woman and not a fiend. Miss Armour is one, I
admit, but I can see very plainly that you are a most unwilling
"I am, I am," cried Mrs. Jarsell, vehemently, "years ago I was a
decent woman, a good woman. She came into my life again and poisoned my
existence. She worked on my jealousy and on my fear and—"
"I know; I know. She enabled you to get rid of your husband."
"Ah!" Mrs. Jarsell reeled back as though she had been struck, "she
told you that, did she?"
"She told me everything."
"Then you will never escape; she would never let you go free with
the knowledge you have of her secrets. You are doomed. As to my
husband," Mrs. Jarsell appeared to be speaking more to herself than to
Dan, "he was a wicked and cruel wretch. He starved me, he beat me, he
was unfaithful to me, and led me such a life as no woman could endure.
Miss Armour showed me how to rid myself of him, when I was distraught
with misery and passion. I thought it was sympathy with me that made
her help me. It was not. All she desired was to gain some hold over me,
and use my money for her own vile ends."
"You don't appear to love her," said Halliday, coolly.
The woman closed the door, placed her back against it and clenched
her hands in a cold fury. "I hate her; I loathe her; I detest her!" she
cried, in a guttural voice, evidently consumed with rage. "For years
and years and years I have been her slave. After I killed my husband,
under her directions—although I don't deny but what he deserved
death—there was no retreat for me, as she could have, and would have,
informed the police. I should have been hanged. She made use of her
power to use my money in order to create this wicked society. It
murders and slays and blackmails and—"
"I know; I know," said Dan soothingly, "she told me all about it."
"Then you know how evil she is. I have had to commit crimes from
which my better self shrank at her command."
"Such as the murder of Durwin," put in Dan, quickly.
"That is only one out of many. Deeper and deeper I have sunk into
the mire and now the end has come. I am glad of it."
"Why not turn king's evidence, and denounce this woman and her
gang? Then you would be pardoned."
"There is no pardon for my wickedness," said Mrs. Jarsell, in a
sombre tone, "I have sown, and I must reap as I have sown. It is too
late. I know that your friend will come with the police. They will find
the whole wicked lot of criminals here, which constitute the Society of
"Ah! those telegrams?"
"Yes. I sent off thirty last night, for now Penn and Curberry are
dead there are just thirty members. To-day all will come up since the
danger to everyone is so great. I sent the wires last night, and I am
confident that the members have started for Sheepeak this morning. This
afternoon every one will be under this roof. All the worse for you."
Dan quailed. "Does she really mean to torture me?" he asked
nervously, and it was little to be wondered at that such a prospect did
make him feel sick.
"Yes, she does," rejoined Mrs. Jarsell, gloomily, "when the members
find that there is no escape, they will be delighted to see the man who
had brought this danger upon them mutilated and done to death by
"A pleasant set of people," muttered Dan, bracing himself to meet
the worst, "but I think you would not care to see me tortured."
"No, I wouldn't. You are brave, and young, and clever, and
"And," added Dan, quickly, thinking of a means to move her to help
him, "I am to marry Lillian Moon. Surely you have some sympathy with me
and with her?"
"Supposing I have, what can I do?"
"Help me to escape," said Dan, persuasively.
"It's impossible," she growled, and went suddenly away, closing the
door after her with a bang that sounded in Dan's ears like his
All the same, with the courage of a brave nature, and the
hopefulness inseparable from youth, he went on with his meal hoping for
the best. Mrs. Jarsell was moved by his plight; he saw that, and,
deeply stained as she was with compulsory crimes, she might think to
atone for them by doing one good act. At the eleventh hour she might
set him free, and undoubtedly she would think over what he had said.
This woman, unlike the others, was not entirely evil, and the seeds of
good in her breast might bring forth repentance and consequent help.
Dan knew that he was clinging to a straw, but in his present dilemma
there was nothing else to cling to.
After breakfast he lay down again, and again began to smoke. For
hours he waited to hear his fate, sometimes stretched on his bed,
sometimes seated in the chair and occasionally walking up and down the
confined space of his cell. He could not disguise from himself that
things were desperate. His sole hope of escape lay with Mrs. Jarsell,
and that was but a slight one. Even though her remorse might wish to
aid him, her terror of Queen Beelzebub might be too strong to let her
move in the matter. Halliday was uncommonly brave, and extraordinarily
hopeful, yet the perspiration beaded his forehead, and he shivered at
the prospect of torture. Without doubt he was in hell, and the devils
presided over by the infernal queen were waiting to inflict pains and
penalties on him. It terrified him to think that—
"But this won't do," said Dan to himself, as he heard the key grate
in the lock late in the afternoon. "I must pull myself together and
smile. Whatever these beasts do to me, I must die game.
With a quiet smile he turned to greet Mrs. Jarsell, who did not
look him in the face, nor did she even speak. With a gesture, he was
invited to come out and for the moment had a wild idea of escape as
soon as he reached the upper portion of that wicked house. But the
sight of the lancet in her hand prevented him from making a dash for
liberty. He knew that the merest scratch would make him a corpse, so it
was not worth while to risk the attempt. Only when he was at the door
of the barbaric sitting-room he whispered to Mrs. Jarsell, "You will
help me to escape. I know you will. Even now you are thinking of ways
"Perhaps," she gasped, in a low whisper, then hastily flung open
the door and pushed him into the room.
With that word of hope ringing in his ears, Halliday faced his
judges with a smile on his lips. The room was filled with people who
greeted his entrance with a roar of anger. He was spat upon, struck at,
kicked and shaken by those despairing creatures whom he had brought to
book. Queen Beelzebub, seated in her big chair, at the end of the
apartment, smiled viciously when she saw his reception, but did not
interfere for some moments. Then she waved her hand.
"Let him be; let him be," she said, in her malicious silvery voice,
"you shall have all the revenge you desire. But let everything be done
Left alone by the furies, Halliday stood with his back to the door,
and with Mrs. Jarsell on guard beside him. He glanced round at the
pallid faces and thought that he had never seen such an assemblage of
terror. There were old men, and young men, mixed with women of the
higher and lower classes. Some were well-dressed, while others were
badly clothed; some were handsome and others were ugly. But one and all
bore the mark of despair written on their white faces and in their
agonised eyes. It was like a gathering of the damned and only the
individual who had damned them, one and all, seemed to be unmoved.
Queen Beelzebub appeared calm and unshaken, looking at her prisoner
quietly and speaking in a tranquil manner. Dan found himself wondering
if this creature was indeed a human being or a fiend.
"We are all here," said Miss Armour, in a dignified manner, and
waving her hand again, this time to indicate the assembly; "this is the
Society of Flies which you see face to face for the first and the last
time. You have brought us together for an unpleasant purpose—"
"To torture and murder me, I suppose," said Halliday, with studied
insolence, and bracing his courage with the memory of Mrs. Jarsell's
"No. That part of our business is pleasant," Queen Beelzebub
assured him. "I look forward to enjoyment when I see you writhing in
torment. But the unpleasant purpose is the disbanding of our society."
A wail of terror arose from those present. Some dropped on their
knees and beat the ground with their foreheads; others stood stiff and
terror-struck, while a few dropped limply on the floor, grovelling in
despair. Since all these people were criminals, who had inflicted death
and sorrow on others, it was strange how they hated a dose of their own
medicine. Even in the midst of his fears Dan found himself wondering at
the illogicality of the degenerate mob, who expected to do evil and yet
enjoy peace. Then he remembered that cruelty always means cowardice,
and no longer marvelled at the expression of dread and fear on every
"How I propose to disband our society," went on Queen Beelzebub,
quite unmoved by that agonised wail, "there is no need for you to know.
It may be that we shall break up, and each one will go here, there, and
the other place. It is certain that we cannot keep together since I
have received news that the police are after us."
"Headed by Laurance."
"Exactly. Headed by your friend Laurance. I should like to punish
him, but there is no time, so you will have to bear his punishment as
well as your own, Mr. Halliday. What have you to say why we should not
torture you and kill you, and force you to die by inches?"
Fists were shaken, feet were stamped, and a dozen voices asked the
same question. Dan looked round at his foes calmly, and shrugged his
shoulders in contempt. There was a burst of jeering laughter. "You
won't look like that," said Queen Beelzebub, significantly, "when—"
she broke off with a dreadful laugh and glanced at the fire-place.
There Dan saw irons of curious shape, pincers and files and tongs,
and what was worst of all, in the centre of the flames reddened a
circle of steel. He could not help turning pale as he guessed that this
would be placed on his head, and again he comforted himself with the
memory that Mrs. Jarsell, even at the eleventh hour, might help him.
When he changed colour there was a second burst of laughter, and
Halliday glared fiercely round.
"Are you human beings or fiends?" he asked, "to think of torturing
me. Kill me if you will, but shame as men and women should prevent you
from mutilating a man, who has done you no harm."
"No harm," it was Queen Beelzebub who spoke while her subjects
snarled like ill-fed beasts, "you dare to say that, when you have
brought us to this pass?"
"I acted in the cause of law and order," said Dan boldly.
"We despise law and order."
"Yet you are now being brought to book by what you despise,"
retorted the prisoner, and again there came that unhuman snarl.
"The more you speak in that way the worse it will be for you," said
Miss Armour, coldly, "yet you can escape some tortures if you will tell
us all how you came to learn the truth about us?"
"I don't care a damn about your tortures," said Dan, valiantly,
"and I will explain what you ask just to show that clever as your
organisation is, it cannot escape discovery. Nor has it. You are all
snared here like rats in a trap, and should you venture out of this
house you will be caught by the authorities to be hanged as you
A howl of rage went up, and Queen Beelzebub waved her hand once
more. "All in good time," she said quietly, "let us hear what he has to
"It was the Sumatra scent on the body of Sir Charles Moon which put
me on the track," declared Dan, folding his arms. "I traced it to Penn,
who told me a lie about it. I believed him at the moment and
disbelieved him when I smelt the same perfume in this very room."
"Here?" questioned Miss Armour, and for the first time her face
wore an expression of dismay, as if she had been caught napping.
"Yes. If you remember, I spoke about your cards being scented. You
told me a lie about it. But that clue connected you with Moon's murder.
I watched you and I watched Mrs. Jarsell. I saw her face in a
cinematograph which was taken on the day of the London to York race
when Durwin was murdered."
"Oh!" Mrs. Jarsell gasped and moaned, and Dan could hear some of
the men in impotent fury grind their teeth. Queen Beelzebub was as calm
"Penn told me much when I was taking him for that flight in which I
said I would throw him overboard unless he confessed. Then I was taken
to the headquarters of your society in London, and again smelt the
perfume. I believed that Queen Beelzebub was Mrs. Jarsell, and was
astonished when I found Miss Armour playing that part. Penn's
confession was not all destroyed, and my friend Laurance has by this
time shown what remains of it to the police."
"And the telegram which Curberry received?" demanded Queen
"Laurance sent that in vague terms so as to frighten Curberry. It
did, and he committed suicide after declaring to me that he murdered
Penn by your damned order, Miss Armour. Then—"
"Thank you, we know the rest," she said in a quiet tone, which was
infinitely sinister in its suggestion, "you followed me in the
aeroplane, and smashed us both up."
"He broke my machines, the two of them," said a hoarse voice of
wrath, and Dan looked sideways to see Vincent glaring at him furiously.
"Well, you have fallen into your own trap," said Queen Beelzebub,
savagely. "I caught you, and I hold you, and after we have had a
conference as to how you will be tortured, you will expiate your
"Crimes," echoed Dan, "that's a nice way to put the matter. I have
done a service to the State by ridding the world of all you devils. You
can't escape hanging, not one of you," and he looked defiantly round
"We shall all escape," said Queen Beelzebub quietly, "those who
think that they will not, have no trust in me." She rose and stretched
out her arms. "I have never failed you; never, never. I shall not fail
you now. I swear that not a single one of you will suffer on the
Apparently her sway over the society was great and they believed
that she could accomplish even impossibilities, for the faces of all
cleared as if by magic. The look of dread, the expression of terror
disappeared, and there only remained an uneasy feeling, as though none
felt themselves quite safe until Queen Beelzebub performed her promise.
For his part, Dan believed that the woman was lying, as he could not
see how any could win free of the net which was even now being cast
over the house.
"You are a set of fools, as well as a pack of wolves," cried the
young man, in a vehement manner, "the police know too much for you to
escape them. My friend Laurance will lead them here; he knows this
house; you are safely trapped, say what that woman will. Thieves,
rogues, liars, murderers—"
"Lawyers, doctors, actors, soldiers," scoffed Queen Beelzebub,
"they all belong to the Society of Flies, and you can see them here,
Mr. Halliday. Some of those ladies are in society; some are in shops;
some are married, and others are not. But both men and women have acted
for the good of the society, which I have founded to give each and
every one what he or she desires."
"You are all devils," raged Dan, his wrath getting the better of
his discretion, "red-handed criminals. The only decent one amongst you
is Mrs. Jarsell."
"I am decent?" gasped Mrs. Jarsell, looking up surprised.
"Yes. Because you were driven by that fiend," he pointed to the
smiling Miss Armour, "to compulsory crimes. You feel remorse—"
"Does she," cried Queen Beelzebub, gaily, "and what good does that
do, my very dear Eliza, when you know what you have to do?"
Mrs. Jarsell looked at her companion with a long and deadly look of
hate, such as Dan had never thought a face was capable of expressing.
"I loathe and detest you," she said, slowly, "but for you, I would have
been a good woman. I have been driven to sin by you."
"And I shall still drive you," shouted Queen Beelzebub, furiously;
"take that man away until we decide what tortures we will inflict on
him. Then when he is dead and punished for his meddling, you will
either do what I have commanded you to do, or you shall be tortured
The assembly, now quite certain that in some way their necks would
be delivered from the rope of the law, shouted joyfully, glad to think
that two people would be done to death instead of one. Mrs. Jarsell
smiled in a faint, bitter manner.
"You shall be obeyed," she said, slowly; "come, Mr. Halliday!"
"And say your prayers," cried Queen Beelzebub as the door opened to
let the pair out, "you'll need them," and as the door closed with Dan
and Mrs. Jarsell on the outside, the young man heard again that cruel
"They are all in there," whispered the woman catching Dan's wrist
and speaking hurriedly, "the men who captured you included. The house
is quite empty outside that room. Come!"
"Where will you take me?" inquired Dan, hanging back and wincing,
for now his fate hung in the balance, indeed.
"Outside. I am setting you free. Run away and probably you will
meet your friend and the police. And pray for me; pray for me," she
"Why not come also?" said Dan, when he found himself at the
entrance door of The Grange, "you are a good woman, and—"
"I am not good. I am wicked, and may God forgive me. But I am doing
one decent thing, and that is to set you free to marry Lillian Moon.
When you leave this house, I shall do another decent deed."
"And that is?" Dan stepped outside, yet lingered to hear her
"You shall see. Tell the police not to come too near the house,"
and in a hurry she pushed him away and bolted the door.
Halliday ran for all he was worth from that wicked dwelling. On the
high road he saw a body of men approaching, and was certain that here
were the police and Laurance coming to save him. Shouting with glee at
his escape he hastened towards them, when he heard a sullen heavy boom
like distant thunder. He looked back at The Grange and saw a vast
column of smoke towering into the sunlight. Then came a rain of debris.
At last the Society of Flies were disbanded, for the house and its
wicked inhabitants were shattered into infinitesimal fragments.
Chapter XXI. SUNSHINE
After the storm came the calm, and with the spring a realisation of
Mr. Halliday's hopes concerning his future. Sir John Moon no longer
objected to Dan as the husband of his niece, and was indeed profoundly
thankful that she had escaped becoming Lady Curberry. The story of the
Society of Flies, and the wickedness of Queen Beelzebub and the blowing
up of The Grange was a nine day's wonder. The papers, for some weeks,
were filled with little else, and "The Moment" almost doubled its
circulation when the able pen of Mr. Frederick Laurance set forth the
complete story. Halliday became quite a hero, as indeed he was,
although he did not appreciate the rewards of his conduct. To be
interviewed, to have his portrait, more or less unlike him, in dozens
of illustrated papers, to receive offers from music-hall managers, and
even proposals of marriage from various enthusiastic ladies, did not
appeal to Dan. As soon as he could, he went out of London and took
refuge in Sir John's country seat so as to escape publicity.
Needless to say, Lillian was there, and Mrs. Bolstreath also.
Laurance was due within seven days to be Dan's best man at the June
wedding, and with him Mildred was coming at Lillian's special request.
Once, twice, and again the owner of the house had heard the story of
the late events, and also had read them more or less garbled in
different newspapers. Yet he never wearied of the recital, and admired
Halliday greatly for the part he had played. From objecting to Dan as a
nephew-in-law the baronet now urgently desired that he should make
Lillian Mrs. Halliday. In fact, when he thought of what the young man
had saved Lillian from, the uncle of the girl could not do enough for
his estimable young friend. So Dan, having become famous was about to
become rich, but neither fame nor wealth appealed to him so much as the
undoubted fact that he was on the eve of wedding the girl he adored.
"And I think," said Lillian, holding on to Dan as if she feared to
lose him, "that you and I would be as happy in a cottage as in a
palace. Money is a nuisance, I think, dear."
"You say that because you have never experienced the want of it,"
said Dan, in a sententious manner. All the same he slipped his arm
round the girl's slim waist, and kissed her for the pretty sentiment
she had expressed relative to a poor but Arcadian existence.
The happy pair, not yet joined in holy matrimony, but to be made
one in seven days, were seated in the delightful garden of Sir John's
house, which was situated in the pleasant county of Devon. They had
strolled out after dinner, leaving Mrs. Bolstreath to chat with the
baronet, who approved of the big placid woman, and enjoyed her society.
Lillian and Dan, however, liked to be in one another's company without
any third person to spoil their pleasure, and on this occasion—being
humoured as lovers—they were entirely alone. The garden sloped down to
a yellow beach, which was the curve of a tiny bay, and under the orb of
a brilliant May moon, the waters of the vast sea murmured softly almost
at their feet. There was a marble bench here, with a marble statue of
Cupid near at hand, perched on a pedestal, so the spot was quite that
which lovers would have chosen. Dan chose it, because the screen of
shrubs and trees quite shut off the nook they occupied from the many
windows of the great house, and he could kiss Lillian when he wished to
without any uneasy feeling that someone was looking on. It is quite
unnecessary to say that he frequently availed himself of his privilege.
The about-to-be bride fully approved of his ardour in this respect.
"But you really must be serious," said Miss Moon sedately, after
the last embrace given out of compliment to her love-in-a-cottage
sentiment. "I want to ask you a few questions."
"Ask what you will, I can deny you nothing."
"It's about the Society of Flies," hesitated the girl.
"My dear," said Dan patiently, and coaxing a loose leaf round his
cigar, "I don't want to be disagreeable, but I am really tired of the
Society of Flies."
"Only a few questions," said Lillian, nestling to his side, "and
then we can forget all about the matter."
"That won't be easy for me to do," replied Mr. Halliday, rather
grimly, "I can never forget what I suffered when I was expecting to be
tortured by that fiend."
"She could not have chosen a better name, my dear. I sometimes
doubt if she was a human being at all."
"Poor, misguided woman," murmured Lillian, resting her head on
"Don't pity her, dear. She does not deserve your pity. Now, Mrs.
Jarsell—I have always been sorry for her."
"So have I," said the girl, promptly, "she was very good to you,
"Good is a weak way of expressing what I owe her," retorted
Halliday, "think of what she saved me from."
"Perhaps Queen Beelzebub would not have tortured you, after all."
Dan laughed incredulously. "I shouldn't have cared to have trusted
to her mercy. I tell you, Lillian, as I have told you before, that
already the implements of torture were being made ready. They would
have crowned me with a red-hot circlet of steel, and pinched my flesh
with red-hot pincers, and—"
"Don't, oh, don't," Lillian turned pale, "it is really too
dreadful! And to think that I was with Bolly at Mrs. Pelgrin's quite
ignorant of the peril you were in. I wish I had been with you."
"I am glad you were not. My one feeling of thankfulness was that
you had escaped being hurt in any way. I didn't mind dying so long as
you were all right, my darling, although I much prefer being alive and
here. Lillian, my dear, don't cry; it's all over weeks ago."
"I—I—I can't—can't help it," sobbed the girl, clinging to him,
"it is all so dreadful. When Mr. Laurance came that day with the police
and said you were at The Grange, I thought I should have died."
"There, there," Dan soothed her, as he would have soothed a fretful
child, "it is all over and done with. By the way, how was Freddy so
certain that I was at The Grange? He never quite explained his
"Well, dear," said Miss Moon, drying her eyes with Dan's
handkerchief, "when he did not hear from you in London he went down to
Blackheath with Inspector Tenson of Hampstead. They saw the local
inspector and called at Lord Curberry's house, after what Mr. Laurance
told. But already a policeman had been summoned by the servants. Lord
Curberry was dead of poison, and they found his confession saying how
he had taken it because he believed that his connection with the
Society of Flies was found out. Then the servants explained how Queen
Beelzebub had come in an aeroplane—"
"They did not call her Queen Beelzebub—the servants, I mean," said
Dan, who had heard the explanation before but was glad to hear it again
told in Lillian's soft voice.
"No. They did not know who she was, as she was cloaked and veiled.
But they told Mr. Laurance that you had declared this veiled lady had
murdered Lord Curberry—that wasn't true, you know."
"True enough in one sense," interrupted Dan quickly, "seeing that
she drove him to suicide. Well?"
"Well, then, Mr. Laurance guessed that she was Queen Beelzebub and
wondered where you were. He went to the shed where you kept your
aeroplane and heard that you had followed her. Those at the shed
thought that it was a race."
"It was," said Dan grimly, again, "and I won."
"Mr. Laurance guessed that you had followed her all the way to
Sheepeak, although he fancied, and indeed hoped, that both aeroplanes
had broken down. He dreaded lest you should get into trouble at
"Which I certainly did, although not quite in the way Freddy
Lillian laughed at the memory of his escape, and rubbed her soft
face on the sleeve of his coat. "Mr. Laurance told the police all about
the matter, and they wished to telegraph to Thawley, so that the police
there might go over to Sheepeak. But Mr. Laurance stopped them, as he
fancied you might have been taken captive by Queen Beelzebub, and that
if such a move was made, she might hurt you."
"She intended to hurt me very severely. And then Freddy heard from
the police about those numerous telegrams all in the same words,
calling thirty people to Sheepeak. It was the similarity of the
messages that made the telegraph authorities suspicious and when the
police came to ask—knowing where Queen Beelzebub lived from
Freddy—they were shown the telegrams."
"But by that time all those who got the telegrams had come north,"
said Lillian, quite excited, "they all went up by the early train."
"Yes, and the police, with Freddy, followed, delaying action until
such time as they thought they could collar the whole gang. By Jove,
they just came in time. Freddy was a fool to tell you that I was in The
"He was not quite certain, and only thought so because the wrecked
aeroplanes were found in the field near the house. Oh, Dan," Lillian
put her arms round her lover's neck, "Mr. Laurance told me how thankful
he was when he saw you running along the road and knew that you had
"He might have been thankful also that I caused him and the body of
police to halt," said Dan, quickly, "if they had not, every one would
have been blown up. As it was, I very nearly got smashed by the falling
sticks and stones and what not. There must have been tons of dynamite
in the cellars of The Grange."
"Who do you think put it there, Dan?"
"Queen Beelzebub, of course. She said that she had made everything
ready against possible discovery, and warned poor Mrs. Jarsell that she
would have to commit a last crime. Crime, by Jove! Why the best day's
work the woman ever did was to blow up that gang of devils."
"I suppose Mrs. Jarsell did blow up the house, Dan?"
"Of course she did. Her heart softened for some reason, and she
pushed me out of danger. Then she must have gone straight down to the
cellar, and set a light to the stored dynamite. The explosion happened
so quickly after I was free that I am sure she acted in that way. It
was certainly efficacious, for not one of the blackguards, either men
or women, remained alive to be hanged."
"Well, that was a good thing," said Miss Moon, with a little
shudder, "you know that their relatives would have been disgraced?"
Dan nodded. "Quite so, and the names have never become public. This
person and that person and the other person disappeared from various
neighbourhoods and from various family circles. But when the relatives
read about the explosion in Hillshire and Freddy's brilliant account of
that infernal society, they made a pretty good guess as to what had
happened to the disappearing party. Very few people gave information to
the police that their relatives or friends had disappeared. Tenson was
rather annoyed, as he wanted to make a big fuss over the matter."
"I don't see what bigger fuss could have been made, Dan. Why the
papers were filled with nothing else for weeks."
"All the same, Tenson wanted the names of those who belonged to the
gang, and people declined to give names of those who had disappeared
from their midst. We know that Curberry belonged to the gang, and Penn;
also Mrs. Jarsell, Vincent, and Queen Beelzebub. But only one or two
other names came to light in print."
"I think," said Lillian, thoughtfully, "that so many well-connected
people were mixed up in the matter that everything was hushed up as
much as was possible."
"H'm!" said Halliday, throwing away the butt end of his cigar, "it
is not unlikely that a hint was given in high quarters that no more
need be said than was absolutely necessary. Heigh ho!" he rose and
stretched, "I am weary of the business. Come down and walk on the
beach, dear, and let us talk about ourselves."
Lillian was only too glad and the lovers descended the marble steps
which led down gently to the sands. The crescent moon glowed pure
silver in a sky of the darkest blue with the old moon in her radiant
arms. In dark ripples fringed with creaming white, the wavelets
murmured on the sands, and at either side of the bay great cliffs
bulked, huge and densely black. It was a night of soft winds and
glorious moonshine, fit for Romeo and Juliet to converse about love,
yet Lillian still harped on the prosaic facts of the dangers she and
Dan had escaped. Perhaps it was natural, for they had assuredly passed
through a most trying time.
"Why did Queen Beelzebub found such a wicked society?"
"She wanted power and perverted her talents to base ends in order
to gain it, my dear. Well, well, she has gone to her account, so we
need say no more about her. She was a clever woman, but a fiend
"And Mrs. Jarsell?"
"Poor soul! She was but an example of the influence of a strong
mind on a weak one. I think she loathed the whole business thoroughly,
but she had gone too far to retreat."
"Do you think Mrs. Pelgrin or her nephew knew anything of the
"No, I don't," said Halliday, very decidedly, "although Tenson had
his suspicions of George. Mrs. Jarsell, who was used as a blind by Miss
Armour, in her turn used George as a blind to say, if necessary, how
seldom she went to town. I forgot to tell you, Lillian, that the police
discovered that both Mrs. Jarsell and the leader of the society used
frequently to motor for miles and miles to different stations further
down the line in order to reach London without remark being made. Mrs.
Jarsell only used the Thawley station so as to get George Pelgrin's
evidence that she scarcely ever went to town. In that way of course it
was next door to impossible to connect two harmless old ladies with
these many dreadful murders."
"It was only your cleverness about that scent which formed the
link," said Lillian, proud of Dan's characteristic sharpness, "and by
using the biplane to travel to Blackheath, when Mr. Durwin was
murdered, Mrs. Jarsell was able to get Mrs. Pelgrin to prove an alibi."
"Oh, it was chance that showed Mrs. Jarsell's complicity on that
occasion, my dear," said Dan, modestly, "but that we went into that
animated picture entertainment, we should never have known she was at
Blackheath. I suppose Miss Armour did not feel equal to committing that
particular crime, so sent Mrs. Jarsell to carry out the job."
"Miss Armour was never really paralysed, I suppose?"
"No. She played the part of an invalid when any one paid a visit.
Nor do I believe that either she or Mrs. Jarsell were so old as they
pretended to be. What a queer thing human nature is," went on Dan,
thoughtfully, "here was Miss Armour who could have lived a very
pleasant and comfortable life, plunging herself and that miserable
woman into dangerous crime just for the love of power. One would have
thought that she would have liked to show her power publicly, but she
was quite content to be a secret despot. I suppose it gave her a
certain amount of pleasure, though it is hard for a simple person such
as I am to see where it came in."
"But her power could not have been exercised amidst public
applause, Dan, seeing what it meant."
"Quite so. The police would soon have ended her career had her
infernal sway been known."
"Do you think," asked Lillian, after a pause, "that the members of
the society expected that explosion?"
"No," answered Halliday, very promptly, "I do not, else in spite of
the danger I believe the half, if not the whole, of them would have run
out even into the arms of the police to be hanged in due course. But
they seemed to have an enormous belief in Queen Beelzebub, who was
undoubtedly as clever as her father the devil. The members expected
that in some way she would manage to save them. But all the time—as I
guessed, although I could not understand what she was aiming at—she
was preparing some way of getting rid of the lot, herself included. She
must have summoned them to a pretended conference so as to house all
under one roof and then fire the mine. I expect she filled the cellars
of The Grange ages ago with dynamite, and arranged with Mrs. Jarselll
to explode the mine. Of course, where Mrs. Jarsell got the better of
Queen Beelzebub was that she did not give her the pleasure of revenging
herself on me, and fired the dynamite unexpectedly. While Miss Armour
and her demons were thinking how to torture me they all went—well, we
won't say where they went. But there wasn't enough left of them to form
a single human being."
"And there is an immense hole in the ground where The Grange
stood," said Lillian with awe, "Mr. Laurance told me, and Mildred
"I daresay that hole will form the basis of a legend in years to
come," was Dan's reply, "and a very picturesque story can be made out
of the material supplied by that infernal woman. She was as wicked and
cruel and callous as that Ezzelin who played dice with the arch-fiend.
By the way, Lillian, I suppose Mildred Vincent was very much cut up
over the death of her uncle?"
"No, she was not. Of course she regretted his awful end, and that
he should have been so wicked, but he was never kind to her and she had
not much love for him. I don't know," ended Miss Moon, reflectively,
"if we can be sure that he ever committed a crime."
"Yes, he did," declared Halliday, quickly, "every single member of
that society had to commit a crime in order to belong to the gang.
Vincent, I truly believe, was not a bad man, as his sole idea was a
craze for inventing aeroplanes. But Queen Beelzebub, wanting him for
her purpose, no doubt inveigled him into committing himself as a
criminal, as she inveigled Mrs. Jarsell and Curberry."
"Poor Lord Curberry," sighed Lillian, "he is more to be pitied than
blamed. I don't think the young man who holds the title now cared that
"Can you expect him to?" asked Dan, sceptically, "seeing he has got
a title and a lot of money. In a clean way too, for Curberry consented
to the murder of two relatives so as to secure what he wanted. No,
Lillian, it is your kind heart that makes you pity Curberry, but he was
not a good man. No decent fellow would have belonged to that
association of demons. But I think we have discussed the subject
threadbare. Let us talk of more pleasant matters."
"About Mr. Laurance and his marriage?" cried Lillian, gaily.
"Well, yes, although being selfishly in love, I would much rather
discuss our own. Freddy will be able to marry Mildred now since you
have given him enough money to start a newspaper. It is very good of
"I don't think so," said Miss Moon, as they began to climb the
steps again, and return to the house. "Mr. Laurance helped you to learn
who killed my dear father and deserved a reward as you did. I gave him
"And you give me yourself, so I have been rewarded, very richly.
Well, Freddy will make a very good proprietor and editor of a
newspaper, and Mildred can help him to make it a success. All's well
that ends well."
"And you are quite—quite happy, dear?"
"Quite, quite. Only, I fear," Dan sighed, "that some people will
call me a fortune hunter, seeing that I, without a penny, am marrying a
Lillian stopped in the path up to the house, and took hold of the
lapels of Dan's coat to shake him. "How can you talk such nonsense!"
she said reproachfully; "why, after your portrait and an account of all
you have done appearing in the papers, you could have married half a
"But none so sweet as you, dear," said Halliday, kissing her, for
her lips were temptingly near his own; "well, I must not despise my
good fortune. But what can I give you in return, Miss Croesus?"
"A promise," said Lillian, earnestly, "that you will not go up any
more in those horrid flying machines. I shall always be afraid of
losing you if you do; you know that quite well."
"Let me take a tiny little flight occasionally," coaxed Dan, gaily.
"Well, yes, on condition that you take me. If there is an accident,
we can be smashed up together. Don't argue," she placed her hand on his
mouth, "that is the only way in which I shall agree to your flying."
"Wilful woman will do what she wants," said Halliday, resignedly,
and tucked Lillian's arm beneath his own; "hallo, there is Sir John and
Mrs. Bolstreath on the terrace. They seem to be very happy together."
"So happy," whispered Lillian in his ear, "that I believe—" she
pursed up her lips and looked unutterable things.
"Well," said Dan, laughing, "it would not be at all a bad thing for
Sir John to make Mrs. Bolstreath Lady Moon. She can nurse him and amuse
him and bury him in due course. What a heap of marriages—you and I;
Freddy and Mildred; Sir John and Mrs. Bolstreath. See, she's waving her
hand to us. Let us go inside, as it's growing a trifle chilly."
"Hark!" said Lillian, raising her finger, and Dan listened to hear
the wild delicious strain of a nightingale singing from a distant
"It sings of my love for you," he whispered, "and of your love for
me. What other than such a song can express our feelings, darling?"
"This," said Lillian, and kissed him fondly.