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First published by Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1934

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"Shadow on the House," Ward Lock & Co., London, 1934


Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV


"IT'S too bad!" Hilda Nevile said with real vexation in her tone. "A quarter past seven already, and he's still there in the east wing. Let it be a warning to you, Berenice—never marry a genius."

Berenice Ashton, posed with one arm on the low mantel of the drawing room as she stood looking down into the fire—for the October evening was decidedly chilly, and Hilda had ordered a fire as supplement to the central heating—smiled.

"One hasn't much choice, in these days," she remarked. "I'm twenty-seven, Hilda, and look all of it. I mustn't be too captious."

Hilda moved in her stately way to the other side of the fireplace, and pressed the bell-push. "I'm going to send for him," she said determinedly. "It will mean a certain amount of—well, unhappiness—but he knows perfectly well it's the first evening of your visit, and Mr. Forrest is coming to dinner. So—"

She broke off and turned toward the door as a maid appeared.

"Halkin," she said, "go to Mr. Nevile's laboratory in the east wing and tell him that Miss Ashton and I are waiting for him in the drawing room, and Mr. Forrest may be here at any minute."

"Very good, madam," the woman answered, and withdrew. Berenice Ashton looked up at her hostess, and saw something more than momentary annoyance in the proud set of her little head, and the way in which her lips had closed after giving the order. And Berenice sighed inaudibly, envying this other woman her great beauty.

"I don't see why a simple statement like that should cause trouble, or unhappiness, as you said," she observed.

"It will, though," Hilda prophesied confidently. "And since you are staying a fortnight with us, I'd better tell you—Ray's laboratory and study in the east wing are sacred ground, and his secretary's room is sacred too. I had to stipulate soon after we married that one of the maids should be allowed in every day for cleaning, but she has to be out by ten in the morning, and after that nobody is allowed to go there, if he's working. And I don't envy Halkin her reception."

"Is he so very formidable, then?" Berenice queried amusedly.

Hilda shrugged and turned to look down into the fire. "He is undoubtedly a genius," she said, with a slightly satiric tinge in her voice. "Take my advice, and don't marry one."

"There appear to be compensations," Berenice pointed out.

"Ah! Those compensations! As if they could ever compensate!"

Again Berenice looked up. There was an undue bitterness in the words, and with it the weariness of life as it had to be lived that might have characterised an unhappy woman. Then they both turned as the door opened again, and a second maid announced—

"Mr. Forrest."

And, at the name and the appearance of the man it denoted, Berenice saw a total change come over her cousin. There was a tender radiance in the smile with which she held out her hand, and a softness in her voice as she greeted him that amounted almost—if not quite—to a betrayal of the cause of her bitterness of a minute before. In the swiftness with which Forrest advanced toward her, too, and the way in which he took her hand, was indication of an understanding that went beyond normal friendship. Berenice had time to wonder if they had forgotten her presence in the room before her cousin introduced Hector Forrest to her, and, after the introduction, there came a brief silence, in which she had time to appraise the pair of them.

Hilda had been wise to wear black, a closely-fitting gown which emphasised the line of her tall, slender figure, and set off the perfect fairness of her skin and her hair of shining gold. Tall though she was, Forrest's six feet set her deep blue eyes a good three inches below his own soft brown ones; his dark hair, grey-streaked, gave a fine finish to his cleanly-cut, rather hard face—though there was no hardness when he looked into Hilda's eyes. It appeared to Berenice that the man was in some way tensed, strung up beyond the normal, though she could not have accounted for the impression. She knew that he had no eyes for her while her cousin was here: the situation between the pair declared itself plainly to her. Hilda had made a mistake in marrying Nevile—or, Berenice questioned of herself, was she the type that would have found any marriage a mistake, one no more monogamous than an average man?

The inward query was momentary, and no more. Berenice found herself questioning what was wrong with Forrest. Surely the mere meeting with Hilda had not produced his unquiet, nervous anxiety? The girl, unobtrusively watching the pair, realised that she saw him for the first time, and this might be his natural manner, but, if so, it was an unnatural naturalness, for no man could live always at such a tension as was apparent in Forrest then. She was of rather more than normal acuity, this Berenice, and more than normally responsive to temperamental indications on the part of those around her. Hilda had indicated quite plainly that her marriage with Raymond Nevile had not been a success: Forrest stated equally plainly that he was in love with her, and by her attitude she welcomed rather than resented his adoration. And, not yet having seen Nevile, Berenice had to admit that these two would have made a fine pair.

She divined further that their love for each other was not yet fully declared, and knew, with no divination at all, that any such declaration would be a disaster, since it would involve a total separation between Forrest and Nevile, each of whom was indispensable to the other in the joint maintenance of an industry on which some eight thousand souls depended. Here was a new form of the triangle situation, one in which exterior influences acted with such power as almost to transform it to the quadrangular. Forrest, Berenice saw by her intuition, was one who might go to any lengths in pursuit of a desired object: Hilda, on the other hand, had far too much pride and sense of what was due from her to move one step toward him, and was certainly unaware that she had betrayed herself so fully in this moment of meeting—betrayed herself to her cousin, not to him. For a man in love, as Forrest undoubtedly was, has instinct enough to tell him whether he is beloved or no: between these two no declaration of their desire was necessary.

Berenice looked at the clock, and saw some reason for Hilda's irritation over her husband's neglect. It was already twenty minutes past seven, and dinner must inevitably be late—unless Nevile could get back from the east wing, dress, and appear here, in ten minutes. It was only natural that his wife should resent his discourtesy to his guests, and her resentment was visible as she too looked at the clock. Forrest observed and understood the glance.

"I hope you'll forgive me, Mrs. Nevile," he said. "I asked Anderson to ring me through here when he gets a reply to a cable we sent to New York to-day. Nevile and I arranged it when I came up and saw him this afternoon, and the reply should be through by now."

"I wonder if he's waiting for that, by any chance?" Hilda queried.

"Hardly." Forrest smiled as he spoke. "He's so thoroughly sunk in his investigations into that new dye he's producing that he's probably forgotten all about the cable by now."

"And everything else as well," his wife observed acidly. "But he wouldn't get the telephone message in the east wing."

"Anderson will try there first," Forrest dissented. "On our private wire between Nevile's study and the works. I told him, if he got no reply there, to ring through on your ordinary line and give him the message to hand on to me."

Hilda Nevile went toward the bell-push again. "I must hear what Halkin has to say," she remarked. "I sent her to remind him we were not dining alone, just before you came in."

A queer household, Berenice reflected. Nevile, it appeared, was a difficult man, but at the same time Hilda was difficult too—or rather, had not the affection for him that would have eliminated difficulties. Had they been truly mated, such a situation as this could not have arisen: she could have gone to him in the east wing instead of sending a servant, induced him to leave his work in time to show courtesy to his guests, and—was that strained, listening look in Forrest's face an appreciation of the division between Nevile and his wife, or was it something more? Berenice saw it as Hilda moved across the room toward the bell-push, and reached out...

But she did not touch the little white button.

IN the east wing of Long Ridge, Nevile sat at his old-fashioned, roll-top desk at the side of his study, perusing and occasionally making alterations in the letters his secretary, Phyllis Harland, had placed before him for signature. Phyllis Harland, the secretary in question, stood beside his chair, waiting, with a look of deep discontent in her eyes: her normal hours were ten to six, and here it was long past seven o'clock; she had a good three miles to walk to her home, and it appeared that Mr. Nevile was oblivious both of the time and the fact that the conclusion of her work with him left her still nearly an hour between herself and food. She regretted ever having consented to leave the main office of the firm to come and work for Mr. Nevile: there, office hours were kept rigidly, and one ceased work at the proper time; here with him, one might have nothing whatever to do for half a day, and then—as to-day—be compelled to stay on far beyond a reasonable time for leaving.

"No, Miss Harland," Nevile said, "it should be three-eighths, nine-sixteenths, and one and a quarter—surely I dictated the figures clearly to you? This will have to be done again."

"It's ten minutes past seven, Mr. Nevile," she snapped.

"Good God, girl!" he retorted irritably. "If you want pay for overtime, say so, and you can have it."

He thrust the sheet of paper and its accompanying envelope to the side of the desk. "If you're in such a hurry to get away, it'll have to stand over till the morning." He went over the next letter slowly, and the way in which he marked alterations in the script revealed him as not in the best of tempers. Eventually he signed the sheet and handed it up to her over his shoulder.

"That one goes," he observed. "And I've got to—Yes? Come in!"

Halkin appeared in the doorway of the study.

"The mistress told me to tell you, sir, she's waiting with Miss Ashton in the drawing room," she said, "and Mr. Forrest is expected at any minute. Dinner is at seven-thirty, sir."

Nevile half-swung about in his swivel chair. "I know perfectly well when dinner is served, Halkin," he answered, "and you know equally well that you have no business here on any such errand as this. I'll have a lock fitted on that communicating door tomorrow, and there'll be only one key to it. Interruptions like this are intolerable!"

"Very good, sir." The woman drew back.

"Oh, Halkin!" Nevile called, and she paused. "I'm not blaming you. Don't think that—you have to do as you're told, and you're quite right to do it. But take an order from me now—when I'm working here, I am not to be disturbed for anything short of a life-and-death necessity. That order stands in front of any other, remember—I thought I'd made it clear long ago, but it seems I haven't."

"Very good, sir," she said again.

"You understand," he insisted. "My order on that point over-rides any other, from anyone else. You understand that?"

"Quite, sir. Only the mistress—"

"Yes, I know. It's difficult for you, which is why I'm going to get that lock fixed. That's all, Halkin, except that this interruption will make me five minutes later—I shall join the party at twenty-five minutes to eight instead of at half-past seven. That's all."

He turned back to his desk, and perused the last of the letters Miss Harland had put before him. Having read it through, he took up the paper, tore it into four pieces, and dropped it in his waste-paper basket. Then he looked round at the girl behind his shoulder.

"I'll dictate that again in the morning, Miss Harland," he said. "Possibly you will be able to hear better, then."

"I can do it again to-night if you wish, Mr. Nevile," she suggested icily, and held her wrist-watch well in view.

"It isn't necessary," he retorted. "I'll dictate it again in the morning. Instead of coming here as usual, go to the office, and tell Mr. Forrest to send out to me Miss Morland, for the present. You can go back to regular office hours and whatever you were doing before."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Nevile," she said.

"I'm sorry too," he remarked rather wearily. "I hate changes. But it's pretty evident that you and I don't get on—I'm difficult for any employee, I know, and probably it isn't your fault. All this, too, is going to make me still more late for dinner—now who the devil's that?"

He reached out as he spoke, without looking round, as if to lift the telephone receiver in answer to the insistent ringing of the bell. Miss Harland turned toward the big centre table.

"The telephone is plugged in on the table, Mr. Nevile," she said.

"Ah! Of course it is! I took it over from the desk and plugged it in there myself," he reflected.

"Well, just see who it is and what he wants, will you? It'll probably be Anderson with an answer to Forrest's American cable—nobody else would be on the line from the works' office at this time of night."

There was a wall plug beside the desk at which he sat, to which the telephone instrument could be plugged if he needed it there, and another plug actually on the big centre table, with a wire running up the table leg from under the flooring of the room. Nevile swung about in his chair, ready to go and take the receiver from the girl if the message should prove important, and she went slowly, resentfully, to the big table, littered from end to end with blue-prints, sheets of figuring, and other evidences of Nevile's activities. The contents of that table formed a good index to the erratic character of the man.

Miss Harland lifted the receiver and held it to her ear.

"Hello?" she said. "Who is—?"

She spoke no more words in this world. There came a blinding flash and a roar: the force of the explosion flung Nevile back against his desk, and shattered the two windows of the room as he fell senseless. Away in the drawing room of Long Ridge, Hilda Nevile's hand fell from its nearness to the bell-push, and she looked with startled eyes at the other two—but more especially at Forrest.

"What was that?" she asked fearfully.


IN mid-afternoon of the following day ten men and two women were sworn in to inquire into the circumstances under which Phyllis Harland, spinster, aged twenty-nine, had come by her death at Long Ridge, Westingborough Parva. By that time the body had been removed to the mortuary at Westingborough Magna, and there the inquiry was held in the old corn hall at the back of the King's Arms hotel. The corn hall, a reminiscence of the time when this district had been prosperously agricultural, provided plenty of room for the spectators who chose and had opportunity to attend, in addition to witnesses and the officials indispensable to such an occasion, and the coroner, surveying the gathering before he opened the proceedings, realised that he had an abnormally large audience, one which testified to the interest in Nevile rather than the dead girl. Knowing Nevile personally, he considered this gathering no more than due to the man.

"Before we begin this inquiry," he announced, "I wish to state that there is no possibility of concluding it to-day. Mr. Raymond Nevile, who may be able to throw more light than any other witness on the cause of the tragedy, was unfortunately injured to such an extent that he is prevented from attending here. He is, I understand, suffering from severe concussion, and still unconscious. An adjournment to such time as will enable him to give evidence is inevitable, and in the meantime we will endeavour to ascertain as much as is possible of the cause of this regrettable occurrence, and release such witnesses as we can from the duty of a second attendance. The jury, of course, will hold themselves in readiness to attend again when required."

An elderly, sun-baked farmer looked as if he would have liked to protest at a second demand on his time but thought better of it, and after a time closed his open mouth. A shrill-voiced little woman demanded to know whether an arranged visit to an ailing sister could not be taken into consideration, and, the coroner having disposed of her rather summarily, business went forward. The dead girl's sister deposed to having identified her body—a gruesome business, since the explosion that had caused the tragedy had involved mutilation—and stood down. Police and medical evidence having been given, Halkin deposed to having given her message to Mr. Nevile at about twenty minutes past seven the preceding evening, and detailed his reply and annoyance at the interruption to his work. She had noticed nothing in Mr. Nevile's study which might have caused such an explosion. In fact, she did not know what could have caused such an explosion, only she had heard what she called little bangs from the east wing during the last four or five weeks. Mr. Nevile did his work there, and sometimes caused horrid smells which penetrated to the main, centre part of Long Ridge, but she knew nothing of what he was doing, or whether it were dangerous.

She stood down. Hilda Veronica Nevile took the stand, and was sworn. She was wearing an authentic sable coat over her black frock, and for that alone was a decided asset to the assembly: most of the women in and about Westingborough had never seen any other sable coat. Then, the fine patrician beauty of her was something that caused the reporters present almost to ignore the coat, and her cold, proud bearing was beyond their powers of description. The coroner, knowing that she had little to tell, was almost humble in getting her to tell it.

"The east wing," she said in answer to his questioning, "was built on to the main part of Long Ridge by my husband's father. There are three rooms on the ground floor, one of which is a laboratory, one used as a sort of office or study, and the third serves as a secretary's room—it is the smallest of the three. Mr. Nevile spends most of his time in the laboratory, and always has a secretary in attendance."

"Conducting experiments on behalf of the firm?" the coroner suggested. "In connection with their activities."

She inclined her head. "I know nothing of his experiments," she said. "On behalf of the firm—of course."

"Do you know if he has experimented with explosives?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I know nothing of the nature of his experiments," she answered. "Recently I have heard sounds like shots—like guns or pistols being fired—but I did not ask him about them."

The coroner let his eyebrows go up a fraction of an inch, but realised that it was useless to question further on the point. "And yesterday evening, Mrs. Nevile?" he inquired. "Where were you, and what were you doing, say at about seven o'clock?"

"My cousin, Miss Ashton, was with me," she answered. "She had arrived yesterday afternoon to stay for a fortnight at Long Ridge, and my husband had suggested inviting Mr. Forrest to dine with us. We were waiting in the drawing room—"

"This would be at seven o'clock?" the coroner interrupted.

"I must have come down at about seven," she answered. "Miss Ashton joined me almost at once. At about a quarter past seven I realised that my—that Mr. Nevile would be late for dinner unless he had some reminder, and sent Halkin, the maid, to the east wing to tell him we were waiting and Mr. Forrest might arrive at any minute. Then Mr. Forrest arrived, and I was just going to ring for Halkin again, but the explosion stopped me. And—and I'm afraid that's all."

"But after the explosion, Mrs. Nevile?" he persisted.

"After, we all hurried into the east wing," she answered. "Mr. Forrest reached the study doorway first, and stopped me and Miss Ashton from going in. I think he saw at once—he went in and shut the door on us, and then opened it again and came out carrying my—carrying Mr. Nevile. We helped him to take Mr. Nevile up to his room, and I rang for the doctor. I saw nothing more."

"You know nothing whatever of the cause of this explosion?"

"Nothing whatever."

"Thank you, Mrs. Nevile. Unless the members of the jury wish to question you, your evidence is at an end."

The members of the jury decided not to risk it. She stood down, and Hector Forrest was called. He described himself as managing director of the firm of Nevile and Forrest, and in the opinion of Berenice Ashton, who attended the inquest as moral support for her cousin, still bore an air of tensed strain as he faced the coroner.

"Now, Mr. Forrest!" There was an air of brisk friendliness in the coroner's way of opening his examination. "Apart from finding Mr. Nevile unconscious in his study, when did you last see him?"

"At about three-thirty yesterday afternoon," Forrest answered. "I went up to Long Ridge from the works for a talk with him, and took with me a folder of correspondence relating to a pending American contract that I wanted to talk over with him. We arranged to cable with regard to the contract, and talked over some other things as well."

"Where did this interview take place?"

"In the study at Long Ridge. In the new part—the east wing."

"Was Miss Harland present at your interview?"

"She was not. Mr. Nevile went into her room to dictate a letter to her, so I know she was there. But I did not see her."

"You remained in the study?"


"You are aware of the various processes in which your firm is engaged, Mr. Forrest? By that I mean—you would recognise any of the materials used in any of the processes of the firm's work?"

Forrest shook his head and smiled slightly. "Not all, sir," he answered. "The Nevile family keeps some secrets to itself, and even the men engaged in the processes know nothing of their actual nature. Nevile dyes are the property of the family, and they keep the secrets of them from everyone except themselves."

The coroner glanced at Hilda Nevile as if he wondered whether she were worth questioning again on the point, and turned again to his witness.

"I see," he said. "Now, Mr. Forrest, during this interview with Mr. Nevile, was any reference made to these dyes?"

"A very definite reference," Forrest answered. "Mr. Nevile explained to me that he had succeeded in producing an entirely new blue, a shade about halfway between royal and indigo, but of a brilliancy and quality that has never been seen before. He showed me a specimen piece of silk dyed with this blue, and we talked it over."

"With what result?" the coroner asked.

"Mr. Nevile explained that he had to make some alteration in the composition of the dye before it could be used commercially," Forrest answered. "In solution, as it would be used, it was practicable, but it could not be kept in solution—it deteriorated too quickly and became no more than an ordinary dye. And in solid form, as he produced it and showed it to me, it was a very violent explosive, liable to detonate at the slightest shock. Too unsafe for commercial use, in fact."

"You have some knowledge of explosives, Mr. Forrest?"

"A fairly extensive knowledge," Forrest admitted.

"And you would consider this dye in the solid form as dangerous?"

"Very dangerous. In quantities of four ounces and upwards, deadly if encountered as—well, as Miss Harland encountered it."

"To put it bluntly, Mr. Forrest, what are your conclusions as to the manner in which Miss Harland met her death? Mr. Nevile will not be able to give us his account for some days, and as an unprejudiced witness, you may be able to help us to form a conclusion."

"My conclusion is this, sir," Forrest answered incisively. "Mr. Nevile was rather perturbed over the behaviour of this dye in the solid form, and anxious to find some way of making it commercially practicable, apart from our own use of it in the firm—it was a saleable product. He must have taken a lump of the solid stuff from the laboratory into his study, and put it down on the table near the telephone when he was working there, and forgotten it in his interest in other things—"

"But I understand that Mr. Nevile was at his desk at the side of the room, not at the table where the telephone was," the coroner interjected. "Surely he would have put the lump on his desk?"

Forrest shook his head. "Mr. Nevile used that table—uses it, I should say—for practically everything except work involving correspondence. All his experimental records are made on the table, and he keeps the desk at the side of the room only for card indexes and matters involving the dictation of letters to his secretary. If he took any of the dye from the laboratory into the study, he would have put it down on the table, possibly quite near the telephone instrument. And as to that, Mr. Nevile is rather an impatient man in some ways, and wanted to be saved the trouble of moving from the table to the desk or vice versa if I called him up or if he wished to communicate with the works. So instead of having a second instrument, he had a plug put on the end of the instrument wire, and plug holes made, one in the table itself, and one in the wall at the end of the desk, so that he could move the instrument from desk to table and back as suited him. I might add that this telephone does not go through the ordinary exchange, but is a separate line between our works and Long Ridge."

"I see," the coroner said. "But what has this to do with the explosion in which Miss Harland lost her life?"

"Just this," Forrest explained. "A call came through—as a matter of fact, I have found out it was our senior clerk, Anderson, telephoning from the works with regard to the American cable I mentioned just now. Mr. Nevile must have asked Miss Harland to see what it was, or who was calling up. She went to the telephone on the table, and in taking off the receiver jarred the instrument itself enough to detonate the lump of solid dye lying near it. The explosion resulted."

"During your interview with Mr. Nevile earlier in the afternoon, did you see such a lump of solid dye lying on the table?"

"No, I did not. I am assuming that he had placed a lump there, after a probable series of experiments in the laboratory next door. I see no other possible cause for the tragedy, no other way of accounting for it."

"And you say there is sufficient explosive force in the stuff for even such a lump as he might have placed on the table to cause such a disastrous result? It is, really, a very powerful explosive?"

"From what he has told me, and what I have seen, four to eight ounces would have been enough to cause the damage that has been done. I conclude that a lump of the stuff was lying on the table near the telephone instrument, and Miss Harland must have bent toward the instrument, jarred it in some way, and detonated the lump. This, of course, is only assumption. The wreckage is too great for certainty as to what actually happened. Miss Harland's head was half blown away, the instrument was in fragments, and I found the wheels and parts of a small clock that must have been standing near the telephone on the table, blown to various parts of the room. And the table itself has a great hole in it where the telephone instrument stood."

"You made a detailed examination, Mr. Forrest?"

"I carried Mr. Nevile up to his room, first, and rang for a doctor. One look at Miss Harland was enough to tell me that she was altogether beyond aid—killed instantly, in fact—and I kept Mrs. Nevile and Miss Ashton from entering the room. It did not occur to me at the time to ring for the police, since I was rather badly upset myself, and—and there could be no suggestion of anything but accident in the affair. It was Doctor Bennett, as a matter of fact, who suggested that the police ought to be informed, as an inquiry was inevitable, and by that time I had gone back to the east wing and made a thorough examination of the study to see if it were possible to account for the disaster—but I did not touch Miss Harland's body or alter the position of anything in the study—as I informed the police inspector when he came to investigate the cause of the explosion."

"You conclude that it was this dye in solid form that caused the explosion, and that Mr. Nevile left a piece of it on the table?"

"I see no other way of accounting for the accident."

"Mr. Forrest, you say that simply jarring the substance, in a way that might be done by, say, dropping a telephone instrument on a table near it would be sufficient to detonate this dye in solid form. Surely Mr. Nevile knew the danger of the substance?"

"Oh, yes, he knew it," Forrest agreed. "In fact, we talked it over during the afternoon, and he told me he was trying to produce it as a non-explosive, since otherwise it would not be marketable as a dye."

"I conclude he conducted his experiments with it in his laboratory, and not in the study where the accident occurred?"

"That is so. Obviously. The laboratory is specially fitted for that purpose—for his investigations, that is."

"But you are accusing him of the almost criminal carelessness of placing a quantity of this dangerous explosive outside his laboratory, in such a position that it might and in fact did destroy human life?"

Forrest smiled faintly. "I am afraid, sir, that you don't know Mr. Nevile very well," he said. "I should not call it an accusation."

The coroner frowned. "I must ask you to explain that comment," he said stiffly. "We are investigating the causes by which a life has been ended, a very grave matter. What do you mean?"

"Well—" Forrest smiled no more, but spoke with rasping, reproving assurance—"if it had not been for the genius of Mr. Nevile, and of his father and grandfather before him, Westingborough Magna would still be an agricultural village of about five hundred people instead of the manufacturing place it is. Mr. Nevile has and is gladly permitted the freedom one accords to genius—I will not call it eccentricity, for it is not. But to him it would not be criminally careless to put a lump of that explosive substance on his own table in his own room—it would be a merely normal act. And Miss Harland, in answering the call from the works, may have lifted the instrument and dropped it on a fragment from the lump, heavily enough to cause detonation—dynamite is fairly safe to handle, but may be detonated in the same way, I believe. This tragedy is purely accidental, and no blame whatever can be attached to Mr. Nevile over it."

"That, sir, is a matter for the jury to decide," the coroner rasped back. "Your defence of Mr. Nevile may be an admirable example of friendship, but it does not acquit him of rank carelessness in handling and positioning a terribly dangerous substance, if your assumptions as to the cause of this tragedy are correct. And it appears to me rather negligent on your part, Mr. Forrest, that you did not call the police to the scene of the tragedy until Doctor Bennett reminded you of the necessity for so doing. You knew the girl was dead."

"I admit it was an oversight," Forrest said, "but I was very badly shaken by what had happened. In such abnormal circumstances, one cannot think of everything, and I had to reassure Mrs. Nevile and her guest and practically take charge of the household at Long Ridge until the servants were assured that there was no further danger."

"Yes, of course," the coroner agreed, rather grudgingly. "One other thing I want you to tell the jury, Mr. Forrest. In what position was Mr. Nevile lying when you found him in the room?"

"Fallen from his chair in front of the desk at the side of the room, a matter of twelve or fifteen feet from the table—from the edge of the table where the telephone instrument had been standing," Forrest answered. "I conclude that he had been sitting in the chair, and the force of the explosion flung him back so that his head struck the sharp, sloping edge of his desk and rendered him unconscious. His body must have sagged sideways and overturned the chair, since it had fallen on its side with him, and he had then rolled out from the seat."

"The telephone instrument, I understand, was shattered?"

"Absolutely blown to pieces," Forrest answered, with evident emotion, "and fragments of the receiver—the poor girl's head—" He broke off as if unable to describe what he had seen.

"Thank you, Mr. Forrest. The medical evidence has already given us all we need with regard to that. I don't think I need trouble you any further, and"—he turned to his jury—"as I stated before, this inquiry must now be adjourned for a period of fourteen days, in order that Mr. Raymond Nevile may be sufficiently recovered from his injuries to give evidence with regard to the cause of the tragedy. You, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and all necessary witnesses, will be required to attend here at two-thirty in the afternoon of the twenty-first of this month, and for the present the proceedings are closed."


AT the end of a wearisome succession of dreams Raymond Nevile opened his eyes and, gazing up, saw a piquant little face framed in a nurse's cap looking down at him, and two or three chestnut curls straying from under the cap. He had some vague idea that he had seen this girl before, but could not place her: possibly she had been a part of his dreams. Thinking over her identity, or over anything else, for that matter, was far too great an effort.

"How do you feel, Mr. Nevile?" she asked.

"There was a flash," he answered very slowly. He had not intended to speak those words: they spoke themselves in spite of him. "There was," she agreed, "and you were rather badly hurt. It happened, in fact, two days ago. But how do you feel now?"

He found he could move his hand without difficulty, and lifted it to feel the back of his head on the pillow.

"Bandaged," he observed, still taking no notice of the query.

"Yes. You cut your head open on the edge of your desk." She withdrew momentarily, and returned with a glass in her hand. Then she leaned over, got one arm behind his neck, and lifted him. "I want you to drink this—the whole of it—and then go to sleep again," she said.

He obeyed, as far as the drinking was concerned. She eased his head down on to the pillow again, and he gazed up at her.

"I've seen you somewhere," he observed, with more certainty and intelligence in his tone. The drink may have restored him, mentally.

"A photograph, probably," she answered. "I'm Hilda's cousin, Berenice Ashton, and since I'm a fully qualified nurse she's letting me take you as a case. But you'd better go to sleep again."

"Yes," he said. "And Forrest was coming to dinner—"

With the last word his eyes closed. The girl stood beside the bed until his even breathing told her that he slept again, and, so standing, studied the face on the pillow. With his keen grey eyes closed, he looked almost deathlike, for all the colour had gone out from his face, and there was an unsightly, blackish-brown stubble reaching from his chin to his ears; his nostrils were delicately fine, and he had the forehead of a thinker. It was a tremendously sensitive face, that of a man who would be easily hurt, and yet there was great strength in it; his hair, showing from under the bandage, was a rebellious tangle: she had tried to brush it into order not long since, but with little success. The one blue-veined hand lying upon the pillow until, in his sleep, he drew it back under the coverlet, was long-fingered, beautifully-formed. An ideal surgeon's hand, she reflected.

She turned, for the door of the room had opened almost noiselessly, and saw Hilda Nevile standing just within the room. With her finger to her lips, Berenice went to the door, and gestured her cousin outside.

"He's got his senses back," she said, after she had closed the door, "and spoke a few words. I got him off to sleep again."

"Anything—anything enlightening?" Hilda asked.

Berenice shook her head, and inwardly queried if it were strange that Nevile, apparently, had not even thought of his wife—he had made no reference to her in that waking interval. "Nothing, except that he remembers the explosion, which proves that his mind will be quite clear when he wakes again," she answered. Usually, after severe concussion, they have difficulty in remembering, at first, but he seems likely to prove an exception to that rule. He will probably sleep for hours."

"I wondered—the police inspector is downstairs," Hilda explained. "It would be impossible for him to see Ray, I suppose?"

"Quite," Berenice answered decidedly. "Perhaps I'd better see the man, and explain, shall I? My uniform might impress him."

"It's awfully good of you, dear," Hilda said, with sincere gratitude. "You can't realise what it means to me, having you here instead of a stranger, in a situation like this."

"I'm glad I happened to be here," Berenice answered simply. "Now if you'll just go in there in case he wakes, I'll go down—where have they put the policeman—in the library?"

Hilda shook her head. "He's waiting in the front hall—I had a fire lighted there. I'll take care of Ray till you come back."

She entered the room again, and Berenice went down the centuries-old staircase and faced an alert-looking, middle-aged man, well-dressed in blue serge, who turned from the fire as she approached, and bowed.

"Miss Ashton, isn't it?" he asked cordially.

"That is my name," she answered, with a touch of stiffness.

"Yes—I saw you at the inquest, but you were not in uniform then," he observed. "My name is Head—inspector Head. Mrs. Nevile tells me it is practically certain that I can't see Mr. Nevile to-day, so if you could tell me when I may see him—"

He paused questioningly. "What is the urgency?" There was a trace of impatience, amounting almost to resentment, in the manner of her query.

"The possibility of a verdict of manslaughter from the coroner's jury, Miss Ashton," he answered gravely. "It is a distinct possibility."

"I never thought of that," she said, after a silence.

"If possible, I want to prevent such a verdict," he explained. "I suppose you know, Miss Ashton, that Westingborough practically lives by the firm of Nevile and Forrest, and that the genius of Mr. Nevile and his father and grandfather before him made the firm what it is?"

"So I understand," she assented.

"We are—I'm not speaking officially now, Miss Ashton—we are not a little proud of Mr. Nevile here, and we realise what he is—what an exceptional man he is. You heard the evidence at the inquest, and probably you observed the view the coroner took when Mr. Forrest took on himself to defend Mr. Nevile. Still quite unofficially, I want to see Mr. Nevile and point out to him what he must expect, and of course leave him to find his own way of averting it. You will see that if a verdict of manslaughter were returned, if he had to stand his trial and possibly undergo a sentence of six months for culpable negligence, it would be a very serious thing for the firm, and consequently a very serious thing for Westingborough. Don't think I'm trying to interfere with justice, for I'm not. In fact, I want to further it."

"I quite see, inspector," she answered, "and it's very good of you to explain it like this to me. Now if you'll give me your telephone number, I promise to ring you myself as soon as Mr. Nevile is in a fit state to talk to you and hear what you've told me."

He produced a card, which she took. "There's the number," he said, "and I thank you very much. One other thing—I've seen Mrs. Nevile, and she assures me the room where the explosion took place has not been touched in any way. Could I examine it again?"

"Certainly," she answered. "I'll take you there."

She conducted him along the lofty central corridor of the old house, to the door giving access to the newer east wing, and, leading the way through Nevile's big laboratory, turned the key that had been left in the lock of the study door, and gestured him to enter.

"I'll go back to my patient," she said. "You will know the way out when you've finished here, inspector."

"Certainly—and I'm very much obliged to you," he answered.

She left him, and he entered the study and stood just within the doorway, gazing round in a meditative way. The door opposite that by which he had entered, of course, gave access to the secretary's room, the one in which the unfortunate Miss Harland had worked. He crossed to that door, opened it, and looked in: the cover had not been replaced on the typewriter, he saw, and beside the machine was lying an open carton of fancy chocolates, a pathetic little thing, now. He closed the door again and turned back into the study.

Everything had been left untouched, as he had ordered, and dust had begun to settle on the polished surface on the central table and the papers still lying on it. They lay only round the edges: the force of the explosion, sufficient to blow a jagged hole of about two feet diameter in the thick wood itself, had cleared away all papers lying near: many were scattered over the carpet. And there, a good fifteen feet from the overturned swivel chair in front of the desk, was the dark-brown blotch on the pile of the carpet where Phyllis Harland had fallen with half her head blown away. There were spatterings of blood dried on to the wallpaper of the room, too.

He moved until his feet almost touched the stain on the carpet, and there stood to make another survey. Bending over the table—he refrained from touching it—he could see the end of the cable that had been led up to the telephone plug-hole, jagged and burned. A splinter of wood had stabbed endwise into the carpet, and now stood up like a dart. She must have replaced the receiver on the instrument and set it down with sufficient force to detonate the lump of explosive lying on the table, for the explosion had blown both instrument and receiver to pieces. And the pieces had torn part of her skull away—she could not have known what had killed her, poor girl! And it might have been Nevile, instead of her, who had answered that call from the works and had his skull shattered by the explosion.

Except that Nevile would have known better than to put the instrument down in a way that would detonate the stuff on the table.

Inspector Head went over to the desk, and stood looking at it meditatively. He saw, beside it, the plug-hole in the wall, into which Nevile could plug his instrument if he wanted to talk to the works while sitting at his desk. Not to anywhere else, in the first instance: if he wanted to get an outside number, he would have to get the works' operator to put the private line through to the exchange, and then ask for his number. And, unless thus put through, he could only be called from the works. This line was only an extension from the works' switch-board. A good idea, that of Nevile's, to be able to move his instrument from desk to table and back as he required.

Was it a good idea?

He could only be called from the works... Musing, revolving these things in his mind, the inspector went to the high window of the room and looked out. In another half-hour, daylight would begin to fail. All but two panes of the window had been boarded over from the outside, for the explosion had left only those two intact. Through them was visible the long frontage of the house, and the wide terrace before it, levelled up from the gentle slope which descended for nearly half a mile to the stream at the far side of the grounds, beyond which was the road. A goodly heritage, Long Ridge.

He could only be called from the works...

A beautiful woman, Mrs. Nevile, and the best horsewoman for miles around. The best dancer, too, they said. Inspector Head mused over that time, more than five years before, when Nevile had brought his bride back from Italy after an absence of little more than six weeks—and at his setting out on the trip there had been no hint of his even considering marriage. Several girls in and about Westingborough had felt that he might at least have given them a chance, but all the men had known at once that no local girl could hope to stand even half a chance against his wife: no wonder he had fallen for her so quickly.

And yet there were vague rumours that it was not altogether a happy marriage. The inspector's mind ran on trite lines—marry in haste and repent at leisure, look before you leap, beauty is only skin deep—

What business was it of his, though?

He stooped, and picked up a little, thin brass wheel, toothed and carrying a tiny toothed ring on its shaft. It had evidently formed part of the mechanism of the small clock which, as Forrest had stated at the inquest, must have been standing on the table when the explosion had occurred, and, like the telephone instrument, had been blown to pieces. Curious, that: one would think that the clock would have been blown off the table, and perhaps badly mangled, but that it should be blown to little bits like this—

But you never could tell what high explosive would do. Inspector Head recalled to mind some oddities of war-time explosions.

Abruptly, with the steel-shafted brass fragment still in his hand, Head crossed to the bell-push beside the door leading to the laboratory, and gave it a sustained pressure. Then he waited, and after a while Halkin appeared and gazed at him rather fearfully.

"Miss Halkin, have you been tidying up here?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No sir, and—and I'm Mrs. Halkin."

"Mrs. Halkin, then," he agreed composedly. "Have you let any of the maids do any tidying up since the accident?"

"No, sir. I heard your strict order that nothing in the room was to be touched, and it's been obeyed. Completely obeyed."

"Ah! You're sure this carpet hasn't been swept?"

"Quite sure, sir. And you can see yourself the room hasn't been dusted. There's been nothing done whatever."

"That's good. I want it all left, no matter how dusty and dirty it gets, till Mr. Nevile can give orders himself about it. Those papers strewn about—he may want them left as they are. Nothing is to be touched in any way whatever, by anyone, no matter what other orders you get about it. From Mrs. Nevile, for instance."

"She knows you don't want things disturbed, sir."

"Yes, so she does. Now, Mrs. Halkin"—he held up the little brass wheel by its steel spindle—"this looks to me like a part of the clock that must have been on the table when the explosion happened. Can you describe that clock to me?"

"Yes, sir, it was squarish, and about so high"—she held her hands so that the palms were about three inches apart. "It was a sort of green stuff, marble, I think, with dark veins in it, and heavy. I should say it was green marble, myself. A pretty little thing."

"And you say this carpet has not been swept?"

"No, sir, I'm certain it hasn't."

He reached up and pulled down the switch beside the bell-push, supplementing the failing daylight by a soft glow from the undamaged light over Nevile's desk. "Now, Mrs. Halkin," he said rather sternly, "have a good look over this carpet yourself, and see if you can find any fragments of green marble anywhere, for I can't. And if that carpet hasn't been swept since the explosion, there ought to be some somewhere."

She stood staring at him incredulously, and he motioned her into the room with a sudden gesture of his hand.

"Go on..." he bade, with impatient irritation. "Search for yourself. If you can find enough green marble, or whatever the stuff was, to fill a thimble, I'll apologise for doubting you. I can't see any."

He waited by the door while she made a complete tour of the room, going down on her hands and knees to search under the table, hunting between the edges of the carpet and the walls, and pulling away the curtains pendent beside the window, but all without result. In the end she gave it up, and looked at him in a scared way.

"I don't understand it, sir," she said. "I'm absolutely positive there's been no sweeping here by anyone. I'm quite positive."

"No," he said thoughtfully. "If there had been, they wouldn't have missed that cigarette ash, would they?" He pointed down at three grey patches near the end of Nevile's desk, where its user had flicked ash from cigarettes while seated there.

"They certainly wouldn't, sir," Halkin agreed, brightening considerably at the offered confirmation of her statement.

"And so," Head remarked meditatively, "the little green marble clock must have been blown clean through the window, or up the chimney, and shed this bit of itself on the way. So it appears. Thank you, Mrs. Halkin—I just wanted to be sure there had been no tidying up, and also that there will be none until I give permission."

"I can give you my word on that, sir," she assured him.

"Very good. That's all," he said, rather curtly.

When she had gone, he resumed his leisurely, thoughtful inspection of the room. Bits of black vulcanite he recognised as fragments of the telephone receiver and mouthpiece; the metal body of the instrument, twisted to a jagged-edged series of fragments of sheet metal, was on the side of the table: Forrest, probably, had collected the pieces and put them there, and then forgotten that he had done it, for he had said at the inquest that he had left the room and its contents undisturbed. But then, he might have done a thing like that without realising that he was doing it: he would have been very badly shaken by his sight of the dead and badly mutilated girl, and quite possibly might have forgotten some of his own movements at the time. Head could imagine the man alone in the room, with Mrs. Nevile and Miss Ashton waiting outside by his command, fidgeting and fretting at first, before he could make up his mind what to do: at the outset, seeing Nevile lying by the desk, he would have concluded that both the girl and Nevile were dead, and would have been shaken mentally to a point at which he would hardly realise his own actions. Yes, he had put those pieces there, almost certainly.

Head went round the table and gazed down at the little heap. Under the lighter bits he saw the heavy metal base of the instrument, no longer truly circular, but queerly bent and misshapen. He took it up, and saw on the underside what, at first, looked like a scrap of gummed paper stuck on the metal. But, when he picked at the scrap with his fingernail, he found that it was a little dab of white paint, and on it, written with a lead pencil, he saw—

7 6 3 2 F

"I think I want you," he said, and managed to slip the heavy piece of metal into his pocket. It had to be eased in carefully, after he had removed all the other contents of the pocket and distributed them variously about himself, and then the coat sagged badly on its left side. But, over that, he was quite unperturbed.

He moved back and forth across the room, from side wall to side wall and from the desk to the window, studying the carpet intently—just as intently as Halkin had studied it in her vain search for bits of green marble. In the end he went toward the door, switched off the light, and stood for a little while gazing at the hole in the table.

"No," he said to himself. And again—"No!"

When he went out to the laboratory, he locked the study door and took the key with him. In the main entrance hall of the house, he pressed the bell-push beside the big fireplace, and waited until Halkin confronted him again. He held the key out to her.

"Keep it," he said. "I don't think Mrs. Nevile is likely to ask for it, and as far as the household is concerned, I am trusting you to guard that room and see that it remains exactly as it is."

"I promise it shall, sir," she answered earnestly.

"Thank you. And now a telephone call, please."

She conducted him to the library, and left him with the telephone receiver at his ear. He gave a number, and waited.

"Nevile and Forrest," a girl's voice said at last.

"That is the firm's private switch-board?" he inquired.

"Who do you want?" she demanded, without answering the query.

"It should be—'whom do you want,'" he corrected her gently. "I want to speak to a Mr. Anderson. Inspector Head speaking."

"One second, please."

There followed a series of clicks and clucks, and then—

"This is Mr. Anderson speaking. Inspector Head, isn't it?"

"It is," Head assured him. "Mr. Anderson, the day of the accident, you had something to do about an American cable, I believe?"

"We had—a good deal, in fact," Anderson told him.

"What were the particulars?"

"You mean—the subject matter of the cable?—because that is the firm's business, and I am not at liberty to disclose—"

"No, I don't mean the subject matter of the cable," Head interrupted irritably, and refrained from calling Anderson a pompous ass. "I merely want to know who sent the cable, who instructed it to be sent, and particularly the time of sending. That's about all."

"I sent the cable," Anderson replied frigidly, "acting under Mr. Forrest's instructions. It would be—yes, Mr. Forrest came back from his interview with Mr. Nevile at Long Ridge at about five o'clock, and instructed me to get the cable off at once. The difference in time between us and New York admitted of our getting a reply the same day, and he instructed me to telephone the reply through to Mr. Nevile or himself at Long Ridge as soon as it came in. I was to wait here for it, and then get through on our private line to Long Ridge, if possible."

"Why the 'if possible'?" Head asked.

"Because that private line goes only to Mr. Nevile's study, and isn't connected up with the exchange line to the house," Anderson explained. "Mr. Forrest instructed me to try that line first, and then, if I could get no reply on it, to get through on the ordinary exchange line. He was to have dined at Long Ridge that evening."

"I see. And he had an interview with Mr. Nevile that afternoon?"

"He did, and returned here at about five o'clock."

"Do you know what the interview was about?"

"No. He took a file of correspondence with him."

"Took the file, just as it was?" Head inquired incredulously.

"No—put it in his attaché case," Anderson answered with evident irritation at such a silly query. "He didn't want the letters to blow about and get lost, of course."

"No, he wouldn't. Where is that file generally kept?"

"In his own private office here."

"And are you by any chance speaking from that private office now?"

"Certainly I am not! Only Mr. Forrest, and his secretary use it."

"And that afternoon, when he went to interview Mr. Nevile, where was Mr. Forrest's secretary? Do you happen to know?"

"Mr. Forrest closed up his desk before he went, and gave her the rest of the afternoon off, as he was not coming back to the office."

"But what about coming back to instruct you about the cable?"

"Yes, but not coming back to do any other work, I mean. I remember he came in and unlocked his private office himself, and then called me in to give me instructions about the cable."

"Oh! He keeps the key of that office, does he?"

"Why, of course he does! The office cleaner has another key, and his secretary has one as well."

"Thanks very much, Mr. Anderson. That's all."

He hung up and went slowly out from the room, and from the house. Halfway along the drive he turned and looked back at the imposing frontage and the wooded height behind, from which the house took its name.

"On the whole, I think I'd rather it turned out a verdict of manslaughter," he said to himself. "They'd probably let him off at the trial, and—"

He resumed his journey toward the gate, beyond which his little car was waiting. He had felt that he wanted to walk along the drive.

"Well, we'll see," he summed up confidently.


LOOKING out from the window of Nevile's room in mid-afternoon of the next day, Berenice Ashton saw a long-bonneted, open two-seater car advancing along the drive from the road, with only the man at the wheel as occupant. It would not be the doctor: he had paid his visit before lunch, concurred with Berenice in that there was no further need of a night nurse, and expressed himself as highly satisfied with the progress of his patient. If Inspector Head were in a hurry to interview Nevile, there was no reason why he should not do so on the following day, but, since it would be a Sunday, Head would probably defer his visit one day longer. Policemen, said the doctor, were like medical men: they liked a day off when they could get it. And Head's business with Nevile could not be so urgent that one day's delay would affect it.

Berenice recalled that dictum as she gazed out from the window. It would not be the doctor, and it would not be the police inspector. No. When the car swung easily up the brief, steep slope that curved from the west end of the terrace to the main entrance of the house, she saw that Forrest was its lone occupant, and, as he got out, she turned from the window and went back to the bed, where Nevile lay awake and passive. He turned his eyes toward her without moving his head.

"I just saw Mr. Forrest drive up," she remarked.

Nevile considered the statement. "Yes," he said at last.

"If he asks, shall I tell him you will see him?"

"I don't think he will ask," Nevile said deliberately.

She smiled. "But if he does?" she persisted gently.

"In that case, I had better see him," he assented.

"And now, Mr. Nevile"—she became briskly businesslike—"what would you like for tea? It's nearly time to think about it."

"Thinking, I find, is the very devil," he answered. "I'd like weak tea, China tea, and you must do all the rest of the thinking."

"Then I hope I shall not disappoint you."

"I am not afraid of that. What is to-day, Miss Ashton?"

"Saturday. Only your fourth day, and you're getting well fast."

"Saturday." He mused over it. "I wonder whether the works' team will qualify for the next round in the Cup? I meant to have seen that match. And instead—soon, in spite of your prohibition, I want to talk over what actually happened that night and find out all about it."

"In a day or two," she promised evasively.

"I'm not a child," he pointed out, with faint irritation.

"No, but only just now you owned that thinking is difficult for you," she rejoined. "Wait till it isn't. You were injured by an explosion in your study, and that's all I can tell you now."

"Yes," he said. "I remember the flash."

She seated herself beside the bed, and took a book from the table that held his invalid requisites. There was nothing more to do until it became time to wash him and get his tea, and she wished to indicate that she did not intend to talk, since he appeared anxious to question her about the tragedy of Wednesday evening. It occurred to her then that she must let him know of Miss Harland's death before Inspector Head came for his interview.

"What's that you're reading?" Nevile demanded after a silence.

"De Quincey." She looked up at him as she answered.

"Morbid stuff. Damned morbid stuff. I was thinking—probably you don't realise what a good nurse you are. Not that I've had any previous experience, but the way things seem to get themselves—"

She smiled. "I must get you to give me a testimonial," she said.

"Easily. And you're Hilda's cousin! Yes, I know—I was to have met you at dinner. Don't you think it's time we cut out this Mr. and Miss business, or am I the sort of man you couldn't be friendly with?"

She laughed. "You're not that sort of man at all," she told him.

"Then you're Berenice and I'm Ray, from now on. If I'd had a sister, I'd have liked her to be a replica of you. As it is, we're cousins of a sort, though I can't claim real relationship. Now tell me—are you playing at it, or are you really a nurse?"

"Really a nurse," she assured him. "Would you like to see my diplomas and certificates, for proof?"

"No," he said gravely, "I'll take your word for it. And count it providential that you happened to be here, to save me from another hash-faced, clumsy fool like that night nurse."

"You won't see her any more," she said. "Doctor Bennett agreed with me that you don't need a night nurse any longer."

"And you'll stay out the whole fortnight, as you'd planned?"

"If Hilda wishes it," she answered cautiously.

"Yes, of course. But she invited you in the first place. I don't know if it's struck you that this house is rather inhuman, has it?"

"I've seen very little of the house," she said evasively. "My own room, and this—and the dining and drawing rooms, of course. No, I hadn't noticed any inhumanity—and Hilda keeps magnificent fires."

"Berenice, you're a good diplomat as well as a good nurse." He sighed a little after he had spoken the words, and then smiled.

"Now I'll see about your tea," she said, and put the book down.

"And you will observe," he remarked rather cynically, "that there is no sign of Forrest having wished to see me."

"He may be waiting to ask me if he may," she retorted, and left him, but with a thought, as she went, that there was truth in his view of his home as an inhuman place. Hilda looked in on him occasionally, but, so far, had seemed quite content to accept her cousin's assurance that Nevile was either asleep or in no fit state to do much talking yet. Once, when she had found him awake, she had bent over the bed and kissed his cheek gently, but in seeing his faintly amused expression over the gesture Berenice had decided that it had been for her benefit, and if she had been absent would not have been done at all. But, if that were so, why did these two maintain the semblance of married life without its reality, without even the sympathy that might have made it tolerable for them both?

DOWN in the drawing room, Forrest and Hilda Nevile faced each other after Halkin had retreated and closed the door after announcing the visitor. Hilda stood on the hearthrug with her back to one of the magnificent fires on which Berenice had commented, for it was a very chilly afternoon for early October. Forrest took her hand and let it fall again, and but for that gesture neither of the two spoke.

"So he is really recovering now?" he said at last.

"There has never been any doubt regarding it," she answered.

"No, I know. But I mean—" He broke off abruptly.

"Is he fit to see visitors yet?" he inquired, after another silence.

She shook her head. "I think not. If you wish, I can ask my cousin. But she would only let you stay a very few minutes."

"Better not, then," he said. "There is nothing—I mean, it would only be an inquiry as to how he's getting on, and if she tells him I called to ask—I mean, if you tell him—" Again he broke off.

"Either of us," she said, and smiled slightly.

"A deep implication," he observed gravely.

"There are times when I ask myself how long," she said after a long pause. "I suppose that is inevitable."

"Having met each other," he suggested.

"And since we met each other, you have never said as much as that to me," she said quietly. "Nor may you say as much again."

"Although you know perfectly well," he pointed out.

"Although we both know," she concurred.

"Since we know, where is the harm in saying it?" he demanded.

She made a little, impatient gesture, and, turning quite away from him, went to the window and looked out. "We are not free," she said with her back to him. "If it were only our two selves—our three selves—but we are not free, any one of us."

"Isn't that more of a fetish than a live god?" he asked cynically.

She faced about. "Like you, I feel that I want to speak plainly, to-day," she said, with a definite change of tone. "Sit there"—she pointed him to a settee and as she came forward to an armchair facing it—"and let us speak plainly just for this once. Just for this once!"

He waited till she had seated herself, and then took the corner of the settee, bending toward her—if they had both reached out, they could have just clasped hands. She met his gaze fearlessly, though there was a fierce hunger in his eyes: she had seen it before, often, and perhaps welcomed rather than resented its presence.

"All that I have to tell you goes into three words," he said.

"And I could limit my answer to the same three," she answered. "I know—we have both known—it seems a very long while. Difficult to hold back, but we are not free. You know!"

"Is it any more than a fetish?" he asked.

"What would Nevile and Forrest be without you?" she demanded.

"There'd still be Nevile," he pointed out.

"And you know him. You know him! Have known him, long before I met him, that summer in Italy. He cannot take your place, and knows he cannot. Else—he too realises we are not free, and it is no fetish, or rather is far more than a fetish."

"With that 'else'"—Forrest spoke after a thoughtful pause—"you mean he knows? Knows that you and I—"

"I am not sure," she said. "He knows he is nothing to me, and loses himself in his work in consequence. Whether he knows that you are the cause—I am not sure. Isn't it strange that we should be talking like this, discussing the most vital thing in my life as if it were no more than a daily happening, to be forgotten to-morrow?"

"The most vital thing... Hilda?"

She met his gaze steadily. "Your three words are mine," she said.

He started to his feet. "End it—Oh, my darling, end it!" he begged. "We've said too much, now, told too much—"

She too was on her feet, facing him, and the movement arrested his passionate plea. "We have said nothing," she contradicted inflexibly. "All I have said is forgotten, must be forgotten, not because of him. Hector—I've never called you by that name before, but now I do—it is not because of him. But I know that if your brain were taken away, his genius could never keep Westingborough what it is. His father knew you were essential to the works, knew that neither he nor Raymond after him could ever be more than a dreamer, one who must be allowed the freedom of a dreamer if he were to accomplish his work—"

"More than a dreamer," he interrupted. "Ray Nevile is one of the great discoverers of his generation, and I am no more than a clever organiser. You could find hundreds to take my place."

"Would he find them?" she countered. "Would he hold the works together as you do, be commercially-minded and safeguard his discoveries while he found one? Hector, think! Supposing you and I decided to make a life together, force him to divorce me? You know what he would do, as well as I know it. With that intolerable pride of his, he would not stay in this place one day, and without him the firm of Nevile and Forrest would cease to exist—Westingborough would be ruined."

"No one man is essential—irreplaceable," he said stubbornly.

"Raymond Nevile is," she retorted unhesitatingly. "And you are essential as complement to him. You two are Westingborough. Separate you, and the firm falls, the place with it."

"You mean that we two are to sacrifice all our lives?"

"We had no right in the first place. I promised—oaths at the altar are still something. Would you care for me if I—not if I broke those oaths, but if, having made them, I brought ruin on scores of homes through breaking them? Oh, I've prayed that Ray might give me cause to divorce him. Even last Wednesday night, for one moment, I wished it had been he instead of that girl who was killed. Hector!"

"Nothing!" He had abruptly faced away from her, but now he turned to her again. "No—I know what you think because I moved like that over your wishing such a thing, but you're wrong—my dear, you're wrong! I love every thought of yours, every hair of your head, all you are and all you might be. If I could take you in my arms and hold you! Sometimes, when I haven't seen you for weeks, I'm quite mad with the longing just to see you and hear you speak, and there's nothing—"

Again he turned away, facing toward the fire. She laid her hand on his shoulder, gently.

"Hector, it won't always be like this. There will be a way—there will be a way shown us! But your responsibility and his—you must endure it while there is need. And I—I must endure too—"

"Hilda—my dear—" He turned again and tried to hold her, but she stepped back and put out her hands to ward him off.

"If I let you, once, it would be the end," she said whisperingly. "An end for which I could never forgive myself. I'm not all strength. I should give all myself to you, beg you to take me and keep me, and wake to know what I had done, too late. And I think—Hector—you must not come to see me like this again, because—"

His arms had fallen limply to his sides. "I know," he said.

"Dear, not like that," she pleaded sadly. "You know that in spirit I am all yours—Oh, but these words are old, and thousands of lovers have said them before! All yours, and yet I may not give myself—I have that sense of justice that prevents me, holds me away from you. My dear, please go now—please go! We have said far too much—and not a thousandth part of all we could say, even then. And while I see you and know you're loyal to all that has been laid on us three—while I know as I know now that those three words are true for us both—I shall not be altogether unhappy. For we still have hope."

"Cold food, Hilda—unsatisfying food. I want you so."

"And I long to tell you to take me, make me all yours for always. Yet I will not, for I believe there will be a way shown us that will leave Westingborough unharmed, and if that belief became justified after we had given in and wrought the harm, I should know no more peace in life—even in life with you. Do you understand?"

"So much, that I'll try to live up to your ideals," he answered. "Try... yes. And—I'm glad we've said too much."

"Perhaps"—she came close to him and took his hand—"it may be only a little while—any day we might find our way. No, stand quite still." She lifted his hand and pressed her cool lips against it. "Now go, dear man—don't speak one more word to me, but go."

She had watched his car take all the width of the terrace to turn, and go off down the drive toward the road: had watched it lift on the hump of the brick bridge spanning the stream just inside the gateway, and had gone back to stand gazing sadly into the fire when Halkin appeared in the doorway. Hilda looked up at her.

"The police inspector, madam."

"Yes? Where is he, Halkin?"

"Waiting in the hall, madam."

"Tell him I will see him in a minute or two."

When, less than five minutes later, she came out to the entrance hall and faced Inspector Head before another of her magnificent fires, he saw her as a stately, perfectly composed woman, one whom he might have regarded as a total stranger to all emotion—but Head was wiser than to judge by appearances. He bowed in answer to her greeting.

"I'm sorry to trouble you again so soon, madam," he said respectfully. "Your Mrs. Halkin told me she didn't think there was any chance of my seeing Mr. Nevile to-day, so I asked to see you instead."

"About what, inspector?" she inquired.

"Well, for one thing, about that room—Mr. Nevile's study. I locked it and gave Mrs. Halkin the key yesterday, asking her to make sure that nothing whatever was touched, but on thinking it over last night I thought I'd set my own mind perfectly at rest by asking either you or Mr. Nevile to back my request to her. That nothing should be touched in there, till I'm content that it should be."

"You can be assured that the room will remain undisturbed," she answered. "Why—is it so very important?"

"Expecting a verdict of manslaughter against Mr. Nevile as I do—from the coroner's jury, that is—or at least a rider to their verdict implying that he's been culpably negligent, I want him to have every chance," he said gravely. "And that room bears evidence."

"I don't see how it possibly can," she dissented. "Still, if you wish it—nobody uses it except Mr. Nevile. Is that all?"

"Thank you for the assurance, madam. No, it isn't quite all. It's just possible that I may want to send men into the house, or even the grounds, to take measurements or confirm my own—"

"Isn't this rather officious of you?" she interrupted sharply. "Mr. Nevile would never permit such a thing, I am perfectly certain, and I see no reason why I should, until he is able to speak for himself."

She was splendid in her cool, perfect dignity, but Head did not flinch before her. He met the gaze of her lovely eyes calmly.

"Madam, there has been a violent death in this house," he said. "An accidental death—I am perfectly sure nobody in this house or out of it wished harm to that unfortunate girl. But at the same time an occurrence of that kind puts certain duties on me—"

"What duties, inspector?" she interrupted again.

"It is not within my obligations to answer that question, madam," he answered with respectful firmness. "I should not think of coming myself, or sending any of my men, to make any but absolutely necessary measurements or observations, and if you refuse that, I must risk their being accused of trespass if I have to send them—which may not be necessary at all. I asked it just as a precaution."

"And on behalf of my husband, I refuse it," she said.

"Splendidly strong," was his inward comment. He inclined his head in acknowledgment of her proud refusal.

"Well, I hope it may not be necessary," he said simply. "Miss Ashton told me yesterday she would let me know when Mr. Nevile could see me. You will have no objection to my coming here for that, I hope?"

"I regard it as a distasteful necessity," she answered stiffly. "It is for Mr. Nevile to say whether he will consent to your interviewing him or no—the matter has nothing whatever to do with me. Good afternoon, inspector."


DURING the five years of his residence at Long Ridge as a married man, Raymond Nevile had had no occasion for the services of a doctor, nor had his wife called one in, and, in the meantime, the practice that had belonged to the old doctor who had attended Nevile's father had been bought by Bennett, a promising youngster who favoured modern methods, was far too outspoken to find favour with older men of his profession in the district, and did not hesitate to show that he regarded their rule-of-thumb systems with contempt. The practice he had bought was a good one, and carried a fair proportion of the local panel with it, but he had begun to feel that he was making no headway at all when his telephone told him that he was wanted at Long Ridge, and then he knew that, being thus appointed medical man to Nevile, he had little to fear. The inquest, too, helped him, and instead of—as he would have expressed it—feeling a draught, he felt that he might yet become the leading physician of the district.

He paid his visit to Nevile on the Sunday morning, and looked rather thoughtful over his patient's expressed intention to get up.

"Try it," he said, "but remember that if you put yourself back, it will be no use blaming me. What do you think, nurse—Miss Ashton, I mean? Has he impressed you as fit to get up yet?"

"I think he might," she answered. "He's eating normally, there are no more signs of sickness, and mentally he's perfectly normal."

"If any of us ever is," Bennett observed reflectively. "Well, Mr. Nevile, if you feel like getting up, get up. But the first moment you feel like going back to bed, back. You've got three stitches in your scalp, and need to be very careful of yourself for the next fortnight, and reasonably careful for a couple of months after that. I'd like just a word with you, Miss Ashton, out of the patient's hearing."

She followed him out to the corridor, and waited.

"Has he been told what happened last Wednesday night?" he asked.

"Not yet," she answered. "Apparently he remembers clearly, up to the flash, as he calls it. There is no gap, as in some cases."

"Well, he's fairly fit, now—so fit that I see no need for me to come in to-morrow, unless you send for me. I've seen Mrs. Nevile each time I've called, so far, and I want to ask you a favour."

"And that is—?" But she knew, as she asked the question.

"That you should tell him what happened, and that the girl who was his secretary was killed by the explosion. He's got to be told."

"Obviously he's got to be told," she agreed. "To-day?"

"I see no reason why it shouldn't be to-day. It won't set him back physically now, and I see as you say that his mind is perfectly normal again. It's going to be a shock to a temperament like his, no matter when he's told, and in a fortnight—considerably less than a fortnight—I've got to admit that he's fit to give evidence at the adjourned inquest. So, to-day or to-morrow, if you will."

"You insist on putting it on me?"

"I do," he answered gravely. "You are a relative—a relative of Mrs. Nevile, in any case, so it isn't as if you stood in the relation of an ordinary nurse to him. In fact I consider your being here most fortunate in every way, and am as grateful to you as anyone could be for your volunteering to take the case. And—and I hope your stay in Westingborough will be a long one."

"That's impossible," she said. "My Co. may send for me at any time after a week, now. I said I wanted a fortnight altogether."

"Which means you're doing private nursing?"

"Obviously, doctor. But I'd better get back to my patient."

"Yes—yes, of course! But there's plenty of opening for another private nurse in Westingborough, Miss Ashton, if you think you could consider it. I'm simply crying for an efficient one, often and often."

"I'll think about it, doctor. And—"

"And you'll tell him? I wish it."

"To-day, or to-morrow, as seems best. If he begins questioning, to-day, perhaps. I had to put him off about it yesterday."

"If he broods over it, uncertainty is worse than the truth," Bennett said. "Your having had to put him off will have told him that there's something serious behind the concealment—you can't hoodwink a man of his mentality. I leave it to you, and trust you to do what is best for him—as long as you yourself tell him."

"Thank you, doctor—I'll get back to him, now."

She had not been present at any of his interviews with Hilda Nevile. On the other hand, she had been in the room each time he had visited Nevile, and knew that no word had fallen from his patient's lips which could drive him to the conclusion that Hilda was not a fit person to impart the news of Phyllis Harland's death to her husband. He could not possibly imagine that Hilda would break down and make a scene—one look at her was enough to prove that she was incapable of doing such a thing. Nor, Berenice decided, was Hilda the type of woman who would advertise that her relations with her husband were not altogether satisfactory. It was puzzling, this insistence of Bennett's.

She found Nevile sitting on the edge of his bed in his pyjamas as she entered the room. He smiled at her.

"Just run away, Berenice," he said. "I don't want a nurse any more, and I'm going to mow the hay off my chin, and come downstairs looking respectable—except for this infernal bandage on my skull."

"I am not so sure about that," she rejoined.

"No? What's the unlikely item in the programme?"

"Before you begin to dress, I have something serious to tell you, about what happened last Wednesday evening."

He looked up at her keenly. "It will be about Miss Harland," he said. "I think—you are going to tell me she is dead."

"I was," she assented. There was no use in withholding the confirmation of his surmise, she felt.

"Yes." He uttered the monosyllable in a thoughtful way, and looked down at his own bare feet on the carpet. "The flash came from where she was standing. It was all confused in my mind at first, when I wakened here in my own room, and I've been puzzling it back, tracing it all as clearly as I could. I felt sure that if the flash did so much to me while I was at the desk—at such a distance from it—and she was so much nearer—I felt sure she must be—" He left it incomplete, and again looked up at her, questioningly.

"Dead—yes," she said.

"I like you, Berenice." He made the remark after a long pause. "You appear to me to have a tremendous fund of common-sense, and I'm afraid I'm rather badly lacking in that quality. And Miss Harland is dead, as I thought. Anything else to tell me before I shave?"

"Yes. The police inspector—Inspector Head, it is—wants to see you about the—the accident—as soon as possible."

"And what did you tell him?"

"I promised to ring him as soon as you were fit to interview him."

"Then you can ring him while I shave and dress myself," he suggested. "The sooner I get that over, the better. Let me see, though. It's Sunday to-day, isn't it?"

She nodded a silent assent. She was still waiting, but quite vainly, for some expression of regret from him over the fact that his carelessness had cost Phyllis Harland her life.

"Yes, Sunday," he said. "Well, if he wants to see me to-day, he can. And after that, I don't need a nurse any more—if I do, I don't intend to have one. Hilda told me you don't get too much enjoyment out of your life as a general rule, so I want you to get out of that uniform and understand that there's a car and chauffeur at your disposal—when she doesn't want them, that is—and have as good a time as possible while you're here. Ringing Inspector Head for me is the last of your official duties. I'm no longer an invalid."

"But Doctor Bennett—" she began to expostulate. He stopped her by shooting a pointing finger toward the door.

"No, Inspector Head," he interrupted. "The final task."

"Since you insist—" she gave in, and left him. Returning after some minutes, she knocked at his door for the first time.

"Wait just a bit," he called. And, later—"you can come in."

He was sitting on the bed again when she entered, but was fully dressed, now. He shook his head at her.

"I don't like my feet," he remarked. "Each of them seems to have a separate will, and they don't like each other, or me. But I'll train 'em in time. Did you get through to Head?"

"I did," she answered. "He would like to see you this afternoon, if it will not inconvenience you."

"It won't," he assured her. "I believe in grasping nettles. Have you any idea where Hilda is, or what she's doing?"

"Out riding, I believe," she answered. "I saw her cantering down beside the drive a few minutes ago—it would be after she had seen Doctor Bennett on his way out and heard his report on you."

"It would," he agreed. "Nothing short of an earthquake would prevent her from having her morning canter. Now if you go and get out of uniform, as a proof that I'm quite recovered, I'll argue my feet into taking me down to the library and have a word with Head as to when he can see me, and you can either join me there or not, as you wish."

"I'll come down with you," she dissented. "It's your first walk."

"Well, for the pleasure of your company I'll resign myself," he said. "Not for any other reason, remember."

She accompanied him as far as the library door, and left him there. He evinced the unsteadiness natural to a man in his state, and made no remark when she took his arm in crossing the entrance hall—the staircase balustrade had served as support for him, until then. Having seen him enter the room safely, she went up to her own room and discarded her uniform: as she put on an ordinary morning frock, Bennett's suggestion recurred to her. Work here might be preferable to the routine of cases she had been attending in London: here, as Hilda's cousin, she would have a certain standing, and might make friends of the kind she liked; in London, she was nobody.

Her mother was the pensioned widow of a colonel of the Indian Army, and she had one sister, self-supporting as was she herself. Neither of the two girls had expectations of any supplement to their own efforts, and Berenice knew that uprooting herself from the fairly good connection she had made in London and settling here would be a serious matter: her place would be filled immediately she left it, and there could be no going back. But she knew herself reasonably attractive, in a quiet way: if Hilda saw fit, she might introduce her cousin to some alternative to a life of private nursing...

BERENICE went down to the library, and saw Nevile sitting in an armchair, looking very grave. She went quickly to him, and removed a cigarette which had begun to burn the arm of his chair.

"Ah, I'd forgotten it!" he observed, looking at the scar on the leather of the chair-arm. "And you—yes, the change is very much for the better. I thought your hair would be like that."

She might have resented the comment from another man, but the utterly impersonal way in which he made it induced amusement rather than resentment. From his first wakening she had liked him for that cool, impersonal regard: they could be good friends, close friends, she knew, as might two men or two women, and no other feeling would ever waken between them; he was such a man as she would have wished a brother to have been, if her mother had borne a man-child.

"It is," she said. "Did you ring Inspector Head?"

"Arranged to see him at three-thirty this afternoon. I might go up and rest for a bit, after lunch. And Halkin has been to tell me that I'm not to go to my own study, which seemed to me rather an infringement on the liberty of the subject. Police orders, according to her. You might think I'd committed a murder there, almost."

"It doesn't appear to trouble you much," she commented. She was still unable to see why he should be so totally unaffected by Miss Harland's death, since he must know that his carelessness had caused the tragedy. He ought to be more concerned, surely!

"If I wanted to go there to-day, I'd go, if I had to smash the lock on the door to get in," he answered. "It's my room, after all. But I don't want to go, yet—don't want to think about work for a day or two. Till I get rid of this infernal bandage, probably."

She faced about quickly as the door opened, and saw Hilda, still in her riding kit. And, for the brief pause in which the two women faced each other, there was a questioning look in Hilda's eyes, almost a hopeful look, Berenice thought. Then Hilda advanced toward the armchair, and looked down at her husband.

"Doctor Bennett told me you meant to get up," she remarked, "and I thought I should find you here. I'm not interrupting, am I?"

Nevile looked up at her with evident annoyance. "Sorry I'm still feeling groggy, and didn't get up, Hilda," he said. "What made you suggest a thing like that—interrupting us?"

"Oh, nurse and patient," she answered, vaguely and carelessly. "It's bitterly cold out, Ray—I see you've abandoned your uniform, Berenice. That's a pretty frock, too. Now we must try and find you some amusements, to compensate for the hard work you've been doing. It was simply providential, your arriving in time. Servants always hate having an ordinary nurse in the house, and you've saved us that."

"My patient has given me no trouble," Berenice said.

"That's unusual for him—isn't it, Ray? Now I'll go and change, to be in time for lunch, and—Oh, Berenice, if you'd like the car, or anything else we have, just tell Ray or me. Perhaps you'd like a drive this afternoon, and it might do him good to get out in the air."

"It won't," Nevile declared with determination, and Berenice felt slightly amused at her cousin's attempt at throwing patient and nurse together: she made no suggestion with regard to sharing the proposed drive with them. Berenice remembered Forrest's entry to the drawing room, and Hilda's greeting him, the night of the explosion.

Nevile smiled up at Berenice after his wife had left the room. She was gazing pensively into the fire, with her profile toward him.

"What are you thinking?" he demanded abruptly.

"Thinking what a perfectly lovely woman Hilda is," she answered without looking round. "The average girl or woman looks a perfect fool in riding breeks and coat, but it suits her—as everything else she wears appears to suit her. I feel wild with envy."

"I'm sorry I accused you of a good stock of common sense a little while ago," he observed. "Beauty, my child, lasts for about a fortnight—that is, the effect of it in close companionship. After that, there must be other qualities to maintain an attraction."

"Yes, but look at what one might do in that fortnight," she pointed out. "If one had the beauty, that is."

"And the object on which to exercise it," he half-gibed. "We must see what we can do toward finding you an object, Berenice. I haven't any compunction over trying, for I know he'd find the qualities that last more nearly a lifetime than a fortnight."

She turned her face toward him, then. "Thank you, Ray," she said quietly. "Not for any attempt at finding an object, but for the real friendship you put into your statement of me."

"Result of experience," he observed lightly. "I'm glad it's nearly lunch time, aren't you? I feel like ostrich eggs for hors d'oeuvre and saddle of elephant for joint. And a butt of malmsey, with no Clarence in it, to wash the little snack down."

"SIT down, inspector. Bring that chair nearer the fire."

"Thank you, sir." Inspector Head pulled the armchair to the edge of the hearthrug. "It is a bit nippy to-day."

There was snug satisfaction in the way in which he seated himself, turning the chair so that he had a clear view of Nevile's face. The tall window of the library admitted plenty of daylight, as yet, and Nevile faced toward it. Head decided that he looked quite composed.

"About that poor girl's death, you said," he opened. "As far as I'm concerned, I've no more objection to telling you about it—all I can, that is—on Sunday than any other day. But why you should see fit to spoil what might be a perfectly good holiday for you—"

He paused, and looked expectantly at his visitor.

"There is—a certain urgency," Head said, almost absently, and gazing at the glowing coals in the big grate. "For one thing, I want your statement, sir, as to your part in causing her death—"

"My part?" Nevile's exclamation was ringingly sharp, and Head started as he looked round in response to it. "Just put that into plain English, inspector, will you?" Nevile asked after a pause.

"Certainly, sir." There was a chill stiffness in the reply. "At the inquest on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Forrest detailed how you'd been inventing a new sort of dye that came out in solid chunks, and had to be made into a solution before it could be used. In the solid, it was a dangerously high explosive. You agree with that, sir?"

"Quite," Nevile answered. "Go on with it."

"Mr. Forrest suggested, as the only possible reason for such an explosion as killed Miss Harland, that you must have left a lump of the stuff on the table—there's a hole in that table you could put your head through—and that it exploded and killed her when she was answering a telephone call for you—a call about a cable from America, put through to you on that line from your works."

"Mr. Forrest suggested that, did he?" Nevile said quietly. "And what did he suggest caused the explosion—detonated the substance?"

"He said, sir, that the solid dye detonated very easily. He suggested that Miss Harland took the telephone instrument up from the table to talk into the transmitter—at least, took it up from the table, which was a perfectly natural thing to do, and jarred it down again rather heavily when she'd finished talking. The jar detonated the lump of dye lying there—caused the explosion."

"I see." Nevile's voice was quietly, almost ominously thoughtful. "And where does my part in causing her death come in?"

"Simply your carelessness in leaving stuff like that about, sir," Head explained. "The coroner's jury may take a very serious view of that, sir—a very serious view indeed, for you."

"Put that also into plain language," Nevile demanded coolly.

"They may, and probably will, return a verdict of manslaughter," Head pointed out. "Whether it would hold at a trial is another thing, but certainly negligence like that is culpable, to a certain extent."

"It would be very culpable—very culpable indeed, inspector," Nevile said gravely. "As it happens, though, you've got this story all wrong. Shall I tell you what happened, as far as my memory goes?"

"I wish you would, sir. That's what I'm here for."

"Well, then! I'd kept Miss Harland more than an hour beyond her usual time, and she appeared bad-tempered over it, which made me bad-tempered in turn. She'd made several bad blunders in transcribing the letters and other things I'd dictated to her—"

"Just one moment, sir," Head interrupted. "Did you often keep her, or whoever might be your secretary, long past the usual time?"

"Never later than ten minutes past six, up to that night, though I usually stayed working either in the laboratory or the study myself till near on dinner time—near on seven-thirty. It may have been the fact that she was made to stay late—the idea that I was establishing a new precedent—that made her bad-tempered. I don't know, but she was, and so, in consequence, was I. I remember it clearly."

"Very good, sir. You'd never kept her or anyone late like that before. That's what I want to get clear."

"Never, though I don't see what point there is in it."

"Never mind, sir. Will you carry on with your account, now?"

"It's hardly that. The telephone rang. I was sitting at my desk, irritated at the mess she'd made of two letters. I'd told her she needn't come to Long Ridge again, but Forrest was to send Miss Morland, who had replaced her as his secretary when she came to me. He could have her back, I thought. That's explaining how I felt about her then, poor girl—I wish I hadn't, now. When I heard the telephone, I told her to answer it, and naturally looked round—swung my chair round—because I knew it could only be about that American cable, and was interested in what the reply would be. You get that?"

"Perfectly, sir. She took the call, and you sat waiting at the desk to hear what it was—you were looking at her?"

"I was. Now get this carefully, inspector. I saw her lift the receiver and put it to her ear. I heard her say—'Hello!' She may have said one or two more words—I'm not sure about that, but she did not lift the telephone instrument from the table, so she couldn't have jarred it in putting it down. And she didn't finish talking, as you suggest—you can check up on that, if it's important, by having a talk to our man Anderson at the works. He'd be the one who stayed behind to get the cable and telephone it through to my study. I heard her say 'Hello!' as I tell you, and she may have said a word or two more. May have, for I'm not sure, but she didn't complete her opening sentence before the flash came. I just saw it. I heard no explosion, but saw it, and then I wakened up in bed."

"And she didn't lift the telephone instrument?" Head asked.

"No. Leaned down toward it with one hand on the table before she took the receiver off. A telephone instrument is a fairly heavy thing for a girl like that to hold—that one felt weighty to me, at least."

"Yes," Head reflected. "The metal base is a good weight, of course, to keep the thing steady while it's standing. Yes, heavy—"

"So you see," Nevile interrupted, "Forrest's story at the inquest is all wrong. She couldn't have jarred anything explosive by putting the instrument down, because she didn't lift it up."

"It exploded somehow, and blew a green marble clock totally out of existence—except for one spindle with a wheel on it," Head said.

"What exploded?" Nevile asked interestedly.

"The lump of solid dye you left lying there," Head explained. "And that, sir, is the big trouble, as far as you're concerned. Whether Miss Harland lifted the telephone instrument or talked into it as it stood, there's no doubt that something she did while she was answering that call detonated the lump of dye you'd put there—and forgotten, I suppose. Else, you'd never have left such a dangerous thing lying about where it could do all the mischief it eventually did."

"I certainly should not," Nevile agreed. "Now supposing I tell you, inspector, that I did not leave a lump of explosive matter of any kind on that table? Supposing I tell you that all the explosive matter in my laboratory consisted of two pounds, fourteen and a half ounces of that same dye, weighed and put in a cardboard box with the weight written on the lid by me in pencil? Supposing I tell you further that the cardboard box with the two pounds fourteen ounces of dye inside it is at present locked in the safe in my laboratory, and that never at any time did I take the smallest portion of the stuff into the study? What are you going to say about culpable negligence then?"

Head's eyes—and his mouth too—opened more and more widely as Nevile spoke. Then his mouth closed, and he nodded.

"Very good, sir. Very good! But you'll never get the coroner's jury to believe that, now. Don't hope for it."

"Not when I state it on oath?" Nevile demanded.

"Not even then, sir. They've been told one story, and got it fixed in their minds that you did leave a lump of the stuff on the table. Your denying it will merely look like trying to clear yourself of the accusation of almost criminal carelessness—"

"But I've got to deny it, if I'm to swear to the truth!" Nevile interrupted angrily. "Of course, I see how it happened. Forrest came and talked to me in the laboratory in the afternoon, and I hadn't weighed and packed the stuff away then. It was lying on my work-bench under the laboratory window—both he and I handled lumps of it before I went back into the study, and he concluded I took a lump in there and put it down. But I did nothing of the sort—there were four lumps of it, and you'll find four in that cardboard box." He detached a ring of keys from a chain attached to his waist-belt, and held them out, separating one from the rest. "Here's the key of the safe—go and weigh up those four lumps for yourself, inspector, and make sure that the two pounds fourteen ounces, or thereabouts, is still there. Forrest jumped to that because there could be no other possible explanation for an explosion. There's nothing else explosive in either study or laboratory."

"The coroner's jury will not believe you, sir," Head repeated stubbornly. "They have a feasible explanation, and you seem to have nothing to put in its place. Something exploded."

"Damn and blast the coroner's jury!" Nevile himself exploded over it. "Why should I lie about it? If I'd been negligent, I'd own to it. But I wasn't."

"We shall have to leave it at that, sir," Head said non-committally.

Nevile kept silent for a minute or two. Then he leaned back in his chair with an audible sigh, and pocketed his keys again.

"It being such a very cold day, inspector, perhaps you'd like a cup of tea before you start back?" he suggested.

"Thank you, sir, and it's very good of you to offer it, but I think I ought to be going." Head rose as he spoke. "I hope you'll soon be quite fit again, sir, and that we can find some way of convincing the jury that you're not—well, trying to excuse yourself."

"Oh, to hell with the lot of 'em!" Nevile retorted disgustedly. "Let them think what they like and do what they like."

"Well, I think that's all, sir, thanks very much. I'll—"

"It isn't all," Nevile interrupted. "What's this about my being kept out of my own study?"

Head reflected over it. "Now I've heard what you have to say, sir, I've no need to keep you out of it," he answered. "I'm sorry if it's caused any inconvenience so far—"

"It hasn't—nobody but myself is allowed in there—except for my secretary, of course. All right, inspector—that is all, now."

"Thank you very much, sir. Good afternoon."


"HELL'S work, of some kind," said Nevile.

He stood by the desk in his study, surveying the untouched room with papers scattered about the floor, dust on the furniture, the jagged hole in the centre table where the telephone instrument had stood, his swivel chair lying overturned, and, grimmest of all reminders of the tragedy that to him had been a blaze of light and no more, the great brown blotch on the carpet near where Miss Harland had been standing when she reached out and removed the receiver.

"On whose part?" Hilda, beside him, put the question.

"Nobody's, apparently," he answered. "Head told me yesterday afternoon that the blame will lie on me for carelessness with an explosive substance, and I suppose I shall have to—but what's the use? The girl is dead, and I can't call her back. That carpet will have to come out, and I'll have the side table out of the library in here till a new one can be made for me. You might tell Halkin I want that window re-glazed to-day, and all these loose papers can be stacked on the desk—they can be sorted by whatever secretary I can get from the works, under my supervision. I feel practically fit again now, and mean to start work again to-morrow—on that dye."

"Ray, you really ought not to start so soon," she expostulated.

"Possibly not, but I shall," he retorted. "There's nothing—no! Nothing lying about that can't be cleared up for me, as long as every scrap of paper is kept for sorting. I'm sorry about the little clock you gave me. Head described it as blown out of existence."

"I'll get you another," she promised.

He turned and looked at her. "Thank you, dear," he said quietly.

She flushed deeply under his gaze. "Since—since you give me everything, Ray, it's a very small return," she observed haltingly.

"No, Hilda," he dissented, still speaking very quietly. "I don't give you everything. Which may be one reason why I shall start work again to-morrow. Ah, Berenice!" He glanced toward the doorway leading to the laboratory. "Have you come to see the wreckage, or the wreck? I'm beginning work here again to-morrow, so this is your last chance to inspect these rooms. The ban goes up again to-morrow."

Berenice advanced into the room. "Halkin told me you were both here," she said. "She was coming to find you, but I told her I'd come myself. Doctor Bennett wants to see you."

"Stitches out, I hope, and then I can look forward to dispensing with the bandage," Nevile observed. "I must have a word with Forrest on the line—Ah, there isn't any line through, though, till I get another instrument in here! I'll get him from the library through the exchange, then, and see if he'll let me have Miss Morland out here. And the good doctor—yes. Will you tell Halkin about the window and carpet and table, Hilda, while I see Bennett?"

"Yes, I'll tell her," she promised, with a listless intonation.

"Then if you'll excuse me, I'll go along."

He went out, leaving them to follow as they would. Hilda gave her cousin a steady look, questioning inwardly whether Berenice had heard what Nevile had been saying as she entered.

"In my opinion, he ought not to begin again so soon," she said.

"Do you know any way of stopping him?" Berenice inquired coolly.

Hilda shook her head. "He lives for this, I believe," she answered.

"Energy like a fire." Berenice's voice had a note of regret in it. "And he might have been so wonderful, if he—"

"Is wonderful," Hilda interrupted, rather sharply. "I think it was Sir Arthur Endliss, the research chemist, or whatever he is called, who said Ray was the only great genius of his generation in the particular line he had chosen. And that's why—" She broke off abruptly.

"Why what?" Berenice asked curiously, after waiting for the end of the sentence. The break had covered a betrayal, obviously.

"Why he leaves another man to manage his business, and concentrates all his energies on this laboratory," Hilda explained, rather lamely—Berenice felt it was not the original end to her statement. "It would be too great a waste of a brain like his to cramp it down to routine."

"Then you are proud of him?" Berenice suggested.

"The emphasis on the 'are' suggests that you thought I was not," Hilda retorted rather coldly. "Naturally I am proud of him."

Recalling this conversation at a far later day, Berenice questioned if at that time Hilda had felt any remorse over her conduct with regard to Nevile. That she was then in love with Forrest, Berenice had no doubt: their meeting in her presence, and the change that sight of Forrest had wrought in Hilda, was proof enough of the place she accorded him in her heart. But, of the two men, Nevile was by far the finer character, and possibly his words to his wife—Berenice had overheard them as she entered from the laboratory—had momentarily stung Hilda to a realisation of her own injustice in taking all from him and giving little or nothing in return. It was a hopeless situation: she could not compel her love from Forrest back to him, and, lacking the love itself, he would ask none of its manifestations from her. The root wrong lay in her having accepted him, married him, without the love that should have impelled her: from that error, or deliberate wrong toward him, all this present tangle had been woven.

All three, Berenice felt, were in untenable positions: sooner or later a crash would come. Not realising how both Nevile and—in a lesser degree—Forrest felt their responsibility to Westingborough, she wondered why the crash had been so long delayed.

ON that Monday morning Inspector Head sat facing his chief, Superintendent Wadden, in the latter's office, and on the flat desk between the two lay the little brass clock wheel with its tiny steel spindle, and the damaged telephone instrument base which Head had brought away from Nevile's study. Wadden was an enormously stout man, with rolls of flesh bulging over the edge of his uniform collar, and small, rather fierce grey eyes under bushy brows. He had a way of blowing his breath through his lips, suggestive of a cat's purring, and altogether was a most unattractive personality, at first sight. But those who knew him well said that he was the kindest-hearted policeman who ever ran a burglar in, and his own men would do anything for him.

"You've got this"—he took up the little wheel in his pudgy fingers—"and you've got that." He jabbed the wheel toward the twisted piece of metal. "And what do they amount to?"

"I've also seen the man Anderson, and got his confirmation of Nevile's statement that the girl had only just said 'Hello' when the crash came," Head answered. "I took good care to question him about it in the presence of one of the girls in the office. He was dictating letters to her at the time, and I said she needn't go. So he can't go back on that statement, when we want it made."

"Which, assuming we go on with this, will not be at the resumption of the adjourned inquest," Wadden suggested.

"It would be a pity if it were," Head agreed. "If I'm right, this is going to be big. Very big indeed, in fact."

"I entirely disapprove of your idea of getting Nevile indicted for manslaughter," Wadden said, after a period of reflection. "You ought not to disturb anybody, but wangle it into a verdict of accidental death, and let them all sit pretty and think we're asleep—till we prove ourselves wide awake. It's much better, so."

"Yes, you're right," Head assented, after another pause. "But if they know I'm making inquiries—like this from Anderson—"

"You needn't make another inquiry that they could trace," Wadden interrupted. "Your first job is over this"—he held up the little brass wheel again—"and you won't learn anything about it within a hundred miles of here. Now, to begin with, I'll see the coroner."

"To tell him—?" Head suggested, and waited.

"That he's got to direct the jury to a verdict of accidental death," Wadden completed. "They may put in a rider condemning Nevile for criminal negligence, but if they do we'll take no notice of it—let it ride till we've got all we want. And in that connection, I wish we had that clock, or some of it. I'd feel happier, then."

"I'll leave the coroner to you, then," Head observed.

"And the clock, though I've very little hope of it."

"You never know," Head prophesied. "You know, supe, I've got an idea that luck falls our way more often than we realise. I don't mean that I ever depend on luck, but I do believe that if you go on doing your very best over a case, you get just that little bit of fat that completes it, literally thrown at you, sometimes. And by to-night every pawnbroker and jewellery dealer and watch maker and curio merchant will be on the look-out for that clock within a twenty-mile radius of here, and the memo is marked confidential at that! I risked it."

"Good for you, Head! I can see you're going to deserve all the fame you're sure to get out of this case—if it is one."

"I've no doubt it's a case," Head said confidently. "I don't believe you have either. But as for getting fame out of it, you, supe—"

"No, it's your case, and your leg-up to a job like mine, when the time comes for it," Wadden interrupted. "I shall be retired and growing tomatoes under glass in a year from now, and the credit of it would never add a penny to my pension, but it may do you some good. And you put out a memo, eh? Well, leave that to me, as well as the coroner. I'll see to both for you, while you're following up this." He put the little brass wheel down on the desk.

"Then there's that." Head pointed at the telephone instrument base, lying bottom upward, so that the dab of white paint with pencilled figures on it showed. "It's a link, and an important one, too."

"Leave it to me, man. Telephone engineers can tell me all I want to know about it. The biggest thing of all, to us, is that little wheel and spindle, and that's your job, my lad."

"My absence might cause comment," Head pointed out.

"With a verdict of accidental death and no action taken by us? Not it! In any case, look here! I'm going to turn the car out in half an hour, and go and make a call on the chief constable. I'm going to put all your facts and theories before him, just as you've put them to me, and I'm going to tell him that I want his permission to say I've given you indefinite leave of absence on account of your health—worked yourself to death over the Carvell burglary, and never quite got over the whack on the sconce you had then. We'll get a paragraph in the local paper about it, if he agrees to what I suggest. You go with carte blanche in the matter of expenses—within reason, of course—and when you've got what you want, come back. You'll need photographs—put in one of Nevile, and one of me, and one of anyone else you like—and the essential ones, of course. When you've tracked that brass wheel down, I think, you can come back a happy man."

"When I've tracked it down!" Head echoed dubiously.

"Well, what's your brain for? I think we've covered the whole thing, haven't we. Clock—your memo—telephone—engineers' department of the telephone service. Anderson you've already covered. The coroner is my affair. And you're going on leave, lucky devil! Head, it appears to me a case for adjourning this conference across the road, and telling Little Nell when to stop with the soda. What say?"

"Chief, that's a brainy suggestion!" Head exclaimed as he rose to his feet. "Especially with a bite in the wind like there is to-day."

IF, in mid-afternoon of that day, Inspector Head could have seen the weary, depressed-looking figure of Alfred Potter, tramping with painful steps along the road that led by way of Westingborough Parva toward Westingborough Magna, he would hardly have connected that figure with the luck of which he had spoken to Superintendent Wadden—the luck that sometimes comes in as an encouragement to sustained and earnest effort. He saw nothing of Alfred, however, for at that time he was busy packing for what might prove a prolonged absence from Westingborough: the chief constable had harkened to Wadden's story, and seen fit to release Inspector Head from all his normal duties in order that he might concentrate on this case as outlined to him by the superintendent. So Head packed, ready to leave for London the following morning.

And Alfred Potter, agricultural labourer, and therefore ineligible for unemployment pay, limped, obviously footsore and very depressed, through the little village street of Westingborough Parva, and along the road through the valley toward the bigger Westingborough. He had done over twenty miles that day; he had tried at farm after farm to obtain work, but vainly, for the harvest was in long since, the autumn ploughing finished, and farmers were dismissing hands instead of taking new men into employ. Alfred knew this well enough, but some miracle might disclose an opening of some sort, somewhere, if he kept on inquiring long enough: in any case, he could keep on until he dropped, and then there would be a comfortable bed in an infirmary, somewhere, until he was fit to pursue his penniless way along the roads again.

He was middle-aged, shaggy-whiskered, and his gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes betrayed the fact that he had had scant food for some time past. In midmorning of that day, a sympathetic domestic had given him a hunk of stale bread and a big wedge of cheese, for which he had thanked her with tears in his eyes, for he had had nothing to eat the preceding day, and was faint and consequently emotional. On that, to him a hearty meal, he had made the rest of his calls, seen at a glance that there could be nothing for him in Westingborough Parva, and so come out to the open road, which followed the course of the stream running on to Westingborough Magna—a stream of peculiar virtue, as shall be told—and, on its way, passing through the outer edge of the park in which stood Long Ridge, with a hawthorn fence dividing it from the road.

About a quarter-mile from the gate giving access to the drive of Long Ridge, Alfred Potter came on a stationary car with its off hind wheel jacked up, and a very greasy-handed man kneeling in the road and swearing. Alfred paused momentarily and hopefully to observe the swearer and his trouble, and saw him looking into the end of a wheel brace while he consigned its maker to regions where the brace itself, if tradition could be relied on, would become mere molten metal.

"Want any help, guv'nor?" Alfred inquired.

"Get to hell out of this!" the motorist growled back.

"Orlright, guv'nor. No need to be narsty about it."

He started on his way, and had taken half a dozen steps, when—

"Here, you! Know anything about cars?"

Alfred faced about. "I driv' a farm tractor on me larst job," he answered. "What is it, guv'nor? What's wrong wi' this?"

"This blasted wheel brace." The owner of the article held it up. "That tyre is punctured, and I want to get the wheel off. The brace is worn inside the hexagon so that it slips on the nuts, and they're so tight an ordinary spanner won't touch 'em. Rusted on—haven't been off since that tyre was new, and that's fourteen thousand miles running."

"Mind if I have a look, guv'nor?"

"Oh, look and be damned to you! I mean, look all you like, if you think you can do anything. It's worn to hell."

Looking inside the hexagon, Alfred saw that it was indeed worn past further use. He scratched the back of his hand on his chin bristles, and put the brace down beside its owner's tool kit.

"An' you say a spanner don't shift 'em, guv'nor?" he asked.

"Damn it man, try it yourself, if you want to! I've blistered my hands enough. Blast and damn the swine who tightened 'em—"

He broke off in a way that indicated realisation of the paucity of his vocabulary in a situation like this. Alfred pondered.

"Got a oil can, guv'nor?" he inquired eventually.

"Under the bonnet," the motorist responded shortly.

Alfred got the can, and oiled the thread of each bolt that held a refractory nut. "Mind if I go right ahead, guv'nor?" he asked.

"Get on with it, if it makes you happy." The motorist took a lump of cotton waste from under the back seat of the car, and wiped his hands on it. He appeared resigned, but also disgusted beyond excursions in profanity. The palm of his right hand was bleeding, and he wiped it very gently, and damned the car again.

Three ordinary, double-ended spanners lay beside the tool-kit. Alfred took up one, and found that the jaws of its larger end fitted perfectly on the nuts that would not turn. The motorist emitted a scornful "Ha!" as he observed the act. "Now break your blasted wrist," he suggested. "I've tried that, and I'm a stronger man than you."

Alfred put the spanner down again without replying, and turned over the tools in the kit. He found what he sought, a big box-spanner about a foot in length. He fitted the ordinary spanner inside one end of it, gripped the nut as before, and, with the additional foot of leverage, put his weight on the end of the box spanner. And the nut turned.

"God bless you, man!" the motorist gasped. "Why the devil didn't I think of that myself? Hand it to me! I'll start the other five."

Obediently, Alfred handed over the improvised tool. The motorist thrust his dirty hand in his trouser pocket, produced a few silver coins, and handed over a shilling. Alfred took it gratefully; it meant food for the night, if not a bed.

"Thank you very much, guv'nor. I s'pose you don't know a job goin' on a farm anywhere round here, do you? I done about twenty mile to-day tryin' to find one somewhere."

"No, I don't. Here"—he added sixpence to the original shilling. "I travel in patent medicines, so I don't know anything about farming. But you'll find a big motor garage in Westingborough, where I've just come from. They might want a man there."

"Thank you very much, guv'nor. Kin I help you any more?"

"No, it's all right now, thanks to you. You get along. It doesn't take two men to change a wheel, once the blasted thing is off."

"Right you are, guv'nor, an' thank you very much."

He limped on, but in a far less depressed way, for a sixpence and a shilling in his pocket made a vast difference to his outlook. It might be worth while trying for work at the garage, if he could get so far before nightfall: "No" wouldn't kill him, he decided, or he would have been dead long since. This country was strange to him, and he wished, a hundred yards along the road from the car, that he had asked its owner how far it was to the garage in question. But going back to ask would add two hundred yards to his journey, and his raw, sore feet put an extra two hundred yards out of the question.

A little farther along the road, he saw a big white gate giving on to a drive, and, looking across the rising ground through which the drive led, he saw a big house backed against a long, tree-covered ridge, and shook his head. That sort of place, a gentleman's mansion, was of no use to him: they chased you away, generally. But, a few yards inside the gate, he saw a humped brick bridge, and knew that it spanned the stream he had crossed in coming through the village about a mile back along the road. A clear, noble-looking stream, and if he could find a likely pool somewhere near that bridge, and lave his sore feet in it, and wring out his socks in the water as well, the rest of his journey might be easier. It would be a chilly business, but his feet were very sore indeed. Yes, worth trying: if they ran him in for trespass, he would at least get a free night's lodging.

So he opened the gate, and entered. Up-stream from the bridge, and shadowed by it, he saw the very pool he wanted: leaves and dead rubbish high above the present edge showed that the water was low, as the drought of the past three weeks rendered inevitable; the strand was pebbly, and there was a stray brick on which he could sit for his foot-bath. He climbed down, adjusted the brick near the edge of the water, seated himself on it, and removed his boots and socks, revealing purple, blistered toes with raw and bloody patches on them where the skin had altogether rubbed away. Although the ice-cold water made him shiver as he thrust both feet in it, the relief from the burning pain of that soreness was exquisite—and he had eighteenpence in his pocket!

He bent low when a car came through the gateway, its chauffeur stopping outside on the road to open the gate, and inside to close it. The high, grassy bank of the stream hid Alfred then: the parapet of the bridge did him like service as the car passed over. It had gone but a little way when the sun came out, and shone on to the pool through the arch of the bridge. And, in the pale, slanting rays, Alfred Potter saw something glittering among the pebbles that formed the bed of the pool.

He bent farther over the water, still sitting on his brick, and saw that the glittering thing was the glass face of a little, square clock, of which the case looked greenish under the water.


ALMOST coincidently with the point in time at which Alfred Potter sat on a brick and laved his sore feet in the little River Idleburn, Hector Forrest entered his private office by way of the big outer room in which the main staff of Nevile and Forrest entered up ledgers, sent out invoices, placated angry consignees, and did all the rest of the things and people who needed doing. Dorothy Morland, his secretary, looked up at him, and saw that he was more than usually thoughtful, and also that the worried frown, which had characterised his expression since the tragedy of the preceding week, had almost disappeared. He stood between her desk and his own, a fine six feet of manhood, but she did not like him; she had been in the service of the firm nearly a year, had been appointed secretary to him for more than three months—since Miss Harland had gone as secretary to Nevile, in fact—but she did not like this man. It was an instinctive aversion, for which she could not have accounted: he was courteous, reasonable in his demands on her, all that an employer should be, but still she did not like him.

"Miss Morland," he said, with the air of a man who approaches a disagreeable task, and intends to get it over as quickly as possible, "I want to make a change. One that concerns you."

She waited, without replying. Forrest sat down at his desk and looked at the few letters that had come for him by the midday mail, opened, and each with a pencilled reminder of the subject to which it referred. He took up one letter and fiddled with it, nervously.

"Mr. Nevile and I have talked this out on the telephone," he explained, "and we have come to the conclusion that you must go."

She sat with no thought of reply, now: the statement came to her as a violent shock. In the little time she had worked in this room, she had become a confidant in many of the inner workings of the firm, and had considered herself secure in her post. She had given whole-hearted effort to her work, and now Forrest spoke his incredibility. As he said no more, she realised that he was waiting for some reply from her, and eventually forced herself to speak—

"Yes, Mr. Forrest?"

Then, realising all that it would mean, she turned her face away from him: flung out from Nevile and Forrest's, who would want her services? She could go back to London and take what an agency might offer, begin again somewhere else, and fit herself into a fresh groove—or endure weeks, and perhaps months, of unemployment. She had thought herself into the ways of this firm until she knew its intricacies—except for those inner secrets of process that Raymond Nevile kept to himself—and she had been happy here, too. But Forrest spoke again.

"Mr. Nevile agrees with me," he said. "You have seen him here, and can probably form some idea of what he is. And you know what I am. He creates, I organise—and Westingborough lives by it—four-fifths of the place, at least. We live by it too. And you—we agree that Miss Elmer should take your place with me, while you go to Mr. Nevile and work henceforth at Long Ridge with him."

He did not see how she gripped the edge of her desk to hold herself up as she sat, bent forward to get the full sense of his words. For the relief to her embodied in his last words was dazing, a mighty thing.

"I don't feel very happy over suggesting this to you, after what happened at Long Ridge last week," Forrest went on. "It is for you, of course, to say whether you will agree to the transfer, but I see no other way of meeting Mr. Nevile's wishes. You know the inner side of the business, and I credit you with the initiative—and discretion, especially—that he will expect, and has a right to expect. If you agree to this, you will have to go to and from Long Ridge every day. You know without my telling that Mr. Nevile would never work here, or anywhere but there, and since the mountain won't come to Mahomet—"

She nodded comprehension. "I am to be Mahomet," she suggested.

"Just so." Forrest nodded encouragingly. "And I take it that you have no objection to making the change—transferring from me to him?"

"None whatever," she said, "since you and he both wish it."

"We do. You will go out to Long Ridge every day instead of coming here—in bad weather, we can get one of the works' cars to take you there, and call for you too. And since you agree to go, there are a few things I want to tell you, Miss Morland. I don't know if you are acquainted with the history of the firm?"

She shook her head. "Except that the river—" she said, and paused.

"Precisely," he agreed. "But there's more than that. I'll just sketch it for you, as it was to have been set out in a brochure I planned, but Mr. Nevile did not approve. And I have a reason in this—I'm not talking just for the sake of telling you a story, you understand?"

"Quite. It is for enlightenment that I shall need."

"That you may need. Mr. Nevile is not an ordinary man, in many ways. The story begins four generations back, Miss Morland, though the Neviles are far older than that—they go back directly to Richard the king-maker, and have been squires of Westingborough for many generations, though that counts for nothing in these days, and has nothing to do with this story. It begins with John Nevile, great-grandfather of my partner, who tried the experiment of growing flax in this district, and found the soil was not suitable. I don't know the ins and outs of it. Some grudge he had about imported flax, or something of the sort, a forerunner of the movement for supporting home industries. Smocking had not died out then—shepherds' smocks, and things of that sort, and he tried to grow the flax and establish a linen industry. When he found he couldn't get flax to grow round here, he concentrated on the linen industry, and established quite a respectable little group of weavers in a purely agricultural district. At a loss, of course, but the Neviles were pretty well-off, on the whole, and he was not worried about the loss."

"That was the beginning of these present works," she suggested.

"Say the cause of the beginning," he amended. "The manufacture of linen didn't pay—we still manufacture at a loss, as far as the linen itself is concerned. No, Richard Nevile, John's son, was the founder of the firm. Until he took an active part as heir to his father's estate and property, Nevile linens were no more than any other. It was he who found that there are peculiar properties in the water of the River Idleburn as far as dyeing is concerned, producing a more brilliant and perfect dye than can be obtained elsewhere. It was he who established the reputation of Nevile dyes for really fine fabrics, and began turning an agricultural village into a prosperous town."

"So it is the river, and not the Neviles?" she queried. "I thought it was—but you can get the chemical properties of any water by mixing, surely, reproduce them by adding the necessary constituents—"

"You can synthesise—yes. But synthesis does not produce exactly the same results—I'm glad you understand what I'm talking about, Miss Morland. You can synthesise Burton water, but never get Burton ales outside Burton. You can synthesise West of England water, but you've got to go to the West of England to get the fast-colour serges they produce. So in scores of things—you can synthesise formic acid, but it takes a bee to make honey. And you may synthesise Idleburn water, but you can never produce the richness of colour there is in a Nevile-dyed velvet or brocade with the synthetic water. You see that?"

"It is a monopoly," she assented.

"Was, as long as the water was the only cause of superiority, which was as long as Richard Nevile controlled the business. Then came his son John, my partner's father, and he had to contend against the development and perfecting of the aniline dyes—the coal tar series. He fought them by lowering prices, and kept going at a loss for years rather than close the business down. Then, being no mean chemist, he called in my predecessor to manage the business—promoted his managing clerk to a directorship, in fact—and retired to Long Ridge, built the present east wing to make himself a laboratory, and set to work to beat aniline colours—with the help of the Idleburn water, of course. He knew it was still an asset, if he could get the colours. And as far as reds and yellows and their compounds are concerned, he got them before he died. Three years before his death—nine years ago, that is—I succeeded the former managing director here, and here I am yet. And Raymond Nevile, like his father, does laboratory work at Long Ridge, and without that work the firm of Nevile and Forrest would cease to exist. In the six years since he took over full control, he has given us five new processes one after another, and if he did nothing for the next ten years we should still be known all over the world as unequalled for our products. But now—his father gave us red and yellow, and now he is about to give us blue, such a blue as has never been seen before."

"And that is the dye—" she hesitated, rather nervously.

"The dye which caused Miss Harland's death," he completed for her. "Yes. It isn't perfect yet. And because of that—her death—I felt very doubtful about suggesting that you should go. Go in her place, I mean. But since you have expressed your willingness, I'm telling you exactly why Mr. Nevile works as he does, and we're quite content that he should work in that way. Now I come to the point of the story I've told you, and that point is Raymond Nevile himself."

He paused. She sat listening intently.

"Raymond Nevile, and Westingborough, and myself," he resumed. "He and I had this business handed on to us at his father's death. I am only an outsider admitted to the inner councils, but I have my share of responsibility. Westingborough numbers a population of about ten thousand, and of that total fully eight thousand, directly or indirectly, live by the firm of Nevile and Forrest. The well-being of those people is a trust in Nevile's hands and mine. If I defaulted, he would be lost, utterly devoid of business instinct as he is. If he were taken away, I could only carry on with our present methods until we found ourselves swamped and ruined through failure to keep ahead of our competitors—business is a fierce battle, believe me. And with the downfall of Nevile and Forrest would come a reversion of Westingborough to the standing of a mere agricultural village—eight thousand people would have to sell their homes for what they would fetch and go to compete for employment in the Lancashire cotton mills, the Belfast weaving district, or elsewhere—they would be no more use here, for Idleburn water would never maintain our reputation without Nevile's genius for discovery. Is all that quite clear to you?"

"Quite clear," she answered. "And your reason for telling me?"

"Raymond Nevile himself," he said as before. "I sent him Miss Harland, and it appears she was hopelessly incapable of understanding him, from what he has said to me since. I've watched you, perhaps more closely than you'd think, and I believe you've got the tact and understanding to fill this post, the patience to endure his moods—for they're legion, those moods of his—and the insight and ability to do his work almost before he knows he wants it done. I want you to see this as I see it, Miss Morland. I want you to understand that being secretary to Raymond Nevile is no ordinary post, that you've got to make yourself a supplement to him, your brain a part of his, and make that post your life. In taking it, you take part of the responsibility to Westingborough that he and I feel, and that keeps us where we are."

"When do you wish me to begin?" she asked quietly.

"That's the spirit I hoped to find in you," he observed. "I'll get Miss Elmer to come in now, and you can tell her the elements of my work, but there will be nobody to initiate you—you'll have to work by instinct till you learn his ways. I said, if you consented to take the post, you should be there at ten to-morrow morning—after that, you must look to him to fix your hours. And as far as Miss Elmer is concerned"—he indicated the telephone instrument on his desk—"she can ring through to you at Long Ridge on this private line if she wants to know anything you've forgotten to tell her to-day."

"Ten to-morrow morning—yes," she said reflectively.

"I don't want to give you the impression that Mr. Nevile is erratic, or that he has too many of the faults of genius," he pointed out. "You will get to know him, I hope, and give him the aid he wants."

"It will not be through lack of trying, if I don't," she said.

"Then that's settled." He stood up with a sigh of relief, and pressed a button on his desk to summon Miss Elmer.

Dorothy Morland saw him standing thus, an erect, alert figure of a man, with strong, resolute face—an iron man, she considered him then, and one whose unerring accuracy in matters of detail had welded Nevile's flashes of inspiration into a solid fabric of prosperity, both for themselves and Westingborough. Each was indispensable to the other, and each in his own way indispensable to the industry they maintained.

"These letters—I'll leave them till you've had your talk with Miss Elmer, and tackle them with her," he said. "Good luck to you at Long Ridge, Miss Morland—take the rest of the afternoon off when you've finished inducting your successor here." She watched the door close behind him, and open again to admit the prim little figure of Miss Elmer, hitherto secretary to Anderson, the office manager. And Dorothy Morland felt apprehensive, almost afraid. She had had no difficulty in getting to understand Forrest, fitting herself to his ways and anticipating his needs, but Nevile—there was a horse of another colour!

FORREST entered the little glass cage in which Anderson worked and overlooked his subordinates in the office. In—as the reporters say—a few brief, well-chosen phrases, he intimated the change that he had made, and told Anderson to engage another typist for the office staff and make his own choice of a secretary to succeed Miss Elmer.

"Very good, Mr. Forrest," said Anderson aloud. Inwardly he said: "Thank God!" But he showed no visible signs of relief.

"That Blackburn consignment," Forrest pursued. "How has it dyed?"

"Pretty well, Mr. Forrest, pretty well. They'll be satisfied, I think, in spite of the price. But if we had that blue, now!"

"They'll have to be satisfied without it," Forrest said, frowning. "It rests with Mr. Nevile when you get that blue, and after what has happened he won't take any risks over it. And those brocades Epping and Smith sent—what about them? Ready for dispatch?"

"On the trucks, sir. And for a job—lovely! It's reds and nothing else, you see, Mr. Forrest. And the way the crimsons have come out—you'd never believe it yourself unless you took the stuff up and handled it. The depth—right through to the backing! If we can have our blues like that, sir, we can sweep the country."

"Oh, you'll get it! You'll get it!" Forrest assured him. "And when you send the invoices for that order, Anderson, two and a half per cent. for cash in seven days, typed in red at the foot, remember. Not thirty days, but seven. See to that yourself."

"Very good, sir. I'll make a special point of it."

"Damned time-server!" Forrest said to himself as he went out.

In his private office, Miss Elmer giggled in a break in the directions Dorothy Morland had been giving her.

"I suppose, Miss Morland, a little judicious flattery occasionally—" She broke off, leaving the suggestion incomplete.

"I have never tried it." The statement was brusque, decided.

"Ah, then you don't know what the effect would be, of course. I always faind that the men respond, no matter what they are or what positions they hold. Not that one must not be firm. One has oneself to consider, don't you think? Otherwise, one may be put upon—"

"Then there is nothing else you want to know?" Dorothy interrupted.

"Oh, nothing! It is such a matter of routine—they are all alaike, when one knoos them, aren't they? I expect Mr. Forrest will requaire practically the same as Mr. Anderson expected of me, and really it is all very simple, isn't it? One learns by expearience, does one not?"

Dorothy rose to her feet. "I'll leave you to learn," she said quietly, "and tell Mr. Forrest that you are ready to begin as soon as he is. By the way, I shall be at Long Ridge at ten to-morrow morning if there's anything you wish to know, and I understand a new instrument is being sent there to-day, with a plug like that on the old one. So it will be possible to talk again on the private line, and you can talk to me on that in case there is anything more you wish to know—"

"Oh, but Miss Morland, I haven't quaite finished yet! The filing system—how have you arranged yours? I was taught on the Brecknall system, which is considered quaite the best. Do you knoo the Brecknall system? I mean, do you file on the Brecknall system?"

Another twenty minutes went by, in which Dorothy explained her perfectly simple and lucid system of filing, and had it condemned as altogether too difficult for a trained mind. Miss Elmer announced her intention of introducing the Brecknall system forthwith, and Dorothy saw herself being urgently recalled to restore some sort of comprehensibility to the files when Miss Elmer had been summarily ejected from secretaryship to Forrest, and the next successor found herself unable to make head or tail of the muddle. But she was handing over: her successor's incapacity was not her affair.

"After all," Miss Elmer said hopefully, "filing is perfectly automatic, really. I use a modification of the Brecknall system—one I invented myself. It's perfectly marvellous, if only there were taime to show you how I do it, and one hardly ever needs to turn up an old letter, does one? One knoos, without the fag."

Realising Forrest's demands for contracts, quotations, clients' requests for lowest prices for quantities, and the like, Dorothy knew full well that no judicious flattery would avail Miss Elmer if the Brecknall system chanced to break down. But she made no comment, knowing that any word from her would be useless with such a one, and wondering how it happened that Forrest, so good a judge of his employees in a general way, could have thought a fool like Miss Elmer would ever make an efficient secretary.

"I think that's all I need, Miss Morland, and thank you very much! I wish you all success at Long Ridge, and whatever you do, don't be so silly as to get blown up. Let him answer the telephone!"

Dorothy got out, and, in going, modified Anderson's prayer—"God help him!" she whispered to herself, with some fervency. Then she inquired where Mr. Forrest had gone, and went out to the dyeing vats, where he was conducting an inspection. There was little in the works that escaped the scrutiny of the managing director, and, since the workers never knew when to expect him, they carried out his instructions in a way that ensured perfection of the firm's products.

"As far as possible, I have initiated Miss Elmer, Mr. Forrest," Dorothy told him, looking full at him as she spoke.

He smiled. "In other words, you don't think she'll last?" he queried.

"I shall be very much surprised if she does," she answered frankly. "But it's rather unfair, asking me to pass an opinion on a fellow-employee, and I ought not to have said that."

"Don't worry about it," he advised. "I'm relieved that you took the responsibility of going to Nevile without questioning it, though I myself shall miss you rather badly. I'll decide on Miss Elmer myself, and promise you she shall never suffer through anything you've said."

Just for a moment, Dorothy Morland felt that she liked Mr. Forrest. Then she decided that she could never like him, under any circumstances.


FIRST impressions—so ran Dorothy Morland's thought as she approached Long Ridge in the works' car that Forrest had considerately provided, and had had waiting outside her lodgings at Mrs. Pinner's—are best. Also, by the surroundings in which a man is content to live, ye shall know him. She had never gone out by the road leading past Long Ridge to Westingborough Parva until the works' chauffeur drove her along it, so she studied her surroundings, especially after the man had opened the gate, crossed the bridge, and changed into third to take the rise of the drive—the car had a four-speed gear-box, and, knowing the grade to Long Ridge from the road, the driver did not attempt to take it in top. He had tried it, once.

The old, red-brick house stood a good half-mile back from the road, and behind it the ridge from which it took its name lifted above its chimneys, a larch-clad height that formed a northern wall for the valley of the Idleburn. Seven generations of Neviles had looked out from the windows of Long Ridge, and this present owner's father had spoilt the frontage by building his east wing, which, although of red brick like the rest, was obviously a copy of the original style of the house, and, projecting with no replica at the western end, stated that it was an addition to the plan, not part of the plan itself.

In a way, Dorothy Morland was sensitive, as her inability to like Forrest proved. She had no cause for that dislike, and felt herself bound to appreciate the consideration with which he had suggested transferring her to work with Nevile, when he might have given an order and expected her to obey it. Now approaching the place in which she must work henceforth, she felt a little afraid of her task. With Forrest she had felt herself able to calculate what was needed of her, had had no misgivings as to her own ability to satisfy all his demands, but she had seen enough of Nevile during his visits to the works to know that calculation would be difficult with him, if not impossible. The man was a bottled thunderstorm, lean and nervous and capable of giving one a smile—she had seen that smile once or twice, over some point or other on which he had consulted her in Forrest's office—that made him boyishly attractive while it lasted. But the smile was rare: for the most part, there was a shadow on his thoughtful face, though to all outward appearance he had as much as the gods ever bestow on any one man. He had, she knew, wealth enough to render him entirely independent of his business; he had the measure of fame that his researches and discoveries merited; his wife was the most beautiful woman in the district, and he himself was a fit mate for such a one, both in physical presence and mental superiority over the greater number of his fellows. Yet, she felt, he was not a happy man: the shadow was evident, abiding on him.

It lay over Long Ridge too, she felt. To such a nature as hers places communicated impressions, and she felt an influence, not sinister, but as of a persistent, perceptible gloom, reaching toward her from the house as the works' car took her there for the first time. It could not have been due to the mid-October morning, for the autumn sun shone on the high windows and on the larches that clothed the ridge behind them. The leafless oaks and beeches that in summer shadowed the long drive now stood in black tracery of twig and branch against the sky: rooks cawed cheerfully at each other as they perched, or flapped heavily on their business. And before her, growing more and more distinct each second as the car took the long ascent, the long front of the house rose up, too starkly frank to be altogether truthful, to her imagining—or intuition. It seemed to say—"Look at me! I have nothing to conceal—nothing you need fear. I am exactly what I seem—prove it for yourself!" It seemed to shout such a message, to insist on it in fear lest she should doubt, while over the place the shadow brooded heavily. She had to check her causeless thoughts, to tell herself that her almost solitary life in Westingborough had made her morbid and put her out of touch with realities. And she had come here to work, not to let herself give way to impressions or absorb emotions from her surroundings.

An impassive, prim-looking woman—it was Halkin, mainstay of the domestic mechanism of Long Ridge—took Dorothy's name and showed her into a little room on the left of the big entrance hall, and intimated that she should wait there: the clock on the mantel of the room confirmed her wrist-watch in telling her that she was ten minutes early. As she waited, she looked round: the walls were lined with books, mainly scientific treatises, and centred on the mantel was a portrait of Mrs. Nevile, a large, studio photograph which showed her as Dorothy had never seen her. It must have been taken about the time of her marriage, by the fashion in which her hair was done, a wealth that massed about the finely-set head. There was pride in the set of the lips, and soft tenderness in the frankly-gazing, lovely eyes, and yet—was it only imagination, Dorothy asked herself, that made her see in the portrait some faint indication of the shadowing influence she had felt as she approached Long Ridge? It could be only imagination.

For, like her husband, this woman to outward seeming had all that she could ask of life. A husband whose genius rose to higher flights year by year; wealth and the friends it could bring, rare beauty—with a little sigh Dorothy Morland turned away from the pictured face, thinking that she understood, now. Since Raymond Nevile had been a child, the house had been empty of children: in that, perhaps, might be found the cause of the shadow. Four generations of Neviles had lifted the family from a place in mere country squirearchy to world-use and the fame that came of it, and with Raymond, it seemed, the use and fame must die, and Long Ridge pass to other hands.

The original of the portrait, entering the room almost as Dorothy turned away from the mantel, took in the girl before her with a long, appraising look, and seemed to approve her. Well she might, too, for there was a fine sincerity in Dorothy's grey eyes, breed in the lines of her nostrils, and the shaping of hands and ankles, and will in the firm set of her lips. Mrs. Nevile permitted herself a slight nod, as much as to say that Forrest and her husband had made a wise choice between them, this time, if first impressions went for anything.

"Miss Morland, isn't it?" she half-affirmed. "Mr. Nevile has to have the injury to his head dressed, and he has asked me to show you where you will work with him. If you will come with me, please—"

Dorothy followed her along the central corridor of the house, to the inconspicuous doorway which gave access to the east wing. They passed through the laboratory and study, in which latter the table for which Nevile had asked had already been placed on a new carpet; beyond this, Mrs. Nevile opened the door leading to the room apportioned to Nevile's secretary, and gestured Dorothy to enter.

"If I leave you here," she said, "you will soon find your way about. Those papers in the study—the heap there on the table—I know Mr. Nevile wants them sorted and reduced to order. Oh, yes, they've brought the new telephone instrument—the line leads only to the works, and you have to ask the switchboard operator there if you want an exchange line. The bell-push by that door will summon one of the maids if you need anything, and—I don't know if you cycle out? Miss Harland did."

"I intended to walk," Dorothy answered. "It's not much more than two miles, and I like walking better than cycling."

"You will please yourself, of course, though I'm afraid you'll find it a lonely road on winter nights. But I understand from Mr. Nevile that you are to ring through for one of the works' cars if the weather is bad, or you feel you need it. We wish to show you every consideration, Miss Morland, and—yes, one other thing. Mr. Nevile detests any interruption while he is working here, so you will be quite alone with him in this wing. I hope you will not mind that."

"No more than I minded being alone with Mr. Forrest in his private office," Dorothy answered steadily. There was a vague implication in the manner in which Mrs. Nevile had given that piece of information that roused resentment in her. Did the woman anticipate other relations than those of employer and employee between her husband and the girl she addressed? Was it possible that she hoped for other relations? Suddenly the tattle of slanderous tongues in the office recurred to Dorothy: hitherto she had altogether discredited hints to the effect that Forrest envied Nevile his wife, if no more, but now she questioned if they had any foundation in reality. She knew herself to be a more than normally attractive personality, and Nevile's equal in breeding, though not in position: she had known that work with Nevile would involve being quite alone with him for hours each day, and, in reckoning up the post and its possibilities, had been quite prepared to find that Mrs. Nevile resented her husband being in daily contact with such a secretary. But, instead of resentment, here was appreciation.

On the other hand, Dorothy knew, such a thought might not have entered Mrs. Nevile's head. And, having thanked her and watched her go, the girl sat down before the cheery fire already lighted in the secretary's room, forgetting for the minute to remove her hat and coat. One of her first impressions must be dismissed: it was not only the absence of children that caused a shadow to brood over Long Ridge and its people: it may have been that in part, but there was some other cause, something she could not yet grasp.

After a while, she took off her outdoor things, and decided to wait rather than attempt even to sort papers before Nevile arrived: beginning work with him was like going to a new school; she had to wait for the master to set her lessons. Looking out from the window of her room, she saw the wide, gravelled level of the terrace, steps leading down to the well-kept gardens, and the drive meandering toward the road with its bare-branched, overhanging trees. The slope gave her a clear view to the limit of park land, and beyond the gardens she could see a groom exercising two fine horses; she recalled that Mrs. Nevile was accounted the best horsewoman who had ever followed the Westingborough pack, though Nevile himself rode but little.

He had a fine heritage. And, through him far more than through Forrest, Westingborough flourished. And his position, and Forrest's, carried responsibilities that might not be ignored.

Supposing (she took the cover off the typewriter, in readiness for work) that Forrest and Mrs. Nevile were attracted to each other, and that were the main cause of the shadow she had perceived or imagined? They could do nothing, without breaking the partnership between the two men, with possibly disastrous results to the business—one of Nevile's temperament might feel that he could not stay here if those two crashed his personal life by yielding to their own desire. But if he could be wakened to desire for some woman other than his wife, her way to Forrest would be clear, and little or no harm to the business would result. Mrs. Nevile might have approved her, Dorothy, because—

Impossible! Monstrously impossible! That Nevile should regard her, or that his wife should think he could regard her, as anything more than a superior sort of shorthand-typist able to carry out his instructions intelligently, was a mere piece of ridiculous imagining on her part, a folly worthy of Miss Elmer and her kind.

She waited half an hour, and then Nevile came into her room and nodded a friendly greeting.

"I'm late, of course," he said. "You'd better clear up first, Miss Morland—no, though. Here's the key of the laboratory safe, and inside it you'll find a cardboard box with pencilled figures on the lid representing two pounds fourteen and a half ounces. It's that new dye, and the police want it—heaven and they only know why! I want you to make a package of it just as it is, ready for them when they send—I've told them they can send a man for it. And I'd advise you to handle it gently, though it's not nearly so explosive as they're trying to make out. Just wrap the box in brown paper—you needn't open it—and leave it in there. I'll hand it to the man, when he comes."

"Very good, Mr. Nevile."

"And then you can clear up. Your predecessor had her own ideas about filing, and I'm afraid they were not altogether satisfactory. And there's a pile of papers on the study table, blown everywhere by that explosion and collected anyhow by the servants. I want you to sort them into subjects while I open up what letters there are and see what has to be done about them. And—Oh, yes! Do you know anything about patent specifications? I mean, can you pick the meat out of the phrasing?"

"To a certain extent," she answered, smiling slightly.

"Well, then! I want you to look out"—he took a big, crumpled envelope from his breast pocket and put it down on her desk—"that! The figures I've scrawled on the envelope will give you your references, and I think there's an infringement in the specification you'll find inside. Type me out the meat of the whole lot, that and the references, and if you see an infringement, point it out. You'll find all the specifications referred to in that big file up there. Get that done some time to-day, if you can get through it all. Say if you want a bigger fire or anything else to make the room decent, and ring that bell for tea if you want it—they'll bring you your lunch without ringing. Now, the parcel first, then clear up, and then the patent specifications—and I shall have some letters for you. Is it all clear?"

"Perfectly," she answered. "I'll pack the parcel at once."

"One other thing we'll have clear," he added. "I've got a way of forgetting people are human, not being very human myself when my mind is set on my work. If you find you've any cause to complain, say it out to me—don't hug it and sulk over it as your predecessor had a way of doing. And if I forget it, remind me you want to go at six, and then you'll probably get away by a quarter past."

"I don't mind staying late, if you need me," she said,

"You'll find you've done quite enough at the end of a day with me, without overtime," he assured her. "Now we'll start."

He went out to his desk, and she passed through to the laboratory, opened the safe, and took out the cardboard box. When she had packed it in accordance with his instructions, she returned to the study to get the disorderly pile of papers on the table and take them to her own room for sorting. Nevile looked up at her from a letter in his hand.

"Mr. Forrest told you what I should expect of you?" he suggested.

There was something behind the query, she felt, something at which her—perhaps foolish—impression of a shadow brooding over the place and over him returned, strong and definite. She could see it, a veil to cloud the frankness of his eyes.

"He told me—spoke of the responsibility you and he owe to Westingborough, and that you—" She hesitated, rather lamely.

"Yes." He nodded slowly, repeatedly. The vitality that had radiated from him only minutes before seemed to have left him utterly. "Yes. One has to remember, all the time. And—that's all, Miss Morland." He turned to the letter again.

But in his pose as he sat there she saw a weariness, as if the burden of life oppressed him. She turned to go.

"We talked you over," he said without looking up, and she paused. "Forrest didn't want to let you go, but someone is necessary here, someone—we can't afford to take risks, we had to make careful choice, this time. Miss Harland, though I say it of a dead girl, was an utter failure, and you—Forrest has a very high opinion of you. Whether you'll stand it—whether you'll stand me, I mean—" He paused, and still did not look up at her. It was as if he were reading his words from the letter he held, though she knew he was not.

"I am not afraid, Mr. Nevile," she said quietly.

He looked up at her, then, an intent, steady gaze. "You'll have to get used to me," he remarked. "I'm—yes, you'll have to get used to me. And as I said, speak out. Don't make reservations."

He put the letter down on his desk, rose to his feet, and moved toward the laboratory. "I'm going in there," he said. "You've plenty to keep you busy for the rest of the morning."

By noon, she was halfway through the patent specifications, and had checked a definite infringement in the one he had handed her with another that she found in the file. The filing cabinet promised her three or four days of solid work, and in it she found why he had labelled Miss Harland a failure. She was still busy on the patents when he came in and looked over her shoulder at the sheet in the machine.

"You're worse than I am," he said, and took up the typed sheets she had already done. "There was no need for a carbon—I ought to have told you. This is—yes, you've got it, I see. Found anything?"

"If you'll let me have those sheets—" She took them from him, and drew his attention to the infringement she had discovered. He read the script carefully, and put it down beside her.

"Stop there," he said. "You've found all I want. Now I'll pass it on to Forrest and let him do the donkey work, as usual. Yes, you're worse than I am—I didn't expect to get this to-day, let alone before lunch. And I'm going to lunch now—you'll get yours sent in. If you keep this up, Miss Morland, I shall look on you as a godsend."

She found, later, that the promised meal was far daintier and better in every way than she had afforded herself while working under Forrest, and, having rung for the tray to be removed as the serving maid had asked, permitted herself some minutes of leisure before beginning work again. Even with the long walk morning and evening, this was infinitely preferable to her previous work. Nevile had described himself as inhuman, but so far she found him very human, and very attractive too—the sort of man with whom she could work, rather than for whom she had to work. There was stimulus in his ready appreciation of her quickness: she felt that she wanted to do her very best all the time, to make herself indispensable here and live up to the description Forrest had given of her. She was still sitting idle when Nevile returned and entered her room.

"I'm not coming in this afternoon," he said abruptly. "The policeman took that parcel, and looked most unhappy over it. You can do what you like for the afternoon—don't stay too late."

"There's a good deal to be done in connection with the filing," she pointed out. "I can begin on it, if you don't need anything else."

"No, I don't. Those letters on my desk can wait till to-morrow—you might look through them, if you feel like it. I'm open to suggestions about the top two. I'm going to see Forrest about that infringement and one or two other things—see you in the morning, Miss Morland."

He left her, and she put in a busy afternoon, at the end of which she realised still more clearly that Miss Harland had justified his description of her as an utter failure.


WITH a filled teacup of gargantuan size on his desk, and beside it a toasted and buttered scone out of which a neat semi-circle had already been transferred to the interior of his mouth, Superintendent Wadden looked a very happy man until his telephone bell rang. He removed the receiver, said "Hullo?" rather indistinctly, and then took a drink from his teacup as he listened.

"Is that Superintendent Wadden?" his caller inquired.

"Wadden speaking," he answered, quite distinctly this time, thanks to the drink of tea. "Who is that?"

"Podger—Hiram Podger, of the antique shop in Market Street. About that circular letter you sent me a copy of, superintendent—about a green marble clock. I've got the man here with the clock, and wondered if you wanted him detained, or only the clock—that is, if it is the right clock. He says it's his, but won't explain any more to me, so if you want him, I suppose I'd better—the clock may be his as he says—"

"Hold him, whatever you do," Wadden interrupted. "What sort of man is he? Does he look like marble clocks—good marble clocks?"

"He does not, superintendent. Looks more like a casual ward to me. Came in and offered the clock for sale, and said he'd take eighteenpence for it—it's been in the water, I see. Green marble, or some composition made to look like green marble. Square, about three inches high, according to the description in your circular. Of course, it may not be the same clock, but I think it is. A bit chipped off one corner, and the mechanism useless through being in water somewhere, as I—"

"Hold that man, and hold that clock," Wadden interrupted again. "I'm sending a couple of men down to you for him right away, and they can bring the clock too. Don't let him go, whatever you do."

Thus Alfred Potter, to his terror and amazement, found that instead of being richer by eighteenpence or thereabouts through finding a harmless little clock that would not go, he was first compelled by the man who had looked at the clock and retired with it into a back room, to sit down and stay put, as the man expressed it, and then handed over to two policemen, each as large as the very large man who had taken his clock, and, despite all his protests, marched off between the pair. They did not handcuff him; one of them took his arm to help him along, for between lack of food and fear he was hardly in a fit state to walk without assistance. They returned no reply at all to his piteous queries as to what he had done and why they took him up, but marched him solemnly to the police station, and into a warm room in which sat a being fat and fierce-looking, at a desk on which stood an empty teacup of outsize proportions and an empty plate with butterish marks on it.

"Give him that chair," Wadden ordered. "Now, my man, what's your name, and where do you come from?"

"Nun-name's Pup-Potter," the victim stammered. "Guv'nor, I take me oath I ain't done anything, only got outer work an' dunno how to get any more. Don't run me in! It'll be the ruin of me."

"We've nothing to run you in about—yet," Wadden answered cautiously, but with a compassionate note in his voice. "We're interested in this clock"—one of the two policemen had placed it on the desk—"and since you've turned up with it, we want to know all you can tell us about it. According to Mr. Podger, you said it was your property, but I don't believe that. How did you come by it?"

"You mean, sir, if I tell the truth, you'll let me go?"

"Unless that truth incriminates you and compels me to hold you—yes. All you've got to do is—catch him, Williams! Quick, now!"

For the unfortunate Alfred was undoubtedly falling from the chair to the floor, and went on falling until Constable Williams' strong arm arrested the movement, and restored him to an upright position. He opened his eyes again and felt the tang of brandy in his mouth, while the superintendent restored a silver flask to his hip-pocket and Williams supported their man by grasping his arm.

"Better now?" Wadden inquired. "Don't get frightened," he advised, without waiting for a reply. "We're not going to hurt you. When did you last have anything to eat?"

"Had a—had a feed last night, sir," Alfred answered very shakily. "Slep' out, though—they keep you all next day if you go to the casual ward, an' I wanter find a job. So I slep' out, 'cept when I walked to keep myself warm. Nun-no joke, sleepin' out this weather." His teeth chattered, perhaps at the recollection, and perhaps by reason of a tremor induced by the strength of the brandy he had swallowed.

"Ah!" Superintendent Wadden was a fairly good judge of character, and he saw here no criminal by instinct, but a man with whom the times were dealing hardly. "Got your insurance card on you?" he demanded.

Potter produced it and handed it over. The superintendent opened it and considered the record embodied in the stamps. He handed the card back, and leaned back in his chair, which creaked in acknowledgment.

"Just so," he said. "Agricultural labourer. Consequently, never owned a clock like that. Where did you get it—the truth, now!"

So, haltingly and in fear, Alfred told how he had found the clock when he went to wash his socks and lave his sore feet in the pool by the bridge just inside a gateway giving on to a drive at the end of which stood a big, red-brick gentleman's house.

"You don't happen to know who that big red-brick gentleman is, do you?" Wadden inquired at this point in the story.

"Dunno this part o' the country at all, sir," Alfred replied.

"It didn't strike you that as you found the clock on his property, it most probably belonged to him, I suppose?" Wadden pursued gently.

"S'elp me, sir, I didn't think of it," Alfred pleaded, "an' if it was his he'd chucked it away in the water, so I reckoned there'd be no harm me makin' a honest bob outer it—a bob, anyhow."

"Ah! I'm glad to see you're a trifle doubtful about the honesty of the bob—which you tried to make into eighteenpence when you got to Podger's. Oh, yes, I know all about it. You can't kid me, Potter."

"S'elp me, sir, I've told you the straight truth about it! Take me oath on it. I can't say no more'n that, can I, sir?"

"No-o-o," the superintendent breathed thoughtfully in reply. "Well, Potter, this is almost certainly not the last time you've got to tell that straight truth, and the next time, I think, you'll have to tell it at the assize court, unless it's wanted in the police court evidence first—no, don't get frightened again, man! I mean you'll be wanted as a witness, nothing else, and I haven't the slightest idea when you'll be wanted. You've been wandering round the country looking for work, I understand, as an agricultural labourer?"

"That I have, sir, ever since harvest—weeks an' weeks. I ain't particular what I do, sir—I went to the big garridge not far from that shop where I took the clock, to see if they'd give me a job, but the boss was out. I thought I'd sell the clock an' then go back there."

"That will be Parham's garage," Wadden reflected. "Yes. Well, Potter, the county isn't going to keep you till you're wanted as a witness, but at the same time I want you here in Westingborough—you're not to leave the town till I give you permission, and that won't be yet, by a long way. Williams, take him off and give him a good feed—" He produced a half crown from his pocket. "A large dollop of eggs and bacon and coffee would tighten his belt, I should think. Fetch him back here when he's got outside it, in about half an hour, say. And don't you worry because we're keeping hold on you, Potter—you won't come to any harm from us as long as you tell the truth and don't try to get away."

"S'elp me, sir, I shan't try that. You ain't half a good sort, sir, you are, an' I'll do whatever you tell me to."

"Carry on, Williams. Take him along."

Alfred went rather mistrustfully, inwardly querying whether they meant to hustle him into a cell after all, but the smell of the cheap eating house to which Williams took him was utterly lawless, onions and sausages competing for mastery over a variety of less blatant odours, among which coffee took a prominent place. They took a small table, and Williams had a cup of coffee while he watched his charge make up for a few meals he had missed, and lose a good part of his abject fear.

Back in the office, Wadden took up the clock and looked at it, shook it in a vain attempt at making it go, and eventually consigned it to the drawer of his desk with a slip of paper giving the day and time of Alfred's finding it, and the time it had been brought in here. Then he reached for his telephone, asked for a number, and on obtaining it requested to speak to Mr. Parham.

"Wadden speaking, Mr. Parham. Yes, Superintendent Wadden. I want you to do me a personal favour, if you'll be so good."

"Anything I can, superintendent." The garage was responsible for all police car repairs, and Wadden himself had bought a small car there.

"I've got a man, an agricultural labourer looking for work, and I want to keep him in Westingborough, probably for some months. He came into your place looking for a job this afternoon, he tells me, but you were out. It's essential to me that he should stay in the town, and at the same time I don't see shoving him in the workhouse or making him a charge on the county in any way. His insurance card looks like steady work when he can get it, and his name's Potter. I can't tell you any more than that about him, but could you utilise him?"

"Well, as a favour to you, superintendent, I could give him a pound a week to wash cars and make himself handy. As an agricultural labourer, he wouldn't really be worth that to me, unless he's got some knowledge of mechanics. But if it's important to you—"

"Suit me admirably, Mr. Parham. I'll send him round as soon as he comes back here—in about half an hour, that is. I'm very much obliged to you, and won't forget it when I have the chance to help you."

"Not at all, superintendent, not at all. Only too pleased to oblige you. Your car still running all right?"

"Like a bird. Thanks very much, Mr. Parham. I'll send him round."

They hung up. Wadden said—"Come in" in response to a knock on his door, and the policeman who had gone out to Long Ridge earlier in the day to fetch a parcel entered, and deposited the parcel on the superintendent's desk in a way that suggested very thin-shelled eggs inside. He took a long breath of relief as he stood back from it and extracted a letter from his pocket. The superintendent took the letter.

"Better wait while I see what it is, Jones," he observed. "Don't look so damned scared, man! The stuff hasn't gone off yet."

But Jones kept his distance. He had seen Miss Harland's body at Long Ridge, and, according to the evidence at the inquest, there had been only one lump of this stuff on the table there, while there were four lumps in the box he had carried three times to-day, and hoped he would never see again, once he got outside this room.

Wadden put the letter down on his desk after reading it. "All right, Jones," he said. "You can go off duty, now."

But, when the man had gone, he took up the letter again and shook his head. "It's a damned long way from all right," he said to himself.

After a period of cogitation, he took paper and pen and wrote:

Dear Head,

This thing grows darker and darker, and now I don't know what to make of it, or whether it was wise to send you off on what looks now like a fool's errand, to me. I don't like it at all, especially as far as Nevile is concerned. He told you definitely, according to what you told me, that there were two pounds fourteen and a half ounces of the stuff in that box, and marked that weight on the lid in pencil. I put the wind up our Jones by sending him to fetch the stuff, and Nevile made no bones about letting us have it. I rung him first and asked him, before I sent Jones along, and he talked quite happily about it.

Then I made Jones think his last hour was near by sending him to Edwards with the stuff, telling them in a note I sent to go gently with it, and weigh it for me. The weight Nevile told you was there was pencilled on the lid of the box, just as you said. The stuff has just come back, and I think Jones will return thanks in church next Sunday for his deliverance from particularly sudden death. But Edwards' people return and certify the weight of the contents of the box at two pounds seven and three-quarter ounces, avoirdupois. I had already settled with Nevile that his record of weight was avoirdupois, not troy.

A difference of six and three-quarter ounces, you see. And at the distance from the girl at which the stuff exploded, considering that she was bending over the table, six and three-quarter ounces would have been enough to blow the side of her head away, especially since it hit the telephone and chucked jagged bits of metal at her. You know what Nevile is, the sort of man who might leave a chunk of the stuff on the table, and forget he'd ever put it there. I know he denies that, but with the difference in weight his denial doesn't seem worth much to me. I'm worried over it.

If it weren't for something else, I'd have you back at once, and cut out this inquiry of yours altogether. But the clock has turned up, found by a poor devil of an unemployed man who went to cool his feet in the water just inside Nevile's gate—the one leading to Long Ridge. That water is more than half a mile from Long Ridge, and the clock isn't damaged at all, except by the water. I mean, the works are intact, and there's nothing missing from them. Also, it would be one hell of an explosion that would blow the clock more than half a mile and still leave it in one piece, and in addition to that, the window of the room where the explosion took place doesn't face toward the ridge. So where are you?

You'd better carry on, I think, till you hear from me again. I've started inquiries with telephone engineers, and hope to get their report to-morrow. It may alter my view round nearer to yours again, and, if it doesn't, I shall have to think what to do about you. I'll let you know if I want you here for the adjourned inquest, which I may or may not. Meanwhile, go ahead. That bit of stuff you're working on came from somewhere, and obviously it didn't come out of the green marble clock. Good luck to you.

F.T. Wadden.

He addressed an envelope to J. Head, Esq., at the Strand Palace Hotel, put his letter inside, and sealed the communication with wax after closing it down. Then he put it in his pocket for posting—it was not an official letter, and he did not intend to trust it out of his hands until it went into the letter-box at Westingborough main office. He finished in time to face P.C. Williams and Alfred Potter, the latter with considerably more colour in his cheeks than when he had gone out from this room to the eating house.

"Well, Potter," Wadden said, gazing at him very fiercely, "how do you feel now? Fit to knock a policeman down?"

"No fear, sir," Potter answered. "Fit to hold one up, though."

"Well, I'm going to put you where you'll be handy if you're wanted for anything like that—no, don't go all white and dithery, man! I told you we weren't going to hurt you. You'll go straight along to Parham's garage, where you went before, and ask for Mr. Parham. Tell him I sent you—Superintendent Wadden sent you, and tell him your name. He'll give you a job at a pound a week, and mind you keep it."

"Go-God bless you, sir!" Alfred half-sobbed.

"I don't know about that. I'm a pretty hard case, as you'll find if you try any half-larks with me. I've got you that job, and I've two things to tell you before you go after it. The first is—you don't go out of Westingborough without my permission. You understand that?"

"After you bein' so good to me, sir," Alfred said, still emotionally, "I shan't stir a yard without your knowin' it."

"When Mr. Parham's foreman gets behind you, you'll have to stir a mighty lot of yards," Wadden assured him. He put his hand in his pocket and produced two more half-crowns. "That's to save you from worrying the foreman for a sub as soon as you get there," he announced. "You can pay me back half on your first pay-day, and half on the second, and your job is safe as long as you behave yourself. And you must report here to me some time to-morrow, and let me have your address, so I can find you when I want you. That's understood?"

"I'll be along, sir."

"Right. Now the most important thing of all. One word to anyone about that clock, and inside you go here for stealing by finding. You don't know anything about a green marble clock, you've never seen a green marble clock, till I want you to give evidence about it, and then you'll have to tell how and where you found it, just as you told me. But till then, there's no such thing as a green marble clock as far as you're concerned, and one word about it to anyone will get you something like six months' hard. I'll protect you when it's time to talk about it, if you keep quiet till then. Is that clear to you?"

"Quite clear, sir. I shan't say a word to anyone about it till you tell me, and then I'll say what you tell me to say."

"Now take that money, and go and see Mr. Parham, and do what he tells you to do. No, don't stop to thank me—it only worries me. Off you go—Williams, hold on a minute, and let him go alone. He knows his way to the garage, and I'm going to trust him, now."

But the trust was not altogether complete, for Constable Williams followed to the garage at a discreet distance, waited until he saw Alfred enter the office in quest of Mr. Parham, and then returned to report that, on the face of it, the man was not a skrimshanker, but honestly meant to work if he had the chance. He had conveyed that impression to the good constable in intervals of devouring bacon and eggs.

"Well, we'll see," Wadden said. "If he does try to bolt, he can't get far. Now—yes, there's still daylight enough, Williams. You get on a bicycle and run out along the road as far as the drive to Long Ridge. Have a look at that pool alongside the bridge, and see if you can find anything to indicate that our man was there as he says. There ought to be a footprint or two—something to corroborate his tale, if he told the truth. Just run out and have a look."

"Very good, sir."

Within an hour he returned, having found footprints, some of dead grass which Potter had probably used for drying his feet, the brick on which the man had sat, pressed down into the shingly verge of the water, and one definite print of a bare foot in the bed of the pool itself, this almost certainly made by Alfred when he reached down for the clock. It had filled in to some extent in the interval, but the stream was running sluggishly and far below its normal level after the long drought, and enough was left of the print to show that bare toes had made it. Wadden nodded in a satisfied way.

"It's near enough," he said. "Look up Parham's foreman to-night after they close, and hear what he thinks of his new hand. Maybe I've done an act of charity, and maybe I've put years on that poor devil of a foreman, saddling him with a waster. Anyhow, see what you can get."

But it appeared, from all that Williams could learn, that the new garage hand was willing, respectful, and anxious to justify his wage, in addition to which he knew enough about cars and their mechanism to be really useful in the garage.

"So it looks, on the whole, as if I'm qualifying for a halo," Wadden told himself after considering the report. "What's a damned sight more important, it looks as if I stand a chance of getting my two half-crowns back, unless he goes on the booze."

Alfred, however, had no intention of going on the booze. When he received his second week's pay, he wrote to his wife, who had gone to live with her mother till he could get employment, and told her that he thought she might come along in another week or two, if things went on as they were going. They could get quite a decent room to live in at nine shillings a week, and maybe she could get a few charing jobs to help things out...

And the superintendent got both his half-crowns back. By that time, he had forgotten about the halo.


AFTER unpacking to an extent that prevented his dinner-jacket suit and one other from creasing too badly through being left in his suitcase, Inspector Head lunched at the Strand Palace, and set off on a tour of investigation. A buff book gave him the addresses of the leading watch and clock manufacturers, and he tried no less than five different firms without any encouraging results. Such a spindle with its toothed wheel and ring as he showed them might have come out of anything in the clock line: one mechanic pronounced it undoubtedly of English manufacture, and another was equally emphatic that it was Swiss in origin. A third believed it had formed part of a French lever clock of a type no longer manufactured. All five, situated in different parts of London and thus taking the whole of Head's afternoon to visit, assured him that that particular spindle and fittings had never come from their establishments: they recommended him to try various other firms, and he took down the addresses and hoped to get something definite in the course of a week or two. But the outlook was not promising.

He returned to his hotel and had a very late cup of tea in the lounge. Thence, in consequence of a rather depressed period of reflection over his lack of success so far, he repaired to a telephone and rang a number from which he inquired if Inspector Byrne were in. And, presently, a cautious-sounding voice inquired what he wanted.

"I want to speak to Inspector Byrne," he replied. "It is Inspector Head, up in London from Westingborough, speaking."

"Well, I'm damned!" said the voice, no longer cautious in tone. "Jerry, you old scoundrel, what are you doing in this wicked city?"

"Oh, lots!" Head responded rather acidly. "Are you on view if I come round? If so, I've a little problem you might help—"

"Ah! The poor country rozzer has to come here for brains! Come straight round, Jerry—no, though, wait a bit. This isn't an official inquiry you're putting up to me, is it?"

"It is not," Head answered. "Just a little bit of cousinly advice."

"Expert advice at no cost, eh? All right, cousin Jerry—all right. Now I've just got in after a hard day, and there's a good bit to do here, so—look here, do you know the Captain's Cabin, off the Haymarket? A cheerful little spot as ever was—d'you know it?"

"I've been there," Head admitted cautiously.

"Well, if you're there again in about an hour, and I'm not, you'll find the tipple as good as ever and the seats just as comfortable. An hour ought to see me through here, and I'll join you there."

So it came to pass that in the neighbourhood of seven o'clock Head looked up and saw approaching him a rather melancholy-looking man with dark, soulful eyes, one of the last persons in the city to be taken for a detective-inspector. Unsmilingly, Byrne held out his hand.

"Well, cousin Jerry," he said gravely.

"Well, cousin Terry," Head responded. "As nearly as I can remember, the last time we met you gave me a pair of black eyes."

"And you very nearly broke my nose," Byrne pointed out. "Yes, we were a couple of nice young swipes, then. Whattle?"

"On me," Head dissented. "I've already got one. Whattle?"

"One like that. A nice double, well splashed. Let's go and squat."

They took a chair apiece, and put their drinks on the table between them. Head wondered momentarily if that thing at the end of the room were a binnacle or a spanker, for he knew next to nothing of nautical matters, and the place was fitted like a ship's cabin—a very comfortable and tastefully decorated ship's cabin, with all the conveniences of a smoking room, including the bar. Byrne observed his abstraction.

"Yes, a good spot, this," he remarked. "And so you're in trouble?"

"Who said I was in trouble?" Head demanded sharply.

"I gathered as much, on the 'phone. You sounded as if your mother-in-law positively insisted on getting better. Which reminds me—how is Aunt Gertie? I haven't seen her since I was a sergeant, I believe."

"Oh, a damned sight better in health than temper," Head assured him morosely. "We keep out of her way. Goes to church twice every Sunday, and plays hell all the week. How she ever managed to have a daughter like my wife beats me—you'd think she'd sour any child."

"And Emily's all right?" Byrne suggested.

"Good as gold—the best ever," Head assured him fervently. "I found something worth having when I married her, Terry. There'll be a letter for me at the hotel to-morrow morning, as sure as hotel eggs are the very devil. I had an omelette for lunch."

"And not used to the London flavour," Byrne surmised sadly. "You'll get the hang of it, with practice. Staying long?"

"As long as I have to. And that's where I thought you might help, though I don't know whether it's in your line at all."

"Tell me the story, Jerry, and I'll see what I can do for you."

"I'd better tell you the whole of it, I think," Head suggested.

"Carry on. I'll just get two more of the same, to help us out."

He returned with them and, seating himself, folded his arms on the table, to save Head the trouble of raising his voice.

"Now confess your sins, frankly," he bade. "I'm listening."

So Head told him, materially, the story he had told Superintendent Wadden at the beginning of this quest, and, at the end, produced a little cardboard box which, when opened, disclosed the brass wheel and ring on their steel spindle. Byrne took the spindle out, looked at it closely, and shook his head as he put it back.

"It's a hair-raiser, Jerry," he remarked. "For a simple country rozzer, you'd take beating—I wouldn't be surprised if the Yard felt inclined to hand you bouquets over this. And for a case—Nevile in it, too! Nevile dyes, and the man himself—Gosh, man, I wish I had a few chances like it! Sensation—the biggest ever—yes. But you come up against this, and get stuck. I'm afraid you'll stay stuck for all me. It's a business of plodding till you light on the right man, the one who can place it for you—"

"I make about two thousand chances in London alone, and I'm sure to try all the wrong ones first," Head pointed out.

"One always does, does one not?" Byrne observed unconsolingly. "I wonder—yes, I think I'll chance it. Not that it's in his line, but he might put you on to a man whose line it is. Yes. Finish that and come along, in case he's going out for the evening. We'll catch him if we go now, probably. You can stand the taxi, and put it down to exes."

"I'll stand anything, if it means tracking this down," Head promised. "But where are we going—what's the bright idea, Terry?"

"The bright idea is Sir Arthur Endliss, who won't mind doing a bit for me if I ask him, I flatter myself. It's in the wildest part of Kensington, but we needn't go armed. Come on, man—bless my soul, is that the fastest you can mop up a good drink?"

They went out and found a taxi, and Byrne gave the driver an address. Within a quarter of an hour they descended in a quiet road just off Kensington High Street, and Byrne led the way and rang a doorbell. He was admitted without question, and the two men waited in the hall. A tall, graceful woman came down the staircase, paused at the sight of Byrne, and then held out her hand to him with a smile.

"Well, inspector, how are you?" she asked.

"Quite well, thanks, Lady Endliss, and very pleased to see you looking so well," he answered. "This is my cousin, Inspector Head, up from the country, and I hoped Sir Arthur wouldn't mind my worrying him with a little problem on my cousin's behalf—"

"Ah, you and your little problems!" She shook her head at him, but laughed at the same time. "How do you do, Mr. Head? I expect Sir Arthur will give way, as he always does where you're concerned, inspector."

"And if I might ask, Lady Endliss, how's the baby?" Byrne inquired.

"Perfectly wonderful—more wonderful every day. Such a happy little fellow, and not so very little now, either. He's putting on—"

"Dione!" Endliss's voice came out from a doorway as the maid emerged. "Ask Annie to bring in a decanter and three glasses, will you, dear? It's that fellow Byrne, and I know what he is."

"There's judgment on you, inspector," she said, and laughed. "The decanter shall follow you—and the syphon. I know what you are, too."

She turned away, and Byrne and Head followed the maid as she requested, into a study-ish looking room in which Endliss stood to receive them. He greeted Byrne in friendly fashion, shook hands with Head, and bade them be seated. A vigorous personality, either approaching or just in the fifties, he impressed Head as one on whom it would be difficult to impose, and at the same time a kindly man of wide sympathies.

"We've moved, as you see, Byrne," he remarked as he sat down. "A flat is no place when you have children—a child, rather. Leggatt was rather glum about it, but he's taking kindly to the change. That's my man I'm talking about, Mr. Head, an old retainer now, and the only man on earth I'm afraid of. Now what can I do for you?"

"It's rather a good story, Sir Arthur," Byrne interposed, "and I think you ought to hear it. I know you're as safe as ourselves, and it promises to make more noise than anything I've ever handled. Now you go ahead, Jerry, and tell Sir Arthur exactly as you told me—" He broke off as the servant entered with the tray, and waited for her to go. "You saw Lady Endliss in the hall, I heard," her husband said in the pause. "How do you think she's looking, Byrne?"

"I'd say, Sir Arthur, she's a very happy lady."

"Yes." There was a note of deep content in the monosyllable. "We are very happy people, thank God! Now say when, both of you."

"And"—Byrne waited till all three glasses had been charged before he spoke—"if you'll allow it, Sir Arthur, I'd like to drink to the son and heir, as well as to you and her ladyship."

He put his glass down. "Now you get on with it, Jerry," he admonished rather sternly. "We don't want to keep Sir Arthur up all night."

So Head told his story, clearly and concisely, and at times Endliss interpolated questions which proved his deep interest. At the end he took the cardboard box, took out the bit of brass and metal it contained, and sat with it in his hand. He shook his head gravely.

"Raymond Nevile," he said, "the best—the finest brain of his generation, in many ways. God, what a tragedy! The evil that men do, Byrne, and nearly always for passion, in cases like this. Greed sometimes, and fear sometimes, but passion far more often. Well—this is good work on your part, Mr. Head, and I'll see if—" He broke off, and held the little spindle up between his eyes and the light. The two men waited in silence, and watched him twirl it in his fingers.

Eventually he rose to his feet, went to a desk, and returned with a small magnifying glass. "Optically corrected, twenty-four diameters," he observed. "Did you ever collect stamps, Byrne?"

"When I was a schoolboy, Sir Arthur. Not since."

"You should have kept it up, and then, if you'd specialised, you'd have had a glass like this. Also, it's a good investment, if you get the right stuff. I go for British unused, and nothing else. Now this spindle"—he examined it as he spoke—"is very finely machined. The wheel and ring on it are driving fits, and by the width of the ring I think"—he took the glass from his eye—"I want a small pair of tweezers and a tack hammer. That is, if you don't mind my fooling with it."

"Go right ahead, Sir Arthur," Byrne said, before Head could speak. "You may save this country cousin of mine years of worry."

"That country cousin has proved himself the equal of any of his town practitioners," Endliss retorted rather drily, "and if I can help him on his way I shall be only too glad. Just wait here, both of you, and help yourselves. That story made me forget the glasses."

He went out. Byrne turned to Head.

"What do you think of him?" he asked proudly.

"A perfect gentleman, and plenty of brains under his thatch," Head said. "And his wife—the sort you'd do anything for."

"One of the very best," Byrne agreed. "Do we have another small one, or do you feel you're tanked to capacity?"

"Hadn't we better wait till he comes back?" Head suggested.

"When Sir Arthur says get on with it, he means get on with it," Byrne retorted severely. "But since that's him—" He left the decanter alone, and Endliss entered the room again with his tools.

"The faithful Leggatt came up to the scratch, Byrne," he remarked. "I believe he'd produce the hind leg of an elephant if I asked for it. But you've been sudden, haven't you? Another one already?"

"No, Sir Arthur, we waited till you came back."

"Well, that's merely silly. Pour mine the same size as your own, and don't make yours too small. Now we'll see, in a minute or two."

He drew forward a small table, and put down on it a square block of lead, about half an inch in thickness. Then he took up the spindle, held it endwise with one point resting on the lead, and fitted the jaws of his tweezers down on to the toothed brass ring. Taking the small hammer he had brought, he tapped gently on the tweezer jaws, and then more forcibly, until both ring and wheel began to slide down the spindle. When both had slid well clear of their original position, he took up the spindle, looked carefully at it through his glass, and then handed both glass and spindle to Head.

"Try it for yourself," he said. "It's as I thought—the ring and wheel have to be driving fits on the spindle, and there must be a serration of some kind to hold them in place—like a splined shaft in larger machinery. They had corresponding serrations inside, filled in with some metal solution that hardened after they had been driven on the spindle, and kept them fixed. Have a good look at the serrations on the spindle and see what you make of them, Mr. Head." After a few trials, Head got the focus of the glass, and twirled the spindle in his fingers, moving it until he got full light on it. Eventually he ceased his examination, and looked up.

"I make it a letter L, and R, and the sign for & and S," he said. "Is that right, sir? They're rather blurred."

"Quite right. The blurring is the hardened metal stuff that fitted into the ring and wheel and held them in place, driven and broken by my hammering. The letters stand for Lemoine, Roberts, and Shuttleworth, one of the only two firms in this country making that sort of thing, apart from wholesale watch manufacturers and firms of that kind. Lemoine and all the rest of the name make parts for supply to manufacturers, and if the people you saw to-day hadn't been too infernally lazy, they could have told you what I'm telling you now. Young Roberts and I went to school together—if you dare to say it's a small world, Byrne, don't hope to leave this house alive!"

"Well, sir, I'm more grateful than I can tell you," Head said, after a pause, during which Byrne sat looking entirely unmoved by the threat. "This has probably saved me weeks of work."

"But you've not finished yet," Endliss pointed out. "You've got to go to Birmingham, which is where Lemoine, Roberts and Co. have their factory, and get this traced down to the customer who ordered it—or, alternatively, get a full list of the customers who might have ordered it in a mixed consignment, and then sift down until you get to the right one. I've told you who made it, but I can't hope to tell you who incorporated it in a piece of mechanism—or dropped it on Raymond Nevile's carpet as it was when you found it. The rest is your work."

"Maybe, sir, but you've taken a mighty load off my mind, all the same. I was beginning to get frightened, and think of American alarm clocks, and the things from Germany that make toy trains go, and all sort of things I could never trace down. This is simple, comparatively."

"Good luck to you with it. My fee, Byrne, will be an occasional word as to the progress of the case—expect you will keep touch, now, and Inspector Head will have far too much to think about to keep me posted in his progress—besides, he doesn't know me as you do—"

"I'll be only too pleased, sir, as far as official routine lets me," Head interrupted eagerly. "You've been so kind, and your lady—" he broke off confusedly, while Byrne regarded him in a sour way.

"Ah, my lady!" Endliss said contentedly. "Byrne here knows her. Well, if you like to take the trouble, Mr. Head—only when there are real developments, and then with due regard to your position and the inadvisability of communicating inside information to an outsider. I congratulate you on a piece of real, intuitive work, and hope it brings you the credit you deserve. So here's luck to you at Birmingham."

He emptied his glass to the toast, and Byrne stood up. "I knew we wouldn't go far wrong if we came to you, Sir Arthur," he said.

"The accident of young Roberts being at school with me, and my going over their factory when I once spent a very pleasant week with him," Endliss said. "Byrne, if you ever go to jail yourself, don't repine too much—remember that every experience in life has its use, sooner or later. Not that you're likely ever to go to jail—you're far too cunning a bird to get caught, as I know you. Mr. Head, get away to Birmingham as quickly as you can. I know this man."

Byrne permitted himself the rare luxury of a smile. "Always worrying you, Sir Arthur, and not run in for it yet," he remarked.

"Not yet, thanks to my clemency. Mr. Head, if you like to run in at my place in Regent Street any time you're in London, I might be able to show you a few souvenirs of Byrne's cases that would interest you. I hope we shall meet again."

In a second taxi, on their way back from Kensington, the two men sat silent awhile. Head broke the silence eventually.

"I can't quite make him out," he said. "I've heard of him, of course, but you'd think he was just one of us. And his lady—the way she talked to you—no, I can't make head nor tail of it."

"Sir Arthur is what you don't find every day, a gentleman in the real sense of the word," Byrne told him. "You try and take a liberty with him, and see whether you or a worm is the tallest. And the nicest, friendliest sort you'd ever wish to meet. And Lady Endliss—I knew her when she was no more than a girl in bad trouble, and she was then what she is now, good enough for him—and that's saying a whole heap. Jerry, my lad, do you think Emily's hair would stand on end if you had a look at a little bit of London night life, with me seeing you didn't go too far in your investigations?"

"It couldn't," Head assured him. "She's started growing it, and it pretty much covers her shoulders already—lovely hair she's got! Besides, I don't think there's any need to tell her we went wandering."

"Right!" He lowered the window, leaned out, and addressed the driver. "Cancel that first order," he said. "Drop us in Shaftesbury Avenue somewhere near the corner of Wardour Street."

He dropped back into his seat. "Don't worry, Jerry," he said. "I'll see you aboard a train for Birmingham in the morning."

"I'm not worrying," Head answered. "It's you should worry. You've got to go back to your wife at the finish—I've only got to get a taxi to my hotel."


BY the end of her first week at Long Ridge, Dorothy Morland had finished reducing the files in her room to order, and had discovered that Nevile was calculable as all men are, but that he had about a dozen different moods, each of which demanded from her a different method of approach. They ranged from intense enthusiasm over his work to equally intense listlessness and depression; he might begin a morning at one end of the scale, and conclude it at the other, and, if he were working with her and not by himself in the laboratory, she had to adapt herself to the mood of the moment.

But, finding him always interesting, she did not resent the change from Forrest's office, where she had always known what to expect of him as employer: he had been rock-steady, devoted to his work, and—as far as his contacts with her and other employees went—perfectly even-tempered. Nevile, on the other hand, betrayed flashes of impatience with her, and would apologise for them after she had practically forgotten their appearances. But he showed very soon that he appreciated her way of handling the work he entrusted to her. He had told her, the first day, that he was leaving two letters on his desk over which he was open to suggestions, and she had typed her suggestions on slips which she attached to the letters in readiness for him the next morning. After giving each a brief consideration he handed them both to her with—"Answer them like that—I see I needn't dictate the replies." And later, over a similar incident, he remarked—"You can't realise what a relief it is to me to have somebody here who thinks, instead of—"

He did not end that comment, and she knew from his sudden change of expression that he had remembered Miss Harland's death, and possibly realised that Westingborough held him responsible for it, though unintentionally, and that very soon he would have to give account of what had happened that night, with, possibly, a definite accusation against himself and consequent interruption to his work. This last was a characteristic view, with him: for himself, he appeared to care nothing at all; his work was everything, and to it everything must give way. In that he proved himself inhuman, as he had described himself.

Yet there were very human points about him. On the Monday of her second week he was working in his laboratory when a maid brought Dorothy her tea tray, with two cups on it as usual—always two cups had appeared, and one had gone back unused, so far. But on this occasion Nevile came through his study to her room, and she was about to lift the tray aside and take her note-book when he stopped her.

"No, don't," he said. "I always forget about it till too late, but to-day I'd left the door into the passage open and saw this tray come in. And you've got two cups. Do they always send two cups?"

"So far they have," she answered. "Would you like one?"

He nodded. "Weak, with milk and sugar, please," he said rather absently. "I'm inclined to neglect these frailties."

"Tea being a frailty," she suggested, as she poured it out.

He pulled forward an armchair and seated himself facing her. "What put you on this sort of work?" he inquired abruptly, as he took the cup from her. "I mean—Forrest and I talked you over, and you're hardly—what made you a shorthand-typist? Did you feel you had a call?"

"Yes, necessity," she answered gravely.

"That toast looks good, too." He helped himself. "Yes, necessity is the mother of the seven deadly sins—no, though, it goes differently in the original. But one always visualises a shorthand-typist as—well—a bit different, somehow. I do, at least."

"They are different," she assured him.

"Yes?" His look, as well as the word, questioned her assertion.

"All different from each other," she amplified. "You can't put them all in one class and label the package. Individuality counts."

"Odd," he said thoughtfully, after a pause. "Yes, very odd."

"The difference in shorthand-typists?" she inquired.

"No—I'd left off thinking about it. Getting somebody to work here to whom I can talk on terms of equality."

"I have not claimed it, Mr. Nevile," she said quietly.

He gave her a brief, startled glance. "Of course, I ought not to have said a thing like that," he remarked, after another pause. "But, to make it worse, why claim the obvious? Now if there's another cup, let me have it as a proof that my apology is accepted."

She smiled, and refilled the cup. As he sipped its contents, he grew more thoughtful and abstracted, seemed to sink down and out from human interests, to a state which recalled to her mind the shadow she had felt as resting on him and on all this house. With a start he roused himself again, and nodded as he put the empty cup down.

"Thanks, Miss Morland. You might remind me when it's tea time, from now on, I think. I've enjoyed that. And now I want you to write me a personal letter to Carter, Henry Carter of The Grange—Westingborough, of course. No, don't take your book. I'll tell you the circumstances, and leave you to compose the letter. One of Mrs. Nevile's hunters broke his leg last week, and had to be destroyed. Carter's got a red roan named Sultan which he is willing to sell, and she likes the animal. He wants seventy pounds for it, and he can have it. The man is a bounder, and I detest him, but you'll have to begin the letter—'Dear Carter,' and make it personal, not businesslike. Tell him he can send the horse over and have the cheque for it as soon as he likes, and wind up with kind regards. And I want that letter to go to-night."

"Very good, Mr. Nevile."

He stood up, and looked down at her. "Is it very good?" he demanded.

"Is what very good?" she inquired, puzzled.

"Are you happy working here? Is it the sort of work you like?"

"More than any I've ever had," she answered frankly.

"Ah! That's the point I like about you—you don't hedge. And I want you to be happy here, because I know already that you're going to save me a tremendous amount of trouble over details—which I hate. Being able to delegate a thing like ordering this horse, for instance."

"But I haven't written the letter, yet," she reminded him.

"If I didn't feel quite sure you'll write it just as I wish it written, I shouldn't have asked you to do it," he said. "And now I recollect I've left a glass of solution over a bunsen burner, and the bottom's probably melted out of the glass, by this time. You can bring me that letter into the lab, when you've done it, for signature."

NEVILE had bidden Dorothy Morland good-night and gone, and she was putting the cover on her machine in preparation for leaving, when she saw a smallish—by comparison with herself or Mrs. Nevile—attractive-looking girl standing in the doorway of her room. The appearance startled her: she had not heard the girl approach, and knew of Nevile's rigid prohibition concerning the sanctity of the east wing to himself and his secretary. She waited, questioningly.

"We have not met before," the other girl said, rather apologetically. "My name is Ashton, and I'm staying here at present. It has begun to rain, and as I'm going into Westingborough with the car, I thought you might like a lift. I know you walk, as a rule."

"Thanks very much," Dorothy answered, and donned hat and coat. "Rain and darkness are not pleasant accompaniments to a walk, when they fall together. I don't mind either separately. It was very good of you to think of me, Miss Ashton."

They went together to the main entrance of the house, and out to the car, a Daimler saloon that Nevile kept for his wife's use: he himself drove a low, fast two-seater, and abhorred being driven. The Daimler's headlights made a tunnel of rain-pencilled radiance in the darkness as they went down the drive and halted beyond the bridge while the chauffeur got down and opened the gate.

"I'd build a cottage and put a man and his wife in it, here," Berenice observed. "This business of getting out to open the gate and then again to close it is altogether too awkward. My cousin must have far more patience than I give him credit for, to endure it like this."

"It's not a quality I should credit him with possessing to any great extent," Dorothy said as the chauffeur climbed back to his seat and drove on. As he was returning soon, and there were neither horses nor any other livestock out grazing at the time, he left the gate open.

"You'd be most unwise if you did," Berenice commented rather drily. "But working with him will have taught you, I expect."

"Yes." Dorothy made the reply rather brusque: she had no intention of appearing to criticise Nevile to this girl or any other.

"You've not had much to do with nurses, evidently," Berenice remarked, after a silence in which she digested the discouraging monosyllable.

"I have not," Dorothy agreed, "but I don't see the application."

"As a class, they have a most unholy and incurable propensity for gossip," Berenice explained. "About anything or anybody, and the latter for preference. It's common to the breed."

"Still I don't see the application," Dorothy persisted.

"Only that I am a nurse, and quite possibly shall become a Westingborough nurse before I'm much older. I hope to hear more about it this evening, being now on my way to dine with the doctor who suggested it."

Dorothy detected in the statement an invitation to talk of her own affairs, but did not respond: she would have characterised them as not interesting enough, for in the year or so she had spent in Westingborough she had made few acquaintances and no real friends in the place, and contented herself with books, an occasional evening at a concert, and an almost regular weekly visit to the local cinema. It was far too impersonal a form of life, she knew, but she had found herself the post with Nevile and Forrest and come to the town with no introductions, and, living as she did in a bed-sitting room and being at work all day, she had very few opportunities of meeting the type of man or woman who might have appealed to her.

Men of the type of Anderson in the office showed plenty of signs of willingness to be interested in her, but she did not respond. Her father had been senior partner of a large milling firm in a provincial city until his junior had ruined the business and absconded, and, since he had died a bankrupt and she had been faced with the necessity of earning her own living, she had found that the cutlet-for-cutlet law barred her out from the class in which she had grown up, while the one into which circumstances had now forced her made no appeal to her. She would have been glad to respond to Berenice's evident willingness to be friendly, feeling that here was a possible kindred spirit, but the fact of Berenice's relationship to the Neviles and her being a guest in their house formed a barrier. Possibly it was a foolish sort of pride that ruled the girl, but life had rendered her ultra-sensitive, and she shrank from any offered intimacies that might suggest an attempt on her part at forming friendships above her present station.

She had been old enough at the time of her father's downfall and speedily-following death to realise to the full their effects on herself. People who had known him in the days of his prosperity and enjoyed his hospitality had been kind to her—with the kindness that made her appreciate the vast depth of the gulf they now saw as fixed between themselves and her, and wounded more deeply than a colder form of aloofness. In her present life she was inclined to regard any offer of more than mere acquaintance with suspicion, if it came from one of her own sex: there was always the possibility that the one offering might know how she had come to her present place, and might pity her. Men, of the type with which she came in contact, she ruled out altogether: invariably they showed that they needed little or no encouragement to make love to her, and that straight friendship based on mutual interests did not enter into their calculations, and she wanted no lovers, then. She would have said, perhaps wrongly, that she wanted nothing of humanity as she was compelled to encounter it, but found enough in impersonal interests to satisfy her: it was a state that could not last, an emotional apathy resulting from shock, in reality: she saw it as a permanent outlook on life, and found a cynical sort of satisfaction in her own self-sufficiency.

Consequently, Berenice almost disliked her by the time they reached Westingborough, where Dorothy, getting out from the car, thanked her sincerely for her thought in offering the lift, and in that minute made the other girl feel she might have been a little hasty in her judgment, and this Miss Morland was not quite so cold and satiric in reality as she seemed: after all, she had been working with Nevile all day, and in some of his moods, Berenice knew, he could reduce Job himself to profane exasperation. His secretary might be suffering from one of those moods—Berenice was judging after having seen the way in which her cousin Hilda could fret him to rawness, a state in which Dorothy had not yet encountered him, since he shed that side of his life altogether when he entered his laboratory, and was able to forget it for the time.

So Berenice went her way to dinner with Doctor Bennett and the sister who kept house for him, and, for balance, a young solicitor with whom Bennett had been at school. After dinner, they played bridge, and when the Daimler arrived at eleven o'clock to take Berenice back to Long Ridge, she knew it would be quite safe to come nursing in Westingborough. The style in which the doctor lived proved that his practice would support a wife as well as himself: he would probably have proposed to her that evening if he had had a chance, and his insistence that she should come to tea and let him drive her back to Long Ridge, before her visit there ended, proved that he meant to make the chance then.

She went back to Long Ridge very contentedly, not in love with Bennett, but realising that he was very much in love with her, and quite sure that she could care for him enough to render life pleasant for them both. It occurred to her that Hilda must have married Nevile in a similar state of mind, with, as things had turned out for them, every possibility of a disastrous crash in the near future, but, Berenice told herself virtuously, she was not Hilda, and—far more to the point—Bennett was not Nevile. A man of Nevile's temperament needed so much more from the woman he married, needed appreciation of his moods and the will to complement them—the difference between the two men was that Nevile needed a wife who would study him, while Bennett would study his wife. Hilda ought to have married this latter type.

So Berenice decided, thinking over her own case and that of Hilda. And, reverting to consideration solely of Bennett, she came to the conclusion that he was very nice indeed, and she could be very happy with him. In fact, she might even be just a little in love with him already. Just a very, very little in love with him...

She would be able to tell more surely when she saw him next.

FROM Birmingham, armed with a list that he had obtained from Messrs. Lemoine, Roberts, and Shuttleworth, Inspector Head went to Bristol, for one of the clients of the firm who relied on them for such parts of mechanism as Head carried was a clock-maker in the Severn port. But Head drew blank, there: he had not expected any other result, but would not return to London without assuring himself that the spindle had not been used by the Bristol people. The business called for thoroughness rather than haste, and Head would overlook no possibilities.

Wadden's letter had puzzled, but had not discouraged him. He had set out on his quest, absolutely certain in his own mind of the correctness of his theory, and he was not less certain because of the discrepancy between the actual weight of the contents of the cardboard box and Nevile's pencilled record. Six and three-quarter ounces might have been abstracted from the box after Nevile had made his record: the record itself might be an error due to faulty scales; Head saw no satisfactory way of accounting for the difference, and reserved the problem for future consideration—after he had tracked down the spindle and its toothed wheel and ring, say. It would afford proof one way or the other, if he could find the man who had made it up with other parts: solution of the problem set by the deficiency of weight in the contents of the cardboard box would not be conclusive, in all probability.

He went from Bristol back to London, and there found another letter from Wadden awaiting him. Its contents cheered him considerably:

Dear Head,

Carry on, and don't worry about the inquest adjournment. We can see it through without you, and what you are doing is much more important. Telephone engineers have reported, and it's good enough. I might say the case is complete, but what you're doing ought to clinch it past any possibility of a defence worth calling one. I'm not going to put that more plainly in writing, except to say you were absolutely right.

In haste. Good luck to you, and congrats so far.

F.T. Wadden.

Head repaired to the Captain's Cabin that evening, and showed the letter to Byrne, who nodded over it thoughtfully.

"How many names did you get from those Lemoine people?" he asked.

"Exactly the dozen," Head answered. "I wiped up one in Bristol, though—they'd only had one spindle of this pattern, and they showed me the clock it was in. Beautiful clock it was, too."

"Eleven more to go. You're in luck, Jerry."

"Yes—Oh, yes! Two out at Cricklewood, three in Hatton Garden or near there, one somewhere on the Great West Road, wherever that may be, and it's a moral certainty that the one I want will be the last."

"Well, what are you grumbling about, man? I can quote you a case where we had eleven hundred people up for questioning one after another, and then got nowhere at the end. Knew our man, but couldn't get evidence enough to convict him—we got him on another charge later, but all the eleven hundred bits of weariness went for nothing. And by the time you've done a lot like that, you pray for a case with a mere dozen."[*]

[* Author's Note.—In one case that called for minute investigation by the London police, fifteen hundred persons were summoned for interrogation, and examined with a view to obtaining evidence. No conclusive evidence was obtained, and no conviction resulted.]

"I'll say my prayers when I've finished off this lot," Head replied. "It looks as if I'd got the goods, but I'm not happy yet."

"No, there's too much hanging on it," Byrne agreed. "When it comes to a case of a burglar with a meat-chopper doing his wife in, or anything of that sort, you feel it's all straightforward and more or less pleasant. But in a business like this, where you know you're going to raise what the papers call the sensation of the century, it's a different matter, and you go gingerly. I can sympathise, there."

"They're always getting the sensation of the century," Head objected.

"Well, if you run a rag, you've got to sell it somehow—otherwise your advertisers get peeved, and then where are you? Jerry, don't you think we've talked enough shop for one evening? Come along home with me and have a word with the old woman. She's got an idea you led me into sin, that first evening we had out together, and I want to convince her that you're a godly man with a longing to make this wicked world a better place, and teach a Sunday school class in your spare time. And I've got a remarkably fine bottle or two of twenty-year-old in my little sideboard—export stuff that lost its way. What say?"

"Yes," Head agreed. "I don't mind being good, for once."


IT may have been the fortnight that had elapsed since the first session of the inquiry into the cause of Phyllis Harland's death that caused the coroner to accept Raymond Nevile's story of the tragedy without question, in spite of that story's divergence from the account Forrest had given—or rather, from the surmises Forrest had voiced as to what probably happened. There may have been other reasons for the coroner's lack of curiosity over Nevile's account: possibly Superintendent Wadden, very bulgy about the collar and very fierce-looking, was one of those reasons; he followed Nevile's evidence with the utmost intentness.

That the explosion had happened immediately Miss Harland began using the telephone, and not at the end of her conversation, seemed to rouse no interest at all in the coroner's mind: he let the point pass without questioning it; again, he seemed quite indifferent as to whether she had merely taken up the receiver and bent over the table, or had lifted the instrument as well. He heard all that Nevile had to say, appeared to take a long breath and brace himself, and then began his queries, but not on what might have appeared main points of the tragedy.

"You tell us, Mr. Nevile, that you saw a flash and immediately became unconscious. That is to say, you know nothing beyond the flash. Now what, in your opinion, caused that flash?"

"Obviously, an explosion of some kind," Nevile answered.

"And what caused the explosion?"

"I do not know," Nevile answered, in a blunt, stubborn way.

"You are, of course, aware of the evidence that was given during the opening session of this inquiry, relative to the cause of the explosion?"

"I have heard the theory that was put forward then."

"Do you concur in the theory, consider it feasible?"

"I do not. I consider it utterly absurd. A preposterous theory."

Superintendent Wadden observed that Forrest, also present in the corn hall, shook his head gravely at this point.

"I have been given to understand, Mr. Nevile—I may say that the members of the jury have been given to understand—that for some time prior to this regrettable occurrence you were experimenting with a dangerously explosive substance, intended for use as a dye." The coroner spoke now with a dry, cold sort of expression. "Is that the case?"

"I should not describe it as dangerously explosive," Nevile retorted.

"After what happened in your study that night—after the death of this unfortunate girl, you would not describe the substance as dangerously explosive?" the coroner demanded incredulously.

"I wish you'd get that preposterous theory of yours out of your head," Nevile exclaimed with visible impatience. "That substance did not kill Miss Harland. There was none of it in the study."

"What did kill her, then?" the coroner snapped. "I must ask you, Mr. Nevile, to refrain from comments of the kind you have just made. I will not have a theory that has been formed by myself, and possibly by the members of the jury as well, defined as preposterous by you or by any witness in the case. If that substance did not kill the girl, what did? What is your alternative theory?"

"I haven't one. As I said before, I don't know what killed her."

"You admit experimenting with this substance?"

"I believe I have already admitted it."

"Do you admit that you had a quantity of the substance in your possession on the afternoon of the day in which the tragedy occurred?"

"Yes, I admit that. Or shall I say I claim it?"

"Either will do," the coroner said very frigidly. "I must say that your attitude of challenge, almost of defiance, Mr. Nevile, does not prejudice me in your favour, and can have no good effect on the minds of the jury. Under the circumstances, it is most reprehensible—"

"May I ask you, sir"—Nevile's voice shook, and he was white with fury as he spoke—"to confine yourself to questions relevant to your inquiry? Like or dislike my attitude, but don't comment on it."

The coroner purpled almost as instantly and as deeply as if Nevile had struck him in the face. "I have a good mind to commit you for contempt," he said, after two or three deep breaths.

"Do so, by all means," Nevile answered, more composedly.

There was a long pause. A whispering among the spectators at the back of the hall was immediately quelled by the police in attendance.

"I will overlook this breach of conduct on your part," the coroner said at last, "realising as I do that this appearance must be extremely painful for you. At the same time I must warn you that I shall not overlook a second incident of the kind. To resume the inquiry!" His tone was sharply peremptory now. "You were in possession of a quantity of this substance at the time of the tragedy?"

"Two pounds, fourteen and a half ounces," Nevile answered. "Placed in a cardboard box which in turn had been placed in my safe, and locked away there. Subsequently, the police took possession of the box and its contents, with my permission. They have it yet. I have not made any more of the dye, so I have none in my possession at present."

"All that you had was locked in your safe?"

"All. Four lumps of different sizes."

"And the total weight of the four was two pounds, fourteen and a half ounces, as weighed by you and the weight marked on the box?"

"That is so," Nevile said confidently.

The coroner signed to Superintendent Wadden, who handed him an oblong cardboard box. He took it very carefully, and held it so that Nevile could see it clearly.

"Mr. Nevile, do you recognise this box?"

"I recognise the figures on the lid as being in my writing, which proves it the lid of my box. Consequently, I assume that the box is mine too."

"Will you take it and open it, and tell us if these four lumps in it are pieces of the dye with which you were experimenting?"

Nevile took the box, opened it, and looked within. He appeared rather surprised at what he found, and eventually, neither replying to nor taking any further notice of the coroner or anyone, took one of the lumps in his fingers, smelt it, breathed on it, and rubbed it on his sleeve. Then he breathed on it and smelt it again, and shook his head.

"Having thoroughly examined the substance," the coroner said very caustically indeed, "will you tell us if you recognise it as the preparation you claim to have locked away in your safe, Mr. Nevile?"

"It is the preparation I did lock away in my safe," Nevile insisted.

"These are the identical four pieces?"

"They are. And they are all I had of the stuff."

"Two pounds, fourteen and a half ounces, according to your record of the weight," the coroner said cuttingly. "Now, Mr. Nevile, will you explain for the benefit of the jury how it happens that these four pieces, carefully weighed by a qualified corn-pounder in this town, amount in all to two pounds, seven and three-quarter ounces, or six and three-quarter ounces less than you claim to have locked in your safe?"

To say there was a sensation would be to put the fact at a huge discount. A sort of murmurous roll of sound that could not be attributed to any one person or group of persons followed the coroner's query, and then in tense silence everyone there waited for his reply.

But he made that reply not only in words. He lifted the lump that he held to the full length of his arm, and with a sudden, jerking movement crashed it on the bare boards at his feet, where it shattered into scores of fragments like a lump of dry clay. Superintendent Wadden started to his feet with a shout, and there was a general, momentary indication of a rush for the doors. But, as nothing happened after the thud of the substance on the boards, the movement ceased.

"Simply evaporation," Nevile said quietly. "One constituent of that compound evaporates pretty quickly on contact with the air, though I hardly expected as great a difference as that. I marked the weight on the box before putting it away, intending to weigh it again on the following day and see how much weight had been lost—but I was incapable of that or anything else on the following day. And as you see, the stuff is totally incapable of being detonated now—it was not so very capable of it when I put the box away, though it might have exploded then if struck in a way that would produce a spark. Unfortunately, the evaporation of that particular constituent reduces it to the level of quality of an ordinary dye, which is the point I am still working to eliminate, in order to make it a product of commercial value."

"Your demonstration, however, was rather nerve-shattering," the coroner observed, taking another long breath. "But, even accepting your statement that you locked these four pieces carefully away, do you claim that it was impossible for a fifth piece to be left on your study table by mistake? Do you assert you did not leave a piece there?"

"I do, most certainly."

"Have you never forgotten anything in your life, Mr. Nevile?"

"Oh, quite a good deal. For instance, I have forgotten how to question the statement of a reputable person when given on oath."

Again the coroner went purple, and Superintendent Wadden coughed long and painfully with his handkerchief to his face.

"You assert, beyond question, that none of this stuff was on the table in your study, at the time of or prior to this girl's death?" the coroner asked at last, in a way which proved his realisation that he was getting the worst of this duel.

"More than that, I state that none of it was ever in the study at all," Nevile answered. "I conducted all experiments with it in my laboratory, which is next to the study, and never took any of it out of the laboratory, either on that day or any other day."

"Very good. Now, if we accept your word as to that, Mr. Nevile, what was the explosive substance in your study, by means of which Miss Harland came by her death and you were injured?"

"I don't know," Nevile said, as stubbornly as before.

"What explosive substances had you in that study?"

"None whatever."

"Oh, come, Mr. Nevile! You know perfectly well that an explosion occurred! Why persist in this attitude?" He was almost pleading, now.

"Because I haven't the faintest idea what caused the explosion," Nevile answered. "Because, apart from the dye, I had nothing of an explosive character in my possession, either in the study or anywhere else. Oh, yes, though! I'd forgotten a hundred or so of shot-gun cartridges, but they were at the other end of the house, and are there yet."

"Mr. Nevile, I don't wish to appear to doubt you. I am here to ascertain as nearly as possible what was the cause of this unfortunate girl's death, and am asking only questions which tend to elucidate that cause. You are an experimental chemist—more, you have a very great reputation as an experimental chemist. Is it possible that in the course of your experiments you produced some compound which might have exploded with violence, either in your study or elsewhere?"

"You mean, without my knowing it was an explosive?"


"An utter impossibility. I was working on that blue dye to the exclusion of everything else—had been working on it for the preceding five or six weeks. And all that work was done in my laboratory—I never took any of the results into the study—never have taken any in there. The study is for my clerical work, and for nothing else."

A long silence. The coroner looked completely nonplussed.

"Mr. Nevile," he began again at last, "would it have been possible for anyone else to bring an explosive into your study, and leave it on the table there without your knowledge?"

"Possible to bring it in, yes. To leave it on the table without my knowing it, no. That would be quite impossible, because there was nothing but papers on the table—I use it for nothing else."

"What sort of papers?"

"Drawings, blue-prints, typed memoranda, a writing block or two, letters—just such papers as you might find on an office table."

"Flat papers, incapable of affording concealment for anything else?"

"Quite incapable of it."

The coroner turned to his jury. "You will realise, ladies and gentlemen," he said, "that only what was on the table is material to this inquiry. The hole blown in the table itself proves that whatever caused the explosion could not have been on the desk at the side of the room, or in fact anywhere but actually on the table. Now, Mr. Nevile, who, in addition to Mr. Forrest, who I understand visited you in the afternoon, entered your study beside Miss Harland and yourself?"

"Nobody," Nevile said promptly. "One of the maids announced Mr. Forrest at the door of the study, knowing I was expecting him, but she did not come in. I may add that when I am working in that wing of the house, nobody but my secretary and myself is allowed to enter it. I make that a rule."

"Did Mr. Forrest bring anything with him when he called on you?"

"Yes, he brought a file of letters and some other documents in an attaché case. They were the subject matter of his visit to me."

"Connected with your business, and concerned with the American cable you mentioned to us in your opening statement, and over which you were rung up from your works at the time the tragedy occurred?"

"Exactly," Nevile assented.

"Were you in the study with Mr. Forrest all the time he was there?"

"Yes—no, though. I left him sitting there while I went to Miss Harland to dictate something to her—left him for five minutes or so."

"Was his attaché case on the table then?"

"No, on the floor beside his chair, with the file and papers put back in it. You surely don't mean to suggest—"

"Nothing at all, Mr. Nevile. I want to eliminate everything which might seem at variance with your statement that nothing could possibly be left on the table without your knowledge. Did Mr. Forrest examine the lumps of dye while he was with you?"

"He did. We went into the laboratory together, and I told him my difficulty with regard to the stuff—two difficulties, rather. One being that of evaporation of a constituent, and the other the deterioration in quality consequent on the evaporation."

"I see. Now is it possible that Mr. Forrest took a lump of the dye—a fifth lump, say—and took it back into your study by mistake?"

"It is not, because we had our talk over it in the laboratory, and he went straight out from there on his way back to the works. He didn't go back into the study—I remember his having his attaché case in his hand while we talked in the laboratory."

"After leaving him, you went back into your study?"

"Some while after. I weighed the lumps of dye and put them in the safe, first. Then I went into the study."

"Are you sure that, apart from the telephone instrument, there was nothing other than papers on the table?"

"Papers and nothing else—the telephone instrument was on my desk. I had the cord plugged into the wall beside the desk, and put a call through to the works not long after Forrest left. Then I pulled the plug out from the wall, put the instrument on the table, and plugged it into the socket on the table itself. And that's why I'm so sure there was nothing unusual on the table. Had there been anything at all, I should have seen it when I plugged the telephone there."

"Do you realise that this is a most amazing and incredible story, Mr. Nevile?" the coroner asked gravely. He no longer appeared to doubt Nevile's word, but indicated that he was utterly mystified by the conflict of apparent fact with incontrovertible happening.

"Obviously it is," Nevile rejoined, "but I have no more idea of what caused that explosion than you have. It must be evident to you that if I had intended injury to the girl, I should hardly have risked killing myself in inflicting it—and I had no cause to wish her harm. Nobody had, to the best of my knowledge. I make this comment to show you that I should welcome questions from you on the point."

"They are totally unnecessary," the coroner assured him. "The fact remains that the girl was killed by an explosion in your presence and in the room in which you habitually worked. You disclaim all knowledge of the nature or origin of the substance that caused her death, and state, in fact, that there was nothing on the table which could have caused the explosion, which on the face of it is absurd. One other point. You say you telephoned through to your works, using that instrument, shortly after Mr. Forrest had left you. What time would that be?"

"I cannot say with any certainty. Somewhere between five and six."

"Less than two hours before the explosion occurred?"

"Yes. I weighed the lumps of dye and put them away first, so it must have been fully half-past five before I telephoned."

"And then you yourself moved the instrument, took the plug from the socket in the wall, and put it in the socket on the table?"

"I did."

"There was nothing wrong with the telephone instrument?"

"Nothing whatever. It acted perfectly when I called."

"Did you jar or shake it in any way when you moved it?"

"I don't remember. I know I used no extra care. I must have shaken it far more than Miss Harland did, for she only lifted the receiver. I moved the whole instrument, carried it from the desk to the table."

"Then we may assume—rather, we must conclude that the instrument was not to blame. Mr. Nevile, it may seem an irritating redundancy on my part, but I ask you once more—are you sure there was nothing on that table capable of causing an explosion?"

"Absolutely and utterly sure," Nevile answered firmly.

"Members of the jury, have you any questions to ask the witness?" the coroner asked, turning to them with an abruptness that indicated his disappointment over the result of his own inquisition.

The foreman collected headshakes from his fellows. "None, sir," he said. "I don't see what else we could ask him."

The coroner drew another long breath. "You have now heard all the evidence available with regard to the death of this girl," he said. "I do not intend to address you at length, or even to summarise that evidence for you. Mr. Nevile, you may stand down."

Nevile accordingly stood down, and the coroner resumed:

"At our first sitting, you heard the evidence of Mr. Forrest, who put forward a certain theory as to the cause of the explosion. The witness who has just stood down has, if you accept his evidence as a whole—and if you accept any part of it I do not see how you can fail to accept the whole—if you accept his evidence in toto you must dismiss the theory put forward by Mr. Forrest, take no notice whatever of it. But I must ask you to bear in mind that the witness who has just stood down, though his evidence utterly destroys the theory you heard previously, has given you nothing to put in its place. He has, in fact, told you that a fatal explosion occurred with nothing whatever to cause it, that there was nothing in the room which could have caused it, and he simply does not know why or how it happened.

"Members of the jury, there is a cause for every effect in life, as you well know.

"I do not tell you that the witness you have just heard is consciously deceiving you. He narrowly escaped with his own life from the disaster that killed this girl, and suffered from severe concussion as a result of that disaster. And, even if a man has undergone no such shock, the human memory is a faulty thing at best. The witness gave you a demonstration of the harmlessness of this substance which has entered into our inquiry, a rather startling demonstration, but in giving it he admitted that the substance was of an explosive nature at the time of the tragedy, and lost its explosive character as it lost weight by evaporation. I put to you these two circumstances: the explosive nature of the substance at the time of the disaster, and the fallibility of human memory, especially after such a shock as this last witness suffered. Beyond that I find myself unable to direct you. You will now consider your verdict."

The foreman, after a brief consultation, announced that they wished to retire for their consideration. A hum of quiet conversation arose in the hall, and went on unchecked for twenty minutes or more. Nevile sat just behind Forrest, and once bent toward his partner and made some observation, to which Forrest returned an apparently cordial assent. Then the coroner's clerk rapped for silence, and the jury returned.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, are you agreed on your verdict?"

"We are, sir." The foreman did not wait for the second question. "We wish to return a verdict of accidental death."

The coroner corrected the form of the statement, and the foreman concurred in the alteration.

"You have nothing to add to that verdict?" the coroner asked, after a thoughtful pause.

"Nothing whatever, sir," the foreman answered quietly.

Superintendent Wadden sighed audibly, and there was relief evident in the sound.


IN the morning after the inquest, Berenice Ashton came down to breakfast at Long Ridge in time to apologise for being so late. Nevile just glanced up to murmur good-morning at her, and then returned to study of a slim pamphlet he had received by post that morning: she saw from the cover that it was a treatise on tin oxides by Sir Arthur Endliss, and lost all interest in it. Hilda Nevile, already in riding kit, handed her her coffee and hoped she had slept well.

"Nearly too well," she almost apologised again. "I lay reading in bed too long, after I got there. It's being a luxurious holiday."

"Perhaps you'd care to come with me in the car this morning," Hilda suggested. "The Westingborough pack—the meet is at eleven at Westingborough Parva White Horse, and I'm driving there. The groom is taking the horses and fetching the car back."

"I'd love it," Berenice assented. "I always wish I'd learned to ride. But I could drive the car back, if you like."

"You said horses, I think, Hilda." Nevile looked up from his reading. "Who's going to fetch your second mount back for you?"

"Mr. Forrest will be at the meet," she answered. "I was talking to him on the telephone last night. His man can lead Grey Devil back."

"Have you tried the new one yet—the one I bought from Carter?"

She shook her head. "I've had no chance," she answered. "He only arrived yesterday. I saw Hill in the stable, and he told me he thought I should find Sultan a handful. A bit of a packet, were his words."

"I must have a talk with him," Nevile said, frowning. "Carter warranted the horse sound, but nothing else."

"Oh, Ray! You're not afraid I can't ride him, are you?"

"I must have a talk to Hill about him," he repeated coolly.

She made a little grimace at Berenice. "You might have a talk with me when I come back from the meet," she said to her husband. "I am as capable as a groom of judging the propensities of a horse, surely."

"Quite," Nevile agreed rather drily, "but Hill might have fewer prejudices and more caution in his make-up. I must see him about it."

"As you like," she said stiffly. "I am riding Sultan as my second mount to-day, whatever you do or whoever you see."

"Whomsoever, I think," Nevile amended, more drily still, and returned to the study of his pamphlet.

Berenice saw Hilda's angry flush, and decided there might be something to be said for her cousin, since Nevile could speak to her in such a way in front of a third party. But she reversed her opinion as Hilda spoke her bitter, cutting retort.

"I had forgotten," she said. "I own to being capable of forgetting."

Nevile rose to his feet, quite white at the thrust. "Yes," he said, very quietly, "forgetting that it might be better to stand by your husband than to taunt him by showing your belief in the theory of a fool, and forgetting your own dignity in speaking the taunt in Berenice's presence. I'm sorry, Berenice. I hope you will enjoy the meet."

He went out before Hilda could frame a reply. She sat quite still behind the coffee service for awhile, and then she sighed.

"Again he forgot," she said. "The last word is a woman's privilege."

Berenice made no reply: she knew Nevile had been right in his pronouncement, and Hilda utterly, cruelly in the wrong.

"Did you attend the inquest?" Hilda asked after another silence.

"No. I'd forgotten about it when I promised to go to tea with Doctor Bennett and his sister. And I'm glad I didn't, now."

Hilda smiled: she appeared to have dismissed Nevile's reproof from her mind without much difficulty. "Was Ida Bennett there all the time?" she asked meaningly.

"All the time," Berenice assured her gravely, "but the doctor drove me back here. I'd promised him that on Monday evening."

"You think you will like life as a country doctor's wife?"

"I'm quite sure I shall like life as his wife."

"This is very sudden." Hilda spoke with a touch of satiric amusement. "It's not more than a fortnight since you met the man."

"And already I know him far better than I know you," Berenice retorted coolly. "Some people—a few whom one meets—tune in almost at once. Others, never, but one goes on groping with them, and never finding a common viewpoint. My doctor is one of the few."

"Already your doctor?" She laughed as she asked it.

"I felt last night, lying awake till I turned to reading, that I can never be grateful enough to you for this fortnight," Berenice said gravely. "Not that—I don't want you to think I'm pleased over meeting him in the way I did—Ray's injury, I mean."

"An injury with apparently enduring results," Hilda observed.

"You mean—?" Berenice looked the rest of the query.

"Loss of memory. The coroner was quite right—Ray's protestation that there was nothing on the table is utterly absurd. You must see it—everyone must see it. I don't want to discuss the affair"—she rose from her seat and went to the window—"but I'm not going to be such a hypocrite as to pretend I believe that impossibility, even though he is my husband. There was something on the table, and it was that dye."

"You mean—you saw it there?" Berenice asked.

Hilda faced about. "It would take something very urgent indeed to make me go to the east wing while he's working there," she said, "and I didn't go near it that day. Halkin told me of the reception she had from him, when I sent her to remind him it was nearly dinner time, and I should have fared no better. No, I don't go there."

"Well, the verdict ends it," Berenice remarked with a note of relief. "I see the jury refused to blame him, though the coroner invited them to pass a vote of censure—as I read the account of it."

"They daren't blame him," Hilda pointed out. "It was an accident, not a case in which there could be any possibility of intent—he was careless, and either forgets entirely or refuses to confess his fault."

"Ray would never refuse to confess," Berenice said decidedly.

"Then we'll say he has forgotten," Hilda suggested, almost mockingly. "And the members of the jury, being local people, know his value to Westingborough far too well to put blame of him into their verdict over one accidental death. I hope he doesn't blow Miss Morland to pieces in the same way. A second occurrence of the kind would be most awkward for us here, to say the least of it."

Berenice made no reply. Since her cousin chose to adopt such an attitude, she felt, reasoning or protest was quite useless. And, knowing that Hilda was dependent on her husband for everything, that she had had nothing at all when she married him, Berenice felt that all her sympathies were with him. This cold-blooded judgment on him roused her to an anger which, in her present position as her cousin's guest, she had no right to express. His words before he left the room had been fully justified: it must be a poor sort of life that he led.

"It's nearly time for you to get ready," Hilda said abruptly, "and this lapping at spilt milk is a waste of time, in any case."

QUESTIONING a stable boy, Nevile found that Hill, the groom, had already set off for the While Horse with the two mounts. He went to the garage and looked at his car, then in process of being polished by the chauffeur. The man looked up from his work.

"Do you want the car now, sir?" he inquired.

"I thought I did, but I don't," Nevile answered.

He went back to the stables, where the boy was busy washing down a stall. "Oh, you!" he adjured irritably. "Come here."

The boy put his broom down and came obediently.

"What's that horse from Carter's like?" Nevile demanded.

"Well, sir, he's a bit of a devil," the boy answered. "Pretty bad-tempered in his stall—Mr. Hill reckons to gentle him after a bit. Been not too well handled, Mr. Hill reckons, sir, an' got made like he is."

"And saddled? Has Hill ridden him yet?"

"Rode him last night, sir. Got rather rough action, Mr. Hill said, but he's a goer all right, sir. Got a trick of rearin' that makes you rather uneasy, Mr. Hill said. Want a light hand, he do, sir."

"Sounds most unpleasant," Nevile said thoughtfully.

He looked across at the radiator of his car, visible just inside the garage doors, but shook his head at it. The chauffeur came out at the driving wheel of the Daimler. Nevile stood cogitating for a few seconds, then went on to a back entrance of the house by means of which he could get to the east wing: Hilda knew how to manage a horse, after all, and would probably rejoice when she found herself on one that gave her a chance to display her mastery. Hill was a man who always hated extra trouble of any kind: if Sultan displayed temper as well as spirit, the man would magnify his faults in his grumbling way, especially in talking to the boy. And Hilda knew how to handle a rearing horse.

He dismissed the subject from his mind. Miss Morland was already busy at her desk, he found, typing notes concerning two rather intricate letters of his she had opened and read—he sorted his own letters in the morning, and sent on here such as belonged to his work: he had instructed her to open anything she found, and use her own discretion as to whether to deal with it or wait for him.

"No," he said, reading from the sheet of paper in her machine, "that's altogether wrong. I'm not holding it up on account of the danger, but because it's useless—no better than any other blue, till I can fix that evaporating constituent. Haven't you read the story of yesterday's proceedings over your breakfast table?"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Nevile." She looked up at him. Then she took the paper off the typewriter, and crumpled it in her hands to drop in her wastepaper basket, but Nevile arrested her sharply.

"Here, stop that! You've probably got something worth seeing there. Hand me that paper—don't throw it away."

She yielded up the crumpled ball obediently. He smoothed it out, but did not attempt to read what she had typed on it.

"So the way they damned me didn't interest you?" he queried, in a tone half of amusement, half of angry contempt. "I was late this morning, and didn't stop to read anything," she answered frankly. "Late in getting here, in fact."

"Oh, honesty!" he gibed. "And last night—you heard nothing then?"

"Nothing. I went to the pictures, and didn't think of getting an evening paper until it was too late."

"'Mystery of Westingborough Typist's Death. Well-known Inventor Disclaims All Knowledge,'" he quoted. "What made me angry about that was that I'm distinctly not an inventor. I couldn't invent a crossword puzzle. I'm suffering from loss of memory, and may kill anyone at any time, according to that swine of a coroner. Aren't you afraid?"

"If I were, I shouldn't hesitate to say so," she answered.

"Well, say it and be done with it!" he bade harshly.

She looked up at him fearlessly. "I am no more afraid of you than I am of myself, Mr. Nevile," she said. "Not so much, in fact."

"There must be a certain amount of angel in your composition, judging by the way you endure my little frenzies," he said, almost apologetically. "But, seriously, Miss Morland, I feel I ought to warn you—it has only just occurred to me, but I feel I ought to say it. I want you to read the account of Miss Harland's death, and especially the evidence I gave yesterday. I want you to realise from that evidence—if you believe I was speaking the truth and knew what I was talking about—that there was absolutely no visible agency to account for that death. She was killed, terribly, in that next room, and I can think of no way of accounting for her death."

"I understand that, from things you've already said," she observed.

"Well, consider it carefully. There's death concealed in that room somewhere, somehow, and it may move in here, or into my lab. It might get you, just as it got her, or might get me. Look at it in that way, and do you mean to tell me you're not afraid?"

"Mr. Nevile, while you're content to go on working here, I'm content to go on working with you," she answered quietly. "Death might find me in my own room, on my way here—anywhere! I prefer to go on working here, if you will have me, in spite of what you say."

"You mean, until you see I'm afraid, you're not?"

"Not in the least. It never occurred to me to be afraid."

"Very well." He went back into his study, and returned with a morning paper, opened at a practically verbatim account of the proceedings at the preceding day's inquiry. "Read that carefully before you do anything else," he bade, "and then come and tell me if you've changed your mind. I shall not blame you in the least if you do."

He left her, and went to his desk in his own room. In a little while she came to the desk and put the paper down beside him.

"Well?" he asked, looking round and up at her.

"I see three possible alternatives," she answered quietly. "Either there was nothing on the table, as you said, or your memory is defective, or you are a liar. You told me to speak frankly."

"I'm glad you do. Which do you incline to believe?"

"The first of the three. Your memory would not be defective in regard to that one thing and as perfect as I have found it in every other way. When you plugged the telephone into the socket on the table, you evidently visualised what was on it—any unusual object would have made enough impression to remain in your mind, photographed itself there."

"And the third alternative, that I lied?"

"Please don't be quite so absurd, Mr. Nevile."

"No? Then what killed that girl?"

She shook her head. "I wonder? It was an hour later than the time you always set for my leaving, and I conclude set for her to leave too. Was it something meant to kill—somebody else?"

"You mean you're venturing to assume a crime? Then by whom? And against whom? Against me, obviously—I should have been the one to answer that call and stand where she was standing at that particular moment. Then who was the author of the crime?"

She shook her head. "I'm not a detective," she said.

"Motive? Who wants me killed? Nobody in this house, surely? Forrest was the only outsider who entered the room that afternoon, and I think he said enough to you to prove that he wants me kept alive, not killed. Besides, he left nothing—Oh, damn that side of it, though! I had to say enough about it yesterday. You don't like Forrest, I know—no, it's no use denying it! I see more than you think. But even you can't accuse him of wanting me dead, little as you like him."

"Don't you think I'd better get on with my work, Mr. Nevile?" she asked, after a silence in which she could feel the colour rising to her cheeks under his intent, searching scrutiny.

"No, I don't!" he snapped. "You're not going to get out of it in that way. Let work wait—this is more important. You've expressed a belief in me that warms me, and from my point of view taken the only sensible view of the thing that I've heard yet. Can't you take it a little further, give me your idea of a solution to the mystery?"

Again she shook her head. "If I could, I would," she answered. "I believe the solution will be found—I don't think this is the end for you. I believe, too, that the explosion was—what is the word? Yes, perpetrated. It was not an accident, or you would have seen some sign of the cause, And I believe you saw all there was to be seen."

"Which leaves us exactly where we were!" he exclaimed angrily.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Nevile."

"No, though, it doesn't," he said, with an abrupt reversion to quiet thoughtfulness. "We're not where we were, but a long way farther on. I know now I can trust you, Miss Morland, under any circumstances, and it's quite impossible for me to tell you how much I appreciate that. We will now get on with our respective jobs, and forget all about this, as nearly as we can. You carry on with anything you can find to do—take over all these letters, and don't worry me about them at all unless you find yourself utterly incapable of dealing with them—don't worry me about anything to-day. I believe that blue is almost in sight as a commercial property, and mean to concentrate on it all day—as many days as I need, in fact. When I've got it, we'll shake hands."

"Very good, Mr. Nevile," she said, almost mechanically.

"I've hated that phrase for years," he remarked. "It's got such a damned servile sound, to me. Try something else, can't you?"

"But I mean it is very good," she insisted, and smiled.

"What is—what do you mean by that?" he demanded.

"That you delegate enough important work to me, and consider me of enough use to you, to suggest shaking hands on an achievement."

"Bless you, girl, you are!" he exclaimed, and laughed. "In ten days or less you've proved yourself exactly what I want here, and I'm grateful, really and humanly, which is nearly a miracle as far as I'm concerned—that is, it's never happened before." He rose and went to the door leading to the laboratory. "Feeling much less blue, after that talk, I'm going to look for blue, now," he ended.

After Dorothy had finished her lunch, Halkin herself came for the tray. As she was about to take it up, she looked at Dorothy.

"Mr. Nevile must have forgotten all about his lunch, miss," she observed. "Is he still working in his room there?"

"As far as I know, he is," the girl answered. "Hadn't you better go and remind him of it?"

Halkin shook her head. "I heard enough last time," she said grimly. "P'raps—could you go and tell him for me, miss?"

Dorothy considered it, and in turn shook her head. If Nevile were so absorbed in his work, he would not welcome her as an interruption.

"I think not," she answered. "Better to leave him alone."

"It'll be quite all right," Halkin said, very doubtfully. "The mistress is out huntin', and Miss Ashton's out too. Yes, it'll be quite all right. He'll come out when he wants it."

She went off with the tray, having registered all the protest she felt inclined to risk. If Mr. Nevile's secretary, who was admitted to these rooms while he worked in them, felt it better not to disturb him, then she herself was quite right in not venturing in on him—must be right! She felt relieved that Mrs. Nevile was not at home to order her to enter the laboratory, as she would with a guest in the house.

Dorothy resumed her work, and at the usual time rang for tea to be brought in. Again she deliberated, but decided to leave Nevile alone: the mere frailty of tea, as he had called it, might put him off his work at a critical point, and a reminder merely anger him.

But, just as she had poured herself a cup, he appeared in the doorway of the room. "I thought I told you to remind me," he said.

"Also, not to disturb you except on compulsion," she pointed out.

"Well, there is rather a conflict between the two, and tea isn't exactly compulsory." He drew his chair forward and seated himself. "I've just realised that I missed lunch," he added. "A teaspoon clinked, and something inside me responded—it was practically a subconscious urge, as the psychoanalysts call it. Three, Miss Morland—three! Why am I to be put off with only two lumps to-day?"

She took the sugar-tongs and added a third. Nevile took a piece of toast and began eating, with the air of a hungry man.

"I've just remembered there was an interesting discussion at breakfast," he observed. "So much so, that I forgot to finish mine, and came away. Hence I intend to lick this butter off my fingers, so as to miss nothing—you can look the other way and don't tell anybody later. Been busy? How is the correspondence section of the firm?"

"Two more to do," she answered. "I've not been too busy."

"Do you feel like worrying me about them?"

"No. I think I can manage. If not, I can come in before I leave."

"I'll try to remember to come out to sign the lot, though I make no promises. If I don't, leave them, and I'll send them off in the morning before I settle to serious endeavour. Don't come in, and don't stay later than six-fifteen. Yes, more toast, please. If anyone had told me a month ago that I should be sitting in this room having tea with my secretary, I'd have thrown things at him."

She laughed. "Is it so degenerate?" she asked.

"It's a terrible descent from the impersonal," he said reflectively. "More tea, and more toast, please—is that the last piece, though?"

"Absolutely, but I'm on cakes," she answered, and hoped he would not realise that he had eaten all the toast that had been sent in. "I like little cakes with a just-baked flavour."

"I can just remember pulling a plate of them off the table, one day when I was allowed to come to tea," he observed. "I must have been about three years old, or perhaps four—old enough to get thoroughly whacked for it, in any case. Later, I'm going to have one off that plate, or more, with your gracious permission. I haven't enjoyed a tea as much as this for years."

He put his cup down on the table before she could reply, and looked past her at the open doorway of the room. "What do you want, Halkin?" he demanded with angry sharpness.

"Mr. Forrest wants to see you, sir, please," she answered meekly.

"Mr.—Oh, come in, Forrest! What is it? Anything wrong?"

And Forrest, entering, took in Miss Morland's relaxed, easy attitude, the cosy fire beside her, the position of Nevile's chair in relation to hers, and, in fact, the comfortable intimacy of the scene on which he had entered.


TO Forrest, Nevile's almost-anger as he started up was inexplicable: in reality, it was irritation on Nevile's part at being caught in such a position, descending to what he honestly considered the frailty of tea when he ranked himself above such feminine excuses for wasting time. He had his own weaknesses, this Nevile, and one was a regard of himself as of a calibre that scorned such relaxations as this in which he had been caught. He was angry with himself, and angry, too, with Miss Morland, though a moment's reasoning would have told him that he had invited himself and she was not to blame. Later, he had the decency to absolve her of any part in his dereliction from strong silence.

"I felt I ought to come and see you," Forrest said, glancing at the girl who had risen and now faced the two men with a look of inquiry. "Mrs. Nevile has been thrown by that new horse, Sultan—"

"Hurt?" Nevile interrupted. "I mean, hurt seriously? Speak out, man—don't mind Miss Morland being here. It's her room—if you've anything desperate to tell me, come out into the study."

"No, it isn't desperate," Forrest answered. "She was thrown, but fell clear. She's badly shaken, and I brought her back in my car. She walked up your staircase alone, so that ought to tell you she's not seriously injured. My man is fetching her two horses back here on his way to my place, and there's no real damage done. But I felt I ought to tell you—that horse isn't safe for her, at present."

"Isn't safe for her?" Nevile echoed incredulously. "And you know what she is on a horse. What happened—how was she thrown?"

"Well, you know we were out with the hounds. She'd changed on to this Sultan, and we had a pretty stiff fence. Sultan refused. So she took him back from it, turned him at it again, and gave him a cut across the flank with her crop to show him she meant business. He simply went up in the air instead of forward, and clean over—she hadn't a chance to do anything. It wasn't her fault—she's got the tenderest hands of any rider I've ever seen, man or woman, and she didn't touch his mouth more than was absolutely necessary to keep his head at the fence. He went up and over as I say, and by God's mercy she fell clear of him. I caught him, and wouldn't let her mount him again. Then I handed over and fetched her home, and she walked upstairs alone. That's all."

"Thanks, Forrest." Nevile spoke the words stiffly, coldly, as if there were no reality of gratitude prompting them. "If you wouldn't mind waiting here, I'll go and see her, hear her account."

Without waiting for any reply he went out, passed along the main corridor of Long Ridge to the big entrance hall, ascended the staircase, and knocked at the door of his wife's room. Her voice bade him enter.

He found her lying on her bed in a heavy, brocaded dressing-gown—the room felt chilly to him as he entered. There was a lighted cigarette between her fingers, and she looked up at him without moving.

"I gather that you've heard the terrible news," she said coolly, gazing up at him as he stood beside her. "Mr. Forrest made an utterly unnecessary fuss, and insisted on reporting the whole thing to you. My grievance is that he wouldn't let me get on Sultan again."

"Then you don't realise how near death you've been, Hilda," Nevile told her quietly. "Anything but a rearing horse—yes. A brute like this one—no. I'm going to cure him, and have a word with Carter for selling him with that fault and not warning me of it."

"Ray, I'd rather you left the horse alone," she said uneasily. "And you know Carter gave no warranty beyond wind and limb soundness."

"Quite. But when a horse is definitely dangerous—are you sure you're uninjured? Forrest says so, but are you?"

"Isn't it almost too late to ask me that?" she queried in reply.

"As you like," he said, and turned away. "I'll ring Doctor Bennett on my way down, and get him to come and examine you."

"Ray!" She spoke to his back as he reached for the door handle. "Don't—please don't! There is nothing whatever wrong with me. I was only shaken for a minute or two—nothing more."

"As you wish," he said coldly. "If you are not down for dinner, I shall telephone Bennett. For the present, you had better go on resting."

With the cold statement he left her. After a minute or less she lay back on her pillows again, and took up the cigarette, which had already burned a hole in the eiderdown. Nevile's icy coldness with regard to her troubled her very little: she found far greater cause for reflection in the drive back to Long Ridge with Forrest, who, driving his own car, had spared one arm to hold her close to him—a contact of which the recollection thrilled her yet. But even as she quivered at the memory she realised that they had gone too far in the mutual confession they had made while Nevile lay helpless up in his room: they had owned to love for each other, and thereby advanced a step along the way that would end in utter inability to hold back from each other, no matter what the consequences of yielding to passion might be. Until the words had been spoken, both she and Forrest could have claimed a semblance of loyalty to Nevile—and she knew that Forrest, equally with herself, owed loyalty to him. But with the confession loyalty had vanished: both Forrest and herself were merely waiting for a way by which they might achieve surrender to each other.

Not that they had not known before—he had known she longed to be his, and she had been glad that he should know. But the spoken words made an infinite difference: in all but the actual, irremediable act that would cut her off from intercourse of every kind with Nevile, they belonged to each other, now, and on this drive Forrest had told her yet again how he hungered for her, a telling that she had weakly forbidden, but only because she knew her forbidding was of no avail, and he knew that even the telling was as food and wine to her.

Now, she longed for him, but was afraid. When they yielded—no longer "if," but "when" in her thoughts, now—they must pull down so much, step to each other through so great a ruin. Already she felt that this thing must be, though she would delay it while she could, in the knowledge that when the first unfelt loss of single identity in mutual passion had passed, regrets must come. She knew she would regret the step in the end, but knew, too, that Forrest's craving for her, even more than hers for him, would force her to yield herself eventually—and she would not yield by halves. It was not in her to deceive Nevile by giving herself to Forrest in secret, but she must go to him openly, let the results to others be what they might.

Not yet. Oh, not yet! Nevile himself might open a way, might find some interest that would render him glad to let her go. He showed her plainly that she was almost nothing to him, and such a man could not live in utter, impersonal coldness. She had hoped Berenice might interest him, had even ventured to think for a moment that Miss Morland might attract him. If he maintained his present separateness from herself, somebody would rouse him from this unnatural, inhuman state: it could not possibly last. She had driven him to it, she knew: she had let him see her own lack of response before ever she met Forrest, and had killed his love first, and then even his desire for her. She had not played fair, but he had been impossible, too ardent a lover for one who had never loved him, in reality. And now, if he could maintain to all other women the icy indifference he displayed to her, he must be either more or less than human. Had Forrest not appeared and wakened her to real, passionate love for the first time in her life, she might eventually have fallen in love with her husband by reason of that same indifference, might have been piqued into real desire for him. But Forrest had ended that possibility.

And now, lying here—the eiderdown began to smoulder again, and she slapped it out with her hand—she knew that she wanted to delay the inevitable crash, to hold out against Forrest's longing for complete surrender yet a little while, for some way might open that would mitigate if not avert the effects of their coming together.

She brooded, half in mind to confess to her husband that Forrest had her love, had all but her actual self, and to let him decide what they three must do, while Nevile went his way to the telephone in the library, rang up Westingborough Grange, and asked for Carter. After an interval a voice told him that Carter was speaking.

"Raymond Nevile at this end," he said coldly. "I bought a horse off you a few days ago, Carter. A horse named Sultan."

"That is, so," Carter answered, "with a warranty of soundness in wind and limb. I hope you found him so."

"As far as I know. Did you know that the animal is murderously dangerous? Does it surprise you to hear that he nearly killed my wife to-day, by rearing and coming right over at a cut of the whip?"

"Well, I knew he reared," Carter said, with obvious discomfort. "I'm sorry if it proved dangerous for Mrs. Nevile—"

"Carter," Nevile cut in, "you knew that horse reared. You knew too that I ride very little, and that Mrs. Nevile would probably mount him rather than myself, and yet you gave no warning of any kind of his rearing propensity, though you own you knew of it. Do you call that honourable dealing with a man with whom you claim acquaintance?"

"I am afraid I forgot to warn you about it," Carter drawled. "I believe you yourself forget equally important things, sometimes. At least, it appears so since yesterday afternoon—in the corn hall."

Nevile drew a breath plainly audible at the other end of the wire. "I note your care in crossing t's and dotting i's, in case I might misunderstand the allusion," he said clearly. "Do you know what I am going to do now, Carter?"

"I don't," Carter answered. "Nor do I—"

"Wait!" Nevile cut in again crisply. "I'm going to take that horse out and teach him I am his master. Thank the gods of dishonourable dealings whom you serve that you are not here in his place, for if you were I'd give you the same lesson—and expect to get if it I meet you in any place where it's possible to give it, for I surely will give it."

"I will return your cheque to-day," Carter said.

"Don't! The horse stays here. You might as well offer to compensate me for any injury my wife may have suffered, or to unsay the cad's taunt you used just now. And for that last, I intend to treat you as I am now going to treat the horse. No cheque will buy me off, nor restore your horse to you. I will now hang up."

He replaced the receiver, and went up to his room, where he changed into riding clothes. On coming down, he went through to his study, where Forrest still waited and talked to Miss Morland through the doorway of her room, though she was seated at her desk as if waiting to resume her work. Forrest turned at the other man's entry.

"Thanks for what you did, Forrest," Nevile said. "I may amplify that later—I'm in no mood for it now. Miss Morland, I am going out now, and shall not come back here this evening. You may go when you like—leave the letters for me to sign in the morning. Good-night."

He turned again and stalked out, waiting for no reply from either of them. Forrest, smiling, turned to the doorway again.

"Good-night, and nearly an hour of daylight left," he observed. "But Nevile is Nevile—I wonder this room doesn't give you the shivers, after what happened in it. I know it would me."

"Possibly I am not so sensitive," she said coolly. "I have not seen it other than as it is now, while it must recall the actual tragedy to you, since you were here that night."

"I was, and I'm not likely to forget it in a hurry," he confessed frankly. "Well, Miss Morland, I'm glad you get on so well with Nevile—he told me he was immensely pleased with you, and you may be interested to know that you were quite right about Miss Elmer—I've turned her out already. So if you feel you'd like to come back to me—"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Forrest. I'm quite happy here, and Mr. Nevile has as good as asked me—" She paused, hardly knowing how to express Nevile's voiced appreciation of her work.

"I know," Forrest said, and smiled again. "I won't keep you from your work any longer—Gee-whiz! Look there!"

He almost rushed to the window of her room, which gave a better view of the open grass land in front of the house than could be obtained from Nevile's study. She too stood up and faced toward the window.

Out in the park, far enough from the terrace to be clearly visible over its balustrade, they saw Nevile on a red roan horse of about sixteen or seventeen hands, a raking brute that bucked and twisted, sun-fished and tried in every possible fashion to get rid of its rider—but Nevile stuck to his seat as if its girths had been passed round him instead of the saddle, and lashed the horse with a heavy riding crop, a blow for every time its feet came down on the turf. Three times they saw the animal begin to rear, and each time the butt of the crop came down between its ears, while, no sooner had its forefeet touched the ground again than the merciless flogging was resumed. Forrest, himself a good horseman, knew that the beast tried every trick that might rid it of the man on its back, short of rolling with him.

"My God!" he breathed, as if to himself. "They say she can ride. I never knew he could ride like that."

It was a magnificent show of horsemastership. Nevile appeared to anticipate every move his mount made, and by keeping his seat he proved that he foiled every trick. The red roan circled giddily, and they saw its rider's white face appear and disappear: it dropped each shoulder in turn nearly to the earth, and still he sat firm and thrashed it; it rose with humped back and dropped joltingly, but there was no abatement of Nevile's vengeful punishment; it tried to rear again, and the crop, reversed instantly, thudded between its ears. In the end—the two watchers did not know how long they had stood, fascinatedly watching the duel—it stood quite still with its head drooped, and the movement of Nevile's arm ceased.

They saw him draw with apparent gentleness on the reins, but the horse kept his head down. Nevile gave it a blow on the withers which sounded to them even at that distance and through the window, and then the animal's head came up to its normal posture. A twist of the reins turned it to face toward the end of the house, and it passed from sight, walking as placidly as any aged hack, with Nevile still in the saddle.

"No," Forrest said gravely, "you wouldn't want to leave a man like him, Miss Morland. But that's a new side of him, to me. Good-night."

He went out, and presently she saw him enter his car and drive away. After a long interval she turned away from the window, put the cover on her machine and, donning her hat and coat, set off along the drive. And she took a remark of Forrest's with her, could not escape from it:

"You wouldn't want to leave a man like him."

THAT afternoon, Inspector Head walked into Superintendent Wadden's office, and nodded gravely at his chief, who looked up questioningly.

"You've brought the bacon home with you, I presume?" Wadden asked.

Head shook that part of himself after which he was named. "It's not cured yet, chief, so I can't cook it," he answered. "Quite literally, it's got to be cured before we can have it."

"Meaning what?" Wadden asked. "Don't keep me waiting."

"I came back to report to you, instead of writing, because it's no use waiting up there," Head told him. "And it's more than odd that you should have used that simile. Our man's name is Bacon, and he calls himself a maker of instruments of precision. And he's down with rheumatic fever, unconscious, and has to be cured before he can talk."

"Then how do you know he's our man?" Wadden demanded.

"He's got a daughter who minds the shop—it's a one-man business, or thereabouts," Head explained. "Most of his work, it appears, is on escapements for high-class chronometers—the sort of thing that costs about three hundred pounds and tells you when Queen Anne was born if you whistle at it. And the daughter, she's cross-eyed—Gosh, if that girl wanted to weep she'd have to go to the top of a spiral staircase! She thinks she identifies the photograph, but isn't sure. Only saw the original once, she said, and then in a bad light. So we've got to wait till her old man gets well enough to talk, which won't be—are you very busy, chief, or shall I tell you the lot now?"

"Well, if you keep on like this, I can take a day off to-morrow to hear the rest," Wadden answered. "What the hell do I care if the girl is knock-kneed or suffers from staggers or halitosis? Begin at the front end and put yourself in the witness-box, man, and I'll listen till it's time to go home. You can start again in the morning."

"I'm not as bad as that, chief," Head protested. "But to begin with, maybe you'll remember the Colvin murder case—happened somewhere in the Camden Town district of North London, not so many moons ago?"

"Yes, but that was a poison dart murder, and poison darts can't count as instruments of precision."

"Quite so, chief. The man in charge of that case was Detective-Inspector Byrne, and he happens to be my cousin. I got to London and put in the first half-day trying to trace our bit of metal, and found I had thousands of people to see if I meant to track it down—and the right one was bound to be the last. Was the last, too, as it turned out. Well, I went to Terry—that's Byrne—that night—"

"And he told you your man's name was Bacon?" Wadden suggested, interrupting the recital rather impatiently.

"He did not," Head contradicted. "He took me to see Sir Arthur Endliss, who showed me the initials of the makers of that spindle on the spindle itself, and told me to go to Birmingham and hear what they had to say about it. So to Birmingham goes me, and Sir Arthur's name set 'em all bowing and scraping, or thereabouts—the fact that he'd recommended me. If ever we want an expert in his line, chief—"

"Oh, yes!" Wadden interrupted again. "And I hope the recommendation is entirely unsolicited. Return to your mutton, young feller—to your Bacon, I mean, if you're ever going to get that far."

"Well, the makers of the thing gave me exactly a dozen names—"

"Thank God it wasn't thirteen!" Wadden interpolated.

"And one of them was Bristol," Head continued. "So I went to Bristol, being nearly into the West Country already, and drew blank. They checked up all the spindles of that sort they'd used, and mine was foreign to their nature. Back goes me to London with eleven more to do. There was one place at Cricklewood kept me a day, hoping wildly, but at the finish they had to own mine wasn't a part of their collection, and I sallied forth again. You see, chief, it had to be somewhere among that dozen—a spindle like that couldn't be a forgery—"

"And it's a little short thing, not a bit like the way you tell a story," Wadden interrupted yet again. "Are you trying to make yourself thirsty? If you are, they're not open yet."

"I worked through the lot," Head pursued unmovedly, "and so got to Bacon—or to his place, rather—last of all. It would be that. It's a dingy little house up back of Hatton Garden, with an ordinary house window turned into a shop window, and a sign saying he's a maker of instruments of precision. The daughter was in the shop, and neither of her eyes ever looked at me. I'd proved it must be this place, if any, so I told her what I wanted and laid out all the photographs for her to examine. The one we want might be the right one, she said, and the others weren't. She thought she'd seen the original there, but couldn't be sure, couldn't swear to it. And she knew next to nothing about her father's work, except that one of the Cricklewood firms employed him to make escapements, as I said, things with about eighteenpenn'orth of stuff in them and worth forty pounds apiece, because of the workmanship. He'd done some assembling for a private customer too, cleaned and repaired a presentation repeater watch for a big shipbuilder up north, and might have used our spindle in that as a replacement. But I knew he hadn't. And as I said, he was down with rheumatic fever upstairs, and I couldn't see him under any circumstances. He'd had one relapse, and his heart might give out on him at any minute—she was badly worried over it, poor girl. So I got the name of the doctor in the case out of her, and went along and saw him. He told me the man may recover, and may not, but it wouldn't be the slightest use trying to question him now, and I mustn't think of it. I asked him would he mind a second opinion, and he agreed, after I'd told him why I wanted it and how important Bacon is to us—he didn't like it, but he agreed. So I went and got Cardross, the big Harley Street man, and told him why I wanted him. He came along and took a squint, and agreed with the regular doctor. I mustn't hope to worry that Bacon for another ten days at the very least, and probably not then—better give it a fortnight's curing, with luck. The man might die, and then all we've got left is to confront the daughter with the original of that photograph, and have only the identification, with no story at all. And there being nothing more to do, and the doctor having promised to wire me either if the man dies or if he gets well enough to talk, I reckoned I'd come home to report instead of writing, in case there was any more I could do down here."

"Just as well, perhaps," Wadden said. "I don't see how we can advance our case, though, as long as there's a hope of having that man talk in the witness-box. And without him, we might get shaken, though we've enough to do some shaking on our side already."

"The clock, for instance," Head suggested. "How and where was it found? Can you give me that story, chief?"

Wadden told him the tale of Alfred Potter, who at that time was thinking of sending for his wife, and had been reported a good, steady, and intelligent worker by Parham himself. Head listened closely.

"Had much rain down here since I left?" he asked at the end.

Wadden shook his head. "Two wet days," he answered. "Mainly cold drizzle, though. About enough to fill my rain-water tub at home, and precious little more. It's a dry autumn, this."

"And the clock is all you've got out of that pool?" Head suggested.

"Hell, man!" Wadden smote his desk with his fist. "For God's sake come round here and kick me! The very first thing I ought to have thought of, and it never entered my mind till you said that!"

"No reason why I shouldn't go fishing, is there?" Head asked.

"Before the real rain comes and that pool gets too deep," Wadden assented. "Head, we'll both go, and go to-night, too. The light's begun to fail already—I'll tell you what we'll do. Hold on!"

He took the receiver off his telephone and called Parham's garage, asking for Mr. Parham himself. Presently he got his man.

"Mr. Parham, is that man Potter about to-day?" he asked.

"In the garage, superintendent. I've put him on to tyres, and he's good at it. Why—do you want him for anything?"

"Can he drive a car, and does he know anything about lamp wiring?"

"He can drive all right, but I don't think he's electric."

"Never mind. Look here, Mr. Parham. I want you to turn out a car with him driving, as soon as you can, and send it round here. Any car, as long as it's got a good twelve-volt lighting system—there'll be two of us to go in it. Wait a bit—wait a bit! I want you to fit up two lengths of about fifty yards of flex, so that one end of each of them can be fitted into the headlight bulb holders, and the other ends plugged into a pair of the best reflectors you've got, with the highest twelve-volt bulbs fixed in them. You see the idea? What I want is to plug the flex into the headlight holders, and be able to move the lights themselves in a fifty-yard radius round the car. And tell Potter it's my order that his mouth remains shut about what he's doing or where he's going. Can you do that, Mr. Parham?"

"Give me a quarter of an hour to rig up the flex, and I'll have him round at your door, superintendent," Parham promised.

"Not at my door—that is, not at the door of the police station," Wadden dissented. "Tell him to pull up outside the Duke of York, and if any of my men try to move him on, as they probably will, say he's waiting there by Superintendent Wadden's order. You get that?"

"Perfectly, superintendent. He shall be there. I'll give you the highest-powered bulbs I've got, and a pair of new reflectors. George?" He was evidently calling someone in his office. "Come here—hurry! All right, superintendent, I'll get busy."

They hung up. Wadden rose slowly from his chair.

"If we were seen getting into that car here," he observed, "somebody might think we were after something. You get the idea? We can stand the car in the road outside, and fifty yards will more than take us through the gateway and down to the water alongside the bridge. I can hold one lamp and Potter the other while you fish—Potter knows exactly where the clock was lying when he saw it."

"Excellent," Head concurred. "If we have any luck, it can rain like hell if it likes to-morrow."

"It doesn't rain there, I've always been given to understand," Wadden pointed out. "Now, if we just step across and up the street to the Duke, it's pretty certain Little Nell will be pleased to see you, and your fishing is going to be a cold job. A good double apiece is indicated, and I think my flask wants refilling. Let's get along."


THERE was no sign of Berenice when Nevile came down to breakfast on the morning following his conquest of the red roan. Hilda, already seated at the table, observed his glance at the vacant chair as he took his place and dropped the morning paper on the floor.

"She is making the most of her holiday," she remarked, "and this is her last day. I received this by the post this morning, Ray."

He took from her an envelope that had already been opened, and withdrew from it a letter to which a cheque had been pinned. Then he read the letter, and his wife poured his coffee, very deliberately.

Dear Mrs. Nevile,

The enclosed cheque for seventy pounds represents the value of the horse Sultan, which Mr. Nevile bought from me. I am not interested in what becomes of the horse, but wish you to do exactly what you like with him, and devote the proceeds of the cheque to any charity in which you may be interested, or dispose of the sum exactly as you please. It is intended as an assurance that, contrary to Mr. Nevile's view of me, I did not sell him the horse with any intention of deceiving him as to its possible vices, and also as a very abject apology to yourself for the mishap of which Mr. Nevile informed me, and an equally sincere wish that no ill-effects to you may result. Knowing you to be an almost perfect horsewoman, I felt that you would manage Sultan as you do any other horse you ride, and that you would know how to combat his rearing or anything else. I am very deeply and sincerely sorry for what has happened, and am willing to take the horse back and find you his equivalent in speed and staying power, but without any of his faults, or in fact to do anything you may suggest to repair my fault.

I am writing to you instead of to Mr. Nevile, in view of his last words to me on the telephone yesterday. In that connection, he used some very insulting epithets to me, and I am afraid that in the heat of the moment I replied with an unpardonable insinuation. For that, too, I can only express my own deep regret, realising as I do now that my reply contained an unjust aspersion on Mr. Nevile, and that he had every right to resent it. I should like him to see this letter, and to receive my assurance that I am deeply sorry to have caused him pain in the way I did. On that, I do not think I can say any more.

Trusting that you will accept this apology,

Yours truly,

Edward E. Carter

Nevile put the letter and cheque back in the envelope, and handed it over to her. He took his coffee and put it down beside his plate.

"Scared, eh?" he remarked thoughtfully. "I ought not to have warned him of what I meant to do."

"What was that?" she inquired coldly.

"To treat him as I treated the horse, with the crop I used on it yesterday afternoon," he answered. "To break him, in fact."

"Do you mean you have broken Sultan of his rearing?"

"It remains to be seen. I don't think he will rear or try any other tricks in future with me on his back. You needn't think of taking him out this morning—he had enough yesterday to excuse him from more than walking exercise to-day, and I told Hill to give him that when I took him in. When you answer that letter, send the cheque back and tell Carter I accept his apology."

"Why should I tell him?" she asked. "Why not you?"

"Because he flung at me the taunt about my memory that you used yesterday morning," he answered quietly. "I told him I intended to horsewhip him publicly in return—implied it, at least."

She put the letter down beside her plate and sat quite still. Berenice entered, spoke a cheerful good-morning, and seated herself.

"My last day!" she said regretfully. "I wish it were only just beginning, instead of ending. In—in a different way, of course." She had remembered the circumstances of her first evening at Long Ridge, and made things worse by the half-allusion.

"I should recommend you to forget your uncomfortable reception," Nevile said after a pause, and stressed the word "forget."

"Isn't that rather spiteful, Ray?" Hilda asked sharply.

"If you look again at that letter beside your plate, you will see that Carter has apologised," he answered quietly.

"Then I do not apologise!" she flung back angrily.

"In that case"—he rose from his chair and pushed it back—"you must finish your breakfast without me. I am very sorry for these domestic scenes, Berenice. They seem to be growing most irritatingly frequent. Perhaps you will come over to the east wing and say good-bye before you go—and let me thank you for your nursing."

"It was over what I said yesterday morning," Hilda remarked after he had closed the door on himself. "I'm not going to say I believe a thing when I don't believe it, either for him or for any other man."

Berenice, trying to steer a tactful course, soon found herself involved in a discussion which forced her to side either with her cousin or with Nevile, and, being honest enough to admit that her sympathies were with him and that she thought his own wife ought to stand by him, was made to feel that it was just as well her visit was at an end, or nearly so, since she was not due to leave until after lunch. Meanwhile Nevile, out in the entrance hall, rang a bell and waited till Halkin appeared and quailed at the look he gave her. But the look was not intended for her, and his words reassured her.

"I want you, when you send Miss Morland's lunch in to her, to send a tray in for me as well, Halkin," he said. "Tell the girl to put it on the table in my study. I'm very much engrossed in my work just now, and may forget all about lunch as I did yesterday. If you send the tray in, I'll get Miss Morland to come and tell me when it arrives."

"Yes, sir. And what would you like sent in?"

"Oh, anything there is. Put me a bottle of claret on the tray, and choose the rest yourself. That's all, Halkin."

He went on to his laboratory, and there stayed, heedless of whether Miss Morland might need him, and of the letters he should have signed the evening before, for the time. As he looked round the shelves and at the bench at which he had been working the day before until the clink of a teaspoon stopped him, the frown cleared from his face.

"These things never let you down, Raymond," he told himself. "Never hit you between the eyes or show they hate you. Ah! Thank God for work, the greatest gift man has!"

He paused to gaze at the door leading to the study. "She's all right," he added. "I can sign them any time."

He stripped off his coat, put on the acid-stained and dye-splotched substitute that implied laboratory work and nothing else, and went over to the bench. And, by this time, there was a smile on his face.

STILL, as Dorothy Morland walked up the drive each morning, Long Ridge repelled her, made her feel that its assertion of itself was not genuine, and that the shadow she had sensed existed, perhaps was deeper and more lowering than when she had first seen the house, only a fortnight since. Only a fortnight since! More experience, more advancement in consciousness of life's myriad facets, had been hers in that fortnight than in all the months she had spent as Forrest's secretary. She felt, not older, but capable of seeing more, comprehending more, possibly enduring more at need.

For that, she knew, Long Ridge was not responsible. Her first impressions of the place had been confirmed and strengthened with each day she spent there, though that sense of the shadow's brooding was, to ordinary, common-sense reasoning, utterly without cause. But Dorothy was not altogether an ordinary, common-sense person: she lived by instinct just as much as by reasoning, and possibly the emptiness of her own life at this time left room for realisation of influences acting on others, of which she herself was independent, and so was able to feel more clearly—as a photographic plate will feel and respond to light, sensitised and uninfluenced by light as it is, up to the time of its exposure.

The shadow she felt as brooding over the place was not an impending threat: it was something settled, accomplished, unescapable. She saw it in Nevile's face, except when work or other transient interests banished it; in the rare occasions on which she encountered his wife, she saw it as a cloud on her beauty, slight, yet ever-present, something from which the woman could not escape. Dorothy had seen her only three or four times, and then only for moments, but in seeing her had felt the existence of the haunting presence, or emptiness, that spoiled the stately beauty of Long Ridge and oppressed its inhabitants.

Instinct alone revealed the hurt of that viewless presence—for it was a hurt, like the scar of a scarcely-healed wound that throbbed and would not admit of forgetting—and a less sensitive nature than this of Morland might have denied its existence. She felt it when she came to the place in the mornings, and left it behind—cause, that, for a sigh of relief—when she went down from the level of the terrace and along the drive toward the road, at the end of her day. And, arriving at the highly-respectable, bay-windowed villa in which she occupied the first-floor front room, with a comfortable divan in one corner which obviated any suspicion of its being a bedroom until she removed the outer coverlet, she felt with each return there like one who walks out from mist into sunshine, or emerges from a windowless, beautiful room lighted by artificial means, to breezy day and its freedom.

It was not that Long Ridge and its influence depressed her: she had no part in the place, was independent of the effect it might produce on Nevile or his wife—or, possibly, might derive from them. She went there as an employee, one whose business in life it was to supply service in return for a wage. Nevile interested and attracted her, just as Long Ridge interested and repelled her, and she failed to question the attraction until Forrest's half-grudging tribute to Nevile—"you wouldn't want to leave a man like him"—caused her to realise that her interest in him was already lapsing from the impersonal wish to supplement his genius as far as lay in her power, to a far more personal consciousness that she found pleasure in being with him. For her own sake she had studied him from the first day, tried to make herself such an unobtrusive necessity as she had been to Forrest: Nevile's response to her effort had been more and more—as he grew used to her presence and ways—that of a man who had hitherto repressed all impulses toward normal, human interest in those with whom he was in daily touch, and who found her one with whom there was no need for repression. His confession of real enjoyment of tea with her—she knew Forrest had overheard it and drawn a perhaps natural conclusion from the words, knowing that they were utterly at variance with the side of Nevile's character that he always saw—had given her a thrill of pleasure that she knew she ought not to feel, if she meant to go on working with the man as long as he had need of her.

She could control herself—yes. Nevile had no thought of her other than as an employee, and that in itself was enough to prevent her from losing control, letting herself see other relationship with him as a possibility: pride alone forbade such lowering of herself in her own sight. So she told herself as she went up the drive in the crisp sunshine of late October morning, and glanced across the park to where Hill, the groom, rode the horse Sultan at a quiet walk over the grass: it was a conquered, docile Sultan, a submissive brute that made the scene of the preceding afternoon appear impossible. Surely this gently-moving animal was incapable of the tremendous display of vicious energy he had given only a few hours before?

But it was the same horse, she knew, with high withers and mighty quarters, and a big head set on too long a neck for symmetry. Hill, crossing the drive quite near her as she approached the house, touched his cap respectfully with a cheerful—"Beautiful morning, miss," and she smiled and nodded a reply. The smile had not quite gone when she entered her own room and realised, from sounds that came to her from the laboratory, that Nevile was already at work in there. The sounds included a tinkling of breaking glass and a loud oath: it was Nevile in there, without question, and, equally beyond question, a point she wanted to raise with him, in regard to one of the letters he had left to her, must wait till he chose to come out. She smiled again as she took off her hat and coat and hung them up. On her first morning, she had thought of him as a master coming to set her lessons for her: now, she felt more inclined to regard him as a schoolboy engrossed in his own studies to the exclusion of all other interests, though this view admitted of full tribute to his genius, and relegated herself to a level below that of the pedestal on which he admittedly stood.

In mid-morning he came out to her, wearing his stained laboratory coat and carrying a rather battered carpet beside her desk, and pointed at it.

"I must have left it in there some time—in the lab.," he said. "Get the girl to take it away when she comes in, will you? It irritates me, in there—ought not to be there. Those letters, now?"

He signed them, almost without looking at their contents, and pushed them toward her one by one.

"There's one more, Mr. Nevile," she said when he had finished. "The inquiry from Lennox and Harrald. I wanted to ask you—"

"Not at present," he interrupted. "They can wait till I've finished in there. I only came out to collect my thoughts, and the collection's finished, now. Oh, good morning! I forgot all about that, and the morning's half gone, now. Don't forget about the hat."

Again she smiled as he turned and went back, through the study and into the laboratory. Bending forward, she reached down and took up the hat, a much-worn, rather shabby thing—and her smile vanished as full realisation came in a flood. The touch of this thing, the knowledge that it was his, wakened her to the consciousness that she loved him with all the strength that was in her; the limp piece of felt put her for a moment in as close contact with him as if he held her in his arms, in the way that a ring or a letter will give a true psychic the personality and attributes of one absent or even dead. Neither will nor pride could save her, hold her back from loving him, and the thrill of this new consciousness was half-wonderful, half-shameful to her, a vision of marvellous beauty toward which she had no right to turn her eyes, or a golden cup from which she was forbidden to drink. She had given him all her mind gladly, fitted her thought to his and felt deep content in her use to him, but in this new knowledge that all her heart had gone out to him too was no content, only fear and self-despite, for this last gift of hers was unasked and undesired.

In that fashion, said all poesy and story, love came always, an unbidden guest, and more often bane than boon; there was in it for her one slight boon that she must guard and hold as if it were precious as love itself: nobody knew. Only through the touch of the old felt hat had she herself wakened to full knowledge, for in nearness to Nevile day after day she had been unquestioningly content, and had not sought for the cause of her sense of deepening capacity. With the hat in her hands, bringing Nevile himself before her as if his very face were close to her own, she knew that she longed to grasp and hold the man himself, to wind her arms round his neck and draw herself close to him, offering all, giving all—

And even as she longed, so she hated herself for the surging imaginings, for the passion that shook her was unanswered by like passion, unknown to any—thank God for that last! It must be kept hidden past any finding—past his finding, above all. There remained only to hold to her task, to go on...

But could she go on?

She put the hat down on the desk, and knew that as soon as she relinquished her touch from it reason came to rule her again. Nevile meant no less to her—he could never mean less than all, now—but there was loyalty to him, reverence to herself, his need of her, and her happiness in fulfilling his need—all these to give her balance and aid her in burying her secret beyond finding. Yes, she could go on; it would not be so easy, now, to maintain the frankness of comment with which she had so far encountered his friendly moods, to hold herself to equality of intercourse with him in all but his work, but it must be done. The only alternative was an ignominious retreat, an acknowledgment that she was incapable of keep her secret in contact with him, and that was no alternative at all, but an absurdity.

She rose and went to the window of her room, stood looking out at the wide-spreading grounds of Long Ridge, a slope beyond the terrace on which shade and light alternated as little clouds fled across the late autumn sky. While she stood at gaze, a big, fleecy cloud passed before the sun and threw down an acre of shadow that travelled up the slope and robbed Long Ridge of its sunlight. It moved across the grass, shrouded the gardens, darkened the house—shadow! Not only on Long Ridge and its people, but on her too, now. Yet she must go on: to back down, to play the coward, was unthinkable. Was there no man in all the world but Raymond Nevile—was her love for him unconquerable?

But even as she tried to formulate the question in her mind, she knew that for her there was and could be no other man worth thought.

A grey hunter with Nevile's wife riding it came cantering into the tract of shadow while Dorothy stood gazing out, and in the little interval in which they passed across her field of vision the girl knew all the bitterness of envy. Hilda Nevile could go to him, claim him—with a little gesture of contempt at her own weakness, Dorothy turned from the window and went back to her desk.

But questionings, born of the sight of the cantering horse and its rider, persisted in her mind. Did his wife value him, second him in his life as Dorothy tried to second him in his work? Did she give as Dorothy herself longed to give, mind and heart and body—all, intensely? If she gave thus, why did the shadow brood always over Nevile, and over her too? Perfect love casteth out fear...

For her, Dorothy, there remained work, with him and for him. Nothing else, except the consciousness that her work pleased him, and thus was a thing to give her happiness of a sort. For love itself was no more nor less than giving and desiring to give, and in working here with him she could give far more than he asked or dreamed, far more than he might ever know, since with his knowledge she would be driven out. Her new-found love for him was a flaming sword, sheathed as yet, but to be drawn and set across the gateway of her paradise if by word or sign she betrayed its existence to him or any other.

So, in exaltation, she decided then, and could not realise how very short a distance exaltation will carry its votary under normal stresses. She was still lost in reverie—for Nevile had given her no letters, nor any other work with which to occupy herself, and she had none left over from the preceding day—when Halkin entered with her lunch tray, and she saw a larger tray being put down by one of the maids on the table in the study. Halkin stood back, and Dorothy pointed to the hat on her desk.

"Mr. Nevile told me to ask you to take that away," she said.

Halkin took up the hat, and Dorothy could have murdered the woman for her look of disdain at it. "Did he say what he wanted done with it, Miss Morland?" she asked, with a distinct tinge of sarcasm directed at such an ancient and shabby piece of headgear.

"He did not," Dorothy answered. "I expect it is to be put with his other hats—hung up in the usual way."

"That'll be about it—if I had my way, half his things'd go in the dust-bin, but he fair treasures 'em, no matter how old they are. That's his lunch in there, Miss Morland. Will you tell him?"

"I? Tell him?" Dorothy echoed incredulously.

"He ordered it in here this morning, and said you was to tell him when it was brought in," Halkin explained. "So I think you better tell him, miss. I das'n't, since he said you was to."

"All right. Leave it to me. And thank you for bringing mine, Halkin. It's always so very nice and dainty."

"Thank you, miss. I'll tell cook that. She'll be pleased."

And Halkin went out. On her way, she told the girl who had brought Nevile's tray that you could always tell a real lady as soon as she opened her mouth, and Miss Morland was one even if she was only secretary to the master. You didn't mind doing things for people what appreciated it, and thanked you like that.

The girl, being of a different temperament and opinion over an extra meal to be served six days a week, said that she hadn't heard Miss Morland say anything, and people didn't give her much thanks for what she did for 'em—she'd had a sample of Mrs. Nevile's tongue that morning, and for two pins would clear out and chance getting another place. Thereupon Halkin told her severely that Miss Morland wasn't Mrs. Nevile, and if she were as deaf as all that she'd better be careful, or else she'd get burnt to death in her bed if the house happened to catch fire some night. She really ought to see the panel doctor about it.

These pleasantries were in progress when Dorothy tapped at the laboratory door, opened it, and looked in to see Nevile faced round from his bench, frowning fiercely at her.

"Surely you ought to know my orders about being undisturbed while I'm at work in here, Miss Morland?" he said angrily.

"You also gave an order this morning that I was to tell you when your lunch had been brought in," she answered without resentment. "It is waiting for you on the study table."

"I'm sorry," he said, and smiled—actually smiled! "I'll come out in five minutes. I believe I've got—never mind, though. Go and get on with your own lunch, if it's there—and it will be if mine is."

She went back, and was just seating herself at her desk in front of the tray when Nevile looked in through the doorway.

"I wonder if you'd mind my taking that and putting it on my table for you, Miss Morland?" he asked. "It's just struck me that we should look such a perfect pair of fools, sitting in the next room to each other to eat, and there's plenty of room at that table opposite each other."

"No," she said. "I don't object in the least. Quite the contrary."

He halted with the tray in his hands and stared at her. "What's wrong with you?" he demanded. "Don't you feel well?"

"Perfectly." She looked her surprise at the query. "I'm quite well, Mr. Nevile. What gave you the impression that I'm not?"

"The way you spoke. It sounded most confoundedly stiff—not a bit like your usual cheeriness. My imagination, probably—come along in and move those papers, so I can put this down."

She cleared a place on his table, and he put the tray down and drew up a chair for her. After she had seated herself he went round to his own chair, drew the cork from the claret bottle, poured a glass, and silently handed it across to her.

"Oh, but I can't!" she protested. "There's only the one glass."

"Easily remedied." Reaching over, he put the glass down beside her plate, went out to the laboratory, and returned with a ten-ounce measuring glass. "Now will you drink it?" he demanded. "Or are you teetotal by nature or prejudice? It's not Lafitte, but at the same time it's potable, if that word applies to wine."

"No, I'm not teetotal," she answered slowly. "Thank you very much, Mr. Nevile, but—that glass for you—"

"Thin as the finest old Venetian," he interrupted, "and as clean as an infant's mind—perhaps that's not a very good simile, though. Now, Miss Morland"—he filled the glass and lifted it—"stand up for a toast." He himself stood and reached out his right hand to her. "And first—shake, according to the agreement."

"But do you really mean it?" she asked incredulously.

"I really mean it," he answered solemnly. "Hold hands—and now say it. The blue—the blue!"

"The blue!" she repeated obediently. "And its discoverer."

They drank, and he released her hand and sat down again.

"That's the biggest honour that has ever been conferred on me," she remarked after a silence. "To be told first like this—"

She did not end it. The thought that his wife should have been first to know came, and spoilt her pleasure in his achievement.

He refilled the glass measure beside him, and, intent on it, did not observe her change of expression. "I was half-afraid you'd utter or stutter that awful banality—'Oh, I am glad!'" he said as he took up the glass. "Now you don't drink this time. This one is to you, who set my mind free of all the petty worries I should have had to distract me, instead of concentrating entirely on the blue, and doing in one week what would have taken me three or more without you. To you, Miss Morland, and a very long continuation of our business partnership here."

He emptied the glass and put it down. Them seeing her heightened colour and momentary inability to answer, he removed the cover from the plate on his tray, and took up his knife and fork.

"Real business, now," he observed. "If you don't attend to it, I shall feel put off. A little honest work will do wonders for us."

For minutes they ate, Nevile steadily, and the girl nervously. Then he leaned back and looked at her, a steady, intent regard.

"Think of it!" he exclaimed. "All the range of the mauves, now, down to black-purple. And the greens, from the palest beginnings of young spring foliage all the way to sombre beauty and depth—the combinations with red and yellow of a real Nevile blue. And the blue itself—have you ever looked down into deep sea water in sunlight, or up into the sky over a clear sunset? That's what the Nevile blue will be, perfection of pure depth and clarity—nature itself produced by art."

"I know the reds," she said, "and can imagine this if it is like—"

"Red is man's making," he interrupted, "but the blues and greens are God's gift to man. There is a red in autumn that belongs to God too, and the sun is a painter in red at times, but most of God's brushes are dipped in blue and green. And now Nevile and Forrest can take their three primaries and blend as I order—we shall have to extend. More work for Forrest, the donkey-work. I give him the blue at last!"

He laughed with sheer enjoyment over his creation. "Wouldn't you like a Nevile-dyed frock?" he asked. "Any colour you like—choose the fabric for yourself and have it dyed in our works and made up—to our account, the whole of it. You deserve it for your share, the donkey-work here and the worries you've saved me. It's no use refusing—I'll ring Forrest and tell him to send over that bundle of undyed Craddock sample fabrics, and you shall choose one for yourself, have it dyed and made to your order. I'll ring him as soon as he gets back from lunch."

She knew the cost of Nevile-dyed fabrics, a prohibitive cost, to her. The process itself, as well as the materials on which it was mainly used, rendered the results available only to moneyed people.

"And when do you think I should wear such a frock?" she asked.

"Hang it up and look at it, then, as long as you don't disappoint me over it," he retorted. "Don't you like pretty things?"

"Love them," she confessed, "but there is a vast difference between mere pretty things and a distinctive frock such as a Nevile-dyed silk or any other fabric would make. I should have to hang it up."

"But why? Oh, yes, I see! The implication, of course. Still—look here! We'll get the Craddock samples over, and you shall choose the one you like and think you can wear without too much comment. You shall suggest the colour too, and I'll do the blending for it—a special dyeing for that one piece. And I promise you to produce a colour that you can wear, and at the same time one you can enjoy. I can see it in my mind now, a dinner frock, I believe you'd call it. Listen, and don't interrupt! A foundation fabric of blue, Nevile blue, not quite as deep as the sky between the stars at midnight, and cut just as long as fashion will let it be, to give those fine lines of your figure when you stand up. Over it net, a coarse mesh that will let the richness of the colour show through—I don't know the technical names of these things, being only a chemist—and just a tiny splash of white or cream under one shoulder and at the waist. Ah, what a dressmaker was lost in me!"

"Yes, but really, Mr. Nevile—"

"Please, Miss Morland!" he interrupted rather sharply. "Besides"—his voice softened to a friendlier tone—"you can wear it when you're on holiday, if not here. I suppose I shall have to give you a holiday some time, and hold over the things I hate doing myself till you get back, somehow. One more glass each, and a cigarette with it—you'll have one?" He handed over his open case, and, after she had taken a cigarette refilled her glass and his own.

"I'm going back to the bench for about half an hour," he said, after he had lighted both cigarettes, "and then we'll get busy here. I feel slightly like Alexander, but I've a stack more things to do in there when I've got this out of my mind. Not colours. Sir Arthur Endliss has gone pretty deeply into tin oxides, and given me an idea or two to develop. I'd like to meet that man, some time. And—Oh, hell!"

"What, Mr. Nevile?" she asked rather anxiously. All the animation had suddenly gone from his face: there was a weary hopelessness in the abrupt exclamation, and he gazed at the tray before him. Then he reached out, took up his glass, and drank before he answered—

"Merely a line of black laid across the gold, a broad line, matt and sombre. That's all." He shrugged, as if trying to shake himself out from his moodiness. "As a rule, I manage to leave everything of that sort outside the door leading to the house, but sometimes—yes, I've got the blue, after all." He stood up and smiled at her. "You must find me an exasperating devil at times, Miss Morland. Finish the and cigarette in peace—I know you've nothing to do till I've done all I want in there. Half an hour, or a little more."

He left her, and she sat on until from the corridor which ran behind the three rooms of the wing appeared Berenice Ashton, furred and ready to leave at the end of her visit. As Dorothy rose to her feet, she saw through the study window that the Daimler stood outside the main entrance of the house.

"Mr. Nevile, Miss Morland?" Berenice looked at the two trays, and then at the girl before her again. The implication of her gaze was unmistakeable, but Dorothy met it quite calmly. "I am just leaving, and came in to bid him good-bye."

"I'll tell him you are here," Dorothy said, and turned to go.

"And you—we have met before—" Berenice arrested her by holding out her hand. "I'm coming back here, and may see more of you then. I don't know if he's told you anything—" She broke off rather oddly, Dorothy thought, and completed the handclasp.

"If you mean Mr. Nevile, he has told me nothing on any subject except that of his work," Dorothy answered. "A pleasant journey, Miss Ashton—I'll tell Mr. Nevile you are here."

Since Nevile asked her to fetch Miss Ashton to him in the laboratory, Dorothy saw no more of her. Back in her own room, a little later, she heard Nevile come out and telephone Forrest to send the Craddock fabric samples to Long Ridge at once, and then again he went into his laboratory without coming near her.

She did not want the frock. She was afraid of it, knew that it would always give her just such a consciousness of him as had the old hat Halkin had taken away—a stronger consciousness, even, for it would be a symbol of to-day, of the aching pleasure she had gained from seeing him sitting face to face with her, radiantly content in his achievement, a really happy man, for once, and free of the shadow that lay on her too, now. But she could not refuse—he had insisted too strongly: she would never dare wear it, but must put it away...

And Berenice Ashton had seen too much. What was it that Nevile might have told, if he had talked to her, Dorothy, of anything other than his work? If she knew, she felt certain she would know the cause of the shadow that had come over him even to-day, to spoil his triumph in the very hour of realisation.

A line of black across the gold! A broad line, matt and sombre.


INSTEAD of sending the roll of Craddock fabric patterns for which Nevile had asked, Forrest himself drove out with them to Long Ridge in his car, and faced the worthy Halkin in the main entrance.

"Mr. Nevile asked me to bring this package—or I wish you'd send it up, rather, Halkin," he said. "I wish you'd send it along to Mr. Nevile at once, please, and tell Mrs. Nevile I have called to inquire how she is."

"Step inside, sir," Halkin invited, standing away from the door. "I'll get this sent along at once, and tell Mrs. Nevile you're here."

He refrained from asking her to tell Nevile, too, that he was here. After a very brief pause she returned and conducted him to the drawing room, where he found Hilda alone.

"I might have rung up," he said, as he took both her hands in greeting, "but Nevile asked for something to be sent out, and it made an excuse for seeing you. I've been thinking of you ever since I brought you back, wondering if that devil of a horse injured you in any way."

"And now you see it didn't," she assured him. "I'm not hurt—you made far too much of it. Does Raymond know you're here?"

He shook his head. "I didn't ask anyone to tell him," he answered.

"If he'd wanted you he'd have asked for you," she observed. "Sit down—and not too near, Hector. I want to talk to you."

He waited for her to seat herself, noted that she turned a chair to face directly toward the door, and then took another chair and drew it up facing hers, so near that by reaching out he could have taken her in his arms. But she sat back, grave-eyed, still, and very lovely, as a woman may be in the presence of the man to whom she has given her heart.

"What is it, dear?" he asked, very gently.

"I am not quite sure." For a moment her brows drew together in a frown of perplexity. "It may be myself, and it may be Ray, and it may be the last talk you and I had alone in here, just after—but I'd rather not speak of that, of the dead girl. Hector—this is a serious question, not just a playful one. Do you love me?"

"Do I love you?" he echoed, and smiled. "From the day I first saw you after you came here Nevile—it felt wrong to me then, and I know it's no less wrong now—a greater wrong, because the love for you has grown and grown till no minute of any day is free of the thought of you, Hilda. So much that this state must end. Either I must go where I can see you no more, or else—you! You in my life, mine."

"Wrong—yes, if we consider all that it means," she said slowly. "If—but wrong either way, if you must go alone or with me. To me the wrong to Ray is nothing—I see only what he and you represent. And though you might be replaced in time, he could not. Hector, he's finer than you, greater than you, and yet I couldn't love him, while you—Ah, you! And so, dear, I put my hands in yours, so, and tell you—this state must end. Not quite yet—I must think and plan for a few more days, but I am coming to you, giving myself to you. Because I cannot endure, cannot—any more... Oh, hold me and make me live! Starved and longing—I tried, Hector—tried! Not to be what he would have me, not even to be kind to him, but to remember all that we three mean here. And now I can't try any more—this state must end."

She sobbed that last appeal, close in his arms, and he looked down into her eyes in wonder and hope, and the passion that had driven them both to this pass wakened with their embrace, so that he found her lips with his own and silenced her until at last she freed herself from his hold and stood back, white and shaken.

"Not—not any more, till it is all," she whispered. "I couldn't bear any more. And—and you must to make me happy, because I'm perhaps spoiling all this town of people to come to you, and it would be so easy to regret, after, if you didn't... we don't know what he may do, after you and I have—spoilt everything for him here. Not—not that he cares for me, Hector—it isn't that! But—but he trusts you, and I'm his wife. My dear—my dear—kiss me again like that! I wouldn't hurt you—I didn't mean to hurt you! I love you—"

"Darling, I'm not hurt. With this miracle—you—just so close to me. And in a little while—in a very little while, Hilda—"

Again she drew back from him, and, seating herself, after a time managed to smile at him, but he saw that even her lips were pale.

"It is not a small thing to me, to give myself so," she said. "If—if you failed me, I should kill either myself or you—myself, I think, because it would be so hard to leave off loving you. And—Hector, I must tell him before I come to you. I must tell him. He might make it quite easy, if I tell him. I've thought of it several times, these last few days. Known I couldn't go on, hated and stabbed at him because I know he cares so little for me that nothing I can do will hurt him in reality. He simply goes to his work and forgets me, now. Yes, I made it so in the first place, but it is no less galling, and I feel I must strike in some way, pull him down from that height where he stands over me—over you, Hector, a stranger and sometimes even terrible to me. I think here alone, go out and see people only to know I can't talk to them about realities, and now you're here all the words come in a flood and I want to tell you how I've lived. His love—he did love me, Hector—-his love was too great for me, and when he saw that I couldn't realise his work and all his ambitions, he grew impatient—do you understand?"

"I know him too," Forrest said sombrely. "He'd ask all of you, give you no life apart from him, no separateness from his work."

"And his work was nothing to me. I hated his east wing, tried to get him out from it till he forbade even me access there. And—Hector, I know you understand. You're not like that."

"God forbid, darling! I love life too much."

"And—but in a little while we shall know that we have all the years. After I've told him—I must find the courage to tell him, somehow, soon. Hadn't we better let him know you're here?"

"He talked to me on the works telephone," he answered dissentingly. "If he'd wanted to see me, he'd have said so then."

It was at that moment Halkin opened the door, and saw her mistress seated in an armchair and Forrest standing on the hearthrug, apparently talking quite normally. "Miss Bennett, madam," Halkin announced.

Hilda rose. "How do you do, Miss Bennett—Halkin, serve tea, please. Mr. Forrest, I think you and Miss Bennett know each other. I quite forgot to tell you that to-day is my regular weekly bun-worry—you will stay for tea, won't you?"

"How do, Miss Bennett?" Forrest seconded coolly. "I'm afraid, Mrs. Nevile, I must be getting away. I really ought not to have stayed so long, but felt I ought to see you after helping you home from what might have been a very serious accident. No, I won't stay any longer. Good-bye—good-bye, Miss Bennett."

He got away just before the vicar's wife was announced. Parochial nobodies like these, and a goddess of a woman like Hilda—how, devoid of love for Nevile, had she endured it so long?

Thus his thoughts ran as he drove away, without seeing Nevile.

"TIRED, Miss Morland?"

"Not in the least. But would you mind giving me time to get another pencil out before you begin dictating the next?"

"Ain't no next, till we've had some tea. Sit still—I'll ring."

He went to the bell-push, and returned. "That's the worst gruelling you're likely to get for some time," he remarked, "and I like the way you stood up to it—sat up to it, rather. How long will that lot take to transcribe, if you stick at it?"

She looked at one note-book already filled, and then at the one in her hand. "Noon to-morrow—that is, before lunch," she answered. "And—something I wanted to ask you, Mr. Nevile."

"Don't say it's half a day off, till you've transcribed that lot!"

"Nothing of the sort," she dissented, and smiled. "Now you've got this blue, it means a revision of all price lists and estimates, and circularising all the firm's customers—all the combinations of blue with red and blue with yellow will be different—Forrest's donkey-work," he interrupted. "But what about it?"

"Mr. Forrest trusts Anderson too much," she said firmly, looking up at him. "All present estimates ought to be held up at once, quotations, and all the rest of it. Otherwise—"

"But don't you see, our present loss is eventual gain? If they get the new blue blended in, it serves as a specimen of what we can do now, and we advise that we've begun using it, and they must be prepared to pay in future. Sweet are the uses of advertisement, girl, and we'll let it serve as a sprat to catch a firm order at the higher price. Let them see it, let them realise that there's nothing like it in anilines or vegetable or anything else, and we've got 'em! They'll pay."

"Then you don't intend to revise at present?"

"At once—yes. Put it down, girl—put it down!" This to the maid, who entered and stood waiting with the tea tray in her hands. "Revise at once, but give them all a chance to see what we can do now, and send the new estimates with the invoices. What do you think?"

"That a time-limit of a month will be necessary," she answered without hesitation. "Otherwise, you'll have one firm giving its order at the old price while another is already on the new basis. Something like a notice accompanying each of the new estimates to say that they come into force from December the first, and a circular letter explaining that the new blue is in use. By that time, enough of it will have got out to do your advertising for you."

"Sound—very sound, and half a jump ahead of me at that. But I never pretend to be any use at the detail work. Put that down in your own words for me to sign, and I'll send it with the other memoranda to Forrest as if I'd thought of it myself. I mean—well—" he hesitated.

"Certainly," she assented coolly. "The suggestion would be an impertinence from me, and he would only resent it."

"Obviously—business first, then honesty—if convenient. Are you never going to start pouring out that tea? Ah! And now I remember. It should be dry by this time. Also, is that Craddock bundle here?"

"On the table in your study," she answered.

"Wait one moment—no, pour me a cup, and I'll be back for it."

He went out to the laboratory, and returned. "Only just dry," he said, and laid a foot-square of almost blue-black silk on her arm as she sat at her desk with the tea tray before her. "Possibly the grey wearing darkens it a trifle. That's the colour of your new frock, the first use of the Nevile blue—unless you're set on another shade or blend, of course. In the material you choose."

She looked down at the colour, and was reminded of his simile of midnight sky between the stars. There was a depth and soft richness in the dye which appeared almost as if a pile had been raised on the silk, or as if the silk itself did not exist, but colour itself had been placed on the grey of her sleeve. It was fascinating, wonderfully perfect, an effect altogether outside her experience, though she had seen what Nevile reds and yellows could give to velvets and brocade.

"You're not disappointed, are you?" he asked at last.

"No, silenced," she answered gravely. "There are no comparisons. I have never seen—feel I shall never see again—no! God's colour, you said. I think He must have given you this."

"He did, and I thank Him for it," Nevile said, with an unusually sober note in his voice. "I mean the whole world to thank Him too—such of it as comes to us for colours. Now hand me my tea and leave off congratulating me, though you've done it in the very best way of all. Male babies thrive on flattery, and you must have discovered by this time that I'm horribly young when I'm not being horribly old. And toast—two pieces for you and two for me, although you're nearly one ahead already."

She took the piece of silk off her arm, and smoothed it out on the flap at the side of her desk, still gazing at it.

"After tea," he said, "we'll go through those Craddock pieces, and you shall choose the one you like best. We shall have to order the stuff, but I should think in about ten days—"

"Mr. Nevile, you must see a thing like this would be too conspicuous on me," she broke out. "Everyone would know I cannot afford anything like it, and if I wore it—surely you must see—" She broke off then. His face had darkened more and more as she made her protest.

"Very well," he said coldly. "I believe half my pleasure in it was the childish folly of that design, but if you say it is so—" in turn he paused, and put his cup down on the desk.

"I will have it—I shall love to have it!" she exclaimed. "Even if I have to put it away where nobody sees it—please, if it's a pleasure to you! And there'll be holidays, as you said—I can wear it then."

He smiled, and pointed at his cup. "Refill, please," he ordered. "I'd have walked out on you if you hadn't given in. Stop expecting me to be sensible and see things, Miss Morland—see the damned nonsense people talk, I mean. You'll find I don't exasperate you half as much, then, and—well, we shall get more work done."

"I'm sorry. I'm afraid it's I who do the exasperating."

"Only mildly. In a way I rather like, in fact. You use brains—I wouldn't insult you with the obvious remark that you've got them—and don't use them in the way that makes the superior sex resent you. If you don't grasp that, don't ask me to explain—I'm a chemist, not a psychologist. Freud gives me a pain—he's like—like drinking Benedictine with lobster salad, nauseating. Now"—he rose to his feet—"I'll fetch those samples in, you choose which you like, and we'll send the order off from here. You shall send it—they're numbered."

"But the dyeing will have to go through the works," she objected.

"It will do nothing of the sort," he contradicted. "I shall do it myself, in the laboratory—I can dye up to ten yards there easily enough. All this, Miss Morland, is to go through my personal account, except the cost of making up, and I'll hand you cash to pay that bill. There is not to be the slightest chance, my end, of any question as to how you got that frock. It's my gift to you in recognition of all you have done for me, and the order for the stuff must go before anyone but our two selves even know of the existence of a Nevile blue."

She was glad that he turned away toward the study as he ceased speaking, glad that he did not see her face, just then. Even he must have guessed the secret that she must keep at all costs, she knew, had he looked at her, and with his knowledge of it her work here would end—she could not face him through one day, if he learned what he meant to her. And she knew she would never wear the blue frock, but put it away and treasure it as chief of all her possessions perhaps, when she knew she was quite alone, take it out from the tissue in which she would fold it, take it up as something he had touched, on which he had worked, a treasure beyond all price.

He returned with the Craddock samples, and unrolled the squares of fabric on her desk, pushing the typewriter aside. "Now," he said, "which is it to be? You won't better these people's stuff, I know."

She knew too, as she turned over one square after another, that the cost of even the least of them was far beyond her means, and, Nevile-dyed, they would become more costly still. They were, as Nevile had remarked, numbered, and she noted that the numbers indicated a decreasing quality from finest to merely fine, so her choice was simple, consisting in turning over until she came to the last, and putting her finger down on it after a momentary pause, as if she considered it.

"This one," she said, looking up at Nevile, who stood beside her.

"I don't think I approve the choice," he said, frowning a little but looking at the material, and not at her. "Still, you are to do the choosing—you ought to have chosen the colour, really, but I had the idea for that very deep shade because of your own colouring. If you'd like a different shade, or even a blend of the blue—" He paused questioningly, gazing down at her, now. She averted her eyes.

"I couldn't have chosen better—one that would have pleased me more, I mean," she assured him. "It's too lovely for belief."

"Then it's all settled. Six-seven-five—yes. Write to Craddocks and order a liberal length for the frock, and tell them to charge to me personally here, and on no account to send an invoice to the works. Get that letter done before you tackle any of the stuff I've been dictating to you, and see that I sign it and it goes off to-night. Bring it to me next door as soon as you've finished it, in fact."

He went out to the study. Dorothy rang for the tea tray to be removed, and then settled to write the order to Craddocks. When she had finished it, she took the letter to him, and found him seated at his desk, his head propped on his two hands over a bulky book.

"Finished it?" He looked up at her, took the letter, and reached for his pen. "Yes, as long as you're sure that's enough. Charge to Raymond Nevile, invoice on no account to go to the works—quite correct. You know, I've been wondering whether you were right about those revised estimates, whether they ought not to go out at once." He signed the letter and handed it back to her. "Make sure this goes to-night."

"No," she said decidedly, "you were right, I'm certain. The value of the advertisement you will gain will more than compensate for any loss the new processes involve. But make the month's limit."

"I must talk to Forrest. Meanwhile I'll give you all the figures relative to this—to the blue, I mean—and get you to make an independent set of calculations as to how it will affect total costs of production. Probably an increase of somewhere between ten and fifteen per cent. all round—and thank God we've finished with anilines, now! They always seemed to me a confession of wooden-headedness on my part, with the red and yellow given me when I took over from my father. Well, the old man would pat me on the back if he were here to see it—I've justified myself, if I do nothing else for the next five years. I might even take a holiday if it were worth while, and give you one, too. You've earned it already. Do you feel that you want a holiday?"

"I had mine in the summer," she answered.

"Well, by the look of you it wasn't much good to you. There's a certain paleness, and also a slightly worried look, sometimes. Do I drive you too hard here? I've no consideration for anyone else when I really get going myself, I know. Are you finding it too much?"

"No." She found a slight difficulty in answering. "I am quite happy working here—far more so than in the office."

"Of course—you don't like Forrest. And I'm to conclude you do like me, though I've given you no reason for it. And I'm wasting your time and my own, yattering here when we ought to be hard at it. Finish off the correspondence for me to sign before you go, and leave all the rest till to-morrow. You didn't object to my dictating those letters instead of leaving them to you as I have been doing?"

"Object? Certainly not," she answered in surprise. "They concern your affairs, and what you leave to me has to be done in accordance with your ideas. Your dictation relieves me of responsibility."

"It won't as a rule, you'll find. This afternoon's little lot was merely a proof to myself that I can do it if I feel like it—damn it, I'm starting again! Get away to your own room, girl, and don't let me talk to you any more. We shall never get anything done, like this."

She went, hastily, and returned just before six with all the letters he had dictated. He pointed at the telephone.

"Ring through to Anderson and tell him to send a car out for you while I sign these," he ordered. "It's raining like the very devil, and I don't want you laid up with a cold to-morrow. If it's still raining in the morning, get a car to bring you out as well."

Already she knew him too well to venture to thank him for his consideration. She rang the works as he ordered, and then waited till he laid the last signed letter on top of the rest.

"A good day," he remarked. "In fact, a very good day. Go off as soon as the car gets here for you, Miss Morland. I shall be staying on in here, and shall probably have something sent in instead of dinner. These Germans"—he tapped the open book he had pushed aside to sign the letters—"they're so damned derivative. Clever, yes, but they must derive from a basis. You know how they grabbed the aniline dyes?"

"A little," she agreed. "English chemists began the work, and the Germans developed it and gave it its present value—"

"Exactly! The same in everything. It's not exactly theft, but sailing as near the wind as possible. This chap—this isn't dyes, but nitrates—he's doing the same thing over again. I know all this and could give him points in a dozen ways, but you can see a sort of meanness in the way he's taken advantage of other people's discoveries without acknowledging his sources, combined two men's work, say, and claimed their work as his as well as his own. And they're like that in everything—thieves, in reality, when it comes to science. I'd say Rutherford gave me this, or Kelvin cleared that point for me, if I were writing such a book as this. They don't—and I consider it dishonesty—rank dishonesty! Thieves—damn them!"

He looked up, and saw that she was almost laughing.

"It's not a bit funny!" he exclaimed in an aggrieved way. "There are no jokes in research, believe me. It's a serious business."

"I know it is," she assured him. "I only gained my B.Sc. by prayer and fasting, and I agree with you entirely over German research."

"Oh! You've got a degree, have you? Why the devil couldn't you say so before? I've been considering you a mere ignoramus."

"I am," she answered. "That market is far too overcrowded for a girl like me to compete in it. I prefer the work I'm doing."

"Which is lucky for me. But if you don't get those letters ready for posting, the car will be here for you long before you're ready for it. My yattering again! Good-night, Miss Morland, and tell him to turn out to fetch you here in the morning if it's raining then."

There was a door leading to the corridor which ran along the back of the east wing, as well as the one between her room and Nevile's study, so she had no need to disturb him by passing through on her way out. She looked into his room before she went, and saw him sitting at his desk: he had thrust the German treatise aside, and sat with his head propped on his hands, staring up at the wall before him; the three-quarter view she had of his face showed him utterly oblivious of his surroundings, brooding, almost hopelessly.

The shadow that persisted over Long Ridge lay heavily on him, then. She went out to the corridor without disturbing him, and felt, as the car took her home, that it went with her too, a shadow deep and real as that of the storm-troubled night.


FOR the rest of that week, and until Thursday of the week following, Dorothy Morland went to and from her work at Long Ridge in one of the works' cars, for rain fell every morning and evening, though there were occasional bright intervals during the days, and Sunday, tempting her to risk a country walk by promising a sunny afternoon, went back on its promise and sent her back drenched to her room. On the Thursday, she reached Long Ridge in the car in time to see the sun come out, with every promise of atonement for the persistent rain of preceding days.

Nevile, after the high peak of satisfaction he had reached with his achievement of the blue dye, dropped to moody, depressed silence for the most part, left most of his correspondence to her, and sat at his desk reading for the greater part of the time she spent there. He came into her room for tea, but lunched no more in the study. On the Wednesday afternoon he left her alone altogether, and she saw him out in the pouring rain, riding Sultan in the park. When she arrived on the Thursday morning, he greeted her in a way that suggested at least a partial recovery from his depression, and, telling her to get on with the letters and refer to him if she were in doubt over anything, retired to his desk and settled to reading again, leaving the door between the two rooms open. She knew he would request her to close it if the noise of the typewriter distracted him, or if for any reason he wished to shut her off from himself, and so left it as it was.

She had been working for half an hour, or perhaps a little more, when the sound of a woman's voice in the study arrested her attention, and she got up to close the door. But Nevile stopped her.

"Leave it as it is, Miss Morland. I'll tell you when I want it closed." There was a note of sharp anger in his voice such as she had not heard before, and she backed a pace toward her desk.

But her movement was not quick enough to prevent her from seeing Mrs. Nevile approach the door as if to close it, and Nevile interpose himself with a sudden step which brought him with his back to the doorway.

"I said I would control that door, Hilda," he told her, still with the note of acrid annoyance in his voice.

"In other words, you choose to advertise your domestic differences to your employees!" Hilda fired back with equal bitterness.

"I think you overlook the position," Nevile retorted more quietly, but with cold mockery in his calmness. "When you realise that I never intrude on your privacy without first asking permission, you will see that I am entitled to equal consideration from you."

"Oh, since you insist!" She too resorted to satiric calm. "If you had told me at breakfast that I was not to ride Sultan, I should have had no occasion to intrude on you now."

"Since it was raining hard at breakfast time, I had no idea you would want to ride at all," he answered quietly. "I told Hill last night, after riding him myself, that you are not to mount him again."

"Why not?" she demanded angrily.

He shook his head. "Because—well, because you are not to ride him again. There are two other good hunters in the stables at your orders, but not Sultan. I intend to sell him—with no warranty of any sort."

"Are you afraid I should diminish his value by riding him?" she asked contemptuously, and glanced past him at Dorothy by her desk for a second or less. "Why not say plainly what you mean?"

"If you choose to talk absurdities in Miss Morland's hearing," he retorted, "it is your own affair. I saw you look at her. You are not to ride Sultan because he is still dangerous, as much so as when he reared and fell with you. If I had had any idea you intended to take him out this morning, I should have told you this at breakfast."

There was an implication in the statement that did not escape Dorothy. Mrs. Nevile, glancing at her again as she stood in embarrassment at the scene by her desk, knew she had understood what might have been a trifle, but in conjunction with one of Nevile's opening remarks was far more, and in fact no less than a complete confession of the relations existing between him and his wife.

"Ray, I am not afraid of that horse. I demand to be allowed to ride him, equally with the other two!"

"And I refuse to let you," he answered inflexibly.

"Very well." She flung the two words at him as if they constituted a challenge, passed him, and slammed the door leading to the corridor. He took two or three steps as if to follow her, and then turned about and entered his secretary's room. She still stood beside her desk.

"Unpleasant for you," he remarked, "but I resent the attitude."

"It was not fair, either to her or to me!" She wondered at herself over speaking to him in such a way, immediately the words had been uttered, and for a second or two anticipated a wrathful outburst of some sort from him—he looked as if it were difficult to control himself. But in the end he merely shrugged, an almost contemptuous movement, and nothing he had done or said in the weeks she had known him was as wounding as that gesture, implying as it did that her opinion was of little moment.

"Et tu, Brute?" he remarked quietly. "In order to get rid of the effects on both of us, I suggest that you finish off your suggestions for revised estimates, and let me have them to consider."

"They are already finished." She took up a folder lying beside her machine, and handed it to him. "I did them yesterday afternoon."

Again he shrugged, but in a totally different way. "One jump ahead as usual," he commented. "I'll go over them, some time." The sudden, drooping cessation of interest that she had seen before was apparent in the last sentence. "Difficult, and I see no end—"

He turned away and went out abruptly, as if he knew he had already confessed too much. He went to his desk and, seating himself at it, opened the folder after putting it down before him, but the way in which he leaned back proved that he read nothing. He sat limply, with his left hand hanging down beside the chair, and dejection in every line of his figure. Dorothy seated herself and got on with her work, and, as she took and dealt with letter after letter, knew that she need question no more, for she knew the cause of the shadow on Long Ridge.

The morning dragged on: after a while Nevile, visible through the open doorway from her desk, stirred himself and began turning over the typed sheets in the folder. She could see that he gradually wakened to interest: he took a pencil and pad and made calculations of his own, apparently, and eventually came in to her with the folder.

"Quite right, Miss Morland," he said, putting it down beside her, "except for those heavy brocades. Your figure for them is rather high."

"It is high," she agreed, "but as I worked it out we have always dyed them at a loss, up to the present. Vasari of Milan is the only firm that sends them to us, and this revision for the blue is a good opportunity to bring our Vasari profits into line with the rest."

"Ye-es," he conceded thoughtfully. "Is there anything about the business that you don't know, Miss Morland?"

"It is my business to know the firm's business, if I am to be of any use to you," she answered. "There must be a good deal I don't know yet. I had only a year altogether in the works."

"And made good use—my God, this is infamous!" He faced about at a sound behind him, and saw Hill, the groom, standing in the doorway of the room, evidently having come into the study in quest of his master. And Nevile's sudden rage was checked with equal suddenness at sight of the man's face, a white, scared face.

"What is it, Hill?" Nevile asked quietly.

"I—sir—the mistress—" the man stammered, hardly articulately. "They're bringing—she took Sultan out, and he came over with her."

"Injured?" Nevile asked.

"Very badly injured, sir, I'm afraid." He spoke more coherently, now, perhaps through the influence of Nevile's calmness.

Dorothy stood up and looked out from her window, and at that Nevile's gaze followed hers. They saw four shirt-sleeved men come along the terrace toward the main entrance, carrying between them a hurdle which their coats had improvised into a stretcher of sorts. Nevile gave the girl one glance, before he turned toward the door.

"I may need you," he said. "Will you come out with me?"

She followed him at once, and Hill trailed after them, out to the main entrance hall of the house. Thus she saw how the four men carried that which an hour before had been the splendid beauty of Hilda Nevile up the staircase, with Halkin and another maid she had summoned preceding them. Halkin, seeing Nevile, called down to him: "I've telephoned for Doctor Bennett, sir. He's coming out."

He made no reply, but followed the four men, and gestured to Dorothy to go with him. Hill turned as if to go away, but though Nevile's back was toward the man he heard or sensed the movement, and turned momentarily on the stairway. "Wait there, Hill," he bade, and again went on.

With Halkin still leading, the little procession entered Hilda Nevile's room, and there Nevile gestured Dorothy to remain outside, himself entering. The four men came out with their hurdle, and Dorothy saw bloody patches on the coats they carried. They went down the stairs, silently, and walking as men walk from a room in which one dead lies. But, the girl thought, since Doctor Bennett had been summoned, Mrs. Nevile could not be dead. More, the splendid vitality that had faced Nevile with such angry bitterness less than two hours before could not be extinguished in such a way, surely! She was too lovely, too strong to die. Such a one had no right to die!

Dorothy went along the corridor to its far end, where was a tall window over a cushioned seat. She looked out, and from this point could see the larches that clothed Long Ridge, and a little part of the sunken gardens behind the house; clouds had darkened the sky, now, and had shadowed the ridge to a gloomy, funereal green—always shadow, here! Presently Nevile emerged from his wife's room, and came to where Dorothy stood. His lean, dark face was utterly colourless, she saw.

"How long?" he asked. "Bennett—how long?"

"I'll go and telephone him again," she offered. "Where is the telephone—an exchange line, I mean?" She had recollected that the line to the east wing communicated only with the works.

"In the library—I'll come down with you. I—they've got her undressed, and—I can't forgive myself. Not only for this morning."

They went down the staircase together, and before they reached the level of the entrance hall a maid hurried to the door and admitted Doctor Bennett. Nevile gestured him toward the stairs.

"Hurry!" he said. "She's quite unconscious. Thrown and rolled on by that horse—wasn't it, Hill?" He turned to the man, who still waited, cap in hand, and fear in his eyes at sight of Nevile.

"Yes, sir. She would make me saddle him, though I told her it was your order that she shouldn't take him out—"

"Keep that till I ask for it," Nevile interrupted. "Go on up to her, Bennett. What are you waiting for, man?"

"The room—I don't know where she is," Bennett answered.

"Up there—second door on the left," Nevile said. "Shall I come up? I can do nothing—do you want me to come up with you?"

"No." Bennett began to ascend the stairs as he spoke. "If I want you, I'll send for you. Anyone—who is with her?"

"Halkin, and one other." Nevile called the answer to the stairs' top, for the doctor was losing no time. Then, as Bennett questioned no more, he turned to Hill. Dorothy would have turned away, but he touched her arm and checked her.

"I may want you at any moment," he said. "You're capable—I don't know who else is. Now, Hill—what happened? You had my definite order that Mrs. Nevile was not to take Sultan out. What happened?"

"Well, sir, she came out to me—I was grooming Grey Devil—and she pointed to Sultan and said—'Saddle that horse, Hill.' Just like that, sir, as if I'd done something to make her angry. Well, sir, I told her what you'd said, she wasn't to take Sultan out, and she just said—I don't remember the exact words, sir, but she said she'd be responsible to you, and I was to saddle the horse for her. I didn't like it even then, sir. I asked her if I might ask you about it first, but she said if I attempted it she'd saddle him herself, and I'd get in a row for breakin' in on you when you was at your work. She'd take all the responsibility, sir, and I was to saddle him. So what could I do, sir? If I'd stopped to come and see you about it, I knew she'd have the saddle on him and be gone while I was gettin' to you, and he might turn and savage her in his stall while she was gettin' a bridle on him—he's twice as bad in the stable as he is outside, sir, since you broke him to your ridin'. It was either saddle up or leave her there with the horse, so I saddled up and she took him out. Put him into a gallop and went off down to where the jumps are like—like anything."

"How long ago?" Nevile asked.

"Half an hour, sir, I'd think. By this time, quite half an hour."

"Went and dressed for riding immediately after seeing me." He made the comment as much to himself as to Dorothy, who waited beside him. "And did you see the accident, Hill?"

"No, sir. I wasn't happy, after you'd given that order, about the mistress takin' him out, but I couldn't do anything more'n I did. I went outside the stables an' looked, an' she took all three jumps quite all right, so I went back in. Then the boy shouted at me, an' I went outside an' looked. Sultan must 'a dragged her a good couple o' hundred yards afore her foot got free, by what the boy said. An' he said he heard her scream. I turned out every man I could find, an' went out with 'em, got the hurdle, an' sent the boy on ahead to the house. An'—an' that's all, sir. If you reckon I oughter go, sir, I got to go, an' that's all there is to it, though I'd 'a give my right hand if it'd save a thing like that happenin' to a lady what could ride like her."

"No, I don't blame you, Hill," Nevile said slowly. The man had been servant to his father before him, had tended horses as a stable-boy at Long Ridge, and succeeded to his present place only after years of service. He loved a good horse as much as he despised cars, and, having served Neviles all his life, asked no more than to spend such years as were left to him in the service of the family. "I don't see that you could have done differently. Where is Sultan, now?"

"I got the boy to fetch him in, sir. He's in the stable." Nevile nodded. "Go along to the gun-room, Hill, and in a drawer there you'll find my service revolver and a box of ammunition. Take the horse out and shoot him, and have the carcase taken away. I'd never ride him again after this, and he's safe with nobody else. Shoot him at once. That's all, Hill, except that I don't blame you. I see you couldn't have stopped her from taking him out."

The man made a sort of salute and went out. Nevile swung his hand in a circular movement above his head, and Dorothy knew that he visualised the rearing horse and its fall, saw all the horror of what Hill had described. Then Bennett came down the stairs, and Nevile turned to him.

"A matter of hours—it's no use mincing words," Bennett said gravely. "There is internal haemorrhage—she will probably recover consciousness, though on the whole I'd rather she didn't."

"A specialist?" Nevile asked harshly.

"He could only confirm what I have told you. Nothing can be done."

"Never mind. Miss Morland, Doctor Bennett will give you the name of the specialist he thinks best for such a case. No delay, no thought of cost—tell him he can have anything he asks. But get one, at once. She went toward the library, guessing it as the needed room by the rows of bookshelves showing through the open door, and as she went pictured the great horse rearing, falling backward to crush and mangle—she shivered as, by the telephone inside the room, she turned to Bennett.

"What number—whom do you think best?" she asked.

"Tynwald—he's the only one who could get here in time to see her alive, probably," he answered. "Let me take it—he'll be operating at the county hospital this morning. I'll get him."

She waited, and presently Bennett got his man and told him what was wanted of him, stressing the necessity for haste. They appeared to talk interminably, but eventually Bennett replaced the receiver and turned to her, shaking his head as if he realised the uselessness of it all.

"An hour and a half, at the earliest," he said. "I did my best, but he wouldn't promise to make it sooner."

She nodded. "You had better tell Mr. Nevile," she said. "Surely he could have got here sooner, though? It is a long time."

"And a long way," he pointed out. "We're the other side of the county. He'll have to hurry to do it, by what he told me."

She protested no more. His manner said plainly that he regarded the case as quite hopeless. She followed him out to the entrance hall—Nevile might want her again, yet—and waited there while he ascended the stairs and vanished in the direction of Hilda Nevile's room. After a little while she went up the staircase, and along the corridor to the window seat at the end. There, somewhere down under her, she heard the sound of a shot, and knew that Hill had put an end to the horse as Nevile had ordered. There was no sound but that of the single shot, as far as her hearing inside the house went.

Presently Nevile came out from his wife's room, and along the corridor to where she waited. He halted before her.

"One thing more," he said with odd quietness. "On the private line from the east wing to the works—get Forrest. Tell him what has happened, and that Bennett gives no hope. Tell him I told you to ring him and let him know that she is asking for him."

She rose and stood staring at him for a second or more. Then she turned to obey: his expression had frightened her, for the moment.

"Bennett says she may live four hours, at the most," Nevile amplified. "And she has asked for Forrest. The message is from me. He must do what he sees fit, but give him that message."

She hurried down the stairs and along to the east wing. Lifting the receiver, she asked to be put through to Mr. Forrest, and heard his voice questioning the reason for the call. As briefly as she could, she gave him Nevile's message, and heard his startled—"What?" Then a silence, and at its end he spoke again—she had not answered the shocked query.

"Tell him—tell him to let her know—I shall be there as quickly as I can drive myself out," he said, and the click of the replaced receiver followed. He did not wait for any reply from her.

She went back to the entrance hall and up the stairs. There was no sign of Bennett—he was in the death-room, then—but Nevile stood before the window at the end of the corridor. She went to him.

"I have given your message," she said. "He is starting at once."

She would have left him alone again, then, but he stopped her.

"Won't you see it through with me?" he asked pleadingly.

"I'll do anything you ask," she answered, in utter sincerity.

"Just that. Just stay, until—" He did not end the sentence.

She waited, standing beside and a little behind him, and neither spoke again for a long time. She thought of the carcase of the horse somewhere outside—the horse that had been so vitally alive a little while ago, and now had finished with life. Hilda Nevile had been radiantly, splendidly alive too, only a little while ago, and now it seemed that she too had finished with life! The specialist, Tynwald—but Forrest would be here long before him. And now the shadow on Long Ridge declared itself blatantly, a thing Dorothy could not help but see. Nevile had sent for Forrest while his wife lay dying, and he himself made no move toward her room for these last hours. Had he known before that Forrest meant so much to her as to cause her to send for him when death threatened her? Surely he had known, and his knowledge had made the shadow evident even to her when she had stood free of it, realised it only as an influence that could not touch her.

At last he turned toward her. "It is a long while since anything happened," he said. "Will Forrest never get here?"

"It is not very long," she answered gently. "Only that time seems long to you."

He turned completely then, and faced her. "If you had not been here, Miss Morland, I'm not quite sure what I should have done," he said. "Not that you've done much, but you've been much, as you have been all the time. And now we can only wait."

Waiting, she found a bitter sweetness in his praise. He had not realised, and perhaps would never realise, why she had been so much, apart from what she had done. And, for her, there was only to go on...


IT would be about the time that Nevile and Dorothy Morland stood waiting at the end of the corridor at Long Ridge, when Inspector Head entered Wadden's office in the Westingborough police station, put down a suitcase just inside the door, and advanced to the superintendent's desk. Wadden glanced up at the clock on the wall, and then nodded and pointed to a chair at the end of the desk.

"Straight off the twelve-eighteen, on circumstantial evidence," he remarked. "In other words, you haven't gone home before coming here to report, so I conclude you have brought the bacon with you this time."

"As good as." Head took a folded typescript from his pocket as he spoke, and put it down on the desk before he seated himself. "Just in case that Bacon should turn into cold pork before we want it alive and cured, I got a sworn statement from him. He was fit to make it, but he might have a relapse yet, so I made sure of a pretty full account with a commissioner for oaths present in the bedroom, and that account includes identification of the original from the photo. I'd like you to look through it first, chief, before we begin to consult."

Wadden took up the script, unfolded it, and began to read. There were several pages, and he read them slowly and carefully, occasionally nodding to himself as points in the statement appeared to tally with his conclusions. Head waited quite patiently, as if confident that his work would meet with approval from the superintendent.

At last Wadden turned the final page, put the complete script down, and looked gravely at his inspector, shaking his head slowly.

"A big thing, Head," he said. "A big case, and with this it's complete. Even if Bacon does get a relapse, this is enough. It's unprejudiced, a simple statement of fact from an unbiased witness—yes, it completes our case. And now what?"

"Arrest at once, I think," Head answered thoughtfully.

"Yes," Wadden concurred with equal reflectiveness. "We couldn't justify any delay, and might get ourselves into trouble over it. You'll make the arrest, of course?"

"Unless you think you ought to do it."

"No, it's your case, man, from start to finish. I think—yes. You'd better take Sergeant Wells and two men—and the saloon, of course. Find out first where you've got to make it—the quieter we are over it, the better. No, no!" Head had reached out toward the telephone instrument standing on the desk. "You never know what happens in telephone exchanges, and you don't want it known that it's police inquiring. Go and ring from somewhere outside—Little Nell's place is as handy as any. Why not put your inquiry through from there? I'll get Wells and a couple of men and have the car ready by the time you get back."

"Right you are, chief." He rose, leaving Bacon's statement on the desk, and went out, while Wadden himself took off his telephone receiver.

Head went across the street and walked the short distance to the Duke of York, the principal hotel in Westingborough. In the lounge, he confronted a young and rather good-looking woman who was as tall as himself, and had shoulders as broad as his own; she was an Amazon in every respect, but so well-proportioned that her height was not conspicuous until she stood near some small man and dwarfed him.

"Morning, Mr. Head," she greeted him. "And you're back again already to keep us in order? I thought you were going to take at least a month's holiday, by what you said. Now what can I get you?"

"Nothing in the fluid line, thanks, Nellie—not just now, that is. I want to use that telephone of yours just outside the billiard room for a minute or two, if you don't mind obliging me."

"Certainly, Mr. Head—certainly. Only too pleased. Just go straight up. There's nobody up there at this time of day."

He ascended the staircase and entered the booth outside the billiard room door, a practically soundproof construction. Emerging a little later, he went out from the hotel and back to Wadden, but, quick though he had been, the police car was already waiting outside the station, and Sergeant Wells and the two men were standing inside the doorway.

"At Long Ridge," Head reported briefly.

"It would have to be there," Wadden said with a hint of annoyance. "Everything's ready for you—here's the warrant. I got it two days ago, feeling quite sure we should want it as soon as you got back from London. I've told Wells. And, Head"—he raised himself from his chair and held out his hand—"you've done the finest piece of detective work that's ever been done in this county. Good luck to you, lad, and may it bring you the credit you deserve. Now off you go."

AT Long Ridge, Bennett was still in the room in which Hilda Nevile lay: Halkin and the other servant were there too. The doctor had not suggested sending for a nurse; with Halkin present, there was no need for one, for the very little time that remained before the inevitable end. Hilda, quite conscious, waited for Forrest. She had not spoken since she asked Nevile to send for him: perhaps she knew that death was already very near her, and wanted to save all the strength she had left until he came to her.

At the end of the corridor, Nevile and Dorothy Morland stood silent for a long while. He had turned from her to look out toward the shadowed, larch-clad ridge again. She felt the silence as an oppression, felt that her presence was an intrusion, since she could do no more, and then without looking round at her Nevile spoke again.

"Atavism," he said.

She made no reply. The single word conveyed to her no hint of the subject of his thoughts. He faced toward her again.

"Ah, you are still there!" he observed, as if the fact were cause for relief. "I was thinking of that horse, Sultan."

"Yes?" Still she could not see the connection, but if he found relief in talking of the horse—or of anything—she would second him.

"Of him, and the time when horse was wild horse," he pursued. "In those days, the big cats lay in wait for horse as much as for other animals, and killed as they kill now, by leaping on the backs of their prey, or dropping on them from trees, and striking for the spine near the neck. One horse in ten thousand, or one mare in ten thousand, managed to get rid of the attacker and escape, and the descendants of that one have the fear transmitted to them from their ancient ancestor—they try to get rid of anything from their backs, in any way they know."

"Then—in reality, the horse was not to blame?" she suggested.

"No. I was to blame for keeping him. I'd mastered him, taught him that he couldn't get rid of me, and when I rode him yesterday he didn't try—didn't even want to get rid of me, I believe. He was broken to me, and in time we could have got to like each other. He recognised me already as master, and as someone he could carry without fear. But that recognition extended to nobody else. I knew it, which is why I forbade—uselessly! I should have got rid of him."

He started and leaned forward, listening. Dorothy too heard a car engine outside, and then the sound ceased. Nevile gestured her to accompany him, and went toward the staircase. "Forrest," he said. "Keep at hand—if you will. I may need you again."

Forrest came up the stairs, guided by a servant who left him when she saw Nevile waiting. The two faced each other, the iron man—as Dorothy had once thought him—of fine presence and clear, unerring sight for the problems of everyday, and the other, slighter figure, less assertive, less dominant to outward seeming, yet the greater of the two.

In this moment of their meeting, Forrest's face betrayed what the summons had meant to him: in speaking to her over the wire, he had controlled his voice after the first startled exclamation, but he stood, now, more shaken from his normal poise than was Nevile, even.

"She asked for you," Nevile said quietly, without preface or explanation. "I told her I would send for you."

"Is she—?" Forrest could not complete the question.

"Dead, all but the dying," Nevile answered. "She knows—knew as soon as she regained consciousness, I think. I have bidden her good-bye, after we had said all that we could—it was very little. Now, you! And how you'll hate me, Forrest, after this!"

"Not more," Forrest said—quite calmly, as if a greater hate were an impossibility. "You had no right to hold her."

"If she had asked for release, I would not have held her for one day," Nevile answered. "She is waiting for you—is it good to squabble with death over and around us? She will not—"

"Where is she?" Forrest interrupted, very quietly.

Nevile went with him to the door of Hilda's room, and opened it. When Forrest had gone in, he closed the door again, and came back to where Dorothy stood. And they heard, and Nevile shivered as he heard, a faint cry from within the room, Hilda's voice, in a little, faint cry that told of hope fulfilled after long waiting. Nevile clenched his hands and stood as if waiting for a repetition of the sound, or perhaps for some reply, but they heard no more.

"That specialist—Tynwald," Nevile said whisperingly. "If only he'd hurry—if only she could be saved! Perhaps—could even he—" The incomplete question was spoken to his own faint hope, Dorothy knew, and not to her. Bennett and the maid who had accompanied Halkin came out from the room, leaving Halkin and Forrest inside with the dying woman. The maid went on down the stairs, and Bennett, pausing only to shake his head gravely at Nevile, followed her. The two at the staircase head saw him go to the door, open it, and look out. Then he paced the entrance hall, back and forth, ever and again glancing up at them. He had done all that was humanly possible, and had left Hilda and Forrest together until Tynwald—or death—should come.

"Waiting for his specialist," Nevile observed, looking down.

"I think—do you need me any more?" Dorothy asked. She felt now that she had no right here—he must know that she had no right here!

"You—somebody—no, you," he answered. "Yes, I do need you. I can talk to you, and to nobody else. With Forrest in there—" He did not end the disconnected statement, but looked toward Hilda's door.

"Was it necessary—sending for him?" she asked.

Nevile inclined his head in an affirmative. "I have known, for a long time," he answered. "It began, I think, the day she first saw him. I have known for a long time, and—if she had come to me and told me, would have let her go. We can't help these things—they come unbidden. But she was afraid, I think, or she would have told me, asked—"

"Did she realise that you knew?" She put the question, not for the sake of his answer, but to keep him talking if he wished to talk. As he had found relief in talking of the horse, so he was finding it now.

"I was not sure," he said. "Had it been only us three—but man does not live by bread alone. He and I, through our work, held Westingborough in trust—hold it now, each necessary to the other. It was not for my own sake that I waited for her to speak, rather than speak myself. She knows now. We said very little to each other in there, but she knows now. And—will Tynwald never come?"

He looked at his watch, and as Dorothy lifted her wrist to look at hers took her hand to see the dial's confirmation of what his own had told. Down in the entrance hall, Bennett paced back and forth.

"Four years and more," Nevile said after another silence. "Do you know how long four years can be? To waken each morning and know there is only work, only the little things of the day. Summits, yes, like my finding the blue at last, but the thousand littlenesses of life! So easy to make a great resolve—great things are not difficult."

He looked past her, toward the window through which they could see, even at this distance, the sombre larches on the height.

"Duty—ice cold," he went on. "He is there, and I stand outside. I have stood outside so long, realising in my small way that even if we spoiled our three lives Westingborough counted far more souls than our three. The greatest good, and our lives in ashes—and now I do not know if I were right. Pride—her pride and mine—"

The clicking latch of Hilda's door ended his speech. Halkin hurried to the staircase head, and called down:

"Doctor Bennett? Will you come up, sir?"

He went up, two stairs at a time, and entered the room. Within five minutes he emerged again, and Forrest followed him, but Halkin remained within. Bennett came to Nevile.

"I am very sorry, Mr. Nevile—" he began.

Nevile pointed to the stairs. "Shall we go down?" The question was quietly uttered. "Forrest, do you wish—?"

Forrest answered him by beginning to descend the staircase, and Bennett followed. Then Nevile gestured to Dorothy to precede him, and came last down into the entrance hall.

"Don't go just yet, Forrest," Nevile said. "I'm trying to think. You will—there will have to be an inquest, doctor?"

"I'm sorry, but there is no way of avoiding it," Bennett answered. "To-morrow—it is too late for to-day. It must be held."

"Nothing more as far as you are concerned, is there?"

"I can do no more. If I might venture to express—"

"You may not." Nevile's interruption was firmly decisive. "I'm all cold—I couldn't stand it. There is so much—you have had to see there is so much more than a normal happening, more than a normal situation. Give me time to get balance, realise—I thank you as much as if you had said all you meant to say. And I think, if you meet Tynwald coming up the drive, you'd better turn him back."

"I assure you, Mr. Nevile, he could have done nothing. There was no hope, and nothing could have been done, by him or anyone."

"Then that's all. Thank you, doctor, and good-bye."

Standing in the hall, the three heard the grinding of the self-starter on Bennett's car, and heard him drive away. Both Forrest and Dorothy Morland waited for Nevile to speak again: he was curiously, coldly thoughtful; Forrest coughed meaningly, and Nevile looked—not at him, but at Dorothy. With the look he appeared to question her, but she could not divine the nature of the question.

"I think I had better let you go," he said slowly. "It must have been very painful for you, and I had no right to ask you to share this with me. Share it as you have done. I am not—you will find I am not unmindful of your great kindness to me. Whether we shall work together again here—I do not think so, but I am not sure. I think... not."

She made no reply. Nevile stood silent till Forrest coughed again.

"For the present," he went on, "I don't know what I myself shall do. If you'll wait till you hear from me—yes, wait till you hear from me. That will be best. Don't go back to the works, but wait till I tell you, send for you—something—that's all, Miss Morland. I have—there are many little things to be done, things I must do myself, alone."

He held out his hand, and she took and released it. He had told Bennett that he was cold, and the firm grasp he gave her was cold as that of a dead hand, almost. She left him and Forrest facing each other in the hall, and went along to the east wing to collect her hat and coat. She found that a luncheon tray had been placed for her in her room, but left its contents untouched. Two letters remained to be typed, and she hesitated over them; in the end she left them: he would do no more work in here while his wife lay dead in the house—he would not come near this wing, nor think of letters like these.

And he had said that he did not think she would come back to work with him again. In that event, she felt, she could not go back to the office at the works, but must leave this place altogether, find other work somewhere. She went into the study and stood for a little while looking down at Nevile's desk: like the hat he had handed to her on the day that had given her full realisation of all he meant to her, this desk brought the man himself near her, gave her the sense of his presence. In the laboratory, she knew, the fabric for the blue frock was in process of dyeing, perhaps finished. Would he forget it, now—would he wish her to have it, or would she herself wish to have it?

She went back to her own room, put the cover on her typewriter, and slowly donned her hat and coat. Then she took a final look round the room, and went out. Was it for the last time?

He would send for her. He did not think they would work together again. After to-day, it was impossible that she should go back to work with Forrest. Did Raymond Nevile think that she could go back to the firm's outer office, with its incessant clatter and murmurs of the price of silk stockings, patterns for jumpers, petty gossip that passed as talk? An impossibility—yet what had he thought? Or, after the tragedy of this day, had he been incapable of thought concerning her?

So she went her way while, back in the entrance hall, Nevile and Forrest faced each other without speaking until she had left them, as watchful of each other as two men about to engage in combat. Then Nevile spoke, apparently without any emotion.

"The works and office will close for the day of the funeral," he said. "You will see to that for me, Forrest?"

"I will make it my last concern for the firm," Forrest answered.

"After to-day, it is as well that you should go," Nevile concurred coldly. "I thought you were indispensable—you were, too. But after to-day—we hate each other too much. I realise it."

"And quite apart from that, I have no further object in staying in Westingborough," Forrest said. "You knew—I know now that you knew."

"I—" Nevile began, and paused at the sound of another car outside the entrance. "Bennett must have missed his specialist," he commented.

A maid hurried to the door and opened it. There entered, without waiting to speak to her, Inspector Head, and a police sergeant and two men. Nevile took a step toward them as they advanced.

"All this for an inquest?" he demanded sharply. "Bennett told me—"

But Head stepped past him, and the sergeant followed. "Hector Aylwin Forrest," Head said, "I have here a warrant for your arrest on the charge of murdering Phyllis Harland on October the seventh of this year—"

He broke off to leap at Forrest and strike down his right hand, which was half raised toward a vest pocket. He gripped the hand by the wrist, while the sergeant, almost equally quick, gripped Forrest's left wrist, and Head clicked handcuffs on them both.

"On October the seventh of this year," Head repeated. "And, on the same date, attempting to murder and inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr. Raymond Nevile, and I must warn you that anything you may say in answer to the charges may be taken down and used in evidence against you."

"Surely the first charge is enough, without the second," Forrest said, with cool, contemptuous assurance.

"Mr. Nevile"—Head turned to him and saw that he leaned against the newel of the staircase, holding it for support—the maid still grasped the handle of the open door, and stared with her mouth wide—"I'm very sorry this should have had to happen here, but it couldn't be helped. They told me at the works he was here, when I rang them. Now is there a room where we could search him—it must be done before we take him away?"

"Yes—there." Nevile pointed to the door of the little room into which Dorothy had been shown when she first entered the house. "There's a portrait on the mantel—wait till I take it away!"

He led them into the room, and took Hilda's portrait out when he left them to their task. Head, emptying out Forrest's pockets, took from the top left-hand pocket of his vest a tiny phial. He opened it and smelt the contents, and then corked it again.

"Aconite—one ounce," he observed. "But I expected to find something of the sort. And there may possibly be more."

But there was no more, and, in a very little while, the four officers went out, guarding Forrest, who spoke no word after that comment on the charge, and, in passing out to the car waiting on the terrace, looked straight before him, so much so that he stumbled slightly over the doorstep.

It may have been that, deprived of the phial of poison, he saw the end to which this escorted journey was a prelude.


IT was not easy, Dorothy found, to obey Nevile's injunction, and wait in inaction until he let her know his intent with regard to her. She felt that she could not go back to work with him at Long Ridge, even if he suggested it: the time through which she had waited with him while his wife lay dying had had a poignant quality, bringing her too near him in spirit to permit of a resumption of the material nearness that had characterised her working hours as his secretary. She felt that if he asked such a thing, she must betray herself in some way: it would be impossible to maintain the contacts of eight working hours every day without betrayal of some sort, for in the time during which he had stood with her outside the door beyond which Forrest had passed to his wife, he had revealed a loneliness that neither she nor any other had guessed, and, knowing his state now, she knew too how revealing her own response would be if he relaxed to the intimacy and easy friendliness to which he had come with her at the time of his wife's death.

She felt that she could not go back there: at the same time she knew that, if he asked her, she would go, through inability to refuse him. But, waiting for some word from him, she prayed that he would not ask, though he could have no other post to offer that she could accept, having determined that she would not go back to work in the office. To that she could not bring herself, if he asked such a thing.

On the Friday, her salary was brought to her at the villa where she lived, but no message accompanied it. Saturday went by with no word from Nevile, and in the evening she learned from her landlady, Mrs. Pinner, that the works and office would be closed on Monday for the burial of Mrs. Nevile. The beady-eyed, active little woman was bursting with curiosity as to how much Dorothy had seen of Thursday's happenings at Long Ridge, but the two attempts she made at bringing up the subject were received with such hostility that she tried no more.

As for Forrest, Dorothy saw that he had been brought before a magistrate and remanded after Head had given evidence of arrest, which included Forrest's reply to the charges against him, and nothing more. Over this, the girl was puzzled and incredulous: she felt certain from the way in which Nevile had spoken of his wife, and from the fact of his sending for Forrest at the dying woman's request, that there had been no intimacy between the two of which Nevile disapproved: yet, failing an illicit relationship or the desire for it, she could not see why Forrest should attempt to murder his partner. As Nevile had said, Hilda could have told him that she wanted to leave him for Forrest, and he would have let her go. Forrest must have known him well enough to realise this, could have asked Hilda to approach him, and so obviated the motive for such a crime.

And now she recalled all that Forrest had told her when he asked her to go and work with Nevile: he had shown, then, an apparently sincere wish to further Nevile's interests for the sake of Westingborough and the prosperity of its people. No, he could not be guilty of such a crime: strong and ruthless though she knew him to be, she did not believe him capable of it, and still more found herself unable to think of any way in which he could have accomplished it.

Westingborough's gossip inclined to the opinion that the telephone had been rendered explosive in some way, but Dorothy remembered Nevile's evidence at the inquest on Phyllis Harland, his statement that he had used the telephone to speak to the works less than two hours before the girl had been killed: if it had been lethal at the time of her death, surely it would have been equally deadly when he not only used it, but moved it from his desk to the table. And in what other way could Forrest have caused the explosion? She could divine none.

Time would solve the problem and—she believed—set Forrest free again, and meanwhile she had her own problem as to what was to become of herself. It did not appear as an immediate urgency; in the stress in which she saw Nevile was living through these days, he had probably forgotten her; he had to find a successor to Forrest at the works, and, until he succeeded in that, would have to take Forrest's place as best he could. With the discovery of the blue dye he had, as he had told her, put the firm in such a position that he could afford to turn his energies in other directions for the next five years, and it was not inability that prevented him from doing such work as Forrest had done, but a genuine, strong distaste for ordinary business life and its routine. He claimed that he was a chemist, and, justifying his claim to the full, held that he had a right to be independent of the commercial side of the industry that his genius furthered on its way to increased prosperity.

On Monday, Dorothy questioned whether to go to the funeral, but decided against it. The greater part of the works and office employees would be there, and some who knew her would want to question what she knew, discuss Forrest's arrest and put forward theories—she felt that she could not face it. Late in the afternoon Mrs. Pinner came up to her room to inform her that Mr. Anderson had called to see her, and she asked for him to be shown up: Nevile had sent her a message, at last!

Anderson entered, a lean, sandy rabbit of a man, rather conspicuous through lack of personality. Dorothy waited for him to speak, standing herself, and not offering him a seat. During the months she had worked in the office she had disliked the man as much as, if not more than she had grown to dislike Forrest, and she felt no abatement of her hostility to him now, especially when he smiled in an ingratiating way at her.

"Afternoon, Miss Morland," he began. "Mr. Nevile sent for me to go and see him out at Long Ridge after the funeral to-day, and in the course of our talk he asked me to let you know he wants to see you in the managing director's room at the office at eleven sharp to-morrow. Not to be there before eleven, he said, but at eleven sharp."

"I will be there," she promised. She nodded assent. "That is all, I take it? Mr. Nevile sent no further message by you, I mean?"

"No, it's all as far as he and you are concerned," he answered, "but now I'm seeing you here, I'd like to tell you—you remember that Miss Allen, the one who went as managing director's secretary after Forrest found he couldn't get on with Miss Elmer?"

"Yes," she assented, and noted how pointedly he omitted the prefix from Forrest's name. In Forrest's presence, a week earlier, he would have emphasised it and used the "sir" obsequiously—and he knew no more than she did whether Forrest were guilty or innocent!

"Well, Mr. Nevile asked me to send her out to Long Ridge to-morrow morning—told me to ask her if she'd go, that is—so it's pretty plain he doesn't mean you to work for him there again."

Now, faced with the reality of dismissal from work with Nevile, she realised how much she had wanted to go back, felt this decision as the closing of a door that she craved to see held open. It was not easy to maintain an appearance of indifference before this man, or to keep her voice steady in answering him.

"Possibly. He did not tell me his intentions."

"Well, it looks plain to me," Anderson pursued. "Further to that, Miss Morland, it looks strongly to me as if Mr. Nevile meant me to have the managing directorship—or at least, to take over the job for the present, till he sees I can really do it as I know I can. And that being so, I thought I might as well suggest here and now that you should resume as my secretary. I know you're a worker, and you've got pretty much myself. So, since Miss Allen is going to Long Ridge henceforth, you can't do better for yourself. You don't want to go back among the others."

"I will wait and hear at eleven o'clock to-morrow what Mr. Nevile has decided," she answered coldly. The idea of working for this sandy nonentity after working with Nevile was utterly repugnant to her, and she could not believe that Nevile would be so devoid of judgment as to appoint such a one to the post Forrest had left vacant.

"Well, assuming he doesn't want you for anything else," Anderson urged, with rather less of certainty in his tone. "In that case, shall we consider it settled, Miss Morland?"

"Quite settled," she answered, losing some good part of her self-control over his complacent assumption. "Settled that under no consideration would I accept such a post, and with Miss Allen in my place consider myself no longer an employee of the firm, unless I find to-morrow morning that Mr. Nevile has some real use for me."

Anderson stared at her in amazement which gradually gave place to anger. "Well," he said at last, "you needn't be quite so haughty about it, Miss Morland. After that, I can only say good afternoon."

He went, considering it said, apparently. Dorothy sat by her window and watched the daylight fail, but saw little of the world outside, because of falling tears. It was one thing to consider whether she would or would not go back to work with Nevile at Long Ridge, quite another to learn that she had been summarily replaced, and that, evidently, he had no further need of her. She tried to find comfort in telling herself that he too felt, after talking to her as he had talked outside his wife's door, a resumption of their former working relationship was impossible. If that were his reason for the step, surely he might have found some way of softening this dismissal, given her some intimation other than this of sending an underling to summon her to his presence in the office, giving no reason for the summons, but leaving his man to hurl at her the information that she was superseded.

He had told her that he was inhuman, at times when he had proved himself most appealingly human, but with this inconsiderate treatment of one who had served him loyally and well it began to appear that his estimate of his own character was correct. And yet she loved him, would always love the man as she had known him.

There must be some mistake. Surely Anderson had misunderstood Nevile's instructions, and there must be some mistake! She caught at the frail straw, found it useless, and began the round of her dreary thought again while darkness fell around her outwardly, as with Anderson's going it had already fallen on her heart.

A SOLITARY office boy, evidently left at his post for the purpose, met her on her arrival at the office at eleven o'clock the next morning and conducted her to the managing director's room, where she found Nevile awaiting her. There had been no hint of a second day's closure of the works and office, yet she saw nobody but the boy and Nevile—desks were vacated with books still open on them, typewriters stood uncovered, and all looked as if the workers there had fled suddenly, with no further thought for all they left behind. The door of the director's room made an echoing sound in the empty office as the boy closed it on her, and his footsteps too raised an echoing clamour as he crossed the board floor on his way out, leaving her quite alone here with Nevile.

He stood by what had been Forrest's desk, and silently gestured her toward a chair he had placed in readiness. As she approached it he held out his hand, and she grasped it momentarily, remembering how cold it had been when she last touched it. There was normality in his clasp, now; his face looked even thinner than usual, and his eyes were dark-ringed. He regarded her gravely, steadily.

"I am glad to see you again," he said.

"And I you," she answered. "Am I late—what is it? The office—"

She realised that she was speaking hurriedly, confusedly, and broke off. Again Nevile pointed to the chair.

"Not late," he said. "Sit down while I explain, will you?"

She seated herself, but he remained standing, and turned to face her fully. She saw or imagined anxiety in his pose.

"The office staff," he said slowly, "are all out in the big loading shed, where I sent them. All the works staff are there too. Now I want you to go there with me, and hear me tell them that you are managing director of this firm from to-day onward."

"That I am—" She stared up at him in a frightened way. "Surely—no—Oh, no! Impossible—I couldn't—dare not! I'm not capable of it. You must know I'm not capable of it. And—" She paused, unable to speak any more while he looked down at her, sombrely, steadily.

"If you are not, who is?" he demanded, in a way that compelled her to answer. "With all I know of you, who here is equally capable?"

"You are," she answered. "You could do it."

He shook his head. "Could, perhaps. I thought of it, but know I have not the will or steadiness of purpose to hold a place I should dislike so much. It is not my work, has never been my work. And apart from me, who else here is as capable as you, knows as much as you know?"

She looked down at the carpet at her feet. An inconsequent thought of the ambition Anderson had voiced to her yesterday afternoon occupied her mind momentarily. She remembered Forrest here in this room, the iron man: Nevile was right, none other here, if she excepted herself, was fit to take Forrest's place. And she did not want it, feared it.

She looked up again and shook her head. "It is too great a responsibility for me, a woman," she said. "I—I couldn't."

"And I know you could," he retorted evenly. "Do you think I would have assembled eighteen hundred people out there if I had not known it? You can assume that responsibility, if you will."

She stood up again, facing him. "Please don't ask me," she begged. "Even if I could do it—please don't ask it of me!"

He smiled a little, a crooked, forced expression. "Will you fail me too, then?" he asked, half turning away from her.

After a pause she laid her hand on his arm. "I shall never fail you by my own will," she said steadily, though it was difficult to control her voice. "I accept the post. Will you take me out to them?"

He led the way out to the loading shed, entering from the back of the building on to a raised platform at its inner end, from which bales and packages were loaded on to the vans with no necessity for lifting. The body of the shed was packed with men and women, boys and girls, but the platform had been left vacant, except for a boy, sitting on its edge and swinging his legs as Nevile and Dorothy entered. He jumped off hastily. Nevile led the girl to the middle of the platform, and there, facing the assembly, held up his hand.

"Stop that lorry engine outside," he bade clearly. "Turn on the lights, and close the doors. I want you all to hear me."

He waited until the orders had been carried out. Then he spoke.

"I have called you all here," he said, "in order that you may know I have appointed Miss Morland to be managing director of the firm of Nevile and Company, and that the appointment takes effect from eleven o'clock to-day. Miss Morland has worked here for the best part of a year, and made herself thoroughly conversant with the business and all its details. She has also worked with me long enough to prove to me that she is fully capable of taking the post. From to-day onward her word in the office of the firm and in these works will be law, subject to appeal to me. If any one of you—any one of you!—should feel that a decision of hers is unjust, or that in any way you question her efficiency or way of dealing with the business of the firm, you have the right of appeal to me, and a fair hearing from me.

"You know, all of you, that this is not a limited company, but that it is mine, as it was my father's before me—and while I live it will not become a limited company. I am free to make the appointment, as I do make it, not in consultation with anyone, but on my sole responsibility. If any one of you objects, or feels in any way that such an appointment should not be made, say so here and now, and I will hear the objection without prejudice to the speaker. I want no discontent among you, no feeling that you are not being fairly treated, so if any objection is to be raised, let it be here and now."

With that he ceased speaking, and waited. Dorothy beside him waited too, and saw Anderson's vindictive gaze at her from where he stood in front of the group of office employees, apart from the works hands. And it seemed to her that the silence which followed Nevile's little speech lasted an age. Here and there somebody coughed, and the silence went on and on until Sinclair, the grizzled works foreman, took a pace forward to reply.

"Ye want some worrd from us, Mr. Nevile," he said, "an' as one o' the old hands maybe 'tis my place to say it, since nobody else seems likely to. Thirrty years, sir, I've worrked for your father an' yourself, an' never did I think I should see the day when a woman, an' a young woman at that, would be put in the place you put Miss Morland in to-day. But there's this about it, sir. In all the years I worrked under your father, I never knew him to make a mistake about either man or job, an' neither have I known you make a mistake yet. I've got confidence in your judgment, I've heerd you say the least of us can appeal to you if we feel like it, an' I'll take orrders from Miss Morland as I'd take 'em from you, till I find I've got cause to complain. Some o' the young 'uns, maybe, 'll try to raise a worrd or two about havin' a young woman managin' heere, but I think, sir, ye may safely leave them to me. An' I think that's about all I'll say, sir."

He stepped back. Nevile was smiling as he answered.

"Thank you, Sinclair. One point you mentioned—that of having a woman as your head here. I tell you all now that in working hours there is no sex, apart from the respect women have a right to demand from men. I appoint Miss Morland to this post because I know her ability to fill it—if I had found a man of greater ability, I would have appointed him, or equally another woman. Anderson, on behalf of the office staff?"

He spoke the challenge rather sharply, gazing down to where Anderson stood fiddling with his sandy moustache in evident discomfiture.

"Well, sir," Anderson answered after a perceptible interval, "you know best, of course. It's a surprise to us, as you may understand, sir, and I note we have right of appeal to you. I hope—I hope, sir, Miss Morland will justify all you've said about her, and feel I can't say any more. It's your business, sir, and of course you know best."

Nevile gave him a long stare, and the man averted his eyes.

"Does anyone else wish to comment or question?" Nevile demanded.

"Just one more worrd, sir," Sinclair spoke up, stepping forward again, "an' I hope ye'll not take it as imperrtinent. I'd say I believe there's no one of us heere, man or woman, but feels for ye, sir, in this great trouble that's come on ye, an' it's up to us all to give ye as little bother as we can, an' show our sympathy by doin' our best at our jobs, so ye'll feel that we're with ye all the way."

"That's not impertinence, Sinclair," Nevile assured him, "but the kindest and finest expression of sympathy that has come to me. I can only thank you for it as I thank you for your acceptance of Miss Morland in her post. Now, open those doors and back to your work, all of you. I have no more to say, except to thank you all for hearing me as you have heard me, and to assure you that I have not made this choice without careful thought, and full belief that I am doing right by you as well as by myself. And so, back to our work."

He touched Dorothy's arm and signed to her to precede him off the platform. Back in the room that had been Forrest's he faced her again.

"You will have trouble with Anderson," he told her gravely.

"Once, perhaps," she said, "and then you will deal with him. I shall take the first opportunity of compelling him to appeal to you."

He thought over it, and nodded assent. "Did you wish to come back to Long Ridge?" he asked abruptly.

"Since it is out of the question, my wish is immaterial," she answered evasively. "My work is here, now, whatever I might have wished."

"I shall miss you—those teas, for instance," he remarked. "Miss Allen hasn't your grip, and never will have it. But I must go on missing you—I knew your place, when we were talking last Thursday. I must find somebody, and there you were, the only one possible."

"Possible, but unproved," she pointed out. "Let time decide. And you—couldn't you take a holiday now? Get away, in any case."

He shook his head. "You have forgotten," he said. "I am a witness in the forthcoming trial. You probably have to appear too."

"I?" she queried in surprise. "What could they possibly ask me?"

"I don't know, except that you were secretary here at the time. I have no idea of the basis for the charge."

"Tell me, Mr. Nevile—do you believe it?" She could not keep the question back, unable as she found herself to believe it of Forrest.

"I don't know," he answered gravely. Apart from all else, it appears impossible to me that Forrest could have been such a fool. A man who would override any obstacle to get what he wanted, a ruthless man—yes. But not a fool. And in this case, there was a way of getting what he wanted, far less dangerous and far easier. He and I got on very well up to the time of my marriage, though I was like you, never able to like him. And after I married, I soon knew he hated me, and consequently I came to hate him. I knew the reason for his feeling, you see. And now I want to be fair—I want most desperately to be fair, and let no personal feeling render me unjust to him. At the best, he has lost everything. Lost her, lost his place here—acquitted, he could never come back, and who would want a man after he has been through that ordeal, stood to answer that charge, whatever the result? I don't know the case against him, and for the present I don't believe him guilty. It would have been so easy for them to come to me."

He smiled, faintly. "I'm yattering again," he added, "and you'll want to begin here. And now I think of it, your salary will be doubled from to-day, as a beginning. It's even then barely a fifth of what he was getting—and is still getting, for that matter."

"Is still getting?" she echoed questioningly.

"Is still getting," he repeated, in a way that challenged her implied comment. "He spoke of resigning that day, but he has not actually resigned. Unless and until his guilt is proved, he must be regarded as an innocent man, and I of all men must be quite just to him."

She did not reply. The statement needed no comment, she felt.

"Now I'm going back to Long Ridge," he said. "I'm there if you need me—there's the direct line to my study"—he pointed at the telephone instrument on the table—"and Miss Allen will be there to answer you if I am not—she can put you in touch with me."

"I shall refer to you as little as possible," she promised, "knowing as I do that you place me here to carry on for you, not to act as a mere mouthpiece requiring your actual voice all the time."

"I place you here without restriction of any kind," he said gravely. "I give you what Forrest had, a share in the responsibility I feel toward all those eighteen hundred people and their dependents, and trust you as I would trust myself—more than I would trust myself, in here, for this is not my work. I believe it is yours."

He held out his hand, and she took it. "As I said when I accepted this," she told him, "I shall never fail you by my own will."

"Then"—he smiled again—"you will never fail me at all. As I told you, I shall miss you at Long Ridge, and may sometimes come here to talk to you over work and plans. You must endure it, if I do. Good-bye—there's nothing more to say, and you'll need all your time."

When he had gone, she spared time to think over that last sentence. There was nothing more to say, on his side—she felt then that he would never have more to say, would never realise that she might be more than an aid to his business life. He had not accorded her any personal regard, beyond—to use his own words—the respect women have a right to demand from men. To-day, more clearly even than on the day of his wife's death, she had seen how his marriage and its outcome had embittered him. In the end, of course—she came to the conclusion with no little bitterness on her side—some woman would attract him and he would marry again, but she herself had been in too close a contact with him as a worker to permit of his realising her as capable of a personal relationship, realising that she would justify his belief in her here because of her will to give only to him all that a woman can give. The quiet gravity with which he had spoken, the strength and insight he had displayed from the moment of her entry to him here—even the simple appeal with which he had virtually compelled her to take this place—all combined to strengthen the love she felt for him, and at the same time compelled her to realise that in the personal sense she was nothing to him. He valued her abilities, not herself.

She felt no elation over the position to which he had raised her; to her, it was a subject rather for prayer than for praise, a responsibility she had accepted and must shoulder, perhaps until she grew old and past work—old and past desire!


BEGINNING with the second week in October, the fourth estate kept an eye—several eyes, in fact—on Westingborough, and as far as possible on Long Ridge, while one news editor referred to the place as a little gold mine. Hungry-looking young men sat about in the lounge of the Duke of York, and tried vainly at intervals to find from Little Nell whether Inspector Head had said anything to her about the Phyllis Harland murder, asked her if she really thought it was a murder, and tried to spur her to indiscreet revelations by hinting that mere country rozzers made bad mistakes sometimes, and they would like to have a word with Head if she could manage to draw them into the conversation when Head came in and chatted with her—all this with further hints to the effect that they did not rely on their bright eyes to influence her, but would make it well worth her while, if she would fall for it.

Nell refused to fall. Head, also, refused to fall for anything. He was courteous, but flatly refused to discuss the case with anyone. But even without his assistance—which, since the case was sub judice, he could not have given under any circumstances—there was plenty to justify the description of Westingborough as a little gold mine.

There was, at the outset, "Pretty Secretary's Tragic Death: Appalling Explosion At Raymond Nevile's Home." Interest in Nevile's business was sufficient to render this a front-page topic, for the Nevile dyes were world-famous, and the statement "Nevile-dyed" in conjunction with fine fabrics was equivalent to the monogrammed R.R. on a car radiator, a hall-mark of unapproachable quality.

Next, they had "Baffling Mystery of Secretary's Death: Raymond Nevile's Duel With Coroner," and, alternatively, "Was It An Accident? Inexplicable Mystery Of Phyllis Harland's Death." This had hardly had time to grow stale when far bigger headlines, stretching across whole pages of more or less reliable descriptive matter, flashed on a wondering myriad of breakfasters beside the morning plates of egg and bacon.









were only mild indications of the way in which the little gold mine was being worked.

Then, on the Tuesday morning, a fresh series appeared:






and a bad specimen of alliteration:


were again mere samples from the mass. The gold mine had yielded another big nugget, and still the trial of Forrest remained to be extracted from its depths and alloyed to suit the public taste. Now came leading articles on Women in Business, Is Youth A Handicap? Brains and Beauty, The Modern Girl—A Paradox, Romances of To-Day, and even The Wheel of Fortune. One reporter reaped glory by unearthing the fact that Dorothy Morland had taken her B.Sc. before coming to Westingborough, and thus might be considered to have obtained her appointment—to a certain extent—through fitness for it; another gained still greater merit with Romantic Story Of Miss Morland's Life, for which he rather meanly went and obtained particulars of the B.Sc. without saying where he was going or anything about it. Thence he traced back to Dorothy's life as a girl, her father's career and downfall through his partner's defalcations, and her upbringing in what he described as "refined surroundings," going on to detail the "plucky struggle" she had made by undergoing instruction at a secretarial college, and ending the romantic story with her arrival at Westingborough—because his news editor felt that the rest of it had been rather overdone already. The public which absorbs its news and opinions with its breakfast—and sometimes digests the breakfast—already knew all that could be known concerning Dorothy's career in Westingborough.

Dorothy herself was a great disappointment. She refused to be interviewed, refused to say anything at all, even concerning her aspirations for the future of Nevile and Company. She was quite resolute about it, and instructed Mrs. Pinner to turn away all callers with the intimation that they might write to her, and use her own discretion over replying. Very few wrote. At the office, one or two alleged commercial travellers called to see her personally, and found themselves referred to Anderson, whose attitude was not in the least in consonance with their requirements. Still sore over having seen this girl appointed to the position he had hoped to fill, he hinted that Mr. Nevile had taken a great risk, and he himself did not think things would turn out to the advantage of the firm. As this was libellous, in addition to being not in the least what the press thought the public wanted, it saw no daylight or even artificial light through the medium of the mighty fourth estate. They wanted to boost Miss Morland, not to decry her, and Anderson was useless to them.

Press photographers had a slightly better time. Miss Morland Arriving at Her Office, Charming Young Director On Her Way Home, The Cynosure of Westingborough (this, surely, was sheer inspiration) Leaving Her Car, and Miss Morland's Residence, had their hours and ceased to be in due course. For three days, morning and evening—especially in "home edition" and "late final" of the evening papers—the torrent was in spate, and then came the police court proceedings to decide whether Forrest should be committed for trial at the county assizes, relegating Miss Morland and her affairs to secondary importance. She had been mere romance, padded out with verbiage, exploited in every possible way because her story was for the time the most prominent feature of the Westingborough sensation: Forrest, as soon as he appeared again, was drama, tense, thrilling, tragic, appalling, portentous, catastrophic, stunning, mysterious—all the nauseating gamut of adjectives with which the press tries to stimulate the imaginations of its readers, and which it has reduced from the right significance of the words to the level of the commonplace by a persistent misuse, and an inability to realise that continual shocks become merely monotonous after a time. One either dies of them, or grows so hardened as to be no longer affected, and when crises go on for ever and disasters reveal themselves as mere accidents, time after time, the first, second, and third estates take it that the fourth has its tongue in its cheek, or, to put it colloquially, is leg-pulling.

But, over the Forrest case, all the old adjectives had to be dragged forth and set up, because there were no new ones. One scribe attempted to introduce variety with Dazzling Revelations as a headline, but his news editor promptly changed it to Stunning Revelations, and the effort at originality was squashed, while the news editor told his man that he must keep to the beaten track if he meant to keep his job.

Thenceforth, as long as the Westingborough sensation lasted, that scribe restrained himself, venturing no more than a use of "Amazing," "Thrilling," and "Sensational" by way of qualifications for his nouns, and thereby acquired the standing of a A Thoroughly Sound Young Feller At His Job, and the right to talk to more experienced men and even stand them drinks. And, in due course reporting the police court proceedings of the Forrest case in a highly satisfactory way, he looked forward hopefully to a seat at the press table in the assize court, when the real case should open there. In actual fact, he did not achieve that ultimate glory, which would have carried with it a right to be stood drinks: he was detailed to cover a mere case of motoring manslaughter, and for a long while after felt that life was not worth living.

On the day before that on which Dorothy Morland was summoned to appear to give evidence in the police court proceedings against Hector Aylwin Forrest—and confidentially informed by Inspector Head that he had to summon her, but she would not be required, really, till the case came on at the assizes—Anderson gave her cause to force him to appeal to Nevile against her decision. On going through her morning's correspondence after arriving at the office, she found a letter from a firm of chemical manufacturers, from whom certain components of Nevile dyes were obtained in small quantities at long intervals. The components were relatively unimportant; the letter appeared to her as that of some exceedingly aggrieved person, and was signed by a director. She read it and puzzled over it: here, evidently, was some error that called for revision, some oversight for which Nevile and Company were responsible.

The writer of the letter stated that an account had been rendered for the sum of forty pounds, one shilling, and seven pence. A cheque for forty pounds one shilling had been received in settlement—the word "settlement" was underlined—and the writer wanted to know if he were to conclude that the sum of seven pence had been overlooked, or had it been carried forward to be added to a future settlement? In the latter case, some mention of the carry-over should have been made at the time the cheque was sent: in the former case, the writer found himself unable to consider the account settled, and requested a further cheque for seven pence to be forwarded by return post.

Dorothy remembered then that she had noted a total absence of pence from cheques she had so far signed on behalf of the firm. Pounds and shillings, yes, but all accounts had appeared to go no lower than shillings, judging by the cheque book submitted to her—Anderson went through all accounts rendered to the firm, and it was no part of her business to check them. So she sent for Anderson, who appeared before her, and took the letter she held out to him.

"I want you to read and explain that letter, Mr. Anderson," she said. "That is, if you know the explanation. It appears to me that a mistake has been made in the office, and you may be able to trace its source."

He read the letter through, and put it down on her desk. "No, Miss Morland, that's no mistake," he said. "It's a system I inaugurated more than two months ago, and so far it's working very well. This letter ought never to have come to you. It's my department."

"Then will you tell me what your department is doing to invite such letters as this?" she asked frostily. "I don't understand it."

"Well, you see, it struck me that if we docked off all the odd pence on accounts sent in to us, we'd save quite a lot in the course of a year or so," he explained. "Of course, I knew it would cause trouble at the beginning, and I drafted out a circular letter I send to all these people when they write in and complain, telling them there's no object in complicating our books by putting odd pence on our cheques, and it makes things simpler all round if we make it pounds and shillings, and we hope they'll see it's a much better system. Words to that effect, but put in businesslike form. They kick the first time, but they can't afford to quarrel with us, and as I said it represents a real saving to us. This is the first time these people have been paid under the system. I'll send them a copy of the circular letter, and you'll hear no more about it. I'm sorry you've had the trouble over it."

"In other words, Mr. Anderson," she said cuttingly, "you think I shall overlook your degrading Nevile and Company to the level of mean hucksters by an economy which is cheating and nothing else?"

He flamed to an angry red. "I'm not going to stand that sort of talk from you or from any woman, Miss Morland!" he exclaimed.

She turned to her secretary, a young girl whom she had chosen from the office staff for the post. "Miss Courtney, put down the rest of this conversation word for word," she ordered sharply. "Now, Mr. Anderson, in all payments for which you make out cheques on behalf of the firm, and send to me for signature, you dock the odd pence of the total, and make out the cheques for pounds and shillings only. Is that so?"

"It is so, Miss Morland," he replied sulkily, watching the girl's rapidly moving pencil on her notebook pages.

"You consider this a justifiable economy?" Dorothy pursued.

"A very sound economy," he insisted. "As I said, they complain—"

"Wait!" she bade. "I am coming to that. You anticipate complaints from the firms underpaid in this way for their goods or services, and have compiled a circular letter in anticipation of complaint?"

"That is so. Most of them only complain the first time. Then they knuckle under. Our orders are regular and our money is good."

"Our reputation for just dealing, too, is not to be despised—up to the time of your introducing this innovation, that is. Did Mr. Forrest know you had introduced it as a system of payment?"

"He did not, Miss Morland. I claim all the credit for it."

She gave him a long look of incredulity at his denseness and twisted mentality. In the pause the girl caught up with their exchanges, and waited to take down the next sentence.

"Mr. Anderson," Dorothy said quietly, "in addition to your weekly salary, you make out an account for expenses, and submit it to me for initialling. You agree that that is the case?"

"I do," he answered. "Necessary travelling expenses."

"Very well. We will extend your system. I will have your vouchers for expenses during the past two months sent in to me here, and deduct from them all odd pence, which in turn shall be deducted from your expense account at the end of this week—and no odd pence on the account will be taken into account in future. Let us extend this system of economy, by all means, since you approve of it."

"Now you're joking, Miss Morland. I am an employee of the firm."

"And are these people from whom we buy our raw materials not employees of the firm, in a larger sense? No, there is no difference. If they are to lose, you must lose too."

"I can't agree to that, Miss Morland."

"No?" She gave him another long look. "I did not ask you to agree, but gave you an order. Implied an order—perhaps I should have put it more strongly. Your system extends to yourself, retrospectively to the time of your introducing it, and as long as it remains in force."

"I refuse to submit to that, Miss Morland." He sounded a very angry man indeed. "I'm an employee of the firm."

Dorothy turned to her secretary. "Stop there, Miss Courtney," she bade. "Transcribe that conversation exactly as you have taken it down. Take a carbon copy, and when you have finished it hand me one copy for checking, and Mr. Anderson will check the other. You, Mr. Anderson, will bring your copy in here to me as soon as you have finished checking it, and exchange it for mine. Then you will order out one of the works' cars and take the statement out to Mr. Nevile at Long Ridge. I shall not communicate with him in the meantime, so you will have full opportunity to explain to him why you feel unable to obey the orders I give you. But remember, you are to show him your copy of the conversation with me that my secretary has just taken down."

"Oh yeah?" He made a bitter, angry sneer of the Americanism, his real nature showing as he abandoned restraint. "And supposing I tell you I'm not going to take orders from you to the extent of doing that?"

"In that case—in any case, now"—she answered quietly—"I have to inform you that Nevile and Company have no more need of your services, and you will get your dismissal in writing together with the copy of this conversation. You may take both to Mr. Nevile, or refrain from seeing him, as you choose, but you are not wanted for one more hour in this office. Please leave my room at once."

"Gladly," he flung back. "Not everyone is sweet on you, you know."

"Miss Courtney"—she turned to the girl again—"ring through to Sinclair and ask him to send two men to throw Anderson out of the office. You, Anderson, can take such civil proceedings as you like in reply to the assault, and the works' car will be at your disposal to take you to Mr. Nevile. But wait outside the office for the papers you will need to take with you. Your dismissal takes effect at once."

"She needn't trouble to ring Sinclair," Anderson said. "I'll go and collect my things, and mark my words, I'll wait outside the office as you say, I'll take that record of what I said to you and you said to me to Mr. Nevile, and tell him what I've done for this firm all the years I've been here, and if he's got any sense of justice at all you'll be out of this room and apologising to me to-morrow. You'll see!"

With the threat, he went out. Dorothy leaned back in her chair and sighed. She had gone farther than she had intended, but Anderson had forced her to it. She had no fear of Nevile's judgment.

"It had to come," she said aloud. "Miss Courtney, put everything else aside to get that transcription done, and take the carbon copy to Mr. Anderson together with the form of dismissal I will dictate to you."

She dismissed the matter from her mind. An hour later, or perhaps a little more than an hour, the line from Long Ridge indicated activity, and she took off the receiver and heard Nevile speaking.

"Miss Morland here," she said, in answer to his inquiry.

"Ah, yes, Miss Morland. I've got Anderson here, and I've shut him into Miss Allen's room so that I can get the rights of this business from you without his hearing what I say. I felt sure this was bound to happen, but expected you'd merely reprimand him—and you've dismissed him. Do you mind telling me your side of the story?"

"Not in the least," she answered. "I gave Anderson, or caused to be given him before he left here, a typed record of a conversation he had with me—my secretary took it down. Has he shown it to you?"

"I've seen nothing but your signed dismissal of him from our service, to take effect on receipt," he answered rather testily. "He's told me some story about a new system of accounts, saving us pounds a month if he's allowed to carry it on, but he's rather angry and incoherent. Points out his years of service, and claims you've been unjust to him. I can't get the hang of this system he's talking about—as I said, he's too angry to explain it properly, and it appears from what he says that that's your grievance against him. I knew there would be a clash, when I put you in. Now, what are the facts?"

"If you will wait one second, Mr. Nevile, I will read you the transcript of the conversation between Anderson and myself, as my secretary here recorded it. Just hold on while I get it, please."

She signed to Miss Courtney, who handed her the typed sheets recording the talk with Anderson. Slowly and distinctly, she read out the whole of the script to Nevile, and again spoke instead of reading.

"There are the facts, Mr. Nevile. I sent Anderson to you with a copy of what I have just read, instructing him to show it to you and take your decision. If he has not shown you his copy, that is his own affair. My copy is here for you to see, or I will send it to you if you wish it sent. I have acted as I thought in your interests—"

"Wait just one minute, Miss Morland. No, don't wait, though. Hang up, and I'll ring you again after I've had another word with Anderson."

She hung up, and waited so long that she turned to other and necessary tasks that her position as managing director of the firm involved. Then the telephone line from Long Ridge announced itself again, and she removed her receiver and listened, at first rather defiantly, determined to uphold her standpoint. But Nevile showed her that she had no need to uphold it: there was reassurance in his tone.

"That you, Miss Morland? I've been talking to Anderson again. He began by denying that he had a copy of that conversation you read out to me, and finished by producing it. And as our cousins over the water would say, I've got to hand it to you. As a summary of the case, it simply could not have been better."

"Then you agree with my course of action?" she asked.

"Anderson is now on his way down the drive—I told him he couldn't have the car to take him back, so he's walking. Limping painfully."

"Limping?" she echoed. Nevile had sounded rather pleased.

"He lost his temper altogether, and made a remark—well, a remark," he explained. "I'm afraid I was a little bit rough with him."

She smiled as she listened. He sounded happier and more like his old self: the studied gravity that had characterised him since his wife's death had given place to the energy and zest that had been his while she worked at Long Ridge.

"He's married, I believe," she remarked, not too happily.

"And entitled to something like ninety pounds under our pension scheme—he's been with the firm over fourteen years, as he rubbed in to me over this dismissal," he pointed out. "Miss Morland, if you begin worrying over the woes of men like him, you'll be old before your time, and I for one don't want to see that happen. And if you'd heard the remark about you that made me throw him out, you wouldn't worry any more. Now we're talking, I understand from Head that we shall both have to attend to-morrow, so I shall see you then."

"Yes, but the inspector told me my attendance will be only a formality. I shall not be actually called till the assize case begins."

"Still, I shall see you. I'll call at the office for you."

The same unaffected, frank friendliness, she reflected as she replaced her receiver. She knew now that, apart from this post to which he had appointed her, he had acted in her best interests—though unintentionally—in preventing her from going back to work with him. After all that had been, she could not have maintained a constant contact with him, day after day and week after week, without betraying herself in some way. Yet, when he had spoken of shutting Anderson into Miss Allen's room, she had felt swift, keen resentment: it was her room, not Miss Allen's! And when his voice had told of a reversion to his former interest in life, a wakening of his old, virile self, she had longed to see him as he spoke, watch the play of his mobile lips and brows. No, assuredly it would not have been wise to go back there.

"Miss Courtney, get Sinclair on the line, please, and tell him I want to see him. Vasari's want their order expedited for delivery a week earlier."

She turned to her tasks again.


FROM the point of view of the press, and those of its patrons who read their papers with a greater thirst for sensation than for facts, there was an arid, disappointing brevity in the police court proceedings which resulted in the committal for trial on the charge of murder of Hector Forrest. Sir Herbert Eustace, who, it was already understood, would lead for the Crown at the trial, did not appear for this preliminary hearing, but left it to Sadkins, his junior. Similarly Rankin Parr, who had obtained three acquittals in succession in murder cases, and who had been briefed as leader for the defence, sent his junior, Calloway, to represent him in Forrest's interest. This, both sides knew, was only a preliminary skirmish: Forrest could not evade committal, but whether or no he would be convicted was another question altogether, and the crowded court and thronged street outside, with Superintendent Wadden mustering all his reserve men to deal with the traffic, proved that many people were asking that question.

Inspector Head again gave evidence of arrest, repeating Forrest's reply to the charge, and stating that he had forcibly restrained the accused man from taking out an ounce phial of aconite from his vest pocket before he had finished charging and warning the accused. The phial was produced, Sergeant Wells corroborated Head's statement, and Calloway let them both go unquestioned.

Raymond Nevile appeared when called, and Sadkins led him through the story of the tragedy that he had already told at the inquest on the dead girl, accepting without comment his statement that there was nothing whatever of an explosive nature on the table. But Calloway did not let this witness go when his examination-in-chief had been heard: he rose and, beginning with some queries as to the extent of the injuries Nevile had suffered, suggested that his memory might have been impaired in a way that rendered him incapable of accurate recollection of what had been on the table at the moment of the explosion. He would remember the table, Calloway asserted, as he knew it from day to day, and it was common knowledge that in cases of concussion the sufferers recovered with blank minds as far as the events immediately preceding the moment of injury were concerned. Nevile honestly believed that he was speaking the truth, but it was absurd for him to insist that there was nothing of an explosive nature on the table at the time: it was equivalent to his saying that there had been no explosion, because nothing could not have produced one. Nevile kept his temper admirably through a good half-hour of badgering, in the course of which Calloway got from him the admission that the blue dye in its original form was an explosive until one constituent had partially evaporated, and, drawing attention to the fact that Nevile had marked the cardboard box as containing nearly seven ounces more than it was found to contain when weighed independently, carefully avoided questioning with regard to the results of evaporation. When the junior counsel for the defence sat down, and Nevile retired from the witness stand, even committal of the accused man had begun to appear doubtful.

A new figure in the case was called, a young, well-dressed man who gave his name as Thomas Ewart, and described himself as a salesman in the employ of Messrs. Thorogood and Wright, colonial exporters, with offices and showrooms in Cheapside. The firm acted as agents for mining companies, rubber growers, coffee planters and the like, procuring and sending out to their clients apparently everything from a box of tacks to a bungalow or pneumatic drilling plant, and they did a certain amount of business over the counter as well.

On the seventh of July of that year, three calendar months to a day prior to Phyllis Harland's death, the witness had been behind the counter in the firm's showroom, and at about half-past eleven in the morning had been faced by a man who produced a card which gave his name as Hector Dundas, and described him as a mining engineer. It was, as nearly as the witness could recollect, an ordinary printed card, such as could be obtained at an hour's notice from any jobbing printer's establishment. He could not remember if it had borne an address, not having taken particular notice of it, but he had remembered the name because it was uncommon, and that the card bore the words "mining engineer."

The man who had given his name as Dundas had asked if he could purchase two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol, an explosive, Sadkins explained to the bench, which had come into great prominence during the war, and one that had a very shattering, devastating effect when detonated. Dundas told Ewart that he was returning shortly to the silver mine in which he was employed in Peru, and wanted to experiment with T.N.T., as it was commonly called, to see if it were worth using in place of ordinary blasting charges. Ewart had pointed out to him that the cost would be much greater, but he had insisted that he wanted to try it, and that the additional expense would not deter him from recommending its use, if it proved satisfactory. On that, Ewart had promised to obtain the required quantity, and have it ready the next day. Dundas offered to pay for it there and then, but, as Ewart was not sure of the retail price till he had made inquiries, he negatived the offer, and offered to send the goods and collect on delivery if Dundas would state where it could be sent. To that, Dundas had replied that he would call at the same time on the following morning, as he was staying at a hotel and would not risk such a dangerous explosive being placed in any hands but his own. To this Ewart had agreed.

Then, the witness continued, Dundas had produced a thick, apparently heavy gold watch from his pocket, and had observed that as the firm appeared to deal in nearly every class of goods, perhaps he, Ewart, could help with regard to this watch. It was, Dundas had explained, a repeater that had been presented to him, striking only hours—he had demonstrated this by holding the watch to Ewart's ear and causing it to strike. Could Ewart recommend him to some firm which would incorporate in the watch a mechanism striking quarter-hours as well?

Ewart had asked Dundas to wait, and had gone to the watch and clock department upstairs, as he himself knew little of watch repairs and alterations. The manager of that department had told him that the firm supplied new goods and undertook ordinary repairs, but could not do an intricate piece of work such as Dundas required carried out. The department manager knew a man who could do it, though, one who sometimes executed delicate repairs and adjustments, and he put down the name and address on a piece of paper. Ewart had taken the paper down to Dundas, who had waited at the counter downstairs, and, explaining that this man would probably make the alterations he required, had handed it over. It bore the name of Thomas Bacon, an expert watch mechanic who had a small shop and workroom in the Hatton Garden district.

Dundas had thanked the witness for the information, and had gone away. On the following day he had returned at about the same time in the morning, taken the two pounds of T.N.T., and paid for it. The witness produced a sales book which recorded the sale of two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol on July 8th. It was marked "cash", witness had written the name "Dundas" in brackets as a reminder in the event of large orders resulting from the sale of this sample.

The witness had seen no more of Dundas, and had almost forgotten the transaction, which was quite an ordinary one in the course of his work, when he had read that Forrest had been arrested for the murder of Phyllis Harland. Then he had remembered that the girl had been killed by an explosion under rather mysterious circumstances, and that no certainty had been reached with regard to the explosive agent that had caused the tragedy. When he noted that Forrest's name was Hector, and recalled the name on the card as Hector Dundas, he clearly remembered the sale of the T.N.T. to the supposed mining engineer, and, on seeing the portrait of Forrest in the newspapers—portraits, rather—he had instantly identified them with the man calling himself Dundas. He had felt that it was his duty to inform the police, and had done so.

Calloway rose to cross-examine: he had a disconcertingly quiet manner, and with it an appearance of not being overmuch interested in the subject under consideration, and misled many witnesses with the trick.

"You wear glasses, I observe, Mr. Ewart," he began, looking anywhere but at his victim. "What is wrong with your sight?"

"Nothing more than a slight astigmatism," Ewart answered, surprised.

"Do your glasses correct it perfectly."


"How long have you had these glasses?"

"Four—no, five years. Nearly five years, now."

"Didn't your oculist tell you to consult him again at the end of two years' time—that your sight would probably alter?"

"He did."

"Why have you not done so? Why do you still wear the same glasses?"

"Because I can still see perfectly well with them."

"Ah! I am afraid you are mistaken about that, although you think you can see as well as when the glasses were first fitted, I should recommend you to consult your oculist again, at once. Now, Mr. Ewart, I understand that the showroom in which you work, and in which you state you saw the man Dundas for a few minutes on two occasions without taking particular notice of him, is on the ground floor of the building?"

"It is," Ewart agreed, slightly puzzled by the query.

"Fronting on to a narrow street?"

"Not a very narrow street."

"What is the height of the building on the other side of that street and directly facing your showroom—how many stories?"

"Six, I think, or it may be seven."

"Ah! You are not very observant, are you, Mr. Ewart? The window of your showroom, I suppose, contains a number of articles on show which keep out a certain amount of light?"

"We show our goods there. Only the lower half of it is obscured."

"Half the window is obscured—yes. Do you work in artificial light, or merely in the dimness that window allows you?"

"We switch on the lights on dull and foggy days, of course."

"Of course. Were July the seventh and eighth dull days?"

"They couldn't have been. I remember the lights were not on, on either of the days when Dundas called."

"Was the sun shining on either or both of those days?"

"I couldn't tell you. I don't remember."

"You admit that they may have been dull?"

"Not enough to switch on the lights."

"I see. Dull days, but not dull enough to switch on the lights."

"I didn't say they were dull days."

"No, but you don't remember any sunshine, apparently. I expect your firm issues strict orders, Mr. Ewart, about not switching on lights in the daytime, unless they are urgently needed?"

"Orders not to waste current by switching on lights unnecessarily," Ewart amended. "They were not necessary on either of those days."

"According to you they were not. Now the counter at which you work, is it under the window or at the back of the showroom?"

"Across the showroom from the window. I face the window."

"How far away from you is the window?"

"Twelve—fifteen feet, perhaps. I am not sure."

"Being naturally rather unobservant, you have not estimated the distance within one yard out of a total of five. I see. A customer, facing you for his requirements, would have his back to what light there was on either of these dull days?"

"He would have his back to the window. I did not say—"

"No, no, Mr. Ewart," Calloway interrupted with gentle remonstrance. "I am concerned with what you say in your answers, not with what you do not say. What we have ascertained so far is that for a few minutes on July the seventh, and again for an even shorter time on July the eighth, a man named Dundas, a mining engineer, came to you, a naturally unobservant man with defective sight which you have not had corrected for the past five years, and in a gloomy, badly-lighted showroom stood on these two dull days with his back to what little light there was, and consulted you about the purchase of two pounds of explosive, which you sold to him. This is what you appear to have said. Do you agree?"

"Not with all of it. I'm not naturally unobservant—"

"I should leave the bench to form their own conclusions about that, Mr. Ewart, if I were you," Calloway remonstrated, interrupting again. "A witness who contradicts himself either in giving evidence or in cross-examination renders himself liable to be considered untrustworthy in his capacity as a witness. Mind, I do not imply that you are untrustworthy in your general character. Your position is sufficient to show that you are not. We will now get on to your supposition that Dundas, a mining engineer whom you saw for a minute or two on two occasions in July last, resembles Forrest, present in this court, to an extent which prompts you to think that you recognise one man as the other. As a beginning, now, what was this Dundas like?"

The unfortunate Ewart, far more badgered and tormented by this quiet, apparently friendly series of questions that had been put to him with an air of confidential intimacy than he would have been by a bullying hostility, and not quite sure by this time whether his eyesight were all that it ought to be, whether he had or had not been accused of untrustworthiness, deficiency in the power of observation, and general and complete dunderheadedness of a sort that would ensure instant dismissal from his employers when he returned to work, saw his chance, now, and took it. He pointed at Forrest.

"You can see for yourself," he said. "There he is."

Calloway appeared in no way disconcerted, though it was evident that the confident assertion had its effect on the magistrates on the bench. He shook his head gravely, reprovingly.

"Your mining engineer, I understand, had come from Peru?" he asked.

"I understood him to say he was going back to Peru," Ewart replied.

"Therefore he must have come from Peru. Now as far as your defective sight, the gloom of the showroom, and the fact that Dundas had his back to the light will allow you to judge, would you say Dundas had a dark, sun-tanned complexion, such as he would naturally have after living in a tropical country like Peru?"

"No, not very dark. Slightly tanned."

"Tanned, let us say. A darker complexion, really, than that of the man you have claimed very much resembles this Dundas?"

"He is Dundas!" Ewart insisted. "He may have been a little darker then. It was a hot summer, and it's practically winter, now."

"Darker in complexion than the accused. Do you recall any other points about him which help to prove that he and the accused are not the same man? If he had a darker complexion, his eyes might be a different colour, for instance, or his nose might be longer."

"It is the same man," Ewart repeated stubbornly.

"I see no need to ask you any further questions, Mr. Ewart," Calloway said with a note of gentle compassion, "and unless my learned friend sees fit to re-examine you, you may stand down. I thank you for the help you have afforded me in securing the dismissal of the case against the unfortunate gentleman whom I represent here to-day."

The three magistrates on the bench—Westingborough was far too small a place for a stipendiary court—consulted together as Ewart stepped down from the witness stand, and one of them shook his head as he looked across at Forrest, seated apparently uninterested in the dock. Inspector Head leaned across and whispered to Sadkins, who nodded a grave assent to whatever Head had proposed. The clerk to the court called Victor Anderson, who appeared on the stand and stated that in the preceding July he had been managing clerk for the firm of Nevile and Forrest, but had left that position after the firm became Nevile and Company. He identified a diary, produced and handed to him, as having been in his charge during the month of July. An entry on July 6th, consisting of the words—"H.F. absent from midday. Messages phone or wire Adrandusian till 8th," was in his handwriting, and signified that Forrest had sone to London on the 6th, and at need could receive telephonic or telegraphic messages at the Alexandrine Palace Hotel in Mayfair up to and including the 8th of the month. A second entry which the witness claimed was in his handwriting, under date July 10th, consisted of—"H.F. returned to office 3 p.m." The witness stated that he had made these entries for his own convenience, as they formed a record by which he could always declare definitely what particular people had been doing at certain times. The diary recorded facts concerning several employees of the firm, in addition to its notes with regard to Forrest's movements, and he himself had kept it up to the day of his severing his connection with Nevile and Company.

Calloway stood up in a dreamy way, and looked at the ceiling.

"Mr. Anderson, what was Mr. Forrest doing between the sixth and tenth of July?" he asked, quietly and almost amusedly.

"Doing?" Anderson echoed. Naturally, as a witness in the case, he had been excluded from the court until his name was called, so he knew nothing of Calloway's methods. "I've just said—or at least, I've just recognised my own writing in this diary, which says he was in London."

"But I asked you, Mr. Anderson, what was he doing, not where he was."

"How should I know what he was doing?" Anderson retorted with a trace of irritation. "He was in London—I was at the works. I couldn't know what he was doing and attend to my own work here."

"In your examination-in-chief, Mr. Anderson, you have just informed us that that diary enabled you to tell 'what particular people had been doing at certain times.' These are your own words. I ask you again, what was Forrest doing between the sixth and tenth of July?"

"I didn't mean that," Anderson protested. "I meant the diary would tell me where those people were. And Mr. Forrest was in London."

"Did you telegraph or telephone him while he was absent from the works between July the sixth and July the tenth?"

"No, I had no need to do so. Didn't want to consult him about anything till he came back. I was capable of managing the office without it, and very seldom referred anything to him."

"You held no communication at all with him between the sixth and tenth of July?"

"None at all. There was no need."

"What makes you think he was in London?"

"Because he told me he was going there before he left."

"Before he left the works. Yes. You know, I suppose, that Mr. Forrest is an unmarried man?"

"Certainly I know it."

"You know, too, that unmarried men sometimes wish to conceal their whereabouts when they take a few days off from work, and say they are going somewhere quite different from where they really mean to go. Mr. Forrest may not have gone to London at all, for all you know."

"He told me he was going there. That's all I know."

"First of all you tell us that the diary tells you what the people mentioned in it are doing, and then you contradict that and tell us it tells you where they are, not what they are doing. You tell us quite definitely that Mr. Forrest was in London on and between those dates, and now you say that all you know is that he told you he was going there. What are we to believe out of all this?"

"That Mr. Forrest told me he was going to London, and as far as I know he went there," Anderson replied sulkily.

"Yes, as far as you know," Calloway said sweetly, "but you don't appear to know much, I'm afraid. Never mind, though. You got on quite well with Mr. Forrest, I hope? You have no resentment against him?"

"Resentment? No!" Anderson was growing more and more sullen, now, and thus was easy prey for his gently-purring adversary. "He was an ideal man to work for, as I knew him."

"I am very glad to hear it. Why did you leave the service of the firm, Mr. Anderson? Did you find the present managing director—well, not so ideal, shall we say?"

"A very long way from it," Anderson said with emphasis.

"And so you resigned, I take it?"

"Well—Dr—practically." He sounded uncomfortable over it.

"You were not dismissed, I hope?" Calloway inquired sympathetically.

"I don't see what that's got to do with this case," Anderson retorted, very sullenly indeed.

"It may have a very great deal to do with it," Calloway assured him gravely. "Were you dismissed by the present managing director?"

"Yes. I was."

"This is very serious for you, surely. On what grounds did Miss Morland—yes, it is Miss Morland"—he affected to consult some papers before him—"on what grounds did she dismiss you?"

"We couldn't get on together, and I told her so."

"Yes. Oh, yes! But what did she tell you?"

"Told me I was dismissed."

"On the grounds of inefficiency, dishonesty, what?"

"It must have been what," Anderson snapped. "It wasn't either of the other two, I can assure you."

"But your assurances, so far, have not been very convincing," Calloway responded with unruffled sweetness. "Why were you dismissed?"

"She didn't like my system of accounts," Anderson said after a pause, and with evident reluctance.

"Miss Morland objected to your system of accounts. Do you mean accounts relating to the firm's business, or your own accounts there?"

"Both!" Anderson fired out with no reluctance at all, remembering Miss Morland's suggestion that the pence should be docked from his weekly expense account, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

"Both, eh?" Calloway appeared greatly concerned over it. "There was no suspicion, I hope, that your system was dishonest?"

Anderson made no reply.

"Was it dishonest?" Calloway insisted.

"No, it wasn't!" Anderson snapped again.

"Did Miss Morland, the present managing director of the firm, consider it dishonest?"

Again his worried, angry victim kept silence.

"Since you cannot answer that question," Calloway said after a long pause, "I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that you were dismissed from your post in the firm for dishonesty. You have already shown in the course of this cross-examination that your word is not to be relied on in any one respect, and now you show with equal clearness that your personal character is open to grave suspicion. I have nothing more to ask you. Possibly my learned friend would like to extract some more information from you, information more reliable than this diary which does not tell what people are doing, does not tell where they are, but merely tells where you think they are after they have told you where they may possibly be going. I have quite finished with you."

Sadkins, too, had finished with him, and looked at him with unutterable disgust as he stepped down from the witness stand. Inspector Head mounted the stand again, and Sadkins addressed the bench.

"Your worships," he said, "I am calling this witness now, to testify not to matters of which he is personally cognizant, but that he may read to you a part of a sworn and witnessed statement made by Thomas Bacon, described as a maker of instruments of precision, residing and carrying on business in the Hatton Garden district in London. Bacon is at present very slowly recovering from a long and severe illness, rheumatic fever, and this statement was made by him, read over and sworn to by him in the presence of a commissioner for oaths, that of Inspector Jeremy Head, of the medical man who attended him during his illness and is still attending him, and of the sworn shorthand writer who took down the statement. The statement itself was taken because it was not certain at the time whether Bacon would recover sufficiently to give evidence at the trial, or at such preliminary proceedings as these. He is not yet in a fit state to give evidence personally, nor do we feel that we require more than one portion of his evidence to afford proof that there is a case sufficient to indicate that Hector Aylwin Forrest must stand his trial on the charges of murder, intent to murder, and inflicting grievous bodily harm. With your worships' permission, and that of my learned friend, Inspector Head will now read the passage I have indicated as necessary at this stage of the proceedings. Inspector, you identify the statement you now hold as a copy of that made in your presence by Thomas Bacon, maker of instruments of precision?"

"I do," Head answered.

"You identify the photograph you also hold, as that which you produced to Thomas Bacon, and as the photograph to which he refers in the part of his statement that you are about to read?"

"I do," Head said again.

"Now read the portion of the statement which, as you have stated on oath, refers to the photograph you now hold."

Head read from the statement in his hand—

"And I, Thomas Henry Bacon, do swear that the photograph now shown me is the portrait of the man calling himself Dundas, who came into my workshop on July the seventh of this year, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, being conducted into my presence by my daughter Annie, and that this man commissioned me to undertake the work I have already described."

"Thank you, Inspector," Sadkins said. "If you hand that photograph to their worships—and possibly my learned friend would like to cross-examine it after they have seen it—it will be immediately recognised as a head-and-shoulders portrait of Hector Aylwin Forrest, who had it taken here in Westingborough by the photographer whose name and address appear on the mount. The photographer will, if needed, appear to testify that it is a photograph of Hector Aylwin Forrest, and of no other person. It is also the photograph of Hector Dundas, who, like most persons when they adopt a pseudonym for any temporary purpose, changed only his surname and kept the original Christian name. It is thus the portrait of the man whom my learned friend has tried to establish was not seen by the witness Thomas Ewart, whom my learned friend has also tried to establish was not in London on the Seventh of July as recorded in writing by the witness Anderson, but who in fact under the pseudonym of Dundas in place of his real name of Forrest, obtained two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol from Ewart, and commissioned a certain piece of work from Thomas Bacon. With these facts established, sufficient evidence has been produced to show that a case against Hector Aylwin Forrest in respect of the charges made against him has been made out, and that he must go for trial before a jury of his peers at the bar of the assize court of this county in which the crime was committed."

He sat down, and Calloway rose to his feet.

"Your worships," he said, "my learned friend, acting as Crown counsel in respect of the charges made against my client, has put before you a series of ill-founded and ridiculous suggestions which, I hasten to point out, substantiate none of the charges. I wish to say first that I do not consider it worth while to attempt to call evidence in favour of my client, for these windy allegations rebut themselves, and I do not need witnesses to speak on my client's behalf.

"What have we heard here? A man engaged in an industry in which a multitude of kinds of chemicals are used—or is used—is arrested, and found to have a sample of a chemical in his pocket. Because that chemical is a poison, forsooth, he intended to use it in order to destroy his own life! Then every photographer intends to take his own life when he buys and puts in his pocket some cyanide of potassium for use as intensifying agent. My client remarks derisively, in reply to the charges—'Surely the one charge is enough, without the second!' Is that evidence of guilt? Is it not rather evidence of the innocence which derides such preposterous accusations, and so strong a consciousness of that innocence that the victim—I do not hesitate to use the word, in view of the suffering my client has endured—that the victim scorns his accuser and does not fear to express his contempt for the accusation?

"You have heard, and seen, a half-blind shopman who, thirsting for some little notoriety, thinks there is enough similarity between this bronzed mining engineer who bought tri-nitro-toluol from him and explained with perfect honesty the purpose for which it was intended, and my pale-complexioned client before you, to give him an excuse for coming here and asserting that the two different men are one and the same person. This confessedly unobservant shopman saw Dundas for a brief while in a very bad light—and Dundas had his back to the light; while the shopman, for reasons which he preferred not to state, was relying on spectacles which should have been condemned as useless to him three years ago, and now relies on his memory of a fleeting glimpse of a stranger whom he had seen nearly six months ago, as grounds for swearing away a life. You have heard him admit the complexions of the two men are dissimilar, not similar. On this type of evidence my learned friend asserts that there is a case to go for trial!

"You have heard the man Anderson confess that his diary is unreliable, that he does not know where my client went, during those days in which the mining engineer Dundas made his purchases in London and prepared to go back to his work in Peru. You have heard him practically confess that he was discharged from his post for dishonesty. You have, in fact, heard him prove himself a worthless, unreliable person, whose word is not worth a snap of an honest man's finger. On this type of evidence my learned friend claims to have established his case!

"You have heard, from the lips of the police inspector charged in the first place with the task of arresting my client, and thus anxious to do all he can to assist in obtaining a conviction, a fragment of a statement which, my learned friend has informed us, was extracted from a man admittedly hovering between life and death, who has been shown a photograph and asked if it were that of a man who requested him to alter the mechanism of a watch. Feebly glancing at the photograph, in all likelihood willing to assent to what is said of it in order that he may rest the sooner from answering questions, the sick man assents—it is a portrait of that man, he says. But is it? I should require far more than this statement in order to make me believe the portrait he was shown is that of the man who came to him. There was a similarity between the two, a similarity that sent our half-blind shopman hot-footed to the nearest police station, in the hope that the girl he loves and hopes to win will see his name and perhaps his photograph in her morning picture paper, and think what a hero he is! A similarity, yes, but no proof of identity.

"No evidence has been put before you, nothing has been said in this court to-day, to establish a connection between the two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol purchased in London by the mining engineer Dundas before he went back to Peru, and the explosion at Long Ridge which ended the life of Phyllis Harland. And now, having reviewed the preposterous charges made against my client, and the futile, fantastic statements by unreliable persons on which they are based, let me turn for a moment to the tragedy of this girl's death, which, after minute inquiry by the coroner for this district, was declared the result of an accident. The verdict was one of accidental death, not of murder or attempted murder, not even of inflicting grievous bodily injury. Accidental death!

"Mr. Raymond Nevile, who alone is in a position to give evidence as to what occurred in his study on the night of the girl's death, admits he was experimenting with a substance that might have caused her death through its explosive qualities, under certain conditions. He denies flatly that any of the substance was in a position in which it could have killed the girl, but he puts nothing in its place! I want that point borne in mind. He puts nothing in its place. He does not allege that his friend and partner in business, Hector Aylwin Forrest, put two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol on his table, or screwed an infernal machine under the table, or stood in the darkness outside his window at seven-twenty that night and threw a bomb at the girl. He states flatly, and in my opinion in the full belief that he is telling the truth, that there was nothing on the table or anywhere in the room which could have killed the girl.

"This, as must be apparent to the veriest fool, is an absurdity. If it were not, the girl would still be alive, for nothing, which Mr. Raymond Nevile says was there—nothing of an explosive nature, that is—could not have killed the girl. Nothing is capable of doing exactly nothing—you must have something, not nothing, present to kill a person, man or woman. Is it not feasible, probable, that Mr. Raymond Nevile's memory was so affected by the concussion inflicted on him by the explosion that he remembers his table and its contents only as he saw it day by day, and not as he saw it at the time of sustaining the injury to his head? Is it not probable that his concussion wiped from his mind all memory of a piece of that explosive substance which he placed on his table, near where the telephone instrument would stand? That he meant to remove this piece and place it with the other four before he left the room for the night, but delayed doing so too long, and had all memory of the piece and his intent with regard to it swept from his injured brain by the explosion which caused the injury in addition to killing the girl?

"I do not say—please let my client go, I believe he is innocent. I say—you have no right to hold him another hour, another minute, on such unreliable, such inept, contemptible fancies as have been presented to you in the guise of evidence. I say it is your duty to rise up from your seats, and declare Hector Aylwin Forrest a free man, free to mingle with his fellows, innocent as most of them are and far more innocent than at least one witness who has given so-called evidence here to-day. I claim that there is not the shadow of a case against him, and you must dismiss him with freedom and unstained reputation from this court. There is no case against him to go for trial."

He sat down, and a dead silence fell on the crowded court. No one of the spectators believed, after his forceful, reasoned speech, other than that Hector Forrest would go forth as he had urged, a free man. The three magistrates on the bench held a whispered consultation. After a few minutes, the chairman leaned over and beckoned to the clerk of the court, a melancholy-looking, elderly solicitor on whose word they relied in connection with points of law and the limits of their own powers. The clerk leaned up to the bench and joined the consultation, no word of which was audible in the body of the court. So another five minutes went by. Then the clerk resumed his seat, and the chairman cleared his throat and spoke.

"We find," he said, "that a case has been established against the accused Hector Aylwin Forrest, on the charges of having committed the murder of Phyllis Harland, having attempted to murder Raymond Nevile, and having inflicted grievous bodily harm on the said Raymond Nevile. He will therefore be committed to safe custody to appear and answer to these charges before a jury of his peers at a court of assize, which will be held in this county in which the crimes with which he is charged were perpetrated and carried out."


CALLOWAY had hardly risen to begin his speech when Inspector Head got up and stole quietly out from the court to the room in which Dorothy Morland waited, as she was compelled to wait, until it was known for certainty that she would not be required as a witness at this stage of the proceedings against Forrest. The inspector appeared grave and rather anxious, she thought as he faced her.

"I've just come to tell you that you won't be wanted after all to-day, Miss Morland," he said. "I'm sorry you've had the trouble for nothing. You won't be wanted again till the trial in January."

"You are certain, then, that it will not end to-day?" she asked.

"Quite," he answered. "They've got a very clever man, a very clever man indeed, but it won't stop him standing his trial."

She rose to go. "And the result of that trial, inspector?" she inquired. "Conviction, or acquittal?"

He shook his head. "You're asking me a question I've no right to answer, miss," he said. "You never can tell what a jury will do—I've no business to say even that much. I can't say more."

He managed somehow, she reflected as she went back to the managing director's office at the works, to convey an impression that he was imparting exclusive, enlightening information—and at the same time he told exactly nothing in regard to what might happen to Forrest. She tried to put the case and all concerned with it out of her mind, and to concentrate on letters and other things awaiting her attention and orders; she had no idea of the nature of the evidence she would be called on to give: Head had already called at the office and questioned her on sundry points connected with the period during which she had acted as secretary to Forrest, but he had not intimated which of those points—if any—would form the subject matter of her evidence.

She had been back in her office an hour, or a little longer, and there was perhaps an hour of daylight remaining, when Nevile opened the door and walked in. He stood before her, with her desk between himself and her, and glowered as he had done once or twice at Long Ridge when in the blackest of his moods.

"I want you to come out, Miss Morland," he said baldly.

"But I've not nearly finished here for the day," she protested.

"Then don't finish—leave it," he ordered irritably. "I want you to come out." He went to the stand in the corner of the room, took down her hat and coat, and brought them to her. "There!" he remarked, as if it were all settled. "Now put them on, and come out."

She obeyed to the extent of putting the hat on, feeling that expostulation or even questioning would be useless while he was in such a mood as this. Miss Courtney entered the room with a sheaf of letters for signature, and stood waiting at sight of Nevile in the room.

"Put them down here, Miss Courtney," he ordered, pointing to the flat top of Dorothy's desk. "Miss Morland will attend to them in the morning, probably. She is leaving the office with me, now."

"If I am not back at your usual time for leaving, don't wait for me," Dorothy added, as she thrust her arms into the coat Nevile was holding for her. He stood behind her to hold it, so she did not see his grimace of angry disgust at the girl's—"Very good, Miss Morland." But she remembered that he had called it a servile phrase.

He escorted her out to the main entrance of the works, and there she saw his open, two-seater car. Without speaking he held the near-side door for her, waited till she had seated herself, and then went round to the off-side, seated himself, and pressed the self-starter button. The car moved away in third speed, and he changed to top within twenty yards of starting, snapping the gear lever back into its notch with a sort of angry determination.

"Get on, you devil—get on!" he growled, though already the speedometer stood at thirty, and the pointer wavered farther yet.

"Where are we going, Mr. Nevile," Dorothy inquired, trying to speak easily and naturally, and nearly succeeding.

"Away from the black dog sitting on my shoulders," he answered. "I knew it was no use going alone, and there's not a soul but you I'd take with me. Up—up to the hills, where the wind is clean. Don't talk, yet. A car engine is like a woman, or like me—it has moods. This one needs whipping, to-day."

He whipped it, on one long, straight, slight rise of road, until the pointer stood at seventy-eight, and a thin mist that could not be called a drizzle stung Dorothy's face as particles found her over the low wind-screen. Nevile sat back, holding the wheel lightly, and, as they raced into the gale raised by their speed, Dorothy looked back and saw the lights of Westingborough beginning to appear far below them. Presently Nevile switched on all his lights, though darkness had not fully fallen; still the way led uphill, until they came to a road sunken a good twenty feet into the crest of the ridge to which they had climbed—Dorothy had come out here once, on a motor-bus, during the summer months, and knew it for one of the loveliest spots in the whole county. The view of the Westingboroughs and their surrounding villages, and of a great stretch of the Idleburn valley, brought scores of cars up to the height on fine Sundays and holidays, and there would be usually a bun and ginger-beer stall or two and a couple of ice-cream barrows, to aid the trippery desecration. But now, as Nevile braked the car to stillness and shut off his engine on the highest point of the road, darkness was about them, a chill, moist wind struck in their faces, and the headlights showed the empty road ahead and dripping, leafless hawthorn bushes and bare sticks of young ash on the high, sloping banks to either side.

"What are you thinking?" Nevile demanded abruptly, taking out his cigarette case and offering it opened to her.

"Does a woman need whipping?" she asked as she took a cigarette.

"I think life was less of a problem when her man did whip her," he answered deliberately, and held a wind-shielded lighter flame to her cigarette end. Then he lighted one for himself.

"Yes, for the man, perhaps," she retorted. "Naturally, you look at it from his point of view, and I see it from hers."

"I see—but no, of course you were not in court to-day. They didn't call you, so you couldn't be. Frauds and meannesses—Forrest's counsel labelling men fools and liars for his own ends—the legal squabble over whether a man shall hang by the neck or go free, and it's only just begun. He has to watch it, and wait—guilty or innocent, and I don't know which he is, it's not fair to him! It's a hell he must endure, an uncertainty worse than hanging. I wanted to shriek, to hit the man next me—anyone!—between the eyes—anything to make them all stop it and ask him if he wouldn't tell the truth rather than be flayed alive like that, see other men tortured with questioning, bewildered till they could hardly tell what they were saying—Ah, you think I'm raving, but it's all a crime, a crime in itself to judge on a crime in such a way! Evidence produced, evidence held back—obviously held back—a wigged devil sneering and lying—knowing he lied!—to save his man. Let a man hang quickly and cleanly, rather than be saved by such dirty twistings of the truth as that. I had to come out here—somewhere—to drive out to where God sends clean winds and one may feel something beyond the dirtiness and evil there is in the world, and I dared not come alone. Yattering again!" He laughed shortly at himself. "Aren't you cold up here, listening to my ravings in the dark?"

"This coat is thick, and I'm not cold," she answered quietly. "And as long as you want me to listen, I'll sit here with you."

"The perfect secretary—no, though, managing director, now!" he said gibingly. "I didn't say that—it was the black dog." He changed to an almost apologetic tone. "But"—again his voice altered, this time to earnest questioning—"don't you ever feel you must rave with someone to listen, feel that life's quite impossibly terrible and you must be helped through the black hours, even if it's only through having someone near you who knows your moods and endures your insults?"

"I don't think I've ever felt life impossibly terrible," she answered reflectively. "Difficult, yes, but not impossible."

"Ah, the perfect—saint! Balanced, calm, master of your soul and your impulses, able to reason yourself out of any emotion that might upset your control of your own life and pleasure—"

She interrupted him by gripping his arm as it lay up toward the steering wheel. "Mr. Nevile," she asked sharply, stung beyond self-control by his bitter, satiric estimate of her—"I am cold—far too cold to listen any longer. Will you please take me back?"

"Why, certainly, Miss Morland," he answered coolly, and, reaching out, pressed the starter button. But as he pushed the gear lever into reverse to back and turn, she touched his arm again: her anger against him had died out as swiftly as it had risen. She realised anew that he had need of one to share this black, bitter mood, and of all he knew he had felt that she alone could share it. Should she not bear these taunts he flung at her in ignorance of her ecstasy at his choice of her, rather than of any other?

"I'm not cold," she said. "Please—stay and talk if you wish, and I'll go on listening. It was only that—" She broke off, for he went on backing the car with its front wheels locked to their limit, and so swung it until the headlights showed the slope they had ascended. He pushed the lever over into top speed, but left the accelerator alone, and they began to move gently down the long, slight descent.

"Only that I whipped you till you couldn't stand any more," he completed it for her. "Yes, I'm a beast, and an inhuman beast, when the black dog rides me. And now he's gone and I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself. I had no business to insult you like that."

"You felt you could talk to me, and I had no business to resent anything you might say, if it helped in what you'd call shaking the black dog off. Won't you stop this car and go on talking?"

"I will not," he answered decidedly. "If you're not getting cold up here with the rain beginning to come on, I am. No, I'm going to take you back to dinner with me at Long Ridge, and then drive you to your home. That is, if you'll let me. I don't see why the two directors of the firm shouldn't discuss business or anything else they like, over a dinner table. Do you?"

"I think it's a very attractive suggestion," she managed to answer.

"Settled, then. Sit tight, we're going to move."

He had the slope with him instead of against him now. The speedometer, calibrated to a limit of a hundred miles an hour, showed eighty-nine when he began to brake for the first turn, and Dorothy felt her face fire-hot and aching with the lashing of occasional raindrops that came over the edge of the wind-screen, but she was so wonderfully, terribly happy that the sting of the rain was nothing.

The gateway of Long Ridge showed unobstructed when the light from the headlamps revealed it: Nevile swung the car into the drive with a speed that threw his back wheels round in a grating skid; he took the hump of the bridge at a rate that lifted Dorothy out of her seat and jerked her down in it again. But if he had crashed the car, she felt, she would have still been happy as long as she retained consciousness—and as long as Nevile himself were not injured.

"I took that gate off its hinges and dropped it over the bridge on my way out," he remarked. "That's how I felt."

"It was in the way."

"Being wood," she reflected, "it will go floating down to Westingborough. The river is high, now."

"It'll drift into one of our filter tanks, probably," he surmised. "Tell Sinclair in the morning to get his men to look out for it, and send it back if they find it. Five—no, ten shillings reward for it. It's a good gate, but I felt like that, then. And here we are. Come in and get warm—I'll tell Halkin to get a room ready for you, so you can go up and dry yourself. Hot bath, to save you from catching cold? Yes—come in and don't argue—hot bath. I'm going to have one."

Which settled the matter, apparently. A half-hour later she waited for him beside the big fire in the entrance hall: at her elbow was a tray containing a filled cocktail shaker and two glasses, which Halkin had brought to Dorothy immediately she had come down, and had put down with a murmured—"Pleased to see you here again, miss." Then Nevile came down the staircase, wearing a different lounge suit from the one he had had on when he left her, and she knew he would not put on dinner kit since she had only the frock in which she had left the office. He looked doubtfully at the cocktail tray.

"She should have hurled you and it into the drawing-room," he remarked. "Do you mind having them here? I'll take the tray along if you like. You may remember this too strongly, I mean."

"I don't mind in the least," she assured him, knowing only too well the reason for his suggestion that she might remember this hall in a way that would spoil it. "If you don't, that is. It's a splendid fire."

"M'yes." He took up the shaker, gave it a few deft twists, and then filled the glasses. "I intend always to have good fires, both here and hereafter. We should have had to go to the library, though. She—that is, the smug and worthy Halkin—doesn't light a fire in the drawing room unless I've got people coming and order it, which is never, in a general way, for the present. Skoal, partner—may business flourish, as it will with you at the works and me here."

He emptied his glass and put it back on the tray. Dorothy, drinking more slowly, had only just put her glass down when Halkin appeared and announced that dinner was served, and Nevile offered his guest his arm. So he escorted her to the dining room, and, entering, she saw a small, circular table, laid for two and candle-lighted, in place of the more formal dining table she had expected to find. Nevile led her to her chair and seated her, and then went round to the chair opposite.

"I made Halkin get the chauffeur in to move the railway platform out, and put this table in instead, for to-night," he observed as he seated himself. "It's a painful abomination with a low framing, and I've bruised my knees against it enough. One of these days I'll smash it up and use it for Yule logs in the hall fireplace. Halkin"—she had just served the soup—"this table is to stay here, now, and tell Hill to buy me an axe. A big axe. I'll start on that table to-morrow."

"Yes, sir."

"There! You see?" He appealed to Dorothy across the table. "I told her I'd fine her sixpence every time I caught her saying 'very good' over anything, and cured her. Try it on that Miss Courtney you have as your secretary, and cure her of the servile phrase."

"Very good, Mr. Nevile," she assented demurely.

"Mutiny in the firm, eh? Very well. No nice hot bath for you, next time you come to dinner here."

"Very bad, Mr. Nevile."

"Yes, I know I am. And now I've suddenly thought—that poor devil Anderson. You didn't hear it all to-day. Forrest's counsel took Anderson and twisted him till he made the man appear a liar, a thief, and utterly unfit to associate with decent human beings. Whatever Anderson may be, it was most unfair—all done to serve that legal hound's own ends, of course. But with the immense publicity this case is getting, Anderson is an utterly ruined man from to-day onward, and I want you to help him, if he has sense enough to accept help."

"But how can I help him?" she asked in surprise.

"Easily," he assured her. "See Sinclair, say, and tell him he is to find a place for a man among his tally clerks, or somewhere. Then write a letter to Anderson, and tell him he can come back if he likes to take a post of that kind, with Sinclair to see that he's not sat on beyond his deserts by his fellow-workers—you can trust Sinclair for that—and a decent wage to keep him and his wife from worrying. Will you do it? I don't feel happy about him, after to-day. If we can help him."

"Yes, I'll do it," she answered rather chokingly.

"What's wrong?" he asked in surprise. "Do you object?"

"I—Oh, don't dare call yourself inhuman again! Of course I'll write to him—if it meant paying him myself!" She found her handkerchief and wiped her eyes.

He gave her a little while to recover, and Halkin served a fowl, fish having gone the way of the soup.

"It's only a scratch meal, such as I'd have had if I'd been alone," he remarked when Halkin had gone. "It's the meal I should have had if you hadn't been here, in fact. Next time you come, you must wear the new blue frock—the stuff's dyed and being sent to you at your home address to-morrow—and I can dress for dinner after my hot bath—you don't get one, remember—and then we shall look so pretty! Now I think of it, though, we can go along to the east wing after dinner and get the silk and things out of the laboratory—I left them there—and you can take them with you when I drive you home."

So, through dinner, over coffee by the library fire and for a good hour after, he talked, lightly, cheerfully, with no sign of his black dog or of any mood but that of easy, friendly intimacy. Then he looked at his watch.

"A happier evening than I've had for a very long time," he remarked thoughtfully. "Now we'll go along to the east wing and get your fripperies, and then I'll drive you home."

She followed him and, entering the study from the corridor, saw a cheery fire burning in the grate there. Nevile pointed at it as he passed toward the laboratory door.

"Sometimes I like to work late, being alone here," he remarked. "You can come into the laboratory—there now. As a matter of fact"—he appeared to consider the point as he pulled open a drawer and lifted out the folds of dyed fabric—"I don't think I'd object to you in here if I were working, except when I wanted to swear. A woman seems out of place when one wants to do real swearing."

"I might help," she suggested.

"Not you!" he retorted derisively. "What you'd consider help would be a mere hindrance, once I got really started. There! Some parcel! What a shop-assistant was lost in me! Anything further, madam?"

"Go out first and I'll switch off the light."

She went into the study again. Nevile, following her, crossed to the door of the secretary's room in which she had worked, opened it, and looked inside.

"There you were, and you can't come back, now," he remarked, closing the door again. "But some day I'll give Miss Allen an afternoon off, and get you to come over—ring through for you—so we can have another of those teas and talk things over. In spite of the belief that one should never attempt to repeat an experience after its raison d'être has vanished. Now let's get along. It's late, and I've made a hard day of it for you."

She followed him out, wishing and yet not daring to tell him that he had made it the happiest day she could remember. Often she had wondered whether he had forgotten about the blue fabric, and here it was in her possession, dyed by his own hands as he had promised.

"You can wear that stuff now," he observed as he started the car down the drive. "People will only think that you broke open a bale of Craddocks stuffs and stole it, as any director of a firm might by staying after the works' foreman has left and bribing the night watchman. They won't think I ruined your reputation by giving it to you."

"Yes, I can wear it now," she assented happily.

Outside Mrs. Pinner's, he sat quite still for a few seconds before reaching over to open the car door for her.

"Remember what you told me when you consented to take the directorship of the firm," he bade.

"Yes, I remember," she answered.

He reached over, then, and opened the door. "If you don't mind, I won't get out," he observed.

She got out herself, and turned to face him. "Why—why did you want to know if I remembered it?" she asked rather uncertainly.

"Because I shall never doubt it, now. Because you've proved it every moment of this afternoon and evening since I walked into your office."

"Ah, but I did fail you!" she exclaimed tremulously. "Up there on the hill—I failed you then."

"No, you didn't. I whipped too hard, too inhumanly hard, and you gave me what I deserved for my damned selfishness. You didn't fail—you haven't got it in you to fail. Good-night, partner—I'll get you to come to tea some day, soon."

He put in his gear lever, and the car moved away.

OFTEN, in the weeks that followed, Dorothy looked at the Long Ridge telephone instrument standing on the desk in her room, especially early in the afternoons. Some day, soon, he had said, and she found herself waiting, day after day, in the hope that the bell would ring and he would tell her he had given Miss Allen her half-day off, so that Dorothy herself could go back to her old room and press the bell push there for the tea tray to be brought in. But the weeks lengthened out, and no call came through. Sometimes Nevile came in to talk over a point of business, but he appeared to have forgotten the idea of her coming to Long Ridge again. The blue dinner frock was made up as he had designed it, a frock such as she had never owned before, and was laid away, carefully folded, unworn.

And, one morning, one of the works' cars was driven to Mrs. Pinner's door. Dorothy, having entered the car, was driven to the hall in which was holden the court of assize, that she might give evidence of matters within her cognizance, touching on and being material to the ascertainment of the truth in the case of Rex v. Forrest.


"MY LORD; members of the jury:

"You have heard the plea of 'Not Guilty' entered by Hector Aylwin Forrest, charged here before you with the crimes of murder, of attempted murder, and of inflicting grievous bodily harm upon a fellow human being, Raymond Nevile to wit, and replying with this plea of 'Not Guilty' to each and all these charges. Such a plea may be a challenge to the Crown, prosecuting in this case, to prove the guilt of Hector Aylwin Forrest, and it may also be the sincere declaration of an innocent man. In the first case, the prisoner is fully entitled to issue such a challenge: in the second case, the fairness with which criminal trials are conducted under English law gives him full opportunity of proving the innocence he has just declared to you.

"I have been given to understand by my learned friend, appearing on behalf of the prisoner, that no evidence will be called for the defence. This, members of the jury, gives the defence the right of addressing you last before you, my lord, sum up and interpret the evidence about to be produced. In view of this, I intend to relate and describe fully the perpetration and commission of these crimes, before calling witnesses in support of the statements I am about to make, and I may say now that every fact I shall relate will be fully supported by the evidence I am in a position to call, fully and incontrovertibly supported by the evidence of witnesses in every detail.

"I tell you, before beginning the terrible story it is my duty to relate here to-day, that no motive for these crimes will be suggested to you, and this for two reasons. First, any such suggestion could only be based on scandalous and utterly unfounded allegations which, I am sorry to say, have been hinted at in the baser and suggestively sensational organs of that far from unmixed blessing from which civilisation suffers, namely, the press. If I permitted any such suggestion to enter into my conduct of this case, if I imputed motive to the prisoner through giving credence to these suggestions, I should be doing an infamous injustice to the memory of one who has passed beyond earthly judgment, one who was loved and respected in her life, and is mourned and kept in memory with loving tenderness by those who knew her. Secondly, the circumstances I am about to outline to you, and in respect of which witnesses will testify before you, are of such a nature that I have no doubt whatever, members of the jury, in regard to the verdict you will return after hearing his lordship's final charge to you. It is superfluous to impute motive, or to analyse the impulses which led to the commission of these fearful yet ingenious crimes.

"Now, with none of the flights of rhetoric of which my learned friend appearing on behalf of the prisoner may find himself in grave need when he delivers his final address to you, members of the jury, but in language as simple and straightforward as I can make it, I will proceed to put before you the facts which will, later, be fully substantiated by the witnesses whose evidence you will hear, evidence on which you will form your opinions as to its relevance and reliability, and its utter completeness in support of these charges.

"Let us turn first to the scene and day of the murder itself—the two other crimes with which the prisoner stands charged are part and parcel of the murder, and it is sufficient for the present if I refer simply to the murder. The scene of the crime is Long Ridge, the home of the Nevile family for generations past, a large house standing in its own park about two miles from the town of Westingborough. That town has grown from a village through the genius of the Nevile family, whose works form its main industry. At the time of which I am speaking now, the business was styled Nevile and Forrest. It is now known as Nevile and Company.

"The present Mr. Raymond Nevile's father built what is known as the east wing at Long Ridge, in order to provide himself with a laboratory in which he could carry on the experimental chemistry his business demands all the time, and he put a managing director in charge of his works at Westingborough. That policy was continued by the present Mr. Raymond Nevile, and, until Forrest was arrested and charged with these crimes, he held the position of managing director. The business, I may add, is the private property of the Nevile family, and not a limited company. Mr. Raymond Nevile, who devotes himself to research work at his home and is rarely at the works, can govern the firm as he chooses.

"Now for the east wing at Long Ridge, the scene of the murder. The east wing ground floor—the other floors do not concern us—consists of three rooms, all communicating with each other, and each having a separate door between it and a corridor running behind them all and leading to the main part of the house. The laboratory, largest of the three rooms, is nearest to the house. Next to it is the room known as the study, in which Miss Harland was killed, and next again a smaller apartment known as the secretary's room, in which Mr. Nevile's secretary did her work. I want to point out here a rigid rule made by Mr. Nevile. When he was at work in his laboratory or study, he was not to be interrupted on any but the gravest pretext. The rest of the household must keep away from the east wing, unless summoned there. This is an important point.

"The middle room of the three, the study, contained at the time of the tragedy a heavy oak centre table, used for papers and plans and any work demanding a considerable amount of space. At the side of the room was an old-fashioned roll-top desk, where Mr. Nevile dealt with his letters and similar things. On the flat of the desk, not on the top, Mr. Nevile will tell you he used to keep a little green marble clock which his wife had presented to him, an oblong thing about three inches high. It will be produced to you here.

"Two chairs, one on each side of the table, one swivelling chair in front of the desk, and the telephone, are all that I need mention to you now as far as the rest of the furniture of the room is concerned. As a matter of fact, the two chairs at the table are not important. The telephone is very important. The instrument, instead of being fixed to the cable leading into the room, had a length of flex with a plug at its end, and this plug could be placed either in a socket on the table, or in a similar socket beside the desk. The telephone line ran from Long Ridge to the Nevile works at Westingborough, being in fact an extension line from the works. Those works have their own private exchange, and this line was always kept switched through to the managing director's room, making it in fact a private line, except when Mr. Nevile or his secretary asked for it to be switched to Westingborough exchange in order to get another telephone number direct instead of asking the works' operator to get it. This very rarely happened, and when it did, the line was always switched back after the call, to the managing director's room, by the girl on the works' switch-board. Long Ridge has its own telephone in the main part of the house, and when Mr. Nevile was not working in the east wing there was no need to use this practically private line to the works for household purposes. These details are tedious, but highly important.

"Forrest had been invited to dine at Long Ridge on the night the murder took place. Miss Berenice Ashton, Mrs. Nevile's cousin, had been invited to stay a fortnight at Long Ridge, and was arriving in good time for dinner, which was to begin at half past seven. At about three o'clock in the afternoon of that day, October the seventh, Forrest told Miss Dorothy Morland, at that time his secretary, that he was going to Long Ridge to discuss some American business with Mr. Nevile, and would not be back to work that day. He placed on his desk, while Miss Morland was in the managing director's room at the works with him, a rather large, deep attaché case, in which he intended to take and did take a file of letters and some other papers with him to Long Ridge. He told Miss Morland he would not need her again that day, and she could take the rest of the afternoon off. She might go at once, and he would lock the door of the managing director's room—his room, that is—before he started from the works for Long Ridge. Miss Morland accordingly left him in his room, and saw no more of it or of him that day. He had one key to the door of that room, she had one, and the office cleaner had one. There were only the three keys—nobody else could get in if the door were left locked.

"Forrest came out from that room with his attaché case in his hand, went to Long Ridge, and was conducted by Mrs. Halkin, whom I may call housekeeper, butler, and in fact in general charge of the domestic economy of Mr. Nevile's home, to the study in the east wing, where he discussed the American business with Mr. Nevile. Phyllis Harland, secretary to Mr. Nevile at the time, was working in the small room—the secretary's room, next to and communicating directly with the study.

"Forrest, discussing the American business with Mr. Nevile, suggested sending a cable to New York. The difference between American and English time would permit of an answer that evening, if they made arrangements with the cable company's agents for its delivery after ordinary hours. He suggested that the reply should be delivered at the works, and he would ensure that Anderson, managing clerk in the office at the works, should stay till the reply arrived, and then would be dining that evening, and both he and Mr. Nevile would know the contents of the reply. Anderson could first see if he could telephone through on the private line to the study, and, if there were no reply on that, go to the works' switch-board and get through by ringing up in the ordinary way. The ordinary telephone at Long Ridge has several extensions, and Anderson could certainly get through on one of them, but the direct line between the works and the study in the east wing would be quicker and easier if Mr. Nevile were in the study to hear the bell ring.

"This was arranged. Then Forrest suggested that Mr. Nevile should write full details of the chemical process connected with this American business, and he himself would take the letter back with him and get it posted, so that there should be no delay. Mr. Nevile went into the secretary's room to dictate this letter, leaving Forrest seated by his desk, facing the telephone instrument which was plugged into the wall beside the desk, and with his big, deep attaché case on the floor beside his chair. Mr. Nevile was out of the room four or five minutes, perhaps. Forrest was alone in the study four or five minutes, perhaps. Two minutes would have been enough for him.

"He went back to the works, after Mr. Nevile had handed him the letter for America, unlocked the door of the managing director's room in the office, and entered the room. Ten minutes later, or thereabouts, he sent for Anderson, told him he would have to stay behind to receive the reply to a cable which he, Forrest, gave Anderson for immediate dispatch, and told him to telephone the reply through to Long Ridge, using the direct line to the study if Mr. Nevile answered on it, and getting through in the ordinary way to the other line in the house if he did not answer.

"Forrest did not imagine for one moment that anyone but Mr. Nevile would answer on that private line at the time the reply to the cable was likely to come through. He told Anderson the reply would probably be delivered at the works' office some time after seven—about a quarter past, in all probability. He was gambling on immediate attention to the cable in New York, but he could afford to gamble, as you will see later. But unforeseen chance came in. Never, until that night, had Mr. Nevile kept his secretary working with him later than ten minutes past six, and usually she left the east wing just before six. That night, he kept her working there with him till well past seven, and she answered the telephone call Anderson put through from the works to the study. Had Mr. Nevile answered it, he would not be alive to-day.

"At about seven o'clock that evening, Mrs. Nevile and Miss Ashton came down to the drawing-room at Long Ridge, having dressed for dinner. Forrest, due to dine with them, had not yet arrived. At a few minutes past seven Mrs. Nevile, anxious that her husband should not be late for dinner, and knowing that he was still working in the east wing, sent Mrs. Halkin along to remind him that it was time to stop work and dress. Mrs. Halkin will tell you that Mr. Nevile rated her soundly for disobeying his orders and disturbing him while he was at his work—she had no business to come into the east wing, he said, or some such words—the form of his reply is not important. But he was evidently irritated at the interruption, and Phyllis Harland, Mrs. Halkin will tell you, looked irritated too, as well she might be, having been kept more than an hour over her usual time. Mrs. Halkin went away, leaving Mr. Nevile seated at his desk, and Phyllis Harland standing beside him. It was then, remember, some minutes past seven o'clock.

"Forrest arrived, and was shown into the drawing room. He, Mrs. Nevile, and Miss Ashton talked for a few minutes, and then, knowing that her husband must inevitably be late for dinner, Mrs. Nevile was about to summon Mrs. Halkin and send her to the east wing again to remind him, when all three of them heard a report, or explosion, from the east side of the house. They hurried toward the east wing, Forrest well ahead of the two women—he had good cause to hurry, or rather a very evil cause, as I shall show.

"Now let us go back to the study. At somewhere between twenty and twenty-five minutes past seven, the telephone bell denoting a call from the managing director's room from the works rang. Mr. Nevile, seated at his desk, told Phyllis Harland to take the call, and swung round in his swivel chair so that he sat facing the table on which the telephone was standing, and with his back to his desk, while she took the call. I may add that it would have made no difference if the telephone had been plugged into the wall beside the desk instead of on the table—the result of answering that call would have been the same.

"Phyllis Harland took off the receiver, put it to her ear, and had spoken not more than two or three words when the explosion which killed her happened as she bent over the table toward the transmitter of the telephone instrument—she had taken off the receiver, but had not moved the instrument itself, and it was standing on the table.

"The explosion shattered her skull and blew half of it away. There was a mess of blood and brains on the carpet where she fell—I do not intend to spare you this detail of this ghastly, awful crime. The telephone instrument and receiver were reduced to twisted bits of metal and fragments of vulcanite, a large hole was blown clean through the wood of the heavy oak table, Mr. Nevile was flung back against his desk, his scalp was cut open, and he sustained a concussion which rendered him unconscious for thirty-six hours and more. All but two panes of glass in the study window were shattered. Most curious of all, the little green marble clock which had been standing on the shelf of the desk appeared, on investigation, to have been blown totally out of existence. Forrest, at the inquest, stated that he had found wheels and various parts of a small clock that had been standing near the telephone on the table—not on the desk, mind, but on the table, according to him. He was not asked to produce those wheels and parts, and when detailed examination was made of the room, not a scrap of the marble casing could be found. Forrest had to mention it, to account for any wheels and parts that he might have overlooked when he examined the scene of the murder in his own interests.

"Reaching the east wing well ahead of the two women after the explosion, he led the way into the laboratory, looked into the study, and immediately turned and ordered Mrs. Nevile and Miss Ashton to keep out. It was a peremptory order, such as any man might give two women whom he wanted to protect from sight of the bloody tragedy of which he saw the evidence then. It was, in reality, a humane, considerate order—if his only reason for giving it had been that of sparing them the terrible sight. But he had other reasons.

"Ordering the two women to wait in the laboratory, he entered the study and closed the door between the two rooms. They waited—Miss Ashton will state that she is unable to tell you how long she waited, because of the agony of Mrs. Nevile's suspense. At last Forrest came out, carrying the unconscious form of Mr. Nevile. He told the two terrified women that Phyllis Harland was dead—nothing could be done for her, and he would attend to that later. Nevile, on the other hand, was not dead, and must be taken to his room at once. He took Mr. Nevile up with the help of Miss Ashton, who, fortunately, is a trained nurse. Doctor Roland Bennett was at once summoned from Westingborough by means of the ordinary telephone in the house, but, strangely, Forrest overlooked the necessity of informing the police of what had happened. He went back to the east wing and, as he stated at the inquest, made a thorough investigation of the study to see if it were possible to account for the disaster. It was probably then that he recovered the wheels and pieces which appeared to account for the total disappearance of the little green clock. In any case, he probably recovered the parts he had overlooked during his first visit to the room, when he kept Mrs. Nevile and Miss Ashton out so carefully—recovered all, that is, except the tiny steel spindle with a brass wheel and toothed ring on it, which will be produced to you here, and which has proved the principal cause for the investigations which led up to the arrest of Forrest as author of these crimes.

"Doctor Bennett eventually informed the police of the accident, as it appeared to have been, and as the verdict at the inquest of Phyllis Harland declared it. Inspector Jeremy Head, acting under the instructions of his superior officer, Superintendent Wadden, immediately took charge of the case, and on his arrival at Long Ridge forbade all access to the study until he was satisfied with his own examination of it. It is to the work of these two men, Superintendent Wadden and Inspector Head, and especially to the brilliant, painstaking, and thorough series of investigations carried out by Head, that the completeness of the evidence against the prisoner is practically entirely due.

"Now I will not stop to consider the theory put forward at the inquest—first put forward by Forrest, mind, and fostered by him!—to the effect that investigations carried out by Mr. Nevile constituted the cause of the explosion, and that Mr. Nevile denied this because his memory had been impaired by the concussion he had suffered. Mr. Nevile quite rightly ridiculed that theory at the inquest. You, members of the jury, will ridicule it too, at the conclusion of the case for the Crown that I am outlining to you. I will ask you to forget it, and mentally go back to the sixth of July of last year. I am about to detail to you the series of preparations necessary to the commission of these ghastly crimes.

"On the morning of the sixth of July, Miss Morland having then been recently appointed secretary to Forrest, she was informed by him that he was going to London for a few days, and there would be little or nothing for her to do till he came back. If she liked some time off, she could have it. He was leaving immediately after lunch.

"Miss Morland, seeing a chance of a little relaxation, very naturally took it. Forrest gave her a day and a half's leave from noon of that day, when she asked for it. She thought she too would go to London by an afternoon train, see a friend or two, do a theatre in the evening, spend the night at a hotel, do some shopping the next day, and return to Westingborough when she felt she had shopped enough. This she did. It is important only for the reason that Miss Morland, as she will state in evidence, travelled up to London by the train Forrest took, and saw him get out at the terminus and get into a taxi. Forrest went to London on the sixth of July.

"At about eleven-thirty in the morning, on the seventh of July, a showroom attendant in the employ of a Cheapside firm of colonial exporters, a man named Thomas Ewart, saw facing him across his counter another man, who presented a card bearing the name of Hector Dundas, and describing him as a mining engineer. That card is one of the pieces of evidence we have been unable to trace, and Ewart's statement concerning it must be taken or rejected, as you, members of the jury, decide. This Dundas, whom Ewart has already identified and will again identify here as the prisoner, asked for two pounds of tri-nitro-toluol, stating that he wanted to experiment with it for blasting purposes in a silver mine in Peru, to which he was returning shortly. Expert evidence will be produced to show that this tremendous explosive is not used for blasting purposes, but the man calling himself Dundas said he wanted it for that use, and for no other.

"He also made inquiries with regard to alterations he wanted carried out in the mechanism of a valuable repeater watch, which will be produced here. Ewart obtained for him the name and address of one Thomas Bacon, maker of instruments of precision, which Dundas took with him. To finish the story of the two pounds of high explosive, I will say now that Dundas—that is, the prisoner—called for it, paid for it, and took it away, the following morning, being again served by Ewart.

"Now we go on to the small, one-man workshop in which Thomas Bacon makes instruments of precision, principally escapements for watches ordered from him by firms dealing in high-class goods, and knowing his extreme care and skill at his work. An elderly man, working alone at his bench, and living alone with his daughter, who minds the small front shop which has a few old watches and a ticket bearing he word 'Repairs' in the window. It is in rather a dingy street in the Hatton Garden district of London. In the afternoon of July the seventh, Miss Bacon conducted into her father's workshop a man who told Bacon that his name was Dundas and that he was a mining engineer. He produced no card, here, but his description of himself, as Thomas Bacon will give it in evidence, will confirm Ewart's statement regarding the existence of the card as Ewart describes it.

"Dundas said that he wanted a piece of clockwork mechanism made, and produced drawings giving the shape and dimensions. When these drawings, which he had to leave with Bacon, are produced here, you will see that they bear no word of writing of any kind apart from some notes Bacon himself made on them. In addition to handing over the drawings, which are rather rough, and evidently not made by a practised draughtsman, Dundas explained what he wanted done. I will endeavour to describe it in turn, as simply as possible.

"It was to be a clockwork mechanism which would go eight days with one winding, and the object of the mechanism was solely to revolve a cam, which must be in a certain part of the mechanism, once every twenty-four hours. I can best describe a cam by telling you that it is a wheel with a bump on it. Those of you who know anything of motor-car mechanism will know that cams are used for lifting the valves of the engine. The bump on the cam comes round and hits the stem of the valve as the engine turns over, the valve is lifted, and when the bump has passed by the valve closes again. That is a cam.

"The cam which Dundas—Forrest, in reality, as Bacon will identify him in the course of his evidence before you—the cam he wanted incorporated in a certain part of this clockwork was to be sudden in operation, although it only revolved once in twenty-four hours. That is to say, it had to come fully into action at a certain moment, and turn completely and fully out of action at another certain moment. There must be a dial on this mechanism, and Bacon could put that anywhere he liked, as long as it was properly protected by the casing of the clockwork, like all the rest. The point at which the pointer on the dial was capable of being set—any point the user of the mechanism chose—must indicate the minute at which the cam would come into operation. The period in which it would remain in operation was one hour out of each twenty-four, as long as the mechanism went on working. Bacon must arrange things so that, when the mechanism stopped, it would stop with the cam in the off position, so that it would have no effect until the clockwork was wound up and set going again, and then only during the hour in which it was set to be in the on position.

"Dimensions marked on the drawings showed that the mechanism was to be quite tiny, and must be of a peculiar shape. Bacon could not understand why that shape was required, nor did Dundas explain it. The mechanism must be absolutely perfect as regards reliability: there must be no possibility whatever of the cam coming into the on position except during the hour to which the mechanism would be set before being wound up and set going. Dundas said he did not care how much he had to pay, and asked Bacon if he would undertake the work, and how long it would take to complete. Bacon fixed the price after making an estimate of time and materials at fifty-five pounds, and promised delivery at the end of seven weeks, and I assure you he did not overcharge for his work, which had to be a piece of absolute perfection in every respect, a minute thing, perfectly reliable, and, a point on which Dundas insisted very strongly indeed, practically noiseless when in movement. This noiselessness was a difficult thing to contrive, but evidently Bacon managed to accomplish it. He had no knowledge whatever of the use to which the thing was to be put. All he knew was that when the cam came into the on position, it almost but not quite had to complete an electrical circuit, and when it returned to the off position the circuit had to be completely broken. He promised to do all this, including the noiselessness, in seven weeks. At the end of that time Dundas called at an hour when Miss Bacon was out of the shop, saw her father, received and examined his piece of clockwork, paid for it, and took it away.

"Now I will take you back to the telephone instrument in the study at Long Ridge, tell you it was detachable to permit of being plugged into either socket in the room, and that the line, unless diverted, led only to the managing director's room in the offices of what was then Nevile and Forrest, and that after seven o'clock in the evening it was practically certain that any call on that line would be answered only by Mr. Nevile himself in the study, and at that hour the switch-board operator at the works would not be on duty to divert the line. No call would come through from the works to the study unless someone were specially detailed to stay behind in the managing director's room and put it through. Since the switchboard operator had gone, the line could not be diverted to any other circuit, except by almost impossible chance, for there was nobody in attendance to divert it.

"Next, I will take you to the managing director's room, and tell you that the telephone instrument in there, for use on this private line, has been discovered fitting into a socket. But this was not done by the post office telephone engineers, who had fixed the sockets and provided the plug on the cable of the instrument at Long Ridge. Nobody knew or knows who carried out the alteration in the managing director's room, and the fact that the telephone was detachable there was only discovered by Inspector Head after Miss Morland had been appointed managing director of the firm. It is an apparently useless alteration, rather amateurish in the way it has been done. Apparently useless, because there is only one socket, and the instrument can be plugged only into one position, for use on the desk. But, if the prisoner took that instrument, put it in the attaché case—there is plenty of room for it in that case—and took it with him when he went to interview Mr. Nevile on the afternoon of the seventh of October: if, when he was left alone in the study for a few minutes, he took that instrument out of his case, put the study instrument into the case, closed the case again, and plugged the instrument he had brought with him into the socket in the study wall, Mr. Nevile would notice no alteration when he returned to the room, for one telephone instrument is exactly like another. If, further, the prisoner took the case containing the instrument that had belonged in the study back with him when he went into the room he had left locked, and plugged it into the socket there before he called Anderson in and told him to stay behind and telephone the reply to the cable through to Long Ridge on that line, Anderson would notice no alteration. Again, one telephone instrument is exactly like another. And nobody could tell that there had been no instrument in the managing director's room while the prisoner was out of it that afternoon, for he locked the door and took the key with him for the time of his absence. Miss Morland, who had another key, had been given leave for the rest of the day. The office cleaner, who had the third key, would not enter the room till long after Forrest had completed the exchange—no cleaners came in before seven-thirty at night.

"Do we know that such an exchange was made? Members of the jury, you will hear the evidence of two engineers of the post office telephone department, who will testify that the base of the shattered instrument found in the study at Long Ridge is that of the instrument fixed—fixed, not attached to a cable with a detachable plug at its end!—by them in the managing director's room of the Westingborough office, two years before. They will identify it by a number pencilled on a patch of white paint on its under side, the number—

7 6 3 2 F

and produce a record showing that this is the base of the identical instrument they fixed in the managing director's room. As for the instrument found in that room by Inspector Head in the course of his investigations, they will identify it and produce records in support of the identification as the one supplied complete with cable and detachable plug for use in the study at Long Ridge. There is proof that the two instruments have been changed. When? By whom? Mr. Nevile will tell you he knew nothing of the exchange, and it could not have been made openly without his knowledge.

"There will be produced in this court a sectioned telephone instrument. That is to say, an instrument cut open so as to show all the interior of a normal upright telephone instrument in working order. Also, a receiver similarly sectioned. There will be produced, too, a copy of the casing of the little piece of mechanism made by Thomas Bacon and taken away by the man calling himself Dundas—Bacon has made this copy of the casing, and fitted to it a cam similar to the one which was part of the original, in precisely the same position. The measurements and shape of this copy of the casing are identical with those of the casing that held the original mechanism, and it will be seen, when the cam is placed in its on position, that there is an almost complete electrical circuit. It will be seen that this casing is so shaped that it will fit into a telephone instrument without interfering with the normal use of the instrument. It will be seen that, when the cam is in its on position, the lifting of the telephone receiver, and the consequent springing up of the receiver hook, complete the electrical circuit, which can be used to fire a small detonator or for anything else.

"The prisoner unscrewed the base of the telephone instrument in the managing director's room of the firm's offices, after Miss Morland had gone out on the afternoon of October the seventh—it is quite an easy thing to do—and exposed the interior of the instrument. He wound up his mechanism, set the dial so that the cam would be in its on position between the hours of seven and eight in the evening for eight days in succession, and attached a small detonator and a tiny electric cell. He slipped the thing into the instrument and packed in as much tri-nitro-toluol as he could, probably four ounces or less, for it is a tremendously powerful explosive. He packed the receiver with tri-nitro-toluol and another small detonator. There was no need of mechanism here, for the explosion in the main instrument would fire the detonator in the receiver. Probably he had taken the instrument home with him a few times and familiarised himself with the filling process. He alone knows if that were so. Then he put the prepared instrument in his attaché case, took it with him to the study at Long Ridge, and made the exchange I have already described in detail.

"He knew it was practically an absolute certainty that Mr. Nevile and nobody else would be in that study, or within hearing of the telephone bell there between the hours of seven and eight in the evening. He knew he would be almost certain to find some pretext for ringing through during that hour, or, better still, getting somebody else to ring through from the managing director's room, during that period between seven and eight—it was a twenty-four hour piece of clockwork, remember, and the cam could not come to its on position between seven and eight in the morning, or at any time when servants might be in the room. If he could not arrange a call at the time he wanted during the next eight days after exchanging the two instruments, the mechanism would stop with its cam in the off position, and he could make another exchange, get his loaded instrument back, and wind and reset the clockwork for a second attempt—and then go to Long Ridge for another interview and put it in position for use again. Simple, almost perfect—but Phyllis Harland stayed more than an hour later than her usual time on the night of October the seventh! When Anderson rang through, she, not Nevile, lifted the receiver, completed the electrical circuit which exploded the detonator, and received the full force of the explosion of as much tri-nitro-toluol as the prisoner had been able to pack into the instrument and receiver. She was killed. Mr. Nevile escaped, barely.

"Inspector Head will tell you how, in examining the room later, he was puzzled over the absence of any pieces of the casing of the green marble clock, pieces which surely would have been visible somewhere if the clock had been blown to pieces as the prisoner stated. He will tell how he found the tiny steel spindle which will be produced here, how it aroused his suspicions, and how he let the inquest pass with no questions of moment, feeling that to cause alarm would be to defeat his own aim of bringing a fiendish murderer to account. He will tell you how he found the original manufacturers of the tiny spindle, obtained from them the names of all firms and people to whom they had supplied such spindles, and continued his search until he found Thomas Bacon, maker of instruments of precision, and at that time very dangerously ill, but now recovered sufficiently to give evidence in this court in regard to his dealings with a man who called himself Dundas, but whom Bacon will identify as the prisoner here in the dock.

"The inspector will tell you how he put out inquiries for the green marble clock, and a certain Alfred Potter, a man now in good employment in Westingborough, will tell you how, then a hopeless unemployed man, he went into the park belonging to Long Ridge to bathe his feet in a pool beside the bridge over the little River Idleburn, which was then abnormally low after a period of drought. Potter will tell you how he saw and recovered the green marble clock in the pool, thinking he might make a shilling or so on the thing and so get money to buy food.

"Members of the jury, the prisoner had thrown the clock into the pool when he went over the bridge on the night of Phyllis Harland's death, on his homeward way from Long Ridge. He did not realise, in the darkness, that the drought had made the pool too shallow to conceal the clock entirely. Inspector Head, whose work in this case is deserving of the highest praise, will tell you how he learned, on his return from London to Westingborough that the clock had been recovered from the pool, and how he and Superintendent Wadden, at his suggestion, took a car and searched the pool that night by the aid of motor headlamps, thus recovering the bits of Forrest's infernal mechanism that he, Forrest, had collected in the study at Long Ridge and thrown into the pool with the clock that night. The inspector will tell you how he went back to London, waited and watched there until the doctor attending Thomas Bacon in his illness gave permission, and then got from Bacon an identification of a photograph of the prisoner as a portrait of the man who had called himself Dundas when he gave the order for his clockwork. And at the same time, Inspector Head will tell you, he took as full a sworn and witnessed statement as the sick man could give, concerning the nature and purpose of the clockwork Dundas had ordered and taken away. It was then that Inspector Head obtained the drawings for this mechanism which will be produced here, and he returned to Westingborough and made the arrest of Hector Aylwin Forrest, alias Hector Dundas, who I claim is guilty of as foul a crime as has ever disgraced a member of the human race, and against whom I demand a verdict of guilty.

"Why did he do it? Why did he want to destroy Raymond Nevile, and use such awful, such unheard-of means to accomplish his end?

"Members of the jury, let him answer that question before the eternal judgment seat when human justice has sent him to account to his God for the crimes he has committed. On behalf of the prosecution, the question will not be asked."


TOWARD the end of an afternoon in late April Dorothy Morland removed the receiver of the telephone connecting her with Long Ridge, and heard Nevile's voice.

"Yes, this is Miss Morland speaking," she answered.

"I recognise the voice," he answered. "Miss Morland, will you come out to dinner here to-night if I send the Daimler for you at about seven? I've been meaning to ask ever since that night when I drove you here, and somehow haven't had the heart before."

"I shall be very pleased to come," she answered.

"Thanks. I'll send the car for you. Good-bye."

She replaced the receiver. He sounded very stiff, and she felt no less so. Except for the one night to which he referred, he had been stiff and businesslike when he had come to consult with her, and the consultations, she divined, had been as infrequent as he could make them. Still, he had asked her, at last: she would wear the blue frock for the first time: sight of it, and recollection of the circumstances under which he had given it to her, might restore him to normal friendliness; otherwise, the evening at Long Ridge would be a difficult business for her.

The Daimler took her, blue frock and all, and Halkin herself received her and took her into the little room into which she had been shown on her first entry to the house, to remove her outer wraps—the little room to which Forrest had been taken for searching, before he began the journey that had ended one chill February morning in a brief walk with pinioned arms from the doorway of his cell to—

But Dorothy Morland did not know that he had been searched in this room. She turned, having put her wraps down, and saw Halkin gazing with awestruck eyes at the deep sapphire, yet almost translucent fabric of the blue frock.

"Well, what is it, Halkin?" she asked, smiling.

"That blue, miss," Halkin answered, rousing herself from a similitude of a trance. "The master told me to tell you, miss, that he's had the cocktails put in your old room in the east wing, and I'm to take you to him there."

Dorothy followed her, and entered the little room. There was a good fire in the grate, and between it and the desk, from which the typewriter had been removed to make way for the cocktail tray, stood Nevile, until he advanced with outstretched hand.

"And now, the perfect grande demoiselle," he said. "But I designed it. The blue might have been lighter, but the depth and richness of our dye redeems the midnight effect—do you mind my criticisms?"

"I welcome them," she answered coolly.

"They're over, like a good many other things." He turned to twirl the shaker and fill the two glasses, and gave her hers. "Now," he asked, taking up his own glass, "to what?"

"When Mr. Nevile is at a loss, what must I be?" she inquired.

"Then to you, to all you've done for me, to the works, and to me so that I can drink too," he said, and drank, and put the glass down.

"But you don't drink to yourself," she objected, setting her glass half-emptied on the table.

"If that one were not intended to me, I shouldn't get any of it," he pointed out. "And this hair-splitting—why do it?"

"I'm sorry," she answered insincerely.

"You haven't said 'very good,' yet," he reminded her.

"Have I had a chance?" she demanded reproachfully.

"No?" He took up his glass, emptied it, and put it down again. "Isn't it 'very good' to-night?" he asked, rather caustically.

"The night is so very young," she retorted. "Won't you give the poor thing time to gain a little experience?"

"So it's a poor thing, is it?" he queried, more caustically.

"A poor little baby of a night," she insisted, "rather frightened of what may happen to it when it grows old enough to realise itself, but with the hope of a paradise somewhere in the world that all very young things possess. It may turn out quite healthy, and may be quite attractive when it grows up."

He gave her a long, steady look.

"The hope of a paradise somewhere in the world," he repeated. "Yes, we all begin with it. Now let's be serious till it's time to go to serious business at the little round table in the dining room."

"I didn't know I was being amusing," she said.

"You were not—only interesting, as usual. I was thinking of you after the car had gone for you this evening."

"Oh, I often think of you," she fired back in a careless way. "Especially in idle moments."

"It's not the slightest use being offensive," he warned her, "and if I felt like beginning it, you'd soon want to go home again, dinner or no dinner—"

"Oh, no!" she interrupted. "You invited me to dinner, and I want my dinner before I go back."

"You shall have it. We'll tackle the great mundane affair when Halkin comes and tells us it's ready. Meanwhile, as I said, I was thinking of you. Thinking of you since the time when I first knew you, when you worked in this room. And how you worked. How I hardly needed to tell you things, but you took up the work and carried it on—carried me on, sometimes, and—and never failed me."

"The perfect secretary!" She tried to maintain a note of light mockery, and almost succeeded.

"The perfect secretary," he agreed seriously, quietly. "And all the way, whatever I asked of you, you gave, even including that night out in the rain when I—I whipped you too hard, and you very justly turned on me for it, and I learned something—"

"I wish you'd forget that minute!" she interrupted.

"I'm not likely to forget it," he dissented. "It taught me too much for that. And I want to say—I haven't been fair to you. All the way I've asked and you have given. Whatever I have asked you have given, very completely and even royally, not failing in your charity to me in any way. I got you to come here to-night to ask one more gift of you."

"And that?" She looked at him frankly, though she knew what he would ask.

"You yourself. I want you, Dorothy, and even then one thing more—to see my son lying in your arms."

She covered her face with her hands. Nevile went close to her.

"Have I asked too much, this time?" he asked.

She let her hands fall. "But—but don't you see?" she demanded tremulously, her face bent down so that he could not see her eyes. "You're giving, now—giving me the answer to every prayer I have made since I met you—all I need for happiness—"

She was in his arms, her own arms round his neck. "Blue girl—my own girl—What do you want, Halkin?"

"Dinner is served, sir," Halkin said meekly.

"Oh, is it? Then go and put the soup on the table. We shall be there by the time you've done it—almost."

"Very good, sir."

"Halkin!" It was a sharp reproof, yet with a note of laughter in it, a note of deep happiness that might lead to laughter. "That will be sixpence—I'll let you off this time, though, for it is very good, to-night. Isn't it, Dorothy?"

"Very, very good," she agreed, as Halkin went away. "So good that—but we must go."

"In a minute. Dear—my Dorothy—"

Halkin, returning to the dining room, gazed sternly at her assistant, who waited to aid in serving dinner.

"Gladys," she said, "put the cover back on that tureen and take it back. Hot it up till I tell you to bring it in."

"Didn't you tell him it was served?" Gladys inquired, replacing the tureen cover.

"I told Mister Nevile that dinner was served," Halkin retorted with majestically grim reproof, "but the lady and Mister Nevile won't be here yet, I know."

She watched Gladys take the tureen out, and, waiting by the sideboard, smiled, very pleasantly.

"Neither would I, if I was them," she remarked.

Then she lifted her hand and smoothed down the black silk that covered her ample bosom; she smoothed it down and smoothed it down, like some plump and comfortable elderly duck, preening her feathers.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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