C. ARTHUR PEARSON, LIMITED
HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.
|I.||The Unknown Quantity|
|II.||The Armless Man|
|III.||The Tomtom Clue|
|IV.||The Case of Sir Alister Moeran|
|VII.||The Last Ascent|
|VIII.||The Terror by Night|
|IX.||The Tragedy at the "Loup Noir"|
THE UNKNOWN QUANTITY
Professor William James Maynard was in
a singularly happy and contented mood as
he strolled down the High Street after a long
and satisfactory interview with the solicitor to
his late cousin, whose sole heir he was.
It was exactly a month by the calendar since
he had murdered this cousin, and everything
had gone most satisfactorily since. The fortune
was proving quite as large as he had expected,
and not even an inquest had been held upon
the dead man. The coroner had decided that
it was not necessary, and the Professor had
agreed with him.
At the funeral the Professor had been the
principal mourner, and the local paper had commented
sympathetically on his evident emotion.
This had been quite genuine, for the Professor
had been fond of his relative, who had always
been very good to him. But still, when an
old man remains obstinately healthy, when
his doctor can say with confidence that he is
good for another twenty years at least, and
when he stands between you and a large fortune
which you need, and of which you can make
much better use in the cause of science and the
pursuit of knowledge, what alternative is there?
It becomes necessary to take steps. Therefore,
the Professor had taken steps.
Looking back to-day on that day a month
ago, and the critical preceding week, the Professor
felt that the steps he had taken had been
as judicious as successful. He had set himself
to solve a problem in higher mathematics. He
had found it easier to solve than many he was
obliged to grapple with in the course of his
A policeman saluted as the Professor passed,
and he acknowledged it with the charming
old world courtesy that made him so popular
a figure in the town. Across the way was the
doctor who had certified the cause of death.
The Professor, passing benevolently on, was
glad he had now enough money to carry out his
projects. He would be able to publish at once
his great work on "The Secondary Variation
of the Differential Calculus," that hitherto had
languished in manuscript. It would make a
sensation, he thought; there was more than one
generally accepted theory he had challenged
or contradicted in it. And he would put in
hand at once his great, his long projected work,
"A History of the Higher Mathematics." It
would take twenty years to complete, it would
cost twenty thousand pounds or more, and it
would breathe into mathematics the new,
vivid life that Bergson's works have breathed
The Professor thought very kindly of the
dead cousin, whose money would provide for
this great work. He wished greatly the dead
man could know to what high use his fortune
Coming towards him he saw the wife of the
vicar of his parish. The Professor was a regular
church-goer. The vicar's wife saw him, too,
and beamed. She and her husband were more
than a little proud of having so well known a
man in their congregation. She held out her
hand and the Professor was about to take it
when she drew it back with a startled movement.
"Oh, I beg your pardon!" she exclaimed,
distressed, as she saw him raise his eyebrows.
"There is blood on it."
Her eyes were fixed on his right hand, which
he was still holding out. In fact, on the palm
a small drop of blood showed distinctly against
the firm, pink flesh. Surprised, the Professor
took out his handkerchief and wiped it away.
He noticed that the vicar's wife was wearing
white kid gloves.
"Oh, I beg your pardon!" she said again.
"It—it startled me somehow. I thought you
must have cut yourself. I hope it's not much?"
"Some scratch, I suppose," he said. "It's
The vicar's wife, still slightly discomposed,
launched out into some parochial matter she
had wished to mention to him. They chatted
a few moments and then parted. The Professor
took an opportunity to look at his hand. He
could detect no sign of any cut or abrasion,
the skin seemed whole everywhere. He looked
at his handkerchief. There was still visible
on it the stain where he had wiped his hand,
and this stain seemed certainly blood.
"Odd!" he muttered as he put the handkerchief
back in his pocket. "Very odd!"
His thoughts turned again to his projected
"A History of the Higher Mathematics," and
he forgot all about the incident till, as it happened
that day month, the first of the month by the
calendar, when he was sitting in his study
with an eminent colleague to whom he was
explaining his great scheme.
"If you are able to carry it out," the colleague
said slowly, "your book will mark an epoch
in human thought. But the cost will be tremendous."
"I estimate it at twenty thousand pounds,"
answered the Professor calmly. "I am fully
prepared to spend twice as much. You know
I have recently inherited forty thousand pounds
from a relative?"
The eminent colleague nodded and looked
"It is magnificent," he said warmly, "magnificent."
He added: "You've cut yourself,
do you know?"
"Cut myself?" the Professor echoed, surprised.
"Yes," answered the eminent colleague,
"there is blood upon your hand—your right
In fact a spot of blood, slightly larger than
that which had appeared before, showed plainly
upon the Professor's right hand. He wiped
it away with his handkerchief, and went on
talking eagerly, for he was deeply interested.
He did not think of the matter again till just
as he was getting into bed, when he noticed a
red stain upon his handkerchief. He frowned
and examined his hand carefully. There was
no sign of any wound or cut from which the
blood could have come, and he frowned again.
"Very odd!" he muttered.
A calendar hanging on the wall reminded
him that it was the first of the month.
The days passed, the incident faded from his
memory, and four weeks later he came down
one morning to breakfast in an unusually good
temper. There was a certain theory he had
worked on the night before he meant to write
to a friend about. It seemed to him his demonstration
had been really brilliant, and then,
also, he was already planning out with great
success the details of the scheme for his great
He was making an excellent breakfast, for
his appetite was always good, and, needing
some more cream, he rang the bell. The maid
appeared, he showed her the empty jug, and as
she took it she dropped it with a sudden cry,
smashing it to pieces on the floor. Very pale,
she stammered out:
"Beg pardon, sir, your hand—there is blood
upon your hand."
In fact, on the Professor's right hand there
showed a drop of blood, perceptibly larger this
time than before. The Professor stared at it
stupidly. He was sure it had not been there a
moment before, and he noticed by the heading
of the newspaper at the side of his plate that
this was the first of the month.
With a hasty movement of his napkin he
wiped the drop of blood away. The maid, still
apologising, began to pick up the pieces of the
jug she had broken; but the Professor had no
further appetite for his breakfast. He silenced
her with a gesture, and, leaving a piece of toast
half-eaten on his plate, he got up and went into
All this was trivial, absurd even. Yet somehow
it disturbed him. He got out a magnifying
glass and examined his hand under it. There
was nothing to account for the presence of the
drop of blood he and the maid had seen. It
occurred to him that he might have cut himself
in shaving; but when he looked in the mirror
he could find no trace of even the slightest
He decided that, though he had not been
aware of it, his nerves must be a little out of
order. That was disconcerting. He had not
taken his nerves into consideration for the simple
reason that he had never known that he possessed
any. He made up his mind to treat himself
to a holiday in Switzerland. One or two difficult
ascents might brace him up a bit.
Three days later he was in Switzerland, and
a few days later again he was on the summit
of a minor but still difficult peak. It had been
an exhilarating climb, and he had enjoyed it.
He said something laughingly to the head guide
to the effect that climbing was good sport and
a fine test for the nerves. The head guide agreed,
and added politely that if the nerves of monsieur
the Professor had shown signs of failing on the
lower glacier, for example, they might all have
been in difficulties. The Professor thrilled with
pleasure at the head guide's implied praise.
He was glad to know on such good authority
that his nerves were all right, and the incidents
that had driven him there began to fade in his
Nevertheless, he found himself watching the
calendar with a certain interest, and when he
woke on the morning of the first day of the
next month he glanced quickly at his right
hand. There was nothing there.
He dressed and spent, as he had planned, a
quiet day, busy with his correspondence. His
spirits rose as the day passed. He was still
watchful, but more confident; and, after dinner,
though he had meant to go straight to his room,
he agreed to join in a suggested game of bridge.
They were cutting for partners when one of the
ladies who was to take part in the game dropped
with a little cry the card she had just lifted.
"Oh, there is blood upon your hand," she
cried, "on your right hand, Professor!"
Upon the Professor's right hand there showed
now a drop of blood, larger still then those other
three had been. Yet the very moment before
it had not been there. The Professor put down
his cards without a word, and left the room,
going straight upstairs.
The drop of blood was still standing on his
hand. He soaked it up carefully with some
cotton-wool he had, and was not surprised to
find beneath no sign or trace of any cut or wound.
The cotton-wool he made up carefully into a
parcel and addressed it to an analytical chemist
he knew, inclosing with it a short note.
He rang the bell, sent the parcel to the post,
and then he got out pen and paper and set
himself to solve this problem, as in his life he
had solved so many others.
Only this time it seemed somehow as though
the data were insufficient.
Idly his pen traced upon the paper in front
of him a large X, the sign of the unknown
But how, in this case, to find out what was
the unknown quantity? His hand, his firm
and steady hand, shook so that he could no
longer hold his pen. He rang the bell again
and ordered a stiff whisky-and-soda. He was
a man of almost ascetic habits, but to-night
he felt that he needed some stimulant.
Neither did he sleep very well.
The next day he returned to England. Almost
at once he went to see his friend, the analytical
chemist, to whom he had sent the parcel from
"Mammalian blood," pronounced the chemist,
"probably human—rather a curious thing about
"What's that?" asked the Professor.
"Why," his friend answered, "I was able
to identify the distinctive bacillus——" He
named the rare bacillus of an unusual and obscure
disease. And this disease was that from which
the Professor's cousin had died.
The professor was a man interested in all
phenomena. In other circumstances he would
have observed keenly that which now occurred,
when the hair of his head underwent a curious
involuntary stiffening and bristling process that
in popular but sufficiently accurate terms, might
be described as "standing on end." But at
the moment he was in no state for scientific
He got out of the house somehow. He said
he did not feel well, and his friend, the chemist,
agreed that his holiday in Switzerland did not
seem to have done him much good.
The Professor went straight home and shut
himself up in his study. It was a fine room,
ranged all round with books. On the shelves
nearest to his hand stood volumes on mathematics,
the theory of mathematics, the study of mathematics,
pure mathematics, applied mathematics.
But there was not any one of these books that
told him anything about such a thing as this.
Though, it is true, there were many references
in them, here and there, to X, the unknown
The Professor took his pen and wrote a large
X upon the sheet of paper in front of him.
"An unknown quantity!" he muttered. "An
The days passed peacefully. Nothing was
out of the ordinary except that the Professor
developed an odd trick of continually glancing
at his right hand. He washed it a good
deal, too. But the first of the month was not
On the last day of the month he told his housekeeper
that he was feeling a little unwell. She
was not surprised, for she had thought him looking
ill for some time past. He told her he would
probably spend the next day in bed for a thorough
rest, and she agreed that that would be a very
good idea. When he was in his own room and
had undressed, he bandaged his right hand with
care, tying it up carefully and thoroughly with
three or four of his large linen handkerchiefs.
"Whatever comes, shall now show," he said
He stayed in bed accordingly the next day.
His housekeeper was a little uneasy about him.
He ate nothing and his eyes were strangely
bright and feverish. She overheard him once
muttering something to himself about "the
unknown quantity," and that made her think
that he had been working too hard.
She decided he must see the doctor. The
Professor refused peremptorily. He declared
he would be quite well again in the morning.
The housekeeper, an old servant, agreed, but
sent for the doctor all the same; and when he
had come the Professor felt he could not refuse
to see him without appearing peculiar. And
he did not wish to appear peculiar. So he saw
the doctor, but declared there was nothing much
the matter, he merely felt a little unwell and out
of sorts and tired.
"You have hurt your hand?" the doctor
asked, noticing how it was bandaged.
"I cut it slightly—a trifle," the Professor
"Yes," the doctor answered, "I see there
is blood on it."
"What?" the Professor stammered.
"There is blood upon your hand," the doctor
The Professor looked. In fact, a deep, wide
stain showed crimson upon the bandages in
which he had swathed his hand. Yet he knew
that the moment before the linen had been fair
and white and clean.
"It is nothing," he said quickly, hiding his
hand beneath the bed clothes.
The doctor, a little puzzled, took his leave,
but had not gone ten yards when the housekeeper
flew screaming after him. It seemed she
had heard a fall, and when she had gone into
the Professor's bedroom she had found him lying
there dead upon the hearthrug. There was
a razor in his hand, and there was a ghastly
gash across his throat.
The doctor went back at a run, but there was
nothing he or any man could do. One thing
he noticed, with curiosity, was that the bandage
had been torn away from the dead man's hand
and that oddly enough there seemed to be on
the hand no sign of any cut or wound. There
was a large solitary drop of blood on the palm,
at the root of the thumb; but, of course, that
was no great wonder, for the wound the dead
man had dealt himself had bled freely.
Apparently death had not been quite instantaneous,
for with a last effort the Professor
seemed to have traced an X upon the floor in
his own blood with his forefinger. The doctor
mentioned this at the inquest—the coroner
had decided at once that in this case an inquest
was certainly necessary—and he suggested that
it showed the Professor had worked too hard
and was suffering from overwork which had
disturbed his mental balance.
The coroner took the same view, and in his
short address to the jury adduced the incident
as proof of a passing mental disturbance.
"Very probably," said the coroner, "there
was some problem that had worried him, and that
he was still endeavouring to work out. As
you are aware, gentlemen, the sign X is used
to symbolise the unknown quantity."
An appropriate verdict was accordingly
returned, and the Professor was duly interred
in the same family vault as that in which so
short a time previously his cousin had been
laid to rest.
THE ARMLESS MAN
I first met Bob Masters in the hotel at a place
called Fourteen Streams, not very far from
I had for some months been trying to find gold
or diamonds by digging holes in the veldt. But
since this has little or nothing to do with the
story, I pass by my mining adventures and come
back to the hotel. I came to it very readily
that afternoon, for I was very thirsty.
A tall man standing at the bar turned his head
as I entered and said "Good-day" to me. I
returned the compliment, but took no particular
notice of him at first.
Suddenly I heard the man say to the barman:
"I'm ready for another drink."
That surprised me, because his glass was
still three-quarters full. But I was still more
startled by the action of the barman who lifted
up the glass and held it whilst the man drank.
Then I saw the reason. The man had no arms.
You know the easy way in which Englishmen
chum together anywhere out of England, whilst
in their native country nothing save a formal
introduction will make them acquainted? I
made some remark to Masters which led to
another from him, and in five minutes' time we
were chatting on all sorts of topics.
I learnt that Masters, bound for England,
had come in to Fourteen Streams to catch the
train from Kimberley, and, having a few hours
to wait, had strolled up to the collection of tin
huts calling itself a town.
I was going down to Kimberley too, so of course
we went together, and were quite old friends
by the time we reached that city.
We had a wash and something to eat, and then
we walked round to the post-office. I used to
have my letters addressed there, poste restante,
and call in for them when I happened to be in
I found several letters, one of which altered
the whole course of my life. This was from
Messrs. Harvey, Filson, and Harvey, solicitors,
Lincoln's Inn Fields. It informed me that the
sudden death of my cousin had so affected my
uncle's health that he had followed his only son
within the month. The senior branch of the
family being thus extinct the whole of the entailed
estate had devolved on me.
The first thing I did was to send off two cablegrams
to say that I was coming home by the
first available boat, one to the solicitors, the other
to Nancy Milward.
Masters and I arranged to come home together
and eventually reached Cape Town. There we
had considerable trouble at the shipping office.
It was just about the time of year when people
who live in Africa to make money, come over
to England to spend it, and in consequence the
boats were very crowded. Masters demanded
a cabin to himself, a luxury which was not to
be had, though there was one that he and I
could share. He made a tremendous fuss about
doing this, and I thought it very strange, because
I had assisted him in many ways which his mutilation
rendered necessary. However, he had to
give way in the end, and we embarked on the
On the voyage he told me how he had lost
his arms. It seemed that he had been sent
up country on some Government job or other,
and had had the ill-fortune to be captured by
the natives. They treated him quite well at
first, but gave him to understand that he must
not try to escape. I suppose that to most men
such a warning would be a direct incitement
to make the attempt. Masters made it and failed.
They cut off his right arm as a punishment.
He waited until the wound was healed and tried
again. Again he failed. This time they cut
off his other arm.
"Good Lord," I cried. "What devils!"
"Weren't they!" he said. "And yet, you
know, they were quite good-tempered chaps
when you didn't cross them. I wasn't going
to be beaten by a lot of naked niggers though,
and I made a third attempt.
"I succeeded all right that time, though, of
course, it was much more difficult. I really
don't know at all how I managed to worry
through. You see, I could only eat plants and
leaves and such fruit as I came across; but I'd
learnt as much as I could of the local botany
in the intervals."
"Was it worth while?" I asked. "I think
the first failure and its result would have satisfied
"Yes," he said slowly, "it was worth while.
You see, my wife was waiting for me at home,
and I wanted to see her again very badly—you
don't know how badly."
"I think I can imagine," I said. "Because
there is a girl waiting for me too at home."
"I saw her before she died," he continued.
"Died?" I said.
"Yes," he answered. "She was dying when
I reached home at last, but I was with her at the
end. That was something, wasn't it?"
I do hate people to tell me this sort of thing.
Not because I do not feel sorry for them; on the
contrary, I feel so sorry that I absolutely fail
to find words to express my sympathy. I
tried, however, to show it in other ways, by the
attentions I paid him and by anticipating his
Yet there were many things that were astonishing
about his actions, things that I wonder
now I did not realise must have been impossible
for him to do for himself, and that yet were done.
But he was so surprisingly dexterous with his
lips, and feet too, when he was in his cabin that
I suppose I put them down to that.
I remember waking up one night and looking
out of my bunk to see him standing on the
floor. The cabin was only faintly lit by a moonbeam
which found its way through the porthole.
I could not see clearly, but I fancied that he
walked to the door and opened it, and closed
it behind him. He did it all very quickly, as
quickly as I could have done it. As I say,
I was very sleepy, but the sight of the door
opening and shutting like that woke me
thoroughly. Sitting up I shouted at him.
He heard me and opened the door again, easily,
too, much more easily than he seemed to be able
to shut it when he saw me looking at him.
"Hullo! Awake, old chap?" he said.
"What is it?"
"Er—nothing," I said. "Or rather I suppose
I was only half awake; but you seemed to open
that door so easily that it quite startled me."
"One does not always like to let others see
the shifts to which one has to resort," was all
the answer he gave me.
But I worried over it. The thing bothered me,
because he had made no attempt to explain.
That was not the only thing I noticed.
Two or three days later we were sitting together
on deck. I had offered to read to him. I
noticed that he got up out of his chair. Suddenly
I saw the chair move. It gave me a great shock,
for the chair twisted apparently of its own
volition, so that when he sat down again the
sunlight was at his back and not in his eyes,
as I knew it had been previously. But I reasoned
with myself and managed to satisfy myself that
he must have turned the chair round with his
foot. It was just possible that he could have
done so, for it had one of those light wicker-work
We had a lovely voyage for three-quarters
of the way, and the sea was as calm as any duck-pond.
But that was all altered when we passed
Cape Finisterre. I have done a lot of knocking
about on the ocean one way and another, but
I never saw the Bay of Biscay deserve its reputation
I'd much rather see what is going on than be
cooped up below, and after lunch I told Bob
I was going up on deck.
"I'll only stay there for a bit," I said. "You
make yourself comfortable down here."
I filled his pipe, put it in his mouth, and gave
him a match; then I left him.
I made my way up and down the deck for a
time, clutching hold of everything handy, and
rather enjoyed it, though the waves drenched
me to the skin.
Presently I saw Masters come out of the companion-way
and make his way very skilfully
towards me. Of course it was fearfully dangerous
I staggered towards him, and, putting my
lips to his ear, shouted to him to go below at
"Oh, I shall be all right!" he said, and
"You'll be drowned—drowned," I screamed.
"There was a wave just now that—well, if I
hadn't been able to cling on with both hands
like grim death, I should have gone overboard.
He laughed again and shook his head.
And then what I dreaded happened. A vast
mountain of green water lifted up its bulk and
fell upon us in a ravening cataract. I clutched
at Masters, but trying to save him and myself
handicapped me badly. The strength of that
mass of water was terrible. It seemed to snatch
at everything with giant hands, and drag all
with it. It tossed a hen-coop high, and carried
it through the rails.
I felt the grip of my right hand loosen, and the
next instant was carried, still clutching Masters
with my left, towards that gap in the bulwark.
I managed to seize the end of the broken rail.
It held us for a moment, then gave, and for a
moment I hung sheer over the vessel's side.
In that instant I felt fingers tighten on my
arm, tighten till they bit into the flesh, and I
was pulled back into safety.
Together we staggered back, and got below
somehow. I was trembling like a leaf, and the
sweat dripped from me. I almost screamed aloud.
It was not that I was frightened of death.
I've seen too much of that in many parts of the
earth to dread it greatly. It was the thought
of those fingers tightening on me where no
Masters did not speak a word, nor did I, until
we found ourselves in the cabin.
I tore the wet clothes off me and turned my
arm to the mirror. I knew I could not have
been mistaken when I felt them.
There on the upper arm, above the line of
sunburn that one gets from working with sleeves
rolled up, there on the white skin showed the
red marks of four slender fingers and a thumb!
I sat down suddenly at sight of them, and
pulling open a drawer, found a flask of neat
brandy, and gulped it down, emptied it in one
Then I turned to him and pointed to the marks.
"In God's name, how came these here?"
I said. "What—what happened up there
He looked at me very gravely.
"I saved you," he said, "or rather I didn't,
for I could not. But she did."
"What do you mean?" I stammered.
"Let me get these clothes off," he said, "and
some dry ones on; and I'll tell you."
Words fail to describe my feelings as I
watched the clothes come off him and dry ones
go on just as if hands were arranging them.
I sat and shuddered. I tried to close my eyes,
but the weird, unnatural sight drew them as
"I'm sorry that you should have had this
shock," he said. "I know what it must have
been like, though it was not so bad for me when
they seemed to come, for they came gradually
as time went on."
"What came gradually?" I asked.
"Why, these arms! They're what I'm telling
you about. You asked me to tell you, I
"Did I?" I said. "I don't know what I'm
saying or asking. I think I'm going mad,
"No," he said, "you're as sane as I am, only
when you come across something strange, unique
for that matter, you are naturally terrified.
Well, it was like this. I told you about my
adventures with the niggers up country. That
was quite true. They cut off both my arms—you
can see the stumps for that matter. And I
told you that I came home to find my wife dying.
Her heart had always been weak, I'd known
that, and it had gradually grown more feeble.
There must have been, indeed there was, a strange
sort of telepathy between us. She had had
fearful attacks of heart failure on both occasions
when the niggers had mutilated me, I learnt
on comparing notes.
"But I had known too, somehow, that I must
escape at all costs. It was the knowledge that
made me try again after each failure. I should
have gone on trying to escape as long as I had
lived, or rather as long as she had lived. I knelt
beside her bed and she put out her arms and
laid them round my neck.
"'So you have come back to me before I
go,' she said. 'I knew you must, because I
called you so. But you have been long in coming,
almost too long. But I knew I had to see you
again before I died.'
"I broke down then. I was sorely tried.
No arms even to put round her!
"'Darling, stay with me for a little, only for
a little while!' I sobbed.
"She shook her head feebly. 'It is no use,
my dear,' she said, 'I must go.'
"'I'll come with you,' I said, 'I'll not live
"She shook her head again.
"'You must be brave, Bob. I shall be
watching you afterwards just as much as if I
still lived on earth. If only I could give you
my arms! A poor, weak woman's arms, but
better than none, dear.'
"She died some weeks later. I spent all the
time at her bedside, I hardly left her. Her
arms were round me when she died. Shall I
ever feel them round me again? I wonder!
You see, they are mine now.
"They came to me gradually. It was very
strange at first to have arms and hands which
one couldn't see. I used to keep my eyes shut
as much as possible, and try to fancy that I
had never lost my arms.
"I got used to them in time. But I have
always been careful not to let people see me
do things that they would know to be impossible
for an armless man. That was what took me
to Africa again, because I could get lost there
and do things for myself with these hands."
"'And they twain shall be one flesh,'" I
"Yes," he said, "I think the explanation
must be something of that sort. There's more
than that in it, though; these arms are other
He sat silent for a time with his head bowed
on his chest. Then he spoke again:
"I got sick of being alone at last, and was
coming back when I met you at Fourteen Streams.
I don't know what I shall do when I do get
home. I can never rest. I have—what do
they call it—Wanderlust?"
"Does she ever speak to you from that other
world?" I asked him.
He shook his head sadly.
"No, never. But I know she lives somewhere
beyond this world of ours. She must,
because these arms live. So I try always to
act as if she watches everything. I always
try to do the right thing, but, anyway, these
arms and hands would do good of their own
accord. Just now up on the deck I was very
frightened. I'd have saved myself at any cost
almost, and let you go. But I could not do
that. The hands clutched you. It is her will,
so much stronger and purer than mine, that
still persists. It is only when she does not
exert it that I control these arms."
That was how I learnt the strangest tale that
ever a man was told, and knew the miracle to
which I owed my life.
It may be that Bob Masters was a coward.
He always said that he was. Personally I do
not believe it, for he had the sweetest nature
I ever met.
He had nowhere to go to in England and
seemed to have no friends. So I made him come
down with me to Englehart, that dear old country
seat of my family in the Western shires which
was now mine.
Nancy lived in that country, too.
There was no reason why we should not get
married at once. We had waited long enough.
I can see again the old, ivy-grown church
where Nancy and I were wed, and Bob Masters
standing by my side as best man.
I remember feeling in his pocket for the ring,
and as I did so, I felt a hand grasp mine for a
Then there was the reception afterwards, and
speech-making—the usual sort of thing.
Later Nancy and I drove off to the station.
We had not said good-bye to Bob, for he'd
insisted on driving to the station with the luggage;
said he was going to see the last of us there.
He was waiting for us in the yard when we
reached it, and walked with us on to the platform.
We stood there chatting about one thing
and another, when I noticed that Nancy was
not talking much and seemed rather pale. I
was just going to remark on it when we
heard the whistle of the train. There is a sharp
curve in the permanent way outside the station,
so that a train is on you all of a sudden.
Suddenly to my horror I saw Nancy sway
backwards towards the edge of the platform.
I tried vainly to catch her as she reeled and
fell—right in front of the oncoming train. I
sprang forward to leap after her, but hands
grasped me and flung me back so violently
that I fell down on the platform.
It was Bob Masters who took the place that
should have been mine, and leapt upon the
I could not see what happened then. The
station-master says he saw Nancy lifted from
before the engine when it was right upon her.
He says it was as if she was lifted by the wind.
She was quite close to Masters. "Near enough
for him to have lifted her, sir, if he'd had arms."
The two of them staggered for a moment, and
together fell clear of the train.
Nancy was little the worse for the awful
accident, bruised, of course, but poor Masters
We carried him into the waiting-room, laid him
on the cushions there, and sent hot-foot
for the doctor.
He was a good country practitioner, and, I
suppose, knew the ordinary routine of his work
quite well. He fussed about, hummed and
hawed a lot.
"Yes, yes," he said, as if he were trying to
persuade himself. "Shock, you know. He'll
be better presently. Lucky, though, that he
had no arms."
I noticed then, for the first time, that the
sleeves of the coat had been shorn away.
"Doctor," I said, "how is he? Surely,
if he isn't hurt he would not look like that.
What exactly do you mean by shock?"
"Hum—er," he hesitated, and applied his
stethoscope to Masters' heart again.
"The heart is very weak," he said at length.
"Very weak. He's always very anæmic, I
"No," I answered. "He's anything but that.
He's——Good Lord, he's bleeding to death!
Put ligatures on his arms. Put ligatures on
"Please keep quiet, Mr. Riverston," the
doctor said. "It must have been a dreadful
experience for you, and you are naturally very
I raved and cursed at him. I think I should
have struck him, but the others held me. They
said they would take me away if I did not keep
Bob Masters opened his eyes presently, and
saw them holding me.
"Please let him go," he said. "It's all right,
old man. It's no use your arguing with them,
they would not understand. I could never
explain to them now, and they would never
believe you. Besides, it's all for the best. Yes,
the train went over them and I'm armless for
the second time. But—not for long!"
I knelt by his side and sobbed. It all seemed
so dreadful, and yet, I don't think that then
I would have tried to stay his passing. I knew
it was best for him.
He looked at me very affectionately.
"I'm so sorry that this should happen on
your wedding-day," he said. "But it would
have been so much worse for you if she had
His voice grew fainter and died away.
There was a pause for a time, and his breath
came in great sighing sobs.
Then suddenly he raised himself on the cushions
until he stood upright on his feet, and a smile
broke over his face—a smile so sweet that I
think the angels in Paradise must look like that.
His voice came strong and loud from his lips.
"Darling!" he cried. "Darling, your arms
are round me once again! I come! I come!"
"One of the most extraordinary cases I have
ever met with," the doctor told the coroner at
the inquest. "He seemed to have all the
symptoms of excessive hæmorrhage."
THE TOMTOM CLUE
I had just settled down for a comfortable
evening over the fire in a saddle-bag chair drawn
up as close to the hearth as the fender would
allow, with a plentiful supply of literature and
whisky, and pipe and tobacco, when the telephone
bell rang loudly and insistently. With a
sigh I rose and took up the receiver.
"That you?" said a voice I recognised as
that of Jack Bridges. "Can I come round and
see you at once? It's most important. No,
I can't tell you now. I'll be with you in a few
I hung the receiver up again, wondering
what business could fetch Jack Bridges round
at that time of the evening to see me. We
had been the greatest of pals at school and at
the 'Varsity, and had kept the friendship up
ever since, despite my intermittent wanderings
over the face of the globe. But during the
last few days or so Jack had become engaged
to Miss Glanville, the daughter of old Glanville,
of South African fame, and as a love-sick swain I
naturally expected to see very little of him,
until after the wedding at any rate.
At this time of the evening, according to my
ideas of engaged couples, he should be sitting
in the stalls at some theatre, and not running
round to see bachelor friends with cynical views
I had not arrived at a satisfactory solution
when the door opened and Jack walked in.
One glance at his face told me that he was in
trouble, and without a word I pushed him into
my chair and handed him a drink. Then I
sat down on the opposite side of the fire and
waited for him to begin, for a man in need of
sympathy does not want to be worried by
He gulped down half his whisky and sat for
a moment gazing into the fire.
"Jim, old man," he said at length, "I've had
"Not connected with Miss Glanville?" I
"In a way, yes. It's broken off, but there's
worse than that—far worse. I can hardly
realise it; I feel numbed at present; it's too
horrible. You remember that when you and
I were at Winchester together my father was
killed during the Matabele War?"
"Well," continued Jack, "I heard to-day
that he was not killed by the Matabele, but was
hanged in Bulawayo for murder. In other
words, I am the son of a murderer."
"Hanged for murder!" I exclaimed in horror.
"Surely there's some mistake?"
"No," groaned Jack, "it's true enough. I've
seen the newspaper cutting of the time, and I'm
the son of a murderer, who was also a forger,
a thief, and a card-sharper. Old Glanville
told me this evening. It was then that our
engagement was broken off."
"Your mother?" I asked. "Have you seen
"Poor little woman!" he groaned. "She
has known all along, and her one aim and
object in life has been to keep the awful truth
from me. That was why I was told he died
an honourable death during the war. I've
often wondered why the little mother was always
so sad, and so weighed down by trouble. Now
I know. Good God, what her life must have
He rose from his chair and paced up and
down the room for a minute; then he stopped
and stood in front of me, his face working with
"But I don't believe it, Jim," he said, and
there was a ring in his voice. "I don't believe
it, and neither does the little mother. It's
impossible to reconcile the big, bluff man with
the heart of a child, that I remember as my
father, with murder, forgery, or any other crime.
And yet, according to Glanville and the old
newspapers he showed me, Richard Bridges
was one of the most unscrupulous ruffians in
South Africa. In my heart of hearts I know he
didn't do it, and though on the face of it there's
no doubt, I'm going to try and clear his name.
I am sailing for South Africa on Friday."
"Sailing for South Africa!" I exclaimed.
"What about your work?"
"My work can go hang!" replied Jack heatedly.
"I want to wipe away the stain from my father's
name, and I mean to do it somehow. That's
why I've run round to see you, old pal, for I
want you to come with me. Knowing Rhodesia
as you do, you're just the man to help me.
Say you'll come?" he pleaded.
It seemed quite the forlornest hope I had
ever heard of, but Jack's distress was so acute
that I hadn't the heart to refuse.
"All right, Jack," I said, "I'm with you.
But don't foster any vain hopes. Remember,
it's twenty years ago. It will be a pretty tough
job to prove anything after all these years."
During the voyage out we had ample time
to go through the small amount of information
about the long-forgotten case that Jack had
been able to collect from the family solicitors.
In the year 1893, Richard Bridges, who was
a mining engineer of some standing, had made
a trip to Rhodesia with a view to gold and
diamond prospecting. He had been accompanied
by a friend, Thomas Symes, who, so far
as we could ascertain, was an ex-naval officer;
and the two, after a short stay at Bulawayo,
had gone northward across the Guai river into
what was in those days a practically unknown
land. In a little over a year's time Bridges
had returned alone—his companion having been,
so he stated, killed by the Matabele, and for
six months or so he led a dissolute life in Bulawayo
and the district, which ended ultimately in
his execution for murder. There was no doubt
whatever about the murder, or the various
thefts and forgeries that he was accused of,
as he had made a confession at his trial, and we
seemed to be on a wild-goose chase of the worst
variety so far as I could see; but Jack, confident
of his father's innocence, would not hear
"It's impossible to make surmises at this
stage," he said. "On the face of it there appears
to be little room for doubt, but no one who
knew my father could possibly connect him
with any sort of crime. Somehow or other,
Jim, I've got to clear his name."
My memory went back to a tall, sunburnt
man with a kindly manner who had come down
to the school one day and put up a glorious feed
at the tuck shop to Jack and his friends. Afterwards,
at his son's urgent request, he had bared
his chest to show us his tattooing of which
Jack had, boy-like, often boasted to us. I
recalled how we had gazed admiringly at the
skilfully worked picture of Nelson with his
empty sleeve and closed eye and the inscription
underneath: "England expects that every man
this day will do his duty." Jack had explained
with considerable pride that this did not constitute
all, as on his father's back was a wonderful
representation of the Victory, and on other parts
of his body a lion, a snake, and other fauna,
but Richard Bridges had protested laughingly
and refused to undress further for our delectation.
We reached Bulawayo, but no one in the
city appeared to recall the case at all; indeed,
Bulawayo had grown out of all recognition
since Richard Bridges had passed through it
on his prospecting trip. It was difficult to know
where to start. Even the police could not help,
and had no knowledge of where the murderer
had been buried. No one but an old saloon-keeper
and a couple of miners could recollect
the execution even, and they, so far as they
could remember, had never met Richard Bridges
in the flesh, though his unsavoury reputation
was well known to them.
In despair, Jack suggested a trek up country
towards Barotseland, which was the district
that Bridges and Symes had proposed to prospect,
though, according to all accounts, Symes had
been murdered by the Matabele before they
reached the Guai river.
For the next month we trekked steadily
northwards, having very fair sport; but, as
I expected, extracting no information whatever
from the natives about the two prospectors
who had passed that way years before. At
length, Jack became more or less reconciled to
failure, and realising the futility of further
search suggested a return to Bulawayo. As
our donkey caravan was beginning to suffer
severely from the fly, I concurred, and we started
to travel slowly back to Bulawayo, shooting
by the way.
One night after a particularly hard trek we
inspanned at an old kraal, the painted walls
of which told that at one time it had served as
a royal residence, and as I had shot an eland
cow that afternoon, which provided far more
meat than we could consume, we invited the
induna and his tribe to the feast. Not to be
outdone in hospitality, the old chief produced
the kaffir beer of the country, a liquid which
has nothing to recommend it beyond the fact
that it intoxicates rapidly.
A meat feast and a beer drink is a great event
in the average kaffir's life, and as the evening
wore on a general jollification started to the
thump of tomtoms and the squeak of kaffir
fiddles. There was one very drunk old Barotse,
who sat close to me, and, accompanying himself
with thumps on his tomtom, sang in one droning
key a song about a man who kept snakes and
lions inside him, and from whose chest the
evil eye looked out. At least, so far as I could
gather that was roughly the gist of the song;
but as his tomtom was particularly large and
most obnoxious I politely took it away from him,
and Jack and I used it as a table for our gourds
of kaffir beer, which we were pretending to consume
in large quantities.
A gourd, however, is a top-heavy sort of drinking
vessel, and in a very short time I had succeeded
in spilling half a pint or so of my drink on the
parchment of the drum. Not wishing to spoil
the old gentleman's plaything, which he evidently
valued above all things, I mopped up the beer
with my handkerchief, and in doing so removed
from the parchment a portion of the accumulated
filth of ages.
"Hullo!" said Jack, taking the instrument
from me and holding it up to the firelight.
"There's a picture of some sort here. It looks
like a man in a cocked hat."
He rubbed it hard with his pocket handkerchief,
and the polishing brought more of the
picture to light, till, plain enough in places
and faded in others, there stood out, the portrait
of a man in an old-fashioned naval uniform
with stars on his breast, and underneath some
letters in the form of a scroll.
"That's not native work," I exclaimed.
"These are English letters," for I could distinctly
make out the word "man" followed
by a "t" and an "h." "Rub it hard, Jack."
The grease on the parchment refused to give
way to further polishing, however, and remembering
a bottle of ammonia I kept for insect bites,
I mixed some with kaffir beer and poured it
on the head of the tomtom. One touch of the
handkerchief was sufficient once the strong
alkali got to work, and out came the grand old
face of Nelson and underneath his motto:
"England expects that every man this day
will do his duty."
Jack dropped the drum as if it had bitten him.
"What does it mean?" he gasped. "My
father had this on his chest. I remember it
I was, however, too busy with the reverse
end of the drum to heed him. On the other
side the ammonia brought out a picture of the
Victory, with the head of a roaring lion below it.
"Good God!" exclaimed Jack. "My father
had that on his back. Quick, Jim, rub hard!
There should be the family crest to the right—an
eagle with a snake in its talons and R. B.
I rubbed in the spot indicated, and out came
the crest and initials exactly as Jack had described
them. There was something horribly uncanny
and gruesome in finding the tattoo marks of
the dead man on the parchment of a Barotse
tomtom two hundred miles north of the Zambesi,
and for a moment I was too overcome with astonishment
to grasp exactly what it meant. Then
it came to my mind in a flash that the parchment
was nothing else than human skin, and Richard
Bridges' skin at that. I put it down with sudden
reverence, and, beckoning to its owner, demanded
its full history. At first he showed signs of
fear, but promising him a waist length of cloth
if he told the truth, he squatted on his hams
before us and began.
"Many, many moons ago, before the white
men came to trade across the Big Water as they
do now, two white baases came into this country
to look for white stones and gold. One baas
was bigger than the other, and on his chest and
on his body were pictures of birds, and beasts,
and strange things. On his chest was a great
inkoos with one eye covered, and on his back
a hut with trees growing straight up into the air
from it. On his loins was a lion of great fierceness,
and coiled round his waist was a hissing
mamba (snake). We were sore afraid, for the
white baas told us he was bewitched, and that if
harm came to either he would uncover the closed
eye of the great inkoos upon his chest, which was
the Evil Eye, and command him to blast the
Barotse and their land for ever.
"So the white men were suffered to come and
go in peace, for we dreaded the Evil Eye of the
great inkoos. They toiled, these white baases,
digging in the hillside and searching the riverbed;
and then one day it came to pass that they
quarrelled and fought, and the baas with the
pictures was slain. We knew then that his
medicine was bad medicine, otherwise the white
baas without the pictures could not have killed
him. So we were wroth and made to slay the
other baas, but he shot us down with a fire stick
and returned to his own country in haste. Then
did I take the skin from the dead baas, for I
loved him for his pictures, and I made them
into a tomtom. I have spoken."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Jack when I
had translated the story. "Then my father
was killed here in Barotseland, and it was Symes,
his murderer, who went back to Bulawayo. It
was that fiend Symes, also, who took my father's
name, probably to draw any money that might
have been left behind, and who, as Richard
Bridges, was hanged for murder. Poor old
dad," he added brokenly, "murdered, and his
body mutilated by savages! But how glad I
am to know that he died an honest man!"
With the evidence at hand it was easy to prove
the identity of the murderer of twenty years
ago, and, having settled the matter satisfactorily
and cleared the dead man's name, Jack and I
returned to England, where a few weeks later
I had to purchase wedding garments in order
that I might play the part of best man at Jack's
THE CASE OF SIR ALISTER MOERAN
"Ethne?" My aunt looked at me with raised
brows and smiled. "My dear Maurice, hadn't
you heard? Ethne went abroad directly after
Christmas, with the Wilmotts, for a trip to
Egypt. She's having a glorious time!"
I am afraid I looked as blank as I felt. I had
only landed in England three days ago, after
two years' service in India, and the one thing
I had been looking forward to was seeing my
cousin Ethne again.
"Then, since you did not know she was away,
you, of course, have not heard the other news?"
went on my aunt.
"No," I answered in a wooden voice. "I've
She beamed. "The dear child is engaged to
a Sir Alister Moeran, whom she met in Luxor.
Everyone is delighted, as it is a splendid match
for her. Lady Wilmott speaks most highly
of him, a man of excellent family and position,
and perfectly charming to boot."
I believe I murmured something suitable,
but it was absurd to pretend to be overjoyed at
the news. The galling part of it was that Aunt
Linda knew, and was chuckling, so to speak,
over my discomfiture.
"If you are going up to Wimberley Park,"
she went on sweetly, "you will probably meet
them both, as your Uncle Bob has asked us all
there for the February house-party. He cabled
an invitation to Sir Alister as soon as he heard
of the engagement. Wasn't it good of him?"
I replied that it was; then, having heard quite
enough for one day of the charms of Ethne's
fiancé, I took my leave.
That night, after cursing myself for a churl,
I wrote and wished her good luck. The next
morning I received a letter from Uncle Bob
asking me to go to Wimberley; and early in
the following week I travelled up to Cumberland.
I received a warm welcome from the old General.
As a boy I used to spend the greater part of my
holidays with him, and being childless himself,
he regarded me more or less as a son.
On February 16th Ethne, her mother, and Sir
Alister Moeran arrived. I motored to the
station to meet them. The evening was cold
and raw and so dark that it was almost impossible
to distinguish people on the badly lighted little
platform. However, as I groped my way along,
I recognised Ethne's voice, and thus directed,
hurried towards the group. As I did so two
gleaming, golden eyes flashed out at me through
"Hullo!" I thought. "So she's carted along
the faithful Pincher!" But the next moment I
found I was mistaken, for Ethne was holding
out both hands to me in greeting. There was
no dog with her, and in the bustle that followed,
I forgot to seek further for the solution of those
two fiery lights.
"It was good of you to come, Maurice," Ethne
said with unmistakable pleasure, then, turning
to the man at her side, "Alister, this is my
cousin, Captain Kilvert, of whom you have heard
We murmured the usual formalities in the
usual manner, but as my fingers touched his,
I experienced the most curious sensation down
the region of my spine. It took me back to
Burma and a certain very uncomfortable night
that I once passed in the jungle. But the
impression was so fleeting as to be indefinable,
and soon I was busy getting everyone settled
in the car.
So far, except that he possessed an exceptionally
charming voice, I had no chance of forming
an opinion of my cousin's fiancé. It was
half-past seven when we got back to the house,
so we all went straight up to our rooms to dress
Everyone was assembled in the drawing-room
when Sir Alister Moeran came in, and I shall
never forget the effect his appearance made.
Conversation ceased entirely for an instant.
There was a kind of breathless pause, which was
almost audible as my uncle rose to greet him.
In all my life I had never seen a handsomer man,
and I don't suppose anyone else there had either.
It was the most startling, arresting style of
beauty one could possibly imagine, and yet,
even as I stared at him in admiration, the word
"Black!" flashed into my mind.
Black! I pulled myself up sharply. We
English, who have lived out in the East, are far
too prone to stigmatise thus anyone who shows
the smallest trace of being a "half breed";
but in Sir Alister's case there was not even a
suspicion of this. He was no darker than scores
of men of my own nationality, and besides, he
belonged, I knew, to a very old Scottish family.
Yet, try as I would to strangle the idea, all through
the evening the same horrible, unaccountable
notion clung to me.
That he was the personality of the gathering
there was not the slightest doubt. Men and
women alike seemed attracted by him, for his
individuality was on a par with his looks.
Several times during dinner I glanced at
Ethne, but it was easy to see that all her attention
was taken up by her lover. Yet, oddly
enough, I was not jealous in the ordinary way.
I saw the folly of imagining that I could stand
a chance against a man like Moeran, and, moreover,
he interested me too deeply. His knowledge
of the East was extraordinary, and later,
when the ladies had retired, he related many
"Might I ask," said my uncle's friend, Major
Faucett, suddenly, "whether you were in the
Service, or had you a Government appointment
Sir Alister smiled, and under his moustache
I caught the gleam of strong, white teeth.
"As a matter of fact, neither. I am almost
ashamed to say I have no profession, unless I
may call myself an explorer."
"And why not?" put in Uncle Bob. "Provided
your explorations were to some purpose
and of benefit to the community in general,
I consider you are doing something worth while."
"Exactly," Sir Alister replied. "From my
earliest boyhood I have always had the strangest
hankering for the East. I say strange, because
to my parents it was inexplicable, neither of
them having the slightest leaning in that direction,
though to me it seemed the most natural desire
in the world. I was like an alien in a foreign
land, longing to get home. I recollect, as a
child, my nurse thought me a beastly uncanny
kid because I loved to lie in bed and listen to
the cats howling and fighting outside. I
used to put my head half under the blankets
and imagine I was in my lair in the jungle,
and those were the jackals and panthers prowling
"I suppose you'd been reading adventure
books," Uncle Bob said, with a laugh. "I
played at much the same game when I was a
youngster, only in my case it was Redskins."
"Possibly," Sir Alister answered with a
slight shrug, "only mine wasn't a game that I
played with any other boys, it was a gnawing
desire, which simply had to be satisfied; and the
opportunity came. When I was fourteen, the
father of a school friend of mine, who was going
out to India, asked me to go out with him and
the boy for the trip. Of course, I went."
"I wonder," the Major remarked, "that you
ever came back once you got there, since you
were so frightfully keen."
"I was certain I should return," he replied
A pause followed his last words, then Uncle
Bob rose and led the way to the drawing-room,
where for the remainder of the evening Sir Alister
was chiefly monopolised by the ladies.
"Well, Maurice," Uncle Bob said, when on
the following evening I was sitting in his study
having my usual before-dinner chat with him,
"and how do you like Ethne's future husband?"
I hesitated. "I—I really don't know," I
"Come, boy," he said, with his whimsical
smile, "why not be frank and own to a very
"Because," I answered simply, "the feeling
Sir Alister Moeran inspires in me is not jealousy,
curiously enough. It's something else, something
indefinable that comes over me now and
again. Dogs don't like him, and that's always
a bad sign, to my thinking."
My uncle's bushy eyebrows went up slightly.
"When did you make this discovery?"
"This morning," I replied. "You know I
took him and Ethne round the place. Well,
the first thing I noticed was that Mike refused
to come with us, although both Ethne and I
called him. As we passed through the hall he
slunk away into the library. I thought it a
bit strange, as he's usually so frantic to go out
with me. Still, I didn't attach any significance
to the matter until later, when we visited the
kennels. I don't know why, but one takes it
for granted that a man is keen on dogs somehow
"Isn't Sir Alister?"
"They are not keen on him, anyhow," I
answered grimly. "They had heard my voice
as we approached and were all barking with
delight, but directly we entered the place there
was a dead silence, save for a few ominous growls
from Argo. It was a most extraordinary sight.
They all bristled up, so to speak, sniffing the air
though on the scent of something. I let
Bess and Fritz loose, but instead of jumping
up, as they usually do, they hung back and showed
the whites of their eyes in a way I've never seen
before. I actually had to whistle to them
sharply several times before they came, and
then it was in a slinking manner, taking good
care to put Ethne and me between themselves
and Moeran, and looking askance at him the
"H'm!" murmured the General with puckered
brows. "That was certainly odd, very odd!"
"It was," I agreed, warming to the subject,
"but there's odder still to come. I dare say
you'll think it all my fancy, but the minute
those animals put their heads up and sniffed
in that peculiar way, I distinctly smelt the
musky, savage odour of wild beasts. You
know it well, anyone who has been through
a jungle does."
Uncle Bob nodded. "I know it, too; 'Musky'
is the very word—the smell of sun-warmed
fur. Jove, how it carries me back! I remember
once, years ago, coming upon a litter of lion
cubs, in a cave, when I was out in Africa——"
"Yes! Yes!" I cried eagerly. "And that
is what I smelt this morning. Those dogs
smelt it, too. They felt that there was something
alien, abnormal in their midst."
"That something being—Sir Alister Moeran?"
I felt myself flush up under his gaze. I got
up and walked about the room.
"I don't understand it," I said doggedly.
"I tell you plainly, Uncle Bob, I don't understand.
My impression of the man last night
was 'black,' but he's not black, I know that
perfectly well, no more than you or I are, and
yet I can't get over the behaviour of those
hounds. It wasn't only one of 'em, it was
the whole lot. They seemed to regard him as
their natural enemy! And that smell! I'm
sure Ethne detected it too, for she kept glancing
about her in a startled, mystified way."
"And Sir Alister?" queried the General.
"Do you mean to say he did not notice anything
I shrugged my shoulders. "He didn't appear
to. I called attention myself to the singular
attitude of the hounds, and he said quite casually:
'Dogs never do take to me much.'"
Uncle Bob gave a short laugh. "Our friend
is evidently not sensitive." He paused and
rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then added:
"It certainly is rather curious, but, for Heaven's
sake, boy, don't get imagining all sorts of
This nettled me and made me wish I had held
my tongue. I was quite aware that my story
might have sounded somewhat fantastic from
a stranger; still, he ought to have known me
better than to accuse me of imagination. I
abruptly changed the subject, and shortly after
left the room.
But I could not banish from my mind the
incident of the morning. I could not forget
the appealing faces of those dogs. Ethne and
Sir Alister had left me there and returned to
the house together, and, after their departure,
those poor, dumb beasts had gathered round
me in a way that was absolutely pathetic, licking
and fondling my hands, as though apologising
for their previous misconduct. Still, I understood.
That bristling up their spines was precisely
the same sensation I had experienced
when I first met Sir Alister Moeran.
As I was slowly mounting the stairs on my
way up to dress, I heard someone running up
after me, and turned round to find Ethne beside
"Maurice," she said, rather breathlessly, "tell
me, you did not punish Fritz and Bess for
not coming at once when you called them this
"No," I answered.
She gave a nervous little laugh. "I'm glad
of that. I thought perhaps——" She stopped
short, then rushed on, "You know how queer
mother is about cats—can't bear one in the
room, and how they always fly out directly
she comes in? Well, dogs are the same with
Alister. He—he told me so himself. It seems
funny to me, and I suppose to you, because
we're so fond of all kinds of animals; but I don't
really see why it should be any more extraordinary
to have an antipathy for dogs than for cats,
and no one thinks anything of it if you dislike
"That is so," I said thoughtfully.
"Anyway," she went on, "it is not our own
fault if a certain animal does not instinctively
take to us."
"Of course not," I replied stoutly. "You're
surely not worrying about it, are you?"
She hastened to assure me that she was not,
but I could see that my indorsing her opinion
was a great relief to her. She had been afraid
that I should think it unnatural. I did for
that matter, but I could not, of course, tell her
That night Sir Alister and I sat up late talking
after the other men had retired. We had got
on the subject of India and had been comparing
notes as to our different adventures. From
this we went on to discussing perilous situations
and escapes, and it was then that he narrated
to me a very curious incident.
"It happened when I was only twenty-one,"
he said, "the year after my father died.
I think I told you that as soon as ever I became
my own master, I packed up and was off to the
East. I had a friend with me, a boy who had
been my best pal at school. They used to
call us 'Black and White.' He was fair and
girlish-looking, and his name was Buchanan.
He was just as keen on India as I was, and
purposed writing a book afterwards on our
"Our intention was to explore the wildest,
most savage districts, and as a start we selected
the province of Orissa. The forests there are
wonderful, and it is there, if anywhere, that
the almost extinct Indian lion is still to be
found. We engaged two sturdy hillmen to
accompany us and pushed our way downwards
from Calcutta over mountains, rivers and through
some of the densest jungles I've ever traversed.
It was on the outskirts of one of the latter that
the tragedy took place. We had pitched our
tents one evening after a long, tiring day, and
turned in early to sleep, Buchanan and I in one,
and the two Bhils in the other."
Sir Alister paused for a few moments, toying
with his cigar in an abstracted manner, then
continued in the same clear, even voice:
"When I awoke next morning, I found my
friend lying beside me dead, and blood all round
us! His throat was torn open by the teeth of
some wild beast, his breast was horribly mauled
and lacerated, and his eyes were wide, staring
open, and their expression was awful. He must
have died a hideous death and known it!"
Again he stopped, but I made no comment,
only waited with breathless interest till he went on.
"I called the two men. They came and
looked, and for the first time I saw terror written
on their faces. Their nostrils quivered as though
scenting something; then 'Tiger!' they gasped
"One of them said he had heard a stifled
scream in the night, but had thought it merely
some animal in the jungle. The whole thing was
a mystery. How I came to sleep undisturbed
through it all, how I escaped the same fate, and
why the tiger did not carry off his prey——"
"You are sure it was a tiger?" I put in.
"I think there was no doubt of it," Sir Alister
replied. "The Bhils swore the teeth-marks were
unmistakable, and not only that, but I saw
another case seven years later. The body of a
young woman was found in the compound outside
my bungalow, done to death in precisely the same
way. And several of the natives testified as to
there being a tiger in that vicinity, for they had
found three or four young goats destroyed in
"Who was the girl?" I asked.
Moeran slowly turned his lucent, amber eyes
upon me as he answered. "She was a German,
a sort of nursery governess at the English doctor's.
He was naturally frightfully upset about it, and a
regular panic sprang up in the neighbourhood.
The natives got a superstitious scare—thought one
of their gods was wroth about something and
demanded sacrifice; but the white people were
simply out to kill the tiger."
"And did they?" I queried eagerly.
Sir Alister shook his head. "That I can't say,
as I left the place very soon afterwards and went
up to the mountains."
A long silence followed, during which I stared
at him in mute fascination. Then an unaccountable
impulse made me say abruptly: "Moeran,
how old are you?"
His finely-marked eyebrows went up in surprise
at the irrelevance of my question, but he smiled.
"Funny you should ask! It so happens that
it's my birthday to-morrow. I shall be thirty-five."
"Thirty-five!" I repeated. Then with a
shiver I rose from my seat. The room seemed to
have turned suddenly cold.
"Come," I said, "let's go to bed."
Next night at dinner I proposed Sir Alister's
health, and we all drank to him and his "bride-to-be."
They had that day definitely settled the
date of their marriage for two months ahead;
Ethne was looking radiant and everyone seemed
in the best of spirits.
We danced and romped and played rowdy
games like a pack of children. Nothing was too
silly for us to attempt. While a one-step was in
full swing some would-be wag suddenly turned
off all the lights. It was then that for a moment
I caught sight of a pair of glowing, fiery eyes
shining through the darkness. Instantly my
thoughts flew back to that meeting at the station,
when I had fancied that Ethne had her dog in
her arms. A chill, sinister feeling crept over me,
but I kept my gaze fixed steadily in the same
direction. The next minute the lights went up,
and I found myself staring straight at Sir Alister
Moeran. His arm was round Ethne's waist and
she was smiling up into his face. Almost immediately
they took up the dance again, and I and
my partner followed suit. But all my gaiety
had departed. An indefinable oppression seized
me and clung to me for the rest of the evening.
As I emerged from my room next morning I
saw old Giles, the butler, hurrying down the
corridor towards me.
"Oh, Mr. Maurice—Captain Kilvert, sir!" he
burst out, consternation in every line of his usually
stolid countenance. "A dreadful thing has
happened! How it's come about I can't for the
life of me say, and how we're going to tell the
General, the Lord only knows!"
"What?" I asked, seizing him by the arm.
"What is it?"
"The dawg, sir," he answered in a hoarse
whisper, "Mike—in the study——"
I waited to hear no more, but strode off down
the stairs, Giles hobbling beside me as fast as he
could, and together we entered the study.
In the middle of the floor lay the body of Mike.
A horrible foreboding gripped me, and I quickly
knelt down and raised the dog's head. His neck
was torn open, bitten right through to the windpipe,
the blood still dripping from it into a dark
pool on the carpet.
A cold, numbing sensation stole down my
spine and made my legs grow suddenly weak.
Beads of perspiration gathered on my forehead
as I slowly rose to my feet and faced Giles.
"What's the meaning of it, sir?" he asked,
passing his hand across his brow in utter bewilderment.
"That dawg was as right as possible
when I shut up last night, and he couldn't
have got out."
"No," I answered mechanically, "he couldn't
have got out."
"Looks like some wild beast had attacked
him," muttered the old man, in awed tones,
as he bent over the lifeless body. "D'ye see
the teeth marks, sir? But it's not possible—not
"No," I said again, in the same wooden
fashion. "It's not possible."
"But how're we going to account for it to
the General?" he cried brokenly. "Oh, Mr.
Maurice, sir, it's dreadful!"
I nodded. "You're right, Giles! Still, it
isn't your fault, nor mine. Leave the matter
to me. I'll break it to my uncle."
It was a most unenviable task, but I did it.
Poor Uncle Bob! I shall never forget his face
when he saw the mutilated body of the dog
that for years had been his faithful companion.
He almost wept, only rage and resentment
against the murderer were so strong in him that
they thrust grief for the time into the background.
The mysterious, incomprehensible manner of
the dog's death only added to his anger, for there
was apparently no one on whom to wreak his
The news caused general concern throughout
the house, and Ethne was frightfully upset.
"Oh, Alister, isn't it awful?" she exclaimed,
tears standing in her pretty blue eyes. "Poor,
"Yes," he answered rather absently. "It's
most unfortunate. Valuable dog, too, wasn't
I walked away. The man's calm, handsome
face filled me suddenly with unspeakable revulsion.
The atmosphere of the room seemed to
become heavy and noisome. I felt compelled
to get out into the open to breathe.
I found the General tramping up and down
the drive in the rain, his chin sunk deep into
the collar of his overcoat, his hat pulled low
down over his eyes. I joined him without
speaking, and in silence we paced side by side
for another quarter of an hour.
"Uncle Bob," I said abruptly at last, "take
my advice. Have one of the hounds indoors
to-night—Princep, he's a good watch-dog."
The General stopped short in his walk and
looked at me.
"You've something on your mind, boy. What
"This," I answered grimly. "Whoever, or
whatever killed Mike was in the house last night,
or got in, after Giles shut up. It may still be
there for all we know. In the dark, dark deeds
are done, and—well, I think it's wise to take
"Good God, Maurice, if there is any creature
in hiding, we'll soon have it out! I'll have the
place searched now. But the thing's impossible,
I shrugged my shoulders. "Then Mike died
a natural death?"
"Natural?" he echoed fiercely. "Don't talk
"In that case," I said quietly, "you'll agree
to let one of the dogs sleep in."
He gave me a long, troubled, searching look,
then said gruffly: "Very well, but don't make
any fuss about it. Women are such nervous
beings and we don't want to upset anyone."
"You needn't be afraid of that," I replied,
"I'll manage it all right."
There was no further talk of Mike that day.
The visitors, seeing how distressed the General
was, by tacit consent avoided the subject, but
everyone felt the dampening effect.
That night, before I retired to my room, I
took a lantern, went out to the kennels and
brought in Princep, a pure-bred Irish setter.
He was a dog of exceptional intelligence, and when
I spoke to him, explaining the reason of his
presence indoors, he seemed to know instinctively
what was required of him.
As I passed the study I noticed a light coming
from under the door. Somewhat surprised, I
turned the handle and looked in. My uncle
was seated before his desk in the act of loading
a revolver. He glanced up sharply as I entered.
"Oh, it's you, is it? Got the dog in?"
"Yes," I replied, "I've left him in the library
with the door open."
He regarded the revolver pensively for a few
moments, then laid it down in front of him.
"You've no theory as to this—this business?"
I shook my head, I could offer no explanation.
Yet all the while there lurked, deep down in
my heart, a hideous suspicion, a suspicion so
monstrous that had I voiced it, I should probably
have been considered mad. And so I held my
peace on the subject and merely wished my
It was about one o'clock when I got into bed,
but my brain was far too agitated for sleep.
Something I had heard years ago, some old wives'
tales about a man's life changing every seven
years, kept dinning in my head. I was striving
to remember how the story went, when a slight
sound outside caught my ear. In a second I
was out of bed and had silently opened the door.
As I did so, someone passed close by me down the
Cautiously, with beating heart, I crept out and
followed. However, I almost exclaimed aloud
in my amazement, for the light from a window
fell full on the figure ahead of me, and I recognised
my cousin Ethne. She was sleep-walking,
a habit she had had from her childhood, and
which apparently she had never outgrown.
For some minutes I stood there, undecided how
to act, while she passed on down the stairs, out
of sight. To wake her I knew would be wrong.
I knew, also, that she had walked thus a score
of times without coming to any harm. There
was, therefore, no reason why I should not return
to my room and leave her to her wandering,
yet still I remained rooted to the spot, all my
senses strained, alert. And then suddenly I
heard Princep whine. A series of low, stertorous
growls followed, growls that made my blood
run cold! With swift, noiseless steps, I stole
along to the minstrel's gallery which overlooked
that portion of the hall that communicated
with the library. As I did so, there arose from
immediately below me a succession of sharp
snarls, such as a dog gives when he is in deadly
fear or pain.
A shaft of moonlight fell across the polished
floor, and by its aid I was just able to distinguish
the form of Princep crouched against the wainscoting.
He was breathing heavily, his head
turned all the while towards the opposite side
of the room. I looked in the same direction.
Out of the darkness gleamed two fiery, golden
orbs, two eyes that moved slowly to and fro,
backwards and forwards, as though the Thing
were prowling round and round. Now it seemed
to crouch as though ready to spring, and I could
hear the savage growling as of some beast of
As I watched, horrified, fascinated, a portière
close by was lifted, and the white-robed figure
of Ethne appeared. All heedless of danger
she came on across the hall, and the Thing, with
soft, stealthy tread, came after her. I knew
then that there was not an instant to be lost,
and like a flash I darted along the gallery and
down the stairs. But ere I gained the hall
a piercing scream rent the air, and I was just
in time to see Ethne borne to the ground by a
great, dark form, which had sprung at her like
Half frantic, I dashed forward, snatching as
I did so a rapier from the wall, the only weapon
handy. But before I reached the spot, a voice
from the study doorway called: "Stop!" and
the next moment the report of a pistol rang out.
"Good God!" I cried. "Who have you
"Not the girl," answered the grim voice of
my uncle, "you may trust my aim for that!
I fired at the eyes of the Thing. Here, quick,
get lights and let's see what has happened."
But my one and only thought was for Ethne.
Moving across to the dark mass on the floor,
I stretched out my hand. My fingers touched
a smooth, fabric-like cloth, but the smell was the
smell of fur, the musky, sun-warmed fur of the
jungle! With sickening repugnance, I seized
the Thing by its two broad shoulders and rolled
it over. Then I carefully raised Ethne from the
ground. At that moment Giles and a footman
appeared with candles. In silence my uncle
took one and came towards me, the servants
with scared, blanched countenances following.
The light fell full upon the dead, upturned face
of Sir Alister Moeran. His upper lip was drawn
back, showing the strong, white teeth. The
two front ones were tipped with blood. Instantly
my eyes turned to Ethne's throat, and there
I saw deep, horrible marks, like the marks of
a tiger's fangs; but, thank God, they had not
penetrated far enough to do any serious injury!
My uncle's shot had come just in time to save her.
"Merely fainted, hasn't she?" he asked
I nodded. My relief at finding this was so,
was too great for words.
"Heaven be praised!" I heard him mutter.
Then lifting my beautiful, unconscious burden
in my arms, I carried her upstairs to her room.
Can I explain, can anyone explain, the
mysterious vagaries of atavism? I only know
that there are amongst us, rare instances fortunately,
but existent nevertheless—men with
the souls of beasts. They may be cognisant
of the fact or otherwise. In the case of Sir Alister
I feel sure it was the latter. He had probably
no more idea than I what far-reaching, evil
strain it was that came out in his blood and turned
him, every seven years, practically into a vampire.
The quiet of the deserted building incircled
the little, glowing room as the velvet incircles
the jewel in its case. Occasionally faint sounds
came from the distance—the movements of
cleaners at work, a raised voice, the slamming
of a door.
The man sat at his desk, as he had sat through
the busy day, but he had turned sideways in
his seat, the better to regard the other occupant
of the room.
She was not beautiful—had no need to be.
Her call to him had been the saner call of mind
to mind. That he desired, besides, the passing
benediction of her hands, the fragrance of her
corn-gold hair, the sight of her slenderness:
this she had guessed and gloried in. Till now,
he had touched her physical self neither in
word nor deed. To-night, she knew, the barriers
would be down; to-night they would kiss.
Her quiet eyes, held by his during the spell
that had bound them speechless, did not flinch
at the breaking of it.
"The Lord made the world and then He
made this rotten old office," the man said quietly.
"Into it He put you—and me. What, before
that day, has gone to the making and marring
of me, and the making and perfecting of you,
is not to the point. It is enough that we have
realised, heart, and soul, and body, that you
are mine and I am yours."
"Yes," she said.
He fell silent again, his eyes on her hungrily.
She felt them and longed for his touch. But
there came only his voice.
"I want you. The first moment I saw you
I wanted you. I thought then that, whatever
the cost, I would have you. That was in
the early days of our talks here—before you
made it so courageously clear to me that it
would never be possible for you to ignore my
marriage and come to me. That is still so,
She moved slightly, like a dreamer in pain,
as again she faced the creed she had hated
through many a sleepless night.
"It is so," she agreed. "And because it
is so, you are going away to-morrow."
They looked at each other across the foot
or two of intervening space. It was a look to
bridge death with. But even beneath their
suffering, her eyes voiced the tremulous waiting
of her lips.
At last he found words.
"You are the most wonderful woman in
the world—the pluckiest, the most completely
understanding; you have the widest charity.
I suppose I ought to thank you for it all;
I can't—that's not my way. I have always
demanded of you, demanded enormously, and
received my measure pressed down and running
over. Now I am going to ask this last thing
of you: will you, of your goodness, go away—upstairs,
anywhere—and come back in ten
minutes' time? By then I shall have cleared
She looked at him almost incredulously,
lips parted. Suddenly she seemed a child.
"You—I——" she stammered. Then
rising to her feet, with a superb simplicity:
"But, you must kiss me before you go. You
must! You—simply must."
For the space of a flaming moment it seemed
that in one stride he would have crossed to her
side, caught and held her.
"For God's sake——!" he muttered, in
almost ludicrous fear of himself. Then, with
a big effort, he regained his self-control.
"Listen," he said hoarsely. "I want to
kiss you so much that I daren't even get to my
feet. Do you understand what that means?
Think of it, just for a moment, and then realise
that I am not going to kiss you. And I have
kissed many women in my time, too, and shall
kiss more, no doubt."
"But it's not because of that——?"
"That I'm holding back? No. Neither is
it because I funk the torture of kissing you
once and letting you go. It's because I'm
"Listen. You have unfolded your beliefs
to me and, though I don't hold them—don't
attempt to live up to your lights—the realisation
of them has given me a reverence for you that
you don't dream of. I have put you in a shrine
and knelt to you; every time you have sat in
that chair and talked with me, I have worshipped
"It would not alter—all that," the girl said
faintly, "if you kissed me."
"I don't believe that; neither do you—no,
you don't! In your heart of hearts you admit
that a woman like you is not kissed for the first
and last time by a man like me. Suppose I
kissed you now? I should awaken something
in you as yet half asleep. You're young and
pulsing with life, and there are—thank Heaven!—few
layers of that damnable young-girl shyness
over you. The world would call you primitive,
"But I don't——"
"Oh, Lord, you must see it's all or nothing!
You surely understand that after I had left you
you would not go against your morality, perhaps,
but you would adjust it, in spite of yourself,
to meet your desires! I cannot—safely—kiss
"But you are going away for good!"
"For good! Child, do you think my going
will be your safeguard? If you wanted me
so much that you came to think it was right
and good to want me, wouldn't you find me,
send for me, call for me? And I should come.
God! I can see the look in your eyes now,
when the want had been satisfied, and you
could not drug your creed any more."
Her breath came in a long sigh. Then she
tried to speak; tried again.
"It is so, isn't it?" he asked.
She nodded. Speech was too difficult. With
the movement a strand of the corn-gold hair
came tumbling down the side of her face.
"Then, that being the case," said the man,
with infinite gentleness, his eyes on the little,
tumbling lock, "I shall not attempt so much
as to touch your hand before you leave the room."
At the door she turned.
"Tell me once again," she said. "You
want to kiss me?"
He gripped the arms of his chair; from where
she stood, she could see the veins standing out
on his hands.
"I want to kiss you," he said fiercely. "I
want to kiss you. If there were any way of
cutting off to-morrow—all the to-morrows—with
the danger they hold for us—I would kiss
you. I would kiss you, and kiss you, and kiss
Where her feet took her during the thousand,
thousand years that was his going she could
never afterwards say; but she found herself
at last at the top of the great building, at an
open window, leaning out, with the rain beating
into her eyes.
Far below her the lights wavered and later
she remembered that echoes of a far-off tumult
had reached her as she sat. But her ears held
only the memory of a man's footsteps—the
eager tread that had never lingered so much
as a second's space on its way to her; that
had often stumbled slightly on the threshold
of her presence; that she had heard and welcomed
in her dreams; that would not come
The raindrops lay like tears upon her face.
She brushed them aside, and, rising, put up
her hands to feel the wet lying heavy on her
hair. The coldness of her limbs surprised her
faintly. Downstairs she went again, the echoes
mocking every step.
She closed the door of the room behind her
and idly cleared a scrap of paper from a chair.
Mechanically her hands went to the litter on
his desk and she had straightened it all before
she realised that there was no longer any need.
To-morrow would bring a voice she did not know;
would usher a stranger into her room to take
her measure from behind a barrier of formality.
For the rest there would be work, and food,
These things would make life—life that had
She put on her hat and coat. The room
seemed smaller somehow and shabbier. The
shaded lights that had invited, now merely irritated;
the whimsical disorder of books and papers
spoke only of an uncompleted task. Gone
was the glamour and the promise and the good
comradeship. He had taken them all. She
faced to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
empty-handed—in her heart the memory of
words that had seared and healed in a breath,
and the dead dream of a kiss. Her throat
ached with the pain of it.
And then suddenly she heard him coming
She stiffened. For one instant, mind and
body, she was rigid with the sheer wonder of
it. Then, as the atmosphere of the room surged
back, tense with vitality, her mind leapt forward
in welcome. He was coming back, coming
back! The words hammered themselves out
to the rhythm of the eager tread that never
lingered so much as a second's space on its way
to her, that stumbled slightly on the threshold
of her presence.
By some queer, reflex twist of memory,
her hands brushed imaginary raindrops from
her face and strayed uncertainly to where the
wet had lain on her hair.
The door opened and closed behind him.
"I've come back. I've come back to kiss
Her outflung hand checked him in his stride
towards her. Words came stammering to her
"Why—but—this isn't—I don't understand!
All you said—it was true, surely?
It was cruel of you to make me know it was
true and then come back!"
"Let me kiss you—let me, let me!" He
was overwhelming her, ignoring her resistance.
"I must kiss you, I must kiss you." He said
it again and again.
"No, no, you shan't—you can't play with
me! You said you were afraid for me, and
you made me afraid, too—of my weakness—of
the danger—of my longing for you——"
"Let me kiss you! Yes, you shall let me;
you shall let me." His arms held her, his
face touched hers.
"Aren't you afraid any more? Has a miracle
happened—may we kiss in spite of to-morrow?"
Inch by inch she was relaxing. All thought
was slipping away into a great white light that
held no to-morrows, nor any fear of them, nor
of herself, nor of anything. The light crept
to her feet, rose to her heart, her head. Through
the radiance came his words.
"Yes, a miracle. Oh, my dear—my little
child! I've come back to kiss you, little child."
"Kiss me, then," she said against his lips.
Hazily she was aware that he had released
her; that she had raised her head; that against
the rough tweed of his shoulder there lay a
long, corn-gold hair.
She laughed shakily and her hand went up
to remove it; but he caught her fingers and
held them to his face. And with the movement
and his look there came over her in a wave the
shame of her surrender, a shame that was yet
a glory, a diadem of pride. She turned blindly
"Please," she heard herself saying, "let me
go now. I want to be alone. I want to—please
don't tell me to-night. To-morrow——"
She was at the door, groping for the handle.
Behind her she heard his voice; it was very
"I shall always kneel to you—in your shrine."
Then she was outside, and the chilly passages
were cooling her burning face. She had left
him in the room behind her; and she knew
he would wait there long enough to allow her
to leave the building. Almost immediately,
it seemed, she was downstairs in the hall, had
reached the entrance.
She confronted a group of white-faced, silent
"Why, is anything the matter? What has
The porter stood forward. He cleared his
throat twice, but for all that, his words were
"Yes, Miss Carryll. Good-night, miss. You'd
best be going on, miss, if you'll excuse——"
Behind O'Dell stood a policeman; behind
him again, a grave-eyed man stooped to an
unusual task. It arrested her attention like
the flash of red danger.
"Why is the door of your room being locked,
O'Dell?" She knew her curiosity was indecent,
but some powerful premonition was stirring
in her, and she could not pass on. "Has there
been an accident? Who is in there?"
Then, almost under her feet, she saw a dark
pool lying sluggishly against the tiles; nearer
the door another—on the pavement outside
another—and yet another. She gasped, drew
back, felt horribly sick; and, as she turned,
she caught O'Dell's muttered aside to the policeman.
"Young lady's 'is seccereterry—must be the
last that seen 'im alive. All told, 'tain't more'n
'arf-an-'our since 'e left. 'Good-night, O'Dell,'
sez 'e. 'Miss Carryll's still working—don't
lock 'er in,' sez 'e. Would 'ave 'is joke. Must
'ave gone round the corner an' slap inter the
car. Wish to God the amberlance——"
Her cry cut into his words as she flung herself
forward. Her fingers wrenched at the key
of the locked door and turned it, in spite of
the detaining hands that seemed light as leaves
upon her shoulder, and as easily shaken off.
Unhearing, unheeding, she forced her way into
the glare of electric light flooding the little room—beating
down on to the table and its sheeted
burden. Before she reached it, knowledge had
dropped upon her like a mantle.
Her face was grey as the one from which she
drew the merciful coverings, but her eyes went
fearlessly to that which she sought.
Against the rough tweed of the shoulder lay
a long, corn-gold hair.
Young Cargill smiled as Mrs. Lardner finished
"And do you really think that the fact that
the poor chap was drowned had anything to do
with it?" he asked. "Why, you admit yourself
that he was known to have been drinking
just before he fell out of his boat!"
"You may say what you like," returned his
hostess impressively, "but since first we came
to live at Tryn yr Wylfa only four people besides
poor Roberts have defied the Fates, and each
of them was drowned within the year.
"They were all tourists," she added with something
suspiciously like satisfaction.
"I am not a superstitious man myself," supplemented
the Major. "But you can't get away
from the facts, you know, Cargill."
Cargill said no more. He perceived that they
had lived long enough in retirement in the little
Welsh village to have acquired a pride in its
The legend and the mountains are the two
attractions of Tryn yr Wylfa—the official guidebook
devotes an equal amount of space to each.
It will tell you that the bay, across which the
quarry's tramp steamers now sail, was once
dry land on which stood a village. Deep in the
water the remains of this village can still be seen
in clear weather. But whosoever dares to look
upon them will be drowned within the year.
A local publication gives full details of those
who have looked—and perished.
The legend had received an unexpected boom
in the drowning of Roberts, which had just
occurred. Roberts was a fisherman who had
recently come from the South. One calm day
in February he had rowed out into the bay in
fulfilment of a drunken boast. He was drowned
three days before Midsummer.
After dinner young Cargill forgot about it.
He forgot almost everything except Betty
Lardner. But, oddly enough, as he walked back
to the hotel it was just Betty Lardner who made
him think again of the legend. He was in love,
and, being very young, wanted to do something
insanely heroic. To defy the Fates by looking
on the sunken village was an obvious outlet for
He must have thought a good deal about it
before he fell asleep, for he remembered his
resolution on the following morning.
After breakfast he sauntered along the brief
strip of asphalt which the villagers believe to be
a promenade. He was not actually thinking
of the legend; to be precise, he was thinking of
Betty Lardner, but he was suddenly reminded
of it by a boatman pressing him for his custom.
"Yes," he said abruptly. "I will hire your
boat if you will row me out to the sunken village.
I want to look at it."
The Welshman eyed him suspiciously,
perceived that he was not joking, and shook
"Come," persisted Cargill, "I will make it
a sovereign if you care to do it."
"Thank you, but indeed, no, sir," replied
the Welshman. "Not if it wass a hundred
"Surely you are not afraid?"
"It iss not fit," retorted the Welshman,
turning on his heel.
It was probably this opposition that made
young Cargill decide that it would be really
worth while to defy the legend.
He did not approach the only other boatman.
He considered the question of swimming. The
knowledge that the distance there and back
was nearly five miles did not render the feat
impossible, for he was a champion swimmer.
But he soon thought of a better way. He went
back to the hotel and sought out Bissett. Bissett
was a fellow member of the Middle Temple,
as contentedly briefless as himself. And Bissett
possessed a motor-boat.
Bissett was not exactly keen on the prospect.
"Don't you think it is rather a silly thing
to do?" he reasoned. "Of course it's all rot
in a way—it must be. But isn't it just as well
to treat that sort of thing with respect?"
Eventually he agreed to take the motor-boat
to within a few hundred yards of the spot. They
would tow a dinghy, in which young Cargill
could finish the journey.
It took young Cargill half-an-hour to find the
spot. But he did find it, and he did look upon,
and actually see, all that remained of the sunken
He felt vaguely ashamed of himself when he
returned to dry land. He noticed that several
of the villagers gave him unfriendly glances;
and he resolved that he would say nothing of the
matter to the Lardners.
They were having tea on the lawn when he
dropped in. He thought that Mrs. Lardner's
welcome was a trifle chilly. After tea Betty
executed a quite deliberate manœuvre to avoid
having him for a partner at tennis. But he ran
her to earth later, when they were picking up
"How could you?" was all she said.
"I—I didn't know you knew," he stammered
"Of course everybody knows! It was all
over the village before you returned.
"Can't you see what that legend meant to
us?" she went on. "It was a thing of beauty.
And now you have spoilt it. It's like burning
down the trees of the Fairy Glen. You—you
"But suppose I am drowned before the year
is out—like Roberts?" he suggested jocularly.
"Then I will forgive you," she said. And to
Cargill it sounded exactly as if she meant what
A few days later he returned to town. For
six months he thought little about the legend.
Then he was reminded of it.
He had been spending a week-end at Brighton.
On the return journey he had a first-class smoker
in the rear of the train to himself. Towards
the end of the hour he dozed and dreamt of the
day he had looked on the sunken village. He
was awakened when the train made its usual
stop on the bridge outside Victoria.
It had been a pleasant dream, and he was still
trying to preserve the illusion when his eye
fell lazily on the window, and he noticed that
there was a dense fog.
"Bit rough on the legend that I happened
to be a Londoner!" he mused. "It isn't easy
to drown a man in town!"
He stood up with the object of removing his
dressing-case from the rack. But before he
reached it there was the shriek of a whistle, a
violent shock, and he was hurled heavily into
the opposite seat.
It was not a collision in the newspaper sense
of the word. No one was hurt. A local train,
creeping along at four miles an hour, had simply
missed its signal in the fog and bumped the
Young Cargill, in common with most other
passengers put his head out of the window. He
saw nothing—except the parapet of the bridge.
"By God!" he muttered. "If that other
train had been going a little faster——"
He could just hear the river gurgling beneath
He had got over his fright by the time he
"Just a common-place accident," he assured
himself, as he drove in a taxi-cab to his chambers.
"That's the worst of it! If I happened to be
drowned in the ordinary way they'd swear it
was the legend. I suppose, for that reason,
I had better not take any risks. Anyhow,
I needn't go near the sea until the year is
The superstitious would doubtless affirm that
the Fates had sent him one warning and, angered
at his refusal to accept it, had determined to
drive home the lesson of his own impotence.
For when he arrived at his chambers he found
a cablegram from Paris awaiting him.
"Hullo, this must be from Uncle Peter!"
he exclaimed, as he tore open the envelope.
"Fear uncle dying. Come at once.—Machell."
Machell was the elder Cargill's secretary, and
young Cargill was the old man's heir.
It was not until he was in the boat-train that
he realised that he was about to cross the sea.
It was a coincidence—an odd coincidence.
When the ship tossed in an unusually rough crossing
he was prepared to admit to himself that
it was an uncanny coincidence.
He stayed a week in Paris for his uncle's funeral.
When he made the return journey the Channel
was like the proverbial mill pond. But it was
not until the ship had actually put into Dover
that he laughed at the failure of the Fates to
take the opportunity to drown him.
He laughed, to be exact, as he was stepping
down the gangway. At the end of the gangway
the fold of the rug which he was carrying on his
arm, caught in the railings. He turned sharply
to free it and stepping back, cannoned into an
officer of the dock. It threw him off his balance
on the edge of the dockside.
Even if the official had not grabbed him, it
is highly probable that he could have saved
himself from falling into the water, because
the gangway railing was in easy reach; and if
you remember that he was a champion swimmer,
you will agree that it is still more probable that
he would not have been drowned, even if he had
But the incident made its impression. His
thoughts reverted to it constantly during the next
few days. Then he told himself that his attendance
at the last rites of his uncle had made him
morbid, and was more or less successful in dismissing
the affair from his mind.
He had many friends in common with the
Lardners. Early in February he was invited
for a week's hunting to a house at which Betty
Lardner was also a guest.
She had not forgotten. She did her best
to avoid him, and succeeded remarkably well,
in spite of the fact that their hostess, knowing
something of young Cargill's feelings, made
several efforts to throw them together.
One day at the end of the hunt he came alongside
of her and they walked their horses home
together. When he was sure that they were
out of earshot he asked:
"You haven't forgiven me yet?"
"You know the conditions," she replied
"You leave me no alternative to suicide,"
"That would be cheating," she said. "You
must be drowned honestly, or it's no good."
Then he made a foolish reply. He thought
her humour forced and it annoyed him. Remember
that he was exasperated. He had
looked forward to meeting her, and now she
was treating him with studied coldness over
what still seemed to him a comparatively trifling
"I am afraid," he said, "that that is hardly
likely to occur. The fact of my being a townsman
instead of a drunken boatman doesn't
give your legend a fair chance!"
Less than an hour afterwards he was having
his bath before dressing for dinner. The water
was deliciously hot, and the room was full of
steam. As he lay in the bath a drowsiness
stole over him. Enjoying the keen physical
pleasure of it, he thought what a wholly delightful
thing was a hot bath after a day's hard hunting.
His mind, bordering on sleep, dwelt lazily
on hot baths in general. And then with a
startling suddenness came the thought that,
before now, men had been drowned in their
With a shock he realised that he had almost
fallen asleep. He tried to rouse himself, but
a faintness had seized him. That steam—he
could not breathe! He was certain he was
going to faint.
With a desperate effort of the will he hurled
himself out of the bath and threw open the
It must have been the bath episode that
first aroused the sensation of positive fear
in Cargill. For it was almost a month later
when he surprised the secretary of that swimming
club of which he was the main pillar by
his refusal to take part in any events for the
He was beginning to take precautions.
Late one night, when taxi-cabs were scarce,
he found that his quickest way to reach home
would be by means of one of the tubes. He
was in the descending lift when he suddenly
remembered that that particular tube ran beneath
the river. Suppose an accident should
occur—a leakage! After all such a thing was
within the bounds of possibility. Instantly
there rose before him the vision of a black torrent
roaring through the tunnel.
Without waiting for the lift to ascend he rushed
to the staircase, and sweating with terror gained
the street and bribed a loafer to find him a
He made an effort to take himself seriously
in hand after that. More than one acquaintance
had lately told him that he was looking "nervy."
In the last few weeks his sane and normal self
seemed to have shrunk within him. But it was
still capable of asserting itself under favourable
conditions. It would talk aloud to the rest of
him as if to a separate individual.
"Look here, old man, this superstitious
nonsense is becoming an obsession to you," it
said one fine April morning. "Yes, I mean
what I say—an obsession! You must pull
yourself together or you'll go stark mad, and
then you'll probably go and throw yourself over
the Embankment. That legend is all bosh!
You're in the twentieth century, and you're
not a drunken fisherman——"
"Hullo, young Cargill!"
The door burst open and Stranack, oozing
health and sanity, glared at him.
"Jove! What a wreck you look!" continued
Stranack. "You've been frousting too much.
I'm glad I came. The car's outside, and we'll
run down to Kingston, take a skiff and pull
up to Molesey."
The river! Young Cargill felt the blood
singing in his ears.
"I'm afraid I can't manage it. I—I've got
an appointment this afternoon," he stammered.
Stranack perceived that he was lying, and
wondered. For a few minutes he gossiped,
while young Cargill was repeating to himself:
"You must pull yourself together. It's
becoming an obsession. You must pull yourself
He was vaguely conscious that Stranack
was about to depart. Stranack was already
in the doorway. His chance of killing the
obsession was slipping from him! A special
effort and then:
"Stop!" cried Cargill. "I—I'll come with
Oddly enough, he felt much better when they
were actually on the river. He had never
been afraid of water, as such. And the familiar
scenery, together with the wholesome exercise
of sculling, acted as a tonic to his nerves.
They pulled above Molesey lock. When they
were returning, Stranack said:
"You'll take her through the lock, won't
It was a needless remark, and if Stranack
had not made it all might have been well. As
a fact, it set Cargill asking himself why he should
not take her through the lock. He was admitted
to be a much better boatman than Stranack,
and everyone knew that it required a certain
amount of skill to manage a lock properly.
Locks were dangerous if you played the fool.
Before now people had been drowned in locks.
The rest was inevitable. He lost his head
as the lower gates swung open, and broke the
rule of the river by pushing out in front of a
launch. The launch was already under way,
and young Cargill trying to avoid it better,
thrust with his boat-hook at the side of the
lock. The thrust was nervous and ill-calculated,
and the next instant the skiff had blundered
under the bows of the launch.
It happened very quickly. The skiff was forced,
broadside on, against the lock gates, and was
splintered like firewood. Cargill fell backwards,
struck his head heavily against the gates—and
He returned to consciousness in the lock-keeper's
lodge. He had been under water a
dangerously long time before Stranack, who had
suffered no more than a wetting, had found
him. It had been touch and go for his life,
but artificial respiration had succeeded.
He soon went to pieces after that.
From one of the windows of his chambers
the river was just visible. One morning he
deliberately pulled the blind down. The action
was important. It signified that he had definitely
given up pretending that he had the power
of shaking off the obsession.
But if he could not shake it off, he could at
least keep it temporarily at bay. He started
a guerilla campaign against the obsession with
the aid of the brandy bottle. He was rarely
drunk, and as rarely sober.
He was sober the day he was compelled to
call on an aunt who lived in the still prosperous
outskirts of Paddington. It was one of his
good days and, in spite of his sobriety, he had
himself in very good control when he left his
In his search for a cab it became necessary
for him to cross the canal. On the bridge he
paused and, gripping the parapet, made a surprise
attack upon his enemy.
Some children, playing on the tow path, helped
him considerably. Their delightful sanity in
the presence of the water was worth more to
him than the brandy. He was positively winning
the battle, when one of the children fell into
For an instant he hesitated. Then, as on the
night of the Tube episode, panic seized him.
The next instant the man who was probably
the best amateur swimmer in England, was
running with all his might away from the canal.
When he reached his chambers he waited,
with the assistance of the brandy, until his
man brought him the last edition of the evening
paper. A tiny paragraph on the back sheet
told him of the tragedy.
An hour later his man found him face downwards
on the hearthrug and, wrongly attributing
his condition wholly to the brandy, put him to
He was in bed about three weeks. The doctor,
who was also a personal friend, was shrewd
enough to suspect that the brandy was the
effect, rather than the cause of the nerve trouble.
About the first week in June Cargill was allowed
to get up.
"You've got to go away," said the doctor
one morning. "You are probably aware that
your nerves have gone to pieces. The sea is
the place for you!"
The gasp that followed was scarcely audible,
and the doctor missed it.
"You went to Tryn yr Wylfa about this
time last year," continued the doctor. "Go
there again! Go for long walks on the mountains,
and put up at a temperance hotel."
He went to Tryn yr Wylfa.
The train journey of six hours knocked him
up for another week. By the time he was
strong enough for the promenade it was the
fourteenth of June. He noticed the date on
the hotel calendar, and realised that the Fates
had another ten days in which to drown him.
He did not call on the Lardners. He felt
that he couldn't—after the canal episode. Four
of the ten days had passed before Betty Lardner
ran across him on the promenade.
She noticed at once the change in him, and
was kinder than she had ever been before.
"Next Saturday," he said, "is the anniversary!"
For answer she smiled at him, and he might
have smiled back if he had not remembered
She met him each morning after that, so that
she was with him on the day when he made his
There had been a violent storm in the early
morning. It had driven one of the quarry
steamers on to the long sand-bank that lies
submerged between Tryn yr Wylfa and Puffin
Island. The gale still lasted, and the steamer
was in momentary danger of becoming a complete
There is no lifeboat service at Tryn yr Wylfa.
It was impossible to launch an ordinary boat
in such a sea.
Colonel Denbigh, the owner of the quarry
and local magnate, who had been superintending
what feeble efforts had been made to effect
a rescue, answered gloomily when Betty Lardner
asked him if there were any hope.
"It's a terrible thing," he jerked. "First
time there has been a wreck hereabouts. It's
hopeless trying to launch a boat——"
"Suppose a fellow were to swim out to the
wreck with a life-line in tow?"
It was young Cargill who spoke.
The Colonel glared at him contemptuously.
"He would need to be a pretty fine swimmer,"
"I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but
I am considered to be one of the best amateur
swimmers in the country," replied Cargill calmly.
"If you will tell your men to get the line ready,
I will borrow a bathing suit from somewhere."
They both stared at him in amazement.
"But you are still an invalid," cried Betty
She stopped short and regarded him with
fresh wonder. Somehow he no longer looked
Mechanically she walked by his side to the
little bathing office. Suddenly she clutched
"Jack," she said, "have you forgotten the—the
"Betty," he replied, "have you forgotten
While he was undressing the attendant asked
him some trivial question. He did not hear the
man. His thoughts were far away. He was
thinking of a group of children playing on the
bank of a canal.
To the accompaniment of the Colonel's protests
they fixed a belt on him, to which was attached
He walked along the sloping wooden projection
that is used as a landing stage for pleasure
skiffs, walked until the water splashed over
him. Then he dived into the boiling surf.
Thus it was that he earned Betty Lardner's
THE LAST ASCENT
The extraordinary rapidity with which a successful
airman may achieve fame was well shown
in the case of my friend, Radcliffe Thorpe.
One week known merely to a few friends as a
clever young engineer, the next his name was
on the lips of the civilised world. His first
success was followed by a series of remarkable
feats, of which his flight above the Atlantic,
his race with the torpedo-boat-destroyers across
the North Sea, and his sensational display
during the military manœuvres on Salisbury
Plain, impressed his name and personality firmly
upon the fickle mind of the public, and explains
the tremendous excitement caused by his inexplicable
disappearance during the great aviation
meeting at Attercliffe, near London, towards
the end of the summer.
Few people, I suppose, have forgotten the
facts. For some time previously he had been
devoting himself more especially to ascending
to as great a height as possible. He held all
the records for height, and it was known that
at Attercliffe he meant to endeavour to eclipse
his own achievements.
It was a lovely day, not a breath of wind
stirring, not a cloud in the sky. We saw him
start. We saw him fly up and up in great
sweeping spirals. We saw him climb higher
and ever higher into the azure space. We watched
him, those of us whose eyes could bear the strain,
as he dwindled to a dot and a speck, till at last
he passed beyond sight.
It was a stirring thing to see a man thus storm,
as it were, the walls of Heaven and probe the
very mysteries of space. I remember I felt
quite annoyed with someone who was taking
a cinematograph record. It seemed such a
sordid, business-like thing to be doing at such
Presently the aeroplane came into sight again
and was greeted with a sudden roar of cheering.
"He is doing a glide down," someone cried
excitedly, and though someone else declared
that a glide from such a height was unthinkable
and impossible, yet it was soon plain that the
first speaker was right.
Down through unimaginable thousands of
feet, straight and swift swept the machine,
making such a sweep as the eagle in its pride
would never have dared. People held their
breath to watch, expecting every moment some
catastrophe. But the machine kept on an even
keel, and in a few moments I joined with the
others in a wild rush to the field at a little distance
where the machine, like a mighty bird,
had alighted easily and safely.
But when we reached it we doubted our
own eyes, our own sanity. There was no sign
anywhere of Radcliffe Thorpe!
No one knew what to say; we looked blankly
at our neighbours, and one man got down on
his hands and knees and peered under the body
of the machine as if he suspected Radcliffe of
hiding there. Then the chairman of the meeting,
Lord Fallowfield, made a curious discovery.
"Look," he said in a high, shaken voice,
"the steering wheel is jammed!"
It was true. The steering wheel had been
carefully fastened in one position, and the lever
controlling the planes had also been fixed so
as to hold them at the right angle for a downward
glide. That was strange enough, but in
face of the mystery of Radcliffe's disappearance
little attention was paid it.
Where, then, was its pilot? That was the
question that was filling everybody's mind.
He had vanished as utterly as vanishes the
mist one sees rising in the sunshine.
It was supposed he must have fallen from his
seat, but as to how that had happened, how it
was that no fragment of his body or his clothing
was ever found, above all, how it was that his
aeroplane had returned, the engine cut off, the
planes secured in correct position, no even
moderately plausible explanation was ever put
The loss to aeronautics was felt to be severe.
From childhood Radcliffe had shown that, in
addition to this, he had a marked aptitude
for drawing, usually held at the service of his
profession, but now and again exercised in
producing sketches of his friends.
Among those who knew him privately he
was fairly popular, though not, perhaps, so
much so as he deserved; certainly he had a way
of talking "shop" which was a trifle tiring to those
who did not figure the world as one vast engineering
problem, while with women he was apt
to be brusque and short-mannered.
My surprise, then, can be imagined when,
calling one afternoon on him and having to
wait a little, I had noticed lying on his desk
a crayon sketch of a woman's face. It was
a very lovely face, the features almost perfect,
and yet there was about it something unearthly
and spectral that was curiously disturbing.
"Smitten at last?" I asked jestingly, and yet
aware of a certain odd discomfort.
When, he saw what I was looking at he went
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Oh, just—someone!" he answered.
He took the sketch from me, looked at it,
frowned and locked it away. As he seemed
unwilling to pursue the subject, I went on to
talk of the business I had come about, and I
congratulated him on his flight of the day before
in which he had broken the record for height.
As I was going he said:
"By the way, that sketch—what did you
think of it?"
"Why, that you had better be careful," I
answered, laughing; "or you'll be falling from
your high estate of bachelordom."
He gave so violent a start, his face expressed
so much of apprehension and dismay, that I
stared at him blankly. Recovering himself with
an effort, he stammered out:
"It's not—I mean—it's an imaginary portrait."
"Then," I said, amazed in my turn, "you've
a jolly sight more imagination than anyone
ever credited you with."
The incident remained in my mind. As a
matter of fact, practical Radcliffe Thorpe, absorbed
in questions of strain and ease, his head
full of cylinders and wheels and ratchets and
the Lord knows what else, would have seemed
to me the last man on earth to create that haunting,
strange, unearthly face, human in form, but
not in expression.
It was about this time that Radcliffe began
to give so much attention to the making of
very high flights. His favourite time was in
the early morning, as soon as it was light.
Then in the chill dawn he would rise and soar
and wing his flight high and ever higher, up
and up, till the eye could no longer follow his
I remember he made one of these strange,
solitary flights when I was spending the week-end
with him at his cottage near the Attercliffe
I had come down from town somewhat late the
night before, and I remember that just before
we went to bed we went out for a few minutes to
enjoy the beauty of a perfect night. The moon
was shining in a clear sky, not a sound or a breath
disturbed the sublime quietude; in the south one
wondrous star gleamed low on the horizon.
Neither of us spoke; it was enough to drink in the
beauty of such rare perfection, and I noticed how
Radcliffe kept his eyes fixed upwards on the dark
blue vault of space.
"Are you longing to be up there?" I asked
He started and flushed, and he then went very
pale, and to my surprise I saw that he was
"You are getting cold," I said. "We had
better go in."
He nodded without answering, and, as we
turned to go in, I heard quite plainly and distinctly
a low, strange laugh, a laugh full of a honeyed
sweetness that yet thrilled me with great fear.
"What's that?" I said, stopping short.
"What?" Radcliffe asked.
"Someone laughed," I said, and I stared all
round and then upwards. "I thought it came
from up there," I said in a bewildered way,
He gave me an odd look and, without answering,
went into the cottage. He had said nothing of
having planned any flight for the next morning;
but in the early morning, the chill and grey dawn,
I was roused by the drumming of his engine. At
once I jumped up out of bed and ran to the
The machine was raising itself lightly and
easily from the ground. I watched him wing his
god-like way up through the still, soft air till he
was lost to view. Then, after a time, I saw him
emerge again from those immensities of space.
He came down in one long majestic sweep, and
alighted in a field a little way away from the house,
leaving the aeroplane for his mechanics to fetch
"Hullo!" I greeted him. "Why didn't you
tell me you were going up?"
As I spoke I heard plainly and distinctly, as
plainly as ever I heard anything in my life, that
low, strange laugh, that I had heard before, so
silvery sweet and yet somehow so horrible.
"What's that?" I said, stopping short and
staring blankly upwards, for, absurd though it
seems, that weird sound seemed to come floating
down from an infinite height above us.
"Not high enough," he muttered like a man in
an ecstasy. "Not high enough yet."
He walked away from me then without another
word. When I entered the cottage he was seated
at the table sketching a woman's face—the same
face I had seen in that other sketch of his, spectral,
unreal, and lovely.
"What on earth——?" I began.
"Nothing on earth," he answered in a strange
voice. Then he laughed and jumped up, and
tore his sketch across.
He seemed quite his old self again, chatty and
pleasant, and with his old passion for talking
"shop." He launched into a long explanation of
some scheme he had in mind for securing automatic
I never told anyone about that strange, mocking
laugh, in fact, I had almost forgotten the incident
altogether when something brought every detail
back to my memory. I had a letter from a person
who signed himself "George Barnes."
Barnes, it seemed, was the operator who had
taken the pictures of that last ascent, and as he
understood I had been Mr. Thorpe's greatest
friend, he wanted to see me. Certain expressions
in the letter aroused my curiosity. I replied.
He asked for an appointment at a time that was
not very convenient, and finally I arranged to call
at his house one evening.
It was one of those smart little six-room villas
of which so many have been put up in the London
suburbs of late. Barnes was buying it on the
instalment system, and I quite won his heart by
complimenting him on it. But for that, I doubt
if anything would have come of my visit, for he
was plainly nervous and ill at ease and very
repentant of ever having said anything. But
after my compliment to the house we got on
"It's on my mind," he said; "I shan't be easy
till someone else knows."
We were in the front room where a good fire
was burning—in my honour, I guessed, for the
apartment had not the air of being much used.
On the table were some photographs. Barnes
showed them me. They were enlargements from
those he had taken of poor Radcliffe's last ascent.
"They've been shown all over the world," he
said. "Millions of people have seen them."
"Well?" I said.
"But there's one no one has seen—no one
He produced another print and gave it to
me. I glanced at it. It seemed much like the
others, having been apparently one of the last
of the series, taken when the aeroplane was at
a great height. The only thing in which it
differed from the others was that it seemed a
"A poor one," I said; "it's misty."
"Look at the mist," he said.
I did so. Slowly, very slowly, I began to
see that that misty appearance had a shape, a
form. Even as I looked I saw the features of
a human countenance—and yet not human
either, so spectral was it, so unreal and strange.
I felt the blood run cold in my veins and the
hair bristle on the scalp of my head, for I
recognised beyond all doubt that this face on
the photograph was the same as that Radcliffe
had sketched. The resemblance was absolute,
no one who had seen the one could mistake the
"You see it?" Barnes muttered, and his
face was almost as pale as mine.
"There's a woman," I stammered, "a woman
floating in the air by his side. Her arms are
held out to him."
"Yes," Barnes said. "Who was she?"
The print slipped from my hands and fluttered
to the ground. Barnes picked it up and put
it in the fire. Was it fancy or, as it flared up,
and burnt and was consumed, did I really
hear a faint laugh floating downwards from the
"I destroyed the negative," Barnes said,
"and I told my boss something had gone wrong
with it. No one has seen that photograph but
you and me, and now no one ever will."
THE TERROR BY NIGHT
Maynard disincumbered himself from his fishing-creel,
stabbed the butt of his rod into the turf,
and settled down in the heather to fill a pipe.
All round him stretched the undulating moor,
purple in the late summer sunlight. To the
southward, low down, a faint haze told where
the sea lay. The stream at his feet sang its
queer, crooning moor-song as it rambled onward,
chuckling to meet a bed of pebbles somewhere
out of sight, whispering mysteriously to the
rushes that fringed its banks of peat, deepening
to a sudden contralto as it poured over granite
boulders into a scum-flecked pool below.
For a long time the man sat smoking. Occasionally
he turned his head to watch with keen
eyes the fretful movements of a fly hovering
above the water. Then a sudden dimple in
the smooth surface of the stream arrested his
attention. A few concentric ripples widened,
travelled towards him, and were absorbed in
the current. His lips curved into a little smile
and he reached for his rod. In the clear water
he could see the origin of the ripples; a small
trout, unconscious of his presence, was waiting
in its hover for the next tit-bit to float downstream.
Presently it rose again.
"The odds are ten to one in your favour,"
said the man. "Let's see!"
He dropped on one knee and the cast leapt
out in feathery coils. Once, twice it swished;
the third time it alighted like thistledown on
the surface. There was a tiny splash, a laugh,
and the little greenheart rod flicked a trout
high over his head. It was the merest baby—half-an-ounce,
perhaps—and it fell from the hook
into the herbage some yards from the stream.
"Little ass!" said Maynard. "That was
meant for your big brother."
He recovered his cast and began to look for
his victim. Without avail he searched the
heather, and as the fateful seconds sped, at last
laid down his rod and dropped on hands and knees
to probe among the grass-stems.
For a while he hunted in vain, then the sunlight
showed a golden sheen among some stones.
Maynard gave a grunt of relief, but as his hand
closed round it a tiny flutter passed through the
fingerling; it gave a final gasp and was still.
Knitting his brows in almost comical vexation,
he hastened to restore it to the stream, holding
it by the tail and striving to impart a life-like
wriggle to its limpness.
"Buck up, old thing!" he murmured encouragingly.
"Oh, buck up! You're all right,
really you are!"
But the "old thing" was all wrong. In
fact, it was dead.
Standing in the wet shingle, Maynard regarded
the speckled atom as it lay in the palm of his
"A matter of seconds, my son. One instant
in all eternity would have made just the difference
between life and death to you. And the high
gods denied it you!"
On the opposite side of the stream, set back
about thirty paces from the brink, stood a granite
boulder. It was as high as a man's chest, roughly
cubical in shape; but the weather and clinging
moss had rounded its edges, and in places segments
had crumbled away, giving foothold to clumps
of fern and starry moor-flowers. On three sides
the surrounding ground rose steeply, forming
an irregular horseshoe mound that opened to
the west. Perhaps it was the queer amphitheatrical
effect of this setting that connected
up some whimsical train of thought in Maynard's
"It would seem as if the gods had claimed
you," he mused, still holding the corpse. "You
shall be a sacrifice—a burnt sacrifice to the God
of Waste Places."
He laughed at the conceit, half-ashamed of
his own childishness, and crossing the stream
by some boulders, he brushed away the earth
and weed from the top of the great stone. Then
he retraced his steps and gathered a handful
of bleached twigs that the winter floods had left
stranded along the margin of the stream. These
he arranged methodically on the cleared space;
on the top of the tiny pyre he placed the troutlet.
"There!" he said, and smiling gravely struck
a match. A faint column of smoke curled up
into the still air, and as he spoke the lower rim
of the setting sun met the edge of the moor.
The evening seemed suddenly to become incredibly
still, even the voice of the stream ceasing
to be a sound distinct. A wagtail bobbing in
the shallows fled into the waste. Overhead the
smoke trembled upwards, a faint stain against
a cloudless sky. The stillness seemed almost
acute. It was as if the moor were waiting, and
holding its breath while it waited. Then the
twigs upon his altar crackled, and the pale flames
blazed up. The man stepped back with artistic
appreciation of the effect.
"To be really impressive, there ought to be
more smoke," he continued.
Round the base of the stone were clumps of
small flowers. They were crimson in colour and
had thick, fleshy leaves. Hastily, he snatched
a handful and piled it on the fire. The smoke
darkened and rose in a thick column; there was
a curious pungency in the air.
Far off the church-bell in some unseen hamlet
struck the hour. The distant sound, coming
from the world of men and every-day affairs,
seemed to break the spell. An ousel fluttered
across the stream and dabbled in a puddle among
some stones. Rabbits began to show themselves
and frisk with lengthened shadows in the clear
spaces. Maynard looked at his watch, half-mindful
of a train to be caught somewhere miles
away, and then, held by the peace of running
water, stretched himself against the sloping
The glowing world seemed peopled by tiny
folk, living out their timid, inscrutable lives
around him. A water-rat, passing bright-eyed
upon his lawful occasion, paused on the border
of the stream to consider the stranger, and was
lost to view. A stagnant pool among some reeds
caught the reflection of the sunset and changed
on the instant into raw gold.
Maynard plucked a grass stem and chewed
it reflectively, staring out across the purple
moor and lazily watching the western sky turn
from glory to glory. Over his head the smoke
of the sacrifice still curled and eddied upwards.
Then a sudden sound sent him on to one elbow—the
thud of an approaching horse's hoofs.
"Moor ponies!" he muttered, and, rising,
stood expectant beside his smoking altar.
Then he heard the sudden jingle of a bit, and
presently a horse and rider climbed into view
against the pure sky. A young girl, breeched,
booted and spurred like a boy, drew rein, and sat
looking down into the hollow.
For a moment neither spoke; then Maynard
acknowledged her presence by raising his tweed
hat. She gave a little nod.
"I thought it was somebody swaling—burning
the heather." She considered the embers on
the stone, and then her grey eyes travelled back
to the spare, tweed-clad figure beside it.
He smiled in his slow way—a rather attractive
"No. I've just concluded some pagan rites
in connection with a small trout!" He nodded
gravely at the stone. "That was a burnt sacrifice."
With whimsical seriousness he told her
of the trout's demise and high destiny.
For a moment she looked doubtful; but the
inflection of breeding in his voice, the wholesome,
lean face and humorous eyes, reassured her.
A smile hovered about the corners of her mouth.
"Oh, is that it? I wondered ..."
She gathered the reins and turned her horse's
"Forgive me if I dragged you out of your way,"
said Maynard, never swift to conventionality,
but touched by the tired shadows in her eyes.
The faint droop of her mouth, too, betrayed
intense fatigue. "You look fagged. I don't
want to be a nuisance or bore you, but I wish
you'd let me offer you a sandwich. I've some
milk here, too."
The girl looked round the ragged moor, brooding
in the twilight, and half hesitated. Then
she forced a wan little smile.
"I am tired, and hungry, too. Have you
enough for us both?"
"Lots!" said Maynard. To himself he
added: "And what's more, my child, you'll
have a little fainting affair in a few minutes, if
you don't have a feed."
"Come and rest for a minute," he continued
He spoke with pleasant, impersonal kindliness,
and as he turned to his satchel she slipped out of
the saddle and came towards him, leading her
"Drink that," he said, holding out the cup
of his flask. She drank with a wry little face,
and coughed. "I put a little whisky in it,"
he explained. "You needed it."
She thanked him and sat down with the
bridle linked over her arm. The colour crept
back into her cheeks. Maynard produced a
packet of sandwiches and a pasty.
"I've been mooning about the moor all the
afternoon and lost myself twice," she explained
between frank mouthfuls. "I'm hopelessly
late for dinner, and I've still got miles to go."
"Do you know the way now?" he asked.
"Oh, yes! It won't take me long. My
family are sensible, too, and don't fuss." She
looked at him, her long-lashed eyes a little
serious. "But you—how are you going to
get home? It's getting late to be out on the
"Oh, I'm all right, thanks!" He sniffed
the warm September night. "I think I shall
sleep here, as a matter of fact. I'm a gipsy
"'Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly Heaven above——'"
He broke off, arrested by her unsmiling eyes.
She was silent a moment.
"People don't as a rule sleep out—about
here." The words came jerkily, as if she were
forcing a natural tone into her voice.
"No?" He was accustomed to being questioned
on his unconventional mode of life, and
was prepared for the usual expostulations.
She looked abruptly towards him.
"Are you superstitious?"
He laughed and shook his head.
"I don't think so. But what has that got
to do with it?"
She hesitated, flushing a little.
"There is a legend—people about here say
that the moor here is haunted. There is a
Thing that hunts people to death!"
He laughed outright, wondering how old
she was. Seventeen or eighteen, perhaps.
She had said her people "didn't fuss." That
meant she was left to herself to pick up all
these old wives' tales.
"Really! Has anyone been caught?"
She nodded, unsmiling.
"Yes; old George Toms. He was one of
Dad's tenants, a big purple-faced man, who
drank a lot and never took much exercise.
They found him in a ditch with his clothes all
torn and covered with mud. He had been run
to death; there was no wound on his body,
but his heart was broken." Her thoughts
recurred to the stone against which they leant,
and his quaint conceit. "You were rather
rash to go offering burnt sacrifices about here,
don't you think? Dad says that stone is the
remains of an old Phœnician altar, too."
She was smiling now, but the seriousness
lingered in her eyes.
"And I have probably invoked some terrible
heathen deity—Ashtoreth, or Pugm, or Baal!
How awful!" he added, with mock gravity.
The girl rose to her feet.
"You are laughing at me. The people about
here are superstitious, and I am a Celt, too.
I belong here."
He jumped up with a quick protest.
"No, I'm not laughing at you. Please don't
think that! But it's a little hard to believe
in active evil when all around is so beautiful."
He helped her to mount and walked to the
top of the mound at her stirrup. "Tell me, is
there any charm or incantation, in case——?"
His eyes were twinkling, but she shook her fair
"They say iron—cold iron—is the only thing
it cannot cross. But I must go!" She held
out her hand with half-shy friendliness. "Thank
you for your niceness to me." Her eyes grew
suddenly wistful. "Really, though, I don't
think I should stay there if I were you. Please!"
He only laughed, however, and she moved
off, shaking her impatient horse into a canter.
Maynard stood looking after her till she was
swallowed by the dusk and surrounding moor.
Then, thoughtfully, he retraced his steps to the
A cloud lay across the face of the moon when
Fear awoke Maynard. He rolled on to one
elbow and stared round the hollow, filled with
inexplicable dread. He was ordinarily a courageous
man, and had no nerves to speak of;
yet, as his eyes followed the line of the ridge
against the sky, he experienced terror, the
elementary, nauseating terror of childhood,
when the skin tingles, and the heart beats at
a suffocating gallop. It was very dark, but
momentarily his eyes grew accustomed to it.
He was conscious of a queer, pungent smell,
horribly animal and corrupt.
Suddenly the utter silence broke. He heard
a rattle of stones, the splash of water about
him, realised that it was the brook beneath
his feet, and that he, Maynard, was running
for his life.
Neither then nor later did Reason assert
herself. He ran without question or amazement.
His brain—the part where human
reasoning holds normal sway—was dominated
by the purely primitive instinct of flight. And
in that sudden rout of courage and self-respect
one conscious thought alone remained. Whatever
it was that was even then at his heels, he
must not see it. At all costs it must be behind
him, and, resisting the sudden terrified impulse
to look over his shoulder, he unbuttoned his tweed
jacket and disengaged himself from it as he
ran. The faint haze that had gathered round
the full moon dispersed, and he saw the moor
stretching before him, grey and still, glistening
He was of frugal and temperate habits, a
wiry man at the height of his physical powers,
with lean flanks and a deep chest.
At Oxford they had said he was built to run
for his life. He was running for it now, and he
The ground sloped upwards after a while,
and he tore up the incline, breathing deep and
hard; down into a shallow valley, leaping gorse
bushes, crashing through whortle and meadowsweet,
stumbling over peat-cuttings and the
workings of forgotten tin-mines. An idiotic popular
tune raced through his brain. He found
himself trying to frame the words, but they
broke into incoherent prayers, still to the same
Then, as he breasted the flank of a boulder-strewn
tor, he seemed to hear snuffling breathing
behind him, and, redoubling his efforts, stepped
into a rabbit hole. He was up and running
again in the twinkling of an eye, limping from
a twisted ankle as he ran.
He sprinted over the crest of the hill and
thought he heard the sound almost abreast of
him, away to the right. In the dry bed of a
watercourse some stones were dislodged and
fell with a rattle in the stillness of the night;
he bore away to the left. A moment later
there was Something nearly at his left elbow,
and he smelt again the nameless, fœtid reek.
He doubled, and the ghastly truth flashed
upon him. The Thing was playing with him!
He was being hunted for sport—the sport of a
horror unthinkable. The sweat ran down into
He lost all count of time; his wrist watch
was smashed on his wrist. He ran through a
reeling eternity, sobbing for breath, stumbling,
tripping, fighting a leaden weariness; and ever
the same unreasoning terror urged him on.
The moon and ragged skyline swam about him;
the blood drummed deafeningly in his ears,
and his eyeballs felt as if they would burst
from their sockets. He had nearly bitten his
swollen tongue in two falling over an unseen
peat-cutting, and blood-flecked foam gathered
on his lips.
God, how he ran! But he was no longer
among bog and heather. He was running—shambling
now—along a road. The loping pursuit
of that nameless, shapeless Something sounded
like an echo in his head.
He was nearing a village, but saw nothing
save a red mist that swam before him like a
fog. The road underfoot seemed to rise and
fall in wavelike undulations. Still he ran,
with sobbing gasps and limbs that swerved
under his weight; at his elbow hung death
unnamable, and the fear of it urged him on
while every instinct of his exhausted body called
out to him to fling up his hands and end it.
Out of the mist ahead rose the rough outline of
a building by the roadside; it was the village
smithy, half workshop, half dwelling. The
road here skirted a patch of grass, and the
moonlight, glistening on the dew, showed the
dark circular scars of the turf where, for a
generation, the smith's peat fires had heated
the great iron hoops that tyred the wheels of
the wains. One of these was even then lying
on the ground with the turves placed in readiness
for firing in the morning, and in the throbbing
darkness of Maynard's consciousness a voice
seemed to speak faintly—the voice of a girl:
"There's a Thing that hunts people to death.
But iron—cold iron—it cannot cross."
The sweat of death was already on his brow
as he reeled sideways, plunging blindly across
the uneven tufts of grass. His feet caught in
some obstruction and he pitched forward into
the sanctuary of the huge iron tyre—a spasm
of cramp twisting his limbs up under him.
As he fell a great blackness rose around him,
and with it the bewildered clamour of awakened
Dr. Stanmore came down the flagged path
from the smith's cottage, pulling on his gloves.
A big car was passing slowly up the village
street, and as it came abreast the smithy the
doctor raised his hat.
The car stopped, and the driver, a fair-haired
girl, leant sideways from her seat.
"Good-morning, Dr. Stanmore! What's the
matter here? Nothing wrong with any of
Matthew's children, is there?"
The Doctor shook his head gravely.
"No, Lady Dorothy; they're all at school.
This is no one belonging to the family—a stranger
who was taken mysteriously ill last night just
outside the forge, and they brought him in.
It's a most queer case, and very difficult to
diagnose—that is to say, to give a diagnosis in
keeping with one's professional—er—conscience."
The girl switched off the engine, and took
her hand from the brake-lever. Something in
the doctor's manner arrested her interest.
"What is the matter with him?" she queried.
"What diagnosis have you made, professional
"Shock, Lady Dorothy; severe exhaustion
and shock, heart strained, superficial lesions,
bruises, scratches, and so forth. Mentally he
is in a great state of excitement and terror,
lapsing into delirium at times—that is really
the most serious feature. In fact, unless I can
calm him I am afraid we may have some brain
trouble on top of the other thing. It's most
The girl nodded gravely, holding her underlip
between her white teeth.
"What does he look like—in appearance,
I mean? Is he young?"
The shadow of a smile crossed the doctor's
"Yes, Lady Dorothy—quite young, and very
good-looking. He is a man of remarkable
athletic build. He is calmer now, and I have
left Matthew's wife with him while I slip out
to see a couple of other patients."
Lady Dorothy rose from her seat and stepped
down out of the car.
"I think I know your patient," she said.
"In fact, I had taken the car to look for him,
to ask him to lunch with us. Do you think
I might see him for a minute? If it is the person
I think it is I may be able to help you diagnose
Together they walked up the path and entered
the cottage. The doctor led the way
upstairs and opened a door. A woman sitting
by the bed rose and dropped a curtsey.
Lady Dorothy smiled a greeting to her and
crossed over to the bed. There, his face grey
and drawn with exhaustion, with shadows
round his closed eyes, lay Maynard; one hand
lying on the counterpane opened and closed
convulsively, his lips moved. The physician
eyed the girl interrogatively.
"Do you know him?" he asked.
She nodded, and put her firm, cool hand
over the twitching fingers.
"Yes," she said. "And I warned him.
Tell me, is he very ill?"
"He requires rest, careful nursing, absolute
"All that he can have at the Manor," said
the girl softly. She met the doctor's eyes and
looked away, a faint colour tingeing her cheeks.
"Will you go and telephone to father? I
will take him back in the car now if he is well
enough to be moved."
"Yes, he is well enough to be moved," said
the doctor. "It is very kind of you, Lady
Dorothy, and I will go and telephone at once.
Will you stay with him for a little while?"
He left the room, and they heard his feet go
down the narrow stairs. The cottage door opened
The two women, the old and the young, peasant
and peer's daughter, looked at each other, and
there was in their glance that complete understanding
which can only exist between women.
"Do 'ee mind old Jarge Toms, my lady?"
Lady Dorothy nodded.
"I know, I know! And I warned him!
They won't believe, these men! They think
because they are so big and strong that there
is nothing that can hurt them."
"'Twas th' iron that saved un, my lady.
'Twas inside one of John's new tyres as was
lyin' on the ground that us found un. Dogs
barkin' wakened us up. But it'd ha' had un,
else——" A sound downstairs sent her flying
to the door. "'Tis the kettle, my lady. John's
dinner spilin', an' I forgettin'."
She hurried out of the room and closed the
The sound of their voices seemed to have
roused the occupant of the bed. His eyelids
fluttered and opened; his eyes rested full on the
girl's face. For a moment there was no consciousness
in their gaze; then a whimsical ghost
of a smile crept about his mouth.
"Go on," he said in a weak voice. "Say it!"
"Say what?" asked Lady Dorothy. She
was suddenly aware that her hand was still on
his, but the twitching fingers had closed about
hers in a calm, firm grasp.
"Say 'I told you so'!"
She shook her head with a little smile.
"I told you that cold iron——"
"Cold iron saved me." He told her of the
iron hoop on the ground outside the forge. "You
saved me last night."
She disengaged her hand gently.
"I saved you last night—since you say so.
But in future——"
Someone was coming up the stairs. Maynard
met her eyes with a long look.
"I have no fear," he said. "I have found
something better than cold iron."
The door opened and the doctor came in.
He glanced at Maynard's face and touched his
"The case is yours, Lady Dorothy!" he said
with a little bow.
THE TRAGEDY AT THE "LOUP NOIR"
The Boy at the corner of the table flicked the
ash of his cigar into the fire.
"Spiritualism is all rot!" he declared.
"I don't know," the Host reflected thoughtfully.
"One hears queer stories sometimes."
"Which reminds me——" started the Bore.
But before he could proceed any further the
little French Judge ruthlessly cut him short.
"Bah!" Contempt and geniality were mingled
in his tone. "Who are we, poor ignorant worms,
that we should dare to say 'is' or 'is not'?
Your Shakespeare, he was right! 'There are
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than
are dreamt of in your philosophy!'"
The faces of the four Englishmen instantly
assumed that peculiarly stolid expression always
called forth by the mention of Shakespeare.
"But Spiritualism——" started the Host.
Again the little French Judge broke in:
"I who you speak, I myself know of an experience,
of the most remarkable, to this day unexplained
save by Spiritualism, Occultism, what
you will! You shall hear! The case is one I conducted
professionally some two years ago, though,
of course, the events which I now tell in their
proper sequence, came out only in the trial. I
string them together for you, yes?"
The Bore, who fiercely resented any stories
except his own, gave vent to a discontented
grunt; the other three prepared to listen carefully.
From the drawing-room, whither the
ladies had retired after dinner, sounded the far-away
strains of a piano. The little French
Judge held out his glass for a crème de menthe;
his eyes were sparkling with suppressed excitement;
he gazed deep into the shining green
liquid as if seeing therein a moving panorama
of pictures, then he began:
On a dusky autumn evening, a young man,
tall, olive-skinned, tramps along the road leading
from Paris to Longchamps. He is walking
with a quick, even swing. Now and again a
hidden anxiety darkens his face.
Suddenly he branches off to the left; the path
here is steep and muddy. He stops in front of
a blurred circle of yellow light; by this can one
faintly perceive the outlines of a building. Above
the narrow doorway hangs a creaking sign which
announces to all it may concern that this is the
"Loup Noir," much sought after for its nearness
to the racecourse and for its excellent ménage.
"Voilà!" mutters our friend.
On entering, he is met by the burly innkeeper,
a shrewd enough fellow, who has seen something
of life before settling down in Longchamps.
The young man glances past him as if seeking
some other face, then recollecting himself demands
shelter for the night.
"I greatly fear——" began the innkeeper,
then pauses, struck by an idea. "Holà, Gaston!
Have monsieur and madame from number fourteen
"Yes, monsieur; already early this morning;
you were at the market, so Mademoiselle settled
"Mademoiselle Jehane?" the stranger looks
"My niece, monsieur; you have perhaps heard
of her, for I see by your easel you are an artist.
She is supposed to be of a rare beauty; I think it
myself." Jean Potin keeps up a running flow
of talk as he conducts his visitor down the long
bare passages, past blistered yellow doors.
"It is a double room I must give you, vacated,
as you heard, but this very morning. They
were going to stay longer, Monsieur and Madame
Guillaumet, but of a sudden she changed her
mind. Oh, she was of a temper!" Potin
raises expressive eyes heavenwards. "It is ever
so when May weds with December."
"He was much older than his wife, then?"
queries the artist, politely feigning an interest
he is far from feeling.
"Mais non, parbleu! It was she who was the
older—by some fifteen years; and not a beauty.
But rich—he knew what he was about, giving
his smooth cheek for her smooth louis!"
Left alone, Lou Arnaud proceeds to unpack
his knapsack; he lingers over it as long as possible;
the task awaiting him below is no pleasant one.
Finally he descends. The small smoky salle
à manger is full of people. There is much talk
and laughter going on; the clatter of knives
and forks. At the desk near the door, a young
girl is busy with the accounts. Her very pale
gold hair, parted and drawn loosely back over
the ears, casts a faint shadow on her pure, white
skin. Arnaud, as he chooses a seat, looks at
"Bah, she is insignificant!" he thinks.
"What can have possessed Claude?"
Suddenly she raises her eyes. They meet his
in a long, steady gaze. Then once again the lids
The artist sets down his glass with a hand
that shakes. He is not imaginative, as a rule,
but when one sees the soul of a mocking devil
look out, dark and compelling, from the face
of a Madonna, one is disconcerted.
He wonders no more what had possessed Claude.
On his way to the door a few moments later, he
pauses at her desk.
"Monsieur wishes to order breakfast for to-morrow
"Monsieur wishes to speak with you."
She smiles demurely. Many have wished to
speak with her. Arnaud divines her thoughts.
"My name is Lou Arnaud!" he adds
"Ah!" she ponders on this for an instant;
then: "It is a warm night; if you will seat
yourself at one of the little tables in the courtyard
at the back of the house, I will try to join
you, when these pigs have finished feeding."
She indicates with contempt the noisily eating
They sit long at that table, for the man has
much to tell of his young brother Claude; of the
ruin she has made of his life; of the little green
devils that lurk in a glass of absinthe, and clutch
their victim, and drag him down deeper, ever
deeper, into the great, green abyss.
But she only laughs, this Jehane of the wanton
"But what do you want from me? I have
no need of this Claude. He wearies me—now!"
Arnaud springs to his feet, catching her roughly
by the wrist. He loves his young brother much.
His voice is raised, attracting the notice of two
or three groups who take coffee at the iron tables.
"You had need of him once. You never left
him in peace till you had sucked him of all that
makes life good. If I could——"
Jean Potin appears in the doorway.
"Jehane, what are you doing out here? You
know I do not permit it that you speak with the
visitors. Pardon her, monsieur, she is but a
"A child?" The artist's brow is black as
thunder. "She has wrecked a life, this child
you speak of!"
He strides past the amazed innkeeper, up
the narrow flight of stairs, and down the passage
to his room.
Sitting on the edge of the huge curtained
four-poster bed, he ponders on the events of
But his thoughts are not all of Claude. That
girl—that girl with her pale face and her pale
hair, and eyes the grey of a storm cloud before
it breaks, she haunts him! Her soft murmuring
voice has stolen into his brain; he hears
it in the drip, drip of the rain on the sill outside.
Soon heavy feet are heard trooping up the
stairs; doors are heard to bang; cheery voices
wish each other good-night. Then gradually
the sounds die away. They keep early hours
at the "Loup Noir"; it is not yet ten o'clock.
Still Arnaud remains sitting on the edge of
the bed; the dark plush canopy overhead repels
him, he does not feel inclined for sleep. Jehane!
what a picture she would make! He must
Obsessed by this idea, he unpacks a roll of
canvas, spreads it on the tripod easel, and prepares
crayons and charcoal; he will start the picture
as soon as it is day. He will paint her as Circe,
mocking at her grovelling herd of swine!
He creeps into bed and falls asleep.
Softly the rain patters against the window-pane.
A distant clock booms out eleven strokes.
Lou Arnaud raises his head. Then noiselessly
he slides out of bed on the chill wooden boarding.
As in a trance he crosses the room, seizes charcoal,
and feverishly works at the blank canvas on
For twenty minutes his hand never falters,
then the charcoal drops from his nerveless fingers!
Groping his way with half-closed eyes back to
the bed, he falls again into a heavy, dreamless
The early morning sun chases away the raindrops
of the night before. Signs of activity
are abroad in the inn; the swish of brooms;
the noisy clatter of pails. A warm aroma of
coffee floats up the stairs and under the door of
number fourteen, awaking Arnaud to pleasant
thoughts of breakfast. He is partly dressed
before his eye lights on the canvas he had prepared.
"Nom de Dieu!"
He falls back against the wall, staring stupefied
at the picture before him. It is the picture
of a girl, crouching in a kneeling position, all
the agony of death showing clearly in her upturned
eyes. At her throat, cruelly, relentlessly
doing their murderous work, are a pair of hands—ugly,
podgy hands, but with what power
The face is the face of Jehane—a distorted,
terrified Jehane! Arnaud recoils, covering his
eyes with his hands. Who could have drawn
this unspeakable thing? He looks again closely;
the style is his own! There is no mistaking
those bold, black lines, that peculiar way of
indicating muscle beneath the tightly stretched
skin—it is his own work! Anywhere would
he have known it!
A knock at the door! Jean Potin enters,
"Breakfast in your room, monsieur? We
are busy this morning; I share in the work.
Permit me to move the table and the easel—Sacré-bleu!"
Suddenly his rosy lips grow stern. "This
is Jehane. Did she sit for you—and when?
You only came last night. What devil's work
"That is what I would like to find out; I
know no more about it than you yourself. When
I awoke this morning the picture was there!"
"Did you draw it?" suspiciously.
"Yes. At least, no! Yes, I suppose I did.
Potin clenches his fist: "I will have the truth
from the girl herself! There is something
here I do not like!" Roughly he pushes past
the artist and mounts to Jehane's room.
She is not there, neither is she at her desk.
Nor yet down in the village. They search
everywhere; there is a hue and cry; people rush
to and fro.
Then suddenly a shout; and a silence, a
Something is carried slowly into the "Loup
Noir." Something that was found huddled up
in the shadow of the wall that borders the courtyard.
Something with ugly purple patches on
the white throat.
It is Jehane, and she is dead; strangled by
a pair of hands that came from behind.
The story of the picture is rapidly passed
from mouth to mouth. People look strangely
at Lou Arnaud; they remember his loud, strained
voice and threatening gestures on the preceding
Finally he is arrested on the charge of murder.
I was the judge, gentlemen, on the occasion
of the Arnaud trial.
The prisoner is questioned about the picture.
He knows nothing; can tell nothing of how it
came there. His fellow-artists testify to its
being his work. From them also leaks out the
tale of his brother Claude, of the latter's infatuation
and ruin. No need now to explain
the quarrel in the courtyard. The accused has
good reason to hate the dead girl.
The Avocat for the defence does his best.
The picture is produced in court; it creates a
If only Lou Arnaud could complete it—could
sketch in the owner of those merciless
hands. He is handed the charcoal; again and
again he tries—in vain.
The hands are not his own; but that is a small
point in his favour. Why should he have incriminated
himself by drawing his own hands?
But again, why should he have drawn the picture
There is nobody else on whom falls a shadow
of suspicion. I sum up impartially. The jury
convict on circumstantial evidence, and I sentence
the prisoner to death.
A short time must elapse between the sentence
and carrying it into force. The Avocat for
the defence obtains for the prisoner a slight
concession; he may have picture and charcoal
in his cell. Perhaps he can yet free himself
from the web which has inmeshed him!
Arnaud tries to blot out thought by sketching
in and erasing again fanciful figures twisted
into a peculiar position; he cannot adjust the
pose of the unknown murderer. So in despair
he gives it up.
One morning, three days before the execution,
the innkeeper comes to visit him and finds
him lying face downwards on the narrow pallet.
Despite his own grief, he is sorry for the young
man; nor is he convinced in his shrewd bourgeois
mind of the latter's guilt.
"You must draw in the second figure," he
repeats again and again. "It is your last,
your only chance! Think of the faces you
saw at the 'Loup Noir.' Do none of them
recall anything to you? You quarrelled with
Jehane in the garden about your brother. Then
you went to your room. Oh, what did you
think in your room?"
"I thought of your niece," responds Arnaud
wildly. "How very beautiful she was, and what
a model she would make. Then I prepared
a blank canvas for the morning, and went
to bed. When I woke up the picture was there."
"And you remember nothing more—nothing
at all?" insists Jean Potin. "You fell asleep
at once? You heard no sound?"
Against the barred window of the cell the rain
patters softly. A distant clock booms out
Something in the artist's brain seems to snap.
He raises his head. He slides from the bed.
As in a trance he crosses the cell, seizes a piece
of charcoal, and feverishly works at the picture
on the easel!
Not daring to speak, Jean Potin watches
him. The figure behind the hands grows and
grows beneath Arnaud's fingers.
A woman's figure!
Then the face: a coarse, malignant face,
distorted by evil passions.
It is a cry of recognition from the breathless
innkeeper. It breaks the spell. The charcoal
drops, and the prisoner, passing his hand across
his eyes, gazes bewildered at his own work.
"But I know her! It is the woman in whose
room you slept! She was staying at the 'Loup
Noir' the very night before you arrived, and
she left that morning. She and her husband,
Monsieur Guillaumet. But it is incredible if
she should have——"
I will be short with you, gentlemen. Madame
Guillaumet was traced to her flat in Paris.
Arnaud's Avocat confronted her with the
now completed picture. She was confounded—babbled
like a mad woman—confessed!
A reprieve for further inquiry was granted
by the State. Finally Arnaud was cleared, and
allowed to go free.
The motive for the murder? A woman's
jealousy. Monsieur and Madame Guillaumet
had been married only ten months. Her age
was forty-nine; his twenty-seven. Every second
of their married life was to her weighted with
intolerable suspicions; how soon would this
young husband, so dear to her, forsake her for
another, now that his debts were paid? It
preyed upon her mind, distorting it, unbalancing
it; each glance, each movement of his she
exaggerated into an intrigue.
On their way to Paris they stayed a few days
at the "Loup Noir"; Charles Guillaumet was
interested in racing. Also, he became interested
in a certain Mdlle. Jehane. Madame, quick
to see, insisted on an instant departure.
The evening of the day of their departure
she missed her husband, and found he had taken
the car. Where should he have gone? Back
to the inn, of course, only half-an-hour's run
from Paris. She hired another car and followed
him, driving it herself. It was not a pleasant
journey. The first car she discovered forsaken,
about half-a-mile distant from the inn. Her
own car she left beside it, and trudged the
remaining distance on foot.
The rest was easy.
Finding no sign of Guillaumet in front of the
house, she stole round to the back. There she
found a door in the wall of the courtyard—a
door that led into the lane. That door was
slightly ajar. She slipped in and crouched down
in the shadow.
Yes, there they were, her husband and Jehane;
the latter was laughing, luring him on—and she
was young; oh, so young!
The woman watched, fascinated.
Charles bade Jehane good-bye, promising to
come again. He kissed her tenderly, passed
through the gate; his steps were heard muffled
along the lane.
Jehane blew him a kiss, and then fastened the
A distant clock boomed out eleven strokes,
and a pair of hands stole round the girl's throat,
burying themselves deep, deep in the white flesh.
"And the husband, was he an accessory after
the fact?" inquired the Boy.
"Possibly he guessed at the deed, yes; but,
being a weakling, said nothing for fear of implicating
himself. It wasn't proved."
The Host moved uneasily in his chair.
"Do you mean to tell me that the mystery
of the picture has never been cleared up?"
he asked. "Could Arnaud have actually seen
the murder from his window, and fixed it on
The little French Judge shook his head.
"Did I not tell you that his window faced
front?" he replied. "No, that point has not
yet been explained. It is beyond us!"
He made a sweeping gesture, knocking over
his liqueur glass; it fell with a crash on the parquet
The Bore woke with a start.
"And did they marry?" he queried.
"Who should marry?"
"That artist-chap and the girl—what was her
"Monsieur," quoth the little French Judge
very gently and ironically, "I grieve to state
that was impossible, Jehane being dead."
The Boy at the corner of the table stood up
and threw the stump of his cigar into the fire.
"I think Spiritualism is all rot!" he declared.
MILLER, SON, & COMPY., LIMITED,
FAKENHAM AND LONDON.