Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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RGL e-Book Cover©
Based on an old advertising poster (c. 1920)

Ex Libris

No record of prior publication under this title in the UK or North America

Serialised in the 1920's in several Australian newspapers, e.g.,
The Queensland Times, 12 Feb 1921 ff
The Lithgow Mercury, NSW, 29 Oct 1928-30 Jan 1929
(this version)

First e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-02-21

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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

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Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI


ALAN RENDLE had left his little two-seater on the turf by the roadside, and, pipe in mouth, was leaning over the parapet of Danesmeet bridge watching the trout rising in the clear pool below, when the sound of very squeaky brakes attracted his attention, and he glanced round to see what sort of a vehicle was making such an atrocious noise.

It was a car, a large, heavy landaulette of a decidedly old-fashioned type, and it was creeping down the precipitous slope from the Cairn Tor direction at a pace certainly not exceeding four miles an hour. Apparently the driver was new to the steep hills of Dartmoor, or else did not trust his brakes, for he had his engine in first gear, and this and the screech of the side brakes combined, made noise enough to be heard a mile away.

Rendle watched idly till at last the car reached the bottom of the hill and pulled up within twenty yards of where he stood. Then he noticed that two of her passengers were following afoot. They were both women and both young.

They were no great distance behind, and, walking briskly, soon came up with the car.

"Go on, Andrews. We will walk on to the top," called one of them, in a voice curiously sweet and full.

"Very well, miss," answered the driver, and, letting in the clutch, he began to grind slowly up the steep arch of the narrow hump-backed bridge.

He was a weedy, sallow youth of a common garage type, and his thin face bore a distinctly worried expression. Rendle judged the car to be a hired one, and in none too good running order.

Inside was one passenger only, a woman of perhaps forty-five. Rendle caught a glimpse of her face in passing. She had a sweet, gentle expression, but looked tired and far from well.

A moment later two foot passengers came past Rendle, and half involuntarily he stood up and took the pipe from his mouth. The two were clearly mistress and maid, but beyond the fact that the latter was tall and dark, Rendle could have told nothing about her. His eyes were fixed on the girl who passed so close to him that he could have touched her by stretching out his hand.

A smart young doctor, with five years' practice already behind him in the West End of London, is not the most impressionable of men. Yet Rendle stared like any hobbledehoy—stared so that a faint color rose in the girl's cheeks, and she quickened her pace slightly.

In his eyes—and he had seen not a few beautiful women—she was by far the most beautiful he had ever set eyes upon. Her eyes were grey—golden-grey shot with changing lights, her hair was pale gold, and she had that marvellously clear complexion that goes only with golden or chestnut hair. Her face was clean-cut as a cameo, yet it was by no means the perfection of her features which gave Rendle that curious thrill. Rather was in her expression something—he could tell what—which in that mere momentary glimpse made him ready to swear that the girl's soul was as sweet and clean as her complexion.

She passed, and he stood motionless, looking after her. She was in grey—all in grey. Her tweed skirt, excellently cut, was short enough to show neat, workmanlike boots, high and well laced. She walked with a lithe grace, which is rare in an Englishwoman, yet Rendle was prepared to swear that she was English all through.

And as he watched her it came to him with a keen sense of loss that every step took her further from him, further out of his life. His face darkened; a sudden rage filled him against the hide-bound conventions of society. He had never before seen any woman who made so intense an appeal to him, yet it was impossible to speak to her, to gain her acquaintance. In all probability he would never set eyes upon her again.

At this point he pulled himself up.

"Alan Rendle, you are making a fool of yourself," he said half aloud. "You, a man of twenty-eight, to go crazy over a pretty face and a dainty figure."

Yet, argue as he might, he quite failed to convince his heart of what his brain had already determined was folly. And suddenly an idea flashed through his head. He had his car. It was a far more rapid and reliable vehicle than the ancient landaulette. Why not follow?

Had anyone told Alan Rendle, ten minutes earlier, that he could be capable of such an act as following a girl on whose face he had only set eyes for a matter of seconds, he would hardly even have troubled to express his contempt. Yet, now, all in an instant, he had actually made up his mind to do so. But as he was in the very act of turning to go back to the spot where his car was standing, the heavy chugging of the landaulette's engine ceased abruptly, and pausing, he glanced up the hill to see what had happened.

The big car had stopped—stopped on the very steepest of the hill. That in itself was nothing. What was terrifying was that her brakes were evidently not powerful to hold her, and she was beginning to slip backwards.

Almost! before he had realised the full peril of the situation, Rendle was running up hill at the top of his speed. And as it was less than three years since he had played half-back for his hospital, this was no mean pace.

The girl, who was now about half way between the bridge and this car, saw the danger as soon as he did. She did not scream, but started running, as he had.

Before Rendle had gone twenty steps he saw clearly that he would be too late. The car was out of all control, and moving backwards more and more rapidly. The gradient of the hill was about one in five. The road, very narrow, and flanked by high banks, ran down perfectly straight to the bridge. There were all the makings of a terrible accident.

Rendle stopped.

"Turn her," he shouted, at the top of his voice. "Turn her, you idiot! turn her into the bank!"

Seemingly the driver heard. Rendle caught a glimpse of his face as he craned his head out to the left, and at once he slewed the car round to that side. Had he acted more promptly all might have been well. As it was, the car had already gained some speed, and as ill luck had it, the bank, at this particular point was not as steep as it was a few yards higher up.

Rendle, running again at the top of his speed, saw the left wheel take the bank and rise upon it. The car heaved up, then, slowly—very slowly—swayed over to the right, For a moment it seemed to hang half way over. Watching breathlessly, Rendle hoped against hope that it might remain in that position. But no. The angle was too great, over it went, and with a loud chatter of splintering glass fell on its side in the road.

As it reached the ground Rendle passed the girl, and caught a glimpse of her face, white and strained. He did not speak, nor did she. Another few seconds and he had reached the scene of the accident. The driver, his face cut, but otherwise apparently unhurt, was climbing dazedly out from behind the windscreen. Rendle paid no attention to him, but springing on to the body of the car wrenched open the left hand door.

The lady lay in a heap in the lower corner. She did not move or utter any sound. Apparently she was stunned. Rendle dropped through the door, and picking his footing so as to keep clear of the broken window, stooped, got his arms around the sufferer, and lifted her through the upper door.

"Is she hurt, sir?" came Andrews' frightened voice.

"I can't tell yet. Hold her until I can get out."

Andrews did so, and Rendle swung himself out, took the lady from the man, and carrying her to a stretch of turf a little further down the hill, laid her down gently.

At that moment the girl reached the spot.

"Mother! Oh, Mother!" she cried, and flung herself on her knees beside the elder lady. But her emotion was only momentary. Almost at once she regained her self-control.

"Is she badly hurt, do you think?" she asked of Rendle. "Can we get a doctor?"

"I am a doctor," Rendle answered. "Do not be alarmed. She is stunned, but I do not think she is much injured. I shall be able to tell you better in a moment."

He made a brief examination, then looked up with a greatly relieved expression. "There is no serious damage," he assured the girl—"none at all. She has simply fainted from shock and fright. She must be quiet for a little. I should like some cushions from the car and some cold water—also some eau de cologne, if there is any."

The strained look left the girl's face. She turned to her maid, who was standing by.

"Holmes, please get some cushions from the car. And tell Andrews to run down to the river and fetch some water." At the same time she took a small flask from her own pocket and handed it to Rendle.

"This is lavender water," she said, "but perhaps it will do as well."

"It will do perfectly," Rendle assured her.

The cushions were brought. Rendle lifted the poor lady, and made her comfortable. Andrews came hurrying with a tin can full of water, and Rendle soaked a handkerchief and bathed the patients forehead. It was but a very short time before her eyes opened, and she looked up with a somewhat dazed and frightened expression.

Rendle drew back and motioned the girl to take his place.

"Oh! oh! what has happened?" gasped the poor lady.

"The car went over, mother dear. But there is very little harm done. You fainted from the shock, but I think the cushions saved you. Are you in pain, dear?"

"No, Meg. Only my head aches, and I feel shaken."

"That is to be expected, dearest. Most fortunately we have a doctor here and he says that you must lie still for a while. Then you will be all right again. Now don't worry about anything. Just keep still."

"But, Meg, the car is broken. How shall we get to Taviton?"

"I have my car here," put in Rendle. "It is only a two-seater, but quite reliable. I shall be very happy to drive you on. And we can stop at the inn at Croxford, four miles front here, and send a carriage back for your daughter and the maid."

"That is very kind of you, sir," said his patient gratefully.

Meg did not speak, but the look on her face would have been ample reward, had the trouble been ten times what it really was.

Rendle stood up.

"I will fetch my car," he said to Meg. "Your mother will be quite fit to be moved by the time I have brought it up from the bridge."

She was. When Rendle came back with the car she was sitting up. Her color had become more natural, and she declared that her headache was passing off.

"Is the damaged car your own?" asked Rendle.

"No," the girl answered. "It is one we hired in Exeter."

"A horrid old thing!" she added emphatically. "The brakes have been wrong since we started."

"Hardly the sort of vehicle for touring on Dartmoor," said Rendle drily. "Well it will need a block and tackle to right her, and the help of several men. I had better send a wire to Croxford to the garage for assistance. Meantime Andrews can mount guard."

"That will be quite the best plan," said the girl. "Have you a pencil? I will give you the address of the garage."

He gave her pencil and an old envelope, and she wrote the address. He noticed with pleasure that her handwriting was as neat and dainty as everything else about her.

"I ought to tell you," she said, as she handed him back the envelope and pencil, "that my mother's name is Mrs. Denby. And I—I am Margaret Chester."

For an instant a horrid fear clutched Rendle's heart. Was she married? But a glance at her left hand reassured him.

"My name is Rendle," he answered with a smile. "Alan Rendle. And now that we are quite introduced I had better hurry on. The hills are steep all the way from here to Croxford, and though my little car will not make much of them a carriage will take some time."

He gave Mrs. Denby his arm and helped her into the car. Then, as he slipped past her into his driving seat, he lifted his hat.

"Goodbye, Miss Chester, or rather—au revoir."

"Au revoir," she answered gaily, "and thanks a thousand times for all your kindness."


THE stout little car made light of the hills, and though Rendle wisely restrained her speed within due limits, it was barely a quarter of an hour before he pulled up in front of the hotel at Croxford. Originally a tiny fishing inn, the house had been added to at various times until it stretched for over a hundred feet along the roadside, facing the Cross Brook, which tumbled noisily among its boulders, with only the road and a strip of grass between it and the front of the inn.

Mr. Coppin, the landlord, was at the door almost before Rendle reached it. A stout, cheery looking individual, with curly white hair and a humorous eye, he recognised Rendle instantly.

"Back in Devonshire again, doctor? That's good. Hope you brought your rod this time."

"Fancy your remembering me!" smiled Rendle as he shook hands. "It's years since I was last here. Yes, I have brought a rod, but I have something else to do than use it just now. There has been an accident on Danesmeet Hill. Car upset. No, fortunately, no one hurt, but the car is done for, and I want to known if you can send and pick up two of the passengers and their luggage."

"Why, I expect we can manage that, sir.

"James," he shouted. "James!"

A man came hurrying from the direction of the stables and touched his cap.

"James, put the horses into the waggonette," said his master, "and drive to Danesmeet. You are to pick up two passengers and luggage from a broken-down car. Smart now! They won't want to be sitting all day by the roadside.

"And you come in, sir," he continued, "you and the lady. A cup o' tea won't be amiss, I'll warrant."

"I'm afraid that Mr. Denby wants to get on to Taviton," said Rendle. "But I'll ask her."

"What do you say to a cup of tea, Mrs. Denby? The evenings are light, and it is only seven miles from Taviton."

"Indeed, it sounds very tempting, Dr. Rendle," replied Mrs. Denby, in her soft tired voice. "I think it might be just as well if we waited here for Meg."

"Good! Then we'll stay, Mr. Coppin."

The landlord led the way into the big, airy coffee-room, and presently a real Devonshire tea was set before them. None of your cut bread and butter, but a great crusty loaf, a half pound pat of butter, a bowl of Devonshire cream and jam of three different kinds. The tea, in a big brown pot, was hot and strong.

Rendle's appetite, sharpened by the brisk moorland air, was keen, But poor Mrs. Denby could eat little. Rendle left her on a sofa in the drawing room and went outside to smoke a cigarette and wait for the carriage.

Before long he saw the two black horse come trotting down the hill, and in spite of himself his heart beat a little faster as he went forward to help Meg Chester out. Her first question was for her mother, and she was plainly relieved to hear that she was as well as she was.

"I was afraid the shock might have upset her badly," said the girl rather seriously. "She has not been at all well lately. Indeed, that is why I insisted on this little tour."

"I don't think you need worry about any ill-effects," declared Rendle. "She has had a cup of tea, and now is resting. Tell me, what are your plans?"

"To go on to Taviton if the carriage can take us. We are expected. Mr. Gerald Denby my step-father's son is there."

James, the driver, cut in.

"I'm afraid 'tis too much for the horses to go on to Taviton to-night, miss. They've been in there already to-day."

"And you have no others?"

"No, miss—no others."

"That rather puts the hat on it," said Rendle. "I wish my car were bigger. I will tell you what, Miss Chester. I could take your mother in and come back for you."

Meg Chester laughed. "Evidently your real name must he Don Quixote, Dr. Rendle. No, indeed, you have done enough for us already. If we can get beds we must stay the night here."

"I will find out for you," said Rendle promptly. "Meantime I will order tea for you. I am sure you want it."

He took her in, the dark-haired maid following with the wraps; then he hurried off to Mr. Coppin, whom he found in the bar.

"Rooms—oh yes, sir. I expect we can arrange that," was Coppin's cheery answer. "We're not so full as usual at this season. Let me see. It's four you'll want."

So it was arranged, and Rendle, as he went back to the drawing room, could have shouted like a boy with delight at the idea that he would be spending the night under the same roof as Meg Chester.

He told them what he had settled. Then, not liking to seem to intrude, went off, got out his rod and whipped the stream until it was time to come and change for dinner.

He found that Coppin had placed them all three at the same table, and with Mrs. Denby as the most charming of chaperones it was a delightful meal. Margaret Chester's brains were quite equal to her beauty. She talked well about many things, but the conversation was general, and all that Rendle learnt about her personal history was that she was evidently familiar with South Africa.

Gerald Denby was mentioned by Mrs. Denby. She said she feared that he would be anxious at their failure to appear.

Meg answered quickly. "Don't worry, mother. I got the evening postman to take a telegram up to Moorlands. It will be all right."

After dinner they went back to the lounge, a low-roofed hall. The door was wide open, and the pleasant plash of the river came to their ears through the moonlight.

Mrs. Denby, though she tried to make light of it, was evidently still feeling the effects of her accident, and very soon went up to bed.

Her daughter went with her, but came down again to find Rendle standing in the porch.

"Will you venture?" he said motioning with his hand towards the brook, a riband of light under the brilliant moon.

"I should like to," she answered, and they went out together.

Not a breath of wind was stirring. It was a perfect June night. Bats hawked for moths over the river, now and then uttering their thin, high cries. Somewhere in the distance a belated curlew wheeled on high, calling weirdly at intervals. These and the soft drone of the river were the only sound that broke the warm stillness.

They walked as far as the parapet of the bridge and leaned over, watching the white streaks of foam swim out of the light into the gloom of the arch. Meg at least watched them. Rendle was covertly admiring the perfect profile of his companion, and the strange way in which the moonlight illuminated her coronal of hair, turning the spun gold into a silvery halo.

At last Meg raised her eyes. "You are very silent, Dr. Rendle. What are you thinking of?"

"I was thinking of a curious coincidence," he answered, "of the fact that when I first saw you, only a few hours ago, I was leaning over a bridge just like this. Only then I was feeling bored and very lonely. Now—" did not finish his sentence, but his silence was more eloquent than words.

"Indeed, I am glad to make any return for your kindness," the girl said gently. "But tell me, why were you bored and lonely?"

"I was bored because I was lonely, and I was lonely because my chum, John Dennison, was suddenly called back to town yesterday. He and I were to have spent a fortnight together, but an inconsiderate client of his—Dennison is a lawyer—chose this moment to fall ill, and sent for him in a hurry to make her will."

"That was very bad luck. So now you are left alone?"

"I was," said Rendle with emphasis.

Miss Chester laughed softly. "But to-morrow will be lonely again. You forget that we are leaving in the morning. Mr. Denby will be expecting us at Taviton."

Rendle caught a slight change in her voice, as she mentioned the name of Denby.

"He is your step-brother, you said."

"He is my step-father's son," she corrected, and now Rendle was sure.

"You don't like him?" he said impulsively.

Meg Chester raised her head and gave him a quick look. For a moment he thought she was offended.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I had no business to say that."

"And yet," answered Meg slowly, "and yet you are perfectly right."

Rendle waited, watching her face.

"No, I do not like him," she continued.

Suddenly she stood straight up. "Dr. Rendle," she said, with sudden earnestness. "What do you, as a doctor think of my mother?"

Rendle was not a little astonished at this unexpected question. But he answered almost at once. "I think, so far as I can judge, that she is a woman with a naturally sound constitution, yet at present in somewhat impaired health."

Meg nodded. "She was as strong as possible up to three years ago, and people used to say that she did not look old enough to be my mother. But that was before she met Mr. Denby."

She broke off suddenly. "I don't know why I am talking to you like this," she said half wonderingly.

"Believe me, Miss Chester, I am very much honored by your confidence," Rendle replied with a formal air which became him very well. "And," he added, "you can remember, if you wish, that I am a doctor, and accustomed to confidences."

"Perhaps that is why I feel that I can talk to you," she said.

"I haven't had anybody to talk to since my own father died," she added rather sadly, "and that is more than three years ago."

She paused a moment, and then went on.

"He was an Englishman who went to South Africa in the early days. He was one of Cecil Rhodes' men, and made a great deal of money in diamonds. We lived near Kimberley, and we were so happy, just he and mother and I. Then he got fever—caught it on a shooting trip down in Natal—and died quite suddenly.

"That was bad enough, but not so bad as what came after. Mr. Denby was a lawyer who lived in Kimberley. He had done a little business for father, and that was how we came to know him. After father's death he began to come to the house very often. I never liked him, but he seemed to fascinate mother. Honestly I do not think she liked him any better than I did, and I was simply horrified when I heard that she was going to marry him."

She paused again and sighed.

"But I could not stop it. They were married and that—that is the reason why mother looks so tired and ill."

She had left a good deal unsaid, but Rendle was easily able to fill up the gaps. It was the old story. A weak, amiable woman fascinated by a scoundrel who marries her for her money and then throws all pretence of affection overboard.

"And where is Mr. Denby now?" he asked presently.

"In South Africa. He went out on business some months ago, and is to be back in July."

She rose suddenly. "I must be going in. Mother will be wondering what has become of me."

Rendle did not try to stop her. There were a dozen questions he would like to have asked, but he did not wish to force her confidence. She had told him a great deal already. He accompanied her into the hotel, lighted her candle for her and said good-night, then went out again to sit on the bridge in the moonlight, and smoke and weave those happy dreams that come to a man only once in his lifetime.


NEXT morning Mrs. Denby was not so well, and Rendle, asked by Meg to see her, felt compelled to prescribe a day's rest in bed. He had half fancied that Meg might imagine that his advise was not altogether disinterested, but no idea of the sort seemed to enter her head. On the contrary, she looked rather relieved.

"I will send another telegram to Mr. Gerald Denby," she said. "He can just wait or not, as he pleases. In any case. I am quite sure that this place will suit us much better than Taviton."

"If you will write the telegram I will take it up to the post office in the car," said Rendle. "You, too," he added, with a smile, "if you care to come."

"I should like to very much. Holmes could look after mother for a little while."

"Then get a coat, and I will be ready as soon as you are," said Rendle.

The day was brilliant, and Rendle enjoyed every minute of the run across the hills. Meg, too, if he was not much mistaken, took equal pleasure in the little trip. Latter, they lunched together, and by this time Rendle felt as though he had known her a year instead of rather less than twenty-four hours. Also, for he was a man not given to self deception, he realised quite clearly that he was very deeply in love with Meg Chester.

In the afternoon Meg went to sit with her mother, while Rendle, taking his rod, strolled happily down the river. But the water was as clear as the air, and there was no breeze to speak of. He caught nothing sizeable, and about four gave it up and came back to tea.

As he was putting his rod up in the rack in the hall, he heard the purr of a powerful engine and a rakish two-seater, with a long bonnet and disc wheels, glided over the bridge and pulled up in front of the hotel.

There was only one person in it, a young man of about Rendle's age, but certainly not resembling him in any other particular. As he got out Rendle saw that he was tall, rather thin and extremely well dressed—a little too well dressed in fact. He looked as if he had put himself in the hands of a smart tailor with orders to fit him out regardless. Everything about him was a little too new and a little too expensive.

Next moment Rendle heard him inquiring of the waiter for Miss Chester, and knew—what he had already suspected—that this was no other than Gerald Denby himself.

He muttered something under his breath that was certainly not a blessing, and just then Meg herself came down the stairs.

"Halloa, Meg," said the new-comer, stalking forward and offering his hand. "You all right?"

"I am very well, thank you, Gerald," replied Meg, with a strong emphasis on the personal pronoun.

"Ah, yes. It was your mother came to grief. Hope she's not much damaged. I got your wire, and was bored to tears at Taviton, thought I'd run over. I wired for a room."

Watching Meg, Rendle's heart leaped, for he distinctly saw a shade cross her face as Denby made this announcement. Next moment she had turned to him.

"Gerald, this is Dr. Rendle, who brought my mother here after the accident, and has been very kind to us."

"How do?" said Denby, in a tone so casual it made Rendle's blood boil. "Thanks for looking after them. I'll be able to take 'em off your hands now. What say to a run in the car, Meg? Do you good, eh?"

"Thank you, Gerald," Meg replied coldly. "You forget that I have mother to look after.

"I shall see you at dinner," she added.

She turned away.

Gerald Denby's eyes narrowed. They were curious eyes, greenish in hue and set close on either side of a high bridged nose. Rendle realised that, in spite of the vacuous air assumed by the man, he was by no means a fool. At that moment he had a curious premonition which his brain laughed at, while at the same time it was deeply registered by his subjective mind.

Without a word, Denby turned away and drove his car into the garage. Rendle did not see him again until dinner, when he found him seated at the same table with himself and Meg.

Inwardly Rendle raged; outwardly he set himself to show no sign of these feelings, and in this he succeeded so well that very soon he and Meg had a monopoly of the conversation. Young Denby hardly troubled to conceal his sulkiness, and applied himself principally to the bottle of champagne which he had ordered and which the others politely refused to share.

Rendle had his reward for his efforts to make things pleasant. After dinner Meg succeeded in slipping away, and Rendle presently found her seated on the bridge parapet.

For a time neither spoke. Rendle was quite content merely to be near her. Meg was the first to break the silence.

"Now, perhaps, you understand why I dislike Gerald Denby," she said quite suddenly.

"I understood that as soon as I set eyes on him," replied Rendle quietly, "but let us talk of something more pleasant. Do you fish at all?"

"A very little."

"If your mother is well enough, will you come out with me to-morrow morning?"

"I should like to very much."

"Very well. I will have everything ready after breakfast."

He began to tell her about his fishing trips when, at a boy, he and his father had tramped together all over the moor. She was interested, and an hour passed quickly. Then she rose, telling him that she must go and say good night to her mother.

There was no sign of Denby in the lounge. Rendle though it probable that he was in the bar. But a little later, going into the smoking-room, he found him there, lounging in the most comfortable chair, a cigarette between his lips, and a pink paper in his hands.

He looked up as Rendle entered, and lowered his paper.

"Hulloa!" he said, "pleasant in the moonlight, isn't it?"

The words were nothing in themselves. It was the tone in which they were uttered.

Rendle stiffened.

"Just exactly what do you mean by that, Mr. Denby?"

Denby's eyes glittered unpleasantly. "I might mean to warn you to keep off other folk's preserves," he answered deliberately.

Rendle stared at him a moment in silence.

"You have said either too much or too little, Mr. Denby. Am I to understand that you are engaged to Miss Chester?"

"You are," snapped back Denby.


IF Gerald Denby had expected his answer to be final, he was disappointed. Rendle did not move, but stood where he was, watching the other with level eyes.

"Now that is curious," he said quietly, "curious because I always thought it took two to make a bargain of that sort."

"What do you mean?" demand Denby, an angry color flushing his sallow cheeks.

"Just this—that Miss Chester does not seem to share your opinion."

Denby flung down his paper, and sprang to his feet.

"What business is this of yours?" he cried furiously. "Who asked you to interfere? I don't know you. I don't want to know you."

"My dear sir," replied Rendle, "let me assure you that the wish is mutual."

Denby's face was scarlet, his fists were clenched, his temper had gone to the winds, and it seemed for the moment as though he would fling himself on the other.

But Rendle never moved. Rendle was not a big man, nor at first sight a very powerful one. Yet there was something in the perfect poise of his well-knit figure, in this calm, level gaze which daunted Denby.

"You—you—!" Denby spluttered, like an angry rat, Rendle watched him for a moment or two.

"When you have recovered your temper, Mr. Denby," he remarked, in a slightly contemptuous tone, "then we will finish our conversation. For the present, I wish you good night."

"Good Lord! Think of Meg marrying that cub!" he said to himself, as he lighted his candle and proceeded upstairs. "If his father is anything like his hopeful progeny I'm sorry for poor Mrs. Denby."

He lay awake for some little time, thinking things over, but he did not allow young Denby's wrath to disturb him unduly, and presently went peacefully to sleep.

He had asked to be called at seven, for he and Meg were to breakfast at eight so as to catch the first rise of fly on the river. She was punctual, and he noted with delight, the soft flush with which she greeted him. She was dressed in her favorite grey, and her short skirt and well-cut Norfolk jacket looked thoroughly neat and workmanlike.

"Mother seems much better this morning," she said brightly. "This place is doing her good."

"It seems as if it were doing you good, too," he answered with a smile. "You look as fresh as the morn."

"That is very charming of you, Mr. Rendle, for certainly I never saw a more perfect morning."

"Almost too perfect for fishing," answered Rendle as he took the cup of coffee she had poured out for him. "We shall have to go down to Double Waters before we begin. There may be a little color there. Up here the pools are—to use the local expression clear as gin."

Rendle was right about the water. Even a mile below, where the volume of the Cross Brook was increased by its injunction with the Stonelake, there was hardly a shade of color, and every rock at the bottom was plainly visible. So, too, were the trout, as Rendle pointed out.

"Do you know that I have never caught a trout in my in my life?" Meg told him as she took the rod, which he had put together for her.

"A defect in your education which will soon be remedied," he laughed. "There is a nice little breeze blowing up stream. Look, it is just beginning to ruffle the water. Now I want to see if you can cast. Like this," he explained.

He dropped on one knee, and with that delicate wrist work, which only the practised fly fisherman can attain, sent his line straight out across the pool. The flies dropped light as feathers across the stickle at the head.

"Oh, you have got a fish!" cried Meg as the line tightened.

"A fingerling," he answered, as he lifted out a tiny six-incher, and unhooking it, dropped it carefully back into the water.

"Now you try."

Naturally, she began by tangling her cast, and naturally, too, their heads were very close as they worked together at untangling it. Once or twice their fingers touched, and each time a thrill ran through Rendle's whole body.

But she proved an apt pupil, and within half an hour was able to put a straight, if short, line on to the water. Rendle did not fish himself. It was such a joy to stand by her and show her where to take up her position, the spot in the pool where the trout might be expected to lie, and now and then even to guide her arm as she cast.

The sun shone brilliantly, humble bees boomed in the heather, dainty little sandpipers flitted from rock to rock, calling continually, and once a water ouzel, perched on a stone under the far bank, sang its sweet, quaint song. Nature was at its best, and not a human being was in sight. It was one of those days which a man remembers all his life, and Rendle consciously enjoyed every moment of it.

At last she insisted that he must fish, and to satisfy her, he took his rod and tried the next pool below the one where he was fishing. Here he hooked a nice fish of almost a quarter of a pound, which put up a fight far stronger than that of a chalk stream trout of double the weight. Presently its struggles began to slacken, and he climbed down the bank and had just got out his landing net when he was startled by a cry from Meg.

"Oh, I've got a fish. I've got a fish, Mr. Rendle."

"Hold on. I'm coming," he cried, and whipping up his own fish into the net, left rod and net and fish on the shingle, and sprang back up the bank.

Meg had got a fish! There was no doubt about that. With the curious luck which so frequently follows the beginner, whether at cards or angling, she had chanced to hook a trout which appeared to be well over a pound in weight, a veritable monster for a moorland brook.

"Not so tight. Give him line," he cried as he ran towards her.

In his excitement he never saw that she was dangerously near the edge of the overhanging bank, and naturally it was the last thing that she herself was likely to notice. Rendle got the shock of his life when, without the slightest warning, the peaty soil gave way, and with paralysing suddenness Meg disappeared from sight.

He reached the edge just in time to see her vanish under the surface, and the spray flung up by her fall had hardly dropped back before he, too, was in the water.

All these pools are full of jagged rocks and great granite boulders. Rendle's main fear was lest Meg might have struck one in her fall, and for the moment his suspense was almost unbearable. He could have shouted aloud with relief when he saw her rise and begin at once to strike out.

"All right!" he cried, as he got his hands under her arms from behind. "Let yourself go. I'll manage."

"It's—it's not going to be easy to manage," she panted. "The banks are as steep as a wall."

She was right. The pool was long, deep, and rather narrow, and the flood-worn banks of black shiny peat were seven or eight feet high. There was no hand-hold of any sort.

"Never mind," he answered cheerily. "We must just swim down to the lower end. We'll get out there all right." As he spoke he struck out, pushing her gently in front of him.

"I can swim," she protested.

"I know. But don't try yet. Just take it easy."

He spoke quietly, but he knew what she did not—that the worst of it was all before them. The outlet from the pool was a narrow gut with a mill race current, and half blocked by boulders. He had seen it from below, and knew they would have to go through it before reaching the comparative safety of the wider, shallower pool, where he had left his rod.

In a minute or less they reached the lower end of the pool. Meg turned her head.

"Have we got to go through that?" she asked. There was no trace of panic in her voice, yet Rendle realised that she fully understood the danger.

"I am afraid we have to," he answered. "We can't get out until we reach the lower pool."

"You must hold on to my shoulders," he continued. "I am going first."

"It will be too much for you," she urged. "Let me go alone. Really, I am quite a good swimmer."

"Just do what you are told, please," he answered with a smile, and without further demur she obeyed.

It was fortunate that the river was so low. In anything like a flood the channel would have been impassable. As it was, the dull roar of the pent current forcing its way among the dark colored boulders was anything but encouraging. But it would not improve by waiting, and Rendle did not wait.

A couple of strokes took him to the entrance of the run, and instantly the current seized them, and sent them flying down the steep chute at a tremendous pace. For the first few yards the channel was straight enough. Then a big rock appeared dead ahead, its blunt head rising just above the surface and swinging the whole stream to the right. The water boiled in a sharp eddy from which there was no escape.

"Hold tight!" cried Rendle, and almost before the words were out of his mouth the eddy had them. He fought desperately, but found himself helpless in the grip of the whirlpool. He was spun around, pulled right under, then, as he came up again, flung against another rock under the right bank with stunning force.

All the breath was knocked out of him, and he had only just strength to fend off blindly and strike out once more into the open water to the left.

What happened after that he hardly knew. He had the sensation of spinning dizzily round and round, with the roar of water in his ears. Then his outstretched fingers met something solid and gripped and held it desperately.

"We are safe—we are quite safe." It was Meg's voice in his ear. With a great effort he collected his scattered senses, and found himself clinging to a broad shelf of rock near the head of the lower pool.

"It is not deep. I can reach the bottom," went on Meg. "Wait, I will give you a hand."

He felt himself relieved of her weight, and dropping his own feet found himself standing in about four feet of water. But he was horribly dizzy and weak as a rat.

Meg scrambled quickly up on to the rock, got hold of his hands and pulled vigorously. With her help he was soon on the rock. But next moment his head began to spin, and he dropped in a heap.

"You are hurt! Oh, you are hurt!" Meg's voice shook, and her face, as she bent over him, was suddenly full of fright.

"It's—it's nothing—nothing at all. I—I'm so sorry," he stammered, and would have struggled to his feet, but Meg gently pushed him back.

"Don't be foolish," she said, and her voice was very low and soft. "Lie quiet still. Your head is cut. I will tie it up."

"My head cut!" he repeated, putting his hand to his forehead. "It's the first I knew of it. It must have been when I butted into that rock."

"That was it," she answered, as she made a neat pad of her own handkerchief and laid it over the cut. "It is bleeding quite badly."

"Let me have your handkerchief," she continued. "No, do not move, I can reach it."

Her face was quite near to his as she slipped her hand into his coat pocket and took out his handkerchief. He could feel her warm breath on his cheeks. Her wet hair hung loose about her, and her face was slightly flushed with exertion and excitement. She looked so distractingly lovely that Rendle suddenly lost his head.

"Meg!" he breathed. "Meg!" and suddenly reaching up, drew her down to him and kissed her lips.

For an instant—an instant only—she seemed to resist, then she was in his arms.

"Meg, oh Meg, is it true?" he whispered. "Do you mean it?"

She released herself gently. Her face was scarlet, yet her eyes were steady.

"Is it not I who ought to ask that?" she replied.

"Mean it?" he repeated passionately. "Meg, I have loved you from the moment I first set eyes upon you on Danesmeet Bridge. I knew then that you were the one woman in the world for me. Do you care? Do you really care?"

"I—I am afraid I do." And now for the first time her voice was not quite so steady.

"Afraid, dearest? Never say that! You have made me the happiest man in the whole world, and if I can make you half so happy I shall never have any thing to regret."

She shook he head.

"That is not the question, Alan," she answered. "You are letting yourself in for troubles of which at present you know nothing. I mean it. Indeed, I am speaking nothing but the truth."

Rendle laughed. "All the more reason why you should have someone to look after you," he declared cheerfully.

He paused a moment.

"Dearest," he said more gravely, "whatever these troubles are, I ask nothing better than to be allowed to share them or bear them for you. And you know—you know, don't you, that, like you, I am speaking the truth."

"I do," she answered very softly. "Indeed I do." And stooping, kissed him of her own accord.


"I THINK, Meg," said Rendle, with a twinkle in his eyes, "that, under the circumstances, we might slip in the back way."

She laughed. "I was going to suggest that myself."

"I shall see your mother as soon as I have changed," Rendle announced, a moment or two later.

Meg turned to him quickly.

"To tell her, you mean?"

"Just so."

She shook her head.

"No, Alan, You had better leave that to me," she answered, with that quiet decision which was part of her charm.

"Is that not rather reversing the usual order of things?" he chaffed.

"I was not thinking of that; I was thinking of her," Meg answered. "Her nerves are in such a state that I think you had better leave it to me."

"You may be right, dearest. Shall we meet at lunch?"

She hesitated.

"You are thinking of Gerald?" he said quickly. "But he has got to know sooner or later. And I think the sooner the better."

"I am afraid there will be a terrible upset," Meg replied, frowning a little.

"You can safely leave him to me," said Rendle quietly. "Well, here we are. Good-bye, my darling. Get rid of those wet things at once, and I am going to prescribe five grains of quinine, just to be on the safe side. You may as well realise at once what it means to be engaged to a doctor man."

She laughed, and ran in the back way. Rendle slipped in after her and went off to his room. In spite of his aching head, he felt as if he were treading on air.

When the two met again at lunch neither showed any signs of the morning's events except that there was a small piece of sticking-plaster on Rendle's forehead.

"Mother is not coming down," Meg whispered.

"And Denby is not in. He has gone out in his car," said Rendle.

Meg gave a little sigh of relief. "Mother will see you afterwards in her room," she told him.

"Is she very much upset?"

"I am afraid she is. You must be very gentle with her, Alan."

"Trust me," he said, and then the waiter appeared with the menu, and they began to talk of more ordinary topics.

Afterwards, he found Mrs. Denby sitting in a chair by the open window in her room. A tray was beside her, but apparently she had hardly touched her luncheon, and he saw with a pang of compassion that she had been crying.

He went straight up to her, and took both hands in his.

"Mrs. Denby," he said gently, "this won't do. Surely—surely there is nothing for you to be upset about."

She tried to speak, but her lips quivered. "Ah, but you do not know, Dr. Rendle. You do not understand."

"On the contrary, I understand very well. You think that Mr. Gerald Denby will be angry and make trouble. But why should you allow such a consideration to weigh you? You must know that Meg actually dislikes Gerald, and that such a man could never under any circumstances make her happy. Do you not realise this?"

She looked up at him, and with an evident effort controlled her motion.

"I do. Indeed I do. And—and in a way I am glad, for I know from what Meg says that she loves you, and I believe that you love her."

"Be sure of that," put in Rendle quickly. "Be quite sure of it, Mrs. Denby."

"I am, Dr. Rendle. Indeed, I do feel sure Meg is not the sort of girl to allow any man to make love to her unless she felt quite certain both of him and of herself. And I, too, like you, Dr. Rendle. I feel that you are a man whom any woman might trust." She paused and sighed deeply.

"And yet I am very uneasy," she went on. "You see, Mr. Denby—my husband—has set his heart upon the match between Gerald and Margaret. He will be very—very angry. And I—I have had to put up with so much anger of late."

Her voice shook, the tears started again, and she could not continue. Rendle was filled with pity for this poor, weak, kindly woman, who had allowed a scoundrel to make such havoc of her life.

"But surely," he said very gently—"surely Mr. Denby must know that he cannot control the destinies of other people in this fashion?"

"You don't know him, Dr. Rendle," she answered pitifully. "If you did, you would understand better. And besides, in a way, he can control Margaret's destiny—at least so far as her fortune is concerned."

Rendle smiled.

"My dear Mrs. Denby, if that is all that troubles you, pray cheer up. I am in love with Meg, not her money. And I am not a pauper by any means. I have about four hundred a year of my own and my income from my practice is nearly twice that. I assure you that Meg will not lack for anything, even if she comes to me without a penny."

Mrs. Denby sighed again.

"I am glad you are so well off, Dr. Rendle," she said. "At the same time it does not seem fair that Margaret should be deprived of what should be rightfully hers. And—and," she faltered, "it is, I fear all my fault."

"Mrs. Denby," begged Rendle. "Be content to leave everything in my hands and I assure you that all will be well."

There was a quiet strength about him which comforted the poor lady.

"I—I will try," she answered. "And—and—I do believe that you will make Margaret happy."

"I am going to do my best, I promise you that," he declared. "And now may I tell her that we have your consent to our engagement?"

She smiled through her tears. "Yes, Dr. Rendle, for what it is worth you have my consent. You may tell her that."

Rendle's face was eager as he made his way downstairs. He felt that the first step was gained, and he did not anticipate any particular difficulty in dealing with Gerald Denby or his father. Denby senior at any rate was out of England, so he could not interfere actively for the present.

The lounge, as he reached it, was empty. On such a fine day as this every soul in the hotel was out fishing, walking or riding. He looked round for Meg, and was rather surprised at not seeing her. Suddenly he heard voices from behind a closed door to the left, and listening, caught Gerald Denby's tones raised in anger.

The door was that of the so-called drawing-room, a room that was, however, rarely used, and in half a dozen steps Rendle had reached it.

"Why, you've only known the fellow for forty-eight hours," were the words that came to his ears as he turned the handle. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Meg."

Denby, hearing the door open, swung round angrily. His face was black with passion, and his close-set eyes gleamed unpleasantly. He was standing between the door and Meg, cutting her off from any chance of leaving the room.

Rendle's blood boiled, but he was a man long trained to self-control and neither by face nor voice did he give any indication of his feelings.

"Meg," he said quietly, "your mother wants you. I feel sure that Mr. Denby will excuse you."

She hesitated a moment, glancing from one man to the other, but apparently Rendle's calmness gave her confidence, and she walked to the door which he was holding open for her.

"Be careful, Alan," she begged in a whisper, as she paused out.

"I will," he assured her, in an equally low tone, and closed the door behind her.

Gerald Denby swung round upon him.

"You cursed fortune hunter!" he said coarsely.

Rendle merely smiled.

"Isn't the boot on the other foot, Mr. Denby?" he suggested, then, as he saw Gerald's features working with fury, he shook his head.

"I am afraid that you are not in any better temper than you were last night," he continued. "And as I make a rule of never entering into a discussion with an angry man, it seems that our conversation must be again deferred."

He was turning when Gerald strode forward and grasped him by the arm. Instantly Rendle shook himself free.

"Don't do that again," he said, and low as his voice was, even Gerald recognised the danger note in it. "I don't want a brawl. Still less do I want to thrash anyone who is in any way connected with my future wife. But I give you a fair warning that if you can't behave decently I shall do my best to give you a badly neglected lesson. You quite understand?"

Nothing so thoroughly daunts an angry man as an adversary who keeps complete control of his temper. Gerald stepped back suddenly.

"I give you my word she won't have a penny," he said viciously.

"And yet you have just called me a fortune hunter!" returned Rendle. "Surely you are a little self-contradictory!"

Gerald was panting with baffled rage.

"What do you want to come butting in for?" he demanded.

Rendle gazed at him thoughtfully.

"Can't I get it into your head that I am in love with Miss Chester, and that I mean to marry her?" he said patiently. "Since I have her consent and that of her mother, there is really no need for anyone else to interfere with the matter. Please realize this, and make up your mind that I will stand no further interference from any outsiders."

"Outsiders, eh?" cried Gerald, his rage flaming up again. "You haven't reckoned with my father. He is her guardian, and I'll lay you anything you like you won't get his consent."

He strode to the door.

"I'm going to cable to him at once, do you hear? He'll be here at once, do you hear? He'll be here in three weeks. Then you'll see what will happen."


MEG waylaid Alan outside her mother's room.

"What has happened, Alan?" she asked anxiously. "You—you did not—?"

"We didn't come to fisticuffs, if that is what you mean, dearest," replied Rendle, reassuringly. "You must not be in the least uneasy. Master Gerald has gone off in a huff, and I rather fancy we have seen the last of him for the present."

"Gone off—left?" repeated Meg.

"Yes, bag and baggage. I watched him out of the smoking-room window. He announced that he was going to cable to his father, but quite what good that will do him I fail to see. Now don't look anxious. Your step-father has no legal hold upon you, whatever."

"But he has, Alan. He has all our money in his hands."

"Oh, I know that. His hopeful son was careful to inform me of that fact. But, Meg, darling, you must not give a thought to that. As I have already told your mother, I am not a pauper. As a matter of fact, I am going to be quite scandalously rich if my practice goes on increasing as it has of late. You are not to let the question of £ s. d. trouble your pretty head for a single moment."

"You are very—very good to me, Alan," she answered gratefully. "At the same time I do not like to come to you empty handed. I ought not to, indeed, for some of my father's money should surely have to come to me."

"We can go into that later, Meg. If there is anything to come to you, my friend, Denison, will see to it. But I want to ask you not to worry about what is no fault of your own. Just set your mind at rest, and feel sure that all will be well."

But Meg's face was still clouded.

"I feel so selfish," she said. "So far as If am concerned, I know that I am safe in your hands. It is mother I am thinking of. Alan, you do not know Mr. Denby. He is much more capable and much more dangerous than Gerald, and if Gerald has cabled him he will come at once. Of that I am quite sure."

Rendle frowned a little, and remained silent a moment.

"Gerald said he would be here in three weeks," he said presently. "Certainly he cannot get back from the Cape in less time than that. Look here, Meg, why shouldn't we make ourselves safe before he arrives?"

"Make ourselves safe?" questioned Meg, puzzled.

"Yes—get married, at once, Now don't be startled. If you will only think it over, you will see that it is quite the wisest thing that we can do. I could get a special licence, we could be married at Taviton at the end of the week, and then simply carry on with our holiday."

Meg had first flushed, then turned pale.

"But—but—" she began.

"No buts!" broke in Rendle. "Meg you must see that it is by far our wisest course. Once we are married, all the Denbys in the world can't do us any harm. You need never see either of them again if you don't wish to. Trust me, dearest, I will manage everything."

His face was alight. He carried her away by his enthusiasm. Still she did not yield without a struggle.

"You are forgetting mother, Alan," she insisted.

"Not at all. We can leave her here for a day or two, in charge of your maid. Then we will come back for her and take her up to town with us. She can stay with us just as long as you wish. It isn't as if I had not a house. I have quite a decent little place on Campden Hill, and it is full of furniture which my father left me. I have a housekeeper, who will have everything ready for us."

There was no gainsaying him, and after a time Meg went so far as to say that, if her mother gave her consent, she herself would not refuse.

Rendle glanced up and down the passage. There was no one in sight. He drew her to him and kissed her.

"Now I am going to talk to your mother," he announced. "Then I shall drive to Taviton, take the evening train to town, and be back with the licence by to-morrow night."

"You take my breath away, Alan," said Meg, but she smiled as she said it. And Rendle, seeing the look in her deep, grey eyes, was satisfied.

Alan Rendle had not boasted when he assured Meg Chester that she could safely leave everything to him. A man of his age does not become a smart West End doctor unless he has energy and qualities quite out of the ordinary.

Even so, the amount which he got through within the next twenty four hours was really astonishing. Arriving at his house about six o'clock in the morning, he had a bath, a shave, and breakfast. He then telephoned to John Denison to expect him at his office at ten.

Denison was naturally surprised to hear that Rendle was back in town so soon, but Rendle refused to satisfy his curiosity, telling him that he could prepare himself for a shock when they met.

Next, he called up a big firm of decorators, and asked them to send him a representative to meet him at Paddington waiting-room at twelve o'clock, and after they had promised to do so, had up his cook-housekeeper, a worthy old dame, named Mrs. Summers, and gently broke the news that he was going to get married.

She took it better than he had expected, and promised to remain on at any rate until he brought his bride home.

"If you do that you won't leave at all," he told her with a laugh. "You will fall in love with the future Mrs. Rendle, just as I have done."

"That's as may be, sir," she answered rather grimly. "Not that you wouldn't choose a nice young lady, I'm sure," she added.

A taxi took him to his bank. Rendle had never been a spendthrift, and he had a handsome balance to his credit.

He drew a rather large sum, then drove to Doctors Commons for his licence. Eventually he paid off the taxi at the door of Denison's office in John-street.

There was a very pleasant smile on the strong, ugly face of John Denison as he wrung his old friend's hand.

"I'm jolly glad to see you," he declared. "But what brings you back to the village in such a hurry? I thought you were going to stay down in Devonshire for another ten days at least."

"So I am, old man—so I am. I'm going back there this afternoon, and want you to come with me if you can manage it."

"Me! My dear chap, I'm up to the neck in business."

"Can't you spare me two days?"

"What's the use of that!" asked Denison in surprise. "I shouldn't have much more than time to get there and back."

"You'd have time to be my best man," Rendle answered quietly.

Denison stared, round-eyed.

"Are you pulling my leg, or are you going loony?"

"Neither, John. I'm going to be married. I mean it," he continued. "I'm going to be married on Friday. If you don't believe me look at this!"

He planked down the special licence on the office table as he spoke, and followed it by producing a brand new gold wedding ring in its case.

Denison picked up the licence. "Margaret Beatrice Chester," he muttered, and his usually stolid face bore a look of almost piteous amazement.

Rendle saw it, and broke in quickly.

"Don't be worried, old chap. If you could see, Meg, you wouldn't look like that very long. Now, sit tight a minute, and I'll tell you all about it."

He did, beginning with his meeting with Meg on Danesmeet Bridge, and sketching rapidly but fully the events of the past three days.

Denison listened in silence, then put out his hand.

"I congratulate you, Alan. I do really. Only—only it's a bit of a shock, you know."

Rendle was silent for a moment. Though somewhat younger than Denison, he was old enough to know what a shock a man's engagement is to a bachelor friend, and how often—how far too often—marriage means the loosening, if not breaking, of such a tie.

"It won't make any difference, John," he said presently—"not to you and me. Meg isn't that sort."

"I hope it won't," Denison answered gravely. "All right," he said more briskly. "I'll come down and see you through. And now—what about settlements?"

"I shall settle all my own money on Meg, John. That will be simple enough, won't it?"

Denison nodded. "Then I suppose that nothing comes in from her side?"

"Nothing," Alan replied, "This precious step-father of hers controls the purse-strings. So far as I can make out, Mrs. Denby has let him get hold of everything. Mind you, I don't care a bit so far as I am concerned, for with any luck I shall be making more than enough in a year or two's time. But Meg feels it, and her mother is actually kept short. I don't know whether you can do anything, but, you might try. I'll foot the bill."

Denison shook his head. "I don't suppose that anyone can help in the matter, Alan. Still, I will see. And now, the sooner I get to work on these deeds the better—that is, if you want me to come down to-night."

"I do! of course I do. Very well then. I'll take myself off. I've a lot to do still, and I want to catch the one o'clock express from Paddington. Good-bye, or rather au revoir. I'll meet you at Taviton to-morrow morning with the car."


"BUT—but it's all new, Alan. The paint is only dry. And the curtains and carpets and all the coverings—they look to me to be only just out of the shop."

It was the day of their return to London, and the two stood together in the drawing-room of the house in Sheffield Gardens.

Alan smiled at his wife's evident surprise.

"You didn't think I was going to bring you back into a dingy old bachelor establishment, did you, dearest? Of course, it's new, or as new as it could be made in the time. I hope you like it."

"It is delightful," said Meg with enthusiasm. "Perfectly delightful. They are just the colors I should have chosen myself. I love this pale primrose tine for a drawing room.

"But, Alan," she added, suddenly serious, "it must have cost a great deal of money. And I don't like to think that you are spending all this on me, while I have come to you empty-handed."

Alan faced her and laid his hands on her shoulders.

"See here young woman, if you talk in that fashion you and I are going to quarrel. Please remember that it is I who am getting all the best of the bargain."

She smiled up into his face. "You always say the nicest things, Alan. But you frighten me sometimes. I feel that I cannot live up to them."

"Don't be a goose!" said Rendle tenderly. "Now come and look at the rest of the house. Perhaps you won't like it as well as the drawing-room."

But Meg found no fault with anything, and it was a joy to Rendle to see how thoroughly she appreciated every detail. Dinner that night was a most cheerful meal. Alan and Meg were both in the highest spirits, and even Mrs. Denby seemed for the time to have forgotten her troubles. She had already become very fond of her son-in-law, and it was rather pathetic to see the way in which she relied on him, and asked his advice as to every detail.

Next morning Alan started work again. He went off immediately after breakfast, leaving Meg to pick up the threads of domestic management. Mrs. Summers had announced her intention of staying on for the present. A new house-parlor maid and Meg's own maid, Alma Holmes, composed the staff for the present.

"You won't forget that Denison is coming to dinner to-night, Meg?" said Rendle, as hatted and gloved, he stood at the front door.

"No, Alan, I won't forget. And I know just what he likes to eat."

"And drink?" laughed Alan.

"And drink," she repeated. "He's a dear," she added. "I'm going to be very nice to him, Alan."

"All right, I shan't be jealous," replied Alan, and turned to go down the steps.

"One moment, Alan," said Meg. "When will you be back?"

"For luncheon, dearest."

"At one o'clock—not earlier I suppose?"

"No, I shall hardly be in before one," he answered, rather wondering at the extra question. "Good-bye again."

As it happened, he got through his morning rounds somewhat earlier than he had expected, and it was still a quarter to one when he returned to the house. He was just putting his latch-key into the lock when a taxi drove up, and who should get out but Meg herself.

"Hullo, dearest, been shopping?" was his greeting.

"Alan, you told me you would not be in before one," she answered reproachfully, as she came towards him.

"My dear girl, I forgot all about that! But what does it matter? Here, let me take that parcel for you."

She hesitated for a moment, then handed it over.

"It was meant for a surprise," she said rather ruefully.

"I am so sorry, dearest. But as far as that goes, I haven't a notion what's in it. Keep it dark as long as you like."

"No, you may just as well see it now. Come into the study."

She led the way into the snug little den which lay off his consulting room, and taking the parcel from him, cut the string.

Inside was a jewel case locked and sealed. She cut away the seal, and unlocked the case with a key attached to a bangle which she was wearing. As she opened the case a startled exclamation broke from Rendle's lips.

The case lay in a patch of sunshine which came through the window, and the light falling full on the contents of the case, was reflected in such a glow of gorgeous color as was positively bewildering. Every imaginable hue seemed to be represented, from rich reds, blues, yellows, down to delicate pinks and beautiful blue-whites.

The stones which emitted these rays were formed into a necklace which, after a moment's hesitation, Rendle lifted out.

If the reflection had been wonderful while the necklace lay at rest in its case, now they became startlingly lovely. They seemed to fill the whole of the rather dark little room with a spray of flashing light.

"Why—why, they're like a rainbow!" declared Rendle.

"That is its name, Alan," Meg replied. "It is called the Rainbow Necklace."

"But, dearest, where did it come from? What is it? You never told me a word about this."

"I know I did not. I wanted it to be a surprise. My father gave it to me, Alan, just before he died. For years he had been collecting every colored diamond that he came across. He had them cut and made into this necklace. I have never worn it, and when we came to England, I put it in the bank, and left it there."

"You must wear it now, Meg," said Alan quickly. "It is a lovely thing and will suit you perfectly."

She shook her head. "No, Alan. I think it is worth a good deal of money. I want you to sell it and put the money into settlements. I should be happier if you would do that. Then I should not feel as if I had come to you quite empty handed."

Alan would not hear of it.

"My dearest, it would be foolishness," he insisted. "I do not know anything about diamonds, but I do know that a piece of jewellery like this will probably increase in value. If it were sold now it might fetch a thousand pounds or so, but if we waited our chance, some rich American might give two or three times as much. In any cases its value will not decrease.

"And," he added, "I should like you to keep it, I should, indeed. Keep it and wear it. It is much too beautiful to part with. For another thing, you would not like to get rid of your father's present, would you now?"

Meg stuck to her guns, and insisted that the necklace should be sold, but Alan was equally positive that it should not. The luncheon gong found them still arguing the question.

"Very well," said Alan, with a smile, "let us leave it for the present. Denison is coming this evening. Suppose we consult him. Will you promise to abide by his decision?"

Meg hesitated a moment. "Yes," she said at last. "I will accept his decision. What shall we do with the necklace in the meantime?"

"Put it in my safe," replied Alan promptly, and turning, unlocked a small but solid-looking steel safe which was built into the wall. He put the necklace in the case, and the case itself into the safe, relocked the door, and then they went into luncheon together.

The dinner to which the four sat down together that evening was simple enough yet perfect in its way. There was a clear soup, a grilled sole, roast duck and green peas, and a savoury omelette. Alan had visited the cellar and brought up a bottle of very fine old burgundy which had been left him by his father, a wine which, warmed to the exact temperature of the room, was a drink fit for the gods, and particularly appreciated by both Denison and himself.

The dinner was a success from all points of view, and Rendle, devoting himself to Mrs. Denby, was secretly delighted to see how excellently Meg and Denison got on together.

After Meg had carried off her mother, Rendle poured out a glass of port for Denison, and passed him the cedar lined silver cigar box which had been Denison's own wedding present to him.

"You are very snug, old man," said Denison, and there was a touch of envy in his voice.

"Changed your mind about matrimony, eh, John?" said Rendle.

"Almost thou persuadest me," quoted Denison with a smile.

"By the bye," he went on, "I heard a bit of news to-day which may interest you. It's about your step-father-in-law."

"For goodness sake, don't foist him off as any kind of relative," put in Rendle hastily. "But what is it?"

"He's up to the neck in it," replied Denison grimly, "He's been speculating in Minerva Deeps, and as the mine is going wrong—I have it on good authority I should say he's pretty hard hit.

"Just what one would have expected," growled Rendle. "I knew that he must have been speculating heavily, for Mrs. Denby has been kept abominably short of late. I suppose we can't do anything to check him."

"I'm not sure yet. I have sent for a copy of the late Mr. Chester's will. But if, as seems to be the case, he left everything to his wife, and she has given Denby a power of attorney, why that finishes it. I'm afraid, Alan, that your wife will get nothing at all."

"That reminds me," said Rendle, "If Meg has no money, she has something else that seems to be of value. Wait an instant and I'll get it."

He jumped up and went out, to return a minute later with the jewel case, which he opened and passed over to Denison.

Denison lifted out the necklace, and a gasp of amazement escaped him, as he held it up in the white light of the electrics.

"Good Heavens, Alan, what a lovely thing," he exclaimed. "And by Jove," as he examined the stones more closely—"they are diamonds."

"Yes, colored diamonds," replied Rendle. "The Rainbow Necklace, Meg calls it. Good name, don't you think?"

"Then is this her own property, Alan?"

"Yes. Her father gave it to her before he died."

Denison was still staring at the gems.

"I wonder," he said shrewdly, "if he had any premonition of what was going to happen?"

"How do you mean, John?"

"Of her mother marrying again. He might have given her these so that she might have something to sell and live upon, if all else failed."

"She wants to sell the necklace now," said Rendle. "She brought it from the bank this morning, with that idea. We had a regular argument about it, and finally agreed to leave it to you. What I say is that it is a very beautiful ornament, and I should like her to keep and wear it. I haven't much idea what such things are worth, but even if she got a thousand pounds for it, it seems to me that it would be hardly worth while to dispose of it."

"A thousand pounds," repeated Denison. "My dear chap, It's evident that your knowledge of precious stones does not equal your skill in human anatomy. I don't know much about diamonds myself, but I wouldn't mind offering you five thousand, and chancing my profit."

Rendle gave a low whistle of surprise.

"This necklace worth five thousand! Do you really mean that, John?"

"I certainly do. It is absolutely unique. And I know that red diamonds, for instance, are worth far more than brilliants. Besides, being unique, it is just the sort of thing that an American millionaire might pay a fancy price for. If I were you, Alan, I should jolly well hang on to it."

"Good! We will. I'll tell Meg what you have said."

"You might get it valued," suggested Denison, "Take it to Cross and Ferguson. They will be as likely to know its real worth as anyone in London. Mention my name, and they'll be civil. I've done some work for them."

"Right! I'll do so to-morrow. Now, if you have finished your wine, we might as well make a move."

The evening was pleasantly concluded by a couple of rubbers of bridge, in which Denison partnered Meg, and Rendle his mother-in-law. After Denison had taken his leave, Rendle told Meg what the former had said about the necklace.

Meg was both astonished and delighted to hear the value which Denison had put upon it. "At any rate, it will be something to fall back upon if bad times should ever come, Alan."

"A rainbow for a rainy day," laughed Alan. "All right, Meg. To-morrow I will get it valued, and then we will salt it down in the safe. Only you must wear it sometimes, you know, just to give us the pleasure of looking at it."

"I shouldn't feel happy with five thousand pounds around my neck," replied Meg, rather seriously. "I think it must stay in the safe, Alan."

Alan managed to get away early next morning. Then he took a taxi to Hatton Gardens, where Cross and Ferguson's premises were situated. He had already telephoned for an interview and Mr. Ferguson, a stout person with a somewhat Jewish cast of countenance was awaiting him.

"I have brought the necklace, Mr. Ferguson," said Rendle, as he took the case from his pocket and opened it. "What do you think of it?"

Ferguson adjusted a pair of powerful glasses on the bridge of his prominent nose, switched on a strong light, and held up the necklace. Rendle, watching him, saw an expression come upon his face, which reminded him of an artist seeing for the first time some masterpiece of painting.

The diamond merchant turned the necklace round slowly, scrutinising each stone in turn. For nearly five minutes he continued his examination in silence. Then he looked up at Rendle.

"Were you wishing to sell this necklace, Dr. Rendle?" he asked.

"Not at present, Mr. Ferguson. All I want is some idea of its value."

"I will give you fifteen thousand pounds for it," was the answer.

For the moment Rendle could only stare. He was too surprised to speak.


FERGUSON mistook Rendle's silence.

"I won't pretend that I might not get a good deal more for the necklace," he continued. "Still, a piece of jewellery of this kind is always a bit of a speculation. It might take me a year or more to find a purchaser, and, of course, I should he losing the interest on a large slice of capital all that time."

Rendle recovered his breath.

"My dear, sir, I am not quarelling with your price," he said. "To be honest, I was amazed to find that the necklace was worth so much. But as I told you before, I don't mean to sell for the present."

Ferguson shrugged his shoulders.

"It's a lot of capital to keep locked up," he said. "Fifteen thousand at four per cent, is six hundred a year, and you've got to insure, too. However, that is your affair, Dr. Rendle. Anyhow if you do decide to sell, I hope you will give me the first refusal."

"That I will promise you," replied Rendle, heartily, as he picked up the necklace and put it back into its case. "And I am very much obliged to you for what you have told me?"

"Shall I call a taxi," said Ferguson. "You don't want to walk with fifteen thousand pounds worth of diamonds on you."

"It might be wiser," smiled Rendle, and Ferguson himself went out with him and saw him into a cab.

Arrived at the house in Sheffield Gardens, Alma Holmes met him at the door.

"A gentleman is waiting in the drawing-room, sir, to see you," she announced.

"Not a patient then, Holmes?" said Rendle.

"No, sir. Here is the card."

Rendle took the card and just managed to choke down the exclamation which rose to his lips. For the name neatly printed in script type was "Mr. Bertram Denby," and, below, "Rand Club, Johannesburg."

"Thank you, Holmes," he answered quietly enough. "Is your mistress at home?"

"No, sir, she has gone out shopping."

"And Mrs. Denby?"

"She is still in her room, sir. She is coming down for luncheon."

It was with mixed feelings that Rendle went upstairs. He had not thought that Denby would have reached England for some days yet. He must have caught one of the fast mail boats immediately on receipt of his son's cable, and have come straight to the house on landing.

He did not relish the interview before him. The man would probably make himself extremely unpleasant. Still, it had to be gone through with, and the sooner the better.

As he entered the pretty, bright-looking drawing-room, Denby rose to meet him. He was a tall man, remarkably handsome in a rather sinister fashion, well groomed and prosperous looking. Bertram Denby was much better looking than his son, and had none of the latter's casual manner and somewhat raffish appearance.

"How do you do, Dr. Rendle?" he said, extending a white, well-shaped hand. "This is an uncanonical hour for a call, but no doubt you will understand my anxiety to make the acquaintance of my new relative without delay."

His voice was polished and urbane as his appearance, and Rendle, who had expected something entirely different, was naturally taken aback.

"Pray do not apologise," he answered. "I can only regret that I was not at home to receive you."

Mr. Denby waved his hand airily.

"A doctor's time is not his own. I am well aware of the fact. And I understood from the maid that my wife is not down yet. She is not very well, I fear."

"She has suffered a good deal from the shock of the accident when her car upset on Danesmeet Hill," Rendle told him.

"And I have to thank you for looking after her," said Denby.

"Well, Dr. Rendle," he continued, "I will not deny that your rather hasty marriage with my step-daughter has been something of a shock to me. As you are perhaps aware, I had hopes that she and my son would have made a match of it."

"There was never any chance of that," cut in Rendle, with decision.

"Perhaps not—perhaps not. But you must forgive a father's partiality. Now, at any rate, the matter is definitely settled, and I hope that I have wisdom enough to acquiesce in the inevitable. Still I have this to say, Dr. Rendle, that your ill-advised haste has brought its own punishment. You have married Margaret without obtaining the permission of her legal guardian, and therefore without such settlements from her side as she might rightfully expect."

For a moment Rendle was dumb-founded. Settlements were the last thing that he had expected this man to mention. But he recovered himself almost instantly.

"That is a matter of indifference to me," he answered. "Fortunately I am able to give my wife everything that she requires."

Denby did not show any sign of offence.

"Perhaps that is just as well," he said quietly. "The late Mr. Chester's properly is largely in land, and is difficult to realise. Although he was supposed to be a rich man, the income drawn by Mrs. Denby is nothing like what might have been expected.

"But enough of this subject," he continued, with a wave of his white hand. "All that I will say now is that I hope to at once relieve you of the care of Mrs. Denby, and I trust that our relations may be amicable in the future."

"Thank you," replied Rendle formally. "Please, however, be sure that Mrs. Denby is most welcome here, so long as she likes to remain."

"I am obliged to you, but our flat is quite ready for us. I have only to engage a couple of servants. Then with your permission, I will fetch my wife."

He picked up his hat and gloves as he spoke, and refusing Rendle's offers of refreshment, took his leave.

Rendle showed him out. He was thankful that Meg was not on the spot. But Denby was hardly out of sight before she appeared, and her astonishment at hearing from her husband of his visitor was only equalled by her surprise at the friendly attitude which Denby had assumed.

"Settlements!" she repeated. "If there is anything left to settle, Alan. I am perfectly certain, that he would have got out of it somehow. That sort of talk on his part is all pretence."

"I daresay it is, dearest, All the same I am just as pleased there was no upset. And at any rate his appearance and manners are infinitely superior to those of his son."

"And infinitely more dangerous," replied Meg, very closely. "Alan, I have a real horror of Mr. Denby, and I hope and trust that you will not allow him to impose on you as he does on almost everybody else."

"Don't be alarmed, little girl," said Rendle, with a laugh. "I know the type, and I certainly shall not have any more to do with him than I can help. Still, we must remember that he is your mother's husband, and that it will be as well that there should be no open break between us."

A shadow crossed Meg's face.

"I know, I know. That is the terrible part of it. And now he will be taking her away from us. Does she know, Alan?"

"Not yet. She is still in her room, and I have not seen her."

"I am afraid she will be dreadfully upset. And she has been so happy lately with you and me."

"I only wish she could stay with us always," Rendle replied, more seriously, "but Denby says he is going to take her away as soon as he has engaged servants for the flat."

"I must go and tell her," said Meg gravely.

"Do, dearest. I have to pay a couple of visits before lunch, and I must hurry off."

In the excitement of Denby's unexpected arrival, Rendle had forgotten all about the necklace. He locked it in his safe before going out, and it was not until tea-time that he remembered it again. Then he called up Denison on the telephone, and asked him if he could come round later.

Denison replied that he could, and arrived just after dinner, when Rendle took him into his study, and told him what Ferguson had said.

Denison was not particularly surprised.

"I thought it was worth a good bit," he answered. "Well, what are you going to do about it, Alan? Can you afford to keep six hundred a year locked up?"

"I think I can. And there is this depreciate as pearls might. On the contrary, it may fetch a good deal more in a year or two's time than it would now."

Denison grunted. "A bird in the hand..." he quoted. "I'd sell it now if I were you, I would, indeed."

In after days Rendle often remembered Denison's advice and bitterly regretted that he had not taken it. But at the time he refused.

"I'll not sell yet, John. The fact is I want to see Meg wearing it. It's the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life, and will suit her to perfection."

Denison laughed good-naturedly.

"Now I begin to understand, and I may as well save my breath to cool my porridge. All right, then. Stick to it for the present. But for heaven's sake keep it under lock and key, and don't breathe a word to anyone of its real value. There are scores of men in London to-day who would slit your throat to lay hands on that beautiful bauble. And now I have some news for you. Mr. Bertram Denby called to-day."

"The deuce he did! What happened?"

Rendle related the conversation. When he told what Denby had said about settlements, Denison smiled sarcastically.

"Pure bluff!" he said. "I have not yet got that copy of Mr. Chester's will. It won't arrive for some weeks. But from all I can learn, Denby is very badly dipped. And as for his hopeful son, he is in debt all over the place.

"Then why, if there is no money left for Meg, was Denby so keen to marry Meg to Gerald?" asked Rendle shrewdly.

"I can't tell that until I have seen the will. There are two possible explanations. One is that something was set aside by her father for Meg that Denby senior simply wanted to prevent awkward questions from being asked. For all we know, he has been making away with Trust Funds, and that, you know, is a pretty serious offence."

Rendle nodded.

"I see. By-the-bye, I wonder If he knows anything about the necklace."

"I hope to goodness he doesn't," he said quickly.


But before Denison could reply there came a tap at the door, and Meg herself, looking charming in a rose-pink evening dress, came in, carrying two cups of black coffee on a tiny tray.

"I though I would bring it myself," she said, with a smile. "I fancied you might not want a maid running in on you."


JOHN DENISON came of a long line of solicitors, and his office in John-street, was furnished with black oak for which many a connoisseur would have paid almost anything he had liked to ask. The only modern piece of furniture in his own private room was a large American roll top desk, and on the second evening after his last visit to Sheffield Terrace, he was in the act of locking this when Rendle was announced.

"Just in time, Alan," said Denison genially. "Another five minutes and I should have been on my way home."

"I'm glad I caught you," replied Rendle, as he shook hands, and the tone of his voice made Denison glance at him keenly. "I have something rather important to consult you about."

"So I see," said Denison. "What is it, Denby?"

"Yes, Denby. You know what you said the other evening?"

"About the necklace, you mean?"

"Exactly. The beggar has demanded it."

Denison pursed his lips in a soundless whistle.

"All the same, I ought not to be surprised," he said. "Tell me, Alan."

"There isn't much to tell. He took Mrs. Denby away this morning, when I was out, and left this note for me."

As he spoke he handed ever a letter.

Denison took it and read it.

"H'm—H'm—diamond necklace—my wife's property—understand temporarily in your keeping. Glad if you will return it to me or to my bankers."

"Gad, he hasn't lost much time!" he ended, looking up.

"But what am I to do?" demanded Rendle, frowning.

"Do! Tell him to go to blazes."

"That's what I felt like, only I thought I'd ask you, first. I don't want a scandal."

"Quite right, And I was only speaking metaphorically. You will write him a polite reply, saying that he is under a misapprehension, that the necklace was a gift from her father to your wife, and that it is not Mrs. Denby's property at all.

"By-the-bye," he added hastily. "I suppose there is no doubt that the late Mr. Chester did actually present it to his daughter?"

"No doubt whatever, Meg can swear to that."

"Was there any witness to the gift?"

"No. It was just after Mr. Chester got back from Natal. He was in bed with the fever that eventually finished him. Meg was sitting with him, and he gave her the key of his safe, and told her to get the case. She brought it to him, and he took out the necklace, and told her to put it on. 'That's for your own self,' he said. 'And take care of it, for it's worth quite a lot of money.'"

Denison stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"I wish there had been some witnesses to the gift," he said slowly. "Still you had better do as I say. Of course, Denby might take the case to Court, but I don't fancy he would dare. You see, awkward questions might be asked, would be asked if I instructed Counsel."

"I see. All right, John. I'll do as you say. I am certainly not going to give up the Rainbow Necklace without a struggle."

"Of course not. Wait a minute, and I'll draft a letter for you."

He sat down, reopened his desk, and wrote for some minutes, while Rendle sat on the edge of the table near by and watched him.

"There, that ought to do," said Denison presently, as he handed over the sheet of paper. "Copy that, and send it off to-night. And let me hear at once what sort of a reply you get."

Rendle did so, and waited in some anxiety for the reply. It came by return post, and though politely worded had a subtle note of threat.

Dr. Rendle was under a misapprehension. The necklace was undoubtedly the property of Mrs. Denby, who was sole legatee of her late husband. Mr. Denby trusted that Dr. Rendle would see that his wife had no legal claim whatever to this valuable piece of jewellery, and that he would not compel Mrs. Denby to take steps to recover it.

Denison grunted when he read this effusion.

"Bluff!" he growled. "I am still willing to gamble against his taking the case to Court, Alan. Wait, now, I will write you a reply for him."

He did so, and handed it over.

"Quite civil still, you see, but I have given details of the gift, and have said that your wife is prepared to swear to these details. Now, if he turns ugly, you will simply refer him to me, as your solicitor."

This time the answer was delayed a post or two, but when it came contained a threat of legal proceedings.

"Just what I expected," said Denison. "He has been consulting his solicitor. Now we will raise him again to use a poker simile."

The answer was short and to the point. Dr. Rendle had no intention of parting with his wife's property, and requested that any future communication on the subject might be addressed to his solicitor, Mr. John Denison, of 117 John-street, Bedford Row, W.C.

Three days passed, but there was no reply.

Denison chuckled.

"Raised him out of his boots. Alan," he said. "I don't think you will hear anything more about it. By-the-bye, does your wife know anything about this business?"

"Not a word. She would be most unhappy. Mind you don't let on, John."

John Denison nodded. "You are wise," he said. "I'll be careful."


"I DON'T know what is the matter with Holmes, Alan," said Meg, one evening about a week later, when she and Rendle were sitting together in the "snuggery," as she called his little study. "She has taken to forgetting everything I tell her. And she does not seem a bit like herself."

"In love, I expect," replied Rendle with a laugh.

"Holmes in love! My dear boy, she is thirty and looks older. She is by no means attractive, and I never knew her to look twice at a man."

"H'm, they all take it sooner or later, my darling. You had better keep your eyes open."

Meg shook her pretty head.

"I can't fancy Holmes in love," she said. "Besides, who could the man be? Alma Holmes comes of good stock. She is a farmer's daughter. She holds herself a cut above the milkman, or even the policeman."

"Perhaps she is ill," suggested Rendle.

"I have asked her that. She declares there is nothing wrong with her."

"Then I am afraid I can't help you, dearest. You must keep an eye on her. She will probably tell you sooner or later."

No more was said on the subject at the time, and Rendle, who became busier almost every day, had forgotten all about the matter when, one evening in the following week, he was oddly reminded of it.

He had been called to a case at some distance—in Holland Park and as his car was temporarily out of commission, had gone in a taxi. He did not keep it waiting, and when he left the house found that there was not another within hail.

Being for once in no particular hurry, he jumped on a passing 'bus, and climbing to the top, took a seat and lit a cigarette. A woman and man were sitting on the seat just in front of him, and something vaguely familiar about the back view of the former attracted his attention.

Next minute he realised that she was no other than his wife's sedate maid, Alma Holmes.

"Gad, I was right after all!" he said to himself, with a smile. "Holmes has got a young man. What a joke! I must tell Meg."

He watched the couple with some interest, and noted their heads were close together, and that they were talking in confidential whispers.

At the turn into Silver-street the 'bus stopped, and they got off.

It was Rendle's stopping place also, but he waited until they had passed him. He wanted to get a glimpse of the man.

Alma herself did not notice her master. In any case, the top of a 'bus was the last place she would have expected to see him.

They passed down the steps, and not before their heads were below the level of the roof did Rendle rise and go down.

The evening was dull and foggy, and presently he lost sight of the couple. Then he met an old friend, Murdoch, a doctor who lived nearby, and stopped to chat a few minutes. For the moment he had almost forgotten Alma and her young man, but as it chanced, he had not seen the last of them.

Arriving at his own house, he heard a door open in the area below, and glancing down saw the man emerge.

This was against all rules. While Meg, if asked, would no doubt have given permission to her maid to entertain a follower, no such permission had been asked or granted.

He paused and waited for the man.

"Good evening," he said, as the other appeared. "I saw you a few minutes ago with Mrs. Rendle's maid, did I not."

"What's that to you?" retorted the other so truculently that Rendle grew annoyed.

"This—that Alma Holmes has not asked permission to receive strange men in her master's house, therefore you had no business there."

"Who are you?" demanded the man suspiciously.

"I am Dr. Rendle."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir. I didn't know." The other was all soft soap in a moment. "I am very sorry, sir."

Rendle liked him all the less for his sudden change of attitude. He looked him up and down.

"I do not know what your relations with Alma Holmes are," he said, "but if you wish to visit her, she must first ask permission."

"We are keeping company, sir," replied the man humbly enough. "I'll tell her to ask. Good-night, sir."

He hurried away, and Rendle let himself in.

Meg was frankly incredulous.

"Holmes with a young man—impossible!"

"Not so very young, dearest. He is at least thirty-five."

"What does he look like?"

"Tall and lantern-jawed. Quite well dressed, though. But what I want you to realise is that he was in the house."

"That will never do," said Meg, with decision. "I will speak to Holmes to-night."

Later, she came to Rendle in the snuggery.

"Well?" he said, smiling.

"Not very well at all. Alan. Holmes was very nearly impertinent. I am afraid that I shall have to get rid of her."

"But who is the man? Are they engaged?"

"His name appears to be Wilsher. She says they are engaged."

"And did you give her leave to bring him here?"

"No. She did not ask. She was very high and mighty. So I told her that, of course, she could do as she pleased during her time out, but that Wilsher was not to enter the house without my special permission.

"It's a horrid nuisance, Alan," she added. "Holmes has been with me for more than two years now. I shall be very sorry to lose her."

"Don't worry, dearest. It may come to nothing," Rendle told her. "And anyhow, there are plenty more maids to be found for an easy place like this."

They had been in London for about six weeks, and Rendle was beginning to make arrangements for getting out of town for August, when, one morning, John Denison rang up to know if they would dine with him that night at the Hyperion.

"They have a new chef there, and he's jolly good," said Denison. "Afterwards we can look in at the Palace, if you feel like it."

"Nothing we should like better; many thanks, old man," replied Rendle. "But there's just one fly in the ointment. I have a patient who is pretty bad, and thinks himself worse than he is. And he won't have anyone but me. So I shall have to leave my address if I do go out, and perhaps be called away suddenly."

"That's all right," said Denison. "I can look after Meg, if you are called off. Will you be round at eight?"

"We will, and thanks awfully, John. An evening out will do us both good."

Meg, who had become very fond of Denison, was delighted, and sharp at eight their taxi drew up at the gleaming portals of the Hyperion Restaurant. Denison, looking very well and cheerful, was there to meet them, and a smiling head waiter ushered them to a reserved table.

Denison, who had lived in London most of his life, and who was well off, apart from his lucrative connection, had ordered dinner, wines, and everything else in advance, so that there was none of the delay inseparable from an al fresco meal, where one probably has to first wait for a table and delay still further until everyone has chosen from the carte de jour.

The big room was full of smart people, and a string band was discoursing music soft enough not to interfere with conversation. The dinner was excellent, the wine exactly the right temperature, and the little party of three enjoyed themselves vastly.

"It's just perfect," said Meg, her grey eyes shining.

"You ought to go out more often, Mrs. Rendle," said Denison.

"But you see we can't," she answered. "Alan is so busy. Two evenings out of three he gets called out to see patients."

At this moment a uniformed messenger appeared.

"Dr. Rendle, sir?"


"You are wanted on the telephone, sir."

"I knew it," groaned Rendle. "It's old Parton for a certainty. Where shall I find you two if I get back in an hour or so?"

"We'll wait here till half-past nine. Then we will go to the Palace. We'll leave word for you at the box office. Hurry, old man! You'll be back all the sooner."

Rendle hurried away. As he expected, it was Dr. Parton, or rather his nurse, who had called him up. The patient was in great pain and required a sedative.

"That means going home first," grumbled Rendle, as he made for the door.

A gilded commissionaire called him a taxi, and he was whirled away at a great pace. It was fortunately the between time of the evening when traffic is not so heavy, and in less than a quarter of an hour he was landed at his own door.

Telling the driver to wait, he opened the door with his latchkey and went in.

The hall was in darkness, and in his haste he did not even wait to switch on a light, but made straight for his consulting-room, the door of which was only a few steps from the front door. His bag was there with all that was necessary in it.

He had entered the room, and his hand was actually on the switch of the electric light, when all of a sudden he pulled up short and stood motionless in the darkness; listening with all his ears.

Someone was moving inside the snuggery, the room in which was the safe containing the Rainbow Necklace.


A DOCTOR can generally be depended upon to keep his head in an emergency, and Rendle was no exception to this rule. He did not move nor switch on the light, but stood perfectly quiet, listening intently.

A moment later he again heard a sound. Undoubtedly someone was moving inside the room. Now he waited no longer, but hurried softly towards the door. Unfortunately in the darkness he stumbled against a chair, making a considerable noise.

Cursing his own stupidity he sprang forward, and rushed into the snuggery. He was too late. He heard the latch of the other door, the one leading into the back, click. The intruder, whoever he was, had got away into the back of the house.

Most men would have dashed headlong in pursuit. No so Rendle. He knew that the would-be burglar had only two ways of exit from the house. He could bolt through the front hall to the front door, or he could go down the back stairs to the area door below. But in either case he must come out at the front of the house.

Without a second's hesitation Rendle dashed back through the consulting-room and into the front hall. Here he switched on the light. The front door was closed, as he had left it. He must have heard the sound if anyone had opened it. The burglar, then, had evidently gone down the back stairs.

He turned the night key in the lock, thereby making the front door safe, then stole softly down the back stairs. Mrs. Summers, the cook, was out for the evening. That he knew. The parlour-maid and Holmes should, however, both be at home.

At the bottom of the stairs he paused and listened. All was very quiet. He could not hear the maids' voices, but it was of course possible that they were in their bedrooms.

To his right was the kitchen, to the left the small room where the maids sat, and which was called by courtesy the servants' hall. The kitchen door was open, and a gas jet burning. Though turned low there was enough light to see that the room was unoccupied.

He turned to the door of the servants' hall. The passage floor was covered with coconut matting, on which his pumps made no sound. He put his ear close to the key hole, and listening distinctly caught the sound of someone breathing hard.

"Got him!" he muttered, and without further delay opened the door and walked straight in.

An incandescent gas jet was burning over the table in the middle of the room, and by its light Rendle saw a man seated by the table and reading, or pretending to read, a newspaper.

He lowered it as the door opened, but did not rise. And Rendle looking at him, saw to his amazement that he was Wilsher, the man supposed to be engaged to Alma Holmes.

"What are you doing here?" he asked sharply.

"You know who I am, sir," answered the other. "I am engaged to Miss Holmes," and though he did his best to speak in an unconcerned fashion Rendle realised that he was breathing quickly and was desperately nervous.

"Then why were you upstairs a minute ago?" enquired Rendle shrewdly.

"Upstairs! I was not upstairs. I have been sitting here since I came in about a quarter of an hour ago."

"Sitting there for a quarter of an hour, have you? Then it is a little curious that you should be breathing so hard, is it not?"

"I—I'm not breathing hard. I don't know what you mean," answered Wilsher, rising to his feet.

Rendle was absolutely certain that the fellow was lying. His face betrayed him, to say nothing of his nervous movements and quickened breathing. Anyone, let alone a doctor, could have seen that the man was in a state of intense and badly repressed agitation.

"You had better own up," Rendle said sharply. "In any case you have no right on these premises. I told you that the other day."

"I tell you I am engaged to Miss Holmes," retorted Wilsher with sudden anger. "I came to see her."

"That's as may be," replied Rendle sternly. "At present I am only concerned as to what you were doing upstairs. It is no use trying to get out of it. I heard you plainly in the room off my consulting-room. I heard you go out through the far door into the back hall. For your own sake you had better confess at once."

"I have nothing to confess," returned Wilsher doggedly.

"In that case I have no choice but to call a policeman and give you in charge," said Rendle.

The effect or the threat on Wilsher was extraordinary.

"You shan't!" he cried furiously. "You'll do nothing of the sort."

As he spoke he sprang to his feet, and snatched up a carving knife from the table, which had been set for the servants' supper. "Get out of my way!" he shouted threateningly.

"Don't be a fool!" retorted Rendle, but before the words were out of his mouth Wilsher, knife in hand, was upon him. The man's eyes glared, and each of his sallow cheeks showed a spot of scarlet. The knife was raised in his right hand.

With Rendle it was either immediate flight or rapid and risky counter attack. He chose the latter alternative, and dashing in met the man half way. With his left hand he clutched Wilsher's right wrist, and with the right attempted to get him by the throat.

In this he failed. Wilsher guarded his throat with his left hand, and Rendle's fingers grasped his arm.

Wilsher was taller than Rendle, but he was thin and scrawny, a weed compared with the young doctor's well-trained, supple strength. Even so his struggles were so furious that at first it was all that Rendle could do to hold him. For some moments nothing was heard in the room but the stamp of their feet and the hissing of their quick-drawn breath.

Gradually, however, Rendle's strength prevailed, and he began to force the other slowly backwards. Washer was dripping with perspiration, his eyes gleamed with a light akin to madness, and he fought with desperate fury.

His wrist went numb in Rendle's vice-like grip, and, as a last resource, he suddenly kicked out desperately at the other.

It was the most foolish thing he could have done. Rendle flung all his weight forward, and Wilsher caught off his balance, at once was flung back. He tried frantically to recover himself, but it was undone. He heeled over, and fell with Rendle on top.

They reached the floor with a crash that shook the whole room and made the windows rattle. Rendle was so blown that it was a moment or two before he could move. He rose slowly to his feet, and stood looking at the other.

Wilsher lay very quiet. His eyes were closed. Rendle stooped over him, and as he did so a startled exclamation burst from his lips.

"Good heavens, he's hurt!"

Well might he say so, for an ugly stain had appeared beneath Wilsher's body, and was spreading with ominous rapidity, dyeing the faded carpet to a deep crimson hue.

In an instant Rendle saw what had happened. In falling Wilsher's hand which gripped the knife had been driven into his back.

Hastily Rendle lifted the man, and turned him over on his face. His worst suspicions were realised. The knife was imbedded up to the hilt between the man's shoulder blades.

It was at this moment that the door burst open with a crash, and Alma Holmes rushed into the room.

For a moment she stood as if struck to stone, glaring wide-eyed at the scene before her. Then she flung herself on her knees beside Wilsher.

"Frank!" she cried. "Frank! Speak to me!" Then, as there was no response, she turned on Rendle.

"You have killed him!" she shrieked in a voice that might have been heard in the street. "You have murdered him!"

"Don't be a fool, girl!" said Rendle curtly. "Get up, and fetch some warm water from the kitchen and my bag from the consulting-room. Quickly."

The girl rose to her feet. Her dark face had gone an ugly sallow color, her eyes blazed.

"If you have killed him you shall pay for it," she said with a deadly emphasis. Then she was gone.

Rendle, to say truth, hardly noticed her threat. His trained eyes told him that Wilsher was badly hurt, and he was horribly anxious and upset.

The man was breathing stertorously. Rendle wasted not a moment in examining the injury. As he did so his face, grave enough before, became graver still.


ALMA HOLMES was suddenly beside him again. She laid his bag upon the table, and also a can of warm water, a basin and sponge. Her face was like a stone, but her eyes glared horribly.

Rendle paid no attention to her, except to tell her to fetch a mattress and pillow. Meantime he set to work to dress the wound. As he withdrew the knife a gush of bright red blood told its own story, but he succeeded in stopping the hemorrhage, and by the time that Alma was back again with the mattress and pillow he had finished the first part of his task.

"Lay the mattress on the floor," he ordered, "then help me to lift him on to it."

She obeyed in the same stony silence.

"Now go and telephone for Dr. Murdoch," was his next command. "His number is on the tablet by the telephone."

Murdoch was the doctor whom Rendle had met that day of his first encounter with Wilsher. A canny-level-headed Scotsman, he had been at the same hospital as Rendle, but was some years older than he.

Rendle waited for him with great anxiety. He could not conceal from himself that this man Wilsher, was in a condition of the gravest danger. If he died there would be an inquest, and all sorts of unpleasant publicity, which he dreaded for Meg more than he did for himself.

Alma Holmes came back into the room in her curiosity silent fashion.

"Dr. Murdoch will be here in five minutes," she said.

Worried as he was the tone of her voice struck Rendle as strange, almost uncanny. He noticed, too, in a vague way, that she had omitted the usual "sir."

He glanced up, and her expression shocked him. Her face, absolutely colorless, was set like a mask. Her eyes, which were long and narrow, glowed with a repressed passion which was realty terrible to see.

"Did you let this man into the house, Holmes?" he asked.

She stared at him blankly, and after a moment he repeated his question sharply.

"Yes," she answered sullenly. "I let him in."

"What business had you to do anything of the sort."

"He and I are engaged to be married," she said in the same tone.

"Engaged, are you? A nice sort of man you have chosen! Do you know that when I came in he was in the same room where the safe is?"

"It's a lie," she retorted, with sudden fury. "I left him here while I went up to my room to change my dress."

Rendle shrugged his shoulders. He realised that it was no use arguing with the woman in her present state. He said no more, but busied himself with his patient, who lay as still as ever. The sound of his heavy, difficult breathing and the tick of the clock over the chimney-piece were the only sounds in the quiet room.

At last the painful silence was broken by the sharp trill of the front door bell.

"Murdoch," said Rendle, in a tone of relief, and turned to Alma. "Is Ellen in?"

"No," was the curt answer. "She is out."

"Then you had better let Dr. Murdoch in," he said shortly.

She obeyed without speaking. A few moments later she was back with Murdoch.

"Eh, Rendle. What's the matter?" demanded the latter.

Then as his glance fell on Wilsher he stopped short, wrinkling up his heavy eyebrows.

"The matter is that I've caught a thief. He attempted to use his knife on me, and I collared him. He fell upon the knife and is badly damaged."

"Lies!" burst out Alma, before Murdoch could answer. "All lies! Frank Wilsher here is the man I am engaged to. Dr. Rendle came in and found him here, and lost his temper and stabbed him in the back. Now he's making up this story to get out of it."

She spoke with a vicious intensity which impressed even the stolid Murdoch. As for Rendle his sorely tried temper went at last.

"Get out of the room, girl," he ordered, with sudden anger. "Get out at once. I can make some allowance for your feelings, but this is too much. Do you know that you render yourself liable to prosecution for slander by making such wild statements in the presence of a witness?"

"It's not I that will be prosecuted," the woman said, fixing her fierce eyes upon her master. Then she turned and went out of the room.

Murdoch was already on his knees beside the patient. After a very brief examination he looked up, and the lines had deepened on his forehead, while his eyes under their shaggy brows were very grave indeed.

"This is a bad job, Rendle," he said gruffly. "The man is dying."

"I thought as much. That's why I sent for you."

"Neither I nor anyone else can save him," said Murdoch, rising to his feet. "The whole College of Surgeons couldn't do anything. He won't live an hour." He paused.

"How did it happen?" he asked.

Rendle told him the whole story, how he had been recalled from the dinner party, he who had heard someone moving in the snuggery, and his ruse to catch the man. He briefly recounted his finding of Wilsher, the conversation between them, his own threat of police, and Wilsher's frantic attempt to escape.

"Then you have no actual proof that this man is the burglar?"

"No proof," echoed Rendle. "Who else could it have been?"

"I'm not saying this wasn't the man," replied Murdoch cautiously. "All I'm telling you is that you have no proof—not in law, at least. It's a bad, nasty business, any way you look at it. There'll be an inquest, you know. We can't get out of that."

"Of course there will be an inquest," retorted Rendle. "What of it. Even a British jury can't quarrel with me for tackling a burglar in my own house."

"Aye, if he can be proved to be a burglar. But ye see Rendle, the onus of proof lies on you, and that girl's a danger. She's got it in for you. Any fool can see that."

Rendle gasped. Murdoch was opening up an entirely new vista of possibilities, and all of a sudden he felt like a men standing on the edge of a pit in the darkness.

"The sooner we get the police in the better," continued Murdoch. "I'll go and telephone the station."

As he turned the door opened and Alma Holmes appeared once more, and with her a tall, stolid-faced policeman.

"That's the man who did it!" she said, pointing to Rendle. "That's the murderer. Arrest him, officer."


THE whole thing was so sudden, so startling that for the moment Rendle could find no words. He could only stand and stare. It was the stoic Murdoch who broke the silence.

"Don't be a fool," he said roughly. "The man isn't even dead yet."

The policeman stepped forward and looked down at Wilsher.

"He seems pretty bad, sir," he said respectfully.

"Yes, he is dying," replied Murdoch. "Dr. Rendle and I have done what we could, but the case is hopeless."

The policeman took out his notebook and licked his pencil.

"How did it happen, sir?" he asked quite respectfully.

"Dr. Rendle heard a man in a room upstairs where the safe is. He followed him down, and found him in the servants' hall. The man attacked him with a knife, and in the struggle fell upon it. The blade has pierced his lungs."

"Lies! Lies!" interrupted Alma Holmes, with passionate intensity. "Frank Wisher is no thief. He is the man I am engaged to, and I let him in myself, and left him sitting here, where Dr. Rendle found him. He killed him. I tell you—murdered him."

Murdoch turned and faced the furious woman.

"See here, my girl, we can make allowances for you, but there is a limit to accusations of this kind. Now I should advise you to go quietly to your own room and remain there. Anything you have to say you will have an opportunity of saying at the inquest."

"That's right, sir," said the policeman stolidly.

But Alma Holmes was not to be so easy quelled.

"Oh, you'd back him up," she said, with savage scorn. "You'd back him up because you're a doctor, too. But wait—just wait! The truth will come out."

"Be still, girl!" said Murdoch sternly. "The man is dying."

As he spoke Wilsher, who all this time had been lying in a sort of stupor, stirred and rose on one elbow. He glared round until his eyes fell on Rendle, and suddenly he raised one hand and pointed at him.

"You see him," he said in a hoarse whisper. "Look at him! That's the man that killed me—stabbed me in the back, he did. You're my witnesses, all of you, You'll see he swings."

The malignance in his voice and eyes was horrible. Even Murdoch shivered. As for Alan Rendle, his skin crawled and his hair crisped upon his scalp.

"I'll remember," cried Alma Holmes shrilly. "I'll bear witness, Frank. He shall hang for you. I swear it."

Wilsher's eyes turned to her. He seemed to be trying to speak again. Instead, he choked. Blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell back heavily on his mattress. His limbs straightened with a convulsive jerk, and he lay still.

Alma flung herself on her knees beside him.

"Frank! Frank!" she cried, in heart-broken tones. "Speak to me, Frank."

There was no answer, and realising that there never would be, the woman swung round, and shook both her clenched fists at Rendle.

"You killed him," she said in a low, fierce voice. "You killed him—but you shall pay. I swear you shall pay."

She rose to her feet and stumbled blindly out of the room.

All three breathed more freely when she was gone.

The policeman glanced at Wilsher.

"I'd better fetch an ambulance, hadn't I, sir," he suggested, addressing Murdoch.

Murdoch nodded.

"Aye, you'd better," he said. "You can telephone for it, if you wish. The telephone is in the hall upstairs."

"Perhaps that would be better," agreed the man, and stumped out.

Murdoch turned to Rendle.

"You'd best have a drink," he said in his quiet way. "It's been a bit of a shock for you, and a drop of whisky is my prescription."

He led the way out of the room, and Rendle followed listlessly. The whole business had been so sudden and so horrible that his nerves were badly shaken. For the moment he felt as if he could hardly think.

The policeman was still at the telephone. The two went into the dining-room, and it was Murdoch who poured out a stiff tot of spirit for his friend, and a smaller one for himself.

"Your wife is still away, Rendle," he said presently.

"Yes, she is with Denison. I expect they have gone to the Palace."

"Would ye like me to fetch her?"

Rendle hesitated a moment.

"No," he answered. "Let her enjoy her evening while she may. It will be time enough to tell her when she gets home."

Murdoch nodded.

"Aye, you are right. And I'm thinking, you'll have to attend at the police station. It'll be as well to get that over before she comes back."

"It's a horrid business," said Rendle.

"It is that, Rendle. But don't worry yourself. It was just a bit of ill luck the man falling as he did."

"He was after the necklace. That I'll swear to," said Rendle.

"The necklace?" repeated the other.

"Yes, a diamond necklace belonging to my wife. It is in the safe in the snuggery."

Murdoch looked thoughtful.

"I wish you had caught him in there, Rendle. Then there's nobody could have said anything."

"And what can they say now?"

"That I'll not be sure of," replied Murdoch cautiously. But inwardly he was far from easy.

However he did his best to cheer up the other, and in a few minutes there came a ring at a bell.

Murdoch pulled the blind aside and looked out.

"It's the ambulance," he said.

It was, and with it a sergeant of police and two constables.

These carried the body out, while the sergeant examined the room, and had a brief conversation with the first policeman.

Then he came up to Rendle.

"I'll ask you to come to the station with me, sir," he said civilly. "Would you like a cab?"

"There's a taxi waiting outside," said Murdoch.

"It's mine," said Rendle, trying to smile. "I forgot all about it."

"Man, but it's been ticking up the sixpences!" exclaimed Murdoch.

"Never mind that. It's there. Let's use it," said Rendle. "Will you come with me, Murdoch?"

"Did ye think I was going to let you go alone?" returned Murdoch gruffly.

He, Rendle, and the sergeant got into the taxi, and were driven off together to the Kensington Police Station, where they were ushered into a bare, chill-looking room.

The inspector his name was Hearst—was stiffly polite. He accommodated Murdoch and Rendle with chairs while the necessary formalities were completed.

But Rendle, whose senses seemed to be sharpened by the unpleasant situation in which he found himself, noticed that the inspector's face took a shade of added gravity as he heard the details from the constable whom Alma Holmes had fetched.

"I am afraid that it will be necessary for me to detain you, Dr. Rendle," he said.

Rendle started. A cold chill crept over him.

Murdoch cut in quickly.

"Surely that will he unnecessary, inspector!" For the first time that evening he spoke in a hurried, almost anxious voice. "I can offer bail for any necessary amount."

The inspector shook his head.

"Impossible, sir, in a case like this, You see the charge is at the least, manslaughter. Dr. Rendle must be detained, at any rate until after the inquiry."

His tone was final. Murdoch's expression was really distressed as he turned to his friend. But Rendle put a good face on the matter.

"It can't he helped, Murdoch. If you will tell my wife, it will be all right. Reassure her all you can, won't you?"

"Indeed I will," Murdoch replied. "Good night, Rendle. I'll be here early in the morning, and bring Denison with me."

Meg had just returned when Murdoch arrived again at the house. He found her in the sitting-room and did not beat about the bush, but with true Scottish bluntness told her at once and exactly what had occurred.

She went so white that for the moment he feared she would faint. But Meg was made of sterner stuff than that.

"No," she said, as she saw him turn towards the sideboard.

"No. I don't want brandy. I am quite all right. But what am I to do? Tell me, Mr. Murdoch, what am I to do?"

"Ye can do nothing till the morning, Mrs. Rendle. Then I'll be calling and bringing Denison with me. He'll be worth us all put together, when there's law business to be done."

He stayed awhile, and in his rough way said what he could to comfort her, then bade her good-night and went off, feeling more worried and upset than he had been for years.

He was hardly out of the house before Meg rose, and went straight upstairs to Alma Holmes' room.

But the small, neat bedroom was empty. Alma Holmes had already left the house.


"I WANT you to be quite plain with me, John," Rendle said. "Don't try to spare my feelings. I am anxious to know where I stand so far as you can tell me."

Denison, whose generally cheery face bore a graver look than usual, glanced uncomfortably around the bare little room in which his friend was confined. He hardly knew what to say. Like Murdoch, he had realised from the first that the case was a very ugly one, yet, on the other hand, he naturally did not wish to depress Alan more than he could help.

Rendle saw his hesitation.

"Don't spare me, old man," he said firmly. "I know very well that I am up against it. And nothing can shock me particularly after the verdict given by the coroner's jury. They have put it practically at murder. You can't make it worse than that."

"I'll take you at your word, old chap, and put things as clearly as I can. The coroners verdict need not worry you particularly. It merely means that you must be held to stand trial at the Central Criminal Court. There is a good deal to be said both against and for you."

Denison cleared his throat.

"The girl Alma Holmes is dangerous. She was madly in love with Wilsher, and she will stick at nothing to get you convicted. Whether she knew that Wilsher was after the necklace or not does not matter, for we shall never get it out of her, if she did know."

"You evidently think she did?" put in Rendle.

"I don't doubt it for a moment. A woman like that, once she falls in love, throws all scruples to the winds. Wilsher could have persuaded her to do anything—even to murder. But, as I say, this is beside the point. She won't confess, and as we have no 'third degree' in this country, we can't make her. She showed what she could do at to-day's inquest, and she is your worst danger.

"But her evidence," he resumed after a moment's pause, "would not be enough to convict you, if it had not been for Wilsher's dying declaration. What I mean is that, if he had died without recovering consciousness you would have been safe enough. But that declaration before three witnesses is uncommonly awkward, and taken in connection with the fact that you had had something of a quarrel with the man before, is going to tell against you."

He looked at Rendle, but the latter was listening quite calmly.

"Now for the other side," resumed Denison. "In the first place, there is your character and record. Both as good as can be. We can bring any number of witnesses to character. In my opinion that alone quashes any possibility of the murder charge being sustained. In the second place there is the suspicion—the strong suspicion that Wilsher was really after the necklace.

"If we can only by any means prove that, I think you are safe. I have already put a very good man to work to trace out Wilsher's antecedents."

"I wonder if he had anything to do with the Denby's," put in Rendle suddenly.

"That, of course, has already entered into my calculations. If we could prove that, it might be useful."

"Surely, it would be everything!" said Rendle quickly.

"Not necessarily. If Denby senior had anything to do with this business you may be quite sure that he has covered his tracks. It would be of far more use to us to find that Wilsher's record was a bad one. If he had done anything of this kind before, or if we could prove that he had made up to Alma Holmes simply for the purpose of getting access to your house, then again we should be safe.

"And that," he ended, "is about as much as I can say at present."

Rendle was silent for a moment or two.

"Then, according to you, the chances are rather against me," he said at last.

"It all depends upon Wilsher's past record," Denison told him frankly.

"What men have you put to work?" asked Rendle.

"Shrigley. He is an ex-Scotland Yard, and has done some work for me before. He is about the best of the private inquiry type."

Rendle nodded.

"And what about counsel?" he asked.

"Oh, Royce—Oliver Royce. With your permission I shall brief him."

"Isn't he rather young?"

"That is just the reason," answered Denison, with a smile. "He still has his reputation to consider. The big men take enormous fees, and most of them hardly look at their briefs until they come into court. They leave everything to their juniors. Royce is as big a personality and as fine a pleader as any of them, and he will throw his whole heart and soul into the business, and more so because it is certain to be a case that will attract public attention."

"A cause célèbre," said Rendle with a wry smile.

"If all goes well you'll have the biggest practice in the West End," said Denison comfortingly.

Rendle's face went grave.

"I do not covet a practice won at such a cost, John. Think what all this means to Meg."

Denison nodded.

"I know, old chap. But don't worry about your wife. She is simply splendid. 'Pon my word, I never knew a woman so plucky; full of sense, too. You need not be afraid on her account."

He spoke so warmly that the gloomy look passed from Rendle's face.

"She is splendid, John. Every day I give thanks I had the luck to win such a woman."

Denison rose.

"I must be off, I am going to see Royce this afternoon, and I daresay Shrigley will be in with a report. Keep your courage up, Alan. We'll bring you through between us."

Alan did his best to follow this excellent advice, but did not find it easy. The charge being a capital one, bail was out of the question, and he felt the confinement and lack of accustomed exercise very severely. Besides his other anxieties, there was the question of his practice. True, Murdoch was carrying on for him, but he had his hands full enough with his own work, and eventually Alan was obliged to engage a locum tenens.

Such an experiment is always dangerous, and Rendle was in constant fear that he might be losing patients.

To make matters worse, the weather was very hot, and many a night Rendle lay awake, tossing about, trying in vain to control the anxious fears that racked him.

As it was the Long Vacation, Courts were not sitting, and his trial could not take place until October. He chafed terribly at the long delay.

Meg was everything to him during this trying time, and if her husband had loved her before, now he worshipped bar. She was constantly with him. She brought him flowers, books, delicacies, and in his presence at least was always cheerful.

One point they often argued over. Meg was anxious to sell the Rainbow Necklace and invest most of the capital, using a part to pay the expenses of his defence. But Rendle would not hear of it.

"It's your property, Meg," he said, "and if you really want to sell it—why, of course, you must. But I hope you won't. I have a sort of feeling that, after all it has cost us we must keep it. And I look forward to the day when I shall take you to big functions, and see you wearing it on that beautiful neck of yours."

He leaned forward as he spoke and kissed her soft throat, and Meg, although a married woman of some four months standing, flushed delicately with pleasure.

Denison, too, was a frequent visitor, but for a long time had little news. Then, one day in September, he came in with a new light of excitement on his face.

"You've found out something, John," Rendle exclaimed.

"Shrigley has. He has discovered that Wilsher was once in the pay of Bertram Denby."

"The deuce he was! I say, John, that helps us, doesn't it?"

"I can't tell yet," answered Denison a little doubtfully. "It was four of five years ago, and it appears that Denby discharged him. We haven't yet any evidence that they have met since then, but Shrigley is trying all he knows to get it."

"The more I think of it, the more certain I feel that Denby has a finger in the pie," said Rendle. "I suppose Shrigley knows all about the necklace?"

"Yes. I have told him everything," Denison replied. "It is no use employing a man like that if you keep him in the dark. I'll let you know the minute we get any further information."

"What's Denby doing now?" asked Rendle.

"Living with his wife in their flat at Kensington. He's been keeping pretty quiet lately."

"And the exquisite Gerald?"

"Oh, he is adorning certain rather second-class circles in Kensington society, and seems to have taken up racing as a serious pursuit."

"That will see his finish in pretty short order," said Rendle, grimly, and Denison, laughing, picked up his hat to go.

The hot, weary days dragged on, and the strain grew more and more heavy. Rendle's health suffered, but for Meg's sake he put a bold face on his prospects, and in her presence was always cheerful.

Denison, too, began to look worn and worried. Shrigley was not getting on. Do what he would, the detective could trace no connection between Wilsher and Denby beyond the fact that Wilsher had once been in the other's employ for about a year.

Since that time Wilsher had filled three different situations as clerk in various rather third-rate City houses. But there was apparently nothing against the man. He had, at any rate, never been in trouble with the law.


THE first thing that Alan Rendle was conscious of as he was led into the dock was that the Court was crowded. It was more. It was packed almost to suffocation, and that largely by smart people. The number of well-dressed women was extraordinary, and he realised with a slight feeling of bitterness that Denison had been right. This trial of for a glance of recognition.

But a second look cheered him, for it showed the faces of many friends, and one and all seemed eager for a glance of recognition.

But there was not much time to look around. Already the clerk was reading the indictment, and Rendle realised at last that he was on his trial! "for that he did feloniously kill and murder one Francis Wilsher."

Next, he found himself pleading "Not Guilty" in a voice which seemed astonishingly calm and self-possessed.

Then up rose from his place at the table a tall figure with a heavy jaw and hard, dogged face. He was Charles Barrington-Howe, K.C., Counsel for the Prosecution, a man not blessed with any great gift of oratory, but dreaded for his ruthlessness and his power of collating damaging facts, and presenting them to the most damning form. It was said that he had been responsible for hanging more men that any Counsel at the English Bar.

In his deep, strong voice he told the story of that July night at the house in Campden Hill and what led up to it, and Rendle listened, fascinated. Fascinated because he was quite unable to connect himself with the monster of iniquity portrayed by the K.C.

In the first place, his earliest meeting with Wilsher was pictured as a piece of abominable bullying on his part. He learnt that he was the sort of man who refused to allow his wife's maid, even on her day out, the simple pleasure of meeting a man friend—that he had abused Wilsher for even approaching the house, and that he had threatened the man with personal violence if he ever caught him about the place again.

His lip curled contemptuously, for he realised that this was only Alma Holmes' account at second hand. Presently, he caught Denison's eye and saw him smile and nod reassuringly, and felt comforted.

Barrington-Howe went on to the night of the affray, and described out at an ultra smart restaurant, and Rendle as one of the idle rich, dining told how he had to be called back to see a patient who was almost in extremis, and whom he almost inferred that he had been neglecting.

Rendle found himself listening with absorbed attention. He did not even feel particularly indignant. It seemed to him that Howe was telling a story about someone else with whom he had no connection whatever.

But when the big, hard-faced man got on to the recital of the alleged quarrel and the killing, then, for the first time, Rendle began to feel nervous and uncomfortable. Here Barrington-Howe became more restrained, but he wove his facts together with a skill that was positively deadly. Although these facts were largely mingled with fiction drawn from Alma Holmes, yet they were put together so cleverly that they formed a most damning indictment.

Howe was too clever to make out that it was deliberate murder. Rather, he painted Rendle as an ill-tempered, overbearing man, furious because one of his servants had disobeyed his orders and admitted to his house the man to whom she was engaged.

"Where else," he asked dramatically, "was the unfortunate girl to entertain her fiancé? She could not leave the house except one evening a week, and even then she could only walk with Frank Wilsher in the streets or sit with him on top of an omnibus, or in some public place. How, under such circumstances, could she make arrangements for her forthcoming marriage; how could he and she choose the humble home which they were to share together."

He hardly mentioned Rendle's suspicions of burglars, but spoke of him as bursting in suddenly upon Wilsher, as he sat quietly reading the newspaper in the servants' hall, and abusing him right and left. He even put words into his mouth which Rendle certainly had never used, and here Mr. Royce suddenly rose and interposed a question as to how he came to have any idea of what the conversation was, seeing that there were no witnesses present.

Howe swung round.

"There was a witness, sir. Alma Holmes was outside the door the whole time, as you will learn from her own evidence presently."

It was the first time that Rendle had heard of anything of the sort, and he felt almost certain that the woman was lying. Had she been outside, surely she would have rushed in at the first sound of the struggle.

Howe continued. He worked up the quarrel skilfully, and made it appear that—being threatened with arrest—Wilsher had lost his head and tried to bolt, whereupon Rendle had picked up the knife, and threatened him with it.

For the first time since Howe had begun to speak, Rendle felt a wave of indignation. He hoped that Royce would interpose again, but he did not do so.

Barrington-Howe put it to the jury that Wilsher had tried to escape, and that in the struggle which ensued, and which Alma Holmes professed to have heard through the closed door, Rendle had stabbed him, and afterwards fabricated the story of the man falling on the knife.

He spoke for more than an hour, and it was quite evident that he had made a big impression on the jury.

At last he sat down. Then came the dramatic moment when Alma Holmes entered the witness box. She was carefully dressed for the part, all in dead black. Her face, ghastly white, contrasted strongly with her sable attire, while her long, narrow eyes were cast down. Once, however as they fell on Rendle, they blazed with a sudden light which told him clearly that her insane hatred for him had not a whit abated.

Barrington-Howe began to examine her and there was nothing in the least sensational about the first simple questions and answers. They merely elicited the facts of her service with her mistress, first as Miss Chester, then as Mrs. Rendle, and of her meeting and engagement to Francis Wilsher.

Howe worked up to the night of the affray.

"You yourself let Wilsher into the house?"

"I did, sir."

"At what hour was that?"

"About nine, sir."

"Did he come by arrangement?"

"No. I did not expert him. He came to say that he could not meet me on the next day which was my afternoon out. He said he would have to stay late at the office."

"What happened then?"

"I asked him in. He said Dr. Rendle had ordered him not to enter the house. I said Dr. and Mrs. Rendle were out, and that he might as well come in for a chat. I took him into the servants' hall, gave him a newspaper, and ran up to change my dress.

"I knew I was doing wrong, sir," she added, "but I did feel it hard that I should not see him again for a whole week."

"Quite so. Then did you hear Dr. Rendle come in?"

"No, sir. I was upstairs. The first thing I heard was a door slam. That would be about ten minutes after I had gone up not more.

"I hurried down, and heard loud voices in the servants' hall. I ran to the door, but it was shut. Then I heard Dr. Rendle's voice, and I was afraid to go in."

"What was being said?"

"I heard Dr. Rendle say, 'What are you doing here?" Frank answered, "You know who I am, sir. I am engaged to Miss Holmes."

"Dr. Rendle replied very angrily, 'What were you doing upstairs a minute ago?' Frank told him that he had been sitting where he was since I had let him in, less than a quarter of an hour earlier."

"Gad. I believe she was there after all," thought Rendle to himself. "That's very near to what we did say."

"And then?" prompted Howe.

"Then, sir, Dr. Rendle told him he was telling lies because, he said, he was breathing hard, and accused him of having been in the little room upstairs, trying to break into the safe. He ordered him to own up, and his voice frightened me so that I could hardly stand."

"What did Wilsher reply?" inquired Howe.

"He said he knew nothing about the room or the safe, sir and he didn't either, for I had never mentioned it, and he had never been upstairs. Indeed, he had never been in the house before. He spoke very quietly, sir, but Dr. Rendle swore he was lying and threatened to call the police."

"What happened next?"

"Someone jumped up quickly. It was Frank, I make no doubt, for I heard him call out, 'I will go, sir, I will go at once.' Then I heard Dr. Rendle's voice. 'No, you shan't,' he said, using an oath. 'You don't go until you confess.'

"After that, came the sound of a struggle."

Her voice rose and two spots of scarlet showed on her white cheeks. The court was intensely silent. Everyone was hanging on her next words.

"I heard a crash," she continued. "I turned the handle, but I was shaking so that for a moment or two I could not move. When I did manage to open the door and go in, Frank was lying on his face on the floor, and Dr. Rendle bending over him, and the knife—" her voice rose almost to a scream—"the knife was sticking in between his poor shoulders."

Barrington-Howe glanced round, well satisfied at the sensation he had produced. As for Rendle, he felt positively sickened at the woman's shameless lying. But he did his best not to feel discouraged. Royce, he knew, would cross-examine relentlessly. Surely he would he able to pull the woman's fictions to pieces.

After a moment's pause, Howe began to question Alma Holmes afresh. But the rest of her evidence was less sensational. Since Murdoch had come upon the scene so soon there was less chance for romancing. Still, she made the worst of everything that Rendle had done or said, and her description of Wilsher's dying accusation against Rendle was in itself horribly damning.


OLIVER ROYCE rose at once to cross-examine. He was a man of middle height, he stood very straight, and had the clearest, most earnest eyes that Rendle had ever seen in a man's head.

Denison caught Rendle's eye, and by the expression in his own, he seemed to say "Just wait! Royce will pull that pack of lies to pieces."

Royce glanced at his notes and began to question the woman. He started by asking her where and how she had met Wilsher. She seemed quite prepared for the question, answered that she had happened to sit next him at a cinema, and they had got into conversation. She gave place and date without hesitation.

Royce went on step by step, cross-examined her carefully as to every statement she had made. His questions were searching and ingenious, yet Alma Holmes never once tripped or contradicted herself. If her whole previous evidence had been in writing before her she could not have adhered to it with more absolute accuracy.

As the minutes went by, and Royce was palpably failing in his object, Rendle began to feel a blank sensation that was akin to fear. He had hoped so much from Royce, but he had to realise that no counsel in the world could have shaken the woman. Her sang froid was only equalled by her deadly malice. She meant to get him convicted; and all her powers of mind were bent solely on that object.

So well did she stand the ordeal that Howe did not once interpose on her behalf. At last Royce gave it up. As Alma Holmes left the box she glanced once more at the man in the dock, and Rendle instantly perceived the gleam of gratified malice in her narrow eyes.

Murdoch was the next witness, and his dry, precise statement of facts was in almost startling contrast to the emotional outburst of the previous witness. But even he was forced to repeat Wilsher's last denunciation of Rendle, and Rendle's heart sank again as he realised how strongly this was bound to tell with the jury.

The third witness was Charles Snell, the constable whom Alma Holmes had called in. Clearly, he was well-accustomed to appearing in the witness-box, for he answered all questions in a brief and businesslike fashion. His evidence was, after all, nothing but a repetition of that of Dr. Murdoch, and counted for little one way or the other.

Except, indeed, on one point. The fact that he repeated Wilsher's last words in almost the same form as they had been given already by the two former witnesses was distinctly bad for the defence. The gravity of Denison's face told Rendle this, even if he had not realised it already.

Royce did not cross-examine either of the last two witnesses. Clearly he did not think it worth while. Then the Court adjourned for luncheon.

An excellent meal was sent in from outside for Rendle, but he could not touch it. Between the stuffy atmosphere and his intense and growing anxiety, he had no appetite whatever.

Denison, however, brought in a small bottle of very dry champagne, and insisted on Rendle drinking a glass. Denison did his best to appear cheerful, but Rendle clearly realised that his good spirits were by no means genuine. There was an under-current of anxiety in his friend's manner, which in his sinking heart he instantly perceived.

When the Court had reassembled and Rendle had once more been ushered upstairs into the dock, Royce rose and began to speak. He opened in such a quiet, measured tone that Rendle was at first disappointed, but presently he warmed to his work and presented the case most clearly and eloquently. He dwelt strongly on Rendle's high character, and threw scorn on the suggestion that such a man could, under any conceivable circumstances, have used a knife, or indeed any weapon except his hands.

His first speech was quite brief, then he called his witness for the defence. The first were, of course, witnesses to character. Half-a-dozen well-known men, among them Sir Hector Maconochie, the great specialist. One and all declared that he was a man gifted with excellent control of his temper, and the very last person to have killed a man in the manner implied by the prosecution. They spoke so warmly that Rendle felt a little cheered.

The necklace had already been mentioned by Royce in his preliminary speech. In order to impress upon the jury its great value, and consequently Rendle's natural anxiety for its safety, the expert Ferguson was called, and readily testified to its rarity and price.

Barrington-Howe rose and enquired how the necklace had come into Rendle's possession. Royce objected to the question, being sworn, answered it, saying that it was his wife's property, given her by her father.

Instantly Howe was on his feet again.

"I contravene that statement. I have a witness who will contradict it."

Again Royce objected, but after some discussion the Court sustained Howe. A moment later, who should appear in the box but Mr. Bertram Denby.

It was months since Rendle had set eyes on Meg's step-father. He thought that Denby looked older, but he was as sprucely dressed as ever, and carried himself well.

"Mr. Denby," said Barrington-Howe, "you are, I believe, the step-father of Mrs. Rendle, wife of the accused man?"

"I am," answered Denby. He was a capital actor. Tone and manner alike had both just that touch of grieved necessity which was most likely to impress the jury.

"The accused," went on Howe, "has stated that the diamond necklace, known as the Rainbow Necklace, was given to his wife by her late father before he died. Is this the case?"

Denby hesitated, as though loath to speak.

"Answer, please," said Howe.

"You will understand," said Denby, "that it is painful for me to have to contradict the statement of a near relative, and I wish to say that I was most unwilling to be brought into this case."

"But as you are, you must answer," said Howe, "is this statement true, or is it not?"

"I do not wish to characterise it as an untruth," replied Denby. "But it is, I think, certainly a mistake. The late Mr. Chester left all his property to his widow, now my wife. I have here a copy of his will, in which he mentions 'all jewels, plate, and personal belongings.' There is a reversion of certain monies left to his daughter, but no mention whatever of the necklace. It seems certain that had such an extremely valuable piece of property been destined for his daughter, it would have been stated in the will."

The copy was passed up to the judge, who glanced through it.

"Is there no documentary evidence of the gift?" he asked.

"None, my Lord."

"Then why is the necklace still in possession of Mrs. Rendle?" he asked. "Has Mrs. Denby acquiesced in the alleged gift?"

"No," Denby answered emphatically. "Dr. Rendle married Miss Chester during my absence in South Africa. On my return I claimed the necklace on behalf of Mrs. Denby. Dr. Rendle flatly refused, both verbally and afterwards in writing to give it up."

"Then why did you not reclaim the necklace by process of law?" asked Howe.

"Because," Denby replied, raising his head—"because both my wife and I have a horror of family quarrels. We agreed that we would rather bear any loss than endure the spectacle of a mother suing her daughter in a Court of Law."

Rendle gasped. The cunning of the man staggered him. Absolute lie as his statement was, there was no contradicting it. And by it he had once gained the sympathy of jury and Bench alike.

He glanced across at Denison. The expression on the latter's fact told him that the blow was, indeed, a heavy one.


BARRINGTON-HOWE was content with the sensation produced by Denby's evidence. He let him step down. Then Royce put Rendle into the box to testify in his own defence.

And Rendle, pulling himself together, told the story of the whole affair fully and fairly.

Had he been able to do this at the beginning, there is no doubt that his evidence would have told strongly to his own favor. Now, however, all signs showed that it was too late. The mischief had been done. It is hard at any time for a man to contradict a woman, and it was clear that the jury, the usual pudding-headed lot, had already swallowed Alma Holmes' story in its entirety. Even the fact, strongly insisted on by Rendle, that the woman had never asked to be allowed to bring Wilsher to the house, failed to create any noticeable effect.

When Rendle at length sat down it was with a sick sensation of failure. He felt as if he had been beating the air. Am inexorable web was being woven around him, and so far everything had gone wrong.

Royce rose once more, and now he spoke with an eloquence and fire equal to his reputation. Facing the jury, he insisted powerfully that Alma Holmes' story was too evidently colored by personal motives, that it was clear on the face of it that she was filled with passionate revenge against her employer. He dwelt on her threats.

"Both Dr. Murdoch and the constable can testify to these," he said, "'You shall pay, I swear you shall pay,' were her last words before she left the room. I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, if in the face of such a threat as that, it is possible for any right-minded man to consider the witness' evidence as reliable.

"Consider, too, the absurdity of attributing to a man like Dr. Rendle the threats which Alma Holmes has put into his mouth. You have heard evidence to his character. Men of distinction, men known to all of you as well as friends and patients of his have spoken in the highest terms of Dr. Rendle's good temper, of his patience and self-control.

"I ask you, does a man such as the evidence of Alma Holmes would make the accused out to be, gather such a practice as his, and that within a very few years? It takes personal qualities, besides mere medical skill, to attain such success as he has already acquired."

His voice filled the court, his eyes glowed, and even the dull jury listened to him with attention.

He went into every circumstance of the events of that fateful evening, he showed clearly how plain it was that Alma Holmes' evidence was prejudiced. He proved how much more reasonable was Rendle's own version of what had happened.

He did not even balk at Wilsher's last words, but explained them as a last spiteful effort after revenge.

For the first time during that dreadful ordeal Rendle's spirits rose a little, and he began to feel a vague glimmering of hope.

When at last Royce sat down there was a faint murmur of applause in the crowded court, instantly suppressed by the usher.

Then began the last act in the drama. The Judge Lord Justice Sharland, began his summing up. His quiet, measured speech was in strong contrast to the impassioned eloquence of Rendle's counsel.

He gave the usual summary of the evidence, and proceeded to comment on that of Alma Holmes. "It is quite possible," he said, "that, as counsel for the defence has pointed out, the witness' evidence was colored by her love for the deceased, and by a desire that the person who intentionally or otherwise, had been the means of his death, should not escape punishment.

"Still you must bear in mind that she was the only actual witness, except the accused, of the first part of the quarrel. You must remember that, although by her own account she was behind the door during the actual struggle, and therefore did not see it, the words she heard correspond very nearly with those to which the accused has confessed.

"The latter does not deny having accused the deceased of attempted burglary, nor having threatened him with arrest if he did not confess. All evidence goes, therefore, to show that Dr. Rendle was, at the moment of his finding Francis Wilsher in the servants' hall, in a state of considerable excitement. Natural excitement, no doubt, for there is no reason whatever to discredit his story that he believed a burglary had been, or was being, attempted.

"There seems, however, to be no case against the deceased—no evidence that he had made any attempt on the safe upstairs. No burglar's tools were found there, or in the dead man's possession, and a safe cannot be forced without tools. As for his quickened breathing of which Dr. Rendle speaks, that might very well be caused merely by nervousness at being found in the house where he had no permission to be.

"We come to the facts of the struggle. The guilt or innocence of the accused depend entirely, so it seems to me, on the point whether he or the accused was the first to snatch up the knife from the table.

"The wound was between Wilsher's shoulder-blades, and the blade of the knife penetrated the man's lungs. Dr. Rendle alleges that Wilsher picked up the knife, that he seized the man's wrist to get the weapon away, and that Wilsher's arm was twisted round behind him in such fashion that he fell upon the knife.

"We have had expert evidence to the effect that this is possible. At the same time it is not a very probable explanation, and Alma Holmes has testified that, when she entered the room, Wilsher was on his face, bending over him.

"I will not attempt to prejudice your minds on the subject, for Dr. Rendle may, as he has said, have already turned the man over in order to examine his injury. The fact that he is a doctor renders this supposition all the more probable."

The judge then went on to speak of the evidence of Murdoch and of Snell, the constable, and he mentioned specially what Dr. Murdoch had said of Alma Holmes' threats.

"With this evidence before you, gentlemen," he continued, "you will do well to consider seriously whether this witness' evidence is not tinged with malice. I should dwell on this point more strongly, but for the corroborative evidence of the deceased himself.

"To my mind, it is beyond belief that a man in extremis, and knowing himself on the point of death, should give voice to so terrible an accusation, unless he was himself convinced that there was truth in it. I may be wrong. I merely tell you how it appears to me."

Rendle could hardly believe his ears. All the relief which the earlier part of the judge's summing up had given him was swept away. It was evident—too terribly evident that the judge himself believed in his guilt.

He hardly heard the concluding portion of the judge's speech nor his directions to the jury. What did they matter? The scale was turned. Unless a miracle happened, nothing could save him.

The jury retired. The judge left his seat for the anteroom, no doubt to get a cup of tea. Rendle, taken below, waited in a state of suspense that was infinitely more trying than anything he had known yet.

The minutes dragged by. The autumn twilight was falling. Rendle sat with his chin resting on his hands. His head ached dully.

A clock in the distance struck six. The time seemed endless, and it suddenly came to him that perhaps the jury could not agree, and that their verdict would be deferred until the morning. The thought made him shudder. To endure this suspense all through the long hours of the night was unthinkable. Anything—even a verdict of guilty—would seem preferable.

At last his warders took him upstairs again into the dock. The door of the jury room opened, and the twelve good men and true filed in, looking as self-conscious as men in their position generally do look.

"Gentlemen, have you considered your verdict," asked the judge.

"We have, your worship," replied the foreman.

"Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?"

The hush was intense. To Rendle the pause between question and reply, though lasting barely a couple of seconds, seemed an eternity.

"Guilty, your lordship—guilty of manslaughter."

Someone gasped. It was not Rendle. He was standing up straight, with his shoulders well thrown back, facing disaster with the pluck that was his birthright.

The pause this time was longer. Then Mr. Justice Sharland turned to the man in the dock.

"Alan Rendle, you have been found guilty of taking the life of a fellow creature. The fact that it was in a moment of passion and struggle saves you from the worst penalty of the law. Even so, the crime is a grave one, and the more so because a man of education, but also a doctor—one sworn to save life rather than destroy it. Under the circumstances the penalty can be no light one. I sentence you to ten years penal servitude."

Again that hush. Then a sobbing sigh, and a quick movement of feet, as two men caught a fainting woman.

Rendle started. He thought it was Meg. It was not. Meg was standing up watching him with such a mixture of sorrow and devotion in her lovely face as made the breath catch in his throat.

Then he saw a woman being carried out. It was Alma Holmes.

Next moment a warder laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"You must come with me," he said, and his voice, though grave, was not unkindly.


IT was about five in the afternoon on the day following the trial that Denison drove up to the house in Sheffield Gardens. As he got out and paid the driver, his good-looking face was very grave. To say truth, he dreaded the ordeal before him.

Mrs. Rendle was expecting him, the maid told him, and ushered him straight into the drawing-room. A tea-table was ready set with pretty china and silver; the room, as usual, was bright with flowers, and Meg rose to greet him with a smile of welcome.

Denison pulled up short. His face must have betrayed his thoughts.

"Are you shocked, Mr. Denison?" Meg asked quietly. "Do you think I ought to be lying in my bedroom, with the blinds down?"

"N-no, of course not," stammered Denison, still more taken aback.

"But you do. I think you do," she answered. "And if it would do any good for Alan there I should be. But it will not. On the contrary, it would do him harm."

"You know, Mr. Denison," she continued in a graver tone, "that I would willingly die for Alan. But as it is, my task is to live for him, and if I am to do that I must keep my health and—so far as possible—my spirits. I mean to do all that is in my power to prove his innocence If that is impossible, I still can remember that, in seven years and six mouths, he will be again at liberty. Even then, we shall both still be young enough to begin our life together again, and I do not want him to find me ill or ugly or broken."

She spoke with a simple directness that appealed to Denison intensely. Well as he thought he had come to know her, he realised suddenly that he had not in the least appreciated her real character, her strong sense, or power of will.

"You are quite right," he said earnestly, "quite right. It is I who am a fool. I ought to be kicked."

She smiled again.

"That would be a very poor return for all your kindness in the past weeks. I am very grateful to you, Mr. Denison, and so is Alan. You have seen him, have you not?"

"I have just come from him, He is, as you know, at Wormwood Scrubs, and he is wonderfully well and even cheerful.

"Upon my word," he added, with sudden warmth, "people like you and he deserve everything good. You are both as plucky as they are made. Were I in his place or yours, I should never have the pluck to carry on."

"Oh, but you would," Meg answered quietly, as she poured him out a cup of tea. "Now tell me what Alan said."

"He was anxious that I should see you as soon as possible so as to arrange for your immediate future." He paused.

"You will not, I suppose, think of staying on here?" he asked.

"No," said Meg with decision. "This house is much too expensive and also too large for me alone. For the present I shall find rooms, in the country. Afterwards, my movements will depend on those of Alan. Where will he be taken?"

"Either to Portland or Moorlands. It is impossible to say which."

"Then I shall wait, and when I know, I shall take a cottage fairly near. They will let me see him sometimes, won't they?"

Denison felt a lump rise in his throat. Her question was infinitely pathetic.

"Indeed they will, Mrs. Rendle," he answered, after a moment's pause, "as soon as he has gained what is called 'stage'—that is the privileges accruing from good conduct—you will, I think, be able to see him once every three months. And later—once in two months."

Her face brightened a little. "It will be something to look forward to," she said. "And perhaps you will come sometimes. I know he will like to see you."

"Indeed I will," replied Denison emphatically.

She held out her hand for his cup which was empty, and begged him to help himself to a cress sandwich. He was vaguely surprised to find that he could eat and drink as usual.

"And now about money?" he said. "Will you have sufficient? Alan was anxious about that."

"You can tell him there is no need whatever for anxiety. There will be plenty."

"He said that, if you wanted more, he withdrew any objection he had ever had to your selling the necklace."

She shook her head.

"I will not do that," she answered quietly. "He wished me to keep it, and his wish is sacred. I shall never part with it unless something unforeseen occurs."

"Remember," said Denison, warningly, "that your step-father is still after it. He will never be content until he lays hands upon it. It is quite possible—I speak as a lawyer—that he may now gain courage to sue for it openly."

Meg's face grew grave again.

"I am glad you have told me that. I will take precautions accordingly."

"How do you mean?"

"I shall change my name," Meg answered at once. "I shall disappear. No one but you will know where I am."

Denison gave a low whistle.

"It is really not a bad idea, Mrs. Rendle. All the more so because It will save any unpleasantness which might accrue from your neighbors discovering your identity. You know how stupid people are about such things."

"I can guess," she said quietly. "I think then that I shall carry out this plan at once. If you can find me a tenant for this house I might leave at the end of the present month."

"There will be no difficulty whatever about that," Denison told her. "These houses are in great demand, and if you let it furnished, it should at least, bring you in a rental of two hundred a year."

"Two hundred! That is what I shall do then," declared Meg. "Why, I shall be able to save more than I dreamed of. You see," she added, "I must have a good sum in hand when Alan comes out. He will need it to buy or start a fresh practice."

Once more Denison fell a pang of something like envy. It came to him that, in spite of his cruel and undeserved ordeal, Alan Rendle was a man actually to be envied.

"And now," said Meg, "there is something else I want to talk to you about."

She paused and collected herself. Denison waited, wondering.


"IT is about Alma Holmes," Meg said, with something of an effort. "I mean, if possible, to see her, and—"

"Don't—do not dream of it," broke in Denison hastily. "I assume you that it would be absolutely useless. The woman is crazed with spite against both Alan and yourself. She would only insult you."

"She may. You may be right. Still I feel that I must do it. I would have done it before if I could have found her, but we did not know where she was."

"If you ask me, it was the Denbys who hid her," growled Denison. "Yes, and coached her in her evidence too, I'll swear."

Meg nodded. "I have thought so, too," she said gravely. "But now that the trial is over and Alan has been convicted, they will trouble about her no more. And since she is no longer under Mr. Denby's influence, I feel that there is a chance that she might listen to me.

"No, do not try to dissuade me," she continued. "I feel that it is my duty. The woman used to be fond of me. There is always the possibility that an appeal to her better feelings might be successful. At any rate I must try it."

"Do not buoy yourself up with false hopes," he begged. "Quite apart from the influence that Denby has exerted over Alma Holmes, she knows that Wilsher came to his death at Alan's hands. She was madly in love with Wilsher, and since his death has lived for revenge. No appeal on your part is going to alter that."

"Perhaps not. Yet for Alan's sake I am bound to try," Meg answered, and Denison realised that further argument on his part was waste of breath. This slender, beautiful girl possessed a strength of will, against which it was useless to contend.

"Very well, then," he said. "I believe the woman has gone back to her home in Herefordshire. She lives somewhere out in the Knightly direction, I believe."

"I have her address," Meg told him. "I shall go to-morrow. Meantime I shall be grateful if you will put the house in an agent's hands. I have already given the maids notice."

He promised to do so, and took his leave. He went back to his chambers with a far lighter heart than he had left them. He had no longer any fear for Meg, and as for Alan, he knew him well enough to feel certain that his strength of mind and pluck would carry him gamely through the dreary years to come.

Next morning he went to Paddington to see Meg off on her forlorn hope, and it pleased him to find how grateful she was for this little attention on his part.

"I shall be back to-morrow," she said. "You will come and hear how I have prospered?"

"Indeed I will," he answered her, then as the train began to move, he raised his hat. "Good-bye," he said, "—and good luck!"

It was a long drive from Hereford Station. Meg took a taxi, and was whirled along some of the best roads in England, between hop yards now stripped of the yellow bine, and orchards loaded with ripe fruit.

Foxleigh Farm was Alma Holmes' address. It proved to be a small house of red brick, with a plain slate roof, standing a little back from a high hedged lane.

Bidding the driver wait, she went through the gate, and up a flagged path through an ill-kept, overgrown garden. The door was opened by a tall, elderly woman, dressed in ugly drab. Her dark face and narrow eyes told Meg at once that she was Alma's mother.

"You are Mrs. Holmes?" said Meg.

The other eyed her suspiciously.

"Who are you, if you please?" she countered.

"I am Mrs. Rendle," replied Meg, quietly. Mrs. Holmes started. A look between fear and dislike showed in her hard eyes, and she made as though to close the door in her visitor's face.

But Meg stood her ground.

"I have come to see Alma," she continued firmly, yet gently.

"See Alma! I like your impudence," retorted the woman shrilly. "You, as is wife to the man who killed her chap. Why, I never heard tell of such a thing!"

Meg slipped past into the room, and faced her. Argument she realised was useless.

"I am here to see your daughter, Mrs. Holmes," she said firmly. "And I do not mean to leave until I have done so."

For a moment the woman stood glaring at her. Meg fancied that she would have used violence to turn her out, and had she done so Meg was helpless. But pluck and breeding go far with a person of Mrs. Holmes' type. She hesitated, then her eyes fell and suddenly she strode to a door and opened it, showing a flight of stairs.

"She's up there," she said briefly. "In bed she is, poor lamb! You can go and see her if you've a mind to. Much change you'll get out of her, I'll be bound."

Meg went straight upstairs. There were only two doors at the top, and one was open, showing an empty room. She tapped at the other, and went in.

The room was small but neat, and on the bed, which was placed in the darkest corner, lay her ex-maid.

Meg stopped short. Alma's appearance shocked her. Her face was waxen in its pallor and lined like that of an old woman. Her eyes, deeply sunk, were open, and had in them something of the hard fascination of those of a snake.

She betrayed no surprise at sight of Meg.

"I knew you would come," she said, in a low, hissing voice.

"You knew I would come!" repeated Meg, startled.

"Yes. To beg for him," said Alma, in the same low, intense tone. "To beg for your man, as I would have begged for mine if I had had the chance."

Meg pulled herself together.

"Alma," she said gently, "you are talking nonsense. There was no question of begging. The whole dreadful business was an accident, and that you know as well as I do."

Alma drew herself up suddenly into a sitting position. Her nightdress falling, lower around her throat showed the collarbones protruding, with the skin drawn tightly over them. A hectic flush rose in her terribly pale cheeks.

"Accident, you call it," she retorted breathlessly. "You tell me your husband did not kill him?"

"I do not deny that he was the indirect means of Frank Wilsher's death," Meg answered firmly. "And yet it was as much and as truly an accident as though Wilsher had been run over in the street."

"That's a lie," retorted Alma fiercely. "Dr. Rendle threatened Frank, I heard. He drove him desperate. Then, when Frank tried to get away, he killed him."

Meg kept her temper.

"You do not really believe that, Alma," she answered patiently. "In your heart you know that it was Wilsher and not Dr. Rendle who picked up the knife."

"How should I know it? When I came in there was Dr. Rendle bending over him, and the knife between Frank's shoulders."

A fit of coughing seized and shook her. Meg waited until it was over.

"You know that it was an accident," she repeated. "You know Dr. Rendle well enough to be certain that he would not kill a man."

Alma glared at her.

"He did kill him," she answered stubbornly. "Say what you like, you can't get out of that. Accident or not, he killed him, and he shall suffer for it."

A feeling of disgust that yet had something of pity in it swept over Meg. It seemed to her sordid and terrible beyond belief that any woman could harbor such a brutal longing for revenge. Yet again she controlled herself.

"And I am suffering too, Alma," she said gently.

For an instant Alma's eyes seemed to soften. But only for an instant. Then the hard defiant glare came back.

"I can't help that," she retorted harshly. "That is no business of mine. You should not have married him.

"Nothing that you can say will make any difference," she added viciously, "and I only wish the judge had given him twenty years instead of ten."

Meg's forbearance was at an end.

"You are a cruel and wicked woman, Alma Holmes," she said, and her voice rang clearly through the small room. "'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us,' are words that you must have learned, and have now deliberately put behind you. I tell you that same day you will remember them, and I only hope, for your own sake, that that day will not be too late."

A moment longer she stood, watching the woman. But Alma did not stir or speak. Meg turned and quickly left the room.


THERE was a heavy scowl on the face of Mr. Denby (senior) as he sat in his den at the flat. An unlit cigar was between his teeth, and a financial journal in his hands. It seemed to be something in the paper that had upset him, for his frown deepened as he read the paragraph over again.

Then with a muttered exclamation which was anything but a blessing he flung the paper to the floor, and getting up went across to his writing-table. He took a sheet of paper, picked up his fountain pen, found there was no ink in it, and hurled it into the fireplace.

Clearly, he was in a very evil mood.

He look a steel pen, dipped it in the ink-pot, and began to write. But the latter did not please him. He tore it up savagely, and began again.

It was at this inauspicious moment that the door opened, and Gerald Denby strolled into the room. He wore a suit of tweeds that could by no means be described as quiet, his soft hat was on the back of his head, and the cigar in his mouth was—unlike his father's in full blast.

"Morning, father," he observed casually.

Mr. Bertram Denby swung round upon him, and if his face had been dark before, now it was positively black.

"Why the devil don't you knock? Can't you see I'm busy? And take your hat off, you mannerless young swine."

A momentary look of surprise crossed Gerald's face, and he obeyed in so far that he removed his hat. But he was well accustomed to his father's mood, and soon recovered himself.

"Markets down?" he queried, with a glance at the paper on the floor.

"Markets down?" repeated the elder man fiercely. "Why, you fool, the Minerva Deep has gone up."

Gerald gave a low whistle.

"The deuce! Do you mean they have stopped payment?"

"Stopped payment! They did that long ago. I've had no dividend for over a year. Can't you understand me? They've gone up, I tell you—gone smash—they're done for."

Gerald did not even whistle, and for once his narrow face lost its casual expression completely. He looked actually serious.

"That's bad," he said briefly. "How much had you in it?"

"Everything," was the bitter answer. "Every pound I could scrape. Barring a couple of hundred at the bank, and those few Geldenberg shares, there isn't a sovereign left."

"That's awkward," allowed Gerald thoughtfully, "especially as I was going to ask for a hundred to pay Baddley. I've had a rotten spell of luck this past week. Didn't spot a single winner."

"You fool!" cried his father, raging again. "You infernal young fool! Haven't I told you again and again to leave racing alone?"

"Don't get excited, father," rejoined Gerald quietly. "It's shocking bad for you. Besides, you can't think if you're angry, and we've got to think pretty hard if we are going to save ourselves from Queer-street."

"What's the use of thinking?" demanded the other sourly. "You can think from now till next month, but you won't see any money back from that cursed mine."

"Perhaps not. But if it doesn't come from the mine it will have to come from somewhere else. Money we've got to have, wherever it comes from."

"We shall have to have another shy for the necklace," he continued. "If you'd done as I said before, we'd have had it by now."

Reference to the necklace made Denby senior more angry than ever.

"What!—sued for it? You infernal young idiot, you know very well we couldn't. The whole business would have come out."

"Not necessarily. If we'd had good counsel we should have been all right. We could have kept our private affairs out of it. As it is, you wasted no end of money and time, and then that fool, Wilsher, let us down."

"Rendle's in quod. That's one good thing," said Bertram Denby viciously.

"Quite so. And, as you say, it's the only point where we have scored. Now that he is out of the way, we have a clearer field and a better chance of getting the necklace out of Meg."

"If you knew Margaret as well as I do you wouldn't be quite so cheerful," sneered his father. "The girl's as obstinate as a mule—worse than her precious husband. You'll be a darned sight cleverer fellow than you've ever shown yourself yet if you can get the necklace out of her.

"Why, you don't even know where she is," he added. "She's let the house in Sheffield Gardens, and even her mother doesn't know her address."

"But Denison does," replied Gerald, shrewdly.

"You'd better go and ask him for it," said the other bitterly.

Gerald took no notice of the sneer; he was silent for a moment.

"I'll wager I can guess pretty closely where she is," he said, presently. "I have found out that Rendle has been sent to Moorlands. The chances are that Meg has gone to live somewhere in the neighborhood."

"Why should she?" growled his father.

"Because of seeing him, of course. They let visitors in occasionally—once in three months to begin with, I believe."

Denby, senior, looked up quickly, and there was a gleam of real interest in his face.

"I didn't know that. Would there be any way of finding out when she would be likely to pay him a visit?"

"I've no doubt it could be done," said Gerald, thoughtfully. "The thing would be to get hold of some chap who knows the ropes.

"Gad, I've got it!" he exclaimed, suddenly. "Hallard!"

"Who's Hallard?"

"He's a bookmaker's clerk, but he used to be a stores clerk in the prison service. He had some money left him, chucked his job, blued the lot, and now he'd sell his soul for a fiver."

"And you know him?"

"You bet I do—know him well. Give me ten quid, father, and I'll have the whole thing out of him inside twenty-four hours."

The elder Denby took out a pocket-book and reluctantly drew forth two five-pound notes. Then he paused.

"But what's the use?" he growled, relapsing into his former sulky attitude. "Even If we do find out where the girl is we are no forrader. As I said before, she'll never give up the necklace."

"The first thing is to discover her whereabouts," replied Gerald, coolly. "When we have done that we can lay our plans for getting the diamonds. You trust me, father. I'll find some way."

The confidence in his tone seemed to encourage his father, The latter was in the state of mind to clutch at any straw. He handed over the notes, which Gerald slipped at once into big waistcoat pocket.

"Now," said Gerald, almost briskly. "You sell those Geldenberg shares, father, and bank the money. Fix things up so that we can keep going for a few months, and I'll lay we'll be in Easy-street before the money's all gone. The necklace is worth thirty thousand, if it's worth a penny."

"But, see here," he added, raising a warning finger. "I'm going to play this hand, and I don't want you to interfere until I ask you. You ran that last business off your own bat, and look what happened. I always told you that a poor, miserable, weak-kneed cur like Wilsher was no use to us. Lord!—he hadn't the nerve to burgle a toy-shop!"

So saying, he picked up his hat, lit a fresh cigar, and went straight off.


DENISON was a man who worked hard and played hard. That is, he put in a good eight hours at his office daily, and dined out or joined a theatre party most evenings in the week.

But as he was too wise to burn the candle at both ends, he did not rise at too early an hour, and he was still in bed when, at nine o'clock of a raw February morning, Bond (his man) brought him his tea and letters.

There were about a dozen of the latter, mostly invitations, bills or advertisements, but as he ran through the bundle he caught sight of a writing he knew well, a firm yet distinctly feminine hand, and dropping the rest, he hastily tore open the envelope.

The address was "Mourne Cottage, Awnenmuth," and the date "February 21st." It was as follows:

Dear Mr. Denison,

I told you that I would write when I was settled, and am now fulfilling my promise. I moved in here a week ago, and already feel that I have shaken down for a long stay.

The cottage is small, but capitally built and most comfortable. I have a splendid view of the sea from the windows of my little sitting-room, and early as it is, the daffodils and primroses are already in bloom in the garden, while the birds sing gloriously.

I have one maid. She is called Amy Treasure, and her name does not belie her worth. She is a treasure, being quite a good cook, and far more tidy and energetic than the general run of women. I like her and the place and the climate, and feel that I can be content here so far as content is possible—until the time comes for Alan's release.

I have not seen him yet. I shall not be allowed to until about the end of next month. But I have heard from him. As you know, he was sent to Moorlands just after New Year. He has been put in a farm party, and says that he is well, except for a slight touch of rheumatism. He sent his love to you. As he is only allowed to write one letter a mouth you must not expect to hear from him directly. I hope you will not be jealous. I can send any messages from you.

I am less than an hour by train from Moorlands, and I have been strongly tempted to run up on the possible chance of catching a glimpse of Alan at work outside. Yet I have resisted the temptation. Even if I did see him it would be too dreadful not to be able to speak or even sign to him. No, I will wait until I am allowed to pay my visit, and I can hardly tell you with what a mingling of dread and longing I look forward to that day.

Seven years and one month, now. It is a terrible vista of time. Sometimes I wonder if I can have the patience to endure to the end. But I must not complain—least of all to you who have always been such a friend to us both. It would not be fair.

If you answer this, address me as "Mrs. Austin." I pose here as a widow. I dislike the deception, but as you have told me, and as I fully realise, it is necessary.

Yours very sincerely,

Margaret Rendle.

P.S. The necklace is in a safe place. It is not in a bank or in the cottage. I have found a hiding place which, I think, is perfect. I will not even tell you where it is, but in case of accidents, I have left a letter at Alan's bank, addressed to you, which explains exactly where it is to be found.

Denison's face was very thoughtful as he read the letter. "The poor dear!" he said as he folded it again and replaced it in its envelope. "Seven years and a month! She is counting the very days.

"Hang that woman, Holmes!" he muttered with a sudden fierceness very foreign to his usual nature. "And hang Denby! He's at the bottom of it, I'll swear. If I could only get proof against him, gad, I'd go and watch him over the prison walls. Aye, and enjoy it, too. Please God. I will some day."

He got out of bed and began to dress. All the time, while he made his toilet, his thoughts were full of Margaret Rendle.

"I wonder if she would like me to go down and see her," he said thoughtfully, as he began to lather his chin. "I'll write and ask anyhow. It must be soon, if I do, for I've promised Marsden to take that Swiss trip with him at Easter."

It was a long and gossipy letter that he wrote, full of odds and ends of London news and Meg answered it by return, telling him she would be charmed to see him at any time.

He wired her to expect him on Friday afternoon following, and next morning set out to catch the 10.30 express from Paddington.

He was a little early, and had plenty of time not only to take his ticket, but to purchase some literature at one of the bookstalls.

There were plenty of people about. As Denison made his way slowly through the throng to a carriage in the front part of the train, he caught a glimpse of a face that seemed vaguely familiar and saw, moreover, that its owner was watching him.

Too clever to take any immediate notice, he got into his carriage and sat down. Opening a newspaper to shield his face, he kept covert watch from behind it, and presently saw the man pass his window and glance in.

"So he is following me," he said to himself, faintly amused. "Now, who the deuce is he?"

Still sheltering himself with his paper, he saw the man who was young and rather tall, move on a little way, then turn and saunter aimlessly back. As he passed the second time, Denison contrived to get a good look at his shadower.

All of a sudden he recognised the face as one which he had seen in court on the day of Alan's trial, and knew that it was Gerald Denby's.

In a flash he understood the position. Somehow, the Denby's had got wind of his journey south, and this fellow, trusting that Denison did not know him by sight, meant to follow him, no doubt in the hope of discovering Meg's whereabouts.

Denison smiled grimly.

"So that's your little game, my young friend," he said to himself. "Well, if I can't beat you, I'll kick my self hard before I go to bed to-night."

He lay back comfortably in his seat, and paid no more attention to the tracker, and soon the train started, and, rapidly gathering speed went hurtling south-westward through the level Thames valley. Reading was passed in forty minutes, another twenty saw Newbury vanish, and soon afterwards an attendant appeared to ask Denison whether he would take first or second lunch.

"First please," Denison answered, and later, when the meal was announced, and he made his way to the dining-car, he saw, as he had fully expected to see, Gerald Denby take a seat at a table not far off.

The 10.30 does not stop until it reaches Exeter, where the engine is changed for the heavy gradients between the Cathedral city and Plymouth, which latter town was Denison's destination.

The moment the train pulled up at Exeter Denison jumped out, and hurried into the telegraph office, where he seized a form and began to write.

"Rendle, 3 Western Villas, St. Austell, Cornwall," he put as address, and then perhaps it was clumsiness, perhaps something went wrong with his fountain pen at any rate a huge blot splashed on the form.

With a muttered exclamation, he crumpled the sheet and flung it aside, and taking another wrote a quite unnecessary message to his own head clerk, and passed it through the grating. While he waited for change he kept an eye lifting to see if his bait took.

Sure enough, there was Gerald at the self-same compartment at which he had written his own wire, and as he watched he saw the fellow rapidly secure the crumpled form and thrust it into his coat pocket.

Denison could have laughed outright as he strolled quietly out of the office and took his seat again. The train was almost moving when Gerald Denby reached it, and sprang into his compartment which was in the carriage just behind Denison's.

Denison read quietly until the guard came by to inspect tickets.

"Guard," said Denison in his quiet, well-bred voice. "Will you do something for me?"

"I shall be very pleased, sir," replied the official.

"That suit-case on the rack is mine. It is the only luggage I have. I am getting out at Plymouth. I want you to take the case and leave it in charge of a porter who is to wait for me on the down platform. You can tell him he will get a shilling."

"Very good, sir?" said the guard. "Shall I take the case now?"

"Yes, please. Only I want it taken forward, not back through the carriage behind.

"And perhaps you will accept this for your trouble," he added, and the half-crown he slipped into the other's hand completed the transaction to their mutual consent.

Arrived at Plymouth, where the train stopped for five minutes before going on into Cornwall, Denison got out and went straight to the refreshment room, where he ordered a whisky and soda, and watched the train through the window.

Gerald Denby sat tight. Feeling certain that Denison was bound for St Austell, and had merely got out for a drink, he did not trouble to move.

Denison watched the clock, and at the end of four and a half minutes re-appeared on the platform. He bought an evening paper from a boy, and, in finding change, somehow dropped a shilling which the boy recovered for him.

"All aboard!" cried the guard, and Denison began to walk towards his carriage.

He timed it perfectly. Just as he reached it, the train began to move. He made no effort to jump in, but stood quietly while the long line of windows glided past. Next moment he caught a glimpse of Gerald Denby's agitated face, as he sprang from his seat and made for the door.

Denison took off his hat.

"You're a little late Mr. Denby," he called loudly, then, smiling broadly, walked off to reclaim his bag.


A BRANCH line train took Denison to Awnemouth, and he arrived at Mourne Cottage about five o'clock. He found Meg busy in the garden in strong gloves and a big apron. She came quickly to greet him, and he was relieved to see how well she looked.

True, she was thinner than formerly, and her grey eyes looked larger than before. But both they and her pretty complexion were clear as ever, and the smile with which she greeted him did him good to see.

She took him in and rang for tea which was brought by Amy Treasure. The girl was a typical daughter of Devon, tall and strongly built, with very fair and blue eyes. She seemed capable as she was sturdy, and was evidently devoted to her young mistress.

The two sat and chatted for a long time. Denison, however, did not mention his little adventure with Gerald Denby. He did not want to make Meg nervous.

Meg took him all over the cottage which was all she had painted it. Though small, it was extremely comfortable and the view out to sea was really magnificent. He stopped to supper, and it was just nine before he returned to the little hotel where he had left his bag.

Next day he again spent all the morning at the cottage, and did not leave until it was time to catch the afternoon train back to town.

"I am going back more cheerful than I came," he told her at he bade her goodbye. "So long as you keep busy and cheerful, I have no fears either for you or Alan."

"And you have done me good, too," she answered frankly. "You will come again."

"Indeed I will. I am going to Switzerland for Easter, just for a week or ten days. But after that, any week-end. You have only to ask me."

"I shall. Be sure of that. And and I shall then be able to tell you about Alan. I shall have seen him."

"Give him my love," said Denison warmly. "And—and remember, if anything is wrong, if you have any trouble of any sort, just wire me."

"That is very good of you," she said with a smile, "but let us hope the occasion will not arise."

She watched him out of sight, then turned back to her gardening. This was her great resource. She knew but few people, and went about very little, and though she had plenty of books and music, time might have hung heavy on her hands but for the constant interest of her flowers, vegetables, and fruit.

As it was, the days melted one into another with wonderful swiftness, and each brought nearer the date of her first visit to the prison.

At last it came, and with it a bright sun and a cold, east wind Meg found her heart fluttering oddly as, very quietly dressed, she made her way afoot to the station.

She changed at Plymouth, and then a panting engine drew her train up the tremendously steep gradients by which the winding line climbed the edge of the Moor. The views were magnificent. Half Cornwall and a great section of Devon's richest lowlands lay beneath her eyes, and beyond, the sea glimmered against the pale blue horizon.

At last they pulled into Moorlands station, where a closed carriage, for which Meg had telephoned, awaited her.

The village itself shocked her. It was so utterly bare and treeless and desolate. Ugly granite houses stood up starkly on either side of the long, bare street down which the wind whistled with a winter's edge. In corners lay the remains of drifts of snow, still unmelted.

The prison stood at the upper end of the street, dominating the whole place, and if the village was bare and ugly the prison itself was ten times worse. Meg shivered as her eyes rested on the huge, many storeyed halls which radiated from a common centre, like the spokes of a wheel, and on the rows and rows of narrow, iron-barred windows each of which marked a separate cell.

In spite of the bright sun, the place looked dreary beyond belief, and her heart sank as she regarded it. This was Alan's home—the only home he could know for seven long, terrible years; and there he, a man of education and refinement, a man, moreover, guiltless of any crime, was forced to herd with the very scum and off-scourings of the earth.

Opposite to a monstrous granite arch the carriage pulled up and Meg got out.

"You go through there, Miss," said the driver, "down to the gate-lodge, inside. The chap there—he'll tell you."

Meg thanked him and asked him to wait. She went forward with such a sense of nervousness as she rarely remembered.

But the elderly warder at the gate-lodge took her arrival quite as a matter of course. He merely asked for her card of appointment and got her to sign her name in a book, then called through the telephone.

Another blue-tuniced official appeared.

"This way, please," he said, and Meg was conducted across the court, and up some stairs to a large, bare, airy apartment. A long table ran down the middle of it with a couple of chairs on either side. There was no other furniture.

"Your husband will come in at the door opposite, Mrs. Rendle," explained the warder. "He will remain at that side of the table; you at this. You will have twenty minutes for conversation, and I must ask you not to speak in any language but English."

Meg promised. In spite of all her efforts at self-control, the was trembling so that she was glad to drop into a chair.

The door opposite opened, and a man appeared, a man with thin brown cheeks, hollow eyes, and hair cropped bristle close all over his head. He wore badly-fitting breeches, canvas gaiters, with black broad arrows stamped broadcast upon them, and a blue-and-red slop jacket over a sleeved waist-coat.

Meg stared wide-eyed.

"Meg!" said this strange apparition.


MEG sprang up.

"Alan!" she cried, and there was such pity and pathos in her voice that the warder, though hardened by witnessing hundreds of such scenes, turned away and felt a lump rise in his throat.

"You didn't know me, dear?" said Alan, as he came close to the far side of the table, opposite to his wife. "Indeed, I don't wonder. These garments are hardly ornamental."

"It isn't that, Alan. It's your face. You are so thin. Oh, my dearest, you said you were well!"

"And so I am, Meg," Alan answered stoutly. "The separate confinement was trying, I will admit, and I found the food difficult at first. But now that I am working out-of-doors I am much better fed and much better off in every way."

Meg's eyes were misty with tears, and for a moment she could not speak. She longed—longed desperately to throw her arms around him and take his poor shaven head on her breast. But this was impossible. Although the old grilles or cages in which prisoners were forced to interview their friends are mercifully banished, yet no visitor—not even a wife—may so much as clasp her husband's hand.

Bravely she choked down her emotion, while Alan spoke again.

"Things are none to bad, darling," he went on with a cheerfulness that nearly broke Meg's heart. "The officers are very decent to any fellow who obeys rules and tries to save them unnecessary trouble. The chaplain is most kind, and I have books from the library. The work is not over-hard, and I am getting accustomed to it. Then there are various privileges to be won by good conduct. After a little while I shall be allowed to have your photograph in my cell. That alone is a big thing to look forward to."

He went on telling her about his life and work, and soon she recovered herself, and was able to talk naturally. He questioned her eagerly as to her house, what she was doing, and all the little details of her daily life.

"I want to be able to picture you in your garden, Meg, and to be able to tell at any minute just what you are doing. And when you write, remember that these small things are what I crave above everything else. You need not be afraid to write fully. Of course, all our letters are read before they reach us, but only by the governor or his deputy."

The twenty minutes sped by with terrible rapidity, and it was a shook to both of them when the warder, who, like the decent fellow he was, had remained at the far end of the room, rose and told them that time was up.

"And see here, ma'am," he added in a low voice, "if you want to say good-bye properly to your husband I ain't watching you for a minute. I'll trust your honor not to pass anything to him."

Meg's look was thanks enough. True to his promise, the warder turned his back, and reaching across the table the unhappy pair were able to exchange a short embrace.

Then Alan was led away through the door by which he had come, and Meg was taken back to the gate. Reaching it, she turned and gave her hand to the warder.

"Good-bye," she said, "and God bless you. I shall feel happier to think that my husband is in the charge of men like you."

"Well, ma'am," he answered, flushing slightly, "half of us would be losing our jobs if none of 'em gave any more trouble than he does."

Meg felt a little comforted as she drove away. Her train was not due for another hour, so she went to the hotel from which she had hired her carriage to wait and have some luncheon. Though so early in the season there were a good many people in the place but Meg saw no face she recognised and had her modest meal at a table by herself.

She walked back to the station. The sunshine was gone and the afternoon had turned gloomy and bitter cold. Meg shivered as the train started and went winding slowly down the long curves. She had a magazine, but could not read. Her thoughts were with her husband in his lonely exile behind those steel barred gates, and in spite of herself her spirits sank again, until by the time she had reached Awnemouth she was feeling as downcast and wretched as she ever remembered to have felt since that dreadful day when Alan had been condemned to this cruel and undeserved punishment.

The seven years of separation that were still before them seemed to stretch out to a very eternity.

Even the pleasant warmth and light of the cottage and the very genuine welcome of Amy Treasure failed to raise her spirits. She drank a cup of the delicious tea which Amy had ready for her, but could not touch the dainty slices of thin bread and butter which were temptingly rolled on a pretty plate.

Taking a wicker chair by the fire, she sat with her chin on her hands, staring into the heart of the crimson coals, and wondering miserably how she was going to face the future.

The sight of Alan, had re-kindled within her all the old longing for his presence. She remembered vividly his cheery laugh, the way in which he would slip quietly into the room, bend over her and drop a kiss on her cheek, the little jokes they used to have together.

And than to think of him where he was! The day's work was over, he would be in his tiny, terribly bare cell, awaiting the rough, tasteless supper of bread, margarine and cocoa. She pictured him sitting on the stool, holding his book high, so as to read by the light of the gas jet fixed in a lantern in the wall.

A tap at the door cut short her miserable musings. Amy Treasure entered with a perplexed look on her fresh face.

"There's a gentleman at the door, ma'am. He wants to see you, but he won't give any name."

Meg sat up sharply.

"Won't give his name! Who is he?"

"Here he is to answer for himself," came a voice, and Meg started violently as Gerald Denby pushed past the astonished and angry maid and entered the room.


MEG drew herself up sharply.

"What are you doing here, Mr. Denby? What do you mean by forcing yourself into my house?"

"Come now, Meg. That's a nice way to speak to a relation," returned Gerald, with an injured air. "I might ask you what you are playing at down here in this god-forsaken place."

"Stay, Amy," Meg bade her.

A queer look crossed Gerald's face.

"I have come all the way from London to discuss some business with you, Meg," he said, and there was a distinct note of threat in his voice. "If you wish your servant to overhear it, well and good. But I tell you plainly that it is a matter which would best be kept between ourselves."

Meg looked at him for a moment. She was thinking quickly.

"Very well," she said coolly. "Amy, will you wait outside, please, and be ready to come when I ring."

"I will that, ma'am," replied Amy, and the glance which she cast at Gerald, as she retired, was anything but friendly.

When she closed the door, Meg, still standing, addressed Gerald.

"Do not fancy for one minute that I am afraid of you," she said, and her tone was more icy than Gerald had ever heard it. "My maid would be quite capable, unaided, of putting you out of my door, which you have entered, uninvited. But I have a fancy to hear what you have to say, and I will give you five minutes in which to tell me.

"But first I will ask you a question," she continued, "How did you find me?"

"That's telling," replied Gerald, with a nasty grin. "You'd better ask Denison."

"Oh, so you tracked me down here?" said Meg, with cutting scorn. "I quite understand. It is the soft of thing at which you no doubt will be an adept."

The color rose in Gerald's sallow checks. He was rapidly losing his temper.

"Anyhow, I've found you," he said sullenly. "And now I want to know whether you are going to give up that necklace which you stole from your mother."

Meg laughed—laughed with a whole-hearted amusement, which puzzled the half-frightened Gerald.

"I might have known it," she said at last. "I think I did know it. So you and your father are really ruined at last, Gerald?"

"What are you talking about?" demanded Gerald, with a fine show of indignation. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that you and he must, both of you, be in a very bad way to give you courage to talk to me as you have done."

Gerald turned vicious.

"It's very clear that you don't know what you are talking about," he retorted savagely. "The necklace belongs to your mother, and she means to have it back."

Meg shook her head. Her own temper was under admirable control.

"Oh no, she does not, Gerald," she answered. "I am quite certain she does not. It is you and your father who want it, so as to sell it and throw away the proceeds as you have done with the rest of her possessions. Let me assure you that you are not going to have it. You will not lay a finger on it. You will never even set eyes upon it."

Meg's manner was so completely assured so different from anything he had ever known before, that Gerald was staggered. But his need was great; he stuck to his point.

"The law is on our side," he declared. "The law will give the necklace to your mother."

"And will she invoke it?" asked Meg.

"We shall, on her behalf," blustered Gerald.

Meg laughed again. This sparring was lifting her out of her previous depression. She was almost beginning to enjoy herself.

"You will go to law, will you?" she said scornfully. "Indeed, Gerald Denby, I shall ask nothing better. No doubt then, your father will give an account of his stewardship in the witness box. It will be highly interesting.

"You see," she added, bending forward a little and still smiling. "I am not quite so young and innocent as I was a year ago. I have seen my father's will and know its contents. There is a reversion of £10,000 to come to me when I am twenty-five. Will your father be able to hand over those securities?"

Gerald was staggered. He stood biting his lips, the picture of baffled fury.

"So that's your game," he said at last. "You are trying to bluff us. But you can't do it. I have another card to play."

"Suppose," he went on with an ugly grin—"suppose I tell your neighbors here who you are. Suppose it becomes know in Awnemouth that you are not the pretty widow they take you for, but the wife of a convicted criminal?"

There was a flash of anger in Meg's grey eyes, but she still kept her temper.

"You are even more stupid than I thought you were," she replied, with biting contempt. "Do you realty think that such a threat will make any impression on me?"

"It's going to be pretty unpleasant for you, anyhow," growled Gerald.

Meg drew herself up.

"Gerald Denby, I have always known that you were a good-for-nothing scamp. Now I realise that you are also a cowardly blackmailer. I tell you quite plainly that I will make no terms with you whatever. You can sue for the necklace if you dare, or if you prefer it, you can carry out your other threat. For the present at any rate you will leave my house, and I will take very good care that you do not enter it again."

She turned towards the bell.

"Wait!" cried Gerald sharply. "Wait a moment before you ring."

Meg paused with her hand on the bell.

"Well?" she asked coldly.

"I have another suggestion to make," said Gerald. "Will you exchange the necklace for your husband?"

If Gerald's object had been to startle Meg, to arrest her attention, he had certainly succeeded. Her hand dropped away from the bell, and she turned towards him again with a look in her eyes that was near to fright.

"No, I am not crazy," said Gerald forcibly. "I mean exactly what I say. I want to know if you will hand over the Rainbow Necklace in exchange for your husband."

Meg's lip curled.

"You are mad!—you must be, to make such a preposterous suggestion. I know very well that Alan owes his conviction entirely to the efforts of your father and yourself. I feel certain that Wilsher and Alma Holmes were both your tools. But now that you have done this abominable thing it is beyond your power to undo it—unless, of course," she added scornfully, "you are prepared to confess your share in the matter. And as such a proceeding would most certainly land you both in the dock. I do not flatter myself for one moment that you or your father would do it."

"You are quite right there," returned Gerald with brutal candor. "Neither my father or I have the faintest intention of doing any silly thing of the sort. At the same time, I repeat my offer. I will bring you your husband here and hand him over to you if you, on your part, will hand over the necklace."

A glimmering of his meaning began to dawn on Meg.

"You mean—" she paused, hesitating.

"I mean that I will get him out of quod prison," said Denby. "I mean that I will procure his escape, and bring him in here or to any particular spot that you like to name. I will hand him over to you in exchange for the necklace, and there my responsibility ends. You can hide him, you can take him abroad, or do anything else that you please."

Meg looked him full in the face, striving to discovered whether this was some new trick that he was trying to play. He seemed to divine her thoughts.

"This is straight goods," he declared. "I mean exactly what I say, and if you think it over you'll see that I can't trick you any more than you can me. If I don't bring Rendle to the rendezvous you don't hand over the necklace. And if you refused to play fair—why, I could notify the nearest police station, and Rendle would go back to Moorlands in quick time."

Meg stood silent. Thoughts were racing through her brain. It was a crazy, desperate plan, and she realised that Gerald and his father must be hard-pushed indeed even to suggest such a thing. She did not think it could succeed, and if it failed, Alan would be the one to suffer. Yet, on the other hand, Gerald would never have suggested it unless he had good reason to believe he could carry it through.

And to get Alan out! To get him out at any price from that horrible prison on the moor. Was it not worth any sacrifice? The necklace counted for nothing in the scale.

At last she looked up.

"How can you have any hope of doing such a thing?" she asked. "How can you possibly get him out? No prisoner has ever made good his escape from Moorlands, for more than twenty years past."

"That's my business," replied Gerald curtly. "I'm not going to give my plans away, even to you."

Again she hesitated. Gerald waited patiently.

"Very well," she answered, with quiet determination. "I am willing that you shall try it. You will hand Alan over to me in Black Scar Wood, two miles south of this. I shall be in a coppice above Black Scar Head, there at the time appointed.

"But I will be quite plain with you," she added, looking him firmly in the eyes. "Treachery on your part will not avail yon. I shall not be carrying the necklace upon me. It will be hidden, and you will not have it until Alan is safe in my care. You understand?"

Gerald nodded.

"I'm content," he said shortly. "Now you can ring."


IF Meg felt her loneliness all the more bitterly for her brief glimpse of her husband, Alan Rendle himself was equally, or even more, deeply affected.

Judges may say what they please, but imprisonment of any sort—much more so penal servitude—is an infinitely more severe punishment for a well-educated man than for the common run of criminals.

The sordid surroundings, the coarse clothes and food, the impossibility of being properly clean, and—more than all—the enforced association with the lowest type of humanity, combine in a great weight which presses so sorely upon the soul as to require every atom of a man's strength to struggle against, with any degree of success. Nine times out of ten the struggle is unsuccessful. Then the sufferer either sinks to the level of his companions, he goes mad, or he commits suicide.

Rendle, fortunately for himself, was made of stronger stuff. He had plenty of will-power, and—which is more important—knew how to use it. Besides, he was sustained first by the consciousness of his own innocence; and secondly, by Meg's wholehearted devotion and belief in him.

With these as props, there was no danger of his sinking; yet at the same time his sufferings were even greater than they would otherwise have been. There was not a waking minute in which he was able to forget, and his nights were broken by terrible dreams. His best time was when at work in the fields where he used spade and pick with an energy most distressing to his slack and casual neighbors; his worst were the long evenings, alone in his cell.

Farm parties come in from work at four in winter, and five in summer. After that, there is nothing to break the daily monotony except supper, and that, though the food is wholesome and sufficient, can hardly be called exciting. For the rest, until lights are turned off at a quarter past eight, the prisoner can only read or scribble on his slate or think.

Rendle tried not to think for he soon found that thinking brought desperation. And this meant the same wild dream that inevitably lurks in the brain of every prisoner—the hope of escape.

He knew, just as did every other of the eleven hundred inmates of Moorland Prison, that escape was practically impossible. He was aware that, although every year, four or five attempts were made, it was nearly a quarter of a century since one had been successful. In spite of this, hardly a day passed without the wild dream obtruding itself, and without finding himself considering ways and means by which it might be accomplished.

To "do a bunk," in prison parlance, was a comparatively simple matter. Given the opportunity, namely a sudden fog or rain, any man at outdoor work might make a sudden dash with a fair chance of escaping the charge of buck-shot from a warder's rifle.

And once over the nearest wall, the chances are two to one that the civil guards will fail to run him down.

But after that then comes the rub. The open moor, the cold, the wet, the lack of food, the utter impossibility of obtaining a change of clothes, and the fact that every man's hand is against the fugitive—these combine to make a real get away next door to impossible.

Men, he knew, had been out for three and four days, even for a whole week, only to be forced in the long run to give themselves up, defeated by cold, hunger, and fatigue.

He strove hard to rid his mind of these foolish thoughts, yet for the three days after Meg's visit not a night passed without its dream of liberty. In his thoughts he was always back in London, in the house in Sheffield Gardens, or driving with Meg in the car.

Meg was always near him. He felt her presence so strongly in these visions that the waking was cruel beyond words.

The fourth day after her visit was Monday, and on that morning a new warder appeared on his landing.

Peters, the burly, good-natured officer who had been in charge since his arrival, had been promoted and gone to Parkhurst; the new man, whose name was Clandon, was of a very different type, a slightly built, black-haired Cornishman, a regular Celt, and one whose appearance was by no means prepossessing.

"Now then, stir yourself," he said harshly, as he came into Alan's cell and found him struggling with his stiff, heavy boots.

Rendle did not answer back. His experience of prison life had already taught him that lesson. None the less he felt a surge of anger that this rough, ill-tempered fellow should be in a position to speak to him in a low, quick whisper.

"Watch your breakfast, Rendle. Don't you go eating your toke in too much of a hurry."

Before Rendle could recover from his amazement the man was gone, and had banged the door behind him.

As for Rendle, he stopped lacing his boots, and sat quite still on the edge of his cot, wondering vaguely whether he were awake or dreaming, whether his ears had deceived him or he had realty heard Clandon utter the words which seemed to have come from his lips.

He found himself suddenly in a state of shaking excitement such a state that his hands trembled and his heart beat so hard that he felt half suffocated. It took every atom of will power that he possessed to crush down the fever that raced in his veins, and it was all that he could do to finish his dressing and set to work at the usual routine of cleaning his cell.

The half hour that elapsed before the orderly came in with his breakfast seemed half a day, and when the tray was handed in it was all that he could take it quietly, and lay it on the shelf table.

He forced himself to wait until the door was closed, then fell upon the roll with quivering fingers. It was the usual twelve ounce whole-meal loaf. There seemed nothing in the least out of the common in its appearance, and his heart sank suddenly. It was a moment or two before he summoned resolution to break it open.

Even then he noticed nothing. He broke each piece in two, and out of the second half a tiny something resembling a tightly crumpled cigarette paper dropped out on the tin plate.

The blood rushed to Rendle's head, his heart pounded like a hammer. Several seconds elapsed before he could collect himself sufficiently to pick up the missive and unfold it.

It was a tiny piece of tough but very thin paper, and on it were printed some words in ink. The witting was of the tiniest, evidently done with a crow quill. He had to take it to the window to decipher it. There were these words which he read.

"Friends are helping you. Be ready Tuesday morning next, if fine and dry. If not, the first fine, dry morning after. Destroy this."

There was no address, no date, no signature, nothing to indicate whence this mysterious message had come, nor how it had been sent.

He read the message over again. "If fine and dry." What on earth did it mean? Had it read "wet and foggy," he might have understood, but as it was, it seemed sheer lunacy.

Presumably it referred to some possibility of escape, but how could anyone bolt in fine weather, with the faintest chance of getting away? Oh, it was madness! it must be a hoax of some sort.

Yet who would attempt such a hoax? Who would take the risk of sending in a message like this? It was a heavy risk both for the writer and the messenger, and must have cost the former something into the bargain. A man like Clandon would require to be well paid before he took such a chance.

The more he thought, the more utterly puzzled he became. He forgot his breakfast, forgot everything, and was only roused by the clash of the steel door of the passage and the trampling of nailed boots on the concrete.

The orderlies were coming for the trays.

Like a flash he thrust the dangerous missive into his mouth, chewed it to a pellet, then picking up his mug of half cold cocoa washed it down with that.

At any rate he obeyed his instructions. The message was destroyed.


HOW Rendle lived through that day he hardly knew. His head was in a whirl, he felt dizzy and confused, and for the first time since he had come to Moorlands he was reprimanded for failure to do his work properly. Fortunately for him, his good character saved him from a report, but the escape was so narrow that it terrified him.

Had he actually been reported he would probably have not been allowed out on the following day, and thus have lost the chance, whatever it was, that was being arranged for him.

At my rate, the shock braced him sufficient to keep his mind on his work for the rest of the day, and he did so well that the warder who had warned him went out of his way that evening to give him a word of approval.

That Monday night was awful. He could not sleep a wink. Yet the worst of it was that he had to lie still and pretend to do so. A convict cannot pace his floor as a free man may. The night warder who peeps through the "judas" or spy hole at frequent intervals, will soon put a stop to anything of that sort.

The evening had been clear enough, though cold, and the red sunset had given every promise of a fine day to follow. Yet Rendle was listening, all night long, jumping at every sound, terrified lest it might be rain on the roof.

But the morning, when at last it did come, was fine and bright as the previous day, with a light air from the nor'-west.

Rendle was tired, his nerves throbbed, and his eyes ached. But Clandon made no objection to his drawing a full bucket of cold water, and a sluice down with the icy fluid pulled him together. Clandon did not speak to him at all, but once gave him a significant look which told Rendle that he had not forgotten the incident of the previous morning.

Rendle, knowing that if this mysterious plan came off, he would certainly be called on for violent physical effort, forced himself to eat his breakfast, then calming himself by a powerful effort of will, marched out with the rest to chapel.

The service was very short, then came parade with his party in the yard, and the usual rubbing down or searching of each prisoner. This latter was a degrading business to which use never accustomed Rendle, and as he stood, cap in one hand, handkerchief in the other, while the warder's quick hands passed over him, he prayed devoutly that this might be the last time he would be forced to undergo the ordeal.

His party, No. 14, comprised twenty-three men, and their work at present was the clearing of a "newtake." That is to say, a piece of open moor was being reclaimed and fenced in.

The ground, in its natural state, was covered with thick heather and gorse, and dotted with huge boulders of granite. The growth had to be grubbed out by the roots, while the boulders were split with wedges—or if too large for that—blown up, and the pieces used for building a huge and massive six-foot wall around the new field.

As Rendle began to swing his heavy hoe, he glanced around, and it came to him that, surely, no place or time could be less well suited to escape. True, the road—the main road from Moorlands to Taviton ran at the top of the newtake, and only about eighty or a hundred yards from the spot at which he was working. But, on the other hand, there was no cover tall enough to hide a man, and as for the weather, nothing could have been more clear or perfect.

They were near the top of the hill, close on fifteen feet above sea level, and the view before him comprised the whole of the low country right away to the Cornish moors, with a glimpse of the sea itself, fifteen miles to the southward.

More and more the conviction forced itself upon him that the whole thing must be a hoax, and a feeling of fierce indignation began to succeed the strained expectancy of the early morning. He felt a burning desire to discover who was responsible, and began to regret bitterly that he had not taken the note straight to the Governor instead of destroying it. He might have suffered, but someone else would have smarted too.

"Ere—what are you a-doing of?" came a growl from the next man in line.

"Swinging your 'oe like that," complained the fellow as Rendle looked round at him wonderingly. "You'll be a-braining someone afore you knows. There ain't no call to work like that, anyways."

Rendle realised that he had been treating the gorse roots before him as though they had been Clandon's head. He smiled grimly, and moderated his blows.

Next moment his neighbor spoke again.

"Blime, what's up? Be they a-gaining to burn the blooming gorse?"

Rendle glanced up sharply. A thin spiral of smoke was rising from the heather halfway between the working party and the road. Next the dry stuff flashed into flame.

It was mysterious to a degree, for no one had been near the spot so far as any of them knew. A warder, noticing the fire, gave a sharp exclamation, and walked quickly over towards it.

Before he had got half way, a second curl of smoke rose from another spot at a few yards distance, and then all in a moment a dozen fires were burning in a dozen different places.

Rendle stared in amazement. All the men, in fact, had stopped work and were gazing at the strange phenomenon.

"Lumme, but it's a blighted volcano!" observed Rendle's neighbor in a tone of extreme surprise.

If not quite that, there were at any rate the makings of a first class conflagration. The breeze which, at these heights is hardly ever still, fanned the little fires until, within an incredibly short space of time, a line of gorse and heather, a hundred yards long, was one mass of leaping, crackling flame, while the smoke, bellying out into a rolling cloud, rapidly covered the whole top of the hill with a stinging smother.

The warders, of whom, including Clandon, there were three in charge of the party, seemed quite amazed with this startling outbreak of fire. Then Clandon spoke to the principal warder, and the latter suddenly ordered the men to go forward and beat it out.

It was as the order came that light suddenly burst on Rendle. "If fine and dry." The words burnt themselves on his brain. Here was the explanation. The gorse could not have been fired unless dry, and it was his unknown friends who, in some mysterious fashion best known to themselves, had fired it.

His heart began to race. He could feel the blood pounding in his veins. As he hurried forward he was filled with a sudden fierce excitement which rendered him absolutely reckless of consequences.

He was near enough to the fire to feel the scorch of the dancing flames upon his face when, from the road beyond, came the long, weird moan of an electric motor horn.

Instantly Rendle realised the whole situation. He dropped his pick, made one leap through the belt of flame, and tore towards the road at a pace he had not equaled since his football days.

The old boundary wall still remained between the moor and the road, a rough, dry stone affair, barely three feet high. Shielded by the smoke, he had almost reached it before any one of the three warders so much as saw him go.

Then, above the crackle of the blazing gorse, came a shouted challenge, and almost instantly a charge of buckshot whizzed harmlessly over his head.

Rendle hardly noticed it. He had eyes only for the long-snouted, grey two-seater that was crawling on walking pace along the road. Before a second shot could be fired he had leaped the wall and hurled himself into the empty seat beside the driver. As he reached it again came the sharp crack of the carbine, and this time the aim was better. The heavy shot screeched viciously close to the car. But neither Rendle nor the driver was touched, and as the latter pressed down the accelerator, the car shot off with a rapidity which was proof both of her condition and her power.

Instantly the wind was screaming past Rendle's ear. There was another, but it sounded no louder than a pop gun. Then the car reached the brow of the hill, and went swooping down it like a swallow on the wing. Like magic, the shouts, the crackle of the fire, and all sounds of pursuit were blotted out. At a speed of well over fifty miles an hour, they fled down the mile long hill into the valley below.


FOR the first few moments, Rendle could only lie back in his seat, breathing hard. The desperate dash, the equally desperate excitement had drained his strength.

But presently he began to revive and the first thing he did was to glance at his driver.

The glance told him nothing except that he was a man, and presumably a young man. The upturned collar of his big driving coat hid most of his face; the rest was concealed by heavy goggles and a leather cap pulled down right over his eyes.

Rendle did not attempt to speak. He realised very clearly that the other—whoever he was would need every atom of his energies and attention to keep the car on the curving road at this desperate speed.

The man had nerve at any rate. The sensation, as the car dropped bullet-like down hill, was like that of volplaning in an aeroplane.

Within little more than sixty seconds they reached the bridge over the Wallcoombe brook, and the driver braked a trifle to negotiate the narrow and dangerous passage. But the moment they were across down went the pedal again and the long, low car fled, like a scared cat, up the opposite slope, with never a change of gear. At the top Rendle looked back. Far in the distance two civil guards galloped madly. Next moment the car topped the slope and they vanished abruptly.

All along the level beyond the speedometer was notching sixty, then came the great hill leading down over the rim of the Moor, and here in a narrow, twisting dangerous passage speed was slackened a trifle, and the driver, with a sharp gesture, indicated a coat on which Rendle was sitting.

He slipped it on at once, found a cap in the pocket, and tearing off his hideous Glengarry, donned that instead.

Now Taviton showed up among its tall elms in the valley below, and Rendle wondered uneasily if his driver meant to chance passing through it. He knew that the town was in direct telephonic communication with the prison, and dreaded that the police might be already warned.

But soon the driver showed that he had no intention of anything of the kind. At the bottom of the hill was a cross road, the left leading down towards Plymouth, the right to some upland villages on the edge of the Moor.

Without an instant's hesitation Rendle's rescuer took the right hand turn, and went off at hardly abated speed up through a series of steep, narrow lanes.

Where he was going, what was his destination, Rendle had no idea. Clearly the man knew his way, and Rendle was content to sit still and watch the hedges swirl past.

Cleverly avoiding the villages, the other worked gradually up into a lonely stretch of country on the western edges of the Moor, and presently, having covered some twenty miles, drove suddenly up a mere track into a thick coppice, and brought the car to rest.

"Get out, please," he said briefly. His voice was strange to Rendle, and as he slipped out of his heavy coat Rendle saw that he was a complete stranger. He appeared to be a man of about thirty, with a sharp, rather pallid face, but the glasses still hid so much of it that little of his real appearance was visible.

Rendle sprang out quickly. The other followed, and flinging open a locker at the back, pulled out a large bundle.

"Change into these," he said curtly. "Sharp as you can! There's a wig as well as clothes."

Rendle took the bundle, hurried in among the trees, and opening the bundle found a complete suit of clothes, with socks, under-garments, boots, everything complete down to collar-studs. There was also a razor, a shaving brush, a tin of liquid shaving paste, and a small mirror.

He tore off his convict garments. He felt as though he could not get rid of them quickly enough. Then he began to dress with equal rapidity. The clothes, which fitted him excellently, were cut in a curious style. They were of dark, plain material, and might have been made for an old-fashioned gentleman of sixty. Then he saw that the wig was grizzled, and realised that the outfit was meant to add thirty years to his age.

The shave was accomplished with equal speed. It was sheer delight to get rid of the horrible crop of bristles which disfigured his cheeks and chin. He adjusted the wig, put on the square, hard fell hat, and regarding himself in the glass laughed naturally for the first time for months.

Not a warder in Moorlands could have recognised this staid, clean-shaven, elderly gentleman for the convict of ten minutes since.

He picked up his convict clothes, rolled them in a tight bundle, and searched for a hiding place. A hollow under a gnarled old beech provided their tomb, the entrance to which he closed with a stone and a pile of dead leaves.

Then he went back to the car.

As he came out of the trees the driver looked up. He nodded approvingly.

"You'll do," he said.

Rendle hardly heard. He was staring at the car.

How it had been done he could hardly guess, but during his short absence the appearance of the vehicle had been completely altered.

The bonnet was different in shape and color, the body, too, was changed, black instead of grey. What was most extraordinary was that she was no longer a two-seater, but a four. By some ingenious arrangement, the back had been opened out into a sort of tonneau.

The driver saw Rendle's amazed face and gave a dry chuckle.

"Side flaps, a second bonnet cover, and a collapsible tonneau. Smart, ain't it?"

"Extraordinary! No one would know her," Rendle answered.

"Just as well," said the other significantly, and turning inspected his tyres.

"But who are you?" asked Rendle impulsively. "I never saw you before, and I can't imagine what good angel sent you to my rescue."

The other laughed harshly.

"Never you mind who I am. All the better you shouldn't know. I'm paid to get you clear, and I'm going to do it. That's all you've got to worry about."

Rendle felt slightly indignant for the moment. But next moment he realised that there was sense in what the man had said.

"Very well," he answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Then the only question I'll ask is where you are taking me."

"To your best friend," answered the other curtly. "But as we're not due before dark we're going to make a bit of a round. Get along in and we'll push ahead. You'd better get in behind."

"And see here." he added. "If we get stopped anywhere don't you get rattled. Your name is Henry Hardcastle, and you're a gentleman from London touring in Devonshire. You'll find cards and letters in your pocket. I'm Harvey the chauffeur."

Now Rendle realised that his versatile driver had also changed his appearance, and as completely as the car. He was in chauffeur's uniform and cap, with a long holland dust coat over them.

A minute later the car, at a much more sober pace, was rolling down into the valley, and soon was on the high road, leading to Ashampton. As Rendle lay back in his seat, and gazed round him, he had a curious sense of unreality. The prison suddenly seemed a thing of the past. He was unable to believe that he himself was the convict of yesterday.

Then his thoughts turned to Meg. What had the man said? That he was taking him to "his best friend." Who else could that be but Meg? Then had Meg arranged all this? Was she responsible for his escape? He felt a sudden throb, half terror, half exultation. That she should be capable of such a daring plan sent a thrill through every nerve, yet at the same time he was terrified to think of the penalties to which she had laid herself open.

If it was not Meg, who else could it be? The thought of Denison flashed through his mind. Denison, apart from Meg, was certainly his best friend, yet after a moment's consideration he dismissed the idea. Denison, a lawyer himself, would never have recourse to such utterly illegal methods.

The car rolled leisurely into Ashampton, a bare little town lying on the north-west of the Moor, and the driver pulled up in front of a small hotel, and got out.

"Will you lunch here, sir?" he asked in the most matter-of-fact tone imaginable.

Rendle almost gasped. It seemed madness, yet a moment's consideration proved that boldness was probably the wisest policy.

"Very well, Harvey," he answered. "Will you put the car up, and get your own dinner, and I will come round in the garage when I want you."

This was for the benefit of the boots, who was on the step.

He got out, and walked sedately into the hotel. There seemed to be hardly anyone about. Indeed, it was too early in the season for any visitors but fishermen.

An appetising smell of cooking reached his nostrils and made him suddenly realise how hungry he was. The prospect of a real, civilised meal swept away all his scruples, and he took his seat at a table in the coffee-room with an assurance which surprised himself.

It was early, and he was the only man in the room. He picked up a newspaper, the first he had seen for six months, and was deep in it when the waiter, a tall, melancholy looking individual, arrived with his order.

The food was not startlingly good nor particularly well served, but Rendle, as may be imagined, was not disposed to be critical. After his long regime of skilly and tinned beef, the meal was delicious. It was all that he could do to show a decent restraint in devouring it.

The waiter hovered in the background, and presently ventured a remark that it was fine weather for that time of the year.

Rendle agreed, then the man dropped a bombshell

"They do say, sir, that a convict escaped this morning."


RENDLE jumped. He could not help it.

"Where from?" he managed to ask.

"Moorlands, sir. The big prison on the Moor."

Rendle collected himself.

"How did he get away. I thought it was only in foggy weather they could bolt."

"I don't know no details, sir. 'Twas the constable told me. They got it by wire at the station. They'll have all the police out for miles around."

"Then I suppose they're sure to catch him?" said Rendle.

It was at this moment that Rendle suddenly realised the state of his hands. Rough, brown, calloused, with broken nails, it came to him with a sudden shock that they were utterly out of keeping with the rest of his appearance. Had the man noticed them—that was the question, and he stole a very anxious glance at the waiter's face.

But the latter did not seem to have noticed anything particular, and presently suggested rhubarb tart. But the shock had spoilt Rendle's appetite, and he sent the waiter for coffee and cigarettes which he said he would have in the lounge.

To this room he made his way at once, and carefully chose the darkest corner.

The coffee was thin and poor, but a cigarette was the greatest luxury imaginable, and soothed his shaken nerves to a wonderful extent. Even so, he was still anxious, and as soon as he possibly could, he paid his bill, put on his hat, and went out to the garage.

To his great relief Harvey was waiting. He touched his cap.

"Ready for the car, sir?"

"Please," said Rendle.

He felt happier when they were once more under way, but a fresh shock was in store for him. On the bridge over the river a policeman was waiting. He held up his hand, and the car stopped.

"Sorry to trouble you, sir, but our orders are to search all cars, a convict escaped this morning and went off in a car."

"I don't think you will find him hidden here," replied Rendle with a smile. "I hope not, at any rate."

He got out as he spoke. Having now got a pair of gloves on, he felt happier. His hands, at any rate would not betray him.

The constable made a perfunctory search.

"All right, sir," he said, standing back, and once more they drove on.

"There'll be more of that," said Harvey briefly, as they turned a corner. Then he chuckled.

"That bobby will never forgive himself if it ever comes out," he added.

"Let's hope it won't," said Rendle sharply.

"It won't if you keep your head as well as you did then," replied the other.

All the same Rendle found that long run around the Moor was very trying. The distance in all was about eight miles, and they were stopped four times.

Rendle refused to go to an hotel again for tea, so they bought some food at a pastrycook's in the village of Coombe Barton, and ate it by the roadside.

At last the sun began to drop low behind the tors to the west, and Harvey turned in his seat.

"We can slow along now," he said, "It'll be dark in an hour."

He turned in a southerly direction, and they dropped down through deep lanes towards the coast.

Rendle's heart began to beat hard again. He recognised the fact that they were nearing the sea, and although he did not know the country so well as the driver he was fairly certain that they were heading in the direction of Awnemouth. Then it was to Meg that he was being taken, and in spite of all his anxieties every pulse thrilled at the thought that he would soon see her again.

As the dusk deepened his driver slackened speed again. Rendle noticed for the first time that day, that he seemed a trifle anxious. It became so dark that the head-lights had to be switched on, and Rendle could see little of his surroundings. But a tang of salt in the air told him that they were near the coast.

The road entered a thick coppice and speed slackened to a mere crawl. Rendle asked no questions, but his excitement grew almost painful.

Then a light flashed. Just one gleam from an electric torch, and at once the car pulled up.

Harvey turned.

"You get out here," he said.

Rendle sprang out. As he did so he caught sight of a figure standing in the middle of the narrow road.

"He'll look after you," said Harvey.

"Then I leave you now?" questioned Rendle.

"You do, and I reckon you're not sorry," returned the other.

"On the contrary. I shall never forget you," replied Rendle warmly. "And I can never tell you how grateful I am."

"Don't you worry," answered the other drily. "I've been paid for what I've done."

"That makes no difference," began Rendle quickly. And at that moment the man with the torch came up quickly, took him by the arm, and without a word led him in among the trees.

He did not speak, and as he was wearing a long coat and muffler and had his cap pulled right down over his eyes, Rendle had no idea of his identity.

They went some fifty paces, and stopped in a small open space. Rendle's conductor flashed his torch again, and another figure glided out of the thick shadow. It was a woman, and Rendle started forward.

"Meg!" he cried in a low tense voice.

Next moment she was in his arms.


IT was only for a moment. Then Meg gently disengaged herself.

"Wait," she said to her husband. "I will be back in less than a minute."

She vanished instantly among the trees, leaving Rendle and his guide facing one another. The latter did not speak, and Rendle by this time had learnt the lesson of silence. So they waited until, within the time she specified, Meg glided back as quietly as she had come.

She had a small parcel in her hand, and this she handed to the stranger.

"I will wait until you are sure it is right," she said quietly.

He went to a little distance, opened the packet and inspected its contents with the aid of his torch. Then, slipping the parcel into the pocket of his long coat, he turned.

"All right," he said, and there was a suspicion of mockery in his voice. "I am satisfied if you are. Good-night."

Rendle's fingers clasped his wife's arm.

"Who is it?" he asked sharply.

"Gerald Denby," she answered calmly. "No, Alan, it is useless your going after him. He has done what he promised, and been paid for it. Now come with me."

"But—" began Rendle sharply.

"Come with me," she repeated. "There is not a minute to waste. I will tell you everything as soon as you are in safety."

Her tone admitted of no argument, and Alan followed her into the heart of the wood. They had not gone a score of yards before the engine of the car began to purr, and almost immediately they heard her shoot off down the lane.

Meg picked her way through the tangled bushes and roots with wonderful skill, and presently they were clear of the trees and on smooth open turf. A cool breeze blew upon their faces, and from far below came up the dull roar of surf breaking against sheer cliff.

Meg turned to the right and walked rapidly along for nearly half a mile. They came to a patch of wild common, thick with gorse, and into this she led her husband. The prickly bushes, fragrant with golden bloom, rose high above their heads.

Before one of the largest bushes Meg stopped. She stood listening for a moment, then pulled a branch aside.

"In here, Alan," she said in a low voice. "Here is your hiding-place."

She bent her head and disappeared. Rendle, following, found himself in the mouth of a great burrow which resembled a magnified fox's earth. The passage sloped steeply downwards.

A light shone out. Meg had switched on a strong electric lamp, and the white glow showed Alan that the passage was clearly the work of men's hands.

"An old smuggler's passage," Meg explained quickly. "There are steps ahead. Be careful, dearest, for they are slippery and broken."

The steps were cut in the living rock and went down steeply for a considerable distance. Alan heard the sough of waves coming faintly from below. A fresh draught blew up the tunnel.

He saw an opening at one side. Meg turned into it, and the light showed a fair-sized cave, the floor of which was rock, and wonderfully dry considering its situation. His first glance showed him, too, that the place was furnished. A great pile of dry-bracken with blankets lay in one corner. There was a folding table, a canvas chair, and an oil stove.

Meg laid the lamp upon the table and drew a long breath. Alan's arm was round her in a moment.

"My darling, it has been too much for you," he said.

She lay back, with her head on his shoulder. Her cheeks were very pale.

"I—I waited a long time. I was so anxious," she said faintly.

"My poor little girl," he said tenderly, and clasped her closely to him. "It's good to feel you are in my arms once more," he whispered.

"And I am glad—oh, so glad to have you back, boy."

Then quite suddenly she recovered herself.

"I must not stay here too long, Alan," she said firmly. "They might come to the cottage."

"But they don't know where you are or what you call yourself," replied Alan quickly.

"You forget Gerald Denby."

"Denby!" he burst out. "What have the Denbys got to do with it? I was utterly amazed when I saw that young scoundrel in the wood. Tell me, Meg—where does he come into it?"

Alan listened with growing amazement as she explained the curious bargain which she made with the younger Denby.

"You have let him have the necklace?" he burst out.

"I have, Alan. What does the necklace signify to me as compared with your liberty?"

"But—but oh, good heavens, Meg, he will never play straight."

"He has had to. You are here."

"But he hates us like poison. He will give me away at once."

"How can he? He would implicate himself."

"Not necessarily. What about an anonymous letter?"

"I had thought of that, but even then he would be brought into it. And," she added, "whatever happens, you are quite safe here. No one knows of the place except myself and young Larkyn, a boy in the village whose mother I looked after when she was ill. He told me of it, and I can trust him to tell no one else. He stumbled on it quite by chance when he was birds'-nesting."

Alan was silent a moment.

"But see here, Meg," he said presently. "Even if I am, as you say, safe for the time being, I can't remain here indefinitely. And if I leave the cave, sooner or later, I am bound to be discovered and taken back."

"You shall never be taken back to that horrible prison," she answered vehemently. "Never! You will stay here until the hue-and-cry is over. Then I shall take you abroad. We will go to America to the States or the Argentine. There you can start a fresh practice. What does anything matter so long as we can be together?"

She spoke with such energy and force as quite carried Alan away.

"No, nothing matters so long as we are together, darling," he answered. "Very well, then I will stay here as long as is necessary, and as soon as it is safe we shall go abroad."

He paused, then went on in a different and less assured tone.

"But, Meg, how about food and that sort of thing? I can't have you risking your liberty bringing me things."

"I shall come at night," she said firmly. "I shall take very good care that no one sees me. And if there is danger I shall stay at home. I have stored here preserved meat and biscuits and tinned fruit to last a month if necessary. There are books, too and paper and ink and candles and oil. You won't starve, whatever happens."

"See, here they are," she continued as he went across the cave and showed him a number of small cases against the wall. "I believe I have thought of everything you can need. Here is bread, this is bacon, and there is a jar full of eggs in water glass."

"You are wonderful, Meg," declared Alan in whole-hearted admiration; "wonderful! I don't know how you have done it."

She only smiled, and once more he took her in his arms. One long, lingering embrace, then she drew away.

"Now I must go, Alan. I shall come to-night as soon as it is dark. Till then, adieu!"

He went with her to the entrance, watched her slip away ghost-like into the gloom, then returned to his solitary hiding-place in the heart of the cliff.


IN spite of all the excitement of the day, in spite of his various anxieties, Alan slept peacefully on his bed of bracken. Indeed, it was months since he had had such a night of calm and almost dreamless sleep.

It was a light falling faintly on his face that aroused him, and he sat up sharply and stared vaguely around him, unable for the moment to realize where he was or what had happened. Then, as he saw the sunlight gleaming, not between iron bars, but through a sort of natural window high up in the side of the cave, a great wave of gratitude swept over him, and he lay back again, snuffing the mild salt air, and listening to the musical splash of waves and the harsh crying of the gulls outside.

His thoughts flew first to Meg. He wondered what she was doing, and whether she, too, had slept as he had. Then the prison rose in his mind and he smiled a little as he thought of the excitement among that little world when convict and officers alike learned that he was still at large.

A clock was ticking somewhere near. Meg seemed to have thought of everything. He glanced at it, saw if was nearly eight o'clock, and once more sat up.

He dressed leisurely, lit the oil stove, and began to prepare his breakfast. He was no great cook, but as a fag at Clifton, had learnt, at any rate, to fry bacon and make coffee. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal, and after making all tidy, ventured to explore his surroundings.

He found that the steps led on down past the entrance to his rock chamber, and ended in a rift in the cliff, the mouth of which was just below high water mark. The cave was a small and lonely one, and here he was able to sit in perfect safety, and enjoy the fresh air and light.

Later, he climbed to the top, but did not venture outside. The more he saw of this hiding place which Meg had found him, the more convinced he was of its safety. Unless the secret was given away it seemed almost impossible that anyone should find it. The only thing that still made him uneasy was the risk to Meg, of being followed when she visited him. He knew only too well how the Denbys both hated him, and was perfectly certain that, given the chance, they would betray him.

But for the present, it seemed to him they would be too busy selling the necklace and settling up their debts, to bother about him. The danger would come later.

He read, he rested, he cooked, he ate. The day passed wonderfully quick and as darkness began to fall his heart began to quicken at the thought that Meg would soon be with him again.

She did not disappoint him. Just after eight o'clock she came flittering softly through the gorse, and found him waiting for her at the mouth of the tunnel.

He picked her up bodily in his arms and, in spite of her protests, carried her down the rock staircase and into the cave, where he had candles ready lighted. Then he sat her in the canvas folding chair and bent over her, devouring her with his eyes.

"You are thinner, darling," he said gently.

"You need not worry about me, boy," she answered, smiling up at him. "I am very well, and now that I have got you back, nothing matters."

Then she laughed outright.

"How funny you look in those old-fashioned clothes! You might almost be my grandfather."

"Then mind you are very respectful!" Alan answered, shaking his forefinger at her playfully.

"Is all well, dearest?" he went on in a graver tone. "Did anyone come to the cottage?"

"No. I have had no visitors. Gerald and his father are probably too busy, dividing the spoils." Her lip curled as she spoke.

"That is what I thought," Alan answered. Then after a pause. "I wish they had not got the necklace, Meg."

"You are not to talk about that any more," declared Meg. "We have settled it all long ago."

"But I am almost forgetting," she went on quickly. "I have brought you newspapers&—lots of them. Here they are—the 'Times,' the 'Express,' the 'Chronicle,' and an evening paper. I haven't even looked at the last, but the others are full of you. I never thought there would be such an excitement. The 'Times' has a leader on the subject."

She took a packet of papers out of the pocket of the long dark coat she was wearing and unfolded them.

Alan took the first eagerly.


was the biggest headline on the front page; and beneath it.

Amazing Ingenuity of the Escape from Moorlands.

"Our readers," began the article, "will remember the name of Dr. Alan Rendle, convicted in October last of the manslaughter of Francis Wilsher and sentenced to ten years' penal servitude.

"Yesterday under the cover of an artificial fog produced by firing the heather near where his party was working on the Moorlands prison farm, Dr. Rendle made a bolt, reached a car which was waiting on the road near by, and which was evidently driven by a friend and got clean away. Up to the time of writing, nothing has been heard of the car, convict, or accomplice.

"The escape is one of the most clever and daring ever chronicled in prison annals. All was evidently arranged beforehand, and very carefully and cleverly too. The firing of the gorse and heather was a particularly ingenious scheme, and must have been arranged very early in the morning, before anyone was about. Exactly how it was managed is not known, for all traces of the prepared combustibles were, of course, destroyed by the blazing gorse and heather.

"Dr. Rendle was a member of Party 14 which is one of the farm gangs. He had always been an exemplary prisoner, and no suspicion had ever been entertained that he had any idea of escape. Yet it is clear, as we have already said, that the whole scheme was elaborated beforehand, and that he himself had news from outside of what was afoot."

The writer then went on to give full details of the actual escape, and of how the car had swept away and vanished in the distance on the Taviton road.

"But the car never reached Taviton," the story went on. "Nor did it apparently turn in the direction of Plymouth. It seems more probable that it went straight through to some lonely spot on the north coast of Devon on Cornwall, where it is likely that a fishing boat or yacht was in waiting. The whole thing, however, is extremely mysterious, and until we receive further particulars we refrain from comment."

Alan chuckled as he finished the article.

"They don't seem to have got many clues at present, Meg," he said. "And I don't think they will, either, for no one would have recognised the car again after the changes that fellow made in it. By-the-bye, I wonder who he was. He certainly could drive."

"Some disreputable friend of Gerald's, I suppose," said Meg, coldly.

"He wasn't a bad sort," declared Alan. "Anyhow, he was a thousand per cent. better than the Denbys.

"And now darling, I'm not going to read any more while you are here. The rest of the papers will keep until to-morrow. Tell me what you have been doing with yourself all day."


MEG stayed later than was perhaps altogether prudent. But the night was overcast and very dark, and there was after all very little risk of her being observed.

When she had disappeared Alan went back to his retreat and picked up the papers, intending to read the other accounts of his escape. But his candles were burning low, and he himself was very sleepy. He decided to leave the rest until the morning and get to bed.

The strain of any great excitement is often felt much more severely on the second night than on the first. This was the case with Rendle, and he tossed and turned for a long time before he managed to drop off. Then he slept like a log, and when at last he awoke found, to his astonishment, that it was nearly nine o'clock.

He jumped up in a hurry, lit his stove, and put on the kettle, then went down and had a most embracing dip in a pool of salt water inside the cave mouth. The kettle was boiling by the time he came back. He made coffee, fried some bacon, and before sitting down to his lonely breakfast, picked up one of the papers and set it in front of him, against the coffee pot.

As it happened it was the evening paper—the one Meg had not read. The account of his escape was much the same as that which he had already perused. The only extra details were that the police had been warned all over the South of England, and that a car resembling the one in which he had made his escape had been seen near Bude.

This made him chuckle softly, and he turned the sheet to see what other news there was. In the middle of this page was a space for "stop press" news, and below the heading a few lines which ran as follows:

"6 p.m. telegram. It is reported that Alma Holmes, the woman who had been Mrs. Rendle's maid, and whose evidence was mainly responsible for the conviction of Dr. Rendle, is lying at the point of death. The unfortunate woman who has been for some time past, seriously ill at her home, Foxleigh Farm, near Knightly, is said to have attempted to take her own life by means of poison."

Rendle read this through twice before the full meaning of the pregnant sentences burst upon him. Then he sprang to his feet.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "And she is the only person on earth who can prove my innocence!"

For some moments he stood quite still, while thoughts raced through his brain at lightening speed. The one thing that stood out clearly above all others was that somehow in some fashion or other he must get at Alma Holmes before she died.

He—or Meg. Either would do equally well. He felt in his very soul that Alma could not deny him the truth.

He picked up his hat—the square crowned felt with which his mysterious rescuer had provided him, and on the impulse of the moment started for the mouth of the cave.

Then he stopped short.

It was broad daylight. It was out of the question to risk visiting the cottage at such a time. Half the village would see him, and questions would certainly be asked and gossip aroused. If any watch were being kept on Meg's movements not only would he be caught, but Meg's liberty would be endangered.

He writhed with indecision.

Suddenly he thrust his hands into his pockets. Some money he knew had been provided. He remembered changing a sovereign at the hotel at Ashampton. He pulled out a handful of coins. There were four sovereigns and about twelve shillings in silver.

As he counted the money his face cleared. His resolution was taken instantly. It was to go himself, to Foxleigh Farm, and endeavour to see Alma before the end came.

She might be dead already. He fully recognised that. Still there was the chance, and it was a chance that must not be missed. The issues that hung upon it was too great. To Meg and to himself they were more than life or death.


FOR a few moments Rendle stood quite still, thoughts racing through his brain at prodigious speed. Then, snatching up pencil and paper, he sat down and wrote a hasty message for Meg, and placed it on the table where, when she came that evening she could not well miss it. Next he carefully arranged his iron-grey wig, brushed his clothes, and putting on the hard hat and dog-skin gloves, climbed deliberately up to the mouth of the tunnel.

He peered out cautiously, but the furze-clad down was deserted except for a few nibbling rabbits. So far as he could see, there was no danger in sight, so stepping out quietly into the open, he made straight inland for the road, which he could recognise, half a mile away, by the telegraph posts strung along it.

Reaching it, he paused again, but found it was empty as the common. He dropped down through the hedge, and stopped once more, glancing uncertainly from one side to the other. Awnemouth, he was aware, was to the right, and not far away. But, for Meg's sake he wished to avoid it altogether, so turning to the left he walked sharply in that direction, not knowing exactly where he was bound but hoping that he would find a town with a railway station within reasonable distance.

For the next half hour he tramped briskly forward, and then arrived upon a road bridge over a railway. After that the line was his guide, but he had to walk nearly another three miles before he came to the station. This was in a valley, and the little town which it served lay between it and the sea.

There was no sign of a train. He waited a minute or two, and at last deciding that boldness was the best policy, walked quietly on to the platform. A porter was leisurely sweeping out the booking-office, and Rendle asked him when the next train was due out.

"Twelve twenty, sir," answered the man civilly enough.

"Dear! dear!" said Rendle. "This is very annoying. I thought there was one earlier than that. I want to get to Exeter as soon as possible."

"She be due Exeter two forty-three, sir. 'Tain't such a bad train."

Rendle glanced at his watch. The time was only ten past eleven.

"Well," he said, with a forced smile. "I must just make the best of it. I suppose I may wait here. I have had a long walk, and shall be glad to rest."

"You be welcome," the porter answered, and went on stolidly with his sweeping.

What between nervousness and anxiety to get on, Rendle spent a very bad hour and a quarter. He had not even a paper to while away the time, and could only sit on a bare bench or study the advertisements. The time seemed endless. Fortunately, there were very few people for the train, and these chiefly farmers and rustics. No one seemed to cast a second glance at the dusty elderly-looking gentleman, who sat so patiently on the bench in the waiting-room.

At last the booking-office opened, and Rendle took a third-class ticket for Exeter. He chose an empty compartment, and his relief was intense when, after a long delay, the train rumbled off. But like all trains on this little branch line, it stopped at every station, and the next Rendle knew was Awnemouth. He shrank further back in his seat, and peered out carefully. But here again, there were few passengers, and no one got in with him.

The third station was also a small one, and then they reached Newtown, where he had to change into the main line Great Western.

Still his luck held, and he had no neighbors beyond a couple of working men who smoked solemnly, and at intervals interchanged a few remarks.

At Newtown. Rendle had secured a time-table, and found there was a train on to Bristol in about half an hour, but that it did not get in until after six. By changing there, and taking the Severn tunnel express, he would reach Hereford at eight thirty.

St. David's Exeter, with its crowds of people, was a severe trial to Rendle's nerves. After a few months of imprisonment a man gets so accustomed to never doing anything without being ordered that he loses all initiative. Rendle found it a real trial to have to elbow his way among the throng, and experienced a curious and unpleasant desire to shy away and turn tail when he saw a policeman.

By this time he was hungry, yet could not bring himself to enter the refreshment room. He bought a cup of tea and buns from a tea barrow on the platform, secured a couple of papers from the bookstall, and as soon as possible took refuge in his train.

A women got in with two small children. These were the only other passengers in the compartment. The children gazed at him with round solemn eyes, and Rendle hid himself as much as possible behind his paper. He had a dread that they might notice his wig or in some way see through his disguise.

The train, a fast one, stopped only at Taunton, where the other three passengers got out, and he was left alone for the rest of the journey to Bristol.

It was getting dusk when he reached Bristol, and he felt easier. He had come so far in safety, and a disguise is less easy to penetrate by artificial light.

He had only a few minutes to make his change, and he hurried across to the booking-office for his ticket. There were several people in the queue in front of him, and one, a youngish man in a heavy check ulster and soft hat, reached the window just as he got up.

"Two firsts for Hereford," he said loudly.

Rendle staggered, and clutched at the rail for support. The voice was that of Gerald Denby.


EXCELLENT as was his disguise, it was useless to conceal him from Denby. The chances were indeed that Denby himself had chosen it.

Panic seized Rendle, and his first impulse was immediate flight. The one thought dominant in his mind was that, if Gerald Denby set eyes on him, he would denounce him at once, and he knew too well that, once in custody, all his hopes were at an end.

Happily, his strong common sense came to his aid, and he realised that any attempt to bolt would infallibly draw the attention which it was all important to avoid. He could not possibly push back past the people who were already lined up behind him, without making a disturbance which would turn all eyes upon him.

With a great effort, he pulled himself together, and remained where he was. His heart was thumping, but he did not show any outward signs of the emotions that were consuming him.

Would Denby look round or would he not? That was the question, and the next few moments were an endless agony of suspense.

But Denby was evidently in a hurry. He took his tickets, gathered up his change, and thrust it hastily into his pocket, then hurried straight away towards the far platform, without so much as a glance in any other direction.

A sigh of the most intense relief came from Rendle's laboring lungs, and a minute later he, too, had his ticket in his pocket, and had moved out into the open.

The train was already standing at the platform. He waited at the corner of the booking office passage, searching the crowd of hurrying passengers with anxious eyes. At first he could see nothing of Gerald, but presently caught a glimpse of the checked ulster opposite the door of a first-class carriage about the middle of the train.

He was looking round with an annoyed expression on his face, and seemed to be waiting for somebody. Rendle shrank further back. He remembered that Gerald had taken two tickets.

A moment or two later, a second man, followed by a porter carrying a bag, joined Gerald. Rendle caught a glimpse of his face, and saw that it was Denby senior. The two got in at once.

Doors were slamming, the train was due to start. Rendle waited no longer, but slipping quickly across jumped into a third-class smoker exactly opposite where he had been standing. Another few seconds and the train pulled out of the station.

The compartment was fairly full, but a glance at the faces of the occupants reassured Rendle. There was no one who looked likely to trouble him. He leaned back in his seat, and endeavored to collect his scattered thoughts.

The first question was what the Denbys were doing in this train. It seemed clear to him that they must be on a similar errand to his own. Like him, they must have seen the announcement of Alma Holmes attempt to destroy herself, had made up their mind to secure themselves against any last confession on her part.

Gerald, he thought, must have been still in Devonshire when he had had the news, and had probably wired to his father to meet him at Bristol.

However that might be, the fact remained that they were in the same train as himself, and that this doubled his own risks. Still there was this much in his favor—that they had not the faintest suspicion that he was on the scene, so there was still a chance that he might beat them to Foxleigh Farm.

Knightly was the station for Foxleigh, but in order to reach Knightly he would have to change at Hereford and wait nearly an hour for the branch line train.

He decided that the best thing he could do was to get out as quickly as possible at Hereford, hire a car, and trust to getting ahead of the Denbys in that fashion.

Of course there was always the chance that they might do the same thing, but if he could only get a start, he trusted that he might be able to keep it.

All the way up through South Wales, he sat quite still, his eyes closed, apparently dozing, yet never in his life had his brain been more active. Every chance was carefully weighed and considered, and when at last the train pulled into Hereford, his plans were cut and dried, and his mind fully made up.

Having no luggage, he was first out of the carriage, and had given up his ticket and reached the road outside before any other passenger.

Half a dozen taxis were waiting under the glare of the electric lights. He ran his eyes along the rank, and noticed one that looked somewhat newer than the rest. By the shape of the sloping bonnet, he knew it for a good French make.

In a moment he was speaking to the driver.

"I want to go to a place called Foxleigh Farm," he told the man. "Do you know the way?"

"I'd ought to, sir. I been out there twice since yesterday morning. Be you a reporter, too? 'Cause if you are, they won't let you in."

"No, I am a doctor—a specialist," Rendle answered, and was amazed at the ease with which he spoke. "Is the poor woman still alive?"

"She was this afternoon, sir. Get in, sir."

"I'll sit beside you if I may," said Rendle, and rather to his surprise the man made no objection. He slipped his gear in, and the car slid off along the level road.

Rendle looked round. There was as yet no sign of the Denbys, and the next moment they were round the corner, and out of sight of the station.

Hertford station lies on the outer edge of the town. There was no crawling through streets. At once they were on the open road and there are no better roads in England than those made of dhu stone.

"What is the distance?" asked Rendle.

"Matter of fourteen miles, sir," was the answer.

"Is it all as good a road as this?"

"Good surface, all the way, sir, but the last five miles is terrible hilly."

"Well, make the best of the good going," said Rendle, with a quietness he was far from feeling. "According to the telegram which I received, the poor woman was very ill indeed. The sooner I reach her, the better."

"Yes, she's some bad, sir. They've had a doctor up from Worcestershire I did hear."

As he spoke the man pressed down the accelerator pedal, and the speed increased perceptibly. There was no speedometer, but Rendle felt sure they were doing a good thirty, by no means a bad pace for so heavy a vehicle.

Unless the Denbys hired a special car they were not likely to overtake him. So far all had gone well, and his load of anxiety was somewhat lessened.

The night breeze bit cold and raw, and he turned up the collar of his overcoat. But fortunately the night was clear, and the head-lights good. On this open rood there was no need to slow.

For a quarter of an hour they bowled along at the same pace, and met nothing except a couple of country carts and a few foot passengers. Then quite suddenly came the hoarse shriek of a siren from behind. Rendle looked round. A car was coming up at a very fast pace.

Rendle's driver pulled out, and next instant the other car shot by, travelling at fully forty miles an hour. In the glare of the head-lights Rendle caught a glimpse of its occupants. His worst suspicions were realised, They were the two Denbys, and a third man. The latter was driving.


THE Denbys had wired ahead for a car. There was no doubt about that, and Rendle cursed himself for a fool that he had mot taken the same precaution.

Was there any possible chance of beating them? On the face of it, none at all, for their car was much more lighter and her engine much more powerful than that of the taxi.

He leaned across to his driver.

"Think you could beat that car to Foxleigh?"

The man looked at him in surprise.

"That's another doctor," said Rendle very calmly. "He is my great rival. It will be a feather in his cap if he gets there first. It will be an extra sovereign in your pocket if you can by any means beat him."

It seemed to Rendle a bad and singularly unconvincing story, but it was the best he could think of for the moment. The driver, however, swallowed it without demur.

He opened the throttle to its fullest extent, and the taxi responded by spurting up to perhaps thirty-five. But even so, it was only a few moments before the Denbys' car was out of sight around the next curve in the road.

"She's got the legs of us," said the man, "There's only one chance of doing it. We got to try Gunnis Hill."

"A short cut?" queried Rendle, crisply.

"Aye, and a bad one, sir."

"Then they are not likely to take it?"

"There ain't many knows it and fewer as'd use it," was the encouraging answer. "But it cuts off all of three mile."

"Then try it by all means. I will he responsible if anything goes wrong."

"More likely it'll be your heirs, sir," replied the man, with a touch of grim humor, the cause of which Rendle was not long in realising.

Half a mile further on, the driver took out his clutch, braked, and put the car on lowest gear. Then he turned sharp out of the main road into a lane so amazingly narrow that in places the mudguards were brushing the grass on both banks at once.

The car tilted forward at such an angle that Rendle nearly slid off his seat. Much as he had motored, he had never in his life been on such a hill. It was almost a precipice, and dropped straight into unknown depths below.

The brakes groaned under the strain, and Rendle realised that, if they gave, nothing could save the car and its occupants from complete disaster. But they held nobly, and presently they reached the bottom, crept over a narrow, high-arched bridge, and began to climb an ascent which matched the declivity they had just descended.

"Lucky she's geared low!" remarked the driver, as the heavy cab panted up the tremendous slope. She bumped and ground her way over loose stones, while her pace grew slower and slower, and Rendle held his breath, wondering how long the groaning engine would stand the strain.

Then, just as it seemed that she must come to a standstill, the gradient slackened, and she began to pick up. A moment later the driver changed to second, and she spurted forward.

"Reckon I've earned that quid, sir," said the chauffeur drily. "I hardly thought as she'd do it."

"You certainly have," declared Rendle warmly, and almost as he spoke they turned a corner on to a wider more level piece of road, and on top gear quickened to nearly their original pace.

Five minutes later, the driver pointed to a light among the trees.

"That's Foxleigh, sir. And I don't see nothing of the other car."

He pulled up at the gate, the same gate at which Meg had pulled up months before, on her fruitless errand. Rendle was out almost before the car was at a standstill.

"Move a little up the road," he said, "and wait for me. If I am delayed, I will send you word."

Then he was through the gate and hurrying towards the door.

There were lights in the windows, and a blind was up in one of the upper rooms. At any rate, Alma was still alive. Every pulse in his body was throbbing with excitement. He had won through to his journey's end, but would he gain what he had come for? Would Alma confess, or did she still hate him so bitterly that she would refuse, and pass down the portals of eternity with her lips still sealed?

"Good heavens, they're here!" he gasped, and without waiting to knock, seized the handle and turned it.

It did not give. The door was locked.

He hammered on it so that the sound echoed through the quiet house, but before any answer came the Denbys' car drew up with a shriek of tortured brakes.

He knocked again with such force that he barked his knuckles. Still no answer, and the Denbys both were already hurrying up the path.

It was too late to bolt. His only chance was to face them out and trust that they might not recognise him. A slim chance, indeed, but the last one left.

"Who are you? What do you want?" Gerald demanded roughly.

"What business is that of yours, sir?" retorted Rendle, speaking in a hoarse, feigned voice, as unlike his own as he could make it.

Gerald was evidently taken aback. He hesitated.

"I—I beg your pardon," he mumbled.

It was at this moment that the door was suddenly opened from within, and the sinister-looking woman who was Alma Holmes' mother, stood in the opening.

"What do you want?" she asked harshly. "If you are newspaper men you can just go back where you came from. A shame it is that decent folk should be pestered in this way, when trouble is in the house."

As she spoke the light from the candle which she held in her hand fell full upon Rendle. He could not dodge it.

"I am very sorry," he said, still speaking in the same feigned voice. "I am not a reporter. I am a doctor."

"A doctor!" broke in Gerald's voice in a tone between amazement and triumph. "By gad, you are. You're Rendle himself."

He sprung at Rendle and made a grasp at his throat.


GERALD was quick, but Rendle was quicker. Prison life may dull a man's sensibilities, but it toughens his muscles. Before Gerald's clutching fingers could reach him, Rendle sprang lightly to one side, and as the other stumbled forward, half off his balance, hit out with all his strength.

His knuckles jarred on Gerald's head, but the blow was high, missing the jaw and catching the skull above the ear.

Even so, its force was sufficient to send Gerald flying off the step, to land in a heap in the long grass of the neglected flower border.

Before his body had reached the ground, Rendle was sprinting for the gate. The elder Denby was between him and it, but evidently had no taste for meeting Rendle in full career. What he did was to spring aside and lunge out with his stick. The crook caught Rendle's leg, and brought him down sprawling on hands and knees.

Before he could recover Bertram Denby was on top of him.

A man will fight as hard for liberty as for life, and in spite of Denby's superior weight, Rendle managed to fling him off.

"Gerald!—Gerald!" shouted the elder Denby as he clung desperately to Rendle's coat; and Gerald, whom the long grass had saved from serious damage, came stumbling down the path, and flung himself into the fray.

"I've got him!" he cried hoarsely, as he flung both arms around Rendle from behind. "Trip him, father. Hit him. Anything!"

Bertram Denby, who was on his knees, still grasping Rendle by the coat, changed his grip, and getting Rendle around the knees, pulled his legs from under him. He and the two Denbys went down in a heap.

Even so, Rendle was not yet done. He drove backwards with his right elbow, getting Gerald full in the face and for the moment loosening his grip.

Gerald swore savagely, and clutched at Rendle's hair, trying to hold him in that way. The wig came away in his hands, and writhing like an eel, Rendle managed to turn over on his back. Drawing up his legs, he kicked out with all his might, catching Bertram Denby in the stomach, doubling him up and sending him rolling on the ground.

"Hallard! Hallard!" roared Gerald, but the third man, who was still by the gate, seemed in no hurry.

Gerald, whose nose was bleeding profusely, and whose head was still singing like a kettle from the first blow he had received, could not longer hold his opponent, and next instant Rendle was on his feet again.

His blood was up, and all his original desire to fly had vanished. He was now possessed with one idea and one only. That was to get even with the two Denbys. He was perfectly reckless and ready to face a dozen men, if need be.

Gerald scrambled to his feet, but Rendle's fist, hardened with long weeks of digging and fencing, struck him full on the mouth, and as he staggered back Rendle was after him again, and drove in a tremendous half arm blow on the jaw.

Gerald's arms flew up, he staggered drunkenly for a couple of seconds, then kneeled over, and lay quiet enough.

"Knocked him out, by gad," remarked the man called Hallard, and by his voice Rendle instantly knew him for his chauffeur of the previous Tuesday.

"Clear while you can," Hallard whispered hastily in a voice which only Rendle could hear. "You're a good plucked 'un, and I'm hanged if I'm going to tackle you."

"Thanks," panted Rendle, "but I have business here before I leave." Turning, he went straight back towards the house.

Mrs. Holmes had been standing in the doorway, candle in hand, watching the extraordinary conflict in a sort of paralysed amazement. Now, as she saw Rendle, with bleeding face and hands, hatless, his wig gone, his hair cropped close all over his head, and his clothes covered with mud, coming towards her, she gave a violent scream, and dashed back, slamming the door in Rendle's face.

Again came Hallard's voice, close behind him.

"Clear out, you fool! Clear out while you can. Old Denby's on his legs again, and Gerald's coming round. They're bound to have you if you don't go."

Rendle was almost at his wits' ends. Hallard was right. If he meant to escape the return to prison he must go, and go quickly. But the dogged streak which lay deep in him had come to the surface.

"No," he said with a calmness born of desperation. "I mean to see Alma Holmes before I go. I mean to get in somehow or other."

Hallard shrugged his shoulders. Rendle, aware that knocking was useless, strode across to a window, with the intention of smashing it.

At this moment someone come up with a rush behind him, and struck at him furiously with a slick.

In the darkness the blow missed his head, but landing on his shoulder brought him to his knees.

"I've got him!" roared Bertram Denby. "Hallard, you fool, give me a hand."

The stick was raised to strike again. Rendle, paralysed by the force of the first blow, could not save himself. It was at this moment that the front door burst open, and a woman sprang out and interposed herself between Denby and his victim.

"Get back!" she cried.

Denby staggered as thought the order had been a blow. His arm dropped to his side.

"You!" he gasped. "You, Margaret!"

"Yes, and just in time to save you from adding murder to your other crimes," she answered.

"N-nonsense!" stammered Denby. "I wasn't going to kill him."

"Not that he doesn't deserve it," he added, recovering himself somewhat. "Anyhow, he's going back to prison, and you can't stop it."

"I can and I will," returned Meg, and she spoke with such boldness and confidence that Rendle, who had staggered to his feet and was standing beside her, could hardly believe his ears. "It is you, Bertram Denby, you and your son, who will go to prison."

"You are mad," snarled Denby. "What are you talking about? What do you mean?"

"I mean that Alma Holmes has confessed," replied Meg, with quiet triumph. "I mean that this is the end of all your abominable plots and schemes, that Alan is a free man, and you—you and Gerald will take his place in the dock."

Derby's jaw dropped. He stood staring at her, horror dawning on his face.

"I have it all on paper," she continued, "properly signed and witnessed by the doctor who has been attending her. She has told the whole story how you hired Wilsher to do the work you were afraid to do yourself, and drove him to attempt to steal the necklace from the safe by the threat that you would ruin him.

"No, it is no use trying to protest," she went on, cutting short an attempt, on Denby's part to speak. "It was the forgery which the unfortunate man committed four years ago, while he was in your employ, which gave you the hold over him, and which you and Gerald held over him. I have everything in black and white."

But Denby was not beaten yet.

"Hers is only hearsay evidence," he retorted. "It is no use in a Court of Law. There is no proof whatever."

Meg looked him full in the face.

"You are mistaken," she said, with deadly clearness. "There is proof—proof good enough for any judge or jury."

Again she paused. Denby licked his dry lips.

"I—I don't believe it," he stammered.

"Then I will tell you," replied Meg, as calmly as ever. "The proofs are the burglar's tools which you yourself procured for Wilsher, and which—when my husband frightened him—he left in the little room where the safe was. Alma knew they were there, and when she left the lower room, she ran straight up, found them and hid them. I have them now safely, and it will not be difficult to prove that they were once in your possession."

A despairing groan burst from Denby's lips, and suddenly he turned and made for the front door.

At that moment the blind of the upper window was drawn down, shutting off the faint ray of light which had been shining through.

"You are too late," said Meg. "She is dead."


ON a lovely June evening John Denison and Alan Rendle sat together on the verandah of the cottage at Awnemouth. Denison was smoking peacefully, Rendle looking out over the blue sea which lay heaving gently under the golden light of the setting sun.

Denison took the cigar from his mouth, knocked off the ashes against one of the posts of the verandah, and glanced across at his friend.

"You're looking remarkably fit, Alan," he said, with a note of wonder in his voice.

Rendle's brown face was a little on the thin side, yet his clear skin and bright eyes glowed with perfect health. He laughed.

"Why not? I am perfectly happy; I have had a ripping holiday and a second honeymoon almost jollier than the first. Why shouldn't I be fit?"

Denison paused.

"Well, old chap," he said slowly, "I was thinking of what you'd been through during the past year."

Rendle was silent a moment or two before he spoke again. Then he leaned over towards the other.

"D'ye know, John. I think it was cheap at the price."

"How do you mean?" asked the other in surprise.

"Just what I say. You've got to get down to the depths before you can realise the worth of friends and—above all—the worth of a wife." His voice was not quite steady, and for a moment Denison turned his head away.

"I can't thank you, John, for all you have done," went on Rendle. "I can't thank you any more than I can thank Meg. All I can say is that—whatever happens in the future, I can never lose belief in human nature, and I can never forget what you and Meg have done for me."

Again there was silence between the two. Both being English, it was not easy to express their emotions. When Rendle spoke again, it was in a different and lighter tone.

"Well, my holiday is nearly over. We go back to town on Saturday next," he said.

"And are you moving back to the old house, Alan?"

"We are, John," Rendle answered with a smile. "The tenants have very kindly agreed to go out at the end of the month, and I am anxious to get back to work again as soon as possible. The only thing that troubles me is whether I shall get back my practice. I don't know what my patients will think of being attended by an ex-convict."

"Don't you trouble your head about that," laughed Denison. "They will be all the keener—the women especially." Then he added in a graver tone: "Indeed, Alan, there is no cause to anxiety. Your story is known, and everyone will be only too anxious to make up to you for what you have suffered so unjustly."

"I'm not so sure after all, that it was so unjust," replied Rendle, thoughtfully. "Sometimes it seems to me that it served me right for my foolishness in keeping the necklace in the house. You, at least, strongly advised me not to, and I have my own obstinacy to thank for what happened. I shan't be such a fool again, anyhow," he added.

"Well, you have got it back. That is one great thing," said Denison.

"Meg did, you mean. It was entirely her idea to give the Denby's a chance to clear out of England, on condition that they handed it over to us again."

Denison nodded.

"Yes, it saved the scandal of prosecuting them. All the same, that precious pair ought to be under lock and key, Alan."

"They probably will be before they are much older, unless they mend their ways. Even in South Africa they can't play the games they have been trying lately. But, anyhow, I could not prosecute. We had to think of Meg's mother."

"What is she going to do?"

"She will live with us, and try to forget her late husband. Meg will help her to do so."

"I am sure she will," agreed Denison. He paused and looked his friend in the face.

"You are a lucky man, Alan," he said, gravely.

"I am," Rendle answered with emphasis. "One of the luckiest alive. And the best wish I can make for you, John, is that, when your time comes to marry, you may be half as fortunate."


Roy Glashan's Library
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