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Published under syndication, appearing in, e.g.,
The Queenslander, Brisbane, Australia, 31 July-23 Oct 1926
(this version)
The Hawick News, Scotland, 9 Oct 1931-1 Jan 1932

First edition in book form: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018©
Version Date: 2018-11-22

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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THE British author Thomas Charles Bridges, who wrote as "T.C. Bridges," "Tom Bridges" and "Christopher Beck," was born in Bagnères de Bigorre, France, on 22 August 1868. The son of a clergyman, he was educated at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England.

In 1886 Bridges went to Florida to work on an orange plantation. After eight financially unprofitable years he returned to England in 1894, almost penniless, and decided to try his hand at writing.

His first two articles on fishing in Florida appeared in The Field. The earliest work documented in the course of research for his bibliography was an article titled "Kill or Cure" that appeared in The Penny Pictorial Magazine on 15 July 1899.

Bridges wrote free-lance contributions for many periodicals, eventually joining the staff of Answers, a weekly published by the Amalgamated Press, London, as a sub-editor. He worked for this magazine for some four years, at the end of which he resigned to concentrate on free-lance writing.

Bridges' works were often syndicated for publication in other countries, notably in Australia. Several of his stories and serials are available in the digital newspaper archive of the National Library of Australia.

In the early 1900's, Bridges and his wife (whom he married in 1899) went to live in Dartmoor, Cornwall, only two miles from the notorious prison at Princeton. Many of the stories that he wrote there featured prisons and their inmates, one example being the Sexton Blake thriller Ten Years' Penal Servitude (1911).

Bridges, whose hobbies included fishing, golf and gardening, published his autobiography From Florida to Fleet Street in 1928.

He spent his last years in Torquay, Devonshire, where, after a long and successful writing career, he died on 26 May 1944.

Bridges, a prolific writer, sold articles and stories (the latter mostly for a juvenile readership) to numerous British newspapers and magazines. He penned his first boys' story in 1902, and Gilbert Floyd, the editor of Boys Realm, commissioned him to write a serial for that paper. The result was Paddy Leary's Schooldays, a story about the adventures of an Australian boy at an English public school. It's popularity inspired him to write two long sequels and several short stories about the same characters.

Among other things, Bridges wrote Sexton Blake stories for The Union Jack (Amalgamated Press, London) and contributed to the Boys' Own Paper, The Scout, and The Children's Newspaper until the late 1930's. Several of the books in his huge opus were published posthumously.

A number of his works are "lost civilisation" novels.

In Martin Crusoe: A Boy's Adventure on Wizard Island (1920) he describes a land populated by descendants of the survivors of Atlantis

Men of the Mist (1922) is a lost race tale set in a region of Alaska where prehistoric creatures have survived.

The People of the Chasm (1923), which Bridges wrote as Christopher Beck, features monstrous insects, giant apes and Norsemen living in a a temperate zone near the North Pole.

The City of No Escape (1925) is set in a lost world inhabited by robot-like beings.

In the vintage science fiction novel The Death Star (1940), which he dedicated "To Jules Verne, first of science fiction writers," Bridges describes an Earth largely devastated and depopulated by a terrible disturbance in the solar system. The story relates the adventures of seven men adrift in a marvellous airship of the future. There is a battle to death between two scientists, one seeking to build up a new and better world on the ruins of the old, the other a fiend fighting to set up a system which would destroy finally what life was left on Earth.


A COLD drizzling rain had made Plymouth a misery, and it was with a sigh of relief that Bruce Carey exchanged the greasy, draughty platform of North Road Station for the warm, well-lit comfort of a first-class compartment on the night mail for London.

At first he thought he was going to have the carriage all to himself, but just as the train was on the point of starting a man jumped in and dropped on the seat opposite to Bruce. He was breathing hard as if he had been running, and Bruce, glancing up at him, was startled at the expression upon his face.

"Scared," said Bruce to himself. "And precious badly scared at that." While pretending to read his magazine he covertly watched his neighbor, wondering meantime what could possibly have reduced him to such a condition. It was hard to imagine any cause for such terror on the prosaic platform of North Road Station. Nor did the man himself seem the sort to yield easily to such terror. Though slightly built and turning a little grey over the ears he was anything but a rabbit. His features were distinctly good, he had a strong chin and nose, and he was quietly but very well dressed. Bruce noticed that his hands were well shaped, with long and rather delicate fingers. In his left hand he had a small leather bag, which seemed of particularly sturdy construction. To Bruce's surprise, he saw that it was attached by a chain to a belt around his waist, like the bullion bag of a bank manager.

At last the guard's whistle sounded, and the long train began to move slowly out of the station. As it did so the man's set features relaxed a little, and with a long breath he sank back against the cushions. The train gained speed and soon was running eastwards at well over 50 miles an hour. Bruce began to read in earnest, but the other sat perfectly still, with eyes half closed.

Half an hour passed, the train was nearing Newton Abbott when at last the stranger stirred and sat up. "Can you tell me when we are due at Exeter?" he asked.

Voice and manner were well-bred and pleasant, and Bruce, laying down his magazine, took a time-table from his pocket.

"Ten past one," he answered.

"Thank you very much. I am wondering whether I shall have time to get some food there. There is no restaurant car on this train."

Bruce shook his head. "I am afraid you won't be able to get anything at this hour. The refreshment rooms will be closed. But as it happens, I have sandwiches—more than I can manage. I shall be glad if you will share them."

"It is most kind of you. I should be really grateful. The fact is that I have had nothing since breakfast." He smiled as he spoke, a smile which lit his worn face very pleasantly.

Bruce quickly opened his bag, and, taking out a large packet of sandwiches, began to open them, "You must be starved," he said. "Please begin at once. No, I assure you that you are not robbing me. I dined at the Lockyer and did myself well. Incidentally, these are Lockyer sandwiches."

"A good restaurant," replied the other with his pleasant smile, "They are excellent."

The ice thus broken, the two men were soon chatting freely, and Bruce found himself distinctly attracted by his chance acquaintance, who was evidently a man who had travelled a good deal and kept his eyes open while he did so. The talk drifted to mining, Bruce's new friend began to talk of the Malayan tin mines, which he seemed to know well, but he pulled up suddenly. "I am afraid I am boring you," he apologised.

"That you are not," Bruce answered quickly. "I am a miner myself. But not tin. My speciality is gold."

"Gold!" repeated the other, and suddenly the scared expression which had been so noticeable when he first got into the carriage crossed his face again.

Bruce was puzzled but at the same time interested. "Yes," he said, "I have been prospecting in New Guinea. Indeed I am only just back. I got in this afternoon on the Maraku."

"And there is gold there?" asked the other.

"Any amount. A lot of placer, but also tremendous bodies of ore. Evidently most of them are low grade, so it is no sort of mining for a poor man."

"I see. You need capital, of course."

"That is what I have come home for—that and another reason." As he spoke Bruce Carey's good-looking face grew suddenly grim.

"There is no reason why I should not tell you," went on Bruce. "A relative of mine—my half-brother in fact—has got into an ugly mess, and it's up to me to get him out."

"I am sorry," said the other gently. "I hope that you will succeed. And now will you tell me about your gold mine? It happens to be a subject in which I am deeply interested. May I mention that my name is Egerton—Stuart Egerton."

"And mine is Bruce Carey," said Bruce with a smile. "Yes, certainly, I'll tell you about my mine."

Bruce talked well. He described those dripping forests into whose steaming depths the sun never penetrates, the terrific gorges which cut deep into the foot-hills of the great central mountain chain of New Guinea. He spoke of tribes of almost unknown savages and of the appalling difficulties which beset the prospector in this vast and still almost unknown island.

As he talked his keen brown face lit up, and he pushed his fingers through his dark, crisp hair with a curiously boyish gesture.

There was no doubt about Egerton's interest. He leaned forward, listening eagerly, and once in a way throwing in quick questions which proved his knowledge of the subject.

The train had long passed Exeter. It was thundering across the wide plain of Somerset, and Bruce was still talking, when suddenly he saw that Egerton was no longer listening. His eyes were fixed upon the door leading into the corridor, and in them was the self-same look of stark terror as when he had first entered the train at Plymouth.

Instinctively Bruce glanced towards the door. A face was pressed against the glass in the upper part. A man's face, with a big, aquiline nose, a jutting chin, and eyes of a cold grey. It was the hardest, cruelest face Bruce had ever seen.

"So he is here! He is in the train!" gasped Egerton, and in his voice there was a note of absolute despair.

Bruce was on his feet in a flash, and sprang towards the door. It stuck a little, and before he could slide it back the face had vanished.

Bruce strode rapidly first up, then down, the corridor, looking into each compartment as he passed. But several were darkened by a cap over the lamp, and in the others he could see no one remotely resembling the watcher at the window.

He came back.

"You—you saw him?" asked Egerton, in a breathless whisper.

"No. He has either reached another coach, or he is in one of the darkened carriages. I—I gather he is not a friend of yours?"

"He is my worst enemy. He is a blackguard, a thief, a man whose God is money and whose heart is stone."

Egerton did not raise his voice in the least, yet the deadly earnestness with which he spoke was proof positive of the terror with which this man inspired him.

Bruce sat down again, waiting to hear more.

"He is trying to rob me of my life's work," went on Egerton feverishly. "I thought—I believed that I had dodged him in Plymouth. But now he is on the train. Now I shall never escape him. See here!"

He whipped his soft hat off and bent forward. On top of the scalp was a long, narrow bald patch seamed with the red scar of what must have been a terrible wound. "That is the relic of our last meeting," he said.

For the moment Bruce could find nothing to say. He realised that he had suddenly run upon stark tragedy. Before he could think of suitable words the steady roar of the train was interrupted by a harsh, grinding sound. There was a shock which hurled Bruce forward on to the opposite seat.

The whole carriage seemed to lift under him. A tremendous crash, stars glittered in a dancing shower before his eyes—then for a time he knew nothing more.


RAIN—cold rain splashing on his face was the next thing of which Bruce was aware. He stirred and opened his eyes. His head sang like a kettle, he felt stupid and dazed, and though he tried hard he could not imagine where he was or remember what had happened.

It was dark, yet the darkness was lit by a red glow. Somewhere there was a steady crackling sound. Bruce felt he knew that sound, and that there was danger in it, yet he could not place it. By slow degrees his brain began to work again, and he realised that he was lying flat on his back, looking straight up into the night sky, from which the rain fell steadily.

There was a cushion beneath him, one of the seat-cushions. It lay across a mass of wreckage, and it came to Bruce that this wreckage was one end of the compartment in which he had been travelling. The carriage, shattered to matchwood, lay on its side at the bottom of a low embankment. There had been an almighty smash. That much became clear.

With an effort he managed to sit up. He was still abominably giddy, and his head pained him. Putting up his hand, he found a cut in his forehead. But it was not a bad one, and it seemed to be his only injury. "My lucky day, evidently," he said, half aloud.

The crackling became louder. A puff of hot smoke blew down upon him. "Good God, the train is afire!" he said, and struggled to his feet.

Through the crackling came a moan, and in a flash Bruce remembered his follow traveller. A jet of flame lit the gloom and by its light Bruce saw Egerton's tortured face not a yard away. Only his face and shoulders were visible. The rest of him was hidden—pinned under a mass of wreckage.

The sight drove everything else out of Bruce's mind, and flinging himself upon the broken timbers he began tearing them aside with his bare hands.

It was time, too. That ominous crackling was louder ever moment, and the ugly red glare grew stronger. The fire was eating fast through the wreckage.

In the distance were shouts, a crash of axes on planking and presently shocking screams. Bruce hardly heard these sounds. All his energies were centred on the release of poor Egerton. After all the unfortunate man had suffered, to meet such an end as this seemed to Bruce too dreadful and pitiful. He worked with a set and savage energy, and at last, using a broken piece of planking as a lever, managed to raise the mass of stuff which lay across Egerton's body.

He stooped, and got his arm around the other.

Egerton groaned terribly. "I can't stand it," he said, hoarsely. "Leave me where I am."

"Man, I can't. The fire is on us," answered Bruce, and hardening his heart picked up the unfortunate man bodily, and with a great effort lifted him clear. Staggering away to a safe distance, he laid him down on the soaking grass by the edge of the line.

The scene was grotesque in its horror. The wreckage was now blazing fiercely, and the crimson glow lit up the figures of men who toiled furiously to rescue the poor creatures trapped in the burning carriages, and of others who ran wildly to and fro seeking for lost wives or sisters, husbands or sweethearts. The screams of the sufferers were terrible beyond description.

Egerton lay like a log. His eyes were closed, his face grey and ghastly. Only his slow breathing showed that he was still alive.

Suddenly Bruce remembered that he had a flask in his pocket. With difficulty he got a few drops of whisky down Egerton's throat, and almost at once the unfortunate man's eyes opened.

"You are better?" said Bruce anxiously.

Egerton smiled—a pitiful smile. "I shall never be any better," he answered quietly. "My chest is crushed."

Bruce's heart ached. "My dear fellow," he said gently, "you cannot possibly tell. Let me fetch a doctor."

Egerton stretched a thin hand. "No!" he said forcibly. "I cannot last many minutes. I am certain of that. Stay with me, Carey, I beg that you will stay."

He paused, gasping for breath.

"I am not sorry," he went on presently. "Not for myself, at least. Since my wife died I have not cared greatly to live. Were it not for my daughter I could go without a regret."

He stopped and looked hard at Bruce.

"Carey," he continued. "We are only casual acquaintances, yet somehow I feel that I can trust you. Will you do something for me."

"Of course," Bruce answered quietly.

"Wait! This is a big thing that I am asking. It means that I leave you a legacy of great danger, yet at the same time one of immense profit."

"The danger that you speak of has to do with the enemy of whom you have told me?"

"That is so. Listen, now, for I have not much time. You have noticed this bag I carry. In it is contained an invention on which I have spent the best years of my life."

Again he paused. His voice was weaker and Bruce dosed him again with whisky.

"You are aware," he said, "that an ordinary magnet attracts three metals—iron, nickel, and cobalt. Twenty years ago it occurred to me that it might be possible to construct a magnet which would attract gold in a similar fashion. An American named Macarthy began experiments of this kind, and was on the right track, but he died, and I purchased his notes from his executor, and went on with the experiments. I have no time left to explain the immense difficulties which I encountered nor how I surmounted them. Enough to say that in the end I succeeded, and a few months ago perfected a new form of magnet which attracts gold, silver, copper, and tin, exactly as an ordinary magnet attracts steel."

Bruce stared. The story was crazy, incredible.

"I know what you are thinking," went on Egerton, with a faint smile. "You fancy that I am romancing, or that what I tell you is the wanderings of a dying man. You are wrong. I still possess all my senses the facts are exactly as I have stated, and if you accept my trust you will be able to prove the truth of them for yourself.

"The apparatus is in this bag, but it is useless without the necessary directions. These are in the possession of my daughter, Sylvia."

"What I ask you to do is to take the bag to her, to tell her how I came to my end, to obtain from her these directions, and to use the magnet as you will know well how to use it. It will, of course, be invaluable in the treatment of all low-grade ores and should make you a very wealthy man. I suggest that half your profits should go to my daughter."

"Wealthy!—There are millions in it!" exclaimed Bruce. "I should be the richest man in the world."

"Wait!" said the other. "Wait! It is not to simple as it sounds. This man of whom I spoke knows of my invention, and he and his gang are sworn to get it from me. I have so far defeated them, for that they hate me with a fierce and deadly hatred. If you accept my charge you accept a most dangerous legacy."

Bruce laughed. "Scum like that!" he said scornfully. "Vulgar thieves and criminals!"

"But dangerous—deadly dangerous. I know no living man more utterly pitiless and unscrupulous than James Lurgan."

Bruce gave a startled gasp. "James Lurgan!" he repeated. "That is the very man whom I have to thank for ruining my brother Claude, the self-same scoundrel I have come to England to run down. Egerton, I accept your legacy. I accept it with joy and gratitude. Your magnet will be a weapon with which to fight him—that is if he is not killed in this accident."

"The devil looks after his own," said Egerton gravely. "He is still alive. I feel it."

His face went grey again. Great beads of sweat stood on his forehead. Bruce saw that he was dying. But the will within him still held body and spirit together for a little moment more, and he spoke again, though in the merest whisper.

"Carey, you have taken a great load off my mind, and if the blessing of a dying man can help you, be sure you have it. My daughter lives near Reading. You will find her address in the bag. Unbuckle my belt, take the bag, and when you have it, go at once."

He raised his hand. "At once," he repeated. "At once!" his hand dropped, his eyes closed. One fluttering breath, then the end.

Unbuckling the belt, Bruce took the bag and walked rapidly away to where the lights of a farmhouse twinkled through the night.


A WAITER came to where Bruce Carey sat busily writing in the reading room of the Bridge Hotel at Reading. "The gentleman you were expecting is here, sir. Shall I show him in?"

Before Bruce could answer there came a voice from the door, a soft drawl that anyone who knew America would at once place as Virginian.

"Say, Bruce, if you thought I was going to wait for any bell boy to show me up I reckon you were missing it badly. I was in too much of a mighty hurry to see your old phiz again."

Bruce grasped both of Randolph Colt's hands. "I'm sure you weren't in a bigger hurry than I," he exclaimed. "How fit you're looking!"

"I should be straining the truth if I said the same for you," returned Colt. "You look as if you'd been out on the tiles all night with the cats. Honest, what have you been doing to your fool self?"

"If you'll take that chair and light this cigar, I'll do my best to tell you," Bruce answered.

"Bad as that, is it?" remarked Colt as he obeyed instructions. He was a tall, lean man of about 30, with the entirely competent appearance of the travelled American. He had a wide, humorous mouth and grey eyes that were amazingly keen and bright. His dark hair was carefully parted in the middle, his hands were perfectly manicured, while his unobtrusive brown tweed suit, his boots and all he wore were the best that Bond-street can produce.

"Judging by your wire," he added, "I rather reckoned it was something urgent. Has it anything to do with that decoration," indicating the patch of plaster or Bruce's forehead.

"Oh, that's nothing. I got it in the smash yesterday on the Great Southern."

"Gee, were you in that?"

"I was. And it's on the smash this story hangs. Time presses, so listen."

Bruce had the gift of putting things into few words. In five minutes he had given Randolph Colt a full account of the doings of the previous night.

Colt knocked the ash off his cigar, and straightened his long back. "You certainly have been mixing it some, Bruce," he said, gravely. "And it's sure a queer chance that James Lurgan should be doing the heavy villain in both of these pieces. I'm kind of glad you sent for me."

"You'll help?"

Colt smiled. "What do you think? Why Bruce, this is the greatest, ever. And let me tell you, it's time, too. I reckon Lurgan's lot have got Claude mighty near down and out. I've done what I could to help the kid, but I don't cut much ice with him. He needs you."

"And I'm going to him as soon as I can. But first I must see this girl."

"Better do that right away. Where does she live?"

"Deeping Cottage. It's near Mortimer. I've ordered a car."

"Then bring your magnet and come right along. If we get this thing fixed this afternoon, we can reach London for dinner, and see Claude before he goes a by-by."

Bruce nodded. "Wait here. I'll get the parcel. It's in the hotel safe." He was back in five minutes. "Cars waiting," he said.

The weather had changed completely, and a bright sun shone on a smiling countryside as the car ran swiftly along the broad Bath-road. A chauffeur from the garage drove, while Bruce and Randolph both sat together in the comfortable tonneau.

Colt lit a fresh cigarette.

"You've seen Lurgan since the smash?" he asked.

"No, but his name is not in the list of killed or injured. As poor Egerton said the 'devil looks after his own.'"

"Do you reckon he's on your trail?"

"I don't think he can be. I went on to Bristol by car after the accident, and got train from there."

"Good. Then I guess we'll be all right for a few hours, anyway."

"Hulloa!" he broke off sharply. "What's up?"

A big hay cart lay across the road. A wheel had come off. Several men were lifting the bales of hay aside, and a few passers-by were watching.

As Bruce's chauffeur pulled up, two men who had been standing on the foot-path ran across to the car. The first drew a pistol, a huge, ugly looking revolver.

"Hands up!" he shouted in a theatrical manner, and jammed the muzzle against Bruce's side. The other did the same for Colt.

For a moment Bruce was so astonished he could only stare. His first impression was that these men were playing some silly game.

The whole thing was too melodramatic to be real. Yet, in spite of his theatrical manner, his wide brimmed hat and absurd get-up, there was a look in the fellow's eyes that meant business.

"It's the real thing!" rasped the man in his car. "Don't you make no mistake about that. Put your hands up, and keep 'em up, or I'll blow a hole right through you."

"Don't be a fool," retorted Bruce scornfully. "Why, there are a dozen people looking on, and more coming up. What do you think they'd be doing?"

"Just what they're doing now—looking on. You turn your eyes to the left, and you'll see why."

Bruce glanced to the left. A man stood on the hedge bank with a cinema camera of which he was turning the handle. In a flash Bruce understood, and, as he realised the infernal cleverness of the whole scheme, his heart sank in his boots. All the lookers-on who were not in the plot were under the full belief that a film was being produced, and under such circumstances not one of course would lift a finger to interfere.

"It's good goods," Randolph whispered in Bruce's ear. "James has got us to rights. Guess there ain't anything for it but hand out and look pleasant."

"The only thing you need to hand out is that there little bag you've got beside you on the seat," said Bruce's assailant.

Bruce hesitated. To lose the magnet at this stage of the game was ruin. His best weapon would be turned against him.

The muzzle of the pistol was pressed hard against the side.

"Get a move on," snapped its owner.

Again Bruce heard Randolph's whisper, but this time so slow that only he could hear it. "Give it up, Bruce. Gold's no use to dead men."

There was no braver man alive than Randolph Colt. Bruce knew that. Randolph would never back down while there was a fighting chance. If he said that the magnet must be given up he meant it. He waited no longer, but picking up the bag handed it over.

The man snatched it, and backed off, still covering Bruce with his absurd gun. His comrade did the same, keeping Colt covered, the camera man meantime steadily turning his handle.

The precious pair backed until they were level with the overturned cart, then both whipped round and in a flash were behind it.

Colt made one jump out of the car, pulled a pistol and raced after them, and Bruce was almost as quick. It was too late. Already the pair were in the car which was waiting for them on the other side of the obstruction. The camera man, leaving his instrument, leaped after them and the car shot away at a tremendous pace.

Colt lifted his pistol and fired twice. The second bullet struck the back of the car, sending splinters flying. Then she was out of range.

He turned back. His lips were set a little tighter than usual, but otherwise his face showed no sign of what he was really feeling.

One of the spectators, a mere boy, ran up in great excitement. "I say, were those real bullets you fired?"

"They were, sonny," replied Colt drily. "And that was a real hold-up, too."

Leaving the boy gaping, he jumped back into the car. "Get in, Bruce," he said. "There's room to pass now and we may as well push on."

"We may as well go back," Bruce answered bitterly.

"I guess not. There's no need to feel so bad, Bruce. The magnet's not a mite of use to Lurgan without the directions, and it's Miss Egerton has them."


DEEPING COTTAGE was not a cottage at all, but a small, pretty and quite modern house with a close-cut lawn and dainty flower-beds in front. Masses of rambler roses trained on a pergola screened the house from the road, and the walls were covered with Virginia and other creepers. The whole place had an air of charm and modest comfort which Bruce, sore as he was, could not help appreciating.

"She knows, don't she?" said Colt in a low voice as the car pulled up.

"Yes. I wired her first thing," Bruce answered.

"I guess I'll stay outside," said Colt. "She won't want to be seeing more than one stranger."

Bruce was not feeling happy as he rang the bell. For a time the trick that had been played on him, and the barefaced robbery of the magnet, had swamped all other considerations, but now he was remembering the girl again and feeling desperately sorry for her.

A middle-aged woman opened the door. Her pleasant face was marred with tears.

"Mr. Carey? Yes, sir. Miss Silvia is waiting for you," she said in a low voice. "This way, if you please."

The room which Bruce entered was a very charming one. There was not one piece of furniture or ornament in it of any particular value, yet all was so well and tastefully arranged that the whole impression was delightful.

But Bruce had no eyes for anything except for the girl, who rose from a chair by the window and came towards him. Somehow it had never occurred to him that Silvia Egerton might be young and pretty. This girl was quite young, not more than 20, and, in spite of the deep sorrow on her face, much more than pretty. She was beautiful. Her beauty, too, was of a very uncommon type. Hair the colour of burnished copper contrasted with eyes of real Irish blue, while her complexion was almost transparent in its perfection.

Her mouth was perhaps a trifle too large, but Bruce's only thought at the moment was how delightfully those lips would curve in a smile.

Yet it was not the perfection of feature which made Silvia Egerton's chief charm. It was her frank, sweet, open look, so that at first glance Bruce was certain that the soul and spirit of her were as perfect as her face and form.

"It is very—very kind of you to come," she said, and gave him her hand. Her voice was just as perfect as the rest of her—low in tone, yet beautifully clear and distinct.

Bruce, who for the moment had been standing stock still positively staring at her, pulled himself together. "I am only glad to have been able to," he answered. "And—and I am so sorry for you, Miss Egerton."

There was real sympathy in his voice, and for a moment she turned away, choking a little. But her power of self-control was wonderful, and in a moment she was herself again, calm and composed as ever.

"Sit down, Mr. Carey. I would like you to tell me about it all, please. Dad and I loved one another very dearly."

It was the hardest task that Bruce had ever had in all his life, but somehow he obeyed. His heart ached for the girl who sat listening in silence, yet, as he felt in the very soul of him, suffering intensely.

"I have given directions for the body to be brought here," he said simply. "I thought you would like it."

She sat silent. For the moment she could not speak. But again she mastered her emotion.

"You were right. I should, and he, too, would have wished to be buried in the old churchyard here."

Bruce waited a little before he spoke again.

"And now, Miss Egerton, I have something else to say—something which I would give a good deal not to have to tell you. Your father entrusted to me the bag containing the gold magnet. On my way out here this morning the car was held up by armed men, and I was robbed of the bag and its contents."

Her beautiful eyes, misty with tears, opened wide.

"Robbed?" she repeated. "In broad daylight?"

Very briefly Bruce gave her the details. His voice was dry and almost harsh, but Silvia instinctively understood what he was feeling and what a cruel blow the whole business had been to his pride.

"I ought to have foreseen it," he ended bitterly. "I might have known that Lurgan would have had me followed."

A little colour rose in her face. "You are not to blame yourself, Mr. Carey," she said earnestly. "Not for a moment. It took a mind like that of Lurgan to think of such a trick. Please remember, too, that the magnet is useless to Lurgan without the directions, and happily I have those in safety."

It was just what Randolph Colt had said, and Bruce took a little comfort. "Thank you, Miss Egerton," he said humbly. "You are very lenient to me."

"You must not talk like that. There is not one man in a hundred who would have done what you have done, or taken such an immensity of trouble for strangers. Believe me, I am very grateful to you."

Bruce smiled a little. "All that I can say is that I hope you will not look upon me as a stranger any longer. By your father's last wishes, we are now partners, Miss Egerton."

She flushed a little. "I am glad," she said simply, and held out her hand.

Bruce took it and clasped it strongly.

"You give me fresh courage," he answered gravely. "Miss Egerton, I am going to recover your property from this gang of scoundrels. I will never rest until I have done so."

"No," she said quickly. "No, I beg that you will not try it. Think of the danger. You are against desperate men. If—if anything happened to you I should never forgive myself."

Bruce looked at her a moment.

"You forget," he said gently. "I, too, have my quarrel with Lurgan. Claude, my half-brother, is in his blackguardly clutches. I have come ten thousand miles to save him."

He rose as he spoke.

"Now I am going," he continued. "Mr. Colt and I must be in London to-night. To-morrow I hope to be back here and give you what assistance I can. But before I leave there is just one other matter. What about the papers relating to the magnet? Would you wish me to put them in a safe deposit? If Lurgan knew they were here there is no saying to what lengths he would go."

"I shall be grateful if you will take them," said Silvia. "I will fetch them."

She left the room, returning presently with a large sealed envelope, which Bruce buttoned into an inside pocket.

"I shall get these locked up safely before nightfall," he said. "And now, goodbye, Miss Egerton."

"Good-bye, and thank you again a thousand times."

She came with him to the door, and Bruce, looking back as he reached the gate, saw her still standing there.

Colt was sitting patiently in the car smoking his endless cigarettes. As Bruce got in, he turned.

"That's a real pretty girl, Bruce," he said quietly.

"The most beautiful woman I ever saw," Bruce answered. "And the bravest and the best."

Colt's eyebrows rose a trifle, but if he made any remark it was not audible.


49. DUKE'S GATE, is one of the finest of those tall, severely handsome houses standing just south of Hyde Park, and the rent of which runs far into four figures.

A little after eleven on the night of the day on which Bruce Carey had first met Silvia Egerton cars and taxis began to arrive, one after another, at number 49. A casual passer-by might have supposed that a dance was in progress, but one who watched more carefully would have noticed that almost all the visitors were men. Some were young, some old, but all were alike in one respect. They were curiously silent, and those who did speak talked in low voices.

About half past eleven a costly-looking private couple drove up. It held only one passenger, a tall young man of about twenty- three, remarkably good looking and remarkably well dressed. He was the sort any young woman would have looked at twice, though the marks of dissipation on his handsome face might have made the hearts of older matrons sore.

This youngster went straight up the steps, rang, and was admitted by a gigantic hall porter in a quiet but costly livery.

"Good evening, Mr. Bryson," said the latter, with a geniality inspired by recollection of lavish tips.

"Evening, Duggan," replied Claude Bryson. "Any one upstairs?"

"Several, sir. Mr. Grane was asking if you had come."

Claude nodded, and made his way cross the hall to the broad flight leading to the first floor. The carpet was an inch thick, all the appointments of the great house were perfect, but what would nave struck a stranger was the curious silence pervading the whole place.

Opening a heavy door which swung silently on well oiled hinges, Claude entered a large room. Shaded electric lights glowed upon a number of green tables, most of which were occupied by parties playing bridge. The only sounds were the rustle of cards and the low voices of the players. All was orderly and perfectly within the law.

It was camouflage pure and simple. Passing straight through, Claude opened a cleverly concealed door, and found himself in a very different apartment.

In the centre was a long roulette table with a croupier spinning a wheel at the end, and a score of people sitting round. Piles of counters were heaped on different numbers and colours, and the game was in full blast.

On the right of the door was a deep alcove, and here stood a six-sided poker table at which sat four players. As Claude entered, a deal was just over and a tall, stout, red-faced man was in the act of sweeping a heap of coloured chips into his trough.

He looked up, saw Claude, and waved a pudgy hand.

"Hello, Claude," he exclaimed, "thought you'd be along. Here's a pew for you."

There was a curious shine in Claude's eyes as he dropped into his seat. "Give me some chips, Grane," he said.

"What'll you have?" replied the stout man.

"Five hundred, to start. What's the limit?"

"We've been playing ten pounds. That suit you?"

"That's no use to me," said Claude sharply.

Grane shrugged his shoulders.

"Twenty then, or fifty if you like."

Another player chimed in, a tall, sallow, lantern-jawed man. "Take the lid off altogether if you like."

"That'll suit me, Stroud," said Claude eagerly. "I've a lot to get back."

"Do you all agree?" asked Grane. The others nodded and the game began afresh.

Claude won three out of the first five hands.

"That's better," he said, with a high-pitched laugh. "I knew the luck must change some time."

"Yes you've had a thin time lately," said Grane sympathetically. "You're due to get a bit back."

It did seem as if Claude's luck was on the mend. His winnings heaped up steadily until his trough was half full of chips.

The man called Stroud dealt a jack pot. Is passed twice, then Claude, who was next to the dealer, opened.

"For ten pounds," he said, putting the chips up.

All came in.

Claude drew two cards. His was not a poker face, and there was not a man at the table who did not know he had improved. As a matter of fact, he had drawn a pair of threes to the three fives he already held, so making a full house.

Grane also drew two cards, the others took three except Stroud, who stood pat.

"Bet you five as a start," said Claude.

The next man dropped out.

"See you and raise you ten," said Grane with a face like a carved Buddha. The third man threw his hand in, but Stroud began ladling out chips.

"There's your fifteen, and fifty better."

Claude bit his lip. "And fifty more," he said.

"That's a hundred and fifteen," observed Grane. "Make it two hundred."

"Four hundred," remarked Stroud, curtly. Two spots of colour burned on Claude's checks.

"I'll see," he said.

"I'm putting Stroud up," said Grane. "Six hundred."

"Eight," he said.

"I must see," said Claude thickly.

"Sorry, Claude, but I've a good hand," apologised Grane. "It's a thousand, Stroud."

Stroud did not move an eyelid.

"Two thousand."

Claude looked at his hand, he muttered a curse under his breath, and flung his cards in the centre of the table.

Grane shrugged his thick shoulders.

"Too rich for me. Stroud, I die."

"You ought to," broke in a new voice, very dry but very distinct. "There certainly never was any one that better deserved to, unless it's your master, James Lurgan."

Grane swung round with a quickness wonderful in a man of his bulk.

"What the devil are you, and what do you mean by interfering in this game?" he demanded fiercely.

"My name is Carey," replied Bruce, looking Grane very straight in the eyes.

"And the reason of my interference is that I strongly object to seeing any one swindled as you and your accomplice, who calls himself Stroud, have been swindling Mr. Bryson."

"You're crazy!" retorted Grane. "We are playing a perfectly straight game."

Colt cut in. "Straight, you call it! You neither of you had anything better'n a pair of jacks while Mr. Bryson had a full hand. You both knew that, and between you deliberately raised him out of his boots. In the States we call that sort of thing the cross-lift, and we usually lynch the men who try it."

Grane's face was murderous. "It's men who sneak in where they're not asked or wanted who get lynched in this country," he said, savagely. "Handle 'em, boys."

His three confederates were on their feet in a flash, and all four made a combined rush at Bruce and Colt.


GRANE and his merry men were a tough lot, and well accustomed to "handling" any unfortunate unwise enough to resent being rooked of their money. But Bruce Carey and Randolph Colt were in a very different class from the pigeons who were so easily plucked at No. 49. Both were men of their hands, both were in the hardest kind of physical condition, both had been in tight places and forced to fight their way out of them. Another thing, and one which Grane in his fury had forgotten or never thought of—the two had come expecting trouble and were fully prepared for it.

Grane was the first to find his mistake. Charging like a bull upon Bruce he drove a savage blow at him, only to waste his strength on empty air, to trip upon a deftly thrust out leg and go headlong with a crash that shook the whole room and knocked all the breath out of his gross body.

Without wasting even one glance on the sprawling brute, Bruce wheeled to face a second and more dangerous adversary. A man younger than Grane, not so bulky, but thick-set, bullet-headed, and for all his smart evening kit, with the unmistakable look of a professional pug. His little dark eyes glittered evilly as he struck upwards at Bruce's jaw.

It was no time for ring fighting, and Bruce knew it. The odds were far too great. Instead of guarding the blow he ducked and closed. Flinging his arms round the pug's body, he back-heeled him, at the same time flinging all his weight forward, and down they both went together. In falling the man's head struck the back of a chair, breaking the chair, but at the same time stunning the owner on the head.

Bruce was up again like a flash, to see Randolph Colt wrestling desperately with the lantern-jawed Stroud, while the fourth man, whose nose seemed to have suffered severely from Randolph's fist, for it was bleeding in streams, was leaning against the wall of the alcove, looking decidedly dazed.

At the roulette table play had stopped, and all were on their feet, watching the sudden struggle. It had all happened so quickly that so far no one seemed to have thought of interfering, but Bruce saw that this state of things could not last long. The two croupiers both of whom looked to be pretty hard cases, were hastily shovelling the money before them into open drawers, clearly with the intention of chipping in with as little delay as possible. As for Claude Bryson, he was still in his chair, gazing or rather gaping at Bruce. Not having the faintest idea that his half-brother was nearer than New Guinea, it was not surprising that he was simply stupefied at his sudden appearance.

At this moment the man with the damaged nose suddenly recovered, and snatched up a chair with the evident intention of flooring Randolph from behind.

"Look out, Randolph!" cried Bruce, and was in the act of jumping to the rescue, when his ankle was seized from behind by Grane. Bruce, caught off his balance, fell across the card-table, smashing it to splinters and going through its ruins to the floor. A desperate kick freed him from Grane's hold, but as he struggled up he had a horrid conviction that the delay had been fatal, and that Randolph was finished.

So he would have been but for Claude. Bruce's shout had roused Claude at last, and springing to his feet he had hurled himself at the man with the chair, and coming at him sideways kicked his legs from under him. As the man fell so, too, did Stroud, with Randolph Colt on top of him. Stroud went limp with the force of the fall, and Randolph came back to his feet as if he had a spring inside him.

By this time the two croupiers were running forward. "Hold them!" ordered Grane, staggering to his feet. "Call for help. Don't let them go."

Bruce swung round on him. "You'll call your men off if you know what is good for you, Grane," he said. "If you attempt to interfere with us again it will be the last thing you will do for some time to come." His jaw was set, his eyes were like grey steel, and Stroud, though to do him justice, was no coward, took a quick step backwards.

Randolph spoke. "I guess we'll be moving, Bruce," he said in his soft drawl. "You coming, Bryson?"

"About time I did," said Claude, in an odd voice. Grane watched them as they walked towards the door, and if looks could have killed the three would never have reached it alive. But neither he nor his men made a move to stop them, and in another moment they were in the big room where the shaded lights shone upon the quiet bridge tables.

At the head of the stairs Randolph paused "Will the fellows at the door try to stop us? I reckon Grane can telephone down to 'em."

"No," said Claude quickly. "Duggan the big chap, is a friend of mine. He won't interfere, and the others will do as he says."

"That's all right then," drawled Randolph. "Me, I've had enough fuss for one evening."

But when they reached the barrier it did not seem that Duggan had heard of any of the trouble upstairs, for he greeted Claude as usual. "Leaving early to-night, Mr. Bryson, ain't you?" he remarked, with something as near a smile as his hard face was capable of.

"Yes. I have met some old friends," replied Claude. "Good night, Duggan."

"Good night, sir," answered the man as he let them through.

Outside Randolph drew a long breath. "Say, Bruce, we got out of that mighty easy," he remarked. He grinned. "You sure made hay of those two crooks," he added.

"I wish I'd had time to damage that fellow Grane," replied Bruce. "He's a rotter, if I ever saw one."

"He's not as bad as Denver," said Claude quickly, "the man you knocked out, Bruce. I always hated him."

"Pity you didn't begin the hating a bit sooner, Claude," said Bruce drily. "By all accounts it would have saved you a good deal."

Claude flushed. "I—I suppose you're right, Bruce," he answered, "but honestly I never had a notion the play was crooked until you showed them up. Even now I can hardly believe it."

"They don't run places like that as charitable institutes," said Bruce, but he spoke more kindly. "Now, let me introduce you to Randolph Colt, my oldest and best friend."

"I don't reckon we need any more introduction than what we've had already," said Colt smiling. "You sure saved me from a cracked head, Mr. Bryson, and that's introduction enough for most folk."

Claude flushed again. In spite of his slightly dissipated appearance he was still very young, and compared with Bruce and Randolph looked a mere boy.

He pulled himself together. "I'm glad I was in time, Mr. Colt, but to tell you the truth I was so flabbergasted at seeing my brother that I sat like a dummy, until it was almost too late. It was only Bruce's shout that roused me. I am very grateful to you for helping Bruce to pull me out of a very ugly hole."

"So long as you don't fall into it again—that will be our best reward," said Randolph, speaking with unusual gravity.

"You may trust me for that," replied Claude equally gravely. "I have had my lesson." He turned to Bruce. "But tell me, Bruce, how do you come to be in England?"

"To say the truth, there is rather a lot to tell you, Claude," replied the other. "Where are you living?"

"I have rooms in Gunton-street, Westminster. Will you both come in? I can give you some decent whisky. Let's take a taxi." He stopped and hailed one, but it was Randolph who gave an address to the driver. "You can drop me at Artillery Mansions," he said. "That's where Bruce and I are putting up. You two have a lot to talk about, and you don't want me butting in." In spite of their protests he stuck to his resolve, so they left him in Victoria-street, and went on to Claude's place.

"You do yourself well, Claude," Bruce said rather drily, as he looked round at the dark panelled walls of the handsomely furnished room, the pictures, few in number, but excellently chosen, and the lovely old white-and-gold Swansea china in the cabinet opposite the door.

Claude's eyes followed those of Bruce around the room. "The pictures and china were my mother's," he explained. He paused. "But they wouldn't have been mine much longer if you hadn't turned up when you did, Bruce. I should have had to sell every stick to square what I owed—or thought I owed."

Bruce smiled "I won't say let it be a lesson to you, Claude, for I'm quite sure there's no need to do so. Now what about that nip of whisky? I'm thirsty after all the excitement."

Claude set out a cut-glass decanter, a syphon and glasses. He put Bruce in his best chair, mixed him a drink and gave him a cigar, then sat down opposite and prepared to listen. Bruce said little of the object which had really brought him home. He was not the sort to rub it in, and he allowed Claude to think that his main object had been to raise capital for his new mine. He went on to tell him about his meeting with Egerton, and as he spoke of the accident and of Egerton's death amid the ruins of the broken train, Claude's interest grew. His cigar went out, and he leaned forward, his eyes bright with excitement. The robbery of the magnet left him almost breathless, but he did not say a word until Bruce had finished his story. Then he straightened himself and drew a long breath. "My hat, but you have been mixing it!" he exclaimed. "And it's Lurgan—Lurgan who is the villain of the piece."

"Yes," said Bruce. "Lurgan is the man who persecuted poor Egerton. It was Lurgan's face that looked into our compartment in the train, and I have not the faintest doubt, but that it was Lurgan's men who robbed us, and that the magnet relating to Egerton's invention is at present in Lurgan's keeping."

"The swine!" exclaimed Claude, angrily. "Hang it all if I hadn't had my eyes opened already, Bruce, this would finish my cure. I'm jolly well going to help you to get back that magnet."

Bruce stiffened. "You are not going to do anything of the sort, Claude," he said curtly. "I mean it. I won't have you running your head into the noose again. This is my job, and you are to keep out of it."


FOR a moment Claude looked a little sulky, but presently his face cleared. He shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose I have to obey orders," he said, rather ruefully. "But look here, Bruce, how are you going to start this business? You've got no proof against Lurgan that he stole the magnet."

"No," replied Bruce. "Although Colt and I are morally certain that Lurgan is behind the whole business we've no proof that we could take into a court of law. Frankly, I don't know what we're going to do." He paused. "Tell me, Claude, where does Lurgan live?"

"He has a place in the country—in Berkshire, I think, but I have never been there. When he's in town he lives in Duke- street. Where are the papers, Bruce?"

"They are safe from Lurgan, anyhow," said Bruce. "The package is in the Chancery-lane Safe Deposit. Naturally I could not leave it with Miss Egerton."

"That's the inventor's daughter. What's she like, Bruce?"

"Like!" repeated Bruce. "She is charming—the prettiest, sweetest girl I have ever seen in my life."

Claude stared. "I never heard you say as much for any woman yet, Bruce."

Bruce got a little red under his tan. "You can take it that nothing I can say would do justice to Miss Egerton." He got up. "It's late, Claude. I must get back to my hotel."

"Then lunch with me to-morrow?" said Claude. "If I can. I will ring you up."

Claude came to the door with him. "Take a taxi, Bruce," he said.

"Absurd!" smiled Bruce. "Why, it's not half a mile."

"But suppose some of those fellows have followed you, Bruce. As I told you, that chap. Denver, is a dangerous brute."

"He would hardly tackle me in Victoria-street," smiled Bruce. "Good-night, old chap!"

All the same, Bruce kept a sharp lookout as he walked through the back streets behind the Abbey, but he saw nothing suspicious, and 10 minutes later entered the smoking-room at Artillery Mansions, to find Randolph enjoying a last cigar and a nightcap before turning in. "I recognised I would wait up and see you," said Randolph. "How did you get on with your brother?"

"Very well. I told him the whole yarn, and he's as keen as mustard to help us."

"He's a nice lad, Bruce," said Randolph. "The only trouble with him is that he's a bit weak."

"Yes, and he was rottenly brought up," replied Bruce. "His mother spoiled him shockingly, and left him all her money. But he has had his lesson, and from now on I shall keep an eye on him."

Randolph smiled. "I guess you have got your work cut out, Bruce—what with him and your own business and Miss Egerton's." He paused and finished his drink. "Say, Bruce," he continued, slowly, "you know you're up against a mighty tough crowd."

"I'm not under any illusions on that score," Bruce answered.

"What do you reckon to do?" asked Randolph.

Bruce shrugged. "Indeed, I hardly know."

"Then take my tip and sit tight. The next move is Lurgan's."


"Yes, he will try to come to terms."

"The swine," growled Bruce.

"All of that," agreed Randolph. "But it's not a mite of use getting peeved. I'll bet my bottom dollar the next thing that happens is that he will approach you and suggest a fifty-fifty arrangement."

Bruce reddened. "I'll break his infernal neck," he said angrily.

"I guess you will do nothing of the sort," remarked Randolph. "It's up to you to beat him at his own game Make him think you agree. Fool him if it is any way possible If you can once find out where he keeps the model then you and I might try the strong arm business."

Bruce shook his head. "I can't do it, Randolph. The very idea makes my gorge rise."

Randolph leaned forward and spoke with unusual seriousness. "It's no use you talking that way, Bruce. I have never met Lurgan, but I know the type. After what you've done to him to- night—getting Claude away from him I mean, and beating up his gang—the fellow hates you like cold poison, and if we try to run a bluff on him he is liable to destroy the model just to spite you. Then what's to become of you or Miss Egerton?"

Bruce groaned. "All right, Randolph, I will be guided by you," he said heavily "But I don't know what will happen when it comes to the pinch. I don't trust myself to play the game in the way you suggest."

Randolph flung the butt of his cigar into the grate. He rose and stretched himself. "Don't worry about that," he said quietly. "You'll be all right when the time comes. Now I'm going to bed. Good-night, old son."


NEXT day, which was Wednesday, Bruce did some necessary shopping and lunched with Claude, then on Thursday we went down to Mortimer, to attend the funeral of poor Egerton.

The only mourners were Silvia, her housekeeper, Mrs. Morris, and himself. When the quiet service was over Bruce, not wishing to intrude on Silvia's grief, walked away towards the gate where his hired car was waiting, but Mrs. Morris hurried after him.

"Miss Silvia would like to see you, sir," she said, "if you can spare time to come to the house."

"Please tell her I will come at once," Bruce answered. He spoke to his driver. "Don't wait for me," he said. "I will walk back." He paid the man, who touched his hat and drove off. Then Bruce walked across to Deeping Cottage.

Silvia was waiting for him in the pretty drawing-room. The dead black of her mourning accentuated her pallor, but at the same time brought out the exquisite delicacy of her complexion and the burnished copper of her hair. "It was very kind of you to come, Mr. Carey," she said gratefully. "It has been such a comfort to have you. It made me feel that I was not quite alone even though my dear father has been taken from me."

Bruce flushed slightly. "You must never feel that, Miss Egerton. At any rate not while I am alive. Your father made us partners, and I want you to feel that you can turn to me in any trouble."

"Indeed I do feel that," Silvia assured him. "Sit down, Mr. Carey. Mrs. Morris is bringing in tea and you must have a cup before you go."

Mrs. Morris came in with the tray and Silvia poured out tea. Bruce watched her beautifully shaped hands busy with the dainty china, and it came to him with a queer shock that never before had he felt this kind of interest in any woman. He pulled himself up sharply, for this was no time to indulge in sentiment. "Miss Egerton," he said abruptly, "I want to ask a question, a question which may sound impertinent, but is not meant to be so."

Silvia looked up. "Ask anything you like," she replied quietly. "You may be quite sure that I will answer it if I can."

"It is this then," said Bruce. "How has your father left you? I mean can you afford to go on living here?"

"Yes," said Silvia frankly. "I have about £300 a year from a trust fund left me by my mother, and the house is my own. It is enough for Mrs. Morris and myself to remain on here quietly."

"Thank you," said Bruce. "I am very glad to hear this. It is a load off my mind, for now I feel that I have time to look about and tackle the business of recovering the model."

"Have you seen this man, Lurgan, yet?" asked Silvia, with a slight shiver.

"Not Lurgan himself, but Colt and I had a turn up with some of his gang on Tuesday night."

Silvia shivered again. "Tell me," she asked. Bruce obeyed, but even though the account he gave was a very mild edition of what had actually happened at Duke-street, Silvia's cheeks glowed us she listened. "I think it was splendid," she said, "and so you have saved your brother."

"I hope so," said Bruce gravely. "He is a nice lad, and if I can only get him to work instead of loafing as he has been doing, I think he will be all right."

"I am sure he will," replied Silvia. "But tell me, Mr. Carey, how can you possibly get the model back from this Lurgan? You have not even any proof that he stole it."

"You have put your finger precisely on our difficulty," Bruce answered, "but Randolph—Mr. Colt—says that if we wait Lurgan will give himself away—I mean, will approach us and offer terms."

Silvia's eyes widened. "But then you could have him arrested," she said eagerly.

Bruce shook his head. "He is too clever for that. But never mind, Miss Egerton. Colt and I between us ought to be a match for a crook like Lurgan." He got up. "I must go, Miss Egerton. I am walking back to Reading and taking the six-ten to town."

"When shall I see you again?" asked Silvia.

"Whenever you want me. A letter, a wire, or a telephone call will bring me at once."

The warmth of his words brought a slight blush to her cheeks. "I must not call you away from your work," she said gently, "but I shall be very glad to see you whenever you have any leisure. And you will be careful, Mr. Carry?" she added earnestly. "I do not wish you to run into danger on my account."

"I don't think there's much danger," smiled Bruce. "Anyhow, I've got a good cause to fight for, and a good man behind me. I will let you know as soon as anything happens."

It was a lovely evening, and Bruce's way led through woods where the evening air was sweet with the resinous smell of the fir trees. He had gone about a mile and was tramping steadily along the sandy track with thick plantations on either side, when a man stepped suddenly out from among the trees, and faced him.

"Good evening," he said quietly.

"Good evening," answered Bruce, and stood watching the stranger. The latter was a tremendously big man, huge rather than merely fat, yet so alert that you forgot until you looked at him closely how unwieldy his body was. His face was like the rest of him, large and powerful; his mouth, wide, yet thin lipped, reminded Bruce of a steel trap. But it was his eyes, flinty blue, cold and expressionless, which made his whole appearance utterly repellent.

"Good evening, Mr. Carey," he repeated suavely. "I think I am not mistaken in calling you so," he added.

"Carey is my name," replied Bruce quietly, "and yours I make no doubt is Lurgan."

Lurgan bowed slightly. "You are right. I am James Lurgan. May I talk with you a little?"

Bruce hesitated; he badly wanted to tell Lurgan to go to a warmer place than Berkshire, but he remembered Randolph's advice. "Very well," he said coldly, and Lurgan fell into step.

"I congratulate you on the fight that you and your American friend put up the other night at Duke-street, Mr. Carey," began Lurgan. "You are an adversary worthy of my steel."

Bruce made no reply. He had no idea of helping Lurgan out, and was wondering how the man would approach the real reason of their meeting.

But Lurgan had no shame, false or otherwise. "I knew you would come to the funeral," he continued. "I suspected you would walk back, and I thought the present a good opportunity for a quiet talk."

"What have you got to talk to me about?" demanded Bruce, bluntly. But Lurgan was not at all discomposed. "I suggest a partnership," he said.

"What—in your gambling-house?"

Lurgan smiled. "Give me credit for knowing you better than that. What I propose is a half share in the new Gold Recovery Syndicate. With my knowledge of the city and of finance, there is a fortune in it for both of us."

The coolness of the proposal made Bruce gasp. "So you admit that you stole the model?" he said sharply.

"Pardon me," Lurgan answered, smoothly. "I admit nothing of the kind. I merely purchased a model which I believe to be the invention of the late Stuart Egerton, and since I am aware that Mr. Egerton made you his executor, and that you are, therefore, familiar with the method of using the magnet, it is only natural that I come to you with the suggestion of partnership."

"You know perfectly well that the model of the magnet was stolen from me," said Bruce indignantly.

"The fact remains that the model is in my possession," said Lurgan cynically, "and that, therefore, you are helpless without my co-operation. May I take it that you agree to my proposal?"

Bruce boiled. All memory of Randolph's warning fled. "Go into partnership with you," he retorted. "I would sooner go into partnership with the devil."


LURGAN'S cold eyes narrowed a trifle, but otherwise he showed no sign of resenting the rebuff. "As an older man than you, Mr Carey, you will allow me to say that you are acting very foolishly, but time will no doubt convince you of that fact. When you reconsider the matter, a letter to Duke-st. will always find me. I am going to Paris to-morrow, but I shall be back in a week." He turned and vanished among the trees with a swiftness that made Bruce blink.

Bruce walked on. He was simply seething, and although his long tramp to Reading cooled him a little, even when he reached London he was still in a state of suppressed fury. Reaching the hotel, he found Randolph stretched in a deep chair in the smoking-room, but his usual cigar was not between his lips, and he seemed half- asleep. As Bruce came in he looked up lazily, then sat up straight. "Hello, what's bitten you?" he inquired. "Have you been in another scrap?"

Bruce tried to laugh, but it was a poor attempt. "Only a verbal one," he answered. "But—but I got the worst of it."

"You have seen Lurgan?"

"I don't know how you know, but you're right. And—and I forgot all your good advice and made a hopeless ass of myself."

"Tell me," said Randolph.

Bruce repeated his interview with Lurgan practically word for word.

Randolph listened in silence, then he shook his head, "It's a pity you lost your wool, old son," he said quietly.

"What else could I do—accept that fat swindler's offer of partnership?"

"You needn't have gone so far as that, but you should have let him think that you were willing to discuss it. We've simply got to find out where Lurgan keeps that model."

"And what then?"

"Get it," snapped Randolph. "Don't look so shocked," he added with a smile. "It wouldn't be the first time I've done the Bill Sykes act. I once stole a perfectly good set of plans from a Bolshy Commissary in Siberia." He paused. "But you'd better feed, Bruce. They have kept some dinner for you."

"Have you dined?" asked Bruce.

"No, I don't feel like food to-night. I guess I've got another touch of that infernal ague."

"You're not looking too fit," said Bruce. "You had much better turn in."

Randolph nodded. "I reckon I will. I've a head on me like a ton of lead."

Next morning there was no doubt about Randolph's state of health. He had a high temperature and a bad headache, and although he declared that there was mighty little the matter with him, Bruce insisted on sending for a doctor.

Bruce himself had to go to the city about some of his own business. He was dismayed to find how scarce money was. Quite rich gold propositions were going begging, and he was told that there was not a ghost of a chance of getting funds to work his New Guinea reef. This was serious, for he had only a few hundreds left at his bank. He was earning nothing, and had no idea where any more money was coming from. On his way back he called at Claude's club in St. James's-street, and found a message from Claude asking him to come at once to the latter's rooms.

Claude was eager and excited. "Bruce, I've got some information for you," were his first words. "I've found where Lurgan lives."

Bruce frowned. "You promised you'd have nothing more to do with the gang."

"I've not. It was just a bit or luck I met that porter chap, Duggan, in the street. It seems he has got the push. Crane, who was in a filthy temper that night, cursed him out. Duggan answered back and was sacked instanter. I took Duggan into a pub, gave him a drink, and pumped him. He told me where Lurgan lives and a lot of other things. I tell you, Bruce, he may be jolly useful."

Bruce nodded. "It does seem so. It was smart of you, Claude. Did you get the man's address?"

"You bet I did, and I can get hold of him any time you want him."

"I shall certainly have a talk with him. But tell me, Claude, where is Lurgan's place?"

"It's called Friars Bank, and it's only three or four miles from Mortimer."

"The deuce you say. Then that explains Lurgan being on the spot yesterday."

"How do you mean—what spot?"

Bruce explained, and Claude's eyes widened as he listened. "You mean the fellow had the infernal cheek to propose partnership?"

"That was his offer—on a 50 per cent. basis."

"He ought to be boiled!" cried Claude, indignantly. "I say, Bruce, what are you going to do? Can't I help you?"

"You may have helped me more than you think, old chap," said Bruce. "This man Duggan may prove most valuable. But tell me, is he trustworthy?"

"I don't really know much about him," Claude answered. "He has always been very civil to me, but then I tipped him."

"Then it won't do to trust him too far. Still, I'll see the man, and have a talk with him. Can you arrange for me to meet him some time to-day?"

"Yes—this evening. I'll get him here. You'd better dine with me, Bruce."

"I can't dine. I have to look after Randolph. He's got a nasty attack of malaria. I'll come in at nine, if that suits."

"That will be all right," Claude promised. "I'll have Duggan here then."

As Bruce arrived at the hotel the doctor was just leaving. "Your friend has a very nasty attack," he told Bruce, "and he will have to keep his bed for some days. I am sending a nurse, and I shall be in again myself to-morrow morning. Meantime, I've given him something to make him sleep, and you'll remember, please, that the quieter he is kept the better."

Bruce went up and peeped into Randolph's room. "Any news?" asked Randolph drowsily.

But Bruce, mindful of the doctor's warning, said: "None—except that I've seen the doctor and he is sending in a nurse."

"A nurse!" grumbled Randolph. "Say, what in sense do I want with a nurse? I'm not a baby."

"No, but you're a pretty complete invalid, and you've got to be properly looked after. Now, get right off to sleep." The draught was already taking effect, and Randolph's eyes were closing, but before Bruce left the room be opened them once more. "Say, Bruce," he said, drowsily, "don't you go trying any stunts on your own while I'm laid out. You keep quiet until your Uncle Randolph can sit up and take notice."

"I'll be careful," promised Bruce, as he slipped quietly out of the room.


BRUCE reached Claude's rooms a few minutes after nine to find Duggan already there. The big hall porter was dressed in good blue serge and was enjoying one of Claude's cigars.

"This is my brother, Duggan," said Claude, and Duggan offered a huge fist. "They tells me you're a fine scrapper, sir," he remarked. "I'd like to have seen you knock out that there Grane."

"I understand it was Grane who dismissed you, Duggan?" said Bruce. "Is he manager there?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Lurgan, he owns the place and lives there when in town. But he leaves all the management to Grane. It's Grane who engages and dismisses the help, and it was him that turned me out like a dog."

Bruce turned to Claude. "Have you told Duggan anything about my connection with Lurgan?"

"Not a word," Claude answered. "You told me to keep it dark and I've done so."

Bruce hesitated. He wondered whether it was wise to confide in Duggan, and what Randolph would have done under the circumstances. "Have you got a fresh job, Duggan?" he asked.

"No, sir. Jobs ain't easy to get—not like that one, anyway."

"Then you wouldn't mind making a little money?"

"Course I wouldn't, sir. But I'd like better to get square with that there Grane," he added shrewdly.

Again Bruce hesitated. "You'll have to tell him, Bruce," said Claude, and Bruce had the feeling that Claude was right.

He turned to Duggan. "My quarrel is with Lurgan rather than with Grane," he said.

"It's the same thing, sir," Duggan answered promptly. "Strike at the head and the rest suffer—and you can trust me to keep a still tongue," he added.

"That is most necessary," said Bruce. "I have your word then?"

"That's it, sir. I'll keep mum about anything you tells me."

"Very good. Then to put it shortly, Lurgan has stolen from me the model of a most important invention and I must get it back."

"You'll have a job, sir. Lurgan, he don't give up anything easy once he's got his fists on it."

"I don't expect him to give it up. I know that I shall have to take it. Duggan stared—then grinned. That will be a man's job, sir, but from what I've heard of the doings in the club that night I reckon you might handle it."

"My trouble is that I don't know where the thing is kept," said Bruce. "That's why I'm asking for your assistance, Duggan."

"I'll give you that, sir. I'll give it for nothing so long as I can see that there Grane took down."

"Grane, I hope, will suffer with the rest," said Bruce. "Tell me, Duggan, is there a safe in the club?"

"Yes, sir, and a big one. But there's nothing in that, except money. My word!—he licked his lips—I saw into it once when Grane had it open, and I never seed so much cash in one time in all my life."

"Do you know anything of Friars Bank, Lurgan's country place?" questioned Bruce.

"Yes, sir. I were in charge there once for a month when Lurgan was away and the club shut. There had been some trouble with the police, and they closed down for a bit and lay low."

"Is there a safe there?"

"There's a strong-room, sir. Lurgan's got a deal of plate and such like."

"Then that's where the bag is kept, depend on it," put in Claude quickly.

Bruce's face fell. "A strong-room!" he repeated, "That sounds hopeless."

"It wouldn't be easy, but I wouldn't say it was hopeless, sir," said Duggan. "The door is thick iron, and would take dynamite to shift it, but there's a window. The window's high and it's barred, but there's tools made to shift bars, and Mr. Bryson tells me as you're a engineer."

Bruce nodded. "Yes, I am an engineer," he said, with a quietness which belied his inward excitement. "Tell me, Duggan, what staff is there at Friars Bank?"

"A married couple and a maid, sir. That's all the regular staff. Lurgan brings more down from London when he has a house party. The maid, Maud, she's a niece of mine."

"And the man—what is he like?"

"A pretty tough customer. An old pug, like a lot as Lurgan employs."

Bruce thought for a moment. "Duggan," he said, "do you think you could draw me a rough plan of the house, showing the doors and windows and the whereabouts of the strong-room?"

"I'll try, sir. I knows them well enough."

Duggan was no artist, and his plan was a weird production, yet it was quite enough to give Bruce a fair idea of the shape of the house and the lie of the land. "That will do first-rate, Duggan," he said, after he had inspected it. He took out some notes. "This is for your help," he said. "If I get what I am after there will be as much more. And a little later, if all goes well, I think I can promise you a job which you will like."

"Thank you, sir," said Duggan, stuffing the notes into his pocket and rising to his feet. "I'm properly obliged to you, and I wishes you every success."

As the door closed behind the man Claude spoke. "Bruce, you will have to let me in on this," he exclaimed eagerly.

Bruce shook his head. "No, Claude," he said firmly. "This is my job. I mean it. I won't have you in it at any price."

Claude looked at his half-brother in angry dismay. "You're not going to try to burgle this place of Lurgan's single-handed, Bruce. You must have some one to watch. To keep cave, as we called it at school, and now that Colt is laid up he can't help."

Claude's words gave Bruce an ugly shock. For the moment he had quite forgotten that Randolph was unable to help him. "Do let me come," begged Claude. "If Lurgan caught you he would murder you."

"He won't catch me, Claude. He's away in Paris for a week."

"But some of his crowd may be there," urged Claude.

"I will find out who is there before I do anything," Bruce promised. "Don't worry yourself, Claude. I haven't yet made up my mind what to do or how I shall do it."

Claude went off on a new tack. "See here, Bruce, why not employ some one else to get the bag? There are fellows who specialise in that sort of thing, and Duggan could probably find one."

Bruce laughed. "And have him go off with the swag and sell it to some one else. No, Claude, if anything is to be done I am the one to do it. Now I am going back to the hotel to see how Randolph is getting on and to think the matter over. So you can sleep in comfort."

The pleasant-faced nurse met Bruce at the door of Randolph's room. "Mr. Colt is asleep," she told him.

"Is he better?" asked Bruce.

"Not much, I am afraid," she answered. "It is a bad attack, and Dr. Fergus says that we can't hope for improvement for two or three days. But there is no cause for worry, Mr. Carey. Mr. Colt has a fine constitution, and will be out and about again in less than a fortnight."

Bruce thanked her and himself went off to bed, but not to sleep. The more be considered the matter the more certain he felt that the all-important bag was lying in the strong-room at Friars Bank. He thought of poor Egerton, he thought of Silvia. He remembered his own empty pockets, and a cold rage against Lurgan filled his mind. Then he began to consider the possibilities of recovering the bag. What a gorgeous sell it would be for the ruffian to play his own game on him—to rob the robber. If Randolph had been able to help him Bruce would have had no hesitation in planning the burglary of Friars Bank, but poor Randolph was helpless, and Bruce fully realised the extreme difficulty and danger of tackling such a job single-handed. Yet he could not delay, for with Lurgan away in Paris, he had an opportunity which might never come again. At last, about two in the morning, he switched on the light, got out Duggan's plan and examined it carefully. His face hardened. "I'll do it," he said aloud. "Yes, and the sooner the better. If I can get the necessary tools I will try it to-morrow night."


THEY say that even a professional burglar suffers from nerves when engaged in his risky vocation. Bruce, though as healthy and hard-bitten a young man as you would find in a long day's march, was annoyed to find, as he dressed next morning, that his nerves were not in their usual condition, and that the difficulties and dangers that were before him kept cropping up in his mind. The first difficulty was that he had to get away to Reading without letting Randolph have any inkling of his purpose.

Bruce was no saint. Like most of us he could tell a good round lie when definite need arose. But, of all people, Randolph was the last he wanted to lie to. Yet the chance of Lurgan being away from home was far too good to be missed, and in spite of all his qualms he never faltered for one moment in the resolution he had made during the previous night.

He decided to have breakfast before seeing Randolph, and to use the time to invent a good excuse. But a letter which he found in the hall solved this first difficulty. It was from Silvia, who wrote that if Mr. Carey could spare a few hours she would be grateful for his help in going through her father's papers. There might, she thought, be letters referring to the magnet. It was a simple little letter, quite short and signed, "Yours sincerely, Silvia Egerton," yet Bruce read it again, and again, and at last put it away reverently in his breast pocket. Then he went up to talk to Randolph.

The latter had had some sleep, and was a little better, but the whites of his eyes were yellow, he had no appetite, and Bruce realised only too clearly that the doctor was right, and that it would be several days before the patient was on his legs again.

"Do you mind if I desert you to-day, old chap?" Bruce asked.

"That depends on where you are going." replied Randolph.

"To Reading," Bruce answered. "Miss Egerton has written to ask me to come down and to help her go through her father's papers." Randolph smiled.

"Sure, go and God bless you."

"I may be late," said Bruce. "In fact, I may stay the night in Reading."

"Stay as long as you have a mind to. I'll be all hunky. Nurse Dainton tends me like I was made of glass." He smiled. "Miss Silvia is sure a nice girl," he said. "I wish you luck."

Bruce's cheeks went brick-red. "Good God, Randolph, why, I have only met her twice!" he exclaimed.

"I guess once was enough—judging by the symptoms," replied Randolph quietly. "Some folk have all the luck," he added with a sigh.

But Bruce was not happy as he left the room. Even the joy of seeing Silvia again could not compensate for the feeling that he was tricking his friend. The first thing he did was to wire Silvia to expect him early in the afternoon; the next to take the Underground from St. James's in an easterly direction.

One advantage of an engineer's training is that he knows where to buy all the tools of his trade and a few others into the bargain. Within an hour or so Bruce was equipped with an outfit such as Bill Sykes himself certainly never possessed. His next purchases were a rough suit such as a workman might have worn, an old tweed cap and a false beard and moustache which could be stuck on in a minute with a little spirit gum. Clothes and tools together he packed in a cheap second-hand bag.

Twelve o'clock found him at Paddington, where he had a mouthful of lunch in the restaurant. Then, carrying his bag, he got into the 12:30 p.m. train, which landed him at Reading at a quarter past one. On the way down he had been considering how best to arrange things, and when he got out of the train the first thing he did was to put his bag into the cloakroom. Then he secured a taxi and ordered the man to drive him to Mortimer. There was not going to be any concealment about the first part of the proceedings. That would come later.

The weather was not so fine as it had been. A thin veil of cloud covered the sky, and the air felt damp and muggy. It looked as if it would rain before night. So much the better, thought Bruce, for a wet jacket was a small price to pay for a distinct degree of added safety during his midnight enterprise.

As the taxi approached Mortimer Bruce began to forget his worries in the prospect of seeing Silvia again. It almost frightened him to realise how keen he was to meet her once more. When he reached the cottage gate he paid his driver, ordering him to come back in time to catch the 6:30 p.m. back to town. "It will help to work up an alibi in case anything goes wrong," he said to himself as he walked up the path to the house.

Silvia was waiting for him at the door. "How good of you to come so quickly, Mr. Carey," was her greeting.

"The goodness was yours in asking me," replied Bruce, and simple as the words were Silvia flushed a little as she led the way into the drawing-room.

"Here are the papers," she said, pointing to a table piled with bundles of letters, each neatly done up with elastic bands and docketed in plain, clear, firm writing.

"It seems to me you have done all the work, already," said Bruce with a smile.

"You will not say that when you have looked through them," replied Silvia. "I have not read half of them, myself."

They sat down and began. As a matter of fact, there was not much of any real importance in the papers, and practically no useful reference to the magnet. Yet Egerton's letters served to give Bruce a far clearer idea than he had previously had of the brilliant brain of Silvia's father—brilliant, that is, from the inventive point of view, yet unpractical from the point of view of business. What Bruce chiefly searched for was any reference to Lurgan, but there was none—nothing, at least, to clear up the mystery of how the man had got upon the track of Egerton's invention.

The time passed like magic, and Bruce could hardly believe his ears when the little silver clock on the chimney-piece chimed the hour of 5, and Mrs. Morris came in with tea. At tea the two talked, yet both instinctively avoided the subject of Lurgan. Silvia spoke of her father, told little stories of him, and Bruce realised how devoted father and daughter had been one to the other, and was glad and grateful that Silvia was able to talk so freely to him. Her mother, Silvia told him, had died nearly 15 years earlier, and she had no brothers or sisters. Her only near relative was an aunt, who was married and living in Canada.

Again time slipped by so swiftly that Bruce got a fresh shock when he saw the cab draw up at the gate. "And we haven't half finished the papers," said Silvia regretfully.

"I am not sorry," Bruce answered boldly. "It gives me an excuse to come again."

"You do not need any excuse, Mr. Carey," said Silvia frankly. "I shall be glad to see you whenever you can spare time to come down."

She meant it—Bruce saw that she really meant it. "Be careful," he said a little thickly. "You—you don't know what you are saddling yourself with."

Silvia looked at him. "I am not afraid," she said softly, as she gave him her hand.

Bruce's heart was thumping. It was all that he could do to resist the temptation to catch her in his arms and tell her that his one desire in life was never to leave her again. But the time was not yet. He had his job to do first, and, until that was brought to a successful conclusion, no right to say anything definite to Silvia. Yet, in spite of what was before him during the coming night, Bruce went away treading on air. Never before had he felt so utterly exalted, so preposterously happy.


BRUCE'S plan was to return to Reading Station, recover his bag, then instead of taking the train back to town, slip out on the opposite side of the station, get some food in the town, then hire a bicycle, and use that as a means of reaching Friars Bank. The country in that direction was well wooded, so he did not think there would be any difficulty in finding some sheltered spot where he could hide the bicycle and change his clothes.

Everything went excellently, and the only change he made in his plans was that instead of hiring a bicycle and leaving a deposit, he bought a rusty, but still useful, second-hand machine for the sum of £3. This seemed an improvement on his original idea, for in this way he would be able to avoid returning to Reading. He could make for Wellington or Slough, or even cycle right back to London.

Just as he had expected, it began to rain—a thin, desolate sort of drizzle, which brought down the dusk half an hour earlier than usual. Except for the fact that he had carefully mugged up the road from a half-inch scale Ordnance map, he would certainly have lost his way. As it was, he managed to get through without being obliged to make inquiries, and a little before eight was on the top of a low, well-wooded ridge, looking down from behind upon a house which he felt sure was Friars Bank.

Although the twilight was thickening there was still light enough to get some idea of the place. "Lurgan's got more taste than I gave him credit for," said Bruce below his breath. "There's nothing new or blatant about it. It's old and it's good." He was right. Friars Bank, so far as he could see, was of the date of Queen Anne or of George I. It was built of mellow red brick, with beautiful old twisted chimneys, and the building had been either very well kept or most carefully restored.

The house was built in the shape of an L, the wing which ran out at the back on the south side having apparently been added to the original building at a later date. The grounds, which covered about two acres appeared to be carefully laid out. There was a walled kitchen garden at the back, and some fine trees stood on the wide lawn in front. There were trees, too, on the south side, which completely sheltered the house from the road, and the drive, which approached the house in a wide curve, was bordered on either side by thick evergreens.

Bruce recognised it all from Duggan's plan, and was able to spot at once the narrow window of the strong-room. As he watched a light appeared in one of the back windows—the kitchen he thought, then through the calm air there came up to him the sound of a door pulled sharply to.

Drawing his bicycle further in among the trees, Bruce found what shelter he could from the rain under a thickly branching larch, and set quickly to work to change his clothes and make his preparations while the light still availed. This did not take long, and after it was completed there was nothing to do but to wait. At best it is a damp, uncomfortable business sitting in a wet wood on an English spring night, and in spite of the light mackintosh with which Bruce had provided himself, he soon became unpleasantly chilly. The worst of it was that he dared not smoke. He could not even venture to get up and walk about, and never had he known time to drag so horribly. "I am glad I am not a professional burglar," he said grimly. "Another night like this would make an old man of me. Will that blessed light never go out?"

As a matter of fact, it was only a little after ten when the kitchen lights were extinguished, but then two of the back bedroom windows showed a faint illumination, and even when they at last went dark, Bruce felt that he must allow at least another hour before he made his start. The luminous dial of his wrist watch showed that it was five minutes past twelve when at last he got stiffly to his feet. His tools were in a bundle which he carried on his back, and in his pockets he had a good flash lamp and a length of stout cord. But he carried no weapon, for he knew that if it came to pistol play he was no match in this respect for any of Lurgan's crew. In any case, he preferred to trust to his fists.

A question which he had been considering, and which now suddenly occurred to him, was what to do with his bicycle. At first he thought of leaving it where it was, but then it came to him that if he had to escape in a hurry he would have to run over a hundred yards uphill to reach it. He decided to take it with him and leave it somewhere near the drive gate.

In the course of a somewhat adventurous career, Bruce had been in many tight places. On one occasion in New Guinea, when his mate had been snake-bitten, and help was urgently needed, he had made his way on foot through three miles of sago swamp, swarming with huge crocodiles, and when a single false step would have dropped him neck deep into hideous, black slime. As he went softly down towards the sleeping house, he vividly remembered that day, yet had to confess to himself that even then he had not been half so scared as he was now. "It's the cold," he said to himself impatiently. "I ought to have brought a flask. One always forgets the most important things. Randolph would never have made such a blunder."

The thought of Randolph gave Bruce a sudden twinge. He had a sort of feeling that he was playing a dirty trick on the dear chap, yet at the same time he would have given anything to have Randolph with him. He pulled himself up, cutting short those reflections, for now he was quite close to the drive gate of Friars Bank. "This is no time for sentiment," he warned himself. "I've got to get on with the job." He stood listening keenly, but the only sound was the melancholy drip from the trees. He wheeled his bicycle into the ditch and left it there, then softly opened the drive gate.


WHAT Bruce was most afraid of was a dog. True, Duggan had told him that there had been no dog on the place when he was there, but it did not follow that one had not been brought in since. Yet nothing stirred as he approached the house, and the silence remained profound.

Presently Bruce left the drive, and, pushing through the evergreens, cut across the turf towards the south wing. Rounding the end of this, he found himself in a large yard. Thick as the night was, it was not quite dark, for there was a moon somewhere behind the clouds. At any rate, there was light enough for Bruce to make out the dim outline of the back of the house, and to spot a darker blot which was the small, barred window of the strong- room.

The yard was paved, but Bruce had taken the precaution of wearing rubber-soled shoes, and his feet made no sound as he approached the spot. The window was so high as to be out of reach, but he had expected this, and with Duggan's plan in his head, he made his way back across the yard to a shed where he knew ladders were kept. He found a ladder, and was in the act of moving it when a sudden thump on the ground close by made him nearly drop it. His relief was intense when he saw that it was nothing but a great rat which had dropped from above and now scuttled away into the gloom.

All the same, his heart was beating harder than he liked as he carried the ladder towards the window. "The first time I ever felt real sympathy with a burglar," he murmured. . "By gad, the beggars earn their living."

When he had put the ladder into position he listened again, but the silence was unbroken as before, and, gaining courage, he clambered up.

There were three bars across the window, heavy and well bedded in the brick work. They were somewhat rusty, and Bruce saw at once that they were iron and not steel. "No great difficulty about them," he said, to himself, "so long, at least, as they are not connected up with any burglar alarm." Pushing his right hand through he felt cautiously on the inside, but there did not seem to be any wires.

"So that's all right," he continued as he took a certain tool out of his kit and jammed it between two of the bars. He began to turn a handle, and as he did so pressure was exerted on the bars so that they were forced apart. Suddenly there was a crunching sound and a shower of mortar fell clattering to the ground below. Under the pressure one of the bars had broken away from its seat in the masonry.

Bruce stood motionless—almost breathless, listening hard. But the sound did not appear to have attracted any attention, and after a moment or two he ventured to lay hands on the bar and pull. It came clean away, leaving just space for him to pass.

Pushing his head and shoulders through the gap, Bruce took out his torch and flashed it downwards. The light showed a small room about eight feet square, paved with slabs of stone. Exactly opposite was a heavy iron door. The walls were lined with shelves, on which stood a quantity of plate, most of it done up in green baize covers. On the floor were several plate chests and a couple of iron deed boxes. But the thing which caught his eye at once was a small brown cowhide bag standing on a shelf to his left. It did not need the initials "S.E.," stamped in black upon its side, to assure Bruce that this was the object of his search.

During the whole of the past twenty-four hours Bruce's great fear had been that the bag might, after all, not be in the strong-room, and the knowledge that he was right, and that his labour and risk were not wanted filled him with a sense of triumph. He could have shouted with sheer delight. But fortunately the folly of any such proceeding under present circumstances occurred to him in time, and he took a long breath and steadied himself. It was one thing to see the bag, but quite another to reach it. From the window to the floor the drop was a full seven feet, and it was no use getting into the room unless he could see a way out again. But this difficulty was soon solved, for he saw that by piling a couple of deed boxes on top of one of the plate chests he would be able to climb back to the window-sill. Hesitating no longer he squeezed between the bars and dropped lightly down to the floor. The moment he had his hands on the bag its weight told him that the precious model was still within it. He tried to open it, but it was locked and he had not the key, so waiting no longer he laid it down and set to pushing the smaller of the plate chests into position under the window. On top of this he laid two deed boxes. They creaked horribly as he put his weight on them, so he got down, and taking a piece of baize off a set of silver dishes, laid this between them. Then slinging the bag on his back and extinguishing his torch he climbed quickly back to the sill.

Again he waited and listened, but still there was no sound except the melancholy drip from the outbuildings and a tinkle of water pouring out of a waste-pipe from the guttering above. He waited no longer, and clambering out between the bars regained the ladder. A moment later he was safe on the ground. He glanced at the ladder. It seemed that it might be better to put it back in the shed. If any one happened to come out of the house it would, of course, be seen at once, but if it was put away it might be some time before the broken bar was noticed and the burglary discovered. Yes, it was best to return it to its place, and, although Bruce was mad to get away with the least possible delay, he forced himself to lift the ladder and carry it back.

It was very dark in the shed, and Bruce moved cautiously for fear of making a noise. He had just laid the ladder in the spot where he had found it when a glare of white light flashed in his eyes, almost blinding him, and a voice said harshly, "Stick up your hands!"

Bruce recognised the voice instantly as that of Denver, and a blind rage filled him. Instead of obeying the man's order, he ducked down and went, head foremost, straight at him. The pistol roar wakened crashing echoes in the black night, but Denver, struck full in the stomach by the battering ram of Bruce's head, went over backwards with the whole of Bruce's weight on top of him. There was a heavy thud, a queer, deep gasp, and Denver lay still, apparently stunned, while Bruce, scrambling to his feet again, snatched up the precious bag and ran at top speed across the yard. A light flashed, some one shouted to him to stop, and Bruce heard the rattle of running feet behind him. He paid no attention, but, gaining the head of the drive, ran as hard as he could go. His one idea was to reach the road and his bicycle. He had to keep to the drive, for it was too dark to risk a short cut through the shrubbery, and in any case it would be quicker to go through the gate than to climb the fence.

As he dashed alone between the thick walls of evergreens the steps behind grew less distinct. He felt that he was outdistancing pursuit, nor did there seem to be any one between him and the gate. His spirits rose, for once on his bicycle he believed he would be safe It would take some time to get out a car, and, even if a car did come after him, he could leave the road and hide in the woods till daylight. He rounded the curve of the drive, saw the dim outline of the big iron gate ahead, then something caught him across the ankles and tripped him. He pitched forward, his head struck the gravel with stunning force, a wave of blackness swept over him, and that was the last he knew.


A LOW murmur of voices coming dimly to his ears was the next thing of which Bruce was aware. Then by degrees one of the voices became clearer, and he knew the cold, even tones were those of Lurgan. "You leave it to me, Oakes," Lurgan was saying. "You had better clear out altogether. I can handle him much better alone."

A growl of protect. "Handle him," repeated another voice, an odd, husky kind of voice. "There will be no handling him for days to come. He won't wake up for a week—not after that spill."

"That may be your opinion, Oakes," replied Lurgan. "It is not mine. I don't believe there is any concussion, and I lay you a fiver he will be awake and sensible before another hour is up. You clear out now and wait for me in the other room."

There was a slight pause, then: "All right," said the man called Oakes, in a somewhat sulky tone, and the door closed sharply. Then Bruce heard Lurgan rise from his chair and walk towards him.

Bruce's head was aching savagely, and he felt as if all the skin was gone from his forehead. His wet clothes clung to his body, and altogether he was in a state of miserable pain and discomfort. For the moment he was strongly tempted to lie still on the couch where he had been placed and pretend to be still insensible, for he felt utterly unequal to talking with any one, let alone with Lurgan. Then it came to him that it was useless to put off the evil moment. Anything was better than this suspense. So, as Lurgan approached, he opened his eyes. "You win your bet, Mr. Lurgan," he said, in a voice which even to himself sounded strangely weak and hoarse.

"Yes," replied Lurgan coolly, "I know enough of medicine to be sure that you were not suffering from concussion. All the same, it was lucky for you that the gravel was soft with the rain. And for me, too," he added with a grim smile.

"What do you mean?" demanded Bruce.

"Oh, I will tell you fast enough, but first drink this." As he spoke, he handed Bruce a wine-glass, which the latter took and sniffed at suspiciously.

"Don't be afraid," said Lurgan, with a slight sneer. "It's merely brandy—quite good brandy, for it is nearly fifty years old. If I had wished to drug you, I have had half an hour in which to do it."

Bruce was strongly tempted to fling the glass on the floor; but he knew that now, if ever, he needed all his wits about him. He drank, and the brandy—it was wonderful stuff—sent a glow of new life through his chilled and aching frame. It gave him strength to look about him and to see that he was in a small, snug room which, from the big pedestal desk and the book-cases round the walls, appeared to be Lurgan's study. A log fire was burning in the low Devon grate, a tantalus was open on the table, newspapers lay by the big easy chair, and there was a half-smoked cigar on an ash-tray by the chair.

"Yes," said Lurgan, reading Bruce's thoughts, "I was here all the time. You see, we were expecting you."

Bruce bit his lip, for never in all his life before had he felt such a fool. To run his head into a trap like this was the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to him, and the thought of what Randolph would say when he knew made the pill even harder to swallow.

"No," went on Lurgan, with his uncanny trick of guessing the others thoughts. "Duggan did not wilfully betray you, but I knew, of course, that when he was sacked he would go to Bryson, and since you were in touch with your brother the rest followed quite naturally. Besides, I had told you I should be away from home."

"And I was fool enough to believe you," said Bruce, bitterly.

Lurgan shrugged his great shoulders. The mere size of the man oppressed Bruce like a nightmare.

"Ah! You don't know me very well yet, Mr. Carey. Later, no doubt, when we are better acquainted, you will appreciate my peculiar talents."

Bruce stared; he could not help it. "Perhaps you would kindly explain what you mean," he said, with a calmness which was quite admirable under the circumstances.

"I mean that I am going to give you another chance of accepting the offer which you turned down so curtly—shall I say rudely?—on the afternoon of Mr. Egerton's funeral. Only this time"—and now there was an ominous ring in his voice—"I don't think you will refuse."

"If you refer to a partnership in the magnet," said Bruce, "please be sure that I have not changed my mind."

"But you will change it," said Lurgan with a certainty that had in it something terrifying. "Otherwise—"

"Otherwise you will charge me with burglary," said Bruce challengingly.

"You are quite correct, Mr. Carey, I am on the telephone, and it will not take more than half an hour to bring the police from Wokingham."

"Then you had better ring them up," said Bruce. "After all it's no great offence for a man to try to steal his own property."

"His own property," repeated Lurgan with a peculiar smile. "Pardon me, Mr. Carey, that bag contained no property of yours. It was filled with plate bearing my crest and initials, and I have the evidence of Oakes as well as myself to prove it."

Bruce felt a little sick. Such devilry was beyond him. The effort of thinking made his head spin, then through his whirling thoughts came Lurgan's voice again.

"Now what about it?" asked Lurgan. "Let me repeat that you have been caught in the act of burgling my house. That is a felony, and the penalty, as you are no doubt aware, is a pretty heavy one. I know perfectly well what your defence will be, and I know, too, what your friends, Mr. Colt and Miss Egerton will say when giving evidence in your defence.

"But their story, let me assure you will sound simply fantastic in a court of law, and neither you nor they can offer any proof that will be worth consideration from a legal point of view. I shall, of course, deny any knowledge of Egerton or his invention, and I have taken the best of care that nothing of the sort can be proved. Let me assure you once more, Mr. Carey, that you have not a leg to stand upon. Under the circumstances even Mr. Colt would, I think, counsel you to accept my offer. Now what is your answer?"

Bruce grated his teeth. "The same as last time, Mr. Lurgan. I will take my chance with the law rather than with you."

Lurgan's upper lip twitched slightly, but that was the only sign he showed of disappointment. He stood opposite the sofa, looking down at Bruce with an odd expression in his cold, grey eyes. "So you are prepared to go to prison rather than accept my offer of freedom and fortune?" he questioned.

"Yes," Bruce answered simply. "I will chance a year or two in prison rather than any association with a man like you.

"A year or two," repeated Lurgan. "But suppose I should tell you that your sentence will probably be for life—that is if you escape with your life." He paused. Bruce merely stared.

"No," went on Lurgan in the same even tones. "I am not crazy, Mr. Carey, as you are evidently thinking. If, however, you insist on being handed over to the police the charge will not be merely one of burglary. It will be murder. When you knocked Denyer down in the shed just now he struck his head in falling on the edge of a garden roller and when we found him he was dead."

Lurgan ceased abruptly and sat quite still, with his cold grey eyes fixed on Bruce's face. Bruce, equally still, stared back. For some moments the warm silence of the room was broken only of the tick of the clock and the slight rustling of the crumbling fire logs. Then Lurgan spoke again. "You are trying to persuade yourself that what I have told you is not true. But the body lies in the next room to this, and the doctor has not yet arrived."

"I will see it," said Bruce, struggling to his feet, but was so giddy that he staggered and had to catch on to a chair back to steady himself.

Lurgan shrugged. "Very well. Step this way."

Bruce followed him across the hall into a small gun-room, where the damp air struck chilly after the warmth of the study, and there, on a worn leather couch, lay Denyer, flat on his back. His thick checks were the colour of lead, his sightless eyes, wide open, stared up at the electric globe exactly above him. One glance was enough. Bruce had seen too many dead men to have any doubt. It did not need the ugly red stain on the dark leather under Denyer's head to tell Bruce that one at least of Lurgan's men would breathe no more.

"You are convinced?" asked Lurgan briefly.

"Yes, he is dead," Bruce a lowered heavily, then staggered again and caught the door post for support.

"Come back to the study," said Lurgan, quietly. "You are not fit to stand. They went back and Bruce dropped heavily on the sofa.

"A little more brandy," suggested Lurgan, but Bruce refused. Lurgan sat down, and there was silence again for perhaps a minute. As before, it was Lurgan who spoke.

"I don't want to hurry you, Mr. Carey, but we have already 'phoned for the doctor, and he is bound to be here soon. As you will see for yourself, it is essential that you should make up your mind before his arrival."

Bruce looked up "You mean—?"

"Surely my meaning is plain enough," said Lurgan, with the first touch of impatience that he had so far shown. "We must have our story ready. If you agree to my proposal the doctor will be told that the whole business was an accident. You will not come into it at all. No one will even know that you are, or have been, in the house. My servants know nothing, and now that Denyer is dead there are only Adrian Oakes and myself."

"And suppose I refuse?"

Lurgan's lips tightened and his eyes narrowed. The look he gave brought vividly back to Bruce the face which appeared through the glass of his compartment that night on the Plymouth express. "I can't imagine any one in your position being such a fool," he said harshly. "Even if you got off with a verdict of manslaughter it would mean at least 20 years' penal servitude."


BRUCE was thinking furiously. Yes, Lurgan was right, and even though his estimate of 20 years might be exaggerated, 10 years was the least he could expect. It was a ghastly idea. All the best of his life to be spent in the living death of a convict prison, and even when be had served his sentence and had been released, he would be a branded man. It meant not only loss of liberty and loss of fortune, but also—what was far worse—loss of all hope of making Silvia his wife, and in spite of himself he shivered slightly.

Lurgan, who still stood towering above him, watching him keenly, divined his hesitation. "Come now," he said, and for once his harsh voice was almost soft. "You don't like me, I know, but after all what difference does that make? Business associations have nothing to do with sentiment. Your rights and those of Miss Egerton's will be guarded legally, and the thing is so big—there's so much money in it that it matters little whether there are one or two or half a dozen in it. There are fortunes for all of us. Another thing"—and now he was speaking almost eagerly—"I can bring into the partnership not only business experience, but also the capital without which this invention cannot possibly be developed as it should be developed."

He paused to allow Bruce to answer, and it would be absurd to deny that Bruce was strongly tempted. Indeed, for the moment it seemed to him that there was no possible way out except to fall in with Lurgan's suggestion. He felt oddly weak and undecided. "I—I don't know what to say," he answered hoarsely. "Let me think."

But Lurgan did not move. He remained beside the couch with his hard grey eyes fixed upon Bruce. "You have had plenty of time to think," he answered. "You must make up your mind at once. The doctor may be here at any moment."

There was a knock and Lurgan whirled round. "Is that you, Oakes?" he asked harshly, as he strode across towards the door. Instantly Bruce felt as if a great weight had been lifted from him. Bruce knew nothing of hypnotism, or he would have realised that in his weakened state he had been unknowingly influenced by Lurgan's huge and powerful personality. The interruption, momentary as it was, had removed his influence, and suddenly he found himself able to think for himself. He shivered again, but this time at the thought of his weakness. Before his mind's eye rose the face of Randolph, and he thought of the scorn with which Colt would have regarded such a surrender on his part.

Next minute Lurgan was back again beside him. "The doctor is here," he said, swiftly. "The time is up. What have you decided?"

"To have nothing whatever to do with your proposition, Mr. Lurgan," replied Bruce with sharp decision. "As I have told you already, prison will be preferable to any association with you or your gang."

Lurgan's great fists clenched, and if ever murder showed in a man's eyes it was in his. "You fool," he hissed. "You doubly damned fool. It's not prison, it's the gallows you'll go to." He turned to the door, "Oakes," he called.

There entered a lean, grey man. He was all grey, hair, clothes, busy grey eyebrows. Even his skin had a sort of ashy hue. He was as tall as Lurgan but hardly half his weight. He stooped badly, and at first sight Bruce took him to be at least 60 years old. But as he came nearer Bruce mentally took nearly 20 years from his first estimate, for in spite of the grey hair the man's skin was smooth and his eyes clear. Weird eyes they were, and yellow as those of a jackal. Oakes walked on the balls of his feet, making no noise as he trod, and to Bruce he was every bit as repulsive—though in a different way—as Lurgan.

"Where is the Doctor, Oakes?" demanded Lurgan.

"In the dining-room," answered Oakes in his queer, husky voice. "I told him I'd call you."

"He must wait," snapped Lurgan. "I have to telephone."

Oakes' yellow eyes fixed upon Bruce with a queer expression of surprise and dismay. "You don't mean to tell me he's turned you down," he said.

"Exactly what I do mean," replied Lurgan furiously. "And, by God, he shall sweat for it. I am going to call the police."

Oakes pursed his lips oddly. "If you do that it's the finish as far as the magnet is concerned," he warned the other.

Lurgan swore savagely. "Don't be too sure of that. There are others with brains besides this doubly-distilled fool."

Oakes spoke to Bruce. "Best change your mind, Mr. Carey; prisons are bad places. They drive a man mad, and the more brains he's got the sooner he loses them—I know," he added with a crooked grin.

Bruce bit his lip. He was getting very near the end of his tether. "There are worse things than prison," he said curtly, "and so I have told Mr. Lurgan. Get on with it, and call the police. The sooner I am out of this house the better I shall be pleased."

"Before you are a month older you will be praying to be back here," said Lurgan fiercely. He turned to Oakes. "Watch him," he said. "Watch him. Don't take any chances. If he moves take the poker to him." Four strides took him out into the hall, and as the door closed Bruce heard him lift the receiver from the telephone.

Oakes shook his grey head. "A fool he called you, Mr. Carey, and I tell you he is right. When Lurgan gets the bit between his teeth he is a terror. He will go the limit now."

"Thank you, Mr. Oakes," said Bruce, "but I think I know pretty well by this time what your friend is capable of."

Oakes shook his head again. "You don't, mister. You have not known him as long as me." He pulled up a chair and sat down, then he took from his pocket a small automatic pistol, and laid it on the table beside him. "I don't hold with pokers," he observed, softly. "A gun was always my weapon. I'm a dead shot, Mr. Carey, so you may as well sit where you are." He paused and poured himself out some brandy. "Will you take a drink, Mr. Carey?" he said. "You may not get get another chance for quite a while."

Bruce felt that his sorely tried temper was on the edge of cracking. He bit his lip. "No, thank you," he said, curtly.

Oakes took no offence. He sat sipping his brandy with his queer yellow eyes fixed on Bruce. In the hall was a sound of steps. A door opened and closed, and Bruce knew that the doctor was in the gun room, examining the dead body of Denyer. The die was cast, and now there was no longer any retreating from the position which he had taken up. There are times when a man reaches the very limit of his endurance, and this was now the case with Bruce. A merciful drowsiness stole over him, and in spite of the cruel ache of his wounded head, his eyes closed, and he lay still. Presently his breathing slowed, and Oakes saw that he was asleep.

"By thunder, but he's got a nerve," observed that gentleman, softly.


IN all his twenty-four years, Claude Bryson had never done a stroke of work—that is, he had never earned a pound, except at a gambling table. But now Bruce's return and the row at Duke-street, and more particularly the long talks he had had with his half-brother, had roused the boy to do what was for him quite a lot of thinking. And the result of all this thinking was that on the morning after Bruce's journey to Reading, Claude took a taxi and went to Bedford Row, where he rang at a door, on which was a brass plate inscribed Messrs. Hammond and Sons, Solicitors.

A boy opened the door. "Morning, Jimmy," said Claude. "Is Mr. Mark in?"

"Yes, sir," responded the boy, grinning. "I'll see if he is disengaged. Will you come into the waiting-room?"

Claude's wait was not a long one, for in a minute or two the boy was back. "Mr. Hammond will see you, sir," he said, and led the way across the hall into a large oak panelled room handsomely furnished and with a fine Turkey carpet on the spacious floor. The owner of all this magnificence, a big handsome man of about thirty, who sat at a great pedestal desk by the tall window, got up as his visitor came in. "Hullo, Claude," he exclaimed. "I could hardly believe my ears when Jimmy said you were here. I thought you were generally enjoying your Vispring mattress at this hour in the morning."

"I have turned over a new leaf, Mark," Claude answered. "I am going to get up as early as you in future, I've decided to go into business."

Mark Hammond's eyes widened. "Wonders will never cease. And what particular business are you thinking of gracing, Claude?"

"Haven't a notion—that's why I came to you."

Hammond laughed. It was a big, deep laugh which matched his big, fine self. "Though you may not believe it, I have my limits, Claude, but sit down and explain the reason of this sudden desire to abandon your butterfly existence."

Claude flushed a little. "That's just it, Mark. I am fed up with being a beastly butterfly. There's old Bruce, working like a horse to make a little cash, while I have been rotting round chucking mine all over the shop."

Hammond nodded. "So your brother is home. I didn't even know it. But continue, Claude. You are quite worth listening to this morning."

"Don't talk rot, Mark. Honestly, I want to do something. Bruce has pulled me out of a beastly hole, and the least I can do is to show that I appreciate what he has done."

Hammond nodded again. "About the hole—do you mind telling me, Claude?"

Claude nodded. He needed no second bidding, and his account of the doings at Duke-street lost nothing in the telling. The story included the robbery of the model of the magnet, and the interview with Duggan in Claude's rooms.

Mark Hammond whistled softly "Claude, your job is evidently on the staff of the 'Daily Mail,' that is if you can write a story as well as you tell it. But I say, I hope to heaven that your brother has not taken it into his crazy head to try and recover his property by illegal means."

"I am more than half afraid he has," replied Claude uncomfortably. "I rang up Artillery Mansions before I left home, and they said Bruce had been away since yesterday."

Mark Hammond sat up straight in his chair. "You don't mean that seriously, Claude?" he said.

"I should not wonder a bit," answered Claude. "When old Bruce makes up his mind he goes straight as a bullet. I simply begged him to let me come and help him, but he would not hear of it." He paused, "but if he did tackle the job you can be pretty sure he has carried it through," he added.

"What—against a man like Lurgan? It is quite clear, Claude, that in spite of the company you have been keeping you know precious little about the King pin of this gang. The chances are that what Duggan spilled is all part of the trap, and that by this time it had been sprung and that your brother is in custody."

Claude went very pale. "You don't mean that, Mark?"

"Indeed I do. In my practice I have already run across two victims of Lurgan, and you will remember that I warned you against him more than once."

Claude jumped up. "I must go, Mark. I must go and help him," he exclaimed.

"Sit down, Claude," said Hammond. "It is no use getting excited. I may be wrong. I hope I am, but the first thing to find out is where Bruce is, and what has happened. This Miss Egerton you spoke of—can she tell us?"

"She may. I will telephone. No, that is no use, for I don't suppose she is on the 'phone. I will send her a wire."

Mark shook his head. "No, you will only scare the girl, and perhaps for nothing. The best thing will be for you to see Colt and ask him if he has any news. If he has not, call me up and I will get into touch with Scotland Yard. I know Inspector Merkle, and if any arrest has been made you may be sure he will know all about it."

"I will see Colt at once, and 'phone you as soon as ever I have spoken to him," declared Claude, and dashed off.

Half an hour later Hammond's telephone rang. "Are you there, Mark?" came Claude's voice. "Colt says that Bruce told him he was going to see Miss Egerton, and that he might be away this night. All the same, Colt is in a stew, and he would be no end grateful if you would call up your friend at the Yard."

"That's all very well," replied Mark, "but remember that if I do so I am giving Bruce away. It makes it seem as if he had been planning this burglary. I would advise waiting a bit. If Bruce has been caught, a few hours' delay won't make any difference. If, on the other hand, he has not yet tried this silly game, he is not likely to do so until to-night."

"I see," said Claude. "Yes, perhaps you are right. But if he has not started, the thing is to stop him. I think I had better go down to Reading by the next train and hunt him up."

"Not a bad notion. And let me know as soon as you can, Claude. Good-bye."

There was a serious expression or Mark Hammond's strong face as he hung up the receiver. His father had been legal adviser to the Selbys, Claude's mother's people, and he himself had always looked after Claude's affairs. He was fond of the boy, and had done what he could to keep him straight. But since he was a very busy man he had not had the time to act as dry nurse to Claude, and it had troubled him greatly to see Claude in the company which he had recently been keeping. Now Bruce Carey had come home, and, it seemed, had managed to pull up Claude with a round turn, so, although he hardly knew Bruce, Mark felt very kindly towards him, and was proportionately worried to think of the danger which threatened him.

A client came in, and all the morning Mark's time was fully taken up. It was nearly two when at last he went out to lunch. He lunched at the Law Society, and was walking briskly back up Chancery Lane towards his office, when a newsboy came running from the direction of Fleet-street. "Evening piper," he shouted. "Big burglary and murder near Wokingham. Evening piper."

"The News," snapped Mark, and standing back against a shop window, quickly opened the paper. The first thing he saw was a scare headline across two columns. "Burglary and murder near Reading."

"Last night about one o'clock the Wokingham police were rung up by Mr. James Lurgan, whose country seat, Friars Bank, is some three miles from Wokingham. Police Inspector Durham with two constables went out by car, and on arrival were told that a man had broken into the strong-room and was getting away with a bag of valuable jewellery when stopped by Mr. Ferdinand Denyer, a friend of Mr. Lurgan, who was staying in the house. The intruder struck down Mr. Denyer with such force as killed him, and was then making his escape, when Mr. Lurgan and another friend managed to arrest him. The man's name is given as Bruce Carey. He was taken to Wokingham Police Station, where he is at present under lock and key. The inquest on Mr. Denyer's body will take place to-morrow."

Mark's lips pursed in a soundless whistle. "So Claude was right," he said beneath his breath, "and now we are all up against it. What an unholy mix up." He thought a moment then made up his mind. "Colt—Colt's the man I must see first," he said, and hailed a taxi. "Artillery Mansions," he told the driver, and was driven rapidly away.


TO Mark's surprise, for Claude had told him how ill Colt had been, he found the American out of bed. He was still in his room, but fully dressed and lying in an arm chair. "I am sure glad to see you, Mr. Hammond," said Randolph cordially. "It's mighty white of you to come like this."

"It's the least I could do," replied Mark, taking the other's hand. "I don't know Bruce Carey very well, but I am Claude's legal adviser."

"I reckon it's Bruce more than Claude that is in need of legal advice right now, Mr. Hammond."

"Then you have heard what's happened," said Mark quickly.

"I have heard all right. Claude 'phoned me about an hour ago from Reading, and since then I got the evening paper. Claude said he was going right out to tell Miss Egerton, and then on to Wokingham to find if he could see Bruce." He paused, "Poor old Bruce, he'll be feeling sore as a scolded pup."

"He was rather asking for it," said Mark gravely.

"That's so," agreed Randolph, "but you have got to remember that Bruce has never had a chance to get wise to the ways of crooks like Lurgan. You wouldn't ask a better man alongside you in a real fuss, but strategy is not his strong point." He bit his lip. "And to think that it was I let him in for all this trouble."

"You," said Mark.

"Why, sure. It was I who first talked to starting the strong arm game."

Mark's eyes widened slightly. "You mean that you meant to get back the magnet model by force!"

"You've said it," replied Randolph grimly. "And I'd have done it, too, only first I'd have made mighty sure that Lurgan was fixed so he couldn't interfere."

Mark shook his head. "These ways are a bit beyond a stay-at- home Britisher like me, Mr. Colt. I should have tried legal methods."

"You'd have wasted your time and your money. Mr. Hammond. There ain't a mite of evidence that Lurgan took the bag, and you can bet your bottom dollar there ain't going to be any. If it hadn't been for me going sick like this we'd have had the bag back by now." He frowned. "But what's the use in that kind of talk? My job now is to get Bruce out of this mess."

"Mine, too," said Mark. "Only don't ask me to try what you term strong arm methods."

"I guess they wouldn't work in this country," agreed Randolph regretfully. "If it was Arizona, now, we might bribe the Sheriff, or use a stick of dynamite."

Troubled as he was, Mark could not help smiling. "You may make up your mind that we can't do anything of that sort here, Mr. Colt, but, as far as the law can be used, I am here to help."

"We will sure stretch your laws between us," said Randolph. "But me, I don't know the first thing about English law. This inquest, now—do they do the same as in the States?"

"Much the same. The coroner summons a jury, and holds an inquisition into the matter, but his powers go beyond those of an American coroner, for in England, if the person accused of the killing is found guilty by the coroner's jury, he can be committed straight to prison to await his trial, whereas in America there has to be an indictment by a grand jury."

Randolph nodded. "Where do you reckon they will hold the inquest?"

"Probably at Lurgan's place. The jury will want to see the strong-room as well as the body, and I think that Lurgan will be only too eager to give them the opportunity."

"You are sure right. He's as cunning as an old timber wolf, and just about as kind, and now that Bruce has turned him down he's ready to go the limit."

"Turned him down?" questioned Mark.

"Sure! Lurgan offered a fifty-fifty share in the magnet when he met Bruce at Mortimer, and Bruce was plumb uncivil the way he answered him, so Lurgan fixed this plant to get a second go at him. Gee!—but I would like to have heard what Bruce said to him last night."

"You mean that he trapped Carey, expecting to force this partnership upon him."

"Sure thing! I know it as well as if I'd been in the room."

"But if we can prove duress—why, it's blackmail," exclaimed Hammond.

"You won't prove a thing against Lurgan, Mr. Hammond, so don't think it. All the same, it is up to us to try. Me, I'll say my piece, and maybe Miss Egerton will help."

"Miss Egerton is our strongest card, especially as she is young, and I believe pretty," said Mark. "All the same, Mr. Colt, I won't hide from you that Carey is in a very tight place—that is, if he really killed this man Denyer."

"I guess he killed him all right. A darned good job, too. He ought to have a testimonial for ridding the world of a crook like that."

"Yes—but can we prove that Denyer was a crook?"

"It's going to be mighty hard, especially in a hick village out in the country. Likely Lurgan himself plays the squire down there and wears a halo."

Mark rose. "Well, I shall go down to Reading at once and do what I can to prepare for the inquest to-morrow. I shall see Miss Egerton and Carey. But you, Mr. Colt—are you fit to travel?"

"I'd go if they had to tote me in a litter, but anyway, I'm a heap better than I was, and you've done me more good than a doctor. So long—and all the luck."

"One of the best," Mark said to himself, as he jumped into a taxi, and if he had only known it, Randolph Colt was making a similar comment, only couched in somewhat different terms.


MARK had Silvia's address, and went straight to her house. She met him at the door, very pale but very plucky. "I am very glad to see you, Mr. Hammond," was her greeting. "Mr. Bryson told me you might come, and I have tea ready for you."

"How kind of you," said Mark. "Then Claude has gone?"

"Yes, to Wokingham, to see Br—that is Mr. Carey."

Mark noticed how nearly she had come to using Bruce's name. "Gad, I don't know that Carey is so much to be pitied, after all. What a lovely girl she is. Her evidence is going to be very useful to us." He followed her in, and she poured out tea for him. "Now tell me, please," she said in a voice that was not quite steady.

"I don't think I can tell you more than Claude has already told you," replied Mark. "I shall know more when I have seen Carey myself, as I mean to do this evening."

"But did be kill this man?" asked Silvia, with a slight shudder.

"If he did it was probably an accident," Mark answered. "From what Mr. Colt has told me, the whole business was a plot arranged by Lurgan."

"Then you think Mr. Carey will get off?" said Silvia eagerly. Mark hesitated.

"Don't be afraid to tell me the truth. Anything is better than false hopes."

"You are right, Miss Egerton. Then I had better say candidly that I do not think so. In the short time before the inquest it will be impossible to get evidence to prove the real object of Carey's attempt on Friars Bank, so he will be probably held for trial, but the verdict of a coroner's jury carries little weight, and it is at the Assizes that we shall hope to prove his innocence."

Silvia was silent, and Mark was horribly afraid she was going to break down. But when she spoke again her voice was perfectly steady. "And now, Mr. Hammond, I have something to say. His defence will cost money, and since it was on my account that Mr. Carey got into this trouble. I wish to be allowed to pay. I have two hundred pounds at the bank—"

Mark raised his hand. "There will be time for that later, Miss Egerton. My services, such as they are, are given free, but later we may have to brief counsel. In any case, it will cheer Mr. Carey to feel that he has such good friends."

"You must not tell him," cried Silvia, in sudden panic. "Please do not."

"It shall be just as you wish," said Mark courteously. "Now, before I go I want to ask you to be at the inquest at 11 to- morrow morning. It will be at Friars Bank."

"I will be there in good time," promised Silvia. "I will order a car to-night. Am I to give evidence, Mr. Hammond?"

"I hope so, and very useful evidence it will be," said Mark comfortingly, as he took his leave.

It was very nearly 11 when Mark reached Friars Bank next morning. He had been delayed by a telephone message from his own office. He found Randolph waiting outside the house. He would not go in until obliged to.

"I was right, Hammond," said Randolph as he shook hands with Mark. "Lurgan is the little tin god down here, and as the jury all hail from the village our chances look slim. I guess they'll hold Bruce for trial."

"There's hardly a doubt of it," said Mark, "for we can trust Lurgan to make the case as black as be can."

"All of that," drawled Randolph, "but it won't be as black as his face before I've done with him." Quietly as he spoke Mark, glancing at him, felt that he would rather be in his own shoes than those of Lurgan.

"How's Bruce?" continued Randolph.

"Quite cheerful. He's got heaps of grit. By the by, have you seen Miss Egerton?"

"No." Randolph glanced at his watch. "Say, it's mighty near 11. She ought to be here."

Mark looked a little anxious. "She promised she would be in good time. She was ordering a taxi overnight."

"I guess she won't be long," said Randolph. "Say, Hammond," he added in a lower tone, "it's a case, ain't it?"

"Between her and Carey? Yes."

"You think she likes him?"

"I don't think, I am sure," said Mark with a smile. "And, Colt, she's one in a thousand."

"I am mighty glad," said Randolph simply. "And now I reckon we had better move in. I told Bryson to wait outside and bring Miss Silvia along when the comes."

The inquest was held in the dining-room, and the room, though large, was unpleasantly crowded. The case had already attracted a deal of attention, and the Press was strongly represented. Mr. Leveson, the Coroner, was elderly yet competent looking, but the jury, as Randolph had said, were villagers, and a very rustic looking lot. Bruce was seated between Inspector Durham and a constable. He looked rather pale, and had a bandage across his forehead, but he smiled across at Randolph.

Lurgan was the first witness called. "The clever devil," whispered Randolph to Mark. "Watch his face. You'd think he'd lost his best friend."

Randolph was right, for Lurgan, wearing a dark suit that was not quite mourning, had an air of bereavement which evidently impressed the jury.

"He's a very clever actor," whispered Mark. "Our only hope is Miss Egerton."

Some one came pushing towards them through the crowd. It was Claude, and one glance at his face told Mark that something serious had happened. "What's the matter, Claude?" he asked, in a quick undertone.

"There's been an accident. An accident to Miss Egerton's car. It ran into a lorry."

Mark drew a quick breath. "Is she hurt—badly hurt?"

"I don't know. The man who told me didn't know. But she can't come here today."

Randolph was so staggered at Claude's news that for once he could not find anything to say. He merely stood and stared at Claude.

"Buck up, Colt," said Mark quickly, "for any sake don't let Carey see that we have had bad news."

He turned quickly to Claude. "You go and help Miss Egerton. Find out exactly what has happened, and whether she is hurt. You had better take her home. And see here, tell her not to worry about Carey. Tell her that Colt and I will took after him. Say that her evidence doesn't really matter now. It is at the trial that will count. Set her mind at rest. You understand?"

"Trust me," said Claude, and was gone in a flash.

"Is that good goods?" demanded Randolph of Mark. "Is it true that her evidence doesn't matter?"

"Quite true. As a matter of fact I had almost made up my mind already not to call her or you either. Now I have definitely decided." He paused, then added in a lower voice, "the one thing I hope is that she is not hurt."

"If she is I'll kill Lurgan," said Randolph calmly. Mark gave him a quick look. "You think that this is his doing—the accident, I mean?"

"Think," repeated Randolph, "I don't think, I am certain."

"I shouldn't wonder if you were right. The fellow seems equal to any villainy. But the Coroner is calling witnesses, and we can't talk any more now. You leave it all to me."

Lurgan was called and stepped forward. With his great size and his strong, harsh features he was an imposing figure, and the way in which he gave his evidence left nothing to be desired. He told how he, Oakes and Denyer, had been sitting up late in the study on the previous night smoking and chatting together when an unusual sound had attracted their attention, and Denyer had gone out to investigate.

"Mr. Denyer came back to tell us that there was a ladder against the strong-room window," he said, in his deep, level voice. "That one bar was gone, and that he believed a man was inside. We all went out, and as the man was evidently still inside the strong-room, we planned to capture him. Mr. Denyer said he would wait in the yard. Mr. Oakes suggested tying a cord across the drive, and I took up my position in the bushes just by the top of the drive. In this way we had all exits guarded, for we felt sure that the intruder would not try to force the strong- room door, which is of iron, and very heavy."

"I had not been in my place for more than a minute, when I heard Mr. Denyer shout. 'Put your hands up!' were the words he used. There was a sound of a scuffle, and a shot was fired. As I ran forward a man came rushing past me so fast that I could not catch him, I shouted to Mr. Oakes, and followed the fugitive, but the man would have got clean away had it not been for the cord, tied across the drive by Mr. Oakes, which tripped him, and brought him down. The man, the prisoner now in custody, lay stunned, and beside him lay a bag, which had been in the strong- room, and which was full of jewellery and plate."

"Mr. Oakes and I carried the man into the house, and laid him on a couch; then as Mr. Denyer had not come in, Mr. Oakes went to look for him."

With a fine sense of the dramatic, Lurgan paused a moment. All eyes were fixed on his huge, imposing figure, and the silence in the crowded room was complete.

"Oakes came back almost at once," continued Lurgan quietly, "and told me that Mr. Denyer lay dead in the ladder shed."

He stopped, and again there was silence for several moments. Then the Coroner spoke. "Thank you, Mr. Lurgan," he said, and looked across at Mark, "Have you any questions to ask, Mr. Hammond," he inquired.

"Not at present sir," replied Mark.

The Coroner looked a little surprised. "Then I will call the next witness," he said. "That is Mr. Oakes, I believe."

There was nothing special in Oakes' evidence, except that it corroborated that of Lurgan in every particular. When he had finished and sat down, the Coroner asked Mark if he wished to ask any questions, and again Mark politely declined. Randolph looked disturbed. "Say, Hammond, are you going to let them get away with this bunch of lies?" he whispered in Mark's ear.

"I am not going to ask any questions at all, except of the doctor," replied Mark with decision. "Without Miss Egerton's evidence there is not the slightest chance of getting Carey off. It will be better in every way to keep our defence for the trial, and in the meantime to leave Lurgan and Co. guessing."

Randolph shrugged. "I reckon you know best, but I sure hate to let Lurgan's crowd do all the talking."

The next witness was the doctor, a quiet, little grey man, who told how he had been called by telephone at a quarter to one, and had gone out at once to Friars Bank. He had found the body lying in the gun room. The cause of death was a blow on the back of the head. The vertebrae were dislocated. In other words, he said, the dead man's neck was broken. The body was still warm when he examined it, and death had occurred in less than an hour. In answer to a question from the Coroner, he explained that the deceased had evidently fallen against the edge of the heavy garden-roller beside which the body was lying when found.

Mark rose at last. "There were no marks on the face?" was his first question.

"None," agreed the doctor.

"Could the deceased have met his death by stumbling and falling?" inquired Mark.

"That is possible, but not probable," replied the doctor. "It seemed to me that he had been thrown backwards with great force against the roller."

"And yet there were no marks of a blow or blows upon the body?"

"That is true," allowed the doctor, and Mark thanked him and sat down.

The only other evidence called for was that of Inspector Durham, and this was purely formal, relating merely to his arrest of the prisoner. The Coroner spoke to Mark. "Do you wish the accused to give evidence?" he asked.

"No sir," said Mark. "Since it has been impossible to collect all our witnesses, we prefer to reserve our defence for the present."

"Have you nothing to say—no question to ask?"

"None at present," Mark answered quietly.

"You've got Lurgan guessing," whispered Randolph, as Mark sat down "But say, if we don't offer any evidence for the defence, won't this hick jury think there ain't any, and act according?"

"That's a fact, Colt, but it can't be helped. Luckily, however, the verdict of a Coroner's jury does not cut much ice, as you say in your country."

The Coroner addressed the jury. "The case is a curious one," he said, "in that the accused is a man of apparently gentle birth and good education, and therefore not of the usual type of housebreaker. Yet the evidence given proves definitely that he was engaged in all illegal enterprise, for he was caught leaving this house with stolen property in his possession. Whether he was actually guilty of killing the deceased is a matter for you to decide. You have heard the evidence, and if there is any point on which you are not quite clear, you can ask further questions." He paused, but the jury sat like sheep. The Coroner continued: "Will you retire, then, and consider your verdict."

The jury shuffled their feet, and one or two half rose, then sat down again. The foreman, a tall, loosely-built man, whose long, clean-shaven face oddly resembled that of an old dray- horse, whispered to his neighbours, then got up slowly. "It looks to me, sir," he said, addressing the coroner, "like there wasn't no need for us to go out."

"You mean that you have made up your minds as to your verdict?"

"There or thereabouts, sir. We finds the prisoner guilty of killing this 'ere gentleman."

"That is equivalent to a verdict of murder," said the Coroner.

The foreman looked a little startled.

"We wouldn't go that far, sir. We'd rather say it was manslaughter."

The Coroner shook his head. "That is a verdict which you cannot give in a case of this kind. The evidence proves beyond a shadow of doubt that the prisoner was on the premises by night for the purpose of committing a felony. According to English law a man who, under such circumstances, kills another, must take the full consequences of his act."

The foreman hesitated, and again whispered to his companions. Except for this whispering the crowded room was silent as a grave. At last, the foreman turned again to the Coroner. "You knows best, sir. We stick to it as Mr. Denyer was killed by the prisoner, and if so be it's murder, why, then that's how it stands."

"That is the verdict which must be registered," replied the Coroner. "Now all that remains for me to do is to thank you gentlemen for your services and to make out a warrant for the arrest and detention of the prisoner."


"SAY, can't we get Bruce out on bail?" asked Randolph of Mark.

Mark shook his head. "No, that is out of the question in a case of this kind, but don't worry, Colt. A prisoner awaiting trial suffers no particular hardships. He can have his food sent in from outside, get books and newspapers, and see his friends. Also—" he stopped abruptly. "Here's Claude," he said.

Claude pushed his way through the crowd that was moving towards the door. He was hot and rather breathless. "She's all right," were his first words as he reached the others. "But, by Jove, it was a narrow squeak, a lorry banged right into her car and knocked one front wheel all to blazes. It was jolly lucky it did not upset. Miss Egerton got a nasty bump on her head, but she is really not much the worse. I took her home in my car, and her housekeeper has put her to bed and is looking after her. What's happened to Bruce?"

When Mark told him Claude gasped "Murder!" he repeated in a shocked voice.

"Yes, but don't be so upset, Claude. As I have told Colt, a coroner's verdict doesn't count for much. Bruce was bound to be held for trial anyhow."

"How long will he be in prison?" asked Claude.

"Till the next Assizes at Reading. That's only about a month. It will give us time to get our evidence all ready and to secure a good man for the defence."

"You're a lawyer, ain't you?" said Randolph. "Can't you defend him?"

"I—I'm only a solicitor, not a barrister. In this country solicitors don't defend or prosecute in the Criminal Courts. I mean to get Crandon if I can. There's no one better—at least among the younger lot."

"Can I see Bruce?" broke in Claude abruptly. "I've got a message for him from Miss Egerton."

"Write it and I will give it him," said Mark. "I shall see him for a few minutes before they take him back. There—Durham is beckoning to me now," he added. Claude scribbled a few words on a sheet from his notebook, folded it, and gave it to Mark, who hurried away. Then Claude sat down beside Randolph. "You are looking a bit shaky, old chap," he said. "This has been a bit too much for you. You had better let me drive you back to town."

"I will be glad," replied Randolph simply, and followed the other out of the room.

Claude got in and Colt took a seat beside him. "I am going round by Mortimer, if you don't mind," said Claude as he pressed the self-starter. "I have promised to tell Miss Egerton what happened at the inquest."

Randolph shook his head. "Rather you than me," he said wearily.

Claude did not see Silvia, for the good reason that Mrs. Morris had already put her to bed.

"You had better write a note, sir," suggested the kindly woman, so Claude went in and did so. "I have let her down as lightly as I could," he explained to Mrs. Morris. "But I had to tell her that my brother is held for trial."

"It's a bad job, sir," said Mrs. Morris, gravely, as she took the note.

"Tell her not to worry," begged Claude. "Tell her that Mr. Hammond says it will be all right."

In spite, however, of these assurances, Silvia spent a wretched night. Her head ached dreadfully, partly from the blow, but more from worry, for, in spite of the assumed cheerfulness of Claude's note, she had read below the surface, and realised how troubled he really was. She was grateful indeed when at 7 o'clock Mrs. Morris came up with a cup of hot, freshly brewed tea, and after that she did get a couple of hours' sleep.

It was half-past nine when she came down, to find breakfast waiting for her. The omelette was light as a feather, the toast deliciously crisp, yet she could not eat. A letter lay beside her plate. She took it up listlessly, but when she saw the writing on the envelope her listlessness vanished. "From Bruce," she said half aloud, and was in the act of tearing open the envelope when the door opened, and Mrs. Morris came hurriedly into the room. "A gentleman to see you, miss."

Silvia jumped up. "Is it Mr. Bryson?"

"No, miss, a stranger. He would not give his name. He said his business had to do with Mr. Carey."

"What does he look like?" asked Silvia.

"Tall and heavily built, miss. Very well dressed, and got out of a beautiful car."

"Oh!" gasped Silvia, in sudden horror. "It must be Lurgan himself."

"Yes, Miss Egerton, it is Lurgan himself," came a deep voice, and Silvia, turning quickly, saw Lurgan standing just inside the room. "You will forgive my forcing myself upon you like this," he said with a bow, "but it was necessary for me to see you, and I knew that you would not admit me if I sent in my name."

"You are perfectly right," replied Silvia, recovering herself. "You are the very last person in the world whom I would willingly have in my house."

Bitter as her words were Lurgan took no offence. "I knew that was what you would say, Miss Egerton," he replied. "And nothing but the urgency of the case would have induced me to act as I have done, but as I have said, it was absolutely essential that I should speak to you."

"But I refuse to speak to you," returned Silvia. Her face had gone very white, but her blue eyes flashed with anger. "Will you go or must I send my housekeeper for help to throw you out."

Lurgan did not move nor did his expression change in the slightest. "If I go there goes with me the last chance of saving Bruce Carey," he said deliberately. "His liberty and perhaps his life depend entirely upon me."

Silvia hesitated, and he saw his advantage and went on. "I am telling you the absolute truth. Your friends have told you that they can clear Mr. Carey, and no doubt they believe that they are right. I know better, and I solemnly assure you that it rests with you whether he is sentenced to many years in prison or goes entirely free. Now what have you to say?"


THERE was something hypnotic about Lurgan. Even Bruce had felt that and in spite of herself Silvia was impressed. "I will give you five minutes," she answered bravely. She turned to her housekeeper, who had remained in the room and who was watching Lurgan with a curious mixture of horror and curiosity on her comely face. "Mrs. Morris," said Silvia, "will you please go into the kitchen, but come at once if I ring."

There was a ghost of a smile in Lurgan's hard eyes as he stepped aside to allow Mrs. Morris to pass. "Now," said Silvia uncompromisingly as the door closed behind Mrs. Morris. "What have you to say, Mr. Lurgan?"

"Have you heard what happened the night before last?" asked Lurgan.


"And the verdict of the jury yesterday?"

"It is no use trying to frighten me," said Silvia scornfully. "I know the verdict was against Mr. Carey."

"The verdict was murder," said Lurgan impressively, "and you are thinking that at the Assizes this verdict will be reversed. I can tell you that you are entirely mistaken, and that even if the jury bring it in manslaughter, Mr. Carey will receive a minimum of ten years' penal servitude."

Silvia faced him bravely "I do not believe you," she answered.

"Then I must prove it. You will not deny that Mr. Carey was caught upon my premises with a bag containing my property, and that he killed a man in attempting to make his escape." He paused, but Silvia did not speak. "Silence gives consent," he continued "You and his other friends expect to prove that the prisoner was engaged in an attempt to recover his, or rather your, property. If this could be proved to the satisfaction of the Court the case, I admit, would bear a very different complexion. But it can't. There is absolutely nothing to connect me or any of my friends with the disappearance of the model of the gold magnet."

"There is the bag."

"Nothing of the sort. In point of fact the bag belongs to a friend of mine, Captain Stanley East, and that I can bring full evidence to prove. Your side, on the other hand, can bring no evidence which is worth consideration, and their whole story will sound too fantastic for belief either by Judge or jury." Though Lurgan did not raise his voice in the slightest, he spoke with a cold certainty that made Silvia shiver. Her knees trembled so that she could hardly stand, and she caught at the back of a chair to steady herself. Lurgan stood silent, watching her, and his steely eyes seemed to bore into her very brain. It took an effort on her part to speak again. "What do you want me to do?" she asked faintly.

"The only sensible thing. Take me into partnership with yourself and Mr. Carey."

Silvia drew herself up. "You!" was all she said, but the scorn and loathing in her voice would have crushed a lesser man.

Lurgan merely smiled, "Yes, I. As I have already told Bruce Carey, there is a fortune for all of us in your father's invention, and with my knowledge of finance and the strings I can pull I can make a success of it far more quickly than you and he unaided."

Silvia's eyes had a strange expression as she gazed at her visitor. Something of the horror with which she might have regarded a creature from the lower world. "Then you admit that you have the magnet model?" she said at last.

"I admit nothing. All I ask is your promise to let me have the draft description of your father's invention in return for a deed of partnership."

"But I can't give you the papers. Mr. Carey has them."

"He will hand them over if you give your permission. It is only on your account that he has so far refused to do so." Silvia drew a quick breath, and again Lurgan saw his advantage. "So you see," he added quietly, "that if Mr. Carey goes to prison it will be entirely for your sake."

Silvia passed her hands slowly across her forehead. If what Lurgan said was true she would not hesitate for an instant in agreeing with his demand, for already she knew that Bruce's safety meant far more to her than all the money in the world. That he should suffer for her sake was unthinkable. But was it true? Was any of it true? Or was Lurgan just making a last desperate attempt to gain his own ends. How could she know? It was impossible to think with those terrible eyes boring into her very brain. She forced herself to speak. "Even if Mr. Carey does give you these papers, how can you help him." she asked, "seeing that he has already been found guilty of the death of this man?"

A gleam of triumph showed for an instant in Lurgan's cold eyes, but was gone before Silvia could see it. His tone was level as ever as he answered. "That will be a simple matter. I shall admit that Mr. Carey had good reason for thinking that the model was in my house. I shall point out that Denyer was a hot- tempered, excitable man, and make it clear that Mr. Carey acted only in self-defence. At the worst Mr. Carey will get six months in the second division, but in all probability he will leave the court scot free."

Never in her life had Silvia felt so weak and undecided, but she, like Bruce, was unaware of the hypnotic power of Lurgan. "I cannot make up my mind," she said hoarsely. "You must give me time."

Lurgan looked at her. He hesitated, then he smiled—a thin, white-lipped smite. "I will go out to my car," he said, "and come back in five minutes for your decision. I cannot give you longer, for I have to be in London by midday."

It was the most intense relief to Silvia to be free of the man's overpowering presence, yet even when he had gone she still felt utterly incapable of making up her mind. From what Lurgan had told her she could hardly doubt that Bruce was in very real and desperate danger, and, so far as she herself was concerned, no sacrifice was too great to save him. Yet at the same time she had an instinctive feeling that Bruce himself would never give in to Lurgan's threats. If only she could see Bruce and ask him. Five minutes' talk with him would make all clear. But this was out of the question. She dropped into the chair by which she had been standing, and as she did so her eyes fell upon the letter. Bruce's letter, which she had been on the point of opening when Lurgan was announced. She took it up and tore open the envelope. "He may say something which will help me," was the thought that flashed through her mind. The heaving gave her an unpleasant shock. It was H. M. Prison, Reading.

"Dear Miss Egerton," he began, "Claude told me last night that you had a motor accident on your way to Friars Bank. He vowed you were not hurt, but I am longing to be assured in your own writing that you are well. I don't deserve a letter. Indeed, it would serve me right if you turned me down cold after making such a hash of things.

"I was thinking over the whole business last night, and it came to me that Lurgan might write to you, or even try to see you. There is nothing he would not risk to get hold of those papers. If he does do anything of the kind, you will know how to deal with him. Tear up his letters unread, and slam the door in his face. Don't think it cheek on my part to write like this. You see, I know the powers of the brute, which I believe are hypnotic, or something of the sort. I don't mind telling you that when he was in the room with me the other night at Friars Bank he jolly nearly persuaded me to go into partnership with him. It was not until he was called away that I knew I would as soon take Old Nick himself as a partner as Lurgan.

"Take care of yourself, and if you can find it in your kind heart to forgive his foolishness, write a few lines to your poor blundering idiot of a partner—Bruce Carey."

Silvia had hardly finished reading the letter when she heard a step in the hall, and had barely time to thrust the letter out of sight before Lurgan entered.

"The five minutes, are up," he said. "I trust you have made up your mind to agree to my proposal."

There was no hesitation about Silvia's answer. "I have made up my mind," she said, "and my answer is the same as that of Mr. Carey. Do your worst, and neither he nor I will ever consent to any sort of partnership with you."

Lurgan looked as if he could not believe his ears. Five minutes earlier, and Silvia would have been entirely beaten. He would never have left the room unless he had been convinced of that. Now she defied him. For once in his life he was utterly puzzled. A gleam of unwilling admiration showed in his eyes. "You mean that?" he said, at last.

"I never meant anything more clearly in my life."

He shook his great head. "You will live to be very sorry, Miss Egerton." was all he said, and, turning, left the room.


"HERE'S your seat, Miss Egerton," said Mark Hammond in his deep, pleasant voice. "Mr. Colt will be next you. Now, don't be nervous, for you will get plenty of notice before being called to the witness-box."

In spite, however, of Mark's kindly words, Silvia was very unhappy It was the first time she had ever been in a court of law, the place was crowded to suffocation, and the heavy, sour- smelling atmosphere made her fell quite ill, while the dingy surroundings added to her depression. She looked at the faces of those about her and thought that they all bore the same expression, a kind of eager, cruel curiosity such as might have been seen around the arena at the Gladiatorial Contest in old Rome or, in more modern times, at a Bull Fight. All, that is, except the jury who appeared sleepy and utterly bored. But it was the judge whose looks she liked least. He was Lord Pulford an old man with a bitter face. Pulford, so Mark had told her, had hoped for the Lord Chancellorship, and had never got over his disappointment in being passed over.

There was not, however, much time to look round, for already the case had been called. "There is old Bruce," said Randolph in her ear, pointing to the dock where, as if by magic, Bruce had suddenly appeared from some subterranean region. "Say, he has spotted us already," and Randolph waved in reply to Bruce's nod. Silvia too waved her hand and tried to smile, and Bruce smiled back. Dressed in well-fitting blue serge, Bruce was a fine figure or a man, but Silvia's heart was sore to see how pale he looked. All that deep coat of tan which he had brought back from New Guinea was quite gone and in spite of his smart appearance and well assumed cheerfulness, Silvia saw that he was far from happy.

Randolph rose. "There's Lurgan coming into the box," he said, "and we've got to shift into the witnesses room. But don't worry, you will feel better later on, when you've heard our chap talk."

"Our chap," that rising young barrister, John Crandon, was a slim young man with dark clear eyes, a clever face and rather dandified appearance.

Lurgan's evidence was the same that he had given at the inquest, and he gave it well. The moment he had ceased speaking Crandon was up. "The study in which you were sitting is in front of the house, Mr. Lurgan?"

"Yes," Lurgan answered.

"And the strong room at the back?"

"That is so."

"It was raining on the night of the alleged burglary?"


"Then does it not seem a little odd that you should have heard so light a sound through several walls?"

"The night was very calm and the window was open. Although the noise sounded slight to us, it was probably fairly loud at its source."

"You keep property of considerable value in the strong room?"

"Yes, plate, and at times jewellery."

"Yet you rely entirely on these old-fashioned iron bars which it seems that even an unskilled burglar might easily remove. You had neither an electric alarm or dogs?"

"The bars seemed very strong," replied Lurgan. "I had a dog until recently, but he was accidentally killed and I have not yet purchased another."

"With regard to the bag found in Mr. Carey's possession, the initials upon it are 'S.E.'?"

"Yes, the bag belonged to a friend of mine, Captain Stanley East, who was killed at Givenchy. He gave it to me before he went out, and I have had it ever since. I propose to bring evidence to that effect."

"Thank you," said Crandon. "That is all I wish to ask for the present."

Oakes was the next to be called, and his story tallied with that of Lurgan in every particular.

Crandon came to his feet again. "You have told us, Mr. Oakes, how you found the body of the deceased in the ladder shed. Have you any idea how Mr. Denyer came to enter the shed?"

"I take it," replied Oakes, "that he thought it a good place in which to hide, or it may have been that, seeing the prisoner carrying the ladder back, he knew he would enter the shed, so waited there to capture him."

"Quite so. It was a very dark night, was it not?"

"It was raining, but not quite dark, for there was a moon behind the clouds."

"Still, in the shed the darkness would have been complete?"

"I should say so," agreed Oakes.

"Now I come to another point," said Crandon. "At what hour was it that the alleged burglary was committed?"

"To tell the truth, I never looked at the clock," replied Oakes, in his odd, husky voice. "But I should say it was about half-past eleven."

"And it took but a few minutes to capture the prisoner?"


"After the capture, how long was it before you discovered the body of the deceased?"

"Five, or probably ten minutes."

"And what happened then?"

"As soon as I told Mr. Lurgan of my discovery, he asked me to ring up Dr. Hitchcock."

Crandon paused a moment, then went on. "You rang up the doctor, Mr. Oakes, at, or about, quarter to twelve, but why did you not ring up the police?"

"We did, that is, Mr. Lurgan did so," replied Oakes.

"But the call was not received at Wokingham until half-past twelve. What was the reason for this long delay?"

Oakes shrugged his shoulders. "I did not know it was so long as that. The fact is that we were so upset that I suppose we forgot to do it at once."

Crandon fixed his eyes on Oakes, but Oakes returned his gaze quite calmly, then both sat down, and the Doctor was called.

The Doctor's evidence was almost word for word as he had given it at the inquest. Crandon questioned him closely as to the cause of Denyer's death, but the Doctor, though be allowed that there were no marks on the body, declared that Denyer must have been flung with great force against the roller. "He was a powerfully- built man," he said, "and it must have taken a heavy shock to break his neck."


CRANDON began his speech for the defence by telling the story of the gold magnet. He spoke of the years of hard work which Stuart Egerton had given to his great invention, and its immense importance. "Mr. Egerton was in America when at last he brought it to success," he said, "and for safety's sake he sent the draft description to his daughter in England, then started for home carrying the model with him in a brown cowhide bag. These precautions he considered necessary, because, as he had written to his daughter attempts had been made to steal the invention."

Crandon went on to the meeting in the train between Egerton and Carey, he spoke of the man who had peered through the window. "Mr. Carey himself will tell you," he said, impressively, "that the face was that of Lurgan himself."

Speaking rapidly, yet clearly, Crandon described the accident, and how, before his death, Egerton had confided the precious bag to Bruce to take it to his daughter. He then came to the robbery on the Mortimer-road, and the cunning way in which Bruce and Colt had been held up. "Such a robbery may sound," he said, "too fantastic for credence, but I am bringing evidence to prove that it occurred exactly as stated. And now, my lord," he ended, "with your permission I propose to call witnesses who will testify to the truth of what I have said. The first will be Mr. Randolph Colt."

Randolph walked into Court with his usual long, leisurely stride. "Randolph Colt, of Richmond, Virginia," he described himself. "33 years old, late Captain in the American Army in France, and of independent means."

"How long have you known Mr. Carey?" was the first question put to him.

"Nigh on five years," he answered, in his soft Southern drawl. "I met him first in France, where he dug me out after a Bosch shell had buried me. We've been mighty good friends ever since." He told how Bruce had wired him to come to Reading, and how he had explained the way in which the model had been entrusted to him. He described the hold-up in a racy style which brought a smile to the faces of even the weary jury. "I've been held up by gunmen in Arizona," he said, "but you sure don't expect a game of that kind in this old country. So I have got to say I was taken plumb unawares." He was a good witness, and went through his cross-examination at the hands of the prosecuting counsel with flying colours.

After him Crandon put up Frank Harker, the boy who had watched the hold-up and had asked if it was real. The lad was nervous at first, but warmed up, and related with glee how Randolph had fired at the flying car and knocked splinters out of it.

At last came Silvia's turn. Every eye was on her as she entered the witness box, and for the moment she had a horrible faint feeling. Then she caught Bruce's eyes fixed on her with an expression which told her as plainly as words that all his thoughts and sympathies were for her and not himself. The look braced her like a tonic, and her voice was clear as a bell as she gave her name and age.

The first part of her evidence dealt with her father's long efforts to invent the magnet and with the receipt from him of a registered parcel containing the description of his invention, and a letter saying that he had perfected the model and was bringing it home. "In this letter," she said, "he told me that others were trying to steal his invention, and said also that he had purposely left the description incomplete so that neither it nor the model would be of any use alone. It would be necessary to have both together in order to understand the whole invention."

Silvia described her first meeting with Bruce on the day after her father's death, and his subsequent visit to Deeping Cottage on the afternoon before the burglary. Crandon then led her to speak of the accident to her hired car on her way to the inquest. Her evidence was that there was nothing accidental in the way in which the lorry-driver had run down her taxi.

Penson, counsel for the prosecution, rose. "Do you mean to suggest, Miss Egerton, that this man deliberately ran you down?"

"I do."

"Might he not have been drunk?"

"I do not think so."

"Why should he have run you down?"

"I do not know—unless it was to prevent my attendance at the inquest."

Penson smiled as if the suggestion was too absurd for serious consideration. "The man has not been traced?" he asked, and Silvia had to confess that this was the case.

Penson was a big, black-browed man, with a hard voice and forcible manner. "Did your father tell you who was trying to steal your invention?" he asked.

"He mentioned no names," Silvia answered.

"And you have never seen the model which is said to have been stolen?"


"Have you any proof that it ever existed?"

"I have my father's letter," replied Silvia with spirit.

"Pardon me, that is no proof. Did the accused tell you that he had seen it?"

"No, the bag was locked, and be did not open it."

"It is a queer story altogether," said Penson, with a sarcastic rasp that brought the blood to Silvia's cheek.

"If you had ever met my father you would have known that he was incapable of untruth," she said with quiet dignity that brought a little murmur of applause from the court.

Penson frowned "I did not mean to be rude," he said, "but we all know how apt inventors are to deceive themselves."

Penson let Silvia stand down, but Crandon mentioned that he would call her again later.

Bruce was put in the box.

The first point about his evidence was his identification of Lurgan as the man whose face he had seen at the corridor window of the Plymouth express. He made no bones at all about the burglary, confessing freely that he knew he was breaking the law in attempting to recover the models, but pointing out that he had no legal way of recovering it. Then he went on boldly to describe how, after his capture, Lurgan had offered him a partnership in return for the draft of the invention.

"That," said Bruce, "is the reason why there was so long a delay in calling the police, for Lurgan promised me that if I would accept his suggestions and become his partner the police should not be called at all."

There was no doubt about the sensation caused by this statement. The jury sat up straight, and even Lord Pulford craned forward.

Penson, however seemed quite unmoved. "Then how was the death of Denyer to be explained?" he demanded.

"I did not ask," said Bruce. "As I have told you I refused the offer.",

"Most men in your shoes would have jumped at it."

"Not, I think, if their proposed partner had been Mr Lurgan," replied Bruce with equal sarcasm.

Penson scowled. "Have you no corroboration of this extraordinary story?"

"None, it is my word against that of Mr. Lurgan," said Bruce quietly.

"But I have further evidence to bring, my Lord," said Crandon. "I wish to put Miss Egerton in the box again."

"As you wish," said Pulford rather crustily. It was getting near luncheon time, and he was hungry.

So Silvia was brought back and told of her interview with Lurgan at her own house. Penson was at her at once. "This is the most wildly improbable story I have ever heard."

"It is the exact truth," Silvia answered with spirit.

"Did any one else hear the alleged offer?"

"No, I had sent my housekeeper out of the room."

"Very unwise on your part," said Penson drily. "When did this interview take place?"

Silvia gave him the date.

"The day after the inquest and when the prisoner was already in custody. How did Mr. Lurgan suggest he could get him off?"

"By giving no evidence against him."

"But the evidence had already been given at the inquest. You must have known perfectly well that any such premise on the part of Mr. Lurgan was useless."

"I did not know that," replied Silvia quietly, but distinctly.

"Yet you turned down Mr. Lurgan's offer?"

"Most certainly. Why should I allow him to share in the profits of an invention in which he had no part? Besides," added Silvia, "I am not fond of being threatened."

Penson's lip curled. "I have no more questions to ask at present," he said curtly.

Lord Pulford rose. "Then the Court will adjourn for luncheon," he said.


MARK, Silvia and Randolph went out to lunch together, and Claude, who had been in Court all the morning, joined them.

"How is it going. Mark?" he asked eagerly.

"Much as I expected," replied Mark. "Your evidence was most useful, Miss Egerton. Our chief trouble is that we have been unable to trace the men who actually stole the bag or to prove what was inside it."

"Say, what happens next?" asked Randolph.

"Lurgan will bring a witness, a bought one no doubt, to prove that the bag belonged to this mythical Stanley East. Then we shall have speeches from Crandon and Penson, and finally a summing up from the Judge."

"And then—?" questioned Silvia, leaning forward.

"Much depends on Pulford's summing up. If he is in a bad mood it may mean a verdict of manslaughter, and in that case a sentence of imprisonment.

"How long?"

"Twelve months I should say at the utmost."

Silvia went rather white, and Randolph patted her gently on the arm. "Buck up, Miss Silvia, buck up and pray hard that the old bean in the wig gets a good lunch. Gee, if I had the buying of it I'll lay long odds he would say the right thing, that is if he could say anything at all," he added with a grin. And the grin was so infectious that even Silvia smiled.

Just as Mark had predicted, the first witness after the interval was a rather seedy looking man with a ragged moustache, who said he had been batman to Captain Stanley East, and who identified the bag as his late master's property. But then came a surprise in the shape of a portly, prosperous looking person whose name was given as George Addenbrooke, of the firm of Anderson and Addenbrooke, Company Promoters, with an address in Leadenhall. Bruce recognised him, for he gazed at him in evident surprise.

"Your Lordship," said Penson, "since the prisoner has seen fit to accuse Mr Lurgan of a serious crime, I wish to bring evidence to show that the prisoner, so far from being the man of means he appears to be, is very short of money, and on the seventh of last month—that is the day before the attempted burglary at Friars Bank—was in the city endeavouring to borrow money."

Silvia, now in Court, again, saw Mark's face go suddenly anxious, but it was not until Addenbrooke had given his evidence that she realised how damaging it was to Bruce. "It's the dirty dog Bruce went to about starting a company for his New Guinea business," whispered Randolph in her ear. "I wonder what Lurgan paid him."

There was worse to come, for Lurgan's solicitor, a man named Wardle, was put up to prove that his client was a rich man who could have no possible inducement to rob another of anything, let alone a very problematical invention. Finally Lurgan himself gave a most emphatic denial that he had ever known Stuart Egerton or been on the Plymouth Express, and he produced two witnesses to prove that he had been in London on the night of the railway accident.

"But this is dreadful," said Silvia to Randolph in a horrified whisper.

"I guess it is just what we might have expected," replied Randolph, "but keep your heart up, Miss Silvia; Cranton's got a bit of talking to do still."

Crandon had, and he talked well. He put the case for Bruce as clearly and strongly as any one could have done, and Silvia glowed as she listened. He dwelt particularly on the stealing of the bag, then he paused and looked round the court. "My lord and gentlemen of the jury," he said in ringing tones, "would not any man worthy of the name of a man, robbed in such a fashion, make every effort to regain the property so entrusted to him? My client, believing, and with very good reason to so believe, that Lurgan was the culprit, yet aware that in this case the law was powerless to aid him, made up his mind to recover this model. That he went the wrong way about it he would be the first to admit, and the consequences of his error have been deplorable. Yet I contend these should be looked upon as the result of a blunder, not of a crime, and that the fact that he has been perfectly open with you, and has not in any way tried to deny or palliate his defence, will have due weight on your decision."

"Penson gets the last word," said Randolph to Silvia. "You reckon you want to hear him?"

"Yes," said Silvia feverishly. "I must wait till the end."

But as she listened to Penson she began to feel quite faint and dizzy. Penson struck straight at the weak points of the defence. "The only thing the accused has proved," he said, "is that a bag was stolen from him by a trick. He does not even know for a certainty what was in it. But he throws the blame of this theft upon Mr. Lurgan without one shadow of proof, except that of a supposed resemblance between him and a man whom he saw for a moment through a train window. On the strength of this he burgles Mr. Lurgan's house, steals valuable property, and, in the process of that crime, kills an unoffending gentleman. As for his story of the partnership proposed by Mr. Lurgan, that is as fantastic as the rest of his evidence, and equally impossible to prove."

Silvia had gone white as a sheet, and Randolph saw that she was on the point of collapse. "Say, this air is enough to poison a rattlesnake," he said. "You come right out of it this minute."

"It's too silly of me," said Silvia faintly, as Randolph put her in a chair in the witnesses' room, "but I must hear the summing up."

"What's the use in torturing yourself," replied Randolph. "You won't have long to wait anyway. The old gent, in the wig wants to get home to his tea."

Randolph was right. The summing up did not take long, and it was only 17 minutes by the clock before Mark came in to say that the jury had gone out.

"What did the judge say?" asked Silvia.

Mark saw her lips quiver and realised the strain she was under. He hesitated.

"Don't be afraid to tell me," said Silvia bravely. "I think you know I can face facts."

Mark nodded. "Well, I will say quite plainly that he was not too kind. He took Penson's view, rather than Crandon's. You must be prepared for a verdict of manslaughter."

"And—and a year in prison?"

"I think so; but, remember, good conduct brings that down to nine months."

"Thank you," said Silvia quietly. "I am glad you have told me the truth."

The three sat together and tried to talk, but as the minutes ticked by speech became more and more difficult. Silvia and Randolph especially were listening intently for the shuffling of feet which would mean the return of the jury. At last it came, and Randolph sprang up.

"No," said Mark, "you stay with Miss Egerton. I will go into court and bring you back the verdict." The door closed behind him, and Silvia sat rigid and still. "The poor kid," thought Randolph, as he watched her. "Say, but I hope Hammond ain't right." Barely three minutes elapsed before Mark was back in the room, and Silvia saw that his face was set and stern.

"You—you were right. The verdict is guilty," she said in a voice that was only a whisper.

"The verdict is guilty," said Mark, in an odd, harsh voice, "but I was wrong as to the sentence. It is seven years' penal servitude."

Randolph turned swiftly to Silvia, fully expecting her to collapse, but instead she stood up, drawing herself to her full height. "It is a wicked verdict and a cruel sentence," she said in a ringing voice, "and I will never rest until it has been reversed."

Randolph's eyes were full of admiration. He stretched his big, brown hand to her. "Put it there, Miss Silvia. I am with you to my last hour and my last dollar."


IT was late when the trial was finished, and Randolph insisted that Silvia should have some dinner before Claude drove her home, so the three, together with Mark Hammond, went to the hotel, where Randolph ordered a meal.

"Is there no chance of appeal?" asked Silvia in a low, strained voice.

"Yes," said Mark. "But only if we can get hold of the men who stole the bag."

Randolph looked up. "I guess I'll have a shot at it," he remarked quietly.

"How are you going to do it?" questioned Mark.

"You're a pillar of the Law, Hammond," said Randolph with a faint grin, "You'd best not ask."

"You will let me help," begged Silvia.

"I guess you will have to wait, Miss Silvia. There are no ladies on in the first act. Maybe you will be on the stage in the second."

"You mean that?"


"For if you don't," said Silvia, "I shall set to work on my own account."

"Don't do that, Miss Silvia." Randolph was in earnest for once. "Promise me you will let me know before you do anything."

"I promise," said Silvia gravely. "But won't you tell me your plans?"

"As soon as I have got any," responded Randolph. "Right now I have only got the thinnest kind of a notion how to start."

But the notion must have developed rapidly, for the very next morning while Claude was trying to eat a breakfast for which be had no appetite Randolph rang him up. "Have you got Duggan's address, Bryson?"

"Yes. As a matter of fact I had a letter from him this morning. He seems awfully upset about Bruce's sentence. Says he supposes we think he'd sold him. Wants to come and explain."

"Say that's fine. Send a messenger and tell him to come right along to your place, and ring me as soon as he arrives."

"What are you going to do?"

"Time enough to tell you when we meet," replied Randolph cryptically, and rang off.

Just before 11 Randolph had a call from Claude. "Duggan's here, come as soon as you like."

"With you in five minutes," replied Randolph, and with the aid of a taxi he kept his word.

"This is Mr. Colt, Duggan," said Claude, as Randolph came in. Duggan, who was sitting stiffly in one of Claude's arm-chairs got up and saluted. Randolph, who now saw the man for the first time, looked him over keenly. "Well," he said in his quiet drawl, "things haven't turned out quite as we expected, Duggan."

Duggan frowned unhappily. "No, sir, and I feel bad about it. Mr. Carey's a proper gent, and I wouldn't for the world have him think that I double-crossed him."

"I guess that's the last thing he thinks. He told me to give you his compliments and say the map was first class."

Duggan brightened a little. "But they was laying for him, sir, or so it seems," he said.

"Sure, they were laying for him, but that was not your fault."

"Does he think that, sir?" asked Duggan earnestly.

"You can set your mind at rest about that, Duggan. Mr. Carey don't blame you for his troubles."

"But seven years, sir! It's cruel hard."

"Yes, its a mighty tough sentence, but I am hoping he won't have to serve it."

"You going to appeal, sir?"

"Sure, if we can get the evidence."

"What evidence do you want, sir. I'd go in the box if it was any good." There was no doubt about the man's earnestness, and Randolph nodded approvingly.

"You can't give any useful evidence, Duggan, but you might help me to get it."

"You have only got to say, sir," Duggan answered quickly.

"Then tell me," said Randolph, "do you know where Lurgan keeps his papers?"

"No, sir, I don't. Mr. Carey asked me that. It's not at Duke's Gate anyways. I have heard said as he's got a secret address somewheres in London, but none of the staff at Duke's Gate knew where it was."

Randolph, looked thoughtful. "See here, Duggan, what I am wanting is to find out what's become of the chaps who held us up on the Mortimer-road. So far that has gravelled us completely."

"Lurgan, he knows, sir. But I don't know how you can make him tell."

"I guess I'd make him tell all right if I had him here," remarked Randolph, and though he spoke in his usual soft drawl Duggan started slightly and stared very hard at him. "But be ain't here," continued Randolph, "and I don't reckon to try kidnapping him." He thought a little. "Say, Duggan, he and the rest of his gang must keep in touch. Where do they meet—at Friars Bank?"

"Oakes, he stays at Friars Bank, sir, but I never seed Grane or Stroud there. Lurgan meets them at Duke's Gate when he wants to talk to them. They has a talk together every Thursday evening."

Randolph leaned forward. "A sort of board meeting, eh, Duggan?"

"That's it, sir. They holds it in an upstairs room."

"But I thought Lurgan never showed up at Duke's Gate."

"He never does—at least not in the rooms, but there's a way up from the basement to the top of the house."

"Have you ever been in this board room?"

"No, sir, but I know the way up."

"Do you reckon there's any place where one could hide in the room?"

"Maybe I could find out."

"Find out, and find out, too, if there's any way I could slip up there and stow away. And name your own price if you can do it, Duggan."

Duggan stiffened. "I told you I don't want no money for this," he said quite sharply.

"I sure beg your pardon, Duggan. Yet you will want a few pounds to stand drinks to the right people, I fancy."

"Maybe I will," allowed Duggan. "But I don't know whether it is possible, sir, and anyway it's a big risk, If they found you they wouldn't let you out alive."

Randolph smiled, "I wouldn't be the only one to get hurt," he said softly. "Fix it up, Duggan, if you can, and let me know as soon as possible. If I can only get next that gang for half an hour there's no saying what might come of it."

Duggan's information was quite correct, for Lurgan, though be was very careful never to betray his connection with the house in Duke's Gate, kept a very sharp eye on the business, and especially upon Grane, who was nominally the manager. Neither Grane nor Stroud were ever invited down to Friars Bank, and, in point of fact, Denyer's last visit was his first one. He had only been brought down to help in the trapping of Bruce.

The room where Lurgan met his associates was on the third floor of the big house in Duke's Gate, and was reached by a private staircase. It was a sort of cross between a business office and a smoking-room, and had a dumb waiter, by means of which refreshments, ordered through the house telephone, could be sent up from below. It was just after nine on the Thursday night following Bruce's trial that the usual weekly meeting took place. Lurgan's smart dinner jacket suit contrasted strongly with Oakes' shabby tweeds. Grane, like Lurgan, in evening dress, looked even stouter and more red-faced than usual. The lantern-jawed Stroud lounged in a deep leather-covered chair by the fireplace, and the fifth person was Rutland Orme, a man who, because he belonged to an old family and still had the entry into good houses, was useful to Lurgan.

Lurgan as usual went through the accounts with Grane. "Forty pounds down the week," he said, growling, "and that is the fourth bad week running."

"What do you expect?" asked Grane. "That row didn't do us any good. A lot of the people haven't been back at all since, ain't that so, Orme?"

"It's a fact," agreed Orme. "It will take some little time to restore confidence after a business like that."

Lurgan smiled evilly. "The man responsible won't be in any position to make trouble for some time to come," he remarked.

"Yes, you have got your own back on the fellow, Mr. Lurgan," said Orme fawningly, but Grane frowned. "That's all very well," he said gruffly, "but I don't see that putting Carey in quod cuts any ice. We're just as far from getting these papers as ever we were."

Lurgan frowned. "Hasn't that engineer fellow, Macaul, been able to make anything of the model?"

"Not a thing," replied Grane forcibly. "We've got to get hold of the description. Where are the papers, anyhow?" he demanded, looking at Lurgan.

"Locked up in a bank or safe deposit. I have not been able to discover where yet."

An evil look crossed Grane's heavy face. "The Egerton girl will know," he said harshly. "We've got to get hold of her." Stroud, who was smoking, took the cigar from between his lips and leaned forward, but did not speak. Grane went on. "I tell you we've got to get bold of the girl," he repeated fiercely.


LURGAN stiffened. "You leave that part of the business to me," he said curtly.

Grane returned his hard gaze. "We've got to do something," he insisted. "After all, you are not the only person interested, It was I who first put you on the track of Egerton's invention."

"May I ask what you suggest we should do," inquired Lurgan sarcastically.

"Get the girl and hold her until she owns up," Grane answered promptly.

Lurgan gave a bark of a laugh, "And have the whole of Scotland Yard down on us," he sneered. "There's row enough when a servant girl disappears, but Miss Egerton, with her picture in every paper, is a public character."

"We could wait a little till public interest has died down," said Grane.

"If we waited five years it would not make any difference," retorted Lurgan. "Your plan is sheer foolishness."

Grane's red face went redder still. "Then perhaps you have got something to suggest," he said nastily.

"I have," snapped Lurgan.

"May we hear it?" requested Grane.

"Yes, that damned American is talking of appealing, but he knows well enough there's no evidence to go on. My suggestion is that I offer this evidence to Miss Egerton in return for the papers."

"I doubt if she would agree," replied Grane. "By what I have seen of her she's no bread-and-butter miss."

"You are right there," said Lurgan. "All the same I lay she will agree."


"Because she is in love with Carey," snapped Lurgan.

Grane stared. "The deuce she is." He paused, "Well that helps. You might as well try your plan first, but if it fails we shall have to take stronger measures." He turned to Stroud. "What do you say, Stroud?"

"Lurgan's notion sounds all right to me," replied Stroud, speaking in a voice that was little more than a croak.

Grane stared. "What's the matter with you, Stroud," he demanded.

"Got a devil of a cold," was the answer. "Throat's like a rasp, and I am feeling rotten all over. I was a fool to come tonight. I ought to have been in bed."

"You've got it very suddenly," said Grane, with a queer, suspicious look in his beadlike eyes. "You were all right when I saw you here yesterday."

"Yes, it has come on very suddenly," agreed Stroud, and even as the words left his mouth Grane was on his feet. "He's a fraud," he cried. "Stroud has not been here for two days. Hold him." With a quickness wonderful for so fat a man, he sprang at the alleged Stroud, but the latter eluded him with ease. Lurgan made a sudden rush to seize Stroud, but the latter, springing away, with astonishing speed, whipped something from his pocket and flung it down. As the object struck the floor there was a sharp pop, and instantly up shot a huge cloud of choking, brown smoke.

"Hold him," roared Lurgan. "Stop him. Shoot him."

"I've got him," shouted Orme, who was struggling with someone in the smother. Two bodies fell to the floor with a crash that shook the whole room, then came a savage oath. "It's not Stroud, you infernal idiot," bellowed Grane. "It's me you are holding."

Of them all, Lurgan was the only one to keep his head. "Open the window, Oakes," he snapped. As he spoke he was plunging through the smoke towards the door. But the smother was blinding, and before he could find the door he heard it open. Then it was slammed in his face with a crash like a cannon shot. Before he could find the handle the key clicked in the latch, and through the panels be heard a low chuckle of laughter.

"My God! he's gone," he said, "and we are locked in." For once there was real dismay in his voice. "Who was he, Grane?"

"Damned if I know, but probably Colt."

"Colt," repeated Lurgan. "Colt is three inches shorter than Stroud, and—fifteen years younger."

"Well, I don't know who else it could have been," panted Grane, who was still badly winded from his heavy fall, Oakes had now got the window open, yet even so, the room was still like the inside of a smoky chimney. Lurgan pulled himself together. "We'll find out later," he said. "Now we must get help as soon as possible." He hurried to the house telephone, which was close to the lift, and called up the office. "Webb, Webb, are you there?" There was no answer. "What the devil's the matter," growled Lurgan. "I can hear people moving, but there's no reply. Surely the fellow can't have cut the wires."

"I don't reckon the wires are cut," said Oakes in his husky voice. "What I am scared of is that they have heard the row. Likely they think there's trouble and they have all cleared out."

Lurgan turned on him savagely. "Help me to break the door. We've got to get out at any price. Next thing we'll have a real police raid."


BRUCE was sent to serve his sentence at Pentonville. Formerly a prisoner condemned to penal servitude had six-mouths all alone in his cell in a local prison, but now the time has been cut by half. Yet even that is no joke, for until it is finished he had none of the ordinary privileges in the way of visitors and letters which are afterwards granted. Silvia, however, was determined to see him as soon as possible, and by writing to the authorities that it was necessary for her to see him on business, she managed to get her way.

The old-fashioned prison visiting room had a steel grill down the centre. The wretched prisoner sat on one side and his visitor on the other, and they could see one another and talk, but not so much as touch fingers. The grill has now been swept away, but even so there is a table between the prisoner and his visitor, and of course a warder is in the room.

Silvia had been warned beforehand of these precautions, but even so she was shaking with nervousness when the found herself in the dreadfully bare, but terribly clean apartment in which she was to interview Bruce.

"Sit down, Miss," said the warder, who was middle-aged and kindly. "The prisoner will be here in a minute. Ah, here he is," he added as the door opened and Bruce entered the room.

For a moment Silvia could only stare blankly at him. Was this Bruce? This man in the hideous, ill-fitting, drab garments, with his hair cut short and his pale face disfigured with a growth of stubbly beard. As for Bruce he stood still, staring at Silvia with hungry eyes; then as he saw the dismay in her face the color rose to him. "You don't recognise me, Miss Egerton, but I can't blame you," he said.

"Nonsense," she broke in quickly. "Do not talk like that. It is only—" she stopped short, "Oh! but it is so cruel," she burst out.

Bruce came opposite her so that only the table divided them. "Don't be so troubled," he begged earnestly. "It is not half as bad as it looked. I get books and exercise, and I have work to do in my cell, please—please, Silvia."

It the first time he had called her by her Christian name, but she did not seem to notice it. "You are so thin and pale," she wailed, and her eyes were full of tears.

"I shall soon get back my tan on Dartmoor," he said comfortingly.

"I shall apply for outdoor work, either in the quarries or on the farm."

"You are going to Dartmoor?"

"Yes. Star prisoners, that is, first offenders, used to be sent to Portland, but that is now a Borstal Prison. Dartmoor is healthy at any rate."

"It is horrible," said Silvia, horrible. "I have seen it. Grey granite and everlasting rain and fog. Oh! Bruce you can't go there."

"One prison is much the same as another," said Bruce gently. In spite of everything it thrilled him to see Silvia's emotion, for now he knew that she cared. But next instant he was inwardly cursing himself for his selfishness. "You must not trouble about me," he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"But I do trouble, of course I trouble. Mr. Colt and I have been trying hard to get evidence for an appeal. Did you hear about his visit to Duke's Gate?"

"I have had no letters yet," Bruce told her.

"No, of course not. I must tell you." Then suddenly she noticed the warder and was silent. Bruce realised the reason for her hesitation. "Mr. Price is very discreet," he said with a smile.

"It's all right," put in the warder. "So long as you don't break prison rules I shan't let anything go further."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Price," said Silvia, giving the warder a look of such gratitude as, for the moment, made him almost forget that he was nearly fifty and the father of a family. She turned again to Bruce. "Mr. Colt got into Duke's Gate in disguise," she told him, "and actually attended a conference of Lurgan's gang. They had been trying hard to work the model, but could do nothing with it. So it seems they planned to offer me some evidence for the appeal in exchange for the papers."

Bruce's eyes grew bright. "Then Randolph has got proof against them," he exclaimed.

Silvia shook her head. "No, because he was alone and had no witness. They saw through his disguise and tried to seize him."

"What happened?" asked Bruce, breathlessly.

"He was too clever for them. You see he was made up to represent Stroud, and when they recognised him he threw down a smoke bomb and rushed out at the door and locked them all in. There was a regular riot in the room. They seem to have fought among themselves, and they made a fearful noise. When Mr. Coll got down below he found the people in the card-room had heard the noise and were alarmed. So he shouted out that there was a police raid, and they all ran for their lives."

Bruce burst into a ringing laugh. "Good old Randolph! How perfectly splendid! I'd have given anything to see it!"

"It has been serious for Lurgan," said Silvia. "The gambling people were so scared that none of them have come back. They say Duke's Gate is deserted.

"Then Lurgan's chief source of income is dried up," laughed Bruce. "This is great news, Silvia."

"But it does not help you," replied Silvia, suddenly grave again.

"Never mind, and please—and please don't dream of bargaining with Lurgan. He would only swindle you. Leave it to Randolph and Hammond."

"I don't think they can do anything more," said Silvia, sadly. "And I have the horrible feeling that you are suffering this dreadful punishment on my account."

"I am not," insisted Bruce, very earnestly. "Please, Silvia, don't think such a thing for a moment."

"But it is true," said Silvia miserably. "If you had not tried to help my father all this would never have happened."

"I would do it again to-morrow for your sake," declared Bruce, "Silvia, you know I would give my life, let alone my liberty, to help you." Their eyes met, and for a few seconds there was an electric silence.

Silvia broke it. "Your life is no good to me without your liberty, Bruce," she said softly. She flushed as she spoke, but met his eyes bravely.

Bruce gasped. "Silvia," he said hoarsely. "Silvia, do you mean it?"

"I could never have said it unless I meant it," Silvia answered.

Bruce almost flung himself across the table. He, like Silvia, had utterly forgotten the warder, and Price, good fellow that he was, had actually turned his back. Their lips met in a long kiss.

Suddenly Bruce drew back. There was sheer horror on his face. "Oh, Silvia," He groaned, "what a selfish brute I am."

Silvia's eyes widened, "Surely, Bruce, that is the oddest remark for a man to make to the girl he has just got engaged to."

"But—but what's the use of our becoming engaged. I can't marry you."

It was Silvia's turn to look horrified. "Do you mean you have a wife already?"

"No, no, of course not. But I am as good as dead. I have seven years of prison before me."

Silvia laughed—positively laughed. "My dear Bruce. I know that as well as you, but you can't think much of me if you don't believe I can wait that long."


SILVIA was singing softly to herself as the nipped dead blooms from the rose trees.

"You're mighty cheerful," came a voice behind her.

"Why not, Mr. Colt," said Silvia, as she turned to greet Randolph. "Are not people supposed to be cheerful when they get engaged to be married?"

For once, Randolph looked really surprised. "Who to?" he asked bluntly.

Silvia looked at him. "I know most men are stupid," she smiled, "but I did class you with the intelligent minority."

"But I thought it was Bruce you liked," said Randolph in dismay.

"For once you show some indication of sense," replied Silvia.

"But Bruce is in prison."

"Even prisoners can have visitors. I was in London Yesterday.

"B—but I reckoned that a warder was always around."

"There are times when one forgets even warders. This particular one was a gentleman. He turned his back."

Colt stared a moment, then burst out laughing. "Say, but this is great." Suddenly he turned grave. "Miss Silvia, I congratulate you, but, by thunder, I've got to congratulate Bruce a heap more."


"Because he's won the prettiest, nicest girl in England."

Silvia flushed.

"I am not good enough for him, Mr. Colt," she said earnestly. "See what he has done for me."

"I'll allow he has tried all he knew," replied Randolph whimsically.

"And now it is my turn to try all I know for him," said Silvia.

Randolph nodded. "I like to hear you talk that way, Miss Silvia, but you have sure got a hard row to hoe. I've got to tell you that Hammond says we have no evidence to go to the Appeal Court. I certainly messed it up that day I got in among the gang," he added regretfully.

"You did splendidly," said Silvia warmly. "You ought to have heard Bruce laugh when I told him. Besides, you have damaged Lurgan badly."

"In the pocket only. And the poorer that sort get the more dangerous they are."

"Is there anything else we can do?" asked Silvia earnestly.

"I am plumb gravelled for the time, Miss Silvia. But speaking of time reminds me of what I came down to tell you. I've got to sail for New York."

A look of real dismay crossed Silvia's face. "New York!" she repeated.

"I got a cable last night to say my poor old dad died yesterday."

"Oh, I am so sorry," exclaimed Silvia, "and what a selfish person you must think me."

"Selfishness is the last word I would put next you," replied Randolph. "I guess you are just made to do things for other folk. But I sure hate leaving you and Bruce. I wouldn't do it, except I am the only son, and I've got to fix business matters for my two sisters."

"You are not to think of us," said Sylvia. "Surely you have done enough for us already."

Randolph smiled. "I am going to do a heap of thinking on board ship," he said, "and if I get any good notions I will send them along by post or cable. I won't be a great while away, Miss Silvia, and you will be careful while I am gone."

"Very careful," promised Silvia.

"You'll watch out for Lurgan," warned Randolph. "I don't reckon he will try any strong arm business, but you never know." He glanced at his watch. "I've got to go if I want to make that boat train. Good-bye, Miss Silvia. Here's my New York address, cable if you need me."

Silvia gave him both hands. "I am so very, very sorry for your loss," she said. She went with him to the gate and saw him drive off. As she watched his car vanish round the corner she sighed, and when she went back to her work she was no longer singing.

A week later Silvia had a cable from Randolph that he had arrived safely and was writing. When his letter came he told her that he was off to California to look after an oil well in which his father had been interested. "I don't reckon I will hardly get back in a month," he ended.

In spite of Randolph's absence Silvia was not left alone. Mark Hammond came down to see her and told her that Claude had gone into a stockbroker's office in the city. Claude himself usually drove down at week-ends, and Silvia was pleased to see how well he looked. He brought her boxes of chocolates and all the latest news. He told her that the house in Duke's Gate was closed, but that he could not find out what Lurgan and Co. were about. He took Silvia out for drives and taught her how to drive his car. She was so apt a pupil as to earn Claude's unbounded admiration. "You ought to have a car of your own," he said, but Silvia smiled and said she could not possibly afford such a luxury.

"Well, see here," said Claude. "I never use my car during the week. I'll leave it down here this week and you can get some practice. You've got a coach-house you can keep it in."

Silvia protested, but Claude insisted and that week Silvia was out nearly every day, exploring the country and incidentally learning to handle the two-seater as well as Claude himself.

It was on Friday that she had her first mishap, a puncture. The road was a lonely one, running through thick woods, and, though Silvia was quite unaware of the fact, she was close to the very spot where Bruce had waited all those hours in the rain before attempting his ill-starred burglary. Silvia was not at all dismayed. She had a spare wheel and thought she knew just how to put it on. She got out the jack, and had already raised the car so that the back wheels were clear of the ground, when a deep voice behind her said, "Can I be of any assistance, Miss Egerton?"

Silvia's heart dropped a beat, yet there was no sign of dismay on her face as she rose and faced Lurgan. "Thank you," she answered with icy politeness. "I am quite capable of managing for myself, and in any case do not require your assistance."

A little flash of admiration showed in Lurgan's eyes. Brute as he was he could appreciate courage. "As you please," he said quietly, but he did not move away.

Silvia went on with her work as steadily as if there had been no one within a mile. Presently Lurgan spoke again. "Mr. Colt is away," he remarked. Silvia paid no attention, and Lurgan went on. "And Mr. Carey will be moved to Dartmoor next week."

Inwardly Silvia was hot with indignation, but the only sign she showed was that she went a little pale.

"It seems a pity," continued Lurgan mildly. "Yes, it's a pity for a clever man to waste all his best years of life in prison just out of sheer obstinacy."

The slur on Bruce roused Silvia. "That would be your term for what is commonly called honesty and right feeling," she said with quiet, yet biting sarcasm.

Lurgan remained unmoved. "Miss Egerton," he said, "what would you give to get him out?"

Silvia rose and faced him. "You have tried bargaining with me before," she said, speaking very quietly and distinctly. "You know what my answer was then. It is the same now.'"

"But that was before Mr. Carey was sent to seven years' penal servitude," replied Lurgan. "It is a big slice out a man's life, Miss. Egerton, and even if he survives it he is never the same again. The prison brand sticks. Mr. Carey will be old, broken in health and spirits, and you will hardly recognise him for the same man he was a couple of months ago."

Every word hit Silvia like a blow. The change, wrought by only a few days in prison, had horrified her. What would that change be in seven years?

Lurgan, with his uncanny trick of thought reading, realised what was in Silvia's mind, and went on: "Mr. Colt has no doubt told you of my suggestion for offering you information on which you could base an appeal," he said coolly. "I am ready to offer such information for a half-share in your father's invention. In this case I do not ask a partnership, merely a half-share in the profits."

"And supposing I agree. How do you know you would get this half-share?'" asked Silvia sharply.

"Your word would be quite enough," replied Lurgan.

Thoughts were racing through Silvia's brain so rapidly that she felt almost dizzy, yet her voice was quite under control as she answered. "I will think it over, and if I consider the matter further will communicate with you."

Lurgan looked at her and he looked at the car. "Letters are dangerous," he said "All you need do it to write one word on a sheet of paper, a day of the week, and post that to me at Friars Bank. On that day, whatever it in, I will be waiting here for you at this time in the afternoon."

Silvia returned his gaze. "Which means giving you an opportunity of trying what Mr. Colt calls strong arm methods," she said coolly.

Something approaching a smile crossed Lurgan's saturnine face. "For what it is worth," he said, "I give you my word that no such methods will be adopted."

"For what it is worth I will take it," replied Silvia, "not that any such methods would do you any good," she added, "for I don't even know where the papers are. Only Mr. Carey knows, and I purposely asked him not to tell me." So saying, Silvia calmly returned to her work. Lurgan raised his hat and walked away, but as he reached a corner, of the road where it turned down hill he looked back. "That's a real woman," he said, under his breath; "damn it, I could almost envy Carey."


SILVIA, having got her spare wheel on, drove home slowly, for her mind was on anything but her driving. All her thoughts were concentrated on what Lurgan had said. The money, what did the money matter if only she could free Bruce? If she had a million she would have given it readily to get him out of prison. True, it was horrible to think of Lurgan profiting by the magnet, yet even that was better than the present state of things. She had told Bruce that she would wait for him, and she had never meant anything more intensely than that promise, yet the thought of all those dreary years of waiting appalled her. The main question was whether Lurgan's offer was genuine. Silvia had no illusions about Lurgan. Yet, on the whole, she thought that in this case he meant what he had said. She knew he was hard up, she knew that he and his gang were mad for money. From what Randolph had overhead, it was certain that Grane and his other accomplices were angry with Lurgan for venting his spite on Bruce, and it seemed to her likely that by this time Lurgan himself was regretting it. Reaching home, she put the car away and went into the house, to find Mrs. Morris bringing in tea. "Mrs. Morris," she said, "you know Dartmoor, don't you?"

"I ought to, Miss Silvia. I was born in Tavistock."

"Do you know Princetown Prison?"

"I do that. My mother's brother was a warder there for 22 years, and as a girl I have stayed in Princetown with my aunt."

"Sit down and tell me something about it," said Silvia.

"You have your tea first, miss," said Mrs. Morris. And Silvia obediently sat down and poured out a cup. Mrs. Morris was not boasting when she said she knew the Moor, and once she started talking she went on for nearly an hour. She had had quite a gift of description, and before she had finished Silvia felt she could almost see the grim, granite buildings surrounded by their grey circle of 15ft. stone wall. "The wall is just a mile round," Mrs. Morris told her.

"Could any one get over it?" asked Silvia.

"Not without a rope, miss. There was one prisoner, I remember, made a rope of his blanket and tied this to his pillow-case, which he had filled with earth. He threw the weight over the top of the wall so that it caught there, then climbed up the rope and escaped."

"Did they catch him again?"

"Yes, they caught him, like they always do."

"Always?" repeated Silvia.

"Well, most always. You see the Moor's big, Miss Silvia, and the weather is mostly bad, and a man that runs away can't get shelter, or food. So most often he gets tired and gives himself up."

"Has any one ever escaped?"

"I have heard tell that one man got to Plymouth and stowed away in a ship and reached some place abroad."

"Suppose," asked Silvia, "that a prisoner had friends outside to give him clothes and food and money, would he not have a chance?"

"They never do, Miss Silvia," replied Mrs. Morris with a smile. Silvia opened her lips as if to say something, then checked herself. Mrs. Morris glanced at the clock. "My goodness!—half-past six, and I haven't even peeled the potatoes for your supper, Miss Silvia." She hurried out of the room, leaving Silvia deep in thought.

When Claude came the next Sunday he was delighted at Silvia's progress. "You drive as well as any girl I ever saw," he vowed.

"Or man, Claude?" smiled Silvia.

"As well as most, anyhow,'" he declared. "In a month or so you could take on a job as 'shover.'"

"I might think of that," said Silvia, demurely. "Are you going to leave the car another week, Claude?"

"I will leave it as long as you like. I have no time for driving, except, at week-ends." He changed the subject. "Silvia, have you heard from poor old Bruce yet?"

"Not yet, but he may write a letter on arrival at Dartmoor. So I shall get one next week."

"It's rotten," said Claude, "rotten for both of you. Is there no chance of getting evidence to start an appeal?"

"None yet," said Silvia sadly. "The detective that Mr. Hammond employed has confessed that he could find no trace of the men who stole the model. Mr. Hammond thinks that Lurgan has sent them out of England."

"The swine!—that's just what he has done," said Claude, bitterly. "Do you know, Silvia, I feel sometimes that the best thing we could do would be to lay for Lurgan, catch him, and starve him until he owned up."

"I've thought of that myself," replied Silvia, with a calmness that made Claude's eyes widen. "But you won't do anything of the sort without telling me first, Claude. Promise me that."

"I don't suppose I could, single-handed," replied Claude, ruefully. "If you want the honest truth, Silvia, I am more than half-scared of the blighter."

Silvia laid a hand on Claude's arm. "So am I, Claude," she confessed. "There's something terrifying about Lurgan. Yet for all that, I mean to get the better of him."

Claude's youthful face was full of admiration as he replied: "I jolly well believe you will, Silvia."

Silvia smiled, but said no more. It was just as well, so she thought, that Claude had no idea of what was really in her mind.

On the following Wednesday she had the promised letter from Bruce. He wrote quite cheerfully saying that the food was better than at Pentonville, that the governor had been kind, and that he was going to work on the farm. Yet Silvia, because she loved Bruce, saw beneath the surface the depths of despair which lay below the outwardly cheerful sentences. She hesitated no longer. That evening she posted a letter to Lurgan, inside which was a sheet of paper bearing one word only—Friday.

Friday began with rain, but the afternoon was fine and sunny as Silvia drove towards the rendezvous. As she came near to the top of the hill she could see no sign of Lurgan, and her first feeling was one of intense relief. But next moment a bulky figure appeared from among the trees, and strolling quietly out into the road, stood still.

"You spoke of certain terms when I last saw you, Mr. Lurgan. Will you repeat that offer?"

Lurgan glanced round quickly, evidently to make sure that there was no one within earshot. "Certainly, Miss Egerton," he answered. "I am willing to provide you with evidence for an appeal in return for a half-share of the profits of your late father's invention."

"What would this evidence amount to?'" questioned Silvia, keenly.

"I would find a witness who had seen the struggle between Mr. Carey and Denyer, and who would prove that Mr. Carey acted in self-defence."

"Was there such a witness?"

"I said I would provide one," replied Lurgan, drily.

Sylvia's lip curled. "More perjury. No thank you, Mr. Lurgan. Even to get Mr. Carey out of prison there shall be no more of that. The evidence which you will have to sell to us is that of the men who stole the bag from Mr. Carey and Mr. Colt on the Mortimer-road."

"That is impossible," said Lurgan shortly. "They are out of the country, and probably in South America by this time.'"

"Then your suggestion is useless," replied Silvia coldly, "and I think you know it," she added.

"The evidence would be enough to reopen the case."

"Even if it would, it is false evidence," retorted Silvia, "and Mr. Carey would despise it as much as I do." As she spoke Silvia pressed the self-starter, and her engine began to purr.

"Wait!" said Lurgan, urgently. "What are you going to do?"

"It is no business of yours what I mean to do," replied Silvia. "You had better get out of my way or I shall drive over you." She sent the car forward, and to save himself Lurgan had to jump aside.


THE moment Silvia got home she sat down at her desk and wrote to Claude, asking him to be sure to come out on Sunday. "I want to see you," she said, "before I leave for Dartmoor, where I mean to find quarters within reach of the prison so that I can see Bruce as often as I am allowed." Next she wrote to an estate agent in Reading, asking him to find a tenant for the cottage. These letters despatched, she called in Mrs. Morris, and told her what she proposed to do. Mrs. Morris took it very quietly. "You'll let this place easy enough, Miss Silvia," she said, "but you'll have difficulty in finding a house near Princetown. In summer every place is taken by tourists."

"I think of going down early next week and looking about," said Silvia.

"The sooner the better, Miss," advised Mrs. Morris. Mrs. Morris was right about the cottage. The very next day the agent himself came out with an offer of six guineas a week for a summer let, an offer very pleasing to Silvia who had been meaning to ask five, and take four.

On Sunday Claude arrived for lunch. "I have wangled a week's leave," he announced joyfully, "and I am going to drive you down to Devonshire, Silvia. What price starting first thing to-morrow morning?"

"I can't get off before twelve," Silvia told him.

"That will do. We can stop the night at Exeter and drive on next morning. Now go and pack while I grease the car and fill her up."

Monday turned out lovely and, in spite of all her troubles, Silvia enjoyed the run to Exeter. Claude left her at the Clarence, and himself put up with a bachelor-friend. When Silvia woke on Tuesday morning she was dismayed to find that the weather had changed, and it was raining. But Claude was quite cheerful when he drove up after breakfast. "We'll be dry enough with the hood up," he said, "and I have got a waterproof sheet to cover the baggage."

The road leading to the Moor by Mortonhampstead is one of the steepest hills in England. So long as they were in shelter of the high hedges the weather did not try them greatly, but when at last the little car began to climb the great slope leading up to the Moor itself, the gusts that came roaring across the open were terrific, and the Moor itself bore its gloomiest and wildest aspect. The huge tors crowned with fantastically shaped masses of weather-worn granite loomed monstrous through the driving mists, and the wind beat cold as winter as the little car climbed one tremendous hill after another.

"Is it all like this?" asked Silvia with a shiver.

"Only in bad weather," replied Claude. "It's a topping place when the sun shines. That is Postbridge," he added, pointing to a village below them. "The next is Two Bridges, and then we come to Princetown."

Passing through the straggling village of Postbridge they climbed another long hill, then dropped steeply to the bridge over the Cherry brook. It was now raining in torrents, and the Moor streams were flooding rapidly. As the car reached the bridge, Silvia saw the water rushing underneath them, a brown torrent flicked with white froth. And then above the deep roar of the flood and the shouting of the wind she heard a shrill cry. "Stop Claude," she said, "there is something in trouble."

As Claude pulled up they heard the cry again, and Silvia, opening the door, sprang out. "Look," she cried in dismay.

Just below the bridge was a big pool in which the flood boiled madly, and beyond the stream broke out into a straight run between low, peaty banks. Knee deep in the water, which was already overflowing the banks was a woman tugging desperately at a rope fastened to the halter of a pony which was bogged in the soft mire. The poor little beast was struggling to reach firm ground, but the water was already up to its rump, and it was clear that it could not get out.

Silvia was over the wall in a flash, and Claude followed. "Oh! I'm that glad you have come," said the woman hoarsely. "I've been calling this half hour, but no one hasn't passed."

"All right," said Claude. "I will go into the water and push while you two pull." But the woman cried out, "Don't ee try it. You'll get mired like Peggy. We've got to have another rope. Could ee fetch one, Maister?"

"Where from?" demanded Claude. "Up to Powder Mills. You go quarter-mile up road, then turn right-handed through a gate into a newtake. The road takes ee straight to my house. Trant be my name. You call for my son, he'll bring the rope."

"Right," said Claude and rushed back to the road.

"It's lucky he got that there car," said Mrs. Trant. "The water's rising sharp."

"I see it is," said Silvia, "but he won't be long. There, he's off."

Claude was off, and the pace at which he travelled up the slope spoke equally for the car and its driver. Silvia turned her attention to the pony. It was a nice-looking beast, but the terror in its startling eyes made Silvia miserable. "Can't we do anything to help it?" she begged.

"Not without a rope, Miss," was the answer. "Her's properly stugged. You see, when the weather came on bad I went to fetch Peg in, and she seed me across the brook and came galloping like she always does. If she had crossed twenty paces further up 'twould have been all right, but she ran right into the mire."

The next five minutes were the longest Silvia had ever known. The rain lashed down, and the water rose remorselessly. Mrs. Trant did not speak, and the dumb despair on her pleasant face went to Silvia's heart. At last she heard the hoot of the car's Klaxon. "Here he is," she cried in deep relief.

"And Jack with him. Thanks be," said Mrs. Trant.

The car pulled up, and Claude and a frank-faced, stocky young fellow of 23 or 24 came splashing down the bank. Jack Trant was carrying two planks and Claude a big coil of rope. Without a word Jack laid the planks out into the water. "Hold 'em, Maister," he said to Claude, but it took both Claude and Silvia to steady them against the furious rush of the peat brown torrent.

Taking the rope, Jack Trant stepped out on the planks and so got alongside the pony, where, standing waist-deep in the icy flow, he ran two coils round Peg's body and made fast; then, as he straightened himself, either a plank turned under his feet or else he lost his balance. He fell outwards and was instantly swept away.


WITH a scream of "Oh, Jack!" the boy's mother plunged forward, and Claude caught her just in time to save her from sharing her son's fate. "Steady," he said sharply, but the poor woman struggled so frantically it was all he could do to help her. Silvia, meantime, had flung off her coat and was running hard down stream. She had been quick to see that, just beyond, the stream took a sharp turn to the right and that at the turn the flow, checked by a rocky bank, spun in a wheeling pool.

As she raced for this point she saw Jack Trant's arm rise above the yellow foam. He was right out in the middle, and being whirled like a straw in the roaring tumble of the torrent. By this time Claude had managed to quiet Mrs. Trant, and he and she followed hard after Silvia. But Silvia reached the bend before them, and as she reached it saw young Trant being swept towards the inner side of the sharp curve. She saw, too, that a big broom bush grew on the steep bank. Its roots were far under water, but the green top waved above the roaring flow.

Without an instant's hesitation the flung herself over the bank, and seizing the tough stems with her left hand, let herself slide forward. In a moment she was up to her shoulders, and, good swimmer as she was, the icy cold of the water made her gasp for breath. Although a rock, projecting on her right, broke the full force of the torrent, yet the suck was fearful. But this she hardly noticed, for all her energies were concentrated on the dark object swinging in the eddy just in front. It drifted inwards, and Silvia grasped at it, but a wheeling swirl caught it and spun it away. Despair clutched at Silvia's heart, for she knew that this was the last chance of rescue. Once the flood swung the boy out of the pool he would be hurled down the roaring sluiceway to her left and pounded to pieces on the great granite boulders rising on either side.

Reckless of her safety she strained forward, and then a new freak of the current twisted Jack's body inwards, and her clutching fingers met his collar. She pulled with all her strength, but the rush of water dragged him away again, and she herself was drawn outwards with fearful force. The bush held, but her head was pulled right under, and she felt as if she was being torn in two. With a last effort she managed to get her head up. "Claude," she cried feebly, and in the nick of time Claude's hands seized her by the shoulders and drew her back.

"Get Jack up first," she gasped. "He is insensible, I can hold on."

How Claude managed it she did not know, but somehow he and Jack's mother between them drew the boy up out of the raging pool, and then Silvia too was dragged up the bank. She tried to stand, but her legs gave way under her. She dropped in a heap on the dripping grass and, for the first time in her life, fainted dead away.

The next thing of which Silvia was conscious was a feeling of warmth, delicious after the chill of the freezing waters and the bitter wind. For a while everything was hazy. She was aching all over and far too tired and weak to open her eyes. After a time she became conscious of voices, and by degrees she began to wake up and to wonder vaguely where she was and what had happened.

"She's coming round," said a voice close by her. "Bring the milk, quick, Ada."

Silvia opened her eyes to find herself in bed, in a small, low-roofed room, poorly furnished but beautifully clean. Through an open door opposite showed the comfortable glow of a peat fire burning on a great stone hearth. Between the bed and the door stood Mrs. Trant, and next moment a girl of about fifteen ran to her, carrying a steaming cup.

With this in her hand Mrs. Trant came across to Silvia, and, stooping; slipped an arm around her. "Can ee drink this, Miss?" she asked, coaxingly.

"Of course, I can," replied Silvia, but as the other put the cup to her lips she stopped. "Jack," she exclaimed, "your boy—is he all right?"

"Yes, thanks to you, miss. If it hadn't been for you—" her voice broke and a hard shiver shook her.

"I am so thankful I was in time," said Silvia.

"He will never forget it, miss—nor I," said Mrs. Trant, with deep earnestness, and Silvia flushed, then smiled.

"Take the milk," begged Mrs. Trant, "it will do ee good." Silvia drank. "That is splendid," she said, smiling again. Then she looked up. "But the pony? she asked. I had forgotten for the moment. Was it saved?

"Indeed it was, miss. Jabez Cocker had his son come along just in time and got her out. But it was all your doings and the gent.'s.

"And now I suppose we are in your house?" asked Silvia, anxious to change the subject.

"Yes, miss. This be Powder Mills Farm and be sure you're kindly welcome. Mr. Bryson, he have put the car in the cart shed and he and you can stay as long as you've a mind to."

Silvia smiled up at the kindly face above her. "You had better not make rash offers, Mrs. Trant. I might take you at your word and stay too long."

"The longer ee stay the better us will be pleased, miss," said the good woman earnestly.

"I came to Dartmoor to find lodgings," said Silvia, "I expect to be here for some time. Can yea really put me up?"

"If so be you can put up with our poor place, miss."

"I call it a delightful place," declared Silvia. "How far is it from Princetown?"

"Four miles, miss, and no shop nearer."

"I don't want shops," said Silvia and paused. Perhaps Mrs. Trant saw the flicker of pain in the girl's eyes. "See here, Miss," she said firmly, "you've no call to be talking this way after what you've been through. You just go to sleep for a bit, and when you wake up I'll have a nice cup of tea ready for you."

"That sounds perfectly delightful," said Silvia, and obediently closed her eyes. She was really quite exhausted, and it was past 4 in the afternoon when she woke, feeling much refreshed and better in every way. She had her tea then, got up and dressed, and went into the living-room to find Claude lazing in a big, old armchair, and talking to Clara Trant. He jumped up as Silvia appeared. "My dear girl," he exclaimed, "ought you to be up? But you look splendid. Ice baths seem to agree with you. This is Clara Trant," he added, "she and I are great friends."

"I am Jack's sister," said Clara, greeting Silvia with shining eyes. "Jack, he has gone up to the prison, but he wanted me to say how grateful he was to you for pulling him out, Miss."

"You don't mean to say that Jack has gone to the prison after being so nearly drowned?" exclaimed Silvia.

"Oh, he's strong, Miss. Besides he had to go. He's just took on as Assistant Warder."

A queer thrill shot through Silvia. Jack Trant a warder! And it was a warder above all people with whom she had been longing to get into touch. It did seem as if things were shaping wonderfully for her.

The weather had mended in the sudden way it has on Dartmoor, and when a little later Claude suggested driving up to Princetown Silvia readily agreed.

As the car climbed the long slope past the West Dart, Silvia caught sight of tall, factory-like buildings close under the grey mass of Hessary Tor. "Is that the prison?" she asked in a low voice, and Claude answered, "Yes."

Silvia sat silent as the car, on second gear, climbed the long hill, but her eyes never left the prison.

Claude felt uncomfortable as he watched her set face. "It's not as bad inside as it looks from the outside," he ventured at last.

"It is horrible—horrible," said Silvia, with a shudder.

When at last they reached Rundlestone, the spot where the Two Bridges road cuts into the main road from Princetown to Tavistock, she asked Claude to pull up, and for quite a minute gazed down upon the mass of bare, grey granite buildings with their long rows of narrow, barred windows. At last she spoke. "He musn't stay there," she said, in a low, strained voice. "Claude, we must have him out."

"I wish we could," said Claude earnestly.

"We will," said Silvia, with fierce decision. "If there is no other way of freeing him he must escape."


ON the following Friday morning Silvia and Claude stood on the platform at Tavistock station waiting for the London train on which Claude was to return to his flat and his work.

"I shall miss you badly, Claude," said Silvia.

"Me, too," replied Claude. "But still I am not worrying much about you, old thing. The Trants will look after you all right."

"They are dears," said Silvia warmly. "I did have luck meeting them."

"Put a P. in front of it," grinned Claude. "It was pluck, not luck; you did it all, Silvia, and anything you get out of it you jolly well deserve. But here's the train. Bye-bye, and keep me posted as to all that happens."

The tram drew up and Claude slung his suitcase into a first smoker and followed it. He leaned out. "Silvia, you will be careful," he begged, speaking in a low tone. "I don't want you to follow Bruce into quod."

"I promise to be careful, Claude," said Silvia gravely. "But I have quite made up my mind."

"You will wire me if you want help?"

"Indeed I will, and thank you so much for leaving the car with me. It may make all the difference."

The guard's whistle shrilled. The train moved out, and Silvia stood and waved until it and Claude were out of sight. Then she went out to the car, and drove back through Tavistock and up the steep ascent leading to the Moor. This Friday was as fine as the Tuesday had been wet, and the great wild Moor basked in warm sunshine, while the clean, cool air was like wine.

Yet Silvia had no eyes for the beauties which surrounded her, and her charming face was clouded with anxiety. What Claude had said about the Trants was perfectly true. The whole family, mother, daughter, and son, were devoted to her, and Silvia felt as if she had known them for years instead of days. Jack in particular was always trying to show how grateful he was, and Silvia felt that there was nothing she could not ask of him. Even to smuggling letters into the prison for Bruce.

But here—here was the trouble. A warder, as Silvia now knew, takes an oath on entering the prison service by which, among other things, he promises not to "traffic," as it is called. And Silvia, had a feeling that she would be doing something very wrong in persuading him to break his oath. Yet, on the other hand, if she was to make the attempt to free Bruce it was absolutely necessary to get in touch with him, and how to do that without Jack's help was a problem beyond solution.

This was what she was thinking as she drove slowly across the sunlit Moor, and her head ached with a vain attempt to solve the puzzle.

Reaching the great quarry at Merivale, she cut out her engine, and, applying her brakes, coasted slowly down the steep hill towards the Walkham River. As she neared the bridge, which is narrow and crooked, she caught sight of a man fishing in the pool below, a big man, dressed in rough tweed, who was casting with a light fly rod over the clear stickles. He, hearing the car, looked round, and Silvia saw that he was Lurgan.

A curious feeling of fascination seemed to numb her, and almost in spite of herself she pulled up. Lurgan reeled in his line and turning, strode towards the road. As he came he lifted his cap, "Good morning, Miss Egerton," he said in the most matter-of-fact way. "I was hoping to meet you."

With a violent effort Silvia shook off the temporary paralysis which affected her. "You are the last person I wish to meet," she replied curtly. "Why have you followed me down here?"

Lurgan glanced round, but the road in both directions was empty. "I might answer that the Moor is free to all," he said, with his cynical smile. "But I will not make that commonplace excuse. I did follow you because I wish to speak to you about Mr. Carey."

"I heard all that I wished to hear from you on the occasion of our last meeting," said Silvia coldly. "You refused my offer and I refused yours. There is nothing more to say."

"Pardon me, there is more to say. You are not the woman to allow the man you wish to marry to rot in that stone cage up there. All your thoughts are set upon freeing him. I ask you again to consider my offer of evidence for an appeal."

Silvia's blue eyes flashed. "Can't you take no for an answer?" she asked scornfully. "Have you not perjured yourself enough already? Move aside, please, I wish to drive on."

"Wait," Lurgan's harsh voice held a sudden note of desperation. "Wait, I have another suggestion to make. Suppose I offer to get him out of prison."

With her hand on the gear lever Silvia paused. "What do you mean?" she asked sharply.

Lurgan glanced round again, then spoke in a lower voice. "I mean that I would procure Mr. Carey's escape for your promise to hand over those papers."

"What—and you take all the profits of my father's invention."

"No, I will work it, but give you a written agreement to pay you half the profits. It is obvious that, as an escaped prisoner, Mr. Carey would have to go abroad, and so he himself could not work the invention."

Silvia was silent. Her heart was pounding. Was this the solution of her problem? Undoubtedly Lurgan with his knowledge of the underworld of crime was in a far better position than she to arrange Bruce's escape, yet on the other hand she knew only too well how little she could trust the man.

Once more Lurgan showed his old quality of thought reading. "You do not trust me; you think that I may get him out, take the papers, and then give him up again."

"That is exactly what I was thinking," replied Silvia.

"You forget," said Lurgan, "you forget that I should be breaking the law by getting him out and risking imprisonment myself. It follows, then, that if I gave him up he, or you, could incriminate me. My only safety in the matter would be to get him out of the country and as far away as possible. Surely you see that."

"I see that I should need to think the matter over very carefully before making up my mind," replied Silvia, with decision.

Lurgan bowed. "Write to me at the Plume Hotel at Princetown as soon as you have decided," he said.

Silvia, fixed her eyes on Lurgan's face, but there was nothing to be gained from those hard, impassive features. "I will do so," she said steadily, and drove away.

As the car crept up the tremendous steep on first gear, Silvia was thinking hard, yet quite unable to make up her mind. Usually her head was clear enough, but now she felt oddly confused. At last she gained the top at Rundlestone, where, from a height of fifteen hundred feet, she could see miles over the surrounding country. In front lay the prison which even the sweet summer sunshine failed to redeem from stark hideousness. To her right were the prison quarries, to the left the prison farm. Twelve had just struck, and the working parties were being marched in to their mid-day meal. There was a tramp of heavily-nailed boots on the road behind her, and Silvia pulled out and stopped to allow a long file of convicts to pass. They walked two and two, their shovels over their shoulders. At their head was a Principal Warder, behind walked two younger warders, and out on either side rode mounted Civic Guards carrying carbines.

As Silvia watched the party pass suddenly her heart began to thump so as to almost suffocate her, for there, near the head of the drab-clad column, was Bruce himself—Bruce in muddy canvas breeches, wearing a blue-and-red striped slop jacket and with a hideous Glengarry cap on his head. His shoulders were bent, and he looked thin, tired, and utterly depressed. He never even raised his head as he passed the car or saw who was sitting in it.

Silvia sat as if frozen. Never in all her life—not even when she had heard of Bruce's sentence—had she felt such pain. She waited until the column had passed, then mechanically restarted her car and turned down the triangle road towards Two Bridges. Long before she had reached Powder Mills her mind was made up. She would accept Lurgan's offer, and she herself would make sure—very sure, that he carried out his contract.


JACK TRANT came to Silvia where she was sitting on a boulder by the little stream which tinkled past Powder Mills Farm. It was Saturday afternoon, a week after Claude's departure. Silvia, who was reading a letter, slipped it away as the boy approached and, looking up, saw at once that there was a worried look on his fresh young face. "Nothing wrong, Jack, I hope," she said quickly.

"Not with us, Miss Silvia"—they all called her Miss Silvia at the farm, and by this time the Trants knew of the reason why she was on the Moor. Jack paused, looking much embarrassed.

"Tell me," said Silvia quietly.

Jack cleared his throat. "It's at the prison, miss," he said, then stopped again. "Nothing wrong with Mr. Carey?" asked Silvia anxiously.

"No, he's all right, miss. There's something queer on. That big gentleman. The one as is staying at the Plume. I heard him talking to Kisbee last night."

"Who is Kisbee?"

"A warder, miss, and a queer one for all his smug ways. You see it was like this. I'd lost a coin off my watch chain, an old silver piece as Dad gave me before he died, and I reckoned I'd dropped it in the bushes up by the quarry when I was on duty, so as soon as I was off I went to see if I could find it, and while I was groping round among the gorse I heard voices, and one was Kisbee. It beat me to think what Kisbee could be doing up there that time of the evening, so I stayed quiet and listened." He paused and got rather red. "It were a sneaky sort of thing to do, Miss Silvia," he went on, "but now I am glad I did it for they were talking about Mr. Carey, and from I gathered the big gent was asking Kisbee to take a letter to Mr. Carey."

"Was that all you heard," asked Silvia.

"No, miss," said Jack reluctantly "I reckon they are fixing things up to get Mr. Carey out." He stopped, and Silvia, did some hard and rapid thinking.

Suddenly she looked up. "Jack, if you knew a prisoner was trying to escape, would you consider it your duty to give information?"

Jack twisted his big hands uncomfortably. "Why, yes, miss, it would be my duty."

"But suppose you knew that prisoner was innocent?"

"That might take a difference," Jack allowed.

Silvia spoke. "Since you know so much already, I am going to tell you everything, and when you have heard it all you must just say right out what you mean to do about it. Sit down here and listen."

Most of us can talk well on a subject about which we feel deeply, but Silvia had a gift of description and the extra advantage of a charming voice. At any rate Jack Trant sat perfectly still and almost breathless, drinking in every word. "That is all," said Silvia at last, "now what are you going to do, Jack?"

Jack drew a long breath. "I never heard tell of such doings," he said slowly. "But, Miss Silvia, be you wise to trust this here Lurgan? Seems to me like he'd soon double-cross you as any one else."

"You have hit upon the weak spot at once," said Silvia quickly, "but you have not answered my question, Jack. Do you feel that you most tell the Governor?"

Jack's eves widened. "Me tell! Lord love you, miss, I wouldn't say a word for anything that could be offered me. Why, I feel more like helping Mr. Carey to get out."

Silvia looked at him. "I very nearly asked you to do that, Jack," she said slowly.

"Why didn't you?"

"It would not have been fair, Jack, I think—to you or your mother and sister."

Jack reddened. "I know what you mean, Miss Silvia. It's just what a proper lady like you would think."

"That is the nicest compliment I ever had paid me," said Silvia smiling. "Now, Jack, you must forget the whole thing and keep your eyes shut until it is over?"

Jack looked serious. "But suppose he don't get away, miss. It ain't easy, let me tell you."

"I know it is not easy, but this time I think it will be a success. What I am so sorry about is the trouble that will be caused to all the prison officers."

Jack nodded, then grinned. "Well, I shan't hunt very hard, miss," he remarked. He got up. "I'll forget all you've told me like you said, Miss Silvia. All the same, if there's anything I can do to help you or Mr. Carey I will be sorry if you don't ask me."

"Very well, Jack, I will promise to ask you," said Silvia, then, as Jack walked off towards the house, she took out her letter again and read it through once more. "Next Thursday," she said to herself, "four days to wait. How shall I ever bear it."

But when she came to think things over Silvia soon found a way to make use of the time of waiting. Lurgan had told her in his letter that he had arranged a hiding place for Bruce in an old tin mine under Crooked Tor. "The place is so remote that the chances of discovery are practically nil," he wrote. "There will be supplies there sufficient for a month, and he will be perfectly safe until the hue and cry has died down, and I shall be able to move him to Bristol, from which port he will sail for Buenos Aires."

A hard little smile crossed Silvia's face as she considered Lurgan's information. "If he does mean to double-cross us, as Jack suggested, it will be just as well to take precautions, and I think I know just what precautions to take."

Accordingly, on Monday morning, she set off in the car and drove to Plymouth, where she made various purchases. On Tuesday she was off at daybreak on foot with, a rucksack strapped on her back, the contents of which would have proved extremely interesting to—say—the Governor of the Prison. However, he was not there to see, and, in point of fact, Silvia met no one at all in the course of her long tramp across the heather-clad vales and hills. Next day she went off again with the second load, and that night was tired enough to sleep in spite of her intention, anxiety, and suspense.

She awoke at dawn, and the first thing she did was to hurry to the window, pull aside the curtains, and look out. She gave a sigh of thankfulness for the rising sun glowed yellow through the thin ground mist, sure sign of heat. While the average convict who meditates escape prays for fog, dry weather was essential to the success of Lurgan's plan.

Almost before Silvia had finished dressing the mist had disappeared and the sun was blazing down. Mrs. Trant had breakfast ready, tea, toast, fresh eggs, a dish of cranberries, and a big bowl of clotted cream, and Silvia, though she felt that every mouthful would choke her, forced herself to eat. She knew that she might need all her strength before that great globe set behind the western Tors.


SILVIA went out to see that the car was in perfect running order. Jack Trant knew what was afoot, but she had not told Mrs. Trant, for she had felt that it would not be fair to do so. Jack, however was at his work at the prison, and Silvia had no one to help her or talk to. As she got into the car and drove slowly up the rutty track towards the road she found herself shaking all over.

"This will never do," she told herself, and tried desperately to persuade herself that all was right and that before night Bruce would be safe. As she reached the road a car came towards her from the direction of Two Bridges. It was a shabby old Ford; but travelled at a rare pace. As she pulled out to avoid it there was a shout, then with a shriek of brakes, the car came to a sudden stop. "Say, I am mighty glad to see you again," came a cheery voice, and Randolph Colt sprang out and ran towards Silvia.

Silvia's first feeling was of intense relief. "Oh, Mr. Colt, I am so glad to see you," she said fervently, as she gave him both her hands. Then, all of a sudden, it came to her that Randolph knew nothing of what she was about, that she would have to explain everything from the beginning, and that very likely he would declare her plan to be madness. Her whole expression changed. "But why—why did you not warn me that you were coming?" she almost wailed.

Randolph looked at her in sudden anxiety. "Say, what's the matter?" he asked quickly.

Silvia was silent for a moment. She glanced at her wrist- watch, and realised that, after all, she had plenty at time. "Tell your driver to leave your bag at the farm there," she said, pointing. "Powder Mills Farm, it is called. Then come with me."

Randolph made no objection or comment, but did exactly as she had said, then returned quickly to Silvia's car. "I reckon you've got a lot to say," he remarked briefly. "Better let me drive while you talk."

Silvia moved, and Randolph took the driving seat. "Straight up the road," she told him, "and go quite slowly." Then she began to talk in a quick, low voice.

Randolph, keeping the car moving quietly up the empty road, did not say a single word as he listened to Silvia's story. "And so—and so," she said. "at last I made up my mind to let Lurgan manage the escape, and he is going to do it this morning." She paused breathlessly, with her eyes on Randolph's face. "Do you think I am crazy?" she asked. "I sometimes think I am myself," she added, with a bitterness, unusual to her sweet nature.

"Why, no, Miss Silvia," replied Randolph. "I don't think you are crazy. I'd say it was a right good plan."

"But letting Lurgan do it," urged Silvia, "that's what I am so afraid of. As Jack Trant says, that dreadful man will probably try some underhand trick, and my—my mind is so muddled that I feel quite lost."

Randolph smiled. "For a lady with a muddled mind I'd say you had acted with a heap of foresight. Hiding that stuff up at Brim Tor was a right good move."

"But that will not help us if Lurgan has made up his mind to give Bruce up again."

"Lurgan won't give Bruce up until he's got the papers, Miss Silvia. That's as plain as paint. So until he gets the papers we are safe. Say now, did you arrange any date for handing them over?"

"I could not, for I don't even know where they are, but I promised in Bruce's name that he should have them at once. They can be given up by the Safe Deposit Company on my signature."

Randolph looked thoughtful. "I reckon we're all right—for the present, anyway. You can bet your bottom dollar Lurgan will fix the escape all right, and I guess, now I am here, you and I can attend to the other end of it. I mean that once Bruce is out we will take darn good care he don't go back again. But, see here, you have not told me just how the job is going to be managed. It don't look to me quite the sort of weather for a prisoner to make a run especially as these warder chaps all carry guns. A fog would be better to my way of thinking."

"The fog will be there when the time comes," Silvia told him. "The party he is with are digging a drain up in the Stonebrook newtake. All along the top of that field is thick gorse. Last night Lurgan's men were to place some explosive stuff in the gorse connected to a wire which is to run under the wall to the plantation in the next enclosure. When the signal comes a man will fire the charge by means of a battery, and the whole gorse ought to flame up at once. It should make 'some smoke,' as you say."

"It sure will. Who gives the signal?"

"Two of Lurgan's men will come up the road from Princetown in a car, and their horn will give the signal. They slow down as they pass through the smoke, and Bruce who has been warned, makes a dash through the smoke, jumps into the car; and hides in the back. Then they drive off down the Tavistock-road."

"But, say, that's no use," objected Randolph. "They will sure phone Tavistock from the prison."

"They will not take him as far as Tavistock. There is a side- road to the right beyond Cox Tor. They turn up that, then, as soon as the coast is clear, drop Bruce. A guide is to be waiting who will take Bruce right across the High Moor to the hiding place at Crooked Tor."

Randolph nodded. "It sounds good to me, but where do Lurgan's men go?

"They drive right on into Tavistock, and purposely allow themselves to be stopped and searched."

"Good again!" said Randolph. "That ought to puzzle the police." He glanced at Silvia. "But where do you come in?" he asked.

"I do not come in," Silvia told him. "Lurgan thought it better that neither he nor I should risk appearing in the business of the escape."

"I guess he was right. Who's driving his car?"

"I don't know—except that they are two of his men."

"Then I guess you are just going to look on and see that all's well, so to speak."

Silvia nodded, and Randolph realised that she could not trust herself to answer. He waited so as to give her chance to recover herself before he asked another question. "What time is Lurgan's car due to come along?"

"About 11," Silvia told him.

Randolph glanced at his watch. "We've got mighty near half an hour to wait," he said, "and less than two miles to go. You don't want to be hanging round up at the corner, or the warders might think something was up."

"They won't," said Silvia, "for I've been up there sketching every fine day since I came to the Moor, and the warders are quite accustomed to seeing me."

"Gosh!—you've got brains!" said Randolph, admiringly. "We'll go right ahead, then."

A few minutes later they were at the top of the hill near Rundlestone. Silvia glanced across the field to the left, where a long line of drab-clad men were digging. "Bruce is among those," she said in a whisper.

"I see," said Randolph, "and there's the gorse and the wood and the upper road. Now I've got all straight in my head. Say, shall I get out your easel?"

"No need, for I always sit in the car while I paint. Drive up on the grass at the side of the road, please. That is my usual place."

Randolph did as she asked, and Silvia got out her sketch-book and paint-box. "There's one of those mounted chaps watching us over the wall," whispered Randolph.

"His name is Parton, and he knows me quite well," Silvia answered. "It is you he is looking at."

Randolph calmly took out his cigar case, chose a cigar, and lit it leisurely. He lay buck in the seat puffing gently. With his hat tilted over his eyes he was the very picture of a busy man on holiday.

Silvia pretended to paint, but her eyes were on her watch, which was three minutes to 11. The blood pounded in her veins, and she had difficulty in breathing. A hoot down the road in the direction of Princetown set her quivering. "Steady's the word," said Randolph gently. "That's not Lurgan's car. It's a little two-seater. Say," he added with a smile, "those trippers in that car don't know what they are missing."

Randolph's confidence helped Silvia immensely, and when two minutes later another horn sounded she hardly even started. The hoots came twice in rapid succession, and Silvia clutched Randolph's arm. "See the smoke," she gasped.


THERE was no explosion, but from a dozen places in the long belt of gorse smoke leaped up. There followed a crisp crackle of flame, and almost instantly the whole gorse was blazing furiously. "Gee, but Lurgan's done the job properly," muttered Randolph, "And, by gum, the wind is sending the smoke right down across the field."

Even in the finest weather there is always a breeze on these heights, and a westerly draught carried the smoke in a great rolling cloud down towards the line of men working in the ditch. Whistles began to shrill, the warders were calling their charges together.

"They must realise that something is wrong," said Silvia in Randolph's ear.

"I bet they do, but that don't make any difference. Watch out now for the big car."

"But the smoke—the smoke. I can't see anything," said Silvia, in a shaking voice. She had gone very white and was trembling.

"I can see it all right," Randolph told her. "What's more, there's a fellow running through the smoke towards the road. I'll bet it's Bruce."

"Stop, or I'll shoot," came a loud shout and after a moment's pause a carbine cracked.

"Oh, they have shot him," wailed Silvia.

"Not by a jugful they haven't," snapped Randolph. "There he is in the car. Watch, she's off." Through the eddying drifts of stinging smoke came the deep boom, of a powerful engine and next instant Silvia and Randolph saw the big car shoot out of the smother, and, gaining speed with every yard, go roaring down the hill in the direction of Tavistock.

A man galloped furiously down the field parallel with the big car. It was Parton. But his pony was utterly outdistanced, and long before he reached the gate at the end of the field the car was past it and away.

"Is he safe—are you sure he is safe?" demanded Silvia of Randolph.

"See for yourself," said Randolph cheerily. "Gosh, but that car's doing fifty already." He looked round. "Great Christopher, but there's a mix up in that field. Listen to them shouting. Say, Silvia, we'd better get out of this. We don't want warders asking questions." He switched on the engine and moved slowly off the grass on to the road. The smoke was so thick that the stone walls on either side were hidden. The car was barely in the road before a man slung himself over the right-hand wall and dashed towards them. "Oh!" gasped Silvia. "Oh it's Bruce."

It was Randolph who acted. "Get in," he snapped. "Here in front. Lie right down and pull this rug over you." Bruce was in like a flash, and was quickly hidden. Not more than 10 seconds elapsed from the time that Silvia first saw him until the car was slipping away down the steep slope heading for Two Bridges. The smoke, drifting before the south-westerly wind, covered the whole road for at least a couple of hundred yards, and aided by the slope Randolph was able to drive silently. Yet he had presence of mind enough not to put on speed, but to keep at a moderate 20 miles an hour.

Silvia sat perfectly still, but now she was quite steady again. "The other car must have picked up another man," she said, quietly.

"Sure thing," said Randolph. "Say, how far is it to that bridge at Two Bridges?"

"Just two miles."

"Not more. Then I guess we are all right. They are all chasing away down the Tavistock-road, and if we can cross the bridge before any of the mounted men go that way we'll have no cause to worry. Watch out behind, Silvia, and tell me if you see any one following. I dare not go fast for fear of making anyone who happens to be watching suspect us."

Nothing more was said until they had crossed the next rise and were coasting down the long, crooked hill towards Two Bridges. As they turned out of the triangle road into the main Princetown- Exeter road they were able to, at last, see the bridge. "There's a man there," panted Silvia.

"I see him," replied Randolph calmly. "But he's no warder. See, he's carrying a fishing rod."

Still keeping to the same steady pace they reached the bridge. The man with the fishing rod waved to them. "I say," he said excitedly, "what's happening up at the prison? The bells are ringing like blazes."

Randolph slowed up, but did not stop.

"A lag's escaped," he said. "Some one's picked him up in a car and gone off down the Tavistock-road. There's hell popping up there." He accelerated as he spoke, shot past the hotel, and rushed the steep bit beyond on top gear. Another minute and they were on the Powder Mills road, with not a single vehicle in sight. "I reckon we are past the worst of it," said Randolph in his familiar drawl.

"For which all thanks to you and Silvia," came Bruce's voice from under the rug. "Silvia was right. Those fools picked up the wrong man, and I'd have been properly in the soup if I hadn't found you. But what's to be done? Lurgan had some place fixed up for me, but there's no getting there now, I suppose."

"Sit tight,'" replied Randolph easily. "Silvia has a place for you all right." He turned to Silvia. "We've got to put the car away. Is it safe to take Bruce to Powder Mills?"

"We shall have to. I can absolutely trust the Trants, but all the same I would not be fair to take Bruce into the farm, for every house within miles will be visited before night. We will drop him at the brook and he must crawl up the bed of it until he reaches the wood behind the farm. He can wait there until we join him."

"You have sure got a plan to fit everything," said Randolph admiringly. "Tell me where to stop."

They turned into the cart track and Silvia pointed to the rough wooden bridge spanning the brook. Randolph stopped and looked round carefully. "OK," he said. "Slip out easy, Bruce, and when you get into the brook go right up stream till you reach the wood. We'll be there before you."

Silvia had a bad five minutes while Randolph put up the car and she fetched a few necessaries from the house. She was desperately afraid lest some wondering Moorman might spot Bruce, in which case he would, of course, go after him in order to claim the five pound reward given for the arrest of an escaped prisoner.

Mrs. Trant was in the kitchen. "My friend, Mr. Colt, has arrived unexpectedly," Silvia told her. "He and I are going for a walk across the Moor. Don't trouble about lunch, for we are taking cake and chocolate."

"Have you got some grub?" was Randolph's question as Silvia joined him outside.

"Yes, and a coat and cap for Bruce. That's all I could manage to bring, but there is a complete change up at Brim Tor."

"Fine!" said Randolph. "And I've got a flask. I guess we shall need it, for it's almighty hot to-day." As he spoke they were walking quickly up towards the wood. Silvia was almost running, but Randolph checked her. "Not a thing in sight but ponies," he told her, "and they ain't looking."

Bruce was waiting in the wood, and muddy and wet as he was, Silvia fairly threw herself into his arms. "My dear, my dear," she cried, "to think that you are free at last."

"Guess the freedom won't last very long, eh, Bruce," said Randolph, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"What do yon mean, you old ruffian?" demanded Bruce, as he took Randolph's hand.

"Why—that you'll be prisoner to Silvia instead of to the British Government,'" grinned Randolph. "A mighty long sentence—and no remission for good conduct. But stick on this coat and cap, then you are going to have a chunk of cake, a drink from my flask, and one cigarette. After that we've got to hike."

"Walk, he means," said Bruce, munching chocolate. "Some day we'll teach him to speak English."

The reaction from the fearful strain of the previous hour made them almost merry, and when they started out again the need for intense watchfulness kept them silent and serious.

"There's not really much risk," Silvia said, "for at a little distance Bruce looks just like anybody else."

"And warders won't be looking for a lag escorted by a lady," replied Bruce, smiling. He was smoking his cigarette to the bitter end, and it almost hurt Silvia to see how intensely he enjoyed it. An hour later, and they were over the hills in the heart of the great Moor, miles from the nearest road or house.


THE heat was intense, and they rested for a little under the shade of a great pile of boulders. "Looks to me like there'll be a storm," said Randolph. "How much further is this here Brim Tor place, Miss Silvia?"

"Not very far. Shall we push on before the storm comes?"

Randolph nodded, and they went on. But the clouds gathered rapidly, and presently a deep rumbling of thunder came muttering across the lonely land. "Guess we're in for a wetting," said Randolph briefly But none of them expected such fury of tempest as presently broke upon them. The rain fell in solid sheets, and through it flashed lightning, yellow, white, and blue in blinding chains and forks. The worst of it was that they were in the open, with no shelter near, and there was nothing to do but plod steadily onwards. "This is rotten for you, Silvia," said Bruce, unhappily.

"My dear, as if I minded," replied Silvia, "All the same, I wish that it would stop, for I can't see my way a bit."

But it was an hour before at last the clouds broke and the watery gleam of sunshine lighted the soaking Moor and its three dripping inhabitants. Silvia stopped and gazed round, and Randolph noticed a puzzled look in her eyes. "Guess we're a bit off the track," he suggested.

"I—I am afraid we are," said Silvia. She turned to Bruce. "Oh, Bruce," she exclaimed, miserably. "I have lost my way."

"Small blame to you, in that storm," replied Bruce, stoutly.

"But you don't understand," said Silvia. "If I can't find the cave, what are we to do? Your clothes, food, and everything are there."

Randolph cut in. "I don't reckon we can be a long way off the place," he said. "Take a good look round, Miss Silvia, and see if you can't get your bearings."

Silvia obeyed. At last she pointed to a hill. "That looks to me like Brim Tor," she said, doubtfully.

"Then we'll shove along, and look it over," said Randolph.

"The ground here is dreadfully open,'" said Silvia, unhappily. "We could be seen from a long way off."

"There's no one to see us," replied Bruce. "That storm must have choked off any tourists."

"I am not afraid of tourists," said Silvia. "It's the warders I am thinking of."

"I guess they are still chasing the other car," said Randolph, but Silvia shook her head. "They will have found out their mistake by now, and be searching the Moor. Oh, I wish I knew which was Brim Tor."

"We will find it all right," said Bruce, confidently, and started forward.

As Silvia had said, they were very much in the open. They were crossing a high tableland with patches of bad bog, which they had to carefully avoid. The ground was covered with bents and coarse heather that made walking very difficult. Here and there were curious pits in the peaty soil. They were large and circular and most of them full of water from the recent storm.

Silvia was very anxious, and Randolph, though he pretended cheerfulness, shared her anxiety.

Suddenly Silvia spoke. "Don't look round. There are two men on the high ground to the west of us, and I am nearly sure they are following us."

"Are they warders?" questioned Bruce.

"I do not think so, for one is in light clothes."

"Then they are not warders," said Bruce.

"But they are following us," replied Silvia.

"They sure are following us," said Randolph, presently. "Say. I believe they are Lurgan's men."

"That's just about the size of it," said Bruce. "Those chaps must have been scared stiff when they found how they had blundered, and now they are trying to make up by finding out where I went."

"They guessed that I took you," said Silvia, quickly. "That's it, of course. And now what are we going to do?" she asked in dismay. "If they catch us they will insist on taking Bruce to Crooked Tor. Oh, why did I lose my way," she moaned.

Even Randolph had no answer, and it was Bruce who spoke. "Never mind, Silvia. We must just go ahead as hard as we can. If we can reach that Tor over there before they get too near we can probably dodge them.'"

The three quickened their pace but the ground was dreadful, and Silvia was beginning to tire. She again glanced back. "They are gaining fast," she said, unhappily. "Who are they, Bruce, can you tell?"

"One is Stroud," he answered. "I know him by the way he walks. The other looks like Oakes."

"We are sure up against it," muttered Randolph, but too low for Silvia to hear. Silvia spoke again. "I am nearly sure that is Brim Tor. The hiding place I chose is on the far side. If only we can get there before those horrible men catch us."

Randolph stopped short. "You two go on," he said, quietly. "I'll stay and talk to those gents.'"

Bruce shook his head. "Nothing doing, old man. If you stop, so do I. Oakes I know is a gunman, and so, I believe, is Stroud."

"Talk sense, Bruce," returned Randolph, "You've got no gun."

"I know that, but I'm blest if I am going to leave you alone against the two of them," said Bruce doggedly, and Silvia added, "Of course we are not."

Randolph frowned. "You are crazy, the pair of you. We can't run, and you won't let me fight. Looks to me like the only thing we can do is to take cover behind that mound there and parley."

At that moment a deep, booming sound came to their ears. "Gosh, another thunder storm!" exclaimed Randolph. "That may give us a chance."

"It can't be thunder," said Silvia. "The sky is quite clear." The words were hardly out of her mouth before Randolph seized her and flung her flat on the soaking ground. At the same instant the air above was full of a rattling roar like that of a train crossing a bridge. The sound passed right over them, then came a thud, followed by a shattering explosion, and not a hundred yards beyond the spot where they stood a vast fountain of black mud and great clouds rose 50ft. into the air. Randolph picked Silvia up. "Run," he said, urgently, and dragged her towards the mound. Even as they flung themselves down in shelter there came a second crash from the distance, the same whizzing, rattling sound as before, and again a fearful explosion.

"Shells!" gasped Randolph, "real big crumps. Gosh, have the Germans landed?"

"It's the artillery at Okehampton," said Bruce quickly. "See they are firing from the hills over there to the north. We have wandered right on to the range."

Randolph glanced round with practiced eye. He had been with the American gunners in the war. "We're fairly safe here unless they happen to pitch one straight on top of us. Where's the target?"

Bruce pointed. "Over there, about three hundred yards away."

Randolph whistled. "Too close to be pleasant. What do you say. Do we shift?"

"Better stay where we are. As you say, we're safe from anything except a direct hit. Are you scared, Silvia?"

"Of course I am," replied Silvia, "but there's one good thing. I expect those men of Lurgan's will run away."

Two more shells came over, but these fell nearer to the target, that is, well behind the mound.

Randolph crept out, then came quickly back. "They haven't run," he said grimly. "They are lying down right out in the open."

"Can't the gunners see them?" asked Silvia.

"What—at ten thousand yards! I guess not."

"Are they in danger?"

"Worse than we, anyhow. Lie low. Here they come again."

The firing was now becoming faster, and shells fell all over the place. One dropped so close that the explosion flung mud all over the little party and the crash of the explosion nearly deafened them. So it went on for nearly an hour, as long an hour as any of them had known, and when it was over all three were feeling dazed and half deaf. At last Randolph ventured to stand up. "Guess we can move on now," he said.

"But what about Lurgan's men?" asked Bruce.

"One's still there. Can't see the other." He paused. "Yes, by thunder, I can see him now. He's half a mile away, and running like smoke."

Bruce looked up. "Scared—?" he asked.

"Scared half to death," replied Randolph. "All right, Bruce," he went on curtly. "You stay here with Silvia. I'll go and look at him."

He went. He came back, and there was a peculiar look on his hard-bitten face. "It's Oakes, Bruce," he said, "and he's dead—very dead."


"DEAD?" repeated Silvia, horrified.

"Yes," said Randolph, and paused. "I wish it had been Lurgan," he added, frowning thoughtfully.

"We had better walk on, had we not?" suggested Silvia in a low voice. "We shall be quite safe now in making for the cave."

"Wait," said Randolph, and drew Bruce aside. Silvia, watching them, saw that Randolph was urging something on Bruce and that Bruce's face showed horror and repulsion. But at last he seemed to yield, and came back to Silvia. "Silvia, dear," he said, "please go to the other side of the mount and wait for us." Silvia looked at him a moment, then nodded, and moved away. All she know was that the other two went in the direction of the dead man.

Time passed, which seemed long to Silvia, but was probably not more than ten minutes, then Bruce and Randolph were back. But now Bruce was wearing a suit of tweed, muddy, torn, and with some ominous red stains upon it.

"Oh!" gasped Silvia.

"It was horrible, but Randolph was right," said Bruce. "The wretched man's face is gone, and he is knocked all to pieces. When they find the body they will take it for mine." Still Silvia did not speak, but her expression said more than words.

"We just had to do it," said Randolph, forcibly. "It's the biggest chance ever. Don't you see, once they believe Bruce is dead they stop chasing him."

"But Stroud knows," said Silvia, in a low voice.

"Of course, he knows," replied Randolph, "but he daren't tell."

"He will tell Lurgan," said Silvia.

"That don't matter," insisted Randolph. "Don't you see we've at last got the bulge on Lurgan? Though he will know that Bruce is alive he won't know where to look for him, and he can't go to the prison people and tell 'em that the dead man is a pal of his without their asking a lot of awkward questions which he can't answer."

Still Silvia was not convinced. "Lurgan won't give up as easily as that," she insisted. "And in any case he still has the model."

"Maybe he won't have it so very long," said Randolph, and there was a queer glint of triumph in his eyes as he spoke. He took a worn leather wallet from his pocket. "We got this off Oakes," he added, "and there's a heap of valuable stuff in it. Among it an address which we reckon is the secret address of Lurgan's."

"Where the magnet is hidden?" asked Silvia, eagerly.

"I guess so. Any way, I'm not going to waste a lot of time before finding out. Just as soon as ever Bruce is safe in this Brim Tor place I'm hiking up to London, and I reckon to make a better job at burglary than Bruce did." He grinned affectionately at Bruce as he spoke.

Silvia's face brightened. "It does sound hopeful," she allowed. "Then the sooner we get Bruce into safety the better."

"You bet!" agreed Randolph. "This place is sure too open to be healthy. I'll breathe a lot freer when Bruce is safe in his cave and you and I back at Powder Hills."

"I am sure it is not far," said Silvia. "I have been studying the lie of the land, and I am fairly certain that is Brim Tor over there. Let us be moving."

All three felt happier when they were off the open table-land and in a sheltered valley. They were happier still when Silvia pointed to a big pile of granite and said that now she was sure she was right. There was Brim Tor, and the hiding-place was in the rock face below it. "The mouth is in that thick patch of gorse," she explained, and she led the way up the steep ascent.

A few minutes, and they were standing at the mouth of a low- roofed tunnel running straight into the hillside. "Say, but this took some finding," said Randolph admiringly.

"It was just luck," said Silvia, simply. "Jack Trant told me there was an old mine up here, but I had almost given it up, when I stumbled on the entrance. But it's a horrid place, Bruce," she added. "So damp and cold, and you won't be able to light a fire."

"My dear, what do I care?" laughed Bruce. "To be free of the ghastly prison routine is happiness enough. I shall be out here in the gorse when the sun shines and be quite content to wait until you can get me away."

"Here is your food," said Silvia, "and two blankets and a little spirit stove and a couple of books. It is not much, but all I could manage to carry." Bruce caught her in his arms and kissed her. "You wonderful girl, I shall never cease thanking all my stars that I met you."

Silvia kissed him back, and drew away, blushing. "Randolph," she remonstrated, "you are not half so polite as the warder at Pentonville. You did not turn your back."

"Ah, but he was a married man," chuckled Randolph. "I'm a bachelor and still willing to learn. Now kiss him good-bye, because we've got to go, I reckon, to catch the evening train out of Tavistock."

Silvia hated leaving Bruce, and was very silent as she and Randolph tramped back together. They were lucky enough to get back without running into any one at all. But warders had visited the farm and Mrs. Trant and Clara were bubbling with suppressed excitement. "All is well, Mrs. Trant," Sylvia told her, "but I have no time now to tell you. I am going to drive Mr. Colt to Tavistock. I shall be home for supper."

Warders were on the bridge at Two Bridges and all cars were being stopped and searched. But Silvia was much relieved to find that she was apparently not under suspicion. She and Randolph were allowed to proceed without being questioned, and she managed to reach Tavistock station in time for Randolph to catch the evening train.

"I guess I'd better not wire," were his last words at parting, "but just as soon as I've got the bag I'm coming right back."

"And if you fail to get it?" asked Silvia.

Randolph shrugged. "I'll come back any way, and help get you and Bruce abroad. But don't think of failure. This is our turn, I reckon."

Silvia was dead tired when she got back, but before going to bed she had to satisfy Mrs. Trant's curiosity. Mrs. Trant listened breathlessly to the story of Bruce's escape. "You've done fine, miss," she declared. "I reckon when they find the body they'll just give up the search."

"Have they found the other man?" asked Silvia.

"No, they never got him, miss. From what I've heard, he got away in the car by himself. They found the car down near Saltash, and they reckon he's hiding in Plymouth. Now you get to bed, Miss Silvia. You're all worn out."

In spite of her anxieties Silvia slept right through the night and woke rather stiff, but otherwise well. That day dragged dreadfully. She did not dare go up to see Bruce, and she had no heart to do anything else. Warders were still out in every direction, but there was no news until the evening, when Jack Trant came in to tell them that the body had been found on the Range. "It's all right, Miss Silvia," he told her. "They think it's Mr. Carey's, and it'll be buried as such. They're bringing in the warders from the Moor."

"I am very glad of that," said Silvia.

"Tell you another thing, Miss Silvia," went on Jack. "There's fog coming up to-night. I reckon you'll be safe to go to Brim Tor to-morrow if you want to."

Jack was right, for next morning broke with a thick, white mist. Silvia was delighted, for it would hide her from prying eyes, and especially from fisherman. Trout won't rise in fog. She was off early, and was soon well up in the heart of the Moor. The mist was now lifting a little and Silvia went cautiously as she approached Brim Tor. The steep side of it was looming through the thinning fog, when her quick ears caught the clink of a falling stone, and instinctively she dropped down between two boulders. Some one was moving along the base of the hill. It might, of course, be Bruce, but this was not the time or the place to take risks, and she waited. The steps came nearer, and she saw a figure loom up. It was all she could do to bite back the cry of dismay that rose to her lips. For the man was Lurgan.


SILVIA lay quiet as a hare in its forme until the great bulky figure had passed and the sound of his footsteps died. Then she rose and ran for Bruce's refuge. He was sitting at the mouth of the mine, very still and oddly white, but sprang up at sight of her. "Lurgan!" she gasped breathlessly. "He has been here!"

"He's been here right enough. How he found me I don't know, but I suppose Stroud got over his panic and shadowed us."

"But what—what did he say? What did he do?"

"I should think you could guess what he said, Silvia. He told me that he meant to have the whole show, or else that he would go straight to the prison people and tell them where I was.

"And you?"

"I told him to go to hell if he liked—that, any way, that was the place he was bound to fetch up in."

"Oh, Bruce, you had better have made terms with him."

"My dear. I'd sooner make terms with the devil himself. It was all I could do to keep my hands off him, but I knew that if I once started on him I should kill him, and I didn't want another death on my conscience."

Silvia stood, breathing hard. "Then he has gone to lay information?"

"Not a doubt about it. Only, of course, he won't risk his skin. He'll do it in some crooked way."

"But if he does he loses his last chance of getting the magnet."

"It looks like it, but he's mad enough to do even that. I fancy I let myself go a bit when I turned loose on him, and for once he quite lost that inhuman calm."

"You could not say anything bad enough Bruce; but now the only thing is to get you away as quickly as possible!"

Bruce shook his head. "My dearest, I'm not going to have you risking your precious self," he told her. "It would only mean your getting into trouble as well as me."

"Then you are going calmly back to prison?" exclaimed Silvia.

"There is no choice," Bruce answered. "You have no other place to hide me."

"Don't be silly. I have the car. It will take Lurgan at least three hours to reach Princetown, and then he will have to write a letter and send it to the Governor, for he dare not go himself. We can be back at Powder Mills in less than two hours, and 40 miles away before the search even begins."

Bruce did not move. "It is only putting off the evil hour. All the ports will be closed against me before I could reach one."

Silvia stamped her foot. "I could shake you, Bruce. We can reach Bristol, or even London, easily. And a big town is the best place in which to hide. With a false moustache and wig no one would recognise you." She paused. "If you don't come I shall simply stay here with you, and when the warders arrive tell them everything."

Bruce saw she meant it. He yielded and they started. The fog was now drifting in patches, rolling like smoke clouds. At one minute they could barely see one another, then it would be clear for a hundred yards or more. Silvia, who by this time knew the ground well, led the way down a broad valley. "You had better keep quite close to me, Bruce," she said. "There is a very bad fog just now."

"All right. You pick the way, and I'll watch out for any one coming."

"There won't be any one," said Silvia. "They think that you are dead, and the warders have been called in."

"All the same," said Bruce in a low voice, "there is some one following us. Don't stop," he added, "carry straight on. We may dodge him in the mist."

Silvia quickened her pace. She was horribly frightened, for if this person, whoever he was, was really following them, he must suspect Bruce's identity. And then the fog, instead of thickening, rolled up like a curtain, and behold, it was Lurgan himself who had tracked them.

Both saw him at once, and Bruce stopped. "This is the finish," he said curtly. "Silvia, I am going back to meet him, and one of us will stay here."

Silvia caught his arm. "No," she said urgently. "No. He is certain to be armed, and he would simply shoot you. Listen. I have a plan. We are just at the head of Mill Tor Mire. There is a path across it which Clara Trant showed me. I think—I am almost sure that I can remember it, and if we can cross the mire, Lurgan will not be able to follow us."

"But he can go round."

"It is more than a mile round. We shall get a long start, and if the fog comes down again we can lose him."

Bruce hesitated. He looked back longingly at Lurgan, and Silvia saw his fists clench. But she pulled him onwards.

A few steps and the great mire was before them, a wide flat, covered with tall bents and reeds, among which pools of smooth, black slime gleamed like steel under the lowering sky. "A ghastly place!" said Bruce in dismay. "We can never cross that."

"We can. Yes, that is the path. I know the opening by that odd-shaped boulder."

To Bruce it seemed akin to suicide for Silvia to trust herself on such treacherous ground. He could see no path nor any sign of one. But Silvia seemed to have no doubts, and Bruce found himself following her right into the heart of the mire. Much to his amazement, be never sank much above the ankles, for beneath the spongy surface there was firm footing. "It is an old-timer's track," Silvia explained quickly. "Those little sticks mark it."

"Sticks—why, they are mere twigs," replied Bruce. "I'd be sorry for any one who didn't know what to look for."

"Don't talk," said Silvia, "the fog is thickening again, and I must keep all my attention for the marks."

In spite of the fog, she pushed on smartly, and Bruce, full of admiration for her pluck and resource, followed in silence. Presently a waft of wind lifted the fog, and Bruce glanced back. "Silvia—Silvia?" he said urgently. "Lurgan is following us."

Silvia stopped. "He'd never dare!" she gasped, and turned. But the fog was down again, and she could not see. "He is coming all right," said Bruce grimly. "He was well along the path when I saw him."

Silvia's lips set firmly. "We must hurry. Even if he sees the marks, he cannot go fast. We shall beat him, Bruce, never fear." She quickened her pace, and Bruce followed step for step. Once Silvia blundered, and was instantly up to her knees in glutinous slime, but Bruce pulled her back, and, using her stick, she found hard ground again. "A gap," she whispered, "but now we are on the path once more."

"Nearly at the end of it," said Bruce. "I see heather in front." A few steps more and they were on rising ground among heather and rocks.

"No sign of Lurgan," said Bruce beneath his breath. "We've got a bit of a start. What next, Silvia?"

"We will go over the ridge to the right," said Silvia, in an equally low voice. "The fog is thick on the tops, and if it only holds we shall dodge him. Now—quickly, and do not speak or make any noise."

The pace at which she went off amazed Bruce, yet she kept it all up the slope which seemed to get steeper with every step. But the fog was thinning again, and as Bruce glanced round he could see the near edge of the mire. He could not, however, see Lurgan. Above, the mist was thicker, for, as Silvia had said, it clung to the higher ground. The slope lessened, and they came to a broad terrace with firm smooth turf.

Suddenly Bruce caught Silvia by the arm. "Steady!" he whispered. "There's a horse coming."

"A Moor, pony." replied Silvia. "There are lots of them."

"It's coming straight towards us," said Bruce, and the words were hardly out of his mouth before there loomed out of the mist not a Moor pony but a tall, grey moustached man on horseback. Before they had time to move he was right on top of them. "Hulloa!" he exclaimed in surprise as he pulled up. "I must apologise," he said, lifting his hat to Silvia. "I had no idea of meeting a lady up in—" He stopped short and sat quite still with his keen, pale blue eyes fixed upon Bruce.

"So it is you, Carey," he remarked in a voice that was suddenly cold as ice.

Bruce drew himself up. "It does not seem much use denying it, does it, Colonel Peyton?" he answered. Then he turned to Silvia. "It is the Governor of the prison," he explained.


"CURIOUS!" said Colonel Peyton in his cold, measured tones. "I had some private doubts that the body found was yours, Carey, and I rode up here with the purpose of viewing the spot and seeing whether I could find anything to substantiate my suspicions. I confess, however, that I had no idea of picking up the prisoner who has given us so much trouble."

Bruce stood silent. His thoughts were too bitter for words. The Colonel fixed his gaze on Silvia. "You, if I mistake not, are Miss Egerton," he said. "I presume that you are aware of the penalties attached to helping an escaped prisoner."

"Perfectly," replied Silvia defiantly "Penalties which I have risked willingly, and would risk again, to save a perfectly innocent man from that horrible prison of yours."

The Governor's expression did not change in the slightest. "The guilt or innocence of the prisoner is quite out of my province. The law has pronounced his sentence. My only duty is to see that it is carried out. At any rate Carey will have no second chance of escape, for during the rest of his sentence he will not be allowed outside the prison walls." He paused. "Will you come with me quietly, Carey?"

"I want first to ask you something, Sir," said Bruce. "I beg you to forget that you have seen this lady with me."

Colonel Peyton hesitated. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "Unless I am questioned in court I shall say nothing about her," he answered. "Now, come at once."

But Bruce paused. "We cannot leave Miss Egerton alone, here," he said. The Colonel frowned. "She found her way here alone. She can surely get back again.

"No," replied Bruce, firmly. "She is not safe. There is another man after us—and a very dangerous one."

"Very well," said Peyton, curtly. "She can walk with as until we are within sight of the road. Now I have no more tune to waste. Walk in front of me, please. There is a bridle track close above, and you will keep on that."

They started in silence. Bruce glanced at Silvia, and her expression hurt him far worst than of his own troubles. All the life had gone out of her sweet fact, and from a girl she had suddenly changed to a sorrowful woman. Bruce tried to think of something to say to comfort her, but could find nothing. He knew, just as she did, that this was the end of all things, and that the only result of all her efforts was the loss of his remission of sentence and heavy punishment into the bargain.

Side by side they walked together with the Governor riding at foot pace behind, and so they reached the bridle-path. Then from out of the fog below came a sound which brought them all three to a sudden standstill. "Help!—help!" came a great roaring voice, hoarse with dreadful terror. Bruce spun round. "Lurgan!" he cried. "He's in the mire!"

"Lurgan," repeated Peyton. "The man whose house you burgled?"

"The same. It was he who was following us. He is in Mill Tor Mire." Peyton hesitated. "All right," said Bruce curtly. "I have given my word. I shall not run away."

"Then you had better come with me to help me get this man out," said the Governor, and quickly turned his horse downhill.

"Help!" came Lurgan's voice again. "Help! Help!"

"Bruce," said Silvia, urgently, "Bruce, if you went first—if Lurgan saw you only, perhaps he would speak."

"It is worth trying," replied Bruce rapidly. He spoke to the Governor. "Colonel Peyton, this man, Lurgan, is the one person who can clear me. Will you let me go on alone?"

Peyton did not pull up. "What do you mean?" he asked harshly.

"I mean that I don't want Lurgan to see you," said Bruce, urgently. "If he does he will not speak, but if he believes his rescue depends on me he may confess."

"That sounds to me like blackmail," retorted the Governor. "I'll have none of it."

Silvia stopped quickly in front of the horse, and as she did she stumbled and fell. Peyton had to pull up sharply, and Bruce stooped swiftly to help Silvia to her feet. "Go on," she whispered, urgently. "Go on, Bruce; I will keep him."

At the same instant Lurgan shouted again, "Help!" he shrieked in a voice that was hardly human. "For God's sake, help!"

Bruce sprang up. "I'll get him out, sir," he said to Peyton. "You look after Miss Egerton," and, leaping away down the hill he vanished in the fog. The mist was not too thick for him to get his bearings, and he soon found the path along which he and Silvia had passed. The foot marks in the ooze guided him, and be had not gone far before he caught sight of a dark something which struggled in the mire. This was Lurgan, and just as Bruce had guessed, it was the gap in the path where Silvia had slipped, which had trapped him. The man was waist deep and sinking steadily, while all around the black slime seethed and bubbled with his frantic struggles.

"Help!" he croaked again as he saw Bruce. "Help me, Carey!"

Bruce stopped and looked down into the face of his enemy, which was purple with congested blood, and hardly recognisable. Even a brave man, and Lurgan was no coward—may give way when caught in bog or quicksand.

"Why should I help you?" asked Bruce, coldly. "The one thing that will make me safe is your death."

"But I will save you if you get me out," Lurgan answered, eagerly.

"I would like to believe you," said Bruce. "But you know I cannot."

"I swear it," replied Lurgan, earnestly. "I will swear it by anything you like."

"Oaths mean nothing to you, Lurgan. The moment you are out you will forget them."

"You can't leave me to die like a dog in this filth." tried Lurgan. "What can I say to convince you?"

"Nothing would convince me except the return of the model of the magnet."

"You shall have it. You shall have it, to-morrow—as soon as I can get back to town."

"Oh, then you confess that you have it?"

"Of course I have it," snarled Lurgan. "You know that as well as I do. But give me a hand. I am sinking. This cursed mud has no bottom."

Bruce pulled off his coat, took it by one sleeve, and passed the other to Lurgan, who gripped it fiercely. "No, I am not going to pull yet," Bruce said. "That will keep you from sinking altogether, but I want to know a bit more before I help you out. Where is the model?"

"At my London flat. Chasterton Mansions, in Orme-street, Hammersmith."

"You admit then that you stole it?" demanded Bruce.

"What's the use of asking fool questions," snapped Lurgan. "Of course I stole it, and, by God, I'd do it again if I had the same chance."

Bruce's lip curled. "That's honest, at any rate. Another question. As to that night when I broke into Friars Bank. You had arranged it all in advance—you were waiting for me?"

Lurgan's teeth were chattering with cold. "I don't know what you are driving at," he answered. "You must know well enough that we set a trap for you."

"You own to that!"

"Yes—yes, but help me out. I am dying with the cold of this cursed mud. You shall have the model to-morrow," he added. "I swear you shall."

"Hang on there," said Bruce, and began to pull. The coat sleeve ripped under the strain, but Lurgan took fresh hold of the skirt, and inch by inch Bruce drew him inwards until he was close against the big stones of the Causeway. Once he got foothold on these he was able to help himself, and presently he clambered out. The slime poured off him in streams and at first he staggered when he tried to stand. But his strength was enormous, and in a few moments he was able to follow Bruce back along the hidden path.

Bruce looked eagerly for Silvia, but the fog was thick again, and he could not see her. Even when he at last reached firm ground there was still no sign of her, and he began to feel seriously uneasy. He turned and faced Lurgan. "How, and when, do I get the model?" he demanded.

"I shall address it to Dartmoor Prison," Lurgan answered with his old sneer "Oh, yes," he added, "I shall keep my word as to sending it, but that is your legal address, and will be for the next seven years. As to what I told you out there, that goes for nothing. A confession is worthless without witnesses."

Bruce's fists clenched and Lurgan saw it and drew back a step. Then a shadow darted through the fog, and Silvia was between them. She faced Lurgan. "You spoke of witnesses. I heard every word you said, and can swear it in any court.

Lurgan still tried to bluff. "But it is in the dock you will be, Miss Egerton, not the witness box. Two years' hard labour is the penalty for helping a prisoner to escape."

"I think that is about enough," came another voice, and as Colonel Peyton stepped up Lurgan seemed to collapse like a pricked bladder. "I, too, heard all that you said," continued the Governor, "and in virtue of my office as Prison Governor I place you under arrest on a charge of theft and conspiracy. You will accompany me to the police station at Princetown." He paused. "You, too, will come with me, Carey, for until you are legally freed you must remain in the prison."

"But—but not for long?" said Silvia imploringly.

"Not for very long, Miss Egerton," replied the Governor, and now his tone was as kind as previously it had been harsh. "It will give you time to buy your trousseau, young lady," he added with a smile, which quite transformed his usually stern face.


Roy Glashan's Library.
Non sibi sed omnibus
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