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A WEST wind travelling fitfully over the countless rabbit holes on Martinhoe Common brought little whiffs of a familiar and entrancing odour to Flip's twitching nostrils. She opened one eye and then the other, rose from her seat in the Ford car which was grinding its way up a steep ascent, and with her forepaws upon the side, looked longingly out. Goade, having completed the ascent, brought the car to a standstill by the side of the road and drew a packet of letters which he had just collected at the village post-office from his pocket. He opened the door of the car.
"Go and enjoy yourself, Flip," he enjoined. "We will rest for quarter of an hour."
Flip, a quivering, fat ball of excitement, leaped into the road and darted towards the arena of the most elusive sport which ever brought joy to the heart of a Sealyham. Goade read his letters one by one and stuffed them into his pocket. The last—enclosed in a heavy cream envelope with the black initials "S. Y." on the back—he opened with more interest than the others. It was from his Chief, a few lines, short but to the point:
MY DEAR GOADE,—Glad to hear you are getting so much amusement out of your holiday. Without the least desire to interfere in any way with your artistic efforts, I should like to suggest that if you pass through the small market-town of Bodstaple you call and see the local sergeant there. It appears that a number of quite inexplicable accidents have taken place in the vicinity for which the local police are absolutely unable to account. Faulkener, the Chief Constable of the county, whom I think you know, has been over from Exeter, and I understand that if they don't come to some conclusion shortly they are going to appeal to us. I'm not asking you to take this on professionally in any way, but I thought it might amuse you to study the matter if you should be in the neighbourhood.
Goade replaced the letter in its envelope and buttoned it up in his breast coat pocket. Afterwards he studied the map for a moment, filled his pipe, and leaned back to enjoy the soft summer sunshine. The place brought reminiscences of odours other than that which had moved Flip to ecstasy; suggestions of wild thyme, the faint almond-like scent of the gorse, an occasional waft of sweetness from the drooping honeysuckle in a clump of bushes a short distance away. It was a morning for lazy and sensuous idleness, a morning when even to have taken out his easel would have seemed too hard a task. Goade leaned back in his car with his hands clasped behind his head and gave himself up to most unprofessional meditation. The most adroit criminal in the world would have found it difficult to awaken him from his lethargy at that moment. The sport of man-hunting had lost its appeal. What a country this to end one's days in, if only the sun would shine more often!
A sharp bark in the road brought him back to the present. He looked over the side of the car. Flip, the most disreputable specimen of canine existence the mind of man could conceive, climbed on to the step and waited for the door to open. Each one of her short legs was caked in soil. Her stomach was black from investigations in a peat bog. Her nose and mouth, up to her eyes, were indistinguishable. She wagged her tail a little self-consciously and jumped up to her place.
"Into the next pond you go, old lady," Goade muttered—a threat which left her entirely unmoved.
They jogged on through the picturesque country—master and dog—until they reached the pleasant, straggling village of Bodstaple, a village which seemed to extend the whole length of one side of a steep combe. There was a trout stream down below, winding its way through a strip of rich green meadowland, and above, one clean white street, widening to a little square around which were the principal houses and shops. Goade drew up at the homely looking inn, ordered lunch, and strolled over to the police station opposite—a flower-covered abode with irregular blocks of white pavement leading through a garden riotous in colour. Sergeant Elworthy was at home and apparently off duty. He wore his official trousers, a grey shirt, and very little else.
"I am on a holiday," Goade explained, after he had presented his card, "and I don't wish to interfere unless I can be of service. The Chief, however, has written me from Scotland Yard that you are rather troubled about some accidents here. He doesn't give me any particulars. I don't know whether you would care to confide in me."
The sergeant, a large and ponderous man, examined the card, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. He spelled the name out to himself.
"Goade," he reflected. "It was an Inspector Goade took the big reward from America."
"I was the lucky person," his visitor confessed.
The sergeant looked reverently across at him.
"You're mighty welcome, Mr. Goade," he said. "It may seem a small affair this to a brain like yours, but it do get us local people fairly flummoxed."
"Tell me about it," Goade invited, filling his pipe and passing his pouch across.
The sergeant was a very deliberate man and it took him five minutes to follow his companion's example and get started. Goade was careful not to hurry him. He had developed a theory that you got the most out of people by permitting them to use their own methods.
"It begun four months ago," the sergeant explained, "with young Ned Spurrell, the Squire's underkeeper, a harmless young fellow enough, though he do be fond of a drop of cider. He were walking through the wood late one night on his beat when he had the sudden feeling—to use his own words—that 'summat was biting into his flesh.' He went toppling over and when he came to an hour or so later there was a wound in his leg that ain't healed yet."
"What sort of a wound?" Goade asked curiously.
"A nasty, jagged place as though some one had hit him with an iron implement. He's been on his back for six weeks and powerful sorry for himself he be. Then, while he do lie there, pretty well the same thing happens to John Strone. He be a farm labourer up at the Hall Farm, and he were walking home from the inn one night—a trifle merry but nothing to hurt—and he suddenly felt that something had gripped him by the leg. Over he toppled and when he come to his trouser were all torn and he were in pretty much the same state as Ned. What do you make of that, Mr. Goade?"
Goade shook his head.
"I'm afraid I can't make anything out of it yet," he admitted. "I should like to hear the doctor's account of the wound."
"That you may have at any moment," the sergeant replied, "for Doctor Graves he do live in the village and he'll be home from his rounds before one. A fair puzzled man the doctor, too. After Strone there did come a youngster what hadn't been in these parts long—Michael Kerrison—a loose-living lad, I'm afraid. He were on his way—some says to do a bit of poaching—one dark night, and all of a sudden he felt a bang on the back of his head as though he had been hit by a great piece of board, and over he went. He never heerd a footstep or see'd a soul. It were just as though a ton of wood had fallen from the skies and knocked him silly. Last of all—a fortnight ago come Thursday—Mr. Emmett, the grocer, was out after an evening rabbit, on Farmer Jobson's meadow, where he'd a perfect right to be, and crossing the stepping stones the same thing happened to he as had happened to Strone and Kerrison and Spurrell. When he come to he'd the same nature wound in his leg, but he was lying on the bank and he will have it that some one had pulled him out fearing like that he might be drowned, and left him there."
"None of these men were robbed or interfered with in any way?" Goade asked.
"Not a thing touched. Most of 'em had money in their pockets, and there it was. Mr. Emmett, he'd five pounds in treasury notes and some loose silver. It was there to the last penny."
"They were all of different families? Nothing to connect them at all?"
"Not a thing. The lad was almost a stranger to the others. Spurrell and Strone were just friendly like, but not intimate."
"Any bad characters in the village?"
"There isn't a living soul," was the emphatic reply, "as one'd suspect of a dirty deed. There's little trouble here for the police and less now than ever since the Welsh revivalists came along. They do seem in their way to have done a power of good, although not saying that such was necessary in these parts. We bean't such sinful folks as in the towns."
"Have you any theories?"
"There isn't one a sane man could keep in his head like," the sergeant declared.
"Suspect any one?"
"There bean't a soul in the place one could suspect."
"No strangers about?"
"Not a sign of one."
Goade rose to his feet.
"Well, no wonder you're puzzled, Sergeant," he said. "I'll have a talk with the doctor during the afternoon, and maybe one of the men who met with the accident. When do you go on duty again?"
"At ten o'clock to-night, sir," the man replied. "There's naught but simple jobs in the daytime here. I've taken to prowling about in the darkness on the chance of finding something."
"I'll be in before then," Goade promised, and took his leave.
HE visited the doctor after an excellent luncheon—a cheerful old gentleman who had absolutely no enlightenment to offer.
"All I can tell you," he confided, "is that each of these three men met with his accident or whatever it was in about the same place—halfway up the shin bone. It just looks as though someone had struck them a savage blow with a jagged metal weapon of some sort, ripped the flesh up and just bared the bone. As for Kerrison, what he got was plain enough. He got a bang on the back of the head with a blunt weapon of considerable breadth. A plank of wood would give you the idea."
"It seems an extraordinary business," Goade observed.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders. He was a very hard-worked man, and his manner indicated that it was his business to heal wounds and not to worry about how they were received. He made no attempt to detain his visitor when the latter rose to take his leave, and hastened off to his consulting room.
Goade put his head in at the police station.
"I shall stay the night anyway, Sergeant," he confided; "perhaps two or three days. Which is the most intelligent of the men who met with an accident to his leg?"
"Ned Spurrell, he do be the most of a scholard," the policeman conceded. "I'll walk with you so far any time this afternoon."
"About four then," Goade suggested.
GOADE, as he pushed open the gate of Ned Spurrell's cottage, paused upon the red-tiled path between two great bushes of sweetbriar, and listened. The casement window of the room on the ground floor was wide open and through it there floated the sound of the most beautiful voice, it seemed to him, that he had ever heard in Ins life—the voice of a woman reading a chapter from one of the Gospels. Even as he lingered, the cadence of it died away. He heard the closing of the book, a momentary silence, and then her voice again, reciting the Lord's Prayer, to which there came in an undertone, a half-shamed, half-earnest echo. He waited until the last words had left their lips before he knocked at the door. A moment or so later it was opened. A girl, wearing a perfectly plain grey dress, made with the severity of a uniform, her hair brushed smoothly back from her beautiful forehead, stood looking out at him. He knew at once that it was the woman with the wonderful voice. He realised too that, notwithstanding the simplicity of her attire, and slight pallor of complexion, she was probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. Her complexion was almost unnaturally clear, her features Madonna-like in their purity, her faint smile, even to him, a stranger, the gentlest and sweetest thing in the world.
"I called to see Mr. Spurrell," he explained. "You are probably the nurse. Is he well enough to talk to me?"
"Quite well enough," she answered. "I am not the nurse, but they have left me in charge for a little time. Shall I tell him your name?"
"He wouldn't know it," Goade replied. "All the same I should be glad to see him for a minute or two."
She led the way in and bent over the couch.
"Here is a gentleman to see you," she announced. "Your mother will be back now in a quarter of an hour. I shall leave you with him."
"You'll come to-morrow," the young man begged.
"I shall come to-morrow," she acquiesced, almost under her breath. "I shall come every day until you promise."
His eyes followed her to the door, which Goade held open for her. She looked around and smiled.
"May God have you in His keeping," she said, as she passed out.
Goade closed the door and came over to the bed.
"So you're Ned Spurrell," he began, drawing a chair up to the man's side. "I wish you'd tell me who that very attractive young person is?"
"Her name is Mary Tennent," was the somewhat diffident reply. "She and her brother are after mission work round about here. They've come from Wales."
"I should think all you unmarried lads would easily get converted," Goade remarked, smiling.
The young man declined to take the matter lightly.
"She is marvellous," he confided in an awed tone. "The way she talks about religion, too—there was never a parson like it for making you feel things. Who might you be, sir?"
"I came to see you about the accident," Goade explained. "Queer sort of affair, wasn't it?"
"Are you from the Insurance?" Ned Spurrell asked suspiciously.
"If you really want to know," Goade answered, "although I'd rather you didn't talk about me, I am connected with the police."
The invalid chuckled.
"Connected with the police!" he scoffed. "They be a pretty lot. Four on us done in like this and not even an arrest."
"Well, it's rather an unusual sort of an affair?" Goade pointed out. "Tell me exactly what happened."
"Why it happened—that's all; I was walking straight along, harmless as might be, smoking my pipe, and it was just as though summat had hit me an almighty whack on the right shin with a crowbar. I toppled right over, couldn't move or drag my leg an inch, and before I knowed where I was I were a gone 'un."
"You didn't hear any one around?"
"I didn't hear any one, and there wurn't any one. I'd go bail for that," was the dogged reply. "A most mysterious-like business though it was. I've lain here and puzzled about it until my head ached."
"Have you told any one the exact spot where it happened?"
"The sergeant knows to an inch. There ain't anything there to harm a body, leastways so he says. He's been there often enough since."
"I'll get him to show me the place," Goade said. "No one about here with any grudge against you, I suppose, or anything of that sort?"
"Not a soul. Besides, there's the others," the young man pointed out. "There isn't a more popular young chap in the village than John Strone. Shall you be going to see him?"
"Presently. I want to see all four of you who have met with these singular accidents."
"I don't know as it will do you any good," the gamekeeper warned him. "They none of them knows any more about it than I do."
"In our profession," Goade observed, "one stumbles upon a clue in the most unexpected moments."
"You be a detective, I suppose?"
"Yes," he admitted, "I belong to Scotland Yard. Just now I'm having a holiday."
"Tell us some stories about burglaring and suchlike," the young man proposed. "Its dull lying here now she's paid me her visit."
"Does this young lady revivalist visit all of you?" Goade asked.
"I reckon so," was the somewhat sullen reply. "She went to see Strone twice one day when he were bad."
"What sect does she belong to?"
"None at all. That's the wonderful part of her and her brother too. If you're church, she just wants you to feel something inside about church that you've never felt before. She tries to 'light' something, she says. If you're chapel it's just the same. I'm going to church with her the first day I can hobble out."
Goade, after the recital of a few personal experiences, presently found the place where he had left the sergeant to wait for him, and examined the scene of Spurrell's accident. It was just a rough path, a little overgrown with bracken, and the closest investigation yielded not the slightest explanation of the mystery.
"You'd like to see the other misfortunate young men, Mr. Goade?" the sergeant suggested. "They're none of them so far away."
"I'll see them to-morrow," Goade promised. "Don't let me keep you, Sergeant. I'm going to smoke a pipe here at the edge of the wood. If you'll call for me when you make your round tonight I might have a stroll with you."
The man saluted and withdrew. Goade seated himself on a low bank and awaited Flip's pleasure. Presently he heard a gate opened and closed. Coming across the strip of meadowland towards him was Mary Tennent. He watched her approach with critical but admiring eyes. She walked, it seemed to him, as he had never seen another woman walk in his life, and her smile as she recognised him was a bewildering thing.
"You have come to see the place where Mr. Spurrell met with his accident?" she enquired.
"And you," he ventured, "have been to see one of the other sufferers?"
"I am very happy this afternoon," she confided. "Mr. Strone has been so obstinate. Just now I think the words of a little prayer I said moved him. He has promised to go to chapel with me the first Sunday he is able to get out."
"You'll have your hands full with all these young men," he remarked.
"What do I mind?" she rejoined. "It is my life. It is what I was born for, what I live for. Now, the only one who hasn't promised is Michael Kerrison. He is difficult, but he will promise before I go."
"What made you take up this work?" he asked.
"God put it into my head," she answered simply. "My father preached until the day he died. My brother is something wonderful. I do my best. There are times when I am very successful."
"Don't you find these young men get jealous of one another sometimes?"
She smiled back at him frankly.
"Of course now and then they are foolish," she admitted. "They don't understand of how little account love-making and marrying and those things are compared with eternity. I'd give my poor body to all of them if I could make them feel the great things."
He looked at her curiously. There was no doubt as to her sincerity. The light of a divine mysticism shone from her eyes. One could imagine her a Joan of Arc, welcoming, exulting in sacrifice. Her body—what did it matter? She lived outside.
"Who is with you here?" he enquired a little abruptly. "Didn't I hear something about a brother?"
"I am alone with my brother," she told him. "We have a little caravan. We came all the way from Wales in it. He is a very clever carpenter and tinker, and sometimes I do sewing at ladies' houses. We have no money except what we make by the way, but that is always plenty."
"Do you know," he asked her, "that you are very beautiful?"
"It is the grace of God which is in me," she said quite simply.
His breath was taken away. He knew perfectly well that she was sincere, that every word she said came from her heart.
"Still, I can't help thinking that you must find it more than a little troublesome sometimes with all these young men," he persisted. "Don't some of them want to marry you, for instance?"
She laughed softly.
"Most of them," she admitted. "I would marry them all, if I could. I would marry any one to save his soul."
She laid her hand upon his without a moment's hesitation—a soft, cool hand, delightful to feel.
"Of course I would," she assured him. "If by marrying you I could make you see the light, could take you up with me to God, of course I would marry you."
"But then," he went on, still holding her hand, "there are Ned Spurrell and Michael Kerrison and John Strone."
"I know," she assented a little sadly. "I shall take them all to church or chapel with me, and they will all want me to marry them. Sometimes when I go away they are angry and they forget all they have promised—but not always. Many of them remember, and if only a few remember it is worth while... What about you? Please tell me your name again."
"What about you, Mr. Nicholas Goade?"
"I don't think I'm irreligious," he said. "I am just one of those persons who can't arrive at any satisfactory solution, I suppose, and who drift."
"It is the most dangerous state of all," she declared, gripping his fingers. "You try, don't you, to solve the future and to understand God with your brain. Men can't do that. It's faith you want—faith. Faith you must have. You must get it at any price. You must pray for it—pray until the words fail you—but you must have it, or think what will happen when you die."
Her voice was quivering with eagerness; the fever was upon her.
"I must come and hear your brother preach," he suggested.
"You shall talk with him," she agreed. "He is wonderful. He has made more converts than any one else. Come and find him now. I will show you where we live."
He rose to his feet and whistled for Flip, who had been engaged upon disappointing investigations around some rabbit holes. The girl took his arm quite naturally.
"I should love you to be one of my brothers," she confided; "my brothers in the Great Faith. If any one can make you see the truth, James can. He has the gift of tongues."
"You too have a gift," he reminded her.
"The gift of Mary Magdalen," she sighed. "She also was beautiful. My beauty, such as it is, is for any one whom it can bring a little nearer to salvation."
They came out from the wood into a meadow by the stream. Two small caravans were drawn up a few yards from the gate. From inside the smaller one came the sound of the whirring of a lathe.
"That is my brother at work," she told him.
The door presently opened and a young man appeared. Goade studied him appraisingly—a typical visionary, hollow-cheeked, with cavernous eyes, jet black hair, lips moving even in silence.
"Who is this, Mary?" he asked.
"A friend," she answered. "I found him at Ned Spurrell's cottage. He is coming to the meeting to-night. He is still of the Kingdom of the World, James. You will speak to him."
Goade, the least impressionable of men, felt the warmth of the young man's smile, the earnestness of his gaze.
"If words winged with the truth can bring you to the knowledge of it, you shall hear them," he promised.
He locked the door of the little caravan from which he had issued.
"Is that your workshop?" Goade enquired.
The young man nodded, but ignored his questioner's obvious curiosity. He made his way to the larger caravan and busied himself at a bookcase, selecting various volumes. The girl brought her companion to the steps and invited him to enter.
"There is my bed," she pointed out, inclining her head towards a spotlessly neat bunk, by the side of which on a small table stood a bowl of flowers and a Bible. From the open window a soft breeze swept through the place.
"You have chosen a delightful spot for your camping ground," Goade remarked.
"At night it is wonderful," she confided. "I lie here and I can see the stars and I can hear the night birds in the woods. There is an owl's nest in those trees there, and a nightingale just across the stream. Sometimes it is too beautiful to sleep though. Then I get up and walk around."
"It must have been close by here that Ned Spurrell met with his accident," Goade reflected. "You didn't hear him call out or anything?"
"We heard nothing," the girl answered.
Goade took his leave and she walked with him to the top of the field.
"At eight o'clock in the Square," she reminded him.
"I shall be there," he promised.
"I shall pray for you," she whispered. "I think I shall pray as I never prayed before."
She was clinging to his arm quite frankly, and Goade, with all his experience of men and women, was confused, bewildered by her attitude. If she were indeed unconscious of any physical self, she still seemed to retain a most desirable leaven of humanity. One could almost have sworn to a glint of coquetry in her eyes as she bade him farewell, and watched him march off down the road. He turned to wave his hand, and he wondered whether it was his fancy that her fingers touched her lips before they waved their reply...
"ANY luck, sir?" the sergeant asked him, as they met in the street.
Goade shook his head.
"I think your little corner of the world, Sergeant," he replied, "is going to set us all guessing."
After dinner he lit a pipe and strolled out to witness what was almost a royal procession, the procession of Mary Tennent with a hymn book in her hand, and her brother with a Bible, passing down the village street. People whom they met clasped both of them by the hand. Many turned around and followed. Before they reached the market place they were the centre of a little escorting group. People streamed from all sides. Willing hands brought out a rudely improvised platform. The girl looked everywhere until she discovered Goade on the outskirts of the crowd. She left her place, walked up to him, and took him by the hand.
"Please come nearer," she begged. "You must hear everything."
He suffered himself to be led to the edge of the platform. Almost immediately afterwards the man and the girl dropped on to their knees. Every one in the congregation covered his eyes. The man prayed... Many times afterwards in life Goade tried to reconstruct that little scene, to feel again the glowing mystery of it, to recollect the almost magical impression of that torrent of passionate words. The old-fashioned market square became an oasis fenced in from the rest of the world. The footsteps of a few passers-by shuffled along the pavements, now and then a motor car with shrill clanging of horn was driven down the cobbled street, one noisy company of callow youths went by, shouting and laughing, but all these sounds seemed to come only as indistinct echoes from a smaller world. All his old ideas—the ideas of the cultivated man—of the flamboyant vulgarity of revivalist eloquence, left Goade for ever, as he stood entranced. The man with the sobbing voice and the convulsively twitching features was inspired, if ever a man was inspired, and the girl who stood by his side, her hands clasped lightly in front of her, her eyes wandering only from her brother's to his, seemed as though she were in some way standing upon the altar of sacrifice, as though she were the dumb but passionate duettist of his pleading. Goade never hesitated to admit in later years the sweeping down in those few minutes of all those barriers of cold agnosticism which the brain builds up against unreasoned truths. This man had found something, had found something the world lacked. Goade himself trod the paths of exaltation with that strange little crowd—the crowd of servant girls, shop assistants, a labourer or two from the road, a tired tradesman, a wagoner, a sprinkling of market women. It was a relief when the voice ceased and the man fell on his knees. The girl's lips moved as she prayed, and her eyes never left his. They were appealing to him spiritually, humanly, wonderfully. Then it was all over. There was a moment's deep silence. Brother and sister stepped down, shaking hands with nearly every member of the congregation. Then they came over to Goade.
"Will you walk with us?" the girl invited.
"Only as far as the door of my inn," he answered. "You must forgive me to- night."
She clung to his arm. The man strode on a pace or two away, muttering to himself. Somehow Goade fancied that he was still praying.
"You began to feel," she pleaded. "I saw it in your face. Oh, don't think that I am ignorant. I am not. I can imagine the world in which you live. I know that in a moment even God speaking through man cannot work a miracle. But you will come. You will come to us. You will not go away before we have talked again?"
"I promise," he answered.
"To-night," she went on, "I shall pray for you. I shall pray with you. If you are sleepless come to-night. I shall wait for you."
He felt himself shivering with a curious indescribable emotion.
"Very well," he assented, "I shall come."
IT was eleven o'clock when Nicholas Goade started out with Flip in close attendance. In his hand he carried a thick stick, and he walked all the time with unusually hesitating footsteps. At the entrance to the little wood he paused. Through the trees he could see a single light burning in the caravan. He walked more slowly than ever now, his stick outstretched in front of him, Flip running from side to side. When he reached the last fifty yards, he came once more to a standstill. There was brushwood upon the path which he had not noticed during the afternoon. He took a careful step forward. Suddenly Flip growled, and he realised that the end of his search was at hand. He knocked the loose twigs away with his stick and found what he had expected. He took it up—the innocent-looking branch of an oak tree, unstripped even of its leaves, with cruel jagged-edged knives buried under the bracken on either side of the moss where the foot was meant to fall. He held the diabolical-looking implement gingerly in his hand. Then he walked on to the caravan. As he passed through the gate, he saw the girl waiting and listening, and it seemed to him that she had turned to marble. He threw his burden upon the ground and looked at her without speech. The door of the smaller caravan opened and her brother came silently out.
"For me!" Goade cried, with an undernote of fierceness in his tone.
She held out her hands to him. He would have brushed them away, but he had lost the power. They stole up to his shoulders. She was almost as tall as he, and her face, upturned, was close to his.
"It is the only way," she sobbed out. "Those others, I pleaded with them when they were strong and healthy, and God meant nothing to them. It is only in sickness and suffering that you can reach their hearts. We have found that all our days, James and I. These three young men who have suffered, through their sufferings they have become God's children. You too—to-night it was the beginning, but you would have wandered away, you would have thought all that had happened was just a wave of feeling. You would have gone, as now you will go. I wanted to keep you so much—more than any of the others."
He looked at the wicked-looking device on the ground and still he found speech difficult.
"I am a detective," he said at last. "I was sent here to discover the secret of these accidents."
"And now that you have discovered?" she asked, without loosening her clasped fingers.
He shivered from head to foot—a strong man, a captor of murderers, the man who had faced death as often as any soldier.
"Show me the inside of your caravan," he directed, turning away from her; "the small one."
The man unlocked it, and as he looked around Goade's expression hardened. He stepped back and closed the door.
"You have a stove there," he pointed out. "Bring it to me."
The man obeyed. Goade lit it and placed it underneath the smaller caravan. They collected brushwood sadly. Soon there was a blaze. In the end there was nothing left but charred wood and strange-looking fragments of metal. The smoke was high over the trees. Goade listened.
"In a few minutes," he said, "the people from the village will come. Tell your story as you will."
The girl suddenly clung to him. Her brother looked on with unseeing eyes.
"Don't go!" she sobbed. "You must stay."
There followed an epoch of madness in a well-constructed, logical life!
HALF an hour later, Nicholas Goade, with Flip by his side, sat in the Ford car in front of the village inn. The sergeant stood upon the pavement to attend his departure.
"I've decided to travel on by moonlight," the former explained. "Listen, Elworthy. There will be no more accidents."
"You have discovered summat?" the man demanded eagerly.
"Nothing definite," Goade replied evasively. "If anything further of the same sort should happen, I'll make a report in London. My impression, however, is that there will be no more accidents."
"Which way are you going to-night, sir?" the sergeant enquired, puzzled and disturbed. "It's a queer time to start away."
Goade turned the Ford round so that his back was towards the lights on the hill and the meadow where the caravan was standing. He thrust in his gears and touched the accelerator.
"I'm going as far as I can in this direction before daylight," he answered.