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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

CLOUD OVER CORATON

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Ex Libris

As published in The Daily Mercury,
Mackay, Qld, Australia, 23 December 1947—22 January 1948

Also published in The Goulburn Evening Post,
NSW,Australia, 10 November—7 December 1944

First e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-10-12

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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Illustration

Headpiece from The Daily Merccury.

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

Derek Martyn: Discharged from the Army due to being lamed by war wounds.

Peter Plews: Who was Derek's intimate friend in Army days, and who has also been returned to civil life through disability, after service overseas.

Mrs. Farrell: Housekeeper at the farm Derek has recently inherited. A middle-aged woman of striking appearance, but very reserved.

Alfred Farrell: Her son, long employed on the farm and indispensable to Derek.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


CHAPTER I.
Windfall

PETER PLEWS ran the fingers of his left hand through his shock of red hair. Peter was really a very tidy person, and his bare little room on the top floor of one of these tall, narrow houses in Great Ormond-street was beautifully clean and neat. But nothing short of brilliantine would subdue Peter's rebellious locks and there was no brilliantine in wartime. Anyhow he hated hair oil.

In his right hand he held a letter which he had just read. It was the most startling letter Peter had ever received, as was proved by the incredulous expression on his pleasant, unprepossessing face. He turned back to the beginning and read it again. Coraton, near Taverton, South Devon, was the address.

"It's real, Peter," it began abruptly. "Three hundred acres and a massive old seventeenth-century farm house. And all mine! I have a housekeeper, a Mrs. Farrell. Her son Alfred is bailiff. Also three men, all over fifty. Oh, I know you'll say it's a pipe dream, but come and see. Come and live with me and lend a hand. At any rate you'll get milk and butter and fresh eggs. Also fresh vegetables. The garden is fine. Our station is Taverton. Wire when I am to meet you. Yours, Derek."

"And the blighter has never said a word till now," Peter growled. Then he laughed. "Can't blame him. Wherever it came from, I don't suppose he believed in it till he saw it." He glanced at his watch. It was just after four. He raised his six feet of lanky strength out of the ancient armchair and picked up his hat. "If I wire now he'll get it in the morning. There's a train out of morning. There's a train out of Waterloo somewhere about 10 a.m. I'll be there before he has time to change his mind."

He walked down to Holborn, sent his wire, then treated himself to a cup of tea and a war bun before returning to his attic to pack and write a few letters. As usual several people stared at him. A young civilian, fit as Peter looked, gave cause for curious glances. But Peter had got past caring for that sort of thing. It was impossible to explain to all and sundry that he had a lump of shrapnel below his heart and that the doctors had warned him against violent exertion. He had been out of hospital just six months, and been putting in his days helping at a Red Cross packing station.

Peter was at Waterloo in good time. It was one of the first hot days of summer, and Peter sighed with relief, as the train swept past Woking and out into real country. Like his friend, Derek Martyn, Peter hated London yet had not been away from it since he had been carried out of Charing Cross in an ambulance nearly a year earlier.

Peter had been born and bred in Somerset. But he had never been much beyond Exeter, and the scenery looked good to him as the train pounded steadily on around the northern rim of Dartmoor. Great tors pushed their rock-crowned summits far up into the blue, acres of green bracken clothed their sides, and here and there were deep gorges down which tumbled tiny foaming brooks. Then the line curved to the south-west and, almost before he knew it, the train was slowing into Taverton station.

Grabbing his suitcase from the rack, Peter stepped out on to the crowded platform and almost into the arms of Derek Martyn. For a moment the two stood with hands locked, gazing each at the other. Outwardly they were very different. Peter long, lean, with craggy face and carrot-red hair; Derek, shorter, with brown hair, dark blue eyes, and a clean-cut, sensitive face; but between them was a rather wonderful friendship which had begun in September 1939, when the two enlisted together in the Devons. Peter was the first to speak.

"You almost look as if it might be true," he remarked.

"You wouldn't have come if you hadn't believed me," retorted Derek. "But we can't talk here. I'll tell you all about it in the car."

"A car! The man's a millionaire! All right, lead on."

Derek went ahead, limping a little. In his case it was a bullet through the left ankle that had cut short his army career. He had got that in Belgium, early on.

The car rattled a bit as Derek drove down the hill from the station, but pulled all right when they began the long climb on the far side of the little town. Peter sniffed.

"Something like air," he remarked with appreciation. "Do you keep the same brand at Coraton?"

"Wait and see," grinned Derek.

"All right, but I'm not waiting any longer to hear the tale of your windfall. Where and how did you steal it?"

"I inherited it."

"I don't want to be rude but you've always told me that your grandfather lost his money in the Waring bust, and that your father never had more than his pay."

"That's all true. But my grandfather had a younger brother Nicholas Martyn. Nicholas went to South Africa, and got in on the ground floor at Kimberley. He made a packet, came home and bought Coraton. Seemingly he and my grandmother had parted brass rags, for my father never spoke of him and I didn't even know of his existence until after his death. It seems he left no will, so everything came to me." Peter whistled softly.

"So that's the way of it. Then Nicholas Martyn did not marry."

"He did and had one son, Christopher. But he and his dad quarreled, and Christopher cleared out. He was killed fighting in Spain. He was finished by a shell splinter in Barcelona. The lawyers have definite proof of his death."

By this time the car had reached the top of the hill and Derek pulled up.

"Look over to the right, Peter. That's Plymouth Sound. And right in from you can see Hessary Tor. Princetown lies in the saddle beyond."

"What—the prison?"

"Yes, and the village. We turn off to the left here, past Crooked Tor." Peter's eyes roved up the massive slopes of the great blunt-headed tor.

"Cloud is sitting right down on it, Derek. Does that mean one of your moor fogs?" Derek shook his head.

"It means thunder, Peter. We'd better shove along if we want to cross the water-splash. These moor streams come down bank high if you get a real storm."

He drove on a little way and turned into a by-road. This was not tarred and the surface was bad. He had to slow down for the sake of his tyres. For a couple of miles the road wound between two tors, then suddenly dropped steeply into a wide and open valley.

"That's the Clint below us," Derek said, "and there"—he pointed—"Coraton's over there. But you can't see the house because the trees hide it." Peter gazed for a moment then turned to his companion.

"If I can't see your house there's one thing I can see. And that's one outsize storm, Look at it coming over the High Moor!"


CHAPTER II.
Cloud Burst

DEREK looked end pursed his lips.

"Gosh, you're right! It looks like a cloud burst. I'll have to drive like gin to cross the water-splash."

"Is that the only way to get to your place?"

"There's a bridge, but it means a three-mile round. And I get only seven gallons of juice a month."

"Better be slow than sorry. You'll only bust your back axle on a road like this."

Derek did his best, but you can't drive fast on a narrow track that curves steeply down a long hill. Like a vast curtain the storm-cloud rose out of the northwest. It was blue-black, rimmed with rolling white vapor. Its deep heart was seamed with veinings of electric fire and the mutter of thunder became continuous. Not a breath stirred and, even up at this height, nearly a thousand feet above the sea level, the air had become heavy and stifling.

Peter did not speak, for Derek needed all his energies to steer the car around the hairpin bends. The cloud covered the sun and a heavy shadow cut all color from the wide view. A jagged flash leaped across the sky, and the thunder clap echoed and crashed from tor to tor.

"She's coming," Peter said "But the stream hasn't begun to rise yet."

They were on lower ground, the road running just above the Clint. It was a pretty stream with long stickles and deep pools. "Must be lovely with the sun on it," Peter thought.

"There's old Prance fishing," Derek said: "He's in for a ducking." A very old man was walking slowly down the opposite bank casting as he went. His rod looked as ancient as himself, and his creel was a black wooden box strapped across his bent back. "He's deaf as a post," Derek continued. "Spends all his time fishing, and it's wonderful the quantity of trout he gets. He knows every rock in the river."

"There won't be many rocks visible in a very few minutes," Peter told him. "It's cloud-burst right enough. No water-splash for us to-day, old son."

Derek slowed and glanced back.

"You're right. It's going to be a snorter." Then he pulled up short. "Look at old Prance! He's going to try the stepping stones. If the flood comes down he won't have a hope. Wait here, Peter, while I run down and warn him."

From road to river was a couple of hundred yards, steep, rough, boulder-strewn ground, with thick clumps of ancient gorse. And, though Derek got along quickly, he certainly could not run. Peter, who had got out of the car, lighted a cigarette and watched. It was no use shouting to the old man. Prance was too deaf to hear, and there he was actually on the first stepping stone.

The stream here was thirty yards wide, perhaps not more than two feet deep. The stones were huge granite blocks set fairly close together, their upper parts smooth by the feet of men who had used them for centuries. In ordinary times even old Prance could cross with perfect safety.

A blaze of lightning, a crash of thunder, that sounded like a bomb, made Peter start. He looked back up stream and saw a wall of water with a front a yard high racing round a bend no more than three hundred yards away.

"Derek!" he yelled "It's coming—get back."

Derek had reached the river bank. He heard and looked, He shouted to Prance. By this time the old man was half way across. He, too, saw the flood wave and put his best foot forward. But he was nearly eighty and still with rheumatism. Peter saw Derek go out on to the stones. He himself had already started down the slope. Throwing his doctor's advice to the winds, he ran.

The brown wave, crested with yellow foam, was coming down at the speed of a galloping horse. It reached the top of the long pool at the same moment that Derek reached Prance. Derek got behind him and helped him along.

They were only three stones from the near bank when it happened. Poor old Prance stumbled and fell off into the water on the down stream side. He fell sideways and went right under. Derek was after him at once, but it was too late. He got him to his feet just as the wave struck the stones with a mighty splash.


CHAPTER III.
Coraton

BUT for Peter, Prance's fall would have spelt finish both for Prance and Derek. Peter was singularly cool-headed, one of those people who does not lose his head in an emergency. Moormen, in his position, would have plunged in and then there would have been three drowned instead of two.

Always at these stepping stones on the Moor streams there is a stout pole about eight feet long for use when the water is high. Often there is one on both sides. There was one here. Peter spotted it instantly, and snatched it up. An eddy had flung Derek and Prance towards the near bank and Peter thrust out the pole just in time for Derek to grasp it. Peter, knee deep in water, walked backwards, and in a matter of moments Derek and Prance were safe on the bank. Derek stood up and shook himself like a wet dog. He looked at the brown foaming flecked flood sweeping past, then turned to Peter.

"You all right?" he asked with a touch of anxiety.

"Fine! Lucky about the pole. How's Prance?"

"I be all right," said the old chap slowly, "but I lost my fishing rod."

"There's an old one up at the house you can have," Derek said.

"Be you Mr. Martyn?" Prance asked.

"I'm Derek Martyn and this is Mr. Plews. But come on up to the car and we'll drop you at your house."

As they started the rain hit them and Peter was as wet at the others before they reached the road.. They dropped Prance at the bare, little, slated cottage where he lived alone, and pushed on to the bridge.

"Not very grateful," said Peter.

"Oh, but he was. I was on the Moor a lot when I was a kid and I know these Moor folk. Not their way to render thanks. Incidentally, I haven't thanked you, Peter."

"Oh, forget it!" retorted Peter. "Is this your house?"

"This is Coraton," said Derek, as he turned into a narrow drive flanked by wind-twisted beeches. Peter saw a two-storey house built of native granite. It was so old, so solid it looked as if it were part of the hill against which it stood and which protected it from the north-west wind. Behind it was a kitchen garden surrounded by a tall hedge of clipped beeches: In front a border of perennial plants, delphiniums, hollyhocks, Michaelmas daisies and the like. Then the drive and, below that, a grass slope dropping gently to a small stream which ran into the Clint. On the opposite side of the stream was a geld where cattle grazed. The farm buildings were on the far side of the house and looked as old and solid as the house itself.

"What do you think of it?" Derek asked and Peter noticed an odd note of anxiety in his voice. He himself hesitated.

"A fine old place, Derek," he said, "but this heavy cloud makes it a bit gloomy. It will look better when the sun shines."

"You'll find it better inside," Derek said as he pulled up opposite the front door, "especially; when you've had some tea."

The massive door was set in a deep porch. It opened into a passage with rooms on either side and a staircase at the end.

"I'll take you to your room Peter," Derek continued. "As soon as we've changed we'll have tea."

Peter approved of his room, which had a window facing the front of the house and was plainly yet comfortably furnished. There was a jug of hot water in the basin, covered with a towel. He stripped, washed, put on his other suit, grey flannel trousers and an old brown tweed jacket, then went down.

"This way," came Derek's voice. He was at the door of the room to left of the passage. The room was large but low ceilinged and had an open fireplace in which a peat fire smouldered. The walls were color-washed a pale stone color. A good but well-worn carpet covered the floor, and the chairs and couch were upholstered in brown leather. On the walls a few of Aiken's colored prints: on the chimney-piece a clock and a couple of old Chinese vases. No flowers or any attempt at ornament. A man's room, yet quite comfortable.

Mrs. Farrell came in with a tray. Derek introduced Peter.

"My friend, Mr. Plews—Mrs. Farrell,"

Peter saw a tall woman of about fifty. She must, he thought, have been a very handsome girl. Her features were remarkably good and her pale blue eyes very clear. Her hair was fair, thick and glossy and barely touched with grey. But her face had no expression and the faint smile with which she acknowledged the introduction was on her lips not in her eyes. Nor did she speak. She laid out the tea on the oak table and left the room.

Peter stared open-eyed at the lay-out. Hot scones, a large pat of butter, a dish of whortleberry jam, a cake, a jug of milk that was yellow with cream, and a huge black pot of tea.

"There are advantages in living on a farm," Derek remarked.

"So I'd heard," replied Peter, "but I never realised it until now."

"We earn it," Derek said as he poured out tea. "You will realise that, too, if you stay at Coraton." Peter chuckled as he buttered a scone.

"You'll have to use a club to get rid of me. And this time yesterday I was eating a war bun and drinking warm ditch water."

It pleased Derek to see how Peter enjoyed the good things. By the time they had finished the sun was out and Derek suggested a walk round the farm.

"Rather!" said Peter, and off they went. Three hundred acres takes a deal of walking over, and it was two hours before they got back to the house. Derek pulled up.

"Looks better now the sun is out, doesn't it?" he said rather wistfully.

"A lot," Peter agreed. He gazed at his friend.

"What's up, old man?"

"Nothing," said Derek hastily.

"But there is. Listen! You've got a wonderful place. I know enough of land to see that this farm is in fine fettle. It's lovely country, good air, you're practically out of the war and I know it's the sort of life you've always longed for. But I know you, too, and, instead of jumping for joy, you're in the dumps. Own up! Isn't there money to run the show?"

"Enough," Derek answered hastily.

"Is your leg bothering you?"

"No. I shall always be a bit lame, but I get about all right." Peter frowned.

"You're not in love?" he growled. Derek's laugh destroyed all Peter's doubts on this point.

"Come into the house," Derek said, "and I'll try to explain."


CHAPTER IV.
Noise in the Night

IN the sitting room Peter lighted his pipe and Derek a cigarette. Derek gazed into the smouldering peats and Peter, knowing his friend, kept silence. Presently Derek spoke.

"Peter, does the house feel all right to you?"

"At first I thought it a bit gloomy," Peter answered frankly, "but then the cloud was right on top of it. Now the sun's out I don't see anything wrong."

"It isn't a matter of seeing, Peter. It's feeling. And it isn't the outside. It's the inside." Peter's red eyebrows rose. He pursed his lips.

"I'd forgotten you are psychic. I'm not. So I don't sense anything. What's the trouble exactly?"

"It's not easy to tell you. The first minute I came into this house about a fortnight ago I felt depressed. The atmosphere is wrong. Someone—possibly more than one person—has suffered horribly and left their unhappiness behind. Trouble is, I know nothing of my great-uncle's history except what I have told you. I tried to sound Mrs. Farrell, but got nothing. She won't talk, nor will her son, and neither of them likes me."

"How do you know that? Aren't they civil?"

"Perfectly. I couldn't ask for better service. But I always know when anyone likes or dislikes me."

"Y-yes. I believe you do. And of course it's hell for you, living with people who don't like you. Can't—can't you sack them?" Derek shook his head.

"I've no excuse. Besides, Alfred Farrell knows the farm and I don't. I should be in a sweet mess without him." Peter was thoughtfully silent. His pipe had gone out; he lit it again then spoke:

"You'll have to stick it for a bit, old man. With me here you'll have someone to talk to. Between us we'll pick up the threads and I'll bet we'll manage to clear up the trouble."

"You've done me no end of good already," said Derek gratefully. "All right We'll hang and rattle." He glanced at the clock. "Supper in ten minutes. We don't dress," he added with a grin.

For supper there was a chicken with new potatoes, green peas and a gooseberry tart with real custard. They drank excellent cider.

"I haven't had such a meal for three years," said Peter with unusual emphasis.

"All off the place," Derek told him. "Now for a pipe and to bed early, I have to be up at six. We're singling turnips and then there are two fields of hay to devil. That storm won't have done it any good." But next day turned out hot and bright and Peter volunteered to drive the tedder. "I'm too soft for the singling," he told Derek.

Some people would have found it a terribly monotonous business, driving up and down a big field, tossing the hay with the tedder. But not Peter. He loved the hot sun on his back, the light breeze in his face, the cloud shadows sailing across the valley. At the end of the day he was tired and a bit sore, but he felt immensely well and magnificently hungry. After an excellent supper he and Derek sat and smoked and yarned over their Army experiences.

"I didn't think there was a place in England so remote from the war," Peter said. "I don't suppose a bomb has ever been heard here."

"You're wrong," Derek told him. "There's a crater in sight from our front door. It's up on the side of Glim Tor. I'll show it to you to-morrow." Peter shrugged.

"I've seen enough of 'em. London's in a heck of a mess. But Jerry seems to have plenty to waste. A man in the train told me that he'd found three craters in his uncle's deer forest up in the Monoleaths. Anyhow, it's heaven to sleep all night without being waked by those cursed sirens." Derek frowned.

"We don't always sleep so well down here," he remarked.

"What do you mean? You don't tell me you've got a family ghost?"

"I don't know what we've got, but there are some darned queer noises at night." Peter sat up straight.

"I've an open mind on the subject of ghosts, Derek, but if you're going to tell me that you hear clanking chains or rattling bones then I'm prepared to assert you were having bad dreams. My mother once saw a ghost, but it was a shadowy thing and she said she could see right through it. Ghosts may be visible but not audible."

"What about poltergeists? There are hundreds of well authenticated cases. They've been known to wreck a whole house and make row enough to bring in the neighbors."

Peter grunted.

"Can't say I know much about 'em. What are the noises here?"

"If you stay here long enough you'll hear them. At first I thought they were made by burglars, but there was no sign of anyone breaking in and nothing was stolen."

"Farrells moving about," Peter suggested.

"What for? They work hard all day."

"Trying to scare you out?"

"They'd hardly be fools enough for that. Besides, what good would it do them? I pay them well and Mrs. Farrell has been here since she married."

"Yet you feel she hates you." Derek frowned.

"Of that I have no doubt whatever, but for the life of me I can't see why."

"Perhaps she thought the old man would leave the place to her and her son," Peter suggested.

"That has occurred to me," Derek confessed, "But every search was made for a will and his lawyers, Hedges and Hobday, say that they have no knowledge of his ever making one." Peter shrugged.

"It's a rum business." He got up. "I'm for bed. I can hardly keep my eyes open. It'll take more than ghostly footsteps to rouse me to-night."

He was right. What roused him was a crash that brought him out of bed in one jump, under the impression that he was back in London and that a bomb had fallen.


CHAPTER V.
No Explanations

IN the passage Peter met Derek, also in pyjamas, carrying a torch, His lips were tight set and there was unusual anger in his eyes.

"You're not telling me that was a ghost," Peter said. "It sounded more like a bomb."

"It was a gun fired outside the house," Derek said curtly. "I'm going out to see."

"So as to give the sportsman a chance of filling you with buck shot. Don't be an ass, Derek."

"I must find out what it is. I'm sick of being turned out of bed every other night."

"Well, get your own gun and find me a torch. Two will have a better chance than one."

"Gun's in my office," Derek said, and hurried downstairs. Below they met Alfred Farrell, a powerfully built man of thirty.

"So you heard it this time?" Derek said sharply.

"Everyone must have heard it," said Farrell in a flat voice, "it sounded like a gun."

"A poacher," Peter suggested.

"No poacher in his senses would fire a gun close to a house. Besides there's no moon, so he could not see to shoot."

"The fellow might be trying to get you outside," said Peter. "Waiting to bat you over the head."

"Who'd be fool enough to try a stunt like that?" snapped Derek as he loaded the twelve-bore.

"I don't know unless it was the missing heir," replied Peter as he unbolted the front door and flashed his torch.

The night was perfectly still. The only sound was the tinkle of the brook. The three searched the whole place and found nothing. When they came back to the house Derek was grimly silent. Farrell went back to his room. Derek got out a bottle and glasses.

"Better have a drink, Peter."

"Thanks," said Peter. His red eyebrows rose as he looked at the bottle. "Pre-war Scotch, This is a treat." He drank and set down his glass. "Ever had this sort of thing before, Derek?"

"Not shooting. But some queer noise has brought me up about every other night."

"And all the night long there was rattling of bones, all along, out along, down along lea," Peter quoted. Derek smiled faintly.

"No, not bones or chains. Usually a queer humming sound Sometimes it makes the whole house vibrate. I've searched every room but found nothing to account for it. It's getting me down, Peter."

"Obviously that's what it is meant for," replied Peter, "the more so as you're a bit high-strung, My advice is to sit tight. Noises can't hurt anyone. And I'll back you all I can."

"You can't think what a comfort it is to have you here," said Derek with unusual earnestness. "I'm free to admit I was getting windy." Peter laughed.

"What—after Dunkirk! Get to bed again, old son. We re going to be busy to-morrow."

The rest of the night was peaceful and another day of brilliant sun was good both for the last of the hay and for their spirits.

"Market day to-morrow," said Derek as they sat down to supper that night. "Will you come, Peter?"

"Not unless you want me. I'll be glad of a quiet day. I have some letters to write and in the evening I might try for a trout in your brook. I see you have a rod."

"And flies, but the casts are old. You'll have to soak and test them."

"I'll manage," said Peter.

For the rest of the evening he kept talk away from Derek's troubles, and that night passed without disturbance.


CHAPTER VI.
Jerry Takes a Toll

THE back of Derek's little car was piled with baskets of eggs and early strawberries, and in a trailer he had new potatoes, lettuces and other greenstuff. Prices were so high and transport so difficult that he carried all he could. Coraton, lying in a valley sheltered from cold winds, produced early crops. Derek was making money, and saw prospect of doing even better in the future.

He had always loved the land, so much so that his father, a Nigerian Commissioner, had allowed him to go to Yearsett Agricultural College straight from school. He had spent two happy years there, working hard on soil chemistry and modern crop production before his course was cut short by the sudden death of his mother and father, both killed in a moment by lightning in one of those fierce tropical storms which scourge West Africa. There was no money left. Derek had no near relations. If the war had not come just then he would have been obliged to take work as a gardener or agricultural laborer.

With his big load and trailer Derek had to drive slowly and carefully over the rough hilly road. It was still fine, but not so bright as the past two days. Great fluffy cumulus clouds drifted slowly out of the south-west. A solitary Spitfire came in high overhead, making in the direction of Exeter. There was hardly any traffic until Derek reached the main road. The town was full. Queues stood outside the confectioners and fishmongers. Derek parked his car in the market square and went about his business.

There was no difficulty in finding customers. All he had was snapped up at once. A dealer named Purvis, whom he knew slightly, buttonholed him and asked if he had any rabbits. The price he offered surprised Derek. Derek told him there were a good many on his land, but he had no time or men to trap them.

"I'll find a trapper," said Purvis. He glanced up at the big clock on the church tower. "It's nearly one," he went on. "Come and have dinner with me at the Feathers. We'll talk it over." Purvis was a big, bluff, genial fellow, and Derek accepted his invitation. The two left the market and were on their way up Brook-street to the famous old Prince of Wales's Feathers when the air vibrated to the harsh scream of the siren. At once the crowds dispersed for shelter. Some ran, but most moved quietly into the many narrow yards and alleys which ran off on both sides of the street. Derek and Purvis had no refuge near. They faced up against the nearest wall. Before the siren had ceased sounding there came a rapid cackle of machine guns then a thunderous crash, followed almost instantly by a second much louder and nearer. Derek held his breath. When was the third coming?

There was no third.

"There her goes!" shouted a man on the other side of the street. "There bain't but one on 'em."

"That last bomb was on the station or near it," said Purvis. "Reckon we might lend a hand."

Derek nodded, and the two hurried up the hill and turned into Tor-street. The station stood above the main part of the town.

"Yes, right on the station," Purvis went on, pointing to a cloud of dust and smoke barely three hundred yards ahead.

Men were running. Derek could not run, yet made good speed, and Purvis stayed beside him.

"Hell, they got a train!" Purvis said sharply. A train had been standing in the station. The bomb had not hit it. It had struck the station building on the far side of the line and brought down the wreckage across the rails and the train. Smoke was rising ominously but already men were running hose from a static tank close by. Home Guards were keeping back the crowd.

Purvis was a Home Guard. They let him through.

"I'm an old soldier—Dunkirk," Derek told the sergeant, and he, too, was allowed to pass. The sergeant knew his job. His orders came quick and sharp. Picks and spades appeared as if by magic, and every man allowed inside the cordon was put to his job.

The locomotive, which was only partly covered, was released and hauled away. The tender, which was afire, was drenched with water. The driver and firemen, both hurt, were carried off. Two carriages were smothered under beams and masonry, Derek worked alongside Purvis. It was not his first experience of the kind, he knew what to do; so, too, did Purvis. Between them they tunnelled towards the first carriage and, with the help of a couple of sturdy farm laborers, at last reached it.

It was flat on its side, but the roof was still sound.

Derek was dripping with sweat when at last he and his companions reached the door of the carriage. Timbers arched overhead, but they managed to wrench open the door. Two men, a farmer and a commercial traveller, refused to come out until the women were removed.

First came the dead woman. She was about fifty, stout, dark, foreign looking. She had no outward signs of injury. The second was a girl also dark but slim with clean-cut features and a lovely skin. She had a head wound. The two were passed out through the tunnel.

Derek straightened his bent back and wiped the sweat that was streaming into his eyes. There was a cracking sound overhead.

"Look out!" cried Purvis.

It was too late. A broken timber struck Derek's skull, and he went flat.


CHAPTER VII.
Lost Lady

DEREK woke to find himself in bed in a strange room. He had a bandage round his forehead and a bit of a headache. Otherwise there did not seem to be much wrong with him. It took a minute or two to collect his senses and remember what had happened. Then it all flashed before him, clear as a photograph.

"That girl!" he exclaimed.

"The girl is here to the hospital." A man with thick grey hair and keen but kindly eyes rose from a chair by the bedside, and Derek recognised him as Dr. Pugh. "How do you feel, Mr. Martyn?"

"Not much the matter with me," replied Derek.

"You're lucky," said the doctor. "Or perhaps I should say fit. You had a bad blow on the back of the head, you have been out for nearly an hour, and most men would have been feeling very poorly."

"Farm work keeps one fit, and I have a thick skull," Derek smiled. "But tell me about the girl."

"Like you, she had a blow on the head, but a worse one than yours. She is still insensible."

"Will she recover?"

"I hope so, but I should like to get into touch with her people."

"Can't you?"

"We have no means of identifying her."

"Didn't she have a handbag?"

"Yes, but no name or address in it. Just a purse, a handkerchief, powder compact and her ticket.

"Where was she going—Plymouth?"

"No. She was coming here. She had a single from Waterloo to Taverton."

"Then she will have relatives here."

"I hope so. I have rung up the police station to ask them to make inquiries—you are interested in her?" the doctor added with a smile.

"Naturally," Derek answered frankly. "What about the dead woman?"

"We have not identified her either. She is foreign, either Italian or Spanish."

"The girl looked a bit foreign."

"Yes, but we have no proof that the two had anything to do with one another. I asked the men, but they only got in at Okehampton. They say that the elder woman was then asleep and that she remained asleep during the short run to Taverton. Indeed she was asleep when the bomb fell."

"You may find something in their luggage," Derek persisted.

"We have to reach it. The luggage van was next the engine and completely buried." He paused. "Now drink this and go to sleep, and don't worry your head about the injured girl, or anything else."

"But I want to go home," returned Derek.

"Not to-day," said the doctor with decision.

"But Peter—my friend, Peter Plews, will be anxious."

"No. I have already sent word to him by your neighbor, Isaac Setters. Now sleep."

"You seem to have thought of everything. All right," said Derek and lay back, and closed his eyes. The doctor watched him for a few moments.

"The right sort," he said to himself as he closed the door softly.

Derek slept till seven, when he was roused by a nurse with a tray.

"Supper," she said smilingly "Feel like it?"

"You bet," grinned Derek, who was feeling much refreshed. "How is the girl?" he inquired.

"Still insensible. She had a bad knock. But don't worry about her, Mr. Martyn. The doctor feels sure the will come round." She left him and Derek ate the well cooked little meal and presently was asleep again.

Next morning his headache had gone, and when the nurse came in with his breakfast he told her he felt as good as new. The doctor looked him over and agreed that he might go out, and once more Derek inquired about the girl.

"She has come round," Dr. Pugh told him, "and her condition is fairly good. But there is a fresh complication. She cant give her name or any account of herself. I am afraid she has lost her memory."

Derek's eyes widened.

"But won't it come back?"

"It may or it may not. I don't know yet whether the cause is shock or an injury to the brain itself. Fact is we doctors know very little about these cases of amnesia. I remember a case in which a sailor fell down a hatchway and fractured his skull. He recovered completely, but had entirely lost all memory of the three days preceding his accident, which was distinctly awkward because he had been married during that period."

"But this girl has lost all her memory?" Derek queried.

"No. She has not lost power of speech, nor her nice manners, nor apparently powers of reading and writing. It is what you might call her personal memory that has gone."

"It's a bad show," said Derek gravely, "The one hope is that we may find something in her luggage, which will tell us who she is."

"That is our best hope," Pugh agreed. "Now I must say goodbye and get on with my job. Take care of yourself and go slow for a day or two. By the bye, your car is outside. I 'phoned the garage to send it up."

"You think of everything," said Derek gratefully. "I'll be in next Wednesday, and hope I'll get better news of the girl."

It was a heavenly morning, the little car ran well, and Derek enjoyed the drive. Peter was waiting for him at the door.

"You old ass," he said affectionately. "Trying to qualify for a George Medal. How's the head?"

"Nearly as hard as yours. Any noises last night?"

"Not that I heard. All the same I'm glad to have you back. Mrs. Farrell is all right as a cook, but as a talker she is C3. I was quite pleased when old Prance came up and gave me the chance to use my tongue. He was after the rod you promised him, but too polite to say so. I told him to come again to-day."

Peter paused. "I will take the car round," he added. "You get into the house. I want to hear about the happenings yesterday in Taverton."

Luncheon was ready before Derek had finished his yarn, and after that meal had been served by the silent Mrs. Farrell, Derek took a short walk around the farm and, finding to his disgust that he was still a bit shaky, returned to the house and busied himself with accounts.

Presently, happening to glance up, he saw through the window the sturdy frame of Prance coming slowly up the drive. Closing the desk he went to meet the old man.


CHAPTER VIII.
No Love Lost

"WHAT be matter, Mister?" asked Prance, glancing at the bandage around Derek's head.

"Bumped it on a beam," replied Derek, who did not want to have to explain the whole adventure to the deaf old man. "Come in," he added cordially. "Come in and I'll show you the rod." Prance followed him into the living room, and Derek poured out a tot of whisky.

The old man's eyes glowed as he lifted the glass.

"Luck to 'ee, Mister, and dang all they as hates 'ee." Derek raised his eyebrows.

"Hate me," he repeated "Tell me, Prance, do you know anyone who hates me?"

Prance glanced at the door to be sure it was closed, then stepped close to Derek and spoke in a hoarse whisper. "I surely do, and they bain't a long way off neither."

Derek looked sharply at the face of his visitor. He put his lips close to the old man's ears.

"You mean the Farrells," he said.

"Where be they?" Prance asked cautiously. Derek reassured him.

"Wherever they are they can't overhear us in this room, not even if they were listening at the door."

"Reckon I've said enough anyway," said Prance, uncomfortably.

"You are only confirming my own suspicions," Derek said frankly. "Have a drop more, it's pre-war." He filled the old man's glass again, and while he drank, got up and fetched the rod from the corner.

"Its old," he said, "but still sound."

Prance took the three joints out of their canvas case and examined them carefully. "It be a sight better than Granfer," he admitted, "it be mighty kind of 'ee, Mister."

"You're welcome to it, Prance. I hope you'll live to catch many good dishes with it. Tell me, Prance, did you know my great uncle?"

"I worked for 'ee, forty year agone, afore they dratted Farrells came here."

"Then you knew his wife?"

"Aye, I knowed un well. Her were a proper lady. Her died when the boy were born, and that were a poor job for all on 'em."

"You mean it upset my great uncle?"

"Changed un so no one 'ud know un. But it were worse for the lad. Seemed like his father turned against him."

"So old Nicholas and young Nicholas didn't get on!"

"You be right, mister. The old man were hard on the lad."

"What sort of a boy was he?" Derek asked.

"Weren't nothing wrong with un, but he as growed older he got kind of soured."

"When did the Farrells come?"

"They came just after Mrs. Martyn died."

The old man paused and scowled, "And they din't help things, neither. Mrs. Farrell were always carrying tales about young Nicholas to his dad."

"So he and his father quarrelled?"

"They was always at odds. End was, as young Nicholas run for it."

"Where did he go?"

"Furrin parts. They do say he be dead."

Derek was silent for a moment. "From what you tell me, Prance, it looks as if the Farrells drove him out."

"They surely did." Prance leaned nearer to Derek. "I'll tell 'ee summat else, Mister. It were this here farm as they was after and I be reckoning they're after her still. Watch em, Mister," he ended, "they don't mean 'ee no good."


CHAPTER IX.
Paper Boats

ONLY the tinies were rising. Peter Plews had carefully unhooked at least a dozen six-inch trout and restored them to the water. But Peter was not discouraged. Down here in the valley there was no wind and the water was clear as gin, higher up there might be a breeze, so he pushed on hopefully.

His patience was rewarded. As he passed out of the top of the top of the Coraton property and reached the open moor a waft from the west cooled his heated face and crisped the surface of a narrow pool. Doubled down behind a boulder, Peter cast up stream and as his tail fly lit like a feather on the edge of the stickle, it was instantly seized. A couple of minutes later Peter had a crimson spotted beauty of nearly half a pound in his net. He killed it and dropped it into the fresh bracken which lined his creel.

The breeze was freshening. Peter tingled with delight. Now for an hour or two of real sport. He took a quarter-pound fish in the next pool and was getting into position for a cast in a deep little pothole above when he saw a small white object swimming slowly under the bank. He stared. It was a child's boat made out of folded paper.

Peter was annoyed. This meant there was a party picnicking upstream. That would put paid to his sport. He got up the bank and looked, but there was nothing living in sight except a couple of moor ponies and a pair of curlew wheeling overhead. Peter frowned.

"They must be a long way up," he said to himself, and went back to the pool.

To his surprise there was a second paper boat drifting on the surface. The first was now quite near him. Instead of casting he used his net to secure the tiny thing.

It was made of ruled paper apparently from a note hook. He unfolded it and saw there was writing on it in pencil. And, despite the water, this was still legible.

"Sprained ankle. Glad of help. George Stanbury." Peter frowned.

"And who the devil is George Stanbury?" he asked.

He came up the bank, planted the spear of his rod in the peaty soil, left his creel with it, and strode off upstream. He had walked nearly a mile before he caught sight of another rod planted upright on the bank, and as he neared it saw a man sitting on a boulder with one bare foot dangling in the water.

"Hulloa!" he shouted, and the other turned his head and waved.

"So it worked," he remarked.

"Yes, I got your message," Peter told him. "The boats survived all right. What's the damage?"

"Not too good," answered the fisherman as he lifted his foot out of the water, and showed a badly puffed ankle which was already going blue. "I had hooked a fish and was walking backwards when a stone turned under my foot and—that's the result. And I'm afraid I'm pretty helpless."

Peter gazed at the stranger. He was fiftyish, plump, grey-haired, with a round face and nice blue-grey eyes. A solid, reliable sort, and Peter took to him at once.

"Where do you live, Mr. Stanbury?"

"Taverton. I cycled out and left my bike at Colyton Farm." Peter took off his ancient felt hat and ran his fingers through his red hair.

"Nearly three miles and no road," he said. "How in sin am I to get you there?"

"You can't, and if you did it wouldn't be any good. There's no one at home."

"Where's the nearest road?" Peter asked. Stanbury pointed.

"Nearly two miles," he answered.

"I can't carry you that far." Stanbury chuckled.

"I probably weigh more than you. Twelve stone two was the last record." Peter looked thoughtful.

"There's no getting any wheeled vehicle up here. What about a pony? We've got one at Coraton."

"Oh! You are Mr. Martyn's friend."

"That's me, My name is Plews and I'm living with Martyn. Can you ride?"

"I used to—anyhow, I can stick on."

"Right. She's fat and she's quiet but it will take me the best part of an hour to fetch her. Can you stick it?"

"Of course I can stick it, but it's a shame to spoil your fishing."

"Don't worry about that," said Peter with his cheerful grin. "I live on the river. And see here. Not too much of that cold water. Here, I'll make you comfortable before I go."

Peter took off his coat, rolled it up and made a pad of it, then he helped Stanbury off his rather uncomfortable perch and made him lie flat on the grass with the coat as pillow. "All right?" he asked.

"Right as rain," declared Stanbury cheerfully and watched Peter as he started down stream at a good five miles an hour.


CHAPTER X.
Summer Lightning

DEREK was just leaving the house as Peter came striding up. He stopped.

"You look all hot and bothered, Peter. What's the trouble?"

"One stout gentleman with a busted ankle, flat on his back two miles up the Merry Brook. Name of Stanbury. Comes from Taverton."

"Stanbury?" repeated Derek. "He's the local lawyer and clerk to the district council. And, as you say, he's no light weight." He paused. "We might get a farm cart up there but it would take an hour."

"He says he can ride," said Peter. "My idea is to saddle Prim, ride her up these and bring him down on her back." Derek nodded.

"Right you are. I'll come along. One of us will have to lead the pony and the other watch Stanbury to see he doesn't fall off. It's rough going and he won't be able to use a stirrup." He turned towards the stable, then stopped. "Bring some bandages, Peter, and a flask of whisk. You know where to find them."

It was a very grateful man whom Derek and Peter brought back to Coraton about an hour later.

"I don't mind telling you I was scared," he said to Derek, after he had been established on a sofa in the sitting-room. "I'm not so young as I was, and I doubt I'd have lasted out a night in the open."

"Don't think of it," advised Derek. "Tea's coming. That's a much pleasanter subject to dwell on."

"It's a subject to which I am ready to give my fullest attention," Stanbury answered with a fat chuckle.

During tea Stanbury questioned Derek about the raid, and Derek told him of the girl.

"I only hope they have found out who she is," he said. "It would be unthinkable if she had to come under Public Assistance."

"I know Pugh well," Stanbury said. "I'll see him when I get back and let you know how things go." He paused and pursed his lips. "That reminds me, how the deuce am I going to get back?"

"You can't go to-night," Derek told him. "You must stay here."

"Nothing I'd like better, but my poor missus will think that I am drowned." Derek looked thoughtful.

"I've got a car," he began, but Stanbury held up his hand.

"We don't talk of cars in wartime. I know you need every drop of petrol for your business. Is there a boy about the place who would ride your pony in and take a note." Peter cut in:

"Nary a boy, Mister, but I got a notion. What about that velocipede of yours?"

"It's up at Colyton Farm, more than a mile from here."

"Never mind, I've got two legs, and I used to be something of an expert on a bike. I'll get the machine, ride into Taverton and be back for supper." Stanbury was overcome with gratitude.

"But, my dear fellow, think of those hills and—" he hesitated—"aren't you something of an invalid?"

"I'll survive," said Peter, "They say the beer at the Feathers is almost pre-war." Grinning, he got up, took his cap, and was off.

Peter had no difficulty in finding the bicycle, which was a very fine machine. He adjusted the saddle to his long legs and then pedalled off. He had to walk all the way up the two-mile hill out of Clint Valley, but after that the going was easy, and he reached Taverton without incident.

Mrs. Stanbury, who was as plump and pleasant as her spouse, took his news without undue alarm and insisted on providing Peter with beer better than he had tasted for many months. Then, as the hour grew late, Peter pushed off for home. It was a warm evening and Peter, who had been on foot most of the afternoon, had had quite enough by the time he reached the height of land. Then he mounted again for the long run down into the Valley of the Clint.

It was later than he thought. The sun had set and a light haze covered the valley. To the north big, soft, cumulus clouds had risen and summer lightning flickered occasionally in their depths; the slope was steep, the road rough, and Peter kept the brake well down and travelled at a moderate pace.

Half way down the hill, and just where the pitch was steepest the granite quarries lay to the left. The spoil heap bordered the road for a distance of some 200 yards. This was 30 or 40 feet high and steep almost as a cliff. Between it and the road was a low retaining wall roughly built of large blocks of stone. Peter had noticed this on the way up and, being by profession an engineer, had thought that the stuff was piled at a rather dangerous angle. Also that the retaining wall was too low.

Now, as he came gliding past, an ominous rumble broke the stillness of the warm twilight. Most men, in Peter's place, would have released the brake and sprinted forward. Peter, aware that a slide might bring the whole monstrous mass down over the road, checked instantly, swung to the right, got off and, leaving his machine, scrambled up the four-foot bank and awaited developments.

In the dim light he saw a great mass of loose stone rolling down, then came a broad glow of sheet lightning, and in its pale glare the figure of a man was plainly visible for an instant on top of the spoil heap, outlined against the luminous cloud.

Peter's lips tightened.

"So it was no accident," he muttered. "But who the devil would play a trick like that?"

He waited. A few tons of rock rolled to the bottom and struck the wall, but the main mass remained firm. Peter lay low, but it was some time before there was another flash and, when it did come, there was no sign of his secret enemy.

Peter was puzzled. There was something he did not understand about this futile attack. An idea occurred to him and he crept away down the far side of the bank. Ah, here it was, a peg and a wire attached to it. And that wire stretched right across the road. Now he had it. The falling stones were meant to scare him into a sprint. The wire would have done the rest, and he would have been lucky to escape with his life. He would certainly have been a hospital case. He frowned, then chuckled.

"The blighter can't afford to leave this wire across the road. Presently he will come to lift it." Peter licked his lips at the prospect of getting his own back.


CHAPTER XI.
It Wasn't Farewell

MINUTES passed. Bats flitted soundlessly overhead; in the distance a late curlew uttered its melancholy cry; for the rest the stillness was unbroken.

"The fellow knows I'm waiting," Peter said to himself. "Never mind! The night's warm and I have as much patience as he. All I hope is that some cyclist doesn't come along. If he does I shall have to warn him." And just then he heard the beat of a motor engine. It was a lorry. He could swear to that long before he could see it, and presently it came rumbling rapidly down the hill and Peter drew back as the wire snapped with a slight twang.

"Of all the luck!" he growled, but any hope of discovering the identity of his enemy being at an end, he got up, mounted his machine and rode off homewards.

Derek, who had been out on some farm business, met him outside the house.

"You're late, old man," was his greeting. "Hope you're not too fagged."

"Not fagged—angry! Listen!" He told Derek what had happened, and Derek whistled softly.

"You didn't recognise the man?"

"No. The lightning only showed an outline. Tell me, has Farrell been off the place?"

"I saw him half an hour ago. He came into the house for some liniment. That new bull of ours had cut himself. I helped him put the stuff on. But what grudge could the Farrells have against you?"

"That's easy. They resent my being here. They know I'm backing you."

"It might be," Derek agreed, "hang the luck! I wish I were quit of them."

"Don't worry. You and I are more than a match for them." He turned towards the house. "I hope you've left some supper for me. I could eat a horse."

"You won't get horse, but it's rabbit pie and that's not rationed. Come on in."

George Stanbury proved a cheery soul and Peter and Derek both were sorry when a taxi came next morning to take him home. Before he went he made them promise that they would come to see him in Taverton.

"And as for that girl you pulled out of the wreckage, Martyn. I'll ask Pugh about her and drop you a line."

The day was spent on various farm jobs. The more Peter saw of Coraton the better he liked it. The fine air, the quiet, the good food were doing him untold good. Often he found it hard to remember how stringently the hospital doctor had forbidden him from strenuous exertion. Even so there was plenty of work he could do without hurting himself, especially in the big vegetable garden.

The one thing that worried him was Derek's frame of mind. Derek, it was clear, loved the land but loathed the house. Every possible minute he spent outside, but often in the morning Peter saw that Derek had slept little or badly.

Peter put the whole thing down to the Farrells and hated them accordingly. The tie between himself and Derek was very strong, and anyone who troubled Derek was in Peter's black books.

That evening the two friends sat smoking after supper.

"I pumped Stanbury," Derek said. "Prance's story seems to be true. The old man and his son were always at odds. Everyone knew it. In the end the boy got fed up and bolted. Whether the Farrells had anything to do with it, that Stanbury did not know."

"The Farrells," he went on, "came to Coraton just after Nicholas's wife died. Farrell was killed some three years later by the kick of a horse. After young Nicholas disappeared the old man became very much a hermit. He hardly ever visited Taverton, and never called on any of his neighbors. But he farmed well and carefully, and Stanbury declares that he must have made far more money than he spent. Stanbury asked me if he left much.

"I told him only a couple of thousand, and he was surprised. He did not know anything about a will, but that is only natural, for Nicholas would have employed his London lawyers."

"But they told you there was no will," Peter put in.

"That's true, I'll admit that the whole business has me guessing." There was silence for a minute, then Peter spoke.

"Only two thousand," he remarked thoughtfully.

"That was all," Derek told him. "It didn't do much more than pay the probate duties and left me no cash to carry on with. I've had to go to the bank."

Peter frowned thoughtfully. "It sounds to me as if the old man turned miser as well as hermit. Isn't it on the cards that he buried his cash and that it's the money the Farrells are looking for?" Derek shrugged.

"A bit far-fetched. Peter: It's much more likely that he would keep his spare cash in the bank."

Peter persisted. "But the Farrells—it's perfectly plain they want to get rid of you. Me, too, for that matter. Last night's show proved that." Derek looked distressed.

"You really think that was Farrell's work?" he asked.

"My dear chap—its as plain as the nose on your face. Who else has any motive for getting rid of me?" Derek raised his head, and Peter saw that he was seriously troubled.

"You'll have to clear out, Peter. I can't have you running risks on my account." Peter scowled.

"Don't be a silly ass. Nothing short of dynamite would clear me out of Coraton, so put that in your pipe and smoke it." Derek's sensitive lips twitched slightly.

"I suppose I knew you would say that."

"If you didn't you ought to." Peter glanced at the clock. "Time to turn in," he said. "And let's hope we have a quiet night."


CHAPTER XII.
Fog-Bound

THE night was quiet, and so were the next two; then came Wednesday and Derek drove to market. He left the car in the square and walked up to the hospital. He met Dr. Pugh at the door. The two shook hands.

"How's the girl?" Peter asked.

"Physically she has made a wonderful recovery," the doctor told him, "but her memory is a complete blank."

"And you've found nothing to establish her identity?"

"Nothing at all. The luggage van was next the engine and was completely burnt out." He paused, then continued, "You can see her if you like."

Mrs. Kitson, the matron, took him up. He found the girl sitting up in bed. Derek stared at her. He could not help it. That day when he had pulled her out of the wreck he had seen that she was young and pretty, but then her eyes had been closed and her face disfigured with dust and grime.

Now her eyes were wide and brilliant, there was color in her cheeks, and the white bandage which hid most of her dark hair was rather becoming than otherwise. She was not merely pretty, she was lovely. So at least Derek thought. Smiling, she held out her hand.

"You are Mr. Martyn," she spoke with a slight foreign accent, but her voice was clear as a bell. Derek pulled himself together.

"I am. And you, Dr. Pugh tells me that you have not yet remembered your name." Her face clouded.

"I can't remember anything, Mr. Martyn—who I am or where I came from, or why I came here."

"Don't worry. Your memory will come back just as suddenly as it was lost."

"I do hope so," she answered earnestly, "It's dreadful to be nobody."

"That is the last thing anyone would ever say of you. But tell me, how do you feel? You look wonderfully well."

"I am well. Nothing but a little headache. It seems absurd that so small an injury should have such a result. But you? I am told that you pulled me out just in time and were hurt yourself." Derek smiled.

"You can see for yourself that there is not much the matter with me."

"I am glad. I have been wanting to tell you how grateful I am."

"You needn't. I was only one of a crowd. It was just chance I reached you first."

"That's what you would say, but I'm going to be grateful just the same." Derek laughed.

"I don't think there's much the matter with you, young lady. Anyhow you haven't forgotten how to talk."

"You really think I shall remember?"

"I do," said Derek with conviction. "And If I could help you to do so I'd be prouder than of pulling you out of the train."

She gazed at him, and Derek suddenly realised that her eyes were not black but a dark, and beautiful blue.

"I think you will," she said slowly. "Somehow I feel sure you will." She paused. "You will come and see me again?"

"Of course," Derek answered; then the matron came in.

"Your time is up, Mr. Martyn." Derek turned with a smile.

"I don't think I've done her any harm, Mrs. Kitson."

"He's done me good—lots of good," the girl declared as she gave him her hand again.

Derek walked down to the market in a slightly dazed condition and surprised two of his acquaintances by ignoring their friendly greetings.

It was late before he had finished his business and twilight was falling as he drove up the long hill out of the town. The air had turned chilly and Derek saw with some dismay that fog was settling over the high tors. Then just as he reached the height of land the car sagged to the left and Derek realised that a back tyre was punctured.

The delay was fatal. By the time he had changed the wheel the fog was drifting past in thick grey veils. For a while he crept on down the hill at walking pace but presently the smother became so complete that he could not see a car length in front.

Deciding that discretion was preferable to accident he ran the car off the road on to a bit of level moor, locked her up, and proceeded afoot. Even afoot it was not too easy to keep to the road, and he was relieved when he saw looming up to the left the big spoil heap of the granite quarries.

Low voices came to him through the fog. He pulled up short. Two men were coming up the steep path from the quarry buildings. Suddenly he recognised the voice of Alfred Farrell.

"Don't worry, Joe." Farrell's tone held a sneer which was new to Derek. "Don't worry. There are more ways than one of killing a cat."


CHAPTER XIII.
Farrell Is Frightened

DEREK stood quite still. He hardly breathed. The men were so close he felt sure they must see him. But they turned into the road without doing so.

"You talk a lot, but you don't do much," retorted the man called Joe.

"How can I do anything?" Farrell snapped. "Since that red-head came I never have a chance."

"You'll have to make one pretty soon. I want my money."

What Farrell said in reply Derek was unable to hear, the men were too far away, and he dared not follow. But what he had heard was plenty. It had removed from his mind any doubt that the Farrells were plotting against him and he was certain that the man called Joe was the one who had tried to kill or cripple Peter by means of the wire across the road.

He was suddenly angry, angrier than he had ever been in his life. He started forward quickly. He yearned to get this Joe by the neck and wring the truth out of him.

Second thoughts were wiser thoughts. What could he do alone against the two of them! He slackened his pace and waited until the sound of footsteps died in the distance. Then he plodded on home.

It was characteristic of him that he did not say a word to Peter until supper was over and there was no possible chance of being overheard. Then he told him of his encounter. Like all red-headed people, Peter had a hot temper. He flamed.

"You'll sack them at once," he exclaimed. Derek shook his head.

"Think again, Peter. If I sacked them they'd camp in the neighborhood and heaven knows what tricks they'd be up to. Surely, it's better to have them under my eyes and leave them under the impression that I have no suspicions." Peter pursed his lips.

"There's something in that," he admitted slowly. He paused, frowning.

"Who's this fellow, Joe?" he demanded sharply.

"I don't know. I didn't recognise his voice. He is probably employed at the quarry."

"He's the gent who tried to do me in the other night," said Peter grimly.

"Not much doubt of that, but we have no proof. It's proof I want, Peter, proof of what these people are up to. And the only way to get it is to watch them."

Peter put a fresh match to his pipe and smoked in silence for some moments. Then he broke out again. "The whole business beats me," he said. "If there had been a will surely to goodness the Farrells would have found it before you arrived. If the old man hid cash about the place, they ought to have found that too."

"Yet it's quite plain they are looking for something." Derek answered thoughtfully. "They've tried hard enough to scare me off the place and now they have tried to get rid of you." Again Peter considered before replying.

"Where does this fellow Joe come in? You heard him say that Farrell owed him money." Derek shook his head.

"I know just as much and just as little as you do. Now what about turning in?"

"Wait a minute," said Peter. "I want to hear about the girl. Did you see her?"

"I saw her and, Peter, she's charming. What's more she's very much of a gentlewoman."

"Has she got her memory back?" Peter inquired.

"No. It does seem to be the oddest thing that a person can lose her identity so completely from so slight an injury."

"What about her luggage?"

"Burnt. The van was next the engine and was completely destroyed."

"Weren't there any marks on her clothes?"

"No. The matron told me that everything she was wearing had been bought at the stores and was quite new."

"That looks as if she had been bombed out before coming here," Peter remarked shrewdly. He paused, then went on. "Yet her ticket was to Taverton. Then surely she must have relations or friends in the neighborhood."

"If so they haven't shown up. The police have made every inquiry."

Peter gazed at Derek. "Then what the mischief will become of her?" Derek frowned.

"That's what's worrying me, but whatever happens I'll see that she doesn't go into the Institution. I'd have her here, if only we had a decent housekeeper." Peter gave his friend a quick glance.

"Perhaps we could find her a job," he suggested. Derek's lips set firmly.

"If we can't I'm going to pay for her keep," he declared. Peter had no reply. He was startled, for this was the first time he had known his friend to take such interest in any young woman. He got up.

"I'm for bed," he remarked, "We've plenty to do to-morrow."

Derek followed him upstairs. He was tired with his long walk and knew he must be up early to fetch the car. Yet it was a long time before he could get to sleep. He was thinking of the girl and wondering where he could find the money to provide for her. It occurred to him that she might not be willing to be provided for. That was another problem he had to solve.

At last he dropped off, only to be aroused by a curious clanking sound. He sat up in bed, wondering whether it was real or if he had dreamed it. But in a couple of minutes it came again, then the door opened and here was Peter in his pyjamas with a candle in his hand.

"So you heard it, too," said Derek sharply.

"Anyone not stone deaf couldn't help hearing it. Sounds as if Tweedledum and Tweedledee had started operations in the back yard." Derek jumped out of bed and thrust his feet into slippers.

"If this is Farrells work I'll break his infernal rack," he declared.

But when they got downstairs the first person they saw was Alfred Farrell himself. He too, was in pyjamas and carried a heavy stick.

"This, is a new game to-night sir," he said to Derek. His face in the candlelight had a frightened expression, and Derek, who was convinced that Farrell and no one else was the culprit, marvelled at the man's acting. Derek, however, had no idea of allowing Farrell to think he suspected him.

"Have you any notion where the sound is coming from?" he asked, and, as he spoke, the same deep-toned clank came to their ears. Farrell shook his head.

"My mother and I think it comes from underground."

"So you've said before when these noises first began, but we've searched the cellars and there isn't a sign of anything wrong."

"I've just come from there," said Farrell. "There's not even a rat."

"I was a mining engineer before the war," said Peter, "and I don't believe in ghosts. Ill find the source of that noise before I'm much older." His eyes were on Farrell and he fancied the man winced slightly.


CHAPTER XIV.
Red at Night

"YOU'RE looking better, Derek," Peter remarked as the two sat together after supper on the following Tuesday.

"I am better," said Derek, "we have had a week of quiet nights." He chuckled. "Fact is, Peter, you have got Farrell scared."

"I hope so," said Peter grimly, "but I'll lay he'll be up to some new devilment before we're much older. Are you going to market to-morrow?" Derek nodded.

"I want to buy a couple of good rams, but money's infernally short. I need a new tractor, too. I'm ordered to break up another ten acres of grass, and the old one is just about finished."

"Pity we can't find your great-uncle's cash," said Peter.

There was a knock. Alfred Farrell came to quickly. "There's a glow up on Pixies Tor, Mr. Martyn. Looks as if the gorse was afire." Derek and Peter both jumped up.

"Call the men," Derek ordered. "Get wet sacks and bill hooks. Peter, you'd better stay here. It will be too strenuous for you."

"But I can make myself useful. I can dip the sacks." Derek knew remonstrance was useless. He hurried out and Peter followed. The night was fine and clear. There had been no rain for some days, and the gorse would be dangerously dry. Pixies Tor stood on the northern edge of Coraton. The boundary wall ran up its side and across its summit. Beyond was a farm called Narracoombe, which was owned by a man named Vandell. At the top of the gorse was a plantation of beech and larch.

"It's the gorse all right," said Derek anxiously as he and Peter hurried towards the red glow, which was rapidly spreading along the hill side. "I'd give something to know who set it afire."

"Will it do much harm?" Peter asked.

"It will ruin the rabbit warren, but the danger is it may get into that plantation. Then there's the blackout. If there are enemy planes within fifty miles they're bound to see the fire."

"I'd forgotten that side of it," Peter said. "Still, if they do drop anything it won't do much harm."

As the two came nearer to the Tor they could see flames rising straight into the windless air and hear the sharp crackle as the fire ate and bit through the thick gorse. It was an old covert and in some places the growth was six feet high.

"Is there any water near?" Peter asked.

"One little spring right up in the middle."

After that no more was said until they arrived at the scene of action. The fire had started at the lower edge of the covert and was working up the hill.

"Take a fire engine to put that out, Derek," said Peter. "Feel the heat!"

"You're right," Derek answered, "but we may be able to stop it. There's a ride cut through the middle. I did that for the rabbit shooting. The ride is covered with dry grass, but if we can wet that from the spring the fire won't spread. Luckily there is no wind." He pulled up short. "There's someone there already. A woman!"

"And busy, too," said Peter hurrying forward.

They found her in the open ride which cut the gorse from north to south. She had a bill hook and was working like a man, hacking back the gorse along the lower edge of the ride.

"Hurry," she called to them. "With any luck we can save the top and the spinney above."

Here was no Dartmoor voice. It was deep, rich, and resonant. In the red light Peter saw that she was young, tall, with a magnificent figure and a mane of tawny hair bound up under a colored scarf. She wore a short tweed skirt, a knitted jersey, and rubber boots He wondered greatly who she was.

There was no time to inquire. Here came Farrell with two of the men. They had hooks and wet sacks. The girl took charge.

"Better send two men up to the top, Mr. Martyn, in case the fire jumps the ride. At least if you want to save the plantation."

"You're right," Derek replied, "We don't want to lose those young trees. Farrell, take Gregory and make a fire break up at the top. Craik, you take a bill hook and give me one. Peter, you can soak the sacks. They'll be needed when the fire reaches the ride."

A puff of air, hot as from a furnace, scorched his cheek. The flames below them roared, The girl spoke:

"Hurry! If the wind gets up we'll never stop it!"

A wind was getting up. Only a light breeze but it blew from the south-west and fanned the fire to fresh fury. Smoke stung their eyes and clouds of sparks rose. The whole scene was light as day.

Peter found the water, a trickle which came from the upper gorse and soaked the sacks; Derek, Gregory and the girl hacked desperately at projecting bushes. The fire reached the south side of the ride. The grass caught. Peter began to beat it out. Suddenly he found the girl beside him.

"It's no use," she said. "Sparks have fired the top side. We'll have to clear out."

She caught him by the arm and turned towards the boundary wall, the smoke thicker than ever. Suddenly a red glow showed through the smother. It was dead in front of them. The girl stopped short.

"The fire has crossed the ride at both ends," she said. "Now we are in a fix!"


CHAPTER XV.
Refuge

"WHERE'S Derek?" Peter exclaimed.

"Here, just behind you," came Derek's voice. "We'll have to make a bolt for it straight ahead."

"We can do better than that," said the girl. "There's the adit. We'll be perfectly safe there."

"What adit?" Derek asked sharply.

"The old tin mine. Don't you know it? No, probably you don't, but I can show you. Follow me."

Calm and cool as if there was no fire within miles, she led the way into the upper gorse patch. Peter, Derek and old Craik followed. Dodging in and out among the thick prickly bushes she pushed on uphill and suddenly they found themselves in an open space about fifty paces long by thirty wide. In the middle was the mouth of a tunnel which seemed to run straight into the hill side. The entrance was no more than five feet high, the floor was muddy, but they wasted no time in getting inside. Peter flicked on his cigarette lighter.

"Nasty looking place," he said, and he was right. The walls and roof were heavily timbered, but most of the props had rotted with age and were covered with fungus growth. No more than twenty paces up, the adit was blocked with a mass of fallen stones and rubbish. The girl glanced at it.

"That fall is new since I was last here," she remarked. "Lucky for us it didn't close the entrance." Derek turned to Craik.

"Did you know of this place, Craik?"

"I knowed as there was a mine in this yer tor but I don't know as I ever seed un. Luckily for us as Miss Vernon knowed where 'twas."

"Extremely lucky," said Peter. "Look at the fire coming up both sides of us."

The breeze had freshened, the flames were leaping twenty feet into the air and the crackle and roar were terrifying. A blast of heated air swept the open space. Yet here in the tunnel the four were safe enough. Old Craik chuckled.

"Gregory, her'll think were burned up. And I owes un five bob," he added.

The flames were now all around the little glade and the noise so great that talking became difficult. Peter, leaning uncomfortably against the rough timbers, was wondering about the mysterious Miss Vernon and how she came to be so familiar with the surroundings. She was standing next him and spoke in his ear.

"Have you ever been in a tin mine before, Mr. Plews?" So she knew his name! This gave Peter a fresh but not unpleasant shock.

"I'm a mining engineer by profession," he told her, "but this is the first time I've been inside one of these old Devon tin mines. How came you to know it so well?"

"I've lived within a mile of it most of my life," she answered. Her voice had a bitter note which puzzled Peter. The worst of the fire was past and Derek heard the girl's words.

"Within a mile you say, Miss Vernon. But surely Narracoombe is the only house within that distance."

"Narracoombe happens to be my home," she answered, "and Mr. Vandell is my stepfather."

"That was what puzzled me," Derek said simply, "Your name being different. As you know, I have only been at Coraton for a few weeks and have not even met my nearest neighbor."

"You haven't missed much," replied Miss Vernon and now there was no doubt at all about the bitterness in her voice. It shocked Peter into an uncomfortable silence. Derek spoke again.

"Can't you take up war work, Miss Vernon?" She laughed harshly.

"War work," she repeated. "What a hope for a woman who is cook, dairymaid, poultry-keeper and farm hand!" It was Craik who explained.

"Muster Vandell, her works at the quarry. Miss Vernon, her runs the farm." Peter boiled over.

"It's too much for any woman," he exclaimed angrily. The girl laughed, but this time more naturally.

"Thank you for those kind words, Mr. Plews. I don't get many of them."

Derek moved to the entrance of the adit.

"The fire has passed. I think we can venture out."

"You'll have to wait a bit yet," said Miss Vernon. "The ground will be still nearly red hot." Derek took out his case and offered it to the girl.

"Do you smoke?" he asked.

"It isn't often I get a chance," she answered laughing again. Peter gave her a light and then filled his pipe and passed his pouch to Craik. Then lighting a match he turned to inspect the rock-fell.

"Be careful," said the girl quickly. "That roof is rotten.

"So I see," replied Peter. He stooped and picked up a small object from the fallen debris.

"Here's a relic," he said. His match burned out. Derek felt in his pocket and produced a small torch which he switched on. All four gazed at the thing Peter held.

"What be it?" asked old Craik, puzzled. Derek answered.

"It's one of those old-fashioned savings boxes children used to have thirty years ago. Made of pottery. You can put money in but you can't get it out without breaking the box." Peter shook it.

"No pennies in it now." He frowned. "It's a rum thing to find in a place like this," he said.

"It certainly is," Derek agreed. "Keep it, Peter, as a curiosity." Peter put it in his pocket and presently they were able to leave the adit. But Farrell and Gregory had not been able to save the plantation. The whole hillside was a blackened waste.


CHAPTER XVI.
Pounds for Pennies

"THAT'S a surprising young woman," Derek remarked as he and Peter walked back together.

"Surprising! She's a marvel," declared Peter. "She pulled us out of a nasty mess. Think of a girl like that being condemned to such a life, That stepfather of her's must be all kinds of a swine."

"He works at the quarry. Did you realise that, Peter?" said Derek.

"Holy smoke! Do you think he is Farrell's pal Joe?"

"It's on the cards," Derek allowed.

"Then I'll lay he set the fire," said Peter. "And I'll bet it was just to get us both off the place together."

"That's likely enough. All the same I don't quite see what the idea is."

"They're having another look for the will or for the old man's treasure." Derek shook his head.

"As I've said before, they had plenty of time to search before I came to Coraton. I don't believe in that will, Peter. If there ever was one my great-uncle destroyed it."

"I hope he did," grunted Peter. "Gosh, but I'm thirsty! is there any beer in the house?"

"Cider in plenty, and that's better for you," Derek told him as he opened the door of the house. A lamp was burning in the sitting room and a tray was set out with sandwiches, glasses, and a jug of cider.

"That woman knows her job," Peter remarked as he filled both glasses. "Gosh, but that's good," he declared as he drained the half-pint of home-made and helped himself to a sandwich. He glanced at the clock. "Nearly two. Time we went to bed, Derek."

"Just a minute old man. I'd like to have a look at that money-box."

Peter took it out of his pocket and handed it to Derek.

"Funny thing to find in that old mine," he said, "but if you're looking for treasure I'm afraid you'll be disappointed." Derek took up a table knife and poked it through the slot.

"There's something inside, Peter. It feels like paper."

"Paper," repeated Peter, "might be a letter—might even be Treasury notes. Crack it open, Derek. That's the only way."

Derek took it across to the fireplace and rapped it sharply on the hearthstone. It broke in pieces.

"You guessed right, Peter," said Derek, as he picked up the contents of the box and carried them back to the table. For once Peter was speechless. He could only stare at a quantity of banknotes, each folded separately and apparently all sound although somewhat crumpled and stained with mildew. Derek was equally startled but presently he picked one up and carefully smoothed it.

"A perfectly good fiver. Look at it, Peter."

Peter held the note to the light and examined it carefully. "I can't see anything the matter with it, but who the deuce could have hidden all this stuff in such a place?"

"I'm inclined to think it was great-uncle Nicholas. Wait! Here's a slip of paper."

The paper was a half sheet of old-fashioned shiny notepaper. Derek unfolded it carefully. On it was written in ink, "For Nick. He will know where to find it."

"I told you so, Peter," said Derek. Peter nodded. "Poor old devil," he said. "He came to be sorry he drove the boy away and started to save for him."

"That's just about the size of it," Derek agreed. "It seems to me that the old man was more sinned against than sinning. He must have been under the thumb of the Farrells." He turned to the notes lying on the table. "Help me count them, Peter."

Most of the notes were for five pounds but there were five for ten, and the total worked out at two hundred and eighty pounds.

Derek divided the money into two equal parts and pushed one across to Peter.

"Your share, old man," he said. Peter stiffened.

"Nothing doing," he said curtly. "The money was left to Nicholas junior and you are his heir. Even it if was mine I'd use it for the farm." He stopped and gave a short laugh. "I'll take a fiver—not for myself but for the girl. Then she can buy some cigarettes."

"I doubt she'll take it," Derek said. Peter frowned.

"No, perhaps not in cash, but she will in cigarettes. Get me some in Taverton. Are you going to-morrow?"

"To-day you mean. You bet I am. Nothing would keep me away. I'm looking forward to buying those rams and the tractor."

"Sure that's the only reason?" Peter asked with a grin. Derek flushed slightly, but he made no bones about answering.

"The girl, you mean. Yes, I shall certainly see her. And this money will make a difference. I can pay someone to look after her."

"I'll be interested to see her myself," Peter said quite seriously. "Now you'd better lock up the cash, Derek. I've had enough exercise for one day."

Derek put the notes in a drawer of his uncle's heavy old writing table and locked it. Peter had just lit two candles when there came the all too familiar crash.

"Bomb," snapped Derek. "It's that infernal fire." He ran for the front door and Peter followed. They were hardly outside before there came a second boom much louder and closer than the first. The night was lit by a huge flare of leaping flame which ran from the hill side behind the house.

"God! he's coming right over us!" whispered Peter. The two stood together, hardly breathing, wondering where the third bomb would fall.


CHAPTER XVII.
Gassed!

THERE was no third bomb. The harsh drone of the Hun passed almost directly overhead and slowly died away towards the south-east. Derek drew a long breath.

"I thought the next one would be square on the old house," he said.

"Would you have been sorry?" was Peter's unexpected question.

"Yes," replied Derek frankly, "I've no love for the house, but since you came, I haven't felt that infernal depression. And that find to-night cheered me. Not so much the money, but the knowledge that the old man didn't really hate his son. I'm beginning to think that, when we've cleared up all this mystery and got rid of the Farrells, I can be quite happy here."

"The sooner they go the better," said Peter gruffly. Derek shook his head.

"Not yet, Peter. I couldn't replace them during the war, and I have a strong feeling that it won't be long before we get to the bottom of things."

"I hope you're right," Peter turned and glanced back up the slope. "Wonder where that last one dropped. It wasn't far off."

"We'll see in the morning," said Derek, "I can hardly keep my eyes open."

It was Peter who roused Derek in the morning. "Not a drop of water coming into the house," he told him. "That cursed Hun must have busted up the leat."

Coraton, like many houses on or near the moor, had its water supply from a leat, an open channel leading from the Merry Brook. The leat curved along the hill side, and was about half a mile long. Derek jumped out of bed.

"Never mind! We can use the well until we get the leat mended." He pulled up the blind. "Raining," he remarked in a tone of disgust.

Overnight there had not been a cloud in the sky, but within the past few hours the wind had backed, and now a thick drizzle was falling. A chilly, cheerless morning.

"Won't keep you at home, I suppose," Peter said as Derek began to dress.

"No. I have plenty to do besides buying those rams."

"Are you taking that money in with you?"

"Yes putting it in the bank."

"You'd better explain about it and pay legacy duties."

"I'll do that. It's only playing the game. What are you doing to-day?"

"Better have a look at that leat, hadn't I? I should think it would be safe enough to leave the house. Mrs. Farrell had her chance last night."

"Much good that did her," said Derek. He chuckled. "How sick she and her son would be if they knew of our find."

"A good thing they don't know," Peter replied seriously. "I wouldn't put it past them to do a spot of burgling if they had found out."

Breakfast was always a hasty meal at Coraton, and soon afterwards Derek was on his way to Taverton. The weather was worse rather than better, and visibility was only about fifty yards as the old Ford chugged up the long slope past the quarry. Derek was thankful that the roof was still watertight and that the windscreen wiper worked.

All the way up the hill Derek did not meet a soul. He came to the long-lonely level at the top where the rain was driven by a rising wind. A figure loomed up, standing in the middle of the road and signalling. Derek pulled up and opened the door.

"Taverton?" he asked.

"That's where I want to go," replied the stranger, climbing in. He was a tallish man, who wore a mud-stained Home Guard uniform. He had good features, but his face was oddly pale.

"No weather for walking," he remarked to Derek.

"Especially on top of Dartmoor," Derek agreed.

The man fished in his pocket and produced a briar pipe and a tin of tobacco. He filled the pipe, put the tin back in his pocket, and fumbled for a match box.

This he found but, when he opened it, it was empty.

"Used the last," he said, "Can you give me a light, sir?"

Derek had a lighter, but it was in his waistcoat pocket. In order to get it he had to unbutton his coat so he first stopped the car. Before he knew what was happening a burning spray struck his face and he fell back blinded, gasping.

When he was able to breathe again and to open his stinging eyes his passenger had gone. The side door was swinging open and the cold rain beating into the car.

Still half blind. Derek scrambled out, found a road side puddle, soaked his handkerchief and bathed his face and eyes. He straightened himself and thrust his hand into his breast pocket. As he had fully expected his wallet was no longer there. He looked up and down the road, but no one was in sight. Then he got back into the car.

For a man whose hospitality had been so brutally abused, and whose eyes were still watering from the fumes of the ammonia which had been squirted into his face, Derek did not seem specially downcast.

"I'd give something to know how that swine came to stalk me," he said, "but I'd give a bit more to see his face when he finds only twenty quid in that wallet." With that he let in the clutch, started the car and drove briskly on to Taverton.


CHAPTER XVIII.
A Sign for Silence

DEREK pulled up at the Police station and found Superintendent Coker in his office.

"Whatever's the matter with your eyes, Mr. Martyn?" Coker asked.

"Ammonia, Superintendent, applied by a gentleman who asked for a lift at the top of the hill three miles from Taverton. He squirted the stuff in my face and relieved me of my pocket-book."

"What did he look like?" Coker asked quickly.

"About five foot ten, clean-cut features, pale face, thin lips, dark hair, He was about 35. and wore a Home Guard uniform."

"That's Lewis—not a doubt of it—the lag who escaped from Princetown day before yesterday." He frowned. "But how in sense did he get that uniform. We haven't heard of his breaking in any where."

"He's got it and he's got 20 of mine which I'd very much like to have back."

"We'll do our best, Mr. Martyn but I'll ring up the prison at once. Excuse me a minute."

Presently he was back. "They're interested," he said. "They thought the fellow was down Plymouth way and are surprised that he is still so near the prison. They will be after him and should have him before night."

"I hope they do," said Derek. "Now I must be getting on."

"One moment," said Coker. "Where were those bombs last night? Close to you, weren't they?" Derek told him, and the Superintendent made some notes.

"If I were you, Mr. Martyn, I'd get the doctor to look at your eyes. They are badly inflamed."

"And still hurting like the devil," said Derek. "Yes, I'm going to see him."

Derek was lucky to find Pugh at home and some soothing lotion relieved the pain.

"Now I'm off to the hospital," Derek told him.

"To see Miss Nameless?" smiled the doctor. "She isn't there. You'll find her at the Stanburys."

"The Stanburys?" Derek repeated.

"Yes. Mrs. Stanbury has taken a great fancy to her and she is living there as her companion." Derek's face brightened. "That's fine," he exclaimed.

"It couldn't be better," agreed Pugh, "and the atmosphere of kindness is just what may help her to recover her memory."

Derek thanked him, said good-bye and made for the bank. He took 260 in notes from the tool-box of the car, explained the situation to the manager, and paid in the money, then went about his business in the market.

Before leaving the town Derek paid a visit to the Stanburys. The girl herself opened the door and smiled at sight of Derek.

"You're looking fine," he told her, as he shook hands, "and what a charming frock." She flushed.

"They're so kind to me, Mr. Martyn. They declare that they are going to adopt me. They have even found a name for me. I am Ruth."

"That suits you well," said Derek as he followed her into the old-fashioned drawing room, where plump Mrs. Stanbury rose to greet him. She insisted that he stayed to tea, and Derek spent a very happy hour before he felt it necessary to tear himself away.

Before he left the town he looked in again at the police station, but Coker had no news for him.

"They have nearly a hundred warders out and can't find hair or hide of him," he said. "He's gone to ground somewhere. As you know well, there are dozens of hidy-holes on the moor. But he can't eat money and it's only a question of time before hunger will drive him to break in somewhere. Then we'll have him, and your money, too, we'll hope, Mr. Martyn."

Weather was kinder on the way home. It had stopped raining, but it was a chill and dismal evening, and Derek thought longingly of the glowing peat fire which would be burning in the sitting room at Coraton.

Peter was at the door as he drove up and Derek was about to burst out with his story when Peter put a significant finger to his lips. It was a sign Derek knew well so all he said was:

"Help me out with the things and I'll put the car away."

As they were transferring the groceries Peter whispered a word of warning.

"Don't talk until you're upstairs," and Derek, who knew there must be good reason behind this request, nodded agreement and presently went up to his room. Peter followed and closed the door.

"You've had trouble," he said in a low voice.

"How the deuce did you know?" demanded Derek in surprise.

"I didn't know, I guessed. See here, Derek, I've made a discovery. The Farrells have been listening in to every word we said."

"The devil, they have!" exclaimed Derek.

"It's true. It was too wet to do much outside and I was reading in the sitting-room when I noticed that old picture over the fireplace was all cock-eye. Must have been the blast from the last bomb. I got on a chair and was straightening it when I noticed two thin wires running up behind it to the picture rail. They were wound around the thick wire that holds the picture, and ran all along the ledge of the rail to a hole over the inner door."

"I thought it was fishy, and, sure enough it was for the lower end of the wire was attached to a little microphone no bigger than a large button, the sort you could buy for five bob before the war, and it was hidden at the back of the picture. Now do you get it?" Derek drew a quick breath.

"You bet I do. Then the Farrells must have heard all we said last night. Now let me tell you my story."

He told it, and Peter listened with the greatest interest. But when Derek got to Coker's identifying the thief as the escaped lag Peter shook his head.

"This beats me, Derek," he broke in. "I took it for granted that the fellow who tackled you was Joe, the same who tackled me by the quarry. But it can't be. Derek we're in deep waters."


CHAPTER XIX.
Conversation Piece

THERE was a moment's silence while Peter quickly searched the room. "All safe here," he said. Derek nodded then spoke.

"You didn't move the microphone downstairs, Peter?"

"My dear chap, I may be an ass but I'm not a congenital idiot—think of the way we can stuff them up." Derek chuckled softly.

"Exactly what I was thinking. In the first place we must make them believe that the lag got away with all the cash."

"How was it he didn't?" asked Peter quickly, "What put it into your blessed old head to hide the notes in the tool box?"

"I happened to listen to the six o'clock news last night. You were not in the room. The announcer said that a lag was loose. That's a lonely road and I thought I'd be on the safe side."

"It was sheer inspiration," said Peter. He frowned thoughtfully, then went on slowly. "It seems to me that the whole business was deliberate. No one knew there was anything in the money-box except you and myself. It follows that the Farrells must somehow have got in touch with the fellow who held you up. You can't get away from that."

"You can't," admitted Derek. "Yet how the Farrells could get hold of an escaped lag and do it in so short a time leaves me guessing." Peter considered.

"There must have been some tie-up between them. The Farrells must have known this man before he was sentenced." He paused again. "I say, I wonder if he came straight here from the prison and was hidden for the night in our out-buildings!"

"I almost believe you must be right, Peter," Derek said. His eyes widened. "In that case he might still be here."

"They'd hardly take that risk," Peter answered. "But let's go down. It's pretty near supper time. You'll be careful what you say!" Derek's eyes twinkled.

"My first name is Care. I'm not missing such a heaven-sent chance."

Watching Mrs. Farrell as she laid the table, Derek found it hard to believe that this handsome, well set up, neatly dressed woman could be plotting as heartlessly as he well knew she was plotting.

Presently she brought in supper—fish which Derek had bought in Taverton, delicately fried in breadcrumbs, potato chips, and a farmers shape made of whortleberries, with a glass dish of real custard. Derek helped Peter and waited until the door was closed and the woman back in the kitchen. He winked at Peter and Peter spoke.

"So this means good-bye to the rams and the tractor, Derek."

"I may manage the rams but not the tractor."

"Two hundred and eighty pounds! What rotten luck," groaned Peter, "If I'd only been with you." He paused, then went on. "Are you sure that darned robber wasn't the fellow they call Joe?"

"How can I tell?" returned Derek irritably. "I've never seen him. I've only heard his voice."

"Could you recognise the voice?"

"No. I don't think it was the same but I can't swear to it."

"We must find out who this Joe is," said Peter. "We'll enquire at the quarry."

"There are a lot of men there," Derek answered doubtfully, "he may have left."

"It's a devil of a mess," said Peter dolefully. "I've a notion the Farrells are mixed up in it somehow, but just how beats me." Derek spoke.

"Well, Peter, it's no use crying over spilt milk. We'll just have to carry on."

There were no noises that night. Next morning was fine again and after breakfast Derek went off to look at the broken leat. Peter went with him, then left him, saying he would walk on to Pixies Tor and see the first bomb crater. Actually he had another object in mind. He had been thinking of that tall handsome girl, Miss Vernon. It seemed to him that the least he could do was to call and thank her for her efforts on the previous Tuesday. Incidentally he had in his pocket a box of a hundred cigarettes which he hoped he would have the opportunity of presenting to her.

His chance come sooner than he had expected. Before he reached the burnt patch he saw her coming along the field path below him—a path which led to the main road to Taverton. For a second time he was struck by the fine way she carried herself. He turned to the right and she stopped to meet him Peter pulled off his hat.

"You're early afoot, Miss Vernon."

"Early," she repeated "I'll bet I was up before you. I've milked two cows, fed the chickens, and cooked breakfast, and now I think I've earned my day out."

"I should jolly well think you have," Peter declared. "But if it isn't a rude question, where is the 'day out' to be spent?"

"I'm going to Taverton," she announced.

"You don't mean to tell me you're going afoot."

"How else," she asked. "You did not imagine we run to a car."

"But it's eight miles there and eight back," said Peter in a tone of such dismay as made the girl laugh.

"I've done it before and I shall probably do it again," she told him, "But I mustn't stand gossiping. As you say, it's a good way, and I have to be back to cook supper."

Peter had an inspiration "Let me take you in. That fat pony of Derek's is doing nothing, and I have a holiday due. What about a picnic in a pony trap?" She hesitated. "Do, Peter begged."

She looked at him. She liked his pleasant, ugly face. She realised that he was very much in earnest.

"Very well," she said, "but it's on your own head if you are bored."


CHAPTER XX.
Peter's Day Out

PETER beamed. "I'll go ahead. I must tell Derek. Then I'll harness up. You come on quietly."

Derek smiled when he heard of Peters plan. Actually he was very pleased.

"Right, old man. Take the pony and the day. She's a nice girl. Don't hurry. I'll see to things here."

Prim was fat and lazy. Peter did not push her. Dora—that was her first name—soon began to talk and by degrees Peter learned something of her story.

There was nothing very novel about it. Her mother had been left a widow when Dora was only twelve. Her father had owned a small but valuable farm near Chudleigh and had left it to his wile. A couple of years later she had met Joseph Vandell, then about thirty and a very good-looking man. She had fallen for him and married him.

"And that," said Peter, who had been listening with great interest, "was the beginning of your troubles?" Dora's lips tightened slightly.

"Obviously," she said. "You could probably tell the rest of the story, Mr. Plews, as well as I."

"No, go on," begged Peter and Dora compiled.

"He made us sell Greystoke. He spent every penny of the money, then he brought her up here to this starve-crow place and made a slave of her."

She paused, and the only sound was the clop-clop of Prim's lazy hooves. She went on with a jerk. "It killed her. She died a year ago, and since then I've carried on alone."

"The damned blackguard," Peter muttered, then went red and apologised for swearing.

"Don't," she said. "You are merely voicing my sentiments. He is a brute and of late has taken to drink."

"Yet he works at the quarry," Peter said.

"Oh, he's no fool. He is well educated. He took a war job there as book-keeper and keeps sober enough in the day. It's at night he soaks."

"Alone?"

"Mostly, but last night he had someone with him. I don't know who, for I didn't see him. But they woke me by quarrelling, and I think they fought."

Peter pricked up his ears. He was on the point of telling Dora about Derek's experiences on the previous day, but changed his mind. After all he had no right to do so without first consulting Derek.

"What happened?" he asked. Dora made a face of disgust.

"I didn't go to see. And in the morning the other man, whoever he was, had gone."

"I hate to think of your living among people like that, exclaimed Peter impulsively. Dora colored a little, then laughed.

"It isn't always so bad, Mr. Plews," she told him, "I get a day off now and then and go to Taverton. This time I am doing some shopping. My stepfather turned generous and gave me a couple of pounds."

"From the way you work you ought to get more than that a week. As a land girl you'd get better wages!"

"You think I'm a fool not to leave," said Dora quietly.

"I'd never think that of you," Peter protested. "Yet surely you'd be happier."

"I should," she said frankly, "and I may go soon. But mother asked me to stay for a year and I promised. You see she was still fond of him."

"Of course I see, and I think it is fine of you," said Peter with such warmth as again brought the color to her cheeks.

The two enjoyed their drive, and Dora enjoyed a lunch at the Feathers, which Peter induced her to share with him. Then she went off to do her shopping and Peter, after making a few small purchases, found his way to the Stanbury's house. Stanbury had asked him to call; besides he was very anxious to see Derek's girl. He was fond enough of Derek to be really anxious about this girl in whom he took such interest. Ruth came across the room with outstretched hand.

"I'd know you in a minute from Derek's description," she said. Peter took her hand and held it.

"He said quite a lot about you, Ruth, but not half enough." Ruth's eyes twinkled merrily.

"Listen to him, Mr. Stanbury! This is the man Derek said could not pay a compliment."

"I'll have a few words with Derek when I get home," said Peter darkly.

They wanted him to stay to tea, but he told them frankly he was driving a friend back. "But I'll come another day if you'll ask me," he ended, and went off. He found Dora with her arms full of packages, made her come and have a cup of tea, then drove back in the rosy light of a very lovely evening. He wanted to take her to her door, but she said no, and insisted on walking back alone across the fields to Pixies Holt. Peter gave her a word of warning.

"Keep the upper path, Dora. That bull of ours is in the lower meadow, and I wouldn't trust him too far."

He watched her go, then went into the house. Derek met him at the door.

"I've had the police here," were his first words, "There's the devil to pay. Come upstairs and I'll tell you."


CHAPTER XXI.
The Man in the Bushes

THE two went into Derek's room and Derek closed the door.

"Coker came here about an hour after you had left," he said.

"Had they caught Lewis?" Peter put in.

"No, but it was about Lewis he came. And its a queer story. After I had told about the hold-up yesterday Coker rang up the prison, also the police stations at Postbridge, Moreton, Chagford, and every place round the Moor. Result was that within a short time all this part of the Moor was surrounded. Yet there was not a sign of Lewis. They combed every patch of gorse and searched every building, but up to nightfall had found nothing. The man seemed to have vanished into thin air, and they were utterly puzzled.

"The first clue came this morning. Old Prance had been fishing up the Merry Brook. Coming back just before dark, he saw a man among the bushes near where the Merry Brook joins the Clint, and this man was dressed in khaki.

"Owing to his deafness and the fact that he rarely sees a paper, Prance did not even know of the escape, but the way this man dodged out of sight among the trees made him suspicious."

"It was Lewis, of course!" Peter exclaimed.

"Must have been, but listen! Early this morning a warder came into Prance's place for some hot water to make tea, and he gave Prance word about the escape. Then Prance told him about the man he had seen on the river. The warder didn't wait for his tea. He was off at once and sent a message by a motor-cyclist to Coker. A car-load of police came out, and a lot of warders were collected, and they searched our out-buildings, then went across to Narracombe.

"The house was empty. Vandell was at the quarry, and I told them that Miss Vernon had gone with you to Taverton. They did not find Lewis there either, but Coker told that, in one of the out-buildings, they found a beret made of khaki and, come to think of it, that's what Lewis was wearing when he robbed me."

Derek paused for a moment and Peter spoke.

"Vandell's first name is Joseph. Dora told me that," Derek nodded.

"I was sure of it. I'm beginning to be pretty certain that there was a tie-up between Vandell and Lewis."

"And Vandell hid him at his place last night," said Peter swiftly. "Listen, Derek. I can throw some light on this business. In the first place Vandell is a bad hat. He married Dora's mother for her money, spent it, then dragged her up here and let her work herself to death. Dora told me all about it. She told me something else that bears on this business. Last night she was wakened by voices down below. Her stepfather was quarrelling with another man. She thinks they fought but, as Vandell drinks, she didn't go down." Derek leaned forward.

"Fought, did they? Peter. It all fits. Lewis escaped. He knew Vandell and went straight to him and Vandell hid him. Then Vandell, having heard of our find, sent Lewis out to get the money. Not much risk, see, because it was so misty, and Vandell wore this uniform. Also there was no bridge to cross so he wouldn't be likely to run into a warder."

"That's it, Derek," cut in Peter eagerly, as Derek paused, "Lewis of the pocket-book, cut round the top of Coraton and got back to Vandell's place, where he went into hiding until it was dark. By that time he had found out that he'd only got twenty quid instead of two-eighty, but when he started to explain this to Vandell, Vandell wasn't having any. Of course, Vandell would think that Lewis had hidden the rest." He chuckled, and Derek took up the story.

"That explains the quarrel, but what happened next? Did Lewis bolt?" Peter shook his head.

"He would hardly have broken through the cordon. There were warders and police all round."

"He might have gone up the Merry Brook," Derek suggested, "right up on to High Moor." Peter again shook his head.

"There's no cover up there—nothing but mires. If he knew anything of the moor he'd never take such a risk." He stopped, and the two men looked at one another.

"You—don't mean—" began Derek. A horrified expression came upon his face.

"Exactly what I do mean," said Peter grimly. "Vandell killed him."

"But the body. What would he do with the body?"

"Bury it or tie a stone to it, and sink it to the river. There are some pretty deep holes in the Clint." Derek drew a long breath.

"But that's an awful thing to do," he said slowly.

"I don't say it was deliberate," Peter answered. "As Dora said, her stepfather drinks. He might have knocked the other man against a table or the fireplace. It doesn't take much to kill a chap, as you and I ought to know, Derek."

"It's pretty ghastly, anyway you look at it," Derek said. "Yet the more I think of it the more sure I am that you are right. The finding of that cap bears it out!" He sat on the edge of the bed, frowning thoughtfully. "We ought to tell Coker," he said at last.

"We ought," Peter agreed, "but just at the moment I'm thinking more of Dora than of anyone else. She's a thoroughbred, Derek."

"So you've fallen for her?" questioned Derek.

"No use to deny it," returned Peter.

"But what's the good? Neither of us has a penny."

"Time enough to think of that Peter. There's money in the land, and I'll help. Peter laid a hand on his friend's arm.

"You have your own girl to think of Derek."

"My girl. I wish she was," said Derek. "Anyhow I know her well enough to be sure she would think as I do. But what about telling Coker? We have no telephone."

"There are warders and police about. If you wrote a note and I took it down to Finglestone Bridge the warder there would take it to the prison when he is relieved and 'phone the contents on to Coker."

"That'll be the best way," Derek agreed. "I'll enclose it to the Governor or the Deputy. Coker should get it by midnight." He got up and went downstairs, opened his uncle's desk and began to write.


CHAPTER XXII.
The Bull

SINCE Peter did not want the Farrells to know that he was leaving the house he waited until supper was over, then he slipped out quietly, but, instead of going down the drive, made his way through the trees and so to the upper path. He paused below Pixie's Holt, crossed the Clint by a fisherman's bridge, and so gained the main road running down the valley.

Finglestone Bridge was a mile beyond and as he had expected, a warder was on guard. To him Peter explained his errand and the man told him he would be relieved at nine and would then take the note to the Governor.

"Funny what's come of the chap," the warder added. "Wish they'd catch him. It ain't my idea of fun, to do sentry-go in a place like this."

"I hope you get him," said Peter, who was not giving anything away. "Good night."

He strode away up the road, but his thoughts were all of Dora, and presently he made up his mind to try to see her and give her his news.

Since there were no dogs at Narracombe he was able to reach the house without trouble. There was a light in the kitchen. He could see a gleam through the black-out blind. He listened but all he could hear was a clink of crockery. At last he tapped on the pane. The back door opened and he heard Dora's deep, soft voice.

"Who is there?"

"Peter," he answered in a whisper. "Are you alone, Dora?"

"Yes. My step-father has gone out. But what brings you here? I warned you not to come to the house."

"I had to see you, Dora, it isn't safe for you to stay here longer."

"What do you mean, Peter? Come in. I can't leave the door open and the light shining out."

He entered the kitchen where a lamp was burning and a pile of crockery, which Dora had been washing, stood at the sink.

"Sit down," said Dora, "and tell me ail about it."

"It isn't a nice story," he answered, "but I am afraid you'll have to hear it."

"I've had a nice day. I can stand it," she answered. "Go on Peter." Peter told her the whole thing and she stood in front of him listening in silence. When he had finished she nodded.

"Yes," she said slowly. "It all fits in. I am very much afraid that you and Mr. Martyn are right." She paused again. "I don't think it was deliberate—the killing, I mean. They were probably both drunk. I didn't tell you, but there was a spot or two of blood on the floor here, just by the table. If Lewis had fallen against the table he might easily have cracked his skull." Peter nodded.

"They're bound to find the body," he said slowly.

Dora was silent. Peter went on:

"You can't stay here. You see that, Dora?"

"It seems a bit mean to leave him when he's in trouble," said Dora slowly.

"My dear, if he's drunk again," Peter protested. "Will you come to Coraton?"

"No," said Dora. "I won't go to Coraton. I will go down to Mrs. Caunter. She lives at Yew Cottage under Crow Tor. She is a widow and helps me here sometimes. I shall be quite safe with her."

"You'll let me take you," Peter begged.

"You can come as far as the road," Dora answered, "but I'd rather you didn't come further. I feel somehow you had better go back to Coraton."

"Just as you like," said Peter with unusual meekness.

"Wait a minute for me," Dora said. "I must take some night things and put out the lamps."

She was back in a wonderfully short time, carrying a very small bag, and the two started down the hill. It was dark now but there was a glow in the east where the moon, two days past the full, was rising. The night was very clear.

"Where did your stepfather go?" Peter asked.

"I can't say for certain, but it's quite likely he went to Coraton. He goes over to see the Farrells, but always by night." Peter nodded.

"Derek had seen him and Farrell together." He told her of the night of fog when Derek had been forced to leave his car and walk home, and of what Derek had overheard by the quarry.

"There's something between them," Dora said "He was at Coraton often before Mr. Martyn came down. I had an idea they were looking for something, and couldn't find it. He was often sulky and savage when he came home."

"He was looking for something," said Peter. "They were hunting for old Mr. Martyn's will. Derek believes that they expected the old man to leave the farm to them." Dora drew a quick breath. "So that was it. If I had thought a bit I might have known it. I only saw the old man once or twice, but I knew that he was very much under the thumb of the Farrells. Of course, I had heard about his quarrel with his son." She paused. "But if he hid that money for the son he couldn't have hated him," she added wistfully.

"That's what Derek and I felt," Peter said quickly. "And if he did make a will in favor of the Farrells I expect he managed to destroy it."

By this time the two had reached the gate leading into the main road. Dora stopped. "I go the other way," she said. "You go straight back to Coraton." Peter hesitated.

"Don t be silly," she smiled. "It's quite light and I have less than half a mile to go."

"I—I shall see you to-morrow?" Peter said.

"I should have thought you had seen enough of me to-day," she answered with a laugh. Peter slipped an arm around her.

"Dora—" he began, and at that moment the quiet night was shuttered by a rumbling bellow, followed instantly by a yell of terror.

"The bull!" cried Dora, and ran in the direction of the sound.


CHAPTER XXIII.
Hoof Marks

THE meadow from which the sounds came was the large field which lay between the Coraton buildings and the main road. This road curved to the left beyond the drive gate and ran parallel with the Clint down to Finglestone Bridge.

There was a second gate at the west end of the meadow opening into the road, and it was for this that Dora and Peter made.

Dora ran with long easy strides; Peter, forgetting his doctor's orders, managed to keep alongside her. The moon was up now, and by its light they saw Vandell running desperately for the gate, with the big red bull hard at his heels. He reached it barely ten paces ahead of the bull, grasped the top bar with both hands and tried to vault it. His knees struck the top; he toppled over, landed with a heavy thud on the road, and lay in a heap.

"Keep back!" Peter cried to Dora, and whipping off his coat flung it across the gate over the bull's head. Snorting and stamping, the bull wheeled and galloped away up the field. Dora was kneeling beside her stepfather.

"He's stunned," she said, looking up. Peter stooped over the still form. One glance was enough.

"He's dead Dora," he told her quietly.

"Dead!"

"Yes. Heart, I think. The fall on top of the run finished him." Dora rose and stood silent a moment.

"Such an end," she said slowly. "But it would be pure hypocrisy to say I was sorry, Peter. He was a bad man. Now how can I help?"

"By going straight to Mrs. Caunter's," Peter told her. "I shall go to Coraton for help, and we will put the body under cover till Coker comes in the morning."

"Very well," Dora said with unusual meekness. "Good-night, Peter." Peter watched her go, then walked round by the drive, found Derek, and told him what had happened. Derek frowned.

"So the bull was in the lower meadow. He ought to have been in the paddock. All right, Peter. I'll call Farrell and we will take the pony trap for the body. You sit down. You've done enough."

Peter was glad to sit down. He was not feeling too good. In about half an hour Derek returned.

"We've put the body in the harness-room. Now a drink and then we go to bed. We can do nothing more until Coker comes."

Coker arrived at eight in the morning. With him were a constable named Ellsworth and Dr. Munroe, one of the prison medical staff. Derek told them all that had happened. Coker nodded grimly.

"Saved us a murder trial, I fancy," he said. "I have no doubt you are right about Lewis. The next thing will be to find his body. I ought to see Miss Vernon."

"She will be at Narracombe," Peter said. "I'll come with you."

Dora was there and readily answered Coker's questions. Coker suggested that the body of Lewis might have been dumped in a mire, but Ellsworth, who knew the moor, shook his head.

"It's not easy to sink a body in a mire, sir. You'd be pretty apt to get bogged yourself in doing it."

"Then perhaps the river," said Coker.

"Too risky, sir. When the water is low you can see the bottom in almost any pool. I think he buried Lewis."

"But a grave would be easy to find," Coker objected.

"Not if it was in worked ground sir. May I look round?"

"The sooner the better," Coker agreed.

Ellsworth went out quickly. Coker asked Dora's permission to look through Vandell's papers. Dora and Peter were left together.

"What are you going to do, Dora?" Peter asked.

"I am coming back here," she said promptly. "Mrs. Caunter and her children will stay with me. Ned, the elder boy, is fifteen and can help about the place. I have the cows, pigs, and chickens, and can carry on." They talked a while, then suddenly Ellsworth returned.

"I want a spade, Miss," he said.

"You've found something?" Peter asked.

"I'm on the track, I think," Ellsworth answered.

Peter and Coker went with him. Ellsworth showed them marks of horse hooves on a cart track which led up the hill from the farm.

"Fresh, you see," he pointed out, "and the horse was loaded. And notice this scrap of khaki cloth caught on the rough edge of the post." Coker nodded.

"Then the body was taken up on the moor. But it's a long way to the nearest mire."

"I don't think we'll need to go that far," replied Ellsworth significantly.

The track crossed the big mew-take above the farm, then passed out through another gate on to the open moor. It went uphill for a bit and dipped into a hollow where rows of black peats were stacked to dry along the edge of a deep trench.

"The turf tie!" said Coker sharply.

"That's what I think," replied Ellsworth. With his spade he stepped down into the sticky black ooze and began to probe. Within five minutes he had found the shallow grave where lay the body of the wretched Lewis. They lifted it out and Monroe examined it. He turned to Peter.

"You were right, Mr. Plews. The skull is fractured, It looks as if he had fallen against the corner of a table."

"Get a cart, Ellsworth," said Coker. "We'll take the body back to the farm. To-morrow we can have the double inquest."


CHAPTER XXIV.
The Ghost Machine

DEREK and Peter were working together on the broken leat. A week had passed since the inquest.

The jury of grim old Moor farmers had given their verdict as "Manslaughter and Death by Accident."

The doctor had testified that Vandell had died from heart failure. Of course there had been questions about the bull. It had been old Craik's duty to see that the animal was in the paddock at night and he declared that he had put him there and closed the gate. But the gate was found open and it was presumed it had not been properly latched.

Dora was back at Narracombe, but had Mrs. Caunter with her. She was far happier now that Vandell was out of the way, and declared that she could and would make a living there. The rent was very small. Peter managed to see her most days and gave her much useful help. For instance, he carted all her turf for her, and dug her garden.

Peter stopped work to mop his heated face.

"Derek," he said, "We've had quiet lights lately."

"So we have," Derek agreed.

"Ever since the bombs." Peter added. Derek's eyes widened.

"What has that to do with it?" he asked.

"Perhaps a lot. See here, Derek, can you get the Farrells off the place for a day or even part of a day?" Derek considered.

"Yes, Mrs. Farrell goes to Taverton once a month. She'll he going on Thursday or Friday. I'll tell Farrell he can have the day off and drive her in the pony cart."

"Fine!" said Peter, and set to work again.

The Farrells went off about ten on Friday. Peter told Derek he didn't want any help, for the work on the leat was finished, so Derek went off to move some sheep into another field. He came back to lunch, to find Peter hot and rather muddy but with a very satisfied expression on his rugged face.

"What have you been up to?" Derek demanded.

"Wait till after lunch. I'll show you."

Cold mutton, salad and cider, with a cold apple tart, was the meal. Afterwards Peter led the way to the outbuildings. Derek, puzzled, followed. Peter took him to a round hole in the corner of the big yard, nearest the corner of end of the house.

"Ever see that before?" he asked.

"I knew there was an old well here, but I never had the curiosity to lift the cover," Derek answered.

"And a nice ladder down it. Come on. I have a torch."

The well was shallow with only a little water at the bottom; the ladder in good condition. At the bottom of the ladder was a broad step and, to Derek's astonishment, a tunnel about five feet high ran out in the direction of the house. A trickle of water came down the paved floor.

Peter, bending his tall head, led the way and again Derek followed. A few paces up, the tunnel ended in a small cellar-like chamber into which the water poured through a pipe to the wall. Below the pipe was an odd arrangement of metal. Peter pointed to it.

"Here's our ghost," he said. "Simpler than clockwork. See, it's like a weighing machine with a bowl one side and a lump of iron on the other. You push the bowl under the pipe."

He did so, and the trickle of water slowly filled it. As soon as it was full it tipped, the water fell out, the empty bowl jumped up, and the hammer-like lump of iron dropped upon a sheet of metal, producing a clang so loud that Derek started.

"The bowl, you see, fills again," Peter continued, "and the gong sounds at regular intervals until the little tank is pulled aside, Farrell no doubt used a string for that purpose, and removed the string when he thought we had been sufficiently scared." Derek gazed around.

"But this cellar. Who made it?"

"It's old," replied Peter. "It was built originally to keep butter and perhaps meat. You see it's almost as cool as an ice house."

"And the water comes from the leat?" said Derek.

"Certainly. And that's why all was quiet while the leat was out of commission." Derek stood silent a few moments.

"Simple enough," he said at last, "yet infernally ingenious. Well, this finishes it. The Farrells go."

"Time, too," growled Peter, "They tried to rob you, I believe they were responsible for killing Vandell, and they have done their best to drive you out of your house. The sooner they go and the further they go the better for all of us."

Derek wrenched the whole apparatus loose. "They shall have a week's notice this very evening," he said firmly. "Now let's get back to the house." In the sitting-room they talked again. It was a relief to feel that there was no one to listen.

"We are going to have a job to find a cook," Derek observed.

"Aren't you going to get married," Peter asked bluntly. Derek colored.

"How can I ask a girl who has lost her past to marry me?" he asked bitterly. "She might have a husband already for all I or she knows."

"She will get back her memory all right and I don't believe she ever has married," said Peter confidently. "She's just the girl for you. I say, why not ask the Stanburys to bring her out here to tea one day?"

"That's an idea," said Derek brightening. "And you might ask Dora to meet her."

"They'd get on fine," Peter declared.

"You and Dora, get on quite nicely," said Derek slyly.

"We do," said Peter bluntly. "But I'm saying nothing. How can I? I have my wound pension, but not another penny."

"She's got Narracombe. You could help her run the farm. Farming's on the up-grade, and there's a living in the place. You could run a lot of sheep. But a woman can't do that alone." Peter bit his lip.

"You tempt me pretty high, Derek."

"Go to it. I know what I'm talking about," Derek said, with unusual vigor.

They went back to work and, when they came in for supper, the Farrells were back. Derek waited till after the meal was finished, then told Mrs. Farrell to bring in Alfred. The woman obeyed in her usual silence, and came in again with her son. Derek went to the picture and pulled out the microphone.

"You put this here, Farrell," he said curtly. Then before Farrell could find a reply, he held up the noise-making apparatus. "And when did you fix this?" he demanded.

Alfred went red, he tried to speak, but found no words.

"You can take a week's notice," Derek finished. For the first time since he had known her Derek saw the woman's stony calm break up. Her pale eyes blazed.

"We'll go but we shall come back," she said fiercely. "And when we come back it is you that will have notice to leave."


CHAPTER XXV.
The Missing Will

WITHIN the house Dora was singing softly to herself as she laid the tea table. Outside, the two men, wearing clean flannel suits and both freshly shaved, sat on the stone seat in the porch, waiting the arrival of their visitors. Peter cocked an eye at Derek.

"Peaceful?" he remarked.

"Wonderfully," Derek agreed. "The whole atmosphere has changed since the Farrells left. Some day I shall grow actually fond of this old house."

"You're getting that way already," said Peter confidently. "Just listen to Dora!" he added. "I wish I could sing." Derek chuckled.

"She'll teach you." He jumped up. "Here are the Stanburys."

Stanbury was driving a stout cob in one of those old-fashioned tub pony carts. Derek and Peter went to meet them, and Peter took the pony round to the yard while Derek escorted his guests into the house.

Ruth wearing a frock of dark blue linen looked very well and extraordinarily pretty. Dora came forward. She was nearly a head taller than Ruth. Derek introduced the Stanburys, then Ruth. Dora took both Ruth's hands and the two looked in one another's eyes for a moment. Then Dora stooped swiftly and kissed Ruth, and Ruth responded instantly. In a moment they were all talking, then Peter came back and they sat down to tea.

The scones were hot out of the oven and feather-light, and the great pat of golden butter, fresh from the dairy, delighted the Stanburys, accustomed to war rations. It was the first party Derek had given since he had inherited Coraton, and it was a great success. It delighted him to see how well the two girls got on together; the one thing that marred his happiness was Ruth's loss of her memory. He could not ask her to marry him until she knew who she was.

He shook off his depression and began to talk to Mr. Stanbury. The lawyer was immensely interested in the old house.

"I never was inside it until now," he said. "What wonderful building they did in those days! These walls are solid granite at least two feet thick, and that fireplace is purely Elizabethan. I belong to the Devon Archaeological Society and, when peace comes, you must let me bring out a party to inspect the house."

Derek said he would be delighted.

"After tea I'll show you over the place," he added.

So the whole party explored the house. Ruth was delighted with the huge kitchen with its immense fire-place where in olden days the cooking had been done over an open peat fire, but where now a modern range had been installed and water laid on. Derek had never seen her so bright and animated.

"It almost seems to me I have seen this room before," she said, frowning thoughtfully, "or something very like it. I wonder if one sees places in dreams, Derek."

"I believe that," Derek told her quietly. "Some of us are able to leave the physical body at night. I do sometimes, but it is very rarely that I can remember where I have been or what I have seen. Now and then I wake feeling wonderfully refreshed and happy. But with you, Ruth, it may be that your memory is just beginning to stir."

"You always said it would come back, Derek," she answered softly. "And I still believe that you will bring it back."

They returned to the sitting-room and Stanbury prowled round, admiring the furniture.

"That desk is old, Martyn," he said, "and a beautiful piece of work. All English oak."

"It was my great-uncle's—that's all I know of it."

"It's early eighteenth century," Stanbury said, "and made by a craftsman. I wouldn't mind betting it has at least one secret drawer."

"If it has no one has found it," smiled Derek. "Yet I'll lay they have tried hard enough."

"They! Who?"

"The Farrells. They've searched every inch of the place for a will they believed my great-uncle made in their favor."

Stanbury pursed his lips. "Then I'd better not look," he said.

"You're welcome to try," Derek said with a laugh. "Here's the key. There's nothing private in the drawers. I keep private papers in my little safe."

They all gathered round while plump Mr. Stanbury began to investigate. He pulled out the drawers one after another. There were four on each side. The opposite pairs he laid alongside one another.

The first three pairs matched exactly in length but, when he took out the lowest pair, all saw that the left-hand drawer was about two inches shorter than its fellow.

"Getting warm," said Stanbury. "Lend me a torch."

Derek produced a flash and Stanbury, lying flat on the floor, explored the space within. He poked about and suddenly there was a click.

"Thought so," said Stanbury. "There are papers in the recess. Shall I bring them out, Martyn?"

"Yes, please," said Derek in a voice he tried to make steady. There was dead silence as Stanbury scrambled to his feet. In his hand were two thick envelopes which he gave to Derek.

The envelopes were sealed and each was addressed in a crabbed hand, "To my son, Nicholas Martyn, junior."


CHAPTER XXVI.
Wedding Presents

ALL eyes were on Derek. He had gone rather white. Ruth, who was next him, laid a hand on his arm.

"Open them, Derek," she said in a low clear voice. Derek pulled himself together. He smiled at her. He took out his pocket knife and cut open the first envelope. It contained a quantity of certificates, He looked at them.

"Bonds," he said, and handed them to Mr. Stanbury. Then with an evident effort he slit the second envelope. "Last Will and Testament of Nicholas Martyn," was the inscription on the document. "It's the missing will," Derek said in a perfectly level voice. "You are a lawyer Mr. Stanbury. Will you be kind enough to read it and tell us briefly the contents?"

Stanbury's face was grave as he opened the crackling parchment and it grew graver still as he scanned it. The others, as they watched him, seemed hardly to breathe. Stanbury looked up. He cleared his throat.

"It is the missing will, Martyn. And it was my wretched curiosity that found it." He stopped. Derek's cheeks were very white now. Yet his voice was still steady.

"No need to blame yourself, Mr. Stanbury. Then I take it the place does go to the Farrells?"

"Your great-uncle has left it to his son, Nicholas Martyn, or to his son's children, if any. Failing him—to Mrs. Farrell and her son Frederick."

"Those miserable creatures!" cried Dora, her fine eyes flashing. "But why should they know? Burn the will, Mr. Stanbury. None of us will ever breathe a word." Poor Mr. Stanbury looked from one to another. He was terribly upset.

"But—but—" he stammered.

"But," said Derek calmly. "You are a solicitor and in your eyes such a deed would be a crime. In mine, too. No, the will must stand. We must send for the Farrells."

Before anyone could find words Ruth suddenly collapsed and fell to the floor. Derek stooped swiftly, lifted her and laid her on the couch. Mrs. Stanbury took charge.

"Some cold water," she said and Dora ran to fetch it. "I was a nurse in the last war," Mrs. Stanbury went on as she took Ruth's limp wrist to feel her pulse. "Do not be frightened Mr. Martyn. It is only a fainting fit."

Dora came with the water, but it was not needed. Ruth's blue eyes were open again. For a moment or two they were quite vacant and Derek, gazing down at her, felt a pang of fear. Had this shock, caused fresh harm to the girl he loved so dearly. Mrs. Stanbury spoke.

"Are you feeling better, Ruth dear?" The girl looked up at the kindly woman.

"Ruth," she repeated in a puzzled tone. "Why do you call me Ruth?"

"Because, my dear, we had to give you a name of some sort. You had forgotten your own."

"Forgotten my name," Ruth laughed softly. "How funny! But I remember it now. It's Rita." Derek took a step forward.

"Rita what? What is your second name?" he asked in a very quiet voice.

"Why—why—it's the same as yours. I'm Rita Martyn." Astonishment filled her eyes. "What does this mean, Derek?"

"It means, I think, that you are the daughter of Nicholas Martyn, and therefore my cousin." Rita sat up. A lovely glow came upon her face.

"Yes, of course. Nicholas was my father. Then—then Coraton is mine and I can give it to you, Derek."

Dora clapped her hands.

"How splendid! How splendid!" she exclaimed. "Then the Farrells won't get Coraton."

Mr. Stanbury, who had seemed a trifle dazed by these sudden happenings, recovered himself and spoke.

"My dear," he expostulated. "You can't give away a farm as if it was a bag of sweets." Ruth—Rita rather—looked dismayed.

"But I couldn't do anything with a great farm like this."

"You might perhaps if Derek helped you," Stanbury suggested. So saying, he beckoned to his wife and the two moved out of the room. Peter and Dora were not slow to take the hint. They followed. Derek and Rita were left alone. Rita looked up at Derek.

"You'll help, Derek," she said confidently. "You'll run the farm."

"And what will you do?" asked Derek—"stay with the Stanburys?" Dismay came upon her face.

"But can't I help with the farm?"

"Then you'd have to live here, Rita."

"Of course I should have to live here—oh I see. We'd have to be married. But you like me, Derek don't you?"

"No, my dear, I love you." She stretched up her arms with a charming gesture.

"Then that is all right, Derek, for I love you."

* * * * * *

It was a long time afterwards when Peter put his head in at the door.

"Derek, old man, the Stanburys are still here," he remarked, Derek started up.

"Oh Lord, how infernally rude of me! I'd clean forgotten them."

"I don't think they mind," said Peter drily. He stepped forward. "I take it that congratulations are due."

"Heaps, Peter," cried Rita, "And what about you?" Peter faced her unashamed.

"Nothing like following a good example," he answered. "That's what Dora said and I had to agree. Derek, the occasion calls for that last bottle of pre-war."

"Fetch it, and I'll fetch the Stanburys," said Derek hurrying out.

Mrs. Stanbury wept with pure joy; Stanbury quite lost his usual calm. He shook hands vigorously with the two men and kissed both the girls. Then he held up the second envelope.

"You are even better off than you think, Martyn. Here are Bearer Bonds worth over seven thousand pounds, which, of course, go to Rita." Rita looked awed.

"Seven thousand pounds! Derek, we shall be rich," She paused and looked at Dora.

"Derek, we can stock Narracombe for them. That will be our wedding present."

"Trust you to think of the right thing, darling," said Derek in delight.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
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