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Published by Hutchinson & Co., London, 1925

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"Criminal Yarns," Hutchinson & Co., London, 1925


"Criminal Yarns," Hutchinson & Co., London, 1925


  1. A Run for his Money
  2. Rastall's Revenge
  3. Judas
  4. The Coat
  5. Raikes of the Reserve
  6. A Government Appointment
  7. His Brother's Keeper
  8. The Duel in the Veins
  9. In Dark Tor Mire
  10. In the King's Name
  11. The Rescue of Romilly
  12. A Friend in Need
  13. Governor's Rounds
  14. The Drifty Day
  15. For the Sake of Sanlucar
  16. The Kistvaen
  17. Misadventure
  18. Diggle's Device
  19. Passon Digby's Deputy
  20. The Best Laid Plans
  21. One Crowded Hour
  22. In Chasm Cleave
  23. Second Thoughts



KÖNIG and Hahn were their patronymics, but they called themselves King and Hart, and as they both had British naturalisation papers as well as British names, perhaps it was not the fault of the Home Secretary that they sat eating German food served by an obviously Teutonic waiter in a restaurant not a mile from Charing Cross.

Hart, stout, stumpy, and spectacled, was speaking in low guttural German.

"He said he had destroyed all his papers. And he must have done so, or the police would certainly have laid hands upon them at the time of his arrest."

King, a tall, sallow man, regarded the other scornfully.

"Destroyed them! You must think that Max Ebhardt is as big a fool as yourself or as the British police. I tell you he has hidden them. They are in a safe place known only to himself. Ebhardt knows the importance of these documents as well as you or I. The copy of the secret treaty in particular is absolutely essential to our High Command. He means to have his pay for handing it over."

"But he would have had his pay," objected Hart, frowning. "He was to get twenty thousand marks."

"And what good is twenty thousand marks to a man serving a ten-year sentence in a British convict prison?" retorted King. "The pay he wants is liberty, not gold."

Hart sat silent. A look of dismay spread over his large, pasty face.

"But that is impossible," he said at length.

"Impossible!" snapped King. "Nothing is impossible when we have our orders. Besides"—a covetous glint came into his narrow eyes—"besides, there is the money. Twenty thousand marks!"

He stopped abruptly as the waiter, a stolid, stupid-looking fellow in a greasy dress-suit, came up with a fresh course. He set the dishes down and changed the plates. As he went away King glanced after him.

"He did not hear?" he said questioningly.

Hart shrugged his thick shoulders.

"What matter if he did? He is one of us. Schlesser is sworn not to employ any who are not of the Service. Besides, look at his face. Saw you ever one with less intelligence?

"And now," he went on after a moment's pause, "let me hear what you mean. You speak of getting Ebhardt out. But he is in Moorlands, a prison from which no inmate has made good his escape for a generation past."

"But Ebhardt is not always inside the walls," returned King. "In these English prisons the men are worked in gangs on the farm or in the quarries. Ebhardt, I have ascertained, is so employed. Now do you understand?"

Hart shook his big head doubtfully.

"Even then they are heavily guarded," he objected. "In Ebhardt's case they will be particularly careful. No, I do not see how this helps matters."

"You wouldn't," snarled King angrily. "Listen!" And in low, rapid tones he proceeded to outline his scheme for the release of the arch-spy Ebhardt.

Hart listened attentively.

"Now what do you think of it?" King ended with a note of triumph in his voice.

"It—it sounds all right," Hart answered, but there was doubt in his tone.

"Sounds all right? It is all right, I tell you," King said sharply.

"But risky," said Hart uncomfortably.

"Risky—of course it's risky," snapped King. "But the risk is far more mine than yours. If you are afraid," he continued with a sneer, "say so, and I will find someone who is not such a cursed coward."

"I am no coward," declared Hart with some show of spirit.

"Then prove it," snarled King, and cut further discussion short by rapping on the table for the waiter and the bill.

He paid the account; then, with a curt nod to his companion, passed quickly, out between the rows of empty tables.


OSCAR EBHARDT'S cell in Moorlands was exactly like that of any of the other eleven hundred and seventy occupants of the big prison. It was the same eight foot square, had the same smooth cement floor, the same sort of high, well-barred window, and its furniture—the cot, the stool, the little flap-table —were of precisely the same pattern as those in the adjoining cells.

This was one of Ebhardt's grievances. He had several, but this was the worst. It was his fixed idea that a man who had once been entitled to place the magic letters M.P. after his name was entitled to accommodation superior to that of the common or garden cracksmen with whom he was unwillingly obliged to associate.

For Ebhardt, spy and scoundrel as he was, a man who had used an intellect quite out of the common to swindle an unsuspecting electorate under the guise of a patriotic politician, was a Prussian by birth. Even though he had been found out and brought to well merited judgment, he still fancied himself a sort of superman, and could not bring himself to realise that he was extremely lucky to have escaped being shot out of hand.

One chilly evening in late autumn he sat on his stool, reading by the light of the gas lamp set in the passage wall, when he heard steps passing up the hallway. They did not pause perceptibly, but as they passed there was suddenly flicked through the six-inch opening under the foot of the door a tiny scrap of folded paper.

For an instant the man stared in amazement, then he swooped upon it, and, superman as he thought himself, his fingers were none too steady as he unfolded the note.

The slip was no more than four inches square, and the first thing that Ebhardt saw was a letter and a numeral in the top left-hand corner. His eyes gleamed.

"König!" he muttered, and quickly read the closely-written German script beneath.

This was in cypher, but a cypher which he knew so well that he hardly needed to translate it. In English it ran thus:

"Preparations being made for your escape. Condition that you hand over the secret treaty and plans. If you agree, write answer on other side of this sheet, and hide same in remains of your loaf to-morrow morning."

Ebhardt slipped the paper inside his shirt and sat silent. There was an ugly scowl on his dark, handsome face.

"So that's the game," he muttered. "I'm to have my liberty, and König's to get the cash.

"I suppose I'll have to do it," he said at last. "Anything is better than ten years in this accursed hole."

Going to the table, he extracted from a tiny recess which had been sealed with bread paste an inch or two of blacklead from the inside of a pencil. With this he wrote his reply, then hid it and the pencil in his clothes.

Next morning the answer went down concealed in the remains of his eight-ounce loaf, and Ebhardt, after cleaning his cell according to regulation, went out for another day of monotonous labour on the "bogs."

How his message was conveyed outside the prison, or by whom, Ebhardt had no means of knowing. He look it for granted that some warder must have been heavily bribed to take it. The answer, at any rate, came promptly enough. At the same hour as on the previous evening it was slipped under the door. It was short, but to Ebhardt, sweet:

"Thursday next, or, if wet, first fine day. A diversion will be created as your party passes along the road through the Upper Plantation. Watch for the car."

Thursday! And this was Tuesday. In spite of all his swagger, the spy's heart beat hard. He did not sleep much that night, and never in his life had time dragged as it did during the next two days.

Thursday turned out dull and cheerless, but there was no rain, and the parties went out as usual. Ebhardt loathed the pick and shovel work in the black, soggy peat. Not only did he hate all forms of physical labour, but he considered such toil entirely beneath his dignity. His fellow-workmen and his warders quite appreciated the fact, and, while convict labour as a rule is not strenuous, he of all the gang was the one whom everyone took care to keep up to the mark. On this particular day things were rather worse than usual, and by the time it came to knocking off, the ex-M.P. was ready to sell his soul—let alone his hidden papers—for the chance of liberty.

The whistles were sounded, the gangs were formed up, and, with warders back and front and civil guards widely extended on either flank, set out on their heavy-footed tramp back to the prison. Dark clouds lowered overhead; a chill breeze blew down over the mist-shrouded tors and moaned through the gaunt firs of the Upper Plantation.

"Wot's the matter with you?" growled his neighbour to Ebhardt. "You're breathin' like a bloomin' pig."

Before Ebhardt could reply, a horn hooted loudly and a large car came grinding up the steep slope on low gear. The line of men pulled automatically over to the left. Ebhardt's knees shook under him, for the driver, in spite of a false beard, was evidently König. What was he to do? Surely they did not expect him to bolt under the muzzles of the warders' rifles!

A man rose from the back of the car and dumped something out into the road. There was a flash, a roar; then, like magic, everything was hidden in a tremendous eruption of ink-black smoke.

It was enough. Without an instant's hesitation Ebhardt flung himself forward, and like a flash was in the car. Before he could even drop into the seat alongside the driver, the car, which had been creeping so slowly, shot forward like a slipped greyhound.

For a moment all was suffocating darkness, punctuated by yells, shouts, and the crack of rifles. Then the car flashed clear of the wreathing clouds of inky vapour, and was racing along the open road at a pace which defied pursuit.

"Himmel, but that was a smart trick!" said Ebhardt. "Was that smoke bomb your idea, König?"

"'King' in this cursed country. Call me King," retorted the sallow little man as he opened his throttle a thought wider. "Look beside you," he went on rapidly. "That bag—you will find a cap and a muffler. Put them on quickly. They will do for the present."

Ebhardt obeyed. Meantime the car, driven at a tremendous pace, was flinging the miles behind her.

"Where are you going?" demanded Ebhardt. "To Taviton?"

"No," snapped King. "Taviton will already be warned by telephone. Where are the papers?"

"In London," Ebhardt answered.

"I thought so. Then we will make for Exchester. We should catch the six-thirty up."

"What about the car?"

"That is all arranged for," replied King so curtly that the other turned sulky and did not speak again. They entered Exchester by a back road, and King ran the car up a narrow street and into a lonely garage. Hart closed the gates behind them, while King sprang out, and, taking a suit-case from the tonneau, opened a door leading out of the garage into a chauffeur's room.

"Here are clothes," he said sharply. "Be quick! We have but twenty minutes to catch the train."

In other days Ebhardt had been King's superior. This new tone of command made Ebhardt furious. Yet, in spite of his anger, he could not but admire the way in which every detail of his escape had evidently been worked out beforehand. Here were clothes that fitted him perfectly, including boots, collar, and also a wig and false beard. There was shaving tackle, a hair brush, a portable lamp, and a mirror.

He shaved and changed like lightning, and with the wig and the beard, and his overcoat collar turned up high around his throat, felt certain that no one would recognise him.

The three went afoot to the station. The train was late, and there was time to get some food in the refreshment-room. Sandwiches and a whisky-and-soda put new life into Ebhardt, and he stepped into a first-class carriage with his companions as coolly as though the wires all over England were not already ringing with the news of his escape.

No one interfered, and the journey up to town was made in perfect comfort and security. Ebhardt was still sulky, and there was little conversation on the way up. But as they neared London he became uneasy.

"What about passing the barrier at Waterloo Station?" he asked.

"We don't. We get out at Vauxhall," was King's answer.

Whatever fate protected them, there was not even a policeman in sight at the Vauxhall exit, and, gaining the dark street in safety, they found a taxi.

"The address—you give it," said King in Ebhardt's ear.

Ebhardt hesitated, but only for a moment, then gave the name of a street in Pimlico, ordering him to stop at the near end.

"No nonsense, now!" warned King as, having reached their journey's end, the three made their way up a narrow street which was almost as black as a tunnel. "You'll keep between us, please."

Ebhardt gritted his teeth. He had been hoping desperately for a chance to bolt under cover of the darkness, but King seemed to read his every thought.

They reached a door. What the house was like it was impossible to say, for not a gleam of light showed from its tall front. Ebhardt tapped in a peculiar way, and after a short delay a key turned in the lock and the door was cautiously opened.

"Who is it?" asked a harsh voice.

A pass-word whispered by Ebhardt caused the door to swing back quickly, and he and his companions passed into a narrow hall.

"This way," said Ebhardt, and leading the others up a flight of uncarpeted stairs, he entered a room at the back of the house. Here he switched on the electric light, which showed that the place was comfortably, even luxuriously, furnished.

"Are the papers here?" demanded King, and, quiet as his manner was, Ebhardt caught an eager gleam in his eyes.

"First, what are you going to give me for them?" the latter countered.

The tall, sallow man faced him.

"None of that, Ebhardt," he said grimly. "Our share of the bargain is fulfilled. You have your liberty. Now hand over the treaty and the plans."

"What use is liberty without money?" sneered Ebhardt. "You'll give me my share of the twenty thousand."

"I'll give you fifty pounds in English money," King said coldly. "Not a penny more."

For full fifteen seconds there was dead silence. The two men faced one another, Ebhardt's handsome face working with ill-suppressed rage, King cool and watchful as ever. As for Hart, he hardly counted. He stood aside, looking supremely uncomfortable.

"And if I refuse?" said Ebhardt between set teeth.

For answer, King's hand dipped into his coat pocket. It emerged with a small pistol between the lean fingers. The plated barrel glistened under the white glare of the electrics.

"You devil!" muttered Ebhardt beneath his breath. Suddenly he turned. "All right," he said in quite a different tone. "I might have known the sort of bargain you would drive. I give in. Stay where you are and I will get them."

He went to a picture hanging above the fireplace, took it down, and pressed an invisible knob in the oak panelling. A small section of the panelling rolled back, revealing a tiny cupboard behind. Slipping his hand in, he took out a roll of papers fastened together with elastic bands.

"Here they are," he said recklessly. "Twenty thousand marks worth, and I am going to get fifty pounds for them. Hand the money over, King, hand it over. Then they are yours."

King's face expressed open contempt.

"What kind of fool do you take me for?" he retorted. "I must first see whether I am getting what I pay for."

"Please yourself," said Ebhardt, and flung the roll upon the table by which the other stood.

For an instant—an instant only—King forgot his usual caution. He seized the papers greedily. Before he could unroll them Ebhardt was upon him, and his steel like grip descended on the other man's wrists.

"Now!" he snarled. "What about that twenty thousand?"

King's answer was a bitter curse, and a kick which, catching Ebhardt full on the shin, almost caused him to release his hold.

"Ah, would you?" screamed the latter, and next moment the two men were fighting like beasts.

Over went the table with a terrible clatter. Over went the two on top of it.

"Help, Hart! Help!" shrieked King. "Help, you fool! Hit him, can't you?"

Hart, frightfully excited and even more terrified, danced aimlessly like a bear on a chain. He was a slow-witted brute, and several precious seconds were lost before he found the poker and came back with it.

"Hit him!" cried King again, but his voice was weaker. Ebhardt had his knees on his chest.

Hart struck out blindly, clean missed Ebhardt's head, but hit him heavily over the shoulder.

Quick as thought, Ebhardt was on his feet again. With a snarl he dashed at Hart, wrenched the poker from his feeble grasp, and dropped him with one crashing blow over the head.

His eyes were red as he flung himself again on King. Before he could reach him, the latter had whipped out his revolver and sent two quick bullets across the room.

Ebhardt spun round like a top, then with a desperate effort recovered himself and hurled the poker full in King's face. King threw up his arm and saved his head, but the bone cracked like a pipe-stem. The pistol dropped from his useless hand.

"The trick's mine!" cried Ebhardt in triumph, and staggered across towards the papers which lay upon the floor where they had fallen from the overturned table.

Before he could reach them he heard the door handle turn. He spun round.

"Hands up!" came a cool English voice, and there stepped into the room a keen-faced young man with a revolver in his fist, followed by a broad-shouldered police officer.

With a last desperate effort Ebhardt dived for King's pistol. But his wound hindered him, and before he could reach the weapon the young man had his foot upon it.

"Not this time, I think, Mr. Ebhardt," he remarked with a slight smile. "Pick up that roll of papers, please, Inspector. I think you will find that they are what we want."

"That's right, Mr. Dugdale," replied the Inspector with quiet satisfaction, as he pocketed the roll. "Now what about this little lot? We'll need an ambulance to take them to the station."

"Go and ring one up. I'll take charge here while you're away."

Evidently the Inspector had pretty complete faith in Mr. Dugdale's abilities, for he went without demur.

Dugdale turned to Ebhardt, who was standing, glaring at him with bloodshot eyes.

"You'd better sit down," he remarked easily, and the spy, whose knees were rocking under him, dropped feebly into the nearest chair.

Hart lay upon the floor breathing stertorously; only King remained upon his feet. He stood holding his broken arm, his wizened face drawn with pain, but still unconquered.

Dugdale regarded him thoughtfully.

"It was a bold bid, König, but did you really think it would succeed?"

"Who gave it away?" snapped King. "Was it that?"—pointing contemptuously to Hart.

Dugdale shook his head gently.

"No, it was yourself, König," he answered. "Restaurants are not good places in which to discuss plans for prison-breaking."

"Then it was Schlesser," snarled the little German.

Again Dugdale shook his head.

"No, it was not Schlesser. Have you forgotten the waiter?"

King started violently.

"The waiter!" He glared at Dugdale. "Who was he—not you?"

"Yes, it was I."

"B-but you heard nothing. I took care of that."

"True, but there are other ways, König. As a matter of fact, there was a dictaphone hidden under the table, and every word you said was recorded."

King's jaw dropped. For a moment he seemed on the point of collapse. But with an effort he recovered himself.

"Then the escape?" he said thickly.

"All arranged. The Home Office gave me a free hand. The warder you thought you had bribed was acting under our orders, the warders in charge of the gang were in the know, and you were watched all the way up."

King staggered and dropped into a chair with a groan.

Dugdale watched him.

"In future, König," he said gently, "you will not be so contemptuous of the British Secret Service."



TWO men walked down the broad street of Moorlands, in the direction of the railway station.

One, square-built, stocky, and about forty-five, wore the plain dark uniform of a prison warder; the other, a good deal younger, was in civilian clothes, which hung loosely on his tall, gaunt frame.

Leaving his man on the wind-swept platform, Warder Garbett went into the ticket office and purchased a third single for Paddington. Coming out again, he handed this to the other, who took it without a word.

"Here's a carriage, Rastall," said Garbett. "You won't be troubled with much company this morning," he added drily.

"I don't care what company I have so long as I'm quit of yours," answered Rastall bitterly. His eyes, deep-set under thick eyebrows, glared at the warder with unquenchable hate.

Garbett shrugged his broad shoulders.

"You always were a grouser, Rastall, but why you should lay all your troubles at my door I'm hanged if I know."

Red sparks glowed in Rastall's eyes.

"Liar!" he said in a low, tense voice. "Liar!"

Garbett stared at the man with an expression half-contemptuous, half-pitiful.

"What maggot have you got in your brain, Rastall? Your troubles have been of your own making. You can't blame me because you were sentenced to a seven years' stretch."

"No," retorted Rastall fiercely. "That was my own idiotic fault. But it's yours that prison's been hell to me. It's yours that I tried to bunk, and lost my remission. It's yours that I'm no longer a man, but a filthy lag like the rest of the scum in that stone pen on the hill."

He poured out his words with a force and fury that fairly staggered Garbett.

"How do you make that out?" he asked at last.

"So you'd try and humbug me that you'd forgotten?" sneered Rastall. "I suppose you'd tell me it wasn't you who reported me three times the first month I was in, that it wasn't you who got me in the governor's bad books, and had me chucked out of the tin shop into that filthy quarry?"

"If I reported you it was my duty," answered Garbett quietly. "I had no feeling in the matter one way or the other."

"Duty!" snarled Rastall. "That's what your sort always say. Duty, and never a bit of decent feeling or humanity about any of you screws, and you're the worst of the bunch."

The engine whistled. Rastall stepped into his empty carriage, but turning quickly thrust his head through the open window.

"You've made life a hell for me these seven years," he said. "But don't you fancy you're going to get away with it. Some day you and I will meet again. Then—look out!"

The train started with a jerk, and Rastall dropped on to the seat. Garbett stood quite still.

"Barmy!" he muttered frowning, and, turning, walked out of the station and slowly and thoughtfully back to the prison, where, in the busy routine of work, he speedily forgot all about the wild-eyed, bitter-tongued Rastall.

But if Garbett forgot, Rastall did not. He was right when he had said that those seven awful years at Moorlands had changed him into a criminal. They had indeed warped his whole nature, and the one sentiment of which he was now capable was an unquenchable longing for revenge.

During his long term of penal servitude his only near relative, an aunt, had died and left him a little income, just enough to allow him to rent a couple of cheap rooms and live without working. He had not a friend left and had he had any he would have been too proud to reclaim their acquaintance. Consequently he lived the most lonely life imaginable, and this gave him the more time to brood upon his passion for revenge.

It became a monomania. He thought of it by day, and dreamt of it at night, and always it was Garbett who typified to him the whole system which had crushed his life on the wheel. He remembered, as if it were yesterday today, the first offence of which he had been guilty—a failure to clean his cell in time. He remembered how he had begged Garbett not to report him; how Garbett had merely told him to be silent; and the horrible sinking feeling when he found himself carpeted in the office, under the stern eyes of Colonel Peyton, the Governor.

Time after time he was hauled up; time after time he had been punished with cells, "A" diet, and loss of stage and remission, until at last he had become utterly reckless, and, knocking down a warder, made that crazy rush for liberty.

He shivered as he remembered the horrible night, wandering alone in the cruel cold of the high moor, and he burnt with rage at recollection of the "bashing"* which was the first of his punishment, to be followed by six months with black-and-white dress and wearing leg irons day and night.

(* Prison slang for flogging with cat-o'-nine-tails.)

Oh, he would get even with Garbett—that he swore to himself, and he thought and thought until he had the whole plan ready in his mind.

It was a month, almost to the day, after his release when he left the train at Taviton, seven miles from the prison. But now, instead of the obviously prison-made suit in which he had left Moorlands, he was dressed in Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, and carried an artist's easel and block. Artists were thick as whortleberries on the Moor. No one would look twice at him.

Next morning, with a small knapsack on his back as well as his painting outfit, he started towards Moorlands.

He made straight across the Moor until he was within sight of Garbett's cottage, which stood about a mile from the prison in a sheltered nook under Wistern Tor.

An ugly light glowed in his eyes as they fell on the small, granite-built house with its trim garden and beech hedges. Then he sheered off to the right, up the hillside.

A huge pile of reddish dump rose like an unfinished railway embankment. He passed behind, and so up to its summit where a low-browed tunnel gaped black in the scarred face of the tor. It was the main adit to the long-abandoned Wistern Tor Mine, and the goal for the moment of Rastall's pilgrimage.

He looked carefully around to make sure that no one was watching, then slipped silently into the depths, and was swallowed up in the gloom.

Next day was Sunday, and late that evening Garbett, who was off duty, walked down to the village for a chat with some of his cronies.

It was about eight when he came homewards again. The sun had set, and the moon, only three days off the full, shone brightly in a clear sky.

The road ran steeply up hill, with low stone walls on either side. On the upper, the left-hand side, was a thick fringe of fir trees.

Garbett plodded steadily along, thinking of nothing in particular, except perhaps the cold beef and pickles that would be ready for his supper.

A slight rustle in the trees to the left made him glance in that direction. He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the head and shoulders of a prisoner peering over the wall a little way ahead.

A prisoner! Yes, not a doubt about it! The shaven face, the Glengarry cap, the red-and-blue striped slop. And yet there had been no word of any escape!

The prisoner turned his head, saw the warder, ducked in a flash, and went crashing away through the undergrowth. With a shout Garbett dashed forward, vaulted the wall and hurled himself in pursuit.

As he cleared the belt of firs he caught sight of the lag running hard up the hillside.

Garbett put his best foot forward, and though he did not seem to gain, at any rate did not lose ground.

The convict went straight up the hill. He was making for the mine dump, and Garbett's spirits rose as he saw him slacken speed over the rough ground.

"Artful beggar!" he panted. "Means to hide."

He spurted as he spoke, and gaining rapidly he reached the top of the dump just in time to see his quarry plunge headlong into the old adit.

Garbett was not the sort to poke his nose for pleasure into the forgotten galleries which seam every other tor on the Moor. He had never before been inside the Wistern Mine.

But now he did not hesitate.

Waiting only long enough to switch on the electric torch which he always carried, he ducked his head and went in after. Steps splashing through the slime of the adit floor came plainly to his ears. He hurried forward, and the white light of his lamp fell upon the flying figure of the man before him.

"Stop!" he roared. "It's no use your running. I've got you."

The answer was a mocking laugh, and instantly the spider-like shadow vanished.

Spurting again, Garbett reached a cross-cut. Again the mocking laugh rang out, this time from overhead. He flung his light upwards. Climbing a rope ladder that led to the top of a short shaft, was the lag.

"Thought you'd trapped me," he jeered as he reached the top and drew up the ladder. "But the boot's on the other foot, Mr. Garbett. Good-night, Garbett—and good-bye!"

He was gone like a flash.

"Rastall!" gasped Garbett, and, filled with sudden panic, turned and went plunging back towards the mouth of the adit. The slope was steep. He slipped and slithered in the thin slime, and once he struck his head heavily against a rock projecting downwards from the roof. Before he was anywhere near the entrance there came a heavy thud. The thick air shook with the concussion, and at the same moment the patch of pale light which marked the mouth of the adit was suddenly blotted out.

A moment later he was up against a mass of earth and stone which entirely blocked the entrance.


RASTALL, after clambering out through the upper adit, ran down the hillside and lit the fuse of the cartridge which was set to close the mouth of the main adit.

Crouching close by, he watched the dynamite do its work, then, chuckling softly, moved away to the niche among the rocks where he had left his clothes.

He changed quickly, and, after burying the convict kit, picked up his easel and paint-box and went striding down the hill.

A fierce exultation filled him. He, the lonely, despised convict, had succeeded beyond all his hopes. At last he was even with his worst enemy, and now Garbett would know some at least of the agonies which he himself had suffered through those awful years.

It was his triumph which made him careless. He came to the wall above the road, jumped lightly on to the top of it, and next moment was lying on his face in the roadway with his left ankle pinned under half a hundredweight of granite.

For the first few seconds he was too stunned to move. Then, as he stirred, a pang of intense agony wrung a scream from his twisted lips, and he fainted.

The next thing he knew he was lying on a couch with a rug over him.

By the light of a shaded lamp he saw a woman sitting beside him. She was middle-aged, but plump and pleasant-faced.

She saw him stir.

"You be better, sir?" she asked.

"Much better, thank you," he answered gratefully.

"I did think of sending my boy for the doctor," she told him, "but seeing there's nothing broke I reckoned to save the money. Would 'ee like a cup of tea, sir?"

"I should, very much," Rastall told her.

"Kettle's boiling. It won't be long," she assured him and went out.

A few minutes later the door opened again, but this time it was not the woman, but a tall, finely-built girl who carried in the tea-tray.

"Mother's asked me to bring you the tea, sir," she said. "She's gone down the road to meet father. He's late like to-night."

As she spoke she laid the tray down, poured out a cup of the steaming brew, and added milk and sugar.

Rastall was staring at her with an odd look in those deep, wild eyes of his.

"Who is your father?" he asked suddenly.

"He's a warder, sir. Garbett is his name."

Rastall made a queer sound in his throat.

"Ah, you're in pain still, sir. I'm proper sorry. Now don't you be moving. I'll put the cup to your mouth."

She slipped her firm, capable young arm under his shoulders, lifted him as easily as a child, and put the cup to his lips. It was years since Rastall had felt the touch of a woman's hand. It gave him the strangest feeling.

"There's, that's better," she said soothingly. She had her mother's soft Devon voice, but was clearly much better educated.

She made him drink a full cup of tea and eat a slice of daintily-cut bread and butter. Then she pulled the rug up over him and turned the lamp lower.

"You get a bit of sleep, sir," she said. "If you want anything you've only to call."

She left the room as quietly as she had come, but as for Rastall, sleep was the last thing he thought of. He lay quite still, staring in front of him with unseeing eyes.

He was in Garbett's home. Somehow in all those dreary years during which he had come into every-day contact with the warder he had never imagined him as a man with a home. Vaguely he had known that he was married and had a house, but if he had thought at all of his wife he had fancied her a sour-visaged woman with an acid tongue. Children he had never for a moment supposed that Garbett possessed.

He began to look round the room. It was beautifully clean and tidy, the furniture was good, there were neatly-framed photographs on the walls. The contrast between it and his squalid quarters in Guilford Street struck him like a blow.

Then grew the thought that he was beholden to the family of his enemy. The idea was intolerable. He stirred quickly and tried to sit up. The result was a stab of agony which wrenched a groan from him.

Instantly the girl was back again.

"Does it hurt very bad?" she asked, and there was real sympathy in her face. "Dad shall go for the doctor when he comes in. He won't be long now."

"I—I don't want the doctor. I want—that is, it's only the pain in my leg," stammered Rastall, and turned his head away. He could not face those kindly eyes.

There was the sound of the front door opening.

"Annie! Annie!" came a frightened voice.

"Yes, mother," answered the girl, and ran out into the hall-way.

"Annie!" cried Mrs. Garbett. "Annie, your father left Moorlands more than an hour ago. Mr. Parton saw him leave. What can have become of him? I couldn't see anything of him anywhere."

She was nearly crying. Rastall, who could hear every word, was filled with amazement. The idea that anyone could possibly like Garbett well enough to weep over him was a fresh shock.

"Don't you cry, mother," he heard Annie say. "Dad will be all right. The poor gentleman's in pain. You sit with him a bit and I'll run out and look for father. He's not far off, I'll be bound."

Mrs. Garbett came into the room. Her pleasant face was white and strained and tears brimmed in her eyes.

"I'm right sorry to hear you be so bad, sir. I wish my husband was back. He'd know what to do better than me. A wonderful man he be for oils and herbs. Good as any doctor, I often says. But we don't know what's come to him to-night. And—and I'm terribly afeared something's wrong."

A sob burst from her, and suddenly she dropped down in a chair beside Rastall's couch and covered her face with her hands.

Rastall jerked himself up to a sitting position. "Don't!" he cried wildly. "Don't! I can't stand it."

Mrs. Garbett's hands dropped. She stared at him.

"You be mazed," she said gently. "You lie down, sir. I've no right to go worrying you like that."

It was the last straw. That she could think of him when in such trouble herself finished Rastall. Like a mist rent by a wind the black fog of hatred which had so long obscured the man's real self was torn away.

"It's my fault," he said fiercely, "my fault. No, I'm not raving. Listen to me."

The words poured from him like a torrent. He told her everything, making no excuse for himself.

When he had finished he sat silent with bent head, waiting for the expected reproaches.

None came.

"You poor man!" was all she said. "I be main sorry for 'ee. Annie and I'll take the rope and go and get James out."


LEFT to himself, Rastall lay awhile listening to the footsteps of the two women hurrying up the road.

As soon as they had died away he lifted himself off the couch. The blood running to his injured ankle made him sick with pain. But he stuck to it. He was not going to be in the house when Garbett arrived. Somehow he got as far as the hall. He found two sticks, and with their help limped away out of the garden. Darts of intense agony ran up and down his leg. It was sheer will power that took him as far as the road.

Then his head went quite suddenly. He snatched at the gate-post, missed it, collapsed, and for the second time that evening fainted dead away.

So Garbett found him as he came down the hill with his wife and daughter. He stared down at him a moment with a queer look on the face which Rastall had always thought so hard.

"You're not angry with him, James?" questioned his wife.

"Angry! Bless you, no! What's the use of getting angry with a chap that's looney, Mary?"

"He had his senses right enough when he told me where you was," declared Mrs. Garbett.

"Aye, and 'twas you brought him back to 'em, I reckon, missis," replied Garbett with a smile. "You and Annie between you."

"Maybe we could bring him back to 'em proper," said Mary Garbett, and there was a touch of eagerness in her voice.

Garbett paused a moment.

"Reckon I'll give you a chance to try," he responded, and, stooping, lifted Rastall gently and carried him into the house.


"GET on there. What are stopping for? Don't block the stairs."

The warder's voice, ringing sharply through the bare stone corridor, brought Raycroft to his senses, and he stumbled onwards, his iron-shod boots clanking on the cold iron steps of the staircase.

He had been coming down from his cell on the upper landing of B block when he first caught sight of Holroyd a flight below.

For the moment he could not believe his eyes. He had stopped short, his head poked forward like that of a roosting crow, until the warder saw him and ordered him on.

But though his legs mechanically performed their duty his eyes were still fixed upon the slight, well-knit figure below, unmistakable in spite of the ill-fitting blue and red slop and drab Glengarry cap pulled tightly over the close-cropped crown. And his mind was full of conflicting emotions, chief among which were hatred and fear.

Of course, he had known of Holroyd's conviction. But for him, his old-time friend would have been walking the streets a free man to-day. All the same it had not occurred to him for one moment that his victim would come to Moorlands. Holroyd had never been robust, and Raycroft had taken it for granted that his destination would be the invalid prison, Parkhurst, not the bleak heights of Moorlands, where he himself was doomed to serve his three-year sentence.

Tramp, tramp! Hundreds of prisoners were pouring out from the doorways of the various halls and, marshalled by armed warders, were gathered in long lines in the centre of the parade, where the Governor and the chief warder stood ready to review them.

Young scamps still in their twenties, elderly lags with grizzling stubble, they all wore the same hideous uniform—drab breeches, drab cap, red and blue slop—and to a casual observer they all bore a dreadful family resemblance.

But Raycroft, as he took his usual place, never once lost sight of Holroyd. It was plain to him that the man had only just arrived, for he did not know where to go, and was marshalled to a place by one of the warders.

The Governor, stern-faced Colonel Peyton, stood by watching with his keen grey eyes, while the warders "rubbed down" each separate convict to make sure that none had about him anything contraband in the shape of files, food, or the like.

Each prisoner, as the warder came to him, unbuttoned jacket and waistcoat, took his cap off and held it in one hand, and his handkerchief in the other. Then the warder deftly ran his hands over him, and the ordeal was at an end.

Around the walls of the yard were large numbers painted in staring white letters on black squares. These indicated the mustering place of each gang. As soon as the rubbing down and counting was over, the long lines broke up and the gangs marched each to their appointed place.

Raycroft's party was 18.

As he started across the yard he glanced back to see where Holroyd was going. He took it for granted that his destination would be the tailors shop, or possibly the string maker's. With a feeling akin to panic he saw that Holroyd was following him.

Doubt changed to certainty. The man whom he had betrayed was appointed to the same gang. For weeks, months, perhaps years, they two would work side by side.

Raycroft tried to pull himself together. He bit his lips and clenched his hands tightly. Above all things he must not betray himself. After all, it was possible, quite possible, that Holroyd might not know how he had been trapped.

The moment was coming when Holroyd must recognise him. Raycroft braced himself for the encounter.

Ah! he saw Holroyd start. He saw the look of recognition cross his face. For a horrible second he fully expected that the other would hurl himself at his throat. If he had, Raycroft felt that he could not have made the slightest resistance. For the moment he was utterly numbed and helpless.

But no. Holroyd merely gave him an almost imperceptible nod of greeting. Then the warder in charge pointed him to his place and gave the order to march.

Out of the great gate, under the heavy arch of solid granite, up the road running through the dark plantain of firs, their bark thick with lichen, their tops twisted with the never-ceasing wind, and so to the destination, a tunnel which was being constructed under the main road, carrying a private prison road into the great stone quarries on the far side.

Work began at once. The cutting of the tunnel was already finished. The gang's present task was to line the walls and roof with huge cut stones.

Raycroft had been long enough at Moorlands to learn the foolishness of risking marks by talking openly. He knew he would get his chance sooner or later, and waited for it, yet dreaded it.

He watched Holroyd furtively. The man looked years older than when they had met last, little more than twelve months ago. His well-cut features were deeply lined, and young as he was there was grey over his temples. Yet he seemed stronger and fitter physically than Raycroft remembered him. In this Raycroft was right. Regular hours, regular food, and regular work had already done much to correct the results of the excesses which he and Raycroft had shared, and into which Raycroft had first led him.

The chance came sooner than Raycroft had expected. Holroyd was shifting a stone plainly too heavy for his strength. The warder beckoned Raycroft to lend a hand.

It was Holroyd who spoke first. "Found you again, Steve, eh?" he said in the curious lipless monotone which is the first accomplishment learnt by the convict.

Raycroft's throat was dry. It was only with a strong effort that he mastered the panic which was again overwhelming him.

"I didn't expect to see you here, Frank," he managed to answer.

"You knew they got me, didn't you?"

"Aye, I heard so. W-what was it for?"

"The Hampstead job. The one you and I were going to work together. The police were waiting for me. Some dirty spy had given me away."

His lips twitched as he spoke, and there was a flash in his brown eyes which sent a cold shiver down Raycroft's spine.

"D-did you find out who it was?" he asked in a voice which he vainly endeavoured to render steady.

"No, but I will," answered Holroyd with a deep oath. "And by the living Jingo he shall wish he'd never been born when I get my hands on him!"

He spoke louder than he had intended. The warder heard and swung round.

"Less talking there," he snapped. "You, Holroyd, be careful or you'll get into trouble."

So Holroyd did not know. For the moment Raycroft felt a huge relief. But only for the moment. Presently his fear came back. Any day Holroyd might learn the truth. There were others besides himself and the police who knew or, at any rate, suspected it. Warner, for instance, and Charles Condon. Any day they might be arrested. For all he knew, they were in gaol already. His blood ran cold as he thought of their turning up as unexpectedly as Holroyd himself. And once Holroyd learnt how he had been betrayed—well, Raycroft knew the man's fierce, passionate nature well enough to be certain that at any cost to himself he would take his revenge.

Raycroft slept little that night. And when he did his dreams were horrible. He saw himself back in his cell at Holloway with Inspector Jex talking to him, hinting that if he would give away the plans of the gang it might make all the difference to his own sentence. He lived again through the scene when, false to all the rules of the game, he had yielded and told Jex of the plans for stealing Sir Isaac Holstein's enamels from his house at Hampstead, plans which he himself had drawn up and communicated to Holroyd. It was the lowest, meanest trick, for was it not Holroyd who, when his own luck was out, had put him on to an easy job and lent him a couple of sovereigns to tide him over till he pulled it off?

His eyes and his head both ached when, next day, through a dull, raw morning, the gang was marched again to the tunnel. He did not make any attempt to get speech with Holroyd; it was the latter who managed to get alongside of him.

"What's the matter, Steve?"

Raycroft quailed under the keen glance.

"I'm all right. Bit of a headache—that's all," he answered hastily.

Holroyd stopped to get a lever under a huge block of granite. Then he said suddenly:

"What did you get, Steve?"

"Three years."

"They let you down easy. Mine's seven."

Raycroft found no answer. His guilty conscience tormented him. Or, rather, his panic fear of Holroyd's discovering the reason why his own term was so much the shorter of the two.

"Steve," said Holroyd presently, speaking in the lowest possible whisper, "they do say that no one ever did a bunk from Moorlands?"

Raycroft started. His mind worked furiously. Was Holroyd thinking of doing a guy? If so, could he by any means turn the project to his own advantage?

"There's plenty has tried it," he answered cautiously. "But there's nowhere to go, except open moor; nothing to eat but grass, and mostly the warders nab them before they reach the railway."

"Aye; but if a chap has a pal to leave him a change o' togs and a couple o' quid in a place agreed on, what about that?"

Raycroft shifted the block which they were engaged in fitting into place, before replying.

"That'd be all right," he answered. "Always supposing the chap wasn't filled with lead before he got clear."

"There's the risk of that, of course," said Holroyd thoughtfully. "But there's ways of doing it without making a run in the open."

Raycroft's face showed his interest.

"How d'ye mean?" he asked.

Holroyd cast a cautious glance at the warder. But he was not looking their way. And none of the other lags were near enough to overhear.

"Don't you remember Wilton?" he asked.

"What—the chap that got down a drain in the wood, and lay there all day, but was nabbed in the evening by a warder who saw his boot sticking out?"

"That's him," said Holroyd. "Only he was a fool to get nabbed like that."

"I don't see how he could help it."

"He ought to have buried himself properly. If there'd been a few inches of earth between him and the opening the warder would never have spotted him."

Raycroft splashed a trowel full of mortar on top of the stone which they had just put into place.

"But there isn't any ditch you could slip into," he answered presently.

"There's better," answered Holroyd, with something of triumph in his whispered tones.

"Where's that?" asked Raycroft eagerly.

Holroyd gave him a keen glance.

"If I tell, will you help me?"

"I'd always help a pal," answered Raycroft.

"There's some might want to try the dodge for themselves if they knew it," said Holroyd. "And I tell you straight there's not another chap I'd trust here but you. You and me have always been good pals, Steve."

"That's right," answered Raycroft, forcing himself to meet the other's eyes. "We've always been pals, Frank. I'll put it through for you if I can."

Once more Holroyd glanced round to make certain that neither of the warders was within hearing.

"What price the space behind this wall?" he said.

Raycroft's eyes followed Holroyd's. Here and there behind the wall of dressed stone which they were building, were deep cavities in the loose granite rock through which the tunnel had been driven. Many were amply large enough to conceal a man.

Their possibilities began to dawn on Raycroft, and his sallow cheeks flushed slightly as he realised them. The idea of escape always fascinates a convict.

"There's plenty of room," he agreed. "But what's the good? Mortar sets quick; and once you were in, it would take crowbars to get you out again."

"That's where you come in," was the quick answer. "All you've got to do is to leave a block loose."

"So that you can push it out when the hue and cry's past. I see," said Raycroft slowly. "It might be done."

"Might and can. And I'm the man to do it, if you'll help me."

"When are you going to try it?" asked Raycroft breathlessly.

"This very evening, if I get the chance," answered Holroyd between set lips. "See that hole beyond there? That's the one for my money. I reckon we ought to get the wall past it before knocking-off time."

"All right. I'll do my share," answered Raycroft. "But you'll have to look out for the other lags. There's some wouldn't think twice before giving you away."

Before Holroyd could answer the warder had turned, and was coming towards them. They did not dare to speak again.

The rest of that day Raycroft lived in a fever of suspense. A hideous idea had sprung suddenly, fully fledged, in his brain. He saw his way to getting rid, once and for all, of the danger which threatened him.

Now his one idea was to see Holroyd into hiding. First, he was afraid they would not finish the wall up to the required spot. Then, as the afternoon drew on, he thought that they would pass it. And all the time he watched the sky through the upper opening of the tunnel. If it rained heavily, or if fog came on, the outdoor gangs would be called in, and all their plans would go agley.

He was far more nervous than Holroyd, who worked away stolidly, showing no outward sign of the excitement that must be consuming him.

It was a nasty day. The wind blew strong and cold from the north-west, and every now and then a sleet shower would rattle down.

Work, whether in the shops, the quarries, or the farm, stops at five. About half-past four the sky darkened again, and heavy gusts came roaring across the bleak moor, carrying before them a stinging shower of hail. The warders turned up the collars of their waterproof capes, while the lags cursed the cold beneath their breath. Within the tunnel it grew very dark.

Raycroft looked round. For the moment no one was watching.

"Now," he whispered sharply in Holroyd's ear.

Holroyd did not hesitate. Quick as a flash, silent as a ghost, he slipped in through the gap which they had left, and crouched down behind the wall.

So swift were his movements that Raycroft, glancing breathlessly around, realised that not only were the two warders unaware of what had happened, but that not one of the rest of the gang had spotted Holroyd's sudden disappearance.

Now Raycroft worked like a fury. With hands which shook in spite of himself, he swung up a huge block of granite left ready for the purpose and fitted it into the opening. Then another and another. They were lumps that would ordinarily have taken two men to shift, but in his excitement Raycroft handled them like toys.

The last block was the largest of all. As Raycroft, with a mighty effort, swung it into place, he caught a glimpse of Holroyd's face, a patch of white in the gloom, as he crouched silently in the hollow behind.

"You're all right," he whispered reassuringly.

But could Holroyd have seen the expression on the features of his accomplice, the exultation which had flashed through him at the success of his plan would have given place to a very different feeling.

The hail still rattled on the road outside, and particles of ice rebounding from the hard surface rolled tinkling along the floor of the tunnel. The bitter wind whistled through the opening. The other lags shivered and slacked, waiting eagerly for the whistle which would mean "Cease work!"

Only Raycroft kept at it. With his mason's trowel he slapped the mortar on thick and heavy, closing every joint. To make assurance double sure, he took two small sharp fragments of stone and wedged them firmly into the cracks, so as to render the keystone absolutely immovable. A dab of wet mortar hid these from any prying eye.

He had barely finished when from up the hill the whistle shrilled, and before the sharp sound died away the gang had dropped their tools and were gathering in line to be marched back to the prison.

Now Raycroft's heart beat as if it would suffocate him. Would Holroyd's disappearance be discovered at once, or would the warder fail to notice it until their arrival in the prison yard?

The hail had turned to rain, which fell in sheets. The wind roared. The darkness was increasing. The warder and his assistant were plainly nervous and keenly anxious to get their men back at once. It was in weather like this that two young lags had made a bolt, barely a month before.

The counting was rapid and perfunctory. To Raycroft's huge relief, the absence of Holroyd was not noticed. The order was given to march, and a score of pairs of heavy boots splashed in unison down the streaming road.

But although the warder in charge of the gang had not yet noticed that he was one man short, Raycroft knew that the discovery could only be delayed a very few minutes. He braced himself for the questions that were bound to come.

As he had expected, the discovery was made in the prison yard. The re-count on arrival showed Party 18 to be one man short. The roll was called, and Holroyd was not there to answer it.

In a moment all was rush and hurry. The big bell over the gate began to clang with furious energy. The Governor, his deputy, and the chief warder were all on the scene. While a few warders were detailed to hurry the prisoners back to their cells, nearly a hundred were warned to start the search.

Only Party 18 were still kept standing in the rain.

Colonel Peyton strode up to them. Their warder, his face white with anxiety, stood by.

"Who was working next to Holroyd?" was the Governor's first question. He did not raise his voice in the slightest, but there was a menacing ring in his incisive tones which sent a chill through those that heard him.

"Raycroft," answered the warder.

The Colonel, who knew by sight every one of the twelve hundred men in his charge, singled out Raycroft.

"Did you see this man escape?"

"No, sir." Raycroft was amazed at the steadiness of his own voice.

"When did you see him last?"

"About a quarter of an hour before we knocked off, sir."

"What was he doing?"

"Bringing stones for me to set, sir."

"Then you must have noticed that he did not return?"

The Governor's grey-blue eyes seemed to be boring into Raycroft's brain. Yet the man succeeded in keeping a grip on himself.

"No, sir. I had plenty of stones. I wasn't noticing particularly who brought them."

Colonel Peyton stood a moment staring at Raycroft as if he would read his inmost soul. Raycroft's spine felt like water, his knees trembled, yet still he did not quail.

Then the ordeal was over. The Governor turned to the warder, motioned him back a few paces, and said a few words in a tone too low to be overheard.

The warder, ashen-faced, bade the men return to their cells, and there they were locked in as usual—for them the day was at an end.

If Raycroft had suffered the previous night, that was nothing to the tortures he now underwent. All night he tossed and writhed on his narrow cot. Every moment the face of Holroyd was before him. He pictured the man's desperate but futile struggles to free himself. He saw his bruised fingers as he wrenched in vain at the ponderous stone. He seemed actually to hear the imprecations poured upon his own head.

When the laggard dawn came he was a wreck. He could barely stand, he could not touch his breakfast, and he knew that he was fit for nothing but the infirmary.

Yet he would not ask to see the doctor. He was terrified of rousing suspicion. With an effort which seemed to sap the last of his strength, he performed his usual cell-cleaning duties, and marched out to work.

There was an air of subdued excitement all through the prison. Everyone knew that, though warders had scoured the moor all night, not a sign had been seen of Holroyd. Most of the outdoor men were sent to the stone-breaking yard, for so many warders were out that there were not enough left to look after the farm parties. But the tunnel was urgent, and Party 18 went out as usual.

It cost Raycroft another struggle to enter the tunnel. Suppose that Holroyd was not yet dead—that he was able to cry out when he heard the footsteps and voices. This idea had not occurred to him when he had first made up his mind to the crime. Now it tortured him.

As he picked up his trowel his ears were strained for some sound behind the massive barrier of granite.

But there was none, and after a time his fears became a little dulled, and he went on working slowly, almost automatically.

About ten o'clock there came a stir among the gang. Firm footsteps rang under the hollow arch.

Raycroft looked up. The Governor, his tall, lean figure in the usual neat grey tweeds, had entered the tunnel. At his heels was his wire-haired terrier, Tim.

For a minute or more he stood watching the work, then turned to speak to the warder. A new man was in charge to-day.

Tim, a dog no lag dared lay a hand on, walked slowly onward. He was in many ways oddly like his master—extremely reserved, with an amazing dignity of his own, yet intensely keen and observant, and blessed with a wonderful nose.

He stopped close to Raycroft.

Raycroft, whose nerves were raw, would have given worlds to kick him away.

The dog raised his head, and began to sniff as though on the scent of something.

Then he approached the wall.

Raycroft experienced a horrible sinking sensation at the pit of his stomach. Did Tim suspect what was hidden from everyone else?

He changed his place so as to get between the dog and his victim's living tomb.

Tim bared his sharp white teeth and gave the lowest snarl.

|The Colonel heard the sound, and wheeled.

"Tim!" he said sharply.

Tim wagged his stump of a tail, gave his master a quick look, and suddenly raised himself on his hind legs against the wall, at the same time giving utterance to a low whine.

Colonel Peyton's face changed. He came quickly across.

"Out of the way, Raycroft! What is it, Tim!"

Tim whined again, and began scratching at the wall.

"Good heavens!" muttered the Colonel; "is it possible? Here, some of you, come and pull down this wall."

The last words rang out hard and sharp. Half-a-dozen men sprang to obey. Raycroft, in a state bordering on coma, leant helplessly against the opposite wall.

With crowbars and hands the prisoners ripped away the stones. The big blocks came crashing down. Inside three minutes the gap that Raycroft, seventeen hours previously, had closed with such care was open.

A sudden shrill cry burst from one of the lags.

"Here he is, sir—here's Holroyd."

The Colonel brushed them all aside and vaulted in through the opening.

There was a moment of intense suspense. Then he emerged into the daylight, bearing in his arms the limp body of Holroyd.

The man's face was the colour of lead, his eyes were closed.

With one dreadful scream Raycroft turned and bolted out of the lower end of the tunnel.

A medley of shouting burst forth. Both the warders sprang forward. One fired his carbine over the fugitive's head.

Raycroft paid no attention. He ran like a hare, straight ahead.

"Stop that man!"

Colonel Peyton's voice rang like a trumpet across the steeply-sloping field.

Already a civil guard was galloping to cut off the fugitive. It was plain that he could do so easily. The ground was all open.

Raycroft did not attempt to dodge. He kept straight on.

The gang, the Governor, the warders, watched breathlessly.

The civil guard was within a score of yards of Raycroft when the man suddenly flung up his arms and dropped as though shot.

As the warder brought up his pony with a jerk, the Governor turned to the assistant warder. "Go for the doctor—quick as you can!" he ordered.

Then he hurried away across the field.

They saw him kneel beside the prostrate man and make a brief examination. Presently he rose and, with a brief word to the guard, walked slowly back to the tunnel.

As he reached it, so did Dr. Evans, whom the warder had met in the road outside.

Evans glanced at Holroyd, then across the field to Raycroft.

"What—two of them?" he asked in evident surprise.

"No—only one," answered the Governor, pointing to Holroyd. "This man will recover. The other is dead!"


"WHAT are you doing this morning, dear?" asked Fletcher Grafton, lifting his eyes from his newspaper as his daughter came into the breakfast-room of the "Saracen's Head."

"I'm going for a good tramp across the moor, dad," replied Evie Grafton promptly. "I shall get off before Mr. Witney comes down."

"He'll be disappointed at not having the opportunity of going with you," said her father, loyally endeavouring to carry out orders received from Evie's mother to do all in his power to further Howard Witney's suit.

"Not he. He hates walking. He's too fat," said Evie maliciously. "You ought to have seen him puffing and blowing when I took him up Longaford Tor yesterday."

"But he's a very good fellow, and has plenty of money," ventured Mr. Grafton.

"Money—he reeks of it," returned Evie, a frown disfiguring her pretty face. "And as for being a good fellow, you know perfectly well that you don't like him any better than I do. If it wasn't for mother you would never have asked him down to the Moor."

Fletcher Grafton looked uncomfortable. In his heart he knew that what Evie had said was no more than the truth. Yet he, the great barrister, hero of it hundred hard-fought battles, stood in terror of his wife, and as Mrs. Grafton had made up her obstinate mind that Evie should marry Howard Witney, stockbroker and company promoter, the poor man was at his wits' end what to do.

"Will you be back for lunch?" he asked after a moment's pause.

"I hardly know. I want to get as far as Fox Tor Mire."

"That's only three miles. You can easily be back by one. I want to drive up to the prison this afternoon, and I thought perhaps you might like to go with me."

"I should awfully. All right, I'll be back. But what are you going there for?"

"Well, there's a convict I'm interested in, and I have an order from the Home Office to interview him."

"How exciting! Who is he?"

"Oddly enough, someone you once knew. Do you remember that young Dudley Grant whom we met at Oakerton? The man who played cricket so well."

Evie caught her breath slightly, and if anyone had been watching her closely they would have noticed her lips twitch nervously. But her voice was quite under control as she answered: "Yes, I remember him. But I had no idea he was in prison. How dreadful!"

"He was convicted under another name. That is why you heard nothing about it. A very sad case, and a very odd one. As a matter of fact, I defended him."

"What was he accused of?" asked Evie, striving not to betray her eagerness.

"It was forgery. The stolen cheque-book was found in his room, and also some of the money. The cashier of the Metropolitan Bank swore to Grant's identity as the man who passed the cheque. It was known that he was hard up. Indeed, the evidence seemed absolutely damning, and yet in spite of it all I could never bring myself to think that he was guilty."

"And do you still think the same?"

"I do. And more than ever now, seeing that Steven Harper, the man whose evidence did most to convict him, has just been arrested in Paris for defrauding a hotel manager."

"Stephen Harper—why, I remember him!" exclaimed Evie. "A sallow-faced man with narrow, black eyes. He was with Mr. Witney one day when mother and I went to lunch with him in the City. Tell me, dad, will this clear Mr. Grant?"

The barrister shook his head. "I'm afraid not, dear. There was too much other evidence against him, especially that of the bank cashier. But still, I mean to see Grant and tell him what has happened. If anything further crops up it may be possible to apply for a new trial, but at present we have nothing to go upon."

He rose from his chair as he spoke, and lit a cigar. Evie finished her breakfast quickly.

"I'm off before Mr. Witney comes down," she said. "I'll be back to lunch, dad."

As she slipped out of the room a short, stout man, who acknowledged to thirty-five, but looked ten years older, came down the stairs leading into the lounge. He had a flat, flabby, smooth-shaven face, fish like eyes of washed-out blue, and wore a knickerbocker suit of large check pattern, a white stock with a heavy gold pin, and brown boots very highly polished. It was Harold Witney.

Evie saw him just in time, and snatching a stick from the rack, slipped out into the glass-roofed porch and through the open front door into the road. Turning sharp to the left, she cut through the stable-yard and so out into the road behind.

Her pretty face was graver than usual as she picked her way over the stepping-stones, crossed the river, and began to climb the opposite hill. But she was not thinking of the objectionable Witney; it was Dudley Grant who filled her thoughts.

Though her people had not the least idea of it, the two had been much more than mere acquaintances, for during the week they had spent at Oakerton they had seen a good deal of one another, and the attraction was mutual. Indeed, Evie felt that it was only lack of means that had prevented Dudley from telling her that he loved her. He had said that he meant to go to Tasmania, where he had a brother doing very well in tin mining, and he hoped to make a fortune and come home to England in a few years. He and she had written to one another for six months, and when his letters had suddenly stopped it had been a great grief to the girl. Her pride was hurt, and she had done her best, though unsuccessfully, to put him out of her thoughts.

Now that she understood the real reason of his silence, all the old memories had risen to the surface, and Evie, stirred to the depths, walked rapidly across the moor, trying in vain to still the tumult within her which her fathers words had raised.

She crossed the Black Brook by the fisherman's bridge and struck across the great wilderness of Tor Royal, taking her course more by instinct than calculation.

It was not until she found herself ankle deep in the edge of the mire at the source of the Little Water that she suddenly awoke to a sense of her surroundings and realised that she had come too far to the right. However, it was shorter to go round to the west of the bog than to turn back, so she did so, and climbing the slope above, found herself on the top of the long fourteen hundred foot ridge which is the water-shed between the Black Brook and the Swincombe.

From this height a magnificent view opened on all sides. Far to the west lay South Hessary, with its wooded slopes and Tor Royal House nestling beneath them; to the left the West Dart wound through its deep valley, while the southern horizon was bounded by the long, bare, stone-strewn ridge of Cater's Beam. Beneath it, and far below her, lay a vast brown amphitheatre, a granite cup, the flat bottom of which was a wilderness of tall grass and flags flecked with pools of open water and bare stretches of black slime. It was Dartmoor's greatest bog, Fox Tor Mire of evil fame.

The sun, which had been shining brightly when she left the hotel, was now hidden by a thick veil of grey cloud which had drifted up from the west, and the great bog loomed dark and forbidding under the lowering sky. A few ponies grazed in a hollow, a curlew cried weirdly overhead; for the rest there was no sign of life in all the desolate scene.

Evie shivered, and for a moment was tempted to turn back. But she was a young woman with plenty of resolution, and having come so far, decided she would finish out her walk. She had reached the head of Launceston Brook, when all of a sudden down came the fog like a blanket, and within a couple of minutes she had lost all sense of direction and was wandering helplessly in a maze of heather and boulders.

There are few things more alarming than to be caught on the open moor in a fog. Fog is bad enough at sea, but the sailor, at any rate, has his compass to steer by. Evie had none, and all landmarks were wiped out and obliterated.

At first she did not feel so much alarmed as she would have if she had been more fully aware of the danger of her position. She stopped, and after considering what she had best do, came to the conclusion that if she could reach the Swincombe, she could follow it down to its junction with the West Dart, and so gain the main road leading from Princetown to Dartmeet. It was a long round, but that could not be helped. With this idea in her head, she started off down hill.

Now, Evie's notion was in the main an excellent one, but unfortunately she did not know the ground or realise that there was another small valley between herself and the river. The result was that when, after stumbling for a long time among rocks and bog-holes, she at last reached the bottom of the little hollow, she had no longer the faintest idea of her direction. Eventually she turned to the right instead of the left, and followed a rivulet which landed her on the bank, not of the Swincombe, but of its tributary the Strane.

Evie, unaware of this fact and overjoyed that she had found the river at last, set off down its banks as fast as she could travel over the rough ground, and presently found herself knee-deep in sticky black bog. She did not know it, but the Strane runs straight into Fox Tor Mire, and she was walking right into the heart of the huge and perilous morass.

She struggled out with difficulty, and not having the faintest idea of her whereabouts, tried to walk round the soft ground. The next thing she knew was that the rotten crust had given way beneath her and she was in nearly up to her waist. It was a happy chance that the tussocks of reeds were tall and strong, or she would very possibly never have got out at all.

Wet through, her legs and skirt heavy with clinging black slime, she clambered back to firm ground, and stood with her knees shaking under her, as badly frightened as ever she had been in all her life.

The clammy fog rolled in thick waves around her, the ground all round seemed full of hidden pitfalls, and between cold and fright her teeth were chattering. A strangled sob burst from her, and then in sheer despair she shouted at the top of her voice.

Her cry was instinctive. Even as she uttered it she realised that she was miles from the nearest house. There could not possibly be any answer.

With a little sob she sank down and buried her face in her hands. For a moment or two she crouched there hopelessly; then with a start she sprang to her feet, and peered wildly through the clinging blanket of fog.

The sound of footsteps rustling through the harsh marsh grass had reached her ears, and she shouted again, and a figure looming gigantic in the fog hove into sight, then stopped hesitatingly, as if afraid to come nearer.

With an exclamation of joy Evie splashed through the squelching mud to meet him. "I'm lost," she cried. "Can you guide me back to Two Bridges?"

The man came forward slowly, and then it was the girl's turn to stop. "Oh!" she gasped, and would have turned to run if she had known where to go. For her rescuer's coat was of blue and red stripes, his muddy gaiters were marked with broad black arrows, and the hair on his bare head was cropped close to the skull. There was no possible doubt about it. He was a convict, a fugitive from the great, grim prison on the hillside of North Hessary.

"You needn't be afraid," he said bitterly. "If I'd wanted to rob you I could have done it before now. I have been following you for the last ten minutes."

The voice was curiously refined, and tones in it struck strange chords in Evie's memory. "B-but—" she stammered.

"Yes, I'm a convict. I've run away from that ghastly hole"—he jerked his thumb back over his shoulder. "But I was a gentleman once, and I shan't hurt you. If you'll follow me I'll put you on the road home."

As he spoke he came nearer, and Evie saw his face clearly.

"D-Dudley—you!" she gasped.

The man staggered back. "Heavens!" he muttered, "It's Evie Grafton!"

Evie was the first to recover herself. She held out both hands. Dudley took them hesitatingly. Even at that moment it gave her a pang to feel how rough and hardened they were.

"I hoped you'd never know, Evie," he said thickly.

"But I knew already. Father told me to-day."

"He told you?"

"Yes, he was coming to see you this very afternoon."

"What!" he exclaimed eagerly. "Has anything fresh turned up?"

"Yes. Stephen Harper has been arrested in Paris."

"Has he confessed?"

Evie shook her head. "No," she answered sadly.

The gleam died out of Dudley's eyes. "He wouldn't," he said bitterly. "No, there's no hope for me unless I can get clean away. But we can talk as we go. The first thing is to get you out of this beastly bog."

"Do you know the way?"

"Yes, I know the moor like a book. You know I lived on it when I was a kid. This is the Strane. If we go back up it, it will take us past Tor Royal House. That's the way I came."

"But you mustn't turn back just for my sake, Dudley," begged Evie. "Those dreadful warders will be after you."

"I can't help that. I'd a deal rather be caught than leave you in this fix. Anyhow, the fog's so thick they probably won't spot us. Besides, if I can reach Two Bridges without being seen, you might get me a coat or something to hide up this kit," regarding with disgust his hideous convict garb.

"Of course I will," cried Evie, now afire with eagerness. "And a hat and money. Come quickly before the fog lifts."

Dudley had not exaggerated his knowledge of the moor. He very speedily led Evie out of the Mire, and followed the Strane back towards its source. After walking nearly two miles at a brisk pace, they reached the end of a dry stone wall which crossed the rivulet. Here he switched abruptly to the right.

"Less chance of meeting the screws," he explained as he followed the wall up a steep slope. "From the top we can make a bee-line back. I think I can hit off the Black Brook bridge even in this smother."

Evie hardly spoke. She walked in terror of meeting somebody. A stray pony set her heart beating as if it would choke her.

But they saw no sign of human life, and the fog was, if possible, thicker than ever when they reached the wall of the hotel close to the Dart.

"I'll stay here, Evie," said Dudley. "There'll be warders on the bridge, but you can cross by the stepping-stones. Then if you can get me any sort of disguise and bring it here, I'll make off across the moor for Holne. I could find my way there in any weather."

Evie nodded, and slipped away. The familiar outline of the little hotel loomed dimly through the fog. She glanced at her watch. A quarter past one. Thank goodness, everyone would be at lunch. Taking her courage in both hands, she went straight into the hotel. The coats hung in a narrow passage inside the porch, and from this passage opened the Graftons' private sitting-room.

Evie listened a breathless moment at the sitting-room door. There was no sound. She went in. The room was empty. It was the work of a few seconds only to unlock a drawer in the writing-table and take out her purse.

Now for a coat. There was an old fishing mackintosh of her father's hanging outside. She must take it and chance an explanation.

As she went out she heard steps on the stairs above. In a flash she snatched down the mackintosh and the first cap she could lay hands on, and was out of the open door in a twinkling.

In a moment the fog swallowed her up, and gaining the open she fairly ran across the sodden grass.

"I've got them," she uttered in triumph as Dudley, hearing her, put his head cautiously above the wall. "A coat and a cap, and here's eight pounds, Dudley. It's all I had in my purse, but it may help."

Dudley's lip trembled. He bent down and kissed her hand.

Then without another word he disappeared into the billowing folds of the mist.

The tears rolled down Evie's cheeks as she walked back to the hotel, but she wiped them away, and there was no trace of emotion on her face when, a quarter of an hour later, dry and changed, she entered the dining-room.

"You're late, Evie," said her father as she took her place. "The fog, I suppose?"

"It was rather thick," said Evie coolly. "But I got to Fox Tor all right."

"I was just starting out to look for you, Miss Evie," put in Witney ponderously. "I was getting desperately anxious about you."

"I fail to see how my movements concern you, Mr. Witney," snapped the girl.

Immediately after lunch a closed carriage came round, and Evie and her father got in. Through the window Evie noticed a warder on the bridge and shivered. But her father did not see the man, and the carriage rolled slowly on up the hill.

A great arch of hewn granite forms the entrance to Moorlands Prison, and bears upon its upper lintel the solemn words, Parcere subjectis.

As they drove up a tall, soldierly-looking man in rough tweeds was standing under the arch talking to a keen-faced principal warder.

"Why, there's Colonel Peyton himself!" said Mr. Grafton, and as the carriage stopped he jumped out, and went forward to meet the Governor, who was an old acquaintance.

"I've come up about Grant," Evie heard him say as the two shook hands. "Is he visible?"

The Colonel gave a short laugh. "I only wish he was. He bolted this morning when the fog came down, and though I've over a hundred men out, they haven't seen a sign of him since."

"Bolted—you don't mean to say so?" exclaimed the barrister.

"I should have thought you'd have heard about it by now," returned the other. "That sort of news is generally all over the moor in a couple of hours."

"No, I haven't heard a word. And I must say I'm very sorry to hear it. I specially wanted to see the young fellow."

"You'll see him sooner or later," replied the Colonel grimly. "Twenty-four hours is about the limit for truants of his kind."

There came a clatter of hoofs far down the street.

"Sounds like one of the civil guards," said the warder. "News, I expect, sir."

The sounds came nearer and, as they stood straining their eyes through the clammy vapour, a man wearing a tan mackintosh and a tweed cap, and mounted on a shaggy moor pony, galloped into sight.

He pulled up with a jerk in front of them, and sprang from his saddle.

Evie recognised him first, and gave a slight scream. The keen eyes of the warder were the next to penetrate the disguise. "Here's our man, sir," he said, as calmly as if it were an everyday occurrence for runaway convicts to return on their own account on horseback.

"Good Heavens—so it is!" exclaimed the Governor, for once surprised out of his usual official reserve.

"Yes, sir, I'm Grant," said Dudley, coolly saluting Colonel Peyton.

Then, as the warder stepped forward and laid a hand on his shoulder, he pulled a letter from his pocket, and handed it to the Governor. "Please read this, sir. It will explain everything."

"Very well," said the Colonel, recovering himself. "Take him to the cells, Barton, and let word be sent out that he is found."

As he was led away Colonel Peyton unfolded the letter, and, with frowning brows, glanced rapidly through it.

Then with an exclamation he turned to Grafton. "This is a very queer business. I don't altogether understand it, but it looks to me as if there had been a miscarriage of justice. You defended Grant. See what you can make of it."

Fletcher Grafton took the letter. "Why, it's addressed to Witney!" he exclaimed. "How on earth did Grant get hold of it?"

"Never mind that. Read it," said the Colonel.

Evie, who had got out of the carriage and was standing close by, saw her father's face change from surprise to amazement.

At last he looked up.

"Heavens, I never heard of such a blackguardly business. Witney, too! Who would have suspected it?"

"What is it, dad?" asked Evie, her voice sharp with anxiety.

"This letter is from Stephen Harper, Evie, to Howard Witney. Harper demands a hundred pounds for his defence in Paris. The letter makes it quite clear that it was Witney who bribed Harper to get up this forgery case against poor Grant. It seems that Harper himself forged the cheque, and I presume personated Grant at the bank."

"Then Dudley is innocent!" cried Evie in a tone which made her father stare.

"So it would seem, Miss Grafton," said Colonel Peyton. "At any rate, if this letter is proved genuine, it affords ample grounds for a new trial."

"I'm certain it's genuine. I gave it him," said Evie.

"You gave it him?" exclaimed her father stupefied. "Yes. I thought it was your coat, dad. But I was in such an awful hurry I must have taken Mr. Witney's instead. And this letter was in the pocket. That's how it was."

Questions from her father and the Colonel elicited the whole story of the morning's doings.

Colonel Peyton shook his head. "Are you aware, Miss Grafton, of the penalties attaching to aiding and abetting an escaped convict?"

"But he isn't a convict," retorted Evie indignantly.

"Well, seeing how the land lies, I trust he will not be one much longer," answered the Colonel, his stern face relaxing in a brief smile.

The Colonel's hopes were fulfilled. On the strength of the letter which had by so strange a chance fallen into Grant's hands there was no difficulty in securing a fresh trial.

Fletcher Grafton again acted as counsel for the defence, and those in court will never forget the thrilling scene when, after his cross-examination of Howard Witney, the latter broke down, and confessed the whole vile plot of which Grant had been the innocent victim.

The facts proved the barrister's surmise to have been perfectly correct. It was Stephen Harper who, bribed by the jealous Witney, had forged the cheque and, carefully made up, personated Grant at the bank.

Witney left the witness box for the dock, and now in the gang of which Dudley Grant was once a member there toils a short, square man with a large, flat face. He is thinner than he once was, browner, and far more healthy looking.

But if he ever makes a bolt, and Mrs. Dudley Grant meets him on the moor, it is not likely that she will lend him any form of disguise, not even his own old brown mackintosh, which she keeps as a relic of the strange vindication of her husband's innocence.


IT was two o'clock on a dull afternoon in early autumn when an agitated principal warder brought to the Governor of Moorlands Prison the news that the leat had stopped flowing.

The leat is the little aqueduct which brings its supply of fresh spring water from the high moor to the prison. It runs in long curves around the hill sides, and is seldom blocked except by heavy snow.

The news was serious. The population of the prison is equal to that of a small town, and to have such a number of people left without a drop of water was no joke.

A little later, word came that the stoppage had been caused by a landslip on the side of Gray Tor, and a large party, consisting of sixty men under the charge of six warders and a couple of civil guards, was hurried out to clear the channel.

If the accident proved a source of worry to the prison authorities, the case was different with the prisoners. Any little change in the deadly monotony of prison routine is welcome to a convict, and the idea of going a mile and more beyond the boundaries of the prison farm was hailed with delight by the chosen men, by none more so than Peter Raikes.

Raikes was a sailor, and before his imprisonment had been entitled to add the letters R.N.R. after his name. For five years in succession he had done his annual training with the Naval Reserve. He was a good sailor, but a hot-tempered man, and it was temper—that and a girl—which had brought him to his present pass.

In a moment of passion he had killed a rival, and as the so-called "unwritten law" goes for little with a British judge and jury, the result had been a verdict of manslaughter and a sentence of seven years' penal servitude.

To a man like Raikes prison was hell. Sometimes he felt as though the endless routine, the drab sameness of each succeeding day would drive him mad. Yet the mere fact that he was chosen to be one of the present party was proof that his conduct had been practically perfect. A chief warder takes no unnecessary risks in picking men for such exceptional duty.

The men marched off in good spirits. It was not only the novelty of working among new surroundings that pleased them; they knew, too, that when the job was done there was a treat in store for each in the shape of an extra ration of cheese for supper.

Gray Tor was a great lump of a hill, crowned by a fantastically-shaped mass of weather-worn granite. The leat wound riband-like across its vast flank at a height of some two hundred feet above the valley below. It was a channel not more than four or five feet wide with about a foot of swiftly-running water at the bottom.

Long before they reached the scene of the accident, the damage was plain to see, for beneath a great brown scar in the steepest part of the hillside a foaming torrent cascaded down the slope.

Principal Warder Drysdale commanded the party. His face lengthened as he realised the extent of the damage. For a distance of nearly a hundred feet the leat channel was entirely blocked with a packed mass of peaty earth, gravel, and boulders, and the bank on the lower side had collapsed in half-a-dozen different places. It was already nearly three, and he doubted whether even with the force at his command the job could be finished before dusk.

He lost no time in getting the men to work, and soon the earth was flying all along the line of the fall. Raikes, always a good worker, went at it with a will, and plied his spade with the best.

He had been shovelling hard for about an hour when a spot of rain on his face made him glance up. It had been hazy all day, but now the haze had thickened to a level pall of cloud which covered the whole sky. His sailor-like knowledge of weather told him that they were in for a wet night.

He noticed, too, that Drysdale had an anxious eye on the heavens. It would be awkward for him if fog came down, with all these men out on the open moor far away from the prison, and beyond the reach of telephones or watch-towers. However, there was no sign of mist at present, and as the warder said nothing, Raikes saw that he was evidently determined to try to finish the job.

The rain fell in a sharpish shower, but presently stopped again. The sky, however, did not clear, and in the west looked thicker than ever.

Half-past four came, the usual hour for stopping work, but there was plenty still to do before the water would run down its own channel. Raikes was wiring in for all he was worth when a low rumbling sound made him look up again, under the impression that it was thunder.

That glance—that and his sailor-like smartness—saved his life. He had just time to leap out of the leat and dash a few yards to one side before a roaring wave of earth and rocks came rolling down upon the very spot where he had been standing. It was another land-slide nearly as heavy as the first.

Quick as he was, he did not escape altogether. A fragment of rock, bounding sideways, struck him in the chest, bowled him over, and sent him rolling away down the steep, heather-clad slope below the leat.

For a moment he felt half stunned. When he came to himself he was lying thirty yards down the hillside in a thick tuft of heather. His head sang, and the breath had been knocked out of his body, but otherwise he was none the worse.

The roar of the land-slide ceased, but piteous groans and shrieks came from above, and he saw the warders rushing to the spot. It was clear that several men had been badly hurt.

Raikes' first impulse was to go and help. Then, in the very act of scrambling to his feet, it came to him that no one was watching him, and that there was not a soul between him and the open moor.

Moreover, only a few paces below him, grew a patch of thick gorse.

If ever there was a Heaven-sent opportunity of escape, here it lay before him, and it was not in human nature—not in Peter Raikes' nature at any rate—to refuse it.

Almost before he knew that he had made up his mind to take it, he found himself in the gorse. In the space of a moment, his whole frame of mind had changed. He was no longer a rule-abiding convict, doing all he knew to gain full marks and full remission. He was a wild creature skulking like a fox in and out between the tough, twisted gorse stems.

He moved with astonishing speed and certainty. Again his sailor's training stood him in good stead. His plans for the future were nothing. His whole energies were concentrated on putting as much space as possible between himself and his late companions.

Beyond the gorse was a space of open ground, and then, a little way off, a tumble of grey boulders humping their lichened heads above the purple heather.

He must chance it, and he did and gained the stones in safety. He was now nearly at the bottom of the valley, and so far no one had noticed his escape.

But every moment was precious, and his heart beat hard as he crawled in and out among the rocks. His object was to gain the stream at the bottom. Its banks were high enough to shelter him from view, and once in the bed of the brook he could travel faster. There was a bare space again beyond the rocks, but fortune still was kind to him. He found a little gully and wound his way down it on his stomach. The bottom was spongy bog-moss, and he was speedily soaked to the skin, but he never noticed this.

Then, just as he reached the brook, the water was speckled with plumping rain drops, and all in a minute a regular downpour lashed the moor.

Raikes could have shouted with joy. As he jumped down into the bed of the little stream, he glanced back. As if a curtain had been drawn across the scene, everything beyond a radius of fifty or sixty yards was shut off. The leat, the convicts, the warders—all had vanished.

Instead of slipping furtively up the channel, he dashed boldly across it and raced with all his might straight up the opposite hill.

His heart was pumping before he reached the top, but he did not stop until he was well on the downward slope again. He paused a moment to take breath behind the shelter of a huge crag, and then, and not till then, did the faint report of a distant rifle warn him that his escape had at last been discovered.

Raikes knew nothing of the moor—nothing at least beyond what he had picked up from casual conversations with other prisoners. There was only one thing of which he was certain—which was that the railway ran in a great loop around the northern edge, and that somewhere out in that direction was the large junction of Okestock. He made up his mind that this was the point to aim for. His notion was to stow away in a baggage truck and trust to chance for the rest.

He had no landmarks to go by. The rain had settled into a steady downpour which would last for hours, and which hid everything beyond a comparatively short distance. Dusk, too, was falling fast. An ordinary man would have been utterly lost inside five minutes, but once more Raikes' seamanship helped him out. He had taken his bearings before he left the leat. The rain had come up from a point between west and sou'-west. By keeping it on his left cheek he felt fairly certain of being able to hold his direction.

So he would have, but for the quite unforeseen fact that the wind began to back as soon as the rain came. Within an hour it was blowing from the south-east, and the consequence was that, instead of heading over the high moor for Okestock, Raikes was soon travelling along the southern edge of the moor, travelling in the direction of the village of Taviton.

It was not until long after dark that he had the slightest suspicion that he was off his course. Then he suddenly stumbled upon a rough cart track. He remembered hearing that there was no road of any kind in the whole fourteen miles between Moorlands and Okestock; thus finding the track naturally puzzled him.

By this time he was badly done. He had been going hard for more than three hours over some of the roughest country in England. Twice he had waded flooded streams, once he had been up to his waist in a black peat bog. Also he had had several nasty falls.

Not a mouthful of food had passed his lips since twelve o'clock, and the never-ending rain, driven by the cold wind, had chilled him to the bone.

Tough as he was, the unpleasant conviction forced itself upon him that he could not possibly last through the night without finding shelter of some kind, and after a few moments' consideration he made up his mind to follow the track. It would probably lead him to a building of some kind—a moorland farm, perhaps, where, with luck, he might creep into an outbuilding or a haystack and get a few hours' rest before continuing his flight.

He had not the remotest notion which way to go. It was quite by chance that he turned to the right. If he had gone to the left he would have walked straight down into the main road, and almost into the arms of a warder posted on Wallacombe Bridge barely a mile away.

It was something to feel firm ground under his feet, and he tramped doggedly through the puddles with his head bent forward and the rain streaming off his soaked clothes.

For half-a-mile or more the track led uphill; then by the increased force of the wind he knew that he had reached the top, and a few steps further on he caught sight of a faint glimmer of light a long way below.

It was far too dark to see the source of the light, and not until he got quite close did he find that it came from the curtained window of a building of some kind. By its redness and its occasional rise and fall he judged it to be from a fire rather than a lamp.

The nearer he got to the window the more puzzled he became as to the nature of the building to which the window belonged. Certainly it was not a farm. There was not an inch of tilled ground anywhere around. Deep heather bordered the track on either side, and the track itself seemed to be covered with grass. There was not even a garden or the remains of one around this strange habitation.

The storm was so heavy that there was little chance of being seen or heard; still, for fear of dogs, Raikes trod lightly as he approached the building. At last he was near enough actually to touch the walls, which appeared to be built of rough-hewn granite. The building itself seemed square and solid— surprisingly so for a mere moorman's cottage. Raikes came to the conclusion that it was probably an old mine house, which was indeed the fact.

He crawled up to the window from which the light shone. The glass was broken, but a faded and ragged curtain which hung across it prevented his seeing into the room from which a confused murmur of voices proceeded.

Men's voices they were, and if Raikes had been less desperate he would have given it up and pushed on. But it was neck or nothing. He knew that, without at any rate food, he could not last till morning. He paused a few moments, and then began to make his way round the house.

The lighted window appeared to be in the front of the building, and groping onwards he came presently to a door. It had no handle, and, as far as he could make out by sense of touch, was nailed up. Beyond was a second window. This, undoubtedly, was boarded up.

The place was evidently a ruin, and it occurred to Raikes that the people inside were probably tramps camping for the night under shelter. But unless they had got in by the window there must surely be a door of some sort, and this he found at last at the back of the house.

To his great disappointment the door was fastened on the inside, but looking about he saw a very faint light which came from another window a little way of the left of the door.

It was boarded up like the other, but one board had slipped down, leaving a narrow gap through which he could see into a long and rather narrow room. This appeared to be a kitchen, for a peat fire was smouldering on an open hearth, and over it hung a great black kettle on an old-fashioned chain and hook.

There was no other light in the room except the dull glow from the dying fire, but it was enough to show him the two things that mattered most: first, that there was no one in the room; second, that on a rough deal table in the middle lay the remains of a meal.

Raikes' mouth watered at the sight. He was simply famished, and he made up his mind there and then that—whatever happened—he would have a try for some supper.

He took hold of one of the boards and gradually put his weight on it. It was perfectly rotten, and came away without the slightest trouble. This enabled him to get a better view of the room, and to spot a door in the opposite wall, which no doubt opened into the living room.

Luckily this was closed, and rejoicing in his luck Raikes wasted no time in forcing away a second board. It was sounder than the first, but he trusted to the gale to drown the crack as it came away. A minute later he was safe inside the room.

The mere physical comfort of being out of the lash of the wind and rain was indescribable, but food was Raikes' first consideration, and he did not waste much time in taking stock of what lay on the table.

He saw the beggarly remains of what had once been a fine ham, about a third of a large loaf of bread, a wedge of cheese, and half-a-dozen bottles of beer, two only of which were empty.

It was characteristic of the man that—half-starved as he was—he filled his pockets before putting a bit in his mouth. He could not tell at what moment the inner door would open, so he provisioned himself ready for retreat. Then, with a hunch of a ham sandwich in his hand, he walked over to the fire and warmed himself while he ate.

There was a stack of dry turf in the corner by the fire, but he hardly noticed this. Next to food, the most urgent need of an escaped convict is a change of clothes. He hardly hoped to find anything of the sort in this out-of-the-way ruin, yet his luck held.

The smouldering turves fell together with a little rustle, a flame flickered up, throwing its light to the furthest end of the dingy, damp-stained room, and there, hung on a line suspended from wall to wall, were several rusty-looking garments.

Stuffing the last of his sandwich into his mouth, Raikes was in the act of stepping forward when the handle of the inner door turned. There was no time to reach the window. He ducked down behind the pile of peat, and was barely out of sight before the door opened and a man entered the room.

The man seemed of middle height, but monstrously deep in the chest, and with immense breadth of shoulder. He had a huge head, bald as an egg except for a fringe of black hair just above his collar. His heavy beard and moustache were black as coal, and he had a great hooked nose. He was a formidable-looking figure, and Raikes' heart beat fast as he watched him.

The man came to the table and gathered up the unopened beer bottles. Raikes thanked his stars that he had not broached one. Then the newcomer went straight back into the front room, but having both hands full did not close the door behind him.

This was awkward for Raikes—very awkward. True, he could reach his window without being seen, but he could not reach the other end of the room where the clothes were. And he had set his heart on getting a change. For the moment he stayed where he was, racking his brain for some way out of the difficulty. And while he waited, voices came to him from the front room.

"Tell you what, Beresoff. The only thing that I'm afraid of is that Meaker won't have enough of the stuff," was the first sentence that Raikes heard.

"Bah, you talk nonsense, Pring," came the answer in a deep booming tone. "I have myself taken down forty pounds of the stuff. I tell you that if Meaker puts it in the right place it will do the job all right."

The voice, Raikes felt sure, was that of the big man. With his eyes still on the clothes, he wondered vaguely what the "stuff" was.

"Forty pounds," repeated the first speaker. "Yes, forty pounds ought to do the trick. It should be enough to lift their cursed engine of destruction clean out of the stocks."

"And most of the gaping fools who are watching," added the big man savagely. "I tell you, comrade, I would give five years of my life to be certain that our plans will not miscarry. But they cannot. We have laid them all too carefully. No one will suspect Meaker. If his courage does not fail him all will go well."

"He runs no risk," said the other. "It is not as though he had to use clockwork or a battery. The beauty of Dressel's device is that the weight of the ship makes the contact. No, Beresoff, there's no need to worry. We have them this time. We are going to strike a blow which will echo the world over—a blow which will make these tyrants, who crush the people with their armaments, tremble."

By this time Raikes was listening with all his ears. Somehow the last few sentences sounded oddly familiar, and it came to him that he had heard almost exactly the same words from a red-tied, slouch-hatted spouter one Sunday evening in Hyde Park.

In a moment he had grasped the situation. He had stumbled into a nest of Anarchists who were plotting to blow up some ship—a ship on the stocks, and evidently a warship into the bargain, for they had spoken of an "engine of destruction" and of "the gaping fools who are watching."

Now, if Raikes was merely a reservist, he was as keen on the Navy as any A.B. in the Fleet. His fists clenched, and he rose to his feet. For a moment he quite forgot that he was an Ishmael, a fugitive beyond the pale of the law. He was a sailor again, a unit in the great and wonderful machine which has made the British Empire.

Beresoff's deep voice boomed out again.

"I am going to get some sleep. We must be away before daylight and catch the early train from Ashampton. The launch is at twelve, and there is much to do first."

"Dat vas de best thing ve can do," answered a third voice, which Raikes had not heard before. "And first I vill shut dat door. Dere was a beastly draught."

Raikes dropped down again behind the turf stack. But there was no need for this precaution. The last speaker merely pushed the door to without entering the back room.

Raikes waited. For a few minutes he heard a muffled hum of conversation. Then all was quiet except for the roar of the wind around the ruined roof. His mind was so busy with what he had over-heard that it was several minutes before he realised all his luck. The men were asleep, the clothes were his for the taking; he had enough food to last him for a couple of days. There was nothing to do but to help himself and go.

The road lay clear before him, yet he did not take it. In his mind's eye rose a picture of the great battleship on the stocks, the crowds watching and listening for the tap of the hammer on the chisel that would cut the rope, the crash of the dog-shores, the great hull sliding forward down the greased ways. Then the roar of an explosion, the instantaneous ruin of a million pounds' worth of labour—worse, the death and destruction hurled broadcast among the host of holiday-makers.

He glanced towards the door. He had a wild idea of trying to catch the conspirators asleep and overpowering them before they woke, but he dismissed it as foolish. In any case, the plot was already complete, and the explosive probably in place.

The only other alternative was to inform somebody in authority. That meant giving himself up—going back to that hateful prison on the hill, with nearly five years of misery still before him.

For perhaps a minute the fate of hundreds hung in the balance. Then, with a muttered curse, Raikes of the Reserve, still in his convict clothes, climbed back out of the window and tramped off up the track by which he had come.

An hour later, Principal Warder Caunter, keeping guard on Wallacombe Bridge, got the shock of his life. Wrapped in his cloak, and crouching for shelter from the driving rain behind the parapet, he suddenly felt a hand on his arm, and starting up and flashing his lantern, saw Raikes beside him.

Before the warder could speak, Raikes was pouring out his story in breathless, incoherent sentences. From the average convict such a story would have received scant belief, but as it happened Caunter knew Raikes well, and, besides, the man's bitter earnestness carried conviction with it.

So when he marched him back to the prison, instead of locking him up at once in his cell, he took him straight to the governor's house, and for a second time that night Raikes related his strange experiences.

"It's no yarn, sir," ended Raikes. "If you don't believe me I'll take you to the place now, this minute."

Colonel Peyton gave the man a quick glance from under his shaggy white eyebrows.

"I do believe you," he said quietly, "and I shall act on what you have told me. Now you will go to your cell, but be careful not to say one word of what you have learnt to anyone else in the prison."

The wires were busy that night, and before dawn a strong party of police had surrounded the old mine house, and the conspirators were roused from sleep to find themselves prisoners.

But that Raikes in the long run was no loser by his conduct may be gathered from a little paragraph which appeared in the London papers some three months later.

It ran as follows:

"The Home Secretary, on the recommendation of the Commissioners of H.M. Prisons, has remitted the remainder of the sentence of Peter Raikes, who was convicted two years ago of manslaughter and is serving his sentence in Moorlands Convict Prison."


"BAH! I'm an old fool! The boy will never come. I might just as well go to bed."

John Rutland sat up straight, flung the butt of his cigar into the dying fire; and glanced once more at the big marble clock which ticked solemnly on the heavy marble chimney-piece.

The hour-hand was on the stroke of midnight, but the minute-hand said that it still wanted seven minutes to the hour.

"I'll give him the odd minutes, then I'll chuck it. I might have known it was no use," muttered the squire, as he dropped back into his big leather chair.

At that very moment there was a sound of footsteps in the hall outside, the door of the library opened, and a man stepped into the room.

A young man of not more than twenty-three or twenty-four, tall, by no means ill-looking, and dressed in a blue serge suit which had obviously not been made for him, for the legs of the trousers and sleeves of the coat were each several inches too short. His face was almost as brown as the squire's own mahogany countenance, his fair hair was cut short to his head, and his clumping boots were mud to the lace-tops.

For a moment the squire sat quite still staring at the new-comer, taking in every detail of his appearance.

"H'm!" he grunted. "So you thought it worth while, after all, to keep your appointment, Harry?"

"I'm afraid I'm a bit late, uncle," answered the boy cheerfully. "But it isn't my fault. I couldn't get away sooner. I was working up till the last minute."

"Working? And on Christmas Eve?" Mr. Rutland's tone expressed his amazement.

Harry extended his hands, palms outwards. They were hard as horn, none too clean, and the nails were ragged and broken like those of a mechanic.

"Wonders will never cease," remarked the squire drily. "Still, I believe you. Those hands would be evidence in any court of law. And what, may I ask, is the nature of the work in which you are engaged?"

Harry hesitated for the fractional part of a second.

"I've a Government appointment, uncle," he said gravely.

"A Government appointment?" repeated the elder man wonderingly. "Where—in the docks?"

"Something of the sort," answered Harry.

"Seems to have made a man of you, anyhow," said his uncle, with a certain grim satisfaction. "'Pon my soul, I should hardly have known you! Sit down, and help yourself to whisky."

"Thanks awfully," said Harry, as he poured out a modest tot, and filled the glass up to the brim with soda.

"Happy Christmas, uncle!" he said, and, raising the glass, drained it with a zest which showed that he was really thirsty. "Mind if I take a biscuit?" he added, as he lifted the lid of the silver box which stood beside the tantalus.

"What, are you hungry?"

"A bit peckish. I've had a long tramp."

"You shall have something better than biscuits. The servants are all in bed, but I told 'em to leave something in the dining-room."

He jumped up briskly, and Harry followed him across the hall into the well-remembered dining-room, with its old-fashioned flock paper, and the oil paintings of dogs and horses in their heavy gilt frames.

"Here you are," said the squire hospitably, "pigeon pie, salad, and a Stilton. Help yourself."

"So you had some idea that I should turn up, uncle?" said Harry slily, as he cut a mighty wedge out of the pie and deposited it on his plate.

"I'd precious nearly given you up," retorted the other gruffly. "Another ten minutes, and you'd have found the whole house locked up. How did you get in?"

"Same way I went out this night last year. By the garden door," said Harry, as he unfolded his napkin and set to work on the pie.

The squire looked hard at his nephew.

"Perhaps I was a bit rough on you, youngster," he said slowly, "turning you out as I did. I've often thought the whole business was more the fault of that rascal, Lawrence Milward, than your own. Still, it seems to have worked. It's made a man of you. You were nothing but a spoilt young waster a year ago."

Harry nodded between mouthfuls.

"You're right, uncle John. I was a pretty average rotter in those days. Yes, I've learnt a lot in the past year."

"You've learnt to raise an appetite, anyhow," said the squire approvingly. "I never saw you eat like that in the old days. I suppose you've not been living too well lately?"

"Not what you might call high," replied Harry, as he cut himself another slice of the crusty home-made bread, and gouged a piece out of the Stilton. "In fact, the food's the worst part of it."

"Don't they pay you well?"

"The pay's on a deferred system. They give you your keep, but don't pay you till the job's finished."

"That's a funny way of doing business," said the squire with a puzzled expression on his weather-beaten face. "I never knew that the Government treated its employees like that."

"It's only in our department," explained Harry, who was eating as if he had not seen food for a week.

"Well, what's your job?" asked the squire.

"Ironwork, chiefly. I'm in what they call the tin shop. We make things for the Government offices."

"Good Lord, fancy you an ironmonger!" The squire chuckled hugely, and helped Harry to a glass of port. "There, put that away," he said. "It's some of the old 'sixty-eight. There's only one more bottle left in the bin."

"I'll keep that to top up with, uncle. I'm going to have a bit more of that cheese first."

"Right you are, lad! I like to see a man eat. Why, in the old days you hardly ever touched wholesome food! A devilled bone or some French kickshaw seemed to be your notion of a square meal."

"Yes, I was a silly ass in those days. I didn't know when I was well off," replied the boy, with a sudden bitterness which made his uncle glance at him sharply.

"Well, well," he said, "you've had your lesson, and, by the looks of you, have come through it with credit. I told you that if you could live for a year by your hands I'd forgive you and take you back on the old footing. You've done it, and now you'll come back to Stoke Martin as my heir. I shan't throw bygones in your face, be sure of that."

"I'm sure you won't, uncle," said Harry, as he pushed his plate back and took up his glass of port; "but"—and he hesitated a moment—"I can't come back yet."

"Why not?" demanded the squire, in evident surprise.

"I've got my job to finish first," said the youngster doggedly.

"Oh, we'll let the job slide! Your place is here, now. I'm getting an old man, Harry. I want you to take hold and run the estate for me."

"I'd like to, but I can't yet."

"Bosh and nonsense!" exclaimed Mr. Rutland testily. "I can arrange matters for you. You can safely leave all that to me."

"You can't arrange this, uncle. I tell you plainly that I've got to go back and finish out my work. I'm bound by contract."

"Contract! Oh, we can break that easily enough! It'll only be a matter of payment."

"Not this contract," answered Harry, setting his lips firmly.

The squire grew angry. He was a short-tempered man.

"I've never yet heard of any contract that couldn't be broken unless a man had passed his word to complete it. Have you done that?"

"No," said Harry reluctantly.

"Then what's your objection to terminating this? Don't you want to come back to Stoke Martin?"

"I shouldn't be here to-night if I didn't want to come back!" said Harry, with spirit.

It was at this moment that the clang of a bell echoed loudly through the quiet house.

Mr. Rutland started.

"Someone at the front door!" he exclaimed. "Who on earth can it be at this hour of the night?"

He was rising from his chair, but Harry forestalled him.

"I'll go and see," he said. "It may be a friend of mine."

He was out of the room before his uncle could reply, and closed the door behind him.

In the oak-panelled hall he stopped and stood a moment. His expression had changed completely. He looked like a man driven almost to his wits' ends. The bell pealed a second time. Harry pulled himself together, and, setting his jaw firmly, walked straight to the front door, took down the old-fashioned chain, pulled the bolts back, and opened it.

A flight of broad, shallow stone steps led up to the door. The light pouring out of the hall fell upon a man in dark uniform wearing an oilskin cape, which glistened with moisture. His peaked cap came low over his forehead, and he carried side arms and a short carbine. He was of middle height, squarely built, with a hard mouth and clean-cut jaw.

For a moment he stared at Harry as though he could not believe his eyes. Then he took a quick step forward, and his heavy hand fell upon the young man's left arm.

"'Pon my Sam, Drake, you are the limit!" he said, in a tone of unwilling admiration. "Didn't you know as we were after you? Are you going to come quiet?" With his free right hand Harry pulled the door to behind him.

"I won't give you any trouble," he said, in a quick, low voice. "But I want you to do me a favour, Mr. Graves. Let me have five minutes before you take me back."

Graves gave a short laugh.

"I think I see myself!" he jeered. "Give you time to cut your lucky again like you did this afternoon, or finish your job burgling in here, I suppose."

Harry bit his lip.

"You know I'm no thief, Mr. Graves," he answered quietly. "It wasn't for theft I was sentenced. And I give you my word I'm not going to attempt to bolt again."

"Think I'd risk my job for the word of a chap like you?" answered the other scornfully. "Now just come along, young fellow, if you don't want trouble."

"See here, Mr. Graves," begged Harry desperately. "You'll ruin me for life if you don't grant my request. I only want five minutes. There's someone in the house I must speak to before I go."

"I've heard that tale pitched before!" retorted Graves. But, all the same, he was evidently impressed by the other's intense earnestness. "You don't catch me letting you out of my sight again now I've got you! Don't think it!"

"Harry! Harry! Where are you? What's become of you?"

It was the squire's voice from the hall.

Harry pushed the door a crack open.

"One moment, uncle. I'm just talking to my friend."

"Why don't you bring him in, then?"

"I will in a moment. Wait for us in the dining-room."

To his intense relief he heard Mr. Rutland step back into the room.

"Is Mr. Rutland your uncle?" demanded Graves amazedly.

"He is. Rutland's my real name, not Drake," answered Harry. "But you won't give me away?"

"That's all right," growled Graves. "Still, it don't make no difference. You've got to come back with me just the same."

"I know that; but I must have a word with my uncle first."

"I'm not going to let you out o' my sight, as I told you before," answered Graves doggedly.

"Then come in with me!" said Harry, struck with a sudden desperate idea.

"If you're up to any hanky-panky business, I tell you straight I'm not the man to play it on," warned Graves.

"I mean no harm at all. Come in."

The warder had been deeply impressed by the amazing discovery that his prisoner was nephew of the wealthy and well-known squire of Stoke Martin. He hesitated.

"Well, I don't suppose as five minutes will make a deal of difference one way or the other," he said reluctantly, and, still holding Harry's arm, followed him into the hall.

"You mustn't let my uncle see you like this," said Harry, in an urgent whisper. "Take off your cap and cape, and put on this coat."

He took an overcoat from a cupboard in the wall. It was an old one of his own.

Grudgingly, Graves obeyed.

"And look here, my uncle doesn't know I'm an escaped prisoner. He mustn't know. I've told him I have a Government appointment. Back me up, will you?"

A grim smile curled the corners of the warder's hard mouth.

"All right. Only be sharp. I don't want to miss all o' my Christmas."

A moment later the oddly assorted couple entered the dining-room. Mr. Rutland was standing with his back to the fire.

"Uncle," said Harry. "This is Mr. Graves, a friend of mine. He'll tell you that I've got to go back and finish out my contract."

"That's a fact, sir," said Graves hastily.

"But why? I can't understand!" exclaimed the squire impatiently. "What is this mysterious contract?"

Graves glanced appealingly at Harry, but got no help.

"I'm not at liberty to say, sir," he said gruffly, "but there's this to it, that he'll get others into trouble besides himself if he don't go back with me to-night."

"Do you mean to say that he can't have to-morrow free? Do you work on Christmas Day?"

"Yes, sir. There's jobs to do even Christmas Day," declared Graves.

The squire shook his head helplessly.

"This beats me. Then when will this extraordinary business be finished? When will my nephew be free to come back?"

"In about six months, I reckon," replied Graves. "Ain't that it?"—turning to Harry.

"That's it. My contract will be up at the end of June."

The squire stood frowning, looking first at Graves, then at his nephew.

"And you'll come back then, Harry?" he asked.

"Gladly, if you'll let me, uncle."

"You're sure he'll be able to?" inquired Mr. Rutland of Graves.

Graves's stern face relaxed slightly.

"Seeing as how he managed to come to-day, I don't doubt he'll turn up right enough in July," he answered. "And now, sir, with your leave, we'll be moving."

"You'd best have the car to take you back. I'll soon knock up the chauffeur."

"No, thanks, uncle. We shall find our own way," said Harry, with decision.

"Well, have another glass of port before you go. The bottle's not half empty. Will you join us, Mr. Graves?"

"Thank you, sir. I don't mind if I do."

The squire filled three glasses.

"Harry, my lad," he said, raising his glass in one hand and laying the other kindly on his nephew's shoulder, "I don't know what sort of a day you're going to have to-morrow, but my Christmas will be a lonely one, lonelier than I had hoped or expected. However, you kept your word and came back to-day, and I shall keep mine. We'll turn over a new leaf this Christmas, and you shall be put back into my will as my heir. Good luck to you, dear boy, and here's to our next merry meeting!"

Harry put his glass to his lips, but the wine seemed to choke him. He could not drink.

Suddenly he stepped back, and shook off his uncle's hand.

"No," he said, in a thick, strained voice. His face was working strangely. The other two stared at him in blank surprise. "No," he said again passionately. "I won't drink that toast. I can't! There won't be any next meeting. I'm sick of this farce, and I'll carry it no further. Uncle, I've been lying to you. I've no Government appointment. I'm an escaped prisoner, and this is my warder who's come to take me back to gaol."

The squire staggered as though he had been struck a heavy blow. His face went grey beneath its tan.

"Y-you're crazy, Harry!" he stammered. "You don't know what you're saying!"

"I was crazy to run away and come here to-day," said Harry, with a bitter laugh. "But I'm sane now. If you don't believe what I've told you, ask Graves."

"This isn't true?" demanded the squire of Graves.

"Ay, it's true enough," said Graves soberly. "He's been in Tarnmouth gaol the last six months under the name of Drake, and he's got another six to serve. He escaped this afternoon from the Governor's house, where he was doing a plumbing job, borrowed that suit of clothes he's wearing, and we've been after him ever since."

The squire dropped into the nearest chair. He seemed to have no strength left to stand.

Harry turned to the warder.

"I'm ready, Mr. Graves," he said steadily, and held out his hands.

Graves paused in the act of pulling the handcuffs from his pocket.

"I can do that outside," he said, in a low voice. Hard as he was, he wished to save the squire this last disgrace.

Harry started towards the door. Suddenly his uncle looked up.

"What were you sentenced for?" he asked hoarsely.

"For half killing Milward," answered Harry recklessly.

"Milward?" The squire was on his legs again. "Is that all?"

"Enough, I should think," said the warder drily. "I'll tell you, sir, your nephew came very near to being tried for murder."

"Ay, you don't know Milward," said the squire, in a tone of intense relief. "It was Milward who ruined the boy, or near it. If Harry had killed him outright, there'd have been one scoundrel the less in the world. Is that the only offence you were charged with, Harry?"

"That was all, but it's enough," answered Harry. "I'm a gaol-bird. Nothing can alter that."

"A King's pardon can alter it, and by the Lord you shall have it, if there's justice in the land!"

* * * * *

THE squire kept his word. He wasted no time in representing the real facts of the case in the proper quarter, and barely six weeks, instead of six months, elapsed before Harry was a free man, and came back to Stoke Martin as his uncle's heir.


"IS that all?" said Colonel Peyton as he signed the last of the official requisitions.

"That's all, sir," answered Principal Warder Shippard.

"Then I'll take the prisoners, Mr. Shippard."

It was half-past eleven, the hour for interviewing prisoners who had put down their names to see the governor. One by one they were ushered into the big, bare office, and one by one Colonel Peyton dealt with their complaints and requests. Some had grievances against officers or fellow prisoners; some merely wished to change their parties or obtain some small privilege, such as writing a letter out of due season or receiving an extra visit.

Long practice had made the governor wise in the ways of the underworld over which he ruled, and rarely was there the slightest hesitation on his part in making a decision. More rarely still did he make any mistake. To the work-shy or malingerer he showed scant mercy, but any reasonable request was sure of kindly consideration. In spite of his somewhat grim expression and curt, soldierly manner, the colonel was not unpopular either with the inmates or officers of Moorlands Prison.

Of his seventeen visitors the last had left the office by five minutes to twelve. But the morning's work was not yet over. There was a batch of newly arrived prisoners to be interviewed next. The governor of a prison must personally satisfy himself that newcomers understand the prison rules and regulations.

There were five of these new arrivals, all from the same "local" gaol where they had been serving their "separates." A man sentenced to penal servitude is not sent straight to a convict prison. He has first to serve a short term of solitary confinement in a local prison.

The first three were old lags, who had each served at least one previous sentence and knew the rules of Moorlands as well as the governor himself. There was no need to waste time on them. The fourth was a forger who had spent five years as a "star" in Portland, but was a stranger to the big prison on the moor. He, too, was well acquainted with prison routine, and was rapidly dismissed.

As he left the office, Shippard brought in the fifth and last of the batch. This was a man of about thirty-five, as tall almost as the colonel himself, and even the ugly, ill-fitting drab dress did not hide his fine figure and broad shoulders. He entered the room with a jaunty, half-impudent air which made the governor look up with sharp disapproval.

As he did so an extraordinary change crossed his face. His skin went grey beneath its healthy tan, and a look of incredulous horror came into his eyes. His muscles seemed to suddenly relax, and he slipped back into his office chair as though fainting.

"Good God, sir, are you ill?" exclaimed Shippard, horrified out of his usual stolidity by the sight of his chief's face.

"No—that is, yes. A trifle faint. It's stuffy in this room. No, don't go for anyone. A glass of water will put me right."

Shippard hastily poured out a glass from the bottle standing on the big, square writing-table, and the colonel took a few sips.

While he drank the tall convict stood with his eyes fixed upon the governor, and a most peculiar expression in his hard, pale blue eyes.

"Your name?" said Colonel Peyton, pulling himself together with a powerful effort.

"Pratt, sir," answered the other readily. He stood at attention, and outwardly his manner was perfectly respectful, yet there was something in the tone of his voice which belied his manner and made even Shippard stare hard at him.

The colonel continued his questions. The only apparent sign of his late emotion was a slight paleness and an unaccustomed huskiness in his voice. He learnt that John Pratt's offence was forgery, that his sentence was for five years, and that this was his first term of penal servitude. The reason why he had been sent as a recidivist to Moorlands instead of as a "star" to Portland was that he had already done two years' hard labour in a northern gaol.

The rules were read over to him, and he was marched away. When the door closed behind him the governor sat for a few moments quite silent, staring vacantly in front of him. Then he rose with a jerk.

"Is that all, Mr. Shippard?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. I will go to luncheon."

Shippard opened the door, and returning his salute, Colonel Peyton walked stiffly away across the bare, gravelled yard in the direction of his house. The warder watched him till he disappeared through the great granite gateway.

"There's something up with the colonel," he muttered, shaking his grizzled head. "I never saw him took like that before."

Shippard had been a sergeant in Colonel Peyton's regiment before entering the prison service, and years before, in the Soudan, the governor, then a subaltern, had saved Shippard from a Somali spear. The warder thought there was no one in the world to match his chief, and the colonel on his part reciprocated the feeling. In their different stations the two men were old and tried friends.

As Shippard moved away towards the warders' quarters to get his midday dinner, he had an uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong. He would have felt much more uneasy than he actually was could he have seen the colonel at that moment, sitting alone in his little study, with his head bowed in his hands, in an attitude of utter dejection. His stern, handsome face bore an expression of the most complete misery and despair, and now and then his dry lips moved soundlessly.

A gentle tap came at the door.

"Are you there, Geoffrey? Lunch is ready."

"In a minute, dear," answered the colonel.

The old soldier's self-control was amazing. Five minutes later he was sitting opposite his wife at the luncheon table, and even her keen eyes saw nothing unusual in his expression or manner. True, he did not eat much, but then he was always frugal in that respect.

Mrs. Peyton, a sweet-faced woman of fifty who had preserved the figure of her youth, was full of a letter she had just received from their son, who had lately been gazetted to the colonel's own old regiment. It was filled with the delight which a young subaltern who loves his work takes in his new and more responsible surroundings.

"I am so proud of Harry, dear," she said. "It is delightful to feel that he is as keen a soldier as his father was before him. But I hope he won't follow your example and retire to take up prison work. I want him to go right through and command his battalion some day."

"I hope so, too," said the colonel gravely. "I certainly trust he will never have anything to do with a prison."

Mrs. Peyton looked up quickly. She divined that something in his work had upset her husband, but was too wise to make any comment.

Lunch over, Colonel Peyton had to get back into harness by two, and reports, orders, interviews kept him busy till four. Even then there was more to do, but he cut the rest of the business short, and suddenly inquired of Shippard the number of the cell which John Pratt occupied.

"I knew his people," he explained briefly.

"It's 77, sir," said Shippard.

At this hour the long bare corridors were empty. The men were still at work in the shops or on the farm. The colonel's feet rang hollow on the flags, and the clang of the heavy steel door of the hall sent strange echoes reverberating through the great empty building as he swung it to and locked it behind him.

The new arrival had not yet been assigned to a party. He was sitting on his stool, reading, as the governor entered the cell. Instead of rising and saluting as he should have done, he merely glanced up with a grin.

"Ha, I was expecting you," he observed coolly.

For a moment the governor did not answer. He stood very straight, towering above the seated man, looking down upon him with a very strange expression on his stern face.

"So it has come to this?" he said at last, heavily.

"Quite like a Sunday story," returned the other easily. "But you were always the good boy of the family, Geoffrey—just as I was always the bad egg."

"Have you no sense of shame, Edgar?" demanded the governor.

"If you've come to sermonise, you can just clear out," retorted John Pratt with sudden anger. "I had enough pi-jaw from the chaplain at my last shop."

"Are you quite incapable of realising your position?" continued Colonel Peyton, ignoring the other's outburst.

"I realise it perfectly, thank you. But what about yours, old man? What's going to happen at Moorlands when twelve hundred lags and a hundred and fifty screws realise the fact that their respected governor is own brother to John Pratt, convict number 817?"

"For your own sake, to say nothing of that of the family you have disgraced, you will surely keep silence as to your identity," retorted the colonel.

John Pratt laughed outright.

"I'll keep my mouth shut just as long as I can make anything by doing so, and not a day longer," he answered. "So you can just put that in your pipe, and smoke it. Lord, how I laughed when I found I was coming to Moorlands. The thought of your solemn old phiz when you recognised me was something to look forward to."

"You won't find five years in Moorlands any laughing matter," said the colonel coldly.

"I don't suppose I should," answered John Pratt coolly. "But, if you ask me, I should say five days was more my form."

The colonel started slightly.

"Are you mad?" he demanded.

"Mad?" repeated the other. "Not a bit of it. But I should be if I was to stay in a prison of which my respected elder brother was governor."

"I see. You wish to be transferred. Yes, it must be done. I will write to the directors, and see if you can be sent to Parkhurst."

"No, no, Geoffrey, that won't wash," said Edgar Peyton with a chuckle. "It's not Parkhurst I'm thinking of."

"It's the only other prison to which you can be sent. You know very well that only 'stars' go to Portland."

"You're off the track altogether, Geoffrey," said the convict with the same unpleasant grin on his face. "It's not another prison I'm looking for. My notion is to get off to South America. Plenty of chances there for a smart chap like me."

"You shall go where you please when you have served your sentence. I will be responsible for your passage."

"You make me tired," burst out Edgar with sudden impatience. "Can't you understand that I've had a darned sight more prison already than I've any use for? If you want it in plain English, you've got to give me a chance to do a bunk."

The colonel staggered as though someone had struck him across the mouth.

"You dare make such a suggestion to me?" he exclaimed hoarsely. "You dare to ask me to bring myself down to your level by breaking the law of the land and the oath of my office?"

"Oh, rats!" sneered the other. "What's the use of that sort of highfaluting rot? Here are you, lord high boss of the biggest prison in England, and here am I, your own brother, a lag under your charge. Supposing I give the office to one o' the screws or the next chap in my party, where do you stand? You've got to chuck up your job, lose a good billet and seven hundred a year, and go and hide yourself somewhere abroad and live on your pension. And what about Emily and your boy? I heard he was gazetted to your old regiment the other day. D'ye suppose he'll be able to stay in it when the yarn comes out? Think o' the head lines in the daily papers? Gad, I'd a darned sight rather be in my shoes than yours the day it's blown on."

He paused and sat with his eyes fixed on his brother's face. The colonel stood silent. He was breathing hard and seemed unable to speak.

But in a moment he had pulled himself together.

"You were always a scamp and a waster, Edgar," he said; "but I never realised till this minute to what depths a gentle-born man could sink. You have had your say, and now I will tell you this. I would rather die than in any way connive at your escape. So long as I am governor of this prison, discipline shall be maintained, and you, although you are my brother, shall receive precisely the same treatment that is meted out to your fellows. Now, if you wish it, blazon your infamy and mine to the first officer who visits your cell."

The governor's words and the scorn in his tone were enough to sear the very soul of any man with a spark of decency within him. Yet Edgar Peyton merely laughed again.

"There's no hurry, old man," he answered lightly. "I'll give you a day or two to think it over. Time's all on my side, and, when you have made up your mind, remember it isn't much I ask. Only a suit of clothes and a few quid in cash stowed away where I can lay hands on 'em. You'll find it's cheap at the price, for once I'm out of this you'll be quit of me for good."

The colonel could not trust himself to reply. He swung round, and next moment the door slammed and the key turned in the lock.

"Time's all on my side," repeated Edgar Peyton, as he picked up his book again. "I'll lay he'll come round before long, if only for the sake of his wife and the boy."

He was partly right. There is no more terrible position for a man, whether innocent or guilty, than to live from day to day with the sword of Damocles suspended over his head, not knowing from hour to hour when the blow will fall. Colonel Peyton was a proud man and an honourable one, and the mere fact that his youngest brother was a criminal was sufficient in itself to cause him the deepest humiliation. The shock was all the worse because he had believed that Edgar was dead. His brother had left England fourteen years previously, and nothing had since been heard of him. Inquiries had been made, but without success, and the Peyton family had long ago given up any idea of ever seeing him again.

For every reason the present position was a terrible one. The colonel had no private means, and if he lost his governorship—as he must do if Edgar fulfilled his threat—he would have nothing to live on but his slender pension. He knew, too, that his brother had been perfectly right in saying that Harry would have to leave the Army if this awful scandal came to light.

Small wonder, then, that his appetite failed, that he lay awake at night, that the lines on his forehead deepened, and that his manner became day by day more curt and silent.

His wife noticed the change, and strove in her quiet way to help him. It grieved her bitterly to see his favourite dishes, specially ordered, turned away with hardly a mouthful eaten; but what hurt her worse than all was that, for the first time since their marriage, he failed to confide his trouble to her.

Others besides Mrs. Peyton realised that all was not well with the governor, but none took the matter more to heart than Shippard. Shippard was no fool. He was the only person who had seen the meeting between John Pratt and the colonel, and the only one who knew of the latter's subsequent visit to Pratt's cell. Besides, the governor had told him that he knew Pratt's people. Putting two and two together, he felt certain that the trouble was in some mysterious manner connected with the newly arrived prisoner, and as soon as he had arrived at this conclusion he set to work at once to get to the bottom of the puzzle.

He dared not talk to Pratt himself. Indeed, he had no opportunity of doing so, for just at present his duties lay elsewhere.

So things went on for a fortnight, the colonel looking more gaunt and haggard every day. Shippard was nearly in despair, when one morning he noticed Pratt's name on the slate to see the governor.

The prisoner was brought to the office in the course of the regular routine. He entered the room with his usual jaunty, devil-may-care expression, and Shippard, who was watching him keenly, noticed the quick hardening of his chiefs mouth.

Pratt stood at attention in front of the desk.

"Can I speak to you in private a moment, sir?" the prisoner asked.

His manner was sufficiently respectful, but there was something underneath it—a suspicion of threat which Shippard's ears were quick to catch.

The colonel hesitated a moment.

"Very well," he said; and turned to Shippard. "Leave the room a minute please, Mr. Shippard. I will ring when I wish you to return."

Shippard saluted and went out by the far door, the one opposite that by which prisoners were brought into the room. This opened into a covered outside passage, running the whole length of the block of office buildings.

A foggy drizzle was falling. There was no one about, and it was still twenty minutes before the working parties would be brought out of the shops for dinner.

It was Shippard's duty to stand and wait outside the door. Instead of doing so, he walked quickly, but quietly, around the end of the low, one-storeyed block of buildings, and gained the window at the back of the office.

He was taking a big risk, and he knew it. Discipline in a prison is military in its strictness. He had not only left his post, but he was deliberately eavesdropping. If he were seen, neither his long service and good record nor the friendship of the colonel would save him from immediate dismissal.

Crouching under the window, the ledge of which was about four feet from the ground, Shippard peered cautiously over the sill. From where he stood he could catch a glimpse of the colonel's back as he sat upright in his office chair, and see the upper part of the prisoner's figure. There was little chance of Pratt seeing him, for the glass was blurred by the driving rain.

Pratt was speaking.

"It's no use your appealing to my better feelings, Geoffrey. I got rid of all that sort of rot long ago. I don't care a twopenny damn for the family or anything else of the sort. I want a plain answer to a plain question. Are you going to help me out of this or are you not?"

Unfortunately, the colonel's voice was pitched so low that Shippard could not hear what he said.

Whatever it was, it must have been a refusal, for Shippard plainly saw the flash of rage on Pratt's face.

Then the man laughed evilly.

"Just as you please, Geoffrey. I'll give you three more days to think it over. If I don't hear from you before Saturday I'll blow the gaff."

Shippard waited no longer. He turned back and reached the office door just in time to hear the sharp kling of the electric bell.

"Take this man back to his cell," said the governor, and his voice rang like steel. Shippard saluted and obeyed. His expression was exactly as usual, but Pratt would not have walked away so jauntily had he had any notion of the ideas that were seething behind his guardian's wooden countenance.

That evening Shippard went to his quarters early, and, lighting his pipe, sat down to think. He had heard enough to get a pretty shrewd idea of the case. It was quite clear that this fellow Pratt had some hold over the colonel. What it was Shippard did not know, but whatever its nature he was using it to force the governor to secure his escape. He had given the governor till Saturday to think it over, then, if the latter did not yield, he was going to "blow the gaff."

Now Shippard knew Colonel Peyton far too well to imagine that any threat would turn him from his duly. Therefore Pratt would remain in prison, and therefore on Saturday some highly unpleasant secret was going to be made public.

The question was how to stop it, and the more Shippard considered the matter the plainer it became that whatever was to be done he, Shippard, would have to manage the whole business single-handed.

First, he considered the possibility of engineering some accident which would stop Pratt's mouth for over. Shippard was not the sort to shrink from any risk of the kind if, for so doing, he could save his beloved chief. Rightly or wrongly, he considered that the life of a blackguard like Pratt was worth nothing in comparison with the well-being of the governor. But he soon dismissed this idea as impracticable, and, as he filled his third pipe, came to the conclusion that the only possible alternative was to do what the colonel had refused to do, and himself secure Pratt's escape. It went bitterly against the grain for the grim old warder to lend himself to turning a man like Pratt loose on society, but he felt quite certain there was no other way out of the difficulty, and, having once made up his mind on the subject, he began to devote his whole attention to the details.

He let no grass grow under his feet. The very next day he made an opportunity to visit Pratt in his cell.

Pratt looked up insolently and was about to speak, but Shippard made a sign for silence.

"You're to apply for an outdoor party," he said in a low, significant tone.

"Are those orders from headquarters?" he asked casually.

"Never mind where they come from," answered Shippard meaningly. "Do as I say and keep your mouth shut."

Then he paused.

"Do you know where the big logan stone stands, back of the quarry wood?"

Pratt nodded.

"There's a hollow full of gorse about a hundred paces to the south. That's where you'll find the things. But see here, you'll have to wait your chance."

"A fog, you mean?"

"Yes, or heavy rain."

"That may not come for a month."

"I can't help that. If you try it on in fair weather the civil guards will have you for a dead certainty."

"All right. I'll wait," answered Pratt.

All of a sudden he turned suspicious.

"Look here," he demanded, "how am I to tell that this isn't a fake? For all I know, you and my saintly brother may have arranged to have me shot down by the screws before I can get clear."

"Brother!" The word gave Shippard a shock which he just managed not to betray.

"It takes more than a few pellets of buckshot to kill a man," he answered coolly. "And I should think it was clear enough we don't want you on our hands any longer than we can help."

"You're right there," he sneered. "Still, it's just as well for you and your precious governor to remember that if you try any hanky panky business I blow the gaff at once."

"You'll please keep the governor's name out of this," said Shippard sternly. "If you so much as breathe a word of what's happening to any but me, you'll serve the last minute of your sentence, and more, too, maybe."

"Don't get excited. I know when to keep my mouth shut," retorted Pratt. "All right. I'll apply for a quarry party to-morrow, and keep my eyes skinned for a fog."

Shippard lived in panic for the next twenty-four hours. He was terribly afraid that the colonel might smell a rat, and refuse Pratt an outdoor party. But, to his great relief, the prison doctor certified the man fit, and the governor let the request pass without remark.

Saturday saw the governor's face more set and haggard than ever. Shippard realised that he fully expected that his brother would be as good as his word, and, anxious as he was himself, he was grateful that he had managed to stave off the blow, if only for the time. Next day—Sunday—he looked out an old suit of his own from which he had carefully ripped all distinguishing marks. He wrapped it in a piece of oilskin, put five pounds of his own hard-earned savings in the pockets, and, going out after dark, hid it in the agreed spot. Next day he contrived to let Pratt know what he had done, and then set himself to wait with what patience he could muster for such weather as would give Pratt his chance.

Tuesday and Wednesday turned out cold but bright, and Thursday dawned equally clear and sunny. But Shippard, watching the barometer like a cat, noticed that it was falling fast. And glancing at the sky when he went to dinner, he saw small, hard-edged clouds drifting across from the direction of the high moor. The wind, which had been nor'-east, had pulled round to nor'-nor'-west, and there was a bitter chill in the damp air. The old warder had been long enough on the moor to know what that meant, and his heart beat a trifle more rapidly than usual.

At one o'clock the outdoor parties were marched out as usual for afternoon labour. Shippard, whose work lay within one of the shops, waited anxiously. About three came a sharp rattle of rain on the roofs. His heart sank. Heavy rain would bring the outdoor men in at once.

But the shower lasted barely five minutes, and the sun again shone out palely. Outdoor work ceases at four-twenty in winter. Just after four it grew very dark, and Shippard, looking out, saw that a great mass of dusky cloud was rushing up before the wind, which was now blowing half a gale.

Thicker and thicker it grew, then, all of a sudden, with a rush and a roar, a furious hailstorm broke. Almost instantly it was dark as night, and above the pounding of the hail, whistles shrilled, calling in the gangs.

Shippard found himself shaking with excitement. Now, if ever, was Pratt's chance. Would he take it and end this killing suspense? With straining senses he waited, while the storm roared and the roofs rang to the rattle of the hail. Suddenly the din was punctuated by a sharp report, which came from no great distance.

Every man in the shop looked up. One and all knew the meaning of the ominous sound. Shippard's fellow-warder glanced round at him. A minute of deadly suspense, then the big bell above the gate began to ring with a harsh insistent clamour.

"God, he's done it!" muttered Shippard; and at once gave orders for the men to gather and march back to their cells.

Usually, the evening parade is a matter of time and ceremony, the governor or his deputy being always present to receive the tally of each party from its warder. To-night, though order was preserved, all was rush, and the prisoners were bundled hurriedly into their cells, while every warder who could be spared was mustered for the pursuit.

Shippard himself was one of these, and before he reached his place he knew that it was in truth Pratt who had made the dash for liberty. As his party was being marched down the road, the man had suddenly bolted, leaped the stone wall on the right, and vanished into the thick plantation beyond.

The storm was over, but the sky was dark with hurrying clouds as the search-parties marched quickly out through the great main gates. Some were sent to guard bridges and cross-roads, but the majority plunged straight into the soaking wood, and, spreading out fanwise, began beating through it uphill.

Shippard saw with satisfaction that it was growing darker every minute. If Pratt had found the hollow, and what it hid, he ought by now to be well on his way to freedom.

Contriving to drop behind, he visited the furzy hollow. The suit was gone.

Much relieved, he pushed on. Daylight faded, but the moon, near its full, shone out through hurrying clouds. Presently it darkened again, and a fresh hailstorm broke. Shippard took refuge behind a great block of granite, and crouched with his back to the rock while the cutting ice-flakes drummed on his oilskins.

It lasted perhaps ten minutes, then broke, and rising to his feet, Shippard tramped across the whitened heather towards the Tarnmouth road. To reach this he had to skirt the end of a deep chasm known as Devil's Gap. It was an old surface cutting made by mediaeval tin-miners, an ugly place with perpendicular sides twenty to thirty feet deep. The bottom was one mass of broken boulders.

As he neared the rift Shippard heard a sudden shout. He paused, startled. Next moment came the sharp trill of a warder's whistle. The sound rose from the depths of the gap.

He ran forward. Peering over the edge he saw, almost directly beneath, a figure standing at the bottom among the rocks.

"Hallo!" he called.

"That you, Shippard?" came back an excited voice, which he recognised as that of Loxdale, an assistant warder. "I've got the beggar! Quick! Come down and give me a hand! He's hurt pretty bad."

"All right," he answered; and hurrying round to the far side, where the bank was lower, scrambled quickly down.

As he reached the bottom the moon came out, and its white light fell upon a motionless figure crumpled among the black rocks.

"He must have fell over in the storm!" said Loxdale, who was evidently much excited. "Looks to me as if he was pretty nigh done for."

Shippard hardly heard. Stooping, he lifted Pratt in his strong arms. The man's body was perfectly limp. There was an ugly wound over the left temple, from which blood was still oozing. To all appearance he was dead, and the stern old warder devoutly hoped that this was indeed the case.

"We must get him back at once," he said to the other. "Take his legs; we can carry him between us."

Pratt was no light weight, and by the time they got him to the top both men were panting. Just then they heard a rattle of hoofs. A civil guard was trotting down the road in the distance. Shippard blew his whistle, the man rode across, and Shippard sent him galloping for a stretcher.

Twenty minutes later Pratt was in the infirmary with both the prison doctors in charge, and Shippard went to report to the governor.

Colonel Peyton was standing by the fire in his study. He was in evening dress, and his handsome face was set like a mask.

He listened in silence to Shippard's report.

"What does Dr. Lennox say? Is the man likely to live?" he asked.

"He doesn't know, sir. Pratt is still insensible."

At this moment the maid came in.

"If you please, sir, Dr. Lennox has sent to say that he'd be glad to see you."

The governor's lips tightened. He went out into the hall, flung on coat and cap, and strode rapidly across towards the infirmary. Shippard followed.

Dr. Lennox met the governor at the door.

"The man has come round," he told him. "He has asked to see you. I sent at once, for he is fatally injured, and cannot live till morning."

Colonel Peyton merely nodded. Without hesitation he walked across towards the bed where his brother lay. Shippard, standing just outside the door, felt his heart beat almost to suffocation.

Edgar Peyton's eyes were open. His white face was twisted with pain, but there was still the same mocking smile on his lips.

For a moment or two he lay silent, with his eyes fixed on his brother's face. The latter did not flinch, he returned the look steadily. Even the doctor, an unemotional Scot, felt something tense in the silence.

The colonel spoke first.

"You had something to say to me?" he said steadily.

The dying man raised himself a little.

"I've got a message," he said. Then he paused, and, in spite of his evident suffering, eyed the governor with a kind of malicious amusement. "A message for my brother!" he added significantly.

Colonel Peyton knew that every convict in the ward was drinking in the conversation with open ears, but, in spite of this, his stern face showed no sign of emotion.

"Well?" he said curtly.

"I want you to tell him from me"—the words came out slowly, as if the speaker were tasting the delight in every one of them—"I want you to tell him that—that I'm sorry I served him a dirty trick, but—"

The effort of speaking had been too much for him. With a gasp he sank back on the bed, his eyes closed, his face almost as white as the sheet. Yet all the time the same twisted smile still flickered across his lips.

Then he opened his eyes once more.

"But," he whispered, in a voice so low it was hardly audible, "I played the game at the end."

For a minute or so his breath came slowly and heavily. Then it ceased. His body twitched, and he lay absolutely still.

Colonel Peyton looked across the bed to the doctor.

Lennox nodded.

"Yes," he said, "he is dead."

The governor gave a last glance at the stark figure on the bed, then turned and walked out of the infirmary.

Shippard was still standing at the door.

"Come to the office," said Colonel Peyton quietly. And Shippard followed.

As the old warder closed the office door, the colonel turned and looked him full in the face.

"How did you know, Shippard?" he asked.

Shippard hesitated.

"How did you know that number 817 was my brother?" repeated the colonel steadily.

"I listened, sir. I overheard what you were saying through the office window."

"And you risked this for me?"

"You risked more for me at Atbara, sir!"

"There will be an inquiry to-morrow, Shippard. How did you do it?"

In a few words Shippard told him.

"Are you sure there is no possibility of the clothes being identified?" he asked.

"None, sir!" answered Shippard promptly.

The colonel extended his hand.

"We are quits now, Shippard!" he said.


JOHN CAUNTER swung abruptly out of his quarters into the prison yard, and ran almost into the arms of his fellow-warder and particular chum, Sam Prest.

"What's your hurry, Jack?" said Sam, showing his strong, white teeth in a cheery smile.

"Leat meadow gate's broken," replied Caunter, "I've got orders to take Fagan up to mend it."

Prest's face lost its smile.

"Fagan?" he echoed. "I shouldn't have thought they'd have let that chap outside the gates."

"Why not?" asked Caunter, in evident surprise. "He's never given any trouble."

"Not here, I admit," answered Prest. "But didn't you ever hear what he did at Portland? He precious nearly killed Principal-Warder Strudwick. Socked him over the head with a shovel, and left him for dead."

"The mischief he did! No; I never heard that."

"I was there and saw it. You keep your eye on him, Jack. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could kick him."

Caunter nodded.

"I'll watch him," he said briefly. "So-long, Sam! See you at supper."

A thick, misty drizzle was blowing bleakly across the bare prison yard as Caunter crossed over to the smith's shop. There was fog on the top of the moor, and none of the farm parties had been allowed out.

The red glow of the forges shone warmly out into the rain as Caunter opened the door, and the clang of sledge-hammers echoed among the black rafters overhead.

On a raised platform at one side of the shop stood a warder, carbine in hand. Caunter stepped up and spoke to him.

He nodded.

"Fagan!" he called.

A tall, lean man laid down his hammer and stepped forward. His sleeves were rolled up, showing arms of abnormal length, thin, but tough as twisted wire. His face, naturally dark, was black as a negro's with sweat and coal dust, and his small, keen eyes, sunk deep in his skull, had the quick watchfulness of a ferret's.

"Certainly not a beauty," thought Caunter, as he gave the man a quick glance.

"Fagan, the hinges of one of the farm gates are broken," said the warder in charge of the shop. "Take what tools you need, and go with Mr. Caunter to mend them."

"Right, sir," answered Fagan quietly, and, returning to his place, slipped on his red-and-blue striped "slop," picked up some tools, and placed them in a frail, and was back in less than a minute.

The rain had begun to fall more heavily as the oddly assorted pair left the prison yard by the side gate, and, crossing the granite bridge over the swollen Stonebrook, walked up the opposite hill. Winter was not yet over, and the great open expanse of the prison farm had a singularly desolate appearance under the canopy of grey cloud. The cold breeze whistled drearily through the leafless branches of the stunted beech copse on the far side of the river, and in the distance the mists rose and fell over the bald summits of the high tors.

There was not a soul in sight, not a living thing except a few dripping cattle sheltering miserably behind a bare stone wall, and two carrion crows flapping heavily across the open.

The gate, like all others on the farm, was of iron hung between granite posts. The fastening bolt had snapped, and the gate swung creaking in the chilly wind.

Fagan, who had not said a word during the walk, examined the broken fastening briefly, and, laying his bag down on the soaking ground, set to work at once with a quick skill which interested Caunter.

"He may be a bad lot, but he certainly can work," thought the warder as he watched.

In a very few moments Fagan had the broken bolt out and had drilled away the old rusty rivet. Then he took a new latch out of his bag, and began to fit it.

He seemed to find some difficulty in doing this. The bolt would not stay in place while he slipped the rivet into its socket. He made several attempts, then turned to the warder.

"If you'd kindly hold this for me a minute, sir, I could get the rivet in," he said quietly.

A warder is supposed to guard men under his charge. Unless he is an instructor, he does not help them. But Caunter plainly saw Fagan's difficulty, and the man's respectful manner quieted his suspicions. Changing his carbine over to his left hand, he put his right under the bolt.

With a movement quick as a leaping tiger, Fagan was on him. The convict's lean, muscular fingers wrapped his neck like a hangman's noose, shutting off his shout for help as a turned tap cuts off the flow of water from the nozzle.

Caunter struggled violently. He drove at his assailant with the butt of his rifle, but the cruel grip on his throat robbed him of strength, and he was borne helplessly backwards. As he fell, his head struck the granite gate-post with a heavy thud, and his body went limp as a rag. He lay like a dead man, with the rain beating down upon his upturned face and mingling with a thin thread of crimson which trickled from an ugly gash at the back of his skull.

A cruel smile curled Fagan's thin lips as he bent over the warder's insensible body.

"Flat-headed mug!" he muttered contemptuously.

Then, with those quick, long fingers, he began stripping off the uniform.

In an incredibly short time he had divested the warder of everything except his underclothes; next, tearing off his own drab garments, he rolled them up, flung them into a corner under the wall, and rapidly dressed himself in the warder's uniform. There was little danger of his being seen, for the wall cut off the view on the prison side, and the path was a private one. Having completed the exchange, he picked up Caunter's carbine and opened the breach.

There was a cartridge in it, and three more in the pouch on the uniform belt. A warder carries four cartridges—no more.

Again Fagan smiled.

"They'll do," he muttered, with ugly satisfaction. "God pity the screw that follows me to-day."

Without another glance at poor Caunter lying unconscious in the mud, he swung on his heel and made off with a long, silent stride curiously resembling that of a wolf.

With a wolf's cunning he took the direction which he knew would be most likely to throw his pursuers off the scent. He reckoned that no one would find Caunter for at least another hour. When they did, they would, of course, realise exactly what had happened, and take it for granted that the fugitive, being possessed of a disguise, would make for the railway either at Ashampton or Morthurst.

It was in those directions that pursuit would be hottest. Reasoning thus, Fagan resolved to cross the high moor, and drop down upon the main line of the Great Southern at Okestock. There was an artillery camp on the hill above Okestock, and it was hard if he could not find a truck in the siding where he might stow himself away unseen.

Few men would have dared such a journey, especially in such weather. Before him lay fourteen miles of trackless moor, the wildest country in southern England. He would have to cross deep valleys and climb steep hillsides, to wade rushing, boulder-strewn torrents, and pick his way in and out among deep mires swollen like sponges with the recent rain.

But he knew his strength, and his brutal courage did not fail him. He had his chance, and, like a wild beast seeking its lair, meant to seize it.

In one particular only Fagan's calculations were at fault. It was not an hour, or anything like it, before his escape was discovered.

Sam Prest, the one warder in Moorlands who knew Fagan's real character, had watched his chum and the convict marching away together into the mist with a feeling of misgiving which he could not overcome.

Owing to the fact that the farm gangs were not out, work was slack that afternoon, and Prest asked and obtained leave of absence for an hour.

He arrived at the gate barely ten minutes after Fagan had left, and the first thing he saw was his chum lying in a half-naked, soaking heap where his assailant had left him.

A cry of rage burst from his lips as he flung himself down beside the poor fellow and laid his ear to his heart. It still beat feebly. Caunter was not dead, but very near it.

Prest stood up and fired his carbine in the air, then wrapping Caunter in his own overcoat, lifted him and set to carrying him back to the prison.

He had not gone a field's length before two warders came running through the rain. It took Prest only a moment to explain what had happened.

"Take Caunter back and get the doctor, and tell the Governor I'm off after Fagan," he ended quickly.

"You've got no right to go after him," remonstrated Harris, one of the two. "You ought to wait till you get orders."

"Orders!" repeated Prest angrily. "D'ye think I want orders when the chap that's nigh killed my best pal is running loose on the moor? If it costs me my uniform, I'm after him!"

Prest's heart was hot within him as he arrived back at the scene of the tragedy. Caunter and he had been chums for years, and he was engaged to marry pretty Meg Caunter as soon as he got his next rise.

But though his blood boiled with rage against the blackguard who had struck his friend down, he was cool enough to know exactly what to do.

Unlike most of the warders, Prest was country bred, and had come straight into prison service off a neighbouring farm. He knew the moor—none better. Many a time as a lad he had crossed it, searching for lost sheep or cattle, or had followed Squire Corbett's foxhounds afoot.

So the first thing he did was to search for Fagan's tracks.

He was not long in finding them, for the rain had not yet washed them away. Fagan had not taken Caunter's boots; they were not large enough for him. And the broad arrows which are marked in nails on the sole of each convict's boots were a useful guide for a man like Prest.

For the first hundred yards he went slowly, nosing along like a setter on a faint scent. Then the marks turned left-handed, and by a scrap of lichen broken from the wall he saw that Fagan had crossed it and gone northwards.

Yes, there were the broad arrows again in a bare patch on the far side. Prest stood for a moment, thinking hard, trying to put himself in Fagan's place.

Like a flash, he realised the cunning scoundrel's plan.

"He's gone over the moor," he muttered, and set to running for the gate on the far side of the field. His heart beat as he bent down and searched in the gateway. An exultant cry burst from him as he spotted the angled marks in the mud.

Now he was sure, and, head up like a hound in cry, he started with a long, steady stride, heading for the northern boundary of the farm.

He ran with knees flexed, saving himself all he knew, for the task before him was a heavy one.

He waited no longer for tracks, but made due north, keeping a line as straight as if drawn by a compass.

Soon he was clear of the cultivated ground, and out on the open heather. The valley of the Arrow lay beneath him. At the bottom the river, in full flood, roared in tawny waves over its boulders. But Prest had fished it many a time, and knew each shallow as well as that long-legged poacher, the heron. He crossed in safety, and at slower pace breasted the opposite slope.

Reaching the top of the far ridge, he paused. A vast shallow basin lay before him, a wide, desolate expanse, dotted here and there with patches of sickly green sphagnum marking bottomless mires of slime. Beyond, the tors rose sharply, their sides scored with deep furrows where the rains of ages had cut the black peat to bedrock. These were the "veins," quaggy, steep-sided ravines which render the central fastnesses of the moor impenetrable to horses and almost so to men afoot. Overhead, long wisps of grey cloud rode swiftly on the wings of the sou'-west wind, now dipping and drawing a veil of mist over the dreary scene, again rising and revealing its whole savage desolation.

Stooping behind a monstrous crag of granite which thrust its lichened head out of the thin turf, Prest stared anxiously across the waste. He had come nearly four miles at top speed, and hoped that possibly he might at last view the chase.

A low exclamation escaped his lips. A figure, a mere dark dot in the misty distance, moved across the opposite hillside like a beetle crawling on a wall. He waited a moment, saw it dip out of sight into one of the "veins" then drew a deep breath and started running again.

In and out among the bogs he made his way with astonishing quickness. Now and again the mossy ground quaked and swung in slow waves beneath his hurrying feet, but always he avoided breaking through the treacherous crust.

Once he saw Fagan rise into sight, and hastily flung himself down among the squelching rush roots. As the convict disappeared again, he was up and running faster than before.

At last he reached the firmer ground. Now his tactics altered, and sliding swiftly down into the nearest vein, he bent double and advanced with caution. He had realised from the first that Fagan was armed, and knew that his only chance lay in "getting the drop on him."

He had already slipped a cartridge into the breach of his rifle to replace the one which he had fired before starting. That left only two in his pouch. Fagan, he knew, had four in all.

Twice as he clambered up the steep, muddy bed of the narrow peat-walled gutter he stopped and, raising himself, peered over the left-hand edge. There was no sign of Fagan.

The going was wicked. His feet kept slipping in the greasy, black slime which coated the rock at the bottom of the vein. What was worse, the fog was dropping. Was he to lose his quarry after all? The thought stung him so that he threw caution to the winds, and clambered up to the side of the gully, intending to take to the open, where he could move faster.

The bank was almost perpendicular. As he heaved his head above the edge his foot slipped.

In the very act of dropping back he heard the thud of a heavy report. His cap flew off, and a stunning blow on the back of the head sent him rolling backwards into the muddy depths of the vein.

He fell with a splash into a deep puddle, and lay with his brain singing, stunned and stupid.

It was some seconds before he recovered sufficiently to realise what had happened. Fagan must have seen him and stolen a march on him. The convict had crept round in a half-circle to the right of the vein, and waited his chance for a shot. It was the mere accident of his slip that had saved Prest's life.

The chill of the water revived him. He put his hand to his head. His scalp was scored by one buck-shot of the charge, but the damage was only superficial. Pulling himself together, he grasped his rifle, and rose softly to his feet.

A grim smile crossed his lips. Fagan had lost his chance. No doubt the ruffian believed that he had killed the warder. Equally certainly he would come to see.

"My turn next," muttered Prest, between set teeth.

But Fagan was cute as an old dog fox. Prest, peering cautiously over the right-hand rim of the ditch, could see nothing of him.

He waited till the tension grew unbearable, and he could hardly breathe.

A tuft of heather at some distance seemed to become alive. Prest watched it with staring eyes. Yes, it was moving—slowly, very slowly approaching.

He understood the ruse, and flinging up his carbine blazed straight at the clump.

A yell of pain, and a long, lean figure leaped to its feet and darted away. As quickly as possible Prest reloaded, and fired again. But the distance was too great. He missed, and next instant Fagan had sprung down into another vein and vanished from sight.

At the same moment the fog swept down and shrouded the hillside in a dense grey pall.

Again Prest stood waiting. The silence was only broken by the faint rustle of the breeze among the bents. The mist rolled over in clouds like smoke, incredibly thick, hiding everything at a distance of more than fifteen yards.

Prest thrust his last remaining cartridge into the breach of his carbine. He was striving desperately to work out Fagan's next move. Was the man moving uphill or down? Was he perhaps advancing again across the open?

For the life of him, Prest could not make up his mind.

The mist, congealing on his close-cropped hair, trickled in cold drops down his collar, as he stood motionless straining his ears for any sound that might warn him of his enemy's whereabouts.

But no sound came—nothing but the whisper of the cold wet wind, and a tiny trickle of water dripping over the edge of the vein from the soaking turf above.

Again suspense grew beyond endurance. Prest's resolution to capture Fagan at any cost never wavered for an instant, but he felt that it was humanly impossible to remain any longer in the same spot.

He set himself to creep up the bed of the vein. Should the mist rise again, it would be all to his advantage to be near the crest of the hill.

Yard by yard he won his way upward, stepping stealthily as a cat which creeps upon a mouse, and every now and then pausing again to listen. He would cheerfully have given anything he possessed for a knowledge of Fagan's whereabouts. It was like being in a dark room with a tiger, and the strain on his nerves brought the cold perspiration in beads upon his forehead.

As he went higher the walls of the vein grew lower. By this he knew that he was approaching the summit of the watershed. But the blinding, suffocating fog made it impossible to see.

Quite abruptly the vein came to an end. In front was a four-foot slope of soggy, black peat.

He did not hesitate, but crawled softly to the top, and stood upright on thin, stony turf.

A puff of cold wind struck his face. Exactly as a curtain rises on the stage the fog broke and swept aside, and left the whole long bare ridge exposed to view.

And there, barely a score of paces distant, Fagan's tall form towered defiantly against the background of mist.

Both men saw one another at one and the same moment. Like two automata, worked by the same spring, each flung his rifle to his shoulder. The two reports rang out simultaneously.

As Fagan's buckshot whistled past Prest's ear, the convict dropped his rifle, flung up his arms, and, with a choking grunt, toppled backwards.

John Caunter was avenged!


THE thin snow creaked under Fletcher's feet as he ran, and the air was bitter with frost. Clouds whirling up over the blunt-headed tors to the northwards played hide-and-seek with a crescent moon, and seemed to promise a fresh fall before morning.

With elbows close to his sides, taking long, steady strides, Fletcher kept straight onwards across the moor, holding always in an easterly direction. Up long rock-strewn slopes, down into narrow valleys, crossing swiftly running brooks by leaping from one ice-clad boulder to another, he ran, sure-footed as a goat, and apparently as tireless.

In spite of the cruel cold, his rough grey prison shirt clung to his skin, and the steam from his sweating body rose into the thin, clear air.

At last, gaining an ancient hut-circle whose giant stones, piled by the hands of a long-forgotten race, still formed a low wall, he stopped suddenly and dropped, panting slightly, on a rock within.

Peering over the wall, he looked back. The moon was hidden, but the ghostly light reflected from the snow made a wide radius visible. In all the circle nothing moved.

"Fooled 'em!" he muttered, with a certain grim satisfaction. "It was that little run up the Red Brook did it. The screws'll all think I've made south for Tarnmouth. I ought to be all right now, unless someone happened to hark back and chance on my footmarks. And there's no one has the sense to do that unless it was Janion."

He glanced up at the hurrying clouds. "Wish it would snow again," he continued. "Then I'd be safe for sure."

For a couple of minutes he sat quite still, breathing deeply, resting his strained muscles after his tremendous exertions. The snowstorm which had given him his chance of escape had broken at a few minutes after four. It was now half-past six. For nearly two hours and a half Gilbert Fletcher had been on foot, most of the time running hard. He had begun by drawing off his pursuers in the direction of Tarnmouth; then, taking to the Red Brook, he had waded back up it for a considerable distance, left it by a small tributary, and turned eastwards across the wildest part of the moor.

In spite of the shelter afforded by the low wall, the bitter wind began to numb him, and he was just about to rise to his feet when his keen ear caught a slight sound that was not the faint moaning of the breeze across the desolate slopes. He stiffened like a pointer at scent of game, and, pulling off his prison-made glengarry, peered carefully over the rim of the wall. The sound became clearer. It was the crunching of footsteps over the frozen snow. Next moment a figure loomed into sight above a slight rise, barely a hundred yards away.

Just then a cloud blew away from the face of the moon, and her pale light showed a man as tall and almost as gaunt as Fletcher himself. A man, moreover, who was certainly not in warder's uniform.

Fletcher drew in his breath with a slight hissing sound.

"Janion himself!" he whispered. "And on my tracks."

For a moment he hesitated.

"I could best him," was his thought. "But no. One's enough. I don't want his death on my conscience as well as his brother's." And, rising quickly to his feet, he was off again.

Instantly came a hoarse cry, and the man who had dogged him thus far started in pursuit.

Fletcher was tired and hungry, but he was possessed of physical strength and endurance far beyond that of most men, and he ran on as steadily as ever. Now and then he glanced back over his shoulder. His pursuer was running as doggedly as himself, but, do what he would, could not reduce the distance. The chase led up a long slope, where clumps of heather pushed their powdered heads above the snow, over the crest of the ridge, then there lay in front a vast hollow a mile or more across.

In the flashing gleams of moonlight it was possible to see that the floor of this great, saucer-like basin was level and covered with tall grass and clumps of rushes which rustled harshly in the wind. Here and there a patch of running water, or of black ice swept clear of snow by the wind, flung back a cold glint. It was Dark Tor Mire, the greatest bog on Blackmoor, and the most dangerous.

Sunk in its depths of slime lay the skeletons of hundreds of cattle and ponies, and—if tradition might be believed—not a few human bones as well. Few ventured upon its treacherous surface, even in the broad sunlight of a summer day. To attempt to cross it on a winter's night seemed sheer suicide, yet Fletcher did not pause. He ran straight on. Heather and gorse were left behind, cat-ice crackled under foot, and then he was dodging in and out among tall tussocks of dead grass and rushes.

Fletcher was not so mad as might appear, for no man living was better acquainted than he with the vast swamp. A moorman by birth, he had shot snipe and teal over every acre of the wide morass, and knew it as well as he knew the prison quarry where he had worked six days a week for sixteen miserable months. Besides, it had been freezing hard for forty-eight hours, and the icy crust was thick enough in most places to bear a man's weight. Yet, even so, there were spots which no frost touches, where springs rising from great depths keep the mud always soft.

Presently Fletcher looked back again. Janion was still following.

"He's got pluck," muttered Fletcher. A queer smile twitched the corners of his tight set lips, and, instead of increasing, he slightly slackened his pace, allowing Janion to somewhat lessen his distance. But he did not change his direction; he kept straight on across the very centre of the great marsh.

Suddenly the frozen crust broke beneath his weight. With an active spring, he reached a clump of rushes to one side of the rotten ground. As any moorman will tell you, where rushes grow there a man can go.

So he went, leaping from tuft to tuft. Soon he approached the worst part of the mire, when suddenly a winding river of inky slime full ten feet wide barred his way.

"I've got you now!" came a hoarse cry from Janion. There was a world of triumphant hatred in his voice, and as he spoke he made a rush forward.

Fletcher glanced back. Then, without a word, he gathered himself like a cat, sprang, and landed safely on frozen ground on the far side.

Janion followed. But either he under-estimated the width of the bog-hole, or his strength was not equal to the task. He fell short, and dropped with a thick splash into the mire, which took him at once to the waist.

Gripping the grass tufts, he struggled desperately to extricate himself. But the brittle stuff broke away in his hands, and his efforts only sank him deeper in the slime.

Fletcher stood, with arms folded and the same grim smile upon his face, watching his useless struggles.

"My turn this time, Walter," he said presently.

There was no trace of feeling in his tones. He spoke as quietly as though the sight of his enemy fighting for dear life in the frozen bog was the most commonplace event imaginable.

"I suppose you mean to murder me, like you did George!" panted back the other fiercely.

Fletcher started slightly.

"You know as well as I do I never did that," he answered sternly.

"Curse you! You'd lie to a dying man!"

Fletcher drew himself up.

"Do you tell me you really believe I murdered your brother?"

"I do that. And if I'd had my way, you'd have swung for it!" returned Janion fiercely.

Fletcher gave a queer, strangled gasp. He stooped, and held out both hands to the other.

"Catch hold!" he said curtly.

Janion hesitated an instant, as though unable to believe his eyes. Then, without a word, he obeyed.

Even Fletcher's great strength was taxed to the uttermost to drag the other out of the slime-pit. The horrible compound of rotten peat, mud, and water held him like liquid glue. He was panting and breathless with exertion when at last the mire gave up its prey, and Janion, coated from his armpits downwards with the sour-smelling filth, was safe on the frozen ground beside his rescuer.

For a few seconds both stood silent, breathing hard.

"What did you do that for?" demanded Janion, at last finding his tongue.

"Because I've come to understand as you do believe I killed your brother," said Fletcher simply.

"What else can I believe?" retorted Janion sullenly.

"Didn't Taunton tell you no better?"

"Taunton! What'd he got to do with it?" Janion's surprise was evidently genuine.

"Next thing you'll tell me you didn't plot with him to keep his mouth shut," said Fletcher; and, for the first time, there was a note of anger in his voice.

"I'll swear to God I never had a word with him!"

Fletcher drew a long breath.

"This beats all," he said thickly. "Taunton saw the fight. He was just across the river, and I shouted to him to help me get George out after he fell in, for I was hurt too bad to do much, and the flood was running strong. But he never took no notice, and walked right on. Afterwards I told Lawyer Strong; but when he went to Taunton, Taunton swore I was mistook, and that he'd never been near Hurdle Pool that day."

"You tell me this is true what you say?" Janion's tones shook a little with the intensity of his question.

"True as we stand here in the middle of Dark Tor Mire," answered Fletcher solemnly.

"And you thought Taunton and me had plotted to keep quiet?"

"What else was I to think? I knew you hated me, because of Jessie."

"That's true," admitted Janion sombrely. "It made me fair mad to see she favoured you. And I was ready to kill you for it. For all that, Gilbert, I wouldn't have done you a trick like you thought I did."

"I'm sorry," said Fletcher simply.

For a moment Janion was silent. Then he burst out suddenly:

"But you killed George!"

"'Twas in fair fight, and I didn't mean for to do it. He came on me fishing, and asked me for my licence. I told him I didn't have to have one, seeing as I had venville rights. He said I was poaching, and I got hot, and said he didn't know his business. Then he hit me, and we had a terrible set-to. He hurt me bad, but I wrastled with him, and threw him down, and the bank broke away, and he fell into the river. God knows I was near drowned trying to get him out. If Taunton had come round by the stones and helped me we could have saved him."

The moon flashed out again, and shone full on Janion's face. His lips were working. There was a look of growing horror in his eyes.

"Taunton!" he muttered brokenly. "Taunton! And you—" He paused. "My God!" he cried suddenly. "Is it too late?"

He spun round. A few yards away ran one of the tiny brooks that drain the heart of the wilderness. Gravel washed down by floods makes the beds of these rivulets sound walking. Into this he sprang, and, turning upstream, waded rapidly away.

Fletcher stood quite still, watching him in amazement. For a minute or two there was nothing to be heard but the rapid splashing of Janion's feet through the icy water. The sound died gradually away. Fletcher saw the other reach the edge of the mire in safety, turn to the right, and start running like one possessed, back in the direction of Moorlands.

He shook his head in hopeless bewilderment, and glanced up at the sky. The moon was already near her setting. He had wasted a terrible deal of time, and now it would tax even his giant strength to reach Ashampton before daylight. He had friends there who would shelter him, and give him a change of clothes and money.

Stepping into the brook, he started, not up, but down it.

The moon had almost dropped behind the blunt head of Dark Tor before he reached firm ground on the eastern edge of the mire. His feet were numbed with long wading in the freezing water. The clouds had blown away, the sky was clear, and the frosty stars glittered coldly in the black arch above. Shaking himself like a great dog, he set himself to climb the long slope opposite.

Half-way up, he came to ground thick-strewn with immense blocks of loose granite, among which grew a number of stunted thorn bushes. He slackened his pace a trifle, for the stones were sheathed with frozen snow, and a slip or stumble might mean a wrenched ankle or a broken leg.

He was in the very middle of the belt of rocks when a misty figure rose suddenly from behind a thorn bush exactly in front of him.

"Stand, or I fire!" came a harsh voice. And he heard the click of a carbine-lock.

For an instant he hesitated. Desperate as he was, he was minded to hurl himself upon the warder, and take his chances. To his unfettered soul any risk seemed preferable to being dragged back to that hideous prison, which he loathed with the same intensity with which a wild creature loathes its cage.

"It's no use, Fletcher," said the warder, divining his intention. "There are three of us—"

Fletcher glanced swiftly round. The man spoke true. Three rifle-barrels covered him. With a groan of bitter disappointment, he flung up his hands.

A moment later the steel circlets were snapped upon his wrists, and he was being marched rapidly back towards Moorlands.

* * * * *

An ordinary prison cell is not a cheerful place of residence, but the punishment cell in which Fletcher found himself next morning was infinitely worse. It was in a basement, and the small window set very high up and guarded by extra heavy bars, admitted just enough light to see the absolutely bare walls, the dark cement floor, the plank-bed, and the basin and other utensils, made, not of ordinary tinware, but of rubber. This Fletcher knew to be a precaution against any inmate finding at hand a weapon wherewith to assault a warder.

For himself, he had no such desire, only an utter weariness and hopelessness. And if his surroundings were dismal, his prospects were not such as to enliven him. He had never yet undergone punishment since his conviction, but he knew very well that attempted escape is looked upon as one of the worst offences in the prison code.

Worn out as he was by his almost superhuman exertions of the previous night, he sat on the edge of his plank bed, with his head between his hands, sunk in such utter dejection that he hardly looked up when, with a jangle of keys, the heavy double doors of his cell were unlocked, and a warder entered.

"Well, Fletcher, a pretty fool you've made of yourself."

The voice was that of Principal Warder Harmer, and the tone was not unkindly. Harmer was a good sort, and Fletcher had been rather a favourite of his.

Fletcher glanced up dully, but made no reply.

"You're to come to the Governor's office," continued Harmer.

Fletcher rose and followed Harmer out of the cell. They went up a flight of stone steps through a locked door of massive strength, across the hard frozen gravel of the prison yard, then under a heavy granite arch into another building.

A second warder saluted Harmer, and opened a door leading into a large, square room, very plainly furnished.

Fletcher started slightly. He had expected to find the Governor alone. Instead, on a semicircle of chairs behind the large writing-table which occupied the middle of the room sat no fewer than seven people. The centre figure was the Governor himself, Colonel Peyton, a handsome, elderly man, with a keen, hawk-like face, and heavy white moustache.

The other six were grave, middle-aged gentlemen; and it did not take Fletcher a moment to realise that he was in the presence of the visiting justices, who meet at certain intervals stated to deal with cases which are beyond the Governor's unaided jurisdiction.

There were five other persons in the room—namely, a clerk, the three warders who had recaptured Fletcher on the previous night, and the principal warder of Fletcher's own quarry party.

Harmer pushed Fletcher forward to the table, and he drew himself up with an effort. Colonel Peyton bent his stern gaze on the prisoner. He was a just man, but jealous for the reputation of the prison under his charge, and notoriously severe upon breaches of discipline.

"Have you anything to say for yourself, Fletcher?" he demanded. And his voice was as cold as the frost outside.

"No, sir," answered Fletcher quietly.

The Colonel turned to the justices and gave them a brief account of the prisoner's escape. The warders added their evidence.

"This is the third attempt at escape within six months, gentlemen," continued the Governor. "And I shall ask you to make an example of this man, and inflict the full penalties. There is just this in his favour—that he did not resist capture. Otherwise, I should have recommended a flogging."

"What do you mean by full penalties, Colonel Peyton?" asked one of the justices, a stout, pompous-looking person, with very prominent eyes.

"I should suggest fifteen days No. 1 diet, Sir George; forty-two days No. 2, loss of three months' stage, and separate confinement for eight weeks. Also yellow dress and chains for six months."

The pompous man consulted a moment with his colleagues, then cleared his throat.

"I think that we all agree with you in this matter, Colonel Peyton," he said, in his heavy, important voice. "The punishment you suggest seems to be fully deserved."

The Governor bowed.

"Remove the prisoner!" he ordered curtly.

Harmer stepped forward and laid his hand on Fletcher's arm. The latter seemed dazed with the severity of his sentence. He obeyed blindly, turning to leave the room with an air of utter dejection.

Before he could reach the door it was opened from outside, and there entered no less a personage than the chief warder himself, a square-set elderly man, with grizzled beard and moustache.

Colonel Peyton looked up sharply.

"What is it, Mr. Latchford?" he asked in surprise.

Latchford saluted.

"There's a man here who says he wants to see you at once, sir. It's about Fletcher."

"About Fletcher!" repeated Colonel Peyton, in a tone of extreme surprise. "What is his name?"

"Janion, sir. He is the brother of the man who was killed by the prisoner."

A little murmur of amazement ran through the room.

The Colonel turned to the chairman of the committee. "This is very irregular, Sir George. Is it your wish that the man should be brought in?"

"Yes, certainly, Colonel. If he has anything to say, we may as well hear it."

"Bring him in, then, Mr. Latchford."

Fletcher drew his breath sharply as his ancient enemy was ushered into the room. Janion did not look at him. He stepped straight up to the table. His hard-bitten face bore an expression which Fletcher could not define. Breathless with anxiety, he waited for what was to come.

"Your name is Janion?" said Colonel Peyton formally.

"Walter Janion, sir."

"Mr. Latchford says that you have something of importance to tell us with regard to the prisoner Fletcher."

"That's right, sir." He paused a moment as though uncertain how to begin.

The room was very still. Everyone was listening eagerly.

"Just tell us in your own words, Janion," said the Colonel, in a kinder tone.

"Well, it's like this, sir. When Fletcher pulled me out of the bog-hole last night—"

"Pulled you out of the bog-hole!" repeated the Colonel sharply.

"Yes, sir. I thought, likely, you'd have heard."

"We have not heard a word of this. Please begin at the beginning, and tell us how you came to be in a bog-hole, and what part Fletcher had in your rescue."

So Janion went back to the minute when he had first heard of Fletcher's escape, told how he had suspected that he would make back for Ashampton, how he had tracked him by his footsteps in the snow, of his sighting him at the hut circle, of the chase through Dark Tor Mire, and of Fletcher's saving him from death in the slime-pit.

He went on to repeat the conversation between them, while every soul in the room bent forward, listening in a silence which proved how intense was their interest.

"So you see, sir," continued Janion, "when he pulled me out like that, I couldn't think so bad of him as I did before. And when he told me how Taunton had served him, I saw I'd been wrong all the way through. Then it struck me all of a sudden that Taunton was dying—might be dead that moment, for all I knew. I knew as the doctor had given him up yesterday morning. And if he was dead, it was all up with the chap, for there wasn't nobody else could prove he didn't kill George on purpose. I didn't wait to say nothing to Fletcher. I just ran back as hard as I could go."

Fletcher felt as if he were choking. He drew his breath in a sort of sob. Janion heard the sound, and turned.

"Don't you worry, Gilbert," he said. "It's all right. I got there in time. And Jessie, she wrote it all out on a paper, and her father put his name to it."

"Here's the paper, sir," he ended; and, taking a folded sheet of cheap writing-paper out of his pocket, handed it to the Governor. Colonel Peyton glanced rapidly through it.

"This seems perfectly correct, gentlemen," he said. "It is a confession signed by the late Robert Taunton, that he was a witness of the struggle between Gilbert Fletcher and George Janion, and that the death of the latter was due to pure accident, and not to deliberate intention on the part of the former. Indeed, he says that Fletcher did his best to save Janion's life."

He passed the paper to Sir George, who took it eagerly. A buzz of excited talk broke out.

The Governor turned to Walter Janion.

"You have righted a great wrong," he said gravely. "I congratulate you. As for you, Fletcher, you will return to your own cell and remain there for the present. We can, of course, do nothing in the way of release until this confession has been submitted to the proper authorities. Then I hope that you will receive a King's pardon."

* * * * *

The Governor was right. A week later, Fletcher was released from prison, receiving not only a King's pardon, but, as an "act of grace," a cheque also for one hundred pounds.

The Governor himself, as well as Walter Janion and Warder Harmer, were present at his wedding with Jessie Taunton.


THE prison van rumbled slowly up the long steep hill through the sultry summer afternoon. Behind its thick leather curtains three of its four occupants lolled back in their places with eyes half shut, breathing heavily. It was only the fourth, a stiff-backed, thin-lipped man, in the dark blue uniform of a prison warder, who sat upright, and kept a watchful eye upon his drab-clad companions.

Presently one of the latter stirred and sat up, and with his one free hand swept the perspiration from his forehead.

"Blime!" he grumbled. "This is 'otter than the Scrubs. Can't we 'ave these 'ere curtains up, sir?" he asked of the warder.

"No, you can't!" snapped the latter, whose temper seemed to have suffered from the unusual temperature.

At this moment a mutter of distant thunder made itself heard above the steady tramp of the horses' feet and the low rumble of the wheels.

The warder pushed aside the curtains screening the front of the vehicle, revealing the backs of two men on the box, the driver and a second warder.

"Push along, Caunter," he said impatiently. "We don't want to get caught in the storm."

The driver turned a red, wet face.

"We can't go no faster, Mr. Lowndes," he answered reprovingly. "Look at the 'orses. They're black with sweat."

"It's getting infernally dark over Steeple Tor," grumbled Lowndes, peering out.

"Aye, I reckon we'll get a smart shower," assented Caunter. But he did not take his whip from its socket, and the two big greys tramped along at the same steady three miles an hour.

Lowndes muttered angrily to himself as he dropped back into his place, and sat there looking exactly as if he had swallowed a ramrod and it had disagreed with him badly.

A minute later the thunder rolled again. It was louder this time. The hot air was charged with that strange hush which precedes the breaking of a heavy storm.

"'Ow far 'ave we got to go, Bamsey?" whispered a little pink-eyed, ferrety-faced fellow, addressing the man who had asked to have the curtains up.

"We ain't 'ardly started yet," was the latter's discouraging reply. "It's eight miles to Moorlands." His lips never moved as he spoke, and you might have watched his blunt features as closely as you pleased without detecting that he had uttered a single word. Joe Bamsey had already served a five-year stretch on the moor, and was a past master in all the little arts which go to make the old lag's life so much more tolerable than that of the "star."

Pordon Hill is a mile long, and the rise as near as may be five hundred feet. The van was barely half-way up when the first peal of thunder had been heard, and before the horses had reached the top it was clear that a storm of more than common violence was about to break.

Over the rocky head of Steeple Tor the sky was the colour of blue-black ink and every moment the bosom of the great veil of vapour was ripped by writhing streaks of fire, while the thunder roared and bellowed, flinging its echoes from hilltop to hilltop across the vast stretches of the lonely moor.

"Lor' lumme, but this is fair 'orrible!" squeaked the ferret-faced man as the glare of a particularly vivid flash penetrated the thick curtains of the van, throwing up in strong relief the features of its occupants.

"Silence there!" snarled Lowndes.

"Don't you worry, matey. They ain't all as bad as him," said Bamsey under cover of the next roll of thunder. "And anyways this'll cool the air a bit. Blowed if I ever knowed it so hot on the moor!"

At last the horses reached the top of the long hill, and at a word from Caunter broke into a steady trot. Next moment, with a rush and a roar, the storm was upon them.

The first blast of wind caught the van broadside. It was so furious that it actually made the heavy carriage heel perceptibly, and for a moment everyone in it believed that it was going over.

"Get them curtains down!" roared Caunter, as he gathered his reins and steadied the frightened horses.

Lowndes, now really alarmed, hurried to obey, and Hogan, the warder on the box, turned quickly to help him.

The curtains were fastened to rings running on rods. Lowndes had gathered the nearest together, and Hogan was tying it to the corner upright, when a second gust even more furious than the first came streaming down off the hill to the left, and before anything could be done had ripped the other curtain on the left-hand side clean out of its fastenings, and, whirling it right over Hogan, brought it down slap on the heads of the horses.

No horse that ever was foaled could stand such a shock. Both reared simultaneously, and then, before Caunter could do anything to stop them, had swung to the right off the road and were galloping as hard as they could lay legs to the ground across the open moor.

At the same moment down came the hail, blotting out everything in a rattling grey mist.

The ferret-faced man sprang to his feet with a wild scream of terror. He would have flung himself out, but for the fact that he was chained to his two companions in misfortune.

Bamsey stretched out his free hand and jerked him back into his seat.

"Sit down, ye fool!" he growled. "Ye don't want to be killed any sooner than ye've got to."

Caunter was striving with all his might to pull the horses back into the road. But the two big brutes were mad with fright, and the lash of the cruel hail whipped them into a perfect frenzy of terror. They were utterly beyond control.

The heavy carriage leaped and bounded at their heels like a tin kettle at a dog's tail. Now one wheel was in the air, now another. Through soft patches of bog, over clumps of gorse and heather they tore along at appalling speed. Most of the moor is thickly strewn with great boulders of granite, and on such ground a smash would have been a matter of seconds only. Here luckily, stones were few and far between, and the tussocks were not large enough to upset the carriage.

Hogan, clinging with both hands to the driving seat, turned a white, set face to Lowndes.

"The Devil's Dip!" he cried. "We'll be in it in a minute!"

Lowndes showed that, if his temper was bad, his heart, at any rate, was in the right place. He knew what Hogan meant. Less than a quarter of a mile ahead was a gully twenty feet deep and fifty wide, running at right angles to their course. It was one of those cut by tin-miners of early days in uncovering a surface vein of tin ore, and ran for nearly a mile across the moor.

There was no possibility of escaping it, and if they went into it at their present rate of speed, the chances were strong that every mother's son would be killed.

"You'll have to jump!" he shouted above the bellow of the wind and thunder; and, pulling out his keys, hastily began unlocking the handcuffs.

He was too late. The key had barely clicked in Bamsey's shackles when there was a wild yell from Hogan. Horses, carriage, and all left firm ground and sailed out into the air.

There followed a shattering crash—then silence, except for the rattle of the hail and the moaning roar of the wind.

* * * * *

Joe Bamsey stirred, and rubbed his eyes in a dazed fashion.

"Gor' blime!" he muttered, in tones of deep surprise. "So I ain't dead, after all!"

He slowly raised himself to a sitting position, and surveyed his surroundings. The hail had turned to rain, and the sky was already clearing.

The remains of the carriage, with the two front wheels smashed to atoms and the pole broken short off, lay behind him, and his five companions were scattered around it, lying in various positions, but all limp and motionless. The horses were gone.

He scrambled to his feet, and felt himself all over. There were several sore spots, but no bones were broken. He owed his immunity to the fact that somehow he had been flung clear, and, landing in a handy tuft of thick heather, had escaped with nothing worse than a shock that had temporarily stunned him.

His next proceeding was to step across and take a look at the others. One, the ferrety-faced man, was beyond help; his neck was broken. The other four were all breathing. Caunter had a bad cut on the head, the others no outward injuries; but they were all stunned and insensible.

Obeying the first instinct of a not unkindly disposition, Bamsey took a handkerchief from the driver's pocket and rapidly tied up the bleeding wound on his head. By this time his scattered wits were actively at work again, and it occurred to him that here was a heaven-sent opportunity for avoiding the five years' sentence which the law of his land had decreed as penalty for a recent unauthorised collection of the contents of an elderly tradesman's safe.

He straightened himself and looked round. The thunder still roared loudly, but the worst of the storm was past, and a patch of brilliant blue was visible in the north-western sky. The ravine in which he stood ran roughly north and south. Southwards it ended in a wide, open valley, with no cover of any sort for a couple of miles or more. To the north, not more than a quarter of a mile away, was the embankment by which the main road from Taviton to Moorlands crossed the dyke.

Bamsey's first impulse was to make a bolt to the southwards, but a moment's reflection showed clearly that this—to use his own expression—was a mug's game. It would only be a matter of a few hours at most before search was made for the waggonette and pursuit organised. And he was well aware that a man in convict's kit, without money or food, did not stand a dog's chance of getting clear, no matter what start he had.

No, there was a better way out of it than that; and in his active brain, well accustomed to deal with unforeseen emergencies, he reasoned that a change of clothes and the road offered by far the best chance of doing a successful bunk.

Naturally, his first idea was to appropriate the garments of Caunter, the only civilian of the five. But Caunter was small and lightly built, while his own frame was big and burly. Even if he could get them on, which was doubtful, the driver's clothes would give him away at once. Regretfully he turned to Lowndes, the only man of the lot who matched him in size, and with his big but clever fingers swiftly stripped him of trousers, tunic, and boots. The boots took a little extra time, but they were worth it. His own, with the broad arrows on the soles, were the surest possible give-away.

Lowndes, who seemed only stunned, stirred slightly as he laid him down again, giving Bamsey an ugly start. To make sure, Bamsey took a halter rope from the broken van and tied the warder's hands firmly behind his back.

It was the work of a very few moments to rip off his own drab garments and button himself into the warder's clothes. They fitted to a nicety, and Bamsey, surveying himself in a pool at the bottom of the ravine, grinned broadly at his own reflection in the clear brown water.

Before leaving the scene of the accident, Bamsey rapidly went through the pockets of Caunter and the second warder. Seven shillings and a few coppers, together with a brier pipe, a tobacco-pouch, and half a packet of cheap cigarettes, were his reward.

He had not had a smoke since his arrest, and his very soul craved tobacco; but sternly repressing an intense desire to light up at once, he pocketed his spoils and stepped out briskly for the road.

The sun was out again, and the soaking moor steamed like a sponge before a fire. The air was full of the pleasant odour of moist earth.

It was in Bamsey's mind to walk back at best speed to Taviton Station, and take the first train in either direction. He had money enough to carry him a good many miles from the moor, and once he reached any big town he felt fairly certain of his ability to defy pursuit. But as he was in the act of climbing the bank to the road he paused. From the eastward came a low, droning hum, and next moment there shot into sight over the brow of the hill a mile away a raking little two-seater painted green and carrying two passengers.

Bamsey's eyes sparkled. A new idea had flashed into his brain. Quick as light, he thrust one arm into the breast of his tunic. Then, springing out into the middle of the road, he raised the other as a signal to stop.

The car at once slackened speed, and came to a standstill a few yards from the eastern edge of the dip.

"What's up?" shouted the man at the wheel, who was a wiry-looking young fellow, with crisp, brown-hair and a slight moustache.

"What d'ye mean by stopping us like this?" demanded the other, an older man, with a hard, smooth face, and prominent pale blue eyes.

"There's been a smash-up, sir," replied Bamsey, addressing himself to the first speaker. "Prison van ran away and upset. I only got my wrist sprained, but some of the chaps are hurt bad. I wants you to take me straight into Taviton to fetch the doctor."

"A smash! You don't mean it? Where did it happen?" asked the young man excitedly.

"Bosh and nonsense!" cut in the other angrily. "I don't believe a word of it. Drive on, Graham!"

He spoke so decidedly that his companion hesitated. Bamsey stepped right up in front of the bonnet.

"Drive on if you dare," he said grimly. "But you'd best remember that a warder is a policeman, and has powers as such. I demands your car in the King's name, and you refuses me at your peril."

His determined air had its effect.

"I say, Gedge, I believe the chap's right," said the younger man. "We must take him along."

"But there's no room for him," snarled Gedge.

"One of you gents must get out, and go down to help those as is hurt," said Bamsey firmly.

"But I can't drive," replied Gedge angrily.

"Then it's you must get out, sir," answered Bamsey, unmoved.

"I won't do it. I've got to attend a meeting in Taviton."

"Then there's another meeting you'll attend, sir, and that's at the police-court," was Bamsey's reply. "I've got your name and the number of your car. The sooner you does what I ask the better it'll be."

"It's no go, Gedge," said the man called Graham. "Out you get. I'll come back for you as soon as I can."

"I call it an infernal outrage," growled Gedge; but, all the same, he scrambled unwillingly out of his seat.

"You'll find them up that way," said Bamsey, pointing in the direction exactly opposite to that where the accident had taken place. He jumped nimbly into the car. "Now then, sir"—addressing Graham—"quick as you please. Straight into Taviton and the nearest doctor."

Graham released the brake, and pushed over the first-speed lever. The ground was level, and the second and top speeds followed quickly. As the car gained way Bamsey glanced round, and smothered a grin in the turned-up collar of Lowndes's tunic as he saw Gedge picking his way slowly and reluctantly along the northern edge of the Devil's Dip. Then he settled himself comfortably in his seat. In happier days Bamsey had had something to do with cars, and the rush through the soft, warm air brought back pleasant memories of old times.

It was but a minute before the swift little vehicle had reached the top of Pordon Hill. As it coasted down the steep slope at a steady twenty-five miles an hour, Graham plied his passenger with eager questions as to how the smash had come about. Bamsey answered absently. His mind was full of the problem of how best to get rid of his driver on arrival at Taviton; and for the moment he had dark doubts as to whether he had acted wisely in stopping the car at all. There would be policemen in Taviton, men with keener eyes than the ordinary civilian. Awkward questions might be asked. His cropped head and bristly face might give the game away. Even the warder's uniform would cause comment.

Bamsey's brain was one which usually worked best in emergencies, but this time he had to confess to himself that he was fairly gravelled. Of course, it was open to him to hit the driver over the head and stun him.

But apart from a natural disinclination to use force, the car was travelling too fast for any games of this kind. One touch on the wheel and she would be off the road, and up the bank in a jiffy. And Bamsey had no mind to risk a second smash.

They were off the moor now, and running along a narrow road with high banks on either side. Already the smoke of Taviton's chimneys was visible rising above the trees in the valley below.

Bamsey grew desperate, and had almost made up his mind to fling his aims round his companion, and drag him from his seat, when the latter suddenly cut off gas, flung on his brakes, and tootled his horn vigorously.

A herd of bullocks had appeared around the next curve, completely blocking the road.

"Confound the beasts!" growled Graham, as he brought the car to a stop not twenty feet from the horns of the first of the herd. "Look at that chap who's supposed to be driving 'em!"

The latter, a big, heavy-jowled fellow, was loafing along the road fifty yards behind his charges with a dog at his heels. He paid not the slightest attention to the sharp note of the horn, and did not quicken his pace one iota.

The cattle, frightened by the purr of the engine, swung round and collected in a close mob.

"Hi, drive your beasts past, please!" shouted Graham. "We're in a hurry."

The man paid no attention whatever.

"Are you deaf?" cried Graham angrily.

The fellow looked up. Evidently he had heard right enough. But his only answer was a scowl.

"He wants his blooming neck wrung!" exclaimed Graham.

"He'd get it, too, if it wasn't for my arm," chimed in Bamsey.

"Here, let me out!" cried Graham, losing his temper. "I'll drive his infernal animals past."

He stepped across Bamsey, sprang down into the road, and snatching a stick from the wicker carrier hanging at the side of the tonneau, rushed at the bullocks, sending them galloping past the car.

The drover woke up.

"Hi, there! What do you mean by making them bullocks gallop like that?" he blustered threateningly. "D'ye think you own the road?"

"I'm entitled to half of it, anyhow," retorted Graham. "And as you're too infernally lazy to clear it I've done it for you."

The drover broke into violent abuse, and striding up, shook his great fist in the other's face.

Graham was not slow to respond to the invitation. His left arm shot out, and the drover staggered back, almost into the hedge.

Recovering himself, he uttered a furious exclamation, and rushed at Graham. The two went at it hammer and tongs.

For a second or two Bamsey watched the fray with shining eyes. In the excitement of the battle he had momentarily forgotten everything else.

But his forgetfulness did not last long. Above the trampling of the feet of the combatants and the dull thud of blows, a distant shout came to his ears. He glanced round. On the top of the hill, far behind, two figures were in sight, running and gesticulating furiously. The rain-washed air was crystal clear, and Bamsey's quick eyes spotted one as the man he had so unceremoniously turned out of the car. The other was Lowndes.

In an instant he had slipped across into the driving seat, taken off the brake, and depressing the clutch, pushed the lever noiselessly into first speed.

The car slipped past the combatants, and rapidly gained speed. Engrossed in his battle, Graham never even noticed its passage.

"Blime!" said Bamsey regretfully as he glanced back at the two furiously struggling figures. "It's a real pity to miss a mill like that!"

Then he was over the brow of the last slope leading down into the town, and the scene of his recent adventures was lost to view.

* * * * *

Two days later a fifteen-horse two-seater, painted dark green, was found by a local policeman stowed away in a tumble-down cowshed a couple of miles outside Bristol.

There was a note pinned to the back.

"Car belongs to Mr. Graham, as lives near Taviton. Tell him I'm obliged for the loan of it.—Yores, Joe Bamsey.

"P.S.—I hopes he licked the drover!"



"THERE seems, I repeat," said Mr. Justice Stileman, with a frown on his long, solemn face, "to be a growing disregard for the sanctity of human life, and, so far as in me lies, I mean to put a stop to this.

"You, George Romilly, have been convicted by a jury of your countrymen of the manslaughter of a fellow being, and you may consider yourself fortunate that the verdict is not one of murder. Under the circumstances, I do not consider that I can sentence you to any less punishment than ten years' penal servitude."

For a moment or two there was absolute silence in the court. The prisoner in the dock, a fine-looking, broad-shouldered young man of about twenty-seven, went a shade paler than before.

His hands clasped and unclasped nervously, and for a moment he seemed about to speak. Then, as if he knew it was hopeless, his chin dropped forward on his chest.

The silence was suddenly broken.

"Outrageous! An outrageous sentence!" said someone, in a low, tense voice.

The judge looked round angrily.

"Silence in the court!" cried the usher.

There was a sudden stir in the background. A girl had fallen fainting. A man standing beside her caught her in his arms, and carried her out. He was closely followed by a second man.

"It's Miss Dunstan, the girl Romilly was engaged to," whispered George Romilly's counsel to a fellow-barrister.

The judge rose, and the audience began to file out with a loud clatter of feet on the bare boards of the stuffy court-room.

Later in the day two men sat together in the handsomely furnished study of a house in Hampstead. They were the same two who had helped the fainting girl out of the court, and one, though older than she, was so like her that there was little doubt about the relationship between them.

He was, in fact, her brother, Keith Dunstan. The other was John Romilly, younger brother to the prisoner.

"A wicked sentence!" said the latter passionately. "A wicked sentence!" he repeated. "No decent judge would have given him more than twelve months."

Dunstan sat scowling at the empty grate. His strong, white teeth gripped the mouthpiece of an unlighted pipe.

"He'd have got off altogether in any other country but this," he said presently. "In France they'd have cheered him out of court, and so they would in the States. If ever there was a case of the unwritten law, this is it."

"The brute insulted Madge," exclaimed John Romilly. "No man could have done less than knock him down. It wasn't George's fault that Sterridge happened to fall against the fender. I only wish it had been Stileman's sister, or his daughter."

"He hasn't got either," said Dunstan drily. "But it's no use slanging Stileman. The question is what are we going to do?"

"Appeal," said the other eagerly. "Appeal, of course."

"No use," answered Dunstan decidedly. "They never reverse Stileman's decisions."

John Romilly groaned.

"That's true enough. But, Keith, we must do something. We can't leave him to rot in Portland for ten years. It would kill him."

"And Madge, too," answered her brother, in his quiet, deep voice. "No, John, I haven't the least idea of doing anything of the sort."

John Romilly looked up sharply.

"What do you mean, Keith? If we don't appeal or petition there's nothing else."

"Oh, but there is," answered the other, lowering his voice and pulling his chair a little closer to Romilly's. "There's still one other alternative."

Romilly shook his head. He looked utterly perplexed.

"I don't see it," he said.

"We might get him out," said Dunstan slowly.

"Get him out! Procure his escape from prison, do you mean?"

"That is exactly what I do mean," answered Dunstan.

"But it's impossible. Such things are not done nowadays. It's years since any man got away from Portland or Moorlands."

"I did not think of waiting until they had sent George to Portland."

"He's in Pentonville now. That's even worse," said young Romilly.

Dunstan took his pipe out of his mouth, and leaned forward.

"Do you remember the case of Robert Lyndon?"

"Y-yes! Yes, of course I do. You mean the man who jumped out of a train and escaped. But that was in Cape Colony, Keith. It could never be done in England."

"I think it could," answered Dunstan, in his downright way. "I'm pretty sure it could, with proper management. The question is, are you game to help?"

"Game to help?" repeated the younger man, almost fiercely. "What do you take me for, Keith?"

Dunstan nodded as if satisfied.

"Very well," he said. "The first thing is to find out to what local prison they will take him to serve his separates; the next to warn him what we mean to do."


"A VISITOR for you, Romilly."

George Romilly, seated on the wooden stool in his Pentonville cell, looked up dully at the warder who had just entered.

It was only forty-eight hours since Judge Stileman had pronounced his sentence, and he was still suffering from the numbing shock of it. He had been fully prepared to take reasonable punishment for the moment of hot passion in which he had struck down and killed the man who had insulted his sweetheart, but never in his worst dreams had he pictured such an awful penalty.

"Come on now! Don't keep me waiting all day," said the warder brusquely.

Without a word Romilly got up and accompanied his guard down the long, echoing corridor, through double gates of shining steel, across the yard, and so to the visitor's room, where a lawyer-like person in a black morning coat stood by the bare deal table, on which he had already deposited his silk hat, his gloves, and a small cowhide bag.

"Good-day, Mr. Romilly," he said quietly.

And at sound of his voice George Romilly started slightly. Then, catching the other's eye, he controlled himself.

"I am Mr. Brunton," said the lawyer, "of the firm of Gage & Brunton. I am asked by your brother to bring this power of attorney for you to sign on his behalf, so that he may be able to administer your affairs during your imprisonment."

He spoke in a cold, dry tone, which somehow helped Romilly greatly to pull himself together. For at the first sound of his voice the latter had recognised his visitor under his disguise as no other than Keith Dunstan.

"Will that suit you, Mr. Romilly?" continued the self-styled Mr. Brunton.

"Yes," answered George, controlling his voice with an effort. "Will you thank him, please, from me."

Dunstan took a legal-looking document from a long envelope, and began to spread it out on the table. He turned to the warder.

"Officer," he said politely, "I have permission from the governor for Mr. Romilly to sign this. Would you wish to see it in order to satisfy yourself that all is right?"

"That is unnecessary, sir," answered the warder. "All I shall ask you to do is to stand clear while the prisoner writes."

"Very well," said Dunstan, as he stood aside. "Mr. Romilly, here is a fountain pen, and you will find the place where you append your signature marked in pencil."

Romilly's heart was beating hard as he took his seat at the table. What was in the wind he did not know, but he was certain that Keith would not have donned this disguise without good reason.

"You had better read the document through carefully before signing it," said Dunstan, in his driest tone. "It will be as well to see if any alteration is needed, so that it can be done before you are removed to another prison."

There was silence while Romilly read the document. At first sight it seemed to be the ordinary form of power of attorney, but Romilly was already prepared to find something below the surface, and he was not disappointed.

The first thing he discovered were two words traced in the tiniest characters in the ornamental margin. They were, "Burnlip Prison." He realised that they had been written in some chemical ink, which was only now becoming visible, or, perhaps, was already fading away.

Then he found other hidden words, and presently collected the whole message, "You go to Burnlip Prison. Carriage window must be open Middlemoor Tunnel. Distract warder's attention."

That was all, but it was enough to set the blood pounding madly in his veins.

"You feel sure that you fully understand it?"

Dunstan's voice was as dry as ever.

"Quite," answered Romilly steadily.

"Then please sign it and pass it back to me."

With a violent effort Romilly managed to steady his hand as he wrote his name beneath, and his own powers of self-control fairly astonished him as he thanked "Mr. Brunton" for his kindness, and bade him good-bye.

A few minutes later he was back in his cell. But now he was no longer a prey to dull despair. His apathy was replaced by a painful excitement, and for the rest of the day, and far into the night, his brain was busy with Dunstan's mysterious message.


MANY useful reforms have been made of late in our prison system. But one cruel abuse remains unaltered. It is the fashion of marching prisoners in prison dress and in handcuffs from the Black Maria to the waiting tram.

Early as it was when George Romilly was taken from Pentonville to King's Cross, the platform of the big station was thronged as his warder marched him across to the Burnlip train, and his cheeks flushed painfully under the ordeal of a hundred staring eyes.

But if other eyes watched him with idle curiosity, his, too, were busy. He was hoping—indeed, fully expecting—to catch sight of Dunstan. Dunstan, he felt certain, was going to travel by the same train. If the message meant anything, it meant that an attempt would be made to rescue him during the journey.

But he saw no one who bore the least resemblance either to Keith Dunstan or his brother John, and his heart sank as he found himself inside a third-class compartment in the last carriage of the train.

His warder, Keggs, a dour, middle-aged man, pulled the blinds down, and, opening a morning paper, composed himself in solemn silence for the journey. Dunstan noticed that a guard was careful to lock both doors of the compartment.

It seemed a long time before the train started. Romilly had no newspaper to divert his thoughts, and owing to the drawn blinds, could see nothing that was going on outside. He bitterly contrasted his present state with the last time he had travelled by train. Then he and Madge together had been coming back from a day up the river—a day of such delights as made it almost incredible to think that it was no more than four weeks ago.

How clearly everything rose before his mind's eye. It had been two days later, on the evening of the following Tuesday, that he had called at the Dunstans', and walked right in upon Madge struggling desperately in the embrace of Ashby Sterridge.

Every detail of the scene stood out. Madge's terrified face, Sterridge's coarsely handsome features flushed with rage and passion as he swung round to meet the newcomer.

Romilly could feel again the tingle of rage that thrilled him, and the crash of his fist on Sterridge's jaw. He could see the man reel back, and hear the thud of his head striking the fender.

Well, if it were all to do again he would not act differently. He would be less than a man if he did.

Suddenly he became aware that the train was moving, and his thoughts switched back to the present. Was Dunstan in the train? If so, where? What were his plans?

These and a score of other questions flashed through his brain. Then, with an effort, he controlled himself, and brought his mind back to the message.

The window was to be open while passing through the Middlemoor Tunnel. And, as the train entered it, he was to distract the warder's attention.

At present both windows were closed. The day was warm and sunny, and already the carriage was becoming uncomfortably stuffy; but Keggs, like many of his class, seemed quite unaffected by the heavy atmosphere.

Romilly glanced at the stiff figure of the warder, then at his own steel-locked wrists. He would try diplomacy first, but if that failed—well, even in spite of the handcuffs, he thought he could make things warm for his guardian. At any rate, he was quite in the mood to try it. There would be no hesitation when the time came.

One thing was in his favour. He knew the line. He had often travelled it when on business connected with the firm by which he had been employed. He was aware that the train would not reach the tunnel until after passing Geston Junction, and that was a good hour's run from town.

He settled down with what patience he could muster. Keggs never said a word, but, on the whole, Romilly was inclined to be grateful for his silence.

The sun blazed on the carriage roof, the atmosphere grew positively stifling. But Romilly bore it as best he might. He would wait until they had passed Geston before making his request.

Geston at last! He heard an unseen porter shout the name. Five minutes wait, then the train moved on again.

By this time the heat in the carriage was almost unbearable. Romilly was feeling really faint. He turned to the warder.

"Would you mind, sir, if we had a window down?" he asked politely.

Keggs was the sort who would always rather refuse a favour than grant it. More than that, he cherished an intense dislike for the gentleman lag, and delighted in an opportunity for taking it out of any prisoner whom he could class under this heading.

He scowled at Romilly.

"What's the matter? Do you want the carriage full o' dust?"

"No; all I want is a little fresh air," answered Romilly.

"Fresh air, indeed! They'll learn yon to want fresh air at Burnlip. No, you can't have the window open. Sit still, and don't let me have any more of your lip."

Romilly's blood boiled. All the hot temper which had beep the cause of his original undoing rose within him. He sprang to his feet.

Keggs made a snatch at his truncheon, but Romilly was the quicker. Raising his locked wrists, he brought both fists down on the top of the warder's head with such force that the man collapsed in a heap in his corner, and lay breathing heavily, quite insensible.

"I've done it now," muttered Romilly as he gazed a moment at the prostrate man. "Suppose—suppose they don't come?"

At that moment the whistle shrieked as the engine entered the tunnel. With nervous haste Romilly strode across to the right-hand window. He got it open just as his carriage shot into the clanging darkness. The air, charged as it was with smoke and steam, was grateful after the fierce heat of the closed carriage.

A small gas-jet had been left burning in the roof. By its light he stumbled across and opened the other window.

Keggs had not moved yet.

Middlemoor Tunnel is two miles in length. The gradient to the centre is heavy, and the train takes nearly five minutes to pass through it.

A minute passed, and nothing happened. Romilly's position was a terrible one. Handcuffed as he was, he could do nothing to help himself. If outside help did not come, he would be called to account for his assault on Keggs, and, apart from an increase of sentence, he had already seen enough of prison life to be well aware of the lot of the convict who assaults his warders.


"GEORGE! George!"

The voice came from the right hand window. Swinging round, Romilly saw the head and shoulders of a man inside the carriage—of a man whom at first he could not recognise. He had the appearance of a stout drover or farmer, with his mutton-chop whiskers, low collar, and flat cravat with a huge scarf-pin in it.

Whoever he was, he was at any rate remarkably active, for almost before George Romilly had reached him he was inside the carriage.

A quick exclamation escaped him as he saw the warder lying unconscious in the corner.

"Jove, you've distracted his attention with a vengeance!" he said drily.

"You, Keith?" gasped Romilly, recognising the other's voice.

"I passed within a yard of you at King's Cross, and you never spotted me," returned Dunstan.

"What—" began Romilly; but Dunstan cut him short.

"No questions. Off with those clothes—quick as ever you can shed them!"

Romilly obeyed instantly. Keith Dunstan had that quality of making others do his will without question.

Dunstan stepped across to Keggs, and examined him quickly.

"He'll be all right for the present," he said, in a tone of relief. "If he comes to we must gag him."

Then he flung off his coat, revealing the fact that he was wearing another beneath it.

"Good dodge, eh?" he said, with a low chuckle. "Yes, I've two of everything, and as you're a bit bigger than me the outer lot will just about fit you."

"But what about getting out of this?" asked Romilly anxiously as he rapidly set about putting on the clothes which the other flung across to him. "What about that? We shall be at Meraton in a few minutes."

"Steady, George! Don't panic. John and I have got it all cut and dried. There's no reason why anyone should disturb us at Meraton. Anyhow, we'll have to chance that. We'll keep the blinds down. We've a car waiting at Dunnabridge."

"Dunnabridge! Why not at Meraton?"

"Why, you juggins, we can't be seen leaving this carriage. It would give the whole show away. It's the Narracott Tunnel I'm counting on to give us our chance."

He paused, and glanced sharply at the other.

"Are you going to try the footboard, like I did?"

"I'm game for anything except Burnlip," answered Romilly steadily.

Dunstan nodded slightly, and at that moment the train began to slow into Meraton Station.

Dunstan had already closed both windows and pulled the blinds down. He glanced round to see that there was no sign of his unceremonious entrance, and as he did so Keggs suddenly grunted and moved.

In a flash both men were on him, and Dunstan had thrust a handkerchief into his mouth and over his eyes.

"Hold him tight!" he hissed across to Romilly.

The train came to a stop.

"Meraton! Change for Grimstead, Harbord and Weatley!" came the sing-song voice of a porter.

There were steps outside. Keggs, coming to himself, began to struggle hard. He was a powerful man, and it was all that Romilly and Dunstan could do between them to hold him and keep him from crying out.

Would the train never move?

Someone stopped outside the carriage. The handle turned. Romilly's heart was in his mouth. For the moment he had forgotten that the door was locked.

"No, sir. You can't get in there. It's reserved," came another voice. There was a disappointed growl and the steps moved on.

Romilly was almost sick with suspense before the train gave a jerk and pulled slowly out. Not until it was running at full speed did he dare to change his grip on Keggs.

It was Dunstan who acted first. He slipped a bottle from his pocket, pulled the stopper with his teeth, and poured a small quantity of the contents on to the handkerchief.

The sickly odour of chloroform filled the carriage.

For a few moments the warder fought hard. But the others held him relentlessly, and after a time his struggles ceased, and his body went limp.

"Had to do it," muttered Dunstan regretfully, as he turned and pulled the window down. It was time, too, for both he and Romilly were feeling the effects of the fumes.

"Hadn't we better tie him?" said Romilly.

"No. He's safe for a quarter of an hour, and before that it'll be settled one way or the other."

As he spoke the train dashed with a roar into the darkness of Narracott Tunnel.

Dunstan sprang to the far window.

"Come, George! You go first. I'll help you out." Romilly scrambled nimbly through the window and dropped on to the footboard outside.

"The next compartment behind," said Dunstan in his ear. "Hold tight, George! John will help you."

The rush of air nearly tore Romilly from his hold. For a moment his brain reeled. Prison food and close confinement, to say nothing of the tension of the last few minutes, had unnerved him.

For the moment he clung, helpless, feeling it impossible to move.

"Get on!" said Dunstan fiercely. "Get on, man! Don't be a coward!"

The insult braced Romilly to instant action. Groping in the roaring, smoke-filled blackness, he grasped for the next window, found it, and instantly was in the grip of two strong hands, and dragged to safety by his brother.

Once inside the compartment, he collapsed, and fell in a heap on the floor.

"Poor old chap!" said Dunstan as he followed through the window. "Got that brandy, John?"

John Romilly had already pulled a flask out of his pocket.

"What about the warder, Keith?" he asked anxiously as he put the flask to his brother's lips.

"Safe for another ten minutes," answered Dunstan curtly. "Couldn't wait to tie him."

John Romilly glanced at his watch.

"We're due at Dunnabridge in ten minutes."

"Then let's pray hard that we're not late," said Dunstan in his driest tone.

The brandy pulled George round. He opened his eyes and saw Dunstan bending over him.

"What do you mean by calling me a coward?" he demanded.

"It was the only way," Dunstan answered.

George Romilly nodded.

"I suppose it was," he said; then, after a pause: "What now?"

"Sit tight till we get to Dunnabridge."

The next ten minutes seemed to stretch to an hour. The train crawled. Of the three men in the carriage Dunstan was the only one who did not appear to feel the suspense.

The train began to slow.

"Here's Dunnabridge!" muttered John.

The train came to a standstill. John sprang to his feet.

"Steady! We're not on the platform yet," said Dunstan.

"It's the warder! He's pulled the cord!" gasped John.

"Nonsense! It's only a signal against us," retorted Dunstan, glancing out of the window.

One minute passed—two. Even Dunstan's iron nerve was hardly proof against the strain.

At last a jerk, and the train moved on.

"There's the car!" said John, grasping the door handle.

"Go slow," said Dunstan. "Wait till the train has stopped. Don't hurry, whatever you do. I'll go first, and you two follow me."

As deliberately as though he were indeed the stout farmer whose disguise he wore, Dunstan stepped out on to the platform.

"No, no luggage," he said to an inquiring porter. And then to the others:

"Come on, you chaps! Don't be all day!"

Without haste, but without loitering, he walked calmly across the platform to the exit.

"Tickets, please!" said the collector.

"Three," replied Dunstan, as he handed them over, and paused a moment.

"How far is it to Wayford?" he asked.

"Seven miles, sir. Turn to the left when you're out of the village."

At this moment there was a sudden commotion on the platform.

Dunstan turned deliberately.

"Hallo! What's up?" he asked.

"Don't know, sir. Someone taken ill, I think," answered the collector.

"Oh, well, I suppose we can't help. Come along, you chaps."

He led the way to the car, and got beside the driver. The two Romillys, inspired by his example, managed not to show hurry in climbing in behind.

"All right!" said Dunstan. The driver, Dunstan's own servant, put in the first gear. "Slow at first," whispered Dunstan in his ear. "Don't hurry till you're clear of the village."

The car glided away, at a steady pace. Dunstan did not look back. Yet even he felt a difficulty in breathing until they were round the comer and out of sight of the station.

Just beyond the village the road forked.

"The right, Berry!" said Dunstan. "And let her out!"

As the car shot forward, a cloud of white dust rolling behind it, he turned to the others.

"I told you it could be done, John," he said; and there was just the faintest note of triumph in his voice.


THE rabbit was youthful and tender, and Luke Granger, known to his immediate circle of acquaintances as "Lucky Luke," had tasted nothing half so good for many months. He finished the last toothsome morsel, and being a neat-minded man, collected the bones and dropped them down into a crack between two granite boulders. Then he leaned back with a satisfied sigh.

"If I only had a pipe and a ounce of shag, I wouldn't change places wi' the king on his throne," he remarked softly to himself, as he watched the early summer sunshine filter down through the gently swaying beech leaves overhead.

A rash statement on the face of it, for though the marks of Government ownership on his breeches and gaiters had been largely obliterated by a thick coating of peat-mud collected from half-a-dozen different upland bogs, yet their cut and the extreme shortness of Mr. Granger's hair, to say nothing of the thick, black stubble on chin and upper lip, were enough to arouse strong suspicion in the mind of any casual observer that their owner had recently taken French leave from the unbeautiful but very necessary block of buildings lying some five miles to the north-west of the spot where the gentleman in question was reclining.

Such was, in fact, the case. Some twelve months earlier, Lucky Luke had so far belied his name as to get caught by a water-bailiff in the act of helping himself to a net full of trout and grayling on a stretch of river where the usual methods employed, even by authorised anglers, are rod and line.

The bailiff was inconsiderate enough to wish to take Luke before the nearest magistrate. Luke not unnaturally had objected to this proceeding, and in the course of these objections, the bailiff got so seriously damaged that he spent the next three months in hospital.

Alas for Luke! Just as he thought he was safe, a keeper appeared on the scene, gun in hand, and Luke was, after all, obliged to pay the call which he had trusted to avoid.

It was not a first offence, and at the assizes the judge took so serious a view of it, that Unlucky Luke was sentenced to five years' penal servitude.

The restrictions that prevailed at such an establishment as Moorlands could hardly be anything but galling to a person of Luke's temperament, and he very soon made up his mind to "do a bunk" at the first available opportunity.

An opportunity which, owing to the caution of his guardians, had never arrived until the previous evening, when, under cover of a sudden and violent thunderstorm, Luke had managed to leap a wall and, in the hissing torrents of hail, to elude the unwelcome attentions of the mounted civil guard.

Once away, the "screws" had precious little chance of catching the fugitive. Country born and bred, and accustomed from childhood to creep, silent as a stoat, through thick coverts, and to take advantage of every molehill for shelter, nothing short of blood-hounds could have run Luke down in the darkness and storm.

Instead of following the example of most escaped convicts, and making for the big port of Tarnmouth, Luke had turned inland, preferring to take his chance among the great woods and coverts that overhang the River Arrow.

Here he had soon found a refuge, a small cave under an overhanging slab of granite. A bundle of bracken made an excellent bed, and there he had slept like a child for eight solid hours, to wake at dawn feeling fresh and fit, and furiously hungry.

To one of Luke's experience, the snaring of a rabbit was but a matter of a quarter of an hour's patience, and boldly lighting a fire of dry sticks, he had roasted the bunny and made as savoury a breakfast as his heart could desire.

Now, as we have said, his longing was tobacco. After a year's abstinence from the fragrant weed, his passion for a smoke exceeded even his desire for a change to some attire more suitable to face his fellow men than his present tell-tale costume.

"I'll have a smoke if I'm jugged for it!" said Luke to himself, and rising, stretched his sturdy limbs; then, being a cautious man, climbed a tree from which he could get a view of the neighbouring moor.

Nothing living was in sight except a few ragged-looking ponies and some hill sheep, and Luke's expression had a touch of scorn as he returned to firm ground.

"A fellow as couldn't fool a screw, didn't ought to be loose!" he observed. "I'll lay the whole bunch of 'em is lining the roads over Tarnmouth side. They wouldn't risk their blooming necks on ground like this."

There was some justification for Luke's remarks, for as he made his way down the precipitous hill towards the river, he was forced to swing from one tree to another in order to keep his feet. The ground was one amazing tangle of rocks and roots.

As he neared the river his sense of smell, sharpened by long abstinence, detected a faint odour of tobacco smoke. He stiffened in his tracks, and stood motionless as one of the lichened oaks around him.

From behind the tangle of bracken and foliage he could hear the Arrow talking softly among her many rocks.

All of a sudden, his ears pricked up like those of an old war-horse that hears the distant sound of a bugle. Above the hoarse murmur of the river came a faint but unmistakable swishing sound.

"Some blighter fishing," remarked Luke to himself, and crawling forward with the stealth of a poaching cat, parted the bushes gently, and saw, standing on a rock immediately below his perch, a stoutish, middle-aged gentleman in knickers and Norfolk jacket.

He had a pipe in his mouth, a creel on his back, a ten-foot trout rod in his right hand, and was casting with no great skill in a deep pool below a small waterfall.

Luke's leathery face assumed a look of disgust.

"Sufferin' cats, what's he playing at!" he growled inaudibly, as he saw the flies drop heavily upon the frothy surface, while the gut cast sagged in an uneven semi-circle. "He can't fish for nuts! Laws, I wish I had that rod in my hand, and his pipe in my mouth!"

The man below was in the act of raising his rod-point, presumably to cast again, when suddenly the black pool boiled, and out of the depths a mighty form rose with a great swirl, showing a gleam of silver side.

With a gasp, the angler struck.

Had it not been that his whole cast hung loose on the surface, he would infallibly have pulled the fly clean out of the fish's mouth. As it was, duffer's luck held good, and the trout fly went home in the jaw of a twelve-pound salmon.

The instant the great fish felt the smart, he spun round, and made for the far side of the pool at a speed which brought the line screaming off the reel.

The fisherman appeared to be almost paralysed at the utterly unexpected capture. He stood helplessly on his rock without making any attempt either to follow the fish or to recover his line.

If the salmon had gone straight down stream the tackle must have been smashed on the instant, but for reasons best known to himself, the fish, having rammed his nose into the rocks on the far side, came rushing back as fast as he had gone.

Luke could bear it no longer. In another moment there would be twenty yards of line dragging loose in the pool, and the fish would be off.

Throwing caution to the winds, he came leaping down the bank, his hobnails ringing sharp upon the granite.

"Keep your point up!" he bellowed. "Reel up, or you'll lose him, sure as a gun!"

The man with the rod betrayed no surprise at the astonishing apparition from nowhere in particular. But somehow Luke's imperative tones penetrated his bewildered brain, and instinctively he obeyed his orders.

Up went his rod-point, and he began to reel like mad. The fish, which had now headed up stream, apparently with the intention of going slap up the fall, felt the line tighten, and at once shot out of the water in a terrifying leap, showing his whole splendid length agleam like a bar of molten silver in the strong morning sunlight.

"Drop your point!" shouted Luke. "Drop it, or he'll break you!"

"I thought you told me to keep it up!" gasped the other.

"Not when he jumps, you juggins! Didn't you never play a salmon before?"

"Never! Oh, what's he after now?" As the fish went scudding away in the opposite direction.

"After him!" cried Luke. "He's going down stream. Look slippy, now. You want to keep below him."

The Arrow at this particular point has banks which rise almost perpendicularly to anything from ten to thirty feet above the water, and are covered from top to bottom with a tangle of tropical luxuriance. The only way to follow the fish as he rushed down stream at express speed was by a series of leaps from one slippery rock to another.

In his excitement, the angler forgot his fourteen stone, and performed feats of agility which would not have disgraced a mountain goat.

But even so the fish went faster, and more and more line was ripped off the reel until perilously little reserve remained.

Then came a wider gap than any yet. The fisherman did not hesitate, but the task was beyond his powers. He fell short, and dropped waist deep, striking his chest against the further rock with a force that knocked the wind from his body and the rod from his hand.

Luke caught it as it dropped, and, without waiting to give the other even a glance, went bounding down stream, travelling across the slippery, water-worn rocks with amazing certainty and skill.

The owner of the rod recovered his breath, clambered out dripping and gasping, and struggled pluckily in Luke's wake.

When he got up he found that Luke had secured a commanding position on a ledge of rock at the lower end of a good-sized pool.

Rod point well raised, he was rapidly reeling in the lost line, while the salmon, still quite fresh, cruised heavily round and round in the deep water above.

"Keep him where he is. Don't let him get down if you can help it," said Luke, as he handed the rod back to its owner.

"I'm awfully obliged to you," said the latter breathlessly.

"Keep your thanks till you've got your fish," returned Luke grimly.

The salmon soon tired of its aimless circles, and made a furious rush up-stream again.

"Give him the butt!" cried Luke sharply, as the fish headed into the swift stickle at the head of the pool. "Not too hard; your tackle ain't strong enough. That's right. Keep him in the rough water. That'll tire him sooner than anything."

Apparently the big fish realised this fact as keenly as Luke did, for presently he turned tail and came down the pool at such a rate that the line cut a feather of spray as it ripped through the water.

"Reel up, reel up!" bellowed Luke, fairly hopping with excitement.

The other did his best, but the drum of a trout reel is small, and before he could get back half the line the fish had shot past almost under their feet, and was coursing madly down a series of broad, swift, rock-strewn stickles, while the line shrieked off the reel again with appalling speed.

Luke saw that disaster was a matter of seconds only, and snatching the rod from its owner's hands, leaped waist-deep off the ledge and struggled away in pursuit.

It seemed a miracle that he kept his feet on the loose boulders at the bottom. But he did it, and, gaining the shallows beyond, sprang out on a shelf to the right and ran hard in chase.

Fast as he went, the fish went faster still, and the reel drum was showing bare through the thinning coils of line when the salmon, reaching a third pool, fortunately decided to take a breathing spell.

"Jumpin' Jehosaphat!" growled Luke, as he caught sight of a four-foot fall at the bottom of the pool. "If he'd ha' gone over that it would ha' been all up."

He got the fish well in hand again when the rod owner arrived, very short of breath and perspiring profusely. Luke, with true sportsmanlike spirit, handed back the rod.

He pointed to the fall.

"See that, mister? If he goes over there you're snookered. There ain't no two ways about it."

"B-but how shall I stop him?" stammered the other. "I daren't put any strain on with this light tackle."

"Hold him tight, and trust to luck," replied Luke. "He ain't as fresh as he was."

To the other, however, the big fish showed no signs of fatigue. He was boring vigorously in the rough water at the head of the pool, showing strong symptoms of wishing to head upwards again. The light split-cane rod bent like a bow under the powerful strain.

Then he changed his mind, and, like a flash, was back in the centre of the pool, jumping wildly and shaking his head in a frantic effort to rid himself of the sharp barb in his upper lip.

"He won't last at that game very long," said Luke, with his eyes fixed on the struggling salmon. "Pity we ain't got no gaff."

"We shall never land him without one," groaned the angler.

"We'll have to tail him," replied Luke coolly, as he glanced keenly round in search of a suitable spot.

"See that bit of shingle opposite?" he continued rapidly. "That's the spot. Look here! The water ain't deep along the lip of the pool. You wade across, and work him up in the shallow alongside that bank. If you can do that, I'll have him out like winking."

The other nodded, and stepped boldly into the water.

It was at this critical moment that the salmon chose to charge straight down the pool.

The man with the rod gave a yell of dismay.

It certainly seemed that all was lost, for it was humanly impossible to get in the loose line in time; and once over the fall, the mere weight of the big fish must snap the fine cast like cotton.

Luke acted like a flash.

With one jump he reached the man in the water, snatched the landing net which hung by a clip to his creel strap, and thrust it down exactly in the path of the charging fish.

There was a sharp crack as the handle of the frail thing snapped like a carrot, but before the fish could extricate his head from the tangling meshes, Luke had him by the tail in a grip of iron.

A moment of terrific splashing and struggling, then Luke lifted the silvery beauty clear of the water, and, with one great swing, flung him well out on to the shingle beyond.

"'Pon by soul, but that's the smartest thing I ever saw in my life!" exclaimed the overjoyed angler, as he picked up the fish and rapped its head against a rock to kill it. "I'm more than grateful to you."

He turned to his assistant, and, for the first time since their meeting, took in the details of his appearance. The water had removed most of the peat which had covered Luke's garments, and the black broad arrows stood out with startling clearness on the coarse fustian. His expression changed with comical suddenness.

"Good lord!" he muttered. "Why, you're a convict!"

"Was yesterday, guv'nor," corrected Luke mildly. "You mean you've escaped?"

"That's about it," admitted Luke. "Are ye going to give me up, guv'nor?"

The other stared at him a moment.

"It strikes me," he said slowly, "that talents like yours are wasted in Moorlands. No, I'm not going to give you up."

"It don't make much odds, guv'nor," answered Luke. "I'm bound to be copped sooner or later. This here kit kind of gives one away."

"It does," said the fisherman drily, as he looked Luke up and down. "So the sooner you get out of it the better. All the same, if I give you a change of clothes, I'm breaking the law and letting myself in for all kinds of penalties."

"Suppose I took it, sir?" suggested Luke slily.

The other laughed outright.

"In that case, of course, I could not be blamed," he said. "Look here, do you see those trees just up the hill?"

Luke nodded.

"There's a tent under them, and on the tent pole hangs an old suit of grey flannels. You understand?" Luke hesitated.

"Well?" said the other.

"There don't 'appen to be a pipe in it, guv'nor?" said Luke insinuatingly. "So 'elp me, I haven't had a smoke for a year."

An expression of real compassion crossed the fisherman's face. He took his own pipe and pouch from his pocket and handed them over.

"Gor' bless ye, sir!" said Luke, and was gone.


DR. JOHN KEMPSON, P.M.O. of Moorlands Prison, threw himself back in his chair and burst into a peal of laughter. It was a whole-hearted, cheery, infectious laugh, but Captain Basil Colvin, deputy-governor of the same prison, who occupied the armchair opposite Kempson, on the opposite side of the fire, did not join in it. He sat bolt upright, with a rather hurt expression on his square, good-humoured face.

Kempson saw the look, and did his best to pull himself together.

"I—I beg your pardon, old man," he said at last, as he drew out his handkerchief and wiped the tears of mirth from his eyes. "I beg your pardon, but I couldn't help it. It's so dashed funny!"

"You'd not think it funny if you were in my shoes," returned Colvin with a grimness which would hardly have been expected of him. "Funny, indeed! Why, my life is not worth living so long as that woman is in the house."

Kempson regarded him with eyes from which the laughter had all disappeared. He had known Colvin for nearly two years, and liked him well. The deputy, indeed, had spent much of his scanty leisure in the company of Kempson and of his pretty sister Cicely. Yet Kempson, though he had fancied that Miss Selina Clamp must be a bit of a trial, had never until this evening heard Colvin say anything against her.

"But can't you pension her off, Colvin?" he asked. "Surely a lady of her age would be happier in Balham or Clapham than in a God-forsaken place like this on top of the moor."

"There's no need to pension her off," replied Colvin. "She has a very comfortable little income of her own. And I have hinted time and again that it would be far better for her to have a house of her own."

"Then why won't she do it?"

"Because she has bossed me all my life, and it has become second nature to continue it. My mother died when I was six. Aunt Selina came and took charge, and she has been in charge ever since. Even when I was in the Army, she invariably came and lived near barracks. I used to get the life chaffed out of me by the other men.

"But it was not so bad in those days," he continued. "My duties kept me out and about. Here, where I am tied to the prison almost as closely as one of the prisoners, I simply can't get away from her. Why, man, I cannot even ask my own friends to the house without first consulting her. Only the other day she was actually rude to one of the directors when I brought him in unexpectedly to lunch. Vowed there was nothing but cold mutton, and made us eat it, too, by gad!

"She's queered me with half the Visiting Board as well, and of late has even taken to objecting to my going out in the evenings. I can hardly accept an invitation to dinner, and—hang it all—I don't get many!"

Kempson regarded his friend with real commiseration.

"It strikes me, Colvin, that the only thing you can do is to get married."

To his surprise, for he had never regarded Colvin as a marrying man, the latter turned pink under his tan.

"How the devil can I?" he answered vehemently. "She watches me like a hen with one chicken. What chance do I get?"

Kempson stroked his shaven chin.

"I'm blessed if I know what to suggest. Only wish I could think of something. 'Pon my soul, Colvin, you're worse off than Sinbad the Sailor. His Old Man of the Sea was not a woman, at any rate."

Just then the clock on the mantel began to chime the hour. Colvin knocked out his pipe and rose.

"You're not going yet?" remonstrated Kempson. "It's only eleven."

"I must," replied Colvin ruefully. "Aunt Selina always sits up for me."

"Good lord!" ejaculated the doctor.

"Yes, always," repeated Colvin. "Why, bless you, even when I go my night rounds, I find her waiting up to give me cocoa or some filth. I have to keep whisky-and-soda in my bedroom if I want a drink."

Kempson's lips pursed in a low whistle.

"If that isn't the holy limit!" he muttered. "But buck up, old chap!" he added more cheerfully. "She can't live for ever. Anyhow, I'll put on my thinking-cap, and if I can devise any way of getting rid of her, why, I'll let you know. So long, then, if you must go."

After seeing his friend out—it was only a few steps from one house to the other—John Kempson went back to the smoking-room, filled another pipe, and lit it. Presently the door opened softly, and in stole a slim figure in a soft pink dressing-gown.

"You, Cicely?" exclaimed her brother, glancing up. "I thought you were in bed ages ago."

"I'm afraid I have been reading," replied Cicely with a smile on her charming little face. "Jack, what were you laughing about just now?"

"Ha, I wondered if you'd hear, Cis. Sit down, you inquisitive little witch, and I'll tell you."

Cicely heard him to the end in silence. Then she nodded her small head wisely.

"Yes," she said slowly. "I knew most of that already, Jack. It was horrid of you to laugh."

"Bless my soul, Cis, I didn't do any laughing when Colvin really explained things. It's too darned tragic."

Cicely nodded again.

"It is. And the worst of it is that it's just Captain Colvin's niceness that makes it so bad for him. You see, he feels that the old thing looked after him when he was small, and that it would be ungrateful on his part if he turned her out."

Kempson made a grunting sound.

"I know I wouldn't waste much time about getting rid of her if I were in his shoes," he declared.

"No more would I," agreed the girl earnestly. "She gets worse every day, and leads him a terrible life. I do believe she thinks that he is nothing but a boy still, instead of a man of nearly thirty-five."

"Thirty-five, is he? He doesn't look it. I say, Cis, he's a good chap. I wish we could help him out."

"Just what I was thinking," chimed in Cicely with unexpected warmth.

"Couldn't we scare her?" suggested Kempson. "Work a burglar dodge on her, or buy a peck of fleas, like those young officers did who wanted to kick out an unpopular sub?"

"Don't be nasty, Jack," said Cicely severely.

"Well, isn't there something she's afraid of?" asked her brother.

Cicely cocked her head on one side, like a wise sparrow.

"I'll tell you what. She is awfully frightened of convicts. When they have any in for chimney-sweeping, or that sort of thing, she always shuts herself up in her room and locks the door."

Kempson's eyes brightened.

"Good egg, Cis! What price dressing up as a lag—something like that ugly beggar, Gotch, for instance—and breaking into the house in the middle of the night? I don't believe she'd stay long after that."

Cicely shook her head regretfully.

"No, Jack; it couldn't be done. Not by you, at any rate. If you were found out, you would get into terrible trouble. Colonel Peyton would never forgive anything of that sort. He has no sense of humour, poor dear!"

"I suppose you're right," said Kempson. "Well, think hard, Cis, and try to devise some means for getting rid of the incubus. As I've said already, Colvin is much too good a chap to have to put up with Selina Clamp for the rest of his days, or hers.

"And now get off to bed, my dear," he added. "It's nearly twelve, and breakfast is eight sharp."

* * * * *

Rule 121 of the Statutory Rules and Orders of English convict prisons runs as follows:

"The governor and the deputy-governor shall each, at least once during the week, go through every part of the prison at an uncertain hour of the night."

It was with a malice quite foreign to his usually serene temper that Colvin, on the Thursday night following his conversation with Kempson, chose one in the morning for starting on his weekly surprise visit. Aunt Selina had been, if possible, more trying than ever during the past two days, and it was with a grim desire to get a little of his own back that Colvin spoilt his own night's rest by waiting till such an unholy hour. If the old lady was going to make him drink cocoa on his return, she herself would get precious little sleep.

Sure enough, there she was in the hall-way, gaunt, leathery of face, and wrapped in a snuff-coloured dressing-gown, insisting querulously on his putting on a heavier overcoat than the one he was already wearing, and trying to enforce his wearing goloshes over his stout shooting-boots.

Outside, it was a night of such blackness as can only be produced by a thick moor fog combined with an absence of moon. It was cold, too, and Colvin shivered slightly as he tramped across the gravel of the great circular yard.

Arriving at the door of Hall A, he used his electric lamp to select a key from the bunch which hung from a steel chain fastened around his waist. The heavy door swung back and was re-locked; then he opened the iron gate inside and passed into the dim-lit corridor within.

A drowsy warder saluted.

"All correct, sir," he said, using the usual prison formula.

And, alone, the deputy passed up the stone stairs to the first landing.

He stopped a moment at the head of the stairs. Everything was very quiet. The only sounds were the snores of some of the sleepers, which, owing to the fact that cell-doors do not reach the floor by a matter of ten inches, were more audible than they would otherwise have been.

He walked slowly along the cement-floored corridor, was saluted for a second time by the warder in charge of the landing, and ascended again to the upper regions.

Here, as he paced along past endless doors, each exactly resembling the last, he caught a sound which resembled, not a snore, but a groan. He paused and listened again. There was no doubt about it; it was a groan—a low, moaning sound as of someone in great pain.

It came from the cell numbered 67, and, lifting the trap of the "Judas"—the spy-hole by means of which the warder in charge can watch the inmate of any cell.—he looked through. The only light within the cell was that which penetrated from the passage through the glass lantern in the wall by the door, and that was very little. But, so far as he could make out, the head of the man in the cot opposite was covered with his blankets.

Colvin did not pause to consider who was the inmate of No. 67. Whoever it was, he was suffering, and the deputy's great popularity all through the prison was due to the fact that his heart had never hardened to any real pain or trouble. Selecting a pass-key from the bunch, he at once unlocked the door and went in.

Two steps he took; then, without the slightest warning, the heavy folds of a blanket dropped over his head, and a pair of enormously powerful arms gripped him and bore him down.

"Keep quiet!" came a fierce whisper through the suffocating folds. "Keep quiet or I'll blooming well break your blooming neck!"

Colvin did struggle, but what was the use? He was blinded and choked, while the pressure of the brawny arms came near to crack his ribs. His lungs ached, bright sparks danced before his eyes. His efforts to free himself only made matters worse. Presently he dropped limply to the floor.

Cautiously, Mr. Jeremiah Gotch removed the blanket.

"Tain't as if I wanted to out the blighter!" he muttered gruffly, as he bent over the prostrate deputy.

Having satisfied himself that the other was actually unconscious, he lifted him in his great arms and laid him on the cot. Then, with a speed of which his thick frame and blunt fingers seemed hardly capable, he stripped off Captain Colvin's hat, muffler, overcoat, and boots, and proceeded with equal rapidity to invest himself in these garments.

Next, he detached the keys from the deputy's belt, and ran through all his pockets. He grunted disgustedly as he found merely a few shillings in the trousers pockets, but his small eyes gleamed as he raided a pipe and a well-filled pouch of tobacco.

For a moment he leaned over the still insensible man.

"Wish I'd got a whiff o' dope," he muttered, "but I reckon he'll last. Ay, I've time enough to get clear."

At the door he stopped and listened. There was no sound of anyone moving. He went straight out, locked the door deliberately behind him, and, without hurrying, walked to the stairs.

"So dam' easy!" he said to himself, with a soundless chuckle. "Wonder as no one's thought of it afore." And then, a little uneasily: "'Ope I ain't 'urt the blighter! 'E ain't a bad sort, even if 'e is the bloomin' deppity!"

It was, as he had said, "dam' easy." Gotch was about the same height as Captain Colvin, and the long, thick overcoat hid his heavier build, while the soft hat was equally efficacious in concealing his close-cropped skull. He had only to keep his head, and not hurry, and in this, though the strain was somewhat severe, he succeeded admirably.

The worst moment came when he had to unlock the outer gate, for he was not absolutely certain of the key, and was in terror lest the warder might bring a light, which would probably be fatal. But luck was kind. He struck the right key, and as he gave a gruff good-night and walked out into the foggy blackness, he could have laughed outright.

He made direct for the deputy's house. It was, he knew, his only way out. He knew his way; could have found it blindfold. This was Mr. Jerry Gotch's third lagging, and being a handy man he had swept chimneys, beaten carpets, and painted woodwork in every official residence belonging to Moorlands Prison. He was at least as familiar with Captain Colvin's temporary home as was that gentleman himself.

As he had fully expected, the side door, the one opening into the prison yard, was not locked. He went straight in, along a short passage, up four steps, and found himself in another passage which ran the whole length of the house and into which the front hall opened. This passage was lit by a single gas-jet turned very low, and giving little more than light enough to make the darkness visible.

Most men in his shoes would not have wasted one unnecessary moment in making their way out by the front door. Not so Mr. Gotch. The four shillings and ninepence, which was all that he had found in Captain Colvin's pockets, was barely a quarter of the price of a ticket to London. He must have more, and with that object in view made for the little smoking-room which opened out on the left of the passage, exactly opposite to the door of the dining-room.

He had not gone three steps before he stopped short, and in spite of his self-control a gasp of amazement escaped his lips. For he was not alone. By the dining-room, with one hand actually on the handle, stood a man. Gotch's eyes goggled as he stared at this figure. Incredible as it seemed, it was another lag who was standing there.

Yes, a lag with no shadow of disguise about him. Dim as was the light, Gotch could see the wide stripes on his slop, his canvas breeches, loose gaiters, and the Glengarry on his head. A very small man he was, short and slight, and, so far as he knew, Gotch had never seen him before.

Gotch rubbed his eyes and stared again. He was beat, utterly beat. How in the name of sense had this fellow done a bunk?

The problem was beyond any solution. But there he was, and Gotch realised that, above all things, he must not frighten him. If the other took fright and bolted, or attacked him, the game was blown on.

The very urgency of the situation braced him. He advanced cautiously a few steps.

"St!" he whispered. "St! 'Arf a mo!"

The little man by the dining-room door turned swiftly, and, catching sight of the bulky figure so close at his heels, gave a horrified cry, flung open the door, and bolted into the room.

As the door opened a gush of bright light was flung out into the passage, and there followed a scream, or, rather, a squawk indicative of extreme alarm. Then the door was slammed to, but did not drown a succession of hysterical shrieks.

"Crikey, it's the old gal!" muttered Gotch. "She'll raise the bloomin' 'ouse!"

At all costs that noise had to be stopped at once. With two jumps he was inside the room. Convict number two was gone. The door beyond, leading to the back regions, was open, plainly indicating his line of flight. In an armchair between the table and the fire sat, or rather lay, Miss Selina Clamp. Her legs were straight out, her head thrown back, her eyes closed; her mouth was wide open, and from between her double set of false teeth proceeded sounds of the most harrowing description—sounds, as Gotch said afterwards, which made him think of "a 'ole poultry-yard a 'aving 'isterics all at once."

"Stop it!" ordered Gotch, in a tone of concentrated fury. "'Old your row, or I'll 'old it for you!"

Miss Clamp opened her eyes, glared glassily at the second intruder, half rose in her chair, then seeing the bristle-clad face of Mr. Gotch beneath her nephew's hat, gave vent to a scream louder and more lamentable than any yet, and dropped back in a dead faint.

"That's done it!" growled Gotch. "That's done it!" He stopped and listened for a moment.

It had. There were sounds of movement upstairs. Clearly the maids were aroused. There was nothing for it but instant flight, and, filled with a burning indignation against the scheme of things in general, and Miss Selina Clamp in particular, Gotch hastened through the door into the pantry beyond, and closed it carefully behind him.

Thence he darted into the kitchen. The back door opened, he knew, into the kitchen-garden, which lay outside the main wall of the prison. Beyond was a low wall, easily to be climbed, and once on the other side only a field lay between him and the big plantation.

There was a stodgy-looking cake standing on the white deal table in the kitchen. He stopped just long enough to hew off a mighty hunk and thrust it into his pocket. Then he made for the door.

To his horror, it was locked—locked apparently from the outside, for there was no key visible.

Mr. Gotch got a very ugly shock. For the first time since his escape he became rattled. He darted to the window. But this, like all the lower storey windows of these old-fashioned houses, was barred. There was no chance of squeezing his stout figure between the bars.

There was only one exit left—the front door. With the utmost speed and silence, he retraced his steps. Miss Clamp still lay unbeautifully where he had left her. She was still insensible. He opened the dining-room door softly, and peered out.

There was no one about. Evidently the maids were too frightened to come down. His hopes revived, and, slipping noiselessly down the passage, he reached the hall in safety. The front door was locked, but the key was in it. He turned the key, snapped the catch back, and in a moment was outside.

"Hands up!" came a curt voice.

The white glare of an electric torch flashed in his face, and a pistol threatened his head.

"Durn the luck!" said Mr. Gotch with emphasis, but his arms rose automatically.

"That's better!" came the voice of Dr. Kempson. Then, as a warder ran up: "All right, Mr. Grattan. He's not going to make any trouble. March him back!"

* * * * *

Two men stood in the drawing-room of the deputy-governor's house. One was Kempson, the other, a grave-looking individual of sixty, immaculately attired, was the noted nerve specialist, Sir Stanley Spencer.

"You are undoubtedly right, Dr. Kempson," said the latter. "Your patient is suffering from delusions. She clings to the story that she saw two different convicts on the night of this man Gotch's escape."

"And what do you advise, Sir Stanley?" asked Kempson, with equal seriousness. "Would you recommend change of air and scene?"

"Certainly. Indeed, in my opinion, a change is essential. Miss Clamp should go to some place where she would be as far as possible from any sight or sound of convicts. She has had a very severe shock, and, to tell you the truth, I should hardly feel responsible for her sanity if she remained here permanently."

Kempson nodded.

"Perhaps you would be kind enough to give Miss Clamp your opinion personally, Sir Stanley!" he said suavely. "She would, of course, respect it more, and be more likely to fall in with your views, than if I made the suggestion."

"I will do so, Dr. Kempson," replied the other. "I will do so at once."

He went upstairs, and Kempson waited for him. Sir Stanley was absent quite ten minutes, and Kempson was beginning to grow anxious before he reappeared.

"Well, Sir Stanley?" he questioned, as at last the other re-entered the room.

"She was very unwilling at first," answered the specialist. "I had at last to speak very plainly. I was obliged to tell her outright how serious the consequences might be, and now I am glad to say that she at last sees reason. I propose to send a nurse as soon as I return to town. I have in mind a most capable woman, and in her charge Miss Clamp will go to Eastbourne and remain there for at least three months." He took out his watch and glanced at it.

"It is time for me to go if I am to catch my train," he said.

Kempson went out with him to the gate, and saw him into his carriage.

Then he hurried across to his own house.

Cis came flashing out to meet him.

"Well?" she asked breathlessly.

"It's all right, Cis. He's ordered her off."

"But—but will she go?"

"Oh, she'll go. The second convict finished her. Sir Stanley has made her believe it was a delusion. A pretty substantial delusion, eh, Cis?" he added, with a chuckle.

"Splendid! Oh, I am so glad!" cried Cis. Suddenly she seized her brother's arm and drew him into the hall. "Jack, you won't tell?" she begged, suddenly serious.

"Tell?" he repeated, puzzled. Then, more sharply: "Good lord, Cis, you don't think I'd give you away to the old woman? You don't suppose I'd tell Selina Clamp that you dressed up and played that piece of wickedness?"

"Don't be stupid, Jack! Of course I don't mean Aunt Selina?"

"Whom, then?"

"Basil, of course!" replied Cicely, blushing.

Her brother watched the tide of crimson rise in her soft cheeks. He gave a prolonged whistle.

"So that's the way the wind sets, eh, Cis?"

"You dear, blind old bat!" said Cis, kissing him. "I don't believe you'd have found out in a month of Sundays if I hadn't told you."

"I wonder if Aunt Selina will send you a wedding-present?" was her brother's dry remark.


"GET on, now! Get on! Don't be all day about it!"

There was an unaccustomed ring of sharpness in Warder Almond's voice which startled all three of the drab-clad men who were stumbling in front of him through the deep, soft snow.

John Almond was one of the most popular officers in Moorlands, a reputation which he owed to his genial manner and quiet voice. It was not on record that he had ever lost his temper, even with the most pernickety and obstinate of old lags. But there are times when the best of us are not ourselves, and this was the case with Almond.

For three days past—indeed, ever since the big snow had fallen—he had been suffering abominably from neuralgia, and had hardly slept. He knew very well that he ought to have been on the sick list, but an epidemic of influenza had decimated convicts and officers alike, and the prison staff was desperately short-handed. So with a mistaken sense of duty, he had stuck to his work, and now the pain, aggravated by the bitter wind, was so intense that he could hardly keep his eyes open.

The men looked up, surprised at the unusual roughness of the warder's words. Of the three, two were typical old lags, men of between forty and fifty, but the third was much younger. He did not look a day over twenty-five, and he had nothing of the brutalised appearance of the elder men. His was rather a sulky face, but had none of the slyness which was characteristic of his companions.

One of the latter, Gedge by name, a burly person with a low forehead and flattened nose, resented the implied rebuke.

"We can't go no faster in this," he answered in a surly tone. "Blime, the wind's enough to skin a goat!"

Almond pulled himself together.

"Yes, it's bad," he answered quietly. "But it's going to be worse soon. And if we mean to bring those sheep in there's no time to waste."

By the look of the sky the warder's prophecy seemed likely to prove a true one. The icy blast that whined over the vast expanse of rolling drifts was increasing in force, and the pall of dun-coloured cloud which covered the whole sky was darkening ominously to windward.

For some time the four ploughed their way onwards in silence. The sheep of which they were in search were supposed to be in the Stonebrook newtake, an immense pasture on the outer edge of the prison farm, and quite two miles from the prison itself. When the great snowstorm of the previous Tuesday had swooped upon the moor it had come without the slightest warning, and though the farm gangs had managed to get most of the live-stock under cover, there were a few—these sheep among them—that it had been impossible to reach.

For two days and two nights the blizzard had raged unceasingly, and when at last the air cleared of the blinding snow mist every road was choked with drifts many feet deep, the rail was blocked, and Moorlands hopelessly isolated from the rest of the world.

At the present moment there were six hundred convicts fighting the drifts with spades and shovels, and it had fallen to Almond and his three charges to attempt the rescue of die snowed-in sheep.

It looked to him as though it was going to be a long job. For one thing, it was quite impossible to keep anything like a straight course. The surface of the moor resembled a stormy ocean suddenly solidified into snow. Some of the drifts were of enormous proportions, necessitating long detours. Even if they found the sheep and dug them out, Almond thought it more than doubtful whether they could get them home.

And all the time the cutting wind grew shriller, and the pain in his head increased until he had to grind his teeth together to suppress a groan of anguish.

As the party reached the southern edge of the Stonebrook newtake the snow began again, tiny particles of hard frozen stuff which filled the air with a white mist, cutting their faces cruelly.

Almond pulled up for a minute under shelter of the high stone wall, bounding the field, while the three convicts clambered slowly over. There was no need to trouble about any possibility of a bolt on their part. No man alive could run a gunshot through the loose, powdery snow.

"'Tain't fit weather for a dog to be out in," the warder heard Gedge growl, as he slung his carbine over his shoulder and followed the prisoners.

The wind had blown the wall almost clean of snow, but the great, roughly squared blocks of granite were coated with ice. As he reached the top and was in the act of swinging his right leg over, his left foot slipped on the glazed surface. He made a snatch at one of the top stones, but his numbed fingers failed to get a grip. He lost his balance, and fell heavily backwards on the outer side of the wall.

For a second or two the three convicts stared at one another. Then with one accord they made for the wall, and scrambled back to the other side.

Almond lay on his back on a small space of bare, hard-frozen ground. Evidently he had struck his head in falling, for he was quite insensible.

Gedge reached him first, and bent over him.

"Blime, Ben, the screw's copped it this time," he remarked, in a hoarse, growling voice.

Ben Ballard, the other of the two older men, looked first at the warder, then in the direction of the prison. By this time the falling snow was so thick that even the next wall was invisible. There was not a sign of the tall roofs of the prison, nor of the watch tower dominating the hill above the quarries.

"Looks to me like this here is our chanst, Joe," he answered eagerly.

"We'll never get a better," said Gedge, with an oath; "that's one thing sure. It'll be all o' two hours afore they misses us, and as for follerin' us—well, they'll see a fat lot in this 'ere snow."

"And if they does we'll 'ave something to keep 'em off with," said Ballard savagely, as he stooped down and loosening the straps of Almond's rifle, slung the weapon over his own shoulder.

"Which way'll we go?" said Gedge. "'Ere you, Drew," turning to the youngest of the party, who had so far taken no part in the conversation—"you knows the moor better than us. 'Ow do we get to Ashampton?"

"That's due west as straight as you can go," answered Drew. "But what about the screw? He'll freeze to death if you leave him here."

"Curse him! Let him freeze," retorted Gedge brutally. "Are you coming along o' us?"

Drew hesitated. What Gedge had said was true. It was not once in a generation that any inmates of Moorlands got such a chance of escape. There would be no pursuit for hours. All the telegraph and telephone lines were down. Being three together, they would form a party strong enough to break into any isolated farm-house or cottage and so obtain food and a change of clothes. Provided with these, there was no reason why they should not get clear away.

It was a temptation such as only a convict can understand. And to young Drew liberty meant a deal more than to his two elder companions. He was a man of decent birth and education, who had got mixed up with a gambling, betting set and been tempted to clear himself by using his employer's money. The result was a seven years' sentence for forgery, of which he had five years still to serve.

He loathed Moorlands and everything connected with it, the rigid discipline, the coarse food, the rough prison clothes, and escape had been his one consuming idea ever since he had been sent there. Here was his chance, yet, in spite of his desperate longing to seize it, some spark of decent feeling forbade him to abandon Almond.

He hesitated so long that Gedge lost patience.

"Can't you speak, loony? Are you coming or ain't you?"

Drew glanced down once at Almond's insensible body. The warder had been kind to him. He remembered more than one instance of his thoughtfulness and consideration.

"I'm not going to leave him," he said doggedly. "It's murder."

"Blime, the chap's balmy," said Ballard contemptuously. "Come along, Joe. Don't waste no more time a-arguing."

"'Oo's to know as 'e won't go back to the jug and bring the screws out arter us?" demanded Gedge ferociously.

The man's brutality roused Drew.

"You fool," he retorted, "how am I to know where you've gone any more than anyone else? The snow's too thick to see across the field, and, as you said yourself, it'll hide your footmarks. Get on if you want to, and leave me to mind my own business."

Gedge glared at Drew. There was a very ugly look on his heavy face.

But Ballard seized him by the arm.

"Come on," he said sharply. "Come on, or it'll be dark afore we can get anywheres."

"You peach on us, and I'll skin you alive. Mind that," growled Gedge as the other dragged him away.

Drew watched them out of sight, then bent over Almond. The warder's body was already white with the fine flakes. He lay very still, and his breathing was only just perceptible. The wind was increasing and seemed to get more bitter every minute. Drew plainly realised that, lying there, unable to stir, Almond would freeze to death in a very short time.

His first idea was to return to the prison for help. But in this snow the double journey would take the better part of two hours. A moment's reflection convinced him that Almond would be dead long before he could get back with help.

The only alternative was to carry him. It was not a pleasant prospect, but there was no choice, so he set to work at once, and with a great effort managed to hoist the warder on to his back.

Then he started in the direction of the prison.

There was nothing to guide him but the rapidly fading tracks of their own footsteps, and Almond was a heavy man, considerably bigger than Drew himself. He had not crossed the first field before he realised that the task was beyond his strength. The snow was nearly knee-deep, and as dry and powdery as so much sand, while a stinging dust of tiny ice particles driven before the fierce wind swirled in eddies on every side, blinding and confusing him. His knees tottered under him, and in spite of the bitter cold, great drops of perspiration streamed down his face.

He struggled on to the next wall, and then could do no more. With a groan he dropped under its shelter, and lay panting for breath, aching in every limb.

With the freakishness so often seen in a storm on the high moor, there came a sudden lull, and though the snow still fell the air cleared a trifle. And as it cleared, Drew's despairing eyes caught a glimpse of a white-clad roof not two hundred yards away to the left.

An exclamation of delight burst from his lips. True, it was only a cattle-shed, but for the moment he had completely forgotten that there was any such shelter within reach. He was on his feet again in a moment, and, with muscles braced by fresh hope, lifted Almond once more, and went blundering away towards the shed.

By the time he reached it the snow was falling as thickly as ever, but once inside he was out of the stinging bite of the drift, and able to collect his wits.

The first thing to do was to try to get some warmth back into Almond's body. The man was deathly cold. Luckily, there was hay in the place, and pulling down a quantity he packed it firmly round the warder. Then he pulled off Almond's boots and vigorously rubbed his feet and hands.

He kept this up for a good ten minutes but without any perceptible effect. Almond's lips were blue, and he was breathing very badly. Drew got frightened. It was clear that the man was badly hurt, and that he must have medical help without delay.

The only thing to do was to leave him where he was, and go back to the prison. So, rolling him up as snugly as possible in the hay and piling armfuls over him, Drew started on his mission.

The blast that met him as he left the shed almost took his breath. The whole air was full of snow, and the short winter afternoon was already darkening towards dusk.

By this time all tracks were gone, and the walls were his only landmarks. In dodging an enormous drift he lost sight of the wall which he was following, and, after a vain effort to regain it, realised with a nasty sinking at the heart that he was lost. Even so, the wind gave him some kind of a direction, and, keeping it on his right shoulder, he pushed on.

He came to another wall, climbed it, and, after struggling forward for a considerable distance, suddenly plunged into a patch of thick gorse.

This gave him a very ugly shock, for now he realised that he was on the open moor. That last wall that he had crossed must have been the boundary wall of the prison farm. The gorse told him that he was off the cultivated ground. Where, he had not the slightest idea. It was obvious that the wind had changed. He had no guide left, and was completely lost. His mind filled with sinister recollections of stories told of the fate of men lost in winter storms on the shelterless moor.

The intense cold and the never ceasing whistle of the drift were beginning to numb and confuse him, but he had sense enough left to know that he must keep moving. If he stopped where he was he would soon be in worse case than poor Almond.

Trudging mechanically onwards, stumbling over rocks hidden beneath the drifts, he found himself on a steep downward slope, and all of a sudden a small, square patch of light gleamed through the swirling snow. A cry of delight escaped him. He hurried forward, and brought up short against the boundary wall of a cottage garden.

Clambering recklessly over it, he dropped into a deep snow bank on the far side, scrambled out, and hurried round towards the door. In his intense relief at the prospect of shelter and warmth he had for the moment forgotten Almond, and even his own convict attire, which might very well deny him the hospitality he sought.

His fingers were almost on the door handle when a hoarse shout of laughter from within brought him up all standing. A man doesn't hear a deal of laughter in prison, yet surely there was something familiar in the sound.

"She's shy, Joe. 'Earten 'er up a bit. Give 'er a kiss."

Doubt changed to certainty. The voice was Ballard's. So the two lags had found the cottage before him.

Drew's frost-cracked lips pursed in a soundless whistle, and he stood for a moment as motionless as the snow statue which he so strongly resembled. Then, pulling himself together, he slipped round to the window, and looked through. Through frost-dimmed glass he was able to see that the occupants of the neatly furnished sitting-room were two women and two men.

Of the women, one was a stout, matronly person of forty, the other a slip of a girl with fair, fluffy hair. The men were Ballard and Gedge.

Of the women, the elder was tied in an armchair, her ankles fastened to the legs, her wrists to the arms. The girl, her lips tight-set and her eyes wide with horror, was shrinking against the wall in the far corner, while Gedge, with a horrible leer on his face, was endeavouring to get his great arm round her waist.

An almost empty spirit bottle on the table, and glasses, several of them broken, went far to explain the situation. Both men were drunk to the pitch of recklessness.

Gedge thrust his bristly face against the girl's, and at that her self-control gave way, and she screamed piercingly. That scream, and the girl's helplessness in Gedge's grasp, awoke the slumbering manhood in Drew. In that moment he forgot his own needs, and all his mind and energies became set upon freeing her from the brutal attentions of the lag.

Knowing himself no match for the two powerful men, both half crazy with unaccustomed drink, he became wily as a fox, and almost instantly a plan suggested itself to him.

He hurried round to the back door. As he had hoped, it was not locked, and, turning the handle, he went in quietly. He found himself in the kitchen, from which a door opened directly into the sitting-room. Without hesitating he pushed this open, and walked boldly in.

As the door swung back Gedge gave a cry of alarm and, releasing the girl, sprang forward, bristling like a wild beast. Ballard snatched up Almond's carbine, which had been laid on the table, and swung it over his head.

"All right, mates," remarked Drew coolly. "Do you want all the fun to yourselves?"

Ballard lowered his rifle with a foolish laugh, but Gedge stood glowering at Drew.

"What d'ye want 'ere?" he demanded suspiciously.

"Same as you, I should say. A drink first. Can't you see I'm nearly clemmed?" And he gave a shiver, which had little pretence about it.

"What have you done with the screw?"

"Carried him into the shed in the next pasture. That's all I could do for him."

As he spoke Drew stepped to the table, picked up the bottle, and helped himself to a stiff nip.

"You don't seem to have got far," he remarked to Gedge, as he laid down his glass. "Isn't it time we were pushing along?"

Gedge stood glaring at him uncertainly. His brain was somewhat muddled with drink, but Drew could see that he was much clearer-headed than his companion. His bloodshot eyes were full of dull suspicion.

"We don't want none o' your company, anyhow," he growled. "You've 'ad your drink. Now you can get along out o' this."

As he spoke he advanced towards Drew with the evident intention of putting him out of the house.

Drew's heart was beating hard, but the whisky had sent the sluggish blood racing through his half-frozen veins, and steadied his shaken nerve. He waited until Gedge was within arm's length, then suddenly snatched up the bottle.

Seeing his intention, Gedge sprang forward. But Drew was too quick for him. Before the other could even lift his arm to save his head, the bottle fell upon his shaven skull with fearful force. A tinkling shower of splintered glass sprayed the room, and Gedge reeled backwards and dropped upon the floor with a crash that shook the house.

"Look out!" screamed the girl, for Ballard, with a bellow of fury, had snatched up the carbine. There was no need for her warning, for even before Gedge's insensible body had reached the floor, Drew had whirled round and dashed straight at the other lag.

Ballard had clubbed his weapon. He made a wild sweeping blow at Drew, but the drink he had taken made him slow and unsteady. Before the blow could fall Drew's arms were round his waist, and the force of his rush flung him clean off his balance.

The two went down together, Drew on top. The force of the fall knocked most of the remaining senses out of the drunken ruffian, and before he had a chance of recovering them, Drew had him by the hairy throat.

"Keep still!" he threatened as Ballard struggled desperately and struck upwards at his face. "Keep still, or I'll choke the life out of you."

He tightened his grip as he spoke, and drove his fingers deeper on each side of the man's windpipe. In a very few moments Ballard's struggles ceased, his head dropped back, and he lay as still as his companion.

But Drew was taking no chances.

"Bring something to tie him," he called to the girl, and she, trembling and white-faced, hurried to his side with a couple of towels.

"It'll be some time before you get a chance to make any more trouble, my beauty," remarked Drew in a tone of deep satisfaction, as he finished the job and rose to his feet. The sulkiness which had disfigured his face was gone, his eyes were shining. All in a few moments he seemed to have shaken off the ugly traces of crime and punishment.

"Now for the other," he said lightly as he turned to Gedge.

"I—I think he's dead," stammered the girl shakily.

"Bless you, no. It would take more than a crack on the head to kill him," answered Drew. "Untie your mother, please, while I look at him."

Gedge's head was badly cut, and he was bleeding like a pig. He was quite insensible, but so far as Drew could make out his skull was still sound enough.

"No, there won't be a funeral just yet," said Drew. "The beggar will live to be hanged. I'm afraid he gave you both a horrid scare."

The girl was still busy unfastening the knots that bound her mother. Before she could reply the front door opened, and a big man, whose long uniform overcoat was white with snow, came stamping into the room.

"A proper nasty night," he began and then his eyes fell upon the two men on the floor, on Drew who was still kneeling beside Gedge, and on his wife, tied fast in the chair. "Good Heavens!" he gasped; and with a couple of quick strides he was beside Drew, and his heavy hand gripped him by the shoulder.

"What devil's work have you been at?" he demanded in a terrible voice.

The girl left her mother and sprang across the room.

"Devil's work, father?" she cried. "Angel's work you'd better say. If it hadn't been for him I'd have been dead, or worse. It was he came in just in time. It was he who knocked down both those great drunken brutes. He's a hero, even if he does wear those dreadful clothes!"

Her blue eyes flashed, there was a spot of indignant colour on either cheek. Drew's pulses throbbed as he watched her.

The warder's hand fell away from Drew's shoulder.

"B-but what's it all mean, Nettie? W-what's happened? I don't understand," he stammered.

Nettie wasted no time in explaining, and Drew's conduct lost nothing in the telling. His cheeks were glowing as well as hers by the time she had finished.

Her father, whom Drew recognised at once as Principal Warder Parton, went pale as he heard the story of his wife and daughter's peril. When Nettie, breathless, at last stopped speaking, he turned to Drew and held out his hand.

"I can't ever begin to thank you, Drew," he said unsteadily. "But how was it you got here at all? Where's Mr. Almond?"

It was Drew's turn to explain, and he did so as quickly as possible.

Parton listened gravely.

"We must get the doctor to Almond as quickly as we can," he said. "I'll go straight and fetch him, and I'll send a couple of officers and an ambulance down to take these two swine back. You'd best come along with me, Drew."

"You're not going to leave Nettie and me alone with those two, Will!" exclaimed Mrs. Parton in sudden terror.

"Don't you worry, mother. I'll lock 'em in the outhouse," said Parton.

"I'll not stay on the place a minute with those men," declared Mrs. Parton. "I'd rather go out in the snow. And Nettie, too."

Parton stared at his wife in hopeless bewilderment.

"But I've got to go for help for Mr. Almond. He'll die if I don't."

"Then you leave that young man here, Will," said Mrs. Parton firmly. "He may have broken the law, but I'll feel safe with him."

"B-but it's against all rules," objected Parton.

"There's no rules on a night like this. You do as I say. Anyhow, the poor fellow's half-clemmed. Nettie and I can give him some supper while he waits."

Parton shrugged his shoulders.

"Then you'll have to be responsible for him, mother. You'll have to see he doesn't run away."

"He won't run away," said Mrs. Parton confidently. "Will you, young man?"

"I'll give you my word on that, ma'am," said Drew, and glanced at Nettie.

Parton hesitated no longer. He went straight away, and left Drew to enjoy the happiest and brightest hour that had fallen to his lot for many a weary month.

The time was all too short before two warders and a party of four good-conduct prisoners carrying a litter arrived at the house.

"There's the makings of a good man in you," said kindly Mrs. Parton, as she shook Drew's hand heartily. "And just you remember, when you get out of that place up there, that you've got friends here if you haven't got 'em anywhere else. Keep that in mind, will you?"

Nettie, too, gave him her hand, and though she did not speak there was a look in her pretty face that sent Drew out into the snow with a feeling in his heart that he scarcely dared to name to himself.

* * * * *

What happened when Drew left the prison a month later, with a free pardon in his pocket, it is not within the scope of this story to describe. But if anyone is sufficiently interested in the matter, and will take the trouble to visit a small farm on the western edge of the moor about two miles from Ashampton, he will have little difficulty in discovering the sequel for himself.


IT was a quarter to twelve, the hour which in a convict prison answers to question time in the House of Commons, and Colonel Peyton, Governor of Moorlands, sat behind the desk in his big, bare office, and listened to the complaints and requests which it was the privilege of the inmates to bring before him.

One man wished to be allowed to petition the Home Office about some fancied grievance; a second asked to change his cell because his next-door neighbour screamed and ground his teeth in his sleep; a third—a stout man who had once been a famous financier—desired to write a letter to his solicitor.

And the colonel, leaning back in his chair, with his long, lean fingers pressed together, inspected each man keenly from under his heavy white eyebrows, and dealt with them fairly and impartially. Some prisoners called Peyton a beast, but none could deny that, like the famous Dr. Temple, of Rugby, he was at any rate a "just beast."

Last of the long line came a man who differed entirely from the rest, in that he had nothing of the hang-dog, furtive air which characterises the average "lag." He was of middle height, dark in complexion, slim, and cleanly built, and carried himself as well as Colonel Peyton himself. Even the shapeless prison dress, the close-cropped head, and ill-shaven chin could not hide the air of breeding which characterised him.

"Well, Silver?" said the Governor. And though his face was impassive as ever, there was a touch of something more human in his tone.

Silver brought his heels together with a little click, and saluted.

"If you please, sir, I wish to change to an outdoor party," he said quietly. His English was perfect, yet there was a touch of something foreign about his pronunciation.

The Governor's face betrayed a trace of surprise.

"Why do you wish to change? I thought you were getting on excellently in the carpenters' shop."

"I have no complaint to make, sir, but I believe it would be better for my health if I could work in the open air."

"We'll see what the doctor says," said the Governor. "If he agrees, your name shall be put down for a farm party."

Later in the day the Governor met Dr. Lindsay, on his way to the infirmary, and stopped him.

"Silver wants a farm party," he said. "He asks for it on the ground of health."

"He's well enough," answered the doctor, a stolid, middle-aged Scotsman. "But maybe a change won't hurt him."

"I told him I'd ask you," said the Governor. "I feel inclined to do as he asks, for he is a very good prisoner."

"Ay, he's a good prisoner," agreed Lindsay. "I wish there were more like him. What did the man do to bring himself in here?"

"Manslaughter," replied Peyton. "He killed a certain Pedro Juarez, said to be a Spanish-American. An odd case it was. His counsel pleaded that it was done in self-defence, but Silver himself refused to answer questions. The end of it was he got ten years."

The doctor grunted.

"He's a bit of a mystery," he said. "He'll no be an Englishman, colonel?"

"He certainly isn't English," said Peyton decidedly. "He looks like a Spanish grandee, and has the manners of one," he added.

"Well, so far as I'm concerned, ye may give him what he asks for," said the doctor bluntly, and, turning, went on his busy way.

So the name of Silver, No. 913, was put down for the first farm-party vacancy, and one pleasant spring morning, about a fortnight later, the warder of B Hall told Silver that instead of going to the carpenters' shop he was to join Party 17 for the "bogs."

If the news was of any particular moment to Silver, he certainly gave no outward sign of it. He merely thanked the warder in his usual courteous fashion, and, donning his blue-and-red striped "slop," or outdoor jacket, took his place in the new party, and was presently marched off down the open road which runs outside the great circular wall enclosing the prison.

Crossing the granite bridge over the Stone Brook, the party—in number, twenty—took its way to the left across large, bare grass fields, and after half a mile's steady tramp came to the public road which runs diagonally through the centre of the prison farm. Beyond lay a stretch of rough ground along the brook side. Through the deep furze, golden with spring bloom, peered the tops of gigantic boulders, grey and hoary with lichen.

Close to the road the furze had been grubbed up, and the peaty soil showed bare and black, glistening in the morning sun.

Harrington, the principal warder in charge, barked an order, the party halted, the civil guards spread out on either side, and the day's work began.

Silver's keen, dark eyes took in his surroundings at a glance. They seemed to satisfy him, for if anyone had been watching him closely they might have seen the ghost of a smile glimmer about his well-shaped mouth.

Then he set to work, and if his hands were smaller and not so hard as those of his companions, at any rate they did not accomplish a whit less.

There was not much traffic on the road, but now and then a cart jogged by or a motor slid down the long hill into the Stone Brook Valley. Again, anyone who had watched Silver closely enough might have noticed him glance up at each car as it passed.

Just before five, the hour for ceasing work, a low two-seater, painted French grey, with a bonnet long enough to give proof of plenty of power, came quietly down the hill.

The driver was its only occupant—a medium sized, dark-haired man, who steered with the careless ease of long habit, and, like most other passers-by, watched with interest the gang of drab-clad workers beside the brook.

The road curved at the bridge, and he blew his horn three short blasts.

Silver, who was standing beside a large rock, heard and glanced at the nearest warder. But the latter was not looking at the car. His whole attention was engaged in directing the men, who were lifting an awkward boulder. Then Silver took a quick look at Kane and Cringle, the two civil guards who were posted on the road wall. But they seemed to evince a merely casual interest in the car and its occupant. He gave a little sigh of relief, and, straightening his back, took out his handkerchief and blew his nose vigorously. Then he began to dig again, and the man in the car changed gear, and shot away up the opposite hill.

Next morning, when Party 17 reached its work, Silver went straight to the self-same spot where he had finished on the previous evening. His heart was beating hard as he approached the rock, but not a sign of emotion was apparent on his clean-cut features.

Ah, he was not mistaken. In the tough grey lichen which clothed the mass of ancient granite were a series of small scratches. They were so tiny as to be practically invisible to anyone who was not looking for them, but they conveyed to Silver in the same Morse code by which the man in the car had called to him on the previous day an unmistakable message.

These were the words he read:

"First fog. Car south. Fonseca."

It was enough, and Silver's lips moved in silent gratitude as he saw the signature. Then his face set in its usual stern lines, and he set to work with the same steady vigour which characterised all his actions.

Day after day, Silver waited and longed for fog. But with the curious contradictoriness which characterises weather all the world over, day after day dawned bright and clear, and the warm sun shining down on the winter-wet moor made the grass spring rapidly and starred it with a million tender spring blossoms.

The fine weather which made everything else flourish had a contrary effect on Silver. His face grew thinner and more stern and the fine wrinkles deepened round his eyes. He lost his appetite, yet strove to eat, for he knew that a day was coming when all his strength would be needed.

Dr. Lindsay, whose grey eyes missed little that was within their ken, noticed the signs of strain upon the prisoner's face and spoke to Harrington.

"I haven't seen anything amiss with the man, sir," answered the latter in some surprise. "He's always quiet-like and gives no trouble. I wish there was more of his sort."

"Perhaps the work's too hard for him?" suggested Lindsay.

"He hasn't complained," said Harrington, by no means anxious to lose a prisoner who did his work so well and gave so little anxiety.

"It'll be either that or the man's got something on his mind," said Lindsay. "I'll keep an eye on him a day or two, and if he does not improve he'll just come back to the carpenters' shop."

Harrington took the first opportunity of speaking to Silver.

"The doctor says you're ill, Silver. He talks of getting you put back in the carpenters' shop."

Silver's thin cheeks went white. Despair clutched his heart. Once back in the shop, his chance was gone for ever.

"I am not ill. There is nothing whatever the matter with me," he answered with a harshness so different to his ordinary tones that Harrington stared.

"There's no need to get in a fuss about it," he said drily. "Eat your grub, and try and fill out them cheeks of yours, and I dare say they won't put you back."

"I beg your pardon for speaking as I did," said Silver courteously as ever, "I was upset at the idea of going back to indoor work. I am fond of the open air."

"That's all right, Silver," said Harrington, who, if rough, was a good fellow at heart. Then, as he left the cell, he turned, with his hand on the latch.

"Take it a bit easy for a day or two," he said in a low tone. "No one won't say anything if you slack off a trifle."

The fine spell lasted nearly three weeks. During those days the grey two-seater passed four times. Its driver seemed to have a deal of trouble with stray calves and chickens, for his horn was always at work.

Its sharp, insistent note, reaching the ears it was meant for, gave Silver a degree of comfort, making him feel that he was not deserted. Yet, for all that, the strain on his nervous system was a sore one, and he longed desperately for the end.

It was a night in the middle of May when he was wakened by the rush and rattle of a hailstorm on the narrow window of his cell. He slept no more, but lay racked by alternate hopes and fears, waiting for the daylight. It was more than likely that, now the drought had broken, there would be continuous rain for some days, in which case none of the outdoor parties would go out.

But luck befriended him. The rain ceased about six, and the sun shone out through a rift of blue between sweeping clouds of softest grey.

Soon after work began the grey car passed, and now it held two men instead of one. The second, in a long macintosh, sat beside the driver.

But the sky brightened as the morning wore on. Silver's heart sank again. It was going to be as fine as ever. All the forenoon the sun shone. By dinner-time Silver's hopes were lead. He went back to the afternoon spell with heavy, listless step. He had given up watching the sky.

It was about a quarter to four that the change came.

A chill breeze sprang up out of the west, a cloud covered the big blunt head of Mist Tor, and a shadow drew like a curtain over the wide spaces of the moor.

Harrington glanced round uneasily.

Then, as big drops pattered on the grass, his brow cleared. "Only a shower, I reckon," he muttered with relief.

But the shower changed to a drizzle, the wind increased in force, and over the high ground above surged a billow of mist which rolled in a silent flood down into the valley.

Silver, still plying his pick, tingled in every nerve.

Had the time come, or had Fonseca given it up and gone?

Harrington put his whistle to his lips and blew it shrilly. It was the signal for work to cease. Through the momentarily thickening smother Silver caught a glimpse of the civil guards closing in.

It was too late. The chance had passed.

Then out of the fog on the hillside to the south came a faint honk! honk! honk!

Silver's heart gave a leap that strangled him. All the blood in his body seemed to rush to his head.

For a second that seemed a minute he could not stir. Then, mastering himself with a supreme effort, he dropped his shovel, sprang across the ditch, and ran like a hunted hare.

It was Gregory, the assistant warder, who saw him.

"Look out!" he roared. "Silver's bunked!"

He flung his carbine to his shoulder.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Stop, or I fire!"

The rifle cracked, but Silver was already fifty yards away. And a few buckshot driven by less than half a charge of powder will not pierce a coat at seventy paces.

Silver sped on. He was making for the top of the field, which was still a wilderness of gorse and boulders.

Two more shots echoed dully through the mist. Cringle and Kane were firing, but Silver was now out of range.

"Keep steady, men!" shouted Harrington threateningly to the gang, who were swaying this way and that, wild with excitement, "I'll shoot the first man that stirs out of the ranks!"

He and Gregory closed in, one on each side of their charges. It was their business to herd them back safely to the prison. Pursuit was left to the civil guards.

"He's up in the gorse, Kane!" shouted Harrington as the two civil guards came tearing up, leaping the ditches as they ran.

"Don't worry. We'll have him all right," answered Kane, who was a strapping six-footer, and one of the finest athletes in the prison service.

Things looked bad for Silver, for he was running uphill, and there was a wall in front of him—a great rampart of stone six feet high. He could not turn to the right, for not only would that take him away from the road and the car, but the other two civil guards, posted on the west side of the field, had heard the shots and were coming up as fast as their legs would carry them.

"Look out for him as he climbs the wall!" shouted Kane to Cringle. "You'll see him then!"

The mist was thickening. Every moment fresh waves of thick grey vapour beat down the hillside. Silver had momentarily vanished among the tall gorse close below the wall.

"There he goes!" gasped Cringle, and, throwing up his carbine to his shoulder, took a snap-shot at a figure dimly outlined on top of the wall.

But, blown with running, he apparently missed, and the figure vanished on the far side.

Kane did not waste time in shooting. Dropping his rifle under the wall, he made a great spring, reached the top, leaped lightly to the grass beyond, and set himself to run Silver down.

A momentary lift in the smother gave him a view of a figure scudding straight up the field, and with a loud hallo to call his companions attention, he spurted vigorously.

The fugitive glanced back over his shoulder, saw Kane gaining, and swung to the left.

"He's done it now!" panted Kane jubilantly.

The one thing he had feared was that Silver might manage to cut across to the right in front of the two other guards and gain the open moor. Once among the rough peat hags, with the fog to help him, he might set a score of warders at defiance.

But now he had lost his chance. He would have to cross the road, or else keep straight on up the hill. In either case Kane felt confident of running him down.

Arms in, head up, Kane raced uphill, straining every nerve to catch up. But Silver was still going strong, and it was all that Kane could do to keep him in sight in the fast-thickening gloom.

Already news of the escape had reached the prison, for the big bell was clanging furiously.

The field was very large, and, like all the rest, surrounded with great walls of solid granite. The wall at the top was a stiff one, and that bounding the road, though not so high, had a big ditch on the far side.

One or the other Silver had to cross, and it was at the wall that Kane hoped to catch him.

By this time Kane had far outdistanced his companions. The only sound that he could hear besides the muffled beat of the big bell was the hard breathing of the fugitive and the light patter of his feet as he raced across the wet turf.

A dark line loomed up to the left. It was the road wall. The prisoner suddenly turned and made a dash for it.

Kane cut across. With a final, furious spurt he gained rapidly. He was not ten yards behind Silver as the latter hurled himself at the wall.

Kane reached him just in time to seize his ankle. With a vigorous kick the fugitive tore himself free, but in the effort lost his balance and toppled forward.

Kane heard the thud as he dropped into the ditch beyond. There was a low cry of pain. With a leap and a scramble he himself followed.

"Got him!" he cried triumphantly, flinging himself on the tumbled heap in the ditch below.

The man made no resistance. He lay still.

"None of your shamming!" said Kane roughly, and, pulling a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, snapped them on the prisoner's wrists.

"Got him? Well done!" panted a voice; and Cringle, badly blown, came scrambling over the wall.

"Yes; nabbed him by the leg just as he went over the wall," chuckled Kane, very well pleased with himself. "He came a rare cropper into the ditch, but it's soft, and I don't reckon he's hurt much. Give us a hand to pick him up."

They lifted the man to his feet. His cap was gone; his face, his hands, his drab breeches and striped shirt were plastered with mud, and his breath came in heavy sobs. He seemed hardly able to stand.

Cringle gave a sharp exclamation of dismay.

"Who's this?" he cried.

Kane stared at his companion as if he thought he had taken leave of his senses.

"Who is it? Why, the chap that bunked."

"That was Silver. I never saw this man before."

"You're crazy! I've never had my eyes off him."

"I can't help that. This isn't Silver."

Kane twisted the prisoner's face found to the light and stared at it.

"You're right," he muttered helplessly; "it's not Silver."

Rage seized him.

"What hanky-panky business is this?" he demanded furiously. "Speak up, or, by thunder, I'll make you!"

"Take me to your Governor. I will tell him," said the man, in a thick, breathless tone. Then he keeled over, limp as a sack. He had fainted.

* * * * *

Silver's substitute, a man of very similar height and build to the escaped prisoner, and with the same clear, olive complexion, stood between two warders in the Governor's office.

On the other side of the desk Colonel Peyton sat bolt upright in his uncushioned chair. His face was as hard as the moorland granite, and there was a steely gleam in the grey-blue eyes.

"Are you the man who assisted in the escape of Silver?" he demanded. And, as one warder said afterwards: "The old man's voice gave me the cold shivers!"

"I am," replied the prisoner quietly.

"What is your name?"

"Luiz Fonseca!"

"Where do you come from?"

"I am a native of the Republic of Sanlucar."

"How did you succeed in substituting yourself for the prisoner?"

"That was a simple matter. I had previously obtained a convict dress, and as the fog came on I hid myself in the gorse at the top of the field in which the gang were working. When your prisoner ran, he dropped down in my hiding-place. I ran on. It was the ruse of the hunted stag who turns another out of the thicket to take his place. As soon as the pursuit had passed, he got up and joined a car that was waiting on the road. By this time he is in all probability aboard a yacht that awaited him at a certain port, the name of which I shall not disclose."

"Very lucid!" said the Governor with biting sarcasm. "May I ask if you are aware that you have rendered yourself liable to a heavy punishment under English law?"

"Perfectly!" replied Fonseca, unmoved.

"Are you a friend of the escaped convict?"

"I have the honour to count myself among the servants of General Ramon da Silva," replied Fonseca, with a certain proud humility.

The Governor started.

"General da Silva?" he repeated incredulously. "Not the ex-President of Sanlucar?"

"Yes, seńor. Now that he is beyond your reach there is no harm in admitting that he whom you knew as the convict Silver is the General da Silva whose reputation is known even in England!"

Amazement chased anger from the colonel's face. He sat bolt upright, staring at the other with dilated eyes.

"But why was nothing known of this before?" he demanded. "Why did Da Silva conceal his identity?"

"For the sake of Sanlucar, sir." Fonseca's voice rose strongly, and his pale cheeks flushed. "Or, rather, for the sake of the scoundrel who is the President of my unhappy country."

"President Canto, do you mean?"

"Yes, Canto," answered Fonseca, his lips curling contemptuously. "Canto, the General's own brother-in-law; the man whom he trusted and placed in his present position."

"Explain, please. This is beyond me."

"It is simple enough, seńor. Canto, hound that he is, was afraid that the General might hear of his misdeeds, and come back to turn him out. He therefore sent a hired murderer to assassinate him. It was this man, Pedro Juarez, whom the General killed in fair fight. And that is the crime for which he was sentenced to ten years in your prison."

"It was entirely his own fault," answered the Governor, with decision. "You must remember that he refused to defend himself at his trial. But why, may I ask, have you taken the law into your own hands in this extraordinary fashion?"

"For the sake of my country," said Fonseca. "Canto is ruining her. He is on the point of plunging her into a disastrous war with Salvador, and there is no one who can save her except Da Silva. We might have re-opened the case, but this the General refused to do, for fear of involving his sister, Canto's wife, in the scandal. Besides, news would certainly have reached Canto's ears and precipitated disaster. As it is, the General will reach Sanlucar unknown and unexpected, and Canto will be overthrown before he has the slightest suspicion of his arrival."

There was silence for some moments. The Governor's keen eyes, fixed upon Fonseca, seemed to be reading his very soul. "I am inclined to believe what you have told me, Seńor Fonseca," he said at last; "but you will understand that I have no jurisdiction, and the law must take its course."

"I quite understand, seńor, and I thank you for your courtesy, and apologise for the trouble I have brought upon you," replied Fonseca gravely. "There is but one thing I would ask of you and of your officers."

"You mean that you wish us to keep silence as to the identity of the escaped prisoner?" said the Colonel.

Fonseca bowed.

A slight smile twisted the corners of the Governor's grim mouth.

"I think you may set your mind at rest," he said. "Englishmen have no particular reason to love President Canto. And now," he went on, "as I personally have no power to detain you, I shall hand you over to the police, and you will have to stand your trial for assisting a fugitive from justice. I cannot hold out any hopes that your punishment will be a light one, but possibly, when the facts become known, your sentence may be reconsidered."

* * * * *

The correctness of Colonel Peyton's forecast has been proved to the hilt. We have all heard how the miserable Canto was summarily ejected from the office he had so long misused, and, under the pretence that his health required a change of climate, shipped out of Sanlucar, and sent to Europe.

Some may have noticed a three-line paragraph that appeared about a year ago in several London dailies to the effect that Luiz Fonseca, sentenced to two years' hard labour for assisting a convict to escape from Moorlands, had been pardoned and set at liberty.

On Colonel Peyton's writing-table stands a little model of a two-seated racing-car, beautifully made of South American gold. The memento was accompanied by a cordial invitation to visit the Presidential mansion of Sanlucar; and it is possible that in a year or two's time, when Colonel Peyton retires from the governorship of the great prison on the moor, he may become the guest of the man whom he once knew as Silver, convict No. 913.


IT is extremely unlikely that James Lent had ever so much as heard the word "kistvaen," for he was a man with no more education than that afforded by a Board school in a remote country village. Yet, being possessed of an observant eye, trained in many a woodcraft match with his hereditary enemies the keepers, he saw at once that there was something not entirely natural about the stone which his pick had uncovered.

It was a slab nearly four feet long by eighteen inches wide. Its upper surface was almost smooth and its sides rudely squared. What was more, it lay level and flat just below the surface of the black peaty moorland soil.

"Why, it's a blooming paving-stone!" muttered Lent sotto voce. "I'd like to know who could ha' planted a thing like this here."

The very smallest incident offers a welcome relief in the machine-like monotony of life in a great convict prison. Lent, who was one of a party engaged in clearing a patch of rough, granite-strewn moorland which was to be added to the prison farm, set to work zestfully to investigate his find.

A few more blows of the pick revealed the fact that the flat stone lay upon the top of four others, "just like a lid on a box," as Lent explained to himself.

He was now getting really interested, and inserting one end of his pick under the upper stone he prised it up, and peered underneath.

Within the oblong hollow was a little huddle of what resembled dry, brown sticks.

"Lor' lumme! It's a coffin!" muttered Lent.

He was perfectly right. It was in fact a kistvaen, or cist, constructed by some of Mr. Lent's remote ancestors, Neolithic gentlemen, the remains of whose beehive stone huts still strew the hillsides of the great granite uplands, and are idly inspected each summer by hosts of inquisitive trippers.

The lid stone was very heavy. Lent pushed his pick in a little further, and levered it higher. He raised it enough for a ray of the mellow afternoon sunlight to penetrate into the gloomy little hollow where, for so many thousands of years, the bones of the neolith had rested in peace.

And the ray struck upon something lying beneath the bones, something which flung back to Lent's astonished eye a dull yellow reflection.

For a matter of possibly five seconds, Lent stood stock-still, staring at the strange yellow gleam.

"Gold!" he murmured in an awestricken whisper.

Then, with a snap, he remembered where he was, and who were his companions, and like a shot he pulled away the pick and let the top stone drop back into place.

It was gold, sure enough. As far as he had seen, it appeared to be a circlet or ring made of twisted strands of the precious metal. It would be about five or six inches across, and very heavy. What was more, it was studded with dull-looking stones, which might or might not be precious gems.

Instinctively he cast a quick glance around. He was one of a long line of men all dressed in the same sort of blue and red slops and black-arrowed breeches and gaiters that he himself wore. But the nearest, the one on his left, was a good fifteen feet away, and, as luck would have it, was an ex-lawyer named Chiplin, who was so short-sighted that he was allowed to wear spectacles.

Not much danger from him.

The next, to his right, was Shroff, once an expert forger, but now getting elderly and generally supposed to be a trifle "barmy." At the moment, Shroff was almost waist deep in a trench and, as well as Lent could judge, hadn't been watching anything but his own particular job. The others, so far as he could see, had noticed nothing unusual.

As for the warders, one was away at the extreme left; the other was standing near the wall gazing at vacancy, with an expression of intense boredom on his moustached face.

A poacher is usually a resourceful person, and Lent was no exception to this rule. He saw no fun in yielding up his find to the authorities, and perhaps receiving a few shillings added to his gratuity when he left the prison. On the contrary, he instantly made up his mind to have the whole thing for himself if that were humanly possible. He was due out on ticket-of-leave in eight months' time, and the money would be a fortune. It would give him the means to clear out of England and try some new country where perhaps he could run straight. He had a brother farming in Queensland. He might join him if he had the money.

And, having once taken his decision, he acted without delay.

First, he drove his pick deep into the soil alongside the kistvaen, and in a moment had dug a hole a foot or so deep. Then, subduing his excitement by a strong effort of will, and working with a cool deliberation which surprised himself, he got his pick under one of the end stones of the kistvaen and slowly levered it away.

Dropping on his knees as though for the purpose of lifting the block of granite out of its bed, he slipped one arm into the aperture, and, groping among the bones, felt the cold touch of metal.

In a flash he had it out, and, without pausing to give even the smallest glance at his booty, dropped it into the hole which he had dug, and with the same movement swept the loose earth over it.

He dragged the stone aside, rose to his feet, and, covering his movements by a couple of blows from his pick, kicked the soil back into the hole and stamped it down, effectually buying the golden circlet.

He was trembling as he had never done before, and, though the day was not hot, perspiration was standing in great beads on his forehead. Again he glanced round to make sure that he had not been watched, and a pleasant glow of triumph came over him when he saw that both his neighbours were still stolidly engaged in their tasks, apparently quite unconscious of any unusual happening.

The next thing was to mark the spot, and here Lent's woodcraft assisted him. A man who can put down a dozen snares in a dark wood and find them all again on the following night is far better fitted to judge distances than most others. Luckily, too, there were landmarks, for the spot where he had stumbled on the kistvaen was near the angle of two new stone walls which were in process of construction.

It is safe to say that in all the dreary confines of Moorlands Gaol there was not, that night, a happier inmate than James Lent; and when, at five minutes to eight, lights were extinguished, he turned into his hammock and dreamed pleasant dreams of all he would do with the proceeds of his treasure-trove.

As he tramped out with his party on the following morning, his mind was still cheerfully busy with plans for the future.

It was not until they reached the newtake which they were clearing that he noticed that Shroff was not with the party. As a matter of fact, he had caught a bad cold and the doctor had relegated him to the infirmary. In his place was a beady-eyed rat of a man, with the blackest possible hair and the complexion of an unclean gipsy. His name was Ike Conley, and his offence had been that of stabbing a woman who had caught him sneak-thieving in her kitchen.

He was the type for which a man like Lent has the strongest possible aversion, and although the two had been in the same party for some months they had never yet exchanged a word.

A prison rule forbids convicts to talk. It is one more honoured in the breach than the observance, and especially so among gangs employed in outdoor work. Warders wink at talking so long as the talkers are discreet.

About the middle of the morning Lent found Conley at his elbow.

"Give us a 'and with this stone," said Conley, pointing to a biggish boulder which he had just unearthed.

Lent nodded, and stepped across to the stone.

As they both stooped to lift it, their two heads were not a foot apart.

"It's 'alves, Lent," said Conley suddenly.

Lent started so that he nearly dropped the stone.

"What d'ye mean?" he snapped, pulling himself together.

Conley grinned. In some tavern brawl he had lost all his front teeth. His bare gums were not beautiful.

"Come on, now," he said pityingly. "You don't think as I'd be such a mug as to go fer to put up a bluff on you. I seed you right enough yesterday afternoon. Finding's keepings, but seeing's 'alves."

"Seeing's halves, is it?" retorted Lent, who had now got a grip on himself. "Not for you, my beauty."

Conley's expression changed. It reminded Lent of that on the face of an old buck rat he had once cornered in a narrow drain.

"Better 'alves than none at all," he answered significantly. "'Ow much do ye think ye'll get if I tells the screw?"

"Same as you," answered Lent bluntly.

"An' that's nothing at all," sneered Conley.

Lent bit his lip. He was tingling all over with an almost irresistible desire to dash his fist into the mean little face so near his own.

Conley undoubtedly read his thoughts. He grinned maliciously.

"You raise your 'and against me, an' I'll give the 'ole show away. S'welp me if I don't. 'Adn't you better be reasonable? 'Alf a loaf's better than no bread."

"Now, then, less talking, you two. Get on with your work, Conley. You too, Lent."

The warders sharp tones rang out so close behind them that both men started guiltily.

They had no chance for any more conversation until just before dinner-time. Then Conley, passing close to Lent, whispered:

"Wot are ye going to do about it, pardner?"

"I'll think it over," answered Lent briefly.

Think it over Lent did. He ate no dinner for thinking. He hardly slept that night. It went cruelly against the grain to share his find with this miserable little reptile, but think as hard as he might there seemed absolutely no way out. He was almost minded to ask to see the Governor and tell him all about it. But in that case he knew that he would probably get nothing at all, and even a few pounds—the price of his passage to Australia—would make all the difference to him.

Lent was not a criminal by nature. True he had killed a keeper in a night poaching affray, but it was in what he considered fair fight. And once he had paid his seven years' penalty and was safe out of Moorlands, he meant to run straight.

Conley tackled him again next day. Lent put him off, saying he had not yet made up his mind.

"Then you'd best be sharp about it," threatened Conley. "If I don't 'ave my share, you won't get yours. That's flat!"

It was on the third night after his discovery that a plan came to Lent. A mad and desperate one—still, the only one, so far as he could see, which gave him the least hope of securing his treasure.

The next time that Conley questioned him, he affected to yield.

Conley chuckled evilly.

"Ho! I thought as you'd come round. Now, what's it worth, this 'ere find of yours?"

"I haven't a notion," returned Lent shortly. "It looks like gold, but, for all I know, it may be brass. I reckon it weighs about two pounds."

Conley licked his thin lips.

"That's a hundred quid for the weight o' metal alone."

"Where's the use of talking about what it's worth when you can't take it to market?" retorted Lent. "For all the good it is to either of us it might as well be in the Governor's safe."

"You forgets," said Conley, grinning again. "My time's up in October. I begins to grow my beard next month."

Lent suppressed a start. He had not known that the other's term was up so soon.

"You puts me on to it, and I comes back for it a week or so arter I takes my ticket. Then I sells it, and banks 'alf for you."

"I think I see myself!" retorted Lent. "A fat lot I should find of you or the money either when I came out a month later!"

Conley gave expression to a quite unprintable wish as to what might happen to him if he played a pal false.

His words made not the slightest impression upon Lent, who trusted him exactly as far as he would have trusted an adder. But it suited his book to appear to do so, and the conversation ended with Conley giving details of how he would sell the gold circlet, and where he would bank Lent's share of the money.

Lent writhed secretly as he listened. His only comfort was that he had not yet told the other the exact place at which he had buried the treasure, and that it was impossible to do so now, for they had already advanced a long way beyond the spot. Still, he had little doubt but that—given sufficient time—Conley would be able to unearth it.

That was a wonderful April, so warm and dry. but the climate of the moor always exacts its toll, and May came in with a rasping nor'-easter which blackened the buds in the prison gardens and made the men's teeth chatter as they stood on labour parade at a quarter to seven each bleak morning.

For days the sky remained hard and clear, without a cloud except an occasional film of windy cirrus. And ever as they worked Lent had Conley at his elbow talking, talking about the gold, laying plan after plan for recovering it, boasting of what he would do with his share when he had got it.

Lent came to loathe the little rat-faced man with an almost terrifying intensity. But it was absolutely necessary to his plan that no grain of suspicion should be roused in the other's mind, and he bit his lips and forced down the rage that boiled within him.

At last there came a morning when the air was less clear than of late. The sharp outline of the distant tors was blurred a trifle. The sun had a reddish look. Small signs, and not noticed by one man in a hundred; but to Lent's experienced eye they spoke of change, and his heart beat a little more rapidly than usual as he tramped with his drab-clad fellows across the wind-bitten fields.

But the morning remained fine as usual. It was not until four o'clock in the afternoon that the huge head of Misty Tor was suddenly blotted out and a grey veil drawn with incredible speed across the moor.

A savage blast of wind came rushing down the shallow valley, bone-piercing in its icy chill. Then, with a rattle like that of a battery of Maxims, a blinding storm of sleet and hail burst upon the party.

So fierce was its stinging violence that for the moment it seemed impossible to breathe. Even the warders swung round and turned their backs upon the lashing, leaping ice-storm. Only Lent had been prepared. With every nerve a-tingle, he had been watching the approach of the squall.

The moment it burst he dropped his pick, and, whirling round, ran like a hunted hare for the spot where he had buried his treasure.

For days and weeks he had watched and studied the ground until he knew every stone by heart. He could have found the place in the dark.

It was in the next enclosure to the one in which they were now working, but little more than a hundred yards away. And, in spite of the fact that he was running dead in the teeth of as savage a tempest as ever lashed the high moor, he covered the distance in less than twenty seconds.

It was not until he had hurled himself across the dividing wall and reached the site of the kistvaen that he realised that his escape was still unnoticed. There was no sound of rifle shots as there would have been had one of the warders seen him go.

Flinging himself down on the well-remembered spot, he set to digging frantically, clawing out the soft, black soil with both hands. The hail beat on him in lumps the size of hazel nuts, but he minded it no more than if it had been the softest summer rain.

He burrowed like a mole, splitting his nails in his wild haste. For a horrid moment he began to fancy he had blundered. Then suddenly his fingers closed on something hard and smooth, and, with a gasp of triumph, he grasped the great golden circlet, and knew by its weight that it was not bronze, but purest gold.

Now for another and safer hiding-place!

Before he could regain his feet, a figure loomed through the driving ice fog, and with a yell of fury leaped upon him and bore him down on the fast whitening ground.

For a sickening instant Lent believed it was a warder.

But as instinctively he turned and grappled with his assailant, his fingers met the harsh cloth of the prison jacket, and he knew the man for Conley. A feeling half relief, half rage, took the place of fear.

Conley's weight, hurled bodily upon Lent, had bowled him over on his back, and next second the snaky fingers were at his throat.

Another man taken at such a disadvantage must have given best in so unequal a struggle. But Lent's years of warfare against keepers and game-watchers had gifted him with the ability to keep a cool head in the worst emergencies, and taught him many a trick for extricating himself from tight places.

Instead of trying to batter his adversary with his fists, as another man would have done, he used his legs. Drawing them up with a sudden violent jerk, he caught Conley from behind with his knees, and with such force that the fellow turned a complete somersault.

Like a flash Lent was on his feet again.

As he sprang up, so did Conley, and dashed at him again like a tiger-cat.

But now Lent was on his guard. It was the very opportunity he had been longing for.

His fist met Conley between the eyes with a force that fairly lifted the little reptile and landed him clucking half a dozen feet away.

Lent took one stride forward; but Conley quivered a little, then lay like a log.

Without wasting another moment, he whipped up the torque and ran for the wall.

The sleet was lashing down with unabated fury. It was impossible to see more than twenty yards in any direction. But Lent never heeded it. With skill born of long practice he selected a hiding-place, and in a moment his treasure was safe out of sight in one of the multitudinous recesses of the wall.

Now at last he had time to think, and for the moment was strongly tempted to regain his treasure and make a clean bolt.

Then, as he stood half hesitating, a rifle shot rang dully through the rushing ice drift, and in a flash he had altered his mind.

"By God, I've got it!" he muttered, and for the first time for many days a smile broke the gloom of his saturnine countenance.

He spun round, made a rush for the prostrate Conley, whipped him up on his shoulder, and started back in the direction from which he had come.

With a great effort of strength he lifted the insensible Conley to the top of the wall, sprang over himself, picked Conley up again, and twenty yards the other side ran right into one of the civil guards.

"Got him, sir," said Lent, with the utmost coolness.

The look of blank astonishment on that guard's face came very near to upsetting Lent's gravity altogether and sending him off into a wild fit of laughter. It was clean beyond anything the guard had ever imagined that one lag should recapture another.

"W-w-what!" he gasped.

"He tried to do for me, sir, when the storm came on, and then bunked away," explained Lent, with the utmost composure. "But I caught him and put the kibosh on him."

And this story he stuck to. Even the shrewd questioning of the Governor, stern old Colonel Peyton, failed to shake it.

When, some hours later, Ike Conley came to himself, he burst at once into a furious denunciation of Lent, and poured out frantically the whole story of the buried gold.

Next day he and Lent were confronted in the Governor's office. Lent was as cool as a cucumber; Conley raved like a lunatic, and his language was such that Colonel Peyton had to threaten him with condign punishment.

When at last they got his story from him it sounded so wildly improbable that Lent's calm, almost pitying denial of any knowledge of what the man was talking about seemed hardly necessary.

The upshot was that Conley was adjudged guilty of attempt to escape, which meant not only a longish term of cells and punishment diet, but also loss of stage, and—worse still—of three months' remission.

So when, in the following November, Lent, who had escaped punishment, walked out from the great granite arch a free man, Conley had still some eight weeks to serve.

Long before that time Lent had regained his find, and selling it for something better than a hundred pounds, probably about a tenth of its real value, was safe with his brother, eleven thousand miles beyond the reach of Conley's vengeance.


HALF-WAY between a huge granite boulder and a thick clump of heather Nolan dropped as though shot.

Voices had reached his ears.

Crawling flat on his stomach to the heather, he wriggled into it like a snake, and lay motionless. His drab convict garb harmonised so perfectly with the dull tints of the surrounding vegetation that a passerby might have stepped upon him before he saw him.

The voices sounded closer. For the moment he could not imagine where they came from.

Around him stretched the great moor, fold upon fold of brown grass and heather, mottled here and there with grey granite or vividly green bog moss. A huge empty desolation, with nothing moving but the thin wind and the vague cloud shadows which swirled across the vast empty spaces.

Nolan's heart beat suffocatingly. With the utmost caution he raised his head a few inches, and peered out over the top of the heather. As he did so the heads of two men rose apparently out of the depths of the peaty ground, not more than thirty paces away.

The mystery was clear. They were walking up one of the shallow gullies which seam the high moor.

With a deep breath of relief Nolan sank back. At any rate, they were not screws, for both wore tweed caps.

Next moment they were out of the gully, and Nolan, peeping between the tangled stems, saw them plainly.

The nearer of the two was a quiet-looking man of about forty, with the flat back and square shoulders of a military man. The other, tall as Nolan himself, had a big, aquiline nose, prominent pale-blue eyes, and his hard mouth was partially hidden by a straw-coloured moustache. He wore a comfortable suit of grey tweed, a fishing-basket and landing-net hung by a strap across his left shoulder, and in his hand he carried a rod in a brown canvas case.

At sight of the tall man an extraordinary change came across the face of Nolan. Two crimson spots appeared upon his thin brown cheeks, his grey eyes blazed, and his lips were drawn up at the corners like those of a dog which suddenly catches sight of an enemy. For a moment he crouched like a panther ready to spring. Then he remembered, and, with a low, hissing breath, dropped back into his lair.

The military-looking man pulled up and pointed down the hill.

"There's the brook, Ventry," he said. "And by the look of it, the water's about right. If I were you I should try a blue upright and a March brown."

"Aren't you coming down with me?" asked the other.

"I haven't time. I'm due back at camp in half an hour, and I've got to change. So I'll turn now. Tight lines, and a full basket!"

"Thanks very much. I ought to get a few fish. So-long, Tyrwhit. Very good of you to act as guide."

"Not a bit," said Tyrwhit, smiling, and started back.

Reaching the top of the gully, he turned again.

"I say, Ventry, did you see the Western News this morning?"

"No. Why?"

"There's a convict escaped from Moorlands. You'd best keep an eye lifting."

"What was his name?" asked Ventry, with sudden sharpness.

"I really didn't notice. Why, have you got any pals in durance vile?"

"Me? No," answered Ventry, with a forced laugh.

"But, joking apart, the fellow wouldn't be likely to take refuge up in these wilds, would he?"

"No; I should think he'd be more apt to make for the railway," answered the other carelessly. "They mostly do. But you needn't worry. Ten to one the warders have mopped the poor devil up hours ago."

He waved his hand, and disappeared into the gully. Ventry stood where he was, and Nolan saw him turn round and take a long, careful survey of his surroundings.

"Pah! I'm as nervous as a cat," he muttered. Then he took a big brier pipe and pouch from his pocket, and with fingers that shook a little, filled, and lit it.

All this time Nolan had been lying quiet as a snake. He had never once taken his eyes off Ventry, and the look in them was not good to see.

Presently Ventry, having got his pipe drawing to his satisfaction, walked off down the rock-strewn slope towards the brook, and, reaching the bank, took the joints of his rod from their case, and began fitting them together. He slipped the reel into its fastening, drew the line through the rings, took a cast from the damper, and selecting a couple of flies from a thin black metal case, tied them on carefully.

It was a fine spring day, and the air was so clear that Nolan, crouching in his heather bush on the top of the hill, could see every action of the other man.

Having got his tackle ready, Ventry made a trial cast or two, then sent the line flying out across a dark pool into the top of which a little cataract of white water broke occasionally through a tumbled pile of moss-grown rocks.

Now Nolan raised his head. He seemed to have got over his first excitement, for the flush had died from his cheeks, and his lips were sternly set. First he took a long look round, and, having satisfied himself that not a human being was in sight except Ventry, left his lair and began stalking the fisherman as a panther stalks a buck.

The wind was down-stream, too strong to cast against. So Ventry was perforce compelled to fish with it. Nolan saw this, and instead of making straight down the slope, cut across its face so as to reach a point some four or five hundred yards further down the valley.

He did not hurry. On the other hand, he never paused. There was a steady, relentless purpose about his every movement which had in it something terrifying.

From rock to rock he moved, and from heather clump to gorse bush. Most of the distance he travelled on hands and knees, but sometimes where the cover was scanty he crawled flat on his stomach. It was plain that he meant to take no risk of being seen.

His point was a cluster of granite blocks on the edge of the stream, the remains of a rock avalanche which had broken away from a bluff higher up the hill.

He timed his arrival so well that, as he reached his destination, Ventry began to cast in a long, shallow pool exactly below.

The pupils of Nolan's eyes contracted to pin points as he crouched behind a jagged mass of lichened rock and watched Ventry's every movement.

A ring dimpled the peat-brown surface of the pool. Ventry, kneeling on the low bank, sent his line flashing out over the water. The flies fell light as thistledown, and almost instantly a trout rose fiercely at the dropper.

Ventry struck, the line tightened, and a lusty half-pounder dashed away up stream.

Ventry reeled up rapidly. Something in the song of the reel or in the scene before him touched a chord in Nolan's memory. His stern face twitched. It was two years and more since he had handled a rod or felt the keen delight of tackling a stout fish on gossamer tackle.

But the touch of emotion was gone almost as quickly as it had come, and his face hardened again till it was grim as the grey granite against which his chin was pressed.

Ventry, holding the rod with one hand, loosened his net, and, slipping it under the fish, lifted the speckled beauty clear of the water and dropped it flapping on the close turf.

He stooped to free the barb from its jaw, and at that instant Nolan made his dash.

The distance was too great to cover in a single spring, Ventry heard him coming, and looked round sharply. Before he could rise to his feet, the other was upon him, and down he went, with a thud which knocked the breath out of him. The rod flew one way, the net the other. He lay flat on his back, with Nolan's knees upon his chest and Nolan's hard, brown fingers choking the gasping cry of terror which rose in his throat.

Ventry was a heavier man than Nolan. For a moment he struggled madly. But even if he had not been taken by surprise, he would have stood no chance. His big body was soft with luxurious living; Nolan's lean frame was all sinew and muscle, hardened to wire-like strength by the past two years of ditch digging and wall building on the prison farm.

Soon Ventry stopped struggling, and lay still. His cheeks and lips were purple, his pale eyes bloodshot and almost starting from his head.

Nolan realised that he was rapidly choking the man to death. He relaxed his hold a trifle.

Ventry opened his mouth to shout. Instantly Nolan's fingers tightened afresh, and cut the cry to a hoarse gasp.

"Try that again, and it will be the last sound you make on earth!" he said fiercely.

"You're killing me!" muttered Ventry.

"What else do you deserve?" demanded Nolan. "Have you any reason to offer why I shouldn't put an end to your miserable life?"

"Elsie!" whispered Ventry almost inaudibly.

Nolan's face changed. His fingers dropped away from the other's throat.

"Where is she?" he asked, in a voice almost as hoarse as Ventry's own.

"At home. At Farndon. She is my wife."

"Your wife!" Nolan's eyes blazed. A faint scream of terror burst from Ventry's lips.

Nolan's teeth came together with a click. His face set like a mask. With a desperate effort he got a grip on himself.

"When were you married?"

"A year ago."

"Is she happy?"

"I—Dr—think—that is, I hope so!" stammered Ventry.

"Liar! You knew she loved me!"

Ventry lay silent, his terrified eyes fixed on the other's face.

"So that was the reason," said Nolan softly. "I might have known it. Look here, you treacherous hound," he broke out with a sudden fierceness that made the other quiver in every limb, "was that the reason you treated me as you did? Was that why you swore at my trial that I was last in the office that night the gold was stolen? Answer me!" he went on, as Ventry did not speak.

"Yes," said Ventry sullenly.

Nolan's lips twitched, but again with an effort he mastered himself.

"So Elsie's your wife?" he said slowly. "For her sake, I'll spare your miserable life."

"You'll let me go?" said Ventry, hope dawning suddenly in his eyes.

"When I've done with you," answered Nolan curtly. And, without moving from his position, he stretched out his left hand and picked up an ugly chunk of rough-edged granite.

"Now strip!" he ordered.

"Strip?" repeated Ventry, in a dazed tone.

"Yes; every stitch you have on you. And don't call out, or try any tricks. If you do—"

He lifted the boulder menacingly. Then he rose to his feet, towering over the prostrate man.

"No, don't get up!" he continued sharply, as Ventry would have followed his example. "I know your treacherous soul too well to trust you. Sit where you are and take your clothes off—boots first."

Completely cowed, Ventry obeyed, and began to unlace his boots.

"Quicker!" bade Nolan, as the other's trembling fingers fumbled with the laces. "No; it's no use looking for warders. There's no one in sight, and if anyone does come you won't benefit—be sure of that."

Three minutes later Ventry sat stark naked on the damp moss between the boulders. Mild as the air was, he shivered miserably.

"What am I to do now?" he questioned sullenly.

"Lie flat down on your back, and stay there till I give you leave to move."

As he spoke, Nolan threw off the blue-and-red-striped slop he was wearing. The coarse, grey flannel shirt followed. His movements were amazingly rapid.

Flinging the discarded garments on the ground, he slipped Ventry's silk vest over his head, then the fine soft shirt. Still standing, he peeled off the drab canvas breeches and gaiters spangled with black broad arrows. The clumping convict boots followed, and in an incredibly short time his whole prison garb was exchanged for Ventry's well-cut grey tweeds, his neat puttees, and stout brown fishing-boots.

The two men were much of a height, and Nolan's muscle made up for Ventry's fat. The clothes fitted admirably. Even Ventry, sullen and terrified, could not but marvel at the amazing difference they made in his rival's appearance.

"Now put on those!" ordered Nolan, pointing to the peat-stained heap beside Ventry.

"B-but they may arrest me!" stammered Ventry.

"Probably they will. The only pity is, they won't keep you. By God," he burst out, with sudden violence, "I only wish you could have just one month of what I've endured for the past two years!"

There was such savage passion in his tone, that Ventry felt as though he were dancing on the thin edge of death. Shaking all over, he hastened to obey. In his fright he hardly noticed how the coarse fabric chafed his pampered skin.

Nolan waited, grimly silent, until the other was completely attired in his own discarded garments. Then, for the first time, a grim smile parted his firm lips.

"You look the part to perfection," he said. "No, stay where you are. I haven't done with you yet."

Stooping swiftly, he picked up the rod, pulled some yards of line off the reel, and snapped it with one jerk of his strong fingers.

"You're not going to tie me up?" gasped Ventry in dismay.

"That's exactly what I am going to do," was the reply.

"But no one will ever find me. I shall die of cold and starvation!" groaned Ventry.

"It would be no more than you deserve!" retorted Nolan, glancing up and down the wide, desolate valley. "And if it were not that you are Elsie's husband—"

He stared fiercely for a moment at the shrinking object on the ground.

"As it is, you'll have your chance—a deal better one than you deserve. Hold out your hands!"

Ventry obeyed, and Nolan deftly put half a dozen turns round his wrists and fastened the line with one strong knot. Then he tied his ankles, but more securely.

He rose to his feet.

"You can get your wrists to your mouth," he said. "The line's thin. Use your teeth, and you ought to be free inside an hour. That'll give me time.

"No," he continued sharply, as Ventry instinctively raised his hands to his mouth. "Wait till I've started. I'm not going to have you on my track any sooner than I can help."

He slung the fishing basket over his shoulder, picked up the rod and landing met, then, with one last glance at his enemy, strode rapidly away down-stream.

* * * * *

Left to himself, Ventry's pent-up rage found expression in a volley of curses and furious struggles to burst his bonds.

The result was merely that the thin, tough line cut his wrists till they bled. He realised that the only way to get free was to take Nolan's advice and gnaw through the line, and set himself to the task with desperate energy. It was more difficult than he had imagined, and Nolan's tall figure had long vanished round a bend of the valley before the last strand gave, and his hands were free.

Then, as Nolan had left him no knife, he had to painfully untie the tight knots around his ankles. It was a good three-quarters of an hour from the time Nolan left him before he at last scrambled to his feet.

He was soaked with cold perspiration; every nerve in his body was tingling; his heart was filled with black rage against the man he had wronged. For a moment he stood uncertainly, his face twitching with fury, then started off rapidly down the valley in the direction in which Nolan had disappeared.

But before he had travelled a furlong his pace slackened. He pulled up and stood biting his lips. He had realised the utter futility of attempting to pursue Nolan in his present garb. The only thing to do was to go back to his hotel at Okestock, get a change of clothes, then warn the police.

The thought of returning through the village in his present garb was horribly galling, but his hatred of Nolan overcame all other considerations; and he turned at a sharp angle away from the river and scrambled rapidly up the long, rock-strewn slope.

Above was a wide undulating plateau, a desolate region of wire-grass and short heather. No cattle or sheep, not even one of the half-wild moor ponies, was in sight. So far as eye could see the moor was absolutely deserted. A veil of grey cloud had covered the sun, and the breeze had strengthened and grown colder. Ventry shivered again and quickened his pace.

To the north, about two miles away, rose a bleak-looking tor, a great ridge crowned with fantastically shaped turrets of weather-worn granite. Ventry, uncertain of his direction, picked this as a landmark, and made towards it.

He had gone but a short distance when—boom!—the whole air trembled to the shock of a heavy concussion.

Ventry pulled up short and stared. At first he thought of thunder, but there was no thundercloud in sight.

A strange, whistling sound followed, which seemed to come out of the very sky.

Thud! Crash! Something struck the earth within a hundred paces of where he stood, and, with a blinding flash, a column of greenish smoke, together with a mass of earth and pebbles, rose fountain-like to a great height.

For a moment Ventry stood absolutely paralysed. Then the truth burst upon him, and a hideous terror seemed to turn the very marrow of his bones to water.

Unknowingly, he had strayed upon the Okestock artillery range, and a siege battery had just begun their morning practice.

For the moment he was physically incapable of movement. He felt exactly like a man in a nightmare, who, trying to run, finds his feet chained to the ground.

Boom! Again the weird whistling overhead.

The sound galvanised him to action. He began to run wildly, with no sense of direction.

The second shell dropped to his right not fifty yards away.

He spun wildly round. A flat slab of granite, of which one end rose obliquely, seemed to promise shelter of a sort. He made for it with frantic haste.

Once more the distant gun spoke, and the echoes answered from the southern hills. Ventry was within half a dozen yards of the boulder when the huge missile struck it full and burst with a stunning crash, shattering the rock to atoms and sending its death-dealing splinters in every direction.

* * * * *

"My God, what an end!"

Hardened as Warder Coghlan was by long years in the prison service, he turned away from the mangled remains with a slight shudder.

His companion, Hyde, a younger man, had gone very white.

"It's taken his face off like it had been done with a knife," he muttered thickly. "There isn't enough left to identify him."

"That's the jury's job, not ours," answered Coghlan, pulling himself together. "We'd best go up to the camp and get help to take the body away. There'll have to be an inquest."

"Will the artillery chaps get into trouble for this?" questioned Hyde.

Coghlan shook his head.

"Not likely. The red flag was flying. 'Twas his own fault, and no one else's."

He was right. The verdict of the coroner's jury was that Maurice Nolan had come to his death by "misadventure."


"THE water looks splendid!" said Wentworth, with a beaming smile.

"More than you can say for the road," grumbled Carson, as he pulled his side brake a couple of notches tighter for the last and worst of the descent to Blackaton Bridge. "It's a wonder I've got a tyre left. And now that we're here, what am I to do with the car, I should like to know?"

"Take her over the bridge, and leave her on the grass under the trees," answered Wentworth.

"Think she'll be safe there?" asked Carson doubtfully.

"Bless you, yes. I don't suppose half a dozen people pass in a day."

"I'm sorry for them if they do," growled Carson, as he steered cautiously over the steep arch of the narrow bridge, and brought the car to a standstill on a piece of tolerably firm turf beyond.

Wentworth, who was short, stout, and energetic, sprang out, flung open the locker at the back, and began pulling out fishing-rods, landing-nets, creels, and packets of sandwiches. Carson, after a gloomy inspection of his tyres, switched off the magneto, and turned the petrol tap.

Then he took a careful survey of the surroundings. There was not a house in sight. On all sides rolled wide stretches of moor, the lower ground golden with gorse, the upper covered with heather, which was beginning to turn purple with the first bloom. The only breaks in all the wild and splendid desolation which surrounded them were the river, foaming down the valley in a series of white rapids alternated by enticing-looking brown pools, and the long, white road by which they had just come.

The road followed the course of the river as far as eye could see, a distance of perhaps two miles, and along all its length not a single vehicle nor passenger was visible.

"Hurry up, Carson!" said Wentworth impatiently, as he took a cast from his damper and fastened it deftly to the end of his line. "We don't want to miss the rise."

Carson, who seemed somewhat reassured by his scrutiny, took a last look at the car, shouldered his creel, picked up his rod, which Wentworth had already put together for him, and followed the latter to the river bank.

The wind was up-stream, so, dividing forces, each took a bank and began fishing upwards.

Some twenty minutes later the long grass which hid the mouth of a large disused culvert parted quietly, and Mr. Diggle stepped softly out on to the road.

He was not a prepossessing object. In the first place, his ginger hair had been cut much too short; secondly, his nose was too broad and too flat, while his eyes were of a greenish hue, and set obliquely in his face, like those of a Chinaman.

The upper part of Mr. Diggle's person was attired in a curious garment striped red and blue, which bore some vague resemblance to a club blazer, while his lower extremities were encased in breeches and gaiters of a coarse canvas-like material, plentifully besprinkled with broad arrows. These, as well as his slop jacket, were daubed all over with brown, peaty mud.

For a moment Mr. Diggle stood quite still, glancing all around him very much as a weasel does when it emerges from its hole in a field bank. Then, very stealthily he crossed the road, and peered over the stone wall. From this point he could get a clear view up the river, and a slight smile curved the corners of his wide and not unhumorous mouth as he saw the two anglers in the very act of disappearing round a distant bend.

"This is a bit of all right!" he remarked aloud. "What ho? Let her bump!"

He waited until the owners of the car were quite out of sight; then hurried across to the vehicle in question and began a hurried inspection.

That the result was not satisfactory might be judged from the angry exclamation which escaped him. Carson, the cautious, had been careful to stow away everything movable in the back locker, and put the key in his pocket.

The lock, however, was a simple one, and, scorning the ordinary finesse of his profession, Mr. Diggle picked up a chunk of granite and made short work of it. But when the lid was flung back a second disappointment awaited him. There were no clothes, not even a pair of overalls or a macintosh; no food of any kind; nothing, indeed, but the cushions, some spare tubes, and a fairly complete assortment of tools.

Now, it was something like twenty-two hours since Mr. Diggle had eaten his last meal, which had consisted of twelve ounces of "tommy" and four of boiled mutton. To say that he was sharp set was to fail entirely to do justice to the horrible emptiness below his belt. He felt at that moment that he could have eaten a sheep, wool and all.

Being blessed, however, with a considerable amount of philosophy, he wasted no time in vain regrets, but set his wits to work to make the best of the situation. Even if there was nothing in the car to satisfy his immediate needs, the car itself seemed to offer a means of transport to some destination where these desirable objects might be obtained; and after another sharp glance round to make sure that none of the dreaded "screws" were in sight, he switched on the magneto, and cranked vigorously.

The engine started at once, but, as the petrol was turned off, naturally stopped with equal suddenness. Mr. Diggle was not dismayed. In happier days, before a little matter of fingers on a jeweller's show-case had betrayed him into the stern clutches of the law, he had frequently driven a car. Groping under the driver's seat, he found the tap, turned it on, and once more started up the engine.

Without more ado he climbed in, put out the clutch, pushed the lever into first speed, and, after a little manoeuvring, managed to turn the car round. A few moments later he was speeding down the valley road at a round twenty miles an hour, which was remarkably good going for one who had not handled a steering-wheel for more than four years. Within a very few minutes the bridge and the culvert in which he had spent so many tedious hours had faded out of sight behind him.

The excitement of driving the car, and the rush through the warm, sunlit air, rendered Mr. Diggle temporarily oblivious to the extremely critical nature of his position; but presently the sight of a house in the distance brought back these considerations with renewed force. He was very well aware that everyone for miles round was by this time aware of his escape from Moorlands, and that his unpleasantly conspicuous costume would infallibly betray him to the most casual passer-by.

The house was a long, low, two-storeyed building standing in grounds of about an acre to the left of the road, and smoke curling from a chimney proved that it was inhabited.

Mr. Diggle slowed the car and thought hard. Had it been night he would not have hesitated, but have taken his chances and anything he could find inside the house in the way of clothes or food. The daylight, however, precluded any idea of this kind, and, puzzle as he might, the problem seemed insoluble.

He was still a goodish distance from the house, when out of the gate came a little old lady with a basket in her hand and a green parasol over her head, who crossed the road and passed down into the thick belt of brambles and nut-bushes which bordered the stream.

Mr. Diggle's green eyes gleamed. Inspiration had suddenly come to him. He took out the clutch, flung on the brakes, and brought the car to a standstill by the roadside. Then, springing out, he, too, crossed the road and vanished amid the tangle of greenery.

Reaching a spot sheltered on all sides by thick bushes, he began peeling off his unbeautiful garments with surprising speed, and next moment stood up stripped to the buff.

His next performance was distinctly curious. Rolling up his convict garb into the smallest possible compass, he stuffed it into a convenient rabbit-hole, thrusting it down until it was completely out of sight.

He then made his way down to the edge of the river, and cautiously inserted the toes of his right foot into the water.

"Blime! Ain't it cold?" he muttered, with a shiver.

But it had to be done, and Mr. Diggle was not one to shrink from any course that he had made up his mind to. Setting his lips firmly, he entered the pool, and step by step he waded out until he was nearly up to his armpits. Then, finding a flat-topped rock, the summit of which was a foot or so above the surface of the water, he stopped and clung to it with his teeth chattering, as miserable an object as ever was seen in the River Arrow.

It was thus that Miss Amanda Willett first set eyes upon him.

Miss Willett was a maiden lady of forty-five, gentle-mannered, somewhat prim, and a trifle short-sighted. She kept house for her brother, Prof. Erasmus Willett, the well-known British authority on fresh-water crustacea, and at the moment when Mr. Diggle had observed her leaving the garden gate of Otter's Holt was on her way to secure the materials for the professor's favourite sweet—namely, a whortleberry tart.

She wandered slowly onwards, picking her way carefully; for the going was extremely rough, and thickets of bramble and bracken hid dangerous crevices among the rugged boulders. To her right tall hazel-bushes formed a screen between her and the road; to the left the amber river chuckled and splashed among the great masses of granite which cumbered its bed.

Altogether, her surroundings were ideally rustic and peaceful, and, in her quiet way, Miss Amanda was thoroughly enjoying them, when her short-sighted glance fell upon Mr. Diggle's head and shoulders.

"Why, dear me, there's something in the river!" she said; and, adjusting her glasses, advanced a few steps.

It was then that the hideous truth burst upon her.

"Goodness gracious, it's a man!" she screamed; and was turning to fly when a piteous voice reached her.

"Oh, if you please, miss!"

Perhaps the unfortunate man was drowning. The terrible idea for the moment overcame her modesty, and she paused uncertainly.

"Can you keep up? I'll get help," she answered; and was turning the second time when once more the piteous tones arrested her.

"It isn't help I want, miss; it's clothes!"

This time it was not compassion, but curiosity which stayed her flight.

"Clothes! What do you mean!" she demanded.

"It's this way, miss," explained Mr. Diggle shakily. The water was very cold, and his teeth were chattering in real earnest. "Fact is, I was motoring along the road here, and it was that dusty and hot I thought it would be refreshing-like to have a dip in the river. So off I strips and in I goes, and while I'm having my little swim, along comes some bloke and swipes my clothes. Took every stitch, he did, and everything as I had in them, and leaves me in this here fix."

"How dreadful!" exclaimed Miss Amanda, all in a flutter.

The stranger's speech was curious, and some of his expressions new to her; but perhaps, she thought, he was a cockney or a Yorkshireman. The spinster's experience of the world was almost entirely limited to Devonshire.

Mr. Diggle saw that he had made an impression. His hopes rose.

"And I tell you, miss, the water's that cold you wouldn't believe," he continued. "But me being a modest man, I got to stay here till I get some duds, even if I freeze solid."

"Oh, you mustn't do that!" said Miss Amanda, all of a quiver. "I must see if I can help you. Perhaps my brother—but I was forgetting. He is away from home."

"Well, miss, I suppose I'll have to stay here till he comes back," answered Mr. Diggle resignedly.

"But you can't; he has gone to London for two days."

"I ain't a-coming out till I gets some togs of some sort," said Mr. Diggle, with great firmness. "Not if I dies for it!"

Miss Amanda was deeply distressed.

"I must try to help you. Perhaps I can find an old suit of my brother's."

"Anything, miss, so long as I can come out of this here. It don't matter what it is, nor how old."

Miss Amanda left her basket on a rock, and hurried away. Delight at the success of his ruse made Mr. Diggle almost forget the cold. He waited eagerly, and in less than five minutes the little lady was back, carrying a good-sized bundle.

"I've got what I could," she said breathlessly. "I think there is everything needful. My brother's boots, I fear, would not fit you; but I have found a pair of slippers which I trust may do."

"They'll do, miss, never fear," replied Mr. Diggle, in tones of liveliest gratitude. "And now if you'd be so kind as just to see as the bloke ain't swiped my car as well as my clothes, I'll come out and dress."

"I'll see at once, and if it's gone I'll send one of the maids down to the police-station."

The mere mention of police made Mr. Diggle shiver afresh.

"No, don't trouble to do that, miss," he said hastily. "If the car ain't there, I'll go and lay the information myself."

As soon as Miss Amanda, was gone, Mr. Diggle made all haste out of his chilly refuge, and pounced on the bundle like a hungry dog on a bone.

The suit, which was ancient and snuff-coloured, but still serviceable, had plainly been made for a man of proportions much more slender than those of the brawny Mr. Diggle. But the latter was not disposed to be critical. In any case there was a good flannel shirt with a soft collar and knitted tie, an excellent pair of socks, and a complete suit of underwear.

"Bless her kindly heart!" said Mr. Diggle fervently, as he dried himself with the clean handkerchief which careful Miss Amanda had not forgotten. "Now, if I only had a quid or so and a mouthful o' tucker I wouldn't change places with the guv'nor hisself."

His face was very thoughtful as he hastily donned the borrowed garments, and presently when he had completed his toilet he stepped over to the bank and regarded himself critically in the calm surface of the pool.

"I'll do it, blowed if I don't!" he remarked firmly; and, turning back through the bushes, made his way not to the car, but straight for the gate of the house.

It was the sort of place which Mr. Diggle had hitherto been more accustomed to approach at dead of night than in the full glare of daylight, and it took nerve to walk calmly up to the front. To his immense relief he was not obliged to face the ordeal of ringing the bell. Miss Amanda herself was in the garden.

Mr. Diggle took off Miss Amanda's brother's cap.

"I just come up to thank you, miss," he said politely.

"I hope the clothes will do," answered Miss Amanda quickly. The adventure had brought an unaccustomed but becoming flush to her faded cheeks.

"Fust class, miss. They fit me a treat."

"And you have not caught cold, I trust?"

"I hope not, miss; but I don't mind saying I feels a bit shivery like."

"You must have something. A cup of coffee, or perhaps a glass of wine?" exclaimed Amanda, all her hospitable instincts aroused.

"I don't mind if I do, miss," replied Mr. Diggle, striving to repress an indecent eagerness.

A minute later he found himself in an old-fashioned low-ceilinged dining-room. Against the far wall stood a large, dark, mahogany sideboard covered with such fine old silver as instantly aroused all the visitor's professional instincts.

But the sight of the array of decanters in the cellaret which Miss Amanda unlocked drove all such ideas from his head.

"What can I give you, Mr.—?" Miss Amanda paused uncertainly.

"Montgomery, miss, that's my name," supplied Mr. Diggle hastily. "And I'll take a drop of whisky, if you please."

She put the decanter on the table with a glass and a syphon.

Her eyes opened a little at the length of the peg which her curious guest poured out. It was fine old Scotch which had been years in wood. To Mr. Diggle's palate, cleared by nearly five years' enforced abstinence, it was nectar. Never, he vowed to himself, had he tasted anything like it.

"That's good stuff, miss," he said, smacking his lips with deepest appreciation. "If you don't mind, I'll have a drop more."

And a second peg went the way of the first.

A little startled, Miss Amanda hastily put out a plum-cake.

"May I give you a slice?" she asked.

"If you please, miss," answered Mr. Diggle.

It was home-made, as black almost as a plum-pudding.

"I say, miss, you do know how to make cake," said Mr. Diggle enthusiastically. "This is prime."

Miss Amanda flushed with pleasure. A compliment to her housekeeping was the more appreciated because so rare. Her brother was a dyspeptic, and visitors seldom came to Otter's Holt.

"I am glad you like it. Won't you have a little more?"

Mr. Diggle would, and did.

"I think home-made cakes are always superior to the bought article," ventured Miss Amanda. "Perhaps you don't make at home?"

"To tell you the truth, we don't go in much for cakes where I come from," answered Mr. Diggle truthfully.

"You live in the Colonies, perhaps?" inquired his hostess.

"Well, it is a sort of colony, miss," said Mr. Diggle.

Then, realising that the unaccustomed alcohol had very nearly betrayed him into an indiscretion, he pulled himself together.

"It's time I was pushing on, miss. I've a good way to go. P'raps you'd give me the address so as I can send back the clothes?"

"I'll get a card," said Miss Amanda, and went out of the room.

Left to himself, Mr. Diggle glanced at the sideboard. One of those cups or a few of the old willow-pattern forks and spoons would never be missed; at least, not till the silver was counted in the evening. And the proceeds of their sale would see him through to safety.

He took a step forward, then pulled up short.

"No, I'm damned if I do!" he muttered forcibly. "It wouldn't be fair after the way she's treated me."

Next moment Miss Amanda was back.

"That's the address," she said. "Now, is there anything else that I can do for you before you go?"

Mr. Diggle hesitated. For once his usual self-confidence deserted him.

"Well, you see, miss the bloke—that is the chap as took my togs—took all as was in 'em. Left me stony."

"Stony?" repeated Miss Amanda, puzzled.

"Broke—dead-broke," explained Mr. Diggle.

"Oh, I understand! How stupid of me!" Miss Amanda blushed again, and nervously grasped the purse which dangled from her old-fashioned reticule. "You would like me to lend you something?"

"I'd take it kind if you could, miss," answered Mr. Diggle, recovering his self-possession.

"Will a pound be sufficient?" asked the lady. "I'm afraid that is all the money I have loose."

"That'll do me proud," said Mr. Diggle, pocketing the proffered note. "Good-bye, miss! You've treated me like a lady, and I'm properly obliged to you."

Miss Amanda put out a slim hand; Mr. Diggle grasped it warmly in a large, hard one. Next moment he had picked up his borrowed cap and left the room.

Miss Amanda stood at the window watching him as he strode down the drive.

"What a singular person!" she said thoughtfully. "But very nice. Dear me, how he did enjoy the cake! There cannot be any harm in a man who retains his childhood's tastes like Mr. Montgomery."

And this opinion she stuck to. Even when in next morning's Western News she read a long account of Mr. Diggle's unauthorised disappearance from Moorlands, accompanied by a cut of the gentleman in question in convict attire, she resolutely refused to admit to herself that she had been instrumental in aiding the escape of a fugitive from justice.

A week later a somewhat untidy parcel arrived at Otter's Holt from nowhere in particular, containing the borrowed clothes and the borrowed money, together with a card on which was scrawled, "With Mr. Montgomery's compts. and thanks."

"Ah," said Miss Amanda, with deep satisfaction, "I knew I was right! If he had been a real burglar he would never have sent these things back."


IT must have been something of the instinct of the homing cat that brought Stephen Gribble back to Ivycombe. Not, mind you, that there was anything cat-like about Gribble himself, for it was a lurcher rather than a cat that the quick, nervously alert little man resembled.

Gribble knew—no one better—that the first place which the screws would search would be his native village. The county police, too, would be on the watch. Yet the contempt which he, a born poacher, had always felt for the clumsy methods of the guardians of the law, gave him a sort of assurance that, once on his own ground, he could set them all at defiance.

So far, at any rate, he had succeeded in doing so, and a prideful smile curled his thin lips as he thought how, no more than an hour ago, a blue-coated warder had blundered by within ten steps of the bush in which he lay hid, yet never for a moment suspected his presence.

But man cannot live by pride alone, and as Gribble lay on the steep side of Merraton Tor, flat upon his stomach, a sinking sensation in that particular portion of his anatomy keenly reminded him that the clock had made a whole round since his last meal. Also that twelve ounces of "tommy" and a pint of weak tea are not quite the training diet for a ten-mile point across the worst country in England.

Ivycombe lay exactly below him. From his lofty eyrie he could look right down upon the roofs of the straggling village. He could see the very cottage where he had been born and brought up, the village school, the church, and the vicarage with its garden adjoining the churchyard.

He wondered if Passon Digby still lived there—the Rev. John Digby, who had taught him in Sunday school, lectured him when he grew older on the evils of poaching, and who had sat on the bench on that ill-omened day when he, Stephen Gribble, had been committed to the Assizes charged with the manslaughter of Keeper Reuben Varne.

While he watched he saw a fly wending its way up the village street. It was Tarbett's. Even at this distance he could swear to old Tarbett's flea-bitten grey. And stout Tarbett himself was on the box.

The fly entered the vicarage gate, stopped at the front door, and someone came out and got in. He was elderly and bent, had a black bag in his hand, and wore a broad-brimmed black hat. The fly turned slowly round the gravel sweep and drove away in the direction of Ashampton.

"It's Passon hisself!" exclaimed Gribble, raising himself a little to get a better view. "He's going to spend the night with his brother. My word, here's a bit of luck!"

He dropped back into his snug retreat under the thick gorse, and lay waiting and planning. Already a scheme was hatched in his active brain. It needed only to perfect the details.

Time passed, the sun set, and as twilight deepened lights began to twinkle in the valley below. The autumn air bit keenly, and the wolf of hunger gnawed cruelly at Gribble's vitals, yet with true poacher's patience he never stirred until eleven o'clock boomed from the church tower.

Then he rose, stretched himself like a dog, and slipped away silently as a shadow down the steep hillside.

The lights had mostly vanished as he stole through the glebe field towards the vicarage. He paused under the shadow of the tall hawthorn hedge. All was dark and silent, so he crept through, and presently stood close under the kitchen window. The vicarage was old, and it would never have occurred to its occupant to fit the ancient windows with modern burglar-proof fastenings. As he passed the boot-house Gribble had helped himself to an old knife, and, slipping the blade between the sashes, he easily forced back the catch.

Next minute he was safe inside.

For a few seconds he stood quite still, listening carefully.

There was not a sound. Mrs. Dawe, who had been the vicar's housekeeper in the old days, was elderly and slightly deaf. If she was still in authority, Gribble knew that he had little to fear.

There was still a glow of red-hot coals in the old-fashioned range. The kitchen was deliciously warm, and rich odours of recent cooking roused Gribble's hunger demon to a state of frantic activity. He dared not light a candle, but, opening the range a little, he got light enough to see, and at once began a hasty search for something to satisfy his appetite.

In the kitchen itself there was nothing eatable, but in the back kitchen his nose guided him to a cupboard, and, opening it, he found white bread, cheese, butter, and—best of all—half a cold rabbit pie.

During the past five years Gribble had frequently cursed the cruel monotony of prison food. But as he ate that rabbit pie he decided that he would cheerfully serve another five years for the sake of the palate which he now possessed. He finished the pie to the last spoonful of jellied gravy and ended by licking the dish. He ate every atom of the bread, the butter, and the cheese; then, growing bolder, he ventured into the larder and found, not beer, but a pan of the morning's milk with a quarter of an inch of rich cream on top. He left little of that, either.

The needs of the inner man being satisfied, Gribble was at leisure to attend to those of the outer. The broad arrows which adorn the garments provided for its wards by a considerate Government formed rather too loud a pattern for their wearer's taste or comfort. A change of some sort was absolutely essential. The worst of it was that Gribble, though he knew the geography of the lower part of the vicarage, had never been upstairs. He was not sure which was Passon's room.

It would never do to make a mistake, for if Mrs. Dawe was deaf she certainly was not dumb. He went back to the kitchen to consider the matter, and got a nasty shock. The fire had burnt up a little, and its flickering red gleam fell upon what he at first took to be a man standing close to the wall in the far corner beyond the range. Next moment, however, his panic gave place to delight. The man resolved itself into a suit of clothes hung upon a clothes-horse. Ah, Passon must have been caught in the very rainstorm which had given him his own chance to bolt, and there were his things hung out to dry.

They were all there—coat, trousers, overcoat, and soft felt hat. There were even shirt, underclothes, and socks, and on the tall chimneypiece a pair of stout, square-toed boots.

Gribble fairly gasped with joy, and without a moment's delay began peeling off his peat-stained slop, his heavy boots with the broad arrow patterns in nails on the soles, and the other articles of his prison attire. Within five minutes the grimy convict stood up transformed into a quiet-looking, middle-aged clergyman.

Gribble was not the sort to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. First he made a bundle of his discarded clothes and stuffed them into the back of the cupboard below the dresser, then he went into the back kitchen again and washed his face and hands. There was a small looking-glass hanging on the wall, and, as the window was high and nearly covered with ivy, he even ventured to strike a match and observe his own reflection.

"Lumme, but this is a bit of all right," he muttered, grinning delightedly. "Now, if I only had a dollar or two I wouldn't change places with Passon hisself."

Gribble had a shrewd suspicion that the dollar or two might well be found in Passon's study, and without delay he betook himself down the back passage, through the swing door, and so into the hall beyond.

Everything remained quiet and peaceful, and, stealing softly across the hall, he tried the study door. It opened easily, and he found himself inside the shabbily furnished yet comfortable little room. A pleasant smell of pipe-smoke hung about it, just as he remembered in the old days, and the same worn red curtains were drawn across the window.

The curtains were thick, so again he struck a match, lit a candle, and set to work. It was the simplest matter imaginable to force open the drawers of the old-fashioned knee-hole writing-table, and in the second from the top he found what he required—a green baize bag marked "Clothing Club" and full of silver and copper.

Mr. Gribble took credit to himself that, instead of emptying the whole of the money into his pocket, he contented himself with four half-crowns. He still had a sneaking affection for Passon, and knew that the latter would have to make up the deficiency from his slender stipend.

He put the bag back, closed the drawer, and was in the act of replacing in the grate the poker with which he had forced the lock, when there came a sound which struck him motionless and set his heart thumping like a one-cylinder motor engine.

It was a tapping at the window.

Next instant he had pulled himself together and blown out the candle. As he crept noiselessly towards the door, the knock came again, and a voice called softly:

"Passon! I say, Passon, be you there?"

A little of the load of panic rolled off Gribble's soul. At any rate it was not a screw. He waited, breathless.

Again came the tap and the call. Then the steps moved away, apparently towards the back of the house. He heard them crunching across the gravel.

Past experience of many a tight place, when chased by keepers, saved Gribble from the fatal mistake of losing his head. His step was as quiet and cautious as ever as he slipped out of the study and crossed the hall to the front door. The lock was rusty, and it look him a moment or two to turn it quietly and let down the chain. Then, closing the door softly behind him, he stepped out into the night.

"Passon! I say, Passon!"

He was hardly outside before the same voice that he had heard at the window greeted him again, and footsteps came hastily round from the back of the house. His own impulse was to bolt at once, and if it had only been a trifle darker he would certainly have done so. But the night was so clear that he felt sure his pursuer had seen him, and, knowing that it was only a rustic and not a warder, he came to the sudden resolve of trusting to his disguise and trying to bluff the other off.

He stopped, and in a moment a rough young hobble-de-hoy of about fifteen came panting up.

"Lor', Mr. Digby, I thought I'd never make 'ee hear. I bin round the front and the back. Farmer Sordee's took terrible bad. He reckons he'm dying, and he wants 'ee at once."

For a moment Gribble did not answer. He hardly knew what to say. Also the news was a shock to him, for old Isaac Sordee was his mother's brother—his own uncle.

But he had his wits well about him, and did not waste much time in making up his mind.

"I'm not Mr. Digby," he replied. "He's gone to Ashampton to spend the night."

"My, but that's a bad job!" said the boy, evidently taken aback. "But you be a parson, sir, b'ain't you?"

"Yes, I am a clergyman, and if you wish I will come and see Mr. Sordee."

"He'd rather have had Mr. Digby, but I reckon you'm better than nobody," said the boy, with a candour which made Gribble grin under the shadow of Mr. Digby's broad-brimmed hat.

Gribble knew every inch of the road to Dunnacourt Farm, but he was wise enough to allow the youngster to lead the way. His heart began to beat rather rapidly as he found himself passing up the flagged path leading to the old gabled farmhouse which he remembered so well. The doctor would be there, neighbours too, perhaps. Was it possible that he could escape detection?

"Passon be away," announced the boy, as he pushed open the door leading into the kitchen. "Mr. Digby be gone to Ashampton, but I found another one and brought he."

Much to Gribble's relief, there were only two people in the kitchen—an elderly, hard-featured woman, and another who, by her dress, was evidently the district nurse.

The elderly woman looked up at his entrance, and curtsied. Gribble almost laughed. She was Sarah Luker, his uncle's cousin and only surviving relative besides himself.

Ever since he could remember, Sarah and he had been at daggers drawn. Many a time as a boy he had suffered under her tongue, and many a time had he repaid her scoldings by impish tricks, driving her into spasms of impotent fury.

And now she was curtseying to him.

"Will you kindly go up, sir?" she said. "Mind the stairs, if you please. They're steep.

"I'm afeared my poor cousin be terrible bad, sir," she continued, as, candle in hand, she ushered him to the upper floor. "It's summat wrong with his innards. Dr. Graves have just gone, but he be coming again fust thing in the morning."

She talked so hard that there was no need for Gribble to say a word. Even when she opened the door of the sick-room she did not stop.

"James, Mr. Digby be away, but here's another reverend as was staying with him. I brought him right along up to see you."

"You leave him then, Sarah, and go along down," came a voice from the bed. It was weak and hoarse, but held a tone of command which made it clear to Gribble that, whatever the state of his uncle's body, his mind, at any rate, had not suffered.

Sarah Luker went out and closed the door behind her.

Old Sordee waited a moment, evidently listening.

"Just open the door and have a look outside, mister," he whispered. "Like as not she's a-listening at the keyhole."

Gribble obeyed with unction, but there was no one there.

"It's all right, Mr. Sordee," he said. "She's gone."

"Good job, too!" growled Sordee. "And who be you, sir, if I may make so bold?"

Gribble had foreseen the question, and had his answer pat.

"I am Mr. Willett, the chaplain from the prison. I am staying at the vicarage. Mr. Digby has gone to Ashampton for the night."

"Chaplain at the prison, be you?" said Sordee, staring so hard that Gribble felt devoutly thankful that there was only one candle alight in the room. "That's funny, now. It was a chap at the prison as I wanted to ask Passon Digby about."

"Who was that?" asked Gribble, keeping as much in the shadow as possible, and trying his best to disguise his voice.

"Gribble his name is—Steve Gribble."

"Gribble! Oh, I know Gribble very well!" was the answer.

"And what sort is he, sir?"

"A bit wild; but I don't think there's a deal of harm in him. He's always very polite to me."

Sordee gave a weak chuckle.

"Ay, he's a deep 'un, is Steve. Well, sir, I don't mind telling you as he's a nevvy of mine. His mother was my only sister, and, though he was a bad lad, I've always had a sneaking sort of a fondness for him. It was a sad day for me when they put him away for a-killing of Reuben Varne."

"He never meant to kill Varne. It was a fair fight."

Gribble spoke vehemently. For the moment he had quite forgotten his assumed character.

Sordee stared hard at him.

"You seems to know a lot about it," he said slowly.

"He—he's told me about it so often, you see," explained Gribble lamely.

"Ah! And you believes him?"

"I do that."

"Well, now, supposing as I left him the farm, d'ye think he'd run straight arter he gets out o' prison?"

"I'm sure of it," said Gribble stoutly.

"He wouldn't go messing arter other folks' pheasants and hares?"

"Not if he had a few rabbits of his own to keep his hand in."

"There's a mort o' rabbits on this place," said Sordee. "Enough to keep any man busy in his spare time."

Gribble was breathing hard, trying to fight down his excitement. This was amazing. Years ago he had given up all hope of inheriting Dunnacourt Farm. If he had ever had such a chance, he fully believed that his conviction and sentence had utterly quashed it. He had taken it for granted that Dunnacourt would go to Sarah Luker and her long-legged son, Oliver.

Mixed with excitement was a gush of gratitude to the old man who had retained his faith in his scapegrace nephew through all these years. He could find no words, so remained silent, waiting.

Presently Sordee spoke again.

"I'm a warm man, Mr.—what did you say your name was?"


"Ay, Willett. Well, sir, I'm a warmer man than most Ivycombe folk think, and Sarah Luker and this here Steve Gribble be my only kin. It was in my mind to leave it all to Sarah and her son, but I never could abide Sarah's meddling way, and I sent for Passon to-night to ask his opinion about the job. But, seeing as he's away, I feels inclined to take yours; and if you say as Steve'll run straight in time to come, why, I'm minded to leave the farm to him, and Sarah can have half of the money as is in the bank."

"He'll run straight. I'll give you my word on that," said Gribble earnestly.

Sordee lay quiet a moment. He seemed to be thinking hard. Then he raised a gaunt arm and pointed to an old brass-handled bureau in the corner of the room.

"If you'll be so kind as to open the top drawer, you'll find a cash-box inside. Jest give it me, if you please."

Gribble obeyed. Very feebly Sordee drew a bunch of keys from under his pillow, opened the box, and took out two long blue envelopes.

"These be my wills," he said. "This here was the one I made seven year ago a-leaving the farm to Steve. T'other one I drawed up last month, and gived everything to Sarah. Lawyer Dixon said as I'd ought to ha' burnt the old 'un when I made the new one, but I'm glad I didn't now. You take this here new one, Mr. Willett, and set it in the grate and put a match to it."

In spite of himself, Gribble's fingers shook so that he could hardly strike the necessary match. But he managed it, and the stiff blue paper was nothing but a mass of finely powdered tinder when he had finished with it.

As he turned once more to the sick man who lay so quietly on the old-fashioned four-posted bed, there was a sudden commotion below. Next moment steps came hastily up the stairs, and Sarah Luker thrust her head into the room.

"There's two gents a-asking for you," she said truculently to Gribble.

Gribble knew well enough who they were. He realised that the game was up, yet kept his head admirably.

"All right," he said coolly. "I'll come down."

He stepped across to the bed.

"Good-night, Mr. Sordee. I hope you'll be better in the morning."

Sordee put out his hand.

"Good-night," he said. "Thank 'ee for what you've done. I trusts to you to see as Steve behaves hisself."

Gribble nodded. He could hardly trust himself to speak again. Then he followed Mrs. Luker down to the kitchen.

Five minutes later Sarah Luker was up in the bedroom again. Her eyes were shining. She was nearly bursting with ill-repressed excitement.

"It's a mercy we wasn't all robbed and murdered, James," she exclaimed. "That wasn't no parson at all. He was a convict, he was—a chap as had escaped from Moorlands Prison, and broke into the vicarage and stole Passon's clothes. And you'll never guess who it was. I wouldn't ha' believed it myself—no, not if someone had swore it on their bended knees. It were that rogue of a nevvy of yours, Steve Gribble hisself!"

She paused to watch the impression she had made, but, much to her amazement, old Sordee only smiled.

"Ay," he said; "I knowed that. I knowed it as soon as he began to speak."

"And you didn't let on as you knew?" cried Sarah, aghast.

"No," said Sordee softly. "Arter all, he was my nevvy."


"GET right away from your work. That's your one chance. A complete change with plenty of fresh air and exercise. No!" Dr. Conroy raised his hand as Hamlyn began to expostulate. "It's no earthly use arguing. If you don't go now you will crock up altogether. If you do go at once three weeks may set you right."

The curt words of the specialist rang in Paul Hamlyn's ears as he drove his fast little car out to his house in the suburbs of Lockport.

The house was small and dwarfed by the large workshop behind. At the door of the former a big, broad-shouldered young fellow met Hamlyn.

"What luck, old chap?"

Hamlyn gloomily repeated the doctor's verdict.

"Come now," said the other. "That's not so bad. Three weeks. Why, it might have been three months, after the way you've been overdoing it lately."

"But every day counts now, Walter," answered Hamlyn ruefully.

"Don't worry. The war won't be over in three weeks, or three months either. Besides, you know now that the War Office wants your gun."

"And where am I to go, I should like to know?" growled Hamlyn.

"Up to the moor," replied Walter Winwood promptly. "Try the Saracen's Head. Trant will feed you like a fighting cock, and the trouting ought to be at its best. Another thing, it's no distance. The car will take you there in an hour."

"You'll have to come, too," said Hamlyn. "I'm hanged if I'm going up there alone!"

"Very well. Carfax can sleep in the shop, and keep an eye on everything. What about the plans?"

"I shall lock them in the safe, and take the key with me."

Two hours later the car, with a couple of portmanteaux in the tonneau, was sliding down the long slope into the valley of the Arrow. To the left was the high stone wall of the prison farm, to the right the open moor ran down to the banks of the tumbling river. Overhead a blue spring sky was dappled with fleecy clouds.

Winwood snuffed the brisk air with keen appreciation.

"Bit of a change from stuffy old Lockport—eh, Paul?" he remarked cheerfully.

"It isn't bad," allowed Hamlyn. "Is that the hotel?"

"That's it," said Winwood.

The car shot across the arch of the narrow bridge over the river, and as it came to rest in front of the long, white building the landlord himself, a stout man with curly grey hair, came out of the porch.

"Glad to see you, gentlemen! Oh, yes, plenty of room. Early in the season still for visitors. Here, George"—this to a man in shirt-sleeves—"take the luggage in. Tea will be ready as soon as you are, gentlemen."

The meal was none of your thin bread-and-butter and weak tea in a plated pot. A thick crusty loaf, a great dish of clotted cream, hot cakes, jam, and a noble brown pot holding about a quart of excellent tea—this is what they sat down to. Trant came in and talked to them while they ate.

"I have only three visitors," he said, in answer to a question from Winwood. "Captain Fortescue invalided home from the front, and his sister, Miss Fortescue. The other is Professor Gilchrist. An elderly gentleman he is, but such a one to walk you never saw.

"A little more cream, sir?" he went on, addressing Hamlyn.

"No, thanks. I have eaten the best meal I've had for a month."

"Bless you, sir, we must teach you to do better than that," said Trant, with a jolly laugh.

Just then the door opened, and a tall, gaunt man, who appeared to be about sixty, came in.

"That's the professor, sir," said Trant. "I'll just go and see what he'll take."

"Rum looking old bird," whispered Winwood to Hamlyn.

Hamlyn glanced across at the new-comer. He started slightly.

"Why, I've seen him before! He was at that lecture I gave at the Guildhall last week. By Jove, his is not the sort of face you forget easily!"

"I should say not," rejoined Winwood, with a grin. "He looks more like a vulture than any human being I ever set eyes on."

After dinner that night they found Gilchrist in the smoking-room. He rose at once.

"I thought it was you, Mr. Hamlyn," he said, in a curiously harsh, croaking voice. "So you have come up here to enjoy this fine air?"

Hamlyn answered civilly, and the three sat down and chatted.

"Do you fish?" asked Winwood presently.

"No, I geologise. Though there are no fossils up here, the minerals are wonderful. See"—he pulled some stones from the pocket of his velvet dinner-jacket—"here are two pieces of amethyst I found to-day."

"And this looks like tourmaline," said Hamlyn, with sudden interest.

"What! You are a geologist as well as an inventor, Mr. Hamlyn?" exclaimed Gilchrist, bending his keen eyes on the other.

"Hardly that," answered Paul modestly. "Still, I am interested in minerals."

"You must come with me one day," declared the professor. "There are many things that will interest you in the neighbourhood."

"I should like to," replied Hamlyn courteously. "Not just yet, perhaps, for I have not been well, and am not yet up to walking far."

"Any day you like," said Gilchrist. "Only let me know the evening before, so that I may be ready."

"Well, Paul, what do you think of the place?" asked Winwood a little later as they were lighting their candles to go up to bed.

"The place?" repeated Hamlyn absently. "Oh, it's all right. I was just wondering how Carfax was getting on, and whether it was safe to leave everything in his charge?"

Winwood laughed.

"If you can find anyone more trustworthy than that grim old Cornishman, you're an even cleverer chap than I take you for. Bless you, Carfax is as keen on the new gun as you are. Besides, he sleeps like a dog—with one eye open. Now, see here, Paul, you've come to Trant's to get well, so the first thing you have to do is to chuck worrying. Good-night, old chap!"

Paul's mind, however, was full of his gun as he slowly undressed and turned in. This new quick-firer which he had invented had already had a private trial, and done all and more than he claimed for it. In lightness, strength, rapidity of fire, and ease of management it left every known quick-firer miles behind, and he was aware that the observer sent down by the War Office had reported very favourably upon it.

Certain modifications, however, were necessary, entailing perhaps another fortnight's work, and he cursed his ill-luck at being driven away from his workshop when full success was so nearly in his grasp.

Yet, in spite of his troubles, he was hardly in bed before he was sound asleep, and when he awoke Winwood, in pyjamas and a dressing-gown, was pulling up the blind, letting the brilliant sunlight stream in through the open window.

"Jove, you're looking twice the man this morning!" declared Winwood. "Nothing like this moor air. Hurry up and come down to breakfast."

The next three days were spent in fishing. Winwood flogged the water with great energy and some success. Hamlyn, if he caught fewer fish, gained fresh strength and appetite daily.

On the fourth day, Thursday, Winwood took the car down to Lockport, and came back to cheer his friend with the news that Carfax was still on guard and all well in the workshop.

"You're looking a heap better, old man," said Winwood, as they waited in the lounge for dinner.

"He certainly does," said the professor. "So much so, that I think he might be up to a tramp to-morrow. What do you say, Mr. Hamlyn? Will you both come with me in the morning? I am anxious to visit the old Grey Wether mine. I fancy there will be something worth finding in the tailings."

"I will come with pleasure," answered Hamlyn.

"All right. I'm game," added Winwood.

"Then we must get off early," said Gilchrist. "It is a long way and rough walking."

"Take lunch with us, I suppose?" suggested Winwood.

"That, if you will permit me, will be my affair," replied Gilchrist.

The next morning was brilliant, and immediately after breakfast the three started off. Their way led them up the valley of the Arrow, then, after two miles of fairly easy going, the professor struck off up hill to the left.

Half a mile of stiff climbing up a steep boulder-strewn slope, and they reached the top of the lofty ridge known as Dungeon Beam.

Winwood pulled up short.

"By Jove, that's something like a view!" he exclaimed. "Right down to the sea. Yes, there's Lockport, and the harbour and the suspension bridge. You can even see the ships lying in the stream."

"And Taviton to the right," put in the professor. "If you look closely you can see just where the granite formation breaks off into the limestone."

"I like the granite best," said Winwood, with his cheery laugh. "And talking of granite, there's the prison, with the quarries just behind it. My word, they must have got some granite out of them!"

"It looks wonderfully close," remarked Hamlyn, staring at the tall grey stone buildings, with their long rows of narrow windows.

"Too close," answered Gilchrist. "The air is too clear, and that means rain before night. We had better push on."

He was right. Before they had covered another mile a thin haze was clouding the blue, and soon the high tors were hidden by streaming caps of grey cloud.

"Fog!" said Winwood uneasily. "I fancy we should be wiser to turn back, professor."

"Turn back!" Gilchrist's voice was oddly sharp. "Nonsense! Nothing of the sort!"

Then, as if conscious that he had spoken discourteously, he went on in a milder tone:

"No need for that, Mr. Winwood. We have less than two miles to go, and I know the ground well. In any case, there is good cover near the mine. The old mine-house is still standing."

Winwood shrugged his big shoulders.

"Oh, all right! But we had better hurry."

Soon the mist came blowing down on the ridge, and all the surroundings were blurred. But Gilchrist did not pause or hesitate, and after another half hour of brisk walking led the way down into a valley. Here the fog was not so thick, and they were able to find their way without stumbling into the numerous bog holes which, with their tops hidden by thick green moss, formed ugly traps for the unwary.

"There is the mouth of the mine," said the professor, pointing to a scar in the opposite hill side. "The mine-house is down by the brook."

Hamlyn looked round at the desolate rocks, the barren pile of tailings, the green bogs, and boiling mist wreaths.

"I think," he said, with a slight shiver, "that it is the gloomiest spot I ever set eyes on."

"And it's beginning to rain," added Winwood.

"A shower, nothing more," said Gilchrist. "Let us get under cover, and eat our luncheon."

He led the way to the old mine-house. It was a small, square building of solid granite, but, oddly enough, was newly roofed with corrugated iron.

"There has been talk of reopening the mine," Gilchrist explained. "So they have rebuilt the mine-house. But so far they have done nothing more."

"It isn't beautiful," said Hamlyn, "but we won't complain. At any rate, it gives us shelter."

The door, like the roof, was new, and inside the old walls had been repointed with cement. Here work had stopped, and the unglazed windows were covered with boards which had been roughly nailed across the openings.

"Out of the wet, anyhow, that's one comfort," remarked Winwood, pulling off his overcoat.

"And here is a plank which we can sit on," said Gilchrist, as he took his seat on one end of it, and began to unpack his bag.

The luncheon had been distributed between the three, and the choice did credit not only to Trant's larder, but to the professor's discrimination. There was an excellent cold pigeon pie, a cream cheese, some real Devonshire apple pasties, fresh rolls, and a bottle of red wine. Plates, knives, forks, and glasses were neatly packed in a small case.

"'Pon my word, you're doing us very well," laughed Winwood. "Speaking personally, I'm hungry as a hawk."

Gilchrist responded by carving him a generous slice of the pie, and all three set to with appetites sharpened by the keen air. In spite of their dreary surroundings, they made an excellent meal. Then Gilchrist turned to his bag and took out a thermos bottle, a small flask, and three tiny cups.

"Hot coffee," he explained. "Nothing like it after lunch in the open. Sugar, Mr. Hamlyn?"

"No sugar, thanks."

"Then a drop of brandy just to lace it?"

"Thanks. About a spoonful."

"And how will you have yours, Mr. Winwood?"

"Sugar, please, but no brandy."

"And I take mine without either," said Gilchrist with a smile, as he filled his own cup.

"Excellent!" said Hamlyn, as he tossed off his cup. "I didn't know that even at Trant's they could make coffee like that."

"As a matter of fact, it is special coffee," answered Gilchrist. "I am glad you like it."

Gilchrist got up and went to the door.

"Still raining," he said as he came back; "but I fancy it will clear, soon. Meanwhile, let me offer you cigars."

"A pipe for me—thanks all the same," answered Winwood, as he took his pouch from his pocket.

"And I stick to a particularly cheap and nasty brand of cigarette," smiled Hamlyn, lighting one as he spoke.

"Sit down, professor, won't you?" he added. "You must be feeling the tramp. As for me, I don't know whether it's the walk or your excellent lunch, but I'm horribly sleepy."

"That is not wonderful," replied Gilchrist. "No doubt you have hardly recovered yet from your illness. Take forty winks if you feel like it. There is no hurry." Hamlyn yawned.

"'Pon my word, I believe I will," he said, leaning back with his head against the wall.

* * * * *

"Paul! Paul!"

The voice came vaguely as if from a great distance to Hamlyn's ears. He felt that someone was jogging his arm.

"Paul, wake up!"

"W-what's the matter?" he asked, drowsily opening his eyes.

"That's what I want to know," answered Winwood and there was an angry ring in his voice which roused Hamlyn thoroughly.

He tried to rise, only to find that it was impossible. A stout band of webbing passed tightly round his body, pinning his arms to his sides. And this band was fastened by a rope to a ring in the wall behind.

For a moment astonishment held him speechless. He turned slowly to Winwood, only to see that he was secured in like fashion, and was savagely but quite vainly endeavouring to wrench himself free.

"W-what the deuce!" he gasped. "What silly practical joke is this?"

"Not much joke about it!" retorted Winwood fiercely. "It's that infernal professor fellow!"

"Professor!" repeated Hamlyn vaguely. "Gilchrist! Oh, lord, my head is splitting!"

"I should think it was after the dose he gave us. So is mine."

Light began to dawn on Hamlyn's fogged brain.

"You mean he drugged us?"

"Of course he has. It was the sugar and the brandy. Didn't you notice he took neither?"

"But what for? Where is he?"

"Half-way down to Lockport by this time," answered Winwood, with a bitterness in startling contrast to his usual easy good-nature.

With his bound hands Hamlyn began fumbling frantically at the front of his waistcoat.

"My key—he's got it!" he groaned.

"Of course he has. That's why he drugged us. Can't you see? The swine is a German spy. He's been laying for us all this time, and now he's got us. The whole thing must have been planned out beforehand. I'll bet it was he who had this place fixed up. Why, even the rings we are tied to must have been arranged for, as well as the plank we are sitting on."

Hamlyn's face went so white that for a moment Winwood feared he was going to collapse.

"Hold up, old chap!" he begged. "Hold on to yourself. We're in an awful hole, but there may still be some way out."

"How can there be? We are helpless. We can't move a yard, and no one is likely to come here in a hundred years. Meantime, that blackguard has my safe key."

"Even so, he may not be able to get in at all. Remember Carfax is on guard."

"A man as cunning as Gilchrist can get round Carfax. Be sure he hasn't gone to all this trouble to burke us without having made some plan to deal with Carfax."

Privately, Winwood was of the same opinion, but he would not say so. His one idea was to keep Hamlyn's mind off the catastrophe which he feared was certain—namely, the theft of the plans of the new gun.

"Have you a knife about you?" he asked.

"I had, but you may be quite sure I haven't now!" answered Hamlyn bitterly. "Gilchrist would see to that."

"Yes, I suppose so. He's put the glasses out of reach, too. What about matches?"

Hamlyn fumbled about.

"No, they're gone, too."

There was a pause. Then Winwood made a fresh effort to reach the cord that held him.

"Hush!" whispered Hamlyn suddenly. "Keep still! Listen!"

"I don't hear anything," said Winwood, after a few moments' silence; "nothing at least, except the rain."

"It wasn't rain!" replied Hamlyn with conviction. "It was a step."

"Yes!" he added tensely. "There it is again."

"By Jove, I heard it, too!" said Winwood in sudden excitement. "Let's shout!"

"No; wait! It might be Gilchrist or some confederate of his. If it is, better let them think we are still asleep."

The steps were now clearly audible. Yet the person who made them seemed to be approaching very slowly and cautiously. Still he was evidently coming nearer, and presently was close up to the door.

Through one of the boarded windows came a sound of heavy breathing. Hamlyn quivered as he listened, yet remained perfectly still.

The footsteps went stealthily on round the house, and returned to the front. At last the door-handle turned. But the door did not open. Evidently it was locked.

"Let us shout?" begged Winwood.

"Not yet," answered Hamlyn—"not yet."

There was a pause. Winwood hardly breathed. He was desperately afraid they were losing the chance of a possible rescue.

Then, without warning, came a tremendous crash, and the boards covering the window next the door were burst to splinters and fell in ruins under the impact of a huge boulder of rugged granite.

A moment's pause, and through the gap thus made a head appeared—a head with a low, receding forehead and blunt nose, yet redeemed to some extent by a pair of small, twinkling eyes and a square, powerful jaw. The crown was covered with close-cropped bristles of dead-black hair.

Slowly the eyes roved over the interior of the building until they rested upon its two occupants.

"Blime!" said their owner, in a tone of extreme surprise. "Blime me, if I ain't got 'em again!"

It was Hamlyn who answered.

"You've got the chance of your life, my man, if you like to take it."

"As how?" inquired the other doubtfully.

"Come inside, and I'll tell you. Come!" he continued as the man hesitated. "You can see for yourself that we are perfectly helpless."

Apparently reassured, the other put a gaitered leg through the opening and climbed in.

Black peat mud covered him from head to heel, yet through the coating of grime the black arrows liberally stamped all over his coarse breeches and the blue-and-red stripes of his loose slop-jacket proclaimed his identity beyond possibility of mistake. He was a strange, grim-looking figure as he stood with the water dripping off him on to the cement floor.

"You got away in the fog?" said Hamlyn.

"I did, guv'nor," answered the convict gruffly.

"What are your plans?"

"That's telling," said the man, with a grin.

All of a sudden his eyes fell on the remains of food which Gilchrist—before he departed—had piled in a corner, and he swooped upon it.

"Crikey, but this is a bit of orl right!" he declared as he began wolfing the remains of the pie.

"Eat all you like," said Hamlyn quietly, "but for any sake don't touch the brandy."

"Why not?" asked the man suspiciously.

He had already got hold of the bottle.

"Because it's drugged. If you drink it, you'll go to sleep, as we did."

"Ho! So you been hocussed, have you?"

"We have, and we depend on you to cut us loose, and let us get square with the man who tricked us."

"And where do I come in?" inquired the lag, with a cunning leer.

"That's what I meant when I said you had your chance," replied Hamlyn. "Let us loose, and you shall have five pounds and our oath that we won't give you away."

The man laughed outright.

"You're a funny bloke, you are! I'm a-going to have that fiver and anything else you got about you, inclooding a suit of nice dry clothes."

By this time Winwood was trembling with excitement. Hamlyn, however, remained quite cool.

"Come now," he said amiably. "Play the game. Of course, you can take our clothes if you want to, but it will mean a good bit of delay. You'll have to take this band off each of us first and retie us before you can do it. Let us loose—one at a time, if you like. You shall have all the money we've got, and my overcoat. What's more, I'll find a hiding-place for you, and give you another suit."

The convict shook his head.

"Not good enough, guv'nor. I've had some o' that soft sawder before, an' lived to be sorry. Joe Duffy isn't taking no risks this journey, and so I tell you."

Winwood could restrain himself no longer.

"Hang it all, Duffy, you can't leave us—"

"Shut up, Walter!" said Hamlyn sharply. "Duffy can do as he likes. Still, I hardly thought that a Britisher would back a treacherous brute of a German."

Duffy, in the act of cutting a fresh hunch of bread looked up with a start.

"Wot's that? Me backing a German! Wot d'ye mean?"

"Exactly what I said," returned Hamlyn, quietly as ever. "It was a German spy who doped us and left us tied here, and at present he is on his way to Lockport to steal the plans of a new gun which will help the Kaiser to beat us."

"Is that the truth, guv'nor?" demanded Duffy, fixing his little bright eyes on Hamlyn's face with singular intensity.

"I'll swear it if you like. Listen!"

In brief, nervous sentences he told the story of Gilchrist's treachery.

"And when we woke up," he ended bitterly, "we found ourselves tied here like two dogs, as you see us. Now, what do you say?"

Duffy said one or two things that will not bear cold print. They referred mainly to Gilchrist. Almost before he had completed his remarks he had used the table-knife with which he had been cutting the bread to saw Hamlyn loose. Then he did the same for Winwood.

Hamlyn began to thank him, but Duffy cut him short.

"Stow that, guv'nor. Keep your breath to catch that there German. D'ye reckon there's any chance o' coming up with him?"

Hamlyn glanced at his watch.

"Past five," he said, in a tone of dismay. "He's got over three hours start."

"Yes! but he thinks he's got more," put in Winwood. "The chances are that he will wait till after dark to break in."

"That's sense, mister," said Duffy approvingly. "I'll lay he won't do nothing afore night. How long'll it take you to get to Lockport?"

"I have a car at the Saracen's Head," answered Hamlyn. "We can do it in under the hour from there."

Duffy nodded.

"Then the sooner you shoves along the better."

"And what about you?" asked Hamlyn quickly.

"Me! I reckon you got room in the car fer a little one, ain't you?"

"We'd make it if there wasn't," declared Hamlyn warmly. "Put this waterproof on and come along."

It was raining steadily, but happily the fog had lifted. The three made straight down the valley alongside the rapidly rising brook, and kept going at top speed until they were in sight of the inn.

Here Duffy pulled up.

"There'll be a screw on guard on the bridge," he said. "I'll slip along under the wall, and be up in that there gorse patch alongside the road. That's where you picks me up. See?"

Hamlyn nodded, and he and Winwood hurried on to the inn. Winwood ran in for overcoats, while Hamlyn got out the car.

"Gilchrist never came back," said Winwood as he joined Hamlyn in the road.

"Didn't suppose he would. The chances are he had a car waiting for him at Moorlands. Jump in."

As they reached the bridge a warder in oilskins stepped out from under the wall and challenged them, but, seeing nothing suspicious, allowed them to proceed.

"He wouldn't have let us go so easily if he had known of the passenger who was waiting for us," remarked Winwood with a grim chuckle as they ran at second speed up the hill.

The curve of the road hid them from the bridge, and as Hamlyn pulled up opposite the gorse, a bulky figure rose and sprang in without a word.

"Get down into the bottom of the tonneau," said Hamlyn. "There's a rug there. Pull it well over you."

"Right, guv'nor," answered Duffy briefly, and vanished under the heavy folds of the rug.

In spite of his desperate anxiety to reach Lockport with the least possible delay, Hamlyn forced himself to drive quietly through the village. Every moment he expected a challenge, but none came, and once on the open moor beyond, down went the accelerator, and the car shot away like a bullet from a gun.

The road was nearly all down hill, yet Hamlyn hardly touched a brake the whole way, and when at last he slacked for the tram lines on West Hill, eight was just striking from the tower of the parish church.

The lights gleamed dully through the drizzle as the car stopped in a little used byroad about a hundred yards from Hamlyn's place.

"I shall leave her here," said Hamlyn as he jumped out. "We'll go round the back way. Come, Duffy."

"Was anyone left on the place?" whispered Duffy hoarsely as, after slipping in through the back gate, they crept round the end of the big shed, and saw that the house was in complete darkness.

"Yes; my head man, Carfax."

"Then they've doped him or got him away," was the answer.

Hamlyn's heart was beating hard as they stole up to the house. The place was deathly still except for the drip of water from the gutters. Their feet made no sound on the sloppy clay.

Suddenly Duffy pulled up short.

"There's someone in there," he stated in a tone of absolute conviction.

"I heard nothing," whispered back Hamlyn.

"But I did, guv'nor. Now, see here, one o' you stay by the back door, in case the chap makes a bolt that way. T'other come around in front, and show me the way in."

"You stay, Walter," said Hamlyn, "I'll go round with Duffy."

As they tiptoed round the house Hamlyn's ears were straining for any sound from within. He heard nothing, yet it never occurred to him to doubt Duffy. Convict as the man was, at that moment he relied on him absolutely.

"Which room's the safe in?" whispered Duffy as they reached the front door.

Hamlyn pointed to the left.

Duffy motioned for silence. For several seconds the two stood side by side, listening intently. Hamlyn's heart thumped so that he could hear nothing else.

"It's orl right, guv'nor. He's in there," whispered Duffy at last.

"Then let's get at him," answered Hamlyn eagerly.

Duffy's big hand checked him.

"Not on your life! Bless you, you don't know the fust thing about a job o' this sort. Now, you jest wait here. I'll be back in a jiffy."

He disappeared in the darkness, with a silence that was almost uncanny in so heavily built a man.

Hamlyn waited in breathless suspense.

A minute passed, then Duffy reappeared in the same noiseless fashion.

"Just as I thought. The feller knows his job. Now, you can go along in, guv'nor. But don't make no more noise than you can help."

Hamlyn waited no longer. Opening the door as quietly as possible, he crept into the dark hall and across to the door of his own room where the safe was kept.

He found the handle, and turned it gently. The door would not move. He put his shoulder against it. No result. It was evidently locked on the inside. Losing patience, he stepped back and flung his whole weight against it. With a crash the lock gave, and he stumbled forward into the room.

At the same instant a dim figure shot across in front of him straight towards the window.

Hamlyn made a frantic rush. He was too late! The window was wide open. The man took a flying leap through it and vanished.

"Walter! Walter! Look out! Stop him!" shouted Hamlyn frantically as he put his hand on the sill and vaulted after.

"Steady, guv'nor," came a voice at his feet as he landed. "No need to make such a song. I got him."

"You've got him?" gasped Hamlyn, hardly able to believe his ears.

"Wot do you think?" answered Duffy, with a chuckle. "I ain't been on this lay for a matter o' ten years without knowing 'ow a cove works when he's a opening a safe.

"'Ere, lie still, ye long beggar," he continued, addressing the struggling figure on the ground—"lie still, if ye don't want your neck broke afore the hangman does it for ye. Ye see," explained Duffy some five minutes later, when Gilchrist, tied hand and foot, had been safely bestowed in a back room—"ye see, when a bloke's on safe work he always locks the door o' the room and leaves the window open. So when I finds that there window wide, why I sez to myself all I got to do is to wait outside for him to do a bunk and be sure of a fair cop. And"—with a twinkle in his deep-set eyes—"a fair cop it were."

"It was," agreed Hamlyn with a laugh. "And now, as we don't want anyone else to be copped to-night, I should like to know what your plans are, Duffy."

"A bit o' toke, a change o' duds, and a quid or so—them's all my plans you needs to know, guv'nor," returned Duffy briefly.

Hamlyn turned to Winwood.

"Walter, take him and give him the run of the larder, while I look after Carfax, who is lying very neatly gagged and trussed in the next room. After that, Duffy, we will see what we can do in the way of clothes and cash."

They fed him, they rigged him out from top to toe, they gave him all the cash they had about them, and half an hour later let him out the back way.

"You don't think they'll catch you again, Duffy?" said Hamlyn earnestly as the lag's big fist swallowed his hand.

"If they does, I'll let ye know, guv'nor," answered Duffy.

But he never did, and somewhere Duffy walks the earth a free man. Which is more than can be said lot Max von Kuypers, sometime known as Professor Gilchrist.


NO. 673 paused in the act of lifting his pick, and pricked up his ears. The mellow note of a hunting horn was borne out of the distance on the soft south wind, and a moment later another and equally familiar sound reached him.

"Ah, 'tis hounds sure enough," he muttered below his breath. "I reckon they'm found down to Pixies' Coombe."

And, with a sigh for the remembrance of dear, departed days, he drove his pick down behind a crooked lump of granite in the trench, and levered it steadily out.

In himself, Joe Garrett, No. 673, was a contrast, and no unpleasant one, to the rest of the lags comprising Gang 18, which was at present engaged in trenching a marshy meadow by the Stone Brook under Moorlands Prison.

He was a smallish man, who might have been anything between thirty and forty. He had cheeks like russet apples, grey eyes that could still look straight even under the keen scrutiny of that old martinet the governor, Colonel Peyton, and a general air of cleanliness which somehow made him different from his fellows.

He was serving a five-year sentence for a little matter of bigamy, and was what warders call a good prisoner. In other words, he obeyed orders, made no trouble, and bade fair to win his full remission.

As he stooped to lift the big stone which he had loosened from its peaty bed, Joe's mind was busy with recollections evoked by the sounds he had just heard. All his life he had lived among horses, and for eight years previous to the unfortunate matrimonial complications which had brought about his downfall, he had been in the service of the Cothill Hunt, first as groom to the master, afterwards as second whip.

Ah, those were happy days, and he wondered dimly if they would ever come again, if anyone would ever employ him in a similar capacity after the disgrace of his lagging.

A crash of music. He raised his head again, and listened keenly, while a slight flush rose to his russet cheeks, and his eyes sparkled with excitement. Hounds were in full cry, and evidently coming straight up the valley in the direction of the prison.

Moorlands prison farm covers some two thousand acres, but is cut off from the rest of the moor and the other farms which adjoin it by stone walls five to six feet high, and built of massive blocks of granite. They are what are called "dry" walls, being constructed without mortar, and their broad tops are planted wild gorse, beech, or hawthorn, making them obstacles too formidable for most horses to tackle. But, being "dry" walls, they are apt to break down under stress of weather, and during the heavy winter rains many gaps demand the attention of the farm bailiff and his crop-headed employees.

Nearer and nearer came the deep voice of the pack, and Joe worked mechanically as he listened to the invigorating sound. Scent must be burning by the way they were running.

He lifted another boulder, and took another opportunity of glancing down the valley.

At the end of the long field was a road, which crossed the brook by a solidly-built stone bridge. At the very moment that Joe lifted his head, a slim, red-brown form came sneaking up through the culvert, and jumping from rock to rock, gained the left-hand bank, then, catching sight of the gang in the distance, turned obliquely to the right, and went off at a long, loping gallop towards the high bank at the top of the field.

Joe's heart gave a great leap. It was all he could do to restrain himself from springing out of the ditch and giving a ringing "View halloa!"

But there was no need. The fox had not gone more than a couple of hundred yards before the leader of the pack thrust his clever nose through the culvert. The wily old hound stopped a moment snuffing the tainted air, then, catching the scent from the big stone on which Master Reynard had sprung, flung up his head with a deep bay, and scrambled quickly up out of the swift water and on to the same bank which the fox had gained a moment earlier.

Instantly the culvert was full of hounds pushing and jostling one another in their efforts to follow their leader, and in less time than it takes to tell, the whole pack was again in full cry.

By this time the fox had reached the wall at the top of the field. Instead of going straight over, he ran along it until opposite the very spot where Gang 18 were busy.

Then, like a flash, he was over and lost to view.

Outside, in the road, there were shouts and the clattering of iron-shod hoofs on hard metal. It is no infrequent occurrence for a fox to take his line across the prison, but on such occasions it is an understood thing that the hunt goes round.

By the sound, several of those first up were turning and galloping up the hill on the far side of the boundary wall. But not all. Joe, who had eagerly watched the last hound top the bank, was turning back to his work with a sigh of regret when a riderless horse appeared on the boundary wall to the left of the bridge, and changing his feet cleverly, came down safely and galloped straight up the field.

"By gum, but that 'un can jump!" muttered Joe, looking with admiration at the animal, which was a bay with black points a bit over fifteen hands, more than half thoroughbred, and the very ideal of a lightweight hunter.

The horse came straight towards the gang, and Gregory, principal warder in charge of the party, suddenly awoke to the fact that this course would bring him right in among the network of small ditches which his gang had already cut.

"Mr. Aitken," he called to his subordinate opposite. "Stop that horse before he gets in among them drains."

Assistant-Warder Aitken, one of those pudding-headed young men who always have to think twice about an order before obeying it, turned stiffly.

As he did so, the runaway reached the first drain, cleared it with a bound that took him to the edge of the second, slipped in the soft, sticky soil, and pecked forward into the shallow cutting.

Quite unhurt, for the peaty stuff was soft as butter, he was gathering himself up when Joe Garrett dropped his pick, and, with one spring, reached the animal's head.

What wild impulse seized him he himself never knew. At any rate, whatever it was, it was quite irresistible. He seized the bridle, pulled the horse's head up, and, as the animal gained its feet, made one jump into the saddle.

Before any of the spectators—warders, civil guards, or the rest of the gang—had recovered from the amazement into which this extraordinary and unlooked-for proceeding plunged them, Joe had got the horse going, and was galloping hard for the top of the field.

"Stop!" shouted Gregory.

He might as well have called to the wind to cease blowing. Joe, with a good horse between his legs, and a pack of hounds barely a field away, was oblivious to all other sublunary considerations.

"Stop!" roared Gregory again. Then, flinging his carbine to his shoulder, he blazed away at the fugitive.

A warder's rifle is loaded with about a third of the ordinary charge of powder and a few buckshot. These will not pierce a man's coat at seventy yards, and Joe was more than that distance already. In any case, Gregory missed.

Two other warders let fly, but with equal ill-success. At the same time two mounted civil guards who were posted one at each end of the meadow gave chase.

A pug-dog might have chased a hare with equal chance of catching it. Their rough ponies were hopelessly outclassed. Long before they reached the bank, Joe's mount had flown it with the ease of a skimming swallow.

Joe was just in time to see the stern of the last hound vanishing over the next wall. Knowing every inch of the farm, he pulled a little to the left where the wall was lower, and wasted no time in making up lost ground.

He gained so much, that after his second jump he was in the same field with the hounds. By this time he had forgotten prison warders, punishment, the possibility of escape, everything except the intense joy of having a good horse under him and a pack of hounds in front. And what a horse it was! Plucky, powerful, a fine galloper, a good fencer, and as keen as his rider.

The soft wind whistled past Joe's ears, and every nerve thrilled with purest delight.

The scent was burning. Hounds were running, heads up, all in a bunch. As the old saying goes, you might have covered the pack with a tablecloth.

So they went across half a dozen great undulating fields, Joe's intimate knowledge of the ground enabling him to find a way over every bank or wall without giving his mount any impossible task. Far behind, the guards sought for gates.

They were now nearing the northern limit of the farm, and in front lay a long belt of young larches planted as a wind-break; beyond these was the big boundary wall and the open moor.

Hounds, running hard as ever, vanished into the plantation.

Joe's heart sank. He was not afraid of Reynard getting to ground. There was no cover to speak of in the larches. It was the wall that terrified him. It was too big to jump. He would have to go round by the nearest gate and lose a good half mile.

Should he swing for the gate? No, perish the thought! He would keep the line and trust to luck.

And luck was good to him. With his heart pounding with excitement, he burst through the slim larches and saw exactly in front the pack sweeping as one hound through a ragged gap in the towering wall.

An irrepressible whoop of joy burst from his delighted lips, and in a moment he was through and out on the open moor.

Brown heather, black peat hags, grey granite, and dull green turf, it stretched away to the great tors which guarded the sources of the Stone Brook and the Arrow. Overhead the soft grey clouds raced before the brisk south wind, and under their flying shadows the pack streamed onwards along the level top of the long ridge which divided the valleys of the two streams.

Joe glanced back over his shoulder. It was not warders he was thinking of, but merely the rest of the hunt. Ah, more than a mile away to the left, mounted men, like toys in the distance, were galloping towards him. But they had the deep valley of the Stone Brook to cross with its holding mires at the bottom. It was odds against their ever catching him. This was going to be a one-man show, and Joe prayed fervently that nothing would happen to prevent his keeping it so.

Hounds held the line a mile or more up the ridge, then suddenly swung right-handed down the hill. With the back of his Glengarry cap almost touching his horse's tail as he lay back to ease his horse, Joe followed. Up on the top the going had been good enough. Here caution was necessary. Screes of loose granite lay like stone rivers in the steep hillside. Joe was too wise to press his mount and risk laming him. He took him down quietly.

By the time he reached the bottom the pack had crossed the river and were running at a long angle up the opposite slope.

The river was nothing. Broad but shallow and easily fordable. But the ground on either side was rotten, and patches of brilliant emerald bog moss showed where lurked fathomless sinks of liquid slime.

Again Joe was too wise to hurry, but he bit his lip as he picked his way slowly in and out of the bog-holes, and watched the hounds flashing upwards, gaining every moment a longer lead.

At last he was safely through, and set his borrowed steed to the steep pull on the far side. The good horse was still fresh as paint, and made light of the long climb. As he gained the top, and caught sight of hounds going as hard as ever, Joe's spirits rose.

"Scent's all right, and there ain't a bit o' cover," he said to himself. "They'm bound to run into him sooner or later."

But he reckoned without his host. After another couple of miles of good going along high ground, the scent took the hounds again to the right, and Joe found himself crossing a great basin-like depression, the bottom of which was a vast, reed-grown mire across which it was plainly impossible to take a horse.

There was nothing for it but to go round, and Joe said an angry word as he realised the extra distance he must cover.

In and out among the grey granite boulders which littered the slopes he galloped steadily, while hounds streamed away up the far hillside, their exulting clamour dying in the distance.

They topped the ridge, and Joe was alone in a vast solitude tenanted only by snipe and teal and a hawk which hung poised in the misty blue overhead.

"S'trewth, but this is going to be a long job," muttered Joe, as he took a pull at his horse and steadied him a little. The good beast was still going strong, but his first freshness had left him, and Joe knew that he must save him all he could if he would be in at the end of this glorious run.

He heartily wished that he knew the country better. For the life of him he could not imagine where the stout fox was heading. It seemed that his point was to the very centre of the moor. Of this part of the world Joe knew nothing, except that he had once heard a warder say that it was country no horse could live in.

At last Joe reached the summit of the long slope, and checked his mount for a moment while he took his bearings and saw where the hounds were heading. A sigh of relief escaped him as he realised that the fox had again swung to the right, and that he would be able to pick up a little lost ground by cutting across.

Down another long stony slope pitted with ugly little bog-holes, where hidden springs forced their way through sphagnum moss, and then another long and terribly steep climb.

His horse was black with sweat, and Joe felt in his bones that this sort of thing could not go on much longer. Yet hounds were running as hard as ever, and looked as if they might go on all day.

"He'm never can't last much longer surely," said Joe, referring to the fox, and with watchful eyes scanned the country ahead, trying to decide in his mind where the cunning beast was bound. Cover there was none, but on top of the next hill was a great tor of granite, weather-worn into the shape of a giant's castle. There might well be an earth under that mountain of rock, an earth in which a fox once safe to ground could not be dislodged by all the terriers in England.

"That's what he'm aiming at for certain sure," muttered Joe disconsolately, as he noticed hounds heading that way.

Next moment a thrill of joy shot through him, and a wild "Halloa!" burst from his lips. His quick eyes had caught a red dot between the clumps of heather well down the slope below the top of the tor. Wherever Reynard was bound it was not for the rocks.

One more valley was crossed. Joe's horse was sobbing, but the stout-hearted beast still galloped steadily. As Joe passed to the right of the giant's castle he saw, plastered against the opposite hillside, a straggling coppice of wind-stunted oaks whose gnarled trunks and bare, twisted limbs rose from among a maze of lichen-grown boulders.

It was Whitern Wood, the one remaining relic of the ancient forest that once covered the whole moor, and Joe saw instantly that this was his quarry's goal.

Would he gain it or would he not? That was the question that made Joe's heart beat as if it would burst the stout flannel shirt and blue and red-striped overall, which composed the upper part of his fantastic hunting costume.

For the first time since the beginning of the run he drove his heels into the ribs of his mount, and the gallant animal responded nobly.

The hounds had now sighted their fox, and were running mute. They were travelling at a prodigious pace, but the old red fox was well aware that his only chance of saving his brush was to move a little faster still.

And Joe, as he galloped recklessly upwards with the whole panorama plain before him, was conscious of an excitement that strung every nerve to concert pitch, and left his throat as dry as an ashpit.

For a moment a pile of rocks cut off his view. Then he was round them just in time to see the hunted fox, brush trailing, tongue lolling, dive into the covert.

Joe's screech seemed to nerve the foremost hounds to a last effort. The first couple, with their coats bristling, hurled themselves into the thicket hard at the heels of their quarry.

As Joe pulled up by the woodside and flung himself from his horse, the dead bracken heaved before his eyes.

"Got him!" he gasped, and dashed in after.

Next minute he was out again, dragging by the brush as gallant an old hill fox as ever led a pack for an hour over the worst country in England.

Joe's hand had lost none of its cunning. In a moment he had performed the final rites, and, brush in hand, stood watching the ravening pack tearing and snatching at the dismembered trunk.

Then, like the good sportsman he was, he turned his attention to his horse, which was standing with head down and heaving sides. He slackened the girths, and gathering a wisp of dry grass began rubbing him down.

He was busily engaged in this fashion when he heard a rattle of stones close by, and looking up saw a big man in pink on a powerful brown horse topping the neighbouring ridge.

"Well, I'm damned!" remarked the latter, with emphasis, as he pulled up, and took in the scene before him.

At sound of the familiar expression Joe's eyen twinkled. He touched his cap.

"The master, sir?" he asked, respectfully.

The other nodded. He was still too surprised for coherent speech.

"Pity you wasn't up, sir," said Joe. "It were a fine run!"

"Where's the fox?" asked the master.

"They'm ate him, sir. Here be the brush," offering it to the other.

"Keep it, man. You've earned it," said the master.

"Mebbe you'll keep it for me, sir," said Joe softly. "They won't let us have no keepsakes where I lives."

"Where you live?" repeated the master. "Oh—ah—I see. The prison, you mean?"

For a moment he stared thoughtfully at the odd little figure in the hideous baggy red and blue coat with the Glengarry cap on its close-cropped head.

"Why didn't you hook it when you had the chance?" he asked suddenly.

A puzzled look crossed Joe's face.

"I don't rightly believe I ever thought on it, sir."

"Well, it's too late now," said the master, pointing to two men in dark blue who were riding hard towards them from the direction of the prison.

"I reckon it be," said Joe, "But"—brightening up—"bless you, sir, I don't mind. I had a proper bit o' sport."

The master regarded the little man with strong approval.

"You're a damned good sportsman, my man, whoever you are!" he said heartily. "And I'll call at the prison on the way home, and tell your governor that you made no attempt to escape. I know Colonel Peyton well, and I'm sure he won't be hard on you."

"Thank you, sir!" said Joe gratefully; and stood with his arm through his horse's bridle, awaiting the warders.

The master was right; and a week's cells and a month's loss of stage was considered sufficient punishment to fit Joe's escapade. To-day, the little man is first whip to the Blackmoor hounds, and the master vows he never had a better one.


"SO you are going to be lazy, Geoff?" said the girl, looking down at her husband with a little laugh.

"Lazy, indeed!" retorted Geoffrey Ballard, with mock indignation. "I like that, Phil! Here am I sitting down to paint the picture which is to pay for our holiday, while you are off to amuse yourself with the trout! And you talk of my being lazy!"

Phillida's laugh rang out again.

"I think I'll be lazy, too, for a bit," she said, as she perched her small self on a grey old boulder that projected from the close-bitten turf; "at any rate, until I've tied another cast."

She took a length of gut from her damping-case, and chose a couple of flies from her book.

"How quick your fingers are!" said her husband, neglecting his brushes and canvas to watch the operation. "I say, Phil," he added, "I'll come with you, if you like."

She glanced up at him swiftly. Her eyes were adorably blue.

"No, dear; you don't care for fishing, and will certainly never get a better day for painting. How lovely the moor is!"

"Isn't it?" exclaimed Geoff enthusiastically "Isn't it? Look at those browns and purples on the ridge above the Cleave! Look at the green of those ferns by the fall, and the lichen stains on the rock above! Phil, the moor is the most beautiful place in the whole wide world."

"For us," she said softly, and paused. Geoff, watching her, saw a little cloud cross her face. "But," she added presently—"but I wonder if we ought to have come?"

"Marrable, you mean? Are you thinking of Marrable?"

She nodded, and involuntarily her eyes roved across to where, miles away, a pile of tall, grey buildings, dwarfed by distance, clung gauntly against the side of a barren tor.

"Nonsense, Phil! Nonsense!" exclaimed Ballard impatiently. "Why should you waste a thought on the man? Surely he has done harm enough already without spoiling our holiday for us!"

She did not answer; but Geoffrey, wise through his love for her, knew what was in her mind—knew that a woman does not forget a man who has loved her, even though she has never had any answer in her own heart.

Phillida sprang up suddenly, and gave herself a little shake.

"I must hurry," she said. "I must not miss the rise. Good-bye, Geoff."

"You'll be careful, dearest," Geoffrey begged. "That gorge is not a bit safe."

"What! Not for me? Why, I know every rock!"

She flashed a smile at him, took up her light fly-rod, the spear of which was stuck in the turf beside the boulder, and hurried away towards the river.

Geoff watched her dainty figure as she picked her way across the boulders with that wonderfully light step that was so peculiarly her own, watched her make a trial cast or two in the pool below the fall, and did not take his eyes off her until she had passed up-stream and out of sight between the towering portals of Chasm Cleave.

Then with a sigh—a happy sigh—he turned in earnest to his painting.

It was, as Phillida had said, a perfect day for an artist. There had been rain in the morning. Great purple clouds still hung over the high moor, but now the sun was out again—a mellow, September sun, which, shining through the rain-washed air, brought out in marvellous relief all those exquisite colours which only a Devonshire moor can show in perfection, and which are alike the delight and despair of any painter.

Soon he was deep in his work, trying with all the skill of brain and eyes and fingers to transfer those perfect colours to his canvas. For him, deep in the joy of creation, time only existed in the changing lights and shadows.

He had been painting for nearly two hours before a low rumble of thunder reached his subconscious senses, and made him glance quickly up at the sky.

Far away, where the blunt head of Flame Tor heaped itself against the sky, the purple clouds had condensed into a bank that looked solid as a wall, and from its lower edge a skirt of grey trailed across the hills. As he watched, a bluish gleam shone faintly through the sunlight which still bathed his immediate surroundings, and a few moments later there rolled down wind the low, hoarse mutter of the shaken air.

"Another storm," he said aloud, gazing anxiously at the sullen cloud.

"And a bad one, too, sir, by the look of it," came a voice which made him start.

He turned sharply, and saw, standing close beside him, a sturdy, upright man of forty in the dark blue uniform of a prison officer. The brass letters P.W. sewn upon his shoulder showed him to have reached the rank of principal warder.

For a moment Ballard stared blankly at the man.

"I am afraid I startled you, sir," said the latter. "You were that busy painting, you didn't see me. I reckon, then, 'tisn't much use asking you if you've seen our man."

"Your man? What do you mean?" Geoffrey's mind was full of his wife, and the prospect of her getting a most unpleasant drenching. Besides, he knew how she hated lightning.

"You haven't heard, then, about our chap getting away?" said the warder, in evident surprise.

"A convict, you mean!" exclaimed Ballard.

"Why—yes, sir. He did a bunk in that storm this morning. I'd ha' thought all the moor knew by now."

"We didn't. We have not heard a word," answered Geoffrey, frowning anxiously. "Who is he? I mean, is he a dangerous character?"

"He's an ugly tempered beggar, sir. Manslaughter is what he's in for. His name is Marrable."

"Marrable! Paul Marrable!" Geoffrey sprang up with such violence as sent his campstool flying. "My God, is that man loose on the moor?"

The warder stared in wide-eyed surprise.

"W-what—" he began.

"I'm Ballard—Geoffrey Ballard! And Mrs. Ballard—my wife—is up the gorge, fishing, alone! Now do you understand?"

The warder shook his head.

"No, sir, I can't say I do. I never heard—"

Geoffrey cut him short.

"It was my brother—my twin brother Arthur whom Marrable killed. He is supposed to have mistaken him for me. It was jealousy. Marrable was in love with the lady who is now my wife. He would have killed her, too, he said. Does that make it clear to you?"

The warder's face changed.

"My goodness, sir, that's bad. You think—"

"Think—I think he'd do murder this time," Geoffrey snapped out. "Where is he? I mean, do you think he has come in this direction?"

"That's my notion, sir. He was seen making for Radden Ridge. A boy saw him. The chances are as he's working across towards Okestock Station."

"And if he is, he will have to cross the gorge."

"Or go up it," the warder answered quickly. "But you'd have seen him if he'd done that."

"I don't know that I should. I might not. My eyes were on the cliff above. Possibly he would have seen me before I saw him, and in that case have taken to the bed of the brook. Come on—come on! I must go after my wife. I must warn her."

"You don't know whether there's any need yet," answered the other. "If Marrable hasn't gone up the gorge the lady'll be safe enough."

"But he may have gone. You say he was making in this direction. Good lord, man, I'm not taking any chances!"

Leaving his easel and picture where they stood, he strode off downhill at full speed. The warder, after a moment's hesitation, followed, and caught him just as he reached the mouth of the gorge.

"Wait a minute, sir. If Marrable's gone this way there'll be marks."

Ballard swung round.

"Footprints, you mean?"

"Ay. Prison boots leave marks you can't mistake. There's the broad arrow in nails on the sole. Find a bit o' soft ground, and we'll soon tell if the man's gone up the Cleave."

"Very well. You take one side, I'll try the other," said Geoffrey.

They scrambled up the slope beside the fall. Each had his eyes on the ground. But for some distance both banks were a mass of loose stone fallen from the tall cliffs on either side. A regiment might have passed and left no tracks. A couple of hundred yards further up was a pool too deep to wade. On Ballard's side the water lay black and deep under the rock wall, on the other there was only a narrow beach of sand and shingle not more than a yard or so wide.

"This'll be the spot, if any," said the warder, as Geoffrey sprang from stone to stone across the river. "Ay, here's the lady's footmarks, clear as print."

He walked slowly forward, his head bent, his eyes searching the ground.

Just as Geoffrey caught him up, he stopped short, and dropped on hands and knees.

"You've found them—found Marrable's foot marks?" asked Geoffrey breathlessly.

The other looked up.

"Ay, I've found them for sure. See, there's the arrow plain as plain."

He sprang to his feet in evident excitement.

"He's gone on up the Cleave. There isn't no sort of doubt about that. The mark is fresh, too. You look at it, sir."

Geoffrey bent and stared at the deep print of the heavy boot with the broad arrow marked in hobs upon the sole. He followed it up, and found it again on a patch of sand a few yards further up. He found something else too—something which set his heart thumping and filled him with a sick fear.

"Look!" he said thickly, as he pointed. "Look! Right over my wife's footprint!"

The warder nodded gravely.

"Yes. He's passed up after her, sir. I'm thinking we'd best hurry."

As they started forward, thunder rumbled again. It was nearer now, and the air seemed suddenly to have turned thick and close.

Geoffrey paid no attention. All his thoughts were with his wife. In truth, he was terribly afraid. He knew Marrable—had known him, indeed, long before they had both met Phillida, and both at the same time fallen in love with her. Marrable had always had a savage temper, and jealousy, so Geoffrey believed, had driven him mad. That seemed the only possible explanation of his attack on Arthur, an attack which had ended in Arthur's death, and Marrable's sentence to life imprisonment.

But mad or not, the man was dangerous, and the more so now that he was a hunted fugitive. The thought of a meeting between him and Phillida made the blood run cold in Geoffrey's veins, and he raced up the gorge at such a pace that Lake the warder had all he could do to keep up.

The further they went the higher grew the great rock walls that towered on either side. The river, penned in the narrow depths, boomed hoarsely in deep runs and deeper, blacker pools. The fisherman's path, a mere ledge of limestone, was moist with spray and overhung with masses of hartstongue fern and trailing creepers deeply green.

A leaden cloud had covered the sky and hidden the sun, and a hot, heavy gloom lay in the depths of the Cleave. Every few moments pale lightning flickered overhead, and the thunder, though still distant, filled the ravine with sullen echoes.

"Must be raining like all possessed up the moor," muttered Lake uneasily.

Geoffrey hardly heard. He was panting with the exertion of the desperate chase. The sweat was streaming down his face.

Ahead, about two hundred yards away, the gorge curved sharply, and Geoffrey quickened his pace, hoping that once around the bend he might get sight of the man whom they were hunting. He spurted along the narrow, treacherous path as though it were a cinder track, taking risks which in cooler moments would have seemed impossible.

At the bend, the path, where it curved around the ragged shoulder of rock, was hardly a foot wide, and he was forced to check a moment in order to make his way past the turn.

Lake, following hard behind, saw Geoffrey stop and raise his hand.

"I see him," he exclaimed, in a low eager voice, as the warder came up. He pointed as he spoke to a figure dwarfed by distance, which hurried doggedly along the narrow fishing path at the base of the towering cliff.

"He hasn't caught the lady, anyways," Lake answered, in a tone of relief.

"But he may. He's a long way ahead of us. It'll take us some time to catch him up. I—"

He broke off with a gasp.

"There she is! There—at the tail of that long pool! Do you see? And he—he's seen her, too!"

He started forward again at a run, but Lake caught him by the sleeve.

"Steady, sir! That won't do no good. If he sees we're after him, it'll only turn him desperate. Ah, the lady—she's seen him, too! Look, sir, she's on her guard!"

He was right. Phillida, who had been standing on a projecting rock below the level of the path, casting up stream, had turned and caught sight of Marrable. Geoffrey felt his heart contract as he saw her stand, staring in dismay at the great, bull-necked man in his hideous convict garb.

A sick terror seized him. For the moment he feared she would lose her balance and fall into the torrent which roared unseen below.

Tearing himself loose from Lake's grasp, he broke into a run.

At sight of Phillida, Marrable pulled up short. Phillida, recovering herself, sprang quickly back from her dangerous perch on to the path.

Geoffrey was too far away to hear her voice. In any case, the booming of the river below, and the constant mutter of thunder above, drowned all other sounds. But, by the look on her face, he could swear that she had recognised Marrable, and was speaking to him. Marrable's back being towards Geoffrey, Geoffrey could not see his face.

For a few moments the convict and the girl faced one another. Then Marrable stepped forward. There was no mistaking the threat in his sudden movement, and, forgetting that she could not hear, Geoffrey yelled a warning to his wife.

But she was ready. She sprang back, lifting her rod, and poising it so that the spear in the butt was pointed full at Marrable's face.

Marrable paused a moment, then leaped forward again. Geoffrey, running till his heart almost burst, saw Phillida make a frantic blow at her attacker, saw Marrable stagger back.

Instantly Phillida dropped the rod, and catching hold of a trail of ivy, made a quick scramble for a ledge some few feet above the path.

Recovering himself, Marrable made a fresh rush, but was just too late to stop her, and Phillida reaching the ledge was safe for the moment.

But only for the moment. She was by no means out of Marrable's reach, and Geoffrey saw him stretch upwards, and grasp at her with his great hands.

A sob burst from his throat, and he made a last, desperate spurt, hoping against hope to reach the spot in time.

A loose pebble tripped him, and he fell sprawling on his face on the narrow, slippery path with a force that knocked the last remaining breath from his aching lungs.

As he fell, the gorge filled with a roar far louder than any yet, a hoarse bellow of sound which grew and grew with every second. Geoffrey, struggling dizzily to regain his feet, heard a shout of terror from Lake.

"The flood! Good lord, look at it coming down!"

He seized Geoffrey round the body and jerked him to his feet, pointing as he did so up the Cleave.

Down the gorge came rolling, in hideous majesty, a great yellow wave. Its face was like a wall, it was tipped with snowy foam, it filled the ravine from wall to wall, and it raced downwards at appalling speed.

A cry, that was like nothing human, burst from Geoffrey's lips.

"Phillida! Phillida!" he shrieked, and staggered desperately towards her.

But Lake caught him again.

"You can't do nothing!" he shouted in his ear. "Come on up here! 'Tis our only chance!"

Geoffrey struggled wildly, but his strength was gone. By sheer force Lake lugged him off the path and up the cliff face to a projecting spur, where he held him firmly.

"Keep still!" he begged. "Keep still! You can't do nothing, and there isn't no sense in you being drowned as well as the rest."

Geoffrey turned and struck feebly at the man.

"Let me go!" he cried. "Let me go!"

Lake caught his wrist.

"Be quiet, I tell you. You can't do nothing. The water's on 'em now!"

The roar of the flood wave drowned his voice. Geoffrey, utterly exhausted, unable to move, lay on the ledge and watched in agony as the great wave swept down with a force and fury beyond description.

Spray, flung high from each projecting crag, filled the gloom with thick mist, and cut off all sight of his wife and of Marrable.

Next instant the flood was upon him and Lake. The crest of the wave lapped the ledge a foot deep, and but for Lake, who held Geoffrey with one hand while the other was twisted in the tough ivy stems clothing the crag, they would both have been swept away.

For a minute or more the water streamed over them, tugging with savage force, while the solid rock quivered under the thunderous rush of the torrent. Then it sank swiftly and left the ledge bare, with only the two men lying soaked and panting on its clean-swept surface.

Geoffrey's hands covered his eyes. His shoulders shook with deep sobs. Lake, his rugged face quivering, looked down at him pitifully.

Presently the warder raised his eyes, and glanced up the gorge. A gasp of amazement burst from his lips.

"Mr. Ballard—Mr. Ballard!" he cried, shaking the other by the shoulder. "Look!"

Geoffrey looked up. His face was ghastly.

"Look!" repeated Lake urgently. "She's safe! The lady's safe!"

He pointed as he spoke, and Geoffrey, staring with unbelieving eyes, saw his wife standing on the ledge above the long pool and waving her hand towards him across the roaring torrent.

"Safe!" muttered Geoffrey. "Safe! But Marrable?"

Lake shrugged his shoulders. He jerked his thumb down stream.

"Somewhere down there, I reckon. I doubt we'll ever see anything of him again."

He glanced at the water.

"She's running down fast," he said, in a matter of fact tone. "'Twas just a cloudburst. Keep your patience a half-hour, sir, and you'll be able to fetch the lady, dry hod."


SLUSH was thick on the ground, and a cold drizzle drifted on a raw wind. What was worse, the winter afternoon was closing to a dismal dusk. Yet the man who came tramping down the valley road, beside the Windle, did not seem in the least depressed by his dreary surroundings. Indeed, he was actually whistling.

To say truth, Franklyn Bayne was very pleased with himself. He was a good-looking man of a little over thirty, and, in his suit of quiet tweeds, his solid boots and gaiters, his Burberry and cap, had the appearance of a prosperous young farmer. Certainly no one who had passed him that day had conceived the faintest suspicion that only twenty-four hours earlier he had been a thing of no account—a serf dressed in coarse canvas and blue and red-striped slop—in other words, one of his Majesty's unwilling guests in Moorlands Prison.

And he had done it all himself. It was his own clever brain that had planned the escape, his own stout muscles that had executed it. He stopped whistling and chuckled softly as he remembered how neatly he had hidden himself in that forgotten drain under the floor of the deputy governor's house which he was helping to repair. In fancy he could still hear the heavy tread of warders just above his head and their angry, excited voices questioning one another. It was consumedly amusing to think that these excellent clothes, which fitted as if they had been made for him, were the property of one of his ex-taskmasters, and that the silver which jingled in his trouser pockets had so lately belonged to that unpleasant person, Principal Warder Trant.

Talk of honesty being the best policy! He laughed again. It was pluck that paid. Pluck or cheek, which ever you liked to call it. All this day, while the warders were scouring the moor, and watching every lane and byway, he himself had walked calmly along the high roads, had passed through populous streets, had lunched in a good hotel. Now, at nightfall, he was a dozen miles from the prison, and getting near his own country, where he had friends who would hide him until the hue and cry was over.

Hard as nails from prison work and prison fare, Bayne was not particularly tired, but he was getting uncommonly hungry. And, since he was still some miles from his destination, it occurred to him that he had better hunt out a farm, and ask for some supper. These moorland folk were always hospitable, and he himself had always a plausible story at the end of his tongue.

As if in answer to his plan, the next turn of the road showed lighted windows to his right and in a garden bordering on the brook a small house. Though hardly more than a cottage, it had a neat appearance which was pleasing to Bayne's eyes. A few steps brought him to the gate, and, walking boldly up the flagged path, he reached the front door and knocked.

A pause of perhaps half a minute, then the door opened and a pleasant warmth and scent of flowers met Bayne's nostrils. In the opening stood a sturdy youngster of about ten, a handsome boy with crisp chestnut hair and straight blue eyes. Though his clothes were old, there was something about the youngster that puzzled Franklyn Bayne, who realised in a flash that this was no cottager's child.

But he did not show his surprise.

"'Evening, sonny," he said pleasantly. "Is your father in?"

The boy looked at him with a curiously direct gaze.

"I haven't got a father," he said, "but mum's in."

"Then may I see her, please?"

"I'll call her. Will you come into the drawing-room?"

The drawing-room! Bayne only just managed not to show his surprise. A drawing-room in a tiny place like this, lying out on the lonely ramparts of the great moor.

But it was a drawing-room. Though the room was barely twelve feet square, though a ten-pound note would have paid for everything in it except the piano, yet there was no mistaking the air of dainty taste and refinement which pervaded it.

Over the mantel was the one handsomely framed picture in the room. It was a hand-tinted photograph of a young man. A good-looking young man with a pleasant, yet somewhat effeminate face, and spoilt in a man's eyes by the weakness of the chin. Beneath it stood a vase of chrysanthemums.

The sight of this picture had a startling effect upon Bayne. In a flash all his cheeky self-confidence vanished. The man shrank like a pricked bubble.

"Alec!" he said hoarsely. "Alec! How in sense does his picture come here?"

A slight sound made him turn. A woman had entered the room. She might have been thirty, but did not look it. A slim, small creature with dainty feet and beautiful hands, and the brightest eyes Bayne had ever seen in a woman's face. Though her print dress was as inexpensive as the rest of her surroundings, yet it only helped to set off her charming figure.

It says something for Bayne's pluck, cheek, or will power—call it which you like—that he was able to pull himself together so quickly after the shock he had received.

Yet he did so most successfully, and bowed with a grace of which four years of prison life had not deprived him.

"I beg your pardon, madam," he said courteously. "The fact was that I mistook your house for a moorman's cottage, and, having walked farther than I intended, came in to ask for refreshment. Permit me to apologise and go."

The woman looked at him a moment before replying, and seemed to take in every detail in one swift glance.

"But it is a cottage," she answered, "and as you are evidently tired and hungry I could not dream of letting you leave without some refreshment."

"I could not think of trespassing—" began Bayne.

But she interrupted quickly.

"Nonsense! In weather like this one does not stand on ceremony. Take off your overcoat, and my son shall show you to his room, where you can wash your hands. Tea will be ready in five minutes."

For reasons of his own, Bayne would have given much to be back on the open road again, wading through the slushy snow. Yet he felt that to refuse the kindly given invitation would be churlish, and might even arouse suspicion.

"I am very much obliged to you, madam," he answered, bowing again.

"My name is Wentworth," she said, as she opened the door. "Jack!" she called.

The boy, with a self-possession beyond his years, ushered Bayne up the narrow stairs into a tiny bedroom, and withdrew, shutting the door behind him The place was exquisitely clean, there was hot water and scented soap on the washstand, and the towels smelt of lavender.

Bayne washed luxuriously, and was brushing his close-cropped hair when a slight but familiar click made him start.

Swinging round, he made one jump for the door, The handle turned, but the door was fast.

"Yes, you are locked in," came Mrs. Wentworth's voice from the other side. "And this time, Franklyn Bayne, you will not escape as easily as you have from Moorlands. You are locked in, and I have sent Jack for the policeman.

"Were you foolish enough to think that I should not recognise you?" she went on bitterly. "It did not need the fear on your face when you saw Alec's picture, for I had seen you at his trial and knew you at once. The man who ruined my brother is not going to escape this just punishment if I can help it!"

The shock was so great that for the moment Bayne felt perfectly helpless.

"It is useless for you to try to escape," continued Mrs. Wentworth resolutely. "I have a gun here, and shall not hesitate to use it if you attempt to break down the door."

Bayne dropped limply on the bed. He was no fool, and fully realised that the lady meant exactly what she said. Perhaps, too, conscience helped to make a coward of him, for Mrs. Wentworth's accusation was most unpleasantly true. It was his fault—at any rate, more his than anybody else's—that Alec Warne had come to such hopeless grief.

Perhaps the worst of it all was that he had been really fond of Alec, and that his recollection of the boy's shamed face as he stood in the dock was still a very unpleasant one.

But Bayne's mercurial temperament was not the sort to remain limp for very long, and, sorry as he was for Alec, he did not quite see why Alec's sister should send him back to prison. If the door were locked, there was still the window, and, creeping cat-like across the floor, he looked out.

Though nearly dark, there was snow-light enough to see that it was only a matter of a dozen feet to the ground, and less than fifty to the edge of the Windle, which ran at the bottom of the little garden.

What was more, the window was casement, not sash, so could be opened without creaking.

"Sorry to disappoint a lady," he said, with a faint grin, as he pushed the window quietly open.

Then slipping his lean body through the aperture, he grasped the sill, and lowering himself, dropped lightly into a flower-bed beneath.

There he stood a moment, listening. But there was no sound from within, and, stepping cautiously through the slush, he gained the edge of the stream.

The Windle was one of those moorland trout brooks the beds of which are scoured deep by winter floods, and Bayne's idea—a perfectly sound one—was to work up the bed, hidden from the road, until he was well out of sight of the cottage, then cut straight across the hills for his destination. It was, of course, an infernal nuisance that the screws should be again on his track, yet privately he had not much doubt about his ability to dodge them.

His chief fear was that there would be too much water in the brook to allow him to walk up it. Imagine his surprise when, instead of the flood he had expected, he found that the bed was nearly dry. A mere trickle of snow water dribbled from pool to pool among the big granite boulders.

This was against all reason, and his lips pursed in a soundless whistle. But as he dropped below the bank and began to move up-stream, the explanation flashed upon him. Somewhere up on the moor, where the stream ran through deep gorges, there had been a big snow slide, and the half-melted stuff had dammed the river.

That was it, without a doubt, and at the present moment the water was ponding up behind the dam until its ever increasing weight should burst the barrier.

"And then there'll be a deuce of a flood," muttered Bayne below his breath.

So it was with ears alert for the distant roar that he made his difficult way up under the bank.

He went quickly, for all his energies were centred on getting clear of the valley before that wretched policeman was on his track. He did not know where the policeman lived, but fancied it could not be far off, otherwise Mrs. Wentworth would not have trusted the errand of fetching him to her small son.

The river curved, and Bayne, putting his head up over the bank, saw the lights of several houses not far away. He saw something else. This was the slim black outline of a footbridge crossing the brook about a hundred yards above the curve.

Recognising the bridge as a danger point, Bayne put on the pace. But the going was shockingly bad, and when he got near the bridge itself he found that there was a pool below it, a pool so deep and steep-sided that there was nothing for it but to come up the bank and make a round.

This was a risk, for, dark as it was, figures were plain enough against the snow. But it was a risk that had to be taken, and the quicker the better. That snow dam might go at any moment, and once it was gone there would be no more walking in the river bed—or anywhere near it for that matter.

Bayne was in the very act of climbing the bank when the raw air was shattered by a crash like the firing of a twelve-inch gun, followed by a heavy, prolonged roar.

"That's done it," he said in disgust.

He paused a moment, looking this way and that, trying to make sure that no one was in sight, and the thunder of the flood came leaping from the hills above. The river was coming down with a vengeance, and Bayne realised that, if he were caught on the wrong side, he was done for.

The trouble was he had no idea from which side the policeman was coming. And while he hesitated, a small figure shot into sight, running along the footpath leading towards the opposite end of the bridge.

It was young Jack Wentworth, and by his pace it seemed clear that he knew what was coming. Bayne sighed with relief. The boy was alone. Presumably he had not been able to find the policeman.

Naturally Bayne did not wish Jack to see him, and down he ducked under the bank again.

Above the thunder of the fast approaching flood he heard the quick clatter of feet on the bridge above, and saw the slight figure of the boy outlined against the sky. Next instant he saw something else. A great brown wave, humped like a camel's back above the steep banks, was rushing upon the bridge with the speed of a train.

If Bayne were a bad lot, he was not a brute. For once all selfish considerations were swept from his mind.

"Run, sonny! Run!" he shouted, and springing up to the top of the bank, raced for the bridge.

He had best have kept quiet. The sudden cry startled Jack, who stopped short.

"This way!" yelled Bayne again at the pitch of his voice, and Jack came running on.

But the damage was done. Swooping like a mad monster across the pool, the flood reached the bridge just before Jack was clear, and the monstrous force of thousands of tons of racing water ripped the wire stays of the bridge like pack thread.

Bayne, dazed by the roar and thunder of the raging flood, had a vision of the whole bridge swinging across towards him in one piece. And dark against the seething foam he saw the boy still clinging to the rail.

Reckless of his own danger, Bayne plunged forward. His eyes were on Jack, and he saw nothing else. He was waist deep in the icy water. A spinning eddy seized him like a giant's hand and plucked his feet from under him. He flung himself forward, clutched at something half seen in the roaring smother, and found himself clinging to a stout wire, which was the hand-rail of the bridge.

Just above him he saw Jack flat out on the surface, but still clinging like a good one to the same wire.

By sheer strength of will and muscle Bayne drew himself up until able to grasp the boy.

"All right, Jack, I've got you," he shouted cheerfully.

There was a fresh rush of water, and the wire stay twanged like a banjo-string under the terrific strain. Bayne felt sure it was bound to go, and braced himself for the final plunge.

At that instant a fresh eddy came whirling out from the central torrent, and Bayne felt that the wire and its burden were being swung back right out over the grass.

"Let go, Jack!" he yelled in the boy's ear.

Jack obeyed, and at once he and Bayne were rolling, over and over in the edge of the flood. For a moment it was even chances whether they were swept back into the remorseless jaws of the torrent. But Bayne felt firm ground beneath him, and, with muscles iron-hard from years of prison toil, fought the greedy waters until at last he gained the edge and, still clinging to his prize, scrambled out to safety.

* * * * *

With Jack in his arms, Bayne staggered towards the road. He was feeling giddy and sick, and was chilled to the bone. Just as he reached the road there was a sharp cry, "Jack, oh, Jack!" and Mrs. Wentworth herself came running towards him.

"H-here he is," said Bayne between chattering teeth. "Don't worry. He's all right."

Mrs. Wentworth pulled up short.

"Y-you!" she gasped.

"He pulled me out, mummy," eagerly explained Jack, who had come out of it a good deal better than Bayne. "I was on the bridge when the big flood came, and the bridge broke, and, oh, mummy, I was just going to be drowned when he jumped in and pulled me out."

"Y-you did this?" said Mrs. Wentworth.

"There wasn't anyone else, so it was up to me," replied Bayne, trying to speak lightly, but not succeeding very well.

"And—and you were bringing him back?"

"Well, could I leave him on the bank? I ask you."

"I—I don't know," she said vaguely. "Oh, and I sent him for the policeman!"

"Who is waiting just the other side for the flood to run down," replied Bayne. "If you don't mind taking Jack I'd best make myself scarce."

She looked at him.

"What—like that? No, you must come back and get a change and supper."

"And an escort back to Moorlands," added Bayne drily.

"Never!" She paused a moment. "There is time, Mr. Bayne. It will be an hour before the water runs down. And—and I have a pony in the stable."

Bayne stared.

"I think you are forgetting about Alec," he suggested quietly.

"I am not. But—but whatever you have done in the past, this wipes it out."

Bayne said no more, and in silence they walked back to the cottage. Jack was quickly between hot blankets, whilst Bayne changed into a suit which had belonged to the late Mr. Wentworth.

Joan Wentworth came down and quickly set out supper, and Bayne ate with the appetite of a hungry, healthy man.

Joan Wentworth was watching the clock. Bayne saw it, but did not hurry. At last she spoke.

"It is time for you to go," she said anxiously "Here is a lantern, and I will show you the stable. The pony is quiet, and you will be well beyond the village before the policeman gets here."

Bayne did not move.

"You must go," she added urgently.

Bayne looked up with a whimsical smile.

"But suppose I don't want to?"

"What do you mean? I cannot hide you here."

"I am not asking you to. An hour or so ago you told me that the man who ruined Alec Warne was not going to escape his just punishment."

Joan Wentworth's lips parted. She gazed at Bayne in amazed silence.

The smile faded from Bayne's face.

"Well, he isn't," he said quietly. "And when he is let out he and Alec Warne are going into a new partnership, only this time it's going to be a straight one. Do you approve, Mrs. Wentworth?"

The look that came into her eyes remained with Bayne during many weary months. And it was the same look which greeted him on the morning when, at last, his sentence served, his crime purged, he stepped out again into the world, a free man.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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